Soulmancer – Chapter 35: Unconventional II

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Yawning slightly and settling on the window’s ledge, he considered the necessity of preparing his mind before facing his long-time enemy. Izel gently loosened his grip, readying himself for the challenges ahead.

Main Section.

Being the capital of the First District, the initial of all the Districts on Eliluam regulated by the ‘Moderator,’ each District has distinct climates and cultures overseen by Moderators, who hold a power level equivalent to the ‘Ascender.’ However, they rarely engage with the outside world unless it is of vital importance and potentially lethal.

‘Indeed, they might even share the same level as the administrator in the Fortress,’ he briefly considered, beads of sweat forming on his cheek as he recalled the intimidating nature of the admin. Reflecting on the administrator’s workaholic tendencies, Izel couldn’t help but sigh.

‘How many sections will this train pass?’ Izel pondered, manipulating mana into his ‘Hunter Kit,’ which smoothly glided out of his cloak and positioned itself in front of him. Retrieving an informational pamphlet attached next to his seat, unable to read it, he opted to scan its contents on his Kit by placing it on its Orb screen.


After the beep, the kit vibrated, and a cascade of shimmering rays shot out from the screen, gracefully sweeping over the pamphlet in fluid motions—up and down.


After another beep, the kit’s haptic feedback gently tickled its frame. A shimmering ray of light shot back into the screen, illuminating the content of the pamphlet. The screen flashed, and after a few taps, it seemed as though he could see the display. Alas, he couldn’t.


The feminine, monotonous voice began narrating the content in Izel’s mind.

As the ‘Main Section,’ Izel’s final destination, it’s clear the train doesn’t stop there exclusively. Two more stops follow the ‘Main Section.’ The first is the [Velk Section], arguably more renowned than the ‘Main Section’ itself. It caters to the esteemed Hunters ranked within the 2,000th of the ‘Eliluam Continental Ranks.’ The second stop—

‘Second District? Hmm.’ Unable to go beyond the three sections in the First District, never mind out of the district, Izel was curious about other districts. Shaking his head, it was irrelevant for now; he had enough on his plate.


While contemplating, the train vibrated slightly, and his sense of direction blurred and spaghettized strangely, as though—

“Has the train started moving?” Izel wondered, lightning flashing through the window, reflecting his face covered by both a bamboo hat and a stylish bandana.


As anticipated, the train emitted a gentle chime, signaling its imminent departure. In just a few minutes, it would surge through the relentless downpour towards an underground railway track before the sleek mega sections. This epiphany came after the voice narrated the entire pamphlet.

‘Alone in this room, huh? Well… it’s comfortable either way.’ The moment this seemingly futile thought crossed his mind, the door of ‘Room 604’ silently swung open, almost as if it had been anticipating his musings.


Stepping in was a well-dressed man in his mid-20s, tall and cloaked in black attire similar to Izel’s own. The attire ruled out the possibility of him being train staff, making it evident he was another passenger in the same room as Izel. However, unaware of this fact, Izel clicked his tongue at the dry scent emanating from the newcomer, seemingly due to a cigarette hanging at the corner of his lips.


Seemingly oblivious to Izel’s reaction, the other person looked at him and greeted him.

“Hello,” the fella removed the cigarette, exhaling white smoke that stained the clean air with its arid scent.

Negating the smoke that tickled his nostrils, making him slightly uncomfortable, Izel nodded lightly in response to the greeting. He preferred not to engage in lengthy conversations, portraying a quiet demeanor. The short, white-haired man observed Izel’s bandana, overshadowed by a bamboo hat, wondering if it was a new style or a skill. While curiosity piqued him, he dismissed it and took a seat opposite Izel.


The high-speed magical train departed, accompanied by electronic beeps and pings that tickled the air. Initially disoriented, Izel relied on his sense of direction, which seemed blurred. As the train gained speed, he circulated his mana, clearing the taut fog in his mind. Perhaps this was why many people weren’t hesitant to opt for this conventional mode of transportation. Even those who traded with ‘points’ could afford the reasonably priced tickets. Well… that was just his guess. The speed and convenience surpassed traditional flying boats or cars, leading Izel to believe that this was the rationale.


As the scenery rushed past the transparent window, droplets from the chaotic downpour splashed lightly onto its glass, causing Izel’s eyebrows to twitch. The scene was eerily horrifying, transforming the mega sections of nearby vibrant towns and cities into gloomy yet strangely lively and colorful landscapes. However, after ten or twenty minutes, even babies would tire of the monotonous climate.


Wafting mana into his cloak, Izel’s Hunter Kit levitated in front of him. With a few taps, he delved into Eliluam’s daily news to pass the time.


[The Grand ‘Tournament’ is coming soon. Join to win the Ultimate price.]

[So move to the 20th District to join a faction or clan to take part in the Grand Tournament. Maybe, Just Maybe you can be part of a superior clan or lineage.]


On the ‘Daily News,’ narrated by the soothing feminine voice, Izel’s attention was captivated by the articles he had just perused.

The Grand Tournament stood as the pinnacle event in the [Realm], symbolizing the 20th District, a festive spectacle that drew the gaze of myriad Hunters, High-Hunters, and even High-Rankers. Those who entered the Grand Tournament did so with diverse motives. Among the most prevalent was the desire to showcase their skills, aiming for sponsorship from the most prestigious guilds or a coveted place among the select few in Superior clans. Guilds and Superior clans alike closely monitored the tournament, making excelling in it a straightforward path to securing sponsorship. Another common goal was to enhance the reputation of a guild or Superior clan.

Hunters and High-Hunters from the lower Districts essentially embodied the future of guilds or Superior Clans. They ventured through Eliluam, progressing through the ‘Continental ranks’ to amass fame and power, ultimately ascending to High-Ranker status and beyond. Their journey culminated in becoming a core force within the guild or Superior clan, a testament to their dedication and prowess.

“So, the next Grand Tournament is on the horizon huh?”


A voice interrupted the blind teen; seemingly, the fella was also engrossed in examining his ‘Kit’ and conflicted about the articles. Izel raised his head, facing the direction of the voice, as he couldn’t ignore being directly addressed.

“Yes, it seems in a few months, it will be here.”

“The last time I was there, it was so crowded, that finding lodging was such a challenging feat,” the fella said, removing the cigarette from the side of his lips and exhaling.

“Ah!” Annoyed by the overwhelming smoke but enduring it, Izel replied blankly, “I can ‘really’ imagine that.”


Of course, Izel can’t imagine that since he hasn’t even attended the event before, but… whatever.

“However, five days before the event, I finally secured a studio-room lodging,” the man continued, rolling his eyes and clicking his tongue.

“Yet, it wasn’t such a waste, No?”

“It wasn’t. Hehehe,” he chuckled carefreely, scratching the back of his head as a few creeks of steam escaped his nostrils. “My introduction is a bit late. I’m Blake Griffin.”

Curiously, Izel asked, “Are you a Hunter?”

Despite the overwhelming arid scent of his cigarette, he didn’t exude the arrogance or negativity characteristic of higher-ranked Hunters – (B-rank to S-rank).

“I’m Blind.”


The fella’s eyebrows twitched subtly as if his gut feeling was spot on. Perhaps he had damaged his eyesight, or maybe he was attempting to mimic some peculiar style. Nevertheless, he was blind. Despite this, a faint smile graced his lips. On the other hand, Izel, after altering his alias within his Fortress, vowed never to disclose it unless absolutely necessary, aiming to sidestep any unwelcome incidents. Thus, no first or last name was shared, portraying him as a hunter of anonymity.

“Ah, it’s alright. You needn’t feel too uneasy; I’m an Ex-hunter,” Blake spoke, the other side of his lips releasing a stream of smoke.

“Oh,” Izel exclaimed.

If he’s an ex-hunter, it’s understandable; either he’s from the Fortress or simply got expelled from their guild, stripping him of his ‘Hunter ID.’

“Where are you going, Mr. Blind?” Blake inquired.

“I am headed to [Numbers], the Main Section of the First District. I have some business there,” Izel responded.

“If someone like Mr. Blind has business there, it must be a big deal, right?” Blake remarked.

Izel laughed and shook his head at Mr. Blake’s joke. “It’s not a job, just sightseeing.”

“That’s good too. I overheard that the ‘Main Section’ offers a lot to see due to the development by famous guilds and the [Bureau],” Blake added.

Nodding with a gentle smile, eerie lightning flashed through the glass window as droplets pervaded the glass with the chilly wind. Izel opened his mouth and asked, “Where are you going, Mr. Blake?”

“I’m going to [Velk Section].”

“Oh!” Izel appeared less eager to be impressed and continued, “[Velk Section] is where renowned Hunters within the 2,000th rank of the ‘Eliluam Continental Ranks’ thrive. Do you have anything to see there?”

“Yes, though it’s not something I boast about. I’ve been enlisted as a member of a Freelancer organization.”

“Hoo.” Izel expressed pure astonishment.

If Izel weren’t wearing a bandana, his eyes might have narrowed at this point. The Freelancer Organization, also known as ‘TFO,’ serves as a gathering place for talented ‘Ex-hunters’ or hunters unaffiliated with guilds on Eliluam who don’t want to be an Hidden Hunter or part of any of the ‘Acolytes’ group. It’s a breeding ground for the future elite mercenaries, undertaking clandestine missions and navigating hidden labyrinths. As per the information Izel had unearthed in a secret ‘black group’ site twenty-seven days ago, the hirers and leaders, strictly selected by the ‘Moderator,’ regulated and assigned missions. The man standing before him appeared to be one of these hired ex-hunters.

“You seem strong, and you have impressive skills.” Izel sensed subtle tendrils of mana dancing around the man, suggesting that he was making a considerable effort to conceal his potent mana and fighting spirit using the scent of a cigarette. At least, that was Izel’s keen observation, prompting him to offer a compliment.

“No, it’s just that the public gave me a high rank. In fact, I narrowly passed the selection,” Blake added.

“I heard that there are a lot of people who fall; you should be proud of yourself,” Izel replied, going along with the conversation.

“Thank you for such a rating. Oh, more than that, in the next Grand Tournament in the 30th District in a few months, did you hear the rumor?”

“What rumor?” Izel asked, looking confused.

“It is said that there was a properly crafted reward this time for the Grand Tournament,” the fella said, taking off his cigarette with a tendril of steam coming off its end. His face got serious.

“Hmm, properly crafted reward?” Izel still didn’t get the gist, but he became more tense with curiosity, trying his best to calm himself down.

“Surprisingly yes,” the fella let out a deep breath. “The prize is the ‘Great Heavenly Sky Cube.'”

“Great Heavenly Sky Cube? Is it that great of a prize?” Izel, not seeing the point in the prize, let out a sigh. However, his interest was still piqued; he wanted to know how valuable that prize was for the articles of the next grand tournament to be trending…

At this point, the fella’s eyes glinted as his face flashed eerie lightning from the window. “Great Heavenly Sky Cube. The makers of the Sky Cube, the Angels from the [Heavenly Realm], said that this one came out especially well,” he explained as though reluctant to talk.

In other words, it was one of the items that represented the [Heavenly] Realm; this elixir was said to cost an astronomical amount of money and take a long time to produce by the archangels. It was a heavenly treasure that every hunter, High-Hunter, and High-Ranker desired. Though it hadn’t been revealed in the articles online yet, word of mouth was spreading among people.

“And it’s stated that only the hunter who takes first place can obtain it.”

“I see,” Izel answered him in a slightly sarcastic tone.

“Aren’t you very surprised?” Blake asked, surprisingly about to take in some smoke, as the downpour intensified, the few droplets trickling down the window, reflecting the neon lamps’ interiors.

“Haha. I thought it was just a rumor,” Izel said, claiming he wasn’t surprised, but it was actually a lie. He was undoubtedly surprised, so amazed by the prize, his mind had created ‘Stat’ goals if the rumor had to be true.

Blake finally took in the cigarette and let out a deep breath of curls of smoke followed by a more dumbfounded arid scent.

‘Goddamnit,’ Izel cried inwardly. Please take it easy, man.

Izel pondered the meaning behind the man’s question about the new reward of the upcoming Grand Tournament, the Great Heavenly Sky Cube. Was it a deliberate move to capture Izel’s interest, or does he have another motive?

‘What does he mean?’ Izel wondered if every question from this man had a hidden agenda, but upon further reflection, it didn’t seem that way. Blake, despite his faint fighting spirit, leaking mana, and that annoying cigarette appeared more driven by curiosity. So, is it just a coincidence?

‘He’s a member of a freelancer organization…’ Izel considered briefly. The Freelancer Organization’s inner workings are so secretive that word-of-mouth among people is prohibited. Only those in exclusive circles like Izel who frequented the hidden ‘black online group’. So, the fact that this guy became a member implies he was an ex-hunter with exceptional skills. Izel wasn’t certain about his initial impression, but he sensed this person was peculiar. Instead of heightening his alert, Izel inwardly shook his head, ‘Let’s consider it a coincidence for now.’


The blind teen’s fingers naturally tapped the orb screen of his Hunter Kit, scrolling to the next articles as he absorbed the information. “If such a way existed, it would have been in the online articles,” Izel remarked.

“Haha,” Blake chuckled, “there are some things not easily revealed to the public,” he continued, a faint wisp of steam escaping from his lips.

“Can you really ask that from someone you met for the first time today?” Izel asked blankly. Eerie lightning flashed through the glass window, tearing through the gloomy sky.

“There’s nothing wrong with it, is there? And Blind, it’s the first time I’ve seen you today, but I think we’re on a good note,” Mr. Blake said, seated comfortably, a carefree nod punctuating his words, a cigarette dangling from the right side of his lips.

“I’m thankful that a renowned ‘TFO’ member took such good care of a young blind teen,” Izel said carefreely. However, inwardly, he felt his nostrils and lungs suffocating.

In the current situation, it seemed Mr. Blake was trying to project kindness, but he didn’t appear ready to dismiss his interest in Izel. Despite this, the blind teen had decided to respond appropriately. Having a travel companion wasn’t a bad thing. At least, using mana to slowly filter out the arid scent and smoke in the air wouldn’t hurt.

“Mr. Blake, if you go to TFO, will you take the mission right away?” Izel asked.

“Not right away,” Blake shook his head before glancing out the window. “I will have to wait.”

“Why, though? You’re strong enough to take a mission immediately,” Izel inquired.

“No, I will be exploring ‘hidden labyrinths’ to advance to a higher mercenary grade before that.”

“Don’t new ex-hunters or unaffiliated hunters usually take missions on the go? You’re more impressive than I thought,” Izel complimented.

Certainly, he knew his strength, but his mindset was also remarkable. Instead of rushing into a mission, he preferred elevating his mercenary rank by raiding hidden labyrinths before embarking on a special and perilous mission. Operating within the shadows, the organization had only a million individuals striving to climb the ranks.

Though adjacent to a population section, TFO itself was ‘literally’ close to a small section, often referred to as a shadow within the shadows. In short, mercenaries were divided from 5th grade to 1st grade. Typically, the higher the grade, the more missions, authority, power, and fame one received.

Thus, having a competent first-grade member and new fifth-grade members was essential. ‘Simply put, this man aims to climb the ladder quickly for his ‘own’ goals and ambitions,’ Izel briefly pondered, exhaling deeply as thunder rumbled.

Honor, wealth, love, power, fame, and authority—these were the goals and ambitions humans developed over time. Unlike before the [Armaedggeon], where only superior beings, Hunters afflicted with famous Guilds and famous bloodlines could achieve that, these days, there is a growing trend toward the supremacy of talent, powerhouses, connections, and a verbose background, in which, the unfortunate and less fortunate could achieve if they put something on the line.

And TFO stood as the top mercenary group for any ex-hunter or unaffiliated hunter with exceptional skills. Whether it be prowess in combat, strategic brilliance, or a unique set of abilities, or talents that set individuals apart in the demanding world of mercenaries. ‘I’m curious about what kind of place it is,’ Izel shook his head, his reflection portraying his conflicted mood on the glass window, while the latter continued to relish his cigarette.

If not for the Fortress of Dungeons, Izel would’ve found himself among the most unfortunate. Maybe… Perhaps the same fate awaited Blake, a man intricately tied to it. Blake, standing on the radiant stage of ‘TFO,’ and Izel, who had lived a pitiful existence just 27 days ago but were now reborn, were worlds apart.

Since joining TFO at a relatively young age, Izel could only speculate about Blake’s age based on his voice. However, such speculation might not have always been accurate. Despite this uncertainty, Izel felt compelled to congratulate him, acknowledging his status as an ex-hunter. As Izel briefly reflected on this, he recognized the similarity in their backgrounds but noted a crucial difference. Unlike himself, Blake had never received an invitation to the Fortress of Dungeons, yet he still occupied a prominent position in a hierarchical society. Essentially, Blake belonged to the apex of a class society.

However, a few ended up plunging into the abyss despite their initial high standing. Some had their Hunter IDs denounced as useless and worthless, while others harbored resentment towards those of higher rank or had issues with superiors. Regardless, several Hunters found themselves in the abyss without receiving an invitation to the Fortress. Considering that ex-Hunters were even more scorned by unaffiliated peers than those deemed as “trash Hunters,” the man named ‘Blake’ standing before him must have invested significant effort, coupled with his abundant talent, to secure a coveted spot as a member of TFO.


When the eerie lightning flashes and a deafening rumble of thunder follows, Izel’s ears twitch as if catching an unusual sound from outside. ‘What?’ he wondered. Extending his [Sound Reading] ability out of the window, only the ripples of the downpour and frequencies of lightning tearing through the gloomy clouds, and rumbles of thunder soon after, greeted him.


“Hu!” he exhaled deeply, attempting to dismiss his overthinking. Perhaps it was his [Sound Reading] going haywire. Despite these doubts, an unsettling sense of anxiety lingered.

“What is it?” Blake inquired, furrowing his brow at Izel’s unusual reaction. The blind teen remained silent, concentrating on his [Sound Reading]. ‘Something is approaching,’ Izel thought, his mind alert as he sensed the impending presence. His hair stood on end, and tendrils of mana, accompanied by soft ripples, reached him.

“I can feel… something… above—.” Blake’s senses caught up to the oppressive air. As he prepared to question Izel further, his words trailed off, the dim light revealing the vibrating air particles dancing in the eerie stillness.


The magical train quaked violently with a deafening explosion. The room trembled, and the high-speed train, navigating the broad gauge track, swayed precariously amid the relentless downpour.

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