A Monster Who Levels Up
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Inside a cold and grey room, where not even a single ray of light could penetrate.
A lone woman, choosing to wear a thick black robe even indoors, was looking at the screen of her phone while sitting on a couch, while letting out a long sigh.
Two weeks. Two weeks, since the last time she chatted - or sent a text message to - with that man.
She thought about a lot of things in the meantime.
Unfortunately… the deeper her thoughts became, the more she wanted to see him.
Hazeline had always thought about him constantly before, but… The emotions of a person - no, an Elf - was a really crafty and cunning thing, indeed. She was fine with totally giving up because she couldn't see him, but then again, she also found it patently unfair that she was not allowed to see him.
"…That's Mister Sae-Jin, alright."
Swearing out like a sailor on shore leave, and totally ruining the pristine images of commonly-accepted Elven personalities in the process, Hazeline finally stumbled across the article about the website 'A Deity of Four Directions, Azure Dragon'. The Hero Orc, the bipedal Wolf, the Goblin - and now, even the Azure Dragon. Seriously now… it seemed like there was nothing he couldn't change into.
"Should I go and see him…"
Apparently, there was a cruise package that, when lucky, could see the dragon in the flesh. Alternatively, since she was beset with a surplus of cash recently, she could go and buy herself a boat, what with the market for yachts going through something of a revival at the moment.
…Actually, she already had got herself a speedboat that ran on magic power. She heard that it was fast becoming a fashionable thing to own one among the Wizarding community, so she got herself one. She also had driven it to those locations where the Azure Dragon was spotted previously.
Although he wasn't there, the cooling ocean breezes did help her unwind from all the stress that had been accumulating until now.
"Fuu… No, I shouldn't."
After completely accepting the fact that she had feelings for Kim Sae-Jin, she knew she had to step back and take stock of the situation.
She didn't want to do this. She felt frustrated. But in order to not repeat the mistake of the past, she had to stop. No matter how honest Elves were as well as how much emphasis they placed on their emotions, going at it twice was just too much for her. A relationship that shouldn't be, and that couldn't be, needed to stay within the realms of movies and TV dramas.
And that's what Hazeline had decided on. But before long, right there on her phone screen, it now showed a new post from Sae-Jin's SNS profile which was uploaded on 14th of January.
His smile as displayed on the screen was really open and bright, in an obvious contrast to her darkened room.
20th of January, the day of 'Daehahn', also known as the day the Winter would begin with a vengeance. (TL: "대한" Basically means 'big/major cold' and denotes the coldest day in the year. Apparently. shrugs shoulders)
As usual, Kim Sae-Jin came out to the East Sea to swim, only to receive a phone call from Kim Sun-Ho unexpectedly.
"From the Chinese?" (Sae-Jin)
- "Yes sir. One of our Mercenaries who went for a job in China has found that there seems to be some kind of a rumbling over there to kidnap the Azure Dragon."
"Huh? Why would they do that? Have they lost their damn minds?"
Sae-Jin frowned deeply. Under the soles of his bare feet, sands of the Wintery beach stuck tenaciously; if he couldn't get to swim today, he was going to get quite cross.
- "Well, it seems like the sentiment of the Azure Dragon belonging only to
their cultural heritage has seen a surge in popularity. And not just the Chinese population, but even their government seems to think that way. Also, our government has apparently received a 'polite' request to lead the Azure Dragon away as well. Of course, the administration promptly refused to do so, saying that it's a nonsensical request to begin with."
"What the fu… They even cooked and ate their own Black Turtle, so what the hell are they even thinking?"
The Black Turtle, a divine beast that used to live in China. But the Chinese government killed it, in order to solve the massive financial crisis they were facing at the time. According to their excuse, it was a Mercenary troupe that illegally carried out the deed, but… Well, there was just no way in hell that any sane country would leave alone a band of Mercenaries that had caused such a huge chaos.
- "I know, right? Since we don't know what's going to happen, we changed what information can be accessed depending on the user's level on the website… But still, be careful out there."
"I got it… But, you don't have to worry about me. When out in the open sea, I'm pretty much invincible."
From his experiences so far, there was no creature alive that could defeat a Leviathan within the oceanic environment.
Both Kim Yu-Sohn and his son, Sun-Ho, had stressed that Bathory was far more stronger… But because of the Leviathan's pride, he found himself questioning that very idea. It was not that surprising, really - how often could one find a creature that easily solo-ed a Boss-level Monster?
- "Still, I'm sure it'll be better to keep your guard up, sir. By the way, are you planning to swim today as well?"
"Yes. I'm going to be alright over here. Instead. Please find out for me just how close 'Jin Seh-Hahn' is to becoming a upper Mid Tier Knight."
- "….Yes sir. Understood."
Sae-Jin ended the call with Kim Sun-Ho and dived into the ocean, transforming into the baby Leviathan.
The moment he came in contact with the cold water, his mind cleared up and the fatigue of the day disappeared altogether.
He couldn't tell whether he was addicted to this feeling, or if this was the feared side effects of the Leviathan Form's growth, but he knew very well that, he'd be unable to stay still if he didn't come to the ocean at least three, four times a week.
A warm smile crept up on his face as he entrusted his body to the ocean's currents.
The brightly shining sunlight and gentle undulation of the ocean; even the chilly Winter winds felt refreshing to him, who possessed thick scales all over his body. It was almost like drinking a refreshing glass of cold water in the middle of a hot Summer day.
And so, that was how he swam on this peaceful and calm ocean. He even had the time to gaze at the migratory birds busy moving about in the air trying to avoid the grip of Winter and thought - aren't they Muffin's favourite type of snack?
And so, about thirty minutes had passed like that.
Sae-Jin sensed a strange flow of Mana. He definitely felt this sensation, even though he was as good as half asleep at that time. The flow seemed to enclose the surroundings and it only grew stronger.
However, this was the sea. Also, he didn't feel threatened by it, so he ended up not minding it at all.
And that was how it proved to be too late, by the time the sky suddenly became dark and the space where he was swimming became isolated from the rest of the world.
The surrounding world simply vanished, including the sea, and only darkness remained where he was. Sae-Jin hurriedly opened his eyes and looked around.
'An isolation barrier?'
Was this China's doing? But wasn't this too fast? Sae-Jin's brain spun really quickly as he tried to figure out what the hell was going on, but when he took a whiff of a certain smell coming off silhouettes of 'people' appearing from the darkness, his expression hardened.
Smelling like blood and speaking in an unknown language - they could only be the Vampires.
Initially, there was only one, but then, the presences began increasing quickly.
Two, four, eight, then sixteen… Sae-Jin couldn't help but swallow his saliva in nervousness at the alarming increase in Vampires' numbers.
A female Vampire pointed at Sae-Jin and muttered something. He couldn't understand a thing she said, but she still gave him the creeps, so he slowly backtracked a bit.
When this woman smiled and opened her arms wide, a crimson-coloured whip suddenly materialised in one of her open palms. That was the signal; the rest of the Vampires all produced their weapons and readied magic spells.
Whatever the case may have been, these Vampires were targeting him. For now, Sae-Jin suspected that they were here because he had disrupted their plans by killing the Flesh Golem.
'Do I need to fight as the Leviathan?'
Sae-Jin fell into a dilemma. It was more than likely that the Leviathan Form was the most powerful Monster Form he possessed right now. But in this space where there was no water, it might be prudent to change into another Form.
He quickly looked at the darkness surrounding the area.
The Leviathan Form allowed him to understand all types of Mana flow that he came in contact with.
Although this place looked like the inside of an isolation barrier, it actually was not. Most likely… he was trapped in a 'Fissure', the space existing between different worlds.
And so, Sae-Jin was finally enlightened on just how all those Monster incidents happening all over the world were being carried out. If these bastards could artificially create Fissures, then calling out Monsters would be easier than taking a candy off from a baby's hands.
'In that case, even the Lycan Form might not be enough.'
If it was just a barrier, then he could shatter it in the Lycanthrope Form, but now… Now, he decided that it was better to battle his opponents as the Leviathan.
And when the leader-type Vampire spoke that one word…
Vampires easily numbering past 40 began their organised assault.
Mana Spears, whips, swords, fireballs, pale blue ice crystals, flaming arrows, etc, etc…
Countless magic spells rained down on him - a symphony of colours from spells dyeing the dark world in shades of rainbow.
Sae-Jin gazed at the phenomena produced by the agitated Mana, and then… perfectly replicated every single one of them.
Although there wasn't any seawater, the Mana filling up the body of this baby Leviathan was more than capable of producing brilliant and awesome magic effects.
The attacks unleashed by both the Vampires and the Leviathan, without a doubt, belonged to the same category of 'magic'.
But Vampires immediately realised as soon as their attacks collided, that the gap of 'density' and 'strength' between them was definitely not in the same category at all.
The copied magic easily overcame the attacks of Vampires and countless Spears and tyrannical storm winds swallowed them all up in one go. It was such an overwhelming might, not even their screams of pain and terror could survive within the shock waves of the magic-induced explosions.
The female Vampire leisurely muttered. Seeing her, Sae-Jin felt something was wrong. How could she be that relaxed, when nearly half of their original 40-odd group had been killed?
Not too long after, Sae-Jin understood the source of her leisure. From the darkness, more Vampires made their entrance. And this time, there were lots more of them.
As soon as the leader-type finished murmuring his words out, numerous magic spells formed on the hands of the new Vampires.
Sae-Jin bit his lip.
The amount of Mana he wasted replicating all those magic spells was around 10% of his total reserve. However, if he held back from using attacks that consumed a lot of Mana, like Breath, and utilised Skills such as Warrior of Reversal to the fullest, then… He should be able to withstand their assault for twenty more times.
'…Hopefully, I can end this before then…'
Sae-Jin's face hardened as he expelled Mana. All around him, drops of water bubbled up. At first, they looked fluffy and rather adorable, but these water bubbles suddenly shot out towards the Vampires, and then…
As soon as arriving near the targets, they caused a huge explosion.
And so, an unending battle that seemingly repeated itself over and over, began for real.
Magic spells Sae-Jin never had the chance to use until now continued to rock the Fissure like crazy. However… no matter how many he killed, Vampires kept on rushing at him like tsunami waves.
To see these beings with low overall population to use the human-wave strategy - panicking Sae-Jin then belatedly found out that these bastards were actually nothing more than artificial dolls. They were so well constructed, he could only discover this cruel fact after touching one accidentally.
Unfortunately, his situation didn't improve just because he discovered their trick.
He thought about using a spell that would blow up the entire space within the Fissure, but then, it would be meaningless if the few of the Vampires who knew the ins and outs of the Fissure's construction could simply slip out and slip back in during the explosion itself.
And like this, wastage of Mana continued on.
'…This… this might be troublesome…'
As his Mana reserve ran out, his consciousness began to blur, and his body started to feel lethargic.
He desperately fought off the uncontrollable fatigue, but in the end, stopped all his movements and slowly closed his eyes.
Just as the breathless Vampires came closer and touched his unmoving body…
*SFX for things receding quickly*
Suddenly, winds blew, and the world regained its lost colour.
As the darkness receded and the nature returned back to its normal state, cold seawater embraced the drying skin of the baby Leviathan.
And Sae-Jin regained control of his blurring consciousness and abruptly opened the blue eyes of the Leviathan.
When his consciousness cooled, the only thing filling up his head was pure rage.
He didn't care just how this trap was broken, not at this moment.
He let out an angry roar without realising it himself. When he did that, a storm violently whipped up over the ocean and the waves began powerfully rocking back and forth.
The instinctive fury of the Sea Monster who was nearly defeated.
- The overall growth of the 'Sea Monster' Form will increase by 10%!!
- The species-unique Trait "???" has been added.
"???" can only be acquired by divine existences.
Sae-Jin felt his point of view suddenly rising up higher.
Those damnable Vampires became a lot smaller than before, and in the distance, he could see a boat carrying the person responsible for disrupting the Fissure's formation. And on that boat, someone he didn't expect to see, Hazeline, was lying down on the floor in complete exhaustion.
The Leviathan had grown twice the old size, and it was now glaring at the Vampires with eyes full of hostile intent.
After seeing this appearance where the definite trace of the real dragon could be felt, they even forgot the situation they were in and could only express their admiration.
Vampires tried to run away by changing into fog, but Sae-Jin wasn't going to let them.
In the blink of an eye, seawater rose up in circular shape and formed a huge dome, and all the Vampires who got trapped inside began carrying looks of despair.
< 32. King of the Infinite Ocean, Leviathan (5) > Fin.
(TL: $35 left out of $50 for this week's first sponsored chapter.)