I Alone Level-Up
Orcs were natural-born hunters.
Their level of intelligence fell some way short of that of humans, but they easily exceeded humanity when it came to tracking and hunting prey weaker than they were.
And now, the doorway had been shattered. The ‘wall’ blocking the dungeon from the rest of the world was gone, and these hunters began pouring out from the Gate.
The Orcs shoved away the annoying corpses of the high school boys and scanned their surroundings.
These hunters had been trapped inside the dark dungeon for the whole week, quietly waiting for this day. It was rather obvious that they would get excited from all the smell of blood and flesh coming from their surroundings.
However, this group was merely advanced scouts. Even if their blood was boiling, they weren’t supposed to act as they pleased. Dozens of their brethren were waiting impatiently for their reports just beyond the roundish doorway.
These Orcs looked around and spotted straight walls with many doors and windows.
The Orc in charge of the advanced scouts immediately realised that they were standing inside a complicated artificial structure like a castle.
Its nostrils twitched.
There were two choices here to make. One, leave this ‘castle’ and kill every prey they could find with utter impunity.
Or, kill every human found within this ‘castle’ and turn it into a fortress – and then, commence with their hunting in earnest. There was no need to even consider which one was the safer choice.
The leader Orc ordered its underling.
“Summon our brothers.”
And then, it raised its head to glare at the ceiling above. The monster’s ears twitched and caught onto the noises coming down from upper floors.
Above, and then, more above that, still; this structure was seemingly filled with prey.
Its head was currently ringing painfully with a voice that kept telling the creature to kill every single one of those prey.
The monster’s maw parted and its yellowing fangs were revealed to the world.
“First, we cleanse this place completely.”
There was a sizeable crowd of people gathered in the coastline of Gwang-An-ri. Even though the weather was overcast and gloomy, there was this one thing that made these people show up here in morbid fascination.
And that would be the gigantic Gate floating above the beach.
The members of the local police force, whose assistance had been requested, and the employees of the Hunter’s Association, Busan branch, had cordoned off the area and strictly prohibited civilians from approaching the location.
But, for some reason, the number of folks gathering around hadn’t lessened at all.
A newbie female employee, who enjoyed the misfortune of being knocked around by the waves of people, formed a tearful expression and asked her senior as she sought shelter from the storm of curious humans.
“Do we have to repeat this same thing every time a Gate appears?”
The senior employee was also feeling flustered over this matter as well. This would be his first time seeing a commotion of this level around a Gate.
“Well, I guess it can’t be helped, since this Gate is the biggest one ever to open up in Busan.”
He then sneaked a glance behind him. There it was, the ginormous hole, silently floating in the air.
Just looking at it made him feel like he was being sucked inside, so he was consciously trying to ignore its presence.
But, of course….
‘I know that thing can’t harm people unless there’s dungeon break, but still…..’
Even then, he still disliked these Gates just like how some people irrationally feared outer space or the depths of oceans.
That was why he always prayed in his mind that Hunters would quickly take care of the ominous hole every time he was dispatched to a Gate’s location.
In a way, though, there was this thing that made him feel a lot more reassured about this raid. The newbie must’ve remembered the reason too, because she suddenly began talking to him.
“Ahh! Senior, did you hear?”
“A rank S Hunter from Seoul is supposed to come today, right?”
Was anyone here who didn’t know that already? Probably, half out of everyone here came solely to see the rank S Hunter with their own eyes while the other half, to spectate on the Gate itself.
“You mean, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo?”
“Why are you so happy? You personally know him or something?”
“N-no, not really.”
The newbie quickly shook her hands around and began writhing her body with a hyped-up expression on her face.
“Actually, it’ll be my first time seeing a rank S Hunter, so…..”
The senior employee formed a disappointed expression, instead.
“Hunter Seong Jin-Woo is a newbie, and you’re also a noob, yet how come the two you could be this different??”
“If you still have this much energy left to fool around, then why don’t you go over that side and lend them some help?”
“But, I came here to take a short break, you know? I’ve been standing around since the early morning and my legs are killing me, you know!”
The senior agent tutted unhappily.
Seeing her narrow her eyes angrily like that, she must’ve felt that he was being unfair to her, but he couldn’t quite trust what she was trying to sell here.
Still, it wasn’t as if he couldn’t understand where she was coming from, either.
“Well, yeah. I’m also a little bit curious, too. Everyone’s been talking about him lately and all.”
“See? Even you too, senior.”
“I mean, he solo hunted a boss from the rank S Gate, didn’t he?”
Originally, the true boss monster of the rank S Gate appearing on Jeju Island was the queen ant. However, many of those who watched the broadcast thought that the mutated ant monster was the boss instead, all thanks to the visceral visual impact that creature had left behind.
Killing the boss-level monster meant that the Gate itself would close up soon. And that young man was a Hunter who could close shut a rank S Gate.
It wasn’t for nothing that the noises of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo being a potential ‘Special Authority-rank’ were gaining momentum recently. It was only natural that the attention of the public was focused on him.
“A rank S Hunter, of all people! I wonder, what will be like seeing one for real?”
The senior employee looked at the sparkling eyes of his junior and his thoughts became complicated in an instant.
‘This kid, maybe she applied for a job in the Association not because she likes the work, but because she hankers after Hunters or something??’
The newbie employee didn’t care how her senior was looking at her. Her eyes continued to sparkle brightly and her voice remained all giddy from anticipation.
“I hear that you can’t even look the really strong Hunters in their eyes. Right, I hear you once saw a rank S Hunter in the past? Is that true?”
The senior employee recalled his business trip to Gwang-Ju last year.
“….Yeah, I have.”
Suddenly, the senior employee felt his shoulders straightening up a bit after seeing his junior display her admiration like that.
“So? What was it like, senior? Was it really scary?”
“Hey, hey. Don’t even mention it, okay? Last year, I had a chance to meet Hunter Mah Dong-Wook of the Shining Star Guild because of the work from the Association, and…..”
“….Excuse me, coming through.”
The two Association employees quickly stepped aside to create a path for a young man, and came back together again. But, then….
The senior agent looked behind him at the youth wearing a hoodie.
“What’s wrong, senior?”
“No, well, I thought that guy kind of looked familiar.”
“Uh? Really? That’s so weird. I was thinking the exact same thing.”
“Is he also a staff member from the Association?”
“Hold on, where was I with my story?”
“That was…. Ah, Hunter Mah Dong-Wook from the Shining Star!”
“Ahh, right. I had a chance to meet Hunter Mah Dong-Wook in person, and well, that guy was so huge that his shoulders were thiiiis wide.”
These two senior and junior employees sure got along so fabulously well, it seemed.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-niiiim!”
Park Jong-Su welcomed Jin-Woo with a tearful voice that certainly didn’t suit his late-thirties age group. That just went to show how much was riding on this particular raid.
Jin-Woo quietly confirmed the time even as he was subjected to Park Jong-Su’s passionate reaction. The numbers as indicated on the phone’s screen switched from 10:59 to 11:00.
Jin-Woo grinned brightly.
In order to avoid raising chaos, he remained in ‘Stealth’ and got to somewhere a bit away, before walking back here, but he still managed to make it in time nonetheless.
The raid was yet to start, but he was feeling good about it already. And when he raised his head to look….
‘….Looking at it for real now, it kinda looks bigger, doesn’t it?’
He could see the Gate right in front of his eyes that looked way bigger than the one from the video clips. The amount of magic energy leaking out of that thing was as serious as what the Association had told the Knight Order Guild, too.
‘What kind of monsters will I find inside?’
A smile unconsciously bloomed on his lips.
Besides that nonsensically huge Gate, though – everything else looked the same, more or less. Just like how it’d be with raids being taken on by other Guilds, there were two groups of low-ranked Hunters nearby.
‘That’s the retrieval team, and that’s the mining team.’
And the old saying said that you’d see as much as you knew. He could easily tell apart their roles through the attire and their equipment. This was indeed all thanks to ‘participating’ in the raids of the Hunters Guild in the past.
‘Annnd, back then or now, the Guild’s officials are running around and keeping themselves busy, too.’
He felt more relaxed now compared to back then, when he was still clueless and didn’t know which end was up. Indeed, experience proved to be the best teacher there was.
“He really came!”
“It’s Mister Seong Jin-Woo?!”
The elite Hunters began gathering around after hearing Park Jong-Su’s call sign, and began forming bright expression after they recognised Jin-Woo.
He shared simple greetings with them and observed each and everyone present here.
30 high-ranked Hunters had gathered for today’s raid. Like Park Jong-Su’s confident declaration, the numbers and quality alone didn’t lose out to the Hunters Guild at all.
Should he say, as expected of a Guild representing this part of the country?
And they were all kitted out in proper metal armours or special defensive equipment imbued with magical effects, so they certainly fit the bill of ‘Knight Order’ rather well.
To think, such a Guild would be underestimated solely because they lacked a rank S Hunter. What a regretful thing that was.
Jin-Woo could now understand a little bit of the mindset of Park Jong-Su who asked him out of nowhere if he was interested in joining the Knight Order.
While he was thinking of this and that, it didn’t take long for the Hunters to gather all around him.
They sneaked glances at each other before engaging in a competition to see who could start talking first.
“Hunter-nim! The Jeju Island raid was really amazing!”
“How do you summon those black soldiers? Wait a sec, are they even summons?”
“Will you be taking the lead in today’s raid, Mister Seong Jin-Woo??”
Just as Jin-Woo was feeling progressively lost from the outpouring of all these questions….
“Argh, stop! Will you just stop?!”
Healer Jeong He-Rim, responsible for coming up with the idea of bringing Jin-Woo in the first place, pushed aside other Hunters and stepped up to the front.
“Why are you trying to trouble Seong Hunter-nim to this degree?? You aren’t some country bumpkins either, so why?”
Her eyes glaring at her wayward colleagues were as sharp as a pair of blades.
A high-ranked Healer was comparable to one’s own mother in a way; because, she was responsible for the raid team’s overall well-being. The team members had to swallow their dissatisfaction and keep their mouths shut, as if they were being scolded by their mother.
Jeong Ye-Rim formed a grin. She then airily spun around and extended her hand to Jin-Woo for a handshake.
“I’m the main Healer of the Knight Order’s elite assault team, Jeong. Ye. Rim. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She formed a soft smile with her eyes and continued on.
“I don’t know about others, but seeing that you’re about to lead the team, and the fact that I’m the main Healer, we should be at least on the same page before we start, yes?”
Jin-Woo avoided meeting her ulterior motive-filled eyes and looked at Park Jong-Su, instead.
“You haven’t explained to them already?”
“Oh, that. Well…..”
Park Jong-Su scratched the back of his head as if he was embarrassed about something.
“My schedule had been just too tight, you see. I was so busy with going through all the formalities and summoning these guys out here that I’ve ended up forgetting about it. Sorry about that.”
He sheepishly smiled and swept his gaze over the Hunters.
Well, it was certainly nice that he didn’t have to repeat himself over and over again, what with the members of the assault team having gathered in one spot already.
“I, Park Jong-Su, will take the lead for today’s raid.”
Team members began murmuring to themselves after Park Jong-Su declared himself to be the leader of this raid.
“Chairman, it’s you again?”
“But, we have Hunter Seong Jin-Woo here, so why….?”
“Is it okay to even do that?”
Park Jong-Su was a tanker at the very top of the rank A, so it was definitely not a strange occurrence to have him lead a team. Excluding those times that he couldn’t participate due to his condition being less than ideal, the majority of the raids happened under Park Jong-Su’s leadership.
However, didn’t they have a rank S Hunter among the team now?
The strongest Hunter present taking up the lead – this was one of the commonly-accepted rules in raiding a dungeon.
Park Jong-Su quickly offered up an explanation for the sake of his confused teammates.
“Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim will take up the role of guarding our rear, and will ensure our safety during the raid itself.”
Watch the assault team from the back and take care of the safety of the team members – this was Park Jong-Su’s demand. This was for the safety of the team, of course, but also for the sake of the Guild’s honour, as well.
It was true that the Hunters with high physical combat abilities stood in the front of the team. The rear of the formation would usually be taken up by the Hunters ill-equipped to deal against ambushes, such as Mage-types, Healers, or support-types.
Knight Order was finding it hard to recruit new blood to their roster recently, so the survival of these Hunters was essential to the fate of the Guild itself. And, by placing Hunter Seong Jin-Woo there?
The assault team could commit to a speedy raid of the dungeon without worrying about their rear being attacked.
No, hold on!
If enemies did show up from the rear, now that would be a cause for celebration, instead.
Just who was this man standing there for them?
It was none other than Seong Jin-Woo, who forcibly broke through thousands of rank S monsters without so much as batting an eyelid once. If enemies kept appearing behind the team all the time, then well, they could even aim to end this raid early and go home.
That was Park Jong-Su’s first reason.
And, the much-more-important second reason was….
Park Jong-Su looked at the throng of reporters gathered just beyond the police line and swallowed down his dry saliva with some effort.
That was proof that a lot of people were interested in this raid. If he wasn’t careful here, then all those people might end up thinking that the Knight Order Guild was leeching off on Hunter Seong Jin-Woo.
‘Well… that might be true, but….’
Whatever the case may be, he couldn’t allow others to see the situation that way. To the Knight Order, the true aim of this raid was to let the world know that the Guild was still going strong, that it was still at its peak.
That was why Park Jong-Su desperately pleaded with Jin-Woo.
And this was the result.
“I’ve already discussed the matter with Seong Hunter-nim and agreed to do the raid this way, so if you have any complaints, save it until we finish the raid.”
Park Jong-Su finally got to tell the rest of the team members the result of the negotiation. However, this happened then.
“Yo, hold up. I really don’t get something here, so I gotta ask.”
A rank A Hunter suddenly stepped forward. He was a rookie who hadn’t been working for the Knight Order Guild for long.
“Since when did we become such weak Hunters that we need protection from someone else?”
That one sentence caused the complexions of the senior Hunters to go utterly pale.
‘N-no, junior, don’t!’
The young Hunter, who looked to be around the same age as Jin-Woo, formed an expression overflowing with confidence.
“Don’t you agree with me? Hyung-nim? Noo-nim?” (TL: Noo-nim – a respectful way to call an older female)
Because… this rookie just so happened to receive the second-most attention from the potential suitors after ‘Kim Cheol’ in this year’s crop of new Hunters. Indeed, he had a reason to be confident of himself.
Unfortunately, there was a problem, and that would be the guy he was talking to.
“Do the elites of our Knight Order look that weak to your eyes, Mister Seong Jin-Woo?”
Jin-Woo suppressed the rising fit of laughter to the best of his abilities and silently stared at this newbie rank A Hunter. It was the task of other Hunters to feel their blood all dry up, not him, so it was fine.
‘What the hell, with what idiotic confidence is that kid trying to….?’
‘No, wait. That punk… I knew that he’s a country bumpkin from Busan, but could it be that he has never even seen a rank S in action?’
‘Someone, please stop that guy!’
‘But, you can only stop someone who knows when to spew nonsense in the right time and at right place….’
Seeing that his seniors were all rendered speechless, and that Jin-Woo was maintaining his silence, the newbie Hunter’s confidence swelled up even more.
“Besides that, Chairman, you went too far, you know!”
‘Why is it me this time?!’
Park Jong-Su dumbfoundedly pointed to himself.
“Even if the name value of a rank S Hunter is high, how can you agree that easily to the condition of a freelancer taking away a Guild’s worth of the loot?”
A migraine had developed in Park Jong-Su’s head by now, and he sent a quick glance to Jin-Woo.
‘Seong Hunter-nim… I leave our junior in your capable hands.’
Jin-Woo nodded briefly.
“Whatever the case may be, I simply can’t understand this nonsensical contra….”
It was then.
Right in front of the rookie making his passionate speech, Igrit was summoned.
The rank A newbie flinched from the massive magical energy emanating from the black knight and hastily took a step back. However, he ran into something hard on his back even before he could take a second step.
Stunned silly now, he quickly turned around only to find another knight, several heads taller than the one before, looking down on him. It was Iron, of course.
The gasp he tried to hide jumped out of his throat all on its own.
And then, ‘it’ came from the side.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and the newbie slowly turned his sweat-soaked face to find a figure draped in black robes standing there this time.
The newbie lost all of his leg strength from the ominous magic energy oozing out from Fangs, and plopped down on to his butt.
‘He looks way too pitiful, so I shouldn’t summon out Beru, no?’
Jin-Woo flicked his hand once and the three knight-grade soldiers surrounding the newbie Hunter quickly returned to their shadow state.
Jin-Woo walked over to the pale-faced newbie and reached out with his hand.
“You still can’t understand anything yet?”
The rank A newbie took his hand and unsteadily stood back up, before nodding at the speed of light.
< Chapter 139 > Fin.