I Alone Level-Up

 
 

I Alone Level-Up Chapter 107-109


With Gratitude

As Eshil had told him, the raiding difficulty rose explosively starting on the 90th

Floor. The level and number of the monsters protecting the noble clan’s castles were

incomparably greater than the previous floors. Despite his raised Intelligence stat,

his mana plummeted with each battle. It was a testament to just how much his

soldiers had to regenerate.

However–

Jinwoo had not reached the 90th Floor out of some luck. From the 1st Floor to here,

he had ceaselessly hammered experience points into himself. His level that had

reached the 90s was the result of those efforts. When the archdemon nobles fiercely

put up a resistance, Jinwoo and his army broke through their defenses with a greater

ferocity.

You have leveled up!

As he came out of the castle with the 97th Floor entry permit, the Hunter’s body was

steaming. The heat from his movements that surpassed humanity’s limits combined

with his sweating was creating actual steam. The battle just now was that fierce.

Jinwoo’s face was filled with satisfaction from the victory.

51

Having waited while hiding, Eshil discovered the human and ran toward him. Behind

him was a burning castle. In his hand was the entry permit.

[‘The fifth ranked Ricardo clan... And now the fourth ranked Faetoss clan...’ ]

Eshil had long since lost the strength to be surprised. If every intruders were like this

man, forget protecting their territory, they probably couldn’t even run away.

[“Are all humans strong like you?”]

Eshil asked worriedly. Jinwoo combed over his memories then replied–

[“Maybe about two others?”]

Go Gunhee and Cha Haein. Those two certainly felt stronger than the other S-rankers

he had seen. However, other than those two, the S-rank Hunters like Baek Yoonho,

Choi Jongin and Lim Taegyu didn’t particularly feel strong to Jinwoo. Especially Choi

Jongin. It seems that the man’s title of the Strongest Soldier was an exaggeration due

to his status as the Guildmaster of the nation’s number one Guild.

‘Just going by their energies, Cha Haein is several steps above Choi Jongin.’

Indeed, the difference between the S-rankers were that great. If anything, because

the ranking was given to those whose magic power could not be measured, the

differences between Hunters of S-rank were greater than in any other rank.

Jinwoo smiled widely–

‘Once I get out of here, I wonder how they’ll all feel compared to me.’

Just as Baek Yoonho’s attitude toward him had completely changed from the first

time Jinwoo met him, would Association President Go Gunhee also look at him with

a different light? Thinking about his growth again, Jinwoo’s heart sped up.

‘Before that...’

He had to focus on finishing the Demon Castle. There were only four floors

remaining. The clearing of the Dungeon was on the horizon.

52

The human turned to the female demon–

[“Okay, you can head down now.”]

Eshil, who had been crestfallen at the idea that there were two more humans as strong

as Jinwoo, raised her head in surprise–

[“Sir?”]

[“I can find my own way from here on.”]

Thanks to Eshil’s guide, he was able to quickly find the nobles’ castles in the previous

floors. However, he no longer needed her help.

‘There’s my Sense stat, which has gone up, but...’

At this point, the energy released by the archdemon nobles were so strong that the

Hunter was able to easily locate their bases from any distance. Since he no longer had

any use for a guide, Jinwoo thought to put down a baggage. When he explained as

much–

[“A-am I useless to you now?”]

Eshil’s face was pale.

‘She’s amusing to the end.’

Jinwoo had often swallowed a laughter at Eshil’s reactions to him. The Hunter went

up close to the female demon.

[‘Oh no!’ ]

Eshil’s eyes widened as Jinwoo approached her closely–

[‘Is–is he going to kill me now?’ ]

BA DUM BA DUM.

53

The pounding of her heart sounded like thunder. She saw Jinwoo raise his hand

toward her. In terror, Eshil closed her eyes as Jinwoo’s hand slowly approached her

face.

However–

[‘Huh?’ ]

The man’s hand was gently placed on her shoulder. At the warmth of the hand on her

shoulder, Eshil opened her eyes a bit. Jinwoo’s face was right in front of her. As if

waiting for her to open her eyes, the human put on a warm smile–

[“You did well until now. Thank you.”]

This should be good enough. Satisfied that he bid her proper goodbyes, Jinwoo

quickly walked over to the interfloor movement magic circle.

Ring~

Floors 1 through 96 are open.

Which floor would you like to go to?

Turning around, he saw a mix of surprise and disappointment on Eshil’s face.

Fear, concern, surprise, disappointment...

The monster with intelligence had shown him a variety of emotions. Were they truly

denizens of another world as Eshil said? Or was this all just something made up by

the System?

‘I don’t know right now but,’

Gathering all the clues and evidences bit by bit, perhaps he could understand the true

nature of the System someday.

54

Having hesitated, Eshil called out to Jinwoo–

[“Sir–”]

At the same time, the human replied to the System–

“97th Floor.”

* * *

97, 98, 99.

Jinwoo finally obtained the key to the demon king’s lair.

Entry Permit

Rarity: ???

Type: ???

A permit to enter the 100th Floor.

Usable in the interfloor movement magic

circle on the 99th Floor.

Just how much had he toiled for this thing? Before going up to the 100th Floor where

the demon king was waiting, Jinwoo went over his status–

Level: 93

Before he knew it, the next milestone for his levels was 100. He felt his increased stats

with his entire body. Strength poured out from everywhere, and his senses were

greatly improved. His condition was perfect.

‘Alright.’

55

Jinwoo called up the shop. With potions, he completely refilled his health and mana.

On top of that, he purchased some wrappings. Just like back in the class advancement

quest, the man bound his dagger tightly in his hand. It had been a long time since he

felt this tense. Completing his preparations, Jinwoo slowly moved his body.

Slash.

Stab.

‘Not bad?’

He began to increase his speed bit by bit. As expected, his body moved perfectly

according to his thoughts.

Faster, faster!

After creating afterimages all around him, the blurred form of the Hunter stopped.

Steam rose from his shoulders again.

His warm-up was complete.

“Whew–”

With a deep breath, Jinwoo stepped into the middle of the interfloor movement

magic circle. As it did in the past, the System asked him where he would like to go.

The Hunter replied with calm–

“100th Floor.”

In a blink of an eye, the scenery changed before him.

* * *

56

Jinwoo looked around.

‘No flames?’

The terrifying flames that enveloped the cities below were all gone. All that remained

was blackened traces of the world. Raising his head, Jinwoo realized it was snowing–

‘Snow?’

Wait, not snow. Realizing the color was a bit off, the Hunter held out a hand.

Whatever fell on his hand did not melt. Taking a closer look, he realized it was ash.

Ash was falling from the sky like snow.

Suddenly, a familiar electronic ring ran out. The sharpened human looked to the

distance in the sky.

‘From above...’

Soon, the System’s message alerted him to the appearance of an enemy–

The Demon King, Baran

has noticed an intruder!

A black dot approached him from the air. Coming closer and closer, the black dot

landed some distance away from Jinwoo. It was an animal like a winged lizard. After

landing, the lizard flapped its large wings and screeched.

Screeeech–!

On top of the lizard’s head, there was a demon with a blue light surrounding his face.

Wearing an elegant armor fitting of royalty, riding a giant lizard, the words above the

demon’s head reached Jinwoo’s eyes clearly–

[8] “Demon King” (악마왕): As explained in previous chapters, the word use for “king” here is different than “monarch”.

57

The thing was giving off a powerful aura. Jinwoo’s brows glistened with sweat. It was

a dangerous presence worthy of being called the boss of this entire Dungeon.

Something else caught Jinwoo’s eyes–

‘Hmm?’

Even the lizard that the demon king was riding had a name–

‘A wyvern?’

Looking at the name and its appearance, it did not seem like a demon-type monster.

‘Hold on... If it’s not a demon, could I...?’

No matter how many of them he took down, none of the demons were eligible for

Shadow Extraction. He had long since abandoned the idea of finding a useful shadow

in this place. But this monster that was capable of flight–

‘...I want it.’

If extraction was possible, for sure. It had been a while since he had found a desirable

shadow since the ice elves’ leader, Baruka. The Hunter gulped in anticipation.

In that moment, Baran raised a hand to the sky.

Ring~

The Demon King, Baran has used

‘Army of Hell’. [10]

‘Army of Hell?’

Ring~ ring~ ring~

[9] “Wyvern, Kaicellin” (비룡, 카이셀린): 비룡 could be translated as “flying dragon”, and in some ways “wyvern” or

“drake”. I went with “wyvern”. No big reason. Kaicellin is just a proper name, “ka” 카 + “ee” 이 + “cell” 셀 + “lin” 린 >

Kaicellin.

[10] “Army of Hell” (지옥의 군세): “hell” 지옥 + “army, troops” 군세

58

The warning tones came one after the other.

Demon Soldiers have been

summoned!

Demon Soldiers have been

summoned!

Demon Soldiers have been

summoned!

With repeated messages, the demon king’s surroundings became filled with an army

of demons. At a quick glance, they numbered about a thousand.

‘Are we getting started?’

Jinwoo also unleashed his magic power.

Meanwhile, Baran moved his hand shot to the sky toward Jinwoo, and the demon

army charged.

STEP STEP STEP STEP–

The ground trembled at the force of the demons. Watching the demon king’s army

approach him, Jinwoo smirked–

‘If it’s soldiers, I’m not exactly lacking.’

The Hunter’s mouth opened–

“Shadows,”

At the same time, the shadow beneath his feet started spreading out.

‘Domain of the Monarch.’

Once his shadow reached the demon king’s army–

“Assemble.”

59

The soldiers rose as one.

[‘...!’ ]

The enemy’s surprise was noticeable.

ROOOOOAR!

WAAAAAAH!

Not missing a beat, Iron and Tank took the vanguard. The two giant Shadow Soldiers

clashed with the enemy army.

CRASH!

[Scream! ]

[Screeeeam! ]

At the two Knight Grade soldiers’ monstrous strength, dozens of demons died while

screaming. Behind the vanguard, the Shadow Soldiers numbering over a hundred

spilled forth like a wave.

At their head was expectedly Ygritte!

The elite knight leaped over Iron’s head and started massacring the demons with twin

swords in his hands.

[Scream! ]

[Yelp! ]

The knight’s combat prowess had truly improved, fitting of his new grade as an elite

knight.

‘But he’s not my only elite knight.’

60

Jinwoo looked to his side.

Already finishing its giantification, Tusk stepped forward as if it was his turn. The

giant high orc’s steps shook the ground. Jinwoo stared at Tusk’s back with pride.

BREATHE IN.

Tusk took in a deep breathe. The high orc’s chest expanded. In order to let him attack

freely, Jinwoo mentally moved back the Shadow Soldiers near the high orc. Melting

into their shadow forms, the soldiers commanded by Jinwoo moved to a different

location indicated by their master.

And with that–

SPEWWWWWWW–

A giant pillar of flame spewed out from the giant high orc’s mouth and vaporized the

demons. The attack did not stop there.

WOOOOOOSH–

Tusk moved his head and the line of fire continued to obliterate the demons. The

demons swallowed by the flames did not have the time to scream.

Meanwhile, the other Shadow Soldiers were fiercely clashed in battle against the

demon army. They struggled against the greater numbers, but as long as their

monarch willed it, they could regenerate.

‘Alright!’

Jinwoo clenched his fists. His army numbering a little over a hundred was matching

an army ten times their size. The demon army was starting to be pushed back.

However, in that moment.

Having watched the scene in silence, Baran entered the fray. The demon king opened

his mouth wide and countless blue sparks flashed.

61

ROOOOAR–!

At the same time, a blinding flash of blue fell upon the Shadow Soldiers.

THUUUUNDER!

‘Lightning?’

Jinwoo’s eyes widened. The soldiers swept up by the blue storm were destroyed in an

instant. The ones who avoided an instant death appeared to be immobilized.

‘It’s not an ordinary lightning.’

With a terrifying destructive power and a stun effect to boot, fierce lightning fell upon

the entire area. Of course, the blue storm even lashed out at Jinwoo.

FLASH!

However, unlike his Shadow Soldiers, Jinwoo did not receive any damage. The heat

portion of the damage was completely absorbed by the Robe of Wind[11]

. And as for

the stun effect...

Abnormal effects have been detected.

The effects of Immunity buff

will be activated.

* * *

Jinwoo charged toward Baran. If the demon king’s area of effect magic was not

stopped, there was a chance the tide of the battle could turn. Baran also noticed

Jinwoo.

ROOOOAR!

[11] Wat. A human-made artifact is able to completely nullify the attack of the boss? Just how much did that thing cost,

Jinwoo? o.O

62

Roaring with a wide open mouth, it brought forth more blue lightning around

Jinwoo.

FLASH– FLASH– FLASH–

When Jinwoo shrugged off the concentrated attacks, Baran flinched.

[‘...!’ ]

Jinwoo felt its agitation. Using the max level ‘Sprint’, he closed the gap in a blink of

an eye and leaped from the ground. Baran also unsheathed his sword.

Baruka’s Tanto and the demon king’s sword clad in blue flames clashed fiercely.

CLANG–!

With an explosive sound, Baran fell from the wyvern and Jinwoo was also blasted

back by the rebounding force. Rolling on the ground, the two kings got on their feet

at the same time. Their gazes met only for an instance.

ROOOOOAR–

Sparks spewed from Baran’s mouth again.

THUNDER—! THUUUNDER!

The blue streaks of lightning came toward Jinwoo. Having placed faith in the robe,

Jinwoo felt something was off.

‘...It’s getting hotter?’

Looking back, the tip of the robe was on fire. Jinwoo quickly took the robe off and

threw it aside.

‘So that’s the limit of its protection.’ [12]

[12] Oh okay. At least there was a limit.

63

In the end, it was a mere artifact made by human hands. If anything, the fact that it

lasted this long was quite a feat. From now on, Jinwoo had to rely on his own skills.

The Hunter gulped.

ROOOOOAR–!

Sensing that the opportunity was here, the demon king raised the level of his attacks.

Jinwoo raised his senses to the absolute limit.

‘I can do this.’

No, he had to do this.

As the world slowed down around him, Jinwoo evaded the blue streaks of electricity

coming at him.

Why was it?

FL–A–SH–!

As he slowly closed the gap toward Baran, Jinwoo started remembering everything

that had happened in the Demon Castle. The Hunter dodged another streak of

lightning–

F–LA–SH!

His heart beat quietly.

Ba dum, ba dum, ba dum.

With absolutely no room to breathe, Jinwoo truly had dodged the demon king’s

lightning with a hair’s breadth. The Hunter stood in front of Baran.

‘Ah.’

Jinwoo realized why the past memories of the Demon Castle had flashed across his

mind. It was out of gratitude.

64

‘Thank you.’

For giving me the strength to fight with this strong monster. Every single floor he had

climbed had a purpose. To strengthen him. Perhaps all for this single moment.

Thanks to that, the things that would’ve been impossible in the past had become

possible.

How could he not be thankful?

Slash–!

Baran’s sword came at the human diagonally. The Hunter blocked it with Baruka’s

Tanto in his right hand, then stabbed the demon king’s shoulder with Knight Killer

in his left hand.

CRACK!

The dagger specialized in piercing armor dug itself deep into Baran’s shoulder.

[‘...!’ ]

It felt like a silent scream was coming from the demon king.

Jinwoo removed Knight Killer from Baran. The monster’s eyes flared with rage. It

spat out a rough breath.

Baran moved into action.

The human’s daggers and the demon king’s sword made countless exchanges.

Wounds started appearing on both of the combatants.

CLANG! CLA CLA CLANG! CLANG! CLACLANG!

Every time the metals met, the clash of magic powers cracked the ground around

them.

Jinwoo furrowed his brows.

‘Even with that wound on its shoulder...’

65

As fitting of its title as the demon king, Baran was strong. Jinwoo started to feel pain

in his wrists. The Hunter realized that he would only lose if this continued.

‘I have to break the balance.’

Both of the combatants had two hands.

However, Jinwoo had a hidden hand.

‘Ruler’s Hands!’

At the sudden oppressive force pressing down on him, Baran took a knee out of shock.

Thud.

[‘...?’ ]

Before it could gather its thoughts again, Jinwoo’s fist struck the demon king’s face.

SMASH!

Baran could not help but roll for several dozen meters. However, it could not get up.

Jinwoo had gotten on top of it.

RO–

It did not get the chance to summon its lightning. Jinwoo shoved his left hand into

the demon king’s mouth and stopped its spell.

[‘...!’ ]

Baran’s eyes shook. Instead of using the dagger bound to his hand, Jinwoo just struck

with his fist repeatedly.

SMASH!

SMASH!

SMASH!

SMA-CRACK!

66

The Strength stat that was now over 200 was showing its full power. The boss-class

monster’s health was shaved away quickly.

And finally–

Jinwoo raised his right hand again and focused every ounce of his strength into it.

Bulge–

In an instant, his flexed shoulders and arm bulged with muscles and the surrounding

atmosphere became unfathomably heavy. The magic power gathered in the Hunter’s

right arm stilled the air and a silence fell upon them.

‘...’

In that brief moment of silence, Jinwoo spoke with a subdued voice to his enemy

below him–

[“Thank you.”]

There was no reply.

The demon king just glared at the human with eyes filled with hatred.

‘I know you’ll never understand the meaning of those words.’

But he had to say the gratitude that was filling up his entire heart.

With that earnest goodbye–

The Hunter’s fist came down on the demon king one last time.

CRAACK!

Ring~

67

You have defeated the Demon King, Baran.

You have obtained Baran’s Soul.

You have completed the ‘Ordinary Quest:

Collect the Demon Souls! Part 2’ [13]

You have leveled up!

You have leveled up!

You have leveled up!

You have leveled up!

[13] Editor: RIP AND TEAR, UNTIL IT IS DONE.

68

True Reward

“Phew–”

Jinwoo sighed in relief. From the 1st Floor to the 100th, he had finally reached the

end of the long journey that was the Demon Castle. In order to compose himself, the

man closed his eyes briefly. The image of his mother entered his mind.

‘...’

When he reopened his eyes, numerous System messages were still waiting for him.

First and foremost, there were four level-up alarms.

‘Four levels in one go, huh?’

The Hunter’s face brightened. Considering just how slow the level-ups took after

reaching Level 90, it was an unbelievable gain. He quickly checked his status–

Level: 97

Indeed, his levels had risen exactly by four.

‘Alright!’

69

Jinwoo clenched his fists. An electrifying joy doubled up on top of the relief of clearing

the Dungeon. However, he put aside his happiness and calmed himself. There was

something more important right now.

‘The Purified Blood of the Demon King.’

The last piece of the Holy Water of Life. Removing the wrapping on his hand, Jinwoo

stretched a hand toward the Demon King Baran’s corpse.

You have found the

Monarch of Demons’ Ring

Would you like to acquire it?

You have found the

Demon King’s Longsword

Would you like to acquire it?

You have found the

Demon King’s Dagger

Would you like to acquire it?

You have found the

Demon King’s Dagger

Would you like to acquire it?

You have found 2

Baran’s Horn

Would you like to acquire it?

70

You have found a crafting ingredient,

Purified Blood of the Demon King

Would you like to acquire it?

Looking at the item messages pop up one after the other, Jinwoo remained nervous

instead of being excited. It was because the item he wanted did not appear until the

end. When the Purified Blood of the Demon King finally appeared as the last drop,

he screamed in joy.

‘Yes!’

He acquired and put the other items aside. Then, Jinwoo picked up what appeared to

be the Purified Blood of the Demon King.

Purified Blood of the Demon King

Rarity: ??

Type: Ingredient

A liquid purified from the blood of the Monarch of

Demons, Baran. While exuding a strong magic power,

it remains poisonous even after being purified. In

order to neutralize the harmful effects, Fragment of

the World Tree and Spring Water from the

Echoing Forest are needed.

The red liquid swirled around in a transparent glass bottle.

‘This is the demon king’s blood...’

He had already obtained the other two ingredients. Was there a reason to hesitate?

Jinwoo quickly called up his crafting skills.

Crafting Skills

— Consumable: Holy Water of Life (3/3)

71

Unlike in the past, the words “Holy Water of Life” were now blinking. Opening up the

skill information, the words “Craftable” now appeared in the description.

Holy Water of Life

Craftable

Ingredients:

1. Purified Blood of the Demon King (1/1)

2. Fragment of the World Tree (1/1)

3. Spring Water from the Echoing Forest (1/1)

Would you like to craft the

Holy Water of Life?

Wanting to see the results quickly, Jinwoo replied without hesitating–

“Craft.”

The Holy Water of Life is being crafted.

10, 9, 8...

With a stilled breath, Jinwoo waited for the results.

7, 6, 5...

Depending on the crafter’s Intelligence stat,

the success rate and the amount crafted will

change.

Jinwoo’s eyes widened.

‘The success rate and the completed amounts are dependent on my Intelligence

stat?’

Did that mean that if he was too stupid, he wouldn’t even be able to make the item?

72

...It was strangely logical. Jinwoo nodded at the idea. Meanwhile, the countdown

continued.

4, 3, 2...

Why was he so hung up on the words “success rate”? He was grateful that he had

invested a large amount of points into the Intelligence stat.

1, 0.

The crafting is complete!

You have succeeded in crafting!

You have obtained 6

Holy Water of Life!

“Yes!”

Having waited with a pounding heart, Jinwoo saw the success message and raised his

arms to the air.

‘Huh?’

And he discovered something strange. In his right hand, the bottle that contained the

demon king’s blood was still filled.

‘The amount decreased a bit, but...’

With a tilted head, Jinwoo called out the Fragment of the World Tree and the Spring

Water from the Echoing Forest from his inventory. The giant piece of wood came out,

only having a small portion of it shaved away. However, looking through his

inventory, the spring water was completely gone.

‘Does that mean...?’

He checked his crafting skill. It was as he guessed–

73

Ingredients:

1. Purified Blood of the Demon King (1/1)

2. Fragment of the World Tree (1/1)

3. Spring Water from the Echoing Forest (0/1)

Among the ingredients, only the Spring Water from the Echoing Forest had turned

to 0.

‘...The ingredients aren’t completely used up. Only as much as needed.’

Ignoring the other ingredients, which still had quite a bit of themselves left, the

crafting had stopped with the depletion of the spring water. The demon king’s blood

looked like only a small amount was used in the first place for crafting, and the piece

of wood was large to begin with. It made sense that the spring water, in its small

bottle, was the first to run out.

Jinwoo smiled–

‘This is not bad news.’

If he could just obtain the Spring Water from the Echoing Forest from somewhere

else, he could craft the Holy Water of Life again. Actually, the idea of “again” might

not even be needed. Initially expecting only a single bottle, Jinwoo looked at the six

wooden bottles at his feet and had to calm his pounding heart.

Holy Water of Life

Rarity: S

Type: Consumable

Heal any and every illness.

Effects will only be shown after a full bottle is used.

A divine potion filled with a powerful magic to cure every

sickness.

Could this item truly heal his mother’s sickness?

74

‘...I’ll find out today.’

His heart continued to pound vigorously. Jinwoo carefully put the six bottles of Holy

Water of Life into his inventory, along with the other ingredients. Still, he had several

other items to pick up.

‘A ring, a longsword, two daggers and even two junk items.’

As expected of an S-rank Instant Dungeon’s boss, Baran had given him quite a bit.

The elegant looking items caught his curious eyes, but he had no time to go over them

right now. His number one priority was to get out of here and go to his mother.

Jinwoo just shoved the remaining items into his inventory. Clapping his hands, he

looked around the area.

‘Just because I’m busy...’

...Doesn’t mean he had to forget the important things.

They say to slow yourself down as you become hasty. Turning around, Jinwoo saw

the Shadow Army had had triumphed over the enemy ten times their number. Behind

them, corpses of demons covered the landscape.

‘The wyvern?’

Jinwoo looked for the demon king’s mount. However, no matter where he looked, all

he saw was the mountainous pile of demon corpses. The wyvern was nowhere to be

seen.

‘Did it run away during the battle?’

His worries only lasted for a moment.

Iron walked over while dragging a large corpse.

It was the wyvern, Kaicellin.

“Iron?! This isn’t like you!”

75

Being praised after a long time by Jinwoo, Iron scratched the back of his head in

embarrassment. Well, the back of his helmet.

Jinwoo tapped Iron’s shoulder proudly and walked up to the wyvern’s corpse.

‘As expected.’

As he guessed by looking at the monster’s name and shape, the familiar black smoke

was rising from the wyvern’s corpse. Jinwoo knew what this meant. The Hunter

stretched out a hand.

“Arise.”

With his raised levels, there was zero chance of this failing.

SCREEEEEECH–

Compared to the usual scream, a beastly shriek rang forth from somewhere, and with

it, a beast shrouded in black steam rose from the wyvern’s shadow. The new Shadow

Soldier immediately recognized its master. It came over to Jinwoo and lowered its

head.

Please choose a name for

the soldier.

‘Oh?’

Jinwoo put on an amused expression. Because he had not seen it in battle, he had

only planned to use it as a mount. Contrary to his expectations, it seemed the wyvern

was stronger than he thought. It was a Knight Grade soldier. Considering the fact that

the ace of the Shadow Army, Ygritte, was a Knight Grade just a while ago, this was an

amazing thing.

Well.

Something like a demon king probably wouldn’t be riding around on a weak monster.

76

Satisfied by the new soldier’s grade, Jinwoo replied–

“Kaicellin– No.”

Four syllables were too long.

“Kaicell.”

Receiving its new name, the wyvern’s shadow raised its head to the air and let out a

long cry.

Shriiiiiek–

“Everyone. You’ve done well.”

Jinwoo recalled every soldier, including Kaicell, back to his shadow. It was time to

leave the Demon Castle. There was just one last thing to do.

You’ve completed the ‘Ordinary Quest:

Collect the Demon Souls! Part 2’

The reward for completing the quest has arrived.

Would you like to verify? (Y/N)

‘Yes.’

With that reply, the reward screen appeared.

Ring~

You’ve received the below rewards.

Reward 1. Top-class Runestone

Reward 2. Stat points +30

Reward 3. Unknown Reward

Accept all?

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‘Shadow Swap, huh?’

Just what was this skill? Having been curious since he received the quest, Jinwoo

selected the top-class Runestone first.

‘First, give me reward number one.’

Ring~

You have received the Top-class Runestone:

Shadow Swap.

With that message, he felt a small stone appearing in his hand. When he opened his

hand, the Runestone was on his palm. Unlike an ordinary Runestone, this one was

colored black. However, it was a blackness that could not be compared to an ordinary

shade.

Crack.

Before he could even break the stone, the Runestone cracked by itself when he

thought of the idea. A black aura was released by the Runestone, surrounded his

entire body, then was absorbed. Jinwoo immediately checked his skill screen–

Shadow Swap (Lv. 1)

Class-specific Skill

Mana Cost: 0

Cooldown: 3 hours

You can swap your physical location with a

selected Shadow Soldier.

The cooldown is dependent on skill level.

‘Whoa!’

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Reading down the skill description, Jinwoo’s eyes widened. There was a small

drawback in the form of a cooldown. No, if anything, it was such a great skill that

wouldn’t have made sense without a cooldown.

‘Does this mean that I can swap my location with a Shadow Soldier no matter where

it is?’

Depending on how he used it, it was no different than a teleportation skill. He was

about to summon a soldier to test the skill then changed his mind.

‘If I’m going to test it, it’s better to use one that’s far away.’

In fact, there were a few soldiers he had left outside of the Demon Castle. There were

three with his little sister, and five patrolling his neighborhood.

‘Well that’s a no brainer.’

Not knowing what the skill’s effects would look like, he could not teleport to his sister.

He did not want to give her a fright. As such, Jinwoo selected one of the Shadow

Soldiers patrolling his neighborhood. He mentally connected with the soldier.

“Shadow Swap.”

When he spoke the words–

“Uh, huh?”

As if pulled by a powerful gravity, Jinwoo fell into his own shadow.

* * *

Before he was fully swallowed by his shadow, he heard the System’s voice–

As the boss was defeated, the Dungeon will

return to its normal–

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The feeling of falling down only lasted for a moment. The gravity that he felt was

flipped suddenly and he felt himself rising. His vision clouded by darkness cleared up

and returned to normal.

‘This place is...’

Jinwoo looked around.

Flicker flicker.

A street light flickering on and off as if it was on the last leg of its life. A car parked

close to a wall. A utility pole with ripped off posters. It was the familiar alleyway that

he passed through often on the way home.

‘It’s our neighborhood.’

Coincidentally, it was the exact same place that he first tasked the five Shadow

Soldiers to patrol the neighborhood.

‘I really swapped my place with a soldier.’

Even as he continued to suppress his surprise, he calmly checked beneath his feet.

Just like when the Shadow Soldiers were summoned, he had risen from the shadow.

He carefully stepped on his shadow.

‘...’

When the skill was activated, he fell through his shadow like through a surface of

water. Now, it was solid again. With an awe, Jinwoo checked the skill information. As

the description previously noted, a timer was counting down now.

Shadow Swap (Lv. 1)

...

Cooldown: 3 hours (2:59:57 remaining)

‘Amazing.’

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Confirming the skill with his own eyes, Jinwoo’s heart began to race.

‘Just like that, in an instant...’

The moment he began to fall into his shadow, Jinwoo had maintained a focused state,

slowing down the world around him. In that world of slowed time, he was able to

ascertain just how instant the skill really was. The Hunter gulped in excitement.

Shadow Swap.

Depending on how he used it, it was a skill with infinite potential.

‘Wait, now is not the time for this.’

Jinwoo calmed his excitement and retracted his magic power. He had finally obtained

the cure for his mother, he should not be wasting time in awe here. With a tinge of

impatience, Jinwoo checked the time through his phone.

‘It’s already...’

His brows furrowed. It was already past 10 p.m. Although it was past visiting hours,

Jinwoo did not hesitate and called the wyvern’s shadow.

‘Kaicell.’

Screeech–

Receiving his master’s orders, Kaicell cried with happiness and poked its head out of

Jinwoo’s shadow. Soon, a lizard the size of a truck made its full appearance. Rather,

a wyvern, with giant wings where its front arms should be. When Kaicell spread its

wings, the alleyway that wasn’t exactly narrow felt cramped. Thankfully, there was no

one around.

When Jinwoo approached, Kaicell lowered its head so its master could get on easily.

Although it was the first time the man rode a flying beast, for some reason, it felt

incredibly familiar to him. As if he had rode such a beast for a long time. Anyways,

Jinwoo realized there wouldn’t be any problems with using Kaicell as a mount.

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‘I don’t care if anyone stops me.’

Whether it was the hospital’s employees or police or the goddamn army, the S-rank

Hunter would not be stopped. Above all else, he did not want to be hindered by

anyone.

‘Let’s go.’

When Jinwoo gave the mental command with a determined face, Kaicell flapped its

wings and took to the air.

Screeech–

Soon, Kaicell and Jinwoo flew towards the direction of the hospital.

* * *

Even at this late hour, the employees of the Korean Hunter Association continued

their work. The coalition Raid between two countries was right before them. In order

to make sure nothing went wrong in their fourth reclamation operation, the

Association poured their heart and soul into the planning process.

“This is the information from Japan.”

An employee pressed a button on a remote. On a large screen, a footage recorded by

the magic power camera mounted on Japan’s satellite was playing. It was the record

of South Korea’s first, second and third reclamation operations. Go Gunhee’s eyes

narrowed.

‘Except for the ant queen and the queen’s bodyguards, all ants are leaving the hive.’

Indeed. The ants were moving as the Japanese representatives had said. Although it

was worrisome that there were bodyguard ants remaining behind, it was not an

unusual occurrence for a high-level Dungeon’s boss to have subordinates guarding it.

Still, the possibility of danger lingered in Go Gunhee’s mind.

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“How likely is the possibility that the ants will turn around quicker than planned once

they realize that the queen is in danger?”

Japan had an answer for that.

“They say they’ll use an interference wave.”

“An interference wave?”

“According to them, unlike ordinary ants, the ant-type magic beasts communicate

with each other through a unique wavelength.”

That made sense. In order to move the thousands of ants as one, something like that

would be needed. Go Gunhee nodded–

“And you can throw that off with an interference wave?”

“That is what they say, association president.”

“So all we have to do is focus on the queen and her guards...”

The plan was simple. And even though it was simple, it felt more possible than the

previous efforts. So why did the elderly man feel so uneasy about all this? Go Gunhee

put a hand on his chin.

‘Is the reason why I am so uneasy because of...’

In that moment–

Go Gunhee turned his head sharply to the window. The elder’s eyes were wide open.

At the association president’s sudden movement, all the employees in the meeting

room jumped. Chief Woo Jincheol who had been protecting the association president

quickly ran to his side–

“Sir! What is it?”

“Just now...”

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Go Gunhee stared at Woo Jincheol. The HSD chief’s expression was normal.

“Did you not feel it?”

“Sir? I’m not sure what you mean...”

“...”

Just now, Go Gunhee felt an incredible wave of magic power from somewhere. The

magic power quickly hid itself after a brief moment, but Go Gunhee had definitely felt

it.

‘...’

Looking at the elder who was unable to take his eyes off of the window, the employee

who was overseeing the meeting carefully asked–

“Association president...?”

And finally, Go Gunhee just tilted his head and looked away. He was worried about

the sudden wave of strong magic power, but for now, he had to focus on the meeting.

After thinking about something for a long time, Go Gunhee asked an employee–

“Are we still unable to contact Hunter Sung Jinwoo?”

* * *

Baek Yoonho was looking behind him. Without turning back, he asked–

“Did you feel it too?”

Min Byunggu nodded and replied–

“Just because I’m retired, doesn’t mean my rank fell.”

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The two S-rankers were sharing a drink at an outdoor bar after getting together since

some time. Baek Yoonho finally turned his head back.

“What was that just now?”

“Maybe Choi Jongin and Cha Haein got into a fight over some Hunters Guild affairs.”

Having stopped with a drink in his hand, Min Byunggu chuckled and drained his

glass. Baek Yoonho looked at him in disbelief–

“Was that a joke?”

“Wasn’t it funny, hyung?”

“...No, nevermind.”

Including his sense of humor, Min Byunggu was a strange one.

‘He’s probably the first S-rank Hunter in the world to retire when nothing’s wrong

with him.’

Probably the first in the world. And the only one.

Considering just how much an S-rank Hunter could earn, how many person would

have thrown away the career as he did? On top of that, it wasn’t like the man came

from money either. Feeling Baek Yoonho’s gaze, Min Byunggu asked–

“Hyung, are you really going to go?”

“Yes.”

“You remember how Eunsuk hyung died.”

“And that’s why I have to go.”

Min Byunggu stared at him with confusion. Baek Yoonho drained his glass and

replied–

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“If we leave the ants alone, the entire nation will fall like Eunsuk.”

“Since when were you such a patriot...”

“Well, it’s nice to put a cool reason to something I have to do anyways.”

The Guilds could not refuse a mobilization order from the Association. Just as the

Association allowed the Guilds to be comfortable, the Guilds had to reply to the call

of the Association. If they really wanted, they had the choice of leaving the country.

However, there were no countries willing to accept a Guild that ran away from a

difficult Raid to protect the country. Once a coward, always a coward, is what they

believed.

‘It’s not like I want to run away anyway.’

Baek Yoonho smiled widely. Min Byunggu made a stern declaration–

“I’m not going. Never. If you try to force me, you’ve approached the wrong man.”

“I’m not here for that.”

Baek Yoonho paid the bill and stood up. They had just finished their last bottle.

“I wanted to see you just in case. Who knows if we could see each other again?”

“Hyung...”

Min Byunggu stared at Baek Yoonho disappearing off into the distance and gave up

on trying to convince the man. Baek Yoonho should be fully aware of just how

dangerous this operation would be.

‘And he’s still going.’

However, the man did not look like he was being forced against his will. Rather, the

Guildmaster of Baekho’s face was filled with a determination. A determination to

crush every ant bastards that came his way. In a way, the man almost looked excited.

With a hint of disbelief, Min Byunggu finished the snack in front of him.

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‘Now that I think about it... I can’t think of any Hunters that don’t like fighting magic

beasts.’

Well, there were a few among the Healers. However, those Healers loved healing

another person. Min Byunggu stared at his plate and scratched his temple.

‘Is loving to fight a precondition for becoming an Awakened Being?’

Ha ha ha, as if. Min Byunggu chuckled to himself and finished his meal.

* * *

Jinwoo quickly arrived at the hospital.

‘It was... room 305.’

Having no intention of going through the front entrance from the start, Jinwoo was

atop of Kaicell looking for the window to the room where his mother was.

‘Ruler’s Hands.’

The curtain behind the window slowly moved out of the way. His mother was quietly

asleep in the hospital bed. Just as he remembered her the last time he was here. Using

the skill again, Jinwoo opened the window and quietly entered the hospital room.

Kaicell had already disappeared into the Hunter’s shadow.

Jinwoo stood in front of the bed. With the efforts of his labor about to bear fruit, the

man could not calm the thundering of his heart.

‘If something goes wrong, there’s no going back.’

His mother had been unconscious for a long time. She might not be able to swallow

the Holy Water of Life, and even if she could, there was no guarantee that it would

work.

‘Still...’

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Up until this moment, Jinwoo had witnessed many miracles from the System.

Things that others would not even believe if they heard it. If anything, the number

one proof of the System’s power was right here.

Himself.

‘The E-ranker has come this far.’

It was all due to the System.

After staring at his hands in silence, Jinwoo raised his head. Even now, his mother

looked like she could wake up if he just called to her. Jinwoo summoned the Holy

Water of Life from the inventory.

Shoo–

A bottle made out of wood appeared in his hand.

Making sure he hadn’t missed anything, Jinwoo read over the item’s description over

and over again. When he finished poring over the information thoroughly, enough to

memorize the entire description, Jinwoo finally obtained the courage to remove the

bottle’s cork.

Pop.

The man was able to remain calm even during the battle with the demon king. His

hands were trembling now. He took a deep breathe to collect himself.

‘If I mess up, mother will be hurt.’

When he made the determination to not make a mistake, the son was able to compose

himself. Light returned to his eyes. His hands stopped shaking.

‘...I’m ready.’

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Jinwoo gently placed a hand behind his mother’s head and put the bottle to her lips.

Through her open mouth, the Holy Water of Life flowed. Without hurrying, Jinwoo

carefully looked at the draining bottle.

‘These scars...’

At the side of his mother’s neck, there were scars from a burn. The scars extended all

the way behind her neck. It was not visible from this angle, but entire back of his

mother’s head and neck were covered in these burn scars. Jinwoo knew this better

than anyone.

‘...are from me.’

* * *

MANY YEARS AGO.

All Jinwoo wanted to do was wash his mother’s hair, as his mother had done for

Jinah. However, the young boy did not understand how hot the water could be at the

public bathhouse.

Pour.

The young boy gathered the nearly boiling water into a bathhouse bowl. Being careful

not to spill a drop, the boy approached his mother’s back slowly.

And...

Splash.

He had poured the scalding water over his mother’s head.

His mother flinched. Instead of jumping up, she tightly hugged Jinah in front of her,

making sure that her daughter was not harmed. The woman stayed still until her flesh

turned blood red.

Without a single sound.

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The screams came from the other ladies in the room.

“OH NO, OH NO!”

“MRS. SUNG!”

And with that, young Jinwoo realized he had done something wrong. All he wanted

to do was help his mom. He dropped the bowl and was about to cry, but his mother

quickly grabbed his shoulders.

During that time, his young mind had expected to be scolded. But Jinwoo would

never forget the memory of that day and his mother’s words to him from then:

“Jinwoo, are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?”

* * *

‘I tried living life without falling into a debt to someone.’

He had neither wanted to get into debt nor have someone be indebted to him. As

such, the man had expected to live his entire life without a debt.

However, after their father had disappeared, the woman had single handedly raised

her two children, Jinwoo and Jinah. And to that mother, he had owed a debt that he

could never repay.

Drop.

The last drop fell into his mother’s mouth.

Tap.

Jinwoo put the bottle aside and put his mother down.

He waited for the results with a prayer in his heart.

BA DUM BA DUM BA DUM!

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His heart felt like it was about to explode. He gulped.

‘...’

There was no change.

The Hunter clenched his fist so hard that he pierced his own skin. Blood was about

to fall from his hand when–

“GAAAAASP—!”

Like a person coming out of the water after almost drowning, his mother took in a

rough breath with closed eyes.

‘...!’

Jinwoo’s eyes widened. The color was returning to his mother’s pale face. As if a black

and white film was being restored with color, his mother was returning to a healthy

form.

A single second felt like an entire hour.

How long did it take?

His mother slowly opened her eyes. Taking a brief look around, her gaze stopped on

her son.

“Are... are you Jinwoo?”

Jinwoo nodded as his heart skipped a beat.

Of course she wouldn’t recognize him.

It had been four years since she had fallen asleep. On top that, he had undergone

quite a change in the past few months. Jinwoo did not press her and patiently waited.

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Like a water filling an empty bowl, the memories that had skipped four years came

flooding back to Jinwoo’s mother, Park Gyunghae. It did not take her long to realize

why she was in the hospital.

“How long was I out?”

“Four years.”

He knew the exact time but did not feel the need to speak it. In order to make sure

his mother was as comfortable as possible, the man did his best to keep composure

in his words and expression.

Hearing that she was asleep for four years, Jinwoo’s mother asked with surprise–

“What about Jinah? Is Jinah alright?”

Jinwoo struggle to hold in his emotions. To think that one of the first things she would

ask is about her children. If the man did not bite down on his lips, he knew he could

not hold back the tears.

‘Jinah’s not the one you should be worrying about right now.’

Is what he wanted to say. However, he suppressed his feelings as best as he could and

smiled–

“Mm. She’s doing well.”

With a sincere expression of relief, his mother sighed.

‘Everything will return to normal now.’

The fact that his mother’s sickness was cured truly hit him. His heart fluttered at the

thought of the future.

Suddenly, he realized his mother was holding his left hand.

“Mom?”

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“Thank you, my son. You kept your promise.”

Promise?

Ah, he had forgotten. It was such an obvious thing that it could not even be called a

promise. The sleep that would worsen periodically until you would never wake up,

the Eternal Sleep. As her condition worsened every day, his mother pulled him aside

one day and had asked him–

“When I fall asleep for the last time, you’ll take care of your little sister, right?”

She had said it with a casual attitude, as if asking him for an errand.

But this is how Jinwoo had endured it until now, never lamenting his situation. All

he did was pick up the heavy weight from his mother.

However, his mother squeezed his hand knowingly–

“My son... it must’ve been so difficult for you, wasn’t it?”

Jinwoo wanted to reassure his mother again with a smile.

He wanted to.

But he could not.

The tears that he held back came pouring out.

“...Yes...”


 
 


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