The Hero Returns

Chapter 157



Chapter 157: Chapter 157


A few days ago.


Bak Yun-gyu gave his answer to Su-hyeun’s question.


“As it stands currently, the Korean Awakener Authority is far behind in influence compared to the association.”


He personally came to visit Su-hyeun’s home, looking as if he had given this matter some serious consideration.


The tale he told was quite detailed and included matters involving the association, the Awakener Authority, plus other guilds as well as the influential awakener groups that acted on their own, separate from the two.


Su-hyeun didn’t pay too much attention to it, though. He already knew most of this.


Not only that…


<< I already know that the association is the problem. >>


While sipping on his coffee, Su-hyeun let Bak Yun-gyu’s words go in one ear and out the other. He was busy organizing his thoughts at that moment.


<< At first, everything was fine. In the beginning, the dungeon’s generation range and region weren’t that wide. However, as time passed, the association’s problems got bigger and harder to rectify. >>


Especially so, from a certain time onward—their problems became even worse as the dungeon’s generation rate accelerated by a great deal.


<< They abandoned dungeons that wouldn’t bring them profit, and, sometimes, even delayed an already-scheduled raid. Or even dumped it on someone else entirely. On the other hand, if a dungeon was deemed profitable and attention-grabbing, they would ignore the Authority’s allocation efforts without hesitation to snatch the raid away from others, or, when things got worse, even tried sabotage. >>


When many people gathered, and lots of money and prestige were thrown into the mix, it only took an instant to turn everything into a muddy swamp. If a few mudfish dirtied the water, then the other fish population wouldn’t have a choice but to adapt to their new environment.


Things up until that point were fine. The number of the awakeners was higher than the rate of dungeon generation, after all. But, when that sudden moment of awakeners being unable to deal with the dungeons arrived…


<< As I thought, the association problem can’t be left alone anymore. >>


When such a time came, the role of the association would become crucial, as it was supposed to operate awakener manpower as efficiently as possible. At the bare minimum, its current course couldn’t be maintained.


<< So, the real issue is with just exactly how far the Authority can interfere, and how far the ripples would spread after I take care of the Hahoetal Guild and the association? >>


Su-hyeun had found himself a perfect pretext. A pretext that allowed him to fight the Hahoetal Guild and, furthermore, even the association itself.


Of course, that would only apply if the association didn’t punish the Hahoetal Guild and instead tried to shield it. If they willingly stepped forward to acknowledge the Hahoetal’s wrongdoings and cast the guild aside, then Su-hyeun wouldn’t be able to intervene anymore.


However, he was feeling confident about this.


<< The Hahoetal Guild won’t be cast aside. >>


He knew how their world operated rather intimately, after all. He knew how hard they worked to keep their world unshakeable, and how united they were through their stubbornness and obstinance.


“In the end, the problem lies with the association itself, doesn’t it?” Su-hyeun asked.


“We need a united force. There’s a reason why both the Authority and the association exist, after all. But….”


“They aren’t under control. Is that it?”


“No, it’s a bit different from that. To begin with, the association was never under the Authority’s control. It was originally created with a mandate to safeguard the rights and interests of the awakeners, and also to get things done in a more effective, efficient manner.”


Su-hyeun also knew the purpose of the association. The problem was that the organization was now working opposite of its original goal.


“Times are changing. The dungeon generation rate is accelerating, and the role of awakeners is directly linked to not just protecting the safety of the civilians, but even the defense of the nation itself,” said Bak Yun-gyu.


He was a soldier. And what he said completely fit his army background. It also aligned pretty closely with what Su-hyeun was thinking, as well.


Which meant that the conversation became easier. He didn’t clear his schedule to meet Bak Yun-gyu only to hear what he already knew.


“Okay. Let’s stop discussing the obvious, and get to the point, please.”


“Up until now, we thought that there was no need to intervene, but…” Bak Yun-gyu hesitated slightly, then spoke with a resolute expression. “Recent events have made us realize the truth. From our point of view, the current association is filled with many issues.”


“Which means….”


“Wouldn’t you say it’s time to clean house, at least once?”


Now that was an answer very much to Su-hyeun’s liking. “I completely agree.”


There was only one way to restrict or control an organization united by power.


With even greater power.


Act 2


The audience remained deathly silent.


In the meantime, the reporters were hurriedly transmitting the articles they had compiled during the chaos. Now that was what an exemplary professional conduct looked like.


<< Well, a suitable atmosphere has been more or less created…. >>


Gwon Ho-yeong, the man leading the meeting had been booted out.


And Su-hyeun stepped onto his position, instead. After suppressing Gwon Ho-yeong with his strength and crushing everyone else with his mere presence alone, too.


The sullen atmosphere was cold and heavy.


The gazes that stuck to Su-hyeun couldn’t be described as nice. Despite fearing him and his strength, the audience members were on high alert, ready to protect themselves at a moment’s notice.


Slap-!


It was then that Lee Ju-ho, who had accompanied Su-hyeun into the conference venue, clapped his hands and drew attention toward himself. “Why don’t we put an end to this combative atmosphere? We also don’t have any plans to go further than this.”


After they heard his words, the audience members stared at Su-hyeun with somewhat relaxed expressions. Those words implied that no one else was going to die.


Su-hyeun nodded his head. But he still didn’t step away from the platform, implying that he wasn’t planning to relinquish the leadership of the meeting just yet.


Lee Ju-ho joined him on the platform and then addressed the audience. “I’d like to ask everyone today a question before we start. What were you planning to do with the Hahoetal Guild?”


“The Hahoetal Guild, is it?”


“W-well, that is….”


Lee Ju-ho’s question caused several in the audience seats to trail off and nervously eye each other. That’s because they all knew that, depending on how that they answered, this place might turn into pandemonium again.


<< If we say that we were planning to shield the Hahoetal Guild today, then…. >>


<< Crazy son of a b*tch. Who’s ballsy enough to say that now, wanting to become enemies with someone like him?? >>


Realistically speaking, there could only be one answer here.


“O-of course, the association as a whole was planning to punish them.”


“I-indeed. Of course. We’re gathered today to discuss the appropriate punishment for the Hahoetal Guild, after all.”


It only took a moment for the overall sentiment to align perfectly when one or two folks opened their mouths.


Not many present were brave enough to stake their lives on prideful words—especially so when the top representative of the Hahoetal Guild, Gwon Ho-yeong, had been basically massacred at Su-hyeun’s hands already.


“In that case, no one’s going to present us with issues, wouldn’t you say? The enemies we talked about are the guilds that don’t hesitate to commit criminal acts like the Hahoetal Guild, you see. If you’re not one of them, then there’s absolutely no problem.”


What Lee Ju-ho said loosened up the tense atmosphere created by Su-hyeun’s actions.


At the very least, the members wouldn’t get to fight Su-hyeun today as long as they didn’t side with the Hahoetal Guild here.


On the other hand, there was another way one could interpret his words, as well.


<< Other guilds that operated with a similar mindset as the Hahoetal Guild will be condemned as well, in other words. >>


If someone else had said such a thing, they would be ridiculed. But their opponent today was on another scale altogether.


Kim Su-hyeun.


He did possess the strength to easily contend with a giant organization like the association all by himself. To make matters worse, he wasn’t even alone.


<< Thomas and Choi Hak-joon stand behind Kim Su-hyeun’s too… >>


<< Three S-Ranked awakeners. And their rankings are…. >>


Was that all? No, maybe even the Authority was involved in this.


At that moment, Lee Ju-ho spoke up.


“Everyone, why don’t we agree on a few rules?”


“Rules?”


“Yes, rules. I’m talking about regulations.”


Everyone looked back, somewhat confused.


Meanwhile, Su-hyeun left everything up to Lee Ju-ho and stepped outside the conference venue, since it was the latter’s role to take care of what was to come next.


<< It’d be nice if the discussion ends on a positive note. >>


Although he was apologetic about leaving the mop-up to Lee Ju-ho, there was no doubt the older man was far better suited than Su-hyeun when it came to dealing with other people.


Creeaak, thud-


After Su-hyeun left, Lee Ju-ho inwardly took a deep breath, making sure that it didn’t show on his face.


<< The stage is set. >>


Complete mayhem.


The reason why Su-hyeun even came to the conference venue was to display the extent of his powers to these people.


Things got lucky when Jung Yoon-ho retreated first, causing the rest to lose their fighting spirit in an instant.


And now, there was one more thing Lee Ju-ho needed to do.


<< With the tiger on his back, a fox will rule the mountains. >>


* * *


After walking out of the conference venue, Su-hyeun spotted Hak-joon and Thomas sitting together on a bench in front of the Jongno Tower.


“Are you done, bro?”


“He’s here!”


Hak-joon and Thomas were each enjoying a cone of ice cream. Su-hyeun joined them on the bench with a tired expression.


“Was it that tough?” Hak-joon asked.


“I always find dealing with such a group of people quite tiring.”


Su-hyeun was never really talented in dealing with people, even back in the past.


Sure, if the occasion asked for it, he could step up to the plate, but it was still so tiring that he’d rather fight monsters, instead.


While leaning against the bench, he raised his head and stared up to the sky. But, when he closed his eyes in this position, the faces of all the awakeners inside the conference venue floated back up in his mind.


<< If only every one of them was good people. >>


This world was filled with all sorts of people.


A world filled only by kind people was an impossible ideal. Even then, a world where good people were rewarded and bad ones were punished was the ‘right’ one, was it not?


The strength of the association, its manpower, was definitely needed. But, since not every one of them was a kind, righteous person, someone with power and smarts was needed to control them.


<< I do have the necessary power. >>


Su-hyeun’s eyes slowly opened again.


<< As for the smarts… >>


He recalled what Lee Ju-ho said to him before coming here. After observing the older man for a long while, it became evident that he was a rather smart guy.


Su-hyeun was thankful.


Thankful that Lee Ju-ho chose to walk on this difficult road. Even though it’d be a very arduous and the path ahead, fraught with far more difficulty.


The three of them sat on the bench and passed the time. After about an hour of waiting, the smartphone went off.


Rrrrring-


The call came from Lee Ju-ho. Su-hyeun was waiting for it, so he quickly answered it.


-Hello? Hey, Su-hyeun.


The voice on the line seemed fatigued. Su-hyeun smirked at the tone of voice, though.


“Sounds like things went well.”


-What the hell, are you a mind reader or something?


The tone of voice suddenly changed.


Su-hyeun chuckled softly to himself.


He knew what Lee Ju-ho’s personality was like. If things hadn’t gone as hoped, then he would’ve used a brighter voice to reassure him that everything was peachy.


As his chuckles gradually died down, Lee Ju-ho spoke up again.


-The Hahoetal Guild will be expelled from the association, and everyone agreed to change the regulations to something fair and more strict. Also, if more problems crop up in the future, they all agreed to either expel or punish the troublemakers, too.


“They agreed far easier than I thought?”


-All because of your massive rampage earlier. Besides, we have a pretext, too. It was a confrontation between right and wrong. Don’t forget, there are reporters here, so they couldn’t push back against the suggestions that are basically meant to safeguard what’s right.


Many factors had favored Su-hyeun and Lee Ju-ho’s cause.


The end result wasn’t bad at all. Of course, not everything had unfolded in the way Su-hyeun had predicted.


-And also, I agreed to join the association. Looks like I’ll have to get directly involved in its administration.


“Eh? You will, bro? You’ve never said anything about that before.”


The unexpected revelation caused Su-hyeun’s sit up straight on the bench. Unlike him, though, Lee Ju-ho sounded calm as he continued.


-Without agreeing to that, this result wouldn’t have come about. And even if it did, the new rules would be like a sandcastle, waiting to crumble.


“What are you talking about?”


-Look at the long term, not the short term. Using strength to scare people and make them submit is no different from delaying a bomb ready to go off by a little bit. At the very least, we have to make them recognize that we’re not their enemies.


“And that’s why you joined the association?”


-You don’t have to sweat over it. I’ll be the one making all the decisions, after all. This is for the best, actually. By being in the same organization, it’ll be easier to control them and make sure that problems don’t rear their heads again.


It wasn’t as if it was a big issue. No, just like Lee Ju-ho had said, this situation turned out to be even better. Indeed, he’d be able to go beyond stopping the association’s issues and control the matters within its membership, too.


This was probably done to grant the sense of security that came from being on the same side as Kim Su-hyeun, something the association wished for.


There was only one reason why Su-hyeun’s reaction was so vocal like this, though.


“Won’t it get too hard?”


That would be—the amount of work Lee Ju-ho had to perform would increase by a lot.


He had rolled up his sleeves, instead of Su-hyeun. He now had to wade into the huge crowd made up of countless people, assess whether something was wrong or not, and then do something about it.


Su-hyeun had never expected Lee Ju-ho to go to such lengths.


-I always found you to be an amazing person.


But then, Lee Ju-ho said something completely out of left field.


-Every single day, you advance forward like crazy, never even taking much of a break in the process. And, sometimes, when I’m talking to you, it’s like I’m talking to an old man. You’re always worried about something, and you give it your best to lighten that worry.


That was the ‘Su-hyeun’ Lee Ju-ho had been observing until now.


-And I think I figured out what you’re so worried about. When I first met you, I sometimes wondered if you were worried about nothing, but… Lately, I understand where you’re coming from.


“Bro, can it be….”


-You’ve asked me this in passing before. You said, do I find the dungeons appearing in our current world normal or not? Didn’t those dungeons look as if they would eventually swallow our world whole?


“….”


-I’m just now beginning to agree with you. So, how can I watch you crazily push yourself and do nothing? Anyone would try to help you out, in that case.


Su-hyeun suddenly recalled something Kim Dae-ho told him in the past.


[The whole world is expecting you to help them, so shouldn’t at least one person help you out in return, too? Don’t you agree?]


Those were pretty much the same words.


‘I shall help you’.


Nothing could make Su-hyeun’s heart grow more excited than that.


-You see, I’m not overflowing with talent like you, Hak-joon or Thomas. Well, I fall way behind in that aspect compared to your trio of monsters, but…


There was a hint of mirth mixed in Lee Ju-ho’s voice coming out from the speaker.


-I’m your ally, Su-hyeun. So, let me carry some of the weight, okay?



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