Chapter 70

#29. The Naga Undertaker

Kim Jin-Woo’s grip on the reins tightened. Seeing the spirit horse desperately trying to avert its gaze, he tugged hard on the reins and got to his knees.

Neeeigh!” The spirit horse cried pitifully as it was forced onto its knees.

Seeing the sudden rough handling of his spirit horse, Balzark sprung forward with concern.

“Stand aside,” Kim Jin-Woo commanded, and Balzark hurriedly retreated.

Kim Jin-Woo tugged at the spirit horse’s reins once more.He put his head so close to the spirit horse’s that they could practically hear each other breathe. It was trembling so hard, its eyes seemed as though they would pop out any second. He repeated. “How long are you going to keep this up?”

The spirit horse let out a desperate cry. Its eyes shook madly.

“Well, that’s fine. But…” As Kim Jin-Woo spoke, blue streaks of light started to flow from the corners of his eyes. “You won’t be allowed an honorable death. You’ll slave away as a spirit horse until the day you die.”

Kim Jin-Woo raised his free hand. In an instant, it turned into a fist and began closing in on the spirit horse’s head, ready to crack its skull open.

“Whoa, my King!”

Kim Jin-Woo paused at Balzark’s sudden cry. His fist was a fraction away from connecting with the spirit horse.

“My b… body has been swapped!” Valicius finally said.

***

Valicius’ planned escape failed miserably.

“I... was just testing whether the spirit horse was a success.” It was truly a spectacle watching him vomit out all sorts of excuses.

“That said, I think it went okay. I was almost fooled into thinking you were really a spirit horse,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked with a smirk.

Upon seeing Kim Jin-Woo’s expression, Valicius hurriedly responded, “I was in worse shape than I thought, which was why I got sucked into the spirit horse’s body while I was linking up with it. If not for the interference from thy King, I would have been trapped in the spirit horse’s body forever. For that, I am eternally grateful!”

For the King of the Dead to have fallen this much, it was indeed a rather pathetic sight. Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t tell if Valicius had finally accepted his circumstances, or if he had lost his mind after losing his flesh body and taking over the spirit horse’s.

“But what shall I do? You’re useless in that body.” Kim Jin-Woo looked at the spirit horse’s hooved legs as he spoke, and Valicius fell silent. From wavering eyes, he seemed desperate to prove his usefulness. Kim Jin-Woo continued, “Besides, the spirit horse was meant to serve Balzark in the battlefield, not to labor away in the labyrinth.”

Its weak and sullen body was completely unfit for someone that had once ruled the Dead, but this was also exactly what Kim Jin-Woo had hoped Valicius would look like.

“Dominique, bring the thing I prepared!” Kim Jin-Woo commanded. Dominique quickly bowed and relayed orders to a couple of naga workers, while Kim Jin-Woo turned to the spirit horse and coldly stared. “I’ve heard all your pathetic excuses clearly! How absurd!”

Valicius was beyond petrified and shook uncontrollably.

“I’m giving you one last chance. The choice is yours!” As Kim Jin-Woo finished speaking, the naga workers returned from carrying out his relayed orders.

“This is…” Valicius began.

In the nagas’ hands, there was a corpse of a recently deceased naga worker.

“This will be your new body. It’s up to you whether to accept it or not. Of course, you’ll bear all the consequences of your decision,” Kim Jin-Woo finished.

***

<There is none among the eighteen thousand, two hundred and thirty nagas who can disobey the King.>

“Even if its spirit belongs to someone else?”

<The spirit is bound to the body, and we, the nagas, cannot disobey the master’s words, down to the bone. Of course, that isn’t the source of my loyalty to my master.>

"Right. So, as long as it’s a naga's body, it can't go against my orders."

<That’s correct. And that would be true even if one were once a labyrinth master. Serving the rightful King is the destiny of all those born as nagas.>

***

Kim Jin-Woo remembered his conversation with Dominique and watched Valicius gleefully.

Valicius seemed to understand what accepting the body of a naga meant. However, he had no choice from the beginning.

Thinking about the relationship he had with Kim Jin-Woo, who couldn’t expect sincere loyalty out of him, there was no way he could let his soul stay in the spirit horse as it slaved away across the Underworld for all eternity. It was self-evident what would happen if he persisted until the end.

Finally, Valicius answered, despair written all over his eyes. “I can only thank you for your grace.”

Valicius’s answer tickled Kim Jin-Woo’s taste buds, but somehow, he was left with disappointment mixed in with his pleasure.

Even after seeing such a sight, Valicius had no room for hesitation. He knew what kind of cold-blooded person his master was for presenting him with the naga worker’s corpse.

Valicius, with no regrets left, let go of everything and closed his eyes.

Thud!

The spirit horse’s body fell limp.

“Argh!” Balzark, who had been watching the whole scene play out, let out a sound.

“Be patient. I’m not one who would go back on my promise.” Kim Jin-Woo, who was well aware of Balzark’s burning desire to ride a mount and be a full-fledged knight, had read Balzark’s mind.

“Everything will be according to the King’s will.” Balzark took a step back and bowed.

At that moment, the naga worker’s corpse sprung up and his eyes opened. It appeared dazed for a moment before finally blinking a few times.

“I congratulate you on finally being one with the labyrinth, Valicius.”

[‘Valicius, King of the Dead’ has taken over the body of a Naga Worker.]

[By the absolute power of the Naga King, inherited from past generations, Valicius shall never defy the King from this point forth.]

[With the absorption of a former king’s soul, the Naga Worker’s body has started its transformation.]

As soon as Kim Jin-Woo finished speaking, the notification window appeared with messages, and the naga worker’s body started shining brightly.

[Naga Worker (Ordinary)’s body has evolved into Naga Worker (Hero-Grade).]

[Had ‘Valicius, King of the Dead’s body been absorbed into a vassal stronger than a Naga Worker, it would have been able to utilize even stronger abilities. Due to the usage of a Naga Worker (Ordinary)’s body, the evolution will be capped at Hero-Grade.]

[Even if the Naga Worker’s body is Hero-Grade, it cannot fully provide the magic power required for necromancy. Many of the necromancy spells have been disabled.]

[The necromantic category 'Death Spirit' cannot be used.]

[The necromantic category ‘Summoning’ cannot be used.]

[The necromantic category ‘Spirit Magic’ cannot be used.]

[Only the necromantic category ‘Craft Dead’ can be used.]

Valicius fell into despair, as Kim Jin-Woo felt immense satisfaction.

[Due to its ability ‘Craft Dead’, the Naga Worker (Hero-Grade) has transformed into a Naga Undertaker.]

***

“Stop.”

“Move.”

With the two conflicting orders, the Dead moved chaotically before coming to a stop.

“Move.”

Despite the new order to move, the Dead continued to stay still.

Kim Jin-Woo gave a satisfying laugh as he observed the Dead. In contrast, Valicius looked at his master with a complicated expression.

It was understandable. For someone who had once directly ruled over the countless Dead as well as the Graveyard, seeing someone else give orders in front of their eyes was quite unfathomable.

But what was done was done, and there was nothing else he could do about it. Now he was just another naga that followed the King; the Dead would follow Kim Jin-Woo instead of him, as his necromancy was long gone.

“Getting used to this will take some time,” Kim Jin-Woo remarked.

There wasn’t a hint of resentment anywhere in Valicius’ eyes as he looked at Kim Jin-Woo, who had taken everything from him, and said, “You will get used to it in due time. I will assist you by your side.”

With certainty that those words were truly sincere, Kim Jin-Woo said, “I’ll grant you freedom as long as you don’t leave the fortress.”

“I am deeply grateful for the King’s generosity.” Not even the slightest hint of hesitation remained as Valicius kneeled.

Kim Jin-Woo looked on smugly as he gave an order to Dominique. “From now on, anything Valicius requests for his research will be top priority above all.”

<As Master wishes.> All it took was a body swap for Dominique to no longer treat Valicius as a threat.

“From here on, you shall only create useful artifacts and items that will be beneficial to me and the nagas!”

“I will do as you command!” Valicius bowed his head once more and disappeared into his abode.

***

“Whoa, whoa!” His helmet was rolling around on the floor, and yet, Balzark was riding the spirit horse and doing his best to get it under control.

Kim Jin-Woo looked on, clearly dissatisfied. A headless knight riding a spirit horse that resembled a pile of rags more than anything was definitely not a good sight.

But regardless, he was glad that his labyrinth now had another Hero-Grade unit in it, when it had been sorely lacking. With a proper commander in place, the Naga Dragon Knights would definitely be able to exert greater potential and power.

As for Valicius the naga necromancer, he was able to accomplish a lot since his induction into the naga army.

The first thing he did was to resurrect the spirit horse, thus providing Balzark with mobility. The derelict Army of the Dead, once severely neglected, was also completely revived and reorganized.

Thanks to the addition of a new army, the Naga Fortress’ defenses increased many times over. As the Dead needed no sleep nor any recovery time, they were a true all-purpose force.

Although their attentiveness and speed left much to be desired, by placing them together with the sharp-eyed rangers as well as the nagas, any existing weaknesses in the defenses were now covered.

Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but feel reassured. “This is going great.”

It would only be a couple of days more until the Party Hall finished its upgrade, and a few more days beyond that to fully restore all the facilities in the Graveyard.

It seemed like just yesterday when he had witnessed the might of Boreas, but the Naga Fortress was already strong enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Boreas.

As Kim Jin-Woo owned one labyrinth and held regency over three others as fiefs, his might was worthy of respect not only on the 9th Floor, but even beyond it.

“You’ve arrived.” Kim Jin-Woo pleasantly welcomed the Black Merchant, with whom he had gotten more amicable since their last encounter.

“Milord, your fortress’ rate of growth is truly unbelievable.”

“Isn’t this all just debt? I’ll eventually have to repay Anatolius for all these one day.” Kim Jin-Woo spoke bluntly in response to the Black Merchant’s flattery.

A large portion of the military funds provided by the Black Merchant had in fact been backed by Anatolius. Due to the agreement with Anatolius, who had hopes of overthrowing the 11th floor, it wasn’t wrong to call it a debt.

However, it was also true for Kim Jin-Woo that the agreement was in line with his own purposes, and he was going to take every ounce of advantage out of it.

“Ah, since we’re on the topic, I have something to ask.” In response to Kim Jin-Woo’s frankness, the Black Merchant got straight to the point. “By the way, these aren’t my words, but rather the words of Count Anatolius.”

“Anatolius?”

"Yes. But first, please take this.” The Black Merchant took something out from his belongings.

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