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    ‘Ha Cheong-won at this point hasn’t fully blossomed his ability yet.’

    Ha Cheong-won belonged to the SH2 unit with his outstanding precognition ability, primarily tasked with analyzing gates. At the same time, he was in charge of supporting the SH1 unit.

    Thus, compared to other teams, he was a character who was mentioned quite frequently in the novel. However, since his appearance was never particularly described, Hwa-shin didn’t recognize him as the bespectacled, diligent civil servant he was pretending to be.

    Because one year later, Ha Cheong-won…

    ‘Was quite free-spirited in his words and actions compared to now.’

    Being such a smart and rational fellow, even while assisting Cha Jaeha, he often stood on the opposite side of him on every matter. Perhaps because of that, there were many scenes of them engaging in radio arguments worse than neighborhood brawls. Cha Jaeha even threw away the earpiece he was wearing, saying he hated the sound of Ha Cheong-won’s voice.

    No wonder there was a passage in the novel – Ha Cheong-won thought every day that he wanted to throw ‘Cha Jaeha and his vicious gang (SH1 unit)’ into a monster den inside a gate for a day or so.

    —Mr. Cha Jaeha, will you come to your senses only after getting your throat slit while dying like a dog?

    —Among the futures I saw, there was no future where you all survived. Ah, there is one. The future where you listened to my opinion… Hello? Hello? Did you turn off the radio again… Hey, hey! You crazy bastards!!

    —Come back here right now, you #$%@!!

    …Most of the conversations were like that. I didn’t expect him to be such a diligent young man.

    How should I put it, I imagined someone a bit more… worn down by society. A middle-aged man in pain… Isn’t he more fresh-faced than I thought?

    Anyway.

    “Isn’t it strange! Answer my questions. If you deliberately hid it, I won’t let it slide. Concealing abilities is a matter subject to heavy punishment among disciplinary actions -.”

    I didn’t properly listen to the rest. It was clear he would ramble on about principles, regulations, and rules. With a dumb expression, Hwa-shin picked his ear.

    What should I do now?

    Ha Cheong-won was a staunch principlist with a meticulous personality, so if he got on his bad side for no reason, it would be troublesome later.

    ‘Should I just bolt since it’s annoying? No, with his personality, he might persistently chase after me. That would be even more bothersome.’

    Well, if I was going to join the SH unit anyway, I had to get reevaluated too.

    ‘Moreover, it’s better not to build a bad relationship with Ha Cheong-won. We’ll frequently get involved with each other later… And isn’t the kid unexpectedly, somewhat… clumsy and cute? He’s just diligently doing his job in his own way.’

    I feel like I’ve been using the word ‘cute’ too often since coming here. Hwa-shin scratched the back of his head.

    Ha Cheong-won, with an uncharacteristically disheveled hair, wrinkled jacket, and a flustered expression, opened his mouth as if urging him.

    “Yoo Hwa-shin-ss.”

    “Excuse me. Mr. Ha Cheong-won.”

    Hwa-shin’s eyes sparkled as he intercepted mid-sentence. A chill ran down the spine at the smile hanging on his lips.

    Cheong-won’s mouth, who was about to say something, closed on its own.

    His body stiffened. He couldn’t move a single step. Even though he was smiling… Ha Cheong-won gulped.

    Is the person standing before my eyes really F-rank?

    No, no.

    Ha Cheong-won was certain. This person was definitely not F-rank. Otherwise, there was no way he wouldn’t be able to move a single fingertip like this. That day, on that day, there must have been a problem with the machine. His head spun instead of his body.

    ‘What nonsense about suicide during the test. This person sincerely wants to join the SH unit. And he’s someone who has the confidence to do so. Damn it. What kind of misconception did I have?’

    Blaming his ignorant past, Cheong-won gazed at Hwa-shin.

    ‘Is his ability a mental type after all? Or manipulation type? Then there are a few cases of measurement errors. The criteria for assigning ranks have only been established for 4-5 years. There’s plenty of room for loopholes.’

    Veins prominently bulged on the back of Ha Cheong-won’s clenched fist. Hwa-shin, who had stolen a glance at the back of his hand, immediately relaxed his face.

    “I’ll get tested separately later. That works, right?”

    “Absolutely not, …Huh?”

    Cheong-won’s eyes widened at the ㄴunexpected answerㄱ.

    “You’re suspicious of me being F-rank, aren’t you, Mr. Cheong-won?”

    Hwa-shin shrugged his shoulders.

    In any case, what would surprise him at this point wasn’t that his ability was strong, but that ‘his ability was suspicious for an F-rank.’ There was a high possibility he would think there was a problem with the rank or that he had concealed his rank through some method.

    “That’s-.”

    Ha Cheong-won trailed off. It was all true, but… Would this man agree so easily?

    Although they had known each other for 10 years, no, had briefly crossed paths for about 10 minutes, Ha Cheong-won felt with his entire body that Yoo Hwa-shin wasn’t the type of person to do that.

    “I’ll come find you once the selection is over. Okay?”

    Well, since we’ve already crossed paths, it wouldn’t be bad to get closer.

    “Ah, right!”

    Hwa-shin extended his hand first to the still-flustered Cheong-won. The smiling eyes curved even more, forming an arc. Hwa-shin lowered his face and looked up at Cheong-won, saying,

    “…What is it?”

    “Our promise. You remember, right? Come on. Hurry.”

    …What is he suddenly trying to do?

    In an instant, the trivial conversation they had in front of the waiting room suddenly came to Cheong-won’s mind.

    —It’s disappointing that you won’t even shake hands. You’ll shake hands after the match, right?

    —If you’re still alive.

    “Haha.”

    A hollow laugh escaped. In this situation of all things. Brushing his disheveled hair to one side, Ha Cheong-won kept his promise this time.

    Satisfied with the brief handshake, Hwa-shin left behind a frivolous smile and a “See you again!” like last time, disappearing.

    Ha Cheong-won leaned against the railing and slid down.

    “Haa.”

    The tightly wound tension unraveled all at once, leaving him exhausted.

    .

    .

    .

    Hwa-shin, who had left his seat, headed to where Moo-eum was waiting with a proud smile.

    ‘I must have gained the ability to discern talented individuals after living for so long. Right, I somehow wanted to get close to that employee.’

    Hoo, this is how I’m gaining a talented individual. How about it! Jaeha, I’ve even established a friendship with Ha Cheong-won for your sake like this!

    Hwa-shin, who had made a toast to victory in his mind, headed toward Moo-eum with light footsteps. He was both fearful and anticipating what kind of reaction Jeong Moo-eum would have.

    ***

    “Mr. Moo-eum!”

    Scattering flower petals, Hwa-shin took a seat next to Moo-eum.

    Given Moo-eum’s personality, he didn’t expect a kind consolation and response like,

    —Congratulations on your victory, hyung! I’m so glad you weren’t hurt!

    or,

    —Are you injured anywhere? It seems you don’t need to visit the infirmary?

    But this was too…

    Cold. Darts flew and pricked his cheeks. Hwa-shin, breaking out in a cold sweat, creaked his head to turn.

    “…What’s wrong? Are you possibly angry at me about something?”

    An icy answer flew back immediately.

    “Not really.”

    That made it even scarier. Moo-eum didn’t ask anything and just dangled his crossed legs while sitting with his arms crossed. Judging by his reaction, it seemed he had seen something…

    …Well, I roughly expected Moo-eum wouldn’t ask anything anyway. Because Jeong Moo-eum doesn’t pry unless the other person wants to talk first, no matter what he sees or hears.

    —Everyone has a secret or two they want to hide, right?

    Sometimes, the 18-year-old kid was more mature than the protagonist. It was a bit unfortunate in that regard.

    .

    .

    .

    In fact, it wasn’t that Jeong Moo-eum had absolutely no curiosity. To be honest, there were more than just one or two things he wanted to confront him about. Whether he was really F-rank, whether he had done something to the shadow, or if it was all his misconception and he was just lucky.

    ‘It’s ambiguous to ask, but it’s annoying to keep it inside.’

    Anyway… If he wanted to talk, those loose lips would have spoken first.

    Moo-eum, who had glanced at the man who kept stealing glances at him, finally opened his mouth with his arms crossed.

    “…By the way, you were speaking casually earlier.”

    “Ah.”

    Hwa-shin opened his mouth with a dumb expression. The mistake from earlier.

    When he was reading the novel alone for several years, he would shout, “Moo-eum! Jaeha! Jian! Jang-ha! Our SH1 unit!” while making a ruckus next to the dragon, and that had become a habit.

    “Did you perhaps not like it? I’m sorry. It’s kind of a habit.”

    In response to Hwa-shin’s question, Moo-eum nonchalantly blurted out.

    “No. It’s fine. I was going to tell you to just speak casually to me.”

    “…!”

    “Most heroes speak casually to me anyway, and it’s more convenient for me too in urgent situations.”

    “Really?”

    Yes. Moo-eum was truly fine with it. In fact, it wasn’t anything particularly special. Rather, from Moo-eum’s common sense, this person who kept speaking politely to him was the odd one.

    Moo-eum nodded his head in a dry manner.

    “Yes.”

    Hwa-shin, who had secretly cheered hooray, grinned like a fool and pointed at his own face.

    “Then call me hyung too. And speak casually.”

    “I’m more comfortable with polite speech. …How old are you anyway?”

    Zing.

    Hyung.

    Jeong Moo-eum called me hyung.

    What a delightful ring it had.

    ‘Dragon, thank you.’

    Tsk. Immersed in a sense of pride, Hwa-shin racked his brain to recall his age.

    Come to think of it, how old was this kid? Definitely, in my memory, Yoo Hwa-shin’s age… As an awakener, he skipped military service, engaged in hero fan club activities at 24, and recently got a civil servant job. So his current age was…

    “I’m 25.”

    Moo-eum looked at him with an absurd expression.

    “You’re talking about someone else’s age like it’s yours.”

    “…Even I sometimes can’t believe that I’m twenty-five. Hahaha.”

    I was 2nn years old not too long ago.

    But I’ll never tell the truth… Because I don’t want to be called grandfather.

    ***

    The following matches were boring. Because there were no S-rank appearances.

    Unless the first participant randomly drawn was an S-rank, the selected B-rank or A-rank wouldn’t nominate an S-rank.

    Moreover, they didn’t seem to be staking their lives on it either. It would be more entertaining to watch the snail monster races I used to raise in that other world than these sluggish matches.

    And finally… The long-awaited turn for waiting room 5 arrived.

    Hwa-shin slightly twisted the flow of karma with his fingers. He tied the golden thread that shone the brightest to the paper slip and the employee’s finger.

    “…It’s Hero Cha Jaeha!”

    I’m sorry. For using karma again for such a trivial matter. But I can’t help wanting to see him quickly.

    Cha Jaeha, who had looked like a dot, slowly rose from his seat.

    After gates appeared and ranks were established, the hero who recorded the highest mana capacity and basic physical rank was none other than Cha Jaeha. Even the heroes who had been sitting and fiddling with their phones until now lifted their heads as soon as his name was called.

    With his characteristic thick face, Cha Jaeha stood up and quietly spoke a hero’s name into the microphone the employee held out. His low voice suited his face with bold lines well.

    “A-rank, Bae Deok-ho.”

    Bae Deok-ho?

    Cha Jaeha picked Bae Deok-ho?

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