I Alone Level-Up
So, that’s what happened in the end.
The plan to block up a Gate sounded quite dangerous from the moment Yuri Orlov came up with the idea. Besides, wasn’t he trying to deal with a rank S Gate?
Didn’t matter whether it was a Hunter or Gate, rank S denoted that something was impossible to evaluate.
“Impossible to evaluate” – meaning, no one knew exactly what would pop out from the Gate, nor what kind of events would happen next. Even then, Yuri Orlov greatly overestimated his strength. And, in the end, his stupidity led to a truly horrifying result.
Jin-Woo’s expression became deeply complicated.
Association President Goh Gun-Hui had told him about what the Japanese Hunters were trying to do back in Jeju Island. It was unknown what their real goal was, but nevertheless, they commenced with their plan anyway.
If Jin-Woo didn’t show up on time, it’d have been extremely difficult for the Korean Hunters to get out of there alive even if the mutated ant monster hadn’t shown up.
And, even after trying something underhanded like that, the b*stard of the Japanese Association’s President had the gall to visit South Korea to threaten Goh Gun-Hui.
‘That man deserves to be punished, no doubt about that.’
However, that was the story only for the brain trust of the Japanese Association as well as the top-ranked Hunters who took part in the stinking scheme.
The innocent Japanese citizens not included in that story certainly didn’t deserve this.
There might have been some unresolved historical ‘feelings’ between the two nations, but that wasn’t a sin so grave that whole masses of people had to die because of it.
What’s even worse, this particular dungeon break occurred in the middle of the city.
Just because of some Orcs that came out from a Gate within a school, nearly half of all the students there had lost their lives. However, what would happen if a rank S Gate opened up in the middle of a huge city with a population of over 13 million? Obviously, it’d lead to a truly gruesome end result.
Not to forget, this result was partially brought upon by themselves, as well.
‘If Goto Ryuji and the other top Japanese Hunters were still alive, the end result could have been different.’
Goto Ryuji was strong. He was strong enough to endanger Jin-Woo for a moment back then. Even he felt greatly startled when the Japanese Hunter’s attack barely missed his eye by a hair’s breadth.
Would that be all?
Every single dead Japanese Hunter he found on Jeju Island was an exceptional individual that surpassed Korea’s own rank S Hunters.
He might not have known their fighting styles, but at least, that’s the impression he got after checking out the amount of magic energy still remaining on their corpses.
Back then, Jin-Woo didn’t want to turn blameless humans into ‘undead’ so he gave up on them. But they were such exceptional Hunters that he was greatly tempted to turn them into Shadow Soldiers.
‘Turning them into Shadow Soldiers would’ve been perfectly fine when I think about what they were trying to do, though!’
Too bad, he only got to learn the truth a long time after the fact, so there was nothing he could do about that.
In any case, such powerful Hunters got massacred in one go so it was only obvious that Japan simply lacked enough personnel to deal with a rank S Gate appearing within its borders.
In the end, this event wasn’t a calamity engineered by the heavens, but something called upon by the greed of humans, instead. A man-made disaster, in other words.
Cha Hae-In worriedly called out to him. Even now, Jin-Woo was still holding her wrist.
“I’m sorry. I was thinking of something else just now.”
Jin-Woo let go of her arm.
The reason why Cha Hae-In called out to him wasn’t because of the wrist, but his complexion had darkened considerably out of the blue, that’s why.
Did he have family members or relatives living in Japan? Such a question fleeted in and out of her mind, just then.
She still had no idea that the Japanese Hunter’s Association had cooked up such a dastardly scheme. So, she thought of the events unfolding in Japan as merely an accident – no, more correctly, a horrifying incident, instead.
He got to solve his first question of what had happened to Japan. Jin-Woo asked the second thing he was curious about.
“What brought you guys over here, anyway?”
Currently, there were Cha Hae-In, Woo Jin-Cheol, and then, Sohn Ki-Hoon and his team members, who Jin-Woo met when fighting against Fangs, present here.
High-ranking Hunters from the Hunters Guild and the members from the Monitoring Division, the ones that didn’t really seem to have a common reason to form a team, had gathered all around him.
Woo Jin-Cheol finished checking up on the injuries of his subordinates and took a step forward to clarify the situation.
“Actually, we came here first after receiving a report from this location. But then, we learned that you had entered the Gate, and the magic energy leaking out from the dungeon itself was so great that….”
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to the Chief of the Monitoring Division. Perhaps the number of casualties had been far too great, Woo Jin-Cheol’s expression was really stiff right now.
“We thought that our strengths would not be adequate enough so I requested for assistance from the Hunters Guild that had been getting ready for a raid nearby.”
The right to request assistance in emergencies. It was the highest form of authority the Association possessed over the Guilds. Even the Hunters Guild wouldn’t have been able to reject the request.
Many had come to aid him, and in the process, many unfortunate sacrifices had to be made. Jin-Woo felt his heart begin to ache.
As the youth grew quieter in contemplation, Woo Jin-Cheol cautiously raised a question.
“May I ask you a question?”
“How did you know that you’d find the dual dungeon in this particular Gate, Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
That was a very pertinent question to ask.
As the Chairperson of the Hunters Guild, which had suffered huge losses today, Choi Jong-In was deeply curious about this, as well.
How did Seong Jin-Woo know that there was a dual dungeon hiding within a rank C Gate, and that a monster capable of exceeding everyone’s imagination was waiting for him there?
Hunters who had heard of this before coming here were all feeling quite puzzled from this unanswered question.
The cavern they were in trembled. The Gate sent them the signal that it’d close not too long from now, yet the attention of these Hunters were solely focused on Jin-Woo’s answer.
Jin-Woo decided to be as honest as he could be.
“…It summoned me here.”
“…..Wait, it summoned you here?”
Woo Jin-Cheol asked back, his expression showing his disbelief.
“Yes. I received a message telling me to come here.”
“Can we view that message, as well?”
Jin-Woo shook his head. Then, he pointed to his temple with his finger.
“I’m sorry. It was a message that appeared in my head.”
The answer nobody expected to hear rendered everyone utterly speechless.
Jin-Woo didn’t lie here, though. It was just that he chose to omit a few other unnecessary details and simply delivered the core of the truth, that was all.
His straightforward expression of hiding nothing managed to overpower other Hunters.
Woo Jin-Cheol could legitimately claim that he knew Jin-Woo the longest out of this group. Even then, he had no choice but throw up the white flag with a shake of his head.
‘He’s… not someone I can read with my common sense.’
The dungeon summoned him through his head?
Could this youth be some kind of an incarnation of a godly being sent to this world so he could smash apart all the dungeons that appear here?
‘Why am I even thinking of such nonsense….?’
Woo Jin-Cheol inwardly gave a wry chuckle. While he was doing that, Jin-Woo soundlessly brushed past him.
He walked past the broken doorway and re-entered the chamber. Cha Hae-In panicked and called out to him in a hurry.
“Hunter Seong?? If we don’t leave right now, it could get dangerous!”
Jin-Woo turned around after hearing her worried voice and made his reply.
How could he not know of the dangers?
Jin-Woo had walked on this lengthy passageway to get here twice already. It was almost an hour’s distance even with the walking speed of Hunters. If they wished to get out of here before the Gate closed, they certainly couldn’t tarry any longer.
Not only that, Jin-Woo’s own old man went missing inside a Gate, too.
He heard that his dad, despite getting grievously injured, still managed to carry out his comrades from the boss chamber one by one before he himself got left behind as the Gate closed.
There was no one out there who understood the dangers of a dungeon better than Jin-Woo. That was why his reply of “I know” was filled with his conviction. Even then….
“I can’t leave behind the Hunters who came running for my sake, now can I?”
Hunters getting anxious to leave all froze up in their spots after hearing his words. Every single one of those who lost their lives inside that chamber was a comrade to them. If possible, they didn’t want to leave anyone behind.
However, there simply wasn’t enough time to take all the deceased with them. Not only were these Hunters far too exhausted, but trying to locate the remains buried under the debris of the stone statues would mean they had to search through all corners of the chamber, as well.
And that was why they turned around to leave with bitter tears in their eyes, but now….
“I’m taking them back with me.”
One sentence from Jin-Woo and the Hunters began shuddering as if a bolt of electricity was travelling within their bodies.
No one argued that there was no time, that they had to get out of here. No, they simply watched on in a daze.
Choi Jong-In, who had been silently enduring until then, spoke with a powerless voice.
“Can we… ask you for this favour?”
These Guild members were like his family. If it was possible, he didn’t want them to rot away stuck in a cold corner of this d*mnable cave.
Jin-Woo nodded his head and turned around.
His hearts were quietly beating away.
‘I need to sense a little deeper.’
Basically, his two hearts always beat as one. He needed to concentrate really hard to separate the sound of the Black Heart beating from his regular heart. Jin-Woo gathered the magical energy sent out by this mysterious heart towards his fingertips.
‘Did he do it like this?’
Jin-Woo tried to mimic the hand gesture of the Shadow Sovereign he saw within the data’s playback.
His hand reaching up as if he was grasping something – without a doubt, he could sense enormous magical power going crazy within his hand right now.
‘I can do this.’
Jin-Woo felt this powerful self-assurance enter his mind.
He immediately located the whereabouts of the deceased Hunters through their magic energy emission. His eyes gleamed brightly. Shortly afterwards, he stopped silently studying the interior of the chamber and spoke up.
And when he did….
All the remains of the Hunters buried under the rubble of the stone statues all uniformly rose up into the air.
Hunters watching Jin-Woo with bated breaths all cried out in shock.
Never mind the fact that he was able to locate all the dead Hunters in such a short span of time, he even managed to lift them up without touching them? Wasn’t this like one of those telekinetic superpowers often seen in movies?
The floating Hunters were carried out of the doorway via invisible hands.
‘How can this be….?’
‘How can something like this even be possible?’
Just like how normal people would get surprised by the Hunters, these Hunters were getting even more astonished by Jin-Woo’s feats.
Even Choi Jong-In, who could be called very knowledgeable when it came to the manipulation of magical energy, couldn’t quite believe what he just witnessed with his own two eyes.
‘Just what kind of a skill is that?’
It was certainly a skill he had never even heard of before.
After seeing Jin-Woo’s powers personally, Choi Jong-In realised that he had been greatly mistaken about something. When he saw the angel statue for the first time, he thought that such a ‘thing’ would obviously be able to defeat Jin-Woo.
However, his thoughts were wrong. It was a complete miscalculation.
Which monster would be able to deal with a Hunter capable of wielding powers like this as if it was nothing to him? Not realising that he was doing it, Choi Jong-In began shaking his head.
In actual fact, the angel statue was eliminated in an instant almost as soon as Jin-Woo opened his eyes. Only sighs of amazement could come out after seeing this young man’s capabilities.
Jin-Woo carefully moved the cold, unmoving corpses of the Hunters to one side and summoned out his Shadow Soldiers. The restriction only applied within the temple itself so he could call them out no problem outside the doorway.
While the living Hunters couldn’t close shut their slack jaws, the Shadow Soldiers proceeded to pick up the dead Hunters. Everyone forgot what they wanted to say and simply looked at Jin-Woo as he addressed them.
“Let’s get out of here.”
It was then, the dungeon rumbled one more time as if it was waiting for this moment. The Hunters all nodded their heads.
Soon after they set off, the Shadow Soldiers ran right behind them. Jin-Woo remained behind and watched them move, before turning around to face Cha Hae-In who also hadn’t left yet.
Although her physical wounds had been healed, her expression showed how fatigued she was.
‘That is obvious, though.’
Even he himself needed to put in a lot of effort to defeat that angel statue. She’d definitely be exhausted trying to defend against such a creature all by herself.
Jin-Woo walked over to her and asked.
“Would you like me to carry you?”
Cha Hae-In formed a thin smile and shook her head.
He reached out to grasp her wrist again, and she quietly stared at him. He wanted her to feel at ease, at least by a little bit, so he relaxedly spoke to her.
“We should get going, too.”
Cha Hae-In, depressed by the deaths of her comrades, wordlessly nodded her head.
Hunters began emerging one by one from the Gate.
Right up until then, those waiting around outside the Gate had no idea the scale of the event taking place within. However, they all realised that something really bad had happened after seeing the deceased Hunters being carried out by the Shadow Soldiers.
“Oh, my god….”
“Are those all….?!”
The members of the Bravery Guild who had reported this matter, and the female Association employee standing by, all saw this procession and their complexions turned ashen in an instant.
The number of casualties was just far too great.
Weren’t these people the elite Hunters of the country? The Hunters belonging to the Hunters Guild and the Monitoring Division were called some of the very best, yet….
After everyone had emerged, Jin-Woo and Cha Hae-In simultaneously stepped out of the Gate. Enough time had passed on the outside and it was night-time already.
Reporter Kim had been staying put until then to keep an eye on the situation, and when he saw the conditions of those two, his eyes grew extraordinarily wide from sheer shock.
The heavy traces of intense battle were clearly visible on the bodies of these two rank S Hunters – dried up, caked blood; torn, ripped clothing; their dishevelled hair.
Sure, Cha Hae-In still looked quite lovely even then. But Hunter Seong Jin-Woo gave off a feeling that he’d been through a bitter war all by himself.
‘This is it…. This really is it!’
Reporter Kim raised his camera with his trembling hands.
This was the reason why he became a reporter in the first place. And that was to document event such as this one.
He wanted to let others know that there were some people who willingly put their lives on the line to fight for the masses in some forgotten corner of their country, even though everyone’s attention was focused on the events taking place in Japan.
Almost twenty of the country’s top Hunters had perished here today. If such a Gate had broken open, then the scale of destruction and losses to life would have exceeded imaginations. These people and their sacrifices had prevented a future tragedy.
However, if Reporter Kim wasn’t here, would others ever get to know about these folks and their heroic battle today? He had been circling around the Association just so he could stumble into a story like this one day.
He was so emotionally moved that tears were forming in his eyes as he busily snapped away photos.
Woo Jin-Cheol lost all the strength in his legs right after leaving the Gate and settled down on the ground. Jin-Woo looked for him and walked closer.
“….Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim.”
Woo Jin-Cheol tried to get up, but Jin-Woo stopped the older man. Instead, the latter pointed at Reporter Kim over yonder.
“He’s taking my photos, but is that allowed?”
Woo Jin-Cheol smirked and made his reply.
“It is indeed disallowed to film you in an individual capacity, Seong Hunter-nim. However, just like how it was back in the Jeju Island raid, it’s impossible to block the report on the incident itself.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
Mom would get worried if she saw his messed-up appearance, though. He was sort of worried about that happening, but then again, it didn’t mean he could forcibly stop the reporter from doing his job.
Indeed, that reporter was doing what he was supposed to be doing.
He also wished for someone to let the world know of the ultimate sacrifices these Hunters made while fighting to ensure that no tragedy would unfold in the near future, as well.
A quiet wind seemed to blow by. The sounds of distant sirens from approaching ambulances were carried by the winds.
Every newspaper carried the front-page headline of the dungeon break happening in Japan, except for one publication. It was the only one that carried the news of the dual dungeon incident.
This paper sold the most number of copies that day.
< Chapter 165 > Fin.