Jin-Woo had a bit of history with the monsters called Ice Elves.
Didn’t he encounter these creatures when he stumbled into a Red Gate for the first time in his life? How rueful did he feel back then, after seeing the boss mob ‘Baruka’ slipping out of his hands while leaving only a dagger behind?
Just remembering that event brought back all the bad emotions he felt then after failing to extract that monster’s shadow.
‘And here I was, having just barely forgotten about it….’
Naturally, his strength while gripping this creature’s wrist and neck increased.
In any case, why was a high-ranking monster that should have been confined to a dungeon roaming freely around here?
Jin-Woo got here by switching his position with his Shadow Soldier. Next up, he used ‘Ruler’s Authority’ to keep his balance and float in the air about 7 or 8 stories high. While gripping the monster tightly, he asked this mysterious Ice Elf a question.
“What the hell are you?”
Seeing those pointy ears, or the long whitish hair, or even its pair of silvery eyes, this thing seemed to be a White Phantom alright, but then again, he could also sense the trace of an unfathomably lengthy passage of time from this creature, too.
Not only that….
The monster gritted its teeth and shook off Jin-Woo’s hands.
What an incredible physical strength!
Even before he had the chance to get surprised from the monster slipping out of his grasp, Jin-Woo picked up on this chilling aura coagulating around the creature’s mouth.
Inexplicably, the image of Demon King Baran shooting lightning out of its mouth overlapped with this b*stard. By sheer instinct, Jin-Woo tilted his torso away.
The bitterly cold air shot out from the monster’s mouth, sped past Jin-Woo’s original position, and poured out into the air behind him.
After confirming the scary amount of magical energy being poured out by the monster with his two eyes, Jin-Woo quickly retreated an adequate-enough distance away.
He lightly dusted the particles of ice clinging onto his shoulder and stared intently at the Ice Elf – no, the Sovereign of Frost.
That thing was no ordinary monster. His ultra-sharp senses were warning him that this thing was much stronger than any monster he had faced off against so far.
Jin-Woo wasn’t the only one getting surprised, though.
[But, how can you….??]
The Sovereign hurriedly looked at Jin-Woo’s shadow and, after confirming the number of soldiers hiding in there, couldn’t hide the fact that it was feeling deeply surprised right now.
[You have managed to amass that many soldiers, so why haven’t you contacted us already?]
When Jin-Woo made no effort to reply, the Sovereign began looking into his eyes. And then, a pained gasp leaked out from the creature’s mouth.
[So, that’s how it was…. You’re the variable he talked about, aren’t you?]
What was this fool talking about?
Jin-Woo was getting rather curious about the meaning behind this monster’s constant babbling, but too bad, he didn’t have enough leeway to hold a cordial Q&A session with this creature.
Just one moment of carelessness and the enemy’s blade would reach him. And that blade wasn’t dull enough for him to ignore it and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, his shoulder that got frozen for a moment just a few seconds ago was still aching even now.
Jin-Woo took a glance at the hurting shoulder and quietly summoned the ‘Demon King’s Shortswords’ from his Inventory.
Weapons silently appeared in his hands.
‘Is it a Mage-type creature?’
Judging from how it barely managed to get out of his grasp, its physical strength or defences didn’t seem to be as high as its magical energy reserve suggested.
Which was a relief, actually.
He knew from his vast experiences in fighting many different types of monsters up until now that the Mage-type enemies were the easiest to deal with since they could be killed in an instant.
Just one hit would be enough to determine the winner.
If they both possessed a similar level of magical energy reserves, then the one needing to dodge the magic attacks would hold an advantage.
His opponent must’ve known that too because it didn’t immediately try to go on the offensive, even though it had clearly sensed Jin-Woo’s hostility.
The Sovereign of Frost deliberated on its options very seriously – but, only for a brief time – before deciding on what it would do next.
[….We shall stop here. I didn’t come here today to hold a life-or-death struggle with you.]
“What was that??”
Jin-Woo frowned deeply. He had no desire to let this guy leave, so just who decided when they would stop fighting?
Besides, this creature wielded a massive amount of magic energy. Jin-Woo couldn’t even begin to imagine just how many experience points he’d earn if he successfully killed this monster. His level might even jump up by another ten, just like back when he killed the King of Giants.
When his thoughts arrived there, Jin-Woo finally deduced the identity of the monster.
‘Could that thing be….??’
Meanwhile, the Sovereign pointed towards the broken wall of the Hunter’s Association building.
[Did you not come here to save that human?]
Technically speaking, he came here because the ant soldier he left behind in the Association President’s shadow sent him an urgent alert, that was all.
Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted towards the location the Sovereign’s outstretched finger was pointing at. And he found Goh Gun-Hui lying on the floor there.
The unconscious Association President was covered in blood from head to toe, and even at a casual glance, he could tell that the man’s life was hanging precariously on the edge.
It was then.
A large, incredibly sharp ice lance suddenly formed on the left hand of the Sovereign.
[Choose between fighting me or saving that human.]
The moment the creature’s words came to an end, the lance flew towards Goh Gun-Hui.
Jin-Woo’s eyes widened. He pushed his concentration to the absolute max, causing the flow of time to slow down greatly. He watched the lance fly agonisingly slowly, but accurately, towards the unmoving Association President.
He tried to use his invisible hand to stop the ice lance, but the magical energy of the one who threw it easily thwarted his attempts. Enraged, Jin-Woo shifted his glare at the Sovereign of Frost.
The b*stard was waiting. For Jin-Woo’s answer, that was.
He bit his lower lip before dashing towards the spot where the Association President Goh Gun-Hui had collapsed on.
The air where Jin-Woo used to be wavered and tumbled about from the explosive power. Just before the lance landed, he arrived by Goh Gun-Hui’s side first with almost no time to spare and dragged the unmoving man away from the weapon’s trajectory.
The lance stabbed straight through the floor and the bitter coldness rapidly flooded out to freeze up the surroundings in an instant.
In the blink of an eye, the entire floor of the President’s office froze up solid from the extremely low temperature.
Jin-Woo picked Goh Gun-Hui up and lightly jumped up in the air to avoid the freeze, and once this incredible biting coldness stopped spreading around, he settled back down on the floor.
Further enraged by this cheap tactic, Jin-Woo raised his head to look, but the b*stard was already jumping into a small Gate to escape from this battle.
In a rush, he quickly summoned ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ from the Inventory and threw it.
The dagger flew in a dead-straight line and accurately stabbed into the Sovereign’s shoulder.
The Sovereign of Frost glared at the dagger in its shoulder, then glared at the one who threw it next – at Jin-Woo – and gnashed its teeth. It soon disappeared into the depth of the Gate.
Jin-Woo was thinking of chasing after the creature, but seeing the Gate’s gradually shrink in size, he gave up on that idea. Besides, Goh Gun-Hui’s current condition wasn’t good enough for him to focus his attention elsewhere.
The older man gasped out a pained moan.
Jin-Woo’s lips closed shut in a straight line as he watched the Association President Goh Gun-Hui teeter precariously on the edge of life and death.
‘This can’t be healed with a healing potion.’
In that case, the best response he could come up with was to….
….Jin-Woo yelled out at the top of his lungs.
Right away, he sensed the familiar aura hurriedly fly out from his apartment from a far away.
Beru smashed past several walls after flying in with all his might and entered the President’s office, before kneeling down in front of Jin-Woo.
“Have you called for me, oh, my king?”
Jin-Woo cautiously lowered Goh Gun-Hui’s upper torso on the floor and took a step back.
There was so much blood dripping out from the Association President that Jin-Woo’s hands were now painted crimson just from supporting the older man’s torso for a few seconds.
Jin-Woo’s complexion grew gloomier as he stared at the droplets of blood fall to the floor from his fingertips.
Beru did as his master willed it and approached Goh Gun-Hui. He began using up all of his magical energy healing the gravely injured man.
Unfortunately, the complexion of the dying man didn’t want to improve at all even with such a concerted healing effort. Beru panicked and opened his mouth.
Beru’s scared eyes shifted over to Jin-Woo as he spoke.
“My healing magic… isn’t working on him. I can’t heal this man.”
He didn’t seem to be exaggerating, because Beru’s hands were shuddering as he continued on with his healing magic. Even Jin-Woo could sense the enormous amount of Beru’s magic energy being spent right now. At this rate, even the former ant king would keel over from exhaustion.
Jin-Woo halted the healing effort and sat down next to Goh Gun-Hui to take a closer look at the man’s current condition. Despite Beru’s near-selfless efforts, the Association President’s vitality had weakened even further than before.
Whatever that attack was, the hole in Goh Gun-Hui’s chest didn’t want to close up even after Jin-Woo poured in a whole bottle of the most expensive healing potion sold in the Store.
Jin-Woo’s breathing became urgent as the critical moment for Goh Gun-Hui approached closer and closer. The man who did his best for Jin-Woo’s sake was slipping away and he couldn’t do anything.
Out of sheer desperation, he even summoned out the bottle of ‘Divine Water of Life’, but before he could use it, someone grasped his wrist.
It was Goh Gun-Hui. He managed somehow to force his eyes open.
His breathing remained heavy as if it was on the brink of cutting out. He still got to confirm the faces of Jin-Woo and Beru next to him, though.
“….You did come for me. Thank you.”
A weak smile spread on Goh Gun-Hui’s face.
“Please, hold on for a little bit longer. I’ll take you to a hospital right now.”
Jin-Woo’s urgent voice only managed to earn a shake of Goh Gun-Hui’s head.
“It’s useless… the attack that got me far exceeds the level of being curable with medicine or magic.”
Jin-Woo was about to get angry after hearing those words of weakness from the Association President, but he had to stop. Goh Gun-Hui’s trembling hand was grasping his, that was why.
“Listen to me!”
As if he was spurring on the dying embers of life for one last hurrah, Goh Gun-Hui’s brows rose up high, his eyes opening up wide.
“I was able to get in touch with the will of the great beings. I saw their plans, who our common enemies are, and the things that we must do….”
The blood pooling in Goh Gun-Hui mouth gurgled and welled up.
“What a relief that you’re here with us… to think, you’d possess that kind of power…. Thank you, God….”
Tears began welling up in Goh Gun-Hui’s eyes as he stared at Jin-Woo. He then grasped the young Hunter’s hand with both of his own and spoke with a trembling voice.
“Gates and dungeons weren’t for them. In order to protect us, they chose this method, and…. Cough….”
At that moment, Goh Gun-Hui coughed and reddish-black blood spluttered out from his mouth.
Jin-Woo hurriedly tried to use the Divine Water, but Goh Gun-Hui shook his head. He knew the condition of his own body better than anyone.
“Sometime in the future… there will come a time when you must make a decision. When you do… I pray that you remain on the side of mankind.”
Hearing the pained gasping voice of Goh Gun-Hui, Jin-Woo felt as if his heart was being ripped to pieces. But, all he could do right now was to quietly listen to his words. That’s all he could do.
“Cough. I always wished I could fight alongside young people like you. But…. This body of mine made sure that would never happen.”
For the first time ever, Goh Gun-Hui poured out what was in his heart without holding back.
Some people pointed their disapproving fingers at him, accusing him of establishing the Association to rake in more money. Some even insulted him as a senile old fool who was blinded by the allure of power.
The thing was, the man they were criticising was feeling angry that, even though he was blessed with this incredible power, he couldn’t even use it properly.
He sought out other avenues to use his powers and, after spending every cent to his name, created the Hunter’s Association. And through this organisation, he got to be near other Hunters and fulfilled his calling to its fullest.
“Even then, cough, I don’t regret anything. I can now entrust the future to young people like you. That’s all I ask for.”
Goh Gun-Hui’s hands holding onto Jin-Woo’s powerlessly fell to the floor. And he was no longer staring at the young man, but at the ceiling of his office.
Was it because his tears had spread out? The lights hanging on the ceiling, the ones he always thought were a bit too dim for his liking, seemed excessively blinding today.
Goh Gun-Hui shielded his eyes to block those lights.
“I’m truly relieved…. Thank you, thank you….”
At the end of those words, the Association President Goh Gun-Hui stopped murmuring altogether.
Confirming that he was no longer breathing now, Jin-Woo wordlessly closed the deceased man’s unmoving eyes shut. Like his final words of gratitude, the expression on his face was one of peace.
Jin-Woo raised his head above to stare outside.
He saw through the destroyed wall the raindrops falling from the cloudy sky. The sky that had been gloomy since the early morning.
Next day. Several headlines dominated the front pages of countless newspapers.
The first news item was about Brazil’s greatest Hunter, ‘Jonas’ being found on the vicinity of a river – as a corpse. The second one was about the grisly murder of the Korean Hunter’s Association President after his chest was stabbed through by an unidentified assailant.
And finally, the news of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo returning to South Korea.
< Chapter 201 > Fin.