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    As I politely greeted them, applause erupted.

    There was no need for me to say anything more. Joo naturally took the microphone from my hand.

    Attention shifts to the person holding the mic. Inwardly relieved, I turned my body at an angle towards Ju.

    The person standing comfortably in the spotlight.

    Joo began speaking with ease.

    “Since it’s just us here, let’s keep it casual.”

    To Joo’s left was me, and to his right was Yoon. My supervisor kept his gaze lowered to the audience with a bored expression.

    In contrast, Joo had an aura that made it seem as if flowers would scatter behind him.

    The head of HR spoke.

    “Hildebert is a new recruit who was officially appointed just this month. 28 years old. Actually, he passed the recruitment exam earlier this year, but due to issues during the aging cessation and physical recovery enhancement process, his appointment and introduction were delayed.”

    The explanation continued in a monotonous manner. The smooth explanation aligned with what I had heard from my supervisor. My fabricated administrative details. Someone who had completed all academic courses online and then lived a life handling this and that in cyberspace.

    Joo neatly summarized it and concluded the introduction. The people gathered in the auditorium quietly listened to the head of HR’s words.

    His clear voice and the sound of rain outside.

    Just when it seemed like it might be getting a bit dull, Joo finished speaking.

    “That’s it for the official introduction. Now, let’s hear a brief self-introduction from the newbie, and when that’s done, we’ll have a 5-minute Q&A session.”

    The microphone came back to me.

    So this moment has finally come.

    I took the mic, trying to hide the resignation seeping into my smile.

    Boom, boom, boom!

    A tremendous noise came from outside the window. People’s heads reflexively turned. The window rattled in the wind and rain, making unstable sounds.

    Swish. The chilling sound penetrating through the window.

    “It’s raining heavily.”

    Joo remarked with a smile.

    The tornado must have gotten closer. The rainfall was intensifying.

    I glanced at the window, then turned my gaze back to the audience.

    I intended to get this over with quickly. Just moments ago, Joo had reassured me that new recruits usually wrap up their self-introductions briefly.

    People get bored, so keep it short, he said.

    “Good day, everyone. Allow me to introduce myself again. I am Hildebert Talev.”

    My voice echoed through the auditorium.

    I’m glad my voice isn’t shaking.

    Amidst the downpour of gazes, I continued.

    “Due to issues during the recovery enhancement process, I am only now giving this belated introduction. As the head of HR explained, I don’t have a particularly noteworthy career, but as such, I will learn everything like a clean slate. Some of you may be wondering where this rolling stone came from. Having rolled in on my own, I may not be a stepping stone, but I will work hard to avoid becoming a stumbling block. I am well aware that I just need to do well. I will do my best. Please look upon me favorably.”

    I gave a slight nod.

    Applause followed. Letting out a small sigh, I looked at the auditorium.

    Everyone was staring at me. It was a small blessing in this misfortune that it was too dark to see their expressions.

    I just hope they don’t ask any questions…

    “Who’s his supervisor?”

    As if that would happen.

    The question was thrown by a man with graying hair sitting in the front row.

    He had an imposing presence. Even with the gap between the podium, I had to make an effort not to be overwhelmed by his aura.

    Receiving his piercing gaze, I replied.

    “Choi Yoon.”

    The hall stirred.

    I could see the agitation slowly filling and spreading through the auditorium. The eyes of those who heard my answer widened.

    I know this reaction. Everyone had the same reaction in the Commander-in-Chief’s office. Ho did too.

    That’s right, everyone. My supervisor is that very man standing next to me.

    With a detached expression, I listened to the whispers that popped up.

    “Yoon? Doesn’t he refrain from mentoring new recruits due to his work in the Science Department?”

    “Rather than because of the Science Department, it’s his personality in the first place…”

    “Hey. The newbie is right there, keep your voice down.”

    “So that’s why he’s up there. I was wondering why he was standing there with that face.”

    “He looks like he’s utterly fed up.”

    “But he always has that expression…”

    “Does he even have the time? Isn’t he one of the top two brains in the Science Department?”

    “But isn’t the difficulty too high for a first-year newbie?”

    The seniors’ murmurs flew and stuck to me.

    I stood there smiling, hands neatly clasped together. I have to do well here, Hildebert. I can’t let my true feelings show, like I did in front of Ho.

    The man who asked the question folded his arms and looked me over with a measuring gaze.

    But just as I was trying to make the smile on my face even more perfect, a familiar voice rang out.

    “Hey, the newbie is already detached?”

    It was Lowe.

    Seeing the smile plastered on my face, he clicked his tongue.

    “What the hell happened for the kid to already make that expression?”

    What’s wrong with my expression?

    However, many agreed with Lowe’s words. I saw people nodding here and there. Some covered their mouths, others looked at me with eyes full of sympathy… Ricardo was over there, holding his stomach and trying to contain his laughter.

    Do you find this situation funny?

    “Oh no. We should treat him well…”

    Someone muttered.

    “Just buy that newbie a meal or something.”

    Another Badger chimed in. Yes. Please be good to me, everyone. Well, I’m doing better than you seniors might think, though.

    The murmuring continued. The incessant whispers of people.

    Amidst all this, my supervisor who stood on stage with me was unfazed as usual.

    Yoon spoke dryly.

    “I understand your reactions, but all of this is the head of HR’s decision.”

    Gazes swiftly converged on Ju.

    Joo had a faint smile on his lips. The murmuring rose again.

    When people shot him looks as if asking what the hell he was doing, he rested his chin on his hand, tilted his head, and examined me.


    The head of HR scrutinizing my desperate smile.

    I turned my head and met his gaze. Then I beamed with all my might!

    Joo’s eyes also curved into crescent moons.


    It was as if daisies were scattering behind him.

    “I’m glad to see you’re doing well~.”


    Lowe slammed the armrest of his seat.

    “Where do you see a face that’s doing well? His eyes have completely lost their sense!”

    “What’s wrong with his eyes? He looks perfectly fine to me.”

    “Ah, thank you, Director. And thank you for your concern, Senior Lowe. But I’m really doing well.”

    “He says he’s fine. If there’s any problem, feel free to come find me anytime, Hilde. My office is on the 9th floor of the headquarters~.”

    “Yes, Director. Thank you.”

    “That’s not it.”

    A beautiful woman with dark skin smiled and delivered her assessment.

    “He’s already thoroughly intimidated, isn’t he?”

    I’m telling you, that’s not it.

    I’m saying I even got a place to live and I’m doing well.

    My true feelings weren’t conveyed to those seated in the auditorium. I kept the vibrant smile on my face, not letting it fall, and shifted my gaze back to the auditorium.

    The veteran questioner scrutinizing me with an inscrutable face. Ho watching this situation unfold with an incredulous expression. Ricardo, unable to straighten his back, trying to hold back his laughter, and Deputy Ska smiling sympathetically from the back row.

    Ye-hyeon was observing the situation with a subtle smile.

    I carefully surveyed the people, trying not to make eye contact with him.

    I saw Amy blinking her round eyes several times.

    Yoon broke the silence again.

    “Just to let you know, he’s not in the dormitory but in a shack next to my place. Don’t go snooping around the dorm looking for the newbie.”

    His dry voice echoed through the auditorium.

    Sighs erupted from here and there. Even the seniors who had kept their mouths shut until now let out sounds of genuine sympathy for me.

    I watched this spectacle of various reactions and kept smiling.

    I feel like my cheeks are about to spasm.

    “How did the newbie end up there?”

    The beautiful woman who had assessed my future earlier rested her chin and met my eyes.

    “Where did you live before?”


    What should I answer? For a moment, I couldn’t think of a suitable response.

    Yoon came to my rescue.

    “He didn’t have a penny to his name and was recently kicked out of the studio he was living in. He has his own painful story, so don’t pry too much.”

    He spoke in a barren voice.

    “He had nowhere to go, so I gave him the shack I don’t use.”

    “Oh my, I’m sorry.”

    Her large eyes rolled towards me.

    The dark brown eyes beneath her long lashes examined my complexion. I tried my hardest to further widen my trembling smile.

    “I asked a thoughtless question.”

    “Not at all. Thanks to that, I got a good place to live and I’m doing well. I guess this is what they call a blessing in disguise.”

    “He’s a polite kid. Is this why the head of HR paired him with Yoon?”

    “Then does he also train nearby?”

    A man asked.

    “He doesn’t use the training room attached to the dormitory?”

    “No. He’s planning to use that, but we need to coordinate the schedule with the teams currently using the training room.”

    Again, Yoon answered.

    He withdrew his gaze from the questioner and swept it across the auditorium.

    “Who are the supervisors of the newbies right above him?”

    Two Badgers raised their hands.

    I recognized one of them. It was one of the people I had encountered when I first fell into this world. The man who had pulled up his mask to his nose. He had been standing with Shoe, and I remembered Ricardo and Amy sending them off midway.

    Those striking blue eyes left a deep impression, allowing me to immediately recognize his unmasked face. He was a sturdy-looking man with a slightly angular jaw.

    The other one was a stranger to me.

    Looking at them, Yoon asked.

    “Have the two newbies gone outside the core?”

    They silently shook their heads from side to side.

    It seems there are two newbies right above me.

    I wonder if that person named Shoe is included among them? I have a feeling she’s not, but…

    Yoon’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts.

    “I’m planning to take this kid out tomorrow.”

    The auditorium was once again filled with noise.

    Startled voices. Sharp intakes of breath. He’s only been appointed for a day? Questioning voices.

    The reaction was so explosive that this time, I couldn’t precisely pick out people’s voices. I didn’t have the energy for that either.

    Just smile, Hildebert. Smile!

    Even in the midst of the chaos, I tried to maintain a likable expression.

    When will this self-introduction end…?

    Boom, boom, boom! Crash!

    A loud thunderclap shook the auditorium.

    It was a clamorous sound that grabbed the attention of everyone present.

    The murmuring that had been echoing through the auditorium abruptly ceased.

    A chilling silence settled.

    Joo smiled, looking at the window.

    “The rain keeps falling.”

    He gestured for the microphone. I promptly brought it to him with both hands.

    Joo took the mic, spun around with a grin, and faced the auditorium.

    “I’m sure you all have many questions, but unfortunately, our allotted time is up. The rain is getting heavier, and we need people to guard the core, so let’s wrap up the self-introduction here. Please teach the new recruit well and help him adapt.”

    His clean voice resonated through the auditorium.

    Joo satisfactorily looked at the Black Badgers quietly listening to his words, then shifted his gaze back.

    “We can dismiss them now, right, Commander?”

    People’s heads turned in unison.

    Ye-hyeon, who had been sitting motionlessly with a subtle smile, slowly blinked. The Badgers’ gazes flew and stuck to him.

    In an instant, silence spread over the audience seating. I also tensely observed the Commander-in-Chief’s reaction.

    Ye-hyeon unclasped his hands resting on his crossed legs and looked down at his subordinates.

    “Yes. Everyone is busy, so thank you for taking the time to come all the way here.”

    His husky voice reverberated through the auditorium.

    People remained still, waiting for their superior’s words to end.

    “As the head of HR briefly mentioned, he’s a unique case whose appointment was delayed due to issues during the recovery enhancement process. I thought it would be best to introduce him in front of as many Badgers as possible, so I arranged this gathering. He’s a junior who still has issues with his recovery, so please be attentive and guide him.”

    The last sentence could have triggered murmurs like before, but no one opened their mouth. The Badgers stood at attention, looking at Ye-hyeon.

    “I’ve kept you too long.”

    Ye-hyeon spoke in a monotonous tone and rose to his feet.

    The two men sitting next to him also stood up. They turned and walked towards the auditorium’s main door. Ska walked a step ahead and opened the door.

    Light from the corridor poured into the dim auditorium.

    As Ye-hyeon stepped into the illuminated corridor, he gently concluded.

    “Thank you for coming silently despite the inclement weather. Now, go take care of your respective duties. Be careful, as the weather is severe.”


    Joo called out brightly.

    “Dismissed! Everyone, go back safely! The last person to leave, lock the auditorium door!”

    The auditorium was once again filled with noise. The sound of people getting up from their seats. Greetings, conversations, footsteps leaving the auditorium.

    People began to stream out of the auditorium like a tide. The sounds they made drowned out the fierce rainfall. It felt like watching a movie theater where the ending credits had started to roll. The sight of them gathering in small groups and leaving…

    Someone placed a hand on my shoulder.

    “Let’s go.”

    Yoon spoke indifferently.

    “Before we get caught by those annoying people.”

    Annoying people?

    I wasn’t clueless enough to ask that aloud. I promptly nodded and scurried after Yoon, who was heading towards the back of the stage.

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