11 Chapter X
It happened then.
Suddenly, the sandy ground next to him caved in and a deep pit formed there.
"Huh? Uh, uh!"
Jin-Woo desperately ran away so he could avoid getting sucked in down there. The sandy pit grew wider and wider, and eventually, Jin-Woo had to crawl on all fours just to pull himself out.
"Pant, pant, pant…."
He plopped down on his butt, panted heavily and stared at the bottom of the pit. Quite bizarrely, he could see that the sand at the bottom was 'boiling'.
Realising that just one misstep would have resulted in him falling in there sent shivers down his spine.
"Hang on a minute…."
Jin-Woo's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"….It's not actually boiling, is it?"
When he took a closer look, he spotted 'something' pretty big wiggling down there.
Jin-Woo instinctively forced himself up. He was getting a really bad premonition right about now.
Sure enough, just as Jin-Woo took a step back, the sand within the pit suddenly exploded upwards.
The falling sand emitted the roar of a waterfall.
Jin-Woo's eyes went extra round in the meantime.
"An… an insect?"
The identity of the thing that exploded out from the sand was a giant centipede.
When fully revealed, the d*mn thing's head almost reached the height equaling that of a five-story building.
Jin-Woo anxiously swallowed his saliva.
'This is unreal….'
For sure, the b*stard was unrealistically huge. He had never heard of a centipede this big existing in the world before. But the size of the centipede wasn't the only thing that shocked Jin-Woo.
"Why is there a… name floating on top of that monster?"
Was he dreaming again?
Jin-Woo closed and opened his eyes again, yet nothing had changed. Even now, there were five red words floating on top of the monster's head.
….Just like a monster from a video game might have.
'The Poison-Fanged Giant Desert Centipede.'
Just like its horrendous and bizarre appearance, its name too was something he'd like to avoid at all cost. What drew his attention the most was the two letters "poison" and "fanged".
He spotted a pair of fangs as large as a child jutting out just below the b*stard's jaw. It didn't take a genius to figure out what might happen if he got stabbed by those fangs simply from its name alone.
Seeing those large fangs and its jaw constantly opening and closing, it was as if….
"It's busy licking its lips, right?"
It was then, the sound went off in his head again.
[Penalty Quest: Survival]
Goal: Please survive until the end of the time limit.
Time limit: 4 hours
Remaining time: 4 hours 0 minutes 0 seconds
'Are you kidding me….?'
However, as soon as the 'remaining time' changed to 3 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds, the centipede parted sand and rushed towards him as if it couldn't wait any longer.
*SFX for sand parting ways*
"Wha-what the hell?!"
Jin-Woo hurriedly spun around and ran for his life.
There was no time to deliberate on things.
If he wanted to live, then he had to run!
That was the only thought racing in his head.
However, even before he had taken several steps, another pillar of sand exploded upwards not too far from his position.
Jin-Woo fell on his rear from the powerful shockwave. He rolled on the sandy ground before urgently getting back up. He swiped the sand off his face before his eyes shot open even wider.
This time, it wasn't just one or two of them.
Before he had even noticed it, there were seven sand centipedes jutting out from the sand and they were all glaring at him.
As the centipedes issued shrill cries, Jin-Woo's complexion changed for the worse. A lot worse.
"God d*mn it…."
Jin-Woo reappeared in the hospital room exactly four hours later.
Jin-Woo keeled over on the floor and painfully wheezed out.
"Cough, cough!! Ptooi, ptooi!!"
His mouth felt full with this coarse, grainy taste. His eyes stung badly too, seemingly like sand particles got in there.
Jin-Woo whimpered and groaned for a long time, before powerlessly falling flat on his back. He didn't have any energy left to lift even a finger.
"Pant…. Pant…. Just…. What was that….?"
Jin-Woo continued to pant heavily when a new message appeared before him.
[You've completed the 'Penalty Quest'.]
Jin-Woo's expression crumpled into something unsightly.
A 'Penalty Quest'?
Did he do something worthy of being punished?
Jin-Woo carefully retreaded his memories until he recalled the [Daily Quest] he abandoned mid-way yesterday.
'Could it be…?'
Now that he thought about it, it definitely said that if the quest was not completed, he'd be hit with a corresponding penalty.
"Pant, pant, that…. That was not a hallucination?!"
Indeed, it was not a hallucination nor was it a dream.
There was no need to pinch his cheeks to confirm whether this was a dream or reality.
When he was running around, the shortness of breath felt so suffocatingly harsh, and the pain he felt when he got grazed by the centipede's leg still felt fresh in his mind.
Everything happened for real.
He nearly died back there.
"This is way too much…. Pant… pant…."
The so-called penalty turned out to be him being throwing into a d*mn execution ground!
At the same time, another ominous premonition rushed into his mind. If this event was indeed caused by the 'Daily Quest' thing, then without a doubt, this would not be the last time.
Sure enough, he got to hear yet another mechanical beep going off in his head.
He flinched in surprise, but thankfully, it was not about another quest or anything like that.
[Rewards for completing the Penalty Quest is now available.]
[Would you like to confirm the rewards?] (Y/N)
The word 'rewards' jumped right out. Too bad, the problem was, he currently didn't have any energy left whatsoever to confirm this and that.
His situation simply didn't allow that.
'Never mind giving me rewards or not…. Let me take a break first….'
His sights gradually blurred.
Soon, Jin-Woo fell into a deep slumber akin to a blackout.
"Oh my gosh?! What happened in here?"
A nurse entered Jin-Woo's room, only for her eyes to open up wide in surprise.
The patient was lying sprawled on the floor, while sand was everywhere as far as she could see. Not only that, the patient too was full of sand as well.
She threw the medical chart on the bed and urgently pressed the emergency buzzer.
"Please, someone get over here right away!"
Soon, the doctor in charge rushed into the room.
"What happened? What's the matter with Mister Sung Jin-Woo?"
"I don't know. Everything was fine until last night, yet this morning….��
"For now, let's relocate him back on the bed. One, two!"
Two people lifted Jin-Woo off the floor and placed him back on the bed. During the process, the back of Jin-Woo's hand got scratched by the edge of the medical chart left on the bed and his skin tore just a little, but no one noticed that.
"Let's take a look."
The doctor then carefully examined Jin-Woo's condition. However, he couldn't find anything wrong with the youth.
"What the heck…. Isn't he just in a deep sleep?"
The doctor spat out a sigh of relief.
The Hunter's Association had requested the hospital to pay a special attention to this particular patient. Understandably, the doctor was scared almost out of his wits while thinking that something bad had happened here.
"For now, let's let him be. Looks like he's in a really deep slumber at the moment."
The doctor in charge spoke to the nurse and was about to leave, but then, he took a look around the room and scratched the side of his head.
"By the way, this room… might need a thorough cleaning. Miss Yu-Rah, please take care of tidying this place up."
"Yes. I shall, doctor."
The doctor left the room and the nurse, Choi Yu-Rah, patted her chest down.
What a relief that it turned out to be nothing to worry about.
Sure, they might not be the patient or the relatives of one themselves, but you wouldn't find a doctor or a nurse who wished ill on those they were in charge of.
The Hunter's hospital especially saw many heavily-injured patients every day. At the bare minimum, she'd like to never see another one of patients she was looking after get worse under her care.
She had calmed down a little now, and began worrying about where should she start tidying this room up, but then, her eyes spotted drops of blood on the floor.
The blood droplets were coming from the tip of patient's hand that fell outside the bed.
She got stunned by this and hurriedly searched for the wound on Jin-Woo's hand, before flipping it around.
"What's going on here….?"
There definitely was a trace of flowing blood, but she could not find a single wound. She wiped the blood clean, yet the expected wound was not there.
'Wait…. Could his injury heal in that short time?'
Yu-Rah's heart began beating faster as she cautiously studied Jin-Woo's complexion.
He was still submerged in a deep, deep sleep even now.
Part 7: Daily Quest
[Daily Quest is now available.]
Jin-Woo's eyes shot right open.
He quickly raised himself up and the first thing he did was to check the time. The needles of the clock just went past 16:30.
Meaning, there was the leeway of seven hours and thirty minutes before midnight.
Jin-Woo opened the mailbox.
[Daily Quest: Preparations to become strong]
Press-up, 100 times: Incomplete (0/100)
Sit-up, 100 times: Incomplete (0/100)
Squat, 100 times: Incomplete (0/100)
Running, 10 km: Incomplete (0/10)
※Warning: Incompletion of Daily Quests will result in appropriate levels of punishment.
"It's the same thing, again?!"
He groaned out almost reflexively.
No, perhaps this was for the better. Rather than a quest with impossible or hard-to-understand goals, this was far more preferable, instead.
Well, as long as he had enough time, he'd be able to complete this quest after all, although his body might suffer for a bit. Jin-Woo got down to the floor this time and began the press-up.
Obviously, he was not planning on being dragged to yet another suspicious place and get almost killed there.
He got lucky the previous night and survived, but there was no guarantee that would happen tonight as well.
He raised his head a little and confirmed the contents of the quest, and noticed that every time he performed a press-up, it was being recorded in real time as well.
[You've completed one press-up.]
[Press-up 100 times: Incomplete (7/100)]
[You've completed one press-up.]
[Press-up 100 times: Incomplete (8/100)]
He wanted to make sure, so he only went down half-way and got back up, but as expected, that didn't count. Now he finally realised why the so-called press-ups of yesterday didn't count. He had to perform the proper press-ups or it wouldn't be counted at all.
'Huh…. Gimme a break.'
Jin-Woo was dumbfounded, but didn't stop the exercise.
He still had 50 more press-ups to go.
After that, sit-ups, squats and running were waiting for him.
….And, three hours later.
Press-up, 100 times: Complete (100/100)
Sit-up, 100 times: Complete (100/100)
Squat, 100 times: Complete (100/100)
Running, 10 km: Incomplete (9/10)
"Pant, pant, pant, pant…"
Jin-Woo lapped the outer perimeter of the hospital once and arrived back in front of his room. He was currently bent over and panting out heavily. His heart felt like it might explode at any second, but he couldn't give up yet.
'I worked so crazy hard until now, so no way I would….'
He somehow managed to open the door and took a step forward.
When he did that….
[Total distance ran: 10 km.]
[You've completed Running, 10 km.]
It was finally over.
Jin-Woo fell down to his knees. His breath reeked of something sweet and bitter. His face and back were soaked in sweat.
As Jin-Woo tried to regulate his heavy, rough breathing while thick sweat drops continuously dripped down, a familiar message popped up in front of his eyes.
[You've completed 'Daily Quest: Preparations to become strong'.]
[Completion rewards have arrived.]
[Would you like to confirm?] (Y/N)
Jin-Woo momentarily thought about forgetting about everything and simply laying down in defeat, but quickly changed his mind. At least for now, he wanted to confirm what these reward things could actually be with his own eyes first.
[The following rewards are available.]
Reward 1. Full recovery of the current physical condition
Reward 2. Three additional Stat points
Reward 3. One random box
[Would you like to collect them all?]
'Why are there so many of them?'
That was the first thought to enter his dazed mind after he took a gander at the contents of his rewards.
But, when he thought about it a little deeper, one of those rewards seemed rather useful right now, and there was also one that made him curious about what it could actually mean.
For now, he urgently needed the first reward available. He was on the brink of collapsing here.
Since there really was a penalty for failure, the odds of completion rewards being real were pretty d*mn high as well.
Well, trying wouldn't hurt anyways, right?
Seriously, this 'thing' wouldn't throw him back into the penalty zone again after it said it'd give him the rewards, now would it?