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 Chapter 86. S-ranker Yeon Hwawoo (3)

[Blood Succubus' Earring (Unique)

Durability - 85/85

Equipment Limits - Level 35+, One Who Defeated the Blood Succubus

Options - Magic +10, Intelligence +5, Charm +15. When equipped, you will emit a scent that easily attracts members of the opposite sex.]

Although it was still great, the Blood Succubus' Earring I was excited about didn't have the ability I hoped it would have. As such, I asked Lin about what to do.

"What? Mental protection?"

"Yes."

As he looked at me with disappointment, I explained what had happened. When he heard I was charmed and almost killed by the Blood Succubus, his expression was quite the sight.

"You, did you really get charmed by something so weak? Are you an idiot?"

"That's why I'm trying to find a countermeasure. After all, I can't stay like this."

"Kuhum... You, do you know what the best method is to protect your mind?"

I tilted my head. With a sigh, Lin explained.

"Your magic is the most important factor. The higher your magic stat is, the easier it gets to overcome mental attacks. Then, it's intelligence, followed by charm."

"I understand why intelligence would be important... but why charm?"

"Charm doesn't just make you look pretty. It affects how others react to your presence. It doesn't need to be explained in detail, just know that having high charm makes it easier to defend against mental status effects."

"Then I guess I'll have to wear these earrings... But Lin, you can't raise charm with bonus stat points, only through equipment or title effects. Though, they do go up by themselves occasionally."

Lin struck down at his anvil with his hammer and retorted.

"So raise your intelligence."

"Is... Is that the only way?"

"Of course, there are other ways. Skill. You can learn a skill that protects you from status effects."

"How!?"

"I remember it being extremely tricky to learn on your own..."

With that, Lin made a circle with his thumb and finger. He wanted money. When I took out 5,000 gold, he smirked. When I took out 30,000 gold, he shook his head. In the end, he accepted 50,000 gold, which I took out with trembling hands. Then, he continued.

"Try succeeding on the 40th floor solo raid."

"You scammer!"

"I just gave you an answer though-?"

Lin hummed and continued hammering away. Although I gritted my teeth and watched him, there was nothing I could do. After all, he had not lied. At least, he had pointed out what I should do. Though, since I couldn't do anything about it now, I decided to set aside the countermeasure for mental attacks. When I was about to head out to find Dullahan, Lin stopped me.

"In truth, there's a third method."

"What?"

"You can wear an equipment that has that effect. One that doesn't raise stats to defend against mental attacks, but one that can directly defend your mind."

"That's what I hoped the succubus' earrings were, but they weren't... Do you perhaps sell an item like that at the Floor Shop?"

"What are you talking about? You already have the material."

I tilted my head, and Lin gave me an evil smirk.

"You, have you ever heard of the phrase, poison as medicine?"

"You mean..."

"The succubus' corpse, give it to me. With a 50,000 gold deposit, I'll work on it."

"Lin, so that was what the 50,000 gold was for... Thank you!"

I was deeply touched and did not hesitate to show him my gratitude. Lin let out a few dry coughs and nodded his head. Then, he gave a very unforgettable follow-up.

"It's separate from the information fee I just received, so don't misunderstand."

"Agh..."

It was the first time since I met Lin that he got me so well.

I reflected on my experience with the succubus greatly. Until now, I had been too easy going. Never expecting to meet monsters in my daily life was one thing, but what was more important was that I panicked when I couldn't use Orc Lord's Warcry when I wanted to. There were plenty of things I could have done before things had gotten too serious. Was I relying on my Skill Collector abilities too much? Why didn't I make use of all that I could!?

The biggest problem was that I did not use Deific Manifestation then. What was I saving it for? Wasn't it exactly for dangerous situations like that? Stupid, truly stupid. Why didn't I fully use my abilities!?

Was it because the enemies I faced until now were too easy? Was it because everything could be solved using Floor Masters' skills? I was truly stupid. Giving my all no matter who I faced was expected of a martial artist! Father had always emphasized it! Not to mention, even though I knew the abilities I was relying on had a once per day restriction, I panicked and became frightened when I couldn't use them. My judgement had wavered as well. If father found out, I would undoubtedly have to go through another thrashing phase.

Luckily, I did not lose my life this time. In fact, it became a good opportunity for Ye-Eun to overcome her trauma and become a First Dungeon explorer. Things had really turned out well. However, that didn't mean that such a loss was acceptable. Even I could not accept it.

This failure was a good opportunity for me to overcome my weakness and grow. If I had realized it later, I might have regretted it a lot more.

Everyone made mistakes. What was important was to not make the same mistake again. I decided to take this critical failure to heart, and to recall it whenever I found myself becoming lax. I vowed to change myself.

That included changing my foolish old self that was too reliant on Orc Lord's Warcry and did not pay attention to mental defense, and did not think I would run into monsters in real life. It also included becoming able to use all my abilities, not just the Floor Master skills, to their limit.

Thankfully, I had an appropriate opponent. It was the strong enemy I had to face three times a day, Dullahan.

He was strong and had techniques. He was a good opponent to use to push myself to my limit. The first time I fought Dullahan, I was too reliant on Floor Master skills. Although I won as a result, I didn't think it was a complete win. Of course, it was true that Dullahan's skill was cheaty, but what about when I first fought the Orc Lord? When I fought against the Orc Lord's cheaty Warcry, did I have the pocket watch? Did I even have mana? No, the answer was no.

I grasped each and every movement the Orc Lord made and his next movements, calculated the best trajectory to parry his attacks, and patiently dealt blows to his body. Although it took a long time to conquer him, I did it using pure physical ability. Although my vitality had reached zero a few times in the process, I was a lot more of a warrior back then than I was now.

I didn't mean I would go back to how I was. After all, I was both a warrior and a dungeon explorer. I meant that I would not rely on any one ability and give my all in battles. Vowing to myself, I opened the door to the 35th Floor Master room.

"Fight me, Dullahan!"

[You already defeated a being identical to me.]

Without stopping his horse from pawing the ground violently, Dullahan spoke as he aimed his axe toward me. I nodded my head and patted Ruyue.

As the bond between an Elementalist and his elementals became thicker, he could communicate his intentions without having to say it in words. He could even directly transmit his thoughts and make the elementals move accordingly. Because of the shocking way Ruyue and I met, the bond I shared with Ruyue was as thick, or even thicker than the bond I shared with Peika. If I wanted to fight on Ruyue's back, communication between us was key. Although I didn't think it was necessary until now, I had changed my mind. Not doing it when I could was simply stupid.

[I feel good, like I can do anything.]

[If you let Master get hurt again, I'm going to smack you.]

[I won't. I like Shin more.]

[I like him more!]

Elementals, I am glad that you like me, but now is not the time to fight. You're ruining my cool moment! I once again softly patted Ruyue. I closed my eyes for a moment, then opened them.

"Be prepared, Dullahan."

[I'm not so thoughtless that I would let my guard down around a strong opponent like you. Come!]

No, but you don't even have a head... Stop! No more jokes!

I passed my thoughts on to Ruyue in my head. The path she should take and how fast she should do so were all outlined in my head. It also included how I would attack Dullahan.

[Auuuuuuu!]

Ruyue kicked off the ground without any warning and charged at Dullahan. I lowered my body on top of her and held my spear up. Dullahan also held up his axe. If I was strict and serious, his axe martial art technique was about mid-rank level 5. Since that was the average skill level of explorers on the 35th floor, he was truly strong.

However, my spear technique was high-rank level 5. Why was I evaluating him like I was a normal explorer? Because of it, my spear was intimidated and my attacks were less sharp. Overestimating the opponent was just as bad as underestimating your own strength. Having a higher martial arts rank and level did not just mean having stronger attacks. It meant I could overpower the enemy in technique. Without being hit by the enemy's attack, I would deliver a blow to him. That would be the start of my advantage.

"Hap!"

[Fas... kuk!]

Last time, Dullahan had fully defended against my spear attack. This time, however, his awkward defense made his balance waver, and allowed me to deliver consecutive stabs.

[Kuk!?]

"I'm not stopping."

I did not pay attention to his head. With my consecutive stabbing, I aimed at the areas of the axe where his strength wasn't concentrated, then changed my focus to his arm. At the same time, I ordered Ruyue to attack his black horse. Although Ruyue fought well by herself, we had to work together to increase the synergy between us.

[You dare!?]

"You're going to throw it, right?"

As Dullahan pulled his axe back, I focused on stabbing Dullahan's wrist. At the same time, Peika used Thunder Arrow to attack the axe that was about to leave his hand. Every time her lightning arrows collided with his axe, the lightning energy traveled through the axe and caused Dullahan to twitch. While he couldn't recover his balance, I dealt more attacks.

[My beloved mount, blaze the enemy!]

"Ruyue!"

[Auuuuuuuu!]

As I thought, the black horse also had a special function! At Dullahan's shout, the black horse inhaled a deep breath. At the same time, Ruyue swiftly poured Ice Breath on its face. After breathing in the freezing energy, the black horse coughed and fainted. Its throat must have frozen, preventing it from breathing. Dullahan, you were finished the moment you rode a living horse as an undead!

Although Dullahan quickly got up and tightly gripped his axe, I delivered a great shock to his wrist using my spear. Ruyue raised her front legs. Shining with snow-white light, Ruyue tried to stomp on Dullahan's legs and freeze him.

[An elemental!]

"I've already heard that line before!"

After raising my spear up on Ruyue's back, I activated Heroic Strike and sent my spear, which had turned into a white lightning, into its body.

[Critical Hit!]

[Kuaaaak!]

Dullahan had a material body, and obviously had bones. As such, he received 50 percent additional critical damage. Skull Breaker, what a cheaty title!

I continued to stab Dullahan's body. Then, when the head he was dearly protecting with one arm glowed, I immediately made Ruyue fall back.

I had fallen to that once before. Sudden Rise. It was a strange skill that made Dullahan's body stand up no matter what position he was in. At the same time, he let out a dark fog that paralyzed anyone it touched. If I hadn't fallen back, the tide of battle might have been overturned.

[Kuaaaaaa!]

As expected, the moment I made Ruyue fall back, Dullahan shot up while emitting a black fog. In his hand was his ghostly axe. Although he charged at me and swung his axe down, Ruyue dodged to the side while I attacked his legs, which still had some of Ruyue's frost. Dullahan's body tilted and the axe hit the ground magnificently. Then, Dullahan gritted his teeth while he brought up his axe again.

[You aren't bad, Human.]

"If you're surprised by that much, wait until you see what's coming up."

Lightly retorting to Dullahan, my eyes flashed with coldness. The spear I held up once again turned into white lightning and threatened him.

Active battle skills were truly difficult to obtain. The active battle skills I obtained while climbing to the 35th floor were only Heroic Strike, Elemental Tempest, and Thunder Beast. Not to mention, Thunder Beast was more of a support skill than an attack skill, as it greatly raised my attack power. Other than these three, Dark Thunder Explosion, which was stored in my pocket watch, could count as one.

As such, I had to make the best use of my attacks skill to deal critical damage at the right time. Elemental Tempest was a large area of effect skill that used half of my MP, and Heroic Strike was a single-target skill that used a large amount of HP and MP. Thunder Beast was comparatively better, but it had a 110 second limit, and I could not use my spear with it. It was then that I wondered. Was there a way to continuously attack like I was using Thunder Beast while still using my strong spear techniques?

There, two skills had come to mind. The first was continuously using Heroic Strike.

Without mana, it was impossible. There was no doubt about it. However, with mana, which endlessly strengthened and rejuvenated the body, continuously shooting out attacks that concentrated my entire body's strength wasn't so impossible. The mana that should be used to add destructive power could be used for strengthening physical recovery. Although the attacks would then be weaker than a single destructive Heroic Strike, I would be able to attack consecutively with less mana cost. Determining that it was possible, I started to put it into action.

[Hero... You Heroes always advance fast. Without knowing the days of despair that await you, laughing without fear and enjoying the blessing given upon you...!]

"Sorry, I don't care."

No matter how much foreshadowing he threw out, I didn't care. It would appear when it was the right time, and I would overcome it. I wasn't so bored that I would worry about things that would happen in the future.

[But I will not yield. We will not yield! You bastards that threw me in here, hear me! I never offered my soul to you bastards!]

"Like I said, I... don't care!"

The air was embroidered with lightning. My muscles and will were focused on a single point on the tip of my spear. However, the mana strengthening the spear also split to protect, rejuvenate, and strengthen my body. To prevent my will from being disrupted, I concentrated. If I was really a Hero, this much should be doable.

Dullahan raised his axe, which flashed with a destructive aura. Right, I knew that someone as smart as you wouldn't only use that skill when your head was separated.

[Out...burst!!]

"Consecutive Heroic Strikes!"

With my eyes opened wide, I shot my spear forward. At the same time, I thought...

My naming sense sucked.

Translator's Note: Blood Succubus Earrings have been changed to just Blood Succubus Earring (just one of what's usually a pair). Same for Power Earrings MC earned way back when (it's just one as well). The word "earrings" in Korean is hard to tell if it's plural or singular; After reading the RAWs, all earrings will be singular (unless people can equip 2 sets of earrings... still unsure).

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