<Chapter 12. Joker Apprentice – 2>
Levels were an absolute standard by which organic and inorganic beings were divided. It was also the standard which discriminated between the superior and the inferior. …Because of that, those who surmount those standards are given an unconventional reward for their efforts.
That was karma, the very basis of this world that was more absolute than even levels.
[You succeeded in meting out your revenge against a stronger foe. All stats have increased by 2. The Low Rank Avenger skill has become Lv2. The skill duration time increases.]
Overcoming the difference of even just one level was extremely difficult. Even if one possessed the Avenger skill, it was a karma that could only be achieved by staking one’s life on it.
If that’s the case, what about a two level difference? Others would call it brash. They would never attempt it, unless they had several lives. Even if they did have several lives, fighting with a two level difference was like trying to break a rock with an egg, so there wouldn’t be many who would attempt it and risk their precious lives.
[You have defeated a foe two levels higher than you! It is an achievement that has never been seen before in history. All stats have increased by 5. You have acquired the title ‘He Who Conquers the Impossible’. Whenever you attempt to challenge the impossible and succeed, you become stronger.]
However, what if that egg were extremely tough, and instead of egg yolk and egg white within, it was filled with explosives? What about if that rock was hammered away and cracked?
He would achieve each and every one of those conditions, and create a stairway in order to reach that karma step by step. Those rules were everything, and it was truly akin to the way one would think in a game. It wasn’t ridiculously difficult or impossible for him to break through the wall known as levels if he properly utilized the karma that he had gathered, as well as the skills he had learned.
Especially since he possessed the ever-changing persona, the Joker’s karma!
[You, who have communed with a higher leveled riding companion and defeated your foe, show a glimpse of the qualities of the one foretold in legend as the Dragon Knight. You have acquired the Dragon Knight’s karma token. All stats have increased by 5. The Low Rank Horseback Riding skill has become Lv7. Agility has increased by 5.]
“Ah, there are seriously a lot of messages.”
Lee Shin Woo always thought this. That these lines weren’t enough for him to enjoy the lingering feeling of victory. It felt like he was reading a biography of what happened just a little while ago.
But there was also nothing better than these messages to verify his achievements. When he thought about it, perhaps God, or the world, was whispering to him. It was like they were saying, ‘You have achieved such and such feat, and that was truly amazing. And that achievement makes you this much stronger.’
“W-We really didn’t die and won.”
“If it wasn’t for you, I really would’ve died at least once.”
Jin must’ve been reading his messages just like Lee Shin Woo and muttered, embarrassed. Lee Shin Woo replied carefreely, but Jin belatedly recalled the situation before and raised his voice. It seemed he was also upset, as he stamped on the ground a few times.
“I can’t believe you. A person could be momentarily scared in a fight, and yet you see that and say you’ll fight alone?”
“Well, I thought you might really die at that rate. I have a lot of extra lives, but you only have two.”
“Still, how can I help you if I always just back off when it gets dangerous? That doesn’t seem like a proper contract!”
He was right. Lee Shin Woo didn’t accept Jin because he needed a car. He believed that he would become stronger through Jin’s help, so he decided to work together with him.
Honestly, in the recent battle, the both of them hadn’t died and were able to kill Steve because of their deeply developed bond.
“But if you actually die, you’ll probably be really pissed.”
“You don’t need to worry about that. This is the path I’ve chosen, so I’m plenty prepared for it. So in the future, whether I’m scared or I freeze, just move me as you please and charge forward. Got it?”
When he heard Jin’s unwavering voice, he sounded like a general. However, in actuality, the meaning behind his message was something like ‘At the very least, Lee Shin Woo could use him as a horse while in battle’. It seems like Jin was humiliated from being temporarily frightened from the enemy.
“If that’s what you want, then that’s what I’ll do. I won’t be considerate of you in the future and tell you to back off.”
“Good. Just think about winning against the enemy. Because if you don’t, I won’t be able to get stronger either.”
Is he beginning to understand karma, the system that rules this world? Hearing Jin comment on the important parts of karma, Lee Shin Woo naturally nodded his head.
But that state of mind would certainly be dangerous for Jin, so he decided that from now on, he would figure out a way for Jin to more actively absorb more of the curse’s magic.
Should he go check at the secret shop? But before that, he’d need to deal with the level up… Wait, the level up?
Lee Shin Woo tilted his head and checked his status; he realized that he had already acquired the qualifications to level up to level 4.
When he thought about it, a few of his skills leveled up during the battle, and his Combat Sprint was even reborn as Combat Sense, an intermediate level skill! So there was no way his stats hadn’t risen over 800!
“But I ignored it all because I was concentrating on the battle.”
“Was there an easier way to win by any chance?”
“No, there wasn’t. If I had acted like I was going to level up, I probably would’ve been hit and pointlessly die.”
The level up transformation wasn’t as simple as it seemed in manga, where leveling up was as easy as changing clothes for the hero. In terms of the skeleton, Lee Shin Woo, all of his 200 bones would be fundamentally changed, and he would be reborn with a new constitution filled with new mana as well.
But to do that while fighting an enemy? He’d probably incur considerable damage or his level up may go wrong; it would be one of the two.
“Jin, stay back for now.”
“Stay back? Why?”
“Hmm… You should be fine, but it’s just…”
If he were to say that he absorbed all the bones in his surrounding in the process of leveling up, Jin would probably say he’s crazy.
Lee Shin Woo thought Jin would figure it out if he saw it himself, shrugged his shoulders, and inspected the loot the level 5 Treasure Eater had left behind. Though he had caught a glimpse of the message before… he couldn’t believe what it said, and the ‘treasure’ that needed a second inspection was right there.
[Drake Horn Lance]
[Attack Power: 1,000 – 1,200]
[Options: Strength +30, Health + 30, Magic +10, Effectiveness of charge related skills +40%]
Lee Shin Woo interjected as he saw the truly large and lengthy conically shaped lance that lay before him. The level 4 Melting Bone Double Axe’s power was likewise tremendous, but it seemed like a gentle breeze when compared to this lance.
“Wow, that looks way too cool…”
“I told you, it’s dangerous if you get too close.”
Though he said it was dangerous, he could understand why Jin carelessly approached. The charm of this weapon was dimensions apart from the other weapons he’d acquired thus far!
Did a one level difference cause this much of a gap? No, no way. This weapon was special. An item that was worth the Treasure Eater lugging around in its body! It might even match up to Lightning Tooth, which was imbued with God’s power.
But if there was a problem to speak of, it was that the weapon’s usage was much too limited. The lance was much too large and lengthy for him to lift and swing around. It approached 4 meters in length, and its thickness was considerable as well. It would ordinarily be impossible to wield, unless one was a 3 meter tall golem.
Not to mention, one of the weapon’s options was to increase the effectiveness of charge related skills. In other words, it was utilized by forcefully charging at the enemy, and landing a single strike on one’s target; it was a siege weapon dedicated to this single strike.
“This should be important in the future, since you’re here too, Jin.”
“…If you wielded this weapon, I don’t feel like I’d feel very frustrated, even if you rode on my back.”
Lee Shin Woo imagined himself riding atop Jin and charging at a castle wall, lance in hand, and just laughed. If he excluded the fact that the knight was a skeleton, the horse was a skeleton, and even the weapons and armor were bones, it was something that came straight from a fairy tale.
‘I hope you endure within my inventory until that time comes.’
Lee Shin Woo carefully opened his inventory and placed the lance inside. Of course, he likewise placed his axe, sword, helmet, armor, and lower body armor inside. Seeing Lee Shin Woo suddenly giving him a nude body show, Jin was appalled.
“Why the hell are you suddenly stripping!?”
“Whether I wear them or not, I’m just bones, so who cares?”
“Ugh, this is why being with a guy is…”
“You know you’re drooling, right?”
He placed all his equipment into his inventory and took out the Weapon Trickster’s Arm bone. Though he had failed in the past, he thought it might be possible the moment he leveled up. Well, trying wouldn’t hurt.
“Then, should I start with Steve’s tailbone… Jin, it might be really dangerous, so stay back.”
“Alright, alright. Let’s see how rowdy it gets.”
He realized that suppressing the evolution to level 4 was actually extremely difficult. It was only natural, since it was normal that he accept the karma once he was qualified.
He made sure he was a safe distance away from Jin, and then, nodded his head and loosened his hold on the mana he had been suppressing. At that moment, a ridiculously powerful mana burst out and he floated into the air! Seeing that, Jin yelled in astonishment.
“It really is rowdy!?”
For starters, Lee Shin Woo used the karma tokens he had collected thus far, or more precisely, he absorbed them.
Before he gathered the 10 tokens, they couldn’t become a whole karma, but the Joker’s karma, which loved its owner’s countless personas, accepted them all. Though he couldn’t have another whole karma, Lee Shin Woo would be able to endlessly mimic those karmas almost perfectly!
[You have accepted level 4’s karma. The Joker’s karma absorbs a portion of the countless karmas you have collected, and an unknown potential is added. All stats have increased by 10. The Acting skill has become Lv7.]
Of course, this was only the beginning. Following the absorption of the karma tokens, Bone Reinforcement absorbed the bone of the recently hunted Treasure Eater.
[Absorbing the Lv5 Treasure Eater’s tail bone through Bone Reinforcement. Health has increased by 9, and Magic by 18. Absorbing the target’s intact memories and experiences. Resonating with all the memories and experiences, as well as the standardized skills you have acquired accordingly.]
[The Joker’s karma has tied all the chaos into one. The Low Rank Catapult skill, the Low Rank Harden skill, and the Low Rank Self-Destruct skill have been absorbed. You have acquired the active skill, Rule of Bone Lv3. All stats have increased by 5.]
[The Rule of Bone and Low Rank Mana Bone are resonating. The Low Rank Mana Bone skill has become Lv8. Magic has increased by 4. The mana consumption of Rule of Bone decreases.]
As a result, the Treasure Eater’s ability of strengthening and manipulating its blood was adjusted for him, and transformed into the ‘Rule of Bone’. Lee Shin Woo could manipulate a portion of his body (his bones) just like the Treasure Eater had with its blood; he even had the ability to target his bones and strengthen them.
The Catapult skill, which could shoot in every way, was already at its max potential, so as he naturally absorbed the karma, the skill would obviously upgrade… However, Lee Shin Woo hadn’t expected that both Harden and Self-Destruct would be absorbed.
‘Wait, so absorbing the skills means that the Rule of Bone skill either includes both the Harden ability as well as the Self-Destruct ability, or it has some sort of latent potential. Truthfully, using those abilities is still possible… and since it actually resonates with the Mana Bone skill, its effectiveness increases. Then does that mean that the Rule of Bone doesn’t have any more room for growth in the future….?’
He had his suspicions in other places as well. The Rule of Bone was like the Acting skill, Bone Reinforcement, and Invisible Heart, as they likewise didn’t have something indicating their rank. From now on, it would either have little room for growth, or it wouldn’t grow at all; he couldn’t think of it as anything else.
‘In any case, I’m sure it’s an amazing skill that exceeds all the skills I gained in the past… Huh?’
The moment Lee Shin Woo admired the latent potential of the Rule of Bone, tremendous mana burst forth once more. Lee Shin Woo briefly didn’t know what was happening, but he soon saw something floating in front of him.
[Absorbing the Lv6 Weapon Trickster’s arm bone through Bone Reinforcement.]
It was none other than the Weapon Trickster’s arm bone. The arm bone that hadn’t reacted thus far radiated light and was finally being absorbed.
It wasn’t possible for him when he was level 3, but now that he’d acquired the Joker’s karma which went beyond the Trickster’s, and had evolved to level 4, it was barely possible!
[All stats have increased by 10. You have learned the active skill, Bone Armory Lv1. Magic has increased by an additional 5.]
As expected, it was an outrageous stat increase, befitting of a level 6 bone! Moreover, he gained another rankless skill. This was certainly Weapon Trickster’s core ability!
However, the instant his two eyes gleamed with anticipation (though his eyes don’t light up yet), something happened.
[You have acquired the Weapon Trickster’s power, and are accepting all the karma that you ought to have.]
He felt as though he had seen this ominous line somewhere before, and Lee Shin Woo trembled. His inventory opened above his head. Lee Shin Woo felt as though all the blood in his body was draining. Though he didn’t have any!
“Wait, don’t do this. Please don’t…!”
[Absorbing all equipment through Bone Reinforcement.]
The Dire Wolf Armor, Acid Ghoul Skull Helm, Grizzly Bone Leg… as well as the Melting Bone Double Axe, the Lightning Tooth, and the recently acquired Drake Horn Lance all dropped to the floor.
And all of them were entirely absorbed by Lee Shin Woo.