I Alone Level-Up
First, it was Christopher Reid.
Next, Brazil’s top Hunter, Jonas.
And finally, the Korean Hunter’s Association President, Goh Gun-Hui.
The news of these Hunters dying, thought to be some of the world’s best, was revealed to the public one after the other and caused substantial chaos in their wake.
If the enemies were capable of murdering the Hunters who stood at the apex when it came to fighting power, then just who would be able to catch them?
The world’s mass media continued to talk about nothing else other than the deaths of these three Hunters for several days and nights. America’s own Hunter Bureau even issued an official statement regarding these events, too.
And it said that the Bureau had gotten in contact with various Guilds from other nations to focus their resources in tracking down the culprits responsible.
Unfortunately, the public’s fears couldn’t be assuaged with a simple statement like that. It was obvious why – the trusty walls that defended them like an impregnable fortress from the dire threats of monsters had been breached, after all.
As the Hunter communities and the mass media around the world were going through an upheaval, the Korean Hunter’s Association suddenly released video footage to the public. It contained scenes recorded from Association President Goh Gun-Hui’s office at the time of his death.
“Oh, my god!”
Everyone who clapped their eyes on the footage in question couldn’t hide their shocks and astonishments.
Two men were shown on the captured footage.
One of them was, without a doubt, the Association President Goh Gun-Hui. As for the other ‘man’ stabbing the former’s chest with something very sharp, he was… no matter how one looked, that thing was not human.
It was a monster.
‘An Ice Elf!!’
The shocking sight of a monster that should’ve been confined in a dungeon murdering a top-ranked Hunter was captured so vividly in the video. The creature’s face in a close-up soon spread out to the rest of the world.
The shockwave from that video was massive.
People finally realised that, although Hunters existed to hunt down monsters, they too could be hunted down in turn by their supposed prey, just like everyone else. This only served to create yet another layer of terror in the people’s hearts.
Regular folks were being protected by the Hunters, but then, who was protecting these Hunters?
Things got bad enough to the point where some people began saying that the nation’s best Hunters shouldn’t be let outside their own borders, citing that Jin-Woo was not in Korea at the time of the Association President Goh Gun-Hui’s murder.
And so – as the chaotic atmosphere ruled supreme, the focus of the general public quickly shifted over to Jin-Woo. Everyone knew the close-knit relationship he had with the Association President, so people naturally became curious as to what his response would be.
However, Jin-Woo didn’t say anything to the media.
A few days went by like that.
By this time, the investigation into the Association President Goh Gun-Hui’s cause of death was complete. The day before the funeral, Jin-Woo paid an unannounced visit to the Hunter’s Association.
Woo Jin-Cheol, looking wane and exhausted, came to receive Jin-Woo at the waiting area.
“I’m sorry about the wait, Hunter-nim. It’s been really hectic for the last few days….”
Woo Jin-Cheol rubbed his scruffy, unkempt beard and apologised. On that day they returned from the United States, he was greeted with this out-of-nowhere news and had to rush straight back to the Hunter’s Association.
The meeting of these two men was taking place exactly three days after that. Before they got down to business, though, Jin-Woo asked him a question.
“Why did you… hide the rest of the footage taken by the CCTV camera?”
The Association’s footage went only as far as revealing the face of the Sovereign of Frost. As for Jin-Woo or Beru who entered the Association President’s office afterwards, their footage was not revealed to the public.
Woo Jin-Cheol scratched his head and replied with a bitter expression on his face.
“We at the Association will always prioritise the safety of our Hunters. We decided that we can’t carelessly reveal one of your hidden abilities to the public.”
A Hunter’s skills were like all the hidden trump cards he or she possessed. Publicly revealing a skill would be akin to unveiling one’s hands. Quite obviously, the higher the one’s Awakened rank was, the more likely it was for one to hide one’s skills, as this act could save one’s life in an unexpected situation.
Jin-Woo’s skill that allowed him to travel in the blink of an eye from America to the Hunter’s Association building in South Korea – the Association decided that they couldn’t reveal a skill this monumental to the world without the consent of the Hunter in question.
“I’m sure that the Association President would have made the exact same decision if he was still with us.”
Chief Woo Jin-Cheol respected Goh Gun-Hui greatly and one could even say that he was closer to his late boss than anybody else in this organisation. So, when he mentioned the term ‘Association President’, his eyes reddened automatically.
“Ah, I see. That was why your expression looked so scary and unforgiving before we got on the plane heading back home.”
Jin-Woo admitted to Woo Jin-Cheol’s guess with a simple nod.
The latter felt as if a mystery was solved the moment he watched the footage – the mystery regarding why Jin-Woo’s atmosphere came across as so heavy on the day they were about to depart for South Korea.
“Was that monster so strong that you couldn’t stop it, Hunter-nim?”
Jin-Woo shook his head.
“When I got here, it was already…..”
Jin-Woo formed a gloomy expression again and Woo Jin-Cheol’s head dropped lower in the end.
“I’m sorry…. I’m sure you’re also feeling really bad right now. I was just frustrated and that ended up troubling you….”
Woo Jin-Cheol knew better than anyone that Jin-Woo was not responsible. That was perhaps why the latter’s attempt at trying to console the former only made it worse.
“I still can’t believe it.”
Woo Jin-Cheol’s gaze remained fixed on the floor as he carried on.
“How could he die…. He was urging me the day before to return as soon as possible because he wanted to hear about everything that happened in the U.S…..”
Jin-Woo patiently waited for Woo Jin-Cheol as the latter struggled to finish his sentence.
“What did…. What did the Association President say to you? Before he closed his eyes?”
“He said that he felt relieved.”
Woo Jin-Cheol raised his head, surprised.
“He felt relieved that the future could be entrusted to the young Hunters, like myself….”
That’s what he meant.
Tears began falling from Woo Jin-Cheol’s eyes as his emotions welled up. He felt moved by the generous heart of Association President Goh Gun-Hui, who worried for the future of his fellow men right up until the end.
He dabbed around his eyes with the back of his hand and hid the tears away before nodding his head.
“Thank you. Thank you for being there for the final moments of the Association President.”
The thing about him being relieved couldn’t have been a lie. If it was, how could he have formed such a serene expression as he passed on?
Woo Jin-Cheol’s gratitude was genuine, it came from the depths of his heart.
Jin-Woo kept his mouth firmly shut, opting to not reply. He felt as if his complicated thoughts had been untangled somewhat by having this conversation with Woo Jin-Cheol.
“….I’ll kill that b*stard.”
Jin-Woo’s expression became extremely cold.
“The monster that murdered the Association President. I’ll definitely hunt it down.”
Not just for the sake of avenging Goh Gun-Hui, but to send the clear message to those b*stards threatening him.
Woo Jin-Cheol swallowed his dry saliva.
He knew that this killing aura wasn’t even directed at him, yet he could hardly breathe right now from the intense pressure. As a matter of fact, this cold and heavy murderous intent was squashing down hard on his shoulders.
Jin-Woo spotted Woo Jin-Cheol’s complexion becoming pale and quickly withdrew his aura.
“You can save your thanks until then.”
Woo Jin-Cheol did his best to calm the pounding heart in his chest and nodded his head.
Only then did he realise that Jin-Woo still hadn’t told him about the purpose of his visit to the Association. A Hunter on his level wouldn’t have come here to ask about the latter part of the security video footage.
So, Woo Jin-Cheol asked politely.
“I apologise for my inattentiveness…. I even forgot to ask you why you are paying us a visit, Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo told him about the decision he had come to after a few days of deliberation.
“Can you organise me a press conference?”
Reporters descended on the press conference venue like a flock of vultures. Jin-Woo was being seen as a walking, talking bundle of big news waiting to happen to these reporters for a while now.
And such a man had called for a press conference, the first time ever that he did that, so which reporter worth his or her salt wouldn’t be interested in that?
The conference venue became quite noisy, as befitting the large number of the gathered crowd. But, just like a lie, every single one of them shut their mouths as soon as Jin-Woo made his entrance.
Right away, the expectant silence filled up the venue.
Jin-Woo could feel each of the focused gazes from the reporters landing on his skin as he began addressing them.
“A group of monsters possessing a high level of intelligence is currently hunting down humanity’s top-ranked Hunters. They are stronger than any Hunters out there, and they also employ all sorts of means to get to their targets.”
A group of monsters?
There was more than one monster that murdered the Association President Goh Gun-Hui?
The reporters were immediately thrown into confusion.
However, Jin-Woo got his information straight from the mouth of the King of Giants, the Sovereign of the Beginning. There were nine Sovereigns, and he said that soon, a battle between them and the so-called ‘Rulers’ would commence.
The Sovereigns were prioritising targetting the Hunters at the top of the pile who were borrowing the powers of the Rulers. Three Hunters had been killed already. And it was unknown how many more victims would arise in the near future.
For the time being, he did attach his boys to those Hunters that the Hunter Bureau had pointed out, but realistically speaking, he couldn’t keep his eyes on every single Hunter in the world who was called ‘strong’.
For instance, there could be another victim from an unexpected quarter like Goh Gun-Hui.
Jin-Woo’s sudden press conference was meant to serve as a message of warning to the potential victims who were fighting against monsters in some parts of the world.
“These monsters employ special magic that separates the targetted space from the surroundings. That’s how they isolate their targets.”
This was incredible information. He could reveal this without hesitation because he had met a Sovereign already.
“That is why, if you fear that you might be their next target, please, stay as close as humanly possible to your comrades that could protect you. However, just in case…..”
‘Just in case’, he said.
Jin-Woo finally revealed the reason why he wanted to hold this press conference in the first place.
“If you don’t have a comrade that can fulfil that role, contact the Korean Hunter’s Association. They will put you through to me.”
Exclamations of admiration came out from the lips of the reporters.
Such unwavering confidence!
The Hunter responsible for beating Thomas Andre to a pulp was emitting a confidence-inspiring aura as if such monsters were a trifling matter to him. This sure was a surprising announcement capable of blowing away the fog of anxiety from the public’s hearts.
The thing was, though – Jin-Woo was actually aiming for something else.
‘I’ll lay a trap using all the Hunters that might be targetted by those b*stards.’
With this, he’d be able to trace the movements of the Sovereigns even if they targetted the retired or inactive Hunters like the Association President Goh Gun-Hui. He had no doubt that at least one of them would fall into his trap sooner or later.
When Jin-Woo was about to end his announcement, a barrage of questions descended on him almost immediately.
“I’m a reporter working for the X Daily! How do you know so much about this group of monsters, Hunter-nim?”
“I’ve encountered them before.”
To be more specific, he had run into them twice already. He met the King of Giants in Japan, while the other one in Korea.
Reporters couldn’t immediately recover from their surprises but still, they didn’t forget to jot down what Jin-Woo had said.
“Does that mean you were unscathed even after encountering them, Hunter-nim??”
Jin-Woo replied concisely, his eyes burning with the flames of confidence.
Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was unhurt even after encountering those creatures! Reporters hurriedly operated their cameras as the expected scoop happened yet again.
Click, click, click, click-!!
It was then, a certain reporter sitting a bit away from the front row raised his hand up high. He was none other than the same reporter who accompanied Chief Woo Jin-Cheol to document the sacrifices the Hunters had made trying to battle the angel statue. Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to him.
Reporter Kim slowly lowered his hand and, quite unlike his frenzied peers, voiced his question clearly and concisely.
“What will you do when you meet the monster responsible for the murder of the Association President Goh Gun-Hui?”
Jin-Woo studied the still-furious expression etched on the face of Reporter Kim without saying anything, before switching the mic off.
“….That will be all.”
Reporter Kim stared for a long time at Jin-Woo’s departing back as the latter descended from the platform. He thought that, even though there was no verbal answer, he could still hear the young Hunter’s determined voice somehow.
The two security guards on duty jumped up from their seats in surprise after seeing Thomas Andre walking towards their guard station, but he simply signalled at them, telling them to settle back down.
He pressed his thumb on the fingerprint scanner, and the automated door slid open. He and the top manager of the Guild, Laura, stepped into the underground storage facility located below the Guild’s building.
The two guards who got spooked by Thomas Andre’s presence were rank A Hunters in reality.
Since he stayed in the building’s penthouse suite and would be informed immediately if something happened, the number of people who could step into this storage facility were extremely few.
Thomas Andre didn’t hesitate for a second and headed straight into the deepest part of the underground facility.
“Are you really planning to gift him with ‘those’, sir?”
They finally gained access to the chamber housing ‘those’ after another round of fingerprint scanning.
“What’s the matter? Do you believe this is too much for the price of my Guild members, as well as my life?”
“No, sir. That’s not it, but….”
“Well, you think he’s not good enough as a Hunter to wield these guys, then?”
Laura knew that talking to him now was a waste of time. Since she knew retorting to him wouldn’t work anyway, she decided to close her mouth shut for now.
Meanwhile, Thomas Andre stood before the items he was searching for. These weapons didn’t even suit him at all, yet he couldn’t help but feel his heart tremble every time he stood before them.
“….No matter how many times I look at them, they still look cool.”
Thomas Andre murmured in admiration, and Laura tried to dissuade him one last time, her voice sounding slightly unwilling.
“Sir, there are only two of these in the entire world.”
“Yup, that’s true.”
“And it’ll stay that way.”
“I’m sure it will.”
“Even then, will you still give them away?”
“That’s why I’m giving them to him.”
Thomas Andre formed a smirk.
It had been almost eight years since these guys were crafted, but the searing light coming off of them hadn’t diminished by a single bit.
“The best Hunter needs the best weapons. Don’t you think it’s too much of a waste to let them rot in here?”
As if to answer him, a pair of shortswords resting within the metal case reflected the spotlight, the glare of the blades remaining sharp and cold.
< Chapter 202 > Fin.