The Player that Can't Level Up - Chapter 2
002. The Player that Can’t Level Up (2)
Morning rush hour. GiGyu struggled to enter the association building. There was a huge crowd who came to watch the departure of the Aeingela Guild.
“We are! The Tower’s…!”
It was a huge commotion between the loud Aeingela Guild and the observers. GiGyu barely managed to cut through the crowd and made his way into the building.
The person that welcomed GiGyu was Oh TaeShik, the head of the guide department. GiGyu reciprocated the friendly greeting before sitting down. TaeShik wasn’t the only person in the office.
TN: Hyung means older brother. It’s an honorific used by Korean men to refer to a guy who is older than them in a friendly manner.
“Been a while, GiGyu.”
There were other guides in the room as well. The short HyunShik and the scary-looking Teo were standing beside TaeShik.
“Nice seeing you guys,” said GiGyu, giving them a half-assed greeting.
Being a guide for the association was a temporary ordeal. It was a part-time job some Players did while they grinded some levels until they could climb to a higher Floor. Being an association guide was nothing more, nothing less. That’s why, with the exception of GiGyu, most guides quit not long after. Teo and HyunShik were also newbie guides. Since they rotated out the door so quickly, GiGyu rarely got friendly with them.
“Are you leaving right away?” TaeShik asked GiGyu.
“Yes. I’m leading my group to the 2nd Floor today.”
“Right, by the way, your clients asked us to assign another guide to them after today.”
“Why?” GiGyu asked, confused.
Until yesterday, everything seemed peachy. He didn’t make any mistakes, and the Players were following his orders well.
“They seemed to have their doubts. It seems they’ve heard the rumors.”
GiGyu smiled bitterly. A rumor between the Players had been decreasing his workload. He didn’t know who started them, but even if he found out, there wasn’t much he could do since the rumors were true.
“Teo will be responsible for them starting tomorrow, but still, do a good job today.”
With a stoic expression, Teo apologized to GiGyu, “I’m sorry.”
“Nah. What are you sorry for?”
“I feel crummy since I feel like I’m stealing your clients,” Teo said nonchalantly.
To strangers, it might appear like Teo was being derisive, but GiGyu didn’t take it that way.
‘He’s just that kind of person,’ GiGyu thought.
Teo had an honest, stoic personality. GiGyu was aware that he was sincerely sorry.
“Well then, I’ll head on out first. See you guys later,” GiGyu said as he got up from his spot. It was almost time for him to meet his group.
“Don’t worry about it too much. There’s already another client lined up for you, so look on the bright side.”
“Be careful, hyung.”
“Have a safe trip, GiGyu.”
Everyone gave a word of encouragement to GiGyu, who was departing for the Tower. They always felt bad for GiGyu. They knew how poor his family was—how hard working and desperate he was. They all wanted to do something for him, but at the end of the day, level was the most important factor for a Player. There was no place that needed a Player that couldn’t level up.
TaeShik clicked his tongue in pity after watching GiGyu leave.
* * *
“Hey, you’re all early.” GiGyu greeted the Players. Despite having arrived 20 minutes early, the Players were already waiting for him.
“Yeah. I couldn’t hold back my excitement. We’re climbing to the 2nd Floor today!”
“I also prepared plenty of potions today.”
Their words brought a bitter smile to GiGyu’s face, but he was used to this, so he just started leading the way.
“The 2nd Floor is where the danger starts, so don’t let your guard down and stay focused.”
GiGyu’s warm, teacher-like tone brought a playful response from the Players.
* * *
“So this is the door?”
“It looks exactly like I’ve heard it does.”
A plain-looking, giant steel door. The steel door looked like it was just slapped together, and it towered five stories tall.
GiGyu gently pushed the steel door. Surprisingly, it opened without any resistance.
The Players admired the steel door creaking open loudly.
“It’s so pretty!”
The inside of the steel door was beautiful. Stars glimmered in a jet-black night sky. It was a stark contrast to the blue, monotonous gate.
“Now, now. Don’t get lost in the view, and let’s go in already,” GiGyu said while leading the way. The Players slowly followed him.
“This is the 2nd Floor?”
As soon as the Players entered, past the steel door, the scenery changed. Giant trees surrounded them, and they could see nothing but an endless forest.
“The Tower really is a magical place.”
“It’s more than just the Tower. Gates, Players, and other new things appeared suddenly, and we still have no idea why they appeared or how they work. It’s been 23 years since the Tower first appeared, but we still know very few things.”
Why did the Tower appear?
Why did gates appear?
Why did people awaken as Players?
People have been trying to find the answers to these questions for 23 years, but no one has found any as of yet. There are rumors that the secrets are unraveled the further you climb the Tower, but that rumor hasn’t been verified yet.
“I heard that the Aeingela Guild is climbing the Tower once again. I hope they find something!”
“I’m more worried about the S-rank gate that appeared in America.”
“Why are you worried about that! If anywhere is gonna go in the shitter, it’s the US and not us.”
“Yeah, but they’ll be dead people nonetheless.”
The Players busily chatted about the current hot events. GiGyu was also interested, but it’s stuff he’d already heard. And because it seemed like the chatting would never end, GiGyu decided to take the lead.
“Let me explain the 2nd Floor again. The only monsters on this Floor are Orcs. They look different from Goblins, but their abilities aren’t all that different. Their speed and power…”
“Their speed and power are?”
“So Orcs have a much greater destructive power than Goblins, but they’re that much slower. A single hit can be lethal, but they’re that much easier to dodge.”
The Players nodded their heads to GiGyu’s explanation while following him.
* * *
“Orcs on the 2nd Floor don’t use glaives but clubs. That’ll stay the same up to the 4th Floor, so it’s best to learn how to deal with Orcs now.”
A Player’s sword clashed against an Orc’s club, and the Orc’s club went flying. Using that opening, another Player stabbed an Orc with his sword.
The Orc cried in pain.
“Orcs have a lot of Health. You shouldn’t let your guard down until it either drops dead or gets its head sliced off. Even without a weapon, an Orc can still be deadly.”
The Players each took turns striking the retreating Orc with their swords. Soon, the Orc was covered in wounds and eventually dropped dead, drenched in its own green blood.
“Wow! I leveled up.”
“Dang. You leveled up before me.”
“Congrats. Players each have a slightly different EXP requirement. However, that doesn’t mean that having a lower EXP requirement is always good.”
“Really?” Asked a Player that thought a low EXP requirement was the best.
“Yes. The rules of the Tower are surprisingly fair. If you have a low EXP requirement, either you’ll have fewer skills, or the growth rate of your stats might be lower. Or it’s possible that it might get balanced in some other manner. Most ranked Players are known for having ridiculously high EXP requirements.”
The Player that asked GiGyu seemed to get it.
“So you shouldn’t be happy just because you have a rapid growth rate in the early stages. You might end up needing to put in more effort later. However, there exist powerful Players who are able to ignore things like that. Do you know what Players they are?”
One of them seemed to get what GiGyu was talking about.
“Unique ability holders.”
“Oh yeah! I heard about them!”
“You can think of them as ordinary Players. Unique Abilities are so special and powerful that Players with such abilities can’t be easily measured by stats or levels.”
However, GiGyu didn’t mention how he was the weakest Player despite being a unique ability holder.
“Damn. I wish we were unique ability holders.”
“Ditto. Aren’t most unique ability holders rankers or even high-rankers?”
Did they know the truth about GiGyu? Were they perhaps mocking him? The Players continued to gossip about unique ability holders, but GiGyu ignored them and scouted the area. It was part of a guide’s duty to stay on guard while the Players rested.
‘Nothing out of the ordinary.’
After taking a closer look around the area, nothing stood out to him. Every once in a while, Players panicked if a respawned monster ran at them or if a horde appeared. It was also the duty of a guide to lead them to a safe place during such occasions.
‘We’ll be fine as long as a guardian doesn’t appear.’
Guardian deities of a Floor. They’re boss monsters that are far stronger than their respective Floors that it takes a guild or a large party to hunt them. However, they are hard to find because they usually stay hidden, so most parties don’t go out of their way to hunt them.
After scouting his surroundings again, GiGyu told the Players, “Well then, let’s head on out.”
* * *
“Thank you for your hard work again today.”
“You too, guide-nim!”
“The one who was injured earlier, make sure you go to the hospital. I know you said that you used a potion, but it’s possible that your bones or nerves were damaged.”
GiGyu looked down at his old wrist watch.
Today’s job took longer than he expected. It was because a Player got severely injured, which ate up a lot of time. Luckily, GiGyu’s first aid healed the Player’s injury quickly, but it still resulted in the job taking much longer than he had planned.
‘I won’t be able to hunt today.’
Going on a hunt by himself now would be overexerting himself. At least it wasn’t all that bad since TaeShik-hyung would make sure he got paid overtime.
GiGyu said goodbye to the Players and exited the Tower.
“That took a while.”
“Yeah. It’s because one of the Players got injured.”
“Did you treat them properly?”
TaeShik had been waiting for GiGyu to get back to the office. It had taken him 3 hours longer than expected. As a result, he was paid 200,000 won*.
TN: Approx. $180.
“If you pay me this much… of course I’ll be happy,” GiGyu playfully thanked him.
TaeShik was the person GiGyu had relied on the most after becoming a Player at the age of 18.
GiGyu was frustrated because his levels weren’t going up, and he was brushing past death countless times a day while fighting Goblins. Short on money to even buy potions, he didn’t even bother healing small wounds. While walking home covered in wounds, he met TaeShik as if it was fate.
That was when TaeShik started looking after GiGyu. TaeShik was the one that suggested the guide job to GiGyu, always giving him a small bonus. When GiGyu’s mother was in critical condition and needed to be hospitalized, it was TaeShik who covered the bills.
“I get that things are hard right now, but endure it. The sun will shine for you one day.”
GiGyu gave TaeShik a warm smile. TaeShik was one of the few people he could rely on other than his family.
“I almost forgot. Someone specifically requested for you.”