A Monster Who Levels Up
The temporary resident of a cave in the Monster field, Kim Sae-Jin was about to utilise the regular exit route for an afternoon out in the city. What he meant by the regular route was that, instead of him changing to the Ebony Wolf Form and jumping over the wire fences and traversing the wilderness that way, he’d assume the appearance of a human and walk out of the entrance/exit proper.
When utilising this regular route, he had to go through the so-called Rest Stop, a large structure built as a shelter. Inside this building which was the size of the Seoul Train Station’s waiting area, he saw Hunters, or maybe Knights, going through a final mission briefing before embarking on another hunt. (TL: this is weird - the author referred to this place as Reception Area in chapter 15. Hmm….)
In this place, Sae-Jin found a familiar face he saw on TV just now.
It was Yu Sae-Jung. With her colleagues around, she was intently listening to the words of a man who looked to be the captain of the hunting team.
He tried to figure out if she was nodding her head like that because the hunt she was about to participate in was important, when an army of camera-wielding crewmen descended down on the group out of nowhere.
"Be rest assured as we got our own Knights providing protection so, please, just focus on hunting as you’d do normally. We only want to capture your natural actions. Aren’t we doing this, because the public’s opinion on the Knights Orders aren’t so good right now thanks to the recent Monster Outbreak? Let’s turn all of that around with this reality TV show! Although we’re filming only the pilot episode, but still, please remember that this isn’t a documentary but a reality TV!! Please, please remember this. Oh, and…. Knight Yu Sae-Jung?"
"Well, it’ll be like, since Miss Sae-Jung is the face of the show, so, we’ll have to focus more on you from now on. A cold expression is okay, no, it’s more than okay, but please smile every now and then. That’s for the best, you see. If you’re cold and distant all~ day long, the viewers might end up not liking you. So, people would think more favourably of you when an unexpected, bright smile breaks out of all that coldness. Like… she’s only cold outwardly, but inside, she’s kind hearted… like that."
Yu Sae-Jung had an expression of slight unwillingness, but she still ended up nodding her head, once.
‘It’s just them filming stuff for a show.’
The guy Sae-Jin thought was the captain of the team, actually turned out to be the producer of the show. Sae-Jin stood there watching for five minutes before moving towards the exit. Actually, he tried to move, but….
"H, hey, please wait a moment!!"
Yu Sae-Jung found the current situation not to her liking. But she couldn’t do anything about it. It was decided to give access to her life to these media people already. She also knew that, in order to become a Highest Tier Knight in the future, the goodwill of the public would be important, to a certain degree.
To follow in the footsteps of Kim Yu-Rin, her childhood idol, she was willing to endure just about everything.
"Please remember, it’s not a documentary, but a reality TV show!! And… Knight Yu Sae-Jung?"
She disliked this producer who wanted to package the Monster hunts into a reality entertainment TV show, but her father did recommend him, saying the man had the right abilities.
She did her utmo
st hardest to repress the urge to just get up and run away, and reluctantly made her replies. Even after that, though, this guy continued to yap on and on. So, she answered him insincerely while turning her gaze elsewhere. This was the only way for her to endure this torture.
And that’s how, like fate or even maybe a lie, she found him.
"Eh? K, keuk!!"
At her sudden outburst, the producer got confused but Yu Sae-Jung couldn’t care any less even if she tried. She shoved aside the producer blocking her way, then rushed out in front of the man she had been searching for.
"….Is it… really him?"
Now that she was standing before him, Yu Sae-Jung had to take a moment and wonder. The face was the same, but… was his size this big before?
"Excuse me, you’re Mister Kim Sae-Jin, yes? From that time."
However, the face was definitely the same as the one engraved in her memories, so she worked hard to appear confident. Even if he seemed a bit taller, it was definitely the same guy.
"I know it’s you. Why aren’t you answering me?"
When Sae-Jin failed to reply, she narrowed her brows and stared up into his eyes. She was even more convinced now, even though the question of his height entered her mind again. This man’s face was completely embedded in her brain and she would never be able to forget it no matter what. Hell, she even saw it in her dreams several times already.
"…Good to see you again."
Kim Sae-Jin thought about playing dumb here. But in the end, he offered his hand for a shake with a smile. After all, she was Yu Sae-Jung - the daughter of the Dawn Knights Order’s Master, as well as the granddaughter of the Dawn Corporation’s Chairman. He thought that letting go of this chance to build a personal bridge would be such a waste.
"Ah, as I thought… Thank you… for that time."
And as the two of them shared only this much of conversation, suddenly a camera was shoved in his face.
"Miss Sae-Jung, who is this gentleman?"
The producer asked, his face brightly smiling in happiness. Well, it was an entrance of a new character. Not just any, but a man, that made the frosty "gold spoon" female Knight go out of her way to offer a warm greeting. The producer planned to shoot some opening sequences in this Rest Stop but hell, wasn’t this an unexpectedly huge scoop?
"What do you think you’re doing? Get rid of the cameras!!"
Fearing Sae-Jin would escape trying to avoid the cordon of cameras, she grabbed the collars of the producer and shouted in anger. At her unexpectedly sharp reaction, the producer panicked a little. If he got on Yu Sae-Jung’s bad books, then not only in the entertainment industry, he wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere on this planet…
However - his desire regained its vigour the moment he saw the face of the unknown person, Kim Sae-Jin. This unknown man didn’t seem to be too bothered by the presence of the cameras. If anything, a gleam of curiosity could be spied from his eyes.
"Excuse me, mister? By any chance, is it possible for us to film you for a very brief moment? The TBK Production is making a reality TV show about Knights…"
Yu Sae-Jung pushed the producer back while stealing glances at Kim Sae-Jin. Contrary to her worries, though - he didn’t seem to show any discomfort towards the sudden intrusion of the cameras.
"….It, it won’t take too much of your time. It’s like, it’s the opening, and an unexpected but fateful encounter~~ Stuff like that is good for the ratings, you see. Very good, in fact."
Sae-Jin slowly scratched his chin and agonised a little about this. For him to appear on TV… Wasn’t this one of his childhood wishes? He felt envious, watching those shows featuring cool celebrities and Knights, wanting to be just like them. But that was a dream unattainable for a child who was struck down by the sudden twist of fate to become an orphan.
"What type of show is this?"
When Sae-Jin nodded his head slightly, a thick smile drew up on the producer’s face. But Yu Sae-Jung frowned instead and had to ask him first.
"…Eh? Are you okay with this?"
"Oh, well, actually…. it’s been a while since our last run-in, so I thought…"
"It’s Yu Sae-Jung."
"Ahaha. If so, then, we’ll start filming for a bit now. It’s simple, actually. Just talk to each other, as if we aren’t even here in the first place. Well then, we’ll be just over there, so don’t mind us~"
Cameras retreated slowly and maintained a comfortable distance. Of course, it was still noticeable but Sae-Jin did his best to sound natural as he spoke.
"Shall we go somewhere to sit down and talk?"
"Oh? Ah…. alright. Good idea."
The two of them walked towards the coffee shop located inside the Rest Stop.
"Heh… Isn’t this a huge scoop? Who knew, that picky and rude goldspooner would be this talkative?"
The producer and his crew members, as well as other Knights, couldn’t stop being surprised and astonished by the sight of Yu Sae-Jung beyond the glass of the coffee shop.
She always maintained a cold, expressionless face and whenever she spoke, it was as if she was throwing rocks out of her mouth with her stiff, officious attitude. (TL: the author made a joke based on wordplay here, but please forgive my shortcomings, I couldn’t TL it properly. Oops.)
But right now, sitting there talking to this unknown man, Yu Sae-Jung seemed different. It wasn’t on the level of calling her face blooming brightly but at least, she was not icy cold any more. And to top it all off, those cute little mouth of hers busily bobbled up and down to string lengthy sentences instead of her usual short, curt answers.
Those who knew her, ended up wondering if that girl sitting over there was indeed the real Yu Sae-Jung or not….
"Hey! She smiled!! Did you get that?"
"Yep. And it was a close-up shot."
"Ou. Nicely done. Nice. What about audio?"
The producer asked the sound recordist. The man in charge of recording sound raised his thumb up, a deep smile etched on his face.
"The contents of their conversation are pretty nice as well. Seems like that guy is a Hunter, and saved Yu Sae-Jung once before from danger."
"Oooh. And he’s a Hunter? But a Hunter saved a Knight? How?"
"They haven’t talked about it yet. That part’s been glossed over, and they are talking about more mundane stuff now. Oh, wait!!"
Suddenly, the sound recordist opened his eyes wide and let out a loud gasp.
"She just asked him to join the Dawn Knights Order. She’s trying to scout him."
"Would you like to join our Dawn Knights Order? We always welcome a talented person like you, Mister Sae-Jin."
Kim Sae-Jin could only grin softly at her serious offer. Wasn’t the way she speak too grown up - even though she was still just a minor, a high school student?
"I’m grateful for your consideration, but… I’ve made up my mind to stay as a solo Hunter."
He replied "half" politely to her. In the beginning, he spoke in a more familiar tone since there was a bit of age gap between them, but she showed signs of not liking that, so he decided to converse with her in the established conventions of honorific speech. (TL: the Korean language has a honorific speech pattern which is nigh-on impossible to replicate in full in English. This time, the author used "합쇼체". I TLed it as "speaking half politely" instead.)
"As a solo Hunter?"
Yu Sae-Jung’s eyes went round as she tilted her head.
A solo Hunter was a person not affiliated with any organizations or Knights Orders. This was pretty rare, even more than the so-called "Free" Knights. That’s because most Hunters couldn’t hunt Monsters on their own. (TL: the author used the word "무적" to describe the Knights in this paragraph. It means, in this case at least, someone who has not been "recorded" anywhere - not with any government, not with any body of education nor business entities, not even families. So, uh, I’m not aware of simpler English term that can accurately imply such a state other than "free", so I used that word.)
"…Without a doubt, if it’s you, Mister Sae-Jin, I guess it’s possible. That amazing strength you displayed back then, it was a Trait, yes?"
Sae-Jin’s body trembled for a moment. But he maintained a poker face and sipped the coffee.
"…Yes. You’re correct."
"If it’s not too much trouble, can I ask you what kind of Trait it is?"
At her question, Sae-Jin pondered slightly, before giving her an ambiguous answer.
"It’s a Trait related to physical constitutions."
Thankfully, Yu Sae-Jung accepted his story without a problem. In a way, his attitude made sense, as most Knights with Traits tried to keep the detailed information of their abilities under the wraps.
"Oh and, you seemed to have grown taller than before? Must be the result of the Trait’s growth."
"Eh? Ah… Yes. That’s exactly it."
This was a more believable excuse than trying to explain via usage of some magical "potion", which he should have thought of before. Sae-Jin hurriedly nodded his head.
"A Trait, you say…."
Yu Sae-Jung fell into a deep thought while sharply staring at his eyes, almost enough to bore holes in his body. This was one of her habits. When she stared long enough until the other party felt uncomfortable, they would turn away and avoid the eye contact first.
However, Sae-Jin didn’t do that. Actually, he found it rather wondrous the way her jewel-like eyes seemed to wiggle around in a matching rhythm with her flowing thoughts.
"I wonder… although you are a solo Hunter, isn’t it possible to go out on a cooperative hunt with our Knights Order? Your skills have already been confirmed, after all."
At her words that came out after a short moment of pondering, Sae-Jin grinned slightly while nodding his head.
"Yes, it’s possible."
"That’s great. Then give me your contact numbers. Unfortunately, it looks like I need to go soon…. I’ll give you a call at a later date."
"Please, try to contact me in the mornings. I don’t have much free time otherwise."
Yu Sae-Jung handed over her phone. Suiting her personality to a T, the phone was jet-black and simply designed, the feeling of its metal frame icy. Sae-Jin saved his home number on the phone and parted ways with her.
Whenever he walked around in the city, Sae-Jin was in the Ebony Wolf Form’s Human Mode.
And as he walked around enjoying the attention from the passers-by, he discovered a flyer plastered on one of the street lamps.
No, it was more like the flyer discovered him instead.
The thick scent of blood leaking out from that flyer had his eyesight totally under its grips.
⸢Recruiting mercenaries. For Vampire extermination. Your ranks not important. Remuneration favourable.⸥
Mercenaries - one of the more famous jobs among those that were born from the entrance of the Monsters to this world. However, the purpose of a Mercenary was different from that of a Hunter or a Knight.
Besides the fact that they get hired with money, they had to kill people every now and then. Of course, those killed were the targets for elimination designated by the law, such as Vampires, Nagas, "Corrupted" humans, etc, etc…. In other words, the types that harmed the society as a whole. (TL: the author used "마인" in this paragraph. No context was given, and I’m assuming he means humans corrupted by Mana/magic, so I went with "Corrupted")
But in modern times, facing fierce opposition from many Human Rights groups as well as the change in the Constitution, the so-called "murder-as-jobs" professions began to slowly disappear. And before anyone knew it, Mercenaries, who had lost the meaning to their professional existence, faded away into obscurity, as well.
However - the Mercenaries didn’t go extinct. Even though something as important as Mercenary ranking system wasn’t sorted out until now and remained chaotic, somehow, thirteen "Mercenary’s Taverns" still managed to continue existing throughout the country.
Mercenaries that have remained till the end were the bunch of hard men still possessing their original inborn nature: a tenacious, unyielding spirit and unshakeable faith. These guys all lost important people to these "enemies of mankind" so they would never give up until they get their revenge of ripping out bits and pieces of those damnable bastards.
As long as there were those who’d rather choose death over that of losing their meaning of existence drew breath, Mercenaries would never completely disappear from this world.
Kim Sae-Jin who lost his mother to Vampires, knew these men more than anyone else.
That was why, the beast Kim Sae-Jin just could not leave behind this flyer looking to find Mercenaries to kill Vampires.
He roughly ripped the flyer off the street pole and shoved it in his pocket.
< 08. Lycan the Mercenary (1) > Fin.