Chapter 6. Back in My Day (2)
– Number 75, please come in.
‘It’s my turn.’
When his name was called, Seo Jun-Ho headed toward the armory connected to the waiting room. Inside, an Association employee was waiting.
“Welcome, Mr. Seo Jun-Ho.”
“After you pick a weapon from this room, please go through that door.”
Seo Jun-Ho looked around, taking in the weapons on display. There were martial arts weapons, pistols, bows, and even more uncommon weapons like halberds.
“Is there a limit to how many I can take?” he asked.
“No. Sometimes, there are even people who take more than two weapons.”
Seo Jun-Ho looked excited as he started to pick up the weapons. First, he found a holster for a Glock-17 and then slung a bow and quiver on his shoulders. He strapped five throwing knives and a dagger to his thigh, and a sword sheath to his waist. Lastly, he picked up a spear.
The employee let out a sigh as they watched. “Mr. Seo Jun-Ho, are you planning to take all the weapons?”
“Is that not allowed?”
“Haa…It is.” The employee shook their head. They had seen many examinees like Seo Jun-Ho and knew there was no point in giving advice. They held out a pair of gloves with a resigned expression. “Once you are ready, please put on these gloves.”
When Seo Jun-Ho stared at the gloves blankly, the employee began to explain.
“This is a magic item that lets you interact with the hologram monsters in the testing room.”
“Woah, that’s pretty cool.” Seo Jun-Ho finally pulled on the gloves and double-checked his weapons. He looked up. “I’m ready. I can go in now, right?”
“Yes. Please use this door right here.”
Seo Jun-Ho walked over to where the employee gestured and opened the door. The testing room was bigger than it looked on screen, and its ceiling, walls, and floor were completely white.
– Mr. Seo Jun-Ho, are you ready?
He easily spun the spear in his hands and nodded toward the speaker.
– The exam will now begin.
As soon as the message ended, monsters started to form.
‘It’s even cooler in person.’
The hologram monsters looked like the real thing. Seo Jun-Ho’s eyes sparkled in wonder, but he had already finished analyzing his opponents.
‘Twenty dwarves. It would be pretty difficult for novices.’
That was probably the reason why only 3% of the examinees passed the Player Licensure Exams. Dwarves had an average height of 130 centimeters. They were much smaller than the average man, and they were definitely weaker as well. However, just as the Players knew it, the dwarves themselves were well aware of their physical disadvantage.
‘Dwarves are clever, and they play dirty.’
What they lacked in strength, they made up for with tricks, spite, and tenacity. If you underestimated them like the first examinee, you’d lose your balance as soon as you let your guard down. And in a real battle, it would be over as soon as you fell to the floor.
‘They would stab daggers all over their enemies’ bodies.”
The dwarves looked upon Seo Jun-Ho with hostility, and he grinned back.
‘Wow, this reminds me of the old days.’
Seo Jun-Ho was reminded of his past as he looked at the ugly dwarves drooling at him.
“The world sure has gotten a lot better. They didn’t have this back then.”
License exam? Hologram monsters?
‘We didn’t have any of that.’
If you wanted to become a Player back then, you had to risk your life by going into a Gate. If you survived, you’d get a license, and if you died, not even your corpse would remain.
“Back in my day, you actually needed to put in the effort. A lot of it, in fact.” Surviving required effort, and so did killing monsters. And even if you worked hard, you could still die if you got unlucky. That was simply how Players lived. As someone who lived through that era, Seo Jun-Ho thought that these hologram monsters were downright ridiculous.
‘Even though they’re good imitations…’
They were still man-made fakes.
“They’ll probably attack if I did this?” Seo Jun-Ho twisted his back a little, creating a false opening. The dwarves let out a grotesque cry and ran in.
The spear in his hands was about 1.3 meters. Combined with the length of his arm, he could control an area with a radius of 1.5 meters. Of course, the bits of data in front of him wouldn’t know that.
The four impatient dwarves rushed over, gripping their daggers in their hands. They jumped toward him, aiming for his head. But just as they were about to reach the peak of their jump…
Seo Jun-Ho had less muscle than the average adult, but his biceps suddenly flexed.
Just as the dwarves were about to hit their target, his spear struck out like a flash of light, piercing through their heads. Before their bodies could fall to the ground, they scattered into geometric shapes before fading.
The dwarves lost their enthusiasm as they saw their comrades fall to the ground. They stopped their approach and scattered.
‘So the dwarves scatter when faced with a strong opponent…They’ve got the details down.’
Seo Jun-Ho struck his spear into the ground. “But even if you do that, it won’t do anything.”
He pulled out the five throwing knives with his left hand and held out the Glock-17 with his right.
‘Let’s get the ones in the back first.’
As the five throwing knives flew out one after another, he fired his Glock.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Five with knives, four with the Glock. Nine dwarves disintegrated in the time that it took to blink.
The seven remaining dwarves backed away, trembling.
“Wow, they can even feel fear?” Seo Jun-Ho grinned as he saw the expressions on their faces. “This is pretty sadistic.”
This part of the exam tested whether or not a Player could kill cornered monsters.
“Here’s your answer.” Seo Jun-Ho shrugged off his bow and nocked an arrow.
“K-kieeek!” The dwarves started to shriek and run away, full of fear. Since they were small and nimble, they were difficult targets for novice archers.
‘But I have Weapons Mastery (A). And Gilberto taught me how to shoot a bow and a gun.’
Gilberto Green was one of the 5 Heroes, the gunslinger otherwise known as the Gray Envoy.
‘I can’t let him down.’
As Seo Jun-Ho drew back the bowstring, the dwarves started to run even faster. Despite being holograms, their fear was very realistic.
“…” He closed one eye and took aim. His body formed a perfect T as he adjusted his position, looking like a picture from a textbook.
The arrow that had been shot with only a moment’s notice buried itself into the back of the dwarf’s head. The surprising thing was that the dwarf had been running in a zigzag motion. But Seo Jun-Ho wasn’t satisfied yet. He quickly reached for another arrow and nocked it onto the bowstring.
Woosh! Woosh! Woosh!
He fired three arrows in a row, and three of the dwarves disintegrated.
“Phew.” With that, Seo Jun-Ho lowered his bow to the ground and placed his hand on the sword’s handle.
‘This one’s the last one, of course.’
He had fought with the sword for the longest amount of time, and it was thus the weapon he had the most confidence in.
Perhaps the dwarves had realized death was inevitable even if they ran. The remaining three dwarves ran towards him with bloodshot eyes.
Even as they got closer, Seo Jun-Ho only caressed his sword and didn’t unsheathe it. He looked 1 meter away and drew an imaginary line on the ground. That was the reach of his sword as well as the dwarves’ ‘lifeline.’
The moment the dwarves crossed their lifeline, Seo Jun-Ho smirked as his fingers wrapped around the sword handle.
“You’ve crossed the line.” The blade flashed like lightning.
With one clean swing, their heads went flying.
“So you should die.”
Seo Jun-Ho’s skills were undeniably sharp, but as he lowered his sword, he couldn’t help but feel frustrated.
‘My senses have become very dull.’
Obviously, his current skills were incomparable to his golden days. And that wasn’t all…
“…Ow.” His muscles and bones were screaming after he’d pushed them to their limits in such a short amount of time. He couldn’t help but sulk.
‘I need to train more if I want to go into Gates.’
– P-pass…Number 75, Mr. Seo Jun-Ho, you pass.
“…He’s amazing. I don’t know what else to say.”
After seeing Seo Jun-Ho’s exam, the judges couldn’t hide their excitement. They usually sat back on the sofa looking bored, but the fact they had jumped up and stuck to the window to watch him showed how elated they were.
“I was wrong. He’s not merely a Specter copycat.”
“He had a perfect understanding of his weapon’s reach. Based on how he handled the spear, threw the knives, fired the gun and arrows, and the simple but controlled way he swung his sword…He has a deep understanding of weapons.”
“He also has a balanced physique. Based on appearance, he looks weak, like he doesn’t have enough muscle…But I didn’t know that it was possible to move like that at his level.”
The judges couldn’t stop admiring his skills. But among them, Shim Deok-Gu was the only one that was silent.
But he eventually spoke. “Looking at his profile…It looks like the only skill he has is Weapons Proficiency. And it’s only D-rank.”
“Did you say D-rank?”
The excitement died quickly as the judges went silent.
‘It’s not even a sub-skill. If his only skill is D-rank, I don’t know if we want to put that many resources into training him.’
‘Hm, so that’s it. Since he only has one skill, he put in an insane amount of effort…’
‘I see. So he knows how limiting his skill is and has bet everything on this licensure exam.’
‘Training him won’t be that cost-effective.’
‘I almost fell for it.’
The judges finished doing the calculation in their heads. They would have considered scouting him to their Guilds if his skill was at least C-rank, but it was D. Of course, if they invested enough into him and he got lucky, he could become a top-level Player. But Guilds only cared about profit.
‘If we gamble and win, it would be great…But if we lose, it’ll be just as bad.’
‘There’s no reason to take the harder path.’
‘I’ll admit that he has a great combat sense, but I don’t think it’s enough for me to bring him in.’
They didn’t necessarily want to take him for themselves, but it would be a waste to give him to another. Seo Jun-Ho didn’t know about this, but that was how they felt.
Shim Deok-Gu watched quietly, taking a relaxed sip of coffee.
‘If it’s like this, no one will complain if we pick him up.’
Seo Jun-Ho had made a lasting impression during his exam, which meant that Shim Deok-Gu had a good reason to recruit him. The Guild scouts had decided that he didn’t have enough growth potential, but…
‘I almost feel bad that we hid his abilities.’
Seo Jun-Ho was a top-level Player that could control darkness and ice. Not only that, he had a good variety of powerful Skills. Even his Weapons Proficiency (D) was actually Weapons Mastery (A).
‘I should get the window cleaned when the exam is over.’
Shim Deok-Gu placed down his cup, smiling victoriously.