A Monster Who Levels Up

Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Becoming a Wolf (2)

‘He’s following well,’ thought Kim Sae-Jin as he took a glance at the overly cautious male Hunter behind him.

It was a bit of a waste to leave behind the carcass of that dead Brown Wolf, but Sae-Jin figured that little guy wouldn’t be worth much as a material seeing how weak and famished it was. At most, the Korean government’s reimbursement would be worth less than $440 US. He would have to derive satisfaction from knowing that he was able to help these two Hunters today instead.

After walking for an unknown amount of time, the exit from the mountainous regions’ border could be seen in the distance. A signboard near it said, “From here on, the number of Monster encounters will increase.”

Confirming their location, Sae-Jin lowered the unconscious Hunter, who had a faint pulse, to the ground and glanced back.

“Heup!!”

The Hunter following Sae-Jin made a funny noise as he hurriedly held his breath in fear. Feeling rather mischievous after seeing that nervous appearance, Sae-Jin decided to pull a prank at the scared man.

– Krrrrng.

“Eeeeeeek!!”

Sae-Jin found the panicky reaction of the Hunter falling on his butt absolutely priceless.

‘Have a less dangerous life, Mister.’

The funny reaction caused Sae-Jin’s lips to twist upwards. He then lightly patted the shoulder of the sacred and sweaty Hunter with his front paw, and stepping past, he leisurely headed back towards the forest.

Left alone, Kim Tae-Jo remained there utterly dazed for a long time. The massive Brown Wolf had long disappeared into the thicket, but he failed to understand what had just happened…. this maddeningly weird experience.

Somehow recovering from the shock, he recounted the events from several moments ago. That big Brown Wolf…. That Monster…. It rescued him.

Unsure of whether he was dreaming or not, Tae-Jo sharply slapped his face.

“Ouch.”

It hurt. Therefore, it was definitely not a dream. Still dazed, Tae-Jo’s stares fixed on the direction where the mystery Brown Wolf had gone off to.

“…Cough, cough.”

“Ah, Sang-Yun!! Can you hear me?!”

The wounded comrade, Sang-Yun, coughed weakly, breaking Tae-Jo’s dazed state. He quickly shouldered the fellow Hunter and stood up.

“Heeeey, over here!!”

Tae-Jo shouted out aloud and soon, he could see some sort of stirring by the guard post building over yonder by the exit.

“Please help!!”

After determining the location of the desperate voice, soldiers hurriedly ran towards his direction. A relieved smile broke out on Tae-Jo’s face as he realised that he’d be able to live for another day, all the while momentarily forgetting about the dream-like event of a Wolf saving him.

*

“A Spirit Beast?”

“That’s right. That’s the only fitting explanation for what happened. That massive size, that display of human-like intelligence….”

Once more, Tae-Jo’s expression became profoundly moved after recalling the event as he sipped some warm tea.

“But, can a Monster evolve into a Spirit Beast?”

A soldier manning the border exit guard post tilted his head in puzzlement and asked, unconvinced.

Spirit Beasts were creatures seemingly blessed by Divine Spirits. They were unfathomably mysterious beings; their physical abilities and mental prowess were greatly enhanced as they accepted the aura of Mother Nature. They were essentially different from the vicious beasts with Mana that ran amok, and so, were treated differently as well.

“If it’s a Wolf, then there’s a good possibility. Right now, Wolves are treated like Monsters because of their vicious nature but, originally, they were wild animals to begin with.”

“…If that’s true, then, wow…that’s some mystery.”

The soldier couldn’t fully believe Tae-Jo’s words. That was because, a Spirit Beast wasn’t some common existence. For instance, the legendary creature, Nine Tailed Fox, was included in the category of Spirit Beasts.

Facing the sceptical attitude of the soldier, Tae-Jo creased his forehead while opening his mouth.

“There is no ifs. It’s the honest truth. I really did encounter… Ah, that’s right!!”

Suddenly remembering something really important, Tae-Jo shouted out and shot up from his seats.

“The Recording Lens!! I was wearing the Recording Lens at the time!!”

A Recording Lens did what its name implied – it recorded images reflected on the retina. Dirt-poor hunters like Tae-Jo, who could only survive day to day by earning his keep the hard way, wore this lens every now and then when going out on a Monster hunt. It was for that off chance of seeing a rare Monster that could be worth something. That, or if there happened to be a particularly detailed recording of a hunt, he could sell it off to make extra cash on the side, calling it “educational material.”

“…Eh?”

“Just wait a dang moment!! I’ll definitely show you!!”

The soldier worried about seeing blood pour out for a moment as Tae-Jo hurriedly began digging into his eyeball, fishing out a single lens.

“Here, here, take a good look!!”

****

“Achoo!!”

Around the same time, in a nearby cavern Kim Sae-Jin in his Goblin Form suddenly sneezed out during the middle of dismantling a Monster corpse.

“…*sniff*”

He wiped his itchy nose with the bloodied hand and finished organising the extracted Monster materials before putting them away, then took a seat on a stone chair.

“Keuheng.”

One of the Goblin’s traits was “unable to stay still.” It was practically impossible to remain still in the Goblin Form as a result. Blowing his nose, rubbing his hands for no reason, making weird noises – they were instinctual habits and Sae-Jin ended up doing them involuntarily.

Sae-Jin deeply hated this side of the Goblin Form so he promptly changed back into the Brown Wolf Form. Lying snugly on the flat stone bed, he willed the Status Window to appear before him.

►Trait ⸢Monster⸥

⸢Rank: Rare⸥

⸢Trait Level: 3⸥

– Species changed from Human to Monster. Once per 24 hours the host can maintain the Human Form for 70 Minutes, calculated from the numerical value of [Energy Manipulation] stat.

– Stats of the Monster Forms will be reduced during the Human Form.

– Desire to sleep has been lost.

– Currently maintaining the Brown Wolf* Form.

► Status

[Physical Strength 16] [Endurance 15] [Agility 19] [Energy Manipulation 7] [Mana Affinity 1] [Magic Strength 1] [Luck 3]

[*Brown Wolf: Strength and Defense increase by 5, Agility increases by 8. During the Human Form, the effects will be reduced by ⅓.]

===

The results of a month’s effort was his Trait level increasing by a whopping 2.

–Krrrrng.

Sae-Jin growled. He was dissatisfied and angry at the slow rate of his progress.

It was almost a month ago when he resolved to become a Lycanthrope. He packed all his meager belongings together and set off to the Gangwon Province. It was like doing a Time Attack in a video game – his previous home in the suburbs of Songpagu was 30 minutes away from the mountains of Gangwon, a feat impossible if it weren’t for the advent of the Mana Trains. (Songpagu is a suburb in the capital Seoul and its defo much further than 30 minutes from Gangwon.)

Cutting it fairly close, Sae-Jin cautiously evaded the eyes of the military and the Knights Orders, and successfully sneaked past the borders of the mountain region undetected.

At first, he had no idea what he should do. Suddenly barging into the land of Monsters, Sae-Jin had to repeatedly suffer through confusion and chaos. And when Monsters challenged him, he fought them off by turning into either the Orc Form or the Wolf Form and survived.

It was a painful experience. The smell of raw flesh stuck between his teeth nauseated him, the unpleasant sensation of pummeling the life out of his victims with a blunt weapon – all these experiences were something he just couldn’t really get used to. He even cried himself to sleep every night thanks to the anxiety of steadily losing his humanity gnawing at him.

But the feeling of disgust lessened as time passed, and even though he couldn’t readily accept them, just like that, Sae-Jin was progressing step by step towards achieving his goal.

The first thing he did after entering the mountains was to find and secure a nice cave that couldn’t be located by the Hunters. He turned it into his base of operations. Then naturally, he started living there for good.

Utilising the Goblin Form’s surprisingly deft hands, he remodeled the interior of the cave, and to withstand the cold weather, he lined up the fur of several Monsters around the place.

There was a stream nearby so that was drinking water taken care of; he also roasted the meat of wild animals he caught for sustenance.

After that, all he did was a nonstop hunting.

When he was at a level 1, pretty much every single Monster he fought posed a serious threat to his life. That was even including the other, common-variety Brown Wolves.

So he used his head a little. Sae-Jin only picked on those poor wolves that were rejected from its own pack or were too dull-witted, and by relying the Orc Form’s much greater physical strength over that of his victims, he smashed their skulls in. After smashing 10 heads, his Trait had its very first “level-up.”

But the changes he went through were slightly different than expectation. Sure, both the bodies of the Orc Form and the Brown Wolf Form became a lot bigger and his stats became just that stronger, but weirdly, the Goblin Form stayed the same.

However, what he wanted wasn’t this type of “growth.” What he came here for was to “evolve.”

Such as to become the higher ranked Monster in the Wolf species after the Brown Wolf, the Grey Wolf. For the Orc Form, it was the Orc Warrior. For the Goblin Form…. uh, whatever was higher up.

Instead of the evolving, his Forms remained the same and only the “stats” improved.

Sae-Jin didn’t lose heart though, and just poured in more effort. He thought that maybe he just needed to level up once more.

It was disappointing but at least the hunting became easier with his Trait Level being 2 now.

Even if he fought against other Brown Wolves, he was over 1.5 times larger, and it was evident that the disparity in strength was greater still. In other words, he became the top predator in this neighbourhood almost in an instant.

But leveling up became increasingly difficult. From Level 1 to Level 2, he only had to spend 3 days and kill 10 preys. However, for Level 3, even nearly 30 days and 100 kills proved to be insufficient.

Frustrated, Sae-Jin thought about heading to a hunting ground with higher tier Monsters only to give up on that idea.

That was because, in the world of Monsters, the difference in power between two tiers was like heaven and earth. It was actually that enormous.

The easiest example was to compare a Brown Wolf to a Grey Wolf.

The Brown Wolves were ranked lowest tier, and the Grey Wolves were also ranked as a low tier, just one place above them. That was it.

But if Brown Wolves wanted to hunt down one Grey Wolf, then at least a single pack consisting of over 12 individuals were needed.

That’s why, without any other choice he had to repeatedly grind away like crazy in this lowest-level hunting ground for the past 31 days. Finally, he was able to level up one more time.

But perhaps inevitably, what awaited for him was the growth of his stats and not the evolution of his Forms. His size and overall power might have grown to a point where he could rival a Grey Wolf, a creature that could easily contend with a full-size tiger, but in the end, he still couldn’t become a one.

‘Just what is it that I need to do?’

An unexpectedly cute sound escaped his nostrils as he sighed in his Wolf Form. None of the hapless Hunters would’ve thought he was cute though as they would be too busy running away like scalded cats after encountering his massive Brown Wolf Form.

As he was sinking deeper into his worries, suddenly, strange texts popped out in front of his eyes.

⸢Condition Complete: Minimum Reputation.⸥

– The minimum of 100 people have engraved the existence of “the Brown Wolf” into their minds. All stats rise by 1.

– The Grey Wolf Form is available for host instead of the Brown Wolf. All stats related to the Wolf Form will be adjusted accordingly.

– “The Grey Wolf’s Sense of Smell” will be available during Human Form. (Active Skill)

[Physical Strength 22] [Endurance 21] [Agility 28] [Energy Manipulation 8] [Mana Affinity 2] [Magic Strength 2] [Luck 4]

[*Grey Wolf: Strength and Defense increase by 10, Agility increases by 16. During the Human Form, the effects will be reduced by ⅓.]

“….Fuuheng??”

This inexplicable change was so out of nowhere, Sae-Jin was momentarily at a loss for words.

But after recovering quickly, using the pair of inquisitive, excessively round eyes he ascertained the condition of his new body.

Definitely, he had changed.

His previously doggy-brown fur had completely morphed into a new shiny, grey coat.

< 01. Becoming a Wolf (2) > Fin.

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