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    “Yeah, special training. You don’t want to die either, right?”

    “Didn’t you say you would make sure I wouldn’t die at any time?”

    “Well, that’s something I can guarantee only if your skills are at a certain level. With your current abilities, it’s far from possible. If you’re going to keep being carried around in my arms, I guess it doesn’t matter.”

    But you don’t like that, right?

    Sa-yoon had intended to ask with pure intentions, but the mockery ingrained in him inadvertently slipped out like a habit. As a result, the question became a provocation that reached Geon-joo, who made an expression as if he had been suddenly slapped across the face, and he inhaled deeply.

    “Who’s being carried around?”

    “You are. You’ve already been carried a lot.”

    “And whose fault is that?”

    “Well, it was because your skills were lacking.”

    Sa-yoon answered thoroughly when asked, but Geon-joo got angry instead. He chattered incessantly without taking a break, asking why Sa-yoon brought him to an S-grade gate and looked down on him if his skills were so lacking, and why he didn’t just take him to a B-grade gate if that was the case. Sa-yoon rubbed his ears at the words. What kind of adult gets upset when ignored, upset when questioned, and upset when answered?

    So sensitive.

    Are all kids at this age usually like this?

    It was just a few years ago, but Sa-yoon couldn’t clearly remember what he was like when he was twenty-two years old. Only the major events, such as the places he had robbed and the organizations he had dismantled, remained etched in his memory, but the thoughts and emotions he had lived with were hazy.

    Considering that he had regressed 24 hours every time there was a forced execution, it felt more like five years ago rather than four years ago when he thought about it.

    It seemed like he was somewhat innocent back then. One thing for certain was that he chattered less than Han Geon-joo.

    After a few rounds of arguing about who was being absurd and who was right, Geon-joo, who seemed tired, sighed and held his forehead.

    “So, what exactly is this special training?”

    “Oh my, does your head hurt? I’m the one teaching, so why are you, the learner, in pain?”

    “I haven’t even agreed to learn yet.”

    “Do you think you have a choice?”

    “…That’s why I’m asking what the special training is.”

    “What else could it be? It’s just accompanying me and beating up various monsters. We’ll also clean up the lower area while we’re at it.”

    It might not seem like something worthy of being called special training, but there were many things implied by the phrase “while we’re at it.” First, Sa-yoon had to teach Geon-joo how to deal with group monsters during combat. He also had to teach him tips for fighting flying monsters and the different weaknesses of each type of monster.

    Thinking that teaching itself would be quite manageable since Geon-joo had a natural talent for combat and would learn ten things from just one lesson, Geon-joo suddenly let out a hollow laugh.

    “Ever since I entered here, I feel like I’ve been constantly treated as incompetent. Do you think I’ll be of any help in reducing the number of monsters? Most of the monster defeat count that has increased is thanks to you. What else can I do besides being a burden?”

    He laughed self-deprecatingly.

    Isn’t it all of them except for one, not most of them, when it comes to the monster defeat count?

    Sa-yoon, who had been unable to resist the urge to point out the error he had caught in Geon-joo’s words, refrained from doing so after seeing his laughter. If he were to point out that fact in front of Geon-joo, who was filled with disappointment, his sensitive pretty boy would scrunch up his face and refuse to talk to him for about 30 minutes. Then, feeling frustrated by the situation, Sa-yoon would throw Geon-joo into the water out of spite, and Geon-joo, who had fallen into the water, would be angry and add an hour of silence.

    Even though he had never experienced it, those situations vividly played out in Sa-yoon’s mind as if they had already happened.

    Strictly speaking, Geon-joo being thrown into the water and shutting his mouth out of anger was something Sa-yoon had already experienced.

    The purpose of coming to the field was to improve Geon-joo’s skills, not to throw him around as much as he pleased. Realizing that his main objective had somehow turned into melting away his pretty boy’s stubborn temper, Sa-yoon decided to restrain his impulses.

    Even if it’s suffocating, I should cut him some slack. What can I do?

    The one who needs something is in a weaker position.

    If Jongsik had been present, he would have pointed out who exactly was in a weaker position and whether it was an appropriate situation for those words, but unfortunately, Jongsik wasn’t there. Sa-yoon inwardly recited words that would have made Geon-joo faint and remain unconscious for three months if he had heard them, and then patted his shoulder.

    “It’s not that your skills are particularly lacking or anything like that. It’s just that there are limits to what a B-grade can do. You know that, right, pretty boy?”

    “Just a moment ago, you said I needed special training because my skills were lacking. Or else, you said I wouldn’t even be able to walk on my own feet.”

    “Why are you taking it so seriously?”

    Can’t you just let it slide?

    If Geon-joo’s spirit had been crushed by the gate’s grade and Sa-yoon’s reprimands, his words should have become slurred, and his thought process should have slowed down. However, Geon-joo became even more alert.

    “I meant in comparison to the monsters living here.”

    “Then you should have taken me to an A-grade gate. Why do you bring someone to a remote place and only criticize them? If I had entered here on my own, I wouldn’t say anything, but I was dragged here. Doesn’t your conscience bother you for pushing me so much?”

    “Why are you looking for something that disappeared five years ago?”

    “I didn’t mean it literally…! …Forget it.”

    It’s better to die than suffer.

    Geon-joo, who had raised his voice, suddenly declared the end of the conversation like someone who had lost all energy. Sa-yoon, who found that sight to be similar to someone who had gotten angry at an uncooperative companion like a dog or a cat and then felt self-reproach, had a strange feeling.

    He had been treated worse than a dog many times due to the numerous things he had done, but receiving it from Geon-joo felt unpleasant in a different way. Unlike other times, he couldn’t retaliate first just because he felt bad, which might have made him feel even stranger.

    Twitch.

    Sa-yoon noticed his hand reaching out towards Geon-joo without him realizing it. He had almost thrown Geon-joo again without thinking, but he caught himself in time and let out a soft sigh to regain his composure.

    If he threw him again, Geon-joo would really hold a grudge. Sa-yoon was already exhausted enough dealing with Geon-joo, whose dissatisfaction had reached its peak. He couldn’t even fathom the idea of trying to appease a sulky Geon-joo.

    It was better when they first met.

    At least back then, Geon-joo didn’t make a fuss while pretending to be a relaxed and kind person.

    There was a reason for image management.

    But Sa-yoon had more humanity. If asked which version of Geon-joo would be more popular among people, it would definitely be the one from their first encounter. People naturally pursued ideals rather than reality.

    “Did you lose your spirit? Why are you being grumpy again?”

    “I’m not being grumpy. I’m trying to point out the unfairness… Ha, no.”

    I don’t want to talk.

    Geon-joo, who had been contemplating for a moment, added in a small voice. He seemed to have carefully selected the words that sounded the most mature and calm, thinking that it might come across as a complaint if he blurted it out, but to Sa-yoon, it just looked like a child puffing out their cheeks and saying they wouldn’t complain to their mother for not buying them a toy.

    “What’s the problem?”

    “……”

    “Are you really not going to say it?”

    “……”

    “Then I’ll do as I please.”

    “What kind of person doesn’t even ask five times before dismissing it like that?”

    “Then I have to ask you five times. From now on, answer me within two times when I ask you something. In the first place, I’m asking you twice because it’s you.”

    Sa-yoon was being quite lenient. If other guild members had constantly talked back to him, used harsh words, and complained, he would have thrown them into a gate before even listening to their opinions, and that would have been fortunate.

    If the guild members who had nearly died after talking back to Sa-yoon without knowing anything saw Geon-joo, they would have been surprised and sent him to the infirmary. They would have said that he must have suffered a head injury, seeing how he was behaving so boldly towards the Guild Leader.

    They would have dragged him there, and upon confirming that there was nothing wrong with him, they would have taken him to a corner of the guild and given him a long lecture. They would have said that he would die young.

    Recently, Sa-yoon often thought about the guild members he didn’t want to see even a bit under normal circumstances. Those guild members who swiftly and expertly processed tasks and returned even when he spoke nonsense, the ones who were quick-witted and well-educated.

    Of course, they spread false rumors about the Guild Leader being a dog or something and got excited over strange things, but they were too busy with work to have time to be interested in other matters, so Sa-yoon could understand that much.

    Sa-yoon, who had been feeling a sense of nostalgia at an inappropriate time, tapped his chin while looking at Geon-joo, who was slowly retracting his protruding lips.

    “So, what’s the conclusion? Don’t treat you like you’re incompetent?”

    “Even when I say it, you still…”

    “Pretty boy, just the conclusion.”

    “…Just don’t push me and call me incompetent because it’s the gate that the Guild Leader dragged me to.”

    “You want me to coax you gently like a baby and boil you down, something like that.”

    “……”

    It seemed like what Geon-joo wanted was similar to what Sa-yoon had said, but he didn’t want to affirm the words like “baby” and such. Sa-yoon shrugged, thinking that it was a request he couldn’t refuse.

    “You want me to say pretty words, not just flattering words. The kind of words you want to hear.”

    “I’m not asking you to only give compliments, but to say something positive from time to time. Why do you speak like that?”

    “Okay, okay, I’ll say pretty words to you.”

    “……”

    “But how do I do that? Should I give you flowers or something while saying it?”

    “Does it become a compliment just because you say it while giving something pretty?”

    “What’s wrong with that?”

    When Sa-yoon confidently retorted, Geon-joo, who seemed to have given up on arguing and persuading, sighed and told him to do as he pleased. Accepting his declaration of surrender, Sa-yoon looked around. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything pretty in sight at the moment. As a last resort, Sa-yoon rummaged through his inventory and took out an A-grade necklace.

    It was a supportive artifact that enhanced resistance to three attributes: water, fire, and earth.

    Sa-yoon, who had taken out the item he had consistently worn around his neck until he became an S-grade hunter, approached Geon-joo and put the necklace on him, saying,

    “Wear this and let’s go do some special training to improve your shitty skills, pretty boy.”

    “……”

    “You don’t like it?”

    “…What exactly is this special training? Don’t just end it with a vague explanation. Tell me in detail.”

    Geon-joo slightly furrowed his eyebrows as if it was absurd, but he didn’t refuse the proposal, perhaps recognizing the value of the artifact around his neck. It seemed that saying something while giving a nice item indeed made it sound like pretty words.

    Sa-yoon shifted his gaze towards the depths of the forest.

    If his memory served him right, there should be a pack of werewolves in there. Thinking about the monsters that mainly lived in packs, Sa-yoon opened his mouth while mentally designing the special training.

    “Pretty boy, have you ever been surrounded by multiple monsters?”

    “I have, during the beginner gate.”

    “Back then, they were all weaker than you.”

    “That’s true… Don’t tell me.”

    Geon-joo, who had been checking the grade of the necklace, lifted his head abruptly, foreseeing something ominous. Sa-yoon smiled brightly, as if to reassure Geon-joo’s wavering eyes that revealed his unease.

    “I won’t make you do anything unreasonable.”

    A gentle voice flowed out very affectionately. It didn’t take long for Geon-joo to consider those words as one of the most vicious lies he had ever heard in his life.

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