Embarrassment began dyeing Cha Hae-In’s expression beet red as she took a look around where they were. Jin-Woo’s own expression hardened as well.
‘How come all the buildings around here are so….’
Indeed, they were now in a location where everything around them was ill-suited for a pair of young people to casually walk in.
Before this awkward situation could get any worse, Jin-Woo quickly came up with a solution.
“You need to get your car anyway, so why don’t we go back to our Guild office?”
He briefly thought that her nodding like that with a reddened face was rather adorable to look at. But still, he quickly turned around in the direction of the office.
Jin-Woo began retracing the path he and Cha Hae-In took and was reminded of the fact that she was indeed a rank S Hunter like him.
‘Wow, we really did run far, didn’t we?’
Although it felt like only a brief moment for him, they needed ten minutes of regular walking just get back to his office.
The Guild office was located on the third floor. Jin-Woo placed his thumb on the electronic lock, and the door clicked open to allow them inside.
He was about to head straight into the conference room, but then, he had to stop in his treks and take a look behind him, at Cha Hae-In still standing by the doorway.
Jin-Woo stared at her with eyes asking “Aren’t you coming in?” which prompted her to ask back at him, instead.
“Isn’t it too dark inside?”
Only then did Jin-Woo realise that the interior of the office was pitch-black.
His vision wasn’t hindered by regular levels of darkness, so stuff like this would happen every once in a while. As for Hunter Cha, maybe she wasn’t as good with darkness as he was.
He flipped the switch and the interior was brightly lit up. She took a look inside the illuminated interior and cautiously asked him again.
“There is no one in the office?”
“The Vice-Chair wanted to remain behind in the Gate’s location, you see.”
“Could there be only two people in this Gui…”
Cha Hae-In stopped her words there and quickly shook her head when she saw Jin-Woo and his expression that said, “So, what’s the problem with that?”
“…..No, it’s nothing.”
Cha Hae-In was very quickly coming to an understanding that the common sense of the world didn’t seem to apply to the man in front of her eyes.
Her steps taking her into the Guild office suddenly came to an abrupt halt.
‘Doesn’t that mean there are only me and Mister Seong Jin-Woo inside this Guild building??’
The light of tension quickly filled up Cha Hae-In’s eyes. At the same time, she also realised that it’d been a while since she felt this tense as well.
‘Maybe, it’s my first time since becoming an Awakened….’
How many men out there in this world were capable of making her feel this tense? Especially when she was acknowledged to be one of the highest levelled among the ranked S Hunters, at that?
For some reason, the words of ‘somewhere private’ kept repeating in her head and she became even more conscious of herself because of that. Her heart was palpitating faster and faster.
She began giggling then, suddenly thinking that she was no longer acting like a rank S Hunter, but like a regular girl now.
Jin-Woo gazed at Cha Hae-In trying hard to suppress her giggles and tilted his head.
‘Is it that funny to have only two employees in a Guild?’
But, then again, she was a part of the top Guild in South Korea, so from her perspective, this arrangement must’ve come across as totally inconceivable.
So, Jin-Woo stopped paying any mind to that and entered the conference suite. He made her sit close by and settled down on the opposing chair.
He started talking only after the air in the conference suite felt a bit more familiar to both of them.
“Please tell me. What happened?”
Just those simple words were enough to change the atmosphere within the suite completely.
“How is it possible for Hunter Min Byung-Gu to leave you with messages for me?”
Jin-Woo’s expression was serious. He didn’t know her all that well, but still, he got the impression that she wasn’t a type to start spewing baseless lies just to get some attention.
That was why he became so much more serious now.
Either she needed some time to recall her sleeping memories, or didn’t know where to begin her tale, because she needed a bit of time before she was ready to open lips.
Cha Hae-In finally raised her head and looked deeply into his eyes. Her gentle eyes were now filled to the brim with tears. When Jin-Woo saw her expression, he thought he could more or less tell where she’d start her story.
She quietly spoke.
“I heard his voice.”
Cha Hae-In was getting sucked deeper into the unending darkness, but it was none other than the hand of Min Byung-Gu reaching down to stop her falling.
“Min Byung-Gu…. Hunter-nim?”
Min Byung-Gu slowly nodded his head.
Cha Hae-In had to confirm that it was him multiple times because he was currently decked out in unfamiliar black armour. If it weren’t for his uncovered face, she’d never have figured out that it was him.
Cha Hae-In asked him in confusion.
“Where…. Where are we?”
“I don’t know myself, but I do know what will happen if I let go of the hand holding you.”
Cha Hae-In was about to take a look below her, but Min Byung-Gu hurriedly stopped her.
Cha Hae-In got startled and she quickly looked up at him. Min Byung-Gu explained to her with a sombre look on his face.
“If you look down there, you might not be able to come back up again.”
As he said those words, she got to read a certain emotion that almost felt like a longing of some kind within his eyes.
‘No, it can’t be….’
She began recalling the scene taking place seconds before she lost consciousness.
The Jeju Island raid.
The ant queen.
And then, the sudden appearance of a truly terrifying mutated ant monster.
She sensed a scary something approaching her, and then, the darkness came over her.
“Did I… Am I dead?”
Min Byung-Gu shook his head.
“No, not yet.”
“But then, what about you, Min Byung-Gu Hunter-nim?”
He didn’t reply. Instead, Min Byung-Gu stopped her line of questioning there.
“We don’t have much time left, so allow me to get to the point.”
This was likely his one and only chance. If he missed it, then he’d never be able to get this message across. Min Byung-Gu’s expression became urgent, pleading even, as he spoke to her.
“Please pass this message to Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.”
Cha Hae-In could only briefly stew in her confusion arising from that name unexpectedly being mentioned here. Min Byung-Gu carried on.
“You must tell him that he needs to be careful with the power he possesses.”
“What, what do you mean by that?”
“You must’ve noticed it by now, but I’ve already died once. I fell to the bottom of this place, but someone pulled me back up. He pulled me back out of this endless darkness.”
“Could it be that man is….?”
“Yes, it was Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.”
Cha Hae-In’s eyes began quaking powerfully now. Even if Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was ridiculously overpowered, was he really powerful enough to revive a dead person??
However, Min Byung-Gu continued to recount the experience he had gone through without holding anything back.
“Truth is, even though it was indeed I that got revived, that wasn’t really me, either. I possessed my will and my consciousness, but I was also prepared to do anything for him…. It felt like I have become an unquestioning, unconditional slave only existing to serve him and nothing else.”
There was no reason for Cha Hae-In to ask who this ‘he’ was in Min Byung-Gu’s explanations. She swallowed her nervous saliva.
“I was scared as well, because the mere idea of serving him made me feel so happy.”
Min Byung-Gu formed a bitter expression.
“You must let Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim know this.”
His expression then hardened into a sombre one.
“His powers are absolute, and it was incredibly scary. He needs to know this, as well.”
However, what was even more horrifying than that was…
His expression now shifted to the one of sheer terror as he recalled the memories of only a few moments ago.
As he stood up from the ground after becoming the new Shadow Soldier through Hunter Seong’s command, he got to see the welcoming cheers of the countless black-armoured soldiers lining up behind Jin-Woo.
Their numbers were in the tens of thousands. No, millions.
As if they were faithfully waiting for the commands of their Sovereign, the innumerable number of soldiers were ‘hiding’ quietly behind Jin-Woo.
And when Min Byung-Gu’s gaze met the eyes of their general standing before them, he lost all his sense of self and Cha Hae-In’s lying body filled up his view, instead. He already knew what he needed to do by then.
Not only that, he also understood that there was something else he had to do on top of saving her. And that would be letting Hunter Seong Jin-Woo know of how terrifying the power sleeping within him was.
In that brief moment when his mind was connected to Jin-Woo’s, Min Byung-Gu got to see the true identity of that power – as well as the extent of his true army.
He sensed that his time was rapidly running out and shouted at her.
“You must remember!! The real army of Hunter Seong is…..”
It was then.
A blinding light came from somewhere above and enveloped Cha Hae-In. Min Byung-Gu’s expression stiffened.
“His real army is….!!”
Unfortunately, his voice was buried within the empty echoes, and it flickered dimmer and dimmer, eventually sinking deep into the void below.
That was as far as Cha Hae-In could remember. Her memories had become faint and indistinct like a fading dream, but they somehow managed to return to her not too long ago.
Jin-Woo’s expression was understandably heavy after hearing her tale.
‘Her consciousness seconds before dying met with that of Hunter Min Byung-Gu’s, who actually did die and became a Shadow Soldier??’
It was a truly hard-to-believe story.
Was it possible that her subconscious mind created a false memory with the stuff she picked up from the surroundings, all because she received a heavy mental trauma after facing the imminent threat of death?
Jin-Woo raised this point with her, and she replied with these following words.
“Yes, I also thought that could be a possibility.”
Why wouldn’t Cha Hae-In consider such a possibility? That was why she found herself in a deep dilemma over the last few days, before she finally worked up enough courage to tell him about the message.
Jin-Woo nodded his head in understanding. He then pushed forward his phone towards her.
“Let me give you my number. In case you remember anything else, please, can you give me a call right away?”
Cha Hae-In nodded her head.
“Yes. If I do, I’ll contact you immediately.”
Her complexion seemed to have brightened just a tad now.
Japan immediately sent out requests for help to the international community.
As they had lost over half of their combat force ranked S, this somewhat rapid decision had an air of inevitability to it.
Unfortunately, the international community’s attitude was rather icy, to say the least.
Japan wilfully ignored the dangerous situation developing in the neighbouring nation of Korea. But then, the Japanese got all worked up about putting out the fire only after the flames landed on their feet.
The international community hadn’t forgotten that.
The Japanese were left baffled and lost after the United States, already well known for never, ever letting their rank S Hunters work overseas, as well as the most powerful Hunter nation in Asia, China, abandoned them to their devices.
[The USA abandons Japan.]
[Will China do nothing and let the destruction of Japan happen?]
[The Tokyo Gate: two days since its appearance. The remaining time is….]
[What will Korea choose to do?]
The world’s attention began focusing on Japan; sensational articles were being published every single day.
It was at precisely at this point that a lone Hunter extended his hands of salvation towards the Japanese public being overwhelmed by despair and terror.
His name was Yuri Orlov, a rank S Hunter of Russian nationality.
In order to negotiate the terms with the Japanese government, he invited over the related representatives to his place. The Japanese Hunter’s Association President Matsumoto Shigeo jumped aboard a plane taking him to the Russian Federation at the first chance he got.
Yuri Orlov didn’t even bother to greet the Japanese representatives at the airport and instead, received them in the living room of his palace-like mansion.
“My name is Matsumoto Shigeo.”
A middle-aged blonde Caucasian man arrogantly greeted back.
“I’m Yuri Orlov. You should probably know this by now, but I’m called the best Support-type Hunter in the world.”
After that brief introduction, the two men settled down on the opposite side.
Yuri Orlov had asked for all the related data concerning the Tokyo Gate before this meeting. After getting his hands on those files, he began to leisurely browse them.
And so, how much time passed by like this?
He kept nodding his head as he calculated the cost, and eventually opened his mouth to name his price.
“Ten million US Dollars per day. You pay me the money properly on time, and I will block the Gate for you for as long as you want.” (TL note at the end)
Ten million per day??
The Japanese representatives almost flew into rage from that outrageous price, but Matsumoto Shigeo didn’t. He raised his hands and gestured them to calm down, prompting the flinching Japanese Hunters to settle back down in their seats.
“Looks like I can hold a civilised conversation with you.”
Yuri Orlov grinned, his gold-plated teeth now on full display.
“3.6 billion in a year. That money will save your nation. It’s not even 36 billion, either. So, how about it? Will you save your country with 10 million per day, or will you give up on your country because you think that’s a waste of money?”
Officially, the wealth of the richest man alive was supposed to be just over 100 billion US Dollars. So, 3.6 billion per year was definitely not a small sum by any stretch of the imagination.
‘But, when compared to the nation of Japan, it truly is a negligible amount.’
Matsumoto Shigeo had come to a decision and opened his mouth.
“We are willing to pay you that amount.”
“Very good. Then, let’s sign the contract right now, and my signing fee….”
“But before we do that,”
Yuri Orlov was busy ordering his underling to bring along the contract, but he stopped and took a long hard look at Matsumoto Shigeo.
Even though he was being subjected to that blatantly criticising glare, Matsumoto Shigeo remained collected as he carried on.
“Please, can you demonstrate your abilities to us, at least once.”
Yuri Orlov heard the translation from the interpreter and began guffawing out right away.
He laughed his head off until tears came out of his eyes. He eventually collected himself enough to speak up.
“You think you’re in any position to get picky here? When licking my boots and pleading on your knees might not even be enough?”
It was then – two Japanese rank S Hunters tasked with guarding Matsumoto Shigeo during this trip to Russia could no longer endure this insult and shot up from their seats.
“Stop, you two!!”
Matsumoto hurriedly shouted out, but it was too late; the eyes of the two rank S Hunters were burning in rage and they weren’t backing down.
The rank S Hunters did try to make their moves but, as if they were stuck behind invisible walls, couldn’t even budge an inch from the spot. They were like rats trapped inside a glass bottle, only being able to exchange shocked glances with each other.
Yuri Orlov cackled again while looking at the two men.
“Free yourselves if you can, alright? But then, you won’t be able to move a single foot without my permission.”
Yuri Orlov was the ‘master’ of placing barriers. Not just the two trapped rank S Hunters, but even Matsumoto Shigeo couldn’t hide their shock from this development. The corners of Yuri Orlov’s lips arched up as he made his offer again.
“For the price of ten million per day, I’ll block the Gate for you, plus I shall add the lives of these two morons on top, as well. So, how about it? Isn’t this enough to satisfy you now?”
His teeth reflected the living room’s light and glittered in gold.
He had just demonstrated the power of his restrictions that could tie up two rank S Hunters as if they were nothing much at all.
‘Is trusting this man the best option we have at this point….?’
Matsumoto Shigeo’s head slowly bobbed up and down.
“May I use the phone for a little while?”
“But, of course.”
And on the following day.
The name of Yuri Orlov filled up the news broadcasts from all over the world.