Chapter 40

[The new labyrinth core has been activated. The two cores recognize each other’s presence and have begun to resonate with each other.]

Kim Jin-Woo stared nervously at the altar where the cores had been placed. The big and small cores were sparkling blue and green. He was worried that he might have opened Pandora’s box, but it was too late to cry over spilled milk.

[The two labyrinth cores have finished resonating with each other. They are now completely connected.]

[The existing core of the naga’s labyrinth (Level 5) has become the main core, whereas the new core (Level 7) has become the supplemental core.]

[Due to the difference in level between the two cores, the supplemental core is unable to exert its full power. Its level has been temporarily adjusted from 7 to 5. It will recover its original power once the labyrinth’s level increases.]

[The two cores have increased efficiency. The maximum dungeon energy capacity of the main core has increased from 1,700 to 2,500.]

[The conversion rate of down gems to dungeon energy has increased exponentially. Each down gem will yield more dungeon energy.]

Kim Jin-Woo’s expression changed as he glanced through the endless messages. He grimaced when he realized that the supplemental core’s level had been decreased to 5, but smiled when he received the message notifying him that the efficiency of the two cores had increased.

[The main and supplemental cores have been named ‘Naga’s Heart’ and ‘Basilisk’s Heart’ respectively. The labyrinth has transformed after their synchronization.]

[New personnel can be summoned.]

[New facilities can be constructed.]

Kim Jin-Woo could only let out the breath he had been holding when the two cores had completely settled in.

<Master?> Dominique asked with a nervous expression.

Only the dungeon master knew more than whether the two cores had stabilized completely. Kim JIn-Woo looked at Dominique and replied, “It’s a success.” Dominique was about to squeal in delight when he interfered with a bitter smile. “But it’s not completely successful. More than half of the dungeon energy in the new core has been lost.”

<Ah…> 

Kim Jin-Woo and Dominique couldn’t just celebrate, as the lost dungeon energy almost amounted to a top-grade down gem. However, his eyes opened wide in shock when he checked the list of summonable personnel.

  • Naga Horseman (Level 6) (140)
    • This unit is a new addition to the nagas’ forces. A naga horseman rides on the quickest basilisk it has tamed, and will fight more bravely than anyone else. It can penetrate the enemy’s thick defenses with its spear.
      • The blacksmith’s level is too low. 
  • Colossal Basilisk (Level 7) (1510)
    • This incredibly gigantic creature can carry dozens of nagas effortlessly. With a naga archer, scout, or magician on its back, the colossal basilisk will annihilate enemy forces. However, its use is limited as a large space is required for the creature to move around. Moreover, it requires tons of food to maintain its massive size.
      • The blacksmith’s level is too low.

The colossal basilisk was the same incredible creature that had wreaked havoc in the naga’s labyrinth.

Kim Jin-Woo was tempted to summon this vicious monster, but he was turned off by the enormous amount of dungeon energy required. “This one is useless.” He shook his head.

Although the colossal basilisk was powerful, it was costly and had limited mobility, especially in the narrow passages of the underground world. The naga horseman, on the other hand, seemed like an attractive option.

The addition of naga fighters to the army increased its attacking force, but Kim Jin-Woo had felt as though something was still missing. He knew that the naga horsemen could come in handy in a stalemate when he had to strike first to penetrate the enemy defenses.

However, the naga horsemen were also unavailable. 

Kim Jin-Woo stared at the two labyrinth cores, which contained over two thousand dungeon energy each. “Upgrade the forge and laboratory, and deploy more workers,” he ordered.

With that, more than 40% of the dungeon energy reserve vanished in an instant. His heart ached, but he tried to think of it as an investment for the future. 

<Well then, I’ll excuse myself to oversee the naga workers. They’re hardworking, but nowhere near efficient.> Dominique spoke as she followed the naga workers, who returned to their assigned workplace.

Kim Jin-Woo was sitting alone in the empty master room when he suddenly remembered the Feline, a week after Mr. Baek had informed him about the beastfolk.

“Hmm. I wonder whether she’s still in the pub,” he mumbled, only to realize that Dominique was no longer around. He stood up from the throne and headed to the pub, as he was starting to become bothered by the Feline’s presence.

“Still here, huh?” Kim Jin-Woo grimaced when he saw the Feline prostrate herself on the ground as usual to show her respect for the labyrinth’s master. His sympathy for the trembling creature had grown ever since he had listened to Mr. Baek’s story. “I have one question. Why didn’t you leave the labyrinth?”

He had previously chosen to take the Lycan warrior in due to his prowess. The latter had sworn allegiance to Kim Jin-Woo, but he had also run for dear life when the situation on the battlefield took a turn for the worse.

On the contrary, the Feline hadn’t left the labyrinth, even when it was close to being demolished at any moment. She might have been in the pub the whole time, but she would have been aware of the crisis nonetheless. Kim Jin-Woo could hardly understand her rationale.

“Ah, ah, ah…” the catfolk replied with a grunt.

Kim Jin-Woo was puzzled by her suppressed tone initially, but he could soon grasp the situation. “You can’t talk?” he asked.

The Feline was mute. Looking at how she struggled to grunt in response, Kim Jin-Woo understood why the Feline couldn’t advertise her strengths when she was with the Lycan.

“Tsk.” He tutted unconsciously, causing the Feline to tremble in fear. She seemed extremely worried that she might have offended him. So skinny, he thought.

The Feline had lost a ton of weight since he had last seen her. Not only did the naga’s labyrinth barely have any food that she could eat, but Dominique was also not friendly enough to take care of outsiders. In fact, it was a miracle that the Feline was still alive.

Kim Jin-Woo whipped out a chocolate bar from his pocket[1]. He could empathize with the Feline, as nothing was edible for him in the underground world as well. The Feline stared curiously at the chocolate bar on the floor before picking it up.

Kim Jin-Woo said, “Peel the wrapper off before you eat. It will reduce your hunger by a little.”

Kim Jin-Woo turned around. He sympathized with her situation, but wasn’t keen on accepting another beastfolk after his disappointing experience with the lycan warrior. In addition, the Feline was nothing but a burden until she could prove her worth to him.

It would have been different if they were on the surface, but Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t merely a dungeon baby here. He was a dungeon master with many burdens to shoulder. He didn’t have the luxury to understand and tend to everyone’s needs.

“Damn it.” Kim Jin-Woo cursed as he was about to leave the pub. Then, he turned around and asked the Feline, “Do you have anything you’re good at? If you do, show your skills to the maid that follows me around. You remember her, don’t you? You may find a place in this labyrinth as long as you prove yourself useful.”

He stomped out of the pub for no reason. It was foolish of him to show such compassion in the underground world.

Kim Jin-Woo had an ambiguous expression that was neither a smile nor a grimace, but his face seemed to have lit up.

***

Kim Jin-Woo began to prepare for his expedition once he left the naga’s labyrinth. He could reuse most of his equipment from the previous expedition, but his inventory still lacked a few things.

Most importantly, he lacked a map. He had received one from Lee Jun-Young before, but it only covered up to the sixth floor. Even that wasn’t properly charted, so Kim Jin-Woo could not rely on it for his next expedition, in which he aimed to reach the seventh floor.

“The seventh floor?!” Lee Jun-Young exclaimed in shock before she could even show her delight of seeing each other after so long.

“Yes. I want the most precise map possible. Don’t worry about the payment.”

Kim Jin-Woo had thought of purchasing all the maps covering up to the ninth floor to better manage his labyrinth, but even the sixth floor already had more uncharted areas than charted ones. Furthermore, he wasn’t sure whether a map charting the ninth floor even existed in the first place.

“What are you up to now?!” Lee Jun-Young gasped in shock. 

Kim Jin-Woo sighed. She was startled for a good reason; nobody in South Korea had entered the deep floors alone. And here was Kim Jin-Woo, asking for a map of the seventh—not even the fifth—floor like a lunatic.

“The map is just for reference.”

“This doesn’t make sense… I know you’re a level 12 dungeon baby, but this is just madness.” Lee Jun-Young sounded more concerned than skeptical.

“I’m confident I can get myself out of sticky situations.” Kim Jin-Woo didn’t falter, requesting the map relentlessly.

Lee Jun-Young eventually gave in and sighed, promising him that she would try her best to find a map of the seventh floor. “Are all dungeon babies from the bottom floors like you? Well, I guess that’s not surprising, considering how you guys made it out alive from that abyss,” she mumbled, seemingly having recovered from her shock.

“Money isn’t an issue. If possible, please get me a map of anything beyond the seventh floor,” Kim JIn-Woo reiterated.

“I’ll try, but I’ve never heard of such a map in existence. Maybe the military has one,” Lee Jun-Young replied as she shook her head. Kim Jin-Woo felt apologetic for asking for her help again without doing anything for her.

“You can buy me a meal next time,” Lee Jun-Young said, pouting. Kim Jin-Woo smiled and told her to call him anytime, putting a grin on her face. 

“But really, are you planning to go to the seventh floor alone?” They were chatting peacefully when Lee Jun-Young suddenly asked the same question again. Kim Jin-Woo sighed instead of replying.

“I’ll be going now. I’ll try my best, but don’t get your hopes up. Only a really big team or a high-level dungeon baby would have information about the seventh floor onward.” Lee Jun-Young left, sounding unsure.

However, she was able to get him the map not long after.

“This is…” Kim Jin-Woo began.

“It wasn’t easy to get this map; Chan-Shik had to contact an acquaintance in the military for this. We couldn’t find a map of anything beyond the eighth floor, but at least the seventh floor is pretty well described in this one,” Lee Jun-Young explained.

She was right. Most regions of the seventh floor were precisely charted on this new map. Even the ignorant Kim Jin-Woo could guess how much effort Lee Jun-Young had had to put in to obtain this map. Therefore, he couldn’t help but feel more apologetic than he was thankful.

“No worries. You saved my life before, remember? I’m very close to paying off my debt,” Lee Jun-Young said. She muttered that she would get a nice treat next time, then left.

Kim Jin-Woo stared blankly for a while at where Lee Jun-Young had been standing, before coming to his senses and inspecting the map. “If the labyrinth does exist, it should be around here, huh,” he mumbled as his finger rested on one point on the map.

***

“Phew.” Kim Jin-Woo took a deep breath when he reached the entrance to the seventh floor after passing through the sixth.

It had taken him over two whole weeks to reach this place. Other explorers would be astonished by this incredible speed, but Kim Jin-Woo himself wasn’t too impressed, as he knew that this was only the start of a much more perilous journey. 

He walked up to a crater, which resembled a demon’s mouth that hung wide open. He then began to move toward the entrance to the seventh floor. Even a dungeon baby like him could barely navigate in this overwhelming darkness and pressure. That was how the passage linking the sixth to the seventh floor welcomed him.

“Hup–”

Kim Jin-Woo walked through the pitch-black darkness and stepped into the seventh floor. At that moment, he couldn’t help but breathe in as the strong smell of blood drifted through the air and reached his nostrils.


1. Chocolate is toxic to real cats, but in the story, beastfolk seem to have no such issues.

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