Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
"... Is that right?" Ethan said, groaning at the report of the second-class Director of Investigations, Mike. The director's report was just as shocking as his appearance, which was soaking wet, his eyes dim.
The news of the investigation team getting wiped out by one monster on the ground floor of the tower weighed down on Ethan's heart heavily. Realizing that Ji Yoo's proposition to form an alliance with the rest of the world was a sound one, Ethan groaned, put his hand on his throbbing forehead and muttered, "Damn it." From the look of it, it seemed like he had no choice but to organize a summit meeting as per Ji Yoo's request. A national crisis was at hand, and there was no time for big egos.
After disclosing a limited amount of information on the black tower to the world, the US organized an emergency Summit Meeting of Hunters. Among the Hunters' Institutes who agreed to attend, was Ji Yoo Kim, the Great Lord of the Central Institute in Korea.
Arriving at the Warp Gate building, Ji Yoo smiled as she got out of her car, thinking, 'So much for your threats, Ethan. You must be getting really desperate to invite us to the meeting. Well, there's not a whole lot of room for pride when your country's facing a catastrophe.'
Being greeted by the clerks who had rushed out of the building, Ji Yoo made her way inside.
Upon meeting Sia's friends, who stared at him with fascination as if looking at a celebrity, Ho Sung realized just how much older he was in comparison. However, contrary to her curious friends, Sia, fiddling with her phone, seemed to take no interest in Ho Sung.
'Man, what am I doing here when the world is falling apart?' he thought, feeling somewhat ashamed. However, the only and best time to make the most of his life was now: when the champion was sound asleep. Or so he thought. To his confusion, Ho Sung found himself feeling somewhat irresponsible, like a bedridden patient smoking a cigarette.
Although his initial thought had been to enjoy life to the fullest before the suicide mission that was the Tower of Demons, Ho Sung couldn't help but feel like he was avoiding his responsibilities.
'I should be preparing,' Ho Sung said to himself, which was the only thought occupying his mind.
"Hey, mister?" one of Sia's friends called to Ho Sung. At that point, Ho Sung snapped out of it and said, "Sorry. I better get going."
Hearing that, Sia, who had been staring at her phone, gave Ho Sung a puzzled look. Paying no attention to her, Ho Sung pushed his chair out and rose from his seat. Leaving the baffled Sia and her friends behind, Ho Sung walked out of the cafe. At that moment, Sia followed him outside, a disgruntled look on her face.
"What do you think you're doing?" she asked.
Turning toward her, Ho Sung replied, "I shouldn't be out here, wasting time. Give me a call when Min Sung wakes up, yeah?"
With that, Ho Sung made his way to his car.
As the representatives of the participating countries entered the conference hall with serious looks on their faces, Ji Yoo put on a bluetooth headset. All conversations were being interpreted into different languages in real time by interpreters who were seated not too far from her. Soon, Ethan, the Great Master of the American Hunters' Institute walked into the conference hall. It was the first summit meeting since the appearance of the very first labyrinth about a decade ago. However, since everyone in the room had a record of clearing at least one labyrinth, there was not a single person who was shaken by the situation. With the exception of Ethan, that is, whose face was noticeably hardened.
'I don't know if I like the look on his face,' Ji Yoo thought. Sure enough, Ethan started off the meeting with a report that explained the hardened look on his face.
"In order to investigate the ground floor of black tower, the American Institute sent in the Class-2 Investigation Team. As a result, we received a report that the entire team, with the exception of the team leader, had been wiped out. Our Director of Investigation here, who was the team leader at the time, was only able to return safely because of the sacrifices of his brave men."
At Ethan's opening statement, the conference hall sank into a tense silence. Although not a team made of top-elites, as the name suggested, the Class-2 Investigation Team was considered to be one of the most powerful and well-trained investigation teams in the world. Of course, the fact that a team of highly-trained hunters had been slaughtered in the black tower meant that the tower posed a threat beyond anybody's imagination. With a hardened expression, Ethan said into the microphone, "With that, I sincerely ask all the leaders here to consider deploying their top-tier hunters to Manhattan."
While the US choosing not to monopolize the tower could be seen as an opportunity for other countries to reap tremendous benefits, it was also reflective of the severity of the situation.
Looking around, Ji Yoo realized that China wasn't attending the summit meeting. Possessing some of the most powerful hunters in the world, the country's attitude appeared to be a speculative one.
'I guess some things just never change,' Ji Yoo said to herself, smiling bitterly.
"For those who are willing to contribute, it would be greatly appreciated if you'd sign and seal the doc.u.ment in front of me,' Ethan said directly. However, the limited amount of information brought out a lukewarm response from the leaders. At which point, Ethan, maintaining his stoic face, took the initiative to sign and seal the doc.u.ment himself.
"Countries who don't respond to this call will be cut off from all information pertaining to the black tower. Ladies and gentlemen, remember that our situation at hand is far more serious and difficult than when the very first labyrinth appeared," Ethan said, adding, "We'll resume the meeting in two hours. All missions and information pertaining to them will be set in motion and given to the participating countries after the doc.u.ment is signed. For those who are unwilling to contribute, I ask you to leave."
With that, Ethan rose from his seat and left the conference hall, and Ji Yoo, massaging her temple, watched him.
'Playing tough, are we?' she thought.
There had to be only one explanation for Ethan's attitude: greed. With China out of the picture, it was highly likely that the US would be leading the team of international allies.
'I guess I can't say that I'm surprised,' Ji Yoo thought.
Ultimately, Ethan's subtle threat to the world leaders turned out to be an effective one. The danger that was the black tower had provoked the leaders to join the US in conquering it. With the exception of China and after gaining the cooperation of the most well-known leaders in the world, Ethan had no reason to drag on any longer. Soon, the meeting moved on to the next stage: putting together an international assault team.
As the news reported on the black tower on live TV, the citizenry found relief in the fact that the tower was outside of Korea. However, that relief was short lived. With the news that the Central Institute was sending its elite force to participate in the investigation of the tower, a wave of apprehensive complaints started to pop up among the citizenry on social media.
"What happens to Korea when they're out there helping the US?"
"What if those dungeon gates start appearing again while the Institute is gone?!"
"C'mon! The US has all the military might they need! Do they really need our help?"
It wasn't long before the citizenry started acting on their complaints. Before long, a civic organization started a protest, demanding the Institute protect the country. However, despite the emphatic demands of the citizenry, the Institute dispatched its elite forces to the US as planned. Although the anxiety of the citizenry was at an all-time high, there were only two ways in which they could respond: either to grumble, or to hope that the soldiers made it back in one piece.
The reporters flashed their cameras unceasingly as elite hunters from across the globe started to arrive in Manhattan. After a while, the assembly area started to resemble a massive outdoor party as hunters in dazzling armor, weapons, and auras started to come together.
When all the hunters arrived, the number reached a whopping three hundred. It was a historic moment.
There was not a trace of fear to be found on the faces of the hunters. Because of their sheer number and the fact that each and every one of them was proud and confident in their skills, their morale was through the roof. Pride led one to have courage, and it was that courage that fueled an army, even without the help of a leader. However, there was one certain country who couldn't share in that same spirit. It was Korea. Finding it all too childish, Ji Yoo chuckled.
Disregarding the Korean hunters as if they were traitors, the hunters from across the globe, including the US, talked freely among themselves. It was as if they would forget all about the Central Institute when they joined combat. Their manners were no different from those of the teams of hunters who had arrived in Korea for the first time. To the rest of the world, Korea was considered to be a weaker country, and the misconception that a weak country like Korea had betrayed the US had led the Central Institute to be ostracized by the rest of the world.
"What are we, invisible? Why did they even invite us if they were gonna give us the cold shoulder the entire time?" the commander of the Central Institute grumbled, and Ji Yoo smiled bitterly at that.
"Ma'am, frankly, I don't see why we should stick around any longer. Besides, it won't reflect well on us back home," the commander said, and Ji Yoo nodded in agreement.
"It is true that there was tension between Korea and the US when we were dealing with a monster attack. Besides, one of ours really did injure one of theirs."
"That's not all. The Central Institute probably isn't the most trustworthy in the eyes of the world. Especially when we already declined the Americans' request to take part in investigating the black tower once."
"But, ma'am! Everything about that screams politics! In the end, we're the ones being bullied, but that doesn't mean we have to take it!"
"Let's not get too riled up and focus on what we can and must do instead," Ji Yoo said, looking at her soldiers.
"Do you have a plan?" the commander asked, and Ji Yoo stared at the tower calmly. Despite it being broad daylight, the sky was covered by dense thunderstorm clouds.