[Oh, my king…. May I be permitted to address you regarding a certain matter?]

Beru contacted Jin-Woo out of the blue.

What did the most powerful Shadow Soldier, tasked with leading the ant battalion to kill monsters far away, want to say to his master?

‘What’s going on?’

Jin-Woo inwardly asked him. Beru then cautiously sought out permission from his master.

[May you be gracious enough to drive the prey to this servant’s location?]

Drive the prey to his location?

The ‘prey’ Beru was talking about was, of course, monsters that roamed outside of the Gates after the various dungeon breaks took place. It implied that the former ant king wished to take care of all the monsters by himself.

Even Greed couldn’t compare to Beru in terms of power, although they were supposed to be in the same Commander-grade. So, it was unlikely that his subordinates started a rebellion or some such and he wanted to do things alone now.

Jin-Woo pondered the reason for this request for a bit, but then, a certain possibility quickly entered his head.

‘Could it be….??’

[Every time I defeat a prey, I can feel a sensation similar to ‘moulting’ throughout my entire body, my king.]

As he thought! His guess turned out to correct.

‘Moulting’, Beru said. Meaning, he was about to break through to the next stage.

Ever since his inclusion into the Shadow Army, Beru stood at the forefront, always, and fought off more enemies than anyone else. And finally, he was being rewarded with an opportunity to advance to a higher grade.

When recalling how much stronger high-grade soldiers like Igrit and Iron became after the advancement…..

‘….This is wonderful news.’

Beru was already strong enough to toy with rank S Hunters even before he became a part of the Shadow Army. His current grade, too, was the highest among all of his existing Shadow Soldiers.

‘Does this mean I finally get to see the grade above ‘Commander’?’

Jin-Woo was getting really curious about just what kind of changes Beru would go through after his stats jump up greatly via his advancement. He quickly replied to his ant soldier, no doubt anxiously waiting for his king’s answer.

‘Alright. Let’s do it.’

[Oh, I thank thee, my king. I shall send back the ant battalion to your side right away.]

‘No, there’s no need.’

Jin-Woo smirked to himself. Of course, Beru wouldn’t be able to see the expression his Sovereign was making, since they were dozens upon dozens of kilometres away.

‘Shadow Army.’

Jin-Woo called out, and his soldiers, almost 1200-strong, responded back to him simultaneously.

From Igrit, in charge of leading the knights, Fangs leading the High Orcs, Jima leading the Nagas, No.6 leading the giants, Tank leading the Ice Bears, and even Greed leading the leftover soldiers.

He thought he could hear their loud roars. Every single one of them began focusing all of their attention on Jin-Woo’s summons. He sensed their tension oh-so-clearly, even this far away.

While enjoying this feeling of satisfaction, Jin-Woo issued his new command.

‘Everyone, withdraw.’

[….!!]

‘I want you guys back.’

The moment his order was given, the entirety of the Shadow Army began moving again. Soldiers all reverted back to their shadow state and rapidly headed in the direction where Jin-Woo was waiting for them.

[Oh, my king…. Why have you recalled your loyal soldiers?]

Jin-Woo replied with a chuckle at the surprised-sounding Beru.

‘From here onwards, only you and I will defeat the remaining monsters.’

This seemed to be the best option available in order to speed up Beru’s advancement.

Just like how a high-levelled player helped out the lower-levelled friend in a game, he was planning to fight alongside Beru and greatly speed up their hunting speed, gifting a whole bunch of experience points to his subordinate in the process.

He was going to ‘power level’ Beru, in other words.

There were still quite a few areas where dungeon breaks had occurred, so if the two of them went around clearing them, the required level cap would be met pretty soon.

Of course, as the ground they had to cover was vast, the efficiency of this method fell far behind the one with sending out his soldiers to sweep the enemies clean, but Beru’s advancement was the priority here.

[Oh, my king….]

Beru couldn’t finish his sentence, his voice overflowing with emotions.

‘Hah. This guy.’

Seeing that his emotions had become richer as time went on, there was little doubt that he had been hiding in the shadows watching TV the whole day when he was supposed to protect his mother and Jin-Ah at home.

As the recalling of his shadows was just about complete, Jin-Woo asked the question to his soldiers.

“Is there anyone else beside Beru who feels that their advancement is just around the corner?”

Perhaps inevitably, there was no reply. It wasn’t easy to advance to the next grade, after all. And one would need an excellent perception to sense the approaching advancement, too.

There was a reason why only Beru could sense his own advancement out of all his Shadow Soldiers.

Just as his thoughts arrived at this point…

Shururuk….

As Beru stood there, itching to go on the intimate solo hunting with his liege, yet another Shadow Soldier emerged from the ground next to him.

While a look of disappointment flashed on Beru’s face, Jin-Woo’s own expression brightened up even more.

“Nice.”

As he would do normally, Igrit politely knelt down on one knee.

Jin-Woo always felt kinda uncomfortable with Igrit’s unyielding dedication to the formalities, but still, seeing the gesture again after a long while made him happy regardless.

Igrit’s advancement – that too, was something he had been looking forward to, wasn’t it?

“Alright. Let’s get started.”

Jin-Woo summoned the ‘Demon King’s Shortswords’ and smiled deeply.

What an amazing rate of reproduction this was – it hadn’t been that long, yet new sprouts were rising up from the scorched-black remains of the tree monsters.

“Kiiieehk!”

“Kiiehk!”

There were around 40 or so dungeon break locations left to clear in Japan beside this one.

Every second and every minute was precious if these three were to clear them all.

***

Within the Ah-Jin Guild office.

For Yu Jin-Ho, this office had become far more comfortable than his own place. But right this moment, it felt as if every passing minute was as agonisingly long as an hour. He sneaked a glance at the clock hanging on the wall.

It said, ’16:10 PM’.

It had been over two hours since ‘that man’ had shown up here.

Gulp.

Worried that his unconscious saliva swallowing had made too much noise, Yu Jin-Ho quickly sneaked a glance at the unannounced guest to the side. Unfortunately, his gaze ended up meeting the guest’s eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. The big man replied with a refreshing grin.

Yu Jin-Ho forced his stiff facial muscles to form a grin of his own, or something that roughly resembled one, and hurriedly averted his gaze elsewhere.

Thick sweatdrops formed on his forehead. He then hurriedly pulled out his poor phone and tried to call his dear hyung-nim, but it was a waste of time.

Ring…. Ringgg….

It had been two days since the last communication with hyung-nim. For some reason, he wasn’t picking up his phone at all. Even today.

“…”

Yu Jin-Ho lowered his phone and closed his mouth real tightly. It was the same story for other employees of the Guild.

These talented individuals who chose to work for the Ah-Jin Guild after seeing its potential were all overwhelmed by this awkward atmosphere and, as if they had made a promise to do so, resolutely maintained this heavy silence.

Of course, none of this was their fault. No, anyone who found themselves in a similar situation would react in the same manner.

Especially so, when the man sitting on a chair by the corner of the office happened to be one of the most powerful Hunters in the entire world, who also was happened to be known as the man with one of the shortest fuse in the world.

Not only that, the owner of this office was the very man who beat this Hunter to a pulp and sent him to the hospital. So, how could anyone be able to smile and jovially chat amongst themselves in front of this man?

He was, of course, Thomas Andre.

The Hunter standing on top of the world had come to visit Ah-Jin Guild to meet Jin-Woo. All thanks to that, the Vice Guild Chairman Yu Jin-Ho and his employees had no choice but to deal with this unannounced guest and consequently, felt like they were dying a little bit with every passing second right now.

Yu Jin-Ho began wondering whether he should attempt contacting hyung-nim one more time or not, but then…

Shururuk…

The automated door to the Guild slid open.

The heads of every single employee, including Yu Jin-Ho, instantly snapped in that direction.

Right away, his eyes grew wide. Yu Jin-Ho jumped up from his seat in sheer joy and spoke in a voice that contained the desperate pleading hearts of everyone working for this Guild.

“Hyung-niiiim!!”

‘I was wondering why there were so many reporters camping outside, but this….’

Jin-Woo helplessly stared at Thomas Andre grinning back at him.

Looking at that expression, the American didn’t seem to be hung up over what happened before, so what brought him all the way out here? Funnily enough, though, it was Yu Jin-Ho who welcomed Jin-Woo way before Thomas Andre could.

“Hyung-nim!! Why couldn’t I get a hold of you for so long?!”

“Well, uh, I was busy.”

“Hang on a minute, now that I see your clothes…..”

Yu Jin-Ho faltered and stopped moving. Jin-Woo’s clothing bore countless pieces of evidence of the harsh battles he must’ve gone through. It was like looking at hyung-nim after he concluded his Giant monster hunting trip.

‘If hyung-nim was fighting non-stop, to the point he couldn’t contact anyone for two days straight, then…..’

Just how many monsters were sent back to hell by hyung-nim’s shortswords? Trying to imagine the carnage brought up a nasty case of goosebumps on his skin.

It was at this point in time that Thomas Andre stood up leisurely from the chair to walk up to Jin-Woo. Since he was such a big dude, to begin with, he didn’t need to take that many steps to close the distance between him and his target.

Soon, the American stood before Jin-Woo.

‘Heok….’

‘No, hang on. They aren’t going to fight again in here, right?’

The Guild employees were unaware of these two’s current relationship, so understandably, they were busy swallowing nervous saliva as their eyes locked onto the two men standing before each other.

The sounds of their racing hearts were so loud that Jin-Woo’s ears were actually aching right now from the noise assaulting him.

“Mister Seong.”

Thomas Andre extended his hand first. Jin-Woo grinned and held the offered hand to shake it. The two men shared a brief greeting that way.

But then, the smile on Thomas Andre’s face was wiped off in an instant.

How….

‘How could this be??’

For some reason, the American felt that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was different from before. It was only by a little bit, but this Seong Jin-Woo was different than the one he met back in America.

Was it because the impression had changed?

For sure, Jin-Woo’s attire back when they first met, or when they were in the banquet, was remarkably different from his current duds, which were in a really sorry state.

However, a certain sense of ‘sturdiness’ unrelated to clothing could be felt from him right now.

In a word, it was ‘strong’. Back then, he was strong, but now, he came across as even stronger. However….

‘Can something like that even happen….?’

No, it couldn’t – at least not according to his common sense.

Thomas Andre’s ultra-sharp senses allowed him to detect Jin-Woo’s change that came about from levelling up, but he lacked the knowledge to decipher just what he was sensing here.

As the American was swimming within his confusion, their handshake came to an end and Jin-Woo asked him the question.

“What brings you to Korea?”

“Oh, that.”

Thomas Andre recovered his wits and formed another smile.

“Didn’t I promise you before? I told you that I’ll buy a meal once my arm heals up.”

He raised his completely-healed left arm and waved it around.

“And, also….”

Jin-Woo sneaked a glance at the clock on the wall. It was almost half past four in the afternoon. The time was obviously too late for lunch, but it was also a bit too early for supper.

“There’s still a lot of time left before dinner time, so…. Hang on.”

Jin-Woo asked for Thomas Andre’s understanding and hurriedly walked over to Yu Jin-Ho. Now that he knew the American’s business with him wasn’t as urgent, he decided to prioritise on the matter that required his greater attention first.

“Can you find out for me the biggest Gate currently opening up in Seoul?”

Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes went extra round after hearing Jin-Woo’s request.

“Hyung-nim, will it be fine as long as it’s a big one?”

“It’s fine if someone has booked it already, so find one that’s a high-enough rank.”

“Got it, hyung-nim.”

Yu Jin-Ho typed away on the keyboard at the speed of light and searched for the relevant information before a bright expression formed on his face.

“Hyung-nim, I found a particularly dangerous rank A Gate.”

“Oh, really?”

“However, the Hunters Guild has called dibs on it already.”

Contrary to Yu Jin-Ho’s expectation, though, Jin-Woo didn’t look disappointed at all.

“It’s fine.”

He didn’t care who had the raid permit or not.

As a matter of fact, Jin-Woo thought that explaining himself would be easier now since he knew someone from the Hunters Guild, and that brought about a smile to his face.

Jin-Woo prepared to leave the office with cheery, airy steps, before turning around to address Thomas Andre.

“Ah, I’ve got an errand to run so I’ll be going out for a little while. As for the promised meal, let’s talk about it after I return.”

“…..”

Jin-Woo left the flustered American behind and disappeared from the office like a passing breeze. Thomas Andre dazedly stared at the doorway the Korean Hunter had disappeared through, before loudly bursting out with laughter.

“Ahahaha. Isn’t this….”

What else could he do?

What Jin-Woo was doing might come across as inconsiderate, but then again, it was Thomas Andre who showed up totally unannounced, to begin with. In fact, he should have expected that a Hunter on the level of Seong Jin-Woo would be even busier than himself.

“In that case…. I’ll be staying here.”

Thomas Andre left behind the contact details of the hotel he was staying at with Yu Jin-Ho before vacating from the office himself.

“Whew…..”

Yu Jin-Ho spat out a sigh of relief as he stared at the empty space once occupied by the American’s hulking figure, but then, nearly jumped in fright after sensing another presence right next to him.

“Heok?! You were still here, too??”

It was rather lamentable that Lennart Niermann, who had arrived in the Guild office long before Thomas Andre did, had no grasp on the Korean language. Even then, he was pretty sure of Ah-Jin Guild’s Vice-Chair completely forgetting about his presence until now.

“I even made a prior appointment, too…..”

Realising that even someone like himself, used to being treated like a VVIP back in Germany, could end up being forgotten to this extent, his head slowly drooped towards the floor.

Unfortunately, what else can he do now when even the one and only Thomas Andre left the office without any complaints?

Whether it be a monster or a Hunter, you only had one life, after all.

Lennart Niermann stood up with no energy whatsoever in his body and jotted down his own contact details on the small corner of the memo Thomas Andre left behind.

The elite assault team members of the Hunters Guild were in the middle of getting ready for the raid, but Jin-Woo’s sudden entrance stole away their focus and they could only concentrate on him now.

Noisy, noisy….

Cha Hae-In was the only one to get a heads-up from him, so she was able to remain collected, at least compared to her colleagues.

“You want to borrow our dungeon? Did something happen?”

“It’s as I said before. I’d like to borrow the dungeon if it’s at all possible.”

Having seen another familiar face after what felt like forever, Jin-Woo formed a bright smile of genuine happiness.

On the other hand – he hadn’t contacted her for a long time and yet the first thing he said after abruptly appearing before her, was about borrowing a dungeon that her team was about to raid.

Cha Hae-In was about to get angry, but seeing how happy Jin-Woo was, she ended up averting her gaze elsewhere, instead.

While she stood there in hesitation, unable to think of something to say, Choi Jong-In quickly ran in and addressed Jin-Woo. The Master of the Hunters Guild was waiting for the latter’s arrival, actually.

“Seong Hunter-nim!”

The explanation had been concluded quickly enough.

Jin-Woo was proposing to kill every single monster inside the dungeon, barring the boss itself, and he even promised not to touch anything else. There would be no Guild Master worth his salt who’d reject this deal.

The thing was, Choi Jong-In had been greatly worried about his people getting injured inside this high-ranking Gate, so he welcomed this offer with both of his arms raised up high.

Of course, the members of the raid team themselves were also welcoming this development, although they were careful not to show it outwardly.

Jin-Woo immediately headed towards the Gate.

Before he could go far, though, someone tugged at his sleeve so he turned around to see who it was. He found Cha Hae-In and her blushing cheeks there, asking him in a hushed voice.

“What will you do inside the dungeon?”

“There’s something I need to test inside. One of my summons has gone through a change, you see.”

One of his summons, he said.

Cha Hae-In recalled the two summons she fought against in the Association’s gymnasium – Igrit and Beru. They were far too strong to be labelled as mere summons. She was supposed to be a rank S Hunter, yet those two could easily threaten her life.

Did something change regarding those two and he wanted to test them out now? Cha Hae-In became really curious and whispered in an even more hushed voice.

“In that case…. Can I go inside with you and take a look, too?”

Jin-Woo heard that question containing just a tiny bit of ulterior motive and resolutely shook his head.

“It’ll get far too dangerous. I’m planning to let him run amok, you see.”

Jin-Woo cut her off, his expression one of seriousness. Cha Hae-In nodded her head and didn’t press any further.

Jin-Woo left behind her longing gaze and jumped into the Gate.

[You have entered a dungeon.]

The same message he saw so many times popped up again. Jin-Woo hurriedly summoned Beru, on standby within his shadow.

‘Come out.’

< Chapter 205 > Fin.

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