Part 2: Transport Hunter
“No, it’s just the more I talk about it, the nastier my mouth feels. I think it’s best if I stop here. You should be able to wake up to the truth by now after I told you this much. If you say, ‘I like Kim In-ah,’ then there’s nothing else I can say but, ‘Yes, yes. Have a wonderful love.’ Who am I to tell you what to do?” Jiwoo clapped his hands once and took a step back to imply he was done talking.
“Dang it, In-Ah. I have a little more to say to you but, let me leave you with a piece of advice. If someone falls on the street, even if you can’t help them, don’t just kick them. You only have to turn around and walk a bit further. You don’t know the circumstances as to why the person collapsed in front of you. Don’t let your imagination run wild. If you do, you could wound up with a broken ankle. Still, I’m telling you this because there is that lingering affection. Though I don’t think you’ll listen.”
In-Ah was shaking while she watched him go off on her. She must’ve forgotten what she had done and thought everything was Jiwoo’s fault. Hyunsuk had been quietly listening to Jiwoo’s words. Now, he completely turned away from her.
At the nick of time, Jiwoo saw customers heading to the convenience store and followed them in. He could see Hyunsuk walking toward the car first, and In-Ah chasing after him. As soon as she touched him, he slapped her across the cheek. Despite hitting her three times in a row, his anger was not allayed, so he pushed her shoulders making In-Ah stumble backward and fall on her behind. In a situation like this, the shame should’ve come first, yet In-Ah was chasing after the car, which was leaving her behind. Actually, she looked too busy running after it to be embarrassed.
“Why does she live like that?” Was all Jiwoo wondered.
As he totaled the customers’ purchases and restocked the empty shelves, the past began to come to his mind. His memories flowed in sequential order. He recalled the time when he was dirt broke, deep in debt, and getting help from Chun Kijung. Kijung was subsequently rushed to the ER and Jiwoo signed as his guarantor. Then the swamp, his tattoo, the laboratory, and Im Jeong happened.
She suddenly popped into his mind. He wasn’t sure if he was recalling the memories because he wanted to think about her. Jiwoo gave her a call while deliberating if they were even close enough to contact one another for no reason. Im Jeong didn’t answer, making him feel very embarrassed. However, a text message soon arrived.
[We’re being mobilized. I’ll call you.]
Jiwoo sent the text quickly.
The first thing which came to Jiwoo’s mind was how busy the security forces always were. He was also grateful she took the time to reply to him.
Jiwoo completely forgot about the surgeon’s story of a Tanker who held strange abilities and died because of it.
For them, Monday morning was a lively one. They didn’t have the Monday blues. Everyone lived alone. Jiwoo would also roll around at home on a Sunday evening, thinking whether he should go to bed and eventually fall asleep.
Kanghyun asked Gyutae why they always got together at the pizza shop. Gyutae didn’t bother to answer since it was a pointless question. Then he explained the schedule for the day.
“The raid still hasn’t finished in the first swamp, so we can kill time here for about two hours.” Gyutae said.
“I would’ve slept a little longer if I knew.” Kanghyun’s tone indicated what a waste it was since he lacked sleep.
“I would’ve let you do so too had I known as well. However, the schedule changed due to some circumstances with the assault team.”
“What’s the situation?” Jiwoo asked.
“It’s probable the Dealer or the Tanker arrived late. Which was why they couldn’t enter the swamp and had to wait.”
“Tardy people are always a problem. Our schedule ends up getting affected too.” Kanghyun said bluntly.
Low-level Hunters who work daily wages would like it, but our team earns a performance-based pay, so this problem was directly linked to our own income.
In the meantime, Taein delivered Taerim’s message to Jiwoo.
“Jiwoo, my sister wants to meet you this weekend. Can you spare some time?”
“I can’t, Hyung.” Jiwoo replied with a troubled expression.
“Why not? Just meet her. You can go and act obnoxious. It’s better to make women like her leave on their own.”
“‘Women like her?’ She’s your older sister though.”
“I’m not doing this because I like it. But if I were to speak objectively, my sister isn’t that bad. She’s the secretary for the three-time legislator Moon Gori. There’s talk going around that the legislator will entrust her with the district later on. It’s pretty much confirmed at this point that she’ll be the youngest member of the assembly. Or has that title been claimed already? Anyway, her face. Well, with all things considered, you can see her as perfect, don’t you think? There’s nothing wrong with her figure either.”
“Hyung, I’m not saying I dislike her.”
Jiwoo was getting sick of this dull repetitive verbal ping-pong they were playing. So he decided to settle it once and for all.
“I’m dating someone.” He said immediately. However, Taein wasn’t easily convinced.
“Who is it? Do you have a photo? If you’re dating someone, you must have a picture, right?”
The look he gave screamed, “Everyone knows you’re lying.”
Jiwoo remembered he had a picture of a woman saved on his phone. He deliberated pitching the AV actress, whose photo he had downloaded, as his girlfriend, but shook his head quickly. He almost forgot Kanghyun was a young man, at the peak of his vigor, who was also a porn maniac. Among the photos he had on his phone, specifically the ones saved under the “treasure box category” were sent by Kanghyun.
“You hate my sister or something?” Taein’s question was direct. “You hate her enough to lie and reject her?”
“No, it’s not like that. Hyung, I’m really dating someone.”
“Jackpot!” Jiwoo thought as he remembered taking a picture with Im Jeong the day before he left the laboratory.
The photo was taken in the garden behind the lab. That day, Jiwoo suddenly felt sentimental and said, “I’ll miss this place too,” to which Im Jeong replied, “Then, let’s take a commemorative photo.”
Before he knew it, Jiwoo was already showing the picture. He didn’t hate Taerim. It’s just that he couldn’t help but worry whether he could have a clean break up after he dated her and ended up not liking her. Jiwoo was the type to end relationships callously if he thought they weren’t the one. However, Taerim was Taein’s older sister. He hesitated to date her because he knew it wouldn’t be cool to coldly cut her off afterwards. Rather, wouldn’t it be hilarious if they couldn‘t break up because of Taein?
“Wow, what a beauty!” Kanghyun reacted first.
“Really?” Jiwoo replied apathetically, wondering if she was that pretty. Even so, it wasn’t a bad feeling. He was wearing the smile of a mother who just heard someone call her child pretty.
Gyutae also showed interest.
“We have similar types it seems. If I were to get married, I would have married someone like her.”
When Gyutae had a favorable impression of her too, he felt strange.
“What does she do?” Taein asked cautiously.
“Huh, she’s a Hun–” Jiwoo hesitated because he wasn’t sure how much he should say, but Kanghyun’s eyes popped wide open.
“Oh, my God, she’s a Hunter! No way. Isn’t this a Hunter tattoo?”
Im Jeong had her head tilted toward Jiwoo, making a V sign. Kanghyun, in his fervor, had enlarged the image.
“I didn’t think to consider Kanghyun zooming in on the screen!” Jiwoo exclaimed internally.
The other three had their jaws dropped with shock. Jiwoo wasn’t sure why until he saw the tattoo.
“B… A B-rank Tanker! This is the Hunter Association’s building so isn’t this their research institute? Then this person… Is part of the Hunter security force, right? Because Hunters in the Hunter Association are members of the security force. There’s no way someone taken in by the security force would have such a bright expression. Is this Noona¹ actually one of them?” Kanghyun asked, trembling as if he had seen a ghost.
“Uh, no wait, I mean yes, you’re right. We’re still getting to know each other.”
Jiwoo snatched back his phone as it seemed the situation was only escalating. But he felt like he wouldn’t get caught lying about it. Loosely speaking, there was no lie in what he said. He felt like steam was coming out of my head for making up stuff, and when he put the back of his hand on his forehead, his temperature was actually high.
Although Taein expressed his disappointment, he looked relieved too.
“Dang, it’s a shame and a relief at the same time. I thought it would be fun if we became brother-in-laws, it was also a pain to keep running errands for my sister. I don’t know which feeling was greater. Anyway, you’re amazing, your girlfriend is a B-rank Tanker and part of the security force.” Taein said.
“Hyung, I told you back then that there were only five B-rank Hunters in the security force. I can’t believe you’re dating one of the B-rank Hunters in our country.” Kanghyun was gradually looking up to Jiwoo.
“It’s just, no, about that….”
Jiwoo was considering confessing about now, but the three were not interested in him.
“Your girlfriend is a B-rank Hunter and a security force member. Watch out all you raid teams, don’t even think about messing with us. We won’t let it slide. You’re all dead then! We should’ve known about this before.” Kanghyun said.
Jiwoo was now at the stage where he was only responding with a laugh. It didn’t seem like they would listen even if he explained. Jiwoo’s mind began to race.
Since they won’t run into her ever, he felt it would be good to keep up the lie for the time being and when the right moment comes, say they broke up with a heartbroken expression.
“Wow! I may be a genius.” Jiwoo admired himself for coming up with the plan.
Then, finally their schedule for the day begun.
They cheerfully finished their transport duty in the first swamp. It was a time beneficial in many ways whether it be to learn how to conduct an autopsy or attack monsters effectively. Gyutae also gave Taein and Kanghyun the opportunity to amputate the bodies. Now the two of them were trying to get the correct weight while cutting up the corpses. Jiwoo was also in peak condition today.
Who would’ve known he was destined for a fateful reunion that day?
It was time for them to head for the fourth swamp. Taein was seeking advice from Gyutae and Jiwoo since he hadn’t decided on a weapon yet. They were focused on Taein, so they didn’t notice the Hunters who finished the raid right then. The swamp was unlike other swamps, its opening had been just around the corner. This information Jiwoo and the others would come to learn shortly. But usually, raid members left immediately after, taking only the Rupstones with them.
So they couldn’t ever imagine them being on site.
“It’s the security force!” Kanghyun, who was the first to notice them, yelled.
The Hunters exiting the swamps looked like knights who came out of the scenes from the medieval times.
¹ Noona: A title used by males to call females. Males will use this title to call an older sister, female friends, acquaintances, and generally women older than them.
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