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    Geon-joo’s fever didn’t break even as the night deepened, becoming a nuisance for Sa-yoon. Far from showing signs of improvement, it worsened after midnight, causing Geon-joo to break out in cold sweats and groan incessantly. The high fever made Sa-yoon’s palm burn when he placed it on Geon-joo’s forehead to check his temperature.

    All Sa-yoon could do for the ailing Geon-joo was to administer new antidotes and cool him down with hands imbued with frost energy.

    However, it was highly unlikely that additional doses would work now when the previous medication hadn’t been effective.

    He had tried every possible method, but there was no change. The sick person remained silent while Sa-yoon was left feeling frustrated.

    “Ugh…”

    “Hang in there, you won’t die from something like this.”

    Sa-yoon held onto Geon-joo, who occasionally writhed and groaned loudly, and spoke coldly. Though the fever seemed to have risen above 39 degrees Celsius, a hunter wouldn’t die from this. While it’s generally said to be dangerous when it reaches 40 degrees, even for someone who had awakened recently, his body wouldn’t collapse so easily.

    Despite knowing this, Sa-yoon couldn’t completely put his mind at ease due to Geon-joo’s rank and experience.

    He was B-rank and approaching just ten days since his awakening.

    Although his body had formed as a hunter, it was likely still in the process of fully accommodating his awakened abilities, so Sa-yoon couldn’t entirely trust that he wouldn’t die just because he was a hunter.

    What kind of B-rank was this frail?

    It had been well over four hours since administering the antidote, so the poisoning symptoms should have started to improve by now, but they hadn’t.

    Just when Geon-joo seemed to finally fall asleep after being soothed and caressed several times, he would wake up again shortly after, gasping for breath, continuing this pattern of intermittent sleep.

    Staying up all night wasn’t much of a challenge for Sa-yoon, as he had done it numerous times before, but taking care of a grown man throughout the night was something he had never done and found difficult.

    He wasn’t sure how much care was needed.

    No, there wasn’t much else he could do here in the first place.

    He had already used three bottles of potions and antidotes.

    Realizing that using more would only lead to overdose, Sa-yoon stopped himself from habitually reaching for a new potion, quietly lowered his hand, and waited.

    One hour, two hours, three hours.

    Despite a considerable amount of time passing, the groaning continued. By this point, even Sa-yoon, who had been nursing him without complaint, began to feel somewhat irritated.

    Is this a protest or what are you trying to do?

    He wished Geon-joo would at least say he was in pain. If he had muttered about having a high fever, Sa-yoon would have either teased him or responded kindly, considering he was dealing with a patient. But Geon-joo did none of that, only expressing his pain as if for Sa-yoon to hear.

    To Sa-yoon, it looked exactly like a protest.

    It’s because of you that this is happening.

    Of course, no one had actually said those words.

    Feeling annoyed for no reason, Sa-yoon started to pinch Geon-joo’s cheek as he seemed to be asleep, but stopped himself.

    The thought that other guild members had experienced this level of poisoning at least once briefly crossed his mind before disappearing. Unlike with other guild members whom he had left in the field without further interference, in Geon-joo’s case, he had constantly interfered, induced combat, and overworked him.

    So the current high fever and the seemingly accompanying body aches were indeed his fault.

    Deciding to acknowledge that much wrongdoing, Sa-yoon exhaled deeply and stroked Geon-joo’s sweat-soaked hair. Geon-joo, who usually avoided Sa-yoon’s touch and was quick to show disgust at physical contact, now sought out Sa-yoon’s cold touch with a hazy consciousness, probably due to his high fever.

    Seeing this, Sa-yoon was about to release more frost energy but hesitated for a moment and shook his head.

    Trying to lower the fever by making it colder might actually worsen his condition.

    Instead, Sa-yoon played with Geon-joo’s sweat-drenched black hair, moving it this way and that. He would completely push it back, then sweep it to the right to create a perilla leaf hairstyle. Occasionally finding the look amusing, he wanted to say “Look at this,” but the sharp voice telling him not to laugh was nowhere to be heard.

    After changing the hairstyle a couple more times, even this pointless play became boring, so he simply placed both hands on Geon-joo’s forehead and nape. Thanks to his skill, his hands didn’t become lukewarm from human body heat and served as the best ice pack for the feverish Geon-joo.

    After another hour passed, the deep night had turned to dawn. As the sky looked like the sun would rise in just a couple of hours, Sa-yoon caressed the earlobe of the person resting on his lap. It was still hot.

    Sa-yoon’s expression grew quite serious as a place that should normally have a low temperature was still burning.

    He had given him antidotes, and his body was clean of wounds, so he couldn’t understand what the problem was.

    Just as he was wondering what could be slowing down his recovery—

    Suddenly, Sa-yoon felt hunger for the first time in a very long while. Come to think of it, he hadn’t eaten anything except for when he had taken Geon-joo to the restaurant. He had been fasting for two or three days straight.

    While he usually lived skipping meals due to his dull appetite and need for sleep, that wouldn’t be the case for Geon-joo. Only then did Sa-yoon realize he had forced Geon-joo’s daily routine to match his own.

    He recalled the advice from other guild members to always feed someone before making them work. It was a scolding he often received for leading excessive forced marches when entering gates with guild members, but he hadn’t broken the habit, ignoring it as bothersome and troublesome. That bad habit had unconsciously emerged this time as well.

    No wonder the detoxification wasn’t going well.

    There was so little energy left in his body that it was just enough to maintain breathing. Realizing he had unintentionally overworked Geon-joo even more, Sa-yoon raised his hand and rubbed his own nape once.

    “Was there anything edible nearby?”

    He needed food that could be safely consumed, as he couldn’t just bring insects to Geon-joo, who had just entered the field for the first time, saying they were edible. After rummaging through his memories and thinking deeply, Sa-yoon carefully laid Geon-joo down on the ground when his fever had dropped significantly compared to before.

    He took out a disinfectant cloth and froze it with frost energy. After placing it on Geon-joo’s forehead and covering him with all the clothes with warming options from his inventory, the well-muscled man’s figure was thickly obscured by a pile of clothes.

    Still not feeling reassured even after seeing this, Sa-yoon took off the outer garment he had been casually wearing on his shoulders and placed it over Geon-joo. Then, holding a dagger in his hand, he set out to hunt.

    He figured roasting one alligator would be enough for a decent meal.

    Splash!

    Ignoring that he was soaked up to his thighs, Sa-yoon swung his knife and checked the mouth of the third alligator he had hunted. This one had no poison glands. Among the monsters living in the field, those safe to eat were the ones without poison glands in their mouths and no parasites bursting out when cut.

    Except for the monsters in the western mountain range, those without poison were rare. The two alligators he had caught earlier had such lethal poison that he had to use them as bait to lure other alligator monsters, despite having gone through the trouble of catching them. After two failed attempts, Sa-yoon cut open the body of the third alligator he caught. No parasites were visible.

    “This one will do.”

    Having decided on the one to roast, Sa-yoon hoisted the alligator onto his shoulder and headed back to where Geon-joo was. Worried that his pretty boy might succumb to another high fever and suddenly die in his absence, he hadn’t moved far away, so it didn’t take long to arrive.

    Isn’t the smell of blood bad for health?

    Sa-yoon, who had started worrying about every little detail, sat down next to Geon-joo and was about to prepare the alligator when he decided to move a bit further to the water’s edge. There, he skinned the alligator, carved out the meat, lit a fire, and roasted it. After killing all the monsters that came attracted by the smell, spreading his killing intent to declare his territory, the monsters that had been cautiously poking their heads out finally disappeared.

    Aggressive S-rank monsters might actually come seeking Sa-yoon after noticing his killing intent, but rather than worrying about a few of those, he had to focus on keeping in check the numerous monsters spread all around.

    If a higher-ranking monster showed up, one round of establishing the hierarchy would suffice.

    It seemed he had already been recognized as a strong entity by the forest monsters after searching various parts of the forest while training Geon-joo, but there was always at least one creature, whether in human or beast groups, that couldn’t accept the existence of a superior being.

    Sa-yoon returned to Geon-joo’s side with the properly roasted meat. It hadn’t taken very long, but the ice cloth he had left had completely melted and turned mushy. Sighing, Sa-yoon infused it with frost energy again and raised Geon-joo’s body.

    “Try opening your eyes.”

    “Urgh…!”

    Well, well.

    After all the trouble of bringing food, Geon-joo retched at the smell. He seemed too weak from illness to even lift a finger, yet he was quick to cover his mouth to retch again. Sa-yoon frowned and then grasped Geon-joo’s cheek with his thumb and index finger.

    As he applied pressure, Geon-joo’s lips parted. Geon-joo made a sound close to whining, seemingly uncomfortable and in pain.

    “If you have complaints, either open your eyes and speak, or eat.”

    Your brother went hunting to feed you, and you’re retching?

    He swallowed the words that were about to burst out upon seeing the sick person’s face. As he poked the meat skewered on a stick into Geon-joo’s mouth, Geon-joo frowned. Thinking the pieces might be too large, Sa-yoon took out a short knife, cut them into smaller pieces, and offered them again. Only then did Geon-joo start to accept and eat the meat.

    Does he think he’s a baby bird or something?

    He had brought him to the field intending to train a disciple, but now he was doing childcare that wasn’t in his destiny. Planning to bring this up incessantly once Geon-joo woke up, Sa-yoon pushed the remaining meat into Geon-joo’s mouth and ate his own portion.

    By the time they finished the meal and were about to clear away the fire and twigs, Geon-joo’s complexion had visibly improved.

    It seemed the main problem was indeed that he lacked strength from not eating, more than anything else.

    “We shouldn’t skip meals.”

    He appeared to be more serious about food than he looked. Having gained this insight, Sa-yoon thinly sliced the remaining meat to make smoked meat and laid it out to make jerky. After roughly finishing preparations for tomorrow’s food, he returned to his spot to find the ice cloth on Geon-joo’s forehead had melted again.

    The one fortunate thing was that the fever had dropped considerably now.

    The antidote seems to be starting to work.

    Thinking that after being sick for over six hours, it was about time to stop being ill, Sa-yoon reached out with his cold hand to lower the remaining fever. Feeling the chill on his nape, Geon-joo twisted his body.

    “Cold…”

    It was the first time in a while hearing Geon-joo’s voice, aside from his groans. Sa-yoon chuckled at the small words that flowed out in a sleep-addled state. He had taken care of him when he was sick, and then he was hungry; fed him, and now he was cold. It was quite a scene.

    “You’re quite the master.”

    Saying he had it good, Sa-yoon looked at the numerous coats he had placed on Geon-joo’s body, then reluctantly lay down next to him.

    Being close should help maintain body temperature. Thinking that even though his body temperature tended to be low, he would still be warmer than those clothes, Sa-yoon sighed and lay on his back, looking at the stars in the dark sky before suddenly furrowing his brow.

    “Is this right, pretty boy?”

    Who would have thought the day would come when a guild member he brought along would fall ill within a day, requiring him to nurse them? If others heard about this, they would snicker that the Night Rat leader had lost his edge. Sa-yoon, rubbing between his eyebrows, let out an uncharacteristic groan.

    A calm night like this, without screams or bloodshed.

    It was a day very different from the field life Sa-yoon had envisioned when he had decided to raise Geon-joo.

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