Because of the nature of the incident itself, a massive crowd of people had rushed towards the school’s perimeters.
“My son goes to this school!!”
“Get out of the way!”
“I need to confirm what happened with my own eyes!!”
If it weren’t for the desperate crowd control efforts by the police and the Association’s employees, the scene of the incident would’ve descended into pure pandemonium from the maddened crowd.
The reporters had also rushed here as soon as word got out and were now busy snapping away with their cameras.
“Uh? It’s Seong Jin-Woo!”
“Take his pictures!!”
Jin-Woo evaded their gazes and wordlessly walked over to someone that seemed to be a staff member of the Hunter’s Association. This staff member immediately froze up in nervousness after seeing Jin-Woo’s face. That was how scary the Hunter’s complexion looked at that moment.
“S-Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim….”
“Where’s my sister?”
“Miss Seong Jin-Ah and other students have been transferred to the Seoul Il-Sin hospital.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head, his expression still remaining grave, and turned around to walk away. The staff member unconsciously swallowed dry saliva while watching his back get further away.
The first thing those arriving here did was to confirm the status of the student named Seong Jin-Ah, as per the instruction from the Association. Thankfully, she was unhurt. With the exception of abrasions suffered around her neck and wrists, there were no other injuries on her.
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was the one who had rescued her, so he should know that fact better than anyone, yet….
‘Even then, for him to be that p*ssed off….’
It was a good thing that he arrived on time, otherwise, how would he have reacted if something happened to his sister? The staff member shuddered from the terrifying dizziness he suddenly felt just then.
It indeed was a huge relief.
Contrary to the relief of the staff member, though, Jin-Woo was feeling quite gloomy at the moment as he pulled out his phone.
‘I’m sure Mom’s about to get the news.’
Too many students lost their lives at the hands of the monsters. Rather obviously, his mother would feel like her world was about to crumble after receiving the news.
‘Before that happens, I need to tell her that Jin-Ah’s okay.’
He thought as such and was about to tap the “Call” icon, but then, he heard an unexpected voice coming from behind him and stopped.
“I’ve already sent some of the Association’s agents over to speak to your mother, Seong Hunter-nim. They should be on their way to the hospital as we speak.”
Jin-Woo looked behind him.
“Mister Association President.”
Goh Gun-Hui stood there, his complexion as dark as Jin-Woo’s.
Even though the President himself was not at fault here, as the person representing South Korea’s Hunter’s Association, he was feeling the burden of responsibility for failing to prevent this tragedy. Jin-Woo could only express his gratitude for Goh Gun-Hui looking out for his family even under the current circumstances.
That prompted Goh Gun-Hui to shake his head.
“No, it’s us that should be thanking you.”
Seventeen students survived.
It was only because of Jin-Woo’s arrival that those students among the trapped in the school building were able to get out of there alive.
“We are constantly in your debt, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo could only smile bitterly at that.
He could have saved a lot more students if he were able to use the Shadow Exchange and get here right away. Such regret seeped clearly into his expression.
Goh Gun-Hui could faintly sense what Jin-Woo was feeling right now from his expression. But the older man shook his head.
‘Now isn’t the time to wallow in our emotions.’
Indeed, didn’t he have something important to say to this young man? Goh Gun-Hui raised his head.
“Will you be heading to the hospital now?”
Jin-Woo thought back to the Gate in Gwang-An-ri, but quickly stopped worrying about it.
His MP remained the same as before. Meaning, Beru and his ants were conquering the dungeon without encountering any problem at the moment.
‘Well…. It’s not just any soldier but Beru, so it’ll be fine.’
There was no need to worry about the progress of the raid right now.
“Yes, I am.”
“Please, let me give you a ride there.”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
“Please, allow me. There is something else I wish to talk to you about on the way, as well.”
Jin-Woo initially declined thinking that the offer was made out of courtesy, but he nodded his head after seeing the earnest attitude of the Association President.
“Alright, I will.”
Jin-Woo followed Goh Gun-Hui’s guidance and they both climbed into the back seat of the waiting car.
Even though it was a full-size saloon, the back seat felt cramped after Goh Gun-Hui’s huge frame and Jin-Woo’s wide shoulders climbed aboard. Woo Jin-Cheol was sitting in the driver’s seat, and nodded his greeting through the rear-view mirror.
Jin-Woo also nodded slightly as his greeting.
The car slowly set forward and only then did the Association President stop hesitating and speak up.
“…In a way, you could say that today’s tragedy has been foretold in advance.”
His expression was hard.
On the other hand, Jin-Woo was feeling confused.
‘Does that mean the Association didn’t do anything about an incident they could have prevented in advance?’
Before his confusion had the chance to transform into anger, the Association President pulled out his phone and showed Jin-Woo its display. It showed a graphical chart.
“This shows the increase in the Gate activity around the city of Seoul for the last six months.”
The dots drew a gentle curvature but when it got nearer to present, it suddenly spiked up steeply.
“And this side shows the stats from around the world.”
If the Association President didn’t make that clear, Jin-Woo might have mistaken them for two of the exact same thing. That was how similar-looking the inclines in those two graphs were.
“The numbers of Gates appearing has spiked up noticeably throughout the world.”
Goh Gun-Hui’s complexion got darker and darker.
“However, that isn’t the only strange thing.”
He returned the phone back into his inner jacket pocket and carried on.
“People wanting to confirm their Awakened rankings are practically lining up in a long queue outside the Association every day now.”
The number of Gates where monsters come out was increasing, and at the same time, the number of Hunters who were supposed to block the Gates was also increasing? As if to maintain a balance?
Seeing Jin-Woo’s interested expression, the Association President spoke in a complicated tone of voice.
“We think that…..”
Goh Gun-Hui ended his lengthy explanation while implying that it was only his personal hypothesis.
“….Something is changing.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
This was indeed interesting information. Anyone could tell something big was afoot from that data. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean Jin-Woo could do anything about them right now. It was the same story for Goh Gun-Hui, as well.
Also, a simple phone call would have sufficed if it was about sharing of information and a hypothesis. Jin-Woo thought that Association President wouldn’t have taken time out of his packed schedule to simply have this conversation.
“In that case, what you wish to talk to me about was…..?”
As if he was waiting for that, Goh Gun-Hui picked up a briefcase resting by the footwell and pulled out various documents from there.
“Japan, the States, China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, and even from the Middle East….”
All the nations with some international clout were brought up abruptly.
“These are all the official documents sent in from those nations that wish to make contact with you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. I’m fairly certain that some of them even have made unofficial contacts with you already.”
Jin-Woo briefly recalled the incident involving the American Hunter Bureau’s people, but decided not to mention it.
“In all honesty, we at the Hunter’s Association simply don’t have any rights to stop these people. No, we can only protect your personal information according to your request.”
Jin-Woo silently listened to the older man’s story.
“I know that everything depends on your decision, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim, but…. But, I fear that our country will not be able to adapt to the incoming changes if you decide to leave us.”
Rather than a concrete answer, Jin-Woo shifted his gaze out of the car’s window. As he fell deeper into a myriad of distracting thoughts, one of the biggest hospitals in the country entered his view.
It was the very hospital where Jin-Ah had been admitted to.
“We will provide you with every convenience we can possibly provide.”
Goh Gun-Hui stuffed the documents back inside the briefcase and asked Jin-Woo with a tense expression.
“So, would you please remain in South Korea?”
The Knight Order’s assault team chased after the ants and arrived at the boss chamber’s entrance.
Jeong Yun-Tae’s eyes grew extra large after he spotted the ants that began entering the boss chamber.
“Hyung-nim, shouldn’t we try to stop them??”
“….I don’t think I can.”
Indeed, Park Jong-Su was not confident at all of persuading the summoned creatures that they needed to stop the raid for the moment, so they could start retrieving the remains of the dead monsters and the Magic Crystals.
He could only spit out a resigned sigh.
‘Yup, let’s just forget about it.’
His thoughts just went and did a 180.
They entered this Gate in order to let the world know that the Knight Order Guild was still going strong, didn’t they? It’d be perfectly acceptable to show the world that they could still clear a rank A dungeon, the highest rated one at that, without a single casualty or someone getting injured badly during the raid itself.
‘Not only that, without Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s presence, too!’
Wasn’t it the case of no one would know of what happened inside a dungeon?
Even if those ants managed to defeat the boss, the folks outside would only remember the name of the Knight Order Guild, not the creatures Hunter Seong Jin-Woo summoned out before leaving in a hurry.
Better still, once the boss died and the Gate closed, there would be no way to confirm the truth. Judging from Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s personality, he wasn’t the type to go around blabbing his mouth, either.
Park Jong-Su’s thought process arrived at that point and a smile floated up on his lips.
‘Well, isn’t this a fortune among misfortunes?’
It was then. The Hunters at the back of the pack suddenly became rather noisy.
“Chairman? There are a lot of things coming from our rear!”
“Yeah, I can hear them coming, too.”
Park Jong-Su tilted his head and walked to the rear of the team. And for sure, he could hear lots of footsteps as well.
‘Wait, did the retrieval team enter the Gate already?’
But, the highly-trained retrieval team of the Knight Order Guild wouldn’t have entered a dungeon without receiving an order first, so how could this be?
Just as such thoughts entered his head….
Park Jong-Su’s brows shot up high. Because, the undead monsters, those the ants didn’t snack on, were busy rushing to where the assault team was, all of them fully revived back to how they were.
‘C-could it be….??’
Did the ants chow up the undead because they knew this might happen?
Such a thought only lasted for a moment in his head. Park Jong-Su realised that his team wouldn’t be able to deal with that many monsters, and hurriedly shouted out to his teammates.
“Everyone, enter the boss room, now!”
Their sole hope for survival was the summoned creatures left behind by Hunter Seong Jin-Woo. The assault team didn’t even have a chance to confirm what was waiting for them inside the boss chamber and hurriedly jumped in.
After confirming that every last Hunter had entered, Park Jong-Su shouted out, veins popping up in his throat.
“Block the exit!!”
Jeong Ye-Rim activated her skill, ‘Holy Wall’, and blocked up the entryway connecting the boss room and the passageway before it.
The Death Knight standing in front of the rushing horde noisily pounded on the invisible barrier. Her forehead soaked in cold sweat now, Jeong Ye-Rim turned her head towards Park Jong-Su.
“Chairman! I won’t be able to hold this for more than five minutes, tops!”
Not only Park Jong-Su, but the rest of the assault team members had finished preparing for a battle in case the wall was breached.
But, when they took a good look at the undead monsters pressing forward like a horde of insects on the other side of the wall, they began doubting whether they had any chances of winning here.
“All we can do here now is to pray that the summons kill the boss quickly and open up the path for us.”
Park Jong-Su looked back at the ants that should be facing off against the boss with a pair of desperate eyes. He prayed that the boss was an easy monster to fight.
‘….Oh, my dear lord.’
His eyes opened even wider than before.
The boss monster currently standing in a face-off against the ants was something even Park Jong-Su knew of, after hearing about it many times in the past.
A pale-faced ‘Mage’ wearing a tattered robe – the Arch Lich.
It was the strongest undead-type monster, thought to be the creature at the top of the undead food chain.
‘Why did it have to be a d*mn Arch Lich?!’
Park Jong-Su’s complexion darkened considerably.
He prayed for the summoned creatures to quickly kill the boss and help them out, but then, the opponent turned out to be a d*mn Arch Lich. It’d be more realistic for the Hunters to get rid of the scores of undead first and help the summoned creatures out next.
It was then.
Beru took a step forward towards the Arch Lich.
The Arch Lich then immediately summoned over a dozen Death Knights around the ants and surrounded them.
Beru bared his fangs and extended its claws out.
The Arch Lich recognised the black smoke continuously rising up from Beru’s entire body. It was almost as if the completely-empty eye sockets had widened for a second there.
“The Shadow Army??”
The language of the monsters came out from the Arch Lich’s mouth. Beru retracted his claws after hearing the boss’s words.
The Arch Lich swept its gaze around the ants behind Beru and asked in a puzzled voice.
“Why is the king’s personal army attacking us?”
Beru leaked out a sound that sounded like a cackle of ridicule, before pointing to himself.
“We have been chosen by the king.”
And then, he pointed at the Arch Lich.
“And you… weren’t.”
The Arch Lich couldn’t believe it, its voice now containing a trace of anger.
“That can’t be! I shall personally report to the king, and…..!”
Unfortunately, even before the Arch Lich could finish its sentence, Beru appeared right before its stunned eyes.
The shoulders of the Arch Lich quivered momentarily.
Beru was a high-class monster that the owner of a rank S dungeon sacrificed its own lifeforce to create. Even if its overall Stats had fallen a little ever since becoming a Shadow Soldier, there was just no way that an owner of a measly rank A dungeon, an Arch Lich, could fight against Beru.
The former ant king simply thrust its hand into the shocked boss’s chest without hesitation.
The hand pierced through the chest, along with a pendant hanging on the Arch Lich’s neck.
Beru’s hand exiting from the back of the Arch Lich was grasping the pendant now. That piece of jewellery was basically the heart of the Arch Lich.
It wasn’t all that difficult for Beru, once a top monster himself, to detect what was supplying the lifeforce to his enemy. The Arch Lich desperately shook its head.
“No…. This can’t be….!”
However, Beru didn’t pay any attention to the pleading of his enemy and simply crushed the pendant in his hand.
“You talk too much for someone about to die.”
Along with Beru’s words, the body of the Arch Lich crumbled to dust.
< Chapter 144 > Fin.