Chapter 22: Awakening
Gifted hunters like Im Jeong could gain a lot more EXP and raise their rank by doing solo raids. It goes without saying that the higher the swamp’s class was, the higher the EXP.
The experience points that could be gained after defeating a monster in the swamps were as follows:
Class 5: 10 Class 4: 20
Class 4: 20
Class 3: 100
Class 2: 600
Forming a team of 10 members would mean each person would receive one-tenth of the gain. However, if a Hunter raided a swamp solo, they could reap all the EXP to themselves. If a Hunter was able to handle a Class 3 swamp by themself, they could advance to E-rank within 3 raids. However, if Jiwoo was greedy for EXP and went solo, it was no different from him committing suicide.
It was always painful to tell someone with potential to give up. Gyutae felt like a father who could not provide for his child because he was broke, despite knowing how capable his child was.
Jiwoo fully understood Gyutae’s anguish, so he asked no further questions about it. He simply gave a faint smile. He was grateful that Gyutae even felt sorry for him.
"I could become a surgeon too, can’t I? I feel as though I could make a lot of money if I signed a performance-based contract. I’d like to teach low-level Hunters too as you have taught me." Jiwoo said.
Gyutae felt awful seeing Jiwoo forced to lower his goals.
"Mr. Ahn, you’ll become the best surgeon in the world. I can guarantee it." Gyutae stated firmly.
Jiwoo nodded and chuckled, indicating that would be enough for him. Gyutae patted him on the shoulder.
Then, Kanghyun and Taein returned.
"We only need to transport two more times."
Everyone cheered up hearing that.
"Why don’t we go out for dinner tonight? Tomorrow’s the weekend and the Hunters won’t run that many raids, so it won’t really matter if we go or not." Gyutae said.
Kanghyun was the most excited about it. He had been happy to join a team which had Gyutae and Jiwoo in it. Although he didn’t feel that close to Taein, he knew for a fact that his other teammate was not a bad person. Frankly, he didn’t care much since Taein wouldn’t be around for long as he would be joining raids soon.
They headed to a draft-beer bar that Gyutae frequented. Taein had a car too, but both Kanghyun and Jiwoo got into Gyutae’s vehicle.
Jiwoo made himself comfortable in the back seat, when he got a call from Yongha.
"Is this that guy Jiwoo?" Yongha asked as soon as Jiwoo answered the phone.
"No, I’m afraid you have the wrong person. This is Mr. Ahn Jiwoo’s phone number."
"Oh, I see. I must have dialed the wrong number. I called because this Ann Jiwoo punk is my friend. If you happen to meet the man who forgot about his dear buddy, please tell him that I’ll kill him the moment I see him."
"Ah, I don’t want to though."
"Dude, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with you? How could you not contact me even once?"
Jiwoo snickered. It felt nice to hear from his friend after a long time.
"You can bring your friend too. We can all eat together." Gyutae offered.
Jiwoo shook his hands wildly.
"No, it’s okay. I can meet up with him later. You don’t have to accommodate us."
"I wonder if I unintentionally ruined your plans because I invited you out." Gyutae muttered.
"He’s not usually like this. Does he think I’m upset over what he said to me earlier?" Jiwoo pondered. Not used to the surgeon’s kindness, he shrugged his shoulders.
"What’s up? You with someone else? I can hang up if things are uncomfortable there. But contact me first, dude!"
"Nah, it’s fine. I’m on the road. And if you miss me, why don’t you call first?"
"You’re a Hunter now. I don’t know what you’re going through so how can I?"
"I’m not even doing raids. Call me anytime, I only transport body packs then wait in front of the swamp and go back to carrying corpses again."
"Oh, really? I can contact you whenever?"
"I know you’re busy and all, but think about your civilian friends too. I feel left out. You’re my best friend. All of a sudden it felt like you went to another world."
"Why’re you saying that? It’s not like you."
"I’m probably not the only one who feels that way. Do you keep in touch with Deputy Manager Chun often?
"No. Now that I think about it, I should have contacted Kijeong first."
"Yeah. He’s in the hospital, so call him often. Well, and me too."
"What’s wrong? Did something bad happen?"
"It’s nothing like that. I thought it would be nice to have a Hunter as my BFF, but it’s strange. You seem like a different person living in a different world. There’s no place I can swing by when I’m bored, and I can’t call you whenever I want either."
"What’s so different? My home security code is still the same, you can come to the officetel anytime. I can leave some time on the weekends, so let’s meet up more. I’m sorry for not caring."
"Well, you do feel sorry so we’re good. At least give Mr. Chun a call."
"You don’t even know him that much."
"True. Alright, I talked too much. Let’s talk next time. Good luck with your work.
Jiwoo hung up. He suddenly realized he didn’t pay attention to his surroundings as he casually talked on the phone.
Kanghyun grinned, it looked like he had listened in on the call albeit unintentional.
"That does happen. It’ll slowly feel like you’re growing distant from the ordinary folks, especially when you do raids. You can’t really talk to your family about the dangerous work you do either."
"When Hunters hang out, their conversation contains information which could help them. However, no matter how close you are with your normal friends, they’ll feel that gap. It can’t be helped. Even when we say we’re having a hard time, they still hold that stigma that we’ll be fine since we make a lot of money. They also expect a lot from you, as a Hunter, if anything major does happen."
"Really? That hasn’t happened to me yet."
"By the way, didn’t you have to call someone? Don’t mind me."
"Okay, then let me make a quick call."
Jiwoo went and called Kijeong, if he delayed it anymore he didn’t know when else he’d do it.
Kijeong picked up and asked Jiwoo if he was adjusting well to the Hunter’s life. He also told him that he was home and was drowsy due to taking the meds the hospital gave him. Jiwoo said he would visit him soon and then hung up. He was relieved hearing how healthy the man sounded.
A text message notification popped up. Jiwoo checked it to find that Body firm sent him a deposit of 720,000 won.
"Mr. Gyutae. I keep getting paid more these days."
Kanghyun also nodded to that.
"Mr. Gyutae, are you giving us a portion of your paycheck?" Kanghyun asked.
"All of you will need a lot of money to spend in the future. You have to buy equipment, weapons, armor, and much more. Besides, you don’t have to thank me since I gave you what you deserve. I’m taking care of myself just fine, so there’s no need to worry about me." Gyutae responded casually.
"Do other surgeons do this too?" Kanghyun asked again.
"I don’t care what other people do. All I want is for us to help each other as long as we’re a team."
Jiwoo thought that whatever wall had been around them had collapsed the day they found his pill bottle.
During their dinner outing, Jiwoo found out a few things about his teammates. Gyutae couldn’t drink because of his medicine, and Taein turned into a mutt with a sip of alcohol. Kanghyun also promised his mother that he wouldn’t drink until he was 20, thus he did not touch alcohol in front of him. As a result, Taein was the only one who drank among the four of them with Kanghyun having to clean up after his mess. Fortunately, Taein was sober enough near the end to call his sister.
"Sis, I need you to pick me up." He passed out after he left those last words. About 20 minutes later, his sister, Lee Taerim, arrived.
At a glance, she was taller than her brother. Her legs were long; she had a small face with eyes, nose, and lips that looked too big to fit her face.
Taerim found her brother sprawled on the table and approached him. She greeted Gyutae and the others.
"I apologize. You wouldn’t know he would act like this. It’s best if you don’t drink with him next time."
Then she grabbed Taein’s smartphone. Jiwoo was curious what she was doing when he saw that she deleted her number from his contacts.
"I’m sick and tired of him calling me whenever he drinks. He can’t hold his alcohol for his dear life."
Jiwoo chuckled to himself and made eye contact with her.
"I’ve heard a lot about you from Taein. You’re Tenten, right?" She asked him
"Ugh, not Tenten again." He glared at his tattoo while cursing internally, "It’s all because of you."
Yet oddly, he noticed something had changed.
Hunter Grade – F EXP: 0/300
Chakra Level: 6
Chakra Proficiency: 34%.
He hadn’t checked his tattoo in a while since the numbers stayed the same, but his chakra proficiency had increased.
Jiwoo grabbed Kanghyun’s arm and checked his tattoo.
Hunter Grade – F/Dealer EXP: 0/300
Chakra Level: 6
Chakra Proficiency: 6%.
"What’s wrong, Hyung?" Kanghyun asked.
"What was your chakra proficiency originally? Like when you first met me."
"What? Huh? It went up!"
His went up by 6 percent while Jiwoo’s was up by 34. It was evident Jiwoo’s went up faster and was up more than Kanghyun’s.
Jiwoo also checked Taein’s tattoo while he was at it.
Hunter Grade – F/Dealer EXP: 0/300
Chakra Level: 6
Chakra Proficiency: 2%.
Taein said he would join raids soon. His chakra level remained at 6 and his proficiency was at 2%. All of a sudden, Jiwoo felt weak in the knees. He looked at his own tattoo again.
34%, the new figure was glistening proudly on his arm.