Cha Hae-In stared at the magic creature making its way into the cave—and a knot started to form in her stomach.‘I can’t… sense it?’If she wasn’t looking straight at the ant, she would have had trouble knowing it was there.
Hae-In had only felt intimidated by this level of magic power twice. This was one of those times, with the mutated ant in front of her. The second… ‘Sung Jinwoo-ssi.’The feeling was similar to the overwhelming dread and awe she felt a few days prior, when Jinwoo had revealed his trump card in the presence of Japan’s strongest hunter. What if this enemy was as strong as Jinwoo?*shudder*
Hae-In’s breathing constricted, and a chill ran down her spine. ‘…’The mere thought of an enemy rivalling Jinwoo was enough to stiffen Hae-in’s face.The appearance of the mutated ant spelled trouble for the Korean team, who were already exhausted from fighting against the Queen.
“That…”“Is there something strange?””Why did it get chilly all of a sudden?”Though they couldn’t perceive the danger as acutely as Baek Yoon-ho or Cha Hae-in, the other hunters gradually began to realize that something was wrong.*gulp*As the mutated ant slowly approached, the team’s atmosphere grew more and more tense.‘What should we do?’Ma Dong-woo started to grow anxious.When faced with an unexpected situation, Ma Dong-woo knew that it was his—the leader’s—responsibility to make a call. Especially when, like now, a decision had to be made immediately.’It’s just a magic creature, so we should just get rid of it… but…’But.Why did he feel such a sense of dread?While he hesitated, the mutated ant has approached ever-closer. Its noiseless movements gave the team goosebumps.
‘We can’t just sit here.’But by the time Ma Dong-wook finally suppressed his sense of dread and came to his senses,the being in front of him had vanished.“Where?” Eyes wide open, Ma Dong-wook frantically scanned their surroundings. The other hunters did the same.“Behind…”The cameraman discovered the creature’s location first, and shouted,“Behind us!”The hunters whirled around in shock.
The ant had bypassed the group at an impossible speed, and was now standing in front of the corpse of the Queen.‘It passed us?’‘How…?’The Korean hunters slowly began to realize what Baek Yoon-ho had been seeing with his “Beast Eyes” the whole time.*thump, thump, thump*Their heartbeats quickened, and their breathing became ragged.‘…this guy’s no ordinary monster.’Cold sweat started to form on Ma Dong-woo‘s forehead.The mutant ant paid no attention to the Hunters—instead, he was staring at the dead queen.Then it abruptly raised its head.*SCREEEEECH*The ant released a terrifying shriek that shook the entire cave.*Thud*First, the cameraman’s legs lost their strength.
*Thud**Thud*Then, the hunters fell on their knees one by one, overwhelmed by the pressure exerted by the scream.Even Ma Dong-wook, bewildered, buckled under the pressure.‘Just… from just one roar?’*EEEEEEEEEEEEECH-!*When the seemingly-endless roar of the mutated ant finally ceased, only Cha Hae-in was left standing—and her legs shook violently, as if she would collapse any second. She couldn’t even think of retaliating.Only then did the mutated ant start to show interest in the hunters—and its intentions were clearly hostile.‘…!’Hae-in’s eyes grew wide.The face of the mutated ant was distorted as it turned towards the hunters—almost as if it felt grief and anger at the Queen’s death.
Cha Hae-in placed her hand over the sword hilt in preparation. However, the ant moved one step faster than Cha Hae-in’s ability to unsheathe her sword.*flash*In the blink of an eye, the ant disappeared, and instantly appeared again in front of Hae-in’s face.Cha Hae-in gasped, but she couldn’t react in time to defend herself.*BAM-!*“Aaaaah!”The ant slammed her on the side of the head—she hurtled into the wall, where she collapsed, motionless.*thump-*A single blow had knocked Cha Hae-in, Korea’s sole female S-rank hunter, unconscious. The sight of it stunned her colleagues: the strongest member of their party, knocked down by a single blow?But there was no time to act surprised.They had just witnessed the strength of the enemy. And the hunters knew from experience that the longer they waited, the less chance they had to survive.Ma Dong-wook, a tanker, reacted first.“HUAH-!”Ma Dong-wook grabbed the ant from behind, and strengthened both his arms.The massive tanker squeezed the body of the ant with a strength that could uproot an oak tree. The thick veins in Ma’s neck and forearms bulged underneath his skin.But…“Ahhhhhh!”
It only took the magic creature a little bit of exertion to casually rip Ma Dong-wook’s arms off. The S-rank Tanker fell to his knees.
Baek Yoon-ho dashed forward. If he didn’t distract the ant, Ma Dong-wook—completely defenceless without his arms—would die.
He clenched his teeth. White hair sprouted from all over his body, and his nails lengthened into sharp claws. The now-beast-like S-ranker leaped at the ant.
The ant disappeared again.
Even with his “Beast Eyes”, it was virtually impossible for Baek Yoon-ho to see the ant’s movements.
Then, he heard a scream behind him.
It was Choi Jong-in, who had been preparing a spell. The S-rank mage screamed and fell, his chest revealing a diagonal, bloody slash.
Just five steps away, Lim Tae-gyu had been concealing his presence, looking for an opening. When he found one, he aimed and released an arrow filled with magic power at the ant.
‘I won’t miss at this distance!’
Lim was brimming with confidence as he attacked the ant.
Lim Tae-gyu’s eyes widened in shock.
The ant magic creature easily snatched the flying arrow out of the air, and crushed it in its hand.
The archer quickly readied his next shot, but before he could nock his arrow, the ant appeared in front of him.
Lim Tae-gyu fell to a single strike in the face. Baek Yoon-ho tried to attack the ant from behind, but the magic creature quickly spun around and grabbed Baek’s head, slamming the beast-like hunter into the ground.
Baek Yoon-ho’s body twitched. The ant raised the limp man’s head to smash him again, when…
Ma Dong-wook had charged over and tackled the ant. The ant briefly tumbled on the ground before recovering. The large Tanker—who only moments ago was missing his arms— now stood before the magic creature with a fully-recovered body.
The ant quickly took down Ma Dong-wook again, along with the other hunters. However, the injured hunters continued to immediately rush the ant, their wounds fully healed. The ant now knew that there was a healer somewhere, and started scanning the cave for the annoyance.
Min Byung-gu remained calm. He was relying on his sole skill, “Camouflage,” to protect himself. Like “Stealth,” “Camouflage” completely hid the user; the only drawback was that the user could not move around while maintaining the skill. But for a Healer, this was more than enough. All he had to do was continually heal his comrades while hiding in a single spot.
With an unknown source healing its downed enemies, the ant magic creature decided to change its strategy. The ant identified the most durable-looking human among the hunters—in this case, Ma Dong-wook—grabbed Ma by the legs, and raised the Tanker into the air.
‘What is it trying to do?’
Min Byung-gu looked on in bewilderment.
The ant proceeded to slowly eviscerate Ma Dong-wook. And Min Byung-gu continued to use his spells to heal the hunter. He had no choice. The moment he stopped healing, Ma Dong-wook will die. Sweat dripping from his forehead, Min Byung-gu continued to cast his healing spells.
The ant took the opportunity to carefully locate the source of the magic power responsible for the healing… and turned its head sharply to Min Byung-gu’s location.
‘It can’t be?’
Min Byung-gu’s surprise only lasted for a moment. When the Healer blinked, the ant had vanished from his sight.
Where did it go?
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Baek Yoonho screamed after his junior.
In that instant:
Min Byung-gu coughed up blood. He looked down at the burning pain searing his abdomen, and saw a gaping hole in his stomach. The black arm of an ant was protruding from the hole.
Raising his head, Min Byung-gu met Baek Yoon-ho’s eyes.
Baek Yoon-ho tried to get up, but his legs were still injured—he couldn’t muster the strength to stand.
The ant began to eat away at the Healer’s head.
Summoning the last of his strength, Baek Yoon-ho struggled to his feet and charged. The ant threw aside the headless corpse of Min Byung-gu, and grabbed Baek Yoon-ho’s neck with a hand. The hunter flailed with all his might, but failed to relieve the ant’s grip on his neck. The ant magic creature opened its mouth:
“Hyung… run… hyung… run.”
Baek Yoonho opened his eyes wide in shock. The ant was imitating Min Byung-gu’s voice perfectly. The verbal pauses notwithstanding, the voice coming from the ant was his junior’s.
After repeating the Healer’s last words for a while, the ant met Baek Yoon-ho’s eyes.
“You… are all weak.”
A familiar language came from the magic creature’s mouth. It lacked intonation and nuance, but it was Korean nonetheless.
Baek Yoon-ho couldn’t believe his ears.
“We… lost our queen… even if we killed you all… it is not enough… who is your king?”
The ant tightened its grip on Baek Yoon-ho’s neck.
“Where… is your king?”
Baek Yoon-ho desperately searched for an answer. With the strongest member of the Korean team—Cha Haein—unconscious, they needed someone to buy them time, even if it was just a little. A single face emerged in Baek Yoon-ho’s mind.
The face hailed from the Japanese team that had abandoned the Korean hunters, and was about to retreat: Japan’s strongest hunter, Goto.
The ant raised its head, looking like it was searching for something. After a few moments, it opened its mouth again with a satisfied voice,
“…I see… someone strong.”
As if Baek Yoon-ho wasn’t even worth finishing off, the ant effortlessly threw Baek Yoon-ho aside and darted out with terrifying speed.
On the ground, Baek Yoon-ho took some time to collect his breath before surveying his surroundings. This was no time to be lying down—before the ant returned, they had to find a way to escape.
While they were busy fighting the monstrous ant magic creature, the rest of the ant army had returned to its hive.
Goto sheathed his sword. A mountain of ant corpses surrounded the man. By appearances alone, there were at least a hundred of them—this was the power of Japan’s strongest hunter.
“Looks like we’ve just about finished.”
Admiring their dependable leader, the Japanese hunters nodded. With him at their side, it seemed that they would live to fight another day.
“They say we can leave now, sir.”
A hunter had received word from headquarters, and reported to Goto. Goto nodded, then turned his gaze to the beach.
The man did not get to finish his sentence.
A single ant magic creature had appeared out of nowhere, and was now standing before them.
In a single glance, Goto realized the strength of the new enemy.
‘This is not an ordinary ant.’
Goto waved away his comrades that ran up to help him.
“I got this.”
His teammates would only be a hindrance against this strong enemy. He was comfortable alone. The rest of the team believed in Goto, so they followed his orders and backed off. With a focused expression, Goto unsheathed his sword.
“For an ant, you’re sure giving off some fierce energy.”
The ant magic creature must have recognized Goto’s strength, because the ant did not move from its spot. If it made any movements, it would be instantly minced into a hundred pieces by Goto’s sword.
Suddenly, the ant magic creature opened its mouth,
“Are you… the king?”
Goto’s eyes widened. To think that an ant was speaking his language… Although, it was well known that magic creatures with intelligence could communicate in their own language, so it didn’t seem entirely impossible for a magic creature to learn human language.
Goto smiled widely,
If Association President Matsumoto succeeded in building his empire of hunters, Goto was the only one worthy to sit on its throne.
“Yes. I am the king.”
Hearing the reply that it wanted, the ant magic creature fully unveiled its magic power.
Goto realized that what he felt earlier was but the tip of the iceberg. Now, confronted with his enemy’s true power, the strongest hunter in Japan trembled in fear.
‘How can this be…?’
The ant’s terrifying presence caused a chill to run down Goto’s spine, and the hairs on his neck to stand up straight. He had felt something like this once in the past.
The ant moved, and in the same instant, Goto’s severed head fell onto the ground.
The Korean hunters were surrounded by ants. Ma Dong-wook, Lim Tae-gyu, Choi Jong-in, and even the A-rank cameraman fought the insect army. However, there was no end to the waves upon waves of enemies.
*pant, pant, pant*
Their intense focus drowned out all other sounds. The only thing they could hear was their own ragged breathing.
‘Is this as far as we go?’
Baek Yoonho wiped away some blood that was dripping into his eyes. With their only Healer gone, they had no way of overcoming the enemy’s numbers. They could only fight until their dying breath. The fact that he had not given up yet was because he had lost two important people to him on this island—this place held their graves, and he did not want to add his own.
He obliterated yet another ant head, but even more ants soon replaced it..
Throwing off ant after ant, Baek Yoonho placed his back against the wall. This way, at least he wouldn’t be surrounded from all sides.
He raised his head and looked for the other hunters. In the sea of ants, he couldn’t find the hunters who were fighting beside him just moments ago. No. He quickly dismissed the possibility in his head…
Biting his lips, Baek Yoonho suddenly jumped at a presence he felt behind him. He swung around, ready to strike… but he stopped his fist, because the thing behind him was not an ant.
‘What is this?’
A soldier clad in pitch-black armor. This was his first time seeing it, but he remembered hearing about ‘this’ from Park Hee-jin’s explanation of the Red Gate incident.
‘This is definitely…’
Baek Yoonho exclaimed in surprise,
“Why is this here?”
And in that moment, a familiar voice rang out from the soldier.
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Translated/Transcribed by Null
Proofread/Edited by SeijiSoldier, pudywardy, Galachad and Alk