I Alone Level-Up
The Rulers were asking for forgiveness from the Shadow Sovereign.
They occupied an overwhelmingly advantageous position. As long as they willed it, they could have sent the Shadow Sovereign back to the empty void, yet they wished to make up with him, instead.
This was their own way of showing their respect towards a comrade, born together at the same time, as well as the greatest warrior who once stood at the forefront with his Army of Brilliant Light, in the war against the powers of the Sovereigns.
Although the Shadow Sovereign was never their leader, his comrades nevertheless respected him greatly.
And that was why they ignored the command from their leader, the ‘brightest Fragment of Brilliant Light’, to get rid of the Sovereign and instead chose to kneel before him.
[We no longer have any reason to fight each other.]
The enraged voice of the Shadow Sovereign resounded throughout the land next.
[What do you mean, there’s no reason??!]
The Sovereign reached down and grabbed the collar of the Ruler asking for forgiveness and yanked him up by force.
[Have you not harmed my liege with your swords and spears?!]
[He was our master as well.]
[That is precisely why your crimes are even more heinous!]
The Rulers maintained a courteous attitude, even towards the enraged Shadow Sovereign.
[You know better than anyone what we felt in our hearts when we raised our banners of rebellion against our master.]
The Shadow Sovereign raised his head and discovered that the silver-clad winged soldiers had gathered around them before he had noticed it, and they were looking in his direction with worried expressions etched on their faces.
These were truly loyal soldiers.
How could he not know what they felt, watching their comrades die at the hands of their enemies? It was him who led these soldiers in countless battlefields and shed blood in honour of their master, after all.
[We only wished to end this war. That was all.]
The Sovereign’s grip holding onto the Ruler’s collars loosened just a tad.
[And finally, we have the opportunity to do so.]
[That’s right. You can finally end this war.]
The Shadow Sovereign let go of the Ruler, picked up his discarded sword, and made the angel grip the weapon’s hilt.
[Strike me down with this sword.]
And then, he looked at the other Rulers and shouted out.
[Pierce my heart with your spears! That is the end that you so desperately seek! With this act, you shall finally become the victor of this war!]
But, the sword powerlessly fell from the Ruler’s grasp and clattered noisily onto the ground. No one else tried to push forward their spears against the Shadow Sovereign. Only the pleading voice came back his way.
[Please, find it in your heart to forgive us.]
Unfortunately, their earnest plea struck the Shadow Sovereign more painfully than any weapon known to man.
After he lost his subordinates, after he lost his master, and after he himself was trapped within the darkness, the only thing that motivated him to carry on were the thoughts of revenge.
The desire for vengeance helped him to endure until now.
He had led the army of the dead with the singular thought of making these Rulers pay for their transgressions.
But now, how could he continue to hate those asking for his forgiveness in order to save their own soldiers from this endless cycle of warfare?
After all, both he, fighting to protect his master, and these Rulers, who fought to keep their subordinates alive, were victims of fate’s cruelty, were they not?
The truth, that these kneeling angels weren’t his detestable enemies, but comrades who went through hell together, began tearing at his heart mercilessly now.
With that, the sole reason for his existence gone, the Shadow Sovereign cried out towards the others as if he was vomiting blood.
[Come! Kill me!]
Everything shall end here.
He’d rather return to the embrace of the void and rest for eternity while forgetting everything that had happened.
None of the Rulers moved an inch.
No, they remained kneeling on the ground, their heads pressed to the floor, just like how it was from the beginning.
The Shadow Sovereign raised his head up next.
That prompted all the silver-clad soldiers in the air, still remembering the greatest warrior ever to grace the heavens, to place their fists where their hearts were and lower their heads.
Although they had to fight against him because of the differing ideals, they still hadn’t forgotten about their admiration towards him in their hearts and consequently, they paid their utmost respect.
The number of such soldiers utterly dominated the entire sky. And when all of them lowered their heads, the Shadow Sovereign stopped silently watching them and turned around to leave.
The Sovereign of Death left the scene just like that, and afterwards, he completely vanished without a trace. Meanwhile, the combined forces of the Sovereigns, now that their own armies had been greatly depleted by the internal conflict of the three Sovereigns, met with a resounding defeat at the hands of the Rulers.
The defeated remnants escaped to the crack between dimensions with their remaining forces. Jin-Woo watched the Sovereigns and their defeated army escaping through the enormous Gate and became utterly dumbstruck.
‘The scale of the defeated remnants were that big….?!’
He couldn’t even begin to imagine just how many soldiers from both sides had to be sacrificed for the sake of the Absolute Being’s entertainment.
He kind of understood where these Rulers were coming from when they rebelled against their master’s rule.
But, it was then.
The Shadow Sovereign that secluded himself from the worldly affairs, appeared before the other Sovereigns again.
When the Shadow Sovereign and the Sovereign of Beastly Fangs ran into each other, others became extremely tense that another violent clash might take place, but due to the intervention from the Dragon Emperor, the feared event didn’t come to pass.
[Now is the time to replenish our depleted forces. I understand the history between you two, but I shan’t allow a fight to take place.]
The Dragon Emperor then accepted the Shadow Sovereign back to their fold once more with open arms.
Jin-Woo swallowed his nervous saliva as he watched the Dragon Emperor in humanoid form. He was aware of the fact that the figure before his eyes was nothing more than a fragment of the Shadow Sovereign’s memories, but still….
‘So, this guy is the King of Berserk Dragons, the Sovereign of Destruction….’
The insane level of power oozing out from nothing more than just a glare even made Jin-Woo’s teeth clatter.
Having evacuated to the crack between dimensions, the Sovereigns avoided the Rulers’ detection and searched for a new world where they would nurture their army again.
Countless galaxies and planets flew past Jin-Woo’s eyes. And eventually, the footage came to a stop right before a certain planet.
He unconsciously let out a gasp.
It was a beautiful blue planet shining all alone within the darkness of space. It was Earth.
Through their concerted efforts over a long period of time, the Sovereigns succeeded in tunnelling a portal from the crack between dimensions, to Earth that existed in another dimension.
And thanks to the entrance of unprecedented enemies, mankind couldn’t avoid the fate of being annihilated.
Jin-Woo’s expression hardened as he watched the cities get reduced to smouldering rubble, as first seen inside the ‘Demon’s Castle’ instant dungeon.
“Is this what will happen in the future?”
[No. This is a record of the past.]
Jin-Woo’s eyes quaked powerfully from that unexpected answer. But, his shock could linger around only for a short while. Because the Shadow Sovereign continued on with his explanation.
[The Rulers belatedly detected the movements of the Sovereigns and sent their armies, but by then, everything had already come to an end.]
If the purpose of the Sovereigns was to destroy, then the role of the Rulers was to maintain the worlds.
Naturally, the Rulers grew angry at the fact that the thugs of the Chaos World they failed to eradicate the last time managed to bring down yet another world.
In order to right the wrong, they resorted to activating a certain tool of God that they themselves had prohibited from use.
The tool of God was called ‘Chalice of Rebirth’ – an item they made sure to steal first as their top priority from God’s storage, just before they started their rebellion. It was an incredible item that could reverse time by around ten Earth years.
Jin-Woo’s eyes shot wide open.
Could this be pure coincidence that the number of years matched the time when Gates began generating out of thin air, and Hunters appeared to stop them?
[It is as you suspect.]
The Rulers did their best to rescue other worlds, but Earth was simply too fragile to host the battles between themselves and the Sovereigns. This planet with no magical energy couldn’t endure against the mass-scale battles.
Didn’t matter who won in the end between the Rulers or the Sovereigns, the result waiting for this planet remained the same. After going through several cycles of war and the destruction of the planet, the Rulers came to a drastic decision.
If saving everyone was impossible, then make sure that some would still survive and continue the life on this planet.
“If so, does that mean….?!”
[Gates are the process to create humans that would survive the collision of two forces. That’s how much the Rulers wanted to guard humanity.]
Only then did Jin-Woo finally realise it.
He realised the reason why these Rulers stayed behind the scenes and quietly let the process take place without getting in touch with humanity, even if they knew that there was a calamity coming.
‘Humans capable of surviving in the changed world are…..’
If humanity learned that everyone in the world would die soon with the sole exception of the small number of people referred to as Hunters, would the human societies be able to function properly ever again?
No, hang on. Jin-Woo inwardly shook his head.
He finally heard the reasons for the Gates and the Hunters after this lengthy tale. However, the one thing he really wanted to hear about, he still hadn’t heard the answer yet.
As if he had read Jin-Woo’s mind, the Shadow Sovereign gestured with his hands and the surroundings changed completely again.
[The higher existences, such as Rulers and Sovereigns, are able to perceive the change in the flow of time created by the tool of God.]
Even if they couldn’t do anything about it, said the Sovereign afterwards.
While the Rulers busily tried to fix their mistakes several times, the Sovereigns also began modifying their plan continuously, as well.
….Until the tool of God couldn’t be used anymore.
“Hold up…. Are you telling me that there’s a limit to this ‘Chalice of Rebirth’?”
[There are no such things as infinite power. Just as the Absolute Being capable of creating the universe was eliminated by his own creations, no power lasts forever.]
There was a hint of this tangible bitterness in his voice and that prompted Jin-Woo to turn his head towards the Shadow Sovereign before he had time to even notice it.
“I’m asking you because it was brought up first, but, how can creations kill the creator?”
[It is not too different from you dying at the wiles of the machines you have created.]
That sounded logical. Even if machines were created for the sake of humanity’s convenience, they could still harm humans depending on how they were utilised. It was a similar sort of reason as to why humans feared artificial intelligence they themselves had created.
[We were created to fight, and our powers were more than enough to bring down our own master.]
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
Soon, the figures of several familiar Sovereigns appeared around Jin-Woo and the Shadow Sovereign.
[The Sovereigns had a ‘light-bulb’ moment from the methods employed by the Rulers.]
And that would be to copy the method of the Rulers, that lent the portions of their powers to various humans and had them kill monsters, in order to spread magic energy throughout the planet. Sovereigns would also ‘borrow’ the bodies of human hosts to descend on the world and bring their armies far earlier than what the Rulers had been expecting.
[They plan to use the magical energy spread around the planet by the Rulers and turn the entirety of Earth into one large trap.]
“To devour the Rulers’ armies coming to aid humanity in one go….”
For a Sovereign possessing incredible power to cross over into this world, it needed a host body.
Sovereigns searched for and found suitable hosts for themselves one by one.
However, only the two, the Sovereign of Destruction and the Shadow Sovereign, the possessors of two indescribably enormous powers, couldn’t find human hosts with a physique that could handle their powers.
[It was around that time when the greatest wizard, working under one of the Kings, came to me with an offer. He said that he’d find me a suitable human host.]
The ‘Architect’. This wizard, referred to as the Architect by the Sovereigns, promised to aid the Shadow Sovereign’s descent to this world for the price of turning him into a true immortal.
Since he was already somewhat interested in the ongoings of the human world, the Shadow Sovereign agreed to this offer. Unfortunately, no human alive could handle the power of ‘death’.
[The human with high sensitivity towards magic energy. The human with an overwhelmingly superior physical condition. The human with amazing mental faculty. All of them couldn’t handle my power and either became mentally crippled or died.]
No living lifeform could become a vessel for death itself.
The contract with a Sovereign – this act possessed a meaning on a whole different realm compared to other types of promises. Obviously, the Architect became rather anxious as time ticked by.
While the Architect was sweating buckets trying to locate suitable candidates, the Shadow Sovereign actually went ahead and found himself a potential host first.
Jin-Woo raised his head.
As if there were hundreds of monitors displaying all sorts of varied and colourful images of him, his past self doing various things appeared in all directions.
[I saw you. You, who always accompanies death so closely yet still desperately escapes from its grasp every time.]
He had been working as a Hunter for four years.
Jin-Woo was ranked E. Not only that, at the bottom of the lowest rank, too. Yet, despite experiencing the life-threatening dangers of dungeons every day, he didn’t stop entering them. It was all for the sake of his mother and his little sister.
He sacrificed himself for his family and desperately struggled on. The records of the past four years were all preserved in their entirety within the Shadow Sovereign’s memories.
[The Architect opposed it, but I still chose you.]
The Shadow Sovereign was now pointing at Jin-Woo, and seeing that unwavering finger, he felt his heart race faster and faster.
The Sovereign did say it before, didn’t he?
– I am the record of your bitter struggle. I am the evidence of your resistance. I am the reward of your pain.
Those words weren’t describing Jin-Woo’s life after he had become a ‘Player’. No, it was about his life before he got to enjoy the benefit of the System. Every one of those words rang weightily within his chest once more.
[The anxious Architect agreed to carry out my wish, and in the end, he lured you into his grand plan.]
The dual dungeon, the test of his survival, and then, the ‘Player’.
All of these were part of the plan of the Architect to create a suitable vessel for the Shadow Sovereign.
[As your world continued to repeat itself, the Architect got to observe humans closely. And he created a system based on what humans enjoyed playing and were also good at, in order for you to adapt to my great powers.]
What humans enjoyed playing and were also good at, he said.
Jin-Woo knew right away what that thing was as soon as he heard the Sovereign. It was none other than video games.
Here was the reason why the System designed to manage the ‘Player’ possessed such a similar layout to a video game.
And Jin-Woo was the lone successful case among all the test subjects.
[The System the Architect created by borrowing my power slowly changed your physique step-by-step to better suit me.]
“But then, you betrayed the Architect, didn’t you?”
Jin-Woo recalled the sight of the angel statue jumping up and down in fury while busily crying out that the other Sovereigns had been deceived back inside the second dual dungeon.
The puzzling thing was, why did the Shadow Sovereign deceive the one he was in contract with, and choose Jin-Woo, instead?
He simply had to ask for clarification here.
For the first time ever, the Shadow Sovereign hesitated. He looked to be agonising over something, and Jin-Woo didn’t press him for an immediate answer.
Eventually, the Sovereign opened his mouth again.
[Because… I wanted to.]
Compared to how lengthy his deliberation was, that answer was way too simple. Strangely enough, Jin-Woo couldn’t hold back his chuckle, though.
[Perhaps, I enjoyed the time I spent with you far too much and didn’t want to lose ‘you’.]
Rather than erasing Jin-Woo’s ego and taking over his body, the Shadow Sovereign had chosen to assimilate with him, instead. Meaning, he chose to become a part of him.
And the end result was….
The Sovereign slowly raised his hands and grasped the sides of the helm covering his head, lifting it up slowly. And, as the face hidden beneath it was finally revealed, Jin-Woo’s eyes gradually widened.
It was his own face.
The Shadow Sovereign possessed the exact same face as him.
But, was that all?
Jin-Woo’s gaze dropped back down to himself only to discover that the surrounding darkness had wrapped around him to form new armour.
The appearance of the armour was exactly the same as that of the Shadow Sovereign. It was as if they were looking at their mirror reflections and they continued to gaze at each other.
[I have become you, and you have become me.]
‘I am you.’
That was the undeniable truth, with not an ounce of falsehood within.
[It won’t matter who gets to control our body, whether it’s me or you.]
Because… they were the same person now.
[And that is why… I shall give you the opportunity. Now, choose.]
The Shadow Sovereign raised his left hand and all those faces Jin-Woo missed seeing appeared one after another.
[You can enjoy eternal rest inside this beautiful dream you have created within the territory of death.]
First, it was the face of the gently-laughing Association President Goh Gun-Hui, followed by his young-looking mother well before she collapsed from the illness. And finally, even the scene of his much younger self that existed within the time now long forgotten, drew up in the darkened surroundings.
[However, if you don’t want that….]
The Shadow Sovereign lowered his left hand raised the right one, instead. In an instant, all those faces disappeared, only to be replaced by a humongous Dragon flying in from the darkened sky high above. And then, an army entirely consisting of countless Dragons following after it to incinerate every city they could find.
[….You shall return to reality and fight them.]
Jin-Woo stared at the Army of Destruction led by the Dragon Emperor with a hardened face before making his reply.
No, he asked a question, instead.
“Why did you run away to another world with the other Sovereigns when you had no desire to fight against the Rulers?”
[Because… there was no place for me to remain anymore.]
The Shadow Sovereign was a Ruler and at the same time, a Sovereign. And he couldn’t find the place he could call home with either group. That was why he chose to wander in other worlds he was not originally a part of, hoping to find his place.
Hearing the Sovereign’s answer, Jin-Woo finally made his decision.
“My answer is the same.”
An imperceptible smile had already floated up on the Sovereign’s face even before Jin-Woo made his reply.
“This is not where I belong.”
The Shadow Sovereign nodded, saying, [That’s why I chose you.]
“Does this mean I won’t ever get to see you again?”
[I shall be taking my eternal rest. And as the new Shadow Sovereign, you shall live an eternal life. Surely, there won’t be a reason why we have to meet again.]
Despite saying those words, there was the look of a relieved man on the Sovereign’s face. Finally, the time of rest had come after an eternity of waiting.
Jin-Woo watched the Sovereign genuinely feeling happy for himself and bade his last goodbye.
“I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity.”
For a brief moment there, a look of wistful longing brushed past the Sovereign’s expression before disappearing altogether.
[With your death, your powers have become complete. As for how to return, its….]
Jin-Woo stopped him there.
Because… I am you.
A smile floated up on the Shadow Sovereign’s face as the time of departure drew near. After a long, long journey, he had reached a place he could rest now.
The Sovereign addressed Jin-Woo.
[This is our farewell.]
He took a step back and wordlessly stared at Jin-Woo nodding his head.
Two words that would allow him to be reborn as the perfect Shadow Sovereign left his lips in a low, hushed voice.
< Chapter 220 > Fin.