A distance not too far, but not too close, either.
Just a little push from his legs and he was instantly far above the ground; when he landed back on the solid earth, the wide back of a High Orc dominated Jin-Woo’s view.
While landing on his feet, he began thinking.
‘Dismantling these High Orcs would be too easy at this rate.’
But, if he did that, there was no meaning in hiding himself with Stealth. Hunters around him, including Sohn Ki-Hoon, were the elites of the Hunters Guild, often referred to as the best in South Korea.
If these High Orcs were ripped apart by some unseen force, then they would pretty soon figure out that ‘Stealth’ skill was involved here, as they weren’t the same as the scatter-brained female Healer.
‘Well, it’s not like there’ll be trouble from getting discovered, but….’
He was only a day away from the result of his reassignment test being made public, so he didn’t want to raise any unnecessary fuss today if he could help it.
That was why he was waiting for the raid to fail completely, but…. But, the losses to the Hunters would be far too severe by then.
For example, that female Healer almost got killed just now.
That was why….
A certain light flickered in Jin-Woo’s eyes.
‘So, choose only those that won’t get me noticed.’
He decided to go with this type of method. It took him the whole of one, maybe two seconds, to come to this decision.
Right away, both the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ and the ‘Knight Killer’ were already in his hands, summoned out of sheer reflex, even before he could consciously order them to do so.
‘When did they come out?’
A smirk formed on his lips. With the sensation of gripping tight these two familiar dagger handles, his wildly-pounding heart slowly regained its calmness.
What a relief it was….
….That no one could see his expression right now, as he was still in the ‘Stealth’ state. Well, he didn’t want to be labelled as a lunatic for smiling all alone in the midst of a desperate battlefield where humans and High Orcs were performing a blood-soaked dance with each other.
Especially so with the leader of the raid team, too busy sweating buckets while being surrounded by three High orcs – he’d go mental if he saw Jin-Woo right now.
‘First of all, that one.’
Jin-Woo moved. He crouched, and the reverse-gripped dagger drew a line on the Achilles’ heel of a High Orc.
The High Orc Warrior roared out in pain as the back of its ankle was sliced open without a warning.
That was only the beginning.
As if he was dancing, his smooth, unbroken movements led him to stab the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ into the side of his first victim; he then pulled the dagger out and proceeded to cut open the back of the knee of another High Orc.
Perhaps it was impossible to suppress the pain with the adrenaline of the battle, the High Orcs froze up when they were attacked in their weak points when least expected.
That was enough.
Just like how the opening of the sluice gate caused a flood, Sohn Ki-Hoon seized upon the opening created by the High Orcs’ fluster to start his counteroffensive.
Sohn Ki-Hoon raised his head. The long sword held out in his hands was piercing through the heart of the High Orc.
The glaring High Orc and its trembling lips soon collapsed on its back, the whites of its eyes showing.
Sohn Ki-Hoon clenched his fist.
‘Yes! I can do this!’
Just as Sohn Ki-Hoon was crying out inwardly in elation while still cutting down the surrounding High Orcs one by one, Jin-Woo was making himself busy by going here and there.
Inside the slowed-down time, he moved about freely while avoiding being noticed, and he gradually tilted the balance towards the Hunters’ favour.
Whenever Jin-Woo brushed past, wounds large and small appeared on the bodies of the High Orcs.
The moment these High Orcs froze up from wounds being inflicted on them out of nowhere and lost their focus, that would be their end.
These highest-ranked Hunters didn’t fail to grasp the opportunity and continued to attack.
‘For some reason… It’s easier to fight now.’
‘What’s going on?’
‘Could we be winning against this many High Orcs without a casualty?’
Even though members of the raid team were growing rather suspicious, hope and excitement were filling up their hearts at the same time.
They were resolved to lose one or two of their own before they had entered the battle, but exceeding their own expectations, they were fighting quite well until now.
A mace swung by one of the Hunters cracked open the head of a High Orc Warrior. It was then, Jin-Woo got to hear a rather welcoming message.
Indeed, there was a reward for him going around and spending his energy. His level had actually gone up.
It seemed that him not actually killing the enemy outright or wounding them critically still netted him some experience points.
‘And I did kill two of them with my own hands, too.’
He then ‘aided’ in killing more than 13.
Unless he was earning no experience points whatsoever, his level rising up did make sense. Even more excited than before, Jin-Woo’s movement became a lot faster than before.
Thanks to Jin-Woo’s timely and sneaky manoeuvres, this battle was rapidly coming to a close.
Jin-Woo took a step back and stored his two daggers in his Inventory, before having a quick look around himself.
‘Well, with this much….’
The current situation seemed to be more or less settled now. And as an added bonus, he even levelled up once, too.
Jin-Woo’s gaze drifted lower. Around twenty or so corpses of High Orcs were discarded haphazardly on the ground.
‘Well, if I hunted these down by myself, I’d have gone up more than a single level, though.’
Too bad, this here was a dungeon that the Hunters Guild paid a handsome sum for the exclusive right to hunt. This would have to be as far as he could go.
With a satisfied expression on his face, Jin-Woo returned to the dark corner of the dungeon, a place where a porter such as himself should be hiding in the first place.
Having their positions reversed, and now being surrounded by the Hunters instead, the last High Orc Warrior cried out at the top of its lungs. Its scream rang around the interior of the cave rather noisily.
While looking at the fall of that High Orc, Jin-Woo undid his Stealth.
Meanwhile, Hunters were panting heavily. They hurriedly scanned the vicinity, but no matter how hard they looked, there were no more High Orcs standing.
“Did we… did we win?!”
Just before everyone could revel in the sensation of victory, their leader Sohn Ki-Hoon confirmed the status of the injured first.
“Anyone hurt? Does anyone need healing?”
The truth was, there wouldn’t be that many injured in a raid team with a high-ranking Healer as one of the members. As long as that person was still breathing, any exterior wounds could be treated right away.
So, Sohn Ki-Hoon wasn’t asking about the conditions of the potential injured. No, he was actually asking if anyone had died in a roundabout way.
When his gaze met the female Healer’s, she shook her head. There were a few injured, but no deceased. And better yet, she had finished healing all of the injured just now.
“In that case…..”
With that, ecstasy filled the faces of the members of the raid team.
“We did it!!”
Hunters hugged each other and celebrated. Jin-Woo crossed his arms and with a gentle smile on his face, watched the jubilant Hunters.
‘Were these high Orcs supposed to be tough, though?’
From his perspective, well….
Since he didn’t have any prior experience in raiding high-ranking dungeons, Jin-Woo couldn’t really ‘get’ this loud celebration of the raid team.
Jin-Woo had no idea….
….That, when planning the raid of a dungeon ranked A or B, Hunters not only took into consideration of its ranking, but they even minutely calculated the emitted magic energy before attempting to clear it.
High Orcs were considered to be a higher tier monster within the rank A dungeons. Not only were they not ‘normal’ High Orcs but High Orc warriors instead, and there were 20 of them to boot….
The current result was far closer to being a miracle than anything else, really.
The main protagonist of that miracle, Jin-Woo, didn’t even know the actual worth of his own actions and simply stood there, quietly congratulating the victory of the raid team.
In the midst of that, the female Healer approached Sohn Ki-Hoon with a determined face. That was a look of someone wishing to say something important. Jin-Woo focused his hearing in that direction.
“Excuse me, Ki-Hoon oppa?”
“When you were fighting against the High Orcs….”
The female Healer cautiously described what she saw in minute detail.
And that would be – the High Orc suddenly floated up in the air, and proceeded to rip its own head off before killing another Orc with its severed head.
She carried a dead-serious face, too.
Sohn Ki-Hoon was left utterly speechless.
“I’m telling you the truth!!”
As the female Healer and her reddened face protested the injustice of it all, Jin-Woo could barely suppress his giggles.
They basked in the aftermaths of victory for only a little bit longer. The Hunters soon gathered around their leader Sohn Ki-Hoon one by one.
“Captain, will we continue on?”
“Isn’t this going to be too dangerous? We aren’t even that far from the entrance, yet we ran into a whole bunch of High Orcs already.”
“How about a strategic retreat?”
Sohn Ki-Hoon cast his gaze over to the deeper part of the cave, his mouth closed tight.
‘It won’t be easy.’
Jin-Woo could sympathise with Sohn Ki-Hoon a little bit here.
While working for the Hunters Guild that boasted two rank S Hunters in its ranks, today’s raid might be the one and only time Sohn Ki-Hoon would get to lead a raid team.
And to think, he’d have to retreat so quickly in his very first hunt as a leader….
‘Anyone in his shoes would be tempted to push forward and clear this place.’
However, if you were a smart, wise leader, then….
As if he had made his mind up, Sohn Ki-Hoon’s lips quivered slightly. Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
Fortunately, as it turned out, Sohn Ki-Hoon wasn’t a fool.
“For the time being, let’s retreat.”
The leader’s choice was absolute inside the dungeon. The unspoken rule said that as long as one was a part of the raid team, one had to absolutely follow the commands of the leader.
One used to say that, before in war, insubordinate soldiers were executed right away, didn’t they?
In a certain way, dungeons were a far more dangerous place than any warzone out there. And so, the question of the team’s survival or annihilation depended on who the leader was. Thankfully, Sohn Ki-Hoon didn’t disappoint his team members.
After hearing his order to retreat, everyone lightly patted their chest.
“I was really worried that Sohn hyung would insist on going till the end, you know.”
Sohn Ki-Hoon grinned and slapped the person who said that on the shoulder.
“I’m not a blind idiot like that.”
“I know that. But, look here, hyung. Look at my shaking hands.”
Jin-Woo picked up the luggage and placed it on his back.
Along with Sohn Ki-Hoon’s orders, the raid team began moving again, although their direction had reversed.
Jin-Woo smiled wryly.
‘And here I am, hoping to go in a little bit deeper.’
Regardless of what happened, he was nothing more than a guest.
And as a guest, he had no right to run his mouth on this and that about the decision of the house owner, now did he?
It was indeed a bit regretful, but it’d have to end here today.
The female Healer must’ve found the leader not believing her word a bit cold-hearted, because she continued to grumble as she got right next to Jin-Woo.
“But, it really happened, though….”
With a big pout on her face, she then stared at Jin-Woo, a single strand of hope still persisting in her heart.
“Excuse me, by any chance, did you see that High….”
“I didn’t see anything.”
Her hope had been cruelly shot down just then.
Jin-Woo had to work very hard to make sure that she didn’t notice him sniggering to himself.
However, not long after they began retreating…
The front of the group suddenly came to a halt.
Sohn Ki-Hoon raised his right hand.
There was confusion evident in his voice.
The fatigued Hunters walking cautiously forward came to a stop, and so did Jin-Woo as well; he had been keeping an eye towards the rear in case the monsters decided to chase after them.
The voices of the Hunters rose up higher.
“What the hell is the meaning of this?!”
“What is going on!”
“Why is the path blocked?! Wasn’t it fine when we entered earlier?”
Jin-Woo walked past the noisy Hunters and got to the front, before reaching out with his hand. And his eyes widened as well.
‘It’s… been blocked off?’
The path had been blocked off by an invisible barrier.
He immediately recalled the instant dungeons. More specifically, the wall that demarcated the border between the instant dungeon and reality. But, he soon shook his head.
‘No, this is different from that.’
He could detect a certain sense of ‘artificiality’ from this invisible wall. Seeing that there was a trace of magic energy mixed in, this barrier must’ve been the result of a magic spell cast by a monster with high intelligence.
Why block the path going out, and not going in?
It was then – Jin-Woo’s head swivelled to his rear.
As if it was waiting for this moment, horrendously powerful magic energy waves crashed into the group like a tsunami from the far end of the cavern.
‘How could this be….?’
This was from the boss of this dungeon?
The scale of the magic energy emission inside the dungeon was on another realm altogether compared to the one felt outside the Gate.
Other Hunters also must’ve sensed that absurd amount of magic energy by now, because they began shivering as well.
“W-what the hell??”
“Why am I getting goosebumps, all of a sudden?!”
Watching the complexions of the Hunters get paler by the second, Jin-Woo came up with a theory.
‘If, let’s say that there is a boss that can hide its presence, then….’
The wall that wasn’t there when they entered. And the boss that bared its fangs only after the barrier had been erected.
‘No way…. Did it lay a trap and wait for Hunters to enter the dungeon?’
When thinking like that, a chill ran down Jin-Woo’s back.
And sure enough….
….From beyond the darkness of the dungeon’s interior, the countless sounds of footsteps, far greater than before, reverberated loudly.
< Chapter 86 > Fin.