I slowly moved my body to follow Kelby.
After walking for a few hundred meters in this manner, I heard some voices up ahead.
Three people in all. There were two men resting under a tree while one person was stationed higher up the tree probably acting as a sentry.
All three of them were equipped with a bow and arrow on their backs. They looked to be level 3 weapons nothing amazing, but enough to be a sufficient threat.
I hid amongst the trees so that I could freely steal snippets of conversation.
I couldn’t understand a word of it.
I couldn’t tell when I was farther away, but I knew now. Though I couldn’t understand what they were saying, there were familiar tones mixed in here and there.
They were Chinese.
This meant they went all the way around the entire West Sea and ended up here in the forested area deep in the south.
Hm. It seems things just got complicated.
We purposely avoided going North to avoid unnecessary complications, only to end up facing a bigger one. Their being here meant that they meant to take control of the new landall of it.
This was worlds away from the general understanding that the new land would be split ‘equally’ between Korea and China as equally as possible anyway.
This land was the farthest point from China. If Chinese hunters took control of the land here, that meant Korean hunters would be facing enemies from both sides. We would be surrounded. And there was a good chance that the new land could fall entirely into the hands of China. Shit. I had thought the problem with China was an issue completely unrelated to me. What am I supposed to do?
I could rush out right now and overpower those guys. As I was now, it wouldn’t be hard to go up against 3 hunters even if they were all level 3.
But then again, why is it my job to intervene?
Isn’t this for someone higher up…?
Someone like Lee Wheeseung, for example. Yeah. It’s definitely not a place for a hunter of less than 1 years’ experience to try and interfere.
I picked up Kelby.
First things first I needed to get back to my team without revealing myself.
If I needed to get rid of them, I could always do it later.
Right when I was getting ready to leave, I heard an approaching vehicle. It was not the sound of the truck we rode in. It sounded lighter. It sounded more like a van.
I ducked down and looked at their expressions.
As soon as the one sitting high up in the tree started waving around his arms and yelling at the guys on the ground, both men picked their weapons up off the ground and got up.
After a brief moment, a van came into view. It kicked up clouds of dust as it came to a stop and the driver got out. He was probably in his mid forties. Had on level 4 gear.
I used my manual to check him out and he even had a level 4 skill: Lion Strength.
This skill increases reflexes and strength by 100%. Additionally, after raising proficiency up until a certain point, the skill allows an extra option: ‘roar’. Roar allows the user to yell out causing the opponent to freeze for a full second.
This option could be used immediately at any time. And one second in battle was invaluable.
Anyway, I had to leave. If that van goes back on the move, it could end up bumping into our truck. I needed to contact them before that happens to alert them to hide the truck.
I took out my phone and created a Team Delta chatroom.
-[Me: Discovered Chinese hunters. Expecting one van to head towards you. Please go into hiding and stand by.]
-[Sooah: China? Why are they here?]
-[Me: How am I supposed to know? Whether we let the government know or not, it’s best to distance ourselves from the situation for now.]
If they were a raid team like the Ezekiel, we could always fight them head on. But if they were a hunter team for their country, we couldn’t do whatever we wanted. We had to proceed with caution.
-[Han Joonseok: Where did the van come from? We didn’t see any vehicles drive past us.]
-[Me: I think they crossed over the same bridge we crossed over. They might be the ones to have built the bridge in the first place.]
-[Han Joonseok: Does that means they were roaming the Southern Marshes?]
-[Me: I think their goal is reconnaissance. I don’t know how many of them are occupying the forest, but I don’t think they have so many men that they can spare them to roam the marshes. It’s not as if China has a lot of hunters to spare.]
-[Han Joonseok: So they’re really trying to take over the new land and keep it for themselves.]
-[Me: Those were my thoughts exactly.]
-[Manager Kim: Are those Chinese hunters strong?]
-[Me: About level 4?]
-[Manager Kim: If they’re that strongI doubt they’re just here to scout.]
Manager Kim’s words hit me as if someone struck me on the head with a hammer.
Why didn’t I think of that?
The one who seemed like the leader of the group was a level 4 hunter. There was no way someone that strong was just roaming around in the south for recon.
What if it wasn’t just Ezekiel? Couldn’t it be that the Chinese were also responsible for the hunter deaths?
The news reported that over 1,000 hunters were missing. Of course they couldn’t have taken all of those hunters, but I would bet money they were responsible for a good amount of missing men.
There was one way to confirm my hunch. I needed to get into that van.
The Chinese hunters’ voices got louder. The one who got out of the van was yelling out while pointing at his leg.
The hunters on stand by were getting louder by the minute too.
I couldn’t understand a word as usual, but I could pretty much understand the situation.
It felt like he was yelling at them about dealing with the invaders us.
How stupid am I?
Whatever they were saying, they were all our enemies.
If I left them alive, they could sneak up on us later and be the death of us.
-[Me: I’m changing our plan. We will be attacking the van. Leave the truck on stand by. Everyone spread out and be prepared to attack.]
-[Sooah: How about you, Sunbeh Oppa?]
-[Me: I’ll get rid of the sentries here first. I’ll hurry it up and get to you guys as soon as I can.]
The fastest speed that a van would be able to travel on a road that hasn’t been properly paved was probably about 40 km/hr.
Since I could run faster than that, I figured I would have plenty of time to catch up to the van after taking care of the three hunters first.
Soon, the van revved back to life and started on its way. The scouts took out their walkie talkies and seemed to be reporting back to someone.
Whatever. They already knew we were here. It was now their aim to find us before we could reveal their whereabouts to the rest of the Korean hunters.
But before they could do that, we would be taking care of them first.
“Kelby, sneak up behind them and wait. Once you see me attacking from here, you attack them from behind.”
Kelby quietly disappeared into the forest. No matter how skilled of a hunter they were,there was no way they would be able to hear the stealthy prowling of an animal in hunt.
I continued to move as quietly as I could as well.
Three enemies. They were all long distance fighters.
They did have swords on their hips, but there was nothing I didn’t know about their equipment or skills.
All three of them were lacking in physical abilities. I only needed to close the distance between us and it would be game over for them.
I hurriedly moved from tree to tree so that I can begin the fight as close to them as possible. It wasn’t until I was just 10 meters away from them until they finally realized I was there.
This was because my boost in all my physical abilities allowed me greater control of my body.
If I felt like it, I could probably continue this way until I was right behind them.
But there was no reason to do that. At even 10 meters, I should be able to take care of them in less than a few seconds.
I took a big breath.
A twig under my foot made a sound as it broke in half. As soon as they looked my way, I unsheathed my sword and plowed in.
“What are you saying!”
Two of them began to raise up their bows in a panic. Seeing that they were trying to use those things when an enemy was right in front of them, they must have had zero confidence in their swordsmanship.
I cut one hunter’s bows in half and kicked him back. Hard. Just then, an arrow flew at me from the third guy.
I simply raised my arm to block it before plunging my blade right into his gut.
Another arrow flew right over my head. I made a quick sidestep just as two arrows struck the ground I had been standing on a moment before. He was fast. But that was all.
Kelby, who had climbed up the tree at some point, chewed out the throat of the last hunter. It had taken us a mere 10 seconds to cut down three hunters. Thanks to the element of surprise and their weakness in close combat, we were able to finish things off very easily.
I dragged all three bodies deeper in the forest and quickly hid them before putting Kelby into my manual. I would have plenty of time to catch up to that van.
Sooah posted a message in the chatroom. The van shouldn’t have reached them yet. It seems they were fighting against some other enemy.
I ran even faster. Once I ran past the van, I could hear a ruckus of yelling behind me.
But they weren’t important right now.
Upon arriving, I saw a battle scene of my party fighting against another with the truck in between them. Luckily, none of my team seemed to have gotten hurt.
I immediately brought Kelby out from storage after assessing the situation and threw him at the enemy group. As he flew in the air, he grew into a massive size.
The dog that had been the size of my hand just a moment before was now the size of a grown tiger.
Unsurprisingly, Kelby drew the gaze of everyone there with his little trick.
Whoosh whoosh whoosh!
Arrows began to rain down on the large pup.
And his deep wrinkles began to form along his snout as he bared his teeth. He didn’t like that.
The battlefield was a mess. I began to look around.
The enemy was clumped into a group on the opposite side of the truck. There were about 20 of them that looked to be long range hunters and about 10 hunters who looked to be close combat hunters.
My team was definitely at a disadvantage when it came to sheer numbers, but Cho Youngoo was successfully marking all the close combat hunters so that Jong Sawon could freely move around to take them down.
On top of that, there were spiderwebs strategically placed here and there to further act as a barricade and restrict the opponents’ movements. The many trees of the forest, surprisingly, came be very useful.
Nearby, I spied a huge ball of cobwebs rolling around. I turned to look at Sooah.
“Manager Kim is safe.”
“I’m sure he’ll have something to say later on. What’s the situation?”
“We took care of 2 enemies. It seems like they’re dragging the time….waiting for something.”
“They might be waiting for the van that’s on its way here. Let’s finish this before their backup arrives.”
Kelby was already running wild and attacking the enemy. Seeing the animal pounce on them without any regard for its own life caused the hunters to run in a panic.
It seemed they were most panic-stricken at the thought of having to kill a seemingly high level monster on top of fighting us.
Ultimately, it was Kelby’s outstanding work and rounding up all crazed and frightened hunters that allowed us to taken them all down easily.
No matter how thick his hide was, it still didn’t change the fact that he now had several swords lodged all over his body and about 10 arrows sticking out as well. He was done.
It felt to me that his defense was underwhelming when compared to his amazing offensive power.
Even still, he did his job.
At the end of his strength, Kelby disappeared almost as if he had evaporated.
Watching this happen, Yeongyoung carefully asked.
“He didn’t dieright?”
“We should be able to call him out again after about a day.”
“That’s a relief.”
Hand on her chest, she let out a big sigh.
It seemed she had been frightened at the prospect of losing Kelby.
I don’t know why but this made me want to poke a little fun.
“But there is one problem.”
“What, what kind of problem?”
I could see the blood drain from her face.
Unlike Sooah, seeing a real reaction, made this all the more fun.
“It’s a big problem actually.”
“What in the world is it?”
“The effects of the items he act disappear.”
“It’s such a waste. All those expensive items.”
“Ah. Yes, it is. A waste.”
Yeonkyoung nodded her head seriously.
HmI really think I don’t have a knack for making jokes. I said that to make her laugh…but she took it seriously.
Just then, I heard the rev of the van approaching in the distance.
It was the van from before. To think it was only just arriving. It seemed late.
I guess driving on the dirt road was even harder than I thought it would be.
“It doesn’t look like they’re going to slow down any time soon.”
Sooah said in surprise.
No matter how fast a hunter’s reflexes were, it wasn’t impossible to hit and kill them by running them over with a car or van.
They probably saw that we had quite a few people on our side and decided to reduce our numbers by running some of us over.
“Partyhead, hurry and get out of the…”
I lightly shook my head before bringing out the Toyul Hammer from my manual.
“Sunbeh Oppa! What in the world are you…?!”
The van continued to rushs at me full speed. I could hear a violent rattling noise leaking through the suspension.
A ray of lightning fell straight down from the sky with a roar.
The vehicle, ripped apart into a wreckage of parts were scattered everywhere.
The burning debris was still smoking from the fire lit by the diesel, and all 6 hunters who had been riding in the van were now in such a condition that they were unbearable to look at.
I, on the other hand, apart from some minor scratches made by the flying debris was almost entirely unharmed.
“What, what the hell were you thinking?”
Sooah said with a stutter. She looked as if she were on the verge of tears. Was she that worried?
“If it’s a level 5 Toyul Hammer, there’s no way I wouldn’t have been able to handle something so benign as a van. The hunters who decided to come at me full throttle in the van were the idiots.”
“But what if something went wrong?!”
“WellI guess there was a light chance something could have gone wrong. Like if I didn’t strike at the right timingor if the impact of my strike was offI might have gotten hit and died…”
“And you still did something stupid like that?”
“But it’s fine as long as it’s just that one time right?”
Because I had the Immortality Skill in my possession. If something happened where I were to incur enough damage to warrant “death”, my skill would kick it and bring me back to full health.
Like, for example, getting hit by a car.
It was dangerous, true, but I was able to kill 6 hunters in just one blow.
And this was a group of hunters that had a level 4 hunter among them too. Though I didn’t check all of their stats one by one, I knew that that group of 6 was far stronger than the group of 30 hunters we faced just a moment ago.
How did I know this? Because if they weren’t strong, they wouldn’t have gone off on their own to search the Southern Marshes.
“It’s not fine.”
Her hand, which had been grasping mine, squeezed hard.
She looked as if a tear would spill out right that instant.
Did she not understand what I just told her?
“What I’m saying is, I wouldn’t have died…”
“There, there’s an item here!”
Park Hanbum, who had been inspecting the wreckage let out a yell. The bulk of the items were found inside a broken wooden box that had been in the van. There were probably close to 20 items that spilled out of the broken vehicle in addition to those found in the box.
We first picked up all the equipment. The equipment we picked up in this manner in addition to those that were used by our enemies was tallied at a total of 35.
We assumed they were all initially from the wooden box.
Just from looking at the type of items, it was hard to tell whether they were obtained by killing other hunters or by killing monsters.
And we couldn’t find out for sure by any other means because the ones who knew were now all dead. But quite a number of equipment had been stained by the black blood of men.
If they were obtained by fighting monsters, there was no way the items would have come discolored with blood in this way.
“It seems they had been hunting and killing hunters who seemed relatively weak. From the number of equipment, they killed a smaller amount of hunters than expected, but this is a problem we cannot overlook.”
If the number of equipment was 35, then we could safely say they probably killed between 10 to 20 hunters.
“But there could also be more of these guys…”
Han Joonseok spoke up.
“I don’t think that they would be so bold as to send several teams. If they were, it would have been hard for us to see any monsters near the bridge.”
“Ah, you’re right. I didn’t think of that.”
“Well, I think the important thing right now is to make all of this known to the others. Luckily I have a contact within the police force so….”
“Do you mean that lady officer from before?”
Sooah sniffed. As soon as I nodded my head, her expression turned to stone.
“Stop thinking stupid and unnecessary thoughts. It’s not like that.”
“Ahthen why do you feel the need to explain yourself?”
“In case you get it in your head to do something stupid.”
“Me? What would I do?”
Sooah stared at me with a big smiling face. It seemed I got her to calm down.
“Anyway, let’s start moving. It’s a shame that we came all the way across the bridge only to turn back but…”
“Right. Since we can’t confirm the scale of infiltration by the Chinese in this area, it’s best to err on the side of caution.”
Han Joonseok finished as he nodded his head. No one disagreed. Cho Youngoo didn’t have an opinion on the matter while Jong Sawon rarely, if ever, spoke his piece. Since Park Hanbum was still new to the group, he mostly kept his opinions to himself. Sooah pretty much always followed whatever decision I made and Yeonkyoung was busy spacing out.
Meanwhile our Manager Kim….wait.
I turned around to look at the huge bundle behind me. The bundle of cobweb began to squirm.
After Manager Kim kicked up a big old fuss once released, I put all the equipment into my manual before we headed out.
If we stuck around any longer, we could end up unnecessarily bumping into more enemies.
Though Cho Youngoo drove with an anxious face the whole time we crossed back over the wooden bridge, we were able to get over it without any problems once again.
In the truck, I took out my phone and made a call.
[This is Lieutenant Sohn Aram.]
“Hi, it’s Jeon Sangmin.”
[Oh, and why are you calling out of the blue?]
“There is something important I felt you should know.”
I briefly recapped what had happened earlier.
How the Chinese hunters had occupied the forested area and how they had probably attacked and killed the missing Korean hunters in the new land.
[How sure are you?]
“Very sure. We even fought against them firsthand. They were all Chinese.”
“If you need proof…”
[Something that could identify them. It could even be a dead body.]
Bringing over a dead body was impossible. Since they had all evaporated already.