It’d be easy to go mad from pain and wildly thrash about, but he’d lose this great opportunity, which would most likely never happen again. Losing his consciousness now would mean his end.
‘….178, 179, 180!’
Jin-Woo had been bitterly waiting for the end of the three-minute duration and finally, revealed his hidden trump card.
‘The first reward, give it to me now!’
He immediately collected the first reward from the Daily Quest he had saved up until now.
[‘Reward 1: Full recovery of the current physical condition’ has been applied.]
A blue light enveloped him and all depleted health reverted back to full.
Even his tattered left arm was healed as good as new in the blink of an eye.
‘This is my chance!’
Jin-Woo’s eyes gleamed coldly. In such close proximity, no matter how agile this monster was, it’d not be able to dodge his attacks.
Jin-Woo rapidly caught one of Cerberus’s necks with his left arm, and stabbed the ‘Poison Fang of Kasaka’ in the middle of that neck.
Stab! Stab! Stab!!
The rage state had ended by now, and the Cerberus began to violently thrash about trying to escape from Jin-Woo’s embrace.
However, Jin-Woo did not let go and held on with his powerful arms. The harder the Cerberus struggled, the stronger he gripped the neck of the monster.
In the meantime, his dagger continued to stab into the creature’s neck.
Stab, stab, stab!!
The Cerberus bit into Jin-Woo as it struggled to the bitter end, but the battle had already been decided by then.
The Poison Fang of Kasaka now travelled lower down from the neck and stabbed the Cerberus’s chest.
Stab! Stab! Stab!!
Soon enough, the monster’s resistance became noticeably weaker and weaker.
In the end, the heads of the Cerberus fell to the side, lifeless.
[You have defeated ‘Hell’s Gatekeeper, Cerberus’.]
In one breath, his level rose up by 4. That was how difficult this battle was.
Jin-Woo only let go of the Cerberus’s neck after confirming its body going limp with his own eyes. The heavy body sprawled to the floor without any resistance whatsoever.
Jin-Woo rested his hands on his knees.
Only now could he breathe a sigh of relief.
A monster that could use a skill – if he didn’t prepare a hidden trump card, then he’d have been killed for sure. A chill crawled down his spine just from thinking about it.
‘Oh, I almost forgot…. Items.’
Would there be as many rewards befitting his life-or-death struggle to bring down this monster?
After calming himself down, Jin-Woo reached out towards the Cerberus.
[You have discovered ‘Item: Gatekeeper’s Necklace’. Take it?]
[You have discovered ‘Item: Key to the Castle’s Gate’. Take it?]
[You have discovered ‘Item: Cerberus’s Molar, x3’. Take it?]
‘Take them all.’
A steel necklace originally found around one of the Cerberus’s necks, a grey key, and three molars of a monster appeared in his hand.
[Item: Gatekeeper’s Necklace]
Agility +20, Perception +20
[Item: Key to the Castle’s Gate]
The key to unlock the gates of the Demon’s Castle. Can only be acquired after killing the Gatekeeper.
[Item: Cerberus’s Molar]
Jin-Woo’s eyes went round.
‘This necklace can boost both my Agility and Perception by 20 points?’
A necklace with eye-spinningly good options came out. Its rarity was also ranked A. Out of all the items he’d seen so far, this one featured the highest rarity ranking yet.
‘Well, I had to go through so much to kill it, so….’
Indeed, there was no way that its rarity would be low.
However, when it came to actually putting the necklace on, he couldn’t help but to hesitate big time.
The thing was, it was shaped like a roundish metallic choker with spikes spouting out in regular intervals, so no matter what it said on the cover, it was undoubtedly… a dog collar.
Jin-Woo closed his eyes and deliberated on his choices for a long time, before deciding to try it on at least once, and brought the necklace closer to his neck.
Then, a message popped up.
[Will you wear ‘Item: Gatekeeper’s Necklace?]
Jin-Woo fell into yet another bout of dilemma for a second, before helplessly muttering out his answer.
It was then, the necklace slowly disappeared from his view.
[You’re now wearing ‘Item: Gatekeeper’s Necklace.]
Jin-Woo hurriedly summoned his Status Window.
(Available points to distribute: 0)
Reduction in physical damage: 20%
Both his Agility and Perception were increased by 20 for real. The option was now in effect, in other words.
It seemed like that he didn’t have to worry about walking around displaying the ‘items’ he wore. The fact that he didn’t have to be seen with a dog collar on his neck brought him a huge sense of relief.
‘Next up are the molars.’
Jin-Woo summoned the Store next.
He sold the japtem ‘Cerberus’s Molar’ and got 150 thousand Gold for each. He sold all three off right away.
Soon, 450 thousand Gold entered his hands.
[Current Gold: 562,362]
‘What kind of japtem is this expensive??’
It was a rather nice baseline to judge the overall difficulty of this dungeon. In other words, the difficulty of clearing the Demon’s Castle would be incredibly high.
However, it wasn’t all necessarily bad news.
He only hunted a single monster, yet he got to earn over four times the amount of Gold compared to the whole day spent inside the Hapjeong station’s instant dungeon.
If he saved up Gold in this fashion, it wouldn’t be too far from now when he’d get to purchase all those items that cost millions upon millions in the Store.
‘That is, as long as I get to clear this dungeon….’
Jin-Woo stared up at the burning tower.
The very top of the structure was completely shrouded in some kind of blurry fog. He had to actually enter the tower if he wanted to see what was going on inside.
But, Jin-Woo shook his head.
‘Now’s not the time.’
He only barely managed to hunt down a single sentry standing guard by the door, even with his Title buffing him up and resorting to using up the quest reward, too.
He couldn’t even guess just what kind of danger would be waiting for him beyond that gate. So, now was the time for him to back off.
Still, he was certain of one thing.
Just as the explanation said, this key to the Demon’s Castle was indeed something he wanted. The name ‘Blessed random box’ wasn’t wrong.
Levelling up quickly, valuable items, and plenty of Gold, too. This place had it all.
And one day, he’d get to claim them all as his.
Only that, today wasn’t that day.
Although he was slightly unwilling, he stored the grey key inside his Inventory.
Definitely, very soon.
Jin-Woo smiled as he turned around to leave.
Part 3. Coincidence
A few days went by without any incident.
Yu Jin-Ho called Jin-Woo almost daily and reported on the progress. From the day after their meeting, he had called Jin-Woo precisely three times.
– “Hyung-nim!! It’s me, Yu Jin-Ho.”
– “Yes, hyung-nim.”
It seemed that the job of finding other teammates was going rather smoothly. Yu Jin-Ho repeatedly emphasized that the formation of the raid team would end soon, and that Jin-Woo should wait just a little while longer.
‘Looks like he’s really scared of me dropping out, huh.’
However, Jin-Woo couldn’t just wait and do nothing while waiting for the team to form. So, he accessed the website for Hunters today as well.
He asked around all the time for the past few days, but no freelancer-run raid teams wanted to work together with an E-rank Hunter.
He simply had gotten lucky on that day. Sure, Hwang Dong-Seok had been scheming some nefarious things, but in any case, Jin-Woo still ended up being a part of a raid team, didn’t he?
‘Thanks to that, I made lots of money, my levels went up, and even got me a new skill, too.’
Should he feel grateful to Hwang Dong-Seok, in that case?
Jin-Woo let off a smirk.
Well, as he was now, he wouldn’t mind meeting up with other selfish Hunters acting like geckos at the moment.
No raid teams wanted him, the Association wasn’t calling him, and keys to instant dungeons didn’t want to show up, too.
Basically, he was doing nothing but suck on his fingers for the past couple of days.
*SFX for an empty stomach rumbling*
‘Is it time to eat already?’
Jin-Woo felt hungry as he spent hours roaming the online job postings, so he headed to the kitchen.
But, when he opened the fridge’s door, it was completely empty inside.
This was the inevitable result of not going shopping for the past few days. His excuse being that his mind had been preoccupied with several urgent matters until now.
‘Should I go shopping, then?’
Jin-Woo yawned out slightly and closed the fridge’s door.
One of the few advantages the apartment he was living in had, was its close proximity to a large supermarket.
Wearing simple, easy-to-move clothes, Jin-Woo left his home. A ten-minute walk later, he had arrived at his destination already.
As soon as he stepped in through the door, the wide-open expense of the supermarket’s interior entered his view. Maybe because there wasn’t some sort of promotion going on, it was quieter than usual in the aisles.
Jin-Woo picked up a basket and slowly walked around.
Ever since his mother was confined to the hospital, Jin-Woo had been acting as the head of the family, and now, he grew to be more or less familiar with chores of the household, such as shopping for groceries.
‘There isn’t anything catching my eyes today, though…’
While he was deeply staring at the displayed produce, trying to think about what to prepare for dinner….
“Pardon me, young man. I see that you’re feeling much better now.”
A rather friendly voice came from behind him and Jin-Woo turned around to look who it was.
‘Who is he?’
Because of his high Perception Stat, he knew that there was a Hunter nearby. But, this was a supermarket where lots of people came and went, and Hunters also had to go shopping too, so he didn’t dwell on the matter for long.
However, he didn’t expect that Hunter to engage him in conversation.
Not only that, a Hunter he actually knew, too.
“Mister Song ahjussi??”
Jin-Woo’s expression brightened in an instant.
Mister Song – Song Chi-Yeol looked at Seong Jin-Woo with an expression half in disbelief and the other half in delight.
“I did hear the news that you were fine, but I still can’t believe it, even after running into you like this.”
Song Chi-Yeol formed a deeply moved expression next. Jin-Woo felt kinda embarrassed by the emotional eyes of Song Chi-Yeol and sheepishly scratched the side of his temple.
Meanwhile, Song Chi-Yeol continued on.
“I should’ve gone to visit you at the hospital, but for some reason, the folks at the Association all tightly shut their mouths and I couldn’t hear any concrete information on you until now. Did you know that Miss Ju-Hui is also anxiously waiting for your news?”
“Miss Ju-Hui? Really?”
“That’s right. She said that she’d give up being a Hunter, but still, she stopped by at last week’s raid location just to look for you.”
After listening to Mister Song’s story, it turned out that, rather coincidentally, there was a raid organised by the Association on the very same day he entered Hwang Dong-Seok’s team.
‘That was why there hadn’t been any word from the Association until now.’
It was not that there hadn’t been any calls from the Association, but more like he missed it when it did come. A small mystery got resolved pretty easily, just like that.
Song Chi-Yeol studied Seong Jin-Woo’s appearance here and there, still mystified by what he was seeing.
‘By the way, was Mister Seong this tall before? And, with his bad leg and all, too….’
Song Chi-Yeol’s gaze naturally headed lower.
And then, his eyes grew extra wide in shock.
“Your…. Your leg?!”