Chapter 72: Chapter 72
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Is it to prevent it from overflowing?”
With that, Ho Sung bowed to the champion politely and returned to his seat. Following Ho Sung’s instructions, the champion held the bottle by its mouth tightly and opened the lid. Sure enough, no foam flowed out of the bottle. Nodding, he poured himself some makgeolli in a cup that looked like a segment of a bamboo shoot.
‘How curious,’ Min Sung thought to himself. Having never had makgeolli until now, his heart thumped with excitement. Taking the cup of the traditional Korean rice wine in his hand, Min Sung brought it up to his mouth.
‘Gluck, gluck, gluck!’
Having drunk the entire cup in three gulps, the champion lowered his hand, deeply impressed.
‘How can it be so sweet and yet have such rich flavors?’
The flavors were incredibly complex, and they were far beyond what the word ‘sweet’ could describe. There was something about the flavors that reminded the champion of a waterfall. Smacking his lips, he tore a piece of seafood green onion pancake, dipped it in soy sauce, and put it in his mouth. Followed by a melting sensation, the chewy chunks of squid introduced a new dimension of flavor to him, filling the champion’s mouth with the aroma of the ocean. Although substantial in thickness, the pancake was incredibly soft.
‘This is life-changing!’ he thought. After that, he scooped up a spoonful of the bean sprout soup and black rice concoction, blew on it, and brought it up to his mouth. Despite being scalding hot, the flavors were still just as impressive.
‘What is their secret?’ the champion thought, examining the soup closely. Soon, the secret became apparent.
‘The eggs! So, that’s their secret!’
The perfectly-cooked eggs were the secret and the foundation behind the artful balance of flavors of the seemingly unimpressive dish. Scooping up another spoonful of the concoction, along with some bean sprouts that time, Min Sung blew on it once again and brought it up to his mouth. The combination of soup and rice filled his stomach with a pleasant warmth. No matter how many times he tasted it, the egg-based broth was still insanely delectable. The soft, fluffy texture of the egg combined with the deep flavors of the broth was, simply put, heavenly.
Taking a break from the soup, Min Sung, like he had done previously, poured himself another cup of makgeolli filled to the brim, drank it in three gulps, and followed that up with a piece of the seafood green onion pancake dipped in soy sauce. After the potent flavor of the green onion, the rich flavor of soy sauce rushed past his nose. It was truly a magical moment.
However, while the champion was reminded of Ho Sung’s impeccable taste in food yet again, he couldn’t help but feel like he had been somewhat excessive in his reliance on Ho Sung. Compared to Ho Sung, the champion’s ability to go out and explore different restaurants was severely lacking.
‘I better step it up. Getting recommendations from Ho Sung might be more convenient, but it’s nowhere near as meaningful as discovering a restaurant of my liking on my own,’ Min Sung thought. While the ambition of going on a food exploration was stirring in his heart, the champion ate his soup quietly.
Jan Bred stared up at the sky, blue and seemingly ordinary. Shortly after, he noticed parts of the sky starting to distort. Staring at the subtle yet noticeable distortions in the sky, Jan smiled. Then, he looked down at his wristwatch. Seeing as though it was getting closer to the predetermined time, he started to itch with anxiety. His right hand, which was wrapped in cloth, buzzed as if there was an electrical current running through it. The impulsive desire for destruction tickled the tips of his fingers. Closing his eyes, Jan drank quietly, reminding himself of the imminent reward.
“Who are those people?” Ho Sung murmured, puzzled by two mysterious men standing in front of the labyrinth’s entrance. Due to the shortage of hunters, there had been increasing reports of monster attacks as of late. Needless to say, seeing people wandering around the labyrinth was a strange sight. At that moment, noticing Ho Sung and the champion arriving at the dungeon’s entrance, the two mysterious men walked away while making phone calls.
“Who the hell are those guys?” Ho Sung muttered, looking displeased. However, Min Sung, paying no attention to them or to Ho Sung’s response to them, walked closer to the dungeon and stood in front of the gate. At which point, Ho Sung rushed after him.
‘I sure hope I can get in this time! Please! Please!’ Ho Sung thought, clasping his hands together, his eyes clenched tightly as if praying. Then, noticing that he was being lifted off the ground, Ho Sung smiled brightly.
‘Yes! YES! It’s happening!’
As usual, darkness engulfed them as the two got sucked into the dungeon. When the darkness dissipated, a mechanical voice echoed throughout the dungeon and a set of system messages appeared before their eyes.
[Welcome to the labyrinth.]
[You may not exit the labyrinth until you clear the dungeon.]
[Difficulty will remain unchanged.]
[Labyrinth Difficulty: Inferno]
[From this moment on, monsters will grow stronger at an exponential rate.]
[Tread lightly, and the best of luck to you, champion]
After reading the messages, Ho Sung swallowed nervously, particularly at the one about the monsters growing exponentially stronger. Although anxious to move up to a higher level, Ho Sung couldn’t help but tense up when reminded of potentially deadly monsters.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, Ho Sung opened his inventory and equipped himself with a shield. Being in a party with Min Sung rendered swords useless. Due to the ruthless difficulty, Ho Sung was nowhere near strong enough to inflict any significant damage, if at all, to the monsters. Knowing that, Ho Sung had spent most of his savings on healing potions and the shield. Surviving the labyrinth was his top priority, and having a decent shield would surely increase the likelihood of that happening. At that moment, Bowl jumped out of the champion’s pocket. Upon landing, the doll cackled and followed after its master as if thrilled about what was to take place.
“… I guess I’m the only nervous one here,” Ho Sung said, slapping himself and rushing to catch up with the champion and Bowl.
Sitting by the fountain like a plant in the Sun, Jan opened his eyes slowly as his phone went off. Picking it up, he put it next to his ear unhurriedly.
“Min Sung Kang has entered the labyrinth,” the voice on the other end of the line said.
“And the location?” Jan asked, looking up at the sky with lazy eyes.
“We sent someone. It takes about twenty minutes to get there, so they should arrive any minute now.”
With that, the call came to an end, and at that same moment, a black sedan in the distance came toward Jan’s direction, stopping at a place not too far from him. A man in a black suit came out of the car, bowed politely to Jan and handed him a watch.
“It’s a digital watch that allows you to communicate through phone calls or messages. It also comes with a translation and interpretation feature. It’s specially made so that it works even when within labyrinths.”
Taking the shiny steel wristwatch that he had around his wrist, Jan tossed it toward the fountain and replaced it with the digital one.
‘It’s time,’ he thought, rising to his feet slowly. Brushing his hair up, he walked toward the car with the man in the black suit.
As darkness faded and was replaced with light, Min Sung led the way. At the end of a short hallway, was an elevator. Although the dungeon looked nothing like all the previous dungeons he had been to, the champion remained unfazed and waited for the elevator to arrive. After getting into the elevator, he furrowed his brow and asked Ho Sung, who was looking around nervously, “What are you doing?”
“There’s something about this elevator that makes me feel uneasy. You don’t think it’ll fall while we’re still in it or anything, do you, sir?”
At that, Min Sung looked around the elevator. Aside from being slightly dirty and dusty, there was nothing in particular about it that indicated danger.
“Will you just hurry up and get in?” the champion said. At that point, Ho Sung, deathly pale, had no choice but to get into the elevator with Min Sung.
There were only two buttons on the control panel within the elevator: 1B and 1F. Without hesitation, Min Sung chose the latter and pressed the 1F button. After that, the door closed, making that distinct elevator sound. Although the elevator was moving up to the next floor, the ride lasted for quite a while. Then, after about a minute later, the bell went off and let the two know that they had arrived at their destination. However, when the door opened, they were met by a completely unexpected scenery.
While the champion got out of the elevator unfazed, Ho Sung followed after him with his jaw dropped open. They were in a green field under a bright Sun, and not too far from them, was a humongous gray wall. It seemed even taller than the 63 Building.
(TL’s Note: 63 Building, or 63 SQUARE, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Seoul. It overlooks the Han River. Just as it’s suggested in the name, the building is sixty-three stories high.)
“What’s that?” Ho Sung asked.
“That’s not a wall.”
“What!? What do you mean that’s not a wall? …Wait, does that mean…” Ho Sung dragged on, fixing his gaze on the champion, who added as he equipped his Orichalcon Dagger, “The labyrinth.”
“… The labyrinth?”
Upon getting a second look, Ho Sung noticed that there were cracks in the wall. If the cracks were visible from their distance, it was very likely that the cracks were big enough for a person to fit through them. As if coming to grips with reality, Ho Sung let out a nervous sigh, his face frozen in fear.
“Stay sharp. You won’t walk out of here in one piece the moment you let your guard down,” Min Sung said, looking toward the labyrinth.
“Sir? You’re scaring me,” Ho Sung said as his face fell.
“If it’s an ordinary labyrinth, we shouldn’t have a problem. In any case, stay focused. Don’t let your fear get to you.”
“… Yes, sir,” Ho Sung replied with a determined look on his face, nodding heavily. Gripping his dagger tightly, the champion walked on. Much like its appearance, the dungeon felt nothing like other dungeons he had previously been to, triggering his instinct to stay on guard.
As the difficulty of the labyrinth neared its end, the monsters would appear to be noticeably stronger. It was apparent in the air. However, having survived countless near-death experiences, the champion had grown numb to its threat. If anything, the fact that he was about to fight against stronger opponents put a smile on his face. The Demonic Realm had shaped his instincts like those of a predator.
Arriving at the entrance, Min Sung walked through it confidently, and Bowl waddled after its master. At that moment, Ho Sung grabbed his belly with a look of discomfort on his face. Noticing that, Min Sung gave him a puzzled look.
“Ugh… My stomach is kinda hurting. I must be really nervous, haha.”
Contrary to Earth, where it was midsummer, a piercingly cold wind blew across the dungeon.