I Alone Level-Up
Right then, Jin-Woo felt his heart crash down to the pit of his stomach.
‘When did she….?’
He was paying too much attention to the boss and failed to notice that someone had come closer.
Jin-Woo could only smack his lips in regret.
However, with an eyewitness around, it was no longer possible to stare avariciously at the boss.
The Hunters Guild had purchased the raid permit for his particular dungeon, so naturally, the boss of this place was also a part of their investment.
And, if the boss was killed off, the Gate would close down. The potential losses the Hunters Guild might incur would be a lot, then.
‘I nearly messed up.’
He got blinded by the desire to level up and nearly put his hands on someone else’s property. Jin-Woo regained his bearings and spat out a sigh of relief; meanwhile, the owner of the voice had walked closer.
“I asked you what you were doing.”
Jin-Woo formed an embarrassed smile and turned around to face her.
“I got lost and ended up here.”
“You got lost?!”
She sounded flabbergasted. Only then did Jin-Woo confirm who the owner of the voice was.
‘Huh? Isn’t she….?’
He saw that face just before entering the dungeon, didn’t he?
It was none other than the rank S Hunter Cha Hae-In. As Cha Hae-In slowly closed the distance, she carefully scanned both of Jin-Woo’s hands.
‘I definitely saw him holding weapons just now, though?’
Was she mistaken?
Whatever the case might have been, they had disappeared without a trace.
Cha Hae-In’s gaze scanned the entirety of Jin-Woo, up and down.
‘A hard hat and a worker’s overall….. Is he from our mining team?’
She honestly believed him about getting lost here. She didn’t know how he got this far, but well, the boss room was a very dangerous place to hang around.
Discovering the ‘reason’ was secondary. For now, Cha Hae-In figured that the priority should be on helping this man to leave this place.
“That chamber is where the boss is.”
Cha Hae-In covered her nose with her handkerchief as usual and stood before Jin-Woo.
“Please exit from the dungeon as soon as possible. If you manage to attract its aggro, people inside this dungeon could all die.”
“Ah. I’m sorry.”
It seemed that his acting worked. Jin-Woo formed a satisfied expression and walked past Cha Hae-In. It was then.
Cha Hae-In’s head snapped towards Jin-Woo.
Something impossible just happened.
Cha Hae-In’s eyes opened wide and even before she realised it, she was calling out to him.
“Excuse me. Wait!”
“Can you take a look at me for a sec?”
What’s gotten into her?
And they said that thieves knew what they did wrong; Jin-Woo was not looking forward to Cha Hae-In coming in close to him. Too bad, she was already standing right in front of his nose.
“What…. what’s the matter?”
He asked with a troubled look on his face, but she didn’t answer and simply proceeded to lightly breathe in the air near him. She had already put away the handkerchief covering her nose.
‘What’s going on here?’
Jin-Woo failed to understand why she was doing this.
‘Wait, why is she suddenly smelling me?’
Jin-Woo began panicking inwardly. However, the state of confusion Cha Hae-In was going through at the moment was several times greater than his.
‘There is no…. stink coming from him.’
This would be her first time meeting another Hunter that didn’t stink.
Cha Hae-In’s surprised eyes stared at Jin-Woo. And a question mark floated above Jin-Woo’s head as his reply.
“Is there some kind of a problem?”
“You… Are you a Hunter for real?”
Was there a need for words here? Jin-Woo pushed forward the Hunter licence hanging on his neck. Cha Hae-In took the licence and her gaze quickly alternated between Jin-Woo’s face and the ID photo.
‘Rank E…. Seong Jin-Woo….’
Was this because his rank was too low?
She could not pick up any type of smell coming from this man named Jin-Woo. No, wait. Actually, a pleasant odour was gently wafting out of him, instead.
Jin-Woo sneakily extracted his licence out of Cha Hae-In’s hand.
“Can I go now?”
“Uhm, well, I….”
Cha Hae-In did call out to Jin-Woo, but then, realised that she had nothing else to say nor had a reason to keep him here.
“…..It’s nothing. Please be careful on your way out. This dungeon is rather large, you see.”
“Ah, of course.”
Jin-Woo lightly nodded his head and turned towards the location of the mining operation. His back soon disappeared around the corner of the cavern.
However, Cha Hae-In’s lingering gaze didn’t shift away from the path Jin-Woo had walked down on.
‘He smelled really nice.’
Hunters of the mining team were returning to the mining operations area one by one after finishing their lunch.
Foreman Bae was walking with a toothpick stuck in between his teeth. Once he saw Jin-Woo appearing from the deeper parts of the dungeon, though, he flinched greatly in shock.
“Uh? Huh?? Mister Seong, why are you coming from there??”
Jin-Woo sneakily shifted his gaze over in the direction of the boss.
‘….I can’t tell him about me stopping by the boss to see what it looks like out of curiosity, right?’
Jin-Woo’s gaze returned to Foreman Bae.
“I got lost while searching for the bathroom, actually.”
“Aigoo! You need to be more careful, young man. Interiors of these dungeons all look the same, so if you get lost inside, it won’t be easy finding your way around! But still, how did you find your way back to here?”
“Oh, I ran into Cha Hae-In Hunter-nim on my way back, so….”
“Ahh, Cha Hunter-nim, was it? She’s probably gone to stand guard by the boss room just in case the boss decides to take a stroll. That lady also worries a lot, maybe as much as you, Mister Seong.”
Foreman Bae guffawed vigorously. It seemed that Jin-Woo being worried about the boss not too long ago had left a deep impression in his mind.
Jin-Woo could only smile wryly.
‘The foreman can laugh like this only because he has no idea how terrifying the boss actually is.’
This was the difference between the Hunters doing these sorts of jobs, and the Hunters working in the assault team.
Cha Hae-In understood very well how dangerous and scary an existence the monsters could be, so she was just being meticulous in those areas that no one else was paying much attention to.
‘I didn’t know there was such a side to her, what with that expressionless face of hers and all.’
If the boss decided to come out of the boss room, the assault team wouldn’t be the ones in danger. No, it would be the workers doing their job, as the raid team would be taking a break outside the dungeon.
And she was sacrificing the allure of sweet rest to stand guard in front of the boss room, just for the sake of total strangers.
‘…..She’s an amazing woman.’
That was Jin-Woo’s honest impression of Cha Hae-In. It was at this point that he suddenly recalled her odd habit.
‘Why was she covering her nose with a handkerchief?’
Thinking back, she never let go of the handkerchief not even once, except for their meeting a few moments ago.
Foreman Bae remained very friendly whenever Jin-Woo asked him a question, even though it’d be quite reasonable for him to get a bit annoyed by now.
‘Right, the responses were pretty good back when I was doing my job, wasn’t it?’
Indeed, one should strive to do their best in their jobs.
Thanks to his efforts, Jin-Woo could ask about this and that without holding back now. Heck, it was Foreman Bae who urged Jin-Woo to speak, instead.
“Mister Seong? You called for me, so how come you ain’t saying a thing?”
“Oh, well, it’s nothing important, but…. By any chance, do you know why Cha Hae-In Hunter-nim walks around with a handkerchief?”
“Oh, that? Well, it’s cuz Hunter Cha is a bit peculiar, you see.”
“A bit peculiar?”
What did he mean by that?
Jin-Woo didn’t have to ask, because Foreman Bae helpfully explained himself first.
“Hunter Cha can supposedly smell a kind of body odour coming from other Hunters. And I hear she finds them pretty horrible.”
“She can smell other Hunters?!”
“I heard something or other about her special constitutions and stuff.”
Her special constitutions, he said.
Jin-Woo also possessed something similar to that – his excellent sense of hearing.
Even from his early years, his hearing could be considered better than average, but once he Awakened, it developed even further.
‘Probably, Cha Hae-In’s sense of smell also got enhanced like mine.’
So, he could more or less understand where she was coming from.
“Well, wouldn’t you agree that she is peculiar?”
Perhaps he enjoyed the sight of Jin-Woo focusing on his words more than he should, because Foreman Bae continued on with his explanations without any prompt from the youth.
“I heard that she finds it really hard to breathe near other Hunters because of the stink.”
Was that why?
‘….Asking me if I was a Hunter.’
Was it because, unlike other Hunters, he didn’t smell at all?
Back in the Red Gate, the leader of the White Phantoms said something similar.
Wasn’t this a bit similar in context with what that creature told him? He didn’t have the Hunter-specific stink, and they couldn’t hear the voice telling them to kill him.
‘Because, I’m a Player…..’
A unique existence who had received the advantages of the System.
Just what was this ‘Player’?
The question of his own identity rose up in Jin-Woo’s head, but he shook his head eventually.
‘This isn’t a problem I can figure out now, anyway.’
Jin-Woo emptied his mind. Problems that couldn’t be solved by thinking too hard would only tire him out if he continued to dwell on it.
It was then, he heard his colleagues getting back to work. So, Jin-Woo also lifted the pickaxe.
‘The rank A boss… I wish I could hunt it down.’
What would he have done if Cha Hae-In didn’t show up in time?
He couldn’t help but wonder.
Thanks to Jin-Woo’s brilliant efforts, the mining team was able to finish their operation well before the dinner time. According to the foreman, they had finished two hours faster than planned.
With that, the looks the fellow miners were giving him had gone through substantial changes.
“Nice work, Mister Seong!”
“You were really good, you know?”
“After seeing all those Mana stones tumbling down, I thought we somehow got ourselves on an excavator or something.”
Hunters surrounding Jin-Woo began praising him one by one. The cold, indifferent eyes before entering the Gate were nowhere to be seen now.
Jin-Woo was also feeling rather pleased with himself. This experience of being a dungeon miner proved to be surprisingly educational, and he also got to achieve the purpose of coming to this rank A dungeon as well.
“Well, let’s get out of here, everyone!”
At Foreman Bae’s order, the miners all began moving at the same time.
They left behind the retrieval team still suffering through their operation and, after changing out of their overalls, the miners re-gathered in one spot.
Unlike the other miners, who were all full-time employees of the Guild, Jin-Woo’s daily wage was handed to him immediately.
“Here. This is your share, Mister Seong.”
“Ah, thank you.”
While handing over the envelope containing the day’s wage, Foreman Bae sneakily threw in a question as well.
“We’re planning to go and enjoy a drink together, so how about it? Would you like to join us?”
He sounded light and cheery, but his eyes were gleaming in a serious light.
‘Looks like he has something important to say to me, but….’
Jin-Woo could sense the man’s desperation, even. Unfortunately, Jin-Woo declined the invite as tactfully as possible.
“Mm…. Is that so.”
Foreman Bae scratched his chin.
‘Well, this is a story best told after knocking back a few cold ones, but…’
He hurriedly changed his tactic.
“I’ve met quite a few people while doing this job for many years now.”
“But, it’s my first time meeting someone like you. You have a natural-born talent to become a miner.”
It seemed that Foreman Bae really liked Jin-Woo here.
‘Haha…. Well, this is….’
All Jin-Woo could do here was to chuckle awkwardly, unable to neither agree or refute that notion. Deciding that the young man’s smile was a good omen, Foreman Bae confidently moved on to the main topic at hand.
“I’d normally not say something like this, but…. Don’t you want to come and work for me full-time? I will definitely not treat you poorly, you see.”
This young man named Seong Jin-Woo.
Even though today was his first day as a miner, he managed to outperform the veterans by three, four times the amount.
If he couldn’t hold on to such outstanding talent, wouldn’t he be a failure of a foreman?
He was even thinking of discussing the matter with the person in charge and have Jin-Woo’s wages paid separately from others. That was how badly he wanted to reel in this young man.
Too bad, Jin-Woo remained resolute.
“Thank you for your kind words, but…. Actually, I’m getting ready for something else at the moment.”
Just a few words from Jin-Woo, and Foreman Bae’s face was forming a dejected expression of a man who had lost his country.
Jin-Woo chuckled to himself.
‘What an interesting guy.’
To display his raw emotions so openly like this. More than likely, Foreman Bae must’ve thought that he had discovered an unpolished rough within the E rank.
Foreman Bae pondered something for a bit, before cautiously asking the youth.
“What about tomorrow, then? Can you come to work tomorrow as well?”
Actually, he didn’t have anything else planned for tomorrow. The re-evaluation was scheduled for the day after, too.
Still, was there a reason for him to take another mining job now? He already got to learn the process of the dungeon conquest, and he even got to witness the rank A boss, too.
‘Wait a minute.’
Just as he was opening his mouth to voice his refusal, a new question quickly entered Jin-Woo’s mind.
“Does that mean Hunters Guild will go on another raid tomorrow?”
“That’s right. And that one’s also a rank A.”
“But, is that even possible? They finished the raid today.”
Normally, a raid team would take about a week off after finishing up a raid.
‘And this raid only started from yesterday afternoon.’
Which meant the elites of the Hunters Guild were raiding this dungeon for two days in a row – yesterday and today.
And by the time they kill the boss after the retrieval operations finally end, it’d be the early dawn. Naturally, Jin-Woo couldn’t understand how there would be another raid tomorrow.
When Jin-Woo displayed a hint of interest, Foreman Bae also got more enthusiastic.
“You see, assault team B will be stepping forward tomorrow, not team A.”
Assault team B?
Could it be that they were thinking of clearing a rank A dungeon with a backup team?
“And this is precisely the power of the Hunters Guild, you see. I mean, we are probably the only Guild in entire South Korea who can conquer rank A dungeons with two different teams.”
Foreman Bae sounded quite proud, then.
“Does Hunters raid dungeons like this all the time?”
“No, no. Now normally, we wouldn’t have to split up the teams like that. But it looks like the schedule got overlapped this time.”
Because two rank A Gates appeared around the same time in the district the Hunters Guild operated in, Chairman Choi Jong-In had to sweat a lot in order to get the permits for both of them, apparently.
‘Ah. So, the reason for running into Chairman Choi in the Association yesterday was this….’
Someone as busy as Choi Jong-In wouldn’t just randomly show up in the Association for no reason whatsoever.
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
“Okay, so does that mean it’ll be your first time trying to raid the dungeon with the B team?”
“That’s right. However, the B team of the Hunters isn’t your regular backup team, okay? They are even better than the A team of some of the other large Guilds, I’ll have you know.”
“Still, it should be far more dangerous than today, yes?”
Foreman Bae became speechless, then.
Because, that would be quite obvious.
In today’s raid, two rank S Hunters participated. On the other hand, only the rank As and below would try to raid the dungeon tomorrow.
Sure, he heard that the size of tomorrow’s Gate was smaller than the one today, but still, losing two rank S Hunters was a big blow, indeed.
After all, Mister Seong was worried about the boss monster, even when the assault team featuring two rank S Hunters were nearby.
‘Doesn’t mean I can lie to the kid, now is it?’
Foreman Bae was thinking of changing the youth’s mind tomorrow while working beside him, but realising that he had failed, he expressed some regret.
“Yes, it’ll get more dangerous, for sure. If something goes wrong, then the raid itself might fail, too.”
It was here that the light in Jin-Woo’s eyes changed.
< Chapter 83 > Fin.