Chapter 56

The moment Kim Jin-Woo read the message, he realized that although Yoon-Hee had been chosen by the labyrinth, she lacked the will to decide whether to accept it. She would likely have stayed dumbfounded on the floor, unable to do anything, until he arrived.

“Yoon-Hee,” Kim Jin-Woo said calmly, having organized his thoughts.

Yoon-Hee turned around to face him. When Kim Jin-Woo saw her aimless and unfocused eyes, he confirmed that the female dungeon baby was ‘postponing’ the decision. No amount of free will could be found in those lackluster eyes.

Therefore, Kim Jin-Woo decided to help Yoon-Hee with the decision-making. “Accept it,” he said.

Kim Jin-Woo had already made his decision on his way here. If Yoon-Hee’s case was similar to his, her labyrinth would only be Level 1 at the start. Therefore, extracting its core and installing it in the Naga's Labyrinth wasn’t the most efficient thing to do.

The only thing that concerned Kim Jin-Woo was the distance between the two labyrinths. However, he had a solution. “Accept the labyrinth,” he repeated.

Yoon-Hee nodded without questioning him. At that moment, the pierrot mask engraved on the stone table materialized and dug into her chest.

“Haah…” Yoon-Hee made a sound that was neither a moan nor exclamation, but that resembled a beast’s ragged breathing. At the same time, her vacant eyes rapidly glanced across the air. A status window only visible to the labyrinth master should have appeared in front of her.

Kim Jin-Woo stared at her and said softly, “Become my—”

Yoon-Hee, likely confused after experiencing such a strange event for the first time in her life, turned around reflexively and looked at Kim Jin-Woo.

“—Knight,” Kim Jin-Woo finished.

[The Underworld Baron’s ability, ‘Vassal’s Pledge’, has been activated.]

[Yoon-Hee, the King of Festivals, shall be appointed as the Underworld Baron’s second knight.]

[Knights are the most loyal and courageous subordinates of barons. However, they are not always faithful from the start. Only after making the Vassal’s Pledge will they realize what true loyalty is.]

Kim Jin-Woo had seen the above messages when he appointed Uther as his first knight. They began to float up in the air.

[Do you wish to appoint Yoon-Hee as your second knight?]

Both Kim Jin-Woo and Yoon-Hee nodded simultaneously.

[Yoon-Hee, the King of Festivals, has become the underground baron’s vassal (Knight).]

[The second knight, Yoon-Hee, shares her master’s fate. If the Naga's Labyrinth is destroyed, Uther will also be destroyed.]

[Yoon-Hee’s territory—the Land of Festivals, also known as the ‘Party Hall’—has become a ‘Fiefdom’. Yoon-Hee is still the ruler of the labyrinth, but she now has a master. Twenty percent of the Dungeon Energy stored in the Core that governs the Party Hall now belongs to the Naga's Labyrinth.]

[You cannot activate the portal linking the two labyrinths, as the Party Hall has yet to complete its synchronization.]

Kim Jin-Woo read the above messages with a satisfied look.

***

Kim Jin-Woo’s team had already achieved the main goal of the expedition through its investigation on the seventh floor, but there were more matters to check on. He sent Uther and Yoon-Hee back, as they lacked strength and stealth respectively, then began to swiftly climb up the floors with Angela.

The creatures on the sixth floor had gone berserk as well, but the two of them could navigate across the floor comfortably as their stealth mode allowed them to blend into the dark. In addition, they could avoid getting lost thanks to Lee Jun-Young’s map, which covered the entire sixth floor. Kim Jin-Woo and Angela were thus way ahead of schedule.

Kim Jin-Woo deactivated his stealth mode once they arrived on the fourth floor. As some dungeon babies possessed interesting detection abilities, he might have been mistaken for a creature and been attacked if he continued to walk around with his stealth mode on.

“We’re going to reveal ourselves from here onward,” he said.

Kim Jin-Woo and Angela had already agreed on the details of what to say and call each other if anyone asked. Therefore, he could move forward without hesitation.

There was a myriad of explorers on the fourth floor, as he had expected. Kim Jin-Woo had already bumped into almost a hundred explorers on the way.

“It’s as if we’re on the surface.” Angela looked around curiously, as this was her first time seeing the explorers. She seemed intrigued by how the Terrans traveled back and forth to the underground world like this.

“Why are there so many of them? Last I heard, Terrans were reluctant to enter the underground world. Aren’t they intimidated by the dark and the creatures?” Puzzled, Angela tilted her head sideways.

Kim Jin-Woo explained briefly, “There are times when greed triumphs over fear.” Had it not been for the down gems in the underground world, nobody would volunteer to become an explorer.

“I still don’t get it. I heard there were more valuable and beautiful objects than down gems on the surface. Why are humans so obsessed with the gems? I can’t wrap my head around this,” Angela asked curiously, seemingly interested in the situation on the surface. 

“The grass is always greener on the other side,” Kim Jin-Woo said simply.

The Terrans craved down gems, whereas the underground creatures yearned for the land on the surface, which was full of life. Both parties desired whatever they lacked, and the under-war had been the consequence of this conflict of interest.

“Let’s stop here. Now’s not the time for idle talk.” Kim Jin-Woo cut his explanation short, as they weren’t in the right place to discuss such complicated matters. Angela seemed to have many questions in mind, but she followed his command faithfully.

“Did you happen to see anything over here?” 

“Beats me. I just came up from the fifth floor… Did you see anything?” 

Some of the explorers whom Kim Jin-Woo had encountered on the way boldly asked him questions. Whenever they did, they were the ones who had to share information with Kim Jin-Woo, but this didn’t discourage them. The explorers vanished into the darkness without any tangible profit.

“They haven’t found the abandoned labyrinth yet.” Kim Jin-Woo had guessed as much ever since he observed the explorers shuffling busily here and there, but they seemed to have been unsuccessful even after a month.

That was to be expected. If it were so easy to discover a labyrinth, all the dungeon babies who went to and from the underground world countless times would have already become labyrinth masters.

In fact, the labyrinth known to have been sighted on the fourth floor might be the Party Hall that Yoon-Hee had claimed on the seventh floor. In the first place, location did not matter for a labyrinth that was searching for its master.

Kim Jin-Woo himself had obtained the Naga's Labyrinth that way, Similarly, Yoon-Hee had arrived at her labyrinth in a flash upon leaping across dimensions. The labyrinths summoned their chosen ones against their will, and yet unchosen ones could never even spot a labyrinth in their lifetime.

“Hmm,” Kim Jin-Woo mused. He and Angela were encountering fewer and fewer explorers.

Fweet!

The explorers that had just walked past the two of them came to a halt and whistled, their gazes all fixed on Angela. 

“Can you cover your face?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“It’s suffocating,” Angela replied.

Kim Jin-Woo shook his head. Angela was obviously enjoying the attention, seemingly overjoyed to be under the spotlight. After all, she had spent most of her time mingling with creatures in the underground world who failed to appreciate her beauty.

Her pale skin and pristine white hair glimmered in the dark. They were both incredibly beautiful. Kim Jin-Woo would have happily admired her beauty if they were in the Naga's Labyrinth, but the current setting wasn’t ideal for that.

“Why? Do you not want the others to look at my face?” Angela clung to him with a grin and linked her arms in his. Her eyes were full of expectation, in the hopes of listening to Kim Jin-Woo say that he wanted to have her all for himself.

Kim Jin-Woo, however, waved his hand with a tired look. “No, your appearance stands out too much from the crowd, so it’s a little burdensome to walk around with you,” he blurted out.

Angela pouted and whined, “How does my appearance stand out?”

“You’re way too beautiful.” Kim Jin-Woo curtly answered whatever was on his mind. Angela immediately appeared delighted, but Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t comprehend why she was so happy, as he had spoken without giving it much thought. He continued, “Anyway, put on the hood. I don’t want you to garner unnecessary attention.”

“Okayyyy!” Angela dragged her reply out and swiftly put her hood on.

“Hmm? By the way, master...” She stared into the darkness hidden behind the wall, having noticed something during their conversation. “Are there occasions where hundreds of explorers group up and move together?”

“Don’t tell me...” Kim Jin-Woo sensed that something was out of the ordinary when he heard her question.

“Yes, I can sense the presence of hundreds of explorers over there.”

Explorers preferred to work in small groups under normal circumstances. If hundreds of them had gathered at one place, there could only be two possibilities.

Either there was an extremely powerful monster that a single team couldn’t defeat, or the explorers had found something. It was very likely what Kim Jin-Woo had been looking for.

“Lead the way!” Kim Jin-Woo commanded. Angela blended into the dark and dashed forward.

***

“Who do you guys think you are to block the way like this?”

“Are you looking down on all the explorers just because you belong to the Association?”

Hundreds of explorers were creating a commotion in a wide open passage, which was rare in the underground world.

“As I said, we aren’t trying to hog the labyrinth!”

Opposing them was a group of at least a hundred men.

“If that’s the case, move aside now!”

“I’m going in on my own accord! Since when did the explorer Association tell us what to do?”

A profusely sweating man replied in an attempt to calm the explorers down, but it only backfired.

“Ah, this is driving me nuts! You insane bastards, a man died not too long ago after he became the labyrinth master! Imagine if someone were to become the master now! What do you think would happen?”

As a rule of thumb, bloodbaths occurred whenever the weak claimed a treasure. The man tried to infuse this idea into the explorers’ heads, but they were too stubborn to listen.

“For the dead guy, that’s just his fate. Besides, why is the Association worrying about us?”

“Are you trying to claim the labyrinth for yourselves? Isn’t that why you’re blocking the way? I saw Song Jong-Chul and his men go inside just now!” One of the explorers standing in front and confronting the members of the Association fanned the flames. 

“What? Really?”

“What the hell! They’re fucking with us, aren’t they?!”

When the explorers heard that a few members of the Association had gone in, they became very eager to charge through the barrier by force. There were even a few impatient ones who were about to charge viciously at the men guarding the passage. In this tense atmosphere, one mistake could lead to a brutal bloodbath.

<It seems the labyrinth has been discovered.>

<Right. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a commotion.>

Kim Jin-Woo and Angela, hiding somewhere in the vicinity, approached the explorers and glanced across the passage before walking away.

<What’s the plan now? Should we go inside? Seems like a few people have gone in.>

<That’s why we’re here,> Kim Jin-Woo replied as he carefully moved through the tightly packed crowd of explorers. <Let’s hurry. They may find us if we aren’t careful.> 

Some of the explorers appeared skillful at detecting one’s presence. They were looking around their surroundings with exceptionally keen eyes, having smelt a rat.

<I think they’ve already found us,> Angela said.

Kim Jin-Woo turned around to find a man with blazing blue eyes. He had a look of frustration upon realizing that the man seemed capable of detecting hidden enemies.

“Something’s hiding here!” the man yelled. The already rowdy crowd began to stir up an even bigger commotion.

“Something’s hiding, he says! Be careful!”

“A creature’s ambush! Brace yourselves for battle!” The man’s roar instantly traveled across the entire passage, creating a ruckus.

“Prepare for battle! Forget about the labyrinth, get the boys ready first! Some of us could easily get killed if we’re unlucky!”

The dungeon baby from the Association, who had been obstructing the path in front of the explorers, handed out a series of commands. The body bunker on standby stepped forth, while lighting equipment sparkled and illuminated the whole passage.

“Those with keen senses, stand in front! Those who aren’t confident, move to the rear!”

With the shift in the formation, a few men darted out and the rest of the explorers howled.

<Now’s the time! Run!> Kim Jin-Woo was initially frustrated to have been discovered, but he soon realized that he could make use of this commotion to squeeze through the narrow passage.

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