<Chapter 17. Disguise – 4 [End of Volume 3]>
From the start, he hadn’t expected the vineyard to be intact. Regardless of how prosperous the Underground Empire had been, living vegetation couldn’t be expected to last when neglected for so many years. It was different from ripening and storing alcohol.
“There’s no way the vineyard could’ve been maintained. There was a time I thought so as well…”
“It’s still growing though, isn’t it…?”
That’s right. The field, so vast that it felt unmeasurable, was filled with grapevines that emitted a fresh vigor, and large grapes hung upon each vine. Lee Shin Woo, who didn’t know much about the development of plant life, just knew that this wasn’t normal.
“Shin Woo, look. The field’s goes on and on, yet there isn’t a single dead vine.”
“Does this mean the Underground Empire possesses the greatest magic on the planet? …Huh?”
But while marveling at the vineyard, Lee Shin Woo discovered an unusual trace. Contrary to the vineyard, there was no sign of magic involved, but there were traces of the ground being unearthed just a short while ago.
That wasn’t all. There were traces of the nearby grapevines’ unnecessary branches being cut off, as well as signs that grapes were harvested from the other grapevines.
“It couldn’t be an undead.”
Of course, that didn’t mean an undead couldn’t come into a dungeon. Since there was an instance of him killing a hero that had turned undead and gone into the dungeon.
But if that’s the case, there should be traces of the death energy that they emitted, but he didn’t see it at all. That meant there was only one possible answer: there was a living being managing this field.
‘Yeah, now that I think about it, there was a bulkhead protecting this field from the undead insects.’
Even though the insects had become undead, they had a tendency to instinctively seek out fruit and move according to that instinct. They were only gathered in the underground passage, and the fact that they couldn’t enter the orchard meant that someone was protecting the vineyard.
“Golems, stealth mode.”
[Concealing magic and standing by below ground level.]
Lee Shin Woo said one line, and the three golems instantaneously burrowed into the ground and crawled in. In the blink of an eye, the golems concealed themselves; seeing that, Jin just blinked his eyes and Lee Shin Woo called for him.
“Why are you calling me so seriously again?”
“You can cover yourself up with that magic armor, right?”
“Magic armor… Ah, Steel Heart? Yeah, probably.”
“Then use it right now. Use it so that you don’t look like an undead.”
“Why do you want me to… never mind, I got it.”
Jin knew that there was no way Lee Shin Woo’s intuition was wrong, and wordlessly covered his body with steel, making it so that no one would be able to tell he was a skeleton from the outside. Confirming that, Lee Shin Woo activated the Joker’s innate skill, Disguise.
[Using the Disguise skill, you are disguised as someone you are completely familiar with.]
He had originally planned to primarily train this skill after parting ways with Kratia, but now that it’s come to this, there was no helping it.
Immediately after acquiring the Disguise skill, he had thought about this. He’d already dispelled the misunderstanding between him, Kratia, and Ye Jin Jin and become friendly with them, but it wouldn’t be this easy from now on, so he decided to act like he was human through the Disguise skill.
“H-How did you…!?”
“It only changes my exterior appearance. Calm down.”
Jin looked at him in shock, but Lee Shin Woo just calmly replied and examined his body. His arm, which had been composed of black bones, was covered in skin.
That’s right. He was currently disguised as a human being. It was his first time using the skill, so even he himself was a bit surprised. It was truly a perfect disguise from the outside.
“Hey, how are you so calm right now…”
Lee Shin Woo placed his human-looking hand atop Jin’s head, who was agitated and about to scream. At that moment, Jin really calmed down. Though it had the exact same feel of a human hand… it was extremely cold.
“Are you the exact same on the inside…?”
“Yeah. Of course, if I were to use fire, I could mimic human temperature, but in the end, it’s still a disguise.”
Lee Shin Woo replied bitterly, and Jin replied in an almost dreary voice and drooped. Lee Shin Woo could understand him. Since Jin saw a chance of turning back into a human from his undead state in Lee Shin Woo’s Disguise skill.
As he thought, he should’ve told Jin about the skill before using it; Lee Shin Woo slightly regretted it.
‘Especially because the skill is so imperfect right now. I’d originally wanted to disguise myself as an extremely ordinary human being…’
Originally, the Disguise skill possessed some really troublesome conditions. Since he could only mimic the appearance of someone who he was completely familiar with and remembered.
Right now, he could only disguise himself as a few types of skeletons, a golem, and his own appearance when he was alive on Earth; amongst them, the only one that looked like a hero was his human appearance.
“But when you were still on Earth, was your face… Shin Woo, they’re coming.”
Lee Shin Woo never knew when the person managing this field would arrive, so he had disguised himself beforehand just in case. However, Jin, whose five senses and agility had grown, confirmed that there was a living being coming. At that moment, Lee Shin Woo stopped thinking about anything else and started to act as if he were just a normal human hero.
“…You there, stay where you are.”
Around the time he heard Jin and braced himself, he heard a voice carried by the wind from afar. Lee Shin Woo realized that this was a high level wind technique. They would actually be far away, but the technique allowed them to speak as if they were close by.
‘Calm down. They haven’t figured out who we are yet.’
‘I’m glad we’re not too late… Sorry, but you have to start acting like a horse from now on.’
Lee Shin Woo used his Assimilation skill to inaudibly converse with Jin, and told him to calm down physically and mentally; then, the voice continued speaking. It was a refreshing and clean girl’s voice.
“Who are you? …Mm, are you human? A hero?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Senior. My name is Lee Shin Woo.”
“Ah, Lee Shin Woo!”
As soon as Lee Shin Woo disclosed his name, the woman’s voice became noticeably relieved. Lee Shin Woo suddenly realized that it was a voice he’d often heard in the chatting channel, Erian Ruparte’s voice. He thought someone other than a hero was managing the field, but this made things easy.
That was one less unnecessary variable. It was a relief that he was able to learn and use his Disguise skill before it was too late. He’d like to avoid saying ‘Stop, friendly fire!’ like he had against Kratia from now on.
“It’s nice to meet you, Senior… Ruparte?”
In many ways, Lee Shin Woo felt relaxed, and turned around to greet her as calmly as possible. At least, he wanted to, but… when he saw her, he ended up stuttering.
“You’re as handsome as Jin Jin said! …Ah, is it your first time seeing an elf?”
“Uh, yes. There weren’t any elves in my world…”
Lee Shin Woo replied powerlessly and she lowered her bow that had been aimed at him, smiling sweetly. She was garbed in simple colored clothing, but that simplicity seemed to accentuate her beauty.
She was dozens of kilometers away from them, but Lee Shin Woo could see her with just one glance; seeing her longish rising ears, Lee Shin Woo couldn’t hide his astonishment. She was really an elf that he’d only seen in comics before!
“I’ll go to you.”
Though Lee Shin Woo looked like a human, he felt fundamentally different; from the start, she felt like a heavenly beauty that couldn’t be reached by a human.
If Lee Shin Woo were a normal man, he would’ve been surprised by her beauty and either faint or go crazy over her. However, his heart was calm like a beach without even a single gust of wind. On the contrary, Jin was surprised.
‘She’s really pretty…’
‘Jin, you really are a man… Hey, wait. I didn’t make fun of you this time. Hey!’
Jin shook his back up and down for no reason, and Lee Shin Woo protested Jin’s bullying. Erian Ruparte suddenly leapt towards them here and there, and approached them. He perceived elves as being extremely nimble, but it seemed like that was actually true.
Considering her short-term speed, it seemed as though she could even compete with Jin. It seemed like her staying power wasn’t bad either, as she quickly arrived in front of them.
“Hueut. You’ve come so far Mr. Lee Shin Woo, so you must come from a world that’s developed magic, but it must be quite a peculiar world to not have elves in it. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Erian Ruparte.”
“As I’ve said, my name is Lee Shin Woo. This guy’s a horse I was lucky enough to get here.”
Jin was trying his best! Fortunately, Erian Ruparte didn’t notice that Jin was strange.
“It’s a miracle that you found a living horse in a dungeon, but you also trained it? Aha, you must’ve been a knight, Lee Shin Woo! Right?”
“It’s quite embarrassing, but yes, in my original world I was a knight.”
Lee Shin Woo naturally lied and started to wonder whether he needed to learn more about how to act like a knight. No, that wasn’t important right now.
“As I thought, you were managing this field, Senior?”
“Of course. It’d be difficult to create a field so teeming with life, but not for an elf.”
A peculiar facet of elves was that they were extremely prideful; Lee Shin Woo decided to keep this in mind. Erian Ruparte spoke with a friendly smile to the nodding Lee Shin Woo.
“Take as much as you want. I’m planning on leaving this area soon.”
“Ah… Thank you.”
“I knew you were in a danger level 2 zone, but I didn’t think we’d meet like this. Jin Jin is always talking about you, so it feels like I already know you. Lee Shin Woo, I had a lot I wanted to tell you if we met.”
“Of course. …I’d like to hear what Ye Jin Jin said about me as well, Senior.”
“You can call me Erian.”
Lee Shin Woo harvested the grapes with Erian’s help, and they started to speak about various matters. She planned to leave here and join up with Lloyd H.K., and Lee Shin Woo told her about how he got here (it was obviously a lie), and about other corresponding matters.
Lee Shin Woo subtracted roughly 80% of his achievements until now and relayed the remaining 20% to her, but even that 20% put Erian in a state of unceasing admiration. Just by telling her about how he defeated a few elites a higher level than him caused her eyes to shine.
“What amazing courage! I already heard about it from Jin Jin, but I didn’t think you’d be that good! Aren’t you afraid of death!?”
“I wonder. That fear makes me want to challenge myself even more. If I’m not a bit courageous now, I feel like I’ll face off against an unstoppable foe later on…”
“…Splendid. I’ll remember that.”
From the very beginning, Erian’s perception of Lee Shin Woo was pretty much the highest it could be. He could understand why, but whenever he said something, her response would contain ‘Jin Jin’ in it.
“Have you contacted Jin Jin?”
“Jin Jin would be happy if she knew that.”
“Jin Jin is always…”
Before long, Lee Shin Woo realized that Erian had completely mistaken his relationship with Ye Jin Jin. And that misunderstanding was probably for good reason. After all, there’s no smoke without a fire.
He clutched his aching head and replied as calmly as possible.
“I did private chat with her before, but…”
“I see. Thank you very much. She’s kind, but the one who caused that once weak girl to diligently work hard is you, Lee Shin Woo.”
Lee Shin Woo’s inventory was soon completely full, and he then acted as though he was putting the rest of them into his own inventory while he was actually putting them in Jin’s inventory. It was possible because he was using his Assimilation skill to its maximum potential!
He couldn’t reveal that he was a skeleton and he was packing them because he had no other choice, but it did feel truly pointless. Kratia was the only one doing something important.
“Hoo. It felt regrettable just leaving this field, but it’s a relief that you’re here.”
“Thank you again.”
“I’m the one who should be thanking you. Since I grew the fruit to be eaten.”
Around the time the vineyard was completely cleared out, Lee Shin Woo figured out that while Erian was aware of the vineyard, she was completely unaware of the winery. As expected, she only took the route to the vineyard.
Furthermore, he figured out that Erian seemed to like Lloyd, but hated the Prince. However, that wasn’t really important information.
“To be honest, the moment I saw you, I wanted to entrust this orchard to you, but…”
“Ah, Senior. That’s…”
That would be a pain in the ass. Kratia might want it, but Lee Shin Woo didn’t need grapes! However, when Lee Shin Woo thought about how to refuse, Erian said something that caused him to prick his (nonexistent) ears.
“However, that’s impossible. Honestly, I wanted to tell you this from the very beginning… a large force of undead is coming this way. We have to leave this area before we encounter them.”