I Alone Level-Up
“Hyung-nim! Now that the raids are over, how about we celebrate with a hearty meal?”
As they were driving back home, Yu Jin-Ho cautiously asked.
“Celebrate? But, there’s no one with us, though?”
The raid team was disbanded as soon as the last raid was completed. Even Hahn Song-Yi said that she had someplace she had to stop by, so there were only Jin-Woo and Yu Jin-Ho in the van.
Yu Jin-Ho spoke as if he was embarrassed by something.
“I’ve been receiving your help all this time, hyung-nim, so like, I just wanted to treat you to a good meal, at least.”
Why was he having so much trouble saying the words “Let’s have a meal together”?
Jin-Woo chuckled wryly.
Since the kid was implying that he wanted to splurge on a grand feast, there was no reason for Jin-Woo to refuse the invitation, now was there?
Yu Jin-Ho’s expression brightened considerably as soon as Jin-Woo said okay.
“Hyung-nim! Should I take you to this restaurant in a certain hotel that I know? They know how to make a mean steak, you see.”
“No, not something like that.”
Unless such dishes came out in public engagements he simply had to attend, Jin-Woo would rather prefer to eat a simpler meal in peace with Yu Jin-Ho in an easy-going, relaxed atmosphere.
What a good timing it was, since he spotted one such place that fit the criteria.
The tip of Jin-Woo’s pointing finger pressed on the van’s window.
“How about that place over there?”
“Ahh, you wanted to enjoy ‘han-wu’, hyung-nim?” (TL: han-wu – Korean beef. Much more expensive than imported beef.)
“No, the place next to that one.”
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
A restaurant next to that one…. He could only see a common diner there.
[Day of Flower Blooming on Pork Belly – thinly-sliced pork belly specialists]
“By any chance, are you talking about that pork belly place, hyung-nim?”
“What, you don’t like pork?”
Yu Jin-Ho grinned refreshingly.
“Not at all. I also love pork belly, hyung-nim.”
They parked the van in the nearby parking lot and went inside the diner, only to find the place was packed to the brim with patrons, as well as part-time workers busy moving around without a moment of rest.
Right now, it was seven in the evening. No wonder the diner was so full.
“Welcome. How may I help you?”
One of the part-time workers walked over with a smile and engaged the two men.
“How many customers will we be serving this evening?”
“Please follow me.”
After hearing Yu Jin-Ho’s answer, the part-time worker guided the two men to a spot in a secluded corner.
“Hold on for a second.”
Yu Jin-Ho took a look around, and pointed towards the empty table by the windows.
“Can’t we sit over there?”
“I’m sorry, sir. That table has been booked already….”
A large group must’ve made a booking, because several tables had been brought together. Currently, they were all empty.
Yu Jin-Ho stared at the empty tables with a rueful expression and shook his head. In the end, the two of them had to occupy the most secluded, out of the way spot in the diner.
Yu Jin-Ho lowered his head in shame.
“I’m sorry, hyung-nim.”
“There’s nothing for you to apologise for. I was the one who suggested that we come here, anyway.”
“Even still, I should’ve taken you to a bit better spot than this one.”
Jin-Woo smirked and lightly patted Yu Jin-Ho on the shoulder.
“Don’t sweat over such things and enjoy the food, okay?”
Actually, Jin-Woo was inwardly worried about a scion of a chaebol finding the taste of such cheap meat to his liking or not.
‘Also, even though I didn’t say anything, but well….’
Jin-Woo scanned his surroundings.
He could see people, and then, more people.
He spent quite a lot of his time in a silent apartment with no one in it, so he kind of enjoyed this hustle and bustle.
“Here are your orders of three portions of pork belly, and two bottles of soju.” (TL: Soju – Korean distilled spirit.)
Soon, the part-time worker brought out their orders.
The thinly-sliced portions of pork sizzled enticingly on the heating plate. And sure enough, pieces of meat began disappearing real fast. Fortunately enough, Yu Jin-Ho seemed to like it.
“Well, the thing is, me and my friends frequent pork belly diners whenever we have the chance, hyung-nim.”
“Oh, really? Friends from the university?”
“Yes, hyung-nim. It’s just that, I seem to mix better with friends from my university rather than the classmates from the expensive private schools I went to.”
Jin-Woo smirked slightly and nodded his head. If it was Yu Jin-Ho, then that sounded about right.
“Here, let me pour you a glass, hyung-nim.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Gulp, gulp, gulp.
They filled their glasses with soju, clinked them a little and one-shotted them.
Unlike Yu Jin-Ho, who was immensely enjoying the bitter taste of soju, Jin-Woo could only frown deeply in unhappiness.
“Mm? Hyung-nim, is something wrong?”
“No, it’s nothing….”
Jin-Woo could only stare at the empty glass with a bitter expression on his face. He had forgotten one crucial fact about his body, what with him being so busy lately and all.
[Harmful substances have been detected.]
[Effects of ‘Buff: Detox’ will now commence.]
[3, 2, 1…. Detoxification has been completed.]
‘I forgot that I can’t get drunk anymore. D*mn….’
It was the same story regardless of how many glasses he knocked back.
Tti-ring, tti-ring, tti-ring…..
As long as the buff ‘Good health and Long Life’ was in effect, soju would remain as only slightly bitter-tasting water and nothing more. Jin-Woo angrily spat out a cuss in his mind.
‘God d*mn it.’
Rather than drinking bitter water like an idiot, he decided that it’d be infinitely better to order a soda, instead.
A part-time worker hurriedly came over to their table.
“I want to order two more portions of pork belly, as well as a bottle of Sprite, please.” (TL note at the end.)
“Okay, please wait for a moment.”
After the waiter left, Yu Jin-Ho began tilting his head.
“Hyung-nim? Why didn’t you order more alcohol?”
“I’m not that good with alcohol, you see.”
Jin-Woo replied, his expression not even changing slightly, but as usual, Yu Jin-Ho didn’t quite catch that. Instead, a loose smile crept up on his alcohol-tinged reddened face.
‘Hyung-nim still has a humane side, like this one….’
Yu Jin-Ho kept on giving him a strange but meaningful look, but Jin-Woo simply ignored him outright.
‘It’s not as if he started acting strange all of a sudden just today or anything….’
Actually, he was getting curious about something else here.
“What are you planning to do from now on?”
When Jin-Woo asked in a serious voice, Yu Jin-Ho sat upright like a job seeker waiting for his job interview to start.
“As soon as I complete a simple written test at the Hunter’s Association, they should issue my Guild Master licence right away, hyung-nim. I’m planning to negotiate with my father with that licence in hand.”
Determination flooded in Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes. He had invested a lot of his own moolah for this purpose, and there was no room to retreat now.
‘Besides, I also made a promise with hyung-nim, too.’
The Guild building he promised to Jin-Woo. That part of the bargain could be upheld only after Yu Jin-Ho successfully persuades his father, Yu Myung-Hwan, to install him as the new Guild Master.
On the other hand, Jin-Woo was feeling rather liberated.
‘Sure, it’d be nice to get my hands on that 30 billion Won building.’
But well, that would only be an added bonus to him. His real purpose had always been levelling up. While entering all those rank C Gates, he had reached a far higher level than he initially bargained for.
In other words, he had achieved his goal.
And the results of his frantic levelling up spree?
One punch from him, and the rank A Hunter with a guaranteed annual salary of billions of Won, Kim Cheol, lost his consciousness. Just like that.
‘At the bare minimum, I can make more money than that guy now.’
If one possessed excellent abilities, wealth was sure to follow. There was no need to feel nervous at all. And his relaxed mindset could clearly be seen on his demeanor.
Jin-Woo began reminiscing about the last few days and smiled to himself. It was at this moment that Yu Jin-Ho asked him a question.
“What are your own plans now, hyung-nim?”
Did I ask something that I shouldn’t?
Yu Jin-Ho thought like this and flinched slightly. But he breathed a sigh of relief after spotting Jin-Woo’s relaxed expression.
“I’ll be out of reach for a while, actually. There’s this place I have to go to, you see.”
That one sentence caused Yu Jin-Ho’s face to harden visibly. After forming an expression of an abandoned puppy, Yu Jin-Ho emptied the soju glass in one go.
He then placed the empty glass on the table, filling it up back to the brim. After knocking back another glass, he began to open his mouth with some difficulty.
“Hyung-nim. Please tell me straight if I’ve been bothering you. If that’s been the case, I shall make sure never to bother you again in the future.”
The moment Jin-Woo said that he’d be out of reach, this idiot must’ve misunderstood his words again.
Jin-Woo scratched the side of his head and asked a question instead of a proper reply.
“What do you think of me as?”
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes rolled around this way and that as if he couldn’t come up with a good enough answer, before he raised his head.
“Hyung-nim, I have a brother who’s over ten years older than me.”
Jin-Woo remembered hearing that from somewhere.
The firstborn son of Yu Myung-Hwan, Yu Jin-Seong.
“My brother doesn’t really like me, so I think, the time I spent with him is far shorter than what I’ve spent with you, hyung-nim. Compared to him, you have saved my life, helped me out with my dream, and….”
Yu Jin-Ho stared straight at Jin-Woo.
“To me, you’re more like my real brother than him, hyung-nim.”
He was still a bit scared of Jin-Woo, though.
Still, he’d never, ever forget these past few days following around Jin-Woo for the rest of his life. Indeed, his respect was far greater than fear of Jin-Woo at this point.
“If you see me as your brother, then….”
Jin-Woo smiled deeply.
“I’ll think of you as my younger brother as well.”
The tip of Yu Jin-Ho’s nose reddened and he began to get teary-eyed all of a sudden. If that was all, it’d have been fine, but then, he tried to get closer to Jin-Woo out of nowhere.
“Hyung-nim! I want to give you a big hug! It’s fine, right?”
“Hey, hey!! You’re drunk, dude!! Stop it!”
“No, that’s not true! Hyung-nim, I’ve never been this clear-minded in my life before! Hyung-niiiiim!”
“Say that with your eyes open, will ya?!”
Either he was far too moved by his emotions, or he just was a bad drunk, Yu Jin-Ho collapsed over the table and began crying his eyes out, prompting Jin-Woo to pat him on the shoulder.
Soon enough, Yu Jin-Ho fell asleep and the table had quietened down now.
“Hah-ah… what a helpless kid….”
Jin-Woo leaned back on his seat and lightly clicked his tongue.
He was a troublesome kid in many ways, but for some reason, Jin-Woo didn’t find him dislikeable at all.
Jin-Woo heard that voice and shifted his gaze over to its source.
A TV mounted on the wall of the diner was showing a news bulletin.
‘Is it nine in the evening already?’
He thought like that and stared the screen, only to spot someone rather familiar appearing there.
Jin-Woo’s eyes widened.
It was none other than Baek Yun-Ho, and he was being bombarded with an unending stream of questions from the reporters as he exited from the White Tiger’s headquarters.
“Is it true that there was a huge incident during the training of your new recruits?”
“Is it also true that only the lower ranked Hunters returned alive while all the higher ranked ones had perished?”
“What do you think about the rumour of a mystery person allegedly aiding the survivors during this incident?”
Baek Yun-Ho was doing his best to ignore the reporters, but in the end, he had no choice but to respond.
“This incident has been investigated by the Association already. It was true that there was an incident, but there was no mystery helper at the scene. No, the White Tiger Guild’s proud Hunters combined their powers and managed to clear the upper-rank dungeon. And many Hunters lost their lives or got injured during the process. That is all.”
Another reporter quickly fired in a follow-up question.
“If that’s the case, why are you forbidding us from interviewing the survivors?”
“Those folks managed to avoid death’s doorstep by a hair’s breadth. So, why do you wish to speak to those people regarding this deeply traumatic event? That’s as far as I’m prepared to answer you people.”
Baek Yun-Ho made a quick getaway from there after climbing into a car.
Jin-Woo’s eyes remained wide-open.
‘They were talking about me, right?’
A little while ago, somewhere in the Eastern United States of America.
A shrill scream exploded out inside a certain dungeon.
A Hunter named ‘James’ plopped down on his butt.
His legs had lost all strength and he could only crawl on the floor to run away. But when he realised that he only managed to corner himself against a wall, despair quickly dyed his expression.
“Oh, dear god!”
The rank for this dungeon was estimated to be ‘A’. And in order to clear this Gate, suitable Hunters were recruited to form a raid team.
However, every single one of them was annihilated. Technically speaking, they weren’t dead, but unconscious on the floor, though.
‘I can’t believe this!’
James leaned against the wall and breathed heavily before roughly shaking his head around several times.
Today had been a series of truly unbelievable events.
When the raid team entered the dungeon, they could not find a single monster. Because there was seemingly no monster inside.
A dungeon without monsters?
Can such a thing even exist?
If that was the case, where did the magic power emission that the measuring equipment had picked up outside the Gate, come from?
The Hunters came up with all sorts of theories by themselves.
This was already a hard-to-believe phenomenon, yet something even more shocking was waiting for them by the boss room.
When they entered it, they did find a single ‘monster’.
And it looked exactly like a human being.
Indeed, there was only one, but….
From that monster’s single attack, every raid team member lost their consciousness. This creature proved to be far, far too powerful for them.
Only James had somehow escaped from the boss room.
‘Wait, could it be that all the magic energy emission detected on the outside of the dungeon is coming from that thing alone??’
The measurement took place far away, from outside the Gate itself, yet its magic power was already exceeding the level of a rank A?
James shook his head again.
‘That’s just f*cking impossible!’
“Hah…. This, really now.”
That lone ‘monster’ walked out from the darkness and stepped into the light.
James began screaming once more after he saw the approaching creature.
“Uh-whew. That hurts my ears, you know.”
The monster – no, an Oriental man with long, unkempt hair and a bushy beard roughly scratched the top of his head.
James no longer screamed but began leaking out scared gasps instead.
The mystery Oriental man stood before James and placed his hands on his waist.
“What the hell?! So, who told you to attack first without warning?! I told you that I’m not a monster, but a human being. I’m a human!”
Unfortunately, James could not understand a single word of this strange language. Naturally, his complexion progressively worsened.
The Oriental man stared at the terrified American Hunter with a troubled expression on his face.
Eventually, he spat out a long, long sigh.
“Dang it. What a pain, trying to talk to these big-nosed foreigners….”
In any case, he tried to initiate another conversation one more time.
He squatted down low enough to match the American’s eye level and did his best to sound as friendly and non-threatening as possible.
“Hey, hey, man.”
He could recall a few English words. With such a poor grasp in that language, he couldn’t really tell if he was making any sense at all, grammar-wise.
“I, am, a, Korean.”
So, he tried to enunciate every word to the best of his ability.
“I, want, to, go, home.”
< Chapter 67 > Fin.
(TL: Originally, the raw said our MC ordered “cider”, but the thing is, in Korea, all non-alcoholic soda-like beverages with clear colouring, like Sprite, are colloquially referred to as ‘cider’. Not sure how that came about, though. So, if you hear/read about someone ordering cider in other forms of Korean media, such as Kdramas or other KR novels, don’t be surprised, as there is no alcohol involved.)
(TL: In case you haven’t noticed it yet, the mystery Korean man had been speaking in Korean, while “James” was speaking/thinking in English.)