Auto Hunting - Chapter 184
Inside a Special Defense Agency limousine, with Director Yang Chang-guk…
“Ugh,” Yoo-seong groaned in pain as he took the tablet PC from the Director.
His left wrist, wrapped in a special cast, was still quite sore. The power of modern medicine was marvelous enough to have had his hand re-attached. However, there was no way to lessen the pain Yoo-seong felt. The number of painkillers that he had ingested was already enough to knock an ordinary person unconscious.
Yoo-seong couldn’t help but wince as he concentrated on the video being played on the tablet.
It was a replay of a video that had taken the Internet by storm while Yoo-seong was sleeping.
‘-My name is Lee Jae-hak.’
The broadcast had been announced as an emergency report.
‘-What I want to tell you guys is… is something I should have told you earlier…’
It was a simple video Lee Jae-hak had handed over to the Special Defense Agency before he went inside the crack with Yoo-seong for the last time.
The video contained Lee Jae-hak’s confession.
‘-Everything in this video is true… This information was passed on to me by my father, who learned it from our predecessors.’
In the video, Lee Jae-hak admitted everything, including who and what the descendants were.
He didn’t know how many descendants were around the world or who they were, but to him, it was clear that he had abandoned his responsibility.
-My sister, Lee Un-seol, didn’t know about this. But I have no excuses. So… I apologize.
Yoo-seong felt his chest tighten.
He hadn’t known about this video until today. It must have been quite a burden for Lee Jae-hak to carry.
Yoo-seong knew it would not have been possible to hide this from people forever. Because of that, he’d planned to secure Lee Jae-hak’s position and image in preparation for his announcement against the descendants who had forsaken their duty.
However, in the end, it was clear that Lee Jae-hak could not be criticized for not fulfilling his duties.
He was different from the other descendants who had forsaken their duties to enjoy their positions, like Jin Wei-baek. However…
“Lee Jae-hak is going too hard on himself,” Yoo-seong said.
Lee Jae-hak’s attitude throughout the video was to take responsibility himself rather than getting the other descendants involved.
“I understand what he’s feeling,” Yoo-seong said as he turned off the tablet screen.
In addition to repaying Yoo-seong for retrieving his family’s Tech, that had been Lee Jae-hak’s main driving force for helping him.
“He must be in deep trouble now,” Yoo-seong remarked.
“He said that, aside from nurturing younger students, he won’t be involved in hunting activities anymore,” Director Yang Chang-guk answered.
Yoo-seong nodded. Perhaps, even if Jae-hak had wanted, he wouldn’t have been able to. In Korea alone, the angry crowd’s reaction must have been tremendous.
“You guys could have waited for me to wake up…”
“Lee Jae-hak insisted. I judged that there would be no harm in releasing the video,” the Director said.
Yoo-seong massaged his forehead and grabbed his cell phone. He checked the Internet to confirm the public opinion about Lee Jae-hak.
People must have been saying the worst things about him.
‘I have to put all my efforts into salvaging his image somehow,’ Yoo-seong thought.
Yoo-seong’s fingers froze over the screen.
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He hadn’t even needed to search for Lee Jae-hak’s name because of the trending topics that were emerging as popular real-time search terms:
Lee Jae-hak’s girlfriend
Lee Jae-hak’s Instagram
Lee Jae-hak fandom
Lee Jae-hak’s girlfriend, Park Young-joo
Park Young-joo’s Instagram
Yoo-seong’s brows furrowed in confusion.
It seemed true that public opinion was focused on Lee Jae-hak. However, the trending words that had appeared were strange.
“What is this?” he asked as he scrolled some more.
Lee Jae-hak. The public did not hate him.
-He is truly a brave one. It wouldn’t have been easy for him to confess.
-It would have been crazy to swear at him.
-Still, he committed a crime. He deserves to be hated.
˪Ah, but what did Lee Jae-hak do?
˪Lee Jae-hak did something wrong!
˪Did he open the cracks and call the monsters out? He was the first to confess among all those descendants because of his conscience! We must find those lazy, greedy…
-It was not fair for him to be silent until now, but it was understandable. Lee Jae-hak wasn’t as influential in the beginning as he is now. If he had confessed from the beginning, everyone would have just treated him as a crazy guy.
-Besides, society has done nothing for Lee Jae-hak.
˪What about his house and car?
˪He earned those.
“It’s better than you thought, right?” Director Yang Chang-guk grinned at the confused Yoo-seong.
Honestly, it was the best result, far beyond what Yoo-seong had expected.
“Fans who didn’t want him to retire went and staged a rally in front of his house. Then, at that rally, Lee Jae-hak confessed about a person he has been dating in secret.”
“Actually, I didn’t publish Jae-hak’s video without thinking first. If I hadn’t had another video that I could immediately upload after his confession, I would have waited for you to wake up and asked your opinion.”
“What do you mean?” Yoo-seong raised his brows.
“This. Without it, Lee Jae-hak’s video wouldn’t have had such a good response.”
Yang Chang-guk handed Yoo-seong the tablet screen again, where another video was playing.
“Watch it to the end before saying anything.”
As the Director suggested, Yoo-seong turned his gaze to the tablet.
It didn’t take a minute for his face to turn red with embarrassment.
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“This, this… who…?”
“I managed the editing.” Yang Chang-guk looked proud.
The material in the video was already familiar to Yoo-seong. It was the footage from the drone of the world beyond the cracks. However… the editing was something that Yoo-seong had not quite expected.
“You said it yourself. You left the editing to me.”
“Well, I said that but…”
‘Isn’t this too much?’ Yoo-seong thought.
It wasn’t that the video didn’t convey the content properly. However, it was too much like the videos praising a dictator of a communist state, from the battle with the Garam to the scene where Yoo-seong leaped and oxidized the falling warhead into a single flash of light.
The drone footage was silent, but Yang Chang-guk had filled it in a pretty clever way.
For example, when Yoo-seong was about to throw a punch, a slow-motion effect and subtitles about how efficient and powerful his motion was had been added. Well-known hunters appeared in the middle of the screen with comments on Yoo-seong’s movement. The video contained overwhelming praise for Yoo-seong.
“The number of streams as of yesterday has already reached 2.1 billion. If you combine it with those with foreign language subtitles…”
“Oh my God!” Yoo-seong’s face turned pale.
Yang Chang-guk felt very pleased as he watched the embarrassed Yoo-seong.
“This video had pretty good synergy with Lee Jae-hak’s video. In fact, the meeting we’re going to right now is because of the people’s explosive reaction to them.”
Thirty minutes ago, the heads of seven descendant families from five countries had arrived in Korea, waiting for Yoo-seong to awaken.
They were not requesting asylum. Rather, they were seeking Yoo-seong’s permission.
If Yoo-seong accepted them as part of his new plan, they were willing to support him and apologize to the world, much as Lee Jae-hak had.
“As you can see from this list, some families from powerful countries have not contacted us yet,” Yang Chang-guk said.
“I think it’s just a matter of time. I will have to meet the expectations of these people first.”
Yang Chang-guk nodded. “But it seems that will be a little difficult,” the Director said in a grave voice. “Everyone will come expecting the strong Oh Yoo-seong from that video, not a red-faced…”
“Ahhh!” Yoo-seong immediately ran his hand through his hair, trying to fix it. “Director, you are just like Lee Jae-hak. You were both serious in the beginning, but now you like to tease me.”
The vehicle approached the convention center, where the meeting was scheduled to take place. The parking lot was filled with crowds and reporters. Everyone wanted to see Yoo-seong. Also, they wanted to know the results of the talks between the seven families.
Yang Chang-guk turned serious, wiping the smile off his face. “Moving forward,” he began, “it will be pretty busy for both of us.”
“It will.” Yoo-seong nodded.
“So, I’m going to tell you this now. Before this car stops. Before the doors open, and I go back to my duty as a public official.”
Yang Chang-guk, a middle-aged man in his fifties, stared at Yooseong.
“When I was younger, I didn’t dream of being a bureaucrat. In fact, I didn’t want to be anything. I lived comfortably. I had quite a few homes, and I wanted for nothing in terms of physical abilities or intelligence. I entered a prestigious university because I am pretty smart, and I took the civil service exam just because my friends did.”
When he was first assigned to an elite position in the Special Defense Agency, Yang Chang-guk had done his best, not because he liked to, but because it was expected of him.
He had worked properly but without enthusiasm.
“Until my wife died…”
A monster that was too strong for the size of the rift had unexpectedly appeared. Even the civilians near the barrier line had suffered.
Everyone had agreed that it was an unavoidable accident. At that time, the pool of hunters was absurdly small. Even hunters had died in the incident.
However, Yang Chang-guk, because he was competent, knew different. Over and over again, he had reviewed the data at the time and found the answer: a Storm-class rift had occurred in one of the nearby cities.
During that time, people had still lived in fear of the cracks and the monsters. Thus, to address the panic, the Defense Bureau had deployed a ridiculously large number of hunters.
Because of this, the available manpower that could be deployed to other rifts, including the one where Yang Chang-guk’s wife lived, had been reduced.
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“It is possible that my wife could have survived if someone had been calm enough to analyze and deal with the situation properly…”
From that time on, Yang Chang-guk had been engrossed in his work.
As time went by, everyone forgot their fear of the cracks and entrusted their lives to hunters and the Defense Agency.
“Thanks to this job, I failed as a father to my only daughter. But I couldn’t stop.”
If another tragedy had occurred in Korea, just like the one in which his wife had died, he had felt as if he wouldn’t be able to look his daughter or anyone else in the eye.
“But it’s over now,” Yang Chang-guk said, sighing.
“I don’t know how long it will take, but… as soon as your pioneering plan is done, I will retire without regrets.”
The car stopped. Before they opened the doors, Yang Chang-guk threw one last glance at Yoo-seong. Then…
“Once again…” He spoke not as the Director of the Special Defense Agency but as a father and a citizen. “Oh Yoo-seong… Thank you.”
A few months later, Yoo-seong landed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
General McKenzie, Warden of the Sea Tree, who met him, had his mouth wide open in surprise.
He had heard about this Korean hunter’s abilities, but it was still hard to believe it.
‘A human being flying across the Pacific Ocean.’
“W-Welcome, Oh Yoo-seong,” the General stuttered.
“Thank you for meeting me.”
Yoo-seong, wearing a formal suit, courteously bowed to the Warden.
The Sea Tree was a prison facility. As its name suggested, it was a huge tree with roots planted deep in the seafloor, while its wide and leafy branches protruded above sea level.
Those imprisoned here were not ordinary people. They were mostly hunters and CE users who had abused their power.
“Come this way, please.”
Following the Warden, Yoo-seong stepped inside the elevator of the Sea Tree.
“I believe you already know, but”—the Warden tried to start some small talk as the elevator descended—”it’s not usually possible to visit a Level Seven inmate. The prisoners there are completely isolated; even the cell maintenance and meal deliveries are done entirely through machines.”
“I see… are you trying to say that whatever might happen to me inside would be my responsibility?”
“…Well, so to speak.”
General McKenzie bit his lip as he realized something. The person next to him was the strongest person in the world. In the last few months, this person had achieved the most significant human feat in this century.
“Then… see you later.”
When the elevator reached the bottom floor, the Warden did not step out. Instead, Yoo-seong began walking into the isolated hallway alone.
After several layers of security checks, he finally reached an area that other people could not enter.
As the last metal gate closed behind him…
“You look good,” Yoo-seong remarked to the person he was visiting. “You must have adjusted well to prison food,” he added.
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The boy who did not grow old.
True to his nickname, Alvin Hawkins hadn’t changed in any way.