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    Chapter 6: Something Strange

    His vision flashed, and when he came to his senses, Do-joon found himself in Seorim-dong Park.

    ‘Has it been ten days already?’

    ‘Has it been about ten days?’

    It had only been that long, but he already felt a deep sense of longing.

    Do-joon stood for a moment, savoring the joy of being alive. Then he lowered his gaze to his hand. There was the item he had been clutching tightly.

    [Return Stone]

    Grade:

    • High

    Category:

    • Return Stone

    Effect:

    • Returns you to the real world. Can only be used in the ‘Dungeon’.

    ‘I knew I’d come back with this.’

    The moment he saw the name “Return Stone” on the rewards list, Do-joon thought, ‘This is the reward for going back.’ But that wasn’t the case.

    He picked up the Return Stone to return, but before he could use it, he was already in Seorim-dong Park.

    ‘I guess I’m supposed to use this in the next dungeon.’

    That was the only conclusion he could come to.

    Perhaps he was supposed to use it when he entered the dungeon using the key that was also given as a reward.

    Since he had no intention of going back to the dungeon right away, Do-joon put the Return Stone in his inventory for now.

    ‘The dungeon… seems to be closed.’

    The giant roots that had been growing in Seorim-dong Park were now gone without a trace. The dungeon was safely closed.

    Since he had been missing from this park for ten days, he would probably be classified as a dungeon refugee.

    As much as he wanted to contact the Association right away, it was quite late. Judging by the high moon, it must have been around dawn.

    ‘I also left my phone behind.’

    He had left his phone with Lee Ji-ah as well.

    Originally, one could not bring objects from Earth into the dungeon, or the root of the World Tree. If you did, they would disappear as soon as you passed through the gate.

    The story of the first large-scale expedition that entered the root and came out running naked is still told to this day.

    That’s why Hunters wear clothes and equipment made from resources inside the dungeon.

    For that reason, he didn’t have his phone now. He couldn’t contact anyone even if he wanted to.

    ‘I can go find her tomorrow.’

    He wasn’t worried about that at all. The only thing Do-joon was worried about was one thing.

    He walked out onto the main road and hailed a taxi. It was still early evening, so visiting hours should be fine.

    “To Wonsan Hospital, please.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    He buckled his seatbelt and leaned back against the cushion. The fatigue he hadn’t felt all this time because he was constantly tense washed over him at once.

    But his mind was still clear. Sitting in the back seat, he took off the ring he was wearing on his finger.

    [Ring of the Shattered Arena Tribe]

    A reward for clearing the dungeon, received along with the Return Stone and the key.

    It was written as a random box, but it wasn’t like a real box appeared in his hand. When he simply pressed the word “box,” an item appeared.

    He had obtained the ring in this way.

    Normally, he would use it himself. After all, he needed to get stronger quickly so that he could explore higher-level dungeons and dungeons to get better items.

    That was what his rational self would do.

    However…

    [Ring of the Shattered Arena Tribe]key

    Grade:

    • High

    Category:

    • Accessory

    Effect:

    • A ring given to the children of the Arena Tribe, the rulers of the jungle, when they safely reach the age of 3. It contains the prayers of a shaman wishing for good health and longevity.
    • Vitality +5Lv
    • Fire Resistance 5%
    • Poison Resistance 5%

    Do-joon couldn’t be rational when it came to his daughter.

    In fact, the fact that such an item with such options had come out of a random box seemed like a sign to him that it was meant to be used for his daughter.

    On the contrary, the fact that an item with such options came out of a random box seemed to be telling him to use it on his daughter.

    ‘So-eun-ah…….’

    Do-joon kept fiddling with the ring.

    Soon, 20 minutes passed, and the taxi arrived at the hospital.

    ***

    “So-eun’s father?”

    As soon as he arrived at the hospital, Do-joon met the nurse who had been taking care of his daughter for several years.

    Do-joon smiled wryly. Her expression was as if she had seen a ghost.

    “I heard you became a dungeon refugee…”

    “I was lucky enough to return.”

    “Oh my, that’s a relief! That’s really a relief!”

    Jeong Da-jeong clapped her hands and exclaimed. She was a woman with a lot of emotions and energy.

    Do-joon asked her.

    “How is So-eun doing?”

    “Oh, So-eun? Fortunately, she hasn’t gotten worse. But lately, she’s been looking quite gloomy because her father hasn’t come.”

    Jeong Da-jeong said with a smile. She could imagine how happy So-eun would be to see her father.

    Do-joon asked.

    “By any chance, did you tell her about… that?”

    “I just told her that you were busy with work and couldn’t come. I didn’t know what else to say…”

    Hoo… You did well.”

    After all, how sad would a child with a weak body be if she heard that her father was missing?

    Fortunately, that didn’t seem to happen. It seemed that Jeong Da-jeong had covered it up well.

    As he chatted with her, who was curious about how he had returned, they arrived in front of the ward. Just as he was about to open the door, Jeong Da-jeong grabbed his hand.

    “?”

    “Shhh. Just wait a moment.”

    Then she smiled playfully and put her index finger to her lips. She left Do-joon standing outside the ward and went in alone.

    As Do-joon stood there with a puzzled look on his face, he heard a voice from inside.

    ‘So-eun-ah, a guest is here.’

    ‘A visitor?’

    ‘Yeah. Who do you think it is~?’

    ‘Eung~’

    At the sound of So-eun’s voice, Do-joon felt the tension in his body start to melt away.

    ‘The hint is the person So-eun wants to see the most right now.’

    ‘……Daddy? Is Daddy here?’

    Tap tap.

    The sound of slippers dragging could be heard.

    The door of the ward opened. There was a little girl standing beyond the door, holding the doorknob with both hands.

    “So-eun-ah.”

    “Daddy~!”

    The child ran and hugged Do-joon’s knees tightly. Do-joon knelt down and hugged So-eun back.

    A smile formed on Do-joon’s lips without him realizing it.

    The him who was the owner of a general store, the him who was just one of many ordinary collectors, and even the him who had been beating the skeletons in the dungeon indiscriminately were all absent here.

    All that was here was a father to his child.

    “Daddy! Daddy!”

    “Yes, yes. Have you been a good girl, So-eun?”

    “Yes!”

    Do-joon patted So-eun’s small back and she smiled brightly, clinging to him.

    Do-joon thought his daughter was really pretty, not just because she was his daughter. Even for a child, she had delicate and distinct features, big eyes, and a slim face.

    She was so cute that she could even put child actors to shame.

    This was not just Do-joon’s opinion, but the consensus of everyone who saw So-eun. Of course, Do-joon thought so too.

    “Daddy, why did you come so late~?”

    “I’m sorry, I was busy with work. Did you wait long?”

    “Umm……”

    Do-joon hugged So-eun and returned to the ward. Jeong Da-jeong looked at them happily. Do-joon nodded slightly at her.

    “Then I’ll be going. There’s an examination in a bit, so I’ll see you then.”

    “Yes. Thank you for always taking care of So-eun.”

    “Thank you? It’s my job.”

    After she left, the two were left alone in the ward.

    Do-joon tried to sit So-eun down on the hospital bed. But it wasn’t easy. So-eun clung to him like glue and wouldn’t let go.

    After a lot of coaxing, Do-joon finally managed to detach So-eun. He brushed the hair on the side of her head behind her ear and asked.

    “How’s your body been lately? Are you in a lot of pain?”

    “I’m not in much pain! I was fine yesterday~ And the day before that too!”

    “That’s good.”

    He said it was a relief, but Do-joon’s expression was complicated.

    Congenital mana disease.

    It was one of the new types of diseases that appeared after the World Tree appeared and the mysterious energy called mana spread. The scientific name was more complex, but it was commonly known by that name. It was the name of the disease that So-eun was suffering from.

    Mana was originally a power that was possessed by awakened people with a mana seed, and it was an energy that grew gradually along with the training of the body.

    However, very rarely, there were children who were born with a massive amount of mana without even being awakened. These children, due to the enormous mana that did not match their immature bodies, did not develop properly and eventually died of illness.

    According to the records, the longest-living child died at the age of 17.

    ‘So-eun is 6 years old now.’

    At most, she only had about 10 years left.

    Do-joon’s eyes sank. Modern medical technology could only suppress the symptoms. The disease had not even been identified, let alone cured.

    ‘Will a cure be developed in 10 years?’

    Do-joon was lost in thought with a gloomy expression. So-eun tilted her head and looked at him.

    “Daddy?”

    “Hmm? What is it?”

    “Daddy, are you sick?”

    “No, I’m not sick.”

    Do-joon reproached himself as he looked at So-eun, who was worried about him. How could he make such a face in front of his child?

    He then came to his senses and took out the ring of courtesy from his pocket. So-eun exclaimed at the sight of the sparkling ring.

    “Wow~”

    “I’m sorry, but this is not a present for you, So-eun.”

    “It’s not mine?”

    So-eun pouted her lips as if she was disappointed. He felt a wave of regret, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t give an item that was about to break as a gift, could he?

    Do-joon smiled wryly and put the ring on So-eun’s neck.

    [One of the options of the ‘Ring of the Shattered Arena Tribe’ can be copied to ‘Kim So-eun’.]

    [Copyable Options]

    1. Vitality +5Lv
    2. Fire Resistance +5%
    3. Poison Resistance +5%

    The choice was obvious.

    ‘Number 1.’

    [Successfully copied.]

    [The ‘Ring of the Shattered Arena Tribe’ used as material has been destroyed.]

    The next moment, the ring turned to dust and scattered, and So-eun’s body shone faintly.

    ‘……Can I see if it worked properly?’

    He focused his gaze on So-eun.

    Originally, there was no way to see someone else’s status window. You could only see your own status window and the information window of items.

    However, Do-joon had a way. To be exact, he had just acquired it.

    [Additional reward has been granted.]

    [Ability – Insight]

    A skill that allows you to see through the compatibility rate of others.

    He used Insight to see So-eun’s status.

    [Kim So-eun]

    Compatibility Rate:

    • 0%

    Additional Option:

    • Vitality +5Lv

    ‘I can see it.’

    He could see not only the compatibility rate but also the additional options. There was nothing unusual so far. It was natural for a non-Awakened person to have a compatibility rate of 0%, and the additional option was the one he had just copied.

    It seemed that the copying was a success.

    However.

    Status

    • Nine Yin Absolute Meridians (九陰 Severed Meridians)

    Something strange was visible below that.


    Note:

    • The term “구음절맥” (九陰 Severed Meridians) is a Chinese term that can be translated as “Nine Yin Severed Meridians” or “Nine Yin Meridian”. It is a fictional medical condition in Chinese martial arts literature that is characterized by a person having nine blocked meridians, which results in a weak and sickly constitution.
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