Chapter 132

  #52. The Power of the Ancient Lords

  Unlike the 9th Floor, the 11th Floor wasn’t connected by a narrow tunnel. Although large and small rocks jutted out and obscured vision, the passageway itself was quite wide, and gave way to large empty spaces every few steps. It was a huge breath of fresh air for Kim Jin-Woo, who was accustomed to the narrow and stuffy Underworld.

  “It’s been a while since I was last on the 11th Floor,” Kim Jin-Woo mused. He had once passed through the 11th Floor while escaping the Duke’s labyrinth, and many years had passed since. But now he had returned to the 11th Floor, not as a fugitive, but as a dignified Noble of the Underworld. He let out a long, deep sigh, feeling conflicted.

  “What the…… They look weaker than I thought,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked as he saw the Hero-Grade summons that each of the Counts had dispatched waiting for his arrival. He had left for the 11th Floor alone after seeing no way to strengthen his own troops on the 9th Floor, and now, in front of him were the troops he was going to push to their limits from this point on. But after seeing the standard set by the detachment, he couldn’t help but comment, “Those Counts sure handed over their trash to me.”

  The troops were all Ancient Heroes that were difficult to deal with. Every single one of them was more sinister and twisted than Morrigan, and as expected, much less cooperative. Anyone could see how their respective Counts treated them.

  “Trash? This puny guy sure talks cute,” a giant covered in pure white fur retorted as he looked at Kim Jin-Woo.

  Kim Jin-Woo had to reorganize his thoughts as he witnessed the summons’ attitude himself. Comparing these guys to the Crow of the Battlefield would be a huge disservice to her. Although she might be insidious and violent, there was an unknown grace to Morrigan. However, the other Ancient Heroes didn’t come close to her standard. They rattled around noisily like thugs in a market.

  Kim Jin-Woo frowned as he continued to look around. He saw fifteen giants, four wild beasts resembling wolves and lions, and two humanoids. A total of twenty-one summons stared back at him.

  He sighed once more. He already knew how much stress he would have to face just to deal with them in the future. If he could, he would have called over his loyal subordinates from the 9th Floor right now.

  But now that his faith had been cast to the wind, he was stuck with them on the 11th Floor from now on, whether he liked it or not.

  The moment he acknowledged this fact, Kim Jin-Woo’s composure changed. Blue light flowed from his eyes, and the dull atmosphere suddenly heated up as he retorted, “Alright, shall this puny guy show you how it’s done?”

  The expression of the yeti who had first provoked Kim Jin-Woo hardened. He was taken aback by the fierce retaliation he received and said, “You little piece of trash…”

  Whether the yeti was being serious or not, Kim Jin-Woo didn’t give him a chance to finish his sentence.

  [The Undefeated Commander's unique amplification buff has been activated. Your combat abilities are greatly heightened.]

  [The title of Conqueror has been activated. The true nature of the Conqueror is revealed when he conquers something. At this moment, you have decided to ‘conquer’ these beings.]

  [Your strengthened physique is further amplified. Your physical capabilities are tremendously heightened.]

  Kim Jin-Woo could see the yeti’s astonished expression just past the messages.

  His specialty was empowering himself through surprise attacks and exploiting his opponent’s weaknesses and carelessness. With an attack that could force even the mighty, uncontrollable Crow to her knees, he immediately brought down the yeti.


  “So, you had a bit of fun the moment you arrived?” Denarion asked.

  “You should have sent some more obedient ones,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.

  Kim Jin-Woo finally got to meet Denarion in the flesh after only having met the Count in his nightmares. However, it wasn’t too different. Denarion continued to hide his insidious and ominous nature behind an ordinary, calm demeanor, never revealing his true intentions.

  “So this is how you do it, huh. I was wondering how you managed to tame that fierce crow, but now I know,” Denarion commented.

  “It depends on the opponent, but generally, isn’t the best cure to a rabid dog a good beating?” Kim Jin-Woo answered.

  “So, did it work?”

  “I can’t be satisfied with one try now, can I?”

  Denarion burst into laughter at Kim Jin-Woo’s witty response. “Those guys met a rough master. It’s going to be a long road for them.”

  “Well, I’m not here to chit-chat.” Kim Jin-Woo cut Denarion off, his gaze indicating that he wanted the Count to get to the point.

  Considering that the Nagas were fighting for their lives on the 9th Floor at that very moment, Kim Jin-Woo had to quickly get his mission over with so he could send reinforcements from the 11th Floor to the 9th Floor. Of course he had no time to waste.

  “Well, you and I both don’t have much time,” Denarion said. As his labyrinth was also under attack, he cut the conversation short. ‘Your task is to lead the detachment troops and travel across the battlefield to evenly spread the Undefeated Commander’s unique amplification buffs to our troops. You may choose whether to directly engage in combat or not.”

  Since the Counts had wanted Kim Jin-Woo’s amplification buffs from the start, it was an expected demand. Thus, he accepted the request without any objections.

  “As the other Counts are busy themselves, I’ll continue to be in charge of all communications with you. Since Anatolius has a lasting relationship with you, he may choose to find you separately,” Denarion added.

  “I don’t care who the messenger is. As long as I’m paid my due, that’s more than enough,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

  The great Lord of Nightmares was being treated as a messenger, but Denarion didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he wished Kim Jin-Woo good luck with a cheerful smile.

  Without even having to meet with the other Counts, Kim Jin-Woo set off on his mission. The enemies that had invaded the 11th Floor were even bigger and more ferocious than the monsters he had seen on the 9th Floor, but that was all.

  “So these are the Counts’ forces," he mused. Rather than focus on the monsters, he paid closer attention to the Counts’ troops, who were fighting against them. After all, he wasn’t going to get a better opportunity to see what he would be up against in the future.

  The Counts’ soldiers were so strong that there was simply no comparison to the forces on the 9th Floor. Even the proud and mighty 10th Floor Nobles’ forces were tame in comparison to them.

  Despite the fact that this wasn’t indicative of the Counts’ true strength, they were still overwhelmingly powerful. It was almost incomprehensible that the Counts couldn’t push the enemy back with such mighty soldiers.

  “It seems they’re all following their own plans,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked. If an outsider like him could notice that, he was sure the other Counts had too. Nevertheless, the Counts were still behaving so passively due to the fact that every single one of them was more wary of one another than ever before.

  Having organized his thoughts, he started to get directly involved in the battles. His mission was to spread the amplification buffs across the battlefield, after all. Still, he made sure to never be at the forefront, only showing himself in conflicts he could win and hiding during disadvantageous situations.

  His title could only be maintained if he continued to win, and he had no intention of undermining his own power as he continued to meet the demands of the 11th Floor Counts.

  But Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t avoid engaging in combat forever. As the battles went on, the Ancient Hero summons had no choice but to obey him if they wanted to survive. Despite his having stayed for over a month on the 11th Floor, not a single one of them dared to disobey him, as their forced obedience soon became earnest loyalty.

  However, the crisis worsened. On one occasion, while Kim Jin-Woo was on the way to support Parthenon, he saw enemies suddenly charging toward him. Seeing how the sensitive Ancient Hero summons were unable to detect their approach, he was certain that Parthenon had a part to play in this ambush. He had been hoping that he wouldn’t have to fight Parthenon at all, if possible, but alas, that wasn’t the case.

  He hurriedly retreated his summons and fended off the enemies’ attack. He was finally able to avert the crisis by luring the enemies toward where Parthenon’s troops lay waiting in ambush.

  But that wasn’t the end of Parthenon’s tricks. He kept employing all sorts of tactics to try to end Kim Jin-Woo’s title of Undefeated Commander. Now that the entirety of the 11th Floor was starting to turn the tides of war thanks to the Undefeated Commander, it was a rather petty and naive move.

  Finally, it happened. Parthenon retreated his troops without any notice, and Kim Jin-Woo and his Ancient Hero summons were left isolated.

  A bloody battle ensued. Enemies rushed in toward them endlessly. Their weapons had long since broken, and the summons were now fighting tooth and nail to stay alive.

  At this rate, the title of Undefeated Commander would be forfeited, and yet, Kim Jin-Woo was smiling. He had slowly been looking for an excuse to return to the 9th Floor. And now that Parthenon had given him that excuse, he couldn’t help but be glad.

  All this time, there had been countless sabotage attempts, but this was the first time the allied troops had simply defected to the enemy side. If this matter became public, Parthenon was sure to be severely criticized by the Dukes and punished.

  But that’s only if I make it out alive. Kim Jin-Woo snapped out of his thoughts as the situation on the battlefield became worse. He observed his surroundings before stepping forward in front of his summons, ordering, “Hold the line and take turns in dealing with the enemy! Their numbers won’t decrease if we don’t consolidate our strength!”

  Although they had made life hell for him, all the summons were Hero-Grade. And despite the fact that they had most likely been treated like fools and cast out by their respective Counts, they were still powerful in their own right. Thus, at some point, Kim Jin-Woo had started to treat them with respect.

  “Those who are low on health, step back!” Kim Jin-Woo ordered, and the summons surrounded him immediately. They huddled together, relying more on each other than ever before. Their attitudes almost seemed to have a cavalier air.

  Of course, Kim Jin-Woo was frustrated with their attitude considering the situation, but nevertheless, it bought enough time for him to reorganize his thoughts. And once he did, the summons started fighting back fiercely.

  “You should rest, Boss!” Hoger, the yeti that had been severely punished by Kim Jin-Woo in the beginning, said as he stepped forward in front of Kim Jin-Woo.

  “I’m still fine, so go and help the others!” Kim Jin-Woo replied.

  “This fight is going to last longer than an hour or two, so stop being so stubborn!” The yeti’s rough attitude was the same as ever, but now, he was sincerely looking out for Kim Jin-Woo.

  Even in the midst of the battle, Kim Jin-Woo felt somewhat proud, and he reluctantly retreated to take a rest.

  A long time passed, and then an Ancient Hero summon approached Kim Jin-Woo. The wolf-shaped beast had a strange, faint presence about him, even as the other summons continued to fight on.

  “What are you…” Kim Jin-Woo began, but was interrupted as the summon suddenly bit his wrist. He struck at the wolf reflexively, thinking he was being betrayed, but he realized that there was no pain where the wolf had bitten him. He tried to shake his hand to pull it out of the wolf’s bite, but it was stuck in place like a stone.

  [A fragment of the Lord of Brilliance, one of the Ten Lords who ruled the Ancient Underworld, has been transferred to you.]

  “What is this!?” Kim Jin-Woo exclaimed in response to the summon’s sudden strange behavior and the random message.

  The summon spoke anxiously as he lay on the floor. “All this was foreseen, and I will tell you everything.”

  “Speak in a manner I can understand,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

  “I have wasted too much time trying to avoid the eyes of the Counts. Parthenon has withdrawn his troops due to his greed. There will not be another opportunity like this, so follow me without saying anything.” With those words, the summon’s body was enveloped in a brilliant flash of light.

  [You have received a portion of power from the Highlord, the mighty leader of the Ten Lords that ruled over the Ancient Underworld.]

  [Unfortunately, the majority of the fragment’s power has been lost over time.]

  [You have only fully inherited the Qualification of the Highlord.]

  “You are…”

  “I am simply one of the fragments the Lord of Brilliance spread across the Underworld. Though the beings of the Underworld have lost their qualifications, you are the only one among them who does not belong to the Underworld. Thus, you are worthy of his inheritance.” As he spoke those incomprehensible words, the wolf-shaped beast was then completely enveloped in light before disappearing into thin air.

  Kim Jin-Woo stared blankly at where the summon had once been, before being snapped back to reality by a fierce shout from afar.

  “Crush the enemies!” Following that loud shout, the sound of hooves could be heard, and Anatolius’ elite forces appeared as they began to push the enemies away.

  The Iron-Blooded Knights passed by Kim Jin-Woo, and Anatolius approached him with a wide grin and said, “This is a wreck.”

  “Well, it’s because of that fucking bastard,” Kim Jin-Woo growled angrily as he suddenly remembered what Parthenon had done.

  After listening to Kim Jin-Woo’s story, Anatolius immediately took him to Denarion, after which he repeated his explanation.

  “Is this true?” Denarion asked.

  It was Anatolius who decided to answer. “There were so many monster corpses that it was difficult for my Iron-Blooded Knights to even ride through. But I didn’t see any of Parthenon’s soldiers.”

  “Urgh, how convenient.”

  It was no longer a secret that Parthenon had gone rogue. However, Denarion seemed surprised that Parthenon was willing to avenge himself so openly.

  “Anyway, let’s end this contract with the Counts. I’m not sure when I’m going to get stabbed in the back, and I have no intention of coming out of this war dead,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked sharply.

  Denarion was at a loss for words. After all, he was the one who had brought the King of the Nagas down to the 11th Floor, and he was the one who had guaranteed Kim Jin-Woo’s safety. From his perspective, as he valued his reputation and honor highly, this was a highly disgraceful turn of events.

  “As your side broke the promise first, I would like to end this mission and claim my reward,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

  “I’ll ensure that you’ll be rewarded,” Anatolius said as a sign of support. Eventually, the two Counts agreed and their original request was dismissed.

  In the process, thanks to Parthenon’s actions, Kim Jin-Woo was handsomely rewarded with more troops and military funds than he had initially requested. It was finally time for him to return to the 9th Floor.