<Chapter 15. New Relationship – 3>
[Rather than using a sound argument, you used your actions and the mood to impress others. You lied so naturally that they weren’t even suspicious of you! The Acting skill has become Lv10. If you ‘dress up’, your acting ability increases further.]
The moment he successfully accepted Paul 47 as his subordinate, his Acting skill naturally leveled up. Lee Shin Woo, who was neither a general or a knight of the Empire, was able to put up quite the convincing act, so it was only natural that he was able to make Paul 47, who was originally a soldier of the Empire, into his subordinate.
‘Is it at the level where I can naturally fool others, even if I don’t lie…!?’
Lee Shin Woo was impressed by his own accomplishment. Though it was a spur of the moment thing due to the favorable situation and mood, he was able to get a taste of a higher leveled skill due to its level up and the experience he’d gained was no joke! He felt overwhelmingly confident that he’d be able to lie his way out any situation!
“Paul Zero, you’re amazing…”
Seeing that, Jin was amazed, and narrowed his eyes and muttered. However, it seemed Kratia was touched by Lee Shin Woo’s speech and Paul 47’s declaration as she applauded. She may be good at magic but that’s all; she was completely fooled.
“Will you be able to inherit their wills?”
[Of course, Captain!]
“Good. Bone Reinforcement!”
Paul 47 had much more backbone than Jin. Lee Shin Woo looked back at Jin and shook his head at him, as if saying ‘look at him’ (Jin looked like he’d burst into tears), and repeatedly used Bone Reinforcement on Paul 47.
There were some of the bones he’d bought off Kratia mixed in; they were level 2 or 3 bones that wouldn’t have much effect on him, so he’d bought them to reinforce the Pauls.
[Ugh, it feels like my body will break.]
“Go ahead, break! And then, be reborn!”
[I understand, Captain! I’ll be reborn as a new Paul 47!]
[Please allow me to inherit their wills as well, Captain!]
[Me too… Please allow me to as well!]
Seeing Paul 47 being strengthened in real time, as well as inheriting the wills of the deceased knights and soldiers, the other Pauls realized that Lee Shin Woo’s words were no lie; sure enough, each of them scrambled and extended their bones forward, pestering him to reinforce them.
Originally, all the Pauls here didn’t trust Lee Shin Woo 100%, and some of the Pauls amongst them just thought of him as ‘an ally and superior, but they didn’t need to pledge their loyalty to him’; in other words, a ‘company commander’. Though there were those that had thought of him as such, that didn’t really matter anymore.
Since to them, Lee Shin Woo was someone who loved the Empire beyond any other, and was a hero who inherited the wills of the dearly departed!
[I feel their wills living and breathing within me. I’m Paul 101; I’ll protect the Empire, fight within the Empire, and die with the Empire!]
“Shin Woo, isn’t this a bit dangerous?”
Jin was frightened, seeing the Pauls absorbing several dozens of bones in place with about half of them yelling crazily, and spoke into Lee Shin Woo’s ear. Lee Shin Woo just calmly nodded his head.
“Of course it’s dangerous. They’re filled with incomplete memories already and I’ve mixed in several dozens of foreign memories into them, so it wouldn’t be strange for them to lose themselves.”
“Then why did you do it all at once…”
“Since it’ll be easier to fool them then. Plus, it’d be helpful in planting a false sense of loyalty in them.”
Within their feeble minds, the Pauls anchored themselves onto one thing amidst the flowing memories: their hatred towards the curse that had destroyed the Empire.
Lee Shin Woo had instigated that hatred, and was giving them cause to follow him blindly. It was fine if he erased all the unnecessary memories, so long as their combat techniques remained!
“You’re a demon!”
[My name is Paul 49… Henceforth, I’ll follow Captain and stake my life on reclaiming the light of the Empire!]
“What a great goal, Paul 49. Then, next! Paul 102!”
[I’m all ready!]
It seemed like a pseudo religious baptismal ceremony, and also the site of collective madness! The Pauls approached Lee Shin Woo in order, offering their bones; about half of them kneeled before him, and while maintaining his solemn expression, Lee Shin Woo targeted them and used Bone Reinforcement.
After going through Bone Reinforcement, the Pauls who had been slightly suspicious of Lee Shin Woo acted as though they would stake everything for him instead, and the mood stunk of solemnity. Extremely speaking, it was like they were willing to forfeit the last remaining drumstick to him after ordering chicken!
“Are you the last one?”
[That’s right, Captain. Though there aren’t that many, I did kill these guys.]
The last remaining Paul was Paul 41. However, the bone that it was carrying was a masterpiece. It was a level 4 Skeleton Knight’s hand bone!
“You fought him one on one?”
It may seem obvious, but each of the Pauls were born in a different environment from the others and participated in different experiments, so they each possessed different latent potential and starting abilities. They were all similarly level 3, but as there were some level 3s who possessed stats close to 400, there were also level 3s with stats close to 800.
If it was able to take down a level 4 Skeleton Knight, then it must be really close to an 800 stat total. Its posture was different from the other Pauls and seeing as how it waited for all the other Pauls to be reinforced before coming forward, it seemed to have a solid intellect as well.
‘But what if I were to steal this bone and use it on myself?’
It definitely didn’t seem like a very attractive option. The opportunity cost of using the level 4 Skeleton Knight bone was much too high, as it would just provide him with subpar stat gains and experiences compared to an elite level 4 monster. If that’s the case, then… Lee Shin Woo nodded his head and raised the hand bone, placing it atop Paul 41’s forehead.
“Their wills will make you even stronger than before. Bone Reinforcement!”
[Thank you, Captain! I’ll trust and follow you!]
[By consuming the Lv4 Skeleton Knight’s hand bone, the Lv3 Elite Cursed Skeleton – Paul 41 is being reinforced. You have made him into your subordinate.]
But at that very moment, a blinding light surged from Paul 41’s body. And simultaneously, the curse that covered his body was amplified and covered his entire body. (In the secret facility where the Paul 40 line of skeletons were born, they attempted to block the undead curse by steeping them into a curse beforehand; that curse was an ‘aging’ curse. Since they were skeletons, they weren’t weakened by the curse.)
It was similar to when he had first awakened as an elite monster, but comparatively, it was a much more powerful outburst of energy! Lee Shin Woo thought that perhaps… and soon had a hunch. This guy… was leveling up right now! He had completely passed the threshold of 800 total stats!
[Your subordinate, Paul 41, has evolved into a Lv4 Elite Doom Factor. He has learned a method of releasing the curse energy surrounding him to destroy others. The day he learns to use this to its full ability will be the day he is reborn as a true disaster.]
What a cool name! It could be even cooler than a Joker Apprentice. But the moment Lee Shin Woo writhed in jealously, his own skill underwent a trivial… no, a huge change.
[The Bone Reinforcement skill has become Lv6. You have learned how to select the best bones. When you personally defeat a monster, you can obtain two bones if you are lucky.]
Normally, the moment one kills a monster, the clump of mana that cannot be reduced naturally remains as loot. Whether it be gear, bones, or skin.
But because his Bone Reinforcement skill leveled up, he now had a chance to acquire two bones at one time!
‘I don’t know the specifics, but I’ve hit the jackpot.’
The Doom Factor, Paul 41, who’d finished evolving and stood on his own, looked at him with loving eyes. He couldn’t believe that he too had black goblin fire blazing in his eye sockets and looked at Lee Shin Woo with endearing eyes.
[This is the strength I’ve gained because of you, Captain. I pledge my loyalty to you, Captain.]
“Don’t pledge your loyalty to me. Instead, pledge that you’ll purify the Empire.”
His loyalty was increasing by the minute. Paul 41 seemed to have been touched and bowed his head, then Lee Shin Woo gave him another order.
“From now on, you’re in charge of these Pauls. You’re their commander, alright?”
That was the moment when the elite battalion led by the level 4 Elite Doom Factor was born. Seeing Paul 41, Lee Shin Woo formulated a new plan in his head.
If he could use Bone Reinforcement on the others and make them into his subordinates… if he were able to make the skeletons born from the Anti-Skull Project into his subordinates… Then, he’d have a formidable army that no one could ignore!
‘And if I were to add golems into the mix as well…’
Lee Shin Woo’s jaw creaked in satisfaction, already thinking about how prosperous his future would be. Jin thought he looked really evil, but Kratia admired Lee Shin Woo’s ability to manipulate the undeads’ feelings and instantaneously acquire their absolute loyalty.
“You have the qualities of a leader.”
“More like the qualities of a swindler.”
“I’m going to scout out and assassinate the lord, so Kratia, you stay on standby with these guys and rush in when I give the signal.”
Lee Shin Woo, who’d completely used all of the bones to strengthen the Pauls, decided to travel incognito next. Since they had already annihilated one skeleton battalion, he didn’t know how the skeletons stationed in the city would react. It would be better if he acted before some special change occured.
“Jin, you’re with me.”
It would be difficult to find them, unless they were as skilled as Kratia, if Lee Shin Woo and Jin formed a connection and moved stealthily. He didn’t need to separate from Jin just because he wanted to travel incognito. Truthfully, the Pauls were startled as soon as Lee Shin Woo got atop Jin’s back and activated Stealth.
[Where did Captain go?]
[Everyone, stay calm. We’ll move when we get the signal. Until then, sharpen your swords and wait.]
Beside them, Kratia was calmly lost in thought. She had investigated the mystery known as Bone Reinforcement and was anguished over whether she could apply the same method she’d seen to her own magic. The fact that she had something to study after crossing over to this world filled her with delight.
When they had gotten far from the group, Jin asked Lee Shin Woo what he’d been concerned about.
“Hey, Shin Woo. Are you going to bring those guys with you now?”
“Nope. While it’s nice that they’ve become a usable fighting force, it’d be kind of weird to travel with them, wouldn’t it?”
It might’ve been ok travelling with them when he was still alone, but it would a hassle lugging all of them around everywhere. From the start, he’d done this on a whim. He didn’t need to put too much importance on them.
“But if they develop well, I should be able to use them properly then.”
“You’re really amazing, man.”
Lee Shin Woo replied coolly and activated Bone Armory, covering his entire body with armor. He equipped the helmet, body armor, and even the lower body armor; he was fully armed, aside from his weaponry. Though the appearance, as well as the materials were different for each piece of armor, equipping them all strangely made him look like a knight.
“You’re going to act again, aren’t you?”
“Be careful starting now.”
Walls enclosed the city on all four sides. Of course, Lee Shin Woo naturally figured out where their guard was weakest, as he’d absorbed the knights’ and soldiers’ memories, and when they’d gotten in the vicinity of the city walls, he led Jin away from their prying eyes.
“How do you think they formed this underground empire? And how was it maintained… the fact that this commercial city thrived means that it independently developed several of its own industries underground.”
“They probably used those amazing technical skills to build the Empire.”
“Why would they go underground when they had such technical skill?”
One would often forget that they were actually underground, unless they stared at the far distant ceiling.
Moreover, there are underground areas in the Underground Empire, and the weather, as well as night and day are mostly controlled through magic. Maybe the Empire even had rivers and oceans. No, they definitely existed here.
“I wonder. Maybe there were too many people above ground.”
“I wonder what it looks like above ground…”
Lee Shin Woo could tell that Jin was feeling restless, perhaps because he’d met someone alive, Kratia. He could completely understand how he was feeling. He was happy that he could sympathize with him. Lee Shin Woo calmly stroked his back and comforted him.
“We should be able to see it someday. We’ll definitely be able to if we continue to grow like this.”
“…Thanks, Lee Shin Woo.”
“I’m the one who should be thankful. …Then, shall we infiltrate the city?”
While they were sheltered by the low rank level 9 Stealth, the two entered into the outskirts of the city through a doghole, infiltrating into the slums. Compared to a small town filled with level 1 or 2 skeletons, the size of the city, as well as its quality were worlds apart; this was the moment that the two had entered a true undead city.