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    Thanks to Baek Sa’s threat, the atmosphere became quite solemn. Ha-gyeom briefly wondered if Baek Sa was taking his side, but the additional comment made him realize his assumption was a mistake.

    “Do you think there’s another guide here with as much value as him?”

    He had always been treated like a child, and now it was back to that irritating resource treatment.

    “That’s true. Without him, it’s only a matter of time before you die. So, Baek Sa, make sure you protect him with your life to keep that ‘fated partner’ title intact. Make sure to keep his mouth and body in check too.”

    Park Ha pointed to his mouth and groin in turn. Ha-gyeom barely suppressed his nausea.

    “You won’t find another like Ah-rang.”

    At that moment, Yeo Jin-joo muttered gloomily. At least from her, there was a glimpse of longing for Ah-rang. Ha-gyeom knew that Ah-rang was already dead, even though he didn’t know the details.

    When he looked at Yeo Jin-joo with sympathy, she immediately leaned in and added,

    “You be careful too. The espers here are ruthless. Even Baek Sa is like that. He might seem decent enough on the surface, but when it matters, he’s as cold-blooded as they come.”

    It was almost as if she was blaming Baek Sa. Ha-gyeom glanced up at Baek Sa following Yeo Jin-joo’s childlike gaze. He was expressionless, with his lips firmly sealed, making it impossible to guess his thoughts.

    As the atmosphere grew chaotic, Baek Sa finally spoke.

    “Enough with the chit-chat.”

    Despite being targeted by both Park Ha and Yeo Jin-joo, Baek Sa seemed unaffected. Or rather, he didn’t seem to care at all.

    With an unreadable expression, he placed his hand back on the map, this time pointing to the area around Seoul instead of the west coast.

    “If we don’t find anything on the west coast, we’ll move inland, so it could turn into a long-term operation. Be prepared for that.”

    Both Park Ha and Yeo Jin-joo showed their displeasure almost simultaneously. Park Ha scowled, while Yeo Jin-joo sarcastically flipped her thumbs-up upside down. Feeling like the only fool among them, Ha-gyeom asked.

    “What exactly is this collection mission?”

    When he asked, the gazes of the three others fell on him simultaneously. Baek Sa, who stood with his arms crossed indifferently, and Yeo Jin-joo and Park Ha exchanged suspicious glances.

    “You’ll find out when we get there.”

    “You’ll see when we get there.”

    It was clear they were treating him like a rookie.

    ‘I should have pretended to know.’

    Ha-gyeom habitually fiddled with his earlobe. He kept quiet, thinking that showing his regret would only invite more ridicule from the two.

    * * *

    Maybe because he had tasted the outside air once, the life in the containment camp felt more suffocating as time passed. He had even met S-class ability users, yet he couldn’t even get a glimpse of a private room, leaving him with nothing to do but kill time.

    Moreover, the gaze of the guide on the adjacent bed, who he hadn’t even exchanged names with, had become impossible to ignore, keeping Ha-gyeom on edge constantly.

    “What are you staring at, constantly….”

    Whenever he snapped, irritated, the guide would whip his head away and shut his mouth like now. Ha-gyeom wished he would at least curse him out properly if he was going to do it, but every time it ended like this, only adding to his frustration.

    However, the reason for his sensitivity today wasn’t because of the guide on the adjacent bed. It was because Dr. Cha’s list had finally arrived, and it was Friday, the day he had been waiting for, but the appointment was blatantly broken.

    “The ship came in two days ago….”

    “Right? Even if it’s not a 99% match, there must be a guide who can at least make Baek Sa function as an Esper, right?”

    Two Espers were chattering loudly with Seo Jae-yeol in the middle.

    ‘A ship came in?’

    True to the reputation of District 0, it seemed they had kidnapped ability users from somewhere again, but there was no way to know the details with his current abilities.

    Guiding was supposed to be a private matter that guaranteed secrecy, but Ha-gyeom was nauseated by these third parties talking so openly about it. He almost threw up at the fact that Seo Jae-yeol and Park Ha were on Dr. Cha’s list and had a matching rate of about 30%.

    “If it was two days ago, the matching rate check should be done by now.”

    “We’ll have to see if Dr. Cha’s mouth is agape or not.”

    Even though Baek Sa had a cursed matching rate, it wasn’t impossible for another guide like Ha-gyeom to appear.


    Ha-gyeom, who had been sitting cross-legged on the bed, suddenly lay back down with a sigh. If a guide with a decent matching rate with Baek Sa had indeed appeared, as Seo Jae-yeol and his group suggested, Baek Sa would have the option of receiving guiding from another guide, not just him.

    Setting aside his sympathy for those in the same situation as him, he couldn’t suppress the jealousy that reared its head in the gap.

    While he was gripping the bed sheets and swallowing his rising emotions, a page boy entered to distribute new clothes.

    Since the distribution started from the line where Ha-gyeom’s bed was, he made eye contact with the boy who had been harshly treated by Seo Jae-yeol before. The boy placed his hands over his belly button and bowed deeply to Ha-gyeom.

    It seemed like things were passing without incident until Ha-gyeom noticed a hideous wound about two fingers wide on the boy’s forehead.

    “Did you get hurt?”

    Ha-gyeom grabbed the boy who was about to pass by and asked. The boy nodded. Since he couldn’t speak, there was no way to hear what had happened.

    The boy stopped Ha-gyeom’s hand as he examined the wound. The boy’s composed look, as if such wounds were familiar, made Ha-gyeom feel sorry.

    Ha-gyeom waited until the boy finished his distribution. Then, as the boy was about to leave the room, he quickly ran to the entrance and grabbed the boy’s shoulder.

    “Let’s go get that wound treated. I know a doctor.”

    It was ambiguous to call Dr. Cha a doctor, but he was certainly good at stitching wounds.

    …Since it’s come to this, there’s something else I need to confirm.

    As soon as Ha-gyeom finished speaking, the boy vigorously shook his head.

    “Are you worried about getting scolded?”

    The boy nodded. It made sense; as a page boy, there would be no one to look after such wounds, and instead, he would get scolded from various places.

    However, Ha-gyeom wasn’t as indifferent as the numb people in District 0. An untreated wound could lead to a serious infection. In a world exposed to all kinds of contamination and with limited access to medicine, many people died from failing to control their fever. Fortunately, Ha-gyeom had some rapport with Dr. Cha.

    “I’ll take responsibility. No one will know if we go quietly.”

    As Ha-gyeom met his eyes and coaxed him, the boy reluctantly nodded. The slightest touch around the wound made him flinch, so there was no time to waste.

    “Let’s go.”

    Taking advantage of the distracted attention of the ability users inside, Ha-gyeom took the boy’s hand and walked down the corridor. At first, they hid behind walls or corners whenever they sensed someone approaching. The boy, small and quick-witted, also knew exactly when to move stealthily.

    Even though it was still afternoon, the hallway outside was much quieter compared to the containment camp. Ha-gyeom keenly checked the locations of CCTV cameras along the way. Since it was unlikely that brainwashed ability users would dare attempt an escape, and getting caught would only be a matter of time, the surveillance was not very tight.

    Walking with the boy was a kind of test. He needed to see how far they could move without interference to expand his range of action.

    After a while, they walked boldly down the corridor, but no mercenaries came to apprehend them. Ha-gyeom sighed in relief as they reached the infirmary.

    Without knocking, he pushed the door open. Dr. Cha, who was glued to his monitor, looked up at Ha-gyeom with a curious expression. Ha-gyeom lifted the boy and sat him on the metal bed.

    “Check his wound.”

    To avoid suspicion, he demanded bluntly. Dr. Cha adjusted his glasses and immediately got up from his seat.

    “Did you come alone?”

    “Yes. No one stopped me.”

    “…Is that so?”

    Some districts, even if they were lenient with S-class ability users, were not particularly strict with regulations. Considering Park Ha and Yeo Jin-joo alone, it wasn’t an entirely unreliable assumption.

    “Next time, bring a mercenary.”

    Dr. Cha said as he picked up a suture needle. Ha-gyeom immediately frowned.

    “How am I supposed to bring a mercenary? They act like my superiors. Do you think they’ll go anywhere just because I ask them to?”

    “Are you getting too relaxed? Even if you’re Baek Sa’s… Ah!”

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