There wasn’t much meaning behind his words. The reason for Goto’s visit to Korea was to confirm the ability of the nation’s top hunters with his own eyes. He was simply curious after coming across a rather unusual hunter.
‘I’ll soon find out whether he’s truly a mage or not.’
Goto couldn’t believe that the man in front of him was classified as a mage. He was convinced this man was a Fighter-class Hunter. In order to remove all unknown variables for the upcoming mission, accurate information on Sung Jinwoo was necessary.
‘Though I’m partly doing this because it’s fun…”
Goto grinned. After listening to what Goto had said, the interpreter became surprised and asked in astonishment.
“Go…Goto-san, are you serious?”
“Translate what I just said back to him verbatim.”
“Is there a problem?”
Goto’s sly tone masked his intent, as if he were merely wondering why he would not be permitted to participate while all the Korean hunters were training. Sweating nervously, the interpreter reluctantly replied.
After turning his head and making eye contact with Jinwoo, the interpreter spoke hesitantly.
“Goto-ssi…would like to know if you were interested in a training session…”
There was no need to clarify what type of training Goto was alluding to. Jinwoo’s gaze turned towards Goto, who awaited Jinwoo’s answer with a casual smile on his face.
‘Is it because he wants to see what I’m capable of?’
A celebrity such as Ryuji Goto wouldn’t be the type to make such a demand just for the sake of showing off his skills in public. If that was his intention, he would have targeted Choi Jongin or Baek Yoon-ho, leaders of 1st and 2nd ranked guilds of Korea.
‘I don’t know what your intentions are, but…’
Considering how intensely Goto had been staring at him for a while, Jinwoo was certain that he was Goto’s subject of interest. However, Jinwoo was not bothered by this sudden request.
No, in fact – he found it interesting. Not only did he want to test out his improved strength since the Demon Castle, he was also curious about the skills of the hunter known as Japan’s best. Goto wasn’t the only one curious about his opponent’s capabilities.
A subtle wrinkle developed on the Japanese Hunter’s smiling face.
After expecting him to decline shamefully, Goto saw a man that was relaxed after hearing his challenge. Was there a reason for his confidence? Or was he laughing after being put into such an awkward position? The answer was soon revealed. Jinwoo relayed his reply to the interpreter, causing the interpreter to immediately jump in surprise. The interpreter tried to dissuade Jinwoo, while Jinwoo was trying to calm him down while smiling. Goto, frowning, thought it such a shame that he could not understand Korean at this moment.
‘What the hell are they saying…’
Yes or no. Was there a reason why the interpreter was struggling so much with an answer to such a simple question? As Goto was reaching the end of his patience, the interpreter finally spoke to him while being mindful of Jinwoo’s gaze.
If it weren’t for the public watching, Goto would’ve snapped at the interpreter. But for the sake of appearing relaxed, he waited for the interpreter to finish his sentence while furrowing his brows.
“Hunter Sung Jinwoo has agreed…but…”
“He says he has a condition”
After expecting Jinwoo to turn tail and run, not only did he accept the challenge but also demanded to dictate the terms. Goto could not hide his embarrassment at this.
“What is he requesting for?”
“Hunter Sung Jinwoo is requesting that…”
The interpreter turned around again to look at Jinwoo as if to confirm and Jinwoo simply nodded.
“He will accept if you are willing to go all out.”
Goto’s eyes bulged.
‘Are you serious?’
Looking at Jinwoo’s expression, he could tell the Korean Hunter was indeed serious. Goto tilted his head in confusion.
‘Maybe…he doesn’t know who I am?’
No – even if he didn’t know before, the interpreter should have explained it by now during their talk. Could it be sheer arrogance or was he delusional?
‘…this will be fun.’
By then, the smile had vanished from Goto’s face. He had initially only wanted a light sparring match to gauge Jinwoo’s capabilities, but plans changed. Fortunately, with an S-rank Healer within the vicinity, there wouldn’t be a chance of any big accident happening.
“I agree to his terms.”
The interpreter’s face became pale. Jinwoo’s attitude could be blamed on overestimating one’s own strength after recently becoming S-rank, but what was Goto’s excuse? However, the situation had already reached an irreversible point.[Bystanders]
“Who’s that over there in front of the Japanese Hunter?”
“Isn’t he…Sung Jinwoo?”
“What’s going on? Are they going to spar?”
Other S-rank Hunters and Hunter Association officials started to gather around the two who were facing each other. While everyone watched with mixed feelings of anticipation and worry, Cha Hae-In also stood next to the crowd.
‘Will it be ok?…’
Jinwoo’s opponent was a man who had reached the peak in Japan, which had more than 20 S-rank Hunters. On the other hand, excluding his E-rank career, Jinwoo was a rookie who only became an S-rank a few days ago. Normally, correct protocol would be to convince Jinwoo to back down. From her perspective as a member of Hunters Guild, Jinwoo was someone who saved the lives of its attack team. Knowing full well that Jinwoo would get hurt, Cha Hae-In was not the type of woman to just watch. However, every time she thought of trying to stop him, she began to recall the memories of that day. With the Boss of an A-rank dungeon and over a hundred High Orcs standing in front of him, Jinwoo had shot a gaze over at her, asking Cha Hae-In not to interfere. Whenever she recalled Jinwoo’s intense look, her heart began to race and a strange feeling of anticipation welled up. In the end, she just stood there, biting her lower lip. Then;
“Is it ok for you to be in the vicinity of other Hunters today?”
Baek Yoon-Ho, who had suddenly appeared next to her, asked. After participating in a few raids along with Cha Hae-In in the past, Baek Yoon-Ho was aware of her affliction.
“I won’t be able to hold my nose while I’m on Jeju Island.”
Baek Yoon-Ho nodded his head in agreement at Cha Hae-In’s reply.
“Guildmaster Baek is acquainted with Hunter Sung Jinwoo-ssi, right?”
Cha Hae-In asked.
Cha Hae-In recalled that Baekho Guild too, had received help from Hunter Sung Jinwoo; just like her guild.
“Then shouldn’t you be trying to stop Sung Jinwoo?”
“That should be the normal protocol.”
Because his opponent is the “Goto.” Cha Hae-In tilted her head in confusion.
“Same reason as Hunter Cha.”
Baek Yoon-Ho replied while directly looking at her.
Cha Hae-In felt like her true feelings were exposed. For someone who was always so composed, she could not help but slightly change her expression.
“Isn’t the anticipation oddly exciting to you?”
She could not deny it. Even now, her heart was thumping while thinking ‘If it’s Hunter Jinwoo…’
“I feel the same way,”
Baek Yoon-Ho grinned and turned his head back to Goto and Jinwoo. His eyes were filled with anticipation.
‘If Hunter Sung is capable of growth as I’m assuming…’
This was finally a chance to confirm his suspicions. Goto raised his fists first. The interpreter quickly scrambled away from the two Hunters. Not only was the fight between two S-ranks, one of them was even hailed as the strongest hunter in Japan. It was an atmosphere where ordinary people might lose their lives for just being in the vicinity. After seeing that the interpreter had moved away to a safe distance, Jinwoo also belatedly raised his fists. No, he tried to raise them. Then,
Goto’s fist flew towards where Jinwoo’s head should have been.
Having punched empty air, Goto’s expression changed to one of disbelief. He had wanted to knock Jinwoo out with a single punch to recover his damaged pride, but his efforts were in vain. Jinwoo effortlessly dodged Goto’s punch by ducking his head to the side, then easily created distance between the two of them, showing an astonishing reaction speed..
‘And he’s supposed to be a mage? Laughable.’
Goto was able to confirm his initial speculation. Though Goto could not figure out why the Korean Hunters Association was hiding this man’s abilities, he was definitely a Fighter-class and an Assassin-type on top of that, made evident by his agile movements and soundless steps.
‘He can fool everyone else, but he cannot fool my eyes,’ Goto thought to himself while sneering.
‘I’ll peel you away some more, until what’s truly inside is exposed.’
Goto’s interest hadn’t been this piqued in quite awhile. After creating a safe distance from the Japanese ranker, Jinwoo stood still and quietly listened to his heartbeat.
*Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum*
His heart was racing. He could feel from his opponent a level of strength above other S-ranks.
But, as Goto’s extraordinary energy grazed Jinwoo’s skin, the feeling that welled up in his chest was a strong confidence.
‘This man is the strongest in Japan…’
After realizing how much he had changed since raising his level up to 97, a clear expression of confidence formed on Jinwoo’s face. Goto’s face, in contrast, stiffened.
‘You’re laughing again? In front of the great Goto?’
Goto let out his breath. He released an incredible amount of magic energy, making the air feel heavy, startling the observing Hunters.
‘Shouldn’t we stop this?’
‘Goto Ryuji, looks like he’s thinking about getting serious…’
However, Jinwoo just smiled lightly. It was the exact type of response he was hoping for from Goto. Seeing that Jinwoo was hardly bothered, Goto felt even more infuriated.
Before the other hunters could even begin to react, Goto leapt forward like an apex predator closing in on its prey. In an instant, the distance between them vanished. Goto reached out with his fingertips – and met only air, as Jinwoo’s head tilted aside a few inches, causing Goto’s hand to sail harmlessly past.
Goto’s eyes trembled.
‘He dodged that? Was it mere luck?’
A thousand thoughts raced through his mind in the span of mere seconds, while an endless torrent of attacks poured from his hands, his body seemingly unburdened by his internal confusion. With each strike, Jinwoo retreated, opening a slight gap between them. With each step, Goto filled the space with a blow powerful enough to destroy a tank.
A geyser of fists erupting from Goto, threatening to drown Jinwoo in a deluge of death. Yet each blow missed by a hair’s breadth, or was blocked at the last possible moment, like flicking away little droplets of water.
‘How is this possible…?’
Cold sweat dripped down Goto’s forehead, as his furious assault continued to fail.
The other hunters marveled at the sight: Goto, who pressed forward unyieldingly, an inconceivable combination of blinding speed and furious power. Jinwoo, who made ever more improbable escapes from certain death.
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“What a terrifying attack.”
“It’s hard to follow their movements with your eyes.”
“How is Hunter Sung Jinwoo able to hold his own against Goto?”
“Just being able to dodge Japan’s Strongest is impressive.”
‘Hunter Sung Jinwoo isn’t just barely persevering,’
Cha Hae-In thought to herself while shaking her head. To the others, it may seem like Jinwoo was not able to retaliate while being dragged around by the pace of Goto’s endless attacks. But in reality, it was the opposite. Cha Hae-In gulped in shock.
‘Jinwoo is letting Goto’s attacks approach him!’
If what she was witnessing was accurate… Hunter Sung Jinwoo was able to analyze his opponent’s capacity and adjust to that level. This was only possible if his skills were several times greater than his opponent’s.
The unfathomable was unfolding right before her eyes. Maybe the reason that this fight should be stopped is not because Hunter Sung Jinwoo is in danger, but the opposite. When Cha Hae-In’s thoughts reached that point, she realized Baek Yoonho was shaking next to her.
Cha Hae-In quietly called out, but Baek Yoon-Ho did not reply, his eyes were fixed on Jinwoo. As Cha Hae-In glanced over at him, she was startled by his complexion.
Baek Yoon-Ho’s eyes were glowing yellow, resembling those of a beast. His vertical pupils began to shudder in shock. Baek Yoon-Ho was completely unaware of Cha Hae-In looking at him worryingly. Baek Yoon-Ho saw it clearly with his ‘Beast Eyes’.
“I…I was right.”
Jinwoo had most certainly become much stronger than the last time he had seen him, at the Hunter’s Association.
“A Hunter capable of growth…!”
Baek Yoon-Ho’s entire body trembled at this discovery. Then,
Baek Yoon-Ho who was staring at Jinwoo made a noise unconsciously.
Cha Hae-In also turned her head toward a terrifying aura that caused goosebumps.
*A few seconds ago*
Goto knew better than anyone that he was beginning to get swept into Jinwoo’s pace instead. For someone who was always called “the Strongest,” he felt his pride completely plunge into the sewer.
‘You dare fight like this against me…?’
Goto’s eyes began to fill with bloodlust as Jinwoo nonchalantly dodged attacks Goto aimed at gaps in Jinwoo’s defense.
‘I’ll kill you!’
Jinwoo’s eyes grew bigger. He could feel Goto’s killing intent prickling his skin.
His heart suddenly sank. Whenever someone gave off killing intent towards him, the system prompted him with an emergency quest.
As expected, an alert screen popped up, causing Jinwoo to turn his head to look.
Warning! Person with killing intent detected in the vicinity!
Unlike the time with Hwang Dong-Suk or Kang Tae-Shik, the System’s message was fortunately just a warning. But,
Goto’s fingertips which were originally aimed for Jinwoo’s eyes ended up cutting Jinwoo’s cheek. It it weren’t for Jinwoo’s extreme reflexes, he would have lost an eye. It was clearly a murderous attack, aimed at a vital spot. It absolutely was not an attack that should be carried out during a sparring match.
Suddenly, the air felt different.
The first to feel the change in the air was Goto. His body was able to feel it but his mind was not able to comprehend it. A cold chill gave him goosebumps and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. It was a strange sensation he had never felt before.
“What the hell…?”
Before his brain could even process what was happening, his wrist was caught in Jinwoo’s hand. He couldn’t pull away even with all his might.
‘What kind of power…’
His brief gaze at his wrist moved towards Jinwoo’s face. A cold and icy stare. But what caught his attention wasn’t Jinwoo’s eyes; it was Jinwoo’s enlarged right shoulder and forearm. Jinwoo’s arm was cocked back with his fist aimed at Goto’s face. The surrounding air became dense with pressure, depressing Goto’s shoulders down. Suddenly, Goto felt like he was suffocating.
‘Why is this happening?’
The only word that appeared in Goto’s mind at that moment was…death. Then,
Baek Yoon-Ho and Cha Hae-In ran in and instinctively grabbed Jinwoo’s right arm. Baek Yoon-Ho held Jinwoo’s shoulder while Cha Hae-In held Jinwoo’s wrist with all the strength in both of her hands. When Jinwoo turned around to look, Baek Yoon-Ho shook his head. Cha Hae-In stared at Jinwoo with a nervous look that was filled with fear.
Due to the two desperately putting their bodies on the line to intervene, Jinwoo was able to calm down. After, he let out a short breath and let go of Goto’s wrist. Rubbing his now freed wrist, Goto staggered back a few steps. The interpreter quickly ran to his side.
“The mood seems to be getting too tense so let’s end the sparring match for now. Please translate to the Japanese Hunter,”
Baek Yoon-Ho said to the interpreter. The interpreter nodded. When the interpreter relayed on Baek Yoon-Ho’s message, Goto stared at Jinwoo, then quickly left the gym without a word.
The interpreter’s voice running after Goto sounded pitiful. Baek Yoon-Ho breathed a sigh of relief then bowed his head to Jinwoo.
“I’m sorry for interfering.”
“He has to lead the Japanese team in a few days. I couldn’t just idly stand by while there was a possibility that something could go wrong.”
“Did I end up doing something unnecessary?”
Baek Yoon-Ho asked carefully while studying Jinwoo’s expression.
“No, you were right to act.”
Jinwoo agreed. Baek Yoon-Ho was correct with his assessment of the situation. If something did happen to Goto and the upcoming mission was compromised, there would have been too much damage to both countries. Jinwoo had no plans on blaming Baek Yoon-Ho and Cha Hae-In for defusing the situation in a timely manner.
As the situation seemed to be settling, those who were watching with excitement started to approach Jinwoo. The way that they looked at him was now different. Among those, one of the first to approach Jinwoo was Ma Dong-Wook; the Guildmaster of Myungsung Guild.
Ma Dong-Wook started a conversation while laughing.
“You must be very special to walk to away with just a scratch after fighting against the one and only Goto!”
Unfortunately, besides Baek Yoon-Ho and Cha Hae-In, nobody else was able to fully comprehend what just transpired.
“Oh! You’re very stiff!’ What a good physique!”
Ma Dong-Wook said admiringly while touching Jinwoo’s shoulder and arm.
“My guild has too many mages but not enough fighters. Hunter Sung, if you don’t already have a guild in mind, won’t you join ours?”
“Hey – Master Ma.”
Choi Jong-In who was quietly assessing the situation, stepped forward.
“Hunter Sung Jinwoo is a Mage-class.”
Choi Jong-In clarified as soon as Ma Dong-Wook turned his head.
Ma Dong-Wook’s pupils trembled. Meanwhile, after checking that he was far away from the interpreter, Goto inspected his wrist.
His wrist was heavily bruised black and blue. Even though the weather was not hot, a cold sweat started forming on his forehead. He took out his phone and dialed a familiar number.
After a few rings, he could hear the sound of the receiver being picked up.
“This is Matsumoto.”
“Goto? Why do you sound like that?”
Goto spoke while trying to suppress his trembling voice.
“In Korea…there’s an incredible Hunter in Korea.”
“Stronger than you?”
“Perhaps, it’s possible.”
“I think it’s necessary to adjust our plans a bit.”
Matsumoto stayed silent for awhile then asked, after rummaging through something.
“What’s the Hunter’s name?”
“Sung Jinwoo. He recently became an S-rank after reawakening.”
“Odd. I don’t see such a name.”
‘There’s no one by that name? Then is the Hunter I just met a ghost? Well, he did feel like he was possessed by a spirit.’
But didn’t he already check himself that Sung Jinwoo was a Mage-class on the Association’s website?
“What do you mean Sung Jinwoo is not listed?”
“Actually, I just received the final list of participants from Korea.”
“Are you saying that Sung Jinwoo is not listed there?”
‘No way. Was Chairman Go Gun-Hee out of his mind to form a raid team without including such a strong Hunter?’
Beyond the receiver, Matsumoto calmly said,
“Choi Jong-In, Ma Dong-Wook, Baek Yoon-Ho, Cha Hae-In, Lim Tae-Gyu, and Min Byung-Ku.”
Matsumoto said in a confident voice, as if to appeal that changes in the plan were not necessary.
“In four days, these six will be the only ones participating in the raid.”
Baek Yoon-Ho took a deep breath. Even after two of the men who had caused such a commotion left, he could still hear his heart thumping. After finally witnessing what he had imagined in his mind, Baek Yoon-Ho could not hide his amazement.
“He really is a Reawakened Hunter capable of growth…”
What would his value be? Baek Yoon-Ho couldn’t even begin to guess. That’s why unlike Choi Jong-In, Ma Dong-Wook, and Lim Tae-Kyu who were trying to recruit Jinwoo, he was just watching from afar. He still remembered Choi Jong-In’s puzzled face looking at him.
‘If it was me, I wouldn’t join another’s guild either.’
Okay, It’s pointless to try to recruit Hunter Sung Jinwoo. But even if he can’t be recruited, there are still many ways to maintain his relationship with an excellent Hunter. It was time to activate Plan B. Then,
Since the phone only vibrated once, it must be a text message. Without much thought, Baek Yoon-Ho took his cellphone out of his pocket. It was news from the Association.
The final list of participants for the upcoming Jeju Island raid was revealed. After scrolling past a long list of participating Japanese Hunters, Baek Yoon-Ho’s eyes exclaimed after reaching the Korean Hunters section.
“Hunter Sung Jinwoo is not on the list!”