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Solo leveling Light Novel : 136

Ber began .

In a sense, Jinwoo’s orders were simple: defeat Cha Haein, but don’t physically harm her . In another, they were simply contradictory: fight and win, but don't injure .

But Ber understood . He had once been the ant king, the top of his species . He knew the way to crush an opponent without lifting a finger .

‘I will destroy her fighting spirit . i will be able to show her the insurmountable gap between us, and she or he will hand over . ’

In a moment , Ber disappeared from Cha Haein’s sight . Before she could even register what had happened, she suddenly became conscious of Ber standing right ahead of her . She jumped backwards in shock .

“ . . . !”

Instinct and training took over from surprise . She swung, stupidly . A beautifully choreographed sequence flowed from her blade . A dozen slashes within the span of a second, masterfully chained .

Without taking one step from where he stood, Ber easily avoided every attack . Every movement was perfectly precise, with none waste, as if he had an eternity to attend for every of her attacks .

Except her swings were timed in milliseconds, and he moved such a lot faster it left afterimages in her wake .

She was an S-rank Hunter . He made her appear as if a toddler fighting a professional boxer .

‘Impossible!’

Panic rose inside Cha Haein’s mind . Her eyes trembled in disbelief as she saw how easily he avoided her .

‘It’s dodging all of my attacks at this distance without moving its feet?’

She thrust forward at the ant’s neck . Ber leaned back, casually, as if he were merely playing limbo . Her blade met only air, again . He searched at her condescendingly . She felt her pride collapsing . regardless of how quickly she attacked, regardless of which angle she chose to approach from, he had dodged everything she had thrown at him with ease . He wasn’t even fighting her . He was just toying together with her .

‘How . . . ?’

And to top it all off, it wasn’t even a true magic beast . it had been merely a summon which borrowed power from a corpse, and it had been overwhelmingly powerful .

‘Sung Jinwoo-ssi freely controls a summon like this…’

Fear seeped into her mind, poisoning her strength, sapping her will . Her movements dulled, ever slightly . Ber didn't overlook this opening .

She swung again, but this point , rather than simply letting the sword move past him, Ber slapped the sting away with the rear of his hand . The force sent Cha Haein stumbling backwards . With the tip of her sword tossed aside, the ant king rushed forward, opening his mouth mere inches from Cha Haein’s face . A stench of death filled her nostrils .

‘It’s over . ’

With the enormous mandibles looming ahead of her, she couldn't help but scream .

“Aieeee!”

Fortunately for Cha Haein, Jinwoo had explicitly instructed Ber to not harm her . rather than clamping those mandibles down on her head, it simply paused, and set free a terrifying roar .

SCREEEECHH!

The scream, infused with magic power, sent Cha Haein tumbling back .

“Ahhh!”

Jinwoo furrowed his brows and frowned . As he had expected, he felt growing dissatisfaction in his stomach at the thought of watching a fight which was so one- sided it had been practically bullying .

‘Oh?’

He cocked his head to the side as he saw Cha Haein get up another time , and lift her blade towards Ber another time , a glance of determination across her face .

‘What is she thinking? Did I . . . misjudge her?’

The Cha Haein he knew wasn't so egotistical that she couldn't accept an existence stronger than her own, so it had been not for pride that she stood again . Plus, on top of that, Cha Haein had never been stupid; she wouldn’t rush forward to certain death .

‘Which means . . . she’s got something up her sleeve?’

An uneasy feeling swept over Jinwoo . because the shadow soldiers were all connected to him, Jinwoo could feel what proportion effort Ber was expending simply to suppress his murderous desires at the instant . But Cha Haein looked surprisingly determined, given her apparently hopeless situation, and it worried Jinwoo . Ber wouldn't take a small like that lightly, which meant that the fight had the potential for getting seriously out of control .

‘I hope she’s making the proper call . ’

***

‘ . . . ?’

Ber didn't understand the woman’s decision . He had just repeatedly shown her how vast the gap in their abilities was, and yet, she persisted in her challenge . Why? She had to understand it had been pointless; he could kill her in a moment if he tried, and she or he couldn’t even touch him .

The ant king who once stood at the top of existence began to feel a rage boiling inside at the arrogant defiance of this pathetic female, who would’ve been no quite mere food to him in his past life . Enough . He wouldn't represent insolence any more .

Again, he progressed , appearing in a moment ahead of the feminine Hunter . This time, the lady neither stepped back nor drew her weapon . He leaned forward until he was inches from her face, and stared into her eyes .

His gaze was cold, violent, hateful . Hers was scared and shaken . When two living beings’ eyes met, they might tell, just from a look , who was the prey and who was the predator . it had been a warning, borne of primal instinct . Ber had intended to awaken this instinct within her and crush her fighting spirit .

Unfortunately, he failed . As Jinwoo suspected, Cha Haein had one last dress up her sleeve, and now was when she would use it .

‘Sword Dance . ’ [1] This was the skill that Cha Haein had the foremost confidence in . A flurry of swings, each flowing into subsequent with hypnotic rhythm . At the middle , stood Cha Haein, her blade knifing through the air in elegant arcs as she glided across the ground , sort of a ballerina twirling her wand .

*clang!* *clang!* *clang!*

Into that cacophony of steel, Ber strode, almost casually . He held one pinky up, letting his nail deflect each of Cha Haein’s attacks with a disdainful indifference .

Undeterred, Cha Haein continued her pointless assault . Ber scrunched his face in annoyance at her continued defiance .

‘Enough fooling around . ’

He effortlessly plucked the sword from the air and held it in his palm for a quick moment, before crushing the blade in his hand .

*crack!*

The top of the sword shattered, leaving only a broken blade attached to a hilt . But, to Ber’s surprise, within the moment where she should have despaired, her eyes flashed with cold fury .

She had anticipated that Ber would plan to break her sword, and, once he did, he would assume the fight was over, and relax his guard substantially . therein brief moment before he could realize what she had up her sleeve, she would have her chance to strike .

‘I only have round at this!”

Cha Haein gathered all of her magic power into what remained of the sword .

‘Sword of Light!’ [2]

This was her trump card: a skill so powerful that it could end the fight during a single instant, then mana-intensive it could only be used once anyways . She had reserved it for just this moment .

A brilliant light enveloped the broken blade . within the fraction of second before Ber could recover, Cha Haein ducked in under his guard and thrust her sword straight into his chest .

Jinwoo’s eyes widened .

‘Oh no!’

The golden sword pierced through the darkness that was Ber .

But Ber wasn't the one Jinwoo was worried about .

Even as Cha Haein tore into Ber’s body, thousand thoughts raced through his mind .

‘This woman is an enemy . ’

It didn't matter if Ber’s body was harmed, or maybe if, somehow, it were killed . But if he fell, then nothing would stand between this woman and his lord . At that moment, the essential instinct that had been engraved deep inside his subconscious, the instinct he shared with all the opposite shadow soldiers, activated .

PROTECT THE KING!

In that instant, his mind went blank . Restraint not mattered to Ber: so as to guard his master, he became a monster . His body grew, becoming bigger than Cha Haein, bigger even than Jinwoo, as magic energy surged into him . His mandibles enlarged, clicking along side a fierce impatience . His nails extended into terrifying blade-like claws .

“Ber! STOP!”

The ant leapt forward . Incomparably faster than before, he rushed forward before Cha Haein could react . Ten wicked blades sprung from his hands, and he brought them down on her defenseless form .

Cha Haein froze, closing her eyes ahead of inevitable death, then –

Nothing .

She opened her eyes . The claws had stopped, mere inches from her face . a strong hand, backed by a muscular arm, held the ant king’s shadowy wrists firmly in situ .

“Ber . I told you to prevent . ”

Jinwoo’s eyes flared with anger as he spoke . As Ber met Jinwoo’s gaze, the ant king began trembling furiously . He leapt backwards, and, without removing the sword still embedded in his stomach, slammed his forehead to the bottom again and again .

“Y-your majesty, mercy…”

Jinwoo sighed . It was, at the top of the day, a mere unfortunate accident . Ber hadn’t ignored Jinwoo’s orders, a minimum of not of his own volition . The instinctive order in his head to guard Jinwoo was so strong that Jinwoo could feel Ber’s thoughts echo in his own mind . He glared at Ber a touch further before turning to Cha Haein .

It was just for a quick moment, but Cha Haein had seen her inevitable death at the hands of an awesome power . She collapsed to the bottom , trembling .

“Are you alright?”

As Jinwoo approached her, Cha Haein tried to face , but her legs lost strength whenever . Her cheeks mottled with embarrassment, she simply lowered her gaze and nodded .

“ . . . yes . ”

‘What does one mean, “yes”? Man . . . ”

Jinwoo helped her up and continued his questions .

“Why are you willing to travel through all of this? Surely you don’t need to join my Guild specifically?”

“ . . . ”

It had merely been a test – no, to be more accurate, it had been even but that; an entire farce that he had improvised on the spot for the only purpose of keeping her from having the ability to hitch . And yet, faraway from dissuading her, it appeared that it had only made her more determined than Jinwoo thought possible . To think that she would even go as far on use a hidden trump like that, all for a test!

‘That goes way beyond mere competitive spirit . Hmm . . . well, perhaps . . . ?’

“Hmm . . . is it maybe . . . ”

Jinwoo spoke carefully, hoping to not upset Cha Haein .

“ . . . does one like me or something?”

“Wha-?”

Cha Haein turned (a little too quickly, in Jinwoo’s opinion) to face him, with a shocked look on her face, as if she were dumbfounded by his question . Jinwoo tilted his head, puzzled .

‘Oh? Was that not it?’

There was a tense silence, as Cha Haein seemed to gather her thoughts . Jinwoo noticed a blush mottle her cheeks .

“ . . . yea, i feel so . ”

[The U . S . Federal Bureau of Hunters Headquarters]
The director sat within the meeting room together with his hands crossed over his chest and anger written over his face . He had heard the recruitment of Orion Sung Jinwoo had somehow failed, and therefore the displeasure showed . rather than bothering with a politician report, he had decided to easily call the deputy director to a gathering to elucidate himself . A recruitment attempt that made use of Lady Selner’s powers had never before failed within the history of the FBH .

The man arrived with Lady Selner in tow . The director didn’t even give him an opportunity to take a seat down .

“Alright . What happened?”

The deputy director’s expression darkened as he lowered his head .

“I haven't any excuse, sir . ”

“I didn’t ask you here for an apology . ”

The director pressed a button, instantly locking the doors and turning the glass walls an opaque black . the space was now sealed from the remainder of the power . so as to avoid any possible information leak, it had been the FBH’s policy that any conversations involving Lady Selner were to be done strictly face to face , with no electronics at any point, during a secured room if possible . As such, the director had no idea what had happened in Korea .

“Tell me what happened . ”

The deputy director briefly glanced at Lady Selner, who nodded slowly . the person began to talk .

“Lady Selner performed an ‘Observation’ of Hunter Sung Jinwoo . ”

“And?”

The director already knew, in depth, how Lady Selner’s abilities worked, and he also knew that the results of this ‘Observation’ would basically determine the success or failure of the recruitment attempt .

“Hunter Sung Jinwoo is…”

The deputy director trailed off, his mouth dry from nervousness . the person swallowed, licked his lips, and continued .

“A person deserve being called a ‘King’ . ”

“What?!”

The director immediately shot up from his chair . This wasn't a title lightly given . Of all the S-rank Hunters Lady Selner had met within the past, she had called only three of them “A King . ” She had never been wrong: all of them wielded power and influence on par with the foremost powerful nations on Earth; indeed, one could even say they each ruled over a part of this planet sort of a kingdom . They were, truly, the top of Hunters . And if Lady Selner had just put Jinwoo within the same category as those three . . .

The directory turned to the woman .

“Does that mean Hunter Sung Jinwoo has the facility of a Nation-level Hunter?”

The woman shook her head .

“Huh?”

The director furrowed his brows, confused and frustrated at Lady Selner’s response . The deputy director understood his frustration; he had asked the precise same question, and gotten the precise same response . the lady sighed .

“Let me . . . attempt to explain . ”

Both men remained silent . She continued .

“First, you’re both conscious of exactly how my power works, correct?”

Without missing a beat, both men nodded . The director opened his mouth first .

“You’ve told us that Awakened Beings are connected to an unknown power from an unknown source . That’s what gives them their abilities . ”

Lady Selner nodded in agreement . When she looked into the eyes of an Awakened Being, she was ready to sense the ‘tunnel’ that connected the Awakened Being to the ‘other side . ’ in just three instances, she had felt such a lot power pouring in from the opposite side that it had been like staring into the sun itself: a blinding light, overwhelming all of her senses . These three were those fit be called “A King . ”

“So what did you see with Sung Jinwoo’s tunnel . ”

“He doesn’t have a tunnel . ”

Both men blinked in confusion . the woman trembled, as if recalling a nightmare . Her voice shook as she spoke .

“When I looked into his eyes . . . it had been just like the darkness within him was staring back at me . Oh god . . he was darkness incarnate . ”

The deputy director spoke up timidly .

“Err, but he helped tons of individuals as a Hunter . I don’t think he’s evil . . . ”

It was his honest opinion . If Hunter Sung Jinwoo had possessed a shred of evil, the 2 FBH employees who had stupidly pointed a gun at him would’ve died therein room . But Sung Jinwoo had seemed willing to overlook the incident with none further issues .

Lady Selner shook her head divided .

“I’m not talking about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, or what quite man Hunter Sung Jinwoo is, deputy director . ”

She continued, her eyes resolute .

“I’m talking about where his power comes from . ”

The director stroked his chin .

“But, Sung Jinwoo may be a strong Hunter, correct?”

The woman nodded, before pausing, as if to collect her thoughts .

“It’s not just that Hunter Sung Jinwoo may be a strong Hunter . It’s where he gets his power . He doesn’t borrow power from the opposite side . rather than having power pour into him through a tunnel, he uses his own power . the dimensions of the tunnel limits what proportion power can flow through right? Without a tunnel, he -”

“Doesn’t have a limit . ”

The deputy director blurted it out . Now it all made sense . Even a ‘King’ possessed only such a lot power; regardless of how overwhelming vast it'd seem . But if Hunter Sung Jinwoo possessed a limitless power? it might be hard to even imagine what that might appear as if . He turned to the director as comprehension dawned upon the 2 men . They shared wide eyed looks, before a thoughtful expression returned to the director’s face . a couple of moments later, the person nodded, as if he had made a choice in his mind .

“My lady, we many thanks for your efforts . ”

He bid farewell to Lady Selner, before stopping the deputy director as he exited, and motioning for the person to follow instead .

“Director, where are we going?”

“Basement Level 9 . ”

“Oh? The archives?”

“It’s not just the archives down there . There’s something else . ”

The elevator continued its slow descent . The director continued his explanation .

“Clearly, we can’t use Lady Selner’s powers to recruit him . But that doesn’t mean we just hand over . We’ll need to find an alternate method . ”

A young man, with literally unbounded power .

If Hunter Sung Jinwoo really had the limitless power that Lady Selner had told them, no matter whether it had been the facility of sunshine or the facility of darkness, the FBH had to accumulate him . Korea might not have any intention of using Sung Jinwoo for political ends, but albeit someone raised a sword solely for self- defense, everyone else would still see it as drawing a deadly weapon . The director of the FBH wanted the sword referred to as “Sung Jinwoo” .

They reached the 9th level of the basement . With just a touch of impatience, the director strode through the elevator doors and commenced making his way deep into the complex, quickly opening each locked door the pair passed . a couple of employees greeted them as they walked by, but the director didn’t even bother to glance at them as he hurried past .

“Do you remember the primary S-rank Gate ever?”

“Of course . ”

Who wouldn’t? Who could forget the worst Dungeon Break that had ever occurred, anywhere? The Gate, and ensuing Dungeon break, had resulted within the destruction of an outsized portion of the Western US . During that point , the US had offered an astronomical sum to the strongest Hunters within the world to induce them to assist . Ultimately, that they had succeeded in killing the boss and limiting the damage, but at a near-Pyrrhic cost . The boss had slain dozens of the world’s highest ranked Hunters, and only five S-rank Hunters had survived the attack . If it hadn’t been for his or her sacrifices, the us of America may need been entirely destroyed .

After the boss was finally defeated, the five Hunters who had saved the US obtained A level of power and influence on par with most G-20 nations . Over time, they became known across the planet as “Nation-level Hunters . ”

The deputy director shuddered as he recalled the name of the magic beast that had precipitated the worst disaster within the history of the US .

“The Dragon Kamish . . . ” [3]

The Mage-class Hunters had said that “Kamish” had meant unending flames . [4]

Finally, the pair reached a small room, hidden during a deep, dark corner of the level; the foremost secluded, heavily guarded room within the entirety of the FBH headquarters . The director opened one final door . Inside the space was a small stone with a rune inscribed thereon . The deputy director nearly jumped when he saw it .

“Is this . . . ?”

“Yes . ”

The director placed a hand on the reinforced glass that protected the Runestone and smiled .

“It is that the Runestone that came from Kamish’s corpse . ”

After the Kamish Raid, because it became known, had ended, two of the Nation-level Hunters who had survived took up a permanent residency within the US . In some twisted sense, these two were the gift that Kamish had left the us .

Shortly afterwards, the us vowed to never let such a disaster occur ever again, and created the Federal Bureau of Hunters, investing countless sums of cash and man-hours into their efforts to get and train the simplest Hunters from round the world . within the meantime, as none of the five Nation- level Hunters were Mage-class Hunters, Kamish’s Runestone had sat during this tiny room, within the cold, dark basement of the FBH, expecting an owner who could unleash its power .

Eight years had passed since the Kamish incident . The director’s smile broadened as he continued to stare at the Runestone .

“I think . . . it’s time Kamish left our country another gift . ”

Translator’s Notes:

[1]: “Sword Dance” (검무): Pretty literal .
[2]: “Sword of Light” (빛의 검): Pretty literal
[3]: “Kamish” (카미쉬): proper noun; “ka” 카 + “mi” 미 + “shi” 쉬
[4]: Throwback to a quick concept noted during Double Dungeon arc, where it had been noted that only Mage-class Hunter could read Runic . It seems that Mage-class Hunters receive some kind of an other-worldly knowledge once they awaken .

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Author : Aselham
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