Records of Dungeon Travel Chapter 73
#31. Fight for Initiative
“He got me good this time.” Sitting on his iron throne with its sharp, jagged ends spiking outward, Anatolius looked somewhat pleased. Excited, even.
“I wonder if you might have supported him too much. He’s already causing so much havoc at this stage, so perhaps a sanction would…” One of the countless knights lined up on either side voiced his concern.
But Anatolius only seemed even more determined. He looked almost expressionless, but he couldn’t hide the grin at the corner of his mouth.
“I still don’t understand why you have to take this risk. If you were simply looking for someone obedient and loyal, there are countless beings out there. So I’m unable to comprehend what you see in a new baron with no understanding of the fundamentals. And a 9th Floor Baron, no less.”
“Hestia,” Anatolius spoke as he looked at his Iron-Blooded Knight, Hestia the Iron Wall. “If not the 9th Floor, then where else? Tell me. The 10th Floor Counts and Barons have gone to shit. Thanks to the Black Merchants’ tricks, they’ve been corrupted by luxuries and pleasures. Do you think they’re capable of turning their blades toward the 11th Floor?
“If it’s Boreas the Wind Piercer, then…”
“No, Boreas is too much of a risk. Boreas is the one rare being on the 10th Floor that still upholds his valor. Besides, he still painfully remembers his defeat at the hands of the Counts. A defeated dog knows it’s better to surrender than to face confrontation. I guarantee he’ll never leave the 10th Floor.”
With that, Anatolius brought up the human who had dared to stand tall in front of him without uttering a single word. “Only he can do it. Only he, who is free from the shackles of the class system and remains incorrupt, can do it.”
“But that imprudent human was the one to cross the line first. Parthenon and the other nobles are powerful and formidable.”
“Hestia,” Anatolius began.
Hestia fell silent at Anatolius’ gentle but firm voice. He had indeed given much sincere advice and concern. Anatolius was not a petty monarch that would be offended by his subordinate’s words.
But Hestia knew to be mindful when Anatolius spoke in such an emotionless voice. No matter what anyone said, he was still Iron-Blooded Anatolius.
“You worry too much. Although I like having you by my side, sometimes your excessive deliberations can end up distracting me from my decision-making. You need to dream a little bigger.”
“I’ll do my best,” Hestia replied.
Looking at Hestia’s bowed head, Anatolius carried on. “We need fresh blood to upend the entirety of the 11th Floor. I know my decision is correct.”
Anatolius rose from his throne and faced the knights lined up in front of him, ordering “Observe Parthenon’s movements! Should any of his scum leave his labyrinth, we will immediately answer with violence!”
“Parthenon is a madman. He may react violently at the slightest provocation.”
“That isn’t so bad! If he reacts to our provocation, then we’ll dispatch our entire troop! As long as the other Counts hold back like the cowards they are, Parthenon will be of no threat. So, press on!”
With that, Anatolius’ focus shifted from the 11th Floor to the 9th.
“I hope your decision wasn’t made to simply weasel out of this situation. If not…” Anatolius’ face hardened. “You will experience first hand why I’m known as Iron-Blooded Anatolius.”
“Why? Did I put out too expensive a reward?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
At Kim Jin-Woo’s words, the Black Merchant let out a cry. “It’s not about the worth! It’s the fact that you put out Lord Anatolius’ name for everyone to hear. You should know that your agreement with Lord Anatolius has been a secret thus far.”
The rumor that Anatolius was backing the nagas had spread all across the 9th Floor. The other labyrinth owners had reacted as though they had finally discovered the secret to the Naga’s Fortress’ rapid growth and ascension in power. With a mighty 11th Floor Count backing the Naga’s Fortress, who else on the 9th Floor would dare challenge them?
The reality was very much different, but Kim Jin-Woo had no intent to disclose the truth. He seemed determined to squeeze out every last drop of advantage he could from Anatolius’ name and reputation.
“Hilarious. Are you interrogating me?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“That’s not it…”
“Then shut the fuck up. Inside the summoning stone you told me was going to be useful was in fact a trap, that was the target of countless Underworld Nobles. Of course, you may not have known the contents of that summoning stone, but you’re not entirely innocent either.”
The Black Merchant kept his mouth shut. There was no way for the Black Merchant to feign ignorance of this rumor and deny any links to the very summoning stone he had given to Kim Jin-Woo, which had started this whole ordeal in the first place.
In fact, in return for Morrigan’s allegiance, Kim Jin-Woo was now hostile to numerous nobles, including the 11th Floor Count Parthenon of Despair.
“I do apologize about that. We, the Black Merchants, are preparing a separate compensation for that issue…”
“I’ll look forward to it then. And on top of that, let me request a favor.”
The Black Merchant had already given in to Kim Jin-Woo’s habit of pushing the limits of his requests, and simply nodded in concession.
“That reward that Anatolius promised I would receive half a year later? I want it now.”
The request seemed to have clearly exceeded even the Black Merchant’s expectations. He said, “Lord Anatolius will probably not allow that…”
“He should already know about it,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
The Black Merchant blinked his large eyes, pretending not to know what Kim Jin-Woo was talking about.
At the sight of his reaction, Kim Jin-Woo stared back hard and added, “Some of the 10th Floor Nobles are consolidating their forces. Probably one of Parthenon’s dogs.”
“How did you…”
“How I know isn’t important. What’s important is who their target is. You get me?”
At those words, the Black Merchant finally seemed to have broken. He replied, “I don’t wish to die. I lack the confidence to carry that message to him. Just because he’s generous to you doesn’t mean he’ll show the same generosity towards me. I’ll talk to my superiors about your favor.”
It seemed he would rather bring forward the reward and pay out of the Black Merchants’ own pockets than request it from Anatolius.
It didn’t matter to Kim Jin-Woo where the funds came from, as long as they were sufficient to strengthen his army. He decided not to pressure the Black Merchant any further.
“But in all honesty, how did you know?” the Black Merchant asked.
“What do you mean?” Kim Jin-Woo pretended not to understand the Black Merchant’s question.
“The 10th Floor. How did you know about the situation over there…”
“I have eyes and ears everywhere.”
The Black Merchant seemed overwhelmed with curiosity, as Kim Jin-Woo obviously had no intention of telling him the truth. After all, Kim Jin-Woo had already gotten everything he wanted out of the Black Merchant, and had no desire to continue chattering.
“Urgh. I’ll return again soon.” The Black Merchant looked back one last time, hoping to pick up any clues; alas, he couldn’t, so he slowly headed out the Naga’s Fortress.
At the Black Merchant’s departure, Kim Jin-Woo opened a portal. Through the rift, he could see Uther and the Land of Greed.
“You’ve arrived,” Uther said.
Uther’s body was incomparably more fit than before. On top of that, the Labyrinth of Greed, which had been supported by a portion of the military funds that Kim Jin-Woo received from Anatolius, had risen by one level and finally reached Level 5. It was only natural that Uther’s power would rise in tandem with his labyrinth.
And the stronger he got, the more he treated Kim Jin-Woo with respect and loyalty. He seemed to have finally figured out who he should pledge loyalty to for his own benefit.
“Yes. Any news?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“Ah, yes. Some nobles sent their troops out only to be annihilated by the bandits, and now they’re on the run. They’ve truly put the other Underworld Nobles to shame.”
Behind Uther, whose tongue clicked as he answered, slimes of various sizes were spread out in a wide formation. The transparent slime mass on the wall glowed brightly in luminescent white.
It was through this transparent slime that Uther was monitoring the situation on the 10th Floor. And it was because of the slimes that Kim Jin-Woo had been able to observe the 10th Floor even while being on the 9th Floor.
“Damn. If we had spread the slime out over a larger area, we would have been able to find out more. It’s a pity,” Uther said.
“That’s unfortunate, but it’s fine. It’s almost as though we’re tagging along with the Black Merchant’s journey through the floors,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
When asked about how the slime masses had reached the 10th Floor, Kim Jin-Woo revealed that he had spread them during his trip with the Black Merchant. Since he had visited so many places with the Black Merchant, he had been able to spread them far and wide across the 10th Floor.
“But is this really okay? Some of the nobles may be causing a scene, but not all the nobles are like that,” Uther continued.
“We have to treat it as such. I didn’t manage to scout the entire 10th Floor, but among those I’ve seen with my own eyes, not even one of the labyrinths was decent enough,” Kim Jin-Woo explained.
Aside from Boreas the Wind Piercer and his Frozen Plains, the rest of the labyrinths on the 10th Floor were totally unguarded.
“Anyway, focus all your resources on observing the 10th Floor for now,” Kim Jin-Woo finished.
As he was about to leave, Uther suddenly called out.
“What?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“The thing is… The slimes are absorbing too much energy…” Uther began.
Kim Jin-Woo quickly understood what Uther wanted beneath his sullen smile, and grinned as he took out a mid-grade down gem and tossed it over.
“Ah! I, Uther, will have my eyes on only the 10th Floor until this body rots away.”
Kim Jin-Woo waved a hand at the gleeful Uther and stepped back into the portal.
Rumors spread quickly that the 10th Floor Nobles were marching towards the 9th Floor. The rumor was intentionally spread by the Naga Rangers under the direction of Kim Jin-Woo. And of course, the rumors themselves were fabricated to manipulate the situation in his favor.
It was now unclear who the 10th Floor Nobles were aiming for, and what the real situation on the 10th Floor was. In the eyes of the 9th Floor labyrinth masters, the other floors had laid targets on their backs and were coming for them.
And as for Kim Jin-Woo who had brought this chaos to the 9th Floor, he was nowhere to be found.
[‘Party Hall – Land of Festivities’ has completed its upgrade. The labyrinth will now be upgraded from Level 4 to Level 5. Previously locked facilities are now accessible.]
[With the activation of the labyrinth, most creatures and beasts will acknowledge the labyrinth.]
With a bright, shining light, the Party Hall’s core started to glow. With it, so did Yoon-Hee’s body.