“Let us escort you back home, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
The Association President Goh Gun-Hui hurriedly made that offer as Jin-Woo stood up to leave.
“If you wait for a minute, one of our agents will bring a car around. How about going home with that, instead?”
Jin-Woo had fully understood that the Hunter’s Association, and especially its boss man, Goh Gun-Hui, were feeling extremely grateful towards him.
However, that didn’t mean he wanted to be treated like royalty even in something as minor as this.
It wasn’t as if his home was too far away and he needed to borrow a car, either. If he wanted to save on time, he might as well ride on Kaisel. Or run all the way back home, which would actually be quicker, instead.
That’s why Jin-Woo declined the offer.
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine.”
However, Goh Gun-Hui shook his head and insisted on it.
“I believe that… it’ll be more convenient for you to get a ride home.”
“What do you mean by that….?”
Goh Gun-Hui approached the window and spoke to him.
“Could you please come over this way?”
Jin-Woo also walked over to the window, and that’s when he saw it.
….Outside the window.
Less than one hour ago, the front entrance of the Association used to be sparsely populated. But now, a huge crowd of people had gathered there and he couldn’t see any openings at all.
“All these people came here to see you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. They have heard that you came for a visit in the Association.”
Jin-Woo didn’t have to ask how these people knew.
‘Well, I did fly on Kaisel to get here, so….’
In this day and age, everyone walked around with a minimum of one camera on their persons. The images of Jin-Woo riding on Kaisel, and disembarking in front of the Association, spread through the medium of SNS like wildfire. And sure enough, online reporters were also among those who heard of the news.
Just one headline was all that’s needed. The article itself wasn’t even that long, either.
‘Who is the owner of the monster that landed in the Association?’⸥
The article stated that the monster was definitely not what one would call average, and that it was jet-black like a shadow. Finally, the article went on to posit that it was most likely one of Jin-Woo’s summoned creatures, as it looked similar to what millions saw on their TV sets.
Those who heard the news and came here to confirm the truth, and those who only wished to meet Jin-Woo in person, combined to create this massive throng of people gathering right on the front lawn of the Association building.
A flood of emotions welled up inside Jin-Woo as he stared at all these people.
Goh Gun-Hui also stared at the crowd in silence for a while, before he calmly opened his mouth.
“I’m sure that you’re aware of it by now… Our countrymen had been thirsting for a victory.”
South Korea became the sole nation on Earth who lost a part of their land to monsters after a catastrophic dungeon break occurred on Jeju Island four years ago.
Many countries outwardly expressed their solidarity but inwardly, they were mocking the Korean Hunters for their uselessness. By the time the third subjugation operation ended in failure, that sentiment reached its peak.
Two years of humiliation later….
People learned of the news that the fourth subjugation attempt would be a joint operation with the Japanese. There were some sceptical voices mocking the Koreans for their inability to deal with the monsters without the aid of the Japanese. Unfortunately, that was the actual hard truth.
The mighty Japanese and their twenty-plus rank S Hunters turned tail and ran away from the raid. Yet, Jin-Woo suddenly made his appearance along with his black soldiers. It was understandable that people would go absolutely crazy about him.
Exactly like how one would quench his thirst in an oasis, the citizens witnessed Jin-Woo’s feats and threw away their sense of powerlessness. Many viewers had to pour out onto the streets, unable to contain their unbridled joy. And when they heard of Jin-Woo’s whereabouts, they ended up running over here.
“Of course, I’m sure you can also fly away using your monster.”
Goh Gun-Hui gently chuckled from the side.
“However, I believe that you should go downstairs in consideration of the crowd. Because, the people… need a hero, you see.”
Jin-Woo pushed open the glass door and exited from the Association building. All chaos suddenly died down right away.
Everyone gathered here kept their mouths closed and quietly stared at Jin-Woo.
Many areas of Jin-Woo’s clothes still sported traces of battles he fought.
There were blotches of ant monster’s bodily liquid, and some part had been torn open at the hands of the mutated ant monster, too. However, not one person here made fun of Jin-Woo’s current appearance.
No, the citizens simply stared at him in silence while feeling a certain boiling something well up from deep within their chests.
Jin-Woo quietly stared back at them as well. Just as the heavy silence descended between him and the citizens….
“Hunter-nim, please. This way.”
Woo Jin-Cheol was now tasked with guiding Jin-Woo, and he faithfully carried out his duty.
The agents of the Monitoring Division went ahead and created a path forward while asking the crowd for their understanding; citizens moved aside without any complaints whatsoever.
However, there was a sole exception.
A grandpa walked in front of Jin-Woo when there wasn’t that much distance left to the waiting car.
One of the Monitoring Division’s agents tried to stop the grandpa, but he hesitated somewhat after seeing the tear-soaked face of the old man, before he had to take a step back. Because, Jin-Woo held the agent back, that’s why.
The grandpa was finally able to stand before Jin-Woo. Thick tears streamed down his face and he called out to the young Hunter in a choked-up voice.
“Hunter-nim…. Thanks to you… My son, he can close his eyes and rest now.”
The grandpa faltered as strength left his legs. Jin-Woo quickly supported him before he fell.
The grandpa held on to Jin-Woo’s hands and arms and kept bowing his head over and over again.
“Thank you, Hunter-nim….. Truly, I…..”
“I only did what had to be done. Please, do try to stand up.”
Woo Jin-Cheol helped with assisting the grandpa, and then entrusted the still-crying old man to his subordinate. He leaned in closer and whispered to Jin-Woo.
“Hunter-nim. The crowd is getting larger. Perhaps we should get going….”
Jin-Woo nodded his head. Woo Jin-Cheol opened the car’s rear door and held it there.
Jin-Woo took one last look at the crowd before climbing into the car.
It was unknown who started it first.
Someone within the crowd quickly lowered his head as soon as meeting Jin-Woo’s gaze as a sign of a thank you, but then, everyone followed suit and did the same. Greetings filled with genuine appreciation came back to him wherever his eyes swept by.
Woo Jin-Cheol’s anxious voice woke Jin-Woo up and only then did he fully climb into the car.
Woo Jin-Cheol entered the front passenger’s seat while his subordinate settled into the driver’s. Eventually, the car drove slowly away from the Association’s grounds.
Without saying a word, Jin-Woo gazed outside the window.
The crowd kept looking at the car right up until it could no longer be seen.
He leaned back on the seat and placed his hand on his pounding chest.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump….
His heart was beating fast as the wonderful sense of accomplishment filled him up.
He initially felt at a loss when the Association President suggested that he should meet with the crowd. But now, he was glad that he didn’t just walk past them.
It felt like every single gaze he met were his reward for a job well done.
It was then….
Woo Jin-Cheol hurriedly looked behind him after Jin-Woo inadvertently cried out.
“Did something happen, Hunter-nim??”
“….No, it’s nothing important.”
Jin-Woo remembered only now that he broke the TV without an explanation, just so he could reduce the shock his mom might feel. He helplessly massaged his forehead.
‘Just how am I supposed to explain all this?’
He switched his phone back on to find 13 missed calls from home.
It was pandemonium in online forums, too. But, that was to be expected.
The Jeju Island subjugation raid was the very first time Jin-Woo made his public appearance, ever since getting his rank S licence. It was the same thing as him making his public debut.
And during his first public appearance, he overwhelmed the mutated monster ant that freaked out everyone, and then, swept away thousands of ants blocking the escape route with his summoned creatures.
Like the excited fans pouring out into the streets after a match, those who witnessed the raid broadcast all logged online to voice their opinions.
└ Wow…. I’m speechless….
└ But, I thought that you can’t call out that many summoned creatures?
└ My ten-year-old tumour got cured from watching the assault of Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim’s summoned creatures.
└ By the way, mister? That tumour must’ve been a minor one since you had it for only ten years.
└ It was so cool. It was the best.
└ I lost my parents four years ago on Jeju Island. I know that Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim won’t read this, but….
The operation managed to capture the interest of all South Korean citizens. It was no wonder that various online forums were overflowing with the stories related to the raid. And Jin-Woo’s name always cropped up in those discussions.
Also, a hot debate regarding how high Jin-Woo’s skills should be rated opened up among the netizens famed for their love of comparisons.
└ With his powers, shouldn’t we say that our country now also has a Special Authority-rank in our midst?
└ Eiii. With only that? You should limit your intake of Kimchi soup per day. (TL: a Korean idiom, “drinking Kimchi soup”. Means you’re putting the cart before the horse.)
└ But, why not? He almost solo cleared a rank S dungeon, and the gap between him and other rank S Hunters is pretty vast, you know?
└ Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s record isn’t extensive enough. If his skills are for real, then people will acknowledge him sooner or later.
└ In any case, man, he was so freaking awesome.
└ A rank E is only a bit better than a regular person, so how can someone like that become so strong?
└ Is Hunter Seong Jin-Woo a Re-Awakened?
└ Lots of people don’t seem to know that Seong Jin-Woo is a Re-Awakened. He applied to have his private information protected right away, so…..
Of course, there were some people among many who felt mighty uncomfortable about Jin-Woo, as well.
└ But, hold up…. If Seong Jin-Woo participated in the raid from the get-go, Min Byung-Gu wouldn’t have died, right?
└ He wanted to be left out in the beginning, so why did he show up in the middle?
└ Looks like guys above mine haven’t seen the article put up by the Association explaining themselves yet.
└ What article? Links please.
The contents of the article went like this.
Even though he was ranked S, Jin-Woo lacked experience in entering high-ranked dungeons. Therefore, the Association chose to keep him in reserve nearby in case of an emergency, instead of making him join the raid team from the beginning. Once the situation became dire, they decided to insert him right away.
It was a hastily-cooked up story, but it proved to be enough to convince the masses.
‘This is the best I can do for Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.’
Goh Gun-Hui’s quick response was able to stop the sharp arrows of criticism from pointing at Jin-Woo, while also managing to keep the latter’s private affairs out of public limelight.
Thanks to that, some people denounced the inability of the Association to properly gauge the capabilities of their own Hunters, but no one pointed the fingers of blame in Jin-Woo’s direction.
No, Jin-Woo’s acclaim only rose even further in the eyes of the public.
The situation was at its worst point, with the Japanese team tasked with buying time having withdrawn from the island and the Korean team facing certain annihilation. Yet, he didn’t complain once and jumped into the ant tunnel all alone.
└ I wouldn’t have been able to go in there, even if someone pushed me from the back, ‘cuz I’d get scared sh*tless. Other rank S Hunters were getting massacred in there, so why should I?
└ What did he think about when he entered there?
└ Shouldn’t Seong Jin-Woo be the true role model of all the Hunters out there?
└ Shouldn’t those idiots slagging off Seong Jin-Woo for not participating beg for his forgiveness right about now?
└ LOLOLOL That’s why you shouldn’t yap on like that when you don’t know anything.
Jin-Woo was fast becoming the most famous Hunter in South Korea, much to his fluster. Even though he had requested for the protection of his private information early on, his fame continued to soar higher.
Two days later.
Military personnel and Hunters landed on Jeju Island to recover the remains of Hunter Min Byung-Gu.
They were from the Yeongnam District’s Guild, the ‘Knight Order’. Although they were one of the five large Guilds representing South Korea, they lacked a rank S Hunter in their midst and therefore, couldn’t participate in the raid.
They sensed their reputation diminishing from this event, and volunteered for this mission. Thanks to that, the matters had progressed rather swiftly.
Hunters had to take the lead after seeing the specially-trained soldiers hesitating somewhat.
“Oii, stop it and come on, already.”
“I’m telling you, there isn’t a single detectable magical energy on this island. Argh, you guys are far too distrusting.”
Hunters walking forward far up ahead waved at the soldiers. The hesitant soldiers cautiously followed from behind, but they still kept their guards up.
From the Hunters’ perspective, that sure was one frustrating sight to see, but there was no helping it. Regular people couldn’t sense magical energy, nor were they able to fight against the monsters. So they could only be overly cautious like that.
The Guild Master of the Knight Order tutted unhappily, and placed his hands on his waist while scanning his surroundings.
His jaw dropped all on its own.
The closer they got to the vicinity of the ant tunnel, the greater the number of dead ants strewn about on the ground.
Nay, they resembled small mountains now, instead.
The Vice Guild Master, a close friend and a fellow Hunter who he fought alongside for a long time, helplessly shook his head.
“Hyung-nim…. Can you believe this? You telling me that a lone Hunter did all of this?”
The Knight Order Guild also took part back during the third subjugation operation along with countless other Hunters. That’s why they knew better than anyone here how scary these creatures could be.
“To think that those ants ended up in this sorry state….”
“Wow…. That kid, Seong Jin-Woo or whatever his name was, he’s no ordinary man, that’s for sure.”
The Vice Guild Master continued to look around at his surroundings and spoke while sounding a bit fed up.
“How did he even manage to wipe out every single ant on this huge island??”
“I wonder about that myself.”
The elite members of the Knight Order, pretty well versed in all things monster-related, could only gawk in astonishment at the piles upon piles of dead monsters.
Eventually, though, their astonished steps brought them to the entrance of the ant tunnel.
“Hyung-nim, I can see it.”
“Yup, me too.”
Hunters came to a stop in front of the ant tunnel so they could enter it together with the soldiers. The latter group was still a bit of distance away. Since there wasn’t much to do during the wait, the Guild Master lit up a cigarette. The Vice Guild Master also lit one up for himself.
The Guild Master furrowed his brows after seeing that lit cigarette powerlessly fall from the Vice’s lips.
“Oii. What’s the matter?”
The Vice Guild Master urgently slapped the Master’s shoulder as he pointed to the front. The latter finally realised that something was off and quickly turned his head to the front.
A distinct shadow of a man appeared in the entrance of the tunnel.
The wide-eyed Guild Master flinched in surprise, before opening his mouth up to speak.
“Y-you, who… are you?”