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 Chapter 7. Boy Becomes a Dungeon Explorer (7)

As I was lost in my thoughts, everyone had finished collecting their rewards. Ellos clapped his hands and drew everyone's attention.

"Good work today everyone. Without each and every one of you, we would have failed to defeat the Orc Lord. As fellow comrades climbing the dungeon, it would be great to stay in touch."

"Stay in touch? How?"

"Ah, so you don't know. You can send a friend request, and you'll be able to contact each other whenever you are both in the dungeon."

"I see."

At Ellos words, I realized there was still a lot to learn about the dungeon's functionalities. I registered Ellos as a friend. Although I didn't really want to register Palludia as a friend, because she sent a deathly glare my way, I friended her as well. If I friended Ellos and not Palludia, it seemed she would throw a tantrum.

"Then will you be heading to the 6th floor now, Mr. Kang Shin?"

"Yep. My goal is to beat the 10th floor."

"Uh... that..."

"...?"

Ellos seemed to want to say something, but he dropped his head down.

"N-No, it's nothing. Um... good luck. Call me if you ever need help. I will help you as much as I can."

"Mmm.... Got it."

What could it be? I tilted my head in wonder, but because I felt Ellos' sincerity, I nodded my head.

The party disbanded. I was sent back to the place I was before. It was the place beyond the boss room, the Floor Shop next to the stairway to the 6th floor. I went to the Floor Shop to check if there was anything special to buy, but confirmed that there was nothing. As I walked to the stairway energetically, the shop noona cheered me on with a smile.

"Do your best! Ghosts suck out and consume human energy!"

"Thanks, noona! ... Ghosts?"

Thinking that the 6th floor sounded more grim than the 5th, I yelled 'commence exploration.' In an instant, darkness surrounded me.

"... Eh?"

- Shuuu

"... Eh?"

Did I hear something? I felt goose bumps running down my arm.

'This is just the atmosphere I hate.'

I gulped down my saliva and walked forward. The next moment, something crept up on me abruptly.

"Ugyaaaah!"

As I let out a scream I could never let my father hear and fell, something white attacked me with a curious sound.

"Hukiiiiiii!"

"Ugyaaaah!"

Ghosts are scary! I thrashed out with my fists, but they passed through it easily. It wasn't defeated. I instinctively felt that it had not even been hit.

[Wraith has tainted your soul! Because you have no MP, your HP will decrease continuously.]

"Hukiiiii!"

"Ugyaaaah!"

There was more than just the one! Several ghosts appeared and attacked me. I didn't even consider using my spear as I screamed from the top of my lungs and thrashed out with my arms and legs. They had no effect whatsoever, and my HP continued to be drained. In the end, my HP had reached 0 and I was kicked out of the dungeon. It was a rather embarrassing exit.

"Father!"

"Uwoah! What are you yelling for!?"

"You lied to me!"

"About what?"

"I haven't seen a single mana stone this entire time. There are wraiths on the 6th floor. Without qi, you can't defeat them at all! Tell me honestly, what floor are you on?"

"... Well, you see, son."

"What floor are you on?"

When I glared at him intently, my father finally answered.

"T-The 6th."

"Faaaaatheeeeer!"

When I shouted, my father flinched.

"Ehem. What's wrong, Shin? You can earn a lot of gold just by defeating orcs on the 5th floor. It's with that money that I bought this house, car, and your mother's bag. See, your father makes good money."

"For someone who's only been to the 5th floor, you sure talk big...!"

"Hmph, you won't be much different. You'll be hunting orcs forever."

"Fatheeer!"

Rather than cheering me up, he was making fun of me! I thought about grabbing him by the collar and fighting, but seeing mother and Yua staring at us through the door crack, I put away the thought.

"Huu. I didn't become a dungeon explorer just to hunt orcs..."

"Shin, this is not a chance everyone can have. Orcs give 10 gold, which can be exchanged for 20,000 won. Three orcs for 20,000 won. Do you realize how rich this mine is?"

"But father..."

"What's wrong?"

"I want to have qi!"

"You...!"

Father looked at me with a touched expression. His body was trembling. Suddenly, he embraced me. No, it was more like a wrestling move.

"Like you can obtain qi when even I couldn't! You better not get it before I do!"

"We're done father! DONE!"

In the end, I went back to the 5th floor. But I didn't want to just hunt orcs all day. Having experienced the thrill of fighting the Orc Lord, ordinary orcs were no longer enough to satisfy me. Now that things had come to this, I decided to obtain more muscle compressing elixirs. I chose to enter a party and fight the Orc Lord again.

Of course, there were many hurdles. First, it turned out that I could only fight the floor master once a day. Even if I succeeded, I could only try again the next day. Of course, if I failed, I couldn't enter the dungeon for a whole week. The Orc Lord was not a weak foe by any means. As a result, I was kicked out of the dungeon with a fifty percent chance no matter what party I was in.

Plus, the muscle compressing elixir did not always come out. I wasn't always the one to get the 1st place contribution either. Sometimes, I was left with just power potions, which temporarily granted a strength bonus, and low-grade potions.

There was a good news as well. The reason my body was so big was not only because my muscles were overinflated, but also because my bones themselves were large. Simply put, I had the bones of a dragon. About half a year after I succeeded in my first Orc Lord hunt, when it was the 14th time I defeated the Orc Lord, a new compressing elixir had appeared.

[Bone Compressing Elixir (Rare)

When consumed, the body's bones will be compressed to be smaller and stronger. However, if one's bones are already compressed to the maximum, consuming it may have no effect or even kill in the worst case scenario.]

"Whoo!"

I jumped in place just like the first time I obtained the Muscle Compressing Elixir. I immediately consumed the Bone Compressing Elixir, and this time, my constitution went up by 1 permanently.

Consuming compressing elixirs didn't always increase my stats, but they did increase from time to time. As such, it wasn't such a bad thing that I repeatedly hunted the Orc Lord. Most importantly, fighting a strong opponent like the Orc Lord played a vital role in quickly increasing my low-rank martial arts skill.

After a whole year passed, it was getting easier and easier to hunt the Orc Lord. It seemed like there was an unknown network amongst the dungeon explorers as when I created a party, the people who joined would ask if I'm the 'Crown Prince.' When I asked them what they meant by Crown Prince, they answered it was the nickname given to me who specialized in hunting the 5th Floor Master. The official title was Crown Prince of 5F.

"C-Crown Prince..."

I somehow gained a humiliating nickname. Of course, I knew it was a way of acknowledging my strength. Having faced the Orc Lord for a year, I grew strong enough to defeat the Orc Lord without losing a single party member.

My stats that were going up slowly through the muscle and bone compressing elixirs was one reason, but the more important reason was the stronger martial art skill, which had grown just as strong as my spear technique. With it, I could quickly read and react to the orcs' every move.

Someone had also contacted me after a year. It was Ellos. He had told me he was now going through the 9th floor.

[Sorry. If only I could teach you my mana cultivation method...]

"It's fine. I know it's your family secret. I heard you couldn't trade things bought from the Floor Shop either. That's my luck, I guess."

[In other dungeons, ghosts don't appear until after the 10th floor. It's unfortunate you became an explorer of the First Dungeons... what a shame.]

"Like I said, that's just my luck."

I could feel Ellos' concern. I also understood what Ellos was about to tell me a year ago.

Three months after Ellos contacted me, someone unexpected contacted me. It was Palludia. I never thought I would see or talk to her again.

[... I heard you're still on the 5th floor.]

"Tsk, where are you?"

[H-Hmph, I'm already on the 13th floor. I'm different than you.]

"Good for you..."

It wasn't sarcasm. I really was jealous of her. I didn't become a dungeon explorer just to make money. Treasures, monsters, exploration! I wanted to experience new things. I wanted to fight with more diverse, stronger monsters.

Although I knew Palludia would make fun of me, I didn't really care much about it now that a whole year had passed.

[I-If... If it angers you that much, hurry up climb up! There's no time to dawdle on the 5th floor!]

"But I have no mana."

[Eek, do something about that with your spirit! You saved me twice, so you should be able to do at least that!]

"... Heh."

What, is she trying to cheer me up? Although I could only hear her voice, I knew she wasn't making fun of me. I felt like I had received a surprise present.

[W-What...]

"Thanks."

[Uet!? I didn't do anything you should be thankful for!]

"I'm just thankful. You cheered me up. I'll try harder."

[Uuuu... do what you want! Next time, you contact me first, stupid!"

Then she hung up. I kept my eyes closed for a while, then slapped my cheeks and got up.

"Alright, let today's hunting begin!"

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