Chapter 31

Mr. Baek’s information was more legitimate than Kim Jin-Woo had thought. Where on earth did he obtain this information?

Cold sweat ran down Kim Jin-Woo’s spine, but Mr. Baek continued blabbering on. “It seems a few higher-ups are interested in the labyrinth.”

“Interested?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“Yup, though I’m not sure why they would want a dark underground tunnel. To be honest, nobody would enter the underground world if not for the down gems. Also, how many people have lost their lives down there? It’s understandable for people like you and me, who make a living off this business, but I have no idea why the higher-ups would want to be involved.”

Nobody knew whether those wealthy individuals were after something or purely acting out of curiosity.

“Can you go and check the labyrinth out for me? We just need the coordinates of the labyrinth to become rich beyond our wildest imagination,” Mr. Baek said.

“The coordinates?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“That’s right. I’ll pay you 1.5 billion won for its location and another 4 billion won to bring me there. How does that sound? Interested?”

Those were some extremely large numbers, but they didn’t matter to Kim Jin-Woo. All he wanted to know was how this information had spread. However, Mr. Baek had no clue, since he was only a middleman.

“Just tell me whether you’re interested or not. This job is pretty confidential, so my client has requested to limit the number of participants. You’re perfect for this job since you are skilled and work alone, so I decided to gather my courage to ask you.”

“Has the rough location of the labyrinth been revealed?” Kim Jin-Woo asked, but Mr. Baek insisted that Kim Jin-Woo had to decide on whether to take the job first.

“It’ll be troublesome if this mission fails since a lot of people will know about the labyrinth’s existence,” Kim Jin-Woo noted.

“That’s why we have to succeed. Even if we fail, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll support you from behind without any trouble. You can count on me,” Mr. Baek reassured him.

Kim Jin-Woo was skeptical. He knew he would be the first one Mr. Baek would cut ties with the moment something went wrong. However, he had no choice but to accept Mr. Baek’s job offer, as he had to clarify whether the labyrinth in question was his own. 

“Which floor is the labyrinth located on?” Kim Jin-Woo replied after contemplating for a long time.

Mr. Baek bared his yellow teeth and grinned cunningly, answering, “The seventh!”

*** 

Kim Jin-Woo had to think for a long time after returning home.

It was terrible timing to learn about this unattended labyrinth when he was already having a headache from dealing with Anaxtus the basilisk king. However, both matters were too crucial to not care about.

His relationship with Anaxtus would determine the survival of the naga’s labyrinth, whereas the unattended labyrinth could turn the tides of the underground world.

Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but frown at this dilemma. The only saving grace was that checking on the masterless labyrinth wasn’t as urgent as preparing against Anaxtus, who could invade the naga’s labyrinth at any moment.

The underground world may be vast, but we can’t take forever to check on this labyrinth. I’m not sure about the details, but it seems we aren’t the only ones interested in this job.

Kim Jin-Woo recalled Mr. Baek’s words and let out a long sigh. His facial expression changed instantly.

Worrying about the future was never his style. He always preferred to act than to overthink. As such, he swiftly gathered his bag and equipment before heading to the underground world. Then, he began his search for the masterless labyrinth.

There were countless abandoned labyrinths, but he had the ability to sieve through them. Within two weeks, he could profit as much as he had in his first solo expedition. Although he couldn’t find any shards of an abandoned labyrinth this time, he collected more down gems to compensate for it.

Kim Jin-Woo brought the down gems to the naga’s labyrinth. 

[The naga’s labyrinth is upgrading from Level 4 to 5. 348 hours, 32 minutes, and 1 second left until the upgrade is complete.]

The time remaining for the upgrade flashed onto Kim Jin-Woo’s screen the moment he stepped into the labyrinth. There were about two weeks left. Since he had collected sufficient dungeon energy to summon new personnel, his main priority was to develop his labyrinth.

“Let me bring the nagas out this time,” he said.

<I’ll make the preparations,> Dominique replied.

The nagas had become much stronger recently.

Quantus, in particular, had shown an exponential growth rate. He had yet to experience the opportunity to become hero-grade, but he was already on par with the gatekeeper in strength. Kim Jin-Woo planned to create such an opportunity for him.

<Master, I’ve gathered all the nagas at the gate, excluding the few soldiers required for the labyrinth’s defense.>

“Let’s go.” Kim Jin-Woo stood up from his throne.

It was difficult to tell the nagas apart since they all looked the same. There were notable differences between different types, but those of the same type were almost identical.

However, Quantus was different. Not only was he a head taller than his fellow naga warriors, but he was also the most courageous among them all. Therefore, Kim Jin-Woo could identify Quantus without much effort.

“He’s become stronger than I expected.”

<While you were gone, the nagas continued to accumulate combat experience. Furthermore, Quantus joined every battle while the other nagas fought in rotation.>

Dominique must have arranged it that way after having realized that Kim Jin-Woo was eyeing Quantus. Her efforts had paid off, as Quantus had evidently become stronger than the naga gatekeeper.

“Quantus,” Kim Jin-Woo called out.

The naga stepped forward and bowed to Kim Jin-Woo when the latter called his name with great admiration. The other nagas stood behind Quantus and bowed to their master with reverence.

“So in total, we have four naga warriors, and one magician and priest each?” Kim Jin-Woo asked Dominique.

<Yes. This is about 40% of our army, excluding the drakan. So try to be careful, master,> Dominique answered.

Kim Jin-Woo could suddenly visualize the difference in strength between his and Anaxtus’ labyrinth. This was pitiful compared to the 142 basilisks and two hero-grade units Anaxtus led.

“Ortehaga, I’ll leave the labyrinth’s defense to you while I’m away.” 

“Leave it to me. I won’t let anyone inside!” Ortehaga boasted. As usual, the drakan was more prideful than even an underground duke.

“Good. Now lead the way, Rikshasha.”

The under-elf stealthily emerged from the dark and led the way, while Kim Jin-Woo and his nagas trailed behind. They didn’t encounter any creatures for a long time, as the nagas had been regularly patrolling the outskirts of the labyrinth, clearing anything in their path.

It came to a point where Kim Jin-Woo had to ask Rikshasha to track an under-creature.

“I found it.” Rikshasha somehow detected the traces of one such creature relatively quickly. However, there was a catch. She had found the traces of a mega-creature that ruled the vicinity. 

“This is a vicious and brutal creature that has survived all this time between the boundaries of two labyrinths. If you wish, this humble servant of yours shall follow the tracks of this creature,” Rikshasha advised with a concerned expression as Kim Jin-Woo contemplated for a moment.

“How strong is this creature compared to the basilisks?”

“Your humble slave has not the insight to compare the two. However, there must be a reason for the basilisks to have left such a dangerous creature alone in their territory. Do take the necessary precautions, my king.”

Rikshasha had a point. The creature hadn’t moved at all even when the nagas were creating a ruckus in an attempt to clear the outskirts of the labyrinth. It would have shifted its nest if the presence of the nagas had threatened its survival. In other words, the nagas were unable to deal with this gigantic creature.

“Let’s continue.” 

However, Kim Jin-Woo was eager to find the creature, as he was looking for a strong opponent for Quantus. Pitting him against trivial creatures wouldn’t induce any change in him, so Kim Jin-Woo decided to gamble.

Furthermore, he might be able to get a highest-grade down gem, which was rumored to have mystic powers, if he could successfully hunt the creature down.

Kim Jin-Woo was currently on the ninth floor, where few of the strongest and vicious creatures in the underground world lived. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of them possessed a highest-grade down gem.

“I’m not trying to push my luck, but I will subjugate this creature no matter what it takes.”

“As you will, my king.”

Rikshasha objected many times, but she had no choice but to give in to Kim Jin-Woo. Unlike Dominique, who was his trusty advisor, the under-elf was only a mercenary, after all.

That didn’t mean Kim Jin-Woo had completely disregarded Rikshasha’s advice.

“Get your weapons ready! Quantus at the front line! The magician and priest will stay in the center! The rest will support from the rear!” Kim Jin-Woo reorganized the battle formation to prepare against an ambush. His eyes gleamed bright blue. 

“The creature isn’t too far away,” Rikshasha said.

Judging from the huge footprint on the ground, which was as large as Quantus’ head, the creature was at least twice the size of the hell spider. Nobody knew how such a gigantic creature could roam through the narrow underground passages.

“Do you have any idea what this creature is?” Kim Jin-Woo pointed at a footprint, which captured the four razor-sharp claws on the creature’s foot.

Riksahsha shook her head. “I’m not sure, but I believe this creature is on par with Ortehaga in strength.”

“Is that so? I guess we’ll have to take a look to find out.”

Rikshasha had just resumed her navigation when the smell of blood drifted through the air. “Hmm…”

“I smell blood.” Kim Jin-Woo frowned when the under elf pointed at the darkness beyond. Blood was splattered all over the place, and unidentifiable pieces of flesh and bones were strewn on the floor. “This creature isn’t the neatest,” he said with a stone-cold expression.

The extraordinary size of the bones on the floor indicated how vicious and gigantic this predator was. Kim Jin-Woo already had a headache thinking about how to defeat this monster.

“Master, this is your last chance to turn back. Please reconsider.” Rikshasha pleaded with her master, seemingly overwhelmed by the creature’s presence.

Kim Jin-Woo shook his head sternly.  How could he challenge the basilisk king if he couldn’t even subjugate a wandering creature?

He was willing to go the extra mile to find the right stimulus for Quantus. He believed that fighting a strong opponent could be the answer that he was looking for. 

Rikshasha kept her mouth shut from this point onward. She gave occasional gestures to stop or change directions, but didn’t speak otherwise. One just had to observe her anxious expression to tell that her nerves were on edge.

In fact, Kim Jin-Woo and his nagas could also sense instinctively that they had stepped into the creature’s territory. Although the creature had hidden well, it couldn’t mask its insidious aura. Kim Jin-Woo figured that it wasn’t too far away from him.

After walking for a long time, Rikshasha suddenly came to a halt.

“Rikshasha.” Kim Jin-Woo noticed something was off and called out in a subdued tone.

The under elf turned around slowly, saying, “My master.” 

“Rikshasha?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

Rikshasha’s already pale skin had become even paler. She said slowly and with great difficulty, “There’s more than one.” Kim Jin-Woo’s face stiffened when he realized that she was mildly trembling. 

A message appeared at that moment.

[The parasite has sensed danger.]

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