I Alone Level-Up
Park Jong-Su’s expression became sombre as he resolved himself to at least get this much out of the negotiation.
The boss-level monsters were responsible for the majority of losses suffered in dungeons. And to minimise the potential losses to his raid team, Park Jong-Su made an aggressive move and asked Jin-Woo to deal with the boss monster, instead.
‘With the strength Hunter Seong Jin-Woo displayed back inside the ant tunnel, he should be able to deal with the boss monster all by himself.’
Feeling nervous that this offer would be rejected, Park Jong-Su kept his mouth shut and waited for Jin-Woo’s answer. However, in a complete contrast to Park Jong-Su and his gradually-stiffening face as time ticked by….
In order to hide a smirk trying to break out of his lips, Jin-Woo lifted the hand previously supporting his chin right up below his nose and covered the entirety of his mouth. Then, formed an impressive frown.
He wanted to look as if he was giving it a very serious consideration here. And it worked wonders.
Park Jong-Su forgot all about the passage of time and solely concentrated on Jin-Woo’s decision, as his hands were soaked in sweat.
After a long while, Jin-Woo let out a soft sigh, and then….
….Continued on with what he wanted to say.
“We’ll do it that way.”
Park Jung-Ho’s two hands, hidden under the table, clenched into tight fists.
‘Yes! It’s done!’
Just from hearing Jin-Woo’s consent, Park Jong-Su felt that all his worries and burdens weighing down on his shoulders were being washed away.
Why did he even waste his time worrying about this problem until now? He should’ve done this from the very beginning.
For the first time since leaving Busan, the frozen-stiff face of Park Jong-Su broke out into a bright smile.
The only remaining thing now was to contact the Association and get the raid permit. What with Hunter Seong Jin-Woo agreeing to cooperate, there was no point in hesitating anymore.
“It’s been some time since the Gate first appeared, so at the latest, we need to start the raid tomorrow.”
“Then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Park Jong-Su stopped packing his stuff and hurriedly made a suggestion.
“Instead of that, how about we travel south together in our car?”
Since they were going to meet again tomorrow anyway, wouldn’t it be more efficient to move around together, instead of making a promise like this? Park Jong-Su made his suggestion with that in mind.
“We’ll guide you to the best hotel in the city, and we will also pay for your lodging.”
However, there was no reason for Jin-Woo to travel a long distance inside a cramped car. All he had to do was to insert one of his Shadow Soldiers inside Park Jong-Su’s shadow, and that’d be it.
With that, he’d never get lost and would never be late, either.
He sneaked a glance at the circular-shaped shadow crawling away on the floor and came up with a suitable excuse.
“I already made a prior arrangement for this evening, so it’ll be difficult for me to go with you.”
“But, don’t worry. I’ll definitely make it in time.”
There was no way a Master of a Guild like himself would be late to a party, after all!
It was then.
Jeong Yun-Tae, the Vice-Chair of the Knight Order, had to leave the conference suite briefly to take care of some “personal business” earlier on. He was just about to walk back inside, but he stopped and screamed at the top of his lungs.
Park Jong-Su panicked and jumped up to take a wild look around him.
“What?! What now?!”
“The shadow! It just moved! From that side to this side!”
Park Jong-Su froze up for a second, before he stood straight back up and glared at Jeong Yun-Tae.
“Hey, Yun-Tae…. Are you drunk right now?”
Sensing the atmosphere had suddenly gotten a bit chilly all of a sudden, Jeong Yun-Tae forgot what he wanted to say and rubbed below his nose with his index finger.
“I said, are you drunk right now?”
“Uhm, I had a couple of beer as an appetizer back in the motorway service station, hyung-nim.”
“Didn’t I say that you gotta be more mindful when we’re trying to conduct official business?”
“I’m sorry, hyung-nim.”
Jeong Yun-Tae bowed to Park Jong-Su, before bowing to Jin-Woo as well.
“I’m sorry, Hunter-nim.”
Park Jong-Su proceeded to push the back of Jeong Yun-Tae’s head further down and bowed himself as well.
“This guy here, he means well, but he also sometimes spews out nonsense with a couple of drinks in him. I apologise if we ended up making a fuss.”
“No, it’s fine. I mean, shadows can move around sometimes.”
And so, as the meeting was coming to an end in a friendly atmosphere, Jin-Woo’s phone resting on the conference table suddenly vibrated.
He took a look at the caller, but he couldn’t recognise the number.
“Excuse me. I’ll have to answer this call.”
Jin-Woo asked for his guests’ understanding like a gentleman and made his exit from the conference suite. Both Jeong Yun-Tae, responsible for making a bit of racket just now, and Park Jong-Su with his nervous heart, spat out a long, long sigh of relief.
Soon after that, though, Jeong Yun-Tae tilted his head and softly muttered to himself.
“Argh, but the shadow really moved….”
“Imma just…. You!”
Jeong Yun-Tae finally shut his mouth up over this matter after being subjected to Park Jong-Su’s fierce glare.
After a short silence….
Jeong Yun-Tae grew curious about the result of the negotiation and opened his mouth again.
“Hyung-nim, so, like, what happened?”
“What do you mean, what happened? He agreed to cooperate.”
“Now that’s great news!”
The previously-tense face of Jeong Yun-Tae brightened up immediately. A wide grin still attached to his face, he asked some more.
“By the way, did you ask him about joining our Guild?”
“Don’t even bring that up. He shows me this, saying that he’s making a Guild for himself.”
Just like what Jin-Woo did earlier, Park Jong-Su picked up the file [List of applicants for the Guild founding member spot] and showed it to his companion.
Jeong Yun-Tae cackled to himself.
“The Guild situation in Korea has more or less been stabilised by now, so how big would his Guild get by making one at this stage? If he just joined up with ours, he’d be treated like a king, yet he’s willing to go through so much pain for nothing here.”
“Yeah, what a shame that is.”
Park Jong-Su licked his lips in regret over the missed opportunity and tried to put the file back in its original position, but then, an application form slipped out of there. He got startled and quickly picked it back up only for his expression to freeze up right there.
A photo of a rather familiar-looking woman was attached to the application form.
Even Jeong Yun-Tae’s expression froze up as well.
“H-hyung-nim, isn’t she…..??”
Jeong Yun-Tae couldn’t believe it even though he saw it with his own two eyes. Park Jong-Su nodded his head as a confirmation.
“Uh, you’re right. That’s the Vice-Chair of the Hunters Guild.”
Jeong Yun-Tae silently observed Cha Hae-In’s photo for a bit, before sneakily checking out Park Jong-Su’s mood.
“Hyung-nim. Shouldn’t we also do stuff like mergers and acquisitions?”
Right away, Park Jong-Su’s expression crumpled.
“You dang idiot….”
After making his way out of the conference suite, Jin-Woo tapped on the ‘Answer’ icon. Then, a familiar voice came out of the phone’s speaker.
After confirming who it was, Jin-Woo felt rather relieved but at the same time, felt a bit rueful as well.
“Mom, did you buy a new phone?”
Jin-Woo glanced at the conference suite with two people from the Knight Order Guild still inside and smirked slightly.
“Nah, it’s fine, Mom.”
“Did you go to the store alone? Why didn’t you take Jin-Ah along with you?”
It’d been nice if Mom thought of herself instead of her children every once in a while. Jin-Woo ended the call with his mom and sighed softly under his breath.
However, why did he feel a bit disappointed when he found out that the call was from his mom?
‘What was I waiting for?’
Jin-Woo smirked to himself and pocketed the phone, before raising his head up. Renewed vigour was gleaming brightly in his eyes.
He was about to breathe in the dungeon air again tomorrow, all thanks to the nice guys of the Knight Order coming to visit him like this.
‘A rank A Gate that’s close to being a rank S, is it?’
It felt as if he hadn’t cut loose and went all out in a long while now. Hadn’t it been a week already since the end of the Jeju Island raid? Besides entering that rank B Gate, he hadn’t done anything worthy of mention lately.
His heart began pounding away again after a long while of nothing much happening, and Jin-Woo hyped himself up for tomorrow’s raid.
The cream of the Knight Order’s crop had gathered in one place. They were all in a buzz right now from anticipation and excitement. It couldn’t be helped, though.
They would probably have had to take a big gamble with their lives by going on this raid. And if it turned into a Red Gate, then avoiding a complete annihilation would have been impossible.
But then, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo agreed to join them on such a raid.
The one to come up with this idea, Jeong Ye-Rim, cried out in happiness when she first heard the news of Seong Jin-Woo’s participation. Other Hunters also rejoiced in their own ways at the knowledge that a powerful safety net was about to cast below them.
There was only one person among them feeling mighty nervous at the moment. And that would be the Master of the Knight Order Guild, Park Jong-Su. He couldn’t stay still and paced up and down in nervousness as he waited for Jin-Woo to show up.
‘Aww…. I should’ve just brought him along with us yesterday.’
Park Jong-Su confirmed the time through his watch. It was five minutes before eleven in the morning. According to their schedule, the raid was supposed to get underway in five minutes.
It was a little wonder that he was suffocating from anxiety, since the promised person hadn’t shown up yet. Without him, this raid couldn’t even get underway.
The Hunter’s Association immediately issued the raid permit as soon as the Knight Order let them know of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s participation. It was as if they were waiting for this chance all along.
There was little doubt that Seong Jin-Woo’s name had proven its worth there. But then, to start a raid without him around?
‘Even if I put that aside…..’
Park Jong-Su took a look at the faces of the raid team members. Would you look at those eyes filled with anticipation? This raid might not get underway not because of the Association, but because of his own Guild members, instead!
‘There are three minutes remaining…’
Park Jong-Su pulled his phone out of sheer anxiousness, but he pocketed it again after mustering up a superhuman-level of patience. It’d be a bit rude to call someone who said he’d be here shortly about ten minutes ago, now wouldn’t it?
However, he couldn’t sense anyone possessing great aura approaching this location, nor did he receive the call from Jin-Woo saying that he arrived at the vicinity.
Park Jong-Su looked for something else to chew on instead of his innards, and eventually settled on a cigarette.
‘Just where are you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-niiiim….!’
Around the same time….
Jin-Woo was stepping outside his apartment. He was kitted out in easy-to-move clothing and a pair of sneakers. He looked at his watch, and it said one minute before eleven AM. He raised his head up to see an overcast, gloomy sky.
‘I wonder, did Jin-Ah take an umbrella with her in the morning?’
Such thoughts only lasted for a short while.
‘Okay, time to make my way there, then.’
Jin-Woo pulled up the hood to hide his face as a smile crept up on his lips. First of all, he activated ‘Stealth’, and then….
He immediately swapped his position with the soldier currently in the shadow state.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Jin-Ah’s high school….
Three male students and their faces were currently full of unhappiness at being asked to run an errand for their art teacher.
“Isn’t this clearly exploitation of labour force?”
“Yeah, I wonder about that myself.”
“I mean, why are we doing something that guy was supposed to do it himself in the first place?”
The male students continued to complain bitterly as they unlatched the bulky lock of the second art classroom, currently serving as their school’s storage unit.
“Argh, look at all this dust.”
The thick coating of dust befitting a disused, forgotten storage greeted the trio of students.
Several worn art supplies, pieces of paintings thrown away by their original owners, and plaster statues once used for sketch exercises lay discarded in this place.
“Hey, how many of these plaster statues were we supposed to take with us?”
“There are six of them here, so it must be six.”
“Argh, come on…. That means we have to come back here again.”
“Why don’t you carry four of them at the same time, then?”
The male students rolled their sleeves up in order to carry the plaster figures away. But then, the student picking up the dusty figure tucked away at the deepest corner ended up discovering ‘something’ else.
After hearing his surprised-sounding voice, his friends quickly walked over to take a look.
“Uh? Isn’t this….?”
There was a large ‘hole’ in the wall. It was a Gate about the size of an adult human. The biggest student among the trio smirked after taking a look at the Gate.
“And here I was, wondering what was up.”
The male student pressed his hand on the surface of the Gate and carried on.
“A closed Gate like this one is safe. Only Hunters can go inside, and the things inside can’t come out, either.”
A crack suddenly formed on the surface of the Gate and at the same time, a ‘hand’ shot out to grab the head of the male student.
The male student struggled fiercely to get out of the grip, but the hand didn’t even budge an inch.
Accompanying the sound of a hard surface of a fruit shattering into pieces, blood splattered all over the dust-filled storage.
And, as the two blood-soaked male students screamed out, the black ‘curtain’ covering up the entrance of the Gate shattered like glass, and the monsters trapped inside began pouring out.
< Chapter 138 > Fin.