Leveling Up From Rank F Chapter 35

L

Part 2: Transport Hunter

Chapter 35

“That’s true. No assault leaders would accept me in the first place if I didn’t bribe them.” Taein stated.

“For me, my age won’t cut it.” Kanghyun followed.

“And I’m a surgeon with a limp leg.” Gyutae went along with them.

Jiwoo rubbed his hands together and quickly wiped away his tears. Im Jeong was quiet. Afterwards, everyone else was silent too. Kanghyun’s face quickly hardened when he thought they were getting their hopes up for nothing. Taein was in a pitiful situation, and Gyutae was lamenting how he couldn’t help his favorite student.

“Will you be eating dinner together?” Im Jeong asked out of the blue.

“Why do you ask? Are you going to squeeze in? If there’s one thing I know about our team is that our dinner party is incredibly boring.” Kanghyun boldly stated. The others also agreed.

“Can you hold your liquor well?”

Jiwoo shook his head to her question like he was their representative.

“Even so, let’s have a get-together today. It feels nice being with you all. If you’re okay with it, I’ll take everyone to somewhere nice.” She offered.

Who would resist an opportunity to strengthen their ties with a highly capable Hunter from the security forces? Of course, they were down.

***

Im Jeong tagged along, so the atmosphere was much more mellow and cordial. There was no end to the conversations at dinner. Jiwoo was even twitchy when someone spoke too long because he wanted to talk too. 

Taein was not sure about the axe being his weapon yet, so whenever he had the chance, he would bring it up to Im Jeong. Gyutae would converse with her about the Hunter who used the mysterious daggers. Jiwoo was on edge since Kanghyun was asking her how the two of them met. To his relief, Im Jeong would navigate around the topic.

Seeing Jiwoo silently sit around made Kanghyun press him to say something, anything. So Jiwoo asked the Tanker if there was anything fun that happened while she was working for the SF.

“Rather than a fun case, there has been another assault incident. This was no ordinary one. It was plain murder. The issue is becoming more and more dire. Did you know that all but one died from the physical assault?”

Everyone was surprised at what she just said. I was more shocked by the gravity of the situation.

“They died? All of them?” Taein asked to which Im Jeong nodded. 

Jiwoo’s expression darkened. It crossed his mind that Chun Kijung was the only survivor of the assault cases. His heart sank at the mere thought of his death.

“The criminal uses chakra to attack people. The person is a Hunter so I’m in charge of the case, but I haven’t seen any signs of activity. Rather, I’m busy covering the case up.”

“How come?” Kanghyun asked, perplexed.

“It’s simple. It’s obvious what SF would do in an altercation between a raid member and a transporter. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, the raid member will be prioritized and protected first. They’re the ones who can do raids and have to continue to do them in the future.” Taein sardonically answered.

“Is that really the reason?”

Im Jeong nodded her head.

“There are rumors from both the Hunter Association and the Hunter Security Force about the Class 1 swamp being idle now, but will one day open up. They’re preparing for that. I don’t believe they’re in the wrong either.” She replied.

Everyone nodded as well.

“It seems I’ve brought the mood down asking you to bring up something interesting about SF.” Jiwoo scolded himself as he poured alcohol into Im Jeong’s glass. She jerked her head back and emptied the drink. With her chin resting on her hand, she stared at Jiwoo’s right arm before touching it.

“This is quite unusual. Even though they’re both 10, the fact that they are exactly the same means your stats will be distributed evenly. Well, seeing them grow together makes me look forward to it. By then, you will be a powerful Dealer, right?”

“In what world would that happen? Also don’t make excuses to keep touching someone else’s arm.”

“Oh, I was under the impression we were pretending to be a couple.”

Jiwoo turned around with a stiff expression. Fortunately, the others had been sold on their story and didn’t hear what she just said. They hadn’t caught on his lie yet.

“Were we not?” She asked.

“Yes, we are. I hope you’ll do me this favor.”

“Just leave it to me.” She smiled cheerfully.

Taein was more talkative than he was on other days. His drinking sped up little by little. He was worried he’d miss everyone so much after he left the team. He was also fretting that it’d be his fault if a raid ends up ruined.

“That’s certainly possible.” Im Jeong responded, which was not a good way to tell someone under pressure to face reality.

Taein resumed pouring more and more alcohol until he couldn’t handle it and started rocking back and forth.

“He looks like he’s about to throw up.” Kanghyun noticed his condition first, and propped Taein up.

“Don’t do it in front of Ms. Im. Just hang in there until we get to the bathroom, Hyung.”

Taein desperately tried to hold his vomit back and the three of them got up. 

Up until then, Gyutae looked fine. But at some point, the surgeon blacked out. Gyutae didn’t feel anything when Im Jeong put her hand in his pocket. He didn’t drink much of the alcohol and took several sips of water instead. He didn’t notice his medicine was dissolved in his water.

Gyutae felt his body relaxing. It was a strange yet refreshing feeling as though his blood vessels were being flushed with cool water. The feeling was especially strong around his leg area. He would’ve smiled if his facial muscles weren’t so stiff.

When the three low-level Hunters returned to their seat, Im Jeong was gone.

“Mr. Gyutae, did Ms. Jeong leave?” Kanghyun asked. However, the surgeon was asleep, it was unlikely he even heard him. 

“Did you have a lot to drink, Mr. Gyutae?” Jiwoo asked as well.

Finally Gyutae opened his eyes.

“Where is Ms. Jeong?”

As soon as he did, Gyutae looked around and inquired about the Tanker’s whereabouts. The three of them were speechless since he asked their exact same question.

“We’re not sure either. She wasn’t here when we came back.”

After hearing Kanghyun’s reply, Gyutae tilted his head and stood up to go to the bathroom. Their three heads followed the surgeon as if being attracted by a magnet.

“His walk is very… How should I put it? Relaxed.” Taein pointed out.

Jiwoo and Kanghyun nodded.

“Hyung, you’re really something. I can’t believe you noticed that when you’re drunk. Next time, try to control your drinking. You’re weak to alcohol so why are you trying to kill yourself.” Jiwoo rebuked Taein. The man looked down. 

“Today is a special day though. When else would I ever be able to drink with a SF member? On top of that, a B-rank Tanker. A beauty. Most importantly, she’s a beauty. Yeah, a beauty. Plus I’m anxious because of the raids. I’m going crazy right now. I’m nervous but I can’t just throw away this hard-earned opportunity. I don’t have the confidence to do well. Do you know what I went through?”

Jiwoo and Kanghyun felt sorry for him and waited for the backstory to come, but it never did. Instead, the man was quiet. When the two of them looked at Taein again, he had fallen asleep soundly.

Kanghyun smirked and poured Jiwoo a glass.

“I guess Taein Hyung is having a hard time too. He’s changed a lot, hasn’t he?

“Hyung? Yeah. I thought he was really weird at first.”

“Was it because it felt like he didn’t belong? He used to be the odd one out preparing for his leave anytime. Honestly, I was surprised to hear what he said.”

“Which part? When he said he wanted to raid with us and share his EXP with me?”

“Yes.”

“It’s nothing compared to my surprise.” Jiwoo sighed.

“Taein changed a lot after that day we had a run-in with the raid party and the security forces. It wasn’t just him, I was the same too. Taein brought it up to me several times. He was immensely grateful to you for what you said, Jiwoo. He was losing his mind because he couldn’t do anything. He was filled with gratitude because you understood exactly what he was feeling.”

“I was truly thankful to him too. I know how hard it must have been for him to step up. He’ll be joining raids very soon, so he might bump into them again. His circumstances are completely different from mine.”

“Can Taein Hyung truly join raids?”

“I wonder too. I’d be sad if he left, but I don’t want him to keep transporting corpses forever.”

“Why don’t we convince Taein to keep transporting corpses? With the four of us. Until the day we die.”

“No.”

“I didn’t actually mean it.” 

Kanghyun poured Jiwoo another drink. Jiwoo’s smile could be seen on the reflection of the full glass.

***

Im Jeong popped up from time to time. Their hearts used to race whenever they saw her but their excitement has dissipated now. They could even make casual remarks like, “Why don’t we call Im Jeong over for dinner?” And easily say they knew a Tanker from the security forces too. However, that didn’t mean they would sell out her name, even if they did sometimes show off their connection with SF.

Im Jeong spent more time with their team than she did with SF. In actuality, there was no reason for her to be stuck with the SF members all the time. Other than heading for nearly opening swamps or resolving Hunter disputes, there were no particular rules or regulations she needed to follow.

The security force was a powerful volunteer organization formed to protect the citizens. They have strong authority but do not have many obligations. Whenever Kanghyun would ask if it’s okay for a SF member to slack around, Im Jeong would argue she was technically patrolling.

The low-level Hunters and Im Jeong became closer as time went by, however, a strange tension formed between the surgeon and the Tanker. Their relationship was similar to a daughter-father one when report card day rolled around. The father knew she had the report card, but the daughter wouldn’t show it. The father would wait for the daughter to give the report card of her own volition, whereas the daughter wished for her father to forget about it.

Hence, Im Jeong pretended to not notice Gyutae’s gaze.

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