I Alone Level-Up
‘The upper floors are altogether on a different level, aren’t they?’
Jin-Woo began recalling the first – and so far, the only – boss-level monster he had encountered since he set foot inside the Demon’s Castle, Vulcan.
That guy’s title was ‘the Sovereign of the Lower Floors’.
As soon as he went past the fiftieth floor that demon resided in, the difficulty curve suddenly spiked up.
Before this, he’d climb up over ten floors in a day. As much as 20, even. But his clearing speed had decreased so much so that he found it hard to even clear 7 or 8 floors in a day now.
He was currently standing on the 74th floor.
The High-Ranked Demons now appeared as regular mobs now, and along with the infrequently-spotted Superior Demons, these two types of monsters displayed sizes and abilities that were worlds apart from those found on the lower floors.
A High-Ranked Demon the size of a two-story building slowly collapsed on the ground with a dagger stuck to its chest.
[You have defeated a High-Ranked Demon.]
[You have earned 1,700 experience points.]
[You have acquired (1) Soul of Demons.]
Jin-Woo pulled the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ out from the dead demon’s chest.
This one was the last. Yet another battle had come to an end. The victorious shadow soldiers crowded around Jin-Woo as well.
Jin-Woo surveyed their conditions.
There was no way that this was true for an undead army, but for some reason, he thought they all kind of looked exhausted.
Indeed, that was how strong the monsters had been on the upper floors.
Actually, this last battle happened to be on the easier side, simply because no Superior Demons showed up.
‘Each one of those guys is on the level of a boss.’
This wasn’t some random guess he just cooked up without any evidence, either.
The ‘Bead of Avarice’ he got after killing Vulcan. The explanation attached to this marble-like item said that it was created from condensing and solidifying the Superior Demon Vulcan’s blood.
If those words ‘Superior Demon’ denoted Vulcan’s grade, then it was about on the same level as regular monsters found on the upper floors. Because, since the 70th floor, Superior Demons appeared far more often than not.
‘Well, it’d been fine if it were only the monsters’ levels that had increased, but….’
No, there was another problem here, as well.
The surroundings began changing gradually the higher he climbed. From the 51st floor onwards, the ruined cityscapes were burning in flames. And the higher the floor, the fiercer the flames got.
When he finally went past the 70th floor, the surroundings had gotten so hot that, simply from standing still, he lost Stamina like sweat drops pouring out of his pores. Just from moving for a tiny bit, his Tiredness Stat shot up.
This place was no ‘Demon’s Castle’, but more like the ‘Burning Tower’.
The feeling he got before entering this dungeon was proven to be correct.
‘….Let’s get out of here.’
This was as far as he could go, this time. He urgently needed to find a way to block out the flames first.
‘Looks like I’ll have to find an artefact that can defend against fire-type magic.’
Equipment used by high-ranked Hunters was ruinously expensive. And, there was no need to even mention the cost of an item imbued with defensive magic, as well. He remembered hearing that a really expensive item could go for several tens of billions of Won from a news program in the past.
He managed to earn a fair amount of coin while clearing dungeons with Yu Jin-Ho, but even then, he couldn’t help but worry a bit about whether he’d be able to afford an artefact like that or not.
That was why he needed insurance.
‘Selling this guy should be more than enough.’
Jin-Woo smiled while looking at the ‘Bead of Avarice’ he oh-so-carefully tucked inside his Inventory. Any mage-type Hunter would drool non-stop at this item.
How much would this bead of avarice go for if he put it up for auction?
He guessed that, as long as he could properly demonstrate its effect, high-ranking Hunters would form a long queue in order to buy it.
Jin-Woo unsummoned the Inventory window.
The goal for entering this instant dungeon, to level up lots, had been successfully met. That was why he didn’t feel too bad about delaying the clearing of the dungeon to another time.
However, one thing did make him hesitate a little.
Jin-Woo’s gaze drifted upwards.
[Collected Souls of Demons: 9,624/10,000]
‘Less than 400 souls remaining….’
If he could collect a little more of these Souls of Demons, then he’d be able to clear this quest.
And today just so happened to be the sixth day. One more day should be enough to clear this quest.
One of the advantages of the upper floors was that killing a single demon netted him multiple souls. Meaning, collecting 400 should be a cinch.
‘I’ll go home after clearing the quest.’
Making up his mind, Jin-Woo turned around.
Maybe because he had a clear goal now, his steps felt doubly energetic.
[Floors 1 to 74 have been opened.]
[Which floor would you like to transfer to?]
Jin-Woo stood in the middle of the magic elevator, no, floor-transfer magic circle, and spoke up.
What kind of good fortune was this?
A smile spread on Jin-Woo’s face as he stared at the monster guarding the distant floor-transfer magic circle.
[The Guide of the Departed Souls, Metus]
Just from looking at that name alone, he could tell that the monster was a boss.
Also, that guy was very eye-catching, what with it wearing a jet-black robe and a shiny silver necklace.
‘I’m sure that is the Demon Sovereign’s Necklace.’
He originally was thinking of completing the quest, but at this rate, he should get to collect another part of the set equipment, too.
However, that item wasn’t the only thing making Jin-Woo smile here.
Even if it was a monster that would cough up some great loot, it’d be meaningless if he couldn’t hunt it.
Jin-Woo grasped his two daggers tightly. And then, he ran forward.
Soon enough, the skeletal mage decked out in the black robe discovered Jin-Woo’s presence.
[The Guide of the Departed Souls, Metus, has discovered the intruder!]
Fitting for a boss-level monster, it instantly finished chanting its magic spell. As soon as a crimson magic circle formed beneath its feet, an ominous aura rushed all around it.
[The Guide of the Departed Souls, Metus has activated ‘Skill: Accursed Voice’.]
Heeding Metus’s call, an army of undead suddenly rose up from the ground. And they numbered several thousand!!
A normal person would’ve been left breathless by the sight of this horrifying army, but when he found himself surrounded by so many enemies, Jin-Woo didn’t even panic for a second.
‘As I thought….’
Just as he expected.
There were endless streams of black smoke rising up all around the boss monster. Seeing that, it wasn’t all that difficult to guess what kind of monster this Metus happened to be.
‘The Guide of the Departed Souls, is it?’
And the monster’s title only helped to further confirm his suspicion.
Sure enough, Metus summoned a powerful undead army.
Too bad, Jin-Woo just so happened to possess the best type of Class within this field.
Accompanied by painful screams, soldiers began rising up from the shadows of the undead. Their numbers were in the several hundreds!
Compared to Metus’s army, this number seemed completely ill-matched, but it was actually more than enough for him.
Because the real deal was somewhere else, that was why.
“Create a path for me!”
Soldiers emerged from Jin-Woo’s shadow. These guys were the real deal.
While the hundreds of soldiers created from the skill ‘Shadow Extraction’ bought them time, Jin-Woo’s direct subordinates, the ones he paid careful attention to levelling up ever since his entrance into the Demon’s Castle, carved out a path for him.
His destination was obvious!
Igrit and Iron took the lead and with frightening speed and destroyed the opposing undead creatures.
The distance to the boss, Metus had closed up in an instant.
‘This should be enough.’
Jin-Woo quickly shoved past and rushed out into the front.
[Skill level of ‘Dash’ has increased!]
Thanks to him running around all over the huge Demon’s Castle, the ‘Dash’ skill had risen up a level.
A grin formed on Jin-Woo’s face.
Jin-Woo escaped from the undead army’s siege and stood before Metus in an instant. Their gazes collided mid-air.
‘You didn’t expect this to happen, did you?’
Jin-Woo’s gaze was filled with victor’s leisure, and Metus could only flinch from that. No, he thought that the monster flinched.
‘Do monsters feel fear?’
Such a thought only lingered for a second, before Jin-Woo’s daggers left behind dozens of afterimages.
The boss-level monster weakly fell to the ground.
He already knew through experience that mage-type monsters relying on controlling others to fight were very weak when the battle became one on one.
The moment he saw Metus in the distance, he had envisioned this end.
Jin-Woo returned the daggers to his Inventory.
Soon, the expected message popped up.
[You have defeated the ‘Guide of the Departed Souls, Metus’.]
[You have earned 200,000 experience points.]
[You have discovered Souls of Demons sealed within Metus’s pendant.]
[You have acquired (220) Souls of Demons.]
Jin-Woo clenched his fists tightly.
220 souls in one go.
Now that was an unexpected windfall.
[Collected souls of demons: 9,971/10,000]
A thick smile floated up on Jin-Woo’s lips.
‘Not much remaining now.’
He only needed to collect less than 30 now. It was a small enough amount to quickly fill up by hunting down a handful more demons.
Jin-Woo really wanted to quickly finish this quest and so, he hurriedly retrieved all the loot and entered the floor-transfer magic circle.
The Eastern United States.
Hwang Dong-Su writhed this way and that as if he was having a nightmare, before he shot up from the bed.
The first thing he saw was the white ceiling.
Hwang Dong-Su tilted his head at these unfamiliar surroundings.
“Is this…. a hospital?”
…It wasn’t a dream?
Hwang Dong-Su wiped the strand of cold sweat travelling down to his chin. It was at this point that he discovered the patient gown he wore, and the IV needle stuck to his arm.
Hwang Dong-Su’s expression hardened in fury.
And then, he spoke in a cold voice.
“If you have something to say, hurry up and say it, and leave.”
The deputy director of the Hunter Bureau was there with him in the room. A middle-aged Caucasian man, with more white than black on his head, slowly approached Hwang Dong-Su’s bed.
“There is something I wanted to ask you personally, so I waited for you to come around.”
What did he want to ask?
Hwang Dong-Su raised his head.
The deputy director held his gaze without backing down and asked.
“That man named Seong Il-Hwan… was he really a monster?”
“Do you think I’d attack someone who was a human?”
“I’m not saying that I don’t trust you. Only that, I wish to confirm what I saw with my own eyes.”
The deputy director pushed forward his phone towards Hwang Dong-Su.
A certain video footage was playing on its screen.
“And this is….?”
“Footage captured by CCTV cameras nearby on that day.”
In the footage, one could see an Oriental man rescuing employees from the collapsing Hunter Bureau building.
There was no need to ask who that man was. How could Hwang Dong-Su forget? That face was the last thing he saw before he blacked out.
That man was Seong Il-Hwan.
The deputy director’s complexion darkened.
“I… have never heard of a monster rescuing humans before. Is there no change to your opinion that this man is a monster?”
“…He’s definitely a monster.”
The deputy director pocketed the phone.
“Once you’re discharged from here, stop by the Bureau. There are a couple of documents you need to sign.”
Hwang Dong-Su asked the deputy director as the latter was about to turn around and leave.
“What happened to that man?”
“He disappeared after fighting you. We’re in the midst of tracking him down, but he’s powerful enough to knock you down easily, so whether he could be caught or not is, well….”
Just before he stepped out of the hospital room, the deputy director opened his mouth again, sounding more troubled than before.
“By any chance, do you have any idea where that man might head off to?”
Seeing Hwang Dong-Su resolutely keep his mouth shut as if he had nothing more to say, the deputy director quietly left the room.
But, once he was gone, Hwang Dong-Su furiously yanked the IV needle out of his arm.
What a humiliating defeat that was.
Even before he could figure out what happened, he found his neck trampled on by Seong Il-Hwan. Not only that, shamefully cowering on the floor, too!
Just as he began gasping for air, Seong Il-Hwan spoke to him.
And that’s where his memory ended. Once he regained his consciousness, he found himself here.
‘Can’t close my eyes even in death?’
What did he mean by that?
Was that a threat to kill Hwang Dong-Su in such a brutal way that he’d be unable to close his eyes?
‘How dare he…. threaten me?!’
Hwang Dong-Su’s clenched fists began shuddering in rage. Not only did he lose to a ‘monster’, but that man also managed to inflict an unforgettable disgrace on Hwang Dong-Su, as well.
‘I know where he will go to.’
Hwang Dong-Su would do anything to catch that man.
Didn’t matter whether that b*stard’s identity was a monster or not, there was no denying the fact that he was strong.
‘I need better equipment if I want to kill him.’
Thankfully, it wouldn’t be hard getting his hands on that equipment.
‘I should call my Guild.’
The Guild Hwang Dong-Su was a part of, Scavenger, was one of the very best in the world.
Hell, there was even a joke doing the rounds that, if one were to tally up the value of all the artefacts in possession of the Scavenger Guild, it’d easily exceed the annual budget of a small nation.
‘If I get my hands on some artefacts, there shouldn’t be a problem.’
Madness burned bright within Hwang Dong-Su’s eyes.
To South Korea.
That was Hwang Dong-Su’s next destination.
[You have defeated a Superior Demon.]
[You have earned 2,200 experience points.]
[You have acquired (1) Souls of Demons.]
[You have acquired (3) Souls of Slave Demons.]
‘I did it!!’
Jin-Woo couldn’t hide his elation.
His luck was good, and he acquired four souls from the very last demon he killed. With that, he was able to meet the quest clear goal.
[Collected Souls of Demons: 10,001]
[You have completed ‘Normal Quest: Collect the Souls of Demons! (1)’]
[Your rewards are now available.]
[Will you confirm the rewards?] (Y/N)
Once he made his reply, the list of rewards popped up in his view.
[The following rewards are now available.]
[Will you accept them all?]
Other rewards did catch his eye, but right now, the first one on the list demanded the most of his attention. It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that he completed this quest solely for the first reward, too.
‘Accept the first reward.’
[You can choose from any of the items available from the System.]
[Is there an item you want?]
An item he wanted, was it?
Of course, there was one.
From the moment he saw the details of this quest, Jin-Woo was thinking of a certain item.
What kind of a result would be facing him now if he chose differently back then? He was curious about this ever since that fateful day.
However, he didn’t know whether that thing was treated as an item or not. Still, it didn’t hurt to try, at least.
The System asked him again, as if to urge him on.
After a short deliberation, Jin-Woo made his reply.
“The Cursed random box.”
< Chapter 74 > Fin.