A Monster Who Levels Up
(TL: Brought to you by these generous donors: Gerald C, Keneth P, Donevin T, Mario R, Erik A, Maxwell G, Dale B, Timothy W, Karlis A, Jan B, Stephen M, Donald B, Robert R, Martin G, David R, Daniel T, Dennis D and Philipp G. Thank you for your support.)
The invading coldness and the water drops falling on her body woke Kim Yu-Rin up.
It was pitch dark everywhere. The steam of breath escaping her lips were white. It was really cold in here. So, she tried to wrap her body with the Mana Barrier. However, Mana in her body didn’t respond.
Thanks to the puzzlement and the subsequent realisation of the severity of this situation woke her up from the dazed state real fast. At the same time…
She heard a low growl out of the blue. Surprised, she quickly turned her head around and saw the Hero Orc. And her heart nearly jumped out of her mouth. He was so close that if she reached out, her hand would touch him.
She forcibly suppressed her wildly beating heart and tried to stand up. It seemed like she must’ve hit something while falling, as her knee joints ached. But figuring out where she was had higher priority than worrying about such pain for now.
So, she looked around.
For a cave she fell into after the ground gave in, this place sure looked… man-made. And for some strange reason, she could not control her Mana at all.
‘Is this because of an isolation barrier?’
With a dead-serious face, Yu-Rin touched the dark wall of the cave. And when her skin came in contact with the wall, a strangely cold sensation crept up all over her body.
"*SFX for a sound someone makes while shivering in cold*"
She couldn’t help but collapse back down while her body trembled from the invading coldness.
And seeing her like this, Kim Sae-Jin let out a quiet sigh. Just what the heck was this bothersome situation, when he was getting sleepy from using up so much of his own Mana?
‘But man, where is this place anyways?’
Only after he activated the Eyes of the Wolf could he check out the interior of the cave better, but still, the end could not be seen at all. There wasn’t even a single beam of light in this perfect darkness.
Feeling frustrated and irritated, he began pressing down on his forehead.
"It’s an isolation barrier magic," said Kim Yu-Rin. "Since there is a high probability that simple collapsing of the ground would not harm the Knights who can use Mana Barriers, it seems like there had been a specialised isolation enchantment placed here beforehand. But a Lich can not lay out such a multi-layered magic spell."
She turned her head to look at the Orc. She wasn’t sure whether he could understand her words or not, but seeing that he was quietly gazing at her made her think that maybe, he could.
"That’s because a Lich lacks any form of reasoning and so it only uses destructive spells. That’s why this was the handiwork of humans for sure."
The Orc wordlessly nodded his head.
‘Man, this is so damn frustrating.’
The mouth of Kim Sae-Jin the Orc was itching madly right now. The Proficiency for the Vocal Cord Reconstruction had increased so ‘nicely’ that now it was already at B, meaning it was not a problem to talk in this Orc Form. However, for an Orc to talk like a human was… just a bit wrong, was it not? Of course, Kim Yu-Rin did meet a talking Goblin in the past, but still.
"In that case… should we start… walking now?"
Only half sure of the Orc understanding human speech, Kim Yu-Rin gestured with her hand. Then, the Orc really took the lead and began walking deeper into the cave.
She stood there with her mouth hanging loose while staring at the back of the Orc in a daze, before waking up from the stupor to hurriedly follow him.
No matter how long they walked, the exit could not be found. And Kim Yu-Rin’s face became paler and paler as well, from the case of severe hypothermia.
Seeing her shake like a leaf next to him, Sae-Jin briefly fell into a dilemma. Currently, he had a coat-type armour inside his body via Spiritualisation. If he brought that out and handed it over to her, she wouldn’t shake like that.
He could hear her freezing breaths. In a way, that was expected. The coldness in this cave was harsh enough to make him, an Orc, feel the deathly chilliness as well. And within this bitter coldness, she couldn’t use the armour made out of Mana, the most important ability of a Knight, the Mana Barrier…
Kim Yu-Rin ‘s footsteps stopped after her feet hit a pebble on the ground. She tried desperately to hold onto her weakening consciousness, but she no longer had any more strength left to endure this bitter coldness anymore.
And so, her eyes slowly began to close.
As he couldn’t help it, the Orc took out one of the armours from within his body.
A black coat-style armour that easily approached the rank of Branded Goods - although he didn’t add an attribute like controlling the body temperature on it, as he used the ‘crimson stones’ as base ingredients, it should be okay since those stones could naturally create heat.
Using that small window of opportunity when Yu-Rin’s eyes were closed, he instantly changed the appearance of the coat into a blanket via Spiritualisation. And he wrapped her with it as she tottered around uneasily on her feet, about to fall down.
Almost right away, the warmth from the crimson stones permeated into Yu-Rin’s entire body. And thanks to experiencing this warmth within the bitter coldness, her legs lost strength momentarily and she ended up falling down anyway.
"Kkeu-aht!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
The Orc stared at her with slightly disbelieving eyes, before holding her slender shoulders to pull her up to her feet.
After standing up straight, she glanced down at the warm blanket covering her. She had no idea where this thing came from, but this was perfectly fine since the coldness melted away like snow.
"This… Thank you."
She began to show her gratitude while still being propped up by the Orc’s arms. But weirdly enough, both of her cheeks were dyed in deep crimson for some reason.
Because of the sudden collapse of the ground, the defensive line received a damage akin to total annihilation. Several dozen Knights went missing and among them was a Highest Tier Knight who made up a considerable part of the fighting force, Kim Yu-Rin.
"…Just what happened here?"
A High Tier Knight affiliated with the Raven Order, Park Hyun pointed at a certain part of the ground, which had sunk into the distant bottom.
"After causing the earth to collapse with magic, it seems that via prepared magic circles, summoning and isolation barrier magics have been activated. That’s why we can’t summon them back. There is naught we can do but to wait until they find a way to reverse the summoning from inside the barrier."
Kim Hyun-Seok, the Master of the Raven Order and the commander in charge of this defensive line, spoke. Even though his own daughter had gone missing, he continued to maintain a cold and composed attitude.
"..Then, what should be our next move, commander? Miss Kim Yu-Rin, who had stepped up to the leading role, and most of her subordinates are unaccounted for, so to just evacuate like this…"
"She has lived all her life in hardship. She’ll come back alive, somehow. For now, we’re retreating to the rear-most defensive line and get ready for the final day’s battle. We can not protect this 1st line any longer."
If this defensive line was given up, then searching for the missing Knights would become much more difficult. It might have been a rational decision to make, but at the same time, it was a cold one as well.
But the subordinate Knight couldn’t say anything else.
Underneath all that soil, under that isolation barrier, Kim Hyun-Seok’s daughter was trapped in there.
In other words, this decision was made by one person who would’ve wanted to find the missing Knights more than anyone else here.
"…Yes, sir. Understood."
At the same time.
An Orc and a single female Knight were still walking inside this unknown cave.
"There are magic circles engraved all over the cave. Without a doubt, they confirm that this place is artificially created. And also, even though our side had many Wizards, seeing that there aren’t any measures taken to help us until now, it’s likely that we were brought within this isolation barrier by a summoning-type magic."
Kim Yu-Rin murmured as she carefully studied the blue-coloured magic circle on the wall. The Orc then came to stand next to her and did the same.
Yu-Rin took a glance at the Orc, before taking a couple of steps back discreetly.
‘For an Orc, he sure does resemble a human, doesn’t he?’
Her face reddened again at this thought suddenly entering her head.
The way this Hero Orc acted or the way his face was shaped was really quite strange. Not only did he not have the Orc’s trademark protruding teeth, his facial features were sharp and well defined. Heck, even his ponytail was long and so shiny; if his skin colour was not blue and that somewhat flattish face was changed slightly, then he’d be a cool gu…
"Eu, eu, eu…"
She quickly shook her head, hard. She could not understand why such thoughts kept popping up in her head. So much so, she was actually beginning to question her own tastes as a human being.
It was then. The Orc that was staring at the magic circle on the wall suddenly grasped his mace real tight.
Even before Yu-Rin had the chance to get surprised at this sudden change in atmosphere, he slammed the wall hard with the mace.
The powerful shock wave and the ear-shattering noise reverberated in the cave’s interior.
Kim Yu-Rin covered her ears. Even then, she thought she could hear bells ringing in her head.
But she knew enough not to complain. Instead, she slowly approached the spot the Orc hit, and began studying it deeply.
"…There is no change."
The Orc spat out a seemingly dissatisfied snort. Smiling thinly, Yu-Rin lightly patted his arm.
"Let’s start walking again. And as far as I can tell, the way we walked isn’t the same as before, so maybe we might find answers if we continue to move forward… Mm?"
Unlike what she said just now, she could feel some kind of change. The bitter coldness of the cave seemed to have eased just a little.
"…W, wait a minute. There is a change. Uhm… Mister Orc?"
Yu-Rin ended up using a strange honorific to address the Orc. He simply nodded his head. (TL: Yu-Rin has been using the speech pattern usually reserved for addressing older person, when talking to Sae-Jin’s Orc Form until now.)
"Right. Let’s get going."
Two of them began moving their feet in a hurry.
Afterwards, whenever they came across a magic circle, the Orc pounded on it. Normally, Mana-induced effects could not be damaged with physical attacks, but with the attribute added onto his weapon, it was now possible.
"The ‘isolation barrier’ is steadily becoming unstable!"
And when he destroyed about five of them, Kim Yu-Rin shouted out in a bright voice after sensing the nearly imperceptible vibration in the isolation magic. Then the Orc let out a short chuckle and lightly patted her head again.
She wasn’t sure if this head patting thing was this Orc’s habit or not, but she still accepted it gladly while carrying a timid smile.
Funnily enough, the one who got taken aback from her reaction was Kim Sae-Jin instead. After getting surprised, he suppressed his instinctual habit and removed his hand away from her head.
After each one of the magic circles were destroyed, the isolation barrier’s effects disappeared one by one; and when around what they thought was eight hours of time had passed by, they could finally find her fainted fellow Knights.
"Ah!! Mister Orc!"
Laying down a fainted Knight on the ground, Yu-Rin hurriedly ran towards the Orc to receive him. There were two more Knights resting on his shoulders.
"It’s Hye-Rin and Soo-Gyeom. Whew… What a relief. Thank you, Mister Orc."
She let out a sigh of relief.
They had divided their roles. Orc walked around the cave to find the fainted Knights and brought them here, while Yu-Rin looked after them in this safe area until they regained their consciousness.
"Please, carefully, carefully…"
Maybe because these two were quite close to her, she raised quite a fuss while receiving the two dead weights and carefully laid them down on the ground.
Right on cue, the Knight lying closest began to groan. Surprised, Kim Yu-Rin quickly rushed over there. And just like the falling pieces of domino, as soon as one person woke up, people began regaining their consciousness, starting from the person they discovered first.
They initially let out a sigh of relief seeing Yu-Rin’s face but then after discovering the Orc, nearly fainted again - only to sigh out in relief again after hearing her explanations on what had transpired here, and so, they had to go through quite a rollercoaster of emotions.
"In other words, it’s still unclear if we can escape or not?"
"As we can’t control Mana yet, looks like we still need to destroy a few more first." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin spoke in an overtly official manner to the subordinate Knight, her previously demure demeanor when interacting with the Orc nowhere to be seen now.
"Whew. Really, I’m relieved. Who knew that we could be safe thanks to that Orc bastard…"
Yu-Rin’s forehead creased at the words of this subordinate. The disrespectful words ‘Orc bastard’ somehow got on her nerves. However, if she started picking fault with that, then that weird rumour might spread around even further…
"W, what’s the matter, ma’am?"
"..That Orc g, guy can understand human words. We don’t know what might happen so you need to watch what you say."
While taking a quick glance at the Orc who was stretching his neck, she whispered very quietly.
"Ah… Yes, ma’am…"
The subordinate nodded, while carrying a slightly weirded out expression.
< 23. Red Moon (4) > Fin.
(TL: Next chapter should go live in a couple of minutes.)