SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 238
I ALONE LEVEL-UP CHAPTER 238
If one were to transplant ‘Hell’ to Earth, would it resemble something like this?
The skies were filled with thick black clouds that showed no signs of abating. The ground below was, in turn, filled with blood, screams, ashes, and acrid stink.
Sovereigns were born from the darkness with the sole purpose of destroying everything, and so, they proceeded to systematically erase any semblance of light and life from this world.
The Dragon Emperor stood in front of them. It stepped proudly on top of the city now reduced to ash and swept its gaze all over its surroundings.
‘What is going on with that b*stard, I wonder?’
After that brief stare-down, the Shadow Sovereign went into hiding and didn’t appear again, even until now.
When he used his sensory perception to reveal his existence, the Dragon Emperor took that as the sign of the Shadow Sovereign finally declaring war.
And that was why, for the first time in an extremely long while, the Dragon Emperor’s heart that went dormant while wandering within the gap between dimensions had begun beating powerfully once again.
Finally, one of only a few enemies that could truly threaten its life had bared his fangs at it. The true war was at hand.
To the ‘Sovereign of Destruction’, the sight of the battlefield filled with sheer, uncontrolled madness from all parties involved was pretty much the same thing as a marvellous gift from the heavens.
Could anything be compared to the pure joy derived from the battles?
Too bad, the event it had been waiting for didn’t materialise.
The Shadow Sovereign vanished without a trace and showed no signs of appearing again even after a nation of his kin had been annihilated completely.
Of course, it’d be no different than killing himself to fight against the combined army of the Chaos World that easily numbered in the ten-plus millions with just over one hundred thousand of his servants.
However, if he was planning to run away from the get-go, he wouldn’t have tried to threaten the Dragon Emperor even at the risk of exposing his current whereabouts.
‘….Could he be aiming for something else?’
The Dragon Emperor grew more anxious as time continued to pass by.
Now that they had no clue when and where the Shadow Sovereign would begin his assault, the soldiers under the Dragon had no choice but to move at a much more cautious pace. Obviously, their marching speed had slowed down to a crawl as a result.
The Dragon Emperor wanted to get rid of all the nuisances bothering them as soon as possible and get ready for the battle against the Rulers, so without a doubt, the current situation was proving to be rather annoying.
Could it be….?
‘….He’s waiting for the annihilation of his kin so he can convert them all into his Shadow Soldiers?’
However, turning humans who didn’t know how to wield Mana into his soldiers wouldn’t be much help against the Army of Destruction. Surely, that b*stard would know of this fact, too.
It was then.
A voice interrupted the deep deliberation of the Dragon Emperor.
“Humans are coming, my liege.”
One of the Ancient-class Dragons acting as its bodyguard informed it of the incoming attacks of the humans. But, didn’t all the humans of this nation capable of wielding Mana, ‘Hunters’, die? If so, what could this be?
The Dragon Emperor formed a puzzled expression and raised its head, and with excellent timing, countless missiles rained down from the sky.
This was the final struggle of the weak creatures, so pathetically meaningless that even the Sovereign of Destruction felt sorry for them. Humans knew that their weapons not imbued with Mana couldn’t even touch a single hair on the Army of Destruction, yet they stubbornly refused to give up.
‘….This is getting boring.’
The brows of the Dragon Emperor quivered slightly. Anxiety morphed into annoyance, and soon, annoyance transformed into anger.
[None of you step forward.]
The Dragon Emperor warned its underlings not to make a move and for the first time ever since setting foot in this world, revealed its true appearance.
These fighter pilots had flown here while risking their lives in order to buy time, however little it’d be, for the civilians to evacuate. But then, after seeing the truly nonsensical size of the personified calamity approaching them, every single one of these brave men and women became completely speechless.
The terror and shock of these pilots only lasted for a brief moment. Soon, the breath of pure destruction fired out in a straight line from the jaw of the calamity, swallowing up all of the fighter jets in the air.
In less than one minute. The lives of these pilots couldn’t even buy one minute and their sacrifice was ultimately in vain.
Unfortunately, the Dragon Emperor wasn’t satisfied by these humans’ sacrifices and raised its head to spew out a terrifying roar at the heavens.
That was the Sovereign of Destruction declaring war against the Shadow Sovereign.
Jin-Woo also heard that roar.
His eyes, closed in stillness so that he could organise his thoughts, quietly opened up.
The moment his eyelids lifted up, the sight of the ‘lodging’ Beru had constructed immediately entered his view. Darkness and silence seemed to have taken over the dominion of this needlessly humongous room.
Was it because the current atmosphere resembled the moments of eternal rest? Jin-Woo didn’t dislike the combination of darkness and silence as experienced within this empty, wide-open space.
He felt guilty about scolding Beru initially after clapping his eyes on this white fortress for the first time back then, so he quietly summoned the former ant king to his side.
“Hey, Beru. Thanks.”
Beru had been silently waiting in Jin-Woo’s shadow until then. He sneaked his head out of the darkness below to speak.
“Oh, my king….”
“Yeah, I know.”
Jin-Woo cut off Beru’s sentence even before another word could be uttered. This time, Bellion rose up to the surface from the side of the ant king.
“It’s far too dangerous, my liege.”
Even Igrit emerged from below too, as if he was waiting for this chance. He knelt down and lowered his head, his voice sounding earnest.
“I share their opinions, my liege.”
All three Marshals were trying to dissuade Jin-Woo from enacting his plan. Wordlessly, their master studied the trio.
Shadow Soldiers would never die unless their Sovereign was killed off. Which meant that they would always worry about the safety of their Sovereign first and foremost.
However, sometimes one had no choice but to make a move even though he knew of the dangers waiting for him on the other side.
For Jin-Woo, this was one such occasion.
“Osborne…. The former Shadow Sovereign said that he liked this aspect of me.”
That would be the aspect of him willing to tackle the seemingly-dangerous problem head-on first to see what’s what, even though he looked cold and calculating on the outside.
Jin-Woo continued on.
“If he was in the same situation as I am now, what would he have done?”
Bellion recalled the past actions of the former Shadow Sovereign and realised that he couldn’t readily provide an answer.
Osborne, the former Shadow Sovereign, was someone who stepped up all by himself to try and stop the rebellion of every other Fragment of the Brilliant Light marching forward to kill their creator, the Absolute Being.
If it was him, he’d never give up on his duty regardless of the situation facing him. Once Bellion’s thoughts arrived there, he raised his faltering head up high.
Jin-Woo was smiling back at him.
‘They… resemble each other.’
Jin-Woo’s face overlapped with that of Osborne’s in Bellion’s eyes, just then.
Bellion lowered his head again and made an earnest pledge towards Jin-Woo.
“I shall accompany you till the end, my liege.”
It seemed that other Marshals shared his sentiment because they no longer bothered to dissuade Jin-Woo.
“You should’ve come out like that from the beginning, you know.”
Jin-Woo grinned refreshingly at them.
He felt that there really wasn’t much time remaining, and pulled out his phone from the pocket. This might prove to be his last chance to speak to his family.
In the end, though, he couldn’t bring himself to tap the ‘Call’ icon. He thought that, if he heard the voices of his loved ones now, he’d not be able to take another step forward.
That’s the feeling he got.
The crushed phone slowly fell from Jin-Woo’s hand.
It’d be perfectly fine to delay listening to their voices until the end of the upcoming battle. Jin-Woo reaffirmed his resolve and summoned the pair of Kamish’s Wrath from the storage within the subspace.
And then, he tore the T-shirt he was wearing to create long ropes and wrapped them around his hands holding the shortswords. His weapons shouldn’t slip out of his grasp during the battle, but in reality, he was doing this to rouse his fighting spirit up.
The rope made out of his torn T-shirt tightly secured the shortswords in his both of hands.
His firm, well-developed torso muscles, fully on display now that his top was gone, quivered and writhed every time he breathed deeply in and out as if they were alive.
The heightened sensation before the battle quietly made its descent on his shoulders. His heart was steadily pounding away, too.
Jin-Woo always liked this heightened sensation spreading throughout his entire body just before he was about to step into a dungeon.
Both his mind and body were prepared now.
He let a soft sigh leave his lips, and chilling light began shining from deep within his eyes.
The plan he ran countless simulations of in his head raced past his mind one more time. He could not afford to make any mistake from here on.
His expression now reflected the weight of his determination. His Marshals, having read their liege’s will to fight, nodded their heads in unison.
Jin-Woo spoke with a determined voice.
“Let’s get going.”
Inside the office of the Korean Hunter’s Association President.
Woo Jin-Cheol was busy recalling the sage advice his grandfather had left behind some time ago.
If he wanted to figure out the severity of an incident, then he’d have to take a closer look at the expressions of the news anchor.
His grandfather had personally experienced and survived the war and various calamities that came to visit Korea in the past, so he knew what he was talking about. After placing a very young Woo Jin-Cheol on his lap, he said these words.
– If the expression of the news anchor is on the bright side, then it’s nothing to worry about. If the anchor’s expression is a little gloomy, then you should be a little bit cautious. However…. The moments you should really feel scared would be….
Woo Jin-Cheol was studying the expression of the female news anchor and muttered softly without even consciously realising it.
“….When the anchor is trying to maintain a calm expression.”
In cases of truly calamitous events, news readers would try to prevent the unrest and agitation blooming in the hearts of the viewers at home by doing their best to project how calm they were.
His grandfather always told him not to miss the moment when such grim determination would be shown on live TV.
And sure enough, the lady anchor of the TV news was ably maintaining a calm expression as well as a level voice to report on the events unfolding in North America – exactly as his grandfather had warned.
[….When all contact with the Hunters stepping forward to stop the advance had been cut off, the American government has urgently mobilised all of their military forces to buy enough time for civilians to evacuate…..]
Woo Jin-Cheol squeezed his eyes shut.
He just didn’t feel confident of continuously watching the unfolding tragedy happening on the other side of the planet.
Through Jin-Woo’s memory, he had witnessed the grand scale of the enemy’s invading forces. He was being serious here – that was a calamity nothing in this world could defend against.
The nation boasting the greatest combat strength, the United States of America, was crumbling helplessly at the hands of those d*mn monsters. And right now, the only thing humanity could do was to pray for a miracle.
Unfortunately, just what kind of a miracle would it have to be to stop those creatures?
Imagination filled with ominous foreboding and terrible imagery continued to bubble one after the other in his head as if they had formed a long, unbroken chain. Woo Jin-Cheol slowly shook his head, hoping to get rid of those distracting thoughts.
A miracle, was it?
‘Now that I think about it…’
It had been already over three days since all contact with Hunter Seong Jin-Woo had been cut off.
Woo Jin-Cheol got to clearly see Jin-Woo’s ability to create dozens of Gates, back when the representatives of the world’s nations had gathered in one place. As long as he wanted to, Hunter Seong Jin-Woo would be able to escape to another world.
It could very well be that he had already evacuated to somewhere safe by now. But, even if he did that, who here could criticise his decision?
It was either fight against ten million soldiers born for the sake of destruction with no one else but himself, or escape to somewhere far away, where their hands didn’t reach.
Even if it was Woo Jin-Cheol making this decision, he wasn’t confident of choosing the former over the latter.
So, all that remained was to truly pray fervently for a miracle.
“Please, I beg of you. Don’t….”
Although there would never be a reply, Woo Jin-Cheol still looked up at the ceiling of his office and whispered softly.
“…..Don’t forsake us.”
But, it happened right then.
Woo Jin-Cheol jumped up in shock and his gaze was locked onto the TV immediately.
There was an earthquake erupting within his eyes now.
The best air force in the world, the United States Air Force that proudly boasted the history of zero defeats, didn’t fare any better compared to their Canadian counterparts when subjected to the power of the Army of Destruction.
A fighter jet’s engine was destroyed in an instant and its pilot hurriedly attempted to eject from the plane.
As this pilot made his rapid descent towards the ground, he began screaming out in despair as he watched his friends and colleagues getting massacred in the blink of an eye.
Boom!! Bang! Ka-boom!
Booming exploding noises and flashes of fireballs filled up the sky.
The pilot continued to cry out the names of his dying friends even as the disorientating chaos pushed his head into a dizzy spin.
The ground approached at the rate of knots. Just before he was about to become a flat pancake, his parachute unfurled itself in time.
He messily tumbled and rolled around on the ground several times before coming to a stop. He then emptied the contents of his stomach from the extreme case of dizziness.
Were the tears pooling on the edges of his eyes the result of the pain wracking his body, or because of the resentment he felt at his own powerlessness?
Unfortunately, he wasn’t given a lot of time to consider that dilemma.
Even though the surroundings were filled with the acrid stink of blood and stinging fumes of chemicals, monsters still managed to sense the breathing of a lifeform from far away and began rushing towards his location.
The pilot hurriedly cut himself loose from the parachute’s straps and yanked out a pistol mounted on his hips.
“Die!! Die, you sons of b*tches!!”
Blam! Blam!! Blam!!! Blam!!!!
Several ear-piercing gunshots echoed in the air, but as expected, they were simply inadequate to slow down the monsters by one bit.
Click, click, click….
Now that he ran out of bullets, the pilot instantly began regretting his actions. He should have reserved the last shot for his own final moment.
His hands powerlessly sagged to the ground.
The very first monster to arrive his location as he stood there dazed and numb was a denizen of the Chaos World that resembled a giant cockroach.
After seeing the insect-type monster utterly filling up his view, all strength in the pilot’s legs abandoned him and he sunk down to the floor.
A despairing moan leaked out of his mouth.
Right at that moment….
All those insects rushing at him were suddenly torn apart at once as if a claw from a gigantic creature took a swipe at them.
His tearful eyes anxiously sought out the origin of that miracle. And soon, he found a single Asian man gently landing in front of his eyes.
Although it was only his back, the pilot found it not too difficult to guess this man’s name by looking at the pair of uniquely-shaped shortswords in his hands.
“Seong Jin-Woo…. Hunter Jin-Woo Seong??”
Jin-Woo took a look at the pilot behind him.
There was an incredibly intense scowl on his face that made it hard to tell whether he was an ally or an enemy. But, his eyes definitely said, “Run away, now!”
Sure enough, a horde of monsters far outnumbering the ones that got killed was rushing towards them from the distance. The pilot’s voice rose up an octave just then.
“Even if it’s you, Hunter Seong, you can’t do this alone….”
That was as far as his words could go.
Jin-Woo furiously swung Kamish’s Wraths, resulting in the monsters to get torn apart into bits and pieces like dolls made out of paper. Having successfully bought more time, Jin-Woo looked back at the pilot again.
The pilot finally managed to ungainly push himself off from the ground and he began running away using everything in his power. Jin-Woo briefly watched the back of the departing man, before shifting his gaze back to his front again.
He had cut down dozens upon dozens of enemies with those two attacks, but that was like shaving a tiny piece off a massive iceberg.
Enemies hundreds of times greater in number seemed to have latched onto the smell of combat that had taken place here.
This would be the first steps of the war. His first victims would be with these insect-type monsters.
Jin-Woo sucked in a quick but deep breath, and in the direction of the Chaos World’s soldiers rushing towards his location, he spat out the two words that would become the turning point in this war.
< Chapter 238 > Fin.