Ten minutes after the monsters, which boasted a height of at least 50 meters, began their decisive battle, Lee Shin Woo was able to give the Garuda's golden flames a proper name.
"Let's call that shining flame."
"It's just as chuunibyou as your dark flame."
"No, that's not the issue here. It's the fact that it's the counter element to Dark Shadow."
While light possessed the power to sever connections, the shining flame took it one step further. The shining flames were capable of erasing all cause and effect of anything it touched.
Whereas Dark Shadow allowed him to reverse cause and effect, so if the two elements were used against each other, then the winner would be determined by which was more powerful. He'd only just become level 8 and obtained a beginner level 1 innate element, so he couldn't overcome the Garuda if he went head-to-head with it.
"I have the worst luck. I just got an innate element, but why did it have to be an element on par with it?"
Lee Shin Woo realized how wide the world truly was. After reaching level 8, and obtaining both Dark Shadow and Wild Card, he'd thought that perhaps he was unrivaled. However, he immediately met an enemy that shattered his delusions!
‘Perhaps it was a good thing that he hadn't been conceited,’ he thought. Jin merely gazed at Lee Shin Woo speechlessly.
"Aren't you the one who's amazing for obtaining an element on par with that monster's...? No, wait. How are you even going to fight it anyway?"
"With the dark flames. Dark Shadow won't work, but the dark flames will. There's a chance it'll work since the exhausted Dark Flame Ghosts are putting up a fight."
The dark flame was a powerful ability that destroyed anything it touched and returned what it destroyed to its wielder. Even if the shining flame erased cause and effect, by stealing that ability, Lee Shin Woo would be able to weaken its efficacy.
...Of course, the Dark Flame Ghosts were too weak, so they weren't able to nullify the Garuda's shining flame, but they were at least weakening it. And through their black armor, Lee Shin Woo was able to gather indirect experience with the dark flames, increasing his proficiency and allowing him to set up countermeasures for the shining flames. As a result...
[The Intermediate Dark Flame element has become Lv2! Magic has increased by 20.]
"Sseup, I'll have to integrate this element's power someday."
He'd already gotten a start. The Wild Card skill fused all of his skills together, so all of his attacks, defenses, or elemental conversions became unconstrained; if he studied exhaustively with this skill, then he should be able to reach the end of his path.
This was 'another step forward'. 'What a difficult next step,' Lee Shin Woo quietly muttered, and extended one hand forward. At the same time, the Dark Flame Ghosts, which were fighting against the Garuda, stiffened.
Once he reached level 8, all of his skills (even if they didn't level up) were affected by his karma and changed in a positive manner. His Rule of Bone was no exception and was strengthened considerably. So much so that he could easily control and restrain the two Dark Flame Ghosts, even though he was tired!
"You've done well. Now die."
"You really do talk like a final boss!"
If he let this go on, then the Dark Flame Ghosts would inevitably be killed by the Garuda. That in itself wasn't a huge problem, but there was a chance that the loot would be burned into dust by the shining flames.
If nothing else, he knew the Dark Flame Ghosts had nothing left in them.
The Dark Flame Ghost suddenly screamed in agony. Although the Garuda was flustered, it didn't let go of this chance and unleashed its shining flame onto them.
But there was no way that Lee Shin Woo would help him out for nothing. The Dark Flame Ghosts mustered their last remaining strength and barely blocked the shining flames; when their energy was finally depleted and the Garuda was wide open...
Lee Shin Woo blew up their black armor. The darkness swelled, covering the Dark Flame Ghosts in their entirety. Then they exploded, unleashing destructive energy onto the Garuda!
[The Beginner Dark Shadow element has become Lv3. Magic has increased by 20.]
"Oh, this Dark Shadow ability's great."
"That was Dark Shadow!? Just now!?"
"Yep. Once I acquired the innate element, it became my fundamental element. It's like my normal attacks are turned into elemental attacks."
"Sorry. I don't get it."
The Dark Shadow element was capable of reversing cause and effect. The explanation was quite ambiguous, but if his image and will were clear, then it was like an omnipotent ability. It was nigh-impossible to do this, aside from Lee Shin Woo himself, so that's why it was called an innate element.
Lee Shin Woo had used the Dark Shadow element like this just now. Normally, Rule of Bone could only explode bones, but he had reversed cause and effect so that the rest of their body was considered 'bone'. This allowed him to explode their entire body. This was only possible because of his Disguise skill (which he could use on others), as well as his Acting skill, which could even fool the world itself!
"That doesn't make any sense! Now you can fool the world!?"
"It does make sense. You're looking at it right now. But it's still imperfect, so don't go crazy with the compliments."
"That modesty's even scarier!"
He'd exploded two level 8 elites, so even the level 9 divine bird (which was in the midst of its undead transformation) couldn't withstand it unscathed. Lee Shin Woo had landed a direct hit with the explosions, and the Garuda screamed weakly and plummeted. During that time, Lee Shin Woo collected the loot that the Dark Flame Ghosts had left behind.
"Jin, if I could, I'd reinforce you, but I have to prioritize the battle for now. Don't worry, I'll make sure to make it up to you later."
"No, you don't need to worry about that!"
Lee Shin Woo was deeply moved by Jin's 'humility' and soon executed Bone Reinforcement. He reinforced himself with the Dark Flame Ghosts' bones (he must've been lucky, as one of them dropped two bones at once!), while he used the Dark Flame Bone Cores they left behind to reinforce the still-evolving Titan Bone Core.
[Absorbing the Lv8 Fiery Sand's Dark Flame Ghost's wing bone, head exoskeleton, and molar. Fully understanding the Fiery Sand's Dark Flame Ghosts' memories. Strength has increased by 80, Agility by 30, Health by 70, and Magic by 65. The Intermediate Dark Flame element has become Lv5 and Magic has increased by 60. The Absorption skill has become LV15 and Magic has increased by 60.]
Perhaps it was because he was on equal footing with them now, as the stats he gained were much lower than before. Even if he factored that in, he still gained a huge amount of stats. But more importantly, he had absorbed several bones that originated from the same species, causing them to resonate. This allowed him to see through their entire lifetime!
His proficiency in the Dark Flame and the Absorption skills weren't the only things that grew. By completely analyzing the lives of such high level existences, Lee Shin Woo's own existence grew. Lee Shin Woo's state as one who overcame the boundaries of combat skills and elements had grown.
'But that's not the issue here. What is...'
The memories of them draining the Garuda's energy for hundreds of years! Those melted into Lee Shin Woo's body, helping him better understand the Garuda's abilities, its characteristics, as well as its flaws.
They weren't represented as stats or skills, but these memories gave him the upper hand against the Garuda. Plus...
[The Titan Bone Core is evolving. You have acquired the Lv8 Dark Flame Bone Core.]
The level 8 Titan Bone Core had absorbed four Elite Bone Cores and finished evolving, assuming a different form. The core itself was smaller than before, but the energy within was about two times greater than before! It was such immense energy that Lee Shin Woo wondered why it hadn't evolved into a level 9 artifact instead.
That wasn't all. Black lines traversed along the outside of the once fully red core like blood vessels. Those lines were the core of its evolution, but it felt a lot gloomier than before, compared to when the lava emitted the feeling of a Giant. But more importantly, the name...!
"Dark Flame... Keuk!"
He knew that it meant Dark Flame in English. He knew that, but...! Lee Shin Woo gritted his teeth. Once he'd gotten over the humiliating name, he distanced himself from Jin before the Garuda recovered.
"You know you can't come with me on the golem, right?"
"...If you're in trouble, I'll come charging at him to distract him."
"Thanks, but you won't need to."
Lee Shin Woo grinned. Then, he gripped the core. As the one who'd remodeled the core, he knew best how it had changed, so he didn't need to check its info.
Oh, right. If he showed the core to Kratia, then she'd be really happy. No, she may look into his new ability first. But in order for that time to come, Lee Shin Woo had to beat this guy.
The core absorbed Lee Shin Woo's overflowing mana, and as it had been remodeled with Lee Shin Woo's power, it had adopted more of his features; it pulsed darkly and responded.
The outside of the core was released and covered his body. The disorderly looking black lines covered the outside of Lee Shin Woo's body, forming a geometric shape. Eventually, a shape formed onto his body and shined.
[Synchronization complete. Titan activating.]
Although this was his second time experiencing this, it was really difficult to adjust to the feeling of his small body transforming into a several meter tall Giant. But by reaching level 8, Lee Shin Woo had, in many ways, overcome his physical limitations, allowing him to focus without getting lost.
He only realized after the fact, but the Titan was about 10 meters tall. Compared to before, when it was about 7 meters tall, it increased its height by about half. Lee Shin Woo was amazed and clenched both hands tightly. At that moment, a message appeared before him.
[Activating the Dark Flame Titan. 500 seconds remaining.]
[Your Strength and Magic temporarily increase by 2,500, and Health and Agility by 2,000.]
Not only could the Titan be operated for more than double its previous time, but the stat bonuses also didn't decrease much, despite him leveling up! With the stat bonuses, his total stats were 24,084. In other words, he wasn't much different from a level 9 being. Plus...
[While riding the Titan, the Dark Flame skill sublimates. With your current understanding, you can utilize high rank level 5 Dark Flame.]
A considerable amount of heat radiated from the core and flowed throughout his body, but he welcomed the feeling. The dark flames asserted their existence within the crimson flame!
As he had hoped for, the Titan had become a golem specialized in Dark Flame. Although he couldn't raise his Dark Flame skill over the intermediate level normally, by using the Dark Flame Golem he could.
"Shin Woo, it's coming!"
At that moment, the Garuda struck. It realized that the Dark Flame Titan was no normal foe, and unleashed the largest blast of shining flame it could muster before the Titan could move.
However, Lee Shin Woo was already in full control of the Titan. Before he'd gotten on the golem, he had wrapped the Titan in wind mana, and gently raised it up into the sky as if it were floating in response. He extended both his hands and created a wall of dark flame. When the shining flame and his dark flame met, another message appeared before him.
[You are currently controlling a Titan, and are fighting against a higher level foe, who possesses the power of a god. The Rebellion skill activates. All stats have increased by 56%!]
Three conditions had been met, so the Rebellion skill gave Lee Shin Woo enough power to fight against a level 9 head on!
[The Intermediate Dark Flame element has become Lv6. Magic has increased by 20!]
The Dark Flame had also intensified and vaporized the shining flame. As he thought, it was still too hard for him to absorb the shining flames, but blocking them was no problem. He had already known about this from the Dark Flame Ghosts, but doing it in person made him shiver.
Compared to the Dark Flame Ghosts, Lee Shin Woo easily eliminated the condensed shining flame. Seeing that, the Garuda screamed out and charged. Lee Shin Woo summoned the Fire Dragon's Scale Greatsword to fight it head on. He activated his Gigantification of course, in order to increase its size to 10 meters long.
[Zenon, let's go.]
Zenon meekly obeyed Lee Shin Woo's orders, settling into the greatsword and reinforcing it. Because of its increased size, Zenon had to expend more energy to reinforce it, but if he couldn't do that, then he had no right to be an Elder Salamander Prince!
He hadn't done much thus far, so Zenon gritted his teeth and promised that he'd win against the Garuda. It seemed as though his feelings were relayed to Lee Shin Woo, as he smiled more deeply than before.
[Alright. We're all ready now! Let's go!]
"You're too prepared. It feels like you'll tear the world asunder!"
Jin, who'd retreated to a safe distance, retorted, and the Garuda screamed as if belittling him. It fluttered its wings and quickly flew towards Lee Shin Woo. It looked quite majestic; its flames blazed, seemingly twisting the landscape.
"It's only level 9 and it's contaminated as well, so it must not be an important god."
[It looks plenty important enough to me!]
"Yeah. Time for us to kill a god."
Ah, he'd always wanted to say this line.
While wielding the dark flame, Lee Shin Woo hadn't realized that he'd aroused the hot-bloodedness he'd had as a child. This was the last battle with the dungeon's boss.