Standing in the middle of downtown LA, a high-rise building around 20 floors tall with the word “Medical” engraved in large letters was home to nearly one thousand awakeners affiliated with the Medical Guild.
Josh hurriedly headed towards the guild house and ran to the highest floor of the building to meet the guild master Robert William.
“Guild master, it’s me.”
Josh cautiously opened the door and entered the office after hearing the reply coming from the inside.
Within this huge office occupying at least half of the entire floor, the guild master, Robert, was taking a golfer’s stance while holding onto a golf club. “Hold on for a sec. Let me get this first.”
The golf ball rolled for around ten meters and entered the hole, prompting Robert to form a satisfied expression as he turned around to face Josh. “Okay. So, did you guide our guest properly?”
“Yes, sir. And the guy from the Reaper Guild went back home.”
“The name’s Kim Su-Hyeun, right? The newly-promoted S-Rank. I’ve heard plenty about him already, and man, that guy is the real deal, alright.”
It hadn’t even been half a year since he became an S-Rank, yet Su-hyeun’s name was already widely known throughout the rest of the world.
Not only were the S-Ranks a rarity to begin with, but the title of the youngest ever to reach the rank shone far brighter than anything else.
“As a matter of fact, we’ve prepared a private residence and offered it to him,” said Josh.
“Nice work. By the way, what did he come here for? Is he a tourist?”
“Well, sir. That is….”
Josh hesitated for a little bit before addressing Robert busy putting away his golf club in the bag. “Sir, I think he’s interested in the upcoming assault on the blue-colored dungeon.”
“The blue colored dungeon, is it?”
“Did he bring it up first?”
“Yes, sir. It seems likely to me that he’s interested in the Ether stones and items potentially excavated from there.”
Now this was an unexpected development.
Normally, this side should’ve been the one to bring up the topic first. They were in a situation where they needed to find more S-Ranked awakener combatants no matter what.
To make matters worse, over half of the American S-Rank awakeners hadn’t returned from the Tower of Trials yet. That’s why they needed at least two more S-Rank awakeners just in case.
However, this was America.
It was the global awakener powerhouse. It occupied the position of “number one” who had never asked anyone for their help until now. As that was the case, they couldn’t readily step forward first to request other countries to lend their S-Rank awakeners.
But now, Su-hyeun, visiting the States at the perfect time, was expressing his interest in the blue-colored dungeon first?
America, or at least the American awakener guilds, definitely hadn’t reached out first. No, it was that man who asked first.
Robert pondered something for a little while and ended up uttering out the tail end of his thoughts inadvertently. “It’s the contribution.”
“You said he expressed his interest in the dungeon first, right?”
“Yes, sir. That’s correct.”
“In that case, let’s do it this way.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
Robert heard Josh’s question and started sharing his thoughts.
Soon, though, Josh’s complexion paled. “Will that be really okay, sir? But, don’t we need his helping hand?”
“I’m telling you, it’ll be alright. This is not Korea, but America. And besides, he’s supposed to be the youngest ever, right? That means he’s still wet behind the ears, so what would he know about how the real world operates?”
“Enough. Let’s go.” Robert wrapped his arm around Josh’s shoulder and continued on. “Let’s catch ourselves a dumbass using this opportunity.”
* * *
“Apologies for the late introduction. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. I’m Robert, the guild master of the Medical Guild.”
With a living room table between them, Su-hyeun and Hak-joon sat on the opposite side to Robert.
Next to his guild master, the somewhat uncomfortable-looking Josh sat. Anyone with a functioning brain could guess the kind of conversation that might have taken place between these two.
With a smiling face, Su-hyeun extended his hand towards Robert. “I’m Kim Su-hyeun. This is Choi Hak-joon. Our English aren’t so good, so we ask for your understanding.”
Robert first shook hands with Su-hyeun, then greeted Hak-joon afterward.
Only when the pleasantries were over did Robert finally drop the friendly smile and speak in a serious tone of voice. “Looks like we’ll have to postpone this friendly exchange of greetings for the time being, unfortunately. From what I heard from Josh, you seem to be interested in the blue-colored dungeon….?”
“Yes, I am. I’ve got a bit of spirit of challenge in me, you see. As it’s the world’s first-ever blue-colored dungeon, I couldn’t help but get interested in it,” Su-hyeun replied.
“From our perspective, your offer of help sounds quite wonderful, but there are certain circumstances to consider here. As you may well know, we as Americans don’t have a precedent of reaching out to the awakeners from other countries.”
Robert spoke in a roundabout way to imply that it’d be hard to accept Su-hyeun’s request.
Of course, he didn’t forget to blend in some favorable-sounding words in the mix, too. “….Still, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of your request with utmost sincerity, Mister Su-hyeun. However, If you’re willing to consent to a couple of things, then we might be inclined to view your potential inclusion to the assault party in a more positive light.”
“When you say “consent,” what do you mean, exactly?”
“It’s simple, actually. Mister Su-hyeun, if you’re willing to concede a portion of your contribution to us, then we might be inclined to consider your request in a positive light. As for the standard of judging the level of contribution, we at the Medical Guild swears to process it fairly and impartially, so you don’t have to worry in that regard.”
Su-hyeun lightly nodded his head, and Robert cried out in delight inwardly.
With this, they had succeeded in poaching an S-Rank, and on top of it all, they would be able to bring in more contribution, as well.
It was then that Su-hyeun’s expression changed in an instant. “It seems that…” With a cold, hardened face, he continued on. “The American S-Ranks are a lazy bunch, I guess.”
“I mean, isn’t that true when looking at how everyone has stopped participating in the trials and chose to stay at home? Let’s see, then. I wonder, are all five S-Ranks staying at home now?”
“I-it’s not that, but….”
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
That was an unexpected question. To reply to this query he wasn’t ready for, Robert urgently kicked his brain into gear while blurring the ends of his sentence, his eyes darting from side to side.
It was then that Su-hyeun carried on with his words. “Two people.”
He tapped on the table and continued on. “From what I heard, there are only two S-Rank awakeners currently available in America.”
“But, how did you….”
Robert couldn’t continue with “find out?” If he did, then it’d be no different than tacitly admitting to what Su-hyeun had said.
However, the latter seemed to know everything already. “I investigated the current situation as soon as I heard about the news of the blue-colored dungeon. Well, they are all famous celebrities to begin with, so it wasn’t all that hard to find out, anyway.”
Su-hyeun stared straight at Robert, now resembling a speechless fool caught in the act. “Two A-Rank awakeners, or one A-Rank plus several B-Ranks, are required for a yellow-colored dungeon.”
“Why have you suddenly—”
Su-hyeun cut off Robert in the middle to carry on with what he wanted to say. “And then, one S-Rank awakener, or at least many A- and B-Ranks, are required to attack a single green-colored dungeon. By following this logic, what do you think will be the required size of the combat force to attack a blue-colored dungeon?”
Robert avoided Su-hyeun’s gaze.
His thoughts were getting messy.
This was a completely different development from what he initially expected.
Not only did he make a mistake of taking his opponent too lightly due to the latter’s age, but he also didn’t take into account Su-hyeun knowing the current situation in America.
“Well, I guess we’ll be on our way now. Looks like we’ve selected a wrong guild to speak to,” said Su-hyeun.
“It-it seems like there’s been some sort of a misunderstanding.” Robert, now startled wide awake, quickly held onto Su-hyeun’s hand as the latter tried to get up.
Su-hyeun looked as if he’d burst out of this place at any second now, and his icy-cold eyes were currently locked squarely on Robert. “A misunderstanding, you say?”
Robert was pretty quick on the uptake. So, he swiftly revised what he said. “N-no. I made a mistake….”
“Is it really a mistake?”
“Allow me to apologize. But, I beg of you to understand where we’re coming from.”
“But this and but that….”
That was one thing Su-hyeun hated the most.
He scowled deeply as if displeased, but then, a wide grin suddenly formed on his face. Just as that grin began to feel ominous to everyone else, he settled back down on the seat. “Alright, fine. For now, let’s continue with this discussion.”
“Thank you. So, then…”
“Except that, I’ll be the one to make a suggestion this time.”
Su-hyeun wanted to make a counteroffer? Robert could only hold his breath cautiously. “Please go ahead.”
“First of all…”
Robert’s expression changed again and again as Su-hyeun continued on with what he wanted to say.
At first, his complexion was bright, but it grew progressively darker and gloomier towards the end. A far greater dilemma compared to when he first got here was raging within his head.
Once the one-sided discussion came to an end, Robert spoke with a troubled expression. “But, there’ll be far too much risk for our side.”
“Isn’t this the case of ‘high risk, high return?’ Probability-wise, it’ll be far more disadvantageous for me, wouldn’t you say?” Su-hyeun said.
“Well, that’s true, but….”
“Are you scared?”
Su-hyeun’s provocation caused Robert’s brows to shoot up high.
However, the former continued to stare at the latter and carried on. “This is literally a gamble. If any one of the American S-Ranks currently in the Tower decides to return, then I shall offer my services free of charge to the Medical Guild during this dungeon attack. However, if no one returns…”
“I understand. When that happens, we at the Medical Guild will concede all of our potential contribution and our rights over this dungeon to you.”
Robert seemingly stuck in an endless dilemma finally made up his mind. The probability was very high. Only one S-Rank Awakener had to return, that was all. It was supposed to be “high risk, high return,” but honestly speaking, this suggestion overwhelmingly favored the Medical Guild.
If just one did come back from the trials, then it’d be the same as the Medical Guild becoming the national hero. Regardless of what, it’d basically be them recruiting an S-Rank awakener for free, after all.
Everything was dependent on the bet, sure, but Robert decided to be optimistic about his prospects. While busy telling himself that the heavens could be helping him out right now, unfortunately for him…
Su-hyeun was working very hard to drag down the corners of his lips constantly wanting to arch upwards. At a casual glance, this might have looked like a gamble, one where he was on the losing end. One where the Medical Guild was in a favorable position.
Of course, unlike how it looked from the outside, the result of this bet was as good as already set in stone. Su-hyeun had already peeked into the future result, so he was able to throw his lot with a far surer bet.
This gamble was his victory.
“In that case, let’s draw up a contract, shall we? As for the middleman…”
The attack on the blue-colored dungeon.
Su-hyeun thought that joining the assault party wouldn’t be easy at all, but rather unexpectedly, things worked out quite painlessly all thanks to the Medical Guild.
While drawing up the contract and signing it, the two men continued to mock each other inwardly.
Of course, only one was scheduled to become the idiot here.
Another ten days went by.
And, excluding the two already-present S-Rank American awakeners, none returned from the Tower.
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