I Alone Level-Up
What were the odds of finding a familiar face occupying a seat next to yours after boarding a plane?
Jin-Woo was guided to the first class cabin by the stewardess, but before he could take his seat, he could only stare vacantly at his temporary neighbour. He then spoke in a rather exasperated voice.
“I hope you aren’t going to blame this one on coincidence.”
“I’d be happy, very much so, if you did, but… yes, it does sound like a bit of stretch, doesn’t it?”
Listening to a blue-eyed foreigner speak such fluent Korean still remained a rather disharmonious experience to Jin-Woo. He didn’t take his eyes off the man as he settled down on his seat.
“We meet again, Mister Adam White.”
“It’s an honour to speak to you again, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
The Senior Agent from America’s Hunter Bureau, Adam White, still carried that amiable smile as he bowed his head, just like the first time they met.
Jin-Woo scanned the rest of the first-class cabin.
‘Ah, so that was why….’
He was wondering why there were two pretty strong Hunters present in the first-class cabin, but now he could venture a guess and say that they were also affiliated with the Hunter Bureau.
Two men kitted out in black business suits met Jin-Woo’s drifting gaze and silently nodded their heads as their greeting.
Here was the thing, though – including the people of the Monitoring Division from the Association as well as these two, why did these ‘agents’ of something or rather all walk around wearing black business suits as if that was their uniform?
Were they trying to show off the fact that they were agents of some organisation?
Jin-Woo studied those two men with such needless thoughts swirling in his head. In the meantime, though, Adam White was letting out a sigh of admiration.
“We’ve only met once briefly, yet you still remember my name. I’m honoured.”
“Well, let’s just say that our first meeting had been too memorable not to remember.”
“I’d like to offer my apology about that day’s events. We certainly didn’t expect there would be a Hunter Madam Selner’s abilities couldn’t reach….”
Jin-Woo lightly waved his hand about.
Because, as far as apologies were concerned, he heard plenty from the deputy director himself until he felt almost fed up on that very day. He didn’t feel like bringing that subject back up again.
However, he was still curious as to why the agents of the Hunter Bureau, who seemed to have cleanly given up on reeling him in, had appeared before him like this.
“I thought our negotiation had broken down completely?”
Jin-Woo’s voice became lower. It was at that moment the amiable smile disappeared from Adam White’s face.
“We’re aware that seeking you out like this without a prior heads-up is quite rude, but an urgent situation had developed and we had no choice but to contact you.”
Jin-Woo abruptly recalled the news of a rank S Gate appearing somewhere in the eastern US.
“Could it be that you guys also failed to handle that rank S Gate….?”
“Mm? Ah, no. Not that. We took care of that one, no problem.”
If this wasn’t about the rank S Gate, then what other problem could there be? Could this matter be somehow related to him killing the King of Giants?
When Jin-Woo displayed his clear interest, Adam White didn’t waste any more time and pulled out a notebook PC.
A video clip came up on the computer’s screen and it showed thick rising plumes of black smoke as if a wide-scale wildfire had broken out somewhere. Adam handed the laptop over to Jin-Woo so that the latter could watch the clip.
He could see that the firefighters were struggling mighty hard to rein in the flames that were clearly getting stronger and stronger. Those flames definitely contained magic energy.
– What is up with this fire? We can’t put it out!
– They can’t be a normal blaze!
– Heeey! Over there! Get away from there! You’ll turn into charcoal if you get brushed by the flames!
The firefighters were clearly in a panicked state. They seemed to be trying all sorts of methods but the raging inferno showed no signs of weakening at all.
No, it was actually only getting stronger and began to slowly box them in, instead.
A scorched tree toppled over, hitting another tree in the process and transferring the flames; it was a chain reaction giving birth to the unending inferno.
The billowing flames crashed forward like an angry tidal wave.
– Oh, my god!!
– Where is our back-up?!
– When are they arriving?!
It was right then. A helicopter arrived in the nick of time and several Mage-type Hunters disembarked from the vehicle. And they proceeded to pour out water-type magic on the flames.
After magical water spray slammed into the fiery forest dozens upon dozens of times, the inferno gradually was brought under control.
Jin-Woo carefully studied the video.
‘All these guys… are top-class Hunters.’
Judging from the strengths of the magic spells used, there was little doubt that they were top-ranked Hunters for sure.
Flames that could only be barely put under control after several top-ranked Hunters had to combine their forces together – this fact confirmed that the cause of the fire itself had to be one hell of a Hunter, as well.
– Oh, Mister Hunters!
– We, we’re saved….
– Thanks for your help, Hunters!
The firefighters continued to express their admiration as they gradually killed off the fire that lost most of its power. If the Hunters had arrived only a second later, there could have been a costly human tragedy unfolding in that location.
– Let’s go in deeper!
– The fire is dying out!
– We’ve done it! We’ve put out the fire!
The video clip was nearing its end. Seeing that there wasn’t much time left in the video’s duration, Jin-Woo felt it strange and had to ask.
“Why are you showing me this?”
Sure, it had been an interesting viewing experience, but people coming to see him because of some wildfire in the US didn’t make much sense to him at all.
Adam White reached out and skipped forward to the last part of the clip.
“Here… please watch the end.”
The guy shooting the video broke past the thick black smoke still rising up and continued to venture deeper into the scorched forest until the footage could capture the origin of the inferno.
There must have been an incredibly powerful explosion, judging from the radius of things being swept away.
And in the centre of that radius…..
A single corpse was lying face down there.
There was no need to confirm if the victim was still alive or not. There was a wide hole in his chest and that should have been the exact spot where his heart used to be.
“In order to put out the fire this man caused, over 1800 firefighters and 14 Mage-type Hunters had to be mobilised.”
Not only that, they were all top-ranked Hunters, too.
14 high-ranking Hunters had to give their all just to put out a fire lingering around after the one activating it had died already? Just from that alone, Jin-Woo was able to make an educated guess at the identity of the corpse lying face down on the ground.
“Could it be, is he….?”
As Jin-Woo looked up at him, Adam White replied with a melancholic expression.
“As I thought, you have recognised him. Indeed, it was Christopher Reid Hunter-nim.”
The previously-unsure Jin-Woo’s eyes widened in shock.
But, this didn’t make sense. A Special-Authority Hunter, one of the world’s very best, had been murdered by someone else?
“We also don’t want to believe it, but he had definitely been assassinated.”
Right at the end of the video playback, one of the firefighters flipped Christopher Reid’s body on its back. With that, one could see the state of the corpse far more clearly.
Not just a hole in his chest, no, there were several horrible wounds inflicted all over his body, too. They were definitely traces of an intense battle.
“And finally, these are….”
Adam White pulled out several photos from his inner pocket and spoke up.
“These are the photos of the being we at the Hunter Bureau strongly suspect to be the culprit in this case.”
Jin-Woo could only feel confused from the way Adam White said his words, as he didn’t sound like he was talking about a man or a woman – as if he wasn’t talking about a human but a ‘thing’, instead. Soon, though, the Korean’s gaze lowered down to the photographs.
There was no need to even take them for a closer look. Jin-Woo simply stood up from his seat and beckoned with his finger, and that caused Adam White to rise up automatically from his seat, as well.
Adam White’s eyes opened up wide in surprise.
Jin-Woo used his ‘Ruler’s Authority’ to drag the American agent in closer and grabbed hold of the latter’s collars.
Now that they were close enough for their noses to touch, Jin-Woo spoke in a voice a few octaves lower than before.
“If this is your way of trying to play some kind of a trick… you, all of you, won’t walk out of here alive.”
He was not making an empty threat here, either.
Jin-Woo’s cold eyes were gleaming like a wild, ferocious beast as he genuinely emitted a murderous intent.
Adam White, although his collars were held tight, still managed to cry out.
“Don’t! Don’t do it!”
Of course, he wasn’t shouting at Jin-Woo.
His desperate dissuasion managed to stop just in time the movements of the two high-ranking Hunters about to descend on Jin-Woo.
Having successfully stopped the actions akin to pouring oil into the fire, Adam White then pleaded with Jin-Woo next.
“That being in the photo walked out from a dungeon! He’s most likely not the person you know!”
Jin-Woo’s grip on Adam White’s collars relaxed just a tad. Being able to breathe just a bit easier now, the American hurriedly added more explanation.
“The magic energy emission from that guy was a match to that of monsters, and he suddenly began attacking our rank S Hunter, as well.”
Jin-Woo’s gaze lowered down to the photos that fell out of Adam White’s hands. The person being photographed by the CCTV cameras was…
None other than Jin-Woo’s father.
‘My dad came out of a dungeon, and started attacking other Hunters?’
As Jin-Woo began falling into confusion, Adam White quickly clarified himself.
“Do you still remember the accident that happened a few months ago in the HQ of Hunter Bureau? That explosion?”
How could Jin-Woo forget? That incident caused quite a bit of clamour around the world, after all.
All sorts of wild conspiracy theories were flung about, such as – the explosion being the result of a secret experiment gone wrong, a high-ranking Hunter running amok, or even two rank S Awakened fighting each other, etc.
“Are you telling me that was the handiwork of my father?”
Adam White nodded his head.
“He beat down one of our Hunters and vanished into thin air. We at the Hunter Bureau continued to chase him in secrecy, but as if he had disappeared from this world, we couldn’t find any traces of him.
Jin-Woo wordlessly listened to Adam White’s explanation.
“I understand how you feel, Hunter-nim. However, that person fits the profile best for this particular crime.”
For one, he had the precedence of attacking another Hunter, he was strong enough to easily exceed a rank S Awakened, and finally, his whereabouts were a complete mystery. It would not be all that strange to see the Hunter Bureau designate the ‘being claiming to be Seong Il-Hwan’ as one of the main suspects.
However, even if he took what Adam White said as 100% truth….
Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed down to a slit.
“What is your reason for showing me those pictures?”
“The International Guild Conference.”
“During the International Guild Conference, where the representatives from the world’s leading Guilds will gather in one spot, the higher-ups of the Hunter Bureau are planning to distribute that person’s pictures.”
Meaning, they would no longer keep the investigation a secret.
It also meant that the American government had become really enraged by the loss of an invaluable asset called a Special Authority-rank Hunter and they would fully mobilise every resource at their disposal in tracking down and apprehending the party responsible.
In that regard, there would be no better timing than the International Guild Conference.
The assassination of a Special Authority-rank Hunter – quite obviously, gathered Guilds would pay extra attention to this topic, and the announcement from the Hunter Bureau would certainly intensify their interest.
“We at the Hunter Bureau would like to continue maintaining our amicable relationship with you, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
“So, you came to inform me first before the public announcement takes place, is that it?”
Adam White managed to move his still-restricted head up and down with some difficulty.
“I-if you attend the gathering only to be confronted by the images of your father, you’d no doubt become shocked and confused by it, wouldn’t you agree?”
Even if it was unknown whether that thing was really his father returning from the dungeon or a fake that simply looked like him.
From the death of a Special Authority-rank Hunter, to the existence of a being calling itself Seong Il-Hwan, and finally, even about the warrant itself – these were the Hunter Bureau’s way of showing consideration, as they had rated Jin-Woo’s abilities very highly and didn’t want to become his enemy.
Jin-Woo’s silence continued on.
He could sense truthfulness from the pleading eyes and voice of Adam White. That came from an emotion borne out of friendly intentions.
Jin-Woo was thinking of not holding back the moment he sensed even a minute level of hostility here.
However, there was the photographic evidence of the being that resembled his father stepping on the neck of the Korean Hunter with American citizenship, Hwang Dong-Su.
He was unable to rebut the assertion of the Hunter Bureau that the person in these photographs couldn’t be a human being at all.
“We’d like to ask you for your understanding on why we had no choice but to do this.”
Only then did Jin-Woo let go of his collars. The red-faced Adam White coughed and wheezed heavily to the side.
Meanwhile, Jin-Woo picked up the photographs from the floor. No matter how hard he looked, the person in these pictures was definitely his father. His heart madly pounded away as he peered deeper.
Around at that time, the announcement from the pilots came out of the PA system.
[Ladies and gentlemen, the plane will land shortly.]
Even though a commotion broke out in its first-class cabin, the plane still managed to land without any further incident on the runaway of the Incheon International Airport.
Using the skill ‘Stealth’, Jin-Woo escaped from the eyes of all the reporters waiting for him there. The first thing he did after making his getaway was to call up Yu Jin-Ho.
– “Ah, hyung-nim! You arrived back in the country!”
Perhaps because his father had recovered fully, Yu Jin-Ho’s voice sounded even happier than before as he welcomed his hyung-nim back.
However, Jin-Woo was in no mood to smile right now.
“Looks like I’ll have to travel to the US next week, after all.”
– “Pardon? Are you talking about that International Guild Conference thing? Didn’t you say you weren’t interested in going, hyung-nim?”
“Situation has changed.”
He needed to find more information.
He needed to know more.
He needed some kind of proof so he could determine whether that being was really his father or something else.
In order to meet his goal, he had no choice but to attend this International Guild Conference.
“Can you book me the plane ticket, then?”
When he asked, an unhesitating reply came right back at him.
– “In that case, I shall book two return tickets immediately, hyung-nim!”
Adam White couldn’t stand back up again for a long while even after Jin-Woo had left the plane. He tried to get up, only to stagger unsteadily on his feet. The Hunters escorting him quickly asked.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, more or less. Just that I’m a bit exhausted right now.”
Adam White sounded more like he was trying to console himself, instead. The Hunters helped him to stand up straight again.
Because his major was in criminal psychology, he got to interrogate his fair share of rather horrible human beings so far. But still, this would be his first time being terrified of another person to this degree.
He could still recall Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s quiet yet cold eyes seemingly tightening around his neck like a noose.
Adam White knew full well that the Korean was not going to come back to harm him, yet just from remembering those eyes, he felt his bowels tighten.
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo before and after the photos was like two different people altogether.
‘A person can switch that much, huh.’
However, the truly shocking thing was something else. Adam White asked the Hunters for the confirmation.
“I need to confirm with you both since it happened too quickly for me. Just now, didn’t Hunter Seong Jin-Woo somehow move me without touching me at all, right?”
The two high-ranking Hunters, who wouldn’t lose out to anyone on the matters of excellent eyesight, nodded their heads as their reply to Adam White’s question.
‘I thought as much…!’
The American agent was now properly freaking out now. He definitely hadn’t seen it incorrectly. That Korean man, he could use psychokinesis.
Up until now, he was under the impression that the psychokinesis was the exclusive ability only available to the Special Authority-rank Hunters. However, Hunter Seong had used it without so much as batting an eyelid.
Adam White felt goosebumps breaking out all over his skin.
Seong Jin-Woo was the first one discovered to possess the psychokinesis skill outside the five Special Authority-rank Hunters.
‘There is no time to waste.’
His trembling hand picked up his phone. The ringtone went for a little while before the deputy director answered the call.
Adam White did his best to calm his trembling voice.
“Deputy director… I just discovered the sixth one.”
< Chapter 183 > Fin.