The footage shown was quite a shocking one.
Shot from a CCTV camera placed high up on a stretch of road, the viewer could see how deserted this unknown street was; it was so quiet that, even after the footage had been greatly sped up, only a handful of cars drove by.
One might even end up suspecting that the road was located in the sparsely-populated outskirts of a city or even in a rural area.
The sped-up footage was slowed down greatly. And then, it happened.
A saloon appeared on the edge of the screen. It was moving fast enough that even when the footage had been slowed down, one could still sense its high speed.
But then, in the blink of an eye….
A black thing suddenly appeared before the speeding car. It was a dark lifeform, standing on two feet like a person. The car couldn’t slow down sufficiently with this sudden development. However, no such thing as the car and the unknown lifeform colliding ever occurred.
Just before the collision happened, the car suddenly flew up in the air.
The dark lifeform easily flipped the mid-sized saloon speeding towards it with one hand, and then, dragged the unconscious driver out from the wreckage to devour the poor guy from the head.
That surely would’ve been the noise most likely to be captured by a mic, had the CCTV camera been equipped with one.
The footage came to an end there.
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze away from the giant TV screen filling up an entire wall of the Association President’s office, and to Goh Gun-Hui sitting on the other side of the table.
The older man slowly put the remote down.
“Three hundred people.”
Unlike some others, he didn’t speak about the neighbouring nation’s misfortune with an easy-going attitude.
“That one ant managed to kill that many people.”
“Were the Japanese too slow to respond?”
“That’s not correct.”
Goh Gun-Hui shook his head.
“From what I hear, the Japanese Hunters only took 30 minutes to get to the location. But, in that short period of time, a small village was wiped off the map.”
Japan boasted one of the most advanced Hunter systems in all of Asia. And a country like that had to experience such a level of devastation, so what would happen if an ant entered the South Korean border?
Goh Gun-Hui had viewed that footage multiple times already, but he still was overcome with a chilling premonition of an impending crisis every time he did.
‘Before it’s too late, we need to destroy the ants once and for all.’
The subjugation operation would get underway in four days’ time. The Japanese had been demanding the release of the final list of all Korean Hunters participating in the operation for a few days now.
However, using his authority as the leader of the Korean side, Goh Gun-Hui delayed the announcement of the final list. The reason for that was simple.
Because no one could get in touch with Jin-Woo until now.
And so, after a long wait, the moment of the list being finalised had arrived. Goh Gun-Hui continued on with a trembling heart.
“We’ll go to Jeju Island and get rid of the ants found there.”
He formed a pleading expression next.
“And that is why we need your help, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
Next up, Goh Gun-Hui’s expression shifted to one of anxiety.
If Jin-Woo refused to participate, then there was nothing anyone could do. He was no longer affiliated with the Association, and he was not duty-bound to carry out the demands of the Association, either. In other words, the final decision rested solely on his whim.
After lengthy deliberation, he opened his mouth.
After ending the meeting with the Association President, Jin-Woo stood up from the seat to leave, only to sense something and shifted his head in that direction.
‘What was that just now?’
In a place not too far from here, he sensed clashes of magical energy.
‘Could it be a dungeon break?’
Initially, he suspected a dungeon break happening nearby, but he soon realised that wasn’t the case. He couldn’t sense any presence of monsters, only the magic energy coming from various Hunters, instead.
“Did something happen?”
Goh Gun-Hui had stood up from his seat first and walked over to the doorway to bid Jin-Woo goodbye, only to turn around and question him when the youth failed to move from the spot.
“Well, I don’t think it’s anything serious, but…. It seems that Hunters are fighting each other nearby.”
“But, that can’t be.”
Goh Gun-Hui chuckled loudly.
Which foolhardy Hunters would dare to fight each other near the Association’s HQ? There was no way such a thing would happen.
‘No, wait…. The direction of Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim is looking at….?’
A possibility formed in Goh Gun-Hui’s mind.
“I believe that rank S Hunters are doing some light exercises in the gymnasium. Maybe you’re talking about that?”
‘…Light exercises, is it?’
If that was the case, then for sure, the continuous yet restrained clashes of magical energy made sense. Jin-Woo nodded his head.
Goh Gun-Hui’s eyes looking at the youth were filled with undisguised surprise.
‘He can sense something like that from this distance?’
The Association’s gymnasium was designed to greatly minimise the amount of magic energy leaking outside. In actual reality, even Goh Gun-Hui himself couldn’t sense anything.
But then, not only had Jin-Woo sensed the minuscule amount leaking out from there, he even correctly guessed that different magic energies were clashing with one another, too.
‘Just how highly attuned are his senses?’
It was simply impossible to even take a wild guess.
“….Ah, right! Would you like to take a look if you’re interested?”
Goh Gun-Hui made a quick suggestion. It was a rare event to find all of the rank S Hunters in South Korea gathered in one place. Personally witnessing the abilities of other rank S Hunters from the sideline would do a world of good to Seong Jin-Woo, who had become a rank S himself only recently.
“I believe that Mister Goto Ryuji is also present there.”
Jin-Woo was thinking of taking a look-see with an open mind, only to stop in his tracks.
“If you say Goto Ryuji, do you mean….?”
“Yes, it is him.”
If you were a Hunter – no, even if you weren’t a Hunter – you’d have at least heard of that name once, the name that belonged to one of the most powerful Hunters in existence.
“It is indeed that Goto Ryuji. He’s currently staying in the country to aid in building a good repertoire and a sense of camaraderie in both the Korean and Japanese participants. Since he’s planning to leave tomorrow, if you don’t meet him today, you might not get another opportunity in the future.”
Not only were Korea’s best Hunters gathered in one place, but even Japan’s best was also here too?
‘Obviously, I can’t miss this chance.’
Jin-Woo accepted Goh Gun-Hui’s suggestion with a deeply interested expression.
At the same time, Goto Ryuji was doing his very best to stifle a yawn.
‘This is supposed to be the abilities of Korea’s best?’
No, they were actually pitiful.
The assessment of ‘laughable’ was made from an objective point of view, while the ‘pitiful’ bit came from him adding a bit of sympathy to that initial assessment.
‘Rather than leaving the safety of the country to these people’s hands, wouldn’t it be far better to be under the protection of us, the Japanese, instead?’
Goto Ryuji formed a leery smile and surveyed the Korean rank S Hunters. Out of all the rank S Hunters he met in Korea so far, only one seemed to be somewhat ‘useful’ to his eyes.
‘Her name’s supposed to be Cha Hae-In, right?’
Even then, her abilities were only around the level of Japan’s upper-rank Hunters. She fell way, way short when compared to the best Hunters Japan could offer.
‘But, there’s no helping it, is there?’
South Korea was a small nation, and its population wasn’t that vast, either. Also, the person who had Awakened the greatest ability within the populace just so happened to be an old man who didn’t have that many days to live and couldn’t even fight properly.
‘If it’s Goh Gun-Hui, then he might be able to contend with some of our best on a similar level, but…..’
He could say that the Koreans had drawn a short straw on this one.
In any case, he was done with assessing the capabilities of the Korean Hunters. He had completed the real reason for his extended stay in Korea.
‘They wouldn’t even survive for five minutes if we withdraw during the subjugation.’
Thinking that there was no more reason to stick around, Goto Ryuji turned around to leave, but then, he spotted someone unfamiliar walking closer from the entrance of the gymnasium.
Goto Ryuji’s brows quivered greatly.
He hadn’t realised the approach of this unknown man even though they were in close proximity already. He was looking at the man with his own eyes, yet he still couldn’t sense the other person’s presence at all.
‘Is he an Assassin-type Hunter?’
Goto Ryuji asked the Association employee tasked with translation next to him.
“Who is that man?”
The employee fidgeted with his glasses and stared for a long time, before finally recalling who the unknown man was and formed a smile.
“Ah. He’s the newly registered rank S Hunter.”
So, that man was that Re-Awakened with no known reliable information available?
Goto Ryuji was thinking of spending the remaining time in Korea to unearth more about this man, but he now thought that this was actually better for him. He formed a bright smile and asked the Association employee again.
“Seems like he’s a pretty excellent Assassin?”
When the employee stared back with a strange expression, Goto Ryuji realised something was off.
“Did I make a mistake?”
“Oh, no. That’s not it. But, well…”
The employee pointed at Jin-Woo and spoke.
“He’s actually a Mage-type Hunter. Mister Goto.”
‘No freaking way?!’
Carrying a disbelieving expression, Goto Ryuji quickly accessed the Korean Hunters Association website and went through the list of rank S Hunters there.
The automated translation app allowed him to read the information on the Korean rank S Hunters right away.
[Seong Jin-Woo, rank S, Mage-type]
There it was. The profile image and the person’s face were a perfect match.
‘He’s really a Mage-type??’
Goto Ryuji got inwardly stunned by this and hurriedly raised his shocked face. By then, that man was already standing nearby.
‘So, this guy is Goto Ryuji, huh.’
Jin-Woo only needed one glance to recognise Japan’s most powerful Hunter.
He was a tall man with a sharp sense of fashion. His beard was trimmed neatly, too. At a casual glance, one might mistakenly think that he was a famous Japanese actor.
‘But, why does he keep looking at me like that?’
Just as Jin-Woo was beginning to feel a bit unhappy at the continued gaze, the Japanese man performed a simple greeting with his eyes first.
Did he stare like that because they had never met before until now?
Jin-Woo didn’t think too much about it and reciprocated the light greeting, and took a look around.
In the middle of the gymnasium, the shirtless Baek Yun-Ho and a hulking middle-aged man with a huge frame were having a sparring session. Excluding Goto Ryuji, everyone else present was looking on at that with deeply interested expressions.
Baek Yun-Ho slapped away the hand of the quickly-approaching man, spun his lower half, and sent out a powerful low kick.
Contrary to expectations, though, the one to frown was Baek Yun-Ho.
Jin-Woo could tell why. In that briefest of moments, the giant man utilised a body reinforcement-type skill to defend his legs.
Judging from that huge body and the skill he used just now, he seemed to be a Tanker type, but his Agility Stat must’ve been rather out of the norm, as well. Should Jin-Woo chalk that one up to that man being a rank S?
The giant middle-aged man smirked.
“Instructor Baek! It won’t do for a young man like you to be this powerless.”
“I’m not an instructor, Mah Instructor-nim.”
The giant man referred to as Mah Instructor-nim chuckled genially and grabbed the belt of his dobok. Maybe because a guy with a physique of a Sumo wrestler was wearing a dobok, it kind of felt a bit out of place to Jin-Woo’s eyes.
“Well, in that case.”
The giant man fixed his attire for a moment before pouncing forward again, and Baek Yun-Ho unleashed his magic power to counter-attack. Both of them were carrying joyous expressions.
As Instructor Mah pushed forward, and as Baek Yun-Ho was pushed back, they both looked to be enjoying themselves.
It seemed that they were relishing this rare opportunity to unleash some of their powers that had to be restrained most of the time in this gathering of rank S Awakened.
“Even then, if Mister Baek Yun-Ho were to fight seriously, Mister Mah Dong-Wook wouldn’t be able to endure it.”
Choi Jong-In walked in closer to Jin-Woo and spoke up. The latter turned his head to look, prompting the former to nod his head in a greeting.
Jin-Woo reciprocated the greeting, and their conversation continued on from there.
“That person wearing dobok is the Shining Star’s Mah Dong-Wook.”
Jin-Woo was thinking to himself that he had heard of that name before, and it turned out that man was the Master of the Shining Star. He nodded his head and threw a question.
“It’s not like he needs to go easy on his opponent, so why is Master Baek hiding most of his powers?”
“He finds it a bit troublesome to reveal his powers in front of too many eyes…. Chairman Baek transforms into a real monster when he fights seriously, you see.”
Back in front of the Red Gate, Baek Yun-Ho did reveal a pair of beast-like eyes to Jin-Woo.
‘So, it’s not just his eyes that can transform, eh.’
Just like Baek Yun-Ho’s ability to transform, one would hear about top Hunters possessing rather unique abilities every now and then.
In a way, they were the possessors of monster-like powers. From other people’s perspective, Jin-Woo thought that he’d be seen like that, too.
‘A guy who can morph into a monster, and a guy who can summon monsters….’
When he thought about others finding him mystifying, just like how he thought of Baek Yun-Ho’s powers being weird, Jin-Woo couldn’t help but smirk softly to himself.
But, that was all.
He only found Baek Yun-Ho’s ability to transform strange and nothing else. There was nothing interesting to look at in regards to the sparring between Baek Yun-Ho and Mah Dong-Wook.
Jin-Woo didn’t even need to concentrate, yet he could clearly read the attacks and counters of both men.
It was then.
Sensing something was off, Baek Yun-Ho stopped moving. Mah Dong-Wook also stopped at the same time, as well. And their gazes shifted to Jin-Woo simultaneously as if they had made a prior arrangement.
Maybe it was because Jin-Woo’s boredom was too easy to see?
But then again, too many people were looking at Jin-Woo the same way for him to think that was the case. However, he got to figure out the reason soon enough.
‘It’s not me, but behind me….’
When he looked back, Goto Ryuji was standing there. The light glinting in his eyes was rather suspicious.
The interpreter next to the Japanese man spoke on behalf of Goto Ryuji.
“Hunter-nim? Mister Goto wishes to speak to you for a moment.”
Jin-Woo knew that Goto Ryuji was standing nearby, but because he hadn’t expected to be addressed at all, he could only form a confused expression.
‘This guy, I sensed that he didn’t seem right since a while ago, but now….’
Did Jin-Woo’s unhappiness get transmitted? Because Goto Ryuji quietly threw out a rather unexpected question.
“Will you have a sparring match with me?”