Chapter 57

“What’s the commotion? Someone go check it out,” Song Jong-Chul ordered with a frown, and one of his subordinates disappeared into the darkness.

“What’s so difficult about holding off those explorers?”

“The explorers haven’t been very obedient recently because of the abandoned labyrinth. We even put up an official notice in the Association’s name to deter them from entering the underground world, but they’ve managed to create this mess nonetheless…”

“Hmph, everyone’s blinded by greed.” Song Jong-Chul smirked shamelessly despite having stepped into the underground world with similar intentions.

However, the people around him were his loyal dogs who each held an important position in the Association. None of them thus dared to point out this glaring irony.

“By the way, how do you do this?” 

Both the altar and the stone table failed to respond even when Song Jong-Chul and his team looked around and touched things here and there. They were now in the master room, also known as the heart of the labyrinth. However, the master room in its inactive state was nothing but an empty stone chamber.

“Try touching something. Are you gonna stay here the whole day?”

Upon Song Jong-Chul’s command, the executives of the Association made a fuss, sweeping everything in their path including the stone table and walls.

<Seems like we made it in time, fortunately.> 

Meanwhile, Kim Jin-Woo and Angela had managed to sneak into the labyrinth unnoticed. They then observed the deplorable actions of Song Jong-Chul and his teammates.

Angela said disdainfully via telepathy, <I’m getting frustrated just from watching them struggle with what’s not theirs.>

Kim Jin-Woo nodded. The person chosen by the labyrinth would be forced to become its master, even against their will. This had been the case for both Kim Jin-Woo and Yoon-Hee. In other words, nobody here had been chosen by the labyrinth.

“Argh, can’t believe a labyrinth, out of all things, is discriminating against us,” Song Jong-Chul exclaimed, unable to keep his frustration under control.

Angela asked, <What’s the plan now? Are you going to observe further?>

<Let’s wait for the right time,> Kim Jin-Woo replied.

Since neither Kim Jin-Woo nor Angela had been chosen by the labyrinth, they too had to search for ways around this dilemma like Song Jong-Chul and his gang.

“There are creatures attacking outside!” an explorer from the Association reported at that moment, after returning from investigating the situation outside the labyrinth.

“Huh? Creatures? We have so many lads there; why would there be an attack?!”

“They’re camouflaged, apparently. it’s complete chaos outside.”

<Pfft. Creatures, they say. I think they’re talking about us.> Angela sneered at Song Jong-Chul and his team, seemingly amused by the fuss they were making.

“So did they find the creatures?”

“Not yet. We’ve assigned those who are good at detecting camouflaged creatures to investigate every corner, but there hasn’t been any progress so far.”

“What kind of sloppy job is this? This is only the fourth floor, yet that large group can’t even find some hidden creatures?”

“As for that… The explorers are making a scene, so it isn’t easy…” The explorer cowered when he heard Song Jong-Chul’s roar.

“Wait a minute. If the lads failed to find the creatures outside, wouldn’t they be in here?” This was a great deduction, as expected from an experienced dungeon baby. The executives of the Association immediately whipped out their weapons and glared at their surroundings.

<We’re gonna get found out at this rate!> Angela said joyfully, as she seemed to enjoy the moment despite the nerve-wracking situation they were in.

“Go outside and get anyone good at detecting camouflaged enemies,” Song Jong-Chul commanded while glancing around the vicinity.

Meanwhile, Kim Jin-Woo had already made his decision. He called Angela over.

<Yes?> Angela asked.

<Can you buy me some time?> Kim Jin-Woo requested.

Angela understood his intentions immediately and gave a faint smile that nobody else could see. <What should I do? How many can I kill?> she asked. Her merry tone failed to match the brutal context of her words.

Now that Kim Jin-Woo thought about it, Angela seemed to have become rather elated, as if the situation involved some special circumstances for her. 

<Don’t underestimate the explorers. Despite how sloppy they look, they’ve also survived the perilous journey through the underground world. They have more tools in their arsenal than we can see,> Kim Jin-Woo cautioned.

<I wonder about that. Unlike you, those guys don’t look too special. They appear neither vigorous nor strong,> Angela replied.

Kim Jin-Woo grimaced when he thought he heard Angela smack her lips for some reason. <We don’t have much time; let’s save the idle talk for later. Go and create a ruckus, and try not to reveal yourself if possible.>

<Alright, I’ll try.>

Kim Jin-Woo had a strange hunch that Angela would stir up trouble. He wanted to stop her, but she had already vanished from his sight.

“You might want to come out and see this,” an explorer who had gone out to survey the situation urgently reported to Song Jong-Chul. Angela must have been at work, as there was an uproar outside the labyrinth.

“What now?!”

“The thing is… Some of our boys are acting weird!”

“What do you mean?”

“They’ve gone insane! They injured our men, including Hyun-Woo, Byung-Woo, and Jin-Shik!”

“What the fuck!” Song Jong-Chul cursed. He was about to step out of the master room when he turned around and said, “You and you, stay here and guard this area just in case. Don’t let others steal this labyrinth.” He refused to let his guard down until the end, befitting his status as the main figure of the Association.

However, Kim Jin-Woo glanced at the two remaining dungeon babies and smiled coldly.

“Hey, don’t you think the labyrinth is cursed? It makes sense. Its previous owner died suddenly, and now some of our lads have gone insane. Something’s eerie, isn’t it?”

The dungeon babies, with their backs facing the stone table, glanced at the situation outside and chattered away. Their faces were pale, evidently mistaken about the mess that Angela had created.

“We might have unnecessarily landed ourselves in danger—”

“What’s with the pause?”

When his comrade suddenly paused, the dungeon baby turned around. His eyes opened wide upon witnessing a flickering shadow. The next moment, the dungeon baby collapsed limply onto the floor.

“Phew, did I put in too much strength?” Kim Jin-Woo had just intended to knock the man out cold, but it was absurd to see the two dungeon babies—not even ordinary explorers—foam at the mouth and collapse. Regardless, he swiftly put on a serious look and began to observe the stone table.

The dungeon emblem was so incredibly faint that it was difficult to tell whether it was there unless one looked at it carefully. Even so, its blurriness prevented one from discerning what kind of emblem it was.

[You’ve discovered the core of the labyrinth, which has gone dormant after losing its master. It won’t be activated until it finds its new master.]

A suspicion arose in Kim Jin-Woo’s mind. He placed his hand back onto the stone table, and a message appeared again.

[You have failed to claim the labyrinth. The labyrinth has rejected your attempt to take ownership of it.]

Kim Jin-Woo had guessed as much. He was contemplating whether to forcibly dismantle the stone table and bring it back when a solution appeared in front of his eyes.

[A top-grade down gem is required to extract the inactive core.]

[However, the labyrinth will not belong to you even if you manage to extract its core. The labyrinth will try to choose its master again at another time.]

Kim Jin-Woo fished out the blood leopard’s heart from his pocket and brought it close to the stone chamber. The faint dungeon emblem that resembled a smudge on the table immediately got sucked into the red jewel.

[You have managed to extract the inactive labyrinth’s core.]

[The labyrinth’s core will stay dormant in the down gem until it finds a suitable master.]

[The labyrinth has ceased all operations upon losing its core.]

As soon as the message ended, the air in the stone chamber became heavy and stale, as if to indicate the lifeless labyrinth.

<Master!> Angela called.

<I’m done! Let’s go!> Kim Jin-Woo flung himself out of the stone chamber the moment he heard Angela’s timely telepathic message.

“Didn’t I tell you to check on the lads’ mental status?! I told you not to bring those with unstable mental states to the underground world! How many times did I say that they would cause trouble?”

“Well, honestly, there aren’t many people who can remain the same after returning from the underground world…” 

“Talking back now, huh? You think you’re big now? I’m Song Jong-Chul! How dare you talk back to me!”

The furious Song Jong-Chul and the executives of the Association returned to the stone chamber. Their eyes widened when they saw the two men lying on the floor with foam in their mouths.

“Damn it! Hey, check whether there’s anything missing. You, check on these lads!” Song Jong-Chul, who sensed that something was wrong, immediately grasped the situation and glanced around the stone chamber.

“Nothing has changed or gone missing,” came the report.

“You mean you don’t know what was there in the first place, so everything seems fine to you,” Song Jong-Chul muttered, but he himself failed to find the missing dungeon emblem even as he stared at the stone table.

“Anyway, continue inspecting! We can only hold off the explorers for another day or two! We have to make the deciding move by then, otherwise, we won’t gain anything, but we’ll still receive all the criticism in the world. So do whatever’s necessary!”

Kim Jin-Woo had already claimed all the juicy bits of the labyrinth, leaving just its shell. Song Jong-Chul, clueless as to what had already happened, continued to nag at the Association executives.

***

Kim Jin-Woo encountered many explorers on the way back to the surface. All of them were still roaming around in search of the labyrinth. He felt a tinge of guilt when he saw them wandering around the underground world with dirty and dusty faces, but he decided to ignore them.

After all, none of them had been chosen by the labyrinth. Otherwise, the labyrinth would have forcibly summoned its selected individual and forced them to take ownership of it.

On his way back, Kim Jin-Woo double-checked for any extraordinary events on the other floors, but he couldn’t find anything strange.

“So this is the outside world!” Angela exclaimed. It was strange to see Angela, a vampire, open her arms wide and embrace the sun, deeply moved.

“Woah!”

Only Kim Jin-Woo thought as such since he knew her identity. As for the many explorers who passed by the gate, they couldn’t take their eyes off her. It wasn’t common to see a foreign beauty smile refreshingly, with her golden-white hair glimmering in the afternoon sun.

“A foreign explorer?”

“Wow, my heart is beating really fast.”

Although the gate wasn’t very crowded, as most of the explorers had long entered the underground world, that didn’t prevent Angela from stealing the spotlight.

Kim Jin-Woo frowned. He quickly walked over to Angela and pulled her hood over to cover her face. Her appearance might resemble that of a human’s, but her inhuman beauty was garnering too much attention, making Kim Jin-Woo uneasy.

However, she soon pulled up her hood again and embraced the sun. She seemed to really enjoy the sunlight on her face.

“Just a while longer!”

Kim Jin-Woo placed the hood back on Angela, whose identity as a vampire was starting to become more questionable.

“Later. We have lots of time, anyway.”

“Later? You mean you’ll bring me back here again?” Angela clung onto Kim Jin-Woo and pleaded. The explorers watched this scene with great jealousy, but they hurriedly turned around and feigned ignorance the moment he glanced over.

The dungeon babies themselves wouldn’t know, but those who had just returned from their underground expeditions possessed terrifying auras, as their wild instincts were still in full effect. Therefore, the explorers who couldn’t even participate in the expedition weren’t able to withstand such an intimidating glare from Kim Jin-Woo.

“Hmm. It seems not all Terrans are like you, master. All of them, be it the so-called ‘explorers’ that we saw in the underground world or the humans here, are all mundane,” Angela whispered to Kim Jin-Woo, who had drawn closer to her to put the hood back on her. “It looks like my master has to be you, not anyone else.”

Angela’s sweet voice could make any man’s heart flutter, but Kim Jin-Woo was an exception. Seemingly annoyed, he pulled the end of her hood. “I told you to be careful with how you address me.”

The explorers gritted their teeth when they saw Kim Jin-Woo drag Angela away by her hood. He had incurred their jealousy unknowingly, but that was the least of his concerns.

When they arrived at his house, the vampire made a fuss as she toured around every corner of the place. “So this is where you stay. It’s amazing—”

“Portal.” Kim Jin-Woo failed to comprehend why Angela was marveling at a house modified from a storeroom. He cut her off, then immediately opened the portal and pulled her over.

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