Episode 5 – Shadow Keeper (1)
[T-Then I will let everyone take care of it! Yihihihit!]
The dokkaebi said these words and disappeared.
A food penalty and survival penalty. I already knew about the former penalty. However, the latter wasn’t in the original Ways of Survival. Maybe my contract with Bihyung caused this development.
Jung Heewon confirmed that the biscuit in her pocket had disappeared and asked in a soft voice.
“Dokja-ssi, did you perhaps know something like this would hap―”
“I did expect it. I thought about what the dokkaebis would do first to harass humans.”
“...Aren’t you really good at making predictions?”
I called Lee Hyunsung and the others over. The situation was created and now it was time to move.
“Give back our food!”
“How, how did this happen?”
The people of the marginalized group were crying. Cheon Inho and the mainstream group were also devastated by the sudden food shortage. My eyes met Cheon Inho’s, who bit his lip.
[Perhaps...were you aware of it? No, that is impossible.]
If I could read his thoughts then that’s what he would be thinking.
[You have accurately read the thoughts of character ‘Cheon Inho.’]
[Your understanding of the character ‘Cheon Inho’ has increased.]
...My understanding rose from this sort of thing?
I looked at other people’s expressions and tried to guess what they were thinking. But the previous messages didn’t pop up.
Meanwhile, Cheon Inho quickly gathered the people together in order to organize the chaos.
“Everyone, gather together. I will give you an emergency notice.”
The contents of the notice were simple:The situation had become worse so more ‘scouts’ from the marginalized group was needed.They had to hurry.Now there was no food underground.
“We won’t distribute food to people who don’t participate as scouts.”
Despite the hardline declaration, there was no backlash from the citizens. No, they couldn’t. It was an inevitable result in this situation. The people noticed it and volunteered to be scouts one by one.
Despite the disappearance of the food, hope remained on Cheon Inho’s face. As the situation became worse, more control was passed onto the mainstream group.
Lee Hyunsung became anxious when he saw this and opened his mouth.
“Dokja-ssi, what now?”
“Of course, we have to go and get food.”
The expressions of the party members became tense at these words. Obtain food. This meant only one thing.
“Then we have to be scouts? There is still food remaining aboveground.”
“Nope, we won’t go aboveground. If we go there, we will unconditionally die.”
I looked at a gas mask on the floor. This tattered gas mask couldn’t stop the poisonous fog.
“But we need to obtain food aboveground...”
“Lee Hyunsung-ssi. The world has changed. Then the food needs to change.”
I looked at the tunnel to Yaksu Station.
“Wait a minute. Dokja-ssi...don’t tell me?”
In this world, humans were no longer the top predators. Even if we weren’t predators, we didn’t necessarily have to be prey.
“We will hunt monsters.”
* * *
After a while, several people from the marginalized group, including myself, were standing in front of the tunnel towards Yaksu Station.
“I see. You are going to enter the railway track?”
I thought Cheon Inho would challenge us when we refused to join the scouting group, but he seemed relieved that I was out of the group. He might think I was a threat to his own power.
“Well, looking at it in the long run, a team dedicated to attacking the scenario is required. Come back safely.”
He was a funny guy. He spoke like he was the captain. But the time for him to be finished wasn’t far off.
[Your understanding of the character ‘Cheon Inho’ has increased.]
[Your understanding of the character ‘Cheon Inho’ has reached a certain level.]
I see...I got it now. There were two major cases of character ‘understanding’ rising.
One was when I got the liking or trust of the character. The second was when I accurately guessed what the character was thinking. Maybe now was the latter case.
[The character ‘Cheon Inho’ is suspicious of you.]
According to the accumulated understanding value, a vague idea of the person’s emotions could be obtained.
“Oh, can one of my group members join? I’d like to get some information on the attack.”
Indeed, Cheon Inho wouldn’t let us go so easily. I stared at the man behind him. It was the person who would go with us and an unlucky fellow.
“I-I have to go with them?”
“Eh, why else are you here, Han hyung? Didn’t you want to reconcile with Dokja-ssi last night?”
Cheon Inho’s party member who joined us was Department Head Han Myungoh.
“D-Dokja-ssi.” If you don’t mind, I will go...”
“I understand. Let’s go together.”
Han Myungoh was surprised when I responded readily. He thought I would refuse. Lee Hyunsung had a worried face but I had an idea.
In any case, the survivors party of five people from Carriage 3807, consisting of me, Lee Hyunsung, Lee Gilyoung, Yoo Sangah and Han Myungoh was reformed.
“Can I come as well?”
“...Is it okay even if your body isn’t fully healed?”
“This much is fine.”
There was one more. Including Jung Heewon, there was a total of six people in the party. It was a lot for a small number.
Of course, the number of people wasn’t much in front of the upcoming crisis.
[A new sub scenario has arrived!]
[Second Scenario – Food Acquisition]
Clear Conditions: Directly hunt the monsters that can be used as food and cook them.
Time Limit: None
Compensation: 500 coins
As soon as they stepped foot in the tunnel, a sub scenario flew in.
Food acquisition. It was a sub scenario we had to go through before entering the second main scenario.
[A few constellations are anticipating your performance.]
The darkness of the tunnel became apparent before we even moved 10 steps. I lit up the tunnel with a flashlight but the outline of the surrounding area wasn’t visible at all.
It was proof of a curtain that was blocking the light. The real thing would be beyond this curtain.
“Dokja-ssi, wait a minute. It is really dangerous from here on.”
Jung Heewon, who walked beside me, stopped first.
“Are we really going this way? No matter how I look, it seems like suicide. There is also Gilyoung.”
“In fact, I was concerned from the beginning. It isn’t too late so how about we leave Gilyoung behind? And if possible, the women...”
“Lee Hyunsung-ssi, I’m not as good as you but I know how to fight. I took some kendo lessons.”
An unnecessary controversy was about to heat up the atmosphere so I interrupted.
“Lee Hyunsung-ssi. I told you before. The world has changed. It is biased that a woman is physically weak. Right now, everyone can become stronger by raising their stats. But Jung Heewon-ssi, there is also a problem with your words.”
“...What is it?”
“Just as a woman isn’t weak, a child also isn’t weak. Gilyoung, show them.”
Lee Gilyoung came forward. He looked around for a while before sitting on the tunnel floor and reaching out his hand. Jung Heewon’s eyes widened.
“Oh my god, what is that?”
Han Myungoh cried out with fear.
The cockroach that appeared in the distance was connected to Lee Gilyoung’s fingertips with a faint solid line. The cockroach listened to Lee Gilyoung’s words like a well-behaved dog and disappeared into the darkness.
“My attribute is Insect Collector.”
Insect Collector. Lee Gilyoung possessed the rare ability to communicate simply with insects through his ‘Diverse Communication’ skill.
“This is nothing in front of us. It is safe for 100 steps forward.”
Lee Gilyoung showed an overwhelming scouting power and the other people made a stunned expression. Lee Gilyoung spoke to them with a bold expression.
“Thank you for your concern. But I didn’t follow all of you for you to take care of me.”
Jung Heewon nodded with a sour expression. Lee Gilyoung came to my side and I stroked his hair.
Lee Gilyoung’s attribute hadn’t been seen in the original Ways of Survival. It wasn’t a wrong choice to save Lee Gilyoung in the beginning. We passed a clear barrier and entered the full-fledged darkness.
[You have entered a dangerous area.]
“Y-Yoo Sangah-ssi. It is dangerous to hold my hand while walking.”
“...Aren’t you more afraid than I am?”
The air inside the curtain was sticky from the humidity.
“Reduce the light.”
Yoo Sangah immediate covered the flashlight. Since this model didn’t have a light control function, she had to adjust the light with her hand.
“Ouch. Don’t shine it downwards.”
Jung Heewon felt nauseous when she checked the ground. There were torn bodies. The bodies of those who tried to move through here were arranged at their feet.
Yoo Sangah closed her eyes tightly, Han Myungoh shook and even the bold Lee Hyunsung started sweating.
Lee Gilyoung was surprisingly calm, with not the slightest bit of fear on his face. I felt a bit worried. This guy, did he think it was all a game?
“There is something that isn’t human.”
As Lee Gilyoung said, it wasn’t only the bodies of humans on the ground. There was something the size of a fully-grown wolf. The bodies of the mole-like creatures were scattered all over the place.
The 9th grade underground species, the ground rat. It was a name reminiscent of bug on Earth, but a name was just a name. They were underground piranhas. The ground rats were persistent hunters who burrowed through the ground in groups and aimed at their prey.
However, the ground rats collapsed like they had received a bombardment. Jung Heewon sighed.
“...Who the hell did this?”
Obviously, there was only one human who could turn the ground rats into this. Yoo Jonghyuk. He proceeded to the next station through this path alone.
But I couldn’t help wondering. Originally, it was supposed to be tonight or tomorrow when the third turn Yoo Jonghyuk moved to the next station.
Why was he so hasty? Did he become impatient? What was the reason?
“Dokja-ssi, can we use this for food?”
“The scenario said that we have to ‘hunt’ it ourselves so maybe it isn’t possible.”
“...Well, it is kind of uncomfortable. What about cooking? Do you want to bake it on a fire?”
It could be baked. The problem was that it must be a special fire.
“Heewon-ssi, you said you were good at kendo?”
“Uh, it is a bit much to say I am good...but what are you doing now?”
I stabbed the body of the ground rat and started to cut it with a knife. I didn’t know when I read it in the novel but it didn’t go as well as I thought.
After somehow getting rid of the tough skin, I managed to remove the spine bones. This was the first time so I left many scratches, but it was useable.
“Why are you taking that?”
“You need a weapon for kendo.”
The stone hog’s thorn wasn’t enough but the spine of the ground rat consisted of a single bone, making it a pretty good weapon at the beginning of the scenario.
After cutting the cartilage leading to the leg and shaping it, the bone actually took the shape of a knife. I gave it to Jung Heewon.
“Thank you. Suddenly I feel like I’m back to the Paleolithic age.”
“You need to grind it a bit more for it to be useful. There are rocks around so skillfully grind the blade.
“Huhu, understood. Captain.”
Jung Heewon started to grind the blade with a slightly excited voice. I looked up and saw Lee Hyunsung watching the scene with a bit of envy.
“Do you want one?”
“Eh, you will make me one?”
“All of you come closer. It is better if you learn how to do it. Let’s make it together.”
In fact, this was also my first time trying it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if the details hadn’t been included in Ways of Survival.
Why wasn’t Ways of Survival popular? It was simple. The author wrote too much of the setting.
“...Dokja-ssi, you are a beginner but you are good at it.”
We sat down and made weapons together. This time it was a spear, not a sword. They didn’t have the Kendo skill so I decided it was more stable to make a long spear.
Lee Hyunsung’s spear was made with the spine of the largest ground rat while Yoo Sangah and Han Myungoh’s weapons were made with the spine of average sized ground rats. Finally, Lee Gilyoung’s weapon was made with the head bone of a young ground rat.
[You have succeeded in acquiring weapons by yourself.]
[A very small number of constellations are interested in the primitive nature of humanity.]
[The constellations have sponsored you 100 coins.]
Everyone received these messages.
“We receive coins even for this type of thing.”
“I don’t want you to die. You have your own coins?”
“Yes, we do.”
“Whenever possible, leave enough coins for the survival cost and invest the rest in your strength, stamina and agility. Otherwise, you won’t survive.”
“Ah, I’ll keep that in mind.”
We finished the preparations and started to move forward again. The 100 steps that Lee Gilyoung mentioned was right in front of us now.
[The sub scenario – Food Acquisition has begun!]
The ground rats crawled out from the ground. I quickly counted the numbers. One, two, three...there were exactly 13. It was more than I thought.
The group of land rats drew a line and started threatening us. The moment we crossed the line, the fight would begin.
“There is no plan. We are beginners. It might sound cruel but honestly, I don’t expect you to survive.”
“Still, all of you survive. Please.”
Han Myungoh was the only upset one in the party. Everyone else was nervous but looked determined. In particular, Jung Heewon’s eyes were very impressive.
“Okay, let’s try it. Everybody, please live!”
Just as Yoo Jonghyuk tested me, I also had expectations for them. No matter how good a mentor, a person who wasn’t determined couldn’t survive in this world.
In the end, it was up to a person to save themselves. Everyone should use this opportunity to realize it clearly.
“Then let’s go.”
I also knew who I must take among these people.
As we took one more step, the ground rats moved. The battle began.
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