Chapter 33

The Naga's Labyrinth prepared for war after the battle against the Blood Leopard.

Kim Jin-Woo’s army was much stronger now. Not only had Quantus, the naga magician, and the naga priest evolved, but the rest of the naga warriors had also become elite fighters.

Furthermore, various traps had been laid all around the labyrinth to resist an attack from the basilisks.

“It’s still not enough.” Kim Jin-Woo felt uneasy nonetheless.

If the Naga's Labyrinth could develop so much over the past half year since he had first ascended to the throne, he couldn’t even fathom how advanced the labyrinth of Anaxtus would be.

Kim Jin-Woo anxiously checked the remaining time to the labyrinth’s upgrade many times during the day.

[The Naga's Labyrinth is upgrading from Level 4 to 5. 122 hours, 14 minutes, and 59 seconds left until the upgrade is complete.

He would feel much more at ease after these five days. However, he couldn’t guarantee that Anaxtus wouldn’t make a move during this vulnerable period.

“There’s been some commotion in the labyrinth of Anaxtus recently. It’s suspicious how some basilisks are frequently going back and forth along the outskirts of the labyrinth,” Rikshasha reported, signaling that a war was brewing.

Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t rely on Ortehaga’s acting anymore, since the cautious Basilisk King seemed to have decided to start a war.

They were heavily outnumbered, but they couldn’t afford to lose. The only saving grace was that there had been many visitors in the Naga's Labyrinth ever since the battle against the Blood Leopards.

<Master, the pub…>

As usual, the labyrinth had visitors.

Kim Jin-Woo got up and asked Dominique before she could complete her sentence, “Who is it this time? Anyone useful?” 

<That seems to be the case, but I’m no expert in combat. It would be better if you saw them for yourself, master.>

Dominique was knowledgeable, but even she couldn’t recognize all the creatures in the underground world. Therefore, Kim Jin-Woo had to go down personally whenever they had a visitor.

“I just hope it’s not anyone crappy this time,” Kim Jin-Woo said. He didn’t have high hopes, as he had already encountered many pretentious mercenaries. 

<Well, they looked rather promising.>

“I’ll look forward to it then. Rikshasha, follow me if you’re free. Since you’ve wandered around in the underground world fora long time, you may be able to recognize them.”

Rikshasha nodded and followed him. Dominique looked a little upset, but she didn’t question her master, as the under-elf had already been granted permission to enter the master room.

The pub wasn’t too far away from the master room. When Kim Jin-Woo opened the door, he came across strange beings that were neither human nor beast.

The male was half-human and half-lupine, while the female was half-human and half-feline. The couple bent down and bowed to Kim Jin-Woo. 

“Master, these are beastfolk,” Rikshasha identified the beings and whispered to Kim Jin-Woo.

“Ah. Will they be of any help?”

“The Lycan could be useful, but the Feline is completely useless.” 

Kim Jin-Woo was taken aback by her brutal remark, but his face lit up upon hearing that the Lycan had potential. “Does that mean we’ve found a talent?” he asked.

“I’m Inu, from the Lycan Tribe. I’ll be your faithful servant if you take me in.” The lycan slowly crawled toward Kim Jin-Woo’s feet, having listened in to their conversation. 

“Alright. Dominique, bring him to Quantus to test his strength. Settle his payment while you’re at it.” Kim Jin-Woo willingly accepted the lycan. He couldn’t afford to be picky when he was short on manpower.

The lycan vowed to devote his heart and soul multiple times before disappearing with Dominique.

“Hmm…” Kim Jin-Woo rubbed his chin as he observed the Feline, who had remained motionless on the ground throughout the entire conversation.

“Felines are terrible fighters,” Rikshasha advised.

Kim Jin-Woo inspected the Feline for a moment. Indeed, her slim and slender physique didn’t appear to be suitable for combat. He wondered how she could have survived all this time in the perilous underground world.

“The only thing they’re good at is pleasing their masters. They’ll lie next to their masters’ feet and purr.”

Kim Jin-Woo decided to follow Rikshasha’s advice and not take the Feline in. He was about to step out of the pub when she raised her head. 

Unlike Inu, who had the face of a wolf, the Feline resembled a human woman except for the pair of large feline ears. She began to mumble, but eventually lowered her head once again. Kim Jin-Woo hesitated for a long time, before leaving the pub as her pitiful gaze lingered in his mind.

“It would be great if the Black Merchant visited again,” Kim Jin-Woo grumbled. Inu was the only talent he had been able to recruit from the many visitors thus far. He’d had to chase the Black Merchant away last time, as he hadn’t had enough down gems to pay, but now he was richer than ever.

“My king, the Black Merchant has arrived.” Quantus, who had been guarding the gate, ran to his master to report the Black Merchant’s visit.

Speak of the devil...

Kim Jin-Woo was a little surprised by the Black Merchant’s perfectly timed visit, but proceeded to the gate. 

“How have you been? The labyrinth has changed so much, I almost couldn’t recognize it.” Although they hadn’t had a pleasant encounter previously, the Black Merchant was as easygoing as he had been on his first visit.

“What are you selling this time?” Kim Jin-Woo controlled his urge to rummage through the Black Merchant’s bag. He didn’t want to appear desperate for the latter’s assistance.

“Ah, I’m not here to sell items this time. Of course, I can get some ready if you wish to purchase them, but I came to sell something else.” The Black Merchant was seemingly talking nonsense. Kim Jin-Woo frowned, while the merchant grinned cunningly back at him. “I came here to sell information.”

“Information?” Kim Jin-Woo was puzzled.

“Don’t you need information about the Basilisk King Anaxtus?” the merchant asked.

Kim Jin-Woo raised his guard as soon as he heard the Black Merchant’s proposal. He didn’t know when this big mouth would go to Anaxtus to give him the same offer.

With the war just around the corner, however, Kim Jin-Woo was out of options. Since he was already disadvantaged in strength, the best he could do was obtain information about his opponent.

“What do you want in return?”

“Information for information.”

“Are you going to sell our information to the Basilisk King too?” Kim Jin-Woo narrowed his eyes and glared at the Black Merchant.

The merchant jumped in fright and shook his head vigorously. “No way! We, the Black Merchants, would never resort to such lowly trickery. Moreover, Anaxtus is a terrible customer. What would I do that for?”

Kim Jin-Woo continued to give the Black Merchant a skeptical look. Anyone could say that, after all.

The Black Merchant sighed and elaborated on his statement. “I’m not sure what your source of information is, but we aren’t that superficial. We may travel through the underground world selling items, but we’re ultimately honorable businessmen with good work ethics.” He glared at Dominique for a second before going back to his main point. “I promise to not ask for your labyrinth’s information in return for the information about Anaxtus.”

At this point, Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but accept the Black Merchant’s offer. He nodded cautiously at the merchant. “Very well. I’ll give you the information.”

The Black Merchant rummaged through his belongings and fished out a document. Dominique swiftly slithered over and snatched the document from his hand. She briskly scanned through the document but soon gasped in horror. The Black Merchant grinned cunningly.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Kim Jin-Woo’s eye twitched with shock.

<N-Nothing. Just something a little surprising.>

“Is that so? I guess whatever’s written there isn’t something stupid.”

<Yes. The information about Anaxtus is indeed written in the document, though I’m unable to verify its credibility.>

The Black Merchant interrupted their conversation. “Well then, are you ready to pay the price for the information?”

Kim Jin-Woo nodded while he stared at Dominique, who couldn’t take her eyes off the document. He gestured for Quantus and Rikshasha to stay still when the Black Merchant approached him.

“What I want in return is…” The Black Merchant whispered into Kim Jin-Woo’s ears. “.. information about the human world.”

***

Kim Jin-Woo was immersed in thought after the Black Merchant left the labyrinth.

As long as you continue to supply us with information about the human world above the ground, we, the Black Merchants, are willing to continue sharing information about Anaxtus.

Strangely enough, the Black Merchant had asked for the most mundane information, such as the weather and trends nowadays.

Kim Jin-Woo had thus obtained information about the Basilisk King rather effortlessly, but he couldn’t help but feel uneasy about it. He even wondered whether the Black Merchant was planning to invade the human world again.

However, the information the merchant had asked for was too trivial for him to learn about human civilization. Besides, war wouldn’t occur so easily, since the underground world had already been defeated by humanity before.

<Don’t worry too much. Maybe the Black Merchant is planning to expand his trading network to the surface. The items that you bring from above are special in the underground world, after all,> Dominique reassured her master.

She had a point. Kim Jin-Woo stopped trying to deduce the Black Merchant’s intent and looked up.

<Do you want me to read out the information about the Basilisk King?>

Kim Jin-Woo finally snapped out of his thoughts. He recalled that his first priority had been to save his labyrinth using the information from the Black Merchant.

<The Basilisk King’s weakness is…>

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