I Alone Level-Up
“How long has it been since they went inside?”
Jin-Woo urgently asked the female Association employee. The longer it had been the deeper these Hunters would’ve gone inside, and that significantly decreased their odds of returning safely.
The female Association employee answered in her bewilderment.
“It’s been about two hours.”
Two hours, she said. It was one of those in-between time that could neither be called short nor too long. It was then.
“Who the hell are you? You from the Association??”
The Guild staff member grabbed Jin-Woo by his shoulder and tried to turn him around. It seemed that this guy wasn’t happy with this newcomer’s attitude. After all, this unknown youngster proceeded to not only ignore him, but he even went on to spew out some pretty abhorrent bullsh*t on top as well.
The strength gripping his shoulder was nothing to write home about, but Jin-Woo still turned around to face the Guild member, regardless.
He figured that, rather than starting a lengthy explanation of containing hundreds of words, simply showing his face once would be far more effective in a situation like this.
“You should answer back when people are ta….”
The Guild staff member’s words came to an abrupt halt as soon as he locked gazes with Jin-Woo’s eyes.
‘Hold up. Haven’t I seen this guy’s face before, like, a lot?’
But, from where?
The staff member combed through his memories before finally recalling a certain name. He gasped out in disbelief and stuttered out a question.
“H-Hunter S-Seong Jin-Woo?!”
Who’d have thunk that he’d run into a rank S Hunter in front of rank C Gate? Not only that, but he also rudely grabbed the shoulder and glared at such a guy, too??
The Guild staff member was frightened out of his skull and reflexively took his hand away before taking two, three quick steps back.
“I-I’m truly sorry.”
Even now, time continued to tick down. There was no time to waste on this Guild Staff; Jin-Woo shifted his gaze back to the female Association employee.
“I’m going inside to bring those people back.”
The flustered female employee found herself in a bind now.
This very man walked out with a face full of smiles even when the rank B Gate he entered changed into a Red Gate. But such a person was now telling her in an urgent manner that people inside that seemingly-normal rank C Gate were in great danger.
“Just what is going on here that makes you say that? If you could just explain what….”
“There is no time.”
Jin-Woo cut her off.
In all honesty, he could’ve just maintained ‘Stealth’ and strode right inside the Gate. In fact, there were many ways to distract these people and walk inside the Gate unnoticed.
The sole reason why he didn’t do so was because he had no idea what might happen in there. He chose to cover his bases to some degree so he could avoid getting swept up in annoying problems later down the line.
The female employee’s lips bobbed up and down several times. She was in a genuine dilemma now.
Would it be fine to let a Hunter waltz right into a Gate without any clear evidence, when another Guild had officially been sanctioned to raid it in the first place? Originally, something like that would have been unimaginable.
However, seeing the light in Jin-Woo’s eyes, she couldn’t bring herself to say no.
“….Please, go in.”
“I’ll see you later.”
Jin-Woo nodded once to her and ran inside the Gate right away.
[You have entered a dungeon.]
He quickly located various corpses of monsters with their magic crystals removed, discarded here and there on the dungeon’s floor.
The thing was, there wasn’t that much loot to find in lower ranked dungeons. Which was quite different from higher ranked ones, where the remains of the monsters alone would fetch quite a sum of money.
The only real source of income found within low ranked dungeons was the magic crystals. And this scene was a rather familiar sight to him.
Jin-Woo closed his eyes and concentrated. For some reason, he couldn’t sense the presence of the raid team.
‘Could they already have been….?’
Jin-Woo quickly shook his head. Even if he was too late, magic energy still leaked out from the bodies of the freshly deceased. But he couldn’t even pick up on that magic energy.
Jin-Woo quietly studied the interior of the dungeon, before a certain sense of deja vu hit him. Indeed, this place seemed familiar for some reason.
He had seen a dungeon like this one before.
If his memories served him right, then this dungeon was roughly the same in layout as the dual dungeon he got his powers from.
‘If that’s that case….’
Jin-Woo quickly made his way over to where the entrance of the dual dungeon was last time. And sure enough, there was another ‘entrance’ within the dungeon.
‘It’s the same as before.’
Only then did he realise why he couldn’t sense the presence of the raid team’s Hunters.
‘This dungeon… it was nonsensically huge, wasn’t it?’
That was the case back then. Sure, it was the walking speed of low-ranked Hunters, but still, they needed almost one hour to get to that strange doorway.
If this dungeon’s structure was similar to the one he knew, then it’d not be all that surprising for the Hunters to be really far away now. And, it was also almost impossible to sense the presence of the Hunters who possessed only a negligible amount of magic energy individually.
Jin-Woo looked deeper into the cavern.
There was only one path. And, just like back then, it was enshrouded in total darkness.
But he wasn’t worried. His Perception Stat he pushed to the extremes, showed him the path within that inky blackness. Jin-Woo’s eyes glowed in a pale, cold hue like those animals of the night caught on camera.
‘I can see it.’
His eyes rapidly got used to the lack of light and he could see one object after the other hidden within the darkness.
Jin-Woo took a short but deep breath before shooting forward like a bullet. The background images fell back in an instant, over and over again.
It was indeed one long passageway. Even then, his speed was fast and he didn’t need a lot of time to get to his destination.
‘And we had to walk for one hour in this place back then…..’
What dramatic progress he made when compared to the first time he walked on this road.
Soon enough, he could sense the presence of people up ahead. They were the Hunters of the raiding party. They were also standing around in one spot.
Jin-Woo initially thought that they were involved in a battle or were all dead, but thankfully that wasn’t it. When he got close enough, he could hear their voices.
“You wanna go back when we came this far??”
When Jin-Woo stopped not too far from them, he heard some words that sounded oddly familiar and let a wry chuckle leak out of his mouth.
What a relief it was, though. It seemed that these people hadn’t stepped foot inside yet. If they did, then they wouldn’t even have enough time to waste their breaths on useless banter like this.
He heard a woman’s voice next.
“So, what do you want to do, then? The door didn’t budge even when we poured magic on it.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to go back outside and get the cooperation of a larger Guild?”
“Yeah, I think that might be for the better.”
These people were busy arguing back and forth in front of the door that would not open regardless of their efforts.
Jin-Woo could understand where they were coming from. After discovering that this was actually a dual dungeon, they must’ve been dreaming of getting their hands on an untold amount of wealth. Meaning, they would never choose to go back empty-handed after walking non-stop for nearly one hour.
However, here was the surviving witness from that time. Jin-Woo could confidently say the truth out aloud without any reservation.
“This is a trap, everyone.”
Hunters hadn’t picked up on Jin-Woo’s presence well until he was near their position. Understandably, they were jolted back to their senses from a sudden voice coming out from the darkness behind them.
“Oh my gosh!! That surprised me!”
“W-what the heck? Who are you?”
Jin-Woo pointed at the steel door he had seen before with his chin and replied.
“I’m a survivor of a dual dungeon incident.”
A survivor of a dual dungeon incident?
Hunters exchanged glances and whispered softly among themselves. Because it was so dark inside, they needed a little bit of time to recognise Jin-Woo’s face.
“Isn’t he Hunter Seong Jin-Woo??”
“What was that?”
The attention of the raid team members descended upon the Hunter who identified Jin-Woo. And the next direction their gazes shifted to was, naturally, Jin-Woo’s face.
“N-now that you mention it…”
“It’s really him??”
“But, but, why would a rank S Hunter even come here?”
Jin-Woo strode closer towards the doorway. Hunters surrounding the unknown door parted ways to make room for him. He lightly placed his palm on the door and spoke to the Hunters.
“I know what’s behind this door.”
Jin-Woo was overcome with a reminiscence of the past as he finally got to stand before this very doorway after what felt like a genuinely long, long time.
This place was the location the System had invited him to.
For the sake of these Hunters, as well as for himself, he couldn’t have any uninvited guest loitering around. Jin-Woo turned around and looked at each of the Hunters present, before speaking up with a heavy voice.
“This place is incredibly dangerous. I’ll take care of things from now on, so please, you must return outside.”
The surroundings became rather chaotic.
If it weren’t for the fact that Jin-Woo was a super-famous rank S Hunter, these people might have exploded in dissatisfaction right away, as the looks on their faces attested to that.
Out of all of them, the man who earlier stated that he couldn’t go back empty-handed, just had to step forward to say something.
“Excuse me, Seong Hunter-nim.”
He just so happened to be the Master of this small-to-medium Guild who had been pushing forward with this raid.
“We at the Bravery Guild bought the permit to raid this dungeon fair and square. You simply don’t have any right to tell us to leave.”
“T-that’s right! Being a rank S isn’t everything, you know!”
Jin-Woo closed his mouth in a straight line as his reply to the opposition coming from these Hunters.
They were behaving this way, even though he was doing them a favour and was trying to help them. However, that didn’t mean he was planning to explain the situation to them one by one, either.
‘I don’t have the obligation to do that, anyway.’
He had done what he could do for these people. So, Jin-Woo decided to leave it for them to choose for themselves.
If he were honest, he wasn’t so keen on that idea either, because he still remembered the terrible cost he and his fellow bottom-dwelling Association Hunters had to pay when they made the same decision as these people were about to make.
Jin-Woo wordlessly faced the door and tried to turn the doorknob.
Jin-Woo pushed down, but even with his Strength Stat, it didn’t want to budge.
‘Does it have some kind of restrictive magic?’
Without that, measly steel door like this would’ve moved already by now.
It was then – along with that familiar ‘Tti-ring!’, a new System message appeared before his eyes.
[The door to the Karutenon temple is currently locked.]
[Please use the key provided.]
‘Ah, so that’s why I needed the key.’
Jin-Woo took out the black key. Simply by him slotting it in the keyhole, the door slid open all on its own volition.
The raid team members of the Bravery Guild had already confirmed how tightly locked the door was before he got here. So, when such a stubbornly-locked door opened easily like that, their collective brows shot up in shock.
‘What the heck? How did he open it?’
Jin-Woo ignored their whisperings and spoke to them in a cold voice.
“I won’t try to stop you. If you want to follow me inside, then go ahead.”
Of course, he didn’t forget to warn them, too.
“However, you must remember that it’ll be hard for you to come back out alive if you decide to do so.”
That one sentence managed to freeze these Hunters to their spots. This was advice given by a rank S Hunter. Who’d scoff at that and ignore it?
However, the Master of the Bravery Guild still stepped forward as if he was trying to act according to the name of his organisation.
“I’ll go in.”
Jin-Woo didn’t reply to that.
It was up to them to make the choice. He was going to let them bear the cost of their decision, as well.
The Guild Master looked back to his raid team members while walking towards the doorway, but none of them followed after him, only choosing to sheepishly look at each other’s reactions. The Guild Master glared at his so-called comrades with disproving eyes and eventually stopped before the door.
In order to make it easier for him to enter, Jin-Woo opened the door slightly wider.
The heavy-looking door moved without too much trouble.
There was a look of determination writ large on the Guild Master’s face when Jin-Woo briefly met his gaze. His hesitation lasted only for a few moments; after mustering up enough courage, he took a step inside.
It was then.
Several messages cascaded up in front of Jin-Woo’s view.
Tti-ring, tti-ring, tti-ring!!
[An individual not holding the key has entered the temple.]
[This entry has been disapproved.]
[Failure to comply will result in the immediate retaliation from the gatekeepers.]
Several dangerous-sounding, important messages popped up, but as these Hunters were not a ‘Player’, their eyes and ears failed to see or hear the warnings. Only Jin-Woo could hear the warnings of the System.
The completely-unaware Guild Master took yet another step forward, and then….
….A large hammer fell on top of his head.
The hammer smashed down to the ground and shattered the stone slab into pieces.
If it weren’t for Jin-Woo hurriedly yanking at the scruff of the Guild Master’s shirt and pulling him out, his head would’ve ended up in that state, instead.
The Guild Master freaked out as the gatekeepers reached out to him. Jin-Woo grabbed the hapless Hunter and tossed him outside the door before closing it quickly.
“Things found inside are all like that.”
Jin-Woo turned around to face the other Hunters.
“So, you still want to go inside?”
The Guild Master on the ground shook his head like a madman. His fellow Guild members quickly helped him up and they escaped from there, double time.
Only after confirming that the Hunters had left for good, Jin-Woo made his way back inside.
[The holder of the key has entered.]
The door closed shut behind him with a loud thud.
The massive scale of this chamber; stone statues filling up the walls; and then, the huge statue of a ‘god’ located in the deepest recess of this chamber.
Everything matched his memories.
His heart began pounding really fast.
However, there was also a clear difference from back then, as well. That would be none other than himself. The current Jin-Woo, different from his past self, could easily decipher the truth of these stone statues now.
‘These statues are not monsters, nor are they lifeforms to begin with.’
No, they were just puppets tied to strings, connected to something else.
There was only one creature emitting magic energy within this chamber. Even then, it was concealing its magic energy so expertly that, even Jin-Woo found it impossible to directly sense it. He could only trace the ominous and eerie aura, instead.
Jin-Woo slowly walked over to that b*stard in question.
“So, you were the real one, huh.”
Jin-Woo tried to engage it in conversation, but the creature didn’t display any reactions whatsoever.
“Oh, so you want to play it like that now, huh?”
The corners of Jin-Woo’s lips arched up.
He suddenly raised his speed greatly and stabbed the shortsword into the chest of the ‘creature’.
His attack was stopped by the stone tablet the creature was holding.
The blade of the shortsword deeply stabbed into the tablet.
There was only one stone statue among many in here that held a stone tablet.
The stone statue with six wings on its back looked at Jin-Woo over the stone tablet with a grin etched on its face and spoke.
Monsters began walking out one by one from the Gate, as tall as the high-rise skyscrapers.
“W-what the hell are those?”
These monsters were Giants. Monsters often serving as bosses in many of the highest-difficulty rank A Gates were pouring out like common creatures now.
“It’s the Giants!!”
While every observer watching this spectacle was freaking out and was taking hasty steps back, only Yuri Orlov remained calm as he took another swig from his flask.
‘There’s no problem if it’s only this much.’
These monsters were scary enough to bring a chill down anyone’s spine. However, Yuri Orlov was deeply confident of the barrier he had created.
“Come at me!”
And, his prediction proved to be right on the money.
Giants began pounding on the invisible ‘wall’ surrounding the vicinity of the Gate, but it stood firm and didn’t even budge an inch at all.
They pushed with their shoulders, and even threw their entire bodies against the wall, but Yuri Orlov’s barrier formation proved to be as perfect as he claimed earlier.
Yuri Orlov exploded in a fit of laughter while ridiculing the Giants trapped behind the barrier. About 30 minutes passed by like that.
The Giants must’ve been tired out after going on a rampage to break the barrier, because they suddenly began walking back into the Gate. People witnessing that scene all cried out in pure shock.
“Oh, my god!!”
“Monsters coming out of the dungeon break are going back inside the Gate?!”
Such a thing was completely inconceivable. Not one person present here ever heard of anything like this before. These reporters with their countless years of experience were now operating their cameras non-stop, as if they were left feeling truly exhilarated by the unfolding spectacle.
And when the last Giant walked back inside the Gate, the Association President Matsumoto Shigeo stood up from his seat and hurriedly clapped his hands.
Clap, clap, clap, clap!
Not too long after that, the lone clapping sounds became many, and it morphed into excited cries, and eventually, transformed into loud cheers of joy.
Receiving the passionate adulations and cheers of everyone present, Yuri Orlov turned around to face the throng of the reporters.
“Only I can do this! I am the one blocking a rank S Gate!”
Thick veins bulged on his neck as he made his declaration.
“That guy who hunted down a couple of those measly ants, and this great me who shoved those giants back inside the Gate!! You don’t need me to tell you who’s even more amazing, right?”
He didn’t even bother to hide his face now getting even redder from the influence of booze, and toothily grinned at the reporters, his gold-plated teeth fully on display for all to see.
But then, this happened.
The ground rumbled hard quite suddenly.
Even the tanks on standby bounced up and down.
Only then did Yuri Orlov realise that the reporters were no longer looking at him. No, their gazes were unilaterally focused on the Gate. The Russian also slowly looked behind him.
And then…. the flask he held in his hand slipped out of his grasp.
‘Oh, oh my god…..”
Yuri Orlov’s eyes grew wider and wider.
A truly humongous Giant that made the previous Giants small by comparison, stepped out of the Gate and stood straight up.
Indeed, it was standing upright after exiting from the huge rank S Gate.
Yuri Orlov blinked his eyes several times, unable to tell whether this scene playing out was real or not.
‘How…. How could there be a monster so big that it needs to crouch to pass through such a humongous Gate???’
No one needed to explain anything, but everyone intuitively knew that they were now looking at the boss monster.
The Giant monster finished standing upright and took a long sweeping look around its surroundings, before slamming into the barrier’s walls.
Far, far heavier noise than before resounded out and the earth itself began quaking rather precariously.
BOOM-!! BOOM!! BOOM-!!
Yuri Orlov’s eyes could clearly see everything. And that would be the sight of the magic barrier only he could see, gaining spiderweb-like cracks.
‘How can this be…..’
His legs began shaking uncontrollably.
The Giant monster pushed hard at the wall with its shoulder, before taking several steps back as if it realised that was enough. It sprinted at full tilt and threw its entire body at the barrier.
It was then!
The sound of an explosion filled up the air as the motes of light illuminating the magic circle on the ground dissipated away.
Yuri Orlov started screaming around at the same time.
The Giant monster, as soon as it destroyed the invisible wall, reached down and picked up the Russian still trying to send in his magic energy to the barrier.
Now caught within the Giant’s hand, Yuri Orlov screamed out as bone-breaking pain wrecked his entire body. He desperately thrashed around.
However, his screams could no longer be heard when the Giant monster opened its mouth again.
Behind the Giant monster that swallowed Yuri Orlov in one go, all those Giants that returned back to the Gate were pouring out again.
< Chapter 155 > Fin.