I Alone Level-Up
Jin-Woo didn’t particularly mind the gazes of other people, unless he was talking about some special circumstances. As long as no one bothered him, it didn’t matter to him if he got famous, either.
That’s why he didn’t really care when the mourners discovered his presence and started whispering among themselves.
‘At the very least, you all should know that now isn’t the time nor the place.’
Jin-Woo furrowed his brows unhappily.
Wasn’t this the place to remember and honour the valiant sacrifice of Hunter Min Byung-Gu?
Jin-Woo didn’t want this solemn occasion to fall into some noisy chaos because of him, so he briefly unleashed a portion of his magic energy – no, not even that, but an amount so tiny that it didn’t even qualify to be called a portion.
The desired effect took place right away. The air suddenly became incomparably heavier and oppressive silence descended to the place. Even the breathing of the mourners became incredibly cautious.
All those people noisily yapping to each other promptly shut their mouths up at once.
Jin-Woo succeeded in creating an acceptable atmosphere with nothing but a quiet display of power before he started walking forward again. He didn’t get to walk for long, though, as a middle-aged lady, who was too young to be called a granny but too old to be called an auntie, stood before him.
She was none other than Hunter Min Byung-Gu’s mother.
People began gasping softly as they looked on at the mother and Jin-Woo standing in an apparent face-off like that.
‘Wait, she isn’t going to scold him and chase him away, right?’
Fortunately, the outcome people were worried about didn’t come to pass. The why of it was simple enough.
“You’ve arrived. Thank you for coming.”
“Thank you for inviting me, ma’am.”
It was actually Hunter Min-Byung-Gu’s mother who pleaded with him to come by here today.
“There was something I’d like to speak to you in person and that’s why I had to make that call. I hope I wasn’t troubling you.”
“No, not at all, ma’am.”
“Hunter-nim, I heard you got rid of all the monsters in that place so that my son could come home.”
Min Byung-Gu’s mother stopped there and gazed up at Jin-Woo, perhaps wanting to confirm the story she was told straight from the man himself.
Jin-Woo had various personal reasons for hunting down the ants of Jeju Island. However, it was also true that a part of him didn’t want to see Hunter Min Byung-Gu rot away forgotten somewhere in the darkness of that ant tunnel. So, Jin-Woo quietly nodded his head.
“You helped my son so he won’t sleep in that dark, damp place. I….”
Min Byung-Gu’s mother finally began shedding the tears she’d been holding and continued on.
“I was to able to meet my son for the last time with your help. Thank you very much, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
There were no words that could console a parent grieving for her lost child. Jin-Woo could only remain silent with an agonised look on his face. In the meantime, the relatives of Min Byung-Gu’s mother came over and carefully escorted her away deeper into the funeral venue.
Even then, even as she was getting further away from him, she never stopped bowing to him to express her gratitude.
For a moment there, the face of Min Byung-Gu’s mother overlapped with that of his own mom’s from ten years ago in Jin-Woo’s eyes, back when she heard the news of his father going missing inside the Gate.
A thick lump formed in his throat.
Just like how his father sacrificed his life to save a countless number of his colleagues, Hunter Min Byung-Gu’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain.
Without his dedicated effort to heal his comrades, it’d have been really difficult for the Korean Hunters to walk out of the ant tunnel alive. Not only that, he used his powers to save the life of one more Hunter even in death.
Min Byung-Gu’s shadow actually felt relieved after it confirmed the colour of life gradually seep back into Hunter Cha Hae-In’s complexion. From that alone, Jin-Woo could sense how much the Healer cared for his comrades.
Coincidentally, Jin-Woo spotted Cha Hae-In in the distance as he quietly approached the black-and-white portrait of the deceased to lay down the flowers. But when their gazes met, she suddenly flinched and fell into a panicked state.
‘Did they come together?’
The members of the Korean team around her sent him a silent greeting with a slight nod of their heads, but Cha Hae-In looked as if she had no clue which expression she was supposed to make right now.
‘Huh, so that woman can make a face like that, too?’
He couldn’t recall any other times when she didn’t carry that expressionless face of hers. Indeed, one should get to know somebody for a longer time before passing judgement, that’s for sure.
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze away and stood before the portrait.
Hunter Min Byung-Gu within the black photo frame was smiling brightly without a care in the world. Jin-Woo placed the flower in front of the portrait and closed his eyes for a brief moment.
‘I hope you find yourself in a better place.’
Finishing up with the prayer for the departed, he turned around to see a familiar figure approach him from the distance.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
The low, bassy voice naturally belonged to the Association President, Goh Gun-Hui.
“I was actually planning to give you a call later, but it’s good that we have run into each other here.”
“You wanted to see me?”
It was pretty obvious why the Association would look for a Hunter. Thinking that he might find himself with an opportunity to raise his level, Jin-Woo gazed at Goh Gun-Hui with anticipation, but regretfully, the Association President gently laughed and shook his head.
“It’s not what you’re thinking about, Hunter-nim.”
“….Oh. I see.”
How deflating, that.
Jin-Woo could only ruefully smack his lips.
“In any case, I’d like to speak to you for a moment or two. Will that be fine with you?”
Jin-Woo was planning to stop by the Association after leaving here to resolve his Guild Master licence problem anyway, so he said yes immediately.
“I have business in the Association, so why don’t we go and speak there?”
“You have business in the Association….? May I inquire what that is?”
“Oh, actually, I need a Guild Master licence, you see.”
A question mark floated up above Goh Gun-Hui’s head.
“Why do you need the Guild Master licence when you already possess a rank S licence?”
“Wait, does that mean a rank S can establish a Guild without a licence?”
Goh Gun-Hui formed a good-natured smile and continued on.
“If you wish to form your own Guild, all you have to do is to give the Association a call. We’ll take care of the rest.”
The rank ‘S’ was a realm he never expected to step into half a year ago. So, it wasn’t surprising to see Jin-Woo greatly underestimate all the cool benefits this rank came with.
He was inwardly flustered after learning of something he didn’t know until now, but…
‘But, this is actually for the better, isn’t it. Let’s find out more about all the benefits a rank S Hunter enjoys while I’m at it.’
Also, seeing that he could directly get in touch with the Association President Goh Gun-Hui, he might be able to establish his Guild right away as long as he met the minimum requirements.
Was this the reason why the old saying went on about finding the right backer if you wanted to succeed in life?
Most people would never get to meet the President of the Hunter’s Association in their lifetime, yet such a man had already become a dependable backer for Jin-Woo.
Goh Gun-Hui continued on.
“What I’d like to speak to you about won’t take long, so we don’t have to change the venue.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head, leading Goh Gun-Hui to quickly ask him a question.
“By any chance, have you cast some kind of a barrier spell over Jeju Island?”
“What do you mean?”
Where was this barrier magic thingy coming from, all of a sudden?
Did something happen in Jeju Island after he killed every ant there and left for home?
Goh Gun-Hui calmly explained what had happened.
“During the operation to retrieve Hunter Min-Byung-Gu’s remains, there was an incident of the military personnel and the accompanying Hunters losing their consciousness in the same location. Hmm, rather than losing consciousness, it’d be more appropriate to say that they had all fallen asleep, instead.”
Everyone within the same location… all fell asleep? Jin-Woo could only tilt his head slightly.
‘Sounds like an AOE abnormal status magic, doesn’t it?’
….It sounded similar to the thunder magic of the Demon King Baran that inflicted ‘Stun’ effect to all the Shadow Soldiers caught within the attack range.
However, the problem lay with the fact that the folks present during that incident weren’t your average Hunters.
“I thought the elite members of the Knight Order were asked to go to Jeju Island?”
Jin-Woo’s question elicited a nod from Goh Gun-Hui.
“They were either Hunters in the top of the rank A pile, or rank Bs who are very close to rank A in terms of their abilities.”
To be able to put not just one, but several dozens of such people to sleep all at once – a regular rank S Mage wouldn’t even dare to try performing a spell of that magnitude.
“That’s why I had to ask you about it, just in case. I was hoping that maybe you cast a barrier there but forgot to tell us about it.”
Here was the solid proof that both Hunter’s Association and its boss, Goh Gun-Hui, rated Jin-Woo’s abilities incredibly high.
Unfortunately for them, Jin-Woo’s speciality didn’t lay in casting debuff or abnormal status magic. And, perhaps more importantly, there was just no way that he’d forget about activating such a magic spell in the first place.
Jin-Woo promptly shook his head.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t done that.”
“I see…. I guess so.”
Traces of worry slowly entered Goh Gun-Hui’s expression. The most optimistic explanation he could think of turned out to be wide off the mark in the end.
“What did the Hunters say, sir?”
Goh Gun-Hui formed a troubled face of a man finding it hard to explain something, before continuing on his explanations with some difficulty.
“Not only the soldiers, but even the Hunters can’t remember anything that happened before they lost their consciousness.”
His voice sounded even more dispirited next.
“Actually, we can’t even figure out whether they were victims of a magic spell or not in the first place.”
If it were just the soldiers, who were simply regular people, it’d be possible to knock them out with something like the sleeping gas, but even the rank A Hunters and their exceptional physical abilities fell victim as well. So, it couldn’t have been a conventional weapon of some kind.
‘Could it have been a trap left behind by the ants?’
Jin-Woo was really tempted to summon out Beru right now and ask him about it, but….
If he did that, this funeral venue might morph into a blood-splattered battlefield in no time at all. The thing was, Jin-Woo could see a few dozen high-ranked Hunters around here just from a quick headcount.
Of course, he wasn’t worried about Beru at all. Nope, he was only concerned about the Hunters rashly trying to pick a fight with the former ant monster.
It was then.
A young man who must’ve been an Association employee approached them in hurried steps and whispered something to Goh Gun-Hui’s ear. The Association President formed a rueful expression as he spoke to Jin-Woo.
“A guest has arrived sooner than expected, and unfortunately, I must be on my way now. Thank you for your time.”
“You too, sir.”
After sharing brief goodbyes, Goh Gun-Hui hurriedly left the venue and disappeared from the view along with that unnamed employee.
Now that he no longer had any reason to go to the Association, Jin-Woo figured that he might as well go home, instead. He too left the venue and began walking towards the location of the parked van.
He seemed to have picked up a somewhat puzzling ‘tail’ since from a short while ago. Jin-Woo tilted his head in confusion.
‘Aren’t you supposed to do your best not to get discovered when tailing someone?’
Not only that, any ol’ regular folks wouldn’t even dare to dream about tailing a rank S Hunter, too.
Since he couldn’t hear the roll of a camera, the person following him didn’t seem to be a reporter. Heck, this person wasn’t even trying to mask his presence, either.
Getting curious about how long the tail would follow him, as well as what would this person do after catching up to him, Jin-Woo chose to keep walking over to the van without saying a word.
And sure enough, the tail diligently followed after him.
‘Huh. Well, I’ll be….’
Jin-Woo was getting more and more dumbfounded here. He even realised for the first time that he didn’t want to deal seriously with someone who was this unprofessional at what he was supposed to do.
Just as Jin-Woo was about to grab the door handle of his van, he heard a voice calling out to him from behind.
“Are you Mister Seong Jin-Woo?”
Jin-Woo smirked slightly and turned around while thinking to himself, ‘Well, you’ve finally revealed your true colours, haven’t you.’
“Yes, I am.”
But then, Jin-Woo was momentarily taken aback after confirming the face of his opponent.
‘He’s a foreigner?’
That man’s Korean was so perfect that Jin-Woo didn’t expect him to be a Westerner at all. Meanwhile, the young Westerner, sporting a business suit so slick that it bordered on being a fashion statement, formed a smile as bright as his golden hair colour.
“This is who I am.”
The man pulled out a business card and presented it to Jin-Woo. His name, the organisation he worked for, as well as his contact numbers, were all printed in large, legible letters on the card.
[Senior Agent Adam White, Hunter Bureau, the United States of America]
What did an elite agent from the most powerful organisation in the US want from him now?
‘No. There’s only one reason why the Hunter Bureau would want to speak to a Hunter.’
Jin-Woo tore his eyes away from the card and looked straight at the agent, prompting the American to introduce himself with a sunny smile.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim. Please call me Adam from now on.”
< Chapter 129 > Fin.