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Solo Leveling Upload - Chapter 1


Published at 16th of June 2019 03:32:14 PM

Chapter 1

"E-rank Hunter" Sung Jinwoo .


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It was a title that followed him wherever he went .

Even as a Hunter, his abilities were barely above that of an ordinary person . If it wasn't for his slightly more durable constitution or his slightly increased healing factor, there was but a little difference between him and a non-Hunter . As such, his Hunting career was riddled with variety of injuries . There were even times where he toed the line between life and death itself .

But he was not a Hunter because he enjoyed the job .

It was dangerous, filled with ridicule, and the pay was disappointing .

No . If it wasn't for the fact that the Hunter Association provided support for the medical bills of his mother, he was more than ready to give it up and start an ordinary employment as an ordinary person .

But how could he, a man in his 20s with no special talents or background, afford to pay the medical bills that amounted to several million won a month?

You could say he had no choice in the matter .

And so today, with a silent cry in his heart, Jinwoo took part in an Association-supervised Raid, same as any other day .

Hunters who operated in the same area knew each other well . This was due to the collective gathering of all Hunters in the area whenever a Gate opened up . And today, the Hunters who've gathered shared a cup of coffee while greeting each other .

"Oy, Mr . Kim, over here . "

"Ooh, Mr . Park, what are you doing here? I thought you were done with the Hunter business . "

"Ah that . . . The wife just got pregnant with number two . "

"Hahaha, is that so? Well, nothing better than a Raid to fill the pockets of a Hunter!"

Both Mr . Kim and Mr . Park laughed .

"You know, it seems like the Association's been calling us less and less lately . Wonder if the rate of Gate appearances decreased?"

"Eh, nonsense . It's because the Guilds have been working harder than the Association lately . Whenever large sums of money's involved, you just know the Guilds pounce on'em with that fiery look in their eyes . "

"Well then, I guess this Raid being supervised by the Association means it'll be pretty safe, right?"

With a slight concern, Mr . Park took a look around the area . A Gate ignored by a Guild meant low pay, and a low paying Gate meant low difficulty . Of course, there was nothing in life that was 100% certain . Similar to Mr . Park, other Hunters in the area shifted their eyes with nervousness .

"Perhaps . . . "

As he finished the coffee, Mr . Kim suddenly waved to someone he saw approaching in the distance .

"Oh, wait, look who it is . Mr . Sung! Hey Mr . Sung!"

Other Hunters also looked at the newcomer with familiarity and relief .

"Hello . "

It was Sung Jinwoo .

Briefly greeting Mr . Kim with a nod, Jinwoo continued his walk . After he passed, Mr . Kim lightly chuckled and loosened his worries .

"So Jinwoo came . Then this place should be safe . "

With his eyes widened, Mr . Park asked Mr . Kim .

"What? Is Hunter Sung Jinwoo that strong?"

"Ah, Mr . Park wouldn't know . He started the job a little after you left . There's no Hunter here who doesn't know Sung Jinwoo . "

"That strong? Why is he working under the Association, then? Why not freelance or join a large Guild?"

Chuckling, Mr . Kim's eyes narrowed .

"You know what that man's nickname is?"

"How would I know? Come on, spit it out . "

"Humanity's Weakest Soldier"

" . . . Weakest? Not Strongest?"

"Listen to yourself, that kind of title belongs only to the S-rank Hunters . That man over there is the Weakest Soldier . Probably the weakest Hunter in all of Korea . "

"Eh?"

Mr . Park furrowed his brows . If he was that weak, why would the Hunters look so relieved at his appearance? A fellow Hunter was someone who had to be relied upon in a Raid . He could not understand the other Hunters' reactions .

Seeing Mr . Park's tilted head in contemplation, Mr . Park ribbed him with his elbows while laughing .

"Don't you get it? If Sung Jinwoo appeared in today's Raid, it means it's gotta be an easy one . The Association wouldn't risk putting him on anything hard . Nobody wants to see someone die pointlessly . "

And now, Mr . Park's face brightened .

"Is, is that so?"

Coming back to the Raiding scene after a long break, both he and his wife were ladened with uneasiness and concern . But listening to Mr . Kim's words, his mood lightened up .

Mr . Kim continued,

"Once, that man got injured in an E-rank Gate and had to be hospitalized for a week . "

"A Hunter got injured in an E-rank Gate?"

"Yep . Nobody expected someone to actually get hurt in an E-rank Gate . I heard they didn't even take a Healer-class Hunter . "

Seeing Mr . Park laugh loudly in response, Mr . Kim shifted his eyes toward Jinwoo .

"Hey, hey, not too loud . He might hear . "

"Oops, didn't think about that . "

Mr . Park shifted his eyes towards Jinwoo and quieted his laughter . Fortunately, Jinwoo appeared some distance away and probably couldn't hear their conversation .

But he did .

'I heard everything, you geezers . '

Doing his best to ignore their laughter, he met their gaze and put on an ignorant smile . At times like this, he cursed his rather keen hearing .

'Did I come too soon?'


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It was some time before the Raid would begin . While waiting, Jinwoo approached an Association Employee for some coffee .

"Could I get a cup as well?"

"Ah, Hunter Sung Jinwoo-nim . . . I'm so sorry, we just ran out . . . "

" . . . "

A cold winter breeze slapped his face . Jinwoo wiped his nose with fingers .

It was a rather sad day where even the coffee ran out just as he got to it . . .

"Why are you so stubborn about this whole Hunter business, Mr . Jinwoo?"

"Sorry . "

Jinwoo bowed his head .

As she healed him, Lee Juhee's face was filled with complaint .

"I'm not trying to get an apology from you . I'm just worried about you, you know? I swear, one of these days, you're going to get seriously hurt . "

Once you pass through the Gate, you would be in the Dungeon . The Dungeon this time around was probably D-rank .

Jinwoo looked over Juhee's shoulders at his fellow Hunters . Ten-something number of Hunters were taking down monsters left and right . They did not appear to be particularly struggling . Yet here he was, injured .

It was the role of the Healer-class Hunters to heal the injured Hunters from the rear . As a man who was hurt in nearly every Raid he participated in, Jinwoo was rather famous among the Healer-class Hunters .

Juhee carefully asked him,

"Do you perhaps have a reason why you can't quit?"

Jinwoo firmly shook his head . He didn't like revealing personal details about himself so easily .

"I'm just doing this as a hobby . I'll probably die of boredom if it wasn't for this . "

Juhee pouted in response,

"You'll end up Raiding in the afterlife because of your 'hobby' "

Not expecting such a response, Jinwoo laughed .

"Hey! Don't laugh! You'll open your wounds!"

Jinwoo asked while chuckling,

"Man, where did you hear such a phrase?"

"Where else? Mr . Kim ooover there . "

"Sigh, that geezer . . . "

As they laughed and conversed, the healing was completed . But it was too late, the Raid was pretty much over at that point .

Jinwoo grimaced .

'I only killed one magic beast today . . . '

And even then, it was only a E-rank monster .

Jinwoo fidgeted with the the E-rank magic core in his hand . Such low level magic core from an E-rank magic beast was barely worth a hundred thousand won . The fact that he put his life on the line to earn it made it seem all the more pathetic .

'I heard a magic core from a C-rank magic beast is worth at least few ten millions of won . . . '

But to Jinwoo, an E-rank Hunter, the thought of taking down a C-rank magic beast was an impossibility .

Suddenly, someone shouted,

"Eh? There's another entrance here!"

The Hunters swarmed towards the voice .

"You're right!"

"Really? Another entrance?"

As the first person noted, there indeed was another Dungeon entrance here .

"A Double Dungeon . . . So they really do exist . "

A Hunter with 10 years worth of experience, Mr . Song looked at the newly found entrance with wonder . Unable to see far into the dark tunnel, Mr . Song used his specialty, fire magic . The fireball that shot out from his hand flew through the tunnel, illuminating its darkness . However, the tunnel was deeper than expected, and the fireball eventually lost its energy and fell to the ground and quickly extinguished as a spark . Darkness returned before their eyes .

"Hmm . . . Everyone, please gather around . "

As the de facto leader of the Raid, Mr . Song gathered the Hunters before him . Juhee and Jinwoo, having completed Jinwoo's healing, also joined the crowd .

Mr . Song addressed gathered Hunters,

"As you all may know, Gates do not close until the Dungeon's boss is taken down . Since our Gate is still open, even though we've cleared all the mobs in the area, it appears that the real boss in down that tunnel . "

Mr . Song gestured towards the newly found Dungeon entrance . Looking at each other, the Hunters also nodded in agreement .

"The protocol in situations like this is to exit the Dungeon, contact the Association, and let them handle things going forward . . . But if we do that, and some other group of Hunters take down the boss, there's a chance that our income for this Raid will drastically decrease . "

The gathered Hunters' expressions hardened . Mr . Park, who came here to support his expecting wife, looked doubly troubled . 'Postnatal care these days is really expensive . . . ' If he left now, the efforts he risked his life for would be wasted .

"And so I was thinking . What if we just went ahead and go kill the boss? What do you guys think?"

The Hunters fell in contemplation .

" . . . "

" . . . "

It was not a decision that could be made easily . Some knew that there was no guarantee that the Double Dungeon would be as safe as the one that they had just cleared . Others came to the conclusion that if the Outer Dungeon was this easy, perhaps the Inner Dungeon would be just as easy . Regardless, it was not a situation where everyone would be in agreement .

"Hmm . . . "

Mr . Song faked a cough,


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"Since there's 17 of us here, why don't we take a vote on this? And no complaining after the vote . How about it?"

At Mr . Song's suggestion, each Hunter nodded in agreement .

Mr . Song's was the first to raise his hand . "I'll go . "

Mr . Park was the first to follow Mr . Song, "I'll go too . "

"Me, me too . . . "

"Same here . "

"One more vote for 'yes' "

Mr . Kim had also joined the "go" group . But there were opposing votes as well,

"Let's not . "

"I think we should wait on the Association's judgment . "

As the "yes" crowd and the "no" crowd clashed at 8-7, all gazes fell on the two last undecided people .

"Sorry . . . "

Shaking her head, Juhee voted no, putting the count at 8-8 . Mr . Song turned and asked the last person for his vote .

"Mr . Sung?"

The final decision depended on him . He fidgeted again with the E-Rank magic core in his hands, then looked to his side . Juhee shook her head at his eyes . She had a bad feeling about this . Well, even Jinwoo felt the same way . Under any other circumstance, he would not have dared to jump into danger . After all, he lacked the skills and courage to do so . But Jinwoo had a little sister, who was preparing for college .

'I don't have anything saved up for that . . . '

He was 24 years old, but he had to give up on college due to their poverty . He didn't want that poverty to hinder his sister's life as well .

Their lives were counting on every penny that came and went . Mr . Park wasn't the only one who needed money .

Jinwoo raised his hand .

"I'll also go . "

At his side, Juhee let out a small sigh disappointedly .

The tunnel went on and on and on . At the vanguard stood Mr . Song and other veteran Hunters . Led by the light from the fireball in Mr . Song's hand, the party walked through the dimly lit tunnel .

Mr . Kim spoke up from the party, "Isn't this going in a little too deep? Maybe we should think about turning back . "

"How long have we been walking?"

Mr . Kim checked his watch, "About . . . 40 minutes . "

"When we take down the boss, we'll have 1 hour before the Gate closes . Taking into account the time for the return trip, we still have a breathing room of 20 minutes, right?"

"Then if we don't come across the boss after 20 more minutes of walking, we should leave, right?"

"I suppose so . "

Nodding, Mr . Song pointed towards his back with his thumb .

"Hey Mr . Kim, it's dark ahead of me, so fall back a little bit . "

Mr . Kim looked at Mr . Song's fireball, then took out his cellphone and turned on its flashlight function . The light from the phone brightly illuminated their path .

" . . . "

Looking back and forth between his fireball and the phone's light, Mr . Song quietly searched pockets for his phone .

At the rear of the party walked Jinwoo, who was injured, and Juhee, who had no fighting skills . Jinwoo scratched his head .

"I'm . . . sorry . "

"For what?"

"Dragging you along like this . "

"I'm fine . You don't have to worry about me . "

Jinwoo discretely read her expression . It was not a face without worry . Tilting his head, Jinwoo carefully asked,

"Are you sure?"

Juhee abruptly turned to face him,

"Of course I'm not okay! Are you in your right mind?! Earlier, if the place you were stabbed in was just a bit higher, it would've pierced your heart! And what about the injuries on your wrist and thigh?! I barely healed all those, and you're already jumping into another Dungeon? Especially when you don't know anything about it?"

At her rant, Jinwoo felt himself becoming light-headed . But she was not wrong . Juhee was a Healer-class Hunter, and more than that, a B-Rank Hunter . A rare sight in the Association . If it was not for her healing, Jinwoo would've probably succumbed to injuries that would've put his normal life out of commission, much less being a Hunter .

'I really owe her a lot . . . '

A Healer-class Hunter .

Not only that, a B-Rank Healer-class Hunter .

Whenever a Gate appeared, the Association would request her as a healer, and of course, Jinwoo would always find himself sitting or lying down next to her in treatment in their Raids .

"You're hurting, right? Please hang in there . "

"You look familiar . . . are you from that time . . . ?"

"You got hurt again?"

"Seems like I see you again and again . "

"You said your name was Jinwoo? Are you . . . alright?"

"Do you ever think maybe the Hunter-life isn't for you . . . ?"

" . . . You're here again . "

"Hold out your arm . No, not there, you can mend that with just bandages, the other arm . "


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Surpassing his gratitude, he now felt apologetic to her .

" . . . "

Seeing his silent face, Juhee felt bad about her rant and calmed down .

"Are you really sorry?"

"Of course . "

After some thought, Juhee looked at Jinwoo at her side, with corners of her mouth rising ever so slightly,

"Well . . . maybe you could treat me to a meal sometime . "

It was not a response he expected . Shocked, Jinwoo looked at Juhee's face, now showing a mischievous smile . 'A girl . . . ' He remembered Juhee was 20 going on 21 . If she had cut her long hair into a proper length and put on a school uniform, she'd be a fitting image of a student . Imagining her in a uniform, his face blushed .

Seeing his delayed response, Juhee blew air into her cheeks and pouted .

"Do you . . . not want to eat with me?"

It was then .

Suddenly, a commotion rose from the vanguard of the party .

"This is it!"

"The boss room!"

Jinwoo and Juhee turned their gazes forward .

There stood a giant door signaling the end of the tunnel . The Hunters gathered before the door .

"To think there was a door at the end of the tunnel . "

"Do you think this was always here?"

"First time I'm seeing something like this . . . . "

"Do . . . do you think it's dangerous?"

As they quietly whispered back and forth, the Hunters became uneasy . After all, their lives were on the line; they had to be careful . But too much care may impede progress, Mr . Song thought .

"So you guys want to turn back after all that? To go back empty handed?"

He placed his hand on the door .

"You're free to go back . I'll go alone . "

Mr . Song was a C-Rank Hunter with 10 years of experience . If it wasn't for the fact that he was past 60 years old, he could've probably raided under a large Guild .

So when such a veteran Hunter spoke with confidence, the uneasiness of the other Hunters slowly disappeared .

"Now that I think about it," One of the Hunters spoke of a rumor regarding Double Dungeons, "I heard that Double Dungeons have some crazy treasures . "

"Yeah, I heard some mid-level Guild once found a Double Dungeon and shot straight to a large Guild status!"

"And wherever magic beasts may appears in a Dungeon, they should all be the same level generally . . . "

And so the Hunters thought, what if this Double Dungeon contained a phenomenal treasure? And what if the magic beasts beyond this door were the same level as before?

'Can't let that old man take all the treasures by himself . '

'Mm, of course . '

'Forget just postnatal, I could probably pay for a big private school, pay for the mortgage . . . '

And just like that, the Hunters' understandings became one . Even Jinwoo renewed his determination .

'I can't just return with a E-Rank magic core . At the very least, a D-Rank, no, just even one more E-Rank is good enough . '

It didn't have to be a magic beast either .

'If we find treasure beyond that door . . . '

It was a standard agreement that any treasures or artifacts found in a Dungeon would be divided evenly amongst party members . This was different than the case where magic core from magic beasts would only go to the members who helped take a target down .

'If I can score big right here, I can rest easy for a bit . . . '

Seeing his determined face, Juhee asked from his side,

"Is that really the face of someone who Hunts as a 'hobby'?"

Jinwoo shrugged,

"Who would risk their lives for work these days? But for a hobby, that's another story . "

" . . . What?"

As Juhee put on an incredulous expression on her face, Mr . Song started pushing the door open .

creak~

Through some unknown mechanism, the giant door opened easily as the 60-year old man pushed .

Bang

The wide open door revealed a large interior, and the Hunters entered pushing past each other .

"We should go too . "

Not wanting to fall behind, Jinwoo took Juhee's wrist and went forward .

"Ah . . . "

With redness creeping onto her face, Juhee followed him .

As the Hunters' first steps fell onto the ground, the numerous torches that filled the walls of the area lit up, brightly illuminating the interior .

"Hmm? The light went on?"

"First time I'm seeing that . "

"Something's . . . different . "

The Hunters surveilled their surroundings . It felt like the interior of a large temple . Like an ominous temple that would be hidden away deep underground, the floors, the walls and even the ceiling was covered in moss . Some Hunters shuddered and noted,

"Something feels wrong . "

"Doesn't it feel like we're being watched?"

The more fearful Hunters fell to the rear, while the stronger Hunters headed deeper into the room .

"Tsk . Don't say such things . "

"Let's just finish up here and go back . "

The interior was incredibly large . A wide area in a dome shape . It was comparable to multiple olympic fields being put together . No, perhaps bigger . At the same time, it paradoxically felt cramped . The reason was simple .

"That . . that thing . . . "

"That's not the boss, is it?"

At the end of the room, something whose size surpassed reason and logic sat upon a grand and enormous seat . It could only described as a massive Statue of God[1] .

"My god[2] . . . "

"Whoa . . . "

They could not help but be amazed .

Jinwoo himself compared the statue's size to America's Statue of Liberty[3] . 'If the Statue of Liberty sat down, it would probably look like that . ' Although the Statue of Liberty is female, and this one was clearly male . 'No . . . This thing's bigger . . . '

The Hunters gathered before the statue could not help but gulp repeatedly . They stood in fear, wondering if the Statue of God was the boss of this Dungeon .

" . . . "

But the Statue did not move .

"Phew~"

Mr . Song also sighed in relief .

"Alright, let's spread out . "

With renewed confidence, the Hunters spread out, investigating the giant room .

"I don't see any magic beasts . "

"Right?"

"Forget magic beasts, I don't even see a single bug . "

Compared to its well-lit interiors and enormous size, the room of the Statue of God was rather plain . Adorning its walls were countless torches, illuminating the room . In front of the torches stood statues slightly larger than the average man, forming equidistant points of a circle .

"Beautiful . "

"It's like a work of art . "

Each statue held something different in its hands . Some held weapons, some books, others held instruments or torches .

"It's like . . . " Mr . Kim started describing,

"Decorations in a temple . " Mr . Song finished his sentence .

"Hmm?"

Mr . Song found something at his feet .

"This is . . . a magic circle[4]?"

At the center of the temple room, there was a magic circle that he had never seen before in his life .

"Mr . Song, there's something written here . Can you come take a look at this?"

A Hunter called out to the Raid's leader, finding a statue that stood out from the rest . Leaving his observation of the magic circle, Mr . Song headed towards the Hunter . One by one, all the Hunters in the room gathered before the strange statue as well .

Of all the statues in the room, this one was the only one with wings . It was holding a stone tablet . What caught the Hunters' eyes were the words written on the stone tablet .

"It's Runic[5] . " Mr . Song spoke after analyzing the tablet .

Runes . A form of text that could be found in Dungeons, it was something that could not be found elsewhere on Earth . Only the Hunters who Awakened[6] as Mage-class could interpret them .

Mr . Song read the first line of the tablet:

" 'Commandments of the Cartenon Temple'[7] "

Jinwoo listened to Mr . Song's reading of the tablet with a serious expression . But then suddenly, someone grabbed his arm .

Turning around, he saw Juhee looking at him with a pale, fear-stricken face .

Translator's Notes:

[1]: "Statue of God" (신상 [神像]; Shin-Sang): "God" Shin + "Statue" Sang

[2]: "my god . . . ": Just an "omg", not specifically saying that the statue was his god .

[3]: "Statue of Liberty": Heel-to-Head Height: ~111 feet .

[4]: "Magic Circle" (마법진; Ma-Beop-Jin): "Magic" Ma-Beop + "Circle"

[5]: "Runic" Rune (in English) + "Text"

[6]: "Awakened" Terminology used to describe the phenomenon where humans awaken special powers . Those that awaken obtain specific repertoire of abilities and skills fitting to a certain class (Fighter, Mage, Healer, etc . . . )

[7]: "Commandments of the Cartenon Temple" The korean word for "commandments" actually is closer to an uncommon way of saying "rule", but I've translated as "commandment" for a minor story purpose later on . I couldn't find a direct translation for "Cartenon", so this is just a pronunciation choice .

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