A Monster Who Levels Up
It was a typical midsummer’s afternoon, with its accompanying sun blazing down – the worst type of weather, where taking only three steps would cause a bead of perspiration to trickle down one’s face. The heat-infused winds and unceasing sun’s rays were enough to cause a bit of resentment as well.
Underneath the clear, spotless blue sky, I wiped the beads of sweat off my face after lowering the pack of bricks to the ground.
My break only lasted for a moment, though. The unique, roar-like voice of the foreman was ringing out loudly. There were plenty of Kims in this construction site, but I knew very well which Kim he was looking for.
“Yes, yes. I’m coming. Coming.” (Kim)
I lacked enough energy to mount a serious complaint, so I just made my way to the foreman. He instructed me to move the rebars loaded onto the back of a delivery truck. I didn’t say anything, simply picking up dozens of those steel beams and moved them.
A normal person might say that I used some arcane skill or displayed a superpower or something after seeing what I did, but well, guys working here didn’t really seem to care anymore, as they were quite used to my antics already.
“As expected, you are really strong, aren’t you, lad?”
The foreman patted my shoulder while chuckling happily. But that slight touch caused the temperature on my skin to flare up and in turn, I didn’t feel so good about that.
Construction work was tough. Honestly, it was the worst. Especially during Summer, it got even worse than worst. Sweat poured out endlessly and clung to my skin like sticky glue, while the rancid body odour got more disgusting than a blocked up sewer.
“Well, yeah, sure. I guess so~.”
But, hell. What could I do? Since there was literally nothing inside my head, I might as well use this physical strength of mine like some dumb beast of burden.
“Seriously, lad. You truly have been born in a wr~ong, wrong era, man. If you were born at least 20 years earlier, then you’d have made more money than necessary to live like a king, you see.”
“You mean, as a Knight?” (Kim)
“A Knight, a Mercenary, whatever.”
I grinned slightly after hearing the foreman. I was satisfied by getting paid slightly more than other workers here. Plus, I didn’t have such high level of power to act like a Knight or a Mercenary, anyways.
“Anyways. You still can’t remember a thing?”
The foreman asked me in passing. I nodded my head.
I had no clue who I could be. Not one memory of my past prior to waking up in a hospital bed remained in my head. I got picked up by a stranger coincidentally as I floated on the waterfront of Busan, and was taken to the nearest hospital. Then, got my new identity after going through several interviews and consultations later.
If this was any old ‘normal time’, then my story would’ve been broadcast as a special circumstance or some such, but after that day, there were lots more suffering greater tribulations than me everywhere, which meant that there hadn’t been any particular article written about me until now.
“What a waste. With that kind of strength, you could’ve done whatever you wanted to.”
“It’s really not that amazing, so it’s fine not to fret over it, you know.” (Kim)
“I’m not talking about your strength only, but your great work ethic, too. I’m almost tempted to introduce you to my daughter, even…”
“…I’m just a construction worker, so not quite sure you should do that.” (Kim)
Although I replied like that, I was kinda curious – the foreman was taking sweet his time,
as if he’d pull out a photo any time, but then…
“Well, the thing is, I was just pulling your leg, you see. Hahahaha.”
…..Son of a b*tch. But I still forced out a smile.
“Ha. Ha. Ha.” (Kim)
“Still, out of everyone I know, you have the best physique, and not to mention that strength of yours. It’s a waste to see you like this, rotting away in a construction site.”
“And who in their right minds would employ a man with an uncertain background like me?” (Kim)
My face was plain, my height was average. They checked my prints but nothing showed up. I even had my iris scanned. Nothing. It was as if I didn’t exist before, and suddenly popped out of nowhere into this world.
“Well, sure, but…. Ah, that’s right. Why don’t you apply for a job in that bodyguard place, since they are recruiting new people? You should get elected for sure, solely based on your strength alone.”
“And why would I be elected, now…” (Kim)
“Five days a week, $3000 a month.”
“Oh. Do you have the pamphlets with you?”
If it’s three grand for five days a week, then it was more than doable. I could do another part-time job during the weekends. But, more importantly, I was already past 25 – according to my new identity – so I couldn’t stay and work at construction sites forever.
The foreman handed me a flyer, and as I read it, a small grin crept up on my face.
“If it’s five days a week for three grand, I will only be able to work on weekends, but will that be okay with you?” (Kim)
“Huhuh. It wouldn’t do to block a bright future of a young man such as yourself, now would it? When you show up wearing a nice suit, don’t forget to ask my daughter for her intentions, you hear?”
“There’s no need. I’m pretty sure she resembles you way too much, Mister foreman…” (Kim)
“What the?! You will get a huge surprise when you see her…”
I simply chuckled and glossed over the foreman’s outrage at his daughter getting involved now.
“This profession of personal protection service is completely different from the work of Mercenaries!! We value loyalty more than money….”
The giant hulk of a man charged with assessing the potential recruits was not assessing, but was in the middle of busy establishing militaristic discipline – through shouts, shouts and more shouts.
It must be quite effective towards other recruits, since their bodies were trembling imperceptibly, but I found it not scary at all, for some reason. No, rather than scary, it was more adorable, like watching a newborn chick tweeting or something.
“Do you understand me?”
“I can’t hear you!!”
Only then, the giant man nodded his head in satisfaction and continued.
“First of all, do not mistakenly believe that having a good physique is all you need to become a top bodyguard. Let me demonstrate. Oii, you.”
The man pointed at me. Meaning, the demonstration would involve me, so I couldn’t tell whether it was me or him enjoying the wickedness of rotten luck today.
“Come at me.”
I stepped forward as instructed. And then, ran towards his side as ordered, too. As soon as I made contact, he grabbed my waist and tried to lift me up, but….
Maybe, this was what they were referring to as ‘muscle memory’. I picked up the entire body of the recruit assessment guy and slammed him down to the ground.
The dude remained sprawled on the floor unconscious, his eyes slack. And there was thick silence descending on the place.
This guy must’ve been the top hidden ‘ace’ of this company, because other employees who came around to check out the assessment couldn’t stop their jaws from hitting the floor.
And that was how I got successfully hired as a temp.
That ‘five days a week, three grand a month’ thing was a total hogwash. I worked for a full month without a day off and ran around like crazy, yet the pay was only around $2200. It was far lower than I’d like, but then, the work itself was fun, so I decided to stick around for a bit.
Another reason was that, I seemed to possess a really sturdy body, which meant I didn’t need a lot of sleep and didn’t fall ill at all, either.
There was a time when I ‘protected’ a politician from a thrown egg; then, there was that time when I stopped someone from trying to invade the stage where an event was taking place; hell, I even chased away the so-called biggest fan – read stalker – of a certain girl group that other time as well.
The most important bit was me saving the girl group.
Right after that happened, one of the singers asked me for my number, making me wonder whether this was a dream or reality. Not sure what she saw in me, but she then asked me if I’d like to become her ‘manager’. Her name was ‘Yu-Ah’, by the way. A very pretty girl, too.
“Not interested. Besides…” (Kim)
“I asked the director, and we can offer you three and a half grand a month.” (Yu-Ah)
“….Why is the salary of a manager that high?” (Kim)
“Well~, because, I’m sure you’ll do a great job, and also, I asked the director really nicely, you know?” (Yu-Ah)
I was wondering how could a girl group that was just beginning to get noticed, carry any clout, but her next words stopped my thought train.
“And, the director is my uncle, too.” (Yu-Ah)
Well, in that case, I should grab hold onto this meal ticket, then.
“I was planning to resign soon, anyways. Oh well. Even if I run around for a year, my pay would freeze around at 2.5k, so if I consider my age… You know this too, don’t you? Stories about guys like me.” (Kim)
“How old are you?” (Yu-Ah)
“Your age.” (Yu-Ah)
I couldn’t recall it after getting asked out of the blue, so I whipped out the wallet and checked it again.
“I’m 25.” (Kim)
“Fut. Why are you checking out your own age?” (Yu-Ah)
I chuckled and made some stuff up on the spot.
And well, two years passed by after I switched my job from being a bodyguard to a manager of this girl group.
Of course, it wasn’t as if I was rubbish at my new job. It seemed that I was an excellent driver in my past, because as soon as I got my licence, I ended up morphing into the best driver in the company, enough to astound everyone else. Also, my luck was pretty good as well, since all the appearance deals on TV shows I brought in turned out to be massive successes as well.
Thanks to that, I got a promotion and became a head of the department while still staying as the group’s manager.
The work remained crazy busy, but what with the increase in salary, I finally got to enjoy a pretty good lifestyle now.
“Oppa. Don’t you wanna go to a party with me today?” (Yu-Ah)
It was on a certain day.
As we made our way back home after recording Yu-Ah’s solo album launch, she suddenly asked me while her cheeks dyed in slight red.
“What party are you talking about now?” (Kim)
“There is a really important party happening today, you know? I got lucky, and scored an invite for that.” (Yu-Ah)
“Okay, what is it?” (Kim)
“It’s the birthday party for Yu Sae-Jung unni.” (Yu-Ah)
“…..Yu Sae-Jung?” (Kim)
The name sounded somewhat familiar. No wait – if that name didn’t sound familiar, then I shouldn’t even be a human being. She was the most famous woman in Korea, after all.
As if she was really looking forward to this, Yu-Ah’s eyes were shining ever so brightly.
“Ng. You know, right? I did that show not too long ago, remember? I heard there will be a birthday party so I asked if I could come and she gave me an invite! Plus, I got another one, too! Well? You will go with me, right, Oppa?” (Yu-Ah)
I pretended to be in a dilemma, but well, I had made up my mind already.
“Since you asked me, yeah, I will.” (Kim)
I smiled at Yu-Ah adorably throwing up a fuss and pressed on the accelerator.
(TL: Back to the third person perspective.)
Aboard the so-called pride of TM, the cruiseliner, a big party was in the full swing of things. From the spectacular spotlights to various delicacies flown from all around the world, from the high-class music playing in the background to the smartly-dressed waiters – this party, where all the attending guests couldn’t stop praising it, was prepared for the sake of just one person.
And that was Yu Sae-Jung, the future inheritor of the Dawn conglomerate, as well as the director of the Dawn & TM’s Wizard Tower.
She was exactly the type of woman possessing the social clout and financial muscle to hold such a birthday party, that’s for sure.
“Well now, our Sae-Jung will soon become thirty, won’t she?” (Hazeline)
“Wow. You’re so right.” (Yu Sae-Jung)
After hearing Hazeline speak up, Yu Sae-Jung feigned shock and lightly clapped her hands. Yu Baek-Song quickly dug in between the gap created.
“And you will soon turn forty.” (Yu Baek-Song)
At this unexpected low blow, Hazeline’s brows furrowed slightly.
“…But you’re also forty, aren’t you?” (Hazeline)
“It’s not, when counted in Soo-in years.” (Yu Baek-Song)
“In that case, I’m also not.” (Hazeline)
“But Elves can’t live for long, right?” (Yu Baek-Song)
“I can live past 120 with no issues.” (Hazeline)
An average lifespan for an Elf was 1.5 times longer than a human’s. And befitting the reputation as the race of beauties, the aging process of Elves was far, far less severe than a human’s, even when hanging on by the death’s doorstep. It was not for nothing that there was a joke about an Elf with wrinkles being a few days away from dying.
“Whatcha gonna do about it, Miss 40?” (Yu Baek-Song)
“…..Yapping on and on, you’re being noisy, little kitty.” (Hazeline)
Yu Baek-Song and Hazeline glared at each other and started a psychological warfare.
However, their abrasive and childish tit-for-tat looked like an awesome high-level conference full of important discussions to the observers from afar.
“If we are to talk about ages, then the biggest problem is with our Captain, Miss Yu-Rin. Her age isn’t all that different from Hazeline Unni, and she’s neither an Elf nor a Soo-in, on top of that.” (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin giggled ominously and dragged in Kim Yu-Rin into this conversation, who just so happened to be busy chugging down lots of food on the side. Of course, Kim Yu-Rin got surprised by the inclusion, and coughed while patting her chest as if the food went down the wrong hole.
“…..Cough. W, why are you talking about me all of a sudden, now?” (Kim Yu-Rin)
“Because, we’re worried about you. Maybe not marriage, but how about going on a date with someone? You’re only getting older, you know.” (Yi Hye-Rin)
Unhappy but having nothing to retort with, all Kim Yu-Rin could do was to wordlessly glare at Yi Hye-Rin. It was then, Joo Ji-Hyuk cleared his throat a bit and intervened.
“Well, it should be fine, since Miss Yu-Rin is still very beautiful.” (Joo Ji-Hyuk)
“…..What the heck? Listen here, just whose husband are you?” (Yi Hye-Rin)
“No, I’m just saying…” (Joo Ji-Hyuk)
“How many times did I tell you not to look at other women besides me?!” (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin pinched both of Joo Ji-Hyuk’s cheeks and fixed his head towards her direction.
Yu Sae-Jung gazed at the two of them and recalled the happy yet sorrowful past. Then, for some inexplicable reason, she felt this sense of familiarity and turned her head around.
And there was a man standing there, who seemed quite familiar to her. That man was looking around with a pair of dumbfounded eyes, as if this was his first time attending a party like this one.
Seemingly entranced by something, Yu Sae-Jung’s feet moved on their own.
And soon after, as she got close enough to touch him.
Someone else appeared and took away his hand. Startled, Yu Sae-Jung took a couple of steps back. And the two people ended up discovering her presence because of that.
“Ah, Sae-Jung Unni!” (Yu-Ah)
The woman greeted her happily. And the man who resembled ‘him’ so much, lightly bowed his head.
“Uh, uh….” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“Is there something wrong?” (Yu-Ah)
“N, no. It’s nothing. Just….” (Yu Sae-Jung)
“Oh my? You’re suddenly using formal speech….” (Yu-Ah)
Unfortunately, Yu Sae-Jung couldn’t even utter out a single question before hastily retreating to a far away distance from them.
< Epilogue: Meeting Again (1) > Fin.