“I’m sorry to say this but my team’s safety is much more important to me than the safety of hunters I don’t even know.”
“Then I guess I can’t persuade you to do otherwise.”
She got up from her seat and picked up her bag.
“Surely you’re not trying to go in by yourself?”
“What? I never said anything of the sort. I’m not crazy…”
Sooah started cracking up.
“And what’s so funny over there?”
“No, I just remembered the time you came to save me. I really thought you were a crazy person that time.”
“Something like that happened? Very interesting.”
Manager Kim said as he stroked his chin. All of a sudden it felt as if the way everyone viewed me changed ever so slightly.
“Old man, did you think I was some psychopathic killer or something?”
“No, nothing that bad….I just thought you were someone who didn’t bleed or cry tears.”
“Same thing! Let’s just pack up all the items and leave this place. I don’t think we have any further need to stay here any longer.”
Sohn Aram spoke up in confusion. I didn’t feel like I needed to explain any more. Because if we leave like this, we probably wouldn’t run into her again.
“Ah, I meant equipment.”
I said vaguely as I got up from my seat.
It was then.
It felt something strike the back of my head. It felt as if something cold and sharp had struck me.
My first thought was that it was an unpleasant sensation.
A bullet had been shot through my head.
My vision blurred into red as the ground rushed up to meet my forehead. I fell to the ground.
It was as if I was intoxicated.
I didn’t feel any pain. It just felt as if I was being sucked into a dark void. I wondered if I was dying.
But being able to even think like this was proof that I wasn’t dying.
The world started coming back into view.
The skill that allowed me to come back to life one time in a day no matter the cause of death had activated.
As if nothing had happened, my body was returned to normal.
Sooah stared at me with a stony face.
Then her eyes rounded as if she had just seen a ghost.
I just slightly lifted my head and spoke. Because if I were to get hit by another bullet there would be a big problem.
“Snap out of it.”
“Sunbeh oppa?You didn’t die?”
“You sound like you wanted me to die?”
“No, no that’s not it.”
“We need to hurry and locate the sniper first ok?”
I jumped up from the ground like a spring.
It was very small, but someone had let out a sound of surprise. Good. I’m sure I shocked that noise out of them after coming to life even when they confirmed a kill shot. But I couldn’t tell their exact location yet. I just started running towards the general direction of the sound.
I wove in and out between trees as quickly as possible. But he remained quiet.
He probably chose to remain hidden rather than make a shot that misses among the thicket of treeswhich could reveal his location.
I needed to think of some other way to lure him out. It might be a bit dangerous but this was the only way.
I exposed my body ever so slightly.
As if he was just waiting for this moment, a bullet came flying at me.
It hit the left shoulder of my armor and bounced right off. Firearms are of no consequence to items.
Though it is true that hunters don’t use firearms too much because of the government restrictions, it is also not used that often because there is little use for them.
First, being caught with a firearm was an automatic prison sentence. But the most important part was that firearms did not have much use against monsters.
The only dangerous aspect of firearms came into play if you were to be hit in an area not protected by armor.
A shiver ran down my spine.
I almost died. Just now.
“I got you now. You piece of shit.”
I was finally able to locate the sniper after the second shot. I spied the sniper hiding between some branches of a tall tree.
Immediately after identifying the location of the threat, I climbed 20 meters up the tree in an instant and grabbed the sniper by the neck.
“Here you are.”
He quickly pulled out a small dagger from a strap on his thigh and brandished it menacingly at me.
From his movements, he was either military or a hunter with a military background.
That was the sound of his wrist bone splintering.
He used his remaining hand to aim his gun at me before firing a shot.
The shot split the air harmlessly. There was no way he was going to be able to shoot me while in such an awkward position.
The gun was Russian modified for sniping. It was a famous model that even I was able to recognize.
I snatched the gun from him as I delivered a powerful fist to his face.
About 80kg of weight fell 20 meters straight down.
I didn’t want to imagine what state he was in now.
But, even though there was a small crater from the impact of his fall, he had not died.
I guess he had an item that absorbed most of the shock from the fall.
Now that I looked at him again, he had on a level 3 armor. He was lucky. Otherwise, all of his bones would have shattered into millions of pieces from that attack.
“HmI see you’re not dead yet. But then again, you were able to get a shot at me so I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
“Keuk….how the hell did you….?”
“None of your business.”
Then I stepped on his right hand. Now he had none.
That’s what you get for trying to reach for that damn dagger again.
As his bones splintered, they began to rip through the flesh. It was gross to look at but this much was repairable if you had the right amount of money.
I heard that level 10 healers could even restore limbs that have been permanently lost. Truth be told, I haven’t seen it myself.
Since I haven’t seen it broadcast on the news or tv either, I guess no one actually tried testing it out.
He didn’t stop screaming. He’s much more of a baby than I expected…..jeeez!
He began to vomit black blood and died before I could even get started.
“What the hell….”
Hunters are known to usually do what is in their best interests.
I’m sure this would have been the same for the Chinese because who would want to invest tons of money into hunter grade equipment….and then die for a cause that wasn’t their own?
I couldn’t believe that the Chinese government would ask their hunters to commit suicide….and I further couldn’t believe that Chinese hunters would even obey such a command.
First things first, I picked up the dead body and headed towards my party members.
As soon as she saw me, Sooah started running towards me with a handkerchief in hand. She then proceeded to wipe my face.
Seeing it come off with black blood stains, it seemed the dead guy’s blood had splattered onto my face without my realizing it.
“I thought I was going to die from shock.”
“It’s your fault for forgetting about my new skill.”
“Who the hell would remember all of the things you can do? And even if I did remember it, there isn’t anyone on earth who wouldn’t have been shocked by what happened.”
“I guess, I can’t say I wasn’t surprised a bit myself.”
Sooah said loudly as she nodded her head. Everyone else in the party looked equally upset….while Park Hanbum and Sohn Aram who didn’t know anything about my skill looked even more so.
“But what happened to him?”
“He’s dead. Suicide.”
Han Joonseok had a very uncomfortable expression on his face when I said it was suicide.
I turned into the direction of Wang Ze Ming, who was still tied up tightly, and asked.
“Do you have a poison ampoule in your mouth too?”
“Yeah right. What if I accidentally bit down? Then what? There isn’t anyone among us crazy enough to do something like that.”
“There’s one right here. Hello.”
I pointed at the dead body on the side. Wang Ze Ming just shook his head.
“What kind of a hunter would put an order above his own life? I wouldn’t. And I know that none of the people I came here with would do the same.”
“So that’s why you had no qualms over ratting out your comrades?”
“They would have done the same.”
His face turned a bright red. I’m sure he was ashamed of sharing this.
“Anyway. Enough with the chitchat. Do you know where this guy might be from? If what you’re saying is true, he’s not one of you….then who is he?”
“I’ve never seen his face in my life. But there are some hunters among us who are a bit off. Actually, now that I think about it, there are quite a bit of them.”
Wang Ze Ming looked at the corpse as he spoke. The dead don’t speak. But I can try to get some clues from his body.
Unlike other hunters, his clothing was relatively clean, he had well groomed hair, and he was in great physical shape.
This was very telling. Because hunters who rely on their skills and equipment don’t take the time to train their bodies there’s no need.
Why? Because no matter how much they trained, most hunters believed that it would fall short of what an item is able to do. Aside from my effort skill, I wouldn’t say this was untrue.
For this reason, there were very few hunters who had well developed bodies like this.
On closer inspection, I could tell that he had trained for quite a long time.
I wondered if the Chinese government had sent in soldiers like this to hide among hunters and do what they couldn’t.
“What if he was a hunter who is part of the National Security Agency?”
“National Security Agency?”
“They don’t have something like that in Korea? You knowlike a covert group?”
“Ah, something like NIS (National Intelligence Service)?”
“I heard rumors that there were a lot of people recruited for something like thatbut I can’t be sure.”
“So then that’s one possibility, I guess.”
I don’t know just how much of Wang Ze Ming’s words I should believe. But I also don’t see why he would lie about something like this. Since he could have just said he didn’t know a thing.
“What are you guys talking about?”
Sooah walked closer to us and asked.
“He said that it might be someone part of a covert group sent by the National Security Agencysomething similar to NIS in our country. Since they can’t just send in their military troops. I think they might have sent in some nameless soldiers who will be able to move independently. If that’s the case, it explains his skills as a sniper. Above all, he had excellent marksmanship.”
It was a distance of about 50 meters from where he was hiding in the trees and where I had been shot. It wasn’t that far, but what made it impressive was the fact that he was able to shoot accurately even with branches and foliage in the way. The branches were not still either. They swayed with the wind, making the shot even more difficult.
“Isn’t that a big problem? It could incite national conflict.”
Lieutenant Aram’s face became pale.
“I mean, the national conflict had already begun way before this. Naive.”
Manager Kim smirked. I agreed with him.
If they sent in hunters in this way, that meant they were already braced for an all out war.
“But there’s still something I don’t get.”
Han Joonseok, who had been silent in thought this whole time, spoke up. Feeling my stare, he said towards me.
“What are they trying to gain by doing something like this? The three countries in East Asia had been maintaining a friendly relationship this whole time. So why now? It was the first time since the monsters first appeared that things have been so strained.”
“Well there was the whole North Korea situation too.”
As soon as Mr. Kim said this, Han Joonseok shook his head.
“That was something that we expected to happen. Of course some of us might still be upset of what happens, but since China absorbed North Korea when they kept threatening us with Nuclear bombsyou can’t be too mad.”
Honestly, China absorbed North Korea very easily. But you were to ask me if it benefited them in any way..I’d have to say no.
It was an incredibly small land and everyone on that last was pretty much in poverty.
“Could it be that they are just greedy for land? Isn’t there a saying about how it’s the people who have that always want more?”
Park Hanbum asked.
“I guess you can think like that but….it still doesn’t quite do it for me. I keep thinking that there was a reason they had to pretend to be congenial with our country while they invaded our part of the new land.”
He had something there. Something about this whole thing made me uneasy. Why did they need to invade the new land from behind?
And why did they need to send over 3000 hunters to do the job?
At first I thought they came to check out our hunters on our side, but if the NIS was sending men in as wellthe reason must be more serious.
I put all the clues to the forefront of my mind and thought.
“What is it that China wants at this very moment.”
Everyone considered this and started thinking. Sooah was the first to break the silence.
“Well, I’m in the same boat. Not that. Something more specific.”
“Chet….who on earth doesn’t want more money?”
Yeonkyoung said quietly. Speaking up after being silent the whole time….that wasn’t a bad guess.
I nodded my head and said.
“China has wanted to increase their influence. But since they didn’t want to be in a physical qar, they used another method to achieve this by boosting their economic status. And the reason they were able to do that…”
I went speechless for just a moment. I felt as if I almost had it.
Han Joonseok responded with a sigh.
“Booming food production.”
“There was a recent story about how there was a sharp decline in China’s food production.”
As if she suddenly remembered something, Sohn Aram quickly intervened. It was something I had heard before too.
And I was directly involved.
“China had used the land around dungeon, which allows plants to grow quickly, to produce and harvest many crops. They began to establish cooperative farms around the dungeon and stationed several hunters there to promote safety. But when the level 1 and level 2 dungeons disappeared, things went south.”
“What does that have to do with any of this?”
Asked a frustrated Manager Kim.
That’s what I wanted to know. This was all speculation.
If we wanted to know more, we needed to do some more investigating.