I Alone Level-Up
“Did you hear what he just said? What a total jerk-face.”
Yu Soo-Hyun approached closer, before Yu Jin-Ho could react, and lightly tapped him on the shoulder.
Yu Soo-Hyun’s forehead creased up rather prettily.
“Look at you. C’mon now. Seriously? Tsk, tsk. Still so pathetic. Tsk, tsk.”
Yu Jin-Ho couldn’t suppress his laughter after seeing her imitate his older brother.
“Fuhup. Keuk. Stop that. I don’t feel like cracking jokes with you right now, you know.”
“Still so~~ pathetic. Tsk, tsk.”
“Keuh, hehehe…. Keuk! Argh, I’m telling you, stop it!”
Their ages were almost the same, so their relationship was more like that of really close friends.
Yu Soo-Hyun stood right in front of Yu Jin-Ho.
“Why do you keep acting like this, though?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, c’mon. You’re an Awakened now, right? Don’t tell me, you still can’t win against a regular person?”
“So what if I am? You think I’m gonna start throwing punches at my older brother or something?”
“Well, not really, no. But….”
Yu Soo-Hyun bit on her rather shapely lower lip.
Imagining the kind of punishment the patriarch of the family might saddle the poor Yu Jin-Ho with, if the latter did throw a knuckle sandwich to his much more successful older brother….
The prospect of that alone was quite terrifying, to say the least.
It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand Yu Jin-Ho’s inner thoughts while he had to remain on the receiving end of the ridicule. Yu Soo-Hyun narrowed her eyes and glared in the direction that Yu Jin-Seong had disappeared to.
“Whatever. He’s still a stuck-up, no fun jerkoff, that guy.”
She too disliked Yu Jin-Seong as much as Yu Jin-Ho did. She just so happened to be one of the few people who knew what Yu Jin-Seong’s real personality was like, hidden beneath that fakey, smiley facade.
However, Yu Jin-Ho didn’t agree with her. It wasn’t because that guy was his older brother, no.
No, he simply wanted to win against his older brother in an upfront manner, not badmouth him from behind like this.
When Yu Jin-Ho kept his mouth shut, Yu Soo-Hyun cautiously asked him.
“Hey, so… that plan, is it still ongoing?”
“You know, you said you’d become a Guild Master. At that guy’s expense.”
Instead of a reply, Yu Jin-Ho simply smiled.
Who’d believe him even if he said that out loud? It’d be a relief if no one mocked him or something. Him and his brother battling like that?
However, now that he held the huge ace called ‘hyung-nim’, the odds of his victory had risen up by quite a lot.
‘If I manage to get the Master licence….’
It’d be possible to duke it out with his older brother, then.
He might even win.
Yu Soo-Hyun saw the determination burning in Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes and spoke in no uncertain terms while placing her hands on her hips.
“I’d rather kill myself instead of working for that man. So, you do everything you can, okay? Cuz I don’t wanna fight your old man over this.”
This was how Yu Soo-Hyun would usually cheer him on.
She was actually a rank A Hunter who started her career as a famous child actor.
Even with her background of being a lady or a chaebol was not taken into account, many Guilds still tried their darnedest to scout her because of her rank and fame.
For some reason, though, she had refused all of their offers and continued to act as a model every now and then.
However, a new offer that she couldn’t really refuse had arrived at her doorstep recently.
And that was to become one of the founding members of the soon-to-launch Yujin Guild. It was a direct order from the chairman himself, Yu Myung-Hwan.
She couldn’t outright ignore the orders of the family patriarch, but she also didn’t want to work for Yu Jin-Seong, either.
Yu Soo-Hyun herself had a lot to worry about now.
Although the kid was not all that trustworthy, she had little choice but to place her faith in Yu Jin-Ho.
Hearing the sound of a phone vibrating coming from Yu Jin-Ho’s pocket, Yu Soo-Hyun asked him.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?”
He was daydreaming about something else just then; he hurriedly pulled his phone out after it had been ringing for a while. The number appearing on the phone’s screen was a familiar one.
Yu Jin-Ho’s expression brightened up immediately after realising who it was.
He answered the call with an energetic voice.
“Yes? Yes, hyung-nim. No, I can be there, no problem. Yes. I’ll be there shortly, hyung-nim.”
Yu Jin-Ho ended the call there.
Yu Soo-Hyun displayed her interest after sensing Yu Jin-Ho’s moods doing a 180.
“What the heck? Who was that?”
Too bad for her, this was absolutely not the time for him to stand around leisurely explaining the situation to her. After all, didn’t hyung-nim ask him for a favour just now?
And with the desire to escape from this place added on top, his mind could only think about leaving as soon as possible, even if it was only a second faster.
“Let’s talk later!”
Watching Yu Jin-Ho hurriedly run away, Yu Soo-Hyun’s head tilted from side to side.
“And why is he so pumped up like that now?”
Every time he participated in a family meeting of some sort, Yu Jin-Ho always walked around with slumped shoulders, but it was a different story today.
Yu Soo-Hyun told herself to definitely interrogate the kid later.
While that was happening, Yu Jin-Ho was searching for his father.
It’d soon be dinner time. And Yu Jin-Ho couldn’t be excused from the family gathering without his father’s approval, especially when every single family member and relatives were present.
Yu Jin-Ho scanned his surroundings. And eventually, spotted his father over in the distance, conversing with some people.
He had a countenance of a tiger. His personality was just as strict, him never cracking a smile with matters he thought were insignificant.
For someone like Yu Jin-Ho, his father was a very difficult person to talk to.
‘And I haven’t even started yet….’
Yet, he was already getting nervous. But, he needed to be courageous here.
‘Yeah, well. I made a promise.’
Yu Jin-Ho took a couple of deep breaths and slowly walked to where his father was.
He almost turned around several times on his way, though. However, he held the urges back.
And finally, Yu Jin-Ho managed to arrive before his father, Yu Myung-Hwan.
Their distance was a bit too far for a relationship between a father and a son, though.
Yu Myung-Hwan shifted his gaze over to Yu Jin-Ho.
“What do you want?”
Sensing the uncertain air, the people around Yu Myung-Hwan distanced themselves all at the same time as if they had a prior agreement.
“Father, will it be okay if I went out for a little while?”
Yu Jin-Ho’s voice lacked any discernible energy as he spoke to his father.
“I, I will return before dinner.”
Yu Myung-Hwan stood there with an expression of someone getting ready to scold his disappointing son, but then, he let off a sigh and gave his permission, albeit quite unwillingly so.
“…..Fine. Go, but return on time.”
Yu Jin-Ho’s expression brightened and bowed his head.
“Thank you, father.”
He then ran out of there like a streak of lightning.
Yu Myung-Hwan stood there and looked at the back of Yu Jin-Ho with a stiff face. Meanwhile, his wife walked closer to him.
“Dear? I just got a call from Vienna.”
That was one of the messages he’d been eagerly waiting for. Yu Myung-Hwan immediately shifted his attention over to his wife.
“And the results of the concours are?”
“She won, of course. She’s our daughter, so it’s expected, really.”
A subtle smile formed on Yu Myung-Hwan’s face. But it disappeared without a trace before anyone had the chance to see it.
“Hmm. When will she be returning to Korea, then?”
“She says that she’s far too busy during the semester, but will come around once it ends.”
Yu Myung-Hwan frowned deeply.
“I told her to attend her grandfather’s ancestral ceremony regardless of how busy she was.”
“Dear. Children nowadays don’t place much importance on such matters anymore.”
The madam of the Yu family carefully fixed Yu Myung-Hwan’s slightly out of shape tie and spoke to him intimately.
“Also, dear…. how about paying more attention to Jin-Ho?”
“You’re speaking about that again… A tiger is supposed to rear tiger cubs, not kittens.”
“Whether he’s a tiger or a kitten, he’s still my child. And your child, too.”
“Did you notice? After his graduation from middle school, it was Jin-Ho’s first time smiling in front of you.”
Did he do that?
Yu Myung-Hwan fixed his gaze in the direction Yu Jin-Ho had disappeared to, his expression showing just the slightest hint of puzzlement.
But, that lasted only for a brief second.
Yu Myung-Hwan spoke dismissively.
“Maybe he found himself a girlfriend. Anyway, others must be waiting for us now. Let us go back inside.”
Inside the Hunter Association’s HQ, located in Seoul’s Guro-gu.
One of the Association’s employees was checking various equipment located within the building and came to a sudden stop in front of a miniature magic energy measuring equipment.
“What the hell? What’s wrong with this guy?”
The number on the display panel should’ve stayed ‘0’, yet the value was climbing up and down continuously. It was as if it had lost its mind.
However, this employee didn’t think too much about it. As these measuring equipments were very sensitive, they broke down more often than not.
“Hey, Kim Gun-Ah.”
A subordinate quickly jogged closer.
“How many Gates has this guy measured recently?”
“What is its serial number, sir?”
The subordinate scanned through the log, and nodded his head.
“Seven Gates, a couple of days ago.”
“A couple of days ago? Let me see.”
Indeed, it was the truth. Two days ago, this equipment measured the ranks of seven Gates, and out of them, four had been closed by the Hunters already.
“Were there any problems with the Gates this guy measured?”
“No, sir. I didn’t hear anything.”
The senior employee slowly scratched the stubble on his chin.
Now normally, when magic measuring equipment like this one was found to be malfunctioning, the raid permits issued for all the Gates the faulty device had measured would be rescinded immediately.
It was an obvious thing if one thought about it; what would happen to Hunters who entered a Gate thinking that it was only a rank C, but it turned out to be A or B?
None of them would return alive and in one piece.
High ranked dungeons were such places.
Just as the boundary between lower ranked Hunters and higher ranked ones were crystal-clear and impossible to bridge, the differences between the higher ranked dungeons and lower ranked ones were also quite humongous.
It was not for nothing that high ranked dungeons were all dealt with exclusively by the large Guilds until now.
‘Should I send out notices now?’
Letting others know wasn’t all that difficult.
However, never mind the discontent voices of anger coming from the teams that paid for the permits, taking more time to measure the Gates again could mean that a dungeon break might occur in the meantime. And if that happened, the Association wouldn’t be able to dodge the pointed criticism flying in their way.
Hell, if things went wrong somewhere, he might even lose his job.
‘I worked so hard to get to this position, too.’
The Hunter Association received similar levels of treatment to state-run public enterprises. If one wanted to enter this organisation, one had to put in as much effort as passing the bar exam, for instance. Just thinking about losing this job, he almost blacked out right there and then.
‘No freaking way. Nope.’
He shook his head.
The subordinate also more or less knew what the superior’s dilemma was. That was why he asked rather cautiously.
“This…. What should we do now?”
It’d been two days already.
If there were problems, shouldn’t he have heard about it by now?
“…..Let it be.”
“W-will it be fine that way?”
“Well, I’m sure nothing much will happen. It’s been two days already, right?”
“Well, that is true.”
The subordinate nodded his head.
“On the report, write that N-1744B was working fine until yesterday, but developed a fault earlier today. Okay?”
The private residence of the Chief of the White Tiger Guild’s Second Division, Ahn Sahng-Min.
He stopped cutting the spring onion and straightened his back, and his bones issued a loud complaint.
Today dinner: doenjang stew.
As befitting a bachelor going on eight years strong, he had mastered the art of cooking a fair number of dishes already.
It all happened five years ago.
Back then, he filled himself up all the time with instant foods, until he realised that his health was rapidly deteriorating, and reflected on his stupidity. He made up his mind to learn cooking, and now, he was at the level of almost replicating a dish that appeared on the TV in passing.
Didn’t they say that end of tuning is pure love? (TL: not sure what this line is supposed to mean, but I TLed it as it appears in the raw.)
As his skill grew, the types of dishes that he prepared for himself became simple side dishes.
Such as today’s doenjang stew.
“Kyah, now this is what I’m talking about!”
Ahn Sahng-Min tasted his own creation and nodded his head as if he was truly amazed by his own skills.
Too bad, only one person could taste this wonderful stew, though. He really felt sorry about that.
‘Should I invite someone over for a meal?’
He immediately thought of a certain subordinate, but soon, shook his head.
He was already sick and tired of being called an old bachelor, yet just what kind of a misunderstanding would he arouse if he invited a fellow male employee?
‘I wonder if he’s properly doing the job I gave him.’
That guy was quite attentive and smart most of the time, yet there was this part of him that was undeniably sloppy, too.
‘Eii, why am I worried about work even though I’m at home, relaxing?’
Time to eat his dinner, then.
Ahn Sahng-Min placed the doenjang stew on the coffee table by the living room while humming to himself.
It was now a normal thing for him to watch TV in the living room while eating dinner alone. The dining table in the kitchen was far too big and lonesome for a bachelor to have a meal alone there.
He switched the TV on with the remote and settled down on the couch.
A news broadcast came on.
[Today’s breaking news.]
One of the main advantages of being a bachelor was that he’d never have to fight someone else for the TV remote.
When he turned that boobtube on, it’d always be on the channel he preferred.
Ahn Sahng-Min watched the large flat screen TV mounted on the wall with the corner of his eyes while he scooped up a spoonful of rice.
[….The entirety of the United States of America is in deep shock after an unexplainable explosion took place in the American Hunter’s Association headquarters in Washington D.C. A rumour is rising among some experts, that the explosion was due to a new rising talent causing irreparable friction among S-ranked Hunters….]
“Uh-huh…. What is this world coming to, huh. Really now.”
Ahn Sahng-Min clicked his tongue with a rueful expression, but still didn’t forget to carefully choose the side dish that would signal the beginning of his dinner.
Well, there weren’t that many side dishes to choose from, anyway.
‘Well, it just has to be kimchi, no?’
[….This is the CCTV footage recorded near the American Monitoring Division’s building. Cracks suddenly formed on the walls of the building, and….]
Not really caring what the news bulletin was saying, the steamy rice resting on top of his spoon now acted as a home for a cold piece of kimchi he took out from the separate kimchi refrigerator.
And just as Ahn Sahng-Min was bringing the pair to his mouth, his phone suddenly issued a loud ring.
‘Argh! Who the heck is it this time??’
Ahn Sahng-Min inwardly complained and picked up the smartphone. But he hurriedly answered the phone after discovering who was calling him.
“Hello, this is Ahn Sahng-Min speaking.”
The one calling him was, of course, Seong Jin-Woo.
Ahn Sahng-Min’s expression was bright as he answered the call.
While listening to Jin-Woo’s story, Ahn Sahng-Min’s expression progressively became puzzled.
“Pardon me? You were wondering if you could tag along during the training of our new recruits?”
< Chapter 57 > Fin.