Solo Leveling Novel Chapter 77

14

The entirety of the Block B had become deathly silent.

‘J-just now, definitely, impossible to measure….’

‘D-does that mean, that guy’s a rank S?’

‘I’ve only ever heard of it, but seeing an impossible to measure rank with my own eyes is….’

Gulp.

The recruitment agents dispatched by various smaller Guilds were busy swallowing dry saliva as they stared at Jin-Woo turning in their direction.

However, none of them tried to talk to him.

“…..”

“…..”

If he was a rank C, then they would’ve started a war of nerves trying to sign him up to their respective Guilds. They would have formed the proverbial queue just for a chance to talk to him.

What about a rank B, then?

They would pounce on him like crazy while throwing around quite attractive-sounding offers, such as ‘guaranteed spot as a high-ranking officer in the Guild’, or ‘shares in the Guild’, etc., etc.

Onlookers would probably see it as an all-out war or something.

Well, it was not such a weird thing when considering the value of a Hunter ranked B, or the fact that they would receive a fat bonus by luring a high-ranked Awakened like that to their Guilds.

There were enough rank Bs who fell for the sweet-talk, after all; they would rather prefer to be the head of a snake, instead of the tail of a dragon.

However, the story changed when it came to a rank A. A rank A would be showered with a crap ton of special privileges by entering large Guilds, never mind small-to-medium Guilds.

Being selected as a member of the main raid team was a given, and since the main raid team only targetted high-ranked dungeons, the financial reward would be quite enormous as well.

Was that all?

If the offers of the Guilds weren’t to your liking, you could just establish your own Guild and become its Master.

You could just make a small or a medium Guild by yourself, so was there a real reason to sign with one?

Indeed, rank As were that kind of existence.

However….

This man, who got his magic energy measured just now, was supposedly a rank S.

Not an ‘A’, but an ‘S’.

It might be an easy thing to say, but the truth was, that single letter was only used to denote the very best Awakened in the country, with only nine of them existing in South Korea.

‘With that man included, it’ll be ten, isn’t it?’

‘The tenth rank S Hunter…..’

This youth was not someone these headhunters from the various small Guilds could even attempt to talk to.

Gulp….

Nope, all they could do now was to silently swallow their saliva. He was literally a pie in the sky to them.

But, it was then.

‘Wait a minute…..’

‘This, couldn’t this be my opportunity?’

A handful of quick-witted scouts suddenly had this remarkable idea: How about acting as a middleman, guide this new rank S Awakened to a large Guild, and get paid handsomely for their efforts?

The contract signing fee for a rank S would easily exceed tens of billions of Won, at the least. Just one percent of that fee as their commission would prove to be a good enough incentive to quit their current Guilds.

And, if one got lucky and got on the good books of that youth to become his personal agent, then hell, you’d be set for life.

Didn’t a personal agent of some rank S Hunter get a Po*sche as a birthday present or something?!

‘….Should I try it?’

‘My silver tongue won’t lose to anyone, anywhere, so, like….’

‘Should I just man up and jump in?’

Within a blink of time, all sorts of thoughts entered and exited the minds of the scouts. The ridicule of the failure would only last for a short while, but the sweetness of success would last forever.

Just as the scouts sneakily glanced at their peers and began inching forward….

Someone suddenly pointed towards the entrance of the Block B.

“Huh? Isn’t that….?”

Was it because everyone was so tense already?

No one could tell who did it first – everyone seemingly shifted their gazes over in the direction the first man to open his mouth pointed at. The eyes of the scouts widened immediately.

“Heok!”

A man wearing a stylish business suit was entering Block B. There wasn’t a single person present who didn’t know that man’s name.

“Choi…. Choi Jong-In?!”

“Why, why is the leader of the ‘Hunters’ here?”

Sure enough….

Choi Jong-In felt the gazes of the crowd and lightly tidied up his suit, before walking straight towards Jin-Woo.

‘But, isn’t this too fast for him to get here after receiving an alert?’

‘No, wait a minute. Did he already sign up with the Hunters?’

‘Did the Hunters know about him? Well, the top Guild sure operates on another level, no?’

‘Yup, as expected….’

Scouts present all readily accepted the inevitable conclusion to come.

Perhaps, it was a relief that none of them stepped forward and tried to chat up the youth. How embarrassing would it have been, when one of them started yapping on and ended up running into Choi Jong-In, instead?

Only now did they realise the direction this situation had taken.

‘Well, with Choi Jong-In’s entrance, the picture is complete.’

‘Hiya~. This is so cool.’

‘To think that the leader of the Hunters Guild has personally stepped up…. Indeed, treatments for S ranks are totally different from the rest, no?’

Although the scouts did feel a bit rueful, they nevertheless witnessed this scene of the leader of the South Korea’s top Guild meeting with the Awakened blessed with the highest rank there was, with warm expressions on their faces.

On the other hand….

Jin-Woo was breathing a sigh of relief at the grand entrance of Choi Jong-In.

‘What a relief.’

He was pondering what to do next after being stared at by so many pairs of eyes. But what a wonderful timing it was, that man walking in and dividing the attention.

Jin-Woo inwardly thanked Choi Jong-In for providing some unexpected help, and simply walked past the latter. And Choi jong-In’s eyes widened in surprise.

‘Huh? This can’t be right.’

Choi Jong-In hurriedly called out to Jin-Woo.

“Excuse me, can you stop for a second?”

Jin-Woo stopped walking away and turned around to look.

“…..?”

Choi Jong-In’s eyes gleamed brightly as he stared into Jin-Woo’s face.

‘This man’s the tenth….’

Choi Jong-In beat around the bush with Chief Park about checking out the situation together or some such, but the truth was, he already had sensed what was happening before coming here.

‘I mean, they’ve been yapping on so loudly about impossible to measure this and device error that, so how can I not hear them?’

Thanks to that, though, he was given a huge opportunity here.

This guy was a rank S. A rank S!!

By signing this man, the Hunters Guild would then boast the services of three S ranks, and be able to brush shoulders with the best Guilds in the world, never mind those found in South Korea.

How could he not salivate over that prospect?

‘There’s no need to borrow a measuring device, either.’

Just a short meeting of their gazes and he immediately sensed the depths of the youth’s strength. Without a doubt, this guy was the highest-grade Hunter there was. Hell, Choi Jong-In saw absolutely no reason to wait for three, four days at all.

“Hmm, hmm.”

Choi Jong-In cleared his throat and formed his trademark smile.

“I’m Choi Jong-In, the leader of the Hunters Guild.”

Of course, Jin-Woo knew that already. Well, that man’s face could be seen frequently enough whenever a TV was turned on, after all.

Jin-Woo wondered briefly why such a famous man was trying to talk to him after coming all the way to the Association, but well, he didn’t have the leeway to ask for the clarification.

Jin-Woo sneaked a glance at the clock mounted on one of the walls.

‘It’s already ten to six….’

If he thought about the time he needed to go ‘there’, then he was cutting it pretty close.

When Jin-Woo formed an expression that implied ‘Okay, you’re done with your introduction, so hurry up with what you want to say’, Choi Jong-In became a bit flustered as he continued on.

“Ah, well, actually…. I’m aware that you just had your Awakened rank evaluation.”

“Yes.”

“By any chance, have you thought of a Guild to join?”

“No.”

A bright smile formed on Choi Jong-In’s face when he heard that reply.

‘Yup, it’s done.’

One of the top three Guilds in the world – ‘Hunters’.

What a sweet title that was. From today onwards, it’d not be a simple daydream anymore.

‘You’re mine.’

Choi Jong-In’s chest puffed up from happiness, and spoke the line that might be recorded in the annals of history.

“I’d like to speak to you regarding that issue, so can you spare a minute to talk, please?”

“Sorry, but don’t have the time.”

Jin-Woo quickly voiced his refusal and hurriedly left the Block B building.

“……”

It happened so fast that Choi Jong-In didn’t even have the chance to think about stopping the youth from leaving. Meanwhile, the Association employees and the scouts from other Guilds belatedly realised what had transpired and began freaking out.

“What the hell??”

“Wait, did Choi Jong-In get kicked to the curve?!”

“No matter who sees it, he was ignored!”

Mutter, mutter…..

The waiting room became very noisy all of a sudden. Choi Jong-In did his best to maintain his calm and looked to his side.

“Chief Park?”

“Yes?”

Chief Park replied with an awkward look on his face.

“Did I make a mistake during my introduction?”

“W-well, I….. I wonder. I’m not sure.”

Obviously, Chief Park heard everything as he was standing to the side. Still, this wasn’t the right time to say that out loud, no?

When Chief Park shut his mouth, Choi Jong-In sheepishly scratched the side of his head.

‘Was I too careless with my approach….?’

Still, there was no reason to feel disappointed here. Without a doubt, he was one step ahead of other Guilds.

‘I’m the only one who knows about the appearance of the new rank S.’

The re-measurement was scheduled for three days later. There was still some time left until the official announcement.

‘Before that, though, I gotta find another opportunity to talk to him, no matter what….’

Wasn’t there a good way?

While Choi Jong-In began pondering his options, he spotted someone else hurriedly running towards the building.

‘…..Wait, isn’t he…?

Now that was definitely a familiar face.

When that man pushed open the glass door and entered, Choi Jong-In spoke up with a surprised expression on his face.

“Chairman Baek? What are you…..?”

Baek Yun-Ho’s eyes also widened after recognising Choi Jong-In.

“Master Choi?”

Choi Jong-In quickly deciphered Baek Yun-Ho’s expression.

‘It’s like, he knows he’s been busted….’

It was not very likely that he came running after an informant rang him up just now. No, the time of his arrival didn’t make sense if that was the case.

‘I mean, the distance between the White Tiger Guild offices and the Hunter Association is great, so….’

That’s right – Baek Yun-Ho knew from the get-go.

….He had prior knowledge regarding what would happen here.

‘Meaning, he knows about the existence of that man already?’

But, that couldn’t be. If so, he’d never let that man go through the reassignment test in this fashion.

‘If it were me, I’d make him sign the contract first and then let him take the test.’

It was here that the scattered puzzle pieces in Choi Jong-In’s head began falling into their respective places.

‘…..No way. Could it be?’

The White Tiger Guild. The incident during their training. The Red Gate. The mystery helper. And then, the newly-appeared rank S Awakened.

– The White Tiger must’ve received help from someone they don’t want others to know about.

– A newbie who hasn’t gone through the rank assignment test? Or, maybe a convict whose identity can’t be revealed?

Now everything made sense.

…..Found him.

‘So, it was that man, huh.’

Baek Yun-Ho was completely out of breath. He must’ve ran really hard and fast to get here. Most likely, he had not left that man to his own devices. No, the Master of the White Tiger Guild actually couldn’t stop the youth even if he wanted to.

Choi Jong-In stared at Baek Yun-Ho and formed a knowing smile.

‘You let him slip through your fingers.’

Because, he wasn’t the same as Baek Yun-Ho…..

‘Thanks for the opportunity.’

Choi Jong-In didn’t say anything else and relaxedly walked past Baek Yun-Ho.

Meanwhile, Baek Yun-Ho took a look around. He couldn’t spot Jin-Woo anywhere.

‘Am I too late?’

Baek Yun-Ho could only look on at the distancing back of Choi Jong-In and softly sigh.

“Fuu-woo….”

Who knew that the Master of Hunters Guild would be at the Hunters Association?

Baek Yun-Ho scratched the back of his head and muttered to himself.

“Things just got complicated….”

***

The visiting hours of the Seoul’s Ilshin hospital ended at eight in the evening.

“Are you the guardian of the patient Park Kyoung-Hye?”

“That’s correct.”

“You can go and see her. Are you aware of the visiting hours cut-off time?”

“Yes, I’m aware.”

Finishing his chat by the nursing station, Jin-Woo quickly walked to the patient ward his mother was in. Thanks to his hurried steps, he arrived there not too long afterwards.

Clang…

Jin-Woo opened the door and entered the ward, and quietly sat down on the chair next to the bed his mother was lying in. She seemed to be in a deep slumber.

‘With her like this, it’s like she’d wake up at any moment now….’

A slumber that no one could wake up from; it was a new type of illness that appeared with the advent of the Gates.

‘I heard from someone that this hospital alone has over ten patients suffering the same illness….’

Jin-Woo gently held his mother’s hand.

“Mom….”

Thankfully, the life support machines using the magic crystals as fuel managed to stop mom and her hand from wasting away, even though she had been in a coma for many years now.

However, magic crystals were expensive. The magic crystals to fuel the life-support machines for a month cost over five million Won.

A youth in his early twenties would never have been able to afford such a fee, if it weren’t for him working for the Hunters Association and was qualified to receive their medical aid scheme.

Because he’d been working his a*s off until now, he was able to hold his mom’s hand like this. However, everything would change soon.

He would no longer simply be satisfied with her still breathing like this, and actually be able to cure her outright.

The Divine Water of Life – the cure-all the System had gifted him with.

Whether it’d work or not was something to worry about later. Right now, crafting it was his first priority.

“I’ll save you.”

Mom did her best to stabilise the family when his father went missing, even though she never enjoyed robust health. Not too long from now, he’d get to see her up on her two feet again.

‘Please, just wait a little while longer.’

How long did he sit there by her side?

Jin-Woo finally pushed himself up after a lengthy vigil.

Ending his definitely-not short visit, Jin-Woo wordlessly walked out of the ward and carefully closed the door behind him. And when he turned around to leave, he got to spot a familiar face standing in the corridor.

“On that day… it was you who killed the monsters in the dual dungeon, wasn’t it?”

A low and think, manly voice.

Sharp, scary eyebrows.

He was none other than Woo Jin-Cheol from the Monitoring Division.

Jin-Woo didn’t reply. There was no reason to, nor did he particularly feel like it, either. Instead, there was something else he wanted to ask.

“How did you find out that I was here?”

“I tried to guess the places you might head off to. I called the hospital and they informed me of your presence here.”

The Association was paying for mom’s hospital fees, after all.

‘Well, that’s going to change soon.’

It was possible that Woo Jin-Cheol checked the hospital first, before anywhere else. Should he chalk that up to the swift nature befitting the Monitoring Division?

Jin-Woo let a smirk form on his face.

“Did you seek me out just to ask me about that day’s events?”

“No, I did not.”

“Well, then. How can I help you?”

“There is someone who’d like to speak to you. Would you mind accompanying me for a little while?”

The infamous Monitoring Division of the Hunters Association.

The main role the Monitoring Division performed was to watch and manage those high-risk Hunters, as well to punish those who broke the law. From a Hunter’s perspective, they weren’t really a welcoming presence.

Of course, Jin-Woo’s gaze wasn’t too friendly, either.

“Is that an order?”

“No.”

Woo Jin-Cheol took his sunglasses off. He then deeply bowed his head, his voice sounding much more serious than before.

“I’d like to ask you for this favour.”

“…..”

Jin-Woo didn’t expect Woo Jin-Cheol, with his fearsome countenance and all, to assume that kind of attitude.

Jin-Woo pondered a little, before deciding to find out who wanted to meet him first.

“Who wants to talk to me?”

Woo Jin-Cheol raised his head only then.

“It’s the President of the Hunters Association, Goh Gun-Hui.”

Woo Jin-Cheol then pointed towards the corner behind him and spoke.

“The Association President is currently here.”