Chapter 2: Awakening

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“I think Jiwoo got hit the hardest.
How much did you lose?” One of his colleagues asked.

“16 m-million won if I withhold my allowances.” Jiwoo stuttered as he answered.

“No, you can’t do that.
Do you think our company will take responsibility? They already dipped from this place.”

“I can’t claim my allowances then?” Jiwoo asked.

“No.
When our contract was novated earlier this year, there was a clause on that.”

Jiwoo couldn’t pay attention to what was being explained to him.
While others around him also lost money, their burden was only 2 or 3 million won.
They must feel relieved if they were to compare their situation with Jiwoo’s.

“There has to be a way to get compensated.
Why don’t we file a group litigation?” Jiwoo asked.

“You’ll be taking on more than you can handle.¹ That’s why that manager bastard did it.
Since this is money we can live without whether we have it or not.
He must’ve thought we’d give up easily if he roughly set the bar around that amount.”

Whether they had it or not? No, that wasn’t the case for Jiwoo.
For him, this was money he couldn’t live without.
On top of that, the burden Jiwoo had to shoulder was immensely larger than others.

“That motherfucker!”

Jiwoo will never forgive the manager.

***

“You want coffee, right? Americano?” Yongha asked.

Shin Yongha was an old friend of Jiwoo’s.
Truth be told, Jiwoo doesn’t hold that many memories of Yongha.
His friend seemed to think that they were alumnis from the same middle school.
In reality, they weren’t.

When Jiwoo was in college, he met a friend who was close to Yongha.
One day, the three of them somehow hung out together.
Since then, Yongha and Jiwoo have gotten along well.
This is the reason why the two of them were not friends from middle school nor did they attend the same college.
They were unconsciously distorting their past to their own convenience.

“Yeah.
Wait no, milk tea.”

Yongha went to place an order without saying a word.
He knew Jiwoo got fired.
No, that’s not exactly correct; his company scammed him before running off.
Seeing his friend wallow in misery and hole himself up in his house, Yongha forced Jiwoo out to a meal.

“Cheer up.
How long are you going to stay like this? If you keep searching, you’ll find plenty of jobs out there.” Yongha reasoned with him after returning to his seat.

Jiwoo knew his friend wanted to comfort him, but that didn’t mean he could suddenly feel better.
Jiwoo just felt uncomfortable there as did Yongha.

There were no customers in the small coffee shop except for them.

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“Can I turn on the TV?” Yongha asked the boss, unable to stand the awkward silence.

“Yes, go ahead.” The boss made a gesture, showing he didn’t mind at all.

On TV, a reporter was broadcasting in front of a swamp.

“It’s the documentary on extreme jobs, ‘Hunter’s World.’” Yongha acted as he watched the show before.

“Is that live?” Jiwoo asked.

“No, it’s not a live broadcast.” Whether he’s an avid viewer or not, Yongha seemed to know quite a lot about the program.

The reporter explained the details of the swamp while talking to the camera.

“This swamp is a 5th Class swamp.
Ten raiders have entered inside to exterminate the monsters.
Many of you are probably curious as to how much Hunters earn.
Today, I will answer all of your questions.”

“Oh, that sounds fun.” Interested in the topic, Yongha spun his chair around to face the TV.

“Hunters participating in raids are divided into Tankers, Melee Fighters, and Long-distance Dealers.
If you hunt monsters and receive 100 million won before taxes, Tankers will approximately get 30 million won, Melee Fighters 10 million, and Long-distance Dealers 7 million won each.
Even if you take out 40% of the tax, it is no small amount.”

“Wow, Long-distance Dealers get 7 million won.” Yongha repeated in envy.

“That’s before taxes.
Including tax, it’ll be around 4.2 million.” Jiwoo responded with a tone indicating he should calculate properly and move on from the subject.

“But you make that much money from doing one raid.
How much would they earn in a month if they hit the 5th Class swamps every day except for weekends?”

“I don’t want to do the math.”

“Give it a try.
If you run them for 25 days straight, won’t that come out to 150 million won after taxes?”

“I don’t want to calculate someone else’s salary.” Jiwoo spoke just as indifferently as before.

“I can’t believe they earn over 100 million won a month.” Yongha said in awe, astounded by the amount Long-distance Dealers were making.

“25 days for an entire month? It’s not like they’re crazy about money.
Is it even possible to run raids like that without taking any rest?” Jiwoo questioned.

“You should earn it while you can.
What’s the point of taking breaks? If I were a Hunter, I wouldn’t rest and run them 24/7.
I’ll be a Hunter 365 days a year! I’ll hop around swamps several times a day.
When I make money, I’ll buy and collect all the supercars.
Oh, but before that, I’ll need to buy a house with a garage first.
It can’t just be any house though; it has to have a huge garage.
How much would that type of house cost? Well, it’s not like I’ll lose anything by talking about it.
I’ll buy a resort down by the beach while I’m at it.
On my days off, I’d throw some women into the mix to have fun with.”

“You said you wouldn’t rest and run raids 24/7.”

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“Oh, that won’t work.
I’ll need to take some breaks.” Yongha immediately switched what he said after realizing setbacks in his unrealistic plan.

“How long is it going to take you to collect all the supercars while you take it slow like that?”

“You have a point.
Ah! I could just become a Tanker.”

“Yeah.
That would work.” Jiwoo retorted.

“Ugh, this blows.
Why didn’t I become a Hunter?” Yongha and Jiwoo both looked disappointed.
It was a lie to say they weren’t jealous.

While they were off spouting nonsense, the Hunters that finished the raid were exiting the swamp.
The reporter shoved their microphone at the Hunter who appeared to be a Tanker.

The Hunter’s armor shined under the light.
He was equipped with gears made from a monster’s hide.
Underneath the armor, he had a chained shirt on, which had been woven with special materials.
He wore gauntlets that covered up to his elbow and arm and shin protectors too.
The helmet he had on was enveloped with barbed wires.

The other Hunters, who had their stuffy helmets on till now, started taking them off.
Their sweat-soaked hairs stuck onto their foreheads.

Jiwoo could imagine how intense the raid was.
It was obvious seeing how exhausted they were.

“Are monsters strong?” Yong Ha questioned.

“You’re not asking me, are you?” Jiwoo laughed at the foolish question posed to him.

“You’re the Captain of this raid, right? Were you on your way out of the swamp? Have you finished the raid?” The reporter approached the Hunter and asked.

The camera captured the armor the Captain wore.
Naturally, it was focused on as it appeared on the screen.

“That’s made from a monster’s skin, right?” Yongha asked.

“Probably, yeah.”

Behind the Captain, the rest of the participating raid members were seen to be coming closer.

“An armor like that could easily cost over 100 million won.” Yong Ha said.

“I heard it would cost a few billion if you equip proper weapons too.
It’s ridiculous.” Jiwoo also made an input based on what he knew.

“What’s the point of making fortunes when there’s so many expenses?” Jiwoo nodded his head fervently at what Yongha said.

After it was revealed that Rupstones could be forged together with equipment and weapons to enhance their performances, other related goods were developed from the ores as well.
As a result, the price of the Hunter’s gears soared through the roof.

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“How was today’s raid? Didn’t it take longer than expected?” The Raid Captain wore a complicated expression when the reporter questioned him.

“I apologize, one of the Hunters got hurt during the raid.
Although it’s a minor injury, I’ll have to bring them to the hospital for treatment.
I’m sorry, I’m unable to do an interview.”

The reporter’s nerves could be seen in response to the Captain’s words.
Seeing how they couldn’t hold back an injured person, the reporter quickly made way for the Hunters to pass.
The camera captured the assault squad departing after a successful raid.
The reporter looked embarrassed for a moment, but smiled for the camera.

“The 5th Class Rupstones found from the monsters came out to be 100 million won.
Furthermore, the additional price of the corpses are 10 million won each.”

Yongha gushed in excitement from this piece of information.
The explanation, which followed afterwards, went into the details of the costs.

The prices of the monster’s corpse were as follows:

Class 5 – 10 million won.
Class 4 – 30 million won.
Class 3 – 100 million won.
Class 2 – 300 million won.
Class 1 – ???

Since no one has successfully completed a raid at a 1st Class swamp before, a price has not been set.

“Then that’s not all they earn? When they say 100 million won, that’s how much the Hunters will share with the rest of the members.
Even though the Rupstone itself is 100 mil, if you throw in the corpses, you’ll make much more.” Yong Ha looked quite shocked.

Jiwoo always knew Hunters made a lot of money, but it didn’t feel good to learn the gap was larger than he expected.

“In the end, isn’t it pointless when 10 people divy it up? There’s not much left for Long-distance Dealers.” Jiwoo said after doing the rough calculation.

“But if you do raids 25 times in a month, simply selling the corpses and splitting the share would pay much more than most office workers’ annual salaries.” Yongha wracked his brain hard by calculating this in his mind.

Since they both weren’t the type to sit down and drink for a long time, they downed their beverages at once and watched the TV absentmindedly.
Here and there, Yongha would bring up what he would do with his house if he earned as much as Hunters did.

At that moment, Jiwoo’s smartphone, placed on top of the table, buzzed loudly.

“Oh, it’s In-Ah.” Jiwoo’s voice trembled.

His girlfriend, In-Ah, had not contacted him for several days.
Jiwoo had rarely contacted her either after he had lost his job.
Their relationship had become so estranged that he wondered if they were still dating.
But now, she’s calling him out of the blue.

“Hurry up and answer it.” Yong Ha said, smiling at Jiwoo nod.
It was a very vague smile; a pitiful expression that said, “Your life sure is difficult.”

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“Hey, In-Ah.” Jiwoo answered the phone, pretending to be cheerful.

“Where are you? Can we meet up right now?” In-ah sounded pretty bright herself.

“Huh, now? I’m with…” He was about to say he was with a friend, but Yongha got up, waving his hand.

“No, no.
What are two guys, sitting here depressed, going to do together? I’ve seen your face plenty so go meet up with your girlfriend.
I’m heading home to rest.
I have to go back to work again tomorrow.”

“Really? Is that okay?” Jiwoo quietly asked.

“It’s fine.
It’s fine.
Don’t worry about it.
Let’s go now.” Yongha rushed him to finish his call first.

“Hello? Um.
Where should we meet? The mall? Alright.”

After exchanging a few more words, Jiwoo hung up.
Yongha saw his friend look quite uncomfortable.

“What’s up?”

“In two days, it’ll be 150 days since we’ve started dating.
But she said she’s going on a trip with her family that day.
So she wanted to meet with me today.”

“How can she do that? It’ll pass by uneventfully if you guys don’t meet on the date of the anniversary.
Is she planning to give you a present in advance?” Yongha asked.

“Then, is that what she wanted to talk about?”

“Nevermind.
I take it back.
I don’t want to make a close couple fight for no reason because of what I said.
I’ll be on my way, Jiwoo.
Have a great time with your sweetheart.”

Yongha didn’t like In-Ah.
Although he never said it outloud personally, he seemed to view her as a typical gold digger².
It didn’t matter to Jiwoo when he made a steady income, but on that day, he paid special attention to her attitude.

“Let’s go together.
We’re heading in the same direction anyway.”

“Alright.
I’ll be smoking outside.
Take your time.” Yongha left first.
When Jiwoo went to the counter to pay, he was told the tab had already been taken care of.
He was grateful for the small and thoughtful things his friend did for him.

As he left, he turned back to see the TV.
Other Hunters were re-entering the swamp to transport the monsters’ dead bodies.

“I used to be curious about their work too.
It’s a bummer.” Jiwoo left the coffee shop feeling regretful.

 

¹ This is a Korean proverb.
The direct translation is, “The belly button is bigger than the belly.” The meaning behind this is that the costs or responsibilities one assumes exceed what one can actually take on.
In this example, filing a group lawsuit (the belly button) will cost more than winning the case itself (the belly).
It is precisely because the entire lawsuit process is expensive and time-consuming; it might not be worth filing at all when you take into account court filing fees, service fees, attorney fees, summons, etc.

² This is a derogatory word that directly translates to “Kimchi girl.” It’s a misogynistic slang aimed towards females.
They refer to women who bask in luxuries.
Although they make decent money themselves, they leech off men.
They look down on their male partners, making them feel financially inferior to them.

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