Down gems were indeed drugs. It didn’t take long for Jung Chan-Sik’s decision, intended to aid Lee Jun-Young’s mental well-being, to end up completely ruining her instead.
Jung Chan-Sik had belatedly stopped giving her down gems, but she had already developed a severe addiction to them by then. The situation had gone out of control, and there was no way of controlling her.
Although her mind had been completely wasted, her body seemed to have been strengthened by the effect of the drug. When she stopped receiving her doses of the down gem drug, she went into a frenzy and caused severe chaos in the process.
Eventually, Jung Chan-Sik had to calm the situation by giving her the drug again, albeit at a lower dosage. But even he knew that it was only a temporary workaround.
Thus, he had entrusted her to Kim Jin-Woo, someone he knew would willingly take her in. But despite seemingly having taken a heavy burden off his shoulders, Jung Chan-Sik became hostile to Kim Jin-Woo after that day.
That relationship had carried on until this very day.
Lee Jun-Young’s cloudy eyes were blurry and failed to focus on anything, and her parched lips were half open as she struggled to breathe. Her long hair was a tangled mess, having not been groomed for the longest time; she looked almost like a mummy with all of her formerly distinctive features gone, and all that remained was her skeletal frame.
That was what Lee Jun-Young looked like now.
“Urgh…” She breathed deeply like an animal, letting out a suppressed moan.
Kim Jin-Woo sighed deeply and gently instructed, “Continue to look after her.” The air rippled for a moment in response.
“Phew.” He left the room and sighed once more.
It had been half a year since Lee Jun-Young was forced into the Underworld, and yet she had still not come to her senses. Her craving for down gems had only gotten stronger, and her ability to think rationally was fading by the day.
Kim Jin-Woo’s heart sank. He realized that isolating her wasn’t going to fix the problem. Her addiction to down gems was like a poison that wouldn’t fade away. But what more could he do? She had now been integrated into the Underworld system, and had become an Underworld being that was unable to leave it.
The cost of buying Lee Jun-Young’s entire life had been a mere handful of lowest-grade down gems. That was more than sufficient to tempt her due to her heavy withdrawal symptoms.
With that, she became Kim Jin-Woo’s 124th vassal.
Dominique’s sudden, urgent cry stopped Kim Jin-Woo in his tracks as he walked up and down the hallway of the Fortress, lost in thought.
Dominique hurried over to him from some distance away, yelling, “It’s an enemy attack!”
Kim Jin-Woo’s expression turned icy. “Who is it this time?” he replied in a tone as cold as the look on his face.
Dominique dragged him by the hand as she started explaining, “Three labyrinths in the west suffered a simultaneous attack!”
“Gather the troops!” Kim Jin-Woo ordered.
The silent Fortress immediately broke into a bustle of activity in preparation for another battle. The Naga Dragon Knights began gathering the Tiger Dragons, and the Naga Warriors, Fighters, Priests and Sorcerers all gathered at the square.
Meanwhile, Kim Jin-Woo was receiving a report from Dominique.
“This labyrinth requires the most urgent attention. The other two labyrinths are able to hold their own for now with the troops they have, so they should be able to hold out until we arrive with reinforcements. But the first labyrinth suffered heavy damage in the last war, so they’re currently the most at risk,” Dominique explained.
“Of all the labyrinths…” Kim Jin-Woo trailed off.
Dominique continued, “The enemy might have specifically targeted that labyrinth; we may never know. I ordered nearby labyrinths to support them, but we don’t know what might happen if we empty the labyrinth, so it’d be best if we send out small batches of troops instead.”
No thanks to the countless battles over the past year, the 9th Floor labyrinths were quite accustomed to large-scale battles. But in this case, experience had conversely become their Achilles’ heel.
There had been instances in the past where a labyrinth master would empty their estate in support of other labyrinths, only to have their own labyrinth raided and destroyed.
“I’ll head over first. I’ll drive out the enemies there, and then I’ll move on to support the other labyrinths,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
“No! It’s too dangerous for Master to personally head over!” Dominique sharply rejected his proposal.
“The enemy’s troops can’t even capture three labyrinths. I’ll head over with the Dragon Knights as well as the Warriors and Fighters. What’s so dangerous about that?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.
“Master. Please remember the last battle,” Dominique replied.
The enemy forces would have to be stupid not to know who they had to deal with first in order to destroy the 9th Floor. Thanks to that, Kim Jin-Woo had had several near-death escapes over the past year.
“Please send the King of Mirror Wraiths again. When it comes to understanding Master’s role, nobody else does it better,” Dominique said. After countless narrow escapes, she had come up with the idea of using the King of Mirror Wraiths, who could mimic Kim Jin-Woo completely.
In fact, Espesto did an excellent job of pretending to be him, and had even successfully led the victory of several battles.
“No. This time, I’ll personally join the battle.”
Kim Jin-Woo’s mind was full of conflicted thoughts after his most recent encounter with Jung Chan-Sik, as well as the matter of Lee Jun-Young. He thought it would be better to head into battle and clear his head while focusing only on the fight ahead of him. Thus, despite Dominique’s repeated protests, he didn’t back down from his desire to join the battle.
“Okay, but please take the Crow and the Dawn Rooster with you.” Dominique eventually relented, but insisted on having one of the strongest beings on the 9th Floor, Morrigan, tag along.
“I would have done that anyway,” Kim Jin-Woo replied.
“All preparations are complete!” Quantus rushed over to Kim Jin-Woo’s side as he and Dominique were having their minor disagreement, informing him that the troops were ready. All the battles over the past months seemed to have not been in vain, as they had gotten battle-ready in under thirty minutes.
“Oho, is it time for another war?” Morrigan appeared, gleefully grinning from ear to ear upon hearing about the possibility of another battle. The battle-hungry Crow seemed to be almost celebrating the news. Heimdall stood next to her, similarly more excited than tense at the news of battle.
“I’ll give you a chance to properly stretch your wings this time,” Kim Jin-Woo said. After that one sentence, both the Crow and the Dawn Rooster practically turned red with excitement.
“We’re moving out!” Kim Jin-Woo shouted at the troops gathered in the square.
“Ha!” The Nagas beat their chests in unison.
“Portal,” Kim Jin-Woo whispered gently, and a floating doorway opened in the middle of the square.
“Please take care, Master,” Dominique said.
“I’ll be back,” Kim Jin-Woo replied as he crossed the portal. Fifty Naga Dragon Knights and one hundred Warriors and Fighters crossed through the portal behind him in an orderly fashion.
“My King!” Sensing the opening of the portal, the person waiting in the master room ran up to Kim Jin-Woo and fell at his feet.
“The situation seems to be dire,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.
Since he had over a hundred vassal labyrinths under his control, he couldn’t remember each and every one of the labyrinth masters. But the labyrinth master lying at his feet was familiar.
Many of the labyrinths that had once been on the front lines had eventually migrated to the rear, or had perished over the course of the year-long war. In their place were labyrinth masters who had migrated from other floors.
But even among them, there was one labyrinth master who had defended his position, and that was the man in front of him: The King of Void Knights, Tryndall.
“There are about four hundred enemies, and about twenty of them are Hero-Grade. We have a hundred troops fighting against them, but it isn’t looking favorable to us,” Tryndall said.
It was the price he’d had to pay for defending his position till the end. He had once been one of the strongest on the 9th Floor, but now he had fewer than a hundred knights under his command.
But despite that, Tryndall was still full of fighting spirit. He finished, “But we’ll definitely overcome them and win, so please watch over us, Milord.”
With a sentence, Kim Jin-Woo completely silenced Tryndall. “If I had only meant to come here for sightseeing, I wouldn’t even have bothered in the first place.” He then called out, “Morrigan. Heimdall.”
“We’re listening.” The corners of Morrigan’s eyebrows rose as she responded. Heimdall didn’t answer, but he was looking straight ahead at the battlefield, waiting for Kim Jin-Woo’s command.
“Take the troops and annihilate the enemy,” Kim Jin-Woo ordered.
“Can I kill them all?” Morrigan asked.
“You think we’re here to save them? What a stupid question.”
“You got angry at me for killing everyone last time.”
Kim Jin-Woo frowned at Morrigan’s natural-sounding response, saying, “That’s because you killed your allies as well.”
“Well, that’s only because there were so many migrants coming to the 9th Floor that I couldn’t tell who were our enemies and who were our allies. I just chose the easy route,” Morrigan said.
Kim Jin-Woo shook his head at her ridiculous excuse. “Order the Void Knights to retreat. I have a feeling they’ll be caught up in it if they remain on the battlefield.”
Since he had promised he’d allow Morrigan to run wild, Kim Jin-Woo ordered Tryndall to recall his Void Knights. Tryndall looked at Morrigan angrily before bowing his head.
“Then, I’ll be off.” With a flap of her wings, Morrigan disappeared. Heimdall followed closely behind her, and the Dragon Knights and the rest of the Nagas rushed toward the battlefield.
“Let’s talk after I return,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
Tryndall lowered his head angrily as he was excluded from the battle and left alone in the master room.
Kim Jin-Woo frowned as he arrived on the battlefield. A sharp caw, as ugly as the enemy monsters, pierced his ears.
The enemy appeared to be on the verge of collapse due to their lack of down gems. Their faces and bodies were bone-dry, resembling some of Valicius’ failed experiments.
“My King! The enemies are stronger than they look!” Quantus called repeatedly. Just as he said, the enemies were putting up a stronger fight than the Nagas had expected, despite their having grown drastically through the countless battles over the past year.
But that was all. Black feathers scattered through the air, and the abominable enemies were now completely soaked in blood as they started collapsing one after another.
The first caw was followed by the loud and unpleasant cries of the Dawn Rooster; they resonated across the battlefield, further weakening the enemy.
“We’ll focus on minimizing the damage to our troops, and the Crow and the Dawn Rooster will be leading the battle,” Kim Jin-Woo instructed.
If he ordered it, the Nagas alone would be enough to deal with the situation, but with the supply of down gems at critical levels, there was absolutely no need for Kim Jin-Woo to unnecessarily waste his troops.
Thus, the Nagas were ordered to stay on the defensive. Quantus would usually be dying to head into combat, but as he knew the circumstances they were under, even he didn’t resist when ordered to stay behind.
“Now it’s my turn.” Seeing the Dragon Knights stomp their feet as they taunted the enemies, Kim Jin-Woo spoke to himself and jumped into battle.
The Undefeated Commander had grown ridiculously strong compared to a year prior, and he once again found himself swinging away in the middle of the battlefield.
Seeing Kim Jin-Woo slice an enemy completely in half with one quick swing, Morrigan screeched, “You liar!”
However, Kim Jin-Woo drowned her out as he looked at the message that appeared in front of him.
[The Commander of the Battlefield…]
1. There seems to be a minor error in the raws, as both “Espesto” and “Espetos” have been used as names for the King of Mirror Wraiths in past chapters. We’ll confirm this with the publisher and change our previous chapters accordingly.