“Young Master.
Don’t let Wolf down.
I’ve always told you that it’s not an exaggeration to say that the future of Wolf, or even the Korean hunter world, depends on it.”

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“B-but… I’m…”

“Stop crying.”

Swish!

The man pulled his small, limp arms.
Young Siwoo was already exhausted and was dragged along by the man’s power, unable to keep up with his pace.

“It smells.
I think I’m going to throw up…!”

As the entrance of the gate got closer, Siwoo started crying again. 

‘I hate going in.
I really hate it! Even if I desperately endure,’

“Monster’s blood originally has a bad odour.
It’s something that every hunter has to put up with.”

Siwoo, who was young and small at that time, was eventually forced to stand in front of the entrance by a harsh hand.

“Young Master, those who have power must know how to use it in the right places.
That is their responsibility; that is their weight.”

“…”

“Both Wolf and the world need your power.
Are you still willing to give up here?”

At the man’s words, Siwoo staggered forward.
He then stared at his small hands with wet eyes.

‘Can I really? Can I really save people? If that’s the case, I can’t be crying here.
If it’s something I have to overcome, I want to overcome it.’

However,

“Bleugh.”

The stench drifted through the wide open gate entrance.
Contrary to Siwoo’s heart, his nose and body strongly rejected the smell.

Siwoo covered his nose with both of his hands and closed his eyes tightly to calm his twisting stomach.

“3, 2, 1.
I will open it now.”

Puaah!

The surrounding area was engulfed in red light.

The sensation of entering the gate was too much for the young boy to handle.
He flailed through the abyss that didn’t have a ceiling or floor, and when his feet barely touched the ground, he made eye contact with a mantis twice his size.

Kriiik—!

The mantis ran at him with a strange noise.

It was a well-crafted hologram.
He lost points when attacked, but he didn’t actually get hurt.
However, the bloodlust that the monster exuded, the stench, and the fear that Siwoo felt were undoubtedly real.

“D-don’t come any closer!”

Siwoo raised his small palm into the air as his resolve from before entering the gate faded.
Then, ice was instinctually formed into a blade.

The sharp icicle fell like a heavy raindrop towards the giant mantis.

Thud—

The mantis’ watermelon-sized head rolled in front of the little boy.

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“Uh, ah…”

Siwoo fell on his rear, not even screaming.
The monster’s blood that had erupted from its severed neck was bubbling like lava.

[Passive ᐅ ‘Sharp Sense of Smell’ activated.]

An indescribable stench stung his nostrils.
He quickly raised his hand to cover his nose and mouth, but the smell creeped in between his fingers.

“Bleurgh!”

Young Siwoo retched yellow vomit onto the floor in front of the monster’s corpse.
Like other times in the past, he eventually fell to the floor like a paper doll.

When he awoke, Siwoo had returned to his room in the mansion.
He seemed to have been moved by someone.
Since this was not the first time, Siwoo rose with no sign of surprise.

“Pathetic.”

“… F-Father.”

Korea’s first S-Class hunter.

The owner of the Wolf Guild that was said to be the best in Korea and Siwoo’s father, ‘Shin Gwihoon’, stared at his young son with a deep blue glare.
They could hardly be called the eyes of a father looking at his son.

“If this is your current condition, you won’t even be able to complete the tutorial, let alone become the next guildmaster.
I can’t believe you’re my son.”

What flew in with the sound of his tongue was a sharp wind that made his heart freeze.

“I’m sorry, Father…”

“Get stronger.”

Gwihoon left the room without looking back.
The hand that stretched out to grab the cold father stopped in the air.

Bang!

The door shut tightly, and a chill blew through the room.
Was it the room that was frozen, or was his little body the one that was cold?

Siwoo pulled up his thick blanket and wrapped it around himself.

At the age of eight, Siwoo’s spring became winter.

It was cold.

It was so cold.

* * *

Wolf’s only son.

The young master of Wolf.

Someone raised by the first S-Class hunter in Korea.

At the age of seven, he was a prodigy who became the incarnation of the divine beast, ‘Hound That Guards the Midnight’.

tl/n: previously mistranslated as ‘Dogs Guarding the Deep Night’, we decided to change it after a poll in our server which you should join 

All of these were the labels that always followed Siwoo.
Sometimes they became a fence stronger than anything else, but at other times they became a heavy and thick noose that strangled Siwoo.

“You’re amazing, Young Master.
You’ve killed as many as 20.”

The man checked the scorecard of the mock gate’s results and admired it as if he could not believe it.
Beside him, Siwoo, who had grown a lot taller than before, brushed off the remaining frost on his hand.

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“The next stage.
Open it.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

At the time, Siwoo was only seventeen.
At that young age, he was already able to wipe out 20 monsters.

The average number of monsters hunted by Wolf’s elite A-Class or higher hunters in one gate was between seven and eight.

It was true that he awakened and trained at a young age, but Siwoo was an ‘awakened’ who had not even been issued a hunter’s license yet.
Even then, his skills were already far exceeding those of the guild’s elite hunters.

It was surprising, but given that he was the son of Wolf’s guildmaster, it was also natural.

Everyone looked at Siwoo and thought that he would make the front page of the newspaper as the next S-Class hunter.
They didn’t know if it would be tomorrow, a year from then, or a slightly more distant future, but regardless, he had a bright future.

After completing his training, Siwoo left the training grounds without looking back.
After training, it was essential for him to go for a walk to get rid of the stench left on his body.

He was busily walking down the dark alleyway until his steps came to a standstill under the streetlight.

“Ugh.”

Siwoo quickly shut his mouth at the wave of nausea that traveled up his throat.

[‘Hound that Guards the Midnight’ of the twelve divine beasts is looking at you anxiously.]

“… It’s okay.”

Siwoo managed to calm his stomach that was about to turn over at any moment.
It was a trick he learned after several bouts of sickness.

It was when he calmed down and started walking again.

“Ah… Aghh!”

He heard someone scream.
It wasn’t far away.

Siwoo turned his head.
Through the window of a two-story house, he saw a child with their upper body half exposed.
Wind fluttered through their pajamas.
Siwoo soon found out why the child was terrified.
A dark shadow loomed over them.
It was a monster.

“S-save me!”

The child shouted as they hung precariously from the window.
It wasn’t that late into the night yet.
A few passersby walking down the street like Siwoo stood there and looked up at the child with anxious faces.

“W-what should we do? They’re going to fall.”

“A hunter! Are there no hunters?! Report it quickly!”

“Dammit.
It’s been received…”

A large man appeared among the riotous passersby.
He seemed to be a hunter.
He was clearly different from other citizens and had a relaxed attitude as well, but the sword on his back was the real evidence.

The man with the blade stared at the child hanging from the window, then he turned around and started walking elsewhere.
Then, someone nearby blocked his path.

“H-hey.
Aren’t you a hunter?”

“… Yes.”

“Then why aren’t you saving them?”

“Why should I? This is not a mission I received from my guild, and this is not the gate I applied for.”

“You’re a hunter!”

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“But I’m on the way to my destination for a mission.”

The man said with an annoyed face.
Citizens looked at him coldly, but no one forced him to do good.
Reports made by the passersby had already been received, so a hunter would be dispatched from the support guild soon.

However, it was not the hunter in front of him.

“But if you leave like that, that child—”

“Looking at it, it seems like a low-level monster.
If that’s all, even someone with a baseball bat should be able to beat it up.”

Siwoo overheard the conversation and clenched his fists.

‘Those who have power must know how to use it in the right places.
That is their responsibility; that is their weight.’

He smirked.
What the hell had he been learning? Was it all fake, or was the scene in front of him a lie?

Soon after that, Siwoo realised one thing.

There were a lot of trashy hunters in this world.

Beings who casually trampled on others for their own gain.
People who had awakened purely by luck, made money with it as if it were their own innate ability, mocked others, and ignored damage.

He’d had enough of it.

What was even more disgusting was the fact that the Wolf he belonged to was no different.

“He’s going to die soon.”

“Who? Father?”

“… Yes.”

Maybe that was why.
Even when Gwihoon, the head of Wolf and his father, was at death’s door, he did not feel particularly sad or depressed.

He had no good memories of his father in the first place, and he only saw him as a useful tool rather than a son.

Gwihoon’s death also meant the liberation of Siwoo.

Of course, if Gwihoon died, Wolf would take Siwoo as its master.
But, he could ignore their opinions.
Because there was only one person in the world that Siwoo couldn’t ignore, and that was his father, Gwihoon.

For this reason, Gwihoon tried to hand over the guild to Siwoo before he died, at any cost.

It was because of Gwihoon’s urging that the tutorial that had been delayed was now carried out.

— And then.

During his reluctantly-accepted tutorial, Shin Siwoo met Cha Eunha, a first-generation hunter.

* * *

Drip, drop—

Heavy raindrops hit the balcony windows.
In the room where the lights were off, thunder flashed between the two people’s faces.

‘Concept hunter’ was a coined word to refer to the hunters who acquired powers through awakening, but did not fight for various reasons, such as danger or non-combat orientation, and were active while holding a concept.

In other words, they aimed for popularity or recognition through methods such as streaming and participating in entertainment programs, in addition to monster subjugations and gate clearings.

Eunha, who was listening to Siwoo’s explanation, suddenly expressed her doubts.

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“Then why are concept hunters ignored? I don’t understand.”

“Becoming a concept hunter is a path that hunters with low ranks or lacking abilities often choose.
That’s why there’s prejudice against it.”

In recent years, their popularity had been established, and recognition of concept hunters had gradually improved with evident results in terms of income, but the direction of the activity of concept hunters was not much different from what was generally called a show business.

The criticism came from the fact that the best thing they could do with their powers was to become a show business aimed at the general public.

“So I’m being misunderstood as a concept hunter.
And accordingly, the internet’s reactions are affected by this.”

At Eunha’s words, Siwoo nodded faintly.

He thought as he fiddled with the empty can he had placed on the table.
After a while, he suddenly turned his head and looked at the black dress hanging on a hanger.

‘I don’t think that her rank is the only reason why she’s surrounded by this kind of gossip.’

“…”

Click, click.

As she tapped the empty can with her fingernail, Eunha contemplated something.
In front of her, Siwoo slowly opened his mouth.

“A proposal for casting the Princess of Dark Flare in an upcoming hunter special on cable TV came in.
No one can predict what the public opinion would be like if you appeared as a concept hunter.
Of course, it could make it better, but—”

It could also make it worse.
If that happened, Eunha would have to take poisoned arrows from the world alone.
Siwoo wanted to avoid such a situation if possible.

“I can refuse your appearance on the show for now, so why don’t we do that first and watch the situation for a while?”

It was the best decision Siwoo could think of.

“If this continues, the misunderstanding of being a concept hunter will change even more.
Even if that’s not a big deal, it wouldn’t be a good thing if the public opinion of you swelled more than now, and your reputation among hunters deteriorated further.”

“Then there is only one answer.”

In the room filled with the sound of rain, Eunha’s low voice resonated.

“We have no choice but to change the prejudice against concept hunters.”

“Yes?”

At Eunha’s words, Siwoo tilted his head at an angle, showing that he didn’t understand.

“I have an idea.
To do it, it would be better to appear on the show you mentioned earlier.”

Eunha gently raised the corners of her lips.

“You want… to appear?”

Siwoo’s face stiffened at the unexpected remark.

If she appeared on a TV program, she would become even more of a hot topic than now.
Did she say that knowing that would happen?

“It would be good to prove it to as many people as possible.”

Eunha rose from her seat while brushing back her hair and glanced at Siwoo.

“Did you bring your car?”

“… I brought it, but…”

Siwoo stared at Eunha with a puzzled face.
Eunha smiled at him.

“Let’s go out for a while.”

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