READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 226
ALONE LEVEL-UP CHAPTER 226
Dawn, when everyone was in a deep sleep.
Jin-Woo travelled back to the sea of trees located in Japan, still remaining as a no-entry, prohibited area, after experiencing the dungeon break of the Giant-type monsters.
He didn’t come here to raise his level or to look at the stars in the sky, though. But then again, it must’ve been the memories of the night before, because when he took a look at the night sky, he naturally remembered Hae-In’s face.
Jin-Woo stopped by his family and assured them he was fine and quickly returned to the hotel in Japan. Cha Hae-In had already understood the reason why Jin-Woo had to disappear on her like that, just before they were about to share a meal together.
She knew better than anyone what would’ve happened if Jin-Woo didn’t rush back to Seoul. Her expression as she tried to hide her anxiety remained etched in his memory for some reason, though.
‘….Let’s get started.’
Jin-Woo took a look around him. Just like before, the stillness of the forest, with not a single living soul in it, greeted him. There was something he had to do in this place.
Jin-Woo sought out a suitable open ground and soon located one. He summoned out a portion of his Shadow Soldiers next.
Jin-Woo’s shadow expanded out greatly and his soldiers appeared on the ground. They were none other than the new additions to his army.
Jin-Woo tasted a mixed bag of emotions as he studied them. For the first time ever, he ended up breaking his own rule yesterday, one that he religiously adhered to since the very beginning.
These new soldiers were, before yesterday, all regular people. No, they were victims who were murdered by the Sovereigns.
Hundreds of soldiers, created from the regular people dying unjustly, as well as Hunters who tried to save them, now stood before their new master. He broke his own rule of never using innocent souls as his Shadow Soldiers.
And that was why Jin-Woo wanted to ask for their cooperation in this place.
‘Until this war is over, lend me your strengths, everyone.’
To protect their families, their lovers, their friends and their homes from those b*stards.
‘I promise to return you to the eternal rest once the battle is over.’
Although they were the dead beings forced into expressing their absolute loyalty through the Shadow Sovereign’s ability, they still retained their individual egos.
Jin-Woo’s sincere heart and desire were transmitted to every single one of them. Their eyes under the helms, covered by the darkness of the dawn, contained flames of hatred and rage towards the monsters that made them this way.
They realised this crucial fact – that they were now given a chance to exact revenge on those creatures with their own hands. And the one that gifted them this opportunity was the Shadow Sovereign standing right before them.
‘We shall fight alongside our liege!
We shall never let those monsters rape and pillage our land and our families!’
Such desires were being engraved in them now.
The stronger the Shadow Sovereign became, the greater the enhancement to the abilities of the Shadow Soldiers. Unlike in the past when he was borrowing the powers of the Shadow Sovereign through the System, Jin-Woo now inherited it completely and thus, the Shadow Soldiers created by him could not be underestimated at all.
Jin-Woo made one more request to them.
‘Lend me your strength.’
Their Sovereign made a request, and the Shadow Soldiers immediately replied back. They raised their fists up high and from their open mouths, the death throe-like horrifying roars exploded out.
The roaring started from the front row, but gradually shifted to the rear like the receding tides, and eventually, the entirety of the summoned Shadow Soldiers were crying out towards the sky.
Their resentment-laden screams seemed to shake the earth itself. With this, the Army of Death had finished getting ready.
Jin-Woo’s eyes as he scanned them, flickered in a cold, murderous glare.
He’d definitely make the Sovereigns pay.
The roars of the soldiers filled with hatred continued to echo out for a long, long time afterwards.
The day before the dungeon break from the super-massive Gate was to take place.
It had been two days since the System disappeared. Jin-Woo was getting acclimatised by the absence of Daily Quests now. Many things had become convenient for him ever since restrictions put in place by the System had gone away, but there was also a few things that made life rather difficult, as well.
One such difficulty was the ‘Store’.
Jin-Woo summoned out a bottle of healing potion originally stored in his ‘Inventory’ and stared at it as if to bore a hole through the darn thing.
As it turned out, every item found in the Store had been created out of the Shadow Sovereign’s powers. It was basically magic, where one would create something with Mana.
So, the theory went that, since he had inherited the Shadow Sovereign’s powers, Jin-Woo should be able to create the same types of items as long as he willed it, but….
He quietly closed his eyes and began picturing the healing potion inside his head. When he did, he could pick up the movement of Mana.
Unfortunately, Mana busily moving around failed to gather and coagulate before scattering away in the air. It was a failure.
Jin-Woo spat out a sigh and opened his eyes again. It seemed that the threshold of creating something out of magic was still out of reach for him, for now.
‘I guess I need to practice for a bit longer.’
It was then.
The smartphone resting on top of his desk began vibrating and issued the ‘du-du-du’ noise.
– “Seong Hunter-nim, it’s Woo Jin-Cheol speaking.”
“Hello. What can I do for you?”
Jin-Woo settled down on his bed and answered the call.
Woo Jin-Cheol must’ve been working day and night, thanks to the mass-scale incidents that kept happening one after another, because his voice came across as a bit hoarse on the phone.
– “Excuse me, Hunter-nim… If it’s not too much trouble, may I ask you to come to the Association today?”
The estimated time for the dungeon break was literally right around the corner. From the perspective of the Association, they would’ve liked to get some advice from Jin-Woo, arguably the core combat force of the upcoming raid.
Since Jin-Woo didn’t have anything on his schedule anyway, he agreed to it without hesitation.
“I shall see you there.”
He ended the call and got ready to leave, but then, Igrit abruptly addressed him.
Jin-Woo was yet to get used to Igrit’s voice. Still, he paid attention to the black knight’s trademark heavy and courteous tone.
[There is something I’d like to speak to you about.]
Every TV station around the world stopped with their regular programming to broadcast live the unfolding situation in Seoul.
Some stations chose to broadcast the situation as it unfolded in the regular news format, while some others invited experts in the field and asked for their opinions.
One of the largest broadcasters in the States, ‘Hunter Channel’ went with the latter route and had invited experts in.
The broadcast soon got underway; one of the experts spoke in clear reminiscence as they looked at the live footage of the Hunters completely filling up the Gate’s location.
“Do you know how long it has been since that many Hunters from various countries have gathered in one spot?”
The emcee smiled and replied.
“I’m not sure…. Since Guilds with different nationalities join forces together to go on raids often, I’m guessing that it must’ve been pretty recent.”
The expert shook his head.
“It’s been over eight years. Eight. And it’s now approaching the ninth year mark now.”
Everyone watching the broadcast heard those words and immediately recalled the gigantic monster that terrorised humanity back then. The emcee wasn’t an exception, either.
“You say eight years…. Are you saying that this spectacle would be the very first time since the ‘Kamish’ raid?”
“Yes, that’s correct. This would be the first time that Hunters from five different nations or more got together, post-Kamish raid.”
Back then, the greatest Hunters alive from every corner of the globe stepped up to aid the United States of America, only to be annihilated and out of hundreds of them participating, only five managed to survive. They then became the ‘Special Authority-rank’ Hunters.
To all those countries that had lost their top Hunters, that day’s losses were indeed incredibly difficult to bear.
“Ever since that day, every nation refrained from interfering in the problems of other nations.”
That would be an obvious result. No one alive would’ve wanted to see the Hunters from their own countries lose their lives for another country.
Sure, there had been infrequent occurrences of Guilds from different nations joining hands for their mutual benefits, but this many Hunters gathering together in such a huge scale to aid another country would be a very rare thing to see.
“In that case, Doctor, could you possibly be saying that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo from South Korea will bring together the world’s Hunters, torn apart by the entrance of the Dragon Kamish?”
“That is correct.”
Perhaps finding the long-winded explanation rather laborious, the expert took a deep breath first before continuing on afterwards.
“It all started with Hunter Seong Jin-Woo solving the calamity of Japan’s dungeon break.”
Before that happened, though, Japan stepped up to help out with the problem on Jeju Island, but as everyone knew, the result of that venture was a complete disaster.
If the story ended there, then that would only add weight to the opinion that one shouldn’t be interfering with the problems of other countries. However, everything was turned on its head after Jin-Woo stepped up to eliminate the Giants that had made their appearance in Japan.
Even though there was the historical baggage between the two countries, as well as the dastardly scheme Japan’s Association had cooked up, a Korean Hunter still willingly rolled up his sleeves to aid his neighbours, didn’t he?
“Most likely, all the gratitude and admiration the Japanese citizens feel towards him can’t be put into mere words.”
Japan was able to survive the crisis all thanks to Jin-Woo’s aid. With that, the unwritten rule of not interfering with another country’s matter, in order to protect their own Hunters, had been broken for the first time.
What he did was to instil the sense of confidence of ‘I can do this’ into the Hunters. And a few days ago….
“Everyone watching the scenes of Hunter Thomas Andre falling must’ve sensed it then.”
Which living Hunter would be able to stop those monsters?
“And Hunter Seong Jin-Woo showed them what the answer was.”
However, the next problem facing them seemingly featured an even higher difficulty. If Hunter Seong Jin-Woo fell, then who out there would be capable of stopping the calamity?
Although there was a thin smile on his face, the emcee couldn’t form an answer to that query. The expert answered for him, instead.
“There’s no one. Indeed, there is no one capable. In other words, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo is the final line. If he falls, then everything will end.”
At that moment, many countries thinking that the super-massive Gate floating in the skies above Seoul was South Korea’s problem only, quickly came to a realisation.
If the Koreans couldn’t stop that Gate, then next would be North Korea, then either China or Russia, and eventually, the rest of the world. Now, the super-massive Gate had become the common enemy of the entire world.
This was the result achieved by a lone Hunter from Asia.
The expert was about to explain that they needed to overcome this upcoming calamity first if that result was to proudly bear its fruit. However, at that moment…
“Ahh! Look, just now!”
The emcee had been listening attentively to what the expert was saying but he saw the urgent prompts from the director and jumped up from his seat.
The gazes of the experts quickly shifted over to the live feed, as well.
The live footage now displayed the super-massive Gate opening its maws wide.
“Oh, my god….”
Everyone present within the studio became utterly speechless from the imagery that easily surpassed their imaginations.
The air began trembling.
Tens of thousands of Hunters surrounding the spot just below the Gate held their breaths and waited. This was a memorable spectacle, this sight of countless Hunters waiting for one single moment to happen.
The close-quarter type Hunters quietly waited for their turns, while those capable of attacking at long distances got ready to fling out pre-emptive strikes at a moment’s notice.
Arrows laden with magical energy and various spells ready to be cast were aimed at the sky.
Taut tension filled up the atmosphere.
And then… Whenever the gazes of these Hunters stopped glaring at the Gate above and lowered to the ground, they would all look at one place without fail. That would be Jin-Woo’s back.
Standing at the furthest front, Jin-Woo was glaring up at the sky with a sombre expression.
With every passing second, the dungeon break was approaching closer and closer. He could sense their aura now.
Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump.
The Black Heart, replacing his destroyed human heart, powerfully pulsed within his chest to let him know of the current situation.
Of course, the hearts of other Hunters were pounding away restlessly, as well. It was all because of the nervousness seemingly oppressing everything.
However, the emotion Jin-Woo was feeling at the moment was quite different from theirs. He was doing his best not to lose his composure and waited for the approaching final hour.
Hae-In, standing next to him, saw his expression and whispered to him.
“I think it’s my first time seeing you so tense like this, Mister Jin-Woo.”
Jin-Woo smirked to let her know that it was nothing. Hae-In also formed a light smile as a reply and looked back at the Gate while unsheathing her blade. She too had sensed that the beginning of the life-or-death battle was here.
However, she was mistaken about something.
Jin-Woo placed his hand on his chest and silently closed his eyes. He felt the pounding of his heart. The emotion welling up in his chest was neither nervousness nor terror. No, it was excitement.
“T-they are coming!”
“The Gate’s been opened!!”
Finally, the Gate began opening up.
The wall separating this world and the Gate disappeared and certain ‘things’ staying within finally began pouring out in endless droves. These creatures completely blotted out the sky in no time at all.
The Hunters below became completely dumbfounded by the number of descending creatures that seemed to be at least over one hundred thousand.
“But, how… how can that many monsters… at the same time?!”
“There, there are just too many!!!”
Gasps and screams thick with despair exploded out from here and there.
All those ‘certain things’ must’ve been under the influence of gravity-reduction magic, because they all landed on the ground very slowly.
“Attack! Hurry, attack!”
Before those things land on the ground, they should try to reduce their numbers, at least by a little bit. Hunters sensed that their opportunity was here and began making their moves.
Magic spells ready to cast gleamed brightly from their hands and bowstrings aimed at the sky were all pulled taut. Tankers raised their shields up right near their chins to get ready for close-quarters combat with those descending things.
But then, before the concentrated firepower from the Hunters could pour out, Jin-Woo loudly yelled out.
Jin-Woo’s will, carried by Mana, was clearly transmitted to even those Hunters who didn’t know any Korean. And it made everyone stop what they were doing.
‘Why did he stop us from attacking?’
Even though tens of thousands of Hunters were staring at him with eyes that screamed, ‘I don’t understand’, Jin-Woo simply repeated what he said.
[Everyone, don’t move.]
Woo Jin-Cheol watching from the distance hurriedly wiped the sweat off his forehead.
If they don’t attack now, then those creatures would land safely on the ground. When the battle breaks out in that situation, the Hunters out in front could get sucked into the attacks fired from the back.
Meaning, incidents of them worrying about the friendly fire would happen when they were already in a numerical disadvantage.
One of the subordinate Hunters working for the Association quickly approached Woo Jin-Cheol and looked at his boss with a worried expression.
It was now time to make his decision. His head screamed at him to send out the word to start attacking, but in the end, Woo Jin-Cheol decided to trust Jin-Woo.
“Everyone, do not fire!”
“Do not fire!!”
Woo Jin-Cheol was put in charge of commanding the Hunters. So, rather understandably, they became quite dazed and lowered their hands when he began telling them not to attack.
‘Just what are they thinking now?’
‘They want to engage those things on the ground instead of hitting them first with ranged attacks? Against that many monsters???’
As confusion and terror began whipping up around the battlefield….
Eventually, those creatures landed on the ground.
The number of black monsters completely filling up the sights of the Hunters were so great that one’s mind would grow faint just from the sheer scale.
From the gathered swarm of monsters, one particular being began walking out towards them. Jin-Woo, too, stepped forward.
Just what was going to happen from here onwards?
Hunters couldn’t even breathe properly and closely watched Jin-Woo.
Jin-Woo stopped walking, and the ‘monster’ also stopped walking as well.
The ‘monster’ looking at Jin-Woo suddenly knelt down on the ground. And at that moment, the soldiers behind it also knelt down at the same time.
The spectacle of a hundred thousand-plus soldiers bowing their heads at the same time carried an incredible, overwhelming shock value.
After a short bout of silence passed, the ‘monster’ kneeling right out in front raised its head and spoke.
[Grand-Marshal Bellion, here to humbly greet the Sovereign with his Shadow Army.]
< Chapter 226 > Fin.