CHAPTER 1: IN THE RAIN
The first sensation was the feeling of the drizzle tickling his skin.
Then, he smelled the earthy scent that filled his nostrils every time he took a breath.
Next, he heard the wind brushing past his ears.
Gradually, all of his senses became alert, and the man slowly regained consciousness.
“ …The ground?”
He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, but he realized he was lying flat on the damp ground, getting drenched in the rain.
And he was completely naked.
“Why am I in this state right now?”
He tried to recall the events before he lost consciousness, but he could only remember flashes of light and fragmented memories that didn’t seem to connect with his current situation.
“What on earth is going on?”
The man, confused and disoriented, froze in his position, unable to move when he met a pair of eyes staring back at him from a mere meter away.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that he was face to face with a giant spider the size of a cooking pot.
Startled, the man jumped up, instinctively grabbing a thick branch that could serve as a weapon and assumed a defensive stance.
The spider stood its ground, its long hairy legs twitching, as if it was about to attack at any moment.
The man swung the branch threateningly, hoping to scare off the spider, but it only responded by clicking its mandibles and advancing towards him.
The man, who involuntarily swallowed dry saliva at the sight that made his spine shiver, quickly shifted his gaze to the gruesome spider’s teeth that had popped out.
The fang, which was only the length of a human palm, was dangerous in itself, but if it contained venom, it would be even more dangerous.
On the other hand, the man was unarmed, wearing only his bare body without even wearing a single thread of clothing, with only one tree branch nearby as a possible weapon.
As the reality became more and more bleak with every moment, the man gritted his teeth in despair.
At that moment, the spider sensed his desperation and fiercely charged towards the man, disrupting the standoff.
The man screamed in terror and ran away.
He ran through the thick forest with tall trees, panting and gasping for breath, but he couldn’t stop.
However, unlike the man who slipped and stumbled on the increasingly treacherous path in the rain, the spider chased him relentlessly, as if running on a flat surface.
His heart was pounding like crazy, and his feet felt like they were on fire, but the man kept running with all his might.
Suddenly, when the path disappeared and a huge rock appeared in front of him, the man instinctively rolled to the side with all his strength.
The spider, which had been chasing only his back, let out a scream as it crashed helplessly into the rock.
Having received a considerable shock, the spider continued to twist and writhe in agony, unable to control its body.
The man watched the scene, panting, then slowly stood up.
There’s no guarantee that he could continue to run away, and this might be his only chance to catch the spider.
The situation was critical.
The man clenched the tree branch tightly, trying to gather his courage.
However, before his attack could reach the spider, the creature regained its senses and easily dodged the swinging branch.
In a moment of panic, the man took a step back, and the spider quickly climbed up the nearby rock and leaped towards him with all its might.
As the large spider flew towards him in a perfect arc, its terrifying appearance caused the man to swing his arm reflexively with his eyes shut.
And then, with a blinding flash and a deafening roar, the spider’s corpse lay motionless before the man.
Shocked by the unbelievable turn of events, the man stuttered for a while before finally expressing his confusion.
The idea that lightning would strike the spider at the moment when it’s about to attack him seemed too surreal.
And if it was true, why was he still unscathed, despite being so close?
Despite his confusion, the man realized that this was not the most important thing.
Relieved, the man collapsed onto the ground, his tension released.
The gray sky above was still pouring down cold raindrops without mercy.
The man, who had just barely caught his breath, tried to understand the situation he found himself in, with one hand covering his face.
However, because of the urgency of the crisis he had just narrowly escaped, his body was exhausted, and his mind kept getting hazy, making it difficult to think clearly.
But he couldn’t continue to be in this state.
The moment the man tried to look around to assess his situation, he realized he needed to get out of there.
“This harvest is not going so well.”
“But we can’t just stay here and die, can we? It’s already been four days since we disembarked.
We have to wait for the next station.”
The voices of people could be heard not far away.
It was fortunate that it wasn’t some alien life form that didn’t speak an unknown language, but just because they were humans, it didn’t mean he could let his guard down.
Instead of hastily requesting rescue, the man decided to hide himself and observe their movements.
However, what the man overlooked in this plan was his own physical exhaustion and the keen observation skills of the others.
“Wait, where is that smell coming from?”
“On rainy days, sometimes you can smell it in the forest…
Wait, is it from that thing?”
Those who had smelled it approached the spot where the spider’s corpse lay and arrived just before the man hid behind a rock.
“Oh, there’s another one here?”
The people who emerged from the bushes nonchalantly reacted even after seeing the man completely naked.
Among them, a middle-aged man with brown hair, who seemed to be the leader, stepped forward and spoke.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Who are you?”
“Well, at least you’re responding.”
The man frowned in response to the incomprehensible comment, and the middle-aged man smiled and pointed with his thumb behind him, saying, “That friend over there, I found him earlier, but he still hasn’t come to his senses.”
As the middle-aged man had said, there was a black-haired man standing there with a naked body and a frozen expression.
“Come on, go with us for now.
We’ll take you to a safe place.”
“Or do you really want to stay here like that? We won’t stop you if you’re not afraid of losing your life.”
The middle-aged man said that, gesturing towards the dead spider.
The man, who understood well what that gesture meant, eventually followed them quietly.
“Haha, what a polite friend.
Here, put this on for now.”
“Anyway, Cliff is too kind-hearted for his own good.
Hey, you’re lucky too.
Not everyone is as generous as he is.”
The man looked at the person who had suddenly joined the conversation.
He had a face that resembled a sparrow and a scornful expression.
What he said was clearly a provocation.
But before he could react, Cliff’s wave of his hand cut the conversation off.
“Gilbert, stop talking nonsense.
Let’s go quickly before our body temperatures drop any further because of the rain.”
At Cliff’s urging, the group moved on again, and the man followed quietly from behind.
The group, who had been walking in the forest for a while, eventually arrived at a place where artificial facilities had been built.
The man slowly spoke, wandering around the landscape that seemed to mix a regular train station with a highway rest area.
“It’s a temporary station.
We’re planning on taking the train again today.”
“Train, you say?”
“Yeah, so you should finish the new registration before the train arrives.”
Instead of explaining in detail, Cliff grabbed the man’s arm and headed towards a secluded building in one corner.
When they opened the door with “Information Desk” written on it, they found a small space with only one desk and a few chairs.
“Two newbies here.”
“Oh, from your place again? You always bring them in.”
Anyway, I’ll go now.
I have things to do before the train arrives.”
“Oh, wait a minute…!”
Cliff’s sudden departure startled the man and reached out, but Cliff didn’t look back and left the information desk.
“It’s as if a drowned rat has come in.
Hey, go wash up first.”
The employee handed them clothes and shoes piled up in one corner, seemingly accustomed to such situations, and led the two dazed people to a shared shower room.
“Even if you’re in a hurry, you know you need to take a shower, right?”
As the man nodded his head in agreement, the employee left with no hesitation.
Standing in front of the shower head as if possessed by something, the man stood there, lost in thought, while being hit by hot water.
“Why am I here?”
He sorted through his memories one by one to make sense of the confusing situation.
His mind was still as hazy as if it were engulfed in thick smoke, but he gradually extracted the necessary information.
His name was Lee Jin-woo, 26 years old.
He worked as an electrician in Korea and had gone to the site as usual today to do his job.
He didn’t enjoy being assigned to work with an irresponsible senior colleague, but he believed he could still do his job well as a professional despite that.
“Senior, did you drink too much yesterday?”
“Huh? No, I just had a bit.
Don’t worry, have you never done that once or twice?”
“Are you crazy? Don’t you know we need to be extra careful with today’s work?”
“No, but this guy is driving me crazy, crazy! Can you imagine making a mistake doing something like this?!”
He should not have believed those words.
The accident happened in an instant, and he lost consciousness with a shocking impact, like being struck by lightning.
“…I should have died in the situation I was in.”
The man, Lee Jin-woo, could not understand his current reality.
He couldn’t understand why he was still alive, where he was, and what that absurdly huge spider-like creature was.
Even if he asked the information desk staff waiting outside, it was unclear whether he could get a proper explanation in this situation.
Lee Jin-woo sighed in frustration and looked down at his body, feeling a prickling sensation here and there.
As he looked at his palm with a small scar, a strange feeling of discomfort soon captivated him.
“Why is it so…
After all kinds of manual labor and on-site work, his hands were sunburned and had many small cuts.
Jin-woo looked at his skin with curiosity, which was as white as jade, and finally turned his attention to the mirror on one side.
Then, he was surprised to see his own reflection.
His hair was scattered like that of a ghost.
“Why is my hair like this?”
Jin-woo stared at his dark blue hair that fell down to his hips.
Had he been running around in the forest looking like this?
With a sigh, he brushed his hair back with one hand, revealing silver-grey eyes that were neither brown nor black.
As he stared at the surreal pupils that he had never seen before, Jin-woo was at a loss for words.
If it hadn’t been for the pain that still lingered in his body, he would have pinched his thigh with all his might.
Instead of attempting a pointless escape from reality, he quietly examined his face in the mirror.
At first, he thought he had entered the body of a stranger, but upon closer inspection, he was undoubtedly himself.
He had just changed a little.
He wondered if God had created a new body for him.
Jin-woo spent some time like that in front of the mirror before unfolding the clothes that the information desk employee had handed him.
The familiar design of the work clothes momentarily took him aback.
“Am I being forced into hard labor or something…?”
Carrying the new sense of anxiety with him, he left the room, and the employee gestured for him to wait while sitting at the desk.
The man who had been rescued before Jin-woo was already completing his registration procedure.
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