Records of Dungeon Travel - Chapter 78
Boreas could barely open his eyes, his mind still in a daze. Even with his eyes open, his mind was foggy as if he were still dreaming, and his mind was simply not working right.
Was this the consequence of leaving the 10th Floor? With a heavy head and a weak body, Boreas barely managed to stand up.
“Anyone there?” His parched throat finally let out a coarse sound, but there was no reply to be heard. Frowning, he stood straight and took in a deep breath.
With it, his mind finally seemed to have cleared a bit and he muttered, “This feels terrible. I need to quickly finish up the job here and head back.”
As he rubbed his throat to soothe its pain, he suddenly froze. He finally realized how quiet the entire labyrinth was. Feeling a sense of dread that he hadn’t even experienced on the battlefield, he loudly called for his lieutenant, but to no avail.
Instead of a reply, all he could hear was the flapping of wings.
Between the flaps, he could hear groans. His mind jumped awake. Realizing it too late, he finally picked up the piercing stench of blood as his face froze up.
It was as if Death itself had descended on the entire labyrinth, and a chill rose as if a cold hand were passing through his spine.
“Fuck…” With the true identity of the ominous feeling finally being revealed, Boreas started to reach out his hands to trace the source of it all.
But his hands only felt the coldness of the stone walls, and the two scimitars that were always by his side when he fell asleep were nowhere to be found.
“Plotos! It’s a raid!” Feeling frustrated, he yelled out loud as he extended his claws. The sleeping residents of the labyrinth finally woke up at his sharp and fierce roar.
“Who are you?!”
“It’s a raid by our enemy!”
The labyrinth, which had moments ago been filled with silence, quickly became loud and chaotic. Not long after, his lieutenant came running.
“Lord Boreas, you have to escape! The enemy’s raid is… urgh…” Before he could even finish his sentence, the lieutenant dropped to the floor with blood foaming from his mouth. Blood dripped between his fingers as he clutched his throat.
“You bastard!” A shadow appeared behind the body of the lieutenant. “I took great pains to give you a comfortable place to sleep in, but it seems you didn’t really like it, huh?”
A grin crept across the face of the hooded being. The one laughing at the rage-induced Boreas was not the King of the Exiles, but rather Kim Jin-Woo.
“You tricked me!” Boreas exclaimed, shaking with rage.
Kim Jin-woo scoffed at Boreas. “You got tricked so easily that I felt embarrassed for you.”
The raid was a massive success. Perhaps the 10th Floor army had recovered more from the first attack than expected, as they confidently entered the Labyrinth of the Exiles.
And the one who welcomed the unsuspecting fools to their deaths was none other than Ariane, Queen of Illusions. Through her deceptions, the 10th Floor soldiers fell into sweet but deadly dreams, and for most of them, those dreams would prove to be their last.
“You asshole! It was a two-pronged attack!”
Kim Jin-Woo looked with disbelief at Boreas’ constant shouting and grinding of teeth. From the look of things, it seemed he still believed Kim Jin-Woo was the King of the Exiles.
“You really only know how to fight. Do I still look like the King of the Exiles to you?” Kim Jin-Woo said mockingly.
“You… are you…?” Boreas asked, incredulous.
Kim Jin-Woo stared into Boreas’ wide eyes and continued, “Yes. I am that very Naga King! You poor thing. Was it so difficult for you to even get that right?”
At the constant taunting, Boreas charged toward Kim Jin-Woo.
However, standing in his way was Morrigan.
“The Crow of the Battlefield!” Boreas shouted at the female warrior who easily swiped away his claws.
“All the better! All I have to do is take your heads! You will regret having walked into your own deaths!” With his objective right within his reach, Boreas turned even more violent and deadly. In retaliation, the sound of flapping wings and gusts of wind surrounded him.
It was a close fight. The fact that it was this close despite the penalty incurred by Boreas for leaving his floor was impressive in its own right.
But Boreas soon started to grow weak. Compared to him, Morrigan looked light-footed and at ease. Anybody could see that Boreas was falling behind.
“A man without the pride of a warrior! I see that the nagas were serving a mere swindler of a king!” Boreas’ eyes brimmed with anger as he suffered successive surprise attacks, as well as the fact that he had to fight an unfavorable battle without his weapons of choice.
“You could be right.” What Boreas said wasn’t wrong, as even Morrigan seemed to agree with him to an extent.
“But ultimately, a win is a win, isn’t it?’ Kim Jin-Woo smiled bitterly and folded his arms.
“My King! I’ve gathered the enemy forces!” Quantus appeared and reported.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at Boreas with a smirk and uncharacteristically declared out loud, “Well, shall we start to wrap things up?”
And with those words, he simply left.
“You bastard! Where are you going?!” Boreas roared loudly, but Kim Jin-Woo didn’t even look back.
Thanks to Ariane, Queen of Illusions, they were able to easily slaughter many of the enemy troops, but the number of troops alive was still formidable.
Even with all the killing that happened throughout the night, the once two-thousand-strong army still numbered over a thousand in the end.
“I still don’t understand why we have to engage in such tactics. We have a seven-hundred-strong army just half a day’s distance away. Couldn’t we have brought them along and wiped out the entire army in one fell swoop?” Ortehaga appeared behind Quantus and asked. They both looked at Kim Jin-Woo, seeking an answer.
“If we were that greedy, our movements would have been detected and they would have prepared for our arrival. Ariane’s magic isn’t strong enough to overcome that.”
“What if we had used the same explosion we used in the beginning?”
“That wouldn’t have been enough. That would have only bought us time. Their troops are tough enough to survive that kind of blast.”
Kim Jin-Woo had witnessed first hand how ineffective the bomb was at incapacitating the troops, and had doubts as to its effectiveness down the road.
“Their army may be a cocktail of various troops, but so is ours. In terms of quality and quantity, we lose out to them. With such odds, if we were to engage in a head-on battle, we’d be bound to lose,” Kim Jin-Woo continued.
He wanted to avoid a direct confrontation if possible. He knew his alliance would never be able to outmatch the enemy’s army. The raid had worked in their favor, but a head-on battle was practically suicide. That was why he had put in extra effort to ensure this raid would be a success.
“It’s time for Boreas to slowly wake up from his nightmare. Inform Ariane. We’ll pretend to attack, and then let them retreat.” As soon as Kim Jin-Woo finished speaking, the wound-riddled Boreas was seen joining his army.
“Good timing,” he remarked as Morrigan appeared with a dissatisfied look on her face. She looked angry that she had to let her captured prey go. Kim Jin-Woo continued, “Don’t make that face. After all, they’ll need a leader to gather themselves and not scatter about.”
In truth, the 9th Floor labyrinths would be no match for even a fraction of the 10th Floor’s army.
Every section had at least ten Hero-Grade summons, and adding the nobles—who may have lost their honor, but not their innate strength—into the equation, things weren’t in Kim Jin-Woo’s favor.
That was why he didn’t want them to be scattered and fragmented. And he believed that Boreas would rally his army again.
As expected, Boreas quickly consolidated his troops and started to flee the labyrinth. The troops who had once tripped over themselves trying to save their own skin were now retreating in an orderly fashion.
“This is where the war truly begins.”
If Kim Jin-Woo’s purpose was simply to drive the 10th Floor army away from the 9th Floor, he wouldn’t have worked with such cumbersome tactics. But he was planning far ahead into the future.
Predictably, it was in the 10th Floor Nobles’ nature to retreat quickly to their labyrinths at the first sight of trouble. And for Kim Jin-Woo, whose ambition was to eventually conquer the 10th Floor, any damage dealt and advantage taken was worth it.
“We’ve slaughtered eleven Hero-Grade summons, and 423 regular soldiers,” Ariane began.
“Maybe I was too ambitious in wanting to add a noble to that kill count,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.
“My illusions weren’t powerful enough. I tried to aim for the weakest of them, but all I managed to do was lose fifteen of my Nightmares.”
Kim Jin-woo laughed bitterly at Ariane’s report. Even if the nobles were corrupt, they were still innately strong. Kim Jin-Woo’s desire for victory grew stronger at the realization that he may have ignited the nobles’ dormant fighting spirit.
“Inform the troops. From now on, we’re the ones that will do the chasing,” he ordered.
“From the direction they’re retreating toward, it looks as though they’re heading right back to the 10th Floor. Do we have time to catch up to them?” Ariane asked skeptically.
But Kim Jin-Woo showed no signs of retracting his order. “We’ve already played our hand. They have nowhere to return to.”
Boreas was furious as he ordered, “Regroup the troops on the 10th Floor! We’ll wipe them out!”
The soldiers, whose morale had been weakened heavily by the sudden raid, seemed to be revitalized by their commander’s words.
Boreas’ lieutenant Malaga spoke as he looked at the troops. “Our losses aren’t as great as we thought. Not counting the lower ranks, only eleven were killed.” He was reporting the situation on behalf of Plotos, who had lost his life in Kim Jin-Woo’s raid.
“That’s why we need to regroup properly. It seems that only the elites of the 10th Floor are able to put up a proper fight.”
Boreas the Wind Piercer, known for rampaging through his enemies like the wind, was being held back by the very army he was leading. Angered, he grinded his teeth with rage. “I’ll make sure to personally take the head of the Crow of the… No, the Naga King himself!”
At the declaration, his lieutenant nodded and gave his assurance. “It will be so.”
As they retreated angrily, the army stopped once again when they reached the same passageway they had come from. It was uncertain when it had happened, but the passageway was blocked once more.
“Damn it!” Boreas exclaimed. “Is there another route?”
“If we make a detour, we should be able to reach another passageway in less than a day,” Malaga advised.
Boreas ordered his troops once more, “We’ll make a detour!”
The soldiers, exhausted from the night raid and the battles, reluctantly started moving their heavy feet once more. But that was the beginning of true hell for them.
Everywhere they went, they were raided. Regular raids would have been easy to defend against, but of all those who could have attacked, it had to be the Dead. As undead creatures, they lay buried underground, waiting for the troops to pass by before attacking them when they were least expecting it.
Of course, the Dead were vastly outnumbered, but the constant raids started to take a toll on the troops, as the death count started to accumulate.
What was even more terrifying was that the Dead who attacked the soldiers were the corpses of their very own allies who had been killed in the explosion.
Even as they toughed it out until the end, all they found were dead ends.
The map that they had prepared before the war proved to be more of a liability than an asset, as it only led them to blocked passageways one after another, slowly driving Boreas mad. All he wanted now was to leave the 9th Floor. Revenge was the last thought on his mind.
But it wasn’t as easy as he had hoped. The constant raids, followed by another unexpected bombing, started to create disorder and chaos among the ranks.
The damage itself wasn’t too great, but morale among the soldiers was at an all-time low. They had been born as beasts, but under the leadership of their lazy masters, they had grown accustomed to being weak and had even given up their fangs and talons. Their fighting instinct was now all but dull.
“Those who disobey my orders will be beheaded unconditionally!” Boreas lifted the head of a disobedient soldier, and the nobles started protesting in response.
No matter how corrupt and incapable the nobles might seem, Boreas was clearly outnumbered, as he failed to bring them back under his control. And with the massive defeat in their previous battle, the nobles started to fight back.
“If we think about it, shouldn’t you be responsible for our losses?! Under your poor leadership, we’ve already lost a thousand troops before even fighting in a proper battle! What right do you think you have to go around barking orders like that?!” one of the nobles pointed at Boreas and shouted.
Things weren;t looking good for Boreas. The army was starting to show division from within. He knew he had to act fast.
But his enemies gave Boreas no room to breathe.
“It’s a raid!”
At the five-forked crossroads, innumerable troops attacked the nobles’ coalition from all sides.
“What are our losses?” Boreas asked.
“We’ve lost over four hundred of our troops. But we killed more than we lost, so it’s a win for us!” the lieutenant answered.
If only it were that simple. This was practically the enemy’s front yard. The enemy was constantly getting reinforcements, while his dying troops turned into undead and fought their former allies. The odds didn’t look good for Boreas.
In addition, they were constantly being chased and raided to the point that they weren’t even sure of their location.
Boreas grew infuriated and ordered, “Inform all the troops! From now on, we’ll strike back at the first labyrinth that attacks us. Conquer any worthy labyrinths, and we’ll regroup in them before moving on to the next!”
“Send a messenger! Inform Lord Parthenon of our situation in detail!”
“But if you do that, Milord will be held responsible…”
There was no way that the violent and heartless Parthenon would forgive him. But there was no other way for Boreas. He yelled, “Inform Lord Parthenon. I, Boreas, am prepared to die in exchange for the Naga King’s head!”
In reality, that was no different from declaring a suicide attack. His lieutenant, realizing this, stared at him with a puzzled look on his face.
“Prepare for battle! The scouts have discovered a labyrinth two hours from here!” a scout reported.
The soldiers glared into the darkness in the distance. There were several labyrinths in front of them that had rejected Boreas’ offer of an alliance.