A Monster Who Levels Up
For the first week after unlocking his Trait, Kim Sae-Jin lived in isolation like a mental patient.
It was totally understandable as, for 23 out of 24 hours in a day, he suddenly had to exist as a Monster.
The bosses at his part time jobs sent him various messages and phone calls, but they all entered in one ear and left through the other without really registering in his brain.
Two of them showed concern, but the other one threw verbal abuse like there’s no tomorrow. But then again, it was understandable where they were coming from.
The only thing Sae-Jin couldn’t get a grip on, was the absurdity of his current situation.
And after another week passed by, the small, meticulously-kept room which he took great pride in, became a messy cesspool of untidiness.
It was par for the course, really. The effing claws on his paws would leave behind unsightly scars all over the place no matter how softly and gently he walked around.
Like this, where a living couldn’t really be called a living anymore, another 4 days went by.
Only then, did Sae-Jin finally come to accept his predicament.
A body length of around 2m, a shoulder height of around 1.2m, a tail length of around 50cm, a body weight definitely exceeding 90kg. And a coat of brown fur.
At a glance, they might sound like the specs of a still-growing tiger, but unfortunately, those numbers belonged to him.
Sae-Jin was actually a Brown Wolf now.
A Monster that was considered as the weakest prey there was, always targeted by those conceited idiots who proudly label themselves as the "Knights", "Mercenaries" or "Hunters."
Also, too ambiguous to be called a true, bona fide Monster - striding the imperceptible boundary between a beast and that of a full-fledged Monster, it was not easy to categorise this creature.
On top of being the newbies’ preferred choice of hunting material, a wolf was usually massacred on sight without mercy because of the following traits:
1, There were plentiful of them like a mob,
2, They were slightly troublesome for regular citizens to deal with.
That was Sae-Jin’s form, currently.
He found it difficult to accept this initially for obvious reasons. And after finally coming to terms with it, he then realised that wasn’t the end of his troubles, no. Now, he had to madly formulate plans to "safely live." His desires to continue breathing was a lot stronger than he expected. At least there was the cushion of $3500 in his bank account, which he was definitely thankful for.
Sae-Jin quickly decided to maximise his Human Form during the precious 1 hour window.
For his food, Sae-Jin bought easy-to-prepare TV dinners from a convenience store 5 minutes away and always ate them while in his Human Form. His pride as a human being wouldn’t have it any other way. And he made sure to leave himself a 30-minute breathing space in case of an unforeseen emergency.
Then he practiced controlling the strength of the Brown Wolf Form in order to perfectly mimic the creature. After 4 days of concerted effort, he even figured out how to retract his sharp claws.
Meanwhile, whenever there was a chance, he changed into a Goblin Form and began cleaning the mess in his home. A 140cm-tall Goblin might have a small stature but it possessed a surprisingly supple pair of hands for a kind of jobs that demanded precise craftsmanship, which was perfect for taking care of the household chores.
Those ugly claw marks remained here and there, but before long, Sae-Jin’s room reg
ained its former spotless, clean appearance.
But the biggest issue still had to be solved: living expenses.
Without paying the monthly rent, he was surely living on a borrowed time here.
That’s why he used the bracelet computer, something that was discarded into a corner of the room a while ago.
Sae-Jin was going to search for how to ⸢Start Earning From Home,⸥
…But then, stopped. As a high school dropout, with only a middle school graduation certificate, he just knew it would be impossible to find someone willing to let him work from home.
He gazed at the hologram display projected in the air with a tinge of regret, slowly stroking it. Then a thought suddenly came to him, and Sae-Jin searched for topics regarding the Monsters.
That’s how he accidentally found a hint that could potentially save his life.
Seeing the topic of the discussion, a powerful glare of bright light burned dangerously in both of his eyes.
Q: ⸢Does the Lycanthrope, the top-dog in the Wolf-type Monster pecking order, really exist?⸥
A: ⸢According to the 1st Generation "Soo-ins" (TL: literally humanoid beastman in Korean) who crossed over the World’s Rift, they did exist in the legends. Able to seamlessly change their shapes unrestricted from a fearsome bipedal wolf to a perfect appearance of a tailless human, one could say that they share some similar racial traits with Soo-ins. In truth, though, the class of incredible power they wielded was on another scale altogether, apparently, and couldn’t even be compared at all. But owing to their unique trait of violent nature, they ended up going extinct and have become the creatures of legends instead.⸥
The Lycanthrope. It was a mythical Monster Sae-Jin had heard about at least once from somewhere.
An unfathomable existence, that could freely become a flawless human despite being a Monster and vice versa. It was different from the Soo-ins who could alternate between an animal and a humanoid form. More than anything, the human form assumed by a Lycanthrope didn’t leave behind a tail.
Definitely, the effing Trait told him that "when certain conditions are satisfied, the ranks of Monsters will rise."
He intuitively understood then. The only way for him to exist was to exploit this rule.
Didn’t matter what the conditions were, he had to quickly complete them in order to evolve over and over again.
There was a chance that his evolution could go down the wrong path but this was the only avenue left for him in the end.
He promptly stood up. The things he had to do were already set in stone.
The mountainous regions of Gangwon Province had been designated as the Monster’s Territory for a very long time.
Low tier Monsters such as Wolves, Orcs and Goblins, mid tier Monsters such as Trolls and Gargoyles, and finally, high tier Monsters like Ogres and Wyverns, occupied this Territory and called it as their home.
One of the world’s most diverse Monster ecosystems existed within the borders of Gangwon Province in the Republic of Korea. Naturally, Monster-hunting Knights and Hunters flocked here, aiming for this perfect place to earn money in the "Home of Monsters."
"Hey!! Stay with me!!"
However, it was only possible for the Knights possessing at least the ranks of mid to high tier to delude themselves into mistaking this place as nothing more than an easy gold mine.
Most people saw the mountains as Hell on Earth, where ferocious Monsters engaged in brutal conflict against each other, and to those who bet their lives in order to earn a living by catching these rampaging creatures, all of them wished to abandon this horrible killing field and never to return here as soon as they got their exit passports.
"You are almost there, don’t you faint on me, now!! Stand up!!"
One could receive the much-needed aid from the military at the borders of Gangwon Province.
A low tier Hunter named Kim Tae-Jo couldn’t spare a thought to wipe the streaming blood off his forehead. He was too busy slapping the cheeks of his comrade, who was lying sprawled on the ground, unmoving.
"……I… can’t… go on."
Tae-Jo’s comrade could only mutter out dispiriting words. This man’s eyes were deeply closed, the flames of life ready to extinguish, one of his legs missing.
It was a gruesome sight if one took a closer look. Even a quick glance could tell these two Hunters had went through a terrible ordeal at the hands of a vicious beast judging from the deep teeth marks on the wound.
In the beginning, their party consisted of 3 low tier and 2 mid tier Hunters but they ran into a Monsterised Great Tiger.
Their luck was really bad.
Monsterised Great Tigers lived in the deeper parts of the mountains, existing to compete against more powerful Monsters up there. In other words, they never bothered to come down to the lower grounds near the borders at all.
But the party did meet a Great Tiger, which was akin to getting struck by a stray lightning in broad daylight while out on a stroll. It was simply unheard of.
"Hey!! Stand u…"
Kim Tae-Jo couldn’t finish what he wanted to say.
Because, from somewhere nearby, he could hear the guttural "Krrrr" growling of a beast.
Holding his breath, Tae-Jo slightly tilted his head towards the direction of the sound, and found a lone wolf, its fur shining brown and clearly starving from a prolonged hunger.
It was just a pile of skin and bones, its eyes bloodshot, attesting to how famished it was.
A Brown Wolf was the weakest Monster out there. Normally, 3 low tier Hunters could take it down - no, if it was weakened by as much as this creature, then only 2 should be enough to hunt it down.
But the current situation was the worst. His comrade was missing a leg, and by dragging the grievously wounded man all the way here by himself, Tae-Jo was near his own physical limit as well.
"…Go away!! Away, I say!!"
Tae-Jo desperately shouted. But overcome by avarice, the lone Brown Wolf continued to drool nonstop and slowly advanced towards him. It looked as if the Wolf was cautiously assessing the situation of the meal that took too long time in coming.
"Oh, god damn it!!"
There was no other choice. Tae-Jo had to abandon his comrade and make a run for it. However….
The exhaustion from pushing himself to the limit and the Brown Wolf’s fear-inducing growl conspired to freeze his legs; they wouldn’t budge.
And also, no matter how starved, Tae-Jo realised that the famished Wolf was still faster than him, and it wouldn’t let one of the free meals run away just like that.
"This… this son of a bi*ch. I caught hundreds of bastards like you until now…"
Tae-Jo swore in resignation, knowing well that his number was up. He grabbed the shotgun that no longer had any Mana bullets in it. If the lady luck smiled on him, then he could land a hit in the head of the Wolf and knock it out. That was his hope.
Tae-Jo swallowed his spit loudly.
That, became "the" signal.
The Brown Wolf disregarded everything and kick the ground, crazily dashing in towards him.
Scared, he could no longer dare to watch and squeezed his eyes shut, and swung the stock of the hunting rifle hard.
The noise he heard was slightly different to what he was expecting, a dull sound from a blunt impact. Rather, it was similar to a neck snapping.
Tae-Jo carefully opened his eyes after hearing that strange sound.
Stronger bout of despair slammed into him as soon as he did that.
There was another Brown Wolf in front of him.
But this one was a giant – a tiger. Its huge body was like that of a tiger just before going through a Monsterisation.
This massive Brown Wolf had its fangs deeply buried in the neck of the unlucky Wolf aiming for Tae-Jo’s and his comrade’s lives.
The size differences between these two wolves made calling them the same type of Monster a laughable notion. Of course, the famished Wolf was atypically smaller than normal, but still, Tae-Jo had never ever seen nor heard of a Brown Wolf this massive before.
"God damn it."
Tae-Jo couldn’t help but to mutter out swearing again, being on the receiving end of such a huge Brown Wolf’s gazes.
The incredibly sharp eyes of the Wolf burned in the flames of pure, unadulterated and much deserved confidence. Being stared at by such powerful, and somehow, courageous eyes, Tae-Jo felt indescribable pressure weighing down on him.
He had to accept the reality of his situation.
So, this is it. Looks like this is where I meet my maker.
Meeting a Monsterised Great Tiger, then this Tiger-sized Brown Wolf.
My luck’s finally become pretty damn good isn’t it. Yep, it’s so effing good today, it has turned into my last bloody day on earth!!
Completely resigned to his fate, Tae-Jo could only sigh and close his eyes again.
Heavy rustling of paw steps teased his eardrums like a distant hammer being struck.
However…. no matter how long he waited, the expected agony of death didn’t materialise.
Confused, Tae-Jo ever so carefully reopened his eyes.
Right in front of his nose, stood the Brown Wolf.
But it was the strangest thing, ever.
The wolf was inserting its sharp fangs between the gaps of his fallen comrade’s armour and was in the process of lifting him up.
"What… what the hell?"
Tae-Jo briefly entertained the idea of this Wolf playing around with its food but had to kick that thought to the curbside on the double by the next gob-smacking actions of the creature.
The Brown Wolf gestured with its sizable head as if it wanted Tae-Jo to follow it, and begun carrying the wounded comrade in its mouth towards the direction of the military base to the West.
< 01. Becoming a Wolf (1) > Fin.