A Monster Who Levels Up
(This extra chapter is sponsored by these two rivals, who are framed by a criminal kingpin and are forced to work together to clear their name and kick some butt along the way: Veronique "Tango" B and Philip "Cash" G.)
"I thought you'd take up residence in the dormitory, too… well, whatever, see you tomorrow." (Yi Yu-Jin)
"Let's all pass this thing together, everyone." (Goh Yun-Jong)
Exams had come to an end for the day; the sky above had darkened before they realised it - 8 o'clock in the evening. Yi Yu-Jin and Goh Yun-Jong spoke their piece and headed towards the dormitory located in the Tower of Eden.
Jin Seh-Hahn casually waved his hand and said his goodbyes, before making his way towards a deserted back alley quite a distance away from Eden. There, he changed back to Kim Sae-Jin and headed back home.
When he arrived, he found Yu Sae-Jung waiting for him as usual.
However, saying that she was waiting for him at home was a bit incorrect now.
Two toothbrushes in the bathroom; a huge king-sized bed much bigger than two people could ever occupy, located in the main bedroom, alongside a bedside dressing table; several high-heels within the shoe cabinet and two closets in the walk-in change room. His house that was entirely too big for a single man to live in had been filled up now, somewhat.
So, at this point in time, it'd be more accurate to say they were living together now, or maybe it was more like this was a newly-weds' home instead.
While wearing a pair of cute bunny slippers, Yu Sae-Jung came to the entrance to welcome him home. He took off his coat and handed it over, and like a practiced housewife, she took it to the wash basket.
Kim Sae-Jin let out a long sigh as he lied down on the living room couch. She then stealthily approached him without getting noticed and began shooting him a faked resentful sideways glance.
"The work you've been doing must be keeping you busy? I mean, you left at 8 in the morning, only to return now."
Kim Sae-Jin smiled bitterly. This feeling of his body being numb and fatigued, he hadn't felt it for a long time. Well, his actual physical condition was quite fine, but his mind was completely tired out. After all, it wasn't a relaxing vacation to find himself in the middle of 200 or so people while busy minding their glares and eavesdropping on others bad mouthing him.
"I'm feeling really sleepy…"
While yawning out, he checked out the time. It was 9 in the evening. In around three hours, he'd have to assume the Monster Forms and wander around outside so he didn't have much time left.
Yu Sae-Jung carefully observed him with meaningful gaze before jumping into his arms.
"Don't give up, Oppa. Whenever you need the Dawn's aid, just tell me. I'll be able to do something, if it's up to somewhere around a member of a parliament… Well, of course it's my grandpa who's going to do something, but if I ask him nicely, he won't be able to refuse me."
Within Sae-Jin's embrace, she began fidgeting and showed a lot of aegyo. She looked so adorable acting like this, even as tired as he was, Sae-Jin just had to smile warmly at the sight.
He then realised why people went through so much trouble and pursued romance, seeing how comfortable he felt when someone was beside him and giving him encouragements.
"…Thank you." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin wholeheartedly thanked her and pulled in closer. His body was definitely bigger than hers, yet he felt safe and comfortable as if he was the one being hugged tightly.
"What's the point of being thankful, though? You haven't even told me yet what you're doing until now." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Quickly seizing this chance, Yu Sae-Jung began acting like a spoiled child. However, Sae-Jin remained as firm as an iron wall.
"…That… Later. When you grow to like me even m
ore, I'll tell you everything. Absolutely everything." (Sae-Jin)
Of course, he would have to tell her everything sooner or later.
But to him, precisely because she was his girlfriend, he found it hard to tell her the truth.
There was the matter of him changing into different Monsters, but more importantly, he had to be mindful of her status as the heir of the Dawn dynasty.
Technically speaking, he was a completely different 'species' compared to her. Although the passage of time might have softened his stance, a certain anecdote still made rounds, the one about the Dawn's Chairman declaring to the world that his precious granddaughter would never marry a foreigner or her name would be removed from the Yu family register altogether.
She was someone he had to treasure more than anyone else out there, which only gave rise to several excuses to be reluctant about revealing the truth.
"But it's impossible to like you even more than now. you know? It's okay to tell me now, really!" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Totally oblivious to his inner thoughts, she maintained wide-open eyes and dug deeper into his embrace, then began tickling his side.
"How many times should I say it? I like you a lot, I love you a lot…" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"I know. I know, so please, be still." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin embraced her tightly and stopped her from complaining.
And about five minutes of their hugging later.
Out of the blue, Yu Sae-Jung stealthily moved her hands and began fondling his butt. At first, her movement was over the surface of his training pants, but then, her hands invaded under the fabric and…
"What are you doing?" (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin narrowed his eyes at the odd fondling he could feel around his a*s.
"…Well, uh… just because you're tired, that doesn't mean you should go to bed right away… But what gives? Even though I didn't wanna do it, we still did it, but when it's me, you don't wanna?"
Yu Sae-Jung pouted and began fondling even more openly than before. As she did the deed many times with Sae-Jin, she had become quite more proactive compared to how she was like before.
"Fuhut. Hey, that tickles."
Kim Sae-Jin finally exploded into a fit of giggles while looking at her as she continued to rub her body against his thighs.
The time remaining for him to get a shut-eye was less than three hours, but… well, this monstrous body of his only needed a couple of hours to recover from all the fatigue anyway.
The exams for the Knights continued on.
The second trial consisted of the cadets trying to escape from a bizarre 'space' located within the Tower after they were imprisoned there. The space was incredibly huge after some type of expansion magic was cast on it, enlarging it; decorated to resemble the great wilderness, it contained countless Monsters, wild beasts as well as numerous dangerous traps.
And even trapped within this jungle-like environment, Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin broke past all trials and tribulations with empty hands. When Monsters and vicious beasts appeared, he just twisted their necks off; if there was an obstruction blocking his way, he blew it away with a single punch; and thanks to his sharp perception, he never fell into such small things as traps.
In the midst of all this, Jin Seh-Hahn didn't forget the core of this test, 'cooperation'. If a fellow cadet was faced with danger, he helped out, and if another cadet fell into a trap, he helped out again.
"He's definitely a genius worthy of the first place in the current rankings."
And since Jin Seh-Hahn was completely unmatched within the criteria of judging cadets, every single one of the high-ranking officials from the various Knights Orders who came to observe the proceedings were busy licking their lips, lights of greed shining in their eyes.
"Most of all, it is quite wonderful to see him take care of the fellow cadets." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Even the Highest Knight from the Raven Order, Kim Yu-Rin, was among those.
"Agreed… But isn't his background somewhat suspicious?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
This careful objection was raised by Vice Order Master of the Daebaek Knights Order, Oh Jung-Hyuk.
With his Knights Order's stock rising everyday, Oh Jung-Hyuk's shoulders had straightened quite a bit with pride nowadays. Of course, the reason for this rise in prominence was due to the title of 'only one of four Knights Orders in the country to possess an Athany doll' as well as being on friendly terms with The Monster Guild, so it was all dependent on the external factors.
But the truth was, new potential recruits began placing more and more emphasis on such points instead with every passing day.
"No fixed address, no known family members and a homeless bum to boot… But, his abilities are very good and judging from what he has shown so far, his personality seems also not bad." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"Huhuh. Looks like Miss Yu-Rin still believes in people a little too easily. We do not know what kind of dark ambitions sleep within that man, and since he's a bum, he might even be blinded by wealth…"
Although Oh Jung-Hyuk was passionately and resolutely objecting to her evaluations, Yu-Rin had seen through his charade already. He might berate the person in question but on the day of the completion ceremony, without a doubt he'd proactively seduce Jin Seh-Hahn before anyone else had a chance.
"Well… if he has a dark side like what you've said, then I'm sure it'll be revealed in all good time." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Only one hour had passed since the test had begun.
There was no way she'd have enough free time to observe this test in entirety that was scheduled to last twelve hours, but still…
'I should tell Hye-Rin to keep an eye out on the guy.' (Kim Yu-Rin)
The story about the leader of the current pack of cadets being a very good seedling had been spreading around already, and now that she had seen them, there were a few more that caught her eyes, so she needed to keep her wits about her and catch them.
After the 12 hours-long test came to an end, the majority of the cadets had fallen down to the ground like dead logs and panted heavily from the exhaustion. Among them who maintained the best condition were, of course, Jin Seh-Hahn, Yi Yu-Jin, and Kim Myoung-Hwan - the top three picks of the invited observers.
"Uhm, excuse me…"
In the midst of this, five hesitating cadets suddenly approached Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin as he was loosening his neck as he sat in the cross-legged position. Although he didn't know their individual names, he still remembered their faces; he did rescue them from a trap earlier in the day, after all.
"What's up?" (Sae-Jin)
"…Well, that… we came to say…. thank you…"
Three boys and two girls lowered their heads hesitantly to express their gratitude. Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin quietly gazed the group, and then…
"It's cool." (Sae-Jin)
He spoke that one line and stood up.
A thin smile spread on his lips. He thought that, although they spoke badly of him due to the sense of emptiness they all felt, these cadets still hadn't let their humanity rot away yet.
"Oh~, looks like Ahjussi's popularity is on the rise." (Yi Yu-Jin)
Meanwhile, the energetic Yi Yu-Jin and the half-dead Goh Yun-Jong approached him.
"Let's hurry up and eat!!"
"…I'm too tired to even eat…"
"Why do you complain all the time like a little girl, when you're supposed to be a man?!"
Jin Seh-Hahn headed towards the cafeteria with the arguing duo - although, it clearly was a one-sided grilling.
The tests continued afterwards. On the third day, it was about hunting Monsters. On the fourth day, a traditional boot camp. On the fifth day, a reenactment of historical events, etc, etc… Three more excruciatingly painful days passed by, at least from the perspective of the cadets.
During this time period, the original number of 205 participants were reduced to mere 75. The rankings 205th to 76th had been all disqualified.
On the other hand, Jin Seh-Hahn continued his stranglehold on the 1st spot with a five-point margin over the 2nd place; meanwhile, Yi Yu-Jin and Kim Myoung-Hahn constantly fought over the 2nd and 3rd place, only a single point separating the two.
And so, on the sixth day.
Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin was eating together with Yi Yu-Jin and her circle of "friends" after getting more friendlier with one another. Well, it wasn't really about them getting more friendly, but actually, it was Yi Yu-Jin who one-sidedly approached him purely out of competitive spirit.
"…So, even Ahjussi is going to volunteer for a spot in Eden?" (Yi Yu-Jin)
As they ate, he even found something in common with Yi Yu-Jin. And that was, their ultimate destination being Eden.
"That's right." (Sae-Jin)
"How uncommon. To see two Knights from the same evaluation apply to enter Eden… Huhuh, well, I'll be. As long as people like you two exist, dreams, hopes and ideals will never perish, I guess." (Kim Myoung-Hahn)
At Kim Myoung-Hahn's cynical taunts, Yi Yu-Jin's forehead creased up in irritation.
"Why can't you just shut the f*ck up. No wait, just get the hell away from me." (Yi Yu-Jin)
"Hahah. I was simply stating the truth. What would you do, if you fail to enter Eden and become a repeat test taker…?" (Kim Myoung-Hahn)
With the reason of having a firm 'conviction', Eden disapproved of wanting to enter other Knights Orders. So, in the case one applied to enter Eden but failed - well, while carrying the sadness of knowing one would never be able to enter Eden, one had to become a repeat test taker and wait until the following year's February.
"…Fuu. Ahjussi, just ignore that bastard, and let's duel against each other in good faith. Even though my ranking is lower than yours, you know this too, right? That the final test gives out the highest scores. There will be enough chances for me to reverse the rankings soon enough." (Yi Yu-Jin)
Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin simply replied with a smile.
While they were conversing away in a not-very important topic, the door to the cafeteria opened and the instructor entered. The new instructor was also someone Sae-Jin could recognise - Kim In-Soo, the Knight who was trying to show off before getting properly schooled by Sae-Jin way back when.
Sae-Jin nearly laughed out loudly when he saw In-Soo's face, but held it back somehow. His cheeks were so chubby now - just how did he gain so much weight?
"How do you do, ladies and gentlemen. I'm a High Tier Knight from the Genesis Order, Kim In-Soo."
Proportional to the increase in the girth of his body, his Tier had increased by another level as well.
"We'll start the test for the sixth day soon. And the test for the day is - dueling in front of the observers. With the observers from the various Knights Orders watching you, you will duel against other cadets on the duel arena." (Kim In-Soo)
Right away, cadets tensed up. Obviously, a duel would best demonstrate the combat abilities of Knights, but actually, the end results depended heavily on who the opponents were.
"There will be two types of duels. Firstly, cadets will compete with each other. In this case, the 1st spot in the rankings will have the first choice, and the cadet chosen by the 1st spot will naturally lose his or her right to chose." (Kim In-Soo)
The cadets suddenly began checking out the mood of Sae-Jin's table where the first three rankers were seated.
However, Yi Yu-Jin was only staring hard at Jin Seh-Hahn's direction. Because, this was the chance to reverse the rankings that she had mentioned just now.
"And the second duel will be against an expert. In order to accurately measure your abilities, we secured the aid of someone quite beautiful and important this time." (Kim In-Soo)
Wait a damn minute.
Kim Sae-Jin suddenly had a bad premonition. He began recollecting the conversation he had with Yu Sae-Jung about two days ago.
- I decided to do a job my dad asked me to do, as a commemoration of me becoming a upper Mid Tier.
- But you became a upper Mid Tier because of my Tattoos, though… Okay, fine. What kind of a job is it?
- …Well, Oppa did help me out there, that's true. But whatever, the thing is, quite a few talented newbie Knights are showing up, so… Ah, it's a secret. Oppa doesn't want to tell me his, so this will be my secret.
At the time, Sae-Jin didn't think much about it, but…
"That expert is the world's youngest upper Mid Tier Knight, the Dawn Knights Order's Miss Yu Sae-Jung." (Kim In-Soo)
At this unexpected announcement of a celebrity arriving soon, all the cadets carried a stunned expression.
Among them, Jin Seh-Hahn's facial change was particularly honest.
< 29. Eden, The Tower of Knights (2) > Fin.
(TL: $4 left out of $50 for next week's first sponsored chapter. Get this, I had received enough to meet the quota, then PayPal decided to charge me again. I just don't get how they operate - sometimes they charge, sometimes they don't, sometimes they charge a lot, sometimes they charge only a couple of cents… without any explanations whatsoever. It's so aggravating…)
(TL: Oh and BTW, all the donations made towards sponsoring extra chapters after Thursday deadline will only show up on the following week, in case if you're wondering. Not sure if I've said this before, but there you go.)