I Alone Level-Up Chapter 2
The final decision depended on him. He fidgeted again with the E-Rank magic core in his hands, then looked to his side. Juhee shook her head at his eyes. She had a bad feeling about this. Well, even Jinwoo felt the same way. Under any other circumstance, he would not have dared to jump into danger. After all, he lacked the skills and courage to do so. But Jinwoo had a little sister, who was preparing for college.
'I don't have anything saved up for that…'
He was 24 years old, but he had to give up on college due to their poverty. He didn't want that poverty to hinder his sister's life as well.
Their lives were counting on every penny that came and went. Mr. Park wasn't the only one who needed money.
Jinwoo raised his hand.
"I'll also go."
At his side, Juhee let out a small sigh disappointedly.
-2. Double Dungeon-
The tunnel went on and on and on. At the vanguard stood Mr. Song and other veteran Hunters. Led by the light from the fireball in Mr. Song's hand, the party walked through the dimly lit tunnel.
Mr. Kim spoke up from the party, "Isn't this going in a little too deep? Maybe we should think about turning back."
"How long have we been walking?"
Mr. Kim checked his watch, "About… 40 minutes."
"When we take down the boss, we'll have 1 hour before the Gate closes. Taking into account the time for the return trip, we still have a breathing room of 20 minutes, right?"
"Then if we don't come across the boss after 20 more minutes of walking, we should leave, right?"
"I suppose so."
Nodding, Mr. Song pointed towards his back with his thumb.
"Hey Mr. Kim, it's dark ahead of me, so fall back a little bit."
Mr. Kim looked at Mr. Song's fireball, then took out his cellphone and turned on its flashlight function. The light from the phone brightly illuminated their path.
Looking back and forth between his fireball and the phone's light, Mr. Song quietly searched pockets for his phone.
At the rear of the party walked Jinwoo, who was injured, and Juhee, who had no fighting skills. Jinwoo scratched his head.
"Dragging you along like this."
"I'm fine. You don't have to worry about me."
Jinwoo discretely read her expression. It was not a face without worry. Tilting his head, Jinwoo carefully asked,
"Are you sure?"
Juhee abruptly turned to face him,
"Of course I'm not okay! Are you in your right mind?! Earlier, if the place you were stabbed in was just a bit higher, it would've pierced your heart! And what about the injuries on your wrist and thigh?! I barely healed all those, and you're already jumping into another Dungeon? Especially when you don't know anything about it?"
At her rant, Jinwoo felt himself becoming light-headed. But she was not wrong. Juhee was a Healer-class Hunter, and more than that, a B-Rank Hunter. A rare sight in the Association. If it was not for her healing, Jinwoo would've probably succumbed to injuries that would've put his normal life out of commission, much less being a Hunter.
'I really owe her a lot…'
A Healer-class Hunter.
Not only that, a B-Rank Healer-class Hunter.
Whenever a Gate appeared, the Association would request her as a healer, and of course, Jinwoo would always find himself sitting or lying down next to her in treatment in their Raids.
"You're hurting, right? Please hang in there."
"You look familiar… are you from that time…?"
"You got hurt again?"
"Seems like I see you again and again."
"You said your name was Jinwoo? Are you… alright?"
"Do you ever think maybe the Hunter-life isn't for you…?"
"...You're here again."
"Hold out your arm. No, not there, you can mend that with just bandages, the other arm."
Surpassing his gratitude, he now felt apologetic to her.
Seeing his silent face, Juhee felt bad about her rant and calmed down.
"Are you really sorry?"
After some thought, Juhee looked at Jinwoo at her side, with corners of her mouth rising ever so slightly,
"Well… maybe you could treat me to a meal sometime."
It was not a response he expected. Shocked, Jinwoo looked at Juhee's face, now showing a mischievous smile. 'A girl…' He remembered Juhee was 20 going on 21. If she had cut her long hair into a proper length and put on a school uniform, she'd be a fitting image of a student. Imagining her in a uniform, his face blushed.
Seeing his delayed response, Juhee blew air into her cheeks and pouted.
"Do you… not want to eat with me?"
It was then.
Suddenly, a commotion rose from the vanguard of the party.
"This is it!"
"The boss room!"
Jinwoo and Juhee turned their gazes forward.
There stood a giant door signaling the end of the tunnel. The Hunters gathered before the door.
"To think there was a door at the end of the tunnel."
"Do you think this was always here?"
"First time I'm seeing something like this…."
"Do... do you think it's dangerous?"
As they quietly whispered back and forth, the Hunters became uneasy. After all, their lives were on the line; they had to be careful. But too much care may impede progress, Mr. Song thought.
"So you guys want to turn back after all that? To go back empty handed?"
He placed his hand on the door.
"You're free to go back. I'll go alone."
Mr. Song was a C-Rank Hunter with 10 years of experience. If it wasn't for the fact that he was past 60 years old, he could've probably raided under a large Guild.
So when such a veteran Hunter spoke with confidence, the uneasiness of the other Hunters slowly disappeared.
"Now that I think about it," One of the Hunters spoke of a rumor regarding Double Dungeons, "I heard that Double Dungeons have some crazy treasures."
"Yeah, I heard some mid-level Guild once found a Double Dungeon and shot straight to a large Guild status!"
"And wherever magic beasts may appears in a Dungeon, they should all be the same level generally…"
And so the Hunters thought, what if this Double Dungeon contained a phenomenal treasure? And what if the magic beasts beyond this door were the same level as before?
'Can't let that old man take all the treasures by himself.'
'Mm, of course.'
'Forget just postnatal, I could probably pay for a big private school, pay for the mortgage…'
And just like that, the Hunters' understandings became one. Even Jinwoo renewed his determination.
'I can't just return with a E-Rank magic core. At the very least, a D-Rank, no, just even one more E-Rank is good enough.'
It didn't have to be a magic beast either.
'If we find treasure beyond that door…'
It was a standard agreement that any treasures or artifacts found in a Dungeon would be divided evenly amongst party members. This was different than the case where magic core from magic beasts would only go to the members who helped take a target down.
'If I can score big right here, I can rest easy for a bit…'
Seeing his determined face, Juhee asked from his side,
"Is that really the face of someone who Hunts as a 'hobby'?"
"Who would risk their lives for work these days? But for a hobby, that's another story."
As Juhee put on an incredulous expression on her face, Mr. Song started pushing the door open.
Through some unknown mechanism, the giant door opened easily as the 60-year old man pushed.
The wide open door revealed a large interior, and the Hunters entered pushing past each other.
"We should go too."
Not wanting to fall behind, Jinwoo took Juhee's wrist and went forward.
With redness creeping onto her face, Juhee followed him.
As the Hunters' first steps fell onto the ground, the numerous torches that filled the walls of the area lit up, brightly illuminating the interior.
"Hmm? The light went on?"
"First time I'm seeing that."
The Hunters surveilled their surroundings. It felt like the interior of a large temple. Like an ominous temple that would be hidden away deep underground, the floors, the walls and even the ceiling was covered in moss. Some Hunters shuddered and noted,
"Something feels wrong."
"Doesn't it feel like we're being watched?"
The more fearful Hunters fell to the rear, while the stronger Hunters headed deeper into the room.
"Tsk. Don't say such things."
"Let's just finish up here and go back."
The interior was incredibly large. A wide area in a dome shape. It was comparable to multiple olympic fields being put together. No, perhaps bigger. At the same time, it paradoxically felt cramped. The reason was simple.
"That.. that thing…"
"That's not the boss, is it?"
At the end of the room, something whose size surpassed reason and logic sat upon a grand and enormous seat. It could only described as a massive Statue of God.
They could not help but be amazed.
Jinwoo himself compared the statue's size to America's Statue of Liberty. 'If the Statue of Liberty sat down, it would probably look like that.' Although the Statue of Liberty is female, and this one was clearly male. 'No… This thing's bigger…'
The Hunters gathered before the statue could not help but gulp repeatedly. They stood in fear, wondering if the Statue of God was the boss of this Dungeon.
But the Statue did not move.
Mr. Song also sighed in relief.
"Alright, let's spread out."
With renewed confidence, the Hunters spread out, investigating the giant room.
"I don't see any magic beasts."
"Forget magic beasts, I don't even see a single bug."
Compared to its well-lit interiors and enormous size, the room of the Statue of God was rather plain. Adorning its walls were countless torches, illuminating the room. In front of the torches stood statues slightly larger than the average man, forming equidistant points of a circle.
"It's like a work of art."
Each statue held something different in its hands. Some held weapons, some books, others held instruments or torches.
"It's like…" Mr. Kim started describing,
"Decorations in a temple." Mr. Song finished his sentence.
Mr. Song found something at his feet.
"This is… a magic circle?"
At the center of the temple room, there was a magic circle that he had never seen before in his life.
"Mr. Song, there's something written here. Can you come take a look at this?"
A Hunter called out to the Raid's leader, finding a statue that stood out from the rest. Leaving his observation of the magic circle, Mr. Song headed towards the Hunter. One by one, all the Hunters in the room gathered before the strange statue as well.
Of all the statues in the room, this one was the only one with wings. It was holding a stone tablet. What caught the Hunters' eyes were the words written on the stone tablet.
"It's Runic." Mr. Song spoke after analyzing the tablet.
Runes. A form of text that could be found in Dungeons, it was something that could not be found elsewhere on Earth. Only the Hunters who Awakened as Mage-class could interpret them.
Mr. Song read the first line of the tablet:
" 'Commandments of the Cartenon Temple' "
Jinwoo listened to Mr. Song's reading of the tablet with a serious expression. But then suddenly, someone grabbed his arm.
Turning around, he saw Juhee looking at him with a pale, fear-stricken face.
: "Statue of God" (신상 [神像]; Shin-Sang): "God" Shin + "Statue" Sang
: "my god…": Just an "omg", not specifically saying that the statue was his god.
: "Statue of Liberty": Heel-to-Head Height: ~111 feet.
: "Magic Circle" (마법진; Ma-Beop-Jin): "Magic" Ma-Beop + "Circle" Jin
: "Runic" (룬 문자; Rune Mun-Ja): Rune (in English) + "Text" Mun-Ja
: "Awakened" (각성; Gak-Sung): Terminology used to describe the phenomenon where humans awaken special powers. Those that awaken obtain specific repertoire of abilities and skills fitting to a certain class (Fighter, Mage, Healer, etc…)
: "Commandments of the Cartenon Temple" (카르테논 신전의 규율): The korean word for "commandments" actually is closer to an uncommon way of saying "rule", but I've translated as "commandment" for a minor story purpose later on. I couldn't find a direct translation for "Cartenon", so this is just a pronunciation choice.