“Do you know her?” Lindyss asked upon seeing Kim Hajun’s reaction. “What did she do in the prophetic dream of yours?”
Kim Hajun took in a deep breath and relaxed his expression. “If she’s the person I’m thinking of, her name is Miranda, and in the future, she’ll be one of the core members of the Virtuous Hand, a cult hellbent on destroying the current power structure of the tower to monopolize control for themselves using any means necessary, including genocide and assassination.”
“And they call themselves the Virtuous Hand?” Stella asked.
“How else are they supposed to trick regular people into joining them?” Kim Hajun asked and shook his head. “The days of naming evil organizations wicked names have long passed. If you’re going to commit immoral deeds, then you need a name people can proudly tell their friends and family if you want it to grow.”
“Hear that?” Stella asked Lindyss. “It’s time to lose your title of Corrupted One. You should rebrand yourself as the Holy One and switch to light magic instead of playing with your gloomy shadows all the time.”
“Don’t think I’m afraid to hit you just because you’re hiding inside of Vur,” Lindyss said, giving the fairy queen the stink eye. She shifted her gaze onto Kim Hajun, and her lips curved upwards into a light smile. “What are you going to do to Miranda now that you’ve found her?”
Kim Hajun blinked, and his cheeks became tinged with pink. “Originally, before I encountered your group, I had planned on convincing her to join me in climbing the tower. That way, I’d take away a critical asset of the Virtuous Hand while bolstering my own forces to confront them in the future.”
“You were going to seduce her, weren’t you?” Lindyss asked, raising an eyebrow as her smile grew wider.
“N-no!” Kim Hajun said and rapidly shook his head. “I wasn’t. I know her circumstances, so I was planning on using that information to bring her to my side.” He pursed his lips and looked at Tafel. “By any chance, does your aunt have the ability to read minds?”
Tafel’s nose wrinkled as she gave Kim Hajun a dirty look. “You were going to seduce her, weren’t you?” she asked and placed her hands on her hips. “What about Gaegukja Yeol? What do you think will happen if I tell her about your plan?”
“No!” Kim Hajun shook his head again. “I’m absolutely faithful to Yeol. Miranda might get a little attached to me, but that wouldn’t be my fault.” He looked around before shutting his mouth. It was much easier to keep quiet when the people around him were people who he perceived as weaker. When a dragon, demon, and aunt of said dragon and demon stared at him, he couldn’t help but blab and dig himself deeper than necessary. He cleared his throat. “This is the Temple of the Shadow Lord. Shall we check it out?”
“Heh-heh.” Lindyss let out a dry laugh and approached the temple. The golden gate was descending. “If we slip in now, we won’t have to give up any food, right?”
“Right,” Kim Hajun said. “Let’s go in before it shuts us out.”
Vur frowned and polymorphed himself back to a human since the gate was already half-closed, not large enough for his dragon form to crawl through. He followed the group into the temple before looking around. Dim lights hung from the ceiling, illuminating a square room with three doors leading in different directions.
“The Shadow Lord is a fan of confusing people,” Kim Hajun said. “It absolutely makes sense for him to create a maze as a trial. We’ll have to keep an eye out for possible mechanisms that can lead us to a hidden piece. It’ll be annoying and time consuming, but I’m sure we’ll find something if we check every inch of this place.”
“Well, it’s a good thing we have a guide,” Stella said, flying out of Vur’s chest before taking a seat on his shoulder.
Jeffery cleared his throat. “Honestly, at this point, I don’t think I’m of much use,” he said. “You hired me as a wilderness guide, not a maze-completion guide. I don’t have any abilities or items useful for clearing mazes.”
“I wasn’t talking about you,” Stella said and rolled her eyes. She patted Vur. “You can see everything, right?”
Vur nodded. The brown runes representing Diamant and the green runes representing Zilphy lit up. A gust of wind blew past the group as the ground and walls vibrated slightly. A moment later, the gust of wind surged back from the three different directions, and the vibrations came to a halt. “There’s a sealed room near the center of the maze.”
Kim Hajun stared at Vur. Dragons were supposed to be overpowered, yes, but they weren’t supposed to have so many support and utility skills. What dragon could explore a maze constructed by the Shadow Lord without even taking a single step? “Did you happen to find a mechanism to open the sealed room?”
“No,” Vur said, causing Kim Hajun to relax. At least, dragons weren’t completely broken; he still stood a chance. “But it doesn’t matter.” White light leaked out of Vur’s mouth as he spoke. Tafel plugged her ears, and a second later, Vur roared, firing a beam of white light at the wall. It collapsed with a bang, and a series of collapsing sounds rang out as the laser traveled unimpeded through the maze. Vur closed his mouth and nodded before pointing at his newly created path. “It’s open now.”
Miranda sat on the floor in an awkward position. It would’ve been less awkward if her legs would function properly. Unfortunately, after her close brush with death, it took all of her willpower to prevent herself from screaming and peeing. She had heard a strange sound while running through the maze, and before she could identify what it was, the wall had burst apart, and a massive white light filled her vision. The heat coming off of it was enough to cause the skin on her face to blister, and if she had been just a step ahead, she was sure would’ve begun her next life in accordance with samsara. For the first time since she had shaved her head, she felt the urge to cry.