I Alone Level-Up
The explosive flooding of phone calls from various TV stations and newspapers desperate for an interview with Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was so severe that it almost completely paralysed the Japanese Hunter’s Association.
“Hello, this is the Japanese Hunter’s Associa….”
– “Excuse me, hi, I’m the guy who called you just now. How about this? Instead of an interview, just a couple of quick Q&A sessions with the Hunter?”
“Mister Director, that is the very definition of an interview!”
– “No, no, no! Hang on! How about, we don’t show the face of the Hunter-nim and just the subtitles….”
“We already stated that the Hunter-nim has refused all filming and interview requests. I’m very sorry.”
“Yes, this is the Japanese Hunter’s…..”
– “This is the head of XX TV’s news programming department speaking. I’m calling you about….”
“No means no, sir.”
Such types of calls flooded in hundreds of times throughout the day, so it was only obvious that no normal work could get done under the circumstances.
The person in charge of the department tasked with answering calls began developing a migraine just from hearing the ringtones of a phone now.
‘This just goes to show that the interest of the mass media is focused on Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim currently.’
….It wasn’t as if he couldn’t understand their interest, either. Who’d not be interested in the story of one man solving a crisis that had destroyed almost 40% of the Japanese mainland?
Even he himself wanted to know more about who this Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was, and was also curious to hear what he had to say, too.
Still, that was that, and this was something else.
He was burdened with the immense weight of the duty that the title of employee of the Japanese Hunter’s Association carried.
And currently, his duty was to respect and uphold the desire of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo who didn’t want to do any interviews whatsoever, by shutting out in advance all forms of requests flooding in from the mass media companies.
‘I can’t let the saviour of my nation feel displeased, now can I?’
The manager nodded his head with a determined expression on his face. In the meantime, a hesitant newbie employee approached him to ask something.
“Excuse me…. Manager?”
Even before the newbie could say something, the man in charge cut him off right away.
“Just tell them no.”
He didn’t have to hear anything, really. Most likely, this newbie couldn’t endure against the threats thrown around by some higher-ups in a TV station or a newspaper from somewhere and just wanted to get the manager’s confirmation next.
Unfortunately, he was a bit off the mark this time.
“No, sir. It’s not that, but we just got a call from South Korea.”
“Yes, sir. A person calling himself Goh Gun-Hui from the Korean Hunter’s Association wishes to speak to a person in charge.”
The manager had been listening to the newbie with some amount of disinterest, but now, an expression of fluster quickly filled up his face.
“You sure it’s Goh Gun-Hui?”
There couldn’t have been two different people with the name ‘Goh Gun-Hui’ in South Korea’s Hunter’s Association.
The whole world knew about the cordial cooperative relationship between Hunter Seong Jin-Woo and the Korean Hunter’s Association. And wasn’t it Goh Gun-Hui who announced Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s expedition to Japan live on TV?
The manager’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets, before he hurriedly ran back to his desk while shouting at the top of his voice, thick veins now visibly bulging out on his neck.
“Let the call through!! Hurry up!”
“Ah, yes, sir.”
“You’re now speaking to the person in charge, Association President Goh Gun-Hui, sir.”
The manager picked the receiver up half in doubt, but his expression gradually hardened as he listened to the fluent Japanese coming from the speaker.
“Yes, yes. I understand. Yes, I shall get in contact with them right away.”
He’d never get tired of this sight no matter how many times he saw it.
Yu Jin-Ho was letting out yet another gasp of admiration today.
He felt deeply moved whenever he saw the scene of the giant black creature standing up from the Giant’s corpse before kneeling down to swear his allegiance to his hyung-nim. It was like watching a scene from a movie or something.
‘This is so cool, hyung-nim!’
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes sparkled in respect and admiration, but then, his ears picked up on the commotion raised by the shocked voices coming from behind.
“What the heck, how can something like that….?!”
“W-what’s going on? What’s this?”
He had seen this sight many times now and still couldn’t get fully used to it, so how would these Japanese villagers seeing hyung-nim’s ability for the first time feel right now?
He might not understand what they were talking about, but he could more or less guess the contents of their conversation. Yu Jin-Ho felt deeply flattered as if he was the one being talked about here.
Yu Jin-Ho was standing around with a bit of a swollen ego for some reason, but then, an employee from the Japanese Association searching for the two Koreans approached closer and engaged him in a conversation.
“By any chance, are you Hunter-nim?”
“Ah, if you’re looking for hyung-nim, he’s over…..”
When Yu Jin-Ho heard the word ‘Hunter’, he immediately pointed to Jin-Woo over yonder, but the employee quickly shook his head and pointed to the younger Korean man, instead.
“No, no. You.”
Yu Jin-Ho blinked his eyes several times.
Yu Jin-Ho utilised his meagre English skills to reconfirm that it was indeed him the Japanese wanted, and quickly received a smartphone from the latter.
And then…. His expression gradually hardened as he listened to the call.
Until the call came to an end, Yu Jin-Ho simply repeated “Yes, yes” over and over again.
Jin-Woo finished up with storing the giant soldier in his shadow and left the damaged storage facility. Yu Jin-Ho quickly approached him as if waiting for this moment and lowered his head.
“I’m sorry, hyung-nim. Looks like I’ll have to go back to Korea right away.”
Seeing how serious Yu Jin-Ho’s expression was, Jin-Woo couldn’t help but ask.
“I’m not too sure myself. It’s just that, I’ve been told there’s been an emergency at home and I need to go back immediately.”
Jin-Woo shut his mouth. He could think of a reason already.
‘Chairman Yu’s illness….’
If his suspicion proved to be correct, then it was understandable why the caller was unable to provide much clarification over the phone to Yu Jin-Ho. How could anyone say to a son in another country that his father had fallen into a comatose state over a phone call?
So, Jin-Woo didn’t inquire any further.
“Okay, got it. You worked hard until now.”
“No, not at all, hyung-nim. I’m sorry about not sticking around until the end of this thing.”
Yu Jin-Ho respectfully apologised one more time before climbing aboard the car the Japanese Association had provided. The driver turned the car around and set off towards the airport.
Jin-Woo wordlessly stared at the back of the departing car.
Yu Jin-Ho did his best to sound assured and relaxed in front of his hyung-nim, but in reality, he could barely keep his worries in check.
He could still recall his mom’s voice on the phone. It was the first time that her warm and kind voice sounded so shaken like that.
‘Just what had happened?’
His heart was pounding away madly right now.
Could it be, his father got really angry that his son hadn’t asked for permission and blindly followed his hyung-nim to Japan, seemingly without a plan? Surely, no parent out there would welcome a foolish child willingly walking into a lion’s den, now would there?
Yu Jin-Ho dazedly stared outside the car’s window before shaking his head hard as if to clear out all the unnecessary stuff from his mind.
‘No, I should not think about anything for the time being.’
He had no idea what was going on, so if he kept worrying about it right now, it’d only make his thoughts more complicated. As a matter of fact, it could be nothing serious, as well.
Until he landed back on the Incheon International Airport, he continued to carry such a hopeful thought, however tiny, in his heart.
Unfortunately for him…
“Yu Jin-Ho-gun.” (TL note at the end)
….The moment he discovered the swollen eyes of Secretary Kim ahjussi coming to fetch him, he realised immediately that something really bad had happened.
“A car is waiting for you. For the time being, please come with me.”
‘….What’s going on….’
Yu Jin-Ho so desperately wanted to ask that question. However, he was scared of the potential answer and couldn’t mouth those three words.
Secretary Kim pointed at the outside of the airport.
For some reason, though, Yu Jin-Ho’s feet didn’t want to move from the spot. Perhaps understanding what was going through the young man’s head, Secretary Kim placed his hand on Yu Jin-Ho’s shoulder.
“Jin-Ho-gun…. You need to stay strong in times like these. I shall explain everything on our way.”
Yu Jin-Ho’s tears welled up from those words.
Secretary Kim explained Chairman Yu Myung-Han’s current condition to Yu Jin-Ho as they rode on the car.
But, that couldn’t be; Yu Jin-Ho desperately tried to reject Secretary Kim’s explanations.
No, he didn’t want to believe it.
Unfortunately, after arriving in the hospital – he had no choice but to believe when he saw his sleeping father’s face through the glass wall partition. He remained still as if he was dead.
At the same time, it felt like something in his heart had shattered to pieces.
Seeing his father, who looked so mighty and imposing, lying there on the hospital bed looking so wane and weak, something hard and powerful welled up from deep within.
Yu Jin-Ho tried to rush into the hospital room, but the doctors quickly blocked his way.
The approach of a Hunter who couldn’t control his magic energy leakage would only worsen the patient’s condition. Hearing that explanation from the doctors, Yu Jin-Ho’s expression became a person whose soul had abandoned him.
“So, that’s how it was….”
He was a son who always disappointed his father. And now, he couldn’t even hold his father’s hand for one last time, too. Faced with such a fitting end for himself, he couldn’t even shed a tear anymore.
“I see. I’ve been a completely useless son, even till the end.”
Yu Jin-Ho turned on his heels in dejection. But then, Secretary Kim approached him and handed over a black leather-bound case file.
“What… is this?”
Yu Jin-Ho weakly raised his head up after receiving this unknown file. Secretary Kim calmly explained himself.
“This is the item the Chairman was working on before he collapsed, actually. I’ve kept it with me in case he searched for it after waking up, but…. But, I thought that you might need it more than I do, Jin-Ho-gun.”
“This…. you think so?”
Yu Jin-Ho alternated his gaze between Secretary Kim and the file. Eventually, he cautiously opened it.
It was a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings.
Every single page was packed full of articles from various newspapers containing either his older brother Yu Jin-Seong or his older sister Yu Jin-Hui.
‘From father to son.’
Yu Jin-Ho wondered just from where he got this habit of cutting out and keeping the newspaper articles he liked, but it seemed that he got it from his father.
‘To think, he had this kind of a hobby….’
Even when stewing in sorrow, a grin still managed to squeak out as he looked at his brother and sister when they were young kids.
Both of them were the pride of his father.
In all sorts of academic competitions, talent contests and concours – they were geniuses that made their names known throughout the country in their favourite subjects.
It was rather obvious that this scrapbook would be filled with articles related to the two of them. As he flipped through the pages, Yu Jin-Ho grew more and more embarrassed by the fact that not a single photo of him could be found within.
However, just as he flipped to the last page, his hands came to an abrupt stop.
[The Vice Chair of Ah-Jin Guild: Who is Yu Jin-Ho?]
[Two Hunters heading off to Japan.]
[The choice of a rank D Hunter: Is it bravery or foolhardiness?]
There were articles containing his name. Even those meaningless gossip pieces didn’t escape his father’s attention and found themselves cut out and pasted carefully within the page.
No words wanted to come out of Yu Jin-Ho’s mouth.
While he stood there like that, a newspaper article that hadn’t been fully cropped out fell to the floor. He hurriedly bent down to the floor and picked it up, only for the tears to stream down from his eyes.
It was an article containing the photo of himself beaming brightly to the camera. That was taken when, after Jin-Woo killed the boss-level Giant monster, he refused all filming and interview requests from the countless reporters flooding into the location, so Yu Jin-Ho stepped up as the stand-in, instead.
The article was dated today.
Secretary Kim squeezed Yu Jin-Ho’s shoulder and spoke.
“It’s not true that Chairman Yu never loved you, Jin-Ho-gun. As great as his love for you, he also held equally great expectations of you.”
Yu Jin-Ho wordlessly sat there, his shoulders shuddering uncontrollably as he cried. He somehow managed to calm his aching heart and stood back up.
“Dad… Is there any way to wake my father up?”
Secretary Kim shook his head with a darkened complexion.
There was no officially known case of patients opening their eyes again after entering the ‘final sleep’ state. With the sole exception of one person, that was.
Secretary Kim’s thoughts arrived there and spoke up with some difficulty.
“By any chance… Yu Jin-Ho-gun?”
“…..No, it’s nothing. Don’t mind me.”
However, Secretary Kim couldn’t bring himself to say what was on his mind.
Planting a seed of hope when things were uncertain could prove to be even crueler in some cases. And now would be such a time.
Yu Jin-Ho continued to shed long, hard tears as he looked at his father through the glass wall, while Secretary Kim silently swallowed back what he initially wanted to say.
And the conversation they shared was silently listened in on by Yu Jin-Ho’s shadow.
< Chapter 179 > Fin.