The Hero Returns

Chapter 18



Chapter 18: Chapter 18


Hak-joon tilted his head at Su-hyeun’s answer. He did not know how to accurately interpret Su-hyeun’s response.


<>


Hak-joon figured that if money were his objective, this would not have been his first evaluation.


Su-hyeun and Hak-joon continued to talk for quite a while. The conversation was mostly Su-hyeun questioning Hak-joon. Su-hyeun was most curious about which floor of the Tower of Trials had Hak-joon reached up until this point.


<<15th floor… He has gone up quite high.>>


They had first met on the second floor, but Hak-joon had now reached the 15th floor.


It was quite a feat considering that as one ascended the floors, the difficulty of the trials increased as well. Moreover, Hak-joon had always chosen Level 8 trials, the same as Su-hyeun had done in his past life.


<


Su-hyeun’s perception of Hak-joon had changed a little. Hak-joon was better than the person he had remembered. Su-hyeun felt a need to continue observing him.


As time went by, everything had been prepared for the evaluation. There were large palm-shaped boards — with machines as tall as men — and the institute’s awakeners, who would be notarizing.


“Ares Guild’s awakener Mr. Choi Hak-joon! Your evaluation will start now!”


Hak-joon, who had arrived the earliest, headed up upon being called.


<>


Ares Guild had been reaching out to Su-hyeun via Abyss Online, asking him to join them. Although he did not have any intentions to join a guild, he recalled the name as it was related to Hak-joon.


<>


Joining hands with a crime syndicate, the guild had been supported in the dark to foster power.


Hak-joon and Ares Guild would meet in the future, and the guild would disappear by the high-profile awakener’s hand. Su-hyeun had considerable interest in this matter when he had learned of it. He had also planned to meet with the Ares Guild sometime, but of course, not so soon.


Whirl, whirl—


Hak-joon injected magic into his palm and placed it on a large plate.


Soon, a stone that turned blue shined brightly. The examiner checked the machine beside him and announced the results.


“Level four, Factor 44. Rank B!”


“Rank B?”


“Really?”


“He looks quite young… Already?”


The other awakeners started murmuring upon the examiner’s announcement.


A B-rank awakener.


They were labeled the so-called high-class awakeners of the top 10 percent. Anyone above a magic level of four, or with a magic factor over 40, was given the qualification. Of course, on top of this, there were other methods to measure an awakener’s rank.


There were cases where one was measured by their skills stats, magic, sense of battle, and other awakener’s abilities through a particular examiner.


“B-rank within a year… Is that good?”


Though Su-hyeun knew that B-rank wasn’t a low rank, it felt weird that the people around him were reacting quite wildly to it. He thought that it was a given to be ranked B if Hak-Joon had been challenging the level 8 trials up to the 15th floor.


<>


Come to think of it, he did not know anything about awakeners’ standards. Su-hyeun only had his first awakening half a year ago, and he did not have any exchange with other awakeners.


<>


There were quite a lot of eyes here as the ranks were announced in a public area.


Each guild had Scouters. Their sharp eyes were watching out for any useful awakeners to invite to join their guild.


“Next, Red Devil Clan’s…”


The next awakener after Hak-joon was called up for evaluation. Hak-joon returned with a cheerful face. It seemed that he was quite satisfied with his own rank.


They announced the ranks of the other four awakeners: C, C, D, D.


“Why am I a D-rank? Why?!” the last evaluated person shouted furiously. The machine that verified the magic level had shown a magic level of three.


“Can’t you see? Damn it! Don’t you know the C-rank’s standards?”


The by-products one could get from the dungeons between a C-rank and D-rank were quite different, thus his huge reaction towards the results.


“Well… the readings kept changing, and we can’t do anything about that either…”


“There’s an error, so why lower the rank? Are you guys kidding me?”


“We can’t do much about it. The manual says so…”


“Damn it, then do the evaluation again!”


The commotion continued. It didn’t seem like it would end anytime soon.


Seemingly disliking the commotion, Hak-joon frowned and pointed at the awakener’s wrist. “Did you think you were the only person to have thought of using items to cheat your way through?”


“What?”


“If you’re scared, take off the bracelet and do the evaluation again. I don’t know how you could bring an item like that here in the first place….”


“Damn you…”


The flushed man muttered something to Hak-joon, then turned and left the room.


Su-hyeun grinned at Hak-joon, who was pouring out foul language. He had a more refreshing personality than expected.


“You talk really well.”


“He would be found out either way when taking the evaluation. There wasn’t a need to waste time, was there?”


“How did you know he used expedients?”


“I felt the magic flowing out from the bracelet. It could be an artifact that amplifies magic.”


An artifact that amplifies magic… An expensive item that could increase the magic factor or level according to one’s original level. There was no knowing how a C-rank was able to obtain such an item, but Hak-joon saw through it accurately.


<>


Hak-joon was clearly a promising awakener.


<>


Even the part where he had passed each floor’s Level 8 trials mirrored Su-hyeun’s past life.


Hak-joon had the talent and took a smooth-sailing path in his guild. If he continued on, he would be able to reach a similar standard as the past Su-hyeun.


<>


Choi Hak-joon had started to take a wrong path at some point in his life. He ignored other’s deaths and formed a twisted mindset. Eventually, he got himself killed.


In the future, Su-hyeun had coincidentally met him for the first time during a massive outbreak from a particular dungeon.


“Outbreak? What has that got to do with me? Why should I care who dies or not?” he asked indifferently.


Su-hyeun was curious as to whether the Choi Hak-joon he had met in his past life and the one he saw now were the same person.


<>


Had this man standing before him bring upon that disaster? Or had he seen Hak-joon in the wrong light? Su-hyeun’s thoughts grew deeper and deeper.


“Next, Mr. Kim Su-hyeun! Please come forward!”


The commotion died down, and Su-hyeun’s name was called out. Su-hyeun stood up from his seat. As soon as his name was called, all eyes had gathered on him and their looks changed.


“Kim Su-hyeun?”


“That kid?”


“Really?”


Kim Su-hyeun.


The name that became the most famous over the past year. He had broken all the records from the first through the ninth floors in the Tower of Trials.


However, his ascending speed wasn’t that high. Compared to the other awakeners, he was slow as a larva.


<>


Level 10.


It was the highest difficulty level in the Tower of Trials, and it was known that the trials were almost impossible to complete. Just by clearing the trial alone was enough to garner interest on Kim Su-hyeun as an awakener. Moreover, the overwhelming achievement points recorded on each floor added to his appeal.


“That guy? Really…?”


Su-hyeun was young in Hak-joon’s eyes. He recalled that strangely alienated feeling he had from Su-hyeun when they first met. That feeling was within reach.


Was he the Kim Su-hyeun that he knew?


It was understandable that he rejected his offer of challenging the Level 8 trial. It was not that it was too difficult, but rather, it was too easy.


It was not only Hak-joon.


The others locked their eyes on Su-hyeun’s back, thinking that they could somehow finally uncover that mysterious veil and find out who the famous Kim Su-hyeun really was.


“Mr. Kim Su-hyeun, please place your hand on this board and inject your magic. It will evaluate your rank according to your magic level and factor.”


Su-hyeun nodded.


<>


As expected, the examiner was a B-rank awakener as well. Although he had given up climbing the Tower of Trials, he knew the name Kim Su-hyeun through the grapevine.


It would be the same if one logged into Abyss Online now. There was a commotion on Abyss Online every time Kim Su-hyeun’s name appeared on the ranking system. He had been waiting for Kim Su-hyeun to get his evaluation done.


“Please, inject your magic.”


As soon as the examiner spoke, Su-hyeun placed his palm on the board.


And soon, his magic was injected.


Whirl, whirl—


Sizzle—


The board shook lightly, and a blue light flowed out.


Everyone’s hearts started racing.


Those sensitive to magic focused on it, and those who were not as sensitive had their focus on the number appearing on the machine. After a while, Su-hyeun’s magic level and factor appeared above the machine.


The examiner who verified it announced with a disappointed face.


“Level 3, Factor 29. Rank… C.”


“Hmm…”


“Indeed.”


“I had half-expected it.”


Disappointed voices echoed throughout the place. There was no way such results would appear if it were the Kim Su-hyeun they had known.


Although a C-rank wasn’t considered low, the Kim Su-hyeun who had broken all those records should have at least received a B-rank.


<>


As he was looking closely at Su-hyeun, the examiner’s face turned weird.


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Su-hyeun, who hadn’t revealed his identity to the public, could not have been evaluated at such a public place — Su-hyeun could have applied for another way of evaluation just to hide his identity from the public.


<>


The examiner looked at Su-hyeun, who was returning to his seat, in suspicion.


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