Chapter 72

“How dare you!”

As the transformation ended, a female warrior wearing a full black suit of armor emerged, as if darkness itself had manifested. Her helmet had a sharp beak protruding from atop it, and the pair of red eyes beneath it carried a piercing gaze.

“You dare to insult the sacred contract!” The roar that came with her transformation was totally different from when she had first appeared.

And it wasn’t just her looks that had changed. The dark energy behind her armor spread out like the wings of a crow, carrying an ominous and insidious air.

If one were to imagine what the Grim Reaper looked like, this would be it.

She bared her nasty teeth towards Kim Jin-Woo and snarled, “It’d be fucking stupid of me to simply teach you a lesson and let you walk free.” She lashed out with a sigh.

As the saying went, there would always be someone better than oneself. After considering all that had happened, Kim Jin-Woo realized that he had been played by Anatolius. Whether he liked it or not, he couldn’t escape Anatolius’ test.

“Fucking Anatolius. He’s got me bad this time.” He grinded his teeth at the thought of Anatolius, who might be somewhere out there celebrating his plight.

“I’ve never seen a warrior as shameless as you!” Morrigan exclaimed.

“Can’t help it. I’m not a warrior,” Kim Jin-Woo shot back.

The whole situation was already uncomfortable, and Morrigan’s demeanor was getting on his nerves.

A bright red light flared from Morrigan's eyes as she exclaimed, annoyed, “If you’re not a warrior, you aren’t even worthy of this test!”

“So you’ll just head back?” Kim Jin-Woo continued to arrogantly provoke her, but his eyes and posture indicated he was prepared to fight. That was because it wasn’t simple mockery. He could, in fact, feel her tremendous power.

“Just for today, then. I’ll personally serve… as the messenger of Death!” The moment those words left Morrigan’s lips, she disappeared with the flap of her wings. Kim Jin-Woo tensed up as dark energy fell onto the ground like feathers.

Swish!

It was as if darkness had fallen over his eyes, and without a moment of hesitation, he kicked the ground and pushed his body aside.

A beam of light crashed onto the exact spot he had been in just moments before. The ground itself exploded, and the flapping sounds could be heard once more.

Again, Morrigan's red eyes appeared. In a frenzy, black feathers scattered with a rustling sound, and blinding light flashed around her.

It felt as if the whole world were covered in black feathers. The sound of wings flapping could be heard constantly from every direction.

Flap flap!

As the sound of flapping wings started to drown him out, Kim Jin-Woo started losing his mind. His limbs, which he had been using to avoid and block Morrigan’s invisible attacks, started to feel limp and powerless.

“You’re so troublesome,” he muttered.

Morrigan was indeed swift and powerful. If this was how much trouble she gave them despite the multiple dungeon owner buffs, meeting her outside of the dungeon would have been unimaginable.

It was a rude wake-up call for someone who had once thought he could face even Iron-Blooded Anatolius, as long as it was in his own labyrinth. But Kim Jin-Woo knew he had yet to see everything, and with that, blue streams of light started to flow from his eyes.

[The parasite’s special ability ‘Devil’s Sight’ has been activated.]

Before the message even finished appearing, the flow of time had slowed and he had already started to look into Morrigan’s true nature.

***

[The battle has ended.]

[Kim Jin-Woo, Commander of the Naga’s Fortress and Underworld Lord, has defeated Morrigan.]

[Morrigan, the Crow of the Battlefield, who once terrified countless warriors, was a tough opponent. Be thankful that it has not been long since Morrigan’s summoning. Her true abilities have yet to awaken.]

[However, Morrigan is a proud warrior. She will be true to her promises and not bring up worthless excuses.]

[You have passed the Ancient War Hero’s test.] 

Victory and defeat had been determined, but from the look of things, the situation seemed anything but clear.

Unable to hold her sword any longer, with the beak on her helmet broken and her armor shattered all over, Morrigan looked like an absolute wreck. Her pauldrons were totally destroyed, and her drooped hands were shaking non-stop. Still, she said, “That was unexpected. But victory or defeat is absolute, and with your worth proven, I swear my complete loyalty to you.”

Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t in good shape himself. Blood drenched his entire body, and the continued usage of ‘Devil’s Sight’ had burst every vessel in his eyes.

[The Crow of the Battlefield, Morrigan, has sworn her allegiance.]

[Do you accept Morrigan?]

[She has sown immeasurable resentment all across the Underworld. Acceptance will result in a high probability of conflict with Count Parthenon of Despair.]

Kim Jin-Woo seemed conflicted upon reading the message.

Accepting Morrigan was problematic in many ways. Inciting conflict with one of the 11th Floor Counts would be no small matter.

But there was something so charismatic about her that it was not so easy to brush the offer aside. The combined powers of the dungeon owner’s buffs, the parasite’s ‘Devil’s Sight’, and the ability ‘Weakness Detection’ could barely defeat her.

It was a hard-earned victory, but in the end, Kim Jin-Woo just wasn’t strong enough. If the test had been in any other place than the Naga’s Fortress, it would have been he would have been the one to taste defeat instead.

In other words, if not for the labyrinth’s defenses, no one in the Naga’s Fortress would have been able to defeat her.

“Angela, Dominique,” Kim Jin-Woo called. The two, who had backed down due to the ferocity of the battle, answered his call immediately and rushed over. He asked, “Between Parthenon of Despair and Iron-Blooded Anatolius, who would prevail?”

“The 11th Floor Counts are all similar in terms of power. Anatolius is definitely on the stronger end among them, but not enough to call him the strongest,” Angela answered.

<It’s as she said. But apart from their noble’s abilities, in terms of their individual combat power, Anatolius is probably ever so slightly ahead of Parthenon. Unlike Anatolius, who’s good at warfare with his unpredictable strategies and unwavering leadership, it’s said that Parthenon achieved his current position with purely his own strength.> Dominique responded as though she had already done her research on the Underworld Counts.

“Ultimately, Anatolius has given me a tough opponent to deal with, and was ever so slyly trying to lure me into starting a war with him.” Hearing their answers, Kim Jin-Woo could now reaffirm his suspicions. Anatolius’ test was still in motion.

The crafty count had already anticipated that he would use the summoning stone. And there was no doubt he was watching what Kim Jin-Woo would do next with Morrigan after assuming victory.

“Hmm...”

Angela and Dominique curiously looked on at Kim Jin-Woo as he stroked his chin, deep in thought. They seemed to be worried that their Master may make yet another reckless decision.

After much contemplation, he finally made a decision. “Morrigan,” he began.

Morrigan responded by nodding. As expected of a true warrior, her actions had become restrained and disciplined since her defeat. Kim Jin-Woo’s envy grew.

“I will accept you.”

[The Crow of the Battlefield, Morrigan (Ancient War Hero) has joined the Naga’s Fortress.]

[Morrigan, the Crow of the Battlefield who served the most powerful One-Eyed Lord, is a natural warrior and commander. Allies under her command will forget their fears and pains, and become fanatical zealots. Enemies who meet her fearless army and its intrepid commander will be petrified and unable to activate their abilities.]

[Morrigan's greatest strength is not her own fighting ability. Her innate sense and tactical ability to read the flow of battle are her greatest strengths.]

[A partial list of Morrigan’s abilities has been revealed.]

Angela and Dominique looked on in astonishment as Morrigan knelt down on her knees and swore allegiance.

“Master!”

“Master!”

They seemed intent on deterring Kim Jin-Woo with their screams, but things had already been decided. The message that followed reaffirmed that it was too late to turn back.

[The whisperings of the Underworld cannot be stopped. The news of the Crow of the Battlefield joining the Naga’s Fortress has enraged the Underworld Count, Parthenon of Despair. Parthenon is determined to settle his score with Morrigan.]

[Parthenon of Despair is now hostile.]

[Followers of Parthenon of Despair are now surrounding the Naga’s Fortress.]

[Barbatos, King of the Fog, is now hostile.]

[Mentiros, Occult King of Deceit, is now hostile.] 

[...is now hostile.]

[...is now...]

It wasn’t just Parthenon. How many figures exactly held resentment against Morrigan, for a seemingly endless list of names to appear like this?

“You sure pissed off a lot of people,” Kim Jin-Woo muttered.

Dominique once again voiced her concern toward Kim Jin-Woo, who had been biting his tongue the whole time. <Master, she is undoubtedly a truly outstanding warrior. But the risk of accepting her right now is just too high for us.>

“It’s already been done. There should be quite a few out there who have already marked our Fortress as their latest target. Changing our stance on this issue won’t change theirs.”

“If you know that, then why…”

“Dominique. It’s not just the 11th Floor that has entered a stalemate. I’ll also be limited in my movements now that I’ve conquered the Land of the Dead.”

Due to the overwhelming dominance of the nagas, many labyrinth masters had sent envoys in hopes of establishing friendly alliances.

But now, nobody knew what the labyrinth owners would do should they end up fighting an unwinnable war. In the worst case, they could even end up forming an alliance against the Naga’s Fortress itself.

“But what will happen if the 10th Floor Nobles pay a visit to the 9th floor? Do you think the 9th Floor labyrinth masters will simply clear a path for them?”

<Ah…>  Dominique seemed to have finally caught on to what Kim Jin-Woo was trying to say.

“If they want to lay their hands on our labyrinth, they’ll have to get through many others first.”

“But that might not be enough. The 10th Floor Noblesmay not have that much recognition, but should they have the backing of Parthenon of Despair, the labyrinth owners may just end up preemptively surrendering to them,” Angela interjected.

She did have a point. The spineless, sorry excuses for living beings that were the 10th Floor Nobles were of no concern, but the 11th Floor Counts could make their enemies surrender with the mere utterance of their names.

“Just the names of the 11th Floor Counts wield such power. It’s enough to make those puny insects bend over with such ease. Speaking of which…” Kim Jin-Woo slowly took a step back as he continued speaking. “Don’t we have a mighty Count on our side from the 11th floor as well?”

“No way…” Angela responded, hesitation and fear both written on her face.

“Yes. Yes way.” Kim Jin-Woo turned towards Dominique and let out a mighty roar. “Spread the rumor! The Naga Fortress has the backing of Iron-Blooded Anatolius! Spread it far and wide!”

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