A Monster Who Levels Up
On a river, with a calm breeze gently blowing by.
Sae-Jin accompanied Kim Sun-Ho to the Seom River near the county of Hoengseong. They came here to scatter Kim Yu-Sohn’s ashes on the river according to his will.
At the upstream of the river, it was shallow enough to make them wonder whether renting a boat was strictly necessary, but as they neared the midstream, they were glad that they did.
*SFX for a small boat cutting through water*
The duo moved forward while silently enjoying the sounds their seemingly cobbled-together tiny boat made as it parted the water’s surface.
With a soft breeze tickling his face, Sae-Jin stood on the deck and took in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the mother nature, the wondrous scenic spots carved out by the flow of the river itself.
“My mom and dad met here for the first time, or so I heard. Dad must’ve been longing to come here, even in his dreams.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho spoke as he brushed the river’s surface with his hand. His voice was drowning in old memories.
Sae-Jin smiled imperceptibly.
“Well, he must have been happy, the place for their first meeting being this beautiful and all.” (Sae-Jin)
“Haha… yes, it must be so. Oh, yeah, by the way. I’ve always thought this, but I’m a lot older than you, Guild Master, yet it feels like you’re more mature than I am.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
“Hmm… Maybe, it’s because I’ve lost both of my parents a long time ago? It’s like, I’ve learned the life’s bitterest lesson very early on in my life. ….However, hyung-nim. I’m telling you it’s okay to speak plainly with me.” (Sae-Jin)
“Eii. I’ll get mighty uncomfortable real fast if I do that. Please don’t mention that. Ever.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
With the end of that conversation, they didn’t speak anymore. They had nothing much to say, anyways. They didn’t feel any awkwardness either, however. They simply enjoyed the beautiful sights and the much-needed respite from all the madness plaguing the world lately.
And as they silently let the time tick away, Kim Sun-Ho suddenly asked him a question.
“Should we do this together?” (Kim Sun-Ho)
He was talking about the ashes. Sae-Jin smiled bitterly and shook his head.
“No, that should be Mister Sun-Ho’s role.” (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sun-Ho nodded his head without saying a word. Then, he scattered the ashes of his father on the river. The grey-white ashes floated innocently on the surface and soon, descended to the floor, disappearing from the view.
And at the same time, a single tear drop formed on the eye of Kim Sun-Ho and gleamed like a lone star, as he continued to look on at the disappearing ashes.
Sae-Jin quickly averted his gaze.
As if the distant trees dotting the mountainside had felt the encroaching Autumn, their leaves were being dyed in a cacophony of colours.
Sae-Jin understood why Kim Yu-Sohn wanted his ashes scattered around here.
It was that beautiful.
Sae-Jin returned to his everyday life while still unable to shake off that forlorn emotion clinging on to him. He’d like to take a good rest after his mind got frayed a lot recently, yet his surroundings didn’t let him have one. As ever, the chaotic world demanded lots of things from him – artifacts, weapons, Mercenaries, Griffins, potions, and now, even grimoires…
“Ah, I almost forgot. Oppa, they say Hero Orcs have been found alive.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
After Sae-Jin ended his business call with Jo Hahn-Sung, Yu Sae-Jung laid her head down on his lap, before telling hi
m this news. Immediately, Sae-Jin snapped out from the mental fatigue and opened his eyes wide.
“Ng. I hear they rescued another young Knight recently.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“Around where?” (Sae-Jin)
He thought they had all died after getting mixed up in that huge explosion. Well, in that battle against the Three-Headed Ogre, the site of the Orc village got obliterated, after all.
“Apparently, near where their old village used to be. I hear they are rebuilding it from the ground up.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“…….What a relief.” (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin breathed out a sigh of relief. He thought that he should go there soon, since he was looking for a capable substitute to mass produce weapons for him.
Yu Sae-Jung studied him with curious eyes before continuing on with her eyes.
“Ah, right. Oppa, didn’t you say you have something important to do today?” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“I’ve postponed it.” (Sae-Jin)
“…..Ng? But was that something you can postpone that easily? Didn’t you say you were going to meet the Spanish Ambassador?” (Yu Sae-Jung)
To be more specific, it wasn’t the Ambassador, but the Prime Minister of Spain. The meeting was to discuss a variety of matters including reaching an agreement regarding potion supply, as well as to finalise all the deals, and that was why the Spanish Prime Minister saw fit to personally fly over here.
Unfortunately, the timing sucked as Kim Yu-Sohn had passed on so the date had to be postponed somewhat.
“It couldn’t be helped. You also know why, right?” (Sae-Jin)
Kim Yu-Sohn was an official member of The Monster Guild. Plus, he was also the very first Director of Operations for the Mercenary Company as well, meaning that many newspapers had to express their condolences on his passing on the front pages of their publications.
Thinking about him made Sae-Jin even more depressed.
Letting go of an important person was, indeed, a painful thing to do.
Yu Sae-Jung lifted her head after seeing the shadow descend upon Sae-Jin’s expressions.
She then pushed him down in the blink of an eye. After he fell down on the bed, a pair of rather soft sensations pressed down on his face.
He’d been wondering for a while now, but seriously, her twins had definitely grown bigger than when he first met her. Did she get an operation or something…?
“I heard that guys like it when girls do this.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
Sae-Jin chuckled after hearing her praise-worthy words.
“You learned something nice.” (Sae-Jin)
He wrapped his arms around her waist, while she hugged his head tightly.
Now that he was rubbing his face on a pair so soft and wonderful, a pair that made him happy simply by looking at them, his depressed mind seemed to regain some of its former brightness.
“By the way, they seem to be a bit bigger than before?” (Sae-Jin)
“….I borrowed my Trait’s powers a little bit. And I plan to do so from now on, too.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
Yu Sae-Jung declared resolutely. Sae-Jin guffawed out and closed his eyes shut. His head settled down, and as he felt relaxed, sleep began to creep up on him.
And just as he slowly drifted towards the bliss of slumber…
Out of the blue, Yu Sae-Jung’s sharp, questioning voice cut into his dimming consciousness.
“Ah, that’s right. Oppa, aren’t you meeting up with Knight Kim Yu-Rin way too often these days?” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“….Slurp, what are you talking about?” (Sae-Jin)
And he was about to fall asleep, too. Sae-Jin slurped back his drool and shook his head.
“You’ve been eating out with her frequently, right? Also taking lots of photos, too. At this rate, you might get to start a scandal way before me, don’t you think so?” (Yu Sae-Jung)
Up until a minute ago, she was the very personification of ‘model wife’, yet now, she was being sarcastic while glaring at him. Since she was looking down on him, it was kind of threatening for some reason. However, he still found her rather adorable.
Sae-Jin grinned and shook his head again.
“It’s simply because of work.” (Sae-Jin)
He couldn’t help it – he had no one else beside Kim Yu-Rin to discuss things with. He didn’t have much to talk about with the currently-bereaved Kim Sun-Ho, Hazeline was crazy-busy with the daily operations of the Wizard Tower, while Yu Baek-Song was just too childish. But on the other hand, Kim Yu-Rin was rich with experience having taken command on many different missions, plus she instilled confidence and trust as well.
If she was a man, then Sae-Jin would’ve worshipped him as a true hyung-nim.
“Seriously, it’s always ‘work’.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
While complaining that she had yet another rival to watch out for, Yu Sae-Jung pulled out her phone. At first, she loitered around Sae-Jin’s SNS profile with its over 150 million followers, before beginning her spying operation on Kim Yu-Rin’s profile that only had one-tenth of his followers.
Out of ten photos recently uploaded on the profile, eight of them were taken with Sae-Jin present. And it was said that Kim Yu-Rin’s followers rapidly increased precisely because of this.
“Wah, this is so unbelievable. Look, what is this? I never imagined Seuseung-nim would be like this, but this is just too much. She’s got more than three million followers than me.” (Yu Sae-Jung) (TL: a seuseung-nim is similar to “sensei” in Japanese. However, in this context, it’s being used sarcastically. No idea why the term was invoked here, though – not like Kim Yu-Rin taught Yu Sae-Jung anything…)
“And what’s bothering you so much like this…” (Sae-Jin)
“It’s fine. Please be quiet.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
Blurting out a blunt answer, Yu Sae-Jung stopped looking at SNS and moved on to news channels. She wanted to see if there were any stories that might sounded like a scandalous gossip, but rather than that, she found something else just as interesting instead.
“…..Ah, excuse me, Oppa? A mass armed unrest broke out in Spain just now.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“Eh? Why?” (Sae-Jin)
“Hmm… ‘Due to the inept diplomatic skills of the leaders, the meeting with Kim Sae-Jin has been cancelled, and so…’ Uhm, Oppa, is Spain going to be alright at this rate?” (Yu Sae-Jung)
Two of them remained silent afterwards.
It turned out, having a renowned fame and being able to influence the world wasn’t all roses and happy smiles.
Sae-Jin hurriedly held the promised meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister. The PM wasn’t someone who could move his schedule around that easily, yet he came running over in less than the proverbial single breath.
During this hurried-up meeting, the deal to export potions, several weapons of the Orc Blacksmith, as well as lending of Griffins got finalised. And so, Sae-Jin got to receive the Spanish PM’s heartfelt thanks, and hear the news regarding the unrest in Spain finally coming under control.
Really, it was a huge relief.
But he still didn’t have time to take it easy. That question he threw quite carelessly at the funeral, well, Bathory ended up saying yes to it. She then came to see him in the underground conference room on the following week.
When Bathory stepped into the conference room, thick silence fell.
“What is going on…?” (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin cautiously asked. Sae-Jin shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the newspaper on top of the conference table. On the headline, big letters shouting out ‘Mah-in, another one appears’ were clearly written for all to see.
“No way, that woman is responsible for that, too…?” (Yi Hye-Rin)
“Hey, you’ve got a bad mouth on ya, haven’t you. Who’s ‘that woman’ here?” (Bathory)
Bathory approached her while showing a bit of anger. Yi Hye-Rin couldn’t even meet her gaze and simply trembled in fear.
“You don’t have to get scared, though? She’s here to lend us a helping hand. Look at it as her repaying the favour of us successfully killing the Lord back then.” (Sae-Jin)
“Right. That’s correct. I don’t wanna become a Lord who can’t keep her promises, you see. I also don’t like what the idiots of el Las are doing, either.” (Bathory)
Bathory sat down on her seat. Then, crossed her legs and leaned her back on the seatback. But, before she could say something, her eyes radiated a dangerous glint after finding Cornlak lying on the conference room floor.
She fake coughed a couple times, and took a long look at Cornlak, before turning her head towards Sae-Jin’s direction. She slowly asked him.
“….Who does this creature belong to?” (Bathory)
“Ah, well, he’s the result from one of my Skills. For now, he’s like the conference room NPC.” (Sae-Jin)
“Is that so?” (Bathory)
Bathory licked her lips seductively. Her eyes were full of avarice.
“Give it to me.” (Bathory)
“No, you mustn’t!!” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Suddenly, Kim Yu-Rin shot up from her seat and shouted out. Even Bathory got stunned by her boldness.
“….What the heck?” (Bathory)
“What do you mean, a conference room NPC? Cornlak is our family!!” (Kim Yu-Rin)
She shouted out passionately, and embraced Cornlak. Although it looked more like she was currently captured by a giant wolf instead, but whatever, her actions seemed quite desperate nonetheless. As if this whole thing seemed ridiculous, Bathory broke out in a hollow chuckle.
“Huh. What’s up with her…” (Bathory)
“No, you can’t!!” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin shouted out even louder. Unfortunately for her, though – that was the wrong response in this case. Now normally, a personality where wanting to forcibly take away something precious from someone would be referred to as ‘rotten’, and well, Bathory was the shining beacon of a such rotten personality.
Bathory’s face hardened into a terrifying expression and she stood up from her seat. Then, with a threatening voice, she matter-of-factly handed down an order.
“….Give it to me. Right now.” (Bathory)
And so, for a short while, a tussle broke out over Cornlak’s fate.
The clash over Cornlak’s ownership ended in Bathory’s favour.
Bathory got drunk on the euphoria of victory and a sense of superiority while looking at the unstoppably sobbing Kim Yu-Rin, but Sae-Jin simply cancelled the summoning as soon as Bathory returned home with Cornlak, and then summoned the giant wolf back into the conference room.
Not too long after that, Bathory contacted him with a somewhat apologetic voice, saying that Cornlak must’ve ran away from her home.
Regardless of what transpired afterwards, Sae-Jin still deployed The Monster’s information network using the info Bathory had brought along.
And since the intelligence operatives of The Monster possessed excellent capabilities, the whereabouts of the el Las were uncovered pretty quickly.
The fake identity of the el Las’s leader was the son of some pharmaceutical company’s CEO. And his retainers were ’employees’ of the said company.
“So, what are you going to do now?” (Bathory)
Bathory asked Sae-Jin, and his head tilted slightly as he asked back.
“What were you thinking of doing?” (Sae-Jin)
“Kill them all, obviously.” (Bathory)
“….Don’t you have any other thoughts besides ‘kill’ or ‘let them live’ in your head?” (Sae-Jin)
“Well, do you have a better whatever? Don’t take us Vampires too lightly, you.” (Bathory)
Sae-Jin dumbfoundedly stared at Bathory for a bit, before extracting an energy bar from his pocket.
“What’s this?” (Bathory)
“You hungry?” (Sae-Jin)
“….Not really.” (Bathory)
“Then feed it to one of your subordinates.” (Sae-Jin)
From Bathory’s perspective, this was no different than some unexpected dog’s bark, so her face crumpled quite badly.
“And why should I?” (Bathory)
“This is food exclusively developed for Vampires. As long as I can solve the issue of sustenance, you don’t have to return to your former world, am I right?” (Sae-Jin)
“….What did you just say?” (Bathory)
Sae-Jin expected to be beaten up somewhat by her, with her saying that he had crossed the line needlessly or some such.
“…You lost your bloody mind, haven’t you?” (Bathory)
Unfortunately, on that day…
Kim Sae-Jin was beaten to a pulp, right up to the death’s doorstep. No, he really, seriously got beaten up until inches from dying. If he didn’t have potions, he might have really kicked the bucket from trauma alone.
Bathory also felt the same pain as Sae-Jin felt, yet she didn’t stay her hands. Not at all.
Only then did Sae-Jin realise the important fact – that was, the ‘home world’ was her so-called reverse scale. He should never, ever broach this subject at all.
At the end, she ruthlessly stepped on the back of Sae-Jin, who was lying sprawled on the floor like a corpse, and announced that she would cancel their cooperation deal if he pulled another crap like this, before leaving him there.
<47. Mah-in (1) > Fin.