Chapter 24

It looked like a dog, and its size was as big as a mid-sized dog. It possessed brown fur that stood on its end as it had been exposed to static electricity. The creature's mouth was slightly open, and one could see its sharp fangs.

‘Mad dog.’

It was obvious as to why it was given such a name. It had fierce red eyes, and it was drooling. It looked like a mad dog.

Sungyoon shifted his weight towards the back of his foot as he gripped his spear with his right hand. A shield was strapped to his left arm. He pushed the shield forward.

‘Let’s go for the safer approach...’

He’d never fought with his life on the line before. He had gotten into a fist fight with his friend when he was a teen, but that was it. Since he didn’t have much experience, it would be bad if he got his throat ripped out by being rash. Currently, he needed to use this opportunity to get used to fighting.

The Mad Dog was a more dangerous monster than the Big Rat. It was bigger and more powerful. It was also agile, so he might get this throat ripped out if he wasn’t careful.

Despite all of this, it was a monster from the Beginner’s Labyrinth. He was a Connector, and his heart was supplying him with magical energy. Unless he severely underestimated his enemy, he should be able to kill this monster without much difficulty.

The Mad Dog slowly moved towards Sungyoon. It moved like all the animals seen in documentaries and crouched low to the ground. It reminded Sungyoon of a compressed coil spring. It was probably trying to pounce at the most opportune moment.

The Mad Dog was slowly advancing towards him, yet Sungyoon didn’t move. His body was tense as if he was trying to react to all possibilities. 

-Koo-rahhhhhh!

The Mad Dog sprung forward. It pushed off on its hind legs, and it extended its front legs. It was more than a jump. It basically shot towards Sungyoon, and he could see the terrifyingly sharp teeth within its open jaw.

Puhhhhk!

Sungyoon bashed the Mad Dog’s head with his shield.

-Yip!

A dog was a dog. The Mad Dog let out a yelp like a normal dog and was sent flying sideways.

Chwahhhhk!

The Mad Dog flew around 2m in the air before it rolled on the ground.

Sungyoon didn’t chase after it. He pushed his shield forward, and he once again got into his stance.

The Mad Dog quickly got up. It shook its head to get rid of the fuzziness. It seemed it hadn’t taken too much damage since it recovered quickly. It bared its teeth towards Sungyoon. The Mad Dog was growling louder as if it had lost its sanity from being too angry.

-Koo-ahhhhng!

There was no wariness in the Mad Dog’s movements. It rushed towards Sungyoon in its agitated state. However, the monster used the same simple attack pattern. Sungyoon once again bashed the head of the Mad Dog with his shield.

-Kang!

The Mad Dog was sent flying for the second time. It seemed the second strike had done some damage. The Mad Dog swayed to its feet. However, Sungyoon remained patient.

The Mad Dog used the same attack, and Sungyoon responded like before. However, he didn’t backhand the Mad Dog with his shield. He brought down his shield from up high.

Puhk!

Unlike before, the Mad Dog fell in front of Sungyoon. At that moment, Sungyoon moved his right hand. The blade of the spear pierced through the side of the struggling Mad Dog.

-Krrrrr-rahhhhh!

The Mad Dog let out an odd scream as it thrashed its body. Sungyoon didn’t want to lose his spear, so he tightened his grip around the spear shaft. Then he kicked the Mad Dog with his right foot.

Puhhng!

A satisfying sound rang out when his foot struck its target. The spear blade broke free from the Mad Dog and it was sent flying again. It made a red skid mark on the ground with its blood.

He thought about chasing after it to finish the monster. However, he shook his head.

‘I need experience right now.’

He was obstinate as he once again pushed his shield forward.

This time the monster had taken a lot of damage. The Mad Dog whined as it struggled to its feet. There was a deep wound on its body, and blood was pouring out from it.

Sungyoon kept his shield in front of him as he slowly moved towards the Mad Dog. The Mad Dog was barely able to get back on its feet. By all indication, the Mad Dog looked incapable of continuing the battle. Its tongue was lolling. It was panting as it coughed out blood, and its red eyes were clearly starting to dim. However, the murderous intent in its eyes remained the same.

Boom!

Sungyoon took a big step forward. The surprised Mad Dog reflexively charged forward, but once again, Sungyoon swung his shield to strike down the Mad Dog. 

Then he stabbed with his spear.

Poohk!

The bloody spear blade planted itself in the Mad Dog’s head.

-Kek!

It let out a short scream before its body started to convulse. Then it stopped moving. However, Sungyoon didn’t get out of his battle stance.

Poohk!

He stabbed once again to make sure it was dead. However, there was no response from the Mad Dog.

“Whew!”

He let out a sigh as if he wanted to blow out all the tension in his body. He used his sleeve to wipe the single bead of sweat rolling down his forehead.

‘This is really mentally exhausting.’

Was it because he wasn’t used to this yet? His muscles ached from being so tense. It had been a battle with his life on the line, so he had consumed a lot of mental power.

‘I don’t know if I’ll get used to this.’

However, he had to get used to it. He would face much worse foes on his road to the Great Labyrinth.

Sungyoon was somewhat serious about aiming for the Great Labyrinth. Of course, it might be impossible for him, since there was a ceiling to his abilities as a 1st Gen Connector. Jimin didn’t look like she was expecting too much from him, but his heart was set on reaching the Great Labyrinth.

‘It is part of the contract.’

Of course, he would be doing this, because he felt grateful towards Jimin. However, another big factor was the fact that he made a contract with her.

‘If I throw away a contract like old shoes, I’ll be like that son of a bitch.’

He wanted to avoid that at all costs. Sungyoon had been duped into thinking Jaeho was his friend. He couldn’t lower himself to act on the same level as that son of a bitch. 

He didn’t feel any shock from killing a living creature. In his basic training, he was taught about what it was like to kill. Up until that point, he had only killed bugs in his life. Now he thought of these as slaughtering cattle, so he had no qualms about killing the monster.

Hwahhk!

In an instant, light started to emanate from the Mad Dog’s body. Since he was in a completely dark place, the light was that much more noticeable. Sungyoon looked a bit touched as he looked at the light.

When the light faded away, Sungyoon found a sliver of a stone on the floor. It was as big as his finger.

He bent to pick it up. This was the first time he had held such an item. The angular stone had a smooth surface, and it felt like the stone was about to slip out of his fingers.

He gripped it tight. He felt a cool sensation in his palm. It was a sensation unique to this stone.

‘I finally got one!’

It was merely a small fragment. He had only one, and he didn’t know how much it was worth. Still, it was a giant step forward for him. The acquisition of moonstones would open up his future.

* * *

Sungyoon went around the labyrinth for a little bit longer. He encountered two more monsters. Both his opponents were Big Rats.

In the beginning, he used the same strategy as the one he used against the Mad Dog. He put his shield in front of him, and he was careful in his hunt. However, he quickly had to change his strategy against the Big Rat. Unlike the Mad Dog, the Big Rat couldn’t leap. It tried to bite his shin. The Big Rat was the size of his forearm, so he couldn’t effectively defend against it using his shield. He almost lost his balance when he bent too low with his shield. It was more effective for him to keep distance. He placed his hands on the lower quarter of the spear to lengthen his reach.

Kwah-jeek!

The Big Rat had numerous wounds all over its body, yet it continued to charge towards him. Sungyoon pierced the spear squarely through its head. The Big Rat fell over.

Sungyoon extracted his spear. The spear blade and the top portion of the shaft were covered in red blood. He lightly swung his spear to flick the blood away.

Hwahk!

This was his third fight, and he was starting to get the hang of it. The light dissipated, and a Moonstone appeared in the place of the corpse. He skillfully picked it up, and he placed it in his pocket.

‘I should start heading back.’

In the first place, Jimin had told him to explore the labyrinth until he gained some experience.

‘It is tiring to maintain this level of alertness.’

Sungyoon turned around, and he started retracing his steps. The number of Connectors increased as he got closer to the entrance. All of them were exiting the labyrinth. Most of them looked tired. He also saw some injured Connectors. They were bleeding profusely.

Sungyoon was slowly starting to see the light. It meant the entrance was not that far away. Everyone hastened their steps. Sungyoon became part of the crowd.

When Sungyoon exited the labyrinth, he was greeted by the bright lights of the city. He had exited the stuffy and gloomy labyrinth. He was within the sphere of civilization again. His shoulders relaxed as he straightened himself. It was as if the small amount of tension that was in his shoulders was blown away.

‘I’m a bit tired.’

When the feeling of tension went away, tiredness took its place. It seemed he had accumulated a lot of stress. He headed towards the location where he had separated from Jimin.

Jimin was still there. She looked the same as when he had left her. It seemed she hadn’t moved at all from her original spot. She had waited for him.

“I am back.”

“You did a good job. Are you hurt anywhere?”

Jimin looked over Sungyoon’s body. Normally, she was cold and aloof, but at that moment, unlike her usual self, she was a bit intense. She looked like she wanted to strip him to check for any wounds.

“I’m not hurt anywhere. I did as you advised, president. I was conservative in my actions to build experience. I put my safety above all else.”

“I’m glad to hear that. A lot of people get excited in their first battle, and they come back wounded.”

She let out a small sigh of relief.

“It is quite the experience, right?”

“I killed three monsters. I killed one Mad Dog and two Big Rats.”

Sungyoon rooted through his pocket. He took out one Moonstone that was the size of his finger. The other two Moonstones were the size of his fingernail.

“How was it?”

Jimin’s eyes landed on the Moonstones for a moment then she looked at Sungyoon once again. 

“If I’m being truthful, it wasn’t that hard. I was able to hunt in relative safety, and I was able to reflect upon my actions after each fight. The only thing that bothered me was the accumulation of stress that comes with a life or death battle.”

Jimin nodded once.

“It is to be expected. Still, you have to get used to it.”

“I know.”

Sungyoon already knew this.

“Then let’s go. You had a successful debut, so I’ll buy you something delicious for dinner.”

“You don’t have to....”

“It’s fine. I’m paying because I want to.”

It seemed he wouldn’t be able to change Jimin’s mind. Sungyoon silently nodded.

“Thank you.”

“Ah. Do you mind if I invite a friend to dine with us? This friend might help you out in the future.”

‘She has a friend on the Moon?’

He was a bit surprised by this news, but Sungyoon nodded to show his affirmation.

“You are buying dinner, so I’ll follow whatever you want to do.”

Sungyoon didn’t have social anxiety. In the past, he had to meet a lot of people for business. In fact, he was used to meeting and dealing with strangers. Of course, this didn’t mean he liked everyone. There was only one type of person that he was trying to avoid, but it didn’t mean he was uncomfortable being around people.

‘There is no way this friend is another beauty.’

Recently, the frequency of encountering a once in a lifetime beauty had increased. Still, there was no way Jimin’s friend was a beauty too.

“Alright. Let’s go.”

Jimin turned around and she started walking.

Sungyoon suddenly turned back to look at the labyrinth that looked like a big maw. It felt as if the labyrinth was glaring at him. It probably felt bitter at the fact that it couldn’t capture Sungyoon. He did his best to look away from the labyrinth and followed Jimin.

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