Leveling Up From Rank F Chapter 8

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Chapter 8: Awakening

“Welcome.”

They were Jiwoo’s regular customers. They weren’t the type to stay around for long, they bought what they needed then left.

Jiwoo restocked the sold products and turned on the TV.

“Bonds (帶帶). The definition of bonds means ties. These are ties which can be formed by connecting two or more ends together. They can also signify a connection between people. If you search the term in the Korean dictionary, this explanation will come up.”

Professor Noh was giving a special lecture on TV about the term “bonds” which we often hear in our daily lives.

Jiwoo changed the channel.

“Three days ago, there was an assault case in Juan-dong, Incheon. A 33-year-old office worker, Mr. Mo Kim, suffered stab wounds all over his body. He was transferred to a hospital. Mr. Kim passed away at the hospital late this afternoon. Stabbing incidents were reported throughout Incheon—”

“Juan-dong? Incheon?”

Jiwoo tried to recall why the place sounded familiar to him.

“Ah!”

He remembered he heard Kijeong had moved there. Jiwoo raised the volume to the TV.

“According to the witnesses’ testimonies, Mr. Kim was stabbed with a deadly weapon and collapsed bleeding on the floor—”

Although he was focused on the news, customers entered the store. Jiwoo quickly turned off the TV and greeted them. After they left, he turned it back on again, but now experts were talking about other topics.

“I’ll have to give him a call on my way back. Why is the world so chaotic these days?” Jiwoo pondered.

Tomorrow was payday again. Starting this month, he began to give 2.5 million won to Kijeong. Thanks to Kijeong, Jiwoo was able to finish paying back what he owed to Lims.

When he heard the interest was much cheaper if he were to take out a loan to pay the debt off in full, he did so. Instead of paying Lims in installments, he was able to do a lump sum payment with the money he borrowed from Kijeong as well.

He felt bad for Kijeong, who lent him money even after he took out a loan. Kijeong, on the other hand, didn’t mind. He asked why Jiwoo kept apologizing needlessly, when he was able to repay the interest.

As Jiwoo sorted through his work, he considered finally having a meal together with Kijeong. He had been delaying it up till now.

When his shift was over, Jiwoo called Kijeong.

However, something strange happened. No matter how many times he called, Kijeong did not pick up. Jiwoo tilted his head to the side, confused, then called him again in one to two minute intervals.

At first, he thought that Kijeong had left his phone at home to go out for a smoke. Either that or he was in the bathroom. However, he started to worry when he couldn’t reach him after the fourth attempt. He waited for two minutes before trying again, then someone finally picked up.

“Hello?”

An unfamiliar man’s voice answered the call.

It was not Chun Kijeong.

“Hello? Is this Deputy Manager Chun’s number?” Jiwoo asked carefully.

“Deputy Manager Chun? I’m not sure. A person collapsed just now.”

There was a loud siren coming from the other end of the line.

The sound got louder and louder. He heard clamor from a crowd of people, women raising their voices from shock, someone telling a person to get a hold of themselves, and another voice asking what to do; these sounds meshed together and were randomly transmitted through the phone.

“Hello? Where is Deputy Chun? Why are you picking up his phone…” Jiwoo asked urgently.

“I’m not too sure, but I’m assuming he was the one who got assaulted. The ambulance arrived right now. His phone was on the floor. I picked it up because it rang. If this is Deputy Chun’s cellphone, then I’m guessing the person being carried away is the Deputy Chun you speak of. Oh my god. How can something like this happen?”

“Hello? Where are they taking him?” Jiwoo asked in a pressing tone.

“One moment please, I’ll go ask. Excuse me. I just got a call from this person. Are you heading to the hospital now? Which hospital is it?” The man asked the paramedics.

“They said he’s being transferred to P Hospital.”

The answer to his question came back immediately.

“I understand, thank you.”

Jiwoo ran to the side of the road while he was on the call. Jiwoo waved wildly towards a coming taxi. He kept gripping his phone as he got on.

“The ambulance is about to leave now. I’ll hand this phone over to the paramedics, you can talk to them from here.”

The man said, while explaining what was happening on the other end.

“Okay.”

Jiwoo thought the paramedic would pick up the phone shortly after, but the line was cut off.

“Mister, to P Hospital. Please go to Incheon’s P Hospital!”

As soon as Jiwoo said that, the taxi sped up at high speed. The driver seemed to have noticed something serious had happened from looking at Jiwoo’s expression. Jiwoo was desperate to call the number again, but he held back since he knew the paramedics were busy providing first aid.

“Unbelievable. What do you mean a victim of a stabbing case? Why did this have to happen to Deputy Chun?”

“Bonds (帶帶). The definition of bonds means ties. These are ties which can be formed by connecting two or more ends together. They can also signify a connection between people.”

What Professor Noh said suddenly popped up in his mind vividly.

Even though Chun Kijeong was betrayed by society and failed at interpersonal relationships, he was the one who held onto Jiwoo and brought him back to the world.

He knew little of what happened to Kijeong. During that period of time, Jiwoo was in a state of array. It felt like hot lava was about to erupt from his head.

***

As soon as he made it to the emergency room, he ran around asking where patient Chun Kijeong was. However, no one knew about Kijeong’s whereabouts.

“There must be someone who collapsed from a stabbing incident and was transferred here in an ambulance?!” Jiwoo shouted.

One of the medical staff then approached him saying, “Ohh.”

“That person’s name is Chun Kijeong? He didn’t have a wallet or anything we could identify him by.” The doctor said.

“Where is he now?”

“He needs to have surgery. He’s in a really bad state. What’s your relationship with him? Are you his guardian? A legal representative has to be here for him.”

“No. I’m not a legal representative. He was my supervisor for a company I used to work for.”

“Then, is there any way to contact his legal representative?”

“I don’t know? There’s Deputy Chun’s phone. Doesn’t he have a contact saved on it?”

“It’s locked with a passcode. The patient is in critical condition, so we have no time to wait.”

“Then wouldn’t it be okay if I stand surety?” Jiwoo asked.

“I think I need to explain this.” He stared at Jiwoo, lost on how to explain the situation.

“It won’t be a simple surgery. About this case…I should tread through the subject carefully but the internal damage was so severe, I suspect it was done by a Hunter with chakra control capabilities. I’ll need to perform a laparotomy on him. However, once I cut the abdomen open, I don’t know how far I’ll have to go with the operation.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Normally when a critical patient comes into the ER, the medical team acts as the guarantor and proceeds with the treatment. As for this case, the results are unpredictable and it’s not certain how much the total treatment would cost. There’s no guarantee he’ll live either since he sustained a head injury too.”

“Please go through with it. I’ll be the guarantor. Please start the surgery right away.” Jiwoo urged.

The doctor went to another staff member. A nurse came to Jiwoo with a document.

“Please read this carefully and sign it.”

It was about insuring the cost of surgical treatment. Suddenly, reality dawned on him, concerns weighing down his shoulder.

What the doctor said about the unpredictable treatment costs popped up in Jiwoo’s mind.

Jiwoo hesitated for a bit before turning to the nurse.

“If by chance, we waited a little longer…until his legal guardian comes, what will happen?”

“The doctor said he would die in two hours.” The nurse replied.

Jiwoo had no more time to think. He signed the document.

“How long will the surgery take?” Jiwoo asked.

“It will take a good 8 to 9 hours from now. However, it may take more time once we start the open surgery and gauge his actual condition.” As she said that, the nurse looked at the clock.

“There isn’t much you can do right now. It’s better to rest up for a bit when you can. Bring any stuff you’ll need for the hospital.”

“Okay, thank you.”

He went all the way over there to not even get to see Kijeong’s face. He turned to leave, but changed course to where the nurse was.

“I know where Deputy Manager Chun works. If you contact his workplace, you might be able to find out his guardian’s contact information. His family are most likely worried about him too.”

“I see. Please follow me this way.”

Jiwoo went to where the nurse guided him to tell the staff everything he knew.

For him, it was better to be preoccupied. Because after that, there was nothing else he could do but wait.

***

Jiwoo went back home by bus. He was lucky there was a bus running at that time. The burden of spending too much money was already creeping up on his mind.

“Just what the hell happened?” He questioned.

Upon arriving home, Jiwoo covered his face with both hands and took deep breaths. The reality still hasn’t hit him yet that Chun Kijeong was undergoing surgery at the hospital.

His body had the chills, perhaps it was because he had not eaten anything or that he suddenly rested after running around like a madman. Jiwoo flopped down onto his sofa and tried to organize his thoughts. However, due to his lack of sleep, he passed out without even realizing it.

On weekdays, except for his three hour breaks, he continued to work nonstop at the convenience store. He got less than two hours of sleep a day. Since he was unable to relieve the exhaustion he built up, he fell asleep as soon as his head leaned onto something.

After dozing off into a heavy sleep, Jiwoo jolted awake. When he came to his senses, he panicked thinking he was going to be late for his shift. He stood abruptly as if he were about to jump out of the sofa.

“Oh no! How long did I sleep?”

When he looked at the clock, only 20 minutes had passed.

“I almost got in trouble. This is no time for me to be like this.”

Although he believed Kijeong’s family would come to visit him soon, he thought it would be a good idea to bring some toiletries or cups just in case.

“They’ll move him to the general ward soon, won’t they? The surgery probably went well?”

He headed to this bathroom brooding in his thoughts. He poked around his nose since he felt a burning sensation, but then it started to bleed. Jiwoo rolled up some tissues to block it.

Even for him, he thought this was too much of a series of unfortunate things happening in his daily life. Jiwoo contemplated before calling the convenience store. Seongmin, who worked the other shifts alongside Jiwoo, answered the phone.

“Seongmin Hyung. This is Jiwoo. Would you be able to take over my shift for two more hours?”

“Two hours? Why? Is something wrong?” Seongmin asked.

He was older than Jiwoo, but he never treated Jiwoo rudely. When Jiwoo asked for a favor like he did now, Seongmin believed he had a good reason for it and didn’t ask too many questions.

“I’m not feeling too well.”

“Really? That’s fine. I don’t really have anything planned for today anyway. By the way, have you still not been getting any sleep?”

“Yes. Something came up.”

“Alright. Hurry up and sleep.”

“Thank you, Hyung.”

He was relieved he had earned another two hours to catch up on his sleep.

Jiwoo removed the tissues that blocked his nose.

His nosebleed had no plans on conveniently stopping for him any time soon. A large amount of blood poured out. As he changed the tissues, the blood spilled onto his clothes. Because he was exhausted, his reaction was very slow. Jiwoo didn’t even think about bringing his blood-stained clothes to the laundry bin. He went back to the sofa and fell asleep.

However, there was no shelter for him in his own dreams.

인천 주안동 / Incheon Juan-dong: Incheon is a city and Juan-dong is a street address in Korea.

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