A Monster Who Levels Up
Kim Sae-Jin returned home for now. His worries hadn’t been addressed yet, as the Orc Form was still not powerful enough but there were just too many things he had been neglecting so far.
The Goblin, often referred to as one of the most prolific alchemists in recent times, hadn’t produced a potion in over three weeks; the third Athany doll was yet to make an appearance in the world; and not to forget, the promise of ‘two weapons per month’ made by the Orc Blacksmith was in danger of being broken only after the second month.
Of course, he had already paid off all his debts to Hazeline by now. Even if he took it real easy and worked slowly, he’d still make enough moolah to live out the rest of his life in comfort… But Sae-Jin didn’t want to stop advancing his life forward here.
This life he was living right now, this precious life, was something he worked hard to secure while living in that damp squalor of a cave for more than five months of his life - four months previously and one just now.
He was not going to miss the opportunities right in front, that would enable him to achieve all that he could only dream about back then.
"Yes. Please send someone over to come and fetch the potions. No, don’t worry. Nothing much happened. Well, it’s a… secret."
It sure had been a while since they talked, but he called Hazeline and told her to come and fetch the potions. While obviously being ecstatic, she proceeded to tell him about the worries expressed by the media, Knights and the public after the Goblin Alchemist seemingly having gone AWOL on them.
"Right. Talk to you later."
He talked to her for around five minutes and after finishing up the call, he then went online. The website he connected to was the home page for his Society, The Monster.
Maybe it was because the site was created by the specialists hired by Yu Sae-Jung, it looked and operated as good as the top portal sites out there. However, most likely due to it being not well known, there had been only two visitors today, including himself.
To reinvigorate the website, he decided to write and upload something here.
⸢The artisan, the ORK, is seeking new owners for his weapons, the ‘Orc Series.’⸥
– For a week, starting 9 AM this Sunday, interviews will commence on the premise of the Orc’s Forge. The person conducting the interview will be the Society's Chairman, Kim Sae-Jin.
– Please prepare application forms with the same format as before, by writing everything truthfully.
– The pricing will be discussed with the successful applicants.
As soon as he pressed enter on the keyboard to upload the public notice, his mobile phone vibrated. While leaving his gaze fixed on the monitor, he answered the call.
However, not one word came from the other side.
When he took a glance at the caller ID on the touchscreen, it showed ‘Yu Sae-Jung’. He chuckled slightly.
"Why did you call me?"
– "…Oh, so you finally decide to answer your phone."
She replied only after he asked her again. Her voice was steeped in icy coldness.
"My bad. There was a thing I had to take care of."
– "Well, I understand, really. And you don’t have to apologise to that extent. Well, it was me who called you out of the blue anyway, so it’s not like I’m feeling hurt or anything. I thought we were friends, but I guess Oppa thought differently, huh. I wonder why I felt like that. But it’s nothing to worry about. So…"
Seeing how she continued to prattle on needlessly, he could definitely tell that she was sulking right now.
Sae-Jin could somehow imagine her face on the other side of the line. Her eyes deeply narrowed, her lips in a lengthy pout, all the while busy scratching he
r innocent fingernails.
"There’s that, but how is your body feeling right now?"
– "…Eh? Oh, it’s okay. By the way… is it true that you rescued me?"
"Yeah. By coincidence, I was hunting nearby."
– "What?! A Hunter was moving alone in a Mid Tier hunting ground?!"
It was then his conscience became prickly for a moment, but he just sighed out grandly and began speaking to her in an accusatory tone. In cases like these, it was better to be thick skinned, after all.
"Oi. I noticed just now that you talk as if you think Hunters are trash or something?"
– "Huh? Ah, that is, it’s not…"
"What do you mean, it’s not? Now that I think about it, when we met for the first time, you treated me like an insect when I told you I was a Hunter, right?"
– "Eh? Eh? No, no that’s not it!! W, what are you saying, in, insect?! I never treated Oppa like a bug, you know?! Never, never… It’s a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding!!"
They say one knows his or her sins the best. Remembering the event in question, Yu Sae-Jung began spewing gibberish in an unbridled panic.
"Don’t do it again. Treating people badly like that, it’s not a good habit to have, you understand?"
He was telling the truth. He met countless number of people after jumping headlong into the frontlines of ‘life’ at a young age. And among them, the bastards he found most disgusting were those who judged others by positions and talents, and after deciding the others were beneath themselves, completely disparaged them.
– "….I understand."
She sounded a little bit sulky, but since it was her fault to begin with, she didn’t try to retort back at him.
"Ah, right. Can I ask you for a favour?"
Since she called him first, Sae-Jin decided that, might as well, ask her for one favour.
– "Mm? A favour…? What is it?"
"You do those SNS things, right?"
– "Pardon? Oh… yeah, I do social media. You want me to send you a friend request? What’s your handle?"
"No, that’s not it…"
He was slightly surprised. He honestly thought that she might stay away from such things….
"Right now, on our Society’s home page, the Orc Blacksmith had left behind a notice, you see? I want you to spread the word."
"You’ll see when you log on. I’m counting on you."
He almost unconsciously hung up right then, but somehow, he was able to stop himself just in time.
– "…Fine. I got it."
And that’s how the conversation between the two ended.
However, neither of them dropped the call first.
– "You’re not gonna hang up?"
"Yeah. You should hang up first. If there’s some other stuff you want to talk about, that’s fine too."
– "…As if you had listened to other stuff I wanted to say before…"
Sae-Jin told her that he’d listen this time as he turned his attention back to the computer monitor.
Because he suddenly remembered the matter of the Athany doll.
So, he began typing again.
⸢Looking for the new owner of Athany.⸥
– All details will be decided after the interview has been conducted. The location of the interview is the company building of The Monster, ‘the Elron Building’, situated in the suburbs of Wonju, Gangwon Province.
– If you post your questions on the open noticeboard on this website, we’ll contact you one at a time.
– "Well, it’s fine. I don’t have anything else to say anyway. I’m hanging up now. I can check the details in the home page, right?"
"Yeah. There should be two notices."
– "Alright. See you. Bye."
However, he didn’t drop the call and waited. Even Yu Sae-Jung did the same.
"…It’s for real, now. Don’t you test me."
She let out a short exclamation full of mischievous tone, said she was hanging up for real, and she finally did.
‘When Sae-Jung advertises a lot on SNS, then… Hang on a second.’
Then, a thought suddenly popped into his head.
‘Maybe I should also do that SNS thingy?’
He was at the sweet old age of 23. That was at the age when the desire to jump into society would be running rampantly. But, swept up in the stormy winds called the ‘working hard to survive’, he could never afford to enjoy such things up until now.
He did a fake cough and called Yu Sae-Jung first this time.
The United Nations’ own Knights Order proclaimed the 1st Class Threat, the ‘Annihilated’, on the Southern part of the African continent.
When the 1st Class Threat classification was given, that meant the area had to be abandoned due to the high number of powerful Monsters, and the equipment as well as the personnel brought in to suppress the threat were simply not sufficient enough.
At least, they were successful in closing the Fissure with great difficulty, meaning 80% of the continent was protected. But the rest 20% became an inhospitable hellhole full of uber-strong Monsters that defied all classifications.
The focus of the world’s media, including Korea, gathered around on this tragic event that had cost so many lives. The countless denizens of this planet mourned the loss of life as well.
Also, using this event as the clear evidence, several organizations began to urge the others to stop treating Fissures and Monsters as sources of income but as a real, tangible threat that could steal away many lives - and to change the mindset to become more vigilant and less lackadaisical.
However…. maybe, the event taking place in a land so very far away didn’t touch people’s hearts as deeply as it should have. The blazing flames of grief weakened until nothing was left in less than a week, and the fickle attention of the public quickly moved onto another topic altogether.
Yu Sae-Jung’s SNS post was the beginning. A week ago, she posted a comment regarding her Society, The Monster, for her over two-million-strong followers to read.
And the contents within were great enough to make people forget about the African Fissure incident - the third Athany doll as well as the ‘Orc Series’ armaments.
The moment her post went live, it gathered explosive amount of attention from the Knights as well as from the public; and the servers of The Monster could not handle the traffic inundating the home page which led to it crashing several times.
‘…How long should I wait for?’
And right now, this place was in the middle of the Society causing all that ruckus. The Monster’s own private building, on the top floor - fifth.
Kim Yu-Rin sighed at the unrelenting passage of time.
She had a lot of work piled up today, but… it wasn’t like she could just run away from this important agenda with a flimsy excuse of attending to her own personal matters. It felt like her innards were burning up from all the nervousness.
‘But there sure are lots of people here. Well… it’s a ridiculously good item, so there’s that.’
The reception was packed to the brim with numerous awaiting Knights. Not only the members from the local Knights Orders, but the people from the overseas Orders, and several Wizards were present as well.
Without a doubt, they came here for the mascot doll that had become famous the world over, the Athany.
The Knights Orders and Wizard Towers sent out purchase request forms to The Monster as if they were in a contest or something, after checking out the notice on the Society’s webpage.
As there were way too many requests, Yu-Rin heard that only ten interviews would take place every day… so, judging by the sheer number of people present, it seemed like the big shots of each Order came here with their own entourage.
‘…Should I have brought people of my own too, I wonder?’
Kim Yu-Rin felt a slight regret born out of loneliness gnawing at her, but she quickly shook head.
That guy Chae Young-Ho would have tried to weasel his way in if she hadn’t declared her intentions to come here alone. So, this was actually better for her.
"Uh?! Aren’t you Knight Kim Yu-Rin?"
As she sat there and continued to wait endlessly, out of the blue some guy walked up closer and tried to chat her up. In that moment, the focus of the surroundings gathered here.
"Ah… yes. Hello."
She did wear a hat and a mask since she wanted to avoid this kind of situation, but…
Yu-Rin felt uncomfortable about this, but out of common courtesy, took off her disguise and greeted the man.
Since it was quite likely that the Knights here were all some kind of big shots in their respective Orders, she had to maintain a certain amount of decorum. Also, the words of Chae Young-Ho when he accused her of inadvertently ignoring other Knights played in her mind, too.
"The Raven also came?"
"Hu-uh, how troublesome. They are so greedy… keu-mm."
However, the atmosphere of the place quickly turned strange. Inside this spacious reception area, eyes of every Knight present sharpened like knives and they began glaring at Kim Yu-Rin as if she was their mortal enemy.
She panicked slightly as her gaze fell on the Knight who had recognised her first.
Unfortunately, this guy carried an expression of utter satisfaction at this turn of events; smiling contently, he then deliberately spoke at the top of his voice.
"By the way, I thought the Raven Order possessed an Athany doll already… But well, I can sympathise. Having two would be better, after all. The title of the best Knights Order in South Korea should be safer this way as well, too. Honestly speaking, it’s actually better for the Raven to acquire the doll instead of other Orders as far as the country’s interests are concerned, am I right?"
Anyone could hear from the tone of his voice that he wanted to cause trouble for her here.
Feeling a bit of anger swell up inside her, she was about to speak her mind when the dude said some crap like he was praying for her success and stuff, before disappearing to some other place.
"Hey, excuse m…"
With steam of anger rising from her head, she stood up abruptly from her seat, but her thoughts froze in their tracks when the whispers of the surroundings entered her ears.
"Uh-whew. Look how she came here all alone. As if she’s afraid of sharing her achievements… Really, she’s not the youngest Highest Tier in the history for nothing."
"She’s a cold one, that one."
No names, no faces - she could only hear their voices.
Only then did Yu-Rin realise it. This place here had turned into a huge political arena. These individuals had even forgotten about keeping a cordial front just for a chance to acquire the doll of Athany…
Getting mentally struck by multiple blows of dissenting voices loaded with clear hostility, Yu-Rin crumbled back down on her seat.
She realised that she had no allies in this place.
And so, Kim Yu-Rin had to endure all the hostile glares and cold sarcasms of other Knights by herself alone.
"Well then. We’ll be in your care, Mister Chairman!!"
"Please take care of us!!"
The vice Order Master of the Daebaek, Oh Jung-Hyuk and his son Oh Dae-Soo bent their backs in 90 degree angle.
On their sides, really thick documents and rolled-up papers could be seen.
Those were all the PR materials they prepared for this meeting.
The pair of father and son prepared an extensive presentation for the meeting with Kim Sae-Jin; such as, how the Daebaek would assist The Monster if they acquired the Athany doll, projections of real benefits for both, as well as strategies to appeal to his sensible side, etc.
Of course, Sae-Jin was well aware just how badly Knights Orders wished to acquire the doll, but such an unexpectedly fervent ardour still ended up giving him a case of migraine.
And his ‘time’ was running short, too…
"Ah, yes, well… There was no need to go that far… Still, thank you for coming. The results will be announced in two weeks’ time."
Sae-Jin also felt slightly uncomfortable at the sight of two people who were obviously older than him be so mindful of their manners and end up looking unmanly in the process.
"Please, we’d be deeply satisfied if you think of us in the most favourable light. As we spoke to you earlier, our Knights Order can…"
Oh Jung-Hyuk did his utmost best to alert Sae-Jin to the benefits his Order could provided right up until the very end.
After finishing up this interview, Sae-Jin took a short break. He jotted down what Oh Jung-Hyuk had said on a piece of paper, and then pulled out his phone.
"…Wow. Fifty thousand, already?"
It’d been only three days, but he already had 50k followers. As expected, the power of Yu Sae-Jung’s word of mouth was considerable.
Well, her help here was nothing more than her becoming a follower but still, since she followed only one person - him - obviously the public had to pay attention to the latest change in her SNS profile.
– Should I send in the next appointment?
The voice of the temp employee from the Dawn Corporation entered his ear.
"Yes. Please do."
The door opened, and a single woman walked in with heavy footsteps.
It was someone Sae-Jin was familiar with - Kim Yu-Rin.
But her state seemed a bit peculiar. Her face was red; her normally neat hair was somewhat dishevelled; and there was a trace of blood on her lips as if she was biting on them too hard for too long.
She walked heavily while gritting her teeth, and sat opposite to Sae-Jin.
"…Will it work, dad?"
"Of course. You also saw that things went smoothly in there, right? And just how much money did we spend on Kim Sae-Jin’s close aides? And I even gave out a little present to that manager Elf from the armoury, too… Kehuem. Let’s talk about this later."
At Oh Dae-Soo’s confused question, Oh Jung-Hyuk looked at his son with disappointed eyes. The gaze contained the feelings of a father who felt sadness and pity for his son who was clueless on the ways of the real world.
"That Elf manager from the armoury. That woman who is being suspected as Kim Sae-Jin’s main squeeze. How come you didn’t… Hoo. Fine, fine. I shouldn’t even have brought it up."
Oh Jung-Hyuk shook his head and stepped into the elevator first. Dae-Soo stared at his father with envious eyes and then, with a huge grin on his lips, followed Jung-Hyuk into the elevator as well.
"As always, I knew you could do it, dad. You became friendly in that short amount of time with the girlfriend of the Society’s Chairman…"
"Calm down, son. I told you, it’s still just a speculation. It’s not a definite thing. Well, since Kim Sae-Jin is a man, he surely would have held one or two indecent thoughts about that Elf… by the way, why are you smiling so happily right now?"
Oh Jung-Hyuk grumbled and slapped the back of his son’s head. Regardless, Oh Dae-Soo continued to stare at his father with clear, round eyes of adulation.
Even though the boy was not all there up in his head, as a father, he just could not bring himself to hate his own child.
"Eiii, you bastard. Didn’t I tell you to lose some weight many times already?!"
Oh Jung-Hyuk poked the belly fat of his son while chuckling slightly.
< 16. A Blueprint of the Future (1) > Fin.
(TL: the amount remaining for the third extra chapter of the week: $36.)