Ji-Cheok wondered what his expression looked like when he asked his question to Mu-Cheok, because all it seemed to do was agitate Mu-Cheok.

“You don’t want me to become a Hunter,” Mu-Cheok snapped.

“Well yeah, I don’t want you to do anything dangerous.
I can just tell Ji-Han that we’ll sell the Awakening Stone instead, and it’ll be sold at a great price…
Then…” Ji-Cheok hesitated.

“…Then, I’ll be safe, right? You expect me to be grateful that I get to leech off your money?” Mu-Cheok mocked.

“Yes.”

“…”

Mu-Cheok shook his glass of iced tea, and the ice cubes inside clattered.
It was a slight noise that no one in the middle of a coffee shop would have noticed, but with how tense this situation was, it sounded like thunder in Ji-Cheok’s ears.
After a few moments of deafening silence, Mu-Cheok finally opened his mouth.

“Hyung, I can’t take it anymore.
I don’t want to rely on money you make by putting your life in danger.”

“What? No, I’m not risking my life for it.
What are you talking about…”

“You know I’m right.
Let’s get real, Hyung, I’m not stupid.
I know where my daily allowance is coming from, and I know how hard it was for you to earn that money in both this job and your last.
You always try to hide that you’re tired.
Why?” Mu-Cheok continued.

“I’ve never been tired,” Ji-Cheok replied.

“Might as well tell me that the work you do isn’t fucking dangerous at all, right? Do you think I’m still an eight-year-old child? How is it fair that you can make money by risking your life, but expect me not to? No matter what you say, I’m still going to become a Hunter.
Got it?” Mu-Cheok frowned.

Ji-Cheok looked at the ground and processed what Mu-Cheok said.
He realized it would be impossible to convince Mu-Cheok to quit.
His brother had already made up his mind.

“…Okay, you’re right.
You’re all grown up.
In the end, you choose what to do with your life.”

Ji-Cheok wasn’t satisfied, but he decided to leave it at that.
He quickly changed the topic to his own Awakened abilities.

“In any case, let me tell you about my skills.
Come closer,” Ji-Cheok told his younger brother.

He carefully whispered a few sentences as close to Mu-Cheok’s ear as possible, so no one else could hear.
Mu-Cheok’s eyes widened in shock and instinctively reacted.

“What the heck…? That’s insane!”

“I know, right? That’s why we need to keep it a secret,” Ji-Cheok said convincingly.

“Sure, I’ll be quiet about it.
I remember hearing somewhere that Hunters don’t like to share what their major skills are anyway,” Mu-Cheok nodded.

“Yeah, that’s because there’s lots of times where Hunters fight one another,” Ji-Cheok replied.

A battle between humans and monsters seemed to be difficult enough, but this world was a lot more cruel than that.
People would fight with each other, and that was often scarier than fending off monsters.

Mu-Cheok rubbed his chin.

“I should start thinking about how I can support you, Hyung.”

“Hahaha, you haven’t even gotten the Awakening Stone yet.
We’ll have plenty of time to worry about that later.
Anyway, shouldn’t we look for a house first?” Ji-Cheok asked.

“No, Hyung! Haven’t you been listening? You should buy your equipment first.
Arming yourself is an essential part of being a Hunter.
Without any defensive gear, you’re bound to get injured right away.
Protecting yourself should be prioritized,” Mu-Cheok reasoned.

“What do you mean? We should look for a home first, our current living situations are barely livable.
Finding a safer house is a better way to prioritize protecting yourself.
Sure, we could probably eat and sleep fine in any home, but will those places protect us from the threats of the night? Just like any other Hunter, we’ll need a custom-built home,” Ji-Cheok emphasized.

All his arguments until now had been logical, but there was another reason why Ji-Cheok wanted his own place…

“…
aren’t you tired of renting and living in other people’s homes? It’s time we got our own place, Mu-Cheok,” Ji-Cheok admitted his feelings.

“…”

Mu-Cheok choked up at Ji-Cheok’s words.
After their parents passed away, their relatives had swooped in and taken all the insurance money.
Nothing had been left for the two of them.
Having no other support, they were never able to afford their only place and moved around from one rental to the other.
It forced Ji-Cheok to mature quickly, as he had to take care of the only person left in his family — Mu-Cheok.
He had no time to cry, and the stress had already dug a massive hole in his heart.

“Okay, let’s lay everything out,” Ji-Cheok said.

This was why the Daehun Group’s offer had been so tempting — it would have brought Ji-Cheok the “home” he had always been yearning for.
He was tired of constantly worrying about whether his monthly rent would increase, if hammering a nail in the wall to hang a picture was okay, or calling the owner to see if she would repair their window screens.
It was kind of a shame that he didn’t choose the Castle apartment, but he didn’t regret it, because he had enough money to afford a nice place anyways.

“Before we go see a realtor, let ’s eat.
I’m starving,” Ji-Cheok decided after some thought.

The two went out and ordered a gigantic waffle ice cream with a couple of cream sodas.
As they were happily munching on their desserts, a girl approached them.

“Umm….
Excuse me….”

She seemed to be in her twenties and had a cautious but determined look on her face.

“Umm… Are you Um Ji-Cheok?” She asked.

“Yes, that’s me.
You are…?” Ji-Cheok questioned back.

She blushed and replied, “I’d like to thank you for saving me during the gate incident…”

“Ah…”

Ji-Cheok felt bad that he didn’t recognize her.
Reading his expression, she hurriedly said, “Oh, don’t worry about it.
It’s understandable that you didn’t notice me, because there were so many people there.
I was with my mom, and you saved both our lives.
Thank you so much!”

She suddenly bowed.

[Citizen No.
1 whom you have saved has expressed her gratitude.]

[You have received 3 Likes.]

The people in the coffee shop stared at Ji-Cheok probably because of her loud voice and the way she bent ninety degrees into a deep bow.

Ring-

[Citizen No.
2 who is drinking a long iced Americano thinks it’s heartwarming that you saved a stranger’s life.]

[You have received 1 Like.]

[Citizen No.
3 who is drinking a frappuccino looks at you in surprise.]

[You have received 1 Like.]

Ji-Cheok stood up and shook his head.

“No, no.
Anyone else would have done the same thing.”

“Please, take this,” she said.

She placed a paper bag in front of him.
Inside was one of the coffee shop’s products, a tumbler set with a snowman design.
It seemed like she had bought it in a hurry to give something to Ji-Cheok.

“I heard you don’t take money, so… You can at least take this… right?” She continued.

Ji-Cheok begrudgingly nodded, and then she smiled brightly.

“My mom really appreciates what you did.
I wanted to tell you this so much.”

Her smile warmed Ji-Cheok’s heart.
As she left, Mu-Cheok spoke.

“Hyung…”

When Ji-Cheok looked back at him, Mu-Cheok made an impressed face and said,

“…Let’s not do anything risky next time, okay? You should take care of yourself.”

Ji-Cheok thought his brother was a bit cold, as he didn’t care about anyone but his family.
In any case, Mu-Cheok’s attitude didn’t stop Ji-Cheok from gaining several more Likes as people looked at him with a warm gaze.

* * *

Ji-Cheok and Mu-Cheok spent the whole day visiting real estate offices.

“An advantage to apartments is that they employ a security guard 24/7, but they’re hard to renovate, not to mention you don’t really have privacy from the neighbors.
Houses might be less safe since you don’t have guards all the time, but they’re easy to renovate and can be completely private,” Ji-Cheok said.

All the houses he had seen today seemed to lack just that one little something.
He thought that maybe it was because his standards were too high, as he was buying his first house.

“A luxury villa checks off everything we’re looking for, and they’re popular these days,” Ji-Cheok added.

“The properties from the Daehun Group?” Mu-Cheok asked.

“Yes, the building they were going to begin working on soon.”

Choosing the right house was a hard decision.

“If we’re sure about the luxury villa, we could build our house the way we want to right from the get-go, so that we don’t need to renovate later…” Ji-Cheok muttered.

Mu-Cheok raised an eyebrow at Ji-Cheok’s words.

“Look before you leap, Hyung.
We’ll get taken advantage of, and they’ll definitely charge us extra,” Mu-Cheok replied.

“Even if they know we’ll sue them?” Ji-Cheok asked.

“Are you willing to take the time and pay the costs of filing a complaint?” Mu-Cheok countered.
There was an old story that spoke of someone adamant about building their dream house.
But when the house was actually built, water leaked from the ceiling whenever it rained, mold grew on the tiles, and a group of termites swarmed into the living room.
Mu-Cheok continued.

“People think that a lawsuit would solve everything, but a favorable verdict only compensates through damages paid, not by restoring people in their pre-contractual positions.
Also, the damages paid might only partially compensate for the actual losses.
It’s particularly tricky to get punitive damages that would deter companies from taking advantage of their customers, especially in the construction sector where a lot of cash is dealt.”

“…”

“Why are you looking at me like that, Hyung?”

“You really know your stuff,” Ji-Cheok replied.

Mu-Cheok scratched his head awkwardly at Ji-Cheok’s words.
He was happy with his brother’s compliment, as he was still at an age when people were desperate for validation.

“I think it would be more rational to purchase a retired Hunter’s house,” Ji-Cheok suggested.

“That’s a brilliant idea, Hyung.
Since the government charges lower taxes for transactions between Hunters, the transferred income tax will be reduced as well,” Mu-Cheok said.

“…”

“What?”

“Wow, you’re so smart.
I haven’t thought that far yet,” Ji-Cheok praised his younger brother.

“Nah, I just added on to your idea.
I haven’t planned that far out ahead either, Hyung.
I think it’s a really good idea, but we won’t be able to work this out with a regular real estate agent,” Mu-Cheok answered.

“Yeah, the timing has to be right, too.”

“Yes, we have to wait until someone sells one,” Mu-Cheok confirmed.

Then, Ji-Cheok’s phone rang.
It was Jung Ji-Han, and surprisingly, Mu-Cheok was delighted to see his name.

“…
What a coincidence.
Someone who can actually find us some real estate is calling,” Mu-Cheok said.

“People might think we planned for this all along… Haha, I’ll answer,” Ji-Cheok chuckled.

— Hello, Mr.
Um.

“Oh, hi, Mr.
Jung Ji-Han…” he responded.
Ji-Cheok was not sure how he should address Ji-Han.

— Just call me whatever you think is best.
It’s fine if you want to leave out the formalities.

As much as Ji-Han appeared completely fine with Ji-Cheok dropping the formalities, the latter was still worried that Ji-Han would slap him if he actually did that.

“No, I can’t do that.
How would you like to be called?” Ji-Cheok insisted.

— Well, it’s pretty sad that you don’t think we’re close enough to talk comfortably.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll just call you the way I used to.”

— I guess we’ll stick to what we already have.
Also, you should start calling me president or CEO now, since we have just set up a subsidiary.

“Subsidiary?” Ji-Cheok wondered what was going on.

— Yes, it’s a subsidiary specialized in Hunters.
We’re still thinking about the name of the company, but I’ll let you know as soon as possible.
You’ll be hired directly by that company, and we are planning to gather only elites.”

Ji-Cheok didn’t understand what potential Ji-Han saw in him.
He was just about to smile and express his thanks, when he made eye contact with Mu-Cheok.
Mu-Cheok’s eyes looked like the big, droopy eyes of a Golden Retriever, and he stared at Ji-Cheok without smiling, silently warning him not to trust people easily.

“Then, I’ll call you President Jung,” Ji-Cheok said.

— What about just Jung?

“Hahaha, no, I couldn’t…”

When Ji-Cheok refused again, Ji-Han said regretfully.

— You’re so good at toying with me.
People usually get impatient and drop the formalities even before I tell them to.

That made sense to Ji-Cheok, because Ji-Han was the grandson of the Jungha Group’s Chairman.
Everyone would be eager to get close to a powerful guy like him, but he was a very difficult person to understand.

Just then, Ji-Cheok also remembered the headhunter that the System had labeled as an “Advisor.” Chief Headhunter Choi Hyun-Jin’s warning, as well as all the rumors about Ji-Han, made Ji-Cheok cautious.
On top of that, Ji-Han was never transparent with his feelings.
Ji-Cheok knew that even though he was a rookie, he wasn’t performing well enough to be able to get friendly with Ji-Han.
He wasn’t even close to understanding the latter’s thoughts.
Ji-Han, in turn, seemed rather irked by Ji-Cheok’s defensive attitude.

— Anyway, back on the topic, the Hunter test papers have been finalized.

“Hunter test? Things have been processed faster than I expected.”

— Yes.
Since you used to be a Hunter Assistant, you get an exemption from the written test.
You can take the practical exam right away.

Every Hunter registered as such and declared all their abilities through the Hunter test.
The government would record these skills and the Hunters would receive tax benefits in return for upholding the appropriate responsibilities.
This also allowed the government to prevent Hunters from dying during their first hunt.
The Hunter class list was strictly managed to prevent a Hunter from entering a gate higher than their ability, since that would be a purposeless death and a massive loss to the country.

“I didn’t know Hunter Assistants are exempt from the written test.
Is it because we’ve already taken something similar during our Hunter Assistant certification?”

— Yes, because the Hunter Assistant certification is more difficult than the Hunter written exam.
Assisting the Hunters is challenging for ordinary people who don’t have Skills, Ji-Han explained.

“Ah, I see,” Ji-Cheok realized.

— A solid grasp of the basic ecology of monsters, plus the procedures for disposing of corpses and handling poison… all the requirements are hard and strict.
Only incredibly smart people pass this exam.

Ji-Cheok quietly chuckled as Ji-Han tried to flatter him.

Bubly ’s Thoughts

retired penguin’s thoughts: man, JC’s housing problems it ok, JC my dude, we all want to put nails in our walls

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