Su-hyeun petted Miru, currently slumbering away in the middle of the living room.
Compared to the beginning, the dragon had grown so much and now was about the size of a Korean Jindo dog. Miru continued to happily snore away.
It seemed that Su-hyeun’s touch felt really enjoyable to the young dragon.
“When will this kid grow up, I wonder?” Su-hyeun asked.
“Still, don’t you think that at this size, it’s grown a lot now?” Hak-joon replied.
“Regular dragons are supposed to reach their adulthood in about one year, you know. Can you honestly say that Miru will reach adulthood in one year at this rate?”
“Well, no, not really. I mean, it’s only this big, so…” Hak-joon said that before grinning slyly in Su-Hyeun’s direction. “Of course, it’s still a lot bigger than when it was wrapped around your neck.”
“He’s been trying to cling onto me up until about a month ago. Do you have any idea how hard I had to work in pacifying him when he started sulking after I forbid him from wrapping around my neck? And even now, he’s all annoyed and stuff for me not summoning him for a few days….”
“Yeah, I saw that. Miru, this kid, when he gets ticked off, it’s no freaking joke, that’s for sure.”
As Miru’s size had grown pretty large, Su-hyeun could no longer keep the dragon on the outside. Unlike before, his dragon might get mistaken for a monster that escaped from a dungeon if things went wrong somewhere.
“By the way, isn’t it time to wake Miru up? We should get going real soon, right?” Hak-joon asked.
“You’re right, we should.”
With a really expectant face, Su-hyeun stood up from his spot. Hak-joon only needed to see that face to figure out what the older man was thinking and immediately formed a similar sort of expression himself.
“I’m looking forward to it.” He had already heard from Su-hyeun the details of the wager with Robert. “To see just what kind of a face that guy is making right now.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Su-hyeun.
Hak-joon ended up saying what Su-hyeun wanted to say in the first place, so the latter just nodded his head and began shaking Miru. “Hey, time to wake up, sleepyhead. I brought you out after you wanted to come out and play, but you’ve been sleeping the whole day.”
“If you don’t wake up now, I’m going to put you back in there. One, two….”
Miru began to wiggle a bit in its curled-up position and began crying out so pitifully.
Hak-joon stared at the dragon with amazed eyes before turning towards Su-hyeun. “Looking at this guy really makes you realize how time flies by, doesn’t it?”
“Right. It’s true that he’s changed a lot since half a year ago.”
Hak-joon must’ve recalled something abruptly from Su-hyeun’s reply because he asked the latter out of sheer curiosity. “What about you, bro?”
“What about me?”
“No, well. Miru’s one thing, but I was just wondering how much you’ve changed during the same time period, that’s all.”
“I haven’t changed at all, you know.”
“Well…To begin with, you were like a scary monster half a year ago. And it’s not like you’d go and laze around like other regular people either.”
There was this thought that popped up in his head every now and then.
Just how strong was Su-hyeun now, really?
What about now?
Hak-joon would grow curious about the truth of the matter with every passing month or two.
For one thing, Su-hyeun displayed the rate of growth that let him reach the S rank in two years. If he maintained the same growth rate and continued to get stronger, then it’d be quite hard to imagine just how much more powerful he had become now.
“Bro, you reached the 30th floor recently, right?”
“I haven’t passed the trial there, but yeah.”
“…You probably didn’t take it easy in the meantime and lowered the difficulty, so.”
Hak-joon recalled the figure of Su-hyeun stopping the dungeon outbreak in Anyang, then killing off the master of Ares Guild, Jeong Dong-yeong. It had been about half a year since then.
“Maybe, it’s possible that….” Although his words may come across as unsure, Hak-joon was quietly confident about this. “It’s you who has changed far more than Miru.”
* * *
Something was wrong here.
Robert couldn’t get up from his seat, cold sweat still dripping down his face, even though he’d be late if he didn’t get up this instant.
For the past ten days, it felt as if his blood was slowly drying up with each passing day. That feeling grew worse and worse as the promised time came and went. At this point in time, he was this close to denying reality, even.
As per the agreement with Su-hyeun, all contributions made by the Medical Guild would be handed over to him. As for the consequences of that action, it’d fall on the shoulders of Robert himself who signed the contract in the first place.
“Guild Master, you need to get going, sir. If you don’t start now, you might…”
Robert covered his ears from the urging coming from outside his office and screamed loudly.
This was basically the same thing as a large American guild being completely suckered by Su-hyeun’s scheme.
* * *
The middle of downtown LA.
The attention of the entire world was focused on this location where countless police officers were restricting access.
If you took a look at the faces of the awakeners showing up in this place, you’d be able to find numerous individuals not just famous in America, but throughout the rest of the world, too.
And the most famous of them all was the vice master of the Maximum Guild, the S-Rank awakener Jordan Rogers, who was rather obviously the main lead in this raid.
Jordan confirmed the time with his wristwatch and his brows quivered.
Jordan was well known for being very strict with his promises, and he was never the type of man to wait for anyone in a laid-back manner. Even when there were dozens of minutes left on the clock, he’d peer at his watch several times.
“Sir, the Medical Guild’s master sent the word that he’ll be absent this time.”
A guild member approached his side and made a report, causing Jordan’s expression to crumple unsightly.
“Does he think this is a damn joke….?”
“And also, sir. Kim Su-hyeun seems to have arrived on location.”
“The one that the Medical Guild recruited?”
“Sir, actually, he’s a mercenary. He was visiting as a guest, but this event happened and the Medical Guild apparently requested his aid.”
“Those morons at least did something productive for once.”
“Would you like to meet him, sir?”
“Later. I will say hello when everyone’s gathered around. I’m kind of curious about him since he’s supposed to be a genius.”
If this was a green-colored dungeon, it would be fine, but the difficulty of the one they were about to attack was a blue color. Not only that, it was in a precarious state where an outbreak could occur not too long from now.
They definitely needed to succeed in this raid. So, the Medical Guild securing the services of an S-Rank awakener was a pretty sizeable contribution.
“Aren’t you expecting a little too much from a kid who became an S-Rank less than half a year ago?”
It was then that a familiar voice entered Jordan’s ears.
This woman’s rather razor-thin voice was capable of souring his moods no matter when he heard it. A middle-aged woman with blue hair and a pale face resulting from an excessive application of cosmetics just so happened to be the other S-Rank participating in this raid.
The master of the Star Guild: Chloe Rafferty.
The voices of the surroundings pretty much disappeared along with her entrance.
“He’s a guest here to help us, the Americans. I suggest that you watch your mouth,” replied Jordan.
“Will he even really be of much help, I wonder?”
“Have you not heard of the name Kim Su-hyeun before? He’s a genius who became an S-Rank in only two years.”
“He’s more like a little hatchling who’s been an awakener for only two years. To be honest, who knows whether he went through the normal process to reach the rank S or not?”
Chloe’s suspicion wasn’t just hers alone. That was the question every nation in the world thought about after hearing the name “Kim Su-hyeun.”
Did Kim Su-hyeun truly possess the qualification of an S-Rank awakener? Could it be possible that the South Koreans tempered with the evaluation process in order to create a new rising star?
“That guy, he’s only managed to reach the 30th floor, right? That’s like, right at the bottom….” muttered Chloe.
“He’s the only Awakener to pass the tenth level trials.”
“Even then, he’s an Awakener of the bottom floors.”
“Have you not heard it yet? For this dungeon raid, we need at least a minimum of three S-Ranks. If we can’t make up the numbers, then the Guilds will have to bear the brunt of the consequences accordingly.”
Jordan didn’t believe that the dungeon couldn’t be dealt with when there were only two S-Ranks present. No, the real problem to him was the extent of losses incurred before the dungeon was successfully raided.
The statistic of “minimum three, maximum five” only came about to minimize the potential losses to other awakeners, and that was all. Jordan’s Maximum Guild and Chloe’s Star Guild would have to shoulder the potential losses in full.
“Don’t you worry. My Star Guild also got ourselves a mercenary, too,” Chloe replied.
Now that was unexpected.
The pride of Star Guild, especially of Chloe herself, was famously higher than anyone else’s. She was definitely not someone who’d ask for other’s help.
If the truth of an American guild lowering its head to an awakener from another country became known, the complaints from the American public would be directed solely to the Star Guild.
“I simply can’t turn my back when someone pleads so desperately with me to lend a helping hand. Maybe, that person charmed me….”
“Who is it?”
“I can’t say, since that person wanted to remain anonymous, but as far as skills are concerned, they’re the real deal. I confirmed it myself.”
“Skills, is it….”
Prioritizing one’s skills — that was a rather common story in this profession.
Though wanting to stay anonymous left behind this uneasy feeling, as Chloe vouched for this unknown mercenary, there should be no problem here.
The situation became a lot better than expected.
Just like how it was the case with every S-Rank Awakener, Jordan too was overflowing with confidence towards his own skillset.
There was the pride of being the part of the world’s strongest awakener powerhouse nation, as well as being that very nation’s top dog. As was the case with countless S-Rank Awakeners out there, both Jordan and Chloe confidently believed that they were the best of the best.
“As long as that person’s skills are the real deal, then it doesn’t matter to me. Not bad, auntie. You did something big this time.”
“…I told you this before, didn’t I?”
Killing intent began mushrooming all around Chloe. This killing intent permeated with magical energy caused the surrounding air to instantly freeze up.
“If you call me auntie one more time, I’ll definitely kill you.”
Other Awakeners in the vicinity could only hold their breaths at the battle of auras of the two S-Ranks. Jordan snorted derisively, as his relationship with Chloe had been poor for a long time already.
“I’ll fight you properly the next time after I clear up my schedule. You’re supposed to be a guild master, so act accordingly, Chloe.”
“Are you running away now?”
“Not that I’m running away, but….”
As the two began growling at each other, the noises from the surroundings completely died down. This was a situation where the slightest mistake might cause the two S-Rank Awakeners to tear out each other’s throats.
And in the midst of it all, Su-hyeun was observing Jordan and Chloe’s figures.
* * *
“…I can’t bear to hear those two talk anymore,” Su-hyeun muttered, prompting Hak-joon to ask, “What are they talking about, anyway? Other than your name and something about the 30th floor, I couldn’t understand anything they said.”
“Well, it’s about….”
Su-hyeun simplified the conversation Jordan and Chloe had and told it to Hak-joon.
“That’s what they talked about.”
“Wait, they can’t possibly fight each other in this place, right?”
“What will they do if someone gets injured….?”
“Well, they might be thinking that it doesn’t matter to them whether something happens to the raid or not. Or, they could be thinking that there won’t be any problems even if they behave like that.”
“Whichever it is, it’s a bit too much.”
“That’s the result of lack of experience as well as living in peace for too long as the top dog. Probably the half of all S-Ranks think the same as them.”
Su-hyeun then observed the humongous blue aura swallowing up a corner of the city in the distance.
“…Maybe they think that thing over there is a joke,” murmured Su-hyeun.
Nowhere in the conversation between Jordan and Chloe continuing with their killing intent could the worries regarding the blue-colored dungeon be found. The idea of the raid failing didn’t even cross their minds. This was the common trait of all the S-Rank American awakeners.
“But, that’s obvious, right? Jordan over there is a great man who successfully raided the world’s largest green-colored dungeon. Now that Chloe’s with him, what could possibly scare him?” Hak-joon asked.
“Is that what you think, too?”
“That thing over there. You think that’s a joke, too?”
Both the look on Su-hyeun’s eyes, as well as the tone of his voice, gave off some strange vibes. Hak-joon didn’t know what Su-hyeun wanted to say, so he closed his mouth shut.
The latter quietly stared at the blue-colored dungeon, before continuing on. “Have you ever thought about the possibility of those things swallowing up this world sooner or later?”
“Dungeons…swallowing the world?”
It wasn’t as if Hak-joon had never thought about it before.
When dungeons first appeared in the world, such fears did circulate in the public, although they went away pretty soon afterward.
The dungeon’s first appearance did bring wariness and fear to the rest of the world. However, with the entrance of the awakeners, dungeons were soon seen as repositories of new types of resources.
The sense of danger Su-hyeun was implying disappeared not too long after.
No, it was more like it was forgotten.
“Bro, could it be that….”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Su-hyeun thought that it was still too early and shook his head.
Hak-joon, thinking that the atmosphere had gotten weird quickly tried to change the topic. “Besides that, what will you do now? I’m not sure if you can go there and say hi under the current situation.”
“Didn’t that auntie talk crap about you, bro? So, like, wouldn’t stepping forward now only make matters worse and get people red in their faces?”
“You think so?”
Su-hyeun pondered for a bit, before softly nodding his head.
“You know, that…doesn’t sound so bad.”