I Alone Level-Up
‘I wish he’d at least talk to me.’
Ju-Hui kind of felt that Jin-Woo was being rather cold-hearted here, not saying a single word until now.
In the end, Ju-Hui stopped walking first and with some difficulty, broke the ice.
“Actually… I think it’ll be impossible for me to eat anything today. Let me return this to you in the meantime.”
Ju-Hui handed over a magic crystal to Jin-Woo. It was none other than the same crystal he entrusted to her back in the underground temple.
The tips of Ju-Hui’s fingers were trembling as she handed over the crystal.
‘That incident had been only a few days ago…. And she had to go through another one today.’
Ju-Hui was the type of person to get scared quite easily. He could easily figure out what she meant by being unable to eat anything.
“But, today isn’t the only day, you know? There’s no need to return this to me now.”
Ju-Hui shook her head slowly.
“I’m going back home next week.”
He heard that she was quitting the life of a Hunter, but now, it seemed that she was leaving the city altogether. Jin-Woo formed a rueful expression.
“Is it because of… that incident back then?”
“Well, it’s not simply because of that, but…..”
Perhaps she ended up recalling the events of that day, Ju-Hui’s complexion darkened. Jin-Woo quickly changed the topic of their conversation.
“Where is your family home, exactly?”
“It’s in Busan. ….Actually, Mister Jin-Woo?”
Suddenly, Ju-Hui’s expression became quite serious.
Sensing that the mood had become sombre, Jin-Woo quickly wiped the smile off his face and formed a serious expression as well.
Ju-Hui slowly, carefully combed over Jin-Woo’s face.
Back then, when everyone else was trembling from despair, only Jin-Woo’s eyes burned fiercely with a strong resolve. Ju-Hui was nearest to him, so she got to see those eyes.
‘It was like, they were shouting out to the rest of the world so they can hear his will to survive.’
And the faint traces of hope those eyes captured managed to save not only her, but many others as well, from that place multiple times.
No one could imitate what he pulled off back there.
When she recalled the events of that day, her heart began beating faster and faster.
‘No, I can’t….’
She had no regrets over quitting the life of a Hunter, since it didn’t even suit her personality, to begin with.
However, she couldn’t help but feel really bad after realising that it’d be tough to meet Jin-Woo ever again.
‘Will he think of me as a weird person, if I ask him about meeting each other again….?’
It was rather unfortunate, but there were some things in this world that she couldn’t really do anything about. Having any regrets over such matters would only end up tormenting her.
In the end, Ju-Hui simply formed a disarming smile and lightly shook her head.
“Nah, it’s nothing, really. If you come down to Busan one day, please give me a call. I’ll buy you really good sushi.”
When Jin-Woo formed a smile, Ju-Hui smiled back at him.
And so, Ju-Hui didn’t get to say the words she truly wanted to say. She simply performed a short goodbye and turned around to leave.
The way back home never felt this long to her before.
After sending Ju-Hui home, Jin-Woo also returned to his place.
An old, decrepit apartment building, visible even from a distance – his place was on the eighth floor. (TL: Ninth floor for all of you North American readers)
As he walked past the parked cars to enter the building itself, the voice of an old man stopped him in his tracks.
“Young man from 902.”
It was coming from the old security guard ahjussi. He’d been around this place for a very long time; Jin-Woo was familiar with the older man, so he greeted without hesitation.
“You haven’t gone home yet, ahjussi?”
“I’m on the night watch duty today.”
Jin-Woo lightly nodded his head.
The old security guard immediately brought out a parcel from the guard post.
“Jin-Woo, this came for you today.”
“Ahh. Thank you so much.”
The sender written on the slip was the Association.
‘Oh, so it was today, eh?’
The day that his replacement phone from the Association was supposed to arrive, that was.
Jin-Woo took out his brand new phone from the box; it glittered softly under the light.
He remembered hearing not too long ago that, due to the continued extreme level of interest towards everything related to Hunters, the number of non-Awakened people trying to get their hands on one of these phones was on the explosive rise.
‘Never mind those who wish to buy one, just what are those idiot Hunters thinking, trying to pilfer a few and selling them off?’
The old saying went that it’s not the country that lacked money, but that there were way too many crooks, instead.
Whether it was inside the Association or in the military, or any place where people gathered in some numbers, corruption would always cause problems.
Because of corruption, money would leak out, and the promised financial support would decrease as much as the amount of leaked money, which would make the overall situation even worse.
This would eventually mean that those who were supposed to benefit from the system in a rightful manner got screwed royally in the a*s.
‘That was why I got worried, but….’
Fortunately enough, there were seemingly no problems with his new phone.
While waiting for the elevator to arrive, he had nothing else to do so he switched the phone on.
And well, there was a mountain of unanswered messages and missed calls.
‘Will I even be able to check all these out??’
Funnily enough, two numbers kept popping up as he took a look at the screen. Both of them seemed unfamiliar to him. One called him a lot, while the other sent a ton of text messages.
‘But, I don’t know anybody who might call me this many times, though?’
Jin-Woo tilted his head slightly, before deciding to check the text messages out first.
[Hello, I’m from that hospital….]
[If you have free time this week….]
[Was I bothering you? I just thought we could chat for a….]
He belatedly remembered a certain person’s face. Indeed, it was the face of that pretty nurse from the hospital, the one asking for his number back then.
‘Was her name Choi Yu-Rah?’
He couldn’t say that she was bothering him, but he got this feeling that the moment he replied back to her, his life might get really and unnecessarily complicated in a heartbeat.
‘Okay, so. I’ll pass….’
Next up, the number that called him repeatedly.
Jin-Woo pressed the call button. A fairly new and catchy pop song noisily greeted him as the ringtone.
Hearing that, Jin-Woo could more or less guess who this number belonged to.
The call was connected pretty quickly.
Yup, indeed it was him.
Jin-Woo leaked a wry chuckle after his guess was proven correct.
“It’s me. From today onwards, call me only on this number.”
– “Ah! You finally got your phone, hyung-nim!”
Of course, it was none other than Yu Jin-Ho.
Jin-Woo did write down the boy’s contact number somewhere but he had never called it before, so it was a little wonder why he failed to recognise it.
Yu Jin-Ho spoke with a rather excited tone of voice.
– “I was actually thinking of giving you a call just now, hyung-nim. I’ve finished recruiting the team members, so I’ll be coming around tomorrow morning to fetch you!”
Just from hearing that voice, Jin-Woo could picture Yu Jin-Ho’s happy face. Jin-Woo also chuckled lightly.
“Alright. See you tomorrow, then.”
As Jin-Woo ended the call, the elevator arrived on the ground floor and its doors slid open.
Finally, the raid would start for real from tomorrow onwards.
His heart beat faster just from thinking about it.
‘Let’s level up as quickly as I can.’
He’d raise his levels, enhance all his Stats, and become stronger than everyone out there.
Once he became a truly powerful Hunter, he’d be able to get his hands on money, fame, and influence.
And tomorrow would be his first step towards that goal.
The East of the United States.
Late at night.
Hwang Dong-Su was the main Hunter of the Guild, ‘Scavenger’, one of the top Guilds in the entire USA. Not only that, but he was also an S-rank as well. And just before he went to sleep, he received a phone call informing him of a shocking matter.
“…..My older brother is dead?? I want you to speak slowly, and tell me everything in detail. Got that?”
The name of his older brother was Hwang Dong-Seok. Apparently, he entered a C-ranked Gate and lost his life.
“….My older brother and his eight teammates all died, and only two others escaped unhurt?”
And the two who survived were only a rank D and a bloody E??
Something smelled fishy here.
The older brother Hwang Dong-Su knew would never sacrifice his own life for a far weaker teammate. Also, what if that said teammate happened to be a temp?
There was no need to even mention it.
However, only the ranks D and E walked away alive, while his older brother and other C-ranked Hunters all perished in that dungeon.
‘There’s something going here….’
Hwang Dong-Su’s eyes became incredibly sharp.
Right now, he was in a far-off foreign nation after being scouted away by one of America’s top Guilds, but back when he was still in Korea, his brother did everything possible to look after him and be a good brother.
He might not have been a good human being, but he was a great, precious brother…..
‘I was planning to invite him here once I’ve secured my foothold, but now….’
To think, he’d meet an accident before that happened.
Hwang Dong-Su bit his lower lip.
“Fax me all the information on the two surviving members. My number is….” (TL: Yup, it said ‘fax’ in the raw. Uhm, so, no emails in this world, then?)
Hwang Dong-Su ended the phone call and then called his manager next. The call got through pretty quickly.
– “Mister Hwang. You’re calling me quite late. What’s going on?”
“Laura. What would happen if I were to kill some people in Korea?”
– “Do you really mean that?”
There was a bout of silence before the woman’s voice continued on.
– “….The States have yet to sign an agreement to exchange Hunter criminals with South Korea. Mister Hwang, you are now an American citizen, so you’ll get a hearing in a US court instead. If we have a chat with the relevant government officials, then your overall sentence should be pretty light.”
“Good to hear that. Looks like I’ll have to make a trip to Korea for a while. Something happened there. Can you clear up my schedule for a bit?”
– “However, Mister Hwang, if you leave so suddenly like this, the operations in the Guild will grind to a halt. Can you inform me of the nature of this ‘something’?”
“It’s a personal matter. Of course, I’m not going to harm the Guild in any shape or form. Tell me just how far my schedule’s been booked for.”
– “You’re fully booked out for the next two months.”
“Two months, is it… fine. After that, I will need some free time, so don’t schedule anything. I don’t need a long time, either. Just two weeks. I’ll only need two weeks to pop in and out of Korea.”
– “…..Understood. What should I tell the upper management?”
“Tell them, I’m going to my brother’s funeral. Also, going on a trip to cheer myself up, as well.”
– “Okay. Will do. By the way, Mister Hwang… If there is anything I can assist you with…..”
Hwang Dong-Su abruptly ended the call.
Didn’t matter whether it was some cheering up or an advice…. He was not in the mood to hear either of those at the moment.
It was then, the fax had arrived. Hwang Dong-Su took a look at the documents arriving one by one.
On the white pages, photos of two Hunters, their names, and their brief bio could be seen.
“The rank D Hunter, Yu Jin-Ho, and a rank E, Seong Jin-Woo.”
Hwang Dong-Su alternated his gaze on the two men’s photos and gritted his teeth in determination.
‘I’m sure I’ll get some answers from either one if I asked them personally.’
And, if he found anything even remotely suspicious, then….
“You will regret coming out of that place alive. I’ll make sure of it.”
The edges of Hwang Dong-Su’s eyes reddened slightly.
Part 6. Strange raids
Jin-Woo went downstairs after receiving the phone call, only to find a huge van parked outside.
Even before he could say, “Who the hell do you think you are to block someone else’s exit”, the driver’s window rolled down automatically. And the brightly smiling face peeking out from behind belonged to… Yu Jin-Ho.
“Hyung-nim, get in!”
Yu Jin-Ho stuck his hand out the open window and slapped the side of the van.
Since the kid was excitedly declaring his intentions to come and fetch him last night, Jin-Woo half-expected to see a Benz or something, but….
No matter how much he looked, it was a normal-looking passenger van.
Sure, it was on the biggish side, but still.
“Didn’t you say you’re the second born of a chaebol?”
“I thought it’d be too eye-catching if we used my car. I bought this guy not too long ago to use during our raids.”
Only now did Jin-Woo understand the reason for all this shininess coming from the van itself.
‘It’s brand spanking new, that’s why.’
From his sincerity, as seen from the boy arriving at Jin-Woo’s place the first thing in the morning, to his cautiousness as seen from the kid purchasing a new van just to avoid being too conspicuous….
Yu Jin-Ho was doing his best to make sure that everything was going smoothly.
It also demonstrated that his hopes and expectations riding on these upcoming raids were absolutely huge.
Yu Jin-Ho misunderstood the reason why Jin-Woo was taking his time to check out the new van, and worriedly asked.
“By any chance, don’t you like this type of vehicle, hyung-nim?”
“Not at all.”
Jin-Woo declared as so and climbed into the front passenger seat.
“Okay, we’re setting off now, hyung-nim.”
Yu Jin-Ho must’ve been feeling really excited because he kept humming to himself while twirling the steering wheel this way and that.
They drove for a while, before coming to a stop in an empty lot.
“Hyung-nim, we’ve arrived.”
There were eight people waiting for the duo in this meeting place.
< Chapter 36 > Fin.