The handling of trivial matters was now over. Along with the members of the Knight Order Guild, Jin-Woo moved to the front of the Gate.
Before they were about to enter, though….
Chairman Park Jong-Su and his deputy, Vice-Chair Jeong Yun-Tae, began going through their equipment as well as the conditions of the team members for the last time.
Maybe because they were now standing before the entrance, the noisy atmosphere from before was now long gone, replaced by weighty silence.
He wasn’t sure from when it started, but Jin-Woo began liking this state of tension just before entering a dungeon. It felt as if the inside of his head was settling down.
Such a thing would’ve been totally unimaginable back in the past when he avoided answering phone calls out of the fear he felt for the Hunter Association’s periodic call-ups.
“Hyung-nim, there are no problems.”
Park Jong-Su nodded his head and walked over to Jin-Woo, standing a step away from the rest of the raid team. The latter shifted his gaze to the leader of this raid.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
Jin-Woo uncrossed his arms and stared directly into Park Jong-Su’s eyes, and the older man lowered his head right away.
“We’ll be in your care from now on.”
Although short, those words contained many of Park Jong-Su’s feelings and worries. Jin-Woo used similar words as his reply.
“I’ll be in your care, as well.”
Park Jong-Su and Jeong Yun-Tae entered the Gate first, and the rest of the Hunters entered one by one after them. And after confirming that the Hunters had all gone inside, the last person still standing outside, Jin-Woo, slowly walked into the Gate as well.
[You have entered a dungeon.]
As usual, the System message no one else could see beside him welcomed Jin-Woo before anything else could happen. But then….
Jin-Woo tilted his head.
He was greeted by a dungeon with passageways large enough to accommodate giants passing by.
He hadn’t entered a lot of high-ranked dungeons before, but he was lucky enough to be inside one this huge. That was why Jin-Woo wasn’t puzzled by the size of the dungeon. No, it had to do with this strange feeling he got from the air of the dungeon itself.
For some reason, he felt incomparably comfortable inside here.
He felt ominous sensations being carried in the air of the dungeons countless times, but this would be his first time feeling like this.
“It’s the Ogre!”
Somewhat different from Jin-Woo’s own premonition, the assault team was greeted by huge trouble from the entrance, instead.
“It’s the Twin-Head Ogre!!”
“Everyone, be careful!!”
A monster that would typically appear as a boss in other high-ranked dungeons was standing in the entrance, its bloodshot eyes glaring at the Hunters.
A Twin-Head Ogre was about twice the size of a regular Ogre. But it was difficult to quantify how many times greater the creature’s powers were.
If it were any other ‘regular’ assault team that had to face off against a Twin-Head Ogre in a dungeon, they would have been utterly frightened out of their senses and have tried to escape right away, but….
….It was a different story with the elites of the Knight Order.
Park Jong-Su the tanker raised his shield up and rushed towards the Ogre.
Discovering the human approaching it, the monster raised above its two heads a huge club that looked as if it was made from a tree yanked straight out of the ground, roots and all.
The impact force actually shook the interior of the dungeon!
However, Park Jong-Su activated his skill in time to balloon up his muscle mass and managed to endure against the incredible physical strength of the Twin-Head Ogre without being brought down to his knees.
“Then, I’m coming, too!”
The sub-tanker, Jeong Yun-Tae, stood next to Park Jong-Su.
Succeeding in his mission to get the Ogre’s attention locked firmly onto himself, Park Jong-Su yelled out loudly, veins in his neck standing up.
With that, the counteroffensive of the Knight Order commenced. Arrows, magic spells, swords, and spears rained down on the Twin-Head Ogre.
The Twin-Head Ogre became agitated and began rampaging around. However, Park Jong-Su didn’t give the monster a chance to divert its attention elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Jeong Yun-Tae quickly ran over and defended the others whenever they were targetted by the Ogre.
Just now, Jeong Yun-Tae defended against the Ogre’s kick and was shoved back greatly as two lines were gouged on the ground by his feet. Thanks to him, though, other Hunters suffered almost no damage at all.
The body of the Ogre was gradually shaved away due to the combined attacks of the damage dealers. It was a spectacular teamwork!
From this spectacle alone, Jin-Woo could now understand why the Knight Order Guild managed to lock down on the position of Yeong-Nam district’s number one for such a long time.
Eventually, the Ogre fell backwards, bubbles foaming in its mouths.
It was the moment when a boss-level monster fell without injuring a single person. A perfect victory, in other words.
“We did it!”
The leader of the team, Park Jong-Su, tightly clenched both of his fists.
Was it because they had a guest today? Not just him, but even the rest of his teammates were much more motivated than usual.
How would they have looked in Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s eyes just now?
‘I’d be beyond ecstatic if he got moved by our teamwork and suddenly decides to join our Guild….’
Park Jong-Su sneaked a glance and immediately encountered Jin-Woo’s gaze.
Feeling as if his inner thoughts had been laid bare, Park Jong-Su became a bit sheepish and began wondering what he should do next, before deciding to approach Jin-Woo with a warm smile.
“We’ll stay here for a bit longer to recheck our equipment before advancing forward.”
“Ah, okay. Please do.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
While he only needed to drink potions to refill his magic energy or stamina, other Hunters clearly suffered from a physical limit to their magical energy reserve or fatigue. It was a must to take a break, even if it was a short one, after fighting against a powerful monster like that.
Park Jong-Su was now standing next to Jin-Woo. He stared at the dead body of the Ogre and spoke with an awkward look on his face.
“This is going to be big trouble.”
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to Park Jong-Su. The latter continued on.
“It seems likely that this raid won’t be easy, unfortunately. To think, we’d end up running into a Twin-Head Ogre right from the start.”
He rubbed his chin before turning to look at Jin-Woo with a grin.
“Do you know what the nickname of a Twin-Head Ogre is, by any chance?”
Jin-Woo shook his head, and the older man replied as if he expected that answer.
“It’s the ‘grave keeper’.”
Did that nickname come about because it was such a powerful monster that killed a lot of people? However, Park Jong-Su’s explanation was far off Jin-Woo’s estimations.
“The thing is….”
The older man cast his gaze deeper into the cavern’s interior. An ominous aura seemed to be oozing out from the other side of the cavern still enshrouded in darkness, at least in his eyes.
“….When you meet one as the boss of a dungeon, it’s fine, but when you run into one right at the beginning, then well, you’ll find that this dungeon…”
Park Jong-Su sounded worried as he finished his sentence.
“….This dungeon is full of undead monsters.”
An urgent call came through to the Hunter’s Association emergency hotline. The caller’s voice belonged to a young teenage girl.
– “Is, is this the Association?!”
The call centre employee heard the scared sobbing coming from the other side of the line as soon as the call got connected, and realised something was wrong.
“Yes, it is. Please speak.”
– “This, I’m in, sob, my school, but….. There are, sob, there are monsters outside.”
“Outside? Where are you making this call from?”
– “I’m hiding, I was with, my f-friend, but my friend, I, sob, I’m in the bathroom.”
Her sobbing meant that her words were constantly being cut off and it was hard to carry on a conversation. However, the call centre employee was experienced enough to piece together those stuttering words and figured out what this girl was trying to say.
Immediately, an urgent message was sent to the Association’s main building.
[Monsters appeared in the local school, one confirmed victim, the informant in hiding.]
Could it be that a dungeon break occurred inside a school? The employee shuddered from the horrifying images taking root in his head and focused all of his being in trying to keep this female student alive.
“How many monsters are there? Are they any near you right now?”
– “I don’t know, I really don’t know. Ah, ah! I hear screams. Sob, sob. I can hear so many screams. I, am I, sob, am I going to die?”
“Please calm down and listen to my voice.”
This employee knew very well from his extensive experience about how weak-kneed humans could get when faced with life-threatening situations. He knew he had to be calm and collected in such situations while answering the call.
He had to calm the caller down sufficiently enough and then, had to suggest some kind of a plan for the current situation. That was his role.
“Right now, Hunters from the Association are headed your way. These Hunters will not give up on you guys. That is why you need to stay calm and rational, okay? Can you hear me?”
– “Really? I-in that case, sob, can I, can I survive?”
The voice coming from the other side of the line was gradually recovering from the panicked state. That was a good sign.
The employee thought that he succeeded in calming the female student down, and then asked the question that could prove to be most important in saving the girl’s life.
“By any chance, those monsters… do you know what kind of monsters those are?”
– “Yes, yes. I know. I know. I saw them. On TV.”
“Which monsters are they?”
If the monsters possessed weak senses and chased after humans using their eyes, then hiding in a bathroom would work as a suitable solution for the time being. The employee prayed that such monsters had invaded the school, instead.
– “They… they have human bodies, but, sob, but they have ugly faces. Ah, and their skin is green.”
‘Can it be?!’
The eyes of the employee grew wider and wider.
“Orcs… are they Orcs?”
– “Yes, I think it was what they were called. Orcs.”
‘N-no, this can’t be!!’
The employee shot up from his seat before he realised it and cried out.
“You need to run away from there! Hurry! Orcs can…..”
It was then.
Despite the employee’s earnest prayer, he could hear the sound of the bathroom door being destroyed, followed soon by a sorrowful scream.
The Knight Order’s raid was trucking along quite smoothly.
As a matter of fact, things were working out so well that the Hunters felt the whole thing was strangely too easy.
For instance, there encountered yet another monster, but….
A rotting creature the size of a house tried to escape from the assault team, only to get ensnared by the restriction magic spell cast by the Mage-type Hunter, and soon, it too met with a grisly end.
And when the exact same thing repeated itself over and over again, the Hunters were getting progressively more puzzled.
“Isn’t this weird?”
“Why are these monsters running away when they see us?”
“Isn’t it like they were being chased away?”
Powerful undead creatures, such as Vampires, Lichs, Dread Worms, Red Ghouls, etc., continued to pop up inside this dungeon.
Undeads were difficult opponents to fight against.
Not only were they difficult to kill, but even after killing them, Hunters couldn’t let their guards down. Because no one knew when they would regenerate or get revived to start attacking again.
However, these creatures couldn’t do much to display their prowess for some reason, and continued to get powerlessly massacred at the assault team’s hands.
‘It’s like they are too scared and can’t even think about resisting us…..’
That was Park Jong-Su’s assessment after observing the monsters and their strange behaviour. He even thought that maybe there was no need to bring Hunter Seong Jin-Woo along when things were this easy.
‘Seriously, man. You really can’t tell what’s going to happen inside a dungeon.’
Who’d have imagined that they were clearing a highest-difficult rank A dungeon this painlessly?
Being able to end a raid without a single person getting injured was always a good thing. There might have been an unnecessary loss of profit here, but result-wise, it sure was a big relief.
On the other hand, Jin-Woo was inwardly feeling quite disappointed.
‘Here I was, really hyped up because this place was supposed to be the hardest rank A dungeon there could be….’
There was still that enormous magic energy leaking out from the deeper part of the dungeon, but would he even be able to earn any experience points if things continued on at this rate?
Because of the spirited attacks by the members of the Knight Order Guild, he didn’t even have a single chance to step forward at all.
Jin-Woo inwardly sighed out. But then, he abruptly halted his steps.
When Jin-Woo looked behind him, Healer Jeong Ye-Rim also came to a stop as well.
“What’s the matter, Seong Hunter-nim? Is something following us?”
Jin-Woo didn’t answer her. As a matter of fact, his heart was beating so madly that he didn’t even have any leeway to answer her questions.
‘Could it be…..?’
Jin-Woo’s eyes, as they stared towards the outside of this dungeon, began quaking violently. Only then did Jeong Ye-Rim also realise that something was wrong as well.
It was then.
Jin-Woo’s expression hardened like stone.
Heartbreaking screams rose up from all corners of the school.
Less than half of the students managed to escape from the school alive. As for the rest, either they had all ended up as corpses, or were busy running around inside the school’s premise trying to evade the Orcs. Unfortunately, their futile resistance could only buy them a brief respite.
The hunts of the Orcs that started from the lowest floor continued on to higher floors and drove all victims caught in their wake to gruesome deaths.
The students who couldn’t run away in time and remained trapped in their classrooms could only cover their ears as more screams rose up from the lower floors.
The classrooms for the third year students were located on the top floor of the school building. Jin-Ah was also among those 3rd-year students who couldn’t run away in time. The doorway shoddily blocked up with junk was the only thing that could defend them against the marauding Orc horde.
The male students grabbed onto chairs and mops or whatever that could serve as weapons with their trembling hands. But, none of them helped to instil a sense of confidence in the scared students.
No, all they could do was to wait and pray fervently for the Hunters to show up before those Orcs stepped foot inside their classroom.
The bent classroom door was flung away.
As the screams of the frightened students resounded out, two Orcs covered in the blood of the countless number of people they had murdered stepped into the classroom.
A male student holding a mop near the door threw away his make-shift weapon and ran to the back entrance, before yanking it open.
However, another Orc was lying in wait there, and it slammed an axe down on the forehead of this fleeing male student.
The male student fell powerlessly, the light of life leaving his eyes.
Both entrances of the classroom were now blocked off by the Orcs.
The remaining students screamed out loudly and crowded against the windows, but they all knew that the results would largely end up the same regardless of whether they chose to jump out from a sixth-story window or get caught by the Orcs.
Finding herself stuck in the middle of the students fleeing towards the corners of the classroom as they tried to get away from the Orcs, Jin-Ah squeezed her eyes shut and called out to Jin-Woo.
Her oppa, the rank S Hunter. If she called out to him, it felt as if he’d show up here right away. That was her only hope.
The Orcs stopped advancing after they surrounded the students from all corners. They began conversing to each other in their native tongue.
“Boss. There is a human with magic energy coming off.”
“Kill that one first.”
Unlike regular humans, those that knew how to wield magic energy were dangerous opponents. Therefore, these Orcs had to deal with a threat like that first.
The Orc, having received the boss’s order, began scanning the students before eventually locking onto Jin-Ah’s location.
The Orc grabbed her wrist and dragged her out to the middle of the classroom.
“Is this female the one?”
“It is, boss.”
The underling was right. Although faint, they could sense magic energy coming from somewhere on this girl. Whether that came from this female’s abilities or some sort of a weapon she possessed, it didn’t change the fact that she had to be eliminated first before everyone else.
The boss raised its axe up.
Jin-Ah saw the axe rising up high above her head, and eventually squeezed her eyes shut.
The boss twitched its nose and swung the axe down with a disinterested face.
But then, this happened.
A veil of black smoke suddenly exploded out from Jin-Ah’s shadow and took on a solid shape.
The brows of the advanced scout’s boss shot up high in surprise.
Because, it just realised that a High Orc wearing black armour suddenly appeared out of nowhere to grab onto its wrist, that was why.
Before the puzzled Orc could say something….
The High Orc threw a simple punch and shattered the head of the monster like an exploding watermelon.