Chapter 12. Culvert’s Secret

After he finished his morning exercise and breakfast, Jae Woo logged into Arth. 

Before heading to the Altein Culverts, he visited the Holiseum.

"Darion, I'm here!"

Darion was like a thief that stole his experience points, but bringing him along did make things easier. 

After all, it wouldn't do for him to torture his back by picking up each and every bone fragment. 

"Ugh," Darion groaned.

He lamented over the fact that he'd have to travel with Kang Oh together again.

"Let's work hard today," Kang Oh grinned.

"Hoo. Understood."

Darion's shoulders slumped.

Seeing that, Kang Oh said, "If you do well, then I'll raise your wage to 10 silver."

He attempted to encourage him by more than tripling his salary. 

But to Darion, 1 silver, 3 silvers, or even 10 silvers was all chump change.

It was nowhere near enough to hire the last student of the Invincible Gladiator, Burkan.

Not to mention, he wasn't satisfied with his employer at all.

But what could he do?

He accepted the bet and he'd lost. 

Moreover, as a gladiator, he couldn't go back on his word, and it's not like Kang Oh would let him go back on his word anyway.

In the end, he had no choice but to persevere for a week.

Darion forced himself to follow Kang Oh.

"These are... the Altein Culverts."

Their destination was obviously the Altein Culverts. 

Creak.

The door seemed to cry out.

"Huh?"

The old man, who guarded the entrance to the culverts, was dozing off like yesterday.

They say that the elderly have trouble sleeping, but this guy had no such problems. 

Clang.

The old geezer mumbled something indistinctly and carelessly opened the door, returning to his slumber immediately after.

Kang Oh and Darion passed the old man and entered the culverts. 

* * *

A skeleton's head rolled on the floor until it reached Kang Oh's heel.

Kang Oh glanced back.

Darion was battling 5 skeletons that had surrounded him. 

He was in charge of fighting the skeletons while Kang Oh comfortably examined the dungeon and its statues. 

"..."

Darion didn't respond. He merely swung his sword and scowled. 

"You were cursing me out just now, weren't you?"

"No," Darion said, feigning innocence.

"Man, you're really no help at all!" Kang Oh scolded, and went back to inspecting the wolf statue.

The wolf statue, like yesterday's gargoyle statue, made a clicking sound when its head was pressed.

The result was much the same as well. It merely bowed its head; there wasn't any noticeable change to the dungeon.

"Hmm."

In any case, Kang Oh examined each and every statue within the dungeon in this way.

There were 20 statues in total.

Their appearances all differed, but they shared a common feature: when their heads were pushed, they would bow their heads and emit a clicking sound.

Whenever he examined the statues though, his Hyper Intuition didn't activate; not even once.

'Is there nothing here?'

His Hyper Intuition not activating may be a sign that there wasn't a hidden dungeon down here. 

'Well, since I'm here, I might as well go through the whole place. And if my Hyper Intuition doesn't go off, I'll just go and find another place.'

As expected, finding a hidden dungeon was no easy feat.

Then, Darion approached him.

"I took care of them all."

Kang Oh extended his hand.

Darion passed him all of the fallen skeletons' bone fragments. 

Kang Oh walked towards the end of the passageway without even a word of thanks. 

Darion just sighed and followed him.

How much time had passed?

"It's here!"

His Hyper Intuition was telling him that something was here; that something was out of place!

It was the feeling that helped him find Alishi's Nest. 

He felt it from a pool where the culvert's waters congregated. 

'Is this it!?'

He couldn't tell how deep it went, but his Hyper Intuition was telling him that something was off about it. 

However, it didn't look strange on the outside.

"Darion, keep watch," Kang Oh said.

Darion responded with an expression akin to 'What are you talking about?'.

"I'm going in, so make sure that no skeletons or players can approach."

After all, there were rumors that the culverts contained a hidden dungeon, so he didn't want to draw attention to it. 

"If a player does come, you can just say the area is under construction or something."

If Darion, an NPC, were to say it, then they'd probably believe him and leave the area alone.

Kang Oh de-equipped all of his equipment and dove into the pond.

He splashed into the pond, causing the water to overflow and soak the walkway. 

Seeing that, Darion quietly muttered, "I hope you drown."

He couldn’t forget the day that Kang Oh had thrown dirt into his eyes, nor could he forget his humiliating loss and the resulting slave contract. Then there was the constant stream of abuse and unfair treatment!

Darion prayed for Kang Oh's misfortune, putting all of his deep-seated resentment into it. 

***

The pool was deeper and longer than he thought.

But Kang Oh wouldn't drown. 

Kang Oh was a proficient swimmer. Plus, he was currently in-game, so he could swim for a longer period of time than he would have otherwise been able to.

However, it was dark, making it difficult to see underwater. 

Despite that, Kang Oh pressed forward, making his way to the area that Hyper Intuition told him felt off. 

It didn't seem to take that long. 

He saw a faint strand of light. That was where his Hyper Intuition was leading him to.

"Phew!"

His face surfaced from the water and he inhaled deeply to catch his breath.

He looked around and his face brightened with joy.

It was a door with a set of peculiar red characters inscribed on it.

Even at first glance, it seemed clear that this door was special.

Kang Oh got out of the water and approached the door. He then examined it closely.

He was checking to see if there was some sort of special device like the gargoyle or wolf statues. 

But it was just a door.

It was as though the statues were merely bait; the door had no such devices, as if it were laughing at them for trying to use the status.

He stretched out both his hands and forcefully opened the door; to his surprise, the heavy door opened quite easily. 


[You have discovered the hidden dungeon, He Who Defies Death, Eder's Secret Laboratory.]

[You are the first to discover this dungeon.]

[Fame has increased.]

[You will receive double the experience while in He Who Defies Death, Eder's Secret Laboratory. Item drop rate will also be doubled.]


'I see. The statues were merely bait. They were designed to hide the existence of this door.'

Those poor Dungeon Hunters, who had taken the bait and were still fiddling around with the statues.

If not for his Hyper Intuition, he'd be going through the same fruitless search as the hunters.

'But I do have Hyper Intuition.'

Kang Oh smiled.

In any case, he was the first one to discover this dungeon!

He had another chance to strike gold.

***

"Phew!"

Darion's pale face surfaced from the water.

"Heok, heok."

Darion got out of the water and breathed heavily. He wasn't very good at swimming. 

"Phew!"

Kang Oh came up next. 

He quickly looked Darion over and then patted his back. 

'Mm, you did pretty good.'

"You ok?"

He didn't hear him say anything, since the door to the hidden dungeon opened.

Creak!

"Let's go!"

The two descended a stairway shrouded in darkness. 


[Entering He Who Defies Death, Eder's Secret Laboratory.]


The layout of Eder's Secret Laboratory and the Altein Culverts was quite similar. 

An arch-shaped passageway.

But there were no waterways on either side. 

The skeletons here were much stronger. 

Skeletons Warriors and Skeleton Mages! The Skeleton Warriors wielded rusty swords and shields, while the Skeleton Mages carried staffs. 

He estimated that they were about level 50.

Kang Oh was currently level 22, while Darion was level 38.

Normally, the level disparity would strongly discourage them from fighting them. 

But that only applied to normal players; Kang Oh was a player that defied all norms.

He had his special ability, Hyper Intuition, was a Demonic Swordsman, and wielded an SS-rank demon sword. 

Of course, Darion was also the pupil of a legendary gladiator, so the level difference wouldn't matter much to him either. 

The level 22 Kang Oh engaged one of the level 50 Skeleton Warriors. 

He let Darion deal with two of the Skeleton Warriors since he was a higher level than him.

"Now we're talking!" 

Kang Oh grinned.

He was fighting against Skeleton Warriors now, not those frail skeletons from before, so he felt like he had actually met a good match.

Rattle, clatter. 

The Skeleton Warrior attacked him, its bones sounding eerily like a castanet as they grated against each other.

Kang Oh swung his demon sword. 

Clang!

They exchanged blows for quite some time.

'It really is strong.'

A Skeleton Warrior was much more powerful than a Beginner Skeleton.

Unlike a Beginner Skeleton, a Skeleton Warrior was fit with a sword, a shield, a helmet, and armor, all of which were rusted. 

It could also use a basic skill too!

Thrust!

The rusty iron sword came flying at him, enveloped in a dark red aura. 

Kang Oh parried it with his sword. 

Clang!

Their blades met, causing his hand to throb. 

"Hueup."

Kang Oh breathed in and swung his sword; a white line followed the path of his sword. 

Slash!

The Skeleton Warrior raised its shield.

Clang!

His demon sword crashed against its shield. 

He swung downwards with a two-handed grip, repeatedly smashing his sword against the shield. 

Darkness Strike activated on the third attack. A jet-black wave of darkness, which resembled a rabid beast, pounced on the Skeleton Warrior. 

Rattle!

The Skeleton Warrior shook its head, as if it were in pain, and then counterattacked!

His Hyper Intuition flared, allowing him to predict where the attack would land. Kang Oh turned his body, evading the attack, and swung his sword upwards.

The Skeleton Warrior defended itself with its sword.

Clang!

Both blades clashed!

Again and again!

Kang Oh and the Skeleton Warriors exchanged blows for some time. 

But as time passed, Kang Oh gained more and more of an advantage. 

While Kang Oh was steadily damaging the Skeleton Warrior, the same could not be said about the reverse. 

Alishi's Necklace was helping out too. 

Since the Skeleton Warrior was undead, poison wouldn't work on it. However, the necklace's other abilities, particularly its ability to slow and shoot earth fragments, were quite effective. 

In the end, Kang Oh managed to defeat the Skeleton Warrior.


[You have defeated a Skeleton Warrior.]

[You have leveled up.]


Because of the huge level disparity, he'd obtained a ton of experience.

Plus, he gained double the experience for being the first to discover the hidden dungeon.

It took a while to take it down, but it was worth it. 

However…

"Ugh. If you're done, please come over and help me!" Darion yelled, barely holding on against two Skeleton Warriors. 

"I'm on my way!" Kang Oh yelled forcefully, and entered the fray once more. 

***

In general, it took about 10 minutes to take down a Skeleton Warrior or Skeleton Mage.

If a total of 4 or more Skeleton Warriors or Skeleton Mages showed up, then victory wasn't guaranteed. Therefore, they had to follow a different path whenever they found a large group. 

This slowed Kang Oh's exploration speed. 

Contrary to his exploration speed, his level went up rather quickly. 

He leveled up so quickly that any other player would look at him wide-eyed with their mouth agape!

It'd only been 6 or so hours since he’d entered the hidden dungeon, yet he'd already gone up 8 levels. Now, he was level 30. 

Because of that, he was able to equip the ghost pattern armor that he'd gotten from Alishi. 

Kang Oh was currently engaging a Skeleton Mage in order to further increase his level.

Rattle. 

The robe-wearing Skeleton Mage was mashing its teeth together.

It was casting a spell.

Fire ignited from its bony hand. 

"Block it, Darion!" Kang Oh yelled.

Magic was extremely powerful. Thus, getting hit by magic even once often spelled doom for a player. 

That's why he decided to use Darion as a human shield.

Of course…

"No thank you!" Darion firmly refused.

"You!"

Meanwhile, the Skeleton Mage finished casting its spell. 

Fireball!

A red sphere of flames came flying at Kang Oh. 

'Damn it.'

Since magic usually affected a large area, avoiding it would be a stupid move.

Because of its AoE tick damage.

Kang Oh quickly embedded his sword into the ground and hid behind it.

Boom!

The fireball hit his sword hard.

Its flames traveled up his sword and spread across his body like a snake's flickering tongue. 


[You have taken 210 fire damage.]

[You have been burned, so you take 50 additional damage.]

[Remaining HP: 318]


He'd taken quite a bit of damage, but he'd avoided death.

Meanwhile, Darion thrust his sword. 

This was Darion's main combat skill, Vital Thrust!

His gladius, enveloped in a red aura, pierced through the Skeleton Mage's neck. 

Like any mage, the Skeleton Mage's defense was extremely low.

Since it had been fighting Kang Oh and Darion this entire time, it was wounded all over and didn't have much HP left. 

In a last act of defiance, it unleashed one more spell, but Kang Oh survived the spell and Darion's attack killed it. 


[You have defeated a Skeleton Mage.]

[You have leveled up.]


Once it died, Kang Oh pointed his sword towards the junk items.

His demon sword consumed the old robe pieces.


[Ubist has consumed the Incredibly Foul-Smelling Old Robes. Satiation has increased by 0.7%.]

[Ubist's satiation has reached 100%.]

[The demon sword has become stronger!]


At that moment, a jet-black energy erupted from the blade.

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