I Alone Level-Up
The Hunters of the Monitoring Division arrived on site. There were a total of seven high-ranked Hunters. Woo Jin-Cheol had scrounged up the top elites of the Association that could be mobilised on such short notice.
However, he knew the truth. He knew that this little fighting power would not be of any help to Hunter Seong.
‘Even still, for the worst case scenario….’
These Hunters from the Monitoring Division would buy enough time so Hunter Seong would be able to escape from the dangers. They came to this location with such a resolve in their hearts.
“Is that the one, Chief?”
“Looks that way.”
Hunters from the Monitoring Division stepped out of the minivan and entered the school’s athletics field.
They found the Hunters from the Bravery Guild who had made the report earlier waiting for their arrival. Their expressions brightened once they saw the members of the Monitoring Division.
“Over here, mister agents!”
The Master of the Guild came running and greeted the Hunters of the Monitoring Division. However, Woo Jin-Cheol’s gaze remained fixed on that Gate in question.
He could pick up on an ominous aura coming out of it already. Woo Jin-Cheol looked at his subordinates and issued an order.
Their steps became hurried and they crossed the field to arrive before the Gate in a proverbial heartbeat.
But then, Woo Jin-Cheol’s steps came to an abrupt halt.
The subordinates behind him naturally came to a stop, as well. Woo Jin-Cheol cautiously took off his sunglasses. His hand holding the accessory was trembling imperceptibly.
‘This… what the hell is this….?’
He picked up on the utterly horrifying maelstrom of magical energy all around the Gate. As a matter of fact, the magical energy leaking out was so savage and brutal that the space around the portal looked as if it was being distorted to his naked eyes.
He was startled by what he saw and quickly took a step back.
Was this simply an optical illusion, or the sign of an impending ill omen?
He thought that, all of a sudden, a dark veil seemed to be enveloping this Gate from above. He had seen this somewhere before. It was the looming shadow of death.
All the hair on the back of his neck stood up.
Woo Jin-Cheol instinctively knew it.
He knew that the fight taking place inside was not something he or his boys could possibly butt in on.
The subordinates saw his complexion getting paler and gasped out in surprise. They hurriedly asked him.
“Section Chief?? Are you alright?”
Rather than an answer, Woo Jin-Cheol threw out a question, instead.
“Is there a… major Guild with a team ready for a raid nearby?”
One of his subordinates checked the Association’s database and quickly made his reply.
“Yes, sir. The Hunters Guild is getting ready for a raid at the moment.”
“What about their two rank S Hunters?”
“According to the data, both Choi Jong-In and Cha Hae-In Hunter-nims are scheduled to partake in the raid, sir.”
Choi Jong-In and Cha Hae-In. If it were those two, then they might be able to do something.
Woo Jin-Cheol shifted his gaze back to the Gate. That imperceptible trembling that started from his hand had slowly but steadily spread out to the rest of his body.
Dry saliva slid down his throat all on its own.
Woo Jin-Cheol barely managed to rein his trembling voice and spoke to his subordinate.
“Send… the emergency cooperation request to the Hunters Guild.”
He finally asked it.
Just as the angel statue had recommended it, he changed his question from “What are you?” to “Who am I?”
In that short moment, Jin-Woo’s heavy and laboured panting relaxed to his usual rhythmic breathing. The sound of his breaths was so measured and calm that it was hard to believe he was involved in a fierce life-or-death battle just now.
Even his panting shoulders had stopped quivering completely.
The answer from the angel statue seemed to be getting delayed for some reason, and Jin-Woo pressed the shortsword deeper against its skin as a reminder. The blade dug into the neck of the stone statue.
If this thing was a human, its skin would’ve been cut open and began bleeding by now. Since it was seemingly made out of stone, it didn’t bleed, but he knew there was no problem with cutting its head off like this.
Perhaps the angel statue also knew this truth? It belatedly opened its mouth.
Hearing it from such close proximity, this thing’s voice sounded even more freakish than before.
[You have asked a proper question.]
It then formed a smile next. There was not one hint of fear on its face even though several of its arms were sliced off and there was a blade pressed just below its chin.
‘Maybe, its real body is somewhere else?’
Jin-Woo’s exceptional sensory perception scanned his surroundings but he couldn’t pick up any other aura. If the real body was indeed somewhere else, then the current him couldn’t even begin to imagine just how incredible the technique being employed here was to conceal the connection this perfectly.
The angel statue carried on with what it wanted to say while that smile remained etched on its stony face.
[The answer is within you.]
Jin-Woo had been glaring at his query until now, worried that this thing would try another petty trick on him. But when he heard that, his eyes became even sharper than ever before.
He spent four years of his life as a lowest-ranked Hunter and had to fight against countless enemies that were stronger than himself and could have killed him instantly.
Even though he was classified as a rank E Hunter, and not only that, as the lowest even among the rank Es, Jin-Woo still managed to survive in those four years as he bravely roamed around in various dungeons. That was no mean feat, indeed.
It was only possible because of his sixth sense, honed through experiencing several life-or-death moments, helped him to pick the best possible option available during the worst of all the worst situations.
And his ultra-sharp sixth sense was warning him of a certain shift in the atmosphere. Sure enough…
The mechanical beep abruptly rang out in his head, accompanied by the usual voice of the System. It was definitely not the angel statue’s voice – he only heard that of a mechanical-sounding female.
[Recalling the stored data in the System’s memory.]
[Will you consent to its playback?] (Y/N)
It wasn’t just the voice this time, but even the actual message window also popped up, as well. It was asking him ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
The alphabets ‘Y’ and ‘N’ lazily blinked in front of his eyes as if they were patiently waiting for his answer.
‘Just what on earth is this….?’
Just what was this d*mn thing trying to pull this time?
Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted away from the message and landed on the angel statue. The smile was long gone from the statue’s face. It spoke to him with a completely emotionless face.
“The decision is up to you.”
Unlike before, its voice was now separated from the System. The machine-like, stiff male voice grated against his eardrums. Jin-Woo shut his mouth tight after seeing that face.
‘Data saved in the System’s memory, is it….’
Just like how it was with various video games, did the System also possess a save file or something similar to that? And, he could view what that save file contained, right now?
In this short span of time, all kinds of thoughts raced in and out of his brain. Of course, his answer had already been decided.
He finally earned what could be his one and only chance to confirm the truth for himself, so why should he back out of it now?
If the System wanted to trick him into a trap, then well, it didn’t have to go through such an elaborate process, either. After all, the System possessed the power to decide when his heart would stop beating, didn’t it?
‘Just as the angel said, if all these were just the processes of a test, then…. Then, I have earned the right to view this data.’
He suddenly recalled what the angel statue told him before the battle commenced.
[“If you still manage to stand on two feet by the end of the test, then everything you wished to know will be revealed to you. That will be my reward to you.”]
Most likely, the reward the angel talked about meant his right to view the data. He finally arrived at this conclusion.
Jin-Woo made his decision and slowly opened his mouth.
When he did, darkness immediately enveloped him.
The familiar mechanical beep hit him in the eardrums, and the voice of the System followed right after.
[The saved data has been successfully uploaded.]
It felt like he crossed an endless tunnel at a speed very close to that of infinity.
He flew past the space filled with nothing but darkness; the light seeping into this space from such a long distance away slammed into him in an instant.
After the blinding by the light dissipated away….
Jin-Woo was greeted by the immense spectacle laid out before his eyes – no, below him – and spat out a shocked gasp in his mind.
‘Oh, my god….’
An army consisting solely of innumerable monsters stretched far beyond the scope of vision below him.
From where he was, all the way to beyond the horizon. Countless monsters completely covered up the ground until there was no uncovered patch left.
In all honesty, that was one hell of a terrifying sight to behold. If this many monsters jumped out of a Gate all at once, humanity wouldn’t have a chance in hell at winning against them.
Just from seeing this, he felt his innards tighten as if he was having indigestion.
‘Hold on… Where is this place, anyway?’
It couldn’t have been Earth. He could see thin, tall, and bizarre looking rocky outcroppings jutting out from here and there on this reddish-brown, dried up plains where not even a single blade of grass grew.
This was a completely foreign landscape that he had never seen before.
His eyes could catch the sight of the reddish-brown ground, those strange rock formations, and then, the great army of monsters standing on top of said ground.
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to these monsters.
He spotted weaklings commonly seen in low ranked dungeons, all the way to the powerful monsters that could only be seen in much higher-ranked dungeons, such as High Orcs, White Phantoms, and even Giants.
This disparate gathering of monsters that ignored their ranks and species were busy looking up and waiting for something to happen.
‘What are they all looking at?’
Jin-Woo followed after their gazes and raised his head to the sky above. And then… he discovered it.
He saw a jet-black lake, quietly floating high up in the sky.
No, it was actually not a lake. He mistook it for a lake because of its sheer size. But, it was a Gate so big that he couldn’t even begin to guess its size. And it was silently looking down on the ground.
This black ‘hole’ was blocking up the purple sky beyond it.
‘Purple sky, is it…..?’
Seeing the colour of the sky that should not exist, he became doubly sure that this was not Earth anymore.
In a world that was clearly not Earth, something major was about to happen between the monsters and that Gate.
He unconsciously swallowed his saliva. Trapped within this eerie silence, his nervousness also increased as the time wore on.
Just what would come out from that Gate?
Jin-Woo began wondering if he’d get to see the weapons of humanity or the armies of humans stepping out of that huge Gate, just like how monsters would step onto Earth through those portals.
What came out of the cracked-open Gate’s mouth was soldiers decked out in silver armour, with wings attached to their backs.
These silver-armoured soldiers poured out of the Gate like agitated bees rushing out of the disturbed beehive.
While monsters covered up the entirety of the ground, these soldiers in turn utterly blotted out the sky.
It was truly a spectacular sight. Jin-Woo couldn’t stop admiring this incredible view.
However, the monsters must’ve thought rather differently. They began howling at the top of their lungs upon seeing the silver-armoured soldiers covering the sky and began bucking around in agitation.
He didn’t even have to be a genius to figure out what would happen next.
It was war.
The flying soldiers became silver drops of light and descended to the ground below. As it turned out, there was more than one Gate in the sky. There were several of them, and silver soldiers poured out of them one after the other.
Monsters on the ground versus the soldiers of the sky!!
Two groups, clearly burning with hostile intentions against each other, soon collided just above the ground. And a battle of an indescribable scale and proportion unfolded next.
The beastly roars of the monsters shook the land below, and….
….And, horns being blown by the silver-armoured soldiers thunderously resounded out.
Weapons collided with other weapons; the sounds of armours shattering noisily rang out. The beastly roars soon morphed into screams and pained groans. The ground below was steadily being dyed the colour of blood.
The superiority in this battle was established very quickly.
The silver-armoured soldiers were very powerful. These guys easily sliced off the necks of the monsters that were strong enough to rip high-ranked Hunters apart with their bare hands.
Such powerful beings had formed a massive invading group, so perhaps it was only inevitable that the monsters were being swept away.
The balance was tilting noticeably now to their favour. Even then, silver-armoured soldiers continued to pour out from the Gates non-stop.
The waves upon waves of the silver soldiers crashing forward like the incoming tide erased all traces of living monsters off the dried plains in no time at all.
The war began as a fierce clash between two forces, but now, it descended into a blood-soaked massacre, instead.
Just like how Jin-Woo was with his foes, the swords and spears of the silver soldiers knew no mercy. Because of that, the number of monsters decreased quite rapidly.
Jin-Woo watched this scene of the horrifying monsters being killed off with little to no resistance and was overcome with a puzzling mixture of emotions.
‘Am I mourning all those people who lost their lives to these b*stards, or am I feeling rueful for humans not being able to possess powers like that….?’
Such trivial thoughts remained in his head for only a short while. The truly extraordinary event only happened afterwards, that was why.
With the complete annihilation of the monsters mere moments away…
The silver soldiers of the sky that violently pushed their enemies back suddenly stopped moving one at the time.
‘What’s going on?’
Could they possibly have developed a sense of pity for these things now, of all times? But, there was just no way. If they did, then they shouldn’t be gripping their weapons even tighter like that.
They were gripping their weapons so hard, in fact, their hands were beginning to tremble noticeably, too. On top of that, the emotions filling up the faces of these silver soldiers were as far from the ones of compassion as you could get. No, they were definitely filled with terror.
Their collective gazes were focused in a certain direction. And that was somewhere behind him.
Jin-Woo suddenly had a hunch. He felt that something extraordinary was about to happen behind him, one amazing enough to overturn this situation on its head.
However, his gaze didn’t immediately look behind him, but instead, to the ground below.
On top of this reddish-brown land, a black shadow was spreading out. This shadow rapidly spread beyond the blood dyeing the land red, as well as the mountains of corpses. And when this darkness sped past underneath these corpses, mysterious screams could be heard.
Screams that no one could tell where they were coming from.
Jin-Woo knew of a skill that was eerily similar to this – no, make that pretty much identical.
A powerful chill ran down his spine immediately.
He slowly, agonisingly slowly, turned his head around to take a look.
And there he found an impressive knight covered in jet-black armour from his head right down to his toes. From this knight, and the horse he was riding on, black aura-like strands of energy continuously rose up.
Why did this happen? No one told him, yet Jin-Woo could think of only one title when looking at that black knight.
‘….The Shadow Sovereign.’
Just by being in front of this being subjected him to an incredible pressure that was heavy enough to strangle him.
Whether it was the silver-armoured soldiers from the sky, monsters with intelligence, or even those without it, they all forgot to breathe and simply stared at this Shadow Sovereign.
Every single gaze within this battlefield was now looking at only this black knight.
The Sovereign glared at the soldiers of the sky, before extending his hand out as if he wanted to grasp something.
Jin-Woo now could see the sight of the silver-armoured soldiers flinch and start to back away in fear. The intolerable stillness that stifled one’s breaths pressed down on the shoulders of every single being under the heavens.
The Sovereign’s solemn voice shattered that stillness.
< Chapter 159 > Fin.