Jin-Woo quickly arrived near where Tank’s group was.
In the not too far distance, he spotted the Shadow Beast Soldier squad half made up of black bears with black steam rising up from their bodies, and High Orcs covered in armour from head to toe.
Right in front of the pack, Tank was walking slowly but steadily forward.
‘I’m pretty sure the next target will be this group.’
Tank was originally the pack leader of the Ice Bears. When it was still alive, he was strong enough to easily overwhelm the Shadow Soldiers. Even as a shadow, not many soldiers could defeat him in terms of sheer physical strength.
Unfortunately, the comparison didn’t favour him this time.
First of all, the captains of the other groups, Iron, Igrit, and Fangs were different ‘grades’ to begin with. Even though Tank’s level was high, at the end of the day, he was still an elite soldier grade.
But, both Igrit and Iron were knight grades, while Fangs enjoyed the prefix of ‘elite’ tacked onto his knight grade, too. Meaning, there was no comparison here.
Since the enemy seemed to possess enough intelligence to detect weaker opponents, as well as to identify the movements of the soldiers, their next target had to be here.
‘Let’s observe for a little while.’
Jin-Woo hid his presence to the best of his abilities and, while maintaining a fixed distance, he followed after his Shadow Beast Soldiers. His own soldiers didn’t even realise that he was following them.
And so, just how much time passed them by?
Even after a long period of waiting, no enemies showed themselves, and Jin-Woo began tilting his head.
‘Was I wrong about this whole thing?’
He began suspecting that, rather than powerful enemies, there just so happened to be a big concentration of enemies in the location of his soldiers getting annihilated – but, then….
Jin-Woo’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
‘…..Here they come.’
Maybe the enemies were also concealing their presence until the soldiers got closer to them, Jin-Woo had discovered them a bit later than usual. He closed his eyes and focused his Perception.
His shockingly enhanced Perception began sweeping over all the presences found within the vicinity like a radar.
‘Four presences approaching. My soldiers, 20. Demons hiding underground, five.’
Jin-Woo opened his eyes. He decided to get rid of the five demons playing possum underground a bit later, and then….
Jin-Woo activated the Stealth skill to become invisible and approached his soldiers. And soon enough, he got to confirm the enemies’ appearance with his own eyes.
‘….They are riding on horseback??’
‘Not only that, they are armed, too?’
Not just the riders, but even the horses they were riding on were armoured.
When the enemies came close enough, their names became visible.
He was thinking that these guys were way too different from the regular demons that walked around ‘naked’, whether they be low or high demons, and now he could even see that their names were different from the rest, as well.
‘….A Demon Aristocrat, and three Demon Knights?’
The names he saw for the first time were written in black and very clear to see. He sensed strong hostility from all four of them.
‘It must be those four that attacked my boys.’
They all possessed powerful auras and strong hostility. Jin-Woo decided to maintain ‘Stealth’ and observe the situation for a little while longer.
‘Let’s see what happens next.’
Since these monsters were new, he wanted to check out their skills and battle styles with his own eyes first.
‘Monsters capable of massacring Shadow Soldiers, is it….’
He was also feeling a bit expectant, too.
Jin-Woo stopped at a suitable position where he wouldn’t get in the way of the battle between the Shadow Beast Soldiers and the new types of demons that was about to get underway.
Tank finally discovered the demons.
Once the demons got close enough, they dismounted from the horses.
‘Huh. So, those rides were simply a means of transportation.’
Jin-Woo continued to stare at the demons with a great deal of interest.
Soon afterwards, the Beast Soldiers became excited by the entrance of enemies, roared out, and attacked first, signalling the beginning of the bitter, violent battle between these two groups.
Tank took to the front.
He shot forward with every ounce of power provided with his four limbs, and when he arrived in front of the enemies, he reared up on his hind legs.
A regular person would’ve fainted from the enormous pressure alone. However, the four demons remained steadfast. Even when Tank swung his massive front leg like a baseball bat, they didn’t even blink.
Tank’s front paw scythed the air. It was an agile attack that belied his massive frame.
Tank’s target, the Demon Aristocrat, easily jumped over the swung front paw with a light but quick movement.
Jin-Woo’s brows shot up.
That wasn’t the end of the surprising spectacle, either. The Demon Aristocrat then spun in the air and thrust forward the spear held in its hand at Tank’s chest.
The fierce attack containing magic energy put a watermelon-sized hole in Tank’s torso.
From that small-ish frame, an explosive aura could be felt rather clearly. And on top of that, it also possessed beautifully simple and clean movements, too. Jin-Woo grew even more interested by then.
‘Yup, not a regular monster, alright.’
It wasn’t just the Demon Aristocrat either, but the three Demon Knights were also eye-wideningly strong, as well.
The battle was one-sided. In short, the Beast Soldiers were no match for the demons.
Quite unlike the Superior Demons, which were only big in size but rather easy to hunt, these so-called Demon ‘Aristocrats’ or whatever and their humanoid appearances simply toyed around with the Beast Soldiers.
‘This was why the rate of regeneration couldn’t keep up.’
Jin-Woo’s expression gradually hardened.
Even before the Beast Soldiers could regenerate, they were cut and sliced apart and stabbed through by spears and swords.
By then, Jin-Woo was carrying a crumpled expression. He knew very well that, as long as his MP supply held up, his Beast Soldiers were practically immortals. Even if his MP did run out, they would simply return to him as shadows.
However, he sure as hell didn’t feel pleased watching his own boys getting pummelled like that. Was this how an older brother would feel when his younger sibling came home all beaten up black and blue?
‘That is enough.’
Jin-Woo couldn’t stand it anymore and recalled his Beast Soldiers. They reverted back to their shadow forms and quickly moved below his feet, and absorbed back into his own shadow.
As soon as the Beast Soldiers disappeared after seemingly failing to endure the attacks, the demons gazed at each other and nodded their heads.
It was as if they were celebrating their third victory on the trot.
However, it happened then.
Jin-Woo undid his Stealth in the midst of the demons.
The demons were greatly taken by surprise, but as expected of ‘pros’, they immediately sensed Jin-Woo’s hostility and attacked him right away.
Jin-Woo punched down bare-fisted on the two knights beside him, and then, grabbed the last one rushing at him and slammed the sucker down hard on the ground.
The spiderweb-like cracks formed on the ground and a message popped up in his view.
[You killed a Demon Knight.]
[You have earned 3,000 experience points.]
The exact same messages repeated three times.
Each of his attacks killed one of his enemies. In less than one second, he cut short the lives of three monsters.
‘These guys were side distractions, anyway. The real deal is that guy.’
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to the Demon Aristocrat. After their eyes met, the Aristocrat flinched rather grandly and pointed at him with its spear.
‘I always wondered whether monsters could feel fear or not….’
But now, he was pretty certain of it.
Different from back when the Demon Aristocrat was pointing the spear at the Beast Soldier group, the tip of the weapon was trembling ever so slightly. Well, being able to sense the opponent’s strength was also a part of one’s skills, after all.
‘I ain’t going to go easy on you because of that, though.’
Jin-Woo dashed forward. At the same time, the Demon Aristocrat thrust the spear forward.
Jin-Woo evaded the attack by tilting his head out of the way.
Surprisingly, though – the spear changed directions multiple times and continued to harass him slightly.
First, it was his face, Next, his neck. And right after that, his heart. As if this wasn’t something learned overnight, the demon’s movement was smooth like flowing water.
However, the spear was constantly blocked by Jin-Woo’s weapon, ‘Baruka’s Dagger’.
And when the final attack aiming for his heart was parried off, ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ sliced the spear’s shaft in two.
The Demon Aristocrat froze up after seeing its broken spear.
With that, this battle was over.
‘Well, not even three, or four, rank A Hunters would be able to win against you, but….’
Jin-Woo rated the demon’s abilities pretty highly. Too bad, today’s match-up was all wrong for the monster.
Jin-Woo reached out and grabbed the enemy’s helmet with his left hand.
The shocked enemy immediately went into panic mode. It tried to pull its head back, but couldn’t do anything from Jin-Woo’s powerful grip. He was thinking of yanking the helmet loose and cut the head off, so he strengthened his left hand some more.
As expected, the helmet came off rather easily. And, Jin-Woo raised the ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ high up.
“I surrender!! I will surrender!!”
Jin-Woo frowned and stopped moving.
The face underneath the helmet definitely belonged to a female.
Actually, Jin-Woo didn’t really care whether a monster was a male or female. But the thing was, the monster quickly lifted its hands high up in the air and declared its intentions to surrender, making him realise that he could initiate conversation with it. And right after that, ‘she’ even fell to the ground in a kowtow, too.
So, naturally, he felt a bit put off by the idea of stabbing ‘her’ with his dagger for the time being.
“P-p-please accept my apologies! We were in the wrong! P-p-please spare my life!”
Not only had she changed her stance in the blink of an eye, but she was also now even begging for her life?
A monster was doing what now???
With a disbelieving expression etched on his face, Jin-Woo stared at the petite back of the ‘monster’ still prostrating before his feet.
Since intelligent monsters could be found in regular dungeons, it wasn’t so strange for intelligent monsters to appear in these instant dungeons, as well.
Even then, this creature… was a strange one.
Left feeling a bit speechless, Jin-Woo pondered what he should say here for a while, and eventually, he opened his mouth with some difficulty.
“You attacked my soldiers, yet you want my forgiveness?”
“W-we have committed a grave sin.”
The Demon Aristocrat planted her forehead on the ground and continued on.
“However, as our clan is tasked with protecting this place, we couldn’t simply let some basta…. Heok! I, I mean, we couldn’t let any great beings go on a demon hunting spree without doing anything. I’d be eternally grateful if you forgive us.”
From the demons’ perspective, it was reasonable for them to think of this whole thing as a bit unfair. After all, it was he who just barged in here totally unannounced to hunt and massacre demons one-sidedly, right?
So, Jin-Woo changed his question slightly.
“Is it alright for you to beg for your life from someone who killed your own soldiers?”
“The main role of the knights are to protect their lord. As long as I’m safe, they should be happy with the results.”
Jin-Woo scratched his temple for a little. He was even more speechless now.
‘I can’t tell whether she’s thick-skinned, or just way too optimistic.’
The Demon Aristocrat slightly raised her head and tried to read Jin-Woo’s reactions.
She couldn’t help but feel that the situation was getting gradually worse for her. She kowtowed even harder than before and spoke in an urgent voice.
“If you spare my measly life, I shall give you anything you want.”
Jin-Woo placed his hands on his waist.
This Demon Aristocrat was a powerful monster, yes, but what with her armament now stripped from her, killing her was now easier than drinking cold soup for Jin-Woo.
‘So, what should I do with this one, then?’
Jin-Woo was in a dilemma.
And that wasn’t to do with letting her go or not – no, he was simply trying to think of something more valuable than the experience points and possible loot he could get his hands on after killing her.
There indeed was one such item.
“I want the Entry Permit.”
The Demon Aristocrat raised her head and stared at him with a surprised expression. Her face was shaped completely like a human’s, excluding a pair of sharp incisors he saw when she opened her mouth just now, of course.
Jin-Woo disinterestedly asked her.
“Can you get it for me?”
When her gaze met Jin-Woo’s, her complexion paled even more and she planted her forehead back on the ground.
‘Oh well. I should’ve known that monsters weren’t aware of what items are.’
The negotiation was over with that.
Jin-Woo recalled ‘Baruka’s Dagger’ back from his Inventory.
He didn’t know why monsters possessed intelligence, and were able to use that intelligence to beg for her life like this, but he had not one thought of giving up on the potential experience points.
‘A Demon Knight gave three thousand points, so how much will she give me?’
Who knows, the Entry Permit might appear after killing her, too.
“I, I shall give it to you.”
“Give me what, exactly?”
“The… the Entry Permit.”
The ‘monster’ raised her head and immediately began shedding cold sweat drops after spotting the deadly-looking dagger in Jin-Woo’s hand.
“You can give me the Entry Permit? Really?”
The Demon Aristocrat hurriedly nodded her head.
“It’s in safekeeping by our clan. If you allow me to safely return, I shall hand over the permit.”
Demons were guarding the entry permit?
Jin-Woo slowly scratched his chin.
For sure, it had been a long time since he arrived on the 80th floor. And not to forget, lots of demons were hunted down so far, too. Yet, there hadn’t been a peep about the news of the entry permit.
‘I thought the drop rate had worsened because I’m in the upper floors, or that a mid-boss was carrying it around, but now….’
If she was telling the truth about monsters hiding the permit, then, well, the current situation made a bit more sense.
Seeing that Jin-Woo was silently pondering his options, the Demon Aristocrat felt even more desperate than ever before and quickly added some more ‘encouragement’.
“I also know where you can locate the Entry Permits on the upper floors as well. If you guarantee my, and my clan’s, safety, then I shall safely escort you to where they are.”
The light shining in Jin-Woo’s eyes changed a little bit. Now that offer was a bit more enticing.
To Jin-Woo’s ears, who wanted to get to the top floor as soon as possible, her suggestion of guiding him to where each floor’s Entry Permit sounded rather attractive.
‘The question is, can I really trust her?’
Jin-Woo reached down and lifted the demon’s chin. She was clearly panicking, but he didn’t lessen his strength. He then looked straight into her eyes.
[You have activated ‘Skill: Intimidation’.]
A chill-inducing aura emanated from Jin-Woo’s eyes. The Demon Aristocrat was so terrified that her lips were trembling involuntarily.
“Can I trust you?”
“I, I, I am not l-l-lying.”
He made a pledge to himself back when he received the power of the System.
‘Give and take.’
Even if his opponent was a monster, his principals wouldn’t change. If a monster kept her side of the bargain, so would he.
Jin-Woo withdrew the ‘Intimidation’.
“You hand over the Entry Permit, and I’ll quietly leave.”
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
It was a bit of a waste to give up on the potential experience points gained from this demon, as well as those monsters supposedly guarding the Entry Permit. But then again, he found it even more of a waste to spend time searching for the permit himself.
He had been delayed for much longer than expected on this 80th floor already.
Besides, if this female demon was thinking of tricking him, well, he wouldn’t be too unhappy about that, either. Because, if she did, then he’d get to go all out in the monsters’ main camp, now wouldn’t he?
“Thank you very much!!”
The complexion of the Demon Aristocrat brightened so much that he couldn’t help but notice it.
Was she just honest with her emotions, or was she just a simpleton?
Jin-Woo inwardly clicked his tongue, but still, didn’t forget to ask her something he was curious about for a while.
“Before all that, though…. Just what are you?”