Jin-Woo’s smartphone began ringing off the hook as soon as he entered the reception range.
‘From the Hunter’s Association?’
His expression hardened when he confirmed who the caller was. Could something bad have happened while he was away for a bit?
He quickly answered the call.
“Yes, it’s me, Seong Jin-Woo.”
He sensed that something was definitely wrong after hearing the urgency in the Association employee’s voice. Feeling suspicious, he quickly asked.
– “That, that, the thing is, no, hang on, the Association President will explain it to you. Let me patch you through to him right away.”
A problem serious enough to make the leader of the Association personally step up?
Jin-Woo realised that the matter at hand couldn’t be a simple one and wordlessly waited for the reply. The distinct connecting signal tone soon ended, and as if he had been desperately waiting for the call, Woo Jin-Cheol hurriedly answered the phone, his anxious voice leaking out from the speaker.
– “Seong Hunter-nim!! Why couldn’t we get a hold of you?”
“I was outside the reception range until a moment ago.”
Perhaps because of being contaminated by the frequent dungeon breaks, it was almost impossible to contact outside when within that vast ocean of trees.
However, he thought it was more than sufficient enough to leave behind his Shadow Soldiers with those whom he wanted to protect. That’s what he believed.
‘Could the super-massive Gate have opened up while I was in the forest?’
But, there should have been at least two more days left still?
All manners of hypotheses bubbled up in Jin-Woo’s mind and just before he could urge Woo Jin-Cheol to spit out the truth, the latter told him the greatly simplified version of the current crisis.
– “A monster has appeared in the middle of Seoul and is going on a rampage!”
Jin-Woo had been feeling energised after enjoying a rare break from the action. But now, he felt as if his heart had fallen to the pit of his stomach.
“How big is the size of the monster horde??”
– “No, there’s no horde. It’s just one creature.”
Currently, all Korean Hunters had gathered in Seoul.
They were summoned to the city in order to fight against the potential dungeon break from the super-massive Gate, so they should be on their toes, getting ready to move at a moment’s notice.
On top of that, the Association was even supplying weapons to those Hunters lacking in proper equipment, too.
‘But then, they are getting destroyed by a monster that suddenly appeared out of nowhere?’
As Jin-Woo fell ever deeper into confusion, Woo Jin-Cheol hurriedly continued on with his explanation.
– “A Guild that tried to fight the creature was annihilated in an instant. It looks like the monster is no ordinary creature at all.”
“What about its current location?”
– “We believe it’s currently near Seoul Grand Hotel.”
Could this be chalked up to being mere coincidence?
The moment Woo Jin-Cheol mentioned the name of the ultra-luxurious hotel where Thomas Andre was staying, Jin-Woo felt this sense of creeping unease tickle him in his throat.
The Association President’s voice speaking the American’s name was filled to the brim with anxiety.
– “I received a call not too long ago that Thomas Andre Hunter-nim was getting ready to fight the monster.”
But, that couldn’t be.
Just in case, Jin-Woo had left a Shadow Soldier behind with Thomas Andre. The order issued to the soldier was to ‘send a signal right away if something strange is sensed in the immediate vicinity’.
But then, the target for protection started fighting alone against a monster capable of wiping out a Guild and yet, there was no signal?
Only now did Jin-Woo realise something was off.
The signals coming from the Shadow Soldiers spread throughout Seoul were extremely weak. As if something was interfering with the transmission.
‘What is going on?’
An enemy possessing incredible power, a Special Authority-rank Hunter fighting it, and finally, signals being blocked off.
Could it be?
One distinct possibility popped up in Jin-Woo’s head. He asked in a hurry to confirm.
“Association President! Did that monster possess a shadow?”
– “Excuse me?”
“Please, confirm if that monster has a shadow!”
Woo Jin-Cheol’s voice seemingly got cut out for a moment, then – before continuing on with greater urgency.
– “How can this be…. You’re right, Seong Hunter-nim! I just confirmed with the photos, and the monster does not have a shadow!”
‘Oh, my god.’
Jin-Woo recalled that the Ice Elf attacking Goh Gun-Hui also didn’t possess a shadow and loudly cried out.
“You must never let Thomas Andre fight that monster!”
There was a good chance that the monster had been aiming for Thomas Andre all along.
– “Excuse me? But, they have already….”
Time was of the essence right now.
Jin-Woo realised that he had no need to listen to any further explanation and tried to activate ‘Shadow Exchange’ with the Shadow Soldier attached to Thomas Andre.
Accompanied by a rather ominous-sounding alert noise, a clear holographic message suddenly popped up in his view.
[The designated Shadow Soldier cannot be located.]
Jin-Woo tried several times more, but it was the same story.
[The designated Shadow Soldier cannot be located.]
[The designated Shadow Soldier cannot be located.]
‘How could this be!’
Jin-Woo began freaking out, his expression gradually hardening like stone.
‘My soldier… has disappeared?’
The Shadow Soldier he needed to use as his coordinates for the skill ‘Shadow Exchange’ had disappeared without a trace, somehow.
He couldn’t detect any trace of that particular solder at all.
And he could now definitely sense that the connection he shared with the soldier attached to Thomas Andre had been severed, just like when he sent some of the soldiers back to the void.
The cancellation of the Shadow Soldier independent of his will??
A confused-sounding voice leaked out of Jin-Woo’s mouth next.
“What the hell has happened here?”
Lennart Niermann heard the weighty voice coming from behind him.
“Get out of the way.”
The German had experienced a similar sort of situation before, but the emotion he felt right now was quite different compared to back then.
The giant of a man large enough to block out the sun, that’s Thomas Andre. Lennart Niermann’s expression brightened the moment he discovered the American standing behind him.
Thomas Andre wordlessly walked past Lennart and slowly went up ahead.
Even those screaming people running away from the scene recognised the Special Authority-rank Hunter and his hulking physique, and their steps all gradually came to a stop.
“He, he’s that American Hunter…..”
“It’s the Goliath! THE Goliath!!”
Even the first rate Hunter Lennart Niermann felt his heart pound excitedly when seeing Thomas Andre’s broad back as he walked forward. So, how would the regular people feel, when they were desperately fleeing in terror from the monster’s dense killing intent?
“Oh, dear lord! Thank you!”
Some people even began plopping down on the ground from the sense of relief robbing their built-up tension, knowing that one of the world’s best Hunters had come to save them.
Meanwhile, Thomas Andre angrily shouted at the other Hunters nearby who were all frozen stiff from the powerful pressure emitted by the unknown monster.
“Stop standing around like idiots, and start evacuating these citizens, you b*stards!”
The roar from the Special Authority-rank Hunter was more than enough to blow away the stifling pressure dulling the thought process of the other Hunters.
They understood his intention through that thunderous roar and began grabbing those citizens that had fallen behind to drag them far away from Thomas Andre. Lennart Niermann also cooperated with the evacuation of the powerless citizens along with his Korean counterparts.
The American stood tall in the middle of the street as if to protect them. And that ‘monster’ slowly made its way over in his direction.
The Special Authority-rank Hunter took off his sunglasses, his eyes narrowing to a slit.
What he saw was a beast covered in blood. Although it vaguely looked like one, there was simply no way that thing was a human being.
Veins bulged on Thomas Andre’s face as he spotted the bits and pieces of the victims strewn messily about behind this ‘beast’.
“A stinking beast who doesn’t know its place has rampaged around for far too long.”
As if to mock Thomas Andre’s rage, the ‘beast’ bared its fangs covered in bits of flesh in a toothy grin.
Putting down a crazed animal was a universal truth, no matter where one was from. Thomas Andre’s eyes became incomparably murderous right away.
His muscles transformed like armour and his already-hulking physique grew larger and larger than before. As far as one’s physical size was concerned, he was a step larger than this monster.
To find out the gap in the strength, Thomas Andre rushed towards his target.
People watching and sensing the ground tremble every time he took a step forward instinctively pictured a powerful tank.
The beast smacked its lips at the appearance of a new prey and made its move as well.
Two giants closed their distance in an instant and stood before each other. At first, they exchanged glances studying their new opponent, and soon, they squeezed their muscles laden with massive magical energy while roaring out at the same time.
Two monstrous beings and their fists powerful enough to crush concrete like tofu began exploding out like bullets towards one another.
This exchange of fists relied solely on brute force with no consideration towards any type of techniques. Hunters watching on were left absolutely awestruck by this spectacle.
Just being kissed by one of those fists would result in instant death for these Hunters. But these two were trading such lethal blows without even taking a breather, without even bothering to block them, as if these punches were just light probing jabs.
Thomas Andre grew sure of it now.
His punch caused the beast’s head to spin to the side. This heavy sensation of impact got transmitted to his left hand. This attack definitely worked.
After losing to Jin-Woo, the Goliath felt his confidence had plummeted somewhat, but through this dogfight, he felt it growing back again.
The continuous stream of powerful punches pushed the beast gradually backwards. Grabbing hold of this opening, Thomas Andre’s fearsome full swing of his fist floored the b*stard right into the ground.
The beast was shoved away as the concrete below split apart from the sheer force. The creature smashed into the side of a building and demolished its wall; only then did it finally stop moving.
Other Hunters watching on punched the air and celebrated, but the person responsible, Thomas Andre himself, didn’t display any hints of joy.
‘No, that was wrong. It wasn’t…. as deep as I wanted.’
The thick dust cloud spread out, obscuring the vision. However, he could still sense the presence of the beast emitting the dense murderous intent from beyond the collapsed debris of the building.
Suddenly, heavy hunks of metal flew out from the dust and at Thomas Andre’s location. He smacked these flying cars away from him and quickly activated the skill, ‘Capture’, to yank the beast hidden from his sight closer to his position.
The resisting beast was brought right up to the American’s nose; he immediately activated his strongest skill.
Muscles on both of Thomas Andre’s arms ballooned up until they nearly popped. He slammed down on the ground with everything he had.
The horrifying shockwave arising from the ground pummelled the beast.
The beast cried out in agony as it was flung into the air before it came crashing back down.
Thomas Andre seized upon this chance and jumped on top of the monster, before proceeding to rain down his fists laden with an unbelievable amount of magic energy.
Skill ‘Power Smash’!!
The citizens watching the battle between the Goliath and the beast from afar with anxious minds all began raising excited cheers. Even the Hunters began breaking out in relieved smiles as well.
No matter who saw it, this fight now had a clear victor. It was an overwhelming victory befitting the Special Authority-rank Hunter, often referred to as the world’s best.
Thicker and thicker drops of cold sweat began forming on Thomas Andre’s forehead even as he mercilessly pummelled the beast down below.
‘What is this?’
What was this anxiety, born from this sensation of a noose gradually tightening around his neck the closer he got to his victory?
Each and every one of his attacks was landing splendidly, and the beast being floored down below wasn’t showing any signs of resistance.
‘Why do I feel this anxious, even though I’m clearly in an advantageous position?’
Fairly quickly, though, Thomas Andre got to discover the source of his anxiety.
It was the eyes.
From the very beginning of the fight right up until now, the beast had been looking at him with the exact same apathetic eyes, even going so far to completely disregard the indiscriminate outpouring of his attacks.
It was as if the thing was mocking him, telling him to try and give his best shot.
The Goliath was thoroughly enraged and raised his interlocked fists up high.
His shoulder muscles expanded in an instant, and thick veins bulged on his skin. Horrifying amounts of magic energy flowed into his shoulders, arms, wrists and fists, emitting a bone-chilling aura at the same time.
With this, it’d be the end.
Could this beast reopen those eyes again after being struck by ‘Demolition’ right in the epicentre of the skill?
With everything he had, Thomas Andre slammed down both of his fists.
It was then.
He clearly saw it.
He saw the beast close its eyes for the briefest of brief moments before opening them to reveal that those eyes, previously resembling that of a human’s, now fully resembling a wild predator’s.
The beast leisurely raised one hand up to easily stop Thomas Andre’s two fists swung down with all his might.
The American looked at his hands, now held tight and couldn’t be pulled back at all, and felt a chill run down his back.
[Even though you’re a mere puppet of a Fragment, you managed to drag out this much power.]
The sounds similar to a predator growling caused Thomas Andre’s expression to crumble.
“What was that?”
Right at that moment.
The black hair of the beast began to grow longer and longer as its colour changed to white.
That wasn’t all; the nails resembling awls grew lengthier as well, while its fangs grew sharper, too. Soon, whitish fur covered its entire body.
Unfortunately, there never had been a single instance of a white Werewolf making its appearance in ten years of humans going on raids.
“You…. Just what is your true identity?”
Thomas Andre threw that question out as he felt this ominous chill from the disgusting, vile magical energy oozing out from the beast’s eyes.
Too bad, the creature didn’t bother to answer him and proceeded to shatter the bones in the human’s hands with nothing but sheer physical strength.