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It was a time like hell.
Summoning and un-summoning Sylph repeatedly, I ran, gasping for air. Compared to Kang Chun-seong and Joon-ho with his physical strength buff, my stamina was even worse than Park Go-chan’s. But there was another who was gasping for air more than me, and that’s Lee Hye-su.
She looked like the very breath would leave her and her face was strewn in tears.
On her severely fatigued and frightened face, her fear that her comrades may leave her behind was obvious.
I wanted to help her but I was barely keeping up as it was.
“Get on my back.”
Out of the ordinary, Kang Chun-seong interfered. Even with Lee Hye-su on his back he ran, leading the group.
As that happened, the person in last place became me.
“Hak, hak, haak…!”
It felt like my heart would explode. It was to the point that I feared I would die running like this.
I kept going back and forth between hoping we have a battle or to just keep running.
Sylph’s meow, with only 5 minutes left of her summon time, brought my dimming consciousness back to focus.
I am in awe at the view before me. The flow of the small river is joined to a small waterfall. Below the waterfall was a gorge surrounded with rocks and inside it, slightly hidden by the waterfall, was a small cave.
I was so out of breath the words didn’t properly come out of my mouth.
“You’re saying we should rest here, right?”
With his physical strength buff entry level 2, Joon-ho who was in better condition than I, asked me.
I nod my head.
We make our way down to the gorge. We go into the small cave behind the falling waterfall. It was small enough that as 5 people entered, it made us feel crowded.
But, perhaps due to the waterfall that blocked the entrance, it felt safe.
‘Thank goodness. If we fight here, it will be easier to block them.’
The waterfall will get rid of our body odor and stop it from going outside.
The passage through the gorge is narrow so even if they attack, the fight will be easier.
I un-summon Sylph and speak to the group.
“Let’s spend the day here.”
The group nods.
I make my gun and bullet pouch disappear and collapse onto the floor. Maybe it is just because of how tired I am, but as soon as I lay down, sleep floods over me.
When I come to, it is pitch black.
It is so dark I cannot see anything. All I hear is the soft breathing of my group.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could make out the interior of the cave.
What immediately catches my eye is Kang Chun-seong, sitting towards the entrance to the cave.
“You didn’t sleep?”
Kang Chun-seong barely glances at me and nods his head. It seems while everyone had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion, he had kept watch all alone.
I summon my board to check the time.
-Name: Kim Hyun-ho
-Mission: survive until the time
-Time limit: 5 days 9 hours 14 minutes
“You should go to bed now. We will keep sentry now.”
At the words, Kang Chun-seong immediately laid down and fell asleep.
Sylph nods her head and rubs her face on me. At her adorableness, I feel my heart melting.
“Scout for me please.”
Sylph nods and flies out the cave.
She returns in a moment and draws a number in the ground. It is so dark I cannot really see.
“Can you draw it on my hand?”
Sylph draws a number into my right hand. Along with a tickle, I can make out the number 271.
“271 of them?”
Sylph nods her head.
All of the red apes, minus the ones we had killed during the day, are gathering outside and near to us. They are sure that we are somewhere nearby.
‘This situation is really not good.’
This place we had thought to be safe was actually not that good of a spot.
The falling waterfall is blocking the entrance so we cannot build a fire and because it is cold and moist, it is uncomfortable to sleep in. We cannot survive for five days in here.
We must escape this place.
But with what ability will we pierce through a net of 271 apes?
‘It’s making me depressed, so I’m going to stop thinking about it for now.’
A while later, I wake the group, minus Kang Chun-seong, and decide on our sentry order. Between the four of us, we decide to each take turns of 1 hour 30 minutes.
“Get up, guy.”
Thanks to Park Go-chan tapping me with his feet, I’m awoken from my sleep.
“Man, fuck, it’s so cold how am I going to get a proper sleep.”
Park Go-chan finishes his sentry duty and lays down mumbling. Complaining aside, he quickly starts to snore.
I spaced out for a good while and then kicked my sleepiness aside and summoned Sylph.
“Can you go see what the red apes are doing?”
She replied in a small voice and flies out.
Sylph returns in a moment and I ask her.
“Are the bastards sleeping?”
Sylph is nodding her head.
They have good night vision but they aren’t nocturnal. That means last night’s attack was a strategy.
“Are they all sleeping? If not, how many of them are awake?”
Sylph draws a ticklish number 9 on my palm.
There are hundreds roaming about and there are only 9 that are awake and keeping watch? It’s more pathetic than I thought.
But I can understand it. There are hundreds of them and this forest is their territory. They have never had to fear and so their watch is loose.
‘Should I use that to my advantage?’
I think about escaping with my group while the bastards are asleep.
But that is indeed reckless.
No matter how pathetic, there is the chance that we will be caught by the 9 that are keeping watch. In addition, we are exhausted. Even if we break through their ranks, we won’t be able to keep running while they chase us.
‘How did it come to this?’
I had thought things were going well and according to plan.
As we arrived in the forest, I had deduced that our enemy was the red ape. I had success in getting water and food. We were also ready for their night attack. Isn’t this much pretty good?
But alas, in the end, we are locked in this tiny gorge.
‘The red apes’ teamwork surpasses my expectations.’
We killed all 21 of the apes that had ambushed us in the night attack, and didn’t leave a single one able to return.
But after that, and not even within a full day, hundreds of them worked together to search the entire forest.
They quickly narrowed their search and eventually found our location.
We did break through the earlier search team, but in the end we have found ourselves in a corner.
‘This is a total mall hunt.’*
(TN: 몰이사냥 I don’t even know what this means but when I type it into google, this is the image that comes up. Maybe means a mob attack?)
The red apes’ group efforts were thoroughly organized and close.
The number that died at our hands is well over 40 and they weren’t a bit shaken up.
I am sure of it that they have a strong leader that has strong control of the group. A smart leader that knows how to night attack and mall hunt.
Let’s organize this.
First, a smart and strong leader.
Second, that leader has 271 red apes acting as his hands and feet.
Third, this forest is no different than their front lawn.
Fourth, in our group, one is a trouble maker and the other is incompetent.
‘What kind of bullshit exam is this?’
It’s making me angry. That bbundegi angel bastard! He may be looking at my anguish now and chuckling right now.
-Name: Kim Hyun-ho
-Mission: survive the time limit
-Time limit: 5 days 3 hours 45 minutes
I stare blankly at the words on my board. I spent a good deal of time just staring at the board.
And suddenly, a thought popped into my head.
Survive until the time limit.
That is all. Now that I think of it, nowhere did it say to flee for a week. Just survive.
It wasn’t an impossible mission. Like the first exam, they have given us a mission that is doable. Something that is possible with our skills.
And then something passed by in my head, like a flash of light. I summon Sylph again.
“Sylph. I have something to ask you.”
Cute Sylph, looking at me with her round eyes.
“Using your power, can you make it so sound disappears?”
Sylph nods her head.
“Can you get rid of smell?”
She nods again.
“Then lastly, do you know what kind of bastard the leader of the red apes is? Like his appearance or if he’s giving out orders to other bastards. Maybe, have you seen him?”
Sylph nods her head this time too.
This is it. The answer was this close all along.
I wake up the next sentry, Lee Hye-su.
“Is it my turn?”
“Something has come up so I am waking you early.”
“If I do not return within the hour, wake the others and escape.”
“I will return.”
I head out the cave.
But Lee Hye-su follows after me.
“Where are you going!”
“I’m going to kill their leader. If I can do just that, the exam is clear.”
“And if you do not return?”
“If an hour passes and I am not back, escape before the day brightens. For now, the bastard’s watch is loose so you have a chance, but if I fail, they will be more vigilant and even in the night they will watch more closely. So you…”
“That’s not it!”
“What about me……”
Lee Hye-su is about to cry.
“What I was about to be molested, you helped me, you saved me during the fight, and you’ve taken care of me this and that way… Hyun-ho, you are the only one that has protected me. If you are not here, what will I do.”
At those words, my heart is deafened.
“Please do not go. Just stay here. Why do you have to submit to such danger?”
I let out a bitter smile.
“Would you like to talk for a while?”
We sit together on a boulder.
I ask “How old are you?”
“How long have you been with a company?”
“This year marks 4 years.”
“Did you get hired as soon as you graduated?”
“What kind of company is it?”
“I worked at the ST Soft marketing division.”
“Wow, you got into a big company right after graduating. You must’ve attended a good university.”
“The school wasn’t bad, but my dad is a ST Soft board member.”
“Wow, I’m so jealous. Your face is pretty and your house is well off, you had a very successful life.”
“It’s not so. Look at me now…”
“Better than me.” I speak up.
“Even if I say the name, people don’t know the university I went to and up to now, I’ve been saying that I’m studying for the civil servant exam and living as an unemployed person.”
“My college friends graduated and mailed off hundreds of resumes, and then the place they barely got hired at gives them a salary shy of $20,000. Seeing that scared me. That I might face those hardships too. So I decided to be a civil servant and wasted my life until I was 29.”
I let out a deep sigh and continue.
“I have never been complimented for being good at anything. I never worked hard for anything and my life ended having lived just plain and mediocre. That’s why I’m working so desperately now. Because I want to live. So that if I am given another chance, that I might live my life properly. I’m pretty pitiful, huh?”
“N-no, you aren’t. You are really incredible, Hyun-ho. If it wasn’t for you, we would all be dead by now.”
“Thank you. For the first time in my life, I’ve gotten a compliment.”
I laugh and she laughs too.
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