I Alone Level-Up
The mystery item was a black key.
The key he found inside the ‘Cursed’ Random Box was shining brightly as if to remind him of where it had been hiding all along.
Jin-Woo stared somewhat dazedly at that arresting sight before he cautiously put the weapons in his arms down on the floor again. He then reached into the Inventory and tightly grasped the black key.
And, when he opened his hand again….
[Item: Key to the Karutenon Temple]
‘You have met the required condition.’
A key allowing you entry into the Karutenon Temple. It can be used at the designated Gate.
The location of the designated Gate will be revealed after the predetermined time has been reached.
Remaining time: 417:06:52
The item information he couldn’t see before was now filling up his view.
Jin-Woo began tilting his head in confusion.
What was going on here? He was pretty certain that he had never heard of that name before. So how come it sounded so familiar to him?
‘No, hold on. I…. have heard of it before.’
He carefully combed through the maze of his memories until he finally recalled what he was searching for, and his brows shot up in response.
‘The dual dungeon!!’
More specifically, that name was etched on a stone tablet held by a statue, found in the ancient temple located right at the end of the dual dungeon.
The memories of that fateful day were coming back to him one by one.
The voice of Song Chi-Yeol ahjussi, as he read the first line of that stone tablet, suddenly rang so vividly around in his ears.
[“The laws of the Karutenon Temple.”]
Indeed, that stone tablet’s texts indicated that the name of the temple filled with those terrifying statues was none other than ‘Karutenon’.
It couldn’t have been a simple coincidence that the name carved into that stone tablet, and the name of the temple in the key’s information, was exactly the same.
Which could mean…..
‘I can go back inside that place with this key?!’
Jin-Woo’s eyes grew wider in stunned silence.
The memories of that day, indistinct and hard to recall as if they were enveloped in a veil of fog, suddenly returned to him in their full, gory detail.
‘Could it be….?’
No, this was no longer in the category of ‘Could it be’ anymore. The System was definitely summoning him – summoning him back to the place where it all began.
The key that emitted the bright light all on its own, perhaps fearing the distinct possibility of him never bothering to read its information; and then, there was the name of the location where this key was supposed to be used, written so clearly that he’d never miss it.
No matter how he tried to slice it, there was little doubt that the System was summoning him there.
Oddly enough, Jin-Woo was getting curious about something else as well. Why was this happening now, of all times?
‘Is it somehow related to the quests I received from the Demon’s Castle?’
This black key, and the ‘Cursed’ Random Box it came from, was the ‘unknown reward’ he chose to receive at the end of the ‘Collect the Souls of Demons! (1)’ quest.
Hoping that maybe there was a connection here, he quickly checked the ‘unknown reward’ he got from the ‘Collect the Souls of Demons! (2)’ quest.
Along with the familiar “Tti-ring!” of the mechanical beep, the information regarding his new Title, the one he got as the reward, rose up to his view.
[Title: Demon Hunter]
‘You have not satisfied its conditions.’
He hoped that something might have changed, but well, too bad; it was the exact same story as the first time he received that Title.
‘Okay, so that one wasn’t it.’
Next up, he began reading the item descriptions of the Demon Sovereign’s Accessory set, which he got to complete after killing the Demon King, Baran.
[Item: Demon Sovereign’s Ring]
Perception +20. Intelligence +20.
When worn together with ‘Demon Sovereign’s Earrings’ and ‘Demon Sovereign’s Necklace’, set bonuses will be unlocked.
Set bonus effect 1. All Stats +5
Set bonus effect 2. All Stats +10
He took a closer look at the information provided, wondering if another, hidden, set effect had been unlocked, but that wasn’t it, either.
‘In that case….’
There was only one other possibility remaining now, and Jin-Woo shifted his gaze towards the information appearing above his Title column, towards the final suspect.
[Name: Seong Jin-Woo]
[Class: Shadow Sovereign]
Out of all of those, his gaze stopped moving at his level.
There it was, his level ‘100’, the one he just barely got to reach after massacring every single ant monster, as well as every egg and larva found on the island of Jeju.
‘The condition this key’s been talking about has to be this.’
That was the most plausible explanation he could come up with.
Because he could take out, or put back, any item inside Inventory with nothing but his thoughts, he’d never really paid much attention to what was inside his storage. Unless he got a new toy he needed to put away, of course.
That was most likely why he only got to discover the changes to this key a couple of days after he reached level 100.
Heck, if it wasn’t for him suddenly coming down with an urge to spring clean his Inventory after he took out those weapons from there earlier, he wouldn’t even have discovered the key’s presence, at least not for a long while.
Good thing that he discovered it before it was far too late.
‘417 hours… that’s about 17 days from now. I still have over two weeks left.’
The System hadn’t lied to him once until now. So, the Gate in question would definitely open up in the location as noted in the item’s information.
‘I gotta start preparing myself….’
Just as those thoughts raced past in his head, Jin-Woo gasped out in surprise.
‘Hold on… was I really planning to walk in there again?’
A wry chuckle leaked out of his mouth without him realising it.
Sure, they were lower ranked Hunters working for the Association, but still, over half of the raid team got killed in there. Not to forget, he himself nearly died several times, too.
‘I even lost my leg towards the end, didn’t I?’
What a horrifying memory that was. He used to break out in an uncontrollable shiver just from recalling the emptiness below his knee he saw back then.
But now, fighting spirit began burning powerfully in his eyes, instead.
‘I’m different now.’
He felt utterly confident of his chances now.
Heck, he even felt a certain expectation bubbling up inside him, wondering if he’d be able to turn those stone statues, or even the god statue itself, into his Shadow Soldiers.
There was also something else to consider – he might be hit with an unknown penalty if he decided to ignore the System’s summons.
Didn’t he already realise the fact that, depending on the choices he makes, the System would either become his ally or an enemy? Didn’t he learn his lesson back when he ignored the first Daily Quest or when he was issued an emergency quest?
When his thoughts reached up to that point, his hand holding the key was suddenly became soaked in his sweat.
He was so tense that his dry saliva scratched his throat as it slid down. Jin-Woo slowly shook his head and closed his eyes.
‘….No, let’s not get too worked up over this.’
He needed to calm down.
His pounding heart gradually slowed down as he worked hard to find stability in his emotions. After his chaotic breathing had regained their normalcy, he ever so slightly reopened his eyes.
‘If the System has business with me, then it could very well be another opportunity for me.’
Didn’t the ‘Cursed’ Random Box’s description say that it would give him what he needed the most?
‘Still, it’d be prudent to make some preparations in advance.’
Jin-Woo began thinking about the preparations he’d have to make, just in case. That led him to remember something else he’d been delaying for a little while now.
And that would be the establishment of his own Guild.
Having a Guild would certainly make it simpler to enter various Gates, and it’d also make his, and his soldiers’ levelling-up process, that much easier, too.
He had left the very-motivated Yu Jin-Ho in charge of the initial process of founding a Guild, at least for the time being.
‘I wonder, how far along is he now?’
Jin-Woo decided to give Yu Jin-Ho a call, but after checking the time, he sheepishly put the phone down. It was two in the morning.
‘It’s already this late….’
Since he had stuff to do on the following day, he figured that it’d be simpler to just go and pay a visit to Yu Jin-Ho at the same time.
‘Yeah, I’ll stop by the office tomorrow.’
Yu Jin-Ho’s glares became a level sharper.
Like the eyes of a hawk locking onto a prey, his glare scanning the computer monitor was filled to the brim with unbridled sharpness. And then, proverbial flames erupted out of his eyes next.
‘I shall never forgive those trying to obstruct the path of hyung-nim!!’
Yu Jin-Ho quickly screen-captured the offending online forum post in question, as well as the comments appearing below it, and then, proceeded to write up a formal letter of complaint with lightning speed. He moved so expertly and quickly that he must’ve had more than enough experience doing this thing.
And, in the blink of an eye, his work was done.
His hand departing from the computer’s keyboard lightly wiped away a single bead of sweat rolling down his forehead.
He had done it again. Today, he was indeed successful in rooting out an insidious group trying to slander his hyung-nim.
Hyung-nim was the face of their fledgeling Guild, not to mention its guiding light.
The b*stards that tried to speak ill of hyung-nim, or even spread false rumours about him, were unforgivable sinners that deserved to be put to death. Of course, he also needed to be even more proactive in taking them down when he thought about the future of the Guild.
After all, wasn’t this the Guild where he’d become its Vice Master?
That’s why his personal feelings had nothing to do with what he was doing right now. It was all a part of official business he had to perform for the sake of their Guild.
Unfortunately, Yu Jin-Ho was reminded of the sad truth that the Guild he’d be the Vice Master of still didn’t have an official name yet. This was a serious problem requiring a speedy resolution.
Hyung-nim hadn’t said a word about this problem until now, so Yu Jin-Ho decided that it was his duty as the Guild’s Vice Master to come up with a suitable name.
How about putting the ‘Seong’ of Seong Jin-Woo and ‘Yu’ of Yu Jin-Ho together to name the Guild ‘Seong-yu’?
He quickly shook his head, though.
‘It’s got a nice meaning, but uh, it sounds a bit…’
If he were to consider how it sounded, then it was indeed better to flip the two words around to make ‘Yu-Seong’, but then again, he’d never be able to accept the fact that his own surname would come before his hyung-nim’s.
‘I must discuss this with hyung-nim when he stops by.’
It had been two whole days since they moved into this office.
Hyung-nim had become the centre of the world’s attention after his heroic feats during the Jeju Island raid got broadcast live, while Yu Jin-Ho found himself manning this big office all alone a lot more than he’d like to.
‘No, hang on a minute. What if I just take the last part of our names and name the Guild Woo-Ho?’
It was then.
“Hey, what are you so deeply worried about?”
Yu Jin-Ho jumped up like a scalded cat. He quickly got up from the chair and looked behind him, only to discover Jin-Woo standing there.
Jin-Woo shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as if he couldn’t understand why anyone would be that surprised. Meanwhile, Yu Jin-Ho was busy patting his pounding chest down.
‘Seriously, if he doesn’t want you to know that he’s here, you wouldn’t even realise it….’
He wasn’t even paying attention to anything particular just now, too. It sure felt like hyung-nim’s penchant for suddenly appearing and then disappearing seemed to have gotten worse with every passing day.
Embarrassed by his own over-the-top reaction, Yu Jin-Ho sheepishly scratched the back of his head and asked Jin-Woo.
“When did you arrive here, hyung-nim?”
After making a simple reply, Jin-Woo leaned in and took a look at the computer monitor that captured Yu Jin-Ho’s attention until then, but before he got a proper look, the latter quickly covered up the screen with his entire body.
“Hyung-nim, you don’t have to worry about b*stards like them. I’ll take very good care of them, so you can rest easy, hyung-nim.”
Jin-Woo looked at that determined face of Yu Jin-Ho and an expression of dumbfoundedness formed on his.
“….So, it was you.”
Jin-Woo heard that there was someone out there that pounced on any negative comments or false articles about him online like a wild beast and, while relying on the threat of legal action, demanded them to be taken down immediately.
But to think, that person was someone so close by!
Yu Jin-Ho’s complexion reddened from embarrassment now that his secret activity had been inadvertently exposed to the open.
“Eiii, hyung-nim… I’m supposed to do things like this for you, you know.”
Yu Jin-Ho’s eyes sparkled like an expectant kid waiting for a praise, and Jin-Woo could only chuckle at that sight.
Mistakenly thinking that the smile on Jin-Woo’s face was one of satisfaction, Yu Jin-Ho secretly made up his mind to become even more hands-on, all for the sake of his hyung-nim.
“…Uh? Hyung-nim, are you going somewhere today?”
Yu Jin-Ho asked Jin-Woo after finally discovering a different set of duds on the latter’s body.
Jin-Woo was nonplussed in his answer.
“I have some business to attend to today.”
Yu Jin-Ho was feeling really amazed at that moment. He had only seen Jin-Woo wear clothes that were easy to move around in, so seeing his hyung-nim kitted out in a black business suit from head to toe like this, he was struck by a sense of unfamiliarity and amazement at the same time.
Too bad, Jin-Woo didn’t have enough free time to explain himself. He took another quick look at his watch.
‘I’m running way too tight….’
Jin-Woo lifted his head away from the watch and asked Yu Jin-Ho.
“Are there any other documents that I must bring with me when getting the Guild Master licence?”
“Not at all! When you get to the Association, you’ll be asked to take a simple test. Your licence will be issued right away afterwards, hyung-nim.”
So, his hyung-nim was headed off to the Association?
‘But, isn’t his attire a bit too much, considering he’s only going to the Association….?’
Yu Jin-Ho incorrectly guessed Jin-Woo’s destination and began tilting his head, but soon enough, he accepted it as a fact.
‘Well, hyung-nim’s a celebrity now, so I guess he’ll have to watch what he wears in public.’
There were good sides to being famous, but on the flip side, there was also a tiresome aspect to it, as well.
Yu Jin-Ho thought about the stress and the burden carried around by folks surrounding him from all sides – the famous folks that every Korean citizen would immediately recognise with their names alone – and briefly sympathised with their plight.
Not really caring either way, Jin-Woo pointed to the car keys placed on a desk a bit of distance away from him.
“I’m going to borrow the van for a while.”
“Use it as much as you want, hyung-nim.”
Yu Jin-Ho reached out to pick the keys up. However, he was taken greatly by surprise as the keys slipped out of his reach and flew into Jin-Woo’s hands.
“H-hyung-nim, what was….?”
Jin-Woo cut him off abruptly.
“It’s a skill.”
Yu Jin-Ho was rendered speechless yet again.
Even if hyung-nim declared that he could fly around using another one of his skills, Yu Jin-Ho was confident of not finding that strange at all.
‘Is there anything hyung-nim can’t do??’
Hyung-nim was like an onion that had so many layers still left to peel. The more you knew about him, the more he’d surprise you.
‘Wait, now isn’t the time for this.’
Yu Jin-Ho abruptly woke up from his daydream, remembering that he still a few things to ask hyung-nim. Since he was in the office, now was the perfect opportunity to do exactly that
Jin-Woo stopped walking away after sensing that Yu Jin-Ho had something else to say from the way the kid was looking at him.
“Hyung-nim, it’s only been a day since we started advertising on the online job marketplace. But we’ve been swarmed by the applicants wanting to become our fellow founding members, so I went ahead and compiled a list for you to take a look.”
“Oh, that. Let’s talk about it after I come back.”
He was running short on time, to begin with.
Yu Jin-Ho felt his own urgency kick in, having seen how badly Jin-Woo wanted to be on his way.
“Ah, hyung-nim! Have you decided on the name of the Guild?”
Indeed, this was the most pressing issue of them all.
Because, you’d need a name of the Guild if you wanted to place job postings on the bulletin boards, or even when conducting other official businesses, now wouldn’t it?
‘Does he have something in mind for the name of the Guild?’
Yu Jin-Ho’s heart was pounding in anticipation for Jin-Woo’s answer. He was fully prepared to suggest the names he had thought up if hyung-nim was unable to come up with one.
‘Seong-Yu, Jin-Jin, Woo-Ho…. I hope he finds one of them to his liking.’
Jin-Woo pondered for a bit while Yu Jin-Ho continued to gaze at him with eyes glinting with the light of expectation. A smirk found its way to Jin-Woo’s lips and he finally made his reply.
“How about, Solo Play Guild?” (TL: In the raw, it’s “Sol-Ple.” which is “Solo Play” but shortened.)
Yu Jin-Ho blinked his eyes several times.
Was he supposed to start laughing here? But, didn’t Jin-Woo’s expression look like he wasn’t joking at all?
Jin-Woo didn’t expect to see a reaction anyway, so he quickly turned towards the door to leave.
“See you later.”
Yu Jin-Ho fell into a train of thought while watching Jin-Woo make his exit from the office.
‘….So, there WAS something hyung-nim couldn’t do, after all.’
As expected, his hyung-nim was a human being, just like everyone else.
Although he was afraid that the ‘Solo Play’ would get stuck as the Guild’s name, Yu Jin-Ho also felt just a tiny bit more reassured after being reminded of Jin-Woo being a human like him.
The location of Hunter Min Byung-Gu’s funeral ceremony.
Originally, the plan was to hold a small private ceremony with only the close relatives invited to attend the event. However, there were far too many people who wished to pay their respects and so, the funeral had to be changed to a public one.
Countless people showed up to the funeral parlour to pay their respects and remember Hunter Min Byung-Gu’s valiant sacrifice. Jin-Woo was among them.
‘Uh, uh? Isn’t that….?’
‘Heok! Isn’t he Hunter Seong Jin-Woo?’
‘It’s really him!’
The funeral goers soon discovered Jin-Woo’s presence and began whispering to each other as their excitement heated up.
< Chapter 128 > Fin.