I Alone Level-Up
What happened next was a bit of a strange phenomenon.
As the footsteps from the other side of the cavern grew louder and closer, the Hunters were making less and less sound.
Soon, choking silence enveloped the group.
Jin-Woo’s ears were perked up, though – seizing upon the opening created by his surroundings getting quieter, Jin-Woo began counting the numbers of the enemies via their footsteps.
Thanks to his already-enhanced hearing, as well as high Perception Stat, he could separate out each of the footsteps to their original owners.
‘….48, 49, 50, 51.’
There were a total of 51 different footsteps. The steps themselves sounded the same as those of the High Orc warriors.
Jin-Woo took a look around him.
The nervous tension was clearly writ large on the faces of the Hunters. It seemed to him that they also had more or less figured out the size of the enemy from the resounding footsteps.
This raid team managed to eke out a victory against 22 High Orc warriors. But now, 51 of them were coming. That was over twice as many.
‘….There is no hope of victory here.’
The raid team members were thinking of roughly the same opinion.
Jin-Woo suddenly cast his glance down at his shadow. He momentarily thought that it was wavering ever so slightly just then.
He even thought that his shadow soldiers were howling out, their desire to see blood intensifying. Jin-Woo raised his head back up again.
Thump, thump, thump!
His calm heart that stayed still until now began pounding harder.
‘Wait for it….’
….Now wasn’t the right time yet.
Consoling himself as thus, Jin-Woo silently observed the front.
Eventually, the monsters revealed themselves. The countless marching High Orcs came to a halt just a little bit of distance away from the Hunters.
High Orcs growled as if they’d pounce at any given moment. No words could adequately describe the bloodthirsty aura emitted from over 50 High Orc warriors. The result of a battle was pretty obvious even without actually fighting them.
“This is crazy.”
“How can this nonsensical crap be….”
Hunters spat out long groans. They continued to retreat ever so slightly after feeling the enormous pressure, but too bad, their path was still blocked off.
So, what would they do now?
The Hunters were all ready for battle from a while ago, but no one stepped forward yet and simply waited for Sohn Ki-Hoon’s instructions.
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s lips were shut tight in a straight line.
‘God d*mn it….’
If only either Chairman Choi Jong-In or Hunter Cha Hae-In were here….
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s expression crumpled unsightly.
Rank S Hunters all possessed incredible powers that could overturn any unfavourable situation. If either one of those two were here, these High Orcs would’ve been nothing at all.
‘Just why, in a situation like this….’
Why weren’t they here?
Sohn Ki-Hoon had fought alongside them all the time, so he could acutely sense his powerlessness right about now. The absence of a single rank S was a bone-chillingly painful thing, indeed.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t continue to lament his misfortune forever. No, he had to make a decision here.
‘Fighting here will definitely result in our death.’
However, with their path of retreat blocked off, he no longer had any choice in the matter.
The day he chose to become a Hunter, the day he stepped foot inside a dungeon for the first time ever, and the day he lost consciousness for the first time after getting heavily injured….
Didn’t he already guess that a day like today would come sooner or later?
‘Right. That did happen, didn’t it?’
Having resolved himself to meet his maker, Sohn Ki-Hoon unsheathed his longsword.
Sohn Ki-Hoon took a look at his comrades, and the Hunters nodded their heads as if they had been waiting for the signal. Sohn Ki-Hoon’s gaze shifted back to his front.
He then brought the shield right up till his chin and glared at the High Orcs, still not showing any signs of movements yet.
‘So, did he finally make his choice, then?’
Jin-Woo also got ready. He hid his right hand behind his back, and the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ appeared there. He then closed his eyes.
His wildly beating heart suddenly settled down completely as the battle drew near.
Thump, thump, thump….
Get rid of distracting thoughts, and control his breathing.
When Jin-Woo reopened his eyes, a sharp gleaming light was now burning fiercely within them.
Hunters forcibly swallowed down their dried saliva; cold sweat soaked their foreheads. On the other hand, Jin-Woo was busy smacking his lips.
‘How much experience points will these guys give me?’
A thin smile of anticipation spread on his lips.
However, before anything could happen….
….One of the High Orcs stepped forward.
It roughly shoved aside other Orcs and emerged from the group, its wild beast-like eyes looking in the direction of the Hunters.
This one possessed a far bigger physique than the others, and its fangs were noticeably longer as well.
‘So, is that the leader?’
Jin-Woo narrowed his eyes.
If he got rid of that guy now, wouldn’t the fight become so much easier?
What should he do here, then?
Jin-Woo fiddled with the grip of the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ and pondered; meanwhile, that High Orc opened its mouth.
“Kurerack tu sheena, wekudo araknaka.”
The creature’s voice sure sounded loud. The glare of the High Orc was fixed to the leader of the raid team, Sohn Ki-Hoon.
“Kurerack tu sheena, wekudo araknaka!!”
Hunters’ gazes busily darted about.
“What the hell?”
“Is that thing trying to talk to us?”
“What is it saying?”
It was then.
The facial muscles of the High Orc began trembling. When that strange tremor subsided, a completely different voice from before came out from the monster’s mouth.
It was as if something else had borrowed the monster’s mouth to speak.
When looking at closer, that normal-looking Orc’s eyes were now unfocused and blurry like those of a dead fish that died a long time ago.
Hunters began freaking out as if the back of their heads were smacked out of nowhere.
An Orc just spoke a language of humans!
‘How can an Orc speak Korean?!’
‘Is this magic? Could it be??’
Hunters couldn’t keep their mouths shut at this utterly unexpected situation. The ‘leader’ High Orc continued to speak.
“I am…. Karugalgan….. I…. want…. to…. meet…. humans…. Follow… this…. one.”
A monster wished to speak to humans?
There never had been any reports of such a case before.
Facing this unprecedented event, not only Sohn Ki-Hoon but everyone in the raid team fell into a state of pure confusion.
“Ki-Hoon hyung, I hope you ain’t listening to the words of a monster.”
“Please, you gotta ignore it.”
“Ki-Hoon-ah, it’s a trap. Regardless what happens, we gotta try to finish it here.”
“But, still. If it’s an Orc we can talk to, maybe we can….”
“Don’t be an idiot. You’ve been inside so many dungeons already, so don’t you know how they operate by now?”
In less than a second, their opinions had split up.
Sohn Ki-Hoon maintained his silence for a while, before answering the monster’s words.
“….Karugalgan. Did you block the cavern?”
“That’s right….. I am…. the proud…. High Shaman…. of the Orcs…. My spells…. can’t be…. broken…. by the strength of…. humans.”
“Is there anyone stronger than you inside this cave?”
“Who…. dares to…. oppose…. me!!”
An incredibly loud roar exploded out from the High Orc and slammed into the eardrums of the Hunters. Almost everyone frowned deeply and covered their ears, but Sohn Ki-Hoon was simply nodding his head, still looking rather calm.
His expectation was on the money.
The existence speaking through that High Orc’s mouth was, without a doubt, the boss of this dungeon. Since it couldn’t escape from the boss room until the time of the dungeon break, it was summoning the Hunters to enter its lair instead.
‘I don’t know why it wants us there, but….’
When Sohn Ki-Hoon’s answer didn’t come right away, the leader High Orc raised its large axe above its head.
“Now, choose…. Die here….. at the…. hands… of my soldiers…. Or…. follow… my… soldiers….”
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s immediate answer prompted the eyes of the Hunters to grow wider.
Sohn Ki-Hoon interrupted his comrades trying to dissuade him and waited for the reaction of the High Orc.
“Then, come…. Human.”
With the end of those words, the blurred eyes of the leader High Orc regained its original clarity. And that would be wild beast-like glare of bloodlust. The creature spoke up again.
“Ashue tu reka.”
With that one sentence, the High Orc warriors burning with fierce hostility withdrew as if it was all a lie. The leader High Orc waited without withdrawing, and beckoned to Sohn Ki-Hoon, telling him to follow.
“Let’s get going as well.”
Sohn Ki-Hoon was the first to start walking, and the hesitant Hunters began to follow after him one after the other.
‘What is he thinking?’
Jin-Woo stared with a puzzled expression on his face.
There was little doubt that not only the boss but countless more High Orcs would be waiting for them inside the boss room. Meaning, their odds of victory would be even lower on that side.
So, it was hard to figure out what Sohn Ki-Hoon was thinking of when he chose to follow the monsters.
‘Is he trying to negotiate with the boss? In order to get out of here alive?’
Although the odds of that succeeding was extremely low….
Maybe, this was for the better.
Jin-Woo originally believed that this raid would end with him hunting down a few mob creatures, but now, he got himself a chance to meet the boss, instead. He returned the dagger back to his Inventory and slowly followed after the group.
Just how long did they walk?
Sohn Ki-Hoon slowed down his walking speed gradually and had arrived at Jin-Woo’s side. And then, he called out with a hushed voice.
Jin-Woo continued looking at the front while answering him. Sohn Ki-Hoon, too, continued to stare at the backs of the High Orcs walking further up ahead.
“We… as soon as we meet the boss, we’re going to attack right away. When that happens, regardless of whether our attack was successful or not, the b*stard should not be able to maintain the magic spell blocking the exit.”
That made a certain amount of sense.
Unless it was some kind of hex-type magic, one had to keep one’s focus in order to maintain a spell. Especially if one wanted to maintain high-class magic, an incredible mental focus was a necessity.
However, what about it?
Didn’t matter whether they succeed in killing the boss or managed to cancel the magic blocking the exit, they would still meet a dog’s death right away inside the boss room after getting surrounded by the countless High Orcs anyway.
The odds of this raid team returning alive were still pathetically low.
Perhaps to answer Jin-Woo’s curiosity, Sohn Ki-Hoon spoke with a grave expression on his face.
“While their attention is on us, Hunter-nim, please escape from the boss room. Once you get out of the dungeon, you must alert the main assault force.”
By the time the assault team consisting of rank S Hunters arrive here, everything would be over for them. Sohn Ki-Hoon was getting ready to die.
“Are you thinking of dying alongside the boss?”
Jin-Woo sneaked a glance at Sohn Ki-Hoon’s expression. His face remained hardened, but there was no wavering in his eyes.
“Our job isn’t to get out of this dungeon alive, but to close the Gates. Many people outside are paying us a great deal of money for that purpose.”
Sohn Ki-Hoon’s voice gained more conviction as he spoke.
“We will do our job according to what we’ve been training for. However, you’re different. There’s no reason for you to die here. I hope you can get out of this place alive.”
One could now hear the unwavering belief in his voice. His words contained his determination.
Jin-Woo realised that nothing he could say right now would be of any help to Sohn Ki-Hoon.
So, he simply nodded his head as his reply.
Cha Hae-In finally arrived at the location of the second rank A Gate.
She had her baseball cap pushed down low, and as a result, only a few passersby recognised her.
The first thing she did was to seek out the mining team.
A few Hunters walked past her and sneaked a couple of glances, but they were all working for the Guild anyway and none of them paid her any great attention after that.
Eventually, she could see Foreman Bae in the distance – as well as the mining team around him.
Her heart began beating faster.
Standing a little bit of distance away from them, she scanned the faces of each miner present.
‘Where is he…?’
She couldn’t see Jin-Woo among them.
How should she say this? It felt like all of her energy was abandoning her at once.
‘Did he give up on being a miner?’
Why don’t I wait for another minute? He could have left the spot for only a moment and is coming back soon.
Three minutes more.
No, maybe five.
….And so, she waited for another 15 minutes, but Jin-Woo didn’t show up in the end.
After spitting out a long sigh, Cha Hae-In turned around to leave. But, only after taking a couple of steps, she turned around again and returned to her original spot.
She yanked her cap off and took in several deep breaths, before walking towards Foreman Bae. The gazes of the mining team members were directed to her now.
Thankfully, the stink wasn’t so bad, perhaps due to the ranks of Hunters in the mining team being low.
Recognising Cha Hae-In, Foreman Bae quickly ran over to her.
“Cha Hunter-nim? I thought you were taking a break today?”
Cha Hae-In shared a simple greeting with Foreman Bae and after making sure that no one was eavesdropping on her, she cautiously asked him a question.
“By any chance… Is there a Hunter named Seong Jin-Woo working for you?”
Hearing an unexpected name being mentioned out of the blue, Foreman Bae formed a surprised expression.
“If you’re looking for Mister Seong, he subbed for a porter’s job….”
Cha Hae-In gasped out in shock.
“Are you saying he actually went inside the Gate?!”
Foreman Bae nodded his head vigorously as if to show that he, too, couldn’t believe it.
“Yes, miss. That’s what happened.”
A rank E Hunter volunteered as a porter and entered a rank A dungeon? And he didn’t even have dozens of lives or anything, too.
‘What was he thinking?’
But, when Cha Hae-In thought about it, didn’t she find that man loitering around the boss room yesterday with weapons in his hands? Indeed, she did not see wrong back then.
One more thing to be suspicious of, then.
Even though she ended up letting go of yesterday’s event as a coincidence, when she really thought about it in detail, it was a rather strange thing for a Hunter with four years of experience getting lost inside a dungeon like that.
‘I need to find out.’
She began thinking that she simply had to confirm what this Hunter named Seong Jin-Woo wanted from her Hunters Guild. And in order to do so, she had to enter the dungeon.
Not only was she the Vice Chairman of the Hunters Guild, but she was also a rank S Hunter as well. No one would try to stop her if she wanted to enter a dungeon where the Hunters Guild was performing a raid.
Cha Hae-In lightly bit into her thumb while pondering her choices, before swiftly making her decision.
“I’ll have to enter the Gate myself.”
< Chapter 87 > Fin.