I Alone Level-Up Chapter 106
Go Gunhee and Matsumoto Shigeo, the two association presidents of their respective countries' Hunter Associations sat down from across each other. At the side of each man, the other officials of the two nations' were exchanging greetings. Considering the matter on hand, the meeting progressed with great haste.
"And so, what do you think about creating a coalition force composed of the highest-ranking Hunters of our two countries?"
At Association President Matsumoto's shocking suggestion, the members on South Korea's side could not hide their surprise. Their initial expectation of this meeting was that Japan would complain and demand reparations for the damage they received from the ants. But to think that their neighbor would instead offer their assistance? Just what was this boon?
After getting over their surprise, the faces of the Koreans brightened.
Save for one.
Association President Go Gunhee stared at Association President Matsumoto with a suspicious gaze.
"Are you saying we will strike at the heart of the ants with a coalition force?"
"We are well aware of the skill of Japan's S-rank Hunters. However, invading Jeju Island directly is still too risky."
The Korean elder added on that since the last failed reclamation attempt two years ago, the population of the ants had only continued to increase. At his explanation, Association President Matsumoto smiled darkly,
"Of course, if we went in without a plan, it would be dangerous."
One of the South Korean government officials, who had fallen for the tempting offer from Japan, asked with a bright expression,
"Do you perhaps have an idea?"
With that reply, Association President Matsumoto grabbed the attention of the entire room. The Japanese elder continued after a pause,
"Of course we do."
He gestured, and assistants placed a prepared file in front of each of the Korean officials.
"This is our information gathered from observing the ants."
While the Korean officials went over the documents, Association President Matsumoto started his explanation,
"While a single ant magic beast is as strong as a high-ranking Hunter, they do have a weakness: their lifespan."
It was known that the ant magic beasts had a lifespan of only one year.
"As such, if you just eliminate the ant queen, the ants of Jeju Island will naturally be extinct after one year."
The Korean officials nodded as they followed along with the research reports. All they had to do is kill the queen. This was a much more pragmatic method than dealing with the thousands of magic beasts that came out of the S-rank Gate. However, Association President Go Gunhee remained cold,
'Don't make me laugh…'
He was well aware of this method. However, dealing with that single queen was no different than dealing with the thousands of ants.
"You must be aware that the ants will protect the queen with their lives."
Matsumoto accepted Go Gunhee's accusation with a smile,
"Of course. In order to get to the queen, you'll have to go through the thousands of ants."
At the Japanese elder's carefree attitude, the Korean elder renewed his suspicious gaze,
'Just what are you thinking?'
The corners of Matsumoto's mouth rose,
"But what if all the ants were away from the hive?"
The ant hive was located in a cave on the island. At the heart of the cave was the ant queen. The people on the Korean side could not think of a situation where the ants would abandon their guard duties and empty the cave. When they all put on a suspicious expression, Matsumoto opened his mouth,
"There were such instances in the past. Exactly three times."
Something like that happened three times in the past?
Before that, just how did the Japanese know about these times?
Their questions were answered immediately,
"The three times Korea's Hunters arrived at Jeju Island for the reclamation operations. During each of those three attempts, the ants all left the hive and headed to the Hunters."
Association President Go Gunhee clenched his fists under the table. It seemed that Japan was secretly observing the operations when Korea's Hunters put their lives on the line and fought with the magic beasts. Nobody could berate Japan for not helping Korea back then. However, at the very least, wasn't it a bit improper for them to proudly reveal the fact that they had used Korea's misfortune as a research material? The three reclamation efforts had resulted in the death of many Korean Hunters, including a single S-rank Hunter.
Association President Go Gunhee had watched their deaths with his own eyes. The elder's clenched fists trembled.
Seeing a strange expression on the Korean elder's face, Goto Ryuji, Japan's strongest Hunter, unveiled his magic power. It was a warning to say: If they were going to try something, their side would also move into action. HSD Chief Woo Jincheol, who had been at the meeting as Go Gunhee's bodyguard, quickly moved to the association president's side,
Go Gunhee dismissed Woo Jincheol, and the A-rank Hunter quietly backed off. Regardless of Japan's behavior, if their research was correct, this would be a chance to eliminate the ant magic beasts.
'I cannot throw away that chance because of some slighted feelings.'
Go Gunhee suppressed his anger. As the tension in the air cleared up, Matsumoto finally got to the main point,
"And Japan's Hunters will take on that role."
Japan would divide up their S-rank Hunters into units and attack Jeju Island from multiple fronts. The ants will spread out to the attacked areas, and the hive with the queen will become empty.
"We'll let Korea's S-rankers take care of killing the queen."
Korea's S-rank Hunters will enter the island on a helicopter, and once the ant queen was taken down, they would leave on the same helicopter.
At the thorough and seemingly possible plan, the officials on Korea's side began to become excited.
"According to Japan, we can take back Jeju Island again."
"Those Japanese bastards. Now that they're getting hurt, they're finally moving into action."
"This is our chance."
"Let's use the Japanese Hunters and take back our land."
Go Gunhee did not join in on his countrymen's discussion. Instead, the elder quietly went over Matsumoto's plan in his head.
'It most certainly is possible.'
The number of S-rank Hunters in Japan was 21.
Compared to that, Korea only had eight. If they excluded himself, who was too old to fight, or the one that had retired, Korea truthfully had only six S-rank Hunters that could be mobilized into action.
'It is impossible for us to distract the attention of thousands of ants with just six Hunters.'
They needed the 21 S-rank Hunters of Japan for this plan. Even dividing them up into four units, each unit would have five S-rank Hunters. Four units would be more than enough to buy time to kill the queen. The problem then would be if Korea's S-rank Hunters could kill the ant queen, a boss of an S-rank Dungeon.
'Could we pull it off?'
In that moment, a single name appeared in Go Gunhee's mind: Sung Jinwoo. The man had single handedly killed an A-rank Dungeon's boss. What would happen if he teamed up with the nation's other S-rank Hunters?
ba dum, ba dum
Go Gunhee's heart sped up.
'We cannot put this off for any longer.'
Even now, the ant-type magic beasts were undergoing evolution at an incredible pace. They did not know when the entire insect army could become capable of flight. It could be ten, five, or maybe even a year from now. Before that, even if it meant borrowing another country's strength, they had to eliminate the ants.
However, there was something they had to understand before all of that,
"So, what does Japan want for its assistance?"
Association President Go Gunhee did not miss this important subject. Association President Matsumoto tried to put on his friendliest smile,
"Once all the ants are dead after a year, please give us half of their magic cores."
That was it? Go Gunhee tilted his head,
"Is that really all you want?"
At the elder's reply, the South Korean government officials scrunched their faces,
'Goddammit old man, they're helping us out for such a little, just thank them and move on.'
'What if Japan changes their minds…'
'Association President Go Gunhee, looks like you're still filled with a ton of skepticism from your businessman days.'
Their sharp gazes fell upon Go Gunhee. The elder had no choice but to close his mouth.
The Korean side briefly discussed among themselves, but not one of them opposed Japan's offer. Soon, the entire room was in agreement for the plan. As the meeting wrapped up, Association President Matsumoto came up to Association President Go Gunhee and held out a hand.
"This is for the future of both of our nations. Let us work together well."
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Back at their hotel, Matsumoto Shigeo put a cigarette in his mouth. Next to him, Goto Ryuji also lit up a smoke.
"You did well today, sir."
"You're the one who did well, Goto."
"Please, it was nothing."
"It was not nothing. Did you see Go Gunhee's face?"
Matsumoto laughed. That expression that flashed across Go Gunhee's face during that time. It was definitely anger. The reason why the Japanese association president was able to remain carefree in front of the anger of South Korea's strongest Hunter was simple. It was because he had a powerful ally behind his back.
Japan's strongest Hunter.
The Fighter-class Hunter was Japanese Association President Matsumoto's dependable right arm. The elder recalled Go Gunhee's expression and sneered again,
"Being forced to borrow someone else's power. Especially considering that someone else is us. This is the plight of the weak."
Goto also sneered. As expected, Association President Matsumoto's plan had gone accordingly. Korea had no choice but to grab Japan's hand. Everything was going smoothly.
"Korea is just the start."
"Hunters are the new power. The new authority. With the strength Japan has received, I will rebuild our empire."
His gaze moved over to Goto,
"And you will be the next emperor."
If Matsumoto was the one who built the new empire with his schemes, Goto would be the one to inherit that empire with his strength. This was the reason why Goto held the elderly man as his superior.
"By the way,"
Remembering something, Matsumoto put out his cigarette and asked,
"Do we still have no information on South Korea's new S-ranker?"
"It seems that not even the country knows much about that man."
"...Is that so?"
As expected, Japan had thorough information on each of Korea's highest rankers.
Except for one.
This new S-rank Hunter that was recently registered. They had nothing on that man. He might be an unexpected hitch to their plans. Having revealed his aspirations with this plan, Matsumoto could not easily ignore such an unknown factor.
'Still, what can one man do… Unless...'
There were five unique existences across the entire world. The strongest Hunters who other S-rankers could not even approach. Because each of them had the might to contest an entire country, they were appropriately called the "Nation-level Hunters". There was something all five of them had in common: they each had experiences clearing an S-rank Gate. Certainly, a Hunter of that caliber could put a stop to their plans.
'But there's no way.'
Considering the population of the world, the possibility that this new S-ranker was a Nation-level Hunter was less than one in a billion. On top of that, if such a powerful Hunter appeared, there was no way that South Korea would've stayed quiet. Looking at the mood of the meeting room, it seemed like there was no need to worry.
'I can't waste thoughts on such a useless possibility.'
Matsumoto picked up his phone. He called the Japanese Hunter Association, who had been eagerly waiting for his call, and gave an order,
"Korea has grabbed our hand. As planned, gather all the S-rankers."
Association President Go Gunhee also contacted all of Korea's S-rankers. At the very least, he would have to explain the situation to them and emphasize the importance of this operation. And as he was putting the meeting together,
A terrifying report reached him,
"We can't contact Hunter Sung Jinwoo?"
The young man was the only S-ranker that could not be reached.
"His phone has been off for a few days, so we can't even tell where he is."
After a moment of pause, Go Gunhee spoke defeatedly,
"At the very least, gather all the S-rankers excluding him as fast as possible."
"Understood, association president."
The employee bowed his head and quickly left.
Go Gunhee fell into a contemplation with a darkened expression,
'Where could he be?'
After hearing that Sung Jinwoo could not be found anywhere, Go Gunhee could not help but feel uneasy.
Translations by Null, Edits by Slimicee, Proofreading by Null, Slimicee, and Aster0x