What could he possibly be looking for when the world was facing certain annihilation? No, besides all that, was the man in front of the director’s eyes the real Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, to begin with?
Wondering if he got too drunk and was seeing things, the director roughly shook his head from side to side.
But, Jin-Woo’s figure became even clearer and in focus from that action, leading the director to realise that the man in front of him was not a figment of his imagination.
His intoxication flew away in an instant and his voice rose up an octave.
“W-what are you looking for?”
“The Rune Stone.”
Jin-Woo told the director precisely what he was here for.
“The Rune Stone from Kamish, give it to me.”
His surprised lasted only for a short while; the director reflexively shook his head.
“As you may well know, Hunter-nim, the Kamish’s Rune Stone is the Hunter Bureau’s…..”
That was when his words came to a choking halt.
This d*mn work-related habit of his. What about the Hunter Bureau? So what? Never mind the Bureau, the whole of the United States of America was about to go up in flames, so who cared about a measly little Run Stone now?
‘Looks like I haven’t fully woken up from the booze yet.’
The director loudly slapped his cheeks with his palms. After his skin reddened up from the stinging impact, he finally felt as if his brain was getting in gear.
His once-blurry eyes regained their focus as well.
He then arrived at a certain conclusion that to the Hunter Bureau, no, to the entire United States of America, the reason why Jin-Woo wanted the Rune Stone in the first place was far more important than its financial value.
A short bout of deliberation later. The director asked cautiously as to not sour Jin-Woo’s moods.
“I can definitely give you the Rune Stone, but why do you need it?”
Without a single shred of hesitation, Jin-Woo replied back.
“I’ll use it as a tool for my counter-attack.”
Through the eyes of the System, Jin-Woo got to confirm the ‘Skill’ sleeping within the Rune Stone in question pretty early on. It definitely contained a certain power of a Dragon.
There was a reason why he showed no interest whatsoever to this Rune Stone until now, though – this Skill had a rather serious drawback.
Meaning, it was a power he didn’t need.
‘However…. The story has changed now.’
After descending to the ninth underground floor of the Hunter Bureau’s HQ, the director and Jin-Woo now stood before the reinforced glass case that housed the Rune Stone in question.
Rather than through the System, Jin-Woo only needed his eyes and senses this time to accurately decipher the Skill contained with that little ‘stone’. It was as exactly as he remembered it.
A ‘Skill’ that boasted a truly horrifying power. The seriousness of the current situation should be more than enough to offset the drawback of such a horrifying power.
Ba-thump. His heart pulsed softly in approval.
The director wordlessly stared at the Rune Stone before asking his question.
“Hunter-nim, you once told me that the monsters of the dungeons were sent here by the beings called the Rulers, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“In that case, what are these Rune Stones found inside the bodies of the monsters?”
“They are gifts from the Rulers to enable humanity to hunt monsters down more efficiently.”
What the Rulers wanted was to spread Mana around this world through violent clashes between monsters and mankind. The sacrifices made by humans were simply a side-effect, not their true end goal.
Indeed, these Rune Stones – stones inserted into the monsters so, upon their deaths, their powers could be sealed within – were the sign of the Rulers’ consideration towards mankind’s monster hunting.
And so, Kamish’s power was stored within this stone.
Jin-Woo took hold of the Dragon’s power that would play the crucial role in his fightback.
The director tensely observed Jin-Woo grasping the Rune Stone tightly and swallowed his dry saliva.
“Truly…. Can you truly stop the monsters with that thing?”
“Well, I should at least give it a shot.”
Even at this very moment, the armies led by the Dragon Emperor were repeating the actions of destroying everything in their paths and advancing forward before stopping to destroy some more.
Thanks to the Mana from the Rulers fortifying the planet, the marching speed of the Army of Destruction had been pegged back somewhat, but that would only last for a short while.
Soon, every inch of this land would be engulfed in the conflagration of war. He simply couldn’t sit back and watch as the world crumbled, now could he?
The powers of the Shadow Sovereign that they feared so much – they tried to cowardly hit him from behind and prevent that power from blossoming, but now, it was time to show them what this power in the hands of a measly little lifeform was capable of achieving.
“I’m planning to do everything within my power.”
The unwavering will within Jin-Woo’s two eyes left a powerful impact on the director’s heart.
Seeing that this young Korean Hunter wasn’t trying to avoid fighting the enemy, even though he knew full well their frightening scale, the older American man realised how pathetic he was behaving not too long ago when his mind was still filled with thoughts of running away and nothing else besides.
‘I wanted to go to where my daughter was? You stupid son of a b*tch….’
He felt so, so ashamed of himself. And also, he wanted to witness this young man’s battle right up until its conclusion, regardless of how everything would play out.
“I know I have no right to ask you of this, but…. Please, I beg of you. Please, stop those b*stards, those monsters.”
The director bowed his head deeply as tears trickled down his face again. Maybe, what he really wanted to avoid was not his impending doom, which would most likely be at the hands of the monsters.
No, the truth was, he simply lacked the courage to witness his countrymen getting killed and pillaged by these abominable monsters when he was supposed to be the leader of the Hunter Bureau, a man whose job was to be at the forefront, leading the Hunters in the battle against humanity’s enemies.
Even if it was nothing but a straw, it didn’t matter.
Just a single strand was enough at this point.
If there was one glimmer of hope, then he’d do anything to grasp it.
His emotions had morphed into hot tears as they flooded out of his eyes. Jin-Woo wordlessly grabbed the director’s shoulder.
That single gesture felt a hundred times more reassuring than any words for the director. He belatedly wiped his tears away.
“I ended up showing you something pretty disgraceful. My apologies, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo waited for a little while until the director regained his calm before opening his mouth.
“There is something else as well. I’m looking for a person now.”
Jin-Woo followed after the director and entered a certain apartment building near the Hunter Bureau’s HQ.
“You had her stay so close by?”
“We at the Hunter Bureau believe that the things we’re supposed to protect should always be within reach, you see.”
Perhaps their destination wasn’t high up, the director chose the stairs, instead. Just as his back was getting soaked by the sweat, they stopped at a certain door on the fourth floor. The director turned about to look at Jin-Woo.
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
There must’ve been some sort of a security arrangement, because rather than pressing the doorbell, the director lightly knocked on the door twice, instead.
A short bout of silence later.
An agent confirmed the face of the director through the peephole and opened the door.
The agent frowned slightly at the strong stench of booze stinging his nose, before belatedly discovering Jin-Woo standing behind his boss and jumped up in surprise.
Should one call this a piece of good fortune when the agent didn’t immediately yank out his firearm, just like back when they met him for the first time?
The agent instinctively reached down to his waist after spotting the unfamiliar visitor, but perhaps he recalled the events of the past, a flustered expression quickly bloomed on his face, instead.
“S-Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
The agent wasn’t even given a chance to think about why the world’s most powerful Hunter showed up here, because the director simply led the visitor straight into the apartment.
The other agent waiting on standby greeted the director.
“Where is Madam?”
“She’s waiting for you inside. Heok!”
Like his partner that opened the door, this agent also jumped up in surprise after seeing Jin-Woo here.
“S-sir, this gentleman….?”
“Hunter-nim wishes to speak to the Madam, so I guided him here. Can you inform her that Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim is here to speak to her?”
It was then.
“….I didn’t expect you to pay me a visit during such times.”
As if she was waiting for Jin-Woo’s arrival, the door to her room opened up and the Madam slowly walked out.
It was none other than Madam Norma Selner.
Currently, she was acting as the ‘Upgrader’, capable of enhancing the strengths of Hunters to their maximum potential, but before she awakened her powers, she used to work as a psychic.
Jin-Woo took a step forward and politely bowed his head towards the middle-aged woman.
“Please, this way.”
She guided him into the room. The director standing behind Jin-Woo also tried to come in, but Madam Selner stopped him with a gentle voice.
“I believe that Seong Hunter-nim would want to speak to me in private. Am I wrong?”
She looked behind her and asked, prompting Jin-Woo to nod his head. It was as she said. The director spat out a couple of fake coughs and began fixing his attire a little as the room’s door closed shut.
She closed shut the door completely and slowly turned around to face Jin-Woo, patiently waiting for her at the corner of the room.
The moment she took a look at his entire being, she failed to stop the shocked gasp from bursting out of her mouth.
“Oh, my gosh!”
He looked completely different from the last time she saw him.
“You are…. You’re not the same person as the one I know.”
Her eyes began trembling fearfully.
Back then, the darkness had been hiding deep, deep within him somewhere, but now, he had become the perfect darkness itself. She could clearly see the power of ‘death’ enveloping Jin-Woo. However, he quickly shook his head and corrected her misunderstanding.
“I’m still the same person you know, Madam. Except that I’ve become one with the darkness you saw inside me.”
Which words in the known vocabulary would be adequate enough to describe this truly wondrous development? The power of a god, now dwelling inside a human being!
She studied just the tail-end of that incredulous power leaking out of Jin-Woo and continued to gasp out in pure admiration. Her slack jaw didn’t want to shut close for a long while, but eventually, she did recover her wits somehow.
“Looks like…. I don’t possess the necessary power to help you, Hunter-nim.”
No, could there be someone possessing an ability capable of helping this man out in this entire world? Because… he had already transcended the limitation of humanity.
The thing was, though, Jin-Woo was thinking of something else. He cautiously approached the still-terrified woman and asked her.
“Madam, you said that you can glimpse into the future, yes?”
“To a certain extent, yes….”
“In that case, can you tell me about my future?”
Before he was about to enter the battle properly, he wanted to see the end through her eyes first. He thought that, regardless of what she saw, he’d be more relaxed going in.
Madam Selner hesitated somewhat before she nodded her head slowly. She reached out and grasped both of Jin-Woo’s hands and closed her eyes.
To look deeper into the inner workings of the darkness – she needed a big dollop of courage for that.
However, she couldn’t dare to refuse the request of a warrior about to go to war against the foes that required a far greater level of courage than hers. No, the level of courage required would be so great that it defied all attempts to compare it.
The time flew past as if it was merely a moment and, when she finally opened her eyes, uncontrollable tears began trickling down her cheeks.
“You… Are you really going to carry all that burden by yourself?”
Jin-Woo didn’t answer her.
“But, how can it be…. How can just one person carry all those terrible burdens…. Are you going to sacrifice one to save everyone?”
Jin-Woo’s expression brightened.
“Sounds like I can at least get that far. That’s a relief.”
“What do you mean, you’re relieved?! No one will be able to remember you. You’ll end up fighting a lonesome battle all by yourself!”
Jin-Woo let go of her hands as she tried to dissuade him. Back when he made up his mind to fight, he was already prepared to go that far. He took a step back from Madam and bade farewell in a dignified manner.
“I’m sorry for coming by unannounced and asking you for something like this.”
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim!!”
Even before her earnestly pleading voice came to an end, Jin-Woo slid into the shadow beneath his feet and disappeared from there.
The agents outside were taken surprise by her cries and hurriedly rushed into the room, but he was long gone by then.
Just like back when he was searching for Yu Jin-Ho, Jin-Woo climbed back up on top of the tallest building in the city and expanded his sensory perception as much as he could.
At the far, far off distance, towards the far end of the land up north….
….He felt the presence of so, so many monster soldiers that couldn’t even be counted anymore, making their march south. There seemed to be almost no presence of life beyond the advancing army.
Meaning, they had become prey of the denizens of the Chaos World.
Min Byung-Gu, Goh Gun-Hui, Adam White, and even his own dad.
Faces of many people who became sacrifices in this war against those creatures fleeted in and out of Jin-Woo’s mind.
Anger gradually welling up from the depths of his chest began dyeing the Black Heart. Jin-Woo closed his eyes and began searching for the Dragon Emperor’s aura within that massive army.
As it turned out, it wasn’t all that difficult to spot the centre of the mass of ‘power’ that raged on like a violent storm and swallowing up everything in its wake.
Jin-Woo saw the Dragon Emperor.
At that moment, the Sovereign of Destruction also saw Jin-Woo.
That sharp sensory perception that swept past it – there could only be one possessing senses like that. The Dragon Emperor abruptly came to a halt and glared in Jin-Woo’s direction.
Its demonic snake-like eyes didn’t shy away from the darkness in the distance for a long while. It had finally sensed the presence of the true enemy that could threaten its existence over yonder, that was why.
The Shadow Sovereign and the Sovereign of Destruction glared at each other while transcending past the distance itself. The latter bared its fangs first.
[I am right here!]
Its terrifying roar as loud as hundreds, no, thousands of lightning bolts exploding at the same time resounded throughout the entire planet.
[Tens of millions of your kin have died already! So, how long are you planning to hide like this?]
Murderous glare flickered for a moment within Jin-Woo’s eyes.
‘Don’t you worry. I’ll see you soon.’
And when I do….
Jin-Woo swallowed back the words he wanted to say and submerged quietly into the shadow.
< Chapter 237 > Fin.