A Player Who Eats Metal - Chapter 62
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<Chapter 62. Conclusion, Declaration, Hero -2>
Lee Hyunwook and Park Junmo stood facing each other on the rooftop of the first barracks.
However, unsure of what he was about to do, Park Junmo was catching his breath with a tense expression.
“Hoo— I’m ready!”
As Park Junmo said that, Lee Hyunwook raised his left arm.
Hardening took effect in his grip, and a kind of purplish aura began to emanate.
It was an electric current.
“Wow… So, you can do that now?”
“Well, actually, it’s my first time using it.”
It was a skill he acquired after swallowing a ring made of a material called Cheoncheol (Heavenly Metal) named ‘Tiny Flash’.
It allowed him to produce and release electric currents from the hardened body part. Although not very powerful for now,, it seemed to function like a taser.
“So now, are you going to use that on me for the first time…”
The moment Park Junmo asked with a somewhat anxious tone, Lee Hyunwook grabbed his arm.
Park Junmo screamed and collapsed to the ground.
“Hey, stop overreacting, how is it?”
Park Junmo should have obtained ‘electric shock immunity’, so there shouldn’t have been any damage.
The guy got up, brushing off his pants with a sheepish look.
“Well, it didn’t hurt, but the sensation of electricity passing through is still somewhat unpleasant.”
“No, not that, any system message appeared?”
“…Oh! I’ll check right now!”
Park Junmo seemed to space out as he checked the system message in front of him.
“Well, it definitely charges. However, the total amount remains the same.”
Lee Hyunwook nodded and lowered his hand.
He had anticipated this, but with just this level of current, it merely ‘charges’.
‘Maybe the answer is a lightning strike after all…’
Park Junmo mentioned that when he was struck by lightning, his ‘ability value’ instantly increased fourfold.
Given that, instead of gradually growing like Lee Hyunwook, it seemed to be a trait where one could experience a significant surge at once, but the growth conditions were quite challenging.
“But, am I really an S-rank now?”
At Park Junmo’s cautious question, Lee Hyunwook nodded.
“Yes, but for the time being, this fact has to remain a secret, so don’t tell anyone.”
“Yes, I’ll remember.”
Three days ago, when he met Kang Seo-yoon and Woo Sung-moon, Lee Hyunwook made a shocking statement.
As a result of the unprecedented achievement in Wave clearing, he was able to attain a certain ‘achievement’, and thus he, as well as Park Junmo, awakened as S-ranks.
‘Somehow, it feels like I’m just adding to the lies every day…’
Immediately after, those present agreed to keep the emergence of the new S-rank a secret for the time being.
‘Well, that was the obvious choice.’
Announcing outright the emergence of a new S-rank in South Korea was no different than leaking vital information.
This was because one couldn’t predict what schemes forces trying to hinder the country’s growth might come up with.
In fact, attempts might be made to eliminate the new S-rank players even before they rose to the top ranks.
In short, the secret would be maintained for some time for their protection,
and there was a need to maximize Park Junmo’s growth until then.
‘Hmm, I need to find a lightning mage powerful enough to cast a lightning bolt…’
Then, something suddenly came to mind.
“Ah, the Hammer of the Thunder God…”
Yes, the Hammer of the Thunder God, that was it.
“No, it’s nothing.”
Lee Hyunwook smirked, and Park Junmo felt an inexplicable unease when his back became very chilly all of a sudden.
“It’s getting dark… Shouldn’t we head down?”
At Park Junmo’s words, Lee Hyunwook turned his gaze to the sky.
Then, his attention was captured by a massive object hovering in the western sky.
It had already been 3 days since its appearance, but it still presented a majestic and unfamiliar sight.
With a hemisphere-shaped base about half the size of Yeoudo and dozens of skyscrapers erected above…
Seeing it floating approximately 1.5km above Seoul was unspeakably mystical.
Then, as the sun set to the west, it was eclipsed by the shadow of the structure.
For a moment, darkness enveloped the area as if an eclipse had occurred,
and simultaneously, colorful lights emanated from Laputa’s surface, illuminating the vicinity.
That very sight was Seoul’s new night view, housing the magical engineering city.
“Wow… won’t that grant Seoul blessings just like the World Tree?”
Park Junmo mused, marveling.
The ‘Republic of Chad’, which was once barren, had dazzlingly evolved with the appearance of the ‘World Tree’.
Considering that Seoul was already one of the top cities, exponential growth was expected. In just 3 days, a massive investment fever was stirring toward Seoul.
In simpler terms, a tremendous amount of money was pouring into Seoul.
‘Yes, the Laputa I remember is quite different… but it’s beneficial.’
The Laputa Lee Hyunwook remembered was an ‘Evil Fortress’ floating in the middle of the Pacific,
utilized as a research facility by the villainous mad scientist group <Black Door>.
Lee Hyunwook had infiltrated Laputa back then and had some memory of its interior.
The upper part looked like a developed city, essentially a ‘residential area’.
The truly important facilities were speculated to be underground within that hemisphere…
‘Back then, I couldn’t access it due to lack of authorization.’
And yesterday, the <National Gate Response Strategy Room> officially announced their investigation results on Laputa: just like before, it was impossible to enter the interior of Laputa.
‘… I think I know the reason we can’t enter.’
He clenched a single key from his pocket.
-Name: Master Key of Ancient Heritage
From the context, it was clear that this key had something to do with that place.
‘Back then, I didn’t know, but perhaps the villains obtained it as a reward for successfully completing the Seoul Collapse Quest.’
And now, Seoul, or rather Lee Hyunwook, had acquired it.
* * *
Lee Hyunwook constantly pondered his future plans.
‘Having successfully thwarted the 4th wave, we need to prepare for the next.’
What worried him most was the movements of the ‘Villains’.
Even during the incident at Seoul Station when they interfered with Unlucky Event, their behavior had changed significantly.
Having blocked a massive incident like the 4th wave… it meant a significant variable was coming into play.
‘If the corruption had proceeded as usual, their next target would’ve been the assassination of the Holy Maiden.’
The Holy Maiden, a nickname for Emilia Müller, an S-rank priest.
She usually stayed in the world’s largest sanctuary, ‘Saint Dom’, in the Republic of Chad,
but she entered Korea leading an elite force to ‘purify’ the corruption of Seoul, only to be assassinated.
To the Villains, who primarily harness the powers of darkness, this was considered one of their most significant achievements, while being, of course, a calamity for the world.
The corruption of Seoul could almost be seen as a plan executed primarily to kill her.
But now, since the Holy Maiden wouldn’t leave Saint Dom, an assassination seemed impossible.
‘Then, they will… lay low for a while.’
The biggest weapon of the Villains was their ‘mystery’.
The clandestine force that stems from the fact that no one truly knows their identity or existence…
They wouldn’t want to lose that, so after this failure, they’d likely lay low, be wary of exposure, and focus on damage control for a while…
‘But that’ll only be temporary. Before they make a real move, I need to grow as quickly as possible.’
He had to build forces and gather items for the next confrontation.
And to prepare for that, he planned to go out the next day.
‘Being in the base really restricts what I can do.’
Given the current situation, it’d be natural to limit outings or leaves,
but being Seoul’s savior and now an S-rank player, Lee Hyunwook easily obtained permission.
That afternoon, Lee Hyunwook visited the PX with the intention to cash in his reward points.
As usual, he was about to purchase a few ‘Orbs’ and pay when someone approached him.
“Why are you buying so much?”
It was Kim Se-hee.
“Ah, Sergeant Kim, it’s been three days, hasn’t it?”
“Indeed. It’s the first time seeing you so clean, not covered in sweat and blood.”
“It’s still just a combat uniform, isn’t it?”
“I’ve heard that with a bit of lotion, even a combat uniform can look good.”
Lee Hyunwook chuckled at the realization that Kim Se-hee was a woman who could comment on her own beauty.
“Ah, you know that? Knowing it kind of ruins the fun though…”
“Just kidding. But I do have something to ask. Mind sitting down for a moment?”
As the two sat facing each other, the surrounding eyes turned their way.
Had it been just a few days ago, Kim Se-hee, known as the “goddess” of the 2nd platoon, would have been the center of attention.
But now, the aura of Lee Hyunwook, the commander of the Steel Battalion, overshadowed everything else.
Officers and soldiers alike threw sidelong glances at Lee Hyunwook, murmuring.
In such a close-knit unit, he felt it would be exhausting to be so well-known in society.
But for some reason, Kim Se-hee hesitated, rubbing her cheek.
“I’m actually about to be discharged.”
Come to think of it, Kim Se-hee was nearing the end of her military service.
“You still have a month or two left for discharge, right? There’s something I’d like to ask.”
Kim Se-hee seemed hesitant about what she wanted to ask.
“Do you plan to stay with AMT? Or join a guild?”
Lee Hyunwook had received numerous offers, but he hadn’t made any definitive decisions yet.
“Why are you asking such a sensitive question? Did someone tip you off?”
“No! I’m just… considering some things.”
Lee Hyunwook understood what she meant.
‘Kim Se-hee is considering her options, huh?’
Originally, after the 4th wave, she should have chosen to become a non-commissioned officer in the Black Tiger unit.
But Lee Hyunwook, a huge variable, had intervened. Based on whatever she felt during that, it seemed like she wanted to follow his path.
And thus, she was probing in such an upfront manner.
‘This is unexpected.’
He hadn’t thought of Kim Se-hee as the type to seize opportunities.
But in a way, the feats Lee Hyunwook had shown were so extraordinary that it made sense for people to want to follow him.
Even the soldiers of the Steel Battalion had expressed their hopes for the unit to continue.
‘In any case, it’s a good development. There’s no need to leave a talent like her in the military…’
Lee Hyunwook chuckled before answering.
“So, Sergeant Kim, would you like to keep working with me?”
When he asked, the corners of Kim Se-hee’s mouth neither rose nor fell.
But it was the answer she had hoped for. Given her pride, she wouldn’t have been able to directly say she wanted to be by his side.
“Huh? Yes! I mean, we worked well together during our time in the Steel Battalion, right?”
“I felt I got along better with Haneul, but…”
Kim Se-hee’s face crumpled.
“Ha, relax. I’d love to work with someone like you, Sergeant Kim.”
“Hehe… That’s an honor.”
“Great, this works out. I have a guild to introduce you to.”
Kim Se-hee looked genuinely surprised.
“Huh? A guild? I honestly thought you’d stay with AMT…”
It seemed she asked so urgently because she thought if Lee Hyunwook stayed with AMT, she would stay as well.
“Well, discussing the details here would be…”
Lee Hyunwook stood up.
“Starting today, there’s limited movement allowed in Seoul, so let’s go out together tomorrow.”
“The battalion commander will allow it if I ask. I’ve already gotten permission.”
Everything seemed to be happening too fast, leaving Kim Se-hee looking dazed.
“Wait, if both of us go out together, won’t it… look a bit strange?”
At that question, Lee Hyunwook tilted his head.
“Huh? No, it’s not just the two of us.”
* * *
The next day, Lee Hyunwook, Kim Se-hee, and Park Junmo were granted special leave.
Instead of Seoul Station, they got off at Singil Station by chartering a shuttle bus.
Though limited traffic was allowed from the day before, the streets were still almost deserted.
The government announced that almost all the monsters inside the city had been cleared, but the risk was still real.
“Um, where is this?”
In front of Hope Guild, Kim Se-hee and Park Junmo looked a bit stunned.
“We have a few places to visit today, and this is our first stop.”
Fortunately, Park Cheolsu’s residence was not in Seoul, so he could avoid the wave disaster. And luckily, Hope Guild’s office remained undamaged.
Entering the office…
“Yes, please sign here, and here too…”
“If you’ve filled out the contracts, please hand them to me!”
“Next, please come this way!”
It was noticeably busier than the last time he had been there. Park Cheolsu and the staff were catering to over ten players.
That voice belonged to Lee Jung-jun, an acquaintance from the 4th wave.
As he called out to Lee Hyunwook, everyone in the office turned their heads.
“Wow! It’s the heroes of the Steel Battalion, the saviors of Seoul!”
Having fought together for several days, they were familiar and welcoming faces to each other.
Lee Jung-jun rushed over and extended his hand, which Lee Hyunwook shook.
“Thank you so much. Thanks to you, I’ve managed to avoid unemployment.”
On the first day of the wave, Lee Jung-jun and his colleagues had disobeyed their guild master’s orders to rescue the citizens at the Jangchung-dong Community Center and had thus been kicked out of their guild.
Lee Hyunwook, thinking they might be interested, introduced them to Hope Guild. Trusting solely in Lee Hyunwook’s name, they had decided to join.
“No need to thank me. I should be the one grateful that you willingly joined a small guild like this.”
“Haha— when someone has your back, you can’t just judge by appearances, can you?”
With this, the Hope Guild was experiencing an unprecedented boom.
Park Cheolsu seemed to be in a daze.
“What on earth is happening? Am I dreaming?”
This morning, upon hearing the unbelievable news on TV that the hero of the 4th wave and the main character of the Steel Battalion was Lee Hyunwook, a whopping 18 players appeared, chanting his name and asking to join.
Moreover, these individuals were qualitatively superior compared to the existing members of the Hope Guild.
“Hyunwook, you really have pulled me from hell to heaven…”
Park Cheolsu was so moved that his eyes were moist with tears.
“See, I told you to trust only me.”
“Thank you so much. And, as you said, those stocks are skyrocketing, haha…”
Manufacturing of holy water, sacred weapon workshops, magical engineering, etc.
The stocks Lee Hyunwook had pointed out were setting new highs day by day.
All were beneficiaries of the 4th wave.
However, Kim Se-hee and Park Junmo were still in utter disbelief.
“Excuse me, what exactly is this place…”
Kim Se-hee had followed Lee Hyunwook, expecting him to introduce her to an impressive guild.
But the Hope Guild…
It was a place she had never heard of and it looked rather small and unimpressive.
It was inevitable she felt a bit perplexed.
“Sergeant Kim, you do want to work with me, right?”
To Lee Hyunwook’s serious question, Kim Se-hee nodded.
“This is the guild I’ve been cultivating.”
Considering his recent feats, it was puzzling when he had found the time to nurture a guild.
“It’s still small, but soon a lot of money will be invested and there will be many good opportunities.”
She didn’t need to ask where that big investment was coming from; she already knew.
Lee Hyunwook was set to receive an enormous reward as the biggest contributor in the wave.
“So… would Sergeant Kim like to help lead the beginnings of this guild?”
“Lead? What can I possibly do…”
“You just need to do what you did in the platoon – shout well.”
Kim Se-hee’s face crinkled, as always, she couldn’t hide her emotions.
“You really can’t take a joke, can you? You trusted me enough to come here. So, I also trust Sergeant Kim and am considering entrusting her with the guild’s strategic planning and such in the future.”
Kim Se-hee hesitated for a moment and then nodded.
Yes, from the beginning, she had followed Lee Hyunwook out of trust.
She could feel it from watching him over the past few days.
‘In every aspect, he’s a different person.’
She wasn’t the type to cling to someone. However, after the mission with the Steel Battalion ended, she felt an uneasiness, as if she shouldn’t stray far from this man named Lee Hyunwook.
“Understood. But as promised last time, make sure no one dies.”
Kim Se-hee had unpleasant memories concerning the death of colleagues.
That’s why she emphasized that statement.
“I’ll try my best, but now, Sergeant Kim, you also have to make an effort.”
“Yes, I should…”
Kim Se-hee eventually promised to join the Hope Guild after her discharge.
However, on the other hand, she couldn’t hide her curiosity.
“But surely you received incredible offers, right? Did you reject all of them?”
While she didn’t know the specifics, it was evident.
It was well-known that AMT was offering him a commission as an officer.
And three days ago, Kang Seo-yoon from <Zumnarae> visited the troop.
Which meant they were also requesting something from Lee Hyunwook.
To reject all of those offers and start a guild… it was quite remarkable.
But Lee Hyunwook simply nodded.
“No, I plan to accept most of their terms.”
“What? Is that… possible?”
“There’s something I haven’t told anyone yet, but let me share a little secret…”
Kim Se-hee perked up her ears.
“This Hope Guild will become a subsidiary of the Zumnarae Guild.”
Subsidiary, in other words, it meant becoming a kind of daughter company to Zumnarae.
“Really? Is that… true?”
“Yes, I’ve been discussing this with Kang Seo-yoon for the past three days.”
“But wasn’t Zumnarae’s policy always about an elite minority?”
“Well, the Steel Battalion felt pretty elite too, right?”
“No matter what, that’s unbelievable…”
Kim Se-hee felt like she was dangling from a thick lifeline.
The Zumnarae Guild was effectively the top guild in South Korea, if not the world now..
However, they were highly selective, made up of only top-tier players ranked A and above.
But for Lee Hyunwook, this deal wasn’t very difficult.
To acquire two S-rank players, even a guild like Zumnarae would offer almost anything.
“We need to get moving. We have more places to visit. We’re pretty busy today.”
“Where are we going next? Please give me a heads-up so I’m not constantly surprised.”
A few days ago, he was a composed commander, but today he felt like a young entrepreneur.
“Now that we’ve secured a guild to work in after discharge, we should go get some commemorative items.”
For some reason, Lee Hyunwook’s face tensed up.
A system message had appeared before his eyes.
[Metal Absorption Completed: Dwarf-Made Great Mountain Engine (Legendary)]
[Maximum controllable metal weight increased: 2,544g]
[The ‘Dwarf-Made Great Mountain Engine (Legendary)’ had been absorbed.]
This was certainly good news, but…
[Ether Engine is being formed in the heart. (1%)]
-Intense pain may occur!
Now, after the digestive system and central nervous system, a new organ began to form in the heart.
“You don’t look fine.”
As always, severe pain signaled significant growth.