SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 23

Jin-Woo swept his gaze at Hwang Dong-Seok and his group like a predator eyeing his prey.

Hwang Dong-Seok swallowed his saliva. He was already pretty surprised by the dagger appearing in that man’s hands, but more importantly, Park Joon-Tae’s death shook him to the core rather greatly.

‘How did an E-rank Hunter kill a D rank in one hit?!’

He had no idea what kind of a trick the other guy used, but from now on, underestimating his opponent was definitely forbidden. No, he had to be very meticulous here. Hwang Dong-Seok gave a signal with his eyes to his side.

‘Gyu-Hwan-ah, hit him one more time.’

Joh Gyu-Hwan lightly nodded his head.

This time, he wouldn’t make the same mistake again!

Joh Gyu-Hwan told himself such as lights began gathering in his hands again. But, even before the arrows of light could leave his fingertips, Jin-Woo appeared right in front of Joh Gyu-Hwan first.

“Uh? Huh?!”

Joh Gyu-Hwan’s jaw hit the floor.

The light in Jin-Woo’s eyes gleamed coldly.

‘You first, the magic-type Hunter who possesses strong firepower but a weak body.’

Jin-Woo had finished his calculations already.

2

The dagger stabbed straight through Joh Gyu-Hwan’s neck.

Stab!

“Keo-heok!!”

Joh Gyu-Hwan tried to cover the hole in his neck and collapsed to the floor.

Plop.

“Kill him!!”

“Uwaaahhh!!”

With that as a signal, the Hunters around him rushed towards Jin-Woo at once. Jin-Woo raised all his senses to the maximum and calmly focused on the movements of his enemies.

All sounds disappeared and time slowed down. The Agility Stat and its 38 points had begun displaying its worth. He then blocked or evaded swords, spears and arrows being thrust at him from the very short distance.

1

The eyes of the Hunters became incredibly large.

‘H-how can an E rank move like this?!’

‘Too fast!!’

‘I can’t hit him at all!’

The complexions of the Hunters became ashen.

Indeed, speed was a subjective thing. To their eyes, Jin-Woo’s movement was absurdly fast. Meanwhile, Jin-Woo waded in among the Hunters and calmly cut into their vital spots, one at the time.

[‘Effect: Paralysis’ has been activated.]

[‘Effect: Bleeding’ has been activated.]

[‘Effect: Paralysis’ has been activated.]

The special effects of the Poison Fang of Kasaka continued to activate and the Hunters all fell into a quagmire of confusion.

“I-I can’t move my body!! Uwaah?!”

“Magic?! Was that magic?!!”

“You son of a b*tch!!”

[‘Effect: Bleeding’ has been activated.]

[‘Effect: Paralysis’ has been activated.]

[‘Effect: Paralysis’ has been activated.]

“Keok!!”

“Wha-what the hell is this guy’s real identity?!”

“Uwaaahk!!”

Screams resounded out without a break from here and there. Five Hunters surrounding Jin-Woo all crumpled down to the floor in no time at all.

Plop.

Plop.

Tti-ring.

[The number of enemies left to kill: 1]

[The number of killed enemies: 7]

Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to the last remaining survivor.

And that was none other the big bearded man, Hwang Dong-Seok. He discarded his shield as an expression of determination formed on his face.

He then loudly roared out.

“Uuuhhhhhhhaaaa!!”

Hwang Dong-Seok the kicked the ground and rushed forward.

Thump, thump, thump, thump!!!

His mind raced as he ran forward. He was a Tanker, and was considered one of the top even within the C rank.

2

His opponent most likely was a damage dealer.

Although that man seemed to be very agile, judged from his quick movements, there was no way he’d possess enough power to penetrate past Hwang Dong-Seok’s ‘Reinforcement’ skill.

3

‘You can’t fatally wound me with a measly little dagger!’

1

The one to be crushed when they collide would be Seong Jin-Woo, instead!

Their distance closed up in the blink of an eye, and Hwang Dong-Seok tackled with his shoulder.

“Reinforcement!!”

But then, his entire world seemed to spin around, and before he realised how, he was staring at the ceiling of the dungeon.

SLAM!!

His brain shook hard and a strong impact force was transmitted into his entire body.

He wanted to get up, but his body didn’t listen to his commands. Hwang Dong-Seok tried very hard, but eventually gave up and lay sprawled on the ground.

“Cough!!”

He coughed out a mouthful of blood.

‘Did he… Did he throw me down to the floor?!’

Did Hwang Dong-Seok really lose in the contest of strength?

In a battle of physical strength?!

“How can a measly rank E….”

He was now so sure that something had gone terribly awry somewhere.

Five rank Cs and three rank Ds were knocked down in the blink of an eye. There was no way this b*stard was a rank E.

Jin-Woo stood next to Hwang Dong-Seok.

The bearded man couldn’t even properly move his body. His fate was quite obvious now.

If this was a sports match or a spar, then this battle would’ve ended right here. Too bad for the bearded man, though, Jin-Woo wasn’t planning to stop there.

“W-wait a minute.”

Hwang Dong-Seok raised his hand first.

“Le-let me go! If you, you want m-money, I’ll give it to ya. As long as you spare me….”

“Three times.”

Jin-Woo’s voice remained cold.

“Aren’t you a bit shameless, asking to be spared by someone you tried to kill three times already?”

First, by blocking the exit of the boss room.

Second, ordering Yu Jin-Ho to kill him.

And finally, Joh Gyu-Hwan’s magic.

Hwang Dong-Seok tried to kill Jin-Woo these three times – even after excluding the battle just now.

‘Give and take’.

When he returned alive from the underground temple, Jin-Woo resolved himself to return as much as he had received.

….Whether it was kindness or hostility.

He’d repay the acts of ill intents with an equal amount of malice. There would be no room for negotiation.

3

Realising that begging for his life wouldn’t work, Hwang Dong-Seok’s eyes shot wide open and foam bubbled around his mouth.

“You, you!! You think you’ll be okay after you laid your hands on me like this?! Do you have any idea who my younger brother is…..”

1

Shatter!

1

Hwang Dong-Seok could no longer continue with his words after his neck was broken.

“Keok.”

The whites of the bearded man’s eyes were showing now.

Tti-ring.

[The number of enemies left to kill: 0]

[The number of killed enemies: 8]

2

Finally, this quest had come to an end.

“Whew-woo….”

1

Jin-Woo spat out a long sigh containing a myriad of emotions and lifted his hand away from Hwang Dong-Seok’s head.

His gaze then stopped on his hands.

He might have one-sidedly bulldozed past his opponents, but for someone who had fought to the death against eight other people, his hands remained remarkably steady.

‘Is it okay to be like this?’

3

Jin-Woo placed his hand on his chest and felt for his beating heart.

Thump, thump, thump….

His heart was beating as calmly as if he had been taking a stroll.

‘What if…..’

For the first time ever, he began to think that, seeing the System wasn’t the only change taking place within him after he returned alive from the underground temple.

However, his musings had to be kept brief. Soon, the familiar beep entered his head.

Tti-ring.

[You have completed ‘Emergency Quest: Kill all the enemies’.]

1

[Completion rewards are now available.]

[Would you like to confirm the rewards?] (Y/N)

He was half-expecting this to happen, and sure enough, he now had received rewards. Jin-Woo didn’t even hesitate and chose ‘yes’.

‘Confirm.’

Tti-ring.

[The following rewards are available.]

Reward 1. Full recovery of the current physical condition

Reward 2. Ten additional Stat points

2

Reward 3. Skill: ‘Intimidation’

‘Not only ten points, but even a skill, too?’

Jin-Woo’s eyes widened from the huge amount of available rewards. All those Stat points were one thing, but this new skill stole away almost all of his attention.

‘If I didn’t possess the Dash skill when fighting that spider…..’

The only reason why he managed to hunt the boss down was because of ‘Dash’. There was no need to mention how important a skill was during a battle. It was not for nothing that a Rune stone, with which a person could learn a brand new skill, cost several hundreds of millions of Won.

Jin-Woo immediately checked this skill called ‘Intimidation’ out.

‘Show me the third reward.’

Tti-ring.

[Skill: Intimidation Lv. 1]

Active skill.

Mana required to activate: 100.

Can render a designated target in a state of fear for one minute by using your powerful aura. Multiple targets can be selected.

2

Effect ‘Fear’: All Stats -50%

Although it was only active for a short time, it was still a rare skill that could decrease the opponent’s Stats by a substantial amount.

1

Of course, exactly like other effects, if the opponent’s resistance was high enough it would fail to activate. But, if it did work, then Jin-Woo thought that taking care of his enemies, regardless of who it was, would become as easy as pie.

2

And since it could be used against multiple opponents, the scope of this skill’s usefulness seemed limitless, too.

‘It’s really good, isn’t it?’

The rewards were just as good as the potential penalty was as bad.

‘Hang on a sec…. Now that I think about it, it’s not like that, is it?’

After all, his life was at stake here. And, was that all?

Jin-Woo took a look around him.

He frowned deeply after taking in the gruesome sight.

He had witnessed enough deaths of other Hunters, but even then, he’d never really get used to looking at the corpses of other people.

This was what this quest asked of him, though. But, for a quest that asked for many lives as its completion requirement, the rewards handed out felt rather cheap and not quite enough.

Well, even if it weren’t for the quest, he’d still have to fight against Hwang Dong-Seok and his crew in the end, but still.

‘And they say, a man’s greed knows no bounds….’

1

Jin-Woo shook his head wryly.

It was then, the cave shook around once more.

RUMBLE…..

The tremor had become stronger than before. It was now the time to get out of the dungeon. But, before he could do that, there was something else he needed to take care of first.

And that happened to be Yu Jin-Ho. Jin-Woo’s gaze drifted toward him.

Yu Jin-Ho had been pitifully frozen solid in his spot until then, and flinched rather grandly before hurriedly lowering his gaze to the ground.

‘Now, what should I do with this kid….?’

Of course, he wasn’t thinking of harming Yu Jin-Ho. There was no need to, nor was there a reason to do so, either.

However, if the events of this place got leaked out to the rest of the world, then there was a good chance that his life would become inconvenienced in a variety of ways.

‘So, I guess I should make sure he doesn’t talk, huh.’

Just as he thought that course of action would be for the best, Yu Jin-Ho rapidly ran towards him, knelt down, and bowed his head.

4

“Hyung-nim, please spare me!!”

“….”

Suddenly, Jin-Woo felt that the following conversation should unfold a lot more smoothly than his initial expectation.

***

Yu Jin-Ho was shaking like a wet dog. His complexion was pale, as well. Well, eight people died in the blink of an eye right in front of his face, so that was par for the course, really.

One of the most important tools in dealing with people was this – the ‘fear’. So, Jin-Woo decided to use this situation to his advantage.

“Why should I?”

“Hiiick!!”

Jin-Woo thought that he heard the sound of Yu Jin-Ho’s heart falling to the floor just now.

2

His guilty conscience that asked, “Was that too much?” only lasted for a second, though.

“If, if you want money, I can speak to my father, and….”

“Who do you think I am?!”

Jin-Woo’s expression crumpled unpleasantly.

Sure, he did grow up impoverished, but that didn’t mean he was corrupt enough to hold a person’s life hostage and extort money that way.

1

Wouldn’t he be no different from Hwang Dong-Seok if he did that?

“I-I’m truly sorry.”

If it weren’t for Yu Jin-Ho’s current state being absolutely terrified, Jin-Woo would have smacked the back of the kid’s head or something by now. He was holding back only because it looked like Yu Jin-Ho might keel over from a heart attack if he really did that.

1

Confirming how displeased Jin-Woo’s expression was, Yu Jin-Ho nervously swallowed some dried saliva.

‘Now that I think about it, even back when Hwang Dong-Seok offered him money….. Could he have abandoned all material desires and now only walks the path of bloodshed and murder?!’

1

Jin-Woo’s image inside Yu Jin-Ho’s head was being solidified in an even weirder direction.

However, it was too early to draw a conclusion yet.

‘If that was the case, then why did hyung-nim extract those magic crystals?’

Not too long ago, Jin-Woo personally went and extracted all those magic stones, even going so far to dig through the spider’s entrails.

Sure, it was used in a variety of ways, such as a source of high-density energy, as a raw material in manufacturing magic tools, etc. – but, to a Hunter, a magic crystal was simply another word for ‘money’.

Yu Jin-Ho’s mind spun at a quicker pace.

‘So, that’s how it was!’

Those crystals were the ‘prize of blood’.

2

They were the deserved prize he earned through staining his hands with blood, and that was why he didn’t mind digging through the stomach of a dead monster.

He’d not show a hint of mercy to those enemies who tried to harm him, but he was also the practitioner of the way of the blood. Meaning, he did not want anything to do with the monetary gain that he hadn’t earned with his own hands.

‘And I tried to buy his benevolence with money, so of course, he’d get p*ssed off at me….’

1

In that case, what Yu Jin-Ho needed here wasn’t ‘father’s money’, but the ‘deserved profit’ that could be earned if he managed to walk out of here alive.

When he sneaked a glance, Jin-Woo’s expression was still distorted somewhat. Yu Jin-Ho quickly continued on with his words.

“Hyung-nim, if you spare me, then I’ll hand over all the profit earned in this dungeon to you.”

“Mm?”

As expected, Jin-Woo immediately displayed his interest.

“Please, think about it, hyung-nim. If you monopolise the profit meant for ten people after nine others are killed, others would definitely start questioning you.”

From Yu Jin-Ho’s perspective, Jin-Woo was, without a doubt, a fake registrant. Not only that, a highly-skilled fake registrant who enjoyed murdering people!

Obviously, he’d not want the attention of other folks landing on him.

“So what?”

“On the flip side, if we both walk out of here alive, then according to the contract, all the magic crystals from this dungeon belongs to me. Even if all the other teammates had died, since you don’t get a share in the first place, no one would suspect you.”

Of course, there’s was no way that Yu Jin-Ho would be suspected of foul play here. Well, his father owned one of the country’s top-ranked companies, after all.

The potential profit he’d earn from selling off the magic crystals would be like a pocket change to him.

“This money is something hyung-nim totally deserves. I mean, this is your deserved reward for saving me and getting rid of Hwang Dong-Seok and his lackeys, wouldn’t you agree?”

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