Chapter 3: Innate Talent C-079 – Strengthened Skeleton
“This is turning out to be quite a predicament,” Su Lun muttered, meeting the bald brute’s murderous gaze without fear. Yet, a wry, helpless bitterness touched his expression.
The plan had been sound: to grab the gun, kill the rooster-combed thug, and, with a stroke of luck, find a chance to shoot the bald man.
And indeed, fortune had seemed to favor him; everything progressed according to his carefully laid plans.
Unfortunately, in the end, his efforts fell short.
The shot fired did not take down the bald man.
After all, no reasonable person would anticipate facing an adversary with ‘superhuman abilities’ capable of withstanding bullets with raw flesh!
Once he’d fired that shot, Su Lun lost the initiative.
The bald hulk casually plucked the lodged bullet from his forehead, a mocking smirk spreading across his face.
He didn’t bother firing the high-pressure cannon mounted on his mechanical arm again. Instead, he stomped the ground, creating a shockwave that obliterated his previous position in a ripple of force. In a blink, the bald man had traversed several meters like a specter and appeared right before Su Lun.
His iron-like grip clamped onto Su Lun’s throat and, leveraging his monstrous strength, he slammed both Su Lun and the chair he was bound to against the wall.
With a sharp crack, the wooden chair shattered, sending splinters cascading down like a wooden rain.
Su Lun had no time to react, feeling as though he’d been struck by an elephant. A bitter, metallic taste erupted in his throat, and with a sickening spit, a mouthful of dark, clotted blood sprayed out.
The silver revolver clattered to the ground, beyond his reach. Even if he could manage to grasp it, against this foe, it seemed all but useless.
The bald man’s uncanny speed was alarming. His short-range burst was so swift that it was almost imperceptible to the human eye.
Another gift that transcended ordinary human capability.
Yet Su Lun was not surprised. A man that could withstand a headshot point-blank wouldn’t be perturbed by mere speed.
Glaring viciously, the bald man snarled at Su Lun, who now hung feet above the ground, pinned against the wall, “Kid, guess you didn’t see this coming. My awakened talent is ‘C-079 – Strengthened Skeleton.’ Without this ability, I would probably have fallen to you today.”
With that, the bald man’s eyes swept over the corpse of his companion lying in a pool of blood, and his gaze turned even icier.
Recalling the tricky shot Su Lun had made, and the chilling close call it caused, he clenched his teeth. If he hadn’t dodged the vital spot at that moment, he might very well have been the one lying dead on the ground.
His grip on Su Lun’s neck tightened as he prepared to choke the life out of the young man.
But a sudden hesitation flashed through his mind.
Su Lun mentally acknowledged his gift, ‘Talent: Strengthened Skeleton? A superhuman ability?’
He weakly closed his eyes. The bald man’s mechanical arm constricted around his throat like a vise. The immediate threat of suffocation left no doubt that the thug could snap his neck effortlessly.
However, not being killed instantly brought calm to Su Lun’s mind.
He saw through the bald man’s hesitation. The only reason he was still alive must be the captor’s interest in the “secret” the original host possessed.
By now, the bald man’s patience was likely worn thin due to his companion’s death.
Su Lun understood that one wrong word could provoke this man into a rage, ending his life on the spot.
So, with his last breath, he forced out five crucial words, “I have a treasure map.”
As expected, the moment the words left his lips, the choking grip slackened slightly, giving him a gap to breathe.
“Hmph,” the bald brute huffed disdainfully.
He wasn’t as foolish as he looked; he knew Su Lun was bargaining for his life.
Still, he gave him a chance, speaking coldly, “Kid, you’ve got one shot. Share information that interests me, and I’ll grant you a swift death.”
As soon as the words fell, his powerful hand squeezed tighter, and a sharp crack of breaking bones echoed.
Su Lun winced in agony, feigning weakness. He briefly scanned the information displayed on his retina, preparing his response.
‘Just a swift death?’ He disregarded the threat, explaining directly, “The manor’s banquet hall, at the end of the main corridor on the left, seventh door. There’s a hidden passage. The wall sconce is the trigger, leading to the underground, where a labyrinth awaits.”
These words were not a fabrication but drawn from the information available on his retina.
In such a limited time, amidst an entirely unfamiliar world, fabricating a foolproof lie was nearly impossible.
And the outcome of being caught in a lie was certain death.
Although Su Lun was unsure how this information was imprinted on the retina, it became visible each time he closed his eyes.
The message read:
“My dear Fick, by the time you read this, your memory will have been erased. Of course, it doesn’t matter now. I’ve left you something as compensation. If fate hasn’t abandoned you, perhaps surviving in the dark is a blessing. Remember, trust no one, especially those high-ups from the Black Tower.”
Beyond this message, the retina revealed obscure text that Su Lun didn’t have time to fully comprehend, seemingly related to a mysterious power called ‘alchemy’ particular to this world.
Additionally, there was a strange schematic.
Not a map, but a three-dimensional construct of winding, luminous pathways marked from top to bottom. It resembled a mine or an abyssal cave network.
With just a glance, Su Lun grasped the gist of the situation.
His predecessor was named ‘Fick,’ seemingly ‘exiled’ for undisclosed reasons.
But these past affairs held no relevance to Su Lun, the traveler, who possessed no memories of the former life.
He was unconcerned with the original host’s past and more focused on the present.
From the language used, it was likely a relative of the original host that left these inscribed words on his retina.
It was because of this information that the original host ventured to this manor, seeking the site marked on the map. An ancient site connected to the same miraculous ‘superhuman talents’ as the bald man’s bulletproof skull?
Selective with the details, Su Lun disclosed some information, keeping the crucial details to himself.
For instance, he omitted the exact route through the labyrinth and the fact there were multiple wall sconces in the room, yet only one would open the passage to the underground—the others would trigger traps.
To survive the murderous intent of the bald thug, Su Lun had to demonstrate his worth.
And to continue living, he couldn’t reveal his full value at once.
As long as the enemy wasn’t a fool, they would surely not kill him now.
Upon hearing Su Lun’s words, the bald man’s eyes briefly flickered with curiosity.
He had suspected the young man marked for assassination by the inner city’s elite held secrets.
But after losing a brother, the bald man turned cautious, probing, “What treasure is hidden in this manor?”
Feigning frailty, Su Lun closed his eyes, skimmed the text on his retina once more, and relayed, “Supposedly, it’s ‘Sir Isaac’s’ relics.”
At the mention of ‘Sir Isaac,’ the bald man’s expression transformed, as if struck by lightning. “What?!”
Su Lun spared him a quiet glance.
Ignorant of the full significance behind ‘Sir Isaac,’ Su Lun could tell from the bald man’s reaction that it must be some extraordinary treasure.
For Su Lun, however, this was welcome news.
Now, he was even more confident that his life would be spared—at least for now.