Solo Leveling - Chapter 1

Published at 9th of January 2019 10:01:17 PM

Chapter 1

-1 . The E-rank Hunter-


“E-rank Hunter” Sung Jinwoo .


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[1]?


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 .




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 . ”




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 .


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‘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?’


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[2] . . . 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,


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“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[3] today…’


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

Jinwoo fidgeted with the the E-rank magic core[4] in his hand .  Such low level magic core from an E-rank magic beast was barely worth a hundred thousand won[5] .  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[6]…’


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 .




Mr . Song faked a cough,


“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 .




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?”


Translator’s Notes:

[1]: “several million won”: ~Several thousand in USD (his mother’s medical bills)

[2]: “-nim”: Korean post-nominal honorific denoting high respect .  Falls somewhere between Japanese -san and -sama . Most service employees in Korea refer to customers with “-nim” .

[3]: “magic beast” (마수; Ma-Su); “Magic” Ma + “Beast” Su

[4]: “magic core” (마정석; Ma-Jung-Suk); “Magic” Ma + “Center/Middle” Jung + “Stone” Suk .  i . e . - A magic stone at the center/middle of the magic beast > “magic core” .

[5]: “hundred thousand won”: ~90 USD (value of E-rank Magic Core)

[6]: “few ten millions (won)”: ~Several ten thousand in USD (value of C-rank Magic Core) .  Last time I clarify korean won to USD equivalent . As a rule of thumb, just divide the KRW number by 1,000 to get the USDE .