Soulmancer – Chapter 41: Hunter ID test II

Izel had those thoughts—but she didn’t bother any further after simply glaring at the briefcase in his grasp. There was a hint of enjoyment in her eyes at this early coincidental meeting that was supposed to occur in the future as he intended. All of that happened in just a brief moment as she chatted with Velkist and smiled—indeed, a smile reminiscent of a blossoming rose—sent chills down Izel’s spine.


To him, it was a lighthearted yet sinister smile, emitting eerie amusement as if everything had gone according to her plan. He shook his head, contradicting his ‘own’ thoughts. ‘There’s no way she planned this far ahead,’ he mused. ‘It must be just a predetermined coincidence.’ All in all, since the only person who knew his other identity and could expose him didn’t, Izel decided to play along, masking his indifference while perhaps entertaining her in the process. He couldn’t help but wonder if Velkist knew her other identity—or should he say alternate identity?

Using [Sound Reading], he detected a subtle disturbance in Mia’s bodily response, like double ripples—one very faint, as if blocked by something, perhaps a well-crafted expensive face mask compared to the fake conductor on the magical train, and the other, normal ripples. In other words, she didn’t just change her name, but also her face. With a sigh, he couldn’t care less about the details, but having her as an inspector had its benefits regardless.

“Are you here as a sponsor as well, or just an observer?” Mia inquired Velkist, before glancing at Izel, interrupting his thoughts. “Also, can you please leave the briefcase over here?” Her hand gestured leftward, indicating the ‘property shelves’ near the counter. “It’s too stylish and it’s bothering me.”


Awkwardly, Izel felt dazed by this weird request. She was taking advantage of him, and from her secret smile, it was clear she also enjoyed it. Of course, she executed it in a manner that anyone, including Velkist, would categorize her as a strict type of high-ranking inspector with a lot of rules. But to Izel, she was just like the other inspectors from the Hunter ID’s test, sponsored by famous Guilds – jerk-asses. However, in this case, she purposely did it amusingly. Letting out a deep sigh, she, being a High-Hunter in a considerable spot on the ‘Eliluam Continental ranks,’ was very experienced, with very little room for errors in her evaluations.

Nevertheless, the blind teen had no intention of agreeing to such a request, even though he knew others, like Velkist, saw this act as a way for an inspector like her to evaluate him. He guessed that was good, though. But he would never allow anyone to take advantage of him in any situation, even if it meant receiving a lower rank. Thus, he turned his face away, indirectly rejecting her suggestion.


A frown secretly creased Mia’s face, betraying her disappointment as silence filled the air.

Of course, Guild leaders, whether from the branch or headquarters, could usually accompany candidates during their Hunter ID tests as observers or sponsors, providing support and potentially influencing the difficulty of the test. However, none of that applied to Izel, who remained silent, indirectly prompting Velkist to respond to the inspector’s inquiry—one of those reasons for which he was paid ¢80,000 Lupins.

Getting the indirect gist, a hint of annoyance crept onto Velkist’s forehead before he sighed, “Just leave him be; he has a penchant for style. I’m only here as an observer.”

“Is that so,” Mia said skeptically as she seemed unconvinced by the flimsy excuse, her tone revealing her doubt. “You don’t say,” she remarked with a nod, briefly contemplating how interesting Izel had become, he never gave in. A faint smile curled her lips as she expected this much from blindness that was walking without a stick. Though she is curious about how that is possible, she knows it has to do with some kind of rare skill. All in all, Mia decided to keep on with her awkward attitude, perhaps to fully see through Izel, whether he did truly change. Losing herself in thought for a while, Mia snapped back to reality and continued in a monotone, strict tone, “Then, let’s proceed to the Testing Site. Follow me.”

With nods of agreement, they trailed behind her. As they followed Mia, footsteps echoed through the plain, glassy space, and a familiar ripple caught Izel’s attention—a subtle frequency distinct from footsteps and electronic beeps, subtly vibrating in the air from somewhere.

— — — —

Beyond the towering black-tilted crystal wall lay a sleek, alloy-like rectangular chamber. On one side, the inspector and the observer watched through the semi-crystal-translucent wall as the candidate battled on the linoleum platform in the center. Briefly patting his belly, little ripples slowly bounced off the rectangular intersection triggering the echolocation effect of his [Sound Reading], revealing nothing new since Izel’s last visit. Despite it being called a “private test,” he was expecting something different compared to the public testing site—perhaps another style. Alas, it wasn’t.

He felt bamboozled, having just spent ¢80,000 for what seemed like nothing. His thought was interrupted as Mia turned to him, breaking the silence. “Do you need an explanation of the Practical Test?” she asked.

“Nah, I’m good,” Izel replied calmly.

“Then please select a difficulty from [Easy to Mystic],” Mia said, flicking her fingers, tendrils of mana trailing around them.


The pearly chamber could virtually emulate various monsters, though it had its limitations due to running on the [last mana algorithm Kernel version]. It could only emulate up to D-rank monsters, constrained by the pressure and cool-time of the [nucleomagical cores] powering its functionality. Previously, Izel had only attempted the Hunter ID Test at Easy difficulty but consistently lost to a scrawny goblin. His innate skills were too dull at the time, and he was too traumatized and pathetic to confront its bloodlust. Consequently, he couldn’t even struggle when his life was on the line. The inspector intervened before the life-or-death part began, wisely avoiding any potential mental or spiritual damage to the blind, helpless teen candidate.

Recalling such events from the past, there was no guarantee that even with a [brighter] innate skill he would have defeated the goblin. Yet, he believed he wouldn’t have lost so pathetically. How could someone like him aspire to be a Hunter? It was hard to even consider himself a hunter.

After all, even D-rank Hunters were awakeners who always managed to rise above the realm of pathetic and trashy, according to countless inspectors. Despite his numerous failures, he understood the brutal yet fair nature of the Fortress of Dungeons. It was a place where anything goes as long as one stayed alive. Through these trials, he learned the extent of his limitations and arrived at a conclusion: the Fortress of Dungeons was a hideous and cruel yet sincerely fair niche for all its Walkers.

Indeed, regardless of the bitterness and strangeness of the raids, the rewards were always directly proportional to the suffering endured. Even the Bonus Reward was a testament to how effectively one could raid such a niche. Consequently, he, who had raced against death to survive a horde of poisonous zombies armed with hideous weapons, managed to defeat a Gatekeeper and survive against an experienced Ex-hunter, while also making friends he could depend on when the time came. In other words, he wasn’t the same weak Ex-hunter he used to be.

After a brief moment of silence, a faint smile curled up on Izel’s lips, and he confidently stated his answer.

“I’ll go for Mystic.”

* * *

Eliluam, the world of Hunters, was a punky place, brimming with hope, dreams, power, and overflowing knowledge, yet also entailing countless districts of opportunity, as well as despair, agony, and terror. Izel, once a diamond in the rough in such a cruel world, had finally become a gleaming, processed gem after singlehandedly facing a series of deadly endeavors within the span of seven days in the Fortress of Dungeons. He decided, with no regret, that the appropriate level for him was [Mystic]—a test level well-known for its brutal psychological experiences by the Bureau, taken by no less than 8 Hunters per year. Yet, Izel insisted within his mind, clenching his fist tightly in determination.

Silence briefly pervaded the air as an unfathomable decision stung the ears of both the sponsor and inspector. “Wait? What?” Velkist’s face whitened in shock, wrinkles creasing his forehead as he seemed to express some disapproval over Izel’s mind-jerking overconfidence.

“Sir Izel, are you really going to take the level Mystic ID Test?” Mia asked, her expression carrying a hint of pride. Had she not encountered him on the unconventional train before, she might have been astonished by the blind teen’s boldness — he had struggled against mere goblins before, yet had thought of tackling such a formidable Test.

As a faint smile formed on Izel’s lips, he guessed she didn’t, in a million years, anticipated him opting for the highest difficulty level; hence, she lacked a suitable retort. After all, no one knew Izel had survived a more life-threatening difficulty. “It’s fine,” Izel insisted, releasing his clenched fist. Besides determining his aptitude for the Mystic level, he also harbored curiosity about the effectiveness of the stats he had gained from his trials in the Fortress of Dungeons. What rank would he achieve at this juncture? He was eager to find out.

“Alright, if that’s your decision, I’ll set it to level Mystic; please enter the Jet section,” Mia acquiesced, processing his decision accordingly as she gestured in the air with a trace of mana.

Jet section. That was the name they gave the linoleum-tiled pearly chamber at the center of the rectangular room. Having expected this much from someone who single-handedly defeated a group of acolytes and reduced the squad leader to smithereens, Mia’s tone didn’t change, but her secret endeavor proved she was looking forward to the blind teen entertaining her, while also waiting to find out how strong he had gotten to change so much.

Normally, any instructor would perhaps show concern or speak out to convince the blind teen to reconsider lowering the Test Difficulty for his own well-being. Yet, Velkist was a bit surprised that Mia didn’t show any concern. Instead, he detected a hint of amusement in her demeanor, as if she, too, anticipated that Izel’s arrogance might come back to haunt him, so a faint smile crept across his lips.


Blankly, Izel strode towards the crystal porticoes. As his [Cloud boots] stepped inside a light-adjusted white jade-like chamber, an announcement started as the glassy door shut behind him.


Its monotonous male voice was surprisingly different compared to the feminine voice Izel was used to.


At the fading message, Izel clenched his fist as his heart beat harder at the word [B-RANK] the voice stated. At least if he passed the test that is.


Shortly after, a translucent holographic dashboard stacked with an array of assorted weapons materialized on the right-hand side, before the toneless voice continued.


‘Starting in three minutes, huh?’ Izel mused briefly. ‘Sweet,’ he remarked carefreely. One could consider it the best starting placement for an F-rank Ex-Hunter like Izel, who had just arrived from the Fortress of Dungeons. Otherwise, it normally took quite a while to get to that point. Of course, that meant proceeding further up the rank to secure a position on the [Eliluam Continental rank], would be that much harder. Yet, Izel found himself more excited than nervous as he rubbed his temples to numb the throbbing headache. He also wondered what they were building up so much anticipation for.

Surely, it wouldn’t be something as ridiculous as fighting to the death against a nightmare monstrosity like the Gatekeeper. He could barely bring himself to smile, the accumulated traumas stirring up in his partially stable mind, its flashing image of unfathomable horrifying cries. Indeed, the confrontation on the C-rank raid had left quite an impression on his mind. However, he believed he’d be able to defeat the Gatekeeper with relative ease in his current state. At least if it was a one-on-one confrontation. He’d likely have much trouble if there were around four of them. Features like physical damage resistance, shadowy shapeshifting, and [Hellflame] that defied all odds would be quite burdensome. On the other hand, he’d be able to handle almost any monster as long as it was around that level. ‘The [Bureau] probably wouldn’t be able to emulate anything too difficult, though,’ he briefly thought.

Opening his sharp rich golden eyes slightly, though he couldn’t see a thing, Izel’s [Cloud boots] parted the floor toward the holographic dashboard. Now, he had to pick a weapon, ignoring the Aurora shortsword at his waist. Izel analyzed the array of weapons on the dashboard with his fingers, feeling the sharpness of each blade and assessing the comfort of each position. Soon, he found himself in front of the most comfortable one.





‘Hmm,’ Izel mused, contemplating the sword’s origins. It bore the mark of the [Dunaleff company], unlike the products of their renowned [Armor and Vest]. It seemed as though the metal factory had only recently been built. Nevertheless, he chose the item, acknowledging that there were few superior options, though it paled in comparison to his aurora shortsword hanging at his side. ‘Of course, to even compare this blade to that one is almost insulting,’ he thought, clicking his tongue inwardly. Running his delicate fingers along the blade, he noted its length, nearly matching the longsword he had once wielded in the Fortress.


Izel’s attention shifted to a well-shaped shield, but he clicked his tongue again. No way would he use such a shield, especially when he had grown accustomed to fighting without one; it just wasn’t his style. In the end, he opted for the ‘steam-sliver steel sword’. As he picked it up, a mechanical male voice broke the silence.


Three minutes had passed in the blink of an eye, the green holographic dashboard flickering out of existence like an idle screen. Adjusting the high collar of his Cardigan Cloak, Izel ran his fingers through his hair, exhaling deeply. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he thought, his confidence in facing any monster washing over him.

A gush of steam escaped from a large slot at the center of the platform, causing it to flinch slightly. Izel’s lips curled into a sneer as he sensed it. Mana and bloodlust began to gather rapidly at the circular slot, normally an endeavor that would have made him nervous, beads of sweat trickling down his delicate neck. But not anymore. All he felt now were the ripples slowly swarming from the storm of mana in the center. This was what it meant for him to grow in a short time.


His concentration deepened as his eyes slowly closed, attempting to decipher the cacophony assaulting his [Sound Reading]. Multiple wavelengths of frequencies and ripples clashed, emanating from the bright, chromatic burst of flame at the platform’s center. Even if he opened his eyes, he wouldn’t be able to see this emerging holographic monster, yet its bodily responses indicated a formidable foe—a monster rumored among E, D, and C-rank Hunters in the annals of the [Cascade Guild].

And having done research on it on his Hunter Kit in the past – “The Flame Gnoll!” He murmured. It was a lower species than Orc, yet a formidable B-rank Regenerative Monster. Its difficulty varied depending on the approach, but its weakness to hotter flames and vulnerability to water and magic attacks made it a challenge for mage-type Hunters. For knights, defeating it seemed impossible due to its high-level regeneration trait.

It felt like asking a child to fly with a cape. This task appeared irrationally difficult, but Izel suspected it was a test of his worth. Shifting his attention briefly to Velkist, the blind teen contemplated the significance of starting as a B-rank Hunter. Returning his focus to the opponent in front, he braced himself.


The flame properly patched up the Gnoll’s bluish skin, enhancing its intimidating and hideous appearance. Its eyes brimmed with malice as it unleashed a chilling shriek, flames resembling waves looming toward Izel as if to intimidate him.


Without delay, the monster’s large muscular feet parted the floor, vanishing amid the attack.


After hearing the monotonous message, Izel’s body stiffened as though all his joints had rusted. ‘Huh?’ he exclaimed, startled not by his halted movement but by the message emanating from the Test system rather than his ‘own’ mind. Could it be? His thoughts questioned further, pondering whether the holographic monster’s skill only affected him due to his presence on the white platform. If his speculation ‘held’ true, the skill that had just restricted his movement wasn’t real, just like the monster itself.

He had never realized this before, having never awakened the [system], thus unable to analyze it fully. After all, his understanding came not from what other people saw, but from what he felt, touched, smelled, and heard. Sensing the absence of bodily response amidst the looming flames, Izel knew the damned monster had vanished.


Same style, and approach, and it was the same as usual, albeit with a subtle twist. This time, the monster attempted to restrict Izel’s movement and strike from his blind spot. “Ah!” Izel muttered ruefully, pondering whether he should have anticipated more from this holographic monster. Perhaps he shouldn’t. He had expected the creature to launch a direct assault the moment it closed in. Alas, it didn’t. It took the cliche route.


True to the blind teen’s foresight, he swiftly coated his [Cloud boots] with mana and vaulted over the raging flames hurtling towards him. Mid-air, the monster materialized behind him, its fist ablaze with chromatic flames, hurtling towards him.

In a split second, Izel sensed the danger. He had extended the range of his [Sound Reading] to a two-meter radius around him, compensating for the absence of his [Flawlation] skill and his trusty [Special blindfold]. With this foresight, he twisted his body, executing a stylish mid-air flip to evade the fiery flame-coated punch, the aftershock of which reverberated with surprising force.


Though Izel had initially intended to dispatch the monster with his [Basic Swordsmanship] skill, where was the fun in that? As he landed amidst the devastation caused by the shockwave, the monster vanished into thin air, since its attack missing its mark.


Sensing its disappearance, Izel let out a deep breath. ‘Here we go again,’ he sighed, patting his growling stomach, urging it to finish the duel already. Suddenly, an air-scattering pressure emerged in front of him—unexpectedly close. He had anticipated such a monster to appear behind him, yet now a raging flame erupted with a series of punches aimed at him with breakneck speed.

Confused, the monster felt its fists hitting empty air. How? Were its predictions wrong? The Gnoll couldn’t believe it. As a holographic monster, it had undergone multiple analyses of this Candidate before attacking, yet the blind teen had eluded its grasp. Where had he disappeared to?

“Contemplating? I’m right here,” a dense voice rang from behind. The monster’s eyes widened in shock. The unbelievable speed left it speechless. But what left it even more dumbfounded was the purplish-dark, sizzling, eerie-looking flame combusting around the steel sword in his hand.


“Hellflame!” The blind teen murmured, his voice dripping with malice. Taking note of this, the Gnoll’s eyes narrowed, it knew surrender wasn’t an option; he had to fight fire with fire.


With a deafening cry, the holographic monster ignited, its entire body engulfed in flames. The pressure on the platform intensified, and visible strain spread. As the monster aimed a back-kick, the candidate twisted to the right, swiftly countering with flame-punches that sent pressure waves through the air.

The candidate tilted his head, evading the attack, the monster’s virtual heart racing as it redirected its punches. Anticipating the move, the candidate’s expression slightly frowned as he dodged downward and struck its jaw.


Stumbling backward, the Gnoll quickly regained balance, its feet firmly planted on the ground. Without any delay, the feet of the Candidate parted the ground toward him. Huh? Words that shouldn’t have formed in its holographic mind, as it now began to question its opponent’s origins, wondered if the candidate had once been like itself, a mere holographic creation. After all, no one had ever predicted its moves and countered them without delay.


With a chilling, purplish-dark flame coating his sword, emitting an eerie humming sound, air particles vibrated as he swung it. The flame howled in response to the sword’s movement, surging forth in a straight line despite its flaws, which had been amended by the [Grandmaster of Mana] – a skill acquired through the Moderator. The eerie-like straight-line flame gleamed and blazed with malice, casting a brilliant light over the chamber.

As the attack loomed towards the hefty monster, it stirred up its ‘own’ flame to block the strange pulsating flame, seemingly from a last attempt. Alas, the gnoll was split cleanly in two, like a knife through cake. As the sword blade turned to ash from the aftereffect of utilizing such power on an E-rank weapon, the announcement didn’t miss a beat.


‘He’s a monster…’ The holographic gnoll briefly mused as it faded out of existence.

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