SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 5

All the Hunters still alive heard Jin-Woo’s voice.

“Instruments?”

A ray of hope found its way into the eyes of the Hunters.

Quite different to back when he told them to kowtow, everyone moved unbelievably quickly. If Jin-Woo was wrong about this, then as soon as arriving near one, they would be killed by the stone statues holding the musical instruments. However, no one here questioned Jin-Woo’s words.

The song was the first one to arrive in front of a statue carrying a musical instrument.

Song controlled his heavy breathing and raised his head to look at the statue. And as if it was a lie, the fingers of the statue moved and strummed on the harp.

Cling, clang…

A beautiful melody flowed out.

“It’s working!!”

“Hurry to the statues with instruments!!”

Hunters ran towards the nearest correct statues in hurried footsteps.

The statue with a trumpet began blowing it triumphantly; one with a flute began playing with it; the one holding the lyre strummed on its strings.

“Heok, heok, heok….”

While sensing the approach of his physical limit, Kim somehow arrived in front of the statue that held a Suzuka and plopped down to the ground. (TL: I don’t know what this Suzuka could be. used as-is from the raw.) (ED: Probably either a Bazooka or a Bouzouki, both from the 1900s.)

Tiring, string….

As soon as the statue began playing the instrument, the god statue stopped chasing after Kim. He must’ve been overcome with emotions, because Kim then began shedding tears while he stayed down on his knees.

“Sob…. Sob….”

Meanwhile, the god statue turned around. The ‘creature’ searched around and soon enough, found its next prey.

“God d*mn it.”

Jin-Woo spat out a cuss as his gaze met the god statue’s.

He then began running hard – so hard that his heart might explode. His back was already soaked through in sweat.

‘Why?! Why isn’t it working?!’

Jin-Woo’s resentful glare landed on the stone statue in front of him. The statue holding a drum showed no signs of moving at all.

THUD!! THUD!! THUD!!

The god statue closed in with frightening speed. He was practically on the other side of the chamber from the d*mn thing, yet the distance between the two shortened in no time at all.

Jin-Woo swallowed down his saliva.

‘Could it be that the statue won’t play because there are two people here? Me and Miss Ju-Hui?’

He couldn’t think of anything else. Why? Because other statues were playing music just fine as soon a Hunter stood in front of it.

‘There is no time to think anymore.’

Jin-Woo put Ju-Hui down and got ready to run to somewhere else.

“M, Mister Jin-Woo…..”

Still terrified out of her mind, Ju-Hui clung onto Jin-Woo’s sleeve. Jin-Woo calmly whispered in her ear.

“We’ll both die if we stay together.”

Tears began forming on Ju-Hui’s eyes. Her fingers trembled as they held onto his clothes. Unfortunately, there was no time to explain to her in detail. Jin-Woo carefully pried her hand away and began running in the opposite direction as hard as he could.

Boom, boom, boom….

When he glanced back, the statue behind Ju-Hui began beating its drum in a slow but steady rhythm.

‘What a relief.’

There was only one thing remaining now: to run to the other statue without getting killed!

Only Jin-Woo hadn’t received the protection of the music-playing statues. Quite obviously, the rage of the god statue was solely directed to Jin-Woo and him alone.

Jin-Woo did his best to avoid the foot of the thing that rivaled a building in size and crossed the room in a hurry.

THUD!

THUD!!

He fell and rolled around but still, he somehow managed to avoid getting flattened by the god statue’s foot.

“Heok, hook.”

He might only have been a rank E, but he was still a close-combat type Hunter so his physique came in handy in situations like this.

‘Just a little bit further!! A bit more!’

Jin-Woo kept an eye out on the god statue’s movements and ran even harder.

His speed increased.

And when the distance remaining between him and the stone statue was mere a dozen feet…

“No, that’s the wrong one!!”

….Mister Song cried out to him.

Jin-Woo had been paying attention to the god statue only; he was stunned by the shout and hurriedly turned his head take a look at his front.

“Ahh!!”

It’s not a statue with an instrument?

He belatedly realized that the thing that looked like a musical instrument from afar was actually a shield, instead. And sure enough, the statue mercilessly stabbed down with its shield.

“Heok!”

Jin-Woo hurriedly threw himself to the side.

“Kkyahhk!!”

Ju-Hui screamed.

Jin-Woo rolled on the ground and when he came to a stop, he raised his head to see the god statue standing right in front of his nose.

“It’s one thing after another….”

His forehead must’ve been torn from him rolling on the ground, because blood was flowing down and blurred his vision. His view was restricted and he couldn’t look too far away.

Jin-Woo quickly searched around his vicinity.

‘An instrument…. an instrument….’

However, no matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t see a single statue holding an instrument nearby.

Meanwhile, the god statue raised its leg over Jin-Woo’s position.

“Heok!”

THUD!!

Jin-Woo threw himself again and somehow avoided the foot of the statue again.

But he had reached his limit.

A powerful dizziness was assaulting him and for some reason, he couldn’t even balance himself.

‘Please….’

If there was a real god, he thought that he’d start praying right about now.

It was then, Jin-Woo spotted a stone statue that held neither a weapon or a musical instrument.

‘Is that…?’

Jin-Woo decided to bet everything on that statue. He crawled on the ground and arrived in front of the statue in question. He then managed to flip his body around and lied down on the ground so he could see the god statue.

He no longer had any energy to move.

“Pant, pant….”

Jin-Woo stared at the approaching god statue and continued to roughly breathe in and out.

The expression of the god statue was far more contorted compared to before as if it got infuriated further by Jin-Woo’s continued evasion.

The god statue now stopped in front of Jin-Woo. Seeing a ‘creature’ as big as a high-rise blocking his entire view, Jin-Woo felt like he couldn’t breathe anymore.

“Pant, pant…..”

Did it think he was nothing more than a cornered rat? The god statue simply looked down at him and didn’t do anything else.

‘This is the end….’

Jin-Woo sensed his own unavoidable death approaching closer after looking straight into the eyes of the god statue.

However…

Wu-wu-wu….

From somewhere behind him, a beautiful and otherworldly voice came out.

Jin-Woo turned his head around to see what was going on.

Wu-wu, wu-wu-wu….

The lips of the stone statue holding a book moved, and whenever they did, a divine song flowed out and filled the interior of the massive chamber.

The crumpled expression of the god statue slowly reverted back to the emotionless state. Soon, all those horrifyingly contorted facial muscles of the stature smoothed out.

When the song of the stone statues came to its eventual end, the god statue turned around. Then, just how other stone statues had done until now, it returned to its throne and settled down as if things that happened until now were nothing but a lie.

THUD!!

The noise of the god statue sitting down on the throne resounded throughout the chamber.

“Pant, pant….. Barely, made, it…”

A thin smile formed on Jin-Woo’s lips.

Meanwhile, Ju-Hui began running from her position at the far end of the chamber.

“Mister Jin-Woo!!”

She ran with all her might and knelt down next to him as tears streamed down on her face.

“What can I do…. What am I supposed to….”

She summoned all of her magical energy and activated her healing magic. However, nothing seemed to improve.

The dispersed Hunters gathered around Jin-Woo one by one. Every single one of them carried a dark expression.

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“What… Mister Jin-Woo….”

Even then, only Ju-Hui was crying in sorrow.

Why was everyone acting like this?

Jin-Woo’s lips bobbled up and down. He wanted to ask what was going on, but he couldn’t really summon forth his own voice.

Sensing that he had no choice, he tried to prop himself up.

“….?”

Then, he noticed the pool of blood around his lower torso. Only then did he belatedly realise the change to his body.

“Ah…..”

Below his right knee was gone.

Jin-Woo’s eyes reflexively shifted toward the stone statue holding the shield. He then saw the trail of blood clearly visible on the end of the shield.

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And the rest of his right leg was just below that.

Drip. Drip.

Drops of blood started falling from Ju-Hui’s nose. That was the sign of her reaching the limits of her physical stamina.

The healing magic from a rank B Healer was unable to recover missing limbs. Meaning, what she was doing was basically pouring water into a broken jug. Her stamina rapidly bottomed out in the end.

“It’s fine now… Miss Ju-Hui. You can stop….”

“I’m going to heal you!! I’ll fix you as good as new!”

Hunters stared at the two of them while forming miserable expressions.

Out of the seventeen who initially entered this chamber only six remained now. And from this group of six, two of them had suffered horrible, grievous wounds. Song had lost his arm, while Jin-Woo lost his leg.

They might have survived, but none of them felt like rejoicing at the moment. It was then, yet another strange noise rocked the chamber.

RUMBLE….!!

The middle of the temple, where that strange magic formation could be found, suddenly rose up above the ground.

Jin-Woo inwardly thought that it had finally come.

‘Prove your piety, is it….’

He already had a rough idea as to what those words could mean.

Part 5: Final Trial

The circular magic formation in the centre of the temple began rising up noisily and only stopped after reaching the height of a couple of steps.

“An altar…”

Hunters displayed alert reactions as soon as Jin-Woo muttered out.

‘An altar….?’

‘He just said it’s an altar….’

The person who had rescued them from the two preceding crises was not some high ranked Hunter, but rank E Jin-Woo, who used to be the butt of their jokes most of the time.

‘If it weren’t for Mister Seong, all of us would have been….’

Hunters were thinking this exact same thought. Under the current circumstances, Jin-Woo’s words were their lifeline.

And now, that Jin-Woo had muttered out a word ‘altar’.

Kim always was quick on the uptake and so, he caught onto the meaning first before anyone else had the chance to do so.

“I get it now. I see how it is.”

Kim then unsheathed the sword hanging on his hips.

Now originally, this weapon would be used to cut various monsters down. But for now, it’d have to be utilised for a different purpose altogether.

“Even if I’m a dumb b*stard, I can more or less get what you’re trying to say here.”

Hunters nervously swallowed their saliva while looking at the sharp, coldly-gleaming blade.

“Oii, Mister Kim. Why are you pulling your sword out like that?”

“Why don’t we talk about this first? Let’s talk first.”

The highest ranked member among the group, rank C Hunter Song was heavily injured, meaning there was no one here that could potentially stop Kim, who boasted a pretty powerful set of skills himself even within the D rank.

Kim pointed towards the altar with his sword.

“The final law, prove your piety. And there’s an altar appearing out of nowhere in the middle of this place.”

Kim’s gaze then shifted to Jin-Woo.

“So, aren’t we supposed to offer up a sacrifice? Mister Seong?”

Jin-Woo slowly nodded his head. That was what the youth thought as well. One of the surviving six had to act as a sacrifice.

‘That’s what the last law probably meant….’

Jin-Woo came to this conclusion.

He sensed more disturbance and raised his head, and realised that the eyes of Mister Kim as he approached closer did not look friendly at all.

A long sweatdrop glided down Jin-Woo’s forehead.

“Ahjussi… What….?”

“You, young man, don’t say anything and be still!!”

Kim angrily shouted out and pointed his sword at Mister Song, who was squatting next to Jin-Woo in order to check out the youth’s condition.

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“Just who was it that dragged us to this place? Wasn’t it this guy? Yes, it was Mister Song! So, don’t you think it’s only right for Mister Song to take the ultimate responsibility?”

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“Ahjussi!”

Jin-Woo tried to get up in a fit of anger, but then, Song’s hand that resembled the bark of an aged tree stopped the youth.

Jin-Woo looked at Song in disbelief.

Song wordlessly shook his head. His eyes were pleading with Jin-Woo, asking the youth to not say anything else. Of course, Jin-Woo had lots of things to say, but he kept them down for now.

Song slowly raised his body up.

“What Mister Kim said is right. I should take the blame for today.”

“Old man, I guess we are now finally on the same page.”

Kim used the tip of his sword to point towards the altar.

“If you get it now, then let’s get going already. Over ten people died here because of you, old man

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