A Monster Who Levels Up

Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Becoming a Wolf (3)

A Monster’s remains could be either useful or useless for several purposes.

If a monster’s bones were sturdy and its skin tough, then they could be recycled as base materials for making weapons to fight against other Monsters, and if the Mana accumulated into the heart and became a Mana Stone, then that Monster’s carcass would be used up as the basis for creating magic and miracles. Miracles, because scientifically-unexplainable magical effects could be given to people and items they wield by the so-called “enchanting” effect.

The one tasked with the disposal of the Monster remains was the Government. This arrangement came about because those in power wanted to correctly gauge the situation within the Monster territory and to provide the adequate response if needed; and also to prevent the greedy and money-craving private entities from potentially defrauding the Knights or the Hunters.

But the “The Monster Remains Disposal Through Public Enterprises Act” couldn’t be found anywhere else except only in South Korea. That was why this country was called a Heaven for people making a living off Monster remains and consequently, there was a higher ratio of Knights, Mercenaries and Hunters among the Korean population.

“Two Brown Wolves. Here’s the government reimbursement of $880 as well as your new Low Tier Hunter licence. Congratulations on your promotion of rank, sir.”

Currently, Sae-Jin was inside the government-run “Monster Store” where the remains were disposed off. This was the place where the remains could be sold, the various equipment bought and at the same time, get the administrative works done.

And that was to determine the ranking of the Hunters. This was directly tied to his or her current results, while the said results could be calculated via the number of Monsters hunted down and killed. So, the Hunter’s union handed over the full responsibility of assigning the hunter’s rank to the Monster Store a long time ago.

“The rest of the remuneration amount should be deposited into the account number you have provided us with, after the final calculations are carried out. Anyways, isn’t your dismantling skill really great? And the achievements you have piled up so far is also amazing…. It’s scarcely imaginable that you’ve been a Hunter for only a month now.”

The female government worker smiled as she spoke up to here.

“….Is that right. Wasn’t aware of it.”

Maintaining his expressionless face, Sae-Jin just grabbed his new Hunter licence and turned on his heels to leave.

Sae-Jin received the title of Lowest Tier Hunter around 30 days ago. The registering process was really simple and easy. All he had to do was to catch a single Monster and bring it in, thus becoming a Hunter from then onwards.

After becoming a registered Hunter, Sae-Jin decided to sell around 2~3 portions of Monster materials every 4 days or so. More than that, it’d be too eye-catching and he might be seen as someone suspicious, and due to his current condition, he’d rather avoid such kind of attention with all his might.

Obviously, Sae-Jin wasn’t the only person in the entire world to possess a Trait but, nobody in their right minds would believe the crazy talk of ‘a Trait changing a person from a Human to a Monster.’ It’d be more believable, instead, to claim that a Monster was posing as a human. Actually, there was an incident like that not too long ago, and the new term Monster Man was coined from that very incident.

‘…40 minutes left.’

This Store was the closest to the Monster Field but to someone like Sae-Jin whose very life was directly linked to the ticking clock, he still had to leave quickly.

– Yesterday afternoon, around 7 o’clock. At the mountain regions of Gangwon Province, a strange incident occurred in the so-called ‘Monster Field.’

Sae-Jin’s footsteps were halted by the sounds drifting from a television. The interior of the Monster Store was configured similarly to that of a modern bank and for those waiting in queue, a hologram TV with absurd clarity was installed here.

-This was an incident in which one Brown Wolf rescued Hunters from the dangers of getting eaten alive by another Brown Wolf. Recorded by the Low Tier Hunter Mister Kim Tae-Jo using a Recording Lens, these images were uploaded to Social Networking sites and were widely shared by many people. Shall we take a look?

The anchor stopped here, and the projection changed to the playback of a blurry recording.

– Out of Mana bullets and his stamina depleted, stranded in a life or death situation, Mister Tae-Jo runs into a starving Brown Wolf. Unable to abandon his grievously wounded comrade, Mister Tae-Jo resolves to meet the Wolf head on and he grabs the shotgun with both of his hands.

The ugly shape of the starving wolf threateningly growling was the first image seen on the projection.

– He swings the rifle with all his might but as if he has given up, Mister Tae-Jo closes his eyes.

Then the projection blacked out for a moment.

– When nothing happens after a passage of time, confused Mister Tae-Jo ever so carefully reopens his eyes.

Now visible in sight was an image of another Brown Wolf, much bigger than the one before. The neck of the starving wolf that threatened the Hunters was pierced by the fangs of this creature.

– This giant Brown Wolf suddenly appeared and bit to death the other wolf attacking Mister Tae-Jo. However, Mister Tae-Jo still couldn’t escape the feeling of despair. Because he thought this giant Brown Wolf would surely kill him now. But, this Wolf was different.

Instead of attacking, the Brown Wolf picked up the as-good-as-dead fellow Hunter in its mouth before trotting off to somewhere in a relaxed manner.

– Seemingly making a gesture with its head to follow it, the wolf carries the fainted fellow Hunter and begins to head off to an unknown place. Mister Tae-Jo watches on dazedly for a moment before hurriedly getting up, cautiously following the creature.

Walking for a while, the blurry images of the distant border post finally appeared on the projection. Then the wolf put down the Hunter in its mouth and returned to the forest.

– After seeing the border post that can help the injured Hunter, this wolf lowers the man and coolly walks away.

The final shots were of the wolf’s rear end, leisurely sauntering away.

‘….That was cool?!’

– Right now, this recording has gained incredible fame in portal sites, Social Networking sites and various community chat rooms after being uploaded to Mister Tae-Jo’s own SNS profile. The netizens are showing hot reactions at the recording, saying “Why does that wolf have such a handsome face? I want to keep him, no, I want him to keep me”, “I might fall in love even if it’s a Monster”, “I nearly fainted at the broad, dependable back in the final frame.”

“Heuheum.”

Sae-Jin’s back straightened in pride for some reason. ‘Was it that cool?’

– After studying this strange incident, the experts are cautiously theorising that the wolf might be the ‘growth type Monster’ or a Spirit Beast.

– “A growth type Monster…. there were a number of them in the past but they have gone extinct for some time now. As the name implies, it’s a type of Monster that could grow. If it’s a Wolf, then it’ll grow from Brown to Grey, from Grey to Ebony….”

…It seemed that the experts’ words always get cut off in the middle.

– Yes, it’s a really puzzling incident. If it’s a Monster like that, even I’m tempted by the prospect of being protected by it at least once. And now, moving onto the next item. This morning….

At the words of the beautiful anchor, Sae-Jin’s face reddened somewhat and he even coughed in embarrassment.

“Oho, how mysterious. I was out catching wolves yesterday, now I feel a little bit regretful.”

“But wasn’t that an Ebony Wolf?”

“Still. Aren’t they all wolves?”

From somewhere, the conversations of Hunters waiting in line could be heard.

Sae-Jin took a glance at the direction of the voices, and thought that their outwardly aura was no joke. On their backs, they were carrying… bazookas?!

Feeling somewhat intimidated, Sae-Jin left the Monster Store in a hurry.

***

Exiting the Store, he caught sight of the road packed with throngs of people busy coming and going.

He couldn’t help but wonder whether this was humans being ignorant to the inherent risk posed by the Monsters. Right next to their doorsteps were the mountains of Gangwon Province, the so-called Monster Field, yet he couldn’t see a speck of worry in the faces of the passing crowd, or from the skyscrapers tall enough to stab the blue sky above.

Of course, the tallest building of them all was called the Eden and it was considered the Holy Land of the Knights, and the fair number of the crowd walking around should be either Knights or Hunters that could single-handedly kill a Monster, so, well….

“….Fuu.”

Sae-Jin grandly sighed out. He just wanted to vent his frustration out. He felt wronged that all these people were living their everyday normal lives yet why only he had to go through such an unfair torment all alone. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a lot of time remaining to lament on his troubles. He only had 30 minutes of Human Form left.

– But I’m okay with it.

Sae-Jin was trying to return to the Monster Field but the sound from an outdoor advertisement shown on a billboard display entered his ear. His sense of hearing had sharpened up considerably after receiving his Trait and he instinctively turned his head towards the direction.

– Even if the injury is grave, even if all my limbs are broken until I can’t use them anymore, I’ll fight on. I’m not doing it for wealth and honour, but for the people out there.

The images were from an interview with a Knight, blood all over his body, seemingly having prevented an attack from the Monsters just now.

A pair of earnest-looking eyes, a manly jawline, hair dyed in blonde – even Sae-Jin knew of this particular Knight. Treated as the hottest commodity and appearing just about everywhere in mass media and countless talk shows, and possessing a Trait called “the Saviour of the Light,” Knight Kim In-Soo.

– My name is Kim In-Soo, a Mid Tier Knight from the Gaebyeok Knights Order. (Gaebyeok means Genesis. Left as it is because, well, Genesis sounded too foreign.)

The advertisement promoting the Knights Order ended with the images of Kim In-Soo’s face superimposed on top of the Order’s Crest. Staring at the ad wordlessly, Sae-Jin’s chest tightened with equal parts of indescribable bitterness and emptiness.

‘It’s also a Trait but… it’s so different.’

Sae-Jin could only try to appease his aching heart and the deep sadness dwelling within with a grand sigh, before pitifully shuffling away.

His destination was the lonely and distant, impressive mountain peak, slightly hidden from the view by the drifting fog and clouds – the Monster Field.

It might have been incredibly dangerous there, but it was also a paradoxical place where Sae-Jin of now could feel most at home.

< 01. Becoming a Wolf (3) > Fin.

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