Part 2: Transport Hunter
“Anyway, I made my teammates believe we couldn’t attack the monster. I said that they would all die if they didn’t escape immediately, and then let them exit the swamp.” Im Jeong said.
“How did you do that? The others believed you?”
“It’s because I’m a Tanker. If I go down, the Dealers could be wiped out in an instant. I didn’t tell them I had regeneration nor did I use it in front of them. The Dealers gradually accepted that they wouldn’t stand a chance if I got harmed or killed. I let them see me injured and ordered them to leave.”
Gyutae’s jaw had been dropped this entire time.
“They exited the swamp one by one and when the last Dealer was out, I healed myself with chakra and attacked the monster, therefore depleting the monster’s remaining HP.”
Gyutae had never heard such a shocking story in his life. He wondered if he was this astounded when he first met Jiwoo and found out his base stats were both 10.
“The timing was crucial. After we reduced the monster’s HP just enough so I could finish it alone, I had to receive an injury that made the Dealers believe the fight was hopeless. It also wouldn’t have worked if I couldn’t eliminate the monster by myself. As you know, I’m a Tanker, that means my attack is comparable to a low-level Dealer’s. Timing was very important as well as quick clearing. I had to kill it within a few seconds after they left, five minutes was the maximum.”
“What if the Dealers came back because you were not coming out? If your teammates re-entered or a new raid party came in, the monster’s HP will reset, won’t it? Wasn’t that a concern? You would lose the EXP and the Rupstones… Were you aiming for the Rupstones in the first place? Was it your intent to keep the Rupstones to yourself?”
If this really was the case, Gyutae would see it as a malicious act.
“That’s not what cheat characters usually do.” Gyutae said.
“Yes, I’m not a cheat character.”
“No, I think you are.”
Rupstones from Class 2 swamps fetch for 5 billion won. Even with a 40% tax deduction, it was still 3 billion won. Gyutae had never considered the possibility before. But now that he heard it from Im Jeong, he thought Tankers could abuse this method to earn 3 billion won quickly.
Despite this fact, his doubt lingered until the end. He tried hard to understand but the method was too big of a gamble. If by chance, the Dealer, who left first, got worried about Im Jeong and returned, the monster’s HP would reset then and there. The 5 billion won Rupstone pretax and the EXP, all of it would go to smokes.
Furthermore, it was practically impossible to fight the Class 2 monster all over again. The raid team spends approximately 12 hours in the swamp. It was unreasonable to expect someone who had already fought a battle to succeed in fighting it again.
Gyutae hoped she would clear the doubts that gnawed at him.
“If you’re asking me whether I was worried about my teammates coming back or not, what do I have to lose in that situation? EXP? Rupstones? Do you think those things actually mattered to me?” Im Jeong returned a question in a quiet, subdued tone.
“I think I kept repeating it, hoping I would fail. In fact, my goal might’ve been to fail, not to raise my EXP. That may have been my intent all along. Maybe I was scared of how I was going to live if I didn’t restore my faith in people… Perhaps I hoped the Dealers would come back out of concern for me and wanted the monster’s HP to reset.”
“It… Never happened once?” Gyutae asked, looking at her with pity.
“Yes, not once.”
“What did you do with the Rupstones?”
“I was going to sell them through the black market, but I was scared. Since I couldn’t dispose of them, I just kept them. It’s not like I could give them to my teammates either. They’ll be suspicious as to why they’re receiving something after they failed a raid. So, I reluctantly took them.”
It was an unimaginable amount if one were to convert everything to cash. That said, she did explain enough so it was possible to calculate the total. She ran Class 2 swamps 60 times, so that’s 5 billion Rupstones x 60. In other words, the 60 Rupstones, which were worth 300 billion won before tax, were being carefully stored somewhere.
Gyutae couldn’t close his mouth for a while.
“What about the swamps? The swamps would have disappeared if the monsters died. Were there any Dealers who were suspicious?”
“Suppose they were, they had no way of finding out that I was the cause. I had no prestige back then. My identity and status would change later anyway. At the time, I had my face bandaged and I ran raids with my helmet on. I did explain to others it was because of plastic surgery, but my recovery speed can’t be compared with an average person’s. My face had already recovered after the surgery was done. The convenient thing about being a Hunter is that even if we don’t reveal our identity, we are still guaranteed esteem from our tattoos. But now that I think about it, there were a lot of holes in what I did. I was lackadaisical because I wanted to get caught. I think I wanted someone to stop me.”
“There should still have been someone who found it strange that the swamps disappeared.”
Gyutae was born a curious man, he simply could not live if his curiosities were not satisfied. That was why he conducted autopsies on monsters that no one cared about and his obsession with the Hunter who attacked those monsters with a mysterious dagger. Im Jeong could see his nature a bit, so she opened her pocket full of secrets a little more.
“Swamps that haven’t been cleared yet are covered with lids. If you were to cover the swamp with a lid again, you can’t tell if there’s a swamp underneath or not, unless you lift it to check.”
After a drone discovers a swamp, it would be placed under supervision and covered with a lid. Swamps appeared randomly. There could be a rule to how they spawn, but people have viewed it as “random” as to date. Swamps spawned in the middle of the road, in a plaza, around the areas where kindergarteners went for field trips, and more.
The sudden appearance of swamps caused traffic. After much deliberation, the Hunter Association invented a special lid which could cover the swamps. The lid had to be strong enough to withstand the weight of people and vehicles crossing over it. In the early days, the lids broke often due to wrong materials being used in the manufacturing process. Later on, they found a way to create lids from the hides of monsters. These lids could withstand the weight of a ton of trucks.
There was a problem though. Monster’s skin was expensive, meaning there were a lot of people who wanted to make a profit by selling stolen lids. The individual who stole a lid was tried by a summary action and sentenced to 20 years in prison. It wasn’t hard to identify the criminal. The lids were equipped with GPS and it was difficult to find a blind spot on the surveillance cameras in the first place. There was no commutation or amnesty to one’s sentence in these cases. The law was cruel to greedy acts that could lead to the collapse of the system.
The GPS attached to the lids was consistent in relaying the swamp’s information to the Hunter Association. They would then dispatch Hunters to deal with the monsters ahead of time before they emerged.
The moment one of Gyutae’s questions was answered, a new one popped up.
“It could fool other people’s eyes, but I know the Hunter Association would’ve noticed. There’s no way they wouldn’t be aware of a disappearing swamp.” Gyutae persisted.
Im Jeong thought to herself that this man’s curiosity was endless before she responded to him.
“You’re correct. However, the issue could be easily solved by changing the information managed by the Hunter Association. Alter the ones marked as “Clear Required” to “Cleared” then end the supervision.”
“Not anyone can access the system though.”
“Yes, but it wouldn’t be difficult for the President of the Hunter Association.”
“The President of the Hunter Association?”
Im Jeong nodded. Gyutae felt he had been too persistent with his inquiries, so he shut his mouth. “If she wanted to explain, she would,” or so he thought. However, she kept her lips sealed hoping this boring interview was finally coming to a close.
While he contemplated in silence, Gyutae shook his head as the information scattered throughout his mind was piecing itself together.
“I get it. Your new reputation was created in accordance with your new identity. Was the Hunter Association involved?”
Im Jeong nodded.
“A lot of people shouldn’t know about you though.”
“Yes, only the president knows. They got a report from the security forces when I was lynched and understood the situation. The president is quick to take action. They came to me shortly after I was taken to the hospital.”
“It does feel rather late though. They should’ve expected something like that to happen and protected you ahead of time.” Gyutae added.
“Well, they said that the Hunter Association and the Korean government could not lose our nation’s only Tank healer.”
“Was the president the one who suggested you join SF?”
“They told me that I could join as a member. They didn’t explicitly tell me I had to, but they did say they could provide help if I did. I knew they could, hence why I went.”
“I feel like the president suggested it first because they knew your ability. We don’t know how long the Class 1 swamp will remain still, and if one day monsters emerge from that swamp, then they will definitely need you.”
“I did receive one thing. I still don’t know why I demanded it.”
Gyutae thought she would elaborate more, but she stopped there.
The surgeon recalled the name of the Tanker whose death was announced. Seo Yijin. He remembered thinking, “She has the same name as my cousin” when he first heard it. Gyutae pondered if a day would ever come when Im Jeong could introduce herself under her real name.
“By the way, there’s something I still don’t understand. Did no one seriously suspect you? If it were me, I would’ve been suspicious of the one Tanker who targets only Class 2 swamp, repeatedly getting injured and failing.” Gyutae remarked.
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