I Alone Level-Up
Yu Myung-Han spoke frankly about his current situation.
“Actually, I also suffer from the exact same illness as your mother, Hunter-nim.”
That completely unexpected reply took Jin-Woo by surprise and he froze up momentarily.
“….Does Jin-Ho know?”
Yu Myung-Han shook his head.
“Aside from my personal physician, only three others know of my condition. Myself, my wife, and my secretary.”
“And now, it’s four.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
Only now did he understand why Chairman Yu didn’t bother to go through Yu Jin-Ho and instead contacted him secretly like this. Yu Myung-Han wanted to hide his own illness from the rest of his family.
‘But then again – his shoulders are carrying the fate of several tens of thousands of employees, aren’t they….’
If the rumour of the days that Chairman Yu could freely move about being numbered got out, then it didn’t take a genius to see what might happen to Yujin Construction as well as its subsidiaries in the near future.
The reason for hiding the status of his illness even from his family and keeping a tight leash on the information – Chairman Yu simply carried far too much weight on his shoulders to accept his reality as it was.
‘He revealed this secret to me.’
It was probably because he had figured out that he needed to take the risk this time.
Yu Myung-Han was a businessman. Not only that, he was someone whose vocabulary didn’t include the word ‘failure’. He was, simply put, a general undefeated in all of his battles so far.
Such a man would not jump into anything while carrying significant risk if there was nothing to gain from it.
Jin-Woo could pretty much guess what Chairman Yu was about to say.
Sure enough – the older man spoke up with a determined expression.
“I have been scouring the world for a cure, a method, to rid myself of this illness for a while. In the process, I was able to discover that a single patient has gained her freedom from this dastardly illness.”
As Jin-Woo expected, the conversation was heading down the path he thought it might.
“I don’t think it a coincidence that the sole patient recovering from the illness happens to be your mother, Seong Hunter-nim.”
Jin-Woo had left many in sheer shock and astonishment with his never-before-seen mysterious abilities. Could he have somehow cured his mother’s illness with his strange but wonderful abilities?
Chairman Yu had used various avenues to investigate Jin-Woo, which meant that him arriving at such a deduction wasn’t so far-fetched at all.
Jin-Woo didn’t deny nor agree with the claim and quietly stared at Chairman Yu. The latter swallowed his saliva.
‘I cannot afford to make a mistake here.’
If the talk so far was nothing more than a practice match, an appetizer, then the real game was about to kick off now. This was the most important moment.
Yu Myung-Han let out a deep but short breath and spoke up with some conviction.
“What I’d like to earn from you is the truth, Hunter-nim.”
He then pushed the cheque forward a little bit more with his hand.
“And as your compensation, this is just merely a small part of what I’m willing to provide you with, Seong Hunter-nim.”
Not everything, but merely a part, he said.
Meaning, he was prepared to hand over something else besides money if that’s what Jin-Woo wanted.
“If you help me out on this matter, Hunter-nim, I shall never forget this favour for the rest of my life.”
The tiger of the financial world lowered his head and asked for help. If those people who knew Chairman Yu saw this spectacle, they would have cried out in sheer shock just then.
However, perhaps surprisingly, Jin-Woo remained calm even though he was on the receiving end of this plea. His collected gaze quietly studied Chairman Yu.
‘Doesn’t seem like he’s lying to me.’
The older man’s raised heart rate, his quickened breathing, and the desperately pleading expression hidden beneath the facade of unflappable calm told Jin-Woo everything he needed to know.
Chairman Yu was being truthful here.
However, just because someone earnestly wished to get his hands on something, that didn’t mean he’d be successful every single time. After a short deliberation later, Jin-Woo finally opened his tightly-shut mouth.
That one short sentence caused Yu Myung-Han’s eyes to tremble quite powerfully.
“It is unfortunate, but that’s not something I can help you with.”
“I-in that… case.”
As his hopes riding on this talk had been far too great, Chairman Yu couldn’t easily accept his defeat here.
“…How did… your mother become cured, Seong Hunter-nim?”
Jin-Woo’s expression became rather serious.
The surrounding air began to grow chilly all of a sudden. That was enough to remind Chairman Yu just what kind of a person he was dealing with right now.
Jin-Woo continued on.
“Hypothetically speaking, if I knew how the illness had been cured and I wished to get rich from that, why would I have kept my mouth shut until now?”
A handful of possible answers fleeted in and out of Chairman Yu’s mind. Was it because Jin-Woo was scared of becoming a target of someone influential? But, that couldn’t be.
Chairman Yu immediately shook his head.
Jin-Woo was the currently-active rank S Hunter. Not only that, he was an especially powerful one, too. Just who would dare to think of him as a target, then?
Did this mean he wanted something else besides money?
Unknown to himself, Chairman Yu’s own head moved from side to side once more. The current Hunter Seong was capable enough to get all the fame and recognition one could desire, if that was what he wanted. But then, he hadn’t done that, either.
Chairman Yu belatedly realised what his mistake was this time ’round.
One of the basics in negotiation was finding out what the other party wanted in advance. You’d bring in something the other side wanted and in turn, you got what you wanted from them. That was how a negotiation worked.
However, Chairman Yu didn’t know what Jin-Woo wanted. Not even one thing. It was only obvious that the negotiation would fail like this.
‘So, it must be one of the two possibilities.’
Either Jin-Woo really didn’t know what cured his mother, or Yu Myung-Han simply didn’t have what he wanted. Whatever the case may have been, it was still a despairing result for Chairman Yu either way.
Chairman Yu no longer clung onto Jin-Woo.
“Well, in that case.”
The older man saw that Jin-Woo was getting up to leave, so he also got up in haste and summoned Secretary Kim. The latter guarding the door quickly entered the office.
The moment he took his first step inside, he immediately read the frozen atmosphere flowing between Jin-Woo and Chairman Yu. This meeting was the final ray of hope for his boss so even Kim’s complexion darkened rather quickly.
“Sir, have you called for me?”
Chairman Yu powerlessly nodded his head.
“Hunter-nim wishes to return. Please take him back to his residence.”
“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
Jin-Woo tactfully declined the offer, and after leaving short goodbyes to both Yu Myung-Han and Secretary Kim, he climbed aboard the elevator all alone.
The lift moved at a frightening pace from the penthouse floor right down to the lobby.
He hadn’t noticed it while riding it with someone else, but now that he was alone, he could tell for sure – this elevator was simply far too large and wide for only one person to ride in.
Jin-Woo spat out a long sigh,
He didn’t feel so well after rejecting the request. Wasn’t that man the father of someone he treated like a little brother? He could’ve extended his helping hand while pretending to be defeated by his emotions.
‘I don’t know him.’
He didn’t know just what kind of a man Chairman Yu Myung-Han was. He didn’t know whether he was really suffering from the illness, or he was scheming something else.
The ‘Divine Water of Life’ used to cure his mother might possess an otherworldly healing property, but its supply was also limited. And that was why he simply had to be more circumspect with their usages.
The terms put forward by Chairman Yu indeed had been incredibly tempting, but in the end, they failed to change Jin-Woo’s mind. This was the end result.
The elevator arrived on the ground floor in no time at all and opened its doors. Jin-Woo pulled his hood up and got out of the lift. Unlike when he was accompanied by Chairman Yu, no one seemed to recognise him now.
Even those giving him cursory glances simply carried the looks of ‘Who could he be that he’s using the executives-only elevator?’
Jin-Woo paid them no mind and walked over to the exit. One of the waiting employees tasked with guiding people spotted Jin-Woo’s approach and opened the door for him to pass through.
Jin-Woo continued on and crossed the lobby, but then, his steps came to a halt after he heard a voice coming from somewhere.
[This is the latest update coming from Japan.]
Jin-Woo’s head shifted in the direction of that sound. A giant TV in the lobby that had been switched off earlier was now showing the real-time footage of the situation in Japan.
It was the breaking news regarding the dungeon break and the massive calamity spreading at an alarming rate.
Jin-Woo walked to the front of the TV.
The sight of the ruined city captured from the TV station’s helicopter was truly gut-wrenching.
The Giant monsters were demolishing the buildings. Those unfortunate citizens failing to evacuate in time were captured and immediately thrown into the mouths of these Giants. What little remained of armed forces poured out all their firepower but that proved to be a useless endeavour.
It was still impossible to kill monsters without the powers of Hunters, after all.
Although it was impossible to accurately calculate the death toll, the rough estimate had come out to well over a million.
In a word, it was an unspeakable tragedy.
Jin-Woo’s expression hardened. This would be his first time seeing the current status with his own eyes. But then, that made sense.
It was only yesterday that, after emerging from the dual dungeon, he asked Woo Jin-Cheol to take care of the aftermath and went back home to crash into a deep, deep slumber.
He half-expected the worst, but the situation in Japan was far graver than his initial expectations. This whole thing reminded him of the nightmare unfolding on Jeju Island four years ago.
Maybe one could claim that it was a silver lining among the storm of misfortunes. The dungeon break back then occurred on an island and the uniqueness of landscape meant that Korea was spared of the situation possibly becoming even worse than before.
However, it was a different story for Japan.
It was far too large to simply be called an island. A whole country was facing total destruction at this rate.
Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump!
Jin-Woo’s heart quickened as he watched those Giants.
He was feeling rather displeased right now. When he thought about how such weaklings were stepping on humans like that, a powerful sense of disgust welled up from deep inside of him.
‘Wait a sec….’
Jin-Woo quickly broke out of his reverie.
What did he mean, such weaklings?
He had never fought Giant-type monsters before. And he couldn’t sense its magic energy through a TV screen. So, why did he subconsciously think of the word ‘weakling’ almost right away when he saw a Giant monster?
Was this coming from his self-confidence?
Jin-Woo tilted his head this way and that, before shaking it altogether.
‘Huh. Because my head’s so messy right now, I’m even beginning to think up some weird stuff, too.’
He turned around to leave.
He managed to slip out of the cordon of people watching the broadcast with worried expressions, and quietly left the building.
The second day of the dungeon break.
The attention of the entire world was focused on Japan. What was their plan of action against the dungeon break? Did Japan have any methods left to employ, anyway? If not, would America really step up to help them?
Was there a possibility that the Giants, having finished laying waste to Japan, would cross the ocean and start causing destruction in other countries, too?
Worried gazes and ones filled with concern descended upon Japan as it continued to crumble.
Of course, those nations that held an antagonistic relationship with Japan inwardly thought of different matters altogether, but outwardly at least, they sent over some token words of sympathy.
Unfortunately, what the Japanese needed weren’t some words of comfort. No, they needed actual, physical help.
They needed comprehensive power to rescue Japan from the monsters. Indeed, they needed the power capable of ‘saving’ them.
As the announcement from the Americans was nowhere to be heard, the grim news of one-tenth of Japan already being destroyed became public. The plight of Japanese refugees filling up the highways continued to travel in the airwaves. They all abandoned their homes in order to survive and travelled to the east and west.
However, just as it was the case with every nation on Earth, the landmass of Japan wasn’t infinite, to begin with. In the end, these people would eventually be pushed to a corner. The prophesied end was drawing near for them.
And the world began asking more questions as it watched this pitiable sight unfold.
– What is South Korea doing?
– Why isn’t South Korea helping Japan?
– Do they not know what owing someone means?
The world remembered seeing the Jeju Island raid that took place only a few weeks ago.
Japan had lost over half of their participating rank S Hunters for the sake of the Koreans. So, the world was asking, why were the Koreans only watching on the crisis unfolding in their neighbouring country and not doing anything to help?
The scale of destruction and the death toll continued to be revised hourly. People grew outraged and grieved for the losses.
As the feelings of sympathy grew larger and larger for the Japanese, the criticisms towards Korea grew harsher and harsher in turn.
– Make a move already, South Korea!
– Do they not know of the concept of loyalty?
– Have the Koreans forgotten about Jeju Island?
The mass media of the world was boiling over.
And before long, another question rose up – the one about why Japan hadn’t requested South Korea with the subjugation of the monsters.
And so, as the fourth day dawned on this tragedy….
The Association President Goh Gun-Hui, having decided that now was the right time, stepped in front of the crowd of reporters.
Goh Gun-Hui swept his gaze over the tightly-packed wall of reporters as well as the cameras pointing at him and quietly opened his mouth to speak.
“I express my condolences at the tragedy unfolding in Japan. And also, I’d like to reveal the position of South Korea’s own Hunter’s Association.”
A little earlier in the day, the American Hunter Bureau also released a statement, as well.
< Chapter 168 > Fin.