The dungeon baby walked feebly onto the stage with dull, lifeless eyes, as if she had given up all hope. Her lack of reaction to the swarm of monsters in the hall reminded Kim Jin-Woo of his past self, thus preventing him from taking his eyes off her.
“As you know, there have been very few ‘subterranean humans’ left ever since the peace pact was signed. Some of them who have dared to visit the underground world again have been caught, but their personalities have completely changed, influenced by the savage humans on the surface!”
The auctioneer rambled on as he pleased. Kim Jin-Woo let most of his words go in one ear and out the other while looking at the dungeon baby.
“However, this item is one of the first subterranean humans, who are known to lack such viciousness! She’s an obedient creature who does whatever you tell her to do! In addition, she’s from the deep floor, so she’s physically tough. You can handle her roughly without worrying about killing her accidentally!”
The auctioneer kicked the dungeon baby’s shin and pinched her skin for demonstration. One would expect her to be startled by the sudden pain, but all she said was a brief ‘ouch’.
“Did you see that? This item is a relic that represents the underground world you knew!” the auctioneer exclaimed.
With a tight feeling in his chest and a stiff expression, Kim Jin-Woo called Dominique over. “Dominique?”
<Yes, master,> Dominique replied and corrected her posture upon hearing his intimidatingly low voice.
“How many gems can we afford to spend?”
<About 18,000 gems, if we were to sell the blood leopard’s heart.>
The atmosphere in the hall was already beginning to heat up. Kim Jin-Woo said coldly, “We’re entering a bid this time.” Instead of questioning her master, Dominique just nodded with a determined expression.
“This is your last chance to vent your anger against the humans above! We can guarantee that a subterranean human this pure will never be seen again in the underground world!” The auctioneer was talking gibberish, but he could surprisingly work up the crowd into a frenzy.
“Me! Give her to me!”
“Shut up! Do you know how much I suffered because of those subterranean humans? Whoever messes with me in this auction, I will hunt him down to the ends of the earth!”
“That’s my line! Shut up, you all! I, Urtus, am the rightful owner of this item!”
It seemed not all dungeon babies had escaped the underground world without causing trouble. The auctioneer opened his palm with a satisfied expression, as he watched the participants grit their teeth and shout in anger.
“2,000 gems! The bid starts at 2,000 gems!”
Several participants bid fiercely, which spiced up the mood in the hall.
At that moment, the beastfolk helper murmured into one end of the tube in the VIP room, “4,000 gems!”
“Ah! A bid of 4,000 gems from the VIP room! It seems even our honorable guests harbor a deep grudge against the subterranean humans!”
The participants kept their mouths shut when they witnessed the price double in a flash. They were keen on settling the score with the dungeon baby, but had no intention to invest so much in an item that was neither a good worker nor suitable for display.
“It’s good to demoralize the others by bidding high from the start. The other participants may ruin your game plan if you raise the bid little by little.” The beastfolk helper confidently shared a piece of her know-how. However, things didn’t go in Kim Jin-Woo’s favor, as usual.
An imp climbed up onto the stage and whispered to the auctioneer, who glanced between the dungeon baby and the hall before exclaiming joyfully, “We have an update! This item has a very special ability that only the subterranean humans from the deep floors possess! What is it, you may ask. Well, this human is none other than a ‘guide’! With time and effort, she can recognize the terrain in the vicinity and draw a great map!”
A participant raised his hand the moment the auctioneer finished his sentence. “4,200 gems!” He called a new bid.
“5,000 gems!” The beastfolk helper responded immediately by raising the price. The participants buzzed about the audacious bidder who had the financial capacity and courage to instantly raise the bid to an amount equal to half a top-grade down gem.
“The nobles didn’t lose anything when the war ended. Why are they obsessing over the subterranean human? Are they just curious?”
“A navigation ability isn’t that big of a deal. I have no clue as to why they’re so enthusiastic about the subterranean human.” The participants made wild guesses with disapproving facial expressions.
“5,000 gems! Any bidders?! Otherwise, the item will be sold at 5,000 gems—”
“5,500 gems!” One of the participants clenched his teeth and raised the bid. He was either very fond of the dungeon baby’s special ability, or bore a deep grudge against the humans.
“What now?” The beastfolk helper looked rather perplexed, as she hadn’t expected the competition to be this intense.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at her and pondered for a moment. His half-hearted sympathy for the female dungeon baby failed to justify her high cost. However, he decided to bid a little more aggressively, since he needed her ability to guide and draw maps.
“6,000 gems,” Kim Jin-Woo replied succinctly.
The beastfolk helper looked surprised, but she grabbed the tube nonetheless. “6,000 gems!”
“Ah! We have a bid of 6,000 gems! A VIP must be really determined to purchase the item! You can purchase two large creatures with that amount, you know!” The auctioneer was subtly hinting to the participant to back off, to avoid getting on the underground noble’s bad side. He was being considerate in a sense.
The participant, who had entered the fierce bidding war, seemed to have understood the auctioneer’s intention. He gasped for breath and kept his mouth shut.
“Well then, congratulations to the honorable guest who won the bid! Let’s give him a big round of applause!”
It was almost like a scene from a comedy show. Kim Jin-Woo watched the participants who were forced to applaud, then glanced back at the dungeon baby.
[You have obtained ‘Yoon-Hee’ the dungeon baby.]
[She is a natural explorer, born and raised on the eleventh floor. She hasn’t had the opportunity to make use of her special ability, but it can be incredibly powerful in the underground world, where the passages are complicated and tangled like a maze.]
[Yoon-Hee’s ‘guide’ ability allows her to perfectly remember the routes she has crossed before. Always able to find her way, she may even be capable of roughly gauging directions in places where she has never been before.]
[Yoon-Hee shares part of her ability with you.]
The auction workers passed the dungeon baby to Kim Jin-Woo as if she were a piece of luggage. She was sound asleep, as per Kim Jin-Woo’s request.
He wasn’t keen on revealing his face to her, since he had yet to decide whether he should send her to the surface or let her stay in the underground world.
“Well, well! You managed to sweep all the event items in this annual auction. Other participants will be jealous when they hear about this.”
“Nonsense. Strictly speaking, you also managed to pay your debt to Angela’s previous owner. Don’t be ridiculous, and just send your items on time,” Kim Jin-Woo replied nonchalantly.
The black merchant gave up completely and sent him off. “Once again, thank you for participating in the auction and gracing us with your presence. Please participate in our next annual auction as well. We wish you farewell,” He greeted Kim Jin-Woo with respect. The latter left the auction house with many more members in his entourage than he’d previously had when he first entered the place.
After returning to the naga’s labyrinth, Kim Jin-Woo ordered the nagas to provide a suitable place for Angela to stay. He then headed straight to the master room with Yoon-Hee, the new dungeon baby, in his arms.
“Phew.” He carefully placed her down on the flat altar and took a good lock at her. With a rather flat nose, puffy eyes, and skinny figure, she looked plain in comparison to Angela.
She was Kim Jin-Woo’s biggest expenditure in the auction, but he had no regrets, as he had been compensated by the black merchant anyway. Even without that, the dungeon baby’s ‘guide’ ability was quite useful. Unlike the other labyrinth masters who had settled down long ago, Kim Jin-Woo and the nagas were just starting to familiarize themselves with their surroundings.
Now was the time for Kim Jin-Woo to paint the bigger picture needed in order to dominate the entire ninth floor.
Yoon-Hee’s ability would definitely come in handy. She would also be useful in various situations that didn’t concern the ninth floor. By providing explorers lost on the deeper levels with decent maps, Kim Jin-Woo could earn back his invested cash in no time.
However, Kim Jin-Woo still had a dilemma, as she was a ‘human’ that didn’t belong in the underground world. She had a right to chase the light and climb up to the surface, just as he had in the past.
But more than a decade had passed since the last dungeon baby had returned to the surface. Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t certain whether there was still a place for Yoon-Hee in human society.
More importantly, he was worried that she would leak information about him and the naga’s labyrinth. She already belonged to him according to the system, so he wasn’t sure what would happen if he did set her free.
“Damn it.” Kim Jin-Woo stared at the female dungeon baby, who was curled up in a ball and sound asleep. “There’s no other way,” he reassured himself as he shook Yoon-Hee awake.
“Ah…” Still dazed from the effect of the sleeping pill, Yoon-Hee let out a strange sound that was neither a grunt nor a moan upon waking up from her long slumber. However, she soon realized the situation she was in, then slammed her head roughly onto the floor.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at the trembling dungeon baby and said firmly, “I am your—” Words failed to come out of his mouth. He hesitated multiple times before opening his mouth again. “—Your guardian.”
Yoon-Hee continued to tremble, unable to even raise her head.
Angela adapted quickly to the naga’s labyrinth. She sneaked around the whole labyrinth and swiftly clung onto Kim Jin-Woo the moment he appeared. This was enough to trigger Dominique’s jealousy.
Hoya, too, wasn’t fond of Angela. She bared her teeth and snarled fiercely whenever the vampire appeared.
“That cat doesn’t seem too fond of me,” Angela remarked.
“She has no reason to be,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
It was the same for Kim Jin-Woo. He had taken Angela in for various reasons, but she was nothing but a burden that had been forcefully entrusted to him. He was interested in her abilities, but couldn’t afford to let his guard down.
“You still don’t trust me, do you...” Angela looked down with a pitiful expression. It was captivating enough to seduce any man, except Kim Jin-Woo. “How can I get my lovely master to believe me? I already told you everything there was between me and the black merchants. My previous guardian wanted me to find a legitimate master, and the black merchants just wanted to earn some brownie points with him using this bizarre auction. That’s all there is to it.”
“And the black merchants told you to dig up information from me, too.”
“I already rejected them. I wouldn’t have told you if I had intended to do so.” Angela’s eyes drooped sulkily, but Kim Jin-Woo didn’t waver.
“If that is the case, why aren’t you telling me about your previous guardian?” Kim Jin-Woo had asked her many times before, but she refused to reply every time. That just made his suspicions about her previous master grow.
“Will you trust me if I do?” Angela asked.
Kim Jin-Woo frowned when he witnessed the change in Angela’s attitude. He said, “As long as you answer my questions truthfully.”
“Alright. My body and soul belong to you, anyway. I hate to repay my previous guardian’s goodwill like this, but I shall close one eye for you this time.” Angela wiped her tears like the star-crossed female protagonist of a play, which deterred Kim Jin-Woo from sensing any sincerity in her words.
“Is my former guardian’s identity what you’re most concerned about?” Angela began.
“I have more questions for you, but yes,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
She walked towards him and brought her lips close to his ears. “My previous guardian was…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter