A Monster Who Levels Up
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Sae-Jin felt like he was stuck in a rut of late.
His growth had slowed down to a crawl. No, more correctly, he lost his reason to grow. The very first goal he set for himself was to live like a human being. To eat three meals a day, to be able to smile and be happy, and at minimum, sleep with a roof over his head - that sort of a simple life.
In the past, he fought hard in order to attain this simple goal. He slept for less than six hours a day. He had no time for fun and games nor did he for love and relationships. And as he failed to get a good enough education, he lived like an idiot and was treated as one. Also, got cheated plenty of times as well.
But now, that was all but distant history. This world, which at one point seemed to have abandoned him for good, was now warmly embracing Sae-Jin. Unlike in the past, people were very much mindful of his presence, and the number of those who cared about him and sang his praises had increased by so much.
It was truly an enjoyable life.
However, he began to feel slight doubt in his heart as well. All those things he craved for, he was able to earn them: all the fame, prestige, influence, and financial muscle.
There was not one soul who hadn't heard of the three words "Kim", "Sae" and "Jin" in Korea. And the company representing his guild, "TM", jumped to the 33th spot in the rankings of Korean companies the moment it opened its doors for business.
The Monster Entertainment Agency had now over 200 entertainers, Knights, and singers affiliated with it, despite it only being in operation for a few short years. And these guys were the best of the best in their professions, too.
Plus, the rumours of a good treatment and great ability to do business had spread throughout the industry, making his agency an object of envy. Once, one of the managers in the agency told him that there was no need to scout for talents anymore, that people were calling them now, instead.
And, after Sae-Jin created many different 'versions', the Athany doll had become the artifact of the century. The Korean government passed a special law governing all matters related to Athany dolls, called 'Athany Special Law', and blocked the sale of the dolls to overseas recipients by Sae-Jin's Guild. They then took over the process for themselves. Of course, The Monster still retained the rights to sell the dolls within the country's borders.
Although it was indeed a questionable move when seen from the viewpoint of The Monster Guild, even Sae-Jin and Co. couldn't fight against the government's concerted efforts to regulate and keep big corporations in line. In the end, they acquiesced after receiving promises of reduction in taxes and such.
Now, the Athany dolls were being used as a trump card in foreign affairs-related negotiations. From what Sae-Jin heard, currently the dolls were being leased to those countries enjoying a friendly relation with Korea, or to those governments who they wished to be in one with. If the relationship soured for some reason, then the doll was promptly taken away.
He also heard that there were quite a few countries that feared the above example from happening and, although somewhat cowardly, were grovelling in front of the Korean government. Well, a couple of the Athany dolls had an attribute imbued that could 'decrease the chances of Monsters attacking', so there was that.
Just like that, the name 'Kim Sae-Jin' had transcended the borders of his native nation and spread out to the rest of the world.
However… the more his public persona grew larger and larger, his own sense of self was slowly getting lost. He was like a tiny little boat floating aimlessl
y on a windless open sea.
His one true aim was to uncover the truth of his parents' deaths and to avenge their murders. But the truth about his father being a Mah-in, and his mother being in cahoots with 'Vampires'… well, the more he thought about it, the more doubtful he became, enough to even douse the flames of his anger towards Vampires with cold water.
He pushed away all these distracting worms of thoughts and took a glance to his side.
Yu Sae-Jung was gently and rather adorably snoring within his arms. But seeing her like this, Hazeline's face popped up in his mind, making him feel guilty as hell.
Just why did she say all those things back then? Sae-Jin closed his eyes, while trying his damnedest to ignore that feeling - the one he had understood to some extent already.
He couldn't sleep. Only dark thoughts continued to creep up into his head.
On a certain day, as the Spring was coming to an end.
Sae-Jin decided to focus wholly on training once more.
Well, it was because there was only one method left right now that could help him alleviate his stress. Currently, it was deemed inadvisable to swim in the East Sea - Kim Sun-Ho personally went there and took photos of a woman who seemed to be that Bathory, busy playing around near the beach and sent it over to him.
And he couldn't be bothered to head to the Yellow Sea or to the South Sea - he sure as hell didn't feel like fighting all those dumb sea Monsters who would definitely try their luck with him.
And so, he decided to focus on wielding 'Mana Body' more proficiently. After all, it was better to forcefully train and do something, rather than sitting around doing nothing because he had lost this goal, and let useless thoughts make him even more stressed, instead.
Plus, 'Mana Body' was certainly the most awesome 'Skill' he possessed at the moment as well, so he should really power it up somewhat.
"….I heard that you wish to learn how to use magic?" (Johannsson)
The person assigned to help him train Sae-Jin's Mana Body - albeit unknowingly, of course - was a dude named Johannsson. A second-gen Elf Wizard, he was nominally a Korean by birth, but he more or less looked like a demigod from the Greek pantheon or some such.
"That's correct. I thought it might be helpful if I learned it." (Sae-Jin)
"Hah. Really now." (Johannsson)
However, Johannsson looked quite dissatisfied by something.
The Wizard Tower had sent in a famous Wizard as a tutor since it was Kim Sae-Jin who requested for one, but Johannsson was not liking this situation one bit.
The existence of a Wizard and an Elf combined together possessed biggest pride and stubbornness than anyone else. But he had to teach a complete noob about magic? If it weren't for the Wizard Tower insisting on it, Johannsson would've never came here.
"No, magic isn't a 'helpful if you learn it' kind of thing, like learning how to drive. If you're thinking of learning it as a hobby, I advise you to give up right now. Besides, you can't learn magic anyway. You see, wielding magic is a noble endeavor, a privilege only granted to those who have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit of wizardry." (Johannsson)
Johannsson didn't shrink away from Sae-Jin. His tone of voice was confrontational, and the look of dissatisfaction in his eyes was heavy enough to crush a person. However, from Sae-Jin's point of view, he actually preferred a tutor to be like this.
"…No, well, uh… there's a possibility it won't be like that. I could have the aptitude like one of those unrivalled genius, am I right? I've got this Trait, you see." (Sae-Jin)
Wanting to tease the guy a bit, Sae-Jin became overtly chatty. At that moment, Johannsson's face crumpled like a discarded newspaper in a trashcan, and the colour of red began rising up from his white neck to the rest of his head.
"Hah, hah, hah. You, you're just too much. See, the thing is, Traits related to wielding magic are incredibly rare. You need to repeatedly study, train, and temper yoursel…" (Johannsson)
"I got it, I got it. For now, just fire a magic spell at me." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin needed to get hit - in other words, be in contact with - for the Leviathan's innate Skill to activate and 'accumulate' the spell. Of course, that meant activating the Leviathan's Scales as well, but if he just activated it over the area of impact and then quickly disabled it, no one would notice it.
"What are you doing? Please fire one. I'd like to test the abilities of the instructor with this." (Sae-Jin)
Johannsson genuinely got pissed off from Sae-Jin's provocation, his white skin now dyed in the deep shades of crimson. On top of this, his shoulders were quaking from rough breathing, a clear sign of him barely suppressing his rage.
"Please do hurry up. Are you worried about not meeting my standards? You don't have to fret over such a thing, you know?" (Sae-Jin)
These words finally shattered the 'pride of a Wizard and an Elf', and the sharp debris from the resulting destruction even managed to severe the lines of reasoning as well.
Johannsson let out a strange cry as flames formed on his hand. A coagulation of Mana, and billowing with hot winds, this ball of flame looked rather simple on the outside but was a different story altogether inside. That thing was the so-called 'white flame', where flames were compressed tightly, causing its temperature to rise up to an extreme level.
Sae-Jin let out a gasp of admiration at this wondrous display. Unfortunately, Johannsson even found this leisurely attitude of Sae-Jin unacceptable, so he threw the ball of flames with a full-on killing intent.
*SFX for a fireball rapidly flying*
Causing shimmering heat haze as it flew, the white ball of flame slammed into the chest of Sae-Jin, and then with a loud Boom!!, it caused a huge explosion that shook the air.
"That was the 'White Flames', the most powerful of all fireballs."
Johannsson's anger had cooled a bit after this, and he explained it out loudly in a satisfied voice. However, there was no reaction beyond the dense smoke.
"…E, excuse me?" (Johannsson)
He cautiously called out.
There was still no reply.
Scared silly now, Johannsson hurriedly used magic to blow away the smoke as cold sweat drops poured down all over his body. After his view had cleared up, he spotted Sae-Jin lying on the floor.
Johannsson got so shocked, his eyeballs nearly popped out. He quickly ran towards Sae-Jin's location and knelt down next to him. The huge wound on Sae-Jin's chest resembled a melted candle…
"M, Mister Kim Sae-Jin!! Wake up, please!!"
Johannsson shook Sae-Jin continuously but there was no reaction. In that critical moment, his life flashed by his mind. Was all the hard work and effort he put in the past as an Elf Wizard all going down the drain because of one moment's blinding rage?
*SFX for uncontrollable giggle*
Fortunately enough, Sae-Jin couldn't hold back his giggles anymore. Johannsson stared at him in a dumbfounded silence, before his face became crimson and…
"I shall be leaving now!!"
…He angrily screamed at the top of his lungs and stomped out of the training facility.
It took full 30 minutes before Johannsson could calm down from the furious rage that was caused by Sae-Jin's prank, and begin the tutoring session properly.
"…Fuu. This is what you call a grimoire, a book where a magic spell has been recorded."
Johannsson pulled out a certain book and spoke at the same time. This book was shaped rather strangely, however. Its size was as big as an encyclopedia, and its covers were equally thick as well, yet there were only 5, 6 pages in total, making it a rather slim book.
"These grimoires are truly valuable treasures that can fetch upwards of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. In this book, the magic I used earlier, the White Flames, is recorded. Now normally, civilians aren't allowed to look at it, but…"
Johannsson muttered that Sae-Jin would never learn it while he opened the book's cover.
Betraying Sae-Jin's expectations quite nicely - he was expecting to see pages upon pages filled with equations and complicated words - the only thing he could see on the pages were large illustrations showing parts of the human anatomy and various blood vessels. There were strange arrows pointing to different directions within these drawings of blood vessels, as well.
"…What is this?" (Sae-Jin)
"This is a diagram for 'Mana circulation path'. A magic spell is formed when Mana is fused in a particular way, and you must circulate Mana according to this diagram in order to successfully fuse Mana and ignite the spell into life." (Johannsson)
Sae-Jin smiled and let out an exclamation. This was beyond his expectations. If this was the case, then there was no need for him to get hit by magic spells, was there? All he had to was to circulate Mana in his body according to the book to use magic.
"…However, it is not a cakewalk to move Mana within your blood vessels. That is where the 'chanting' comes into equation. With it, we're manipulating Mana, telling it to move this way, move that way, just like that. Not to forget, it's important to make sure a magic spell doesn't harm the caster. It's possible to lose one's life from his or her own spells." (Johannsson)
"So, that's how it is."
Sae-Jin ignored the Mana circulation path diagram and moved Mana around according to his own methods to recreate that White Flames spell.
For real, Mana began circulating similar to what the diagram was showing on the pages of the grimoire. However, as time passed, small differences crept up, and the end result became completely different.
Since a Leviathan circulated Mana in the most 'natural' manner, he couldn't be in the wrong - which meant that the grimoire's method was wrong. If he followed the diagram, then the circulation of Mana would end up tangled in a mess, and leak out unnecessarily, to boot.
"Uhm, by the way, this… Isn't this a bit strange? Doesn't it feel like Mana is getting all tangled up? It feels so unnatural, you know?" (Sae-Jin)
"…Hah? What are you talking about?!" (Johannsson)
Johannsson let out a hollow chuckle. The coldness in his eyes took a step further from being confrontational, to someone who was looking down on a disgusting insect.
"This grimoire is one of the greatest works ever written by the honoured High Elf Wizard, 'Toraque von Reiheims. But you're telling me it's wrong? Hah. Hahaha. Aigoo. You're making me laugh here." (Johannsson)
"Oh. Uh… did the greatest Wizard ever write this grimoire?" (Sae-Jin)
For sure, a Leviathan and a human were obviously not the same. A Leviathan was the so-called 'omniscient creature of Mana' that could store and understand all things Mana, while humans could only artificially force Mana into their bodies. So, it was a given that humans couldn't imitate a Leviathan's way of wielding magic.
"Oh, in that case, many of the world's grimoires must contain quite a few errors and incorrect bits, then. No, hang on. Most of them must be plainly wrong." (Sae-Jin)
However, he was currently in the 'human' appearance while storing Mana and understanding magic. In other words, not only the Elves but other people could very well follow his methods - the one which was far more naturally suited for the human's physiology.
"Now wait a damn second here!!" (Johannsson)
Of course, Johannsson shouted out in rage, thinking that Sae-Jin's declaration was tantamount to dismissing the entirety of the Wizarding profession.
"Who the hell do you think you are, to dismiss all our…" (Johannsson)
Kim Sae-Jin decided that, instead of words, it'd be better to speak with actions to Johannsson who was about to burst a blood vessel or two from pure rage.
For starters, he demonstrated the White Flames as written in the grimoire.
Seeing a sphere of white flames suddenly pop up over Sae-Jin's hand, Johannsson's jaw dropped to the floor. His mouth opened wide enough to shove two fists inside.
"However, this is too complicated and bothersome." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin snatched the grimoire off Johannsson's hands, as well as a pen stuck on the chest pocket of his robe.
And then, proceeded to scribble on the pages of a $2.7 million book.
Johannsson quickly snapped out of his speechless daze and realised the graveness of this situation. He then shouted out at the very top of his lungs.
"WHAT THE F*CK?!?! NOOOOO!!"
Johannsson rushed in like a wild animal, but too bad, Sae-Jin only needed less than two minutes to complete his 'corrections', thanks to his wonderful dexterity.
"Ah…. ah… My… three years' worth of salary is…" (Johannsson)
Johannsson looked at the grimoire, now full of chicken scratches, and despaired on the spot. However, Sae-Jin simply chuckled on the side.
"Why don't you try it out? It should be much easier now." (Sae-Jin)
"….You crazy motherf*cker!!" (Johannsson)
Johannsson sprang up like a loaded gun and clutched Sae-Jin's collars while spitting out expletives.
"You!! Compensate me, right now!! Now!!" (Johannsson)
Johannsson's reasoning had crumbled to bits a long time ago. He cried out desperately but Sae-Jin simply carried on smiling while summoning forth yet another ball of white flames.
And this one was on a completely different level to the previous ball of flames. If the previous flame was akin to a bonfire, then this one's pure white, ultra-high temperature was as if someone poured a barrel of jet fuel on top.
At this blinding white light, Johannsson was pushed back and he tumbled down to the floor.
"Wh… what the hell..?" (Johannsson)
"What do you think? If you follow what I've scribbled there, your own White Flames spell will be like this as well." (Sae-Jin)
Johannsson silently studied the ball of flames crazily burning up above Sae-Jin's palm.
This… was completely impossible.
But Johannsson of now couldn't even think of this.
As the words implied, he was in a total daze.
"You can come closer to take a look, you know. I've made sure it can distinguish enemies and allies."
< 35. The Wizard of Bangbae-Dong (1) > Fin.
(TL: "Bangbae" is a name of a suburb in Seoul. "Dong" is a Korean word meaning 'suburb or a district', btw. It's not something rude, I'll have you know.)
(TL: $48 out of $50 left for this week's third sponsored chapter. 48, because PayPal…)