<Chapter 14. New Pace – 2>
2 more weeks passed. Lee Shin Woo and Jin started at the southern outskirts and after searching through the city in the area, they took the train and returned east. After checking that area, they took the train once again, and reached the Empire’s northern outskirts.
Right now, they were ‘slowly clearing the outer edges of the Empire’, something that no other hero could have even attempted. Since they had procured a means of transportation, they decided they might as well clear the outskirts of the Empire. Though the scale was obviously much too large to say that they were doing it just ‘because they could’.
“Ah, there’s one here too. They didn’t go through here.”
Of course, most of the areas had been cleared by the other heroes, and in some places, it seemed as though the golems had vanished without a trace, so at times, it was a fruitless effort; but there was a place with a 100% chance of remaining, which was none other than the city’s underground sewers dungeons.
“I hope this place is less dirty than the last place…”
“Give up. Let’s go in.”
Lee Shin Woo was now fully aware that the reason the other heroes didn’t go through the ‘underground’ passages was because they were ‘dirty’. He thought the other heroes were foolish for not going through the sewers just so they could avoid getting dirtied; it wasn’t even very difficult to wash off the filth. But in any case, because they did, Lee Shin Woo and Jin could profit off of it, so he didn’t really think about it too deeply.
As a result, Lee Shin Woo had another task that clearly bore more fruit than his original goal of either creating another Bone Original Core, or procuring a high rank administrative authority…
[The number of undead who have been given a new name by you and have thus been reborn as named monsters has surpassed 100. Without even thinking about the consequences and acting on a whim are truly the actions of a Joker. All stats have increased by 5. You have satisfied a part of the conditions to obtain the Joker’s innate skill.]
It was to revive the failed experimental subjects of the Anti-Skull Project as elite skeletons. Since the experiments were performed without the Emperor’s knowledge, there was almost a 100% chance that a hidden facility would exist within the outskirt cities’ sewers!
[Even if we look for General Seagald, we probably wouldn’t be able to help very much.]
[We’d rather follow you, Captain. We’ll help our Captain!]
“No. I have something else I have to do. Think about what you guys can do and go do it. Paul 107!”
[Ugh… As expected of our Captain. You’re saying that we have to find our own path…!]
There was a special characteristic that was commonplace amongst the skeletons that had been awakened as named elites by Lee Shin Woo; no matter what he said, they would understand and be moved.
[We’ll definitely repay Captain one day, the one who awakened us!]
[We may have undying bodies, but let’s make it to the end together, Captain!]
“Yeah, yeah. You guys don’t die, too.”
The skeletons developed loyalty to him all on their own and promised to meet with him again, yet Lee Shin Woo just responded with a lukewarm gaze.
Honestly, level 3 elite monsters didn’t really matter to him anymore. He’d said this time after time, but this was just something he was doing on the way to killing golems.
“Ah, and if you meet the other Pauls, make sure you travel together.”
[I understand, Captain!]
And that’s the last thing he said to them formally. They were sacrificed in the same experiment, were likewise reborn as elite undead, and were a similar level, so that’s why he said it. However, the Pauls earnestly responded to his request and left the sewers. Jin watched their appearances from behind and asked Lee Shin Woo.
“Do you have some sort of special skill that turns the undead into elite monsters?”
“Nope. I just make them feel as though ‘they had an important mission while they were still alive’ and they just awaken on their own.”
Despite him achieving the feat of going around and changing people’s fates, Lee Shin Woo responded extremely calmly; seeing that, Jin was speechless. Lee Shin Woo had only given him a rough explanation of how his Joker karma worked.
“There’re no rewards here, either… Well, it is the outskirts after all. Let’s clear this place and then go to somewhere with a danger level of 2.”
“A danger level of 2…”
Based on their seniors’ classifications, who had already explored the Empire, the Empire is apparently divided into five danger levels from the outskirts to the center.
The first place they encounter once entering the Empire has a danger level of 0, and messy natural environments (apparently, a lot of animal type undead appear here), whereas the small towns in between are level 1.
So, Lee Shin Woo and Jin were currently clearing out areas that were danger level 0 – 1. If they used pizza as a comparison, they were going around and eating the crust first.
‘The natural environment is getting a bit better, and the commercial cities, where we’re more likely to encounter the Empire’s elite troops have a danger level of 2. They’re the places that the heroes stay in when they’re at around level 4 or 5… And the satellite cities, which are directly connected to these commercial cities have a danger level of 3. Apparently, most of the heroes are around this area.’
The large city was a level 4 danger zone, and was allocated tasks by the capital; naturally, the center of the Empire, the capital, held a danger level of 5. It was difficult for even their senior heroes to explore the areas that were of danger level 4, so there wasn’t much more he could hear from them.
‘There’s definitely a supply line that passes through a large city with a danger level of 4.’
Originally, there was a supply line that passed through the capital, but in the process of running from the capital with his subordinates, Arema Steelworker completely destroyed that railway. If that railway had still existed and if no one else had discovered it, it would’ve been possible to infiltrate the capital, so it kind of felt like a waste.
“Then shall we look around and see if there are any other small towns nearby?”
Lee Shin Woo had been imagining events that had yet to come, but when he heard Jin speak, he stopped thinking about it.
“Yeah, there should be another way to infiltrate the capital.”
“Your plan already went that far!?”
The two crawled out of the sewers. When they had looked from the highlands, they had seen another small town to the west, so they decided to go there and look before getting on the train.
Generally, the other heroes would purify one small town and then immediately move on to the next area, so he had hope that there were some undead still remaining over there.
However, Lee Shin Woo, who’d turned his head towards the west where the small town was, suddenly felt an unfamiliar, but powerful trace of mana, causing his goblin fire to wriggle around.
It was a mana pattern that he’d felt somewhere before… when he deliberated as to where, he concluded that it was definitely similar to Ye Jin Jin’s mana.
‘Ah, that’s right.’
It was the mana of a living being. He was proud of himself for being able to categorize the mana and grinned; Lee Shin Woo’s face hardened and he rode atop Jin’s back.
“Let’s run for now. Our concept is secrecy, isn’t it?”
“That’s a good idea.”
Jin also didn’t like taking unnecessary risks. The two reached an agreement, and then Jin dashed in a straight line towards the highlands while Lee Shin Woo activated his connection with Jin and Stealth simultaneously, hiding their tracks as much as possible.
Their practice fighting together bore fruit and they were able to achieve considerable results. However.
“What the hell? Aren’t they getting closer?”
The problem was that their opponent was much more talented than they could’ve imagined.
“Shin Woo, what do we do? Should we just release Stealth and just run at full speed?”
“That seems like a better idea!”
“Alright. Hold on tight!”
Their combat abilities weren’t the only thing that improved from them clearing out the golems in the highlands and hopping from one sewer system to another. Though Jin had only absorbed three cores, he was able to use the magic and martial arts knowledge within in order to better utilize his agility!
Above all, he’d learned how to correct his speed and stability through magic, and as a result, managed to increase his already fraudulent speed. If he broke their connection, and Jin focused solely on reaching his destination, most people wouldn’t even be able to see him as he was running so fast!
“I’m going even faster!”
“Ah, shit. Damn it.”
However, the speed made Lee Shin Woo feel as though he would be thrown off, and despite experiencing it in real time, he spoke out in a voice tinged with despair. He didn’t know how, but their opponent was gradually getting closer!
‘One moment I can’t sense them, and in the next, they’ve gotten closer; this keeps happening over and over again. Wait a sec, this… is this some sort of teleportation magic?’
Since he’d been dropped into the Underground Empire, he’d experienced all kinds of magical situations; however, he’d never experienced any mainstream magic before. Because of that, his deduction had been late. If it wasn’t physically possible to catch up to them, then the only other answer was magic!
“Lend me the Queen’s unmelting ice…”
He sensed that they’d gotten even closer. Moreover, he even heard their incantation for what he assumed was an offensive spell. Lee Shin Woo was slightly shocked by the pristinely beautiful voice he heard casting the spell. He was especially shocked at the incantation that openly revealed that the spell was an ice type attack.
But wait, they were thankful that their opponent was going to cast their spell where everyone could hear it, but since it was so easy to predict, it became so boring!
“And annihilate all that is unjust, bringing about an eternal snow that purifies…”
In the time it took for them to blink, they had arrived at the center of the highlands. However, around that time, their opponent had gotten close enough that they could see them with the naked eye.
Lee Shin Woo turned around slightly and checked their opponent’s identity. They wore robes, covering their forehead such that he couldn’t get a close look at them, but in any case, he was sure that it was a living person. They were probably a hero at that!
Yeah, he understood. They just saw a skeleton riding atop a galloping skeleton horse, so as a hero, it made sense that they wanted to attack them! But before they followed through, they should’ve given them a signal; no wait, I guess they don’t have to!
“Flames of Revenge!”
They had finished casting their spell! At the same time, they felt a chill surge from beneath their feet, and Lee Shin Woo somehow used Flames of Revenge in time.
It seemed obvious, but it was impossible for the spell to cover the entire area. Lee Shin Woo was satisfied with covering just himself and Jin with the flames and… yelled!
“I can fly! ”
Jin dashed through the air; it was truly a beautiful leap. They dodged the enormous ice walls that surged from the floor with a force that touched the Underground Empire’s ceiling!
“Ice Arrow Shower!”
The magician’s ice walls tried to keep them in place, but lost much of their power due to the Flames of Revenge. However, it seemed as though their opponent still had mana to spare, as they followed up with another spell.
They didn’t even need to cast the spell for very long and it was a low ranked spell, but the sheer number of them was considerable. The air was instantly filled to the brim with ice arrows and those arrows rushed towards them, aiming only for them!
If their opponent used lightning, wind, or flames, it might’ve gotten dangerous for them, but ice magic was fine!
Lee Shin Woo hugged Jin’s neck and covered themselves entirety in the Flames of Revenge; at the same time, he shared his Intermediate Ice Resistance through the contract. It was a absurdly high ranked skill technique.
[Intermediate Ice Protection will protect your partner as well. Blocking at least 70% of the attack.]
[The Intermediate Ice Resistance skill has become Lv2. Magic has increased by 5.]
The barrage of ice arrows fell upon them instantly and pounded on their bodies… No, rather than pounding them, most of the ice arrows damage dissipated due to his ice resistance, and the Flames of Revenge melted the rest. He had been confident, but it was such a perfect defense that he praised himself.
“How can an undead possess such a high rank mana technique…?”
Seriously. How amazing must it have been if his opponent had stopped their attack in shock. However, now wasn’t the time to be impressed! Before his opponent regained their cool and started attacking again, Lee Shin Woo wanted to do away with the status quo, so he yelled.
Their opponent flinched at his voice, as it definitely contained a will behind it. Lee Shin Woo took that opportunity to yell loudly, which reverberated across the highlands.
 T/N: This is written exactly how it sounds in English.