A Monster Who Levels Up
The el Las used the Vampire-specific approach of sleep deprivation and mind control magic to make success of their many business ventures. Among those ventures, several were famous enough for many a job seeker to recognise their names outright. Truly, it was the case of ‘the base of an oil lamp is the darkest’.
A certain day in the middle of October.
Sae-Jin deliberately went for a day out near the vicinity of the pharmaceutical company owned by the el Las. Outwardly, it was to hold a business meeting, but the truth was, it was in order to snatch an important figure from the ranks of the el Las clan.
After ending the “sham” meeting with the Dawn’s representatives, Sae-Jin and his bodyguard for the day, Kim Yu-Rin, headed off to a restaurant well known to the locals. Named [The Master of Seafood], this sushi restaurant was positioned in such a way that the pharmaceutical company’s front entrance was clearly visible from Sae-Jin’s seat.
“Guild Master, will you please look over here?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
As he studied the company’s front view via the restaurant’s windows, Kim Yu-Rin, sitting in front, called out to him. When he took a glance, she was pointing the camera lens on her phone towards his direction.
Sae-Jin forced the corners of his lips to rise, and sure enough, with a soft click, she took a photo.
As if she was satisfied with the resulting shot, she nodded her head and moved her fingers quite rapidly. He didn’t have to look to know what she was doing right now. She was uploading the pic to her SNS profile.
“….You seem to be really active in SNS nowadays.” (Sae-Jin)
He spoke in a courteous voice that featured a spoonful of sarcasm as well. She finished uploading the photo, and then formed a wry smile while scratching the back of her neck.
“Ah, well, the thing is, I only started this because the Knights Order asked me to… But after I entered The Monster Guild and started uploading photos taken with Guild Master, the number of my followers suddenly exploded upwards. And I’ve got over ten million now… So, like, I can’t disappoint all my loyal followers now, can I?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Sae-Jin chuckled loudly after hearing an excuse that could have only come from Kim Yu-Rin.
“You must find it enjoyable, then.” (Sae-Jin)
“….Yup. This, it’s a whole new different world.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
After adding “there are always reasons why a medium would take off”, she returned to her phone. She was checking out the reactions of the followers that were popping up in real time.
“Still, please do it in moderation. Sae-Jung is worried about a scandal breaking out between you and I.” (Sae-Jin)
“Eiii, which dumb reporter would dare to ’cause’ a scandal with you, Guild Master? ….Ah, also, please consider what you’ve done in the past. You should be ready to endure this much, at least.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
….Well, with that reasoning, Sae-Jin had no excuse to offer. What he did was no different from making an utter fool out of her by swapping back and forth between the Orc Form and the human’s appearance. He should be grateful that she forgave him without resorting to performing acts of violence on his person.
“…Cough. Do what you like. I’ll even let you take a photo of me without a shirt on, if you want.” (Sae-Jin)
“Fuu fuu fuu. Thank you very much~.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin formed a pretty smile before snapping yet another photo.
Seriously, after she began doing SNS, and also after giving up on the future Guild Master position, she had become twice as more outgoing than before. Since su
ch a thing was quite charming to behold, he thought it was kind of troubling, though.
And so, they chatted for the next ten minutes, and just as the ordered food filled up their dining table…
Employees began streaming out from the company as the office hours drew to a close.
Sae-Jin activated the Eyes of the Wolf and studied all the faces as thoroughly as he could. And as expected, just about every one of the employees emitted a very faint trace of blood, with the imperceptible dark energy hovering right above them.
“They are indeed Vampires, alright. I don’t know how many are within the company itself, but 153 is a seriously high number, wouldn’t you say?” (Sae-Jin)
“Right, that is correct, but…. Was there a need for you to personally come here today?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
“Unfortunately, the intelligence operatives can’t distinguish Vampires all that well.” (Sae-Jin)
He had developed a tool to suss out Vampires way back when, but somehow, they had figured out a cunning method to evade detection.
It was then.
Sae-Jin discovered a b*stard with a particularly strong scent of blood as well as possessing an overwhelming amount of dark energy. And this sense of incongruity was coming off from an imported luxury saloon car driving past the front of the sushi joint.
He hurriedly pulled out the communication crystal to inform the waiting operatives hidden somewhere.
“The man riding on that Ferrache – the aura coming off from that guy is the strongest. Make him your primary target, please.” (TL: Lol. Ferrache. The author knows how to skirt copyright issues…)
He heard the confirmation coming from the crystal. Sae-Jin lowered his chopsticks and stood up.
“Let’s get going as well.” (Sae-Jin)
But Kim Yu-Rin tilted her head.
“But there’s so much food left, though?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
True, there were quite a lot of stuff they hadn’t finished yet, but they actually didn’t come here to eat…
The wide-eyed Kim Yu-Rin hurriedly waved her hands around, telling him not to misunderstand her intentions.
“No, no, I’m not saying we should finish everything here, but it’s just that, vacating our seats so early might rouse suspicions, you know? Besides, kidnapping the target is the role of the operatives, anyway.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Since what she said made sense, somewhat, Sae-Jin sat back down again. And he slowly began savouring the raw sushi.
About twenty minutes later, all that sushi filling up the table was gone.
Sae-Jin only got to eat around ten pieces. The rest entered Kim Yu-Rin’s tummy. Seriously now, wasn’t this some sort of public crime to shove four portions of sushi with every gulp?
Whatever the case may have been, after safely negotiating through the meal somehow, Sae-Jin settled the bill and they headed off to the parking lot.
“Please get in…. What the?!” (Sae-Jin)
But when he turned around while holding the car’s door open, Kim Yu-Rin wasn’t there.
When he searched around for her, he saw her hurriedly running towards his position, and for some reason, her arms were full of ‘hot bars’, too. (TL: Fish cake bars are called “hot bars” in Korea. Google it, it looks rather delicious.)
“I spotted them on the way, and they smelled nice, so…. Would you like some?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
As soon as Sae-Jin looked at her with disbelieving eyes, Kim Yu-Rin shyly replied and cautiously offered a hot bar to him.
However, an expression that said ‘I wanna eat them, so refuse my offer’ was written very large on her face.
He wasn’t planning to eat one anyways, but… he still received it. Indeed, she seemed to have asked him out of courtesy, because she began pouting almost immediately. Sae-Jin smirked and returned the hot bar back to her.
“I need to drive.” (Sae-Jin)
“Ah, what a pity. I shall finish them for you, then.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
Her face softened right away.
“Please, get in.” (Sae-Jin)
As he switched on the ignition, a communication arrived on the crystal.
– “We’ve secured the target.”
“Oh? Already?” (Sae-Jin)
“Chomp, chomp. As eespeted of de Monsta’s opheratibes. Reely ekseptional.” (Kim Yu-Rin)
“….Please speak after you finish chewing, first.” (Sae-Jin)
Right next day.
The kidnapped member of the el Las clan, the young Elder ‘Daniel Kim’ told them everything after falling under the control of Bathory’s mind magic.
“It seems that, the ones responsible for summoning Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees in America back then were the agents of el Las, and that Jin Seh-Hahn also perished at their hands as well.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
“Is that true?” (Sae-Jin)
Receiving Kim Sun-Ho’s report, Sae-Jin’s head tilted in confusion. It seemed that pretty much every incident that happened to him was the handiwork of the el Las, so he couldn’t help but wonder just what the Bathorys were doing until now.
“Yes, boss. We also learned that nearly half of the upper echelons of Eden are under the el Las’s grip as well. Using the records of Eden, they approached Mah-ins, and on the location right under the pharmaceutical company building, they are researching the methods to rip open the Fissure wider with the participating Mah-ins. Those Mah-ins that caused unrest are the ones that found the research frustrating and ran away from the facility.”
Kim Sun-Ho handed over the documents containing the relevant information.
This much was enough. By submitting this evidence to the government, Sae-Jin would be able to earn their cooperation in catching the members of the el Las clan.
But the problem was what to do with them afterwards. How would they deal with that many Vampires?
And he sure as hell didn’t feel like quietly slaughtering them in some remote location just like what Bathory had suggested.
“That’s right. What’s happening with that project?” (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin asked, as a thought popped up in his head during his mullings of the troublesome future. About a month ago, TM submitted to the Korean government its plans to supply the ‘energy bars’ to the incarcerated Vampires.
“I need to ask Mister Jo Hahn-Sung for a more detailed report, but…. starting from next week, they are planning to replace the swine blood with the bars, or so I hear.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
“Oh, that sounds promising.” (Sae-Jin)
Vampires only drank human blood and didn’t even spare a glance at the livestock blood at all. Most of the public criticised such clear display of arrogance, but if one were to take into account Vampires’ unusual ‘eating habits’, such a thing couldn’t be helped, really.
Even humans wouldn’t touch the literal sh*t just because of their hunger. To Vampires, animal blood was even more disgusting than excrements of humans.
“That sure is a relief to hear. And we’re almost done with developing various different flavours, yes?” (Sae-Jin)
“Yes, boss. By utilising the Wizards working in the Wizard Tower, the speed of research has been increased by a huge margin, apparently. Oh, and the flavour of the energy bars to be supplied to the prison is grilled pork belly.” (Kim Sun-Ho)
“Very good.” (Sae-Jin)
With a satisfied smile, Sae-Jin leaned back on the chair.
His goal wasn’t too far now.
As long as he could coax Bathory, as long as he could turn that nonsensical power into the ally of humanity…
He would be able to make the words of the dying Vampire Lord come true – ‘the monster, Bathory, will become the hero.’
And a week later, the news of energy bars being supplied to the only prison in the country designed to imprison Vampires, the Gunsan, got circulated in the media.
Even the public that debated endlessly on whether to kill every single Vampire out there, or to reconcile with those who could, watched with great deal of interest on the success of this mysterious energy bar.
Two weeks later, the warden of the Gunsan Penitentiary stepped in front of the gathered reporters to speak about the results.
Even Sae-Jin made an unprecedented appearance to this specially-prepared room for the press conference located in the prison. Unfortunately for the warden, he was under dizzying pressure after having a man reputedly possessing more influence than the country’s president stand before him.
The warden rubbed his pounding chest and swallowed nervously. He even took in several deep breaths before finally opening his mouth.
“I believe that the interest in this matter is quite exceptional, so I shall get right to the topic. ….On the first day of supplying the energy bars from TM to the prisoners, as expected, Vampires refused to comply.” (Warden)
Several reporters who had prematurely determined that the experiment was a failure let off sighs of lamentation.
“But, through hard work of the guards, a few Vampires began eating the bars.” (Warden)
That was written on the script. But the warden chose to not follow it.
“….No, truthfully, we forcibly fed it to them.” (Warden)
Camera flashes went off like crazy.
“And we have been doing that for a week.” (Warden)
The warden took his time, causing the gathered people to hold their breaths as well.
“And then, Vampires began voluntarily asking for the energy bars on their own.” (Warden)
As the warden spoke with a smile on his face, the sounds of reporters cheering on rang around the conference room. Sae-Jin confirmed that the warden wasn’t lying and breathed out in relief as well.
Kuongkwahng, kuongkwang –
Sae-Jin did his best to calm his wildely pounding heart.
“Of course, we do not know whether this change is because the only thing they could compare to is the blood of livestock, but, I can say that the prisoners have expressed their satisfaction in the energy bars. They say it tastes better than human blood.” (Warden)
That was expected. Vampires had never ever tasted any other type of food before, so the taste of grilled pork belly must’ve been an eye opener to them.
“And so, here we are, two weeks later. The number of riots that break out in a daily basis has decreased from the highs of several dozens to barely one. And those are the works of new prisoners who haven’t tasted the energy bars yet.” (Warden)
Sae-Jin couldn’t control his surging emotions and ended up clapping his hands. Even the politicians that had followed and took up the seats right beside him smiled brightly and clapped their hands as well.
“We are told that the purpose of incarceration is to rehabilitate the convicted criminals. But, serving as the warden of the prison dedicated to Vampires, I always found such an opinion sceptical at best. For the first time in my life, I thought that very idea, the one about rehabilitating Vampires, might work.” (Warden)
The warden ended the press conference with those words and climbed off the stage. Then, he reached out to shake Sae-Jin’s hand while saying how grateful he was. The politicians, full of smiles until now, suddenly became all venom-eyed and reacted over the top, questioning how dare he do that, but Sae-Jin ignored them and firmly grasped the warden’s hand.
“Thank you, for all your hard work.” (Sae-Jin)
Hearing Sae-Jin’s praise, the warden resolutely shook his head.
“No, sir. It’s me who should be thanking you.” (Warden)
Without a doubt, this handshake was being broadcast through various TV stations in real time.
What would Vampires, most importantly Bathory, be thinking about while watching this moment play out?
Sae-Jin couldn’t wait to find out.
< 47. Mah-in (2) > Fin.