Chapter 35

#14. The Labyrinth War

The Naga's Labyrinth was ready for battle. All the nagas had gathered at the gate regardless of their role. Furthermore, all the traps had been activated to receive the intruders. However, Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but feel anxious, still.

[Upgrading the labyrinth to Level 5. 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 59 seconds left.] 

He only had to endure two more hours before he could recruit new personnel into his army. These two hours felt like an eternity for him.

Kim Jin-Woo crossed his fingers for the basilisks to arrive late, but time was never on his side.

Boom!

A loud explosion could be heard from afar. It didn’t take a genius to guess who had triggered the trap. The basilisks had finally arrived at the labyrinth’s outskirts!

“Here they come! Prepare for battle!” Kim Jin-Woo yelled.

Although numerous traps had been installed all over the passageways leading to the labyrinth, both Kim Jin-Woo and Dominique didn’t have high hopes. They knew that those traps, made from the little gunpowder and resources they had, couldn’t stop the march of the basilisks.

Sure enough, Kim Jin-Woo could hear the heavy footsteps from afar. The characteristic pungent smell of reptiles spread past the gate and flooded the labyrinth.

“On your mark!” Upon Kim Jin-Woo’s command, the naga workers immediately whipped out and raised their shotguns. They were more proficient than before thanks to consistent practice. “Stand back, Dominique,” Kim Jin-Woo cautioned.

<I can fight too!> Dominique exclaimed as she shook her head, having positioned herself in the middle of the naga workers with her shotgun. <I’m fated to vanish if the Naga's Labyrinth falls. I would rather fight than sit down and wait for my demise.>

In fact, Kim Jin-Woo was in the same circumstance. His life would also be in danger if the labyrinth’s core were to be destroyed. Therefore, he had no choice but to fight with all his might.

Kim Jin-Woo gave up trying to persuade Dominique and turned to face Ortehaga and Quantus.

“My king. None of those cunning basilisks shall pass,” Quantus promised as he beat his chest.

“Hmph! I can scare those bastards away with my aura alone!” Ortehaga said, prideful as ever.

“I hope so.” Kim Jin-Woo smiled, as their nonchalant attitude calmed him down a little. However, his expression soon stiffened when the marching sounds of the basilisks drew closer and closer.

Toot! Tooot!

Trumpets blared from afar, followed by the roll of drums.

“Huff, puff.”

Kim Jin-Woo could hear the heavy breaths of the nagas. Even the courageous naga warriors seemed nervous.

Toooooot! 

The trumpets blared longer this time, and the footsteps and drumbeats grew louder and louder.

“Hoo-ah!” Quantus howled to boost the spirits of his comrades, who responded by slamming their shields on the ground while breathing out loudly. However, that wasn’t enough to overcome the intimidating sounds of the trumpets and drumbeats.

Kim Jin-Woo bit his lips tightly. He ordered, “Just deal with the basilisks! I’ll destroy the Basilisk King myself!” 

Since he knew what Anaxtus’ weakness was, he could turn the tables if the drakan and nagas could take care of the rest of the basilisks. Thus, he continued to encourage the nagas again and again.

[The dungeon master’s participation in battle is a great honor for the nagas. The fighting spirit of the nagas has increased thanks to the master’s battle cry.]

[The nagas have become temporarily desensitized to fear. They will fight more ferociously than any other creatures in the underground world.]

Kim Jin-Woo was delighted by the unexpected message. This gave him some room to breathe. However, the basilisks emerged from the dark at that very moment.

The basilisks in the recon troop carried a starkly different air compared to those he had previously encountered. They were smaller in size, but they appeared more agile with their long legs and sharper tails. The only similarities were their pointy, crocodile-like snouts and densely arranged, razor-sharp teeth.

Toot! Toot! Tooot!

The intervals between the trumpet blares and drumrolls had shortened substantially. The basilisks noticed the nagas at the gate, but they continued to march forward. The creatures couldn’t look any more majestic. Their footsteps began to quicken until the sounds of the trumpets and the drums stopped suddenly.

“Fire!” At that moment, Kim Jin-Woo shouted at his naga workers. 

Bang, bang, bang!

Along with a series of ear-piercing gunshots, the pungent smell of gunpowder inundated the air.

[A battle against Anaxtus’ recon troop has begun!]

[This is the Naga's Labyrinth’s first labyrinth war. A handsome reward awaits the winner, whereas a heavy penalty awaits the loser. Wishing you the best of luck.]

A red message appeared and blinked profusely as if to warn him of the urgency of the situation. With that, the battle between the nagas and the basilisks had finally begun.

***

“Fire again!” At Kim Jin-Woo’s command, the naga workers used up the last bullets in their magazines and stepped back.

“Quantus! Ortehaga!”

“Aye, my king!”

“Leave it to me!”

Quantus and Ortehaga each led a troop of nagas and charged at their opponents.

The basilisks were completely unscathed despite having been shot hundreds of times. As expected, human weapons had little effect on creatures of the underground world; the last battle was an exception.

Kyaaak!

The basilisks roared viciously. They moved slower than an average adult male, but they charged with intense vigor. Two hero-grade basilisks with swollen red and blue crests, in particular, caught Kim Jin-Woo’s attention. He yelled, “Quantus! Ortehaga! Handle the hero-grade basilisks!”

As they had discussed beforehand, Quantus and Ortehaga dashed towards their opponents even before Kim Jin-Woo could finish his sentence.

The impatient Ortehaga began his fight first. Ortehaga relied on his robust physique to cling onto the blue-crested basilisk. Then, he smashed his fist into its long snout.

Kyaaak!

The basilisk shrieked and stumbled back in agony, causing the basilisks behind him to fall like dominoes.

“You mongrels! Shame on you all for calling yourselves the descendants of dragons. That’s what you get for being so cocky!” he shouted proudly upon successfully landing his attack. However, the ignorant drakan seemed to have forgotten he was standing in the middle of a battlefield.

The red-crested basilisk, whom Quantus had been assigned to deal with, smacked Ortehaga’s head with its massive tail.

“Argh!” Ortehaga reeled under the blow and screamed in pain. Kim Jin-Woo sighed as he observed the foolish creature frantically shake his head.

However, the fit and strong drakan soon recovered from the shock and charged viciously at the perpetrator, while Quantus and the naga warriors supported him from behind.

“Quantus is losing while Ortehaga’s winning, huh,” Kim Jin-Woo mused.

Only a select few could swing their knives in this narrow passageway, but the battle was already bloody and brutal. Blood splattered and pieces of flesh flew. The roars of the basilisks and the nagas resounded in the narrow passageway.

“Kyaaak!” Quantus was covered in blood not long after he challenged the hero-grade basilisk. The enemy was too powerful for a newly-appointed hero-grade naga warrior to defeat, but he refused to take a single step back to keep his promise to his master.

In fact, Ortehaga was the one who backed away from his opponent, concerned about exposing his reverse scale to his enemy. Consequently, Quantus had to fight the two basilisks alone.

“That idiot!” It took a while for Kim Jin-Woo to notice this change. Not only had it been very subtle and gradual, but his vision had also been clouded by the crowd of nagas and basilisks squeezing through the narrow hallway. Unfortunately, he had realized it too late, as Quantus was receiving slashes from all directions by the ring of basilisks surrounding him.

“Argh! Let go!” When Ortehaga realized his blunder, he tried to push the blue-crested basilisk with all his might, but the creature blocked him effortlessly.

Kim Jin-Woo had no choice but to step in. He didn’t wish to waste his energy before meeting Anaxtus, but he had to rescue Quantus for his future fights. His eyes gleamed blue as he leaped off the shoulders of the nagas and pounced over the basilisks, calling out, “Quantus!”

“My king!” Quantus, who had lost one of his ears and was drenched in blood, replied after fending off the basilisks.

“I’ll take care of this place. Stand back!” Kim Jin-Woo commanded. He didn’t need to hear a reply. Without hesitation, he dashed toward the red-crested basilisk that was tenaciously biting Quantus.

At that moment, Kim Jin-Woo’s special ability, ‘Weakness Detection’, was activated.

“Hai-yah!” he cried. It wasn’t difficult to find the basilisk’s vital spot under its chin, as he had been well-advised by the black merchant. However, it was absurdly small, about the size of a pinky fingernail. Kim Jin-Woo struggled to land his knife on target, especially when the basilisk swung its jaw around to parry the weapon with its tough scales.

“Shit!” he swore. His attacks might have failed, but that didn’t demoralize him. Kim Jin-Woo had never expected to defeat the hero-grade basilisk that effortlessly to begin with. He swiftly leaped back when he saw Quantus withdraw from the battlefield.

“It’s my fault!” Quantus exclaimed in frustration as the naga priest attended to his wounds.

Kim Jin-Woo shook his head. It wasn’t the naga warrior’s fault; he had fought to the best of his abilities against a stronger opponent. The cowardly Ortehaga was instead to blame for this situation.

“Bastards!” Kim Jin-Woo swore, as meanwhile, the situation on the battlefield began to worsen for him. His frontline troop was getting pushed back. Furthermore, the two hero-grade basilisks teamed up to attack the drakan, who no longer had support from Quantus. As a result, the nagas had to retreat despite the initially even fight. “Damn it,” he muttered.

<Master, I think we should lure the basilisks into the labyrinth and fight them there instead!> Dominique, who was on standby at the rear, exclaimed.

Kim Jin-Woo nodded and ordered, “Retreat!”

It was frustrating to let the recon troop of Anaxtus into his labyrinth, but he knew he had a better chance of winning the battle that way. Inside the labyrinth, Kim Jin-Woo was no ordinary dungeon baby, but rather a dungeon master.

***

[Dungeon Master Kim Jin-Woo’s abilities are reinforced. You will not lose to most opponents as long as you remain within the vicinity of the labyrinth’s core.]

[Dungeon Master Kim Jin-Woo’s stamina, agility, and strength are increased by 40%.]

[The ability of the Naga's Labyrinth (Level 4), ‘Rapid Regeneration’, has been activated. Most wounds will heal naturally.]

Kim Jin-Woo had been aware that his power could be amplified in the labyrinth, but he hadn’t known much about it. His stats had increased significantly, likely because he was in the midst of a battle. He stepped forward with a huge surge of energy running through his body.

“We should have fought in the labyrinth from the start,” he said. However, it was a risky move, as the labyrinth’s core wasn’t too far away from the gate. He couldn’t afford to retreat any further.

Toot! 

The slow-moving basilisks regrouped and began to march again. Although they were members of a recon troop, they seemed eager to capture the labyrinth in an instant without awaiting orders from the main force.

“They’re underestimating us,” Kim Jin-Woo muttered bitterly as he grabbed his knife.

[Upgrading the labyrinth to Level 5. 01 hour(s), 01 minute(s), and 38 seconds left.]

He only had to wait for an hour before he could fight at full capacity.

“Come at me!” Kim Jin-Woo lowered his posture as he faced the shrieking basilisks.

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