The first thing Jin-Woo did after he got home was to bring up his Status Window.
What he wanted to check out was the newly updated info on his Skills. His gaze scrolled past his current level, his Class and Title, and eventually arrived at the Skill Window.
– (Unknown) Lv. MAX
– Tenacity Lv. 1
– Master of Shortsword Lv. MAX
– Quicksilver Lv. MAX
– Intimidation Lv. 2
– Violent Slash Lv. MAX
– Dagger Rush Lv. MAX
– Stealth Lv. 2
– Ruler’s Reach Lv. MAX
Almost all of his bountiful skills displayed in the Skill Window had reached their level limit and evolved into their ultimate forms, or were about to evolve into one.
The level cap for a skill was 3. And when a skill reached the level cap, the number would change to ‘MAX’ and stopped rising any further than that. However, if he continued to increase his proficiency with the skills, they would eventually evolve into their ultimate versions. The gap between the skill’s effectiveness before and after its evolution was noticeably huge.
The skill ‘Dash’ had evolved into ‘Quicksilver’.
The skill ‘Vital Points Targetting’ had evolved into ‘Violent Slash’.
And ‘Dagger Throw’ had morphed into ‘Dagger Rush’.
Even the passive skill that aided with handling daggers and shortswords, ‘High-Grade Dagger Technique’, had evolved into ‘Master of Shortsword’.
The result of that last evolution was something like this. Jin-Woo summoned ‘Demon King’s Shortsword’ out and began manipulating it this way and that on his hand.
He spun the weapon seamlessly around his index finger before letting it glide up to the palm of his hand. It then smoothly slithered around to the back of his hand.
The near-acrobatic silky movements continued on for a little while, before he lightly tossed the weapon over his head and snatched it back in his grip. Jin-Woo slowly smacked his lips afterwards.
‘What a pity that there is no one here to appreciate this.’
The shortsword felt like an extension of his own limb, and that was all due to the passive skill, ‘Master of Shortsword’.
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to the Skill Window while repeatedly tossing the shortsword up and down.
‘So, ‘Intimidation’ and ‘Stealth’ are the only two with realistic chances of getting stronger, huh.’
Regretfully, there didn’t seem to be much room for the ‘Tenacity’ skill to improve beyond level 1, where it had been stuck ever since he got the skill. But, that was inevitable, really.
[Skill: Tenacity Lv.1]
Mana required to activate: None.
You possess untiring tenacity. When your stamina drops below 30%, this skill will automatically activate and reduce all damage received by 50%.
….Because, ‘Tenacity’ was a skill that only activated when his stamina dropped below 30%. Obviously, he wouldn’t endanger his own life just to level up one of his skills, now would he?
Also, Jin-Woo had experienced a fair number of close shaves after that passive skill became part of his arsenal. Even then, it hadn’t changed from being level 1, so that could only mean he’d need to go through an extraordinary situation just for a chance to upgrade this skill.
Besides, Jin-Woo becoming far too strong also played a factor here. Just how many enemies out there could realistically drive him to a desperate corner now?
All things considered, he had no choice but to forget about upgrading ‘Tenacity’ altogether.
He then decided to increase his proficiency with both ‘Stealth’ and ‘Intimidation’, the latter of which he hadn’t had a lot of chances to utilise until now and was stuck at level 2 as a result.
Unlike ‘Intimidation’, which was rather difficult to activate willy-nilly anywhere as he pleased, he could activate ‘Stealth’ even when he was going through his daily routines.
But, right now, Jin-Woo’s gaze was fixed to a spot up above those skills.
‘Just what could this guy be?’
He was looking at the skill simply labelled as ‘Unknown’ found within the passive skill list.
This skill had been with him ever since he became the ‘Player’. But up until now, not even its basic information had been revealed to him.
‘I thought it’d eventually disclose its secrets after a while, but….’
Did this skill also require him to meet some kind of a condition to be unlocked as well? Because it was labelled ‘MAX’ from the very beginning, he was really looking forward to finding out just what kind of skill it was, but this….
A lot of time had passed since those days, but his curiosity only managed to grow larger and larger in the meantime.
Jin-Woo continued to stare at the ‘Unknown’ skill until he almost bore a hole right through it, but in the end, he shook his head in defeat. Besides, what he really wanted to confirm couldn’t be found within the regular Skill Window, anyway.
No, they were right below it.
Indeed, he wanted to check his Class-specific skills that had all gone up a level earlier in the day.
– Shadow Extraction Lv. 2
– Shadow Storage Lv. 2
– Sovereign’s Territory Lv. 2
– Shadow Exchange Lv. 2
‘So, what changed, and by how much?’
Jin-Woo took a closer look at the information on the skills, excluding ‘Shadow Exchange’, which he had already taken a gander before.
[Skill: Shadow Extraction]
Required Mana to activate: None
Creates a shadow soldier by extracting Mana from the recently deceased lifeform.
The odds of extraction failure will rise higher depending on the target’s original Stat values, as well as the length of time since its death.
Number of shadows that can be extracted: 590/1,300
Level 2 effect ‘Boost’: Increases the odds of enhancing the Stats of the extracted shadow.
Perhaps as a reward for such a tough levelling up process, the number of shadows he could extract had shot up to a shocking degree.
‘The maximum number of shadows is now 1,300?!’
As long as his surroundings were filled with targets for Shadow Extraction, he’d be able to increase the number of his allies by well over double the current size. Not only that, there was the special added effect to consider as well, which raised the odds of the extracted shadows starting off at higher levels.
‘So, that’s what it was….’
The reason for the boss-level Naga ‘Jima’ to start from level 13 was most likely due to this ‘Boost’ effect. It wasn’t a coincidence at all.
‘What would’ve happened if I possessed this Boost effect before I made Beru into a Shadow Soldier?’
Without a doubt, he might have gotten his hands on an even more terrifying monster.
‘Heh, and the wise old ‘they’ say that a man’s greed knows no bounds, didn’t they?’
Jin-Woo smirked softly to himself and confirmed the details of his other Class-specific skills one by one. The other two skills had also received a lot of enhancements, and a new, never-before-seen effect was added to each of them, as well.
A wide grin settled on Jin-Woo’s lips as he read the explanations of his upgraded skills, ‘Shadow Storage’ and ‘Sovereign’s Territory’.
‘This is great.’
He closed the Skill Windows with a satisfied grin on his face.
There was no doubt that his growth had slowed down recently. Even then, he still managed to keep moving forward, and when he thought about the fact that there was still more room for him to grow, his heart began pounding even harder.
He wanted to climb even higher and higher.
‘I don’t know where the summit is, but….’
Every time he managed to reach and exceed his goals, his heart was filled with this indescribable happiness, a powerful bliss.
Jin-Woo returned the shortsword back to Inventory and placed his hand quietly on his chest.
His heart issued pleasant noises as it continued to beat steadily.
It was then, he abruptly remembered something else that happened earlier in the day.
‘…..She said it was a scary power, didn’t she?’
He recalled the tale he heard from Cha Hae-In a few hours ago.
Min Byung-Gu left a warning for him. He said that Jin-Woo was in possession of a scary power, and he needed to be circumspect about it.
‘Was he talking about the System?’
Jin-Woo also was scared of the things happening to him initially as well. He felt fearful towards the System capable of creating all these unexplainable phenomena around him.
However, his fears didn’t last for long.
He adapted to the ways of the System in no time at all. And the System quickly became the single greatest tool he possessed.
Sure, there were still far too many mysteries left unanswered, but that was about it, really.
Jin-Woo’s gaze drifted towards the empty air in front of him.
“Just what are you?”
Of course, he didn’t get an answer in return.
“I mean, isn’t it okay to tell me what’s going on already?”
He quietly stared into the empty air as if he was expecting an answer to arrive, but rather obviously, nothing came.
Jin-Woo opened his storage to extract the black key.
[Item: Key to the Karutenon temple]
….has been reached.
Remaining time: 249:25:07
Here it was, the invitation sent out by the System.
A week’s worth of time had flown by already, and only around 250 hours remained.
‘What kind of answers will I find in that place?’
Half of him was filled with expectations. And the other half, deep curiosity. His heart rate that quietened down for a bit began beating faster again. Jin-Woo lifted his hand off his chest.
His thoughts of doing everything he could during the remaining time hadn’t changed at all. He picked his phone up and quickly made a call.
– “What can I do for you, hyung-nim?”
Yu Jin-Ho replied in a cheerful voice over the phone. Jin-Woo wasted no time and got straight into the main topic.
– “Yes, hyung-nim?”
“You think we’ll be able to book every single high-ranking Gate opening up in our area from tomorrow onwards?”
– “Just like back when we were booking all those rank C Gates, hyung-nim?”
“Yeah, like that.”
Yu Jin-Ho thought for a little while, before replying back with a bright-sounding voice.
– “Got it, hyung-nim!”
A huge crowd had gathered in the Japanese airport where the Russian rank S Hunter, Yuri Orlov, made his landing, and there was hardly any space left to even set a foot inside.
The corners of Yuri Orlov’s lips arched up as he took in the sight of the massive throng of Japanese people coming to see him.
On the other hand, the high-ranking members of the Japanese Hunter’s Association bringing the Russian home walked around with their heads lowered as if they were criminals going on a trial.
‘The country lacking enough talented Hunters to stop a calamity by themselves, so they must borrow the strength of Hunters from another nation.’
Those words were what Japan used to ridicule South Korea only a few weeks ago. Yet, the exact same situation was playing itself out within the Japanese border now.
The Association President Matsumoto Shigeo, as well as the Association’s representatives, recalled their own past indiscretion and couldn’t even dare to lift their heads up again.
‘If only we didn’t lose our Hunters on Jeju Island….’
Matsumoto Shigeo bit his lower lip.
“It’s Yuri Orlov!!”
“It’s him, Yuri!”
The reporters from all corners of the world discovered Yuri Orlov’s triumphant figure and began madly snapping away with their cameras.
Click, click, click, click, click, click-!!
The Russian Hunter stood before them and formed a wide grin as if to proudly advertise his gold teeth.
His entry procedure was taken care of in a flash. The first request Yuri Orlov received from the Japanese government was to assuage the fears of the country’s citizens. And he agreed to do the request easily enough.
His nickname was the ‘Saviour’. This moniker came about because he had blocked up countless Gates on the brink of entering the dungeon break stage up until now.
As for Yuri Orlov himself, he definitely didn’t shy away from this nickname which held the potential to earn him all the wealth and fame in the world.
“Are you ready, Mister Yuri Orlov?”
That evening, he was moved to a certain TV station for a live interview. It was quite obvious that the attention of the entire nation of Japan was focused on this broadcast.
Once the proceedings got underway, the interviewer asked the Russian.
“How will you block the Gate, Mister Yuri?”
“In the same way that I’ve been doing until now, obviously.”
Yuri Orlov’s expression was overflowing with relaxed, assured confidence. He raised both of his hands in the air and drew a large circle.
“I’ll be creating a huge magic circle. Like so, around the Gate itself.”
The screen changed for a brief moment to show the Gate in Shinjuku. And then, the 3D diagram of the magic circle was superimposed with the image of that massive Gate.
“And then, everything will be finished after I pour my magic energy into it. Whatever is inside that Gate, they won’t be able to come out ever again.”
Unfortunately, such a simple explanation wasn’t enough to calm the fears of the Japanese people. The interviewer tilted his head, looking unconvinced.
“Pardon me, but… is that even possible?”
Yuri Orlov’s brows twitched slightly.
The interviewer cautiously studied the Russian’s mood as he asked again.
“Well, the claim of one rank S Hunter being able to block up an entire rank S Gate is…. Shall I say that, it’s a bit hard to believe?”
Suddenly, Yuri Orlov began smirking derisively.
The Russian Hunter was famed for his short fuse. So, the interviewer felt quite relieved inside when Yuri Orlov chuckled instead of flying directly into an enraged state. But at the same time, the Japanese interviewer became even more unnerved then before, wondering if he had inadvertently touched that man’s reverse scale.
Fortunately enough, Yuri Orlov kept his smile.
“If I were to continue spending my magic energy to maintain that barrier, then sure, even I wouldn’t be able to pull that off.”
He wouldn’t be able to do it?
The interviewer swallowed his dry saliva.
With the Japanese rank S Hunters having effectively announced their intentions to give up on the raid, if Yuri Orlov himself also decided to forget about the Gate, then there were no other solutions left for the Japanese people.
The Russian took his time and enjoyed the sight of the stiff face of the interviewer before continuing on with his words.
“However, the thing with my ability is…. The barrier magic circle I use absorbs magic energy from its surroundings to maintain itself.”
In an instant, the interviewer’s expression changed.
“If that’s the case, then what did you mean when you said your own magic energy was needed….?”
“It’s the same principal as switching on the ignition of a car. Once my barrier gets going, it will start absorbing the magic energy and become an even sturdier and bigger fortress wall.”
A certain ray of light descended on the faces of the interviewer as well as the filming crew after they heard that explanation.
Yuri Orlov’s leisurely voice was filled to the brim with undeniable self-confidence. And as if that confidence had begun spreading around like an infection, the Japanese TV crew felt their fears slowly melt away.
According to his explanation, wouldn’t his barrier grow tougher and stronger when there was a great amount of magic energy present in the surroundings?
There was no need to even mention the simple fact that the magic energy being emitted by a rank S Gate was absolutely enormous. So, what would happen when such a barrier was to wrap around a Gate of that magnitude?
It’d get all tied up by its own power, that’s what. Where would anyone find a situation that better fit the idea of one falling into the trap it made itself?
At this rate, the hardness of that barrier would become the greatest in the recorded history of mankind.
Yuri Orlov pointed to the camera. He was probably pointing at the unspecified number of viewers at home with his finger. Thick veins bulged in his neck as he shouted out.
“I will save all of you! So, all you have to do is to remember who is saving you!”
The giant TV was switched off.
The President of Korean Hunter’s Association, Goh Gun-Hui, put the TV remote down, but his expression wasn’t very good at all. Woo Jin-Cheol standing next to him asked.
“What do you think, sir?”
“I can’t be sure.”
Goh Gun-Hui leaned against the couch, his expression now full of worry. He was different from his Japanese counterpart; he definitely wasn’t some low-rent villain who’d deride the misfortune of his neighbouring nation.
Although, that didn’t mean he was willing to help them out while taking on the harsh cost his own nation might have to bear. He deliberated for a short while, before opening his mouth again.
“I don’t know whether Yuri Orlov will be successful in blocking up that rank S Gate or not, but….”
The eyes of the Association President Goh Gun-Hui became a lot sharper.
“….But, I am well aware of what will happen if he fails in his task.”
“…..It’s such a relief, sir.”
Goh Gun-Hui looked up at Woo Jin-Cheol with a surprised face. Only then did the latter realise that his boss had misunderstood his words. Woo Jin-Cheol hurriedly waved around his hands.
“I wasn’t referring to the situation in Japan, sir. But….”
Woo Jin-Cheol stopped for a second or two before finishing up his explanation.
“Unlike how it is with the Japanese, I’m relieved by the fact that we have a Hunter we can wholly place our trust in. That’s what I meant, sir.”
Goh Gun-Hui nodded his head greatly. There was no need for him to specifically ask who that Hunter was, either. That Hunter’s presence alone imparted such a sense of security in him.
“Oh, by the way. How goes it with Seong Jin-Woo Hunter-nim nowadays?”
Woo Jin-Cheol wordlessly pushed forward a piece of printed document to his boss.
On it, one could find the listed locations of all the high-ranking Gates that had appeared recently around the city of Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi province.
“Why are you giving me this, all of a sudden….?”
“Sir, can you see how many of the locations have been circled in red?”
“Looks like it’s about half of all the dungeons.”
Woo Jin-Cheol quickly wiped the cold sweat streaking down his forehead and replied.
“Ah-Jin Guild wants the raid permits of all of the highlighted Gates, sir.”
Goh Gun-Hui’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
“These…. All of them?!”
“Yes, sir. That’s correct.”