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    The moment he opened his eyes, Sa-yoon tasted a thick and metallic tang of iron in his mouth. Wiping his face, exhausted and haggard, he stared blankly at his hand, which came away clean.

    His mind was hazy. As he struggled to recall what had happened, the memory of what transpired just before he lost consciousness finally resurfaced, and Sa-yoon bolted upright in bed.

    That bastard!

    His weariness evaporated in an instant.

    ‘I Alone Am High.’

    Though he had only skimmed the Dispositions and couldn’t remember the other details, that one phrase stood out vividly. Eight characters he couldn’t forget even after passing out. Of the two Dispositions he had seared into his mind, Sa-yoon had clearly recognized one in the last Awakener he saw.

    He had strived to verify it while on the brink of collapse, so he couldn’t quite recall what the man looked like. All that remained in his memory was the fact that he had spotted a Disposition holder while he was nearly dead. Staggering, he walked to the bathroom. A glance in the mirror revealed his face covered in blood.

    “Looks like I starred in another horror movie.”

    Between the screams he heard before fainting and his current state, his life had become a horror show lately. Thinking he could easily pass as staff at a haunted house, Sa-yoon washed his face with cold water, driving away his fatigue.

    Every movement sent sharp pangs through his head, and he narrowed his eyes. This damned Skill had made chronic anemia his daily reality.

    Not that he would have to deal with it anymore.

    “Ah…”

    His voice quivered with emotion.

    Sa-yoon smiled like a villain, wiped his dripping face with the back of his hand, and checked his phone.

    First, he had to find out if Jongsik had captured the Awakener as ordered. Though they had been together for years, Jongsik’s efficient work ethic led him to send a text first.

    [You fainted, so I moved you to the bedroom. I secured the person you told me to catch, so contact me when you wake up.]

    Nothing could be more satisfying.

    Even if he tried to find fault, there were no loose ends to criticize. Sa-yoon pulled his hoodie back down and finished preparing to leave before calling Jongsik.

    Before the second ring, Jongsik’s voice came through.

    “You’re awake?”

    “Yeah, the guy I told you to catch…”

    “He’s at the villa.”

    “…Where?”

    “The villa on Geoje Island.”

    The torture villa.

    Sa-yoon thought he misheard. When he asked again, Jongsik blandly added the word ‘torture.’

    Dizzy at the realization that his precious Disposition holder, the one he had searched for over three months, had been taken to the torture villa of all places, Sa-yoon grasped his throbbing forehead. He didn’t even have the energy to yell.

    “Why?”

    “Pardon?”

    “Why did you take him there?”

    “You only told me to bring him, not where to put him, so I handled it as usual… Did something go wrong?”

    He didn’t know where to begin. Admittedly, it wasn’t entirely incomprehensible for Jongsik to do this, given that Sa-yoon usually either recruited captured people into the guild or stuffed them in the villa. After all, that’s how Sa-yoon had trained him.

    But why, of all people, did it have to be that guy?

    Jongsik’s thoughtlessness was staggering, considering he had watched Sa-yoon search day and night for three months. The man had no sense whatsoever. No wonder he was still single at thirty-two.

    Sighing, Sa-yoon told the flustered Jongsik, who was asking why and if he had done something wrong, to prepare for his arrival at the villa before hanging up.

    What’s done was done; he couldn’t do anything about it now.

    Let’s think positively. The System might tell him to interrogate the Disposition holder.

    Though he doubted it, Sa-yoon tried to be optimistic as he checked his condition one last time before leaving the room. He took sunglasses from his pocket, but seeing blood on them, he frowned. After blowing on them and scraping off the blood with his fingernails a few times, the sunglasses looked decent enough.

    Stepping out of the elevator, familiar buildings stretched out before him. Lost in thought, waiting for Jongsik, Sa-yoon belatedly realized that Jongsik would be resting near the villa by now.

    With no time to lose, he couldn’t ask Jongsik to return, so he would have to drive there himself this time.

    Hands thrust in his pockets, Sa-yoon headed to the parking lot and picked a nondescript sedan from the few vehicles, one that wouldn’t be a big deal even if it got wrecked, and started the engine.

    With skills that hadn’t rusted, he gripped the steering wheel and fastened his seatbelt.

    4:00 a.m.

    The black sedan’s tires sliced through the stillness and glided away.

    ***

    “You’re here.”

    Upon arriving at the villa, Jongsik, who had been waiting, greeted Sa-yoon. As Jongsik naturally tried to take luggage from Sa-yoon, who had brought nothing, Sa-yoon handed over his sunglasses and delivered the scolding he couldn’t over the phone.

    “Why do you take the kid to the villa even when you take him?”

    “You didn’t say anything, did you?”

    “If you knew I had been looking for him for three months, you should have used your judgment on where to put him.”

    At the chiding tone, Jongsik, who seemed to expect praise, drooped his eyebrows. If it had been someone else, it might have looked a bit pitiful, but with Jongsik’s hulking figure, it didn’t elicit an ounce of sympathy.

    Leaving the crestfallen Jongsik behind, Sa-yoon opened the door leading to the basement and descended the stairs. A musty smell assailed his nostrils. The foul and metallic odor penetrated to the depths of his nasal cavity, and Sa-yoon, waving a hand, nagged Jongsik to clean up. After exchanging a few more pointless remarks, they reached the basement, where Sa-yoon could finally see the youthful man tied to a chair.

    The man whose hands and feet were bound to the chair, his mouth gagged.

    With his head bowed, unconscious, his appearance, in the eyes of the Night Rats’s leader, was unmistakably that of someone about to be tortured.

    “…Jongsik-ah.”

    “Yes.”

    “Did you tie him up?”

    “What? Yes. Since I brought him suddenly, I knocked him out and tied him up in case he resisted.”

    His voice was full of pride. As if demanding recognition for his rope-tying skills honed over months.

    Unable to praise the expectant tone, Sa-yoon swallowed his words and used his Skill, the Eyes of a Genius, to check. The status window of the restrained, unconscious man unfurled.

    <The Skill ‘Eyes of a Genius’ allows you to peek at the designated target’s status window. Beware of the pain. (b ᵔ▽ᵔ)b>

    <Retrieving Player Han Geon-joo’s status window.>

    .

    .

    .

    <Han Geon-joo’s Status Window>

    Age: 22

    Gender: Male

    Grade: B

    Disposition: ‘I Alone Am High’

    Titles: ‘Watched By The Gods(?)’, ‘I’m Quite Outstanding(A)’, ‘One Who Masters All Things(S)’, ‘The Only Genius Under The Heavens(A)’

    Skills: [Social Finesse(A)], [Adaptability(S)], [Insight(B)], [Eloquence(A)], [Soliloquy(A)], [Weapon Mastery(S)], [Composure(B)]

    Exclusive Skill: [Survival Instinct(SS+)]

    Unopened Skills: [Discernment(SSS)], [Shadow Dominion(L)]

    Benefits: ‘There’s Quite a Gap in Our Levels(A)’, ‘Unlucky For You, But I Awakened a Week Ago(S)’, ‘Natural Sense(A)’

    -Stats

    Strength: B+(SSS)

    Agility: B+(SSS)

    Stamina: A-(SSS)

    Luck: S(S+)

    It was clear.

    He was the holder of ‘I Alone Am High,’ one of the two Dispositions the System had revealed. After verifying that first, Sa-yoon started reading the rest of the information in order but stopped, staring at the unconscious man in astonishment.

    His Disposition was extraordinary, and his status window was indeed exceptional. Compared to Sa-yoon’s, it was cute, but considering Sa-yoon had built his own status window by rolling and tumbling in this world for ten years, Geon-joo’s status window was quite, no, incredibly outstanding. To the point where it wouldn’t be strange to say God had poured all the cheat keys onto that guy.

    Judging by his Perk, it seemed he had Awakened just over a week ago, but that status window was unfair. Just looking at his Grade made Sa-yoon’s stomach ache, and it was filled with unlucky words like Titles and Benefits, making him even more nauseous.

    He must be destined for greatness.

    Just by the maximum growth potential of his stats, one could tell he was no ordinary fellow. Above all.

    ‘Watched by the Gods(?).’

    This was one of the Titles Sa-yoon had as well. Seeing the Title with a question mark, making detailed information unavailable just like his own, Sa-yoon was convinced.

    Han Geon-joo, he was the key that could change Sa-yoon’s shitty life.

    Having finished verifying the status window, Sa-yoon sat across from the man tied to the torture chair and stared at him intently.

    He had encountered the Disposition holder as the System said, but now he didn’t know what more to do. The System should give him orders on what to do so he could wake up or kill that unlucky pretty boy.

    Just in case, Sa-yoon asked Jongsik to bring him tools and opened his own status window, lightly pressing the deactivated button next to ‘The Resistor.’

    Ding!

    The perfunctory notification sound rang out, but no blue window appeared, making Sa-yoon blink. This was a first.

    As he silently waited for the window that wouldn’t open, Jongsik handed him a large pair of pliers. While Sa-yoon habitually stroked them, it happened.

    <You have achieved an encounter with the ‘I Alone Am High’ Disposition holder. (º □ º l|l)>

    <Calling the System. Please wait a moment. (º □ º l|l)>

    A blue window popped up with the same flustered-looking emoticon he had seen before. At the same time, a brief groan came from the front, as if Geon-joo had regained consciousness.

    Ding!

    <‘First Step Toward Activation’ complete! Achieve the ‘Second Step Toward Activation’! (º □ º l|l)>

    •  

    [Quest – Second Step Toward Activation]

    ‘Maintain a close relationship with the Disposition holder.’

    Note: Maintain the relationship until the Disposition holder’s Grade reaches S. Activation may be hindered if the relationship deteriorates.

    Reward: ?

    Failure: The Resister cannot be activated

    Current Relationship: Hostile

    •  

    “……”

    Having received a new quest as soon as he completed one goal, Sa-yoon checked the content of the quest window that appeared before his eyes and pressed his lips firmly together. His dark blue eyes flickered briefly as he gazed at Geon-joo, who had now awakened.

    ‘Maintain a close relationship with the Disposition holder.’

    The second quest sent by the System echoed in his ears with voice support. Ruminating on the warning that activation might be hindered if the relationship deteriorated, Sa-yoon tried to view his situation from an objective perspective.

    The bound Geon-joo and himself, stroking pliers while needing to make a good impression.

    Did they really look close?

    The answer was undoubtedly ‘no.’

    Sa-yoon, his eyes bulging as if he might curse at any moment, glared at the System window.

    To hell with getting close, why are you telling me this now, you bastard?

    Even if it was late, it was way too late to let him know.

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