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Trap City. (1/4)
A short reunion later, everyone including myself gathered at the central living room. An-Sol was nowhere to be seen, but I could hear shallow breath from the side room so it seems that she was still unconscious.
An uncomfortable tension had settled on everyone in the living room, it felt like the calm before an awful storm. It seems that I did not come at a good time.
I felt unsettled. Although I did not expect an emotional reunion, this tense atmosphere was not what I imagined coming back to. An-Hyun stood awkwardly, while Lee Yu-Jung and Kim Han-Byeol were hissing at each other as if they just finished a heated argument. I did catch the tail end of Kim Han-Byeol’s yell, but the specifics would have to come later.
An awkward silence hung for a while. The first to break the silence, looking utterly spent, was An-Hyun.
“Hyung. I’m not too sure what to say right now. It was all due to you that we managed to escape the forest, and for that thank you very much. And we are truly sorry for leaving you behind like this. Whatever I say, I know that it will all sound like an excuse, but there is one thing I really wanted to say.”
I was satisfied as An-Hyun bowed and apologised. You stood tall when you were confident, but when you had to submit, you prostrated. When someone’s alignment was True and Neutral, they tended to be head-strong, but An-Hyun at least had some manners. I softly responded to An-Hyun’s genuine apology.
“When I couldn’t find you…. I was a bit dismayed at first.”
“I apologise. I have no excuse for this.”
“You can stop saying sorry. I thought something had happened to you guys. Though where is your sister?”
“Yes….What happened was that…”
“Ya, An-Hyun. Wait a moment. I will explain everything. That’s alright Oppa?”
As An-Hyun was just about to start, Lee Yu-Jung cut him off and took over. Speaking so casually with me so quickly, she was really quick to socialise. I would have preferred to hear it from the usually calm Kim Han-Byeol, however, she seems unsettled with a frown set perpetually on her brows.
“So after Oppa lured those things inside the forest….”
Getting approval from An-Hyun and giving a single glance toward Kim Han-Byeol, Lee Yu-Jung started her explanation. Her explanation was spotty, but it was simple, short and to the point. From the beginning, I had a rough idea of the situation at hand and didn’t need additional explanation on certain parts. But….
“A ghost like thing appeared out of thin air?”
“Yes. But thinking back to it now, it’s a little bit tricky to say that it was really a ghost. It kinda didn’t feel completely transparent. The figure had wings attached to it and could move around freely. And no matter how much An-Hyun slashed at them with his sword, it wouldn’t go down.”
I needed a more detailed explanation on this part, so I turned towards An-Hyun. His eyes were closed, trying to recall the image from that scene. His head twitched for a moment, as he opened his mouth to speak.
“It’s like what Yu-Jung just said. I stabbed at it with all my strength, but it felt like cutting nothing but air.”
Cutting nothing but air. Only a rough outline was visible, and it wasn’t completely transparent. It also had wings. Taking these three things to account, a single memory crept into reminiscences.
It was a Wraith. Hearing about an opaque, invisible figure with wings, it immediately reminded about a Wraith. A monster immune to physical attacks. Wraith phased through a person’s body, inflicting pain and agony through the mind. For An-Hyun to withstand several of their attacks… it looked like they were adjusted for the Rite of Passage.
I became curious as I listened on. There was nothing the party could do to defeat a Wraith, how was it possible from them to escape? I decided to leave this be and ask about An-Sol.
“Then it’s because of those things that your sister is hurt?”
An-Hyun nodded at my inquiry. As he continued with his story, I could not hide my astonishment. Wraith, seeing An-Hyun’s resistance, had focused their attacks on him. In agonising pain, he dropped his sword and shield. In this critical moment, the person that saved the party was An-Sol.
I pressed him for more details on this, but An-Hyun couldn’t give a clear answer. Lee Yu-Jung, as well as Kim Han-Byeol, shook their heads. All it summed up to was An-Sol screaming, when a flash of white light engulfed her whole body and the monsters vanishing. An-Sol had lost consciousness and collapsed on the spot, and was still unconscious.
I nodded after hearing their story. An-Hyun paused, his face full of worry as he sought solace.
“Hyung… Sol is fine, right? She will regain conscious, right?”
“How is she right now?”
“Her breathing evened out. Her heart rate is normal. But she cringes as if in pain, and moans occasionally.”
Magic Overdrive. Surely she couldn’t have found her magic already? It was an unbelievable event, but the possibility wasn’t zero. When I first started out, my Magic stats were so low that I suffered much. After passing the Rite of Passage and entering Hall Plain, it took me numerous hours to get a sword skill.
But An-Sol was different, she had 75 points to her Magic stat from the beginning. The subconscious world was a field that couldn’t be researched, and there was always something that I didn’t know about. However, there was one thing I could confirm and that was her body wasn’t trained to deal with 75 Magic stat. There was a limit to what I could do, and if she didn’t fight it, I was certain I could help her.
“I will have to see first, but I don’t think this is something major so don’t worry too much.”
“Then, then about now…..”
Looking at the muddled An-Hyun, I was about to raise myself when to help An-Sol when a soft hand latched onto my wrist. Feeling its smoothness on my left wrist, I turned my head to the source and saw Lee Yu-Jung puckering her lips.
“Ya, An-Hyun, how can you say such things to Oppa? He just came back. Oppa, are you hungry?”
“Hmm? Just so so. But first An-Sol….”
“We took turns watching her. It isn’t like Oppa is a doctor, so it’s fine to check on her later. You heard our side of the story Oppa, so tell us yours. I will make a small meal so you can tell us while you eat. How ‘bout it?”
I wondered about the sudden change. Compared to her usual attitude this was a bit strange, but seeing she was waiting on me, I felt slightly at ease. Lee Yu-Jung’s proposal also loosened the tension surrounding An-Hyun and he nodded with a small smile.
“Please drink some water. I drank from it before, but there is still plenty left.”
“Hmm? Ah, thank you.”
I thought nothing of it as I stretch out my hand to accept the water Kim Han-Byeol took from her pouch. However, Lee Yu-Jung snatched it before I could receive it, and returned it back to Kim Han-Byeol. Looking deadpan at this sudden act, Kim Han-Byeol spoke sharply.
“What are you doing?”
“What are you thinking giving him something you were drinking? I’m going to give Oppa a new one. You drink that thing.”
“You guys right now….”
Even before I could finish speaking, Lee Yu-Jung stood up and walked off to the kitchen.
Soon, a rattling of preparation could be heard in the kitchen. Sounds like she was well prepped to cook. Hesitantly, I looked back at An-Hyun and Kim Han-Byeol. An-Hyun had revert back to his awkward look earlier while Kim Han-Byeol stared at the floor, aloof. It was unexpected, but I projected a calm voice and immediately change the topic.
“Did everyone else eat?”
“… Yes, Hyung. We already ate. We were too hungry…. ha ha.”
“No, that’s fine. You didn’t know when I would be back… It would have been rather foolish to wait for me.”
Replying to An-Hyun who was scratching his head and looking apologetic, a new water bottle was suddenly placed in front of me. The food seems to be made in an instant, as a small dish was gently placed in front of me. I wondered if this was the same Lee Yu-Jung I knew. On the small dish was a cracker-like biscuit with canned tuna on top. In her own way, she tried to make it pretty. Lee Yu-Jung personally opened the water bottle for me and spoke with a forced liveliness.
“Ta Da~! A special cracker made by Lee Yu-Jung-nim!”
“Oh. It looks delicious. Let me try a bite….hk!”
A salivating An-Hyun stretched out his hand in anticipation, but it was quickly slapped away by Lee Yu-Jung’s lightning fast hand. An-Hyun grumbled as he rubbed the reddening spot on his hand, but one glimpse at Lee Yu-Jung’s razor-edged eyes, he pulled his hands back.
“So cruel and doing this over food of all things…”
“I made this for personally for Oppa, so why are you trying to eat it. And Oppa hasn’t touched his food yet, where did you learn your manners from?”
“Oppa. Try it. I can guarantee that it’s tasty.”
“Ee, Hm? Yes, thank you. I will enjoy it.”
Laughing out loud at the scene of An-Hyun grumbling with Lee Yu-Jung turning away in disgust, I took a bite. I could taste the cheap tuna and biscuit flood my taste buds. I couldn’t say that it was delicious, but it was edible. Of course, this wasn’t the time to be picky about food, and it was decent enough so I chewed it up.
Fortunately, the mood seems to have lifted a bit. Feeling their burning gazes as I tried to grab another cracker, it felt like I needed to quickly get on with my story.
I certainly couldn’t tell them I wasted over twenty Deadmen. This required a suitable level of dramatisation. After telling Yu-Jung that the food was delicious, I launched into the story of how I lured the Deadmen deeper into the forest.
“Hyung. Does that mean you were almost bitten?”
“I ran in an S loop between the trees, trying my best to escape. I really didn’t expect one of them to jump out so suddenly on my left. If my left hand was just a centimetre off, I would certainly be bitten. Just think back to it makes my heart race.”
“Amazing…. We were so close to losing Oppa forever.”
“Ke ke. Hyung. It was hectic. Lee Yu-Jung went ballistic before Hyung came. She was scrambling like crazy, I mean she just grabbed the knife and was trying to head out to rescue you, saying we wouldn’t know if you were still waiting for us or not.”
“Me kill you? I wasn’t that extreme!”
“See. You just confirmed it. I just saying you tried, that’s all.”
My coiled heart loosened as Lee Yu-Jung and An-Hyun bickered and laughed among themselves. I almost sighed in relief at this light-hearted moment, but the cold and aloof Kim Han-Byeol caught my eyes. She stared at us, colder than before and a cold frost settled at the corner of my heart.
I thought it was nothing much, but still, I felt that Kim Han-Byeol’s last clamour shouldn’t be passed over lightly. I decided to end it here and move onto another topic with An-Hyun.
T/N: In Korea, it is good manners to start eating only after the Elders at the table start first.
Also seeing as these terms are being used so often right now, just a reminder:
Hyung (older brother) – a way for younger guys to refer to older guys.
Oppa (older brother) – a way for younger gals to refer to older guys.
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