[Knight ‘Igrit’ is requesting your permission to advance his grade.]

[Will you permit the advancement?]

‘Permission to advance?’

Surprised by the never-before-seen System message, Jin-Woo quickly confirmed Igrit’s information to make sure.

[Igrit Lv. Max]

Knight grade.

It’s now possible to advance the grade after the level requirement has been met. Will advance to the next grade when the Sovereign gives his permission.

‘Igrit’s level…..??’

The level that previously hovered around the 30 mark had changed to ‘Max’ before he had noticed it. It must’ve been the case that, once the Shadow Soldier’s level cap had been met, he’d be given an opportunity to advance to the next grade.

‘Is the requirement level for advancement somewhere between the late thirties and early forties?’

When taking into account the potential level-ups happening during a single battle, he suspected that the required level had to be around there somewhere.

Considering that the average level of the Shadow Soldiers was still around the early twenties, it sure as heck felt like a cumbersome requirement.

‘Besides all that, it also needs my consent, too.’

That must’ve been the reason why Jin-Woo thought there were hints of unknown but earnest yearning in Igrit’s eyes as he ran over here.

‘……’

Igrit didn’t raise his lowered head at all.

Jin-Woo could even sense a nervous determination emanating from Igrit as he waited for his lord’s decision without budging an inch from his kneeling position.

Jin-Woo was even tempted to pat the dude on the shoulder and praise him for the job well done.

‘This guy….’

Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted back to the System message.

The message was blinking slowly as if to urge him for an answer.

Igrit was one of the very first to become his Shadow Soldiers, not to mention one who fought the hardest until now, as well. Was there a reason not to allow the grade advancement here?

Without a shred of hesitation, Jin-Woo replied to the System’s message.

“I allow it.”

[Please designate the command phrase.]

‘I need a command phrase for something like this, too?’

Jin-Woo frowned briefly, but changed his mind just as quick.

‘Oh, well.’

Quite a few became Shadow Soldiers at the same time. For today, it was only Igrit, but if more than a few soldiers requested him for the advancement permission at the same time in the near future, then it might become rather tedious and time consuming to answer their call one by one. Especially so, if it happened during the middle of a fight.

The command phrase would prove to be useful on those occasions, that’s for sure. After a short deliberation, Jin-Woo spoke up.

“Permitted.”

He went with the ‘Simple is best’ mantra.

As soon as the command phrase was set, changes rapidly took place. It began from beneath Igrit’s feet.

Wuuuaaahhh-!!

Accompanied by screams coming from a distant place, countless black hands emerged from Igrit’s shadow and they grabbed onto every part of him.

‘What’s this?’

Jin-Woo observed in great interest the unfolding process of the advancement. At first, he thought that those black hands would drag Igrit back into the shadow, but in reality, the opposite happened, instead.

The hands holding onto Igrit turned into black smoke and spun around him quite ferociously, before getting absorbed by him. It was as if Igrit was absorbing the black smoke voluntarily.

Psuuuuuaaahhk!

Igrit emerged from the dissipating black smoke while emitting a far greater aura than ever before.

Tti-ring.

The System message informed Jin-Woo of the results.

[The current grade of Knight ‘Igrit’ has advanced from ‘Knight grade’ to ‘Elite Knight grade’.]

‘Niiice!’

Jin-Woo did his best to calm his trembling heart and rechecked Igrit’s information window.

[Igrit Lv.1]

Elite Knight grade

‘His level has been reset, but his current grade is the same as Fangs now.’

Before joining Jin-Woo’s army of the Shadow Soldiers recently, Fangs used to be the boss monster of a rank A dungeon. Now that Igrit was on the same grade as a creature that powerful, it could only mean that his abilities had grown by that great a deal now.

Ba-dump…

Jin-Woo’s heart beat faster. The theory he came up with back when he became the Shadow Sovereign turned out to be correct.

‘It wasn’t just me who can get stronger.’

Jin-Woo’s gaze swept over each of his Shadow Soldiers.

‘All these guys are growing stronger alongside me, too.’

After Igrit changed so noticeably through the grade advancement, he was reminded once more of his soldiers’ capability for growth. He was now beset with the desire to urgently raise the levels of other soldiers and have them advance to the next grade as soon as possible.

‘Looks like one more thing has been added to my to-do list, huh?’

And so, as he stood there checking out his soldiers while feeling rather satisfied with himself….

From afar, he spotted Tank quickly approaching closer with a dead body of a demon that escaped a little while ago in his jaw.

‘Uh?’

However, the light shining in Tank’s eyes as he hurriedly ran closer also seemed rather suspicious, too. Those eyes, that aura….

Jin-Woo quietly stared, before asking aloud with a disbelieving expression on his face.

“Even you?!”

Tank finally stopped right in front of Jin-Woo’s nose and quickly discarded the corpse he worked so hard to bring here. He then began prostrating as well, with his front legs gathered together before his head.

“Wuuong.”

And sure enough, another message popped up in Jin-Woo’s view.

[Elite ‘Shadow Beast Soldier’ is requesting for permission to advance his grade.]

‘….Holy cow.’

Jin-Woo facepalmed in surprise. A quick confirmation of Tank’s information revealed that his level had also reached the cap as well.

[Shadow Beast Soldier Lv. Max]

Elite grade

‘Wait a minute….’

Jin-Woo found this rather odd.

Unlike the tireless battle machine named Igrit, who started off as a level 7 and maintained his sky-high level until now, Tank was still a far away from meeting the level cap that Jin-Woo suspected to be the advancement requirement.

Yet, both Igrit and Tank were about to advance around the same time?

The difference in these two guys’ levels wasn’t something that could be bridged by this one battle alone.

‘Could it be…. the required level is different for each grade?’

If so, then it made sense.

He thought that since Tank was an ‘Elite’ rank, his level cap would be lower which meant his advancement would be faster; on the other hand, Igrit and his ‘Knight’ grade needed more time to advance.

If that was the case, then indeed it was possible for the timing of their advancements to match so coincidentally like this.

When Jin-Woo’s thoughts reached this point, a certain possibility suddenly entered his mind.

‘Wait, if I reach the right level, could I advance in grade, too?’

It was just that the required level was so high that he hadn’t reached it yet.

‘….Eiii, there’s no way.’

Jin-Woo smirked to himself. At the same time, he allowed the advancement to commence.

As soon as his permission left his lips, the same type of process as Igrit took place with Tank as well. Hands emerged from the shadow, changed to smoke, and got absorbed into Tank.

Shuuaahhak….

And just like Igrit, Tank also became a realm stronger than before.

[The current grade of Elite ‘Shadow Beast Soldier’ has advanced from ‘Elite grade’ to ‘Knight grade’.]

However, there were some differences, too.

Tti-ring, tti-ring, tti-ring.

The mechanical beep went off continuously and System messages popped up one after another.

[You can bestow a name to a soldier with Knight grade or above.]

[The bestowed name will be maintained until the Shadow Soldier is dismissed.]

[Please assign the soldier’s name.]

Tank was a temporary name Jin-Woo came up with on a whim.

Since a name couldn’t be assigned unless a soldier was a Knight grade, Tank’s official moniker had been stuck as a ‘Shadow Beast Soldier’. If it weren’t for his twice-as-huge frame compared to other bears, there was no way to differentiate Tank from the others.

But now, Jin-Woo could freely assign a name now.

A deep smile formed on his face.

“Tank.”

[Will you assign it as ‘Tank’?]

“I will.”

When Jin-Woo confirmed it, the information on the ‘Shadow Beast Soldier’ changed.

[Tank Lv.1]

Perhaps he knew that the advancement process had ended, Tank raised his body up. Standing on his hind legs, he was as tall as a regular two-story house now. Jin-Woo wholeheartedly praised him.

“You finally have a name now, Tank.”

Feeling pleased, Tank raised its head up high and roared out loudly.

“You guys all did well.”

So, time to take a well-deserved break until the next floor.

Jin-Woo recalled his soldiers back into his shadow, and while doing that, he couldn’t help but spot Iron and his drooping shoulders. The poor guy was the only one out of the ‘old’ members to not get an advancement today.

Shururu….

After his soldiers disappeared as shadows, Jin-Woo left the castle. Esil was waiting for him outside with a rather haggard face.

“E-excuse me, Sir Jin-Woo?”

“I told you, stop calling me a Sir.”

“Y-yes.”

Esil hesitated somewhat after Jin-Woo curtly replied to her, but eventually, she spoke again.

“Excuse me…. Uhm, Jin-Woo… sir.”

The demons were a lot more ‘sensitive’ towards one’s seniority than expected, it seemed.

“….Fine. What now?”

“Do you know…. how many clans have ceased to exist by your hands?”

Currently, they were on the 89th floor.

Esil’s clan was on the 80th, so that would make nine clans?

What with her witnessing a clan being killed off every time they climbed up a floor, Esil had finally grown too anxious to remain silent.

“Clans of superior aristocrats are managing the floors 90 and above. They are on another level compared to the upper aristocrats you’ve encountered so far.”

Jin-Woo didn’t slow down his steps, but still asked her anyway.

“Okay, so what?”

“How about resolving the matters with dialogue from now on? If you talk to them nicely, they might hand over the Entry Permit like my cla….”

Jin-Woo cut her off there.

“If I was weaker than your clan, you think your people would’ve tried talking to me at all?”

Esil quickly shut her mouth up. A measly little human dared to show up uninvited to a castle full of demons, and not only that, proceeded to demand something from said castle, too?

That human wouldn’t have been able to return home alive.

“That’s how it is.”

Jin-Woo smirked deeply.

Whether it was a monster from a regular dungeon, or a monster from instant dungeons, the relationship with humans would go only as far.

‘The strong will devour the weak.’

Jin-Woo agreed with that concept. Besides, he was urgently pressed for both the Entry Permits and the level-ups, so he wasn’t planning to give up on either of those.

Jin-Woo glanced at Esil to his side.

He found her continued silence and the expression of dejection strange and asked her about it.

“I thought it’d be a good thing for your people if other clans were destroyed?”

“Pardon?”

“Didn’t you say that demon clans are bitterly contesting with one another on the hierarchy or whatever?”

“Ah, that…. That is true. However….”

From here onwards, they were stepping into the territories of the superior aristocrats.

If Jin-Woo failed in his conquest for some reason, then the fury of those superior aristocrats would be directed in full towards her and her own clan. Esil was worried about that.

Regardless of her worries, Jin-Woo spoke up confidently.

“I’ll make your Radish Clan as the number one on the pecking order.”

‘….But, our clan is Radiru, you know.’

Esil could only complain meekly in her mind.

Soon, they would be stepping into the upper floor. Could a lone man manage to destroy the superior aristocrats and their clans with nothing but his own powers?

‘…..Eiii, I don’t care anymore.’

She had taken on the task of being his guide, so all she had to do was to do her job properly. Esil decided to give up on sweating over it.

‘Ah, I almost forgot….’

Still, there was this one thing she just had to ask.

“Excuse me, Jin-Woo…. sir”

“Yeah?”

Jin-Woo looked back at her.

Having witnessed Jin-Woo continuously destroy other demon clans so easily, she found it pretty scary to meet his eyes anymore, so Esil quickly lowered her gaze to her feet and asked.

“Why did you spare my clan?”

Without a doubt, the Radiru Clan would never be able to oppose this man’s quest. She knew her clan’s military might the best, and now that she had witnessed Jin-Woo’s true power, she was sure of this fact.

Even then, her Radiru clan emerged relatively unscathed from this merciless man’s onslaught. Why was that? She was really curious.

Jin-Woo entered the floor-transfer magic circle and turned around to face Esil.

“Cuz I find you likeable.”

Even though she was a monster, she knew when to surrender, she knew when to negotiate, and most importantly, offered up quite a bit of useful information, too.

“P-p-pardon me?!”

Esil flinched grandly in surprise, and her neck rapidly dyed in a crimson colour. She stood on the spot hesitating as she fidgeted with her fingers in a clear fluster. Their schedule had been affected by her being rooted to the spot like that, so Jin-Woo asked her to get a move on.

“Aren’t you coming?”

Then, he glanced at the System message asking him which floor he’d like to go.

“If you don’t get in now, we’ll go back to the 80th floor, okay?”

“I-I’m sorry.”

Her face still blushing deeply in red, Esil hurriedly entered the magic circle.

However, she couldn’t raise her head again even after arriving on the next floor.

The Incheon International Airport.

The representatives from the Japanese Hunter Association arrived in South Korea to discuss the matters of Jeju Island’s ant problem. They already had set up a conference with the Korean counterparts.

Along with the Japanese Hunter Association’s President Matsumoto Shigeo, Japan’s number one Hunter, the rank S Goto Ryuji stepped into the airport. (TL note at the end)

The atmosphere within the airport seemed a bit chaotic, so Matsumoto Shigeo took a look around to see what was what.

“What’s happening here?”

“…..There is a very powerful presence nearby.”

“Stronger than you?”

Goto Ryuji smirked derisively.

Seeing the fully-confident face of Goto Ryuji, Matsumoto Shigeo didn’t bother to ask anymore.

‘There’s no way South Korea can produce someone like that.’

Not too long after that, an employee from the Korean Hunters Association hurriedly ran forward to greet and received them.

“I’m terribly sorry. I was delayed by all the chaos unfolding inside the airport at the moment.”

The employee hurriedly lowered his head in apology. Matsumoto Shigeo hid his dissatisfaction expertly and formed a magnanimous smile.

“It’s fine. However, is there something going on at the airport?”

“Ah, that…. It’s nothing serious, sir. It’s just that a Hunter from the United States has arrived just now.”

“What brings an American Hunter to South Korea?”

“I hear that it’s a personal matter, sir. I’m sure that there’s nothing to worry about.”

The employee thought the Association President Matsumoto Shigeo was worried about a possible dungeon break and did his best to assuage the Japanese group’s fears.

Unfortunately, Matsumoto Shigeo’s expression remained dark.

‘A Hunter from America, is it…. I hope this person won’t interfere with our business here.’

Goto Ryuji’s gaze was fixed in the direction of the noisy crowd of people over yonder. Most likely, that’s where the American Hunter was.

Meanwhile, Matsumoto Shigeo confirmed the time.

If he were to make it to the conference on time, he needed to get going now.

Matsumoto Shigeo spoke.

“Let’s go.”

< Chapter 105 > Fin.

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