[Malaxus of Hammer and Anvil has now become the Underworld Lord Kim Jin-Woo's vassal (knight).]
[The fourth knight Malaxus now shares the same fate with his master. He will cease to exist should the Naga’s Fortress be destroyed.]
[The Land of Hammer and Anvil ruled by Malaxus has become a 'Fiefdom'. Malaxus 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 Hammer and Anvil belongs to the Naga Labyrinth.]
[You can open a portal that links the two labyrinths whenever you wish. However, only the lord can decide when to open it.]
“I pledge my loyalty to you.”
It was exactly as Dominique had said. As the labyrinth masters had tasted victory under Kim Jin-Woo before, getting them to submit to his rule once more was an easy task.
Of course, some were reluctant to take the Vassal’s Pledge, but when they found out that the King of Greed had done so himself, they began to reconsider.
After that, the Queen of Illusions and King of Wanderers stepped in.
In reality, they had already taken their Vassal’s Pledge a long time ago, but they appeared in front of those who were hesitating as if they had only just decided, and pretended to accept Kim Jin-Woo's offer.
Lastly, Kim Jin-Woo bestowed the best quality down gems to those who knelt before him.
And that was all it took. The remaining three labyrinth masters subsequently rushed in to pledge their loyalty.
“No matter how much they fought together under the banner of an alliance, they’re more accustomed to rivalry than unity. Seeing their fellow labyrinth masters progress thanks to your support while they stagnated made it an easy decision for them,” Dominique said.
She had thoroughly exploited their psychology. After all, having their neighboring labyrinths grow while their own labyrinths stagnated all but guaranteed certain death in the Underworld.
“Now all that’s left are those who didn’t join the alliance.”
In fact, there were more people who hadn’t participated in the last war than those who had. Most of the labyrinths had been far from the route taken by the 10th Floor Nobles’ alliance, so they had simply watched the situation unfold.
“When even those labyrinth masters finally kneel in front of Master, only then can the true war begin.”
Kim Jin-woo nodded and began to classify the labyrinths based on the information sent by the scouts as follows:
Labyrinths that could be persuaded, labyrinths that couldn’t be persuaded, and labyrinths that had to be subjugated by force were all marked in blue, yellow and red respectively on the huge map placed in the master room.
After a while, the rangers left the Naga’s Fortress as they spread out in all directions. Meanwhile, the flapping of a crow’s wings could be heard.
In the midst of consolidating his power on the 9th Floor, Kim Jin-Woo found himself with some spare time. This was because Dominique was doing most of the work for him. Thus, he aimlessly roamed his labyrinth, waiting for its next upgrade to be completed as soon as possible.
However, instead of the upgrade completion message that he had been waiting for, a strange message appeared in front of his eyes.
[“Party Hall—Land of Festivities” is attempting to open a portal connecting the Party Hall. However, without the Lord's permission, it will not open.]
[Will you allow the portal to connect?]
Yoon-Hee, who hadn’t even contacted him once ever since she had left for the 7th Floor, was suddenly requesting a portal connection.
“I’ll allow it.”
A portal appeared in front of him, and Yoon-Hee casually walked out of it. Kim Jin-Woo said, “It’s been a while.”
“Master.” Yoon-Hee bowed in front of him. She looked totally different from the last time Kim Jin-Woo had seen her.
Yoon-Hee was wearing leather armor of unknown origin, and it was clear that she was no longer the young, foolish dungeon baby from the past.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at Yoon-Hee, whose outfit resembled that of the Iron-Blooded Knights, and asked her what she wanted.
“Could you support me with your troops?” Yoon-Hee asked.
Kim Jin-Woo frowned, asking, “Why the sudden request?”
“I intend to expand my influence,” Yoon-Hee replied simply.
It was a nonsensical request. Thus, Kim Jin-Woo asked for more details rather than promising military support immediately.
“The 7th Floor labyrinths were more pathetic than I thought. There are a couple of labyrinths near mine, so I intend to subjugate those first,” Yoon-Hee explained.
In hindsight, Kim Jin-Woo had indeed been neglecting the 7th Floor a bit too much. It was to be expected, considering that the deeper he went, the less likely he would be to think of lesser floors like the 7th Floor. He had been concentrating more on the stronger, deeper floors.
But Yoon-Hee had just stated that she intended to subjugate the 7th Floor labyrinths.
“The Party Hall’s forces are overly imbalanced. They may be useful for disrupting the enemy, but they don't have the strength to engage in a proper battle. I plan to absorb the other labyrinths to fill in the gaps.”
This was very true. Kim Jin-Woo also knew of the Party Hall’s unusual summons, so Yoon-Hee’s words sounded fairly reasonable. But in the end, he answered, “In that case, wouldn’t it be better to just migrate your labyrinth to the 9th Floor?”
It was cumbersome, but there were ways to move the labyrinth.
It might not have been possible in the past, but the Naga’s Fortress was now at a stage where it could accommodate satellite labyrinths. If Yoon-Hee wanted it, her own labyrinth could be one of them.
But it seemed she had other ideas. She shook her head as she explained her own plans. “You already have plenty of talented beings by your side. Considering that, I’m not really necessary there.”
If that was her sole reason, Kim Jin-Woo had no intention of reinforcing her troops. But as if Yoon-Hee knew that was what he was thinking, she further elaborated on her point. “I’ll consolidate my power and expand my influence on the 7th Floor. That will be more helpful to you.”
“It’s just the 7th Floor we’re talking about. How much help would that really be in a real war?”
Kim Jin-Woo had personally experienced the difference in strength between his 9th Floor army and the 10th Floor Nobles’ allied forces.
But with a difference of not just one, but two floors, he seriously wondered how much strength the 7th Floor’s troops could really add to his own army.
Yoon-Hee saw his doubtful look and explained herself. She seemed to have anticipated that he would react this way. “I don't want to expand the Party Hall’s territory too far. I intend to just focus on upgrading my own labyrinth.”
“Oho, do explain.”
“We’ll attack the labyrinths around us and extract their Labyrinth Cores. And I'm thinking of refining those cores to upgrade the Party Hall. If there turns out to be a labyrinth I deem worthy, I can utilize two cores, just like your labyrinth.” As she said that, she looked at Kim Jin-Woo with a gentle look in her eyes.
She continued, “Hey, don’t be wary of me. You know I can’t exist in the Underworld without your protection. This plan I thought up is meant to eventually be of use to you. Of course it bothers me to no end that I’m stuck with such a lousy labyrinth.”
Upon hearing such humility and honesty, Kim Jin-Woo’s interest was piqued. He asked, “How many troops do you need?”
“Thirty Naga Dragon Knights, twenty Naga Fighters, twenty Naga Warriors…… and the Crow of the Battlefield.”
“Everything else isn’t a problem, but you’ll have to wait for Morrigan. She’s currently out of the labyrinth on a mission.”
Morrigan had gone to persuade the more violent labyrinth masters in her own way, so there was no guarantee of when she would return.
And knowing her character, it was highly likely that she would return only after completing all her work, so it was obvious that Yoon-Hee wouldn’t be able to see her for a while.
“Do you need Morrigan to subjugate the other labyrinth masters?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“I have yet to be fully freed of the penalties imposed by losing the fight for succession. I may talk about how the others are only 7th Floor labyrinth masters, but truth be told, I’m a 7th Floor labyrinth master myself,” Yoon-Hee admitted.
“Then I’ll let you have Balzark and Ortehaga.”
The duo of the dullahan and drakan were second-to-none when it came to their level of ignorance, but as far as their combat abilities were concerned, they were top notch.
“They seem a little bit unreliable…”
“When it comes to combat, they’re more than trustworthy.” Having said that, Kim Jin-Woo smiled oddly.
He had simply wanted to get Balzark and Ortehaga, who had both been idling away in the labyrinth, out of the Fortress. Ortehaga in particular had been hiding due to the Undefeated Mercenaries’ presence. But he kept that thought to himself.
“Well, what else can I do?” Yoon-Hee grudgingly accepted.
“Great. I’ll send them over to you immediately. Is there anything else you need?”
Seeing that the conversation was about to wrap up, Yoon-Hee carefully brought up something. “It’s not something I need per se…”
With that, she glanced at him and spoke in a soft voice. “If you’re not busy, then I hope you can drop by the Party Hall from time to time.”
“Why? Is there something you need me to help you with personally?” Kim Jin-Woo squinted as he asked Yoon-Hee, as her coy response reminded him of her past self.
“It’s not that. It’s just, the Party Hall’s summons are just so boring and no fun to be around……”
The Shadow Storytellers and Shadow Clowns’ names implied that they were noisy, but their true nature was to be silent. It seemed as though Yoon-Hee was uneasy around the unnaturally quiet summons.
“It seems you want someone to talk to. I’ll make sure to send a few appropriately chatty ones,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
Yoon-Hee seemed to want to say something, but she merely opened her mouth silently for a brief moment before closing it and lowering her head.
“Is that all for your requests?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“Okay, I’ll send the troops over to you immediately. No need to drag this out.”
With that, Kim Jin-Woo called over Dominique to dispatch his troops.
She then called over Ortehaga and Balzark to inform them of their missions, and Ortehaga seemed particularly pleased that he was finally escaping from the same floor that the Undefeated Mercenaries were residing in.
“Until we’ve completely subjugated the 7th Floor, we won’t set even one foot back into the 9th Floor!” Ortehaga cried.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Just do as you’re told and return once you’ve completed your missions there.” Kim Jin-Woo quickly cut off the overly eager Ortehaga. “And don’t cause trouble.”
Of course, his true meaning was that, should anything go wrong, it should be kept to the 7th Floor. But on the surface, he was simply holding up his reputation and dignity as a strict commander.
“It won’t take too long, so I’ll drop by again soon,” Yoon-Hee said.
“Try not to cause too much damage to my troops. They’ll grow weaker once they leave the 9th Floor, so keep that in mind. They’re all precious to me,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.
Yoon-Hee confidently reassured Kim Jin-Woo. “It’d be strange if these guys got injured, even with the penalty in mind. I have my own ideas on how to handle them, so don’t worry so unnecessarily.”
“Well, since you say that, I’ll leave it to you. You take care too.”
And with that, Yoon-Hee and her reinforcements left the Naga’s Fortress.
“I wish you the best of luck.”
Kim Jin-Woo wondered how long it had been since Balzark and Ortehaga left for the 7th Floor. He sat on his throne as he observed his half-empty labyrinth; suddenly, he heard a familiar voice.
With the sound of a crow’s wing, Morrigan suddenly appeared in the master room.
“Oh? You’re early,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.
Instead of replying, the Crow of the Battlefield bowed her head and threw something violently from her right hand.
“Oof!” The strange object rolled toward Kim Jin-Woo as it wailed, but when it saw him seated on his throne, it froze.
“What is this?” Kim Jin-Woo looked at the strange object and demanded an explanation from Morrigan.
“I picked it up on the way here.”
“But what is it?”
Morrigan hurried over and kicked the object as it rolled around, revealing a pair of eyes that stared at the throne from below. “Introduce yourself.”
At her short command, the object slowly opened its mouth.