<Chapter 12. Joker Apprentice – 4>
Since Pleine was well aware of what Lee Shin Woo wanted, she didn’t waste time and immediately placed bones atop the counter; this time, there was a total of three bones he could choose from.
“These are the three most expensive level 5 bones. Starting from the left, they cost 290,000, 310,000, and 370,000 Perium. Oh, and for your reference, they’re all named.”
Similarly to heroes, monsters also gain a sharp increase in strength the higher their level, and naturally, the karma that they leave behind… their bones’ value is beyond one’s imagination.
The most expensive level 4 bone had cost around 90,000 Perium, yet a bone just one level higher cost 200,000 – 300,000 more, verifying the truth to that statement. Even considering the fact that they were named, it was quite a severe increase.
“Just as there are few high leveled monsters, it is likewise the same for humans as well. A person who reached level 4 in the past Underground Empire couldn’t easily be confronted. The renowned elite group known as the Empire’s Knights also started at level 4.”
“You’re saying that I’m only at the level of a knight?”
“That’s not what I’m saying. Customer, you’re an elite hero amongst elites, so it’s difficult to compare you so simply. If everyone’s ability was the same just because they were the same level, then there wouldn’t be people who pursue special or unique karma. …You should already be well aware of how special you are.”
He couldn’t fool her. Lee Shin Woo slightly sighed and examined the bones that she’d offered. For starters, there wasn’t a blue bone this time.
Well, his fundamental mana proficiency (Mana Bone) or his mana application (Acid Poison Spray and Flames of Revenge) were attained through achievements, so he didn’t really need to pick a blue bone every time; however, he couldn’t help but have mixed feelings.
“How about a level 6 bone?”
“You might be able to buy an ordinary level 6 bone, but… a level 6 elite bone starts at 1.5 million Perium.”
“Hmm, I see.”
Lee Shin Woo neatly discarded his ambitions for a level 6 bone. Since it was much better to obtain a level 5 elite monster bone than an ordinary level 6 monster bone.
Ultimately, he had no choice but to choose amongst these three… He used Mana Bone to its max and examined the three bones that lay before him. Due to his accumulated experience, he was able to more easily examine the bones now.
‘The cheapest one increases strength, and the skill within is a powerful strike similar to Power Slash. I don’t know how much it would increase my strength but it’s not very appealing to me. The next one increases health, but… Ah, it seems like it contains a skill similar to Harden.’
He didn’t really need this one either, since he already possessed Rule of Bone. But… Lee Shin Woo turned his eyes to the side and looked at Jin, who was expressionlessly examining the bones.
“? What is it?”
“There’s a bone here that you need.”
Jin’s agility was monstrously high, but aside from that, his other stats were lower than Lee Shin Woo’s, not to mention that Jin didn’t even have a decent skill that wasn’t related to running. That was a huge problem.
No matter how specialized he was in agility, he would obviously need the strength and health to use that agility more effectively, as well as the magic to supplement it. If he only focused on raising his agility, as it raised by a factor of three, he would eventually find his balance crumbling and ultimately wouldn’t be able to keep himself steady.
His physical condition disallowed him from equipping armor, so a skill that toughened his body would be essential for Jin.
“But this is too expensive… It feels kind of weird just accepting it.”
“It’s an investment for my partner. Think of it as not just for yourself, but for the two of us.”
“Ugh. Then what about you?”
“I’m picking this one.”
Lee Shin Woo had picked none other than the most expensive bone that cost 370,000 Perium. The mana pattern undoubtedly indicated that it increased agility. He had originally thought that he should give this one to Jin, but he decided that it would be better for him to take it, as it would balance out his growth.
‘Originally, my stats were balanced, aside from magic; but in the process of absorbing the items, my agility completely fell behind. If I consider my battlefield connection with Jin, then the most important stat has to be agility…’
Contrary to Jin, his most pressing issue was to increase his agility, which was excessively lagging behind his other stats. Their agility stats had to be somewhat close in order for him to most effectively draw out his abilities.
“It comes out to 680,000 Perium in total. It’s quite a sizable amount, so it should be difficult for the both of you to buy… Oh my, you’re not short?”
“A lot went on, a lot.”
Pleine looked extremely curious once again, but ultimately didn’t ask. It might be that she was being considerate to Jin, who had come here for the first time. She neatly collected the money and smiled as she backed off, which conversely made them feel uncomfortable.
“The next time we meet, you should be level 5. I’ll prepare level 6 bones for your next visit.”
“I don’t know whether I’ll be able to gather 1.3 million Perium by then, but… I’ll see you next time.”
The two immediately left the secret shop and returned underground. The shop and the accompanying red haired beauty completely disappeared, and they returned to the plains with traces of an intense battle. Then, Jin took a quick look around, sighed in relief, and spoke.
“I don’t want to go there again. You just go by yourself.”
“I don’t like that woman. It feels like she’s looking right through me.”
Since it felt like Jin would kick him with his front legs if he retorted with ‘But you were already filled with holes’, Lee Shin Woo kept his mouth shut, but then, at that very moment…
[Four permits to God’s secret shop have been transferred to Jin Taylor, who is contracted to you.]
“So transferring stuff works too, huh…”
In the past, there were times when he couldn’t use the permit whenever he wanted, as it felt wasteful, yet now, he had enough that he could go and visit Pleine whenever he was bored. Though there wasn’t a single time he was bored since he was dropped into the Empire.
“Then let’s start with the Bone Reinforcement.”
“Do we really have to?”
“I’ll give you some time to prepare.”
From the very start, there was nowhere to run for Jin. The reason he hadn’t used Bone Reinforcement on Jin all this time and had let him off (?) was because his own growth was more urgent!
Jin would be in for some wearisome days once both their stats became similar. Since he already had a hunch, Jin sported a rotten expression, but unfortunately his feelings weren’t relayed at all as he was a skeleton.
[Executing Bone Reinforcement on Jin Taylor by consuming a Lv5 Bone Wall Knight, Predin Eltlesser’s rib bone. A portion of the target’s experiences and memories is divided and absorbed. Health has increased by 3. Proficiency in Rule of Bone has increased.]
[We are the final defense for His Excellency. Show them the results of your training. I’ll find the one who dies first and kill them again in Hell. – Predin Eltlesser]
As expected, a level 5 monster’s thoughts were indeed different from the norm. He only gained a portion of those memories and experiences, but his health had increased by 3; not only that, Predin’s final moments were intensely relayed to him.
So what would it be like for Jin, whose mind was directly injected with those memories and experiences? It’s only for an instant, but he would receive such vivid memories and experiences that it’d be a danger to his own sense of identity, and as a result, he yelled in agony and rolled onto the floor. Lee Shin Woo petted him and asked.
“I’m not alright…!”
“Do you remember my name? My name’s…!”
“I’m not that damaged, you know!”
He had thought about engraving their names on his palms just in case, but fortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’d need to anymore. Lee Shin Woo sighed in relief, gripped his own bone, and executed Bone Reinforcement once again.
[Executing Bone Reinforcement by consuming Lv5 Armored Bone Knight, Ashkiss Von Belita’s leg bone. Absorbing the target’s experiences and memories in their entirety. Agility has increased by 18. The Low Rank Horseback Riding skill has become Lv8. Agility has increased by 4.]
[You’re really disobedient. But you’ll soon come to like me. There’ll eventually come a time where we ride into the battlefield together. – Ashkiss Von Belita]
The memories that flowed into his head were that of a knight of the Empire, fully garbed in his uniform, and training a violent horse. As expected, it was definitely the ability he needed most right now.
It felt a bit regrettable that he hadn’t gained a new skill, but he couldn’t just keep blindly increasing the number of abilities he had, so in the meantime, he thought it’d be best to stabilize the skills he had.
‘Moreover, while the memories I’d acquired until now had awakened the Horseback Riding skill, I hadn’t been able to attain an expert’s memories. The memories and experiences I’ve just gained should be helpful for a long time to come.’
Not only had it immediately increased the skill level of Horseback Riding by one, he was absolutely sure that the recently absorbed memories would help him increase his proficiency in the skill a lot faster. Though he didn’t know how his partner… would feel about that.
“Do you feel ok now?”
Jin replied with a voice that didn’t sound fine whatsoever. Lee Shin Woo, who was truly worried about the goblin fire within his eye sockets that spun around dizzily, decided to test what he had just learned and got atop Jin’s back. He then focused on the connection between him and Jin.
Soon, something changed. Though he was an undead, who couldn’t actually breathe, Jin had emitted harsh breathing noises; however, he calmed down quickly. The trick was simple. Through his connection with Jin, he focused on one part of Jin’s consciousness. He stopped the primary cause of confusion, and shared the burden on his mind.
“Take it one at a time. Just think of it as you watching an educational video.”
“Easy for you to say…!”
But his connection with Lee Shin Woo had certainly made the process much easier. Even as he complained, he followed Lee Shin Woo’s voice, and accepted the memories and experiences. He felt a bit ashamed, but he couldn’t tell that to Lee Shin Woo, so Jin just endured, and endured some more.
“…I’m really ok now.”
“Nice. Then shall we go to the highlands? We have to finish up what we were doing before.”
Jin took several deep breaths when he heard Lee Shin Woo nod his head and talk; then, he extended his legs forward. Lee Shin Woo was able to maintain their connection, even if Jin ran at a faster pace, perhaps due to his level up.
“But I’m still not there yet. I want to increase my agility by at least 300 more.”
“I’ve already given up on catching up to your agility.”
So long as Jin possessed the Child of Light skill, the disparity between their agility stats would likely continue to become more severe.
Therefore, it was more important to maintain a full connection with Jin whilst drawing all of his abilities to the surface, rather than trying to just thoughtlessly increase his agility stat. Besides, because his Horseback Riding had just leveled up, he was able to draw 30% more speed out of Jin now!
“You’re really frighteningly fast.”
If Lee Shin Woo were alone, it would’ve taken him a few hours to walk here, but since he was with Jin, they’d arrived before he was even able to utter a few lines to him! He felt like it was a dream, but it wasn’t an illusion. The highlands were still filled with golems, and the signs of the Stone Golems allowing the Treasure Eater to pass were clear as well.
[Sensing mana responses from living bodies. Activating.]
[Stopping outside entry. Unless directed otherwise, automatically removing trespassers.]
He heard the same sounds he’d heard just a few hours ago as the golems stood up here and there. This time, the number of golems had increased significantly, perhaps due to them defeating the Treasure Eater.
However, what changed the most was none other than Lee Shin Woo himself. He summoned the Melting Bone Double Axe, gripped it, and checked with Jin.
“Where do the level 4 golems come from?”
“We have to go a bit higher for them. At our current pace, we could pass by them without fighting…”
“No, it’s fine. I did need some sparring partners to adapt to my body, anyway…”
Above all, he realized that he needed a deeper understanding of the golems that inhabited these highlands, so… he gripped the Double Axe with one hand and lightly laughed.
“Then, shall we begin?”
The golems, which neither grew old or died, protected the silence of these highlands, yet flames of change blazed within these highlands. It didn’t take long before the flames devoured the highlands in its entirety.
 T/N: Not literal flames.