‘….This is so strange.’
Yu Jin-Ho’s older sister, Yu Jin-Hui, was returning home empty-handed due to her little brother’s stubbornness. As she was driving home, though, she suddenly pulled up to the side of the road and cautiously parked her car there.
That man she ran into while exiting the Ah-Jin Guild offices…
‘….Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.’
There should be no one in South Korea who didn’t know what he looked like. So, even though she had never met him in person until now, it was easy to explain why it felt as if she did.
Someone who didn’t sweat over such things would have accepted that explanation and move on. However, she was the eldest daughter of Chairman Yu Myung-Hwan, a man famed for never forgetting a face after meeting a person only once. Although not as sharp as her father, she too didn’t forget a person’s face that easily.
The contour of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s face, the one she briefly glimpsed while raising her head as they brushed past each other, came across as distinctly familiar.
‘Just when would that be….?’
She combed through her memories until her eyes inexplicably grew extra large.
‘Could it have been then?’
Back then, in front of the hospital.
There was that time near the entrance of a certain hospital where her father had been admitted to, when a man possessing the same facial contours brushed past her.
Why didn’t she recognise him back then?
Could it have been because her mind was in a mess after her father had collapsed earlier in the day?
The man leaving the hospital that day simply had to be Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.
And a short while later, she received a phone call telling her that her father, diagnosed to never open his eyes again, had precisely done just that.
Was she even allowed to treat this as a mere coincidence?
Yu Jin-Hui’s entire body was suddenly overcome with a case of powerful goosebumps. She quickly pulled out her smartphone and began dialling her father’s number.
Beep, beep, beep…
But, before she could finish dialling his number, her fingers came to a stuttering halt.
‘What am I even trying to do here….?’
Just because she ran into Hunter Seong Jin-Woo in front of the hospital that day, she somehow ended up linking him to her father’s miraculous recovery.
What a grand delusion this was.
Yu Jin-Hui could only scold her logical reasoning that seemed to have taken a leave of absence for a moment there with a long, long sigh. She was about to start the car again, but then…
….With excellent timing, her phone went off.
After confirming who it was, a smile floated up on Yu Jin-Hui’s lips. Without a doubt, her dad became curious about the result of her visit to the Ah-Jin Guild and asked the ahjussi to find out from her.
‘Back then or even now, Father just can’t be honest with the matters of his kids, can he?’
Yu Jin-Hui swallowed back her laughter and answered her phone.
– “Hello, miss. It’s Secretary Kim.”
And so, the conversation proceeded exactly as she imagined it would. But then, just before it was about to end, Yu Jin-Hui thought it’d be a good idea and quickly asked Secretary Kim.
“Ah, ahjussi? By any chance, is dad a close acquaintance with Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
– “I beg your pardon?”
Secretary Kim’s surprised voice came out from the phone’s speaker next.
– “May I inquire as to why you’re suddenly asking me that question, miss?”
At this unexpectedly intense response, Yu Jin-Hui panicked slightly and ended up replying while feeling a bit lost.
“It’s nothing in particular, but, I remember seeing Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim exiting from the hospital on that day, you see. I was wondering if he was also there to visit dad while he was admitted there.”
– “Are you saying that Seong Hunter-nim was in the hospital the day the Chairman collapsed, miss??”
“Y-yes. Just before I got the call to inform me that dad had woken up, we brushed past each other in front of the hospital.”
– “Are you sure about this, miss? Could it have been someone else, or maybe it was on a different day?”
“No, I’m pretty sure. I couldn’t remember who it was because I wasn’t thinking straight back then but now…. But, why do you sound so agitated like that, ahjussi?”
– “N-no, miss. It’s nothing to worry about. I shall give you a call again later on.”
He didn’t say the usual ‘goodbye, speak to you soon’, but ‘will call again later’?
‘Did I say something wrong?’
Yu Jin-Hui tilted her head in confusion. Before she could put her phone down, though, it rang noisily again. She confirmed who the caller was and her brows rose up just a little.
‘….Dad is personally calling me?’
Only after seeing the number for Chairman Yu Myung-Hwan on her phone’s screen did she realise that this matter couldn’t be simple at all.
Could it be that her father’s recovery and Hunter Seong Jin-Woo were related in some way, just as she imagined earlier?
She cautiously answered the call.
Beijing International Airport.
The biggest and busiest airport in the whole of China was now bustling even more than ever before, all thanks to a huge throng of people present today.
There was only one reason for this. The best of the best Chinese Hunters that went to lend aid to the Koreans were coming back home today, that was why.
It would be the same story in other countries as well, but at least in China, the highly-ranked Hunters were treated as superstars famous enough to summon up a sea of adoring fans wherever they showed up.
And it went without saying that the leader of the support team, the Hunter ranked as Seven-Star, Liu Zhigeng’s popularity couldn’t be described with mere words alone.
One of the reporters doing her job surveying the atmosphere of the airport spotted Liu Zhigeng and raised her voice.
“Ah! There he is! Liu Zhigeng Hunter-nim has entered the airport’s interior!”
His fans filling up the airport cheered on loudly. While holding his now-trademark pair of longswords in one hand, he waved his other hand lightly towards his adoring fans.
Liu Zhigeng’s dignified atmosphere that simply oozed the charm of an older man caused the much-younger female fans to bounce up and down and even scream in uncontrollable excitement.
The special team of Hunters followed after their leader and quickly entered the airport next.
The gasps and cries of awe emitted by many onlookers, moved by their emotions after witnessing the Hunters they only got to see through TV screens until then, quickly filled up the airport’s vast interior.
Meanwhile, the reporter looked into the camera with the green light switched on.
“Our proud Hunters are now entering the airport, having returned from their trip to support South Korea.”
As her bright expression alluded to, the overall result of this trip was being seen as satisfactory from the Chinese government’s point of view.
They got to claim that they didn’t forsake their neighbouring nation’s troubles and also got to save their face when their elite Hunters volunteered to fight against the super-massive Gate in Seoul’s skies.
Was that all?
With this particular matter resolving in the way it did, not one Hunter from the special team travelling to lend their support got hurt. They saved face, and also earned some practical benefits, too. Two things rolled onto their lap, so to speak.
Many Chinese clapped their hands in admiration at Liu Zhigeng who personally persuaded China’s top Hunters and formed this special team.
However, there would always be those with dissatisfaction regardless of where it was. There were quite a few who tried to slander Liu Zhigeng or South Korea through the anonymity of the internet.
– That Liu Zhigeng b*stard, the Chinese government supported him financially so he can protect China, yet look at him, busy rushing off to Korea instead.
– Does anybody know where Liu Zhigeng’s ancestors come from?
– Will someone please go through Liu Zhigeng’s bank account? Better make sure that no Koreans paid him off.
– Why would a great nation like ours help out a small country that won’t even remember this debt in the future, anyway? We must make sure that an event like this one doesn’t happen ever again.
– Good sir, you’re so right!
– There’s no need for them to go, but since they did, we gotta get compensated properly. I mean, just what is the value of these Hunters making up the special team? How can them going on a volunteer mission even make sense?? Calculate each Hunter’s daily wages properly and make the Koreans pay!
– I hear Seong Jin-Woo made a sh*t ton of money after killing Giants in Japan, so he can pay out of his own pocket, then!
Comments that contained rather toxic contents even at a casual glance filled up the live broadcast’s ticker tape being updated in real time at the bottom of the screen.
The reporter, subbing for many people and their curiosity, stood before Liu Zhigeng to do her job.
“Many people are cheering you on for your brave decision, Liu Hunter-nim. On the other hand, those questioning why we had to aid the Koreans are also quite a few in number as well. By any chance, do you have anything you’d like to say to them, Liu Hunter-nim?”
Liu Zhigeng took his sunglasses off and glared at the reporter.
“Who is walking around spewing something that stupid?”
Not paying any heed to the reporter and her wide-open eyes, Liu Zhigeng continued on with what he wanted to say.
“Are their heads nothing more than decorations? Can’t they read a map? Don’t they know which country is next if you move your eyeballs up from Korea?”
“One Giant monster that wasn’t stopped in Japan crossed the sea and almost made it onto the Chinese mainland. I heard that the audience rating back then rewrote the history books, so surely, they must’ve seen it, too.”
Liu Zhigeng glared straight at the camera next.
“What I am saying here is that something similar could’ve happened, but on a far, far greater scale. I and my comrades agreed with that notion and we went there to prevent that from happening.”
Liu Zhigeng’s torrent of harsh language put an immediate end to the stream of toxic comments.
He continued to speak, his voice rising up higher and his glare getting sharper as if he was addressing the toxic commenters directly.
“If there are people still spewing crap like that, then tell them this. I, Liu Zhigeng, am not confident of stopping an event that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo also failed to stop. That’s why we went there to help him out, so if you’re unhappy about that, why don’t you try and catch monsters with your own….”
Liu Zhigeng continued with his tirade which made his supporters really happy, but then, he abruptly stopped talking for some reason. Could it be that he finally realised the camera was rolling?
Of course not.
Liu Zhigeng was probably the only person in the whole of China capable of pouring out insults and swearing on live TV without worrying about repercussions. But then, someone like him had been rendered utterly speechless as he took a look outside the airport.
Just what could have happened?
The first person to look was the reporter. Next up were the Hunters and their supporting staff behind Liu Zhigeng. And eventually, everyone gathered here in the airport – their gazes all shifted to the outside.
And after witnessing the change, their eyeballs began quaking greatly.
Liu Zhigeng would never get shocked by any ordinary little thing, but he couldn’t stop a soft gasp of surprise leak out of his mouth.
“Oh, my god…..”
Above Beijing’s skies, a massive darkness was slowly descending.
“Seong Hunter-nim…. By any chance, have you heard of the breaking news yet?”
Jin-Woo shook his head.
After the ‘raid’ of the super-massive Gate, he headed straight to Japan and made it back to Korea only a little while ago before coming to the Hunter’s Association straight away. He didn’t have any opportunity to check out the news or any mass media coverage, really.
Besides that, if something serious happened while he was away, Yu Jin-Ho would’ve informed him the first thing after he entered the office.
Seeing how grave the expressions on the faces of the Association employees, even Jin-Woo’s own expression hardened.
“Did something happen?”
Woo Jin-Cheol pulled his phone out and showed him the real-time footage being recorded right at that moment.
– “Jesus Christ!! Can you see that??”
– “Holy cow!!”
– “Doesn’t that Gate look even bigger than the one generated in Korea?”
Eight super-massive Gates all revealed themselves in various parts of the world. Half in fear and half feeling mystified by this development, people were filming these Gates and uploading the footage on social media. Breaking news poured in from all parts of the world.
The sound of Woo Jin-Cheol swallowing his saliva rang out loudly from Jin-Woo’s side. He didn’t mind that and continued to watch each and every one of the video clips.
“Hunter-nim… Could these be also….?”
“No, definitely not.”
Jin-Woo quickly cut him off. He made sure to drill home the point that these new Gates had no relations to him whatsoever.
Woo Jin-Cheol had been secretly hoping that these Gates would also end up as nothing too serious, so his complexion darkened fast enough to be noticed in real time from that grim reply.
What if hundreds of thousands of monsters poured out from all those Gates, just like how it had been with Seoul?
Isn’t that the same thing as announcing the end of humanity?
While Woo Jin-Cheol shuddered from the enormity of it all, Jin-Woo finished watching the footage and spoke to him.
“Let’s change our location first.”
They quickly got to the Association President’s office and settled down on the couches facing each other.
“You said you had something to tell me….?”
Woo Jin-Cheol cautiously spoke, and Jin-Woo replied to him immediately.
“Association President. Do you trust me?”
Woo Jin-Cheol nodded his head.
“Yes, of course, I trust you.”
“In that case, I hope you will believe everything I’m about to show you.”
Just like how the former Shadow Sovereign had done, Jin-Woo reached out with his index finger and placed it against Woo Jin-Cheol’s forehead. The moment his finger touched, darkness filled up the older man’s eyes, and countless images brushed past within his vision.
Jin-Woo showed the necessary amount of information to the Association President and nothing more. That would be – the Rulers and their plans, as well as the Sovereigns. And then, the armies those Sovereigns were summoning to this world, as well.
“Pant, pant, pant….”
Woo Jin-Cheol had witnessed the powers of these Sovereigns with his own eyes now. Once the images stopped flashing by, he began gasping out breathlessly.
“This, this can’t be…. Just how can such a thing….”
Woo Jin-Cheol had believed ‘it’.
He believed that God had gifted special powers to a small number of selected individuals in order to safeguard humanity. He believed that this was precisely the reason why Hunters had to fight against the monsters and protect other people.
But, if everything Hunter Seong Jin-Woo had shown him was true, then….
He had been too arrogant. He had made a grave mistake.
Hunters, no, the ‘Awakened’ were simply the process of cultivating a small number of humans that might survive the aftermath of the true war about to take place.
This was not a war between humanity and Sovereigns. It was a war between Sovereigns and Rulers, two organisations boasting unimaginable might. Indeed, it was they who were going to fight.
However, a huge variable entered into this fray in the form of a certain man.
And now, with the armies of the Sovereigns arriving much faster than expected to this planet, mankind had only one being they could place their hopes on – the unexpected variable.
“How can this be….”
Woo Jin-Cheol’s fingertips trembled as he raised his tear-filled gaze.
“Seong Hunter-nim…. Are you planning to fight these things? All by yourself?”
Even if the enemy possessed a powerful force, he couldn’t just give up without trying something first now, could he? At least, Jin-Woo had never lived his life in that manner.
That was why he quietly nodded his head.
Woo Jin-Cheol wanted to help him in any shape or form, so he quickly asked.
“In that case, what should we… No, what should I do to help you, Hunter-nim?”
Now that the expected question came out, Jin-Woo calmly replied with the answer he had thought of before arriving here.
“Can you gather the representatives of the world in one location, please?”