I Alone Level-Up
Two Association Presidents, Goh Gun-Hui and Matsumoto Shigeo, sat down while facing each other.
On either side of the two men, representatives from the Japanese Hunter’s Association and their Korean counterparts, as well as higher-ups from various government departments sat in a row.
With the subject matter being what it was, the conference was moving at a brisk pace.
“How do you feel about forming a united assault team comprising of top-ranked Japanese and Korean Hunters?”
This explosive suggestion from Matsumoto Shigeo caused the Koreans present to show much surprise on their faces.
They were all under the impression that today’s conference would be to discuss the reparation Japanese would demand for the damage they had suffered.
But then, the Japanese were saying they would voluntarily help with taking care of this headache?
What kind of jackpot was this?
The surprised state of the Korean politicians didn’t last long, though, as it was soon replaced by the brightened complexions, instead. With the sole exception of one man, that was.
Only Goh Gun-Hui maintained a sharp glare as he observed Matsumoto Shigeo.
“Are you saying that you wish to attack the nest of the ants by forming an alliance?”
“That is correct.”
“We’re aware that Japan enjoys an abundance of top-ranked Hunters. However, it is still far too dangerous to invade Jeju Island.”
Goh Gun-Hui also added that there were several times more of the monsters to be found on the island compared to two years ago, when the last subjugation effort failed.
It was here that Matsumoto Shigeo formed a rather suspicious smile.
“It’d prove to be dangerous indeed if we rushed into the enemy’s main camp without a proper plan.”
One of the Korean politicians, utterly hooked by the suggestion from the Japanese that they would help, asked in an expectant manner.
“Do you have a good plan in mind?”
Matsumoto Shigeo gathered everyone’s attention to himself with a quick answer, but then, continued on only after taking a bit of time for himself.
“Of course, we have one.”
With a single command from him, the prepared files matching the exact number of Korean representatives were placed in front of them.
“These are all the data compiled from our observation of the ants.”
While the Koreans attendees of the conference were perusing through the file, Matsumoto Shigeo began his in-depth explanation.
“Each ant may be strong enough to rival a high-rank Hunter, but it also possesses a fatal weakness. And that’s their short lifespan.”
Ants could only live for around one year at most.
“Which means, if the ant queen is removed from the equation, every ant found on Jeju Island will eventually die out in around one year.”
The Korean attendees nodded their heads as they read the well-researched data.
Only the queen needed to be eliminated.
That sounded a whole lot more achievable than killing thousands of unrankable monsters that came out of a rank S Gate. However, Goh Gun-Hui’s glare remained icy cold.
‘What a nonsensical notion that is….’
He knew the truth already.
He knew that the act of killing one queen was no different than actually trying to kill every single one of the thousands of those monsters.
“Are you making this suggestion because you don’t know of ants’ instincts to sacrifice themselves in order to protect their queen?”
When Goh Gun-Hui pointed this fact out, Matsumoto Shigeo simply smiled and lightly rebutted him.
“Of course I know. If we were to kill the queen, we’d most likely have to break through the defensive wall of thousands of ants.”
Goh Gun-Hui’s suspicions grew only larger and larger after he saw how relaxed Matsumoto Shigeo’s demeanour was.
‘Just what are they thinking?’
The corner of Matsumoto Shigeo’s lips arched up.
“However, what if all of the ants abandon the ant tunnel for some reason?”
The ant queen lived in the deepest part of the ant tunnel. Why would the ants leave the ant tunnel unguarded, when they were supposed to protect the queen as well as the eggs at all cost?
When questioning expressions formed on the faces of all the Korean representatives, Matsumoto Shigeo opened his mouth to answer their confusion.
“There have been. A total of three times.”
There had been three times where such an event occurred?
But, besides all that – how did Japan know so intimately about such things in the first place?
The answer to this question arrived right away.
“The ants emptied out of their tunnel to fight, when the Korean Hunters landed on Jeju Island for the subjugation operations three times in the past.”
Goh Gun-Hui tightly clenched his fists resting on his knees.
While the Hunters of South Korea risked their lives and fought, the Japanese were covertly spying on them. No one here criticised Japan for not helping South Korea out back then.
But regardless, how could they use the misfortune of the neighbouring nation as their research material, and then proudly reveal the results to said neighbour like this?
A rank S lost his life during the third failed attempt. And besides him, countless others also died. The Association President Goh Gun-Hui had to watch them die from a very close vantage point back then.
His clenched fists were trembling hard now.
Sensing that the complexion of Goh Gun-Hui was getting rather suspicious, Japan’s best Hunter, Goto Ryuji unleashed his own magical energy.
It was a warning – if the other side tried to do something untoward, then this side would also make a move.
Attending the conference as Goh Gun-Hui’s bodyguard, Woo Jin-Cheol quickly approached the Association President’s side.
“….I’m okay now.”
Goh Gun-Hui dismissed Woo Jin-Cheol, and the latter quietly stepped back.
Regardless of what the Japanese’s attitude was like, this presented a golden opportunity to deal with the ants once and for all if their research data proved to be reliable.
‘I can’t afford to let slip such an opportunity because of my personal feelings.’
Goh Gun-Hui could only calm his boiling anger inwardly.
Once the threatening tension of the conference room dissipated, Matsumoto Shigeo finally got to the main point.
“The Japanese Hunters will take on that role.”
Japan’s rank S Hunters would split into several teams and attack Jeju Island from different directions. Ants would rush out to face the intruders, and just like before, the tunnel with ant queen hiding in it would be emptied out.
“We wish to ask Korea’s top Hunters with the killing of the queen.”
South Korea’s rank S Hunters would sneak into the island using a helicopter, and once they kill off the queen, they escape via a helicopter again.
The plan put forward by the Japanese was rather detailed and sounded quite doable, so the Korean representatives began to get heated up from excitement.
“If we follow the Japanese plan, do we get to recover Jeju Island?”
“These Japanese b*stards, they have finally showed their hands now that they too have become victims.”
“This is a great chance.”
“Let’s seize this opportunity and use the Japanese Hunters to reclaim Jeju Island.”
Goh Gun-Hui didn’t participate in the heated discussion of the Korean representatives, choosing to quietly mull over Matsumoto Shigeo’s suggested plan, instead.
‘Without a doubt, there is a good chance.’
There were 21 rank S Hunters in Japan.
In comparison, there were only eight in South Korea.
But, by excluding himself who couldn’t move due to health reasons, or the other Hunter who had to retire early, then realistically speaking, there were only six that could participate.
‘It’ll be impossible to draw and scatter the attention of thousands of ants with that number.’
In order to do so, they needed Japan and her twenty or so top-ranked Hunters. Even if they were to be split into groups of five, you’d still get four groups, and that would be enough to buy the Koreans time to do their job.
But the real problem was, would South Korea’s top Hunters actually be able to kill the boss of a rank S dungeon, the ant queen?
‘Is it even possible?’
It was then, Goh Gun-Hui suddenly remembered the name of Seong Jin-Woo.
Seong Jin-Woo was strong enough to solo kill the boss of a rank A dungeon, so what if he worked together with other rank S Hunters?
Goh Gun-Hui’s heart began racing now.
‘We can’t delay this any longer.’
Currently, ant monsters were evolving at a rapid pace. No one could predict precisely when the entirety of the ant army would become flight-capable. It could be ten years, five, or even, right next year.
Before something like that happened, the Koreans had to kill off the dastardly ants, and if they had to resort to borrowing another country’s strength, then so be it.
But, before that….
“What does Japan want as compensation from this cooperation?”
The Association President Goh Gun-Hui didn’t let this important matter slip through.
Matsumoto Shigeo did his best to form the most magnanimous smile he could physically perform.
“When the rest of ants die in a year, we evenly split the magic crystals left behind on the island.”
Only that much?
Goh Gun-Hui tilted his head, unconvinced.
“Will you really be happy with only that?”
Goh Gun-Hui’s question caused the Korean government officials and politicians near him to frown rather deeply.
‘If they are willing to do it for a small asking price, he should just gladly accept it, so why is he questioning them like this?’
‘What will he do if the Japanese decide to change their mind all of a sudden…?’
‘Association President Goh Gun-Hui, you’re still too distrusting, what with your background being a man who used to run a corporation.’
Their hot dagger-like glares stabbed deeply into Goh Gun-Hui. He had no choice but to shut his mouth.
A short discussion took place between the Korean attendees, but no one raised a voice of objection.
In the end, the Japanese’s proposal was approved unanimously.
After the conference successfully came to an end, Matsumoto Shigeo approached Goh Gun-Hui with a beaming smile and offered his right hand.
“The future of our two nations depends on this cooperation. Let us combine our resources together and do our best.”
After returning to his hotel room, Matsumoto Shigeo placed a cigarette in between his lips. Goto Ryuji to his side lit it up for him.
“You worked hard today, sir.”
“Mister Goto, it’s you who worked hard today.”
“You’re praising me too much, sir.”
“I’m not. Didn’t you see Goh Gun-Hui’s face back then?”
Matsumoto Shigeo smirked deeply.
The fleeting emotion that flickered in and out momentarily on Goh Gun-Hui’s face back then – it was definitely rage. The reason why Matsumoto Shigeo was able to display so much leisure in front of a rank S Hunter who reputedly possessed the greatest strength in South Korea, was simple – because, he had a powerful ally standing behind him.
And that was Goto Ryuji, Japan’s number one melee-type Hunter. And also, the trustworthy right-hand man of the President of the Japanese Hunter Association, Matsumoto Shigeo.
Recalling Goh Gun-Hui’s expression, Matsumoto formed a mocking smile.
“Borrowing the power of someone whom you don’t even want to talk to. Now that would be quite intolerable from the perspective of the weak.”
Goto Ryuji also smirked as well.
In the end, the Koreans agreed to work with the Japanese, just as Matsumoto Shigeo had predicted. Everything was moving according to plan.
“South Korea is merely the beginning.”
Matsumoto Shigeo spoke up.
“Hunters are the new power, the new political influence. With this power given to Japan, I shall create a new empire.”
His gaze then shifted over to Goto Ryuji.
“And you shall become its next emperor.”
If Matsumoto Shigeo was to be considered the first ruler of the empire founded on his crafty schemes, then Goto Ryuji would be the second by relying on his powers alone. And this was the reason why Goto Ryuji treated Matsumoto Shigeo as his superior all this time.
It was then.
“I almost forgot.”
Matsumoto Shigeo recalled something and asked Goto Ryuji while killing the cigarette.
“Do we still not have any information on South Korea’s newest rank S Hunter?”
“Even the South Koreans don’t seem to know much about that man, sir.”
“…Is that so.”
They already knew everything there was to know regarding all of South Korea’s top Hunters. Except for one person.
They didn’t have a single reliable piece of information on the Hunter who was registered as a rank S recently. The unknown factor could cause deviations to their plan. Now that his ambition had been revealed in full with the commencement of this operation, Matsumoto Shigeo couldn’t afford any form of deviation whatsoever to his plan.
‘Although it is questionable what a single person could achieve on his own, but, still….’
There were five such people in the entire world.
They were referred to as Hunters on the rank of ‘Special Authority’, which meant that each one of them possessed power equalling that of a country’s military.
They all shared one common point; each one of them had cleared at least one rank S Gate in the past. A Hunter with that kind of ability could easily disrupt his plan.
‘However, the odds of that are extremely low.’
Taking into account that there were seven billion people on Earth, the odds would be less than a billion to one. If someone of that calibre appeared, then there was no way the South Koreans would keep quiet about him. But judging from the current atmosphere, there didn’t seem to be any cause for concern on that front.
‘I can’t ruin everything by being too cautious here.’
Matsumoto Shigeo picked up his phone.
Then, he gave his command to the higher-ups of his own Association, who were all anxiously waiting for his call back home.
“The Koreans have agreed to work with us, so summon all the rank S Hunters as planned.”
Goh Gun-Hui was also calling the Korean Hunters at that moment.
The first priority was to explain the seriousness of the current situation. He was planning to fine-tune the Association’s schedule accordingly, but….
“What did you say??”
A completely unexpected piece of news flew out of nowhere and punched him in the face.
“You can’t get in touch with Hunter Seong Jin-Woo at all???”
For some reason, only Seong Jin-Woo was out of reach.
“His phone’s been switched off for several days as well, sir. We can’t even figure out where he could be.”
Goh Gun-Hui shut his mouth tightly then, before opening his mouth. He sounded exasperated at that moment.
“In that case, summon the other Hunters excluding him as soon as possible.”
The agent of the Association bowed and quickly ran out of the President’s office. Goh Gun-Hui’s expression hardened as he fell into deep contemplation.
‘Where could he possibly be?’
After hearing the report of Seong Jin-Woo going missing, Goh Gun-Hui suddenly had a foreboding premonition of the future.
< Chapter 106 > Fin.