Chapter 18

Startled by the sudden message, Kim Jin-Woo looked around immediately. Thankfully, his teammates were all sound asleep. He felt greatly relieved and checked the message window again.

[The parasite’s ability ‘Detection’ has been activated.]

Before Kim Jin-Woo could decipher this message, his right eye began to burn. He couldn’t help but frown. His eyes widened as he worried about another seizure episode, but there wasn’t any pain this time. Instead, he felt a foreign sensation in his right eye.

It was uncomfortable. His whole world turned ash-gray, as though a filter had been placed over it. Upon closing his left eye, everything appeared completely black and white.

“Huh?” he exclaimed softly. One spot in the room glimmered in its natural color. It was the altar he had been inspecting moments ago. Its shimmering green surface was where the lustrous labyrinth core would have been a long time ago.

Mesmerized, Kim Jin-Woo approached the altar and swept its surface with his hands. The even ground sank when he applied the barest hint of force. In the small pit he created, he found a stone barely half the size of his pinky.

[You have discovered a shard of the labyrinth. The master of the labyrinth took most of the valuables when the humans won the war, but he was unable to take everything. You have found a shard that has been left unattended for a long time.]

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (11/30): Although a long time has passed, it can still be useful due to its constant exposure to dungeon energy.]

Kim Jin-Woo stood dumbfounded with the sharp shard in his hand. At that moment, he sensed somebody’s presence and hurriedly placed the shard in his pocket. He caught his breath and turned around to find an explorer turning and tossing in his sleep, likely because he found the floor uncomfortable.

Kim Jin-Woo watched the explorer out of the corner of his eye. He sighed in relief when the explorer began to breathe regularly in his sleep again.

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (11/30)]

Kim Jin-Woo could tell that the shard was valuable at one glance. A faint grin spread across his face.

***

Fortunately, the night was uneventful. The explorers were able to recover from their fatigue and swiftly journey through the labyrinth.

“Mr. Jin-Woo?” Lee Jun-Young asked, catching Kim Jin-Woo off-guard. “Is there anything wrong?”

“N-Nothing,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.

“Are you feeling unwell? You’ve been rubbing your eye for a while,” Lee Jun-Young said.

Kim Jin-Woo must have been touching his eye subconsciously.

[Something has been caught in the parasite’s radar.]

[The parasite has noticed something peculiar.]

[The parasite is….]

Lee Jun-Young, who was still staring at him, appeared black and white. He replied, “No, I’m fine. Something went into my eye, that’s all.”

“Really? Please be careful. In the labyrinth… Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. You should know better.” She turned away.

Kim Jin-Woo inspected the wall again.

[Immature Down Gem (3/10). It may seem insignificant now, but it will become valuable with time.]

There was a slight protrusion in the shimmering green wall.

Kim Jin-Woo’s parasite was more useful for detection than combat. It could reveal various hidden treasures that were buried in the walls and floor. Thanks to that ability, he discovered many down gems along the way. They alone were worth quite a fortune.

Although he had left behind a few down gems to avoid suspicious looks from his teammates, his findings were already worth one medium-grade down gem.

What serendipity! Kim Jin-Woo could obtain these rare down gems without even having to risk his life fighting any creatures. He couldn’t be any luckier.

[You found an immature down gem.]

He took advantage of the short break to tear the ‘immature down gem’ off the wall. He then leaned his hand against the wall before quietly sliding the gem into his pocket. He was a natural actor.

Shortly after, the team finally reached the end of the labyrinth after a long journey. A straight tunnel stretched beyond the complex and entangled passages. The explorers let out a sigh of relief.

“We were fortunate to have evaded the creatures so far, but things will get rough from here,” Jung Chan-Shik looked around and said from the front line. “We’ll have to fight regardless of the path we choose.” There seemed to be creatures nearby. He turned around and faced his teammates with a perturbed expression.

“Don’t we have our answer then?” Lee Jun-Young stepped forward. She kept glancing back at Kim Jin-Woo as she spoke, indicating that she trusted him wholeheartedly.

That was to be expected. A Level 12 dungeon baby was more credible than anyone else, especially when they were only on the fourth floor.

Kim Jin-Woo shrugged and said, “Shall we just charge through?”

“Let’s go!” Lee Jun-Young cried.

The dungeon babies pulled out their weapons, while the explorers grabbed onto their shields and spears. Their eyes began to gleam eagerly. Kim Jin-Woo drew his knife as well, but he was more focused on viewing his messages.

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (11/30)]

[Immature Down Gem (3/20)]

[Immature Down Gem (2/13)] 

[Broken Down Gem Fragment (1/5)]

He had chanced upon the above loot while journeying through the labyrinth, thanks to the parasite in the back of his hand.

The labyrinth was in ruins now, but it had once hosted a majestic labyrinth master who wielded great power against the humans. That was why there were vastly more hidden items in the labyrinth compared to the underground tunnel.

Needless to say, a few of them were too old to be of any use. Furthermore, Kim Jin-Woo had to leave some of them behind to keep up with the team. It was a shame indeed. He turned around and promised himself he would visit this abandoned labyrinth again.

“Let’s go!”

Meanwhile, his team had finalized the preparations and began to move again.

***

“Phew. Let’s take a break around here.” Jung Chan-Shik turned around to face his teammates.

“Those damn bats.” 

“Those creatures aren’t even worth a penny….” 

The dungeon babies cursed behind him. Their neat and trim appearance from the abandoned labyrinth was nowhere to be seen. Instead, they looked like a wreck. Some of the ordinary explorers were wrapped in bandages, while the dungeon babies had smudges of yellow liquid on them.

They’d had a rough battle before arriving at this place. Although they could avoid many creatures thanks to Jung Chan-Shik’s ability, they hadn’t been able to avoid the kalni bats.

With a huge wingspan of over three meters, these predators hid in the dark and attacked passing beasts and creatures. Individually, they weren’t a problem. But they always moved in a flock, which posed a threat to the explorers.

Kim Jin-Woo’s team had encountered over thirty of them. These ridiculous bats couldn’t even spread their wings in the narrow passage. Instead, they hopped towards his team to attack.

Had it not been for Kim Jin-Woo, who had noticed their presence thanks to a warning message, there could have been casualties amongst the ordinary explorers due to the sheer number of the bats.

“Hey, at least we obtained some down gems,” Jung Chan-Shik smiled and reassured his teammates. “But they are medium-grade down gems at best. We suffered an overall loss; the scent-erasing solution and the arrows alone already cost us millions of won.”

The dungeon babies, however, were unsatisfied with their loot. Someone said, “I would rather encounter a four-eyed snake. At least it’s worth more cash, tsk.”

“You’ll meet that beloved four-eyed snake of yours soon. We’re entering the fifth floor now,” Jung Chan-Shik said. A huge, pitch-black crater lay in front of the team. He continued, “You should all refrain from talking. Voice out only when you see anything suspicious. On the fifth floor—”

“—Lives the big-eared lizard? We’re not novices. Let’s not waste time,” said the dungeon baby.

“What a temper.” Jung Chan-Shik clicked his tongue at his colleague and leaped into the crater leading to the fifth floor.

“Hmm….” Kim Jin-Woo frowned upon sensing something sticky and uncomfortable pressing down on his shoulder.

The air on the fifth floor was different. Not even a single streak of light penetrated the darkness. Everything on this floor, including the stuffy air and howling wind, got on his nerves.

The team had been traveling on a safe route, well-paved by the veteran explorers and dungeon babies.

The fifth floor, on the other hand, was an unexplored realm–the ‘true’ underground world. A single mistake could cause anyone to be lost in the labyrinth or get killed by stealthy creatures. It was a ruthless place.

“Keep to the same formation. Pull yourselves together and walk slowly.”

The dungeon babies at the frontline began to move according to Jung Chan-Shik’s command. The explorers followed suit, forming a body bunker. Lee Jun-Young and Kim Jin-Woo were the last to move.

A few nervous explorers breathed in heavily. Although they had been chosen under a set of strict criteria, they were still ordinary humans after all. They were overwhelmed by the density of the air on the fifth floor. Still, everyone was experienced enough to refrain from shrieking in fear.

They were elites indeed. Novices without experience would have been petrified by the sheer pressure on the fifth floor. The explorers stood at the center of the formation and moved forward as they inspected their surroundings vigilantly. Kim Jin-Woo nodded in admiration.

It was at that moment...

“Stop.” Jung Chan-Shik immediately threw himself flat on the ground. He pressed his ears against the floor. “Enemies 200 meters ahead. There are five of them. No, there’s one more. There’s six in total, all of them are medium-sized at least.” 

He had detected some creatures on his radar. The explorers quietly tossed their bags onto the ground and braced themselves for battle.

“Ready?” Jung Chan-Shik whispered. The dungeon babies bared their teeth and grinned aggressively in response.

“What’s there to grin about?” Jung Chan-Shik clicked his tongue. The dungeon babies were more thrilled than nervous about the impending battle.

“Let’s go, you crazy bastards.” Before Jung Chan-Shik knew it, he had the same expression as the rest of the dungeon babies.

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