Records of Dungeon Travel - Chapter 63

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“As the victor, I’ll hand over the ownership of the Land of the Dead and its labyrinth to you, the Black Merchant,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

“You’ve made a good choice,” the Black Merchant said. However, he once again waited to see if Kim Jin-Woo was silently contemplating making another ballsy move.

But even that anticipation lasted a short while, as Kim Jin-Woo soon carried on. “But, there is one condition.”

“What is it this time? We made a promise this time around, so you can’t do what you did the last time.”

Kim Jin-Woo responded to the Black Merchant’s plea. “I don’t want something so ominous in my presence. Thus, retrieve the Labyrinth Core and keep it somewhere out of my sight.”

Perhaps the request was too unexpected, as the Black Merchant looked back and forth between the Labyrinth Core and Kim Jin-Woo and replied, “What do you…? Even if we restore the Labyrinth Core as is, it will be too fragile to attempt to extract it. I refuse. If it cracks during the extraction, how do you expect me to follow through with the clean-up?”

The Black Merchant made a huge fuss as he continued to reject the request. He wasn’t putting on an act. The message that appeared for Kim Jin-Woo further confirmed that the Black Merchant was, in fact, being serious.

[Nearly Shattered Core (Level 5)]

[The mighty core that once presided over the Land of the Dead and controlled countless numbers of the dead and their messengers has been abused almost to the point of breaking, and is currently cracked. Due to the severity of the damage, a great deal of time and resources are required for its restoration.]

[Any attempt at extraction will result in a 50% chance of the Labyrinth Core failing.]

50% chance of the Core being destroyed was too risky. For the Black Merchant, who placed a high value on the labyrinth, that would be too much to ask for.

“Then what now? I really don’t like this Land of the Dead,” Kim Jin-Woo reiterated. The Black Merchant could do nothing but drag his feet as he listened to those repeated words. Kim Jin-Woo observed this and suggested, “It’s not as if we’re totally out of solutions.”

“S-solutions? As long as it’s not an extraction, I’ll do anything,” the Black Merchant replied, oozing desperation.

“The one thing that worries you and all the other Black Merchants the most is the thought of labyrinths disappearing from the Underworld. Am I correct?”

“Yes. We may just be lowly merchants that wander around the Underworld, but we all know that the labyrinths are the foundation of it all.”

“Then this conversation will be short.” Kim Jin-Woo smirked as he took something out. “Do your best to restore the cracked Labyrinth Core. You will be handsomely rewarded.”

The Black Merchant gasped as he noticed the shining object in Kim Jin-Woo’s hands. “That is…!”

“The Blood Leopard’s Heart. And…” Kim Jin-Woo casually tossed and caught the Blood Leopard’s Heart repeatedly, as the Black Merchant looked on, eyes wide open. “...It’s also the vessel for your precious Labyrinth Core.”

***

After completing the trade, the Black Merchant left the labyrinth in a hurry, fearing that the core of the labyrinth might break over time.

“That wasn’t a bad trade, was it?” Kim Jin-Woo said to Valicius, looking satisfied.

Seeing that everything he had achieved so far was traded away in front of his eyes, it seemed as if Valicius had completely lost the will to live. “I have no idea what you’re thinking,” he replied with a confused expression.

“You don’t need to know. After all, it has nothing to do with you anymore.”

Kim Jin-Woo had presented the Labyrinth Core stolen from the 4th Floor in exchange for the restoration of the cracked Labyrinth Core.

The Black Merchant seemed a bit disappointed, but he didn't think too long and accepted the offer. He must have done some calculations, but in the end, he seemed to think as long as the Labyrinth Core remained intact, it was still acceptable.

For Kim Jin-Woo, he couldn’t have asked for a better deal, as it was no different from handing over the core from the 4th Floor, which was difficult to make use of, at a high price.

That Labyrinth Core was a mere discovery from the 4th Floor—the entrance to the Underworld. It wasn’t quite valueless, but due to the nature of the Underworld’s labyrinths being stronger the deeper they were, it was probably best not to get too attached to it.

After all, it was just additional income for Yoon-Hee’s ‘Land of Festivals’, and it would probably have found an owner sooner or later anyway.

That was why he decided that the troublesome Labyrinth Core discovered on the 4th Floor would be exchanged for an intact Labyrinth Core from the Land of the Dead. It was killing two birds with one stone. After all, it was obvious that the Level 5 Core, once restored, would be worth far more than the Level 4 Core, which couldn’t be upgraded any time soon.

This trade had indeed proven to be very profitable.

“Shall we wrap this up?” Kim Jin-Woo asked as he looked at Valicius from his throne. Valicius kept his mouth shut and closed his eyes, as if he were waiting for judgement to be passed.

“You have two options,” Kim Jin-Woo began. “First is to be sold to that Black Merchant and have every last scrap of your body hung out for auction.”

Just as Valicius had lusted after the Basilisk King and the Blood Leopard, he knew many other labyrinth masters who would value the now fallen King of the Dead highly.

“The other… is to be my knight,” Kim Jin-Woo concluded. Valicius’ eyes widened at the options presented.

[The Underworld Baron’s ability, ‘Vassal’s Pledge’, is activated.]

[Valicius, King of the Dead, shall be appointed as the Underworld Baron’s third knight.]

[Knights are the most loyal and courageous subordinates of barons. However, they are not always faithful from the start. Only after making the Vassal’s Pledge will they realize what true loyalty is.]

Kim Jin-Woo grinned as he looked between the message window and Valicius. “I have nothing to lose either way, so do whatever you want.” The look of anticipation on his face seemed to confirm that.

Valicius stared blankly before biting down on his lips.

“It’s good that you’re taking your time to think this through, but you’d best hurry. For your sake,” Kim Jin-Woo warned. “You look like you’re about to collapse any time now.”

Valicius’ clenched teeth revealed his unsightly gums, and his skin had all been ripped apart.

“My…” He slowly lowered his head rather stiffly until it touched the floor.

“King!” Valicius bashed his forehead onto the floor once more as he let out a bloody roar.

Kim Jin-Woo let out a genuine laugh as he listened to the cries of the once mighty and proud king.

[Valicius, King of the Dead, has become the underground baron’s vassal (Knight).]

[The third knight, Valicius, shares his master’s fate. If the Naga’s Labyrinth is destroyed, Valicius will also be destroyed.]

[The Land of the Dead ruled by Valicius has become a 'Fiefdom'. Valicius is still the ruler of the labyrinth, but he now has a master. Twenty percent of the Dungeon Energy accumulated in the Core that governs the Land of the Dead belongs to the Naga Labyrinth.]

[You can open a portal that links the two labyrinths whenever you wish. However, only the baron can decide when to open it.]

“My king!” Valicius continued to wail, as though his life depended on it.

Kim Jin-Woo suddenly got up from his throne and whispered something in Valicius’ ear. “Actually, there is one more thing…”

Valicius looked up.

“I have no intention of letting you rule over this land,” Kim Jin-Woo finished.

[Valicius—ruler of the ‘Land of the Dead’, also known as ‘Graveyard’—has not won the baron’s trust. The baron remains wary of Valicius and wishes to exercise complete control over ‘Graveyard’.]

Valicius stared into Kim Jin-Woo’s cold, soulless eyes and lost the last ounce of hope he had left.

[Valicius, ruler of ‘Graveyard’, has ceded his authority and agreed to the regency.]

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[Summons can now move more freely between the labyrinths.]

[The labyrinth masters’ lists of summons are now revealed to each other.]

Kim Jin-Woo leaped joyfully back onto his throne as he looked down on the defeated Valicius, laughing. “Hahahaha!”

The victor, who had taken everything from the loser, sat on his throne as the mockery continued. The loser, who had once eyed everything the victor had, could only bow in silence on the cold, hard floor.

***

The Black Merchants’ flag flew in the Land of the Dead. The Black Merchant who left after the trade had returned with the manpower necessary to complete the restoration of the labyrinth.

“How long will it take?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“It will take at least a month. We will first have to restore the broken vessel, followed by replenishing the Dungeon Energy within. That in itself will cost a lot of down gems. I’m not even sure if the Labyrinth Core is enough to cover the necessary costs…” the Black Merchant babbled.

Kim Jin-Woo’s face curled up at the Black Merchant’s words. “Didn’t Anatolius agree to provide military funding? He has nothing to lose, and yet he’s being a bitch about this.”

Anatolius had recognised Kim Jin-Woo’s worth, and had agreed to provide military support in their last encounter. But because dealing directly could attract attention from the other Underworld Nobles, he had decided to use the Black Merchant as a proxy.

Kim Jin-Woo knew that Anatolius had provided enough military funding not only to restore a Labyrinth Core, but even to create a new one. So there was no doubt that the Black Merchant was simply acting.

“Urgh. But it will make things difficult for me if I always give in to all your whims,” the Black Merchant complained.

“Is that so? Well, you’ve helped me out a bit, so I’ll try and put in a good word for you next time.” Kim Jin-Woo knew that his trades with the Black Merchant had thus far been of great help, so he agreed to compromise for their next deal.

There were many more labyrinths on the 9th Floor to conquer, so a one-time concession made to the Black Merchants wouldn’t be a problem. It would probably be for the better to start building a tighter relationship with them. After all, getting to the 9th Floor was a lot easier with their help than without it.

“Then I’ll see you again soon,” the Black Merchant replied.

“I won’t be too far away,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

He left behind a few nagas to guard the labyrinth and started heading out of the Graveyard, calling out, “We’re heading back!”

The nagas roared in unison with Kim Jin-Woo as they hit the road once more.

***

The Army of the Dead that Valicius had summoned at the end seemed to be a greater spell than Kim Jin-Woo had expected. Valicius had to be constantly kept under the Naga Priests’ healing spells just to stay alive.

“I don’t know why you picked up a piece of junk. He looks rather useless," Angela remarked.

Kim Jin-Woo shook his head at Angela's harsh criticism of Valicius. “Even though he’s like that now, he’ll be useful in his own way.”

Just his necromancy skills were enough to give Valicius the right to be called King of the Dead. Of course, he was in no condition to summon with the same strength as he had in the past, but the fact that Kim Jin-Woo was able to share Valicius’ skills was good enough for him.

“Regardless, please be careful. Unlike the fearful Uther, this guy is dangerous.”

Was the Vassal’s Pledge not enough to reassure Angela? She was too cautious about Valicius, as far as Kim Jin-Woo was concerned.

“He may be like that now in his weakened state, but once he regains his strength, he may start acting differently. Let your guard down once and he may have you at your throat,” Angela warned.

The Naga Priest, who had been by their side treating Valicius the whole time, looked up and said, “That is, if he regains his strength.”

Kim Jin-Woo’s eyes began to sparkle in cold blood at those words.

***

Dominique said when Kim Jin-Woo arrived.

Kim Jin-Woo shook his head as Dominique bowed. “The rangers have been wiped out. I fell into a trap at the last minute... I suffered some unnecessary losses. It’s unfortunate.” Fortunately, Rikshasha had survived.

Just as Dominique said, if Uther hadn't dealt with the main force, they would have suffered even greater losses.

Kim Jin-Woo nodded and sat on his throne, still feeling a bit regretful. He commanded, “Recoup the loss of our rangers and set up a perimeter on the outskirts of the labyrinth to house the troops!”

Dominique tilted her head curiously, as the nest had already been expanded to comfortably fit all the nagas.

Kim Jin-Woo simply smirked and said, “They’re our spoils of war.”

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