“Fuu…”

Jin-Woo spat out a short sigh of relief.

This was the moment his long march that started from the very first floor of the Demon’s Castle dungeon was drawing to a close here on this 100th floor.

He closed his eyes for a moment in order to get a grip on his turbulent emotions, only for the image of his mom’s face to pop up.

‘…’

When he reopened his eyes, the System messages that hadn’t gone away yet entered his view again. Four alerts of him levelling up floated up there.

‘I rose up four levels in one go?’

Jin-Woo’s expression brightened up considerably. Thinking back to how his levelling speed had slowed down to a crawl after he broke past level 90, he couldn’t help but revel in happiness.

He quickly checked his Status Window.

[Level: 97]

Indeed, his level had jumped up by four.

‘Niiice!!’

Jin-Woo fist-pumped.

A dizzying sense of achievement was quickly added on top of the relief he felt from finally clearing this dungeon. However, he quickly put aside this joy to the back of his mind.

He still had something far more important than levelling up right now.

‘The Purified Blood of the Demon King.’

That was the final puzzle piece to craft the item, ‘Divine Water of Life’. Jin-Woo quickly unwrapped the bandage off his hand and reached out towards the blinking lights on the corpse of the Demon King, Baran.

[You have discovered ‘Item: Demon Sovereign’s Ring’. Will you take it?]

[You have discovered ‘Item: Demon King’s Longsword’. Will you take it?]

[You have discovered ‘Item: Demon King’s Shortsword’. Will you take it?]

[You have discovered ‘Item: Baran’s Two Horns’. Will you take it?]

[You have discovered ‘Ingredient Item: Purified Blood of the Demon King’. Will you take it?]

Rather than feeling elated, Jin-Woo felt anxious instead from the list of ‘item discovered’ messages that continued to pop up. Because, he couldn’t spot the item he was looking for. However, he cried out in excitement as soon as he spotted the very last item, ‘Purified Blood of the Demon King’.

‘It’s here!’

Jin-Woo quickly acquired all the items and lifted up the item that must’ve been the Purified Blood of the Demon King.

[Ingredient Item: Purified Blood of the Demon King]

Rarity: ??

Type: Ingredient

This is the liquid created from purifying the blood of Baran, the Sovereign of the demons.

Possesses immense magical energy, but even after going through the purifying process, the blood still retains strong toxins. In order to use the blood as a medical ingredient, both the ‘Fragment of the World Tree’ and ‘Spring Water from the Forest of Echoes’ are needed to neutralize the toxin.

The red liquid sloshed inside a clear glass bottle according to the angle it was held.

‘This is the blood of the Demon King….’

He already possessed the other two ingredients, ‘Fragment of the World Tree’ and the ‘Spring Water from the Forest of Echoes’. So, what was there to hesitate about?

Jin-Woo promptly summoned the Crafting Skill Window.

[Crafting Skills]

Consumable: Divine Water of Life (3/3)

Different from the past, the words ‘Divine Water of Life’ was now blinking constantly. When he checked the details, the words ‘Crafting possible’ immediately caught his attention.

[Divine Water of Life]

[Will you start crafting ‘Item: Divine Water of Life’?]

Jin-Woo was in a hurry to see the finished article, so he didn’t waste any more time and chose to start the crafting process.

“Start.”

[Crafting process for ‘Item: Divine Water of Life’ has commenced.]

[10, 9, 8….]

Jin-Woo waited for the result with bated breath.

[7, 6, 5….]

[The ‘percentage of Crafting success’ and ‘number of finished items’ will depend on Crafter’s Intelligence Stat.]

Jin-Woo’s eyes widened.

‘Are you telling me only now that the odds of success, as well as the number of completed items, will depend on the Intelligence Stat?!’

If you were stupid, then you couldn’t even craft anything?

….It did sound somewhat logical, so Jin-Woo could only nod his head.

In the meantime, the countdown steadily ticked on.

[4, 3, 2….]

Why did the words ‘percentage of Crafting success’ get on his nerves so much? The only solace he could take away right now was the fact that he had at least woke up to the importance of the Intelligence Stat quickly enough to invest a lot of extra Stat points there.

[….1, 0.]

[Crating process has been completed!]

[Crafting is a success!]

[You have acquired ‘Item: Divine Water of Life x6’.]

“That’s what I’m talking about!!”

Jin-Woo had been waiting anxiously until then, but as soon as the ‘Success!’ message popped up, he raised his hands high up into the sky.

‘….Huh?’

However, he quickly discovered something a bit odd. The bottle containing the blood of the Demon King still remained in his right hand.

‘Well, uh, the amount of blood has decreased by a little, but….’

Jin-Woo tilted his head, before summoning the ‘Fragment of the World Tree’ and the ‘Spring Water from the Forest of Echoes’ from his Inventory.

The only thing that appeared on the ground was the slightly-shaved-on-the-edge Fragment of the World Tree, though. He accessed his Inventory and searched, but couldn’t find the Spring Water anywhere.

‘Could it be….?’

Feeling a bit suspicious, he confirmed the Crafting Skill Window, and his suspicion was soon answered in full.

-Ingredients:

Out of the three ingredients, only the Spring Water showed ‘0’.

‘So, it’s something like, not all the ingredients will be used up, but only the necessary amount – is that it?’

The Crafting process must’ve come to a stop because the Spring Water from the Forest of Echoes had run out, unlike with other two ingredients.

From the get-go, he got this feeling that the Crafting process wouldn’t have required a lot of the Demon King’s blood. As for the Fragment of the World Tree, it was a gigantic piece of lumber when he had initially acquired it, to begin with.

It was rather obvious that the Spring Water contained within a small bottle would be the first one to run out.

Jin-Woo grinned widely in satisfaction.

‘Well, it’s not a bad result for me regardless.’

Because, as long as he could find more of that ‘Spring Water from the Forest of Echoes’ in the future, he’d get to craft more of this Divine Water of Life.

‘Hold on, there’s another problem to consider, isn’t there?’

Jin-Woo was desperate for a bottle of this Divine Water, yet now, there were six wooden bottles waiting for him on the ground, so it was rather difficult for him to calm his wildly beating heart.

[Item: Divine Water of Life]

Rarity: S

Type: Consumable

A mysterious liquid medicine that cures any and all illnesses through powerful magic contained within. The effect will only manifest after one whole bottle has been consumed.

Would this item truly cure his mother’s illness?

‘….I guess I’ll find out later today.’

His heart palpitated faster.

Jin-Woo carefully stored away all six bottles in his Inventory, as well as the remaining ingredients. Even then, he still had lots of other items to go through.

‘One ring, one longsword, two shortswords and two japtems.’

Because Baran was the boss of a rank S dungeon, it sure coughed up a lot of loot. This proverbial pile of treasure was a sight for sore eyes, but there was no reason to go through all of them right now.

Indeed, his priority lay with getting out of here to see his mother.

Jin-Woo simply dumped all the items acquired from the corpse of the Demon King in his trusty Inventory. And then, while lightly dusting his hands, took a look around him.

‘I’ve got a pressing matter to attend to, but….’

….But, he shouldn’t miss out on other things because of that, no?

Wasn’t there an old saying about ‘the more of a hurry you are in, you should take the longer of the routes available’ or some such?

Jin-Woo looked behind him, and found his Shadow Soldiers standing at attention in rows, having massacred an army ten times their number. Behind his boys, dead demons were strewn about everywhere.

‘What about the Sky Dragon?’

Jin-Woo’s wandering gaze hurriedly searched for the monster that the Demon King rode around in. Worryingly enough, all he could spot were the corpses of demons piled up on high, with not a hint of the Sky Dragon anywhere.

‘Wait, it couldn’t have flown away during the fight, right?’

Thankfully though, his worries didn’t last for long. Iron was dragging a limp corpse behind him. It was none other than the Sky Dragon, Kaisellin.

“Iron, nicely done.”

Maybe Iron felt embarrassed by Jin-Woo’s praise, which was a first in a while, because he began scratching the back of his head. Of course, it was still the back of his helmet, though.

Jin-Woo lightly patted the shoulder of Iron and stood before the Sky Dragon’s body.

‘It’s as I thought.’

Just as he suspected it from the monster’s name and its appearance, he could see the black smoke slowly rising up from the corpse of the Sky Dragon. Which meant, it was possible to extract its shadow.

Jin-Woo extended his hand out.

“Rise up.”

The Shadow Extraction worked without any problems whatsoever, perhaps due to his much higher level.

Kiyaaaahhhk-!

Accompanied by the death throes of a beast, a creature covered in some type of black gas crawled out of the Sky Dragon’s shadow. The dead Dragon’s shadow immediately recognised his new owner and lowered his head in front of Jin-Woo.

[Please assign the name of the Shadow Soldier.]

‘Oh.’

Jin-Woo formed a surprised expression.

Since he didn’t get to witness the creature fighting, he only assumed it to be a mount and not much else, but it must’ve been pretty handy in battles, because the Sky Dragon’s shadow started right away as a Knight grade.

If he considered the fact that the ace of the Shadow Army, Igrit, was also a Knight grade not too long ago, this was a surprising development. But, then again, it made some sense. There was no way a boss referred to as the ‘Demon King’ would ride on a weak, pathetic monster, now was there?

Jin-Woo was genuinely satisfied with the grade of his new soldier, and replied to the System message.

“Kaisellin…. No, wait.”

Inexplicably, he thought that name was a bit too long.

“…Kaisel.”

The Sky Dragon, now bestowed with a brand new name, raised his head up high into the sky and spat out a lengthy roar.

Kiiieeeehhk!!

“Everyone, you all worked hard.”

With those words, Jin-Woo stored all of his Shadow Soldiers, including the new addition of Kaisel, back into his shadow. It was almost time to make his exit from the Demon’s Castle. There was one more thing still remaining, however.

Jin-Woo opened the inbox, where the quest completion messages were still waiting for him.

[You have completed ‘Normal Quest: Collect the Souls of Demons! (2).]

[Completion rewards are now available.]

[Will you confirm the rewards?] (Y/N)

‘Yes, obviously.’

As soon as he answered, the list of rewards popped up in his view.

Tti-ring.

[Following rewards are made available.]

[Will you take them all?]

The so-called ‘Shadow Exchange’ skill. Just what could it be?

As he had been curious about this ‘highest-grade’ Rune Stone ever since the beginning of the quest, Jin-Woo chose to take that one first.

‘Okay, I choose the first reward for the time being.’

[‘Highest grade Rune Stone: Shadow Exchange’ has been delivered.]

After that message came and gone, he felt a small rock residing within his palm. When he brought the hand closer to his nose and opened it, he found a jet-black Rune Stone resting there. Its colour was completely different from the ‘regular’ Rune Stones.

Also, its hue came across as so much more mysterious compared to the average black colour.

Crumble.

Unlike in the past, when he physically had to break the Stone, the item crumbled all on its own the moment he thought about squeezing his hand.

The pitch-black aura rising up from the shattered Rune Stone slowly enveloped Jin-Woo, before getting absorbed into his body.

He hurriedly checked his Skill Window.

[Skill: Shadow Exchange Lv.1]

Class-specific skill.

Mana required to activate: None.

The summoner can switch locations with the designated Shadow Soldier.

Once activated, you must wait three hours of ‘cool down’ period before being able to use the skill again. The ‘cool down’ period will change according to the Skill’s level.]

‘Heok!!!’

Jin-Woo’s eyes widened as he read the skill’s description.

Sure, it might be handicapped by the limitation of the cool down period, but…. No, instead, it was an incredible skill that perhaps necessitated that cool down period to make it fair.

‘Doesn’t this mean it’s possible to switch locations regardless of where my Shadow Soldier is?’

Depending on how he used it, this was almost on the level of teleportation.

Jin-Woo was about to summon a Shadow Soldier and test this new skill out right away, but quickly changed his mind.

‘If I’m to test it out, I might as well try it with a soldier that’s really far away.’

Thankfully, he did leave behind a handful of soldiers outside the Demon’s Castle. He hid three of them in his sister’s shadow, while five were patrolling the district as of this moment.

‘There’s nothing to think about, is it?’

He didn’t know what kind of an after-effect the skill might have, and also, he couldn’t just haphazardly pop out near his sister’s location, either. And that was after setting aside the possibility of his sister freaking out, too.

So, he sought out the ‘signal’ emitted from one of the five Shadow Soldiers patrolling around his district and zeroed in on it.

“….Shadow Exchange.”

As soon as Jin-Woo opened his mouth…

“….Uh? Eh?”

As if gravity was powerfully pulling him down, he was rapidly sucked into his own shadow.

< Chapter 108 > Fin.

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