A Monster Who Levels Up
Kim Sae-Jin was carefully packing the member’s gifts for Yu Sae-Jung inside a rectangular box. The contents were potions made by the Goblin Alchemist, the business cards, as well as a letter expressing his gratitude.
*SFX for mobile phone vibrating*
As he was observing the status of the box that was rapidly becoming rather classy, the phone went off. And speaking of the devil, it was Yu Sae-Jung calling.
His lips slightly arcing in a grin, he picked up the phone.
"It’s me, Oppa. Is it true?"
From a certain point onwards, the way she called him went a slight change. Sae-Jin was seriously chuffed about that. This was the proof their friendship had deepened, after all.
"What is? You mean, the alchemist?"
It was two days ago when the potion ‘A Goblin’s Purification’ went on sale and the world finding out about the Goblin Alchemist joining his Society. But Yu Sae-Jung was a blood descendant of the Dawn dynasty, so there was just no way she was not aware of this important fact…
"Yes, that. So, it’s true? How… no, that’s not it, what… ah, he… how did you get to meet the Goblin Alchemist?"
Well, she genuinely didn’t know. Her voice was trembling from the shock.
"Well, that… it’s a private matter so I can’t talk about it. You know how it is. How sensitive alchemists are towards… their privacy."
He debated on whether to tell her the truth or not. But in the end, he just made sh*t up since he figured that the situation wasn’t right for him to come out and say, "Well actually, I’m the Goblin Alchemist" here.
"Yeah… if that’s so, well… I guess it can’t be helped."
"Ah, right. I’m wrapping your presents right now. They should arrive at your place by tomorrow."
"Ah, by the way…"
Sae-Jin dropped the phone hurriedly and went back to wrapping the gift box. It seemed like some sort of sound was leaking out from the phone, but he ignored them - since he found gift wrapping more fun.
It was decided that the grand Finale of the Blacksmith tournament would be held at the large lecture hall located in the building of the Dawn Knights Order.
And now, today was the much awaited final round of judging, with over 500 audience members as well as five professional judges – all invited here to participate in the process. Inside the waiting area backstage, the pro judges were sitting together, discussing among themselves the weapons submitted for the finals.
"I hear the Orc is not going to show up for today as well? Tsk, tsk… We say nice things about him for a little bit, and he’s become so arrogant already…"
Famous in Korea for his fussy personality, master craftsman Yu Jo-Hyung spoke in a slightly dissatisfied voice.
"We don’t know that. It could very well be that he’s uncomfortable with appearing in public. Let’s hold off our judgements until later on, shall we?" (TL: the author literally said, "let’s not try to view with our coloured glasses on.")
Another judge, the Chairman of the Blacksmiths Association, Kim Tae-Hyung admonished Yu Jo-Hyung in a benevolent voice.
"That’s right. It’s also possible that he’s focusing solely on crafting weapons. I’m already getting hyped thinking about what he has in store for us today."
This time it was Kim Yu-Rin’
;s turn. Her smile was so dazzlingly charming that it had the power to make the face of a particularly fussy old man flush in a healthy colour.
"Keheum. If that’s the case…. However, I really do think that Kim Tae-Sahn will walk away a winner today. He has come very much prepared. The stuff he brought today made me seriously wonder whether he had received his father’s help or not."
"Really? What about Mister Orc?"
"Orc? It wasn’t a detailed look-see, but I did get a quick peek at it. However, even though it looks like a good quality item… it kind of seemed plain to me. Back then, Hotly Burning Flames? Yeah, I didn’t see any of those crazy special thingy add-ons this time. That’s why, I think Kim Tae-Sahn boy will win this one."
Yu Jo-Hyung stroked his lengthy beard and continued to predict Kim Tae-Sahn’s victory.
"Is there a something special about the weapon of the Blacksmith Kim Tae-Sahn?"
"Of course. Even I was re~ally surprised. You will too, when you personally see it for yourself. Oh, right. That Kim Tae-Sahn boy looked like he really wanted to meet you. How about it, will you have a dinner with him after today’s event is all done and dusted?"
Suddenly, Yu Jo-Hyung threw at her a request rather unexpectedly. Since she couldn’t outright refuse a master craftsman just like that, Kim Yu-Rin could only scratch the back of her neck and smiled weakly.
"You also saw him, no? He’s a very good egg, that one. He’s got a good personality and…."
"We will be starting with the rehearsals now~"
With a nice timing, the producer entered the room and unknowingly got in between her and Yu Jo-Hyung. She promptly stood up from her seat. Her expression was one of relief.
"Oh! Already? Shall we get going?"
Watching the back of Kim Yu-Rin hurriedly walk away, Yu Jo-Hyung let out a fake cough as if he found the matter regrettable.
When Kim Yu-Rin opened the door and left the waiting room, an unexpected woman was waiting for her.
A cute girl who was continuously checking her appearance on the small mirror. It was Yu Sae-Jung, who was becoming rather famous among the current crop of Knights nowadays.
Whatever was making her unhappy, Yu Sae-Jung’s face was in a deep frown as she surveyed the reflected image until, she felt the pair of eyes gazing at her and, Wheeck, she turned her head in a hurry.
And she let out a small gasp. She quickly hid the mirror and slowly approached Kim Yu-Rin. Seeing that her face was completely frozen stiff and her legs were trembling pitifully, one could easily tell that she was beyond being incredibly nervous right now.
"He, hello, no, no, h, how dO YOU DO!"
The nervousness had gripped her vocal chords and as the words struggled to break free, she ended up inadvertently shouting them aloud. In that moment, all focus was gathered here, and when she realised what she had done, her face became ashen.
"Nononono, that is…"
"Hello there. How do you do. I’ve heard a lot about you."
Kim Yu-Rin smiled warmly and offered her hand for a shake first, unperturbed.
She was so mesmerisingly beautiful, even from another woman’s point of view. That’s why Yu Sae-Jung stared unconsciously at Kim Yu-Rin before snapping awake and hurriedly taking the offered hand.
"I, i, i, it’s my pleasure! I, I, I, I am, uh, my name is Yu Sae-Jung. Yes!"
She was acting quite different from the composed and thoughtful appearance she always put up until now, the one that didn’t match up with her age. Sae-Jung was so tightly wound-up as she talked with Kim Yu-Rin. Cold sweat was pouring out of her entire body, and her heart was pounding away like crazy.
This situation was like a dream to her.
The person she had admired the most in her life, was standing right before her…
"Yes. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you. You’ve accomplished something amazing - you’re already a low Mid Tier at such a young age."
"Ah, yesyesyes, yes. Yes. Ah, I’m Miss Yu-Rin’s, biggest fan, me, Yu Sae-Jung. No, wait. I was in the Elementary school, when I was really, really young, I became your fan…"
Yu Sae-Jung could not remember what happened afterwards.
Only that, around five minutes later, she found herself walking towards the section for the audience panel while being supported by a stranger.
The lengthy Open Invitational Tournament was about to come to a close with the commencement of the Grand Finale.
However, if it wasn’t the 1st place or the 2nd place finish, it didn't matter anymore. Even the professional judges and the participating blacksmiths thought this way. Hell, out of the eleven finalists, seven of them had already threw in the towel after realising their severe lack of talents.
"…And now, among these four items present here today, only one can climb to the glorious position of the victor’s throne!"
As soon as the live broadcast began, the emcee spoke the obligatory opening line.
The audience members began clapping, and the five judges carefully studied the items covered in veil while maintaining a solemn attitude.
"These are the judges for this round. From the far left, we have the Raven Knights Order’s Highest Tier Knight, Miss Kim Yu-Rin…"
The emcee made simple introductions for the five judges, and the judging process began in earnest right after that.
The first item was a wooden sword made out of black wood, aka Ceylon ebony. It was a puzzling decision to make a sword out of a wood, but since the black wood could be infused with a lot of Mana, as long as it was manufactured well, it was an item that could be rated above Mid Quality.
"It’s good. But, it’s a little regretful that it’s too dependant on the Knight’s abilities."
This black wooden sword was knocked out of the running with Kim Yu-Rin’s judgements.
Next up, was a scimitar made out of corundum. With the blade’s body bending like a snake and the smooth blade edge seemingly boasting an unmatched sharpness - if it was the last year’s tournament, then it’d be good enough to compete for the first place but this time, it could only earn the disappointing appraisal of ‘it’s good but lacks any special traits and is just a bit too plain’.
"And now, this is it! This is Blacksmith Kim Tae-Sahn’s item."
It was now the beginning of the real battle. Judges and audience members waited with slightly bated breaths as Kim Tae-Sahn approached his weapon with confident steps.
"Please, give us an explanation on your weapon."
Kim Tae-Sahn nodded at the emcee’s words. Then, he removed the veil draped over his item. First, at the sight of elegant and luxurious appearance, both the audience and the judges let out a collective gasp of admiration.
"This is a Bastard Sword I made by combining malachite and adamantite. When Mana is infused into the blade, Mana will concentrate on the surface of the blade and then change into blue crystal."
The explanations might have been simple, but this sword was the kind of a weapon that would truly shine when in hands of its wielder. Utterly confident, Kim Tae-Sahn lifted the sword up and brought it towards the judges.
"Ho-oh… As expected of the master craftsman’s apprentice, is that right?"
"It’s very good. Excellent. I can’t find any faults."
"It is indeed a very good weapon. Is it alright to infuse it with Mana?"
During all the praises of the judges, the Highest Tier Knight Kim Yu-Rin grabbed the hilt and asked. As that was what Tae-Sahn had wanted from the beginning, he nodded his head without hesitation.
"Of course. Go right ahead."
With his consent, she poured her Mana into the sword. As he had said, the blade with the blue Mana shimmering on it, changed to a crystalline form. The already pretty exterior became even more fantastical, and there was clearly no need to even test the hardness of the Mana crystal.
This was, at minimum, a High Quality item.
When Kim Yu-Rin dazedly muttered, Kim Tae-Sahn nodded in pure satisfaction.
Other judges didn’t stray too far from her assessment, either. Especially Yu Jo-Hyung, who had been praising Tae-Sahn even from the backstage, was now saying stuff like the boy had climbed up to the level of an artisan and poured out more thick praises.
"And, finally…. this is the last item!"
As the rising tension was reaching the fever pitch, the turn for the Orc Blacksmith had finally come.
"Mister Orc has decided not to attend the final round, unfortunately. He has said that it’s because of personal issues."
Since the Orc blacksmith didn’t show up, the emcee took the reins of unveiling the item. He placed the veiled chest in the middle of the stage where all eyes from the audience members and the judges could see it clearly.
And then, Sharararak…
Underneath the veil, a weapon lied. The adjective ‘beautiful’ suited this weapon perfectly.
On the hilt, blue and red colours danced in complete harmony, and on the surface of the blade, the intricate and artful carvings which were widely accepted as the trademark of the Orc’s Forge K, were clearly visible. The pure white blade wasn’t too long nor was it too short, making it perfect for both cutting and stabbing.
The world fell into complete silence. It wasn’t as extravagant as Kim Tae-Sahn’s work, but as far as beauty was concerned, this one was superior by miles. As some wise old men once said, true beauty could be appreciated by anyone without the express needs for words - and just like that saying, this sword appeared deceptively simple on the surface, but it’s beauty was truly elegant and beguiling.
When the silence continued on for two minutes, Kim Yu-Rin forcibly opened her mouth to say something in order to avoid a broadcasting incident.
"Euheum. The exterior does look nice. However. It doesn’t look any special from its looks only. Isn’t the blacksmith suppose to come out here and start explaining? If this sword has no special traits, then it’s not so much different from that corundum scimitar, no?"
Next up was Yu Jo-Hyung. He was doing his best to maintain a dismissive facial expression.
"That is true. The Orc Blacksmith has said that, even though he can’t appear physically, he will talk to us via telephone. Sir? If you’re watching this live broadcast, please give us a call with the number on the screen."
After 20 seconds of waiting, the producer gave a signal that the call had been connected.
"Is this the Orc Blacksmith?"
"Yes, indeed, that’s me."
His voice was a pass. Its tone was quite bassy and warm, which made it pleasant to listen to.
"You have a nice voice, sir."
"Hahaha… thank you very much."
Even his smooth laughter sounded nice. The emcee nodded his head and then asked the blacksmith on the phone to describe his weapon.
"This weapon…. does not possess a special trait like Mister Kim Tae-Sahn’s weapon."
Even though the explanation had only just begun, one of the judges spat out a dissatisfied fake cough. There was no need for anyone to check that it was from Yu Jo-Hyung.
"However, this weapon is carrying a sincere wish of mine."
"What is your wish, sir?"
The emcee asked, clearly expectant. A weapon with a story attached to it was always going to be an easier sell. (Note to editor: the author wrote here "A weapon with a story is always right." Which one should I go with? I frankly like my interpretation more…)
"My wish is that, I’d like to see my weapon grow together with its owner. When the weapon’s owner grows stronger, then it is inevitable that the weapon has to be discarded. Since, if it’s not thrown away, the weapon would end up halting the progress of its owner, so I believe the weapon would want to be thrown away as well."
The Orc Blacksmith slowly spoke out. As his strangely pleasant voice spread around, the people gathered in the lecture hall for the Finale became deeply immersed in his story.
"What happened next? Did your wish come true?"
"Yes. Fortunately, my weapon can grow together with its owner now."
In that moment, chaos broke out in the hall.
A weapon that could grow? No one had ever heard of such a weapon before……
"I, is it possible to prove such a thing?"
It was Kim Tae-Sahn who shouted out first. He was feeling confident of his victory even after seeing the Orc’s item, so understandably, he was feeling genuinely on the edge right now.
"A weapon that can grow?! What kind of nonsense are you trying to…"
"Hahaha… Why not let one of the Knights present there infuse Mana with the sword? The sword will emit a matching resonance with the infused Mana."
The Orc Blacksmith replied calmly. Kim Yu-Rin stood up from her seat and grabbed the hilt. Kim Tae-Sahn stared at her with a deeply tense expression.
"All I have to do is to infuse Mana with it?"
"Yes. You’ll sense the change."
Yu-Rin infused her Mana with the sword. It was absorbed cleanly.
And right away, she understood what this resonance the blacksmith was talking about. The blade was serenely humming in tune with her Mana - as if it was singing a song.
"You shouldn’t hold it for too long. It might recognise you as its new owner."
At those words, Yu-Rin quickly retracted her Mana.
Kim Yu-Rin lifted her head to the sky and dazedly spoke.
Kim Sae-Jin, who was watching all this happen on TV, quietly chuckled to himself.
The attributes he had bestowed to the weapon were C level [Growth by Absorption] and [Owner Recognition].
Thanks to the horns of Treynos, he could imbue these two attributes to the sword that could perfectly recognise its owner and grow together with him or her.
With a great timing, the TV cameras picked up on the face of Yu Sae-Jung, her eyes full of desire as she fixed her burning gaze on the weapon.
Even the director seemed to know just who the new owner of this sword was going to be.
< 11. The Assimilation (3) > Fin.