Solo Leveling Novel, Chapter 125
Solo Levelingi 125
All of a sudden, as if a fluorescent light bulb overhead was reaching the end of its lifespan, the cavern darkened and brightened again in rapid succession .
Jinwoo looked up . The ball of light that had been placed in the air by Choi Jong-in during the raid was flickering, as if it were dying .
‘Huh . Is the spell coming to an end?’
His initial thought was that the spell was ending, but, the more he thought about it, the more it made no sense to him . It had been less than an hour since the Korean Hunter Team had set foot inside the cavern . Plus, the spell had been put in place by an S-rank mage to start an incredibly dangerous raid, and it was paramount to the raid’s success . There was no way the spell would simply die out this quickly .
‘But if that’s the case, could it be . . ?’
For a moment, Jinwoo wondered if the shadow extraction skill he had used on the ant king was the cause .
Without warning, the light disappeared completely, and the cave became completely dark .
For a second, not even a speck of light shone through, and Jinwoo, even with his incredible Sense stat, could not detect a thing through the darkness .
Then, just as suddenly, a bright light flooded the cave, and the Ant King stood in front of Jinwoo again .
Jinwoo jumped backwards in shock at apparition, his entire body tensing in anticipation .
[Shadow extraction successful . ]
As the message registered, his shoulders slumped in relaxation .
‘Man . . . if that didn’t come up, I would’ve attacked the ant king again . ’
“Whew . . . what a surprise . ”
He sighed in relief . Taking a step back, the creature in front of him was undoubtedly not the ant king born again to life . Although its form strongly resembled its living self, it’s body was constructed of a pure darkness, and a dark smoke billowed from its body .
‘So this is the ant king’s shadow . . . ’
He couldn’t check the statistics of the shadow, but, just judging from the ominous foreboding he had felt when it had resurrected, it seemed to be even a bit stronger than the original . A powerful mana flowed from the shadow .
Ba-dump! Ba-dump! Ba-dump!
Jinwoo smiled as he felt his heart pounding in anticipation, like a child unwrapping his Christmas toys .
‘This ant king is now one of my soldiers . . . ’
Before long, the information bar appeared . Jinwoo narrowed his eyes .
[??? Lvl . 1]
Jinwoo pumped his fist as he confirmed he hadn’t misread the rank . General was an unprecedented rank, and, from the rank’s name, the ant king was almost certainly far stronger than anything he currently had in his shadow army .
‘Well, of course he is – that much was obvious from how much mana poured out from him . What a monster . . . ’
Jinwoo smiled again . It had been worth all the effort to get his hands on the ant king after all . Before him, the creature fell to one knee .
‘Looks like there’s no exceptions to the “absolute loyalty” inherent in the shadow soldiers . Good . ’
Satisfied, Jinwoo turned around, his sight falling on the ant queen .
‘Now then . . . ’
“My king . . . ”
A harsh, raspy voice from behind froze Jinwoo . His heart raced furiously . He had never felt that he lacked constitution, but, at this moment, it was as if all the strength had left his body .
Nobody was supposed to behind him except the shadow of the ant king .
‘Am I hearing things . . . ?’
Slowly, carefully, he turned to look back . As he expected, there was but the shadow, still on one knee, head bowed .
“ . . . ”
Jinwoo stared at the shadow .
“Was it you?”
As if he had been waiting for Jinwoo to speak, the shadow opened its mouth .
“For me . . . a name . . . ”
It was inarticulate . But, clearly, it was the ant king’s shadow, speaking .
The helicopter chopped through the air, carrying the Korean hunter team directly to Seoul and the Hunter Association headquarters .
Association President Go Gun-hee nervously paced back and forth as he watched the helicopter land . The second it hit the ground, he rushed forward and threw open the helicopter door, his eyes darting around the interior .
“Is Cha Hae-in okay? What’s her condition?”
The hunters’ gazes landed on the still unconscious Cha Hae-in, who lay flat on the floor of the helicopter, covered in blankets and surrounded by anxious staff .
The two A-rank healers who had been waiting outside the door, on standby, rushed in at Go Gun-hee’s command .
“ . . . ?”
“ . . . ?”
The two healers exchanged puzzled looks .
“Well? What’s going on?”
For a moment, nobody answered Go Gun-hee’s question, and then, simultaneously, the two healers blurted out .
“There are no injuries . ”
“She’s in normal condition . ”
“You’re saying there’s no need to treat Cha-hunter?”
The healers nodded in unison . One spoke up again .
“Whoever did it, they had tremendous magic power and command over incredibly high level healing magic . There’s nothing more we could do . ”
Go Gun-hee blinked, flustered by the healers’ answers . When he had last seen Cha Hae-in on the live broadcast, her injuries had seemed incredibly severe . He didn’t have a direct line to anyone in the raid group, and so he could only go off the TV reports, which continually emphasized how grave the situation was . Anxious and frustrated, he had summoned two A-rank healers and put them on standby, intent on doing everything possible for Cha Hae-in when the raid team got back . But now . . .
‘There’s nothing for them to do?’
Go Gun-hee’s eyes narrowed as he examined Cha Hae-in carefully .
Her complexion didn’t look bad at all – nothing indicative of a serious injury . In fact, although she was unconscious, it really looked like she was merely asleep .
‘What happened in the time the camera was turned off?’
Go Gun-hee tilted his head as he pondered the question . There shouldn’t have been a healer in the cave . He felt a pain in his heart as he recalled the terrible fate which had befallen the team’s only healer, Min Byung-gu . He turned to the raid leader, Ma Dong-wook .
“Ma-hunter, how did this happen?”
“Well, umm . . . ”
Puzzlingly, Ma Dong-wook hesitated in his answer . He was interrupted by one of the A-rank healers .
“Hunter-nim is waking up!”
Everyone’s attention immediately turned back to Cha Hae-in . Go Gun-hee sat down carefully beside her .
“Cha-hunter-nim, are you feeling better?”
Cha Hae-in’s eyes fluttered open, and she looked around in a dazed confusion .
“Where . . . ?”
“We’re inside a helicopter at the moment . We just landed at the Hunter Association, and we’ll be moving hunter-nim to a hospital very soon now . ”
“A hospital . . . ”
Cha Hae-in’s eyes wandered around the room, unfocused, as she attempted to take in her surroundings . She took a deep breath, and felt herself saturated with the scent of Sung Jinwoo . Still in a haze, she turned to Go Gun-hee .
“Was Sung Jinwoo-hunter here?”
Although none of the other hunters spoke, inwardly, they were all astonished . Cha Hae-in had most certainly been unconscious by the time Sung Jinwoo had arrived, and there was no way she should have known that he had been there .
Go Gun-hee nodded slowly instead of answering . Cha Hae-in smiled lightly in response .
‘As expected . . . it wasn’t a dream . ’
She relaxed and fell into a deep slumber once again .
After making sure her breathing was stable, Go Gun-hee ordered the waiting attendants to move her to the hospital, so she could properly relax and have access to medical staff the whole time .
‘Sung Jinwoo huh . . . actually, come to think of it, he wasn’t on the helicopter at all . ’
Go Gun-hee turned his attention to Ma Dong-wook once more .
“By the way, where is Sung Jinwoo hunter-nim?”
Baek Yoon-ho, who had been listening to their conversation, responded before Ma Dong-wook could .
“Sung Jinwoo . . . is going to stay . ”
“He’s going to stay?”
Go Gun-hee stared at the pair of hunters, an incredulous expression written across his face . The helicopter had used a magic-powered engine, and had come straight to Seoul after picking up the hunters on Jeju Island . There was nowhere Jinwoo could possibly be staying between Jeju Island and Seoul, and if he was at Jeju Island, there was no way for him to leave . Go Gun-hee asked again, hoping to clear up the apparent misunderstanding .
“Sorry, where is he staying again?”
“He said there was still work left over to do on Jeju Island . ”
“ . . . he didn’t even get on the helicopter?”
Baek Yoon-ho smiled awkwardly and nodded at the embarrassed Go Gun-hee .
“Yes . ”
“How are you able to talk?”
“I . . . am able to talk . ”
The ant king’s shadow had answered each of Jinwoo’s questions without hesitation, but, unfortunately, his answers hadn’t been particularly enlightening .
‘Was it because he could speak before becoming a shadow? So now, after becoming a shadow, he could still speak?’
Jinwoo shook his head as he thought through the theory . The former hunter, Kim Chul, who was now ‘Iron’, was able to speak and was even human . But conversation with Iron was now impossible . In fact, the same had been the case for Min Byung-gu . Without a word, he had returned to the dead . Plus, ‘Tusk’, who had been remarkably articulate during his existence as a magic creature, had remained forever silent after becoming a shadow soldier .
‘So why is he the only shadow who can talk?’
As far as Jinwoo knew, there was only one difference between the ant king and all his other shadows: rank . Indeed, unlike those, who were either ‘Knight’ or ‘Elite Knight’ ranked, the ant king’s shadow was a ‘General’ . In other words, past ‘General’, or past a certain rank, a shadow soldier could communicate with Jinwoo .
‘Well, there’s no hard evidence yet, but, for now, this is probably the most reliable hypothesis . Hmm . . . so does that mean the other shadows, once they level up, will also be able to speak?’
There seemed to be yet another reason to raise the level of his shadows . Jinwoo pondered for a few moments, before he turned his attention back towards the ant king . He had a question which he had always wanted to ask .
“I’m the one who killed you . ”
“ . . . ”
“And yet, you’re still willing to follow me?”
“I . . . did not die . With the lord’s power . . . I was born anew . ”
Jinwoo arched an eyebrow in surprise at the answer . He hadn’t anticipated this response . The ant king looked up, staring into Jinwoo’s eyes .
“Within me . . . I feel . . . joy . . . is overflowing . My lord . . . I will follow . . . forever . ” 
Jinwoo’s heart jumped as he heard the ant king’s shadow swear eternal loyalty .
‘Why? Was it because I felt the sincerity?’
He placed his hand on his chest and took several deep breaths as his heart returned to normal .
The shadow bowed before him again .
“My lord . . . a name . . . ”
The conversation had returned to its starting point .
Even still, Jinwoo felt, it was a bit unusual, to receive a request for a name, instead of a prompt from the system .
‘Oh well . Name, a name . . . ’
He had never particularly cared about the whole naming process to begin with, but in this case . . .
‘I mean, a name like “Ant” can’t do here, right?’
He had hundreds of identical ants in his army, and he felt slightly ashamed at the notion of calling his only general by the name “Ant . ”
‘Hmm . . . ’
Jinwoo pondered the name briefly, before giving a short laugh .
“Ber . ”
The novelist, famous for his novel, “Ant”, came to mind . In an instant, Jinwoo had made his decision .
“Your name is Ber . ”
No sooner had Jinwoo spoken than Ber bowed his head even deeper, as if he had been deeply moved by Jinwoo’s words .
“Thank you . . . my lord . ”
[Ber Lvl . 1]
The information above his head was updated instantly .
‘Alrighty then . Now it’s really time for the ant queen . ’
Satisfied, Jinwoo turned his attention to the ant queen . Perhaps because he had succeeded in making ‘Ber’ a shadow soldier just now, he felt confident that he would be able to extract the ant queen’s shadow .
“Arise . ”
With a wail eerily similar to its dying scream, a shadow resembling the ant queen rose from the corpse .
“Ah, excellent . ”
But Jinwoo quickly frowned . Although he was pleased by his success, he felt as if something was off, and he tilted his head as he looked at the ant queen . As soon as it had been resurrected as a shadow, he had felt his connection to his other shadow ants grow faint, as if the mana which connected Jinwoo with the shadow ants had been shrouded in a suffocating fog .
‘What’s going on?’
The words had barely left Jinwoo’s mouth when Ber appeared at his side . Indeed, if it wasn’t for JInwoo’s 200+ ‘Sense’, Ber’s movements would’ve been too quick to follow .
‘Unbelievable . And such a creature is now my loyal soldier . ’
Jinwoo crossed his arms over his chest and gestured at the ant queen with a slight wave of his fingers .
“Do you know why?”
Ber was, after all, the soldier who knew how the ant colony had functioned the best . He replied with a polite tone .
“Ruler of the ant colony . . . is the Queen’s unique ability . ”
So that was it . If there was a queen, the right to command the ants would be automatically transferred to her . Jinwoo felt a slight degree of unpleasantness .
‘That’s a bit . . . ’
No matter how well he could make the queen herself submit to him, there was something uncomfortable about her taking control of all of his ant shadows . On top of that, it looked like if he wanted to give commands to the ants, he would be forced to do it through her . Furthermore . . .
Jinwoo paused thoughtfully before asking Ber again .
“What’s reduced the Queen’s mana?”
“Most of the Queen’s mana . . . for breeding . Reproduction without a body . . . is impossible . ”
“Her mana’s been cut in half then?”
“That is correct . . . my lord . ”
Jinwoo winced at Ber’s confirmation . Ultimately, there would be no use for the ant queen’s shadow beyond that of a typical soldier then . He mulled over his dilemma briefly, before deciding to cancel the extraction .
‘There’s not really any point in wasting energy managing a shadow which would be practically useless, no?’
As rapidly as it materialized, the queen’s shadow dispersed like smoke in the air .
[Number of Stored Shadows: 570/570]
‘I’m at capacity already huh . ’
Jinwoo looked around . Massive piles of the highest quality mana stones, found only in S-class gates, lay at his feet like ordinary rocks .
‘Well, there’s nobody here to see . Plus, I did kill most of the ants myself . ’
He reached down and started grabbing stones, before he froze .
‘These mana stones should be used to compensate those who were victims of the monumental tragedy that was Jeju Island, and for the state to restore Jeju Island to its former quality . ’
He was not so desperate as to covet them . He paused, and then reached down, grabbing a small, pitch black mana stone from Ber’s body, placing the stone in his inventory .
‘I’ll take this one . ’
Jinwoo called Kaisel from his shadow storage . The black wyvern spread its wings, ready to take flight .
As he mounted atop Kaisel’s back, he took one last look around the queen’s lair . Like the rest of the island, the once active and noisy chamber was perfectly still and tranquil .
“ . . . ”
‘The Jeju Island campaign is over . ’
His gaze swept over the tunnel’s entrance .
“To home . ”
Kaisel beat its wings forcefully, sending gale like wind rushing through the tunnel, as it took off .
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Solo Leveling Novel Chapter 125
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