I Alone Level-Up
Jin-Woo could only doubt his own hearing just then.
Who wanted to help who now? A monster helping a human?
He was so flabbergasted that he ended up blurting out what was on his mind.
“You seriously think I’ll believe you?”
The unknown man formed a serious expression.
“Then, I shall make you believe me.”
He began chanting some kind of a spell as his lips moved at an incredible speed that looked like a video playback sped up tens, no, hundreds of times.
At that moment, Jin-Woo sensed the magical energy present within this empty, open arena suddenly coagulate around this man. In the blink of an eye, he summoned his shortswords out.
If the gathering magic energy carried even a hint of aggression, then the blade of his weapon would have pierced into the man’s forehead already.
However, Jin-Woo patiently waited.
The amount of magic energy being utilised was very small when compared to the reserves both Jin-Woo and the man possessed. And he couldn’t sense any aggression or hostile intent from the gathered energy, either.
Jin-Woo readied the ultimate version of the skill ‘Dagger Throw’, ‘Dagger Rush’, and waited with bated breaths.
The needle-like tension continued to prick him in his skin.
Eventually, the strange language flowing out of the man’s mouth came to an end, and a System message popped up in Jin-Woo’s view along with the familiar ‘tti-ring’.
[King of Giants, the Sovereign of the Beginning, ‘Reghia’ has activated the ‘Skill: Pledge of Trust (Negotiable)’.]
[Once the ‘Skill: Pledge of Trust (Negotiable)’ has been agreed upon, both the initiator and the acceptor cannot lie to one another.]
[Will you accept the ‘Skill: Pledge of Trust (Negotiable)’?] (Y/N)
What attracted Jin-Woo’s attention, first of all, was not the contents of the man’s suggestion, but the title denoting what the man’s true identity was.
‘The King of Giants, is it…..’
He remembered the Giant-type monsters he hunted down on his way to here. Most likely, there must be some kind of a connection between this revelation and the reason for the face of the super-massive Giant protecting the Gate being the same as this man’s own mug.
As Jin-Woo fell into a contemplative silence, the man patiently waited for an answer.
‘What should I do?’
Jin-Woo looked at the blinking ‘Y/N’ and pondered his options.
Seeing that the System even bothered to give him an alert like this, the effects of this skill or whatever must’ve been for certain.
He needed to think about who’d be in more of a disadvantage when unable to lie to the other party here. However, there was no reason to think too deeply about this as the conclusion was already clear in his mind.
‘Obviously, it’ll be a loss for him.’
After all, this side was standing on an advantage.
In case a question Jin-Woo could never provide an answer for comes around, all he had to was to kill this creature, even if that sounded callous and cold-hearted.
This deal was suggested by the other side, to begin with. And Jin-Woo wasn’t naïve enough to feel guilty for a monster, of all things.
A System message appearing simultaneously with the mechanical beep quickly informed him of the successful completion of the negotiation.
[‘Pledge of Trust (Negotiable)’ has been initiated.]
[Through the mutual consent of both the initiator and acceptor, the two parties involved cannot lie to one another until the contract has been terminated.]
The King of Giants urgently repeated what he said before as if he was waiting for Jin-Woo to accept the Pledge.
“Please, free me from this seal. I shall help you.”
Jin-Woo’s eyes went extra round from surprise. His voice didn’t want to come out of his mouth as if his throat had been blocked off.
A smile crept up on the face of this King of Giants after seeing Jin-Woo’s struggles.
“That’s right. That is the power of the Pledge of Trust.”
Indeed, the effect had been confirmed to be real.
Half out of curiosity and the other half out of testing purposes, Jin-Woo was about to answer ‘I shall completely trust you. Let me undo those chains right away’. But he really couldn’t say any of those words at all.
‘So, this is the Pledge of Trust at work….’
Jin-Woo confirmed the effects of this ‘skill’ and felt his heart beat faster.
With this, he could trust to a certain extent what this King of Giants had to say to him. There was a simple reason why he didn’t trust 100%, though.
If they had no choice but to speak only the truth from now on, then it was rather obvious that the other party would withhold information that might prove to be damaging to itself.
Jin-Woo’s glare became sharper than when there was no Pledge between the two.
“How come it’s possible to converse freely with you, unlike how it is with other monsters?”
“Creatures emerging out from the Gates.”
“…Ah, ah. You must be referring to the denizens of the Chaos World.”
The King of Giants cracked a mocking grin.
“I shall ask you something in return. How could you even think of placing mere denizens of the Chaos World on the same pedestal as a Sovereign who rules over them?”
He then formed a dignified expression truly fitting for a ‘King’.
“All the denizens of the Chaos World emerging from the so-called Gates are, without exception, remnants of the defeated army. They have lost the battles against the army of the Rulers and become captives. They had to remain tied to a leash for an uncountable number of years, so it’s only obvious that their ego has been eroded somewhat. However, I am the King. I am different from them. I have patiently waited for the fated day when I can make my escape from their grasp.”
The King formed a thin smile next.
“And that’s how I got to encounter you.”
Jin-Woo worked hard to keep his emotions in check and to analyse what this guy was saying as objectively as possible.
‘If he’s really an existence on a higher realm than other monsters, then….’
….Then, he might really find himself with some important clues here.
His saliva travelled down his throat.
He had a ton of stuff he wanted to ask right now. But, before he did that, he needed to confirm something else first.
“By any chance, when you said the army of the Rulers, were you talking about those wearing silver armour with wings on their backs….?”
“That’s right. Those dogs are the soldiers of the Rulers.”
As expected. It felt as if another puzzle piece had clicked into its rightful place.
He suddenly thought that the ‘video playback’ the angel statue showed him was not some make-believe crap, but someone’s real memories of an event that did happen, instead.
Just what the hell was going on in this world, then?
Jin-Woo asked another question.
“Why do those b*stards called Rulers keep sending these monsters to us?”
The reason for the existences of the Gates. If he could find out the reason why these Gates kept popping up, then couldn’t he be able to do something about it and stop that from happening again?
Jin-Woo biggest concern lay with that.
“I have told you that already, have I not?”
The King of the Giants spoke with much more emphasis in his voice.
“They are preparing for war.”
“They will change this world into a suitable battlefield to engage the Sovereigns in yet another warfare.”
“I don’t quite follow you here… Just by sending monsters to Earth, this planet suddenly becomes a warzone?”
Well, it was true that sometimes, a situation far more horrifying than a warzone could develop from a Gate, but still.
Jin-Woo momentarily recalled the event that took place in Jin-Ah’s school. Even then, those were matters that involved humanity. He just couldn’t see how those would serve as preparations for some kind of a war involving non-human races.
“It is all to inject magical energy into your world.”
Jin-Woo felt as if he was struck in the back of his head just then.
If monsters were calamities emerging from the Gates, then magic energy was the blessing coming from the Gates. Not just the Hunters, but many civilians thought similarly along these lines.
Magic crystals, as well as Mana stones. These items containing magic energy were treated as the greatest source of energy in the modern world.
But then, that energy was actually nothing more than footholds for the upcoming war?
The King of Giants continued on with his explanations.
“There is simply no better way to propagate the type of energy that didn’t exist before than by sacrificing the blood of those that possess the necessary energy. So, the Rulers decided to utilise the captives they had in their possession.”
There was no need to even mention that the density of the magical energy around the world was gradually getting thicker every day.
That was not a naturally occurring phenomenon. No, more than likely that was the fruits from the trees first germinated from the fertile field cultivated from the blood of the monsters.
“The magic energy fortifies a world. They plan to fortify your world so it wouldn’t get destroyed from the impacts of the warfare.”
“In that case, this warfare is….?”
“Yet another blood-soaked struggle between the Sovereigns and the Rulers. Not too long from now, the world you’re living in will become a true hell.”
A battle between the armies of the Rulers, and the monsters – no, creatures before they were unwittingly turned into monsters. Jin-Woo did clearly witness their enormous battle from the ‘data’.
If Earth had been selected as ground zero for such massive scale warfare, then the assertion of this King of Giants, the one about this planet becoming hell, could not be dismissed as a simple exaggeration.
The complexion of the King suddenly darkened.
“There isn’t a lot of time left.”
“Once the truth about you coming in contact with me gets out, both the Sovereigns and the Rulers will not simply stay back and watch on anymore. It is even likely that the Envoys of the Rulers have begun their schemes already.”
“You’ve been implying that those b*stards will be aiming for my life, but… Why is that?”
“You really don’t know anything, do you?”
The Kings continued on with his explanations in a tone of voice thickly laden with pity.
“The power that you possess actually is not yours.”
Jin-Woo agreed with that.
The abilities of the Shadow Sovereign were something he got from the System. He couldn’t deny the notion that this power was not his from the very beginning.
“The mere fact of that power now residing within you could only mean that the original owner had betrayed other Sovereigns.”
When Jin-Woo heard that, he remembered the angel statue saying something similar in nature. It was likely that the statue was also one of the denizens of the Chaos World that followed the Sovereigns.
As the questions in Jin-Woo’s head kept sprouting up one after another, the King of Giants spoke up.
“You have become the enemy of both the Sovereigns, as well as the Rulers. However, only I pledge that I shall stand by your side and fight for you. So, will you not help me?”
The King of Giants had assessed that this much convincing was enough and formed a serious, determined face. Unfortunately for him, Jin-Woo calmly asked a question in return.
“If you wish to stand by my side, then wouldn’t it be simpler for me to turn you into a Shadow Soldier, instead?”
The King of the Giants flinched in surprise.
It was only for a second then, but for that briefest of moments, the King saw the actual face of the Shadow Sovereign and this human’s overlap.
What the human said was not wrong. To him, there would be bigger merit in having one more absolutely loyal underling than forming a brand new alliance with a complete stranger.
The King inwardly admired the fact that this human didn’t miss that crucial point. He spoke up and explained the situation.
“We, the Sovereigns, as well as the Rulers, are made up of spiritual bodies. Once such a spiritual body dies, it is destroyed and can’t be turned into one of your Shadow Soldiers. Meaning, I can never become your soldier.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head again.
‘So, that was why.’
Here was the reason why the King thought Jin-Woo would lend a helping hand when there was clearly a much easier method, to turn him into a Shadow Soldier. As the Pledge of Truth was still active, there was no need to decipher if that was a lie or not, too.
Jin-Woo stopped swimming within his thoughts and raised his head.
The King of Giants asked again.
“Are those enough reasons for you to help me now?”
Jin-Woo wordlessly stared at the King.
This being titled the King of Giants, it was carrying an expression of certainty as if it knew that the restraints tying it down would soon be undone.
Of course, Jin-Woo had no such weird tendencies of feeling jealous after seeing someone else being happier than him. Also, this guy said he’d become his ally out of its own volition, so he didn’t have any reason to reject the offer, either.
However, why did he keep feeling this uneasiness in his heart?
‘Something… I’ve definitely overlooked something here.’
One cold sweat drop after another began forming on his forehead.
The King of Giants, meanwhile, made another plea.
“Unshackle me, I beseech you.”
Jin-Woo took in a deep, deep breath.
No matter how hard he pondered his options, he couldn’t think of a reason to reject this King’s plea. The longer he thought about what he had missed, the more he felt as if he was getting sucked into a quagmire.
‘Am I being too paranoid here….?’
Jin-Woo approached the King of Giants while carrying the ‘Demon King’s Shortsword’.
And as he walked right up to its own nose, the King nodded his head. Jin-Woo reciprocated that nod.
He swung his shortsword laden with his magic power, and one of the chains powerlessly snapped in half.
Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump!!
His heart was beating louder and louder for some reason.
Why did this indecipherable sense of ill omen continue to pull back at his hands, even though he had already made his decision?
The second chain was cut in half, as well.
The King of Giants formed a reverential expression that was neither joyous or sorrowful and waited for his restraints to be undone.
The third chain.
Jin-Woo leaned towards the back of the King in order to cut the chains taking root within its flesh there. But then….
His heart pulsed incredibly powerfully, right then.
He felt as if his heart had crashed down to the pit of his stomach.
The chain of thoughts on what he had overlooked, and why he was feeling that way, violently crashed into his head, as if it was prying apart the small gap between the tight rock formation.
Jin-Woo stayed his hands trying to cut the chain, and looked straight into the King’s eyes.
“You have said that you will stand by my side, yes?”
“Of course I will. If you help me, then I shall help you in return. This is a fair and absolute transaction between two Sovereigns.”
He had already heard this reply several times. However, what Jin-Woo wanted to confirm wasn’t that answer. So, he threw out the real question next.
“In that case, are you on the side of the humans?”
The King suddenly became silent.
The ‘Pledge of Truth’. The condition of this spell meant that the King of Giants couldn’t say anything.
Jin-Woo took a look behind this being’s neck. A jet-black Mana Crystal embedded on the back of his neck coldly reflected the ambient light.
As long as that item was stuck in the body, this being would hear the voices of the Rulers in his head, too.
….Exactly like every other monster.
The words of ‘Kill every human’.
For a brief moment there, a murderous intent flowed in the air.
With its now-free right hand, the King of Giants took aim at Jin-Woo’s temple.
Too bad, it was still not enough to reach him. He lowered his head and evaded the attack, before stabbing the shortsword into the King’s chest.
As if the chains wrapped around its body didn’t even exist, the sharp blade dug deep into the chest cavity of the captive King.
The King of Giants suddenly vomited out a mouthful of blood.
However, that single hit wasn’t enough. Letting this thing live was far too risky. This thing… could become an untold calamity.
Jin-Woo analysed the situation as thus and, while evading the right hand of the King constantly attacking him with nothing more than tilting his upper body this way and that, continued to thrust the shortsword into the chest of his enemy.
Stab, stab, stab, stab!
He stabbed for the sixth time.
Only after his blade entered and left the chest cavity for the sixth time did the King of Giants stopped moving his right hand.
It was over.
Jin-Woo extracted his shortsword for the last time. The King of Giants stared straight into his eyes and formed a meaningful grin.
“It is regretful, but this here is the end of the road for me.”
Jin-Woo took a step back and wordlessly shook the blood off his shortsword. In the meantime, the King continued to speak.
“As the battles between the residents of your world and the captured denizens of the Chaos World become more and more intense, this world will transform further and further into a battlefield.”
Cough! The King coughed out another mouthful of blood and formed the last smile.
“I pray… that everything you wish to protect burn into ashes in the all-ending conflagration of the war….”
“That ain’t gonna happen.”
Jin-Woo curtly cut off the words of the King, and swung his shortsword hard to cut the being’s head off.
[You have killed the owner of the dungeon.]
The moment the King drew his last breath, the ocean-like magical energy sleeping within the creature exploded into the world outside.
The transformation of the world had begun.
< Chapter 175 > Fin.