Chapter 22

Dominique took a naga warrior and a naga archer with her to follow Rikshasha.

Meanwhile, Kim Jin-Woo had to stay in the labyrinth for almost a week. He couldn’t afford to vacate his labyrinth when he had a neighbor next door. He grew incredibly restless.

He had done everything he could to grow the labyrinth. He didn’t regret his decisions back then; at the very least, he had tried his best. But in retrospect, he had been too complacent.

Kim Jin-Woo had to accomplish the impossible, rather than just doing what he could. It had been imprudent of him to assume that he alone could escape the law of the jungle. Still, he was a tough man who didn’t dwell on past mistakes. While he waited for Dominique and the other nagas to return, he found work to do.

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (11/30)]

[Immature Down Gem (3/20)]

[Immature Down Gem (2/13)]

[Broken Down Gem Fragment (1/5)] 

Kim Jin-Woo started with disposing of the labyrinth shards and down gems that had been found by the parasite. He threw them onto the altar and waited for them to be converted to Dungeon Energy. His eyes widened when he saw that the shard didn’t vanish no matter how long he waited, while the down gems were successfully converted to 6 Dungeon Energy in total.

A series of strange messages appeared.

[Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth - This stone fragment was once part of a mighty labyrinth, but it is now comparable to an average down gem due to a long period of neglect. However, new possibilities have opened in the hands of Master Kim Jin-Woo.]

[Collect all the shards of the labyrinth. Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth (1/17)]

[The shard will be destroyed upon extraction of dungeon energy. Do you still wish to proceed?]

[(Y) Obtain 11 dungeon energy. (N) Shard of the Abandoned Labyrinth remains intact.] 

Kim JIn-Woo had no idea what these messages meant. He was stunned, as summoning new personnel had been the only priority on his mind.

The message window continued to blink as though pressuring Kim Jin-Woo to choose immediately, but he had no choice but to defer his selection due to the lack of information.

He swiped away the message window and scanned through the list of summonable personnel.

***

  • Naga Priest (Low-Class) (17)
    • It worships the primal snake. Being both a sage of the underground world and a doctor, it can heal injured nagas.
  • Naga Gatekeeper (25)
    • This mighty gatekeeper is a reliable warrior. Stronger and more perseverant than any other nagas, it will not let anyone in without your permission.

New personnel had been added to the list after the labyrinth’s upgrade.

Kim Jin-Woo needed the naga gatekeeper more than anything. However, he had to expend a huge amount of dungeon energy to summon it. In the end, he checked the remaining dungeon energy in his possession and summoned one naga gatekeeper and ten naga soldiers. This used up all of his remaining dungeon energy, but it was worth it.

The ten lined-up naga soldiers looked extremely reliable. However, the naga gatekeeper stood out from the rest of the bunch. A naga warrior was a head taller than a naga soldier, but even it paled in comparison to a naga gatekeeper.

Almost three meters tall, the naga gatekeeper had broad shoulders befitting its height. It also held a halberd and a huge shield, which made it appear extremely intimidating.

“Hah!” The naga gatekeeper rammed its spear into the ground with a piercing screech. It then left the master room, swinging its thick tail in the air. It seemed to instinctively head towards the gate even without any orders.

“You and you, guard this storage. The rest of you, go to the entrance.” Kim Jin-Woo felt relieved after assigning roles to the naga soldiers, who had been staring blankly at him. It felt as though he had reinforced his military strength. Although he still couldn’t afford to grow complacent, he had done all he could at the moment.

Rikshasha and Dominique returned within a day. The latter was in a rare disheveled state, indicating that the journey had been rough. However, she didn’t care about her dusty appearance and immediately reported to Kim Jin-Woo. <That under-elf was right. There was another labyrinth nearby, about four days on foot.>

Kim Jin-Woo cursed. He had prayed for good news, but Rikshasha had been right in the end. “How is it compared to our labyrinth?” he asked.

Dominique stared at Rikshasha with her lips tightly sealed. Kim Jin-Woo sensed her blatant distrust and contemplated for a while before sending Rikshasha out of the master room, saying, “Well done. Have a good rest.”

“I’m glad that I could be of use to my master.” Rikshasha greeted him without any sign of disappointment and disappeared.

Dominique confirmed that the under-elf was out of sight and began to elaborate with a stern expression. <There were guards on patrol, so we couldn’t go near the labyrinth. However, we could tell at one glance that their labyrinth is stronger than ours. We have to strengthen our defenses immediately.>

“I summoned one naga gatekeeper and ten naga soldiers while you were gone. Shouldn’t that be enough?”

<I’ve already included them in my calculations. Besides, we weren’t even able to fathom the military strength within the labyrinth.>

There was just one dilemma after another. It was outrageous; whenever Kim Jin-Woo managed to solve a problem, he was faced with yet another, more difficult problem.

However, Dominique had more bad news to share. She had witnessed hero-grade personnel guarding the enemy’s labyrinth.

“This is ridiculous,” Kim Jin-Woo said. His labyrinth already had difficulties dealing with an average troop, not to mention hero-grade personnel specialized in battle. They would be different from Dominique, who was a naga maid by default despite her heroine-grade status.

<The only saving grace is that the enemy is yet unaware of our existence. We have some time to prepare ourselves.>

That gave Kim Jin-Woo some room to breathe. But erring on the side of caution, he asked Dominique why the enemy wouldn’t know about the existence of the naga’s labyrinth.

Dominique replied firmly, <If the enemy knew about our labyrinth, it would never have left us alone. It would have attacked us long ago.>

She was right, but now wasn’t the time to marvel at her insight. They had to strengthen the labyrinth’s defenses as soon as possible.

“Let’s prioritize finding down gems for now—” Kim Jin-Woo spoke as he recalled the lowest-grade down gems that his naga workers had been ferrying. He then paused for a moment.

<Master?> Dominique asked.

“Where is the workplace?” Kim Jin-Woo asked in response. Dominique left the questions for later and led him to the mine where the naga workers worked.

Kim Jin-Woo came to a halt and called out, “Dominique.”

<Yes?> Dominique replied.

“I’m an idiot,” Kim Jin-Woo continued. Dominique gave him a wide-eyed stare as he said, “I wasn’t thinking at all.”

<Master?> Surprised by her master’s sudden self-criticism, Dominique tilted her head to one side in confusion.

It was because Kim Jin-Woo was grinning from ear to ear despite his self-deprecating words. Instead of explaining himself to Dominique, he scanned through the workplace and began to laugh.

<Master…?> Dominique asked with a worried expression.

But Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t stop laughing. How could he stay calm after looking at the dazzling green light that emanated from every surface?

[The parasite has detected something invisible.]

[The parasite’s ability ‘Detection’ has been activated.]

[Something has been caught on the parasite’s radar.]

[The parasite has noticed something peculiar.]

[The parasite is…]

A flood of messages filled his vision. 

***

[You have given lowest-grade down gems to the altar as tribute. They are small and of poor quality, but there are enough of them to generate a substantial amount of dungeon energy.]

[55 dungeon energy has been accumulated in total.]

Kim Jin-Woo was delighted at the messages. He had instantly replenished the dungeon energy, which he had previously depleted to summon the naga gatekeeper.

“Summon!” He sat on the naga’s throne and summoned new members of his army.

However, Dominique advised that this was still far from enough. <The quality of manpower is more crucial than the absolute number, but we’re out of options at the moment. I guess there’s no choice.>

“Is there any other method?”

<If we had ample time, we could have upgraded the labyrinth or recruited mercenaries. God knows when the mercenaries would arrive.> Dominique also told Kim Jin-Woo that the naga’s labyrinth was too new to have many visitors who could come to their aid. 

Kim Jin-Woo’s woes increased. He had no choice but to exploit the parasite’s detection ability to the fullest to scrape out all the down gems he could find in the region. 

However, even these down gems were too poor quality to be of good use. Furthermore, the labyrinth needed an urgent upgrade to accommodate more personnel, as it was already reaching its maximum capacity.

“We have to find a solution.” Kim Jin-Woo was more anxious than anyone else. He shared his fate with the core of the labyrinth, after all.

Just then, the labyrinth had a visitor.

“Oh! How do you like the parasite? As I said before, it is a rare item that even we, the black merchants, have a limited quantity of…” The black merchant squirmed ridiculously and made a great fuss.

“You don’t seem too happy to have me here.” He looked overly upset at Kim Jin-Woo, who was staring at him without any greeting.

Although Kim Jin-Woo had had a decent trade with the black merchant, the latter’s presence made the former considerably uncomfortable. He didn’t wish to talk to the black merchant for long. As such, he went straight to the point and asked why the black merchant was here.

The black merchant complained about Kim Jin-Woo’s impatience, but began to discuss matters. “Do you happen to be in a predicament, by any chance?”

“What?” Kim Jin-Woo was puzzled by the absurd question. Where did he get this information from?

The black merchant had a cunning grin on his face. “It always requires much work to develop a new labyrinth. You have to upgrade it, expand your troops, drive out nasty creatures, et cetera. Woah, thinking about it already makes me sweat. Even if you handed the labyrinth over, I would never take it. It’s better to be a wanderer. Don’t you have many matters to attend to and countless enemies that are after your throne?”

The black merchant blabbered on, as if he were performing a play. Suddenly, though, he put on a serious expression. “In essence, we, the black merchants, empathize with your distress,” he rattled on like a cheap salesman.

Kim Jin-Woo snapped out of his daze and asked, “Empathize with my distress?” 

“That’s right.” The black merchant narrowed his huge eyes cunningly and inquired, “Don’t you need something desperately?”

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