Chapter 8

#3. Imp

Kim Jin-Woo woke up due to an awful chill. He blinked a few times and came to his senses. What in the world? Upon remembering the voice that had resounded in his head before he lost his consciousness, he sprang up from the floor. “Ah…”

A door had appeared on one of the stone chamber’s walls. The perfectly isolated place was now connected to somewhere. There was only darkness in the empty space at first glance, but upon closer inspection, he could make out a passageway.

Kim Jin-Woo gazed at the door in confusion. He eventually came to his senses and covered the emblem on the back of his hand.

[Naga’s Labyrinth] (Active)

  • Master Kim Jin-Woo (Level 4)
  • Level 1 Labyrinth (Size 4x4)
    • Durability 201/1050
  • Facilities
    • Master Room (Level 1)
    • Portal (On Cooldown 19:38:13 0/1)
    • Gate (100/100)
    • Undisclosed
    • The master of the labyrinth has insufficient ability.
    • The labyrinth’s facilities cannot be activated.

The status window had visibly changed compared to before he had lost his consciousness. Kim Jin-Woo was staring blankly at the status window; he was dumbfounded upon seeing the portal’s cooldown time.

From that, he discovered that he had been asleep for about four hours by now. Worried that his family would notice his absence, he was about to get up when he heard something scurrying behind him.

Keeek!

Kim Jin-Woo had never heard this sound before. With his guard up, he glared at the origin of the sound.

Sssshhh.

Something moved again the moment he turned his head. A layman could never track its speed with their eyes, but Kim Jin-Woo was a dungeon baby. He saw a small creature hiding under the stone chamber’s shadow, and flung himself in that direction without any hesitation.

“Keeek!” The small creature struggled when Kim Jin-Woo grabbed it by the back of its neck. It almost escaped, as it had impressive strength despite its size, but Kim Jin-Woo jammed his right fist into its body.

“Kek!” The creature shrieked and went limp.

Once it stopped moving, Kim Jin-Woo was finally able to take a closer look at what it was. It had the body of a six-year-old child, albeit with a large, red, and bald head. It also had two horns on its head and a long tail.

Kim Jin-Woo instinctively identified the strange creature. “An imp?” he mumbled, and he felt the limp creature’s body tremble. Upon a closer look, he saw that its eyelids were trembling incessantly. It was playing dead.

“You bastard! I finally caught you!” Furious, Kim Jin-Woo grabbed the imp by its neck and lifted it up. 

The imp choked and coughed. It seemed to have realized that its acting was ineffective.  It immediately began to flail its limbs around and struggled, but it was all in vain.

“Give me back my money!” Kim Jin-Woo roared fiercely, causing the imp to freeze.

That hard-earned money was supposed to have been used for his sister’s wedding. He felt a deep resentment towards this obnoxious bastard who had stolen his 15 million  won. Fortunately for him, the thief had shown itself.

The imp coughed and screamed when it saw the blue glimmer in Kim Jin-Woo’s eyes, which resembled that of an under-beast.

“I said, give me back my money!” Kim Jin-Woo lifted the imp up and began to shake it violently. The imp squealed as its large head swung around uncontrollably.

However, Kim Jin-Woo was furious and had no intentions of letting it go. He even suspected that the imp had come to rummage through his belongings while he was unconscious earlier.

“Keeek...” With all its might, the tortured imp tried to explain something using body language.

Although they didn’t share the same language, Kim Jin-Woo could somehow understand what the imp was trying to tell him.

“You don’t have the money? Really? You have no idea how valuable it is!” he yelled and lifted his fist as if he were going to smash the imp’s head to pieces. The imp freaked out and searched its pockets with its short arms. It then handed something over to Kim Jin-Woo.

“I don’t need this kind of stuff. Just bring my…” Kim Jin-Woo froze when he saw what the imp had passed to him. He realized what the object in its small hand was. “A down gem?”[1] he asked.

The red jewel glowed brilliantly in the imp’s small hand.

*** 

A down gem was an extraordinary jewel only found in the Underworld. It was sometimes buried deep in the Underworld, or concealed by rare Underworld plants.

Under-beasts or under-creatures would consume the jewels, and many explorers roamed around the Underworld to collect them.

Down gems were expensive on the market due to their scarcity. A small down gem of barely 1 carat could be worth millions of won. For the bigger ones, the price was all up to the seller.

The red down gem in the imp’s hand was almost the size of a thumb. Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t the brightest when it came to market prices, but he could tell that it was valuable at the very least.

“Kek kek!” The imp coughed violently. Kim Jin-Woo’s grip seemed to have tightened unconsciously from the shock. He was about to slightly loosen his grip when the imp searched its pocket once again and fished out a blue down gem.

“Keeek!” It seemed to have misunderstood Kim Jin-Woo’s lack of a reaction as indifference toward the down gem. That was why it now had two down gems in its hand. 

Kim Jin-Woo regained his composure and attempted to snatch the gems from the imp when it suddenly began to struggle. One of the down gems fell and rolled toward the altar.

Meanwhile, the imp managed to escape Kim Jin-Woo’s grip. It then rolled away to safety. It stamped its feet and shrieked the moment it got up from the floor.

The imp seemed angry and frustrated to have forfeited the down gems to Kim Jin-Woo. However, it seemed to be even more afraid of getting caught. As a result, it soon disappeared into the darkness beyond the gate.

“That bastard!” Kim Jin-Woo tried to catch the imp, but he was a step too late. It had already vanished. He let out a long sigh and hurriedly pocketed one of the down gems. He looked around to find the other jewel that had rolled towards the altar.

“Where is it?” he asked. Had the imp returned in that brief moment to take the other down gem back? The blue jewel was nowhere to be seen.

“This is driving me nuts.” Annoyed, Kim Jin-Woo looked closely and inspected the altar area. He crawled on the floor, checking the stone chair and the corners of the altar for the down gem. However, he still couldn’t find it.

[An intermediate-level down gem has been offered to the altar. Its quality is poor, as it has spent a long time traveling the Underworld with the imp. However, it is enough to restore and upgrade the damaged labyrinth’s durability.]

A message appeared in the air. Kim Jin-Woo was stunned, as if he had been slapped in the face.

[There are 24 hours left before the durability restoration of the labyrinth is complete. There are 72 hours left before the labyrinth rises in rank.]

Kim Jin-Woo stared blankly at the message and shouted, “Don’t you dare!”

[An offered down gem cannot be taken back.]

The message annoyed Kim Jin-Woo even further, causing him to yell and scream. 

He couldn’t even give his sister the money for her wedding dowry because of that thieving imp. And yet, when he had finally caught the imp and obtained the down gem, it had been consumed by the labyrinth. His anger was justified.

Regardless, the labyrinth refused to spit the down gem back out.

Kim Jin-Woo eventually gave up and left the labyrinth with only a single down gem in his possession.

***

“17 million won! No more than that!”

He sure has a loud voice... Kim Jin-Woo saw the gemologist's cunning eyes flicker as the latter attempted to read his reaction, all while struggling to keep a poker face himself.

“The gem is big, but it’s empty inside. Someone must’ve carried it around until the surface became smooth. This can never get a good price regardless of its size,” the gemologist said.

Kim Jin-Woo didn’t reply. He wasn’t good at bargaining; not only had he been born and raised in the dungeon, but he had also not met many people on the surface. Nevertheless, he had realized long ago that being silent helped more in bargaining than rambling on carelessly.

“18 million won! Go find someone else if you want more. This is my limit.”

The gemologist had surrendered, as expected. Kim Jin-Woo pretended to grab the red down gem on the table. The gemologist clicked his tongue and turned his head away. He genuinely seemed unwilling to pay more than the proposed price.

“Deal,” Kim Jin-Woo said.

“Argh... I’ll barely get any profit from this after paying for the processing cost.”

Kim Jin-Woo ignored the gemologist's empty words. There was a disappointed look on the gemologist's face; he seemed to be expecting some sort of bonus. Kim Jin-Woo, however, held his ground with a placid look.

In the end, he managed to sell the red down gem for 18 million won. He sighed immediately after leaving the gemologist's office.

18 million won. That was 3 million won more than the amount stolen by the imp. Finally, he had been able to make up for his loss.

Still, it was a real pity that he hadn’t been able to use his money when he needed it the most. However, he was still grateful to have successfully come back from his losses.

When Kim Jin-Woo returned home, his parents were busy brainstorming business ideas that could guarantee a comfortable life in their retirement. Kim Jin-Woo greeted them briefly before locking his room and summoning the status window.

[Naga’s Labyrinth] (Active)

  • Master Kim Jin-Woo (Level 4)
  • Level 1 Labyrinth (Size 4x4) (Upgrading 48:35:11)
    • Durability 626/1050 (24:35:11)
  • Facilities
    • Master Room (Level 1)
    • Portal (On Cooldown 00:24:22 0/1)
    • Gate (100/100)
    • Undisclosed
    • The master of the labyrinth has insufficient ability.
    • The labyrinth’s facilities cannot be activated.

The Naga's Labyrinth, which had cheekily consumed the down gem, was upgrading and repairing itself ostentatiously.

For the first time, Kim Jin-Woo refused to enter the Naga's Labyrinth. Annoyed, he only opened the status window to check the decreasing hours, minutes, and seconds.

But to be honest, his anger wasn’t that serious. The 3 million won of profit he had received from selling the down gem was already an unexpected boon for him. It was enough to quell his anger.

In fact, he was already starting to get curious about what would happen if the decreasing numbers in the status window reached. A change was bound to happen, similar to how that gate had appeared when the synchronization rate reached a hundred percent.

Thus, he revisited the labyrinth after 72 hours, when the upgrade was due to be completed.

Although he had never expected to get used to it, Kim Jin-Woo was starting to adapt to the peculiar sensation of going through the portal. He was able to quickly regain his wits as he looked around the stone chamber.

The first thing that caught his eye was the densely written text in the message window.

[The labyrinth has been upgraded. Its level has increased from 1 to 2. The locked facilities are now activated.]

[Due to the activation of the labyrinth’s facilities, some under-beasts and creatures in the distance have now recognized the existence of the labyrinth.]

[The labyrinth is still a safe haven. Still, it is recommended that you prepare its defenses as soon as possible.]

[You are able to summon a level 1 Naga Worker through the nest.]

Overwhelmed with the flood of messages, Kim Jin-Woo unintentionally stumbled backwards and saw something in the dark.

“You!” His yell startled the imp and caused it to run away. He began to chase after it.

“Keeek!” The imp shrieked, as though warning Kim Jin-Woo not to follow it. Still, he had no intention of stopping. He wasn’t aware what being the master of this labyrinth meant yet, but he wasn’t fond of how the imp was hanging around his private space.  

Kim Jin-Woo ran at breakneck speed. The imp was as agile as a squirrel, but Kim Jin-Woo was faster. He grabbed the imp by the back of its neck.

“Kakakak!” The imp squealed and went limp. Its sulky expression resembled that of a rabbit in a hunter’s hand.

But Kim Jin-Woo himself wasn’t so concerned about the imp. He was looking at his own body in shock. Something had changed.

He had easily shot across the chamber without using his full strength. Under normal circumstances, the chase with the imp should have lasted for a long time. However, the reality was that he had caught the imp in a blink of an eye. He couldn’t believe it.

Confused, Kim Jin-Woo estimated the distance he had traveled throughout the chase. He was shocked to discover that he had dashed almost a hundred meters in a flash.

He picked up a stone from the floor and clenched it with his fist.

Crack!

His jaw dropped when the stone split in half.


1. The author literally uses the English words ‘down gem’ transliterated into Korean in the raws.

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