I Alone Level-Up
Jin-Woo didn’t ponder for long before speaking up.
“If that’s what you think, then there’s not much I can do.”
“Where should I show up tomorrow?”
After hearing this unexpected reply, Foreman Bae’s eyes went extra round in shock.
‘Wait, I haven’t made a mistake just now with what I said, right?’
Didn’t he definitely say that tomorrow was going to be more dangerous than today?
Mister Seong’s expression wasn’t so good after hearing Bae’s story, so the older man was just about ready to forget about the matter completely. However, what was the meaning of this?
Thanks to this youth, it looked like Bae wouldn’t have to worry about finding another miner for tomorrow.
‘Is that all??’
Mister Seong could easily do the work of four or five people all by himself. And that was on his first day, too.
The boy’s work speed that even managed to impress the ‘ace’ of the mining team, Mok Jin-Su, was indeed pretty shocking the first time Bae witnessed it.
From Jin-Woo’s declaration that he’d come tomorrow, Foreman Bae felt like he had gained a powerful, trustworthy ally and he was filled up with lots of confidence.
“Mister Seong, you made the right choice!”
Foreman Bae’s moustache quivered as he formed a blindingly brilliant smile. And then, to make sure that Jin-Woo’s mind wouldn’t change overnight, he even came up with an unprecedented offer, too.
“I’ll have a good chat with the person in charge, and make sure that you get double the normal daily wages tomorrow.”
“Will that be okay?”
“Of course. You think I won’t be able to do that much for you, Mister Seong?”
Foreman Bae confidently pounded on his chest.
“Mister Seong, don’t you worry about a thing and just come to work tomorrow.”
Quite obviously, who would sweat over paying twice as much in daily wages to a guy capable of doing the work of 4-5 people?
If Bae was the Chairman, never mind double, he’d triple – no, maybe even more with an eye towards the future.
‘Didn’t expect myself to rue the day that I’m not the Chairman of the Hunters….’
Foreman Bae could only swallow back his laughter.
Jin-Woo asked him a question, then.
“Ahh, right. I promised to meet someone tomorrow evening, so will I be able to make that in time?”
Earlier this morning, Yu Jin-Ho gave him a call.
For some reason, he sounded worn out.
‘That kid was on the top of the world yesterday, saying that everything had worked out alright, yet today…..’
Jin-Woo was taken by surprise, but unfortunately, the call came only after he had already applied to become a miner. He had no choice but to delay the meeting until tomorrow evening.
Foreman Bae chuckled out loudly.
“From what I hear, tomorrow’s dungeon should be much smaller in scale then today’s one. So, we should be finished well before 6 o’clock.”
Weren’t they able to finish today’s work around five PM today? They should be even faster tomorrow, not the other way around.
Jin-Woo nodded his head. That would be fine for him, too.
“In that case, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Alright. Take care.”
Watching Jin-Woo turn around and walk away, a satisfied grin formed on Foreman Bae’s lips.
‘If I did marry, I’d probably have a son around his age by now.’
Why did that boy’s back look so wide and trustworthy? How wonderful would it be if the world was filled with newbies as excellent as Mister Seong?
A thick smile refused to leave Foreman Bae’s lips.
However, he wasn’t the only one smiling.
While walking towards the bus stop, an imperceptible smile was floating on Jin-Woo’s lips, too.
‘Well, it’s not like I’m wishing for the raid team to make a blunder tomorrow, but….’
But, if something were to happen, then his existence would prove to be a huge help either to the raid team or to the mining team.
It wasn’t as if he had a change of heart, either.
Perhaps ironically, the success rate for clearing rank A Gates was actually greater than those of the lower ranks.
‘For one, the Association doesn’t hand over the permit to any ol’ Guilds, and….’
And, once the Guild was given the opportunity, they would commit all of their resources and try to conquer the dungeon, too.
‘The Hunters Guild isn’t committing their everything in tomorrow’s dungeon raid.’
To think, they’d have the balls to split a single assault team into two and prey on two separate rank A Gates at the same time. That was some confidence befitting the holder of the top spot in their profession.
But, it was undeniable that the accompanying risk was incredibly high, too.
‘Regardless of what happens, I won’t lose out either way.’
If they managed to complete the raid safely, that’d be the best for everyone involved. On the other hand, if an accident did occur, he’d assist the Hunters Guild, but in return, he would get to monopolise the high-ranked monsters by himself.
A deeper smile formed on Jin-Woo’s face as he climbed into the bus.
Late at night.
Cha Hae-In was tossing and turning in her bed.
‘Why is he different from others?’
Occupied by various thoughts regarding the man she met back in the boss room, she couldn’t fall asleep at all.
After Awakening her abilities roughly two years ago, she ran into many, many Hunters but there had never been an exception. Whenever she approached Hunters, or to be more specific, the Awakened, a deeply unpleasant stink assaulted her nose.
At first, she thought she was sick, so she went to see various doctors. However, she made no progress in that regard.
One of the doctors she went to see cautiously told her of his hypothesis.
That guess certainly held some merit; the stink would get worse the higher the rank of a Hunter was. And sure enough, the lower the rank, the more tolerable the stink was, too. Of course, regular people didn’t emit any stink whatsoever.
‘….This is the first time meeting someone with a pleasant smell.’
Recalling the events of earlier, her heart began beating a bit faster.
She became quite curious who that man could be, so as soon as the raid ended, she connected to the Association’s website and searched for his details.
The information on the man, as seen on the Hunter licence, could be seen on the screen.
‘There are no contact details….’
But then again, what would she even do after finding out about his contact info?
Realising that there was nothing more she could glean from the Association’s website, she then ended up calling the phone number of Joh Myoung-Ki, the manager of the recruitment department. She didn’t even mean to do that, though.
It was already well past one AM by the time she called him.
He wouldn’t have answered the phone if it wasn’t from South Korea’s sole female rank S Hunter, who also happened to be the Vice Chairman of the Hunters Guild.
She couldn’t help but think that she made a mistake after hearing the still-sleepy voice of Joh Myoung-Ki, but that lasted only for a short while.
Cha Hae-In opened her mouth with some difficulty.
“Can you find some information on a Hunter named Seong Jin-Woo?”
Cha Hae-In was taken in by a huge surprise.
Joh Myoung-Ki was none other than the man in charge of recruiting in South Korea’s best Guild. So, why did a man like that remember the name of a rank E Hunter?
“Do you know who he is?”
“Chairman did that?”
“Do you know what’s going on?”
“…So, what did you find out?”
A voice that was thick with a helpless sigh came out of the phone’s speaker.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry for calling you so late. Good night.”
….Those were the contents of the phone call she made three hours ago.
She worked up her courage to find out more about a guy, only for more questions to bubble up in her mind.
A mystery Hunter whose identity was being sought after by the leader of the Hunters Guild, while the Association was doing their best to hide it.
‘There’s definitely something going on here.’
No, wait. There simply had to be something….
She earnestly prayed for it.
He could very well be the person to unravel the mysterious and special constitution that continued to torment her ever since she turned 21 – two years ago, when she had Awakened her powers.
‘That man, can I meet him again?’
Could it be that she’d never get to see him again?
She was beset with worry all of a sudden.
Thankfully, Cha Hae-In recalled Seong Jin-Woo’s hard hat. She remembered that the hard hat and the overall he was wearing both spotted the emblem of the Hunters Guild.
‘I remember now. He was in the mining team, wasn’t he?’
Unlike her, who was the part of the raid team A, the mining team would be working later today as well.
If Seong Jin-Woo hadn’t left the mining team, then there was a chance that she could meet him again.
‘Let’s go and take a look.’
Since she was the Vice Chairman of the Guild, it’d not be a strange thing for her to stop by at the raid location.
‘Right, I’ll just show up there as if nothing’s wrong, and see whether that man came to work or not.’
….But, why? As soon as she thought about the possibility of seeing that suspicious Hunter again, she felt much more relaxed.
‘If I want to do that, I gotta get some sleep first.’
For the sake of today’s schedule, Cha Hae-In forced her unwilling eyes to close.
Even before the morning sun rose up.
Jin-Woo left for the meeting area first thing in the morning. It was different from yesterday, when he had some leeway, as he only joined the crew during the middle of the raid.
‘Maybe, I shouldn’t have worried.’
He was worried about whether he was too early or not, but…
Well, many Hunters had gathered before the Gate already by the time he got there.
“Uh? Uhh?? Hey, Mister Seong!! Seong!”
Foreman Bae Yun-Seok greeted him first.
“Hey, it’s Mister Seong.”
“Heyyy, man. Mister Seong!”
Other Hunters began greeting him with a slight nod, and some even raised their hands as high as their chest to greet Jin-Woo, which was quite different from yesterday.
The work each of the miners did was important, so they’d wholeheartedly welcome a colleague with great skills any time. From the expressions of the Hunters of the mining team, their delight could clearly be seen.
‘This is a bit… awkward.’
Jin-Woo had been subjected to poor treatment ever since becoming a rank E Hunter, so when he received such a warm welcome, he couldn’t help be dazed somewhat.
Still, he didn’t feel bad about their honest reactions.
Jin-Woo wordlessly lowered his head as his greeting.
“One, two, threeee….”
Foreman Bae counted the number of miners present today and jotted it down on the memo.
“Eighteen, Nineteen…. Well, it’s almost everyone.”
This should be more than enough. Well, it was fine for one or two to miss out on a day like today.
‘Because, we have two aces in our midst now.’
Foreman Bae’s gaze met those of Mok Jin-Su and Seong Jin-Woo. Bae grinned like a fool, causing Mok Jin-Su to hurriedly avert his gaze, while Seong Jin-Woo was tilting his head in confusion.
It was then.
“Excuse me, Foreman Bae.”
“Argh?! You surprised me!”
Foreman Bae flinched and shuddered grandly from the voice suddenly coming from his side.
Moving around without revealing one’s presence was clear evidence of one’s excellent skills.
And as expected….
The one Foreman Bae’s resentful gaze was directed to was the leader of today’s raid team, Sohn Ki-Hoon.
“Aigoo…. My heart nearly stopped from fright just now, Sohn Hunter-nim.”
“My apologies. It’s a bad habit I picked up from working in the dungeons for too long.”
Sohn Ki-Hoon grinned sheepishly.
It was then, the foreman of the retrieval team suddenly revealed himself from behind Sohn Ki-Hoon.
“An old man not acting his age…”
“What the? Even you? Why would you two be here where the mining team is?”
“What do you mean, why? We are here because we’ve got business with you, obviously.”
Foreman Bae stared at Sohn Ki-Hoon with a puzzled expression.
Meanwhile, Sohn Ki-Hoon was scanning the Hunters of the mining team as he opened his mouth.
“The thing is, our team’s porter decided to not show up today. Looks like I’ll have to borrow someone from the mining team.”
Foreman Bae’s eyes went round in surprise.
“But, why from my team? When you got the retrieval team with lots of strong people who can carry luggage better than us….?”
As if he was waiting for that reply, the foreman of the retrieval team flew off his handle.
“My boys had to work overtime for three more hours just to finish our operation. They even missed dinner, too! But now, you want to use them as a porter, too?”
The reason why the retrieval team had to put in overtime while missing supper – because the mining team had finished their operation far too early. (TL note at the end)
‘Well, it’s true that we finished our operation which should’ve normally ended around seven in the evening, by around five o’clock all thanks to Mister Seong….’
When the foreman of the retrieval team glared daggers with veins popping up in his neck, Foreman Bae forgot what he wanted to say.
Perhaps he thought that this would be enough of an explanation, Sohn Ki-Hoon then addressed the miners.
“Is there anyone among you who wish to accompany the raid team? Once the raid is over, we will furnish you the additional hazard pay immediately.”
Soh Ki-Hoon’s pleading eyes darted from here to there, but no one stepped forward. Either they looked down on the ground, or stared at the heavens, deliberately avoiding meeting his gaze.
That would be obvious, really.
‘I ain’t gonna risk my neck for a couple more bucks.’
‘Won’t do it, even if you beat me up….’
The highest ranked Hunter among the mining team was only a rank C. Most of them were rank Ds. Heck, they even had a rank E among them, too.
However, the place Sohn Ki-Hoon wanted to take them to was a rank A dungeon, seen as perhaps the most dangerous of the lot, realistically speaking.
The miners would still hesitate greatly even if the dungeon in question was rated B, yet it was an A!
Even a gentle graze would kill these Hunters in there. No, just stepping on the wrong spot would result in one’s death.
That dungeon was not a place where low ranked Hunters could survive.
Sure, porters only had to lug around the raid team’s gear, but still…. Compared to the job of mining, it was still far too dangerous.
“Is there… no one?”
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s expression became more and more crestfallen.
Who knew how much more time and effort he needed to waste in order to find another porter? Probably the whole morning, or even till the afternoon; or, if he was really unlucky, then the entire day might go down the drain.
‘This is going to be big trouble….’
It was at this point when his eyes met with a certain young Hunter’s.
Unlike other Hunters, this guy was staring right back at him. It was, of course, Jin-Woo.
While Sohn Ki-Hoon was staring at him, Jin-Woo too was slowly scanning that man’s appearance.
‘Isn’t he a bit sharp for a tanker?’
Common sense dictated that the leaders of raid teams were ‘tankers’ most of the time.
Compared to other tankers, though, Sohn Ki-Hoon was a bit on the lankier side. He was also quite tall, so, rather than a Hunter, he looked more like a basketball player more than anything else.
Jin-Woo finally stopped looking at Sohn Ki-Hoon and his eyes drifted away.
Only then did Sohn Ki-Hoon spit out his deeply-held breaths.
What just happened?
Just now, his entire body had frozen up so much that he even forgot to breathe. He couldn’t understand why.
‘Am I getting too tense, since this will be my first raid as a leader and all?’
Up until now, he had participated in raids as an auxiliary tanker. That was why today’s opportunity was doubly important to him. And he definitely could not afford to commit a blunder today.
Sohn Ki-Hoon was bent over and panting laboriously in order to recover, before raising himself back up again.
Probably because of his rather embarrassing conduct, the surroundings had gotten noisier. However, he soon realised that the cause for the disturbance was not him.
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s gaze shifted back to the mining team’s Hunters, only to spot a hand raised up to the sky.
Finally, someone was applying for the job. Someone he had been waiting so desperately for.
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s expression brightened considerably.
When Jin-Woo took a step forward, he became the centre of the attention.
“I’ll do it.”
< Chapter 84 > Fin.
(TL: Well, I’m not sure what the mining team does has any bearing on what happens to the retrieval team, but okay. I’m just TL-ing according to what’s in the raw, so don’t question me…..) (ED: The only reason I can think of is it being a matter of workplace pride/appearance. Like, the mining team finished early, so the raid team was only waiting on the retrieval team, hence the overtime/meal skipping. Just my own guess, though.)