I Alone Level-Up
The biggest Gate ever to open up on Earth so far had been the one in the United States of America, where Kamish came out of. However, the one in front of everyone’s eyes was easily over ten times that.
Was there a need to even measure its rank in such a case?
Unfortunately, someone had to do the job and so, the Hunter’s Association had to dispatch a helicopter up there.
The aircraft was being populated by employees who were also Hunters. This was done out of fear that the bodies of the regular employees would not be able to endure against the magical energy emitted by the ‘Super-massive Gate’ and break down if they got too close.
Pilot and co-pilot, as well as two Association employees, were riding on the helicopter as it flew ever closer to the Gate.
Would being sucked into a black hole feel like this?
Within this shaking hunk of metal flying in the sky, one of the employees stared intently at the gigantic black circle drawing ever closer and asked.
“Senior, have you ever seen anything like that before?”
The sun had set already, and they had to rely on the spotlights attached to the helicopter, but the sheer massive scale of this terrifying Gate still entered their sights with no problem.
The senior employee shook his head.
“No, never. I’m sure no one in this world has seen a Gate this big before.”
The entire world was in a great upheaval over this single Gate. Such a thing wouldn’t happen just because this particular one appeared in mid-air.
Actually, the world was freaking out by the unbelievable scale of the Gate along with its unique location of being in the air.
If only these employees knew that even Thomas Andre had to doubt his own eyes – they wouldn’t even have shared the dumb conversation about anyone seeing a Gate like that before.
While the two men’s gazes were stolen away by the Gate and dry saliva continued to slide down their throats, the helicopter arrived near the destination and gradually slowed its rate of ascent.
The co-pilot informed his passengers.
“Getting any nearer than this will endanger the helicopter.”
The employees mouthed their understandings and finished getting ready to measure the Gate. Now originally, one would have to stand right next to a Gate in order to measure its rank. However, doing that wasn’t necessary this time around.
As soon as the switch was turned on, the measuring device went ‘Pop!’ and stopped functioning immediately. It was proof that the device couldn’t handle the level of magic energy leaking out from the Gate.
It was also an expected result, too.
The employee trying to manipulate the device looked up at the senior employee. The latter nodded his head to express his agreement. The junior employee opened the communication line in order to report the findings to the Association.
It was at that moment that the senior employee staring outside suddenly cried out.
The junior employee jumped up in fright and quickly scanned his surroundings.
“W-what was that?!”
“I, I thought I saw something resembling a monster outside….”
“Eh? A monster came out already??”
A monster emerged from a Gate that had appeared less than a day ago?
Such a thing couldn’t happen, but the senior employee witnessing this phenomenon was one of the high-ranked Hunters in the country. Neither the pilots nor the junior employee were in a position to criticise him and ask him if he was sure of what he saw.
But then, sure enough….
The senior employee accurately pointed out again what he saw earlier.
It was also around this time that the urgent voice of the Association President Woo Jin-Cheol came out from the headset the junior employee was wearing.
– “What’s going on? What are you saying? Agent Sahng-Won! Hey, Yu Sahng-Won!! Tell me what’s going on up there!”
“S-sir, it’s a monster! We spotted a large monster near the helicopter!”
“But, uh… I don’t think it’s an ordinary monster, sir.”
– “Don’t you know that you’re utterly helpless when encountering a monster in the air? I didn’t send you guys up there to find that out, so get back down here right now!”
“N-no, sir. The thing is, Association President, uh… There’s a person riding on top of the monster.”
– “What are you even talking about?? Hey, how can a person be riding on a mon…..”
It was then, an image of a certain man that really rode around on the back of a monster entered Woo Jin-Cheol’s head and his voice got cut off for a moment there.
– “Hey, Sahng-Won….? Can you see the face of the man riding on the monster?”
“Hold on, sir. Yes, I can just about make it out.”
– “Could he be Hunter Seong Jin-Woo?”
The junior employee opened his eyes wider and pressed his face tightly against the window to take a closer look at the monster, before crying out in surprise and asking back.
“H-how did you know that, sir?”
Jin-Woo riding on the back of the Sky Dragon Kaisel drew closer to the Gate. Once he got near its bottom, the d*mn thing looked more like an endlessly-stretching lake rather than an actual Gate.
What a near-overwhelming size it was.
A regular Hunter wouldn’t have been able to endure this extraordinary amount of magical energy leaking out from the Gate itself, but Jin-Woo remained unaffected and aloof, starting from the moment he decided to check this thing out personally, all the way up to this point in time.
He could see that the Association’s helicopter far below had begun descending to the ground, perhaps assessing that it was too dangerous for them now.
Jin-Woo watched the aircraft for a little while before he got even closer to the Gate itself.
Above his head, in the distance where his hand could reach, the Gate, with its maws wide open towards the ground below, floated in eerie silence.
Of course, the portal’s surface was still blocked off by the black screen so he couldn’t see what its inside looked like.
If he reached out to touch it, would he be able to enter it, or would he get sucked in like a Red Gate, or…?
Jin-Woo cautiously extended his hand out.
‘I most likely need to enter it and solve the problem before this Gate breaks open and monsters start pouring out.’
With a little bit of expectation bubbling noisily in his heart, he pressed the tip of his hand against the Gate’s screen.
For the first time ever since becoming an Awakened, he encountered a rather strange situation. He couldn’t enter the Gate.
His hand couldn’t enter the Gate as it got blocked off by the black screen. It was as hard as a solid wall.
‘If it was a regular wall, I could’ve broken it down, but….’
He pushed with everything he had, but this ‘wall’ didn’t even budge.
Jin-Woo knocked on the screen next, and his lips closed shut in a straight line.
A Gate where Awakened couldn’t pass through. Indeed, this one was different from all the other Gates that preceded it. If so, would the things waiting inside be different from everything else that had emerged before?
‘Whatever the case may be….’
Whatever came out – his family and friends were below this Gate. He had no plan of letting them easily get past him.
‘I now possess the Stats I’ve raised up until now and the brave soldiers that will fight alongside me.’
When his thoughts reached there…
He thought he could hear the uproarious cheers of the soldiers hidden in his shadows echo in his ears.
Anxiety and anticipation alternated in his heart. Ever since he became the ‘Player’ and received the powers of the System, Jin-Woo believed that there was a reason, a purpose, for his existence.
If that was the case, then could it be that he was meant to stop this calamity?
‘What rubbish am I even thinking about now….?’
Jin-Woo chuckled and brushed aside his needlessly grim determination before pulling his hand back from the Gate.
It was then. The Hunter-issue smartphone, which he left on in the vibrate-only mode, suddenly began writhing around inside his pocket. The caller was from the Japanese Hunter’s Association.
Jin-Woo had asked them for a favour earlier, so he quickly answered the call.
– “Hello? Seong Hunter-nim?”
– “Ah, my apologies. I can hardly hear your voice. Should I call you some other time?”
Jin-Woo glanced down at Seoul’s skyscrapers, now small enough to resemble toy building blocks, and grinned to himself.
“There’s no need for that. Actually, I’m somewhere pretty high up at the moment. Anyway, have you found out what I asked you about?”
– “Ah, yes. We scanned the entire territory of Japan with our satellite just now, but….”
Unlike how he usually was, the employee from the Japanese Hunter’s Association blurred the ends of his sentence. Could something have happened in Japan on a day like this?
The answer from the employee was completely out of Jin-Woo’s expectation, however.
– “We couldn’t locate a single Gate, Hunter-nim. There isn’t a single new Gate being generated in the entirity of Japan.”
After he killed off the Giants, he had been spending most of his time raiding dungeons in Japan, so this news came across as a bolt from the blue.
“Not one new Gate has appeared?”
– “Yes, that’s correct. We couldn’t be sure if this was a phenomenon unique to us or not, so we contacted Hunter agencies in other countries, but….”
The employee hesitated before continuing on with a voice thickly laden with his own vexation.
– “All the new Gates suddenly vanished from the world when the super-massive Gate appeared above the skies of Seoul.”
It had been about three hours since this super-massive Gate had appeared in the air. What were the odds of every Gate in the entire world all ‘coincidentally’ vanishing at the same time?
‘….It’s not a coincidence, obviously.’
Jin-Woo’s expression hardened. His stiffened face looked up at the Gate again, and in the meantime, the Japanese Association employee asked him again.
– “Excuse me…. May I ask why you wished for us to find the locations of the highest-ranking Gates?”
It was a bit troubling to honestly answer that.
Well, he couldn’t really come out and say that he just wanted to test the shortswords boasting 1,500 attack damage he got from Thomas Andre as gifts before this uselessly huge Gate opened up, now could he?
In that case…
“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow so someone needs to plant an apple tree, don’t you agree?”
– “Oh…. an apple tree. I see. It’s a wonderful saying.”
Jin-Woo gave out an evasive answer and left the guy on the other side of the line to interpret it in any way he liked, before trying to end the call there.
– “Uhm, excuse me, Seong Hunter-nim?”
As if he was feeling embarrassed, the employee hesitated greatly before continuing on.
– “Honestly speaking, I’ve never looked at Korea in a favourable light in the past. As you may well know, the Japanese Hunter’s Association had been suffering a major headache from the ant monsters on Jeju Island for the last four years. As an employee of the Association, and as a Japanese, I disliked Koreans as a result.”
Jin-Woo quietly listened on to his confession.
– “However, I had to change my mindset all because of you, Hunter-nim. Korea has become the country of our saviour. I’m truly grateful for your help and I wish to thank Korea, your home country.”
As his story got longer and longer, his voice became more and more tearful as well.
– “That is why I pray that Korea won’t ever experience the horrors that my country had to endure.”
People who got trampled by the Giants. Cities were burned down. Screams echoed around in the air. The despair that couldn’t be forgotten.
Those nightmares happened only a few weeks ago.
The employee had witnessed the calamity from up close and that was why he knew; he knew that such things should happen to no one.
Jin-Woo heard his pleas and confidently replied back.
“That will not happen.”
He wasn’t making a promise. No, it was much closer to him making a resolution. The reason for him diligently maintaining his growth up until this moment was the same.
It was now time to show the results of his hard work.
The employee heard Jin-Woo’s reply and quietly laughed.
– “Haha. I never guessed that I’d stop hating Korea and feel envious of them instead. I’m really envious of Korea that has you, Seong Hunter-nim.”
“You don’t have to praise me that much. I don’t have any other hobbies besides hunting down monsters, so I was planning to continue to visit Japan as long as there are monsters still running loose in this world.”
– “Ahh, you saw straight through me. As expected, it’s impossible to fool you when you’re a top-ranked Hunter. I really wanted to earn some brownie points with you, too.”
The employee thanked Jin-Woo for ably improving the atmosphere that threatened to get untenably heavy, before saying his ‘heartfelt’ goodbye.
– “In that case, please, don’t hesitate to call us ‘again’.”
Jin-Woo pocketed the Hunter-issue smartphone. He then quietly stared at the Gate that was preternaturally quiet as if this was the calm before the storm.
‘If this thing’s duration is the same as dungeon breaks from other Gates, then…’
There were around six days left. Jin-Woo’s two eyes glowed softly within this darkness.
“….Let’s go down.”
The Sky Dragon carrying Jin-Woo energetically flapped its wings and made its descent.
About a day later, other people also detected the changes; Gates had disappeared.
New Gates stopped being generated right after the super-massive portal appeared in the skies above Seoul! There was no way to tell whether this was a good or a bad thing, but still, those welcoming this change did exist.
And that would be the Hunter’s Association, currently being led by Woo Jin-Cheol.
With a deeply tense expression, he read the report being handed in and made a decision.
“Call every Hunter in our country to Seoul.”
“Sir? But, that will be too dangerous.”
“If we do that and a Gate we failed to discover goes to become a full-on dungeon break, then…”
“How about we summon only around half of the Hunters and leave the rest to…..”
Woo Jin-Cheol heard the incoming rush of objections and angrily slammed down on the conference table.
The shoulders of the people attending the emergency meeting flinched from this display of a high-ranked Hunter’s anger.
Woo Jin-Cheol shouted out loudly.
“Do you all believe we have the necessary leeway to worry about unseen dangers right now?”
With that, everyone inside the conference room stopped talking at once. Woo Jin-Cheol pointed to somewhere beyond the walls of the room.
“We’re facing an unprecedented calamity right now. We don’t know whether we can stop that d*mn thing or not even after we pour out everything we have at our disposal!”
Woo Jin-Cheol roared out and scanned the faces of the attendees.
“I shall take full responsibilities if incidents take place in other districts. Even if you tell me to give up my entire wealth, I will. If you tell me to put my life on the line and fight, I’ll gladly do so.”
No one could argue against Woo Jin-Cheol’s grim determination.
In a case where the opinions differed during the life-threatening situations inside dungeons, the leader of the raid team would even resort to killing the insubordinate team member.
It was because the incorrect decision made by a few could drag everyone else to their doom. In the outside world, such an action would be seen as a crime, but it was a different story altogether when inside a dungeon.
Raids weren’t a kids’ garden tea party, but true warfare where everyone involved had to put their lives on the line to win, And right now, that war was about to spill outside the dungeon and onto the world.
Woo Jin-Cheol wasn’t a slack Hunter who would entertain opposing arguments when every second counted.
“Summon every Hunter in the country to Seoul immediately, please. As long as they can fight, do not leave anyone behind.”
And so, under the direct order of the Association President Woo Jin-Cheol, the Hunters of the Republic of Korea began heading to the city of Seoul.
< Chapter 209 > Fin.