Jin-Woo ended the call.
Initially, Chief Ahn Sahng-Min was confused by the sudden request, but once he heard Jin-Woo’s reasons, he gave his okay rather easily. And now, Jin-Woo would be able to check out White Tiger’s method of training their new recruits.
‘And I also managed to borrow the van, too.’
Even though the kid was busy, Yu Jin-Ho still showed up.
Jin-Woo couldn’t help but think that the kid should be praised wholeheartedly; Yu Jin-Ho came running even though he was tied up with something, and didn’t even forget to greet him properly, too.
And so, the preparations were complete.
Right now, Jin-Woo was standing in front of the apartment building that the problematic female student lived in.
‘It’s really close to my own place, isn’t it?’
It only took two minutes of walking to get here. It was the proverbial stone’s throw away.
He took a look around his vicinity. And he was still in the familiar district, too tiny and cramped, with lots of old apartment buildings standing close to one another.
Meaning, this girl’s family circumstances weren’t that good, just how his used to be not too long ago.
He could understand where she was coming from, now that she was nominally a Hunter. Well, Jin-Woo was also like that once upon a time.
‘Too bad, those people die the quickest.’
Didn’t he get injured every single time?
Just how many times did he come close to getting killed? If it weren’t for his mom suffering from the d*mn rare illness, he’d have quit this crap a long time ago.
For a rank E Hunter, a dungeon was a horrible place to be in.
If left alone, this girl would definitely grow to regret ever being a Hunter. No, it’d be more likely that she’d die long before she had the chance to regret making that decision.
‘Of course, that happens all the time, unfortunately.’
The incidents of Hunters dying or getting gravely injured happened dozens of times in a single day, after all.
It was impossible to talk all these people out of going on a raid, nor was there any reason to do so. Well, they made their choices so they had to bear the responsibilities of their decisions accordingly.
If he didn’t know the girl in question, he wouldn’t have cared. But now that he knew who she was, he couldn’t just ignore this one.
Indeed, Jin-Woo was rather familiar with this girl.
He sensed the presence of a person and raised his head, and spotted the problem child walking towards him.
Her hair rolled up into a bun above her head; slightly rough and tired eyes – she was definitely someone he knew.
The female student discovered Jin-Woo there and tilted her head.
“What are you doing here, ahjussi?”
Just as Jin-Woo did, the female student also recognised him right away.
‘Yup, this world is indeed too dang small.’
Jin-Woo scratched the side of his head.
The female student who declared that she’d become a Hunter; she was none other than the underage kid, the lone female in the ‘raiding team’ Yu Jin-Ho had assembled. The one that briefly caused Jin-Woo to worry slightly since she was still so young and all.
– “Is it okay to bring a child here?”
– “I asked for professional advice, and apparently, there is no problem according to the law, hyung-nim. Actually, the only reason why people don’t hire underage Hunters is that there would be hell to pay if something went sideways.”
When he heard that name from Jin-Ah’s homeroom teacher, a flood of emotions briefly inundated him. So, he just had to confirm it for himself.
And sure enough, the date Hahn Song-Yi began missing school coincided with the day Yu Jin-Ho’s team began its raiding ‘missions’.
With that, it kinda became a bit harder to think of this matter as someone else’s mess.
In a way, he felt responsible for it.
As a matter of fact, he couldn’t help but wonder if he was the cause of this mess, to begin with, after letting a kid who didn’t know how the world really operated taste some easy cash, and give her false impressions that she was capable of doing anything now.
‘At least, one thing’s for sure.’
No matter when it might be, he’d feel really bad if he heard of Hahn Song-Yi perishing inside a dungeon. He had done nothing wrong, so he shouldn’t suffer through a couple of nights’ sleep, lost through guilty consciousness, no?
And so, he decided to make time for this evening and sort this mess out. It wasn’t that difficult, to begin with, anyway.
“What’s going on?”
Hahn Song-Yi’s eyes opened wider as she stared up at Jin-Woo. And then, her expression became rather unimpressed.
“Wait, could it be that the Hunter my teacher wanted to introduce me to was you, ahjussi??”
Her continuously calling him ahjussi got on his nerves a bit, but Jin-Woo maintained his smile and nodded his head.
“I don’t know what my teacher told you, but I’m not interested in going back to school anymore. And I’m definitely not gonna give up being a Hunter.”
Hahn Song-Yi curtly stated her position.
She seemed to be a quiet kid when she was with the raid team, but, her attitude definitely changed when the story involved her.
She was definitely one of those headstrong modern kids who thought they knew how to draw the line on where their opinions and viewpoints lied.
‘Well, the thing is, there’s a girl back in my house who’s exactly like you, you know?’
Jin-Woo grinned slightly.
Hahn Song-Yi thought that she had managed to come across tough and intimidating, but seeing that Jin-Woo’s response was completely out of her expectations, she began to get flustered somewhat.
Jin-Woo spoke to her in an even tone of voice.
“I wasn’t planning to tell you to quit being a Hunter.”
Hahn Song-Yi’s eyes widened further.
Kids like her would always act completely opposite to what you tell them to do. So, he wasn’t even planning to talk her out of it. No, all he had to was to show her what the reality was like, just once.
‘That’s what happened to me, anyway.’
He realised the truth after participating in his first raid.
And that was… reality was far crueller and heartless than his imagination had been.
Hahn Song-Yi did her very best to hide her fluster and asked him.
“T-then, what brings you here?”
Jin-Woo took a step closer.
Hahn Song-Yi flinched noticeably and was about to retreat a step back, but upon realising that such an action would make her look weak, she forcibly stopped her body from moving.
Jin-Woo now stood before Hahn Song-Yi.
Although he didn’t mean to, and no one would understand the meaning behind it, an ominous smile still found its way to Jin-Woo’s lips.
“I’m here to mould you into a better Hunter.”
There was no need to persuade her to accompany him to a dungeon.
She said “Okay, I’m coming!” as soon as he told her that she now had an indelible opportunity to witness how the White Tiger Guild conducted its new recruit training exercise.
She didn’t even suspect that Jin-Woo had any ulterior motives.
As they walked to the van, Hahn Song-Yi asked him how he knew her teacher, and he simply showed her the photo of him and Jin-Ah stored on the phone.
“Ahjussi, you were Jin-Ah’s oppa??”
For a while now, a certain word was really getting on his nerves, but since everything was going according to his plan, he endured it and let it slide.
Jin-Woo drove Hahn Song-Yi to the location where the White Tiger Guild was holding its evening training. Since he was told that the training exercise would only commence at 9 PM, there were still plenty of time left.
The van that was clearly too big for only two people glided across the road.
Was this because both his Agility and Perception had been enhanced a great deal? He had never driven a car after getting his driver’s licence some time ago, yet the actual driving proved to be rather easy.
When he concentrated a bit harder, all the other cars on the road looked as slow as worms to him.
‘Yup, Stats really come in handy in all sorts of things, don’t they?’
Meanwhile, Hahn Song-Yi asked him from the passenger seat.
“Does Jin-Ah really study the whole day even back home? I mean, I heard rumours that she actually plastered pages of a dictionary on her walls so she can memorise them even when she falls asleep.”
There was a such a rumour about Jin-Ah?
But, she was such a fried chicken-loving sleepyhead when she was at home….
“Jin-Ah’s just like you, you know. When she’s home, all she does is play games, eat, and sleep.”
Well, it was mostly sleeping, but still.
“Eii…. That must be a lie. How come her grades are so amazing, then?”
“I can hardly believe it myself. She used to frequent arcades with me back when she was still in middle school, you know?”
They chatted about this and that, and eventually arrived near the vicinity of the Gate. Jin-Woo stopped the van.
The area they were in was designated as a location where Gates frequently appeared. Almost no human beings dared to live around here anymore, so it was quite convenient to park the van.
From what he heard, almost 80% of houses here were deserted. The story went that, once the remaining populace moved out, the whole district would be shut down.
Jin-Woo and Hahn Song-Yi exited from the van.
He scanned the surroundings, and immediately picked up on the overflowing amount of eerie, creepy chill in the air.
For some reason, he thought that he could hear loud cheering coming from the shadow beneath his feet. He was probably imagining it, though.
Hahn Song-Yi got a bit scared by the eerie atmosphere of the place, but after spotting the group of Hunters in the distance, regained most of her self confidence back.
The way her eyes sparkled, it was as if she had just ran into a super celebrity or something.
‘Oh well. They are Hunters from the super Guild, White Tiger, so it can’t be helped.’
To a high schooler who yearned to become a real Hunter, those people would be no different than actual celebrities, no?
Also, such a thought process wasn’t so strange, to begin with, when considering how mass media packaged these Hunters on the TV and such.
“Oh, so you really came.”
Hyun Ki-Cheol quickly ran over to Jin-Woo after discovering him.
“Do you still remember me?”
Jin-Woo lightly nodded his head.
Sensing that Hyun Ki-Cheol’s smile wasn’t the fakey business one but the real thing, a smile also formed naturally on Jin-Woo’s face as well.
They haven’t met too many times before, but this Hyun Ki-Cheol character seemed to be someone good-natured and easy to talk to.
“I heard it from the Chief. Ah, so this young woman is her?”
Hahn Song-Yi lowered her head in greeting.
While they were saying hellos in this fashion, a big muscular guy sauntered over and spoke in an irked tone of voice.
“Let’s stop with useless chatter and get started already. We didn’t come here for a picnic, and it’s almost 9 PM.”
The muscular guy didn’t even wait for the response and walked back towards the Gate. Something didn’t feel quite right with that guy, so Jin-Woo asked Hyun Ki-Cheol.
“Who was that?”
“Oh. He’s one of our new recruit. He’s ranked A, actually. He must be feeling a bit unhappy after I asked him for his understanding earlier. He even asked me if I thought that going to a dungeon was a fun pastime or some such.”
“He’s a rank A?”
Hyun Ki-Cheol nodded his head, thinking that such a reaction was reasonable, coming from a proud rank A Hunter like that guy.
Jin-Woo asked again.
“What are the ranks of today’s raid team members?”
“One rank A, seven rank Bs, and four rank Cs, for the total of 12 members.”
“A rank A and several Bs, just for a rank C dungeon….?”
“Well, their ranks might be high, sure, but they are still newbies, you see. We’re trying to help them earn first-hand experience inside an easier dungeon.”
Hyun Ki-Cheol spoke with some pride in his voice.
He then added quickly that after today, these guys would immediately be inserted into high ranked dungeons. Meaning, they could definitely be counted as a proper combat force.
‘Still, one A and seven Bs, huh…’
Jin-Woo’s expression subtly changed.
Actually, this was the reason why Chief Ahn Sahng-Min gave his permission. He was thinking of convincing Jin-Woo with the mighty display from the White Tiger Guild’s new, talented recruits.
However, quite contrary to Ahn Sahng-Min’s and Hyun Ki-Cheol’s expectations, Jin-Woo could only look on at the Gate with a disappointed expression.
The Gate was rated at C.
Compared to that, the members of the raiding team were simply too brilliant to the point that they were even blinding the onlookers with their auras.
‘If the raid is too easy, the shock factor will lessen, though…’
That was what his main worry was about.
But, he slowly shook his head.
‘No, wait. If she sees it with her own eyes, she should still be able to feel it.’
….Feel how weak and powerless a rank E would become inside a dungeon, that was. That alone would be sufficient.
“When can we enter?”
Still utterly oblivious to Jin-Woo’s real intentions, Hahn Song-Yi began whining already. When Jin-Woo took a look at her, her expression showed how pumped up she was.
‘Let’s see how long you can keep that up.’
Jin-Woo inwardly swallowed his laughter and spoke to Hyun Ki-Cheol.
“We’ll be on our way now.”
“Ah, yes. Wait, hold up for a second, please.”
Hyun Ki-Cheol sneaked a glance around him, and then whispered something to Jin-Woo’s ears.
“Uhm, excuse me, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. If you decide to step in, today’s raid will become too easy, so please, refrain from doing anything in there. Please?”
Since Jin-Woo’s purpose today was to simply observe, obviously he wouldn’t enter the fray.
“I won’t step in.”
He’d be going around other rank C dungeons with Yu Jin-Ho from tomorrow onwards, so what point was there for him to disrupt the White Tiger’s training exercise?
Of course, he’d use his shadow soldiers to conquer those dungeons. For that reason alone, he had to bring Hahn Song-Yi over here.
‘Besides, I don’t feel like revealing my shadow soldiers with a matter this simple, either.’
If he showed how easy it was to clear a dungeon with his shadows busy beating monsters to bloody messes, there was a real danger that Hahn Song-Yi’s delusions of grandeur might get inflated, instead.
And so, Jin-Woo and Hahn Song-Yi approached the Gate. Unlike that rank A Hunter, there were some people who welcomed the duo rather happily.
“Nice to meet you.”
Since they weren’t here to make money, the higher the headcount, the better it would be for everyone. As it was customary, they introduced each other.
But when it was the turn of the rank A Hunter….
“I don’t care.”
He simply walked inside the Gate.
“Well, let us get going as well.”
The new recruits of the White Tiger also began entering the Gate one by one.
Before Hahn Song-Yi entered, she turned her head to look at Jin-Woo.
“What about you, ahjussi?”
Jin-Woo crossed his arms and replied to her.
“After I see you enter first.”
Hahn Song-Yi’s face was stiff with nervousness, but she still resolutely nodded her head and jumped into the Gate.
Jin-Woo took a quick breath and stood before the Gate.
He sensed someone looking at him, so turned around to confirm, only to spot Hyun Ki-Cheol over yonder, waving at him and cheering him on.
He reverted his gaze back to the Gate.
The surface of the Gate continued to ripple softly non-stop.
‘But, shouldn’t the surface return to being a solid black barrier once a person goes through it?’
Right now, it was continuously rippling about like the surface of water.
Something was off here.
Jin-Woo placed the tip of his hand against the surface.
And it reacted like a sticky liquid, clinging to his fingers and following him as he lifted his hand away.
‘Could this be….??’
Jin-Woo quickly spun his head around and met Hyun Ki-Cheol’s gaze.
At this point, even Hyun Ki-Cheol had sensed something was very wrong.
Jin-Woo loudly shouted at him.
“Call your main raid team!! Hurry!”
As soon as he finished shouting, Jin-Woo was automatically sucked into the Gate.
“W-what the hell was that?!”
“V-Vice Chief Hyun?!”
Hyun Ki-Cheol hurriedly ran towards the Gate.
The three remaining employees of White Tiger Guild also hurriedly followed after him.
Once he got to the Gate, though, Hyun Ki-Cheol began freaking out.
“This… this can’t be!!”
Hunters weren’t the only newbies today; the new employees were also brought along in order to train them as well. So, none of the newbies had experienced anything remotely like this.
The trio of new employees looked at Hyun Ki-Cheol with completely stunned expressions.
“V-Vice Chief!! The Gate’s surface!! It’s changing to a red colour!!”
As if a drop of blood had fallen in it, the surface of the once-black Gate was now slowly changing to the crimson-red colour.
Hyun Ki-Cheol ignored the confused employees and hurriedly called someone.
– “Uh? Ki-Cheol-ah?”
“Chief!! It’s the Red Gate!! The Gate our people just walked into changed to a Red Gate!!”
Ahn Sahng-Min’s voice became urgent, shocked.
– “What are you talking about?! How can a rank C change to a f*cking Red Gate?!”
Hyun Ki-Cheol raised his head and stared at the Gate, now dyed completely in the colour of blood.
The ripples on the surface had stopped now, too.
Hyun Ki-Chole nervously swallowed his dried saliva.
“I don’t know how… but it’s definitely a Red Gate, Chief.”
< Chapter 58 > Fin.