It was not good to be the centre of attention.
Not only would he feel uncomfortable being placed under the spotlight, but he also didn’t want to let others know of this strange phenomenon.
Didn’t the old saying go something like, scratching unnecessarily results in more flakes to clean up, or something like that?
He wanted to increase his Stat points as quietly as possible.
‘And it shouldn’t be a problem for me to leave the hospital now, too.’
Thankfully, tests had shown that he was normal and healthy. Meaning, he could leave at any time he wanted. No, hang on a minute, it kinda felt like that both the hospital and the Association wanted him to leave in the first place.
Well, it’d be a waste to spend that much money as hospital fee on a measly rank E like him.
One of the special privileges the S-ranked Hunters enjoyed was the government paying for all of their health-related expenses. Of course, that was a story happening in another cosmos as far as Jin-Woo was concerned.
So, he figured that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to leave this hospital right about now.
And there was something he wanted to confirm as well.
“Now, where did I put it….?”
Jin-Woo rummaged around his pockets and brought something out. It was a key gleaming in a golden hue. It featured such a simple design that it could be passed off as an accessory at a casual glance.
Jin-Woo observed the key for a long time before he secured it back inside his pocket.
While he was in the middle of being discharged, a certain young female nurse hurriedly ran to where he was.
“Pant, pant!! Mister Seong Jin-Woo, are you getting ready to be discharged today?”
“Pardon? Ah, yes, I am.”
She was the nurse in charge of his care, Choi Yu-Rah.
Yu-Rah formed a rueful expression when she heard his affirmation.
Jin-Woo didn’t know why, so he could only stand there looking rather confused. He wondered if he had made a mistake somewhere, but he couldn’t think of anything.
Yu-Rah hesitated slightly, before pulling out a small memo pad.
“Will be okay if you give me your contact numbers?”
“My contact numbers?”
“Yes…. Only if you’re okay with it.”
Could there be some test results that needed to be sent at a later date or something? Jin-Woo didn’t think too much about it and took the memo pad. However, all he got from her was just that, a memo pad and nothing else.
When Jin-Woo stared at her, her face reddened.
“W-what’s the matter?”
“Uhm, well…. About a pen….”
“Ah? Ah, please wait.”
She must’ve forgotten in her rush to get here; Yu-Rah became flustered and hurriedly turned around.
‘Uh? Hang on a minute. A pen, is it….?’
He didn’t have to think for long. Before anyone noticed it, he was already holding a pen. The moment he thought about the pen nestled quietly within his Inventory, it automatically appeared in his hand.
Once an item was placed within the Inventory, he could retrieve it freely with his thoughts alone.
What a convenient feature of the Inventory that was.
Confirming the pen in his hand, Jin-Woo called out to Yu-Rah.
“Wait. I looked and luckily enough, I had a pen on me.”
“Oh, really? Whew, what a relief.”
Yu-Rah placed a hand on her chest and sighed out in relief.
Jin-Woo smiled at that and he jotted down his phone number.
This happened all the time now – the items that came out of the random box always saw some sort of usage pretty soon after he got them.
When a raincoat came out, rain fell the next day. He got a cup the day before the hospital inexplicably ran out of paper cups. Of course, stuff like a band-aid with no clear uses sometimes popped out, but most of the time, they did come in handy.
“Here it is.”
Yu-Rah received the memo pad back from Jin-Woo with an elated expression etched on her face.
She then bowed her head as well.
“Please take care of me from now on.”
“Oh, uh, sure thing. Me too.”
Yu-Rah spun around and hurriedly disappeared to somewhere. Jin-Woo looked at her departing back and tilted his head this way and that.
‘By the way…. how does she expect me to take care of her?’
She was such a cute nurse, to begin with, yet she was even courteous as well. Jin-Woo thought as such and left the hospital with a refreshed, airy mind.
The first place he visited was the HQ of the Hunter’s Association, located in the district of Guro in Seoul.
The smartphones used by the Hunters were designed with special components so, in order to get one, he had to apply for it at the Association.
The Association employee spoke while looking at the computer monitor.
“Looks like your phone will become available only after two weeks, Hunter-nim.”
“Pardon me? Why so long?”
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened up wider.
His old phone was smashed to bits when he was getting chased around by the god statue. However, he now had to wait for two weeks for a new phone to arrive?
“If you need a phone right away, we can loan you one on a temporary basis, but the fee for each usage is ₩50,000.” (TL: Just over $44)
50,000 Won…. He wasn’t even buying one, just renting it for a little while, yet it cost that much?
If he thought about his current financial status, that was way too big an expense.
‘Well, it’s not like someone will contact me, anyway.’
If the Association failed to get a hold of someone on his or her smartphone, they’d call the house, instead. So, there was no real reason for him to spend money and get himself a temp phone right now.
Jin-Woo shook his head.
“I’ll just wait.”
“I understand. As soon as your replacement phone arrives, we will send it straight to your residence.”
Jin-Woo got up to leave. His business was done here.
He had already completed the Daily Quest that never failed to show up every day, and the application for the new phone at the Association also ended faster than he expected.
Jin-Woo exited from the Association building and pulled the golden key out again.
‘Is it now time to check this little guy out, then?
The information on the key floated up in green letters.
[Item: Dungeon Key]
Rarity: E (ED: also reflects the difficulty in acquiring the item)
A key that transfers you to an instant dungeon. Can be used at the 3rd exit of the Hapjeong subway station.
He found this key inside one of the random boxes he got as the Daily Quest rewards.
At first, he wondered why a key would come out from there, but once he saw the ‘rarity’ category, he immediately realised that this was no ordinary item.
This was one of the reasons prompting him to get discharged from the hospital as well.
‘An entrance key to the instant dungeon, huh….’
Whether it was called ‘instant’ or not, a dungeon was a dungeon.
If it was about dungeons, then he had plenty of painful memories regarding those.
This one time, he participated in a raid ranked E and ended up getting wounded so badly that he had to stay in the hospital for over a week.
Back then, he was able to survive because of the comrades that went with him, but….
But, if he used this key to enter a dungeon, then it meant that he had to enter it all alone. He deliberated for a long time, before making up his mind.
‘I’m sure there will be no problems as long as I just take a quick peek inside.’
If things looked bad, all he had to do was run away, after all.
He’d been running 10 kilometres every day for a while now, so he was pretty confident of running away, actually.
Annnd, it was his mistake for taking it too lightly.
“Is there…. a wall blocking me?”
He pounded on the invisible wall and shouted at the outside, but no one replied back. People continued to carry on with their own lives, that was all.
Sometimes, someone approached the Hapjeong station, but they simply vanished as soon as coming in contact with this invisible ‘wall’. It was quite likely that the place he was in and the outside world were two separate dimensions.
Jin-Woo tried his hardest to force his way out of this place, which prompted a new alert message to pop up.
[You can not exit the dungeon. Please defeat the boss first or find the return crystal.]
It was the same message as before.
The key in his possession disappeared as soon as he set foot inside the 3rd exit of the subway station and, by the time Jin-Woo realised things had gone rather awry and hurriedly turned around to leave, it was already too late.
He was thinking of finding a hidden Gate or some kind of a doorway within the 3rd exit that would transport him to a dungeon, but his expectation was completely off the mark. And quite different from the regular dungeons, he couldn’t even leave as he pleased, too.
“It’s different from other dungeons….”
Jin-Woo spat out a long groan and looked behind him. What he could see now was the interior of the subway station that had transformed into a jungle.
Walls were thick with twisting vines, and rancid odour akin to rotting corpses assaulted his senses. Hell, he even heard the cries of what sounded like wild beasts from afar every now and then, too.
It wasn’t that there was a hidden entrance somewhere near the entrance of the Hapjeong station, but the entire station had become a dungeon, instead.
Jin-Woo pulled the steel longsword out from his Inventory.
[Item: Kim Sang-Sik’s steel longsword]
His back was blocked off, and he had no method of contacting outside, so the only option left was to go forward.
Jin-Woo nervously swallowed his saliva and slowly descended the steps. He held his breath and surveyed his surroundings, but he couldn’t sense anything particular.
However, it was truly forbidden to underestimate the dangers in a dungeon.
Among the low-ranked monsters, there were quite a few that knew how to mask and hide their presence very well. No, maybe because they were so low ranked that they had no choice but to hide and wait to ambush their prey.
Past the toilets, he entered deeper and encountered the underground shopping centre.
Shops were worn down and in complete disarray, looking more like a ruin than anything else. Seeing the human-less ruined shells of the shops dimly illuminated by the flickering overhead lamps, something felt rather ominously creepy and sinister.
A few of the lamps continued to flicker as if their life was nearing the end.
Jin-Woo carefully stepped on the overgrown weeds jutting out from between the cracked floor tiles and continued on forward, but he picked up on a general aura of unease and scanned his surroundings.
Everything seemed so quiet and still, but he did sense a gaze of something.
And then, there was this smell, too.
A seriously rotten odour of an animal carcass with flies buzzing around was coming from somewhere. For Jin-Woo, who had frequently entered dungeons, this was a rather familiar smell.
‘This smell…. An animal-type monster.’
However, he still couldn’t find its whereabouts at all. Just like how a predator would stalk its a prey.
‘Oh, so you want to remain hidden and wait for your chance, is that it?’
In that case, he should give it one.
Jin-Woo deliberately turned around and presented his back. And very slowly, retread the path he had taken until now. An animal would try pounce on the prey as soon as its back was shown. An animal-type monster would be no different.
And so, it happened when he took his third step.
The shop window of a clothing store behind him shattered into pieces and something jumped out. And this something, as soon as it landed on the ground, leapt towards Jin-Woo’s exposed neck in one go.
Jin-Woo had been getting ready for a sneak attack like this one, so almost immediately, he swung the sword in the direction of the sound.
It was a perfectly-executed instinctive counter!
The sharp edge of the blade sliced open the creature’s maw.
The monster spat out a pained cry as it flew away from Jin-Woo and crashed on the ground, rolling around in a heap.
*SFX for a dog-type whimpering, repeated*
It was a huge wolf with a reddish coat of fur.
The wolf with its maw sliced away wiggled around and threw a seizure-like fit as if it was under a great deal of pain. When he took a closer look, its name also appeared on top of its head, just like the centipedes from the penalty zone.
However, unlike before, its name was in white letters, not red.
‘There is no time to waste here!’
This was the perfect opportunity while the monster could not move from its wound. Jin-Woo threw his body forward.
He ran hard and fast, and chopped down with his sword, separating the creature’s head from its body.
Lycan spat out the final roar and stopped breathing afterwards.
[You’ve killed an Iron-Fanged Lycan.]
However, the joy of victory was temporary!
Two more Lycans jumped out from their hiding place from behind the shop’s darkness.
‘D*mn it, it was in a pack?’
Jin-Woo’s eyes grew wider.
They bared their big fangs and closed the distance in an instant.
Jin-Woo’s expression crumpled dismally.
He must’ve chopped down too hard from all the excitement, because the sword was lodged on the ground too deep and it stubbornly refused to come out.
‘It’s stuck somewhere.’
It was at this moment that one of the Lycans aimed for his face and leapt up.
Jin-Woo ducked low. The Lycan flew over his head and landed face-first on the ground after failing to stop in time.
When its fangs stabbed into the stone floor, cracks instantly formed on the hard surface.
‘I guess it’s not called Iron-Fanged for nothing, huh.’
Of course, he didn’t have the leeway to stay there and admire this scene. One more monster was still running towards his front at the moment, too. His sword showed no signs of coming free from its earthly prison for the time being.
Jin-Woo had no choice but to give up on the sword for now and threw a hard punch at the Lycan closing in.
Accompanied by a bone-chilling sound of wind parting ways, his fist flew straight forward.
It took just one hit and the head of the Lycan simply exploded.
The corpse of the now-headless Lycan slammed into the ceiling above and then, powerlessly fell down to the ground.
Jin-Woo’s eyes opened up very wide and he stared dumbfoundedly at his own fist.
What an unexpected destructive power that was.
< Chapter 13 > Fin.