“Excuse me? The camera?”
The cameraman looked at Jin-Woo with a flustered expression. But, Jin-Woo’s face was solemn, deeply serious, and unmoving.
“But, why the camera, all of a sudden…?”
Jin-Woo remained silent at the flustered cameraman’s question.
The cameraman couldn’t come to a decision here. Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was indeed his saviour. He’d gladly heed that man’s request, especially when he was also saving the lives of others here, too.
‘However, to ask me to switch the camera off….’
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every South Korean citizen must be watching this broadcast, right now. As a broadcaster, he found it hard to press the ‘off’ button on his camera under the current situation.
When he began hesitating like that, Jin-Woo chose to not waste any more time, and spoke up.
“If you don’t, I’ll just break it.”
Hearing Jin-Woo’s icy tone of voice, the cameraman flinched grandly. If Hunter Seong Jin-Woo decided to break the camera, then would the combined efforts of the Hunters present here even be enough to stop him?
The ‘why’ no longer mattered as he was left with no choice in the matter anymore.
“I-I understand. Hold on.”
The cameraman removed the head-mounted camera and switched the device off. After confirming the ‘power’ light of the camera was gone, Jin-Woo took Cha Hae-In back from Baek Yun-Ho.
‘I didn’t want to scare the cameraman, but….’
It couldn’t be helped if he wanted to save Cha Hae-In.
While holding her, Jin-Woo quickly scanned his vicinity. He then took a couple of deep breaths and closed his eyes.
‘What is he trying to do now?’
The attention of the Hunters were all gathered on him now. Soon, he opened his eyes. Finding the location of what he was searching for, Jin-Woo suddenly turned around and headed deeper into the ant tunnel.
His steps were brisk, but he never broke into a full-blown sprint in consideration of Cha Hae-In’s current condition. Others dazedly stared at his back, before quickly recovering their wits to run after him.
Finally, Jin-Woo came to a stop and cautiously put Cha Hae-In down. He then began removing the pile of ant corpses from around her.
Discovering something rather unexpected, the cameraman was the first one to gasp out in surprise.
Other Hunters also let a stunned gasp to leak out from their mouths. Because, the cold, headless body of Min Byung-Gu was there. It was a gruesome sight to behold, where there was literally nothing above his neck area.
Only then did they venture to guess why Hunter Seong Jin-Woo demanded for the camera to be cut off. No one out there would want to witness that horrible scene, after all.
The closest person to Min Byung-Gu out of everyone present here, Baek Yun-Ho, squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head away. But then…
‘Wait a minute…’
He suddenly thought of something.
‘How did Hunter Seong Jin-Woo find where Byung-Gu was among all these dead monsters?’
The answer arrived soon enough in his mind.
Without the aid of a special skill, such a thing wouldn’t have been possible. The magic energy emission coming from humans and monsters were minutely different, but Jin-Woo was able to differentiate between the two and managed to locate Min Byung-Gu’s corpse before the emission from him completely dissipated.
If true, then that could only be described as an astonishing sensory perception. Such a task would be impossible even for Baek Yun-Ho’s ‘Eyes of the Beast’, which was supposed to be a specialised trait meant for that kind of job.
After his thoughts reached up to this point, Baek Yun-Ho shifted his head back in the direction of Jin-Woo. Even at the risk of the final appearance of Byung-Gu being deeply etched in his nightmares, Baek Yun-Ho wanted to witness with his own two eyes just what would happen next.
‘Hunter Seong Jin-Woo…. Just what are you trying to do?’
Cold sweat drops formed on his forehead as he alternated his gaze between Jin-Woo, Min Byung-Gu, and Cha Hae-In.
In the meantime, Jin-Woo took a closer look at the status of Min Byung-Gu. The black smokes were rising up from the corpse. Meaning, it was possible to perform the ‘Shadow Extraction’ on it.
And, sure enough….
[It is possible to perform Shadow Extraction on the selected target.]
The familiar mechanical beep and the System’s message informed him in such a ‘friendly’ way that what he wanted to do was, well, doable.
Of course, Jin-Woo was cognisant of the fact that Hunter Min Byung-Gu could be turned into a Shadow Soldier the moment he heard of the latter meeting an unfortunate fate.
Only that he didn’t feel like doing it.
To turn a blameless guy into an undead and use him as a soldier…. Even if the corpse belonged to a rank S Hunter, he’d still reject the idea outright. That was not something a human being should do. However…
Jin-Woo stared at Cha Hae-In’s gradually paling face.
‘….This is the best way.’
What if, in a situation where every second counted, he could entrust the gravely injured to the best Healer in South Korea? What was there to even think about here?
If the decision was left up to Min Byung-Gu himself, he’d have made the same call 100 times out of 100. Jin-Woo formed a solemn expression and issued an order to the shadow.
However, the end result was different from what he expected.
[The Shadow Extraction has failed.]
Confusion and anxiety began entering Jin-Woo’s expression.
Was this because the skill level was too low compared to the target’s Stat values? Or, was it because he wasn’t really feeling it with this particular Shadow Extraction?
Jin-Woo quickly shook off all distracting thoughts. And then, spoke up once more, his voice now containing his will.
The desirable changes took place, then.
A low, heavy sound that could be described as either a victorious roar or a scream resounded out from the distant somewhere, and an eerie wind suddenly swept past everyone. The eyes of the Hunters were shot open in shock as the creeping chill crawled down their spines.
“Oh, my god!!”
“That, isn’t that…?!”
From Min Byung-Gu’s shadow, a black hand rose up. As if it didn’t want to go back inside the shadow again, the black hand powerfully grabbed the ground. And then, it began pulling itself out from the darkness.
‘How, how can this be?!’
Baek Yun-Ho felt as if his heart would explode from what he was seeing right now. Other people might not see it, but his eyes clearly captured everything.
Min Byung-Gu’s magic energy rising up from his shadow was slowly solidifying into the shape of a person. More specifically, a soldier decked out in jet-black armour.
And soon, the so-called ‘summoned’ creature finally revealed itself.
The Hunters were rendered utterly speechless and dazedly stared at the new summoned creature of Jin-Woo. And from this creature, they could sense the kind of magical energy that could only be felt from a top-ranked Hunter.
‘No, wait a minute…?’
The quick-witted Choi Jong-In flinched grandly in realisation as his brows shot up.
As everyone watched with bated breaths, Jin-Woo’s calm eyes were studying the shadow of Min Byung-Gu. When their gazes met, the new Shadow Soldier nodded his head.
The moment a shadow was transformed into one of his soldiers, it would immediately form a mental link with Jin-Woo. They would know what their sovereign wanted from them. Without needing any further orders, Min Byung-Gu’s shadow knelt down and began casting healing magic on Cha Hae-In.
As soon as the warm rays of light escaped from the Shadow Soldier’s hands, Cha Hae-In’s pale complexion began recovering gradually. This was the top level healing magic at work.
‘I knew it!!’
Choi Jung-Hoon was properly freaking out now. He was completely sure of his guesses, now that he had seen those lights heal Cha Hae-In. The identity of that black ‘soldier’ was none other than Min Byung-Gu!
By then, other Hunters were also beginning to realise what was going on here.
Mah Dong-Wook hadn’t been able to shut his slack jaw from the moment that black hand rose up from Min Byung-Gu’s shadow, but now, he was able to collect himself enough to finally express his astonishment.
“Instructor Seong, you… weren’t an ordinary Summoner, I see.”
Jin-Woo neither agreed or denied it.
However, just what kind of people were they, to begin with? Every single one of them was an excellent Hunter who each represented the largest Guilds in South Korea. They didn’t need to hear a confirmation to understand the gist of it.
“By any chance… Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim, you can utilise the powers of the deceased?”
Choi Jong-In asked with a nervous tension writ large on his face.
Jin-Woo simply nodded his head, once. Now that he found himself here, there was no more reason to hide his powers, nor did he want to mask it with lies, either.
‘Well, it’s not like these folks will fall for some random lies I cook up on the spot, anyway.’
Actually, he felt as if a load was taken off his shoulders now that he had revealed his powers to someone else.
Other people might fear it, but to Jin-Woo, he’d feel eternally grateful towards this power for helping him get to where he was. He was proud of the power of the Shadow Sovereign.
Seeing that confident look on Jin-Woo’s face, other Hunters began to fear the extent of his powers.
‘He can summon creatures using the powers of the deceased??’
‘Wouldn’t he become stronger and stronger as the battle becomes fiercer? What a scary ability this is….’
‘I don’t even know what to say anymore.’
To these Hunters, having bore witness to Jin-Woo’s ability today, this revelation left different types of impressions.
However, Baek Yun-Ho was privy to one more piece of secret info that others didn’t know.
‘Not only can his own powers continue to grow stronger, but he can also even control his vanquished enemies as his own summoned creatures. Wouldn’t that mean…..’
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s current level of power had already reached an unfathomable degree. But when Baek Yun-Ho thought about the kind of strength the youth would possess in the future, his entire body began shuddering uncontrollably.
Suddenly, the cameraman spoke up as if he remembered something just then.
“Ah! Then the reason why you requested the camera to be turned off was because….”
This power was capable of making the nation’s top Hunters scared. Anyone could’ve easily guessed the reason why Jin-Woo didn’t want to reveal such a power to the rest of the country.
It was around then that Min Byung-Gu’s shadow stood back up. The treatment process must’ve been finished, because there was a hint of crimson colour gently glowing on Hunter Cha Hae-In’s face.
After confirming her status, Jin-Woo sighed out in relief. Although she was still unconscious, her breathing and her heartbeat had returned to normal. As a matter of fact, her wounds were completely healed now.
Jin-Woo patted the shoulder of Min Byung-Gu’s shadow. That was the gesture of appreciation for the job well done.
Jin-Woo guessed what kind of person Min Byung-Gu must’ve been when he was still alive, from the gentle eyes of the Shadow Soldier looking back at him.
Jin-Woo slowly took his hand away from the shoulder, and then…
With a slight smile on his lips, he let the shadow return to the abyss.
No matter what, he didn’t possess the right to lord over this man as one of his soldiers, when Min Byung-Gu even sacrificed his life to fight against the monster threats. Indeed, he thought that such an act was not fitting for a fallen hero.
‘…Let’s get out of here.’
Putting aside the slight regret in his heart, Jin-Woo picked up Cha Hae-In from the ground.
After losing their two leaders – the queen and the king – the ant monsters scattered and fled to the ends of the island in order to hide from the Shadow Soldiers. The ant tunnel, once filled to the brim with ants, was now completely empty.
Jin-Woo took several steps forward before looking behind him to speak to other Hunters.
“Let’s get going.”
Their bodies and physical fatigue might have been recovered to some extent from the potions they ingested, but their mental fatigue had almost reached a breaking point by now. So, when they heard his suggestion, the expressions of the Hunters brightened up considerably.
It was now finally over.
Their smile-filled faces perfectly expressed their current emotions.
After they safely got out from the ant tunnel, they found a helicopter hovering in the air, having arrived in their location just now with an exquisite sense of timing.
“There they are! Hunters are coming out!”
“Yes!! Well done!”
The helicopter carefully descended and landed on the ground after its occupants discovered the exact location of the Hunters. The tired Hunters entered the vehicle one by one until only two people remained.
They were Jin-Woo and Baek Yun-Ho.
Jin-Woo was standing closer to the helicopter. He carefully handed Cha Hae-In over to Baek Yun-Ho.
“What are you doing, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
“I still have some unfinished business to take care of on this island.”
Hearing that, Baek Yun-Ho could only smirk softly.
There were still plenty of ant monsters that had escaped death roaming around on the Jeju Island. If some other people said that they wanted to remain here, then Baek Yun-Ho would’ve questioned their sanity, but the man in front of his eyes was definitely not included in that group.
To fight monsters, you needed a monster.
Baek Yun-Ho thought that he wouldn’t get surprised anymore regardless of what Jin-Woo was planning to do on this island.
Before leaving the island, Baek Yun-Ho threw out one last question.
“Byung-Gu…. No, wait. What will happen to the summoned creature that came out from Byung-Gu? Will he… stay as your soldier and continue to fight on?”
Jin-Woo shook his head.
“I’ve cancelled the summoning. It won’t be possible to see him again.”
Baek Yun-Ho nodded his head and formed a content smile.
“That’s a relief.”
“That guy, he… really hated fighting, you know? I’m sure that he’s thanking you right now, wherever he is.”
And so, the six warriors and one cameraman who had bravely fought on finally left the island of Jeju.
Their fight was over. However, it was merely another beginning for Jin-Woo.
‘I need only one more level up to hit 100.’
He’d get there no problem, considering the number of remaining monsters on this island. And besides, there were plenty of shadows waiting to be extracted back inside the ant tunnel, as well.
So, then – should he get started now?
‘First of all, I should take care of the ants that had run away….’
Jin-Woo formed a deep smile and summoned Kaisel out.
Inside the Japanese Hunter’s Association.
The Association President Matsumoto Shigeo switched the giant TV screen off, his expression one of deep sorrow and defeat. A monster strong enough to instantly annihilate ten of the best Hunters from Japan, was killed off by a single Hunter from South Korea.
‘How come, why, what is….?’
Matsumoto Shigeo’s trembling hands began tearing at what little hair remained on the side of his head.
A completely illogical event had unfolded in front of his eyes just now.
Thanks to that, Japan’s total combat potential had declined by over half, and even his position as the Association President was under threat now. If the Koreans also failed, then he might have tried to come up with some vague excuses to gloss over this whole thing, and then ask the international community for their help, but….
Not only had the Koreans managed to kill the ant queen, they even escaped safely from the clutches of the thousands of ant monsters as well as that mutated freak of an ant, too.
That one Hunter was responsible for smashing everything apart.
‘Seong Jin-Woo… Seong Jin-Woo…..’
Inexplicably, the contents of the phone call he shared with Goto Ryuji while the latter was still in Korea played back in his mind.
[“In South Korea…. There’s an incredible Hunter in South Korea.”]
[“More than you?”]
[“More than likely, sir.”]
[“I think there’s a need to modify our plan a little bit, sir.”]
If only he paid attention to what Goto Ryuji was saying back then.
Wasn’t he the most knowledgeable person when it came to understanding the differences of strength in Hunters? For the first time ever, such a man had assessed a Korean Hunter as “incredible”, yet why did he…..
‘Why was I so arrogant….?’
If they had completely analysed the capabilities of Seong Jin-Woo beforehand, they might have cooperated with the Koreans in good faith, and resolved everything without a single problem.
No, wait. Even if the Japanese didn’t do anything, the Koreans might have stepped forward themselves to take care of the problem, instead.
But then, he ended up digging his own grave just because he resorted to underhanded schemes.
“A-Association President? Sir?”
Seeing how wane his face had become, the Association employee next to him began asking in a worried voice. However, Matsumoto Shigeo didn’t bother to raise his head and simply waved his hand to dismiss the employee.
The employee bowed his head and left the office as if he was running away.
Matsumoto Shigeo’s expression crumpled unsightly.
‘There can only be one way out of this for me.’
And that would be to raise the Japanese Association back on its feet, and make it stronger than ever before. In order to do so, he needed just one man.
No matter what, he must reel that man in. With Goto Ryuji dying in vain like that, there was only one way to revitalise the Japanese Hunter’s Association.
The entirety of Korea’s citizens would have witnessed live the grand feats of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo so it would not be easy, but well, there was already precedence of a top Hunter abandoning South Korea, which meant there was still hope.
‘What should I do to reel Hunter Seong Jin-Woo over to this side?’
Matsumoto Shigeo’s brain, momentarily frozen from despair, began spinning rapidly again.
The Eastern United States.
Ringgg…. Ringgg…. Ringgg….
The phone rang endlessly off the hook.
Unable to endure that racket any longer, David Brennan angrily snatched at the receiver.
‘Which insane motherf*cker is calling me at this time of the night?!’
He was the director of the most powerful organisation in the States, the Hunter Bureau. Promising himself to find the son of a b*tch regardless of the method or cost and throw him in a jail cell if this turned out to be a prank call, he answered the call in a testy voice.
“Who is this?”
“Director, it’s me.”
David Brennan’s sleep flew away the moment he heard that familiar voice and he raised his torso up.
“It’s already pretty late. What’s the matter?”
“There’s a video you must see. Right now.”
When he checked his mobile phone, there were seven missed calls as well as a video file. It seemed that he missed them all because he had muted the phone before going to bed.
“I understand. I’ll give you a call after watching the clip.”
“No need, director.”
“…..What do you mean by that?”
“I’m already in front of your house, sir.”
David Brennan jumped up from the bed and took a look at the alarm sitting on the bedside bureau. It said ’04:12 AM’.
He discarded the phone on the bed and ran towards the bedroom window to take a look, and indeed, the deputy director was waiting for him outside the front of the house with his car parked right there. Once their gazes met, the deputy director nodded his greeting.
David Brennan stared back somewhat dumbfounded, his head tilting to the side, before turning around.
‘What’s going on?’
Sensing that something big must’ve happened, he picked his phone up, the video clip still waiting to be played on the device.