This series has been dropped.

    Chapter 15: Too Easy?

    Oh Sang-jin is one of the managers of the Karma Guild. However, unlike the others, he was no ordinary employee. He was the son of the guild master himself.

    That’s why he could immediately fork over a whopping 2 billion won when the other managers hesitated.

    ‘It’s a good thing Kang Je-jun is a hot-tempered guy.’

    Who would have thought there would be a body auction in broad daylight at a cafe? Oh Sang-jin had never experienced such a bizarre day as today.

    Well, thanks to that, he was able to sign the contract without any trouble.

    “I will now briefly explain the second test, which will take place shortly.”

    The voice of the association employee overseeing the test came through the monitor. Oh Sang-jin was currently in the monitor room, watching the test unfold.

    It was a waiting room set up so that other managers and the families of the examinees could monitor the second test.

    The huge screen, made up of dozens of monitors, showed the examinees putting on the protective suits handed out by the staff.

    “From now on, you will form teams and enter the forest. The test is simple. You just have to survive inside for a set time without being eliminated.”

    The Hunter Exam is getting harder and harder by the day.

    In the early days, the association issued licenses after checking only for simple written tests and skills.

    However, the death rate of Hunters at that time was no joke.

    This was because even those who had skills but were unqualified in other aspects, such as having poor physical strength or mental fortitude, participated in the hunts.

    The next method that was adopted was to release captured monsters and have them hunted.

    However, this also ran into practical difficulties. First of all, it was a task in itself to capture monsters without harming them.

    Although they were the weakest monsters, it took a considerable amount of manpower to capture them. This soon led to a waste of national funds and taxes.

    And so, a tournament-style battle format emerged. A test where the examinees are evaluated through one-on-one duels.

    This was also criticized for not being able to cultivate the ability to improvise in a dungeon, and eventually the current test format was created.

    “Think of the forest as a dungeon and yourselves as monsters. You will lead your team, eliminate other teams, and survive for as long as possible.”

    One examinee cautiously raised his hand and asked a question.

    “Does ‘survive for a long time’ mean that we can hide in a corner?”

    “That is also possible. However, it will not be easy.”

    “Yes?”

    The staff member answered with a bored expression, as if he had heard this question hundreds of times before.

    “There is a circular barrier around the forest. And that barrier will shrink over time. At first, it will be large enough to accommodate several large sports fields, but by the end, it will shrink to the size of a one-room apartment.”

    Going beyond that barrier meant being eliminated. The explanation continued that at that point, the person’s test would be over.

    “Ah…”

    “And this test is not a relative evaluation, but an absolute evaluation. Each of your actions will be subject to addition or subtraction of points. Hiding will not result in a deduction of points, but actively searching for enemies and hunting them will result in a much higher score.”

    Hiding and running away is also an important skill in a dungeon. However, in the end, Hunters enter the dungeon to ‘hunt’ monsters.

    In that sense, the score was higher for searching for and eliminating enemies than for hiding.

    As the questioner nodded in understanding, the staff member scanned the rest of the examinees.

    “It seems like there are no more questions, so let’s move on. Next is the team announcement. The teams are arranged as balanced as possible based on your characteristics and compatibility.”

    Flutter.

    The examinees gathered in groups, looking at the large list of teams that was displayed. The teams were composed of up to 4 people, and there were also quite a few teams of 3. They were assigned appropriately based on the total compatibility score.

    However, there was one exception: a two-person team.

    Do-joon and Kang Je-jun were on the same team.

    “Excuse me.”

    Kang Je-jun furrowed his brow after seeing the scene. Then he called out to the staff member in a loud voice.

    “What can I do for you?”

    “I’m on the same team as this old man.”

    “Yes, the two of you have the highest compatibility here, so that’s how you were assigned.”

    “Can’t I just do it alone?”

    “Excuse me?”

    The staff member was taken aback by Kang Je-jun’s words. He thought they might be complaining about being at a disadvantage with two people, but they wanted to reduce the number?

    ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’

    Having one more person can make a big difference in team composition. This is because they have all received training and, above all, are skilled individuals.

    The two-person team was created with this in mind. Even with a high compatibility score, having too few people can be a bigger penalty.

    And yet, they wanted to reduce the number even further?

    “Uh, well… I understand your intention, Mr. Kang Je-jun, but what about Mr. Kim Do-joon? In the field, there will be times when you need to coordinate with Hunters you’ve never met before. Think of it as practice….”

    At that moment, Do-joon spoke quietly.

    “I think I’d be more comfortable alone too.”

    He also knew that teams are generally advantageous. However, not all teams are created equal. Thinking back to what he had seen at the cafe and Kang Je-jun’s behavior so far, he didn’t think teaming up with him would be beneficial.

    When he expressed his positive intention, Kang Je-jun laughed and patted Do-joon on the shoulder.

    “This old man is a bit reasonable. What do you think? Are you going to force us to be a team even though we both don’t want to?”

    The staff member’s mouth dropped open. He hadn’t expected Do-joon, who seemed polite, to act like this.

    ‘Did something happen in the group?’

    The staff member sighed softly. Well, they weren’t asking to be put on another team, and they were saying they would do it under unfavorable conditions, so what could he do? He nodded with a trembling expression.

    “……I see.”

    Finally, the helicopter arrived to drop the examinees off in the forest. The examinees, who had been huddled together in their teams, boarded the helicopter one by one.

    Meanwhile, in the monitor room.

    The conversations of the examinees were not all broadcast here. However, there was a change in the team status displayed on one of the screens. Do-joon and Kang Je-jun, who had been the only two-person team, were now going to play solo.

    Oh Sang-jin smiled when he saw it.

    ‘It would be tough for most people to go solo, but… Kang Je-jun will be fine.’

    If someone else had acted like that, it would have been just a nuisance, but it was different if it was Kang Je-jun. He was not only skilled, but he also had more actual combat experience than most newcomers.

    It would be much better for him to go solo than to carry around dead weight.

    ‘That old man is the only one who’s pitiful.’

    His eyes caught Do-joon, who was the only one left. He was the oldest examinee by far (even older than him) and wasn’t expected to do much.

    He had been dropped from the recruitment list because he had a reinforcement skill with a different attribute, but everything else about him was a minus.

    ‘But I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before… .’

    The thought crossed his mind, but he dismissed it casually. If he couldn’t remember it right away, it couldn’t be anything important.

    As he was contentedly watching the monitor, he glanced at the expressions of the other managers.

    They all had sullen expressions on their faces.

    The corners of his mouth curled up involuntarily.

    “Oh dear~ I wonder if our Je-jun will be okay by himself. What if he gets hurt fighting… Oh, right! Didn’t he say he caught a D-class monster when he awakened?”

    The managers’ faces turned sour at the obvious bait.

    ‘That bastard is at it again.’

    ‘Oh, even if he wasn’t the son of the Karma Guild Master.’

    ‘Look at the way his lips curl up when he talks about catching Kang Je-jun. I hate seeing his face.’

    Oh Sang-jin chuckled at the expressions of the other managers and turned his eyes back to the monitor.

    The real test had just begun. The examinees were dropped off in random locations in the forest via helicopter.

    A small drone followed each of them to film them one-on-one.

    The managers’ eyes, including his own, naturally turned to Kang Je-jun’s individual screen first.

    It was no joke from the start. Kang Je-jun had already encountered a team of four and was sweeping them away with his blades of light.

    One hit, one kill. Every time the flashy golden light flashed, one person fell.

    ‘As expected of Kang Je-jun… .’

    ‘Ugh, I feel even more sick to my stomach because he’s the one that got away.’

    ‘Karma… They’ve been making a lot of noise lately saying they’re going to be one of the four major guilds, and they’ve really sharpened their swords. They’re pouring 2 billion won on a newcomer.’

    The managers watched Kang Je-jun’s performance with thoughtful expressions, while Oh Sang-jin smiled broadly.

    They weren’t the only ones in the monitor room. There were also family members of the examinees who were not managers. They were watching their children, siblings, and juniors.

    And in the middle of all this.

    ‘Do-joon-ssi… .’

    Lee Ji-ah was the only one staring at the screen in a corner with no special features.

    ***

    ‘Alone… .’

    Do-joon loosened his body in the protective suit and entered the forest. He wasn’t as arrogant as Kang Je-jun, but he also preferred to be alone. He had always hunted the monsters of the dungeon alone.

    His footsteps as he walked through the forest were as quiet as a cat’s. No matter how he stepped on fallen leaves or passed through bushes, not a sound was made.

    The rock snakes of Nature’s Isle ambush their prey by listening for footsteps. This was the result of his hunting with the utmost care to kill the sound.

    And then.

    “Found you!”

    No matter how much you hide your footsteps, you can’t hide your figure.

    An examinee who had spotted Do-joon shouted loudly.

    Do-joon took out the club he had been given, feeling quite nervous. He felt a whoosh behind him!

    ‘…What the hell.’

    He turned around and swung his club down. The examinee who had been charging at him fell face down with a thud on his shoulder. The suit on the shoulder that was hit directly crumpled and froze at the same time.

    The examinee who had first spotted him widened his eyes at Do-joon’s fluid response.

    Meanwhile.

    ‘This is too easy?’

    Do-joon was a little embarrassed by how much simpler it was than he had expected.

    Compared to the surprise attack of the rock snakes, which he had to avoid by only knowing their location by the faint vibrations of the ground, what had just happened was hardly even a surprise attack.

    And yet, these people had been training for at least a year, and many for more than three years, right? He had thought that even if their specs were not good, their combat skills would be at least decent.

    “Hyung Sang-min! Let’s go together!”

    “A-ah!”

    The examinees came to their senses and started to charge. Another person jumped out of the bushes on the right side, and two of them rushed at Do-joon with clubs.

    ‘A three-man team?’

    The one coming from the front had a faint light shining over his entire body. A characteristic of the commonly seen reinforcement type skill.

    The one on the right seemed to have some kind of special ability, as his club was glowing red.

    Do-joon didn’t know what the ability was. He didn’t need to know.

    Bam! Bam!

    He simply took a step back to avoid the attacks of the two men and hit each of them with his club. The observational skills he had honed among the 300 skeletons were not going to waste.

    “Ugh!”

    “Gah!”

    The two men screamed in pain that resonated to their bones. They were sure that this suit could withstand any attack!

    The suit that the Association staff had bragged about broke and shattered with a single blow from the club. It was the moment when the special attack, which had been launched with confidence in the suit’s performance, became completely meaningless.

    ‘That makes it 3 points.’

    Do-joon glanced at the two men who were writhing and groaning on the ground and walked into the forest. The rescue team would arrive soon and take them away.

    At that moment, in the monitor room, a few people were watching Do-joon’s fight with interest.

    “Oh.”

    “He’s not bad, is he?”

    “He must have just gotten lucky. But he does seem to have the basics down.”

    However, the managers didn’t think much of it. On the other hand, a few of them were watching Do-joon’s performance with quite interesting eyes.

    ‘His movements are too clean for someone who just got lucky.’

    ‘With those specs, he shouldn’t be able to deal that much damage just by swinging his club… Did he come here after learning martial arts somewhere?’

    As expected, people can only see what they know.

    Those who thought he was just lucky were inexperienced in real combat, while those who recognized him were those who had made a name for themselves in the past.

    Meanwhile.

    ‘Huh? That old man, isn’t he the collector who went missing in the Seorim-dong dungeon?’

    Oh Sang-jin’s eyes lit up as he remembered.

    Sure enough, when he checked the report on his phone, it was the same collector. The one who had been collecting herbs for 6 years and had disappeared from the dungeon due to their mistake.

    Oh Sang-jin’s expression twisted. How much money had he given to the Association to cover up that incident? And now the main character was showing up?

    He was more worried that the victim would write something useless on SNS than he was happy that he was alive.

    ‘And my brother is already in a bad mood… .’

    The smile disappeared from his face.

    As the guild leader’s son, although he was also an Awakened, had little talent for hunting. His skills were nothing to write home about.

    On the other hand, his brother was a successful hunter. He was so good that he had reached A-rank at a young age.

    That’s why he had given up on the successor position a long time ago. But he couldn’t give up his current comfortable life. To do that, he could never fall out of favor with his father and brother.

    The Seorim-dong dungeon was the place where he had sent his few remaining subordinates. He had been scolded by his brother for the disappearance that had happened there…

    ‘How the hell did he come back?’

    He clicked his tongue. How was he going to deal with this…

    It seemed like he needed to contact him first. He could probably make him keep quiet by giving him some money and putting some pressure on him in the name of the guild. How much money could an old man who had been collecting herbs for 6 years have?

    He stared at the monitor with a frown for 30 minutes. Suddenly, the corners of his mouth turned up.

    The two screens he had been watching, Kang Je-jun’s and Kim Do-joon’s, had overlapped.

    ‘Hah, I guess I’m lucky after all.’

    The fact that the screens had overlapped meant that the two had met.

    It had been less than 30 minutes since the test had started. If they were eliminated at this point, they would be 100% disqualified. If they failed the test, the attention would be less, so it would be easier to keep them quiet.

    He smirked at the monitor and sent a text message to one of his subordinates, General Manager Jang. He told him to bring a few big guys with him because of the current situation. Preferably the ones with the worst looks.

    It was a matter of course, but he didn’t even consider the possibility that Kang Je-jun, who had been given 2 billion won and signed a contract, would be eliminated.

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