ETH – Ch 73

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“I heard that the ores being sold to the hunter market are being handled by the police. If you can hand over some of those ores to us, we would be more than happy to join the mission.”

-[As I said before, our budget is limited. We wouldn’t be able to do so even if we wanted to.]

“That’s fine. I’ll put up the money as long as you can pass along as much of the ores we need.”

-[Is that it?]

“More than enough for me.”

***

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I knew she would take this to her superiors. And they, in turn, will most likely go along with my offer.

And if that happens, I would finally have access to the alanite ores so that I could perform fusions to my heart’s desire.

This was huge. And this would allow us to be well armed for a fight against the Chinese hunters if it came to that.

“I have one more thing to ask of you.”

-[Which is?]

“I want to request that we be the only hunters that you move with for this task.”

-[HmI guess since our budget it limited, that would have been the case anyway. Is there any reason why you are requesting this?]

“You’ll see when the time comes. Andyou cannot reveal what you see about us to anyone else.”

-[If it isn’t totally illegal thenok.]

If we were to go on this task with her, for the good or bad, she will be privy to Team Delta’s secret. Dead bodies will evaporatewe wouldn’t be able to hide her from that fact.

Immediately after I hung up, I called Park Hanbum, Bae Yeonkyoung, and Manager Kim and asked them to return.

-[Come by tomorrow? Is there some kind of emergency we don’t know about?]

“Yes, we will have to go into the forested area.”

-[Hmdo we have to?]

“I will explain in detail once you are back.”

I felt a bit bad for giving them 3 days off and then asking them to return only after one, but the situation warranted it. I couldn’t do anything about it. Manager Kim let out a sigh and said.

-[I’m sure I won’t hear the end of it from the wife. I was hoping to go on a family trip this time around.]

“I’m really sorry.”

-[No, it’s fine. Then I’ll see you tomorrow.]

I had worried the most over Manager Kim’s response, but he was really understanding about the whole thing. Surprisingly.

And the remaining two members said they would be right back without any other objections.

***

The next day, the entire Team Delta met up and headed towards the market. The forest was full of dangers.

We needed to purchase some equipment so that we can strengthen ourselves against those dangers. Since each person had at least 3 million dollars each, we would be able to equip ourselves with level 4 gear.

And if one were to purchase a no name equipment, they could even buy a level 5.

“I’m Lieutenant Sohn Aram. A pleasure to meet you all.”

“What kind of armor is that?”

“Hahait’s a bitum…”

She was donned with a level 2 leather armor that hugged her body. It looked like standard issue armor for the police.

“It looks too cheap.”

“I can’t do anything about it. Even this is something I had to pretty much beg for.”

If they were creating a special mission, shouldn’t they have at least taken care of their own so that they would be safe? But then again, even that armor was probably worth close to 300k. It seems my standard on money, value, and equipment has gone way up from even just a few months ago.

“Then will we be able to purchase some ores as we were promised?”

“I did get the approval from upstairs. You just need to come with me.”

I left the party members to continue searching the market for equipment to upgrade their gear while I followed Sohn Aram to purchase the alanites.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get my hands on 9, which was enough to fuse and create just 3 level 4 items.

This wasn’t unexpected since drop probability of the rare alanites from level 1 and level 2 monsters was very low.

I took the level 3 Valladolid bow that Yeonkyoung had as well as some other items worth 500k each to fuse together for the Athena’s bow.

“Is it ok even though the bow has the option of not being able to hurt humans?”

Yeonkyoung asked me shyly. This was because we had to fight more than just monsters very soon.

The Athena’s bow could not harm another human.

But there is a loophole.

“If you need to hit a person, you can enchant an arrow and shoot it.”

“Ah. Is that so?”

Yeonkyoung nodded her head with a serious face. The Athena’s bow can attack without the need for any arrows. But if you arm the bow with you own arrow and shoot it, the option for not harming humans is cancelled. This was a well known fact even at the market.

I pondered for a moment where I should use the rest of the alanites before deciding to just create two more Athena’s bows and selling them on the market.

Just from those sales, we had earned close to 1.3 million dollars. Not bad.

I now had a total of 11.5 million dollars in my account.

Starting from level 6, the item prices jump up tremendously.

The average price was usually about 7-8 million each.

If you were to purchase something on the expensive side, they could go for even 10 million dollars.

After wondering if I should buy two level 5 items or just 1 level 6 item, I decided to go with the latter and chose to purchase the level 6 black plate armor.

The entire armor was all black and shined as if it had imbibed oil. While its defensive abilities were at an even keel of level 6, it came with an extremely attractive option.

***

Black Plate Armor (6): Can create a shadow whose offensive abilities is half of the wearers’ power. Should the shadow be shot, it will disappear. Cooltime per use is 1 minute.

***

Put simply, it was like adding an extra member to the party. Though it disappears after a hit, even as a shadow, it would be able to deal damage to an enemyand with half my strength at that.

Since it was like creating another version of me, this was a super cheat option.

And the price was ridiculous too.

“10 million dollars.”

“So damn expensive.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No, nothing. It was nothing.”

I hurriedly shook my head and purchased the armor. This was the first time I had spent this kind of money at the market.

My account now only had 1.3 million dollars remaining.

Though this was still a good amount of money, I somehow had the feeling that I’ve become oh so very poor in the blink of an eye.

Human beings are funny that way. Even just a few months ago, I was worried about my rent and electricity billand now I was thinking I was poor even with 1.3 million dollars in my account.

I put away the level 3 no name armor into my storage. I made a note in my head to keep it for Kelby to eat instead of selling it at the market.

It seemed that everyone else had also done the same and used pretty much all of their earnings in purchasing quality equipment. Those lacking in defense purchased some armor while those who lacked in offensive ability purchased weapons.

Finally, there was one more thing we had to buy.

And this was none other than a translating hat.

“For Chinese, it will be 100k.”

“Yes, but is this the only design you have?”

I asked the employee with a pained voice as I looked at the North Korean style army cap with a red star stitched smack dab in the middle.

“Yes, we only have this design for the Chinese transla….”

“I guess there’s nothing we can do then.”

It was expensive but, seeing that we would be fighting against Chinese hunters one way or another, this was something we would need.

Now I only had 300k left.

I decided to think it was lucky that I even had that left.

In addition to all this, we even purchased the ATV and another truck. We decided to have Park Hanbum and Manager Kim take turns driving the second truck.

After we finished getting ready, we started our 10 hour drive towards the forest and finally arrived at the bridge.

And there, our way was blocked by something we did not factor in.

“Isn’t that Ezekiel?”

Cho Youngoo, who had been driving the truck, asked aloud. Han Joonseok, riding shot gun, squinted his eyes for a moment before nodding his head.

“You’re right, it looks like Ezekiel is blocking the entrance to the bridge.”

“Have they still not fixed that damn bad habit of theirs?”

“What should we do?”

Han Joonseok turned around in his seat to ask me. We were already driving towards them.

And, having noticed us already, I could see they were moving quickly to do something.

There is no way they would let us pass without a fight.

There was only one option left for us. To break through with force just a we had done the last time.

“Can I please ask what is going on?”

Sohn Aram asked as she looked pointedly in the direction of the bridge.

There were almost 20 Ezekiel hunters camped out at the edge of the wooden bridge.

“They are blocking the way to the bridge so that no one else can pass through.”

“I thought the situation might not be favorable but all sorts of things are happening aren’t they?”

“If they do not let us pass, what are we going to do?”

“Can I step forward as an officer of the law?”

“And if they don’t back down even at that point?”

“That’s….”

Sohn Aram let out a very deep sigh. Even though she was an officer, there was only so much that one person could do.

“Then we have no choice but to turn back.”

“We can also break through using force.”

“Let me first try and resolve this peacefully.”

“Be my guest.”

But I couldn’t let her walk over there on her own.

We parked the truck and, geared up from head to toe, we carefully got out of the truck. On either side of Sohn Aram, Cho Youngooi and I stuck by her as her bodyguards.

On the opposite side, a hefty hunter was leisurely headed in our direction as well.

I used my manual to check out his stats and gear.

***

Name: Koo YongSung

Skill: Cleaving (3), Can cut through enemies within a 2 meter radius. During casting time, will only receive half the damage.

Option: None

Proficiency: 45

Equipment: Chain lance (3), Stone armor (3)

***

He was entirely level 3. If it was before, I would have been pretty worried by now. But now, he was not much of an opponent.

“What’s the matter?”

“We need to pass through, I’m afraid.”

Sohn Aram answered. Koo Yongsung snorted as if we had made a joke.

“This land is claimed by us Ezekiel. We can’t let just anyone pass.”

“And who gave you the authority to claim the land?”

“Who? We came here first so it’s ours.”

Sohn Aram turned to look at me. I lightly shook my head.

“That’s a lie. They weren’t here just a few days ago. I think they probably saw the posting on the market bulletin and made their way here.”

“Heung, so what? What are you going to do about it?”

Sohn Aram pulled out a police badge and responded.

“I’d like to reintroduce myself. I’m Lieutenant Sohn Aram from the Mapo Police Station. You do not have the proper authority to lay claim to this bridge. Please step aside.”

“Hm?”

Koo YongSung’s face exploded with unexpected surprise. He hadn’t even dreamed that a police officer would show up here.

But that was it. After returning back to where his comrades were, he did not return.

And they didn’t open the way to the bridge either. It seems they decided it was better to just ignore us and the police than to say anything else.

“If you don’t step away, I will place all of you under arrest!”

Sohn Aram yelled out. But the only response to that was some laughter and jeeringand that was it.

“What did I tell you. I told you it wouldn’t work.”

“Haaa. Hunters. Really.”

“But we’re hunters too.”

“Ah, sorry about that. I didn’t mean it that way.”

“It’s alright. Anyway, now what do you propose we do? I really think there’s no other option but to use force.”

“Can you do it so that no one gets hurt?”

“Impossible. Short of fighting, there will always be someone hurt. If a fight does happen, I can’t promise what will happen since we will be putting our lives on the line. Andif anyone makes it out of here aliveit will make thingsdifficult.”

“But aren’t there any other roads..”

“None.”

“Haaa…..”

I could see that Sohn Aram was having a heated debate inside her own head on what she should do. She was probably asking herself killing people on this mission was justifiedall the more because she was an officer.

Unfortunately, with Ezekiel blocking the bridge, there was no way we were going to avoid a fight.

Our priority was to explore the forest. We couldn’t turn back just because they decided to guard the entryway.

“Something’s up over there.”

Cho Youngoo said. The hunters who had been just watching us from the bridge entrance were now in motion getting into their vehicles.

“Are they trying to cross the bridge?”

Sohn Aram asked. If they were going to create an opening for us on their own, then that was great for us.

“We don’t know yet. Mr. Han Joonseok, can you tell what’s going on?”

“It seems they received some sort of communication. They made a call and then started to pile into their vehicles with hurried expressions.”

“It seems they ran into some trouble.”

“Yes, and I don’t think it has anything to do with us.”

Hm. Just a minute ago I was ready to go into battle, but now…

The hunters had climbed into the vehicles that had been acting as barricades and disappearedleaving only a cloud of smoke in their wake.

“What do you think it is?”

Sohn Aram, who had been watching quietly, finally asked.

“I want to go and ask myself, but it’s not as if they would answer methere’s nothing else we can do but to just cross the bridge ourselves and find out.”

“Do you have even a guess….”

“They either met a strong monster or the Chinese huntersand are now in a heated battle.”

“Which do you think it is?”

“I would say the probability of it being the latter is much higher.”

Even if it were the forest, there is no way that a strong monster would appear out of nowhere like that.

The fact was that only level 1 and level 2 monsters appeared in the new landand this included the forest. The only possibility was an irregularbut it’s not as if irregulars come out all that often either.

“So now what?”

Han Joonseok took a few steps toward me and asked. If they ditched the bridge and ran off like that, it must have been a real emergency.

Whether it was an irregular or Chinese hunters, it didn’t matter. We were going to check it out anywaythat was our mission.

“Let’s follow them.”

Both trucks crossed over the creaky wooden bridge to the other side. I’m not sure if the Ezekiel team had done some additional work to the bridge, but it felt alot safer than the last time we used it.

We followed the path into the forest. Even if we didn’t follow the trail they left behind, there were only a few roads their vehicles could drive through so catching up to them was no hard task.

Bump. Bump.

“Heukmy butt….”

Sooah complained the whole way as she tried to find the most comfortable position. Compared to the Southern Marshes, the roads here were definitely more tumultuous.

And since the seats set up in the back were wooden seats without any cushionI could understand her pain.

“I should keep that in mind. To purchase some cushions.”

“Please dear lord.”

Sooah placed her hands under her butt in an effort to make the bumps a bit more bearable.

“Anyway, how many Ezekiel guys do you think are in the forest right now?”

“Since there were over twenty of them blocking the bridge….I’m sure there are quite a bit of them inside.”

“And things must be dangerous enough for them to have called in those guys.”

“Ezekiel is mainly known for having a great number of soldiers, and there is power in numbers. So I wouldn’t say it’s really a good bit of news that even with those numbers, they are being overwhelmed enough to have to call in reinforcements on barricade detail.”

“You know what else is weird? That there aren’t any monsters in the area.”

Han Joonseok looked around and said.

“I’m guessing that it’s going to be like this in all the areas that have paths wide enough for trucks to pass through.”

“Because they probably hunted all along these roads first right?”

“Ah. I see something up ahead.”

Han Joonseok shouted.

On the road up ahead, there was a dead body that was still bleeding out on the side.

I got out of the vehicle and checked it.

“It seems this person didn’t die too long ago. The blood is still fresh.”

“And who is it?”

“Ezekiel.”

There was a wheel badge on the corpse’s uniform. This was Ezekiel’s signia.

I picked up the body and placed it into the back of the second truck. He was stripped of equipmentmost likely by his killer.

Sohn Aram looked at me and asked in confusion.

“What are you doing with the body…”

“I’ll tell you later.”

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