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    The bright ceiling darkened in an instant.

    Near the head of the encroaching shadow, a long, thin line appeared. The abruptly torn long arc instantly transformed into an enormous mouth. Between the open jaws, black liquid stretched vertically.

    The colossal shadow covering the ceiling fell directly onto Hwa-shin.

    ‘That seems a bit dangerous. It’s too big to dodge to the side.’

    Hwa-shin was still standing in the same spot.

    He slowly blinked his eyelids. As if time around him alone was flowing slowly.

    His shimmering eyes stared at the shadow. Reading the woven karma. The sensation of pulling and beating a single thread from the tangled skein. The shadow’s shape momentarily distorted in a bizarre manner. Followed by his words.

    「Stop.」

    With that deep reverberation, the ferociously charging shadow’s speed drastically decreased.

    “Shadow! What are you doing!”

    It was no use even when the flustered Ko Young-woo yelled at the top of his lungs to move right now. Clicking his tongue, seeming conscious of the murmuring audience, Ko Young-woo let out a short tsk.

    Actually, the truly flustered one was Hwa-shin.

    ‘I stopped it without much thought.’

    No, no. Rather, this was a blessing. Wouldn’t it be fine to show abilities only up to this point?

    With the idea that flashed through his mind, Hwa-shin’s eyes sparkled once more.

    He had finally decided on an ability.

    Hwa-shin, with curved eyes, glanced at the muscleman’s face once again.

    —It’s No. 2-1!

    It was worthwhile to purposely manipulate karma to arrange a match with him.

    In his previous life, Hwa-shin, also known as Elric, was someone with quite clear likes and dislikes. Since his likes and dislikes were definite, his attitude toward people he disliked was also definite. That hadn’t changed even now.

    This muscleman Ko Young-i was a person he disliked.

    Now that he had decided on an ability and finished contemplating.

    “It’s our boy’s turn to be scolded,”

    A blissful smile spread across Hwa-shin’s face.

    ***

    Ko Young-woo shouted at the irksome shadow. Why did he have to be humiliated like this when facing an F-rank of all things!?

    “Hit him once! You damn shadow bastard!”

    My, what pretty words he used.

    Hwa-shin lightly flicked his fingers inside his pocket to release the command. As soon as the command was lifted, the shadow smacked Hwa-shin’s cheek with a fist. Hwa-shin flew away like dust on the roadside and tumbled across the arena floor.

    “Kuhahaha! That’s right!”

    But the joy was short-lived. The shadow stopped obeying him again. The liquefied shadow chaotically transformed into various shapes and suddenly changed into a long pillar, soaring high into the sky. Its speed was enough to make even Ko Young-woo struggle to come to his senses. Even when I controlled it, it never moved at such a fast speed. What? What’s happening?

    “Uh.”

    The gap between the pale-faced Ko Young-woo’s slightly parted lips.

    Not missing that gap, the shadow was sucked into his mouth. The shadow filled his mouth to the brim. The part that couldn’t fit in turned into a black liquid, staining the area around his mouth pitch-black. It was an unsightly scene. Some even turned their heads away in disgust.

    “Kueaahp-.”

    Yoo Hwa-shin, who had been sitting on the floor, shouted as if he had been waiting for the audience to leave.

    “Oh my god! How could this happen!?”

    It was a terrible act, but due to the shadow-eating spectacle, the heroes focused on Ko Young-woo rather than Hwa-shin’s voice. Hwa-shin put even more effort into his act. It was the perfect opportunity to show off the acting he had practiced alone for 2nn years.

    “An A-rank got devoured by his own ability! This is a truly dangerous situation!”

    In fact, rather than Ko Young-woo being eaten, he had manipulated karma to shove it into his belly.

    Well, this or that, what did it matter? Right now, drawing people’s attention was the priority.

    “Urgh-!”

    Hwa-shin’s terrible acting continued like a flood.

    “What happens when you eat a shadow! C-Could it be!”

    “Aaargh-!”

    Provocative words were added to the flashy bad acting.

    “—- from —- becomes —-!”

    Ko Young-woo’s stomach, which had swallowed the shadow, gradually swelled up sturdily. He clutched his stomach and rolled on the floor as if he urgently needed to defecate.

    What a sight to behold.

    Hwa-shin, who had been smiling contentedly, quickly changed his expression and turned his gaze to the employee. The employee, also startled by the unexpected situation, was making a call somewhere. Hwa-shin began mind control until he finished the call.

    I am a flustered F-rank, an F-rank with luck that’s too good to be true.

    As soon as the call ended, Hwa-shin raised his hand and called out to him.

    “Department of Appreciation employee, is it possible to continue the match?”

    “Huh? Ah, yes. Well.”

    He could have dealt with him in any way, but the reason he made his stomach hurt by feeding him the shadow was simple.

    ‘You aimed for my stomach earlier.’

    He was just spiteful. He wanted to add an embarrassing past to his list of grudges.

    While Hwa-shin picked his ear, the Department of Appreciation employee finally declared Hwa-shin’s victory. A devilish smile hung on his lips. Hwa-shin jumped up and went to greet Moo-eum first.

    ***

    Ha Cheong-won, who had been watching the match from the entrance between the audience seats, dashed out and grabbed the railing. If he used the shadow against an F-rank, he could have accidentally killed him.

    He had heard that killing was prohibited in this match. Ha Cheong-won’s face turned pale, and it was then that his hand completely loosened its grip on tension.

    The shadow eventually succeeded in hitting Yoo Hwa-shin once. That was it. In the end, the shadow was sucked into the mouth of Ko Young-woo, who couldn’t control his own ability.

    Occasionally, such cases occurred when one couldn’t control their own ability.

    However, a hero’s ability doesn’t have a fatal impact on themselves. It was the same principle as Cha Jaeha, who uses fire, not getting burned. Likewise, the shadow that entered Ko Young-woo’s mouth would eventually be expelled somewhere.

    As the unpleasant imagination continued, Ha Cheong-won hurriedly shook his head.

    Anyway, since one side became unable to continue the match, it was Yoo Hwa-shin’s victory.

    Yoo Hwa-shin was lucky. …That’s how it seemed.

    But Ha Cheong-won, who had experienced the previous incident, couldn’t possibly think that way. Was that really luck?

    「Smiil- le!」

    「If you don’t want to die later, at least come watch -.」

    …That strange confidence.

    Yoo Hwa-shin was F-rank. His mana was also F, and no abilities had been discovered. The composure that man had shown.

    Ha Cheong-won gripped the railing tightly again. Right, the way his mouth involuntarily curled up that day wasn’t a mistake. He definitely used that ability today as well. There was no other explanation for this situation.

    Ha Cheong-won gazed at Hwa-shin, who was bouncing around, celebrating his own victory.

    “Moo-eum~! I’m done! No, Mr. Moo-eum! I finished!”

    As soon as the match ended, he waved his hand at Moo-eum, who was quietly sitting in the first row. However, like Ha Cheong-won, Jeong Moo-eum couldn’t smile either.

    「You’re weak.」

    The man who had said those words actually won. Was he lucky? Sure, that could be possible. But there must be a reason why that person showed such confidence. In fact, even before the series of events, he had neatly dodged all of Ko Young-woo’s attacks.

    ‘…He’s really a strange guy.’

    ***

    Hwa-shin left the arena before the next order was even decided after the match ended.

    “Hmm-hmm.”

    He couldn’t help but hum. He had won the match, and he had roughly planned how to join the SH1 unit in the future.

    ‘Mana manipulation… ability. That should be enough, right? Awakeners’ abilities are also related to mana, and monsters are even more so.’

    It would be much easier to come up with excuses.

    I guess I really am a genius. How did I come up with this idea?

    Moreover, with this, it would be easy to explain later why an F-rank appeared.

    In the novel, there were cases where the ranks of illusion, mental, and manipulation-type abilities were sometimes measured incorrectly. A prime example was the S-rank hero Jin.

    ‘In the second round, I’ll just act as if I can finally use that ability properly.’

    “I, am, a, ge, nius~.”

    Hwa-shin, who was cheerfully climbing the stairs, ran into a familiar face. Looking up, he saw the face of that employee from before.

    “Oh! Mr. Employee, did you come to watch me?”

    “…You.”

    His state as he looked at Hwa-shin was definitely strange. His complexion was pale, and he was sweating on his forehead. As if he had seen a ghost.

    But why are his hands shaking so much?

    “Who the hell are you?”

    “…Huh?”

    Ha Cheong-won grabbed Hwa-shin’s shoulders. A cracking sound came from his clenched teeth. Hearing that sound all the way here meant he must have bitten down hard. At this rate, he’ll lose all his teeth when he gets old. Oh my, teeth are hard to manage later if you don’t take care of them when you’re young.

    Ha Cheong-won shouted in a trembling voice.

    Rather than a threat, it was a voice that sounded more frightened himself.

    “You were supposed to lose! …That was the future!”

    The future?

    “I clearly saw you losing with my ability.”

    What did he see with his ability? My future? Hwa-shin’s mind raced at Ha Cheong-won’s mumbling. If there was a precognition ability user in Korea at this point.

    Come to think of it, there were a total of 6 waiting rooms. Since there was one S-rank hero in each room, there were a total of 6 S-ranks.

    However, an A-rank hero with precognition ability would be added to the SH unit. I thought he was inside because he was A-rank, but.

    “Heh.”

    I guess not. A smile hung on Yoo Hwa-shin’s lips.

    At this moment, Ha Cheong-won was perplexed. He considered his precognition ability, although B-rank, to be practically useless in the field.

    [ Skill: 30-second Precognition (B) (You can see 30 seconds into the future.) (Possibility of promotion exists)

    Caution: You lack proficiency in handling the ability. Precognition is a mental ability, so the conditions and scope of its manifestation may change at any time depending on your growth rate, so regular check-ups are necessary. ]

    It’s only 30 seconds. Moreover, his control is clumsy, so he doesn’t know when or what kind of future he’ll see.

    Nevertheless, Ha Cheong-won definitely saw it this time. The sight of the man before him losing.

    As soon as he entered the arena, the future he saw was – the scene of Yoo Hwa-shin fainting after being swallowed by the shadow and Ko Young-woo laughing loudly.

    But what was unfolding before his eyes in the ‘present’?

    The one who collapsed was Ko Young-woo, and Yoo Hwa-shin was unscathed. The future had changed.

    It was confusing. Can the future be changed so easily? Shaking pupils. Stiff expression. He couldn’t sort out what to say first.

    Hwa-shin, who had approached such Cheong-won, took out the employee ID from his breast pocket and flipped it over.

    The ID card that fell to the floor with a clatter revealed the text written on it.

    ‘…Department of Management, Ha Cheong-won, B-rank.’

    …Seeing the name confirmed it.

    “Mr. Ha Cheong-won?”

    ‘Hero Ha Cheong-won, who possesses precognition ability.’

    This man was the future A-rank hero with precognition ability who would belong to the SH2 unit.

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