Yoon-Hee was left speechless by Kim Jin-Woo’s words.
“I think there are other things you have to worry about, don’t you agree?” Kim Jin-Woo continued as he wagged his fingers. “If you fail, you’ll have to deal with the fact that it’ll be difficult for you to maintain the upkeep of your labyrinth in the future, and also that you desperately need down gems more than I do.”
And Kim Jin-Woo was right. With many subordinate labyrinths under his command, he could still endure this difficult situation by squeezing a couple of his lowly labyrinths dry.
On the other hand, if Yoon-Hee and the Party Hall were unable to find a way to overcome the shortage of down gems immediately, it would be difficult for them to survive any further. Even if she wanted to relocate her labyrinth, she would require a highest-grade down gem as well as another down gem to lay the foundations for her new location.
“What you should be really worried about is how to earn more of your share, and how to bring more down gems back to the Underworld,” Kim Jin-Woo said, laying out short but concise points.
In the end, Yoon-Hee sighed as she finally granted his request.
The preparations didn’t take long. After all, the only people who could work freely on the surface without raising suspicions were Kim Jin-Woo, Yoon-Hee, and Angela, who looked no different from Terrans on the outside. Naturally, there was nothing much to prepare.
“Let’s head up.” Standing in front of the portal, Kim Jin-Woo said that short sentence before passing through. Angela too crossed the portal without hesitation, having done this numerous times. The only one left was Yoon-Hee.
“What are you doing? Come on,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
The fear of the unknown awaited Yoon-Hee. It was a whole new world that she had never faced before.
“I’ll help you by increasing your power on the 7th Floor. I’m not in a position to keep that promise right now. But are you now going to go back on your word and step back, choosing to take some down gem handouts instead?” A look of disappointment and pity filled Kim Jin-Woo’s face as he stood on the other side of the portal.
As Kim Jin-Woo’s expression slowly faded away, Yoon-Hee gritted her teeth as she stepped forward into the portal, the boundary that separated the Underworld and the surface.
“Ah…” All she took was one step, and the world around her completely changed. She couldn’t help but let out a soft exclamation.
“I welcome you back to your hometown,” Kim Jin-Woo said with a smirk.
Yoon-Hee replied bluntly to his comment, which sounded as if he were making fun of her. “My hometown is the Underworld. The surface is my mother’s hometown, that’s all.”
“You’re not wrong. But don’t forget that we’re humans. Try as we might to mimic the Underworld’s labyrinth masters, the fact that we’re humans will never change,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
Yoon-Hee knew that fact herself. When she was being humiliated at the Black Merchant’s auction house, the product tag that had hung around her neck labeled her as ‘The Last Human of the Underworld’.
In a slightly teasing tone, Kim Jin-Woo asked out of genuine curiosity, “So, what’s your first impression of the surface?”
“Doesn’t feel too different. It’s still dark and drab. Nothing too different from the Underworld,” Yoon-Hee replied in a deadpan voice.
Kim Jin-Woo chuckled at her answer. He found Yoon-Hee’s response hilarious, as she continued to be firm about her identity as an Underworld being.
Yoon-Hee pouted, almost as if waiting to retaliate against any point that painted the surface in a better light.
“I’m already curious whether you’ll say the same come tomorrow morning,” Kim Jin-Woo said. He deliberately hadn’t shown the true nature of the surface to her.
What Yoon-Hee had seen was only a few steps away from the portal, which was the basement of the labyrinth that Kim Jin-Woo had set up on the surface. The air in the relocated labyrinth wasn’t much different from that of the Underworld. Thus, she technically wasn’t lying with her childish reply.
After spending about half a day in the basement, Yoon-Hee was finally able to leave at sunrise. When she left the basement, a bright world greeted her for the first time in her life.
“So, how is it? Do you still think the surface and the Underworld are the same?” Kim Jin-Woo asked with a mischievous smile on his face.
Only a few hours prior, Yoon-Hee had ignored Kim Jin-Woo with a sullen look, but now, she wasn’t even able to answer as she gawked at the world around her. She gently stroked the sunlight shining against her face with her fingertips, as if her soul had departed.
“Ah…” Yoon-Hee exclaimed softly.
Kim Jin-Woo watched silently without saying a word. He was able to empathize with how Yoon-Hee was feeling, as it was the same feeling he himself had had when he reached the surface.
“This is… the sun?” As Yoon-Hee spoke, she walked toward the window without even realizing it. No, she was trying to step out of the window. If it weren’t for Kim Jin-Woo pulling her back tightly, she would have certainly reached the window and started receiving all the sunlight pouring through it.
Reaching her hand out to feel the warmth of the sun, she asked with a hint of regret in her voice, “Why?”
“Your eyes aren’t yet accustomed to the surface,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
The bright sunlight was poison to Underworld beings. As beings who wandered through the dark Underworld without a single source of light, such intense light caused them pain rather than pleasure.
In fact, the personal shields used by explorers as well as the Body Bunkers had all sorts of light-emitting devices on them to exploit that very weakness of the Underworld beings. Those lights were nothing in comparison to the intensity of sunlight, and yet they were more than sufficient to cause blinding pain to Underworld beings.
And since Yoon-Hee had pretty much grown up her entire life in the Underworld, she was no different from Underworld beings in that aspect, and coming into direct contact with sunlight was sure to cause more than just temporary blindness.
At Kim Jin-Woo’s explanation, Yoon-Hee exclaimed with regret and surprise.
“You didn’t even explain that to me,” Angela said in a low voice, but Kim Jin-Woo didn’t even respond.
There was actually a reason why Kim Jin-Woo had brought Yoon-Hee to the surface without any preparations. It was she who had sworn allegiance to him and confided her own secrets to him, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust her completely.
That was because she was a human, and he couldn’t force her to be loyal to him via the Underworld system. Just as he always bent the rules of the Underworld system whenever he could get away with it due to being a human, he couldn’t trust Yoon-Hee for that very same reason.
He’d been suspicious when she declared that she wanted to remain on the 7th Floor, far away from the Naga’s Fortress. It had seemed to him that she didn’t want to be completely subordinate to him.
In her own labyrinth, Yoon-Hee had reigned like a queen. But when they ascended to the surface, she had suddenly become heavily dependent on him like a little child. Some time was probably needed, but Kim Jin-Woo intended to fully tame her at the end of the day.
“Just as there are laws in the Underworld, there are also laws on the surface. Until you familiarize yourself with all of them, you’re not to leave this building. Work starts after that.” Having said that, Kim Jin-Woo sat on the sofa in the corner of the living room and crossed his legs.
He continued, “Let’s start with the easy ones. No one is to attack unless I give the explicit command to do so. And you can’t take a step outside of this building without my explicit permission.”
In response, Yoon-Hee nodded with a blank look on her face.
Although the supply of down gems was low, it wasn’t to the extent that the labyrinth would collapse the very next day. Thus, although Yoon-Hee was having a harder time adjusting to the surface than he had expected, Kim Jin-Woo remained patient.
In fact, it was Yoon-Hee that seemed more impatient. Unlike the 9th Floor, which was able to maintain its front line, the situation on the 7th Floor was desperate and urgent, and required the migration of the labyrinth at the earliest possible chance.
“You’ve left your labyrinth empty for too long, so let’s finish the rest when we return,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
“We’re not going to do this in one go?” Yoon-Hee was surprised, partly due to the fact that Kim Jin-Woo had never bothered to tell her his schedule.
“If taking the down gems back were so easy, I wouldn’t have brought someone who can’t even pull her own weight,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
Yoon-Hee was somewhat confident in her abilities, but due to the events on the surface over the past few days, she was completely distracted and unable to focus, so she couldn’t refute his words.
“We’ll finish the rest next time.” With that, Kim Jin-Woo opened a portal without hesitation and crossed through it. Angela got up from watching the TV from her sofa and pouted as she followed closely behind him.
Yoon-Hee let out a slight sigh and looked at the window with a hint of regret, before following behind them as well.
“Mm…” She crossed through the portal, but she had an unpleasant look on her face, perhaps due to breathing in the cold, damp air of the Underworld after having been exposed to the pleasant air of the surface for a while.
“Until I call you again, focus on the defense of your labyrinth. I’ll gather information on the down gems in the meantime,” Kim Jin-Woo ordered.
In response, Yoon-Hee opened her mouth as if to say something, before deciding against it and returning to her own labyrinth.
“What do you think she wanted to say?” Angela asked curiously.
“I don’t know what she wanted to say, but I have a good guess as to what she’s thinking right now,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
“What is she thinking about?” Angela asked with a twinkle in her eye, seeming rather interested in Yoon-Hee's behavior.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at Angela and answered with a twisted smile, “She now knows what she lost.”
Yoon-Hee’s realization would come to her like a fever. Even if an Underworld Noble’s blood flowed through her veins, the fact remained that she was a human. And the moment she finally accepted that reality, she would feel the full weight of disillusionment toward the gloom of the Underworld. She might become disconnected with her labyrinth, and may end up wanting to stay on the surface.
“Isn’t that a bad thing, then?” Angela asked.
“It isn’t. There’s nothing easier than dealing with someone whose desires you know,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
Angela’s eyes narrowed as she commented reproachfully, “You’ve become a villain. When I first met you at the auction house, you weren’t like this.”
“Whatever it takes to survive,” Kim Jin-Woo said simply.
He would thank the Lord of Nightmares if he could. Had Denarion not forcefully made him relive his past memories that had been buried deep within his consciousness, his will to live wouldn’t have been as strong.
But it was due to those memories emerging from his nightmares that he was able to shake off his old self that longed endlessly for life on the surface.
“That aside, keep a good lookout,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
“Uther is better suited for surveillance than I am. Also, it’s been a long time since the Greed Masses were spread across the entire floor,” Angela replied.
Nodding in response, Kim Jin-Woo sat on his throne as he calculated when the best time would be to drag Yoon-Hee back to the surface.
A day after returning to the Underworld with Yoon-Hee, as Kim Jin-Woo was busy collecting information in preparation for his trip back to the surface, a visitor arrived.
“It’s been a while,” Kim Jin-Woo said as he stepped out toward the outskirts of the Fortress, where a two-headed giant awaited him with an anxious look on both his faces.
“It’s been a while, King of the Nagas,” the Undefeated Mercenary, Krasto, greeted Kim Jin-Woo gloomily.