Chapter 97

[The Mirror Wraith Clan has been born.]

[These formless wraiths are exactly like the visions that befall those on Death’s door. They are predators of any that are unlucky to cross their path, and have a terrifying capacity for mimicry.]

[These never-before-seen wraiths are incredibly powerful beings. They are more than willing to decimate all their enemies for the sake of their king and his labyrinth.]

[The Mysteries of the Underworld express a deep interest in the emergence of a new powerhouse. The Mysteries of the Underworld wish for the Mirror Wraith Clan to successfully establish themselves in the Underworld.]

[By the Mysteries of the Underworld, Espesto, the wise King of Mirror Wraiths, is born.]

Unlike the birth of the other satellite labyrinths, a totally different set of messages appeared. It was as if the Silk Frog Clan and the Big-Headed Dwarves had been completely forgotten.

[Espesto, the King of Mirror Wraiths, will not make his appearance until the labyrinth is upgraded to Level 5.]

Kim Jin-Woo exclaimed at the messages, totally forgetting the state of despair he was in just moments ago.

Dominique and Angela looked at their master and the shiny new core, happy to see their master’s joy.

***

Two out of three satellite labyrinths had gone to waste, but the last one had yielded such amazing results that Kim Jin-Woo reconsidered his stance on the whole core synthesizing process.

The original cores used as a basis for the synthesis were rather useless on the 9th Floor, truth be told. Even if he had used the original cores as they were, it was now obvious to Kim Jin-Woo that he wouldn’t have been satisfied with their mediocre output. It was better that he had taken some risks with them.

Before he knew it, he found himself at the Naga Sorcerers’ research lab.

“Shh!”

Perhaps it was due to his outburst on his last visit, but the Naga Sorcerers were a lot more tense than usual, as they stopped what they were doing and stood up straight at his arrival.

“Carry on with what you were doing.” Kim Jin-Woo waved his hands as he gave his order; only then did the Naga Sorcerers cautiously begin to continue their work.

“Hmm…” He folded his arms as he watched the Naga Sorcerers fiddle with the various apparatuses and chemicals.

They were still holding on to the remaining three Labyrinth Cores, perhaps out of fear of repercussion after what had happened the last time they attempted the synthesis.

And this wasn’t even including the four additional Labyrinth Cores that Kim Jin-Woo had obtained from the labyrinths that the refugee labyrinth masters from the 6th Floor had surrendered.

Kim Jin-Woo finally relaxed and took out those cores, saying, “Fuck, it’s all up to my luck now.”

The Naga Sorcerers turned to him as he spoke, and their eyes widened at the cores laid in front of them.

[The advanced Naga Sorcerers have succeeded in synthesizing the Labyrinth Core. Existing cores have been merged into one.]

[The two cores have merged to form a completely new existence.]

[The Labyrinth Core has succeeded in its synthesis.]

[The Labyrinth Core has succeeded in its synthesis.]

With that, three new cores were synthesized with six of the remaining cores. Once again, Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t able to immediately know what the newly synthesized cores contained. He went in search of suitable locations to activate the cores.

“Thirty days again, huh?”

He felt a slight sense of shame upon realizing that his anticipation of the results of the synthesis was similar to waiting for lottery results.

But realistically speaking, the cores were, at this stage, redundant without synthesizing them. Without taking such a risk, there would be no Labyrinth of the Exiles and no Labyrinth of the Swamp, and all that remained would be just ordinary, useless labyrinths.

***

The Black Merchant had somehow gotten word of the creation of the Labyrinth of Mirror Wraiths, and dropped by to pay a visit. He said, “Congratulations on the birth of this new labyrinth, as well as a brand new species!”

Kim Jin-Woo somehow sensed that the Black Merchant wasn’t simply here to convey his congratulations. “How did you know?” he asked.

“Let’s just call it a trade secret.”

Kim Jin-Woo was eager to find out how the Black Merchant knew about the birth of the Mirror Wraiths, but as expected, he was unable to get an answer out of him.

“Anyway, I have something I want to ask,” Kim Jin-Woo interjected, interrupting the Black Merchant’s meandering congratulatory speech.

“Please, do ask.” The Black Merchant seemed disappointed, as if he had an even longer congratulatory speech in mind. But he quickly regained his posture and waited for Kim Jin-Woo to carry on with his question.

“Do you know what’s going on on the 5th and 6th Floors?”

“Yes, we do have eyes and ears everywhere.” The Black Merchant sighed as he replied. “But it was inevitable. Those Terrans have been constantly harassing the Underworld for years. They’re no longer fearful nor intrigued by the darkness of the Underworld. It’s now just another land for them to scavenge for riches.”

The Terrans had been sending dungeon babies throughout the last ten years, as they accumulated experience and knowledge of the Underworld. After empty labyrinths were added into the equation, the obscene depths of humanity’s greed were fully exposed.

“The labyrinths on the 5th and 6th Floor are the ones that suffered the most from the previous war. Thanks to that, their powers were significantly diminished compared to the rest of the Underworld. As they’ve lost all sources of what is essentially their lifeline, as well as their sanctuaries, I can’t help but feel sorry for them.”

“Won’t this become dangerous for the Underworld?” Kim Jin-Woo asked with a tone of deadly seriousness. The Black Merchant looked at him strangely, and he asked, “Why are you looking at me like that? It doesn’t feel nice.”

“Ah, that’s not it. Milord is definitely from the surface, and yet you seem to be pretty concerned about the future of the Underworld. That just caught me by surprise…”

Truthfully speaking, Kim Jin-Woo was more worried about the possibility of a conflict between the Naga’s Fortress and the humans, rather than the future wellbeing of the Underworld.

“It’s just, I’m hearing so many despicable stories about them.”

The Black Merchant seemed satisfied with Kim Jin-Woo’s response and said, “There’s no need for you to worry. Those humans will never be able to take over the 6th Floor.”

“You’re certainly speaking lightly of this. There are already countless labyrinth masters from the 6th Floor that have fled in search of refuge. Taking the humans lightly will be your downfall.”

Despite Kim Jin-Woo’s warning, the Black Merchant’s expression didn’t change the slightest bit. “These aren’t empty words.” He followed up with a light-hearted laugh. “The Guardians will soon make their move.”

“The Guardians?”

Kim Jin-Woo had never heard of them before. The Black Merchant elaborated further. “The Guardians are the hidden powers behind the Underworld as an entity. You may even call them the true powers of the Underworld. Once they start making their move, the Terrans will never be able to lift a finger ever again. I guarantee it.”

“Then why didn’t these Guardians make their move from the beginning?”

The 5th Floor had already been completely subjugated by the explorers. And because of that, the creatures’ mass migration had caused chaos across the entire Underworld. Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t understand why these Guardians allowed this to happen, and were only acting now.

“That’s because the 5th Floor Guardians were completely annihilated in the previous war.”

“So you’re talking about the 6th Floor Guardians now, is that it?”

“That’s correct.”

It seemed apparent that there were Guardians on every floor.

“Then, do these Guardians also exist on the 9th Floor?”

The Black Merchant’s round and bubbly face broke into an inappropriately creepy smile.

“The Guardians exist everywhere. The only places where they don’t exist are at the entrance to the Underworld and on the 5th Floor.”

Despite the fact that Kim Jin-Woo had taken over the entire 9th Floor and earned the title of its conqueror, neither his subordinates nor his subjugated vassals had brought up the existence of these Guardians.

That fact left him feeling uncomfortable, and he asked the Black Merchant about the Guardians’ identity.

“The Guardians on the 8th and 9th Floor didn’t show themselves in the previous war. How could I, a mere merchant, know of their identity?”

“It just seems like you’re hiding their identity.”

“I’m only telling you this because it’s you, but these Guardians aren’t necessarily labyrinth masters. Sometimes they take the form of ordinary soldiers, and sometimes they take the form of aimlessly roaming creatures.”

The more Kim Jin-Woo listened, the more uneasy and confused he felt.

“I suggest that it’s in your best interest not to call on all the other masters and check on their identities. These Guardians have only one goal, and that’s to carry out their sacred mission at all costs. Even if it means going against a master who holds their lives in his hands.”

The Black Merchant’s words seemed more like words of caution.

“Well, as long as Milord doesn’t turn his back against the Underworld, there’s no need for you to worry. Even the Deep Floor Nobles no longer pay attention to the Guardians’ true identities.”

With that said, the Black Merchant went back to their initial topic of conversation.

“It’s truly awe-inspiring that Milord has managed to give birth to a whole new clan, even in the midst of such chaos. I truly feel proud that you seem to treasure the Underworld.”

Kim Jin-Woo hid the fact that it was the result of his Naga Sorcerers’ accidental experiments. He had a feeling that the Black Merchant would start nagging if he knew about how many other Labyrinth Cores had been wasted in the process.

“Will you be visiting the other labyrinths?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“You mean the Fortress? Perhaps; is there something you need?”

Kim Jin-Woo thought deeply for a while at the Black Merchant’s question. He had asked the merchant about visiting any other labyrinths, but the merchant’s cold response seemed to indicate that he wasn’t interested in them. Or, rather, he probably had no idea they existed.

Knowing that the Black Merchant used to even visit Level 1 labyrinths, Kim Jin-Woo sighed deeply, as he could infer how useless the Silk Frog Clan and the Big-Headed Dwarves were.

***

The Black Merchant wasn’t wrong.

Kim Jin-Woo started receiving news that the explorers had been chased out of the 6th Floor by its Guardians, all the way back to the 4th Floor. And there was also word that countless explorers had lost their lives during their retreat.

Among those who had lost their lives were several high-leveled explorers, and the people on the surface didn’t take the news lightly.

Kim Jin-Woo finally managed to get in touch with Lee Jun-Young.

“Many of those in the teams I know of lost their lives,” Lee Jun-Young told him.

The whispers among the surviving explorers merely said that they had been forcibly chased out by the retaliating swarms of creatures.

With not much to work on, Kim Jin-Woo asked Lee Jun-Young about the situation on the 5th Floor. She willingly conveyed the plight of her stay in the Underworld. Living in the Labyrinth of the Black Tiger located on the 5th Floor, she had no choice but to be alert to the battles that took place nearby. As such, the information she gave him was very detailed.

“There will be an announcement on it soon, but it seems the beings that made their appearance in the last war have begun making their move once more.”

Armed with the Black Merchant’s information, Kim Jin-Woo put two and two together and figured out that she was talking about the Guardians.

“What kind of beings?” he asked.

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