I Alone Level-Up
Jin-Woo lightly evaded the tearful Yu Jin-Ho’s attempt to bear-hug him. Then, he coolly addressed Woo Jin-Cheol in the same hospital room, who had volunteered to look after the kid during the conference itself.
“What’s gotten into him?”
“Well, I showed him this when he woke up, and now….”
The Chief of the Monitoring Division picked up the newspaper he was reading.
The front page of the folded newspaper was plastered with the photographs of Jin-Woo’s beatdown victims, the utterly wrecked Scavenger Guild’s members, and that of the bloodied and unconscious Thomas Andre’s face.
It might have been something obvious to him, but the same couldn’t be said about Yu Jin-Ho who now had seen the article in its full glory.
Just who in this world would clash head-on against the world’s most powerful Guild in order to rescue him? Not only that, when that Guild’s Master, ‘Goliath’ Thomas Andre was involved in the shenanigans, too?
Yu Jin-Ho was shedding thick tears of heartfelt emotion after reading the article, so when Jin-Woo arrived in the hospital, he began expressing his happiness with his entire being.
Jin-Woo’s agility had surpassed far beyond what rank S Hunters were capable of by now. In spite of Yu Jin-Ho concerted efforts, the target for his manly affection kept slipping out of his heartfelt hug.
Jin-Woo slipped past yet another attempt of the kid trying to embrace him, and pointed a thumb at the stumbling Yu Jin-Ho’s back.
“Are you telling me he read an article written in English?”
“Oh, that. I figured that it’s really uncool to let our employee get paid without doing a single thing, so I told her to translate the article for him.”
The end of Yu Jin-Ho’s nose reddened as if he found Jin-Woo constantly dodging his attempt at skinship rather cold-hearted.
Yu Jin-Ho took the tissues Jin-Woo handed over and blew his nose on them.
Of course, Jin-Woo knew how the kid felt. Even then, he couldn’t walk around with a snot stain on the expensive suit he especially picked for the International Conference, now could he?
Wiping his tears away seemed to have done the trick and calmed Yu Jin-Ho down. He asked in a more even-sounding voice.
“By the way, hyung-nim, since when did you learn to speak English?”
It seemed that the kid must’ve heard Jin-Woo conversing with Thomas Andre back inside the disused factory, even though his consciousness was wavering in and out.
“Well, you have a lot of free time as a low-ranked Hunter, you know.”
A Hunter without a raid to go to was basically an unemployed bum. Jin-Woo studied English whenever he had time, trying to prepare for the eventuality of him quitting the life of a Hunter someday.
‘I didn’t know it’d come in handy in that sort of situation, though.’
He felt a bit reminiscent of the times back when he was studying the language. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined that the first time he used the language he self-taught to converse was during the fight against Thomas Andre.
Yu Jin-Ho recalled that Jin-Woo was a low ranked Hunter once upon a time and nodded his head in understanding.
When he thought about his hyung-nim’s past in relation to yesterday’s events, he became even more moved by Jin-Woo’s loyalty that propelled him to confront the Scavenger Guild and its entire catalogue of elite Hunters just for his sake.
Yu Jin-Ho began tearing up again as he emotionally declared his intentions.
“Hyung-nim! I’ll definitely trust you and follow you till the ends of the earth!”
His eyes reddened again and snot once more drooped out from his nose tip, which was cleaned barely a minute ago.
Jin-Woo was grinning outwardly, but too bad…
‘….Having a high Perception Stat isn’t always useful, is it?’
Thanks to his supernatural-level of senses that allowed him to read every little minutiae of Yu Jin-Ho’s emotions, even Jin-Woo’s nose began stinging a little bit now. He deliberately avoided meeting the kid’s gaze and shifted his attention over to Woo Jin-Cheol.
“Looks like there’s no problem for him to get discharged, doesn’t it?”
“Agreed. As a matter of fact, the doctor in charge was quite surprised that Mister Jin-Ho had completely recovered from his injuries in just one night.”
“In that case, let’s just go through with the discharge process and return to the hotel. We even have transportation lent to us by the Hunter Bureau, so might as well.”
“I’ll get ready too, hyung-nim.”
Jin-Woo quietly stared at the still-swollen-eyed Yu Jin-Ho packing up his stuff to leave and felt grateful for the fact that the kid was safe now. And at the same time, his anger towards the culprit responsible for this whole chaos ballooned up in an instant.
‘Greed, when we get back to the hotel, you know what you have to do, right?’
[….I understand, oh, my king.]
As he was leaving the hospital room, Jin-Woo inwardly ‘comforted’ Greed with an assurance that all the former rank S Hunter would have to do was to plant his head on the floor for around two hours, which was neither too long or too short in his opinion.
There were two vehicles prepared by the Hunter Bureau.
Since Jin-Woo had something private to discuss with Adam White, he got in the car in front where the American agent was waiting for him, while Yu Jin-Ho and the two Korean Association employees climbed into the vehicle at the back.
When Jin-Woo opened the rear passenger door with a loud clunk, Adam White flinched awake from his short nap taken while leaning against the window frame and urgently shook his head to chase away the drowsiness.
“You’re here, Hunter-nim.”
The American’s face was haggard, to say the least.
Unmistakable dark circles thickly coated the spots below his eyes. He was utterly exhausted from the breakneck-pace of all the events taking place, as well as the packed itinerary, of the past couple of days.
Jin-Woo looked on at him with pitying eyes, but Adam White didn’t even notice that and simply ordered the driver to start the vehicle.
Now that they were moving again, Jin-Woo got down to the main topic.
“Can you get me the list of the Hunters you people wanted me to protect?”
Those words seemed to have chased away all traces of sleep from Adam White’s mind because his expression brightened in an instant.
“Have you changed your mind?”
“No, but I’m curious about something else.”
Adam White struggled to hide his disappointment.
He got his hopes raised up before being shot down. Still, he didn’t think this was all bad news. Because it indicated that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was still interested in this problem one way or the other.
Adam formed a smile and replied back.
“I shall draw up a list as soon as I get back to the Bureau.”
As soon as he got back, he said. Jin-Woo snuck a glance at the time. It was already nine in the evening.
He briefly wondered whether he made a mistake or not when he saw Adam White’s complexion waning just a little bit more after the poor man was asked to perform yet another task.
Not surprisingly, the American agent tried hard to keep his sleepy eyes wide open to make sure he’d not drift away to dreamland in front of the Hunter he was supposed to escort.
Jin-Woo couldn’t watch on any longer and reached out toward him.
Adam White’s panicky voice cracked up a little when Jin-Woo’s left hand covered his eyes.
Too bad for him, though, just a couple of words from Jin-Woo and he was petrified in the spot.
“Will you just stay still?”
A normal person doing something similar would send creeping chills down the hapless victim’s spine. However, the one doing it right now was Hunter Seong Jin-Woo, arguably the man most far removed from a ‘normal’ person.
He even beat the living crap out of Thomas Andre until the latter was almost dead.
Suddenly having his vision blocked by the hand of a rank S Hunter, Adam White could only swallow dried up saliva of nervousness.
Jin-Woo leaned the American agent’s head back with his left hand and with his right hand, poured the healing potion he just bought from the Store down the now-open mouth.
‘W-what is this?!’
Adam White was obviously very tense from forcibly swallowing the unidentifiable liquid while his vision had been blocked. But even he was able to feel that, as more and more of this liquid slid down his throat, his stamina seemed to recover more and more.
‘But, how can something like this….?!’
By the time Seong Jin-Woo withdrew his hands, Adam White realised that the deluge of drowsiness plaguing him was completely gone.
No, hang on. Was that all?
He felt so refreshed and airy as if he had been asleep in a comfy bed the whole night and was roused from his slumber by the gentle warmth of the morning sun.
As if his fatigue had been a lie, he couldn’t feel a single trace of it anywhere on his body.
‘….How did you do that??’
That was the question Adam White’s look seemed to be asking, but Jin-Woo simply shrugged his shoulders as a reply.
“It’s a trade secret, so….”
“Oh. I see.”
Since it was such a mystifying event, Adam White found it somewhat easier to accept. He moved his body this way and that to confirm and expressed his admiration in a shocked-sounding voice.
“You are… well, how should I phrase this…. It feels like, you’d have greatly succeeded regardless of what you chose to do, even if that was unrelated to being a Hunter.”
Although this praise seemed a bit excessive when coming from a ‘special agent’ of the Hunter Bureau, someone so highly educated that he was capable of speaking ten different languages according to himself, Jin-Woo still formed a content smile regardless, after seeing that look of satisfaction on Adam White’s face.
With this, it’d be easier to ask for the next part of the favour. Indeed, asking for the list of the Hunters was just the beginning of his plan.
“And also, can you organise an opportunity where I can meet the ones found on that list?”
Now was his chance.
Since all the powerful Hunters from around the world had gathered in one place, just by him inserting his Shadow Soldiers in their shadows would allow him to respond quickly to the attacks of the Sovereigns when they happened.
However, Adam White began shaking his head, instead.
This was what Jin-Woo was worried about. Even if the Hunter Bureau was a powerful, influential organisation, it should still be quite difficult to mobilise that many top-ranked Hunters of the world.
Jin-Woo’s expression hardened gradually.
“As I thought… I guess it’s too difficult.”
“No, not at all. On the contrary, I meant to say that there’s no reason to organise such an occasion in the first place, Hunter-nim.”
Adam White grinned refreshingly and explained the itinerary for the final day of the International Guild Conference.
“Don’t forget, there is the ‘Night of the Hunters’ still left.’
He suddenly spoke of a combination of words that would’ve worked well for a video game’s title. For some reason, he seemed quite hyped up over it, too.
“There is a big party organised by the Bureau. All the Hunters attending the Conference are invited. If you wish to meet them, you can most likely do that there, Hunter-nim.”
A party, was it?
Was there a better occasion to meet the Hunters ‘naturally’ and attach Shadow Soldiers on them than a party? Jin-Woo clenched his fist tightly.
‘This is good.’
Through other Hunters, he’d get to meet these mysterious Sovereigns. And from that encounter, he’d get to learn who his real enemies and allies were, and also, how he should go about fighting them, too.
“I will do that, then.”
Jin-Woo smiled and leaned against the back seat.
The night sky of America was getting darker beyond the window of the speeding vehicle.
The ‘Night of the Hunters’.
The world’s top Hunters and related parties began flocking towards a gigantic banquet hall, capable of housing nearly 1,500 people.
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets as he soaked in the sight of the legendary gathering of Hunters that he only got to see through TV screens.
Funnily enough, though, the gazes of other Hunters staring at Jin-Woo were quite similar in nature to Yu Jin-Ho’s reaction. The moment he stepped into the banquet hall, everyone’s attention was laser-focused on him in an instant.
“Look, isn’t that….”
“Yes, I saw.”
“He’s right in front of us, but I can’t even feel his presence.”
“He’s on a completely different level.”
And with all the attention being poured on him, it was only natural that even Yu Jin-Ho would be subjected to their intense scrutiny, as well.
“In that case, the Hunter next to him must be….”
“He fought Thomas Andre in order to rescue that young fella?”
The situation had settled down somewhat by now after the Hunter Bureau had released the public statement.
On one hand, every Hunter in here was deeply shocked by the fact that Jin-Woo was willing to clash against the entirety of the Scavenger Guild for the sake of his rank D Hunter comrade. But on the flip side, they were also getting a heavy case of goosebumps, knowing that the declaration he made towards the end of the conference’s first day was not a bluff at all.
[“I shall protect my family, even if that means every single Hunter in the world becomes my enemy.”]
The photographs accompanying the article clearly demonstrated what had happened to the Scavenger Guild. No wonder everyone in this room was dearly praying that what he said wouldn’t come true.
In any case – now that the Bureau had cleared up the air, lots of Hunters were beginning to seek out a chance to engage Jin-Woo in a conversation, busy waiting for the right moment to strike.
This was the result of his public image going through a revamp of sorts, going from a monster capable of pummelling the freakishly strong Goliath, to that of a monster who’d not hesitate at anything to protect his comrades.
The thing was, though – the very first person to pluck up his courage and made his approach was not a Hunter, but a chairman of a very famous global corporation specialising in dealing with monster remains.
“It’s my honour to meet you like this, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
The businessman introduced himself first, and then…
“We’d like to purchase the remains of all the Giant-type monsters you have hunted down in Japan. Do you have some time to discuss this matter in greater detail?”
Giant-type monsters most of the time appeared as bosses in rank A Gates, so it was very rare to find a completely intact corpse of such creatures.
This man’s desire and acute business acumen led him to make his move a step faster than anyone else present in the banquet hall.
‘This is a good opportunity.’
Jin-Woo grinned affably and introduced Yu Jin-Ho next to him to the businessman.
“I’m in charge of the raid aspect of the Guild. I usually leave all the business-related discussions to my trusted Vice-Master over here.”
“Ah, is that so?”
Yu Jin-Ho became far bolder than ever before from Jin-Woo propping him up like that. He straightened his back proudly and extended his hand out.
“I’m Yu Jin-Ho, Vice-Chairman of the Ah-Jin Guild.”
“Ahh, yes. Hello. It’s a pleasure.”
“I don’t usually discuss business-related matters in occasions such as this one, but if it’s you, Mister Chairman….”
Jin-Woo watched on as Yu Jin-Ho expertly guided the businessman to somewhere better suited for a conversation like the one they were about to have, and formed a satisfied smile.
‘This kid. He’s finally acting like a proper Vice Chair now.’
But, Jin-Woo’s eyes sharpened almost instantly afterwards. Now that the pair of potential obstructions went away, the real thing would begin now.
Adam White got close to Jin-Woo.
“Here is the list you asked for.”
The screen of the tablet PC he handed over displayed the ten names of the Hunters who could all legitimately be called the world’s best in numerical order.
“We at the Bureau had taken all the feats each Hunter had achieved and converted them into points so we can assign them numbered rankings. These ten people are the ones with the highest amount of ‘Hunter points’ in the world.”
The ‘Hunter points’, he said.
Jin-Woo was intrigued by the fact that the feats and achievements of a Hunter were represented through a points system. He then realised that his name wasn’t on the list and asked Adam White.
“Where am I on this list?”
“If we were to include your feat in hunting down the Giant-type monsters in the points tally, then… you should be around here.”
The American agent pointed in the spot between 3rd and 4th. The names of Liu Zhigeng, Thomas Andre, and Christopher Reid occupied the spots above.
The mere fact that he was already located beneath those three when he hadn’t been a rank S Hunter for long attested to all the incredible feats he managed to achieve so far.
‘The 4th place is… India’s Siddharth Bachchan. And the 5th spot is….’
The first five spots naturally belonged to the five surviving Special Authority-rank Hunters. As for the spots below, they were also occupied by some of the most decorated, celebrated Hunters in the world.
It was then, Jin-Woo stopped reading the list and raised his head after he heard a bit of commotion rising up.
An unexpected appearance of a certain guest had thrown the party goers into confusion and chaos. Confirming who this guest was, Jin-Woo handed the tablet back to Adam White.
“You don’t need to worry.”
As he expected, this guest displayed not one hint of hesitation as he strode straight towards Jin-Woo.
He even proceeded to step aside Liu Zhigeng trying to dissuade him in the middle of the way and stopped right in front of the Korean Hunter, before removing his sunglasses.
Jin-Woo mouthed the man’s name.
Jin-Woo didn’t lose his relaxed demeanour even when Thomas Andre was standing before him. However, the same couldn’t be said about pretty much all of the onlookers staring at him, and the American with his arm wrapped in bandages. They were getting properly freaked out now.
The burly American looked at his Korean counterpart, who was at least a good head shorter than he was.
“Hunter Seong Jin-Woo… I want to ask you a question.”
< Chapter 198 > Fin.