Chapter 113

Kim Jin-Woo got the shock of his life.

“A True King?” he asked, looking at Dominique with a stunned expression.

She seemed to be teasing him even as she reiterated, “Yes. The one and only Noble Naga, the True King.”

The Naga King. Kim Jin-Woo had heard that title hundreds, if not thousands of times, and yet it had never gotten to his head as much as it did in this moment. He stood frozen on the spot.

However, Dominique didn’t stop with her explanation. “Master will now become stronger, wiser, and more honorable.”

“Will I become a Naga myself?” Kim Jin-Woo finally asked the dreaded question. If his fears were to come true, he knew he wouldn’t be able to live with that fact. He wanted to be a human. Nothing more, nothing less.

“No,” Dominique replied. Kim Jin-Woo blinked twice at the unexpected answer as she continued, “The one and only King is the one that inherits the name of the Nagas.”

“What do you mean?” Kim Jin-Woo asked. He simply couldn’t understand what was going on and demanded further elaboration.

Dominique just smiled slyly. “We, the Nagas, will be the ones to change our appearance, not our King.”

***

Kim Jin-Woo was left alone as he slowly stroked his back. He could still feel the hard scales that felt alien to him, but compared to when he had first made the discovery, he was feeling rather calm.

Not to mention that he had no reason to fret anymore, since he had been able to completely shake off the bad feeling he’d initially had due to his mutation.

“Appearance isn’t that important to us. We’re simply a reflection of our King,” Dominique had said. The fact that they could change to match their king was how the Nagas had survived for such a long time in the Underworld.

And as Kim Jin-Woo thought longer about it, it seemed that this wasn’t the case for just the Nagas. Whether it was the slimes from the Land of Greed, the Nightmares, the Centaurs, and even the Dwarves, he was pretty sure that they too hadn’t originally possessed such appearances.

“The current change in Master’s appearance reflects the body acclimatizing to the Underworld in order to more readily accept its power. Even when the change is over, Master won’t be covered in scales or grow a tail like ours. At most, you’ll only have a slightly different appearance that symbolizes your having inherited the name of the Nagas.”

Dominique seemed to know exactly what Kim Jin-Woo was concerned about, and she assured him that his greatest fears wouldn’t come true. Somehow, her words were exactly what he needed to hear.

“Phew.” Kim Jin-Woo could finally relax. Maybe it was because his built-up anxiety had finally been released, but he started to break into laughter.

Ignorance was truly terrifying. When he had been unaware, he only felt fear and reluctance. But now that he was fully aware of the facts, all he could feel was, funnily enough, excitement. Just the thought of the incredible powers he would gain at the end of his metamorphosis excited him.

“The Naga King, huh…” Kim Jin-Woo muttered to himself, and the sound echoed throughout the silent master room.

***

[Dullahan (Hero-Grade) Balzark has evolved.]

[Balzark has ascended from Dullahan (Hero-Grade) to Death Knight (Elite).]

[The curse of the Headless Knight, whose honor was tainted by his pitiful death, has finally been lifted. To make up for the lost honor and glory he sought during his lifetime, he will now gladly go to war honorably for the victory of his King.]

Despite his metamorphosis, there wasn’t much difference in Balzark’s appearance. His head, which he had previously held grotesquely by his side, simply rested atop his shoulders now.

[Death Knights have great charisma in commanding their troops, and also possess powerful individual strength. In any battle Balzark participates in, all Dead subordinates and other undead minions will have their power enhanced beyond their abilities.]

[The unique ability ‘Roar of the Dead’ has been acquired. This terrifying roar that can otherwise only be heard in Hell has the effect of paralyzing all living beings who hear it. These paralyzed beings become targets for the Dead to satiate their hunger.]

“Ahahaha! My King!” Balzac laughed frivolously as he fell to his feet. Usually, his head would have fallen off and started rolling by now, but with his transformation, it now seemed to be permanently attached to his body.

“That head of yours, is it now fully attached to your body for good?” Kim Jin-Woo asked. No matter how scary the monsters of the Underworld were, none were as creepy as the Dullahan. 

In response, Balzark raised his hands and plucked off his head. “No way. My greatest weapon is this sturdy head!” He seemed hilariously proud of his headless identity. Kim Jin-Woo nodded in understanding, as he was already used to Balzark’s antics.

After checking in on Balzark, Kim Jin-Woo met up with Quantus next.

[Naga Warrior (Hero-Grade) Quantus has evolved.]

[Quantus has ascended from Warrior (Hero-Grade) to Naga Guard (Elite).]

[This valiant warrior who fought furiously for his master will now fight with even greater dedication and commitment to his master’s victory.]

[Naga Guards display their greatest power when protecting their king. No others are more suited to protecting their labyrinths and defending their estates than the Naga Guards. Quantus will enhance the power of the Nagas beyond their ordinary abilities while on the defense in a war.]

[The unique ability ‘Iron Curtain’ has been acquired. Once activated, few beings will be able to break through this Naga’s fortified defenses. Naga Guards with the ‘Iron Curtain’ ability activated will have their defense increased and will be invulnerable to most attacks.]

Wearing armor forged by the Naga Blacksmiths, Quantus looked sturdy as he made his appearance. Bigger and harder scales covered his body like another coat of armor, and an armored plate resembling an iron helmet had grown over his face, adding on to his ferocious look.

“My loyalty to the King!” he cried.

Nodding with satisfaction at Quantus’ undying loyalty, Kim Jin-Woo moved on to Rikshasha, who was just completing her metamorphosis. Layers that looked like tree bark slowly peeled off of her, and one by one, they fell to the ground.

An overwhelming number of messages and flashes of light appeared, greater than both Balzark and Quantus combined.

[Under-Elf Ranger Rikshasha (?) has evolved.]

[Rikshasha has ascended from Under-Elf Ranger (?) to Under-Elf Runner (?).]

[This wanderer of the Underworld did not know pride until she began serving the king and offered her utmost loyalty. Her pride now lies in honoring the glory and victory of her king, and she will stop at nothing to execute any and all orders. No matter how lowly and filthy the order, there can be no greater glory for her.]

[With her stealth and tracking skills, learned out of necessity to survive within the darkness of the Underworld, she has evolved into an Under-Elf Runner with speed like no other. A being faster than anyone else in the Underworld, she will stealthily carry out any and all orders given by her king. She is even capable of taking on the role of a deadly assassin.]

[The unique ability ‘Loyalty and Service’ has been acquired. She finds true joy and pleasure in carrying out her king's orders. At her king's command, she will execute any being, friend or foe, without hesitation.]

[The unique ability ‘Shadow Blade’ has been acquired. Forged in darkness, this tiny dagger is sharper, stealthier, and deadlier than anything else. Even those who protect themselves with the strongest armor cannot escape from this blade.]

“Ah…”

When the light cleared up, Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but let out an inaudible gasp at the sight of Rikshasha. She had become incomparably more beautiful than her past self.

“My one and only Master,” Rikshasha said.

She almost looked like a black panther. Her dark skin showed off her perfectly toned muscles, making even the simple gesture of bowing her head seem more alive. Kim Jin-Woo subconsciously gulped at the sight of her dizzyingly long legs that stretched out beautifully.

“Master.”

“Master!”

If Dominique and Angela hadn’t called out to him, he would have gawked at Rikshasha for eternity.

“Ahem.” Kim Jin-Woo belatedly realized what he was doing and cleared his throat.

But Rikshasha didn’t seem to shy away. In fact, she leaned forward, as if to provide him with an even better view. Her appearance was strangely enchanting and alluring, so Kim Jin-Woo inadvertently avoided her gaze.

“Congratulations to everyone,” Kim Jin-Woo said as he regained his composure.

Quantus and Rikshasha got to their knees while Balzark beat his chest loudly. “All glory to the King!” they cried in unison.

***

Rikshasha was overjoyed. After all, her master had specially pulled her to one side as he dismissed the rest. She said, “Please command me. I will follow any command as you wish. Even if you ask me to jump into the fiery pits of Hell…”

“No need for fiery pits and whatnot. Just answer one question.” Kim Jin-Woo quickly got straight to the point, overwhelmed by her excessive display of worship. “Rikshasha.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Why is it that I can’t see your grade?”

There was no other reason he had ordered her to stay behind. She was the only one who had a question mark for her grade in the messages that described his subordinates.

Kim Jin-Woo had thought that perhaps it was due to the fact that she was a relatively new addition, but despite the upgrades and even with all the loyalty she had shown, her grade was still listed as a question mark, which puzzled him greatly. Thus, he suspected that she might be hiding details from him, and he wanted to get to the bottom of this matter.

Rikshasha seemed to hesitate for a second, but as expected of someone who spoke highly of her loyalty to her master, she gave him an immediate reply. “I suspect that it might have been due to the fact that I was born into a species of lowly origin.”

“Your origins?” Kim Jin-Woo asked. Rikshasha’s reply did nothing to help clear the situation. Thus, he mentally prepared himself to fully hear out whatever long story she had to tell.

“I fear it will be a boring story. I’m afraid that this lowly servant's small talk might upset Master.”

“What’s important may not always necessarily be entertaining. So, no matter how long or short your story is, tell me all about it.”

It seemed to be a story that was weighing heavily on Rikshasha’s mind, as she seemed conflicted and hesitant. Kim Jin-Woo was also, by this point, starting to be intrigued by the origins of the Under-Elves.

“Master, do you know when my species first came to live in the Underworld?”

“No. Tell me everything from the beginning, as if I knew nothing of the Underworld.”

Rikshasha calmly started telling her story. “Our clan was once one of the most prosperous clans in the Underworld. However, all that glory was lost after we were defeated in the Great War. Afterward, my brothers and sisters scattered as we tried to survive on our own.”

The story seemed to have something to do with the ancient labyrinth masters, who had also disappeared like the ancient heroes.

“Was that during the period when the One-Eyed Lord ruled the Underworld?” Kim Jin-Woo asked.

“Indeed.”

It was exactly as Kim Jin-Woo had expected. Noting that the history of the Under-Elves was longer than he had thought, he urged Rikshasha to continue with her story.

“We lived truly like the lowest lifeforms in the Underworld, and we were stripped bare of all the grace and protection offered by the Mysteries of the Underworld.”

Rikshasha rolled up her shabby hood, revealing her copper-colored skin. Kim Jin-Woo’s eyes widened as he saw the abominable stigma that formed a callus over her skin.

“This is the stigma of exile, and an endless curse,” Rikshasha explained. The stigma that marked her beautiful body was so deep and clear that even her metamorphosis couldn’t erase it. She continued, “And this is one of the reasons why the Under-Elves, descendants of the Cursed Elf Lord, must wander the Underworld, damned for all eternity.”

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