Did he just hear that correctly? Jinwoo was unsure if he had misunderstood . The Deputy Guildmaster of South Korea’s number one Guild, one whose skills were recognized by the elites, Cha Haein was saying that she wanted to join a Guild that was still in its infancy . Unless she had been forced to participate or something, it was completely absurd .
‘Who exactly had the influence to force this woman to do anything?’
Jinwoo brought up the sole existence in Korea that had the ability to potentially threaten her,
“Did the association president put you up to this?”
Cha Haein looked confused and puzzled, not comprehending why the association president had been brought up .
“Why did you mention the association president all of the sudden…?”
Dammit, he was the one that hadn’t grasped the situation at hand . Why was she making such a face even though she had instigated this whole scene?
‘Argh, calm down . ’
This was certainly a surprising development, one that could have easily overwhelmed his current mood, but Jinwoo decided to calmly pull out a chair and sit across from Cha Haein . He looked at her silently, analyzing her figure . It only took a brief moment of focus, but Jinwoo had already recalled the information he had gathered on her while the world around him had been drastically slowed down .
‘She’s feeling uneasy right now . ’
Her heartbeat . Her breathing . Her eyes .
Cha Haein was trying really hard to put on a calm demeanor, but she couldn’t trick Jinwoo’s advanced Sense stat . Still, why was she, despite her nervousness, trying to join Solo Play Guild like this? Jinwoo decided to ask a question,
“Aren’t you still under contract with Hunters Guild?”
Typically a contract between a Hunter and their Guild was negotiated in five year terms . Since Cha Haein joined the Hunters Guild after becoming an S-rank Hunter around two years ago, she should, at the very least, have three years left on her contract .
“I have enough to pay the fee accompanying a breach of contract . ”
At her cool reply, Jinwoo responded by tilting his head .
The penalty fee for leaving the contract early should be two or three times the amount of the initial contract itself . Thinking about the unreasonable contract fee that the Hunters Guild should’ve offered to the S-rank Hunter, the calculated penalty fee for leaving the Guild was truly appalling . In order to make her realize the situation they were in, Jinwoo changed his tone to be more business-appropriate,
“We at Solo Play Guild can’t afford to pay the appropriate contract fee for someone like Hunter Cha-nim . ”
“Y-your Guild name is Solo Play?”
“Do you have a problem with the Guild name my Deputy Guildmaster and I picked out?”
“ . . . No . ”
Cha Haein sighed a little then continued,
“It doesn’t matter to me . I’m even fine with getting no contract fee . ”
She’s fine with being given no contract fee? She will be forced to pay an exuberant amount in penalties to leave Hunters Guild .
‘What is she thinking?’
Jinwoo’s eyes narrowed . When their gazes met each other for too long, Cha Haein couldn’t handle it and looked away . Jinwoo’s acute hearing did not miss Cha Haein’s heartbeat increasing .
‘Is she hiding something?’
At this point, Jinwoo couldn’t proceed without asking,
“Why would you go through all these hardships just to join our Guild?”
“ . . . ”
As expected, Cha Haein kept her mouth shut . Looking at her face turning red, Jinwoo was sure that she was undoubtedly hiding something from him .
Now that he thought about it, something about her had definitely changed . She acted a little more out of character, even during the memorial service .
Regardless of what she was truly thinking, she might’ve been planning for this situation for some time . Jinwoo quietly waited for Cha Haein’s answer .
However, the woman lowered her head and did not utter a single sound for a while .
Well, how would she even begin explaining her reasons behind her actions? She had been able to feel him next to her, even after being knocked unconscious by
the monstrous’ ants attacks . When she was falling into the darkness of the void, Jinwoo’s scent had comforted her more than anything else . There existed no words that could truly encapsulate and share that precious feeling .
‘Even if I explained it, he would just call me crazy . ’
She recalled how strongly her heart had thumped when she had been informed that Hunter Sung Jinwoo-nim had really been there during that time . The fact that she hadn’t imagined it, relieved her .
Just if… she ever came across a situation where she wouldn’t be able to escape the clutches of death, she realized that her only true wish was having Jinwoo by her side .
‘Something like “I want you to protect me until the very end . ”’
Just thinking that made her cheeks blush . How could she put those embarrassing thoughts into words? It was an impossible task for a lady who had almost nothing in common with ordinary girls . As such, she decided to go with the answer she had prepared for this meeting,
“Comfort . ”
She raised her head and looked Jinwoo in his eyes and continued,
“I want to live comfortably…”
She might be twisting her words a bit, but she wasn’t completely lying . She considered how she found it difficult to move her head in the presence of the foul stench given off by the highest-ranking Hunters . Compared to that, just being in the same room as Jinwoo made her feel comfortable . That was what Cha Haein meant when she spoke of “comfort” .
Although Jinwoo had interpreted her reasoning differently, he was still able to understand Cha Haein .
Jinwoo replied to her by a simple nod of his head .
She most likely wanted to leave the stressful major Guilds such as Hunters Guild and work “comfortably” in a much smaller and easy going Guild . To his knowledge, Cha Haein was twenty two years old, if not already twenty three .
‘The responsibility of an S-rank Hunter is probably too much to handle for a woman in her early 20s . ’
Especially when he thought about how she almost had lost her life back on Jeju Island . Remembering how he wanted to throw everything aside when he worked under the Association, Jinwoo could empathise with her decision .
‘I understand her situation, but…’
He couldn’t just accept her like that . There was a reason why he wanted to name his Guild “Solo Play” . As the Solo Player, he planned to clear all the Dungeons reserved by the Guild on his own . If the minimum headcount rule stood in their way, he just planned to deal with it like he did with Yoo Jinho during the C-rank Dungeon Raids: hire temporary members to fill the headcount requirement . That was the smartest method Jinwoo elaborated to level up .
Unfortunately, including Cha Haein in that plan would result in a lot of unwanted issues . Even if she was willing to forgo the contract fees, they would still need to pay her . How else would she live her life? Recruiting an S-rank Hunter that they did not need was a waste of money . On top of that, since they had no plans to put her to work, it’d be a waste of a crucial and valuable resource of the nation as well .
‘It would be strange for me to chase away an S-rank Hunter that is trying to enter my Guild . Especially if she’s willing to forgo the contract fee . ’
And so, Jinwoo came up with a sudden idea,
“Truthfully, our Guild has an entrance test . ”
“Huh? The posting didn’t say anything about-”
Jinwoo quickly cut off the flustered woman,
“It’s a new rule . Our Deputy Guildmaster must’ve forgot to mention it . ”
Hearing the word “test”, Cha Haein’s gaze suddenly turned serious,
“What kind of test is it?”
Jinwoo hid his surprise,
‘This woman, is she for real?’
He expected her to give up on trying to join . Any S-rank Hunter should’ve been too proud at the prospect of being tested to join an unknown Guild, but Cha Haein was the complete opposite . Instead of feeling insulted, her fiery and competitive spirit was awakened, spilling out underneath the veil of her expressionless face .
‘Is she the type of person that wouldn’t avoid a fight?’
Or was this just another manifestation of pride?
Regardless, having spat out the words, Jinwoo could not back off anymore,
“You have to win against one of my summons . ”
Jinwoo swore he literally heard a crack materialize in the woman’s pride .
“ . . . ”
Are you really underestimating me that much, Hunter Sung Jinwoo-nim?
How strange . He only met her gaze, but it felt like he could clearly hear her voice . Cha Haein did not expose whatever she was feeling, rather she asked calmly,
“Which summon will it be?”
“For Hunter Cha-nim, I’ll pick the strongest one . ”
“ . . . Alright . ”
She did not back off . Well, she probably hadn’t the slightest idea at the moment but Jinwoo’s Shadow Army had acquired a new member . The stronger someone’s competitive spirit is, the more a defeat would crush such a spirit . He was convinced that she would easily back off after losing against . . .
. With that in mind, Jinwoo accepted,
“Alright . ”
“When will the test be?”
“Right now . ”
Wanting to form his Guild as soon as possible, Jinwoo did not want to waste too much time dealing with Cha Haein’s case . Since they both agreed, they should get to it right away . The test location would be the gymnasium of the Hunter Association . The S-rank Hunters had the benefit of borrowing the gymnasium whenever they wanted . This was just one of the many upsides of being an S- rank Hunter .
“Okay . ”
Cha Haein nodded . Both of them got up at the same time, wanting to get this done quickly .
‘Wait . ’
Something flashed across Jinwoo’s mind . He called out to stop Cha Haein, who already had a hand on the door out of the meeting room,
“Hunter Cha-nim, one moment please . ”
“You don’t have to go that way . ”
“ . . . ?”
Cha Haein stared at Jinwoo with a puzzled look . There was only one door to the meeting room . Surely he couldn’t be thinking of jumping out of the window .
Jinwoo closely approached Cha Haein, who stood still,
“There’s an easier way to get to that place . ”
“I’ll have to be a bit close to you . I hope you don’t mind?”
Cha Haein recalled Baek Yoonho’s retelling of that day’s events . When Korea’s attack team was in its most dire situation, Hunter Sung Jinwoo appeared out of nowhere behind Baek Yoonho .
‘Is he going to show me that?’
Jinwoo was up close, more than she had expected . Cha Haein stared at Jinwoo’s face which was now right infront of hers and gulped,
“Excuse me . ”
Jinwoo pulled her into a light hug . He didn’t think much of the gesture . After all, he had carried her all over the place when she was unconscious in the ant
hive . However, Cha Haein’s face turned bright red in an instant, yet she managed to remain still .
‘ . . . He smells nice . ’
Even as her face turned beet red, Jinwoo carefully held her as to not lose her .
‘Alright . ’
He wanted to see if this would work, thinking that he wouldn’t get a chance like this again anytime soon .
“You might get a little dizzy . ”
He recalled his first time activating this skill .
Cha Haein put her hands on Jinwoo’s waist and let out a soft and almost whisper-like,
“Okay . ”
Facing forward, Jinwoo triggered the skill by focusing mentally,
‘Shadow Swap . ’
The pair fell into the shadow on the floor without a sound .
In that moment, Yoo Jinho entered the meeting room . The young man felt like the discussion was going to take a while, so he had decided to go to the local convenience store in hopes of offering some refreshments for the both of them .
“Why don’t you two snack on this and-”
Yoo Jinho met the gaze of a high orc warrior . The warrior scratched the back of his head as if embarrassed .
“ . . . ”
The tray in the young man’s hands fell to the floor with a clatter, and the beverage glasses he had prepared shattered on the ground .
When Yoo Jinho blinked his eyes in shock, the high orc warrior had disappeared without leaving a single trace of his existence .
‘I definitely saw it…!’
He rubbed his eyes and shook his head . He looked around the room again, but the magic beast was nowhere to be seen .
‘Have I been working too hard lately?’
To think that he would be hallucinating . Yoo Jinho tilted his head and looked for a rag to clean up the floor .
His whole body suddenly stopped moving as he realized,
“Where did hyungnim and Hunter Cha Haein-nim go?”