When his foot came down on the surface, the sound of his footsteps rang out. It sounded louder than usual.
After he went into the second floor, he found that it didn’t differ much from the first floor. The place was pitch black, and cold walls surrounded him. There was a silence that made one shiver, and the path branched off into different tunnels.
No, there was something different. It was minor, but he could feel it against his skin. The magical energy had become a bit denser. It seemed the amount of magical energy had increased. But the difference was so small that he wondered if he were imagining it.
Sungyoon started to search for monsters. He wandered around the second floor like a hungry predator looking for prey. As a precaution, he had placed his moonstones inside a plastic bag, and they rattled within his pack.
The first monster he ran across was a Mad Dog.
‘It seems the Mad Dog is going to be my first monster on the first and second floor.’
Sungyoon had such thoughts as he watched the drooling Mad Dog. It had bared its teeth towards him.
‘If Shinhae wants a pet, I’ll buy her a cat. I’m not buying her a dog.’
Hamster and lizards were also off the table.
Sungyoon got into his familiar stance as he extended his shield forward. Since he changed floors, he went back to being cautious in his hunt.
Fortunately, the attack pattern of the monsters hadn’t changed. The Mad Dog was beyond tenacious. It was borderline stupid as it tried to attack Sungyoon’s neck.
He skillfully knocked down the Mad Dog with his shield. Sungyoon furrowed his brows.
‘I’m definitely feeling more force on impact.’
He felt electricity run up his arm. He had planned on immediately chasing down the Mad Dog, but he stopped.
Usually, the Mad Dogs on floor one shook their head to overcome their stunned state. This was also true for the Mad Dog on floor two. However, this version of the Mad Dog recovered from its stunned state at a surprising speed.
‘I’m only on the 2nd floor, yet it is so powerful.’
In his mind, he had cleared the 1st floor quickly, so he had been confident in himself. This was clearly a disadvantageous situation for Sungyoon.
Still, a Mad Dog was a Mad Dog.
Sungyoon’s spear pierced through the Mad Dog’s head.
It still let out a yelp like a dog before it fell. When he retracted his spear, he watched the corpse change into a moonstone.
Sungyoon put away the moonstone into the plastic bag. The bag became heavier by the new addition.
The difficulty level had clearly gone up, but he thought he would be able to handle it. Sungyoon started expanding his search radius with the stairway at the center.
Fortunately, this place had signs too. He wouldn’t get lost in trying to find the exit.
The frequency of his encounter with monsters went up compared to the 1st floor. It seemed the Big Rat didn’t nest on this floor. All six monsters he encountered were either a Mad Dog or Six-legged Lizard.
After killing his 3rd Mad Dog on the 2nd floor, he was about to move forward once again.
He heard the cry of a monster. Sungyoon quickly raised his shield, and he looked toward the source of the sound.
A midsized monster was glaring at Sungyoon.
It looked as its name implied. It looked exactly like a hedgehog, and Sungyoon became tense when he saw it. It was his first time seeing it, but he knew its identity. Its agility, power, and defensive capability was much lower than the Mad Dog. However, it was much more dangerous than the Mad Dog.
Its stiff quills were pointed towards Sungyoon.
In a flash, a single needle was shot towards him.
Sungyoon twisted his body. The needle flew past him, and a frightening sound of destruction rang out.
He swallowed dryly as he looked at the Needle Hedgehog. He saw its red eyes and stiff quills.
This was why the Needle Hedgehog was more dangerous compared to any of the monsters he encountered up to that point.
It unilaterally attacked its enemy from a place where it couldn’t be attacked easily. Sungyoon would be put in a terrible situation if he wasn’t careful.
‘Is there any cover for me?’
Sungyoon observed his surroundings. Fortunately, he saw a 50 cm deep ditch not too far away. Sungyoon moved into that ditch.
A needle shot past above his head. It felt like he was on a battlefield where guns were being used.
Fortunately, the monster could shoot only one needle at a time. This fact gave him comfort. If it shot its needles like a machine gun, he wouldn’t have been able to raise his head.
The needles kept shooting past above his head, but running away wasn’t an option for him.
He’ll have to fight much stronger and dangerous monsters in the future. He had all the information about the monster available to him. He couldn’t just run away, because the monster was capable of long-ranged attacks.
Sungyoon observed the needle being shot towards him.
He could see it. When he became a Connector, his vision had developed to an astonishing degree. His eyes could pick up the speedy needle.
He already knew he could do this. However, it surprised him when he experienced it for himself.
Sungyoon raised his body.
The Needle Hedgehog remained in the same location as it kept shooting its needle.
Sungyoon twisted his body to dodge the needles. He slowly approached the Needle Hedgehog. Most of the needles were dodged, but he had to occasionally use his shield to block a few needles. When the needle embedded itself in his wooden shield, he could feel the destructive power behind it. It gave him chills, but he did his best to calm his heart. He continued to advance forward.
He stabbed his spear towards the Needle Hedgehog, who was desperately shooting its needles towards Sungyoon. It struggled as the spear embedded itself into the body of the Needle Hedgehog.
In a flash, it shot another needle. Sungyoon had his hands full as he tried to hold onto his spear. He didn’t notice the needle being shot towards him.
He couldn’t dodge it. The needle flew past his shield as it embedded itself in the right side of Sungyoon’s stomach. However, his hard leather armor did its job. The needle embedded itself into the armor, but it couldn’t damage Sungyoon.
It was a totally unexpected sequence of events for Sungyoon. He couldn’t come up with a coherent thought as he quickly stabbed with his spear.
This time the spear blade found its mark. It pierced into the Needle Hedgehog’s neck. It let out a grotesque scream before it slumped to the floor.
For a moment longer, Sungyoon kept up his guard against the Needle Hedgehog. Finally, the Needle Hedgehog’s body turned into light. At that moment, Sungyoon dropped to the floor.
He pulled out the needle from the armor, and he threw it on the ground. He was annoyed. If his heart was still beating, it would be pounding in his chest. It would be beating so hard that it would have felt as if his heart would jump out of his chest.
‘If I hadn’t worn my armor, it would have been really bad for me.’
He suddenly felt thankful towards Jimin, who had purchased this armor for him. If he wasn’t wearing his armor, the needle would have pierced through his...
‘The hospital fee here is probably really expensive.’
If he was injured, Jimin said he shouldn’t hesitate to go to the hospital. She told him not to worry about the cost of treatment. However, he considered the cost to be too burdensome to use the hospital. Above all else, he didn’t want to get injured.
‘I have to push through this.’
He couldn’t back off because he was frightened. He pounded his armor with his fist to encourage himself.
Still, he decided to be a bit more cautious. This place was full of deaths and injuries. Being cautious would work only up to a point.
Sungyoon picked up the moonstone. The only consolation was the fact that it dropped a bigger moonstone compared to the Mad Dog.
‘I’ll leave for the day.’
This was the first time he had almost been seriously injured. He tried hard to push all his emotions down, but his hands were still shaking a little bit. In truth, he was a bit surprised that he hadn’t lost his will to fight.
He carried his rustling plastic bag as he backed out of the labyrinth without stopping. In the end, he exited the labyrinth without getting into much trouble.
However, Sungyoon didn’t immediately head back to his sleeping place. It wasn't too late yet, and he had to dispel the fear that had been instilled into his body even if it was by a small amount.
Fear usually came back like a hammer swung at his heart. He had overcome his fears, but it wasn’t as if he was free of the fear. Still, many of the fears he had from his life were minimized when he came here.
The fear given to him by the Great Labyrinth had such weight.
Sungyoon ignored the desire to turn his head away. He stared straight at the Great Labyrinth.
‘Yes. I can’t be afraid right now. My goal is there.’
Sungyoon looked at the Great Labyrinth as if he wanted to demolish it with his gaze. Sungyoon stood there for a while as he stared into the terrifying pitch-black maw.
* * *
After returning from space, Jimin didn’t take a break. She went to work at her company. Even when she didn’t have any Connectors affiliated with her company, she had never taken a day off. Obviously, she wouldn’t rest when she had just one Connector contracted to her company.
‘This should wrap it up.’
She was typing data into her computer. She was making plans. When Sungyoon went into a Personal Labyrinth in the future, he would be able to acquire moonstones in earnest. She was gathering data for a company that’ll transport the moonstones to Earth. She might not need this plan, and the probability of not needing this plan was high. Still, she would be ready.
‘It is already this late.’
The clock hand was already pointing at 8. She got up from her desk as she got ready to leave work.
A light flashed outside of the window.
A loud noise rang out. It sounded as if the sky was falling. Jimin approached the window, and she looked outside. Streaks of light illuminated the dark sky.
Gradually, she saw pools of water form on the ground, and the winds caused waves to form in the puddles. This wasn’t regular rain. It was a fierce storm.
Was it because she was on the Moon not too long ago? It had been a while since she felt melancholy while watching the falling rain.
‘Didn’t he say that her name was Shinhae?’
She suddenly thought about Sungyoon’s daughter. He had asked her to look after Shinhae. After she came down from the Moon, she had been busy with her work. She hadn’t thought about the child. However, she was done with her work for the day.
‘There should be no problem, but...’
If something was wrong, the hired help would have contacted Jimin.
‘Still, I should visit her once.’
She checked the time once again. While she was watching the rain, twenty minutes had passed. At this hour, the child should be alone at home.
She exited her office. She got in her red foreign car, and she drove through the rain.
She was familiar with this road. In the first place, she had purchased the apartment that she had loaned out to Sungyoon. Of course, she knew where it was.
It didn’t take her too long to arrive at Sungyoon’s apartment. The apartment houses in this region were for the lower-income bracket, so all the cars in the parking lot were normal. Her red foreign car stuck out like a sore thumb.
Jimin opened her umbrella as she exited her car. She could see the porch of the apartments through the rain. It was still too early to sleep, so most of the porches had light leaking out from the windows. Sungyoon’s house was one of them.
Jimin entered the apartment complex, and she rode the elevator up to the floor where Sungyoon resided. She went up to the front door, and she rang the doorbell.
The sound of a bell rang out. She put her hand down as she waited.
『Who is it?』
A young child’s voice could be heard through the intercom. Jimin pressed her face towards the camera of the intercom. Then she spoke.
“Are you Shinhae?”
『…who are you, ajumma?』
The child sounded full of suspicion. Of course, the girl would be guarded when a strange woman had shown up in front of her house. She didn’t feel put off by it. However, the kid had called her ajumma. There were no ill intentions behind her words. In the eyes of a child, older women were all ajumma. Jimin knew this, but a small wound was left behind by that word.
Jimin spoke calmly.
“My name is Hahn Jimin. Unni is your dad’s colleague at work. Did your dad mention me?”
She emphasized the word ‘unni.’ She couldn’t help it as a woman.
The intercom remained silent for a short moment.
『…I heard about you.』
“That’s good. Your dad asked me to check up on you. Could you open the door for me?”
The intercom became silent once again. Soon, she heard an electronic beep that indicated the intercom was shut off.
In the end...
Jimin heard the locks unlock. The thick steel door was pushed open, and she could see the small face of a child peeking through the gap.
This was how Shinhae and Jimin met for the first time.Previous Chapter Next Chapter