Solo Leveling Novel Chapter 195

16

Jin-Woo had read the article featuring his feat on his way here.

After seeing the gazes of other Hunters locking onto him because of a completely unrelated matter, though, he had to concede that the ripples created from that article were far greater than he anticipated.

Jin-Woo scanned the Hunters and they quickly withdrew their gazes.

‘Come on now. This is just….’

He discovered palpable fear within their eyes and could only let out a helpless sigh in his heart.

‘Looks like these people are really, seriously mistaken about something here.’

All he could do now was to wait for the Hunter Bureau to release that promised statement.

And so – just as the atmosphere within the venue was getting a bit weird, Doctor Belzer looked in Jin-Woo’s direction and cracked a joke.

“I’ve also read this morning’s article. But folks, you shouldn’t be looking at Seong Hunter-nim that way. If he was capable of causing all this magisphere in the air like that, then obviously, he’s no longer a Hunter, is he?”

Hahaha….

Awkward laughter came from here and there. Doctor Belzer smiled refreshingly and carried on with his explanations.

“As you might have guessed, we couldn’t discover any tangible similarities between the locations I have mentioned.”

Since there were no similarities, it was hard to figure out the cause for this change. And since there was also no precedence, it was equally as hard to tell what might happen next.

The scientist then brought up another image on the giant screen.

“This here is a shot of the skies above the aforementioned nine spots.”

He then added that his team had enhanced the footage with special effects so that the image taken by the magic energy detection camera on the spy satellite could be deciphered far more easily for the audience members.

Just as the scientist had explained, large magisphere lumps could be seen gathered above, in the skies of the nine spots, like some kind of storm clouds.

Since ‘special effects’ had been added to the image, the reality might not be as severe, but still, those things didn’t look like natural phenomena, all things considered.

“Huh….”

“Mm.”

Hunters began leaking out shocked groans after confirming the contents of the giant screen. It was definitely bad news that no one could figure out the reason for this suspicious phenomenon, or what would come out of it.

The skies above Seoul looked to be especially bad.

Jin-Woo studied the satellite image of Seoul, which seemed to have become the eye of the storm made up entirely of magisphere, and wondered why there were nine spots in the world, to begin with.

‘Is it related somehow to the number of the Sovereigns? Because there are nine of them?’

To call it a mere coincidence, it just left that vague uncool aftertaste in his mouth. And also, now that the King of Giants was slain by him, that number nine should not hold significance anymore.

It was then – Doctor Belzer shot him a very quick and sneaky glance. Their gazes met in the air. Unlike the last time this happened, though, there was not a hint of a smile on the good scientist’s face.

“Our current situation is that, since we don’t know the cause, we also don’t know how to respond to this phenomenon.”

The scientist’s lengthy presentation was about to come to its conclusion.

“However, let me make it clear. The assertion of being unable to respond does not mean there is no need to make plans. It’s eminently possible that our world will experience yet another seismic shift soon.”

***

As the conference was drawing to a close, the director of the Hunter Bureau took to the stage. His reason? To make an important announcement.

Since this wasn’t in the schedule, Hunters naturally became noisy from his unexpected entrance.

Noisy, noisy….

Was the Hunter Bureau about to make an official statement related to the events of the night before?

While being showered by the curious, interested gazes of the Hunters, the director politely requested his audience to quieten down before he could proceed.

“I have something important I must inform you about, everyone.”

Every single Hunter gathered here today were the elites of the elite within their respective nations. The citizens of those nations would recognise who they were just from their names alone.

Indeed, these people were not some unruly immature kids or a ragtag bunch of misfit soldiers.

“….”

“….”

Just one sentence from the director, and in an instant, the venue was enveloped in an eerie silence.

This was their superhuman-level ability to focus in full display; the high degree of concentration that no regular human could ever possess was deeply ingrained like instinct within the highest-ranked Hunters present in this venue.

The director nodded his head as he found the current atmosphere much to his liking and scanned the faces of the Hunters. Eventually, his gaze met Jin-Woo’s.

‘Hunter Seong Jin-Woo….’

The director had been fully informed of everything that transpired yesterday. He sent his acknowledgement in Jin-Woo’s direction with a brief nod.

He was expressing his gratitude for letting Thomas Andre live.

Unfortunately, other Hunters had no clue on the ins and outs of that situation, so they could only begin murmuring their theories to each other when the director of the Bureau shared that greeting with Jin-Woo.

After a short while of unease later, the director finally addressed the crowd.

“My heart is heavy as I deliver this unfortunate news to you all.”

Finally….

Jin-Woo sensed that the moment he was waiting for had finally arrived. The director spoke in a low, gloomy voice.

“About two weeks ago, Hunter Christopher Reid was murdered by unidentified assailants.”

***

‘….!!’

The gathered Hunters were all astonished by the revelation.

One of the top Hunters in the world was murdered by someone?

Their level of shock transcended what Jin-Woo felt when he heard the news first. This issue was well beyond the realm of who won the fight between two powerful Hunters.

The director brought up the relevant information on the giant screen behind him.

First, the remnants of flames that didn’t want to die out; the ashes of the mansion; and then, Christopher Reid’s dead body with a hole in his chest.

Hunters confirmed the death of the Special Authority-rank Awakened via the provided video footage as well as the several still images on the screen, and reacted by gasping out in shocked moans.

Not one person present was able to dispute the fact of that man being dead now.

As expected, the surprised Hunters began their outpouring of questions, but the director firmly shook his head, instead.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll answer your questions only after this presentation comes to an end.”

There was a far more important matter still to be carried out instead of answering the questions. The director glanced at Jin-Woo from the corner of his eyes. The young Korean Hunter and his gleaming eyes displayed no reaction as he sat quietly in the corner of the conference venue.

His calm attitude managed to rouse up several complicated emotions in the director’s heart.

However, there was no more time to hesitate. He pressed a button on the remote controller and the image on the screen behind him changed again.

“We strongly suspect this man as the perpetrator of this crime.”

A man’s face now filled up the entirety of that giant screen. Almost immediately, the gathered Hunters realised that something was amiss.

That Asian man’s face, wasn’t it uncannily similar to someone else sitting inside this conference venue?

But then, these Hunters also recalled what happened to Thomas Andre, and none of them could voice the thoughts bubbling up inside their minds.

“…..”

Jin-Woo too, closed shut his mouth.

The photograph must’ve been taken moments after ‘he’ had arrived at the Hunter Bureau for identification purposes. That face definitely belonged to his old man from his memories no matter how many times he took a look.

Jin-Woo eventually bit his lower lip.

‘How come it’s my father….’

Dungeons were supposedly the territory of the Rulers.

He couldn’t tell why they sent a monster with the outer appearance of his father. Regardless of what their intentions were, though – Jin-Woo could still feel the bubbling pit of rage slowly building up its intensity deep within his heart.

Too bad, Hunters nearby completely mistook that rage for something else and they did their absolute best to not look at his way.

‘Do not look back. Do not look back!!’

‘They just look similar, that’s all! Just similar, and nothing else!’

‘Asians all look alike, right? Right??’

‘But still, that is just so….’

The director branded ‘Seong Il-Hwan’ as ‘Suspect S’ and began explaining who this man was. From where he was discovered, what happened during that discovery, and finally, what transpired afterwards.

Hunters were taken by yet another surprise from the revelation that this person actually defeated Hwang Dong-Su during the interrogation to make his escape.

Just who was Hwang Dong-Su?

The Hunter Bureau acknowledged his powers early on and offered him a sweet deal, prompting him to emigrate to the States right away. Moreover, he was also one of the aces in what many believed to be the best Guild in the world, the Scavenger Guild.

The shock these Hunters felt was great, perhaps because the news of his demise hadn’t been publicised yet.

They were now thinking that, if multiple assailants possessing similar levels of strength pounced on their target simultaneously, even a Special Authority-rank Hunter wouldn’t be able to hold out for long.

They understood the reason for the Hunter Bureau suspecting this mysterious ‘Suspect S’ for this crime.

“Several human-type monsters possessing that level of power escaped from dungeons and attacked Hunter Christopher Reid at the same time – we at the Hunter Bureau feel that this is the likeliest explanation.”

As the director continued on, the image of ‘Suspect S’ pressing down on Hwang Dong-Su’s neck with his foot popped up on the giant screen next.

The scene clearly exhibited the extraordinary power of the creature capable of subduing Hwang Dong-Su like some kind of an insect – even though he was a Hunter easily exceeding the regular rank S classification.

Hints of pure astonishment flashed past within the eyes of the Hunters watching the footage on-screen. For Jin-Woo, though, that video clip didn’t come across as all that surprising.

This ‘Suspect S’ was an existence the Rulers had created for some unknown purpose. And they possessed unimaginable powers, enough to generate dungeons, didn’t they?

‘So, obviously, it’s not weird to see Hwang Dong-Su getting defeated by that creature.’

No, besides that – Jin-Woo was more concerned with what that ‘Suspect S’ was trying to do. It was engaging Hwang Dong-Su in a conversation.

‘It’s trying to… talk to him?’

Jin-Woo’s brows shot up. He concentrated hard, like when he would do during battles, and time slowed down instantly. His sharpened senses began reading the lip movements of the Suspect S.

– “….in the country. This isn’t for my son, but for your sake. Even after death, you’ll not be able to close your eyes.”

Ba-thump!

Jin-Woo’s heart pulsed powerfully just then.

Those last words….

‘….Even in death, not being able to close his eyes?!’

If his lip-reading proved to be correct, then that meant that ‘Suspect S’ knew about his existence. Thankfully, he knew of a way to easily confirm the contents of that little chat those two had shared.

Jin-Woo suppressed his wildly-pounding heart and called out the name of the brand-new addition to his Shadow Army.

‘Greed!’

Greed already knew what Jin-Woo wanted to know through their shared mental link, so he immediately made his reply.

[It is as you suspect, my liege.]

‘….!!’

While the thoughts in Jin-Woo’s head were getting more and more complicated and confused, the lengthy explanation of the director was coming to an end.

“We’re planning to ask you, the Guilds of the world, to help us track down and apprehend this ‘Suspect S’. If you discover this man’s whereabouts, please, give us a call immediately. That is all.”

The end of the director’s words signalled the incoming flood of questions that the Hunters had been holding back until then. They impatiently raised their hands into the air.

“Yes, the sir over there.”

The director pointed to one of the raised hands, prompting that Hunter to throw his question out, as if he couldn’t wait anymore.

“Do you have any proof that this ‘Suspect S’ isn’t a human?”

“We have perfectly matched his magic energy emission to that of monsters. Next question.”

“That creature insisted that he was someone who went missing inside a dungeon. However, did a Hunter like that really exist?”

“Yes, that Hunter did really exist. Next.”

“If that’s the case, why haven’t you revealed the identity of that Hunter?”

“Oh….”

The director hesitated greatly, but eventually replied while doing his very best to avoid looking in Jin-Woo’s general direction.

“We’ve decided not to reveal that information because the suspect is related to one of the Hunters currently attending this conference.”

That brought about a prompt and sudden end to the barrage of questions. The ‘maybe’ changed into ‘as expected’ in that instant.

The director scanned the suddenly-silent conference venue and decided he’d wrap up things here.

“Are there any other questions?”

It was then – someone sitting at the end of the audience seats at the back raised his hand. Even before the director could call out his name, this guy opened his mouth first.

“Even then, don’t you think it’ll be better to release the identity of that person, if you really want to arrest ‘them’?”

Hunters didn’t have to turn around to see who asked that question in that weighty voice. It was spoken in Chinese, and it came from a certain middle-aged man.

He was none other than China’s Seven Star-rank Hunter, Liu Zhigeng.

One of the Special Authority-rank Hunters was looking straight at the director with a sombre expression on his face. Dozens upon dozens of China’s top Hunters, including his own Guild members, sat to his right, left, and front.

The director seemed to be at a loss, but Liu Zhigeng continued to press on.

“Don’t you agree, Mister Director?”

Although it had been urgently decided earlier in the day to seal the information on the identity of ‘Suspect S’, the director realised that he didn’t have much of a choice now and begrudgingly brought up it on the screen behind him.

Beep.

One press of the remote button and the information on Seong Il-Hwan filled up the giant screen. Soon, surprised gasps came out from several of the audience members.

To think, the very first human-shaped monster to appear in dungeons possessed the exact same countenance as Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s missing father!

How could there be such a coincidence?

The once-quiet interior of the conference venue was buzzing with the hushed voices of the Hunters.

Liu Zhigeng quietly stared at the screen before raising his hand again. The director had to point to the Chinese Hunter once more.

“….Hunter Liu.”

“This time, I have a question I want to ask Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”

The director shifted his gaze to Jin-Woo. The latter lightly nodded his head at the former and turned around in his seat to stare at Liu Zhigeng in the distance.

Shortly thereafter, the Chinese Hunter’s heavy, bassy voice resounded out within the interior.

“What will you do if this ‘Suspect S’ really turned out to be your long-lost father, and the Hunters of the world were trying to hunt him down?”

Jin-Woo pondered that for a little bit before making his reply.

“If that creature is nothing but a monster, then I’ll kill it with my own hands. However, if it’s not a monster, but really is my father, then….”

If it was really his father?

The gathered Hunters became intensely curious as to what he might say next and began swallowing their saliva. Disregarding them all, Jin-Woo firmly declared his intentions for all to hear.

“I shall protect my family, even if that means every single Hunter in the world becomes my enemy.”