A Monster Who Levels Up

Chapter 43

(This extra chapter is brought to you by these guardians of good tastes: Julius V. B., Dale B, Keneth P, Jack T, Cristi N, Alex D, and Misraim V. Thank you for your support!!)

"…Oh, my gosh."

Currently in The Orc’s Forge. Even though it was named as a 'smithy', it was no different than an armoury. It was decided that the ground floor of the building with the shop located on the top floor would be converted into a cafe.

It was suspected that the customers for either the Alchemy House or the armoury that were waiting around with nothing better to do, might utilise the cafe’s facilities.

Hazeline’s ideas were right on the money.

Right now, the time was noon, when the Knights would be beyond busy in the middle of hunting Monsters. However, there was a huge crowd of Knights populating the cafe at this very moment.

Although there weren’t any instantly-recognisable Knights ranked upper Mid Tier or higher present, too many of the people here were who you’d call the true combat forces for the Orders - such as low Mid Tier and Mid Tier Knights. At a rough head count, there seemed to be well over 80 here.

Indeed, it was still in the early days, but Hazeline had a feeling that this business will become more successful than the initial estimates. She closed her eyes and tuned her ears to the surrounding conversations for a minute or two.

"Wow… lots of Knights are here. And check their emblems out. Oh, are they from the Raven?"

Every Knights Order had an unique emblem emblazoned with the symbol of each organization. These emblems served as an identification to show which Knight belonged to which Order.

"You’re right. The competition is fiercer than I thought. Hey man, I couldn’t have imagined that I needed to go through an interview first before I’m allowed to buy a weapon, you know?"

A female Knight uttered out a complaint that didn’t sound like a complaint while sipping on her coffee.

"But isn’t it fine? I mean, I can get a day off from work by saying, ‘if I want to become an owner of the Orc’s weapon, I need to do an interview’."

"Fu-hut. You’re right. I also didn’t imagine I’d get the afternoon off, just like that."

"Right. By the way, uh… of course this Blacksmith is pretty darn skilled, but this does mean that our weapons are also pretty rubbish, no?"

They were both waiting for the interview on the top floor, the Orc’s Blacksmith.

It was a bit odd to do an interview first if one wanted to buy a product, but it couldn’t be helped. The demand far outstripped the supply, after all. So the employees had to persuade the Knights by saying ‘Think of it as an interview to become the owner of the weapon’.

That’s how much fame the Orc Blacksmith had gained among the Knights thanks to the recent blacksmithing tournament. They believed that, right now he might be a rookie that had appeared like a meteor, but in the future, he’d surely become the biggest star that would brighten up the heavens.

"Mid Tier Knight, Mister Joo Ji-Hyuk?"

An employee emerged from the cafe’s back door and called out a Knight’s name.

"Yes, that’s me!"

A male Knight promptly stood up and shouted out loudly. His emblem showed that he was from the Dawn Knights Order.

"It’s your turn now, sir."

"Yes!"

The guy named Joo Ji-Hyuk followed the female employee.

Wuoooong-

The posture of Joo Ji-Hyuk riding on the elevator looked rather uncomfortable.

Even though he sensed nothing special or anything like that in the elevator, the slight vibration he felt made it seem high-rent to him. His heart was palpitating greatly as well.

To a Knight, a weapon was similar to a lover he or she could spend the rest of their lives together. It was

difficult finding a weapon that matched perfectly to the user to the point of wanting to use it for the rest of one’s life. And if found, securing it also required a lot of sacrifices. That was why it was normal for him to be quite tense like this…

Thinking this way, Joo Ji-Hyuk worked hard to pull himself together.

Tting-

Before he knew it, the elevator arrived on the top floor and opened its doors.

"…"

Gulp.

He reflexively swallowed his saliva. It was after seeing the interior. There wasn’t anything eye catching here. Instead, only the chilly and grey wallpapers were plastered all over the place. However, they imparted a strange feeling of intense pressure on him, making his shoulders shrivel a little.

The Knight, totally unaware that Kim Sae-Jin had imbued a special attribute to these wallpapers, couldn’t help but admire the scale of difference the Orc Blacksmith seemed to have and started to move his legs.

And Joo Ji-Hyuk, while looking around, found a certain plaque. And his eyes nearly popped out from their sockets with surprise.

The gleaming golden letters carved on the plaque said…

‘The Orc’s Forge, affiliated with the Society, The Monster.’

"Please follow me."

Joo Ji-Hyuk woke up from the stupefied state with his mouth agape while staring at the plaque, when the female employee spoke to him.

"Ah… yes!"

He followed the employee and soon, before realising it, he was in front of the door to the ‘Manager’s office’. No doubt, the famous Blacksmith would be waiting for him there…

"Please note, the interview will be conducted not by the Blacksmith, but the chairperson of the Society."

"…Oh. Of course…"

The chairperson of the Society would mean the Mid Tier Hunter, Kim Sae-Jin. Even though he was merely a Hunter, Joo Ji-Hyuk heard that this man was nowadays becoming someone who shouldn’t be ignored. That guy couldn’t be underestimated at all.

"Please, you can enter right ahead."

Joo Ji-Hyuk nodded his head, and grasped the doorknob to the Manager’s office.

*

"If I am to become the new owner of a weapon crafted by Sir Orc the Blacksmith, I am deeply confident of treating it better than anyone. I will perform careful maintenance at least three times a day…"

The Dawn Knights Order affiliated Knight, Joo Ji-Hyuk, sounded like as if he was doing an interview with his life on the line. His face was terribly tense, his posture very upright, as he looked at the person in front.

"…Is that right? Well then… can you please tell me the type of weapon you mainly use?"

In here, the Manager’s office, an unexpected interview was happening right now.

The interviewer was, of course, Kim Sae-Jin - and the interviewees that had already passed through prior were many Mid to low Mid Tier Knights.

Those supposedly-busy upper Mid Tier Knights with some social status and a face to keep, only sent in a single request form per person, but ones with sincere needs ended up sending a multiple - but the Knights with lower ranks actually came to visit the armoury personally.

"Well… I mainly use dual-handed swords, among them the ‘Zweihänder’. I don’t know if it’s difficult to craft this type of a weapon, or the skills of the weaponsmiths who made it for me are lacking… but, most of the time, after I go on a hunt five times, or participate once in the Fissure Exploration, the swords end up breaking."

Those were to the words that clearly demonstrated the reality of the current weapon drought.

When a person possessed some modicum of ability, he or she would rather choose a profession - such as Knights or Wizards - that were cool looking and made lots of money, rather than bravely venture down the perilous path of blacksmithing.

Even then, Knights treated blacksmiths with disdain up until around five years ago, which made several existing smiths to quit the trade altogether. Though, they have begun showing some humility nowadays after realising the urgency of the current situation.

"There was this one time, when the sword broke in the middle of the Fissure Exploration and caused me a great deal of trouble."

"Oh, is that so? By the way, if it's a Zweihänder, it might cost a lot of money."

A Zweihänder was a great sword wielded by both hands, featuring a vicious outer appearance. If this guy was selected as the new owner for the weapon, then it would surely be a tough challenge for Sae-Jin who had just about enough amount of Mana for the job.

"Ah, no, it’s fine! I was aware of the cost when I chose it. I don’t mean to brag, but our Knights Order has a lending system which happens to be well organised and quite reasonable, so…. Hahaha!"

Even the laughter coming from this young man, who resembled a simple and honest youth from a rural farmstead, sounded sincere and pure.

Sae-Jin chuckled lightly as well, and told the Knight that he understood so he should return and wait for a good news.

"Oh, and please, don’t lose heart… even if you fail the evaluation. As you may have guessed already, there have been just too many Knights requesting for weapons, so it’s simply impossible to satisfy them all…"

"I understand! Since I’m looking for a weapon to use for the rest of my life, of course I should try again even if I don’t make it the first time."

As a Mid Tier ranked Knight, he would have achieved so much and kicked many a*ses, but this guy remained humble right until the end as he made his exit.

And as the one Knight left, without the time for a break, the female employee came in to the office and confirmed the next reservation.

Sae-Jin did a quick check on the amount of time he could spend as a human.

Around two hours. Figuring that he could do another 20 interviews or so, he told her to let the next person in.

Even though he was busy, strangely enough he felt rather great at the moment.

Currently, a new rumour was spreading around in various Knights Orders. It was about the Orc Blacksmith joining the Society, The Monster.

Although the name of the Orc Blacksmith had not been added to the member’s list for the Society yet, the rumour began from those utterly-shocked Knights who had personally went and visited the Orc’s Forge and saw the plaque there - and started telling other Knights about it.

"But it’s a relief, isn’t it? Since our Miss Kim Yu-Rin has a connection with that Society’s chairperson."

"…Uh?"

Currently, they were in the conference room of the Raven Knights Order’s Team 1, which Kim Yu-Rin was a key member of - and it was a rest period after a hour-long intense meeting had taken place.

Knights were yapping on about this and that to relieve the stress when, out of the blue, the arrows of attention were directed towards Kim Yu-Rin’s way.

"You’re so right. We have that, right? What a relief - the heads of other Orders are supposedly agonising over on how to make a nice and smooth contact, or so I hear. Oh, right, Miss Yu-Rin? My weapon is a bit…"

A female Knight, while making an intentionally pitiful expression, unsheathed a longsword with nicks here and there on the blade.

She sheathed back her weapon after Kim Yu-Rin stared at her with an expression of disbelief, but her expectations still burned true.

"…I’m going to have dinner with the person later, so I’ll ask, okay?"

"Wah, really?"

"Oi!" (Kim Soo-Gyeom)

While other Knights were chatting away in a lively fashion, Kim Soo-Gyeom was the sole exception. His expression remained sour as if there was something he wasn’t satisfied about.

"…Fhup. Miss Yu-Rin, I think this guy is jealous that you’re going out on a dinner with another man. How dare a greenhorn Mid Tier, and a wet-behind-the-ears brat like you eye up our Highest Tier Knight…?"

"No, no, that’s not true!!"

The female Knight spoke teasingly after accurately deciphering his mood; Kim Soo-Gyeom then denied everything by waving both of his hands this and that, all the while his face was dyed totally in red.

"…That’s enough with the teasing. Any more of that, and Soo-Gyeom’s face might just burst wide open, you know. Plus, don’t just rely on me and you guys go there first yourselves. It’s not like a weapon can be made overnight or something…"

"Eiii… How can I go and visit a rookie Blacksmith when my rank is upper Mid Tier? Of course, if he can make me a High Quality product that will withstand my Mana output, then sure, I’d go there and get down on my knees - but, it’s not just related to me, the pride of the entire Raven Knights Order is at stake here."

The female Knight briefly stopped talking and narrowed her brows. It seemed she was irritated by just thinking about the matter.

"It can’t be done, unless it’s like Miss Yu-Rin meeting up socially with the boss of the smithy or whatever - I mean, if somehow the story gets leaked out onto SNS, then the a*sholes at Dawn and Goryeo might start disparaging us. Like, ‘the upper Mid Tier Knight Yi Hye-Rin, running out to meet the debutant blacksmith on her bare feet cuz her weapon’s rubbish’ or stuff like that."

"You…. Fu-woo."

That’s the kind of attitude that made blacksmiths’ numbers to decline in the first place…

Kim Yu-Rin didn’t spit above words out.

It was because what the female Knight said was not entirely inaccurate either. Indeed, it was becoming a common occurrence for the members of Dawn that were enjoying ascendancy to openly pick fights with them.

A Knight from the Dawn Order who was famous in the entertainment industry caused a hot controversy by provoking the Raven with a selfie taken in the interior of the Dawn Order’s building and uploading the image with the hashtag #BestKnightsOrderInKorea.

And although there wasn’t any physical proof, it was almost a sure thing that there were part-timers busy posting comments on various SNS and portal sites.

In this environment, the chances of a toxic rumour spreading around were high, if a upper Mid Tier Knight was seen visiting an armoury of a blacksmith who had made his debut less than half a year ago.

Even though there was only a difference of one word, the power and position of an upper Mid Tier was far greater than a Mid Tier. If Mid Tiers were seen as the regular combat force, then one could say that the upper Mid Tiers were the true core of that force.

Of course, there had been cases of such a Knight seeking out blacksmiths in the past. But those were when the blacksmiths in question were either artisans or masters, and when the Knights were going there to receive the completed weapons.

No matter how famous the Orc Blacksmith had become, he was not an artisan but a newbie. And the real reason why there was so much attention being paid to him was because of his uncertain pledge that he would craft a minimum of two weapons every month.

So, the worries of the Knight Yi Hye-Rin was not unreasonable.

In a way, this was a battle of pride - standing proud until the folks at the Dawn ranked upper Mid Tier started visiting the blacksmith first.

Obviously it was all a useless thing, but that was how the Knights rolled.

"Whatever the case, don’t expect too much. I also can’t ask for a lot, you know."

"Of course~"

"Well then, let’s recommence the meeting."

"Ah-aht!! It’s been only ten minutes, though?!"

"You’re being noisy."

The passive skill, ‘Ruler of the Water’, proved to be really useful.

"Oooooh, it really became warm."

The only fault with it was that he was using it on practical stuff only.

Sae-Jin touched the surface of the water filled up in the bathtub and changed its temperature, so it was just about the perfect warmth for his body.

This was one of the abilities of the level F- passive skill 'Ruler of the Water', the ‘depending on the level, the host can manipulate water at will‘.

The water’s temperature changed in an instant, of course.

For now, all he could do with it was to boil a kettle for a cup of coffee, cook a ramen or like now, get ready to take a bath, but… he had a feeling that as long as the skill level was high enough, there would be lots of ways to utilise this skill.

"Oww yeah~"

He slowly lowered himself in the bathtub with a satisfied expression. Then he thought about the ‘Feeble Sea Monster’ Form.

‘…Should I change into it now?’

It was nice and all that his Monster Form had increased by one, but since it didn’t sound cool, he had been delaying checking it out until now. But today, he was feeling good so, might as well.

"…Hm."

Finally deciding on it, he changed into the Sea Monster Form.

No special fireworks or light show went off. Only that, his height decreased suddenly, and scales grew out on his skin like fur.

"…."

Having changed into the so-called the Feeble Sea Monster, Sae-Jin dumbfoundedly stared at the ceiling-mounted mirror.

‘…What the?! Is this even a Monster?!’

To call it a Monster…. it was just too damn cute for that.

Within those pair of excessively large and round eyes were lots of moisture, and all over his body there were white and soft scales covering him. Thanks to that, his white-as-a-snowman body looked uselessly dainty and cute.

In other words…. he looked entirely like a baby harp seal except, with a horn on his head.

An adorable animal that could rouse a person’s protective instincts just by its appearance alone.

No matter what, this was not a Monster.

‘…’

Subconsciously, Sae-Jin rubbed his own cheek.

His cheeks, full and round and stuff, looked oh-so adorable.

"Kking?!"

The sound coming out of his mouth even resembled a puppy.

‘What the hell is this?!’

Of course, he suffered a full-on panic attack at that moment.

< 13. A Small Footstep (1) > Fin

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