Chapter 11: Awakening
Jiwoo explained to Im Jeong what had happened to Kijeong and how he was hospitalized after a stabbing case. She put on an odd expression when he told her every inch of his body was injured, as though a Hunter inflicted those wounds.
“If a Hunter is truly involved, the Hunter Security Forces may need to step up to tackle this matter. Let’s go to the hospital together and the lab after. Is it okay if I go there with you?” She asked.
“Yes, It’s fine.”
Jiwoo went around his house and packed the things he needed.
In return for staying at the research institute, he received 35 million won for a month.That amount was more than enough to cover Kijeong’s hospital bill. He could earn money by transporting dead bodies afterwards. If he worked nonstop for a month, he could earn 15 million won. He would still make 10 million won even if he took a weekend off.
Jiwoo believed his life would change completely from this point on. He’ll no longer have to receive calls which urged him to pay his bills or live an endlessly suppressed life.
He shook his head, still in disbelief.
“I’m a Hunter now? Oh my god. I can’t believe I’m a Hunter and I got a tattoo!”
Jiwoo wanted to scream out in joy.
“I’m a Hunter. Ahn Jiwoo is a Hunter. From now on, I’m a Hunter too!”
He would have yelled it out loud several times had it not been for the people around him.
Jiwoo’s dark blue tattoo seemed to sparkle in that brief moment but he didn’t notice.
When Jiwoo and Im Jeong arrived at the hospital, Kijeong was still in the operating room. Jiwoo thought their visit was in vain, but Im Jeong had more authority than he expected.
“If the person who assaulted him is a Hunter, this issue is under the jurisdiction of Hunter Security Forces as well.” She stated.
No matter how high-ranking she was, he wasn’t sure they would be granted access into the operating room where surgery was still underway. However, Im Jeong confidently entered the operating room. Jiwoo, although not so confident, was able to enter too. However, he did not see Kijeong.
Im Jeong approached the operating table and saw Kijeong first. She told Jiwoo to stay where he was. Although he could have insisted on going inside, Jiwoo followed her instructions.
He could imagine how Kijeong looked lying on the operating table. Jiwoo wanted to believe that if he had faith and waited patiently, Kijeong would return back to normal.
When Im Jeong revealed her identity as a member of the Hunter Security Forces, the doctor, who was performing the surgery, raised his chin toward the staff to let her in.
Im Jeong examined Kijeong’s wounds closely and touched them too. She nodded silently at the surgeon, a gesture of gratitude for letting her in.
The staff looked at the spot Im Jeong had touched. They began to regenerate quickly.
Im Jeong had already taken her leave before the staff asked questions.
“Sir, what just happened?” One of them asked the doctor.
The staff had already given up on the surgery. Before Im Jeong entered the operating room, they judged that there was no way to save Chun Kijeong. Kijeong’s body was unable to handle the surgery. Since his organs were crushed one by one, they needed to remove his organs. But Kijeong was in no state to undergo the surgical treatment. The reason why they didn’t announce their decision to abandon the patient was because of the slim hope they could still save the patient.
It was right then she made her entrance. Im Jeong did not say a word but the surgeon noticed her hand brushed by the fatally wounded areas.
Tankers with regeneration abilities was a publicly known fact. However, it was not revealed if Hunters could use their regeneration skills on others.
The surgeon watched Kijeong’s damaged organs recover and bounce back to normal like a resilient tennis ball.
“Remain silent on what happened here today. The same applies to the condition of the patient in which they were brought in.”
“The patient’s condition too?”
The surgical assistant asked. The surgeon closed his mouth as if to say he would not take any unnecessary questions. He simply turned his head and looked toward where Im Jeong disappeared.
As she came out of the operating room, Jiwoo had a lot of questions to ask.
“Will Deputy Chun live? Did a Hunter really do this? But why would they do such a thing? During that time, weren’t you aware a Hunter was responsible? Why were the Hunter Security Forces not dispatched?”
“You sure are talkative. Time will reveal whether he will live or not. What would it accomplish for you to ask me these questions?”
“Is Deputy Chun someone important to you?”
“Yes. I was here before I found the swamp at my home. I’m the guarantor of this surgery. I fell asleep worrying about how much it would cost. But then I woke up to discover a swamp.” Jiwoo said.
“Did you have that much money?”
“No. But I wanted to save him no matter how much the surgery cost. He reached out to me when I saw no future in me. He gave me another chance in life when I had hit rock bottom, wanting to die.”
“You even considered doing that?” She asked, curious about what kind of life he had lived.
“There were many times I fell in despair.” Jiwoo replied.
“I understand what you mean. I know you have a lot of questions, but I don’t think I can answer much. Besides, if he’s that important to you, he’ll live. I’ll also pray for his survival.”
“Okay, I will guarantee it. He’ll live.” Im Jeong emphasized but Jiwoo didn’t buy it.
Yongha called him on his way to the lab. He said he couldn’t fall asleep so he went to Jiwoo’s house without saying anything as usual but was shocked to see strangers swarming around his house.
“Hey, dude! Where are you right now? Why would you follow them? How do you know if what they say is true? Huh?”
Jiwoo tried to explain the situation to Yongha, but the more he tried, the more futile it became.
It was wrong of him to think that Yongha would understand if he said, “A swamp appeared in my house and I dipped my arm in there, then I got a tattoo. So I became a Hunter and I’m on my way to a lab.”
In the end, he decided to tell him later and hung up the phone after getting an earful of nagging.
“Other people will be congratulated when they become Hunters, right? They won’t be treated as though they’re crazy?”
Im Jeong nodded at his question.
“If memory serves, I think I was congratulated. I would congratulate others too if they became a Hunter. Congratulations on becoming a Hunter, Ahn Jiwoo.”
Jiwoo felt awkward and looked around. He asked if the lab was still far away.
“We’re almost there.”
After running for a long time, the two reached the front of a large building. The lights were all shut off. At the entrance, there was a fountain and a large parking lot. The lobby looked extravagant and the building had a sophisticated design. It seemed like it was built with high-quality materials.
Although it was dawn, not a single room was lit inside the extremely tall building.
Jiwoo was pondering about how many of the monsters’ corpses went inside the building. But then he saw Im Jeong’s embarrassed expression.
“Is something wrong?” He asked her.
“Is today May 20th?”
“Is it? Ah, I guess so?”
“It’s closed today.”
“Today’s the first day of the Hunter exam so no one is inside. That’s why I said I would clean up the main building while it was empty. But I forgot.”
“I’ll go home then and come back here tomorrow. Nevermind, they’re still at my house. I’ll go to the convenience store and let my boss and coworker know what happened. I’ll come tomorrow.”
Im Jeong looked apologetic and repeatedly asked if he was okay with doing that.
Jiwoo couldn’t figure out why he expected something like this would happen. He simply didn’t trust her from the start. It was not because he thought she was going to betray him. He just felt it was difficult to entrust her with the work. The greatest factor playing into that was her appearance, she looked too young.
“Still, it’s a relief. It’s nice to have a day to fill others in.” Jiwoo comforted her.
“No. No. It’s okay. I don’t mind. Rather, today is already May 20th. I hope there will be a lot of Hunters this year.”
After exchanging some words back and forth, they finally went their separate ways when they ran out of things to say.
Jiwoo enjoyed the day to his fullest since it was perhaps the last day he would spend as an ordinary person.
In the beginning, he thought life in the lab would be fun, but it was nothing like Jiwoo expected.
It was the same daily routine, he couldn’t tell how much time had passed. There was a series of tests everyday. Various absurdly expensive and high-tech equipment scanned his body. Jiwoo followed the orders he received from the control room. He laid down and would turn his body around as they instructed him to.
Jiwoo wanted something good to be discovered from his body. The image of enthusiastic people admiring him popped up in his mind. But it didn’t take long for his hopes to be shattered.
The Hunter Association held expectations for Jiwoo at the start. It was a good sign for them if people suddenly awakened even though they didn’t when they took the Hunter exam. They naturally believed more people could become Hunters and be put into raids if they found out what the awakening conditions were.
However, as time passed, those expectations disappeared. Jiwoo was not a great Hunter. His attack and defense correlated to the level engraved on his tattoo. He didn’t have remarkable physical strength either.
Im Jeong thought Jiwoo was too stressed from being cooped up at the lab so she allowed him to go out for the first time in two weeks.
Although it was a short outing and he had to return by evening, it was more than enough for him.
When he called his parents and Yongha, they all wanted to see him. But Jiwoo told them he had to visit Kijeong first. Yongha was disappointed to hear his answer. It was because he was dying to see Jiwoo’s tattoo. However, he had no choice but to accept his decision.
Jiwoo went to find Kijeong. Fortunately, he was recovering quickly. As Jiwoo entered the hospital room, Kijeong’s face twitched. He appeared as though he had a lot to say to him.
“You did something unnecessary. I was going to talk about it even if you didn’t come.” Chun Kijeong said.
It was obvious that he was going to nag him about the medical expenses.
Jiwoo took the fruits, drinks, and flowers he bought and organized them.
“Unnecessary? Who? Me?” He said as he took a seat on a folding chair.
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