Chapter 109

“Denarion. Others might know me as the Lord of Nightmares.”

The guy, no, Denarion’s laughter was irritatingly similar to Yoon-Hee’s.

“You asshole. No wonder I was having a shitty dream,” Kim Jin-Woo retorted.

If it had been any other day, Kim Jin-Woo wouldn’t have been so crude with his words toward a Deep Floor Noble, but today was not the day.

Whether it was the fault of his dream and the fact that he had been forced to remember his miserable days as a tunnel digger, he wasn’t sure himself. What was clear, however, was that having his subconscious brought forth without his permission left a bad taste in his mouth.

“I do apologize. This is just the nature of my power; there’s nothing I can do about it,” Denarion said with a totally non-apologetic look on his face. Kim Jin-Woo was very close to exploding into a string of expletives, but he played it cool.

“Is this your nightmare? It’s not as bad as I thought,” Denarion said as he appraised Kim Jin-Woo’s dream world, which had shattered at his realization that it was indeed a dream.

“Shut it! You dare to look into other people’s dreams!?” Kim Jin-Woo exclaimed.

“You sure are filled with hatred,” Denarion said indifferently.

Kim Jin-Woo looked at Denarion’s stoic face, and forced a question out through gritted teeth. “Why are you here?”

Kim Jin-Woo had only just managed to collect his thoughts, which had been scrambled heavily as a result of the nightmare. He knew that a Deep Floor Count wouldn’t be visiting him personally without a specific reason.

And as expected, Denarion revealed his reason. “If I tell you I’m here because of my daughter, is that being too straightforward?”

“You’re here because of Yoon-Hee,” Kim Jin-Woo replied. There was no reason for him to hide the fact anymore. And if he wanted to fully wake up from this nightmare, he had to deal with Denarion first.

“My beloved daughter is under your care.”

“And do you expect me to return her to you now?”

Surprisingly, Denarion slowly shook his head. “How could I? After all, she’s already left my reach. I have no intention of playing father now. Of course, if something went wrong with her, that would be a different story, but from the look of things, she seems to be doing pretty well.”

“Then why are you here?”

If Denarion wasn’t here to reclaim custody of her daughter, then Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t figure out what other purpose the count could be here for. He calmed himself down as he waited for the count’s response.

“I’m here to warn you.” The stoic look on Denarion’s face was gone, as he looked dead serious.

“Warn?” Kim Jin-Woo frowned at the ambiguous answer.

“Soon, Parthenon will start making his move.”

Unsure what Denarion meant, Kim Jin-Woo leaned forward as he waited for further elaboration.

“I heard that you gifted him something rather impressive? Thanks to that, he’s gotten feisty,” Denarion continued.

“But if he makes a sudden wrong move, the other counts will pounce on that opportunity, won’t they?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“You seem to know the situation on the 11th Floor pretty well. Did the Iron-Blooded Anatolius tell you this?”

“And what if he did?”

No matter how deep Parthenon's resentment was, as long as the other counts kept him in check, he wouldn’t be able to move freely as he wished.

Perhaps that was why Kim Jin-Woo didn’t feel too much of a sense of crisis even when Denarion said that Parthenon would be making his move. But that was a big misjudgment on Kim Jin-Woo’s part.

“I would like to tell you not to trust Anatolius. This time, not even Anatolius will be able to help you,” Denarion warned.

“Why is that so?”

“I can’t tell you why. But this much I can guarantee you. Anatolius won’t be able to make a move even if Parthenon leaves the doors to his labyrinth wide open. He won’t be able to deploy a single one of his Iron-Blooded Knights.”

Kim Jin-Woo wondered if something had changed in the dynamics of the 11th Floor, as he thought seriously about this revelation.

Needless to say, Parthenon couldn’t be suppressed without Anatolius keeping him in check. And if Parthenon were unleashed and set free to do as he pleased, he would waste no time to punish the arrogant crow and the Naga King.

But that was all there was to it. Due to the inter-floor penalty, Parthenon had no chance at setting foot into the Naga’s Fortress.

“Parthenon’s army would be a piece of cake once they stepped outside the 11th Floor,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.

“Don’t be so cocky.” Denarion narrowed his eyes as he warned Kim Jin-Woo, “The Deep Floor Counts are way more meticulous and cunning than you think.”

It seemed there was a method to avoid the inter-floor penalty. There was no way Denarion would go out of his way to warn Kim Jin-Woo like this should such a loophole not exist.

“I’ll be careful,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

“As long as you understand. Pride and selfishness will only destroy you.”

Was that all he had to say? Kim Jin-Woo wondered, as Denarion’s body started to fade away. Before Denarion left, however, he began, “There’s one thing I want to ask.”

Denarion paused at Kim Jin-Woo’s request.

“Did you send the Undefeated Mercenaries?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

Denarion said nothing. However, the slightly curled corners of his lips were all Kim Jin-Woo needed to get his answer.

Krasto and his mercenaries had definitely been sent by Denarion. He couldn’t understand the reason why, but it would seem that Denarion favored the mercenary.

“Then, I wish you all the best. Until we meet again,” Denarion said.

“Wait!” Kim Jin-Woo caught Denarion as he attempted to leave. He smiled coldly at the count, who looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“Hm?”

Denarion’s eyes suddenly widened as Kim Jin-Woo’s fist slammed into his face.

“You should at least pay for the nightmare, you motherfucker!”

***

Denarion woke up from his sleep as he subconsciously rubbed his face. The last sensation he remembered was the feeling of his face smashing into a million pieces, and it was still fresh in his mind.

“Kargh…” Denarion continued to rub his face as his mouth curled from the pain.

“Hahahahaha!” His soft cackles turned into loud bursts of laughter. Denarion continued to laugh loudly for a long time.

“Yoon-Hee drew a rather good hand.” Denarion finally stopped laughing as he returned to his throne and crossed his legs. He looked deep into the darkness, lost in thought. “My poor, lovely daughter, sadly your fight is not yet over. I sincerely hope that you keep fighting until the end.”

Denarion’s words echoed eerily in the darkness of the abyss.

***

Kim Jin-Woo was in a foul mood the entire day. Thanks to Denarion, the ghosts of his past that he had long put away had now resurfaced once more.

Lee Ji-Seok from the Republic of Korea Army, army officer Jang Ki-Soo, chef Oh Hyun-Il, engineer Lee Ji-Woong, and reporter Jung Yung-Tae.

Those long-forgotten names opened up an old wound in his heart.

“Master?” Without even knowing it, Kim Jin-Woo’s expression had turned dark. Dominique called out to him, worried by the sight.

“Ah, sorry. I just had a bad dream.”

“Did you have a nightmare?” Dominique's eyes were filled with concern.

When Kim Jin-Woo saw the look of pure concern and trust behind her eyes, his heavily sunken heart seemed to lighten a little. He was able to awkwardly laugh it off, thanks to her.

“Dominique,” he began.

“Yes, Master.”

“It looks as though Parthenon is going to make his move.”

He quickly summarized his conversation with Denarion, and Dominique frowned as she listened.

“If Parthenon’s army reaches the 9th Floor while maintaining their full strength, no one will be able to stop them.”

“If it were the main army of the 11th Floor Count, that would definitely be the case,” Dominique said.

Balzark, whom Anatolius considered useless, was in contrast considered one of the strongest in the Naga’s Fortress. With that in mind, anyone could tell that a Count’s army was far superior to the strength of Kim Jin-Woo’s forces on the 9th Floor.

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll lose.” Despite that fact, Dominique hinted at a possible countermeasure. It seemed she had a good suggestion on hand.

“Is there a way?”

“Yes. Please give me some time.”

It was Dominique that was giving the suggestion. There was no way she would suggest something without having put serious thought into it. After all, she had been reborn as the King’s Advisor.

“Just to let you know, once the summoning stones’ production has ended, you may pick out the best summoning stone for yourself, Dominique.”

“Thank you, Master.”

Dominique traveled across the entire 9th Floor and brought back all sorts of creatures. The creatures she gathered were materials for the summoning stones, and given time, the Naga’s Fortress would soon be overflowing with summoning stones.

Those summoning stones would make a huge contribution toward the growth of the Nagas.

“I’ll take my leave for a short while. If there’s any issue, send a message to the Party Hall.” Kim Jin-Woo stood up from his throne and opened a portal in the middle of the empty space before stepping into it.

“My King.” Yoon-Hee, who seemed to have been present in her master room, hurriedly got down from her throne and greeted him.

Kim Jin-Woo naturally sat on her throne and started to talk to her. “I’ve met the Lord of Nightmares.”

“Ah…” The usually stoic Yoon-Hee was caught off guard this time around, as she looked up at him with a surprised expression.

“Perhaps…”

“No. Denarion wasn’t here to take you back.”

Had Yoon-Hee been expecting that? She had a complicated look on her face. Kim Jin-Woo was curious and asked her directly, “Are you having regrets?”

“No way. I’m just shocked.” Yoon-Hee returned to her usual stoic self and replied as she usually did.

“Is that so? But do you think Denarion feels the same?”

“What do you mean…?”

Yoon-Hee had mentioned to him once before that she was Denarion’s most beloved daughter. And having met Denarion in person, he could confirm that statement.

Thanks to that, he could make a vague deduction: There was something Denarion wanted out of Yoon-Hee.

He had no reason to find out what it was, but for some reason, he entertained the possibility that Denarion had intentionally put Yoon-Hee up for auction in the auction house.

“Anatolius would definitely like for the power dynamics in the 11th Floor to shift. And Denarion might be waiting for something to happen as well.”

Yoon-Hee listened but didn’t respond, as she was lost in her own thoughts. Kim Jin-Woo looked on at Yoon-Hee before leaving the Party Hall, but not before having a final word with her. “I’ll give you time to think about it. If anyone can find out what Denarion is thinking, it’s you.”

***

Anatolius had sent a message to Kim Jin-Woo via the Black Merchant.

“So it’s true.” Kim Jin-Woo let out a sigh as he read Anatolius’ message on the parchment.

As Denarion had said, Anatolius informed Kim Jin-Woo that his hands were tied, and that he was no longer able to keep Parthenon in check. He also informed Kim Jin-Woo that Parthenon was gathering his Priests of Despair.

“Will you be alright?” the Black Merchant asked Kim Jin-Woo.

“It seems you know about the ongoing activities on the 11th Floor as well. What’s going on?” Kim Jin-Woo asked just in case, but as expected, the Black Merchant refused to answer. “Is it something I can’t know?” He tried again, but once again, the Black Merchant kept his lips tightly sealed.

“I understand. I received the letter so you may return,” Kim Jin-Woo finally said. With Parthenon’s invasion seemingly imminent, there was no time to waste with the Black Merchant.

He had to summon Uther right away and command him to spread the slime masses across the 10th Floor, and also to quickly work on restoring Boreas’ labyrinth, the Frozen Plains.

After all, the ones to face Parthenon’s army first would be Boreas and his warriors.

“Is there something else you have to say?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

For some reason, the Black Merchant was still hanging around.

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