<Chapter 39. New Party Member - 1>
"1,500 bottles of Kerr Century label red wine? How's that even possible? After the last mass release, there were only a few dozen bottles found across the Empire."
News of the auction spread quickly. Lee Shin Woo would've considered it a success if news of the auction had spread to the hundreds of thousands of people in Kuroa's Glory, but he had miscalculated.
Was it due to the Sun God religion's help? In just two days, the lord and all the nobles had become aware of the auction, and by the fourth day, news of the auction had spread to the nearby cities.
"But the master sommeliers already took a look at them. Moreover, the Sun God religion is backing it, so there's no way they'd lie."
"The Sun God religion is really particular about their wine due to the pope. If they're willing to sponsor this auction, then... Wait a sec. They're transporting 1,500 bottles of wine and are backed by the Sun God religion. Who exactly are they?"
"Lawrence. I've never heard of him before, but it seems like he's quite skilled."
"Hmm. He's probably being manipulated by the Sun God religion, rather than being skilled. If the auction goes well for them, then the other religions will feel uneasy."
Kerr Century Wine had a lot more influence on the surface than Lee Shin Woo had expected. Rumors had spread far and wide across the Magic Empire through the use of nimble-footed merchants and a communication line. At the same time, people quickly became aware of Lawrence, the Sun God religion, and the hero Kay as well.
"Don't be surprised by what I say next. I hear that the Kerr Century that they're selling... was created after the fall of the Underground Empire."
"Wait, that means..."
"It means the Sun God religion has procured a Kerr Century Winery! But how?"
In the official announcement, Lawrence had procured the Kerr Century Winery's facilities and techniques, but the rumors were misrepresenting the facts.
They thought that, perhaps, the Sun God religion had access to the Underground Empire and that the Underground Empire may not have fallen. Most snorted at these rumors, but there were some who actually took the news to heart.
It was nothing more than suspicion without a shred of evidence, but because of this distortion of the facts, it practically guaranteed that the rumors would spread even further, causing the high ranking officials to take action. Not only that, but the other religions became curious... Ultimately, the size of the auction, as well as the participants had swelled to an enormous size.
"I did want the high ranking officials to take notice of me, but if this goes on, playing a dual role may become impossible for me."
'Can't you just leave it to the merchants you signed a contract with? You planned on using them as your proxy from the start.'
Lee Shin Woo anguished, but then, he heard Jin's voice through the Assimilation skill. Though he was tied outside of his lodgings, his voice could still be relayed through the Assimilation skill.
"A proxy, huh... They're too weak."
Lee Shin Woo pondered seriously. Of course, Lawrence could easily pull back for safety reasons and use the merchants as his proxy, but he wasn't sure whether he could find people he could trust enough to talk in his place.
'How about asking the Sun God religion?'
"I can't let them take over anymore. No matter what others think, we have to take the reins. So..."
Lee Shin Woo briefly thought about it and soon made a decision. He'd already considered this before. It would be such a waste to not use the Heaven Door's Key. Couldn't he just bring a trustworthy human to the surface?
'A human you can trust... Kratia?'
"Kratia would be really happy, but she's in the middle of special training with Prince, so she can't leave. I'd rather not bother her right now."
Although they were acting separately now, he contacted her once every week. He had left the Huginn's Eye to her, and she was simultaneously studying magic and the artifact.
'Ah, that's right. Then who? ...You're not going to ask Retadane, are you?'
"Why would she even come up? You never know when she'll blow."
'It looked like you guys really got along.'
Why was this happening? For the past few days Jin seemed to be in a good mood, yet his voice was turning melancholy again. Did he hate Retadane or something? Lee Shin Woo tilted his head and refuted him.
"No way. There are only two choices for her. I either reform her and use her as an ally, or I take her out before something goes wrong. The whole reason I even talked to her was because of that decision."
"Yeah, so don't worry about her too much. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to get closer to that psychopath though..."
'Then it's fine.'
Jin replied as though a burden had been lifted. It seemed like he'd misunderstood, thinking that Lee Shin Woo actually trusted Retadane. Lee Shin Woo felt relieved, and Jin took that time to ask another question.
'Wait a sec. So who are you going to pick then? You wouldn't pick Lloyd.'
"There's only one person that'll work. Ye Jin Jin."
'Ah, that's right. Jin Jin. Yeah, she'd be fine.'
Jin must've completely forgotten about her, but Lee Shin Woo acted like he didn't notice.
"It's easy to deal with Ye Jin Jin. She trusts anything I say, and she knows about our identities, so we don't need to hide anything from her."
'Remember. You shouldn't say that a woman is 'easy to deal with'. Don't treat her pure love and faith in you as a tool.'
Lee Shin Woo politely apologized in response to Jin's sound rebuttal and requested a private chat with Ye Jin Jin. If she wasn't fighting or sleeping, then she would immediately...
[Ye Jin Jin: Yes, Mr. Shin Woo!?]
[Ye Jin Jin: Your voice is still so cool!]
Yeah, that's why he didn't want to contact her first. She'd definitely met him when he was a skeleton, so he couldn't understand why she liked him more and more. Maybe she was romanticizing Lee Shin Woo in her imagination more and more, so her feelings had grown. Well, that's what he assumed at least.
Her feelings were so clear that even Lee Shin Woo, who was no expert in relationships, could tell how she felt about him. However, those feelings were incredibly burdensome to him, as he felt no sexual desire. A part of him was uneasy at the thought of meeting her, and the other part hoped she would snap out of it when they actually met again.
"There's something I wanted to ask you..."
[Ye Jin Jin: Something you'd like to ask me? What is it!? Whatever it is, I'll do it!]
"...Mm, yeah. Thanks."
How taxing! As he thought, his best bet would be for them to meet so her feelings for him would abate. Lee Shin Woo hated himself for not doing this sooner and told her about his plans.
Ye Jin Jin was obviously excited at the prospect of meeting face-to-face, and marked her coordinates for Lee Shin Woo. Fortunately, he recalled passing her location, so he felt like he'd be able to get there quickly with the Heaven Door's Key.
[Ye Jin Jin: I can't leave here for the time being, so please take your time. Ah, it's the level 2 danger zone, but you have to be careful on your way here.]
Following the heroes' battle with the 12 generals, it seemed as though the undead had become more violent; if she couldn't find a dungeon, then it would be difficult for her to hunt monsters, so she was hiding for the time being. Lee Shin Woo nodded his head, promised he'd come and find her right away, and ended the chat.
Immediately after, a sigh naturally came out. Of course, he didn't have lungs, so no breath actually came out.
"What do I do? I don't want to meet her..."
'She'd cry if she heard you say that.'
"But I guess I have to go anyway... I'll leave behind a simple message here for now."
They were currently living in a house they'd bought within Kuroa's Glory. A week after he'd signed the contract with the Pope, they finished their first expedition.
The conquered dungeon was simple. It consisted of mostly level 5s, with level 6 elites occasionally popping up, but the dungeon had a bad reputation, as there were several monsters that could use poison or acid type status ailments strong enough to even kill level 7 knights or magicians.
However, Lee Shin Woo was covered in flames, and those flames burned away the acid and poison. He charged through the dungeon like a bulldozer and pushed his way through from the start to the finish (the boss room). All the paladins and priests did was pick up the loot. Rather than feeling dispirited, they responded with 'He truly is the one bestowed with the Sun God's power!' and looked at him with sparkling eyes.
"At latest, I should take a day, but they may come to find me before then. It should be fine if I just write that I went out with Lawrence for a bit."
'They might misunderstand if you write that.'
Jin didn't explain any further, so Lee Shin Woo didn't change his message and stuck it to the front door. Because at least 90% of the language used on the surface and underground were the same, he could write without difficulty (due to God's help).
"Then, I'll be back, Jin."
"You're going without me?"
"Yeah. I'm pretty fast now too. I was going to bring a couple of other guys with me along the way. It might be boring, but just wait patiently for me."
"Hey, if you're going to do that, then at least let me out of the city."
"I suppose there's no danger out there since you're a veteran level 7. Alright, let's go."
Level 6 bones didn't really have any effect on Lee Shin Woo, since his stats had surpassed 10,000, but for Jin, whose agility had developed much more than his other stats, they would still have an effect on his Strength, Health, or Magic.
So Lee Shin Woo had given him most of the bones that he'd acquired on the surface, and as a result, Jin had gotten to 8,000 total stats.
"Don't be late. And make sure you don't encounter another one of the 12 generals and kill them."
"It depends on which of the 12 generals it is, but I got it."
"You lie all the time, so why are you only honest when it doesn't matter?"
"Then, see you tomorrow!"
After Lee Shin Woo had left Jin to 'graze' outside the city (if Jin knew how he'd described it, then it wouldn't end with him just giving him another 'rodeo'), he took a deep breath and activated the Heaven Door's Key.
Contrary to when it was the Bone Gate, the Heaven Door's Key used both bones and mana to activate. Ironically, a single activation lessened the strain immensely. Moreover, he'd acquired a ton of bones that he couldn't use on the surface, so he would be able to activate it as much as he wanted.
[You have become more familiar with the Heaven Door's Key. Five people can now accompany you.]
'Nice. We're going underground.'
The light flashed and then Lee Shin Woo arrived at his designated coordinates. He'd arrived in the level 2 danger zone and with his speed, he could group up with Ye Jin Jin in just 3 minutes!
Once he'd gotten out of the tunnel of light, he quickly looked around and looked for anything that might be dangerous. Then, he nodded his head in satisfaction and moved his feet.
'As expected, the more I use the Heaven Door's Key, the less its functions are limited. Five people can accompany me, excluding myself, so six people can go through it now. It went up by two all of a sudden.'
Honestly, he didn't need it that many. He wondered whether he should've brought Jin along or not, but it was already water under the bridge, so there was nothing he could do about it. 'For the time being, let's keep this a secret from Jin,' Lee Shin Woo inwardly muttered and quickened his pace. He soon arrived at the entrance to a hidden cave.
"Ye Jin Jin, are you there?"
"Yes, Mr. Shin Woo...!?"
Was she waiting for him? When he called for her, she appeared right away. Her equipment had changed since they'd last met and she assumed a pose befitting a veteran hero, but she still gave off the impression of a junior hero, perhaps because she was a girl. Her impression didn’t change, but...
"Y-You look cool."
Lee Shin Woo then realized that he was still disguised in his human form.
If he wanted to get her out of her shell, then he'd have to work a little harder from now on.Previous Chapter Next Chapter