Chapter 26

#10. Drakanus Ortehaga

Bang!

“Argh!” The dull gunshot sound was followed by a loud shriek. Kim Jin-Woo pulled the trigger again as though nothing had happened. “Stop! Stop!” cried Ortehaga.

Kim Jin-Woo only lowered his gun when he saw Ortehaga’s tears, musing, “Hmm. Seems like a gun isn’t enough.” He was visibly disappointed to find the drakan’s golden scales perfectly unscathed.

“You… you…!” Although Ortehaga didn’t have facial expressions of a human, one could tell that he was furious. However, he had already sworn loyalty to Kim Jin-Woo. The best he could do was beat his chest and swallow his pride.

<This is already commendable. Creatures with weaker armor than the drakan can be injured by these weapons.> Dominique had begun to show interest in human weapons ever since she witnessed the remarkable feat of the nagas in the previous battle. That was only natural, as she was only a naga maid despite her heroine-grade status. These weapons appeared convenient, and thus highly attractive to her.

“But we can’t inflict much damage by just tearing through leather and leaving cuts on the enemy creatures’ flesh. After all, the naga warriors and the gatekeeper were the ones who finished the creatures off in the previous battle,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.

<How about that thing called a ‘bomb’? That seems pretty useful.>

Ortehaga trembled when he heard that word. His body seemed to remember the impact of the bomb that had penetrated through his torn scales. 

“It’s difficult to get hold of them. Also, I have to use explosives judiciously, or else the nearby passageways may collapse.”

The use of guns and explosives in the underground world was pretty limited. Not only could their loud sounds attract nearby creatures and beasts, but explosives could also lead to catastrophic collapses.

Nonetheless, Kim Jin-Woo had no compunctions about using guns. He was different from the ordinary explorers who roamed around the underground world without a place to stay.

Unlike the explorers who had to cross the territories of various beasts and creatures, the nagas could fight on their home ground. Even at this moment, they were patrolling the vicinity and chasing beasts and creatures away. Three months had passed since the revelation of the naga’s labyrinth, but there hadn’t been many unfriendly visitors.

Their biggest issue was the lack of firepower. Unless Kim Jin-Woo obtained a powerful weapon that could subjugate even an elephant, guns wouldn’t be of much use. Furthermore, he didn’t have the connections to obtain such weapons in South Korea.

“We were lucky in the previous fight. The naga magician’s spell played a more critical role in achieving victory than the guns.”

<That’s a shame. The labyrinth would grow exponentially if the nagas learned to use the guns properly.>

Ortehaga shivered when he heard Dominique. She sounded as if she thought it a pity that his scales were still intact.

“How did humans drive the labyrinth masters out in the past?” Kim Jin-Woo asked. There were several records of the war, but the details regarding how the humans had won were shrouded in mystery. Frustrated, he tapped on the butt plate of the shotgun. 

“I-I’ll excuse myself if you’re done.” Ortehaga attempted to escape while Kim Jin-Woo was deep in thought.

However, Kim Jin-Woo had no intention of letting the useful drakan go. “Wait, let me run a few more tests.”

“Argh! I did pledge loyalty, but please treat me with respect! I’m a proud–”

Bang!

Kim Jin-Woo pulled the trigger of his K2 rifle nonchalantly before Ortehaga could finish speaking.

“–descendant of the dragons…”

Bang, bang, bang!

“...Drakanus Ortehaga… Kyaaak! Stop! Please stop!”

Ortehaga was a crybaby despite his immense pride and strength. He was a poor fellow, to be honest. Not only did he lose thirty subordinates and his war chest, but he also had to serve his nemesis now.

However, Kim Jin-Woo didn’t empathize with Ortehaga’s circumstances. Neither was he foolish enough to show hospitality to an intruder, nor sentimental enough to be moved by a forced pledge of loyalty.

He planned to overwork the drakan and use the war chest to upgrade the labyrinth.

“Kyaaak!”

The test only ended when he used up all the bullets in a magazine.

***

Ortehaga might have been a crybaby, but he was indisputably strong. Not only was he blessed with a ridiculously hard body, but he also boasted great power and speed. Had it not been for Kim Jin-Woo’s ‘Weakness Detection’ ability, the drakan could have been the victor.

Ortehaga could thus become one of Kim Jin-Woo’s great assets, unless his ‘reverse scale’[1] got attacked. In addition, there were naga warriors and a gatekeeper to support the drakan in battle.

Kim Jin-Woo could finally leave the labyrinth with some peace of mind, as the drakan could buy him time during emergencies.

Kim Jin-Woo returned to Mr. Baek.

“What urgent matters do you have this time… Tsk.” Mr. Baek saw Kim Jin-Woo and shook his head. He seemed very curious about Kim Jin-Woo’s affairs ever since the latter had suddenly left during the last visit. 

“I apologize for what happened back then. I had urgent matters to attend to.”

“What urgent matters? Hmph, never mind. Not as if you’ll tell me, anyway,” Mr. Baek grumbled.

Kim Jin-Woo replied with silence, but then said, “I came here to finish listening to your story.”

Mr. Baek complained about how Kim Jin-Woo only visited to seek answers to his queries as usual, but he began talking in the end. “The labyrinth of Anaxtus is located on the ninth floor. It was one of the labyrinths discovered by the military scouts during the under-war. There weren’t any significant battles, but there seemed to have been minor clashes near the end of the war.”

Kim Jin-Woo frowned when he heard ‘ninth floor’. He had guessed that the labyrinth was located deep underground, but he had never expected it to be on the ninth floor. “What are they like?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Those basilisks and their king. Are they strong?”  Kim Jin-Woo now had the answer to his question regarding the floor on which his labyrinth was located. So now, he had to learn more about his enemies.

As the saying went, ‘if you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear a hundred battles’.[2] Therefore, Kim Jin-Woo was desperate to obtain some information about his opponents, who could invade the naga’s labyrinth anytime. 

“One thing’s for sure: Guns don’t work. There aren’t any records that describe soldiers shooting the opponents dead.”

“Troublesome bastards, huh.”

“Not really. It seems that the basilisks are ridiculously tough but slow. Records show that the basilisks move as fast as a brisk walking adult. It may be difficult to kill one, but avoiding an encounter wouldn’t be an issue.”

Kim Jin-Woo’s eyes gleamed. He was thrilled to have unearthed the basilisks’ weakness. He still had to ponder on how to take advantage of this information, but he had obtained a piece of useful intel without a doubt.

“What’s the Basilisk King like?” he asked. There was bound to have information about the Basilisk King since his name had already been revealed.

However, even the talkative Mr. Baek declined to elaborate this time, saying, “Well, this is high-quality information.”

“I’ll pay you well,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.

He had a few lowest-grade down gems in his pocket. In addition, his naga workers were diligently collecting the down gems at this very moment, amplifying his wealth every second. In essence, he was able to purchase the information without being in debt to Mr. Baek.

“No, no. I don’t need down gems.” Mr. Baek shook his head when Kim Jin-Woo dug through his pocket. “Just do me a favor.“

Kim Jin-Woo pulled his empty hand out from his pocket and narrowed his eyes at Mr. Baek.

“Since you’re asking me about the labyrinth of Anaxtus, I assume you’re exploring somewhere deep down this time?” Mr. Baek asked. He must have misunderstood, which made things easier for Kim Jin-Woo. He continued, “Tell me when you’ve finalized your schedule. I’ll tell you closer to the date.”

“But I don’t even know what favor you want…”

“I promise it’s nothing difficult. You can listen first and decide whether you feel comfortable doing it. I’m fine with anything.”

Kim Jin-Woo nodded, as he had nothing to lose from this proposal.

“Anaxtus is…”

***

The naga’s labyrinth had become much noisier recently. The naga workers had frequent target practice, which attracted nearby wandering creatures.

Whenever there was a battle, Ortehaga would step forward and shred the enemy creatures into pieces, as if he were venting his anger on them.

Furthermore, the labyrinth’s expansion work was ongoing. Kim Jin-Woo installed surveillance equipment and motion sensors in the passage leading to the labyrinth. Multiple traps had been set to compensate for the weak defenses as well. 

However, Dominique and Kim Jin-Woo’s expressions were still full of concern.

<These are only temporary measures for wandering creatures or beasts.>

“I guess we’ll have to wait for the labyrinth’s upgrade to be complete.”

<You’ll be able to summon nagas that can fight the basilisks once the labyrinth reaches Level 5.>

“Time is the limiting factor. Let’s pray that Anaxtus doesn’t notice us before then.”

They were running out of time again. Although this upgrade was taking longer than any of the previous ones, Kim Jin-Woo’s team would have a breather if they endured for its duration.

However, the underground world wasn’t so kind to him.

Beeep!

The siren linked to the motion sensor blared. It wasn’t very loud, as Kim Jin-Woo had adjusted the volume, but it felt louder than any other sound to him.

“Master!” Rikshasha, who had been patrolling the outskirts of the labyrinth, returned hurriedly to her master. Instead of lying prostrate on the ground, as usual, she exclaimed urgently, “Basilisks! The basilisks are here!”

“Goddamn it!” Kim Jin-Woo swore. Not even a week had passed since the battle with Ortehaga. In addition, he wasn’t done installing the traps. “Call all the naga workers!” he commanded.

“As you wish, master!” Rikshasha disappeared into the dark again. 

Kim Jin-Woo shouted at Dominique, “Who’s guarding the gate?” 

<The gatekeeper, the drakan, and two warriors!>

“Gather the rest and send everyone to the gate! I’ll be going straight there!” Kim Jin-Woo released a sequence of commands. 

Dominique shook her tail busily and slithered out of sight.

The assembly of troops was swift and efficient this time, as it was more systematic. The naga workers aimed their shotguns at the enemy’s front line, while the naga gatekeeper and warriors supported them from behind. Meanwhile, the naga magician and priest were chanting spells.

It was a perfect defense. Kim Jin-Woo felt slightly relieved.

<Master! Look!’>

As he was arranging the naga’s formation, Kim Jin-Woo heard Dominique’s exclamation. He turned around to see the basilisks, which resembled crocodiles that stood half-upright.

“Why are there so few of them?” Kim Jin-Woo, who was prepared to face Anaxtus and his whole army, was bewildered by the small size of the enemy troop. Five meters tall from head to toe, the basilisks were domineering, but there weren’t that many of them considering it was a labyrinth war. The creatures might have been powerful individually, but the naga’s labyrinth wouldn’t fall from merely five of them. 

The basilisks, who were tottering around with their short hind legs and tails, stopped once they discovered the nagas.

<What should we do? Fire?> Dominique asked, with a shotgun in her hand for some reason. She had seemed anxious moments ago, but now she was visibly at ease due to the small number of enemy soldiers.

“Hold on first.” Kim Jin-Woo stopped Dominique and hid behind the naga gatekeeper. He gave a signal to the drakan, who nodded and stepped forward, releasing a mighty roar.

“Kyaaa!” Ortehaga was nothing but a crybaby drakan, but the basilisks who didn’t know his true nature flinched from his overwhelming aura.

“You who claim to be the descendants of the ancient dragon! What brings you to the labyrinth of Drakanus Ortehaga?” he exclaimed. It sounded as though he owned the place. In fact, this was what Kim Jin-Woo had planned.

Ortehaga’s eyes gleamed eagerly. With his raised, brilliant golden scales and the sulphuric fumes that seeped out from his mouth, the drakan appeared as if he were the master of the Naga’s Labyrinth.


1. Dragons are said to have a reversed scale that, if touched, sends them into a rage.

2. From Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’.

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