A Monster Who Levels Up
‘I’m gonna go bat-sh*t crazy here.’
Kim Sae-Jin was in the midst of busy fondling a rock that had turned into mud clay after he synchronised it with his Mana, but then, his anger spiked up all of a sudden, causing him to angrily fling it away.
The gap between his imaginations and that of reality was just too damn wide to cross. The human Sae-Jin’s head definitely held an idea on what he wanted, and obviously he meant to do it well, but really, with the accursed clumsy hands of an Orc, it was simply The Mission: Impossible. It sure felt like he was back in the Art Class during his student days. The image was in his head, and if he drew it like this and that, then it’d work out alright; however, his villainous hands wouldn’t allow him to achieve success no matter what. (TL: this last line had to be revised, as the author simply said his hands were disabled. Quite literally.)
That alone would have made him rather irritated to no end, but the message window that popped up right afterwards made his blood pressure skyrocket, even if it was only for a short while.
[The Smithing Technique has been completed.]
[Hardness Level: F]
[Due to the absolute worst quality of the finished item, the Skill Proficiency Level has decreased.]
In the end, Sae-Jin reverted back to the Human Form and screamed out at the top of his lungs while grabbing his head. He wanted to smash apart that stupid message window right now, that kept on telling him his Proficiency Level would fall when it was already at the rock bottom of F-.
It had been 20 times already. And during those 20 times, only the negative words like absolute worst, useless, disgusting appeared in the windows.
Even though he couldn’t get anywhere remotely close to tasting success, his entire body felt lethargic and energy-less. It was a signal that his Mana supply was beginning to run dry. Sae-Jin sighed out roughly while laying down on the ground.
And precisely 90 seconds later, Sae-Jin suddenly shot back right up.
He felt like Archimedes sitting inside that famed bathtub of his. His eyes went round as he shouted out aloud.
He’d activate the Smithing Technique skill in his Orc Form and infuse a rock with Mana, then change to the Goblin Form to reshape it. (This Skill could be activated only in the Orc Form but, once activated, it was possible to manipulate the shapes of objects in other Forms as the duration of the Skill only depended on the amount of Mana used up for the maintenance of the ability itself.) To combine the Orc’s Smithing Technique with the excellent Goblin’s Craftsmanship skill - wasn’t this the greatest combination like, ever? He quickly assumed the Orc Form and grabbed a nice-sized rock from the vicinity once more. (TL: that bracketed sentence in the middle of this paragraph is from the author.)
"I did it…"
A Goblin with a single line of tattoo on his forehead slowly sighed in satisfaction.
[Hardness Level: E]
[Due to the excellent quality of the finished item, the Skill Proficiency Level has increased.]
It was a feel-good message. A deep grin drew up on his lips.
What he managed to make this time was a type of a dagger. A small sword made out of stone and its blade fashioned into a crescent moon. As it was crafted from a rock, it couldn’t be
used as a proper weapon but still, he was rather pleased with this outcome, as this was the first time since the activation of the skill he did something right….
….But then, he became dissatisfied all over again.
"Something’s not right."
Kim Sae-Jin muttered to himself. His satisfaction only lasted for a fleeting moment and now, he wanted to make something even better.
This didn’t mean blacksmithing was his calling, no.
Something inside him went through an inexplicable change after he absorbed the Mana Stone of the Werewolf, as well as seeing the news about the resurgence of Vampires. One could call it… an ambition. A notion he had never ever held in his poverty-stricken old life. But the Mana Stone of the beast that had now become a part of his heart, desired to make his ambitions into reality. A wolf’s ambitions had completely been assimilated with his psyche, the resurgence of the Werewolf’s irreconcilable enemy, Vampires, serving as the trigger.
However, he was feeling a little lethargic due to the shortage of Mana to have another go immediately, so he decided to take a break first and lied down on the stone bed instead.
A week later, Sae-Jin had left the cave and was walking in the middle of the city for the promised dinner with Hazeline; that was when he discovered a signboard that he wouldn’t have found interesting before.
A weapons shop with a simple name. But the weight of that name was rather quite heavy. Tae-Baek - it was the name belonging to one of the 17 master craftsmen in South Korea. Sae-Jin became interested in the store now that he possessed a skill related to blacksmithing, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time left until the meeting with the Dark Elf.
"…An Open Invitational tournament?"
So, rather than stepping inside the store, he took a closer look at the poster plastered on the display window.
[The 4th Republic of Korea Blacksmiths Open Invitational Tournament,]
An opportunity to realise the dream of the talented, aspiring Blacksmiths.
►Application requirements: Those wishing to become a blacksmith. (However, those with the level of artisan or higher are prohibited from entering.)
►How to participate: Physically mail the product to the address provided or visit the premise personally to apply. (Possible to participate using an alias or in anonymity.)
►Competition process: Preliminary screening, 1st Round of Judging, 2nd Round of Judging, and the Final - a total of 4 stages. In the Final Round, audience may participate in the judging process. (New equipment must be presented for 1st, 2nd and the Final Rounds separately.)
►Content of awards: Total prize money of $1 million US (TL: I’ve rounded up quite a bit here. The original amount was just under $885K. Seems a bit on the low side to me, so…)
►Sponsors: Dawn Corporation, Dawn Knight Order, Hyunwol Auction House, Raven Knights Order, etc…
[We eagerly await the participation of many blacksmiths who are fervently fighting to achieve their dreams.]
The very first thought emerging in his head after he dazedly stared at the poster, was the word "debt". The debt he owed Hazeline was $4.5 million US. And then, he thought about the house as well. Now that he could spend nearly half of a day as a human being, he would dearly love to graduate from the caveman lifestyle as soon as possible.
He glanced around to see if anyone was looking, stealthily approached the poster, and then….
He ripped the poster right off the glass and hurriedly carried it away.
Hazeline, who had been waiting for Sae-Jin in the restaurant, didn’t even have enough time to get shocked at his increased size.
"….You brewed all these in just ten days?!"
"No, no. Took me half a year. I brought the ones I had stashed for a rainy day. More importantly, how much of the debt would they cover?"
A total of ten potion bottles. And among them, two bottles of "A Goblin’s Kindness" made out of the powderised fang of a Sabre-tooth tiger. While Sae-Jin’s expression was slightly bitter as he found it regretful to use up the remainder of the fang, Hazeline’s face was full of joy and happiness.
"After deducting tax, I think around $2.5 million, US~ So, if you add up with the potions sold previously, there’s only around $270K left."
"Still that much… But of course…"
Their conversation was temporarily cut off. Because, the waiter had brought their food.
Sae-Jin spoke as he stared at the thick steak. Hazeline nodded, and carefully stored the potions strewn about on the table inside her bag.
Before grabbing the knives and forks, they opened their mouths at the same time. Sae-Jin gestured her to go ahead first, so she did.
"Well, can’t you please tell me what perfume you are using right now?"
"Wait, it’s not like that. I don’t have any other intentions. I just like that scent, is all. I’d like to sprinkle some on me, and also to smell it in the house, too."
Hazeline scratched her cheek and coyly asked him. He made a troubled expression and shook his head.
"If that’s what you want, then you should take me home. It’s really not a perfume but my own odour."
At his words, Hazeline gazed at him with a sly, knowing look. She was expecting as much. Pretending to be not interested, but in the end, wasn’t this a tactic straight out of a player’s handbook?
"I’d like to do that as well, but…. you also know this too, don’t you? Us Dark Elves are sensitive towards our privacy. So if you find it a bit inconvenient to tell me what the perfume is, just a small hint would…"
"I’m telling you the truth. Really, it’s not a perfume but my own body odour."
Sae-Jin was adamant. Hazeline’s brows knitted slightly as if she found his unchanging attitude disagreeable, but still nodded her head to show that she understood, albeit reluctantly.
"I understand. Well… if you insist it is, then surely it should be."
Her lips were pushed out in a pout, and anyone could see that she was obviously upset.
"No, well, if you really want this scent in your home… then you should just take me with you."
Sae-Jin spoke jokingly after finding her rather adorable like this.
"Fu-ut. Thanks, re~ally, for your suggestion, but I’m fine."
Hazeline smiled and accepted his joke, and in this friendly atmosphere the lively conversation never once stopped. The one talking was Sae-Jin, and the one listening and laughing was Hazeline.
Perhaps, she was just trying to get on his good side, but even knowing this, oddly enough, Sae-Jin’s confidence continued to soar in front of this beautiful woman. The heart that used to beat irregularly whenever they talked face to face, now remained calm, and there wasn’t even a trace of nervousness in him.
Was this because the effects of "a heart of a beast" - the Werewolf’s - or was it the belief in himself, in other words, confidence and pride, had grown? Whatever the reasons were, Sae-Jin was really pleased about himself right now.
"Oh, by the way, do blacksmiths make a lot of money these days?"
As the thought suddenly floated up, he slightly tested the waters. He figured that, if the Skill Proficiency Level of the Blacksmithing Technique rose high enough, it’d be comparable to the recognised blacksmiths, no, the very best of the lot, even to that of master craftsmen. On top of that, if he combined the Goblin’s Craftsmanship, he’d be able to make products that perfectly married aesthetics and functionality. It was too good a skill to not utilise it.
"If the stuff they make is good, then yes. But could it be as simple as that? You need to possess some talent with Mana if you want to climb up to a certain level in blacksmithing, but if you have enough talent to reach a level of a master, wouldn’t be it better to just become a Knight, instead? It’d get rather boring just hammering away in a sweltering smithy, and as a kicker, you’d need to waste 2~3 years of your life to knock out a single decent item."
"Oh, wait a moment, please. Blacksmiths can utilise Mana?"
"Of course. Loading the hammer with Mana as they strike down on the metal apparently infuses equipment with it. And higher the amount of Mana infused into an equipment, the better. But, I mean, just what is that? Just depending on luck, is all."
Hazeline spoke in a disinterested tone, and Sae-Jin floated a deep smile of satisfaction. He now figured out the rough cause of why an Orc Great Warrior’s weapon was better than an artisan’s, and able to compare with a master craftsman’s. Blacksmiths depended on luck, somewhat, to infuse Mana, but Orcs utilised their physical traits to directly wield Mana when forging their weapons.
"But why are you asking me about that?"
Hazeline asked him while thoroughly chewing the meat.
"…Oh, well. No particular reason. I saw a poster for a blacksmithing competition nearby. By the way, how much is it for a stuff made by an artisan or a master nowadays?"
"Their prices are seriously enormous. There was an axe that was sold recently called the Strength of Rok-Tah. It’s a weapon praised by many master craftsmen as well as rated favourably by the critics. Even the mass media played it up, saying it’s a birth of a new source of pride for the country. Well, if I remember correctly, the Dawn Knights Order coughed up around $26 million US for the privilege of taking it home."
Sae-Jin stopped his knife the moment he heard that figure.
He calmed his wildly beating heart and replied in a deadpan expression.
And about an hour later, Sae-Jin returned to his cave in a hurry while being seen carrying a stash of iron ingots.
He wanted to buy raw steel but alas, didn’t have enough money for that.
< 07. The Orc’s Forge (2) > Fin.