Thumbs Up, Level Up
— My dear Ji-Cheok.
My dear grandson…
Ji-Cheok’s late grandfather showed up in his dream.
‘Is he about to call out the lottery numbers? I… I have to write them down! Where are my pen and paper?!’ ’
— Ji-Cheok, listen carefully.
Something good is going to happen tomorrow.
“It… It’s not about the lottery numbers?”
— No, you fool! Forget about the lottery! I’ll give you something better than lottery numbers, don’t you worry!
His grandfather exclaimed, giving him a thumbs-up.
— You’ve listened to your grandpa’s words so well and have been so good-natured this whole time, that’s why I worked hard for this moment.
There’s something very good waiting for you tomorrow.
Just continue to be a blessing to others.
— Listen to me, Ji-Cheok.
It’s really important for you to do that.
All right? My beloved grandson… I have to go now.
“Wait a minute, Grandpa.
I’d rather get the lottery numbers than live like that… Grandpa?”
‘What the hell is happening tomorrow?’
My grandpa once told me, “I don’t expect much.
I didn’t do much for you, so I won’t demand anything from you in return.
It’s okay even if you’re not doing well in school.
There’s no need to do better than others.
Just live your life with kindness.”
That’s what he said when I stole a Yakult from someone else’s delivery pouch for the first time.
Instead of scolding me, he went to that person’s house and started begging for forgiveness with a ninety-degree bow.
It was a shocking sight, this man was the king of Go at the park and a master of haggling at street markets.
It was the first time that he had bowed down before others.
“Just live your life with kindness.”
Being the child I was, I vowed at that moment to be a kind person and wailed that I would never steal ever again.
My grandpa patted my head with his wrinkled hands for a good while.
I didn’t know that this would be the last of my grandpa’s teachings.
He passed away in a car accident the next day.
I’ve been obsessively trying to live as a nice person ever since.
But just because I tried, it doesn’t mean I did a great job.
I mean, I would help an old lady push her wastepaper cart, or if I came across any change, I would drop it in a donation box.
I’m at the level of any ordinary Korean citizen.
It’s not like I’m a saint.
Every time I think about my grandpa, doing these things comforts me.
I wonder if he’s doing well.
But why the heck did he appear in my dream? And what else could be better than the lottery?
There’s no way of finding out.
“Hey! Um! Seems like we hunted a lot today! Fucking Hunters, they don’t ever think about the people cleaning up after them.”
Monster corpses were strewn all over the place.
Normal people would vomit at this cruel sight, but for Ji-Cheok, it was all too familiar.
He was a Hunter Assistant, and this world was nowhere close to normal.
It was as if a game had become reality.
One day, dungeons had suddenly formed into the world, while people with superpowers called the ‘Awakened’, as well as beings known as ‘gods’, had also come into existence.
By slaughtering monsters, the Awakened would level up, as well as obtain points that could be used in stores.
The situation was pretty simple, even the neighbor’s dog knew how it worked.
Then, at some point, way too many dungeons had appeared, and the situation had gone out of control.
Goblins had taken over Kim XX’s farm and killed everyone, while orcs had appeared at Park YY’s farm, killing the elderly and the foreign laborers.
‘People in the past probably wouldn’t believe their eyes if they saw what was going on right now…’
It seemed, however, that people always found a way to beat death.
As the number of dungeons increased, so did the number of Awakened.
Incredible resources that could not be explained by modern science were discovered in the dungeons, so humans naturally found ways to profit from them.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were replaced by the Military, Energy, and Media companies as the holy trinity that controlled the world.
This was how the Awakened came to be called Hunters.
Um Ji-Cheok was Hunter Assistant No.
20431, an underling to the Hunters.
His first name was Ji-Cheok, and his last name was Um.
The name Ji-Cheok by itself carried a good meaning: Ji meant ‘kindness’ and Cheok meant ‘moral righteousness’.
Together, they signified ‘living a kind and righteous life.’ The problem was adding the last name ‘Um’ — put together, ‘Um Ji-Cheok’ actually meant ‘thumbs-up’.
That was why the fellow hunter assistants who worked with him only called him ‘Um.’
Do you think high-ranking people like the Hunters care to think about people like us?”
As soon as killing monsters became profitable, Hunters grew popular, as they became a combination of celebrities, GodTube stars, and soccer players.
Ironically, earning lots of money was more praised than saving people’s lives in this hellish world.
It was indeed a world where money was more precious than life.
As for the Assistants, they were the lowest class of cleaning workers.
Ji-Cheok used an electric saw to cut off a dead goblin’s arm.
“Well, the hunters once told Um not to go near them because he smelled.”
They were the ones who scavenged the monsters caught and sent them to the resource department for money, but the Hunters always belittled them.
“Aren’t you angry, Um?” one of Ji-Cheok’s coworkers asked.
“I wouldn’t be doing this job if I got mad at them every time,” he replied.
A Hunter Assistant’s main job was to deal with the bodies of dead monsters, but sometimes they also had to retrieve the bodies of Hunters.
Ji-Cheok wanted to be as respectful as possible, but he couldn’t stand it when he had to deal with bodies that had been eaten by the monsters.
After all, getting rid of an intact corpse was way easier than the cases where the monster was a carnivore and he had to split open its stomach to remove the Hunter’s body.
It was a task that nobody in their right mind would be able to handle.
‘Maybe… that’s why the Hunters find us disgusting.’
Ji-Cheok smoothly cut off the goblin’s arm.
Kang, his colleague, admired the neat cut.
“Your craftsmanship is truly artistic.
It’s worthy of being a textbook example for teaching newcomers,” Mr.
“Nothing will come out of praising me,” Ji-Cheok responded.
“It’s just that… I’m proud of you.
You’re the only one who endured this job for this long at such a young age, and now you’re much better than us.
You keep persevering,” Mr.
Kang patted him on the back and gave him a thumbs-up.
“Seriously, though, you have to give a thumbs-up to Um’s skill.
Don’t you guys agree?”
The Hunter Assistants raised their thumbs when they heard him.
There’s no one like Um,” they replied.
“I actually think that Um is going to be our next Hunter Assistant Leader,” Mr.
Kang said in praise.
“I still choke up when I remember that he worked overtime for me so I could go to the hospital when my wife got sick,” he wiped his eyes.
Lee rolled his eyes, “Oh my God, is this guy going through menopause?”
‘Men in their fifties sure tend to get emotional.’
“What are you talking
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