‘Alright, I survived and I got good clips for the highlights.’
«Normally, other Hunters wouldn't be able to even think about their highlight videos while doing a live stream.»
‘You’re right. Usually, the live streams are very hectic.’
Hunters normally preferred dungeons that were lower than their levels to clear safely. However, since they were fighting against unevaluated Gates, they had no idea what kind of situation awaited them. There was no Hunter like Ji-Cheok who would go into a top-tier dungeon by himself and chop down monsters while risking his life. And he did all that while thinking about his next highlight video?
Soon, a Portal appeared in front of him. The white light was beautiful as if to congratulate him on fully clearing the dungeon.
‘I just realized, but what is the hidden quest I apparently cleared? Gotta check that out later.’
“So, everyone. It seems like I just soloed an elite dungeon today. I hope you had a good time.”
-Long live Umji!
-I couldn’t even eat my fried chicken because I was so invested in the stream LOL. Now my food is all cold.
-乃乃乃乃乃乃乃Don't forget to like and subscribe to Umji’s channel! 乃乃乃乃乃乃乃
-乃乃You did great, Umji! Now go home and take a rest!!! 乃乃
-I enjoyed it too. 乃乃乃 But try not to be so reckless next time, Umji. 乃乃乃乃
‘Okay, it seems like I gave the viewers entertainment worth the price of my life.’
“Well then, I guess this is it for today’s stream! See you again next time! Umji, Gumji! Don’t forget to like and subscribe!”
With this lively, but somewhat business-like comment, he turned off the stream.
He couldn’t feel his legs from exhaustion.
‘Did it look like I was tired at the end? I tried not to show it on the stream.’
«You did great, Master. It looked like you fought bravely and still had some energy left.»
‘That’s what I want to hear.’
He took a water bottle out of his bag and drank it. It wasn’t a potion, just regular water. Potions always had this taste of cold syrup, even when they tried to make them as delicious as possible. The only way to really quench thirst was water.
He was still sweating, though.
‘Oh man, it just won’t stop.’
He poured the rest of the water on his face and stared blankly at the sky.
«Are you going to take a little break before going out of the dungeon, Master?»
‘I think so. It will take at least six hours for the Gate to reset. So let’s just…have a little break… Just for a minute… It’s hard to breathe for some reason.’
Ji-Cheok wondered if this was why athletes always used oxygen respirators after their games. To catch his breath, he lay down on the grass and stared at the sky. He was in a world where there were no monsters and it felt as if he was inside a game, waiting for the server to close. Even the silence felt a bit strange.
He suddenly heard footsteps. He looked up, while still lying down, only to see a familiar suit.
“Ah, it’s you, director,” Ji-Cheok said.
It was Jung Ji-Han.
“I see that you are taking a rest.”
“Yes. I can’t even lift a finger, so I’m just lying down and spacing out. I thought you would be busy, why did you come here? How did you even know that I cleared the dungeon?”
“I was also watching your live stream.”
“Ah ha~ I see.”
Soon after, a team of Hunter Assistants rushed in to sweep up the loot.
‘Ah, that brings me back. I was just like that once.’
“So, how much mana do you have left?” Ji-Han asked.
‘...I can’t say that it’s all gone.’
“About half,” Ji-Cheok replied.
“That is amazing. Even after killing so many monsters, you still have half of your mana left.”
‘Did he actually believe me? Or is he pretending to believe me? I can’t tell because I’m not getting any Likes from him.’
“It’s because my Mana rank increased,” Ji-Cheok said.
‘I used my items to increase my Mana to A-rank. That’s strong.’
“Then, shall we go out now?” Ji-Han said.
Ji-Cheok agreed that it was time to go, so he headed out with Ji-Han. There were more reporters waiting for him with flashing cameras than when he had entered the dungeon.
“Woow! It’s Umji!”
“The strongest Umji!!!”
‘Huh, there are some of my fans among the reporters. I guess the police lifted the restriction and started letting in the general public.’
«You have been lying down for quite some time, Master.»
‘Hahaha, did I? I was so dizzy, I wasn't keeping track of the time.’
«Master, walk proudly. The majesty of a monarch comes from the way he walks. Keep your spine straight!»
‘Does that mean that you want me to walk like a model?’
Ji-Cheok pumped out his chest and stepped forward as if he was the strongest man in the world. Then, he stood at a camera-friendly angle and gave an exaggerated greeting with his arms open wide. It was the kind of greeting the actors gave when the curtain came down in a play.
People got more excited and took more pictures of him.
‘I should be shining. I should shine brightly like a star. That’s how I get more Likes. More Likes mean more power, and more power means more Likes. I’m going to get 10 million Likes and uncover the secrets of this damn world.’
* * *
“Wow. Did you see your brother’s live stream? I didn’t know he was so hardcore~ I can’t believe he didn’t even flinch after all that. Even drones would shatter after that much work. Even so, he didn’t show any feelings of tiredness. Of course, that's what drives his fans crazy.”
Like a villain in a science fiction movie, she had several mechanical arms attached to her back.
“His narrative is strong, he can handle the pressure from other fandoms, and he always smiles more brightly the harder it gets. That’s like… the three most important factors for a fan to love their Hunter even more. And he even volunteers to go to places that no Hunter wants to go.”
Her five mechanical arms held a drill, a welding torch, a mechanical hand, a screwdriver, and something that looked like a cog wheel covered in magic formulas. They were busy welding, twisting, cutting, and gluing the machine parts piled up around her.
“Why is Ji-Cheok working so hard? Is it for the money? I know that a lot of companies want him. Even if he just stands still and does nothing, there will be companies willing to throw money at him. So what’s the problem? I doubt that he is trying to start a company like the Jungha Group. I just don’t see him as the ambitious type.”
The seven-armed monster was Jung Bi-Ga. She was in her own laboratory, which appeared to represent the very essence of mechanical engineering. Beside her, a young man was lying on the operating table, clenching his teeth. It was Um Mu-Cheok.
He was the younger brother of Ji-Cheok and similarly a super rookie, who had the unique Chronicler job. He had no clothes on, but he wasn’t actually naked, either—his body was entirely covered in strange pieces of equipment. Anyone who saw him would have said that this was some kind of steampunk torture contraption. In line with that train of thought, Mu-Cheok was clenching his teeth and sweating bullets.
“You’re weird just like your brother. Why would you voluntarily suffer when you have such a powerful brother?”
Mana-infused steam was ejected from the machines. Just from the look of it, it was the lab of a mad scientist. Mu-Cheok’s expression was not visible because of the steam. In the mist, he answered Bi-Ga’s question.
“Sacrifice… not… for granted…”
“I know that my brother is risking his life for me… huff… I just don’t want to be a burden to him. That’s all.”
He always thought about how much better it would have been if he had been the one that was Awakened and not his older brother. However, life didn’t always go as planned. After Ji-Cheok had become Awakened, he had become so strong so fast that Mu-Cheok couldn’t reach his level.
Mu-Cheok had thus realized that it was impossible to get on his brother’s level by ordinary means. He had to do something… drastic.
“Oh, isn’t that a cute story? I’m always weak for an emotional family bond. Maybe that’s because my family is just the opposite.”
She quickly typed something with the tips of her nails, which had Mana Stones attached to them. Then, she snapped her fingers. Mu-Cheok could hear the sound of the ventilation system turning on.
The steam disappeared, and Mu-Cheok could be seen again. The equipment attached to him also went back inside the metal bed. Shining patterns were engraved on Mu-Cheok’s body like the circuit of a mechanical device, but they disappeared without a trace as if the lights were turned off inside his body.
“I got some good data today. I appreciate your cooperation. Now you will be able to ‘aim better’, ‘think faster’, ‘recover easily’, and ‘go rampant in case of an emergency’. But…twenty-two percent of our body is now a machine. You should be okay. After all, it’s pretty common these days.”
Under Bi-Ga’s creepily smiling gaze, he got up from the bed with a very tired face. It was time for him to go back.
* * *
‘Just how many interviews do I have to do? I think I’m about to die.’
«Since you are the Hunter who defused the bomb that was going to destroy Yeouido, there is nothing you can do, Master.»
‘That’s right. I’m a bomb disposal expert now. I guess I don’t need to worry about whether to cut the blue wire or the red wire.’
Ji-Han gave something to Ji-Cheok.
“It’s a bar of chocolate from the Alchemy Guild. It does not restore HP or MP, but I heard that it is good for fatigue recovery.”
Ji-Cheok took a bite. It was more bitter than he had thought—definitely an acquired taste. It tasted like iced americano that borrowed energy from the future.
‘If you drink it in the middle of the winter, you can even feel it in your stomach.’
Ji-Cheok answered the reporters’ questions on the spot, and Ji-Han was there to support him. Ji-Han would skip questions that he felt were too controversial for Ji-Cheok. After the ad-hoc press conference, the experts eventually came to the conclusion that this dungeon had been a Single-Shot one. Now that the Gate was closed, it meant that this damn plant dungeon in Yeouido would never open again.
‘Thank god. If it opened again, it would have been annoying as hell.’
When Ji-Cheok came home after clearing his schedule, the sky was already dyed a deep blue color. Seeing the azure sky from afar, he could feel that dawn was coming to an end.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
He smashed in his password and entered the house.
“Mu-Cheoook!! I’m hooooome!”
He opened the door with a bright smile on his face, but…
‘...huh, there’s no one. I guess Mu-Cheok hasn’t come home yet. Wow… He is not even here to greet his older brother who’s been working his ass off.’
He took off his gear and put them in the gear locker, then took off his clothes and put them in the washing machine. He went into the bathroom to get water in the bathtub—
‘—do I really need to do this?’
As soon as the skill was activated, water appeared in the air, filling the bathtub. It was the first time he had used this skill, and he was very surprised.
“I guess this is why people are crazy about these skills! Lifestyle Magic is really convenient!”
«I’m glad you are enjoying it, Master. It was worth recommending to you.»
“Yeah. It’s a pity that the water is cold.”
«Let me raise the temperature, Master.»
Cheok-Liang dipped his tail in the water and the water heated up in an instant!
‘Wow, Cheok-Liang. You have received one Like from me!’
«This is nothing, Master. I am Master’s summoned beast. I can use your item skills to some extent. I can even reproduce the flames of [Flaming Black Jacket] a little bit.»
“I knew that, but it’s still amazing.”
Cheok-Liang wagged his wet tail at the compliment.
‘This sly fennec. I know you love my compliments, even if you are pretending to ignore them.’
Cheok-Liang tried to avoid Ji-Cheok’s eye contact.
«Well then, Master… Would you like to check out the rewards?»