I Alone Level-Up
Jin-Woo doubted his own hearing just then.
He then remembered it; he didn’t do the daily quest for today.
He was planning on confirming the results of his constant levelling up, and to help him decide whether he was ready to tackle the Demon’s Castle or not.
Who could’ve guessed that things might unfold in this manner?
Just like back in the hospital, everything began to violently shake.
The knights piling on top of Jin-Woo turned into figures of sand one by one.
The world surrounding him was changing.
Jin-Woo soundlessly laughed to himself.
For some reason, the words the System spoke to him before the beginning of the quest circled around inside his head.
[I wish you the best of luck.]
Was it trying to imply that the quest itself was unimaginably hard, to the point that he needed luck to complete it?
Or, was it implying that it’d cheer him on, as he resorted to borrowing the power of luck and earn a ton of advancement points that way?
Luck, coincidence, whatever it was called, he didn’t care. No matter what it was, his chance had come.
The important thing was how he’d go about utilising that.
The tremor was getting worse.
Rather than wasting time trying to stabilise himself Jin-Woo entrusted his body to the tremor and closed his eyes.
‘Let’s not get agitated here….’
When he did that, he felt airborne and weightless, and all sound vanished from his hearing.
When he reopened his eyes, he found himself in the middle of the endless sea of sand.
Jin-Woo plopped down, face first.
“Ker-heo-eok…. Pant, pant, pant…”
His fingers dug into the desert sand as the held-up breaths exploded out of his mouth. Fresh air entered and flowed into every corner of his body via his lungs.
“….I feel alive.”
The sense of relief wrapped Jin-Woo up tightly, as he rolled onto his back.
He could see the black sky above with nothing in it. The endless expanse of the pitch-black ceiling was the only thing his eyes could capture.
This place looked exactly the same as the penalty zone from his memories.
‘Wait, I shouldn’t be wasting time like this.’
He had forgotten that this place was not a safe zone either, since he just made a miraculous escape from a comparably far worse area.
But, Jin-Woo couldn’t be ar*ed into standing up any time soon, so while lying on his back, he summoned the Status Window.
He was wondering why it was so difficult to move his body, but as it turned out, the d*mn ‘Tiredness’ Stat was over 90.
‘This is probably my first time that Stat has gone past 90, right?’
He really didn’t want to even lift a finger here.
His health was one thing, but he figured that lowering his fatigue took priority.
Two words, ‘Buy’ and ‘Sell’ popped up in the air.
Although the layout of this Store imparted not one hint of sincerity, no matter how kind he looked at it, he found it such a welcoming sight right now.
He picked out the most expensive healing potion on sale.
As soon as he confirmed the purchase…
A glass bottle containing red liquid appeared on his wide-open palm.
Jin-Woo laboriously popped the cork open and poured the potion down his mouth.
The red liquid travelled down his throat and entered deep into his body.
[Your fatigue is recovering.]
Maybe because it was the most expensive potion, just one bottle was enough to lower the Tiredness value at a visible rate.
However, for some reason, his HP value didn’t change at all.
Even after he finished the whole bottle, his HP didn’t recover. It was such a noticeable contrast to his Tiredness Stat hitting 0.
‘Why is it doing this?’
Only after he completely drained the bottle did he finally get to understand the reason for this anomaly.
[When your remaining HP is less than 10%, it is impossible to heal yourself with healing potions.]
What a simple reason, that – his remaining HP was too low.
Even healing magic had its limitations.
It was not a foreign concept to him.
Just as a Healer’s ranking determined the scope of their healing capabilities, potions too couldn’t heal past a certain limit.
‘And that limit is 10%, huh….’
He learned something important today. He might have landed in really hot water during a critical moment by believing potions could solve everything.
This was why experiencing it first hand was important.
Well, there was an old saying, wasn’t there?
Things that couldn’t kill him would make him stronger?
That perfectly illustrated the usefulness of personal experience.
And thankfully, Jin-Woo possessed experience regarding the Penalty Zone.
‘I’m sure they should pop up right about now….’
And just as he expected…
He sensed the presence of lifeforms beneath the surface.
Jin-Woo tightly shrunk his body for a second, before springing up to his feet.
His entire body felt as light as feather. His strength had returned in full, thanks to the potion.
Standing straight on his feet, Jin-Woo turned around and took a look.
Just as he expected, the spot he was lying on a second ago began caving in and a crater formed there.
‘Back then, I thought I’d die if I slipped and fell in there.’
But now, he had so much leeway that he was actually spectating on the whole process with some leisure.
At the very bottom of the sandy crater, the ground began to ‘boil’ and tremble about, before….
The sand exploded up like a pillar and the huge centipede revealed itself.
Everything matched up to his memories so far.
‘And I found this thing so terrifying to look at back then, too….’
But now, he couldn’t help feeling like he was looking at some video footage being played in slow-motion.
Jin-Woo raised his eyes a bit higher.
And he got to clearly confirm those red letters floating above the centipede’s head.
[Poison-Fanged Giant Desert Centipede]
Its name was in red letters, the same colour as the Cerberus from the Demon’s Castle.
It was then, the quest message appeared before his eyes.
[Penalty Quest: Survival]
Goal: Please survive until the end of the time limit.
Time limit: 4 hours
Remaining time: 4 hours 0 minutes 0 seconds
Confirming the details of the message, Jin-Woo clenched his fist tightly.
‘I can buy myself time with this.’
Since he hadn’t used the immediate return stone to escape from the dungeon, he still had a shot here.
‘I’m pretty sure that, as soon as the Penalty Quest is over, I will be sent back to that place.’
What if time spent inside the Penalty Zone was acknowledged as the time he endured during the quest? His advancement points tally would be enormous.
He couldn’t even imagine just what kind of an impact that would have.
However, when he thought back to how the System affected him every day, he was sure of this becoming something absolutely huge.
He couldn’t even endure ten minutes and tried to use the immediate return stone, yet simply by transferring into the penalty zone, he now got himself four hours for free.
There was one issue he still had to resolve first, however.
And that would be whether he could get out of this place unscathed with only 100 or so HP remaining.
As it was impossible to heal himself using potions, he had to do his best to cautiously kill these centipedes until he levelled up.
It was kind of like a new mission for him.
‘….Let’s do this.’
Jin-Woo summoned the Poison Fang of Kasaka.
[Remaining time: 03:59:59]
….Then, as soon as the penalty quest began, he dashed forward, even before the centipede had the chance to move.
Jin-Woo closed the distance in the blink of an eye and lightly leapt up right in front of the centipede.
He landed on one of the legs near the midpoint of the centipede and, as he made his way up, Jin-Woo proceeded to inflict several injuries on the body of the monster.
Stab! Staaab! Stab!
On all the spots the reverse-gripped Poison Fang of Kasaka brushed past, flesh split open and bodily fluid poured out.
The centipede roared out and thrashed about as if each wound inflicted was too painful to bear.
Jin-Woo’s sprinting legs became even faster.
Step, step, step, step!
Jin-Woo deftly treaded on the centipede’s body and arrived at the top of its head only a second later. He gripped the dagger with both of his hands and raised it up high.
‘Vital Points Targetting!’
He used his skill and stabbed down on the centipede’s head with every ounce of his power.
The downward pointing blade dug deep into the flesh of the centipede’s head.
[‘Skill: Vital Points Targetting’ has levelled up!]
What a wonderful piece of news to show up in such a long time!
The damage from the levelled-up Vital Points Targetting must’ve been pretty substantial, because the centipede shook its head around quite violently and thrashed about in great pain.
Jin-Woo didn’t stop there.
He stepped away from its head and moved to its back. Because he saw a completely unguarded body part to attack.
Jin-Woo stabbed the dagger deep into the monster’s back flesh, and by using gravity, he fell to the ground while holding onto his weapon.
SFX for centipede’s back splitting up
The power from the Strength Stat exceeding 120 points, as well as the helping hand of gravity added on top as he fell from the height of a five-story building, caused the centipede’s back to split open quite splendidly.
Jin-Woo landed on the ground without any trouble.
The centipede spewed out its bodily fluids everywhere. Its giant body thrashed and quivered before it slowly crashed on the ground.
The huge body of the centipede landed and kicked up the dust cloud.
[You defeated the Poison-Fanged Giant Desert Centipede.]
Jin-Woo dusted himself off while checking out the remaining time.
[Remaining time: 03:59:42]
‘I spent 17 seconds.’
He didn’t even need 20 seconds to kill a single centipede.
It was a complete contrast to when he was fighting the Cerberus, ostensibly on the same level as this centipede.
He had become unbelievably strong now.
‘Well, yeah. I’ve levelled up so many times since then, and just how many items did I get my hands on, in the meantime?’
It was a rather obvious conclusion.
He now felt confident of hunting other centipedes down without getting hurt if these monsters posed such a little threat.
‘Now then. My problem would be the number of monsters in this place that I can hunt to reach my next level….’
That would be the only way to raise his odds of his victory when he got thrown back into the class quest.
If he went back without having recovered his HP, only a dog’s death would be waiting for him there.
It was at this point when….
More sand pillars began erupting out from the ground.
It seemed that quite a lot of centipedes rushed over here after picking up on the scent of the blood from its dead kin.
Almost immediately, Jin-Woo’s expression brightened.
‘Just how many are here?’
Seeing all those centipedes poking their heads out from the sandy surface, Jin-Woo could no longer suppress the wide smile from blooming on his face.
As the result of wrestling around with these centipedes for the past four hours, his level rose up four times and now it sat at 51.
Before he knew it, the penalty quest was coming to an end.
Remaining time: 0 hours 3 minutes 19 seconds
Soon, he’d have to go back.
Jin-Woo took a sweeping look around him. The corpses of centipedes filled up his view everywhere he looked. Thanks to them, he got to recover his HP back to full.
‘It’s a bit of waste that these things don’t give any loot or Gold….’
Well, it’d be strange that loot would come out when he was supposed to get punished in this place…
He stopped worrying about that and got ready, instead.
[Current Gold: 3,115,629]
Humanoid-type monsters dropped the Gold-containing leather pouch really often, and also, Igrit also gave him 1.5 million Gold in one go.
So, he now had enough funds to spend.
Jin-Woo spent all that Gold to buy one single weapon.
As a matter of fact, there was this one dagger that caught his eye.
[Item: Knight Killer]
A sharp and sturdy dagger designed to cut through the armour worn by the knights. The edges of the blade are shaped like the teeth of a saw blade, thus it won’t slide off the armour’s surface easily.
Effect ‘Killing Knights’: +25% additional damage when attacking heavily armoured opponents.
It was a specially crafted weapon to deal with armour-wearing enemies. And it cost 2.8 million Gold.
He had to spend almost every Gold he had in reserve to buy this weapon, but he didn’t have any leeway to shed a tear over it.
‘It’s not like I can take the Gold with me to the grave, anyway.’
He didn’t hesitate and bought the dagger.
[You have purchased ‘Knight Killer’.]
[You have purchased ‘Bandages’.]
Along with the Knight Killer, Jin-Woo also bought a roll of bandages.
He held the dagger with a rather scary-looking sawblade-like cutting edge in his right hand, and wrapped them both tightly with the bandage.
When he swung the Knight Killer around a couple of times, it felt like the dagger had become a part of his limb now.
‘At a bare minimum, I shouldn’t drop it accidentally.’
He thought about tying the Poison Fang of Kasaka to his left hand too, but he decided not to.
It’d be too cumbersome when he couldn’t use both of hands.
He figured that at least one of his hands still retaining its mobility would make his life more flexible.
While he was putting away the leftover bandage into Inventory, he spotted the Rune Stone from Igrit.
‘Ah. There was this thing, too.’
[Rune Stone: Ruler’s Reach]
You can absorb the skill by breaking this Rune Stone.
Right now, he needed to grasp at everything, even if that was a piece of straw. Whether that was an item or a skill, he needed to obtain whatever that could become his combat strength.
Jin-Woo didn’t hesitate and broke the Rune Stone.
[You’ve acquired ‘Skill: Ruler’s Reach’.]
[Skill: Ruler’s Reach Lv. 1]
Required Mana to activate: None.
Even without touching, you can physically influence an object.
As soon as he read that description, he recalled a certain scene.
It was when Igrit extended its hand towards its longsword that was discarded on the floor, far away.
‘So, this is the skill that made the sword move back then.’
A skill that could move objects around from a distance with nothing but his will! On top of that, he didn’t even have to spend any Mana, either!
‘If I am able to move any object I see just like the description says, then this would be one hell of a skill to possess.’
Jin-Woo immediately tried to experiment with the skill on the corpse of the centipede next to him.
[Your proficiency is too low and the target can’t be moved.]
If he wanted to move something heavy, then it was likely that his proficiency with the skill had to be much higher.
‘How about this, then?’
Jin-Woo dropped the Poison Fang of Kasaka to the floor. And he extended his hand towards the dagger.
Then, the dagger quickly rose up.
Jin-Woo snatched the Poison Fang’s hilt and stared at it with totally mystified eyes.
‘Nice. This will come in handy.’
And with that, he was as prepared as he could get.
When he raised his head to confirm, the required time was almost up.
[Remaining time: 00:00:04]
When the timer changed from 4 to 3, a new message from the System popped up in his view.
[Penalty Quest will conclude shortly.]
And another message followed after that one.
[As you have tried to hunt inside the Penalty Zone, the difficulty of the next Penalty Quest will be adjusted to a higher level.]
The difficulty would be adjusted higher.
Meaning, it’d make the hunting so much harder that the ‘Penalty Quest’ would actually serve its purpose as proper punishment again.
But, then again, would there be the next time?
Jin-Woo anxiously swallowed his saliva.
‘From here onwards, it’s back to the Class Change Quest.’
Inside that boss room, hundreds of monsters were waiting for his return.
Or, the number could be even higher now.
If he was being kind here, he was returning to that place, but truthfully, it was more like him being thrown back in there.
HP, MP, Tiredness, equipment, and even a new skill.
And his renewed resolve.
His current condition was so much better than when he first set foot in that place, but when he thought about going back there, he couldn’t help but get tense and nervous.
Thump, thump, thump….
His heart beat so hard that it actually hurt.
Jin-Woo closed his eyes. He tried to maintain his calm.
Soon, the familiar mechanical beep went off in his head.
[Penalty Quest has concluded.]
‘This is my last chance….’
When Jin-Woo opened his eyes again…
His vision was filled with the silver-coloured knights all snapping their heads in his direction at once.
However, they weren’t important right now.
Right away, Jin-Woo narrowed his eyes and searched for something.
‘I gotta find the mages first!!’
< Chapter 50 > Fin.