A Monster Who Levels Up

Chapter 21

– Investigators are suspecting the involvement of Vampires for the Fissure’s eruption, after discovering numerous skeletal remains and bodies drained of blood at the abandoned church near the eruption’s point of origin. With the first Monster Outbreak in nearly 5 years as well as the sudden appearance of Vampires that hadn’t been seen in recent times, the citizens are worried that… (TL: Had a real trouble with the word "구밀교회" I literally have no idea what it means, other than that it's a church. Google says it’s an "old" church. In the previous chapter, there was a mention of a nameless church, so I went with "abandoned". Hope it’s more or less accurate…)

In the middle of sorting out things to throw away and things to take with him, Sae-Jin’s eyes were pulled towards the images coming out of an old TV. It was a news about the suspected reappearance of the Vampires.

"…."

He unconsciously held tighter the photo frame in his hand after seeing that news. It contained his one and only family photograph. Taken the day before he lost his mother, it was a memento now stuck in the boundary between nostalgia and an old, unhealed wound; this faded photograph signified the final day of his childhood he had shared with her.

When he thought back to that day, perhaps she must have sensed her own death approaching. That day, the one before what they packaged it as an "unfortunate accident". He remembered her unusually bright, yet somehow, unusually sorrowful face. She took the photo with her young son and had the frame made, and in the following morning, she left home for work - and never came back.

Officially, at least, they said it was a car accident. But even in his young age, Sae-Jin suspected something was amiss. If it was indeed a car crash, then her body would not have been that clean, nor would she be that pale. When they were putting her inside the casket, she seemed to be in a deep, peaceful slumber instead.

But whatever the case might have been, there was nothing he could do at that time. He was just a 7 year old, recently orphaned kid back then.

– Since the government declared the "war on Vampires" 18 years ago, all Vampires had temporarily hidden from the world, but this incident serves as a proof that they still operate in underground societies….

Sae-Jin bit his lip without realising it. They were just stinking bats, or maybe just trash, or something much worse than that, like pieces of excrement utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Because they lived off human blood as their sole food source, Vampires just could not coexist with the rest of humanity. Actually, it wasn’t like humanity acted inconsiderately towards them; not at all. But it was they who betrayed the mankind with a reasoning of "animal blood is unfit." (TL: literally said "animal blood is unclean." Thought that under the context, unfit sounded more correct.)

And now, those motherf*cking bat bastards were acting up again…

Sae-Jin clenched his fist and stared at his reflection in the mirror.

The kid from 15 years ago who only knew how to cry was not there anymore.

***

Orcs were truly special Monsters in that their individual ways of life were remarkably different depending on their rankings.

Orcs and Orc Warriors found in the Lowest to Low Tier Hunting grounds never formed packs. They lived lonely lives, only meeting others out of necessity to copulate and to proliferate. So, they didn’t use any weapons, and if they did, it was only to the extent of wielding crude wooden things.

But the story changed for Orcs found in low Mid Tier Hunting ground or higher. They were similar in a way to Goblins in that these Orcs gathered in large numbers to form villages, but the difference was that their roles had been clearly divided.

Orc Scouts with their quick feet, searching for the locations of drinkable water and sustenance; Orc Warriors and Orc Jaguars for hunting according to the intel gathered by the Scouts, or to fight other Monsters, Knights and Hunters; Orc Great Warriors that safeguarded the village after having accrued experience and wisdom; And the Orc Chieftain that governed the village itself.

"Hey, wait a sec, is that…?"

"Shh!! You’re right. It’s an Orc village."

Unfortunately, compared to the level of danger posed, an Orc’s remains didn’t fetch a high price. Ignoring the rankings, a lone Orc Great Warrior possessed enough power to fight evenly against a Knight of at least an upper Mid Tier ranking and above.

But even then, the Knights Orders would still raid the village of Orcs with an unmatched madness.

There was only one reason for this - the "Orc’s Forge."

"Today’s luck is pretty good. Mark the position in the GPS and let’s vamoose, pronto."

"Okay. But dude, that’s almost a mid-sized village, so how much would it be worth to them?"

Within an Orc village, there existed several rudimentary smithies.

One could say that the main job of Orcs living in a village could very well be weaponsmiths, as they individually crafted their own weapons to use. That was the reason why the degree of weapons’ completion differed from an Orc Warrior, an Orc Jaguar and to a Great Orc Warrior.

However, as an Orc’s smithing skills got better the higher its ranking was, those creatures living without a village down by the Lowest and Low Tier Hunting grounds, as well as those in the villages found within the low Mid Tier hunting ground where the skill levels weren’t as impressive, they did not garner much unwanted attention to themselves.

"I hear the boys at the Dawn Knights Order pay the best; last time, they paid plus minus $440K."

But right now, the Orc village these Hunters were looking at were located in the Mid Tier Hunting ground. Weapons wielded by the Orc Jaguars were far superior than those made by the regular blacksmiths, and the stuff crafted by the likes of a Great Warrior or a Chieftain would be comparable to those made by master craftsmen, or even exceed them in some cases.

And so, the Knights Orders raided the Orc villages in order to acquire these weapons. Obviously, that was because quality weapons were very important to Knights. Even more so, in the case of those possessing excellent Magic Strength. But it wasn’t some selfish, simplistic reasoning of "better weapons make you stronger". If a weapon’s quality wasn’t up to scratch compared to a Knight’s Magic Strength, then the weapon wouldn’t be able to endure the strain and get destroyed instead.

Currently, the number of Knights ranked upper Mid Tier or higher present in South Korea was around 2500, but the weapons suitable for their levels were estimated to be less than 2000. It meant that, every time 500 or so Knights go out to battle Monsters, they would end up being heavily injured after their weapons were rendered useless in the middle of the fight. It was not possible to import weapons from overseas either, since other countries were also under similar sort of situations as well.

So, most Knights Orders placed a fat reward moolah on finding Orc’s Forges. Especially the Dawn Knights Order, as they were in quite a desperate position. They might be flush with cash, but somehow, found themselves urgently lacking in quality weapons.

"I finished marking it in GPS. Let’s quickly…"

But there existed a definite reason why the Knights Orders placed such high bounties on finding an Orc’s Forge.

Orcs living in the Mid Tier hunting ground placed high importance on the safety of their villages, and could pick up on any minute disturbance as if they were equipped with a high tech radar.

– "Khwoererer!!"

The mountain side seemed to faintly tremble at the angry roar.

"That effing son of a….!!"

The 2 Hunters ran hard without even glancing back once. That roar most likely would have been from a Chieftain ordering other Orcs around.  If those Orcs were chasing after them, then…

– KwangKwangKwangKwang!!

As expected, the foresight of upper Mid Tier Hunters proved to be correct. With dust clouds and weeds flying everywhere, 4 furious Orcs leapt out of the village and began chasing them down. Unfortunately, since the Hunters couldn’t utilise Mana, it was not possible to escape from their hot pursuit. (TL: the author used a term "형형한" to describe the state of the chasing Orcs. It could mean "agitated", "boiling", etc, so I went with furious. Incidentally, Google said it stands for "Bro, bro." I loled hard.)

"Do not stop!!"

The Hunters never lost hope amidst this hopeless situation and continued to run hard, but it seemed the heavens had abandoned them as they ended up encountering an even bigger source of despair.

"….Huh."

That black shape in the tall grasses - at first, it was blurry and hard to tell what its identity was. But as soon as they got close enough, Hunters could see just what it was.

It was the legendary creature that shouldn’t be here - the Werewolf. The two Hunters lost all strength in their legs and plummeted to the ground after seeing the bipedal Wolf monster.

‘What a serious bother…’

At the same time, Sae-Jin sighed out as he alternated his gaze between the 2 Hunters squatting on the ground and the 4 chasing Orc Jaguars. He came here in a hurry after catching a thick smell of Orcs, but once more, humans were getting in the way.

As this was the Mid Tier hunting ground, it seemed that Hunters had invested a lot in their equipment, and there were more than a few folks using magical items that eliminated all body odours - making encounters like these a troublesome affair for Sae-Jin. Already, he had run into humans 3-4 times this week alone and as a result, the rumours of a Werewolf roaming the Mid Tier hunting ground had spread online on the Hunters Cafe like a wild fire.

"….F, f*ck… Why a damn Werewolf…"

Fortunately for him, though, those 4 Orc Jaguars would be enough to fill his daily hunting quota. Ignoring the Hunters drowning in the swamp of despair, Sae-Jin kicked with both of his legs and jumped up in the air. The black beast shot up high as if to block out the blue sky above and then, descended towards the Orc Jaguars below.

From his sturdy body, the evidence of the skill "Warrior of Reversal" being activated could be seen as a simmering red aura.

– "Kkwe-Eck!!"(TL: it’s a SFX for a pig’s squeal. I tried my best here…)

First, using the claws that were harder than steel, he pierced the neck of one Orc. After its throat got ripped open, the Orc died on the spot, but there were still 3 more to go.

Sae-Jin took a powerful swipe with his arm at the head of another Orc. The head separated from the body and bounced away like a basketball.

Not even scared by the sight of their 2 comrades falling in the blink of an eye, the remaining Orcs focused solely on attacking him. Receiving the implied orders of "eliminate all trespassers" from the Chieftain, there were no other purposes in these Orc Jaguar’s lives other than to carry it out. (TL: slightly stumped by this line. The author used "암시" here, which kind of means "to allude, to imply." But in this line, it didn’t make much sense to me.)

– "Kwoerererer!!"

An Orc roared out and struck the beast’s arm with a square iron hammer.

Honestly speaking, Sae-Jin didn’t expect the blow to hurt him. The body of the Beast Mode was several degrees tougher than steel, after all.

"….!! Gwoarararar!!" (TL: seriously, these roaring SFXs are driving me up the walls.)

However, contrary to his expectations, it hurt like crazy. Enough to make him almost cry, even.

Riding on the wave of his anger, Sae-Jin grabbed hold the neck of the offending Orc. As the blood drained out of its green face, the remaining Orc tried to save its comrade and attacked him.

Ppuck!!

Simple, and powerful sound of impact - Sae-Jin swung the body of the Orc in his hand and struck the head of the other one, killing them both at the same time.

‘Still hurts like hell.’

After finishing the fight, Sae-Jin turned around while rubbing the arm struck by the hammer. He was half expecting to see the 2 Hunters to sit there dazedly looking at him, but no, they had already made their hasty retreat from the scene, leaving only a cloud of dust behind.

"Oh?"

Not giving up on their lives even when struck down by the momentary terror. As expected, something was different about the upper Mid Tier Hunters. Admiring their quick wits, Sae-Jin walked towards the bodies of the Orc Jaguars. And while frowning, he inserted his claw into the heart of one. The sensation of piercing past the flesh and touching the heart remained rather disgusting, still.

[Condition Complete: Absorb 20 Orc Jaguar Mana Stones.]

– The host can now use Orc’s innate skill "the Smithing Technique."

►Active Skill "Orc’s Smithing Technique" [Skill Proficiency Level: F]

– By synchronising Mana in the host’s body with certain metals, rocks and wooden materials, their shapes can be altered at will.

– Depending on the Skill Proficiency Level, the material that has gone through the process of Smithing Technique will acquire new hardness and lightness, and also depending on the amount of Mana used, desired characteristics can be added as well. (Currently, it’s impossible to bestow magic effects that are not physical in nature.)

– The skill’s effects will differ depending on the values of the following Stats: Physical Strength and Magic Strength.

– This skill can only be utilised during the Orc Form.

‘Hmm?’

He learned a completely unexpected skill after the absorption was finished. His head remained upright as he tried very hard to understand what those words meant.

*

– It’s unknown how Orcs refine, manufacture, and forge metals even until now. The temperature of flames found in the smithies within the villages were measured to be, at most, around 1200 degrees Celsius, which is shockingly low. And it is simply impossible to explain how can the weapons manufactured by the Orcs possess such high quality by looking at that weak flame; even the modern day smithies equipped with bleeding-edge technology fail to shed light on the matter - thus, making this question perhaps THE unsolvable mystery of this generation….

Sae-Jin watched the image projected onto one of the walls in the cave with a great focus. It was a documentary titled "The World of Blacksmiths, Part 2: The Secret Wonders of Orcs". To get a better understanding of what’s what, he even paid a grand total of 50 cents (USD) to rewatch the programme but hell, he instead ended up realising that humans knew only a tiny little bit regarding the true nature of Monsters.

‘Synchronising the Mana inside my body…? Let’s just have a go.’

Although both of his stats Mana Affinity and Magic Strength had increased a good deal, he just couldn’t get to grips with the idea of utilising Mana at all. It was a par for the course, really. In order to wield Mana, rather than pure talent, an advanced education administered early on in the life played a crucial role, after all.

However, even though he might be using Mana, this wasn’t a technique to utilise it, but a skill activated from 'the System'.

He changed to the Orc Form, picked up a big rock from the vicinity, and activated the skill. Suddenly, the rock was dyed in the Mana’s blue colour.

"Hoh?"

That was the sound of greatest admiration possible to utter out by the layout of an Orc’s mouth. Sae-Jin fondled the rock wrapped in Mana. Mysteriously, the shape of the rock changed according to his hand movement. It became a spearhead when he shaped his hands into a sharp triangle, and when he rubbed it in between his hands, it became a thick string.

At the wondrous sight of the rock morphing into different shapes like clay whenever he manipulated it, Sae-Jin lost track of time and regressed back to the days of childish innocence and curiosity. Then, maybe three minutes had gone past like that. The blue Mana infused in the rock dissipated, and its shape solidified into the final form he was making, a star.

[Smithing Technique has been completed.]

[Hardness Level: E]

[Due to the rubbish quality of the finished item, the Skill Proficiency Level has decreased to F-.]

"…?"

He was left utterly aghast by this announcement. What was supposedly wrong with his star, anyway?!

< 07. The Orc’s Forge (1) > Fin.

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