Chapter 95

The group of nearly a hundred explorers was almost like a well-trained army. The way they were hunting down the creatures like a well-oiled machine suggested this wasn’t their first rodeo. Their competency was immaculate, as not even the infamous twin-armed monkeys were able to escape their grasp.

“And what team are you from?”

Kim Jin-Woo, who had been watching the explorers’ battle, turned his head toward the sudden shout and met the gaze of the explorer who was looking at him.

“Where are you from? What now? Does your team want us to slow down as well?”

It seemed as though the explorer had assumed that Kim Jin-Woo was a messenger from another team, and the explorer who appeared to be in charge was visibly pissed off.

“Ah, Team Leader Cho. I don’t think that person is part of the Line.”

“What? If he’s not part of the Line, then why is he even here?”

“Maybe he’s just an ordinary explorer?”

As soon as another explorer corrected him, the team leader quickly apologized. “Hey, I’m sorry. I thought you were one of my guys.”

And with that, Team Leader Cho explained their current situation. “Things are pretty hectic here with us trying to chase down the creatures, so it’d be best for you to head to another floor. Don’t get caught up in our mess.”

“Why are you rounding them up?” Kim Jin-Woo stepped forward and asked instead of retreating.

Team Leader Cho frowned as he replied, “We should at least earn our keep, yeah? And we can clean up the 6th Floor at the same time, as well.”

“Isn’t this rather dangerous? If you keep driving out the creatures systematically, the Underworld may not take it lightly,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.

Barely ten years had passed since the war. And the war had ended, not with a victor on one side, but with an armistice as a result of massive losses on both ends. Such an aggressive and indiscriminate move by the explorers could result in yet another war.

“Hmph. It’s not even that big a secret anymore, so I’ll fill you in—Hey, you bastards! You’re going to destroy the gems with the way you’re handling those heads! Be careful, won’t you!? Huh? You want to return empty-handed, is that it?”

Even while talking to Kim Jin-Woo, the team leader was constantly observing his team members and shouting out instructions.

“The orders came from above. We’re free to do whatever we want up to the 6th Floor. We’re avoiding any unnecessary conflicts with the labyrinths, but should that be unavoidable, we make sure to leave no survivors behind.”

The 5th Floor had already been wiped clean of any creatures, and a long frontline had already been established in the area.

It was little wonder that the chaos had spread to the 8th Floor. And if what Team Leader Cho had said was true, they had enough firepower and support from the surface to wipe out labyrinths with relative ease.

“Are there any other teams like this?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“We’re operating in tandem with four other similar teams. But why are you so curious?” The constant barrage of questions seemed to have raised suspicion, as Team Leader Cho started to become wary. Sensing this, Kim Jin-Woo backed off.

Team Leader Cho added, “Just don’t go to the east. There’s a whole bunch of creatures that have been pushed down from the upper floors over there.”

Keeping the warning in mind, Kim Jin-Woo found a hidden corner before using his ‘Stealth’ ability once more. He avoided the explorers as much as possible as he traversed across the 6th Floor.

“Kaaargh!”

“Krrrr!”

When there were no longer any explorers to be seen, a group of creatures began to appear in the distance. The usually fierce and cunning creatures of various sizes were now huddled up and moving toward somewhere like a procession of refugees. They trudged along toward the 7th Floor, bearing burn marks and wounds all over their bodies.

“Ahh…” The sight of it disturbed Kim Jin-Woo. For a moment, those fierce creatures were no longer predators in his eyes.

In fact, unlike the Underworld beings, who had never appeared on the surface since the end of the war, the Terrans were constantly moving in and out of the Underworld. Thus, it wouldn’t have been too strange for the Underworld beings to see the Terrans as invaders.

Of course, that didn’t mean that Kim Jin-Woo sympathized with the creatures. After all, the law of the Underworld was survival of the fittest. But something just didn’t sit right with him, as he looked on at the lifeless creatures seeking refuge.

There were also a couple of creatures that were acting on their own, rather than staying in a group. They hid in the dark and occasionally revealed themselves to pick off lone survivors from the 5th Floor.

It seemed apparent that the 5th Floor creatures, exhausted from days of seeking refuge, were easy hunting targets.

These skirmishes occurred all the way from east to west. It was truly a dog-eat-dog world. Despite this, most of the creatures were able to head toward the 7th Floor.

“How unfortunate.” Kim Jin-Woo noticed a labyrinth that was being raided. It had the poor luck to have been caught in the path of the mass migration. The guards protecting the labyrinth seemed helpless against the never-ending onslaught of the creatures.

“Kaaargh!”

“Kngh!”

The guards, who looked like dogs walking on their hind legs, were trying to fend off the creatures with their spears, but to no avail.

Creatures were known to lust after Labyrinth Cores, and given the situation, they were more desperate than ever before. The creatures showed no sign of fear as they rampaged towards the labyrinth.

It was a bloodbath. The guards fought valiantly, aided by the labyrinth’s buff effects, but anyone could see that their backs were against the wall. It wouldn’t be long before the labyrinth was overrun by the creatures. Even as Kim Jin-Woo looked on, even more creatures were heading toward the labyrinth.

Pff!

Suddenly, the unique energy that was flowing from the labyrinth disappeared. And with it, the guards and soldiers protecting the labyrinth collapsed onto the floor.

“Ah…” Kim Jin-Woo realized that the labyrinth master had abandoned the labyrinth. The master had probably extracted the Labyrinth Core and ran away with it.

The remaining troops quickly gathered themselves and escaped the labyrinth. They were probably heading toward where their master was.

As the troops escaped, the creatures ran toward the depths of the labyrinth. Kim Jin-Woo looked on with hesitation before turning on his heel. He started to head toward the escaping troops.

It wasn’t long before he found the escaped labyrinth master. He was much larger than his troops, and looked very tough and rugged.

“Fuck! Creatures! Fucking Terrans!” From the way he was cursing, he seemed to be roughly aware of the goings-on in the Underworld. “Damn it!”

Kim Jin-Woo looked on at the raging labyrinth master, before deactivating his ‘Stealth’ ability and revealing himself.

[You have encountered Nortos, the righteous ruler and King of the Hounds.]

[The Underworld Noble’s unique ability ‘Noble's Majesty—Lesser Grade’ has been activated.]

[Your opponent is unable to resist the intimidation effect.]

[Your opponent will obey all your commands, except for orders to self-harm.]

[If they receive a strong shock, they may be released from the overpowering effect.]

Kim Jin-Woo stared down at the King of the Hounds, who was shaking on all fours on the ground.

***

It wasn’t just the hounds that had been attacked by the creatures. Creatures had scattered all over the place, and while advancing towards the 7th Floor, they had attacked every labyrinth they encountered.

Among them, there were labyrinths that had managed to protect themselves with much difficulty, and conversely, there were labyrinths that were overrun by the creatures, like Nortos’ labyrinth.

The worst off among them were the labyrinths whose owners had been killed after failing to prevent the creatures from reaching the depths of the labyrinth, thus being unable to extract the Labyrinth Core and escape in time.

Those creatures had even invaded the master rooms and devoured the Labyrinth Cores, leaving no trace behind.

The creatures that were able to consume cores eventually evolved.

[The creatures that have consumed the life force essence created by the Mysteries of the Underworld have begun evolving.]

[They will overcome their wildness and will eventually be reborn as new entities.]

The beings twisted and morphed within the dazzling light as they evolved. Kim Jin-Woo would have been able to watch the birth of a new species had he been there.

But life wasn’t so easy in the Underworld.

With the evolving creatures emanating so much life force, nearby creatures attacked them at their most vulnerable point. In a matter of minutes, even before the evolving creatures had a chance to get a feel for their new bodies, they were ripped to shreds and became fodder for countless other creatures. Those creatures started to evolve, and the cycle repeated.

As time passed, the emanating light became dimmer and dimmer. Eventually, it reached a point where the creatures were no longer evolving from consuming the half-evolved corpses, and the cycle was finally broken.

Kim Jin-Woo had witnessed even more horrendous scenes in the past, and had even recently seen massacres happen in front of his eyes during the recent war.

But nevertheless, it was still a stomach-churning scene for him. Observing such a primal scene where logic and civility didn’t exist, he was left feeling disgusted.

He smashed in the heads of the remaining creatures who were feasting on the corpses before leaving the scene.

***

“Ah…” Yoon-Hee saw the worn-out look on Kim Jin-Woo’s face as she ran over toward him.

In an exhausted voice, Kim Jin-Woo warned her, “Yoon-Hee, things are worse than I imagined. The Terrans are systematically forcing their way down here.” He pointed at the darkness across the horizon. “Your defenses right now are insufficient. You might have to relocate your labyrinth.”

“What do you mea…”

“You should be alright for now. But the Terrans are already on the 6th Floor. The Shallow Floors are a war zone right now.”

Yoon-Hee seemed to have caught on to the seriousness of the matter.

“If the Terrans change their mind and cross into the 7th Floor, you definitely won’t be able to defend the Party Hall. It’s located way too close to the floor entrance.”

The geographical weakness of the Party Hall had been made up for with the Party Hall’s unique summons, leveraging their various illusions and deceits. But if the explorers decided to invade the 7th Floor, Yoon-Hee’s labyrinth was as good as defenseless, as most explorers had abilities to detect hidden objects and creatures.

“For now, keep that in mind. In the worst-case scenario, we’ll have to relocate the labyrinth.” With that, Kim Jin-Woo opened a portal. Behind him were a few beings, including Nortos, King of the Hounds.

“Oh, I picked them up on the 6th Floor.” Kim Jin-Woo noticed the curious look on Yoon-Hee’s face and responded before crossing into the portal.

Yoon-Hee was left stunned as she looked at the empty space where Kim Jin-Woo had once been, before turning to face the rest of the remaining beings. Finding nothing impressive about the new captives, she reacted coldly. “Hm.”

Seeing for themselves the immense discrepancy in power between their labyrinths and the Party Hall, Nortos and the rest of the captive labyrinth masters bowed their heads in shame before following behind Kim Jin-Woo via the portal.

“Whoa…”

A whole new world awaited them on the opposite end of the portal. The Naga’s Fortress awaited the captive refugees from the 6th Floor—a labyrinth so great that not even the mighty Party Hall they had just witnessed could hold a candle to it.

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