With his own experiences and her sample, sometimes it was just so hard to believe that he could and would ever try to love, or even just like, another girl.
To be honest, only the relationship between his parents was keeping him from thinking that the idea of two people attracted to each other ending up happy together was a ridiculous thing.
However, deep within him, there was a doubt of whether the same happiness would ever come to him. Especially now that he was regrettably tied to a malicious being.
Nonetheless, he recognized that it could happen. He was just not sure if he himself would ever try to be deeply attached to someone one more time.
The first person he loved died.
What if he tries for the second time around, only for that individual to die too, this time due to the system or its other hosts?
'Well, at least she's luckier than me. She can do a search because the one she's looking for is still alive. And according to her, that person is very strong and resourceful. At least more than her when she's still at the lower levels.'
He cooled his head under the running water of the shower. With the help of the coldness continuously running down his body, his mind cleared, enabling him to process everything he heard earlier from Sofony.
He remembered what kind of woman was going toe to toe with Sofony in the business world, the person that had been allowed to stay in her position all these years by his co-host despite perfectly having the ability to just kill or dethrone her.
Ruthless. But very capable. An entertaining enemy. But only for Sofony.
At the end of it, Chris concluded that he had to do something if he didn't want an acquaintance to die a stupid death just because the Silver's princess wanted to be at the sidelines to watch the imminent happenstances.
He wryly smiled, 'I'm sure Sofony will not truly refuse to move if it's to ensure the survival of her moneybag. Surely, she won't allow someone under her protection to die.'
'... It's just that... I'm nearby....'
After this thought crossed his mind, he couldn't help the profanity that came out of his mouth.
'F*ck my life!'
Chris finished the quick shower since all he needed was to fully awaken his mind before heading out. After that, he put on some clothes. He did everything within 3 minutes.
While pocketing his car keys, he hoped that he was just worrying over nothing. That the attacks wouldn't be arranged today...
'Let's just hope that annoying woman saw the death threat, got frightened, and called back her bodyguards for protection.'
Having hacking as a life skill was definitely a very good thing. It could not only help him save points, it, of course, allow him to unearth histories and accounts normally impossible for a normal computer user to retrieve or discover.
The feeling of finding out carefully hidden secrets of others or altering system or security features to accomplish a goal that differs from the original purpose of the program was just very fantastic. It was like everything could be controlled with a mere tap of his fingers.
Of course, sometimes one would feel bad, angry or horrified for discovering stuff not easily digestible by the brain.
He experienced this when he first hacked into a politician's computer and saw the many records and even pictures of people trafficked into Dawson's mafia for prostitution and organ mining. It was indescribably awful learning that this kind of unspeakable thing happened under the instruction of a reputable lawmaker respected by the masses. He even felt betrayed. However, it was also because of cases like this that he managed to toughen up his heart within the past years.
He learned to be ruthless too. But only to demons in human skins. And only to those his powers could impose judgments too. After all, no matter how good he was in manipulating data and everything in the virtual world, he was still only one individual. Has a limit. Has moral values restricting him. And was on the weaker side of the spectrum, especially if pitted against people like Sofony.
'Sadly, every higher-level host can match me in this. Or simply overpower me with their AIs.'
'Still, it's good that I obtained this skill after I leveled up to 3, appearing after the Cloning skill that is still quite useless for me. It's really a point-saver.'
The truth was he was already quite proficient in it even before the system included this to his rewards. Since that time, he had already upped his intelligence to more than 50, he deemed it a waste to not learn stuff that could earn him money fast and get him to easily completes the mission he could select. And then, the moment he reached level 3, as if to compensate him, it instantly appeared as his third Level S skill. Acting and Mind Control were the two others.
<System: It's thanks to me! I petitioned for the upgrade of skill for you! I also requested to be included in the list of the Level 3 level up rewards!>
'... Sofony said all hosts obtain it at Level 3, something about every Official, and, as it turned out to be, Half Host receiving one life skill and one shady skill per level up...'
He then ignored the little liar as he typed with one hand on the mini-keyboard connected to his phone, his left holding the steering wheel. Though he should be concerned about the need to split his attention, Chris felt more like thanking the gods that it was already past 1 pm. With lesser cars on the road, he didn't have to worry about being held back by traffic and could arrive at his destination without any delay.
'I really envy those who can teleport!'
'They don't even have to waste effort on walking if they don't feel like it!'
'They have the option to not do so. And I don't. Damn!'
<System: ...Don't worry, I'm sure, one day, er, though that day is quite far away given your current progress and situation, it will definitely come! I'm certain of it! Just believe in me and my main brain!>
It was five minutes later, in the middle of his incessant running towards the fifteenth floor of the condo building, when he heard its words. How he wished it just didn't reply to him...
'... Those hitmen sure are thorough huh? Disabling even the elevator. Did they consider the angle where she will manage to luckily run out of the unit? So they blocked her every possible escape route?'
<System: Well, as we can see, they sure did. But isn't it because you learned of this beforehand that you didn't bother checking whether the elevators are really working or not? You went straight into running the long staircases due to this, right? I pity you. So I will cheer you up from inside your brain. Go Chris Bastard! You can do it! Nothing is impossible! Just twelve more floors to go!>
For some reason, listening to the system's bullshitting was more draining than sprinting across the endless steps.
After an unknown amount of time which seemed like forever for him, he finally arrived at the real destination. Alessa Morgan's dwelling place in the capital that he hadn't ever visited before.
He panted heavily, his undershirt already so drenched. Perhaps, once he took it out and wrung it with his two hands, liters after liters of sweat would come out of it. What a sickening thought. It seemed once he goes back to his own house, he'd be taking another bath again, and it would be just a few hours after the last one. As he imagined it, he felt like collapsing and having a fever already.
Chris swiftly inputted the PIN which he didn't even have to hack or ask from the system to know. As guessed, the number combination was the same as what she used in her previous apartment. A fact that he very much welcomed at times like this.
With a barely audible noise, the cream painted door opened up for him, and he didn't delay one second to dash into the place beyond it. In the living room, he temporarily stopped to observe the surrounding. This was his first time in this house so he had no prior knowledge of its layout. But it seemed like no confrontation or chased took place here since every decoration on the display racks and TV set, and the carpet on the floor showed no signs of being moved or disturbed.
'It was quiet.' he thought, nervousness finally catching up to him and overwhelming his senses. The silence that welcomed him inside was really quite eerie.
<System: She's inside the bedroom! The assassins have already begun to attack her! She's current screaming and is trying to escape from the first strike! Hurry! Move! Waaahhh! She's going to die! It's your fault for being so slow!>
After swallowing some saliva down his throat, he then sprinted to the direction pointed.
'Quiet! Mask my face, change it into someone else just in case it falls off!'
He then hurriedly and forcefully flung the door to the bedroom open, using his brute strength to accomplish the feat.
"N-no! G-go away!!!!!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!!"
At these piercing screams that the sole woman had seemingly been panically crying and shouting for multiple times already, the young man's pupils largely shrink.
With the door no longer completing the soundproofing of the place, the screams were finally echoing all over. It was so deafening. The fear and longing for life, or perhaps, rescue, were very evident. It was the kind of cry that could pierce into one's heart and soul.
'Lucky that they seemingly just arrived too!'
Looking away from the tear-stained face of the disheveled woman in her nightgown hugging herself at the corner of her bed, the man cold-heartedly swept his gaze to the two masked intruders. Due to the loud sounds created by his tearing down of the door, three pair of eyes were drawn to him.
The two men knew that despite being masked, Chris was not actually one of them, therefore without waiting for them to recover from their shock, the half-host immediately summoned some knives stored from his inventory. He pretended to pull them up from his pockets before throwing five to each of the hitmen.
"Sh*t! Who are yo--- ack!!!!!" The one from the left was speaking when he was caught off-guard by the attack, bending promptly to evade, but was still impaled in the left shoulder.
The other seemed more elite than the former, not speaking but swiftly dashing towards Chris. His immense killing intent briefly stunned the young man who did not expect a suspected non-host to emit such a thick bloodlust. It was so heavy that for a moment, he doubted whether the one quickly charging at him was really a non-host and not a massacre-loving immoral host!
<System: Hey, bastard! Move! He's nearing you so fast! Watch out for his weapon! It's kind of weird!>
Chris regained his senses, eyes regaining their coldness and sharpness too as he saw the other masked man not only dodging all the short knives but even managing to shorten the distance between them. He pulled out another short blade and grasped it tightly in front of him.
He temporarily cut ties with all his mind 'seeds' and concentrated his mind power to the person charging towards him.
Thankfully, he betted correctly that the man was still a non-host, as also testified by 98. His skill which had already reached S+ worked. Nonetheless, he was still quite dumbfounded that when the masked man stopped, the military knife softly glimmering an ominous glint was only a few centimeters away from his neck. His hand automatically moved to deflect it, still, he actually did not manage to react until the distance was merely less than an inch from his carotid.
It was such a close call...
Who would have thought that the attacker sent to a mere weakling girl would turn out to be someone on par with elite military agents?
For a moment, Chris pacified his raging heartbeat.
'... An abnormal...?'
'Don't tell me, a main-host supporter?'
At this thought, his eyes turned even more piercing. He took advantage of the lapse and lag in his opponent's movements by kicking him to the side violently. As the man flew near the opposite wall, Chris ruthlessly commanded.
<You! Cut off your own feet and hands!>
After giving one last glare to the glassy-eyed man who robotically began to execute the command to him, Chris turned to the other masked intruder. As he walked with haste to the person, his eyes lit up with a weird glow.
"Who sent you?"
This one appeared to be less elite than the other since he had prioritized pulling out the knife from his shoulder than doing what was tasked to him or backing up his colleague who charged at Chris. He did shout to his companion after he saw him suddenly sending fatal strikes to his own feet.
"One! Stop that!"
When he met the hypnotizing stares though and heard the question asked, his own eyes appeared to have lost their luster. Before he knew it, his mouth was already opening to answer the half-host.
"... We... don't know who... commissioned us."
The young man did not stop questioning. "You're mercenaries, right? If I were to hold you and this 'One' hostages, will your commander or leader be willing to do a trade? To disclose who the person is and record it as some sort of testimony in exchange for the lives of you two?"
"... We're only both... peripheral members..."
Chris rolled his eyes under his mask. He knew he should not expect much to people who would team up just to silence or do untoward things to a weak lady. But maybe the strength showed by 'One' earlier made him hope to garner pieces of evidence right from the hitmen themselves...
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