<Chapter 12. Joker Apprentice - 1>

<Chapter 12. Joker Apprentice - 1>

Lee Shin Woo's spirit changed, and Jin, who he was communicating with, was the first to react to it.

"You're going to face it head on? You've been attacking using Catapult all this time; can't you just keep doing that!?"

"No matter how much stronger I've gotten from the Avenger skill, there's no guarantee I'll be able to penetrate it's skin. It's even more impossible due to the blood whips that ensued from the direct hit to the stomach."

The blood whips were quick, powerful, and contained deep magic within, so they were even strong against magic attacks, but against Self-Destruct, which was both powerful and explosive, they seemed to have futilely disappeared, so he could determine that they had low durability.

If there was one thing he trusted in, it was this: that he could take it down right now, while his abilities were strengthened by the Avenger skill!

"There's no other way. I'll make sure you can get away before you die, so go!"

Lee Shin Woo firmly resolved himself, pulled out his sword, and gripped it. A sword would be more suitable to deal with those whips that nimbly flew towards them than a heavy axe. He wasn't yet confident in his martial arts proficiency, but he had no choice right now.

"Everything doesn't work out if I'm the only one who survives, though... Ah, whatever!"

In the end, Jin gave up and instantly changed directions, dashing towards the Treasure Eater. As if it were awaiting them, it sharpened its blood whips akin to skewers, and the whips flew everywhere!

Compared to last time, they were much weaker, but in exchange, there were at least twice the amount pressuring him from all sides. With Jin's astonishingly quick reactions, they were able to avoid around half of them, but Lee Shin Woo had to deal with the rest.

'If I fail, I just have to get Jin to run away, and die alone. From there, through Invisible Heart, I'll become level 4, and can then kill it. ...However, if it's at all possible, I'd rather not die...!'

Lee Shin Woo glared and gritted his teeth. Then, he activated Combat Sprint, and drew at his connection with Jin.

He desperately needed Jin's speed right now. If he could apply even just a little bit of that speed...!

[Guwooooooooooh!]

No matter how superb Combat Sprint is or how much he communes with the highly agile Jin, it was impossible for him to ascertain the trajectory of each and every one of the attacks a level 5 elite monster launched.

Because of that, Lee Shin Woo decided to think in reverse. He didn't track the attack's starting point, nor its trajectory. Instead, he grasped its final destination and would block it from there!

'First, I'll take care of the ones closest to me in order... Now!'

His decision was truly outstanding. His senses, which he sharpened as much he could, caught the whip flying towards his head; at the same time, he instinctually thrust his sword, successfully cutting through the middle of the whip! The severed whip returned to being a normal stream of blood, and futilely moistened the ground.

[Kyaaaahk!]

The Treasure Eater yelled, but that was just the beginning. Immediately after severing one whip, his sword turned directions, as if it were alive, and cut through another whip! And faster, even faster than before!

'I can do it... I can! Now!'

He perfectly detected everything within the narrow radius, with him at its center, and struck down anything that trespassed within. Lee Shin Woo wasn't well aware of it yet, but this was often called the 'Defense Zone' by the Empire's knights.

It was a skill that could only be developed by balancing one's physical senses and mana senses; it wasn't a standard skill, but it was certainly something a defender must learn. The level of a knight will differ based on the width of this 'Defense Zone', so it wasn't necessary to say just how important it was.

[The Low Rank Combat Sprint skill has become Lv9. Agility has increased by 3.]

[The Low Rank Bursting Thunder skill has become Lv8. Strength, and magic increase by 1.]

[The Low Rank Horseback Riding skill has become Lv5. Agility has increased by 3.]

[The Low Rank Mana Bone skill has become Lv7. Magic has increased by 5.]

[It is possible to level up to level 4. Would you like to receive the karma that has been prepared for you alone? It is also possible to very briefly put it off.]

While in the middle of that his skills rose, and he acquired stats, allowing for the level up he had so ardently wished for. However, it was truly ironic that he didn't read the messages as he was so focused on cutting down the whips and advancing closer to the Treasure Eater.

[You have deferred receiving the karma you must receive in favor of your immediate revenge. That is a true Avenger's instinct. The Beginner Avenger skill has become Lv10, evolving into the low rank level. All stats have increased by 2. When you fight against the target of your revenge, all abilities increase by 40%, and when you succeed in your vengeance, your stats increase.]

'Good... My detection range is gradually widening!'

His Avenger skill grew, and the increased abilities sharpened his senses and quickened his attacks! He didn't let go of this momentum, drew all his strength, and moved his body.

[Kuwaaaaaaaaaaaahk!]

The blood whips, which seemed like they would immediately pierce through his head, were cut apart like straws, spreading blood everywhere. His physical senses, his mana senses, as well as Jin's connection harmonized together, causing him to fall into a trance.

Even Jin, who had a connection with him, had fallen into a trance as well!

'Huh!?'

How long had he been instinctually swinging his sword around and running around with Jin? There were no longer any whips that stretched out from the Treasure Eater.

By the time he noticed, he had already arrived right in front of the Treasure Eater. He had successfully severed all those whips! Though there were holes pierced through his armor in various areas, he had survived.

"Now, let's start the second round Ste..."

[Kureureuaaaaaaaaaaaaah!]

However, the moment Lee Shin Woo was going to make a bold declaration, Steve roared and spat out a clot of blood, one so large that it looked like it could trap both Lee Shin Woo and Jin.

It had seen how easily Lee Shin Woo had taken care of the whips, and purposefully acted as if it were panicking, drawing him into a close distance!

"Ugh!"

"Heut...!"

At that timing, many things happened; firstly, Lee Shin Woo aimed at the Treasure Eater's gaping maw, due to it spitting out a blood clot, and launched his arm inside.

[The Low Rank Catapult skill has become Lv5. Agility has increased by 2.]

The moment he launched his arm, the force pushed both Jin and Lee Shin Woo back; Jin actively utilized the ensuing recoil force and moved his body backwards. It was a perfect evasive maneuver.

However, it seemed as though the Treasure Eater had expected them to run away, as the spat out blood clot followed them with an absurdly quick speed! It swelled brutally, as if it were part of the main body!

"Heup...!"

He needed to use all the methods available to him now. He gritted his teeth, stretched his remaining arm forward, and activated his Acid Poison Spray skill. Like the Acid Ghoul had, he focused his mana and spewed the Acid Poison in a straight line!

It was his sole skill that had reached the intermediate level, and befitting of a high rank skill, the Acid Poison spewed out like a laser; it struck the blood clot, emitted a hair-raising noise, and melted the blood clot away!

"Self-Destruct!"

[Kuaaaaaaaaaaahk!]

From there, he self-destructed the catapulted arm, burrowed at the roof of Steve's mouth! He was able to properly damage the gaping Treasure Eater, following its discharge of the clot of blood!

[Critical Hit!]

[The Low Rank Self-Destruct skill has become Lv4. Strength and Magic have increased by 1. The force of the explosion increases.]

Though their reactions were perfect, their situation wasn't. After acquiring the Mana Bone skill, he had never been lacking in mana; but because he had repeatedly used his skills and also used the Acid Poison Spray, which consumed a large quantity of mana, as well as a large-scale Self-Destruct, he was out of mana.

"...With this, is it over?"

"No."

Jin muttered, and Lee Shin Woo briefly denied him. Immediately after, beyond the poison mist formed by the Acid Poison Spray, dozens of very slender blood whips rushed towards them. At a remarkably faster speed than before!

Jin briefly faltered in fear at its increased brutality, and realizing this, Lee Shin Woo quickly disembarked from his back.

"Get back. You only have two lives."

"...No wait, you can't win if you're not with me!"

"That's..."

Because they were connected, he knew it as well. The reason Lee Shin Woo was able to react to its whips was because of Jin!

"Hey, they're coming!"

"Eek!"

Lee Shin Woo attempted to urgently push him away, but before he could do so, Jin bit his arm and skillfully pulled him onto his back. Immediately after, the blood whips flew towards them! Lee Shin Woo realized that there was no time for an argument between the two and he hastily swung his sword.

"Ugh...!"

"They're coming again! I can take care of the front, so you go left!"

Their timing was a bit off, so his left shoulder was shattered, but he severed the whip before any further damage could occur. Of course, he didn't have any time to relax! He had to swing his sword even faster to cover both him and Jin!

[Kuaoooooooooh!]

"Ugh...!"

The connection between the two broke, and they felt their loosened senses fiercely tighten around them again, afflicting them with terrible migraines, but it was nothing compared to the pain of losing an arm.

He had to swing his sword more quickly, and more precisely in order to better cover Jin, who had trusted in him and was risking his life for him!

[The Low Rank Horseback Riding skill has become Lv6. Agility has increased by 2. Your connection with your riding companion increases.]

The moment their wills were in agreement, a connection stronger than before was formed, matching their senses. Lee Shin Woo's reflexes had surpassed his limits!

'Even faster...'

One, two, three... six, nine. Eleven. Fifteen. Twenty one! His armor was pierced faster than before, but Lee Shin Woo's sword strikes were gradually catching up to the whips' speed.

He was completely out of mana, but because he was, his mana senses became even clearer. He had become extremely sensitive to the surrounding mana, and before the Treasure Eater's whips moved, he perceived the movement of the mana within the whips, and was able to move his sword beforehand!

[The Low Rank Combat Sprint skill has become Lv10 and is evolving. You have acquired a horse that will run for you and have given up on you yourself running fast. Instead, you have only trained the techniques which expand your own senses, and have exceptionally evolved them. You have acquired the passive skill, Intermediate Combat Sense Lv1. Within a limited time and space, you can effectively move and face your enemy.]

He had no way of knowing how the skill had changed right at this very moment. But he did realize that he had passed over a wall, and advanced to the next level.

Even if his agility, strength, health, or magic were lacking, it was fine. Perceiving stimuli, moving beforehand, and blocking completed the Defense Zone!

[Kuwaaaaaaaaahk!]

The Treasure Eater emitted a final roar, but nothing happened. So long as its technique of controlling blood was a skill, it used mana. Because it had excessively utilized its skill, its mana was empty.

The blood whips began to lose their strength and fell to the ground, and the Treasure Eater's wound filled body was revealed. Its injury from the last Self-Destruct was especially large. It had lost half of its head, from the bottom up. Its skin had peeled and the ominous rotten flesh underneath was exposed.

[Kuu... Kuhaahk...!]

If it wasn't for the fact that he was a skeleton, his remaining arm, which he had swung much too fast, probably would've gone numb, and it would've been difficult to swing.

However, he was fine now. He was confident that he could swing his sword for twelve more hours. Though he didn't really want to feel thankful for many reasons, he still felt thankful that he was a skeleton right now.

"Hoo..."

He exerted more strength into the hand gripping his sword. His will was relayed to Jin, and Jin stepped forward.

The Treasure Eater, which had lost all of its methods of attacking, mustered its remaining strength and charged, but there was no way Jin wouldn't be able to dodge it, when he had even dodged its whips. The two were strongly connected, and the instant they dodged and passed by it, Lee Shin Woo forcefully cut through its injured area and inflicted an even larger injury.

"You were after another's treasure, so you're ready to give up your own, right?"

[Kuuooooooh....?]

Steve, who hadn't taken a single step back thus far, emitted a weak sound in front of Lee Shin Woo.

If he were to interpret what it just said, it would roughly come out to, 'D-Do you want to call it a draw...?' or something like that. Of course, Lee Shin Woo acted like he hadn't even heard it.

"Then, Steve."

Lee Shin Woo, confirming that Steve didn't even have a drop of mana left, naturally switched out his weapon and raised it. The double handed axe within his hand glowed an ominous dark green.

"Shall we see where you're hiding your treasure?"

Five minutes later, Lee Shin Woo was covered in rotten flesh, bone powder, and blood, and was greeted with a message he had been looking forward to.

[You have hunted a Lv5 Treasure Eater. You have acquired 225,000 Perium.]

[You have acquired a Lv5 Treasure Eater's tailbone.]

[You have acquired a Lv5 Drake Horn Lance. Though it's possible to change it through Bone Reinforcement, Bone Reinforcement is still lacking, so the change is cancelled.]

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