I Alone Level-Up
“It’s Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
Hunters of the world got to hear the voice of the Association President, Goh Gun-Hui. Some through the breaking news coverage, some through being contacted by someone else, and some through video file sharing sites.
And their reactions were almost identical.
– He wants to go to Japan in such times?
– What is he thinking?
These Hunters also knew.
They knew that it’d be difficult to imagine just how grand the Japanese government’s financial reward be like if they managed to put out the urgent fire burning down their country right now.
However, no sane-minded governments out there would want to throw their top-ranked Hunters into a crisis of an unprecedented scale like this one.
The lessons learned from subjugating the monster of the rank S Gate, ‘Kamish’, the creature that managed to decrease the number of top Hunters in the world by a great deal, had made the Hunter communities rather closed and uncooperative in nature.
So, the current situation was, no one could go even if they wanted to. But then again, who’d actually want to go even if they were allowed in the first place?
“It’s just sheer madness.”
Rank S Hunters possessing American citizenship had begun gathering in the most luxurious hotel in the State of Maryland by the time news broke from South Korea and indeed, they all got to hear it.
Most of them had received a boost to their abilities through the power of ‘Upgrader’, Madam Selner.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch of one’s imagination to call this gathering as the world’s greatest armed force.
And, it was precisely a gathering of such individuals that they could simply laugh off the story of some nameless Hunter living in a small Asian nation.
“It hasn’t been long since his Re-Awakening, and he’s already drunk with his own powers.”
“That idiot, maybe he thinks fighting some measly bugs is the same as fighting against Giant monsters?”
“A Hunter who overestimates his ability will die 100% of the time. Who knew that the fame he got from killing the ants would end up shortening his life. How ironic.”
All these people had seen Jin-Woo’s brilliant performance in Jeju Island.
The power ‘Seong Jin-Woo’ possessed was certainly quite strong. However, the race of Giants was a whole different ball game.
Ants pushed forward with their overwhelming advantage in numbers, and that was why his ability to summon out countless creatures worked so well against them.
Even if he was physically strong, could he be able to fight alone against the Giant monsters, each one of them powerful enough to appear as bosses of the hardest difficulty dungeons found in the rank A Gates?
Besides, what about the boss-level Giant that used some truly astonishing agility to snatch up Yuri Orlov? That movement reminded one of a wild beast, not a humanoid creature.
Such a huge creature possessing incredible speed and agility – how could a single Hunter kill a monster like that?
These American Hunters jokingly began making bets.
“I bet my yacht on him getting killed in less than one day.”
“I bet my mansion on two days.”
“Well then, I….”
It was then.
“Will that really happen, I wonder?”
Thomas Andre, quietly dining all by himself in the corner, lowered his utensils and opened his mouth. He was one of the five Special Authority-rank Hunters in existence.
Strong Awakened continued to appear after the ‘Kamish’ subjugation operation had ended, but none were able to exceed the levels of those Hunters who managed to survive the worst crisis to go down in the history of mankind.
When such a man formed a smirk, everyone else ceased their useless banter right away.
“I shall bet the Scavenger Guild on him surviving till the end.”
He leisurely scanned the other Hunters from beneath his sunglasses and left the restaurant.
Once he left, the uncomfortable silence descended on the crowd. Eventually, though, one of the Hunters frowned in dissatisfaction and broke this stifling quietness.
“That man, he just knows how to ruin the atmosphere, doesn’t he?”
“This ain’t the first time that freak did this, anyway. It’s better to just forget about him, man.”
“Right. Even if that Korean Hunter is really strong, it’s almost impossible for him to stop all those rank S Giants alone.”
A Hunter listening quietly to the side chimed in just then.
“I heard that he’s not alone, though? That another Hunter is going with him?”
It was as they suspected. Even if that Korean was a madman, surely he’d not think of walking into hell all by himself. Other Hunters nodded their heads, and one of them threw a question.
“Which other stupid rank S is following him now?”
“No, I hear it’s not a rank S.”
The three Hunters listening began exchanging strange glances.
That Korean was going to fight rank S Giants, yet he was taking along a Hunter who was ranked below S?!
“Is he taking a rank A Healer, then?”
“Nope. A rank D Tanker named Yu Jin-Ho or something.”
As if they had made a prior arrangement, the three Hunters all forgot what they wanted to say and kept their mouths shut.
This Hunter named Seong Jin-Woo, he must’ve misplaced not just one screw, but several of them in his head. Maybe, these crazies all shared some sort of an understanding?
A single thought brushed past the brains of these three Hunters that just maybe, it might not be a coincidence that Thomas Andre happened to support Seong Jin-Woo’s endeavour.
Incheon International Airport.
“Ah, hold on. We’re passing through!”
Yu Jin-Ho parted the sea of people blocking his path and walked forward in an imposing manner.
A huge pair of sunglasses hid his face, and both of his hands were carrying two suitcases packed full of their gear.
The determination oozing out of his expression was serious enough to shame the top movie star about to make his grand appearance in the climactic battle scene.
“We’re passing through-!!”
Yu Jin-Ho carved out a path, and Jin-Woo wordlessly followed behind.
Click, click, click, click, click!!
Reporters continued to click away with their cameras, afraid that they might miss even a second of Jin-Woo. Quite unlike Yu Jin-Ho, who was quite clearly excited about the trip, he remained calm and collected, though.
Japan had sent a private plane once they heard the news of Jin-Woo wanting to go there. And of course, all entry procedures had been wavered away, as well.
Just before he climbed aboard the plane, Jin-Woo discovered a couple of familiar faces coming to see him off. They belonged to the Association President Goh Gun-Hui as well as Section Chief Woo Jin-Cheol.
They exchanged simple nods as their greeting and huddled together to converse among themselves. It was rather chaotic inside the airport, but all three of them were top Hunters with highly-attuned senses. So, there was no need for them to raise their voices high.
Goh Gun-Hui was first to speak, his expression still one of rueful unwillingness.
“Even now, I wish I could change your mind.”
Jin-Woo could be seen as the strongest fighting force out of all the Hunters that South Korea currently possessed. Rather obviously, Goh Gun-Hui didn’t want to let such an asset travel somewhere else.
Put bluntly, who could tell what might happen in South Korea during his absence? Unfortunately, Jin-Woo had made up his mind already.
“I’m sorry. I want to go there.”
He wanted to kill those Giants and raise his level, as well as to increase the number of his Shadow Soldiers.
This was the reason why he demanded all rights to these monsters be handed over to him, and the Japanese government welcomed that very obvious demand with wide open arms.
Goh Gun-Hui let a genial chuckle escape from his mouth.
“Is it because of the monsters over there?”
Jin-Woo grinned as well.
“I simply wish to fight against the monsters.”
“If that’s what you wish for, then there’s nothing we can do.”
Goh Gun-Hui extended his hand out and Jin-Woo firmly shook that hand. As their clenched hands rose and fell, the former bade his earnest goodbye.
“I pray that you’ll come back to us safe and sound.”
Hundreds of camera lenses captured the sight of these two men shaking their hands in its full glory.
The news of Jin-Woo coming over became the sole ray of hope in the storm of darkness for the Japanese survivors. Those few still-remaining TV stations continued to play the footage related to Jin-Woo over and over again.
People watched his feats and continued to hold on to this renewed thread of hope.
They all felt this electrifying jolt course through their bodies whenever the rank S ant monsters were swept away in their TV screens. Many Japanese who didn’t show much interest during the Korea-Japan united raid operation now clung desperately to the rebroadcast of that raid.
And as the news that the Giants’ relentless march southward had picked up its pace entered their ears, their desperation also grew heavier and heavier as well.
“They said that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo has arrived in Japan!”
A young boy shouted out as he listened to a radio. The complexions of people around him brightened in an instant.
However, not everyone had discovered the ray of hope, unfortunately.
Those trapped in locations where electricity and gas supply had been cut off from the attacks of the Giants, they weren’t able to hear about the arrival of the timely help.
Instead, their sole ray of hope remained with the arrival of the rescue party.
“The JSDF is here!”
Two soldiers carrying pale faces stepped into a small rural nursing hospital run by an old couple.
The aged doctor and his wife let out a sigh of relief after seeing the young soldiers, as they had been praying for the rescue parties to come by.
Unfortunately for them, the situation was not as good as they have been hoping for.
The soldiers shook their heads helplessly.
“We simply don’t have the space to carry every patient you have. At a push, we can only accommodate three, four more.”
The old lady addressed the soldiers.
“But, that can’t be…. We have over ten patients who suffer from mobility issues.”
The old doctor nodded his head in agreement. Regardless, the young soldiers from the JSDF stomped their feet in anxiety.
“Now isn’t the time to worry about those people who might die any second, anyway! Giants are heading this way as we speak!”
The young JSDF soldier, his face caked with sweat, got angry and shouted out.
The residents of the surrounding area had been evacuated already. This was the sole place where the scent of humans could be found, so it was only a matter of time before a Giant would show up here.
The old doctor looked down at the floor for a moment or two, before raising his head up.
“I can’t abandon my patients. My wife and I have promised that we’ll stay by the sides of our patients until the end.”
The doctor’s voice carried his strong determination. The two young soldiers glared angrily at the doctor, but in the end, had no choice but to pick up their walkie-talkies.
“….Civilians have refused to be evacuated. We are withdrawing from this location.”
They deliberately spoke loudly as if to let others hear them, and urgently left the building once they finished their communication. Soon, the sound of the car’s ignition coming to life could be heard. The old couple sighed at length and quietly consoled each other.
But then, one of the soldiers they thought had left suddenly rushed back inside. He was carrying a cocked rifle to boot, as well.
“W-what are you doing?”
The old couple was taken greatly by surprise and held onto each other. The soldier yelled out loudly, veins popping up on his throat.
“If you stay here, Giants will rip you to death! Rather than dying such gruesome deaths, it’s better to just die by my hand!”
The muzzle was pointed at the old doctor before shifting over to his wife next. The old couple flinched every time that happened.
“This is your final warning. Will you come with us? Or will you die by my hand?”
The young soldier stopped talking there and took aim with his gun.
The old couple didn’t say anything for a long while. How could they not know that the young man in front of their eyes wanted to take them with him?
However, the old couple couldn’t reply that easily. Because, doing that would be akin to turning his back on his belief, the one that led him to serve his community and its people for his entire life.
Moments that felt like an eternity passed them by.
The young soldier’s face was already a mess of dried sweat, but then, another thick strand of fresh sweat rolled down his forehead. It travelled along his brow and entered his eye, blurring his vision and stinging him somewhat in the process.
He furrowed his brows just then. Then, this happened.
The young soldier’s stomach let the world know of his hunger. However, he didn’t pay any attention to that and maintained his murderous gaze. But then….
“Excuse me, young man.”
The young soldier was taken greatly by surprise by the sudden voice coming from his side and quickly took aim at the sickbed.
“W-what do you want?”
In that darkened corner of the hospital ward, a grandmother was sitting on one of the sickbeds. She quietly pushed forward a tray. There was a couple of ‘onigiri’ on it.
The grandma offered them with a gentle smile.
“If you’re hungry, eat these. I just can’t work up an appetite nowadays.”
Only then did the young soldier lower his rifle.
As he received the onigiri, the young soldier’s hands trembled. At that moment, he remembered the reason why he decided to put this uniform on in the first place.
Didn’t he choose to become a soldier so he could protect and fight for these kind-hearted citizens? Yet, to think, he was about to ignore them and run away just because some monsters were coming to attack this place.
He became so deeply ashamed of his powerlessness.
Tears he couldn’t understand began streaming down his face.
He quietly picked up his walkie-talkie and sent his comrade away. The old doctor was taken by surprise and hurriedly grasped the young soldier’s shoulder.
“What are you planning to do, young man?”
“I’ll stay behind with you.”
The young soldier of the JSDF slung the rifle over his shoulder.
“I am a soldier, sir. I can’t run away by myself knowing that there are citizens remaining here.”
He then somehow managed to chew and swallow down the onigiri, even though his throat was currently choked up with emotion. He deeply bowed towards the grandmother.
“Thank you for the meal. It was really delicious, ma’am.”
Thud, thud, thud!!
The ground began quaking all on their own.
The young soldier formed a resolute expression as he ran out of the nursing hospital. He found a single Giant monster approaching this location at a frightening speed. It was crawling on all fours like an actual wild beast.
As the young soldier took aim, his sights spotted something off.
The Giant was currently biting on his comrade that had set off a little earlier. The eyes of the young soldier reddened in an instant.
The soldier fired his rifle at the approaching Giant.
Blam, blam, blam, blam, blam!!
Unfortunately, the weapons of modern civilisation couldn’t harm these monsters. The Giant easily brushed off the hail of bullets and arrived before the young soldier in the blink of an eye.
The ammo-less rifle could only spit out empty coughs and nothing else. More tears formed in the eyes of the young soldier.
‘Oh, dear god, please….’
The Giant monster raised its head to swallow the human it was gnawing on, before leaping towards the young soldier.
It was right at that moment.
A massive Naga slammed into the side of the Giant monster without warning.
< Chapter 170 > Fin.