Chapter 2: Black Gate
A gate opened in the heart of Seoul.
In itself, it wasn’t a particularly rare occurrence.
Since the global opening of gates 30 years ago, gates appearing in the middle of urban areas like Jamsil, Namyangju, Songdo, and others had become a daily occurrence.
The problem was the grade of the gate.
It was a grade that even the official measurement standards of the World Hunter Association deemed as an outlier [Beyond Standard].
Since it was measured by the energy level within the gate, it boasted a 99.9% accuracy rate.
The Korean Hunter Association had made comprehensive preparations for this. They requested support from the World Hunter Association and asked the domestic guilds, considered the best in the country, to enter the gate.
“F*****g bastards… They’re only busy at times like this.”
“Do the guilds always act like this?”
Han Hari, a hunter affiliated with the Hunter Association, responded to the words of Chief Kim Jin-su without much surprise.
The appearance of a black-grade gate after 13 years. The major guilds in the country refused initial entry and chose to observe.
In a way, it was only natural. Even with the A-grade gates, like the crimson ones, numerous casualties occurred. But a grade beyond the unknown danger of S-grade, black-grade?
No major guild wanted to waste their precious resources in an immeasurable gate.
As a result, the Hunter Association under the government had no choice but to intervene to examine the nature of the gate.
A reconnaissance team would enter first, assess the level of danger, and return with as much information as possible to distribute to the major guilds.
Having proper prior information could provide significant advantages in formulating strategies, so it was also a textbook approach.
The problem was the advance team had to enter without any prior information themselves.
“Hari… Are you going to be okay?”
Chief Kim looked at Hari, who had accompanied the Hunter Association’s advance team, with a worried expression.
It was a dangerous reconnaissance mission. The Association had even chosen candidates, leaving behind their wills, displaying their utmost determination.
It was disheartening to see a promising newcomer from the Association stepping into such a place.
“I’ll be fine. After all, I’m the only A-rank hunter among the candidates. We need at least one proper combatant, right?”
“Still… I’m just worried.”
An A-rank hunter was undoubtedly a significant force. Above all, the Hunter Association practically had no affiliated A-rank hunters.
Talented hunters of that caliber had all joined the major guilds.
“For the safety of the citizens and the well-being of the nation! Isn’t that our association’s motto?”
“…You’re such a stubborn girl.”
She is one of the few promising talents in the association.
In the modern world where the major guilds have absorbed most of the talented individuals, the hunters who volunteer to become government officials are usually of D or C rank. At best, they reach B rank after considerable effort.
In such an association, a promising A-rank hunter who applied for employment right after graduating from the academy. If nurtured well, she could become the only S-rank hunter, excluding the association’s chairman.
Deep down, he wanted to tell her to please go back for the sake of her future. But the advance team was too understaffed to send her back like this.
It’s been 13 years since the appearance of a black-grade gate. Even if it required the presence of S-rank hunters instead of A-ranks, there was only one A-rank hunter, Hari.
“Well… Let’s pray that she comes back alive.”
-Entering! Everyone, get ready!
* * * *
“Hmm… Of all things, it had to be a field-type gate.”
Inside the gate they entered was a mess.
Some gates were desolate as if they had been destroyed, but the black gate entered by the advance team exceeded their imagination.
First, the sky was dyed red.
The reddish sky was not some level of sunset glow or anything like that.
It was a sinister shade of red, as if the sky had been flipped over.
There was not a single blade of grass on the ground. It was so barren and desolate that one might wonder if this place had ever been inhabited by living beings.
“Wow, I’ve never seen a gate like this before. Where on earth are we?”
“Stay on edge, Hari. It’s been 13 years since we encountered an immeasurable gate. We don’t know what might come out.”
“I know… But why is the ranking measurement not possible in this world?”
“I don’t know… Maybe there’s high-level demons here?”
“Don’t say such terrible things.”
That’s when it happened. A message window appeared for Hari and the other hunters from the association who had entered.
The mission system window that emerged after gates appeared in the world and hunters awakened their magical powers.
It’s a valuable system that provides hunters entering the gate with minimal information and clear objectives.
However, the hunters who checked the system window turned pale with a bluish hue.
[Hunt down all demons.]
Remaining demons: 117 / ???????
Among numerous gates, a species that sporadically appears in high-grade gates.
Six years ago, a high-ranking demon named Kanbara emerged from a crimson-grade gate and even killed Korea’s S-rank hunter, Go Jin-hyuk.
And that’s not all. Twenty-two years ago, the appearance of a great demon like Scarjyakaria or the monarch-class demon in China also resulted in a terrible disaster.
“F**k! Damn it! We need to get out of here right now!”
Even Chief Kim, with his strong nerves, was thrown into confusion by the worst-case scenario.
This gate was one of the demon gates among the countless gates where demons appear.
“Those bastards don’t die even if you kill them!”
They are not truly immortal beings. They simply resurrect.
Twenty-two years ago, the great demon Scarjyakaria that emerged from the Shanghai demon gate has been subjugated more than five times to this day.
However, the demon gate didn’t disappear and resurrects every four years, causing dungeon breaks.
“Calm down, Chief. Even though they are demons, there are only 117 of them. It might be easier to finish them off than expected.”
“That’s the problem! There are only 117 of them, yet it’s a black-grade gate! That means even if we underestimate, there will still be great demons!”
The rating of the dungeon is determined by the amount of energy within it.
Even though there are only 117 demons, the fact that it is a black-grade gate implies that each individual is incredibly powerful to a terrifying extent.
Above all, if it’s a demon gate with great demons, there is a concern that, like the Shanghai demon gate, the dungeon may not close and remain permanently.
It’s a dreadful situation. Because of that demon gate, Shanghai itself turned into a ghost city.
“For now, retreat! We need to inform the association about the demon gate!”
This is not something that can be handled by a mere advance team of fewer than 20 people.
It was when the party leader, Chief Kim, made the decision to retreat.
“Chief! Look over there!”
A hunter pointed in a direction. There, a demon with a large mask-like face was looking down at the hunters.
“Damn it… Greatsword!”
A lesser demon, Greatsword.
A humanoid demon of about 1.5 meters wielding a sword much larger than his own body.
However, one cannot let their guard down just because it is a lesser demon. Among the demons, the Greatsword possesses an unusually powerful attack power.
As the name suggests, the attacks of the Greatsword, wielding a massive sword, cause unstoppable bleeding when they graze the human body.
And there were not just one or two Greatswords.
They kept appearing one after another. In addition, the number of other demons had already exceeded a hundred.
“They’re causing a dungeon break already?”
There is usually a grace period until the mission is cleared for any gate. But for them to rush in like this as soon as the gate opens?
-It’s a gate! It’s a gate!
-We’re alive, we’re alive!
The demons rejoiced with eerie cheers. The hunters grasped their weapons as they watched the demons running towards them gasping for breath.
“H-Hey, snap out of it! We mustn’t let the demons cross the gate! If they get to Earth, they can hide right away!”
That’s the characteristic of demons.
They disguise themselves as humans or hide within human shadows.
Because even if just one demon manages to blend in, terrible things happen, the principle is to close the demon gate from within the gate.
“Get in formation! I’ll take the lead!”
Despite Chief Kim’s objections, Hari drew her sword at the front.
Even though she wasn’t a tank, standing at the front was tantamount to a suicidal act. But right now, to encourage the hunters who were gripped by fear, they needed her.
-I want to live! I don’t want to be obliterated!
Demons charging forward, babbling in an unknown language, rushed at them. The first to charge at the front were the Hellhounds.
Though it was a low-level demon, its speed was faster than a car with quadrupedal locomotion. They were sprinting towards Hari, panting heavily.
Hellhounds leaped forward. Hari infused magic into her sword and cut them down.
The magically infused sword effortlessly sliced through their hides, and the agonizing Hellhounds writhed in pain.
“Alright! A good start!”
She took care of four of them in one go. As she hoped that her morale would rise while witnessing her own struggle, the split-open Hellhounds began exhibiting abnormal behavior.
“W-What’s… going on?”
The Hellhounds, who should have received fatal wounds, poured out blood and continued to run determinedly, as if they were trying to cross the gate no matter what.
But the united front of the prepared hunters obstructed their path.
It wasn’t just the Hellhounds. The Greatswords also collided with the front-line hunters and barely even bothered to retaliate, crawling towards the gate.
“They’re coming! They’re coming!”
“They’re coming! They’re coming!”
“No, run! Cross the gate!”
“What… what’s going on?”
“Did these guys take some sort of collective drug…?”
Thanks to that, the demons were easily defeated, but Hari and the other hunters couldn’t shake off the uneasy feeling.
Even though they knew these creatures would resurrect after some time, why were they charging so recklessly, as if they were “running away”?
“Hari, watch out!”
Then it happened. Bam! Something struck the ground. The overwhelming force that swept everyone away with just the aftermath of the shockwave.
Hari was sprawled on the ground. She struggled to regain her blurred consciousness and assess what had happened.
“W-What on earth…?”
Something had landed. Hari quickly realized what it was.
A gigantic presence entered her field of vision.
A colossal ax of enormous proportions, surpassing torn notches and anything human.
A horrifying gaze, with tattered skin and an evil aura one wouldn’t even want to see in their dreams.
A high-ranking demon.
A winged giant.
The nightmare of the demon gate that even S-rank hunters were torn apart by.
“Move aside, you lowly beings! Before I kill you all!”
The demon overwhelmed the hunters with a bone-chilling sonic boom.
The hunters were suppressed by his emanating aura and couldn’t even dare to move.
Motionless legs and bated breath. Despair and fear weighed down on everyone.
“No, this can’t happen. If he crosses over to Earth…”
They had to stop him. If such a monster caused a dungeon break in the heart of Seoul… millions of citizens would be in danger!
“No, I can’t allow it.”
Hari raised her sword. She forcefully dragged her immobile legs. She stood before the overwhelming despair, unable to resist.
“To insignificant human vermin…!”
The Archdemon licked his lips as he looked at Hari standing before him. However, there was an unusual lack of vitality in her. The emotion he emanated was one of desperation.
“Move aside, you worm!”
As if trying to sweep away insects, he swung a light blow. Hari concentrated all her magical power to block the ax strike…
With just a single blow, they were sent flying towards the gate.
The ground itself turned into a weapon, brutally attacking Hari’s body with that single strike. She truly felt its impact.
That was a monster.
She truly felt it with that single blow.
Its presence was enough to break even the will to survive.
As the dying ember trembled precariously, a figure stood before her.
At first, she thought it was Chief Kim. However, her field of vision showed hunters from the Association, overwhelmed by the Archdemon’s presence and unable to move.
Even the veteran Chief Kim was trembling and unable to move. The head of the Archdemon, rolling on the ground.
The head that was rolling in front of her… Was it the head of the Archdemon that had just brought them to despair?
“Damn Lionheart! No! No!”
The Archdemon screamed. He writhed in agony as his body disintegrated from the severed neck. And it wasn’t just him. The surrounding demons were trembling in fear, shivering uncontrollably.
The appearance of the Archdemon was eerie. In recorded videos, the Archdemons always resurrected and cursed humanity with their usual arrogance.
But what about the Archdemon in front of her now?
“No! No! The Sacred Law… My soul… is being annihilated!”
He desperately thrashed around, as if facing imminent death.
The demons didn’t gather to cause a dungeon break.
They rushed towards the gate desperately, not to summon a curse, but to escape from someone.
Who? Who could make those ruthless demons, endlessly resurrecting demons, tremble like this?
“This will be your end.”
Am I seeing things?
In this ruined world, he stood there, bare-bodied, holding only an old longsword.
Yet, the light shining from his aura was so graceful and radiant, almost divine.
“Rise, courageous one.”
The words flowing from his lips had a dignified and antiquated tone that exuded nobility.
The tone, demeanor, posture… everything enveloped the man’s appearance.
Just hearing his voice revived the dying ember within.
What on earth is this? Who is this man before me…?
“Now is not the time to fall… Stand up and fight.”
Just hearing his voice filled me with strength. Overflowing vitality and energy lifted my battered body.
“You… who are you…?”
Hari asked, and the golden-haired man with a radiant presence replied with a solemn expression.
“I am the Lionheart King. The King of the glorious knights and the one who carries out the will of the Pantheon. I am Leon Dragonia Lionheart.”
The man raised his sword.
[All demons have been defeated.]
Remaining demons: 0 / ???????