<Chapter 6. Level 3 – 3 [End of Volume 1]>
“Guten Abend, Mr. Skeleton.”
The red haired beauty sat behind the silver counter, and was eating an orange. When she saw him, she raised her hand and waved. Lee Shin Woo opened his eyes (he didn’t have any, but that’s how he felt), and asked.
“In what time zone is that the standard way of greeting someone?”
“That obviously depends on how I feel. You’re underground, Customer, so you probably don’t know the time. But the passage of time differs for each region; you have at least that much general knowledge, right?”
After hearing that, he suddenly felt curious. He wondered where this merchant usually stayed. Since she talked about time above ground, she might be someone who lives above ground.
She might’ve misunderstood his gaze, as the merchant hid the orange in her hand and spoke defensively.
“I’m not giving this to you. It’s something that’s hard to obtain in the Empire.”
“I’m not interested, you know? Plus, I can’t eat it, even if you give it to me!”
The merchant cheerfully laughed while peeling the rest of the orange and throwing the slices in her mouth. Lee Shin Woo promised that she’d get her just desserts someday, and asked her something. It was to decide what he would do with the ‘Beginner Stealth’ skill book that he had continuously stored in his inventory.
“I acquired a skill book for a skill I’ve already learned, so can I sell it here?”
“I’d recommend that you read it.”
“Even though I’ve already learned it?”
“Though you’ve already learned the skill, the experience within each skill book differs. Your proficiency should also increase. And… unfortunately, our shop doesn’t handle beginner skill books.”
“It’s such a great skill, so why!?”
The shopkeeper giggled, and said.
“It’s only good when one is placed in a peculiar situation like yours, Customer. Aside from you, Customer, most of the other heroes are higher than level 4, so when would they have time to train the skill while fighting monsters higher than level 4? It would just add another unnecessary weakness.”
It was a reasonable criticism. As he shook, he meekly retrieved the skill book and opened it. He didn’t really need to read it. The moment he opened the book, the contents of the book entered into his brain, fully intact.
[The Low Rank Stealth skill has become level 4. You can move without making a sound. Agility has increased by 1.]
It was truly frustrating that the knowledge and the experiences within the skill book were never light. Lee Shin Woo, who had already trained and familiarized himself with the skill, was even more greatly aware of this, and by the time the skill book, which had done its job, disappeared into mana particles, the level of his skill went up.
The merchant beamed, as if she already knew about it, and looked straight at him. Lee Shin Woo felt angry, and was pointlessly curt, proposing the next order of business.
“Please give me a bone. The most expensive and worthwhile bone that I can afford.”
“Hmm, you’re level 3, right Customer? Level 3 bones are quite cheap, but they probably wouldn’t help you right now. Then, you’d have to go up to level 4 bones, though I don’t think you’d have that kind of money Customer… Oh my, you have more than 70,000 Perium already. How?”
When she checked the amount of Perium he had, her eyes gleamed with what appeared to be amusement.
“It’s honestly not very surprising that you’ve leveled up to level 3 in two weeks since being dropped into the Empire. If we consider the power that you were given, we can say that you’re talented. However, the total amount of money you gathered in that short period of time, as well as your Invisible Heart which has stopped at level 3… Customer, you’re a bit interesting.”
“I knew you thought I was interesting the first time you saw me, though.”
The skeleton replied, uninterested. She burst out into an even greater laughter and clapped. And then she made an extremely unexpected offer.
“Very good. I’ve become interested in your story. Would you like to tell me about your experiences until now?”
“Are you going to give me something?”
“I wasn’t planning on just hearing about your experiences for free. I’ll reduce the price of your item by 20,000 Perium.”
“Please sit down.”
In exchange for telling his story, she would cut down the price of the transaction by 20,000 Perium, so he had no reason to refuse. He immediately straightened his neck and faced her. Her red eyes glowed, as if there were magic within them. She looked like she couldn’t hold back her anticipation.
‘Damn it, she’s extremely pretty.’
It wasn’t a problem that she was a beauty. The problem was that he didn’t feel uneasy whatsoever when facing such a beauty.
“So in the beginning…”
Lee Shin Woo started his story with those dismal feelings. He precisely and concisely picked out the central parts of his story, from the moment he ended up in the Empire, to now.
“So, I ended up finding the path that leads to a level 2 elite dungeon, and decided to drop by here.”
The merchant breathed out, seemingly expressing satisfaction, and opened her mouth.
“That guile, that composure… Above all, your obsession over your life has caused a change, Customer. Even though you possess 100 lives, to think you’d place so much value on each and every one of them. Even God probably wouldn’t have been able to predict this. Yes… by doing so, you became a new Trickster, Customer.”
“Is that really important?”
“It is important. You’re walking a path which no one else can walk in this world where everything is decided by karma. Moreover, you’ve already acquired 8 tokens at this stage? Ha, you’re interesting. Really interesting. I don’t feel like the Perium has gone to waste.”
She clapped her hands and nodded her head. Lee Shin Woo felt like he had become an entertainer somewhere and asked her a question.
“If this information gets leaked to the others…”
“It won’t happen. I double as an informant, but your information will not be leaked to anyone else, aside from me, and will be kept a secret. Even if that person is another hero.”
“That’s a relief.”
And it was also beneficial that he’d learned that she doubled as an informant. Right now, he didn’t have any problems as he had a lot of things to do right now, but further along the line, if his progress were to be blocked, it wouldn’t be bad to pay her Perium in exchange for her advice.
When they were completely finished with their talk, Lee Shin Woo went on to the next matter.
“If you’re satisfied, you’re going to reduce the price by 20,000 Perium, right?”
“I said I’m not a Trickster, so I’ll settle the deal fairly. Here, I’ve picked out the most expensive bones that you can buy with 91,130 Perium.”
She took out two bones, one by one, from underneath the counter, and laid them atop the counter. One of them was a blue bone, and the other was a red bone. When he saw those two bones, he didn’t know what to say.
“With a discount of 20,000 Perium… The red bone costs 67,510 Perium, and the blue bone costs 71,040 Perium.”
“To think I’d have to pick between two bones again…”
There’s a limit to bad taste! Moreover, though the colors are the same as last time, the levels are different, and they’re bones from a completely different monster! Lee Shin Woo, while firmly grinding his teeth, checked the prices first. If he bought the blue bone, he would be left with 90 Perium, and was pissed since it was similar to last time.
“You obviously can’t tell me what monster it came from, right?”
“Of course. Ah, if you were to buy a cheaper bone, you could check the information right after, but would you like to do that? Though I wouldn’t recommend it.”
The merchant didn’t hide her intent and snickered. Perhaps she had offered the 20,000 Perium discount in order to present these two bones at the same time and to piss him off!
Lee Shin Woo meticulously inspected the exterior of the two bones. He couldn’t differentiate them by their hardness alone, and the magic coming from them as well…
Wait a second, magic?
When Lee Shin Woo concentrated deeply on the two bones, the merchant looked amused.
“You’re honestly a bit surprising. To think you’d awaken such aptitude in magic from just the experience you acquired from that bone last time… Oh my, it seems like you already can’t hear what I’m saying.”
There was magic in all the bones he’d acquired until now. It was just that the tendency of that magic changed.
When the bones contained a pure, deep magic, he would gain magic stat points, but if there was a different, complex power within, he could gain other stats as well.
‘While it was alive, the owner of the bone had a special power, and that special power was wrapped in magic; through Bone Reinforcement, that lock was removed, and it felt like that power was transferred to me intact…’
Of course, even if he didn’t know what monster the bones in front of him belonged to, he had absorbed hundreds, if not thousands of bones that raised various stats. Though he didn’t know about the skills, he felt like he could read the pattern of the magic that changed depending on which stat it would raise.
[Low Rank Magic Affinity has become Lv4. Magic has increased by 3.]
‘…Yeah, I feel like I know now.’
Of course, since they were both level 4 bones, the amount and quality of the mana differed compared to the other bones he had acquired, and the pattern boasted a complexity on another level to those that came before, but… still, he could read the flow of mana within and when he exerted himself, he was able to intuitively grasp the abilities of the bones.
‘The red bone is clearly from a warrior, or something similar. I can probably gain strength and health from that one. The blue bone is… honestly purely magic. It’s a magician. To think that they’d really be divided based on color…’
He didn’t need to think about it complicatedly. Both the red bone and the blue bone would reveal their owner’s power and characteristics. The red magic corresponded to strength and health, while the blue magic was entirely focused on magic, and emitted light.
‘Between the two, the one I need the most right now is…’
Right now, when the level 2 elite dungeon is right ahead of him, which ability should he increase? If he were to just look at his stats, he should leave his excessively grown magic stat, and it seemed like procuring strength and health was a good choice. Moreover, acquiring the warrior’s skill was appealing…
“I’ll go with the blue bone.”
Despite all that, Lee Shin Woo chose the blue bone, which would further increase the imbalance among his stats. He honestly thought that there wasn’t any other choice but the blue bone.
Whether it be the Regeneration skill that he had made good use of in this dungeon, or the Harden skill that he’d have to concentrate on and train, or the Flames of Revenge, etc; using all these various skills necessitated him using mana.
So, for Lee Shin Woo, who considered training his skills as important as gaining stats, there was honestly no other choice from the very beginning.
“Haha, does it seem like I’ll say something?”
But it seemed like the merchant was satisfied with his decision. She smiled brightly, grabbing the red bone and returning it, and passed the blue bone to him. Lee Shin Woo slightly tilted his head towards the inquiring merchant.
“Are you saying it was an excellent choice?”
“Yes, you’re right. You made a really, really good decision. You may be the greatest Trickster that God has created.”
Ever since Lee Shin Woo had divided the two bones based on their magic, she had been continuously smiling, and that smile only further deepened now.
“Magic is the basis for all strength. It’s fine, so long as it’s not an amount that the body cannot withstand, causing the body to break. Since you can do the rest with magic anyway. I’m talking about strengthening the body, as well as its changes. This is especially important to you, Customer, who has opened your eyes to magic at an early stage.”
As he listened to her, Lee Shin Woo had a hunch. He could heal his shattered body through Regeneration, and the Harden skill he had just received could strengthen his body. So, there should be another skill that lets him reinforce his body in a different way.
Of course, strength, agility, and health were the fundamental abilities that influence the body and they were certainly important stats, but even when combining the three, magic was more important.
“Thank you. I’ve received your payment of 71,040 Perium.”
“Then, I’ll get going now. I’ll come back faster next time and get that red bone, so please wait for me.”
“Ah, please wait just a minute.”
He didn’t regret his decision, but he still had a lingering attachment to that red bone. He spoke the lines that retreating enemy troops would say, and when he was about to leave, the merchant grabbed him.
“I haven’t properly heard your name yet, Customer.”
“…My name is Lee Shin Woo.”
He thought that the merchant would’ve already known his name by now, but Lee Shin Woo obediently told her his name. Lee Shin Woo would see her a lot in the future, so he thought it’d be better to formally introduce himself.
“My name is Pleine. As you can see, I’m responsible for the secret shop.”
“Then I’ll see you next time, Pleine.”
“I hope you’ll come and see me when you’ve become stronger.”
It wasn’t just his imagination that the merchant… Pleine seemed to be kinder to him than before. And that was all because he had personally proven his potential. The greatest virtue on this planet was none other than strength.
He suddenly realized that fact, smiling bitterly, he left the secret shop. He then returned to the clearing, in front of the dark, lengthy passageway.
Since he roughly knew the result, he didn’t shake that much. After Lee Shin Woo had briefly grasped that there was no danger in his periphery, he boldly activated his Bone Reinforcement. He somehow figured out that it was a part of something else, and it was actually part of the skull, the sphenoid bone.
[Reinforcing the sphenoid bone. Your compatibility with the target is incredibly high and you have acquired a skill with great success! Magic has increased by 24. You are more deeply absorbing ???’s experiences and memories.]
Lee Shin Woo, who realized that the activation of the skill was different from last time, hurriedly tried to gesture, but it was obviously to no avail.
An enormous amount of information and a clear consciousness entered his brain, and for a short time, his consciousness was completely locked away.
And the appearance of another world unfolded.
 T/N: Good evening in German.
 T/N: Toika wrote 90 Perium last time when it should’ve been 70, but he counted correctly this time.