READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 96 ( ONLY I LEVEL UP )
I ALONE LEVEL UP CHAPTER 96
Chapter 96: Chapter 96
Jin-Woo soon arrived at the Hunter Auction.
The main building was not tall but was rather wide, leading to an initial impression that, instead of an office building, it was more like a museum or an art gallery. The massive car park seemed to scream out loud ‘We’ll accommodate everyone regardless of whether the participants are in the hundreds or in the thousands!’
The impressive building was standing in the middle of that parking lot.
One could easily guess just how much money the Hunter Auction was making through commissions from the artefact trade.
Jin-Woo exited from the taxi and made his way towards the building, but even before he could take a couple more steps, a formally-dressed man suddenly ran outside first.
“You must be Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
“Yes, I am.”
The man checked Jin-Woo’s face and formed a surprised expression. But, he quickly remembered his role and greeted the youth with a welcoming tone of voice.
“My name is Kim Jeong-Ki from the Hunter Auction Appraisal Department. We talked on the phone. Please, follow me.”
Jin-Woo lightly nodded his head.
While leading Jin-Woo towards the appraisal room, Kim Jeong-Ki’s mind was racing.
‘The new rank S that disappeared from the reporters only a short while ago is standing right behind me.’
When he first received the call, he thought it had to be some kind of a prank.
First of all, the supposed effect of the artefact sounded nonsensical, and more importantly, it was because the guy on the phone said that he was the rank S Hunter announced earlier in the day.
‘I almost ended up insulting a rank S Hunter, didn’t I?’
Just how frightened was he after the Hunters Association confirmed that the phone number did indeed belong to Hunter Seong Jin-Woo?
He should thank the lucky stars that he followed the book and didn’t rudely dismiss the call outright.
[….Now officially registered in his new rank, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo has jumped up over five levels in rank, from E to S, through his Re-Awakening process, and it’s revealed that he possesses Mage-type abilities….]
Even now, this young man’s face could be seen plastered on the TV screens mounted on various parts of the Auction house. Perhaps he himself found it a bit too much, since the youth pulled his hood low to hide his face.
They weren’t even talking about Kim Jeong-Ki, but for some reason, he felt a bit flattered as the news broadcast continued to mention Jin-Woo’s name.
‘Should I ask him if we can take a selfie together?’
He shook his head, though. If he wasn’t currently at work, he’d have ‘requested’ for a selfie as well as some autographs. However, he couldn’t do something that rude to a client coming in for an important trade. He had to persevere and hold tight for the time being.
‘Was the corridor from the entrance to here this short?’
They arrived at the appraisal room while several thoughts fleeted in and out of his head. Kim Jeong-Ki spoke with a wistful expression.
“It’s this way.”
The head of the Appraisal Department, as well as the company’s best appraiser, were anxiously waiting inside this wide room. They even gave up on lunch just to be here.
Seeing Jin-Woo’s face, the department head’s eyes opened wider.
‘It’s really the same guy from the news!’
Meanwhile, the appraiser nervously swallowed his dry saliva.
‘In that case, the magic amplification tool is really….??’
No, nothing was certain, yet. Just because the guy was real, that didn’t mean the stuff would be real, too. The appraiser repeated this in his head as if to calm himself down.
Even the best magic amplification artefact created with top materials by the world’s greatest artefact maker pouring out his soul would not exceed 50% in effect.
And then, gathering of the right materials itself would not be easy, not to mention that the manpower necessary and time required to make one should be ridiculous as well. One might consider himself lucky if he got to see one of those artefacts popping up in the market once every few years.
There were willing Mage-type Hunters from around the world lining up in a long-a*s queue to buy such items, but there was literally nothing to sell to them.
Well, there was no need to go as far as the ‘world’ here.
Even locally, the Mage-type Hunter, and often referred to as the Ultimate Weapon, Choi Jong-In was seriously determined to purchase an amplification artefact with ‘50% or more’ effect.
But then, a Hunter who might be a rank S but not widely known, came to visit the Auction while carrying an artefact with 100% amplification effect?
‘That must be nonsense….’
The story was so inconceivable that, if only the guy wasn’t the top-ranked Hunter, they would’ve kicked him in the a*s and thrown him out of the premises already.
They couldn’t refuse admittance to a rank S Hunter. Even if today’s matter ended as a whole heap of nothing, this man would no doubt become an important client in the future.
‘Well, there’s nothing to lose here.’
The appraiser spoke to Jin-Woo, his face a mixture of a slight expectation and several times greater misgiving.
“May…. May I take a look at that artefact?”
Both Kim Jeong-Ki and the department head also stared at Jin-Woo with tense expressions.
While pretending to take it out from his pocket, Jin-Woo summoned the Bead of Avarice from his Inventory.
“So, this is….”
The appraiser adjusted his glasses and stared at the beautiful round blood-coloured bead. It was an item possessing a certain magnetic charm that made the onlookers gasp out in astonishment involuntarily.
The two men from the Appraisal Department expressed their admiration under their breaths.
However, the appraiser was tilting his head while adjusting his glasses again.
“This doesn’t look like an artefact made from a magic crystal or a Mana Stone. Am I correct?”
“Yes, you’re right.”
The appraiser nodded his head.
‘As I thought.’
He had been an appraiser for seven years already. He was able to observe countless artefacts until now, but he hadn’t seen a single crystal emitting a crimson hue like this one.
Most regular crystals emitted a clean bluish tinge, and the higher the grade, the darker they got.
However, this one was a red colour?
The appraiser continued to tilt his head this way and that, before receiving the bead.
When he did….
‘W-what is this?’
Suddenly, he felt a chill run down his spine. It was because of the unidentifiable power he sensed from the crystal bead.
‘C-could it be….??’
He was frightened out of his wits as he stared at the magic bead. The appraiser was actually a rank B Mage-type Awakened. And thus, he could immediately sense what kind of an item he was holding in his hand.
Cold sweat broke out all over him.
‘Oh my god!’
Goosebumps formed on his skin because of the sheer power emanating from this magic bead, and he hurriedly raised his head to find Jin-Woo wordlessly staring back at him.
‘If the person who brought this here was a low-rank Hunter, then I….’
This was his first time feeling like this.
He lost count how many priceless artefacts he had handled over the years, but this was the first and the only time he felt the strong desire to beat up the person bringing this item for appraisal and steal it.
Unfortunately, his opponent was a rank S.
Jin-Woo continued to silently stare. The appraiser managed to pull himself together and rein his desire in after receiving that stare.
‘I wanted to rob a rank S?’
Never mind trying, he wouldn’t even dare to imagine doing something like that to a Hunter with such a huge gap in power from him.
Just like how the appraiser did when he was looking at the bead, Jin-Woo was tilting his head at the appraiser now.
‘What’s the matter with him?’
Was he feeling unwell, somehow?
Nonetheless, the appraiser wiped the cold sweat off his forehead and spoke to the department head.
“Excuse me, director. Please turn the camera on.”
“Ah! Yes, hold on.”
The meaning behind that request was that the item in the appraiser’s hand was not a fake. The department head’s heartbeat increased rapidly.
The person to answer Jin-Woo’s call first, Kim Jeong-Ki, also displayed a similar expression.
“Filming will commence now.”
The department head shifted the camera lens over to the appraiser.
The appraiser walked over to the dish-shaped magic energy measuring device. First, he put the bead down and got himself measured.
Numerical values showed up.
Next up, he got measured again, but this time with the magic bead in his hand. The measured magic energy leaking out of the appraiser instantly doubled in value.
After confirming the results, Kim Jeong-Ki’s complexion paled.
“How could this be…..?”
The department head also hurriedly approached closer and confirmed the results, too.
‘100 percent?! It’s really a magic tool possessing 100% amplification effect???’
His heart began pounding harder.
The average commission the Hunter Auction earned from assisting with the artefact trade was around five percent. If an item sold for around 100 billion Won, then they would earn about 5 billion from the deal.
However, even with his vast experience, he could not estimate just how much this crimson magic bead could be sold for.
‘This is a huge jackpot! A jackpot!!’
If there were no one looking, he’d have cried out “Hooray!!” and hug the subordinate employee next to him. Just how much sales incentive would he receive if the deal goes through successfully?
The overwhelming excitement left him utterly breathless.
Kim Jeong-Ki’s reactions were not too different from his superior. He clenched his fists tightly with an ecstatic expression on his face.
If he could get recognised for today’s work, then it’d be only a matter of time before he got a promotion.
“I… will move on to demonstration next.”
The appraiser spoke with great difficulty, his voice trembling non-stop. The two men from the Appraisal Department quickly distanced themselves.
Jin-Woo also took a few steps back.
The camera was filming everything quite well. If one were to appeal to the potential buyers, actual footage was far more effective then simple numerical values.
The appraiser’s eyes were directed towards the camera.
“Let’s get started.”
The blizzard the size of a truck’s wheel began raging on the appraiser’s right hand. He continued on.
“While maintaining this magic energy, I shall touch the magic bead.”
The moment his left hand touched the ‘Bead of Avarice’….
The blizzard dancing on his hand rocked the entire appraisal room.
If the stunned appraiser hadn’t cancelled his magic quickly, the entire room might have frozen solid in an instant.
“Turn the camera off, please.”
The department head nodded and ran to the camera to turn it off. With that, the artefact appraisal process had been concluded.
Jin-Woo was worried after sensing the magic energy exploding out of the appraiser’s hand, but in the end, he got to breathe a sigh of relief. It wasn’t just him, though, as everyone present in the room also spat out long sighs to calm their trembling hearts.
Almost instantly, silence descended in the room.
Jin-Woo quietly asked.
“How much do you think it’ll go for?”
Could he be able to buy the artefact he wanted after selling this guy off?
Well, besides that, he was also genuinely curious about how much a magic tool capable of amplifying one’s magic by 100% would go for.
The appraiser stared at the ‘Bead of Avarice’ with a look of incredulity.
“This…. How can I even think about putting a price tag on this…..”
His gaze shifted over to Jin-Woo.
He swallowed down his dry saliva.
Just where did this man acquire an artefact like this? This wasn’t a problem the appraiser should worry about. He knew that, but still, he couldn’t hold back and asked anyway.
“Where did you find this?”
Jin-Woo looked at Kim Jeong-Ki, not the appraiser, and asked instead.
“Is that question also necessary for a smooth transaction?”
Kim Jeong-Ki avoided meeting his gaze as if he was feeling sheepish, and scratched the back of his neck. The appraiser quickly shook his head.
“No, not at all. It’s just that, I…. I was just too surprised, that’s all. However, when the existence of this magic tool is revealed to the public, everyone would no doubt grow curious about its origins.”
Indeed, the other two men present seemed to be dying of curiosity as well.
‘Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter.’
There was no reason not to answer if they asked him. It wasn’t as if he acquired this bead through less-than-honest means, and also, even if others know, none of them would be able to find another one for themselves, anyway.
Jin-Woo’s lips parted.
Three other people in the room held their breaths and focused on Jin-Woo’s answer, wondering just what might come out of his mouth.
Jin-Woo simply grinned and replied.
“I picked it up in a dungeon.”
Baek Yun-Ho returned to his private office.
“I wish to be left alone for a while, so don’t let anyone in.”
Maybe he found ordering his secretary wasn’t enough, he even locked the door, too. Only after that, he switched on his computer. And then, using the authority afforded to a rank S Hunter, as well as a Master of a Guild, he began perusing every information he could get his hands on.
‘Can it really happen?’
Baek Yun-Ho couldn’t stop thinking about Jin-Woo.
A Hunter that could grow stronger?
But, if not that, then how could anyone explain that man’s strength that had increased to an unrecognisable degree in only a few days?
Baek Yun-Ho’s fingers moved quite quickly.
He logged in to the special Hunter website that only the top-ranked Hunters around the world could access, and searched for any information related to this matter. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time.
There was not one Hunter who could improve their stats all by themselves. No, they could only grow stronger through pure luck, also known as Awakening, or Re-Awakening process.
So, should he call that man not as a Hunter, but someone chosen by the gods?
Countless windows repeatedly popped up, only to disappear, and countless texts filled the computer screen without a moment’s rest. Three hours passed by like that.
Getting fatigued from the long hours spent on searching, Baek Yun-Ho leaned against the back of his chair.
‘Maybe, I overreacted?’
That could’ve been a possibility.
Because he was too shocked by the incredible strength Hunter Seong Jin-Woo displayed, he could’ve thought up a crazy theory as a way to explain that.
What was he doing when things remained so hectic?
Rather than wasting time like this, he should be sending another offer to Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, instead. Who knows, that quick-witted Chairman Choi could already be visiting Hunter Seong Jin-Woo with a contract in his hand by now.
Baek Yun-Ho chuckled wryly and began closing all the windows one by one. But, when only a single window was left open….
‘Wait a minute….’
Just for fun, he typed ‘Hunter level up ability’ in the search engine. Of course, there was no result to speak of. Baek Yun-Ho wasn’t expecting anything tangible, to begin with, when he typed that, anyway. It was just that, he was unconsciously repeating the actions he’d perform when searching for something online.
‘Now that I think about it…. I haven’t had lunch today.’
He slowly rubbed his tummy as he belatedly sensed his hunger. Baek Yun-Ho was about to log off the search engine altogether, but then, his eyes gleamed brightly.
He spotted a certain link with some words below it, found on the fifth page of the search results.
If the linked address wasn’t the forum only Hunters could sign up with, he’d have ignored those words and move on.
Baek Yun-Ho quickly moved the mouse.
[Title: Something weird has happened to me.]
[Description: I can suddenly see my Stats in numbers like in a video game, and I can even increase their values, too. Is there anyone who has experienced something similar to me?]
An ‘anonymous’ had opened a thread with those words.
However, how should Baek Yun-Ho describe this? When he read that, he could feel his breaths quickening, as well as his heartbeat, pounding faster and faster.
‘Surely, others will think that I’ve lost my mind.’
Still, there was nothing to lose by confirming it. Baek Yun-Ho picked his phone up.
- “Hello, sir.”
Soon, the Section Chief of the Second Division, Ahn Sahng-Min, answered the call.
“I’d like you to find something out for me, please.”
Baek Yun-Ho wanted to find out what Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was doing on the day this anonymous wrote those words.
- “Yes, sir. I’ll find out.”
With a short but simple answer, the call ended.
Section Chief Ahn was a talented employee. If Baek Yun-Ho waited for a little while, then that man would find what he needed through any means necessary. However, the result arrived sooner than he expected.
Baek Yun-Ho quickly picked up the ringing phone.
- “Sir, we fortunately still had some information on hand, so we were able to find what you wanted pretty quickly.”
Baek Yun-Ho smiled brightly.
Now that he thought about it, there once was a time when the entirety of the Second Division was focused on gathering intel on Hunter Seong Jin-Woo after Chief Ahn ordered them. Thanks to that, he didn’t have to wait for long.
- “Yes, sir. On that day, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim was…. Ah, looks like it was during that time. Sir, do you still remember the dual dungeon incident from a few months ago?”
“Yes, I remember.”
- “Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim was the sole survivor of that dual dungeon incident, actually. If I remember correctly, he was unconscious throughout the duration of his stay in the hospital.”
“Oh…. Is that so.”
Baek Yun-Ho formed a disappointed expression.
An unconscious man wouldn’t be able to upload anything on the internet, after all.
‘Increasing your Stat values…. There’s no way such a thing is even possible.’
It all really was an unfunny waste of time in the end. He was getting somewhat tired now. He decided that he’d go home a bit early today and sleep, but then….
- “Uh? Wait a minute, sir. Yes, he was indeed in a comatose state, but….”
From the phone’s speaker, Ahn Sahng-Min’s mystified voice came out.
- “Looks like he woke up on that day, sir.”
< Chapter 96 > Fin.