Soulmancer – Chapter 43: Inescapeable Past I

In a private lab, the quiet hum of electronics enveloped every nook and cranny of the space, accentuated by innumerable soft neon glows reflecting off metallic walls. Rows of futuristic monitors and central processing units cast a dim kaleidoscopic light across the area. In the center of the lab, a massive holographic display projecting a three-dimensional model of the [First District] skyline. Data streams cascaded down like digital waterfalls, each representing the flow of information through the district’s network of Hunter’s kits.

Although technicians and kit supervisors were absent, the [latest version 4.0 of the cybernetic Neutromagical AI system] monitored ‘each and every’ streams. Its seamless operations were fluid as it adjusted virtual dials and tweaked interfaces. Wires snaked across the linoleum floor, connecting servers humming with processing power, their blinking lights creating an intricate web of connectivity. Despite the immense ripples and a series of different ranges of wavelengths and frequencies swarming this realm of intertwined electronics, they remained invisible to others. But to Izel, it was vibrant. ‘In fact’, this was the very place where the strange electronic beeps had always caught his attention, back when he first entered the Practical Test alloy-like rectangular chamber, where he fought the holographic gnoll. Despite the intricacies of the scene, Izel’s attention soon shifted to his Hunter’s Kit undergoing his new Hunter’s ID installment.



[Serial Number XXXX Hunter’s Kit Connected—Prompts for Hunter’s ID Installation recorded Hunter ID’s Test.]

[Adapting Installation biased upon the Practical Test Serial Model XXX23.]

[Searching the [Bureau] database…]

[Practical Test Serial Model XXX23 Found.]

[Initializing Installation Process…]

[Scanning ‘Kit’ Compatibility…]

[Compatibility Found.]

[Configuring ‘Kit’ Settings…]

[Installation in Progress…]

[Optimizing ‘Kit’ Installation progress…]

[The Connections between Practical Test Serial Model XXX23 and ‘Kit’ Serial Number XXXX has been linked successfully…]

[Installation Complete.]

[B-rank Hunter ID has been updated.]

[Enjoy Your New Hunter’s Rank Experience.]

After the male monotonous voice faded alongside the holographic messages, Mia unplugged the cables from Izel’s Hunter Kit, exhaling deeply. “Your Updated Hunter ID has been installed,” she said, tendrils of mana swirling around her translucent-craved Hunter’s Kit, which hovered in front of her, near the blind teen’s ‘own’ kit. “And it’s the one you’ll be using from now on,” she added, rotating her tendrils of mana and enveloping the latter Hunter’s Kit. With a flick of her hand on its contour, she directed it back at him.



A familiar haptic feedback jolted through Izel’s consciousness, leaving him to examine the content installed within. He deftly diffused mana into the floating Hunter’s kit, and automatically the carved orb responded, causing it to stop right in front of his chest.

[Hunter ID name: Izel Ethalt Blind.]

[Hunter Model number: XXX23]

[New Hunter Rank: B.]

[Hunter Type: Melee.]

[Continental Rank: 1999th]

[Issued Date: 3538-05-15]

[Expiring Date: None.]

After the familiar feminine voice narrated his new Hunter ID, Izel smiled with satisfaction. It felt good to have it back, especially with the new rank upgrade. “I even made it onto the continental rank,” he thought briefly, amused by his current position at 1999th. He wondered how Daniel and Jenna were doing and what rank they held. Before he could admire ‘his’ Hunter’s ID further, Mia interrupted his thoughts.

“Now that you’ve finally got your Hunter’s ID,” Mia interjected, “you’ll be able to act as an official hunter now.”


As she manipulated the tendrils of mana around her, her Hunter’s kit floated back to her suit. Mia added. “Needless to say, you’re officially in the public eye now. Everyone will be watching to see what path you’ll take—whether you’ll become a terrorist-like acolyte squad leader or climb the ranks to become a High-Hunter.”

Her fist clenched involuntarily as she recalled her failure to catch or defeat the Hidden Hunter, who had escaped using acolytes as a shield. But she knew it wasn’t her fault as she unclenched her fist. The Hidden Hunter was just lucky.

Izel, noticing her despondent bodily response, interpreted the hidden meaning in her words. ‘although she refused to arrest him for his crime, someday, it would catch up to him soon, so he needs to get stronger.’ In any case, that was the future, so he nodded slightly, “I guess I will keep that in mind…” But right now, Izel had other plans as he opened his mouth, “So, that means I’ll be able to sell items and take on subterranean labyrinth raids and dirty jobs?”

“Quick on the uptake huh?” Mia glanced at him, taking a deep breath. His quick understanding didn’t surprise her; he always had a knack for grasping things swiftly. Yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that he had planned this all along. Curiosity piqued, she added, “Of course, but you’ll only be able to take subterranean labyrinth raids and dirty jobs that match your rank. The same goes for the items.”


“That being said,” she said after a brief pause, her gaze serious as she stared at Izel. “I have a proposal for you.”

“If you mention a proposal…” Izel carefreely smiled, his words interrupted by the inspector, who smacked her cherry-red lips before speaking—.

“It’s exactly what you thought it was. Would you be interested in working exclusively as a Hunter for the [Bureau]?”

‘Huh?’ Izel was quite startled. It was out of the blue, but it didn’t come as a surprise. Could it be that she is just joking? No, her serious demeanor contradicted such a thought. Then, was it goodwill or did she want to take this chance to monitor his every move as a criminal? Of course, that seemed to make sense. However, it could just be that Mia, as the [Bureau]’s inspector, saw him as a diamond in the rough, even though, she as the [Velk border hunter], thought of him as a sinister criminal worse than an acolyte or hidden Hunter taking on the identity of his dead traveling companion, Blake Griffin. Plus, being a freshly new Blind Hunter with overwhelming potential, this was also a chance for the [Bureau] to quickly grasp onto him before other renowned and top [Guilds] and influential [Companies] used their immense benefits and contracts to snatch him away, as they had been doing to other young promising rising stars.

‘Precisely now, I’m no longer affiliated with the [Cascade] guild,’ the blind teen thought. And there was a more unlikely chance of getting back into the guild after narrowly escaping this time, so there was no reason for the [Bureau] not to try to poach him. And of course, Izel thought, it wasn’t a bad deal, considering that the [Bureau] Hunters received “Lupins” or “Points” depending on their contract signed regardless of whether they raided labyrinths or climbed up the ‘Continental rank’. Unlike more Hunters in both mid-tier [Guilds] or renowned [Guilds] like ‘Reaper’ and ‘Cascade’, and other guilds upper the districts one goes, make their living by raiding and scavenging through as many strong labyrinths as possible, these [Bureau]’s Hunters were allowed to have other jobs, take dirty jobs, fight acolytes, hoodlums, hidden Hunters, and secure [Section’s] borders, to make a living apart from their contract.

‘They’re also hired by celebrities to protect them against crime lords and other gangs targeting them,’ Izel briefly considered. In other words, they protect the [First District], so their salaries, both in ‘Lupins’ and ‘points,’ are ridiculously high. Never mind their authority and power over who goes in and out of each [Section]’s Border. Izel manipulated mana around his floating Hunter’s Kit, retracting it into his cloak before sneaking in a question. “Exactly how much would the pay be?”

“Hmm, that would be according to your contract,” Mia said. With a flick of her fingers, a colorful scroll of a copy contract materialized. Her eyes narrowed as she scanned through it. “Mostly ‘three million Lupin,’ plus a 500k bonus, and lastly 100 ‘points’ upfront with the ‘Freedom’ condition policy applied.” After reading, the scroll disappeared as she added, “You can negotiate for more; after all, you are one of those candidates that got ‘B-rank’ from ‘F-rank’ just after a few months.”


That’s a fairly high amount, even for renowned Guilds and Companies, especially for essentially doing ‘clean-up,’ ‘protection,’ ‘patrolling,’ and ‘crime-fighting’. And in all honesty, to such a contract, his heart throbbing with desire for such luxury, pondering how such riches would instantly change his life. ‘I bet I will look cooler,’ he thought, his reverie filled with sparkles of imagined luxuries. “That’s pretty tempting.”

“Well, I think you have the potential to be worth it in the long run,” Mia said, seemingly predicting his future growth without batting an eye at the amount. As a successor of a prestigious company, she looked forward to it.

Truthfully, Izel would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested. Apart from working hand in hand with such a troublemaker who knows his sacred secret, it would be very worth it considering the time he’d spend in the Fortress of Dungeons and how broke he currently is. ‘After all, only ¢15,000 lupins remain,’ he let out a bitter sigh. Because ‘it’s a bit iffy if they had a relationship with Velkist Combomir,’ he briefly thought about the pipeline of corruption and cruelty that runs in the background. For instance, according to multiple articles he had gone through a few months back from the ‘black market site,’ a lot of murders happened within labyrinths not associated with Hidden Hunters, hoodlums, or acolytes, to the point where those targeted by renowned Guilds or even the Bureau exclusively ordered ‘Hunters’ to dispose of them within to prevent any information from leaking out from the public or high-grade journalists.

After all, no one knows what happens in Labyrinths—if one disappears, that’s the end. No one could ever track him or her, let alone the corpses. And since, according to the acolyte squad leader, who, at his dying breath, fortunately, relays a piece of the hidden collaboration between the [Cascade] Guild and the Acolytes and Hidden Hunters, Izel knew how all [Guilds], [Companies], and others had a shady and dark side either. And the [Bureau] wasn’t all that clean, never mind a lot of instances of candidates paying absurd sums of money to be evaluated at a higher rank. As a victim, he knew that too well. ‘Damn Velkist,’ he briefly thought, recalling how he tried to mess up his Hunter ID’s test and its result.

‘Plus, it was ‘actually’ different from the previous Hunter ID test,’ he briefly mused that he did feel something was a bit off from his previous test. And how everything from the available items was strangely weak to how strangely strong and incompatible the Goblin ‘actually’ was. A goblin with yellow skin. Of course, he did hear from the ‘public Test section’ that a candidate who took the “Easy” Hunter ID’s Test got a D-grade weapon, but alas, Izel only had an F-grade available. Though that was the weapon he could wield at the time, he wasn’t given any other choice. ‘And to think, an F-rank blind hunter fighting a Lunar Goblin,’ he bitterly assumed.

A D-rank Goblin is quite different from the F-rank green Goblin. Of course, Izel, at that point, could complain about it because he was pathetic, weak, and dull, but when he thought deeper about it, there was indeed a lot to be suspicious of. If that were the case, it would be foolish of him to accept this offer. ‘Fool a blind man once, shame on them; fool me twice, shame on me,’ he considered. Of course, he didn’t have any concrete proof, yet he still couldn’t say if an immediate response was a wise decision either. Plus, he couldn’t bring himself to trust Anastasia too well, though she helped him twice, it was enough for him to at least put her on hold.

“Thank you for the graceful offer,” Izel said, as the distorted and drowned-out rumble of thunder slightly tickled his [Sound Reading], “I’ll think about it,”

“If it’s because of me, you don’t need to worry about it,” she attempted to reassure him, her words laced with sincerity. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

“No, it’s not that,” he replied evenly.

“Then, is it because of the contract? You can negotiate it up according to the policy,” she added, trying not to reveal her interest in working with him—a rising B-rank blind teen.

“Not that either,” Izel calmly smiled. “I trust you with my secret.” Of course, he didn’t. He still deemed her as… trouble. “Just need to think it through whether it’s something I truly need at this point.”

She let out a deep breath, seeming to understand. He indirectly rejected her. No, the [Bureau] offer, without hurting her feelings or appearing arrogant or rude. “… I see,” her smile curled up at both ends. She couldn’t stop a bird that wanted to fly freely and become a dragon. “Feel free to reach out to me anytime.”

After all, where would be the fun in that? Mia soon held out a well-made white card, feeling stressed about bringing out her Hunter’s kit. “And perhaps we could do some hunting together in the future.”

Izel took the card, his finger tracing the special bold font as a toneless male voice spoke the content in his mind.

[Name: Mia Von Viedudam.

Occupation: Inspector

Hunter’s Kit Serial Number: XXXXX79

Rank: High-Hunter

Affiliation: [Bureau].]

“Alright. I’ll head out now.” Izel said as he turned to leave.

“Stay in touch, and why not plan a visit to [Velk Border] sometime?” She said with a carefree tone, though her smile carried a hint of eeriness as if she had just concocted a sinister plan that would unfold perfectly if the blind teen decided to visit. “If you keep me waiting and neglected for too long, I may have to consider ordering an arrest.”


Quite startled by her sudden bodily response, it was the first time she had said such a thing. Despite her smile and seemingly innocent words, they carried a hint of ominousity that sent chills down his back. ‘She is… still trouble,’ he briefly thought, his face flustering yet distorting in embarrassment. He felt the urge to crawl into the nearest hole to escape this masochistic situation. Yet, he’d consider it perhaps in the future when she didn’t seem like trouble anymore. For now, there were things he had to attend to.

“Love your scared expression, kid! Hahahah! Just kidding!” she exclaimed as if toying with his emotions, finding amusement in his expression until the end. Her laughter echoed through the lab, before letting out a light cough to at least lighten up the mood, “And…” Mia interrupted, just as Izel was about to step out of the lab’s door, causing him to halt abruptly.


“Make sure to check those papers in the briefcase you’re carrying,” Mia advised, her voice laced with concern. “So when that identity you’re faking catches up to you, at least you’ll have a gist of it. I might not be there to help you again, or maybe I won’t be strong enough. Either way, it’s best if you’re prepared for that day.”

With similar thoughts swirling in his mind, Izel smiled and nodded, though his head throbbed intensely and his stomach growled ominously. He felt a wave of relief knowing he had obtained his Hunter’s ID; now, his next agenda was selling the items he had brought from the Fortress. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He said as he shut the door behind him, a sense of determination settled within him.


After still having ‘five’ more days out of the ‘seven days’ of the Runic Stone’s effect that transported him back to Eliluam, he knew that few Walkers might have risked returning with how expensive the ‘Runic Stone’ actually was. However, he could still take advantage of the situation by selling the items he brought with him in his cloak at a high market price, notwithstanding the taxes and other fees. As the days passed, more Walkers would begin to return from the Fortress, likely with items of their own, potentially affecting the market prices, even in the black market and auctions. So, Izel had to act quickly to prepare for that. “Time to make some money,” he muttered to himself as his [Cloud boots] parted ways with the floor of the long dim passage amidst the drowned-out rumble of thunder and flashes of purplish lightning.

He might charge some extra premium for his items due to their quality while neglecting the ‘Demerit’ they might never find out. However, as he involuntarily called for his Hunter’s kit that floated out from his cloak to check the time, he realized it was imperative to act swiftly.


‘What?’ Izel exclaimed in shock, realizing he had wasted so much time.
‘Fuck!’ he cursed as he hurried through the private hall. Since the [First District] was always gloomy and dark, it was pretty hard to tell. Even though he was born in such a district, being blind does have its drawbacks. No wonder his stomach kept growling; the last time he ate was [2pm]. And a lot had happened during that time. As though trying to make it up to his stomach, he patted it, ‘No worry, you will get your fill soon.’


The throbbing headaches seemed to intensify as though they wanted to break out of their bottleneck. Could his partially stable mind handle it? Nonetheless, Izel exited the [Bureau] under the downpour that soon intensified, accompanied by eerie flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.

* * *

The [Numbers], being the main section and capital of the [First District], might appear different from the [Velk section]—where renowned Hunters within the 2,000th rank of the ‘Eliluam Continental Ranks’ thrive—and [Exodus] section combined, Neons sign flickered in dazzling displays of Tall buildings and skyscrapers’ signboards, logos and street lights—Indeed, their electric glows bath the streets in a soporific aura from every corner. Izel, in the back seat of a sleek taxi, as the driver drove through and deeper into the [Main section], the roads widened, and the traffic grew more congested. He deepened in thought as his naked face reflected the water dripping down the glass window. The lively civilization amidst the relentless downpour, as usual, was certainly more advanced than what he was used to on [Exodus], but the chaotic landscape left him feeling quite uneasy. As the throbbing headache banged his head vigorously yet slowly from the nape, he roared up his gradually recovering mana, suppressing the accumulated trauma within his mind as he sighed. There was no ‘recording kit’ present in the vehicle. He wondered whether he could endure this trauma any longer.

As soon as the city’s long congestion ended and traffic began to clear, Izel directed the driver to immediately turn and head for an isolated alley. The further he went down the alley, the dirtier the streets became, and the buildings around him also became run down. Even in such a huge, lively section as [Numbers], slums still existed. Izel ordered the driver to stop the taxi, which halted near an apartment complex that was about to collapse at any moment. A faint steam mixed with mana escaped throughout the car as its tires came to a stop. He soon concentrated and circulated mana around every nook and cranny steadily and quietly, inhaling and exhaling to gather some strength amidst the torment engulfing him. Fortunately, due to the [Grandmaster of mana], a skill he acquired from the ‘Moderator’ on the Magical train, his mana had recovered quite a bit, so he was able to gather a bit of strength. But the burning sensation and twisting of his internals and mind made the blind teen’s body tremble. ‘Ughh…!’ He inwardly groaned as he gritted his teeth.


Before the driver, who was observing from the driving mirror, could voice his concern, Izel sighed, “Phew!” as though he had finally composed himself. He handed the fee from his cloak to the driver without hesitation, leaving his cash at ¢13,000 lupin, as the relentless rain began to drench him. As he gently got out of the car, he added, “Have a nice day.”

The sleek taxi vroomed off into the distance, splashing water about.

As soon as he stepped out of the dark slums, the relentless downpour persisted, accompanied by eerie lightning slicing through the gloomy, twisting clouds, followed by a rumble of thunder that reverberated through the air.

“Hu!” Izel blinked as droplets cascaded down his face, soaking his hair. His eyes stung, and a headache throbbed in his temples. His hands trembled, and despite being soaked to the bone, the back of his neck began to feel hot. His whole body pulsed as discomfort and restlessness crept in.

There was not much time.


Walking quickly on the water-soaked, turvy-turvy road, suppressing his inner turmoil with the mana he could muster, Izel soon found a small hotel on the outskirts of downtown. It was a neat yet discreet location, with a quiet lobby and laid-back employees. Hygiene and safety amid the chaotic climate didn’t seem bad at all. As the gentle yet chilly wind blew, Izel entered the hotel without hesitation. Wiping the droplets mixed with hot sweat running down his face, and ignoring those from his cloak and boots, he headed toward the counter.

“I would like… to have… a room,” he asked, though his banging headaches and rough breath were becoming increasingly difficult to conceal.

“¢9,000 Lupins per night,” replied the brown-haired receptionist without commenting on his appearance or condition.

The price sounded steep to Izel, who was familiar with the regular rates for a room per night. However, he wasn’t in a position to argue about it as his sense of direction and balance began to distort and blur. It was a sensation similar to being close to the edge of a fast-moving magical train, but far more intense as it was happening within him.

With cash retrieved from his cloak, Izel paid for the room and received the key from the receptionist.


As Izel stepped onto the ‘Electromagical’ elevator, his innate skill, [Sound Reading], began to falter. The once sharp ability grew fuzzy and blurry, rendering his [Echolation] effect useless. With his sense of balance and direction blacking out, he crawled across the corridor, managing to open the door to the designated room before collapsing inside, jamming the door shut with his feet.


All his senses dulled instantly as his body temperature began to rise, caught in a battle between cold and hot within. Gripping his chest, a cascade of accumulated trauma, fatigue, tension, and a lack of mana—previously suppressed by his fortitude and mana—overwhelmed him. His partially stable mind couldn’t bear the weight, and everything crashed down on Izel at once. Unable to remove his shoes properly, he collapsed onto the front porch, consciousness slipping away. It was the second time he had been rendered so vulnerable since the B-rank Dungeon Raid in the Fortress of Dungeons.

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