Jin-Woo arrived at the god statue’s eye level instantly.
This was at the highest point of the jump before one’s body would begin its descent due to gravity. It felt as if everything around him had come to a stand-still.
The drops of sweat flying off of his body as he jumped sparkled under the light. Although slow, they were definitely getting further away from him.
He was in the state of peak concentration right now. The undeniable threat of losing his life from the smallest mistake pushed all of Jin-Woo’s abilities to their absolute limits.
‘This is the true power of the Agility Stat….’
His heart pounded hard and fast as the realisation dawned on him that this was what the peak state of the Agility Stat could produce when pushed to the extreme. However, he obviously did not have the leeway to revel in the fruit of his labour.
Even now, the eyes of the god statue were moving towards him, albeit at a crawling speed. Seeing up close the crimson light coagulating within the d*m thing’s eyes sent shivers all over his body.
Just getting brushed by that thing would mean his end.
Sensing the dizziness of the danger, his mind re-focused on the task at hand.
He reached out with his left hand, still not holding any weapon.
The upgraded skill based on ‘Ruler’s Reach’ began pulling at the shoulder of the god statue. He was thinking of reeling himself in, rather than actually dragging the god statue and its incalculable body weight towards him.
However, his expectation was somewhat shaken up as the upper body of the god statue actually did creep forward just a little.
What an incredible force of attraction that was!
The power of the skill must have gone up several notches when it evolved from ‘Ruler’s Reach’ to ‘Ruler’s Authority’.
And all thanks to that, Jin-Woo got to land on the god statue’s shoulder far easier than he anticipated. He quickly raised his head to look behind him.
The scarlet-red laser beam exploding out accurately pierced past the location in the air he was floating in, only a moment ago.
For the next few seconds, he was safe from the god statue’s laser beam attacks.
Feeling unburdened now, Jin-Woo sprinted on top of the statue’s shoulder with all his might and arrived near its neck. His right hand gripped the hilt of the ‘Demon King’s Shortsword’ tightly.
Several silver streaks of blade light rained down on the target like the shells of a shotgun.
Dozens upon dozens of slashes landed on the statue’s neck. However, there was barely any visible damage.
Not one slash managed to inflict a heavy enough wound; they all stopped at simply causing negligible, superficial nicks on the skin.
‘So, the shortsword doesn’t work, is that it?’
It was that moment that the ‘Demon King’s Shortsword’, previously capable of slicing up the steel-like scales of the boss-level Naga into ragged bits, came across as an insignificant and shabby toy.
It was then.
Jin-Woo discovered a giant hand busy flying in his general direction. Before it could grasp him, though, he ran on the back of the statue’s neck and changed his position to the other shoulder.
He took a quick look down as he ran and saw how dizzyingly high he was right now.
He raised his head up and glared at the side of the god statue’s face. This god statue wouldn’t be the first enemy that his blades failed to inflict any damage. As a matter of fact, he had dealt with a countless number of them so far.
‘If I can’t stab it, then I’ll just pummel it!’
He didn’t invest all those Stat points in his Strength Stat just for fun. Jin-Woo’s eyes gleamed brightly with determination. He lightly jumped up and thrust his left hand at the temple of the god statue’s face.
All five fingers of his left hand dug deep under the surface.
Jin-Woo clenched his left hand into a fist. With that, he was firmly secured onto the god statue’s face like a rock climber hanging onto the surface of a cliff with one hand. All this was simply him getting ready.
The real thing was starting now.
Jin-Woo’s right back, his right shoulder, and then his right arm all began to balloon up to an unnatural size. That was the result of an incredible amount of magic energy enveloping his right arm.
As a test, he threw a single punch first.
The god statue’s head, that didn’t even budge from the shortsword’s attacks, suddenly and visibly trembled.
The angel statue observing the unfolding situation was shocked beyond words from that.
The enormous amount of magic energy spreading out from high up above managed to shake the air within the entire underground temple. The angel statue continued to look up while not even bothering to hide its extremely excited state at all.
To think, that a human would deal with its masterpiece in such a manner.
An even greater level of anticipation bubbled up within the gleaming light of the angel statue’s eyes.
Jin-Woo’s fist punched the god statue’s face for the second time.
For a brief moment there, the god statue lost its balance. The attacks were definitely working.
However, the god statue wasn’t planning to stand still and not do anything while getting punched to death by him.
As if it was trying to catch a mosquito, the god statue slapped its own face with that giant hand.
Jin-Woo dodged that giant palm strike and safely landed back on the god statue’s shoulder, a mocking grin etched on his face now. That was no different from this thing busily slapping itself.
He didn’t wait and sprinted back towards the god statue’s face as soon as its hand went away. And then….
Boom!! Ka-boom!! Kwang! Kwang!! Kwa-boom!!!
Terrifying, deafening booms reverberated continuously throughout the large dome-shaped temple.
Cracks formed on the face of the god statue and spread all over the surface like a spider’s web. The tottering god statue tried its best to maintain its balance before it began running towards one of the walls in this massive, open space.
Thud, thud, thud!!
The ‘creature’s huge legs viciously stomped on the ground. It was trying to crush Jin-Woo still sticking to its face by ramming into the wall.
‘But, before that happens….’
….He’d finish this fight!
Jin-Woo’s fist began pounding faster, harder, and with even less mercy onto the face of the god statue.
Kwang!! Kwang!! Kwang!! Kwaaahng!!
Thud! Thud! Thud!
The god statue increased its running speed and the gap to the wall was reduced in seconds.
Jin-Woo confirmed the remaining distance with his eyes and, for the purpose of landing the final blow, sent all of his power to his right arm.
Thick veins bulged on his ballooning arm muscles as a horrifying amount of magic energy filled his limb up.
The physical strength of a level 103. Jin-Woo poured all of that into this single fist of his. Just before he was about to collide against the wall….
Along with the loud noise of a ripened watermelon shattering into pieces, half of the god statue’s face was blown away. It eventually faltered and fell down on its knees.
The entirety of the empty dome-shaped arena rumbled spectacularly. And then, the gigantic body of the god statue powerlessly tilted over to the ground.
A thick, choking cloud of dust kicked up into the air as the massive figure collapsed, hard, to the dry ground. Jin-Woo walked out from there while waving away the dust covering up the room like a thick fog.
Jin-Woo let out a soft sigh under his breath.
Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump….
Even now, the sound of his wildly beating heart noisily rang around in his ear canals. The god statue that nearly made him wet his pants the first time he stood before it, had fallen face down on the ground, unmoving.
No one else did that. He was responsible for this spectacle.
‘I can definitely do this.’
….Regardless of what that was.
He recalled the Hunters who lost their lives inside here and a powerful emotion welled up from deep within his heart. Unfortunately, the remaining stone statues continued to move quickly, as if they didn’t want him to have this quiet moment to himself.
They surrounded him in a circle and closed the distance. Just before they were about to pounce on him, though….
Jin-Woo stopped looking at his two hands… and raised his head.
Every single stone statue slammed their heads down on the floor and stopped moving altogether. This was the power of the invisible hand, also known as the skill ‘Ruler’s Authority’.
Jin-Woo returned his gaze back to his hands.
‘I’ve become even stronger through today’s battle.’
He clenched his fists and unfurled them, before repeating his actions again.
An incredible power was overflowing out of his fists, no, from his entire body. He could clearly sense this flow of power now.
At the same time, his heart showed no signs of slowing down at all. It felt as if something sleeping deep within him had awakened through this life-or-death struggle.
It was then.
Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.
He heard slow handclaps. Jin-Woo raised his head in the direction of that clapping noise. The angel statue was clapping its hands in an exaggerated manner, that repulsive smile still etched on its face.
Quite unlike the words leaving its mouth, though, the light oozing out of its eyes were of rather nefarious origins. Jin-Woo calmly spoke to the statue.
“Don’t you have an agreement to uphold, first?”
The d*mn thing clearly announced that, as long as Jin-Woo managed to stand on his two feet after the end of this final test, all the answers he wanted to know would be provided to him.
So, he wanted to hear them right now.
Unfortunately, a stiff smile formed on the angel statue as if it had no intentions of letting him know that easily.
It took a step closer to him.
“Your test isn’t finished yet.”
Then, another step closer.
Yet another step.
The angel statue closed the distance with several large strides and eventually stood before Jin-Woo’s nose.
“….I’m still here, aren’t I?”
The lengthy wings on the back of the angel statue suddenly twisted and writhed around before transforming into arms. Two arms coming out of its shoulders, and six more sprouting from its back – eight hands in total began clenching into tight fists.
“I am your final test.”
Jin-Woo frowned deeply. Before he could say anything, though – the angel statue cut him off.
“There is no need to worry about my ‘life’.”
Jin-Woo’s eyes widened in surprise. This thing knew what he wanted to say in advance. He was about to raise his voice in irritation, telling the creature that its death would result in him not getting any answers in the end.
“Are you surprised?”
The angel statue raised one of its hands and pointed at its own head.
“All of your information is in here.’
‘….Could it be?’
Cold sweat drops rapidly formed on Jin-Woo’s forehead.
“As expected of a quick-witted human. Hah, hah.”
The angel statue issued out more of that stiff, mechanical laughter. And then, carried on with what it wanted to say.
“If you try to control your power to prevent me from dying, that will make it difficult to properly measure your true strength. So, to prevent that…”
Right in that moment – the angel statue’s lips moved at a quick pace.
However, the voice of the angel statue didn’t come out from there. It came out from somewhere else.
[An ‘Emergency Quest’ has been issued.]
[If you fail to defeat the enemy within the designated time limit, your heart will stop operating altogether.]
[Remaining time: 10:00]
Just as the quest message finished saying its piece, one second ticked down from the remaining time.
[Remaining time: 09:59]
Jin-Woo’s eyes began trembling hard as he stared at the angel statue.
Whenever the angel statue spoke, he also heard the System’s voice at the same time as well.
Jin-Woo’s heart that seemed to have recovered some calmness just now began madly pounding away again. His breathing quickened and his fingertips trembled.
The angel statue studied Jin-Woo’s reaction before answering one of the very first questions he asked earlier – “What are you?”
“I am the architect of the System.”
[I am the architect of the System.]
“Mister Kim, you’re a reporter. There’s a dungeon break happening in Japan right now, so is it okay for you to be camping out here like this?”
Woo Jin-Cheol threw that question out as if he was feeling greatly annoyed by something at the moment.
The reporter named Kim yawned grandly while scratching the area around his sideburns.
“That place is already packed full of other reporters. Nothing will change even if I show up there, wouldn’t you agree? It’ll be better for me to stick with the folks of the Monitoring Division and get myself a scoop or two.”
Woo Jin-Cheol was tempted to advise this reporter that he should either stick to yawning or scratching his face, but gave up and sighed inwardly.
This was because Kim was one of a very few reporters that wrote favourable articles regarding the Association when everyone else seemed to be hell-bent on ‘uncovering’ wrongdoings of the organisation or coming up with provocative gossip pieces on the private lives of various Hunters.
‘No need to turn an ally into an enemy, now is there….?’
That was why Woo Jin-Cheol was keeping this reporter named Kim company as the latter paid a visit to the Monitoring Division’s offices.
Kim finally finished his lengthy yawn and threw a question back.
“Besides that, Chief Woo. Our whole country is going through a bit of upheaval right now, so is it fine for you to be sitting here and doing nothing in the office like this?”
Woo Jin-Cheol closed the cover on the file he was working on and spoke in a soft voice that sounded almost like a gentle sigh.
“Someone has to stay behind to guard his assigned station, you see.”
Reporter Kim’s eyes opened up wider in understanding and replied while quickly pulling out a palm-sized memo pad and a pen.
“You know, that’s a cool soundbite. I want to make sure not to miss out on a single word, so can you repeat them for me, please?”
“Mister Kim, you really….”
Woo Jin-Cheol was about to raise his voice higher but with excellent timing, his smartphone went off.
It was a call coming from the report centre. If it was a call not coming through the hotline of the Monitoring Division but to his personal phone, then that could only mean the matter at hand wasn’t simple in nature.
Woo Jin-Cheol quickly answered the call.
“This is Section Chief Woo Jin-Cheol speaking, Monitoring Division.”
– “Chief, we just received a report, sir. Looks like your presence is required on this one.”
Woo Jin-Cheol’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
– “Do you remember the high school where those Orcs came out?”
“Did something happen in that place again….?”
– “It doesn’t seem like anything major had gone down there yet, but a Gate appearing in that school’s athletic field a few days ago turned out to be a dual dungeon, sir.”
‘A dual dungeon?’
Woo Jin-Cheol’s eyes grew wider.
– “But, the thing is….”
It seemed that the employee charged with receiving the reports still had something else to say. Woo Jin-Cheol’s voice became more urgent.
“Okay, so what else is there?”
– “I heard that Hunter Seong Jin-Woo has entered the Gate, sir.”
< Chapter 157 > Fin.