Chapter 21: Awakening
Jiwoo was the last one up. Gyutae watched him with anticipation. Jiwoo, on the other hand, didn’t expect much from himself. He didn’t expect anyone else to look forward to his turn either. Even so, in the far corner of his mind, he did hold onto a sliver of hope that maybe this time he could do it.
The knife did not go through whatsoever. It was as though the blade was dull and completely rusted. He wanted to make an excuse and blame it on the knife.
Gyutae did not comment about it. He took the knife from Jiwoo and started dissecting the corpse. The three low-level Hunters were speechless. The knife in Gyutae’s hands was sharp, its blade shining. Yet when they held that same knife, it was as flat as wood.
Chop chop chop.
The knife smoothly penetrated the meat, the fatty parts of the flesh cleanly sliced off.
Gyutae had shrouded the knife with his chakra making the tool look like a living entity. There were numerous times Jiwoo sat by the surgeon’s side, watching the dissection process, but it was like he was seeing something new.
The three awe-struck men observed the surgeon’s actions. He didn’t seem to be putting much effort into it. He looked comfortable as he casually poured chakra into the tool, when necessary. Nothing in his movement was wasted whether it was measuring how much strength to put, determining the angle to hold the knife, or deciding the type of chakra to pour into the knife.
One time more yellow energy oozed out while another time only blue energy was discharged.
“It’s similar to cooking. There are times when you have to stir-fry food over high heat in a short period of time, whereas other times you’ll need to boil it over low heat for a long time. You adjust the extent of the chakra depending on the moment. You’ll get the hang of it as you do it. For instance, how much chakra to put in and when to withdraw it, you can reduce the amount of chakra you waste once you get used to it.”
As he lopped off the carcass piece by piece, Gyutae explained how the grip on his hand would change and how deep the knife would sink down, then went on to demonstrate it. To the Hunters, it was like a new world had opened up for them.
“Well, my work here is already done. Now, it’s your turn.”
The Hunters were so captivated by the surgeon’s performance, a pile of body packs had stacked up in front of them before they knew it.
The three men began transporting the body packs. The demonstration had an unexpected effect on them. They were contemplating how to pour chakra into the weapon as they were doing their jobs.
“Maybe if I do it like this, it would work…” Jiwoo wondered to himself.
He asked Gyutae questions and the surgeon gave him another chance to try again.
Chunks of the flesh were left aside along with an extra knife. Without saying a word, they struggled in anguish trying to learn how to amputate the corpse. They stabbed the monster’s flesh only to see it was not possible for them. They then transported the body packs before none were left to practice on.
No one spoke in the car. Gyutae looked at them, satisfied with how serious they were.
They moved to the next swamp, repeating the same thing over. The Hunters silently watched Gyutae dissect the carcass. They would transport the corpses and attempt to cut the monster’s flesh only to fail again.
At one point, Gyutae saw Jiwoo walking by before abruptly stopping in place. He smiled to himself as he saw Jiwoo being struck with a sudden realization. Although Taein and Kanghyun continued the challenge, Jiwoo quietly carried the body packs. Gyutae did not doubt that Jiwoo would be able to amputate the monster’s body. Rather, he lauded Jiwoo for not openly sharing his success to others first.
Taein screamed in distress when he couldn’t do the deed despite employing various methods. It happened constantly. He knew he would fail yet he would keep trying again. Taein and Kanghyun’s fear began to grow. They worried what they would do if they lost the courage to try again. Even so, it was something they had to overcome.
“Don’t be too impatient, you can’t get it within a day or two.”
Gyutae had to appease their stressed minds. From his perspective, Taein would be able to make cuts on the carcass within half a month so long as he continued to practice. As for Kanghyun, he expected him to be faster so he estimated it would take him about a week.
One day, there was a period of time when both Taein and Kanghyun exited the swamp at the same time.
“Why don’t you try it now?” Gyutae encouraged Jiwoo.
“Give it a try.” Gyutae urged him again.
Hesitating, Jiwoo stared at the man before picking up the knife. The other two would be back soon. He had to hurry, but this was to Jiwoo’s benefit.
Jiwoo sliced the monster’s body in half.
Gyutae gave a nod.
“Seeing how rough the cross section is, your chakra control needs to be refined more.”
“Still, you did well for your first time. Remember that feeling.”
Gyutae’s words were rather difficult for Jiwoo to swallow. He thought he had done a good job, but here the surgeon was telling him he shouldn’t be satisfied reaching this objective. He seemed to believe Jiwoo was capable of doing better.
“Let’s try it with Hiro later. I hope there’s a raid with it.” Gyutae said.
Like Yoko, Hiro was a monster often found by the Japanese hence why its name stuck. A distinct feature of Hiro was the hard exoskeleton covering its entire body. When it curled its body, it became round like a soccer ball. Attacking it with considerable strength was not too effective. The knife usually just bounced off with a clang. Jiwoo didn’t quite understand how raid teams would face the creature then.
“Have you ever defeated a Hiro before?” Jiwoo asked Gyutae.
Gyutae shook his head.
“Those things didn’t exist back in my day. But they’re not that difficult to deal with. The Tanker’s role is important. They need to taunt it well so that the Hiro can flatten its body. These types of monsters are strong on the outside but weak on the inside. When Hiro curls like this, the Tanker approaches it and attacks this part of the body. It’ll make it unroll itself.”
Gyutae pretended to curl up and pointed to his abdomen.
“Hiro is more tricky to dissect than to defeat. When they appear, they mostly get left to me.”
“To you? How come?” Kanghyun asked.
Gyutae looked annoyed at the clueless inquisitor.
“What do you think? It’s because everyone else is bad at it. You’re making me say this with my own lips. How awkward.”
It was hard to tell whether he was being serious or not since he made it sound like a joke, however, Jiwoo deemed it to be true.
“Hiro’s shell is precious material. It can be used for decoration; it can also be used to manufacture weapons. As long as Hiro can be continuously supplied, it’ll only be a matter of time before they can become substitutes for uranium.”
“Wow, I didn’t know it was that valuable.”
“It’s especially crucial to remove the hard shell from the skin if you’re using it for ornaments. You have to precisely control your chakra. It’s difficult to explain it in words. If you keep at it, you’ll get the hang of it and be able to do it at will. It’ll be faster to observe and realize, ‘Oh, so that’s how it works.’”
“Do you think I’ll be able to handle chakra like that?” Jiwoo asked.
“You’ll do a lot better than me. Depending on the surgeon, there’s a premium attached to this sort of work. If you say it’s the product of Seo Gyutae, it will be recognized somewhat. You never know, someday your work might be traded at a high price.”
Jiwoo listened absentmindedly. He couldn’t hide his surprise as he discovered a new occupation he never knew about.
“Mr. Gyutae, do you believe I could join raids too?” Jiwoo asked him suddenly.
Gyutae stared at him briefly before shrugging his shoulders. It was pretty predictable for Jiwoo to consider the idea seeing how Taein boasted about it.
“I thought about it too.” Gyutae chose his words carefully, worrying how to explain it to him without letting the other man down.
“I do think it may get difficult for you later down the line because of your base stats. When an F-rank Dealer equips a weapon, they can amplify their attack by 100 percent; it could even go up to 200 percent. The 200 attack stat will raise to 400 or 600. It’ll go even higher when you become E-rank. Your attack power can increase exponentially depending on your base stats. If a F-rank’s chakra level increases to 5, it’ll go up by 10 percent so then their attack is 620. Jiwoo, when you become an A-rank, you’ll have a base attack power of 60. Even if you amplify that by 200 percent, it’s still 180. Your attack is lower than the base attack of a F-rank Dealer with zero buffs.” Gyutae said, feeling bad for Jiwoo.
Jiwoo had been hoping for some positive news. He lowered his head.
Gyutae felt frustrated. He wanted to encourage him that he could do well, yet when he assessed his situation, he couldn’t say a thing. It was also unlikely that Jiwoo would be given a chance to join raids. What assault captain would give him an opportunity when his base attack was 10? Gyutae doubted they would give him a long-distance position, let alone a close-combat one. Putting Jiwoo in the raid was like running a raid with one less member. It would be difficult unless Jiwoo paid them in exchange for entering the swamp together to earn EXP.
It was problematic regardless. The EXP needed to reach rank E was 300 points. If 10 people participated in killing a monster in a Class 5 swamp, each person would receive 1 EXP. In order to hit E-rank, Hunters had to run Class 5 swamps 300 times. Although it was possible for Hunters to enter Class 4 swamps, it would be difficult with the abilities of a F-rank Dealer. That’s 300 times, which in some cases could take a year.
“Without being rewarded, Jiwoo would have to spend his own money to enter raids to raise his rank. His attack power would still only be 20 as an E-rank Dealer.” Gyutae thought.
To reach D-rank, 600 EXP was required, after that 1,800, then 18,000.
His wasn’t the case where one could view the costs as an investment that could be recovered later on. Even if Jiwoo reached D-rank, he would not be able to join the raids with his own skills. Additionally, it would take so much longer to move up to the next rank.
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