Chapter 28

#11. Man Hunter

[Something has been caught on the parasite’s radar.]

[The parasite has noticed something peculiar.]

Kim Jin-Woo smiled with satisfaction when he saw the glowing green objects in the walls of the passageway. He began to tear up the walls, dig into the ground, and break the ceilings indiscriminately.

[Immature Down Gem (4/10). It may seem insignificant now, but it will become valuable with time.] 

[Newly Formed Down Gem (15/15). It will become more valuable with time, but you will have to wait for a long period.]

[Newly Formed Down Gem (13/13).  It will become more valuable with time, but you will have to wait for a long period.]

The down gems gleamed brighter than the flashing messages on Kim Jin-Woo’s screen. He literally swept them into his pocket. By the end of the day, he had collected nine down gems, which amounted to enough dungeon energy to summon two gatekeepers and more.

However, it was no easy task. Although this was an abandoned labyrinth, it was never easy to navigate the dark passages alone. Kim Jin-Woo didn’t have Jung Chan-Shik to detect traps or Lee Jun-Young to keep him company. Instead, he had to battle constant anxiety and loneliness in the dark.

Feeling the way he did ten years ago, Kim Jin-Woo shook his head to fend off the depressing thoughts. He was no longer on the deepest floor of the underground world. In fact, he was only on the third floor, which only took him a week to reach from the Paju gate.

There’s nothing here that can possibly threaten me, he thought. With that, the specter of his past that weighed down his shoulders vanished into thin air.

“Phew.” 

Kim Jin-Woo was quickly exhausted from being on guard the whole day. He began to look for somewhere to rest, but it was difficult to find such a place in the underground world. In the end, it took him another three hours to find suitable shelter.

He installed the two sets of motion sensors he had received from Lee Jun-Young and went to sleep. The night was fortunately uneventful, which was crucial for Kim Jin-Woo who had to replenish his energy for another whole day of marching.

Kim Jin-Woo began his expedition the next day without delay. Not only did he have to collect the down gems, but he also had to check whether he was heading in the right direction in this complicated labyrinth. However, finding the master room was his greatest priority.

He walked towards the heart of the labyrinth in the hopes of finding shards of the abandoned labyrinth like before.

Clank.

Kim Jin-Woo froze the moment he sensed something strange on the tip of his foot. He tried to slowly shift his center of gravity, but the ground below him rumbled and warped subtly.

“Shit…” he swore. He must have stepped on a trap. He had tried his best to be cautious, but he was just unlucky. The sensation on the tip of his foot indicated that the trap would snap his ankle off the moment he moved his foot away.

This explained why Lee Jun-Young had marked the abandoned labyrinth with a red marker on the map. Although there were no creatures guarding it, there were still traps waiting for someone to become a sacrifice or dismantle them. Now, he was about to become that sacrifice. 

Kim Jin-Woo didn’t contemplate for long, as he already knew how to deal with such a predicament. He inhaled and exhaled slowly.

“Heeyah!” He held his breath and launched himself away from the trap like a bolt of lightning, traveling over ten meters in a blink of an eye.

Clank. 

He turned around to see the lethal trap snap shut in the air with a ghastly sound. “Phew,” he sighed with relief.

It was a simple but horrifying trap that could easily snap a careless explorer’s ankle off. A layman would die from profuse bleeding, whereas a dungeon baby with a stronger body would fall prey to the vicious predators that were attracted by the smell of blood. In other words, anyone who stepped on this trap could meet a gruesome end, but that no longer mattered to Kim Jin-Woo.

He couldn’t afford to look back, as he had to check the ground, ceiling, and walls meticulously before inching forward. The increased number of traps indicated that he was getting closer to the master room. He had to leap across a few and crawl flat on the ground for others.

When he cleared about fifteen traps, he finally reached the master room of the abandoned labyrinth that he had been so anxiously looking for. The altar and its surroundings were dreadfully empty, similar to the master room of the other labyrinth he had discovered with Lee Jun-Young.

The parasite notified its host that something was hidden in the center of the coreless altar.

[The parasite has noticed something peculiar.]

Kim Jin-Woo used his trench shovel to dig into the ground, his gaze fixed on the glowing green stones. He excavated a particularly bright stone fragment not long afterward.

[You have discovered a shard of the labyrinth. The master of the labyrinth took most of the valuables when the humans won the war, but he was unable to take everything. You have found a shard that has been left unattended for a long time.]

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (9/20). Although a long time has passed, it can still be useful due to its constant exposure to dungeon energy.] 

[This stone fragment was once part of a mighty labyrinth, but it is now comparable to an average down gem due to a long period of neglect. However, new possibilities have opened in the hands of Master Kim Jin-Woo]

[You have found the second shard of the abandoned labyrinth (2/17).]

***

It was about time for Kim Jin-Woo to return home. He had already consumed more than half of the food he had packed. He could replenish his food stash as long as he had the portal to the naga’s labyrinth, but he decided to turn back nonetheless.

Although he had only explored until the third floor, his loot included two shards of the abandoned labyrinth and over forty down gems that came in various sizes. It was lucrative beyond his imagination.

However, things would have been more difficult had it not been for Kim Jin-Woo. All living creatures lost their sense of time and direction when they stepped into the labyrinths.

Without a special ability like Jung Chan-Shik’s, ordinary explorers and even dungeon babies wouldn’t be able to navigate in this place. They would wander around the labyrinth with their fatigue accumulating day after day until they eventually died of starvation or got killed by creatures or beasts.

None of these applied to Kim Jin-Woo, who had survived through the hellish journey from the deepest floor to the ground surface. He had extraordinary senses that others could barely fathom. But even he would have had a hard time if the labyrinth had its core.

Clang.

Kim Jin-Woo tapped his plump bag once and began to head toward the labyrinth’s exit. He just had to turn the corner to get out of this awful place. His pace began to quicken in delight. 

But since when did anything go in his way in the labyrinth? Kim Jin-Woo landed in an unexpected situation once again.

“Huh?” He frowned when an explorer jumped out of thin air. The stranger clutched the knife on his waist.

“Who are you?” the explorer asked. Kim Jin-Woo hesitated for a moment. He was contemplating whether to answer when a group of fifteen explorers emerged from the dark.

“I’m a fellow explorer,” Kim Jin-Woo replied nonchalantly.

A man who appeared to be a dungeon baby stepped forward and asked, “Why are you alone?” 

It was a simple question, but it gave Kim Jin-Woo goosebumps. Something was off. He tensed up upon sensing an erratic aura from the stranger’s body, which wasn’t commonly seen in an average dungeon baby.

“Ah, I got separated from my team while trying to find the way. I’m heading back now.” Kim Jin-Woo lied, as he instinctively sensed danger.

Meanwhile, the explorers were starting to move suspiciously. “Ah, is that so? We were inspecting the region, but we couldn’t find anyone…” The dungeon baby was dragging his speech out with an ulterior motive. Sure enough, the explorers began to silently approach Kim Jin-Woo.

“Stop!” Kim Jin-Woo bellowed. There was no reason to test the waters anymore, as the explorers were displaying clear animosity against him for some reason.

“Hey, you don’t have to put your guard up. Aren’t we all comrades?” Despite his friendly words, the dungeon baby lowered his posture, ready to whip out his knife and charge at Kim Jin-Woo any moment.

Fuck. Kim Jin-Woo cursed inwardly. These explorers were hunters who preyed on their own kind to satisfy their own needs.

Creak.

Kim Jin-Woo leaped away the moment he heard this extremely tiny sound.

Ptang!

Something flew and landed on the ground where he had been standing moments ago.

A message appeared.

[The battle has begun.]

He could hear the sound of bolts piercing through the air before the message window disappeared.

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