Ji-Cheok felt refreshed.
When he woke up, he found his brother asleep next to him.
‘Ah gosh, I’m sorry for making you worried.’
That was what family was for.
He’d probably have felt more relaxed if the person next to him had been a stranger or a professional caregiver, but he just couldn’t help feeling sorry when it came to making his family worried.
‘Is this a hospital room’
As Ji-Cheok felt that his body was well rested, he had enough energy to look around.
The single room was quite large.
In front of him was a TV mounted on the wall and some large stands containing flowers.
On the stands were messages wishing him a speedy recovery.
‘乃 Umji, get well soon! The Gumji is always cheering for you 乃’
The character 乃 had a similar shape to a physical thumbs-up, so Ji-Cheok assumed it was being used as an emoticon.
He knew that there was a fan café created for him, and the flower-covered stands were more luxurious than he had ever expected.
That wasn’t all: there were so many wrapped gifts underneath the stands that it looked like Christmas.
‘乃 Wishing you good health 乃.’
‘乃 Get well soon Umji! 乃.’
‘乃 Gumji loves Umji so much ♥乃.’
‘乃 My hero 乃.’
‘乃 Get well soon Umji! You’re the toughest! 乃.’
‘乃 Thank you for surviving! 乃.’
Ji-Cheok could swear that he had seen this whole set-up somewhere before.
He had heard that when the top-rank Hunters got injured, their fans would send their best wishes by raising money and sending presents to them.
‘What were they called Support… something’ Ji-Cheok thought to himself.
A sponsor or group that raised money and purchased presents for their favorite Hunters could be referred to as “supporters”.
The word could also refer to the members of a fansite.
Back when he had worked as a Hunter Assistant, Ji-Cheok had heard many Hunters complain about how they didn’t have their own fan club.
Some of them were so jealous that they’d dismiss a popular Hunter’s success saying that it was only their looks or complete luck and that they were bound to fall off soon.
At first, there would be some isolated fans here and there, but then these fans would gather into groups that the Hunter industry called “supporters” or “fan clubs”.
These groups were at the same time idol fan clubs and sports cheer squads, because Hunters were also both celebrities and athletes.
In this crazy world, Hunter fans said the biggest disasters for them would be when the Hunter they were rooting for died in a dungeon, or in a hospital room after coming out of a dungeon.
It was always one of these two.
The worst an athlete could experience was a career-ending injury, but Hunters risked their lives by entering the dungeons.
For that very reason, however, every year there were more and more people who were fascinated by these dangers and became big fans of Hunters, acting as if the Hunters might die at any moment—which was not exactly wrong.
Even if a Hunter achieved brilliant things one day, that didn’t remove the possibility for that Hunter to end up in a funeral obituary the next.
That was why Ji-Cheok kept hearing that every moment was precious.
As such, these kinds of gifts were called “tributes”, and they were sent in the hope that he would get well and continue his Hunter career without long-term side effects.
A massive group of supporters would also send food and beverage trucks to treat a Hunter’s staff, who were waiting outside.
‘I mean I’ve just barely finished the Hunter exam, so I wouldn’t dare expect such large-scale support.’
Ji-Cheok had not imagined any of this and was grateful for the tribute that had already been delivered to him.
‘Gosh, I really appreciate all this.
What do I do…’
Was he supposed to reply to each of his supporters, one by one What did the other Hunter stars do In any case, the pressing matter was that his fans were clearly worried about him.
‘Should I turn on the GodTube broadcast right now and let everyone know that I’m fine and healthy’
Ji-Cheok’s head was spinning.
[Your Hidden quest calculation is complete!]
[Please click on your reward.]
[Your Dungeon Clear Main Quest calculation is complete!]
[Please click on your reward.]
For some reason, the message didn’t feel so robotic today.
In fact, Ji-Cheok could almost feel a human-like warmth from the System.
‘What’ll be my reward for the quest calculation’
He first pressed the calculated main quest reward.
Right then, a wooden box fell out of thin air and Ji-Cheok snagged it quickly.
Instantly, a message popped in his mind when he got a hold of the box.
[The Temple of the Scaled Demon]
Difficulty: 1-Star Dungeon — Intermediate level
Defeat the lizardmen and escape the “The Temple of the Scaled Demon” intermediate-level dungeon.
Receive extra bonuses when you collect 100 Likes or more during this quest.
Reward: Intermediate Skill Voucher
Extra Rewards: Hidden Quest Reward
As he opened a box, an intermediate skill exchange voucher appeared.
Since it was an intermediate skill, Ji-Cheok thought that he could use it at the Likes shop.
‘This is pretty useful, isn’t it’
The next thing he did was click on the calculated hidden quest reward.
Again, another box popped up, and another message appeared when he grabbed it.
Successfully enter the first dungeon and hunt down the demon without retreating - Cleared!
Attack the devil without making any sacrifices - Cleared!
Zero casualties when battling against the demon - Cleared!
- With the successful completion of the three hidden quest conditions, the [Demonic Essence] has been awarded to you.]
When Ji-Cheok opened the wooden box, he found a dark red sphere that looked like blood.
It was fairly similar to the marble that he had split apart using all his strength.
“Oh… bro… you’re up,” Mu-Cheok said as he opened his eyes.
Written on his t-shirt in Comic Sans was ‘乃♥Umji, Strongest of Them All♥乃.’
It looked like his supporters had also made t-shirts.
Ji-Cheok could feel how much love his fans had poured in making that t-shirt, and he was grateful for it, but it wasn’t easy to look straight at.
‘Are the designs of these shirts usually like this It kinda seems a little too much to wear outside.’
He came to recognize and accepted that this shirt was probably not designed by a professional.
‘I’m sure they made it with goodwill.
I’m in the wrong to think for even a second that this would be too embarrassing to wear.’
“Oh! This t-shirt”
Mu-Cheok caught on to Ji-Cheok's gaze and said in an awkward voice, “I designed it.
Once they heard that I would do it myself, they left me in charge.
I put all my hopes of you getting better into this t-shirt.”
“...” Ji-Cheok didn’t know how to respond.
What could he say to his younger brother when he put his whole heart into making the t-shirts himself
“There were a lot more people than I thought who wanted one, so I made more.” Mu-Cheok continued.
‘Why…’ Ji-Cheok thought to himself.
There were plenty of cooler t-shirts around the world, why did people want to wear a t-shirt in such a massive Nanum Gothic font Was it necessary to buy that shirt
‘My fans bought this only because my brother made it.
He must be running this business to make fun of my fans. There’s no way people bought this because they wanted it.‘
Let’s not sell them.”
“Why, Hyung More have already been ordered!”
“Don’t do it, don’t do it….” Ji-Cheok felt ashamed.
[Please check for update 2.0.]
[You have unread messages from the gods.]
‘Right, the messages from the gods!’ Ji-Cheok remembered.
He had forgotten all about the messages as he had been distracted by the [Demonic Essence] and his brother’s t-shirt.
With this new update, it seemed like he was now able to communicate with the gods.
Upon clicking it, the messages started to pour in.
[[Sun_Eating_Dog] requests you to offer the [Demonic Essence] to them.]
[[Moon_Walker] requests you to offer the [Demonic Essence] to them.]
“What None of them should be beggars, so why are they asking for it” Ji-Cheok wondered.
He explained the situation to Mu-Cheok, who fell deep into thought.
After a while, he said, “If you offer them something, they’ll give you something in return.
Now the issue with that is…”
There’s no way that I’m giving something away without knowing what it even is.
Plus, I don’t have a clue who to give it to yet.”
Ji-Cheok felt dizzy.
He reached for the TV remote, out of habit, and turned it on.
It was state-of-the-art, massive and with amazing image quality.
‘Holy, they make these VIP hospital rooms pretty good.
Ji-Han must have spent some money on this.’
He wondered how much a VIP hospital room cost per day.
Ji-Cheok flipped the channels and saw his face on the TV.
「Hunter Test Gone to Hell, Authorities Currently Investigating」
The announcer was interviewing a dungeon expert about the issue that had occurred in the exam dungeon.
「So, what you’re saying, Expert Kim Yeong-Hee, is that you think dungeons can evolve」
「Yes, I have already written a thesis with this hypothesis three years ago.
However, it was rejected by the academy.
Evidence continues to be found of how dungeons can level up just like the Awakened and the monsters.
I called this phenomenon ‘Dungeon Expansion.’」
「You mentioned earlier that dungeons are in another dimension of the world.
Does that also mean that dimensions as a whole can level up too」
「Yes, it feels bittersweet having my hypothesis proven this way, however…」
The expert trailed off, and the announcer asked them another question.
「I’ve heard that it’s unprecedented for this dungeon to end with this many losses.」
「Yes, everyone believed that these examinees would get annihilated by the Class B Boss Monster, but thanks to the Irregular novices working together, the dungeon was cleared.」
Pictures of the Hunters who had contributed to the dungeon passed by quickly in a slideshow.
From fifth place to first place, the contribution rankings were shared and they took the time to show video footage.
La-Du was second place and his video montage went well over ten seconds.
The last person shown was Ji-Cheok.
The broadcast had cross-cut the scenes where Ji-Cheok had collapsed and was carried on a stretcher with those of him fighting in the dungeon.
The video quality was good enough to appear filmed by a professional.
‘Ah, Mu-Cheok successfully uploaded it on GodTube.’ Ji-Cheok thought.
The music in the background sounded magnificent and it made the viewers’ hearts beat faster.
「This phenomenon is occurring simultaneously all over the world, starting from our country, for the first time right」
「Yes, it’s the biggest problem with Dungeon Expansions.
You cannot tell whether it is evolving until you enter it.
As such, many Hunters are not prepared and lose their lives.
It’s starting to happen in the United States, Russia, the Middle East, and all over Europe.」
This broadcast quickly went through each country’s situation.
Chaos had broken out at the beginner-level gates in Paris and California.
Moreover, it looked like this problem also affected the bigger gates.
「This phenomenon occurred not only in single-shot dungeons but also in regenerative dungeons.」
Dungeons that did not reappear after being cleared once were called “single-shot dungeons”, while dungeons that kept reappearing even after they had been cleared were called “regenerative dungeons”.
Ji-Cheok had entered a beginner-level regenerative dungeon, which would reset and reappear after a certain period even if it was cleared.
He had taken this Hunter test relying on that nature of the dungeon, but who had expected that something like this would happen
‘This is horrible.
Doesn’t that mean I can’t trust any evaluation of a dungeon’s difficulty’
If he entered a dungeon that expanded, he would have to go through the same thing he had just gone through.
Ever since Ji-Cheok had become a Hunter, he had been prepared to risk his own life.
However, it had never crossed his mind that things would be so twisted from the start.
「Korea is the only country that avoided annihilation.」
Along with the narration, Ji-Cheok appeared on the screen.
It was the scene where he used all the available buffs on himself and jumped up onto the back of the boss monster.
Then came the part where he yelled “DIE!!!” while driving his blade into the monster.
「It’s thrilling to see the boss monster’s body collapsing again, right」
「Yes, I could say that it’s because this final blow was the moment when the dungeon was cleared, but really this video is just great to watch!」
‘It was about now that I thought I was going to die, but…’
Ji-Cheok admitted the footage was good.
He had prepared himself to die with the monster.
At the time, he hadn’t even realized that his stamina had all but disappeared and all his joints were creaking.
Even worse, the demon’s venom, which he thought he had dodged, had actually been spreading throughout his body.
Back when Korean idols were not allowed to have public social media accounts, there were message boards called ‘fan cafés’ where fans could interact with their idols. ☜
The raws don’t specify what exactly feels so human-like, and the language is no different from previous System messages. ☜
The original actually says Nanum Gothic, but that looks very much like Arial when used with Latin script. ☜
The original says “CRT TV”, but that doesn’t really work with drones and GodTube influencers. ☜
The raws say “so good that it appeared to be taken by the man himself”, but for one, Ji-Cheok knows who took the video (hint: it was the man himself), and secondly his video skills are atrocious, by his own admission. ☜