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Hardcore Leveling Warrior is the most complex character in the series and is the archetypal antihero. He is almost universally despised for his arrogance, money-grubbing, deceitfulness and snobbery. Although he may sometimes perform actions that are morally correct, he is often acting mostly out of self-interest rather than through altruism. Despite all this, he is still admired for his skill by both his allies and opponents alike.

His main motivation is to be the strongest and earn as much money as possible in order to escape the clutches of Chairman Kim and he will do anything to achieve his goal.

Despite his cold, calculating demeanor, ruthlessness in battle and on the surface, having relatively little concern for the well-being of his colleagues, in reality, he does care about them, seeing them as valuable allies.

His behaviour and approach to life is a consequence of having endured waves of suffering and numerous betrayals since his youth, with nearly all highlights of his life in The Real World being lows. As a result of this he very guarded and rarely opens up to anybody.

Ethan Gong was a self-confessed loser and felt that he was the unluckiest person in the world as nothing ever worked out for him. He was orphaned at a very young age and lost the only family he had. He was bullied in school and dropped out due to his life being too hard. He considered his life to be unfair and never wanted to live it. No matter how hard he tried, nothing ever worked out for him. His life was empty and he felt terribly lonely. This led to him spending most of his early 20s on gambling to fill the void in his life. He accumulated a massive amount of debt, which led to his life being thrown into further turmoil. He was continuously beaten by President Kim and literally treated like a dog, being forced to bark to the formers amusement.[9]

After finding a randomly finding a phone on the street with Lucid Adventure preloaded, he decided to give it a shot. In Lucid Adventure, everything worked out as if it were making up for his horrible life and it felt like he was the luckiest person in the game world.[9]

In Lucid Adventure, he finally found a place where he belonged. It was as if the game was making up for his horrible life. He became the best player in the game. He came to prefer Lucid Adventure to The Real World and even considers it to be his real world.[9] He even told Novelist Han that he would save it over The Real World.[10]

Early on in Lucid Adventure, although he goaded people into accepting bets and eventually used 'Betting' to consume the skills of others, he was actually a fairly sincere person and didn't seem to be conceited. Master Swordsman even sought him out in order to recruit him to Zara Guild because he felt that the guild needed someone like him. After Armes was captured, he still seemed sincere after he became the #3 Ranker, when he saved Sora[11] and Castle Ideizeu from Nightmare.[12]

After the remnants of the Zara Guild finally disbanded, he felt like his trusted guild abandoned him in his search for Armes and swore off companions, going at it alone. He did whatever it took to become the strongest so that one day he could find Armes and save her by himself. The isolation and supposed 'abandonment' left him jaded and led to him spurning other players.

Once he became the #1 Ranker he changed completely and even became a Red Player. He became arrogant and universally despised by the general public and considered a piece of trash. He stole person's quests, he once blocked a road that a player needed too use to finish a quest because he was bored, he stole a mob that a player had almost killed. He believed that people were jealous of him because of how cool he looked in The Golden Armor.[13]

After his level got reset he attitude has slowly been changing due to his debt in The Real World and weakened state. Although his desire for power and money are still prevalent, he has really changed for the better compared to when he had much longer hair. This change was more noticeable during the period after he lost his hair. He somewhat started caring for people beyond using them as a means to an end, especially with Sora and Dark.

HCLW does not have anybody he would consider a friend and has been a loner all his life.[9][14][15] He hates partying up with others as feels that would slow him down, although he is not above forming alliances if it will help him achieve his goals.[16] Although for a time he joined the Zara Guild and saw them as trusted colleagues and maybe even friends, he was still unwilling to tell them about his living situation and how miserable his life was.[17]

HCLW has a more vulnerable side. He has also shown moments of fear and guilt, the latter due to having to betray Dark in order to save himself from being killed by Chairman Kim in The Real World. HCLW has shown himself to be capable of gratefulness, especially after Armes which brought tears to his eyes.

Ethan Gong is a gambling addict and it has put him in seriously precarious situations in his personal life. It led to him being forced into Chairman Kim's Workshop and being beaten up like a dog and forced to take narcotics and eat food off the floor.[9][18] In Lucid Adventure, his addiction is further enabled by his both his class and Personal Attribute and even transfers to his combat situations where he uses high-risk, high-rewards strategies which he has carried on even after he got his level reset.

Due to his problems in The Real World, Ethan Gong has been single all his life and this is a very sensitive topic for him. He is quite oblivious as to how to approach romance as seen when Armes got close to him and referred to his feelings as "unnecessary".[17] He is also quite slow witted and doesn't seem to know when a person has feelings for him.[10]

HCLW has been noted by several characters, including himself, to have a temper problem.[19][20] He can sometimes lose his temper which could have adverse effects on both himself and his allies.

Hardcore Leveling Warrior hates Noobs that beg for money as shown when he PKed Choco Pork Stew[13] and he hates it when his armour gets scratched.[13][21]

Above all else, HCLW is the personification of persistence and resilience. Through all of his numerous trials and tribulations, he has never yielded to fate and continues to subsist against seemingly insurmountable odds. Only once has he ever considered giving up and he quickly discarded that notion.[22] He believes that as soon as you give up, you've lost already and even if he has only a 0.1% chance of winning, he will believe in he can still win with a bit of luck.[23]

References

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