Part 2: Transport Hunter
“Of course, Mr. Gyutae. You’re the ace of all surgeons.” Jiwoo said.
“I’m not talking about me. The monsters that appear in Class 3 and Class 2 swamps go up to 20 meters in size. More time will be spent in a single swamp and we’ll be able to avoid the hassle of moving to multiple locations. That said, we’ll have to keep using our chakra without break.”
The three Hunters nodded.
“Did you come to that decision because of us? You taught us how to attack specific monsters. Are you changing course because you think we can enter high-level swamps later on?” Taein asked.
“Ah, was that the reason?” Kanghyun looked at Gyutae, late on the uptake.
“Sure, it plays a part. I have my own greed too as I’m a performance-based surgeon after all.” Gyutae broadly smiled, though no one believed his greed being a factor.
“We’re not going to enter a Class 2 swamp right away, are we?” Jiwoo asked.
“Is there anything that’s concerning you? But yes, I have no plans in raising the stakes like that.” Gyutae asked.
“No. No. It’s just… I think I need to prepare myself.”
“Yes, you will certainly need to prepare. Things will change even with a Class 4 swamp.”
For some reason, Gyutae looked fully motivated.
“To be honest, I wasn’t planning on saying this. But I felt a little embarrassed to be assigned corpses from Class 5 swamps. I’m not saying I’m ashamed of the monsters we get, rather of the standard of the raid members that slew them. Result-wise, yes I’m content, but the bars have been decreasing. I used to be in raids too. If it’s a Class 4 swamp, the participants won’t rush in blindly and make a mess.”
“Ah, so that’s what you mean!” Kanghyun now has a habit of following up after Gyutae and admiring him. His respect seemed to have grown ever since he saw the man settle the issue with the security forces by flashing his tattoo.
“Now then, let’s get going.”
In their first swamp, they encountered an 8.4 meter giant anaconda. Of course it was dead, yet, it was still imposing. It was incomparable to
the creatures they witnessed before.
Jiwoo thought he might be amputating this time too. However, he didn’t dare move to position. The shell of the giant anaconda was sold at an exceptionally high price, worth more than he could even imagine.
“I don’t get why anyone would want to keep these things at home.” Kanghyun said in disgust.
“People fear the unknown and would go out of their way to own a piece of it as an ornament to feel as though they have conquered the creature. It’s the desire to show off coupled with their underlying anxiety and fear.” Gyutae explained.
“How much does it fetch for?”
Gyutae tilted his head.
“Hmm, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that some of the unusual carcasses are more expensive than Rupstones.”
That remark left everyone speechless.
“Actually, it’s good for us if they catch a monster like this. The transporting part isn’t what’s important, it’s the skinning.” Gyutae added.
“Then what should we do? Do we just watch while you peel off skin?” Not expecting a yes, Kanghyun looked puzzled when Gyutae nodded.
“You will need to adjust your chakra when you do this type of work. Surgeons with no skills could even do it. But if I were to point out the difference…” Gyutae paused to come up with an appropriate metaphor.
“Forget it, I don’t know. I can’t think of a good analogy. You just have to imagine it. Similar to how the sun rays penetrate the curtain, the thinner it is, more light passes through the skin making it look mysterious and elegant. If the shell is not peeled thinly, the light won’t pass through properly. It’s crucial to skin it evenly thin. You can’t compare it to crocodile or snake skin products. The texture of the scales and the colorful patterns may be nice to see, but the giant anaconda is a tad different. They’re used widely for bedroom curtains which means the price will be high. One alone costs 1.3 billion to 1.5 billion won per curtain. It’s not surprising considering crocodile skins sell for over 100 million won. I may sound like I’m bragging, but if you say it’s a product of Seo Gyutae, the goods will be sold at a premium.”
Jiwoo smiled. He had heard the story before. He dreamed of becoming a surgeon like him.
“Even though the monster has six legs, it can’t use them. If you want to practice skinning the shell of the anaconda, I can give you the legs, Jiwoo.”
Jiwoo never expected to be blessed with this kind of favor in his life. To think he would be granted the legs of a giant creature to practice on.
“Of course, I’m ever so grateful.”
As soon as he heard Jiwoo’s reply, Gyutae tore off the leg and handed it to him. Taein stuck by the surgeon’s side while Kanghyun sat next to Jiwoo. Gyutae began to concentrate and remained completely silent. Seeing how focused the man was, no one spoke.
Jiwoo worked hard to peel the anaconda’s shell. Taein and Kanghyun were waiting like a couple of hyenas to pounce on whatever they could get. With no work coming their way, they couldn’t take it and asked for a slab of meat to practice on. Jiwoo willingly passed over a chunk of meat.
There was a sense of quietness in the swamp.
Beads of sweat dripped from everyone’s foreheads. Before, they had been busily moving around to countless swamps, now, such a day arrived where they were fixed at a single spot.
“We’re still getting paid for this, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Can’t we do it roughly and call it a day. Body firm seems to get all the good things anyway.” Kanghyun said.
“A job like skinning requires professional skills and is priced differently. The price changes depending on the quality, not quantity, hence the surgeon receives a portion of the sales price. If not, I would do it half-heartedly too. Why else would I put in all this effort?”
“How much is that portion?” Jiwoo showed interest.
“I’ve worked on a giant anaconda that was smaller than this before, I think I received about 32 million won.”
“Huh? How long did it take you?”
“About two hours.”
“Mr. Gyutae, you got a killer job.”
Gyutae laughed at what Jiwoo said.
“If you can do it as well as me, it’s a jackpot alright.”
Jiwoo had ruined three of the legs given to him. By the fourth one, it hit him. Kanghyun saw the color of the chakra on Jiwoo’s blade change. He quietly shook Taein’s arm, which in turn made him look too. Even Gyutae noticed the change in atmosphere and stopped what he was doing.
For skinning, it was necessary to maintain a steady pace and do the task in one sitting. However, Gyutae couldn’t help but to place his knife down.
Mouth half open and eyes wide open, Jiwoo peeled the shell from the monster’s flesh. The skin was thinner than a sheet of paper.
The surgeon was at a loss for words. This was the first time he felt on guard with Jiwoo. Gyutae didn’t say much until they finished. The others assumed he was tired because he had consumed a lot of chakra in the process.
But that wasn’t the entire reason.
Gyutae called Jiwoo shortly after the team split for the day. Jiwoo found it strange for him to do so.
“There is something I’d like to speak to you about with just us two.” Gyutae had told him.
It seemed to be a serious matter so Jiwoo immediately went. Gyutae was waiting for him at the park that had the view of the Han River.
The other man held out a can of beer to him. Jiwoo accepted it but couldn’t calm down, fretting over what the man was going to say.
“Kanghyun and Taein are really good people.”
“Yes, I know.”
“What I’m trying to say is… others won’t be like them.”
“What do you mean…”
“I take a lot of pride when it comes to skinning and chakra control.”
“Yes, I’m already aware. I can understand, I’ve never seen anyone handle chakra as precisely as you.”
“You will do it.”
“You handle it much better than I do. Chakra.”
“That’s ridiculous, sir.”
“No, it’s the truth. Comparing the shells we skinned, the fourth one you did was thinner than mine.”
“That’s not the main point. I only wish you the best. However, others might not want the same. That’s what I would like to speak to you about.”
“Other people will envy you. They’ll be jealous and despise you. The reason why Kanghyun and Taein see you favorably is because they believe you’re still behind them. Your low stats. That’s what’s protecting you right now.”
“I’m not quite following…”
Jiwoo couldn’t grasp the situation.
“How should I put this? A seal? Something like a seal perhaps? When the seal is released, your growth will explode. Once that happens, no one will want to stay by your side.”
“May I give you some advice?”
“Of course, sir. You can say anything you want.”
“Hide it, Jiwoo.”
“Sorry? Hide… what?”
“What makes you happy, what new things you can do, what you realize you can do. Your talent.”
“You’re going to make a lot of other friends besides Hunters. We will need to work on hiding your true self first.”
“You mean, if I don’t, I will end up losing them.”
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