I Alone Level-Up
“What you said in there – were you being serious?”
Adam White, waiting outside the conference hall, threw that question out.
Even though Jin-Woo wanted to ask back, “What are you talking about?” he said only one thing inside the conference hall, didn’t he?
So, he simply grinned as his reply.
Although this was no time to laugh, Adam White ended up chuckling after seeing Jin-Woo’s grin, anyway.
Just who were the folks inside the conference hall?
They were 500 or so of the top-ranked Hunters from around 120 countries, who were invited by the Hunter Bureau to attend this conference. In other words, they were the top elites humanity had to offer.
But then, this man went and said to them, ‘Even if it means every Hunter in the world becomes my enemy’.
Any ol’ tough guy wouldn’t even dare to imitate what Jin-Woo had done. What’s more surprising was the fact that not one person ridiculed him for making that claim.
Even Liu Zhigeng, renowned for his vicious personality, simply kept silent and stared at Hunter Seong Jin-Woo. He made no complaints whatsoever towards the Korean’s declaration.
Not just the Hunters inside the conference hall, but even the agents watching the proceedings through various monitors couldn’t shut their agape mouths. Adam White was among those agents, obviously.
He sighed in admiration and spoke up.
“Most likely, there should be only two people in this whole wide world, including you, who could say something like that in there, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo became slightly curious about who the other guy might be.
“Who is this other person….?”
“Well, he’s in the hospital right now.”
Jin-Woo saw Adam White’s wry smile and immediately realised who that mystery ‘other guy’ could be. It could only be Thomas Andre.
For sure, that guy would do something just as crazy, what with that arrogant personality of his.
‘But, it’s unknown whether he’ll still behave that way or not.’
Jin-Woo recalled the last expression Thomas Andre made as he admitted to his defeat, and formed his own wry smile.
In the meantime, Adam White quickly explained the itinerary for the rest of the day.
“A dinner party has been scheduled to take place this evening. Since we at the Bureau went all out to prepare this grand feast, how about sharing a cordial meal with other Hunters if you don’t have anything urgent to….”
Jin-Woo shook his head right away.
“I’m planning to stop by at a hospital.”
Adam White’s brows shot up.
Did he get injured somewhere last night? No, hang on. Maybe that was an inevitable result. The Special Authority-rank Hunter Thomas Andre suffered such grievous wounds that he still couldn’t recover properly after receiving concentrated healing from several top-class Healers. That attested to how violent and fierce the fight was.
So, even if it was Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, he must have suffered one or two injuries….
“I’m worried about Yu Jin-Ho, you see.”
So, he was talking about ‘that’.
Having realised that it was unnecessary to worry about Jin-Woo, even for a little bit, Adam White could only reflect on his hastiness in silence. Still, he couldn’t let go and asked one more time, just in case.
“Uh, maybe your shoulder or wrists have been aching since last night….?”
“Ah, no. It’s nothing…”
While Adam White was getting more flustered than ever before…
….Hunters that had been gathered in small groups of two and three to chat among themselves suddenly parted ways and stood to either side of the hallway. Naturally, both Jin-Woo’s and Adam White’s attention shifted over there, as well.
And that’s where they spotted Liu Zhigeng.
China’s Seven Star-rank Hunter was flanked by the ‘Liu Zhigeng Squadron’ – made up entirely of his direct subordinates – as he made his way towards Jin-Woo.
As if he already had a destination in mind a long time ago, the Chinese Hunter walked in a straight line until he was standing right before Jin-Woo’s nose.
‘W-what are those two up to now?’
Hunters all stopped talking right there and then.
The taut tension flowing between Jin-Woo and Liu Zhigeng managed to utterly silence the surroundings. The palpable feeling of unease rapidly filled this place up.
Hunters hurriedly looked around in anxiety.
‘Why is Liu Zhigeng behaving that way?’
‘Is it because of what Hunter Seong Jin-Woo said back in there?’
‘Yup, I was wondering why he was keeping quiet back then….’
Without a doubt, what Jin-Woo said could be interpreted as a provocation towards other Hunters. And the person who asked him the question even happened to be none other than Liu Zhigeng.
First, it was Thomas Andre. And now, it was the turn of Liu Zhigeng?
Hunters paid close attention to the changing expressions of these two men, as even more anxiety clouded their own faces, wondering what would happen next.
In the meantime, Adam White found himself stuck between these two titans by sheer bad luck and his own expression paled almost instantly.
“E-excuse me, Hunters….”
Before he could finish saying something, Liu Zhigeng took another step forward and opened his mouth first. His weighty voice flowed out next. Jin-Woo listened to him and a sombre expression gradually formed on his face.
‘…….What on earth is he saying? I can’t understand a single word.’
He had never even gone anywhere remotely close to China before, so there was no way he’d know a lick of Chinese.
Since the other guy was speaking in a serious expression, he too decided to form a similarly serious one, but as it turned out, listening to words he couldn’t understand proved to be a rather uncomfortable and arduous task.
Just as he began thinking that the Chinese Hunter probably wasn’t making fun of him with such a grave expression on his face, Adam White whispered something in his ear.
“He’s saying that he hunted down the Giant monster you missed during your trip to Japan on the Chinese coast recently, Seong Hunter-nim.”
A look of surprise spread all over Jin-Woo’s face.
“You even know Chinese?”
“Well, I was in charge of the Asia branch, after all. I can speak a few Asian languages. Ah, also, I can speak a little bit of Russian, Spanish, Arabic, as well as German….”
Jin-Woo very briefly thought that it’d become a whole lot more convenient for him if Agent Adam White became one of his Shadow Soldiers. Of course, he quickly admonished himself for even entertaining such a thought.
Maybe he still had lots more things to say? Liu Zhigeng continued on with his words in the meantime.
“Please, keep translating for me.”
Adam White nodded his head and, with a determined expression, began his temporary role as an interpreter.
“He says that he got surprised from how unexpectedly strong the Giant monster was. And he also says that it was a difficult battle as he had to fight the monster on the ocean’s surface.”
Jin-Woo remembered being surprised himself by the strength of those Giant monsters, back when he was hunting them down. They had such huge bodies yet they also moved around nimbly like wild beasts, too.
Since Liu Zhigeng said he fought the monster over the water, which imposed a greater restriction on one’s movements, his surprise should have been greater when compared to fighting the creature on dry land.
As a fellow Hunter, Jin-Woo could pretty much understand where the Chinese man’s fluster stemmed from.
The longer Liu Zhigeng’s words got, the brighter Adam White’s expression became.
“Ever since that encounter, he says, he’s been meaning to meet you. He has been really curious to learn more about the person capable of easily hunting down all those powerful monsters. That’s what he said.”
In the same breath that Adam White finished translating, Liu Zhigeng formed a bright smile and reached his hand out for a shake.
It seemed that the previous serious expression came from his nervousness.
Jin-Woo looked at that offered hand for a bit, before shaking it with a smile of his own. He had absolutely no reason to refuse a greeting offered up first by one of the best Hunters in the world.
Adam White had figured out what was going on here and could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Forming a bond between fellow Hunters – this encounter certainly stayed true to the original intention of the International Guild Conference.
As they shook hands, Liu Zhigeng said some other things with a smile. Jin-Woo looked at Adam White again.
“Sounds like he’s making a joke, so what is he saying?”
Adam White briefly formed a lost expression, before the corners of his lips arched up.
“He says that he’s really happy about you teaching Thomas Andre Hunter-nim a lesson. He doesn’t even have to take a look to know that it was Thomas who instigated the whole thing first….”
Jin-Woo grinned at that one.
The Chinese Hunter initially came across as an irritable and rude uncle, but he turned out to be a rather interesting person. Now that the greeting was over, their hands parted ways.
But then, Liu Zhigeng’s complexion darkened somewhat.
Likewise, the smile on Adam White’s face was wiped off as well. He quickly translated what the Chinese Hunter was saying.
“That is why he will now pray even harder that ‘Suspect S’ isn’t actually your family member. He says that he doesn’t want to fight against you, no matter what.”
Jin-Woo wordlessly nodded his head.
“Both of you are here.”
Jin-Woo and Liu Zhigeng shifted their gazes in the direction of that voice. Although they felt this person’s presence, they knew he wasn’t a Hunter since he didn’t emit any magic energy.
Sure enough, that voice belonged to the Hunter Bureau’s Director. He alternated his gaze between Jin-Woo and Liu Zhigeng before asking both men. He sounded rather tense as he did so for some reason.
“Can both of you clear some time in your schedule, please?”
Jin-Woo looked at Adam White for confirmation, but the latter man shook his head. Meaning, this wasn’t in their itinerary.
What did he want from them, then?
Before making his reply, Jin-Woo pushed his Perception Stat to the extreme first and analysed the movements of every single Hunter within the conference venue.
‘Two people with a huge concentration of magical energy….’
Two very powerful Hunters were heading towards the same destination under the guidance of several escorts. Seeing that both he and Liu Zhigeng had been called upon like this, that event couldn’t be chalked up to being a coincidence.
‘Did something happen somewhere?’
When Jin-Woo looked as if he was hesitating somewhat, Adam White remembered something and quickly answered for him.
“Ah, that’s right. Sir, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim said earlier that he’d go visit Yu Jin-Ho Hunter-nim at the hospital….”
However, Jin-Woo placed his hand on the American agent’s shoulder to stop him. When their gazes met, he shook his head before turning around to face the director.
“Alright, I will.”
The director’s expression brightened immediately and he looked at Liu Zhigeng next.
“How about you, Hunter Liu Zhigeng?”
“Very good. In that case, please, follow me.”
The director’s expression was as bright as a salaryman who managed to pull off a difficult negotiation. He then took the lead and guided the two Hunters away.
Funnily enough, the destinations for the two were not the same.
Liu Zhigeng was guided by other agents and went down the corridor on the left, while Jin-Woo followed the director and continued down their original path.
‘Isn’t this strange….?’
With the addition of Liu Zhigeng to the ranks of those two powerful Hunters he sensed earlier, three beings with rather enormous magic energy had gathered in one spot now.
Jin-Woo thought he’d be escorted to that place as well, but seeing that he was being led to a different destination altogether, he began cooking up several likely reasons for this. He gave up in the end, though, and asked the director.
“Why am I the only one going to the different room?”
The director pondered his answer for a little bit before deciding to delay it altogether.
“There is someone waiting for you, actually. She will explain everything to you once we get there.”
As a matter of fact, Jin-Woo could sense a certain person’s aura coming from a room located at the end of this corridor.
‘Uh? Doesn’t this magic energy belong to that….?’
Jin-Woo’s eyes grew wider since the person waiting for him was someone he didn’t expect to see here. As a matter of fact, he never thought they would meet each other again any time soon.
“Looks like you have figured out who she is.”
He must’ve been feeling really nervous because cold sweat drops were visibly forming on the director’s forehead.
“We do our best to not to expose her location if we can help it. But then, this issue being what it is, we didn’t have much of a choice….”
“Does that mean the Hunter Bureau demanded her to come?”
“No, not at all. It was she that demanded to be here. She specifically wishes to meet you.”
The director opened the door to the room and Jin-Woo got to meet the gaze of a certain African-American woman waiting patiently for him there.
“It’s been a while, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
“Likewise, Madam Selner.”
It was none other than the ‘Upgrader’, Norma Selner, the Awakened possessing a unique ability.
He wondered if she had calmed down now that a bit of time had passed since their last encounter, but unfortunately, the light shining in her eyes was the same as before. She still looked quite terrified of him.
He definitely sensed her strong fear of him from the way she stared at him. Despite that, she wanted to meet him for some reason. Just what could make her move in spite of her fears? Jin-Woo’s curiosity had definitely been stoked now.
“I didn’t expect you to seek me out first, ma’am, so….”
Jin-Woo settled down on the seat opposite hers. Adam White, once more assigned as an interpreter, stuck close to Jin-Woo’s side.
Madam Selner politely bowed her head.
“I’d like to apologise for that day. Back then, my mind wasn’t in the right place to….”
Jin-Woo raised his hands and stopped her.
He wasn’t planning to talk about back then just so he could hear her apologise. She sneaked a glance at the director, only to see him nod his head with a hardened expression.
Madam Selner hesitated greatly before her lips parted with some difficulty.
“I’ve been having the exact same dream every day.”
Jin-Woo was not confident about reading people’s dreams. And even he could tell that they didn’t ask for him to be here for that purpose, either. Still, he asked her so he could get some clarification on the topic.
“What kind of a dream was it?”
“In my dream, I watch the scenes of top Hunters being hunted down by a group of unknown people.”
A group of unknown people hunting down powerful Hunters, she said. Almost immediately, Jin-Woo realised that this matter had to be related to him in some capacity.
“And a few days later, that dream becomes reality.”
“Could you be talking about… Christopher Reid?”
Madam Selner nodded her head.
The director took over the explanation from there on.
“We had warned Mister Reid ahead of time, but he wasn’t interested in hearing us out. The end result was… well, you know what happened already.”
Indeed, Jin-Woo had seen and heard enough of Christopher Reid’s fate.
Madam Selner continued on with a trembling voice.
“Powerful Hunters supporting this world will continue to die. Those hunting the Hunters will not stop what they are doing.”
“So, what you’re saying is….”
Jin-Woo collected his thoughts and cautiously opened his mouth.
“….You also wish to warn me of the dangers….?”
“No, that’s not it.”
She resolutely shook her head.
If she didn’t want to warn him, what did she want then? Jin-Woo looked at her with a puzzled expression. Madam Selner then spoke with desperately-pleading tone of voice.
“Please, I beg of you. Protect these Hunters.”
< Chapter 196 > Fin.