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Ranker's Return Chapter 1

Chapters 1 50 Chapter Prologue 1


Prologue

Kung!

The giant Scorpion King, ruler of the desert, fell to the ground. It was the end of the Scorpion King, one of Arena’s greatest bosses. There was only one person standing in front of the king’s corpse.

“Ah! This time it was a bit better,” Hyeonu said as he stretched.

He was quite relaxed catching the raid boss alone. However, this was natural. So far, there hadn’t been a single monster that he hadn’t caught alone. His brilliant and perfect combat style made it possible for him to catch any boss monster, even a raid boss.

“Now what should I catch? I’ll be bored again for a while,” Hyeonu muttered under his breath. Although, he was still bored these days...

***

Hyeonu put down his cup.

“You worked hard,” he greeted the people sitting on the opposite side and then immediately left his seat.

“W-Wait a minute!”

“Hyeonu-ssi!” The front desk of the JT Telecom Professional Gaming Team, Supervisor Gang Ujong and Coach Jeong Byeongjin chased after Hyeonu hurriedly. (Front desk= organization leading a sports team i.e. staff responsible for running the team) “The salary is 100 million, 100 million! Don’t you know how much 100 million is?” Supervisor Gang Ujong uttered a sweet temptation from behind Hyeonu, but...

‘What is 100 million?’ There was a smile on Hyeonu’s face.

100 million? It was a large amount of money, but it didn’t hold any merit for Hyeonu.

He was born with a gold spoon. Yes, a gold spoon. Hyeonu’s father was the president of Freshwater Constructions, a mid-sized company. So, of course, Hyeonu couldn’t be moved by an annual salary of 100 million. Furthermore, the job of a professional gamer had the fatal disadvantage of a short life spanning three to four years. Their future would become uncertain as soon as they retired. It went without saying that a gamer in their 30s would be washed-up because they played games during the time when they should be self-improving in university.

Jeong Geonnung, a professional gamer of League of Legends—an AOS game that swept the world in the past—and who was famous for the catchphrase ‘Ddang-ddang-ddang bbang!’, had once said, “The future of professional gamers isn’t bright.”

This shadow loomed behind the profession of a professional gamer, who received a brilliant spotlight when active. Of course, becoming a professional gamer wouldn’t be a problem for Hyeonu who was born with a gold spoon...

‘I’m tired of it now.’

The problem was that he had lost his interest in the game, Arena.

1st place on the consolidated server rankings...

1st place in character level...

1st in arena points...

Additionally, his items were worth tens of millions of won in cash.

What was the fun of being a professional gamer in a field that had already reached its peak?

‘Quit and focus on reality. I need to inherit my father's business.'

Hyeonu decided to leave Arena.

***

“G-Group Leader-nim!” Kim Daeri, one of Arena’s developers, shouted in a desperate voice. “It’s serious!!!”

“...What is it?” The leader of Arena’s general planning team, who was tired from a series of late night work, rubbed his sleepy eyes.

“Player meleegod!”

“...?”

“He deleted his character!”

“W...What?!?!” The leader of the general planning team was shocked.

“S-Stop him! Hurry!”

“H-How do I stop him??”

“No matter what you have to do, stop it! What are you doing right now?!!”

“It is already deleted, Group Leader-nim...”

“Hah, what should I do now?”

Kim Daeri asked the leader of the planning team, who sat in the chair like his soul had been drained, “Has the professional debut of ‘meleegod’ been abolished then?”

“You’re f*king saying that? You jerk!!! Come up with an alternative somehow!!!”

For the planning team, meleegod and Hyeonu were the springboard to take Arena to the next level as Hyeonu was always unique. In particular, no one could compare to him in terms of control.

‘An incomprehensible control’—these were the words that described Hyeonu’s combat style. He caught monsters in ways that no one expected. It was the case with his first solo raid as well as in a war where he fought against some rankers. The group leader of the planning team had no doubt that Hyeonu’s colorful and perfect combat style, in combination with his handsome appearance, would be enough to shake up the virtual reality market. Now, Hyeonu’s sudden deletion of his character drove them into a panicked state.

“Group Leader-nim, this is a no smoking area...”

“Shit, is that important right now? I’ll just pay the fine. Sigh...”

The leader of the general planning team touched the cigarettes he had promised his wife he had quit smoking.

***

One year and eight months passed.

“Hey, Gang Hyeonu, is it already your final year’s vacation? Time passes by really quickly.”

“Not at all. It is just the end of the boring time.”

Hyeonu felt refreshed during the vacation of his final year. This was the moment when he could see the end of his military life, which seemed like it would never be over. Time had passed by well until he became a wounded soldier. Before he knew it, he had become the king of hard living. From that moment on, it became more boring as he became a living, breathing invisible soldier and continued the free military life.

Due to the nature of the troops’ vacation leave, it had been a long time since Hyeonu last returned home.

Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.

“What? No one is at home? Open the door.”

Upon arriving at the front of his house, Hyeonu pressed the bell as usual, but there was no response. Eventually, he pulled out the keys from deep in his wallet and unlocked the door. As he crossed the yard, Hyeonu thought it was strange that he couldn’t hear any noises from his mother and the helper auntie.

“!!!” Hyeonu entered the house and was shocked. Every corner of the house was covered with red stickers. What the hell was going on? Why were there red stickers stuck all over the house that was fine during his previous vacation...?


Chapter 1


Three months later...

“Give me the red one. The red one.” A drunk middle-aged man staggered to the checkout of a convenience store.

The part-time worker pointed to two cigarettes boxes with a typical red color. “Would you like this one or this one?”

“Give me this.” The drunk man handed over the money and slammed the door.

“It is hard to make money...” Hyeonu muttered to himself as he looked at the drunk man’s back.

Yes, it was hard to make money. He was earning an hourly rate of 6,030 won. If he stayed at the convenience store for a whole month, the amount of money acc.u.mulated in his bankbook would be around a million won. One month’s salary was less than half of things he had bought (bags, wallets, watches, etc.) in the past.

Still, it couldn’t be helped. His family was bankrupt. If he didn’t do any of these part time jobs, he wouldn’t be able to put food in his mouth. The ‘gold spoon’ Gang Hyeonu who casually spent millions of won a day didn’t exist anymore. Now, there was only the eldest son of a fallen family, the ‘dirt spoon’ Gang Hyeonu...

At this moment, his phone vibrated. The name that appeared on the screen was a friend, Yeongchan.

-Hyeonu?

“Why did you call? I’m doing something, so call me later.”

-Why did I call? Dude, I want to see your face. It is harder to see you nowadays than when you were in the army. Contact me if you are having a hard time.

“What’s hard?” Hyeonu replied brusquely to Yeongchan’s words that suggested he knew something.

-Someone said they saw you working part-time. Are you really okay? You aren’t the type of guy to do that. No. Where are you? I’ll go to you now.

“Why are you coming? I’ll contact you later. See you then.” Hyeonu hung up the phone.

Yeongchan was a friend who had taken care of him since he was a child. He was the friend who approached Hyeonu when he went to kindergarten late. Yeongchan was a family friend who had always taken care of Hyeonu from elementary school until high school. In a way, Yeongchan knew Hyeonu better than Hyeonu’s own parents. Now... Hyeonu was ashamed and had no confidence to face such a friend.

‘It was nice to have a laugh with you. Now... I honestly don’t know... Yeongchan...’

Honestly, Hyeonu was afraid. He wondered if the fall of his family might change Yeongchan’s view of him. Additionally, Hyeonu didn’t want Yeongchan to see his miserable appearance as he ate foods with no expiration date because he had no money for food. It was a situation where Hyeonu had to skip meals if he had to throw away food.

“Hyeonu, you did a good job! Hurry and leave it to me! You should go in there and rest.”

Had he been thinking too long? Before he knew it, the day worker Sangjin had entered the convenience store.

“You’re here?”

“Yes, dude. You must be really tired. Hurry and leave it to me. I came 10 minutes early because I was afraid you were too tired.”

“Thank you.”

“Man, what is with the thanks?” Park Sangjin laughed. Park Sangjin was one of the few acquaintances who didn’t treat Hyeonu sensitively after Hyeonu was reduced to a dirt spoon overnight. The problem was...

“Ick! Sehui is calling!”

He had so many women on the side that he received dozens of calls at work and women kept coming to the convenience store.

“Hyung, please do your best! Thank you for today!”

“Yes!”

Hyeonu left the convenience store.

“Hey, Gang! Are you done?” It was a familiar voice. At the table outside the convenience store, a glamorously dressed Yeongchan sat waiting with an Americano.

Hyeonu was amazed when he saw Yeongchan, but he soon regained his usual expression. “Yeongchan? What are you doing here?”

“What is the relationship between us? I’m hurt. Someone said you were working part-time here.”

“What... Since you’re here, let’s have a meal.”

Hyeonu took Yeongchan to the nearby soup restaurant. Yeongchan sat down at the floor table of the soup restaurant and looked anxiously at Hyeonu, who was showing a foul expression. “What happened to your family? Why are you working part-time? Hey, tell me honestly. What’s going on at your house?”

“...”

“I know everything.”

“...!”

“I don’t know the exact details... but I have a rough idea.”

“Is that so...”

“It’s disappointing, Gang Hyeonu.”

“Disappointing?”

“Yes, you jerk!” Yeongchan shouted. “Is this the only thing between you and me?”

“Huh?”

“Is this the only thing between Kwon Yeongchan and Gang Hyeonu?! What does your family going through hard times have to do with seeing me? Will you not want to see my face if my family goes bankrupt? Eh?”

Gang Hyeonu felt like he had been hit hard by a blunt force and could not say anything for a while. He had been worried about it, but his friend—Yeongchan—had not changed and was still righteous. It was Gang Hyeonu’s inferiority that made him run away from the people around him.

“Jerk.” Yeongchan pushed forward a bottle of beer with a complicated expression. “Tell me everything. We’re friends.”

“Thank you.” Gang Hyeonu raised his cup.

Gulp gulp. The cool, bitter beer spilled down his throat.

“What happened exactly?”

“It is just...”

After that, Gang Hyeonu and Kwon Yeongchan spent time telling each other the stories they hadn’t shared.

“Hey.” Three hours after sitting face to face and drinking beer, Kwon Yeongchan carefully opened his mouth. “You...”

“What is it?”

“That...”

“Why aren’t you saying it? Was your house ruined as well?”

“Yes, I’m ruined... wait, no!” Kwon Yeongchan fell for Hyeonu’s self-diss and screamed. “Brat, stop joking around!”

“What is it?”

“You...”

“Why are you hesitating so much?”

“Perhaps... you should... try Arena again?”

“...!”

“Huh???”

It was an unexpected suggestion—play Arena again. This was something Hyeonu had never considered.

“I hadn’t thought about this.”

“I’m not saying to decide now. Just think about it. There is an option like this.”

The two of them gave a final toast before leaving the soup restaurant and separating.

“I understand. Brat! Just think about it!” Kwon Yeongchan shouted to the back of Hyeonu’s head.

‘Arena... Can I do it again?’ Hyeonu thought about Arena.

Was it possible to return and succeed? Physically...? He was confident that he was ‘overwhelming.’ Even if he started right now, he was confident that he wouldn’t lose to anyone.

However, the difference of ‘items’ wasn’t easily overcome. People were aware of the importance of time in RPG games. Why? The difference between sets of gear was the so called ‘unsurmountable wall’ that was hard to overcome even with skill.

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