He quickly sorted out the situation and confirmed the contracts with the plundered constellations.
Within just five minutes of the battle’s commencement, five out of the more than twenty hunters had died.
Three of them had contracts with constellations, and Kang-hoo efficiently took over these contracts.
The rest either had ‘tasteless’ constellations or no contracts at all.
From Kang-hoo’s perspective, there was no need to continue engaging with these individuals and depleting his energy.
After overpowering Dereila and plundering the Artistry of the Veil skill from him, he activated it.
Moving within the opaque, grayish veil, the enemies couldn’t recklessly approach him.
A few hunters seemed to focus on trying to detect stealth, but…
“I can’t detect anything…”
“Back off. We don’t know where he is!”
“Get out of here, you fools!”
Unable to pinpoint Kang-hoo’s location, they all retreated in fear.
The situation had already turned hopeless in a 1 against 20 fight, and the addition of stealth made them lose the will to fight.
Having exited the dungeon, Kang-hoo took a deep breath and glanced back, pondering the possibility.
He wondered if any of the Gale Wind gang hunters might follow him out.
But it appeared he had overestimated them, as none appeared.
Meanwhile, inside the dungeon, the Gale Wind gang members were moving farther away from the entrance.
After a brief delay, Han Seung-hyeok and Ban Se-yeong emerged, following Kang-hoo.
Seeing the two, who seemed to share a friendly rapport, Kang-hoo wore an intrigued expression.
The concept of connections often leads to unexpected relationships, so it wasn’t surprising.
After being hinted at by Han Seung-hyeok earlier, Ban Se-yeong left a message for Kang-hoo saying she would definitely contact him next time before she distanced herself.
Once Ban Se-yeong was sufficiently far away, Han Seung-hyeok began.
“That was an impressive battle. You have quite a variety of skills.”
“I know a few tricks.”
“It looked like you came to this dungeon on a mission. But it doesn’t seem like it’s your first time soloing, is it?”
“Actually, I almost always go solo rather than with others. I find being alone more comfortable.”
Reflecting on it, he realized he had never really teamed up with anyone in a dungeon.
Strategically, he had worked with others outside, like with Yun Sang-mi, hadn’t he?
“I initially thought about casually building a rapport over a drink. But I’ve changed my mind.”
Han Seung-hyeok’s interest wasn’t unwelcome; in fact, it was quite the opposite. He was a valuable asset for future endeavors.
If he could gain insights into the workings of Eclipse through him, that would be even more advantageous.
Kang Dong-hyun’s eventual confrontation with Kang-hoo was a ‘certainty’ from Kang-hoo’s point of view.
Currently, they were in a strategic truce, but conflict was bound to happen.
“Would you consider taking on a task?”
“An acquaintance of mine has asked for a favor. Somehow, I believe Mr. Kang-hoo would be quite adept at handling it.”
“If you could successfully fulfill a request of this nature, I would be very interested in getting to know you better.”
Though his words were indirect, they confirmed Kang-hoo’s suspicion that it was indeed a test.
Kang-hoo had no intention of proving himself to Han Seung-hyeok; he did not aspire to be his underling.
Yet, if passing this test was a prerequisite for getting closer to him, he was willing to do it.
Han Seung-hyeok seemed to always have his own way of vetting people before letting them in.
He didn’t want to call it unusual.
Why wouldn’t a skilled person want to build connections only with other skilled individuals?
If he disliked it, he could simply ignore it and not form a connection.
“It didn’t seem like you were running a mercenary group.”
“That’s right. It’s not a mercenary group request but a personal favor.”
“Is the requester okay with this?”
“Of course. We’re very close friends, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Han Seung-hyeok nodded.
The information he whispered in Kang-hoo’s ear differed from what was expected.
Kang-hoo asked in surprise.
“You want me to rescue the nephew of ‘The Abyss’ leader Lee Hyun-seok?”
“Yes. His nephew, Su-hyeon. To be precise, Min Su-hyeon.”
“The only bloodline of Hyun-seok.”
He had received a request to rescue the missing nephew of Lee Hyun-seok.
It couldn’t be issued as a public request, so he only asked his acquaintances.
That was understandable, as Lee Hyun-seok had many enemies, and a public request could be more harmful than helpful.
Someone might find and kidnap Min Su-hyeon to use as leverage against Lee Hyun-seok.
“But I’m not an acquaintance, am I?”
“But I think you can keep a secret. Besides, I know a lot about you, Mr. Kang-hoo.”
Han Seung-hyeok’s words could be interpreted as a compliment or, in a way, a threat.
In other words, if the secret leaked, it would surely be his fault.
“Have you considered doing it yourself?”
“I’m confident in firepower but not in mobile warfare. It’s an impossible request for me.”
Han Seung-hyeok readily admitted his weakness.
The mention of mobile warfare suggested a need for speed and stealth in the operation.
“Where do you expect to find Mr. Min Su-hyeon?”
“It’s not just an expectation but a confirmed location. It’s broad, but he’s definitely there.”
“Where is it?”
“Kimcheon liberation zone.”
“Heading into hell, I see.”
Kimcheon liberation zone.
Referred to simply as the Kimcheon Liberation Area.
The name might sound respectable, but in reality, it’s a completely lawless city.
It’s a gathering place for rootless mercenaries, hunters expelled or disciplined by guilds, and a variety of criminals.
A true city of crime, it’s more populated than one might imagine, thriving even more than some cities, with all kinds of banned drugs and narcotics sold openly.
Moreover, murder and assault occur casually, with no repercussions as long as one follows a few rules of the area.
In fact, most hunters have no reason to visit this place.
However, to save a person, it becomes a high-risk location that one must scour.
‘It’s also attractive for acquiring good items cheaply.’
With the high mortality rate of hunters, the area is known for its active item trading.
Most of the items were either acquired by killing and plundering or through looting somewhere.
“The reward will be at least 5 billion Won. Additionally, we’ll offer various conveniences that The Abyss can provide through negotiation.”
“Multiple opportunities to explore dungeons in the northeastern part of Gyeonggi-do, which The Abyss firmly controls.”
It was an enticing offer.
For Kang-hoo, who needed to increase his skills by capturing mid-bosses and main bosses in dungeon raids, this was an attractive proposal.
Han Seung-hyeok provided more details.
“Also, I’ll back you up. So if you succeed in the rescue, you’ll receive considerable gratitude from Hyun-seok.”
“Backing me up, too.”
“Of course. It’s not like finding a lost child in the neighborhood; it’s a mission that requires risking one’s life.”
“I accept. I’ll take the request.”
Kang-hoo accepted the mission.
Not because he was confident he could dominate the liberation area, but because he had calculated that he could escape safely without dying.
The basis for this confidence was the fourth privilege he had obtained from the Dimension Plunderer.
Namely, the ability to teleport to a designated location.
It could only be used once a day, but it was still a sufficient option.
“Let’s have that drink next time, how about it?”
“Sounds good. We can head out right away.”
Their business here was finished.
Moreover, the distance from Pohang to Kimcheon wasn’t too far.
Of course, he needed to deliver the mined magnetite and receive payment for the request.
He planned to ask Lee Ye-rin to come down to Pohang herself.
Since he had always accommodated her, calling her over once shouldn’t be a problem.
“I appreciate your help. Hyun-seok has already sent a few hunters from The Abyss, but it seems they all died.”
“It’s a bit ironic that you’re sending me to such a place.”
“Think of it as a sign of trust. Haha.”
Kang-hoo believed that Min Su-hyeon hadn’t died inside but had missed the chance to escape.
Given that he was a skilled magic hunter, he must have had the power to protect himself.
He probably couldn’t leave because he was hiding somewhere inside.
Lee Ye-rin promptly came to Pohang upon receiving the call, and the settlement was swiftly completed.
After finalizing the payment for the magnetite mining and selling unnecessary items, his profit increased by 7 billion won, securing a total of 176 billion won in liquid assets.
It was a sufficient amount to stir up the market in the liberation zone.
Unless he intended to buy items above grade 2.
A brief meeting with Lee Ye-rin.
But important discussions took place.
“For now, I’m looking into Park Min-sung. He was indeed on the missing persons list.”
“Let me know if there are any updates.”
“Yes. And one more thing. There was a request from Jang Si-hwan about Mr. Sun-kyu.”
“Specifically, he asked to send CCTV footage of Sun-kyu and inquired if I knew about this person.”
“He must be investigating the Gong Tae-su incident. Why is he so interested in something that doesn’t concern him?”
Though he spoke casually, the content was worrisome.
The Gong Tae-su incident had nothing to do with the Jeonghwa Guild.
Nor did Kang-hoo have any connections with Jang Si-hwan.
Yet, Jang Si-hwan’s personal inquiry suggested an interest in the person who attacked Gong Tae-su.
Since Kang-hoo was that person, he couldn’t welcome the interest.
“What was your response?”
“Of course, I brushed it off by claiming ignorance. I am an independent entity, not Jang Si-hwan’s subordinate.”
“I trust you handled it with discretion.”
He hinted subtly.
Even if questioned, she would remain silent.
For the leader of a mercenary group, trust is paramount.
Betraying information about an active client would undermine the trust placed in the mercenary group.
Rumors travel fast in this world.
Once labeled as such, the fallout would be dire. Becoming a public enemy would just be the beginning.
‘So, let’s mark it here.’
Kang-hoo surveyed the area, which was largely deserted, and prepared to set his save point.
Should he need to rescue Min Su-hyeon, this would serve as his extraction point from the Kimcheon liberation zone.
Given its proximity to Kimcheon, it was a strategic location to evade any possible pursuit.
His preparations for the escape were complete.
With the ammunition secured, the only task left was to make his way to the Kimcheon liberation zone.
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