Chapter 9: Awakening
In his dream, Jiwoo received news of Kijeong’s death. Kijeong’s family did not come and Jiwoo was called in by the hospital’s administrators. He was invoiced a total bill of 37.6 million won, which included 34 million won for surgery plus various other expenses.
He thought this couldn’t be real and he was right. The alarm went off and it turned out to be a dream.
Since Jiwoo didn’t fix his alarm, it rang momentarily after.
His body was covered in sweat from how vivid his dream was. He felt sluggish when he stood up. It didn’t feel like he was in control of his own body.
Although he had earned an extra two hours, Jiwoo didn’t think it would be enough so he called Seongmin again. When he asked if Seongmin could cover his shift for a little longer, Seongmin expressed his disapproval.
“Any more will be difficult. I’m sorry.” Seongmin said to him.
“No, it’s okay. It’s my fault for asking this so suddenly.”
Jiwoo hung up the phone and sat down absentmindedly.
“Let’s try to get a little more sleep.”
He got up to turn off the living room lights and then went into his room. This time, Jiwoo laid on his bed so he could actually fall asleep. But he couldn’t. The cost of Kijeong’s surgery worried him.
He didn’t regret his actions though. Whether the surgery cost 30 million or 40 million won, he believed he did the right thing since Kijeong’s life was on the line. But still, he couldn’t help being anxious.
Lying down didn’t help so Jiwoo got back up again.
“It won’t happen…but what if they can’t reach his guardian? How will I get the money back? It’s hard for me to even take out a loan. How much will the treatment cost? They also said he sustained a head injury. Are they performing brain surgery too? He wouldn’t forget about me, right?”
He felt like his head was about to explode from his unanswered questions. His face turned pale.
Jiwoo went to get a drink of water.
When he came out of the living room, he didn’t need to turn on the lights. The lighting from the water dispenser was bright enough for him to rely on to navigate toward it. He then walked to the sink to put his cup down.
All of a sudden, Jiwoo felt his feet getting sucked in. His eyes widened in surprise.
“Ahh! What is this?”
It wasn’t some weird feeling he had. His foot actually sank down. Jiwoo desperately struggled, his hands flailing around to grip onto the edge of the table so he could hold his ground.
Jiwoo put strength into his leg over the firm floor and pulled out the other leg that had been submerged below.
Flustered by the turn of events, Jiwoo started to breathe heavier. He slowly looked down at the floor. His eyes grew wide as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
It…was a swamp. A swamp appeared in front of him. They don’t spawn indoors and Jiwoo knew of this fact. On top of that, the color of the swamp’s border was shining.
He thought he must’ve received too much shock from Kijeong’s news. He wondered if he was imagining it. However, no matter how many times he looked, it was definitely a swamp.
“I’ve never heard of a swamp emerging indoors before…”
Jiwoo turned on the living room lights to take a closer look. Its imposing appearance came into light. From his prior knowledge, he knew there were no other swamps that burned bright like fire. But the color of this swamp’s border was flickering back and forth between yellow and blue. It looked like a candle’s flickering flames when the wind blows.
Jiwoo stared at it for a while. The inside of the border was calm. There were no ripples in the viscous water; it was stagnant.
“If this is actually a swamp…that means there are monsters in there.”
Jiwoo suddenly came to realize this fact.
“Then there’s no time for me to be standing around doing nothing. The drones won’t be able to find this swamp since it appeared indoors.”
He immediately called the Hunter Association.
“This is the Hunter Association.” An operator answered the phone.
“I want to report a swamp.”
“Yes, sir. What region is it in?”
Jiwoo told them the area slowly and clearly.
“By the way sir, drones are currently on patrol there but none have been sighted in that area. When did the swamp appear?”
“Yes, I thought so. This is a swamp that spawned indoors. It’s in my living room. That’s why they haven’t found it yet, drones only patrol outdoors.”
The operator didn’t say anything for a moment.
“Hello?” Jiwoo called out to the operator, wondering if the line was cut off.
“Sir, while you’re fooling around like this, there are people out there who actually need my help and are in a predicament because they’re unable to reach me on the phone. I would appreciate it if you could contact me after you confirm it again.” The operator said as politely as they could.
“I understand it’s hard to believe but I’m telling the truth. You can come to verify it yourself.”
“I’ll be hanging up now. If you interfere with our work like this, you may receive a penalty. Please keep in mind that obstructing the work of the Hunter Association is a serious crime.”
That’s how the call ended.
Jiwoo pulled the table chair and sat down on it. Their reaction was only natural.
“I’ll record it and send a video. Then they’ll believe me.”
He stood up with his smartphone in hand to record the swamp. As he did so, his phone, which was too big to hold with one hand, slipped from his grasp.
Shocked, Jiwoo moved his hand to catch his phone, but he missed. Ironically, it was falling toward the swamp.
Although it was waterproof, he was worried the screen might have cracked. He had no money to spend fixing his phone in his current situation. He didn’t think of anything other than to get his phone before it fell any deeper. There was no time to feel uneasy about putting his hands inside the swamp.
He prayed as he pulled out his phone. Fortunately, it was fine. Jiwoo wiped the water and pressed the button to confirm it was functioning normally. Then he let out a deep breath.
“That was close.”
Making sure he wouldn’t drop it again, Jiwoo firmly held his phone with both hands and began recording. While he was taking the video, the swamp remained calm. Jiwoo captured the silence of the swamp too.
However, there was something that kept drawing his attention. Jiwoo raised his phone up and slightly turned his head to look at his arm.
He saw something dark and black. Jiwoo thought something smeared on it when he put his hands inside the swamp earlier. When he decided he had recorded enough, he pressed the stop button to save the recording. Jiwoo nodded after checking the video.
“There. They’ll believe me if I send this. But what’s this thing on my arm?”
Jiwoo was considering whether he should report to the Hunter Association first. However, he was bothered by what was on his arm and decided to go to the sink to wash it off.
He turned on the faucet and put out his arm.
The water flowing out of the faucet was strong yet it did not wash away the stain. Jiwoo’s eyes grew little by little.
“What is this? A…Hunter tattoo?
He turned off the faucet and raised his arm to his eyes. The Hunter tattoo clearly appeared on his forearm, above the wrist. It wasn’t there before, but it seemed to have formed when he had retrieved his phone from the swamp.
Jiwoo couldn’t believe what was happening so he gave the tattoo a fixed glare. It was the same tattoo he saw on other Hunters’ arms.
“What? Am I a Hunter then? I’m a Hunter now?”
Puzzled, Jiwoo stared at the tattoo and thought he should inform the Hunter Association of these happenings first. He couldn’t understand anything with his current knowledge.
He sent the file to the Hunter Association. He knew they wouldn’t believe him if he simply called again. He waited a bit after the video was sent before making the call. The person he talked to earlier answered the phone.
Jiwoo explained he had just sent the video of the swamp. The operator said they would check the video and call him back. The return call came in less than a minute.
Perhaps it was because they watched the video, the operator did not ignore Jiwoo this time. It also sounded like they were more willing to hear him out.
“I don’t know if the resolution is bad, but the color of the swamp is not coming out clearly. What is the border’s color?” The operator asked.
“I understand it’s unbelievable, I can’t believe it either. But I think you should come here instead of asking over the phone.”
The operator carefully cut off Jiwoo’s words.
“Oh, sir. We have already dispatched people to the scene. If you wait, the Hunter Association will arrive soon. I’ll be asking you questions to collect information in the meantime. Would that be okay?”
“How does the border’s color appear to you?”
“About that…it’s not a commonly known color. It’s not due to the bad resolution, it’s actually that color. The yellow and blue are mingling together.”
Whether the operator was watching the video or not, they didn’t say anything for a while.
“I have a question too.”
Jiwoo asked if there were any instances of 18-year-old individuals whose tattoos didn’t appear during the exams but appeared later on.
“Why…do you ask?”
“A tattoo manifested on my arm.”
“Did you dip your arm into the swamp?”
“So after you did, it formed on your arm? Excuse me for asking sir, but how old are you now?”
“I’m 26. I took the Hunter exam when I turned 18, but the tattoo didn’t appear then.”
Jiwoo found it funny that he was being called “sir” when he just turned 26 years old, but he answered sincerely.
“Could you wait one moment please? I’ll call you back.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“I believe the number of people we’ve dispatched is not enough. I will give additional instructions to the professionals in that area who can assist you. I will then call you back.”
He felt as if the case kept growing bigger.
“Then again, it is a big enough issue. Nothing like this has happened before. If something similar did, it would have been on the news which meant he would have heard about it at least once.”
Jiwoo pondered while he stared at the swamp.
“They said they would call back but why aren’t they?” He questioned as he glanced at the clock only to find out a few minutes had passed.
Jiwoo stared at his tattoo while he waited for the dispatchers to come. He knew full well what a Hunter tattoo looked like since he saw it several times. Jiwoo’s eyes rounded as he took a closer look.
A series of strange things happened to him but this one was the strangest.
There should have been a role like Dealer or Tanker next to his rank on the Hunter tattoo. Yet there was no such thing on his. This wasn’t the only strange finding. The basic stats on Jiwoo’s tattoo were significantly lower than normal.
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