Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The bell on the door jingled as Min Sung walked into the restaurant. Because it was still early in the morning, most of the customers were middle-aged or older, and they still looked like they were half asleep. At that moment...
"Hello. Feel free to sit anywhere you'd like," a middle-aged lady said as she dried her hands on her apron. After her offer, the champion sat at a table by the window.
"What can I get ya? A bowl of noodle soup, maybe?"
When Min Sung nodded affirmatively, the lady nodded with a smile and went into the kitchen. Looking down, Min Sung saw a small seasoning jar and a spoon stand. After taking a spoon for himself, he looked around the restaurant. Upon seeing the sign on the wall that read: 'Self-serve Water,' he walked over to the refrigerator and brought back a pitcher of water and a cup. There was nothing unusual about the restaurant and its ambiance. Although there was no indication that there was an artisan noodle maker working in the kitchen, it did have a warm, welcoming vibe that made the customers feel at home, allowing them to eat in peace. Looking around the restaurant, Min Sung waited patiently for his noodle soup. Soon, the middle-aged lady brought out a bowl of noodle soup along with a bowl of kimchi.
"Enjoy," she said. As she returned to the kitchen, Min Sung stared intently at the noodle soup and picked up his chopsticks, thinking, 'Guess I won't need a spoon. I can just drink the broth from the bowl.' Before he put his chopsticks to work, he got one last good look at the soup.
Also known as party noodles, the noodle soup had a long tradition of being eaten at village parties. Although a commonly-eaten dish in modern days, it had been much more difficult to come by in the past, and the only time and place where people could expect to eat it was at a village party. With it currently being sold at only twenty-nine hundred won, the soup's price was a direct indication of the change in time.
(TL's Note: Currently, 2,900 won is about $2.50 USD)
After putting some seasoning in the noodle soup, Min Sung mixed the noodles and the seasoning with the broth. Picking up a big mouthful of the noodles, he blew on them a few times and slurped away.
As Min Sung's mouth sucked the noodles like a vacuum cleaner, the soft texture of the noodles filled the champion's mouth. Then, he picked up the bowl with both of his hands and drank the broth.
"Ah" he let out, a jet of hot steam coming out of his mouth. The dried-anchovies broth was deeply gratifying. Although often humble and ordinary in appearance, the food of the commoners was extraordinary in flavor and value.
'This is amazing!'
Putting the bowl down, Min Sung picked up a piece of refreshing, perfectly-fermented kimchi and brought it up to his mouth.
After that, Min Sung went back to the bowl of noodle soup without delay. Every time his teeth sank into the flour noodles, the softness of the noodles made for an experience as comforting as lying in a soft bed. Then, instead of cutting the noodles with his teeth while eating, Min Sung ate them without doing so, filling his mouth with the flour noodles. However, it wasn't overbearing by any means. If anything, the rich texture enhanced the experience even further. Hot, slightly spicy, and yet refreshing, the noodle soup soothed the inside of his mouth and his nose.
It wasn't until he looked down that he realized that he had eaten every bit of it. Although it felt like he hadn't been eating for that long, the noodles were nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, they were quite filling. After savoring what was left of the broth, Min Sung put the bowl down, let out a satisfied sigh, and guzzled down a cup of ice-cold water. Refreshed and thoroughly hydrated, he rose from his seat with a satisfied look on his face and said, "Whew! Now, that's breakfast."
Seeing Min Sung walk out of the restaurant, Ho Sung put out the cigarette in his mouth in a hurry and asked, "Did you enjoy your meal, sir?"
"Sure did," Min Sung said, nodding affirmatively. As he got in the back seat of the car, Ho Sung got in the driver's seat, looked toward the champion and asked, "Where to now, sir?"
"Take me to one of those labyrinths."
"Right away Wait, what!?" Ho Sung let out, blinking, dumbfounded.
"Take me to the nearest labyrinth," Min Sung said while looking out the window.
"... Are you sure? It's gonna be dangerous there."
Still in a daze, Ho Sung tilted his head and started the car.
'Is he insane!? He's actually going into a labyrinth!? Is he trying to get himself killed? I guess he's just drawn to danger like a moth to a flame.'
At that moment, a realization struck the driver.
'Wait a minute! This is a big chance! He might be a monstrous hunter, but a labyrinth is NOT an easy dungeon by any stretch of the imagination, which means I'll be a free man the moment he steps into one! Poor bastard. Don't say I didn't warn you.'
The champion seemed to have little to no awareness of the danger that lurked within a labyrinth. Even the guilds who were looking to make a profit deemed going into a labyrinth suicide. Yet, Min Sung was planning on going into one alone. Then...
'Wait, hold on'
a chill ran down Ho Sung's spine.
"Uh, sir? You weren't thinking about taking me with you, were you?" he asked.
"Is that a question? I thought it was obvious," Min Sung replied with a furrowed brow.
'Shit!' Ho Sung let out internally, turning deathly pale. 'Why is he dragging me into this!?'
"Uhm Sir? A labyrinth, might I add, is a seriously dangerous place that even clans and sizable guilds shy away"
"You can either go in with me or die by my hands."
There was no way out. With sunken eyes and a deathly pale face, the driver looked around frantically and asked, "Is-is there a reason why you're insisting on taking me with you?"
"Because I can only carry so much stuff. I'm gonna have to borrow your inventory space."
At Min Sung's reply, Ho Sung wiped the tear running down his cheek in a hurry. Although he had been as cold and heartless as one could be at one point, there really was no telling how life would change a person.
'I should've made a run for it when I had the chance,' Ho Sung thought, sniffling and holding back his tears desperately.
At the champion's heartless remark, Ho Sung forced himself to smile, his face covered in tears and snot.
After driving through the rough, unpaved mountainous roads, the car stopped at a place about three thousand meters above sea level. As the two got out of the car, Ho Sung said, "We're gonna have to walk from here." He dropped his shoulders and led the way.
"Is this the right way?" Min Sung asked.
"It should be."
As Min Sung followed behind Ho Sung, Ho Sung asked, "Uhm sir? Would it be OK to ask why you're so fixated on going into a labyrinth when there are plenty of dungeons out there?"
"I need money to find a new place. Besides"
After Min Sung dragged on, Ho Sung looked back at him.
"... I'm curious about what a labyrinth is like."
After giving him a puzzled look, Ho Sung looked in the direction of where the labyrinth was supposed to be, and to his dismay, they had arrived.
The two stood in front of the entrance, which resembled a translucent UFO standing vertically, like that of an ordinary dungeon. Staring at the dungeon, Ho Sung chuckled as if he was losing his mind.
'Maybe we'll get lucky! Who knows?! Maybe we'll end up with an easy labyrinth! Now that I think about it, I have a vague memory of hearing about the easiest difficulty being the most common with labyrinths.'
Looking at the dungeon's entrance, Ho Sung swallowed nervously. Never had he thought that he would be going into a labyrinth. Now, just moments before entering, he barely managed to swallow the words about to leave his mouth: 'If you're planning on getting yourself killed, couldn't you leave me out of it?'
Should those words leave his mouth, that devil of a champion would surely tear him to pieces before they even set foot inside the labyrinth.
"Let's go," Min Sung said, leading the way. At which point, Ho Sung felt a sinking sensation in his chest.
'Are we really doing this? Is this real?!'
Then, Min Sung looked back and gave Ho Sung an irritated look...
forcing the driver to follow him. With that, the two stood by the entrance in order to enter the dungeon, and soon, they started to levitate.
'This can't be happening! Shit, I'm so screwed! Please! Please be an easy one!'
In no time, darkness swallowed their consciousness.
Within the gaping darkness, an automated voice echoed.
[Welcome to the labyrinth.]
[You may not exit the labyrinth until you clear the dungeon.]
[Difficulty revealed in five seconds.]
[Five, four, three, two, one]
'Please be an easy one!'
[Labyrinth Difficulty: Hell]
"Noooooo!" Ho Sung cried out, thinking, 'This is it. There's no going back.'
There were a number of difficulties to a labyrinth: Easy, Normal, Intermediate, Difficult, Advanced, Hell, Inferno, and Impossible. It was widely known that Hell was a difficulty even the entirety of the Shadow Guild wouldn't be able to handle. Yet, to Ho Sung's dismay, he found himself in a Hell labyrinth with the monstrous champion.
'I'm dead. I'm SO DEAD! Why did we have to cross paths!?' Ho Sung cried out internally as a wave of disappointment and sorrow washed over him. At that moment, beams of light started to shine in the darkness, and when Ho Sung opened his eyes, the labyrinth revealed itself. Looking like he was about to have a breakdown, he breathed harshly, his heart pounding as if it was about to explode. They were in a large cave, where the luminous minerals on the ceiling were the only light source.
"We are done for! This is a Hell labyrinth! This is the end! We're gonna die here!" Ho Sung said anxiously, teary-eyed.
"Ho Sung Lee."
'And if I don't!? What are you gonna do, huh!? Are you gonna kill me!? Do your worst! We're gonna die here anyway!' Ho Sung shouted internally, barely keeping himself from saying the words out loud. As desperate as the situation was, survival was his utmost priority, even if it meant being alive for a few more seconds. Meanwhile, looking ahead, Min Sung opened his inventory and equipped the crystal dagger.