I Alone Level-Up
After Jin-Woo left, the elite members of the Hunters Guild fought against each other to become the first one to enter the dungeon.
“H-hey! Stop pushing me!”
“This dungeon ain’t gonna run away, so there’s no need for all this craziness!”
Just what did the one and only Hunter Seong Jin-Woo want to test out that he even resorted to borrowing a rank A Gate someone else had already booked? Not only that, a Gate with a difficulty that had clearly gone up drastically?
Hunters quickly stepped on the dungeon’s floor and scanned every corner with their curious eyes. But soon, their expressions turned into ones of pure shock and astonishment.
Literally, they were facing a river of blood!
The corpses of monsters, ripped to almost unrecognisable shreds, formed a road of blood. And this ‘road’ seemed to continue on forever into the darkness on the far side.
The Hunters were all rendered speechless and couldn’t even dare to go in any deeper.
“Look…. Look over there.”
One of the Hunters ribbed the person next to him with his elbow.
The victim of the elbowing attempt shifted his dazed gaze towards the location being pointed out and gradually, his jaw almost hit the floor at the unbelievable sight waiting for him there.
Just what kind of force could make a monster get embedded in the ceiling of the dungeon in such a grotesque fashion?
Considering that the walls of these dungeons were made up of materials incomparably harder than any regular caves, that was one seriously shocking sight to behold, indeed.
“That’s all for my dinner plan tonight, I guess….”
Hunters with weaker stomachs saw this scene of utter slaughter and their complexions turned paler than a sheet of paper. What surprised them even more, was the fact that monsters of the dungeon measured to be at the top end of rank A had been killed off in such a state in less than ten minutes.
A female Hunter muttered to herself, her expression still one of pure shock.
“Hunter Seong Jin-Woo…. He didn’t even look like the type, but this is just….”
The deeper the group entered, the clearer and clearer for them to spot the signs of the overwhelming violence; she had been a Hunter for almost five years now, but never once did she witness the walls of a dungeon destroyed to such an extent before.
Another male Hunter scanning the interior of the dungeon responded to her muttering.
“What do other people call this? Unleashing the inner beast? Or something like that?”
Cha Hae-In slowly shook her head after hearing that. None of this was the handiwork of Hunter Seong. She had witnessed his fights from up close several times already, so she was pretty certain of this.
The Jin-Woo she knew was a Hunter who preferred to end his enemies as cleanly as possible. It was artistic, even.
She was enthralled by the beauty in the way he controlled his skills the first time she saw him fight.
If that was the case….
‘….The one capable of doing this among Hunter Seong’s summons is…’
It was right then – she recalled the head of the ant monster screeching at her with its mandibles wide open, causing a chill to run down her spine.
That creature was the peak existence of vicious cruelty!
Didn’t Jin-Woo say it? That one of his summons had gone through a change. Just what kind of a change did that ant monster go through, then?
Cha Hae-In left behind her colleagues still being shocked by the remaining traces of Beru’s activity found throughout the dungeon, and quickly exited from the Gate. However, Jin-Woo was nowhere to be seen by then, even though he left only a few minutes ago.
“Why does he have to be so fast….”
Cha Hae-In scanned her surroundings and murmured with a cheeky pout. And she had so many things to ask him, too….
‘I’m sure there will be another chance.’
She sighed so softly that it wouldn’t even frighten a butterfly settling down in front of her. A subtle smile formed on her face as she slowly turned around to re-enter the Gate.
Jin-Ah killed her footsteps and sneaked like a crafty little cat to close in her mom busying washing dishes.
Either mom didn’t hear her daughter’s footsteps, or maybe she did hear them but decided to pretend that she didn’t, she didn’t react to Jin-Ah closing the distance. And then, in the end…
Jin-Ah got close enough to hear her mom’s breathing before hugging her tightly.
Too bad for all of her efforts, though, her mother didn’t seem to be surprised at all. She simply responded with a gentle voice.
“Are you feeling bored?”
“Ng, I am. Oppa doesn’t want to come home, and Mom doesn’t want to play with me~.”
While mom was sleeping in the hospital, Jin-Woo performed the role of the substitute mother to his sister. To help Jin-Ah focus on her studies, he did his best to act as the sole breadwinner and took care of all the chores around the family home.
To her, he was her sibling, her parent, and at the same time, her friend.
That was why Jin-Ah often missed her oppa’s presence around the family home as he grew busier and busier every day.
Every single one of her fellow countrymen knew her oppa’s face and his name by now, but what was the point if she couldn’t really get to see him anymore?
And so, here she was, trying to fill the hole Jin-Woo had left behind with her mom and her warm words of encouragements.
“Still, it’s great to have you around, Mom.”
Jin-Ah buried her face in her mom’s back and formed a happy smile. Although she couldn’t see her back, the mother carried a similar expression as the daughter and continued cleaning the dishes.
Jin-Ah clung to her mom’s back like a cicada holding onto a tree for a while before opening her mouth.
“Mom? Let’s move house.”
Mom’s hands momentarily stopped moving before resuming their actions. A smile formed on her lips again.
“Do you want to move to somewhere else?”
“But, what will we do? Mom really likes this place, you know.”
“Why do you like such an old apartment?”
Jin-Ah lightly rebuked her, but mom simply smiled back and her hands continued to move briskly.
Actually, Jin-Ah knew why her mom didn’t want to leave this old apartment. She knew the reason why her mom still persisted in staying here while paying the monthly rent, when her oppa was making the kind of money that regular people would never get to touch in their lifetime.
She was still waiting for her missing husband, her children’s father. She was hoping that, maybe one day, he’d stumble back here.
Jin-Ah couldn’t remember much about her father now and felt that waiting for him was a waste of time. But, her brother hadn’t mentioned moving house again after he heard mom’s reasoning.
“Still, I like this apartment.”
Mom gently persuaded her daughter again, prompting Jin-Ah to spin on her heels to leave, her cheeks puffing up unhappily.
“Don’t be like…. Ah!”
Mom quickly turned around and looked at Jin-Ah with a face that said, ‘I forgot!’; she had just remembered that the weather forecast warned of rainfall later in the evenings.
“Sweetie, can you take the washing from the veranda and bring them in?”
“Mom, you only call me sweetie when you need me to do stuff.”
Still, she didn’t mind being called that, as evidenced by her happy humming as she made her way to the veranda.
As befitting of Jin-Ah, who was more or less an expert at performing chores like this, she quickly took down the washings and placed them in the basket.
Her rapid hands suddenly stuttered to a halt. She realised that the sky above had darkened even before she noticed it.
Did the rain clouds arrive already?
Naturally, she raised her head up to look above. And her eyes opened incredibly wide next.
The basket filled with washed clothes fell out of her hands.
His hands were soaked with sweat.
The Association President Woo Jin-Cheol looked down on his wet palms before hurriedly rubbing them against his blameless pants.
How long had it been since he felt this nervous? He’d actually prefer to enter a Gate on the brink of a dungeon break. That would be easier on his stress level.
“You don’t have to be that tense, Association President Woo Jin-Cheol.”
A certain high-ranking official who had invited Woo Jin-Cheol to the Korean Presidential residence – the Blue House – formed a rather slimy grin.
How could a proper conversation be held when the guy supposed to meet the holder of the highest office in the country was this nervous?
The official understood full well that climbing up to such a high office at a young age must’ve been quite burdensome, but even then, he prayed that there wouldn’t be any ‘mistakes’ committed during the meeting itself.
Woo Jin-Cheol’s smile was just a tad stiff but he still nodded his head. As a gesture of encouragement, the official patted his back a couple of times.
Soon, the door to the special guest room opened and the president of the country these two men were waiting for strode in while flanked by several of his retinues.
Woo Jin-Cheol and the government official both stood up from their seats.
“Ah, ah. It’s fine. Please, take a seat. I’m okay either way. It’s not like I’m someone that impressive, anyway.”
The President of Korea, Kim Myung-Cheol, cracked a light joke to disperse the nervous atmosphere and settled down on his seat.
Once the president of the nation found his seat, the government official and Woo Jin-Cheol settled down as well, in that order.
The president’s gaze shifted immediately in Woo Jin-Cheol’s direction.
“I’m sure you’re really busy with the matters of the Association right about now, Mister Association President.”
“Well, uh… not as much, sir.”
His lips might have denied it, but the dark circles beneath Woo Jin-Cheol’s eyes were expanding their territories every single day.
He began wondering how did the late Association President Goh Gun-Hui manage to survive all this workload with his unhealthy body. Woo Jin-Cheol’s level of respect for him had deepened even further after his passing.
But that was probably why he really wanted this uncomfortable get-together to end as quickly as possible.
“Excuse me, sir…. Why did you ask me to come by today, sir?”
“Uh-huh, this guy!”
The high-ranking government official tried to warn Woo Jin-Cheol as the latter tried to jump straight into the meat of the story, but then, the President stopped him.
“Indeed, it’s not right to keep the Association President here for too long when he took time out of his busy schedule to come and see me.”
Not beating around the bush, and keeping it simple when it comes to the main topic; President Kim Myung-Cheol didn’t mind the speedy progress of discussions at all.
“In that case, allow me to get to the topic right away. The reason why I asked you, the Association President, to come here is because….”
For the briefest time then, Woo Jin-Cheol’s senses of a high-ranked Hunter caught on to the fact that the country’s president was trying to read his current mood.
This led to him having a certain premonition. No doubt, the other man was getting ready to ask him for a rather troublesome favour.
Sure enough – as if he also felt a bit sheepish about this, President Kim smiled awkwardly and began explaining himself.
“I heard that you and Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim enjoy a particularly close relationship.”
Woo Jin-Cheol immediately corrected that faulty rumour.
“I am indeed an acquaintance with Seong Hunter-nim, but our relationship is not as close as you think, sir.”
“Huhuh, is that so.”
“Yes. It was actually the late Association President Goh Gun-Hui who enjoyed a close-knit relationship with Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
Woo Jin-Cheol nodded by himself, recalling the moment when Goh Gun-Hui expressed his desire to knock back a few cold ones with Hunter Seong.
President Kim pondered something in silence for a bit, before carrying on.
“Even still, you are in a position to communicate readily with Seong Hunter-nim, yes?”
“Oh…. Yes, I am.”
“In that case, may we ask you for a favour, Association President Woo?”
Woo Jin-Cheol inwardly thought, “Here it comes,” and replied with a begrudging tone of voice.
“What kind of a favour are we talking about, sir?”
“Because of Seong Hunter-nim’s sky-high acclaim, we were wondering if we could use him as a public relations ambassador for the country. With a slogan similar to, ‘Hunter Seong Jin-Woo makes the Republic of Korea safe’.”
President Kim ended his words there and grinned brightly.
Here was a proudly Korean Hunter strong enough to teach the American Special Authority-rank Hunter a lesson, not to mention important enough to make the Hunter Bureau be at his beck and call, too.
There was no way that the financial and the political world wouldn’t take notice of such a person’s actions.
Kim Myung-Cheol was planning to use his position as the country’s president to reel Jin-Woo in to his side before anyone else could.
In the beginning, as the public relations ambassador of the nation, and then, gradually build up a friendship with him over time.
As his fame as the world’s strongest Hunter soared higher, being his ‘friend’ would prove to be one of the most powerful cards anyone could possess.
As for the Association President Woo Jin-Cheol, his role was to become the bridgehead to facilitate that purpose.
Of course, Woo Jin-Cheol wasn’t naïve enough to not realise what the ulterior motive of President Kim was.
‘You called me here to talk about something like that?’
Woo Jin-Cheol felt all his nervous tension dissipate. And then, he began to get angry, wondering about why he had to get involved in this kind of crap as soon as he occupied the position of the Association President.
‘….So, he thinks I’m easier to push around.’
Indeed, he wasn’t Goh Gun-Hui. The late Association President performed the role of a breakwater of the Association, but with him gone, the figures of the financial and political world were now focusing their attention on him, instead.
They were telling him to serve their interests.
The funny thing was, though – Woo Jin-Cheol was getting angry, sure, but at the same time, he also felt rather relieved, as well.
In the past, the late Association President Goh Gun-Hui often mentioned this – the Hunter’s Association needed to create the right kind of atmosphere for the Hunters to do their jobs.
And this incredibly important role wasn’t just for the sake of the Hunters, but for the sake of everyone else, as well.
When his thoughts reached up to that point, Woo Jin-Cheol became much more relaxed than before. A natural smile even crept up on his face, too.
Unfortunately for President Kim, though, he misinterpreted that smile and began laughing alongside as well.
“Huhuhuh. It seems that Association President Woo is quite a sensible man, unlike a certain someone. Very good. I’d be very appreciative if you do us this small favour. This isn’t just for my benefit, wouldn’t you say?”
He said ‘unlike a certain someone’. It didn’t take a genius to figure out just who the president was talking about. Woo Jin-Cheol soundlessly gritted his teeth and spoke up.
“Indeed, the late Association President was an amazing gentleman.”
“That’s right. Very true. He was a great gentleman, but also just as stubborn and inflexible, too.”
“I’m very different from the late Association President.”
“Huhuhuh! Indeed, you are. The Hunter’s Association should change accordingly with the times. It’s no good to be tied to the ideals of the past forever.”
A cold grin floated up on Woo Jin-Cheol’s lips as he began glaring at President Kim.
“How long do you think it’ll take me to kill every single person in this building, including all of your bodyguards?”
“W-what was that?!”
The high-ranking official jumped up from his seat, but he was frozen stiff immediately from the dense killing intent emitted by Woo Jin-Cheol.
Never mind low ranked Hunters, a rank A Awakened would prove to be an existence even more lethal than any known savage beasts to a normal civilian.
Regular people would be utterly powerless when facing against a tiger or a bear out in the wilderness, so how could the same people be able to deal with a rank A Hunter?
“A few hours? No. I think it won’t even take a few minutes.”
Woo Jin-Cheol watched the complexions of the two men listening turn paler and paler with every passing second and calmly addressed them.
“In that case, how many men do you think you’ll need to stop me when I start rampaging around? I wonder. If you were to mobilise every single police officer and soldier stationed within Seoul and defend until my magical energy reserve bottoms out, then, well, I think you can somehow save yourselves.”
Woo Jin-Cheol drawing this incredibly horrifying picture with a calm expression only served to heighten President Kim’s terror even further.
“Y-you…. But, but, why….”
The politician wanted to say something, but this dense killing intent constantly weighed down on his lips and he couldn’t utter anything that resembled words.
“However, what if it was Hunter Seong going on a rampage, instead of me? How many men do you have to mobilise to defend against him?”
Was it because of all this murderous intent emitted by Woo Jin-Cheol?
President Kim was instantly overcome with a nasty case of goosebumps spreading all over his body after imagining Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, capable of hunting down those Giant monsters alone, suddenly starting to hunt down people, instead.
Woo Jin-Cheol figured that this was enough of terrorising the two men and withdrew his killing intent.
“Such a thing doesn’t happen, because every Hunter out there focuses solely on what a Hunter must do.”
Hunters needed to operate in the sphere of Hunters. Meanwhile, politicians needed to stay within their bubbles.
Making the world go around the correct way – that was the creed of the Hunter’s Association, nay, of the late Association President Goh Gun-Hui.
Woo Jin-Cheol stared straight into the frightened eyes of President Kim and firmly warned him.
“I have no thoughts of sullying the ideals of the Hunter’s Association as established by the late President Goh Gun-Hui, sir. And of course, I expect you to cooperate with us fully.”
< Chapter 206 > Fin.