I Alone Level-Up
The answer sounded the same but its ‘nuance’ was rather a lot different than the one that came before. If she was kidding around just now, then she was dead serious this time.
“What’s wrong? You think it’s weird?”
“…..Oppa, why are you naming your Guild like that?”
“Because I like moving around solo.”
“It does sound like you, but still, isn’t it a bit strange to name your Guild like that?”
“Isn’t your ability summoning out those black-armoured soldiers?”
“So, if you get technical about it, you aren’t fighting alone, right?”
Now that he heard her opinion, that made some sense. Jin-Woo nodded his head.
‘I may think of it as just another one of my skills but it won’t look that way to other people, is that it?’
Indeed, she had a point there.
This Guild might end up accompanying him for the rest of his life, so he wanted to give it a name that best represented who he was. And that’s why he went with ‘Solo Play’, but now….
‘If the true meaning doesn’t come across all that well, it’ll be useless.’
What could be another term that could describe him the best?
Jin-Woo asked his sister’s opinion again.
“How about ‘Ah-Jin’ Guild?”
Jin-Ah mouthed the name for a bit, before asking him back with a smile.
“I kinda like it, cuz it sounds like my name but flipped around. But, what does it even mean?”
“Ah (我) means ‘myself’ and Jin (進) means ‘moving forward’.”
Meaning, only he could tread on this road. And it was a name he wanted to give to the Guild that would grow alongside him.
“Combine them together, and you get the meaning of ‘I shall progress forward’. That’s Ah-Jin (我進).”
Jin-Ah came up with the best praise she could think of.
“You know, that doesn’t sound bad at all.”
Jin-Woo went to the office armed with the new Guild name.
“Hey. It’s about the Guild’s name….”
Yu Jin-Ho had been in the office since early morning, working. When he heard the new name from Jin-Woo, a brilliant smile formed on his face.
“That is an excellent name, hyung-nim!!”
Didn’t they say that a swan floating elegantly on water was kicking furiously under the surface? Yu Jin-Ho had been feeling as desperate as that old saying.
‘Whatever it is, everything will be fine as long as it’s not Solo Play.’
He imagined ‘it’ so, so many times already. And that would be him introducing himself as ‘Hello, I’m Yu Jin-Ho, Vice-Chairman of the Solo Play Guild’.
That seriously tormented him.
He couldn’t be sure of why, but a corner of his heart ached every time he imagined himself saying those words. However, how could he dare to rebel against a name that hyung-nim had worked so hard to come up with?
He resigned himself to that fate but then, a heaven-sent opportunity came knocking in his way!
“Hyung-nim, let’s go with that as our Guild’s name!”
Jin-Woo made his decision after receiving his partner’s genuine consent this time.
“Okay, so we decided on the Guild’s name, finally.”
Yu Jin-Ho began crying out in elation inwardly after hearing Jin-Woo make that declaration. Meanwhile, the latter rubbed his chin and muttered out.
“The remaining issue is the last founding member slot, isn’t it?”
“Oh, that. Hyung-nim?”
“What happened to Cha Hae-In Hunter-nim yesterday?”
“I don’t think it’ll work out with Hunter Cha. She’s not exactly who I’ve been looking for.”
Yu Jin-Ho hastily swallowed a shocked gasp. He expected his hyung-nim to hold a high standard, but to think that he’d not be satisfied with a Hunter on Cha Hae-In’s level!
Hunter Cha Hae-In was a rank S, she was still very young, her records were excellent, and to top them all off, she was beautiful as well. No matter from which angle, she was pretty much perfect. At least, from the perspective of an ‘average’ joe, that was.
However, would the word ‘average’ even apply to his hyung-nim?
‘I mean, he almost swept away all the rank S monsters by himself in the first public raid he participated in as a rank S, after all.’
It’d be oh-so-obvious that ‘regular’ rank S Hunters wouldn’t even be able to catch his attention. But, if that was the case then just what kind of a Hunter would satisfy hyung-nim’s strict judging criteria?
It felt as if the hundreds of applications this yet-to-be-named Guild had received recently all due to the name of ‘Seong Jin-Woo’ were about to be thrown into a trash heap now.
‘But, I don’t think anyone will be better than Hunter Cha Hae-In among the rest of the applicants, though….’
Yu Jin-Ho was suddenly beset with worry that the Guild might never get to open its door at this rate, and he cautiously asked Jin-Woo.
“Excuse me, hyung-nim. What kind of a person are you looking for, anyway?”
“Someone with a Hunter licence who doesn’t care much about the Guild’s activity but we can still place our trust in.”
Yu Jin-Ho thought up of a person meeting that criteria perfectly right away.
It was then.
Someone knocked on the office’s entrance.
“Who is it?”
Yu Jin-Ho stood up from his seat and opened the door. And he found two unfamiliar men standing there looking somewhat awkward and all.
They were none other than Chairman Park Jong-Su and his deputy, Jeong Yun-Tae of the Knight Order Guild, who rushed up to Seoul to have a chat with Jin-Woo.
Park Jong-Su recognised Jin-Woo first and formed a bright smile.
“Oh! You’re here.”
Jin-Woo got up from his seat and asked them.
“Who are you?”
“Ah, where are my manners?”
Park Jong-Su hurriedly walked up closer and extended his hand out for a gentlemanly handshake.
“I’m Park Jong-Su, the Master of the Knight Order.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head in acceptance. Indeed, he thought he had seen this man’s face from somewhere before. Even if he wasn’t all that interested, he’d still recognise a Master of one of the five major Guilds in South Korea. Such a guy would constantly pop up in news and in television shows, after all.
However, the Knight Order was a major Guild based in the city of Busan, so….
After that brief introduction, Jin-Woo could only tilt his head in confusion.
“By the way, what brings the representatives from the Knight Order to Seoul like this, if I may ask?”
“Ahh, the thing is….”
Park Jong-Su hesitated slightly before exchanging a couple of glances with Jeong Yun-Tae. With some difficulty, he opened his mouth.
“We got assigned a pretty big fish among the rank A Gates, and….”
Hesitation disappeared from his eyes almost immediately as he carried on.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim, you won’t regret it from hearing us out, that much I assure you. Would you mind taking some time out of your day and listen to what I have to say?”
[Citizens cowering in fear at the super-large Gate appearing before the Gwang-An-ri’s coastline….]
[The Hunter’s Association, still deliberating on the raid permit.]
[Will the Knight Order Guild give up on the raid of Gwang-An-ri’s Gate?]
[Will the nightmare of Jeju Island repeat itself?]
Park Jong-Su picked one out of the many online news articles and then, played the video clip embedded in it.
The video footage, obviously taken by a civilian, contained the crowd’s scared voices as its BGM. But, that was understandable – the Gate in the video was just nonsensically too large. It was taller than a ten-story building, even.
This particular Gate was so big that it managed to terrify even those citizens who were now pretty much numbed by the smaller Gates popping up almost everywhere without warning these days.
“The size of a Gate and its ranking don’t always line up, but….”
Park Jong-Su ended the video playback and further explained himself.
“As befitting its nonsensical size, it’s also apparently busy dumping out a massive amount of magic energy as well.”
Jin-Woo’s eyes began gleaming from this rather interesting piece of news.
“Is it a rank S?”
“We’ve been told that it hasn’t reached the rank of ‘unable to measure’, but just below the threshold, apparently. It’s supposed to be the largest Gate to ever appear in Busan.”
Meaning, although it was nominally a rank A, it was far closer to being a rank S, instead.
‘If that’s the case, I can expect a fair bit of experience points, can’t I?’
In contrary to Jin-Woo’s heart quietly gearing up to pump even faster, Park Jong-Su’s voice sounded quite bitter as he carried on.
“As you can see from those headlines, the Association doesn’t want to issue us the raid permit.”
“Is it because it’ll be too dangerous?”
“Our Guild lacks a rank S Hunter, as you might have heard. From the perspective of the Hunter’s Association, they can’t trust us to get the job done.”
Park Jong-Su stopped talking there and sneaked a glance at Jin-Woo.
“If you are still searching for a Guild to join, then how about…..?”
Before Park Jong-Su had the chance to finish his sentence, Jin-Woo pointed at the cover of a file lying on the top of the conference table.
One could quite clearly see the title written on the upper half of the cover.
[List of applicants for the Guild founding member spot]
Park Jong-Su embarrassedly scratched the back of his head and nodded once.
And with that, Park Jong-Su’s hope-against-hope attempt at reeling Jin-Woo to the Knight Order Guild went down the drain. In that case, it was time to get to the meat of the story.
“The elite Hunters of our Knight Order are in no way inferior compared to those from the Hunters Guild. It’s just that we don’t have a rank S who can lead our rank As. That’s all.”
They had done well up until this point, but ‘anything’ could happen during this particular raid. In case that worried ‘anything’ happens, they definitely needed the presence of the top-ranked Hunter.
Just a single rank S Hunter would be enough to reverse any situation.
Right now, there was no need to search for one from afar. Because, he was sitting right here.
Just as the Hunters of the Korean team were facing complete and utter annihilation, this young man appeared out of nowhere and overturned the situation all by himself. Such a man was sitting right in front of him.
More than that, now that he could see Hunter Seong Jin-Woo up close…. Even though they were the same Hunters, this man simply instilled trust and confidence in others.
‘An autograph…. If I ask him, will he give me one?’
Suddenly, Park Jong-Su could understand where the Healer Jeong Ye-Rim was coming from, back when she asked him to get at least an autograph even if Seong Jin-Woo said no to the idea of cooperation.
“Is there something on my face?”
“Oh, no. Not at all.”
Park Jong-Su smiled and waved his hand about before carrying on.
“Actually, I believe that we’ll get the raid permit for this Gate if you decide to cooperate with our assault team, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo crossed his arms and leaned against the back of his chair. Before his pondering could get any deeper, though, Park Jong-Su hurriedly added on.
“Of course, we will definitely make sure not to treat you poorly.”
With a smile still etched on his face, he pulled out the prepared contract.
“We will hand over 20% of the revenue generated from this dungeon.”
He was saying that one of the major Guilds was prepared to submit two-tenths of the potential profit from a Gate to a freelancer. Now that was an unimaginable offer for a regular Hunter.
Now typically, a rank S Hunter would only commend around ten percent of the overall revenue when a large Guild raided a dungeon. But the Knight Order was offering up double of that norm. As Park Jong-Su had said, this certainly wasn’t a ‘poor’ treatment by any stretch of the imagination.
Unfortunately, Jin-Woo’s thoughts were a bit different.
Park Jong-Su’s hand flinched momentarily as it was about to pull out a pen that was supposed to help Jin-Woo sign the contract.
“If you agree to consider me not as a freelancer but as a Guild, then I shall cooperate with you.”
Jin-Woo made sure that declaration was heard loud and clear.
An earthquake erupted within Park Jong-Su’s eyes at the suggestion of splitting the revenue in half.
However, he didn’t have any means to come out as strongly as Jin-Woo here. It was not an exaggeration to say that the fate of his Knight Order Guild depended on this raid.
Meanwhile, Jin-Woo was inwardly clicking his tongue.
‘I mean, twenty percent is just not on, don’t you think so?’
He wasn’t trying to exploit the urgent situation the Knight Order Guild found themselves in. But, when calculated from all possible angles, the most sensible ratio of splitting the loot was 50:50.
‘Even if they are the elites of the Knight Order, are they as good as my Shadow Soldiers?’
Either in number or even in quality, they were incomparable. Not only that, his side even included a rank S Hunter, too. If the commission received for all that potential was measly 20%, then that was as good as working for free.
Was there a reason why he should give up on what was rightfully his when both sides were making a straightforward deal in the name of mutual benefit? Besides, Jin-Woo also didn’t want to lower his own worth, as well.
“In that case, how about 40 to 60…..”
“Apologies, but I’m not trying to negotiate with the Knight Order Guild here.”
“Does that mean you won’t accept anything less than 50:50 split?”
Instead of a verbal answer, Jin-Woo nodded once as his reply.
Park Jong-Su fell into deep thought.
‘I thought things would work out easily enough because he’s still young and looks friendly, but I see now that he is no pushover.’
But, that made sense. He was someone that not even the combined might of South Korea’s rank S Hunters could defeat.
Park Jong-Su was trying to add such a Hunter to his assault team. He suddenly realised that this young man’s demand might not be as outlandish as it sounded initially.
‘No, that’s not right.’
Park Jong-Su shook his head.
An outlandish demand?
If the other party decided to come out hard and unforgiving, then forget about 50:50, he’d have demanded 80% of the loot for himself, instead. Regardless of what, the one in the bind was not Hunter Seong Jin-Woo in this situation.
The losses to the Knight Order after giving up on this raid would be too enormous to even properly take a guess. But, what would this young man lose in return?
Absolutely nothing at all.
Actually, this was the same thing as this young man unwillingly being dragged into the negotiation table by the other party. But then, he was only demanding half of the share, so wasn’t he being quite considerate here?
‘Is that all?’
If this deal does go through, then the Knight Order would be taking out the most trustworthy insurance policy in South Korea, otherwise known as Seong Jin-Woo.
Inexplicably, Park Jong-Su recalled what Jeong Yun-Tae told him yesterday.
[“Hyung-nim. If that thing turns out to be a Red Gate, then we’ll all die for sure.”]
However, what if Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was accompanying them? This young man didn’t even bet an eyelid as he faced off against thousands of rank S monsters.
And, didn’t Park Jong-Su personally confirm how the ants of Jeju all ended up?
‘Right, that happened, didn’t it?’
Only now did he remember that the man responsible for wiping all those ants out was sitting right in front of him.
Dry saliva painfully slid down Park Jong-Su’s throat.
He witnessed with his own two eyes the killing field filled with massacred ants, but here he was, busy yapping on about 20 to 80 split with the man responsible.
‘Yup, the rude one was actually me, wasn’t it?’
Park Jong-Su finally admitted to his oversight. And then, he became deeply grateful for Jin-Woo’s gracious counteroffer.
However, being grateful would have to wait.
The offer from the other side meant that he’d be taking a step back, so in return, he needed to take something away as well if the fairness of the deal was to be reached.
So, then. What should he do now?
After a lengthy bout of deep deliberation, Park Jong-Su cautiously raised his voice.
“Alright, we will accept. In return….”
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim, can you take on the boss monster by yourself?”
< Chapter 137 > Fin.