It was the Under-Elf Assassin, Rikshasha, that heralded the beginning of the war.
Moans and chatters sounded from everywhere.
Soon after, a thud could be heard, and from the shadows dropped the bodies of the 10th Floor Nobles’ guards with their heads cut off.
“I’ve taken care of all of them.”
“Take care of the bodies, and loot everything that we can.”
Rikshasha kicked the enemy’s corpse rolling at her feet, before giving her next command with a sullen face.
“Move out to the next area.”
After Rikshasha and the Under-Elves extracted the down gems from the fallen guards, they melted into the darkness once again.
Similar scenes unfolded throughout the 10th Floor. The guards were so busy engaging the Moais that flowed from the passageways that they ended up being flanked and killed by the Under-Elves’ blades from the shadows.
And before the Nobles knew it, they were left in the dark; blind and unaware of the ongoings on their own floor.
The 9th Floor army advanced through the empty passageway towards the Nobles’ labyrinths. In the midst of this, the unlucky ones who happened to encounter the Moais were slain, but most of the army was able to reach the Nobles’ labyrinths without getting into a single battle, thanks to the Under-Elves’ help.
It was truly a blitzkrieg. A small number of troops dropped out, unable to keep up with the pace, and the army as a whole quickly became exhausted.
Nevertheless, the 9th Floor labyrinth masters never looked back.
From the sudden summons to the semi-forced deployment of the troops, Kim Jin-Woo didn’t provide any convincing explanations for the war. But just one declaration from him was enough to motivate all the labyrinth masters.
“The one who makes the greatest contribution to capturing the Nobles’ labyrinths will be given my greatest reward.”
With that one sentence, the 9th Floor labyrinth masters completely flipped out. They became deaf to even their own troops’ deathly cries for help, afraid that they would lose out on the reward.
Ten of the Nobles’ labyrinths were attacked simultaneously. They were barely able to hold their own against the Moais on the 10th Floor, and the sudden raid threw the entire floor into chaos.
They were caught off-guard by the sudden attack, and were surprised that the ones attacking them were not the Moais, but the army of the 9th Floor labyrinths.
But the element of surprise didn’t last long, as it only sought to anger the Nobles even further in their retaliation against the attackers.
Although they were Nobles that had lost their former glory through their corrupted behaviors, their innate strength was still immense. After all, without such power, they wouldn’t have been able to last this long in the war against the Moais, despite the fact that they were individually isolated.
And while the Nobles’ troops were exhausted from the continuous battles, it only helped in honing their sharp senses in combat.
Thus, the damage suffered by the 9th Floor army, who was blinded by the loot and rushed in hastily, quickly snowballed out of control.
“Your insolent fools! Where do you think you’re stepping foot into!?”
The roar of the angry Baron Bartholomew resounded across the Underworld, and the 9th Floor Army hastily retreated in horror.
“Looks like your order to bring glory is no different from a suicide mission, huh.”
Ariane, the Queen of Illusions, shook her head at what she was witnessing, and the King of the Dwarves, who was leading his hundred-odd dwarf army, snapped back in retaliation.
“Still, it’s going to make our work a bit easier, so be thankful.”
The defeat of the 9th Floor army shook the labyrinth, and the elite soldiers of the enraged Noble charged out towards the outskirts of their labyrinth. Ariane and the other labyrinth masters took advantage of Bartholomew’s labyrinth’s lax defences and attacked.
The Noble’s defending troops, who remained behind in case of an emergency, nodded their heads and fell into a deep sleep.
“Seems like partnering up with you was a good decision. We have more troops alive than I had expected.”
“We have no time for chit chat. Hurry up, they won’t be asleep for long.”
“You don’t have to tell me, I was about to do so anyway.”
Malaxus, the King of the Dwarves, wagged his blunt finger. A hundred dwarves who had been following behind him charged into the labyrinth at his command and brutally murdered the sleeping enemy forces.
The brave, giant warriors of Bartholomew, who were able to even overcome the onslaught of the Moai, silently dropped their heads and succumbed to their deaths.
The splendidly decorated labyrinth was instantly buried in the deep stench of death.
“These guys’ epidermis is stupidly tough. If they weren’t asleep, we would’ve been the victims instead.”
Malaxus, King of the Dwarves, spoke as he pounded on the forearm of a giant soldier that was just killed. He swung his axe hard at the sleeping enemy, and there was not a scratch to be seen.
“Of course. This is the standard of a Deep Floor’s army. Under any other normal circumstances, our 9th Floor troops wouldn’t even be able to stand a chance against them.”
Malaxus frowned at Ariane’s words, unable to tell if she was being sarcastic or equally astonished herself.
“You sure are good with your words.”
Although they were on the same boat working towards a common goal, Ariane and he were still competitors. And Malaxus wasn’t pleased with Ariane’s tone.
But whether Malaxus was showing his disapproval at her or not, Ariane simply ignored him, as she was too busy focusing on what was happening outside the labyrinth.
“We should hurry. My magic isn’t strong enough to work against the Deep Floor Nobles.”
Speaking of the devil, the labyrinth’s main forces were returning at that precise moment.
The Queen of Illusion’s magic was only strong enough to put the labyrinth’s soldiers to sleep when their master wasn’t around. If they weren’t to wrap things up quickly, the affected soldiers were bound to wake up, and before they know it, they would be surrounded from all sides and unable to escape.
At her words, Malaxus quickly ordered his dwarves anxiously.
“You lazy idiots! Hurry up, or we’ll have to dine in hell tonight!”
At their king’s threats, the Dwarves hurried their stumpy legs as they quickly traversed across the labyrinth. The Nightmares  went back and forth between the dwarves, recovering their magical powers and maintaining the illusion cast by Ariane.
However, their plan to clear the labyrinth with the main forces of the enemy absent seemed to have been doomed from the start. From beyond the passageway through the centre of the labyrinth, faint footsteps began to echo through the labyrinth.
“We have to leave now! If we stay put, we’ll be surrounded from all sides!”
Ariane exclaimed as she barely maintained her illusion magic that seemed like it was going to break at any moment.
“If we leave now, we’d have nothing to show for it! We should at least clear out their warehouse, only then will we have something to show to the King!”
Did he agree to partner up with her with this plan in mind from the start? Seeing the eyes of Malaxus gleaming with greed once again, Ariane couldn’t help but feel dismayed.
They had managed to kill dozens of the giant soldiers, and managed to destroy a few minor facilities.
They would not be able to claim victory right now, but they had definitely succeeded in weakening the labyrinth for certain. And yet, the Dwarves showed no signs of wanting to leave the labyrinth.
“Don’t hate me for this.”
Unable to see the need to take the risk any further, Ariane gathered her Nightmares. Just as she was about to leave, a Dwarf’s roar could be heard from the depths of the labyrinth.
“We’ve found the warehouse!”
Ariane stopped dead in her tracks.
“If you’re going to leave, then leave by yourself. I acknowledge your contribution with your spells, but expect nothing else from me.”
Malaxus smirked and chuckled as Ariane looked back towards the labyrinth, before biting her lips.
“I’ll buy you some time, so hurry up.”
“Now we’re talking!”
“However, the loot…”
“We’ll split it evenly.”
With a quick agreement, Malaxus and Ariane looked at each other before parting ways.
Seeing Ariane preparing something to bind the enemies, Malaxus quickly ran to where the warehouse supposedly was. His short legs ran as fast as they could, and in just a moment, he reached the storage and shouted loudly as he raised his axe up high.
His unremarkable axe suddenly burned bright red, as though it was fresh out of the furnace.
With a loud roar, Malaxus smashed the door of the warehouse with his burning axe.
The strength of his swing was so strong that the Dwarves near the door fell backwards in terror.
The warehouse’s solid door cracked in an instant.
“What are you doing! Strike it down!”
But even his powerful blow wasn’t enough to open the Noble’s warehouse. Malaxus shouted at his men, even as blood flowed from both his hands that were clasping his axe.
The Dwarves striked away at the groove left behind by Malaxus’ burning axe. The door finally opened with one last blow from Malaxus.
“Leave the iron pieces as they are. Take just the down gems!”
Despite the nickname of ‘The Clan of Hammer and Anvil’, Malaxus and his Dwarves searched the warehouse for only down gems, ignoring the flashing pieces of armor and weapons.
Malaxus looked at the down gems that his Dwarves had gathered in disappointment. He risked their lives to raid the warehouse, and all he got were about a dozen down gems.
It was barely enough to call it a decent harvest, but this time round, he had to share the loot.
The most he would get would be five down gems, and with the amount of risk he took just to get these five down gems, Malaxus couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
To make matters worse, the screams of Ariane, who went to engage the enemy forces, could be heard from a distance.
“How dare you!”
Her screams were followed by the angry road of the mighty Bartholomew. Malaxus hurriedly gathered his troops as he was about to leave the warehouse, when he saw the Nightmares rushing towards him.
“You idiots! The exit is over there! What am I to do if you come over here!”
The Dwarves shouted angrily, but the Nightmares were out of control as they quickly galloped past the Dwarves.
Malaxus angrily glared at the Nightmares that passed by him, when he suddenly felt an impending sense of doom approaching him as he turned his head.
A giant, made completely with bronze, was grabbing Ariane by the hair as it approached him.
“How dare you, tiny fools!”
The Dwarves all trembled at the angry roar of the Bronze Giant, Bartholomew.
Although he was merely a Baron in title, he was one of the Nobles who was qualified enough to be called one of the true Rulers of the Underworld.
The Dwarves’ faces turned white as Bartholomew’s Noble’s Majesty ability was activated.
Malaxus too was choked by the sheer sense of oppression emitting from Bartholomew’s presence. The hand that was barely holding on to his axe started to grow weak, and he mustered every ounce of strength in his body just to keep it in his grip.
1. Ariane’s Nightmares is a portmanteau of “Nightmare” and “Mare”, as in horses. It is a logical naming that is also a pun of sorts.