“A Red Gate?! Just what on earth is going on here!!”
The CEO of the White Tiger Guild, Baek Yun-Ho, ran straight to the Gate’s location as soon as he received the urgent call.
The complexion of Hyun Ki-Cheol could only be described as ashen.
“I’m going to see for myself first.”
Baek Yun-Ho walked past the Guild employees who looked like they were in the middle of a funeral.
‘It really is a Red Gate!!’
Baek Yun-Ho’s own complexion hardened instantly after checking out the Gate’s colour.
What was a Red Gate?
It was a terrifying phenomenon where the dungeon beyond it would actually connect to a whole new world, not some underground cavern. And in order to escape from it, either you had to kill the boss of the area, or wait for the dungeon break to occur.
In other words, once you stepped inside, it’d be the end.
Once the Gate changed its colour to red, all external influences would be completely cut off. Escaping from it, and trying to enter it – both of these activities were now impossible.
Baek Yun-Ho pressed his hand against the Gate’s surface. As he thought, it was hard, impossible to enter.
‘God d*mn it.’
From here onwards, there was no way to lend aid to those trapped inside.
Baek Yun-Ho asked Hyun Ki-Cheol.
“I thought this was supposed to be a rank C Gate?”
“Sir, it was a rank C.”
“Did you call the Association to confirm it?”
“Yes, sir. However….. The Association is insisting that it’s still a rank C Gate….”
“Those god d*mn sons of b*tches!!”
Baek Yun-Ho angrily cussed out.
A Red Gate would only occur when the dungeon itself was ranked very high, to begin with.
There was a whole new world on the other side of the Gate, yet the leaking magical energy only equalled that of a rank C dungeon? That crap wouldn’t fly anywhere.
Even from a casual glance, he could tell this thing should’ve been ranked B, at the bare minimum. If unlucky, rank A. Or worse, something even higher than that.
However, the only reason why the Association still had the audacity to insist they were not wrong?
“Sir, should we use our own equipment to measure the magic energy?”
When Hyun Ki-Cheol asked him, Baek Yun-Ho shook his head.
“No magic energy leaks out from a Red Gate, so it’s impossible to measure it now.”
….Because, it would be almost impossible to take another measurement, that was why.
There was no concrete way to find out what the problematic Gate’s actual rank was at this point in time.
And besides, the rank of this d*mn Gate wasn’t important anymore.
“How many of our people went in there?”
“Total of 12, sir.”
“How many are high ranked Hunters?”
“As the leader, rank A Kim Cheol Hunter-nim, and there are also seven rank B Hunters, as well.”
“One rank A and seven rank Bs….”
“The new recruits…. Will they be alright?”
Baek Yun-Ho slowly shook his head.
“We don’t have a choice but to think of them as all KIA. If lucky, the rank A, and two, three rank Bs might make out alive.”
….Only if those trapped inside enjoy lady luck’s blessing, that was.
That was how lacking these numbers were. With the current composition of the raid team, they should only be enough to barely conquer the weakest of rank B dungeons.
Anything tougher than that, and you’d be asking for way too much.
Without some kind of a miracle, the odds of their new recruits returning alive was as good as none.
Baek Yun-Ho’s complexion darkened even further.
Hyun Ki-Cheol studied the mood of his boss and cautiously opened his mouth.
“Sir, actually… there was someone else who also entered the Gate along with our recruits.”
Baek Yun-Ho shifted his gaze to his subordinate, his expression changing slightly.
Could it be that a high-ranking Hunter was in the vicinity and entered along with the team after getting curious about the training process?
What else could qualify as a miracle?
This would certainly be it!
Baek Yun-Ho’s voice rose up.
“Who was that person?”
“He’s the Hunter I’ve been trying to scout for the last few days, sir.”
The reply came from behind, instead.
When Baek Yun-Ho and Hyun Ki-Cheol looked over to confirm who it was, they spotted Ahn Sahng-Min, soaked in his own sweat and breathing roughly.
“Apologies for being late, sir. The traffic was unexpectedly heavy.”
Ahn Sahng-Min’s home was furthest from everyone here so he ended up arriving last.
Ahn Sahng-Min shifted his gaze over to the Gate. The Red Gate reminded him of the entrance to an impregnable fortress. Just looking at it made it harder to breathe.
‘However, if it’s Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, then…..’
A man who overcame several ‘incidents’ already unscathed could potentially create a new miracle all by himself.
That’s what he thought.
Baek Yun-Ho hurriedly approached Ahn Sahng-Min.
“Are you saying that the Hunter you’ve been keeping an eye on is in there, too? Is that it?”
Baek Yun-Ho suddenly recalled something.
‘Now that I think about it….’
Chief Ahn had been rather busy lately. And as it so happened, there was a Hunter he had been trying to scout to the Guild.
Chief Ahn’s instincts were almost always never wrong.
A spark of hope was lit in Baek Yun-Ho’s heart.
“What is his rank? Is it A? Or maybe, a B?”
If this Hunter was ranked S, then Baek Yun-Ho would’ve known the identity of this mystery Hunter. There were less than 10 rank S Hunters in the whole of South Korea, after all.
However, Ahn Sahng-Min was shaking his head!
‘Oh my god!’
Baek Yun-Ho’s hardened face finally brightened up considerably.
“Are you saying that a rank S Hunter also went in there?!”
Ahn Sahng-Min calmly replied.
“No, sir. He’s a rank E.”
Almost right away, Baek Yun-Ho’s expression crumpled to a man who accidentally chewed on bugs.
Jin-Woo couldn’t help but get flustered here.
‘Could this be the Gate that supposedly takes you to another world?’
It’d be his first time experiencing one, but he had read all about it online, from the testimonies of those who managed to survive it. And they all said the same thing – that it felt like they were being sucked in.
Jin-Woo had to agree with that assessment, too.
As soon as the Gate sucked him in, a deep darkness swallowed him, and a little while later, he felt like he was being slid across something slick and smooth.
When he opened his eyes, he was standing in the middle of a wintery forest, completely covered in white snow.
“What is this place?!”
“This doesn’t look like the interior of a dungeon, does it?!”
“Hey, look! The Gate’s disappeared, too!”
Other Hunters were looking around in confusion, unable to hide their panic as well.
While they were getting more and more flustered, Jin-Woo calmed himself down, narrowed his eyes, and scanned the surrounding area.
‘I don’t sense anything suspicious.’
Thanks to the System repeatedly sending him to weird places, Jin-Woo had gotten used to being in an unexpected foreign environment, which also meant that he could gain his calmness quickly.
The first thing that entered his view was a huge tree.
Not just one, but countless coniferous trees, the kind never seen before on Korean soil, were shooting up straight to the sky with nary a visible gap in between them.
As he scanned his surroundings, his eyes ran into someone else’s. And it was the rank A Hunter Kim Cheol, who was also cautiously scanning the vicinity like him.
The two of them glared at each other for a little while, before looking away.
Hahn Song-Yi had approached him and began tugging at his clothes in the meantime.
“Uhm, excuse me… something bad happened just now, right?”
She looked really scared. Her previous self-confidence was nowhere to be found.
But then… Jin-Woo’s hand suddenly shot out towards Hahn Song-Yi’s face.
Hahn Song-Yi’s eyes opened super wide.
The arrow caught in Jin-Woo’s hand trembled continuously as if it lamented missing its target. And that would be the middle of Hahn Song-Yi’s forehead.
Finally realising what just happened, her face paled in an instant. However, the expected scream came from somewhere else.
A male Hunter fell to the snowy ground with blood bubbling out of his mouth, an arrow lodged deep in his temple.
The snowy ground was soon dyed in his blood.
Hunters began gasping out in shock.
Two arrows flew in at the same time, one aimed at Hahn Song-Yi, while the other one hit its mark. Because of that, though – no one saw Jin-Woo catching the other arrow.
“It’s those b*stards!!”
One of the rank B Hunters pointed towards the top of a tree located far away.
But, even before he had begun pointing his finger, both the gazes of Jin-Woo and Kim Cheol were fixed there.
They could see two lifeforms standing over there, on the snow-covered branches.
‘Two people? No, I should say two creatures, huh.’
Long white hair, icy-white skin, and silver eyes.
And the race-specific trait of pointy ears.
These ‘monsters’ were famed for their particularly beautiful countenances, as well as for their rarity, as they could only be encountered in high ranked dungeons.
….Also known as ‘White Phantoms’. (TL: The author used pun here. The Korean letter for ‘phantom’ can also mean ‘ear’.)
Those who had never encountered one referred to them as Ice Elves, but the Hunters who did encounter them and fought with them, all took to calling them White Phantoms, instead. While also adding that a pretty name like ‘Elf’ shouldn’t be mixed together with these abominable creatures.
Jin-Woo could immediately guess why the Hunters before him all gnashed their teeth at the mere mention of the White Phantoms.
‘….They are laughing at us, huh.’
The two archers had lowered their bows and disgusting smiles were clearly visible on their faces. It was as if they were staring at a table full of delicacies and couldn’t decide which one to start eating.
‘And you decided on this, huh?’
Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
One arrow to the far left. And another one to the far right. That was no coincidence.
The Hunter with an arrow stuck in his head was a thirty-something who had gone through the Awakening process only recently. With the exception of Hahn Song-Yi, he’d be the weakest of the group.
As for the other arrow….
‘It was aimed at Hahn Song-Yi.’
Indeed, the arrows were meant for the two weakest members of the team.
‘If it weren’t for the System, I’d be the one with an arrow stuck in my head, instead.’
The cheap tactic of the White Phantoms certainly managed to bring out Jin-Woo’s ire. He raised the caught arrow so the creatures could see, and broke it in half.
Perhaps taking that as a challenge, the White Phantom who shot that arrow pointed at Jin-Woo and drew a line under his chin.
Seeing that, Jin-Woo simply smirked. However, his eyes were definitely not laughing.
‘….I’ll kill you with my own hands.’
Receiving the trivial provocation of the monster, Jin-Woo simply glared coldly as his reply.
Soon, the pair of White Phantoms disappeared below the tree.
“Looks like this is their way of welcoming us.”
Finally, Kim Cheol opened his mouth.
The lone rank A of the group opened his mouth, prompting everyone to focus their gazes on him as if they had made an agreement prior to coming here.
Actually, he was the leader of this raid team, so that might have been it, though.
“I’m sure some of you have realised it by now. This is inside the Red Gate.”
Kim Cheol spoke as if it was the most obvious thing in the whole world. Of course, no one complained about that.
“Which means, no one will be able to enter here after us, until either we all die, or there is a dungeon break.”
The group all gasped out softly.
The fact that they could no longer hope for a rescue came across as a big mental shock.
Meanwhile, Kim Cheol continued on.
“If we remain here, we’ll all die from this freezing cold, or from those b*stards ambushing us. However, I’m going to clear this place and get out of here, by myself if necessary. Are there any of you who wish to join me?”
Kim Cheol’s powerful, confident stare and his broad shoulders imparted a certain sense of trust.
Hunters glanced at each other for a bit, before unanimously voicing their desire to travel together with him.
“Let us move together.”
“I’d like to join you.”
“Let’s go back together, alive.”
“I want to help, too!”
However, Kim Cheol shoved away the chest of the male Hunter who said he wanted to help.
Even though he controlled his physical strength, at the end of the day, he was still a rank A. The male Hunter retreated several steps back, a deep frown etched on his face from the immense pain coming from his chest.
“And also, you, you, you, and you.”
Kim Cheol pointed to a few more others, not just that male Hunter. Of course, both Jin-Woo and Hahn Song-Yi were included in that.
It was here that Jin-Woo’s own forehead creased up ever so slightly.
All in all, five people in total. They were all either rank C, or lower.
“It’s unfortunate, but I won’t be taking you along.”
“What did you say?!”
“Do you know anything about Red Gates?”
The male Hunter shook his head at Kim Cheol’s question.
“In here, one day equates to one hour outside. The worst case scenario, it’ll take several months for the dungeon break to occur, or I kill the boss. Under that kind of situation, I can’t walk around with baggage like you.”
“We’re baggage to you?!”
The Hunters who were pointed out by Kim Cheol got all riled up, but once the rank A Hunter glared at them, they all shut their mouths close.
Kim Cheol continued on, now sounding as if he was being considerate and all.
“Don’t feel too bad, however. If all of you manage to survive until we kill the boss, then all of you will go back home alive, too.”
The singled-out Hunters sent out desperate, pleading stares to the Hunters near Kim Cheol, but not a single one stepped forward.
No, they were far too busy avoiding meeting the gazes.
It was then….
A rank B female Hunter from Kim Cheol’s group raised her hand. Kim Cheol turned to look at her, and she pointed at Jin-Woo.
“It’s fine to go over there from here, right?”
“….Do what you want.”
She didn’t even look back once and walked straight to Jin-Woo’s side.
Kim Cheol alternated his gaze between the woman and Jin-Woo, and smirked derisively, before declaring out loudly.
“We’ve got an opening this side, so I’ll accept one more person!”
The male Hunter who got shoved away by Kim Cheol just now hurriedly ran over, fearing that the lone rank A in the group, and the leader, might change his mind.
Well, that was how it should be. Jin-Woo thought as much.
‘Yup, this woman is the strange one here.’
Jin-Woo stared at the woman now standing next to him with a puzzled expression on his face. Her gaze met with Jin-Woo’s, and she whispered in a low voice so no one else could hear.
“That man Kim Cheol? Well, he couldn’t see the arrow flying in, you see.”
Even if one was a high ranked Hunter, there was no way every Stat of his would be developed equally. For instance, he might be a rank A, but his Agility could be low. Jin-Woo knew how Stats worked, so he didn’t think too much about that.
“So, what are you saying?”
Then, the woman smiled refreshingly.
“I’m guessing you’re not a rank E. Am I right?”
< Chapter 59 > Fin.