The moment the ground disappeared and they got sucked into the shadow, Jin-Woo looked at Cha Hae-In falling together at the same time.
‘As I thought….’
His expectation was on the money.
He wondered if the skill ‘Shadow Exchange’ worked in this manner while using it a few times in the past, and he was right.
The identity of the skill ‘Shadow Exchange’ was actually a ‘Gate’. That theory was proven correct when Cha Hae-In travelled alongside him through the shadow.
‘The entrance is generated below my feet, and the exit is where the determined coordinates are.’
And those coordinates would be the location of a Shadow Soldier.
Even though there was a limitation of the three-hour-long cooldown time, he was still able to create a Gate with this skill. If he wanted to, then wouldn’t it be possible for him to move to the other side of the planet every three hours? Jin-Woo unconsciously swallowed his saliva.
But, his stunned state lasted only for a brief while longer.
His view covered up by the inky darkness reverted back to normal almost right away. And the two of them found themselves inside the Association’s gymnasium.
The last time he came here, Jin-Woo left behind a shadow just in case he found himself in an urgent need to visit the Association.
Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting!
The overhead lighting system sensed the magic energy from them and the bulbs came on one by one, brightly illuminating the gymnasium’s interior. Cha Hae-In opened her eyes after sensing the brightness through her closed eyelids.
Her brows shot up as she failed to hide her astonishment. They were already in a familiar place.
She sensed only about one second passing by, yet the surroundings were completely different when she opened her eyes.
‘How is this even possible?!’
She had never heard of such a skill existing in the world. Cha Hae-In looked around in utter amazement before shifting her gaze back to Jin-Woo.
She had so, so many things she wanted to ask, but in the end, she couldn’t open her lips to voice any of them.
The first reason for that was because she didn’t even know just where to start her questions, and secondly, their distance was far, far too close for a spot of civilised conversation.
“It’s safe now, so….”
Jin-Woo lightly grasped her wrists and unwrapped her arms around his waist.
“….You don’t have to hold on to me anymore.”
Cha Hae-In lightly rubbed her wrists he had grasped and wordlessly nodded her head.
“Okay. Let’s get started.”
Jin-Woo walked out of the corner the High Orc Shadow Soldier was probably hiding in, and strode towards the centre of the gymnasium.
She too followed behind him only to remember that she left her sword back in her car. Although a weapon was an indispensable tool for her trade, it would be quite rude to visit someone else’s office fully armed, now wouldn’t it?
Cha Hae-In quickly spoke to him.
“I left my weapon back in my car…..”
“Oh, you mean that pickaxe?”
“You know, the one you were carrying around back in the rank A dungeon with High Orcs in it.”
Her face reddened as soon as she remembered a small detail she’d been wanting to forget.
“N-no, my weapon is….”
She then spotted Jin-Woo giggling to himself, and belatedly realised that he was teasing her just now.
Jin-Woo waved his hand after seeing Cha Hae-In’s reddened complexion.
“I was just joking with you.”
Time to stop kidding around, however.
‘Seriously, though. What should I do?’
Even if it was Cha Hae-In, she wouldn’t be able to fight against the soldier he was planning to summon out. Of course, he wanted his soldier to win, but that didn’t mean he wanted to see her get hurt, either.
“It’ll be fine.”
Cha Hae-In shifted her gaze towards the storage located within the gymnasium.
“I’m sure there will be a weapon I can borrow in the storage.”
A light gleamed within Jin-Woo’s eyes after learning of something new. She walked up to the storage and diagonally swiped her Hunter licence on the electronic lock found on the side of the door.
That prompted the storage door to automatically slide open.
Rows of not-too-shabby-looking spare weapons were displayed inside the storage. Looking into the interior from a bit of distance away, Jin-Woo was inwardly impressed by the preparedness of the Hunter’s Association.
‘So, there was even stuff like this inside the Association….’
He wondered where all those high taxes Hunters had to fork out over the years ended up, but it looked like they were being put to good use. Cha Hae-In scanned the displayed items before picking up a sword similar in length to the one she’d been using and exited from the storage.
“Will that be fine? It’s not a sword you’ve been using before, so wouldn’t it feel off in your hands?”
Cha Hae-In shook her head.
“It doesn’t really matter what weapon it is. Monsters don’t care about what weapons Hunters are wielding when they fight us, after all.”
Those were some wise words.
Jin-Woo carried the same opinion as her, so he didn’t argue with her there. At the very least, he found her straightforwardness rather likeable.
‘So, calling out my soldier is next, right?’
As if to prove that she wasn’t joking about being ready, a sharp, focused aura oozed out of her. Against someone like her, any ol’ regular soldier would be sliced up into tiny pieces in no time.
That’s why, Jin-Woo called for the best card he could bring out under the current circumstances.
A small portion separated from Jin-Woo’s shadow and moved away a couple of steps from him. Then a black knight rose up from the unmoving shadow.
The jet-black armour and the helm; the red plumage attached to the helm, extending all the way down to his waist. The best sword-wielding Shadow Soldier in his army. It was Igrit.
‘I told her that I’d be summoning the most powerful guy out, but…’
But, he thought that calling out Beru was a bit too much. Before he was turned into a Shadow Soldier, Beru was the terrifying creature that nearly drowned the entirety of Korean team members in the pit of pure terror. Hell, even Cha Hae-In herself almost died from his attack, too.
Jin-Woo couldn’t bring Beru out when considering the potential mental shock she could suffer after seeing him again.
As for Fangs, he might end up destroying the gymnasium, so he was excluded. That’s why he chose Igrit.
‘Yup, at the end of the day, it can only be you.’
Jin-Woo knew he made the right call when looking at the wide, dependable back of Igrit. But then…..
“Mister Seong Jin-Woo.”
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to Cha Hae-In.
“What are the conditions for victory and defeat?”
When he heard her icy voice that was cold enough to instantly freeze the listener’s heart, his belief began wavering somewhat. Jin-Woo pondered a bit before making his reply.
“Either my summon is destroyed, or Cha Hunter-nim admits defeat first.”
Cha Hae-In briefly nodded her head. Then, unsheathed the sword she got from the storage.
She was only holding a simple, plain magic sword one could buy pretty much anywhere, but even then, the aura oozing out of her was still quite incredible to behold.
‘Yup, she’s definitely strong.’
Jin-Woo could sense it. Her surging aura, after she decided to get serious, was definitely fitting for a woman whose skills were rated as the best even among the rank S Hunters.
Igrit also unsheathed his sword. As a matter of fact, he was now holding a longsword each in his hands. Even then, Jin-Woo couldn’t help but think that Igrit would be defeated by her at this rate.
‘Wait a sec…. Didn’t she say that it doesn’t really matter what weapon it was, right?’
Jin-Woo recalled what she said just now and a smile floated up on his lips as he asked her for a small favour.
“Can you turn around for a second, please?”
Cha Hae-In tilted her head for a bit, but didn’t complain and turned around as he asked. Using that gap, Jin-Woo summoned the ‘Demon King’s Longsword’ out of his Inventory and handed it over to Igrit.
By saying that she didn’t mind what weapon she used, it could also be interpreted as she didn’t mind what weapon her opponent was using.
Having been bestowed a sword straight from his sovereign, Igrit tried to kneel down to express his profound gratitude, but Jin-Woo quickly stopped him.
‘I’m telling you, you don’t have to stand on ceremony all the time, you know?’
If only Iron could learn half of Igrit’s attitude….
In any case, the preparation was done, so Jin-Woo called out to Cha Hae-In again.
“It’s fine now.”
She turned around and spotted Igit now holding a brand new sword that crackled with blue arcs of electricity. Which he clearly wasn’t holding a minute ago.
“Will it be fine if we start now?”
Jin-Woo pretended to not notice anything and asked her if she was good to go.
Cha Hae-In, having already agreed to do this, could only say yes again with a begrudging expression.
“Okay then, begin.”
Soon after Jin-Woo signalled the beginning, Igrit swung the ‘Demon King’s Longsword’ to activate its passive ability as his opening attack.
A strand of lightning flew in a straight line at Cha Hae-In. She flinched for the briefest of brief moments. But then, like an agile cat, she bent her upper body back and evaded the lightning.
The wall of the gymnasium was scorched jet-black after getting struck by the stray lightning.
Cha Hae-In righted her torso and sent her sharp glare in Jin-Woo’s direction, but he averted his gaze to stare into the distance, still pretending to not notice a thing.
Without saying anything, Cha Hae-In gripped the sword tighter in her hands.
It was right then. Igrit rushed towards her at a frightening pace from her front to heed his Sovereign’s order to bring her down. However, she didn’t even blink once and also flung herself forward towards her opponent.
The office of the Association President, located on the top floor of the main building.
One could clearly see not just other Association buildings but the surrounding scenery when sitting inside this office.
The Association President was in the middle of going through a report, but then, his gaze abruptly shifted over to the window. There should have been no one inside the gymnasium, but the lights there came on just now.
Goh Gun-Hui tilted his head slightly, before picking up his phone to speak to his PA.
“Did someone book out the gymnasium today?”
“….Sir, I confirmed and no one has booked it today.”
“Is that so?”
Goh Gun-Hui covered the phone’s receiver and organised his thoughts for a bit, before speaking to his subordinate again.
“Can you send the CCTV feed from the gymnasium into my office?”
“Yes, sir. Please hold on.”
Shortly thereafter, the live feed was displayed on the giant TV occupying the entire wall of his office. And that’s when he got to see Seong Jin-Woo and Cha Hae-In hugging each other inside the gymnasium.
Stunned by what he saw, Goh Gun-Hui hurriedly coughed to clear his throat. He looked over and over again, but it was definitely those two. He then tilted his head again.
‘Did those two people have such a relationship?’
But then again, the very first person Hunter Cha Hae-In searched for when she regained consciousness briefly inside the helicopter was none other than Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.
‘It seems that I was very slow on the uptake, huh.’
A content smile spread on Goh Gun-Hui’s face as he gazed at the two young people on the TV screen.
Both of them requested for their private information to be protected as soon as they got their rank S licences. Even then, there was not one person in this country who didn’t know Cha Hae-In, or for that matter, Seong Jin-Woo.
So, if two such people wished to spend some quiet time together, there would be no better place than the Association’s gymnasium after the closing time.
To think, they’d chose a gymnasium as their date venue, quite unlike the youths of today. What a wonderfully wholesome date this was.
Goh Gun-Hui maintained a heartwarming smile and shook his head wryly.
‘Yup, being young is indeed wonderful.’
He reached out to the resting phone’s receiver and picked it up once more.
“I’m sorry about this, but I want you to switch off all the CCTV feed coming from the gymnasium.”
“Just say that today was the maintenance day in the records.”
“I understand, sir.”
The giant TV screen in the President’s office showing the CCTV feed switched off as soon as he ended the call. Goh Gun-Hui took one last look at the gymnasium and returned to perusing the report, a grin still etched on his lips.
But, it was then.
The surface of the water in his cup vibrated softly as he sensed a minute tremor coming from the gymnasium’s direction.
Goh Gun-Hui didn’t bother to look at the gymnasium and simply carried on smiling.
‘Indeed, being young is the best.’
Jin-Woo massaged his aching forehead.
It seemed that he had been greatly underestimating Cha Hae-In’s actual skills up until now. Igrit’s strength had been boosted overall by the ‘Demon King’s Longsword’, but in the end, he couldn’t win against her skills.
Right after Igrit’s left arm flew away from being cut, Jin-Woo ended this match.
Even though they would regenerate back to full, he still couldn’t stand the sight of his soldiers getting destroyed.
Cha Hae-In reined in her rough breathing and let out a long sigh. Her opponent must’ve been tougher than expected, because she was soaked in sweat from head to toe. Her slender, white fingers wiped the droplets of sweat forming on her forehead.
Jin-Woo looked at that with a rueful expression, inwardly accepting his loss today, and called Igrit back.
“It’s my loss.”
Igrit returned back inside his shadow. However, Cha Hae-In spoke directly to him, her hands not letting go of her sword.
“No. Please, this one doesn’t count.”
What did she even mean by that, out of the blue? Didn’t count?
Cha Hae-In explained herself.
“Didn’t you say that you’d bring out the most powerful summon?”
Cha Hae-In walked closer and only stopped when she was one step away from Jin-Woo.
“Was that black knight really your strongest summon?”
She wasn’t asking him here. No, it sounded as if she was just trying to confirm what she knew already.
Jin-Woo quietly shook his head. As if she was waiting for that, Cha Hae-In immediately carried on.
“Please call out your strongest summon. We agreed to do from that get-go, didn’t we?”
“But, you may get injured.”
“It’s fine. I wanted to fight it at least one more time, anyway.”
Jin-Woo’s eyes widened from her declaration.
“Wait, you knew?”
“I saw the video footage.”
Cha Hae-In had watched the raid video starring Jin-Woo several times by now.
The giant monster that made its appearance during the clip – she definitely remembered seeing that monster shooting out the pillar of flames from somewhere.
“That summoned creature, that was the High Orc Shaman, the boss of that rank A dungeon. Am I correct?”
If that was the case, then the mutated ant monster he hunted down this time would also have become his summoned creature, as well. From the word go, she chose to go through the test while thinking of fighting that mutated ant.
‘There is no meaning in a victory like this.’
She wanted to defeat the summoned creature that used the powers of the mutated ant monster, and thereby get Jin-Woo to acknowledge her true value.
He pondered for a little bit, before nodding his head.
Right away, a Shadow Soldier enshrouded in jet-black smoke rose up behind Jin-Woo. Cha Hae-In instinctively jumped back and created some distance as soon as she saw Beru’s entrance.
Back then or now, that guy carried a truly horrendous aura.
Jin-Woo got genuinely worried when all colour drained out of her face and quickly asked her.
“Will this really be fine?”
Even if Beru had gotten weaker compared to when he was alive, this guy was originally a killing weapon born solely for the purpose of eliminating Hunters.
Cha Hae-In’s lips were squeezed shut in a straight line, as she weightily nodded her head.
Beru had been staring at her quietly for a while, before lowering his head to whisper a question to Jin-Woo.
‘Oh my king. How should I deal with this female?’
Cha Hae-In must’ve been unable to hear what Beru was saying, because she showed no particular reaction at all.
‘Defeat her without injuring her.’
‘It shall be done.’
The former king of the ants and the current Shadow Soldier turned towards the deeply tense female warrior.
Cha Hae-In swallowed her dry saliva. She felt goosebumps break out on her skin from the enormous amount of magic energy emitted by her opponent.
‘Mister Seong Jin-Woo fought against a creature like this and won??’
Her eyes that showed no signs of hesitation while fighting against Igrit were now trembling greatly. Beru was done with the necessary preparation to follow his sovereign’s order, and suddenly, spat out a mighty screech.
Blade-like claws began extending out from the ends of Beru’s fingers, so Jin-Woo standing behind him sent over an unhappy glare.
‘….Retract the claws.’
The high-spirited Beru immediately retracted his claws. Jin-Woo drilled one more instruction into his soldier’s head.
‘If you injure that woman, it won’t be nice for you, either. Got that?’
‘I shall follow your will.’
Only after hearing that definite answer from Beru did Jin-Woo declare the start of the second bout.