I Alone Level-Up
On the first light of the day, Jin-Woo headed to the Daesung Tower.
‘It sure is really big.’
Trying to look up at the top of this 100-floor-tall skyscraper from nearby made his neck hurt.
‘But, why are there so many people around here?’
Unlike the last time, there were way too many people coming in and out of the Tower. The difference in foot traffic between the nighttime and daytime was far too huge.
Not only the building’s entrance but the streets surrounding it was packed full as well.
‘It’ll probably get real noisy if a person suddenly vanishes in a place with so many people in it, right?’
Not only that, the media was casting a spotlight on this mystery helper or whatever, so there wasn’t any reason for him to go out of his way and draw attention to himself, was there?
Jin-Woo wasn’t someone who enjoyed the attention, to begin with.
He made his way to an area with not much foot traffic and pulled out the key to the Demon’s Castle from his Inventory.
It was a long, slender, golden key. At a casual glance, it even resembled a fancy decorative item.
‘No one’s around me, right?’
After scanning his surroundings, Jin-Woo nodded his head.
‘Let’s enter from here.’
Jin-Woo activated his ‘Stealth’ skill.
After vanishing from view, he returned to the main street and walked closer to the Tower while brushing past the countless passersby.
As befitting the busy street in the middle of the city – and during the daytime, no less – the distance he had to walk wasn’t far but he still ended up bumping into quite a few shoulders as he blended in with the crowd.
However, not one person noticed it.
‘If I were to abuse this Stealth skill, I can do pretty much anything, no?’
He even thought that this had to be the reason why high-ranking Hunters possessing the Stealth skill were closely monitored at all times.
His aimlessly wandering mind didn’t stay like that for long. Just like the first time he came here, the surrounding view suddenly transformed as soon as he stepped across the invisible boundary.
‘I can already hear the sounds of flames burning from this far away, so just how hot is it in there?’
The giant tower enveloped in flames – the Demon’s Castle, replacing the Daesung Tower, filled up his entire view.
The thing was, though, humans were supposedly capable of quickly adapting to their situations.
‘Well, it’s not as bad as the first time.’
For sure, he didn’t feel as nervous as the first time he saw the Demon’s Castle.
‘Maybe, it’s because I have levelled up sufficiently enough.’
Jin-Woo stored the key to the Demon’s Castle in his Inventory, and summoned an ash-coloured key, instead.
[Item: Key to the Castle’s Gate]
The key to unlock the gates of the Demon’s Castle. Can be acquired only after killing the Gatekeeper.
It was the key he got after killing the gatekeeper, the Cerberus. Back then, he didn’t even dare to use it after getting almost bitten to death by the Cerberus, but now, he could use it.
Next up, he summoned his weapon.
On his left hand, the key; and on his right hand, the Baruka’s Dagger. Jin-Woo cautiously approached the front gate of the Tower.
He couldn’t see the Cerberus.
‘Could it be that monsters don’t respawn in the Demon’s Castle?’
He couldn’t be sure, but there was some possibility that it might be, just like with the Cerberus.
‘In that case….’
In that case, the layout of this dungeon could be very different from other instant dungeons where monsters always respawned.
Jin-Woo expanded his Perception to the limit.
Thump, thump, thump!
By expanding his Perception Stat that had broke past the 100 mark, he could even hear his own heart beating as loudly as thunderclaps.
‘However, I’m not scared at all.’
Unlike before, he was certainly feeling a lot more confident, knowing how strong he was currently. Maintaining his vigilance and shivering from fear were two very different stories, after all.
When he stood before the castle’s gate, a new message popped up.
[Will you use the Key to the Castle’s Gate to enter?] (Y/N)
‘….You think I’m going back home after coming this far?’
Jin-Woo snorted at this nonsensical question and chose ‘Yes’.
He didn’t even do anything, yet the huge pair of doors began moving as the hinges issued loud creaks.
Jin-Woo was flustered next.
He had had his Perception expanded to the max, yet he couldn’t sense a single presence of monsters from beyond the castle gates.
‘There are no monsters??’
Jin-Woo had been worried about precisely the opposite situation happening to him.
He had even thought about going through a special training by deliberately entering the penalty zone to fight against those desert centipedes or whatever, in case monsters crazily rushed out as soon as the castle gate opened up.
‘But, what the hell….’
What the hell was the meaning of this?
All his effort so far seemed to be in vain.
The interior was utterly devoid of any life.
‘Huh…. Well, this is….”
Feeling somewhat dumbfounded, Jin-Woo stored ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ back to his Inventory and entered the Demon’s Castle.
It happened, then.
As soon as a mechanical beep rang inside his head, he immediately summoned both of his daggers. But, that beep was nothing more than an alert to let him know that a new message had arrived.
[A new quest is available.]
‘A new quest, is it?’
It wasn’t a Daily Quest?
Well, it’d be strange if it was, since Jin-Woo made sure to complete the Daily Quest and pocketed the rewards before coming here. Meaning, this had to be a regular quest….
And that would be his first, ever.
‘Well, yeah, I’ve been getting only the Hidden Quests or Emergency Quests until now, so….’
Excluding the Daily Quests that showed up every day regardless of how he felt, of course.
Jin-Woo tilted his head slightly and confirmed the contents of the message.
Then, the information on the quest appeared before him.
[Normal Quest: Collect the Souls of Demons! (1)]
Demons are everywhere within the Demon’s Castle. Kill the demons and collect their souls to receive special rewards.
One soul can be collected from a single demon, but on higher floors, there are demons with multiple souls.
Quest generation condition:
Quest clear condition:
20 bonus Stat points!
That was the very first thing that attracted Jin-Woo’s attention – the Stat points.
‘I can raise my Intelligence by 20 points!’
A smile instinctively formed on his face.
He’d been feeling his lack of MP for quite some time now.
‘I need lots of Mana if the shadow soldiers need to regenerate.’
And, was Mana his only problem? He had already confirmed that the number of shadows he could extract, as well as the number of soldiers he could store, increased when his Intelligence Stat also improved.
So, for him, increasing the ‘Intelligence’ Stat was a must.
‘There always has been a limit to increasing that Stat through level-ups and Daily Quests, but now….’
If he could get his hands on that 20 points via the completion of this quest, then his problems would be solved in one fell swoop.
He was salivating already.
‘Not only that….’
Jin-Woo’s gaze landed on other rewards.
He was feeling grateful for the bonus Stat points, but now, he could even choose one item from the Store, too?
‘Can I really choose anything?’
Jin-Woo recalled those ultra-expensive items he saw in the Store’s menu.
‘I definitely saw….’
There were some S-rarity items that cost billions, hell, even tens of billions there. Well, those billions weren’t the real-world currency but Gold that only existed within the System, though.
Still, just how amazing was this?
The ‘Knight Killer’ he’d been using so nicely until now cost only three million Gold.
‘A three million B-rarity item already possesses this high quality and attack power, so just what will those costing billions be like?’
His curiosity had been stoked for sure.
Never mind the mystery third reward, just from looking at those two rewards alone, he knew right away that he couldn’t let this quest slip through his fingers.
‘For this kind of rewards, killing one or two monsters is a walk in the park.’
Jin-Woo was genuinely elated now and thought about finishing this quest real fast to receive those rewards, only for his eyes to bulge out after confirming the quest clear condition.
He gasped out in sheer shock.
This was already far beyond the notion of killing one or two monsters.
‘What the hell, what kind of slave labour is this?!’
He had no idea what kind of a monster these demons could be, but hell, ten thousand was a scary-high number, indeed.
Still, a smile crept up on Jin-Woo’s face.
‘Well, that would have been, if I was alone.’
Currently, the number of shadow soldiers he possessed was 50.
If each one killed 200, this quest would be cleared. If he pushed his soldiers to work hard, surely this sort of quest would prove to be nothing but a cakewalk.
[Will you accept the ‘Normal Quest: Collect the Souls of Demons! (1)’?]
He had no reason to refuse.
[You have accepted the quest.]
The penalty for failing this quest would be him wasting a bit of time, that’d be all.
‘Compared to other quests, uh-whew…..’
Without a doubt, this was truly a wonderful quest when compared to the Class Change Quest or Emergency Quests where his life was on the line.
Jin-Woo raised his head.
‘I wonder, is that thing supposed to display my progress from now on?’
As soon as he accepted the quest, a counter he hadn’t seen before appeared in the air, just above his line of sight.
[Collected souls of demons: 0/10,000]
‘Ten thousand… so far away….’
A bitter chuckle leaked out of his mouth once he got to physically confirm the number that had been floating inside his head as nothing but a vague notion until now.
It was then that he discovered a different counter to the left of that one.
[Exp. needed for the next level up: 60,000]
There it was, sixty thousand clearly displayed via the holographic display.
As soon as he met that, he’d level up, or at least that’s what was written there.
‘Even my experience points are being displayed now?’
However, he had never seen anything like that prior to his entry into the Demon’s Castle.
To make sure, Jin-Woo took a step backwards and left the Demon’s Castle.
Sure enough, both the counter for souls and experience points disappeared. When he stepped back inside, they showed up again as if they had never disappeared in the first place.
‘Yeah, they only show up inside the Demon’s Castle.’
Although it was unfortunate that he couldn’t see them outside the castle, but at the least, it’d be quite convenient to have them inside, that’s for sure.
If he looked at it from another perspective….
‘Does this mean that it’ll take a long, long time for me to conquer this place?’
That was a distinct possibility.
Jin-Woo carefully read through the quest details one more time and closed the message windows.
‘That should be enough preparation, I think.’
Finally, he had some leeway to take a closer look at the interior of the Demon’s Castle.
Jin-Woo’s eyes widened immediately once he did.
Inside of the castle was…. a ruined city. Quite unexpectedly, it was a field-type dungeon.
‘What is this place? Is this Seoul?’
If everyone in Seoul died and a hundred years had passed by, would the city look like this?
Within this lifeless, ash-grey cityscape, only the lonesome street lights flickered as if they were having a seizure.
‘I never expected it to be a field-type dungeon, though….’
Not only that, a dungeon created to look like the metropolis of Seoul.
This was the kind of scale that utterly disallowed any comparison to other instant dungeons that were based around a special location such as subway stations or department stores.
Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
‘So, like, where should I go now?’
Where should be his destination?
Jin-Woo’s gaze scanned the surroundings and the distant horizon. Thankfully, his dilemma didn’t last for long.
In the far-off distance, in the direction where the famed Namsan Tower should have been, there stood a massive pillar of light stretching beyond the sky.
‘Let’s head over there.’
Jin-Woo began walking in that direction. He also made sure to memorise the surrounding area of the castle’s gates in case he got lost on the way, too.
His steps had to come to a stop not long after.
Monsters with smallish physical sizes began creeping out from the gaps of ruined buildings, one by one.
Jin-Woo immediately recognised what they were from the dark-red name floating above their heads.
‘They look like….’
These creatures reminded him of Gargoyles, but without wings. There were a total of eight of them.
Seeing them, the corners of Jin-Woo’s lips arched up.
‘Well, for starters, I got myself eight souls.’
The ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ pierced deeply into the forehead of one of the demons.
[You killed a Low-Ranked Demon.]
[You have earned 100 experience points.]
[You have collected (1) Soul of Demons.]
The moment the demons’ attention had shifted to the one with the dagger stuck to its forehead, Jin-Woo rapidly approached another one to separate its head from its body.
This one also gave him 100 EXP.
‘And I need sixty thousand experience points….’
If he hunted down 600 Low-Ranked Demons, then he’d get to raise his level.
The remaining demons were taken care of in the blink of an eye.
He had collected eight souls, and the experience points earned were eight hundred.
‘Hey, this is not too bad.’
And they said that the journey of a thousand miles started with the first step – Jin-Woo’s eyes began sparkling brightly as he began searching for his next prey.
Inside the office of the White Tiger Guild’s Guild Master.
Baek Yun-Ho was browsing through several documents he had been neglecting in the past few days because of his busy schedule.
He picked the phone up after hearing that beep.
“Let him through.”
A short while later, a familiar voice came from the phone’s speaker.
Baek Yun-Ho spat out a long sigh.
“Because of the d*mn reporters. I was thinking of being out of the public’s eye until this whole thing dies down.”
“Stop riling me up, man. I’m not in the mood to kid around. If I find out just who leaked it to the media, I’m gonna…”
“Big news, is it? From Japan?”
About a week ago, the Japanese Hunter’s Association secretly contacted several of Korea’s large Guilds. They said that they needed advice from the Korean Hunters.
And so, two days after that, a few of Korea’s elite Hunters travelled to Japan. The Hunter Min Byung-Gu was one of them.
Baek Yun-Ho had been curious about that matter for a while now.
“Stop building up the suspense and tell me what happened already. This was the first time the Japs have asked for advice from us. What made them do that? What did those prideful b*stards want?”
Four years ago, a rank S Gate opened up on the island of Jeju. Ants came out of there.
There had been three separate subjugation operations since then, and all of them ended in failure.
In the end, the Korean government gave up on the island, and it was now a barren land ruled by monsters.
“How could I forget? I nearly died back then.”
“A mutation, is it? But, what does it matter to us? Aren’t they just going to fight among themselves while being confined to that island?”
The voice coming from the phone sounded rather troubled.
< Chapter 69 > Fin.