<Chapter 16. A Joker is Born – 5>
Lee Shin Woo had never leveled up as planned. But this time, he was somehow able to prepare for his level up at his leisure.
His accumulated stats from both his achievements and the evolution of his skills totaled 1,598; in other words, he was only 2 stats away from a level up, and there were a ton of bones here that he could use to increase his stats.
“Jin, what about you?”
“I’m at 1,574.”
“Good. You should be able to level up too.”
“You want me to increase my stats by 26 all at once…!?”
Jin said in shock, but Lee Shin Woo didn’t listen to him. He was just reacting like that because he was so happy. Even if Jin didn’t think that way himself, that’s how it was.
The city was extremely vast, and the amount of knights protecting it was considerable. However, due to Lee Shin Woo, Kratia, as well as the Pauls, not even one skeleton was missed and the city was completely cleared; therefore, with the quantity of bones they’d gathered in one spot, they could raise their stats by more than 26, and could even go up to 50 if they wanted.
“Pick out the bones level 4 or higher.”
There were about 100 level 4 bones. Most of them were from knights, but there were occasionally some magicians’ bones mixed in as well; Lee Shin Woo decided to invest those magicians’ bones into Jin. Aside from his agility, everything else needed work, but Jin especially lacked in the magic department.
“And this too.”
Naturally, Lee Shin Woo held out the Original Bone Core. He had some cores remaining after using them on the deteriorated Original Bone Core. The cores kept adding up, and soon, he managed to make another one. Lee Shin Woo, who had been prepared to sacrifice the Limited Order Original Bone Core, felt relieved that he wouldn’t have to.
‘Jin’s been avoiding this thing.’
Before joining together with Kratia, they actively cleared out the golems in the outskirts of the Empire and had managed to accumulate several Original Bone Cores. However, most of those went to Lee Shin Woo. Not only was Jin afraid of absorbing them, but Lee Shin Woo also thought that it was urgent he got stronger asap.
“But I really can’t get any stats out of these Bone Cores anymore. It’s better for you to absorb them, if you consider their efficiency.”
“Damn it… Fine.”
The same types of bones fundamentally possess a similar karma. There was even a limit on absorbing skeletons’ bones, which possessed a special characteristic based on the individual, so there was no way that golems, which were carefully thought out and produced, would be any different.
Through hard work, Lee Shin Woo had already acquired all the stats he could from the Bone Original Cores, and now it was Jin’s turn. It seemed as though Jin realized that he couldn’t get out of it this time, and calmly assented. Since it wasn’t his first time experiencing it, he didn’t break down.
“Tell me when you’ve got it.”
“Ugh… I got it. I just need to raise my stats by 8 more.”
“8, huh. Ok.”
Yeah, it was fortunate that Jin was headstrong. Lee Shin Woo nodded in satisfaction and continuously used the magicians’ bones on Jin. Whenever he did so, Jin would flinch, but he managed to bear with it quite well. He maintained his connection with Lee Shin Woo, and remembered the days he had endured, which helped him get through it.
“Hoo… Just 3 more stats.”
“Just one more level 5 bone should be enough then.”
Lee Shin Woo examined the level 5 bones he’d collected from the battle. First were the four bones he’d gotten from the Elder Knights. There were four, including the three Lee Shin Woo had killed, as well as one that Kratia had killed.
There were two more level 5 bones as well; they were the lord’s, the Skeleton Commander’s, skull and rib bone. He was lucky to have gotten them through Bone Reinforcement’s new option.
“Which one should we go with?”
“It doesn’t really matter to me, so just pick one already. I’m ready.”
Jin spoke in a pointlessly grim tone, and stiffly raised his head. Lee Shin Woo chuckled and picked the Skeleton Commander’s rib bone. Because it was the only one which would increase health.
“And if I’m right, it’ll probably…”
“You’ll know if you experience it firsthand. Bone Reinforcement!”
[Bone Reinforcement is being implemented on Jin Taylor by consuming a Lv5 Skeleton Commander’s rib bone. Health has increased by 1. You share a portion of its memories and experiences.]
[A defensive seal? If there comes a time when I have to use that, then my family line will end on that day as well. – Nameless heir]
This time, Lee Shin Woo received 1 stat point and only need one more to level up. Of course, Jin obviously got more than 3 points from it. Suddenly, a dreary black light burst from Jin’s body; it was an outburst of mana that indicated that he was leveling up.
‘Is it because of the contract? I feel a bit strange, too.’
It felt as though Jin’s nausea was transmitted to Lee Shin Woo in its entirety. He calmly stepped back and observed Jin’s level up. Kratia also watched with interest.
“It seems much more intense than a human’s level up. Is it because he’s leveling up to 5?”
“Is there something special about level 5?”
“Yeah. It’s the level where your karma pieces, which are divided into several branches, are made one, and for the first time, your true path is decided. Level 5 is the level where you are considered high rank.”
Kratia added that she became an ice magician at level 5, so she was forced to walk on that path from now on.
After hearing that, when he thought about it, Lee Shin Woo had acquired the Avenger karma at first, then the Trickster karma, and several other karmas as well, but all of these were gradually sorted out; now, his promotion to a true Joker was right ahead of him, so he thought she wasn’t exactly wrong.
“Ah, it’s almost over.”
The dreary black light wrapping around Jin gradually disappeared, revealing the vastly changed Jin from within. The first thing he noticed was his frame; it had a metallic sheen to it.
“I was probably really affected by Steel Body. Besides, I don’t really have any other active skills.”
No one had asked, yet Jin preemptively explained. The blue blazing goblin fire in his eye sockets had also intensified as well.
“And from the absorbed bone, I got a skill that’s like a lifesaver. The moment I get hit by an attack, it creates a magical shield that nullifies a portion of the damage; it’s truly a vague skill.”
“As I thought, it’s the skill that the Skeleton Commander used at the end.”
“Then shouldn’t you have gotten this skill? After all, you wind up in dangerous situations more often than me…”
“And what ended up happening to the Skeleton Commander who used that skill?”
He died. The aforementioned skill was a lifesaver in unforeseen situations, but it wasn’t suited for a warrior who fought on the frontlines.
Therefore, Jin, who acted like a war horse, would be better served learning the skill, and it would lessen the chances of him getting hit by an unforeseen attack that would take him out of the battlefield.
“You know, I heard that as you indirectly telling me that my body’s really weak, so I should take care of myself…”
“I’ll tell it to you straight up. If you don’t like it, then let’s train some more.”
Jin became level 5. His stat effectiveness should’ve gone up, so his monstrous speed should’ve gotten even faster. Therefore, he would need to properly control that speed, as well as possess a skill that protected his body.
Jin also understood that Lee Shin Woo’s was looking out for him and didn’t say anything more. He pledged that he would try hard to more naturally utilize Steel Body, as well as the skill he just obtained.
“It’s your guys’ turn next.”
“We’ve been waiting.”
The Pauls had distinguished themselves in battle. Frankly, the reason that Lee Shin Woo, Jin, and Kratia were able to move separately was because the Pauls had taken down the skeleton commoners, as well as the soldiers neatly and quickly, which were so numerous that they would’ve been a hassle to deal with.
‘When I look at it this way, it makes me want to bring them along with me…’
However, he couldn’t. Considering their mobility, it was correct to just leave them be. If for no other reason, it was important that he reinforce them now.
Truthfully, he thought about ignoring the cost and just selling the bones at the secret shop, but most of them were from ordinary, non-elite monsters, and he remembered that he would have to sell them at a comparatively low price compared to buying them, so he decided against it.
“Let’s reinforce the one’s close to level 4 first. I don’t know how much stronger you could get, but…”
There were bones amassed in front of him. The Pauls stood side by side, as if indicating that they could endure whatever came their way; Lee Shin Woo nodded his head and raised a bone.
Lee Shin Woo had already ground the level 1 skeleton bones into medicine, yet funnily enough, there were more than 10,000 bones remaining that were level 2 and up. He then spent the time listening to their screams for a tedious three hours.
[Lv4 Doom Factor – Paul 102]
“I did it, Captain!”
“Yeah, good job.”
As a result of investing all of level 2 and level 3 bones into them, more than 10 of the Pauls leveled up to level 4.
Lee Shin Woo thought that their paths would differ as they absorbed different bones, but he was wrong. All of the skeletons who had become level 4 became Doom Factors. They obtained a higher level of strength than before, and those who hadn’t leveled up were envious of them.
[I want to grow too…!]
“Then you need to hunt more. It seems like I’ll be in this general area for a bit, so hunt strong monsters however you can and bring the bones to me. I’ll reinforce you guys with them.”
[Thank you, Captain!]
Surprisingly, they departed immediately. Immediately, without even telling him when they’d meet again! He was pleased that they showed such an unbelievable desire to improve for undead, but… ultimately, he just shrugged his shoulders. It was unlikely that they’d return in just ten days.
“Then is it your turn now, Shin Woo?”
“It’s dangerous, so take a few steps back.”
Kratia was excessively inquisitive. It felt as though she would bite off his hand bones and eat them if it would help in figuring out Lee Shin Woo’s magic. After Lee Shin Woo had commanded the golems to protect him from a bit far away, he gathered the rest of the bones in one spot. With an equal amount of level 5 and level 4 bones.
Roughly speaking, he didn’t think he would get a new skill. On the bright side, he had the Skeleton Commander’s skull, so he felt like it would at least improve his Command skill. He’d learned so many skills, and now most of them were starting to overlap.
“Hoo… Bone Reinforcement!”
[Implementing Bone Reinforcement by consuming all of the gathered bones. Strength has increased by 13, Agility by 11, Health by 14, and Magic by 5. The Low Rank Regeneration skill has become Lv7. The Low rank Command skill has become Lv8.]
[You have become level 5. All stats increase by 20. Your inventory has doubled.]
[You have become able to control the elements themselves. You may be an undead, but you are a pure undead, unaffected by the curse, so you have evolved into an Elemental Skeleton!]
[You have become the world’s only Joker. No one can control your karma, and whatever you decide to become, it is your choice alone.]
The transformation wasn’t as intense as he’d expected. Compared to when he had become level 4, where all his equipment was absorbed and his stats increased sharply all at once, it didn’t feel like much of a big deal simultaneously absorbing a dozen bones and leveling up.
It felt like there was much more tension back when he’d figured out how to make a high rank administrative seal since he hadn’t been able to recreate it for so long… he felt strangely disappointed, but Lee Shin Woo examined his body, and soon realized what a huge misunderstanding he was making.
“This is… it’s worlds apart.”
His magic and strength condensed within his body, further enhancing the health and mana that has been accumulated in his bones. It seemed the more the Mana Bone skill developed, the more his health and magic would balance out, due to its ability to contain mana.
And now that he was level 5 and his body was completely restructured, that became apparent even from the outside. His hard work starting from level 1 was reflected in his current body, so he felt deeply moved.
“Ooh… Your build’s completely different now. Shin Woo, you really look like a boss mob right now.”
“You look as if you’re level 6 or 7.”
“You’re one to talk. You know how absolute the difference between levels is.”
Lee Shin Woo snorted and replied to Kratia, and took a brief deep breath.
Then he checked his stats.