READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 270 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 270 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 270

Part 6: Goodbye

(TL: Here it is, the very last chapter.)

[The sibling conmen duo of Hwang Dong-Seok and his younger brother Hwang Dong-Su that caused an uproar in the country have been arrested earlier today….]

Beep.

The TV located inside the Violent Crimes Unit that spat out the news was turned off. Jin-Woo put the remote down and picked up his coat while standing up, prompting Seh-Hwan next to him to stop the administrative work and ask a question.

“Uh? Hyung-nim, you’re leaving already?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a prior arrangement to attend to, so I’ll be going home early today.”

“Yessir.”

Jin-Woo replied with a smile towards his partner performing a playful salute and escaped from the office. Seh-Hwan watched his boss’s back disappear from view and chuckled slightly while crossing his arms.

“It’s so strange. Hyung-nim always goes home early on this day every single year….”

….Hang on a minute.

He shifted his gaze over to the calendar stuck on one of the walls and a certain thought popped up in his head.

“Ahh, so that’s what it was. Today is….”





Baek Yun-Ho spat out a low sigh, his face a mess of black soot and dirt.

“Fuu….”
Not too long ago, he and his crew managed to put out a massive wildfire raging near a residential area. This victory came about after over 50 fire engines and firefighting helicopters, as well as 800 or so brave firefighters had been mobilised.

solo leveling light novel





READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 269 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 269 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 269

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories

Part 5: Conclusion

(TL: One more chapter to go!)

There were around 30 metres between him and the b*stard.

‘….Let’s do this.’

Soo-Hoh concentrated and in an instant, the flow of time around him seemed to slow down to a crawl, allowing him to see and discover all those little things he hadn’t noticed before.

For instance, the sword swung by the black knight. And then, that blue-coloured arc of lightning from the tip of that sword flying towards him in a straight line with a ‘flash’.

‘So, that’s what it was!!’

Finally, he got to see what the powerful attack that ended the fight was, even before he could do anything the last two times. His agility and perception, raised up much higher than before through levelling up, were pushed to their absolute limits.

He dodged the streak of light flying right into his face and took a step forward.

Taht!

Just one leap, and in that one moment, the distance between him and his target decreased in half by roughly around 15 metres.

Flash!!

The second lightning brushed past the top of his head by a hair’s width.

The black knight had quickly changed his posture after sending out the first attack to follow up with his second. Soo-Hoh felt amazed at his opponent’s quick reaction as he took another step forward.

Taht!

The distance between them disappeared in the next instance.

Kwa-du-duk!

Soo-Hoh clenched his gauntlet-covered fist tightly.

‘Now you are in my range.’

Flinch.

It looked as if the black knight tensed up greatly just then, and his emotions travelled through the chilly air to cling to Soo-Hoh’s two cheeks.

While inwardly thanking the level up system that pushed his abilities to such an incredible height, Soo-Hoh punched forward, hard.

Shhhwiiiii-eeek!

His fist had broken past the level of a bullet and was more like a cannon shell now, as it crashed into the face of the black knight.

Kwa-boom!!

The knight urgently raised his sword to block the incoming gauntlet but in the end, he was powerfully shoved away with both of his feet briefly leaving the ground.

Kwa-jijijijik!!

The ends of the black knight’s boots broke the stone tiles on the floor and left behind two lengthy gouges as he got shoved back. By the time he finally managed to stop his seemingly-endless travel rearwards…

‘….!!’

He realised belatedly that there was a stone pillar behind him.

‘D*mn it!’

The black knight became flustered and quickly shifted his gaze back to his front. But then, Soo-Hoh was already there, blocking the view.

‘Could he have…. that attack was meant to force me into this very area?’

The black knight was left greatly stunned by his opponent’s smart thinking, but still, reflexively moved his sword in the meantime. The aura oozing off the blade as reflected in Soo-Hoh’s eyes emitted a chilling blue light.

The boy held his breath for a moment there and smacked the knight’s blade slicing down diagonally with the back of his hand, currently safely protected by the metal gauntlet.

He then took a powerful step forward.

Soo-Hoh managed to reduce the distance between him and his opponent to zero before swinging his fist one more time. This attack landed squarely on the black knight’s chest.

Kwa-boom!!!

Now normally, the knight should’ve been flung away by the force, but he crashed into the pillar behind him instead, and the structure’s surface cracked up grandly.

What a shocking destructive power that was.

However, what was even more shocking was the fact that an attack carrying such destructive power didn’t end with just one hit. Soon after, Soo-Hoh’s barrage of fists rained down on his target.

Dududududududu-!!

The black knight, no, Igrit continued to sigh in admiration inwardly as he blocked and deflected Soo-Hoh’s non-stop barrage of attacks, which kind of reminded him of his liege’s skill.

‘So, this is the power of the young lord, even if he’s not 100% yet?’

His father, becoming one with a godly being, while his mother, a rank S Hunter once upon a time in a now-forgotten timeline. Born from these two people, the sleeping potential within Soo-Hoh easily exceeded Igrit’s imagination.

Kwa-jeeck!

The sturdy armour began breaking and falling off bit by bit under the barrage of merciless attacks. Igrit pushed his speed to the limit, but it was still not enough to defend against every single attack raining down on him.

And eventually…

Clang!!

The sword barely withstanding against Soo-Hoh’s blunt attacks finally broke while issuing a loud noise.

That was the end.

Igrit watched the shattered remnants of steel fly away and instinctively sensed that this battle was now over.

But then, this defeat also quickened his pulse to a great deal compared to before, just like back when he fought against Jin-Woo all those years ago in a place similar to this one.

Meanwhile, Soo-Hoh loaded his fist with his magical energy for that final shot.

Wuuoong-!!

The surrounding Mana in the air rippled like waves on the lake’s surface and spread out visibly. And then….

KA-BOOM!!

The fist fired forward like a cannon shell left behind a large, empty hole where the black knight’s abdomen was. The knight collided with the pillar again and slowly slid down. And then, he stopped moving altogether.

‘…..’

Soo-Hoh cautiously poked the slumped black knight before finally releasing his tightly-held breath.

“Hah-ah!!”

He won.

He fought and won against a powerful enemy that he thought he could never win against in the beginning. Joy began welling up from the deepest part of his chest like a tidal wave.

However, rather different from his expectations, there wasn’t all that much of a change.

‘Maybe… this isn’t the end?’

He slowly looked around his surroundings and belatedly discovered that, in the distance, a brand new Gate had been generated by the foot of the stairs leading up to the tall throne.

His eyes grew super-large.

It was the exit!

He didn’t know why he ended up in this place, but still, he couldn’t help but smile brightly after realising that this bizarre adventure was about to come to its conclusion.

Soo-Hoh hurriedly ran towards the black hole in happiness and threw himself inside. Just like back when he was entering this place, he passed through a long tunnel of darkness, and after opening his eyes…..

“Kkkiiieeehk!”

“Khhiigegegek!”

“…..”

….He found human-sized ant humanoid monsters busy screeching out here and there.

***

“Pant, pant, what kind of ants are this crazy?!”

Soo-Hoh looked down in utter disbelief at the unmoving corpses of ant monsters he managed to defeat just now.

For some reason, he liked ants from a young age so he always cautiously avoided lines of worker ants if he happened to come across one so that he wouldn’t step on them by mistake. But now, he felt rather remorseful of his past actions.

That was how powerful and obstinate these ant monsters were. Those armour monsters couldn’t even be compared to these guys at all.

‘Still, if I were to look for the silver lining in all of this, then….’

His level that seemed to have gotten stuck began climbing up quickly again after he hunted these ant monsters down.

Sha-shak, sha-shak…

He could hear the shuffling footsteps of the ant monsters coming from somewhere. Soo-Hoh was successful in regaining control over his heavy breathing by then. He tightly clenched his fists and got ready.

Kwa-du-duk!

“Khiieck!”

“Kahk!”

Remembering the lessons learned during his battle against the black knight, Soo-Hoh made sure to focus on raising his level higher by clearing out every single nook and cranny of this cavern.

And so, screams of ant monsters continued to resound out from all corners of this complicated cavern system with a maze-like layout.

How long did he roam around this cavern in this fashion?

‘Alright….’

When he reached the point where his level didn’t want to rise up even after defeating the ant monsters, Soo-Hoh headed towards the last chamber in this cavern and entered it.

As it turned out, it was a giant, open chamber. An empty space, in other words.

There was not one strand of light inside the boss chamber, but Soo-Hoh’s senses had already far exceeded that of a regular human and he had no problem maintaining his vision.

‘Just how big is the master of this place that it has to be this large?’

Just as he began to get worried ever so slightly….

He finally discovered a humanoid ant monster with its back turned towards him. Unlike the others he fought so far, though, this particular guy sported insect-like wings.

‘Is that guy the only thing in this chamber?’

The overall atmosphere of this open space was rather similar to the one found in the chamber with the black knight. However, Soo-Hoh couldn’t sense any sorts of power from that ant creature, which was quite different from the knight boss of before.

Was it powerful, or a weakling?

Soo-Hoh tilted his head this way and that and while being as sneaky as possible, he cautiously approached the creature.

When he got close enough to think that he was in range now, the ant monster suddenly turned around to face Soo-Hoh without any prior warning.

‘Heok!’

Soo-Hoh flinched and quickly took a step back.

It wasn’t because he got scared, though. No, he just got surprised by the unfolding situation, that was all. But, it couldn’t be helped, really. The thing was, the ant monster turning around was crying non-stop.

It was sobbing so sorrowfully that, even though he knew the creature was a monster that he couldn’t converse with, Soo-Hoh just couldn’t bring himself to attack first.

But, why did this happen?

It’d only be normal to feel rather weirded out when looking at an insectoid creature the size of a grown man standing on two feet while thick teardrops fell from its eyes.

But, Soo-Hoh wanted to console this ant monster instead, for some inexplicable reason. That’s what he felt then.

Too bad, such a compassionate thought could only last for a brief moment. Soo-Hoh sensed an incredible aura from the creature bursting forth and hurriedly leapt a good distance away.

‘….??’

As if it was trying to get a hold of its emotions, the ant monster wiped the tears away with the backs of its hands.

‘Oh my god….’

Meanwhile, Soo-Hoh was stunned by the incredible power oozing out from his new opponent and inadvertently sneaked a look down at the hair on his arms standing up.

This ant, it was on another scale altogether compared to other ants or that black knight he fought so far. His entire body began shuddering.

‘Uh….?’

Suddenly, a huge shadow drew upon him and he raised his head up to look, only to find that the ant monster had closed the distance and was standing right in front of his nose.

Its body had ballooned up to over double that of its previous size and then, it screeched out a horrifying cry next.

[Kiiiiiieeeeehhhk!]

***

What a relief it was.

Indeed, there was no other way to say it than what a relief.

While lying on the ground completely exhausted, Soo-Hoh continued to think that way.

The winged ant monster was a truly frightening opponent, for sure. But, for some reason, the ant couldn’t attack him whenever they were locked in critical moments, apparently feeling conflicted about something.

But, thanks to that, he was able to bring down the ant somehow, even though the task proved to be really arduous in the end.

“Euh, euh….”

While goading and twisting his aching body, Soo-Hoh pushed himself up. As his reward for bringing down a powerful enemy, a new Gate had been generated over yonder.

Before leaving, he confirmed his current level.

[Level: 99]

His level stopped climbing at 99. Now, normally, most games would treat ’99’ as the max level attainable.

‘I’m sure I can go home for real now.’

Soo-Hoh’s heart pounded away noisily as his expectations grew. He then gladly jumped into the awaiting Gate. And when he opened his eyes….

“Mm? Mmmm??”

“Growl…..”

….He got to discover giants and dragons filling up his view, as far as his eyes could see.

“Hah…”

***

It was the case of ‘one mountain after another’.

While making figurative mountains out of the corpses of giants and dragons, Soo-Hoh continued down the path laid out on this seemingly-endless plains.

His level remained stuck in 99.

Although his stats didn’t rise higher, he was now able to control his powers far more smoothly and expertly after going through countless battles. His incredible strength, and technique to control them, gave Soo-Hoh a rather healthy boost to his confidence.

A short while later, he discovered yet another black knight guarding the end of the path.

‘…..’

Unlike the previous black knight with a red plumage attached to its helm, this new guy boasted a much bigger physique, and there were traces of broken wings on its back, as well.

It was incredibly powerful. So much so that, it must’ve been far stronger than the winged ant monster he fought earlier. However….

‘….That guy isn’t my real opponent.’

Soo-Hoh was sure of this.

Why? Because, a certain existence that made him think that it was the real deal was flying silently in the air above his head, that was why.

Soo-Hoh picked up on that figure’s enormous presence and raised his head high. When he did…

[Kkiiaahk-!!]

The Sky Dragon flying in the air roared out loudly. The scene of a lone figure jumping off from its back happened right afterwards.

The figure of a person fell for what felt like an eternity before lightly landing on the ground, causing the earth below to cave into a big crater while kicking up an almighty dust storm in the process.

BOOM!!

Soo-Hoh swallowed nervously.

‘That guy’s the real deal….’

The unknown figure, his face hidden behind the hoodie pulled down low, emitted this intense pressure that even made breathing difficult.

When he made his descent, the black knight stopped unsheathing his sword and took several steps back as if to say that he’d not participate in the upcoming fight anymore.

‘I knew it, the real enemy is this guy.’

Soo-Hoh tried to stop his legs from shaking anymore from this choking pressure. This was the first time an actual person and not a monster had appeared in here so he simply had to say something.

“Excuse me!”

He tried to engage the mysterious figure in conversation, but the lips visible below the hoodie only maintained a simple grin, choosing not to return any verbal replies.

“Argh, seriously man….”

Soo-Hoh gave up on talking to the figure, but then, his eyes went extra-round after discovering something else besides.

‘Isn’t that….?’

For the first time during this journey, the Gate had been generated even before he defeated his enemy. Its location was behind the man wearing the hoodie.

‘Which means….’

This could very well be the final hurdle.

As long as he could defeat that man, he’d be able to go home.

When that conclusion popped up in his head, Soo-Hoh’s body moved instinctively.

It moved under the influence of his overall stats that had reached their absolute limit, as well as the combat abilities that had evolved to allow him full control over those stats.

Ba-thump, ba-thump!!

While feeling the explosive beatings of his heart…

Taht! Taht! Taht!!

Soo-Hoh broke past the speed of sound and rushed to the front of the man in the blink of an eye. His enemy was literally right in front of his nose.

Within this distance that none could possibly dodge an attack, a fist that couldn’t be withstood even if blocked flew straight into the mystery man’s face.

Too bad, the man only had to lean his head back slightly and easily let the attack slide by him.

It happened then.

Inside this world of slowed-down time, Soo-Hoh got to see the uncovered face of the man, revealed for a brief moment under the hood.

“….Dad?!”

The mystery man smirked gently.

“Still too early.”

Soo-Hoh’s eyes grew wider as they caught the sight of the man’s palm closing in on his face faster than the speed of light.

The boy squeezed his eyes shut.

And soon, the light completely blinded him.

***

“Heok!!”

Soo-Hoh shot up from his chair and hurriedly took a look around him.

He was back inside his classroom. The empty, still air of the after-school hours had permeated into this now-familiar place.

He wiped the cold sweat pooled on his forehead.

‘What a weird-a*s dream that was.’

Did I play way too many games or something?

After wandering around lost inside a strange dungeon, he ended up running into his own father as its final boss….

What an embarrassing crappy dream that he wouldn’t dare to tell anyone for, like, ever. He was greatly relieved that it was nothing but just a dream.

He spat out a sigh of relief and turned around, only to find a female student frozen stiff like a block of ice behind him. She got surprised out of her skull after the sleeping Soo-Hoh suddenly shot up from his spot, actually.

He wanted to break this awkward atmosphere somehow, so he started talking to her first.

“Uhm, weren’t you supposed to go home?”

Now that he took another look, it was the same girl sitting behind his spot that poked him in the back earlier in the day.

“I’m supposed to do the classroom duty this week, so… I gotta lock the doors first before leaving….”

The female student stuttered and took pauses between her words, but Soo-Hoh replied as if it was nothing to sweat over.

“Want me to help?”

“Eh?”

The girl got flustered for a moment there at the unexpected offer, but eventually, shyly nodded her head.

“….Thanks.”

***

Around the same time.

Jin-Woo stood on the rooftop of the same school building alongside Beru and Igrit.

Igrit was the first to speak.

[My liege…. Isn’t it fine to restore the young lord’s powers now?]

They had performed the same test a few times before, but today was the first time the young lord reached as far as the Sovereign’s footsteps. Igrit wished to give Soo-Hoh full passing marks after the boy displayed wonderful progress during the examination.

Jin-Woo replied with a grin on his lips.

“What would’ve happened if I tried to fight the Dragon Emperor from the get-go while believing in the powers that I possessed at that time?”

Igrit shook his head.

What Jin-Woo wanted to teach Soo-Hoh was precisely this. No matter how powerful one was, one should consider escaping when facing a situation where the victory wasn’t a certainty.

It was not a sign of bravery to jump in head-long against a powerful enemy without a plan.

‘Indeed, it’s just a reckless, foolish bravado.’

Even when knowing that he couldn’t win, Soo-Hoh still challenged Jin-Woo, regardless. His courage might be laudable, but from the perspective of his father, that was a rather worrisome result.

‘Too early.

Right, it’s still too early for him.

However, Soo-Hoh is a smart kid, so he’ll soon figure it out.

He’ll learn that he needs to adjust his powers according to the situation at hand.’

[Young Lord….]

Beru looked at a sheet of an old paper with him drawn on it, the edges of his eyes reddening up with tears once more.

Drop, drop….

Jin-Woo lightly patted the shoulders of despondent Beru before walking closer to the guardrail to take a look at the school grounds below. He could see the back of his son leaving the school gate along with a female student from his class.

Jin-Woo rested his chin on his hands and watched Soo-Hoh walk further away, before a grin floated up on his face.

“It’s been a while, so should I take my family out for dinner later today?”

< Chapter 269 > Fin.

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 268 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 268 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 268

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories

Part 4: Forward! Forward!

Soo-Hoh walked through the tunnel-like darkness and after emerging from it, took a look around himself. He was now in a passageway of an ancient-looking structure.

The only source of light illuminating this place was a lit torch on one of the walls.

‘What is this place….?’

Because of the low lighting conditions, his eyes narrowed to a slit so that he could get a better look at his vicinity.

The way back… was blocked off.

Soo-Hoh felt around the solid wall blocking his rear and shook his head eventually. He couldn’t sense any sort of empty spaces behind this wall.

‘So, there is no other way besides forward, huh?’

The flames of the torch wavered around. He took it off the wall and illuminated his front.

When he did….

“Wow.”

He was greeted by the sight of weapons arranged neatly on display on either side of the passageway.

A longsword, shortswords, a bow, a spear, a mace, etc….

A truly vast array of weapons were endlessly stacked against the walls in this still darkness, as if to wait for their rightful owner to come and pick them up.

Soo-Hoh dazedly looked at them before swallowing back his saliva.

What could possibly be the reason for these weapons to be here? Well, it was rather obvious, wasn’t it?

‘I need to choose….’

His gaze became far more circumspect than ever before.

He didn’t know why he was transferred to this place, but if his guess was right and the exit was at the end of this passage, then the weapon he chose right now would serve as a trustworthy companion on his journey.

But, something felt weird.

Why did it feel like his senses were being enhanced?

His heart that didn’t beat too fast while hanging out with his friends or checking out a game they suggested he should play, was now pounding away like crazy.

As he observed each weapon on display, Soo-Hoh’s eyes shone from the light of excitement.

‘Alright….’

He took a close look at all the weapons lined up right till the end, and then, returned to the beginning to study them for a bit more. A few interesting hopefuls caught his eye, but in the end, there was nothing better than ‘it’, or so he decided.

After putting the torch back up on the wall behind him, he cautiously put ‘them’ on both of his hands.

Clank, clank.

They were a pair of steel gauntlets that fit him snugly as if they had been crafted with him in mind. Unlike other weapons that required some amount of familiarity in order to effectively use them, his two fists were without a doubt, the most familiar and most powerful weapon he possessed.

‘This is it.’

As if he found the gauntlets greatly to his liking, he began folding his outstretched fingers one by one again and again.

When he was done fooling around…

Rumble-!!

Torches lining up the walls in front of him and all around him lit up all at once. A long, long passageway now greeted him.

A corridor resembling a secret pathway of an ancient castle seemed to stretch on forever and ever towards the other end.

Something was about to begin here. Soo-Hoh did his best to calm his wildly-pounding heart, before his eyes spotted a pair of shortswords resting next to where he found his gauntlets.

But, his gaze lingered on only for a brief moment.

‘….Who’d use weapons that look so weak?’

For some reason, that pair of shortswords looked saddened somehow as Soo-Hoh’s cautious steps left them behind in the darkness.

***

Soo-Hoh carefully tread through the corridor.

“Is anyone here?”

He raised his voice and called out, but there was no reply whatsoever. No, he couldn’t even sense any presence of living people at all.

And so, just how long did he walk like this?

It wouldn’t be too surprising to get worn out by being continuously vigilant like this, but Soo-Hoh still kept his senses ultra-sharp and didn’t let up his wary observation of the surroundings.

He could see the lit torches and sparks of flames dancing on top of them hanging on the walls. He could also see the old-fashioned architecture of this place, as well as metallic suits of armour lining up on the side of the wall with nary a gap between them.

‘Am I in some kind of a basement of a medieval castle or something?’

His curiosity on where he was and why he was summoned here grew greater and greater the longer he advanced forward.

But then….

‘Hold up.’

Soo-Hoh felt this ominous chill creep down his spine and he quickly went back the way he came to stand before a certain suit of armour. For some reason, the positioning of this armour seemed a wee bit different from when he walked past it a few seconds ago.

‘This…. Wait, did it really have its sword raised up in the air like this before?’

He was pretty sure that its weapon was pointing down to the ground the last time. Soo-Hoh tilted his head and took a step forward, only for the sword of the armour to slice down in a straight line.

Clang!

If he hadn’t raised the gauntlet and urgently block the blade in the nick of time, his head might have been split in half just now.

“What the hell??”

The suit of armour didn’t even give Soo-Hoh any chance to feel stunned by this development; it dropped its sword and pounced forward to strangle him with its bare hands.

Boom!! Bang! Kwang!!

His gauntlets soon issued several urgent, thunderous booms, and not too long afterwards, the suit of armour with its helmet destroyed stopped moving altogether.

“Pant, pant, pant…..”

While pushing away the collapsed suit of armour with his foot, Soo-Hoh breathed roughly and quickly. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer any damage from this encounter, but his heart was pounding away so hard that it felt as if it’d explode at any time.

‘Hold up!’

What if this wasn’t the only suit of armour that could move? And what if every single one of them wanted to harm him? All those inanimate armours he walked past earlier without thinking too much brushed past his mind.

That wasn’t the end of his troubles, though. There were already so many of them in front of him, and there were even lining up along the length of this corridor, too.

And sure enough…

Clank, clink!

Accompanied by the chorus of metallic joints creaking and groaning, the suits of armour began descending from the platforms one by one. The various weapons held in their hands seemed to glow in chilling grey under the light.

“Ah…”

….Maybe I should’ve selected that mace?

Soo-Hoh swallowed back the small waves of regret rushing in and clenched his fists tightly. It was around that time that the suits of armour rushed his position.

***

BOOM!

When he brought down the very last suit of armour, he got to hear that announcement again.

[Level up!]

[Current level: 19.]

“Fuu….”

Soo-Hoh bent down and exhaled a large gulping of air before raising his body up again. Every time he heard that message, all of his fatigue seemed to get washed away in full. That wasn’t the only change, though.

After regaining control over his breathing, he threw a straight jab in the empty air.

Shuuuck-!!

His fist flew out like a bullet. Not only that, his entire body was overflowing with this unexplainable power.

“I get it now.”

It was simpler than he thought.

If he defeated these living suits of armour, then his level would go up, and the higher his level got, the stronger he’d get, too. And quite obviously, he’d be able to bring these monsters down much more easily as a result.

Simple, yet a powerful perpetual cycle, indeed.

Soo-Hoh looked behind at the corridor he’d been waking until now. Large piles of armours broken beyond repair or recognition were strewn about here and there. He licked his lips a bit.

‘This sucks….’

It’d been so much nicer if he could raise his level just a bit higher here. He wanted to get stronger just a bit more.

Unfortunately, every road had an end.

Soo-Hoh looked at the giant doorway now blocking his path. His senses had matured greatly as his level rose up and they helped him to detect the presence of a powerful figure behind the door.

That was why he felt rueful about levelling up even more.

He closed eyes and took a deep breath just like how his father had taught him and reached out towards the door to push it open with both hands.

Creak….

The heavy-looking door opened up.

The sight of a huge room resembling a castle’s audience chamber greeted him next.

As he followed along the rows of pillars set at a close interval on either side of him, he soon arrived at the deepest part of this chamber where a tall throne stood proudly above a raised plinth.

Soo-Hoh was frozen stiff with nervousness in an instant.

Because there was another monster suit of armour sitting on the throne. But he felt a strength on another dimension altogether from this b*stard compared to other monsters he encountered so far.

‘That’s it….’

The existence that emitted a goosebumps-inducing aura he felt outside the door, it was precisely this guy. The ‘monster’ slowly got up and took one step at a time to descend the stairs below the throne.

It was a black knight.

The knight boasting a strand of red plumage attached to its helm finally made its way down to the ground. Just the faint aura emitted from that creature made his skin tingle and shiver from nervousness.

However, Soo-Hoh began smiling for some reason. An electrifying sensation thrilling enough to make all the hair on his body stand up wrapped around his entire being.

Shurung….

The knight began unsheathing his sword.

‘I’ll attack first before that sword is fully drawn out.’

But, just as he got ready to dash forward, the black knight was already standing right before his nose. A brilliant flash of light shone from the sword swung by the creature just then.

“….Uh??”

That bright, blinding light filled up his view.

***

“Heok!!”

Soo-Hoh hurriedly raised his body up.

Still incredibly tense, he scanned his surroundings but he failed to see the black knight anywhere. No, he wasn’t even in the same chamber where that monster was.

Somehow, he was teleported back to the starting point.

‘What the heck was that?!’

He lost all strength on his legs and plopped down on the ground.

‘I thought I was really going to die.’

He felt deeply spooked when recalling the moments of the black knight unsheathing its sword. He really, really thought that was the end for him.

“Besides all that, do I need to cross this corridor again?”

Feeling quite unhappy now, Soo-Hoh got up from his spot only to realise that something had changed from his first attempt. And that would be the lit torches on the starting point.

Rumble-!

Out of those, there were three with blue flames burning on them, but now he realised that one of them had gone out.

Could that be a coincidence?

No, it wasn’t.

Weapons by the starting point, his level that rose up after killing monsters, his body that grew stronger as his level rose up.

Not one of them could be called a coincidence.

Soo-Hoh had a moment of epiphany just then.

‘It’s not that I was going to die, but…’

There was no such concept as either pain or death inside this strange place, but those blue flames substituted for his remaining opportunities.

If all three flames went out, then…. For now, it was hard for him to imagine what kind of a result waited for him.

‘In that case….’

….I gotta be more meticulous.

The glare in Soo-Hoh’s eyes grew even more vigilant compared to the first attempt.

One more time. But he’d not mess up his chance this time around.

Boom!

He made up his mind as he blew away the monster suit of armour busy pouncing on him.

***

“Uwaaaah-!! Uwaah!!”

Finding himself forcibly returned to the starting point once more, Soo-Hoh rolled around on the ground while clutching his head. Of course, he wasn’t doing that because of an injury or crippling physical pain.

He was just p*ssed off by the fact that he ended up throwing away yet another chance. He pounded on the ground as tears formed on his eyes. That’s how deeply he felt hurt right now.

After he somehow calmed the raging firestorm in his heart, he raised his head a bit to look, and to no one’s surprise, the number of lit blue torches had decreased by one. Now, there was only one remaining.

‘That black knight, he’s just too powerful!!’

There simply was far too great a gap between him and that creature, and it was more than enough to call it a cheat, that the ‘balance’ of this trial was definitely broken. With things like this, he’d never be able to defeat that b*stard.

“Uwaaaah!!”

Soo-Hoh rolled around on the ground once more.

He did that for a while. Eventually, he grew tired of doing that, so he stopped and leaned his back against the wall before shifting his gaze over to the corridor.

It was unknown just from where those suits were being summoned, but well, they had returned again and were manning their stations once more.

“Aren’t you guys sick and tired of this already?”

Soo-Hoh even felt happy to see those monster armours after seeing them for the third time like this.

“Hah-ah….”

He spat out a lengthy groan one after other, but then…

“….Uh?”

….A lightbulb went on in his head.

He raised his head and looked at the armours once more.

‘When did those things reappear again?’

Initially, he figured that the monsters reappeared simply because he was sent back to the starting point. However, what if that was wrong and they regenerated after a certain period of time?

Ba-thump.

Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump….

A new ray of hope seemed to be within his reach.

‘Okay, let’s try it out.’

Soo-Hoh beat up the monster armours near the entrance and destroyed them before returning to the starting point. He sat down with his back leaning against the wall and observed for any potential changes to the monsters.

After some time had passed by…

Plop, plop.

The ‘dead’ monster armours suddenly turned into sand one by one and got absorbed into the ground. And then, Soo-Hoh’s eyes grew wide after he saw what happened next.

‘…..!’

The sand suddenly gathered above the platforms the monsters used to stand and transformed back into the suits of armour.

“Yeees!”

Soo-Hoh clenched his fists real tightly.

Finally, he found the right answer.

The only existences that could aid him with his levelling up thankfully respawned after a fixed period of time.

Didn’t that mean he should crazily level up by smashing these monsters apart until he could actually follow the movements of that horrifying black knight?

A grin floated up on Soo-Hoh’s face as he stood back up.

Funnily enough, the monster armours flinched ever so slightly after they saw the figurative sparks of flame burning within his eyes.

***

Level 70.

No matter how many times he hunted these monsters down, his level didn’t want to rise beyond that. However, this should be more than enough.

Blackish aura was slowly rising up Soo-Hoh’s shoulders. He didn’t know what these strands of black smoke might be, but he could tell one thing for sure.

And that would be the fact that his body was currently overflowing with this incredible energy he found hard to fully control yet.

He unhesitatingly pushed open the door to the chamber where the black knight was waiting for. Unlike the first two fights, the monster kindly came to greet him by the door’s vicinity.

Soo-Hoh grinned deeply.

“Were you waiting for long?”

Rather than a verbal answer, the black knight unsheathed his sword, instead. For some reason, it felt as if this knight was smiling.

Feeling confident after managing to push his level all the way up to 70 somehow, Soo-Hoh unleashed all of the magical energy gathered within his body without holding back.

The ground trembled and pieces of rubble began floating in the air.

“Now, it’s my turn.”

< Chapter 268 > Fin.

 

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 267 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 267 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 267

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories

Part 3: Approach

Spin, spin….

The radar of a boy named Lee Eun-Cheol, a recent addition to the ranks of high school students, began spinning around.

A brand new school, a new classroom, and new classmates.

The eyes of Lee Eun-Cheol, sitting right at the back of the class, as he scanned the atmosphere of the place remained harsh, predatory. With just one glance, he quickly judged who was beneath him, and who was qualified to be his friend.

The laws of the jungle reigned supreme in this world called the classroom.

Even back in his middle school days, Lee Eun-Cheol ruled the roost with his fists. To his eyes, the majority of his classmates looked like a bunch of easy prey. Almost without exception, those that met his glare all quickly averted their gazes.

‘….How lame.’

However, there was a dude that walked closer to him with a grin on his face, instead.

‘That’s Jo Seong-Ho.’

He was one of those ‘friends’ who did his thing in the neighbouring district. Also, they ran into each other every now and then while sharing casual booze with his other friends, too.

“You were also here?”

“Yeah.”

They greeted each other and shared news on their particular circle of acquaintances while measuring each other up, but that only lasted for a short while.

Jo Seong-Ho had heard the infamy of Lee Eun-Cheol plenty of times before, so he lowered his head first and got under the latter’s wings.

“Take care of me from now on, alright?”

Lee Eun-Cheol smirked deeply and grasped Jo Seong-Ho’s extended hand. They might be in the process of establishing their hierarchical positioning at the moment, but a guy like this would be classified as a ‘friend’.

And so, as he was about halfway done with establishing the hierarchical relationship with the rest of the class, there was this one guy who kept getting on Lee Eun-Cheol’s nerves for some reason.

He wasn’t some model student who sat right in front of the class, nor was he a punk trying to show off while sitting at the back, either.

It was a strange kid who sat in the middle and didn’t even bother to avert his gaze away when their gazes collided.

There would always be one like this guy in every class – a dimwit who didn’t know his place and needed an ‘incident’ to figure who was on top and who was at the bottom.

That punk was looking behind him, right at Lee Eun-Cheol, before sighing out, as if he found this whole thing ridiculous, and reverted his gaze back to his front. Obviously, the high school thug couldn’t take that lying down anymore and stood up from his seat.

Dururuk…

The noise of the chair dragging against the ground loudly rang around the classroom. Of course, the gazes of the whole class were instantly focused on Lee Eun-Cheol.

The boy enjoyed all the attention and, while feeling pretty good about himself, strode right over to the dimwit who didn’t know his place.

“Oii.”

Just as Lee Eun-Cheol reached out to grab the punk’s shoulder and turn him around, a tackle came in from a rather unexpected quarter.

“Hold up.”

After confirming that it was Jo Seong-Ho that grabbed hold of his wrist, Lee Eun-Cheol opened his mouth.

“What now?”

There were distinct signs of displeasure thickly melted into the voice, and that caused Jo Seong-Ho to nervously swallow his dry saliva.

“We went to the same middle school. If you can help it, you shouldn’t bother him.”

“…..Same school?”

Just because they went to the same school, he was trying to protect the punk?

There could be two potential reasons for that. One, a reason that couldn’t be brought up but still forbade anyone from touching this punk.

Or, they were looking down on Lee Eun-Cheol.

The high school thug’s expression hardened instantly and he began lightly kicking the chair of the ‘punk’ that didn’t even bother to turn around in the middle of this commotion.

“Hey, hey? Who the hell are you? Why don’t you say something? Don’t you have a mouth?”

Jo Seong-Ho’s complexion paled really quickly and tried to jump in front to stop this. Lee Eun-Cheol’s patience ran out then and he slapped the latter’s hand away while shooting a fierce glare.

“You, come with me.”

As Lee Eun-Cheol left the classroom, two of his underlings that graduated from the same middle school followed after him, too. He stopped right at the doorway and looked back. His eyes caught Jo Seong-Ho sweating buckets, while the ‘punk’ didn’t seem to care one jot either way.

Grit.

A chilling murderous aura filled up Lee Eun-Cheol’s eyes.

***

“Keo-heok!”

Jo Seong-Ho and his messed-up face were tottering unsteadily on his feet. Maybe that didn’t satisfy him yet, Lee Eun-Cheol’s glare remained frigid and murderous.

He shoved Jo Seong-Ho against the wall before asking his question.

“Who the hell is that punk? Just who is he that you’re trying to protect him?!”

The wounded boy breathed heavily and painfully before spitting out saliva mixed with traces of blood to the ground. He then raised his head, his expression one of fatigue.

“He was the strongest in our middle school.”

“…??”

Lee Eun-Cheol’s head tilted to the side.

This kid, did he lose his mind after getting smacked around for a bit?

It was a well-known story that Jo Seong-Ho and his gang had completely conquered his middle school. However, he shook his head and emphasized his point.

“We couldn’t even lay a hand on that guy. I stepped forward today, cuz I was scared that something might go wrong here, too.”

Initially, Lee Eun-Cheol wondered what kind of horse crap this was, but Jo Seong-Ho’s eyes were far too serious for something like that.

‘This son of a b*tch… He’s being serious?’

But, that couldn’t be.

If there was a scary b*stard like that, then there was just no way that a rumour wouldn’t have gotten around.

The name of the punk in question was Seong Soo-Hoh.

Lee Eun-Cheol lived in this neck of the woods since his elementary school days, but he had never heard of that name before. Besides, what could a nerd like that do to him, anyway?

Lee Eun-Cheol’s rage shot up right to the top of his head after realising that Jo Seong-Ho dared to make him look bad in front of others just because of a punk like that.

Smaaaack!

Lee Eun-Cheol’s full-blooded swing caused Jo Seong-Ho’s head to spin to the side. The smacked cheek swelled up in red colour.

The high school thug had apparently learned boxing since from a young age, and perhaps because of that, his arm strength couldn’t be treated as a joke.

However, what Jo Seong-Ho truly feared was something else.

It was around the time when he was silently enduring against the barrage of violent attacks from Lee Eun-Cheol. He discovered ‘that’.

‘…..!!!’

The thug stopped throwing punches only after spotting that Jo Seong-Ho’s eyes had grown super-large from surprise. He turned around to look behind him.

From the distance, that nerd was leisurely strolling towards here.

Jo Seong-Ho dropped his head lower as if he didn’t want to meet the gaze of the one walking closer and spoke in a quiet murmur.

“Just… apologise to him. That’s my serious advice to you.”

“This stupid son of a b*tch…!”

Lee Eun-Cheol grabbed the back of Jo Seong-Ho’s hair to shake the boy’s head around, but the latter simply kept his mouth shut. Just as the former was about to spit out another round of abusive words…

The source of the problem itself, Soo-Hoh, finally stood before them.

Maybe it was because of Jo Seong-Ho’s prior warning? Even Lee Eun-Cheol, who would attack first and ask questions later quickly took a couple of steps back and warily glared at Soo-Hoh.

Although not short, when compared to either himself or Jo Seong-Hoh, this nerd wasn’t all that tall. His physique also seemed exceedingly ordinary.

His neck and wrists revealed outside of the school uniform looked a bit firm, but it didn’t seem like the boy had trained professionally or something.

The more he looked, the less Lee Eun-Cheol believed Jo Seong-Ho’s words.

Utterly ignoring the bullies, Soo-Hoh stepped closer to Jo Seong-Ho and studied the latter’s messed-up face.

“Tsk, tsk.”

The sounds of tutting automatically leaked out from his mouth as if he felt rather rueful about this matter. Soo-Hoh then addressed the boy.

“Hey, Seong-Ho.”

“…..Yeah.”

“Let’s pretend that you also did this. I mean, this much is already enough for self-defence, right?”

Jo Seong-Ho unhesitatingly nodded his head.

“Okay, let’s do that.”

What were they trying to pretend here?

Lee Eun-Cheol listened to this exchange with a puzzled expression etched on his face, but that soon morphed into an angry scowl.

“Oii.”

As he reached out to grab Soo-Hoh’s shoulder to turn the nerd around, a sudden flash of light blinked right in front of Lee Eun-Cheol’s eyes.

Thud!

The unconscious Lee Eun-Cheol fell hard to the ground. Almost at the same time, the two underlings guarding the leader’s back also blacked out, as well.

Thud, thud!!

‘What a scary b*stard….’

Jo Seong-Ho could only watch on in utter disbelief. If it weren’t for his excellent dynamic vision honed through exercises and training, then he’d not have seen those stunning movements.

One hit in the face of Lee Eun-Cheol, and one hit each in the vitals of the two underlings – those attacks were machine-like in their accuracy, yet savage in their nature, like a wild predator.

Back when he ‘mistakenly’ tried to get Seong Soo-Hoh riled up, he ended up wondering whether such power could actually belong to a human being or not.

But after that, his middle school life became quite stress-free, contrary to his initial expectations.

While looking at the collapsed and unmoving Lee Eun-Cheol and his gang, Jo Seong-Ho scratched the back of his head.

‘……’

The high school thug’s nose was broken, while the two underlings had their bones broken.

The rumours should spread around quickly; the rumours of the one and only XX middle school’s Lee Eun-Cheol getting beaten up by YY middle school’s Jo Seong-Ho, that was.

Even the thug himself would keep his mouth shut over this matter, since that rumour would be far more preferable than to let the world know that he got taken out by some no-name regular student.

‘Well, then….’

Once more, another notch had been added to his records of victories.

Since this was a win someone handed over to him, Jo Seong-Ho felt rather embarrassed about this whole thing. As he remained swimming in several complicated thoughts, Soo-Hoh walked up closer and extended his hand out.

“Now that things have come to this…. Well, I’ll be in your care in this place too, alright?”

Jo Seong-Ho sheepishly scratched his cheek before wordlessly shaking the offered hand.

Well… It wasn’t such a bad trade, this.

***

“Wow, Jo Seong-Ho took on those three?”

“I thought his aura was really something else when I first saw him, so it’s no surprise.”

“I heard that he learned judo since young and was pretty famous in his neighbourhood.”

Thanks to the news of Lee Eun-Cheol and his goons getting shipped off to a hospital, the atmosphere of the entire classroom had become rather heated real fast.

More than that, Jo Seong-Ho was now being treated as a hero even, after it emerged that he was trying to protect another kid who graduated from the same middle school as him.

Although it was the start of a new school year and the kids all felt a bit awkward and unsure of each other, this topic worked wonders and broke the ice nicely. Even then, Soo-Hoh was dazedly staring out at the sky outside all by himself.

The end of the school day wasn’t that far away, and the blue heavens above were gradually dyeing in the hues of rich amber.

For some reason, yawns kept threatening to break out so he was having a hard time suppressing them.

‘….I’m bored.’

Indeed, he felt bored, restless.

Recently, he often yawned for no discernible reason and felt bored more frequently than ever before.

And there was this vague, distant feeling that he used to know ‘things’ that made his heart race and surprised him at every turn. Whenever he was beset with such feelings, it became harder to endure against this sense of boredom.

Dururuk…

The door to the classroom slid open. The gazes of the kids all shifted over to the rear door. Jo Seong-Ho didn’t display much of a reaction and returned to his assigned seat.

Ohhh-!

Kids were looking at his wound-filled face with gazes of envy and respect. Without a doubt, the top dog of this classroom had changed from Lee Eun-Cheol to Jo Seong-Ho.

“Hey, hey.”

Soo-Hoh remained disinterested as he continued to stare outside the window, only for his attention to be brought back to reality by someone poking him on his back. He looked behind him to find a female student with a neat appearance there trying to talk to him.

“The friend saving you came back looking like that, so aren’t you going to go and say hello, at the least?”

“…..I already did.”

“Oh. Okay.”

The girl heard his curt reply and as if she got embarrassed by this exchange, hurriedly opened her textbook to hide her face. Meanwhile, he reverted his gaze back to the skies outside.

‘So bored….’

The sun was creeping closer to the horizon.

***

The school day was finally over.

While everyone was hurriedly trying to escape from this institution of learning, only Soo-Hoh remained standing by the window to look at the athletics field outside.

Other students were filing out of the school’s front gate. He didn’t like the melee of confusion like that. His mom always laughed and said that he was exactly like his father in that regard.

He read the book he borrowed from the library before raising his head back up, thinking that maybe he should start heading back home now. There was no one else besides him in the classroom.

Soo-Hoh leisurely packed his bag and slung it over his shoulder.

It was fine to be relaxed and laid back, but if he were to waste any more time than this, he’d definitely arrive home late for dinner, and that would mean he’d have to face the wrath of his mother.

It’d be a relief if the story ended there. If the news of his mom getting angry reached his father’s ears…..

‘Euk, d*mn it. I imagined what would happen to me.’

Soo-Hoh was overcome with a nasty case of goosebumps and hurriedly shook his head. Just how old would his father have to be before he wasn’t so scary anymore?

Seriously now, he got this sneaking suspicion that, even if his father ended up becoming an old man, Soo-Ho would still never win against him.

He shuddered once more and quickly headed to the rear door of the classroom. But, when he tried to open it….

‘The door…. doesn’t want to open?’

If it was locked, then there was no way this thing wouldn’t budge like this, since it was none other than himself tugging at it. The door showed no signs of moving, as if it was a wall, to begin with.

‘What’s going on?’

Soo-Hoh’s eyes grew rounder and this time, he ran to the front door and grabbed its handle. But it was the same story here, too.

Now thoroughly shocked, he quickly ran to the window and took a look outside. That was when a truly unbelievable spectacle manifested itself before his eyes.

Every single student leaving through the school gates; students exercising on the field, cars passing on the road, pedestrians walking on the pavement, and even the kicked ball flying in the air…..

….Everything had come to a dead stop.

‘But, how can something like this be….?!’

Soo-Hoh clenched both of his fists real tight and slammed at the window with all of his might.

Boom!

Too bad, the window not only didn’t shatter from the impact, but his fists also bounced away from it as if he was hitting a rubber wall.

‘….!!!’

It happened then.

Soo-Hoh retreated from the windows and while taking hurried steps backwards, he tried very hard to figure out what was going on in his head.

And that’s when ‘it’ appeared.

Soo-Hoh’s head snapped towards the black circular ‘hole’ that appeared out of nowhere at the back of the classroom. It was no bigger than the size of a volleyball, but it rapidly grew larger and larger until it was big enough for a single person to walk through.

It was basically a doorway of darkness, so dark that it felt like he was being sucked in.

Regular kids might have been scared out of their wits by this development, but… Rather than crying out or screaming, Soo-Hoh placed his hand on his chest, instead.

Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump.

His agitated heart was pounding away in exhilaration.

Maybe.

Just maybe, it was possible that he was waiting for something like this for a long, long time.

‘Mom said that I resemble my dad all the time, doesn’t she?’

If it was his father, then… What would he have done?

The answer was pretty obvious, though.

Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump….

Because his pounding heart was already making his legs move.

Soo-Hoh stood before the ‘Gate’ and touched its surface.

Bzzz…. Bzz…

Although there were some sparks of electricity, he didn’t feel any pain. No, he felt so much better instead, as if he was returning to his hometown that he had to leave behind a long time ago.

There was this strange, vague sense of deja vu as if he had already entered a place like this one before.

Soo-Hoh slowly but carefully regulated his breathing. His wildly-beating heart finally regained some calmness and the inside of his head seemed to clear up.

‘Good.’

A brief flash of a grin formed on his face.

And then, he jumped inside the ‘Gate’ without a moment’s hesitation.

< Chapter 267 > Fin.

 

 

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 266 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 266 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 266

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories

Part 2: Until we meet again

“Thank you for coming in, Miss Cha.”

“Ah, yes. Hello.”

Hae-In stepped across the doorway of the kindergarten headmistress’s office with a tense expression on her face.

Soo-Hoh hadn’t had any contact with kids of his own age until he turned five years old. And today was exactly a week after the worried parents decided to send their son to the nearest kindergarten.

The preschool educational institution suddenly called her up, asking her to come for a meeting today. Hae-In was really worried that maybe something happened to Soo-Hoh, or her son did something wrong.

The headmistress guided her to the couch on the opposite side and Hae-In settled down on the cushion as her complexion became even gloomier than before.

The middle-aged headmistress could fully understand what Hae-In was going through right now. That was why she worked hard to find the gentlest voice she could come up with in order to not worsen the other party’s anxiety.

“It’s not something to be that anxious over, Miss Cha. It’s just that…. We have a few questions we’d like to ask you.”

“Ah, yes. Please.”

Hae-In nodded her head repeatedly with a hardened expression. The headmistress cautiously pushed forward a sketchbook.

“Here…. Would you take a look at this, please?”

Hae-In picked the book up as the headmistress continued on.

“It contains drawings by your son, Soo-Hoh.”

The white paper within said book featured a rather-cute looking ‘ant’ as drawn by a little child’s hands.

But, why was she being shown this? Hae-In couldn’t immediately understand where this conversation was going and asked back with a puzzled expression.

“What’s the matter with this drawing….?”

The headmistress hesitated slightly before letting a soft sigh escape from her lips. She then began explaining herself.

“The class teacher-nim asked the children to draw their close ‘friends’, you see.”

“….Ah.”

Now that she looked at the drawing again, the ‘ant’ was standing on two feet. Only then did Hae-In realise that this was not a drawing of an ordinary ant, but Marshal Beru, instead.

“There are others after that page. When the class teacher-nim asked Soo-Hoh if he had any other friends, he drew those next.”

Hae-In flipped one more page.

There was a drawing of a humanoid figure with a strip of red plumage attached to his head while holding what was clearly a sword, no matter who saw it.

‘Igrit….’

Hae-In instantly recognised the protagonist of the drawing and slowly held her forehead with one hand. He might look like a trustworthy knight to those who knew him, but how would this situation look like in the eyes of strangers?

Her head began aching just from thinking about that.

After that page came the drawings of Bellion and his extending magic sword, as well as Fangs, busily putting on a magic show. Inevitably, Hae-In’s head began developing a stronger migraine.

‘…..’

The headmistress interpreted Hae-In’s speechless expression the wrong way and spoke in a worried voice.

“The next drawing is what Soo-Hoh drew as his family portrait.”

Flip.

The page of the sketchbook flipped again. What greeted her next was a drawing of herself, a man that seemed to be her husband, Jin-Woo, and innumerable black figures standing behind them.

Soo-Hoh grew up from his toddler days surrounded by the Shadow Soldiers and he must’ve thought of them as his extended family now.

‘This is how we look like in Soo-Hoh’s eyes.’

Hae-In thought that this drawing contained her son’s innocent but warm gaze, and her nose stung with emotions.

The class teachers couldn’t understand the meaning behind these drawings and fell into a rather considerable amount of panic and came to the conclusion that there must’ve been some sort of a problem with Soo-Hoh.

And of course, that included the headmistress herself, the person responsible for asking Hae-In to stop by at the kindergarten today.

The middle-aged lady formed a pretty grave expression as she spoke.

“The final page contains Soo-Hoh’s drawing of his ‘home’. And the reason why I requested you for today’s meeting, as well.”

What kind of a drawing would it be this time? With a pair of nervous eyes, Cha Hae-In flipped to the last page.

There was a cosy little house.

A normal-looking house was standing erect in the middle of some land.

The problem with this depiction was that the ground below was completely painted black.

Over 70 percent of the sketchbook’s real estate was dominated by the black colour.

“We’ve been caring for many children over the years, but never have we encountered such depictions of friends and family by a child until now.”

The headmistress pointed to the black portion of the drawing and spoke in a calm voice.

“The homeroom teacher-nim asked Soo-Hoh why he drew the lower half of the house like this, and the boy replied that that’s where his friends, his family, as well as his giant father, are staying.”

‘…..Giant father?’

That explanation was puzzling enough to make Hae-In tilt her head this way and that, but still, she could more or less guess how this drawing came about.

However….

“By any chance, do you know why Soo-Hoh is drawing these sorts of images?”

….It was really unfortunate that Hae-In couldn’t reveal what she knew to other people. She could only shake her head.

“….As I feared.”

The headmistress nodded her head as if she understood the situation.

Initially, the kindergarten was fearful that Soo-Hoh was being mistreated at home, but they couldn’t find any evidence of abuse from the boy’s jovial, good-natured behaviour he displayed every day.

Although rare, things like this did happen occasionally – young kids drawing the world as they see it through their eyes.

“Maybe… It’s possible that Soo-Hoh possesses a great talent for art.”

The headmistress convinced herself with this and smiled gently.

Hae-In stopped forming a gloomy expression, now that she knew the source of today’s ‘trouble’, and smiled awkwardly, as well.

“Ah, yes. Yes.”

What a relief that it was not a huge matter. She could finally relax a bit.

However, these drawings weren’t the end of the headmistress’s business today. She again deliberated on whether she should speak of this or not, before coming to a difficult decision and raised her head.

The look in her eyes was far graver than when she presented those drawings.

“Miss Cha, actually…. There is something else I’d like to speak to you about.”

***

In the Central Region’s Violent Crimes Unit.

After the results of the promotion examination had been announced, excited voices began resounding out and filled up the Unit’s office.

“Senior-nim, congratulations on your promotion!”

“Congratulations!”

“You should buy us all a round, don’t you agree, Senior-nim? No, hang on, Seong Superintendent-nim?”

Jin-Woo had to spend quite some time being surrounded by the rest of the Unit’s detectives, and was only able to extricate himself after his partner, Lee Seh-Hwan, finally showed up.

“Hyung-nim, shall we get going?”

“Yeah.”

Leaving behind the congratulatory words coming from here and there, Jin-Woo and his beaming smile escaped from the office.

Enough time had passed and Lee Seh-Hwan himself was a veteran detective now. He quickly congratulated his much-respected senior.

“Hyung-nim, congrats.”

Jin-Woo used a wordless smile to sub for his reply.

He and Lee Seh-Hwan shared jovial banter as they walked side by side, but then, the younger detective cautiously scanned his surroundings before sticking real close to his senior.

“By the way, hyung-nim…. Why did you accept the promotion this time? I mean, whenever the brass pleaded with you to move up the career ladder, you always refused them, so why now?”

Jin-Woo looked at Seh-Hwan from the corners of his eyes with a look that said, “What’s so important about that?” before breaking out into a smirk as he replied.

“I ran out of excuses for my refusal, you see.”

Seh-Hwan laughed out loud at that rather remarkable answer.

“You’re truly amazing, hyung-nim. I’m telling you.”

Although what he said sounded like a joke, Jin-Woo wasn’t joking here. Of course, Seh-Hwan knew that, too.

As it was the case with pretty much every profession out there, a detective would grow further and further away from field work the higher his rank became.

Jin-Woo wished to remain close to where the action was, and the higher-ups, especially Commander Woo Jin-Cheol, respected that. Unfortunately, that couldn’t go on forever.

Now that all excuses that could stop a detective with a stunning arrest record from advancing in his career had been exhausted, even Jin-Woo was left with no choice but to accept the examination result.

“Hyung-nim, don’t you have any goals or wants? I mean, like, better position or making lots of money, that sort of things.”

Money, was it?

If Jin-Woo said that once upon a time, he made more than enough moolah to b*tch-slap a huge law firm and their deep pockets in the face all by himself at a younger age than his junior partner, would the kid even believe him?

Too bad, Jin-Woo could only recall the days when he operated the Ah-Jin Guild alongside Yu Jin-Ho and swallow back the words dancing on the tip of his tongue.

‘Well, they’ve really become distant memories now, haven’t they…’

He could swim in the reminiscence of the past for only a short while, though. As he was about to climb into the car with Seh-Hwan, his phone began ringing loudly, so he pulled it out to take a look.

‘Mm?’

The call was from Hae-in.

***

After talking on the phone, Jin-Woo returned home earlier than usual, and after checking out Soo-Hoh’s drawings, could only chuckle softly.

“I had no idea that our son had such a wonderful talent in art.”

Amongst them, the drawing of Beru especially caught his eyes. There should be no other five-year-old child that can draw an ant this wonderfully in the world.

Jin-Woo looked at the drawing in happiness, only to be pricked harshly by Hae-In’s sharp glare and quickly withdrew his smile.

“Hm, hmm.”

After seeing her husband changing his attitude really quickly like that, Hae-In just couldn’t hold back her smirk from breaking out anymore. She then spoke to Jin-Woo as if she was trying to convince herself.

“It’s not a laughing matter, you know? Take a look at the very last page.”

“The last page?”

The last page in question contained Soo-Hoh’s final piece, named ‘My home’.

“Soo-Hoh said that the black ground is where his giant father is, so can you think of…. Why are you smiling?”

“N-no, well, it’s just that I remembered something funny. That’s all.”

Jin-Woo recalled the ‘Divine Liege’ statue standing in the middle of the ‘territory of eternal rest’ and couldn’t hold back his laughter anymore. Tears even began sneaking out of his eyes, so he quickly wiped them off and closed the sketchbook.

Wouldn’t it be fine to let this slide with a simple chuckle? Expressions containing such thoughts flitted in and out of Jin-Woo’s face. Hae-In let a soft sigh out and relayed what the headmistress had told her earlier in the day.

“Other kids are apparently scared of Soo-Hoh.”

“….??”

A little bit of the smile on Jin-Woo’s face went away, then.

“Other kids?”

Hae-In nodded her head with a worried expression before continuing on with her explanation.

“Their complexions change badly whenever Soo-Hoh tries to get close to them. Even when he has never bullied or shouted at them, but still.”

“….”

Now that was not something he could gloss over. Jin-Woo’s expression hardened. The previous smile was long gone now. The thing he was worried about had really happened.

‘Children are….’

Young children were incomparably purer than adults. And he wasn’t simply talking about their immature way of looking at things.

No, it was about the ‘purity’ of their senses.

Unlike with adults who, through logical reasoning and studying, got to overcome the primal instincts they were born with, children could feel the fear of death far more vividly.

The reason why other kids avoided Soo-Hoh was because they must’ve felt the shadow of death hovering above him.

‘The power of the Shadow Sovereign….’

It became Jin-Woo’s, and that fact prevented it from becoming a full-blown calamity, but that was about it.

In reality, this power was a horrifying weapon that the ‘God of another realm’ hid inside its most loyal soldier in order to destroy everything it had created.

If the powers of the Shadow Sovereign he didn’t mean to give to his son continued to grow within Soo-Hoh, then….

‘….It’ll be impossible to carry on with a normal life.’

At the very least, there was a need to seal that power away until Soo-Hoh reached an age where he could exert perfect control over it.

Jin-Woo’s gaze shifted over to all the photos hanging on the living room’s wall. The biggest one was the marriage of Jin-Woo and Hae-In; surrounding it were many images of their son.

And most of those photos were shot alongside Shadow Soldiers.

Soo-Hoh and his bright smile, as he rode on Beru’s shoulders and energetically yanking on the ant king’s two antennae.

Soo-Hoh busy escaping from Igrit who volunteered to become the boy’s home-school tutor, and then, Soo-Hoh busy performing a mock duel with Bellion using his toy sword.

There were so many others.

Jin-Woo quietly began storing them away in the subspace, one by one.

“Dear….?”

“Until Soo-Hoh can live among other people without any issues, I… I’m planning to temporarily seal away Soo-Hoh’s powers and his memories of the Shadow Soldiers.”

Soo-Hoh had to learn it.

He needed to learn how to coexist among regular people like a normal person, rather than with Shadow Soldiers.

Until then….

Just as the final remaining photo entered the storage within the subspace, Beru emerged from the ground after learning of Jin-Woo’s decision.

[Oh, my king….]

The heart of the Shadow Soldier, the one who looked after and loved Soo-Hoh like his own child, was transmitted in full to Jin-Woo.

However, the Sovereign’s decision was resolute. Realising that there was no way to change his liege’s mind, Beru’s head drooped to the ground.

As the former ant king’s gaze fell, a drawing suddenly entered his view. It was Soo-Hoh’s sketchbook pushed forward by Jin-Woo.

[This is…?]

‘It’s you, drawn by Soo-Hoh.’

Easily the best depiction of Beru he’d ever seen was drawn upon this white page. Thick teardrops formed on Beru’s large eyes almost right away.

[My liege…. May I be permitted to say goodbye to the young Lord?]

Nod.

After receiving Jin-Woo’s permission, Beru cautiously entered Soo-Hoh’s room.

Creak….

The soft, rhythmic breathing of the deeply-asleep Soo-Hoh was like the sweetest and most soothing music to the former ant king’s ears. He knelt down cautiously next to the bed, so as to not rouse the sleeping child from his nap.

[My Lord…. On behalf of all the Shadow Soldiers, I shall bid you farewell.]

His voice gently reverberated as if it was spoken within the dreams. In his sleep, Soo-Hoh shifted his body towards the location of the voice and mumbled softly.

“Boss ant…. boss ant….”

With an expression showing how proud he was of Soo-Hoh now being able to pronounce ‘ant’ more concisely compared to when the child was still chasing after him a couple of years ago, Beru bade his goodbye.

[It has been my honour to serve you, my Lord. Until we meet again next time, I pray for your good health….]

Beru lightly kissed the back of Soo-Hoh’s hand perched at the end of the bed and stood back up. All the soldiers hidden within the former ant king’s shadow also said their goodbyes.

[My Lord, even without me, I pray that you strictly adhere to your study schedules…]

[Please be healthy, my Lord.]

[Sobbbb, sniff, waaaail, waaah….]

With the goodbyes now over, Beru looked behind him. Jin-Woo was there, nodding his head.

He wordlessly walked over to his son and carefully pulled the blanket up to the boy’s chest, tucking him in. Then, he placed his palm on the sleeping child’s forehead. Powerful magical energy very briefly hovered near his fingertips before leaving him behind.

When Soo-Hoh opens his eyes again, all of his extraordinary power and memories would be gone.

‘Have a good dream, son…’

Jin-Woo lightly kissed his son slumbering away like a baby angel and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

That night, Soo-Hoh dreamed of ants and knights and Orcs dancing happily together with him.

< Chapter 266 > Fin.

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 265 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 265 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 265

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories

Part 1: Beru’s memories

Inside a certain egg….

Before he was ready to hatch, Beru heard the voice of the Queen through the thick shell of his egg.

[For the sake of the kingdom.]

‘For the sake… of the kingdom.’

[Make all the enemies blocking our path shiver in terror.]

‘Make all the enemies blocking our path shiver in terror….’

He needed to become strong.

He simply had to be strong.

That was the very first duty bestowed upon Beru, still sleeping in an embryonic state. And then, the obsession of the Ant Queen wishing to build a prosperous kingdom resulted in the birth of a horrifying monster.

[Kkkieeeehhk!!]

The young soldier ant shattered the eggshell, emerged from the confines, and screeched out loudly. The ominous and terrifying murderous intent oozing out from its two eyes didn’t permit any comparison to other ant monsters in existence.

The Queen shuddered. It felt a powerful surge of emotions by this creature born from its efforts.

‘If it’s this child, then certainly, those humans wielding strange powers will be….’

The Queen’s eyes sparkled in anticipation, but even before it could issue a new order to the greatest ant soldier that triumphantly emerged from the egg, Beru felt hungry, so he did what he wanted to do.

Grab.

The wrist of one of the worker ants aiding with the hatching process got grabbed by Beru.

‘…..?’

Even before the worker ant could understand what was going on, Beru simply began swallowing and chewing on the hapless monster from its head.

Crunch, crunch….

[….!!]

The Queen was greatly taken by surprise at Beru’s unexpected behaviour, but it was suppressed by the powerful aura of the future king of the ants and couldn’t even dare to stop him.

Beru managed to erase all traces of its kin from this world in the blink of an eye and stood proudly before his queen. The bodily fluid dripping from his mouth looked rather grotesque.

‘The terror of our enemies….’

The thing was, the subject of powerful fear would also have the same effect on his own allies, as well. The Queen belatedly realised this fact and took a look around itself. The brave soldiers of the ant kingdom were shivering in fear.

The emotions they felt were transmitted in full to their Queen, the only one capable of exercising absolute control over them.

The newborn soldier definitely passed the test. As expected of the greatest soldier the Queen had produced – he was truly a masterpiece.

[Become even stronger.]

The Queen issued the next order to Beru, with an eye towards a full-scale invasion of the human’s lands.

[Stronger, until none can stand in your way.]

***

Beru proceeded to devour everything on the island. When there was a shortage of food, he didn’t even hesitate to devour his own kin. From tiny lifeforms on the ground like worms and larvae, all the way to large fish and aquatic mammals of the nearby ocean….

As Beru voraciously devoured every single life in front of his eyes, a new realisation dawned on him. Whether it be lifeforms possessing fatal poison or creatures with huge bodies, they all quaked in fear upon running into him.

‘Survival’ was the most basic, as well as the ultimate, goal of all living creatures. But, in front of an absolute being that could easily rip apart that goal into millions of pieces, the looks carried in the eyes of other lifeforms were all roughly the same.

‘……’

Beru got to confirm over and over again that he was indeed at the top of the food chain, and soon, arrived at a certain conclusion.

‘I am….’

I am created to be the greatest predator from the very beginning.

In that case….

Beru, submerged deep within the seawater, pushed his head out of the surface. He could see the land at the far end of the undulating ocean waves. A world different from the sea was waiting for him there.

‘Just how powerful will those humans be, those that mother is greatly wary of?’

He grew quite curious – curious about if there really were powerful beings that necessitated even a top predator like him to keep a low profile, curious about if his powers would work against them.

He shifted his gaze towards the mainland several times, but…

[It is still too early.]

The Queen was capable of monitoring Beru’s thoughts and its resolute voice would always stop him from acting out on his curiosity without fail.

Left with no choice, he vacantly stared at the distant land before slipping beneath the surface of the ocean again.

Indeed, he’d get to know when the time was right.

‘……’

Beru heeded the Queen’s orders and waited for the right time to come with bated breath. And eventually, ‘they’ stepped onto his land.

For the first time ever, Beru was given a chance to test out his true capabilities.

And it….

“What, what the hell are you?!”

“Uwaaaahk!!”

….Wasn’t even a fight.

No, it was nothing more than one-sided hunting.

What a familiar sight it was to him.

Beru discovered ‘fear’ in the eyes of the dying Hunters and couldn’t hide his utter disappointment.

‘To fight against these weaklings, I…’

I had to wait for such a long time?

There was this smell of fear oozing out from the entire bodies of the prey. Beru got to reconfirm through these human Hunters that he still occupied the top rung in the food chain.

It was a letdown.

And so, as the lifeform standing at the apex of the ecosystem was about to define what he thought of the human race as a whole in his head…

For the first time ever, a human that didn’t fear him even when standing face-to-face appeared out of the blue. Beru’s heart began viciously pounding away after encountering a situation he had never experienced before.

‘This human…. He’s not scared of me?’

He felt it’d be somewhat of a loss to kill this human right away, so Beru tried to start a conversation.

“Are you the king of humans?”

When he did, the human replied back.

“…..Huh, an insect that knows how to speak. Well, I’ll be.”

***

Maybe this would be the first time since then that a living creature looked at Beru with eyes that were filled with something other than fear.

Sparkle, sparkle….

‘…..’

Beru began shedding cold sweat drops as the young Lord Soo-Hoh, the son of his Sovereign, stared at him with rather hotly-burning eyes. So, he tried to escape from this uncomfortable atmosphere, but then….

“Anty, antyyy!”

He couldn’t endure it and flew up in the air, but then….

“Anty, antyyy!!”

The young lord would already be right behind him when Beru took a look behind to make sure.

‘…….’

Of course, as long as Beru wanted to, escaping from a toddler would not be an issue, but…. Well, the problem here was that the toddler in question was his king’s child.

What if he tried too hard to escape and that ended up harming the young lord somehow? How could Beru even take care of the aftermath, then?

“Antyyy!”

In the end, the responsibilities of looking after young Soo-Hoh alongside the child’s mother, Hae-In, fell on Beru’s shoulders, not the other Marshals.

“….”

After making sure that Soo-Hoh was asleep, Beru quietly returned to the ‘territory of eternal rest’.

He slid silently into the shadow, and the world of infinite darkness spread out right before his eyes. Some people might call this place scary, but for Beru, this world under his liege’s authority was a rather comfortable place to be.

While he made his way over to where the ant army resided, Beru fell into a deep pool of thoughts.

‘Why does our young lord continuously seek me out?’

….He just couldn’t figure this one out.

He had always been the object of fear, and he felt that that fact hadn’t changed even now. This question suddenly invading his head proved quite difficult to resolve, so Beru changed his destination. What could be more helpful in understanding the mindset of a human than a human’s opinion on the matter?

His liege didn’t like using humans as Shadow Soldiers, so there were almost no soldiers who started off as humans, but…

But, rather fortunately, there was one soldier Beru knew that started his life as a human. It was none other than Marshal Igrit.

“There is no way that our young lord will hate you.”

[…..??]

Igrit nodded his head and rapidly added further explanations.

“Here is an ant walking around that’s much bigger than a person. It can fly and it can even talk, too. Just which child wouldn’t like that?”

[…….]

Well, that was a fresh take on the matter, which he didn’t consider before.

Beru headed back to the area occupied by the ant army while carefully digesting what Igrit had told him.

‘The young lord likes me because I’m bigger than a person, I can fly, and I can even speak.’

If a person could like something with such simplistic reasons, then wouldn’t that person also easily fall out of love with something with equally simplistic reasons, too?

Well, he certainly hadn’t heard of humans liking bugs after entering their adulthood. When his thoughts reached that far, his mood seemed to sink just a little bit.

He was familiar with others looking at him with gazes of revulsion, but when thinking about how the young lord would also one day carry such a gaze, Beru grew just a little bit sad.

‘…..’

Beru flying silently changed his heading once more. His new destination this time was the location of a certain construction project.

The bearded Dwarves and ant soldiers were ordered by Beru to construct a gigantic stone statue of their liege within this place, the ‘territory of eternal rest’. When they saw the former ant king land near their vicinity, they all bowed their heads in unison.

The Dwarven Elder in charge of directing the project hurriedly ran over to welcome Beru.

“Marshal-nim, welcome back.”

Nod, nod.

Beru observed the progress on the construction for a bit before asking the Elder.

[I wish to change the plan just a little bit.]

“Ehhht?!”

Maybe he felt all the hard work his men had put in would go to waste, the Elder hurriedly tried to dissuade Beru despite feeling rather scared of the former ant king.

“B-but, Marshal-nim, you planned to commemorate Sovereign-nim’s upcoming 32nd birthday with this ‘Divine Liege’ statue, so from a few months ago…..”

[No, no, no. I’m not saying I want to cancel the plan itself. I just want to change this part like so….]

The Elder quietly listened to Beru’s explanation before nodding his head right away.

“Of course that is feasible. I think we will get a far grander result with this new plan, Marshal-nim.”

[Khe-khek, very good.]

The atmosphere that seemed to be frozen for a bit had warmed up considerably now.

“Well, in that case, I should….”

Just as the excited Elder tried to continue on, Beru raised his index finger and placed it against his lips.

[I shall return after taking care of business first.]

***

“Hyung-nim, are we really doing this?”

“You fool…. What is it? You scared now that we came this far?”

“N-no, that’s not it, hyung-nim.”

A thug glared angrily at his underling sitting on the front passenger seat of the car, and shifted his gaze back to a certain residence over yonder.

It was a two-story private home standing all by itself in a rather deserted suburb, as if the owners wanted to avoid crowded areas.

That place belonged to Detective Seong Jin-Woo.

The thug had it confirmed it multiple times before coming here, so he was sure of it.

“Because of that son of a b*tch Seong Jin-Woo, our organisation got obliterated into thin air. We got hurt real bad by the b*stard, so isn’t it only fair that we leave an everlasting mark on him to balance the books??”

“You’re right, hyung-nim.”

The three underlings replied in a unanimous voice.

Very good.

“Listen well. We are a quartet of common house robbers now. As for the wife and the son of that detective, they got killed by the robbers breaking into their home in the middle of the day. Do you get my drift?”

“Yes, hyung-nim.”

A sinister grin formed on the lips of the man they all referred to as ‘hyung-nim’.

To think, such a massive house didn’t have a single security system – wasn’t that exactly like declaring to the world ‘Come and swallow us up’ while washing their necks?

Indeed, it was a miracle that the house hadn’t been burgled yet.

“Stop shaking in your boots and don’t make any mistakes.”

The thug scanned his underlings and they nodded their heads.

“Let’s go.”

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

The four males exited the car and cautiously closed the doors. They scanned their vicinity and approached the residence before hurriedly clambering over the walls.

They had rehearsed what they had to several times before, so such a wall didn’t pose any problems for these folks.

But then…

…Step!

Only four legs landed back on the ground.

‘….Where are the other two?!’

The thug hurriedly looked at the only remaining underling next to him. The latter shook his head.

Four jumped over the wall, yet only two landed back on the ground? What a bizarrely weird thing this was!

The thug quickly studied all around his surroundings, but when he looked to his side again, the remaining underling was gone without a trace, too.

‘These sons of b*tches, seriously now…!!’

The enraged thug briefly forgot where he was right now, and was about to roar out at the top of his lungs. But right before that, a hand approached him without being noticed and covered his mouth, hard.

[Shh….]

Right now was the young lord’s nap time. It must not be disrupted by a bunch of uninvited guests, no matter what!

Thankfully, Beru’s hearing could pick up on the calm, rhythmic breathing of the young lord in the nursery. With a pair of satisfied eyes, he looked diagonally down to his side. The thug caught in his arms was trembling like a lone leaf in the wind.

“Euph…. euph, euphhhh!!”

There it was, that familiar light in the eyes.

The familiar emotion.

Beru certainly enjoyed the unreserved faith his liege had in him, or the young lord’s favourable feelings towards him, but this… This, as expected, felt just as good to him. The expressions of the weak prey caught before the glare of a predator would always be like this.

[Kiiik, kiiik.]

Beru didn’t hold back and revelled in the intense fear displayed in the thug’s eyes, before dragging the hapless victim away and disappearing from view. The screaming vanished very soon after from this world.

***

“What do you think?”

The Elder proudly presented the ‘Divine Liege’ statue.

This stone statue with their liege’s countenance boasted such a humongous scale that, in order to look at its top, one’s neck might develop a sprain if one carelessly tilted their head back.

Just to complete this masterpiece before the deadline, not only had every single bearded Dwarf pitched in, but all the ant soldiers also lent their aid.

[Kiikiik.]

Beru studied the statue of his liege with a very satisfied expression before confirming the last-minute change that had been added to it.

“Just as you commanded, Marshal-nim. There it is, on the left shoulder….”

Just like the Elder’s explanation, the left shoulder of the liege’s statue now played home to the figure of their young lord, sitting there with a bright expression.

The father and his son.

There was no doubt in Beru’s heart that his liege would be greatly pleased after seeing this grand and beautiful statue. And also, this statue would prove to be a deeply-meaningful present to the young lord if he ever gets to enter this world in the distant future.

Such certainty prompted Beru to roar out in laughter.

[Kkiiihehehehehet~!!]

Following after the rejoicing Beru, the bearded Dwarves and ant soldiers also burst out into loud peals of laughter.

Wah-hahahahaha!!

“Kkyah-hah!”

He suddenly heard a cheerful cry of a toddler mixed among the raucous laughter.

[….?!]

Beru got stunned out of his shell and hurriedly looked back, only to discover a certain baby sticking close to his back.

“Annty!!”

Ah, ah…..

Should he say, like father, like son?

Seeing the baby Soo-Hoh who could now freely enter the ‘territory of eternal rest’ before anyone had the chance to notice it, the Marshal in charge of childcare, Beru, could only hold his head in agony.

[Khi-hahk!]

< Chapter 265 > Fin.

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 264 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 264 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 264

Side Story 21

The last side story: Twelve years later (Fin)

Later that evening.

Jin-Woo headed to the local diner that he frequented with Yu Jin-Ho when they were much younger. Still did, as a matter of fact.

– “Hyung-nim! I have something important I must discuss with you.”

He felt the hints of determination, different from the kid’s usual self, emanating from Yu Jin-Ho’s voice on the phone. When Jin-Woo stepped into the diner, Yu Jin-Ho sitting anxiously by the table, easily visible from the entrance, quickly raised his hand up high.

“Hyung-nim!!”

After graduating from the university, Yu Jin-Ho continued to train in the art of running a business empire under Chairman Yu Myung-Hwan, which transformed his body and spirit into a proper man now.

However, he still came across as a little kid brother to Jin-Woo, even now.

“Hey, man.”

He greeted back with a chuckle and settled on the other side of Yu Jin-Ho. His gaze then scanned the soju shot glass in Yu Jin-Ho’s hand, as well as the half-empty soju bottle for a brief moment.

‘This guy, he knows he can’t handle alcohol, so why….’

It was unknown just what he was psyching himself up for like this, but without a doubt, Yu Jin-Ho needed a massive boost to his courage to do it, it seemed.

So, Jin-Woo asked.

“What’s going on with you? You didn’t even tell me anything yet.”

Yu Jin-Ho greatly hesitated with his reply, before pulling out a small box from his inner pocket and opened it up. A rather expensive-looking ring was stored in there.

“Hyung-niiim!!”

“What now?”

“This time, I’m gonna propose to Miss Jin-Ah for sure!”

Aaah.

‘That’s what this was all about.’

Jin-Woo was guessing that the kid got scolded by his little sister or some such and wanted to complain to someone trustworthy, but now that he knew the score, a smile automatically floated up on his face.

Yu Jin-Ho completely misinterpreted that smile, though, and a fierce glare of determination lit up within his eyes.

“Hyung-nim! I’m really serious this time! I’ll confess to her tonight! B-but, the thing is…. You think she’s going to like this ring?”

When Jin-Woo thought about how Jin-Ah always complained at home, wondering aloud just when the blockhead that was her boyfriend would come around to confess his feelings for her, he could picture her jumping up and down in happiness already, but well….

Jin-Woo deliberately left his words vague so the after-confession swelling of emotions could be even tastier for the couple.

“I wonder… I’m not very good with this sort of things, so….”

“Keuh-heuk.”

As if he felt tormented, Yu Jin-Ho dropped his head lower in agony before raising it back up again.

“I-it’s still fine, hyung-nim. Actually, I don’t know what she’d like to have anyway, so I prepared lots of presents in advance.”

And then, he began pulling out a large paper envelope out of the blue. What that contained was a blueprint of a building.

“Actually, there’s this new building about to be constructed in our company’s premises, so as soon as Miss Jin-Ah is done with her medical degree, we could build a hospit….”

“Hold up.”

Jin-Woo felt as if he had seen this blueprint lots of times from somewhere and quickly cut Yu Jin-Ho’s word off.

“By any chance, this building…. The estimated pricing is around 30 billion Won, isn’t it?” (TL: Around $25 million USD)

Yu Jin-Ho was taken by surprise and his eyes opened up wider.

“What the…. Hyung-nim, how can you know that….?”

Well, it was obvious how – because it was the exact same thing.

…The same as the blueprint of the building offered as the compensation for making Yu Jin-Ho the new Guild Master back in the erased timeline, that was.

Jin-Woo worked hard to keep his laughter in check. Yu Jin-Ho saw that expression and his complexion reddened considerably as he tried to come up with a suitable excuse.

“Hyung-nim, this is the best I can do for Miss Jin-Ah at the moment because I’m still learning about this trade from my father, but I….”

“No, that’s not it.”

To stop Yu Jin-Ho’s misunderstanding from getting any deeper, Jin-Woo wiped the grin off his face and spoke in a far more earnest tone of voice.

“Listen to me, Jin-Ho.”

“Yes, hyung-nim.”

“There’s no need for you to give her lots of presents to prove yourself so hard like this. Because… you are a good man. All you have to do is be you. Just you.”

“…..”

Jin-Woo’s opinion rendered Yu Jin-Ho completely speechless, but he began tearing up greatly.

“Hyung-nim….”

It was at this point that Jin-Woo belatedly remembered how this kid behaved when drunk and felt this ominous foreboding creep up on him.

And like clockwork, Yu Jin-Ho spoke in a tearful voice.

“Can I hug you just this one time, hyung-nim?”

“Nope.”

“Hyung-niiim!!”

Yu Jin-Ho failed to rein his emotions in the end, and pounced on Jin-Woo to embrace him, but the latter extended his hand and rather deftly stopped the former from getting too close.

Yu Jin-Ho struggled for a long time before finally regaining control over his emotions and settled back down on his spot.

“Sob, sob, sobbbb…”

He continued to sob away, though, and Jin-Woo could only smirk at this sight. Sure, this kid did have a bit of a moronic streak in him, but Jin-Woo knew the truth very well from what the kid had shown him during the moments of great life-or-death peril.

Back when they entered the rank C dungeon along with a bunch of con-men and were forced into making a decision, or when he was being tortured for information by a rank S Hunter blinded by thoughts of revenge, Yu Jin-Ho always chose loyalty over his safety.

He was a good kid, indeed. That was Jin-Woo’s honest impression of Yu Jin-Ho after observing him from a close vantage point after all this time.

Jin-Woo poured soju into his own empty shot glass.

“Why don’t we pray for your success with this toast?”

“Eh?”

Yu Jin-Ho raised his head to find Jin-Woo pushing forward his shot glass.

“If your proposal is successful, then we will really become family, you know. So, how about we share a toast while praying for your success?”

“A real family with hyung-nim…..”

Yu Jin-Ho’s expression was soon overcome with a great swell of emotions once more and he lifted his own cup up, only for his gaze to stop by at Jin-Woo’s left hand.

He knew very well what was hidden behind that black glove, of course.

“Excuse me…. Hyung-nim?”

“Yeah?”

“If I’m not overstepping here, can I ask you about something?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Yu Jin-Ho sneaked a couple of glances at Jin-Woo’s left hand before working up his courage once more.

“The scars on that hand…. What actually did happen to you, to get such serious scars?”

Those scars were so horrendous that just a casual glance would make people recall heart-wrenching pain in an instant. It must’ve been a rather serious accident for such a clear burn scar to be left behind like that.

Although Yu Jin-Ho found it pretty hard to ask this question up until now, he borrowed the powers of the booze to ask this rather difficult question.

“Oh, you mean this?”

Jin-Woo glanced at his left hand for a little while, before a smirk floated up on his lips.

“I got it while saving the world.”

Jin-Woo’s gaze had reverted back to Yu Jin-Ho by then. His reply was spoken as if it was nothing much to worry about, so the latter chuckled back lightly, too.

“Hyung-nim, you and your sense of humour….”

Jin-Woo also chuckled along as well.

Yu Jin-Ho belatedly realised that the shot glass had been stuck waiting for a while inside his hyung-nim’s hand and quickly raised his own higher.

“For the successful proposal!”

Jin-Woo brought his cup closer and prayed for the kid’s fortune as well.

“Yeah, for your successful proposal.”

Clink.

They clinked their shot glasses and emptied them in one go.

Yu Jin-Ho’s face went into a scowl at the bitter taste of soju, but unlike him, Jin-Woo could only form a wry grin as he put the empty glass down.

‘I’d love to get just a little bit drunk on a day like today, though…’

It was then.

“Ah, I almost forgot.”

Yu Jin-Ho must’ve recalled Jin-Woo’s family life after hearing the word ‘family’ since he suddenly began discussing precisely that.

“Is sister-in-law doing well?”

“Yeah, she’s well.”

“What about Soo-Hoh, though? I should really stop by soon to see how the boy’s doing nowadays. Has he started walking yet?”

Jin-Woo chuckled and shook his head.

“No, not yet. He’s only six months old, so crawling is all he can do for now.”

“That’s weird. I thought that a kid sharing your and your wife’s genes would start running around the moment he was born, you know?”

“What the hell. Is that how you think of me and her?”

“Ahaha.”

Yu Jin-Ho scratched the back of his head in a playful manner and Jin-Woo also chuckled as well.

But then, Yu Jin-Ho went “Oops!” and hurriedly spoke in a worried voice as he heard that the post-natal care was rather arduous for the newborn’s parents.

“Well, in that case, shouldn’t you go home as soon as possible?”

“Mm… Maybe I should?”

With good timing, Jin-Woo was also beginning to miss Hae-In and his son Soo-Hoh waiting for him back home after the word ‘family’ had been mentioned earlier.

***

A certain residence located in the outskirts of the city.

Arriving back home safe and sound, Jin-Woo parked his car in the vicinity.

Screech.

Although the house was unimaginably huge for a detective to afford with his government salary, no one suspected a thing since the person sharing the residence alongside him just so happened to be the idol of the sporting world that pretty much every South Korean had heard of before in the past.

However, only he and Hae-In knew the secret of this house not being built by the hands of humans.

When Jin-Woo stepped into the house, the first thing that greeted him was the sight of his two Marshals in the middle of a war of nerves.

Bellion and Igrit were glaring at each other without backing down an inch, apparently not ready to give up on their ground. Soon, Hae-In came out to the living room while carrying their son, Soo-Hoh.

“Dear….”

With a smile, Jin-Woo took over Soo-Hoh from Hae-In, and gently held him up. When he did…

“Ppa-!!”

Soo-Hoh broke out into boisterous laughter and extended his small hands towards him. The boy wanted to be hugged by his father, so Jin-Woo helped with that by embracing the baby against his chest, and then, pointed to his two Marshals with his chin.

“What’s up with those two?”

“Well, the thing is….”

Hae-In was fighting back to keep her own laughter from breaking out while hesitating with her answer, but Jin-Woo didn’t need long to figure out what was up with this situation.

Bellion shot back at Igrit with a harsh glare.

[What do you mean by we mustn’t teach our Lord Soo-Hoh the ways of the sword? Do you really think your suggestion makes any sense whatsoever, Igrit?!]

However, Igrit’s own fighting spirit didn’t lose out an inch, other.

[High academic success is the barometer of one’s capability in this world, Bellion.]

No one knew when or who ordered them online, but well, Igrit was holding home-schooling material for toddlers as he argued his case.

Jin-Woo watched the tightly-contested war of nerves between these two proud Soldiers and became utterly speechless. He stared at them with a dumbfounded face for a while, before he took a step closer to address them.

“You guys….”

The Marshals finally realised that their liege was right in front of their noses, hurriedly turned around to face him, and knelt down on the floor.

[My liege!]

[My liege!]

Jin-Woo tutted audibly at the two Marshals far too obsessed in the matters of the post-natal care and spoke to them.

“It’s fine whether you want to teach my son swords or maths, but let’s worry about that only after the boy learns to walk first, shall we?”

Bellion and Igrit stared at each other for a little while before bowing their heads down to Jin-Woo.

[That is a reasonable approach, my liege.]

[You are correct, my liege.]

“Alright.”

Jin-Woo grinned brightly while holding his son in his arms, and just like that, Soo-Hoh also grinned brightly in return, as well.

“Kkyah.”

Nobody would doubt that they were a father and son; Hae-In watched the two’s smiles that seemed like a carbon copy of one another and chuckled softly herself.

***

Around the time Lee Seh-Hwan, joining the Unit as someone’s potential successor, had gotten more or less used to the life as a detective, Jin-Woo was summoned by the Station Commander for a private chat.

The senior detective leaving the commander’s office before him carried a rather suspicious glint in his eyes, so it was unlikely that this chat would be about a pleasant topic, thought Jin-Woo. He entered the commander’s office after the senior detective left and walked over to his superior’s desk.

“Did you call for me, sir?”

The commander was looking out of his office window at the time; he didn’t turn around and addressed Jin-Woo in a quiet voice.

“I heard that you’re still interfering in other detectives’ investigations….”

As expected – the senior of earlier carried that look of ‘I told you so’ as he was leaving, didn’t he? Jin-Woo inwardly swallowed his fake cough.

The commander turned around towards Jin-Woo and formed a refreshing grin.

“Please, I beg you to not go overboard and make other detectives resent you, Seong Hunter-nim.”

The commander’s face was someone quite familiar to him. It belonged to none other than Woo Jin-Cheol, the youngest Station Commander in Korean history.

Of course, that feat was built upon the hidden fact that Jin-Woo played a key role in solving many of Woo Jin-Cheol’s cases.

Jin-Woo smiled and corrected his current boss’s words.

“I’m not a Hunter anymore, Commander.”

“Even still, it’s a lot more convenient for me to refer to you as a Hunter-nim.”

While saying those things, Woo Jin-Cheol scanned the documents on top of his desk.

“Did you know that the legal guardian of the suicide victim, her father, suddenly went missing a few days ago?”

“Really?”

“Rather coincidentally, every CCTV camera around the missing man’s residence stopped working at the same time.”

“Oh my goodness. How can such a thing even happen?”

Jin-Woo’s feigned innocence brought about a helpless chuckle from Woo Jin-Cheol. He then threw the documents into the nearby trash can.

“Whatever you decide to do, I shall continue to believe in you, Seong Hunter-nim.”

Jin-Woo heard Woo Jin-Cheol’s declaration of unreserved faith in him and as a gesture of thanks, bowed his head just a little.

Afterwards….

“Actually, I didn’t ask you to come and stop by because of that….”

Woo Jin-Cheol pushed forward a piece of memo paper that had been hidden in the corner of the desk until then. A name of a hospital, as well as a patient’s room number, was written on it.

“….I thought that you’d like to know.”

“What’s this?”

Jin-Woo asked back and Woo Jin-Cheol replied as if he was waiting for that.

“The Association President, no, Chairman Goh Gun-Hui is apparently in critical condition.”

***

This would be Jin-Woo’s second time coming to visit Goh Gun-Hui’s hospital room.

About ten years ago, he saved the older man’s life by using the ‘Divine Water of Life’ that he also used to save his mother’s life in the erased timeline.

And now, he was facing the gaunt Goh Gun-Hui once more as the latter found himself at the death’s doorstep. Since this was his second visit, the dying man didn’t get surprised by Jin-Woo’s unexpected appearance.

No, he simply nodded his head in the direction of the unfamiliar young man with a hood pulled up. He then tapped on the oxygen mask blocking his mouth.

Jin-Woo reached out and cautiously removed the apparatus, allowing Goh Gun-Hui to speak even though he wheezed heavily and laboriously in between each word.

“Young… man, you came back again…. Actually, I…. I’ve been searching for you… all this time.”

Jin-Woo looked on at this sight with sorrowful eyes before raising his voice.

“If Chairman wants this illness to be cured, then….”

Even before he could finish saying that he could cure the illness one more time, Goh Gun-Hui shook his head first.

“I’ve… lived for a long time now. I did what I had to do during the ten years you gave me. That is enough for me.”

Back in the erased timeline, Goh Gun-Hui sold off his company and became the first President of the Korean Hunter’s Association. But in this timeline, he had been acting as the role model to all the other corporate leaders by taking the lead in various charity work. And he no longer wished for his life to be extended anymore.

What he really wanted, though, was not what everyone would’ve expected.

“Actually…. I have a favour to ask you.”

Jin-Woo nodded his head. And that’s when he was met with Goh Gun-Hui’s pleading eyes.

“You told me that there was a world where we fought side by side, didn’t you?”

Jin-Woo nodded his head again without saying anything.

“Can you tell me more about that world? I’d like to know more. What I looked like, what you looked like back then….”

“Those might not be the memories you’d like to recall, sir.”

“It’ll be alright. I only wish to regain the memories now lost, that is all.”

Jin-Woo confirmed the earnest desperation on Chairman Goh Gun-Hui’s expression and gently grasped the dying man’s hand.

When he did….

….The memories of the time now erased rushed into Goh Gun-Hui’s mind like a tidal wave.

“Ah, ah….”

Tears began flooding out from the older man’s eyes.

Meanwhile, Jin-Woo slowly pulled the hood back and revealed his face to the Association President Goh Gun-Hui. He tightly grasped the younger man’s hands and confirmed the face now looking back as even thicker tears fell from his eyes.

“Hunter-nim, you have…. Again….”

Jin-Woo gently held the Association President’s hand as the latter’s breathing became harsher and noticeably more laborious.

Goh Gun-Hui’s gaze shifted back towards the ceiling.

“I… I really… Along with young heroes like you….”

His voice now contained traces of his satisfaction.

Goh Gun-Hui was overcome with the genuine happiness gushing out from the deepest part of his heart, and as his tears continued to flow, he quietly breathed his last.

Jin-Woo also stood there with tears in his eyes, before reaching down to gently close the older man’s eyes. Soon after, the life-support machines informed everyone involved of the passing of their patient.

Beeeep-!!

By the time shocked doctors rushed into the room, the suspicious, uninvited guest had already left without a trace.

*

As Jin-Woo wordlessly walked the streets, electronic advertising boards installed here and there continued to display the breaking news of Chairman Goh Gun-Hui’s passing.

Emotions of sadness could be spied on the expressions of many watching the breaking news.

Back then, or even now….

Chairman Goh Gun-Hui was loved by many, and even more paid their respects after his death.

‘Be well…. You were also a hero who sacrificed so much of yourself for the sake of the others.’

Jin-Woo stepped away from the populated streets and made his way towards those avenues with little to no foot traffic.

Every time the wind blew, leaves that lost their colours from the influence of the encroaching autumn fell in droves from the trees lining up the streets.

Soon, winter would arrive.

‘And then, spring will come again, too.’

Jin-Woo fell into a deep train of thoughts while looking at the scattering leaves, before belatedly realising that his phone was ringing off the hook inside his pocket.

The call was from Hae-In.

“Dear?”

As soon as he answered the phone, he was greeted by her incredibly urgent voice.

– “D-dear!! Soo-Hoh, he… Our son is….!!”

Could something have happened in their home, even though two Marshals were guarding it?? Jin-Woo’s own voice rose up higher at what seemed to be an unbelievable situation currently unfolding there.

“What’s the matter with Soo-Hoh?!”

When he did, Hae-In cried out as if she too couldn’t believe that it was happening, either.

– “He’s flying!!!”

“Eh?”

– “Our son is flying around the house, right now!!”

It was right at that moment that Jin-Woo recalled what Yu Jin-Ho said a few days ago.

– That’s weird. I thought that a kid sharing your and your wife’s genes would start running around the moment he was born, you know?

He became completely speechless after recalling those words and stood dead still on the spot.

– “W-what should I do?”

For some reason, laughter tried to break out of his mouth after hearing his wife’s panicky voice over the phone. For the time being, he decided that calming his wife down would be his first priority.

“It’ll be fine. Don’t worry too much about it.”

– “What do you mean?!”

“I’ll teach Soo-Hoh how to fly step by step, soon.”

– “Babe, you…. know how to fly?!”

‘….Oops.’

Didn’t I tell her that before?

When he was dating Hae-In back in the now-erased timeline, he wasn’t all that adept at flying around so they used his Sky Dragon ‘Kaisel’ to travel, instead.

Jin-Woo finally couldn’t hold back and guffawed out.

The autumn leaves shook around in the wind and fell to Earth once more.

After autumn, winter would come, and afterwards, spring would greet the world. Everything had a beginning and an end, and a new beginning would follow after the end.

However…

– “Oh, no! Soo-Hoh, you mustn’t!!”

Clank, smash!!

….It seemed that the winter of his household was still a long way away.

[Only I Level Up, Side Stories Fin.]

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 263 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 263 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 263

Side Story 20

The last side story: Twelve years later (2)

A shadow of a woman, yet to shed the hints of her teen years, vigorously rose up from the thickly-coagulated clump of blood on the floor.

Chwa-ahck!!

Droplets of blood dripped from the ends of her hair as she took a look around her, her expression one of sheer confusion regarding her current situation. Eventually, though, she spat out pained moans.

[Ah…. Ah….!]

Indeed, it’d be quite painful for her since she retained the memories of her dying moments. Jin-Woo used the authority of the Shadow Sovereign and calmed the shadow for the time being.

“Don’t be frightened.

The you of now has become an existence untethered from the boundaries of life and pain.”

The king’s calming, warm voice helped the woman to compose herself gradually. Jin-Woo then created a new set to clothing for her sake and wrapped them around her figure since she appeared how she died – nude.

[Ah….]

She cautiously pulled the clothing on her shoulders tighter.

Her name used to be Seo Jin-Yi. He named the newly-revived shadow woman the same as back when she was still alive, and began asking his questions.

“Did you… willingly take your own life?”

The shadow woman, no, Seo Jin-Yi, nodded her head.

Jin-Woo placed one of his knees lower to the ground so he could match her eye level. He studied her expression and quietly asked her.

“Your reason?”

And when he did, her lips, frozen shut like a block of ice, cautiously parted ways.

[I….]

***

Ding-dong.

The doorbell resounded out rather late at night; a middle-aged man put a photo frame containing a picture of his daughter down on its original spot and looked away.

‘Who could it be at this late hour?’

He tilted his head this way and that while standing up from his seat, and walked over to the intercom.

The monitor on the device showing the scene outside the front door now displayed a man kitted out in a smart business suit standing there. The middle-aged man didn’t think too much about it and pressed the ‘Speak’ button.

Beep.

The man outside the door pulled out his ID badge and showed it to the camera.

– “I’m Detective Seong Jin-Woo from Central Region’s Violent Crimes Unit. I have questions to ask you regarding your daughter’s death, so can we speak for a little while, please?”

The photo in the ID badge matched the face on the monitor.

The middle-aged man forgot that it was far too late in the day for a guest to show up like this when he heard the word ‘Detective’ and hurriedly flung the door open.

“Did the investigation’s result come out? How did my little girl die?!”

Jin-Woo quietly studied the face of Seo Jin-Yi’s father, Seo Gyu-Nam, before shaking his head.

“Nothing is certain yet, sir. However, I do have several follow-up questions I’d like to ask you regarding your daughter.”

The father of the deceased formed a somewhat disappointed expression when he heard there was nothing to report yet. Jin-Woo made a quiet demand towards the man.

“Can you come with me?”

Seo Gyu-Nam seemed to be in a dilemma, but soon enough, formed a grimly determined expression.

“Of course. If I can help in any shape or form in uncovering the truth of my daughter’s death, then I shall cooperate fully.”

He came outside and locked the door before turning around to face Jin-Woo.

“Let’s get going, Detective.”

Jin-Woo nodded his head once and turned towards a certain direction.

“This way.”

***

Seo Guy-Nam initially thought that they would go to the police station, but instead, they ended up in a cafe near his place. He asked the detective why they had to come here and only got a vague answer in the form of “We need a place to chat quietly” instead.

And so, Jin-Woo and Seo Gyu-Nam sat on the opposite side of the table. The former then began his questioning as the latter formed a heavy expression.

“What kind of a student was Miss Seo Jin-Yi usually?”

“Excuse me?”

“By any chance, was there anyone who might have been resentful towards….”

Seo Gyu-Nam belatedly realised the implication behind the question and hurriedly shook his hand around.

“No, no. Never. She was definitely not a child who’d go around doing things to make others hate her. She was really kind and pure and…”

Seo Gyu-Nam replied up to there before his head faltered and sounds of sobbing escaped from him.

How long did it go by like this?

The sobbing man’s shoulder’s stopped trembling eventually and he raised his head slowly.

“I, I’m sorry, Detective. I still can’t believe that my little girl left me in that manner…..”

“You must’ve cherished your daughter a lot.”

“Of course. I’m sure you know this already, but Jin-Yi wasn’t my biological child. That was why I cherished and loved her as much as I would’ve with my real child, no, maybe even more than that.”

His gaze lowered as he struggled to swallow back his sadness. He continued on.

“If only she told me when she was hurting, when it was getting too much for her….”

Although Seo Gyu-Nam was displaying an intense emotional state, Jin-Woo was quite different in his attitude and kept an icy-cold gleam in his eyes from the beginning right until the end. He then pulled out his own smartphone from his inner pocket.

“While we were sifting through your daughter’s personal effects, we uncovered a certain sound file.”

“….Pardon?”

“Well, let’s listen to it first.”

Jin-Woo tapped on the play icon and let the voice of the shadow play out.

– [I….]

It was the testimony straight from her mouth about the tale of the horrifying abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive father, ever since she was a young child.

And as the testimony continued on…

Seo Gyu-Nam finally stopped acting like a sorrowful father who lost his daughter, his eyes constantly shaking from shock.

The girl deliberately chose to go to a university far away from home, believing that she was finally freed from the torment of her adoptive father, but then, when the b*stard got in contact with her again some time ago, starting with the text message saying ‘I want to see you again’, she chose to end her life, instead.

She might have taken her own life, but the culprit that drove her to that decision was someone else.

Tap.

Once the sound file ended its playback, Seo Gyu-Nam raised his head, his expression frozen-stiff now.

“Why… why did you play that in front of me?”

This middle-aged man could legitimately claim that he possessed quicker wits than most other people.

If the real goal of this meeting was to arrest him, then this detective would’ve shown up with a couple of other officers, slap the cuffs on him and be done with the whole thing just like that.

However, this cop didn’t take him to the police station, but to a local cafe, saying that they needed to have a quiet chat.

That was why Seo Gyu-Nam had a hunch that the detective in front of his eyes had a somewhat different purpose in coming to see him. As if to reply positively to that hunch, the expressionless detective finally revealed a toothy grin.

“You now have two options available to you.”

Options were available!

Seo Gyu-Nam clenched his fists tightly after hearing those words that sounded like the heavens extending a lifeline, just as a precariously dangerous situation was about to befall on him.

‘Yes!!’

Meanwhile, the detective carried on.

“First…. You admit to your wrongdoing, go to the station with me, and confess everything.”

“And… the other option is?”

“Rather than admit to your crime, you pay an appropriate price, instead.”

Seo Gyu-Nam had to grit his teeth in order to suppress this powerful wave of jovial laughter gushing out from somewhere deep inside his chest.

‘Oh my goodness me.’

And the wise old ‘they’ said that, even if the heavens collapsed, there would always be a way out, didn’t they? Who would’ve thought that the detective who uncovered his ugly sins just so happened to be such an individual?

Seo Gyu-Nam had lived a pretty great life as a medical doctor. So, regardless of how much this pathetic policeman wanted, he knew he had the financial wherewithal to satisfy that demand.

Seo Gyu-Nam did his utmost best to stop the ends of his lips from curling up and asked back.

“How much are you asking for?”

“That is already enough.”

Jin-Woo formed a hollow chuckle and securely pocketed the phone.

He knew better than anyone just how many people regretted with their whole being the choice they’ve made just now. This middle-aged man trying his best to hide his laughter came across as utterly disgusting and ridiculous.

In an instance, Jin-Woo’s expression changed.

“Now, listen well.”

With the smile gone from his face, an aura so ominous and bleak oozed out from him, instead.

“In reality, this place you’re in isn’t the world you were living in. No, it’s a different world I simply mocked up to resemble the outside scenery.”

The land of the dead that no living soul could enter without the express permission of its master – the territory of the eternal rest. Jin-Woo calmly added that that was the name of the prison about to seal Seo Gyu-Nam away.

Of course, the middle-aged man became flustered at the suddenly-changed Jin-Woo’s attitude as well as at this strange, hard-to-understand explanation.

“E-excuse me, Detective-nim. I, I don’t underst….”

“Think about it carefully.”

Seo Gyu-Nam felt his breathing choke up from Jin-Woo’s murderous glare.

“Can you remember how you got here?”

Now that he thought about it….

As the chill ran down on his spine, Seo Gyu-Nam finally realised the oddness of his situation.

‘B-but, how….?’

Within this brightly-lit cafe, how was it possible that there was not a single soul around other than himself and this mysterious detective?

Even if you forget about other patrons, no, maybe even the actual owner of the place, shouldn’t there at least be one waiter or a clerk somewhere??

However, whether it was inside the building or outside of the glass wall, there was not a single trace of other people at all.

“Ah….”

Just as he finally recognised that something unexplainable had happened to him, everything vanished, just like that, leaving only the darkness.

The only items left within this inky-black darkness were the table, plus the two chairs. And of course, himself and the detective sitting on those chairs.

“U-uwaaaaahhk?!”

Seo Gyu-Nam shot up from the chair and hurriedly stepped back as his complexion paled instantly.

“W-who the hell are you?! Is this a dream? It’s a nightmare, isn’t it??”

The middle-aged man pointed at Jin-Woo in a confused mixture of anger and desperation. Unfortunately for him, his retreating steps couldn’t go too far.

Thud.

Because he ran into something as hard as a wall, that was why. An inexplicable chill swept him up and his head slowly shifted towards his back.

That’s when the ‘wall’ began moving.

No, it wasn’t an actual wall, just a giant ‘ant’ standing stiffly like one, and it was moving now.

This ant creature shoved its head closer to Seo Gyu-Nam’s face and quietly placed its unfurled index finger against its ‘lips’.

[Shh….]

In that moment…

“Euph! Eu-euph…!!!”

Dozens upon dozens of ant arms reached out from the darkness and grabbed onto him, before dragging him deeper into the unknown.

He would now be subjected to horrifying torture from here onwards where he’d eventually beg for death, but too bad, he’d not be able to die that easily.

See, the thing was, the Shadow now tasked with his punishment was one of the greatest soldiers in the ranks, and at the same time, the greatest ‘Healer’ there ever was, too.

[Kkiiehk!]

Beru bowed his waist to perform a smart greeting towards his liege, before melting back into the darkness.

‘……’

Jin-Woo wordlessly stared in the direction where Seo Gyu-Nam had disappeared to, and slowly stood up from his chair. This time, not from his front but from behind, another figure watching the proceedings unfold while hiding stepped out of the darkness.

It was Jin-Yi.

Jin-Woo was well aware that, no matter how badly the guilty suffered, the victim’s pain would never fully disappear. However, if such a thing could console the heart of the deceased just a tiny bit….

He walked over to her and placed his fingertip on her forehead to erase all memories of her adoptive father.

[Thank you. Thank you so much, Sovereign-nim.]

The Shadow bowed her head many times to Jin-Woo afterwards.

Now that she was reborn as a Shadow, she instinctively understood what kind of a special existence he was, but well, Jin-Woo never planned to convert her into his Shadow Soldier, to begin with.

So, it was now time to return her to the void.

Just before their goodbyes, Jin-Woo asked her in a gentle voice.

“Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

The Shadow lightly shook her head, before going, “Ah!”

[By any chance…. If it’s not too much trouble, can I ask you for a small favour?]

***

Next day.

Jin-Yi’s friend came to the station in the early morning to find out about any new development in the case. Jin-Woo found her first and took her to the corridor outside the office.

“By all appearances, the chances of the case being treated as murder is extremely low at this point. The investigation itself will close soon, as well.”

The friend looked at Jin-Woo with a disbelieving expression, before speaking up with the voice of a person clutching at a straw.

“T-truly…. There isn’t even one percent of any other possibilities??”

Rather than a verbal reply, Jin-Woo quietly nodded his head up and down. The friend’s head dropped towards the ground next.

She seemed to have a million things to say in her mind, but couldn’t say any one of them out aloud – her expression sorrowful but unwilling, she hesitantly spoke.

“That means, Jin-Yi, she….”

Jin-Woo studied her for a moment or two, before presenting her with a small gift box covered in a cute wrapper.

“This is?”

“The name written on the gift card is yours, isn’t it?”

“…..It is.”

It was none other than a gift the deceased carefully handpicked and prepared for the friend’s birthday. The gift that would’ve never entered its intended owner’s hands finally found its way to its rightful home.

“Jin-Yi prepared this….?”

“That’s correct. I thought that Miss Jin-Yi would’ve wanted this gift to find its intended owner.”

“Ah…. Thank you….”

The friend thanked Jin-Woo wholeheartedly, her eyes tearing up uncontrollably.

If only the adoptive father’s insidious text message didn’t arrive at the victim’s phone one hour before she cut her own wrist, wouldn’t these two friends get to enjoy the birthday party as planned?

Jin-Woo felt complicated in his heart as several thoughts intersected within his mind and his gaze drifted away to the distance, only for him to feel the familiar vibration coming from within his pocket.

“Excuse me for a moment.”

He asked for an understanding from the sobbing friend of the victim, turned around, and answered his phone.

– “Hyung-niiim!!”

A voice he felt relieved to hear came out of the phone’s speaker.

– “It’s me, Yu Jin-Ho!”

< Chapter 263 > Fin.

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 262 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 262 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 262

Side Story 19

The last side story: Twelve years later (1)

Within the ranks of the Central Region Precinct’s Violent Crimes Unit, there was this one detective nicknamed the ‘Phantom’.

The newbie detective joining the squad this year after passing the promotion exam, Lee Seh-Hwan, often heard this rumour while he was walking the beat as a patrolman.

The arrest rate of 200 percent!

The rumour went that, in front of this ‘Phantom’ capable of solving not just the cases in his own docket, but even the cold cases of the past, every single violent criminal or bloodthirsty thug would become a very well-behaved sheep in an instant.

To the officers patrolling these streets, this detective remained an object of pure respect, a real bonafide legendary figure.

Seriously now, the rumour even went on to say that, although he was eligible for a promotion, he wished to devote himself fully to fieldwork and refused to move up the career ladder. How hardcore was that?

‘Anyone with some sense in them would definitely never refuse a promotion, obviously.’

In any case – even if only half of the rumours making the rounds turned out to be true, then the mystery cop was sure to be one hell of an investigator.

His fellow patrol officers were deeply envious of Lee Seh-Hwan joining the Violent Crimes Unit. Little did they know, he was currently swallowing back his nervous saliva while scanning the squad’s office, wondering who this legendary detective from the rumours could be.

As befitting a group of detectives that clashed against seasoned criminals every day, they all carried manly, no-nonsense countenances. They began shooting sharp, probing glares in the direction of an unknown visitor to their ranks.

It’d not be all that awkward to call any one of these fine officers ‘Phantom’, indeed.

‘The light in their eyes are so….’

Lee Seh-Hwan gradually shrunk back from the powerful glares of the veterans and began inwardly worrying about whether he’d survive for long in this place or not.

“Ehh…. Are you that newbie joining us from today onwards?”

A voice came from behind without any prior warning whatsoever and Lee Seh-Hwan jumped up in fright. He hurriedly turned around and performed an excellent salute.

“Loyalty!”

“Ah, ah… no need to be that tense. We’re all one family now, right?”

The voice belonged to a middle-aged man carrying two paper cups filled with coffee standing right behind Lee Seh-Hwan. He kindly offered one of the cups to the still-nervous rookie.

“Here, it’s on me.”

“T-thank you very much!!”

Lee Seh-Hwan bowed deeply and received the coffee.

Instantly, he was greeted by the reassuring warmth that was kind of like a phone call from his family he dearly wished to see again after living alone for a long time.

Maybe that small first mouthful of the hot coffee helped him to relax?

Lee Seh-Hwan continued to sip on the hot beverage while cautiously studying the overall atmosphere of the surroundings, before asking the Senior who gifted him the drink.

“Excuse me… I went to speak to the Squad Captain, and he informed me that I’d be working together with Seong Detective-nim from here on, I was wondering…”

“Ahh, that ‘Phantom’ is your partner?”

“FUU-HEUP!!!”

It took almost everything Lee Seh-Hwan had to stop the coffee from spraying out of his mouth and nostrils.

“Well, we came up with that nickname for the guy because he’s supernaturally quick, you see? Dunno when it happened, but that name got stuck somehow and even the folks in other units began calling him that. I’m sure you’ve heard of him too, right?”

“Y-yes, I have….”

Lee Seh-Hwan hurriedly nodded his head several times. A meaningful smirk suddenly crept up on the senior’s face.

“The thing is, that coffee I gave you? It’s meant for him.”

The senior detective turned around to escape to the corridor, but then he stopped and pointed to the far end with his chin, a grin now firmly etched on his face.

“Speak of the devil. There he comes.”

Unable to suppress his curiosity, Lee Seh-Hwan also quickly came out to the corridor himself and shifted his gaze in the direction where the senior was staring at.

That was when he discovered a certain man unhurriedly strolling towards his direction from the end of the corridor.

‘That man is the legendary….’

Without a doubt, that man didn’t seem to be in a hurry, yet he was already standing before Lee Seh-Hwan even before the rookie could fully regain his wits.

What an overwhelmingly intense pressure he emitted.

Lee Seh-Hwan was about average in height for a Korean male, but he had to physically look up at his new partner, the senior detective nicknamed ‘Phantom’, who was at least a head taller than himself. Almost instantly, the poor newbie felt stifled and it became hard to breathe from this inexplicable pressure emitted by the man in front of him.

‘The Phantom of the Central Region….’

The reason why this detective was saddled with such a nickname wasn’t simply because of his preternatural swiftness, oh no. Lee Seh-Hwan was sure of this fact after finally encountering the person in question.

“Senior.”

“Ohh, hey man. Going out on a call?”

“Nah, it’s nothing much, really. By the way, is he our new recruit?”

“That’s right, he is. His name is Lee Seh-Hwan.”

Jin-Woo bowed his head slightly to greet the senior detective standing next to Lee Seh-Hwan. He then spun the newbie around to face the other direction and placed his hand on the completely-frozen junior’s shoulder.

“Then, I shall go ahead and train the rookie.”

The senior detective with the face of a good-natured uncle continued to grin as if he found something quite amusing. He nodded his head to say yes.

“Sure, sure. Go ahead. Have a good day.”

Almost as soon as the greeting with the senior was over, Jin-Woo dragged the rookie cop he was now entrusted with to outside of the building.

‘H-he can’t be p*ssed off about me having drunk his coffee, right?’

When that line of thought popped up in his head, Lee Seh-Hwan ended up hurriedly asking a question.

“S-senior-nim?! W-where are we going?”

Rather than an answer, though, he got a question as a reply, instead.

“Why did you become a police officer?”

“Oh, that…. I….”

Lee Seh-Hwan hesitated for a bit before remembering his original dream, the goal, that he had forgotten about while working as a beat cop wrestling with drunkards and other idiots for the past few years.

“I wanted to catch the bad guys….”

“That’s right.”

Even though they were exchanging questions and answers, Jin-Woo didn’t slow down his steps that continued to lead the rookie to their unknown destination. And he finally let go of the flustered newbie once they reached the end goal.

“We are going to a place where we can do exactly that.”

Lee Seh-Hwan raised his head, and Jin-Woo formed his now-trademark smile.

Grin.

It was a smile that eased the minds of all those who saw it. Jin-Woo looked at the shorter rookie with such a smile on his face before continuing on.

“That’s why I became a cop too, you see.”

Just those words alone, and Lee Seh-Hwan’s heart began pounding quite violently.

Ba-dump.

How could one’s heart not throb in moments like this as long as one was a police officer worth his or her salt?

“You coming?”

Lee Seh-Hwan heard the question with only one possible answer and replied with an excited face.

“Of course, Senior-nim!!”

***

Completely pooped out from chasing after criminals the whole day, Lee Seh-Hwan collapsed on top of his new desk and fell asleep. Jin-Woo was planning to dump the write-up of the testimonies of all the suspects they apprehended today to the rookie, but now….

Tap, tap…

He stopped jotting down on the report paper and quietly studied Lee Seh-Hwan, utterly lost to the distant lands of sweet slumber.

‘He said he had the experience of catching an armed robber bare-handed, didn’t he? Yup, it is fun training a rookie like this guy.’

A smile naturally crept up on his face now that a rather excellent seedling had joined his Unit.

“Hehehe.”

After seeing a smile blooming on Jin-Woo’s face, the suspect sitting on the opposite side of the desk mistakenly believed that the atmosphere had become rather friendly and formed a sly smile of his own.

That only elicited a hardened scowl from Jin-Woo, though.

“….And why the hell are you smiling?”

“I, I’m sorry.”

“Okay, then. Next up is….”

Just as Jin-Woo’s fingers touched the keyboard once more….

[My liege, may I suggest that such miscellaneous tasks be left to us, your loyal soldiers….]

….He heard the voice of Igrit coming from his shadow.

Indeed, it’d be convenient to utilise his soldiers.

Forget about training the rookies to arrest the suspects, he could just unleash his near-ten million soldiers and have them catch the bad guys. That would clean up the entirety of the Republic of Korea in no time at all.

However, what was he supposed to do about the extreme unrest and the fear from the public at large that would no doubt follow soon afterwards?

A suitable balance needed to be kept, regardless of what the job was.

That was why Jin-Woo did his best to control his powers, so as to minimise the impact against the society at large. And so, as the administrative work on these petty criminals was coming to an end….

….Although, the rookie still hadn’t been able to extricate himself from the land of dreams yet.

Jin-Woo heard the voices coming from the corner of the office and ended up paying attention to the contents of the conversation.

“Detective-nim, please listen to me. Jin-Yi isn’t a girl who’d willingly take her own life.”

“Look, miss. I understand how you feel. But, I already explained to you in detail, didn’t I? All the evidence points to….”

“Please, please take a look at these texts messages! Do they look like something sent by a person planning to commit suicide three hours later??”

“Hah-ah…..”

Maybe it was because of the fact that the deceased’s name sounded similar to his own sister’s?

For a while now, Jin-Woo’s mind kept wandering towards the conversation between those two people that didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast.

The detective, now fed up by this ‘heckling’ ended up responding in an ill-tempered manner.

“Look here, miss! From the get-go, most suicides aren’t planned out in advance but are done in the spur of the momen….”

“Do you mind if I take a look at the case?”

The detective flinched nastily when Jin-Woo approached him without any presence whatsoever.

Detectives were supposed to be able to suss out whether a person was guilty of a crime or not just by locking gazes with a suspect in the blink of an eye.

Such detectives couldn’t detect his approach, so it was a small wonder that Jin-Woo was saddled with the nickname of ‘Phantom’.

“Uhm, Detective Seong….?”

The detective formed a troubled expression while looking at Jin-Woo, before shifting his gaze forward, only to spot the expression on the deceased’s friend now gaining a ray of hope.

‘Ah….’

The detective instantly realised that things might get a bit complicated for himself, so he quietly asked Jin-Woo to step outside the office for a moment.

He handed over the related case files and pulled out a cigarette after they got there.

“Detective Seong…. I hope you aren’t going to put me under the spot here.”

“…”

Jin-Woo didn’t pay any attention to the plea of his Senior and scanned through the files, only for his expression to harden to a scary degree.

The detective was about to light his cigarette up, but after sensing the aura oozing out from Jin-Woo, ended up taking a step back in surprise.

‘He’s like a different person when he’s concentrating like this.’

The senior detective deeply sucked in the smoke puffed out from the lit cigarette as if to calm his trembling nerves.

The female victim was found inside her bathtub, having died of massive blood loss from a large cut wound on her wrist. The knife used to cut her wrist was recovered inside the bathroom, and perhaps unsurprisingly, only her fingerprints were found on the weapon, no one else’s.

The file also said that, even though the deceased displayed a bright personality outwardly, she actually suffered from depression.

Not many other investigators would come up with a different hypothesis after looking at all the facts available in this case.

Jin-Woo returned the case file back to the detective assigned to the case.

“I don’t see anything amiss.”

“R-right. You think so, too?”

The detective received the files back with a somewhat happy-looking expression.

“However.”

“H-however….??”

With a hardened face, the senior asked back while thinking, ‘Could he be…?’

“I shall confirm it myself, just in case.”

“Ah…..”

The Phantom had sniffed a trail, it seemed.

While looking at Jin-Woo’s back as he walked over to the friend of the deceased waiting anxiously over there, the Senior detective roughly scratched the back of his head and complained in his head.

‘Doesn’t that guy ever get tired or something?’

The friend of the deceased, her gaze currently fixed to the ground, quickly raised her head after hearing Jin-Woo’s voice.

“I’m Detective Seong Jin-Woo. Can we talk for a moment?”

The friend nodded her head, her current grim expression seemingly a blend of new-found hope and sorrow.

“Yes!”

***

Inside a quiet, empty and owner-less home, a black shadow suddenly rose up. It was Jin-Woo.

He found himself in an apartment which was slightly too large for a woman to live alone. Her warmth from the time she was still alive could be felt from several corners of this apartment unit.

The current time was late at night.

The surroundings were pitch-black, but there was no need to turn on the lights because this was the same as broad daylight to Jin-Woo’s eyes.

He entered the bathroom, the place where she met her final moments. The thick smell of blood yet to be cleaned stung his nose. Jin-Woo stood before the bathtub and silently studied the very spot where the deceased prepared herself to die.

Seeing all the spilt blood, it was as if he could sense the pain of the woman.

However, he could only imagine what that pain was like, not actually feel the pain itself. What the deceased was feeling when she chose death, how painful it was as she lay here dying….

Those left behind would never know them.

Generally speaking, that was.

Jin-Woo crouched slightly and studied the blood splatters before recalling the last text message she sent to her friend. It was filled with her anticipation about the upcoming meeting with her friend.

Just like what the friend had said, that message didn’t seem to be sent by someone getting ready to take her own life.

Most likely, the friend wanted to believe that she’d not choose to die without saying a single goodbye to her closest friend.

For sure, the ones left behind would never know what the dead wanted to say to them. Ordinarily, that would be true. Ordinarily.

However, Jin-Woo possessed a way to hear the voice of the dead.

‘I needed the actual remains in the past, but now….’

Jin-Woo issued his command, and the blackened, coagulated blood reverted back to a crimson liquid and began trickling again. The blood splatter that remained as nothing more than grisly reminders gathered together to form a deep pit of boiling blood.

As if it was alive, the mass of blood continued to seethe and tumble as it grew larger and larger.

The Shadow Sovereign, the King of the Dead, then issued the absolute order that couldn’t be refused at the remains of the deceased.

“Rise up.”

< Chapter 262 > Fin.

READ SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 261 ( Only I level up )

Solo Leveling novel (I Level Up Alone)is English is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong, with 14 volumes and 270 chapters.  SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 261 Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories Only I Level Up CHAPTER 261

Side Story 18

Since he didn’t share his memories with them, Jin-Woo had not thought of the possibility of it happening, but the truth was, there were a few other people who were still connected to the higher beings on Earth.

And, out of them all, one person was quite lucky enough to have physical contact with Jin-Woo, who was a higher being himself.

A certain early morning.

“Son? What’s the matter?”

His son emerging from the room having just woken up looked like he was about to break down and cry, so Seong Il-Hwan reached out and gently grasped the boy’s shoulders, only to be greeted by the spectacle of a different past playing right before his eyes.

It happened in the briefest of the brief moments that didn’t even last a blink, but that was more than enough to tell the tale spanning several years that felt as long as eternity itself.

– I wanted to see you. Always.

– I wouldn’t have minded talking to you for a little bit longer, but….

– I’m sorry for not being a good father to you.

Tumble.

His final moments that caused his heart to tumble to the pit of his stomach flashed past his eyes. Then, the time wound back and the memories of how the present came to be played out in a panorama being played backwards.

The one and only tool of God that could cause a phenomenon like this, the ‘Chalice of Rebirth’. Seong Il-Hwan knew of the artefact’s existence through the memories of the Rulers, and after looking at the boy’s current facial expression, he instantly realised that his son must’ve had reached some kind of a deal with the higher beings.

Indeed, Jin-Woo had decided to carry the weight, the cost, of the deal all by himself, regardless of how heavy it was. Seong Il-Hwan had to bite down on his lower lip in order to suppress his emotions and prevent them from bursting forth right then.

His efforts must’ve not been in vain, because Jin-Woo wiped away the tears threatening to break out and formed a smile.

“….I must’ve had a nightmare.”

At that moment, Seong Il-Hwan saw the powerful determination flicker for a blink of an eye on his son’s face.

But even then, no, even when Jin-Woo left behind a single note and disappeared from this world, he couldn’t even guess just what kind of ‘promise’ his son had made with the Rulers.

***

“….I’d never imagined that promise was to defeat the entirety of the Army of the Chaos World all by himself.”

Seol Il-Hwan recalled that very day and let out a helpless chuckle.

What if he got to find out about his son’s deal before the boy jumped into the gap between dimensions and disappeared? Would he have stopped Jin-Woo, or for the sake of the world, let the kid leave?

“Still, hasn’t he beautifully taken care of it?”

The envoy of the Rulers sitting on the opposite side of him smiled refreshingly.

Seong Il-Hwan had his lips firmly shut now, but he nodded his head regardless. Thanks to Jin-Woo’s sacrifice, this world was spared from the horrifying war that was supposed to tear through this planet.

But, when he thought about the terrible suffering his son must’ve gone through during those years, Seong Il-Hwan just couldn’t bring himself to smile anymore.

It had been almost one year since Jin-Woo returned from the gap between dimensions.

“My son….”

His hesitating voice was drowned out by the gently-flowing background music of the cafe they were in. The Ruler’s envoy sipped the half-remaining coffee with his straw as he unhurriedly waited for Seong Il-Hwan to continue on.

“What was my son’s decision?”

“The Shadow Sovereign has….”

The envoy discovered the traces of nervousness flit past Seong Il-Hwan’s face and formed a thin smile.

“….Chosen to stay in this world. He said that every minute and every second spent in this world is precious to him.”

Seong Il-Hwan inwardly spat out a lengthy sigh of relief.

The envoy emptied out his cup and silently placed it back on the table. He had to remain in this world until Jin-Woo made up his mind, but that role came to an end yesterday.

Which meant that it was time to leave. Seong Il-Hwan would be the very last guest he’d entertain before leaving this world for good.

Maybe that was the reason? Although he wasn’t really the talkative type, he wanted to converse for just a bit longer today.

“Are you planning to continue deceiving Shadow Sovereign-nim…. no, your son?”

“That’s what he wants, no one remembering the past. So, yes.”

If what Jin-Woo wanted was the normal, regular family life, then as his father, Seong Il-Hwan was fully committed to continuing the charade until the end of time itself.

“I see. Like father, like son.”

The envoy smirked and nodded his head before raising his gaze a little higher.

“Once I leave, the Rulers will no longer interfere with this world.”

“I know.”

“Which means, this really is the end. With this world….”

The envoy scanned the interior of the cafe and spoke with an emotional voice.

“It has been fun. Truly. To be honest, right up until the Shadow Sovereign-nim made his triumphant return, I had been waiting with bated breath on what destiny had in store for us.”

The envoy held back slightly and didn’t mention that even the Rulers didn’t expect to see Jin-Woo succeed in his quest. Well, there was no reason to pour a bucket of cold water on this emotional farewell, was there?

Just before he bade his farewell and stood up to leave, the envoy addressed his guest once more.

“The Rulers express their unreserved gratitude towards not just Shadow Sovereign, but to you as well, Seong Il-Hwan-nim.”

It was unknown whether a result like this would’ve been achieved without his help. He fought for the sake of the Rulers, and he even suggested that the higher beings cooperate with the Shadow Sovereign, too. Indeed, his role had been great.

The Rulers had decided as thus, and they prepared a small gift for him in return.

“By any chance, is there something we can help you with?”

When considering that the Rulers possessed incredible powers as well as various ‘tools of God’, this was akin to them saying, “We will grant any wish you have.”

However, Seong Il-Hwan shook his head almost immediately.

“I have none…..”

But, that made sense. The envoy could understand where he was coming from. There was an existence on the level of a god living as family right next to him, so what was the point of voicing his wishes here?

“Well, then.”

The envoy bowed his head slightly and got ready to stand up, but then, Seong Il-Hwan belatedly said something else.

“Hang on.”

The envoy stopped and settled back down on the chair again.

“Is there something else….?”

Seong Il-Hwan pondered for a bit and spoke up with some difficulty.

“My memories…. Is it possible for you to erase my memories of the previous timeline?”

“Yes, it’s possible, but why would you choose to do so….?”

“Well, it’s unimaginably hard to keep pretending in front of a son with an amazing perception, you see.”

Seong Il-Hwan smirked once he was done. Again, like father, like son – his grinning face was almost a dead-ringer for Jin-Woo’s.

“And, also….”

Seong Il-Hwan lowered his gaze and fell into thought for a bit again, before continuing on with his words slowly.

“I also wish to become a regular dad who worries about his son’s welfare.”

He wanted to return to being just a simple father who felt anxious about his son possibly coming back home injured in some way, and a father who sighed in disappointment at his son’s exam results – a man who worried about his ‘regular’ son, in other words.

“To me, Jin-Woo isn’t the Shadow Sovereign, but a precious son, you see.”

That was Seong Il-Hwan’s small wish.

“I understand.”

If that was his reasoning, then it’d be no problem. The envoy smiled gently and granted Seong Il-Hwan’s wish.

“Once you exit from this cafe, all memories of the previous timeline will completely be erased from your mind.”

As the envoy began performing the magic spell on Seong Il-Hwan, he whispered a goodbye so small that no one could hear it properly.

“You won’t remember this, but still… I pray that you get to live a fulfilling life.”

*

Time continued to tick by.

On a certain cold winter morning.

The alarm set for six in the morning went off without a hitch and Seong Il-Hwan shot up from his ‘sleep’. His wife woke up at the same time, too, and stared straight at him.

“What about Jin-Woo?”

“Yes, what happened to him?”

The couple quickly checked the time and breathed a collective sigh of relief after realising that it was still only six in the morning.

“Dear, what should we do? Should we go and wake Jin-Woo up?”

“No, there’s still some time left until the beginning of the CSAT, so I think it should be fine to let him rest for a little while longer.”

“You’re right. I can always drive him to the exam location with my car, anyway.”

“At seven…. Let’s wake him up around seven, Dear.”

Seong Il-Hwan nodded his head at his wife’s suggestion.

The couple anxiously waited for the needles of the clock to hit seven and when the fated time came, they rushed out of their bedroom to slam the door to Jin-Woo’s room wide open.

“S-son, you know that today is the CSAT day, right?”

“Son, as your father, I can take you there, you know?”

Their son seemed to have woken up not too long ago. He replied with a chuckle.

“I’ll get ready to leave now.”

After confirming that Jin-Woo left his room, Seong Il-Hwan hurriedly threw on his clothes and reached out to grab the car keys, only for his gaze to be stolen by the key ring – a gift from his son.

When he looked at this seemingly-handmade keyring shaped like a white-coloured castle with a black flag on top, a wide grin formed on his lips.

The weather was beautifully clear and crisp; it was a refreshing morning as the early rays of the sun gently seeped into the world.

***

The evening of the 24th of December.

Jin-Woo was walking on a street filled with the festive atmosphere of Christmas. He could easily spot the smiling faces of movie stars or top athletes proudly on display on the electronic advertising boards hung here and there.

‘The streets have changed a lot.’

Whenever Jin-Woo recalled the time when the streets used to be dominated by the faces of top-ranked Hunters, he still felt a bit awkward and disjointed.

But then, he spotted an advertising poster for a certain sports drink and broke out into a gentle chuckle. A rather familiar face was on it, that was why.

Just how many people lost their hair to stress while trying to take that one photo of her making a natural-looking expression?

‘The idol of the athletic world, is it….?’

Indeed, Cha Hae-In’s smile on the poster was good enough to be called on the level of an idol.

She drew attention with her stunning achievements on the track, and eventually, the mass media caught onto her shining star as well. In a bid to boost the popularity of the track sports, the athletics organisation pleaded with her and this was the end result.

‘She never stepped in front of a camera even when she was a rank S Hunter, but now, she must perform the role of one of the most popular sportswomen in the country….’

This future wouldn’t have come about if he hadn’t healed her ankle back then; a satisfied grin formed on Jin-Woo’s face. She might be having a bit of a hard time trying to get used to the cameras, but it’d only get better with time.

Still smiling, Jin-Woo resumed his walk towards the meeting area.

He took a look around himself without thinking too much about it and discovered many young couples and their colourful clothing filling up the streets.

‘Yup, I definitely am an examinee who recently finished his CSAT. Look how plainly dressed I am.’

Jin-Woo lightly tutted at his rather plain-looking clothes and sought out the nearest clothing store. With the time being what it was, the shops were all closed, but from the get-go, he wasn’t planning to buy something, anyway.

Jin-Woo stopped walking in front of a mannequin kitted out in the coolest outfit inside the shop window.

Sha-ah-ahk….

The pitch-black smoke enveloped Jin-Woo’s figure for a brief moment and his outfit had changed to the exact same thing as that mannequin’s. He examined his new look through the reflection on the shop’s window before asking his Shadow Soldiers.

“What do you think?”

Fangs, having developed an intense interest in all things fashion-related from some time ago, hurriedly replied first, maybe fearing that someone else might steal his limelight.

[You look amazing, my liege.]

“Alright.”

Jin-Woo’s steps became a touch cheerier than before and they helped him arrive at the place of his appointment in the proverbial blink of an eye.

Surrounding a massive Christmas tree installed in the middle of a plaza were many people searching and waiting for their companions to arrive.

Even though many of them were nervously glancing at their watches, the looks of happiness still could be gleaned from their expressions regardless, perhaps because today was Christmas Eve.

Unlike them, though, Jin-Woo was staring into the heavens above since he had more than enough leeway compared to them.

There were all sorts of ambient noises made by people walking on the streets, but Jin-Woo still could accurately distinguish the footsteps that mattered to him.

‘…..3, 2, 1.’

Just as that ‘kid’ arrived near his back, he turned around to greet her.

“Hey. You came.”

Hae-In was planning to take Jin-Woo by surprise, but could only sneakily lower her arms, looking a bit disappointed.

“Oppa, it’s like you’ve got eyes behind your back, you know?”

She seemed just a bit despondent, which was rather adorable as well, so he broke out into a soft grin. Hae-In pulled up the hood on her top to avoid the attention of the passersby, like how Jin-Woo used to do.

“Should we take a walk for a while?”

Jin-Woo’s suggestion was met by Hae-In’s brightly smiling face. She even nodded her head to emphasize her agreement, too.

As the two of them walked, they chose the less populated path whenever they came across a crossroad. Meanwhile, Hae-In’s eyes were growing really large after listening to Jin-Woo’s CSAT result.

“You got such a great score, yet you wanna go to that university? But, why?”

“Well, the fees are completely paid for by the scholarship, plus they are adding on the opportunity for me to study abroad, as well. Besides, there is this person I just have to meet in that place, you see.”

It was at that point that her ears perked up.

“Wait, that person isn’t a woman, is it?”

Her eyes narrowed to a slit, but Jin-Woo found her expression really adorable so he decided to string her along for a bit.

“Mmm, who knows.”

Her cheeks immediately puffed up.

To Jin-Woo, seeing her express her emotions so freely like this – something she didn’t do back when both of them were adults – proved to be a different but still wonderfully joyous occasion to behold.

Around then….

Tap.

Something fell gently from the sky and landed on the tip of his nose, followed soon after by wet coldness melting on his skin.

It was a snowflake.

He raised his head up to look and white specks began falling gently from the blackened sky. A White Christmas was coming, it seemed.

He silently stared at the falling snow only to recall the sight of settling grey ash after he defeated the Dragon Emperor. Ash as white as snow – no, snowflakes as light as ash silently descended on the land.

“Oppa? What are you thinking about?”

Jin-Woo smiled softly and tried to gloss over it.

“Nothing much.”

Well, it wasn’t as if he could tell her that, while he was looking at the snow falling from the evening sky a day before Christmas, he was busy recalling probably the most dangerous enemy he had to fight in his entire life, now could he?

Hae-In formed a broad grin after listening to Jin-Woo’s reply, then she brought up something out of the blue.

“Oppa, do you remember our promise?”

“What promise?”

“The one about you promising to answer everything when I win in a race.”

“Yeah, I do.”

Hae-In promptly pointed towards one of the trees lining up along the street.

“Well, why don’t we make a bet, then? Let’s see who will arrive there first.”

Jin-Woo couldn’t help but chuckle after hearing her sudden challenge and asked her a question.

“What is it that you’d like to ask me?”

“Everything.”

“Everything??”

“What you’re thinking about sometimes, whether it’s a girl or a guy you want to meet in that university, and also….”

“Also?”

“….Also, about the time we met before that athletic preliminaries took place.”

“….Alright.”

Jin-Woo readily agreed to it and took his hands out from his pockets. The end result wouldn’t be affected just because he kept his hands there, but still, he wanted to show her that he was taking this challenge quite seriously.

But then….

Hae-In had been staying a step away from his position until then, but suddenly walked in very close to wrap her scarf around his neck before asking him for a small favour in a whisper.

“Oppa, if you like me, don’t move from this spot.”

“Wha?”

While he was getting flustered by this development, Hae-In began walking slowly towards the tree in question while looking straight at him. As for Jin-Woo himself, he couldn’t hold back his laughter after realising that his defeat had been set in stone from the get-go.

“Hah….”

In the end, Hae-In succeeded in touching the tree first, and she lightly jumped in the air to announce her victory.

Meanwhile, his Shadow Soldiers watching the two lovers’ competition with a great deal of anticipation and excitement began jumping up and down themselves in happiness as well.

[Heee-ya~, our liege has lost!]

[Wow, there are times when our liege will lose a challenge with so much at stake, too!]

[My liege, you did it wrong!]

[Kkiiieehhk-!! Oh, my kinggg! It’s not too late, so please get going now!!]

Jin-Woo was left stupefied and chuckled again while scratching the side of his head. He took a glance around the street and approached the tree as well.

Thankfully, he couldn’t spot a single soul on this particular stretch of road, all due to the fact that they sought out only those paths with little foot traffic.

“Well, I won, right?”

Hae-In was waiting for his reply with an excited expression clearly etched on her face. Jin-Woo stopped before her smile and issued a dignified order to his Shadow Soldiers.

‘Shadows? Every one of you, close your eyes.’

While the soldiers were rightly feeling frustrated….

….Jin-Woo slowly brought his lips closer and gently locked them with Hae-In’s.

The white snowflakes continued to fall silently from the sky.

< Chapter 261 > Fin.