#35. Lost and Found
[The opponent cannot resist your overwhelming majesty. The gap between you and your opponent is so great that they are unable to understand what has happened to them.]
[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.]
As the guy approached them with his body shaking and his head drooping, Jung Chan-Sik and Lee Jun-Young both shouted in shock.
“Jin-Tae, what’s happened to you, you bastard!?”
“Contact the institute! Something weird has happened to Jin-Tae!”
Kim Jin-Woo looked at the convulsing body of Jin-Tae, who showed no response despite all the shaking and shouting, and said softly, “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you. Carry on as usual.” He used a low voice so that Jin-Tae’s colleagues, who were discussing whether being selected as a labyrinth master might have side effects, would be unable to hear him.
At those words, Jin-Tae’s body calmed down instantly.
“Are you feeling better now?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“Oh. Suddenly…” Jin-Tae began.
Noticing that Jin-Tae was staring at Kim Jin-Woo while saying that, Jung Chan-Sik blinked. Given the complicated situation, perhaps he misunderstood it as Jin-Tae being wary of Kim Jin-Woo.
“Perhaps he may have stayed in the Underworld for too long? I’m concerned that his physiology might be affected. Besides, the labyrinth’s environment is colder and harsher than the rest of the Underworld.” Kim Jin-Woo decided to play dumb.
“Yeah, this is concerning. I’ll call the deputy chief to send you back up to the surface, even if it’s for a short while,” Jung Chan-Sik said.
“Would that be enough? I just feel as if something is terribly wrong…” Lee Jun-Young began.
“Lee Jun-Young!” Lee Jun-Young had almost said something that she shouldn’t have, possibly out of shock, but Jung Chan-Shik quickly cut her off.
“Um, Jin-Woo. I’m sorry, but I think today’s not a good day. I’ll talk to the institute separately to arrange another day for you, so perhaps it’s best that you return for today,” Jung Chan-Sik said to Kim Jin-Woo, half apologetic and half wary.
“Ah, I’m really okay.” The man called Jin-Tae quickly tried to de-escalate the situation and assure the others that he was okay, to no avail.
Of course, they were not going to believe him, seeing what had happened not just to a mere human, but to a healthy dungeon baby no less.
“I’ll show you the way out.” Lee Jun-Young grabbed Kim Jin-Woo’s hand as they headed towards the portal.
Jung Chan-Sik gave her a stern warning from behind. “Lee Jun-Young. Watch what you say.”
Kim Jin-Woo pretended not to hear as they both stepped into the portal.
“I’ll see you next time. I’ll properly show you around the labyrinth then. I’m really sorry about today,” Lee Jun-Young apologized.
“It’s okay. Your colleague should come first. I’m sorry for adding to the trouble. Hurry back, I can head back on my own from here,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
After several apologies and assurances back and forth between them, Lee Jun-Young finally left.
Standing in the same spot where he had first met Lee Jun-Young, Kim Jin-Woo was finally able to gather his thoughts.
So, my abilities as a labyrinth master work on humans too. He knew how it felt, as he himself had once almost been overpowered by Anatolius’ own abilities. He couldn’t be completely happy about this revelation.
Even the chief of the Big-Tusks Wild Boar tribe, who was fairly powerful in his own right, had been unable to resist the ability of ‘Noble’s Majesty’.
But with the ability now upgraded from ‘Noble’s Majesty—Lowest-Grade’ to ‘Noble’s Majesty—Lesser-Grade’, there was no way a mere 5th Floor master like Jin-Tae would be able to resist it.
With that in mind, all the talk in the news about each country having their own labyrinth suddenly seemed insignificant. There was no way any of those labyrinth’s masters, whose labyrinths were at most six levels deep, could compare to Kim Jin-Woo.
They’re all just food for the taking. He had no intention of doing anything with those labyrinths, but the fact that none were even close to his level gave him an unexpected sense of reassurance.
“It’s alright. How’s that guy doing? Jin-Tae was his name, right?”
Kim Jin-Woo finally met up with Lee Jun-Young again, but she was still full of apologies. He would have preferred if she were a bit more brazen, but then again, she was the kind of person that was never able to forget about returning favors to others.
“Yes. It might be as you said. He really might have stayed in the Underworld for too long, because he seemed completely exhausted. He’s totally fine now,” Lee Jun-Young explained.
Before the discovery of the Underworld, it had been a common theory that temperature would only rise as one went deeper into the ground. But whether it was because of the labyrinths or some other reason, the Underworld had become much colder after the war.
Because of that, unless one had been born and raised as a dungeon baby from the start, explorers would now take a longer time to explore the Underworld under its harsher conditions.
“The Underworld is too harsh a place for a human to stay for long, after all,” Lee Jun-Young continued. Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but have mixed feelings upon hearing those words.
In hindsight, he realized that he didn’t even feel any sense of discomfort anymore while living in the Underworld. The darkness of the Underworld was no longer of concern to him, and the Underworld was now simply yet another world that was no different from the surface to him.
Strangely, he could feel his chest tighten.
I wonder if I’m still human. Having become a labyrinth master and an Underworld Noble himself, he was no longer sure whether he belonged to the same species as regular humans.
“You should be more worried about yourself. You should enter the Underworld more sparingly. Look at you, breaking out in cold sweats.”
Thanks to Lee Jun-Young’s words belatedly making him realize that he was drenched in his own sweat, he quickly shook that thought out of his head.
Kim Jin-Woo had returned to the Harimao labyrinth. The labyrinth master Jin-Tae was nowhere to be seen. He had been told that Jin-Tae was in a hospital designated by the Underworld Development Institute, where various tests were being run on him.
“Well, it’s good that he’s taking this opportunity to rest up well and get various check-ups done. I should get myself checked soon too…” Lee Jun-Young commented idly.
Seeing the institute personnel wanting to make sure their precious labyrinth master was in good condition by running all kinds of tests, Kim Jin-Woo knew it would be a while before he would see Jin-Tae at the labyrinth again.
“This is the passage that cuts through the center of the Harimao labyrinth. Anyone who wants to enter the labyrinth must pass through it.”
Kim Jin-Woo frowned as he listened to Lee Jun-Young’s explanation while observing the passageway.
The entire passageway was filled with all manner of the latest and most advanced weaponry. Perhaps this was how the explorers supplemented their lack of power in the labyrinth.
“This is a secret, but I’ll tell you. We can't even go through here. There are landmines all over the place.”
Kim Jin-Woo was at a loss for words upon hearing that fact. It was no wonder that this passageway’s reinforcements were slightly different from the others.
But aside from that, Harimao was an ordinary labyrinth that was no different from any other. The media had made such a big deal out of Harimao, but it had turned out to be such a weak labyrinth that it had to be reinforced with firearms.
As Kim Jin-Woo seemed to be immersed in thought at Lee Jun-Young’s little secret, she tilted her head and looked at him, saying, “Those defenses aren’t for the creatures.”
“Ah…” Kim Jin-Woo belatedly realized that because this labyrinth was located on the 5th Floor, it was relatively easy to access.
“There are more things I would love to show you, but this is all I’m allowed to.”
Kim Jin-Woo had still wanted to see the Labyrinth Core, the facilities, and the summons list, but he wasn’t particularly disappointed. He knew that either way, he was very unlikely to be impressed.
“Do you really have no intention of taking up the institute’s offer?” Lee Jun-Young sneakily brought up the same old topic, as if she had been scolded by her deputy chief Kim Joo-Hyuk.
“The terms aren't bad, but it just seems as if there are too many conditions attached to it. One thing’s for sure: I hate being tied down to something,” Kim Jin-Woo answered.
Lee Jun-Young shyly lowered her head at his resolute reply, before finally asking another question. “Then how about working with me? The pay is generous and the work is quite comfortable. The downside is that you have to stay in the Underworld for a long time.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
Lee Jun-Young might have hidden it from him in the past, but now that Kim Jin-Woo even had access to Harimao, she decided that there was nothing to hide. “Defense of the labyrinth, as well as exploration of new labyrinths. That’s what we do.”
After visiting the Harimao labyrinth, Kim Jin-Woo completely lost interest in the labyrinths owned by each country. Instead of paying attention to those insignificant labyrinths, he decided to focus on something else.
“There are still many things that humans don't know. That also goes for those of us who have practically lived more than half our lives in the Underworld. And among the things that both groups don’t understand fully yet are the many labyrinths that have yet to find a master.”
Despite nobody being around, the fact that Lee Jun-Young had whispered this into Kim Jin-Woo’s ears seemed to indicate that she was rooting for him to be a labyrinth master.
She had to have been thinking that the way out of a lowly explorer’s life was to become a labyrinth master. But she had no idea.
In fact, being a labyrinth master meant getting more deeply involved in the affairs of the Underworld. The poor management of the Harimao labyrinth and the pathetic attempts to integrate modern civilization into it were clear signs that they were still only thinking within the confines of a human’s understanding of the world, nothing more.
“Mm?” Kim Jin-Woo’s deep thoughts were interrupted by a sudden message.
[A visitor seeking the Naga’s Fortress has appeared.]
Kim Jin-Woo had wanted to spend more time resting on the surface, but he couldn’t turn down a guest.
“Portal.” With one word, the empty space in front of him tore open and a door appeared. As he walked through, he asked, “What is it?”
<Master!> Dominique seemed more anxious than usual as she cheerfully greeted him.
“Where is the guest?”
<As Master was away, he’s still waiting outside the Fortress.>
Sensing that Dominique was being cautious, he inquired, “Who is it?”
<The Undefeated Mercenary, Krasto, and his army of mercenaries have come to seek your audience.>
“The Undefeated Mercenary?” Kim Jin-Woo frowned and expressed his objection to such a grandiose name.
Dominique quickly added, <He and his army used to roam the 10th Floor, but after the wars on the 10th Floor ceased, they moved deeper into the 11th Floor, where they’ve been active since.>
Kim Jin-Woo was slightly taken aback upon hearing that they were active on the 11th Floor. “Are they here to pick a fight?”
<No. Krasto abandoned his own labyrinth and nobility to roam as a mercenary. He has no reason to come to a 9th Floor labyrinth to start a fight.>
The title was one thing, but the fact that Krasto had abandoned his own labyrinth to be a roaming mercenary was something new to even Kim Jin-Woo.
“So why is someone like that here?” Kim Jin-Woo knew that he was dealing with someone great, but he was still unable to think of a reason for the mercenaries’ visit.
As they were walking, they saw Ortehaga crouching at the gate and staring into the distance.
“And what’s he doing?” Kim Jin-Woo looked at Ortehaga, who despite his large, mountain-like drakan stature, was uncharacteristically cowering with fright.
That same Ortehaga ran towards Kim Jin-Woo as he kicked up a fuss. “My…… My Lord! Save me!”
Seeing that he was about to get hugged by those bulky arms, Kim Jin-Woo quickly took a step back.
<The reason for Krasto’s visit here is…> Dominique looked at Ortehaga as she continued, <To teach that spoiled Ortehaga a lesson.>
“Say that again?” At that unexpected answer, Kim Jin-Woo raised his eyebrows.
<That Drakan stole one of Krasto’s treasures, and that has incited the anger of the mercenary army.>
“That’s not it! I didn’t steal it! I simply borrowed it for a short while!” Ortehaga spluttered.
Seeing that things were getting complicated, Kim Jin-Woo asked Ortehaga to explain himself. “What is that treasure? And where is it now?”
“I… I lost it!” Ortehaga replied.
Kim Jin-Woo’s face turned sour.