READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 168 ( Only I level up )
The American Hunter Bureau mobilised its agents from the Asian branch office in order to assess the current situation in Japan.
A helicopter set off from the safe zone and eventually, entered Tokyo’s airspace. A senior agent from the Hunter Bureau, who had risked his life and volunteered for this trip, looked out of the vehicle’s window and clicked his tongue.
The current status of Tokyo was far worse than he had imagined. The city itself was completely destroyed after the dungeon break occurred.
Buildings no longer possessed their former appearances; cars folded and crumpled like bits of paper; street lamps bent at their waists; burning flames, rising smoke, scorched remains, and unidentifiable structures turning into ash.
Surely, the word ‘tragic’ was invented just for a sight as wretched as this one.
The agent’s forehead unconsciously creased up. If someone were to ask him in the future if he had seen hell, then yes, he could now say that he indeed have seen one.
Unfortunately, he didn’t come here to mourn the now-destroyed city.
No, his mission was to assess the current situation. He continued to film and carefully observed the carnage below, before asking the Japanese representative next to him.
“Even though the city has been destroyed to such an extent, I don’t see any human remains?”
The senior agent remembered seeing the images of the rank S Gate opening up on the island of Jeju during his training back in the Hunter Bureau’s HQ.
Whether it was from a video clip or a still photo, the streets of the Jeju Island were filled with dead bodies. Ants had killed every single resident who couldn’t escape the island in time.
It was one of the worst tragedies ever in history, and the Hunter Bureau kept detailed records of what happened then.
But now, even though the city of Tokyo was wiped clean off the face of the planet, it was hard to see any corpses. No, there were no traces of dead people to be found, actually.
The Japanese representative spoke up.
“That can’t be helped, actually. The Giants have been eating humans, you see.”
He was a young man working for the Japanese Hunter’s Association. It wasn’t all that hard to figure out what his life had been like recently from his bloodshot eyes and the overgrown beard he couldn’t trim yet.
He continued to speak with worries forming deep creases on his face.
“Those b*stards are acting as if to erase all traces of Japanese people from Japan itself. They destroy all the buildings, eat humans, and they even pull out trees from the streets, too.”
The Hunter Bureau agent agreed with that.
These Giant-type monsters that came out of the rank S Gate displayed a certain difference in behaviour from other monsters. While other monsters concentrated on killing humans, this batch of monsters was actively trying to destroy everything they could see.
Only the destroyed remains of the civilisation were left behind in these creature’s wake. No matter where in Tokyo, one couldn’t see a building, no, a single house still standing intact.
“But, thanks to that, we were able to buy ourselves a bit of time.”
He said, ‘thanks to that.’
The Japanese Association employee formed a smile full of self-mockery.
Should he be thankful or feel sorrowful for the monsters proceeding to destroy everything in their path, thereby buying enough time for people to escape from their carnage?
Such complicated emotions were writ large on the employee’s face.
The Hunter Bureau agent looked at this Japanese man and thought to himself.
‘It’s already something that he’s able to hold on like this.’
After all, the capital city of his country had fallen into such a wretched state in an instant, had it not?
The sense of loss felt from monsters raping one’s country wasn’t a foreign concept to this American agent.
The United States also lost a portion of their Western Seaboard about eight years ago from the single monster that came out of the rank S Gate, ‘Kamish’.
And, was that all? South Korea right next to Japan also had to surrender the biggest island in the country to monsters for nearly four years, only to somehow recover it recently, didn’t they?
The American agent got to confirm something while watching the footage of that raid’s ferocious battles.
He had no relations with South Korea at all, yet when he saw the lone Korean Hunter sweep away all those ant monsters and even smack that mutated ant a really good one, he jumped up from his seat and let out an elated cry.
That wasn’t simply because he worked for the Asian branch of the Hunter Bureau. No, he saw that battle of Jeju not as a fight between a small nation of Korea and monsters, but as a proxy war between humanity and the waves of monsters, instead.
And here, on this land called Japan, there were more battles taking place between humanity and monsters.
‘The result of that is this…..’
The spinning rotors of the helicopter remained an incredible racket, but the situation on the ground was severe enough to steal away the agent’s attention from the noise.
He felt angry and frustrated. However, there was nothing he could do here. All he could do was to carry out the mission he was given. The agent continued to operate the camera and asked the Japanese the questions that popped up in his head every now and then.
But then, he discovered something that took him by great surprise and he fell hard on his a*s.
“Heok!! T-that thing over there!”
Cold sweat poured out of the American agent as he began calling out to Jesus. The Japanese Association employee helped him to stand back up.
“So, you saw it.”
“O-over there! There’s a Giant over there!!”
“Yes. There is one Giant still remaining here. No, rather than calling it ‘remaining’, should I say that it’s not budging from the spot, instead?”
The employee’s gaze shifted outside the window. The American agent wiped the cold sweat off his brows and cautiously looked in the same direction as well.
A massive monster, bigger and taller than any monster this agent had ever seen, stood proudly in the downtown area of the utterly-devastated city of Tokyo.
‘That is the Giant-type monster….’
The helicopter began flying closer according to the employee’s instructions. The agent hurriedly inquired as his face paled instantly.
“W-will it be fine to get this close to that thing?”
The American definitely heard this before coming on this trip. All Giant monsters had left Tokyo now, which meant that the abandoned city was as safe as it could get under the circumstances.
But then, wasn’t this way too different from that declaration?
The Japanese Association employee calmly explained the situation with a tone of voice indicating that there was nothing to worry about.
“It’ll be fine. As long as we stay in the altitude that the creature’s hands can’t reach and we don’t attack first, we’ll be 100% safe. This has been confirmed through multiple observation efforts so you can rest easy.”
The American agent swallowed his saliva.
‘Confirmed through multiple observations, is it?’
The Japanese employee spoke of that word as if it didn’t mean much, but just how many people had to be sacrificed at the hands of that Giant monster in order to come to that conclusion?
Just thinking about those unlucky few who flew too close to the reach of the Giant sent an eerie shiver down the agent’s spine.
In any case, it was highly valuable information for this agent who was tasked with compiling data on the rank S monsters, as well as to report on Japan’s current status back to HQ.
His brows gradually rose up as he studied the Giant. Now that he took a closer look, this creature’s face seemed familiar to him.
It was none other than the super-giant b*stard that shattered Yuri Orlov’s magical barrier with its body. Unlike other monsters that had been scattered elsewhere, only this Giant monster, designated as the boss rank by many others, chose to remain here.
The Japanese employee spoke with a bitter expression on his face.
“Do you also think that the monster is guarding that Gate, too?”
“Ah…. Well, I….”
“This is my third time seeing that b*stard, but every time I do, I keep thinking of different things.”
“What did you thought of just now?”
“To my eyes, that thing is…”
The Japanese employee took his time before carrying on a beat later.
“That thing is waiting for something. That’s what it looks like to me.”
The agent shifted his gaze back over to the Giant.
Indeed, it certainly looked like that in a way. He thought that it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for this Japanese employee to read the current situation that way.
As these two people conversed regarding the boss rank Giant monster, the helicopter had arrived near the absolute limit of the safety.
Even though there was a helicopter buzzing above its head, the Giant didn’t even lift a finger. As if it hadn’t even perceived the presence of the man-made contraption, it remained utterly docile.
However, according to the employee’s explanations, it wasn’t as if this thing would never attack, either.
“The creature will definitely attack whatever enters the fixed range. Whether the targets of its attack are people or machines, nothing can escape from it.”
Just how many observation attempts were needed to find that out?
The final moments of Yuri Orlov overlapped with that of the employee’s face in the American agent’s eyes as the Japanese calmly explained the situation.
The boss monster’s agile movements as it broke past the barrier and rapidly snatched up Yuri Orlov left a huge mental shock with all the viewers watching the broadcast at home. The Russian’s death had been shown live in that manner to the rest of the world.
The report on the rank S Hunter compiled by the Bureau described Yuri Orlov as such:
– A man who craves after wealth and fame.
He may have failed in extracting money from Japan, but well, he had definitely become one of the most famous Hunters in the entire world through this incident.
‘Not sure if that was the result he’d have liked to see but, oh well.’
The agent frowned deeply after recalling the final moments of Yuri Orlov. Meanwhile, the Japanese employee spoke up.
“This is also from a personal point of view, but…..”
He said it was a personal point of view. But the American agent found this man’s opinions rather interesting, even the one about the Giant monster waiting for someone or something.
“Alright, please tell me.”
The agent nodded his head, prompting the employee to continue on.
“When I look at that thing, I don’t really get the feeling that the creature is truly ‘alive’, you see? Yes, it’s obviously breathing in and out, and can move around because it’s alive, but well, should I say that it’s like looking at a machine that only acts according to how it was programmed?”
“A machine, is it….?”
Quite regretfully, the agent couldn’t agree with that assessment.
The imposing figure of the Giant monster when looked at from up close was, in a word, overwhelming. When subjected to the chest-tightening pressure emanating from the creature, the agent simply couldn’t think of that thing as a machine at all.
It was then.
The Giant’s eyes shifted in their direction.
The agent fell on his a*s once more. As if he was waiting for that, the Japanese agent supported the American back up. He then spoke as if to calm his charge down.
“That thing’s simply looking at us. As long as we maintain this distance, it won’t attack.”
The agent nodded his head. He thought his heart just fell out of his chest just now. He belatedly raised his camera up and recorded the creature in great detail. The reason for the viewfinder shaking ever so slightly like that was probably not entirely due to the helicopter busily buzzing around in the air.
The agent only spoke up again after he figured he had captured enough data by now.
“How many Giants came out from that Gate?”
“A total of 31. Excluding the boss rank, the rest have evenly dispersed throughout the countryside.”
“….And how many have been killed so far?”
“Which means, with the exception of the boss over here, there are 28 Giants destroying Japan as we speak.”
“Well, there aren’t any Hunters left to fight against the Giants, you see. Everyone’s been preoccupied with escaping at the moment.”
The complexion of the employee was gloomy.
On the day the dungeon break happened, Hunters participating in the crucial battle to buy the residents of Tokyo enough time to evacuate were all killed.
They were able to kill two monsters in the process, but they had no other methods left to stop the remaining 28 from spreading out to the rest of the country.
This here was the reason why the Japanese Association employee said ‘yes’ without resistance to the request for assistance from the Hunter Bureau when he should have been far, far too busy trying to put out the fire burning on his foot – no, make that on his entire body.
Right at that moment.
“W-what are you doing?”
The American agent jumped up and tried to stop him, but the Association employee finally managed to bow his head down. His knees were bent all the way down and his forehead was pressed to the floor.
Stuff like pride or dignity no longer mattered. No, if the only cost to pay were his pride or his dignity, then he’d not have hesitated to do something even more drastic.
And so, still remaining in the kowtowing position, the employee spoke up.
“Please, aid us, the Japanese.”
The American agent was about to help his Japanese guide up but stopped in the middle of his actions. He couldn’t say anything back to the grave determination of the employee.
The Japanese spoke in fluent English and emphasized his plea.
“If America doesn’t help us, then Japan as a nation will be finished. Hasn’t Japan been a trusted ally of the United States all this time? Will you not consider taking on the risk, just this once, for Japan, the allied nation of America?”
It was unknown whether this was coming from the employee’s own heart or he was being ordered by the Japanese Hunter’s Association. However, regardless of where it was coming from, this young man’s desperation could definitely be felt in his voice.
The agent chewed on his lower lip and pondered for a bit before replying with some difficulty.
“I’ll lodge a request for aid to the HQ.”
“Thank you. Truly, thank you very much.”
The American agent couldn’t tell the Japanese employee bowing his head several times in a row that he shouldn’t get his hopes up.
Would the Americans, after having lost many of its high-ranking Hunters from the ‘Kamish’ incident, and thus began obsessively managing the well-being of their remaining Hunters, make a move just for the sake of the Japanese?
‘I’m pretty sure they won’t.’
However, how could the agent tell this young man lowering his head for the sake of his nation, that his beloved country was already as good as finished?
‘All you can do is to leave it to the will of heavens….’
The agent looked at the sky above.
Unfortunately, the heavens simply stared at the world below in disinterest, just like how it had been, like how it was doing right now, and how it would continue to do so in the future.
The agent dazedly stared at the heavens before muttering to himself.
‘Oh, dear God…. Please, don’t forsake us.’
Jin-Woo woke up early in the morning and went to the Guild office while doing a light jog.
‘Yup, as I suspected.’
His eyes brimming with happiness looked slightly above from the dead centre of his vision. And he could see the current status of the Daily Quest there, just like how it had been until now.
[The distance run: 10km]
[You have completed ‘Running: 10km.’]
Even though he got rid of the self-proclaimed architect, nothing seemed to have changed from before. The System continued to function as it had so far, and just like before, the Daily Quest arrived as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning.
His physical condition was at its peak, too.
Ever since this ‘Black Heart’ took root within his body, vitality was overflowing within him. He deliberately held back his speed, yet each of his steps felt light and airy.
However, thanks to the d*mn b*stard getting killed off like that, he was now left with a ton of unanswered questions.
‘Just what was that recorded footage I saw?’
He kind of figured that watching it was one of the conditions to unlocking this ‘Black Heart’, but everything else remained a mystery.
Just as his thoughts were getting deeper….
“Excuse me!! Hold on!”
“Mister Yu Jin-Ho!! May I ask you some questions?”
Jin-Woo raised his head at the noises coming from afar. And that’s when he spotted the big cordon of reporters camping outside the Guild building.
Yu Jin-Ho was currently being surrounded by them, unable to do anything to extricate himself. It seemed that he got ensnared by the reporters during his morning commute.
The reporters began their barrage of questions.
“Mister Yu Jin-Ho, were you aware of the tragedy of the Hunters Guild that happened yesterday?”
“Please provide us with a statement as the Vice Chairperson of the Ah-Jin Guild.”
“What is Hunter Seong Jin-Woo’s connection to that incident?”
“Japan is going through a crisis at the moment, but did Mister Seong Jin-Woo express his thoughts on aiding the Japanese?”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
These reporters couldn’t interview him personally, so they resorted to clinging onto Yu Jin-Ho, who must’ve come across as an easy mark to them.
Jin-Woo was about to take a step forward, thinking that he should help the kid out, but then, he discovered something and he stopped moving altogether.
For some reason, Yu Jin-Ho’s expression didn’t seem so bad right now.
He outwardly looked to be somewhat troubled, but Jin-Woo’s exceptional eyes definitely caught the kid trying to forcibly suppress his smile every now and then.
‘Hah, this Jin-Ho. I didn’t know that he enjoyed stuff like this.’
Jin-Woo was dumbfounded but still formed a soft smirk anyway. It seemed that his help was not strictly necessary here.
‘So, what should I do instead, then?’
Should he just drag Yu Jin-Ho into the office quietly, or go back the way he came so the kid could enjoy himself a bit more?
As Jin-Woo seriously considered his options, a car rolled to a stop right behind Jin-Woo. And its window silently rolled down next.
“Are you Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim?”
Jin-Woo heard that unfamiliar voice and turned around to see who it was without thinking too much about it.
His brows rose up slightly after he confirmed who it was.
< Chapter 166 > Fin.