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….
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
….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.
When he brought down the very last suit of armour, he got to hear that announcement again.
[Current level: 19.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That bright, blinding light filled up his view.
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.
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.
He made up his mind as he blew away the monster suit of armour busy pouncing on him.
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.
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.
He spat out a lengthy groan one after other, but then...
….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....
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...
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.
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.
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.