A few days before the death of the King of Giants.
A helicopter belonging to America’s Hunter Bureau landed on the lawn of a certain ultra-luxurious mansion.
The owner of this mansion, currently enjoying a belated lunch, stared at that helicopter through his window and stopped cutting into the juicy slab of steak.
“I haven’t heard of anyone coming to see me today?”
“I shall go and confirm who it is.”
The steward lowered his head and left with a quick trot.
Around the same time, the owner of the mansion spotted two people climbing out of the helicopter and his expression hardened in an instant.
“….This could get troublesome.”
The housekeeper carrying away the empty plates heard his muttering by chance and tilted her head. The dignified gentleman sitting at the dining table, the owner of this grand mansion, was one of the only five greatest Hunters alive on this planet.
His name was Christopher Reid.
He was more commonly known as the ‘Special Authority-rank Hunter’ rather than by his birth name, though. In any case, who’d dare to trouble such a person?
The steward ran past the housekeeper and her curious expression to enter the dining room.
“I already know.”
Christopher Reid stopped the steward from speaking any further and quietly got up from his chair. With a smile on his face, he then greeted a middle-aged man entering the dining room one step later than his flustered steward.
“It’s been a long time, Deputy Director. And….”
Christopher Reid’s gaze shifted over to the African-American lady standing behind the Deputy Director of the Hunter Bureau.
It was already abnormal for someone as important as the deputy director of the Hunter Bureau to pay a personal visit like this. But, this lady making a move personally would be on a whole new scale of seriousness altogether.
Sure enough, the deputy director was carrying a deeply tense face as he scanned his surroundings. He spoke while anxiously rubbing his chin.
“We have an urgent matter to discuss with you, so can you send everyone else away for the time being?”
As Christopher Reid had expected – his prediction of being troubled had come true.
If his guest was only the deputy director, then he’d have made the latter wait for a few hours as the price for disrupting his peaceful afternoon without a heads-up.
However, he couldn’t do something so impolite with Madam Selner present.
Christopher Reid quietly pondered for a moment while washing the inside of his mouth with a glass of wine. He beckoned the steward with his finger. Only after his employee got close enough to touch his forehead did the Hunter whisper his next order.
“Until my two guests leave, do not let anyone come anywhere remotely close to this room. Understood?”
The steward bowed his head, and began ushering everyone else, including the housekeeper, out from this room. He then also exited from the room and held the door with both hands, before bowing his head once more.
Christopher Reid nodded his head, and the door was silently closed shut.
And so, only three people, the owner of the mansion, the Deputy Director Michael Connor, and Madam Selner, remained within this spacious room.
Christopher Reid swept his gaze over his two guests and couldn’t help but smirk. It was understandable, really. Wasn’t this the occasion where the worth of the second-in-command of the government’s most powerful organisation had become the least important of the trio present?
Christopher Reid himself would be the second as the Special Authority-rank Hunter. And no one could even begin to imagine the potential value of Madam Selner, who could permanently enhance the abilities of a Hunter.
‘Oopsie daisy, where are my manners.’
He couldn’t let these important guests stand around like that, now could he?
Christopher Reid pulled out two chairs from the dining table and addressed them.
“Please, have a seat.”
Once he confirmed that the deputy director and Madam had settled down, he too parked his rear on their opposite side.
Christopher Reid alternated his gaze between the two guests and smiled amiably.
“What business brings you two to this distant abode of mine?”
Madam Selner searched for a sign of assurance from the deputy director first. He nodded his head to signal go ahead. But, just before Selner could open her mouth to speak, Christopher Reid raised his hand first.
“Before we start.”
There were some hints of displeasure evident in his expression.
“If you have come here to speak to me about that rank S Gate appearing somewhere out in the east, then let me make myself clear. I’m still not interested in going.”
He resolutely stated his case. He made sure to drive the point home so there would be no room for anyone to try changing his mind.
“As both of you should know by now, the United States government had promised me the full rights equalling that of an independent nation. Meaning, I possess the right to refuse any request made by the U.S. government. And, as I have stated in my communique sent out earlier, I have decided not to participate in this raid.”
He was basically a ‘different nation’ within a country.
Such a thing as civic duty simply didn’t hold any meaning for a ‘Special Authority-rank Hunter’, who was treated not as a citizen of a country but as a living, breathing nation in itself and was accorded the same treatment as every other nation on Earth.
Of course, he could lend a helping hand if he wanted to. However, there was a reason why he decided to refuse the invitation.
He figured that there was no need for him to participate in a raid where every rank S Hunter living in the United States was planning to show up.
Even if the deputy director showed up here while thinking of using Madam as a proxy, Christopher Reid held not one thought of changing his mind at all.
Too bad for him, just as he was firm about where he stood, Madam Selner too drew a clear line on where she stood.
“I haven’t come to you because of that Gate, Mister Chris. We have an even bigger problem than that to worry about.”
Right now, the country of Japan was being driven to the brink of destruction from a single rank S Gate. However, did she just say that there was an even bigger problem than a rank S Gate getting ready to open up within the U.S. borders?
Christopher Reid’s torso leaned in closer towards the Madam.
“What is this big problem?”
Madam Selner hesitated greatly before she forced her lips to open.
“Mister Chris….. In the near future, there is a strong possibility that you’ll get assassinated by an unknown assailant.”
At that moment, an awkward silence descended on the room.
Christopher Reid had been wondering why the deputy director seemed so unsettled and nervous like that. As a matter of fact, Michael Connor even pulled out a handkerchief to dab away the sweat soaking his forehead right now.
His voice as he called out to her became heavy, low.
“I’ll never forget the favour you did for me for the rest of my life.”
Because of her ability, his powers had become stronger than ever before. He had exceeded his limit that felt like a wall he couldn’t overcome no matter what. However, that didn’t mean she was allowed to look down on him like this.
“Just who is supposed to assassinate who here?”
Just who would dare to touch even a single hair on the body of a Special Authority-rank Hunter?
A cat could never slay a lion. Only a lion could rip apart another lion to death. However, he was utterly confident of not losing to any of the lions on the same level as him.
This was the true reason why he opted to stay out of this raid. How unbecoming was it for a lion to butt in where the stray cats had gathered? Unless you were a low-class lion like Thomas Andre, of course.
Madam Selner had clearly sensed the quiet rage burning within Christopher Reid’s mind, but she didn’t stop with her explanation.
“Not too long ago, I had a dream related to you.”
Madam nodded her head.
Christopher Reid felt flabbergasted, but Madam continued on regardless.
“In my dream, you were surrounded by some men, and they…..”
“Look here, Madam Selner!”
Christopher Reid couldn’t hold back anymore and yelled out loudly.
“Just because of some dream you had, you flew all the way out to this place to tell me this nonsense, Madam?!”
“This is not nonsense, and I merely wish to….”
“I already know full well what you used to do before becoming an Awakened, okay?”
Some people believed that, because she used to work as a psychic, Madam Selner came to possess a unique ability that separated her from all the other Awakened out there.
However, her former profession still couldn’t excuse this utterly nonsensical drivel. Christopher Reid’s expression crumpled rather unsightly.
“I am a Special Authority-rank Hunter. No one can kill me.”
“But, in my dream, you definitely….”
“You and your dream again!”
Christopher Reid spat out a long sigh and then, nodded his head.
“Alright, fine. Let’s say I believe you, Madam. Let’s say there are enemies powerful enough to kill me. In that case, if that is all real, who should I go and ask for help, then?”
Should he call the cops? Or, request protection from the Hunter Bureau? Against an opponent capable enough to supposedly kill a Special Authority-rank Hunter?
What a stupid notion that was.
Christopher Reid snorted in derision and continued on.
“If true, there’s nothing that can be done, is there?”
Madam Selner silently deliberated for a long time before making her reply.
“There might be someone who can help you.”
“And just who might this someone be?”
“Hunter Seong Jin-Woo. If it’s him, he might be able to protect you.”
Christopher Reid was listening without much interest, to begin with, and needed to comb his memories for a moment there. Although the name itself sounded unfamiliar, he was sure of hearing it from somewhere before.
But, where could it have been?
It must’ve been pretty recent when he heard that name ‘Seong Jin-Woo’, however.
‘No, could it be….?’
The expression on Christopher Reid’s face crumpled even more.
“Wait, are you talking about that Asian Hunter who went off to solve the Japanese dungeon break crisis?”
“That’s correct. He’s Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.”
Madam Selner definitely saw it back then.
She definitely saw the near-infinite power sleeping deep within Hunter Seong Jin-Woo. If it was him, then he might be able to protect a Special Authority-rank Hunter.
She had spoken these words out of genuine concern regarding Christopher Reid’s welfare. However, his immense pride heard them as nothing but insults to his dignity.
He slammed his fist down on the table reflexively and the furniture buckled to the floor.
“Get out right now, Madam. Right this instant!”
Christopher Reid shot up from his seat and pointed towards the door with his finger.
“I-if you could just listen a bit more….”
The deputy director tried to persuade Christopher Reid, but then….
“W-we shall be on our way….”
….He couldn’t say anything else under the sharp, murderous glare of a Special Authority-rank Hunter.
He hurriedly accompanied the clearly-hesitant Madam Selner out of the mansion. The steward on standby outside the room saw the broken table and quickly rushed in.
“Did something happen, sir?”
“….No, not really.”
Christopher Reid slowly shook his head.
If it wasn’t Madam Selner who lent a huge helping hand when enhancing his powers – indeed, if it was someone else, then things wouldn’t have ended with that person being chased out of his mansion.
He could only swallow back the still-burning rage and took a deep breath.
‘She wants me to ask for help from some second-rate Asian Hunter?’
There was a limit to how much one was allowed to mock the one and only Christopher Reid.
He suddenly swivelled his head towards the steward. The latter flinched a little, but quickly regained his former composure.
“Do you have new orders for me, sir?”
“That….. That Hunter named Seong Jin-Woo. Do you know when he’s supposed to start his Japanese raid?”
The story of Japan was one of the hottest talked-about topics in the world. America was no exception. Quite obviously, Seong Jin-Woo’s name had become as famous as the dungeon break that happened in Japan or the Giants that popped out from the Gate.
The steward calculated the time difference using his wristwatch and made his reply.
“He should be arriving in Japan in one hour’s time, sir.”
“One hour, is it….”
….He shouldn’t get bored for a little while, then.
Christopher Reid consoled himself with that thought and continued to glare at the rising helicopter containing the deputy director and Madam Selner.
[You have killed the owner of the dungeon.]
The King of Giants lost its head. Jin-Woo quickly stepped away to evade the fountain of blood gushing out from the severed neck. It was then.
The familiar mechanical beep went off in his head. Initially, he thought it was just one of those normal alerts the System often sent out.
However, the message was definitely not normal in nature.
[You have killed one of the Nine Sovereigns, the Sovereign of the Beginning, ‘Reghia’.]
[Calculating the total earned experience points.]
[Due to the enormous amount of experience points, this process will take some time.]
‘What the heck?’
Jin-Woo was flustered for a moment there as he had never come across a situation like this one before. And a little while later….
Tti-ring! Tti-ring! Tti-ring! Tti-ring!
Mechanical beeps continuously rang inside his head.
And at the same time, Jin-Woo got to spectate on the grand feast of System messages utterly filling up his vision.
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened progressively wider and wider.
Six times the message windows went past his eyes, and even then, there had to be two additional mechanical beeps ringing inside his head for the ‘Level up!’ alerts to come to their end.
Jin-Woo hurriedly summoned up his Stat Window.