Chapter 23 Evaluation (Part 1)
Jun-ho sees me and his expression is extremely glad. Kang Chun-seong is awake too. He may have woken up from the sound of the shot.
Jun-ho sees Lee Hye-su follow behind me and his face freezes.
I too can now make out Lee Hye-su’s face from the light of the campfire.
Her face is pitifully swollen. She was beaten senseless by Park Go-chan. That bastard!
I hold down my boiling rage and speak.
“We were attacked by red apes on our way over. Thankfully we handled them but sadly, Park Go-chan didn’t make it.”
A chilly silence falls on us.
The awfully beaten Lee Hye-su, the gunshot, Park Go-chan’s death. Joon-ho and Kang Chun-seong have no way of knowing what these things imply.
“Moreover, let’s rest. You guys eat?”
“Uh, no, not yet.”
Joon-ho awkwardly stumbled out a reply. I take out the half eaten portion of grilled rabbit I had placed in my pocket earlier.
“Okay, for now, eat this. We will properly hunt and eat tomorrow.”
“Wow, thank you.”
“Miss Hye-su, come sit down and eat too.”
Lee Hye-su sits down next to me and takes a chunk of grilled rabbit.
I throw a piece to Kang Chun-seong as well. He catches it and asks me.
“How did the thing you left to go do go?”
“I succeeded in killing their leader. Seeing as how after that none of them chased after me, I don’t think we have to worry about the red apes anymore.”
“Wow, hyung you’re really amazing!”
“What do you mean I’m amazing. It’s all thanks to Sylph.”
“But still. How did you think to barge in alone and kill their leader? It’s really amazing. You’re going to get so much karma when this exam is over.”
“Yeah, thanks. Anyway, tomorrow when the day brightens, let’s move to a safe location spend the remaining time with our hearts calm.”
We finish our meal and go back to sleep.
“I will be the sentry. It’s because I can’t sleep. You should all sleep.”
“Hyung, you must be the most tired.”
“It’s okay. It’s because I can’t sleep.”
“Then I’ll head off to bed. If you get tired, just wake me up.”
Everyone goes to sleep and I think to myself in the silence.
‘I’m sure he’s dead.’
I am sure he’s dead. Because I saw him spewing blood from his neck and fall over.
I could not find the courage and didn’t verify Park Go-chan’s body. I just took Lee Hye-su and spun back around to here.
…I killed a person.
The corpse of the person I just killed will still be in its place. It will be neglected there for all eternity. Who knows, a red ape or some other beast may come upon it and eat it.
And so the life of the man named Park Go-chan ended. At my hand.
I look down at my right hand.
The sensation of pulling on the trigger has still not disappeared.
I become miserable at the thought that this sensation might never leave my memory.
I did nothing wrong.
He was deserved to die. He was someone who, had I let live, might have taken his revenge on me when I wasn’t looking. Had he been a man of good priorities, he would not have tried to rape a comrade during an exam of life and death.
He was a bastard that lived just as he pleased. If only but for the purposes of going forward in the exams, I could not let him live.
‘Yep, I did nothing wrong.’
I think that in my head but my heart feels different.
I recall Park Go-chan’s voice that shook in fear at my threats.
Even human trash like him, he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. A person like that, I ended his life. I pulled the trigger with this finger…
I clench my hand into a fist.
The shaking doesn’t go away.
“Are you okay?”
Lee Hye-su’s voice brings me back from my distraction. She is looking at me with worried eyes.
“Yes, I’m okay.”
She gets up from her seat and comes close to me.
She grabs my hand with both of hers.
There is a certain warmth to them.
The light from the fire reflects on her face, where the puffiness hasn’t dissipated. It hurts my heart. How could he just beat a woman so. He was a motherfucker. I did good to kill him. I saved this woman.
“Really, thank you.”
“And I’m sorry. Because of me…”
“No, don’t be. I had thought I should kill him too. I just couldn’t because I didn’t have the courage to. I only found the courage thanks to you.”
I am holding her hand and it strangely makes the shaking go away.
We stayed that way for a while. Holding hands. Using hands to exchange our heat, that quiet time, it felt so good it almost felt strange. Like frozen snow that melts, my heart warms up.
“Do you want to go?”
I am startled at her words.
“There is… nothing good to come of looking at the corpse.”
“No. In my opinion I think it will be worse to move on without seeing the body.”
She continues to speak in a shaky voice.
“Is he really dead, what about the body, is he actually alive and plotting revenge… these thoughts won’t go away. You too, right?”
“So let’s go together. Let’s verify that he really is dead and give him a proper burial. I’m too scared to go alone but I think I’ll be okay if you come with me.”
Her words are right.
To just go on, I may never be able to forget Park Go-chan. I have to tie the knot for sure and move on.
“Okay, let’s go. But what should we dig the grave with?”
“I’m not sure. Um, would this not work?”
She shows me the sword. Its Park Go-chan’s sword.
“Huh, its owner died and it’s still here.”
“Can you try saying ‘weapon cancel?”
Pat! Goes the sword and disappears.
Her and I both are surprised.
“It, it disappeared?”
“This time, try saying ‘equip.”
As she said it, the sword appeared in her right hand. With her eyes wide open, Lee Hye-su speaks.
“Why is this following my commands?”
“I’m not really sure…. What…”
In an instant, I understand what must be happening.
‘Hand over the weapon to miss Hye-su.’
That’s it! Back then, Park Go-chan handed the sword over to Lee Hye-su, and that transferred the ownership.
I explain this to Lee Hye-su.
“So then this is mine now?”
“Yes, you didn’t have a weapon, this is fortuitous.”
“I’m not sure if I can use this. It’s very heavy. Why don’t you or Joon-ho use it instead…”
“But still, for now, hold on to it. It’s difficult to use now because its heavy, but later when you get the physical strength buff, you’ll be able to use it.”
We go to where Park Go-chan died.
We are able to see his dead body.
He is effortlessly strewn on the ground, on ground that is drenched in blood. A surprised expression on his face and a red hole in his neck.
I had no confidence in facing the body, but now that I have, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be.
‘Miss Hye-su, it’s a good thing we came like you suggested.’
If I had run away without seeing this, it might have remained as a scary memory forever.
“Let’s start. I’ll go first.”
I receive the sword from her and start to dig. I continue the job of hammering into the ground and digging out the dirt.
Taking turns with Lee Hye-su, as the sun rose bit by bit, in the early morning, a decent hole was dug. We shove Park Go-chan into it and bury him.
I use Sylph to make a gravestone out of a thick branch. I engrave it ‘Park Go-chan’ and place it on top of the grave.
“There was no other option. Live more kindly in the next life.”
I say those simple words and take a moment of silence. Was that too cocky? But I have nothing else in particular to say. His bad luck is all of his own doing.
Lee Hye-su closes her eyes too and takes a moment of silence. I wait, without a word, until she is done.
“It’s done now.”
She opens her eyes and lets out a big smile. I think to myself that even though her face is swollen purple, her smile is still quite attractive.
We head back together to the campfire. We sit next to each other and share all kinds of stories.
We exchange stories of our lives and she was indeed a girl who grew up in a wealthy and happy family, living a comfortable life and grew up as an intelligent lady.
Perhaps for those reasons but she found the stories of my family to be incredibly entertaining. A mean older sister and an obnoxious younger sister that likes to party, a cute mother obsessed with her son. This and that, lots of stories came out.
And so we talked not knowing time passing by, when she said this.
“Actually, I have something to confess.”
“What is it? Just say.”
“That is, I, I told a lie.”
At those words, I smiled.
“You mean when you said you had the entry level 1 physical strength buff?”
“Oh, how did you know?”
I talk to a surprised her.
“Your physique is lower than mine so there was no way I wouldn’t have known.”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to be labelled as a total burden to the team with having absolutely no power… even though that’s how it ended up. Just being a pain for everyone.”
“There is no need to think that way. Just think of my aid as an investment in the future.”
“Yes, you may be weak now, but you will receive karma and grow your skills and be able to make your rightful contributions. So, for now, just think of yourself as a probationary employee.”
“Anyway, how much karma did you get in the first exam? You came without a skill, let alone a weapon, so it does seem weird.”
She fussed and waited, and then Lee Hye-su spoke.
“If a minus…”
“I did not succeed in the first exam.”
Lee Hye-su tells an astonished me the whole story.
Simply put, she was not able to defeat the red ape but she wasn’t killed by it either. She had resisted and ran and fought back and when the 30 minutes were barely up and the exam door appeared, she made a run for it.
“I guess that means failing the exam doesn’t mean you die.”
“Yes, but I was fearful the whole time about how the minus would affect me.”
“Don’t worry. You will be able to make up for the minus with this exam.”
“But there is nothing I did for this exam either. What will I do if I don’t keep getting stronger and just stay a burden?”
She is nervous and I pat her on the shoulder.
“Do not worry too much. The way I see it, fighting isn’t everything to the exam. There is definitely a role you can assume in different areas. Just find those areas and earn enough karma to get the skills. Until then, I will protect you.”
She seems moved and stares at me.
“What will I do. Always just getting help from you…”
“I do have one request, will you grant it?”
“Yes, whatever it is.”
At her ‘whatever’ I immediately think a dirty thought. I’m such a bastard!
I do a fake cough and speak.
“Just call me oppa. It’s a bit toe-curling hearing Hyun-ho, Hyun-ho.”
Lee Hye-su lets out a short burst of laughter.
“Got it. Then Hyun-ho, I mean oppa, you lower your speech to me too.”
“Yes. I mean, kay.”
We look at each other and laugh shyly.