I Alone Level-Up
In front of the Red Gate.
Baek Yun-Ho’s expression remained gloomy. Ahn Sahng-Min provided a short summary on who Seong Jin-Woo was, but his anxiety level hadn’t decreased by one bit.
“In the end, that’s all speculation, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. You’re right.”
Ahn Sahng-Min readily accepted that assessment. It was true that he didn’t know anything about Seong Jin-Woo, after all.
‘But, if the boss checked Hunter Seong Jin-Woo out with his own eyes, he’d have changed his mind right away.’
There was something different about Seong Jin-Woo.
And the fact that he couldn’t adequately describe that with words frustrated Ahn Sahng-Min to no end.
Baek Yun-Ho’s gaze shifted back to the Red Gate.
“In the end, the only person I can believe in is Kim Cheol….”
It was then.
“Sir, there won’t be any problems with Hunter Kim Cheol, I assure you.”
One more person butted in among the group of Baek Yun-Ho, Ahn Sahng-Min, and Hyun Ki-Cheol. The gazes of three men automatically shifted in that direction simultaneously.
It was Ju Seong-Chan, Chief of the First Division of the White Tiger Guild.
He scanned the three people in front and spoke in a proud voice.
“I’ve been training Hunter Kim Cheol quite strictly, so he could be ready for all contingencies.”
Originally, the initial training of new recruits was left to the Second Division, but the First Division would be in charge of the Awakened ranked A or higher.
Those promising individuals who were scheduled to enter the ranks of the main combat force soon got to enjoy a different starting point from everyone else.
Seeing Ju Seong-Chan’s confidence, Baek Yun-Ho’s expression softened slightly.
“How were Hunter Kim Cheol’s grades?”
“They are excellent, sir. Just his combat capabilities alone, he’d not fall behind anyone from the current members of the Guild’s main combat force.”
“Is that so?”
A smile managed to return to Baek Yun-Ho’s lips.
Kim Cheol was a rank A. Even among high ranked Hunters, he was a talent that must be held on to.
If, as the leader of this raid team, he commanded the rank B Hunters well and managed to clear this Gate…!
There would be some losses among the rank C Hunters, but from the White Tiger’s perspective, the survival of high ranked Hunters came first.
‘It’s a relief that Hunter Kim Cheol’s abilities are top-notch….’
The weakened sparks of hope regained some life again.
Ju Seong-Chan managed to calm the boss man down and narrowed his eyes at Ahn Sahng-Min, clearly in derision.
“From what I heard just now… A rank E Hunter who might have gone through a Re-Awakening process, was it? You were saying something about that….”
Ju Seong-Chan snorted dismissively.
“My Hunter Kim Cheol should prove to be more effective than someone like that, a Hunter with no proven qualities.”
Ahn Sahng-Min’s expression hardened. He was being looked down on here. However, he didn’t raise his voice and let anger take over him.
‘Let’s just wait and see who’s correct at the end of the day….’
The four men shifted their gazes at the same time over to the Red Gate that had trapped their Hunters.
The crimson light oozing from the Gate seemed especially more ominous than ever before.
“I’m guessing you’re not a rank E. Am I right?”
The female Hunter asked Jin-Woo quite openly.
Jin-Woo opened his mouth in response.
“Well, then. Let me ask you something as well.”
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to Kim Cheol and the Hunters gathering around him. They were busy planning their next move before they got going.
“You guys, you’re supposed to be new recruits, yet how can you be this calm?”
“The first thing we’ve been taught is that ‘Anything can happen inside a dungeon’, you see.”
….Anything could happen inside a dungeon, she said.
Jin-Woo knew this fact better than anyone here, actually.
“Every one of us has been trained properly. Especially that Kim Cheol over there. He even received a special training regime, too. He’s scheduled to join up with the White Tiger’s main combat force.”
They didn’t fear dungeons, because they had received prior training.
Jin-Woo could only be flabbergasted by that revelation. And then, almost right away, he realised that all of these people were no different from Hahn Song-Yi.
She said that they had been sufficiently trained or whatever, but just what kind of uses would that have here? They were simply showing off without realising how terrifying a dungeon could become.
‘Knowing something and experiencing it are two different things.’
More so, when your fragile belief of you knowing everything about dungeons develops just a tiny little crack – it’d all come crashing down like a dam with a hole getting swept away by the deluge of water.
Building up one’s confidence took a long time, but breaking it down only took a single moment. He could see the fate in store for Kim Cheol’s team already.
They might look okay from the outside, but in the end, they were all helpless noobs.
“You still haven’t answered me, though.”
After hearing that, Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted back to the strange woman.
“My question. You haven’t answered it yet.”
The question about whether he was a rank E or not.
She seemed to be a rather tenacious customer, this woman.
“Why should I tell you that?”
He replied in a blunt and a bit curt manner, but the female Hunter, Park Hui-Jin, was now crying out in elation and clenched her fist. Inwardly, of course.
Park Hui-Jin had met many people in her life and she immediately knew what Jin-Woo’s response meant.
And that would be his unbridled confidence.
‘Yes, I didn’t see it wrong!’
There was another thing that gave her even more assurance; while she was being trained back in the White Tiger Guild, she had often witnessed the movements of many high-ranked Hunters.
However, Jin-Woo’s hand just now….
She had never seen anyone move as quickly as Jin-Woo’s hand catching that arrow.
‘I mean, all I could do was to barely confirm what just happened, even with my eyesight!’
She used to be a top-tier athlete before becoming a melee-type Hunter through her Awakening, so she was pretty confident of her dynamic vision.
Park Hui-Jin’s eyes began sparkling.
‘This guy, he’s at least rank A.’
Or, even higher than that….
In order to ascertain a more definite answer, Park Hui-Jin asked him again.
“Don’t be like that now. Can’t you tell me, please?”
“Don’t feel like it.”
That was the end of their conversation. Jin-Woo turned his head away.
He definitely didn’t feel like being in the receiving end of endless stream of questions, and also, Kim Cheol was walking closer to them as well.
Jin-Woo’s eyes and Kim Cheol’s met.
Kim Cheol’s voice was harsh, low. Didn’t matter what he was trying to convey here, he sounded threatening and menacing.
“….Be using the road.”
He didn’t saunter over here just to declare which path they would be using, though. No, Kim Cheol’s eyes were asking what Jin-Woo’s group would do. Along with the hidden threat of ‘Don’t you dare follow us’.
Jin-Woo scanned his surroundings once more, before reverting his gaze back to Kim Cheol.
“And we will be going through the forest.”
“…I’ll wish you luck.”
‘Well, you guys will be the ones needing that luck later on, though…’
Jin-Woo didn’t mouth his inner thoughts, however.
“Sure thing. You too.”
With that, Jin-Woo’s group headed towards the forest.
After ensuring that the group had completely disappeared into the forest, Kim Cheol began guffawing out uncontrollably.
“What a bunch of idiots.”
“Look over there.”
Kim Cheol uncrossed his arms and pointed towards some trees.
Not just one or two, either – everywhere he pointed at, trees bore the scars that suspiciously looked like claw marks of potentially gigantic creatures.
“That…. isn’t that?!”
“It’s a bear.”
“An Ice Bear?!”
A bear-type monster, infamous among all the beast-type monsters as the most ferocious! Those claw marks were them marking their territory.
The Hunters in Kim Cheol’s group saw those and clicked their tongues.
“It’d been better if they stayed put here and waited till the end….”
“Looks like innocent people will die because of a rank E taking the lead.”
“I mean, would that rank E have received any prior training like us?”
Kim Cheol stared at the forest and chuckled derisively.
‘That’s to be expected from a measly rank E.’
Suddenly, Kim Cheol’s smile disappeared.
‘Most of that group is rank Cs, and there is a rank B among them too, so how come…..?’
How come he thought Jin-Woo was that group’s leader? Indeed, he hadn’t felt that anything was amiss, right up until he realised this weird incongruency by himself.
Still, Kim Cheol shook his head.
‘….Well, it doesn’t matter.’
They were all going to die soon, anyway. Worrying about themselves took precedence over what would happen to the weaklings who wouldn’t last for long, to begin with.
There was nothing he could do about the dead, but well, shouldn’t the ones that were supposed to live, live on?
Kim Cheol turned towards the road and spoke up.
Jin-Woo took the lead and walked up ahead.
But before long, Park Hui-Jin stood in front of him.
“What is it?”
“Have you lost your mind?”
Jin-Woo crossed his arms and displayed how unhappy he was to hear that. Meaning, she’d have to be careful with her follow-up.
Perhaps she understood Jin-Woo’s warning, Park Hui-Jin’s voice had softened somewhat.
“I’m sorry. But I need to say this.”
Park Hui-Jin’s finger pointed towards one of the surrounding trees.
“Can you see that?”
There was a huge claw mark on the tree’s bark.
“Over there, too! And there!”
Almost every single tree had their barks greatly damaged and it was hard to find one that was still intact.
“This entire place is full of the bear’s territorial markings, you know?! This entire forest is the bear type monster’s habitat!”
Dogs or apes were weaker than tigers or lions. Such logic also applied to monsters as well. The tiger or lion type monsters were much more difficult to fight against when compared to dog or ape type monsters.
So, what about a bear-type, then?
A bear, a polar bear no less, was seen as one of the strongest carnivorous land animals out there. And right now, Jin-Woo’s group had entered a forest where monsters based on such animals were residing.
Of course, Park Hui-Jin would get angry.
“We need to go back right now! Before the monsters show up!”
Jin-Woo clicked his tongue.
Park Hui-Jin thought that Jin-Woo would show one of the three responses – get angry, get stunned, or accept what she told him.
Unfortunately for her, her expectation was wide off the mark.
She was the one advising him against the irrational and hasty decision here, yet it was Jin-Woo looking at her as if she was the idiot.
‘Why… why is he looking at me like that?!’
Park Hui-Jin’s face reddened up from anger.
“W-what is it?”
Her voice rose up again.
Jin-Woo spat out a long sigh and opened his mouth.
“It’s difficult to find a tree without the territorial markings, which means that there are more than one or two Ice Bears here, yes?”
“T-tthat is why we much go ba…..”
“That is precisely why we’re moving through the forest.”
Park Hui-Jin’s eyes went round in confusion.
‘She still doesn’t get it even with that massive hint?’
Jin-Woo had little choice but to tell it straight to her.
“When we’re moving through the forest, we only have to worry about Ice Bears.”
Only then did Park Hui-Jin understood Jin-Woo’s intention.
The meaning behind lots of Ice Bears was simple – that there were no other monsters strong enough to hunt Ice Bears in this forest.
To be more precise, the group didn’t have to worry about fighting monsters stronger than Ice Bears here.
‘Why haven’t I thought about that….?’
Park Hui-Jin became ashamed about shouting at Jin-Woo just now.
Her head dropped low, even the skin of her neck reddening up from embarrassment.
Jin-Woo continued to click his tongue.
The whole reason why a dungeon was a scary place was that no one knew what might pop out when you were inside. Well, you wouldn’t be able to come up with a plan if you didn’t know what kind of enemies were waiting for you there.
However, didn’t the enemies of this place graciously reveal themselves already?
‘…Bear-type monsters, is it?’
Jin-Woo didn’t know how strong these Ice Bears were, but he was sure of them being weaker than those two White Phantom archers. They were wearing clothing that looked to be made out of bear felt.
That was why had chosen the forest route.
He was thinking of traversing the forest and increasing his level, and at the same time, keep an eye out on Kim Cheol’s group and the movements of the White Phantoms while waiting for his chance to act.
That was the safest way available.
Abruptly, Jin-Woo became rather puzzled by what he saw.
“….Why is your face still so red?”
Park Hui-Jin’s face was far too red to be normal. She couldn’t raise her head and managed to squeeze out a voice that was smaller than a buzzing mosquito.
“It… it’s because… too cold….”
Jin-Woo spat out a long groan and summoned his Store. He quickly browsed through the items for sale and spotted thick fur coats and shoes designed for Winter.
[Item: Warm fur coat]
Warms up the wearer’s body.
Price: 10 Gold
[Item: Warm boots]
Once worn, provides warmth to wearer’s feet.
‘Fur coat and the shoes cost 10 Gold each….’
Unlike items with added effects, regular items didn’t cost a lot to buy. No, compared to the amount of Gold in his possession, they were oh-so-cheap.
[Remaining Gold: 431,930]
‘Still, I’d never have guessed that I have to buy japtem with my Gold…..’
Jin-Woo chose ‘Buy’ for all of them.
Since he couldn’t just give to some and ignore others, Jin-Woo spent 100 Gold and bought the articles of clothing for all five people.
Five coats and five pairs of boots suddenly popped up in front of his eyes. And of course, the eyes of all four people, excluding Jin-Woo, all grew super-wide.
“W-what the heck?! Was that separate space magic?!”
Park Hui-Jin was taken aback, too, and she hurriedly raised her head to look at Jin-Woo.
Not caring whether they were shocked or not, Jin-Woo spoke to them disinterestedly.
“Put them on.”
He finished speaking and reached down to grab the closest fur coat, but then, Hahn Song-Yi suddenly grasped his sleeve.
When their gazes met, Hahn Song-Yi asked him while looking rather scared and confused.
“A-ahjussi, just what’s going on with you? You managed to catch that arrow, and now, you used some strange magic to take these clothes out, too.”
Frowns formed on the forehead of Jin-Woo. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that, at this rate, he’d be swarmed by the endless streams of questions and get irritated to no end.
‘Right, let’s use this chance to clearly draw the line.’
Jin-Woo raised his voice and spoke in a firm voice.
“Hahn Song-Yi, I brought you here with me, so I will take full responsibility and protect you. However…”
Jin-Woo’s voice became colder next.
“….Don’t ask me about anything.”
Jin-Woo then swept his gaze against Park Hui-Jin as well as other Hunters tagging along.
“The same goes for the rest of you. Do not ask me anything, and do not demand anything from me.”
He didn’t stop there, though.
“If you don’t like it, then you can just leave now. I won’t stop you.”
The two male Hunters originally didn’t choose to follow Jin-Woo, but only tagged along because of the rank B Park Hui-Jin. They alternated their gazes between the fur coats and Jin-Woo, before hurriedly shaking their heads.
< Chapter 60 > Fin.