SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 49
For the first time ever, an item with a rarity ranking of ‘S’ showed up.
Just the effect of 15% reduction in physical damage alone would’ve made it a top-tier item, yet it even possessed two more remarkable additional attributes of raising the Stamina and Strength Stats by 20 points each.
Just seeing those options alone made his heart palpitate so much faster.
‘The rarity A items can’t even compare to it!’
He had acquired two A-ranked items up until now.
The first was the Poison Sac of Kasaka, the one he got after he defeated the snake ‘Blue Kasaka’; the second one being the Gatekeeper’s Necklace after he defeated the Cerberus.
Those two items were already quite excellent.
The poison sac had the terrible penalty of stealing 35 points from his Strength Stat, but its effect also decreased the physical damage taken by 20%.
What about the Gatekeeper’s Necklace, then?
It was one of the best items out there that increased both Agility and Perception Stats by 20 each – two Stats he now knew the importance of.
But the Red Knight’s Helm possessed the kind of buffing effect that combined both of those items. And without any penalty, to boot.
‘No need to mention it. It’s the best.’
He was fully aware of the fact that he was standing in the middle of the dungeon’s boss room, yet the smile on his face didn’t want to go away.
And if he were to add in one more unnecessary point here, he even liked the helm’s design.
‘It’s a bit of a pity to hide this thing, though.’
The crimson helm that immediately reminded all onlookers of the flowing blood, and the mane connected to the helm itself, made him feel like he was holding an artistic masterpiece.
It was only for a brief moment, but he even felt compelled to put on the full set of this armour if it existed somewhere.
‘What a waste….’
Igrit’s other armour pieces weren’t considered to be loot, as there were no lights coming off from them. Only the helm could be taken away.
Jin-Woo forced back a rueful smile and cautiously put on the helm.
Just as always, the helm disappeared from the view immediately.
Although he couldn’t show off his new look, his Stats had gained a huge boost thanks to his new headwear.
Strength: 128 (+20)
Stamina: 87 (+20)
Reduction in physical damage: 46% (+15%)
The numbers appearing in brackets were the increases in his Stats from the helm itself. Not only the Strength and Stamina Stats, but the hard-to-increase damage reduction Stat all enjoyed massive boosts.
He was completely and utterly satisfied now.
Having confirmed the increase with his own two eyes, his heart began beating even faster.
‘No, no, no.’
Jin-Woo quickly shook his head.
‘The quest isn’t over yet, so let’s calm down.’
Besides, he still had other items to sort out, too.
With the trace of excitement still lingering in his mind, Jin-Woo shifted his gaze to the other two items.
[Rune Stone: Ruler’s Reach]
[Item: Immediate Return Stone]
Two pieces of stones.
Out of the two walnut-sized stones, the first one to grab his curious gaze was the Immediate Return Stone.
‘I know what is a Rune Stone, but this….’
Just what could this Immediate Return Stone do?
His curiosity got resolved pretty quickly, however. The information on the Immediate Return Stone floated up right away.
[Item: Immediate Return Stone]
An item exclusive to this Class Change Quest. When destroyed, you’ll be transported outside the dungeon immediately. However, once the Class Change Quest has been concluded, it will automatically be destroyed.
Can’t be stored in the Inventory.
The way to use it was similar to a Rune Stone.
However, to think that its effect wasn’t about absorbing a new skill, but to escape from this dungeon….
‘Hang on a sec. The Class Change Quest isn’t over yet?!’
If that were the case, then this particular item should’ve been destroyed already.
Since it hadn’t, that could only mean…
For some reason, he felt a creeping chill slowly caress his spine.
What an odd sensation that was.
He had received one of the best items out there that could help him make his escape from this dungeon, yet why was he getting this incredibly bad premonition right now?
If this stone could be used in regular dungeons, and not only inside the System-generated ones, then just about everyone alive would try to buy this thing.
Seriously, this stone would be the same as having a sure-fire way to save their lives, so no one should be foolish enough to pinch pennies when trying to get their hands on one.
It was the same with Jin-Woo, too. Just this item alone should decrease the burden of this quest by a great deal.
‘If I so choose….’
….He’d be able to escape at any time.
However, the ominous feeling taking root in the corner of his mind didn’t want to go away, no matter what.
And, sure enough!
The warning beep from the System went off in his head as if it was waiting for this moment.
[‘Player’ has acquired the Immediate Return Stone.]
[The ‘Class Change Quest’ will now commence.]
Son of a b*tch!
So, this was the item to start the quest for real!
He nearly fainted on the spot. He felt like he had stepped on something he shouldn’t have in the first place.
‘If I knew this might happen, I’d have taken a short break first!’
What would regret do for him now?
No matter how much one relied on one’s experience and knowledge to predict the future, one would never be able to correctly guess the tricks of fate.
A strand of cold sweat dripped down from Jin-Woo’s forehead.
Jin-Woo summoned the Status Window inwardly and confirmed the remaining HP and his fatigue level.
‘The Tiredness Stat is a bit on the high side, but I can still do this.’
The helm’s added effects enhanced his Stamina Stat by a lot, which meant that his overall endurance had increased greatly as well, and his remaining HP had risen up as an added bonus, too.
What a relief that was.
As if to encourage himself, Jin-Woo continued to tell himself that…
‘I can still do this. It’s not impossible.’
Of course, his life should not be in any imminent danger. Because, he held the Immediate Return Stone, after all.
However, no matter how hard he thought about it, this Immediate Return Stone sounded awfully like an item that signified him giving up on the quest.
If that was not the case, then it shouldn’t have been the quest-starting item, to begin with.
‘If I give up on this quest….’
Wouldn’t it be the same as him giving up on this chance to get his class?
The cold sweat on his forehead rolled past his temple and down to his chin, before dripping down.
Just as he swallowed a bit of dry spit and his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, the System’s new message popped up in his view.
[In ten seconds, dimensional doorways will be randomly generated.]
Even before his question could be cleared up, huge numbers appeared up in the middle of the air.
He could easily tell what that was.
It most likely was signifying the countdown.
Meanwhile, the messages continued on.
[‘Player’ has a choice.]
[You can escape from the dungeon by using the Immediate Return Stone, or….]
…..8, 7, 6.
The timer continued to tick down to 0.
[Or, endure as long as you can and earn as many advancement points as possible in order to access the higher ranked classes.]
“Endure?! Endure what exactly?”
He ended up shouting out loudly as his frustration mounted. However, Jin-Woo was already holding the Poison Fang of Kasaka summoned from his Inventory.
He stored the Rune Stone inside the Inventory, while the Immediate Return Stone was placed inside the back of his pocket since it couldn’t be stored there.
Even though his heart beat fast and hard enough to nearly explode, he didn’t forget to get ready for the battle that was about to come.
That was how Seong Jin-Woo operated.
[The Class Change Quest will soon commence.]
….4, 3, 2.
Jin-Woo anxiously glared at the time and quickly scanned his surroundings.
His head and eyes darted around quickly, over here and over there.
Something ominous was clearly getting ready to begin; the space around him was separating and twisting visibly to his eyes.
[I wish you the best of luck.]
For the first time ever, the System expressed ’emotion’.
Too bad, he had no time to stew inside his shock. The moment the timer hit 0, several Gates began forming all around him.
Not just one or two, either.
He first spotted six around him. The number continued to climb up even higher, however.
And at the same time, the timer began ticking upwards.
The ‘countdown’ began again.
The time would become his so-called advancement points. He hadn’t understood everything the System said, but still, he did figure out some parts of it.
‘The longer I endure, the stronger I will get.’
No, more specifically, he’d instead get a powerful class.
There was no way he’d throw away a golden opportunity like this. He also had some wiggle room left with his HP and MP.
‘Let’s endure as long as I can.’
When the timer hit exactly three seconds, weapon-less knights poured out from the nearest Gate.
Thud, thud, thud, thud….
When the knights decked out in full armour formed silver-coloured waves, the ground couldn’t help but tremor from the weight.
The momentum these things displayed would have been enough to overwhelm most people, but there was a smile floating up onto Jin-Woo’s lips, instead.
‘If it’s these guys, I can definitely fight them!’
In a way, he was oh-so-glad to see them as his opponents.
If the monsters coming out from the Gates happened to be as strong as Igrit, then he wouldn’t even be able to last a couple of seconds.
Jin-Woo used some part of the remaining MP and activated the skill ‘Stealth’.
‘For the time being, I should observe what’s happening here first.’
Jin-Woo’s form blurred and slowly disappeared. As expected, the knights rushing towards him all came to an abrupt halt.
[The mage has used ‘Skill: Eyes of Detection’.]
The crisp ‘tti-ring’ of the warning beep resounded in his head. Jin-Woo’s head snapped in the direction of the beep.
‘What was that?’
He spotted a mage that had just emerged from the Gate chanting a spell. That’s also when Jin-Woo discovered an ‘eye’ like symbol floating above the head of the mage.
The moment that eye flashed…!
In that moment, Jin-Woo’s Stealth was cancelled.
From the get-go, his calculation proved to be way off the mark.
The knights that stood around like telephone poles snapped their heads all at once towards Jin-Woo’s direction. It was a scene straight out of a horror movie.
And soon enough, the silver waves pounced on him.
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened wider and he gritted his teeth.
His punch blew away the head of the incoming knight.
That guy died where it stood.
[You defeated the knight.]
Crazed lights shone in Jin-Woo’s eyes.
[‘Skill: Intimidation’ has been activated.]
[‘Effect: Fear’ has been activated.]
[The targets’ (All) Stats will decrease by 50% for one minute.]
The movements of the monsters became much duller through the effects of ‘Fear’, but his Mana fell down to 90 points.
The Intimidation required 100 MP in order to activate.
He wouldn’t be able to use it the second time.
‘However, I just bought myself a minute.’
Intending to use this precious minute to the best of his abilities as the monsters were noticeably weakened, Jin-Woo began wailing on them with everything he had.
With a terrifying momentum, he proceeded to utterly dismantle the knights.
Boom! Slam! Crack!!
Too bad, the speed of him defeating knights was far inferior to the rate of the replacement knights popping out from the Gates.
Even in the midst of the maddened battle, Jin-Woo sneaked a glance at the timer.
It’d only been three minutes and 19 seconds.
If that was converted into points, how much would he get?
Wouldn’t it be fine for him to leave this place now?
However, he didn’t have any leeway to dwell on that matter.
Even while he was thinking to himself, knights were continuously pouring out from the Gates like unstoppable waves.
He managed to destroy countless Knights, yet he simply couldn’t deal with so many of them.
In the end, Jin-Woo was buried in the sea of knights.
[Passive skill, ‘Tenacity’ has been activated.]
[Passive skill, ‘Tenacity’ has been activated.]
His HP was in a freefall now and eventually, it hit rock bottom.
‘The time is….?’
Five minutes and eight seconds.
He had endured enough, hadn’t he?
‘……Let’s get out of here.’
Now completely entrapped among the knights, Jin-Woo flailed about helplessly in this silver prison and dug through his back pocket.
The Immediate Return Stone slipped out from his grasp and fell to the floor.
And the roundish stone hit the sole of one of the knights and rolled away far from him.
Jin-Woo hurriedly reached out towards the stone, but the knights blocked him.
Soon, knights piled up on top of him, too.
It became almost impossible to breathe in an instant.
[Passive skill, ‘Tenacity’ has been activated.]
[Passive skill, ‘Tenacity’ has been activated.]
His consciousness began to blur.
He continuously got struck by the knights while trapped below them, and as his mind began to grow dimmer, he thought he heard a snarky cackle coming from somewhere.
You have brought this upon yourself, remember that.
Why did you risk it all when there was a safe path for you to follow? Isn’t it already a huge break for a rank E Hunter to become a C, or even a B?
Well, in the end, this was as far as you could go.
Remember, you killed yourself today.
Shut the hell up!!
The knights surrounding and pressing down on Jin-Woo were suddenly all blown away.
Even though he somehow managed to crawl out from death, his eyes were burning with life. As a matter of fact, his eyes were burning with a stubborn will and sheer malice.
‘I won’t let it end like this!!’
He earned this opportunity after going through so much. So, how could he let it end like this? Never.
Because he was stuck at the very bottom for so long, he yearned to be on top more than anyone else. He knew the sorrow of the weak better than anyone. He tried everything to survive, and when he did survive, others kept pointing fingers at him.
How will a rank E be of any help here?
The Association is being way too much. They should’ve dispatched someone who could actually lend a bit of help, but that guy is… Uh-whew.
That b*stard, maybe he keeps surviving by hiding behind his colleagues every time?
So, how could he simply watch and do nothing, when a ladder that could take him to the very top was put in front of his eyes?
What a rubbish notion that was.
‘….I remember now.’
That voice ringing around his head just now.
That voice belonged to those b*stards.
The voice that always yapped on and on from behind his back.
‘Fine, laugh all you want.
‘I’ll struggle on until the bitter end.
‘It’s fine if my HP drops to ten, no, 1. I’ll struggle and struggle on like crazy, right until the end. I’ll fight until I won’t be able to move anymore.’
Jin-Woo threw his body forward.
He thrust forward another punch.
A knight’s breastplate caved in and the monster flew away. Other knights collided with it and they all fell on their butts.
But then, more knights rushed in again.
Jin-Woo’s movements became a step more violent in response.
Crack! Boom!! Slam!!
Without an exception, knights colliding with Jin-Woo’s body parts, be that his fist, elbow, knee, feet, were all destroyed like a bunch of paper dolls.
[Tiredness has exceeded 70 points.]
[Your movement is being restricted.]
Just as the warning message said, his movements became duller. However, the malice and anger in Jin-Woo’s eyes didn’t weaken in the slightest.
One by one, the knights he couldn’t defeat in one hit slammed into him. Jin-Woo resorted to hitting them three, four times and made sure to destroy them.
[…..8, 7, 6, 5.]
In the meantime, a strange countdown was silently ticking down. He was too focused on the battle so he failed to notice it before the timer had reached the single digit.
‘What’s this? Is the quest coming to an end?’
A small ray of hope blossomed in his head for a brief moment, but it turned out to be nothing but a useless dream.
The quest timer was still ticking up as it supposed to. No, something separate from this timer was counting down one second at a time.
[4, 3, 2.]
‘Is it to show me the time of my death?’
Indeed, the System did tell him this way back then; it told him that, if he didn’t accept becoming a Player, he’d die 0.02 seconds later.
Jin-Woo glared fiercely.
‘I’ll gladly use up every moment, right down to the final second!’
Two more knights were destroyed in the meantime.
Unlike Jin-Woo’s unyielding stubbornness, though, his entire body was now riddled with all sorts of wounds. It progressively much harder to lift his arms.
His weakened fist wasn’t enough to stop the knights’ tackles and charges anymore.
From the front, one; from the back, another one.
Jin-Woo was sandwiched powerfully by the two knights slamming into him from the front and back, and he spat out a pained groan.
Other knights pounced on him as if they didn’t want to miss this chance.
In the blink of an eye, Jin-Woo was buried under the masses of knights and couldn’t even lift a finger.
Even during that, more knights continued to pile on top of Jin-Woo. The silver waves had transformed into a silver mountain, instead.
Jin-Woo’s breathing became incredibly harsh.
At this rate, he’d be asphyxiated to death first.
Jin-Woo’s hand somehow broke out from the gaps of the knights and helplessly pointed towards the sky.
He was in a truly desperate situation. Even then, Jin-Woo did not give up, though.
‘No, not yet. I can still go on….’
Just as Jin-Woo managed to clench the hand pointing at the sky, the mysterious countdown ticking down finally announced its conclusion.
[You’ve failed to complete the Daily Quest.]
[ You’ll be transferred to the ‘Penalty Zone’.]