Here is the chapter for this week.
I decided to separate the character names with a hyphen whenever I feel they sound better that way. ‘Kang-Joon’ is an example of what I mean, it sounds way better than ‘Kangjoon’ (IMO of course).
That is because those two are different ‘blocks’ in Korean. And, although the blocks are written together they give this feeling of combination instead of just one single word.
Like: “Kang *small pause* Joon”.
Hope you enjoy the chapter!
Red Ocean and Blue Ocean are Two
Chapters of a Book
Kang-Joon wasn’t fond of open spaces, he usually passed most of his time on the room number 1 on the first floor. This single-room apartment building had a basement floor as well.
He requested all items stored in the International Hunter’s Bank to be delivered to Korea, and those were now being stored in a safe inside the remodeled area Kang-Joon created on his room on the first floor basement. The opposite wall was completely removed to create a fairly large underground training area. Although it was an illegal construction, there was no risk of collapse as the building he choose had a robust foundation without any big structural problems. He consulted the blueprints and also searched for advice from specialists a few times to guarantee the safety.
As he was meticulous about security as well, a security door was installed directly on the entrance to the staircase going down the 1st floor basement itself. Nothing would be stolen unless somebody forcefully demolished the whole wall.
“You… What kind of war do you plan to start?”
“I just wanted to try doing something like this since it is the first time I had a house.”
Maria’s jaws agaped seeing Kang-Joon’s studio which was practically a shelter. Buying the building itself wouldn’t be hard for her, but making a clean construction like this would. Hidden among the ordinary studio buildings, Kang-Joon’s building housed unused ether devices of the highest grade enough to arm a whole company of Hunters.
Selling any of those items could buy a site with a building like the one they are currently living in. Maria realized that Kang-Joon aim was definitely not money at the moment.
If his aim was money, Kang-Joon already had it and only by selling these devices he could get enough to live extravagantly for his entire life. But Kang-Joon never spoke of the most important things, therefore Maria pursed her lips knowing full well she wouldn’t receive any reply.
The top floor of the building consisted of only one house which took the whole floor, originally that was the place where the landlord and his family lived. Kang-Joon cooked for Maria there.
“Why don’t you live here and live in that box instead?”
“It is too big for my taste, it only felt uncomfortable.”
The reason Kang-Joon lived on the first floor is because living in that big apartment for a few days without any company made him feel lonely.
“You still make great food.”
“It’s not like it’ll go anywhere.”
Since he was very young Kang-Joon followed a Hunter team starting as an errand boy doing all sort of miscellaneous task all by himself. Naturally, as the youngest among the party, he was also in charge of cooking, and now, after doing it for hours without end, Kang-Joon cooking skill was of quite high level.
The Dish Kang-Joon made was soybean paste stew, Maria ate it well without showing any changes in her expression.
“I want to give cooking a try too.”
“When I do it, it’s either salty or bland.”
“If it is bland add more salt, and if it is salty you simply add more water.”
“If I add more salt, it becomes salty, and if I add water, it becomes bland.”
“…You are destined to eat out for the rest of your life.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
The two finished their meal amidst boring conversation. Maria came down to the room in-front while Kang-Joon slept in that same room.
They met not at the company, but at a café near Yangjae station.
[I have a Knight I know, so I am bringing her since she told me that she can help.]
[That sounds good.]
As he had told her he would be bringing one Knight beforehand Seol Yeong wasn’t really flustered. Seol Yeong only eyed the tall and attractive Maria and then greeted her with little spirit as if frightened.
“H-Hello… I am Hero Management’s president Seol Yeong.
“I’m Maria. Nice to meet you.”
Maria extended out her hand while replying with a somehow dry voice, and the two shared a handshake. Then she stared at Kang-Joon for a little while with a strange gaze. However, Seol Yeong was surprised in a different way.
“I-If I am not mistaken… Did you say Ms. Maria?”
“Yes, that’s so.”
“No Way! You wouldn’t be that ‘Maria’, right?”
“Well… It is shameful but… Yes, that’s right.”
Seol Yeong jumped up startled. Maria scratched her head with an embarrassed expression as if that reaction was unfamiliar for her. Seol Yeong seized Maria’s hand while her eyes shined like stars.
“T-That! It’s a big honor! To have the luck of seeing a Paladin directly! Oh, wow… What should I do. M-My Heart looks like it will explode… Mr. K-Kang-Joon?”
With Kang-Joon reply Seol Yeong looked alternatively between him and Maria with a foolish expression. Maria was actually addressed as one of the 5 Paladins, rather embarrassingly, by the masses, yet Kang-Joon called that Maria like one would call a neighborhood friend.
She gazed at Kang-Joon as if he suddenly became a stranger. Certainly, Kang-Joon seemed very knowledgeable concerning the Hunter industry, and most of his advice were those that others didn’t know about. Maria didn’t know what to do as this kind of atmosphere was awkward for her in the first place.
“H-Hey, calm down… I am not going anywhere.”
“Ah, I am sorry. I was so surprised…”
“Should we get moving first?”
Actually Maria was quite a big celebrity, because of her distinguished appearance she was ranked first in the advertisement industry. In fact, having appeared in many advertisements aired abroad there were many who recognized her.
“I-I use that lotion.”
Seol Yeong kept chattering about her use of the foreign lotion brand Maria advertised for, while Maria broke out in cold sweat. In many aspects, S-rank Knights were people equivalent to gods for these working in the industry. In the end, image was the most important, and no matter how similar a B-rank Hunter and an S-rank Knight were in terms of fighting ability, the two sounded completely different.
In any case, the three boarded the car and departed.
Fundamentally, there was a time called the probing period before the graduation ceremony of the Knight Temple, which was like a holiday for the knights, while the people from various management companies checked out which knights to scout into their company. It was for that sort of reason that Seol Yeong departed earlier than the graduation Ceremony.
Kang-Joon glanced at Maria, who was seated in the back seat, through the back mirror and asked.
“How about the Knight Temple? Do you know anything?”
“Let me see, it’s been over a decade since I graduated so many things should have changed. Also, at my graduation ceremony managements didn’t come like this.”
The graduation ceremony was a completion ceremony and nothing else, it didn’t have any special meaning. It only deformed to its current state with the massive increase of management companies. Seol Yeong, sitting in the passenger seat, slowly explained. In many ways, as someone who managed a management properly she had a great knowledge of such matters.
“When we go to the Temple the first thing they give out is a big book. That big book records the capabilities and evaluations of the Knight candidates.”
“Isn’t that invasion of privacy?”
“First, a management that intends to recruit someone has to donate 10 million won (~10,000 USD) per person to the Temple.”
Even though Seol Yeong seemed to be explaining something completely different, Kang-Joon understood enough from what he heard. There was money involved so even if there was an element of infringement it was publicly disclosed. Wherever you go, money stood higher compared to many other values. Maria giggled with her arms and legs crossed.
“The money that goes into nurturing a Knight is much more than that.”
Absorbing cubes, body modification, dealing with meal and lodgings, as well as the cost of education, if you combine all of those the cost of raising a single Knight could easily reach over 30~40 million won (~30k~40k USD). Therefore, UN’s raison d’être, fighting for world peace, was all but gone, and they were greedy to raise money through the Templars.
As such earning money to maintain the Temple was UN top-priority at the moment. Of course, it wasn’t as if there were no private Knight Academies. There were only two choices: Pay the Academy and receive Knight education as well as body-modification or receive it all free of charge by affiliating oneself with the Academy and hunting for it during a set period of time.
In many ways, UN’s Knight Temple graduates were not restricted in any way and, as such, the place became every Knight aspirant’s dream. But only those with admirable talent were admitted.
“The key categories checked were: Body Reinforcement, Weapon Proficiency, Teamwork, Willpower, Potential, and Stability.”
Kang-Joon only knew about the fighting and on-the-scene mechanisms, and he had no knowledge in dealing with these sort of administrative matters. But he could roughly guess what those meant. The higher the average of those scores the better ranked a person would be.
“‘Stability’… I don’t like that word, it’s not like we are machines or something.”
Maria clicked her tongue hearing those words. Seol Yeong felt guilty as she thought that Maria said that to her.
“Actually you know some unstable kids die by cardiosclerosis.”
“I know that, but… Sheesh.”
Knights strengthened bodies was a simple ability of making their bodies harder using the power of the cubes. It can also deactivated and activated freely. However, people with immature control of their body strengthening ended up inadvertently hardening some body areas they shouldn’t while in the middle of the strengthening causing their own body disability, and die without being able to undo those actions. This mostly happened in beginner Knights.
“Did they already have this ranking system when Ms. Maria finished the Temple course?”
“It did. Competition is always a good way to bring out useless effort.”
Hearing Maria’s downcast words Seol Yeong broke out in cold sweat. There was just one thing she wanted to ask about, and Kang-Joon chuckled.
“That girl, she was the last.”
“Hey, why are you saying that sort…”
“But isn’t she an S-Rank now? For a last place in the temple graduation to do that… Is that even possible?”
“I was forced in failing. I had a quarrel with the Temple director.”
“You, why are you bringing up something from such a long time ago?”
Maria used to cause conflicts with the instructors and senior Templars for every little thing in the Temple, eventually she created a big scene quarreling with the director. However, her capability was too outstanding and they couldn’t prevent her from graduating, as such she received the lowest marks and was sent out. Maria pouted and in the end Kang-Joon laughed as if finding the whole thing funny.
“You, I still find it weird you didn’t go to jail when I think of how you smashed the podium in the graduation.”
Kang-Joon remembered the scene clearly as he attended Maria’s graduation ceremony. Maria let out a ‘Pfft’ when she thought of that time.
“That’s all in the old days…”
Long gone were the days Kang-Joon and Maria were newbies, but she was a promising candidate for Templar. Had she became a Knight and received UN’s wholehearted support she would probably have become an SS-rank Knight by now.
In any case, Maria was one of the best Knights candidates at that time. So, naturally, Seol Yeong looked at Kang-Joon.
“What about you, Mr. Kang Joon?”
“Yes, even though it disappeared now, you should know that there was a Hunter Academy in the past.”
An educational institution that trains pure human hunters, there was no Hunter Academy now. Now pure Hunters had declined in number, and were it not for those who loathe monsters becoming newly registrants the majority would not even try.
“I was ranked at the far end.”
“Did Mr. Kang-Joon also not get along with the teachers?
“No, I was purely ranked among the last.”
A Mutant, Awaken, or Knight, Kang-Joon didn’t correspond to any of those three. Therefore he chose to be a pure human Hunter, and, as such, Kang-Joon wasn’t able to stand out at the Academy. Seol Yeong, looking at Kang-Joon expression, didn’t inquire more.
Maria, looking at Kang-Joon face reflected through the rear view mirror, released a bitter smile.
“This guy should be the only one who was active until recently. After all, the ones who survived are the ones who did well.”
“The rest… people, then…”
“The rest are probably frying chicken somewhere. In the first place, this is a field where people chicken out after a few tries. It’s normal for people to flee after their first time.”
“Ha, ha… It is really like that.”
Seol Yeong nodded her head. Maria then looked at Kang-Joon and winked her right eye. Seeing that, Kang-Joon smiled. Maria even went and lied, which was something she wasn’t used to doing
Kang-Joon’s colleagues all died 11 years ago.
The car crossed the road outside Seoul and was heading to Yangpyeong.
“Oh yeah, you seem to be good at Korean, Ms. Maria.”
“Oh… uh, yeah, I guess I am.”
Seol Yeong exclaimed at Maria’s fluent Korean skills. Be it pronunciation or vocabulary, she had no problems at all. However Kang-Joon tilted his head and told Seol Yeong,
“This girl is Korean.”
“As a Korean person it is natural she speaks Korean well.”
“Hey, I have an international citizenship, you know?”
Hunters possessing only a hunter certificate, in other words a Hunter ID, were able to enter and exit most countries, and, in most cases, if they were of B-rank or higher they would be able to get entry in an almost any country without a Visa.
“Her name is Maria…”
“That is an Alias. She has another personal real name.”
“What? Is Ms. Maria really Korean?”
“You! You! Shut up! Shut up!!”
Thanks to her western outside appearance Maria was always misunderstood as a foreigner. In addition, she dyed her hair blonde so almost nobody viewed her as a Korean.
Seol Yeong then finally found some eastern facial features in Maria’s western-style appearance.
“Oh, in that case does she possess a Korean name too?”
Maria glared at the back of Kang-Joon’s head with eyes aflame. But Kang-Joon was still incapable of understanding the situation and continued grinning.
“That is indeed the case. That girl’s real name…”
Maria displayed Kang-Joon, who was in the middle of driving, a 100 won coin held between her index and thumb fingers. Kang-Joon suddenly felt the air turn cold while at the same time he felt a chill in his spine.
And as soon as she pressed the coin once it dented in half, and with a little more force – snap! – the coin separated in two. All of that only by pressing the index and thumb fingers together. Maria whispered in the ear of the driving Kang-Joon with a savage voice,
“Do you want to be folded like this?”
“If you are sorry shouldn’t you not do things you should apologize for?”
“No, that is not it. I am apologizing in advance for the deeds I will do in the future.”
Kang-Joon laughed with a ‘pfft’ and said to Seol Yeong,
“Her real name is Kim Eul-Soon.”
“Y-You! You! You jerk!”
Even though Maria jumped around with a reddened face, Kang-Joon was in the middle of driving and she couldn’t touch him carelessly.
“As you know that girl had a lot of disputes.”
“That was because whenever someone called her by her real name in attendance she would flare up and fight.”
Maria (real name Kim Eul-Soon, 28) possessed a complex about her real name, so she called herself Maria since quite some time ago. The reason she fought with the Knight Temple instructors was because she wanted to be called by Maria during attendance and not her real name, the reason was simply because she was frequently called Kim Eul-Soon.
“You, Youuu… Stop it! You are dead for real!
Maria gritted her teeth and almost looked about to cry. The only one that teased her with her real name was Kang-Joon now.
Soybean Paste Stew (된장찌개): This is the dish Kang-joon made.
Maria’s name: The reason she dislike her name (Kim Eul-Soon – 김을순) is because a name generally seems on older people. It is mostly seem on people 60+ years old. That must be pretty awkward…
Feedback: Should I put a link to the footnotes in the relevant place during the chapter? Y’know the one who take you here than send you back. I don’t really enjoy breaking the flow of my reading to check footnotes so I didn’t consider it. And I also don’t know how this will work with the page splitting.
I think I will try this on the next chapter… I just thought of this and I don’t wanna delay this chapter release.