I Alone Level-Up Chapter 5
Jinwoo's shout reached all the Hunters' ears.
Hope returned to their eyes. Unlike the time where Jinwoo asked them to bow, the Hunters this time did not hesitate to respond. Of course, if Jinwoo was wrong on his guess, they would be massacred when they approached the statues. But in this moment, there was not one Hunter who remained suspicious of Jinwoo's directions.
Mr. Song was the first to arrive at a statue holding an instrument.
Holding his breath, Mr. Song slowly looked up at the statue. As if responding, the statue's fingers moved, and it started playing the harp in its hands.
It was a beautiful sound.
"He was right!"
"Move to the statues with instruments!"
Each Hunter, with renewed hope, ran towards the various statues holding instruments.
Trumpets, flutes, lyres. Soon, the harmonious melody of different instruments filled the entire temple.
Mr. Kim, who had been running until his breath ran out, collapsed and knelt before a statue holding a mandolin.
As the mandolin's melody rang through the air, the Statue of God that was chasing Mr. Kim slowed to a stop. Unable to hold his emotions back, Mr. Kim burst into tears where he knelt.
And the Statue of God turned away from him. Scanning the rest of the temple, it found its new target.
Meeting its eyes, Jinwoo cursed. And he started running, his heart beating like it was about to explode. His sweating back was soaked.
'Why! Why is this one not playing?!'
Jinwoo glared at the statue he had arrived at with resentment. Holding drums in its hands, its silent figure made no indication that it would play its instrument.
With terrifying speed, the Statue of God closed the gap between them. As the Statue, which had been at the opposite end of the room only moments ago, neared them, Jinwoo gulped.
'Is it because Juhee and I are both here at the same time?'
That must've been the answer. As he looked around, no other Hunter had trouble with their statues.
'I don't have time to think about this,'
He put down Juhee and prepared to run to a different spot.
A terrified Juhee held onto his sleeves. Jinwoo calmly whispered into her ears,
"We'll both die if I stay."
As he saw tears forming at the corners of her eyes, Jinwoo knew that there was no time to explain. He gently pulled away her shaking hands from his sleeves, then ran with all his might towards another statue.
*Ba-Bum* *Ba-Bum* *Ba-Bum*
He heard the beat of the drum starting from behind him as he ran.
There was only one thing left. To safely make it to another statue!
Jinwoo was now the only one who had not made it to the protection of statues holding instruments. Accordingly, the complete rage of the Statue of God was now focused solely on him. Jinwoo ran away from the crashing footsteps of his chaser and sped across the room.
As he barely dodged and rolled away from the Statue's stomps, his panting became heavier and heavier. Although he was the lowest of the E-rank Hunters, as a Fighter-class Hunter, his body offered what little help it could in this situation.
'Just a little bit more!'
Taking notice of the Statue of God's footsteps closing in on him, he focused and strengthened his legs. His speed increased. There was but a few steps until he reached his target statue.
"NO, NOT THAT WAY!"
Mr. Song had shouted at him.
Having focused on the Statue of God's movements until now, Jinwoo turned his attention to the statue he had arrived at.
'It's not holding an instrument!'
He now realized what appeared to be an instrument in the statue's hands was actually a shield. Without mercy, the statue raised and brought down the shield in its hands.
Jinwoo threw his body to the side.
As he rolled across on the floor, he looked up. The Statue of God was almost upon him.
"Out of the frying pan…"
His tumble on the ground had opened a cut on his forehead. Blood flowed down to his eyes, obscuring his vision. Jinwoo rapidly looked left and right.
But no instrument registered in his eyes.
The Statue of God raised its foot.
Jinwoo barely evaded the stomp by throwing his body to the side. But he was reaching his limits. Feeling faint, he found it hard to maintain balance for some reason.
If there was a God, he wanted to pray to it. In that moment, Jinwoo noticed a statue that was neither holding a weapon nor an instrument.
He crawled with last vestiges of his strength, placing his hopes on the statue. With a final twist of his body, he threw himself at the feet of the statue with a book in its hands. Facing the Statue of God that was heading toward him, he realized he had no strength left to move. Panting heavily, he looked at the face of the Statue of God. As if made worse by his persistent resistance, the anger in the face that looked down upon Jinwoo was greatly magnified.
It stopped before Jinwoo.
Faced with a giant as tall as a building, Jinwoo struggled to breathe.
'Guess I'm a cornered rat…'
The Statue of God simply continued to stare.
'This is the end…'
Certain of his impending doom, Jinwoo saw his death in the eyes that were looking down at him.
In that moment, he heard a beautiful and melodious singing coming from behind him. With effort, he turned and looked at its source. The statue that he was resting on was now singing with a holy voice; its sound echoing throughout the temple. Looking back, Jinwoo saw the Statue of God's face starting to relax. The traces of its demonic rage disappeared as the Statue's face returned to its original emotionless visage.
As the statues' music ended, the Statue of God turned and returned to its seat, appearing as if nothing had happened.
The sound of the giant sitting down rang throughout the temple.
"Hah... Hah... Are… we… safe…?"
Jinwoo faintly smiled through his heavy breaths.
Juhee quickly ran to him,
Having reached him after running with all her might, Juhee collapsed next to him in tears.
"Oh my god… oh my god…"
She used all the mana at her disposal and tried every healing magic she knew. But it had no effect.
One by one, the scattered Hunters gathered before Jinwoo. Their expressions equally dark.
"Oh no… Jinwoo..."
Amidst their pitying looks and words, Juhee cried without ceasing.
'Why are they looking at me like that?'
Jinwoo wanted to ask, but he lacked the energy to speak. So, he tried to gather his strength and stand up.
A pool of blood had gathered where he was sitting. Jinwoo finally was able to understand the situation he was in.
His right leg had disappeared below the knees.
He looked across the room to the statue holding a shield. The base of the shield was covered in blood.
His missing leg below it.
He turned and saw blood dripping down from Juhee's nose. Her body had reached its limits. A B-rank Hunter's healing was insufficient for the regeneration of a body part. Yet she continued, her efforts like collecting water with a broken pitcher. And as she continued, both her mana and vitality quickly decreased.
"It's okay, Juhee. You can stop now…"
"No! I can heal this! I'll heal you!"
The Hunters watched the pair with pity.
Of the 17 that had entered, only 6 remained.
Of the 6 remaining, 2 had received a seriously injury.
Mr. Song and his arm, and now Jinwoo with his leg.
Although their lives were saved, no one could put on a smile.
Suddenly, a thundering noise rang throughout the temple.
At its center, the ground with the magic circle inscribed upon it started rising, forming a platform.
Jinwoo realized the final trial had arrived.
'Prove your Faith…'
He had already been contemplating its meaning.
-5. The Final Trial-
The rising ground stopped at waist height.
Jinwoo absent-mindedly spoke to himself.
'Did he just say an altar?'
The man who had saved their lives not once but twice; Jinwoo was not a high leveled Awakened Being, but a lowly E-rank Hunter that they looked down on in the past.
'If it wasn't for Mr. Sung, we would be…'
The Hunters' thoughts were in union. Jinwoo's words up until now were a lifeline to them. And now this man had uttered the words, "altar". The quick-witted Mr. Kim was the first to speak,
"I think I understand."
He unsheathed the sword at his waist. Normally a weapon to be used in slaying magic beasts, its purpose this time was different.
"Even an idiot like me can understand what you mean by 'altar'."
The Hunters looked at Mr. Kim's drawn sword, gleaming with sharpness, and gulped.
"Hey, Mr. Kim! Why are you taking that out now?"
"Let's talk about this, talk!"
Mr. Song's C-rank was the highest in the party. With him out of commission, there was no one else in the party would could match Mr. Kim, whose skill shone even amongst the other D-rankers.
Mr. Kim pointed his sword at the altar.
"The last Commandment was, 'Prove your Faith', and now this altar appeared in the middle of the room."
Mr. Kim's gaze shifted to Jinwoo,
"We have to sacrifice someone at the altar, right, Mr. Sung?"
Jinwoo nodded. It was his guess as well. One of the living 6 had to become a sacrifice.
'That's probably the last rule…'
As he raised his head, he saw Mr. Kim approaching him with a strange look in his eyes. A streak of sweat fell down the side of Jinwoo's head.
"Ahjussi… what are you going to-"
"Just sit there quietly!"
Mr. Kim pointed his sword at Mr. Song, who had been sitting next to Jinwoo looking over his injuries.
"Who is the one who dragged us all here? It's Mr. Song right here! Then shouldn't he be the one to pay the price for all this?!"
Jinwoo yelled and tried to get up, but Mr. Song's hands stopped him. Jinwoo turned and look at the man.
Mr. Song shook his head without a word. His eyes begged Jinwoo to stay quiet. Jinwoo wanted to say something, but swallowed his words. Mr. Song slowly got up.
"Mr. Kim is right. I have to take responsibility."
"Then we're in agreement, old man."
Mr. Kim gestured towards the altar with his sword.
"If you're in, then let's hurry up. 11 people died because of you."
: "Awakening Being" (각성자; gak-sung-ja): "to awaken" gak-sung + "person" ja > a person who had underwent Awakening. All Hunters are Awakened Beings. Not all Awakened Beings work as Hunters.