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    In Sa-yoon’s eyes, Han Geon-joo was a truly amusing fellow.

    Seeing that S-grade monsters were swarming them, Sa-yoon had sent Geon-joo down below, thinking it would be too dangerous to keep him up above. However, Geon-joo couldn’t even endure that brief moment and had provoked an Imoogi into a fight.

    Did he possess some sort of talent for complicating his own fate?

    The ferociously hissing Imoogi appeared to be a formidable opponent for Geon-joo at first glance. It was only natural, given that a B-grade hunter was wagging his tail before an S-grade monster.

    At least it was fortunate that he had chosen an Imoogi. If the creature had ascended and become a serpent dragon, the situation would have been dire. Dragon-kin were considered among the upper echelons of S-grade monsters, so if that had been the case, Geon-joo would have been devoured before Sa-yoon could even come to his rescue.

    Then, Sa-yoon would have had to slice open the dragon’s belly and retrieve Geon-joo, who would have been pickled in stomach acid, only to shower him with potions.

    Imagining Geon-joo covered in sticky mucus, Sa-yoon grimaced. Even the thought alone was unpleasant. Having experienced being drenched in the gastric juices spewed by a dragon, he knew it wasn’t a particularly delightful sensation.

    “Should I call this reckless, or should I say it’s fortunate that he enjoys the hardcore?”

    Judging by how Geon-joo was deliberately provoking the Imoogi and twisting his own fate, it seemed that their tastes were somewhat similar. However, there was a significant gap in their abilities. Realizing that it was still premature for them to engage in combat together, Sa-yoon clicked his tongue and commented, noticing Geon-joo’s reddened ears.

    It appeared that Geon-joo himself was aware of how embarrassing it was to be dangling helplessly from an arrow.

    Seeing Geon-joo’s ears turn red, a rare sight, Sa-yoon silently observed him. Geon-joo, who had been blushing and avoiding Sa-yoon’s gaze, finally pleaded for help, asking Sa-yoon to stop staring and assist him instead. Although Sa-yoon hadn’t particularly expected those words, hearing them somehow made him feel pleased.

    This was the reason he had entered the field.

    Everything was going according to his plan.

    Entering the field together, teaching Geon-joo combat techniques, and rescuing him when his life was in danger. In this way, they would grow closer.

    By the time they left the field, Geon-joo would undoubtedly be in a position where he couldn’t live without Sa-yoon.

    As Sa-yoon was making that assertion, the forgotten Imoogi interrupted his imagination.

    ―Screech!

    The neglected Imoogi let out a cry, announcing its presence.

    Upon spotting Sa-yoon, the creature bared its sharp, pointed teeth and charged forward. Oh my, Sa-yoon involuntarily let out a whimper as he gazed at the lunging Imoogi.

    Just a moment ago, he had been playing with S-grade dragon-kin. The scent of higher-grade monsters likely still lingered on his body, yet the Imoogi was charging at him with crazed eyes. This signified two things.

    First, the creature was so famished that it would charge at its prey regardless of their grade or status. Second, it was so enraged that it couldn’t differentiate between friend and foe.

    Sa-yoon glanced at Geon-joo before examining the Imoogis face once more.

    It seemed to be the latter.

    Given that Geon-joo had been screaming and getting beaten, Sa-yoon had assumed he was merely taking the hits. However, it appeared that despite his hunter status, he had managed to provoke the Imoogi to some extent.

    Come to think of it, if Sa-yoon were in the Imoogis position, he would also be furious if his prey was making a commotion in his territory, climbing on his body, and behaving in an irritating manner. After finally succeeding in capturing the elusive prey, having a complete stranger appear and snatch it away would be infuriating.

    Having two consecutive stress-inducing events occur, it would be surprising if the Imoogis eyes didn’t roll back in anger.

    Sa-yoon thought he had lost all ability to empathize, but seeing how he could deduce the monster’s feelings, it seemed he still possessed a semblance of humanity.

    However, understanding the Imoogis feelings and allowing it to climb up were two different matters. Twisting his body to evade the Imoogi, Sa-yoon placed his hand on its slippery skin.

    Sssss.

    ―Screech, scree, screech!

    The Imoogi, realizing that its body had begun to freeze from the middle, trembled and stared at Sa-yoon. By the time its gaze reached Sa-yoon, ice had already covered 80% of its body.

    There should still be some mana left. Finding it troublesome to swing his sword to dispose of the Imoogi, Sa-yoon opted for the more convenient method and froze the creature that had been residing in the gorge. He then kicked the colossal body with his foot, pushing it away.

    Splash!

    The massive body disappeared into the gorge, spraying water in all directions. After safely sending the Imoogi back to its original dwelling, Sa-yoon turned around to find Geon-joo still hanging from the tree, wearing an expression as if he had witnessed a foul play.

    Perhaps he felt a sense of deprivation.

    Sa-yoon could read a certain level of emotion from Geon-joo’s expression. While he could understand Geon-joo’s feelings, there was nothing to be done about it.

    Even a single grade difference made it difficult to look down upon someone, and the gap between Sa-yoon and Geon-joo spanned two levels.

    Considering that Sa-yoon, who primarily explored unconquered gates, found it amusing to struggle against a newly S-grade Imoogi, he shrugged his shoulders and walked through the air, crouching in front of Geon-joo.

    “You’re injured.”

    As Sa-yoon grabbed Geon-joo’s chin and turned it from side to side, he noticed wounds wherever he looked. Since Sa-yoon had given Geon-joo a potion, the injuries couldn’t have been caused by the fall. It was the Imoogis doing.

    Should I melt that creature again?

    While Sa-yoon was contemplating whether to deal with the Imoogi that had injured his property, Geon-joo abruptly turned his head away. His chin slipped out of Sa-yoon’s grasp, which had been holding it with minimal force.

    “Just untie me already.”

    Geon-joo’s voice trailed off.

    Sa-yoon clicked his tongue and stood up, thinking that Geon-joo was acting arrogant, refusing to make eye contact just because he couldn’t defeat a single monster and had to run away. He considered pointing out Geon-joo’s impudence but decided to let it slide, acknowledging his own fault in leaving Geon-joo alone.

    “Still, it’s commendable that you managed to survive.”

    Of course, Geon-joo had been on the verge of death just moments ago, but Sa-yoon chose not to mention that thought. Perhaps it was because Geon-joo had obtained a status window and found a way to escape his damned fate. Having the person who could change his life right in front of him made Sa-yoon feel infinitely generous.

    Even after receiving praise, Geon-joo showed no sign of joy. Sa-yoon briefly considered explaining how difficult it was to receive his compliments but refrained from doing so. Judging by the atmosphere, it was evident that Geon-joo wouldn’t listen properly even if Sa-yoon told him.

    As Sa-yoon grasped Geon-joo’s arm to wrap it around his neck and attempted to remove the arrow, the person in his embrace squirmed.

    “Just remove it, seriously.”

    “If I just remove it, you’ll fall.”

    “I’ll manage the falling technique on my own.”

    “On your own, you say. Is rolling around your hobby?”

    Geon-joo still had to roll a few more times, and Sa-yoon couldn’t find a reason to unnecessarily waste stamina. Rejecting Geon-joo’s request, Sa-yoon reached for the arrow, and a sigh escaped from within his embrace. It was a sound indicating that Geon-joo had given up on resisting.

    It wasn’t the first or second time, so what was there to be embarrassed about?

    It was usually the first time that was the most embarrassing, and once it was done, the rest often felt trivial. However, it seemed that Sa-yoon’s pretty boy was a bit sensitive in that regard.

    Wondering if he should respect that aspect as well, Sa-yoon pretended not to hear and forcefully pulled out the arrow. With a whoosh, Geon-joo’s body plummeted downward. Sa-yoon, who had been holding him in advance, was able to catch Geon-joo without fail, grasping his waist as they descended to the ground.

    Damn it.

    Finding himself in Sa-yoon’s embrace as they landed, Geon-joo, in desperate need of an escape from his humiliation, opened the gate-related system window and couldn’t believe his eyes.

    <Gate Clear Conditions List>

    -The gate will be cleared when all of the following conditions are met.

    [Survive for 15 days 0/15]

    [Secure a base 0/1]

    [Conquer a base 0/1]

    [Handle monster waves 0/3]

    [Defeat monsters 120/1,000]

    [Achieve perfect escape 5/100]

    [Defeat boss-level monsters 0/3]

    [Excavate a dungeon 0/1]

    [Conquer a dungeon 0/1]

    The condition counts, which had previously been all zeros, had slightly changed. Geon-joo, noticing the monster defeat count that had surpassed 10%, turned to look at Sa-yoon.

    How much time had passed since Geon-joo fell from the cliff, got submerged in water, recovered from his injuries, and engaged in battle with the Imoogi? At most, it had been around three hours. It was astonishing that Sa-yoon had single-handedly taken down over 100 monsters in such a short span of time.

    Moreover, in this gate, monsters below A-grade were rarely encountered, and the monsters that had been swarming Sa-yoon just before Geon-joo fell from the cliff were mostly S-grade.

    Of course, it wasn’t surprising, considering that Sa-yoon could freeze the Imoogi in an instant, but it was still somewhat absurd. Sa-yoon had mentioned that he was going to play because his body was sore, but if he played three more times, he would be capable of annihilating all the monsters within the gate.

    “Why are you staring at me like that?”

    Noticing that Geon-joo’s gaze was fixed on empty space rather than on him, Sa-yoon waved his hand. Only then did the dark eyes fully focus on Sa-yoon.

    “I thought only your body was slightly scratched, but it seems like your head is injured too.”

    Worried that Geon-joo’s gaze still appeared dazed, Sa-yoon rummaged through his inventory. He scrolled through, wondering if there was anything suitable for mental disorders. As he was considering different options, unsure of what to give, Geon-joo finally spoke after a short while.

    “What do you mean my head is injured? It’s not like that. You’re treating a sane person like a lunatic.”

    Says the one who is even more insane…

    If the other guild members had heard that complaint, they would have muttered that Geon-joo’s liver had swollen to the point of disappearing. Judging by Geon-joo’s vulgar words and sullen expression, it seemed that his mind wasn’t in an abnormal state, prompting Sa-yoon to display a satisfied smile.

    Seeing Geon-joo still boldly running his tongue even in Sa-yoon’s presence confirmed that he was indeed Sa-yoon’s pretty boy.

    “Perhaps it’s because you rolled around so much, but your clothes are covered in dirt.”

    “Ah…”

    At Sa-yoon’s remark, Geon-joo examined the clothes he was wearing. His attire was torn in various places and stained with dirt and blood. Sa-yoon, with a friendly smile on his lips that resembled someone working in the service industry, grabbed Geon-joo by the collar.

    “…?”

    Geon-joo, whose collar was seized, widened his eyes.

    Just as he sensed something ominous and attempted to speak, Sa-yoon lifted Geon-joo and hurled him into the gorge.

    Splash!

    A refreshing sound resonated, and water splashed.

    “Go in and wash your clothes a bit, cool your head too.”

    If I coddle him, he keeps getting out of line.

    Inwardly reprimanding himself, Sa-yoon waved his hand as he watched Geon-joo urgently poke his head out of the water.

    The thought of being lenient and forgiving Geon-joo’s sulking because Sa-yoon had left him alone had already completely evaporated from his mind.

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