I Alone Level-Up
He wanted to ask a question?
Jin-Woo was puzzled by that, but he didn’t pick up any ill intent within the light gleaming from Thomas Andre’s eyes so he nodded his head to say yes.
As soon as the answer was given…
….Thomas Andre raised his left arm, currently wrapped tightly in bandages.
“I heard that the damage from the magic energy attack left behind on this arm was so great that Healers were unable to fix it. Doctors told me the same thing. They said that, although it’s healing bit by bit, it’ll take a long time before I can use my arm properly again.”
He used his left arm to block Jin-Woo’s fist lugging around a considerable amount of magic energy. Right after the fight ended, the bones in the arm disintegrated into a fine powder and there was a chance that he’d never get to use his left arm ever again.
Healers and their immediate response, as well as his own excellent regenerative power, had significantly improved his chances, but even then, his condition was still this bad.
That attack was truly, nonsensically powerful.
Traces of bitter battle left behind all over his body gifted him with all sorts of aches and dull pains. However, the pain also gave him the clarity of mind to think about what happened, and then, think some more.
But he failed to arrive at an answer, and having no choice, he decided to seek Jin-Woo out like this.
Even though the Korean Hunter was staring back at him with a look that more or less implied, ‘Is he here to boast about his injuries or something?’ Thomas Andre still asked him the question in his mind.
“If it was you, you’d have no problem finishing me off, or any of my Guild members.”
The ones who kidnapped the Korean’s comrade in this foreign land, and proceeded to attack him when he came to rescue the captive, were Thomas Andre and his underlings.
Just as the statement released by the Hunter Bureau had alluded to, even if Jin-Woo decided to kill every single Scavenger Guild member, he would have escaped any punishment from the U.S. government.
‘Of course, they wouldn’t have any means to prosecute him in the first place….’
However, Seong Jin-Woo took the lives of no one, save for Hwang Dong-Su.
What if Thomas Andre found himself in a similar situation? He’d not let anyone walk away alive. He possessed enough power to do so, and he’d even be backed up by a clear pretext, too.
So, why did Seong Jin-Woo choose to not kill anyone? For the past two days, this thought occupied a big chunk of space inside Thomas Andre’s mind and didn’t want to leave him alone.
“Back then… why did you let us all live?”
Of course, he knew that he was the one who admitted to his defeat and begged for mercy in his own way. However, Jin-Woo was the one who made the final decision in the end.
Not to forget, none of the Guild members had been killed even after being schooled by his summoned creatures. Thomas Andre was really dying to know the ‘why’ of it all.
Too bad for him, Jin-Woo’s answer was so simple that it instantly rendered his deep pondering of the past few days utterly pointless.
“Because none of you committed a crime worthy of death.”
Jin-Woo found it hard to overlook Thomas Andre’s arrogant attitude, but still, the American only showed up back then to protect one of his own Guild members, Hwang Dong-Su.
It was the same story for the rest of the Scavenger Guild members, too. They were in the wrong to start attacking him, but they had fully paid for their indiscretions.
That was what Jin-Woo thought as he withdrew the final attack aimed at Thomas Andre’s head that evening.
Once the American Hunter heard that answer, though, his eyes quaked greatly for a second there.
“….So, that’s how it was.”
Thinking back to the final fate of Hwang Dong-Su who had committed a crime worthy of death as punishment, that answer didn’t seem like a lie.
To think, the reason was a pretty simple one all along.
Thomas Andre’s thoughts were even more complicated than before he heard the answer, but on the flip side, he felt much more refreshed and could form a relaxed smile now.
“I’d like to treat you to a good meal after my arm heals up. Can you leave your contact detail with my manager lady over here, so I can call you later?”
Thomas Andre sounded cautious as he bade goodbye and turned around to leave. Laura was on standby behind him until then and lightly bowed her head.
Her boss didn’t even take a second look behind him and exited from the banquet hall. Every time he took a step forward, the partygoers parted to the side as if he was Moses and they were the Red Sea.
Laura watched his distancing back before shifting her gaze over to Jin-Woo.
“My Guild Master was expressing his gratitude towards you not killing any of his Guild members just now, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo was instantly struck speechless from those words. Just how should he go about interpreting what that man said to arrive at that conclusion??
As if she found Jin-Woo’s confusion not that surprising, Laura quickly added further explanation.
“He might look that way, but in reality, he is far shier than you think.”
“Oh, uh… I see.”
Well, if she said so, that must be it, then.
Thanks to the other side showing up like this first, Jin-Woo got to save time on searching for Thomas Andre and sticking one of his soldiers in the guy’s shadow. So, he just nodded his head to say everything was cool.
Laura, now that her job of interpreting her boss’s particular way of saying goodbyes was complete, pulled out her memo pad and got ready to jot the information down.
“Hunter-nim, if it’s not too much trouble, may I ask you for your contact details? Ah, and also….”
The blonde beauty with her hair tucked up neatly into a bun formed an arresting smile.
“Guild Master wishes to express his gratitude with a gift of some kind. If there is anything you need or want, please tell me.”
“Oh. Thank you, but I don’t need any.”
Jin-Woo politely declined the offer.
Laura quickly formed an awkward smile as if she was troubled by that reply and asked him to reconsider his decision.
“My Guild Master is…. Well, his desire to emerge on top is quite strong, so if he thinks he’s owing someone, he will probably go crazy before long. It really doesn’t matter at all what the item is, so please, tell me what you’d like to have.”
Jin-Woo was about to decline again but stopped resisting after listening to Laura’s recommendation.
He figured that, although he didn’t really need anything, it was against etiquette to reject the other side’s show of goodwill again when they were willing to go this far.
His sole problem remained the same, though.
‘….I can’t think of anything I need right now.’
Money? He already had a considerable amount of that after the last few successful raids.
Besides, the Ah-Jin Guild had made more than what a decently-sized major Guild would make in a year simply by selling off all the remains of the Giant-type monsters. And Jin-Woo was the boss of that Ah-Jin Guild, too.
He knew that the financial might of his Guild would be incomparably small next to the Scavenger’s, but he wasn’t cheap enough to ask for a handout from the American, either.
‘I’m pretty sure there won’t be a moment in the future where I need to ask for help from Thomas Andre or the Scavenger Guild….’
He changed his mind again, thinking that he should probably decline this offer. But then, an idea flashed by in his head.
‘Wait a minute. If it’s the Scavenger….’
This Guild was the gathering of the world’s top elites who continued to work tirelessly every single day.
It was impossible to count all the dungeons they had cleared so far, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the wealth of artefacts they had recovered from those dungeons should be rather sizeable, too.
There was a chance that a useful ‘item’ might be tucked away within the storage facility of the Scavenger Guild. Jin-Woo forced himself to make his reply.
“If it’s a useful shortsword or a dagger….”
He had run into quite a few opponents with incredible defences recently, and the pair of ‘Demon King’s Shortswords’ was proving to be ineffective against them.
He thought that it might not be a bad idea to swap his weapons for something else with the aid of the Scavenger Guild. Even if no useful item came out from this deal, he’d have nothing to lose, anyway.
“Shortswords or daggers… I see. Thank you, Hunter-nim.”
Laura smiled brightly after hearing his reply. She finished jotting down on her memo pad and also left the banquet hall.
Adam White was scared sh*tless with worry, wondering whether the Goliath’s unexpected visit might lead to yet another incident or not. But now that everything ended without a problem, he breathed out a long, long sigh of relief and approached Jin-Woo.
“Hunter-nim. Are you going to meet the Hunters on the list now?”
“Yes, I am.”
“In that case, allow me to be your guide. Our agents are positioned in several places within the hall, so we should be able to locate them very quickly.”
“No need,” replied Jin-Woo with a grin. “You don’t have to do that.”
He had already instructed his Shadow Soldiers to roam around the party venue. He knew pretty much where all the Hunters were by now. All he had to do was to meet them one by one.
Adam White didn’t know what was going on, obviously, and could only stand there with his eyes going round from confusion.
Instead of a reply, Jin-Woo asked him a question.
“By the way, there’s one person missing, isn’t there? I don’t see the 6th person on the list in here.”
“But, how did you….?!”
Jin-Woo shrugged his shoulders, and Adam White nodded his head as if he understood.
‘Ah, right. Trade secret, was it…’
The American agent continued on.
“We lost all contact with that person a few days prior to the conference, unfortunately. The Brazilian government is searching for that person’s whereabouts in secret, but they haven’t found any concrete leads yet.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
He got to attach a shadow on the no.2 of the list, Thomas Andre, just now. The 3rd place Christopher Reid and the 6th Brazilian Hunter were not around.
‘Which means there are seven people left.’
Jin-Woo spoke to Adam White.
“Okay, let’s go.”
The two of them walked around the banquet hall and greeted the Hunters on the list one by one.
He did ask Adam White to organise opportunities to meet them earlier on, because he wanted to learn a bit more about these people he was about to attach the shadows onto. He started off from the first on the list, Liu Zhigeng, and moved on down to the tenth.
‘Is Hunter Seong Jin-Woo networking using this occasion?’
‘But, aren’t the Hunters he’s talking to….?’
The Hunters scanned the faces of those people Jin-Woo approached first to share greetings with, and began hoping that just maybe, he’d also stop by and say hello to them as well.
‘He’s coming this way….!’
‘I knew it. Of course, I’m the next one he wants to talk to.’
Hunters waiting anxiously to talk to Jin-Woo would drop their heads in disappointment and wistfulness once he walked right past them.
In no time at all, his ‘operation’ came to an end. Jin-Woo successfully stuck Shadow Soldiers on the Hunters found on the list before leaving the banquet hall along with his entourage.
The tenth Hunter on the list cleared his throat and began talking in a louder voice, his back straightening even more. On the other hand, the 11th and below could only knock back their glasses of booze without saying another word.
On that day.
The Hunter Bureau, the organiser of the ‘Night of the Hunters’ banquet, had to work extra hard in order to find out the reason for a sudden, unprecedented spike in the consumption of alcohol during the party.
“So, tomorrow’s the last day, isn’t it?”
The deputy director pushed forward a cup of coffee over to Agent Adam White, currently slouched in an office chair. The younger man sat upright immediately and cautiously took the cup.
“Thank you, sir.”
The deputy director lightly tapped Adam White’s shoulder and settled down next to him.
“I thought I’d faint when I heard the news of Goliath clashing against Hunter Seong, but… it’s a relief that you worked hard to avoid a catastrophe. You did excellent work there.”
“You’re praising me too much, sir….”
He might be saying something like that, but who on this planet would continue to disagree with his superior officer when he was genuinely being praised?
A bright expression formed on Adam White’s face.
The deputy director looked on in contentment at his junior officer’s earnest response and took a sip of his coffee, before asking a question.
“So. What is your opinion on Hunter Seong, now that you had opportunities to observe him from close by?”
Adam White thoughts for a little while, before making his reply.
“Deputy director. Did you know that Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim still exercises every single day, without rest?”
“Yes, I confirmed it personally. Every morning, he runs ten kilometres, does 100 push-ups, and also, never forgets to perform sit-ups as well as squats, too.”
The deputy director’s brows arched up.
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, who could legitimately be called the world’s most powerful Hunter, was still performing such basic exercise routines every single day?
Just what kind of an effect would jogging in the morning have on a physique that had surpassed the limitations of the human body by an unimaginable degree?
Adam White saw how confused the deputy director looked and quickly continued on with his thoughts on the matter.
“Sir, I think his exercise routine isn’t about improving his physique, but more to do with his mental discipline.”
“Training his mind, is it….”
Adam White nodded his head.
From his cool-headedness at not being surprised by the technology exceeding what the current level of science could offer, to his diligence of not even missing out on a single day of training – and not to forget, his mysterious ability to recover a fatigued body and mind in an instant.
From Adam White’s perspective, Jin-Woo was a walking, talking bundle of surprises.
The deputy director listening to those tales with a sombre expression wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment.
“Indeed, he… he is truly an amazing fellow.”
How wonderful would it have been if such a man was an American Hunter? He was envious of South Korea for having a Hunter like that as one of their own.
‘Mm? Did coffee taste like this before?’
The coffee the deputy director was drinking alongside his envy and admiration suddenly tasted quite bitter for some reason. In the end, he couldn’t finish it and left behind about half a cup.
There was a well-known saying in Korea.
If you wanted to know where the President’s office was located in the Korean Hunter’s Association building, just look for the very last window with the lights switching off.
Even today, Goh Gun-Hui was staying behind in his office till late hours to finish up the remainder of his work.
The cases of accidents and incidents were happening more frequently lately as the monsters got stronger, and the number of newbie Awakened increased.
From the perspective of the Hunter’s Association charged with managing such situations, it had been a constant parade of one headache after another.
Goh Gun-Hui put the document down on his desk and rubbed his tired eyes.
‘….This is strange.’
For some reason, his heart didn’t want to stop trembling for the last few days.
His problematic heart had been plaguing him for the last couple of years, so he wasn’t too bothered by this, but still, his condition didn’t feel right even compared to the past.
‘Is this…. the limit?’
His personal physician warned him that, if he didn’t stop working right away, he’d die within the next half-year or so. But, time continued to tick on for another year. Then, the second year came and went, too.
And he still found himself in this office after all this time.
‘If this is as far as I can go, then there’s nothing much I can do about it. It’s already something else that I managed to carry on this far.’
Goh Gun-Hui formed a thin smile.
Why did he feel like this, anyway? In the past, he’d try to push himself even further, wanting to endure for a little while longer. But nowadays, he didn’t feel as anxious as back then.
‘What has changed?’
What was different now compared to the past couple of years?
Goh Gun-Hui intently deliberated on this subject matter, before a smirk leaked out of his lips after realising how obvious the answer was.
‘Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.’
Finally, South Korea possessed the power to combat a rank S calamity. Just his presence alone, and the status of this country transformed for the better.
‘Right. That’s why my heart’s probably….’
Did his body carry on so he could meet that young man? A bitter and lonely chuckle escaped from Goh Gun-Hui’s lips.
“Look at me, busy talking about some nonsense….”
The Association President’s lonely muttering echoed around the empty office.
‘Now that I think about it, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo is scheduled to return tomorrow, isn’t it?’
Just thinking about how he’d get to hear the eyewitness account of Hunter Seong’s feats from the mouth of Chief Woo Jin-Cheol, Goh Gun-Hui’s anticipation began shooting up through the roof.
It was then.
His phone suddenly went off unexpectedly.
‘Who’s calling me at this late hour?’
Hopefully, there hadn’t been yet another big scale incident taking place somewhere. Feeling quite anxious, Goh Gun-Hui quickly picked up his phone.
– “Dear, nothing bad happened today, yes?”
The call was actually from his wife.
“….Oh. Hi, dear.”
The wife was calling to find out her husband’s status since he hadn’t come back home yet, even though it was already so late into the night. Her voice managed to gradually soften the stiff face of Goh Gun-Hui.
“What do you mean, something bad? I was on my home anywa…”
Along with a soft ‘chijeek!’ the phone suddenly lost its signal.
Obviously, he could no longer hear his wife’s voice.
Did something happen? Goh Gun-Hui tilted his head and put the phone down, before shifting his attention to the outside of the window unconsciously.
He forgot to breathe, then.
Everything that should be visible through the window was all gone. Various buildings, the roads, even people – all of them.
The only thing remaining was the pitch-black darkness that defied all attempt to decipher how deep it was. Only a blink of an eye later, the scenery outside his window had changed to something else entirely.
An event like this couldn’t happen.
“But… But, how can this be?”
The Association President Goh Gun-Hui gasped out in pure shock and was about to get up from his chair, but then…
….But then, he realised that there was someone else in the office right this moment. Someone he had never even seen before.
That man was sitting on the couch as if he had been there for a very long time, too.
‘A human….? No, this isn’t the aura of a human being.’
It wasn’t just the aura, either.
A face as pale as a corpse; long, silvery-white hair; pointy ears, and silver eyes gleaming brightly like a pair of gemstones.
It was an Ice Elf. Also known as the White Phantom.
Somehow, Goh Gun-Hui had failed to sense its approach, as well as its entrance into the office.
He slowly placed the phone’s receiver back into its cradle and quietly threw out a question.
“Who…. are you?”
< Chapter 199 > Fin.