Thumbs Up, Level Up
When the tense conversation between Ji-Cheok and Ji-Han started to relax, Mu-Cheok looked at Ji-Cheok again.
He was trying to warn Ji-Cheok not to let his guard down.
Even though Ji-Cheok was already trying to be careful, it wasn’t enough for Mu-Cheok.
“How do you take the practical exam?”
“It’s nothing much.
You step through a designated gate and begin hunting, with an assessor observing your movements.
If your safety becomes compromised, you’ll be disqualified immediately.
The purpose of the exam is to measure your capabilities in combat and survival.”
It sounded easy, but Ji-Cheok anticipated that it was going to be anything but.
‘Hmmm… I don’t know…’ Ji-Cheok thought.
Ji-Cheok tilted his head to think and Ji-Han continued.
— Let’s get you your equipment first, then start basic combat training.
You have nothing to worry about.
“Aaah, hold on! Can I ask you for a favor?” Ji-Cheok suddenly thought about his problem with finding housing.
He explained what was happening, and Ji-Han replied with ease.
— Not a problem.
I’ll take care of it right away.
* * *
The next day, Ji-Cheok heard a car pull up and looked out his window.
A fancy foreign car was heading towards the dormitory building.
Although he didn’t know much about cars, he could tell that while the vehicle in front of him looked somewhat like a mid-size sedan, it was actually twice as spacious as a normal car.
It had a modern boxy design rather than the typical sports car curves, and people took pictures as it passed by.
At the front of the vehicle, Ji-Cheok could see a brand symbol that looked pretty expensive.
‘It’s such a weird-looking car.
Why is it so boxy?’
The car looked expensive, but also strange.
Ji-Han stepped out of the car and stared right at the window where Ji-Cheok was standing.
Ji-Cheok was shocked at how Ji-Han had located him instantly, and wondered if it was due to Ji-Han’s Awakened powers.
I’m here to pick you up.” He spoke at the open window.
Ji-Cheok was bewildered by the fact that his employer had personally come to greet him instead of ordering his subordinates to do it, and thought it was a little over-the-top.
He quickly changed and went downstairs.
As he got close to the car, he also noticed that Ji-Han had driven here by himself.
Thinking it would be impolite to sit alone in the back, Ji-Cheok sat in the passenger seat.
The car moved forward so smoothly that it felt like a ship floating on a cloud.
“This car is so comfortable.
How does it feel to drive?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“Actually, the driver’s seat is not that great,” Ji-Han replied.
“But the car’s so expensive,” Ji-Cheok was surprised.
“Well, yeah, but people with money don’t drive cars like this.
They sit in the back,” Ji-Han responded.
Ji-Cheok was confused.
Ji-Han was definitely someone with money, but wasn’t he driving the car anyway?
“The partnership contract with Jungha Group’s trade team has been finalized.
If you disclose your skills to us, we’ll offer equipment tailored to your abilities,” Ji-Han continued.
“How specific do I have to be?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“The more detail you provide, the more accurately fitted the equipment you will receive.
Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter if you don’t care for it, but…”
Ji-Han turned the steering wheel again.
“…Once you’ve faced multiple near-death experiences, you’ll realize that there’s no point in keeping everything a secret.
You can hide one skill as a trump card, but it’d be better if you gave us all the details about your main skill,” Ji-Han added.
The car drove along the banks of the Han River, went across the bridge, and passed through a tunnel.
They finally arrived at a secluded area in Seoul.
Despite the steep slope that indicated they were on a mountain side, Ji-Cheok knew that he was in the center of the city.
It was surprising that there was room for this sequestered place in the heart of Seoul, as the city was overflowing with buildings and faced high housing prices.
“This area is a Hunters Complex.
Hunters affiliated with the Jungha Group reside here,” Ji-Han said.
“Wow, there’s actually a place like that?” Ji-Cheok asked.
Ji-Cheok had never heard the media or the Hunters he encountered at work mention anything remotely related to this place.
“We are only offering it to Hunters who sign a long-term contract with us, so that’s why it’s not well known.
Recently, the Daehun Group has swept up a lot of talented people, because they offer their own housing as well.
Having a suitable shelter is an essential aspect of a Hunter’s life,” Ji-Han said.
It became clear to Ji-Cheok why people were saying that the Daehun Group now rivaled the Jungha Group.
He was amazed by how good the Daehun Group’s Headhunter was.
The car stopped in front of a three-story house made of white bricks.
The wall around the building was high enough to prevent anyone outside from looking in.
There was a parking lot entrance on the first floor, and it opened automatically as Ji-Han drove toward it.
“Where are we?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“This is a retired Hunter’s home,” Ji-Han answered.
“Retired already? But you told me that houses were built pretty recently,” Ji-Cheok’s eyebrow rose.
Ji-Han replied with a calm face, “The Hunter that owned this place passed away fighting in a dungeon yesterday.”
Ji-Cheok’s mouth opened.
He remembered glossing over an obituary of a top-rank Hunter in the morning.
He was so famous that even Ji-Cheok knew his name.
“He passed away…?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“Yes, it was a very unfortunate accident.”
Ji-Cheok was a bit suspicious — while Ji-Han’s voice sounded sad, his facial expression didn’t display the same compassion.
For a moment, Ji-Cheok was struck by the extremely concerning thought that Jungha had intentionally killed the Hunter to give him this house.
‘Ah, no way.
I’m way overthinking this.
He wouldn’t have.’
Ji-Cheok followed Ji-Han into the mansion and saw a gigantic hanging picture frame.
The Hunter had placed his arm around the Jungha Group Chairman’s eldest son, Jung Han-Taek.
They seemed to be really close.
“Uh… He must have been close with Mr.
Jung Han-Taek,” Ji-Cheok said carefully.
“Yes, he was my uncle’s right-hand man.
It’s horrible that he passed away right before they won the battle.
I hope he rests in peace…” Ji-Han responded while looking at the picture.
Did this guy actually kill him?’
Ji-Cheok got goosebumps near his neck as he felt a sinking feeling that Ji-Han had a hand in the Hunter’s death.
“As you might have guessed, it’s a luxurious penthouse.
There aren’t many Hunters in Korea that live in such a place.
It’s the kind of shelter that protects the lives of top-rank Hunters,” Ji-Han said.
Shelter protecting the lives of top-rank Hunters… Is that why they forced this Hunter to retire, to make room for me?’ Ji-Cheok thought.
“I’ll give it to you for a good price.
Will you move in?”
Ji-Han handed over the documents, and the price displayed on the agreement was very low.
“Bank transfers between Hunters are tax-free, so you’ll be saving quite a lot of money,” Ji-Han said.
‘To be honest, I wouldn’t really recommend the Jungha Group for you.’
Ji-Cheok remembered Choi Hyun-Jin, the Headhunter of the Daehun Group, and her warning about the Jungha Group.
However, he also remembered the fact that he had to take big risks if he wanted the chance to bring in big returns.
Nothing came for free in this world.
“After you sign the contract, I’ll show you another great place in this complex,” Ji-Han said.
“What place?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“The training center.
A lot of Hunters are waiting to meet you,” Ji-Han replied.
“Yes, you’re our top rookie this year,” Ji-Han responded.
* * *
The price of the penthouse was better than expected, but it wasn’t zero.
Ji-Han seemed to be aware that Ji-Cheok would feel burdensome and refuse the unit if it was given to him for free, so Ji-Han offered a reasonable price.
Also, since the contract seemed different from a general real estate contract, Ji-Cheok told him that he would have to consult his brother.
“Yes, of course.
It’s actually good timing, Mr.
Um Mu-Cheok is at the training center, working out right now.
He has been training his body very hard in preparation for the Class B Awakening Stone,” Ji-Han said.
‘Already!?’ Ji-Cheok thought.
“Then, when will the Awakening Stone arrive?” Ji-Cheok asked.
“He said he would like to use it sometime next week.
We have it ready, so we’re just waiting for him right now,” Ji-Han replied.
Ji-Cheok realized how determined Mu-Cheok was, since it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Using the Stone right away was something only an amateur would do.
Training and preparing his body could allow Mu-Cheok to reach a higher rank.
‘I shouldn’t be lazy, either.
I don’t want to start hearing that my younger brother is better than me,’ Ji-Cheok thought.
Ji-Cheok wanted to maintain a clear gap between his abilities and Mu-Cheok’s.
He started thinking about what he would need to train and focus on so that Mu-Cheok would never catch up to him.
Ji-Han led Ji-Cheok to the training center surrounded by bulletproof one-way glass.
This made it impossible to look in from the outside, in order to prevent the Hunters’ abilities from being leaked.
Ji-Han strode ahead.
The color and marks on the uniforms of the Hunters were all slightly different.
While they all had the letters “J” and “G” representing the Jungha Group, the designs of the letters varied from person to person.
Ji-Cheok wondered what the reason for that was.
“The Hunters seem to train in different groups,” Ji-Cheok said.
“Yes, rivalry between factions is pretty intense.
Also, you don’t have to filter your words.
Just say what you want to say,” Ji-Han replied.
That looked to be the correct answer.
Considering the different materials, designs and sewing lines of the Hunters’ clothes, it was clear that they had gotten them from different companies.
‘ Wow, the lack of unity is so evident that it should be considered a skill.
I heard about the infighting, but I didn ’t know it was to this extent,’ Ji-Cheok thought.
“You aren’t going to drop out on us, right? Not at this point.” Ji-Han asked while pressing the elevator button.
“Would you let me run away?” Ji-Cheok asked back.
“As long as you return the money, I guess so..? Your brother was very meticulous with the contract.
We would have to go to court for a few years, but you’d probably hate me by then,” Ji-Han said.
Ji-Han’s worries about being hated were nothing more than an insinuation that he would do worse things to Ji-Cheok than just suing him.
Ji-Cheok felt the subtle threat in Ji-Han’s words, but he decided to pretend that he didn’t understand.
After all, ignorance was bliss.
“I’m not sure if I can fulfill your expectations.
I’m… umm…” Ji-Cheok hesitated.
“You’ve actually already fulfilled some of our expectations.
You’ve just become an Awakened, but you can use every kind of skill, including melee and long-range attacks, healing and so on.
Also, you’ve proven that you have a strong and steady mentality.
Of course, I get that you’re still a beginner and you have a lot to learn.
In any case, you’ve already padded your contract with so many terms and requirements, so you can’t back out now.”
‘Don’t you worry.
You’ll get the best bang for your buck, and then some.’Ji-Cheok thought.
The elevator door opened, and Ji-Cheok saw his younger brother sweating together with some Hunters inside the glass wall.
Mu-Cheok noticed Ji-Cheok even before he had the chance to say anything, and waved his hand.
Since Mu-Cheok was a big guy, it seemed intimidating when he jumped and waved.
[You have received 3 Likes.]
‘Ah, man, these Likes are the best!’ Ji-Cheok thought.
Gaining these Likes confirmed that Mu-Cheok’s greeting was sincere.
Mu-Cheok smiled and started running towards him, but was stopped by his trainer.
He was so sweaty that he looked like a poor dog soaked in the rain.
“I’ll finish this and come see you!”
Mu-Cheok had taken his shirt off and was only wearing sweatpants.
He had bulked up, and the intensive training had further developed his already massive back.
He had always been well-built, but now he looked fit enough that anyone would believe he was a Hunter.
Standing across from Mu-Cheok was a foreigner who seemed to be even a little taller than him.
He was a newly-recruited mercenary.
“Why is he already sparring? My brother hasn’t even Awakened yet…” Ji-Cheok said.
“It’ll be just a normal physical fight, Hunter abilities are banned.
It’s still pretty intense, with how close it is to our actual training,” Ji-Han explained.
“They’re definitely fighting without any Awakened abilities, right?” Ji-Cheok wanted to confirm.
You and your brother are close, right?” Ji-Han smiled.
Mu-Cheok immediately distanced himself from the opponent with a teep kick, but the mercenary kept going and threw hooks as if the kick wasn’t painful at all.
The punches were so powerful that even Ji-Cheok could feel the air move from where he was standing.
‘He’s going to get hurt,’ Ji-Cheok worried.
Although he wasn’t using any Hunter skills, the foreigner was nonetheless fighting at the level of a professional kickboxer.
Just one more kick seemed to be enough to knock out Mu-Cheok in this fight, and the mercenary struck precisely with that intention.
However, Mu-Cheok somehow saw it coming and shifted to the side, narrowly avoiding the kick.
He then stepped closer to the mercenary.
Everyone saw Mu-Cheok winding up his clenched fist, and in the blink of an eye, he swung fast and hard into the mercenary’s face.
The center went silent as everyone heard the mercenary’s jawbone cracking.
This intrigued Ji-Han as he placed his hand on his chin.
“Wow, is he the reincarnation of Ip Man? His fighting movements are so well-coordinated, he looks like he came straight out of a textbook.”Ji-Han said.
The mercenary muttered furiously in his own language.
Ji-Cheok didn’t understand what he was saying, but he could tell it was swearing.
The fight continued.
‘Mu-Cheok’s stronger than I thought, he’s not getting pushed around.’
Ji-Cheok realized that although the mercenary might have more experience with his Awakened abilities, the fight showed that there was no significant difference in basic strength between him and Mu-Cheok.
The more surprising thing was Mu-Cheok’s dynamic visual acuity — how was he able to see through his opponent’s movement?
As if he knew what was going to happen next, Mu-Cheok shifted into blocking the mercenary’s counter-punch.
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