ETH – Ch 76

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I pulled out the Toyul Hammer and held it up.

“Did, did I say something wrong?”

“Ah, it’s not that. I just wanted to smash some trees right now.”

I pointed to the tree that Han Joonseok had burned up during our battle.

“Oh my, did you get scared Manager Kim?”

“Scared, who me?”

“Everyone can tell you got scared just now.”

“Shut it, you wench.”

“Ohhh…wench….you. Old. man. Should I give you a shoulder massage? I know I haven’t given you one in a long time.”

“I take it back! I take it back. AHhhhhhaahk! I said I take it bacck!”

Slam!

The burned up tree that had been barely clinging on fell down in a heap of ash and splinters.

Sooah carefully walked up to it. Checking behind her, I saw Manager Kim mewling as he gingerly touched his shoulders.

It might seem like painful retribution, but her massages were actually very good at loosening up knots and muscles. There was a reason Manager Kim allowed her to perform her massages even though he was vocally against it.

“But what are you doing right now?”

“I’m checking for something…if what we’re thinking is really right or not. Let’s just wait one hour.”

The plants that grew immediately even after we cut them down time and time again in the Baeksapyoung Dungeon…I wanted to see if the same thing would happen here in the forest.

If I could just confirm this, then that would support our theory about China.

“I’m starting to get a bit scared….is it okay for us to get involved in something like this?”

“It’s fine isn’t it? Didn’t you want to do this? Become a hunter…and a famous one at that?”

“I mean…yeah. But this would mean our opponents would be an entire country instead of just monsters…”

Kyyyyaaaa!

Suddenly we heard a monster’s cry coming from a distance. A red glow bled into the western sky as the sun began to set.

And I spied the small plant that began to grow from the very spot I had hacked down the burned up tree.

I checked the time. It had only been 50 minutes since the first tree had fallen. If I were to count the time since Han Joonseok had actually killed the tree by burning it…it would have been approximately one hour.

“If a new plant is growing after just an hour…that’s pretty fast.”

“It’s definitely not normal.”

“Since we confirmed what we wanted to confirm, we should head back.”

Sooah tied up Wang Ze Ming in a cocoon of webs and tied him to the back of the ATV.

He did end up being dragged on the ground behind the vehicle during our ride, but since he was safe inside the cocoon…he should be safe from harm – other than the occasional turbulence. We were able to collect two ores from the two dead bodies.

I put them both into the manual and headed towards the truck.

“Shit.”

The truck was gone. I cursed a bit before walking to where the truck and Ezekiel’s truck should have been.

“What should we do now?”

Han Joonseok asked. Though he was asking me, it was obvious from his tone that he didn’t want to just turn back to the city.

And, shit. I didn’t want to leave now either.

“Inside the truck….are all the items that would have dropped from the dead bodies. We can’t just let them have it like that.”

“Ah, you’re right. All of them added up will be quite a big loss.”

We had collected 15 corpses onto the truck. Since we were in a hurry, we weren’t even able to check if they were evaporating or not…but there should have been at least 2-3 items.

No way we were going to let them have that.

More than that though, the items that would have dropped would have been from the new system. Even if those items were low level items, I can’t let new system items fall into anyone else’s hands.

“Let’s follow the trail.”

I released Kelby and had him follow the trail ahead of us. He would be able to track them better. But more than that, he would be able to alert us of any dangers faster than any human.

It was nice that he had the senses of a dog – it came in very handy.

So then we rode our ATVs and started out tracking our missing truck. We did see some monsters on the way, but we just ignored them.

We did kill the ones who decided to chase after us, but there were far more monsters who let us be.

It was only after continuing on our trail in this way for about 30 minutes that we finally spied some makeshift shelters built high in the treetops.

It looked like something straight out of a children’s’ book.

“What in the world…”

Was the only words that slipped out of Sooah’s mouth. The houses were built about 10 meters apart from one another in the treetops.

“Do you think there are elves in there?”

“Elves…I don’t think so.”

Elves are monsters that look very similar to humans aside from their large ears and pale skin.They are usually extremely thin, which is probably one of the reasons why they are able to move so quickly from tree to tree.

Another characteristic of the elves was that they had red eyes.

Since they lacked melanin, they preferred living in dark places like the woods or caves.

Though they didn’t die immediately from exposure to sunlight like vampires do, but too much sun did impact their health in the long run so you wouldn’t expect them to wander around in the daylight.

“But there aren’t any monsters besides elves that would build shelter in the trees.”

“That’s true…but it doesn’t look like something made by elves.”

The houses looked too makeshift to be the works of elves. I’ve never seen elven homes look anything as roughly made as that.

I would believe it if I were told that orks had made them. But orks do not build houses in this manner – instead they live in tents made of animal skin.

“You’re right. Elves wouldn’t have made their homes like that.”

Han Joonseok nodded his head in agreement.

Stories about elves are usually spun in a more positive light because, unlike orks and goblins, they more closely resemble humankind.

Of course, in reality, they are not blindingly beautiful and charming as they are portrayed in the movies.

If you were to see them in real life, it would feel as if you were only watching mannequins made out of wood in motion.

This was because you do not feel the different emotions and feelings you get from humans from these elves.

It was true that elves resembled humans the most out of all monsters, but that was where the similarities ended. They were still monsters, and they considered us their enemies – their prey.

They moved without making any noise so they were a real danger you had to watch out for in forests.

“Then what are they? Why are there houses high up in the…”

“This is what I think. That they weren’t initially built in the trees.”

Sooah made an even more confused face at what I said.

“There isn’t anywhere in the forest with an open area big enough to build a house. So they probably cut down a bunch of trees and built some houses on top of the new space. But since plants here grow extremely quickly…doesn’t it make sense that the trees probably started growing under the new houses?”

“Wow….that sounds improbable…but seeing it myself…I can’t say it’s impossible.”
Sooah muttered as she stared at one house that had a tree running straight through the middle of it. That very house was the reason I came to that conclusion.

“The trees below the houses definitely look like they didn’t grow properly. If they have built the houses on top of the trees initially, they would not look like that. Anyway, wouldn’t that mean those houses were built by humans then? So does that mean they were built by the Chinese hunters?”

“That’s what I think.”

Cho Youngoo murmured as Han Joonseok nodded his head.

“But I don’t see anyone.”

“Do you really think that hunters would remain in their homes in the light of day? They’re probably all out hunting or…”

“Since the Ezekiel guys were headed in this direction, they’re probably fighting it out somewhere nearby.”

Everyone nodded at my words. Anyway, this was our chance.

There were over a hundred houses that we could see.

Even if I said they were all out hunting, there was still a possibility of some hunters staying behind out of all those houses.

If there was anyone still here, we needed to be prepared to battle it out with them.

“I don’t see our truck.”

While we were all distracted by the houses in the treetops, Park Hanbum spoke up with the very reason we were here in the first place.

The trail looped around this area and continue ahead.

I pondered for a moment.

Should we spend some time here to look through all of the houses for something useful. Or do we chase after our truck first.

It didn’t take long for me to decide.

“This is a great opportunity for us to snoop through all the houses here. We could always chase after the truck after we do our search here.”

“Hopefully there isn’t anyone left behind.”

“If there are any, let’s make sure we get rid of them. Our target is the largest house you see over there. If they have anyone important or really useful, I’m sure they would have stored it there.”

I pointed at the large and beautiful tree that was over 30 meters tall. As large as the house was, the tree beneath it (which was used to built the house) was just as large.

The house looked highly unstable, but seeing that it didn’t shake a bit from the large winds that blew against it…it was safer than it seemed.

“Kelby, if you spy anybody other than us..make sure to bark loudly so we can here. Got it?”

Yeonkyoung cooed at Kelby as she held him close to her.

Nod nod.

Smart dog. Instead of barking, he had nodded his head to show that he understood. Everytime he did something like this, it stirred a weird feeling in me because it just seemed so human.

So we let Kelby run free through the forest ahead of us. Since he was a dog, even if someone spotted him first, it probably wouldn’t alarm them.

After we let him go, we started on our way as well. Rather than moving separately here, it was better for us to move as a group.

This was because if some trouble appeared, we would be better equipped to fight than if we moved independently.

***

“No one is here.”

It seemed that climbing up to the houses in the trees was generally done so by using fringed ropes that hung down.

Since I was physically superior in the group, I climbed up the rope to do the checking. There was definitely evidence of people living there.

It was almost as if I could still feel their energy here.

But there wasn’t a hide or hair to be seen.

Just from a glance, it was evident that there were probably about 2-300 people living in all the houses. But the fact that there was not even one person here meant that there was something going on.

“There is a high chance that they are somewhere nearby engaging in an all out battle with the Ezekiel guys.”

“But it could also be something else entirely. We can’t rule anything out.”

I added at Han Joonseok’s speculation. This was the new land…anything could happen.

“Do you mean an irregular?”

“Yes, I’m sure there will be an irregular lurking around somewhere here too.”

“But do you really think several hundred hunters will mobilize because of just one irregular?”

“…hm…I guess not.”

He was right. No matter what kind of irregular it was, it would probably be a level 4-5 maximum. They wouldn’t need several hundred hunters to take care of one irregular like that.

“For now, let’s move over there.”

I pointed to the large house. It was sitting atop a very large baeksong tree.

Though this type of tree normally doesn’t grow taller than 5 meters, for some reason this particular tree was over 30 meters tall.

And because the house was probably built from that same tree, it was a white color – the same shade as the bark of the baeksong tree.

“Sh.”

I detected a small movement just now.

I sent Kelby up Baeksong tree from behind while I had everyone else hide in nearby trees.

I looked to Han Joonseok and asked.

“Do you see anything?”

Han Joonseok had the Optical Ruby Ring which enhances vision by 30% so he squinted his eyes as he looked toward the white building.

There were a lot of branches and leaves in the way, so it was hard for me to see anything.

“It looks like….a person. But I really can’t be sure.”

I nodded my head.

I did think it was strange that there was nobody here, but it seems they had left at least one person behind. Which was good for us.

Now we had someone who could give us some information on what was going on.

“Krrawr!”

Kelby barked loudly from above.

Were we seen? Or was something wrong?

“Yaaaaa!”

Just when I thought I heard something, someone fell from out of a tree about 30 meters high to the ground.

Slam!

Crack!

“Hm…”

Just from the sound of it, it was obvious that was instant death for the unlucky guys. It seemed that the enemy who had discovered Kelby decided to attack. Unfortunate for him.

But I guess anyone would find it strange that a dog was so high up in the trees in the middle of nowhere.

“Hm? That guy is holding a bunch of stuff.”

Cho Youngoo said as he poked at the dead body. His neck was twisted at a weird angle and the blood dripping from his mouth was not a pretty sight, but I picked up the leader bag he had on him.

It looked like briefcase. When I opened it, there were two books inside.

Though the writing was in simplified Chinese, it looked like one of them contained data.

There were over 200 names and data for each person written inside.

Next to each name was also age, address and something else drawn next to it.

It looked like numbers…maybe marks earned in the forest for something?

My best guess was that each mark represented a monster they had hunted in the forest.

I wondered why they would do something so arcane…until I considered how they were in an area with no electricity or power. This made sense.

They didn’t have a city like us for us to return to, so they could only rely on more primitive ways to record things like that.

“Lieutenant Aram?”

“Yes?”

“I think you can take this. I’m sure the higher ups would like it.”

This was concrete proof that tied the Chinese hunters to the invasion of the forested area.

“This is…”

“Record kept by the hunters who were stationed here. It contains names, age, and their address…It even has record of all their earnings so I’m sure it will be a big headache for them if this disappears.”

What I was most interested in though was the second book. In simplified Chinese, the cover stated “Equipment List”.

I opened it up.

“This is……we hit a goldmine….”

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