I Alone Level-Up
The American Hunter Bureau released the list of the Guilds invited to the conference.
[Sicario Guild, Alron Diaz (Mexico)]
[Ah-Jin Guild, Seol Jin-Woo (South Korea)]
[Ira et Vitae Guild, Fabio Garco (Italy)]
The International Guild Conference.
It was an important event where Guilds representing their nations were invited over to discuss the current trends and future prospects of the Hunter community at large.
And ‘Ah-Jin Guild’ had been chosen to represent South Korea. Its participation in the conference became the hot topic of conversation for both the local and international mass media.
The thing was, Jin-Woo was the sole high-ranking Hunter affiliated with that Guild as well as its Master. This invitation was no different from the American Hunter Bureau publicly acknowledging that this single Hunter was in no way inferior to any of the very best Guilds in the world. Guilds that countless high-ranked Hunters worked for.
However – no, perhaps unsurprisingly – not one person raised a voice of discontent. Because, was there really a need to discuss whether that lone Hunter was qualified or not in this case?
Jin-Woo already possessed the records of solving two massive crises on the level of bringing their respective nations down to their knees in South Korea and Japan. Most importantly, all by himself, too.
Quite obviously, no one now dismissed the capabilities of the Ah-Jin Guild, or more precisely, the core of the Guild itself, Jin-Woo, and his abilities.
No, even more than that – quite a few people around the world were getting rather hyped up from the prospect of a brand new super-powerful Hunter participating in the gathering, where the strongest Awakened scattered throughout the world would stand on one stage.
Whenever the international mass media talked about the Japanese dungeon break incident, they also mentioned Ah-Jin Guild planning to participate in the International Guild Conference in the same breath as if it was the most obvious thing to do.
South Korea was no exception.
As the local interest in the International Guild Conference heated up, one of the TV stations requested the Master of the Hunters Guild, Choi Jong-In, for an interview.
He knew that the station couldn’t ask Jin-Woo for one and had sought him out as an alternative, but still, he readily said yes.
And so, the interview being broadcast live to the nation took up the time slot of the eight in the evening, the one seen as the most important hour just before the watershed.
“Hello, everyone. My name is Choi Jong-In, and I’m the person in charge of the Hunters Guild.”
His handsome visage and the inviting smile made sure to shake up the hearts of many ladies watching the broadcast.
Currently, the comments section of the TV station’s website was inundated with complaints from the female viewers at home. They all said that it should’ve been the Hunters Guild getting the invite for the conference, instead.
“Thank you for coming, Chairman Choi.”
The female interviewer lowered her head as a greeting and began asking the prepared questions.
“The news regarding Ah-Jin Guild has attracted a great deal of interest from many people around the country. But, what are your thoughts regarding this issue?”
Choi Jong-In didn’t even hesitate for a second before he made his reply.
“I believe that the American Hunter Bureau made the right choice.”
“It’s not ‘you understand the reason why’, but you believe it was the right choice?”
“Yes. I definitely believe that’s the case.”
“But, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Ah-Jin Guild is basically a one-man show, is it not?”
“Let’s not forget that that one-man show is currently being run by none other than Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.”
Choi Jong-In replied with an amiable smile on his face, and the interviewer also broke out in a smile, as well.
Before her smile could end, though, Choi Jong-In smoothly continued on.
“If you define the Guild staff members as personnel that could be mobilised in a combat situation, then you could say that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo already possesses hundreds of Guild staff members.”
“Are you referring to Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim’s summons?”
“That’s correct. I believe that Ah-Jin’s overall combat potential won’t lose out to anyone, even when compared to some of the very best Guilds around the world.”
“Just because of Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
“Yes, because of him.”
Choi Jong-In’s firm, unwavering reply caused an outbreak of low murmurings from the audience members in the studio, but the man himself remained calm in his demeanour.
He had witnessed Jin-Woo’s feats both directly and indirectly, so he was absolutely certain of this. Even now, his feelings hadn’t changed.
Every time he recalled Jin-Woo creating a path in that siege of ant monsters, all the back hair on Choi Jong-In’s neck would stand up and goosebumps quickly enveloped his entire body.
‘Just who out there would believe that, in the past, he used to be a rank E Hunter?’
Choi Jong-In didn’t hold back and acknowledged the difference in strength between his Guild and that of the Ah-Jin Guild, and that elevated the atmosphere of the TV studio to an even hotter degree than ever before.
The interviewer smiled in satisfaction, before cautiously studying Choi Jong-In’s response.
“Even still, the Hunters Guild can’t be too happy about this situation. After all, It was your Guild that had been participating in the Conference for the last several years.”
“Yes, it indeed hurts a little that our dream American trip had to be cancelled this year. I mean, we have all renewed our passports and been waiting for the invite to arrive in the mail, you see.”
Choi Jong-In joked around good-heartedly and that prompted a burst of laughter from the audience members.
“However, the pride I feel easily trumps any pain in my gut.”
Choi Jong-In’s smile that had been constantly fixed on his face was suddenly replaced by something much more earnest. The laughter from the audience members died out gradually. Meanwhile, the light within the interviewer’s eyes also became earnest, as well.
Words spoken from now on would be the main topic of this interview – such atmosphere emanated from the expression Choi Jong-In was making right now. Quite naturally, the gazes of the audience members were directed towards his lips next.
Choi Jong-In had appeared in TV shows quite often and knew how to play the crowd. He built up some suspense to get everyone psyched up first before opening his mouth.
“Please, think about it. Even if monsters my powers aren’t good enough to deal with appear before us, we now have a Hunter we can completely place our faith in.”
His words spoken from the depths of his heart carried a certain weight that no simple description could adequately convey. That weight from one man’s opinion bore down on the studio, leading to the interviewer and the audience members to forget what they wanted to say and simply stare at Choi Jong-In.
As silence filled the once-noisy filming venue, he quietly spoke up.
“In all honesty, my Guild members and I, not to mention countless other people affiliated with other Guilds, managed to survive all thanks to Hunter Seong coming to lend his aid.”
Choi Jong-In scanned the audience members. He wasn’t trying to achieve this effect, but still, the atmosphere had become quite sombre somehow.
In order to brighten up the mood, he formed a warm smile and finished what he wanted to say.
“I am genuinely proud of the fact that Hunter Seong has been chosen to represent South Korea.”
When he did, thunderous clapping exploded out from the audience members.
Choi Jong-In successfully concluded the interview and was about to leave the TV station when he received a call on his mobile phone.
He lifted up his vibrating phone to find the number belonging to his advisor in the Guild, manager Joh Myoung-Ki.
“Hello, this is Choi Jong-In.”
– “Sir, we got the raid permit for the Gate that appeared this morning in the suburb of Suseo-dong. It’s a rank A, but the actual measurement value apparently isn’t that high, sir.”
“That’s good news.”
Choi Jong-In formed a smile after hearing that piece of good news before tilting his head a little.
“By the way, did Ah-Jin Guild not apply for the raid permit again?”
– “Yes, sir. Now that you mention it, it’s been spookily quiet from them lately.”
It had been four days since Hunter Seong Jin-Woo had returned from Japan. And during that time, four high ranking Gates had opened up. Basically, it was at the rate of one a day.
The rate of high-ranked Gates being generated had gone up quite rapidly, yet the Ah-Jin Guild – or, more specifically, the entirety of Ah-Jin Guild itself, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, hadn’t shown any signs of movement at all.
But well, the major Guilds located in the Capital had been in a constant state of celebration day after day due to these events.
All because the destroyer of the monsters, the god of destroying dungeons who rushed in like crazy whenever a new Gate appeared so he could completely root out all monsters within, had not shown himself for the last few days.
However, Choi Jong-In felt a certain strange sense of discord whenever Seong Jin-Woo wasn’t there at the location of a Gate, and that made him feel a bit concerned.
‘I’m different from Baek Yun-Ho of the White Tiger or Im Tae-Gyu.’
If you didn’t care about anything else and simply felt happy about an apple suddenly falling from a tree, then what made you any different from a simple-minded ape?
Some would begin drooling at the prospect of free apples, while some others would start thinking about the laws of gravity.
Choi Jong-In thought that his class hadn’t fallen low enough to simply celebrate this sudden slice of good fortune. It was at that moment he got to hear the bright, innocent-sounding voice of manager Joh Myoung-Ki coming from the phone.
– “Nevertheless, our profit has gone up by nearly 40% after not experiencing any competition from Ah-Jin Guild, sir!”
“Well, here’s an ape…..”
– “Excuse me?”
“Ahh, never mind. It’s nothing.”
Choi Jong-In quickly changed the topic.
“Did the Association say they know what’s going on here?”
– “They believe that he’s at home, resting. The way I hear it, he hasn’t even shown up all that much in the Guild offices, either.”
– “Sir, I don’t think there’s a need to overcomplicate this. Couldn’t he be taking a bit of break in preparation for the International Guild Conference?”
Choi Jong-In shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s the case.”
Just what kind of a person was Hunter Seong Jin-Woo? Choi Jong-In spoke up his explanation.
“Before his ranking reassignment test, he cleared three to four lower-ranked Gates in a day. And after he became a rank S, he began intruding into the territory of other Guilds, and only a few days ago, he went to Japan and sorted out a rank S dungeon break all by himself. That’s who Hunter Seong Jin-Woo is.”
Having heard all heard that, even Joh Myoung-Ki became curious as to why Ah-Jin Guild had suddenly gone quiet recently. Didn’t Hunter Seong always show up in a place crawling with lots of monsters? He couldn’t have been fatigued from the Giant monster raid, right?
He now thought that his boss getting puzzled by the Ah-Jin Guild’s lack of activity was not so strange anymore.
– “Now that you mention it, sir, it does sound odd.”
“Oh, by the way. Wasn’t the Ah-Jin Guild supposed to interview the prospective employees today? But, he still didn’t show up there?”
– “Yes, sir. Seong Hunter-nim was nowhere to be found in the interview location. It was just that Vice Master, Yu Jin-Ho doing everything by himself.”
A short bout of silence flowed between the two men. Choi Jong-In eventually broke the silence first and spoke in a relatively calm voice.
“And how do you know that, manger Joh?”
– “I might really die at this rate, hyung-nim.”
The moment Jin-Woo answered the phone, Yu Jin-Ho began bitterly complaining. He couldn’t help but grin a little.
It must’ve indeed been tough staring at the faces of the applicants the whole day. Although the number of hopefuls had been carefully filtered and trimmed down, didn’t it still shoot past several hundred?
The kid might have been young, but he was doing his job as the Vice-Master of a Guild and the proxy of Jin-Woo admirably well.
‘Is this why the wise elders say you are your father’s child?’
Sure, his ‘dongsaeng’ might come across as a bit naïve and dopey, but within Yu Jin-Ho’s body flowed the blood of the natural-born business tycoon Chairman Yu Myung-Han.
And thanks to that, Jin-Woo could simply leave the running of the Guild to Yu Jin-Ho and freely pursue what he wanted to do.
“Thanks. You worked hard.”
– “No, not at all, hyung-nim. By the way, how are things on your side?”
Jin-Woo looked behind him. The JSDF soldiers on standby sent him a signal as if the preparations had been completed. Seeing that, a smile floated back up on his lips.
“Well, it’s the same old story. I guess things could get delayed a bit here, so close up shop without me.”
– “Got it, hyung-nim.”
Yu Jin-Ho’s polite goodbye signalled the end of the phone call.
An employee working for the Japanese Hunter’s Association hurriedly ran towards Jin-Woo and received the phone as well as his luggage. Having handed over his stuff for safekeeping, he slowly loosened his neck and shoulder muscles.
This state of heightened feelings he’d get while lightly stretching his muscles before a raid always served to relax his mind.
As if to provide a conversation partner while Jin-Woo was stretching his body, or maybe he was just curious about something, the Japanese Association employee suddenly asked a question.
“If you let the world know that you’re busy closing the Gates being generated in the disaster areas, your fame would skyrocket even further, so if I may ask, why are you keeping it a secret?”
Jin-Woo’s reply to that was pretty simple. He finished his light stretching exercise and grinned brightly.
“I like peace and quiet, you see.”
Humility was one of the highest praised qualities in Japanese society.
Tears began welling up in the eyes of the Association employee as he took Jin-Woo’s “peace and quiet” answer as the latter being modest in his actions.
“If you need anything, please let me know immediately! I shall absolutely do everything in my power to make it come true, even if that means I must die!!”
….Well, this guy seemed to be clearly mistaken about something, but as long as the end result was good, all’s well. Jin-Woo could only smile awkwardly and lightly patted the Japanese man on the shoulders before walking nearer to the Gate.
The JSDF soldiers stepped aside to create a path and saluted Jin-Woo.
This Gate was ranked at ‘A’. Jin-Woo had been travelling from Korea and Japan every day to monopolise all the high-ranking Gates the Japanese couldn’t handle by themselves.
He should thank the Japanese spy satellite that could detect magical energy, as well as his movement skill, ‘Shadow Exchange’, for this venture.
Jin-Woo stood before the Gate and looked up. Indeed, it was a pretty d*mn big thing that totally fit its rank A status.
He didn’t need to spend a heap of cash trying to book high-ranking Gates here, and the Japanese government even promised to waiver all related taxes.
However, the financial side of the things was not the biggest merit for him – no, it’d be the fact that he got to monopolise every single high-ranked Gates appearing within the breadth of Japan, a large country that had lost the functionality of Guilds after the dungeon break disaster.
‘Demon King’s Shortsword.’
A young soldier witnessed a pair of shortswords suddenly materialising in Jin-Woo’s hands and reflexively gasped out in surprise. And then, as if he got embarrassed by that outburst, he quickly bowed towards Jin-Woo.
He simply smirked as a reply and began walking towards the Gate.
‘Four days left until the International Guild Conference.’
Jin-Woo told himself that he couldn’t afford to waste a single day and jumped straight into the Gate. Along with the mechanical beep, he was also greeted by the familiar voice in his ears.
[You have entered a dungeon.]
“Will this be fine, sir?”
Woo Jin-Cheol cautiously asked his question. The Association President Goh Gun-Hui showed no signs of agitation as he received a report.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim…. Recently, he has been frequently visiting Japan.”
The Hunter’s Association could use the Hunter-issue smartphones to trace the current whereabouts of individual Hunters. And they had been feeding disinformation to those asking for Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s whereabouts as ordered by the Association President Goh Gun-Hui.
“What if Seong Hunter-nim decides to simply stay put in Japan….”
South Korea would be losing the greatest Hunter ever while sucking on their thumbs doing nothing. This would be Woo Jin-Cheol’s worry in a nutshell.
For some reason, though, President Goh Gun-Hui didn’t seem to be all that concerned regarding this event, even though he probably held the highest evaluation of Jin-Woo out of anyone alive.
That appearance certainly caused some amount of frustration in Woo Jin-Cheol’s heart.
Perhaps finding the anxiety-ridden expression of his younger subordinate a bit pitiable, Goh Gun-Hui chuckled gently and finally spoke up.
“You don’t need to worry.”
“By any chance, do you know something, sir?”
“You see, he came to see me before he went over to Japan to hunt down those Giant-type monsters.”
That sounded quite logical. After all, it was precisely the Association President Goh Gun-Hui who announced the story of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo planning to hunt those Giants to the world.
Goh Gun-Hui recalled the memories of that meeting.
“I, of course, tried to dissuade him. I told him that, compared to the risk, he’d be earning far too little from this venture. It wasn’t as if he was promised a huge amount of cash like Yuri Orlov in the first place.”
Woo Jin-Cheol nodded his head.
Jin-Woo demanded the rights to the corpses of the monsters and that was all. For the price of saving an entire country, that was far, far too small.
‘Of course, that didn’t mean there was enough spare time to negotiate a deal with a country busy losing several cities in a day….’
One should say that the matters couldn’t be helped back then.
The Association President should be protecting the Hunters of his own nation, so it was already an odd thing for him to let Hunter Seong go this easily.
“But then, he told me this.”
Goh Gun-Hui recalled the conversation back then and formed a deep grin. Woo Jin-Cheol couldn’t win against his curiosity and asked back first.
“What… did he say?”
Goh Gun-Hui happily replied to that.
“He said, he wanted the Ah-Jin Guild’s territory to also include Japan.”
A shocked gasp jumped out from Woo Jin-Cheol’s mouth. Goh Gun-Hui’s initial reaction after hearing that declaration from Jin-Woo himself wasn’t all that different, either.
“Japan’s major Guilds lost most of their strength from the losses incurred on Jeju Island, as well as from the attacks of the Giants. He told me straight that his Ah-Jin Guild will fill the void left behind by them.”
Woo Jin-Cheol couldn’t shut his slack mouth.
Was it the young man’s confidence or simply an excellent head on his shoulders that allowed him to think that far ahead, even before he got to hunt down a single Giant? Regardless of what it was, Jin-Woo still got to achieve his objective.
After all, wasn’t this story something the Japanese would welcome with wide open arms?
“After hearing that, how could I not permit him going there?”
While the major Guilds were busy bickering among themselves over the comparatively small territory of Seoul, he’d go and make the entirety of Japan his own.
One of the qualifications to become a true Hunter was the talent to choose his own hunting spot. And as he even possessed the necessary power to handle whatever his prey turned out to be, one could definitely call Seong Jin-Woo as someone born to become a Hunter.
Goh Gun-Hui let the opinion stewing in his mind, as well as a sigh of admiration, escape from his mouth.
“He sure is one incredible fellow.”
“….I agree wholeheartedly, sir.”
Woo Jin-Cheol definitely agreed with that sentiment.
Putting aside the incredible power of travelling between Korea and Japan in an instant without the aid of an aeroplane, the fact that he also possessed enough abilities to make that nonsensical goal into reality, could only bring about a sigh of admiration from both men.
With excellent timing, the TV that was left switched on began showing the clip from Choi Jong-In’s interview.
[“I am genuinely proud of the fact that Hunter Seong has been chosen to represent South Korea.”]
The Association President Goh Gun-Hui leaned against the couch as a genuine chuckle left his mouth, and spoke back to Choi Jong-In on the screen.
“I also think the same as you.”
< Chapter 184 > Fin.