<Chapter 20. Forest of the Dryads – 4>
[Intermediate Acid Resistance has become Lv8. Magic has increased by 5. You no longer fear acid.]
[Intermediate Acid has become Lv8. Magic has increased by 5. You are now confident that you can melt all metal and bone.]
[The Intermediate Bursting Thunder skill has become Lv6. Strength and Magic have increased by 5. You should be able to cleave through lightning that descends from the sky.]
[The Intermediate Mana Bone skill has become Lv6. Magic has increased by 20.]
[The Rule of Bone skill has become Lv7. You have become more adept at reinforcing and handling bone with just your will.]
A month and a half had passed since he’d come to the forest of the Dryads, training his Acid Resistance, Regeneration, Bursting Thunder, defense zone, Assimilation, Mana Bone, Rule of Bone, and Bone Armory; though he’d originally come to just train his Acid Resistance. Then, Kratia finally contacted him.
“So… it only happens the first time?”
[Yeah. You get that title for the first stat that reaches 1,000.]
Kratia’s voice was so cold, even through the chatting channel, that Lee Shin Woo could imagine her expression. Lee Shin Woo really liked her calm and restrained voice. Especially because he knew what would cause that cool-headedness to break.
[It’s kind of like how level 5 determines what path you’re going to take. You become specialized in one stat, and in order to become more familiar with it, the stat develops even further. Of course, my stat’s magic since I’m a magician, but I heard that others specialize in a different stat.]
Lee Shin Woo wasn’t a magician, so he ended up becoming a bit uneasy.
“So it only happens the first time, huh… It makes me feel a bit uneasy.”
[If you just consider your combat abilities, you might think that your other stats should’ve grown first, but when you think about it, all of those abilities are connected to magic, so I think the outcome was inevitable.]
“Tch, that’s true.”
[Your bones are magic anyway, so it turned out well.]
She was right. Around that time, Lee Shin Woo decided to accept it. Then, Kratia changed the topic. Her voice became slightly sharp.
[So did you find anything good in the place you kept a secret from me?]
“Haha, what are you talking about? There are no secrets between us.”
[…You seem to have gotten a lot out of it.]
He felt like Kratia was trembling, and laughed merrily as he imagined that, but Jin pressed him all of a sudden.
“I know, it’s fine. I see everything.”
Obviously, Lee Shin Woo was in the midst of battle. Lee Shin Woo hadn’t stopped fighting even once in the last 45 days.
Even though it was possible for him, as he was a skeleton, the mental strain was indescribable; nevertheless, he endured. Though, it was one of the main factors that accelerated his growth. Of course it was the same for Jin as well.
[But it’s fine. Since I found something interesting as well.]
He was still talking with Kratia. Lee Shin Woo perversely thought that chatting with someone whilst fighting would help train his concentration, and listened carefully to what she had to say.
“Oh? And what’s that?”
[It’s a secret… is what I’d like to say, but I’ll tell you. Since I’m different from you. I’m an adult.]
“Yeah, yeah. You’re so mature.”
Lee Shin Woo swung his axe, and shattered the clumped up branches that spun like a drill. Beyond that, the airborne axes flew to the tree’s main body and toppled it.
Aside from that, the other Acid Great Trees in various areas were being ambushed by the other axes within the air. He’d summoned one or two axes initially in order to train his defense zone, and at some point, that number had increased to 4. In other words, Lee Shin Woo was completely naked… or a nude skeleton. 
[I’ve found traces of one of the 12 generals too.]
“Really? If it’s this easy to figure out, then our other seniors must know about it already.”
They hadn’t yet realized that they were the greatest of the heroes that had come to this Underground Empire.
[I killed some undead who were formerly royal magicians, and luckily managed to combine their mana into a single magical formula. One of the artifacts that they had responded to that, and released information.]
Of course, the information contained within wasn’t very important. If the Empire still existed, then it would’ve been considered a third class secret; it was report data on the plan to expand the training facility for magicians who defended the capital. The problem was the one who prepared that data.
[Head of the royal magicians, Feotane. He mentioned himself that he was one of the 12 generals, so he’s definitely one of them.]
“Head of the royal magicians…”
Lee Shin Woo nodded his head naturally. Not all of the 12 generals would swing a sword or spear on the frontlines and command their troops on the battlefield. It was a fantasy world, so it made sense that a magician was a general.
“You just figured out the name? Nothing else?”
[I learned a bit about their communication system and codes. All that’s left is to inspect the training facility recorded in this report. I’m going to go over there right now.]
“Alright. Don’t die.”
[It’s connected to a magician, so I might ask for your help soon.]
“I’m not a magician…”
[Hoo… Relax. You may not consider yourself a magician, but someone else does.]
“I feel like I’ve heard something like that before.”
By the time Lee Shin Woo finished his conversation with Kratia and raised his head, the area was completely cleared of trees. Lee Shin Woo sighed after retrieving the Melting Bone Double Axes that were violently spinning in the air.
“Their juniors are trying so hard, so would it kill our seniors to at least kill one of the 12 generals?”
“You’re probably hoping that they sell that bone to the secret shop.”
“Exactly. The effect of a level 7 bone is tremendous, so what would a level 8 bone be like?”
“I don’t think any of the 12 generals are going down until we hit level 8…”
Honestly, Lee Shin Woo thought the same. Their seniors may be heroes, but they were also humans with only one life, so there was probably no helping it… He sighed again and spoke.
“Let’s just do what we can.”
“Are we finally doing it?”
“Yeah. When I hit intermediate level 8, it didn’t seem like my Acid Resistance would level up no matter what I did, so it can’t be helped.”
Lee Shin Woo said stiffly. All that was behind them was a vast plain. For a month and half, which seemed both short and long, they started from the outskirts of the forest and completely cleared out all the other areas except for the center of the forest where the Dryads ran off to.
When killed, the trees would turn into mana and vanish, leaving only their loot behind, which was characteristic of this world; there were no traces remaining that indicated that this was a forest, and if one were to walk past this area, they would be oblivious to the fact that there was originally a forest here.
“It’s time to open the box of chocolates. ”
“That’s from Forrest Gump! You really were from my world, weren’t you?”
How was this possible? Jin didn’t react when he referenced animation, but as he thought, movies were a no-go! However, Lee Shin Woo acted two-faced, even in a situation like this.
“Maybe. The name of the book I read was different.”
As expected, he was able to fool him with a simple lie! Lee Shin Woo acted as though he didn’t see Jin’s puzzled expression, and activated Bone Armory. Then, his body was completely equipped with a helmet, upper body armor, and lower body armor. He unsummoned one of his axes, but he still retained three other axes, excluding his own.
“…But will it really be ok?”
“Yeah. By reducing the number to three, my control’s gotten a lot better.”
“You’re such a scary bastard…”
Lee Shin Woo had started training his Rule of Bone skill in order to perfect his defense zone, and had become even more powerful than before as a result.
To sum it up, awareness and control. If he was able to control his equipment with Rule of Bone, then he would be able to use them to attack his enemies, even in the midst of an intense battle. Moreover, if there was only one target to attack, he could control them as one, making it twice as easy to control them.
“I leveled up my resistance as much as I could, but I don’t know how high of a level the enemy is. So you have to concentrate on our connection as much as possible.”
“You’re the one who let all the Dryads go.”
“Haha, that’s all in the past.”
The final Dryad had fled just a few minutes ago, but Jin couldn’t retort.
“There shouldn’t be any more Dryads left in this forest.”
“Yeah. If we exclude that area, that is.”
The deeper Lee Shin Woo followed the Dryads into the forest, the drearier and more frightening the energy became. At the end of it, the area was explicitly black, incomparable to the other areas of the forest.
It seemed as though the essence of the forest was gathering in one spot, like a slime being burnt to a crisp and leaving behind only its core.
“If the other areas were a level 2 danger zone, then that area seems like a level 3 or 4 danger zone…”
“We’re level 5, so it’s ok. It’s not as scary as it looks.”
“Can you stop trying to calm me down like I’m a kid…”
They carefully began to move. With every step, they became more in sync, and their assimilation rate became even higher than before.
Their respective Acid Resistances combined and became one, increasing their effectiveness. They shared their stats, senses, and the advantageous parts of skills. They were changed.
Now that it’d been about two months since he’d learned the Assimilation skill, they didn’t sleep as they were undead, and would maintain the skill in most situations; therefore, they were in complete sync.
“Ah, what a typical starting line for a boss fight…!”
[You’ll get hurt…]
“Doesn’t it sound like their voices are overlapping?”
“As I thought, it looks like they’re fused together.”
He’d let not one, not ten, but more than a hundred level 5 Dryads go. How monstrous would they become if they were to combine all their strength together into one body?!
“Shin Woo, the outer trees are…”
“I see them.”
Though the trees would attack with their branches or their roots, they would never move on their own accord. However, they were uprooting themselves right now and going deeper into the forest!
“No, they’re not moving of their own accord.”
Lee Shin Woo denied in the next moment. To him, it looked like the mana the Dryads’ spewed out was controlling and moving the trees.
Lee Shin Woo trembled. He realized that they were responding most splendidly to his decision to let them go.
“Most people would collapse, saying that they’re screwed…”
“Jin, I said that they were level 5 before, right?”
Though Jin didn’t want to keep moving forward, he had no choice; Jin walked forward with a tearful face and replied. Lee Shin Woo (inwardly) smiled in satisfaction and spoke.
“That was a lie.”
Jin screamed with such great timing. The trees all around them uprooted themselves and walked towards the center of the forest. After that, a huge living being stood up from within.. No, it was because the trees had exposed it.
[Lv6 Corrupted Tree Golem (Elite)]
[You have encountered a fused monster. This gatekeeper was created through the accumulation of countless Corrupted Dryads’ wills, as well as the mana from the remaining withered trees! The Empire’s curse will weaken if you destroy it!]
Though they had prepared for it, a large scale, nonstandard boss fight had begun.
 E/N: In case you forgot (like I did), Bone Armory only allows him to summon 5 pieces of armor or weapons at the moment (4 flying axes and the Melting Bone Double Axe).
 T/N: I believe this quote is loosely referring to the “life was like a box of chocolates” quote from Forrest Gump, which means they don’t know what’s coming next.