I Alone Level-Up Chapter 6
One of the casualties included Mr. Park, Mr. Kim's friend.
Of course, the party had voted on the issue before entering the Double Dungeon, with a stipulation that no one would argue the result. But to Mr. Kim, who had lost all reason, it was but a faded memory in the back of his mind.
"I'll go of my own will, so could you put away the sword?"
Mr. Song asked Mr. Kim.
"How could I trust you after all this? Stop talking and walk."
Sighing, Mr. Song walked to the altar, followed by Mr. Kim and his sword pointed at his back.
As he watched, Jinwoo bit his lips.
'It's not Mr. Song's fault…'
After all, they all had voted and agreed on the result. To Jinwoo, after everything they went through, putting all the blame on Mr. Song was the height of cowardice.
Jinwoo simply did not have the power to stop Mr. Kim. A D-ranker who stood at the height of his rank, and an E-ranker who groveled at the lowest of his. The difference in power was too much. On top of that, he was missing one of his legs. If he tried something now, not only him, but Juhee, who was healing him, could become the target of Mr. Kim's anger.
Jinwoo closed his eyes. Out of all the days, he cursed his powerlessness the most in this moment.
In the meantime, Mr. Song had gotten on top of the altar.
In response, a red flame appeared at the edges of the middle area where the altar was. All those gathered gulped as they cautiously prepared for what would happen next.
But nothing happened.
Except for the appearance of the flame.
As no new development occurred after some time, Mr. Kim and the others started feeling anxious.
"Hey, Mr. Sung, wasn't this it?"
Mr. Kim asked Jinwoo.
"I'm not sure…"
Jinwoo had expected the Third Commandment to be fulfilled when a person went on top of the altar.
'Was it not asking for a sacrifice?'
Well, it was not a bad news to Jinwoo. If his theory of sacrifice was wrong, then there was a chance to save Mr. Song. Jinwoo's face brightened. As he struggled to get up, Jinwoo asked the two Hunters standing nearby for help.
"Could you help me get to the altar?"
"Jinwoo, your injury…"
Juhee also stood up with Jinwoo. Having spent most of her mana, her appearance was pale and weak. Thanks to her help, Jinwoo was at least able to overcome the sense of pain from his injuries.
'I have to hurry.'
Juhee's condition. Mr. Kim's anger. The other Hunters' terror.
He was running out of time.
With the other two Hunters' assistance, Jinwoo arrived at the altar.
"Let's go up on the altar."
His two helpers were taken back for a moment, but placed their faith in Jinwoo and got on top of the altar.
In response, three more flames arose from the edge of the middle area.
Jinwoo's eyes widened.
'Same as the number of people on top.'
Mr. Song, his two helpers and himself. The four flames flickered around the middle area, outlining a circle.
'Looking at their placement, we just need 2 more to complete the circle.'
And so, it appeared that the remaining people would have to come on top of the altar.
"Do you think someone will come to rescue us if we wait?"
Jinwoo asked Mr. Song.
Mr. Song shook his head.
"Today marks the 7th day since this Gate opened. Before reinforcements arrive, those things will probably move first."
"For a D-rank Gate, they sure left it alone for too long."
"Well, it's the Association, after all…"
A Gate will undergo a full opening after 7 days. It was the job of the Hunter to prevent that from happening. To close the Gate by slaying the boss in the Dungeon, that was the real objective of a Raid. Should they fail to do so in time, all the magic beasts within the Dungeon obtained the freedom to exit the Gate. A Dungeon Break.
Jinwoo looked around him. The Statue of God remained in its seat, looking down upon their party from distance.
'If that thing is allowed to leave here…'
He could not imagine the destruction that would follow. Of course, their party would be the first to be massacred, if the statues in the room gained the freedom to move about. So Jinwoo realized they could not just hold out for help.
Jinwoo called out to Juhee and Mr. Kim.
"Can you two also come up here?"
Juhee followed his instructions. Even the hesitating Mr. Kim quickly followed suit.
Two more flames appeared, completing the circle.
The Hunters gasped.
As Jinwoo expected, something was happening.
From the outermost circle of the middle area, small blue flames started appearing. One by one, they flared into existence and formed a circle around the middle area.
'34… 35… 36…'
Jinwoo counted 36 blue flames.
'The red flames that matched the number of people. The blue flames that number 36. Is there a meaning to their number?'
In that moment,
The door blocking their exit opened without a warning. The Hunters flinched in reaction.
Every single one of them wanted to run towards the exit, but the memory of the final moments of the singing Hunter remained fresh in their minds, and no one made any movements. They did not know what fate would await the first person to leave the altar. As if waiting for an answer, all their gazes fell upon Jinwoo, who closed his mouth in silence.
It was too early to make a conclusion. Whether or not the opening of the door was a trap, or if it was the Dungeon's way of letting them know that they had fulfilled the Final Commandment, he did not know.
As the Hunters waited for Jinwoo's directions, noises that carried bad news came from edges of the room.
The six heads turned in unison, looking around the room.
"What the hell?!"
"They've… they've come closer!"
"They're all just moved!"
The Hunters' breathing quickened. The statues that only responded to humans being nearby suddenly appeared to be few steps closer than before. In that short time, Jinwoo was able to fully ascertain the situation.
'No, the statues didn't move. It was the pedestals beneath the statues that moved closer.'
The sliding sound from earlier was the sound of stone pedestals grinding against the floor.
"...They've stopped moving?"
Mr. Kim wiped away the sweat on his brows. As everyone else's attentions were focused on the statues, Jinwoo looked at the blue flames around them. Disappearing one by one, three blue flames had already gone out.
"What, what! Where is it?!"
Someone shouted. Jinwoo raised his head, the sound came from his direction. The statues that faced him had moved closer.
'Why only me…?'
Was it because he had looked away?
Jinwoo closed his eyes to test the theory.
"What, what do we do now?!"
With renewed understanding, Jinwoo shouted at the others,
"Don't look away from the statues!"
Now that he thought about it, the initial movements of the pedestals were probably caused when everyone looked towards him for guidance earlier.
'These bastard don't move when we're looking at them.'
Another blue flame went out, but it did not elicit a response from the statues.
'Could it be…?'
Without taking his eyes off the statues, Jinwoo carefully raised his arm and looked at his watch.
'As I thought.'
The blue flames were disappearing every minute.
'The blue flames are a timer.'
Jinwoo surmised that the Final Commandment's trial was to wait on top of the altar until the 36 blue flames disappeared. As long as each of them covered all the statues, they would be safe. There was a chance no one had to die in this final trial.
Jinwoo checked his watch and the blue flames to determine the time remaining.
They just had to wait for 30 minutes!
But Jinwoo had made a mistake. While he was counting the blue flames, he had looked away from the statues, and as such, they started moving toward him again.
"I-I can't do this!"
The man who was positioned across Jinwoo screamed and ran towards the open door. Having startled by the sound of movement coming from behind him, unable to turn around, the man lost all courage and made the decision to run. As he jumped from the altar, one of the red flames disappeared.
But the man who ran with all his might ignored him and safely passed through the open doors.
"W-what? Mr. Sung, what just happened? He got out safely!"
Jinwoo, unable to turn around towards the door, did not know what had happened.
"Did anything change?"
"The door… the door moved slightly inwards."
"Is it closing right now?"
"No, no. It started closing a little after that man went through but isn't moving anymore."
Jinwoo remembered the red flame disappearing after the man left the altar.
His heart sank to his stomach. The riddle that plagued his mind atop the altar had finally revealed its answer.
What part of this was proving 'Faith to the Lord'? The answer had come to him.
However, to a man who could only walk with someone else's assistance, it was the worst answer possible.
The 'open door' was a trap. A false hope to their eyes!
Had the entire party ran towards the exit after seeing the door open, the door would have closed immediately and the party would have ran towards their massacre. On the contrary, the altar was the safe zone. If they had just waited on top and waited out the blue flames while watching the statues, it would've guaranteed their safety.
A false hope they could see vs. a promise they could not.
This was how one proved their 'Faith to the Lord'. It was a test to overcome the temptation of freedom amidst the approaching danger.
Here, two variables appeared before their situation.
One. Jinwoo's presence.
Instead of running to the open door to their doom, the party stopped to listen to Jinwoo, avoiding a certain death.
'We got lucky.'
It was only possible due to the presence of a man who had solved the Two Commandments before and saved their lives, earning their respect and attention in the process.
But the second variable was not as favorable.
Someone had left their party to safety.
How would those that remained behind react to this appearance of hope?
The answer was obvious.
The man supporting Jinwoo was the second to run out the open doors. Mr. Song quickly reacted and caught the falling Jinwoo. Another red flame went out with the second runner, and the door inched closer to being shut.
Mr. Kim wagged his finger at the second runner, but the man, like the first, safely passed through the doors.
Looking at the number of remaining flames, Jinwoo shouted,
"Please don't move! We can't afford to lose anyone else!"