Jin-Woo locked his gaze on the young American man named Adam White, who turned out to be an agent of the Hunter Bureau.
Judging from the glint in that man’s eyes, he obviously had no ill intentions towards Jin-Woo whatsoever.
The Americans spending an exorbitant sum of money to bring in top Hunters from all over the globe was already a well-known fact. So, Jin-Woo figured that the guy would start extolling the virtues of coming to America soon after making his introduction.
However, what Adam White said next went wildly against his expectations.
“There is a piece of information we’d like to share with you, Hunter-nim.”
“Information, is it….?”
“Yes. And you won’t ever hear about this information from any other existing country or organisation in the world. Except ours, of course.”
Jin-Woo tilted his head slightly. What would be their reason for revealing such highly-classified information to a foreign Hunter like him, a complete stranger?
“Why are you willing to share such information with me?”
Jin-Woo’s probing question only managed to elicit another round of a refreshing smile from Adam White.
“We certainly will get something in return by revealing this information to an exclusive group of a specially chosen few.”
“Specially chosen few”, he said.
Which meant that the Americans considered Jin-Woo to be eligible to enter that category now. Sure enough, that roused his curiosity rather greatly.
“Okay, let’s hear it.”
“That is as far as I’m permitted to tell you, Hunter-nim. As for the rest, you’ll have to hear it from our deputy director.”
The deputy director of the mighty Hunter Bureau? A man who possessed more political clout than a minister of some government actually was in South Korea, right now?
‘Sounds like it can’t be some run-of-the-mill info, then.’
Adam White must’ve thought that he was successful in stoking the flames of Jin-Woo’s curiosity, because he finally delved into the main topic at hand.
“We have a car ready nearby. How about accompanying me to meet up with the deputy director?”
Unfortunately for him, though – it was Jin-Woo who had the final say in the matter.
‘Information, is it….’
It could only be one of two things. Either it was info that would benefit him in some way after learning of it, or a tip of someone coming after his life. Funnily enough, he didn’t feel all that compelled to get to the bottom of this matter at the moment.
For the time being, he wanted to focus on the preparations for the ‘black key’, even if this info proved to be beneficial to him. If it was the latter and someone indeed wanted to take him out, then he was pretty confident of emerging victorious from that, too.
Also, most importantly….
‘It’s not like I can fully trust the information these guys will furnish me with, in the first place….’
This whole thing about sharing information could be just a ruse, too.
He wasn’t even sure of the opponent’s hands being useful to him, or for that matter, if the opponent held any useful hands at all. So, was there a reason for him to be lead around by the nose here?
He quickly arrived at his decision.
“I’ll sleep on it, and give you a call later.”
Adam felt like someone had just punched him in the back of his head as this unexpected turn of the conversation left him reeling in shock.
‘What? The deputy director of the Hunter Bureau came all this way to share information, yet he’s ignoring that and wants to go on his way??’
Jin-Woo didn’t look like he was bluffing here, because he was already opening the driver’s door of the van. Cold perspiration immediately coated Adam White’s forehead.
If Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was allowed to slip through his fingers now, then who knew when he’d get another chance like this? No, there was even a distinct possibility that this could be the very last time.
It was unknown whether the Korean intended for this reaction or not, but without a doubt, the ones ruing the missed opportunity would be them, not him.
“Well, have a nice day.”
Just as Jin-Woo was about to climb into the van, the restless Adam White urgently cried out.
“P-please, hold on!”
Jin-Woo shifted his disinterested gaze over to Adam White. Hoping to rouse Jin-Woo’s curiosity further, even if it was only by a fraction, Adam White hurriedly continued on.
Adam formed an expression of a defeated man and explained the meaning behind the word he just spat out.
“Did you know that there is an Awakened who can enhance the abilities of other Awakened?”
‘Yup, you should’ve started with that from the beginning.’
Right away, Jin-Woo realised that the stuff being shared by Agent Adam White, no, the deputy director of the Hunter Bureau, was actually of far greater importance than mere ‘information’.
‘An Awakened who can enhance other Awakened, is it…?’
Finally, Jin-Woo felt compelled enough now. He pulled the half-entered leg out of the van and closed the door. Adam could sigh a sigh of relief after seeing that.
When he raised his head, though, Jin-Woo was already standing a couple of inches away from him.
“Jesus H. Christ?!”
The startled Adam White took a step back in fright, but Jin-Woo didn’t care about that and simply asked the man.
“Where am I supposed to go?”
The black saloon carrying the two men came to a stop in front of a famous luxury hotel.
Jin-Woo noted that the name of the hotel was the same as the one from the memo Yu Jin-Ho handed over to him not too long ago.
‘Wait, that English-speaking foreigner Yu Jin-Ho was talking about, could it have been one of these guys?’
Jin-Woo followed after Adam White and climbed up to the suite where the deputy director was waiting for him.
The deputy director of the Hunter Bureau, Michael Connor, failed to disguise his excitement at the sight of a certain Oriental man standing behind his subordinate.
One of the more difficult aspects of negotiation was bringing the other party to the negotiating table. One could even declare that half the battle was won already by doing so.
The deputy director smiled brightly and extended his hand to Jin-Woo for a cordial handshake.
“My name is Michael Connor. I’m the deputy director of the Hunter Bureau.”
His self-introduction was translated into fluent Korean with the speed of lightning by Adam White. Jin-Woo took the deputy director’s hand and lightly shook it.
“I’m Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.”
Now that their brief introductions were over, they settled down on the opposing sides of a table. Adam remained standing next to his deputy director.
“Before we start, have anyone claiming to be from foreign Hunter-related organisations tried to make contact with you before us?”
The deputy director directly fired the opening salvo.
“No one, so far.”
Once that anticipated answer was given, the deputy director formed a smile of pure satisfaction.
‘But, of course. There shouldn’t be anyone else on Earth quicker than the United States of America.’
Only the striker a step ahead of everyone else could score the winning goal, indeed.
The deputy director didn’t plan on wasting this golden chance that no one else had the luxury to enjoy yet – especially when his target was someone his superior officer ordered to reel over to their side, no matter the cost or the method.
He didn’t even try to beat around the bush and went straight to the topic at hand.
“Allow me to be frank with you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.
With a solemn, determined face, the deputy director pushed a rather sizeable mountain of files towards Jin-Woo and continued on.
“We, at the United States of America, want you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
“These are all the documents needed to emigrate to America. Now normally, you’d need at least one or two years for these papers to be processed. However, it’ll be a different story for you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
The deputy director then raised his index finger.
“Just a single second.”
He declared in a very confident voice.
“If you agree to immigrate, then you’ll become an American citizen in one second. And not as a simple, regular citizen, either – no, you become eligible to receive the equal treatment as the nation’s existing top-ranked Hunters.”
Everything so far had been what Jin-Woo expected to hear from this man. However, what he wanted to find out about was the information related to this Awakened called ‘Upgrader’. He shifted his gaze over to Adam, causing the American agent to flinch slightly and avert his eyes away.
Jin-Woo looked back at the deputy director.
“But, I only came here because Adam said something about some ‘information’.”
The deputy director let out a burst of genial laughter when he heard that.
“That isn’t entirely unrelated to what I was talking about.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Hunter-nim. If you give us your word that you’ll become the next American Hunter, then we will definitely enhance your abilities to an even higher realm.”
The so-called ‘Upgrader’. It seemed that this Awakened could really do what that moniker implied.
Still, Jin-Woo was not entirely convinced, even if the deputy director said roughly the same thing as Agent Adam White.
‘Could there really be an Awakened possessing such a power?’
That’s why he decided to make d*mn sure.
“To enhance one’s abilities – can such a thing be for real?”
Jin-Woo’s apparent interest caused the deputy director to become even more excited.
“Actually…. she’s here with us, right now.”
Jin-Woo already knew that there was someone else within the hotel’s suite. From a while ago, he had picked up on the minute amount of magic power leaking out from the gap of the closed door just over there.
Because the magic energy emitted didn’t seem all that powerful, he was inwardly thinking that person was too weak to be a bodyguard of someone as important as the Hunter Bureau’s deputy director. And now, his suspicion proved to be correct.
The deputy director quickly issued an order.
“Please bring Madam Selner here.”
Almost immediately, the door was opened and two agents escorted a middle-aged African-American woman out from the room beyond. Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed slightly after picking up on a strange vibe coming off of her.
Somehow, she gave off a different aura from other, regular Awakened.
The African-American lady stood next to the table, and the agent quickly pulled out a chair for her. She then elegantly settled down on the end of the cushion.
She immediately recognised who Jin-Woo was and floated a smile of genuine interest.
“So, you are that man from the video….”
She was already familiar with all the important information on Jin-Woo and needed no introduction, so the deputy director’s job became a bit easier.
“This is Madam Norma Selner. She is the lone Awakened, the only one of her type in the entire world, who can enhance the abilities of other Awakened to even greater heights.”
At the end of the introduction, Madam Selner did a simple nod of her head as a greeting to Jin-Woo. He reciprocated the greeting with the nod, as well.
“Madam Selner. Please, if you will, briefly explain what you can do to Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
She formed a teasing smile while staring at the still-unconvinced Jin-Woo’s face.
“Everyone has the same look as you, in the beginning, Hunter-nim. However….”
She then leaned in closer to Jin-Woo and whispered softly to him.
“Once they have a taste, they have no choice but to beg me for more.”
The deputy director furrowed his brows a little, prompting her to laugh out and wave her hand about.
“I know, I know. Don’t worry, Director Connor. I know that he’s a very important man.”
Still with an alluring smile, Madam Selner began with her explanation.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. As you may know already, all Awakened face a limit they can’t breach. No one can overcome it.”
That was why the ranks of the Awakened would never change, unless one was lucky enough to go through a Re-Awakening process. This was common knowledge that all living Hunters out there knew all too well.
“But, Madam. You can….?”
Even before Jin-Woo could finish his question, Madam Selner formed an expression of a little kid picking up the final piece of strawberry on top of a cake that she’d been saving up for the very last.
Jin-Woo’s eyes grew progressively wider.
“I can increase that limit even higher in three separate stages. I don’t know whether to call it a forced Re-Awakening, or simply waking up the latent potential sleeping within the subject already, but yes, I can do it.”
What an incredible ability that was!
The things she said just now were explosive enough to shake the very cores of every top-ranked Hunters found throughout the world. Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted over to the deputy director.
He nodded his head to reaffirm what she said.
“What she said are all true. It’s just that, once she uses her powers once, she needs to take a lengthy break to recover her energy. So, only around three to four lucky Awakened get to enjoy this benefit in a single year.”
“….How effective is it?”
“It depends on individuals, but once one goes through all three stages, they say that they grew stronger by a minimum of 20 percent, and as much as 30 percent, over their original powers.”
Twenty to thirty percent!
With the average of his Stat values nearing the 250 mark, if Jin-Woo got that mystery enhancement, that average value would shoot past the 300 mark, instead,
Without a doubt, that would be an enormous leap up.
….As long as these guys weren’t lying to him, of course.
‘Is she casting a buff that raises one’s powers? Or, is it more like raising the fixed level cap?’
Regardless of what it was, the ability she possessed would be like a precious treasure for all the Hunters out there. Which also meant that there should be no shortages of people aiming for her, too.
“If the knowledge of such an ability is made public, then….”
The deputy director nodded his head.
“That is why Madam Selner is with us.”
She too worried about the exact same thing as Jin-Woo had thought of, and after lengthy deliberation, she joined the Hunter Bureau who’d guarantee her safety while also letting her use her powers as often as she wanted to.
“We ensure her absolute safety and reward her accordingly, while she enhances the abilities of those Hunters we deem worthy of joining us. We have been maintaining this symbiotic relationship for a long time now.”
And so, that’s where the deputy director bookended the explanation. Now, the time for the fireworks to begin.
“Madam Selner’s ability, that is precisely the gift we wish to give to you, Hunter-nim.”
“A gift, is it….”
Indeed, could there be a gift even more valuable than this one?
“If you become a Hunter of the United States of America, you will be the first in line to receive this benefit. Also, we will make sure that you get the best possible terms when negotiating with any Guilds you wish to join.”
From the perspective of an ordinary Hunter, these were simply too good of conditions to say no to.
Only now could Jin-Woo understand why Hwang Dong-Soo didn’t even hesitate once and emigrated to the States when everyone was criticising him for it. The enormous sum of money the Americans reportedly paid him was most likely a cover-up story to hide the real reason.
Regular Hunters would lose their collective sh*t if they ever heard of such a tale. So, if you told a top Hunter that his or her abilities could be enhanced even further? Who in their right minds would say no to that?
“Can you prove that she really possesses such a power?”
Everything they said so far were just words, and there had been no proof to back them up yet.
It was her turn to butt in next.
“No need to rush. Today, I’m only here to undo the first button, you know.”
Jin-Woo finally realised what she meant earlier.
‘One taste, and people beg her for more, was it?’
Just as she had alluded to, every Hunter seeing her powers with their own eyes chose to head to America right away, one hundred times out of one hundred. Her sky-high confidence was based off on that.
The deputy director quietly asked a question to Jin-Woo.
“It is as she says. So, will you let us unlock your ‘first stage’?”
“Without anything in return?”
“Think of it as a ‘service’ from us, Hunter-nim.”
Madam Selner lightly grasped Jin-Woo’s wrist. When he turned to look at her, she formed a gentle smile and gestured to him to get closer.
“Please, look into my eyes. Look deeply into them. That will be your first step.”
Was she telling the truth?
To confirm if this Madam Selner really did possess the power the Hunter Bureau was swearing by, Jin-Woo decided to follow her instructions for the time being.
The deputy director leaned against the back of the chair and crossed his arms.
‘It’s done! He’s ours now!’
The game was already over.
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo had been constantly maintaining that cold, indifferent expression until now, but that was only because he hadn’t yet experienced what this lady’s power had to offer.
Once the first lifting of the natural limit was completed, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo would call them on his own volition sooner rather than later. No, if he had an impulsive personality, then he might sign the immigration documents right here, right now.
The deputy director’s curiosity shifted on to something else now.
‘Just how high will his limit be, I wonder?’
The deputy director uncrossed his arms and rubbed his chin, his eyes of anticipation firmly locked on Jin-Woo. But, it was then.
Madam Selner sucked in her breath, as her eyes began to quake quite violently.
< Chapter 130 > Fin.