<Chapter 12. Joker Apprentice – 3>
[All the power of your equipment is absorbed into your body. Strength has increased by 90, Health by 62, and Magic by 45. Agility drops by 5. Through Bone Armory, all equipment has been recorded.]
[You have achieved a suitable karma for becoming a Joker. Unfortunately, because you are still too weak, you have been placed in a trial period, and you must tidy up your abilities. You have become a Lv4 Dark Skeleton Joker Apprentice.]
[You can learn the inherent skills from all other karma, and can even train them more quickly. However, you can only learn these skills up to the intermediate level. Currently, the only relevant skills are Low Rank Avenger and Low Rank Flames of Revenge. While the Sacrifice skill is an inherent ability of another karma, it is exempt as it is an extra skill.]
[Lee Shin Woo]
[Dark Skeleton Joker Apprentice]
[He Who Conquers the Impossible; 2 other titles]
[Lv – 4 (Status effectiveness 145%)]
[Strength – 291 Agility – 218 Health – 279 Magic – 428]
[Passive Skills – Invisible Heart Lv3, Acting Lv7, Low Rank Avenger Lv2, Low Rank Bursting Thunder Lv8, Low Rank Mana Bone Lv8, Low Rank Stealth Lv6, Low Rank Command Lv1, Low Rank Horseback Riding Lv7, Intermediate Combat Senses Lv1]
[Active Skills – Bone Reinforcement Lv5, Rule of Bone Lv3, Bone Armory Lv1, Low Rank Shriek of the Dead Lv5, Low Rank Regeneration Lv3, Low Rank Flames of Revenge Lv2, Beginner Power Slash Lv9, Sacrifice Lv1, Intermediate Acid Poison Spray Lv2]
[Resistances – Holy: MAX, Curses: MAX, Acid: Low Rank Lv8, Ice: Intermediate Lv1]
Following the waves of cascading changes, he just stood there.
Was it because he couldn’t adapt to the sudden rapid growth? Or was it because he was dejected that his precious treasures were all absorbed through Bone Reinforcement? Or perhaps was it due to him finding out a weakness in the Joker karma that he hadn’t even imagined? He thought he was going to become a complete Joker, yet he got a useless tag attached to it; maybe it was because of that?
Of course, that wasn’t all.
‘This is a really peculiar feeling… I remember all the memories regarding the absorbed equipment.’
His memory of the recently absorbed equipment was so clear that he felt like he could actually draw and see those items if he wanted. He had heard that it was important to possess a deep understanding of one’s weapon, but it wasn’t the level of merely handling the weapon, but actually making them.
He could presume why. Compared to before leveling up, his skills had changed the most, and of those skills, Bone Armory was the most drastic! Lee Shin Woo didn’t waste time and called for the information regarding Bone Armory.
[Bone Armory Lv1 (Active)]
[As a result of extracting the Weapon Trickster’s memories and experiences, who had freely transformed weapons and cajoled the battlefield, a skill has formed solely for your use. You record all information on equipment made of bone, and you can summon them by using mana.]
[Your abilities are still lacking, so you can only summon the equipment in their recorded state. You can manifest and maintain two pieces of equipment at most. Maintaining the equipment does not cost any mana.]
Lv3 Dire Wolf Bone Armor (Defense 110 – 125)
Lv3 Grizzly Bone Leg (Defense 105 – 115)
Lv4 Acid Skull Helm (Defense 250 – 310) – Effectiveness of Acid Type Skills +10%
Lv4 Lightning Tooth (Attack Power 450 – 480) – Lightning Lv4, Power of Bursting Thunder Skill +20%
Lv4 Melting Bone Double Axe (Attack Power 480 – 760) – Acid Lv3, Effectiveness of Acid Type Skills + 20%
Lv5 Drake Bone Lance (Attack Power 1,000 – 1,200) – Effectiveness of Charge-related Skills +40%]
[Equipment summoned through Bone Armory cannot be targeted with Bone Reinforcement.]
“As I thought…!”
Lee Shin Woo was relieved that his equipment wasn’t lost forever, but he also realized that this skill wasn’t perfect.
There were two main problems right now. First, it was impossible to reinforce the recorded equipment any further. Second, because the level of the skill was low, he could only summon two pieces of equipment at a time. Considering that he’d need a weapon in a combat situation, he would end up only being able to equip one piece of armor.
“But it’s a lot better than completely losing them, so should I just let it go…”
He felt like hanging himself when he saw the Lightning Tooth and the Drake Horn Lance being absorbed, so he felt grateful when he learned he would be able to wield them again. Especially since he was able to completely absorb all of their associated stat bonuses.
If he leveled up the skill, he would probably be able to summon and maintain more equipment. Lee Shin Woo decided to think about it positively. When he thought about it, he wouldn’t need to worry about repairing damaged equipment from now on.
“…Wait a sec.”
“Shin Woo? Shin Woo, are you alright?”
The concerned Jin approached and asked, since Lee Shin Woo had been muttering to himself since the level up process began; however, Lee Shin Woo’s mind was only focused on one thing, so he didn’t even hear Jin speak.
‘Isn’t the bone equipment summoned through the Bone Armory made of bones as well? Plus, they’re bones that I’ve made.’
If that’s the case, then… will they be affected by the Rule of Bone skill? Lee Shin Woo went straight ahead and tried to put into practice what he just thought about. The weapon he summoned was naturally the one he was most familiar with, the Lightning Tooth!
“Oh, those weren’t just absorbed?”
The summoned Lightning Tooth was no different from the one he possessed before absorbing it. Aside from the stat bonuses, everything else was exactly the same.
But the Lightning Tooth retained a lot of experiences within, so perhaps that’s why the mana consumption was tremendous; he would need to figure out just how long he could maintain the weapon. 
Lee Shin Woo naturally focused all his concentration on the Lightning Tooth in his hand. Though it wasn’t made of his own bones, it was definitely composed of bone formed by his own mana. Then, couldn’t this weapon be considered a part of his body?
‘The conditions for using Rule of Bone shouldn’t simply be that it’s a bone physically attached to my body. If it’s a weapon formed by my mana, then it should definitely… that’s right.’
His wish had come true. The Lightning Tooth escaped his fingertips and began floating all on its own. Moving it was still a bit unstable, but that was due to the low level of Rule of Bone, and soon, even that slight shaking lessened.
“Have you gained telekinesis!?”
“In terms of bones, then yeah, maybe.”
Jin asked in astonishment and Lee Shin Woo roughly replied whilst flying the Lightning Tooth higher into the air. In no time, the long sword flew much higher into the air than just above his head, and spun round and round according to his will; it was truly a menacing sight.
‘Just moving it around doesn’t cost much mana.’
Lee Shin Woo, who had learned that Rule of Bone applied to the weapons summoned through Bone Armory, brought the Lightning Tooth before him once more and reinforced the Lightning Tooth through Rule of Bone. It didn’t consume much mana, and the amount of reinforcement was…
The Lightning Tooth radiated a bright blue light, and the blade emitted even more light than before; he even saw it openly begin to discharge sparks.
Contrary to the Harden skill which simply increased the degree of hardness, Rule of Bone reinforced every aspect of the weapon. As a result, its lightning element had been improved as well!
He muttered in awe as he saw product of the harmony between the Rule of Bone and the Bone Armory skills.
This was only the beginning. If he improved these skills from now on, how diverse would it become!? It would become a skill that wouldn’t shame the name Trickster!
He had retained the know-how behind the Catapult skill and launched the Lightning Tooth in the air forward. Though the Rule of Bone was still a low level, it wasn’t any slower than the Catapult he’d used up until now!
It didn’t stray even once from its route, and the launched long sword rammed into the hill. The mountain boomed and the impact from the sword ended up destroying a portion of the hill; however, it had lodged so deeply in that he couldn’t even see the hilt.
Seeing that, Jin suddenly trembled.
“You… You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”
“Yep. I’m going to do it.”
“If another monstrous bastard comes from hearing that sound, you’re on your own.”
Honestly, since he’d acquired the Rule of Bone from facing the Treasure Eater, wouldn’t it be advantageous to prepare to face and kill another one? As he thought such idle thoughts… he activated Rule of Bone once more.
“Synapse, burst!” 
The sword erupted in a tremendous explosion. It was a much more horrific explosion than before when he’d exploded his arm; it was obvious, considering the fact that one of the hills had been completely destroyed. It was truly impressive seeing the sparks popping out from the collapsed hill.
“Ugh, the mana consumption’s tremendous…!”
But he had figured out exactly how much it cost. He had only blown up one long sword, but it had sucked up almost all of his mana! Considering the fact that its destructive force was greater than Self-Destruct’s, it still felt like an advantageous skill.
“Hey, couldn’t you have killed that caterpillar with one shot of that…?”
“Yeah, but if I miss, I would’ve died in one shot, too.”
Lee Shin Woo sat down and focused as much as he could on absorbing the surrounding mana. As Jin said, there was always the possibility that a monster heard the boom and would come dashing over, so he needed to replenish his mana in case of a battle. Jin was astonished once again.
“It’s to the point that I feel the flow of the mana being drawn to you!?”
“It’s because my Mana Affinity naturally went up as I leveled up.”
That was only natural. As he levelled up to level 4, his stat effectiveness increased by another 20%, his Magic stat included.
Especially since his Mana Bone skill was strengthened by Rule of Bone; his mana recovery rate had increased by about 1.5x compared to before. That meant it wasn’t impossible to feel the flow of mana as if it were the wind.
“You’ve just become level 4, but how much are you…”
He had completely destroyed a hill with one skill and could swiftly replenish that mana. Because of Lee Shin Woo’s achievements, Jin couldn’t believe that Lee Shin Woo was a hero at the same level as him, and just stood dumbfounded.
‘The more you level up, the more your stats are amplified. It’s probably even higher at level 5 or level 6. If I’m at this level, then my seniors, the other undead, and especially the named undead are…’
But at the same time, he recognized with certainty that levels were no longer the absolute standard in this world. If they had been, then Lee Shin Woo would never have been able to defeat the level 5 Treasure Hunter. Even if he had been helped by Jin, the results would’ve been the same.
At that moment when he’d concentrated to his very limit during the battle, Lee Shin Woo and Jin had both overcome their limits and were barely able to defeat the Treasure Eater. What were the factors that made that possible? His concentration? His will? It wasn’t anything so abstract.
‘It’s how one uses their stats… Stats that cannot be used are the same as rotten bones. Skills are the means by which you can push your stats to their limits and even overcome those limits; and ultimately, at the center of those countless skills, it’s important to use them at the right time. Like Combat Sense…’
Lee Shin Woo realized that he had fully replenished his mana as he was immersed in such deep thoughts, and suddenly opened his eyes (or a feeling like that). And then, Jin, who was watching over him, suddenly spoke.
“Now that I think about it, you have goblin fire now too.”
Hearing that, Lee Shin Woo hastily touched his face, but it was obviously still bone as usual. However, he definitely felt heat within his eye sockets. He asked Jin a question, whilst thinking that he’d never once wanted a mirror more desperately than right now.
“What about the color? Are they blue like yours?”
“They’re a deep red.”
Wrinkles formed upon Lee Shin Woo’s forehead (that kind of impression). He was happy that he’d evolved and gained flames, but if he passed by another undead and looked different, it would be difficult to use his Acting skill!
“Well, even if they consider you the strange one, it would be difficult to use the Acting skill. Fine, I need to plan out a proper scenario…”
“I’m really scared of your thought process…”
“But let’s go to the secret shop first. Normally, whenever I level up, I go to the secret shop and buy the most expensive bone. That’s my spending pattern.”
Because Jin hadn’t actively wanted to do something in this world before, he had never gone to the secret shop either. He didn’t seem to be regretful at all, and just shrugged his shoulders as he looked at Lee Shin Woo.
“I don’t even have any money.”
“Now that I think about it, that’s a bit strange. There should be a share for you from the monsters that I hunt, so why isn’t any money coming out for you?”
It wasn’t like that when he had hunted the ghoul with Ye Jin Jin in the past. At that time, Perium didn’t drop for Jin, but it did for Ye Jin Jin. There was definitely some sort of secret there.
However, he figured out the secret in the next moment. It was at the very moment when Lee Shin Woo was about to enter the secret shop!
[There exists an entity who is contracted to you. You can enter the secret shop together.]
The contract. It definitely pointed to Jin. Strangely, at that moment, Lee Shin Woo figured out the circumstances surrounding them. He looked straight and Jin and spoke.
“It says we can go together. Do you want to go?”
“Huh? Well… if we can go together, I might as well look around.”
He would just feel uneasy if he were left alone. Then, it should be better to go with Lee Shin Woo, even if he didn’t do anything there. Thinking that, Jin nodded his head and Lee Shin Woo used one of the permits right away. The surrounding landscape instantaneously melted away and soon, he was met with an unfamiliar sight.
It was an extremely simple square space, with a counter on only one side; and from beyond that counter, a red haired beauty gazed at and greeted them in German for a reason unbeknownst to them.
“Why did you come again so soon… Oh my.”
Pleine possessed the ability to ascertain one’s skill quite easily. However, even if it wasn’t her, it would’ve been easy for someone else to figure out that Lee Shin Woo had leveled up this time.
The power his body was giving off was definitely different. Above all, his eye sockets blazed with red flames, so there was no way she’d not know.
“I thought it would take you quite a long time to go from level 3 to level 4, yet you’ve surprised me once again. You’re even half way to level 5.”
In the process of leveling up, he had attained several karmas, as well as leveled up his skills, but the deciding factor was that all of the equipment he’d gathered thus far had been absorbed, causing his stats to surpass 1,200 in total.
For one to reach level 5, they needed a total of 1,600 stats, and Pleine’s statement that he was halfway there was right on the money.
“It’s really a frightening ability. You’re just looking at my stats, right?”
“I would never. In order to give you better aid, I simply received some information on you when you dropped underground. I cannot ascertain your always changing stats. Customer, if you gain some more experience, you should be able to do this kind of measurement. …Hmm?”
It took quite a while for Pleine to realize that another customer was there, as Lee Shin Woo’s transformation was so shocking. When Pleine turned her attention to him, Jin thought that she was an extremely beautiful lady, and awkwardly bowed his head.
Seeing the Skeleton Horse that indifferently stood beside Lee Shin Woo, she gaped, but she soon seemed to realize what she was doing and nodded her head.
“To think that you’d form a contract with another hero; and especially since that hero is… Customer, you haven’t been to the secret shop before, right?”
Jin replied, and Pleine smiled deeply. He felt uncomfortable seeing that smile and slightly shook, so Lee Shin Woo spoke for Jin.
“Are you saying that this contract causes our respective karmas to influence the other?”
“You’re right on. You not only share the Perium that your enemies drop, but you can also visit me together, as well as somewhat passing on your karma to each other when using items that you’ve acquired from the shop. Especially if that contract deepens; the deeper the contract, the more deeply you can use each other’s karma.”
“It’s something that important, yet I have no idea how that contract was formed…”
Pleine ended up bursting into laughter seeing the two skeleton heroes tilt their heads at her. It was a rare spectacle, even though she was the one who managed the secret shop.
She laughed for quite a while, putting aside the two sullen looking heroes, then barely managed to begin explaining.
“There are a few bonds that closely tie two people together in this world. Of them, a contract is the most sacred and deepest bond. Therefore, one needs to possess a skill that can connect the two of you together, and then, mutual consent is required. So you have a rough idea now, right?”
He had somewhat expected this, but he was right. Lee Shin Woo recollected his Bone Reinforcement skill, and nodded his head.
To him, his Bone Reinforcement was just a reinforcement ability, but to others, the moment he used Bone Reinforcement on them, a connection would form between them. That had appeared in the form of a contract between him and Jin.
“Is there any chance that there’ll be harmful side effects to the target of the contract…?”
“You already know somewhat, but because it’s a contract that formed out of concern for one another, there aren’t any negative side effects. However, the target of the contract can saddle all of your karma, so you cannot take it lightly.”
It seemed as though Lee Shin Woo and Jin had formed a successful contract; it was because they had agreed beforehand that they’d work together that this contract was possible. Especially since they could open up to each other as they were both skeletons…
However, he was now absolutely sure that Bone Reinforcement had formed the contract between them. Listening to what Pleine had to say, he thought even if he used Bone Reinforcement on someone else in the future, he would be careful not to form a contract with them.
“In any case, I have a rough idea of what’s going on. On how you were able to grow this quickly, Mr. Lee Shin Woo. Of course, it’s not entirely because of that…”
“Do you want me to tell you my story again?”
Pleine unexpectedly shook her head with a firm look.
“It’s not that I’m not curious, but the timing’s not ideal. It doesn’t seem like it’s a story that I can hear with just a 20,000 Perium discount, so… let’s leave that to next time, and for now let’s trade, shall we?”
Pleine spoke, and looked straight at Jin, not Lee Shin Woo.
Jin, who’d received Pleine’s gaze, simply tilted his head.
 E/N: It does say he’s trying to figure out how long he can maintain it. It likely refers to something other than mana.
 T/N: I assume this is a reference to what Rikka Takanashi says in the anime Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions.