I Alone Level-Up
Side Story 7
5. Your daily routine (2)
The high school freshmen were gathered in the school’s athletics field for the entrance ceremony.
The new students used the gap created by the still-lax surveillance of the teachers to form small groups comprising of the graduates from the same middle schools and noisily chatted away.
It was then.
Like a lone shark scything its way into a school of sardines, the ‘Venomous Snake’, Teacher Park Gi-Sool, made his sudden entrance and shot a scary glare, prompting the new students to hurriedly shut their mouths up at once.
“Who dares to make a noise? Who??”
Rather unfitting for his name, Teacher Park Gi-Sool was in charge of the physical training. But, fitting for a man who competed in amateur wrestling in his youth, he was blessed with cauliflower ears, a thick neck, broad shoulders, as well as muscular thighs.
Everywhere Teacher Park Gi-Sool’s glare landed, kids quickly dropped their heads lower. The war of aura – nerves – at the beginning of school life wasn’t exclusively fought between the students, oh no.
If one took into consideration the potential atmosphere for the rest of the academic year, or even the classroom itself, then the war of nerves between the teacher and students would be far more important than the one taking place between the headstrong students.
And as far as his track record for this kind of war was concerned, ‘Venomous Snake’ Teacher Park Gi-Sool had never tasted defeat before.
Starting from ten years ago, when he took his first step into the teaching profession, last year, and the year before that too, never had he failed his mission. He was planning to extend the streak to this year, as well.
The school of sardines in front of the shark, no, the new students in front of Teacher Park Gi-Sool couldn’t withstand his fierce glare and quickly lowered their gazes.
All the noisy kids shut their mouths for good wherever he walked past. Meanwhile, his colleagues watching on from the sidelines could only look on with eyes of pure respect.
“As expected of Park Teacher-nim….”
“Looks like we can rely on the director of students’ affairs for another trouble-free year, as well.”
Park Gi-Sool scanned the new students and their broken fighting spirit while forming a content smile on his face.
‘Right, that’s how it should be.’
However, he couldn’t be satisfied with this much of ‘victory’ yet. Not today. Didn’t he already have a real target in mind for today, the one the headmaster personally entrusted him with?
As long as he didn’t break that problem child’s fighting spirit, then it’d be rather difficult to claim that he had performed his duty of guiding these students properly today.
Park Gi-Sool continued to scan the faces of the new students and eventually located the problem kid in question.
‘There he is.’
The moment he located his target, that content smile was wiped off from his face immediately.
Even at a casual glance from far away, one could tell that the boy was no ordinary challenge, what with his height far taller than his peers, the hints of firm muscles all over his figure, as well as powerful vitality that could be gleaned from his eyes.
‘So, that kid is Seong Jin-Woo….’
The thing was, an expert would be able to recognise other experts.
No matter how wild they were as a student, they all would become a well-behaved sheep in front of him before long. And in case the boy decided to show off with inadvisable bravado, then Teacher Park simply had to reveal just a wee bit of what was in store for unruly children.
There hadn’t been a single problem kid that ‘Venomous Snake’ Park Gi-Sool failed to discipline properly. His confidence oozed out from every pore of his body like an actual aura.
….Time to get started.
Before that, though, Park Gi-Sool’s snake-like eyes quickly scanned the problem kid from top to bottom. And then, his eyes gleamed brightly.
There was a black glove on one of the problem kid’s hands.
A teacher in the student affairs department couldn’t possibly ignore the problem kid violating the dress code, such as wearing hats or gloves, while standing in the middle of the athletics field, now could he?
Of course, it wasn’t as if he had forgotten about the small fact that the boy’s left hand had a serious scar and needed to wear a glove all the time.
Such a thing was already written within the student’s records, after all.
However, Park Gi-Sool needed a pretext, however small, to butt in and start his operation of breaking that problem kid’s fighting spirit.
Indeed, what could be a better pretext to scold a student than the violation of the school’s dress code?
Having discovered a suitable gap to dig in, Park Gi-Sool’s eyes gleamed sharply like a real venomous snake, and he quickly made his way over to the problem kid in question.
It seemed that the boy hadn’t sensed his approach yet, which was good. A surprise attack was very effective in breaking the enemy’s fighting spirit, after all.
Once he got close enough distance where a whispered name could be heard by the other party, Teacher Park Gi-Sool’s brows shot up as he got ready.
“Hey, you fool! Where do you think you are to wear a glo….”
The loud, energetic roar coming from Teacher Park Gi-Sool prompted Jin-Woo to turn his head around. And then, his eyes met Park Gi-Sool’s.
In that moment….
….Teacher Park Gi-Sool saw ‘it’.
He saw the countless black monsters, standing seemingly endlessly behind this ‘problem kid’.
The entirety of the athletics field, filled with students, disappeared in darkness from Park Gi-Sool’s view, only to be replaced by the sight of a massive army of ten million soldiers standing in columns that stretched endlessly towards the distant horizon.
Teacher Park Gi-Sool was instantly shoved away by the absolutely overwhelming pressure and tumbled on his backside while loudly screaming out.
“Park Teacher-nim! Are you alright??”
Other teachers in the vicinity hurriedly rushed over there and supported Park Gi-Sool. His complexion was as white as a sheet of paper. He took another look at Jin-Woo, but by then, his view had reverted back to normal.
He roughly shook his head and blinked his eyes several times while the attention of the surrounding students began falling on him.
“Everyone, keep quiet!”
“Park Teacher-nim, maybe you’re feeling unwell somewhere?”
Now being on the receiving end of the worried gazes of his colleagues, as well as unsettled looks from the students, Park Gi-Sool’s face reddened up considerably from embarrassment.
“I, I’m fine.”
He shook off the support from his colleagues and quickly made his escape from the area.
Bellion hiding in his master’s shadow quietly whispered to Jin-Woo while watching the departing man’s back grow further away.
[My liege, that man must’ve…]
‘Yeah. It seems that he has seen you guys.’
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
There were some people who possessed far keener senses than other regular folks, although there weren’t that many. Such people would sometimes – not very often, mind you – discover that Jin-Woo was a bit different from everybody else.
Just like now.
‘….Could this be one of the adverse influences I have on this world, too?’
He couldn’t tell for sure. Jin-Woo recalled the pale, frightened face of the urgently-escaping teacher and tutted softly to himself.
The speakers located in the athletics field issued ear-piercing static before commencing with the campus broadcast in earnest.
– The Headmaster-nim will now address the new students and welcome them to the school.
Jin-Woo stopped looking in the direction where Park Gi-Sool had disappeared to and shifted his gaze forward, just as the broadcast ordered everyone to do so.
It was a brilliantly sunny spring day.
Under the warm rays of the sun gently beating down on Earth, the headmaster’s smooth forehead blindingly reflected the excitement these new students were feeling right now.
For a reason only known to him, Jin-Woo deliberately applied to a high school that was some distance away from his house. And naturally, he recognised no one in the new class.
‘Well…. Isn’t that obvious?’
He scanned the faces of other kids without feeling bummed out about it, a smirk slowly creeping up on his face.
He was already well past the age where his heart would start beating nervously from the burden of sharing a classroom with kids he didn’t know.
If it was him in the past, he’d start greeting others even while under the vicious assault of awkwardness, but now? It just felt too annoying, so he didn’t even bother.
While other kids were busy scanning their classmates to see what was what, Jin-Woo simply took out a book he brought from home and opened it up.
Maybe spending such a long time in the gap between dimensions, where there was not a sound to be heard, had changed him somehow, because he gained a renewed appreciation for reading a book in quiet stillness.
Besides, even though they were ostensibly his classmates, there was the age difference of several decades to consider here, so what could he possibly say to these kids, anyway?
Indeed, it’d be more preferable to share a wordless conversation with a good book, instead.
But then, just as he got ready to spend some quiet time with himself, someone actually approached him to engage in conversation.
“Uh-uhm…. Could you be…?”
The voice sounded a bit powerless. Jin-Woo raised his head towards where that voice came from.
The owner of the voice flinched a bit when their gazes met, but when he confirmed Jin-Woo’s face, he seemed to have gained a boost to his courage.
“Y-you are Jin-Woo from XX Middle School… Seong Jin-Woo, right?”
Who could this kid be? Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed slightly.
‘Huh. He does look kinda familiar….’
However, they must not have been all that close, because he couldn’t immediately recall this boy’s name or things they did together. He tried to dig deeper into his memories, but then….
As if this sort of situation was a common occurrence for him, the boy with a rather faint sense of existence re-introduced himself without minding it at all.
“I’m Oh Young-Gil…. We belonged to the same class during freshmen year in middle school.”
Hearing the name helped Jin-Woo to remember.
He was none other than the boy that kept glancing at the group of kids getting ready to go to the internet cafe with envious eyes. The boy with the buzz cut hairstyle had grown up to become a high schooler now.
His facial expression now half made up of amazement and delight, Jin-Woo extended his hand for a shake.
“Hey, good to see you, Young-Gil-ah.”
It seemed that shaking hands was a gesture still too foreign for a boy just entering high school life, because Oh Young-Gil was hesitating somewhat on what to do next, but eventually, he cautiously grasped the offered hand with a sheepish expression.
“Y-yeah, me too….”
As they shook hands, Jin-Woo felt this great sense of relief coming from the boy. Indeed, one would certainly feel relieved after finding a familiar face, a friend even, when entering a new school and a new class.
Jin-Woo formed a warm smile so the friend he met after a long time could feel relaxed now. It must’ve been pretty effective, because Young-Gil grew just a bit chattier than before.
“You live around here? My family moved house to the area nearby.”
But, just as the boy’s words reached there, Jin-Woo had no choice but to stop him for a bit, slightly peeved by the fact that he was unable to enjoy this unlikely reunion with a friend to its fullest.
Jin-Woo turned his head to the side, and that was when four kids who didn’t look to be a nice sort, even at a casual glance, surrounded him and Young-Gil.
“Hee~ya, hey man. You must be somebody important, right? You even have a glove?”
The hooligans pointed at Jin-Woo’s left hand and cackled among themselves. Meanwhile, Young-Gil’s complexion grew gloomier at the rather obvious approach of these fools.
‘He’s supposed to be a man, but he’s just too timid…’
Jin-Woo found it rather unfortunate that his friend’s expression was hardening like that and he shifted his gaze over to these four hooligans surrounding him.
The kind of faces and glare in eyes best described as worthless were the only things he saw.
These four might not have graduated from the same middle school, but they had been acting as local hoodlums for a bit and had become acquaintances as a result. After finding themselves in the same class, they took a look at the faces of their classmates and arrived at a consensus that there was only one hindrance to their plan of taking over this class.
And so, they were here to prod this potential hindrance a little and see what would happen. Other kids in the class were scared and couldn’t even meet these four’s glare, but in Jin-Woo’s view, who had been fighting non-stop for almost thirty years, these four were….
….Quite adorable, actually.
The quartet, oblivious of how they were being judged, continued their mission to provoke Jin-Woo who had grown silent now.
“Hey, hey. Why don’t you take off that glove? I wanna try it on, too.”
“By the way, why did you put a glove on only one hand? Maybe, you have a Dark Flame Dragon on your arm, too?”
“Euh, euh, euh-! My hand! My right hand’s Dark Flame is roaring out!”
They must’ve found something really funny, because all four of them burst out into boisterous laughter. Seeing them react like that, Jin-Woo formed a derisive smirk at them.
When he did, the glare in the four hooligans’ eyes changed.
“Oh, you think this is funny?”
“Seriously, did this b*stard plug his ears with crap or something? We told him to take the d*mn glove off, yet he ignores us?”
“What? What gives? You have a tattoo there or something?”
From his shadow, Jin-Woo heard the extremely agitated voice of Beru crying out.
[Oh, my king!!! Grant me the permission so that I can tear the heads and limbs off of these fools and make sure they can never ever disparage you in this manner!!]
‘I ain’t giving you permission.’
Jin-Woo reprimanded Beru, and before the ant soldier’s rage could be fuelled even further, he took his glove off and showed the hooligans his hand. When he did that, a hideous burn scar starting from his palm to his wrist was revealed for all to see.
The quartet of troublemakers became speechless from the scar that implied a pretty serious tale even at a casual glance, before they began mouthing some vague excuses.
“T-this guy, we were just fooling around, so why are you getting serious?”
“H-hey, dude. Put your glove back on. I might have nightmares about it now.”
Perhaps realising that this should be enough, the quartet withdrew from there. Jin-Woo didn’t say anything and put his glove back on, before powerfully stomping on a certain blotch of shadow on the floor sneaking towards the departing quartet.
‘What were you planning to do after catching up to them?!’
Beru was really incensed by those kids that dared to insult his liege, but Jin-Woo was ultimately successful in holding back the irate ant soldier. He raised his head again afterwards.
Wasn’t this good?
He had already killed all the enemies that bared their fangs at him back in the gap between dimensions. Enemies that threatened him inside dungeons also lost their lives, too.
However, this place was Seoul, the Republic of Korea, where there were no Gates and no monsters to worry about. This was a place filled with peaceful, everyday normal stuff.
Jin-Woo was enjoying to the fullest this peace he achieved with his own two hands, so such a little provocation was nothing more than minor stuff to simply chuckle over and forget about it.
And that was why…
‘I’m sure this much is fine.’
Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted over to the back of the quartet.
When he did – the hooligans making their way to the rear of the classroom got tripped by the ‘invisible something’ and fell on their faces as a group.
Beru, currently being pushed down by Jin-Woo’s foot, watched the boys tumble ungainly like that and shifted his dumbfounded gaze back to his liege.
[Uhm… Oh, my king….?]
‘I did that for a laugh. You know, so I can laugh.’
Since that was humorous, everything was fine now.
Jin-Woo smirked softly and settled down on his seat again after seeing the flustered expression of the female teacher, who just so happened to enter the classroom at that exact moment to discover that four of her students had fallen face-first on the floor.
With that, his high school life began for the second time.