The Hunter Association’s South Korean branch.
The hunters deemed the best of the best had gathered together in the location named Sky Town for a meeting.
Among them, a man wearing glasses started speaking while pointing to a giant screen.
“Here is the list of artifacts that will be distributed this year.”
[Elixir: 10,000 Year-Old Ice Crystal]
[Weapon: Silver Moon Blade]
[Outfit: Black Dragon’s Hide]
A man with an eye covered by a black eyepatch started posturing, with his feet resting on the table.
“Ah~ it’s China’s turn this time, right? They’re definitely loaded. The artifact list is really good.“
The beautiful woman next to him gave a captivating laugh, as if in a good mood. Her sensual body and the long legs peeking out of the slit of her cheongsam* made her look like a model, but she was a top-class hunter.
“10,000 Year-Old Ice Crystal. Silver Moon Blade. Black Dragon’s Hide. Fufu, they’re all classified as legendary-grade artifacts. We put some effort in this.”
Legendary-grade artifacts were rare enough to be of note even on the national level. A man with a scabbard strapped to his side also seemed to be a fan of the items listed.
“I wonder who will get these artifacts…”
The man with the eyepatch snorted.
“The ones with S-rank and A-rank Traits will gobble them up. To be honest, I’m rooting for our Adela. She’s a genius among geniuses.”
1st place among her peers at Gaon Academy, a school considered the most prestigious out of them all. A student with unequaled skill, even as a first-year. There were many corporations and high-level hunters who wanted Adela.
But the beauty wearing the cheongsam shook her head.
“…Can she do it by herself? This time, the disciple of the legendary Fist King is attending Gaon Academy.”
It seemed like the beauty had watched the footage of Shin YuSung that K-channel had broadcasted. As if in agreement, the man with an eyepatch next to her nodded.
“Yu WonHak sure is something else. He’s unbelievably strong and he takes an F-rank Trait as his disciple. He’s messed up in many ways.”
The hunter with the blade seemed to take issue with the fact that the Fist King had chosen someone with an F-rank Trait to be his disciple.
“Did they say his name was Shin YuSung? The Fist King could have had his pick of students with incredible talent. So why did he choose that child?”
“Only he can know the answer to that.”
As the beauty gave a subtle smile, the old man with white hair, who had been listening quietly this entire time, opened his mouth.
“Hur hur… don’t get too excited at a bunch of unripe fruit.”
This old man was the president of the South Korean Association branch, Kang YuChan. He was a man who had risen to the top of the hunter world during the earlier, tumultuous era—as opposed to the current hunter world that had capitalism woven into it.
On top of that, Association President Kang Yu-chan was the Fist King’s, Yu WonHak’s, comrade and rival. He was secretly happy when the reclusive Fist King had announced a disciple.
“Our WonHak definitely created some kind of monster. At the very least, until he graduates the academy…”
Kang YuChan opened his eyes. The pupils shining through the slits of his eyelids were brimming with power.
“Wait and see.”
The Hunter Association was carefully stacking the deck by putting legendary artifacts on the line. Of course, on the surface, the reason they were doing this was to [foster the students’ growth]. The actual reason was different.
[International Academy Competition]
Each nation put its pride on the line in this event through its representatives. The real objective of this competition was to pit nations against each other to discover which was the strongest.
Countries were established, and corporations improved their image through this event. There was an endless number of additional benefits to winning.
A hunter’s strength was the strength of a country.
The [International Academy Competition] was an event where nations boasted the strength of their futures through their academy students.
The Association president Kang Yu-chan was wondering which students to choose as the representative members for South Korea. Among the candidates was Shin YuSung.
It was nothing but a slight interest, but Korea’s strongest had taken notice of him.
Gaon Academy’s headmaster, Jin ByungCheol.
He was staring at Shin YuSung while pouring high-quality green tea worth several 10,000 won** per cup. His gaze was dripping with sweetness, and he had a broad grin on his face.
“Oh! What impeccable skill befitting the Fist King’s, Yu WonHak’s, disciple!”
Jin ByungCheol offered the tea while laughing warmly.
“Hahaha! I trusted you from the start! A D Class student must have been a piece of cake to defeat for the Fist King’s disciple!”
Skill above all. There was no reason for the headmaster of Gaon Academy to neglect someone who had a lot of it—especially during these times since there were a lot of formidable rival academies.
“First of all, I congratulate you on your enrollment! The problem is that you need to be assigned to a dorm…”
Jin ByungCheol gave a small cough and glanced at Shin YuSung to try and gauge his reaction.
“Is there a problem?”
Shin YuSung asked quietly, without even touching the cup of green tea. Jin ByungCheol scratched his head and carefully spoke.
“It’s an issue with your class and the dorms. In our academy, we place students in classes corresponding to their Traits, not their skill level.”
He was right.
S-rank Traits went to S Class.
A-rank Traits went to A Class.
But Shin YuSung’s Trait was F-rank. Therefore, he had to be sorted into the Academy’s F class, which was called the absolute worst.
“It’s inappropriate for the headmaster to say this, but the standards of F Class are much too low for someone like you. To be honest, if I could, I would just get rid of all of the F Class students, but because of the government quota… Ah! Of course, you’re an exception, huh huh!”
As Jin ByungCheol excessively babbled on in an effort to please Shin YuSung, the boy laughed and told the other man that it was okay.
“It’s fine; please place me in F Class.”
“You’re okay with it? Haha! So the next issue is your dorm…”
There was another problem.
Gaon Academy assigned dorms based on a student’s student rankings—in other words, their grades. 1st place to 10th, 11th place to 20th, and so on. The dorm facilities were different every 10 places in the rankings, and those placed higher received better lodgings.
This harsh meritocracy had a lot of dissenters, but all criticisms were swept away in the face of Gaon Academy maintaining first place in overall student grades.
It was an issue even the headmaster couldn’t do anything about. Jin ByungCheol carefully brought up the topic once more.
“You were assigned the absolute lowest tier of dorms. I tried to do something, but there isn’t much that I can do when you don’t have any grades to speak of yet. It’s not like there are a lot of cases where someone attends the school in the middle of the year, either…”
Shin YuSung nodded his head as if to say there was nothing that could have been done.
“That’s alright. I’ve slept on tree branches plenty of times to escape predator animals.”
Jin ByungCheol took his words as a joke and burst into laughter.
“Kuhaha! Yes, you’re right! Our dorm’s beds are more comfortable than tree branches! For the record, the bed is made out of hardwood as well.”
Essentially, if you were unhappy with how you were being treated, you could do something about it by proving your skills. That wasn’t the part that Shin YuSung was curious about.
“The student that I just fought… What was his student ranking?”
“Ju HaJin? Hm… he’s reported to be on the strong side among the D Class members. Among 210 students… maybe around 100th place?”
“So at least half of the first years are as weak as that student?”
Jin ByungCheol nodded at Shin YuSung’s question.
“Well, you could say that in regards to sparring level.”
At his response, Shin YuSung felt deeply confused, as his worldview had been shattered.
‘W-wait, Master definitely said that Gaon Academy was Korea’s best…’
To think that half of the students at this academy were weaker than the Ju HaJin he had beaten earlier today. Shin YuSung chewed on his master’s words again.
[YuSung-ah! There are hunters everywhere who are stronger than I am!”]
If the Ju HaJin he saw today faced off against the Fist King Yu WonHak, he would have probably been killed by the man yawning.
“A-are there any stronger hunters?”
Jin ByungCheol laughed, “Kuhaha!” at the bewildered Shin YuSung’s desperate question.
“Why wouldn’t there be? There are plenty of students stronger than Ju HaJin! Especially those in the top 7 of our student rankings, they’re called the Seven Numbers! They’re the pride of our school! They’re a whole level above the other students!”
At those words, Shin YuSung’s expression finally calmed down.
“I see, the Seven Numbers…”
“Oh, are you interested in them? As expected of the Fist King’s disciple, you have ambition!”
Because of the spar, Jin ByungCheol had a lot of goodwill towards Shin YuSung.
‘…As expected of the Fist King’s disciple! It’s a little too early for him, but if he’s raised well, I could have him participate in the International Competition!’
There was no higher honor in the meritocratic Gaon Academy for Shin YuSung than winning the competition and bringing back an artifact.
Jin ByungCheol laughed with these black-hearted thoughts in mind. At the same time, Shin YuSung gave a beautiful smile while thinking:
‘The headmaster is so kind. I knew he was a good person.’
‘Just keep doing what you’re doing! Fufu!’
Their hearts were misaligned.
Jin ByungCheol patted Shin YuSung’s back while giving him a good-natured smile. If Shin YuSung really had Fist King-level potential, he could probably even win against ‘that student’ who was going to represent China.
‘That man’s disciple is in China. One of the most skilled participants, he probably already has been seeded… the disciple of the Sword God!’
If Korea had the Fist King, China had the Sword God. The two were rivals who were always fighting each other for the title of the strongest.
‘…So their students have inherited their feud.’
Jin ByungCheol’s heart felt full just thinking about it.
‘I’ll have to watch his growth for a bit longer, of course…’
He stood up from his seat and gestured towards the door.
“Now you are a full-fledged student of Gaon Academy! I’ve assigned you a guide who will give you a tour of the school.”
“By a guide, you mean…?”
At Shin YuSung’s bemusement, Jin ByungCheol gave him a considerate grin and led him to the door.
“Haha, come, come, follow me. They should be waiting for you right outside this door.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
“Oh, and~ I thought it would be best if someone from the same dorm level and class as you were here to explain the school’s facilities. So, the guide is a student from the F Class and lives in the lowest dorm tier.”
F Class and the lowest tier dorms…
That meant that the student serving as a guide was smack dab at the bottom of the student rankings.
Shin YuSung replied and nodded his head. Like the headmaster had told him, there was a male student waiting in front of the headmaster’s office. As he saw Shin YuSung, his eyes shone as if seeing a celebrity, and he started making a huge fuss.
“Ohhh! Hello! Nice to meet you! Is it okay if I just call you YuSung? Hehe, wait, does that make us sound like we’re too close?”
His actions were reminiscent of a puppy.
The male student beamed and continued.
“Anyways, it’s such an honor! That the Demon of the Arena would be attending our F Class!”
Shin YuSung, who was listening silently all this time, spoke up with a bemused expression.
“…Demon of the Arena? What’s that?”
“Hm? That’s what they’re calling you.”
Shin YuSung couldn’t say anything as the smiling student pointed at him.
*In the Korean, the cheongsam is called a 차이나 드레스, or China dress.
**10,000 won is roughly equivalent to 10 dollars.