‘Wait a minute. This, just what on earth is….’
What happened just now?
Manager Jeong Ki-Soo ended the call with Baek Yun-Ho and tilted his head.
It was already a pretty surprising thing that a rank E Hunter stepped forward to get re-evaluated, yet the Master of the White Tiger Guild wanted to find out about the result of that test right away as well.
‘Maybe, there is something going on for real here…’
It wasn’t just anyone but that Baek Yun-Ho. And he was being quite serious, so Jeong Ki-Soo couldn’t help but wonder if something big was about to happen.
But soon, he shook his head dismissively.
‘Eii…. There’s no way.’
The phenomenon of ‘Re-Awakening’ was a very rare occurrence.
How many months had it been?
There was this incident a few months ago when the whole Association had been in an uproar over a potential candidate who had gone through a Re-Awakening. Of course, it was all a big fat nothing.
That just served to illustrate how rare the real thing was, and plenty of so-called ‘Re-Awakening’ all turned out to be nothing more than just simple misunderstandings.
‘I mean, it’s not just one or two kids who come here mistakenly believing that they had gone through a Re-Awakening, only to walk out of here after paying the cost for the test out of their pocket….’
Perhaps the White Tiger Guild was seriously mistaken about something here. Still, considering Jeong Ki-Soo’s ‘relationship’ with that Guild, he just couldn’t refuse outright to humour the Guild Master Baek Yun-Ho’s request.
“Hey, listen. I have to go somewhere for a little while.”
“Pardon me? Where are you going, Manager Jeong?”
“I just remembered this little thing I gotta take care of in the Block B.”
The term ‘Block B’ was a sort of code word used by the Association employees to refer to the building where the magic power evaluation took place.
“Okay, I understand.”
“If something happens, call me right away.”
Even though Jeong Ki-Soo was thinking ‘Re-Awakening, my a*s’, he nevertheless headed towards Block B while picturing the face of Baek Yun-Ho, who should’ve left the Guild offices by now.
Jin-Woo parked his butt on the very last spot available of the waiting room’s bench. Currently, there were three people waiting for their turn here.
All of them looked quite tense, nervous.
Jin-Woo could sympathise with what these people were going through inwardly at this moment.
‘Well, the directions of their lives would be decided with the results of today’s evaluation, after all.’
The first time Jin-Woo came here, he was thinking about the exact same things as these people.
….What if I was a rank A, no, even a rank B – or, could it be, I’m a rank S?
Swimming in a happy daydream, only to be shocked to the core after receiving the evaluation of rank E.
Thinking back to that day four years ago, Jin-Woo couldn’t help but smirk slightly.
‘What is he smiling about?’
‘How can you even think about smiling here?’
Others waiting around sent him weird looks, but Jin-Woo didn’t pay them any mind.
‘Was he born with a steely heart or something?’
‘Maybe, he’s not feeling nervous at all.’
Seeing Jin-Woo’s undaunted attitude, others became a bit sheepish and tilted their heads this way and that, before shifting their gazes away.
‘Nothing much has changed since then.’
Jin-Woo also remembered something similar happening back then.
Back then, he started paying attention to the person sitting next to him for no reason, and he also became curious about what other people’s evaluation was going to be like.
Jin-Woo continued to smile while slowly studying the interior of the waiting area. Just like the people waiting inside, the building didn’t change much, either.
The Hunter Association itself was established less than ten years ago, so perhaps unsurprisingly, the building was still clean and neat as if it opened its doors only yesterday.
The interior layout was pretty much the same as back then, too.
If there was one thing different, then it’d be….
‘Those people over there.’
When Jin-Woo quietly stared at a contingent of men and women decked out in clean-cut business suits across from where he was, an ahjussi sitting next to him opened his mouth. (TL: ahjussi = ‘uncle’, or older man)
“They are all from various Guilds, apparently.”
“Various Guilds, is it?”
“Yes. Well, Hunters don’t usually seek out smaller Guilds, so they resorted to sending people over here and set up camp, just so they can sweet-talk Awakened like us after we’re done with the evaluation.”
Indeed, there was a certain chilly, unfriendly and competitive air circulating among those folks.
‘And, the way they are looking in this direction is pretty predatory, too.’
Well, there was a reason for that, of course.
“I’m telling you this because it might help you, but you see, it’s better not to sign up with Guilds like theirs.”
“From what I hear, smaller Guilds take on lots of dangerous raids, and their Hunter fatality rate is far higher than average, too.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head in agreement.
At the end of the day, the circumstances of smaller Guilds would always remain a bit ambiguous.
Unlike privately-organised freelancer-led raid parties, clearing low ranked dungeons wouldn’t satisfy them financially, but then again, the skills of the Hunters signed up with them wasn’t quite good enough to clear higher ranked dungeons.
So, ‘accidents’ happened frequently during their raids.
‘Which means, recruiting new Hunters becomes doubly important for them.’
And so, they arrived at a point where they had to follow the potential newbies right into the Association building and prey on them.
Ahjussi dabbed the sweat drops away from his wide-open forehead with a handkerchief, and cautiously extended his had towards Jin-Woo.
“Well, it’s fate that we meet like this, so how about we introduce each other? My name is Yun Jeong-Hoon.”
“I’m Seong Jin-Woo.”
Their introduction was kept to a minimum, and they quietly waited for their turns.
Since the location for the evaluation itself was wide open, one could easily read the expressions on those who finished the test, as well as the employees performing the said test.
And the expression of the guy who had taken his test just now didn’t look so good.
‘I guess, it’s either a D or an E….’
Those folks from the smaller Guilds must’ve thought about the same thing as Jin-Woo, because they showed no interest whatsoever even when an Awakened walked right past them.
Wasn’t that too honest a reaction from them?
Jin-Woo even began wondering if there was another, more discreet way to find out one’s evaluation result or not.
“Next up, please.”
Yet another result came out.
This one also must not have been so good. The steps of the Awakened walking out of the building seemed heavy. But, that was par for the course, really.
‘Well, if high-ranked Hunters appeared frequently, they wouldn’t be paid big bucks, anyway.’
For regular citizens, even being a rank C would be a huge jackpot.
One could still earn a fair bit of money by entering freelancer raid parties, or if one’s luck was good, then entering large Guilds was a viable option, too.
Indeed, there were four rank Cs among the White Tiger Guild’s new recruits, weren’t there?
If one successfully managed to enter a large Guild, then it was pretty much guaranteed that you’d earn an annual salary similar to what doctors or lawyers made.
Ahjussi next to Jin-Woo spoke again.
“I heard that you’d get a ton of money upfront when signing with a large Guild.”
Ahjussi’s hand, still holding the handkerchief, trembled softly.
“Actually, I… I owe some money, you see. Because of that, I had to separate from my little girl and must live alone for the time being. Maybe it’s because of that, but I… I’m feeling really nervous.”
Ahjussi mumbled to himself, before flinching grandly and bowed his head to Jin-Woo in a hurry.
“Aigoo…. Saying something unnecessary to a stranger I’ve just met…. I’m a bit of disgrace, isn’t it? I end up talking a lot when I’m nervous, you see.”
“No, it’s fine.”
Jin-Woo smiled gently and lowered his head, as well.
Ahjussi continued to take deep breaths, as if to reinforce the notion that his earlier declaration of feeling nervous wasn’t an exaggeration.
Meanwhile, another Awakened walked out, and….
“Next up, please come this way.”
…And, it was the turn of ahjussi.
However, ahjussi cautiously shook Jin-Woo’s sleeve, his face full of cold sweat. Could he be feeling ill somewhere, thought Jin-Woo.
“Are you feeling okay?”
Jin-Woo asked, his voice sounding worried.
Ahjussi shook his head.
“No, no. It’s not that, but…. Uhm, do you mind going ahead first? I’m, I’m too tense right now, you see…..”
Ahjussi looked really desperate.
Was there a reason to refuse when someone wished to give up his spot in the queue? Jin-Woo quickly accepted the proposal.
Anyone would be feeling nervous if these few minutes determined the rest of their lives.
Jin-Woo stood up instead of ahjussi and walked over to the Association employee.
The employee spoke in a business-like manner.
“What is your name?”
“It’s Seong Jin-Woo.”
“Mister Seong Jin-Woo…. Right. Please place your hand on the black-coloured panel over there and wait for a little while.”
Following the instruction, Jin-Woo walked over to the measuring device and placed his hand on the black panel.
‘….Uh? This guy’s already been evaluated as an Awakened ranked E?’
The employee took a look at the documentation and glanced at Jin-Woo with a mystified expression. Just why were almost all the Hunters coming here to retake tests all rank E?
The employee’s expression changed to that of apathy, as he activated the measuring device.
SFX for a button being pressed
The magic energy measuring device buzzed noisily, and a short while later, it stopped its operation. The results appeared on the display monitor.
‘Huh? What’s going on here?’
The employee tilted his head this way and that, before speaking to Jin-Woo, as the latter was about to take his hand off the panel.
“Hold up, please.”
“I’d like to run the test one more time.”
Jin-Woo placed his hand back on the panel.
SFX for a button being pressed
But, something like this never happened before?
The expression of the employee gradually hardened. Why was the measuring device malfunctioning all of a sudden?
The employee asked for Jin-Woo’s cooperation once more.
“I’m truly sorry. But, one more time, please.”
Even before he was asked to take the test again, Jin-Woo had already decided to wait and thus didn’t bother to lift his hand away from the panel.
SFX for a button being pressed, repeated
‘W-why is the device behaving like this?!’
Cold sweat drops formed on the employee’s forehead.
People observing from the waiting room gradually grew aware of the fact that something weird was going down right now.
‘What’s going on? Did something happen?’
‘How many times did he activate the measuring device just now?’
‘Kinda looks like there’s a problem here, doesn’t it?’
When everyone’s gazes focused on him, the employee became completely soaked in cold sweat.
SFX for a button being pressed
‘Argh, c’mon now!! What do you want from me?’
Just as the employee was becoming a nervous wreck….
“What now? Where is Chang-Sik? Why are you alone here?”
The employee quickly looked behind him. And he found Manager Jeong Ki-Soo from the rank evaluation application department standing there.
Relief formed on the employee’s face after an unexpected reinforcement made his entrance.
“The senior officer went to the bathroom just now.”
“That fool, how dare he vacate his position in the middle of office hou….?”
Jeong Ki-Soo couldn’t bring himself to finish that sentence.
‘….Huh, I’m the same, isn’t it?’
Whatever the case may have been, he did arrive at the perfect time. The poor newbie employee was sweating out buckets while the senior was nowhere to be seen. Perfect, indeed.
Time for a veteran to step forward, then.
“Okay, so what’s going on?”
Jeong Ki-Soo displayed a bit of interest and took a step forward.
“The measuring device is acting a little weird.”
“The device is what now?”
“Please, take a look. This error message keeps popping up.”
Once the employee took a step back, Jeong Ki-Soo stood in his stead in front of the monitor that displayed the result of Jin-Woo’s measurement.
And right away, Jeong Ki-Soo’s expression froze up.
“…..How long have you been working here?”
“It’s been around six months, sir. Did I press the wrong button?”
“Nope. Just call Chang-Sik and tell him to get over here right now.”
“I’m saying, his toilet break or whatever isn’t important anymore, so tell him to get his a*s over here right away!”
Jeong Ki-Soo raised his voice.
The employee flinched and asked.
“W-what’s the matter, Manager?”
“This isn’t an error message, but it’s saying ‘impossible to measure’! Don’t you understand what that means?”
“Ehhhh?! But, that wasn’t an error message?”
Why was every single newbie employee such a dumba*s?
Jeong Ki-Soo’s gaze left the employee and landed on the person taking the evaluation test.
‘How can such a thing….’
The Master of the White Tiger Guild wanted to know about this man’s reassignment evaluation results.
Jeong Ki-Soo’s gaze remained locked on Seong Jin-Woo as he opened his mouth to speak to the newbie employee.
“You idiot. This message means that this device can’t measure that person’s magic power.”
“Excuse me? B-b-but, but, doesn’t that mean….?”
Did this newbie say it had been around six months since he started working here?
Forget about six months, something like this had not happened in the past two years, so of course, it wasn’t surprising at all to see a newbie employee being completely oblivious.
Jeong Ki-Soo’s voice trembled as he replied.
“Right…. He’s a rank S.”
Rank ‘S’ – ‘Special’.
This rank had been in wide use so people mistook it for an actual official rank, but in reality, this rank simply existed to group those Awakened who couldn’t be measured by any device.
“That’s why, call Chang-Sik right away. Hurry.”
“I’ll call him immediately!”
A short while later, Kim Chang-Sik ran over in a fluster after receiving the call. His breathing was heavy and fast, and he was even trying to fix his falling pants.
“Pant, pant! Okay, let me see.”
After confirming the monitor, Kim Chang-Sik’s complexion paled immediately. And then, when he looked at Jin-Woo, Kim Chang-Sik’s eyes quaked powerfully.
‘This man is the tenth in South Korea….’
Kim Chang-Sik quickly walked over to Jin-Woo.
It was only at this point that Jin-Woo withdrew his hand away from the black penal.
“Excuse me…. Mister Seong Jin-Woo, with the current device…..”
Kim Chang-Sik immediately remembered that Jin-Woo was already a Hunter, so he changed the way he addressed the youth.
“No, wait. Allow me to start over. It’s impossible to measure your magical energy output with this device, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. We need to ask for permission from the higher-ups if we want to use the precision measuring device, so would you mind if you come and visit us again in three days’ time?”
Kim Chang-Sik followed protocol and spoke the official line. He couldn’t even remember properly the last time he said those words. Jin-Woo was an experienced Hunter himself too, and he immediately figured out what those words meant.
Postponing the evaluation.
Or, in other words, once the test result of ‘impossible to measure’ also pops up in the precision device three days later, then he’d definitely be ranked as an ‘S’.
‘This is for the better.’
If he was judged to be a rank A now, then he’d have to raise his Stats again and come back here again.
However, being a Re-Awakened was already an incredibly rare thing, so what would happen if he were to say that he Awakened once more on top of that?
People would see his ‘Re-Awakening’ as luck, but if something like that were to happen again, he’d no doubt receive gazes of suspicion. He definitely wanted to avoid getting mired in annoying complications and waste his valuable time.
Jin-Woo sighed in relief inwardly after seeing this rather fortunate turn of events. And then, when he turned around to leave….
Everyone present inside the building was looking at him weirdly.
“Aigoo, I know that you’re an extremely busy man, so it’d be fine even if you didn’t come personally to visit me, you know?”
“Eii~. Even then, you’re the one and only Chief Park of the Hunter Association, so how could I dare to use a mere phone to speak to you? It’s only correct and proper that I come to see you personally.”
Choi Jong-In smiled with his eyes and buttered up to the other guy, 40-something Chief Park, causing the latter to let out a gentle chuckle.
Just who was this man in front of Park?
He was none other than man leading South Korea’s top Guild, ‘Hunters’.
Also known as the ‘Ultimate Weapon’, Choi Jong-In. Just one word from him, and the country’s most powerful raid team would mobilise like a slick, well-oiled machine.
A man like that was fawning over you, so how could anyone feel bad about that?
Choi Jong-In pulled out a cigarette and asked.
“Will it be fine if I light one up?”
“Oh. Please, go ahead.”
“What about you, Chief Park?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
Choi Jong-In, relaxedly sucking in the cigarette, exuded the air of a man who had achieved everything there was to achieve pretty early on in his life.
‘Is this that elusive thing called charisma?’
As the Chief Park stared at him as if he was bewitched, Choi Jong-In threw out a question.
“By the way, it sounds like Block B is a bit noisier than usual today.”
“Block B, you say?”
Chief Park looked out the window and at Block B.
Truth be told, Chief Park couldn’t hear anything at all.
However, Choi Jong-In was a rank S Hunter. His five senses should never be compared to that of a regular person’s. If Choi Jong-In said it was getting rowdier down there, then something must’ve happened for real.
An honourable guest had come to visit, so what a shameful blunder this was. Chief Park frowned slightly and spoke up.
“Let me go and find out what’s happening.”
Choi Jong-In discarded the cigarette and killed it with his foot.
“I’m also getting curious, so….”
Choi Jong-In raised his head, and a mysterious flash of light could be seen in his eyes for a moment. And an equally mysterious smile formed on his lips.
“Why don’t we go together?”