I Alone Level-Up
Should this be called good fortune?
Jin-Woo’s voice could be heard all around the world, but he wasn’t speaking in the language of humans. The majority of people thought it was some kind of thunder rumbling in the sky. Theories on why everyone heard the exact same noise were quite varied, though.
However, such a matter didn’t pose a single problem, since the world was still celebrating – and felt relieved by – Jin-Woo’s victory.
It was the same story in the actual battle location.
Hunters had been nervously on standby in a location just a bit away from where the battle took place. When they heard that the monster had been taken care of, they couldn’t hold back and roared out in elation.
The two men in charge of the two best local Guilds, Choi Jong-In and Baek Yun-Ho, also spat out sighs of relief and looked at each other with wide grins.
“Hey, Chairman Baek. I thought your complexion wasn’t so good a few minutes ago. I wonder if you have settled down now?”
“Representative Choi, I think you need to wipe your cold sweat first before worrying about someone else.”
“I have a spare ‘cheongsimhwan’ on me, so if your heart is still fluttering badly, you can always ask me for one.” (TL note at the end)
“Aigoo~. You sweated so much. Why don’t you use this handkerchief to wipe your face first?”
The Masters of two Guilds that competed for the top spot in the local ranking started a rather pointy war of nerves. However, they could joke around in this manner only because the situation had been resolved now. Actually, these two couldn’t even swallow their saliva out of sheer nervousness until only a few minutes ago.
But, that was understandable.
Weren’t they being thrust into a battle against monsters powerful enough to treat Special Authority-rank Hunter, Thomas Andre, like a toy?
Not only their lives, but even those of every single Guild member were at risk. And the two Guild Masters, as well as every Hunter, summoned here under the emergency call-up were all thinking of the exact same thing.
That would be: if Hunter Seong Jin-Woo lost here, then it’d be no different than them all dying today.
Now freed from the intense pressure, these two men could express their happiness under the banner of waging a war of nerves.
The smiling Baek Yun-Ho sharing banter with Choi Jong-In looked beyond the latter’s shoulder and his gaze stopped moving then.
Choi Jong-In also followed after that line of sight and looked behind him. There was a lone man walking out from the centre of the ruined city.
Jin-Woo, having concluded his battle with the Sovereigns, quietly walked towards where everyone was.
Other Hunters discovered him one by one. His entrance immediately brought a bout of silence upon this place, once populated by loud cheers and happy yells.
The only noise coming from the surroundings were the wails of sirens, from the ambulances hurriedly arriving on the scene.
‘It’s Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.’
‘That man, he….’
The mood in this place had become oppressed by the sharp aura oozing out of Jin-Woo’s eyes, even though it was clear that the battle had ended in his favour. Not one person dared to open their mouths after seeing him like that.
The battle he fought had to have been incredibly intense because there was a hint of shimmering heat rising up from his shoulders even now.
But, why did the following events unfold as they did?
When Baek Yun-Ho met Jin-Woo’s gaze, the former sent his greeting with a bow. That was the beginning; as if they were saluting a soldier coming home after a very dangerous mission, Hunters all bowed their heads in Jin-Woo’s direction one by one.
How could they not feel a sense of respect for a fellow Hunter capable of fighting on that level?
They all expressed their genuine gratitude and paid their respects, not because someone told them to, or because they were mindful of the surroundings.
Jin-Woo observed their show of respect, and….
….He walked wordlessly past them towards the spot where the familiar-looking van had been parked.
Thomas Andre was about to be loaded into an ambulance and Lennart Niermann was guarding his side. Both men watched Jin-Woo’s departing back.
Lennart spoke with a worried face.
“Hunter Seong Jin-Woo didn’t look so happy.”
Thomas had received emergency treatment by the Healers and his condition had improved by a lot, so he could at least nod his head to express agreement.
“Yeah, he does look that way.”
“But, how come? He managed to beat those powerful monsters and survive.”
Only other Hunters would know what a Hunter was going through. That feeling of sucking in the outside air after clearing a high-difficulty dungeon couldn’t adequately be described in mere words.
So, why was Hunter Seong’s expression so gloomy like that?
Lennart’s question was answered by Thomas, actually.
“He probably isn’t happy with how the fight against those b*stards went down.”
Lennart was deeply shocked by that reply.
Jin-Woo had displayed movements that had far surpassed the limits of a human being, yet he looked gloomy because he wasn’t happy with his performance?
How could such a thing even make sense?
As if he knew what his German counterpart was thinking of, Thomas Andre nodded his head and continued on.
“I also can’t believe it, but…. Most likely, during the fight itself, he must’ve felt disappointed by how many close shaves he had to experience.”
‘Aah, back then.’
Lennart recalled the moments when Jin-Woo’s chest was stabbed by the claws of the beast and let a low gasp escape from his mouth. Also, he remembered his own vision darkening in despair the moment when that ancient Ice Elf stabbed Jin-Woo with a dagger, too.
However, didn’t that happen because the enemies were simply too powerful? Never mind taking on both of them at the same time, how many people in this world could last as long as he did when fighting just one of them?
Lennart’s thoughts reached up to there and he shook his head.
‘No, that’s not it….’
For sure, the thoughts of being defeated because the enemies were tough belonged to regular Hunters, such as himself.
Maybe, ‘winning’ was a matter of course for a bigshot possessing strength like Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, and they probably focused more on how they won their battles, instead.
Now that his train of thoughts arrived here, Lennart felt a chill crept down his spine next. As he stood there in shock, Thomas added one last thing.
“He’s one really scary dude, that Seong Jin-Woo.”
“…..I completely agree with you on that one.”
After Thomas finished his deduction, he got taken to the hospital. During the ride, though…
‘I made the right decision not to throw a tantrum inside his office back then.’
….Lennart was busy telling himself never to become Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s enemy.
Ah-Jin Guild’s ‘Bonggo’ came to a screeching halt, and a young man in the driver’s seat climbed out from the vehicle.
Yu Jin-Ho saw Jin-Woo getting beaten up by the monsters on TV and jumped into the van to rush to the battle location without any concrete plan.
And even though his sensory perception hadn’t been as enhanced as those of the higher-ranked Awakened, he immediately spotted Jin-Woo among the sea of Hunters populating the location and tearfully ran to his destination.
Jin-Woo watched Yu Jin-Ho running towards him with a flood of tears gushing out of the boy’s eyes, and the murderous anger oozing out of his own eyes softened just a tad.
Meanwhile, Yu Jin-Ho used the momentum of the running to tightly hug Jin-Woo. Now, normally, the latter would find dealing with this a bit annoying so he’d step aside like flowing water, but today was different.
Jin-Woo simply chose to gently pat Yu Jin-Ho’s back as the boy clung onto him and cried his eyes out. It was as if the warmth he felt from someone genuinely worrying about him managed to slowly melt his frosty heart.
Maybe, it wasn’t Yu Jin-Ho who needed consoling, but he himself? A thin smile formed on Jin-Woo’s lips.
Yu Jin-Ho finally managed to calm down and lifted his messy tear-and-snot smeared face away to ask a question.
“Hyung-nim, are you alright??”
“No, I’m not alright.”
Yu Jin-Ho jumped up in sheer shock, his eyes opening wider. Jin-Woo then wordlessly pointed to his shirt, now deeply stained by tears and snot.
Yu Jin-Ho hurriedly used his sleeves to wipe his eyes and nose before lowering his head.
“I’m really sorry, hyung-nim. I was so happy to see you unhurt, so, like….”
Jin-Woo chuckled softly.
This kid, back then or now, he was one hell of a character, that’s for sure. But then, he was now a true ‘dongsaeng’ with a quicker wit than anyone when it came to Jin-Woo’s matters.
Yu Jin-Ho did his best to suck in his tears and spoke with a bright face.
“Hyung-nim, I knew this might happen, so I prepared a new set of clothes you can change into.”
Jin-Woo took a look at himself. And he clearly saw the messed-up state of his clothing from top to bottom after going through the intense battle against the Sovereigns.
“Well, if you return home looking like that… I’m sure your mother would be very worried, right? That’s why I got you some new clothes to change into.”
When Jin-Woo looked at him with praising eyes, Yu Jin-Ho wiped the bottom of his nose and tried to hide how happy he was.
“Let’s go, hyung-nim. Allow me to drive you back home.”
Jin-Woo thought about that for a minute, before nodding his head.
‘Mom and Jin-Ah must’ve been watching the TV as well, so I should prioritise putting their minds at ease before doing anything else.’
While Yu Jin-Ho was climbing up into the driver’s side, Jin-Woo turned around and took one last look at the centre of the city, the place where a life-or-death battle had taken place not too long ago.
Many people had rushed in there to take control of the situation, and he could see them doing their best to do their jobs.
Jin-Woo had gained quite handsomely out of that rubble.
‘First of all… I guess I should also prioritise finding a device that allows me to communicate even in the middle of that forest.’
He couldn’t repeat a mistake like this one ever again.
The biggest gain for today had to be ‘these’, though. Jin-Woo looked at the pair of shortswords his father had left behind. It was as if there was a hint of a person’s warmth remaining in their hilts.
As Jin-Woo remained still in his spot, he could Yu Jin-Ho’s cautious voice floating towards him.
Jin-Woo lightly kissed the hilts of the daggers and stored them in the sub-space before belatedly climbing into the passenger’s seat.
“Okay, let’s go.”
The long, long day was drawing to a close.
In the end, the Hunter’s Association had to announce the identities of the monsters that appeared in Seoul as ‘Unknown’.
However, there was no doubt about the scale of devastation those creatures left behind being truly enormous. Countless people either died or were gravely injured; the number of collapsed buildings or destroyed cars were too numerous to count.
However, not everything could be seen as a loss.
Should one call this case a blessing in disguise?
What happened was, they found a way to deal with an unexpected danger.
Especially so for Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s incredible power that he displayed to the world during his fight – it managed to change the mindset of the world’s denizens in one breath.
And that changed mindset was immediately put to action. The symptom of this change, however, started off from a country that no one quite expected it to happen from.
To discuss the handling of the aftermaths of the monsters appearing in Seoul, as well as the potential responses against the super-massive Gate, the current Association President Woo Jin-Cheol paid a visit to the Blue House.
With topic at hand being what it was, President Kim welcomed him rather courteously. After sharing a brief greeting, Woo Jin-Cheol asked his question first.
“Shouldn’t it be better for you to evacuate to the outskirts of Seoul, sir?”
The president of the nation hesitated with his answer, his expression looking complicated before he spat out a long sigh.
“I admit that I treated you rather badly the last time. I’d like to apologise to you about that. However, I implore you not to look at me as a man who had forgotten what responsibilities he has to shoulder. May I remind you, I am still the president of this nation.”
He continued on, although he carried the face of a man experiencing fear, yet at the same time, trying to overcome it.
“If I run away without saying anything, how badly will the citizens be shaken up? I do not wish to see my name being recorded as a blemish on our nation’s history.”
Woo Jin-Cheol thought of President Kim as yet another career politician who was only interested in raking in more votes, but having heard this rather unexpected reply, could only let a wry chuckle out of his mouth.
One could accuse that as being a disrespectful gesture but, as he had already committed a transgression against Woo Jin-Cheol, the country’s president didn’t raise any objections.
Woo Jin-Cheol pulled out the prepared data and got ready to get going with his presentation. But then, an employee working in the Blue House hurriedly entered the office and whispered something into the president’s ear.
“What?? Are you being serious?!”
The president responded by shooting up from his seat with a disbelieving face. The employee replied with a very serious expression.
“Yes, sir. Mister President, how should we proceed next?”
“For now, let the call through. I shall personally speak to him.”
The employee promptly presented a smartphone to the president that was already connected to the mystery person on the other end of the line. The leader of South Korea took over the phone, and a voice that pretty much all Koreans were familiar with came out from the device’s speaker.
– “I pondered deeply on this matter for a very long time, comrade. And…. And, I’ve come to a decision that it might be for our best interest to aid our cadres in the South.”
That voice belonged to the leader of North Korea. The South Korean President couldn’t immediately understand what the other party was talking about and tilted his head this way and that.
“What… do you want to aid us with?”
– “Didn’t a Gate appear in the skies of Seoul? We shall dispatch our Hunters there, too. Let us combine the strengths of both the South and North to deal with this matter.”
North Korea was the signal flare.
The neighbouring nations had only displayed a tepid reaction towards the request for cooperation even with the appearance of Gate boasting an unprecedented size. But now, their attitudes did a complete 180 in an instant.
– South Korea, no, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, must not be allowed to fall.
This was the conclusion various nations came to after watching the battle between Jin-Woo and the ‘Unknown’ monsters.
The ill fortune of Korea wouldn’t simply end in Korea alone. Which Hunter belonging to a country would be capable of stopping a calamity that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo couldn’t stop?
From the closest nations – North Korea, Japan, China, Russia – and to the far-flung nations such as America, Germany, Britain, and France, their Hunters hurriedly set off for Seoul in order to make it in time.
There was only one thought within their minds.
‘We need to aid Hunter Seong Jin-Woo and block the super-massive Gate, no matter the cost.’
The notion of Jin-Woo being their final defence line had been instilled within them after witnessing his feats.
And now, not just South Korea’s own Hunters, but the entire world’s were gathering in the capital city of this small nation in East Asia.
< Chapter 225 > Fin.