Kim Jin-Woo felt as if he were floating in the air. His cells seemed to disperse and rearrange themselves on their own. He found it hard to adjust, and had to check his body several times to see whether his limbs were still intact.
“Ah…” Only when Kim Jin-Woo finally regained his cool did he notice he was in the stone chamber from before. Initially, he failed to realize that it was the same one he had seen back then, since it looked somewhat different. The patterns on the chamber’s walls were gone. The previously hard and lumpy floor was now covered with neat tiles.
But the central altar and the stone table had changed the most. The upper portion of the altar seemed to have been split diagonally. In between was a medium-sized square chair with two mysterious marbles on its armrests.
“What is this?” he muttered to himself. The large door behind him was what truly caught his attention. Beyond this rimless, open space lay a familiar scene: A bed with neat sheets, and an empty table. It was undoubtedly his room.
Kim Jin-Woo stared blankly at the space beyond the portal and then the stone chamber, before walking toward the former. He could feel himself floating again. It was his second time around, but he couldn’t get used to the horrible sensation. He held his breath and his room appeared in front of him once again.
Level 1 Labyrinth (Synchronization Rate 16.1%)Durability 39/1050FacilitiesMaster Room (Level 1)Portal (On Cooldown 23:49:43 0/1)UndisclosedThe master of the labyrinth has insufficient ability.The labyrinth’s facilities cannot be activated.Kim Jin-Woo put up the status window just in case. The words after ‘portal’ had changed. The window showed ‘on cooldown’ instead of ‘ready for use’. The button next to it had also disappeared.
Kim Jin-Woo stood flabbergasted and pondered the series of events that had just happened. Once he regained his composure, he sat in front of the computer, which turned on with a jarring noise.
The text in the status window was almost identical to that of a game he had played a few times before.
He typed the words ‘portal definition’ in the search bar.
a ‘doorway’, ‘gate’, or ‘entrance’.(fictional) a door linking two different locations, made using magic or technology.A few definitions of the word appeared in front of him. Kim Jin-Woo paid particular attention to the second definition. It perfectly explained his situation earlier.
Afterward, he proceeded to type all sorts of words into the search bar as if he were possessed.
The word 'portal' had seemed so familiar to Kim Jin-Woo because it was a gaming term. Hoping to find some clues, he began to play a game he wasn’t cut out for.
He kept playing without any tangible benefit, and all he got was embarrassment when his mother visited him in his room. His mother was delighted to see her son finally acting his age, but Kim Jin-Woo felt his face heat up and could barely raise his head.
“Oppa, I heard you’ve been playing games?” Kim Hyun-Ji suddenly said as she came in.
Kim Jin-Woo hurriedly turned the screen off when she suddenly barged into his room. Kim Hyun-Ji misunderstood, thinking he was hiding an indecent video. Fortunately, there was no way for her to confirm her suspicions.
“Here, you should use this. Your computer is too old for games these days.” Kim Hyun-Ji had a peculiar look on her face. She had looked like a mess just a while ago, but now she had a bright smile.
Kim Jin-Woo looked at the white laptop and shook his head. “Nah. You should just use it. What if you need it later?”
“It’s okay. I only use it to watch movies. I surf the Internet and listen to music using my phone anyway.” She firmly declined, but was determined to slip the machine into his hands. Afterward, she continued to stay in the room for reasons unknown. Kim Jin-Woo wondered if there was anything wrong, as Kim Hyun-Ji looked rather serious.
“I’m sorry, Oppa. I didn’t know you went in there again for my sake. I’m really sorry.” She seemed bothered by the thought that she had almost sacrificed her brother for her wedding dowry.
Kim Jin-Woo was deeply moved. He combed through his belongings to return the envelope with the money that he had reclaimed against his will.
Although he’d had the envelope in his hands earlier, he couldn’t find it anymore. He was urgently digging through his pockets when he suddenly let out a gasp.
“Oppa?” Kim Hyun-Ji asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Thanks for the laptop,” Kim Jin-Woo said.
Kim Hyun-Ji looked suspiciously at her brother. He was acting rather out of the ordinary today. But in the end, she giggled and left the room.
“Damn it!” Kim Jin-Woo cursed as soon as she left the scene. He had just realized where he left the envelope that contained a staggering 15 million won. He cursed once more as he glared at the snake tattoo on his hand before covering it up.
Kim Jin-Woo shuddered when he heard the foreign sound of dispersing dust coming from within his body. He looked at the labyrinth and immediately inspected his surroundings. “It’s not here?” he muttered. The envelope was nowhere to be seen.
Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t find the envelope no matter how hard he looked. But eventually, he found out where it was three days later.
[While you were gone from the labyrinth, an imp came and stole the envelope. You must complete the synchronization and activate the gate before you can look for the vanished imp.]
“What bullshit is this?!” he shouted in frustration, but there was obviously no reply. He leaped out of his seat, causing the glimmering text in front of him to fade.
He then sat on the chair and rested his hands on the marbles attached to the ends of the armrests. The hologram-like text appeared once again.
[The labyrinth’s defense is weak. It is recommended that you expand the labyrinth’s budget for defensive infrastructure.]
Kim Jin-Woo was flabbergasted. The labyrinths were indeed full of strange events, but he had never imagined that there would be a thieving creature in here. If this were someone else’s story, he would have laughed and dismissed it. Unfortunately, it was his own story.
He struggled for the remainder of the day, but he eventually found himself backed into a corner. As of now, all he could do was activate that gate to find the thieving imp. He couldn’t help but kick the chair out of anger.
Eventually, Kim Jin-Woo gave up. With his regrets pouring out in the form of a few glances at the labyrinth, he walked into the portal and arrived on the other side. The portal behind him soon closed.
Kim Hyun-Ji had to hold the wedding with little dowry in the end. Fortunately, it didn’t become much of an issue, as the groom’s family wasn’t too obsessed with money. Judging from her parents-in-law’s warm gazes toward her, it was unlikely that they would criticize her for the lack of sufficient wedding dowry.
The wedding itself was rather chaotic, as Kim Hyun-Ji kept crying even as they were taking their family photo, but the event concluded without a fuss. Of course, Kim Jin-Woo still felt bitter about losing a huge sum of cash to an imp, a creature he had never even seen before.
“Let’s eat,” Kim Jin-Woo’s father said. He didn’t speak much as of late.
Ultimately, he’d had to forfeit his business due to financial difficulties. Fortunately, someone had appeared in the nick of time to help him settle his business matters. However, the fact that he hadn’t been able to do anything for his daughter’s marriage seemed to weigh heavily on his mind.
“Don’t even think about entering that place again. I got some money after handing over my company, so we can probably set up a fried chicken store somewhere……” he said to Kim Jin-Woo. “We won’t be starving, so don’t worry about us and take care of yourself.”
Kim Jin-Woo acknowledged his father’s blunt words. He maintained his composure on the surface, but he still felt guilty inside. He could never imagine how furious his parents would be if they found out he had been visiting a labyrinth every night.
A labyrinth was still a labyrinth. It didn’t matter whether it was a labyrinth in the underground world, filled with under-beasts and under-creatures, or if it was the naga’s labyrinth that he now owned.
His parents didn’t know the difference anyway. All they knew was that it was a labyrinth—that was all that mattered to them.
Kim Jin-Woo’s guilt was justified, as he was indeed visiting a labyrinth unbeknownst to his parents.
Later on, he sneakily locked his room door and opened the status window.
Level 1 Labyrinth (Synchronization Rate 99.87%)Durability 39/1050FacilitiesMaster Room (Level 1)Portal (Ready for Use 1/1)UndisclosedThe master of the labyrinth has insufficient ability.The labyrinth’s facilities cannot be activated.The numbers were notably different compared to when he had first returned from the underground two months earlier. The synchronization rate had increased from less than 20% to 99%, whereas the durability had also surpassed 100, as it increased by 1 daily.
“Portal.” Kim Jin-Woo opened the portal. He didn’t have to fumble around by hand to press the portal button anymore. All he had to do was to speak a simple command and he would then be teleported to the naga’s labyrinth.
The stone chamber looked the same, except for the fact that it looked cleaner than usual. He stopped for a moment, shaking his head to disperse the horrible sensation from using the portal as he sat on the chair in the middle of the stone chamber. The moment his skin came into contact with the cold stone, a message popped up.
[0.13%, 14 minutes 37 seconds left for complete synchronization.]
He had seen this message countless times, albeit with different numerical values. It rose by 1.25% daily, and two months later, it was about to reach 100%. For good or ill, Kim Jin-Woo would soon learn what the word ‘synchronization’ meant.
As he waited on the chair while wagging his finger idly, the number finally reached 100%.
“Hmm?” Kim Jin-Woo looked at the status window, but nothing happened. He frowned. When he was about to get up from the stone chair, however, light began to emanate from every corner of the labyrinth.
<Synchronization complete. The Naga’s Labyrinth–the nest of 18,230 snakes–recognizes Kim Jin-Woo as its master.>
The voice resounded in his mind this time, instead of the usual text. He lost consciousness amid a tempest of incomprehensible whispers.
[The labyrinth has been activated. The surrounding under-beasts and creatures will acknowledge the existence of the labyrinth.]
A message floated up into the air, but Kim Jin-Woo wasn’t awake to read it.