Chapter 1. Prologue
When he opened his eyes, his legs were submerged in a shallow stream while his upper body was slumped on the ground.
Do-joon crawled out of the water, spitting out the sand in his mouth.
His whole body seemed to be broken, but there was no pain from head to toe.
“Huh… Huh… Huh…”
Still, he managed to get up from the ground and open his inventory to take out the healing potion. This time, he opened the lid properly and gulped it down.
【Medium Healing Potion has been used.】
【Body regeneration is activated for 15 seconds and a certain amount of vitality is restored.】
Drinking the potion made him feel better.
When he turned over, he saw the dark, night sky. A while ago, it was sunny, but now it was night time.
‘How do I get back……?’
His first thought, of course, was to return.
The time allowed for collecting items ended at night. He didn’t know what time it was, but it could have been over.
Considering the association’s procedures, the original agenda would be to kill the boss and close the dungeon either tomorrow or the day after.
But what if one of the gatherers doesn’t make it back?
The disappearance would be reported and the boss hunt would be postponed. The only problem was…
‘Even if you don’t kill the boss, it closes over time.….’
A dungeon usually closes over time.
Nevertheless, the reason why associations and guilds come out to kill the boss is that if the dungeon closes itself, the monsters inside will be pushed out to reality.
That’s why they kill the boss before the dungeon closes on its own.….
‘I have to go back before that.’
If it closes, it’s over. Monsters are forced out and into reality, but missing people trapped in the dungeon aren’t. They become classified as so-called “dungeon refugees” and declared dead.
While collectors have a one-day deadline, there are still three-four days before the dungeon closes. In order to not become a dungeon refugee, he must return before that.
A while after drinking another intermediate potion, Do-joon managed to get up. Only then was he able to look around.
For starters, he couldn’t move today. His body needed more time to recover, and above all, it was too dark.
On a night like this, there might have been another wild dog beast like before, so he couldn’t go into the woods blindly.
‘Tonight I’ll recover as much as I can and I’ll start moving tomorrow morning.’
His heart was impatient. He wanted to run out and return to his world right now. He was nervous because he couldn’t tell how far he had been washed away after falling into the waterfall.
However, at times like these, he should remain calm. He can’t survive unless he thinks and moves calmly.
Do-joon, who walked a little and explored his surroundings, found something.
It was a cave. The entrance wasn’t that wide, but the interior was big. He looked around carefully, but there was no sign of it being a monster’s territory.
He decided to rest in the cave for the night.
He moved quickly after making his decision.
He took firewood and lighters out of his inventory and started a bonfire. Then he took off his wet clothes and hung them near the fire to dry.
After that, he took canned food out of the food box and ate it.
He felt a little better when his stomach was full. His body was still throbbing but he improved considerably after eating rather than when he drank healing potions regularly.
After feeling better, Do-joon habitually opened the status window.
– Kim Do-joon
– Destruction Lv7, Agility Lv7, Vitality Lv7, Magic Lv7, Sense Lv7
– Potion Production
Do-joon had a confused look on his face.
The Fit Rate, which was obviously at 1%, had now risen to 7%. Accordingly, all the Stat Runes, such as destruction and speed, were raised as well.
Fit Rate refers to the fit rate of spores of the World Tree, which is similar to the level of a character in a game. When a monster is killed, it rises little by little, and for every 1% increase, the Lv of all Stat Runes increase by 1.
As it is expressed in percentage, it is estimated that the highest figure is 100. The reason for this speculation is that no one has ever reached 100%.
The strongest awakeners in the world have a fit rate of 83%.
‘Did the wild dog beast fall down and die, and it was considered my achievement?’
That was the only thing he could think of.
Do-joon’s expression brightened a little. As a producer, the fit rate, which was always at 1%, rose due to this trick. He almost died because of that trick, but…….
Anyway, it was good news. The probability of surviving increased even further.
Do-joon clenched his fist and tightened his arm.
He felt a little strange. His muscles tightened and he felt like his body was being compressed. At the same time, the power was overflowing as if it were exploding.
He picked up a rolling stone nearby to test his grip. He grabbed it and put some force into it.
The hard stone was crushed like a walnut.
“Whoa… It’s like this even if I’m only at level 7…?””
Do-joon uttered words of amazement. If a 7% fit rate was this powerful, how monstrous would the awakening of 83% be?
Hunters who were obsessed with raising the fit rate by 1% understood that it’s about getting noticeably stronger, but he couldn’t help but focus on that fact.
After a while.
Dressed in a set of dry clothes, Do-joon took out a blanket, covered himself, and glued his eyes shut.
He didn’t have a proper bed, he didn’t sleep much the previous night, and the heat from the bonfire was burning hot, but it was all okay. He wasn’t hoping for a deep sleep anyway, so he slept on alert.
The sudden sound of the wind.
Do-joon opened his eyes and quickly looked around.
Fortunately, there wasn’t a monster attack. Do-joon slowly raised his body, took out the flashlight, and turned it on.
Do-joon, who was concentrating on the sound of the wind while stirring the flashlight, had a question.
‘Isn’t it outside?’
The sound of the wind was not coming from the outside, but rather from the inside. He looked around and then heard it in the direction of the bottom of the cave. Do-joon went up close and looked at it.
‘Is there a hole?’
There was a large rock, and a small crevice was visible underneath it. The sound of the wind was coming from there.
Do-joon placed the flashlight in his mouth and grabbed the large rock with both hands. Hmph! He took a breath and pushed it slowly.
Heavy rocks, which would not have originally moved an inch, were pushed out little by little. It was the power of the Destruction Rune that was raised to seven.
When the hole widened while pushing like that, Do-joon released his hand.
There was a black hole within that rattled.
【Treasure Dungeon has been discovered.】
“A Treasure Dungeon!”
Do-joon’s eyes sparkled.
A treasure dungeon is a hidden dungeon occasionally found inside a dungeon—a so-called bonus stage. They’re famous for giving various items without the risk of dangerous beasts or monsters.
Not every dungeon is fixed. They appear and disappear. The treasure dungeon, in particular, is hard to find because it’s completely random.
The most famous example is the “Imperial Armory,” which was found inside Britain’s dungeon in the past, where dozens of rare items were discovered and made headlines.
Of course, there are very few exceptions. Usually, it’s all centered around one useful item.
“But where is it?”
Do-joon didn’t want to be disappointed. He didn’t even drink his kimchiguk. He thought that one useful item would be enough to impress him.
(T/N: kimchiguk is Korean name of the kimchi soup.)
How much has being solo helped him explore the dungeon?
This was an opportunity that could not be overlooked.
【Treasure Dungeon: Ruins of Chilgosan】
– Rank: ???
When he touched the floating gate, he could see the information of the dungeon. Do-joon flinched for a moment. Because the grade ‘???’ was never seen or heard of before.
Still, he couldn’t stop here.
He gulped and entered the treasure dungeon.
‘……A stone statue?’
As soon as he entered, what he saw was a large stone statue standing in the middle of a vast stone mountain. The statue on the square stage was of a man with a very grim face.
In one hand, he was holding a hammer with a long handle, and on the top of the wooden handle, there were many unrecognizable letters written.
There was a little box in front of it.
Do-joon’s eyes shone.
‘Is that an item?’
He looked around, approached it carefully, and then opened the box.
【Key to the labyrinth: Tier1 Catacomb】
– Enter ‘The Labyrinth: Catacomb’
There was a key, almost the size of Do-joon’s forearm. In any case, it could be used as a blunt weapon.
When he casually picked it up, a light flashed in front of his eyes.
【You have entered the ‘Catacomb’.】
【‘???’ will be imprinted.】
When he came to his senses, he was in a completely different place than the cave he saw before.
【You can now copy item(s) to another destination.】
【Target : Unlimited】
‘What… … ?’
Do-joon was bewildered by sudden environmental changes and the voice he heard. It was completely different from the Yggdrasil system.
The World Tree doesn’t speak with such a clear voice.
[A hidden quest has been created.]
– Use new abilities to break through the first labyrinth. Sufficient compensation will be paid upon return to reality.
*Hint: There are several ‘shelters’ in the labyrinth, and various items are prepared for each ‘shelter’. The user decides how to use the items.
Do-joon’s face expressed perplexity and absurdity.
* * *
“President Jang! Haven’t you seen Mr. Do-joon?”
“I haven’t seen him since he went off on his own. Has Kim-sajang come out yet?”
Lee Ji-ah answered with a frown. All the other collectors checked out of the dungeon, but only Kim Do-joon hasn’t appeared yet.
‘This has never happened before…….’
In the past six years, this has never happened. So she got worried that something must be going on. Maybe something went wrong.
“I’m not sure what to say. Kim-sajang is also a veteran in his own league, so doesn’t that mean he’ll come out soon?”
“Of course, that’s a relief but.….”
President Jang, who talked as if it wasn’t a big deal, returned home. He said his wife and son are waiting.
Other gatherers packed their bags one by one and left. It’s already been a long time since the day passed, and only Lee Ji-ah waited for Do-joon, tapping her finger in the disappearing crowd.
But even after dawn, he didn’t come out. Lee Ji-ah, who sighed, returned home and went to bed.
And even the next day.
Do-joon didn’t come out.
The association had an emergency on their hands. Immediately, a search team was dispatched. Lee Ji-ah was nervously awaiting the results of their findings.
How many hours did she wait?
The search party was seen carrying something.
“Did you find him?!”
As Lee Ji-ah approached with an urgent heart, one of the search team members shook his head. When she glanced over, Lee Ji-ah was able to see what the search party was carrying.
It was, apparently, the body of a wild dog beast that the Hunters said they wiped it out.
Rather than getting rid of her negative feelings, it only piled up one by one. Her normally blunt eyes trembled.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder.
It was the team leader.
“Ji-ah, just in case……get ready to contact his family.”
“Are you sure…….”
“Prepare yourself. That’s your job.”
She could see it when she looked in his eyes. The team leader had already made a conclusion.
Of course, the team leader was not convinced that Do-joon was dead, however, he was skeptical about whether he could return in the two days before the dungeon was forcibly closed.
If it was have been someone else, they’d be out already.
His rationale was that he simply hadn’t come out yet.
Lee Ji-ah’s lips trembled. Should she tell his family that Do-joon went missing in a dungeon?
Do-joon had only one family member, and Lee Ji-ah knew about it. Not only did she know, but she had also met them several times.
So, she couldn’t even think of doing it.
The fact that she may have to tell this to a six-year-old child who was in a hospital room.