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    He asked if the man said it with his own mouth.

    Jeong Moo-eum retorted with a dumbfounded expression.

    “You think I’d make stuff up? Yes, really. At least back then, he did.”

    “Hmm.”

    That he didn’t work together because it was a hindrance.

    Hwa-shin hid his expression behind his folded arms. Certainly, Cha Jaeha didn’t particularly like working in pairs. No, it would be more accurate to say he avoided it. <YoHero> had mentioned that Jaeha had such a tendency early on.

    It seemed Jaeha at the time Moo-eum mentioned was still clumsy at controlling his ability. Well. That made sense. Considering his past.

    ‘It’s not something he can overcome quickly. And it’s the basis of who Cha Jaeha is.’

    The childhood trauma Cha Jaeha possessed.

    On the day the gate opened, the moment Cha Jaeha awakened, he burned his parents to death with his ability.

    At least that’s what Cha Jaeha believed.

    The burned corpses turned to ashes and were unrecoverable. He had completely incinerated them. His own parents, directly, with his own ability.

    At the funeral with no bodies, young Cha Jaeha did not cry.

    In the original work, Cha Jaeha describes himself as a beast’s offspring. A beast’s offspring that should be in hell.

    「 I have no right to cry. How can a beast who killed his parents shed tears? To have that right, one should have at least been human, not a beast. I’m worse than a beast’s offspring. 」

    Since then, Cha Jaeha became obsessively fixated on saving people with his ability. At the same time, he did not value his own life much. Because he was a sinner, he tended to think it was fine even if he died.

    He cursed himself for possessing an ability that kills people and strived to save others with that ability.

    If Cha Jaeha, with such trauma, had been struggling to control his ability…

    ‘He probably said he wouldn’t pair up because he was worried about being a hindrance. Jeong Moo-eum was a genius who handled his ability well from the beginning.’

    Hwa-shin let out a small sigh.

    That Cha Jaeha bastard, instead of just saying ‘I’m actually worried my fire might kill you’, he deliberately keeps his mouth shut. Even though he’s my favorite, that part of him is frustrating.

    Cha Jaeha was always like that. He tried to solve everything alone.

    He took on the dangerous tasks himself, he saved people himself. Only after clashing with Yoo Jian and working together did he gradually start to change.

    —You need to fix that first. So what if you’re strong? You say you want to save more people, that it’s your role! Fine, keep that up and see if you can save more in this worsening situation. Get your head on straight. I’m SH1 Unit and you’re SH1 Unit too. You want to act like a hero? Then fight together with us.

    Our Yoo Jian had a way with words too. I want to see Yoo Jian fight soon too.

    Thinking about his favorite characters naturally brought a smile to his face. At the perverted-looking grin, Jeong Moo-eum went ‘ugh’ and continued.

    “Anyway. You probably won’t make it into the SH Unit anyway, so I’m telling you this because you seem to have too much hope about teaming up with Mr. Cha Jaeha.”

    This kid may seem oblivious, but he’s unexpectedly attentive.

    “You’re younger than me, Mr. Moo-eum, but you’re really good at looking after people. Is that how you usually are?”

    “What?”

    The tips of Jeong Moo-eum’s ears flushed bright red.

    Since he’s young, he reacts quickly to whatever is said.

    Come to think of it, despite his curt personality, the Jeong Moo-eum in <YoHero> was exceptionally good at caring for his people. In retrospect, the one who discreetly took care of the team’s meals and health was always Jeong Moo-eum.

    Moreover, he was especially nice to his fans. The novel had a whole page describing how the guy who refused idol casting, saying he couldn’t do aegyo, would smile brightly in front of fans.

    If you smile with that face, that’s a crime, you bastard.

    However, contrary to his reddened face, Moo-eum crumpled his distinct features and replied.

    “Since when?”

    At that moment, Hwa-shin was convinced.

    Ah, as expected.

    Moo-eum is fun to tease.

    ***

    After a short speech by a high-ranking official Yoo Hwa-shin had no memory of, the selection test began from Waiting Room 1.

    As explained earlier, a randomly selected hero from Waiting Room 1 entered the arena.

    The chosen person was an S-rank male with a cute appearance similar to Moo-eum’s. He’s young too. He’ll probably be quite popular. Though judging by how he smiled at everyone, his personality seemed the complete opposite.

    It would be pretty funny to put the two in the same room.

    After a brief explanation about the match, the fight started immediately. It was a match between S-rank and A-rank.

    ‘What ability will the S-rank have?’

    Each waiting room had one S-rank hero, and Cha Jaeha was in Waiting Room 5. We’ll have to go around at least once.

    Hwa-shin yawned wide open. I hope it doesn’t take too long.

    And much shorter than Hwa-shin expected, the match ended in an extremely anticlimactic way.

    The A-rank, who seemed to have a doppelganger ability in the attack category, duplicated his body into four and charged at the S-rank. Since the S-rank had a small build, that assault could have made for quite a spectacle if it had worked.

    However, the man soon came to a halt. The doppelgangers also stopped following him.

    The A-rank muttered something and then shed tears. Then he desperately apologized to someone. Before long, he grabbed his own neck with both hands. The lively black eyes had rolled back, leaving only the whites visible.

    ‘Hmm, that illusion-type ability is certainly impressive.’

    His entire body’s joints bent in the opposite direction for no reason. Aargh! Screaming in agony, the A-rank foamed at the mouth and plummeted to the ground. Since he fell forward, the cheekbone that hit the ground was probably broken.

    The man convulsed even while lying down. The way he twitched looked like a fish flopping around, unable to return to water.

    There was no exchange of blows. The arena was silent.

    ‘Illusion types are certainly intriguing, but they’re not fun.’

    Hwa-shin wiped the tears that had flowed from yawning and leaned back.

    “…Due to one side’s inability to continue fighting.”

    Even the Audit Department employee acting as the judge seemed surprised by the match that ended in 1 minute. Along with a roaring cheer, the employee announced the result.

    “Victory goes to Jin!”

    Among heroes, there were those who used code names instead of their real names, and Jin, who belonged to the 3rd Unit, was one of them.

    ‘Now that I hear the name, it’s clear.’

    The illusion-type S-rank hero, Jin. There was hardly any mention of him other than the description of being bright and cheerful, but seeing him felt strangely fascinating in a completely different way from seeing Cha Jaeha and Jeong Moo-eum.

    This place, where even the extras were vividly alive, was a world. A truly existing world. That realization sent shivers down Hwa-shin’s spine once more.

    Jin, who even blew a kiss towards the heroes in the spectator seats, exited.

    Jin and Theo were the ones who joined SH3 Unit. I think Theo had the complete opposite personality from that guy. Hwa-shin rubbed his chin.

    Meanwhile,

    “It’s our waiting room’s turn.”

    Moo-eum pointed at the employee who had started the drawing. The number written on the paper the employee drew was, as luck would have it, 2-1.

    As if fate was playing a trick, the owner of 2-1 was…

    “It’s me.”

    The muscular man from earlier. And as soon as he stood on the arena, he grabbed the microphone without hesitation. A resounding voice called out the desired opponent.

    “F-rank, Yoo Hwa-shin!”

    I knew it.

    Hwa-shin got up from his seat as if he had expected it, rotating his arms a couple of times.

    “…It’s sad to be popular, isn’t it?”

    At the mention of F-rank, attention focused on Hwa-shin all at once. Of course, they weren’t particularly friendly gazes.

    He seemed to be quite enjoying it.

    “I’ll be back.”

    Hwa-shin, who gave Moo-eum a gentle eye smile, headed towards the arena.

    ***

    On the arena.

    The two waited for the start of the match at a distance of about 1m. Since the first match ended quickly, not much time was needed for repairs.

    Hwa-shin slowly rotated his neck.

    A brief warm-up exercise is essential even before light gymnastics. The man smashed his rock-like fists together. Hwa-shin closed his eyes because it looked too stupid to be called a preemptive strike.

    Let’s see. That Audit Department employee earlier. …What was his name again?

    ‘Ah, right. Ko Young… Oh? Woo? Ahh, Ko Young. The name is pretty cute.’

    Hwa-shin slightly opened one eye he had closed. Although he didn’t know what the ability was, it didn’t seem to require much karma to use a Decree on him.

    A few days ago, when he tested it directly. This body wasn’t very efficient at using karma.

    The ability to manipulate karma remained the same, but it had poor compatibility with the body. Naturally, the number of times it could be used was also limited.

    It was fine for ordinary people, but if he overused Decrees on Awakeners, he would likely suffer from punctured lungs or cough up blood.

    ‘Even if I suffer internal injuries, it’s easy to heal, but that also uses karma, so I need to determine the usage amount carefully.’

    However, that didn’t mean it was difficult to blow away that gorilla.

    “Seeing you so scared you can’t even speak, the outcome will be decided soon.”

    In response to the man’s provocation, Hwa-shin replied with a sly grin instead of words.

    ‘…Should I just kill him?’

    It’s not like I’ll cough up blood just from blowing up one Awakener.

    ‘…But the situation is a bit tricky for that.’

    He had to join SH1 Unit and stick close to the protagonist to prevent his death.

    But right now, he was F-rank. If he displayed a flashy ability, they would first suspect why the measurement wasn’t done properly.

    ‘I’d be under special surveillance before even joining SH1 Unit.’

    Besides, if it was simply about destroying or blowing something away, it would suit Yoo Jian or Jeong Moo-eum better. The abilities SH1 Unit lacked weren’t in that area.

    Then, if he tried to match Cha Jaeha’s ability. He would need a nature-type ability for that, but using Decrees to manipulate that category had tricky conditions. In the first place, magic utilizing karma and nature types didn’t have very good compatibility.

    Then, excluding flashy ones, excluding nature types, something moderate. An ability that SH1 Unit desperately needed but could have been judged as F-rank according to measurement criteria.

    Since it’s a tournament, I can pretend to advance by luck in the first round, and from the second round, I can make it seem like I’ve gotten used to the ability.

    Such an ability. Hwa-shin clapped his hands together.

    ‘…I have no clue at all.’

    “Then we will begin the match for the heroes of Waiting Room 2. I, an employee from the Audit Department, will be in charge of judging. The winner will be decided when it is determined that continuing the match is impossible, or when defeat is declared.”

    Hmm, what could it be? No matter how much he furrowed his brows and pondered, he couldn’t think of anything. Something that would satisfy all those conditions.

    Unfortunately, time kept flowing, and the start of the match was approaching.

    “Then. The first match of Waiting Room 2.”

    “Wahaha! My fists are crying! Yoo Hwa-shin, I shall teach you a lesson!”

    …Wow. I really want to kill him.

    The employee’s hand rose high towards the ceiling lights.

    “Begin!”

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