‘Why do my ears itch so much?’
Standing in front of the stove, boiling haejang-guk, Ui-jae rubbed his ears in frustration.
For some reason, the Pado Guild, led by Bae Won-woo and Lee Sa-young, hadn’t come for lunch today, so the haejang-guk was just as crowded as before. Bright smiles appeared on the faces of the hunters for the first time in a while. Ui-jae had also forgotten about the heartbreaking failure of the Tomato Market and was enjoying a relatively carefree day. But…
“Did you see that post on the hunter net yesterday?”
A small whisper from a young hunter started a buzz in the shop.
“Yeah, I heard there was a lunatic in the Tomato Market who posted eight thousand A+ gems for sale, causing a guild uproar.”
The word ‘lunatic’ slammed into his ears.
The other hunter, who looked uncomfortable, but couldn’t possibly have known that, expertly separated the meat from the bones and replied.
“Isn’t that a fishing post? Maybe it’s a picture from the internet.”
“Hey, Hong Ye-sung is offering a free weapon to anyone who can find the person.”
“Yep. Take a look at Hong Ye-sung’s inheart.”
“Wow, shit. It’s real. Hey, find him.”
The hand holding the tongs to slightly shift the position of the stove paused. He’d been paying attention to the hunter world lately, and he’d picked up the three letters of Hong Ye-sung’s name and the fact that he was an S-rank producer. The hunters who came to Haejang-guk house wanted to buy his equipment.
But Hong Ye-sung had a bounty on his head? …Why?
Before he could collect his thoughts, the hunters’ conversation continued.
“Ace, I should’ve bought that. How many billions is it worth to buy it for eight grand and sell it back?”
“I download Tomato Market as soon as I saw that.”
“I wish EZ would post one more post, please.”
“But he deleted it, and it looks like he quit.”
“They are making fun of people? They give and take away, Tell them to rejoin right now.”
“I’m going to the Noryangjin Fish Market today and I’m going to ask mackerel.”
“Can a mackerel find it?”
“If he can’t find it, I’ll give you my spot as Korea’s top intelligence officer.”
[Trait Poker Face (B) is activated]
It had gotten to the point where traits were activating on their own, taking over from his overloaded brain. Ui-jae calmly tossed a handful of spring onions into the boiling pot of water. However, his mind was still spinning. That mana stone was worth… how many billions?
‘I used to play with the mana stones in the old days, they were useless!’
Of course, that was something only J would do, but it was none of Cha Ui-aje’s business.
“But who really put it up for sale?”
“Judging by the price, it’s probably just a regular guy who picked up a mana stone on the street.”
“Fuck, if you can pick up an A+ grade gemstone on the road, you can beat me to the hunter and walk 100,000 steps a day.”
My mana stones… So my mana stones are higher grade than I thought? Eavesdropping on the hunters’ conversation, Ui-jae realized something he had overlooked.
J’s possessions were valuable items that the average hunter would never have seen.
Eight years. In that time, less than two years before the mountain was completely transformed, the world had changed in other ways from the day of the Rift. One of the biggest changes was the value of mana stones, almost like trash turned to gold. There were only two uses for mana stones in those days.
First, as collectibles for the rich.
Second, the trophies of hunters.
Whereas mana stones were once only for the truly wealthy, good mana stones now came with a price.
This was largely due to research showing that, unlike conventional energy sources such as coal and oil, mana stones could be extracted efficiently without damaging the environment. In the past, F-rank mana stones that would have been thrown away inside the gate were now worth at least 100,000 won each.
In fact, Ui-jae when he was active as a J, he never traded dungeon by-products himself. Because he was hiding his identity, his aunt took care of all the trading of dungeon items, and since there were no hunter markets or artisans, it was rare for him to buy equipment with money.
With a story like this, it’s not surprising that he didn’t know the price of mana stones.
The government paid hunters for every rift and dungeon they entered, but J didn’t do much with the money. He’d buy the occasional potion, but more for himself than for survivors in need of first aid in the rift.
And today, these traces of him had become a giant snowball, hurtling furiously towards the house.
‘This much gossip for a single misplaced item?’
Ui-jae was genuinely dumbfounded. He wished everyone would just stop and let him live his quiet life, but the hunter community was tighter than he thought, news travelled fast and moved very organically, and the Haejang-guk house was a great place to gather and spread information.
“Haejang-guk is good….”
“In this neighbourhood….”
“What kind of crazy….”
“I want to buy a Michelin-flavored haejang-guk…”
The rumours about the mysterious stone were still ongoing. Although there were some untruths mixed in.
“Uncle, your face is strange.”
“My face? Why?”
”A little… like this.”
Ha-eun pushed her chin up with both hands. Does that mean my jaw is a little sharp? Ui-jae rubbed his jawbone unnecessarily and laughed.
“It’s just because I haven’t slept much lately. It’s okay.”
“Uncle never sleeps.”
“So it’s the same as usual. I’m just a little tired. Ha-eun, do you have anything for your class?”
“For tomorrow… Cardboard and clay.”
“I see you have an art class.”
“Yes, I’m going to make pottery with clay, just like Hong Ye-sung.”
Shit. At the name that came out of nowhere, Ui-jae almost bit his tongue for a moment.
After hearing that Hong Ye-sung had put a bounty on the gemstone, Ui-jae was the first to follow Hong Ye-sung’s account on Inktagram. Knowing what this crazy bastard-who was a different kind of crazy bastard from Sa-young -was doing would make it easier to deal with him.
Hong Ye-sung didn’t usually post often, but since the mana stone incident, he’d been posting at least once a day, and today, along with a photo of an egg lying in a nest in a chicken coop, he wrote: ‘I’m sorry to hear about your loss.’
xxYeahsungH golden round mana stone…… #daily #communication #egg #manastone #magic #miss #missyou #waitingforyou
Honeybeezx Shouldn’t we send this guy to counselling? I think he’s been hit by some kind of mental pollution or something @jung Vin80 @SEOWON_GUILD
Ui-jae strongly agreed with Honeybee’s opinion. Even in his eyes, Hong Ye-sung seemed to have lost his mind. Hunters nowadays had some kind of fucked up brain structure.
After placing the rabbit-shaped apple in front of Ha-eun, Ui-jae grabbed two spring onions and a chopping board and sat down at the next table. Worried that he hadn’t been able to visit the grandmother lately due to the busyness of the shop, he nudged Ha-eun.
“How’s your grandma’s leg?”
“Well, it’s limp.”
“Okay…. I’ll have to take her to the hospital.”
“Do you need to operate on my grandma?”
“That’s for the doctor to say.”
“…I hope she doesn’t need surgery.”
Ha-eun clenched her jaw and made a grunting, painful sound. Ui-jae was tempted to make the same sound, but instead used a leek.
Even after the tomato market mana stone, the situation was more or less settled, Haejang-guk house was still buzzing about mana stones for a while. The only time it seemed to calm down was when Hong Ye-sung would add firewood to the inferno, over and over again.
The influence of the only S-rank producer was very powerful. If Le Sa-young was causing a typhoon in Haejang-guk house, Hong Ye-sung was causing an earthquake all the way from Jishan to here, and the aftermath of the earthquake would spread far and wide…
Another S-rank was invited to the Haejang-guk house.
“This place has a nice atmosphere.”
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. The same tone he heard in the public service announcement after the drama this morning.
Ui-jae deliberately turned his head slower than usual. It was an instinctive escape from reality, but it only took his mind elsewhere for about three seconds, and then brought it back, and it didn’t make the handsome man in the doorway go away.
He’s tall, with wheat-coloured hair, slightly droopy eyes, a neat suit, and a civil service ID around his neck. The man who always wears a gentle smile is Jung-bin, who has mastered the art of public service advertising in Korea.
Why are you… why are you here?
For a moment, Ui-jae wondered if he’d turned himself in to the Awakening Management Bureau. When he made eye contact with her, he bowed politely.
“…Welcome. Are you alone?”
It’s okay, Jung-bin doesn’t know the real Ui-jae, he only knows the masked J. Ui-jae composed himself and stood up.
[Trait Poker Face (B) is activated]
“Yes, I’m alone.”
”Have a seat here. You can order from the menu on the wall.”
Jung-bin meekly took the seat Ui-jae had designated and studied the menu on the wall. The hunters sitting around him began to chatter.
“Did anyone do something to get caught? What kind of guy is he? Turn yourself in quickly.”
“Oh, I’m not here to enforce the law. I’m here for dinner. I’m in the neighbourhood on business.”
Jung-bin smiled wryly and held out his hand. But the hunters, who had already sat down near him in a daze, had their heads buried in their pots and were gulping down their seafood soup like it was water.
The behaviour was somehow familiar. Even from outside the sliding door, I could feel them poking around inside. At this point, Ui-jae could clearly see the future: soon, there would be a Jung-bin Zone after Lee Sa-young’s Zone.
In other words, the business is closed for the day.
There weren’t enough hunters from the guild, and now a government hunter was interfering with the business, so where do I report this? Ui-jae didn’t know why this kind of ordeal kept coming to the peaceful Haejang-guk house, and he wanted to grab someone and scream at them.
But before he had time to complain, a second wave of unwanted visitors rushed into the shop.
The footsteps were so quiet you could barely hear them. A fiery aura that stunned him, but he could feel it. A black figure moving closer and closer to the shop.
Everything pointed to only one person.