Chapter 2 - Day 1, 1st Floor
A real game?
[Once it reaches 0, you are automatically out.]
“What is ‘out’?” I muttered to myself but the letters didn’t appear with an answer.
Either way, I didn’t intend to walk down the stairs barehanded. I picked up a knife near the sink, but when I tried to bring it down the stairs with me...
As soon as I stepped back on the stairs, the knife flew out of my hands.
[You can’t carry in items that aren’t in your inventory. Everyday things that the explorer carries such as clothing, jewellery, etc, are accepted.]
I understood. Okay. Then what about my phone? I wouldn’t be able to make any calls but the light would be helpful. I swallowed my fears and headed down the stairs.
I had been worried about falling, but it was baseless. After the third step, my vision became dark and the next moment, I was at the bottom of the stairs.
[1st floor. Arrived.]
A cave appeared in front of me. It had stalactites like the ones commonly seen in nature documentaries. However, the tunnel had a regular width.
I looked back at the stairs with surprise as I wondered how much I had skipped. There was no end to the stairs leading upwards.
[You are not allowed to step on the stairs again. If your feet touch the stairs, you are out.]
"Okay, I understand.”
I shrugged, but half of it was bravado. Then I started walking in the direction of the cave.
Before I walked a hundred steps, I noticed something strange: there was no light in the cave. In fact, it was complete darkness. However, I was able to identity what was in front of me.
Four metres? Or five metres?
A certain range around me was illuminated, like a spotlight was focused on me. Once I moved my foot, the part I stepped to brightened accordingly.
The boundary between the bright area and the dark part seemed to be drawn with a ruler. I was staring at it when more words appeared.
[Current floor visibility is normal. Field of Vision: 4.5m]
[This can be expanded with a related talent or object.]
Was this the concept of ‘vision’? The fact that I couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of me was quite burdensome.
There was a fork in the road. I’d come to a cross shaped crossroad with three directions: ‘straight’, ‘left’ or ‘right’.
“... This is bad.”
This was a ‘dungeon’ and it would be a problem if the structure was a maze. The key was the limited field of vision. If everything was visible then it wouldn’t be difficult to return to this crossroad again.
The stairs that I had come down were still visible in the distance. However, it was likely to be very confusing if I could only see a few metres around me.
I pulled out my cell phone. I hadn’t been thinking about making a map in my head. People weren’t smart and precise creatures. There was a bit of uncertainty, so I wanted to have as few regrets as possible. I hadn’t lived long, but it was a lesson I’d had deeply ingrained into my mind.
Phone calls didn’t work but the touchpad app was fine. I recorded the brief directions with my finger. Then...
[Talent has been acquired.]
[Talent - Cartography: Ability to create and read maps according to the rank, spatial perception ability and descriptive power. Memory and visualization abilities have slightly increased.]
[Currently it is LV 1. Benefits will open at LV 5.]
Talent acquisition? It was distinctly different from the meaning of ‘talent’ that I knew...
[It is possible to open talents through specific acts and experience in the dungeon. Repeating it will give experience and cause the rank to rise.]
[The talent acquired here will also be applied in reality. The innate and acquired qualities that the explorer is born with will be forcibly changed.]
The words disappeared and small letters floated above the hand holding his phone.
[Cartography LV 1. 2/100]
This was probably… I turned right at the intersection and added it to the map. The change came immediately.
[Cartography LV 1. 4/100]
No matter how busy, I was still a teenager who lived in South Korea in the 21st century. The leisure activities that I enjoyed were playing soccer and video games.
I guessed that the ‘4/100’ was experience. It was the experience required for LV 2, and at LV 2, the talent would grow like the words said.
The ability to read and draw maps. Spatial perception. Descriptive ability. And a little bit of memory and visualization. I could feel it already.
My overall dexterity was bad. Drawing a line on a piece of paper would make it crooked, let alone doing it on a cell phone. But it was different now. The line was noticeably neater compared to before the words had appeared. There was almost no shaking in the strokes.
A sound of admiration popped out. This was the ‘Cartography’ talent? Drawing a line on my cell phone wasn’t that important. It was just important that I could feel a change.
There was nothing particularly good about drawing a map. Spatial perception and descriptive ability, I couldn’t feel any change right now. However, it was a different story for memory and visualization, even with the ‘slightly’ attached to it.
My heart jumped-- the changes were permanent. A change in ability that was meaningful enough for me to notice. Besides, this was just the effect of level ‘1’!
I’d walked a few steps and it was already 4/100. It didn’t seem like it would be very difficult to fill up the remaining 96 points. I continued to add to the map on the screen as I walked.
8/100, 15/100, 24/100...
The map was useful. I encountered a few dead ends as well as the overlapping intersections several times. But I never got lost.
Even though I had the map, it was confusing whether or not what I was seeing matched with the map. However, I stayed calm and made the right judgements. This was probably due to the increased spatial perception ability.
[The level of a talent has risen.]
[Cartography LV 1 -> LV 2. Related abilities have increased.]
[Cartography LV 2. 2/200.]
There was a feeling of accomplishment.
I checked the map that I had drawn so far. The structure of the cave was indeed a maze. Overall, it had a rectangular shape and there was one part that I hadn’t visited yet.
I had a thought as I headed there. Something was strange. Maze. Dungeon. If so, then something should emerge, whether it was a monster or a treasure box. In fact, I was hoping for the latter.
If I left the maze without finding anything...
As soon as I had that thought I reached the last part of the maze. It was a dead end with a staircase leading down. The stairway underneath the square hole looked like the one in my room.
In front of it was a square box.
[Wooden Box. There seems to be no lock. It is possible to smash it.]
It said the box could be smashed.
Then letters appeared above the stairs behind the box.
[Stairs. It leads to the 2nd floor.]
[The moment you step foot on it, the current floor exploration is over and you will return from the dungeon. The next night at midnight, you will start on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.]
So, it was fixed to one floor per day, but the real point was the next words.
[Changes in the following floor: Dungeon space has expanded. You can encounter +1 explorer. Monsters below E rank will emerge.]
Monsters... I trembled at that word but the part before it was more surprising. It meant that I could encounter another explorer like me. If that was the case, did the next floor require some type of cooperative play? Or was it a competition?
I stopped thinking about it. They weren’t directly in front of me and I had an object to focus on: the box.
Gulp. I gulped and pushed open the top of the box. The interior of the box was dark. It was a completely black void that showed nothing.
I put my hand inside the box. In many ways, it was a rash choice.
There was a sound as a mechanism was activated. I felt a cool sensation at my waist. Pain.
My wrist had been neatly cut off by the top part of the box.
A huge pain overwhelmed me and I fell down on my butt. I looked up at my ‘HP Bar’ and saw that it had been reduced by 1/4.
[Current Balance: 96/121]
[A bleeding state. Health will decrease by 2 every minute.]
Pain was followed by fear. I lost my hand. The fear of living the rest of my life as a disabled person steamrolled through my mind. I couldn’t believe it as I looked down at the bloody stump of my arm. It was a surreal sight as letters rose above the blood.
[Common wounds suffered in the dungeon will be cured by clearing the floor.]
In other words, my hand would return to normal if I headed down the stairs? I felt relieved and immediately stepped towards the stairs. I wanted to escape. The pain of my body being cut was real. I didn’t want to feel like this for one more minute...!
I stopped right in front of the stairs. My body was telling me to go down. Don’t hesitate to go down quickly, but at the same time, my head was speaking.
It was strange. The box was three steps away from the stairs. Don’t think about it, go down straight away! No. Think about it.
Wouldn’t the trap be useless if they placed it three steps before the stairs? It was like it was trying send me a message ‘Pain? Then quickly go down, down!’
There must be something. If I didn’t go down then something would happen. I thought about earlier. The moment that I received Cartography. I once again looked at my HP Bar.
[Current Balance: 94/121]
People wouldn’t die just from having their wrist cut off. I stepped back from the stairs. Instead, I grabbed my cut off wrist and leaned against a cave wall.
I gritted my teeth. I was familiar with enduring things. The few things I’ve gained in life had been through struggling. Then letters appeared in front of my eyes.