I Alone Level-Up
Ten minutes prior, in front of the Hunters Association building.
When it clearly became impossible to take his rank evaluation test ahead of schedule, Rhee Min-Seong sensed the looming crisis, and in the end, decided to drop a bombshell.
“Excuse me, I, Rhee Min-Seong, will retire from the entertainment industry regardless of the test result, and I shall pledge my service as a Hunter for the betterment of the public!!”
This was his last hurrah at reviving the atmosphere of the press conference that had cooled off from the sudden entrance of Goh Gun-Hui. Its effect was immediately noticeable.
“Rhee Min-Seong is going to retire?”
“Regardless of what his rank is?”
Right away, the atmosphere became frenzied.
Click, click, click!!
Countless cameras were now pointing at Rhee Min-Seong, and questions from excited reporters poured down on him non-stop.
“Mister Rhee Min-Seong!! Please look this way!”
“Are you telling us that you’ll abandon the title of Asia’s top movie star and choose the life of a low-ranked Hunter if need be?”
“Are you willing to give up on everything you built up as a successful actor?”
‘Yes! Very good!’
Rhee Min-Seong was pleased as punch at all the attention being focused on him again.
“Even if the result is bad and I end up with a low rank, I wish to repay all the love everyone has shown me by fighting the monster threats.”
Of course, he was lying through his teeth.
Just two years. He was thinking of helping out with the Reapers Guild’s public image as its most famous rank A Hunter for only two years, while enjoying the sky-high annual pay package.
This was the best method to silence those voices raising issues with him avoiding the draft with his father’s help, as well as a few distracting noises rising up here and there recently, all in one fell swoop.
Climbing down from the summit to protect the ordinary citizens while risking his own life!
This was the greatest opportunity for him yet, to achieve that often-talked about ‘lifetime guarantee against criticism’ status.
Enjoying the taste of everything finally going according to his plan, Rhee Min-Seong continued on with the press conference.
“And, with the Master of Reapers Guild, Chairman Im Tae-Gyu, who shares my wish, I….”
And so, as the gathered reporters were listening to Rhee Min-Seong’s future aspirations….
Someone’s phone suddenly went off. The surrounding reporters glared at the phone’s owner, and he quickly killed the phone before lowering his head in apology several times.
Thanks to that, the press conference was slightly interrupted, but fortunately enough, it was not a permanent interruption in the end. Rhee Min-Seong also pretended to not hear it and continued on.
This time, someone else’s phone went off.
“Argh, what the hell?”
“Whose phone was that?!”
“Isn’t is a common sense to switch it off before a conference?”
“Turn it off, now.”
Thinking that this might be a good chance to earn himself some extra brownie points, Rhee Min-Seong beamed brightly and spoke up.
“I’m fine with it, so why don’t we continue after you answer your urgent call?”
Rhee Min-Seong’s spontaneous response elicited jovial laughter from here and there. But, who knew that was merely the beginning?
Seemingly from everywhere, mobile phones were singing out in a messy chorus of noises.
“What the hell? Even me?”
The first reporter who switched his phone off first realised that something was very wrong. Meanwhile, the eyes of the reporters were growing extra wide after confirming the contents of the calls.
“You got a call from the Association??”
“Why are you only telling me this now?!”
Reporters present hurriedly accessed the Association’s website. It was then, they discovered the new rank S Hunter’s photo and his name being uploaded there as if everything had been prepared beforehand.
The announcement date for that person’s evaluation result just so happened to be today.
‘Wait, but didn’t they say something about the measurement room not being available in the morning?’
‘It wasn’t because of Rhee Min-Seong?’
‘In that case, the reason for the measurement room being emptied out wasn’t because of Rhee Min-Seong’s rank evaluation, but this new rank S Hunter?’
And then, the face of a certain man flashed by in the heads of all the reporters present.
Could he have been?
That young man who followed Association President Goh Gun-Hui into the building! He was the only one to have accessed the measurement room today.
If they all go inside now, wouldn’t they be able to take that man’s pictures?
With their eyes now resembling those of a starving predator, reporters ignored Rhee Min-Seong and rushed towards the Association building.
When Woo Jin-Cheol signalled with his eyes, Hunters from the Monitoring Division spread out their arms and formed a human barricade.
“Let us in!!”
“A rank S has emerged, right? Aren’t you supposed to announce this ahead of time?”
“Just get out of the way, will you?!”
Reporters violently pounced forward, but they couldn’t overcome the wall created by the agents of the Monitoring Division, where every single member was a Hunter.
“W-what the hell is this??”
Having been forgotten by everyone in an instant, Rhee Min-Seong and his flustered face ran over to his burly manager. Mister manager pushed forward the screen of his phone with what he discovered only a second ago.
“….A rank S?!”
Rhee Min-Seong became completely dazed.
“A rank S showed up today, of all days?!”
He wanted to receive the attention and adulations of the world by becoming a rank A Hunter. But, to think that a rank S Hunter would pop up out of nowhere and ruin everything….
Rhee Min-Seong shook his head, hard.
‘No, wait. Something doesn’t feel right here.’
Seriously now, a rank S wasn’t a cup of instant coffee one could buy in a vending machine with a couple of change, now was it? Maybe, these reporters knew something about what was happening right now?
It was at that point that Rhee Min-Seong spotted a reporter still talking to someone on the phone while belatedly climbing up the steps. He was none other than the exact same reporter who sought out Rhee Min-Seong’s opinion regarding tomorrow’s headline earlier.
“Excuse me, Reporter Im?”
Even though Rhee Min-Seong’s voice sounded urgent, Reporter Im simply walked past while responding in haste.
“Ah, Mister Rhee Min-Seong. I’ll get in touch a little bit later, okay?”
“Excuse me? Reporter Im!! Wait!”
Rhee Min-Seong got to eavesdrop on the contents of the call as the Reporter Im’s back gradually distanced itself away from him.
“….That’s right. I’m telling you to go with the headline of ‘Tears of rank E, now joys of rank S’ for tomorrow.”
Rhee Min-Seong scanned his vicinity with energyless eyes. There was no one around him now. He fell down on his knees.
“What…. what is this….”
While he remained on the ground muttering to himself in dejection, the front entrance to the Association was abruptly pushed open wide, and South Korea’s tenth rank S Hunter revealed himself.
Click, click, click, click, click, click, click….
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened up super-wide.
‘What the heck is this?’
The camera lenses captured in full Jin-Woo standing in front of the entrance, and behind him, Baek Yun-Ho with a rueful expression and Choi Jong-In and his bitter smile.
It was now lunch time.
The Hunters of the mining team had ended the morning’s operation and were sitting around to enjoy their lunch.
Mining might have been their main role, but, since there was no threat of rockfall or cave-in, the mood of the team was rather carefree.
Some Hunters were lying on the floor resting, having gobbled up their meals in the blink; some Hunters were busy giggling to themselves while checking out their phones; a few Hunters were even enjoying cold alcoholic beverages while sharing snacks among themselves.
One of the Hunters playing with his phone cried out in surprise and hurriedly raised his upper body up.
“Hey, isn’t this Mister Seong??”
Lee Seong-Gu’s ears perked up.
“Hey, it is him!”
“Mister Seong’s on the news.”
Indeed, Lee Seong-Gu hadn’t heard wrong.
“I knew it.”
With his face considerably flushed red after ingesting three cups of alcohol, Lee Seong-Gu ran to where his colleagues were as if he had been waiting for this. Even while he was doing that, his mouth continued to operate without rest.
“I knew it from the moment that bstard glared at me! Let me see for myself what horrible things that insolent bstard committed now!”
Perhaps Lee Seong-Gu’s voice was too loud?
“Mister Seong did what?”
“Did Mister Seong commit a crime or something?”
Including Foreman Bae, all of the mining team’s Hunters in the near vicinity gathered in one spot.
Jin-Woo’s face filled up the palm-sized screen of the mobile phone, and just below that, large subtitles flashed by.
[….Following after Hwang Dong-Seok and Cha Hae-In, South Korea’s tenth rank S Hunter, Mister Seong Jin-Woo, has just now…]
Having ‘discovered’ Jin-Woo, Lee Seong-Gu’s eyes began trembling.
In front of the private office of Yujin Construction’s chairman.
Standing in front of the door, Yu Jin-Ho let out a short sigh.
He opened the door, and as it smoothly glided inward, he also raised his head to spot his father busy going through several documents, not bothering to even turn his head this way.
Even though he made his ‘reply’, Yu Myung-Hwan continued to scribble his signatures on the documents.
Yu Jin-Ho stood next to Yu Myung-Hwan. The father briefly raised his head to confirm the son’s visage, before continuing on with his work.
‘Dad’s still the same, I see.’
In the past, Yu Jin-Ho would’ve been suppressed by his father being like this and run off, utterly unable to say what he wanted to say. However, it was different now.
“I’d like to speak to you about something, Father.”
“Is it regarding Hunter Seong Jin-Woo?”
Yu Myung-Hwan finally raised his head up.
“Alright. So, what happe….”
It was then.
Yu Myung-Hwan’s phone suddenly went off.
Yu Myung-Hwan raised his hand and stopped Yu Jin-Ho’s words. Checking the message on the phone’s screen, Yu Myung-Hwan’s eyes grew wide just a little.
‘My dad can get surprised too?’
Yu Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly.
“…There’s something you should see.”
Rather than providing an answer, Yu Myung-Hwan operated the remote and switched the giant TV mounted on one of the walls, instead.
A breaking news piece immediately came up on the screen.
[Yes, it has been confirmed just now. The Hunter who was evaluated as rank S earlier today is a Re-Awakened, someone who has gone through the secondary Awakening process after his initial one. His name is Mister Seong Jin-Woo, who used to work for the Association as a rank E previously.]
The reporter’s excited voice easily conveyed the current atmosphere of the location. Yu Jin-Ho had been listening disinterestedly, but when he heard the name ‘Seong Jin-Woo’, he was taken greatly by surprise.
The screen changed after that. It was now showing the emotionless face of someone he was quite familiar with, busy surveying the immediate surroundings.
It was none other than his hyung-nim.
‘I’m sure of it. Hyung-nim is feeling irritated right now.’
Thanks to Yu Jin-Ho sticking around hyung-nim for a while, it became pretty easy to tell what he was thinking about simply through his expressions. But, besides all that – he was a rank S?
Yu Jin-Ho was well aware of his hyung-nim being great, but that greatness had far exceeded his own imagination.
At the same time….
‘Even though he possesses such incredible power, he enters dungeons every day to train himself even further?’
A sense of awe rushed in, fast. As a person who used to guard his side, Yu Jin-Ho’s heart swelled with pride as Jin-Woo’s name got continuously mentioned on the TV.
The TV was switched off and hyung-nim’s face also disappeared from the view. Yu Jin-Ho formed a wistful expression.
Father was telling Yu Jin-Ho to continue with what he wanted to say.
As he had practised beforehand, Yu Jin-Ho bowed down hard and spoke.
“My apologies, father. I couldn’t change hyung-nim’s mind.”
Yu Myung-Hwan’s expression hardened.
“…..Okay, what did Hunter Seong Jin-Woo say while rejecting your offer?”
“Well, hyung-nim said…..”
Yu Jin-Ho hesitated slightly, but he slightly raised his head and spoke.
“He wants to make his own Guild, so if I was interested in the Vice Master spot, I should come over, instead…..”
Yu Jin-Ho thought that father would get angry or ignore that suggestion altogether, but instead, his expression was solidly frozen up.
Yu Myung-Hwan chuckled without making a sound.
Someone widely known for his poker face, Chairman Yu Myung-Hwan had actually revealed a change of expression in front of his own son.
‘What is my dad doing?’
Yu Jin-Ho couldn’t dare to ask what was happening, so all he could do was to avert his gaze this way and that.
Yu Myung-Hwan spoke, that smile now erased from his lips.
“Do you know why I’m trying to establish the Yujin Guild?”
“Isn’t it because…. there’s money to be made in the Hunter business?”
“No, it’s not.”
Yu Myung-Hwan’s tone of voice was resolute, unwavering.
“We have more than enough money right now. You think I’ll try something that could put us at odds with other large Guilds just for the sake of chasing after a couple more bucks?”
Was he trying to imply that money wasn’t the reason?
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes widened.
“But, if not that, then….?”
Yu Myung-Hwan carefully put the pen down.
“It’s in order to protect ourselves.”
Yu Myung-Hwan’s serious, dignified eyes caused Yu Jin-Ho to swallow his dry saliva in nervousness.
“Hunters are growing in power every day. And it’s not uncommon to see a single person possessing enough power to rival a country’s military might.”
For instance, the world’s most powerful Hunters, seen as already on the level of exercising power equal to that of a country’s government.
Yu Myung-Hwan was talking about those people.
“I hear that some Hunters already rule smaller nations like kings. How long do you think that the rule of law and governmental authority will keep us safe under the current situation?”
Yu Myung-Hwan’s voice was getting heavier.
However, as Yu Jin-Ho was listening to this explanation, it suddenly dawned on him that he was actually feeling happy at the moment.
Why was that?
That was because, his father included him too and said ‘We’, instead.
Indeed, Yu Jin-Ho felt happy because he thought he got to glimpse for the first time another side of his father.
Yu Myung-Hwan’s explanation continued on.
“I wished to establish a Guild and gather trustworthy Hunters to our side. Not because I needed more money or that I am searching for talented individuals, but it’s all to find those Hunters who we can trust as fellow human beings, as well as for us to rely on their strength.”
And then, a nearly imperceptible smile formed on Yu Myung-Hwan’s face again.
“Looks like you already found someone like that, haven’t you?”
Yu Jin-Ho replied right away. It was a bit hard to tell where his father was going with this, but well, it was true regardless that Yu Jin-Ho could trust and rely on his hyung-nim.
Yu Myung-Hwan nodded his head.
What did he pass just now? Yu Jin-Ho belatedly raised his bowed head.
“I shall entrust the Yujin Guild to you.”
“Do your best to develop the Yujin Guild. Make those trustworthy and reliable Hunters ‘your’ people. In the future, they will no doubt become even more valuable assets than any form of wealth.”
Yu Myung-Hwan spoke with abundant certainty in his voice. And, just as his certainty was great, so was Yu Jin-Ho’s delight.
Would this be the first time since his birth that Yu Jin-Ho was acknowledged by his father?
“Thank you very much, Father!”
With an ample smile blooming on his face, Yu Jin-Ho bent his back forward 90 degrees. Yu Myung-Hwan looked on at that sight with a content expression.
Unfortunately, what Yu Jin-Ho said next went completely against Yu Myung-Hwan’s expectations.
“However, Father, I don’t think I can accept your offer.”
Yu Myung-Hwan’s brows quivered slightly.
The financial wherewithal of the Yujin Construction was more than enough to put the soon-to-be-established Yujin Guild on the fast track.
Already, talks with a few rank S Hunters had advanced into a more concrete stage, as well.
The Yujin Guild becoming South Korea’s best, biggest Guild was already a foregone conclusion.
Yu Jin-Ho must’ve known this, too.
‘That’s why my son wanted to become the Master, wasn’t it?’
However, now that he was about to hand the Guild over, why was his boy declining it? Did he get scared in the meantime?
Yu Myung-Hwan did his best to suppress his disappointment and rage towards Yu Jin-Ho, and managed to say something.
“….What is your reason?”
Yu Jin-Ho raised his head at that prompt, and while still carrying a happy-looking face, he spoke without holding anything back.
“I’ve decided to work for hyung-nim’s Guild.”
< Chapter 94 > Fin.