Jin-Woo calmly made his reply.
“When I came to, my leg had been all healed up. Even I’m not sure what happened to me.”
Song Chi-Yeol nodded his head.
Ever since Gates appeared for the first time ten years ago, many illogical things continued to transpire to this day. The people called Hunters who had ‘Awakened’ their abilities were a prime example of this.
A healer ranked S could reputedly heal a person who was ripped to shreds back to normal, as long as the victim was still alive.
What if, a high-ranking healer healed Jin-Woo’s injuries while he was unconscious? If that was the case, then his severed leg being reattached didn’t even qualify as a miracle.
“It’d do no good to see a young man such as yourself become disabled like that. What a relief this is. What a relief.”
Song Chi-Yeol lightly patted his chest as if a big weight of his had been lifted off his shoulders now.
It was then, Jin-Woo’s gaze drifted towards Song Chi-Yeol’s left arm. The older man’s sleeve was empty.
Song Chi-Yeol chuckled and massaged his left shoulder.
“Don’t you worry about it. A Hunter getting injured during a raid is a normal occurrence, after all. No, I’ve been lucky for not running into an accident until then.”
Song Chi-Yeol spoke as if it wasn’t much to fret over, but the gazes of other people walking by weren’t like that.
“Oh, my gosh, he’s…..”
“What a regrettable thing, that….. Did a monster do that?”
Aunties out shopping and students walking by whispered to each other after spotting Song Chi-Yeol’s empty sleeve. Hell, there was even this one guy who quite openly stared on as well while looking rather mystified and all.
Jin-Woo quickly spoke up.
“Should we go somewhere else?”
There were far too many people walking by here, right by the butchery aisle. Song Chi-Yeol had been feeling uncomfortable by all the stares, so he nodded his head quickly. He still had few more things to say to Jin-Woo, too.
“That would be a good idea.”
The two of them hurriedly walked away in order to find a quiet spot to chat.
But, as they walked, Song Chi-Yeol sensed that something was rather odd here.
‘The sounds of Mister Seong’s steps are….’
Jin-Woo’s steps were just too soft. The youth was walking right beside Song Chi-Yeol, yet it was hard to detect his presence.
Why was that?
The older man even felt that, were they to start fighting here, he’d be unable to even touch a hair on Jin-Woo’s body.
Even though he was rank C, and Jin-Woo was ranked E.
‘Just what am I even thinking about….’
Song Chi-Yeol shook his head. That wasn’t the important thing right now.
There was something he badly wanted to say to Mister Seong. No, he simply had to say it.
Song Chi-Yeol came to a stop where it was quiet and isolated. Jin-Woo also stopped there.
Song Chi-Yeol turned to look at Jin-Woo and before the youth could stop him, bowed his head 90 degrees.
“Mister Seong. Thank you.”
When a man who was old enough to be his dad lowered his head like that, Jin-Woo couldn’t help but feel solemn as well.
Jin-Woo, of course, tried to dissuade Song Chi-Yeol, but the older man didn’t listen and instead, carried on with what he wanted to say.
“If you say 11 people died because of me, then you are responsible for saving six lives that day. My share of the blame in that matter is the biggest, so on the behalf of all the Hunters who were there, let me say thank you.”
Song Chi-Yeol meant every word he spoke. And Jin-Woo could feel the older man’s sincerity as well.
The situation had become somewhat awkward, but it didn’t feel so bad. How should he go about describing it? He was feeling proud?
Of course, that didn’t mean he should let an elder remain in that bowing position.
“Ahjussi, thanks, so please stand back up. Please.”
Just as Jin-Woo tried to persuade Song Chi-Yeol to stand up straight, the latter’s phone went off.
Song Chi-Yeol asked for Jin-Woo’s understanding and pulled out the smartphone tucked inside his inner pocket.
Song Chi-Yeol’s face gradually hardened as he answered the call.
“I understand. I’ll be there soon.”
Song Chi-Yeol ended the call and spoke to Jin-Woo next.
“Looks like I need to get going.”
He was implying that there was a private matter he had to attend to.
However, Jin-Woo was able to listen in on the contents of the conversation. His hearing had been improved by a great deal after his Perception Stat rose up dramatically.
That call just now was from the Association, asking for a cooperation in clearing a Gate nearby.
Song Chi-Yeol was actually hiding the truth, because he was worried that Jin-Woo would want to tag along, that Jin-Woo might want to participate in the raid even though it hadn’t been long since his discharge from the hospital.
Jin-Woo asked the older man.
“That was from the Association, yes?”
Song Chi-Yeol hesitated slightly, before making his reply.
“That… Did you hear everything?”
When an Association formed a raid team, it’d summon every Hunter affiliated with the organisation who lived in the vicinity. If Song Chi-Yeol received the call, that meant Jin-Woo’s house had been called as well.
It was the order to mobilise, the one Jin-Woo had been waiting for.
Jin-Woo cut to the chase.
“I’ll go with you.”
“But you, Mister Seong….”
A look of uncertainty floated up on Song Chi-Yeol’s face as he stared at Jin-Woo.
The two men arrived at the meeting place.
The Gate had formed in the middle of the road pretty close to residential areas, so the police officers called in to control the access to the location.
However, there were almost no onlookers present here, to begin with.
The majority of Gates the Association took on were those dangerous ones that had been left alone for too long after their initial discovery; besides, even if one were to stick around a Gate, one would still not get to see how Hunters fought, anyway.
It was only a couple of curious, naughty kids loitering around who got chased away by the officers every now and then.
With a thud, the door to the taxi was closed shut.
Jin-Woo and Song Chi-Yeol had exited from the taxi and made their way towards the location where the other Hunters had been gathered, only for the cops to stop them.
“Please show me your IDs.”
Song Chi-Yeol pulled out his wallet and displayed his licence.
“I’m Song Chi-Yeol, a rank C Hunter. This is my colleague, Seong Jin-Woo.”
The cops compared the photo on the licence to Song Chi-Yeol’s face before returning it and parted ways.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, Hunters.”
“Keep up the good work.”
Song Chi-Yeol performed a slight nod to the policemen and continued on. Jin-Woo followed right behind him.
The employee from the Association was waiting in front of the Gate. It was a young woman wearing a round-rimmed pair of glasses.
She approached the two men after spotting them from a distance.
“Song Chi-Yeol Hunter-nim! Uh? How did you get here, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim? You weren’t answering your phone until now.”
Song Chi-Yeol replied instead.
“We were in the same location, and came here together after you guys called me.”
“Ahh, is that so? I thought that Seong Hin-Woo Hunter-nim was avoiding answering our calls again.”
The Association employee chuckled and cracked a joke.
Well, that indeed had been true in the past.
A long time ago, Jin-Woo got injured badly during a raid, and he grew fearful of going to dungeons, which led to him switching off his phone for a while.
In the end, he had to return to raiding dungeons, since not answering the call three times in a row meant he’d be chased out from the Association.
Recalling his past, Jin-Woo could only smile in bitterness.
“Oh, right. Other Hunters are waiting for you. Why don’t you two head over there and greet them?”
There were other Hunters who had arrived earlier where the Association employee was pointing at.
Well, there were only two other Hunters there, however. The number of those willing to come had decreased sharply after that ‘huge incident’. Jin-Woo heard from Song Chi-Yeol on their way here that, besides those who died, many other Hunters decided to quit this life from the shock of that underground temple incident.
‘One of them happens to be Miss Ju-Hui….’
Jin-Woo took a look around, but he couldn’t see her.
When Jin-Woo and Song Chi-Yeol approached closer, the two Hunters awkwardly averted their gazes.
Jin-Woo narrowed his eyes.
‘But, of course.’
These two happened to be Kim Sang-Sik, who ran off trying to save only himself, and the other male Hunter who had discarded the injured Jin-Woo.
Of course, they would find it rather awkward to face him.
“Uhm, excuse me, Mister Seong….”
Kim Sang-Sik was thinking of at least greeting the youth, but when he was subjected to Jin-Woo’s cold glare, he eventually shifted his gaze away.
Kim Sang-Sik shut his mouth, studied the mood for a bit, before shuffling further away from there. He stopped at a bit of distance away and sneaked a glance at Jin-Woo, before he tilted his head in confusion.
‘Is he really the Seong Jin-Woo that I know? I mean, his eyes are as fierce as a monster, man. Like a real monster….’
Kim Sang-Sik shuddered deeply. As he thought, his arm was covered in goosebumps.
Jin-Woo withdrew his glare filled with hostilities.
Thankfully, quite unlike Yu Jin-Ho, Kim Sang-Sik was quick on the uptake. After locking eyes once, he didn’t even try to come near Jin-Woo’s vicinity.
He sincerely hoped that this arrangement would remain for the rest of the raid.
Song Chi-Yeol, standing next to Jin-Woo, shifted his gaze in a direction and smiled gently.
“There she is.”
Jin-Woo also turned his head in the direction Song Chi-Yeol was looking at. But, before he had the chance to completely turn around to look….
Something rather soft suddenly hugged him tightly.
While Jin-Woo was getting flustered, Ju-Hui was too busy making sure he was fine with a tearful face.
“Are you alright? You are not hurt anywhere, right? Uh, your leg?! Mister Jin-Woo, how come your leg is….?”
Ju-Hui’s eyes went extra round as she alternated her gaze between his face and his leg.
There was a bit of difference in how extreme it was, but nevertheless, her reaction was more or less the same with Song Chi-Yeol’s.
Just as Jin-Woo was about to reply….
“How steamy, eh! It’s steamy, I say!!”
Both the gazes of Jin-Woo and Ju-Hui shifted over in the direction of that voice.
From afar, an unknown man was whistling loudly at them.
More importantly, though, he was wearing the blue-coloured prison overall.
‘Is there a film shoot going on around nearby or something?’
While Jin-Woo was tilting his head in confusion, a man wearing a business suit climbed down from the front seat of a certain minivan.
He then threw out a measured warning at the prison overall guy.
“Shut your mouth.”
The prison overall guy pretended to not know anything by staring at the distance. However, he quickly threw an oily wink at Ju-Hui when the business suit looked back inside the van.
Immediately, Jin-Woo’s expression crumpled.
Two more people climbed out of the van right away.
Both of them were men. And particularly worthy of note was the fact that they all wore prison overalls and had been cuffed as well.
The business suit led the three prison overalls towards the Association’s employee. And she welcomed him with a bright expression.
“You’ve finally arrived.”
“Please forgive us for our tardiness. There was traffic on the road.”
The business suit then proceeded to sign on each of the documents the Association employee presented to him.
In the meantime, the employee called for the Hunters to gather around.
“These folks are the ‘replacement’ convicts who will participate in the raid alongside you, Hunters.”
And so, the expressions of the Hunters hardened considerably.
Kim Sang-Sik was the first to step forward.
“What? ‘Replacement’ convicts?! Are you telling us to go on a raid along with a bunch of criminals?!”
Hunters who had committed crimes had two choices.
Either spend their allotted time behind the bars, or cooperate with the Association and reduce their sentences.
Most chose the latter option, and they were referred to as the ‘replacement’ convicts.
The Association employee repeatedly lowered her head.
“I’m really sorry about this. It’s only because the number of Hunters active in our district has declined so much that the Association has no choice but to do this. However, they will be accompanied by a Hunter from the Monitoring Division, so you don’t have to worry too much.”
Kim Sang-Sik asked, still full of suspicion.
“A Hunter from the Monitoring Division, you say?”