I Alone Level-Up Chapter 3
Her pale face shocked Jinwoo.
"What's wrong? Are you not feeling well?"
"Over… over there."
Jinwoo followed Juhee's pointing fingers to the Statue of God. The enormous statue. She was pointing at its face. Not seeing any difference from the first time he saw it, Jinwoo tilted his head.
With a shaking voice, Juhee spoke,
"H-his eyes… The Statue's eyes just looked at us."
No matter how long he stared, the results were the same. The Statue sat still, unmoving.
"Hmm… You must've imagined it."
But his words fell on deaf ears. Casting her gaze to the ground, Juhee simply held on to his arms and trembled.
A sense of dread washed over Jinwoo.
'...Where did the sound go?'
The crackling sound from the torches' fires suddenly became silent.
Meanwhile, Mr. Song's reading of the tablet continued.
"Worship the Lord. Second, Praise the Lord. Third, Prove your Faith to the Lord. Those who do not follow these commands will not leave alive."
It was in that moment,
At the sudden sound, all the Hunters jumped in surprise.
The first person to notice was Jinwoo. Having focused on his hearing because of the torches, he was able to immediately notice what was happening.
"The door! The door is closing!"
At his words, the entire party turned towards the door, only to watch it close with a bang.
"Dammit! I can't do this anymore!"
The Hunter who first voted "no" to enter the Double Dungeon swore and headed towards the door.
"I'm leaving now. You guys can have all the bosses and treasures you want."
Glaring rebelliously at Mr. Song, the man turned and grabbed the door's handles.
Mr. Song's eyes widened.
A sickening sound of 'something' striking 'something' rang throughout the temple.
With it, the man's head had disappeared from sight. Having lost its head, his body naturally fell backwards onto the ground.
The Hunters started screaming.
Having obliterated the man's head with its mace, the statue returned and assumed its position next to the door as if nothing had happened.
"That- that thing just moved!"
"What? Does that mean all the statues here can move?"
"We're supposed to fight those?!"
"I didn't even see him swing that mace!"
It was at this point Jinwoo replayed Juhee's words in his mind.
"H-his eyes… The Statue's eyes just looked at us."
'If that's true…'
He shuddered. Making an effort to move his terrified body, he turned and looked at the Statue of God.
And found the Statue of God looking back at him.
Jinwoo realized. This was just the beginning.
-3. Start of the Attack-
The Statue of God's eyes were lit with a crimson light.
Was it a Hunter's instinct? No, it was the survival instincts of a living being. "Something" was coming. "Something" that could not be stopped.
Jinwoo turned and shouted on top of his lungs.
Right as his mouth opened, a crimson ray of light shot out from the Statue's eyes.
Jinwoo threw himself at Juhee and pulled her to the ground.
The ray of light passed through where Jinwoo was standing moments before.
One tenth of a second.
No, one hundredth of a second.
If the timing of his actions were off by just an infinitesimal amount…
The other Hunters were not as lucky.
The screams did not come from the Hunters who were struck by the light. After all, the ones who were struck disintegrated instantly, leaving only a trace of ash and burnt stone in their wake. No, the screams were coming from the Hunters who survived.
"What the hell is this!"
"How could this…"
The Hunters were in shock.
11 remaining alive out of 16.
They had never seen an attack like this before.
'I barely dodged after hearing Jinwoo.'
'If Mr. Sung didn't shout just now…'
The Hunters looked at Jinwoo and gulped. Their lives' savior. If it was not for him, they knew that they would be counted among the fallen.
With his entire body bowed on the ground, Jinwoo turned his head and peaked at the Statue. Its eyes were still lit with crimson glow but did not continue its attack.
'Is… is it done attacking?'
Jinwoo turned his head towards the ground again. Juhee lay below him, shaking in fear. Although she was a B-Rank Hunter, this was the reason she Hunted in simple Raids under the Association and not an advanced Raid under a large Guild.
Her breathing became more and more irregular. He couldn't just leave her like this. Thinking he had to do something to help her, Jinwoo began to get-up when a strong hand forced him back down.
"Don't stand up."
It was Mr. Song.
Although surprised, Jinwoo sternly listened to his words.
Mr. Song shouted at the other Hunters, as well.
"Everyone stay where you are! Don't move from your position!"
After taking a quick look across the party, Mr. Song turned to Jinwoo again.
"The ones who were moving got hit. Those that listened to you and got down survived."
Mr. Song tilted his head in confusion.
"Did you not shout after figuring something out?"
"I just felt something dangerous was coming, that's all…"
Mr. Song's eyes looked at him with bright eyes.
'His instincts are good. I heard he was an E-Rank? If only his abilities were a little higher…'
His gaze turned into one of pity as he continued to stare at Jinwoo. Meanwhile, Jinwoo got a better look at the man staring at him. What caught his eyes shocked him.
"Ah-ahjussi… your arm…"
"It's alright, I can endure this much."
Jinwoo gulped. Mr. Song's right arm was draped over Jinwoo's shoulder, and his other arm… His other arm was gone.
While silently looking at Juhee, Mr. Song wordlessly wrapped the remnants of his shirt around the stump where his arm was, gritting his teeth through the pain.
"Can you tie the end here? Hard to do with just one hand."
As Jinwoo nodded and completed what could barely be called first-aid, Mr. Song let out a long sigh. It was a sigh filled with the experience of 10-years of Hunting. Looking around, he took in the surroundings and the status of their situation. Just because the Statue of God had stopped its attack didn't mean their adversity was over.
Time passed as the Hunters lay on the ground.
"Why did this happen to us…"
Some of the Hunters started crying again.
"We can't stay like this forever!"
The patience of the survivors was slowly reaching its limits.
Jinwoo felt the same.
'We can't stay like this forever.'
But what could they do? If Mr. Song's guess was correct, they would be attacked the moment they started moving. And even if they managed to dodge the Statue of God's attack, they still had to go through the statues guarding the door. And therein lied the other problem. The movement of the one guarding the door was so fast that it could barely be seen by the naked eye.
How could they get past something like that? It was an impossible situation. The Hunters' annihilation was simply a matter of time.
'Wait… a matter of time?'
As the thought appeared in his head, an uncomfortable thought followed.
Something that no one else had noticed.
'There's… there's something we missed.'
Perhaps the answer was there.
It was in that moment.
Mr. Song yelled at Mr. Joo, who responded by baring his teeth.
"Shut up! We don't know when that thing will attack again! You just want us to wait until that time?!"
Mr. Joo was a Fighter-class Hunter. As beings who threw their bodies into the middle of combat, a Fighter-class Hunter's physical abilities were much greater than an ordinary human. On top of that, Mr. Joo was someone whose skills were acknowledged by a large Guild, who had offered him a contract.
"I can't die like this."
With his body still lowered to the ground, Mr. Joo flexed the muscles in his legs.
The goal is the door.
With an explosive start, Mr. Joo ran towards the door. Watching the man's attempt, Jinwoo turned away and looked back at the Statue of God. As if waiting, the Statue was looking at Mr. Joo. A ray of light exploded from its eyes.
The ray covered Mr. Joo's back.
One of the female Hunters screamed. Unable to control her fear, a yellow puddle slowly appeared from the ground she was collapsed on.
The other Hunter's faces hardened.
"Oh my god…"
No trace of Mr. Joo could be found where he stood. Save for two feet on the ground, ending just above the ankles.
The sound of a man retching reached Jinwoo's ears, and he furrowed his brows.
As expected, this 'thing' was more than capable of annihilating all the Hunters in an instant. To it, it was easier than stepping on an insect.
'So why… why isn't it?'
It could kill them all, yet it did not.
Compared to the magic beasts that always threw themselves at the Hunters, these things were different. Attacking someone only when they moved. Attacking someone only when they neared the door. There was a pattern and condition to their aggression. Like a game with rules.
'Perhaps… There are rules to this room?'
In that moment, Jinwoo found a piece of the puzzle in his head. It was the tablet that Mr. Song was reading earlier.
'Commandments of the Cartenon Temple'
A commandment was a rule, and rules must be followed.
If there was a way out of this place, away from these things, the key was written on that tablet.
"...Worship the Lord"
Jinwoo spoke the first commandment out loud.
"Hmm? Did you say something?" Mr. Song asked, facing Jinwoo.
Instead of answering, Jinwoo put a finger to his lips.
'If I'm correct…"
Slowly, Jinwoo got up. Mr. Song frantically tried to stop him, but Jinwoo shook his head at him with a determined face.
'...That's not a face that's given up on living.'
Mr. Song nodded at Jinwoo.
Without looking away from the Statue of God, Jinwoo slowly rose and raised his body gradually higher and higher. Suddenly, the Statue of God's gaze fell upon him.
If he hesitated even for a split second on getting back to the ground, Jinwoo would've lost a lot more than few strands of hair on his head.
Back on the ground, Jinwoo panted heavily.
He had almost died just now. When his eyes met the Statue of God's, he knew he had looked at death right in the eyes. Having dodged the attack by a hair (literally), Jinwoo's legs could not stop shaking.
It was not for naught.
'He's not attacking someone who's moving.'
Having his body lowered to the ground, no amount of movement caused a reaction from the Statue of God.
'No, his attacks are towards someone who rises above a certain height.'
To confirm, he had just put his life on the line. And now, he had that confirmation.
The meaning of the First Commandment!
: "ahjussi" (아저씨; ah-juh-ssi): Korean noun to refer to or describe a middle-aged man. Japanese equivalent = ojisan.