Records of Dungeon Travel Chapter 77
[You have won the battle.]
[Animalectus, King of the Beasts, has declared surrender.]
[The Land of the Beasts has been conquered.]
Seeing the message announcing the end of the battle, Kim Jin-Woo ordered the battlefield to be cleaned up with an ice-cold look on his face.
“Why did you have to go this far…?” One of the labyrinth masters in the alliance carefully raised the question as he looked at the decimated Land of the Beasts.
“Funny. We haven’t yet tied up loose ends, so how can we go into battle knowing that? We can’t leave them alone when they might turn their swords against us and fight for the 10th Floor Nobles at any moment.”
The 10th Floor Nobles’ intent to invade the 9th Floor was so blatantly obvious, and yet there were many labyrinths that refused to help. That was a problem in Kim Jin-Woo’s eyes. Parthenon’s influence in his quest for victory wasn’t limited to just the 10th Floor Nobles.
There was some truth in Kim Jin-Woo’s explanation, but it seemed difficult for the various labyrinth masters under him to accept it. It seemed they were very cautious of how Kim Jin-Woo might act after the war concluded.
“Uther, tell me what you’ve seen,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
Uther, who was observing all the goings-on by his side, swiftly responded. “There seem to be people who visited the 9th Floor before the 10th Floor’s army even started to advance. They secretly hid on the 9th Floor and visited several labyrinths. I don’t know exactly what they talked about, but it is certain that those labyrinth masters started acting suspiciously afterwards.”
“Hear that? The 10th Floor Nobles’ reach was present long before now.” The labyrinth masters of the alliance murmured with disbelief at Uther’s revelation, as Kim Jin-Woo carried on. “There’s no need to leave loose ends now, is there?”
This new information clearly surprised the alliance’s labyrinth masters, which was made apparent by their silence. There were still some who were not yet fully convinced, even as they looked at the devastated labyrinth around them.
With the truth out, it was too late for Kim Jin-Woo to go back on his agenda of punishing the deserters. However, he also knew that pushing the matter any further could end up with the allied labyrinth masters revolting against him in disagreement.
As if to appease them, he offered a suggestion. “At the end of this war, I’ll give the Labyrinth of the Beasts to whoever contributed the most. The biggest contributions deserve such rewards at the very least; isn’t that so?”
All it took was one statement. With that declaration, the atmosphere of the entire alliance changed. Even those that were seemingly uncertain and wary of the nagas were overwhelmed with excitement by the prospect of such a sweet reward.
“I’ll repeat myself. The one with the biggest contribution will receive the biggest reward at the end.”
Although small skirmishes were common on the 9th Floor, a full-fledged war like the ones the nagas and Kim Jin-Woo were involved in was less common. As such, many of the labyrinths on the 9th Floor had stagnated, and this reward was their one chance to get the massive upgrades they wanted.
“How simple-minded.” Kim Jin-Woo sighed as he watched the labyrinth masters return to their respective troops, drooling at the reward he had laid out for them.
“Is there any reason to give them a chance? As you may have seen before, these are the people who tried to betray you, my King. We don’t know what they’ll do with such power in their hands.” Hecarim gave some sincere advice, perhaps due to the strong sense of belonging that came with being Kim Jin-Woo’s vassal.
“When this war is over, we’ll see if anyone still has such thoughts remaining,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
Seeing Kim Jin-Woo showing confidence rather than arrogance, Hecarim couldn’t help but be moved.
“Mmm…” Ariane, in the meantime, seemed obsessed over Kim Jin-Woo’s face. The lustful woman seemed to have other ideas on her mind. Otherwise, there would be no other reason why she would be looking at him with a delusional expression while letting out moans.
“Either way, you’ll have your chances too, so don’t hold back. Your ordinary troops can easily be replenished, so just be careful that your Hero-Grade summons aren’t injured.”
At Kim Jin-Woo’s words, Ariane and Hecarim both quickly returned to their positions. But just as he finally thought he was alone, Uther appeared.
Uther, who had recently gained so much strength that his flabby body had now toned up, laughed and smirked as he approached Kim Jin-Woo. He said, “My King, if you’re talking about contributions, have I not contributed much with the constant monitoring of the 10th Floor Nobles’ army, even until now? I’m just saying, in case you forgot about me.”
Kim Jin-Woo burst out laughing at Uther’s words. It was much easier to deal with a person like Uther, who was practical and straightforward. Even without the Vassal’s Pledge, he knew that Uther wouldn’t turn against him, as long as there was something to be gained out of it. He replied, “I promise. There will be a great reward waiting for you at the end.”
At those words, Uther wobbled away with uncharacteristic glee.
Quantus and Ortehaga, who had been away serving as messengers, joined the ranks again after Kim Jin-Woo destroyed two additional labyrinths.
“What’s the situation?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“Most of them displayed a will to fight back. They’re genuine in their interest to advance the alliance and promised to work together to the best of their abilities.”
Again, it seemed that the sense of crisis felt by the labyrinth masters adjacent to the passageway was different from that of the other labyrinth masters. It was to be expected, as they would be the very first ones to encounter the 10th Floor’s army.
But yet another unexpected situation had arisen.
“The King of the Exiles, located closest to the passage, refused to talk to us. We’ve heard nothing from him.”
“He’s gone over to their side.”
In hindsight, it was to be expected. No matter how corrupt the 10th Floor Nobles were, it was Parthenon who was behind them. There was no way Parthenon would have started a war while relying only on the incompetent 10th Floor Nobles. He would have been smart enough to have had more tricks up his sleeve.
And the Labyrinth of the Exiles may have already negotiated with him in advance to act as a bridgehead for his army’s invasion.
“Please punish me for not fulfilling your orders!” Quantus exclaimed, bowing his head.
Kim Jin-Woo instead reassured Quantus that he had worked hard, and proceeded to assign the two new positions.
Not long after their return, there was an update that the 10th Floor Nobles had managed to restore the destroyed passageway connecting the 10th Floor. With that news, the alliance accelerated their advance.
By this point, the labyrinth masters could almost smell the rewards as they conquered one labyrinth after another. The prospect of the rewards seemed to have almost turned them mad.
“It’s better that we take care of them first…”
The labyrinth masters, who had fiercely opposed conquering the rebel labyrinths in the beginning, were now the ones begging to be the first to invade them.
“We’ve secured the shortest path of advance.”
But Kim Jin-Woo simply ignored their request. As the 10th Floor army had resumed their invasion, it was critical that he secured a good location first for their upcoming battle. Even the blood-eyed labyrinth masters of the alliance seemed to have caught on to the situation and started to look nervous.
With the Labyrinth of the Exiles half a day’s journey away, the alliance stopped their advance. Kim Jin-Woo said, “This location looks good.”
At that moment, Rikshasha returned from her mission and said, “I have returned successfully and done all that you commanded.”
“Good. What’s the enemy doing?”
“They have restored the passageway, but due to Master’s plan, many seem to have lost their morale and returned to the 10th Floor, leaving only a small portion of their army behind.”
This was truly unexpected. Kim Jin-Woo was confused by this sudden turn of events, but he knew it still wouldn’t be that easy moving forward.
“We have just enough time.” With that, he gathered his forces. “Uther, take care of the preparations while I’m away.”
“Leave it to me!” Uther’s loud mouth made him seem unreliable, but that was his way of showing his confidence.
“I’ll make my move, then.”
The King of the Exiles paced across the master’s room with an anxious look on his face. He checked the time again and again, wearing a shabby hood ill-befitting his position as a king, that covered him all the way to his head.
“My King, don’t worry too much. The nobles have restored the passageway, so they should be here soon,” his subordinate reassured him.
“Who doesn’t know that?! The problem is time! Time!” the king snapped back at his subordinate bitterly, with anxiety written all over his face. “The messenger came and went. We should have met him instead of chasing him away, and now we’re caught in this terrible position. I’m a fool! A fool!”
“But if you end up in a decent position, the other 10th Floor Nobles may find you suspicious.”
“Is that guy people call the Naga King really that powerful? Did I make the wrong decision?”
“Even then, there’s no way the 9th Floor masters will defeat the 10th Floor Nobles. The 10th Floor army numbers two thousand. There’s no way they can defeat such an army.”
The King of the Exiles listened to his subordinates over and over again, casting aside all dignity and pride, before finally seeming to have found some peace. But then he wondered, “But why isn’t the army advancing? The 9th Floor masters are right in front of them, and yet the nobles aren’t moving forward the way they were before.”
“They must be taking extra precautions after coming into contact with that unidentifiable explosion.”
The King of the Exiles seemed to have lost his cool as soon as he had gained it. “I can’t do this anymore. I need to go out and see the situation for myself. I can’t trust those guys from below anymore.”
“As you will.”
As soon as his subordinate disappeared, the King of the Exiles started muttering to himself. “Perhaps they’re trying to make me take responsibility for everything? Damn it, what the hell is this?!”
He was overly concerned about what might happen to him for failing to secure safe passage for the army.
“Mm?” The King of the Exiles suddenly stood up, sensing sudden danger. He had sensed another presence with him, when the master room should have been empty aside from him.
“Who’s there?!—” Before he could finish speaking, an eerie light flashed along with the flapping of wings, and struck him right in front of his eyes.
“Fortunately, it seems there was just that one explosion.”
Boreas’ eyes glared coldly at his lieutenant’s report. The advance had been delayed more than expected due to the explosion that destroyed the passage. Without a doubt, he wasn’t in a good mood. He ordered, “Make sure that they pay the price.”
The lieutenant squirmed at the sight of Boreas’ grinding teeth. He said, “We should retreat to the labyrinth. Thanks to Lord Parthenon’s preemptive planning, we can rest with peace of mind today.”
He was in fact scared of the passageway that might collapse any moment. But he knew better than to speak the truth to Boreas, who despised nothing more than cowards.
“I don’t see those who should have come to greet us. Not a single thing is going right today…” he remarked, before suddenly continuing, “Ah, speak of the devil.”
Boreas yelled at the King of the Exiles, who had just appeared at the entrance of the labyrinth, “Your hospitality is lacking! Are you taking me lightly!?”
Boreas was taking his frustration out at the wrong person, but the King of the Exiles dared not talk back and simply lowered his head as he said, “There’s no way. The 9th Floor army has advanced close by. My visit was late as we were monitoring the situation. I seek your forgiveness.”
Along with his sincere apology, his own aide added on, “I smell blood. It seems there was a battle here not too long ago.”
“Indeed.” Seeing that there was a legitimate reason, Boreas quickly cooled off.
“Please step inside. I have prepared a place to rest,” the King of the Exiles offered.
“I hope you’ll win me over with your sincerity.” There was no way that Boreas’ crooked personality was going anywhere. He constantly hurled threats at the King of the Exiles, who had no choice but to continue bowing.
“I have also prepared a place for your army to rest. Allow me to guide you,” the King of the Exiles continued.
Boreas was known to pay special attention to his army, as if they were his own body. He was satisfied when he saw the King of the Exiles taking care of not only the commanders, but the troops as well. He remarked, “Now you’re finally proving slightly useful. Very good. Take special care of my hundred Hero-grade warriors.”
“Of course. This way, please.”
“Mm. But have you ever been to the 10th floor?” Boreas dragged out the question as he started walking.
“There’s no way. How could I dare step into the 10th Floor in the presence of such nobles…?”
“Really? Then why do I find you familiar?” Boreas tilted his head.
The King of the Exiles answered, “Perhaps you may have seen me at the auction house?”
“Maybe? That could be possible. I don’t particularly fancy the auction house, but it’s true that I do visit it from time to time.”
The King of the Exiles glanced at him from under the hood, watching Boreas pass him by.