Chapter 16

“Hmm….” Kim Jin-Woo murmured unconsciously upon witnessing the black merchant’s item. Even with Dominique’s advice, he was hesitant to reach out toward it. The item defied his wildest expectations.

Wriggle, wriggle.

A small worm wriggled incessantly in a transparent glass bottle. The black merchant said, “This is a parasitic worm. Not even we, the black merchants, have many of these. It will cost you one high-grade down gem; are you interested?”

It was tremendously expensive. A high-grade down gem could easily be appraised at 400 million won in the market. Was this hideous worm worth that much?

Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but scowl. He turned around and gave Dominique a skeptical look, but she gave him a firm nod. 

Kim Jin-Woo sighed and fished out a medium-high grade down gem from his pocket, asking, “Will this do?” 

“Oh! This down gem is of good quality. Two of these will suffice.”

Kim Jin-Woo had already decided to purchase the worm. He took out another down gem from his pocket and handed it over to the black merchant.

“Thank you! You will never regret your purchase.”

Kim Jin-Woo acquired the parasite.

***

“Is this worm worth that much?” Kim Jin-Woo asked as he held the transparent glass bottle up between his index finger and thumb.

<You won’t regret your decision,> Dominique replied sternly. <I don’t doubt it will be worth its cost.>

Still, it took her many rounds of explanation to put Kim Jin-Woo at ease. Whether he would agree to become the host of this small and hideous worm was a different story altogether.

“Yikes,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked. Still, he couldn’t just keep it as a pet. It was worth two medium-high grade down gems after all.

He opened the glass bottle and flipped it upside down. The worm flopped onto the back of his hand. The feeling of the creature wriggling on his hand was horrible beyond belief. Even Kim Jin-Woo, who had been through some rugged times, couldn’t help but instinctively feel a sense of disgust.

As he stared at the parasite on the back of his hand, he suddenly felt a sting.

<Congratulations. All we have to do now is to wait for the parasite to settle down.>

The worm vanished completely into Kim Jin-Woo’s hand. Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t sure whether this was a good thing. He could only wait to find out. He stared at the back of his hand with an uneasy expression, then remembered to check the labyrinth’s upgrade progress.

Suddenly, he froze. The upgrade was complete. The labyrinth began to tremble and emanate a brilliant flash of light.

“Hmm,” Kim Jin-Woo mused.

The upgrade seemed a little different this time. Not only had there been an intense tremor across the whole labyrinth, but its core, at the center of the stone chamber, was also glowing brilliantly.

<There’s a huge difference between Level 3 and Level 4,> Dominique explained, but it was unnecessary. Kim Jin-Woo instinctively knew that he could expect a huge change in the labyrinth once this tremor ended.

[The labyrinth has been upgraded to Level 4. New facilities are unlocked.]

[Beasts and creatures far away from the labyrinth are now fully aware of the labyrinth.]

[A Level 4 labyrinth is an attractive place to many beasts and creatures. Creatures that wish to be the new master of the labyrinth may visit. You must strengthen your defenses.]

A series of messages appeared. Kim Jin-Woo swiftly rubbed the back of his hand to summon a status window.

[Naga’s Labyrinth] (Active)

  • Master Kim Jin-Woo (Level 6) (Average Commander)
  • Level 4 Labyrinth (Size 42x42)
    • Dungeon Energy (35/500)
    • Durability 5611/5611
  • Facilities
    • Master Room (Level 3)
    • Portal (On Cooldown 18:04:27 0/1)
    • Gate (900/900)
    • Storage (2492/6800)
    • Naga’s Nest (30/150)
    • Level 5 facilities can only be activated after upgrading.
  • Military Strength (30/40) 
    • Naga Maid (Dominique/Heroine) 1/10
    • Naga Archer (Level 2) 1/10 
    • Naga Soldier (Level 1) 2/2
    • Naga Warrior (Level 2) 2/6
    • Naga Worker (Level 1) 4/1

The labyrinth had grown to twice its original size. Not only had its durability increased, but its total capacity for housing nagas had also increased substantially. 

[As the labyrinth is now Level 4, new facilities can be built.]

This was the second time Kim Jin-Woo had seen this message. He sat on the naga’s throne without hesitation.

The throne had become fancier after the upgrades, excluding the pair of marbles that remained attached to its armrest. Kim Jin-Woo grabbed them with both hands and commanded, “Bring forth the list of facilities.”

  • Breeding Farm (Level 3) (10)
    • A perfect environment to raise captured game, which can be fed to the faithful nagas.
  • Pub (Level 4) (20)
    • The underground world is a boring place. The nagas, who dedicate their lives to fight for their master, need to enjoy some leisure time. They can drink and relax here to replenish their energy. Moreover, you can obtain information from the neutral creatures that may visit your labyrinth. They may even become your allies if you are in luck.
  • Forge (Level 4) (50)
    • The nagas generally do not complain about the quality of their equipment, but they will greatly appreciate better weapons. A skillful blacksmith can manufacture weapons and other useful equipment.
  • Laboratory (Level 4) (50)
    • The naga magicians are excellent fighters, but they are more enthusiastic about studying new mysteries. The laboratory is thus essential to quench their thirst for knowledge.
  • Temple (Level 4) (50)
    • The wise naga priests of the underground world pray and seek the truth at all times. Their prayers may reach the primal snake to create occasional miracles. The presence of the temple alone can fend off weak curses and evil spirits from the labyrinth.

Kim Jin-Woo scanned through the list of available facilities. He took out the last down gem from his pocket and threw it onto the shrine. “I will build a breeding farm and a pub first.”

He listened to Dominique’s advice and began to work diligently to transform the labyrinth.

***

“Phew.” 

A man couldn’t live without sunlight. That even applied to Kim Jin-Woo, who had spent more time underground than on the surface. His house was no better than an uncomfortable warehouse, but he felt relieved just by exiting the labyrinth.

The intense chill of the labyrinth was the worst of all. It was too cold and damp below the fifth floor for a human to stay for too long. In fact, the naga’s labyrinth was considered cold even in the underground world.

Kim Jin-Woo had had to spend a whole week in such an unforgiving environment. It was partly due to Dominique’s advice to put more effort into the labyrinth, but other than that, operating the upgraded labyrinth required his constant presence.

“Urgh. Not sure whether I’ve done the right thing,” he grumbled.

Kim Jin-Woo had built a breeding farm first to feed the nagas. He had also constructed a pub to accommodate the nagas and unexpected visitors.

In addition, he had summoned more personnel. It had taken 19 Dungeon Energy to summon a naga magician and a naga priest. After summoning two more naga warriors, he barely had any Dungeon Energy left. The remaining Dungeon Energy had been used to summon naga workers, as he needed more laborers due to the increase in the scale of the labyrinth.

Kim Jin-Woo had thus spent a whole week frantically managing his labyrinth. When he finally came up to the surface, he couldn’t believe how heavenly it felt.

“Ahhhhh.” He could feel his whole body loosen up in the hot shower. He was happily rinsing himself when he felt a sudden sting on the back of his hand again. 

Kim Jin-Woo frowned. “Don’t tell me…”

He recalled the parasite he had purchased a week ago. He was about to leave the shower quickly, but he was suddenly hit by a wave of agonizing pain. He couldn’t help but bend over and clench his teeth.

“Argh!” Kim Jin-Woo could barely stay conscious through the excruciating, searing pain. He rolled toward the sink and dipped his hand in cold water, but to no avail. In fact, the pain was worsening over time.

“Aaaaarghhh!” Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t hold his scream back any longer.

A message appeared at that instant.

[The parasite has been hypoactive due to the labyrinth’s cold environment. Thanks to the warmer temperature above ground, it is now becoming more active. 24 hours remain until the parasite settles down completely.] 

Kim Jin-Woo would rather faint than endure this pain for a whopping 24 hours. However, even that wasn’t an option in this case. He had no choice but to battle the horrendous agony for an entire day.

The waves of pain hit him at unpredictable intervals, which made it harder to endure. He struggled in constant agony regardless of the pain level.

Kim Jin-Woo was at least grateful that his new house was located in a desolate countryside, though he hadn’t expected such an event to happen. Otherwise, his scream would have summoned the police. Nevertheless, his main priority was to last through the pain.

The agony seemed to last an eternity, but Kim Jin-Woo overcame it eventually.

A new message window appeared.

[24 hours have passed. The parasite has completely settled down.]

The pain in the back of his hand subsided immediately.

[The parasite is now unable to leave its host. Thus, it will protect its host at all costs.]

Kim Jin-Woo lost his consciousness once the torment was over.

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