READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 153 ( Only I level up )
Woo Jin-Cheol was among the very best within the Hunters ranked A, and could be considered the core fighting force of the Monitoring Division.
There was no one within the Association, save for Goh Gun-Hui, who could win against him in a fight. He was that strong.
However, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was capable of controlling not just one or two summoned creatures, but several hundreds of them at the same time, each one of them strong enough to shock someone of Woo Jin-Cheol’s calibre. In that case, a schedule like this one shouldn’t be seen as strange at all.
However, why was he in such a hurry like this?
Deep frowns formed on Goh Gun-Hui’s forehead.
If it were someone else, a different Hunter, then he’d pack his lunch and follow them around to dissuade them. He was even prepared to whip them until they changed their minds, but now….
‘But, I can’t imagine Hunter Seong Jin-Woo getting hurt inside measly rank A and B Gates at all.’
If he were to borrow Woo Jin-Cheol’s description from earlier, than wouldn’t it be ‘pitying the monsters’, instead? Goh Gun-Hui smirked softly and nodded his head.
“If there isn’t any serious problem, do as he wishes, please.”
From the perspective of the Association President, he was thankful for the fact that there was a Hunter taking lead in subjugating monsters all on his own. Especially when that person was a powerful being who’d not get injured during the process, too.
However, Woo Jin-Cheol apparently didn’t agree.
“Sir, I believe it could lead to problems.”
“You mean, his activity will overlap with the jurisdictions of other large Guilds, is that it?”
There were three major Guilds operating within the Seoul Capital Area: the White Tiger, the Hunters, and the Reapers.
These three Guilds took care of high-ranking Gates that appeared within the districts they were in charge of.
But, if Ah-Jin suddenly butted their heads in among them without notice and start expanding rapidly like this, then the three Guilds would obviously grow unhappy rather quickly. It’d be basically the same thing as old nails being driven out by a new one.
‘They might end up in a conflict.’
That was Woo Jin-Cheol’s opinion and Goh Gun-Hui certainly agreed with that. Still, a smile floated up on the Association President’s lips.
‘I thought President was on Seong Hunter-nim’s side?’
Woo Jin-Cheol formed a puzzled expression as he asked.
“…..Did you come up with a good idea, sir?”
“No, not that. It’s just that, I can’t stop smiling when I think about how a newly established Guild with only three members and one combatant on their roster, have managed to exceed the major Guilds and are already coveting their territories like this.”
Only then did Woo Jin-Cheol understand.
“I agree, sir.”
It was Goh Gun-Hui’s turn to ask, that smile still etched on his lips.
“Did Ah-Jin provide an explanation on why they want to do this?”
“They said that they have a personal reason and wants us to entrust them with the Gates nearby only for the next week or so, sir.”
“A week, is it….”
During the Jeju Island raid, the Masters of the three major Guilds ended up owing their lives to Hunter Seong. It’d not be hard to get their understandings if it were only for a week.
‘If there’s one thing that I’m still puzzled about, then it’d be….’
That would have to be ‘why Hunter Seong Jin-Woo was willing to put himself under such a strenuous schedule’ – or, at least, when viewed from someone else’s perspective.
‘It can’t be… about money.’
If he wanted wealth, then there were other ways. If he negotiated with either the United States or China, he’d have gotten his hands on astronomical sums of wealth.
However, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo decided to remain in South Korea, and he didn’t even bother to bargain with any of the Guilds, either.
‘Then, just why….?’
Goh Gun-Hui’s gaze was soon directed to Woo Jin-Cheol guarding his side. The former asked as if it was in passing.
“In your opinion, why do you think Hunter Seong is trying to clear this many Gates in such a short time?”
Woo Jin-Cheol thought about it for a moment, before answering his boss.
“There is one thing I can think of, sir.”
Goh Gun-Hui expected an answer along the lines of “I don’t know” or “Can’t be sure”, so he couldn’t help but pay more attention to this somewhat surprising reply.
“What would that be?”
“I remember seeing how delighted he was during the process of hunting down the monsters.”
“He was ‘happy’ hunting down monsters?”
Woo Jin-Cheol dragged out the memories of the recent past to the fore.
Even back when Jin-Woo was helping out the Hunters Guild by fighting the High Orcs, he was carrying an expression of delight as he cheerfully moved around.
“And he was especially elated when taking down the boss-level monster, sir.”
“He feels delight at hunting down powerful monsters, is it….”
Goh Gun-Hui remembered listening to Jin-Woo saying something similar in the past.
[“I wish to fight against the monsters.”]
And ever since he made that declaration, he had been diligently keeping his promise.
‘What an interesting fellow he is.’
That man was certainly a lot exceptional than being merely interesting, too.
It was then, the office of the Association President was suddenly filled with the noisy ring of the telephone.
– “President, sir.”
It was a call from one of his adjutants.
“What’s going on?”
– “There’s a call from the American Hunter Bureau waiting for you, sir.”
Not only that, from the Hunter Bureau, too? Goh Gun-Hui tilted his head slightly.
‘Why would the Hunter Bureau contact me, the President of the Korean Hunter’s Association?’
A country like the United States wouldn’t request South Korea for cooperation, so what could this possibly be about?
“Connect me through.”
The call was connected right away. It didn’t even take one, maybe two seconds for the voice coming out from the phone’s receiver to change.
– “Hello, this is Adam White from the Hunter Bureau speaking.”
“Hello. This is Goh Gun-Hui from the Korean Hunter’s Association.”
The basic language for any aspiring businessman was English. And unsurprisingly, fluent English flowed out from Goh Gun-Hui’s mouth. He was far more confident of this language then he was with Japanese, the latter of which he only dabbled with when he was much younger.
“What business does America’s Hunter Bureau have with us?”
Adam White didn’t tarry and got right to the point.
– “We’re planning to hold an event early next month and wish to invite some of the most prominent Hunters from throughout the world, Mister Goh.”
– “And we’d like to have Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim as Korea’s representative.”
Before he got going properly with his raids, Jin-Woo searched for the appropriate Guild first. He needed a Guild that could painlessly handle the disposal of various loot he’d get from the high ranking dungeons.
‘I mean, it’s not like I’m planning to clear a raid once every few days here, is it….?’
It’d be quite tough for a newbie Vice-Chair to get through the tightly-packed raid schedule all alone, after all. Besides, he thought that it’d be far more advantageous to form a partnership with another Guild and work together with them, rather than letting the middlemen deal with the loot every single time.
‘The question is, who should I go with?’
He initially thought of the White Tiger, which he had interacted with often in the past, or with the Hunters Guild where Cha Hae-In was a member, but in the end, he settled on the Knight Order, instead.
He only had one reason for doing so. And that would be because they had worked together recently.
Also, some part of his decision was influenced by the fact that one was located in Seoul while the other one was in Busan, and therefore their activities wouldn’t overlap with each other.
Jin-Woo made his call during the early evening that day.
Chairman of the Knight Order Guild Park Jong-Su was lying on the couch in his living room, busy giggling away while watching the TV.
He picked up his vibrating phone resting on the couch’s armrest without giving too much thought.
[Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim]
But then, he confirmed who the caller was and his eyes rapidly grew wider. He shot up from his lying-down position and quickly answered his phone.
“Hunter-nim? Is that you?”
– “Hello, this is Seong Jin-Woo from Ah-Jin speaking.”
“Ah, yes. It’s Park Jong-Su from the Knight Order.”
– “Do you have time to discuss something important?”
Park Jong-Su’s complexion gradually brightened as he heard Jin-Woo’s explanation.
To be honest, Park Jin-Su had been feeling dejected lately, after his plans of building a very close relationship with Jin-Woo went down the crapper after the regulation had changed overnight.
Combining the know-how of the Knight Order Guild and the strength of Hunter Seong Jin-Woo – what a dang waste of time….
Even his trusted Vice-Chair Jeong Yun-Tae looked severely disappointed when the whole thing went sideways pretty quickly.
But then, what kind of jackpot was this? A phone call he didn’t even expect came his way all on its own volition?
Forming a tie with a strong Guild, nay, a Hunter, was probably one of the most important acts for any Guild out there.
“Yes, yes! There will be no problem at all.”
A bright smile didn’t want to leave Park Jong-Su’s face as he continued to chat away on the phone.
“Leave everything to us.”
The matter of processing various loot from a dungeon was not that hard for the Knight Order Guild and their extensive prior experience.
Normally, the Guild’s processing team would be doing nothing but sucking on their thumbs when there was no raid in sight. So, how good would it be to utilise them in this situation?
The smile grew with wider as Park Jong-Su spoke up.
“We’ll see you tomorrow!”
The lunch box Mom packed was indeed quite delicious. Even if the location for their meal turned out to be in the middle of a dungeon overflowing with monsters.
Yu Jin-Ho raised his head and spoke, his mouth still full of chow.
“With us being like this, I can’t help but think back to how we were clearing all those rank C dungeons, hyung-nim.”
Jin-Woo smirked and replied back.
“Hey, finish chewing your food first before talking, alright?”
“Ah, my bad, hyung-nim.”
It wasn’t as if Jin-Woo couldn’t understand what Yu Jin-Ho was talking about, though.
In the past few days, they kept themselves real busy by raiding every single Gate they could book, one after the other, with barely any rest in between. The only thing that had changed since then would be that, rather than rank C dungeons, they were raiding rank B or higher dungeons this time.
And, if he were to think of yet another difference, then that would be….
Igrit met Jin-Woo’s gaze and bowed slightly in a dignified manner.
‘Well, I now have a lookout during the meal times? Is that about it?’
It didn’t matter if he had one or not, though. Because of his Perception Stat, he didn’t have to concentrate hard to sense all the movements within the interior of the dungeons. Meaning, he could deal with any monster daring to approach him, even with his eyes closed.
It was just that, he didn’t want to be disturbed during his mealtime, and also, wanted to decrease Yu Jin-Ho’s fears a bit so he had a lookout like this.
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze to the other side.
Iron also met his owner’s gaze and powerfully pounded on his chest as if to say “Leave everything to me!”
Metallic thuds filled the interior of the cavern. Jin-Woo wryly shook his head.
‘It’s a problem that this guy’s enthusiasm still gets the better of him.’
Yu Jin-Ho looked in the direction of the noise, before asking Jin-Woo a question out of the blue.
“Can’t your summons act on their own?”
“Well, yeah. More or less.”
Hunter Min Byung-Gu did say that, didn’t he? He said that each of the Shadow Soldiers possessed their own ‘ego’.
‘Not sure how much of that story I can believe, though.’
Whatever the case may be – Yu Jin-Ho continued on with his question.
“Doesn’t that mean it’s fine to let the summons clear the raids by themselves during when we are having a meal, or otherwise can’t move around for some reason, hyung-nim?”
“Nope, that I can’t do.”
The amount of experience points he’d earn decreased when the distance between himself and the soldiers increased. He couldn’t really explain what the experience points were and all that to Yu Jin-Ho, though, so Jin-Woo simply formed a sombre, serious expression and replied.
“These guys, who knows what they will do when I’m not looking?”
Jin-Woo thought that he could hear the noise of Yu Jin-Ho’s falling appetite in real time. That’s how far he was prepared to take that joke, however.
‘Okay, should I try ‘that’ one more time?’
Jin-Woo finished his meal and quietly put the spoon down.
[Skill: Shadow Storage Lv. 2]
Mana required to activate: None.
Stores the shadow soldiers inside the summoner’s shadow.
The stored soldiers can be summoned back into the open or absorbed back at any time the summoner chooses to.
Number of stored shadow soldiers: 840/840
Level 2 effect ‘Sensory Sharing’: You can share your sensory perception with a single designated Shadow Soldier from your storage.
The newly added effect to the skill ‘Shadow Storage’ was called ‘Sensory Sharing’. It was a rather unique ability that let the summoner, him, feel what a Shadow Soldier was sensing.
Since it was possible to choose a Shadow Soldier far away from him and see what was going on around there, he ended up using it rather often in the last couple of days. Such as now.
Jin-Woo quietly closed his eyes.
He picked up on the signal sent out by the Shadow Soldiers spread all over outside the dungeon, within the nation of South Korea.
‘I sure have spread around quite a few, haven’t I?’
Without worrying about it too much, he selected one of them to see. Quite coincidentally, it just so happened to be a soldier hidden with Hunter Cha’s shadow. And when he connected with that soldier…
….He heard the sounds of water falling on the floor.
‘It shouldn’t be raining today, so what’s up with all the water noi…..?!’
His confusion lasted only for a brief second.
Jin-Woo’s eyelids shot up open in haste as soon as he saw the pale nude figure enshrouded in the rising steam.
Yu Jin-Ho was taken by surprise alongside him.
“Hyung-nim?? What happened? Were you taking a nap just now?”
“….No, it’s nothing.”
Jin-Woo shook his head.
He inwardly told himself to buy Hunter Cha a hearty meal as soon as possible as a gesture of apology.
“Oh, right. Hyung-nim, have you heard the news?”
“About that massive rank S Gate in Japan’s Shinjuku, hyung-nim. I heard that the dungeon break should be happening sometime around tomorrow.”
Did the time move along that much already? Jin-Woo slowly nodded his head.
‘That means, it’s already been six days since we began clearing these high-ranking Gates.’
During these past six days, Jin-Woo hadn’t been static at all. Although moving at a snail’s pace, his experience points were steadily going up. The result of that being his level having moved to 103 from 101.
That was his reward for focusing on levelling up while forgetting about everything else.
Jin-Woo summoned the black key stored within his Inventory.
The black key materialised on his palm.
[Item: Key to the Karutenon temple]
….has been reached.
Remaining time: 26:51:49
‘One more day left.’
Jin-Woo wordlessly grasped the key tightly. His heart began beating faster every time he looked at this thing.
“….Hey, don’t make a move.”
Yu Jin-Ho had been sneaking glances at both Iron and Igrit more and more while barely managing to eat his meal, after Jin-Woo cracked that joke. However, he nearly jolted upwards after Jin-Woo suddenly issued that order.
“I wasn’t talking to you, though.”
Actually, Jin-Woo was giving an order to his soldiers. The Shadow Soldiers were about to make a move, but when they heard Jin-Woo’s order, they all stopped at the same time.
From the other side of the cavern, beasts baring their fangs walked out into the view while carrying weapons like sickles and longswords. Jin-Woo slowly stood up from his spot as he kept his gaze locked on these monsters.
There was still one more day to go.
‘Right, I still have one more day to kill.’
He summoned the ‘Demon King’s Shortsword’ from his Inventory and smiled as he gripped the weapon tightly.
The evening before the dungeon break.
A massive magic circle was drawn within Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, according to Yuri Orlov’s instructions. Its scale was truly enormous; completely unprecedented in history.
All the residents within the area had been evacuated by now. Yuri Orlov remained in the location to inspect the barrier’s formation right up until the end.
The Japanese representatives quietly watched him, not even daring to swallow their saliva. Every single word the Russian said, every little action he took, all of them were under close scrutiny.
Yuri Orlov frowned and rubbed his chin over and over again, before finally opening his mouth.
“…..This is so weird, you know?”
The interpreter’s eyes opened wider.
“I beg your pardon? Is there some kind of a problem with the formation?”
“No, it’s not that.”
The magic circle drawn was perfect. Without a doubt, he was confident of having laid down the greatest masterpiece of his life down here.
No, the barrier formation wasn’t the weird one here.
“It’s like, there’s someone nearby, watching us.”
If that weren’t the case, why would Yuri Orlov’s heart tremble non-stop like this? The Russian opened his eyes wider and scanned his vicinity, before angrily shouting out at the top of his voice.
“Who the hell are you? Where are you??”
Too bad, no one replied back to him. No, only the echoes of his voice reverberating within the deserted streets came back to haunt him.
One of the Japanese representatives wiped the cold sweat off his forehead and forced out a smile.
“Mister Orlov, the dungeon break is happening tomorrow so there shouldn’t be any foolhardy person waiting around here. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Yuri Orlov snorted out derisively.
“When did I say it was a person?”
Yuri Orlov looked at the Japanese representative getting paler by the second with disproving eyes, before tilting his head again.
“Was I mistaken….?”
Unfortunately for him, there indeed was the figure of a person staring at him from the roof of a tall building far away.
‘He’s got a pretty good perception.’
But, then again – when considering where Yuri Orlov drew his powers from, that wouldn’t be such a strange thing.
The mysterious man’s gaze shifted over to the rank S Gate. The silence was so eerie that it induced a certain disgust in all who looked as it circulated around that giant Gate.
The man slowly pulled back the hood covering his face. It revealed the face of an Oriental man in his late thirties. The unkempt and bushy beard covering most of his face told the man’s identity rather clearly.
He was none other than Seong Il-Hwan.
He continued to gaze at the massive Gate with a regretful expression, before pulling the hood back up.
‘Finally… it’s starting.’
Everything was moving according to the schedule.
< Chapter 153 > Fin.