Translated by: ShawnSUh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The champion disappeared into the woods, leaving behind a mess that looked like it had been done by a storm. After that, Ho Sung collapsed on the floor. Sitting and leaning against a tree, he looked up at the dark, gaping sky, stuck a cigarette in his mouth, and said weakly, "Go home, all of you. You'll only hurt yourselves if you keep going."
Without the help of the American hunters, the Diamond Clan no longer had the means to resume the hunt. At Ho Sung's command, the clansmen started to turn away one by one. Left alone with Min Wook, they sat shoulder to shoulder smoking their cigarettes.
Then, Min Wook broke the silence as Ho Sung finished smoking, "Who was that guy? He destroyed Callis like he was nothing."
Staring up at the night sky, Ho Sung let out a deep sigh. At that moment, the tormented screech of a monster echoed throughout the mountains. From the sound of it, it couldn't have been too far off. Startled by it, Min Wook looked around nervously. However, Ho Sung remained completely unfazed.
"You really wanna know?" Ho Sung asked. Collecting himself to the best of his abilities, Min Wook waited for Ho Sung's answer patiently.
"... Hell if I know," Ho Sung said, looking genuinely clueless. At which point, a dazed look appeared on Min Wook's face.
"What now? What if the US finds out?" he asked.
"Who knows? But I know this much: If the US declares war on Korea, it's all over," Ho Sung replied.
Nodding in agreement, Min Wook added, "If that really happens, then we could be in serious trouble!"
"You mean the Americans will be."
"...Sir?" Min Wook said, blinking in confusion, caught off guard by Ho Sung's reply. However, there was not a trace of doubt in Ho Sung's eyes.
At that, Ji Yoo, who was staring up at a labyrinth that had appeared without any sign or warning, looked away from the structure and toward her subordinate.
Glancing at the throng of American hunters, the new Director of Investigations licked his parched lips and asked, "There's good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?"
"Let's hear the good news."
"We received a report that the number of monsters that escaped to the outskirts of Seoul is in a steep decline."
At that, Ji Yoo's face lit up.
"Great! What's the bad news?" she asked, but the Director of Investigations dragged on, reluctant to give an answer.
"... About that"
"It appears that there was a conflict between one of ours and the Americans."
"Details. I want details."
"We received a report that Callis, the leader of Support Team 1, has been fatally wounded and is under treatment at a local hospital."
At the startling news, Ji Yoo's face hardened, and her eyes shut tightly. There could only be one person in the entire country whose power either matched or surpassed that of Callis.
"Sigh" she let out, putting her hand on her hot forehead.
"What do we do? It's only a matter of time before the Americans find out."
Sure enough, it wasn't long before the American hunters nearby learned about the state of their leader. The timing couldn't have been worse, especially when the exploration was about to begin. Then, amid the ice-cold tension, a certain man walked out of the throng of American hunters. It was Jonathan, the commander in charge of the support team.
"What the hell's the meaning of this!?" he shouted angrily. As panic settled in, Ji Yoo couldn't bring herself to think clearly.
"We're looking into it," she replied.
"You do realize that there will be consequences?"
While Ji Yoo sighed deeply, Jonathan kept on, "I'm revoking all of your rights to explore the labyrinth. Korea is no longer a part of this project."
At that, Ji Yoo's eyes widened.
"... What?" she let out.
"Also, you'll do well to hold the individual who attacked one of our's responsible. The way I see it, I think we're being generous here, especially considering your circ.u.mstances."
"So are you suggesting that we stay out of the labyrinth exploration?" Ji Yoo asked, and Jonathan nodded affirmatively. As long as there was a way to clear the labyrinth without putting the lives of her men at risk, the Institute had nothing to lose from agreeing to Jonathan's condition. However, doing so would come at the cost of hindering Korea's future. Although Korea might be safe from the monster threats initially, one simple decision to submit to another country could shake the country's fate to its foundation and turn into a matter much more serious.
"I'm afraid I can't give you an answer right this moment, Jonathan. Not only is this a decision I cannot make on my own"
"My understanding is that you essentially represent the entirety of Korea's military might. Are you telling me that you don't have the authority to make a decision as simple as this one? In that case, I'll pull my men from this country immediately."
"Fine. Give me half an hour," Ji Yoo said, her head throbbing. Shaking his head, Jonathan scoffed and replied, "I'll give you five minutes."
At which point, Ji Yoo, with a hardened expression on her face, turned around and made her way toward her car. Then, she took her phone out and made a phone call. After a long signal, the champion finally answered the phone.
"Mr. Kang?" Ji Yoo asked.
"Who is this?"
"Shouldn't you recognize my voice by now? Seriously, save my number! It's Ji Yoo Kim!"
"What's your business?"
"Was it you who hurt one of the American hunters?" Ji Yoo asked.
Hearing that, she bit down on her lower lip and clenched her eyes tightly.
"Probably? What were you thinking!?"
Recognizing that the conversation was going nowhere, Ji Yoo realized that there was no point in getting angry.
"What are you gonna do? The Americans are threatening to pull all support unless we hold you responsible and hand over our rights to explore the labyrinth!"
"Then, tell 'em to get lost."
"Look, Mr. Kang. This country is in grave danger. You shouldn't have acted on your emotions and gotten into a fight like you are still a teenager"
"You don't have to rely on them."
"Are you listening to me!? It's not that simple"
"Just tell me where the monsters are. Tell me where they are in the city, and I'll clear them out by today. Including those labyrinths."
At the champion's confident statement, Ji Yoo felt her head spin. Not because of his seemingly unwarranted confidence, but because of how convincing he sounded.
"Is that really possible?"
"I'm sure you've seen the numbers going down, haven't you? Unless you're not good with numbers."
Seeing as though Min Sung was still out hunting for monsters after beating a world-class hunter to a pulp, Ji Yoo started to realize that the champion might be far more powerful than she had imagined.
"Be careful, Mr. Kang. The fate of this country depends on it. Besides, you don't know what kind of monsters you might come across in the labyrinth"
"Ji Yoo Kim, was it? For someone who represents the country and all the hunters within it, you're not as sharp as I thought. I said I'll take care of it. What's there to think about?"
Resting her head on the steering wheel, Ji Yoo let out a deep sigh and said, "... Our relationship with the US is at stake here. We have to think of a solution"
"And how is that my problem? Aren't you the one who isn't thinking ahead?"
At the champion's seemingly heartless remark, Ji Yoo became dumbfounded. As upsetting it was to hear, Min Sung was right, and she couldn't say anything back.
"I guess you're right. Maybe I'm the one who has been avoiding my problems" Ji Yoo said, interrupted by a series of beeping noises coming from the receiver.
'Beep. Beep Beep.'
Looking down at her phone, Ji Yoo chuckled, thinking, 'You're really something else, Min Sung Kang.'
At that moment, a series of knocks came from the window of the car. When she looked toward them, she saw the Director of Investigations standing outside nervously. Closing her eyes, Ji Yoo rested her head on the steering wheel once again. That time, out of relief.
'I knew he was strong, but I didn't think he would be that strong. He put those Americans to shame. Maybe strong isn't big enough of a word to describe him.'
Then, smiling bitterly, Ji Yoo lifted her head off of the steering wheel and got out of the car. While the Director of Investigations looked at her intently and nervously, the champion's voice echoed in her mind.
'... Aren't you the one who isn't thinking ahead?'
Although those words could've left a deep wound in her heart, something was telling her that Min Sung was right. After all, he had the power to back up his confidence.
What gave the US a prominent voice in international affairs were their powerful, world-class hunters. In which case, the fact that there was someone like Min Sung Kang in Korea could very well mean a turning point was at hand that could change the course of the country's history. However, the real problem was the aftermath. Should Korea decide to depend on Min Sung Kang for its national security, the absence of the champion would leave the country vulnerable to any potential threats that came their way.
'What would he say if I bring this up with him?' Ji Yoo asked herself, smiling bitterly. '... Guess you're still a coward. That's not very Great-Lord-like, is it, Ji Yoo Kim?'
Then, with a look of determination on her face, she returned to Jonathan, who was clearly displeased. With his arms crossed, he waited for Ji Yoo's response impatiently. Seeing his face made her sick to her stomach. While she didn't believe that she could change the world, she was a firm believer that the culmination of small changes was what shaped history, just as it had always been.
'I'm not backing out. I'm moving forward as the Great Lord of the Institute,' Ji Yoo told herself.
"This better be good," Jonathan said, looking at Ji Yoo with blatantly condescending eyes. At which point, Ji Yoo hardened her expression and replied, "It turns out it was Callis who made the first move."
Hearing that, a look of disbelief appeared on Jonathan's face. Chuckling, he let out, glaring fiercely at Ji Yoo as if he was about to pull out his sword at any given moment, "What did you just say?"
However, undeterred, Ji Yoo kept on, "Hunters are essentially human weapons. We embrace them, why? To protect humanity from monsters and make this world a safer place to live. Yet, Callis treated our hunters as mere meat shields."
"You've got guts, lady," Jonathan said, and Ji Yoo's beautiful eyes burst into blue flames.