solo leveling: ragnarok Chapter 01
“Do you really like ants that much?”
At the art museum of a Korean university, the assistant of the painting department, Lim Do-kyun, made a bored expression as he looked at Suho’s paintings.
The walls of the exhibition were covered with paintings of ants, including oil paintings, watercolors, and various sketches.
The ants depicted were diverse in appearance.
Lim attached the name tag he had brought underneath the painting.
[Korean University Painting Department Exhibition]
[3rd year, Suho]
“Since you were a freshman, you could fill a whole truck with just the ants you’ve painted.
If you’re going to do this, why not go to an entomology department instead of an art school?”
“I thought about it, but there’s no separate ant department.”
“You don’t just like insects, you only like ants?”
Strangely enough, I’ve liked ants since I was young.
If I saw a line of ants, I would walk carefully to avoid accidentally stepping on them…”
“You liked them since you were young? Your taste really hasn’t changed.”
Lim smiled and continued to look at Suho’s paintings.
Then he noticed a painting that looked different.
“This ant looks a bit different?”
In front of him was a humanoid ant with a dark aura swirling around it.
“Well, the dynamics of this one are good.
Did you draw this even though it’s a monster?”
“It’s not a monster.
It’s just an ant that appeared in my dream when I was young.”
“Hmm, you’re quite amazing.
How much do you like ants to dream about them? When were you young?”
“Before the Cataclysm.”
The Cataclysm referred to the end-of-the-world crisis that suddenly struck the Earth two years ago.
Gates of unknown origin appeared all over the planet, and terrifying monsters poured out of them to invade the Earth.
Fortunately, a very small percentage of humans awakened special abilities just in time, and humanity was able to overcome the crisis.
It happened just two years ago.
Suho was a freshman in college at the time, only twenty years old.
But the time when Suho was dreaming about ants was back in high school, well before the crisis.
“Anyway, you’re really a unique person.”
The TA laughed falsely and looked closely at Suho’s drawing.
“Wow, you really drew it well.
It looks like it could jump out of the picture any moment.
Oh, is this too much? Your drawing is just that vivid.”
Suho laughed inwardly at the comment.
“I can’t help it.”
The ants in the picture were his nightmares themselves.
They were monsters that used to jump out of his dreams in his adolescence, running towards him to kill him.
“…Looking back, it was a really terrible dream.”
Suho remembered that dream.
[Your level has increased!]
[Your level has increased!]
In that dream, Suho had to fight for his life against monsters without even knowing English.
Endless armor knights and ant armies blocked his way, and later, even giant dragons.
If he killed those monsters, he would level up like a game.
But if he died, he would reset back to level one and have to start all over again.
The only way to escape that dream was to somehow survive and reach the final boss’s room.
He fought without rest, and finally arrived at the final boss’s doorstep, only to find out that the final boss had a face like…his father.
He smirked at the thought of his adolescent dream.
But he hadn’t dreamed it since around his first year of high school.
Since his parents disappeared.
…Suho’s peaceful daily life had crumbled.
Around that time, something strange was happening in the corner of the art museum building.
“Did you put it here?”
The TA said he put it in here.”
The painting students opened the warehouse door to retrieve the exhibit.
And they discovered ‘it’ inside, their eyes widening.
A black hole looming on the wall.
“Ah! It’s a gate?!”
“Report it quickly!”
Students retreat in terror.
They tremble as they take out their phones to make a report, but a fourth-year senior hurriedly stops them.
“Calm down! The gate is obviously closed!”
The blue fog hasn’t come out yet.”
We’re still far from the dungeon break.”
I was really scared.”
The students who belatedly understood the situation let out a sigh of relief.
The dungeon break referred to the phenomenon of monsters pouring out of the gate.
However, the dungeon break did not occur just because the gate was created.
Before that, the “blue fog” had to come out from the gate and contaminate the surroundings, only then could the gate be opened and monsters could come out.
“So, it’s still safe.
“Se-senior, why are you laughing so nervously? It’s still dangerous, so let’s report it quickly.”
Haven’t you heard that rumor? That if you drink the blue fog, you can become an awakened one?”
The senior’s words caught the juniors’ attention.
The true identity of the blue fog was still unclear.
But there had been a rumor spreading on the internet like an urban legend for some time.
That fog was actually magical energy, and if you drank it, even an ordinary person could awaken their magical abilities.
“Isn’t that just a baseless rumor?”
“It hasn’t been proven to be a baseless rumor either.”
So, let’s check it out this time.
Maybe someone among us will be an S-rank hunter?”
The juniors’ eyes changed suddenly at the senior’s secretive voice.
The amount of money earned by S-rank hunters had become astronomical since the corpses of monsters and dungeon ores had become new materials in demand, making the hunter profession a symbol of wealth.
But it had only been two years since the great upheaval.
It was still unclear how to awaken magical abilities.
“Besides, you guys know that Instructor Lim is also an E-rank awakened one, right?”
She’s an E-rank hunter who always complains about not making enough money.
That’s why she’s doing teaching assistant work during the semester.”
You’re making unfamiliar noises.
That’s a deception, kid.
Do you know how much you can earn just by entering a dungeon as part of a mining team, without even joining an attack force under the teaching assistant?”
“How much can you earn?”
The senior whispered as if revealing a great secret, and the eyes of the juniors widened in amazement.
“What? You can earn that much even as an E-class?”
Even if you’re lucky enough to be the lowest-ranked hunter, you can earn that much? Are you going to waste such a good opportunity? Huh?”
“Wow, hunters are really the best.
But why is the teaching assistant still sticking around in school if they earn so much from the dungeon?”
“They earn money in the dungeon and spend it lavishly on art.
Plus, working in the assistant’s office gives them many exhibition opportunities.”
Earning money as an E-class hunter was more convincing than winning the lottery or even an S-class awakening, which was much rarer.
Eventually, the juniors put down their phones as the senior continued to persuade them.
“Well, uh, since they say it’s somewhat safe even if the blue fog flows out… Should we wait a bit longer? Just for a moment?”
They only listen now.
It’s a one-time opportunity in life.
If the fog comes out, just take a sip and report it.
There won’t be any danger.”
And after a while…
The seeping blue fog finally began to spread out of the gate.
Suddenly, the building shook.
The guardian in the exhibition hall looked up.
“What’s this? An earthquake?”
Something was off.
The feeling of the space itself was trembling.
But only one person, the guardian, noticed the anomaly.
No one else in the exhibition hall seemed to have noticed.
And then, it happened.
A student was walking into the exhibition hall.
Assistant Professor Lim, who was near the entrance, approached him and spoke.
“Young-chul, I told you to go to the warehouse.
Why did you come so late…?”
“I-I, I was definitely stopped.”
“Seo, the senior keeps…”
Chills ran down their spine.
“Something is wrong.”
The expression on Im’s teaching assistant’s face, who checked Young-chul’s condition up close, stiffened.
Pupils shaking uncontrollably.
A mouth that kept murmuring incomprehensible words.
“Park Young-chul? What’s in your mouth?”
Young-chul finally realized his condition when Im asked.
Suddenly, blue smoke seeped out of his mouth and nose.
“Thi-this is not good.
Young-chul panicked and covered his mouth with his hand.
But the more he tried to do that, the more smoke escaped from between his fingers.
Hot air and blue smoke engulfed Young-chul’s body.
Su-ho, who ran from behind, grabbed Im’s teaching assistant’s body firmly.
“Ah, it’s hot… hot…!”
Im’s teaching assistant stepped back and opened her eyes.
Young-chul’s body had started to burn in blue smoke.
The students nearby witnessed the horrific scene and screamed in terror.
At that moment, a chilling siren sound echoed from the school’s speakers.
The students started to murmur at the unexpected sound.
[A gate has appeared in the school!]
The current location of the gate is the art museum building…!
“Sh*t! It’s here!”
The confusion intensified.
Students began to run frantically, lost in thought.
Having just witnessed a person burning to death right in front of them, the terror was indescribable.
However, there was one problem if they wanted to leave.
Unfortunately, Yeong-cheol’s body was burning in the middle of the exhibition entrance.
To get out, they had to pass his corpse.
One student who was running ahead stumbled in the heat.
“Is there another exit…?”
He looked around frantically, but there was none.
There was only one exit.
While the students were panicking.
Something unbelievable happened.
“That person, is that him?”
Yeong-cheol’s charcoal body was rising again, engulfed in blue smoke.
“Wait, is that really…?”
Im Jo-gyo’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Mausuda! Get out of there right now!”
Im Jo-gyo shouted desperately.
But it was already too late.
The mist, which had turned Yeong-cheol’s body into a charcoal, whipped its arms like a whip.
Students writhed on the ground, spewing blood.
And when the blue smoke clung to their clothes, their bodies began to burn fiercely.
“Ah! Fire! Fire!”
Students scattered in all directions in panic.
Desperate screams filled the air.
It was really a mistborn….”
Im Jo-gyo quickly pulled out his phone.
Mistborn was not something he could handle alone, even as an E-rank.
Suho urgently asked Lim, who was sending a request for support, “Mist Buhn? What kind of creature is that?”
“If we fall victim to it….”
Lim chewed on his lips.
“We’ll become the same kind of creature.”
Just then, the bodies of the students attacked by Mist Buhn rose up again, shrouded in blue smoke.
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