o know that, you should have won.
If you lose and start clamouring… Isn’t that a bit too much?”

They shut their mouths at my words.

But their eyes were still wide open.

“Still, you made me happy, even if just a little bit.
So shall I tell you something very simple?”

Then,

“What, what?”

“You really mean that?”

Leo and Kiriko shouted like they were having a fit.

It seemed they were really curious.
And perhaps the same went for the readers.

I was silent for a moment as I looked at them.

The place became quiet in an instant.

The gaze of the audience, who had suddenly become quiet, felt like that of the author himself.

“Hmm.”

In fact, ever since I won the first match against Kiriko, I’d been imagining this moment.

Fulfilling the conditions set by the author?

Knocking out Yan at the end and giving everyone a surprise?

I never even thought that it’d be a problem.
As long as the author didn’t meddle with my strategic victory (?), I thought things wouldn’t get too difficult.

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In fact, at some point this whole act itself started feeling not that important.
It only helped me avoid the immediate crisis, but didn’t eliminate the underlying danger.
Even if I survived this, I thought that the same thing might happen again at any time.

The author has the ability to create and remove characters, but that doesn’t mean he can delete just any character at will.

The reason why I could be the subject of deletion at any time was because I’d never clearly presented the role and necessity of my current character.

So,

“Of course, it’s nothing much.
There’s no way I’d give some great information to people who don’t deserve it, right?”

I had to grab hold to the end of this chapter.

What I was going to do now was simple.

To tell these guys and the readers the ‘most important information’ about me.

Thus, I would clearly present the role and the necessity of this character.

But, of course, there were a lot of problems that had to be solved before that.

All those questions.

The countless questions I had accumulated from my first appearance until now, were covering me like a shackle.

First encounter with Leo in Initialis, Kiriko thanking me at the end of the chapter in Virgin City, appearing as one of the VIPs in Goldam City to help Leo, appearing as the mafia’s secret boss …

The problem was that I couldn’t answer these many questions.

Well, because it wasn’t something that could even be explained.
What should I say? That I’m a modern man who fell into a manga, and if I don’t get involved with the main characters, I might get deleted?

So, I had to think up an alternative.

Let’s not leave the current Squatjaw as a riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma that will never be understood.
Let’s instead turn the character into something they can understand even if only a little bit.

The readers won’t get too annoyed following the trail of questions about me, let’s become that kind of character.

Now was the right time to tell them.
There had never been a time like now, when everyone’s attention was completely focused on me.

“Cocoa, the mic.”

– Oh, the champ looks like he wants to say something? I’m excited!

“Hurry.
I don’t have time.”

Receiving the mic from Cocoa, I once again stared at Leo and the rest.

All my plans thus far had culminated in this very moment.

The lines I would utter from now on would determine my future.
Would I be able to keep surviving, or would I collapse eventually?

“Please listen carefully.”

How should I act to survive to the end?

What direction should I take, what stance?

Ever since I got into this Adventure King story, I never stopped thinking about it even for a moment.

Can you survive if you become Leo’s companion?

After experiencing the restraint of the preceding plot, I thought that it would never be easy.

Being Leo’s colleague means to literally be one of the central characters that lead the story.
The author must’ve had envisioned the cast format early on, so it was almost absurd for me to suddenly intervene in it.

Of course, you can aim for the positions of the guys who appear in the mid-to-late half, but those days were too far away to make it work.
Also, even if I managed it, it was difficult to expect a significance comparable to the guys who appeared from the beginning.

I had no choice but to conclude.
It’d be hard to become a colleague.

So what about being the villain?

That was also a hopeless path.

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It’s not easy to become a strong, attractive, and long-awaited villain.
In order to become such a character, the minimum necessary requirement would be to have power like the ‘Seven Kings’.

Also, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t read the last volume, but I didn’t think that even if I became a good enough villain, I’d be able to survive.
Because in the first place, the villain is destined to disappear after being defeated by the protagonist.

What about becoming a small recurring character that comes and goes?

This also wasn’t good enough.
It wasn’t unusual for such a role to be scrubbed out by the author at any time.

Then what is left?

A role that might appear alongside the main character from the very beginning without being awkward.

Not the main character, but occupying an equal weight.

Neither an ally nor a foe, but one that can share the important chapters with the protagonist every time.

A role that can never be easily deleted, even if the author hates it.

And finally, a role that that can naturally keep pace with the main character till the very end.

There was only one.

The rival.

– Ah, mic test.
One two, one two.

After looking around once, I fixed my gaze on Leo.

But, of course, what I was going to say now wasn’t just for him.

– How long are you going to call me a squat-jaw, you bastards?

I then applied the effect that came with the background, [The Boy Cursed by the Witch].

※ Once a fortnight, you can change into a handsome boy for an hour. 

At the moment,

Pyororong –.

My body began to shrink.
Strangely, the jaw shrank first, who knows why.

It only took an instant.
By the time the jet-black bangs that had suddenly become longer pricked my eyes, the transformation was over.

‘Is this fine?’

Why did I change? There wasn’t really any great reason.
Well, just some extra set dressings that I sprinkled in.
I wondered if it would make a difference.
My current appearance was not that of just some extra, anyone could tell just by looking.

And the fact that this form looked exactly the same age as Leo made me look more like a rival, right?

And then,

To Leo.

To the readers.

And to the author.

I so declared.

– My name is Hiro.
The man who will overtake you and become the adventure king of this era.

And… the one who will be another protagonist of this story.

Editor’s Notes:

None for this chapter.
But man, we finally reached this chapter! This was one we’d been really pumped up about.
We’ve weathered the early bits, the story will start moving towards the middle, and soon it’ll be time for the Adventurer Qualification Test.
See you in the next chapter!

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