01 – A Hidden Piece in a Dry Sky (4)
“Let’s try one more time–one last time.”
It would make no difference to me to leave this last remnant when I had already lost tens of millions of won.
When I picked up the staff that had rolled to the corner of the bed, the Hunter Watch rang.
[Emergency Field Outbreak.
Gather in ‘Waiting Room 1’ in 15 minutes.]
Haah, what shitty luck.
How could I be summoned for a raid at a time like this?
I grumbled my complaints as I placed the ruby staff back into the inventory.
I couldn’t believe I was chosen when I was a part of the standby unit–that was quite unusual.
Fields that occurred without prior notice spat demons and demonic beasts out of their ‘gate’ if a team fails to fulfill specified goals within a set period of time.
This phenomenon was also known as ‘Overflow.’ 1
A mid-to-low-level Hunter’s main task was to terminate these fields.
Elite hunters, the so-called raiding teams, were in charge of attacking the World’s Towers.
These people would not be summoned for this low-level task.
‘Those busy clearing the ‘main quest’ shouldn’t be concerned with these things.’
“Mm, what poor souls will I be working with today?” I wondered.
I had stocked enough potions, and my equipment has been repaired.
In an instant, my comfortable home wear turned into a combat suit.
Though I was familiar with the lines of these clothes, I decided to confirm their status, just in case.
Short sleeves that stuck to my body, pants with several pockets, windbreaker, harness, and boots.
As most of my equipment was low-end, they were all stark black.
Only my bow and arrows were colored.
High-ranking hunters with extraordinary fame customized their equipment to fit their image, but their world was far away from mine.
Bow in hand, I went to the Waiting Room, waiting to see whom I would fight with.
“Those I’m usually close to are off duty, though…”
My head had already begun to hurt at the thought of clearing a Field with a team that wasn’t in sync.
[Guild Affiliated Hunter, Yoon Gaho, has been confirmed.]
When I entered the waiting room thoughtlessly, something fell from the ceiling accompanied by the ring of a bell.
Why did a human being–a girl that looked to be in her mid-teens–appear from the sky? With her, a child in a hanbok-style outfit 2 circled around me.
“You were surprised, right?!”
“Of course I was surprised!” I shouted.
“Taeyang-ah~ Say hi! You should say hello to Kim-seobang first, though. 3 Or else he’ll scold you.” The child’s pigtails were segmented and looped around to resemble donuts; bells the size of fingernails were attached to each shoulder.
The child nagged at her companion as she jumped around, the bells bouncing with her movements.
‘…What’s this all about?’
Despite the weary and annoyed expression, the girl bowed deeply.
“Always nagging me, geez.
I’m called Cha Taeyang, and I’m 17 years old.
I arrived not too long ago… And… Ah, right! I’m an A-class hunter.”
“Her traits are A-rank as well!” The child chirped.
“Ah, so about that.
It’s called the Thirteenth Month’s…”
Startled, I immediately covered Cha Taeyang’s mouth.
Cha Taeyang, in turn, wrinkled her nose as if she were flustered by my sudden behavior.
To think she’d try to tell the name of her trait to a person she had never met before… She definitely knew nothing! Why hasn’t anyone taught her these important tips? “Hunter Cha Taeyang, you may not know, as this operation may be your first, but you shouldn’t tell anyone the name of your trait.
Even to colleagues from the same guild.”
“I can’t even say the name?”
Unless you really trust that person.”
Perhaps Cha Taeyang understood me–she nodded her head.
Thank god–I’ve always been terrible at judging another’s temperament.
Thankfully, the girl was agreeable.
She said she was 17, right? That was near the age boundary for restrictions on hunter activity.
She was sure to have much trouble ahead; I felt a bit sorry for her.
“Thank you for teaching me,” she said.
“Thank you kind Kim-seobang!”
“My last name isn’t Kim.
I’m Yoon Gaho.”
“All ‘dokkaebi’ call humans Kim-seobang.” 4
Dokkaebi? I had thought it was some weird item, but I guess the child who accompanied Cha Taeyang was a dokkaebi.
When I couldn’t hide my surprise, the dokkaebi gave a fake cough.
Since the creation of the World’s Towers, unusual things have become a daily occurrence.
However, I was still surprised to learn that dokkaebis actually existed.
Cha Taeyang stroked the dokkaebi with her index finger before rummaging in her pocket and handing a traditional cookie to me. 5 (PICTURE?) “So, Unni. 6 Are you a hunter too?”
Nodding my head, I bit into the cookie.
Cha Taeyang smiled brightly, “You know, this is the first time I’ve spoken to another hunter besides the Witch Unni! Ah, but if you’re an unni, why do you use honorifics with me? Oh! Can I call you ‘Unni’? You got the summons too, right? Where will you be going? Do you like traditional Yakgwa cookies too?”
Cha Taeyang’s numerous questions poured out to the point I felt like my soul was going to escape my body trying to follow the line of conversation.
Her excitement reminded me of my rookie days, and, unlike usual, my sentences became uncharacteristically long.
“I’m a hunter, just like you…Age doesn’t really matter among hunters.
Rather, rankings are more important.
A-Ah! That’s a real arrow–if you touch it like that…”
I tried to stop her from reaching out to my quiver but then let her act as she wished when I remembered she was an A-class…even if she might look like this now.
Cha Taeyang’s eyes sparkled when I handed her an arrow and explained how fields work.
Urgent fields were more demanding than those placed within the World’s Towers or fixed fields that occurred periodically in set areas, which were already known locations that had various information shared about them on the internet.
Nevertheless, judging how a complete rookie like her, who knew nothing, was assigned to this mission, the field must not be a high-ranked one.
Rank C at the very highest.
What a stroke of luck.
While Cha Taeyang and I talked, three others arrived at the waiting room.
Except for a man who had just reached 20 years of age, everyone knew each other.
The blond A-class tanker 7 was Seo Young-woon, someone famous for being prickly; next to him was deputy guild leader Hwang Jae-hui.
There was no way a person like Hwang Jae-hui-ssi would personally attend to normal fields like this… Was he here to brief us all?
“Did they really have to call me for a C-rank field?”
“It’s near the National Assembly building in Yeouido.
You high-ranked people should know the place exceptionally well.”
Still, it’s too much to bring two kids who’ve never seen the insides of the World’s Towers and one C-class hunter.
That’s too much.
Do you think I don’t know that I’ve been called to cover those guys?”
And yet he thinks nothing of saying such wounding words out loud for the C-class to hear.’
There were many people who despised working with Seo Young-woon because of his unfriendly temperament.
Cha Taeyang, standing next to me, growled at his blatantly contemptuous eyes, “I won’t grab onto sunbae-nim’s ankles and hold him back! I’m at the top of my class in the Seoul Hunter Training Center!” 8
“I’m Cho Sung-hyun–also a student.
Who is this sunbae-nim?”
“Why is Ahjussi picking a fight with someone he’s never seen before?” 9
“I’ve heard a lot about Sunbae-nim.
I’ve always admired you, but…”
Including Cha Taeyang’s goblin, everyone else began to argue with Seo Young-woon.
‘Pandemonium? This is the Mother of all pandemonium, ugh.‘
I’m supposed to run the Field with these people? I should be the one fussing and refusing this mission.
Hwang Jae-hui, who had a similar exhausted expression as I did, shook their head and approached me.
“Because of these interpersonal relationships, I believe Hunter Yoon Gaho should be in charge of the party.” 10
“What? Is there really a need for me to do that? Hunter Seo Young-woon is A-class…” I protested
“You know well how terrible it is to have a party leader with no social competency.”
Seo Young-woon did not bat an eye even after hearing us talk about his antisocial nature.
Perhaps the man has the ability to self-reflect, even if his temperament is so foul.
Hwang Jae-hui was firm and persistent despite my haggard complexion, “You have no need to feel so pressured.
Though Seo Young-woon-ssi was mobilized, this is still a C-rank field.
Though they do not have experience, Hunter Cha Taeyang and Cho Sung-hyun are from the training school.
They’ll both have field experience.”
“…What’s the field’s type?”
“It’s a raid.
You must find the boss of the field within the time limit and annihilate it.”
The field was easily comprehensible, even if the situation was a bit unusual with three A-classes and 1 C-class Hunter.
I reluctantly accepted the position of party leader.
Hwang Jae-hui’s tired face brightened a little.
So, the C-class field site was called the ‘Wizard’s Garden.’ The time limit was generous: 8 hours.
Based on the field’s name, I could predict that plant-based or plant-affiliated demonic beasts would emerge.
A botanical world… A C-class field at that… Most likely, the demonic beasts will be immobilized, unable to move around.
It would be a good opportunity for Cha Taeyang and Cho Sung-hyun to gain experience relatively safely.
“Aw, isn’t Yeouido close to here? Can’t we just run? Wouldn’t that be faster?” Cho Sung-hyun whined.
“It’s illegal to use your abilities within city boundaries.”
No one will see anyway since it’s night.”
Hwang Jae-hui pushed the grumbling Cho Sung-hyun into the back seat of our designated vehicle.
Seo Young-woon sat in the passenger seat, the farthest he could be diagonally from Cho Sung-hyun.
The only one left was Cha Taeyang, and there was no way a 17-year old could drive.
‘Alright… I guess I have to do it.’
I was forced to take the wheel.
“Shall we introduce ourselves before we arrive? I’m Yoon Gaho, your party leader.
My main weapon is the bow, and my comprehensive rank is C.”
“Blegh–there’s someone like you out in the Wilderness Guild, huh…”
“I’m Cha Taeyang! I’m A-class, and my specialty is martial arts!”
“Hey, I was talking!”
Wow–I didn’t know it was so hard to facilitate introductions.
The children in the back seat couldn’t resist the slight and began to squabble amongst themselves.
When Seo Young-woon glanced behind him, Cho Sung-hyun closed his mouth.
Perhaps they shut up because Seo Young-woon was a famous A-class hunter, or perhaps it’s because he’s a direct senior at their training center.
Thankfully, the vehicle became quiet thanks to his efforts.
“…I’m Cho Sung-hyun.
I came to join ‘Wilderness’ 11 for my graduation requirements.
I usually use the sword.” When Seo Young-woon finished introducing himself, Cho Sung-hyun reluctantly spoke as well.
I don’t know how much Cha Taeyang and Cho Sung-hyun would contribute, but, at first glance, this party was balanced quite well.
“I’m C-class, but I probably have the most field experience out of all of you.
In case of emergency, please follow my instructions.”
“Taeyang-ah~ You should listen to what Kim-seobang says!”
No one, except for the dokkaebi, answered me.
Our silver van skidded along the empty road, made even more lonely by the dark of the night, and headed for Yeouido.
A line of vehicles used by the Bureau of Management–dispatched to manage this phenomenon–was parked in front of the National Assembly.
The employees of the Bureau controlled the area incredibly well as there wasn’t even a rat in sight.
I pulled over on the side of the road and approached the field’s gate with my party.
After showing the management bureau employee my ‘awakened’ registration card that marked me as a ‘Wilderness Guild’ member, we stood in front of the gate.
The indescribably-colored lights shone discordantly from the gate’s surface.
No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t adapt to its appearance.
It looked like the world–reality, even–had been shattered into many tiny pieces in that location.
Finally, after double-checking our equipment, we moved towards the gate.
[Entering the Field, ‘Wizard Garden (C)’]
— Time Limit: 07:15:58
— Party Limit: 5
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