Chapter 1. Prologue
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Oh Sang-jin is one of the managers of the Karma Guild.
But unlike others, he was not a layman. He was the son of a guild leader.
So he was able to raise a fortune of 2 billion right away when other managers hesitated.
‘It is fortunate that Kang Je-jun is a screwball.’
Oh god, it’s an open ransom auction in a cafe. Oh Sang-jin has never experienced such a bizarre thing as today.
Well, thanks to that, he was able to sign a contract with ease.
– I will briefly explain the second round of the exam which will be held shortly.
Over the monitor, he could hear the voice of the association’s staff in charge of the test. Oh Sang-jin was now in a monitor room overviewing the test scene.
In addition, it was a waiting room where other managers and families of applicants could monitor the second exam.
A huge screen combining dozens of monitors showed applicants wearing protective suits handed out by employees.
―From now on, you will enter the forest as a team. The exam content is simple. You just have to survive without getting out for a set period of time.
Hunter exams were getting more difficult day by day.
In the early days, the association issued a license after checking simple written papers and skills.
However, the death rate of the hunters at that time was no joke.
This was because those who have skills but are not qualified in other factors, such as poor basic physical strength or less mentally armed, also participated in the hunt.
The next thing that was adopted was to release the captured beast to hunt.
However, it also encountered practical difficulties. First of all, it was a job to capture the beast without any wounds.
Although it was the weakest beasts that were needed, a considerable amount of manpower was consumed to capture them. It soon led to a waste of the national treasury and taxes.
So, a kind of tournament-type battle appeared. A one-on-one competition between test takers to conduct the evaluation.
This, too, was soon pointed out that it did not develop the ability to adapt to the situation within the dungeon, and eventually today’s test form appeared.
“You can think of the forest as a dungeon and you are the beasts. You just have to lead your own team, kill the other teams, and hold out for as long as you can.”
A candidate raised his hand cautiously and asked a question.
“To hold out for a long time is… … Are you saying it’s okay to hide in a corner?”
“That’s possible, too. But it won’t be easy for you.”
The staff answered this question with a bored look, as if he had heard it hundreds of times more.
“The forest is surrounded by circular curtains. And the area gets smaller over time. At first, the area is large enough to fit a few large playgrounds in it, but eventually it shrinks to about the size of a studio.”
If someone crosses that curtain, then he or she will be considered as out. At that point, the person continued to explain how the test will get over.
“And this test is not a relative evaluation, but an absolute evaluation. And every single one of your actions is monitored which may be considered a subject to score reduction or not. Hiding doesn’t deduct points, but there’s a much higher added point for actively hunting enemies by searching for them.”
Hiding well and running away is also an important ability in dungeons. But in the end, hunters enter the dungeon to ‘hunt’ beasts.
In that sense, the score was higher to search and kill the enemy than to hide.
When the questioner lowered his hand as if he had been convinced, the staff looked through the rest of the applicants.
“It looks like you don’t have any more questions, so let’s move on. Here is the team announcement. The team is as balanced as possible based on your characteristics and fit rate.”
Candidates gathered in groups looking at the large list of teams. The team consisted of up to four players, and there were not many teams of three. It is appropriately placed according to the sum of their fit rates.
But, there was only one team of two players.
Do-joon and Kang Je-joon were one team.
Kang Je-joon looked at it and wriggled his eyebrows. Then he called the staff out loud.
“What can I do for you?”
“Me and this guy are a team.”
“Yes. The two of you have the best fit here, so that’s how we’ve arranged it.”
“I want to do it alone, can’t I?”
The employee was taken back by Kang Je-joon’s words. Even if he didn’t know whether he was going to protest to get a disadvantageous team of two people, but he wanted to reduce it more?
‘What’s wrong with this guy?’
When it comes to forming a team, there is a significant difference between having one person rather than not having one. This is because they are all trained, and above all, they are capable people with their own abilities.
It was a team of two created with that in mind. No matter how high the fit rate is, the lack of numbers can be a greater disadvantage.
And he wished to reduce it further than that?
“Uh, that’s… I understand what you mean, but what will happen to Kim Do-joon? In real life, you have to work together with the hunters you’ve never seen before. Think of it as a practice…….”
Do-joon spoke quietly then.
“I think I will be comfortable alone.”
He also knows that usually a team has an advantage. However, the team also depends on the team. Considering the words and actions of Kang Je-joon that he saw at the cafe and now, he didn’t think it would be advantageous to team up with him.
When he expressed his affirmation, Kang Je-joon giggled and tapped Do-joon on the shoulder.
“This is a man who speaks little. What do you think? We both don’t like it. Are you going to force us to team up?”
The employee opened his mouth wide. He didn’t know that Do-joon, who looked gentle, would come out like this.
‘No, what about the group.’
The staff sighed softly. Well, they were not asking him to put them into other teams, but they’re saying they’ll take it as a disadvantage. He nodded with a sour look on his face.
Just then, a helicopter to drop the test takers into the forest arrived. Candidates, who gathered in teams and put their heads together, boarded the helicopter one by one.
<The monitor room at that time.>
Not all of the applicants’ details were broadcast here. However, there was a change in the status of the team displayed on one of the electronic boards. Do-joon and Kang Je-joon, the only two-member team, will play solo.
Oh Sang-jin laughed at it.
‘It’s usually difficult alone, but… … Kang Je-joon will be fine.’
If someone else did that, it would have been just bravado, but if Kang Je-joon was like that, it would be different. Not only did he have excellent skills, but he also had a lot of practical experience among new recruits.
It would be much better to go around alone than carrying a piece of luggage.
‘I only feel sorry for that poor old man.’
Do-joon, who was left alone, came into his eyes. Do-jun, who was left alone, entered his eyes. A man who was uniquely older (even older than that) among the test takers and had no expectations.
Although it was noticeable that he had a skill of reinforcement, everything else was a minus, so he was eliminated from the recruitment list.
‘But I think I’ve seen him somewhere.….’
A thought suddenly occurred to him, but he ignored it. It wouldn’t be important to remember something that doesn’t come to mind right away.
As he looked at the monitor with satisfaction, he glanced at the faces of the other managers.
They all have dark expressions on their faces.
The corners of his mouth rose on its own.
“Oh my~ I don’t know if Je-joon will be okay by himself. If he gets hurt while fighting……. Oh, by the way! Did you say he killed a D-class monster when he got awakened?”
The managers looked like they chewed on shit.
‘He’s doing it again.’
‘Ooh, if it weren’t for the son of the Karma Guild leader.’
‘Look at his smile just because he caught Kang Je-joon. He’s an obnoxious jerk.’
Oh Sang-jin, who giggled at the faces of other managers, turned to the monitor again.
The real exam has just begun. Candidates were dropped off at random positions in the forest through a helicopter.
And small drones were attached to each one of them, filming them one by one professionally.
Of course, the first place in the eyes of the managers, including him, turned to Kang Je-joon’s personal screen.
It was no joke from the start. Kang Je-joon, who had already encountered a four-member team, had created a spear of light and swept it around.
One shot and one hit. Every time the brilliant golden light flashed, one fell.
‘As expected, Kang Je-joon…….’
‘Okay, it’s a fish I missed, and it hurts my stomach even more.’
‘Karma… They have been trying to make it to the top four guilds lately, but they have really sharpened their sword. Pouring 2 billion won into the new recruits.’
The managers watched Kang Je-joon’s performance with a lot of thoughts, while Oh Sang-jin looked at Kang Je-joon’s performance with a genuine smile.
They weren’t the only ones in the monitor room. Not just the managers, but the people related to the candidates. They were each watching their own children, brothers, and juniors.
In the meantime.
‘Mr. Do-joon… … .’
Lee Ji-ah was the only one staring at a screen with no special features in the corner of the room.
* * *
Do-joon warmed up his body wearing the protective suit he had received and entered the forest. He was not arrogant like Kang Je-joon, but he was comfortable alone. Because he had always killed the monsters and the beasts of the labyrinth alone by himself.
The sound of his footsteps walking in the forest was as quiet as a cat. Even if he stepped on the leaves and passed through the bushes, there was not a single sound.
The rock snakes on the Elemental Island heard his footsteps and attacked him by surprise. This was the result of hunting them with as little noise as possible.
No matter how hard he tried to kill the sound of his footsteps, he could not hide his appearance.
One of the applicants who found Do-joon shouted out loudly.
Do-joon was quite nervous and took out the club he had received. It’s a hook in the back! He felt a presence behind him.
‘… … What?’
He turned around and hit the club. The candidate who was just rushing in was hit on the shoulder and knocked over. The suit on the shoulder, which was directly hit, was crushed and frozen at the same time.
At Do-jun’s flowing response, the first test taker opened his eyes wide.
‘Is it this easy?’
Do-joon was a little embarrassed by the simpler feeling than expected.
Compared to the surprise of the rock snakes, which had to be located only by the weak vibrations of the ground, it was a waste to say that the previous one was a surprise.
Still, these are people who have been formally trained for at least 1 year, or at most 3 years or so. Aside from specs, he thought they might have some level of combat skills.
“Sangmin hyung! Let’s go at the same time!”
The applicant came to his senses and began to rush. One more person jumped out of the bushes next on the right side, and the two people rushed Do-joon with their clubs.
‘Is it a three-member team?’
The man coming from the front had a soft glow all over his body. Characteristics of commonly seen reinforcement-type skills.
On the right, the red-tinged club seemed to have some special ability.
Do-joon didn’t know what that ability was. There was no need to know.
Just by taking a step back, he avoided attacks from the two,and then fed his club to each one of them. The observation skills that he trained between the 300 skeletons didn’t go anywhere.
The two of them screamed at the pain that rang to the bone. Obviously, they said that this suit could defend against almost any attack!
The suit, which the association staff bragged about, was ripped apart and shattered in one blow from his club. It was the moment when he believed in the performance of the suit and ended up using a special attack, but it was completely meaningless.
‘This is three points I guess.’
Glancing once at the three who were laying around on the floor, Do-joon went into the forest. Soon a rescue team would arrive and take them away.
At that time, in the monitor room, some people paid attention to Do-joon’s fight.
“Quite amazing, isn’t it?”
“I guess he just got lucky. But, he does seem to have a foundation.”
But managers didn’t care much. On the other hand, some watched Do-joon’s performance with interest.
‘That movement was too neat to be luck.’
‘He can’t do that damage just by hitting with such kind of spec… … . Did he learn martial arts from somewhere?’
Originally, people were seen only as much as they knew.
Those who thought they had been beaten were those with little experience in combat, and those who did not were those who had made a name for themselves in the past.
‘Huh? Isn’t that the collector who went missing from the Seorim-dong dungeon?’
Oh Sang-jin’s eyes lit up at the flashing memory.
Unsurprisingly, when he looked at the report on his cell phone, it was the collector. Six years of digging for herbs, and then disappeared from the dungeon by mistake.
Oh Sang-jin’s expression was distorted. How much money did they spend on the association to cover up the work, but now he was here?
He was more worried that there might be useless posts on social media by them instead of being happy that their victim was alive and back.
‘Cause you’re actually upset about your brother.….’
The smile disappeared from his face.
The guild leader’s son, he was also an awakener, but he wasn’t very talented in Hunter’s work. He didn’t have a lot of skills to look at.
His brother, on the other hand, was a successful hunter. He even got A-rank at a young age.
Therefore, he has long given up his successor position. But he can’t give up on his lofty life now. In order to do so, he would never go out of the eyes of his father and brother.
Seorim-dong Dungeon is the place where he packed and sent his few men. He was broken to come to his brother because of a missing person situation that came up there… … .
‘How the hell did he get back?’
He kicked his tongue. How would he try to handle this….
It seemed necessary to make contact once. He would lose if the Karma guild leader’s son gave him a few bucks and pressure him under the name of the guild, wouldn’t he? How long would it be for an old man who’s been digging herbs for six years.
30 minutes to stare at the monitor with a frown. Suddenly, the corners of his mouth went up.
The two screens he was watching closely. Kang Je-joon’s screen and Kim Do-joon’s screen overlapped.
‘Cough, I guess I’m lucky, too.’
The overlapping screen means that the two have encountered each other.
Less than 30 minutes have passed since the test began. If he is out at this point, he will be eliminated 100%. And if he fails the test, he will get less attention, so it will be easier to keep his mouth shut.
He glanced at the monitor and texted Jang, one of his subordinates. The situation was like this and that, so he requested to bring some big guys. As dirty as he could look.
It was natural, but he never thought of the possibility that Kang Je-joon, who had been awarded 2 billion won, would be eliminated.