I Alone Level-Up
The shadow soldiers rapidly closed in on their targets. Unfortunately, the angry swipes of the Ice Bears’ front paws were faster than their movements.
A single hit, and one shadow soldier was obliterated.
If it wasn’t a ‘shadow’ underneath the armours but an actual human being, that attack would surely have ripped him apart into several pieces.
Jin-Woo frowned deeply.
‘As I thought, did I ask for too much?’
Whether it was their physical strength or their body sizes, these Ice Bears were difficult enemies for the shadow soldiers to fight against.
However, something quite surprising happened next.
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened wider.
The soldier with its chest torn open by the Ice Bear’s attack suddenly transformed into a clump of black smoke just before it fell to the ground.
The black smoke coagulated in a spot a couple of steps away and it reverted back to its original appearance.
Jin-Woo’s expression brightened up.
The ‘undeads’ – he remembered this crucial fact that he had unwittingly forgotten about until now.
The Ice Bear became even more agitated than before after realising its attack was all for nothing, and it roared out loudly.
And so, as the infantrymen bought time out in front, the magic soldiers standing at the back had completed their spells.
The balls of flames leaving the ends of the magic soldiers’ hands exploded here, there, and everywhere. The shadow soldiers swept up in the explosions regenerated right away, but on the other hand, the Ice Bears could only roll around screaming in sheer pain and agony, as their bodies caught on fire.
Meanwhile, the shadow soldiers didn’t waste time and swiftly approached the defenceless Bears, before stabbing down on them with their blades.
One by one, the triumphant and arrogant Ice Bears were falling at the cooperative tactics of the shadow infantrymen and the magic soldiers.
Jin-Woo continued to spectate on the proceedings with an expression filled with great interest and happiness.
The infantrymen and their quick regenerative abilities; the magic soldiers and their superb firepower.
The overall combat prowess of the shadow soldiers had far exceeded his initial expectations.
Soon, the Ice Bears were forced into retreat by the might of the shadow soldiers and were pushed back towards the entrance of the caves.
He was thinking that the end of the battle was drawing near, but then….
Accompanied by the eardrum-shaking roar, a huge shadow slowly emerged from one of the caves.
Even Jin-Woo’s eyes grew extra round and super-large.
The bear that came out was at least a head taller and double the body size compared to others around it.
Just a single swipe from this huge bear, and multiple soldiers were blown away.
The regeneration rate of the soldiers could not keep up with the huge Ice Bear’s relentless attacks.
Jin-Woo could only leak out a groan after seeing that.
“So, it’s the leader of the pack, is it….?”
He kind of suspected that, since there was a pack, there should be a leader leading it, too. However, the b*stard turned out to much bigger and stronger than he had anticipated.
The huge Ice Bear leader obliterated all the shadow soldiers appearing before it, and approached Jin-Woo at a frightening speed.
It was at this point that a message popped up in his view.
[Your Mana has been depleted and shadow soldiers cannot regenerate anymore.]
He hurriedly checked his MP value, and just as the System had warned him, it was totally gone.
Once his MP had been drained. The obliterated shadow soldiers didn’t regenerate and simply entered back into Jin-Woo’s shadow.
In other words, in order to regenerate the lost soldiers, he needed lots more Mana.
‘That d*mn Mana….’
One more reason to enhance his Intelligence Stat, then.
Jin-Woo scratched the side of his head. With the appearance of the Ice Bear leader, the flow of the battle had reversed completely.
However, Jin-Woo still had plenty of leeway.
‘Since their boss has shown up, this side should also step up.’
Jin-Woo, still standing there with his arms crossed, summoned the ‘boss’ of the shadow soldiers.
One more shadow escaped from Jin-Woo’s shadow.
And from that shadow, a knight wearing a helm with decorative mane rose up soundlessly.
Jin-Woo pointed forward with his chin.
Igrit bowed to Jin-Woo, before rushing towards the Ice Bear leader.
Tap, tap, tap, tap!
Igrit lightly evaded the Ice Bear leader’s front paw, and slid between its hind legs. It brushed past the hind legs again, pulled out a dagger and cut the Bear’s tendon.
That was the beginning.
Igrit unsheathed his longsword and deftly evaded the Bear’s enraged attacks, all the while shaving away at the giant monster’s body with his blade.
Tendons, claws, front paw, legs, torso – bits and chunks of meat from various areas of the monster sheared off and fell to the ground piece by piece.
Jin-Woo could only gasp out in admiration at Igrit’s crafty and elaborate movements.
The last place Igrit hit was the bear’s head.
The giant Ice Bear’s head separated from its body and flew away. Before it landed on the ground, though, Igrit easily snatched it. He trod proudly towards Jin-Woo, and knelt before him.
And then, he placed the dead bear’s head before Jin-Woo’s feet. It was as if the knight was presenting the spoils of victory to his sovereign.
Jin-Woo swallowed dry saliva and gazed at the kneeling Igrit and his bowed head.
‘If Igrit decided to use his sword from the beginning, would I have been able to defeat him?’
The Ice Bears, without their leader present, lost all semblance of order and became utterly confused, before they were cleanly swept away by the remaining shadow soldiers. That brought about the end to the battles.
The result was truly satisfying.
[Shadow Infantryman Lv. 2]
[Shadow Infantryman Lv. 3]
[Shadow magic soldier Lv. 2]
The levels of the soldiers had risen up nicely. Also, as these shadow soldiers were seen as a part of his skill, even Jin-Woo’s level had risen up by 3.
Most of all, there was another point he found much to his liking.
[Shadow extraction was a success.]
….And that point would be the fact that he could recruit new ‘friends’ now.
From the shadows of several Ice Bears that Jin-Woo had selected, which obviously included the boss bear, black shapes began to slowly rise up.
‘And I thought that armour-wearing bears would pop up….’
His expectation turned out to be far off the mark, unfortunately.
These creatures came with the name tag that said ‘shadow beast soldier’; at a casual glance, they kind of resembled bears, but it was still difficult to tell whether these monsters were actually corporeal or not.
The creatures continued to pant as the black steam-like fog rose up from their backs.
‘Well, uh, they might not look that great but, they are definitely the shadows of the Ice Bears.’
That explosive strength, that destructive power!! Without a doubt, they would prove to be useful.
It happened then.
Jin-Woo’s ears twitched after hearing the roars of bears coming from the distance. There were several of them, as a matter of fact.
‘Meaning, this isn’t the only bear farm, huh?’
It was already getting too late today, so should he pay a visit there tomorrow?
A bright smile formed on Jin-Woo’s face.
His comrades screamed in despair.
Kim Cheol’s bloodshot eyes shot open wide.
‘No, this can’t be!!’
How can I….
How can this Kim Cheol fail?!
He was supposed to become the elite of the White Tiger Guild. They even trained him with the special program so he’d enter the Guild’s main combat force right away.
However, to fail like this?
He could not acknowledge it.
While enduring against the biting cold and starvation, they fought off against a group of snowmen. Then, they encountered snow giants. They lost two of their numbers, but in the end, emerged victorious against the giants. He thought that the conquest of this ‘dungeon’ was going according to plan.
As soon as the desperate struggle against the snow giants ended, the White Phantoms sneak attacked from the rear as if they were waiting for this chance.
These wicked, treacherous b*stards had been in hiding, waiting for the raid team to exhaust all their stamina first.
What happened next was a one-sided massacre. In the blink of an eye, the Hunters were annihilated.
A fallen Hunter reached out towards Kim Cheol with his bloodied hand.
Kim Cheol could only retreat in faltering steps.
Suddenly, a White Phantom appeared on top of this fallen Hunter. It pulled out a dagger and swiped it under the Hunter’s neck.
The White Phantom smiled as it sliced the neck off and raised its head to look at Kim Cheol.
Kim Cheol could only scream in terror.
And then, not even taking one look behind him, he ran straight into the forest.
There were Ice Bears in the forest?
Compared to snowmen, snow giants, and the White Phantoms that appeared before him, those unseen Ice Bears came across as laughable existences right now.
Kim Cheol summoned every ounce of his energy and ran, and then ran even harder.
The White Phantoms glared at the departing back of fleeing Kim Cheol and raised their bow. Just as they took aim and got ready to fire….
A White Phantom with white hair extending all the way down to its waist raised its arm and stopped the attack.
The White Phantoms lowered their bows.
When the long-haired ‘Elf’ signalled the others to follow Kim Cheol, the White Phantoms began disappearing from where they stood one by one.
Kim Cheol ran out of the thick bushes.
“Pant, pant, pant….”
He couldn’t catch his breaths at all. Still, when he recalled the derisive smirks on the White Phantoms’ faces as they massacred the Hunters, he felt like peeing himself from fear.
His gaze inexplicably lowered to his hands.
He couldn’t feel much from his frozen hands now. He had lost all feelings in his feet a long time ago.
In his current condition, he couldn’t even fight properly.
‘If it weren’t for this d*mn cold…. No, if we weren’t starving for several days, we wouldn’t have been annihilated like that.’
In the end, Kim Cheol couldn’t acknowledge the failure of the raid team… no, his own failure.
Muttering to himself, Kim Cheol raised his head.
‘By the way, where am I? How deep in the forest is this?’
Kim Cheol began scanning the surroundings. Then, he picked up on a faint smell coming from a distance.
Kim Cheol began following that smell.
It wasn’t that far.
Once he walked past the trees and escaped out into an open area, he was greeted by an unbelievable spectacle.
‘But, how can this be?!’
He found over twenty dead Ice Bears surrounding a cave entrance.
And he thought it was odd to not see a single Ice Bear when every single tree was marked by them!
“What is going on here?”
Kim Cheol investigated the conditions of the carcasses. They all showed sword-inflicted wounds. Some of them even had signs of being burnt alive.
Almost immediately, Kim Cheol thought about Seong Jin-Woo and the Hunters following him.
“Could they have….? Did they do this to these Ice Bears?”
No, it couldn’t be.
Kim Cheol shook his head.
The wounds on Ice Bears were inflicted with long swords. As far as he knew, none of the Hunters that went into the forest used a sword.
‘Besides, the two rank E Hunters didn’t even wield any weapons.’
If he were to look at the situation objectively, then there was no chance that those people were still alive. In that case, there could be only one explanation.
‘There are White Phantoms nearby!’
His heart fell to the pit of his stomach.
Here he was, thinking that he had finally lost those d*mnable White Phantoms, yet they were actually residing close by!
Scared stiff now, Kim Cheol held his breath and hurriedly returned to the forest.
A little bit further away, and a little bit faster than before…
He wanted to escape from the territory of the White Phantoms as soon as possible.
Around the same time.
An Ice Bear cried out and fell to the ground.
Shadow soldiers pounced on it and made sure it was no longer able to draw breath.
Jin-Woo was standing at another ‘bear farm’.
It had been five days since his arrival in this snowy world. He had already cleaned up three bear farms in the meantime.
‘Looks like I’ve killed most of the bears in this forest.’
His level had risen up quite a bit during this time. It was the same story for his soldiers, too. Initially, they had to attack a bear in a pair to kill it, but now, they could eke out a victory in a one-on-one fight.
This was very satisfying.
Once the Stats of the soldiers rose up, Jin-Woo assigned them different roles.
He could store 30 shadows now. 28 soldiers participated in battles, one went around picking up magic crystals, while the remaining one secured the bear meat.
He didn’t even have to move a finger but still ended up with loot from the Hunts, so this was proving to be oh-so-convenient for him.
‘I can’t sense the presence of other monsters around here anymore.’
It seemed that he had more or less took care of all the monsters inside the forest.
In that case….
‘Should I think about killing the boss?’
It could be at least a month, or in the worst case scenario, several months before the dungeon break occurs. He couldn’t just sit here and wait for a Gate that who knows when it’d open up.
‘And, I still need to kill that insolent little Elf b*stard, too….’
That measly monster that dared to provoke Hunters. Its cocky grin still remained etched in his memory.
The scent of meat coming was from somewhere.
Kim Cheol sniffed the air with his nose, now super-perceptive due to his extreme hunger.
The only food he ate since his imprisonment behind the Red Gate was a single rabbit. Picking up on the smell of food, he reflexively swallowed down his ravenous saliva.
Perhaps, the White Phantoms were having a meal nearby.
‘Still, if their numbers are low, then….’
Then, he could subdue them and snatch away their food. His hunger was extreme enough for him to arrive at such a conclusion.
‘Let’s go and take a look.’
Kim Cheol walked as silently as possible and cautiously approached the source of the smell.
He hid inside the bush, and discovered the Hunters who had left along with Jin-Woo. Kim Cheol’s eyes grew wider from the revelation.
‘What the hell??’
The smell of meat was coming from the campfire they had raised.
‘How can they still be alive?!’
Kim Cheol began glaring.
He couldn’t find one rank E Hunter among their midst.
‘He must’ve been killed first after taking the lead like a fool.’
That would be an obvious thing, wasn’t it?
However, there was a not-so-obvious spectacle unfolding before his eyes. So, how should he go about explaining this situation, then?
Something didn’t add up.
‘Wait, hold up. Their attire….?!’
Clothes and blankets designed to keep warm, tents and several pieces of equipment could be seen. They were obviously well prepared.
‘Just how can this be?!’
Kim Cheol was getting flustered even more, but then, his gaze had stopped by at a certain place.
It was a piece of bread sitting next to sizzling meat.
Meaning, these people even had food ready.
His confusion immediately morphed into a rage.
Kim Cheol began gritting his teeth.
They had enough supplies to ensure their continued survival, yet they wanted to hog them all for themselves?!
‘If my hands hadn’t frozen up, no, if only I wasn’t starving, I’d have easily dealt with those Ice Elves!!’
Realising that these b*stards had snatched away the crucial supplies that should’ve been shared among the rest of the team, he couldn’t hold back his fury anymore.
Kim Cheol angrily ran out of the bush.
“You sons of b*tches!!”
Park Hui-Jin quickly shot up from her spot, clearly surprised.
“Kim Cheol? How did you get here??”
She found it rather difficult to lie here and say it was good to see him again. Because… Kim Cheol’s glare was full of murderous intent.
Indeed, he didn’t even bother to mask his hostility.
“My raid team failed to conquer this dungeon because of the lack of supplies, yet how can all of you find yourselves with this much food and this type of equipment?!”
Park Hui-Jin couldn’t continue on. If she mentioned Jin-Woo here, then Kim Cheol’s rage would be directed towards the youth. To her, Jin-Woo was her saviour.
‘Also, that man always looked at Jin-Woo in a suspicious manner.’
Park Hui-Jin shut her mouth immediately.
That prompted Kim Cheol’s eyes to open even wider in anger.
“Even I don’t think all of you were complicit in this crime. So, who had hidden these?! Tell me the truth, and I will ignore everything else.”
A thick vein popped up on Kim Cheol’s neck.
“Tell me who monopolised all the gear and drove his comrades to death!!”
His angry roar reverberated throughout the forest.
Kim Cheol was planning to shed blood here if it would appease the sin of betraying his comrades.
“I’ll count to three. If you don’t reveal who it was by then, I’ll take it as the sign of all of you being complicit in this matter.”
Hahn Song-Yi tugged at Park Hui-Jin’s sleeve.
Park Hui-Jin hugged Hahn Song-Yi. Both Goh Myung-Hwan and Yun Ki-Joong swallowed their saliva as cold sweat soaked their backs.
Kim Cheol was a rank A. Even if everyone present worked together, they wouldn’t be able to win against him. However, none of them still mentioned Jin-Woo’s name.
Kim Cheol yanked loose his sword from the scabbard attached to his waist.
Even then, the lower ranked Hunters showed not one sign of opening their mouths.
How dare lower ranked Hunters ignore his order?
That point alone stoked the flames of Kim Cheol’s anger even higher.
‘Just what these b*stards think of me as….?’
Murderous intent burned brightly in his eyes.
He’d kill that woman first.
He’d kill Park Hui-Jin before anyone else, the one who betrayed the raid team and left along with these lower ranked Hunters.
‘That’s right, she left the raid team because she must’ve been scheming something.’
He could only think that way.
Kim Cheol stood before Park Hui-Jin and spat out the last countdown.
Park Hui-Jin squeezed her eyes shut.
It was then.
Kim Cheol was struck super-hard by something in the back of his head and kissed the ground as his entire body slid across the snowy ground for several metres.
The eyes of the Hunters grew wider.
Jin-Woo had hit Kim Cheol so hard that steam was still rising up from his palm.
Jin-Woo spoke in a dumbfounded voice.
“How dare you speak rubbish when it was you who drove your friends to death?!”
< Chapter 62 > Fin.