Max Talent Player
[Translator – Lei ]
[Proofreader – Ash ]
Sunhwa tilted her head.
“Huh? Oppa? What’s wrong?”
“Are you Sunhwa right now?”
She beamed. “Of course!”
Kim Ahyoung scowled, staring at Hyukjin. She stopped herself from asking what he was going on about. He didn’t look like he was joking. Ahyoung held her silence, knowing her little brother wasn’t the kind of person to spout nonsense.
“I do know the current you is Sunhwa.”
“Come on, Oppa. What are you saying? Let’s go eat chicken, chicken!”
Sunhwa clutched the hem of Hyukjin’s clothes. He only looked at her in silence, unmoving. After a long stare, he opened his mouth.
“Are you a casper?”
That moment, Sunhwa’s body flinched, and the surroundings began to freeze over. The parking lot ground and the opening car doors froze where they were. Ice crystals formed here and there.
And that moment, a Pause took effect. The world turned black and white.
It was an expensive authority, and not one that wasn’t casually used.
Sunhwa said, “Do you know me?”
“I do. You’re an Intermediate Streamer. A casper.”
They were an astral body Intermediate Streamer. No one knew what they looked like, since they were astral beings that had no form.
‘An Intermediate Administrator who streams by possessing a Player.’
That was why this kind of Intermediate Administrator was commonly called a ‘casper’. They weren’t common, but there were definitely caspers out there.
‘But if it’s one that can produce this level of Cognitive Dissonance…’
It was likely the most infamous variant of casper, a top level evil spirit casper. Mankind called such Intermediate Administrators ‘devil caspers’ or ‘devil Intermediate Administrators’.
“So you know. Interesting. You saw through my Cognitive Dissonance?”
“Some way or another.”
“My my.” Sunhwa put on a surprised face. “Did something happen in the US server?”
“I never imagined a beginner period Player would be able to see through my Cognitive Dissonance.”
The expression and gestures were all subtly different from Sunhwa.
“I’ve been watching from the side, but you’re really amazing. To the point that not being able to nab the exclusive contract with you is my eternal regret. How can a beginner period Player be like this?”
Sunhwa glanced behind herself.
“Senia. You’re really lucky.”
There was no response to his words. From this, Hyukjin realized yet another fact—the current Pause did not include other Intermediate Administrators, meaning Senia could watch.
“In any case, not much will change just because you found me out. You can carry on with your Playing, and Sunhwa can carry on with hers. Okay?”
Those words sounded right on a superficial level. He nodded, but on the inside, he was thinking something else.
‘I’ll move with the assumption that he’s a devil Intermediate Administrator.’
Caspers weren’t all bad. But there was a reason why some of them were called ‘devils’.
‘Evil astrals that ultimately want to steal the Player’s body and participate in Playing.’
After such astrals stole the Players’ bodies, they did whatever they pleased. It wasn’t their body anyway, so they went all out extracting exciting content the Guardians would go wild for.
‘That was how the Corpse Sorcerer Barteli died.’
Hyukjin had seen him in the auction hall.
Another of Korea’s 8 Heroes—
‘The Enforcer of Commandments, Ban Kimyung.’
Barteli and Ban Kimyung had their bodies stolen by devil Intermediate Administrators and met early deaths. It was unsubstantiated, but there was also a rumor going around that the Astrologist Itachi also perished at the hands of a devil Intermediate Administrator.
‘I’m not strong enough to oppose this casper right now.’
Caspers would only start attempting to steal Player bodies when they were in the ‘master’ period, which meant Players had to be at least that strong to satisfy caspers.
‘Even if I can’t do anything now…’
He would be able to later. Hyukjin was sure of that. He thought back to how Sunhwa had so bravely protected him with her body in the Tutorial Field.
In the blink of an eye, the girl returned to her usual self. She looked exactly the same, but her aura was ever so slightly different. The current Sunhwa was the “real” Sunhwa.
As he looked at her, Hyukjin thought, ‘This time, I’ll protect you.’
He would make sure no damn casper stole her body. At least he knew about it now. He could prepare for the events of the future in advance.
“Me finding out about you is unrelated to my Playing.”
“Kim Hyukjin, I just knew you’d say that. You have a commendable attitude for Playing. Though it does make you look cold-blooded and emotionless.”
Sunhwa snickered. Hyukjin concealed his thoughts completely.
“This child is a tank. All she needs to do is to fulfill her role as a tank.”
“That’s right. She’s quite a genius in some aspects. A desirable Player.”
A desirable Player. Hyukjin heard that as ‘a desirable body’.
‘I will protect you… no matter what.’
* * *
Translator - Lei
Proofreader - Ash
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* * *
After returning home, Hyukjin chuckled upon finding a Yellow Charm hidden under his desk. Apparently, his sister was still making them.
‘She really can’t hide her tsundere side.’
He sat at the desk and called someone.
–Mr. Kim Hyukjin?
Hyukjin was planning on getting Senia to translate if necessary, but as expected of a competent info merchant, Pietro had a Translation Marble.
Hyukjin said, “Yes. There’s something you want to ask me, right?”
The person who called was actually Hyukjin—he had business to discuss. He wanted to ask about the Dewinged Angel Statue Gate, but he didn’t bring it up himself. Instead of being the one to take the bait, he lured the other party into biting. Sure enough, Pietro jumped at the lure.
–I heard something big happened in the LA Auction House.
–The rumors have spread that fast?
–I am an information merchant who deals in information, after all.
–Will it also become known around the world?
–Most likely not, I think.
The auction itself was held in secret, with only top Rankers and world-famous wealthy individuals taking part. It wasn’t publicized.
–But Rankers have heard of it through the grapevine.
–I suppose people think my limbs were broken and I was completely deprived of my strength as a Player?
–Unfortunately, I have heard that, yes. Your name isn’t known, just that it was a Taeguk Shield attendant.
A Taeguk Shield attendant participating in such an auction was a little strange, but everyone said the same thing, so Pietro could only believe it. However, the unnaturalness of the situation didn’t escape Pietro.
‘Everything about it is odd,’ thought Pedro on the other side of the line.
The man in question was supposed to be a Taeguk Shield attendant, but no one remembered his face. Even his name wasn’t known. On top of that, his existence was overshadowed by Xu Xin being deprived of his Player rights, so no one paid any heed to the ‘attendant’. He became someone who no one paid attention to.
As if someone had intentionally made it that way.
‘I have… a gut feeling.’
It was strange. There was a secret to be uncovered.
–If I may ask… are you in good health?
–I’m in extremely good condition. Of course, my abilities as a Player are entirely intact.
Pietro let out an unconscious cry of surprise.
‘Then that means Michelle and Kim Hyukjin worked together to trick the other Rankers.’
The situation played out in Pietro’s head. He pieced it all together from a single clue.
‘They used an ability capable of fooling the others, and the two made a deal in secret. And in time, the Rankers will forget the attendant ever existed.’
Pietro didn’t know what deal the two made, but even so, he was forced to renew his assessment of Kim Hyukjin.
‘Michelle, the person who really did destroy Xu Xin’s ability to Play, conceded to Kim Hyukjin.’
What did that mean?
‘It must be because Kim Hyukjin is far more dangerous than Xu Xin.’
The sovereign Michelle judged that it was better to have Hyukjin as an ally, even at the cost of making an enemy of Xu Xin. Pietro was quick on the uptake.
–Looks like I need to keep this a secret. After all, that attendant who was destroyed by Michelle and the current Mr. Kim Hyukjin are completely different people. I don’t know the old Kim Hyukjin. Nice to meet you, Mr. Kim Hyukjin.
Hyukjin grinned. Pietro was quick to understand. Hyukjin had given him some personal information. Since give and take was standard between information merchants, it was now time for Hyukjin to ask a question.
–You’re still gathering raiders for the Dewinged Angel Statue Gate, correct?
Pietro answered without hiding it. He had gotten information, so it was only right for him to offer information of equivalent value.
–May I also participate?
–Yes. I’ve developed an interest in the gate.
–I would welcome a skilled Player such as yourself anytime. But there’s a small problem.
–What kind of problem?
–I think I will be able to open the Dewinged Angel Statue Gate soon, but entry is restricted to ‘Players with archery-related classes’ or ‘Players who have absorbed a Tome of the Divine Bow Physique’. Or people with the key, like me.
Pietro originally thought Hyukjin was an archer. But it turned out that he was just a ‘sovereign who was good with the bow’. In any case, it meant his class was sovereign.
–In that case, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
–Aren’t you a sovereign, Mr. Kim Hyukjin?
Pietro thought for a moment.
–Can it be… that you have absorbed a Tome of the Divine Bow Physique?
Not yet, but he planned on doing it soon.
–Then how do you plan on entering?
–I think that’s for me to figure out. May I bring a few people with me?
–May I ask who they are?
–Mark from the Michelle Division. And Korea’s Hyun Junghwa.
The deal Hyukjin and Hyun Junghwa made was for her participation in the Gardens by the Bay Dungeon and the Sangam World Cup Stadium Dungeon. Even so, Hyukjin was certain she would agree to join the Dewinged Angel Statue Gate raid with him. If she didn’t, he could make it so she would. That was Hyukjin’s strength.
The line went silent.
–What’s wrong? Are they not okay?
–N-No, not at all. The Dewinged Angel Statue Gate raid will take place in one week.
Pietro hung up.
He took a deep breath, leaning all the way back in his chair like a limp ragdoll.
“Kim Hyukjin. Just what… the hell is he?’
On his desk was a list of archers who had refused him. First on the list was Hyun Junghwa, and second was Mark. Both had refused his proposal.
‘How did he convince them to join?’
Pietro began to suspect Hyukjin had some kind of powerful card that could tempt an archer. He wanted to know what that was. That knowledge would give him a lot of sway with archers moving forward.
‘What could it be?’
He had no idea.
‘I want to know.’
On the other side of the world, Kim Hyukjin made another call directly after hanging up with Pietro.
–Ms. Hyun Junghwa. Let’s do a raid together. It’s a new gate.
They had no prior arrangement, and he had nothing in particular to offer her. He simply planned on convincing her now.
–Very well. I’m looking forward to learning from you.
Convincing her was very easy.
Two days passed.
Having returned from the auction, Song Kiyeol went personally to Kim Hyukjin’s house. To Hyukjin’s amusement, the spoiled brat Song Jinchul was with him.
A spirited voice came from the other side of the door.
“Oi. Open up.”
Hyukjin opened the door to find a helpless-looking Song Kiyeol and a confident-looking Song Jinchul.
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