A Monster Who Levels Up
The Breath fired out well before the Orc could even react. However, it still collapsed into nothingness when a flash of golden sword light swept by. As expected, even without the support of Mana, the power of Kim Yu-Rin's Gungnir was something else entirely.
"What the heck is going on…?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin panicked somewhat as she stared at this strange bird.
As if it got pissed off by the failure of its attack, the bird angrily tweeted out while flapping its wings all over the place.
The Orc firmly grasped his mace and pulled Kim Yu-Rin back behind him.
The bird chirped like a little chick again, its bright and intelligent eyes staring at both of them.
The Orc took a glance at Kim Yu-Rin. For some weird reason, she was busy licking her lips…
"Doesn't matter. Still dangerous." (Sae-Jin)
"….I'm aware of that already. I also witnessed it spew out a Breath just now, you know." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"If you know, then concentrate properly."
Sae-Jin the Orc activated the Eyes of the Wolf. Unfortunately, even with the eyes that could easily suss out everything about the opponent, he couldn't spot that bird's weakness at all. In other words, that monstrosity of a bird didn't have a weak point.
Of course, that didn't mean it was the most powerful being in the world. And it sure looked plenty weak, enough to make him think that it would be squashed into a fine meat paste no matter where he lands a hit…
"But, but, isn't it still a youngling? I mean, isn't there… a way to tame that creature?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Although she was currently in the state of being charmed, what she said did have some merit to it. If it was possible, then that bird would become an enormously powerful ally.
The Orc fell into a slight dilemma.
In that short gap, the Monster spat out yet another Breath with a loud Ppheeeck!! This time, the Orc stepped up and blocked it. The attribute imbued to the mace called [Destruction, A level] could even render magic attacks completely useless; when the Breath met the mace, it dispersed like blowing dust. At the same time, the thoughts of taming the darn thing dispersed as well.
"You, want to tame that? That thing, very bad. Ugly attitude." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Yu-Rin wordlessly scratched the back of her neck.
"Must kill it. Now." (Sae-Jin)
Maybe because it was nothing more than a new born, although it did possess abnormal strength, it was still way too early to fight against the Orc and Kim Yu-Rin. However, considering its young age, no doubt the damn Monster would evolve into something far more dangerous in the future.
"Oh well, if it's for the best, then I guess there's no choice." (Kim Yu-Rin)
After agreeing with the Orc's assessment, Kim Yu-Rin grasped her sword tightly while her expression darkened. As if it had sensed the oozing killing intent, the bird opened its beak wide. The Orc and Kim Yu-Rin tensed up, wondering just what type of Breath this thing might spew out next.
*SFX for an empty stomach rumbling*
A sound that easily shattered the seriousness of the situation resounded out. The Orc shot Kim Yu-Rin a glare automatically. She quickly shook her head vehemently, her face reddening.
"Y, yes, it wasn't me!! Really!!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
The Orc didn't retract his accusing stares, but shifted it towards Cornlak who was busy growling at the bird. However, there was no way a specially-summoned creature like his wolf would feel hunger. That left only one other possibility…
"…That chick, don't you think maybe it's just hungry?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
"We might be able to lure it with food, you know." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin's voice was full of mirth.
However, the Orc quickly saw through the ominous gathering of Mana wi
thin the bird's innards.
"No. Step back!!" (Sae-Jin)
The Orc left Kim Yu-Rin in the care of Cornlak and dashed towards the bird. Too bad, the creature flapped its wings and hurriedly ran off into the air.
And so, the bird circled around the two's head for a bit, before opening wide its beak once more.
The Orc quickly threw the mace at the bird. But before it could hit, an inconceivably powerful storm winds rushed out from that tiny beak of the Monster.
No, more correctly, rather than 'rushing out', it was more like the Monster was sucking everything in with that small mouth.
If one was to compare this to the previous Breath attacks, it wasn't all that threatening. But still, there was one big problem - it wasn't just a threat only to the Orc.
Suddenly, Kim Yu-Rin collapsed. The Orc hurriedly looked back. Riding on the swirling air, her Mana was being drained out and sucked into the Monster's mouth.
Initially, the colour of escaping Mana was the usual blue, but soon, its hue darkened gradually, until… it became the hue of blood as it left her.
She was going to die at this rate. The Orc threw the mace again, but the damn Monster easily evaded the thrown weapon by floating this way and that.
In the end, he chose to use 'Mana Crafting'. He remotely manipulated Mana found in the air and formed a spear out of it, then fired it at the belly of the Monster.
It seemed that the Monster couldn't dodge the spear that shot out from literally the thin air. One of its wings were badly maimed, which finally prompted the creature to stop sucking out Kim Yu-Rin's Mana, and then, in panic, it flew higher and higher until it disappeared into the darkened ceiling.
Of course, he couldn't chase after it, even if he wanted to. The Orc's instincts were busy telling him to climb up the cavern walls just to smash that deceptively-cute face in to a mush, but there was someone else who needed his attention far more urgently.
With shaking hands, Sae-Jin quickly drank the potion designed to suppress the Orc's instincts.
Finally regaining his senses, Sae-Jin walked back towards Kim Yu-Rin. If there were blood mixed in with Mana, that meant the forceful absorption had nearly pushed her over the death's doorway. He could easily see that her face was wanner compared to before.
The Orc shouted out as he shook her.
At his thunderous shout, she broke free from the grips of unconsciousness and slowly opened her eyes.
"You, still alive?" (Sae-Jin)
Within her blurry sight, Kim Yu-Rin could see the panicking face of the Orc.
Didn't he say that he chased her away, because he didn't like her anymore - so why was he showing such panicked face, she wondered. But then, she no longer had the leisure to worry about such a thing.
As she silently closed her eyes once more, something slipped inside her mouth.
It was a weird feeling thing, this - rock hard, yet soft and malleable. There was no taste to it, and equally, no scent either. But her body reacted first and she began swallowing down this strange foreign substance. At the same time, a mysterious effect took hold of her body, but this was as far as her memories could record, as her consciousness fell deep into darkness.
The emergency treatment proved to be successful. If he didn't make a artificial Mana Stone on the spot and feed it to her, she would have drawn her last breath right here.
Although she had received a life-threatening injury, as her body was in the most tip-top shape imaginable, it didn't take too long for her to open her eyes again.
She looked gaunt and haggard as too much of her Mana got sucked out, but he actually preferred this appearance. The thing was, the Orcs' original nature made them hate the sickly and the dying. The medicine had run out already now, so this was better, compared to being healthy and full of life. (TL: I've no idea what the author is trying to write here. I've TLed it literally, but he just makes no darn sense at all…)
"You, can't use Mana yet?" (Sae-Jin)
The nameless bird that stole away even the last drop of Kim Yu-Rin's Mana was long gone by now. And there was not one sign of the rescue party coming for them. The only fortunate thing was that, there was more than enough food collected inside his Expanding Pocket. That was it.
"…You, feel bad somewhere?" (Sae-Jin)
"I'm more or less okay… for now. But I should have realised that there is parasitic Mana flowing inside me. I'm a Knight, so I should have been prepared even for the unexpected…"
The parasitic Mana. Normally, there were a few special Monsters that possessed completely different anatomy and type of Mana compared to that of humans. And the 'parasitic Mana' was one of the most bizarre and difficult to deal with, among the unique types of Monster Mana out there.
This flow of Mana came with some form of sentience, and it would voluntarily enter another lifeform's body. Then, it would start blocking the natural flow of the host's Mana, forcibly 'stockpiling' it.
And when the owner of that parasitic Mana showed up again, the stockpiled Mana, along with the parasitic one, would be absorbed into the Monster.
So, when viewed from that point, the white bird was an exceptional specimen, indeed. The host was not just anyone but the Kim Yu-Rin, and it didn't even take 20 seconds before she was driven nearly to death by its ferocious appetite.
"…I've survived thanks to you. Mister Orc, thank you very much." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"Call, if you need something." (Sae-Jin)
Chuckling slightly, Sae-Jin the Orc tried to exit the stone hut, but…
"…Excuse me." (Kim Yu-Rin)
She stopped the Orc from leaving, and with her head peeking out from below the improvised bed sheet, cutely added a couple more things.
"I, uh… am feeling hungry…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
The Orc didn't take long to cook up some gruel and brought it to her.
"…I can't move my hands well." (Kim Yu-Rin)
He ended up feeding her.
"Thank you." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Finally, Kim Yu-Rin was satisfied and gradually fell asleep.
Pretty soon, the Orc became a butler - or maybe, a servant.
When she got hungry, he cooked more gruel for her; when she tried to get in some exercise with that still-recovering body of hers, he pushed her back into bed; when she was bored, he sat there and listened to her, and even helped her fall asleep when she couldn't do it alone…
However, there was one upshot to all this: she didn't come outside the hut anymore, so when she was resting inside, Sae-Jin could revert back to human form to catch his breath.
Meanwhile, all these foreign happenings became a refreshing experience and a wonderful memory for Kim Yu-Rin. She enjoyed the gentle happiness rising from this feeling of being someone precious. Well, although she had looked after many of her subordinates, not once had she received such one-sided care before until now.
Yes, she was stuck in this darkness, and yes, there was that parasitic Mana still squirming inside her, yet she felt good everyday. Of course, she was still human, so before she went to bed, brand new fears and even bouts of depression rose up one after the other. But thanks to the Orc coming to visit her bedside, she could endure it.
As a result, her smiles occurred far more frequently than ever before.
And so, while relying on each other, or more correctly, the Orc becoming the unconditional anchor for her to rely on, a week went by.
While her Mana wouldn't circulate until she received proper medical care outside, still, she had regained most of her vigour back.
"Rescue party, here very soon." (Sae-Jin)
The Orc spoke as he patted Cornlak. He found this out after using the Eyes of the Wolf to thoroughly observe the sky-high ceiling. Countless Knights and rescue personnel had seemingly completed all the necessary preparations to begin the rescue operation.
"…Is that so?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
However, Kim Yu-Rin showed a strange reaction that was neither happiness nor sadness. While pouting, she began clicking her tongue. Cornlak stealthily left the Orc's side and trotted over to her.
When the Orc glared at the huge wolf with dumbfounded eyes, Yu-Rin stuck her tongue slightly out. Merong.
"…When we get up there, we won't run into each other again, right?"
Kim Yu-Rin wordlessly brushed Cornlak's fur for a little while, before asking him as if she was talking about the passing weather.
The Orc replied coldly.
She buried her head in Cornlak's luxurious fur with a depressed expression.
Her mind was getting messy once more.
A Monster not running into humans - well, that was par for the course, really. No, it was simply stating the obvious. But why did the corner of her heart feel like…
Kim Yu-Rin silently swam within her thoughts. Several useless and messy thoughts about the Orc and herself filled her head up.
The two of them spent what could be their last day of staying down here in unbreakable silence.
Next day. Kim Yu-Rin slowly opened her eyes, prompted by faint noise of chatter and equally faint light beams coming from above. She then heard conversations.
Realising that the rescue party had finally come, she lifted her fatigued body up from the stone bed. Her throat was parched and every muscle in her body was aching. She was about to be rescued, yet she didn't really feel all that good. No, she felt somewhat lonely and disappointed, instead.
"I see a stone house down there!! And then, an.. Orc!! Hey, someone up there, quickly pass me my sword!!"
Seeing that something bad might happen at this rate, she pushed her body and exited the stone hut. As soon as she stepped out, she saw the Orc sitting on the stone bed, his face impassive as usual as he opened his mouth.
"You woke up?" (Sae-Jin)
This time, Kim Yu-Rin didn't say anything.
Her emotion was in a mess.
To be perfectly honest, she didn't want to part ways with him.
This emotion where she wanted to stay next to someone through thick and thin, this emotion where she would feel happy and conflicted all at the same time, she didn't expect to feel it towards the Orc… but it happened.
The time they spent together within this darkness was just long enough, and the Orc's wholehearted caring was also enough to powerfully move the weakened Kim Yu-Rin's heart.
"Me, say nothing from now on. You, speak for me when we go up." (Sae-Jin)
"…I'll leave you behind alone." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"You're a monster, that's why." (Kim Yu-Rin)
The Orc glared at Kim Yu-Rin dumbfoundedly. She didn't avoid his eyes and squarely met them with her own. Then, she began to feel disappointed again. Why was he being so indifferent like this? Couldn't he be just a bit nicer towards her? A certain emotion inside her suddenly welled up uncontrollably.
"To me, it won't matter whether you're outside or inside this hole, if you are not planning to meet me anyways…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Even while on the verge of tears, she didn't shed a single teardrop.
"…Can't be helped. Then, you, go up alone." (Sae-Jin)
Even her final triumph card didn't work against the determined Orc.
Meanwhile, several Knights wielding swords shouted at them while being lowered by the magically-operated lift system.
"Knight Kim Yu-Rin!! Is that you, ma'am?"
"…Yes. Over here." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Although she hesitated, she still answered them in the end.
"Please, stand aside!! We will take care of the Orc and the wolf!!"
At this declaration, she shifted her gaze to the Orc, to Cornlak, and back to the descending Knights above. She stifled a sniffle and wiped the droplets of water pooling on the corners of her eyes.
And then, opened her mouth.
"No, there is no need for that. This here is… the 'Hero' Orc, you see."
< 37. An Orc and a Lady Knight (4) > Fin.
(TL: $33 left out of $50 for this week's first sponsored chapter.)