<Chapter 20. Forest of the Dryads – 6>
[Lloyd H.K.: It was huge. Its mana was tremendous as well. I could feel how powerful it was, even though it was so far away.]
[Prince Altania: Isn’t it just a big creature? I think I could take it…]
[Yasunori Akira: Why don’t you go over there then? I would’ve gone myself if I was nearby. Oh well.]
It’d truly been a long time since the other heroes had entered the chatting channel and they were excited in a different way. After Shino Rendu died, the channel had become stagnant, but because they’d discovered a new elite monster, they were all starting to come back.
[Lee Shin Woo: Is the monster so powerful that even you (seniors) wouldn’t dare face it?]
Lee Shin Woo leisurely cut that powerful monster’s outstretched branches, and spoke in the channel. He’d fought the Tree Golem for a few days now and had become bored, so he entered the chatting channel to increase the effectiveness of his training!
[Erian Ruparte: We don’t know. Since we haven’t gotten close and personally ascertained its level. However, if it truly was created in the ‘Melting Forest’, one of the renowned areas of the Empire…]
[Ethan Cruz: Oh my god. You’re talking about that forest in the northwestern outskirts of the Empire, right? Once you enter, you’re helpless as your gear starts to melt right away, and let’s not talk about your body.]
[Prince Altania: Heng, a forest? Then it’s simple. I just need to use my special fire magic from afar and burn it to a crisp!]
Prince acted conceitedly and Erian snorted.
[Erian Ruparte: Unfortunately for you, Sir Altania, I believe there’s a strange energy protecting the forest. You would likely be unable to burn a single tree before you completely remove that energy.]
[Prince Altania: What? A stronger force can overcome a weaker force.]
[Erian Ruparte: What I’m saying is that it’d be difficult for you, Sir Altania, as there’s quite a bit of that energy there.]
[Prince Altania: Ugh…]
[Lee Shin Woo: What do you mean by a strange energy…?]
She was definitely talking about the Dryads, but Lee Shin Woo feigned ignorance! It had the feeling of ‘oh, there’s a place like that? I wouldn’t even dare going there!’, so Erian replied satisfyingly.
[Erian Ruparte: I believe they’re corrupted spirits. They were called Dryads in my world. If they’re really Dryads, then… it’s truly miserable and depressing. Dryads treasure trees, and love anything that is alive…]
“So what you’re saying is…”
At that moment, it seemed like the golem couldn’t take any more of this slow paced battle, and wailed loudly. Thousands of tree branches rose into the air and fused into one! That completed giant tree hammer fell upon them like an arrow. Jin was startled, moved his body, and evaded it.
But then, the hammer impacted the ground with a ‘kwang!’; following that, the hammer transformed into an immense concentration of Acid Poison and thickly spread everywhere. That powerful acid, which looked like it would melt any type of equipment like Ethan Cruz had said, covered Lee Shin Woo and Jin simultaneously.
[You are being affected by the High Rank Acid Hammer! Intermediate Acid Resistance reduces the damage by about 60%!]
“Kuhek… I really want to stop doing this! I did enough… Shin Woo, we can stop now, right? Right?”
“Bear with it a bit more, Jin. We can’t stop now!”
It was only for a instant, but Lee Shin Woo’s armor was completely melted away, as well as half of his arms and legs. It was the same for Jin as well. Although he possessed intermediate level 9 resistance, he couldn’t avoid taking a significant amount of damage from the poison; that was the golem’s power.
“I can’t, I’ll die. I’ll really die. See you later, Shin Woo…”
“You won’t die. Don’t worry.”
And it went exactly as Lee Shin Woo said. His hastily activated Regeneration skill restored not only his own body, but Jin’s melting body as well. Of course, this was all due to his Assimilation skill, which had grown to intermediate level 5!
[Erian Ruparte: That acid is much too powerful for us to endure, and will not only melt through metal, but our bodies as well. Even if you can use magic well, you’d have to sacrifice both your skin and muscles to block it. You must not recklessly approach the forest.]
[Yasunori Akira: Haha, it certainly is interesting, but you can’t throw away your life just because you’re curious.]
While his seniors laughed with a ‘haha’ or ‘hoho’, and forbade entrance to the ‘Melting Forest’, Lee Shin Woo completely healed his body. Jin, who was unable to finish this fight, sighed and asked Lee Shin Woo.
“…What level is your Regeneration skill?”
“Intermediate level 7.”
“It leveled up by 5 levels!”
“Well, we’ve both been melted so many times…”
Since he could absorb a portion of the acid as mana, he was overflowing with mana. He used all of that mana for Regeneration, and after repeatedly using it on himself and Jin, his skill grew quickly.
Skills always grew quickly in extreme situations, and objectively assessing the situation the two were in would result in something like this: ‘they’re fighting a seemingly unbeatable foe and have miraculously endured for three whole days’!
[Erian Ruparte: I don’t know how that monster was created, but the only thing we can do is either wait for it to calm down, or… wait for it to leave the forest.]
[Lloyd H.K.: Lee Shin Woo, weren’t you around there? Are you ok?]
[Lee Shin Woo: I’m ok since I took Senior Erian’s words to heart and went in the opposite direction. However, even I can see its head from where I am. It’s quite frightening.]
[Yasunori Akira: …Don’t overdo it, Lee Shin Woo. Since you’re growing rapidly, even now. You said you passed 2,500 stats?]
[Prince Altania: You monster. I have to get to level 7 before you catch up.]
[Lloyd H.K.: You’re west, right? Are you finding any dungeons?]
[Prince Altania: Ah, don’t know. Stop acting like you’re concerned about me and enjoy dating that granny elf!]
[Erian Ruparte: Granny? Granny!? What did you say Sir Altania!?]
Ah, the chatting channel is filled with lies! Lee Shin Woo would feel bad if he lied anymore, so Lee Shin Woo stopped listening to his seniors and left the chatting channel. Over the past three days, the Tree Golem’s body had shrunk significantly, so he could see it all with a single glance.
‘I’ve been continuously cutting the branches, so it’s been shrinking.’
But no matter how many branches he cut, the mana in its main body wouldn’t diminish, and the smaller its body became, the sharper and tougher its branches became.
Lee Shin Woo had given up on cutting all the branches, and was in the middle of picking out its weakest branches and cutting them with his three axes, but perhaps that wouldn’t even be possible soon.
‘If that happens, then I’ll really have to take down the main body.’
Since they’d been fighting the Tree Golem for three days already, Lee Shin Woo already knew all of its special characteristics. He was also aware of the difference in stats between them. Lee Shin Woo and Jin’s teamwork was good enough to overcome that stat differential. It filled in all the gaps that the Rebellion skill couldn’t cover.
Therefore, he wouldn’t hesitate when his resistance went up to the high rank level. He would cleave through its body and burn it to a crisp! Lee Shin Woo inwardly made that decision. However, a problem occurred before he could make that happen.
He cut the golem’s fired branches with his flawless axe technique, and absorbed as much of the spewed acid as he could; then, Lee Shin Woo heard something that made him flinch. He thought it might be an illusion, but it wasn’t.
[How is this… possible?]
In the center of the Tree Golem’s body, where countless screams had been emitted, one of the voices suddenly changed to that of a young girl’s. Was that all? A portion of the branches coming towards them stopped midair as well! Lee Shin Woo realized this and stood in shock; the small, but distinct girl’s voice continued.
[Ah. In the end… In the end, we became like this…]
[Die…! Please die…!]
Her refreshing voice was accompanied by the other old womens’ voices, which actually made the mood even gloomier! Lee Shin Woo cleared the branches flying towards him and yelled.
“Have you gotten a hold of yourself now?”
‘He’s actually acting like someone whose original plan was to awaken the Dryads!’
He was always ready to act anywhere and anytime depending on the situation at hand, which was why he could respond so quickly. Because he acted so naturally, the Dryad didn’t find him suspicious and replied.
[I remember everything. You didn’t attack us ever since entering the forest. In the end, you protected us, even going so far as to risk your life…!]
“I just couldn’t harm you Dryads, the protectors of this forest! I didn’t have a good way of saving you, and I was just being foolish…!”
Jin retched at Lee Shin Woo’s despicable acting. Even while doing so, he skillfully avoided the branches that came flying at them. He’d become skilled enough that he could dodge them in his sleep.
[That mysterious ability of yours to absorb the curse… I see. It’s because of that ability of yours that I’m briefly able to regain my sanity… It must be because of that ability that you’re able to remain sane even after becoming a skeleton.]
“Yeah, you’re right.”
So this all happened because of Jin’s ability to absorb the curse! Lee Shin Woo acted calm and replied, but was actually astonished on the inside. Then again, they had fought the same opponent for three whole days while Jin remained in contact with the nearby mana the entire time, so it wasn’t very strange that they made this new discovery.
He needed to look into this more in the future. He thought it was just a skill that revived him, but this was proof that there was something more tremendous that lay hidden within Jin’s skill.
[Thank you for your efforts and sincerity. However, it’s much too late now. I didn’t think we’d be corrupted to this extent…]
[I have a shameless request for you, who risked your life to protect us Dryads. Could you please listen to my request?
Right after regaining her sanity, she had a request? It must be considerably urgent. If not, then she must deeply trust Lee Shin Woo, as he was the one who ‘protected’ them. Either way, this was the result of Lee Shin Woo’s Acting skill.
[Is it… too much?]
“…No, go ahead.”
Lee Shin Woo felt slightly conflicted, but ultimately nodded his head. Then, the Dryad spoke happily, as if she knew he would do that.
[Please seek out the General, Dana Von Etliber. She should be safe from all of this, as she’s loved by countless spirits. Please tell her where we are… and please give her this.]
Suddenly, something shot out of the golem’s torso and fell before Lee Shin Woo. Lee Shin Woo cut through the branches without much difficulty and picked it up. It was a crystal radiating a pale green light.
[Spirit’s Spring Key Fragment]
[A precious artifact made of pure mana that is only given to the world’s spirits. It can only be given to someone approved of by a spirit, and is also a token of friendship. Using this and a few other materials, you can open a passageway that allows you to enter the spirit’s spring.]
[You just need to give that to her. As soon as possible… If you do that, she’ll take care of everything. And with that, our kind will somehow…]
She spoke with a lighthearted voice, as if she had just let go of a heavy burden. The Dryad wouldn’t have imagined that Lee Shin Woo could see the crystal’s information as he was a hero.
[Please go find her. Hurry! There’s no hope for us. I’ll lose my sanity soon; please run while I can still maintain control over this golem! Run away and give Dana Von Etliber…!]
Lee Shin Woo called the Dryad with a sincere and refined voice akin to a Skeleton Knight’s, but she couldn’t respond, as she used the rest of her energy into stopping the golem! At that moment, he thought it might, but the Acting skill did indeed level up.
[The Acting skill has become Lv13! Who are you an ally to, and who are you an enemy to? Perhaps you yourself do not know the difference anymore.]
‘Shin Woo, what do we do?’
Jin used his connection through Lee Shin Woo’s Assimilation skill to speak. Lee Shin Woo replied seriously.
‘Let’s act like we can’t run away and take it down. She’s trying to not tell us anything.’
‘Yeah, you really are the worst.’
‘Can’t you just call me the winner of our battle of wits?’
They acted as though the Acid Poison prevented them from escaping; ultimately, the Dryad wailed, telling them to run away, and lost consciousness.
He worried that the crystal she’d given him would disappear as well, but after confirming that it was safe, Lee Shin Woo smiled in satisfaction and raised his axe once more.
“Then, shall we begin training again!?”
“Let’s give it a rest, you demon…”
Jin weakly replied, yet moved as Lee Shin Woo wished. Truthfully, he didn’t want to finish off the golem yet either! There was still some time before their battle with the golem came to a close.