Max Talent Player
[Translator – Lei ]
[Proofreader – Ash ]
“Mr. Xu Xin. Would you like to have a bet with me?”
Kim Hyukjin wasn’t truly proposing a bet to Xu Xin. This was just to provoke him. Xu Xin was set on making a lesson out of Hyukjin anyway. Hyukjin’s goal was to put another drop of oil onto an already blazing fire.
‘Now that I’ve brought up a bet, Michelle can’t take action. At least for a while.’
This one word would give Michelle pause. Normally, she should have acted quickly, summoning her Guardian Tower or mobilizing the Michelle Division to subdue Xu Xin. But that plan of action was shut down by a single sentence from Hyukjin.
‘Because this is content the Herdsman of Las Vegas enjoys.’
She could not prevent such content from playing out. Michelle, the host, could only watch. She would definitely step in at some point, but Hyukjin had won himself some time.
“Bet? Did you just say bet?”
Xu Xin’s voice went up a few octaves. His thread of rationality had long since snapped. He, a manic hoarder, was stripped of all his precious collectibles. There was no stopping him now.
Hyukjin grinned. He threw out another provocation.
“A bet to see which of the two is faster: those cheap-ass guns you’ve summoned, or my Item Shop arrow.”
Hyukjin took out the ‘Sturdy Wooden Bow’ he had purchased from the Item Shop. It was obviously fresh from the Item Shop. Most of the Rankers here recognized that it was from the Item Shop, and the person who saw that most clearly was none other than the American Player, Mark.
‘It really is from the Item Shop?’
Mark had been scouted into the Michelle Division. If Korea had Hyun Junghwa, the US had Mark. Both were Players contracted to the Night of Shooting Stars. He was a Player with a talent and potential in archery that was second to none.
‘That bow is heavy, so it’s not often used.’
Being an Item Shop product didn’t mean it was necessarily bad. But that Sturdy Wooden Bow was seldom used due to its weight. An archer was far better off using the lighter ‘Wooden Bow’ even at the cost of slightly less damage.
‘His form’s a mess.’
The man appeared to be a Korean Player. Mark also spotted the guildmaster of Taeguk Shield next to him. Which meant the person with the Sturdy Wooden Bow was a guild member of Taeguk Shield, most likely an attendant of Song Kiyeol.
‘Seeing as Song Kiyeol isn’t stopping him…’
The man had probably been instructed by Song Kiyeol to do this.
Mark was a member of the Michelle Division. He had a duty to stop anything undesirable from happening. The Michelle Division members stationed here were already preparing their skills, just as Mark was doing. He was just curious as to what Song Kiyeol was intending.
‘Song Kiyeol should know exactly who Xu Xin is.’
Sacrificing one attendant shouldn’t be that great a loss—he could get a huge compensation from Xu Xin once the billionaire was thinking straight again, or use the incident to work negotiations to his favor.
‘Song Kiyeol is a tank.’
Because he was a tank, he should be capable of blocking most attacks. Why wasn’t he stopping his attendant?
‘I’ll just have to keep watching.’
From the looks of it, Michelle was staying her hand as well. She had her right hand in the air, ready to give the command to subdue the conflict, but she didn’t bring it down. It meant she would keep watch, courtesy of Hyukjin’s one mention of a ‘bet’.
Xu Xin’s eyes turned bloodshot with rage. He glared at Kim Hyukjin, seething.
“I’m very glad you proposed this.”
Kim Hyukjin was taking aim at Xu Xin.
Hyukjin just waited.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The floating guns fired mana bullets.
Hyukjin didn’t dodge. He just let them hit him.
“Two on the shoulder, one on the heart.”
Ah, it hurt a little more than he expected. It felt like someone had struck him hard with their fists, but he wasn’t dealt any critical damage.
“You hit me first, yeah?”
Hyukjin nocked his arrow. After using bows like the Blackfire Bow and Sylphid’s Wing, the Sturdy Wooden Bow felt clunky in his hand. It was heavy, low damage, and just all-around bad.
[The special ability Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth has been forcibly activated.]
The ability that hadn’t had a chance to activate lately because no one openly attacked him first like this, Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth, kicked in.
Hyukjin thought back to Hyun Junghwa’s movements. There was a good lab rat in front of him.
Junghwa fired several arrows in one shot with her innate ability Consecutive Rapidfire. Those arrows were imbued with mana and were stronger than regular arrows.
It wasn’t quite at the level of Consecutive Rapidfire, but he managed a similar effect. He fired three arrows, but they were far faster than normal.
The next moment, Xu Xin screamed.
One arrow was lodged in each shoulder, as well as one in his abdomen. The man fell over, screaming.
Total silence descended on the hall. Michelle finally gave the command.
“Subdue them. You can kill if they resist.”
“Both of them?”
“Both of them.”
The command was a matter of fact for Michelle. If she continued to stay passive, it would harm the prestige of Michelle and the Michelle Division. It wouldn’t just harm, it would inflict a massive crack.
‘She’s doing well.’
Yes, she was making the right call. But if Hyukjin was in her position, he would have made Xu Xin kneel before things could progress this far. A few seconds. In just a few seconds, Hyukjin brought up a ‘bet’ and involved the Herdsman of Las Vegas, which allowed the situation to balloon to such a state.
‘Next time, move a little faster, Michelle.’
Hyukjin immediately dropped his weapon and put his hands behind his head. Mark came up to him.
“I will briefly detain you.”
“Yes, go ahead.”
Hyukjin put out his hands. Song Kiyeol tried stepping in, but Hyukjin told him it was alright. Hyukjin was already clear on what kind of person Michelle was, and this was the result he himself had crafted.
It wasn’t hard to subdue Xu Xin. He was crumpled on the ground, crying like a man unfamiliar with pain. Apparently, even his rage had withered away at the pain.
“Take them away. Continue the auction.”
* * *
Translator - Lei
Proofreader - Ash
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* * *
The auction went on, and Michelle took the two people behind the uproar away. Hyukjin followed Michelle behind the stage, completely relaxed.
Behind the stage, Michelle stared at Kim Hyukjin. Behind her were Mark and around ten members of the Michelle Division.
“Don’t you think you were too heavy-handed?”
“Is that what you really think?”
Michelle didn’t respond. Hyukjin continued, “Two bullets to the shoulder, one to the heart. I was attacked. With a gun.”
“So I gave him two arrows to the shoulder, and one to the abdomen.”
“But you took zero damage, and Xu Xin is bleeding and unconscious.”
“You mean you made him unconscious.”
Hyukjin saw Liam, a Player capable of mental attacks. He was a future Ranker with the nickname ‘Wanderer of the Night’. Liam had probably knocked Xu Xin unconscious, while the healer Adam administered emergency treatment.
“You used excessive force. And in my place of business. I’m sure you know that.”
“You should have prevented this from happening in the first place. Your response was too slow.”
“I do apologize about that.” Michelle acknowledged her faults. “But I have no choice but to take action against you. Since you attacked someone in a place I am hosting.”
Hyukjin was calm. Michelle was merely saying what she had to say and doing what she had to do.
“You purposefully involved the Herdsman of Las Vegas to escalate things.”
“I would have been very disappointed if you hadn’t realized that.”
Michelle lowered her voice. “Why did you act so openly?”
“What do you mean?”
“You have always hidden your skills as much as possible. It was the same in our recent War. You have a special ability to hide yourself. So why? Why did you come forward so openly this time?”
“Let me ask you, then. Michelle, would you do nothing if someone fired a gun at you?”
“I would have prevented them from firing in the first place. And I wouldn’t have provoked them.”
“This wouldn’t have happened if you had kept a strict lock on the situation to keep it from happening in the first place. You hesitated a little because the opposite party was Xu Xin, and hesitated again because I alluded to the Herdsman of Las Vegas.” Hyukjin shrugged. “Between the merit of satisfying the Herdsman of Las Vegas’ expectations or the penalty of allowing the unthinkable to happen in your place of business, you should have chosen one or the other and quickly taken action. You lost both rabbits in your greed to catch both, and now you’re demanding that I take responsibility?”
That instantly shut Michelle up. She really, truly could not find the words to retort.
“You’re quite eloquent.”
“I only stated facts.”
“I think you’re forgetting what situation you’re in right now.”
Hyukjin raised his hands, which Mark responded to by raising his bow. He aimed at Hyukjin’s forehead.
“The situation I’m in, you say…” Hyukjin shrugged. “I am a Player who is required by the System to attack back at all costs if someone attacks me first.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have a special ability called Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth.”
“And my brain will be scrambled if I don’t attack back while I have this ability. In other words, what I did was simply a justified Play. And what you’re doing is wrongfully oppressing me for making a justified Play.” Hyukjin glanced behind him. “Right, Senia?”
Senia showed herself. Several members of the Michelle Division couldn’t help but cough. Senia was certainly beautiful, so beautiful she could draw every gaze and induce admiration with her appearance alone. An Intermediate Administrator whose refined beauty shined radiantly simply by existing descended among them.
“In the eyes of the System, it was a justified Play.”
“To turn it around, what Xu Xin did was actually a justified Play as well.”
His class did not allow him to be robbed of his items. That was why he had an innate ability like Hunt Down the Thief. A thief had appeared, so the thief had to be found. The only problem was, his way of going about it was too crude.
“Xu Xin and I were merely Playing.”
Michelle had no choice but to glance uneasily at Senia.
‘Even an Intermediate Administrator stepped forward.’
If an Intermediate Administrator came forward and claimed this was a justified Play, there wasn’t actually much a Player could do. All they could do was hope for the Intermediate Administrator’s magnanimity and tolerance. Seeing as Michelle’s own Intermediate Administrator was remaining in transparent mode, it was clear that Hyukjin’s side was justified.
“Surely you didn’t just think killing monsters and clearing dungeons was all there was to Playing?”
Michelle realized exactly what those words meant. Kim Hyukjin wasn’t just talking to her right now. He was saying those words for the benefit of the Guardians who were watching, since many of them surely had a focus on non-combat content.
“Oh, right! I’ve already revealed my ability to you, haven’t I?”
“Yes. It is truly a mystical power.”
“The name of that ability is Cognitive Dissonance.”
The right time had come. Hyukjin had intended on revealing it himself, and that “right time” was now.
“I used that ability earlier as well. When I fired my bow at that guy.”
“Which means the others won’t remember you.”
Michelle strained to figure out what Kim Hyukjin was intending. Just what did this man want?
‘He definitely provoked Xu Xin.’
He, a man who disliked drawing attention, had done that on purpose. There was no mistake that all of this was engineered by Kim Hyukjin. For what?
“Were you the one who took Xu Xin’s items?”
“Are you accusing a random person of being a thief?”
“It’s because I’m not convinced as to why you did this.”
Why did he provoke Xu Xin like that?
“You don’t need to be convinced. I have my own scenario to Play, and I need to puzzle it out my way. Just like how you went to the trouble of calling in the world’s Rankers to put on a bothersome auction.”
“I’m not buying your reasoning for it, either. I don’t think you did this for money.” Hyukjin continued. “In any case, as a participant of the auction and a subordinate of Taeguk Shield’s guildmaster, I think I have no choice but to give you face, Ms. Michelle.”
“Give me face?”
“Let’s say you stripped me of all my power and chased me out of the country back to Korea. You can also say you beat me up, why not. I was stripped of all my power as a Player and will never be able to step foot in the world of Playing again.”
Hyukjin took out the item he was gifted by the Whispering Devil.
“With this, you will be able to convince the Rankers without a hitch.”
Michelle took the item. It was called ‘Trickery’. After receiving it, she unlocked the handcuffs on Hyukjin’s wrists. Xu Xin was still unconscious.
“I’m sure you’re not giving me this for free,” she said.
“Of course not. You need to compensate me for giving you face at the cost of losing my power as a Player and getting chased back to Korea.”
That was the story they would announce to the public.
“What do you want in return?”
The finish line was in sight. Hyukjin obtained all the “priceless” items in Xu Xin’s possession, including the Fountain Pen of Freedom. He also became acquainted with Michelle. He had achieved every goal he originally had for this place.
There was just one thing left.
“What I want…”
He pointed to Mark.
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