Soulmancer – Chapter 34: Unconventional I

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In a punky office dimly illuminated by softly flickering neon lamps, just enough to provide visibility without overpowering the ambiance, sparse light spatters onto the guild’s emblem rug beneath an obsidian desk cluttered with paperwork. The walls, shelves of books, and cabinets are adorned with subtle yet intricate embellishments, serving as a testament to organized chaos. Through narrow blinders, occasional bursts of purplish lightning intermittently pierce the overall interior and


upon the face of a man—27 years of age, at least—seated behind the desk. His long, sleek crimson hair cascades down his back, and he wears a white T-shirt with folded sleeves that showcase his muscular arms. However, annoyance creases his damned handsome face for the first time in a while as the out-of-the-blue call from his floating Hunter Kit abruptly ends.

“Sightless bastard, does he think he’s some sort of genius?”

It was none other than Velkist Cambormir, the [First District]’s Cascade Guild leader. His arms wrinkled in rage before his mind focused on the mana swirling around the floating Kit, directing it into his long, frock coat hanging on a cubicle hook not too far away.

“Taking the ‘Hunter ID’ Test and paying me for it? What the heck is that?” he exclaimed, struggling to grasp the audacity of the caller he had just spoken to. It was so mind-boggling that the chilly wind blew raindrops onto the closed glass window opposite him, followed by the rumble of thunder.

With his index finger tapping the table, Velkist reminisced about the blind young man who had been struggling with his training since awakening. He was a slow learner, unable to grasp basic techniques that even an E-rank Hunter could master in three months. Yet, after six months, the damned brat still hadn’t mastered them yet. By the time he did, his fellow Hunters had moved on to the next training, almost completing it. In the end, he couldn’t become an E-rank Hunter. “Tsk!” Velkist clicked his tongue, contemplating how the teen had been draining the guild’s resources for years. A being without any worth whatsoever.

“Izel Ethalt Blind,” he said, manipulating tendrils of mana to his left side, sifting through the piles of paperwork to locate the profile document of the caller. His brown-red eyes narrowed, scanning the paper, and he couldn’t help but lightly squeeze the edges of it.

Stats, skills, items – not a single criterion was provided for this young man, not even the eyesight that the majority of Hunters were blessed with. With a flick of his fingers, multiple documents arrived on his desk, and he peered through them. It wasn’t unheard of for Hunters to lose their eyesight due to deadly injuries sustained in hunting or intense battles, but Izel’s case was different – born blind.

‘That’s absurd,’ Velkist pondered. To make matters worse, Izel’s stats were unbelievably low compared to those of an average civilian. For such a condition to occur, Izel should have at least possessed one or two innate skills to prove his worth. Alas, he didn’t, making him a special case that even an E-rank Hunter could defeat, let alone a D-rank Hunter.

“Regardless of his obvious flaws, the fact that he still dedicates himself to training four times a week,” Velkist thought aloud, his eyes catching the well-kept attendance record with only four ticks a week – a challenging feat, considering the circumstances. Being the embodiment of hard work without talent doesn’t always pay off, but Izel persisted. This repeated endeavor always rubbed Velkist the wrong way. He couldn’t help but gnash his teeth as the blind young man’s profile picture caught his eye. The determined expression on Izel’s face clashed with Velkist’s growing frustration.

“A blind man, born without any discernible worth, aspired to gain ‘worth’?” Velkist murmured to himself, letting out a deep sigh as the flashing light from a passing flying ship briefly illuminated his mature, handsome face. ‘What a moron!’ he cursed, questioning the audacity of someone who believed in achieving greatness without talent or a strong lineage. In alignment with his thoughts, shimmering tendrils of mana engulfed the documents he had just checked and returned them to the shelves with a sigh.

To Velkist, Izel had no potential to become a reasonable Hunter in this lifetime, let alone an S-ranked Hunter or a High-Hunter. Regardless of his persistence, his worthlessness overshadowed any other trait. While Velkist was satisfied with sapping money from him and making light of his struggles, after a few years of training in a technique—[Basic Swordsmanship]—that an E-rank Hunter had grasped within six months, Izel, despite wasting more guild resources, could only manage to learn it within a year and still couldn’t win a duel… Unable to finish his thought, annoyance further wrinkled Velkist’s face, and his fist clenched tightly.

“Yet, he dares to call me!” he lamented, tapping the desk to release his frustration. ‘Me!!!’ His mind echoed his inner turmoil… The relentless rain intensified outside, flashing lightning throughout the room followed by resonated thunder. More than just determination, Velkist sensed a certain obsession in Izel—an ambition he would die for if he couldn’t at least become a Hunter. And that obsession didn’t sit well with him, even though money was money. Izel had paid him to get into the Guild using that damned succubus—his elder sister. Truthfully, Velkist hadn’t bothered to fulfill his sister’s orders to get him into the lowest-rank labyrinth.

It wasn’t that Velkist was heartless; instead, it seemed the best course of action was to humiliate Izel out of the guild, a living collateral. If Velkist didn’t take this step, Izel’s stubbornness would persist, wasting guild resources and garnering infamy among low-ranked hunters Velkist aimed to weed out, possibly leading to his death.

“Ugh! Maybe I should have killed him!” Velkist groaned in irritation, his index finger halting and gripping alongside the rest. He contemplated the consequences, recalling the possibility of his sister killing him instead. Beads of sweat formed on his cheek as he remembered what could have transpired if he had taken a more extreme route.

But why hadn’t his sister intervened after Izel’s expulsion from the guild? Velkist briefly pondered, then shook his head, considering her busy schedule juggling three different jobs with distinct personalities. Regardless, the last memory he had of Izel was the blind young man succumbing to his own fear, peeing in front of fellow hunters due to his overwhelming bloodlust. At least, that’s where Velkist believed his association with Izel Ethalt Blind had concluded.

“Help?” Velkist pondered aloud. Just minutes ago, Izel had requested help—a deal to undergo the ‘Hunter ID’ Test. “Tsk! Arrogant!” His fist pounded the table. It seemed pretentious of him to plan to pay for something that would leave him worthless after the test. Initially contemplating quitting everything upon receiving the call, he was taken aback by this unexpected request. Perhaps Izel was trying to salvage his pride for the last time.

Normally, one could take the ‘Hunter ID’ exam online a day or two before the actual test—whether they were a Hunter, High-Hunter, High-Ranker, or even a Civilian. Even with Velkist Cambormir vouching for him as an Ex-[Cascade] Hunter who had expired ‘on his own’ accord meant skipping paperwork and written tests. However, it hardly justified the hefty sum of money he was offering. It felt like a final act of defiance.

Velkist remained curious about how Izel expected to pass the test without stats, skills, items, or sight. “I bet he kept his ‘Hunter kit’ close to his lips,” Velkist jeered. He wondered about the possibility of Izel regaining his sight through an unknown skill, explaining the newfound confidence.

Yet, no matter how superior the unknown skill he recently gained, his stats would always be below average to compete in the Test. Good stats alone could bury the benefits of skills, items, or mana. Most low-rank Hunters have tried to sneak into a Labyrinth to get stronger or use some unknown skill to gain an advantage. Velkist doubts that a mere F-rank Hunter could develop his stats when he wouldn’t even be able to get into an E-rank Labyrinth, never mind raiding it completely. In any case, no matter what happened today, it wouldn’t change the outcome.

“Cocky stick-using bastard dug his own grave.” His eyes glared, reflecting the purplish lightning that sparked from the gloomy clouds as the wind whistled and blew pinprick droplets of water onto his window glass. ‘No way in hell would he gain any worth!’ Velkist briefly thought as he packed his crimson hair into a ponytail with nice ends and a few bangs. He manipulated yellow sparkles of mana around his hooded coat on a cubicle hook over to him, then immediately wore them and prepared to head out of the antique-punky office. Sighing as the thunder rumbled, Velkist had to accompany him as a supervisor if he wanted to skip out on both paperwork and written tests.


With a firm clap, the faint neon lamps flickered off, leaving Velkist in doubt. ‘What could have possibly changed?’ he pondered. Success, in his eyes, was reserved for those born with great and verbose backgrounds, deemed geniuses meant to be heads. Izel, born blind and seemingly worthless, lacked the skills even to be considered a tail.

“I guess I’ll make some preparations and…” Velkist’s dull, sharp reddish-brown eyes narrowed as he manipulated mana into his ‘Hunter Kit,’ floating into view. He began typing out a text, “Check whether something did change.” The ‘Hunter ID’ VIP Test, a go-to move for famous guilds, usually involved massive Lupin donations to skip paperwork. Yet, for a no-name F-rank ex-hunter like Izel, duel tests were enough to spell failure.

With influence and connections to the [Bureau] Headquarters, Velkist Cambormir planned to exploit them to get rid of Izel, who he saw as nothing more than an annoyance. It wasn’t jealousy or obsession but a disdain for what he deemed an unworthy F-rank Blind Hunter leeching off others. While his methods were unethical, Velkist didn’t let them trouble him, knowing that nobody would care about a random, blind F-rank Hunter with no background or support. After completing the necessary preparations, calls, and texts, the corner of his lips curled up—.

“This is your last day, worthless prick!” Indeed,

Indeed, the [Bureau] Headquarters would mark Izel’s final act as an F-rank ex-hunter. Eerie lightning crackled between heavens and earth, the atmosphere rumbling with power.

* * *


With the torrential downpour intensifying, Izel, spurred by a callback from Velkist Cambormir, steered towards the [Bureau] headquarters—specifically, not the ‘branch’—zeroing in on a designated section.

A heavy sigh escaped him as raindrops cascaded down, chilling his already wet cheeks in the brisk, rainy weather. Despite the deluge, the First District maintained its frigid embrace. Slowly navigating the rain-soaked, deserted streets with his [Cloud boots], and cloak collar pulled up, Izel found an inexplicable shift in his mood.


“What the—”

“He’s alone, keke—”

Even in this tumultuous weather, hoodlums not aligned with either the Hidden Hunters or ‘Acolyte’ lingered in the shadows. Clad in hoodies and bamboo hats, they indulged in cigarettes and beer, casting wary glances at Izel before cautiously closing in on their chosen target.


‘Here we go again,’ Izel sighed with evident stress, channeling mana into his [Cloud boots]…

[Cloud Boots had been detected.]

[Special Condition had been met.]

[Agility had solely been added to Movement Speed.]



He disappeared, leaving the hoodlums momentarily bewildered.

[Movement speed has increased by 50%.]

Only a fraction of the Cardigan Cloak activates, causing it to shimmer faintly, while the boots emit a subtle whitish-blue glow—bright, yet not overwhelmingly luminous. His left fist clenches tightly, and embers ignite in his other hand…

[‘Hellflame (?)’ has been activated.]




“Who the fuck are you?!”

“Fucking come out!”

Amid the torrential downpour, the Hoodlums descended into chaos, blinded to their foe, only feeling impending doom with each eerie lightning strike.


“Come out…”

“Everyone, retreat for—”



“He’s here!”

“He disappeared again!”



The water-drenched street echoed with their cries amidst a torrential downpour, punctuated by the thunder’s roar. In the end, after dispatching all of them, a few blows and stings to their brains… Unconscious bodies convulsed, releasing foamy tremors, while others emitted steaming grey smoke from their heads. Some trembled from relentless beatings.

[‘Hellflame (?)’ had been deactivated.]

Izel sighed, wiping away a spurt of blood from his fingers as he continued on his journey. Typically, there were three ways to exit [Exodus section] to the next section: using a boat docked at the port, taking a car through the lanes leading outward, or soaring into the skies aboard a flying boat. However, the majority of Exodus residents didn’t feel inclined towards unconventional modes of transportation discreetly overlooked by the district ‘Moderator.’ This mode, in particular, was none other than the railway track. In hindsight, this epiphany was hardly surprising. Even in the past, Izel had departed for the Entertainment section aboard a similar train. The distinction lay in the fact that this method was not publicly recognized, and its utilization and convenience remained for only the reluctant few.

And the situation was no different now.

After the [Armaedggeon], the First District’s sections formally entered a ceasefire agreement. Despite the tense post-Great War relations, the specters of war and gores ominously loomed, ready to descend. Izel, considering the precarious state, believed using rarely-used transportation posed an acceptable risk. Sighing deeply, raindrops pattered on the blind man’s bamboo hat before he entered a vibrant station with large screens and vibrant lights.

As ripples leading to faint human presences dwindled, his breath lightened. With the heavy downpour, flashes of lightning and resonating thunder drowned out, and only the frigid scent of magical air-conditioning remained in the air.

Various boarding times flashed and faded on neon displays, casting a dazzling spectacle across the crowded waiting hall. The air hummed with repeated, monotonous announcements that echoed through the space. The overall electric glow illuminated dirt-soaked shoe steps on the linoleum floor, creating a slumberous aura.

Though not publicly recognized, the waiting hall teemed with passengers, each embodying different profiles, from various hair colors to distinctive clothing styles. A towering figure sported a deeply sunken fedora, while a boy seemed to have pieced together attire from the streets. A cyborg, with modifications blurring the line between human and machine, moved through the crowd. Facial expressions flickered and bustled around like a symphony of emotions.

While the clothes themselves were unremarkable, many passengers chose to reveal parts of their bodies or sported unusual hairstyles. Some had replaced limbs with prosthetics, others adorned tattoos and piercings. Hunters, emanating distinct auras, wore an array of attires and armors, brandishing various weapons. Ordinary people, seemingly on trips, walked alone with briefcases and bags.

Observing the relaxed demeanor of the crowd, it appeared that security was being maintained reasonably at the station. The enchanting aroma of mana, teasing Izel’s senses, had been meticulously arranged within this sophisticated facility.

Taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, Izel’s [Cloud-boots], adorned with dripping droplets, led him toward the lengthy queue at the booking booths. The atmosphere was charged with a sense of urgency as everyone hurried about. After a brief wait at a specific booth, Izel finally reached the counter, where a slightly hunched yet alluring booking clerk stood against the mesmerizing backdrop of neon electric lights.

“Welcome to Exodus train station. Would you like a ticket?” the lady asked, her smile radiating warmth.

With a faint smile, Izel nodded, “Yes, one ticket to the ‘Main section’.”

“That’ll be 10 Lupins,” the Booking Clerk clicked the end of her pen, wrote the destination, stamped it, and gently tore it from the booking sheet.

Picking out ten Lupin notes from a stack of cash, Izel handed over the money and received a neatly torn ticket.

“Have a happy trip.”

As Izel moved away with the ticket, the surroundings shifted to a bustling platform. People hurriedly scurried by, their focus straight ahead. Beggar boys vanished from sight, hidden by wardens with preying eyes and superstition written all over them. The delightful aroma of cakes wafted through the air, emanating from a kid’s stall.

Continuing forward, Izel reached the platform. Passengers eagerly awaited the train, some sitting on steel benches, smoking or enjoying beers. A few played punky guitars, while others tapped on their ‘Hunter Kits.’ Some paced up and down. Vendors bustled with activity, especially at the tea stall, experiencing a rush. The coolies in red uniforms sat in a line, ready for their duties.


The sleek, nucleomagical-powered high-speed spitzer-shaped nose cone-like train, emitted faint tendrils of steam and mana as it approached the station. Halted on its broad gauge track, it seemed to decelerate from its top speed of 250 mph, and a brief hiss of silent steam and mana escaped, the steel rails flickering.


Bells signaling the door opening tickled through the air. Despite the repeated, monotonous announcements being drowned out, Izel could still discern the sound well. Warm air tendrils billowed out from within, gently brushing against Izel’s skin. Every passerby’s gaze briefly fixed on him before returning to their own affairs.


Passengers waiting at the station boarded the train one by one. Ignoring the glances of others, Izel took a deep breath and stepped inside. The slightly warm air filled his chilly lungs, clearing his senses. Though he couldn’t fully recall the sound of the downpour, he discerned lightning sparkles through the windows and rumbles of thunder beneath his feet. Conflicted but refreshed, Izel raised his hand, flicking away a droplet from his chin, feeling the strange alienation between his fairly brown-skinned, chilly hands and the slightly warm air.

The departure time for the train to the ‘Main Section’ was short, and amid the contrasting elements around him, Izel found himself in contemplation as he walked in.

Feeling a chill, Izel briefly pondered his discomfort before sighing, “It’s getting better.” His clothes were slightly damp from the heavy downpour, and a peculiarly warm breeze added an uncomfortable touch of cold. Boarding the train at a leisurely pace—.

“I’ll check the ticket.”

The conductor, a middle-aged man in a white cap, eyed him with suspicion before exhaling deeply.

Izel, seemingly ignoring the odd scrutiny as though the conductor wanted to invite him for a private investigation, extracted the ticket from the cloak’s pocket and handed it over.

“It has been confirmed, Mr. Izel, Ethalt Blind. Have a nice trip.”

After receiving a courtesy greeting from the conductor, who sighed with a faint gentle smile, Izel responded with a light nod. However, a sudden pause left the conductor puzzled. “Something wrong, sir?”

“Can you read the slip for me?”

Surprised for a brief second, the conductor soon sighed, realizing his initial suspicion about Izel was wrong. “Pardon me for the misunderstanding about you!”

“You mean my bandana?”

“Yes,” the conductor replied.

“Well… no need to be sorry, it doesn’t matter.” Izel formed a gentle smile and gestured towards the slip he showed the conductor.

“Oh!” The conductor’s grey eyes narrowed. “604. It’s the 4th room of the 5th set.” Peeking at the blind teen’s puzzled expression, it seemed he wasn’t familiar with the room numbering.

“4th room of the 5th set?” Izel asked.

“Five sets from the first ‘set,’ which is this.” The Conductor clarified.

“Thank you!” Izel appreciated it with a gentle smile and moved on.

Judging by the scattered yet tense bodily responses around and some waves bouncing off what seemed to be tightened areas, Izel discerned the number of people in each ‘set.’ By sensing the ripples, mana direction, and frequencies from onboard equipment, he also deduced the narrow but sufficiently long hallway – only allowing three people to walk through – with large gaps in the doors on one side. The high-speed train Izel boarded wasn’t called a luxury train for anything, particularly cruising at 150mph, so all seats in the long corridor were divided into rooms.

“… 3, 4,” Izel murmured as he counted, passing each set. “5. Here it is,” he said and came to a halt, skillfully massaging the steel nameplate and tracing his finger between its numbers. Fortunately, it wasn’t neon signs requiring close inspection. Izel softly pushed the doorknob, opening the door.

As the door opened, a pleasant yet suffocating scent greeted Izel. The interior seemed fancy, with dim, colorful lights embedded on the ceiling and walls. Izel couldn’t see it, being blind. Smacking his lips, he clapped his palms, and the interior opened up even more.

Soft seats were divided on the left and right, along with storage space for luggage. The ‘Alert button’ was installed a few feet from the average human’s height for passengers to signal staff if needed.

“Perfect,” Izel thought aloud. Without a heavy luggage bag, he sat down lightly. The seats were soft, befitting a luxurious train. Facing the window, if he could see, he could have seen his covered face reflected, amidst heavy downpours from gloomy-dark thick clouds tearing through the air. Eerie lightning and rumbling thunder followed, capturing his attention. Unbeknownst to Izel, the train was supposed to pass through an underground railway track, sleek mega sections covered in ambiance and beauty, and crevices of steep mountain ranges covered by vegetation, resembling giants wearing dark-green cone hats.

‘Ah! I can finally relax before the Test,’ Izel mused. Encountering multiple hindrances before reaching the train, he decided to relax and digest his food, making him a bit sleepy.

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