Chapter 104

#41. The Summoning Stone

Kim Jin-Woo sighed with relief as he headed toward Mr. Baek’s appraisal office.

Deputy Chief Kim Joo-Hyuk’s quick thinking helped to save most of the remaining forces that had been left behind in the Harimao labyrinth.

Although a majority of them had suffered injuries of varying degrees due to being caught out by the invading creatures, Lee Jun-Young and Jung Chan-Sik’s group was relatively safe.

Of course, Harimao’s labyrinth master Kim Jin-Tae hadn’t made it out alive, but all that mattered to Kim Jin-Woo was that Lee Jun-Young, whom he shared the deepest bond with, was safe.

But the humans on the surface didn’t share the same sentiments. Most countries that had labyrinths under their control had been attacked, and subsequently had lost control of most of them.

And in some cases, communications had suddenly been cut off, adding on to the chaos and confusion.

“There might be a meeting for the first time since the armistice. It won’t be surprising if there is one, considering most countries’ labyrinths were attacked. Each country’s Underworld Development Institute and its explorers are busy trying to figure out if this was an attack against the surface, or simply collateral damage due to some unknown power struggles of the Underworld.”

Mr. Baek was also making himself busy, excited to finally have an opportunity to be part of the action.

“Who would have known that being a labyrinth master would have come with such a burden? It’s romantic and all to be sharing one’s fate with a labyrinth, but I think it’s best to avoid such cumbersome responsibilities. You chose well in rejecting the offer to be a labyrinth master.”

For someone who had been kicking up a fuss about Kim Jin-Woo not taking the institute’s test not too long ago, Mr. Baek sure changed his tune quickly.

Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but feel disgusted at such wishy-washiness. He shook his head roughly as he shook off the thought of Mr. Baek from his mind.

“Phew.” Kim Jin-Woo sighed as he looked at Lee Jun-Young’s name on his smartphone’s call log.

She was getting treated in a hospital somewhere, and he had the means to find out where she was and pay a visit. But somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to contact her.

Lee Jun-Young had tried to rally resistance against the attacks out of pure loyalty to Kim Jin-Tae. And because she had pushed irrationally for the resistance despite impossibly unfavorable odds, she had lost her reputation among her fellow colleagues.

Knowing that he had ordered the murder of her colleague despite knowing her fierce loyalty to Kim Jin-Tae, Kim Jin-Woo felt he had no right to show his face to her. He felt lost for a moment, but quickly collected himself.

There was no more reason for the two of them to meet ever again. Kim Jin-Woo decided to take solace in the fact that he had saved Lee Jun-Young’s life, and made up his mind to never see her again.

He had almost lost himself to his own emotions. He knew that despite having done his best with the intervention, the ends didn’t justify the means, and not all had turned out for the better.

“Portal.”

He realized that he had made a habit of returning to the Underworld every time he faced a mental block. Even now, his head eerily cleared up the moment he stepped into the portal and breathed in the damp air around him.

This realization only furthered his dilemma regarding his own identity. Did he identify as a Terran, or as an Underworld being?

As he was briefly lost in thought, Dominique and the nagas hurriedly rushed over to him, and his expression lightened once more.

“We’ve connected the Fortress with the Frozen Plains. We’ve observed and tested the gate for the last thirty-six hours, and we have no reported issues.” Dominique had grown even more charismatic since her ascension to the title of King’s Advisor. Kim Jin-Woo nodded.

Despite the invasion incident, the Naga’s Fortress was still upgrading smoothly as planned.

His fifty-six fiefs provided more dungeon energy than what all the Naga Workers could expend in a single day. Thanks to that, even his financial situation had turned for the better.

However, the most important upgrade had hit a brick wall.

“Have you still not managed to find the ingredients?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“We’ve sent in a request to the Black Merchants, but it seems that they too have to source it. I think we’ll still need some time.”

“Urgh. I got excited for nothing,” Kim Jin-Woo grumbled. He had been able to consistently pay for his upgrades with his stockpile of materials, but now, what he had wasn’t enough to upgrade a Level 8 core. There was a lack of down gems, as well as a couple of other miscellaneous materials.

“How the hell are we going to get a Sea Dragon’s Heart from underground?”

There was one Sea Dragon in front of his labyrinth. But he had no idea how to find another Sea Dragon when they were deep underground and extract its heart. It was a ridiculous task, even for Kim Jin-Woo.

But he had no other choice. Just as a thirsty man required water, he desperately needed a Sea Dragon’s Heart. And despite his having checked through all the system messages, all it did was repeat the same message.

“I don’t care how many down gems it takes. Secure a Sea Dragon’s Heart at all costs.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Our rangers are also patrolling the labyrinth for information, so either the Black Merchants or the rangers should return with good news soon. Please don’t worry.”

Kim Jin-Woo sighed at Dominique’s assurance and got up from his throne, asking, “Anyway, how are the Frost Fairy Warriors?”

“To be honest, it was very fortunate of us that we won the war. If we had encountered even half of them, we would never have won that final battle,” Dominique replied.

“That powerful?”

“Quantus himself couldn’t handle five Frost Fairies. Even Ortehaga could barely hold his own against seven of them.”

“Incredible.”

Dominique proudly talked about the four hundred or so troops of the Wind Piercer Army that were once under Boreas’ command, as if showing off the true might of a Deep Floor Noble.

Knowing that his Naga Fighters and Warriors couldn’t even match up to half of the Wind Piercer Army’s powers despite all the upgrades they had received from the beginning, Kim Jin-Woo finally understood the true extent of the Deep Floor Nobles’ powers.

It was only with the combined strength of the Naga Warriors and the Tiger Dragons that they could finally be on par with the Wind Piercer Army.

“As glad as I am that we have such a formidable army now under my command, I can’t celebrate yet, knowing that this is the kind of enemy we’ll be facing on the 10th Floor.”

“Not only that, we’ll have to suffer the penalty of the floor difference in the next battle. I’d say that the most feasible troops we can utilize are those of the Wind Piercer Army.”

Looking back, Kim Jin-Woo realized how easily he had attained his title of ‘Undefeated Commander’.

If he had known that this was the level of the playing field on the 10th Floor, he would most likely have returned Morrigan to Parthenon. That was how powerful the 10th Floor’s enemies were.

“Ah, that reminded me. I still have that summoning stone that Parthenon sent to me as an offer in exchange for Morrigan.”

After obtaining Morrigan, Kim Jin-Woo was so busy being caught up with all the recent happenings that he had totally forgotten about the summoning stone. He searched all over for it, before suddenly letting out a short gasp with a stunned look on his face. “Fuck…”

“Master?”

Kim Jin-Woo’s face turned dead serious as he started running.

“Master, where are you…”

“Research lab!”

Dominique was taken aback at her master’s panicked voice and quickly followed suit.

***

“Hand it over!”

“Kyaaah!”

The Advanced Naga Sorcerers acted dumb as Kim Jin-Woo shouted angrily. They seemed to have gotten addicted to the taste of all the experimentation they had done on the Labyrinth Cores, as all of them avoided his gaze and refused to hand over the summoning stone.

“Hand it over! The summoning stone!”

“Keeergh!”

Kim Jin-Woo repeated his words fiercely before one of the Advanced Naga Sorcerers finally begrudgingly moved forward and handed something over.

“You crazy fucks!”

He had no idea what the Naga Sorcerers had done to the summoning stone, as it had lost all its initial shine and was filled with chips and scratches all over.

“You, you...!”

Kim Jin-Woo was so filled with rage that he was lost for words, and could only angrily point his finger at them as he stuttered. Of all the objects they could have experimented on, they had dared to experiment on a precious Ancient Hero summoning stone.

“Ah…” Dominique belated caught up and let out a gasp at the sight of the dull summoning stone.

“I must have been mad. Of all the things to forget about,” Kim Jin-Woo muttered.

As he held the summoning stone, he noticed that the light that emanated from the fixture in the middle of the research lab was still brightly bouncing off the summoning stone, and he breathed a huge sigh of relief.

He should have retrieved the summoning stone when he retrieved the Labyrinth Cores. But because the summoning stone had been sent by Parthenon, whom he had to indirectly fight against because of Morrigan, its vague ambiguity had caused Kim Jin-Woo to set it aside and forget about it.

“Thankfully, it looks as though it isn’t cracked or damaged in any way,” Dominique commented.

“If there’s anything wrong with this summoning stone, you’re all dead.” Kim Jin-Woo gritted his teeth in anger at the Advanced Naga Sorcerers, who quickly turned away and averted his gaze. The exact same scene had happened when he scolded them for experimenting on the core synthesis of their own accord, and he felt his blood boiling with rage.

Composing himself, Kim Jin-Woo quickly took the summoning stone out of the research lab. Seeing the greedy look on the sorcerers’ faces, he felt that more trouble would brew the longer he stayed at the lab.

“Damn it, it’s not broken, is it?” he wondered. It was a Hero-Grade summoning stone, after all. He would have no idea what was contained within, or what status it had, without using it.

In the case of Morrigan, Anatolius was kind enough to inform him upfront, but that wasn’t the case for this Ancient Hero summoning stone, courtesy of Parthenon.

“Summon Morrigan,” he commanded.

“Shall I summon Quantus and Ortehaga as well?” Dominique seemed uncertain whether they had to prepare for battle should the same scenario as Morrigan’s summoning arise.

“No. Morrigan is enough,” Kim Jin-Woo replied. He was confident that even in such a scenario, Morrigan would match up to the summon.

“Oho, isn’t that an Ancient Hero summoning stone?” Morrigan’s eyes shone at the sight of the summoning stone.

“This was sent over by Parthenon. It was in exchange for you.”

“He sure was generous for someone so greedy.”

“I made sure to give him an appropriate courtesy in return.”

Kim Jin-Woo’s response was merely in the form of bombs he had brought down from the surface, but he was proud of it. After all, Parthenon had even rallied the 10th Floor Nobles to kill him off. There was no need for him to feel apologetic or grateful at this point.

“Urgh. It’s Master that’s truly cunning and vicious. And cowardly.”

“Doesn’t sound like a compliment, and yet, that feels nice.”

Having suffered all kinds of interactions, Kim Jin-Woo was finally starting to understand how foolish it was of him to take all these comments to heart. In fact, he was even proud of Morrigan’s witty sarcasm.

“But that’s why I like you, Master.” Morrigan grinned widely.

Kim Jin-Woo quickly rebutted, “How dare you. Rudely rating your Master like that.”

“It’s just my way of showing affection,” Morrigan shot back.

She hadn’t been like this in the beginning. It seemed her attitude had been influenced by Angela. The proud and hardworking warrior was gone, and now she was a cheeky little crow.

“Urgh. I’m done.” Kim Jin-Woo ceded victory to Morrigan, as he looked at the summoning stone once more. He asked, “Have you seen this particular summoning stone before?”

“Hard to say. I’ve been inside my summoning stone longer than I was outside of it,” Morrigan replied. Based on the amount of accumulated resentment toward her in the Underworld, it was pretty obvious that she had spent a long time inside her summoning stone.

Belatedly realizing this, Kim Jin-Woo changed his question. “Can you handle it?”

It was said that among the ancient heroes, all the useful ones had already been summoned by the Deep Floor Nobles, so the possibility of a proper functional summon coming out of the summoning stone sent by Parthenon was very slim.

In fact, it was highly likely that Parthenon had sent over the most troublesome summon he could think of as payback against his 9th Floor pain-in-the-ass enemy.

“Do you want to know?” Morrigan looked upset that Kim Jin-Woo was questioning her capability. “Find out for yourself.” She seemed to almost be challenging him as she turned to look at the summoning stone.

“Very well. I trust you.” Kim Jin-Woo smirked, and without a moment of hesitation, activated the summoning stone.

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