Stop, Friendly Fire! Chapter 268
<Chapter 39. New Party Member - 6>
According to Sinea, the 'Spirits' Road' was only accessible by spirits. Lee Shin Woo moved under her guidance, and at some point, the surrounding environment became faint, with a silver transparent layer of mana hanging under their feet. It felt like they'd entered a shimmering light tunnel.
It felt similar to the Giants' domain, where they were isolated by spatial magic. However, the sense of distortion was far more intense. Is it because only spirits could enter? He felt like he would either get thrown out or never be able to enter again if he was careless.
[Paul Zero, you have to follow me.]
"...Shin Woo, are you ok? You've been strange since way back. Is this 'spirit transformation' thing that hard on you?"
"Ah, no. It's nothing."
'He's only sharp when it comes to situations like this,' Lee Shin Woo inwardly muttered. Now wasn't the time to be deep in thought and study the 'Spirits' Road'. Jin was one of the reasons for that.
'I can fully transform into a human with the Disguise skill now, but I can't use it to that extent on others yet. If Jin figures this out, then he'll be really sad.'
He figured that the final remaining task was related to it, but he had no way of figuring out what that task actually was. Lee Shin Woo had no idea how to increase his skill level going forward.
For the time being, Lee Shin Woo was getting adjusted to the leveled up Disguise skill by maintaining the spirit transformation, but...
'I should transform into a human when Jin's not looking...'
Lee Shin Woo was human. He wanted to sleep, he wanted to have sex, and he wanted to eat. Once he realized he could regain all the things he'd enjoyed as a human being, he cheered and wanted to go through with it. But out of consideration for his partner, Jin, he endured with superhuman patience. If he looked 'strange', then it was because of that.
And there was one other reason. That was...
'I figured this out once I succeeded in transforming into a human. Ultimately, life and death, humans, the undead, or even the Dryads only look different on the outside; they are essentially the same at their roots. It's just a matter of perception. Like how I've fooled everything with my Disguise skill...'
Lee Shin Woo didn't know how much hardship and suffering one had to go through to come to this realization. He came to this realization by using the Joker's innate skills however he wished.
Reaching the truth so sloppily was perhaps a fitting end to a swindler. Though if God figured that out, then she'd be shocked.
'But if that's the case, then there's a big problem. The source of my life, or the Invisible Heart skill is...'
Until now, he'd thought that his 'life force' had been stored in an invisible container called the Invisible Heart. He'd first thought of the idea after he'd encountered the archmage lich.
However, he was wrong. An ambiguous energy like life force didn't actually exist. Even if it did, Lee Shin Woo could create it, and it would only be another type of energy like mana.
'Now that I think about it, the Archmage probably sealed his soul, not his life force.'
He wouldn't die, even if his body was destroyed, because he'd sealed his soul into a separate container. Then that would explain that disharmony he sensed then... Although the Archmage had been right in front of him, he couldn't sense his 'essence' and only felt a bizarre feeling.
Of course, Lee Shin Woo's soul was contained in his body, so he was built differently from a Lich. In other words, the Lich's ability wouldn't help him learn more about the Invisible Heart!
'Then what is the Invisible Heart?'
Of course, now that he could freely transform into a human, there wasn't anything wrong with ignoring that matter for now. Rather, there was nothing better, as he could maintain a human form while retaining multiple lives.
But despite that, he couldn't help his curiosity due to his instincts as a Joker. It was his nature to understand and control everything, so he couldn't help but pay attention to this unmeasurable power.
'Alright. Let's go with this hypothesis. I thought my life force was replaced by a level 100+ Invisible Heart skill, but I already know that that's not true. Therefore, my life and the Invisible Heart skill aren't the same.'
He came to the conclusion that God had tricked him, but he also thought she didn't do what she claimed needed to be done.
In other words, she could've given him the Invisible Heart skill with no strings attached, but she had taken his life and turned him into a skeleton with the excuse that 'it was too hard'.
'...My grudge can wait. In any case, Invisible Heart's more important.'
If he assumed that his previous hypotheses were correct, then the Invisible Heart was the goddess's power, not his own. Perhaps it was a crystallization of divinity.
It made sense, as the max level of Invisible Heart would go up whenever he completed one of the goddess's tasks.
'If I can make this power my own, then would it help me against powerful opponents?'
If he could imitate it with his mana, then he should be able to use Invisible Heart infinitely. At the very least, he would become a true, immortal undead. No, it wouldn't be that easy. He couldn't even figure out where to start.
[Paul Zero, we're almost there.]
[By human standards, we've already run for five hours.]
Sinea called him, and Lee Shin Woo stopped thinking so much and replied. It seemed like Sinea knew that he hadn't been paying attention to her, as she replied while sulking.
In order to best handle the Invisible Heart, he'd made various plans and practiced, yet five hours had passed in the blink of an eye. Lee Shin Woo was slightly surprised.
"As I thought, there's something going on with you, isn't there?"
"Mm, I was just thinking about my ability. I'll tell you about it later if I figure it out."
"It feels like it's more important than that... Whatever, it's fine, since you'll tell me about it later."
Lee Shin Woo replied and remembered something. Now that he thought about it, Jin possessed a different type of revival skill than him. If he figured out how Invisible Heart worked, then he would look into Jin's Blessing of Death. He also had to look into Perium as well.
Although Lee Shin Woo was diligently completing his tasks, he had more to do each and every day; it made him think back to his days as an employee, which very slightly depressed him.
"No, it's still a lot better than when I was an employee."
"You're using that excuse again."
Lee Shin Woo and Jin followed Sinea. Their surroundings remained cloudy, but they found a small entrance to a cave at the end of their path.
Although they were already in a subspace, they had to go even further within. It was only natural that the surface dwellers didn't find it.
"You can't make something like this in the Underground Empire?"
[10 billion spirits weren’t enough to create a space this large while bearing the curse.]
"Ah, that's right. Sorry."
[It's ok. ...Hoo.]
Sinea complained, so Lee Shin Woo comforted her by stroking her head. She quickly returned to her old self. Lee Shin Woo thought it was quite nice that spirits were so easy to fool, but he didn't dare say it out loud.
[Let's go in, Paul Zero. I only came with hopes of a small trace of them, but if it's sealed this perfectly, then... there may actually be living spirits here.]
FYI, he had already revealed his true name to her when they arrived at the surface. But because he hadn't formed an official contract with her, it apparently didn't matter if he used a false name or not. On the contrary, she had been overjoyed that he'd revealed his true name to her, albeit belatedly... Even so, she said that she was still more comfortable with his false name, so she kept calling him Paul Zero.
[This way. Follow me. Nothing strikes me as dangerous yet.]
Sinea went into the cave first. The moment she did, the inside of the cave lit up weakly, as if sensing her presence and welcoming her. Lee Shin Woo and Jin followed suit and carefully entered...
[Level 9 dungeon - You have acquired the permit to the Spirits' Spring. All stats increase by 100 within the dungeon. The dungeon's information is added to your minimap. All actions are buffed within the dungeon.]
And then stopped. He heard a phrase that he swear he'd heard somewhere before, albeit a long time ago.
"...The Spirits' Spring?"
[The Spirits' Spring? ...The Spirits' Spring!? This is the Spirits' Spring!?]
Sinea belatedly realized what he was saying and was shocked. Yeah, she should know about it too. After all, he'd originally heard about the Spirits' Spring from the contaminated Dryads protecting their dungeon!
[The Spirits' Spring existed on the surface!?]
"If you don’t know what’s going on, then what am I supposed to do?"
At the time, the Dryads had degenerated due to the curse... and one of the Corrupted Dryads had given him a Spirits’ Spring Key Fragment. While also saying that he had to give it to the Spirit General; if he did, she would take care of everything and would protect the spirits.
Of course, Lee Shin Woo had pocketed the Spirits’ Spring Key Fragment and had put the matter on hold. However, that matter was being brought to his attention once again. So, he trusted that Sinea would add her own explanation to this, but looking at her now, she wasn't reacting any differently than him.
[Since all I know about the Spirits' Spring is what I've heard from the other Dryads! It's said to be the paradise for all spirits, but I thought it was referring to the spirit world!]
"So the spirit world does exist?"
[I have no idea!]
Ah, crap. He'd suspected this, but she was no help whatsoever. No, wait. Should he be thankful that she even led him to the Spirits' Spring? Lee Shin Woo sighed and took another step forward. Then, his chest radiated light.
[The Spirits' Springs' Key Fragment is reacting to the Spirits' Springs' energy. The artifact is being restored.]
[You have acquired the Spirits' Springs' Key. The Heaven Door's Key reacts to the artifact and the artifact is absorbed.]
[You can now open a passageway to the Spirits' Spring with the Heaven Door's Key. You have become more familiar with the Heaven Door's Key. By using more mana and bones, the passage can now fit up to 12 people.]
"Ah, it happened again."
He'd become used to this happening. It was an artifact that even absorbed God's power, so this was nothing! While Lee Shin Woo was thinking that, something appeared before him.
[I sense that the long lost key has returned... An irregular has come.]
It was a huge entity. The entity was slightly translucent like Sinea but was also covered in flickering flames... a lizard that looked as though it had been injured somewhere.
[Lv7 Elder Salamander Prince Zenon]
A living spirit had appeared before them.
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