Auto Hunting - Chapter 30
Yoo-seong’s breathing was labored as he jogged around the park.
It had been several weeks after the hunting. His arms and ribs had naturally healed.
When he finished running, he did a final stretch and went to the drinking fountain. He then poured water on his neck.
“There you are,” someone said from behind him.
He turned to see two women in sportswear. They seemed to be students living in the residences nearby.
They looked so young; he felt awkward to be around them. He was sure they were freshmen.
“You’re a hunter, right?” one of the girls asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Wow!” the girls gushed.
It had been easy for them to guess. He had run around the park at tremendous speed for over an hour.
“Would you like this?” One of the girls offered a can of ionized beverage that seemed to have just been pulled from a vending machine.
The girls smiled at each other as Yoo-seong received it from them.
“Thank you,” he told them.
“Can I ask you something?” the first girl said.
“Of course,” Yoo-seong said with a smile, doing his best to keep a distance.
“Have you ever caught a monster yourself?”
“Yeah, what’s your ranking?” the other girl asked.
“Hey! Excuse me, I asked first,” the first girl said, becoming angry.
Yoo-seong waved his hand in the air.
“It’s only been three months since I received my license. I haven’t had that much experience yet.
Technically, it was true.
“Really?” the girls asked, frowning a bit. They were evidently disappointed.
It was a general perception that Hunters, who had just begun, were low rankers.
“Then… have you ever actually seen Park Kang-han?” the first girl asked.
“Yeah, I have,” he said.
“Wow!” the girls said together, covering their mouths.
“How does he look? Is he handsome? Tall?”
“He’s just normal,” Yoo-seong said.
“What do you mean ‘just normal’?” one of the girls said, frowning.
“He’s just plain. He looks like every other person,” Yoo-seong said.
It sounded harsh, but the girls were too caught up in the name of Park Kang-Han to notice.
Even the people who were around who had heard the name began to pay attention. Yoo-seong crumpled the can of beverage he had finished.
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“Thank you for the drink,” he said. With his head down, he left.
A month has passed since the hunt.
It was still too early for the things that had transpired to be forgotten, but it was enough time for things to calm down.
However, the name of Park Kang-Han refused to go down the drain.
Rather, it was even getting more popular. The reason for it was simple.
Yoon Kang-Cheol’s words in the newsroom months ago were still being re-broadcasted.
“Then, let’s watch the video again. This is the actual hunting footage from QR Corporation.”
The screen changed with the lady anchor’s prompt. It was a video of Team 1 on the site as they skillfully captured Shantigas pouring out of the rift.
However, that wasn’t the focus of the replay.
“Can you see him? That is Park Kang-han, the hunter who is running up the building wall with Shin Yoo-hee,” Yoon Kang-cheol said, pointing to the image.
The camera zoomed on the figure. In the subtitle, the man was marked as Park Kang-Han.
“Then, can it be said that this hunter, together with Shin Yoo-Hee, contributed greatly to blocking the rift?” The anchor asked.
“Of course,” Yoon Kang-cheol said.
“It is important to remember the Maruchan teams who gave their lives to stop the rift. But if it weren’t for Park Kang-han, closing the rift would have been much delayed. At the time, there were no hunters on the scene with the equipment and skills to access the rift.”
Although the Yoo-seong’s appearance was revealed without consent, his identity was concealed by his helmet, and so, it couldn’t be classified as defamation.
“Then the damage is…” The anchor began, but she was interrupted.
“The damage could have been much bigger. Although it does not appear in this video, according to Shin Yoo-hee, Park Kang-han’s contribution was even greater even inside the crack. He protected Shin Yoo-hee, who was charging the pulse breaker, till she finished,” Yoon said.
The figure of Yoo-seong and Shin Yoon-hee appeared on the screen at that point.
It was the scene where he threw a rope at a pole and used it as a bridge.
It was the footage that had trended for a long time on the internet.
“This is true,” the anchor said in admiration.
It looked like a scene from a movie.
“On the other hand, there are suspicions about Park Kang-han’s ranking.”
“What do you mean by suspicion?” Kang-cheol asked.
“While his personal history is not available, official records show that Park Kang-han moved from a silver seal to a platinum seal. Isn’t that a huge upgrade for a ranker?”
“How is that weird?” Kang-cheol asked the anchor to clarify.
“Do you know that he now places 19th on domestic rankings? It means that someone who had been among the Top 20 had dropped and that he surpassed other platinum hunters who were waiting to fill that position.”
She stopped there. She was careful of the fans of the hunter who had dropped. There was no precedent for what had happened.
“Well, everyone knows that the ranking is sometimes carried out with relativity,” Kang-cheol said in defense.
“The level of danger one faces during hunting, the number of people saved, and so on. Come on, everyone. Let’s think about it together. I want to ask those who file an objection. If it wasn’t for Park Kang-han, what would have happened to our friends and families?”
Yoon Kang-Cheol asked calmly.
The anchor seemed rattled for a second, but she regained her bearings.
“The death of a civilian is more severe than the death of a hundred hunters. If the closing of the rift has been delayed further…”
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“Well… In that case-“
Kang-cheol cut the anchor off again.
“Originally, I had refused Mr. Park from hunting in the area under division one.”
The anchor’s brows rose at that. Kang-cheol knew he had gotten her attention.
“Huh? Are you saying that Mr. Park Kang-han wasn’t assigned to the area under the crack?”
“Yes. According to the short-term contract he signed with us, Mr. Park Kang-han was supposed to assist the Number Two Operation Division hunters. However, he volunteered to go closer to the rift. Quite selfless if you ask me. It’s quite a shame, but there were even groups that requested to withdraw from the site. I won’t be disclosing their names, though.”
“Really?” The anchor asked, wide-eyed.
“It’s true! It’s shameful, but it’s true.”
“Even if you don’t reveal their names, this remark tells us we have a problem,” she said.
“Errr, no, we don’t. Even if we indeed have a problem, who can we blame the system that creates these kinds of hunters?”
Yoon Kang-cheol paused for a while before eagerly continuing.
“Hunters these days are groomed to be more conscious of wealth and fame above their responsibilities. They seem to forget that the job all boils down to saving others. It’s more of a societal problem than a hunter problem.”
“But, on the other hand,” he continued. “There are people like this! Even though he had already done his duty, he was willing to risk his life. Why wouldn’t he earn such a high rank? If this is what the public is going to say to such a person, then I’d say we have a real problem.”
“That I now see,” the anchor said, nodding her head in agreement.
“As with all things, if you don’t have the talent and the training, you won’t last even a day in this industry.”
Realizing he was overreacting, he lowered his voice and arms in embarrassment.
“However, I believe there is something more than just ability when it comes to our work.”
The anchor realized where he was going and helped him finish his statement.
“The courage to do your duty as a hunter…”
“That’s right.” Yoon Kang-cheol said, nodding his head.
Though his words had been planned, he said his last words with sincerity.
“And Mr. Park Kang-han ticked off every box on that list.”
Yoon Kang-cheol was the best marketer ever since he had a lot to gain from it.
The QR and Kang-cheol was now the talk on everyone’s lips.
The broadcast had led the teams and companies to weed out incompetent hunters before the public began to criticize the industry as a whole. However, Yoo-seong benefited the most from everything.
As he rode the subway, everyone seemed to be talking about Park Kang-han.
It was like an old popular program where someone in a mask sang, and the audience guessed who was behind the mask.
Yoo-seong smiled bitterly. He had been feeling some pressure in him.
He was a man like any other… He liked a little recognition too… If he just said one word…
I am Park Kang-Han…
He’d have everyone’s attention, envying eyes, pouring praise.
Yoon Kang-cheol was not malicious to him, either.
If anything, he seemed to be feeding Yoo-seong with honey over the past one month.
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Yoon Kang-cheol already wanted Yoo-seong to start sucking honey.
If he succumbed and revealed his identity as Park Kang-han, he’d lose all the peace he’d had. He’d have to face so many interviews.
In the event of injury, his rehabilitation process would be delayed.
He wouldn’t have time to run, train, and practice because he would always be with the public.
He restrained himself at that point. The cons weighed more than the pros.
Soon, the train stopped, and he descended.
His gaze fell on the convention center in Seoul. Events were held there quite often. The event he was about to attend was a private one.
When significant events occur, like the rift that had last opened, the state invited key industry leaders: executives, scholars who had studied monsters and rifts, and, most importantly, the Top 20 rankers.
The guard at the door held out his hand once Yoo-seong came close.
Yoo-seong showed him his ID. The man frowned as he looked from the ID to Yoo-seong’s arm.
“Oh Yoo-seong, eh? Where’s your seal?”
“Ah, yes,” Yoo-seong said as he pulled out his seal from his pocket.
The seal had stylish platinum wings on it, a design that was currently used by ranking hunters.
The guard’s eyes widened as he saw the figure on the seal.
“Whoa, Park Kang-han…”
He began to stammer, not sure if to ask for an autograph. He didn’t want to jeopardize his job, so he stood out of the way.
Yoo-seong bowed his head and went inside.
The meeting hadn’t begun; however, there were quite a few people in the hall already.
Not everyone recognized him.
The hunters who noticed his number, though, stared at him with admiration. The other classes of people, such as researchers, looked at him in wonder.
Yoo-seong retreated to a corner before any of them could accost him.
All he wanted was the information he’d get at the event. He wasn’t in a hurry to speak.
However, as the meeting was about to commence, people began to fill up the seats, crowding near him.
He forced himself to be patient as he gave short answers to the people who tried to make conversation.
“Wait a minute. My God! It can’t be,” a voice said from behind him.
The voice sounded too familiar that he had to turn.
He was stunned once he saw her face. It had only been nine months.
They watched each other in silence.
Seo Ji-young had gone with her friends to see ‘Park Kang-Han’.
She hadn’t expected him to be Yoo-seong.
How could her ex-boyfriend be in such a place, with a platinum seal?
“What? You? How?” she asked in shock.
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Unlike her, Yoo-seong had a small smile on his face.
He then opened his mouth.