Thumbs Up, Level Up
It was the same when it came to the housing market.
People wanted to purchase homes near the guilds where Hunters gathered.
People in the countryside would relocate to the small towns that had defensive gates so they had a better chance at surviving.
In turn, those who felt unsafe living in small towns moved into the satellite cities surrounding Seoul, or into Seoul itself.
It made sense that this crazy hell of a world was rife with correspondingly hellish rent prices, hellish unemployment rate, and other such problems.
People tried to raise their kids to live a good life, and made sure to tell them not to become a Hunter Assistant when they got older.
That said, it was even difficult to get a job like Ji-Cheok’s.
He had been fortunate, as spots had opened up due to high suicide and accident rates.
The world was ruled by a combination of defense, energy, and entertainment companies, resulting in a society where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
Chaebol members could just hit random people if they felt like it and throw stacks of money at them to keep them quiet, and the saddest fact was that people were more curious about how much money was in those bundles than who was hitting those people.
People had to climb the corporate ladder and find an apartment to live in.
If they couldn’t, they absolutely had to find a place to live in the metropolitan area of Seoul, or at the very least in one of the other major cities.
Those who couldn’t do that put their lives at risk.
The 3D industry was even more dangerous, and landing a job was getting harder to boot.
Awakening was almost as rare as winning the lottery.
Was it natural for the desire to become an Awakened to be reflected in educational fervor? Students had no choice but to study more.
Families that were not satisfied with online lectures sent their kids to private tutoring classes.
It was a cruel world where kids on the Noryangjin Yellow Bus committed suicide because they couldn’t succeed.
‘If only I Awakened.’
These words were often left on suicide notes.
The kids never really knew the true reality of what was going on, and neither did the parents.
The public officer added, “It will show up in the media soon, but… there have been casualties.”
I see,” Ji-Cheok said.
He wasn’t surprised.
There were people who were capable of fighting them.
Even though they were of lower ranks, they still could have put up a fight, but the human mind… can’t just overcome fear whenever it wants to,” the official admitted.
Of course, it made sense.
Anyone would be afraid of the monsters and wasn’t like everyone was trained to be a Hunter.
For Ji-Cheok, without his Steady Heart skill, who knows what would have happened?
“Thank God, at least there was someone here to deal with the monsters before we were able to come in time to help out,” the official sighed in relief.
He asked Ji-Cheok a few more questions and then finally offered up a handshake.
“Even though you have just Awakened, as you say, it turns out that you’re capable of both offense and defense, both melee and long-range.
All-rounders are very rare, and we were very fortunate to have you there at the right time,” the official praised Ji-Cheok.
Ji-Cheok shook his hand.
“You can leave now.
We’ll get back to you.
Ah yes, for the goblins you captured, we’ll harvest their bodies and get the resources back to you once they’ve been cleaned,” the official said and walked away.
[Public Officer no.1 feels deep respect towards you.]
[You have received 10 Likes.]
* * *
When Ji-Cheok arrived home, he went straight to lying in bed without even washing himself.
That day’s events seemed to be all part of a dream.
‘I was fighting monsters…’
He could still feel the sensation of smashing the goblins’ heads.
Wasn’t that strange? And the feeling of blocking them off with his shield… Ji-Cheok’s upper arm was so sore, it hurt.
It was then that a quest notification popped up.
[Video no.1 has been recorded]
[You have a quest!]
[Quest: GodTube Debut]
You suffered a lot today.
You should upload your video to GodTube to get even more Likes!
Reward: Achievement for Completion of beginner skills]
Both ‘Steady Heart’ and ‘Sword and Shield’ really were worthwhile skills to have.
“Do I just upload it? I don’t really know how to edit videos.” Ji-Cheok pondered as he took off the bodycam.
The whole course of him saving lives and slaying goblins had been recorded.
“Let’s just upload it as it is,” he shrugged.
Was there any point in adding music to the video, or editing it into a montage? Ji-Cheok was so old-fashioned that he didn’t even know how subtitles worked.
Therefore, he went ahead and uploaded the whole raw video.
[Receive your reward.]
After seeing those messages, Ji-Cheok sprawled into his bed and instantly fell asleep.
There was no more strength left in him to shower.
* * *
It had been a long time since Ji-Cheok last dreamt of his grandfather.
His grandfather frantically placed Ji-Cheok, who had a high fever, into the bicycle basket and pedaled as hard as he could.
Ji-Cheok noticed how young he himself was; as far as he could remember, he could only say mama, papa, grandpa, food… and that was probably it?
Right then, his grandfather stopped, wrapped Ji-Cheok into a burrito and tied him to his back with a piece of cloth.
Then, without stopping, he biked up the hill.
This was back when his grandfather’s back wasn’t so busted.
“Grandpa,” Ji-Cheok called.
“Of course, my dear grandson.
Please be a bit more patient.
We’ll reach the hospital soon,” he said comfortingly.
Being a mighty Hunter and blocking off a Gate were stories that felt like a lifetime ago.
Gates and Hunters existed and came up from time to time, but this was a time before the massive Monster Wave had erupted.
Back then, the world had all four seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter, and it was still possible to cross the country on foot.
Man still ruled the world.
Netizens joked around about how the world might be better off without human beings, with how much they polluted the environment.
As the world became overpopulated, people eventually reached the conclusion that humans really needed to be eliminated to preserve the environment.
People cultivated rice fields and other crops, and drove tractors to harvest them.
The croaking of frogs mashed well with the summer’s dampness, and made the air seem even more moist.
“Grandpaaaa…” Ji-Cheok yelled.
Something was making his throat sore.
“When your fever drops, I’ll buy you ice cream.
Now let’s make sure your shots go well.” His grandfather kept pedaling.
“Ji-Cheok, people will tell you to live your life with kindness.
That’s because kindness is the best.
Don’t turn out like your old grandpa, you have to be a kind and brilliant adult when you grow up.” It was the same saying that he had kept repeating to Ji-Cheok, ever since he was born.
* * *
The phone rang.
Ji-Cheok wanted to finish the dream with his grandfather, but it was interrupted.
“Ugh…” Ji-Cheok woke up.
The day he had last dreamed about his grandfather was the day he had awakened.
It was on these days, when he made huge accomplishments, that he dreamt of his grandfather and the past.
Was there something to do with it? Ji-Cheok didn’t understand.
‘I used to get sick pretty often when I was young.’
Back then, he would cough a lot and have pretty high fever.
He had been a child who needed plenty of care and support.
Ji-Cheok remembered that his parents had been fighting back then, and so, his grandfather had stepped in to raise him instead.
His grandfather had made quite a few sacrifices, even more so with Ji-Cheok’s grandmother dying so early.
The phone kept ringing.
Should he pick up the phone, or should he not? Should he just turn it off and go back to sleep?
After a couple more rings, Ji-Cheok reluctantly picked up the phone.
“What in the hell did you do yesterday?” It was Mr.
Kim on the other end.
“What…what are you talking about?” Ji-Cheok closed his eyes, trying to pretend that this wasn’t real.
“You’re an Awakened? It’s all over the news,” Mr.
Kim said directly.
“Yeah, you’re on the news, dimwit!”
Since Ji-Cheok had just woken up, he hadn’t fully grasped what was happening.
He frantically looked for the remote and finally turned on the TV.
Right there, on the screen, was the pretty familiar backside of a person he had seen before.
It was himself.
Even though the phone footage was pretty shaky and didn’t have the same high quality and resolution as a broadcast camera, there was no doubt that the person was Ji-Cheok.
“A single hunter is caught on camera saving countless lives,” an announcer said.
“According to witnesses, this individual has only recently become an Awakened, but has shown all three types of skills: healing, physical, and magical,” the announcer continued.
“Without receiving anything in return, this Hunter has left the scene.
According to the Personal Confidentiality Act, the authorities have said that this Awakened’s information… Wait, it appears that there is another video uploaded on the video platform, GodTube.” The screen shifted to Ji-Cheok’s video that he had put up the night before.
“Yes, it’s a video that is exploding in number of views.
When the Gate opened in the middle of downtown Seoul, the sequence of this recently-Awakened being saving lives was all recorded.” A clip showed Ji-Cheok waking people up and trying to save them.
“Are you okay? Do you understand what I’m saying?” a worried Ji-Cheok asked the injured people in the video.
“Ugh…” the person responded.
“Can you stand up?” he asked.
“My leg, my leg…” the person’s leg was hurting.
Ji-Cheok’s hand glowed and hovered above the leg.
His first aid skill activated, and he began treating the injured person.
That wasn’t all.
He treated people and helped them move, asked them to wait patiently, checked the outside for monsters, and bought time for the others to run away to safety.
All the clips of Ji-Cheok fighting off the goblins were carefully edited and broadcasted by expert hands.
The subtitle read: [Heroic Passer-by]
What the heck was all this about?
Suddenly, Ji-Cheok noticed something blinking under his status window
[999+ Unread System Messages.]
The Likes he had received piled up as high as a mountain.
* * *
Every channel reported about the other day’s gate raid — and of course they did.
A Gate opening in the center of a city was classified as a major disaster.
Ever since Warding Stones had been discovered, they had been used to prevent the appearance of Gates, and that was why people didn’t typically see Gates opening in a city.
Obtaining Warding Stones was simple, but not easy.
A Warding Stone had a chance of appearing once a dungeon 3-Star or higher was cleared.
The higher the dungeon rating, the higher the chances for a Warding Stone to appear.
There were no more than a handful of guilds that could clear a 3-Star or higher dungeon at that point, and Ji-Cheok had been told in the past that there were fewer than five teams in Korea that could clear 4-Star dungeons.
Dungeons with a 5-Star or higher rating were considered impossible to clear for Koreans, who instead had to ask for help from overseas.
How was the dungeons’ difficulty level determined?
To enter the lowest 1-Star dungeon, one needed to be below level 20.
Alternatively, the dungeon was considered 1-Star when Hunters at level 20 or below could enter freely and hunt the monsters inside.
But Warding Stones would only appear in dungeons rated at 3 Stars or higher.
3-Star dungeons were also level-restricted, and only allowed Hunters that were lower than 100, or when the monsters inside were determined to be suitable opponents for such Hunters.
Of course, the problem was that there were not many Hunters at level 100 or above in Korea.
With how few would level up so high and clear these dungeons, it was almost a miracle to find a Warding Stone.
It made sense that they were super-expensive, with so many countries wanting them.
A huge amount of taxes went into procuring and repairing the Warding Stones every year.
On the other hand, preparations for Gates opening were bound to be inadequate if all the focus was on the Stones.
And every year, the budget was cut.
The last administration had slashed more than half the budget compared to the previous year.
The news anchor was now discussing the budget.
“Today, the National Assembly is still in limbo; the budget is under discussion, but issues are appearing one after another.”
“It’s because the Warding Stones didn’t hold up as they should have.
Everyone knows that this is the first time in history that this has happened… but common people like me are anxious,” a citizen said.
An interview followed.
“Experts say that, thanks to a brave citizen, a major disaster was prevented.
However, we simply got lucky this time; if we don’t take any measures to protect ourselves, accidents like these may happen again in the future.”
The reporter stuck the mic in front of a child.
They proceeded to ask a few questions and the child answered.
“My dad kept hugging me while we were in the car.
It hurt.” The child described how his father had tried to protect him with everything he had.
“Did you see everything that was happening from the car?” the reporter asked.
“Yes, my dad kept telling me that we shouldn’t leave because the monsters were coming out.
I saw a monster.”
“How did you feel?”
“I was so scared, I cried with my dad.
But a handsome hyung showed up and started hitting the monsters.”
CCTV footage appeared on the screen.
A goblin was approaching the car where the child was, when the Telekinesis Arrow that Ji-Cheok made pierced the head of the goblin.
He then used the provocation skill.
That clip was exquisitely edited from the GodTube video uploaded by Ji-Cheok.
“You didn’t get hurt at all?” the reporter continued.
“No, not at all,” the child said grinning.
He raised his hands and spread out his fingers, but then his face turned grim as he added, “But I saw that hyung getting hurt.
He was bleeding.”
The program then moved on to the next interview.
Rich families that run large industrial conglomerates.
The term can be used for both the family/conglomerate as a whole and for each member.
Korean term for “older brother”, used by males to call other males, whether actual family members or just friends
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