A Monster Who Levels Up
After finishing up the magic communication with Kim Yu-Sohn, Sae-Jin shared breakfast with Yu Sae-Jung.
"Ah, right. Oppa, a few days ago, I saw a person who looked strangely like you."
Although his head was still aching due to the serious nature of the communication he had just now, those words coming out of Yu Sae-Jung's mouth held more than enough power to make him pay close attention.
"What do you mean by that…?" (Sae-Jin)
Feeling guilty, Sae-Jin responded as quick as the flash of light as soon as she finished saying her words.
"Ah, well, the thing is, I took on the job of an instructor for the Knight evaluation exams' duels. That's where I saw that person." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Mm. On top of that, even though he was supposed to be a cadet, I was really surprised because he was so much stronger than any other cadets there. Maybe it's true that there's a doppelganger resembling each of us out there somewhere. With Oppa, and that guy, it was really strange, you know? It was su~per interesting."
While speaking, Yu Sae-Jung took a sneaky glance at Sae-Jin's direction to see his reaction, whether he'd show some form of jealousy with this… However, all he did was put the spoon down rather coldly without showing an expression.
"…What's the matter? It doesn't taste good again?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Seeing this, Yu Sae-Jung asked, slightly worried.
"Ah, no. It's not that, just…. Kinda curious, since you say he resembles me. So, what happened to that cadet?" (Sae-Jin)
"Oh, that. Well, even I'm unhappy regarding that part. I was planning to persuade him at the completion ceremony, you know? But it turns out, he had already refused invitations from all the other Knights Orders, including the Raven. I asked around, and apparently, he's applying to enter Eden." (Yu Sae-Jung)
She then nodded her head.
"Ng, right. Eden's entry barrier is uselessly tough, but then, their treatment of the members is lots worse when compared to the Dawn… Sure, your ranks might rise nice and easy during the evaluation exams since there's the special consideration applied when working for Eden, but still, I can't understand why he made a choice like that."
She began to sing like a canary all on her own. But she still hadn't spoken about the most important part yet.
"…So, does that mean Eden is going to drop him, then?" (Sae-Jin)
"Huh? What have you been listening to, Oppa? I said, even I was surprised by him, you know? He's obviously been accepted." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Yeah. I asked directly, via my dad. I was planning to snag him after a half year's wait if he got dropped, but, oh well." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Maintaining the best poker-face he could make, Sae-Jin nodded.
It was done. As soon as he displayed an almighty growth without restraint and reach the upper Mid Tier, then…
"Oppa, you weren't listening to me again just now, were you? What were you thinking about? Is it another woman?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Huh?! What are talking about?"
"Didn't you say you are going somewhere with Hazeline Unni soon? Weren't you thinking about the trip?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
She was making a joke, but her words still contained a slight amount of her true feelings and a bit of worry.
"No way. Besides, that's just for business. You know, related to Alchemy…"
And so, at the sudden and swift change in the topic of conversation, Sae-Jin began hastily giving away his best excuses.
One week later.
Just like the Yu Sae-Jung's spoiler, Kim Sae-Jin could become an honoured Knight of Eden as Jin Seh-Hahn. It seemed that the Eden's insignia, made out of pure platinum, possessed a certain magnetic charm that made Knights of other top Orders take envious glances at its wearers.
"Ahjussi, let's do a good job."
Standing right next to him during the accolade, the knighting ceremony,
was Yi Yu-Jin. He still could clearly remember that after getting defeated at the duels, she cried her eyes out with the thought of failing to enter Eden taking a toll on her. However, her sole aim for the past six years studying in the Academy was just to enter Eden and it seemed such a conviction was rated highly enough by the management of Eden in the end.
"We'll be seeing each other lots more in the future, so I don't think it's okay to not say anything to your colleague, though?" (Yi Yu-Jin)
During the accolade as well as after its end, when they were walking out of the Tower, Yi Yu-Jin yapped on and on nonstop.
But her chattiness couldn't continue on forever.
"They are coming out!"
The matter of two Knights emerging from a single exam who got accepted by Eden, was a great source of pride for the whole country, especially considering that there was only one successful entrant in the last three years.
"…What the hell is this?" (Yi Yu-Jin)
Already, countless reporters were camping out in front of the Tower. Yi Yu-Jin and Kim Sae-Jin both narrowed their brows at the same time as the camera flashes exploded all around the two and loud shouts disguised as questions were thrown at them.
"But they never entered the Tower's grounds before…" (Yi Yu-Jin)
"Both of you! We'd like to hear your thoughts on becoming Eden's Knights!!" (Unnamed reporter 1)
"We heard that the Knight Jin Seh-Hahn was originally a homeless…" (Unnamed reporter 2)
"Knight Yi Yu-Jin, please turn your pretty face this way!!" (Unnamed reporter 3)
…Sae-Jin had always felt this, but the people from the station MBS who asked that last question were truly a swarm of smelly houseflies.
"Wow, just what is the heck this?" (Yi Yu-Jin)
Yi Yu-Jin panicked and stopped moving as the huge wave of people descended down on her. It was then, Kim Sae-Jin, as Jin Seh-Hahn, sent a meaningful gaze towards her and bravely stepped forward. In all honesty, though, there was no bravery involved here. He had done so many press conferences already, it was like they had become a part of his life at this point in time.
"He's coming!" (Another unnamed reporter)
The waves of reporters then diverted towards Jin Seh-Hahn instead.
"Please tell us your thoughts!!"
"Are you satisfied with becoming an Eden's Knight?"
"What are your goals, hey move aside, man!! Now that you've become an Eden's Knight… your goal…. Eu ark!! Help!"
"My goal is… Let's rescue that guy first before he's crushed to death." (Sae-Jin)
"Whew-woo. T, thank you very much." (Unnamed reporter)
"My goal is quite simple. It's to rise to upper Mid Tier within the next six months." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin had no need to lie, nor did he feel like lying in the first place. That was why, on this occasion, he replied truthfully with words that were honest from his perspective, but from the views of the gathered reporters, rather gallant and arrogant.
For a short moment - for about one second or so, the stillness ruled the world. But soon enough, countless camera flashes went off once more. While busy snapping Sae-Jin's pictures, these reporters were already cooking up headlines that could cause the maximum amount of controversy.
An Eden's Knight received more advantages in comparison to other Knights within the same Tier. After all, successfully entering Eden meant that one's abilities and future potential were greater than the others.
But still, becoming a upper Mid Tier Knight within six months? Even a Knight possessing heaven-defying talent and Trait could not hope to achieve such a feat.
"Hahaha. That is quite a bold declaration!! What will follow after that? The world's greatest Knight? Or better still, the King of the Knights?" (Reporter)
"I aim to become a High Tier Knight within one year. Ah, right. When I say one year, I didn't mean one year after the six months spent in becoming a upper Mid Tier. It's one year from now." (Sae-Jin)
Seemingly unaffected by the sarcastic tone of the reporter's question, Sae-Jin boldly replied. And the intensity of the camera flashes and questions only increased afterwards.
Using the gap created by the attention of reporters drawn towards Jin Seh-Hahn, Yi Yu-Jin could finally escape the human barrier.
And then, Goh Yun-Jong, who was waiting at some distance away, approached her with a welcoming smiling that suited his personality to a T.
"…What are you doing here? Are you waiting for me? You sure do like to waste your time, don't you?" (Yi Yu-Jin)
Acting in an attitude rather contrary to what the bright smile blooming on her face indicated, Yu-Jin put her arm around the shoulder of Goh Yun-Jong who had a similar height as her.
"Let's get out of here. As a celebration of becoming Eden's Knights, I'll buy us a really expensive meal." (Yi Yu-Jin)
On the following day, news articles like the above flooded the airwaves.
As expected, all the Knights in various Orders were outraged.
"…Isn't he a crazy a*shole?" (Disgruntled Knight 1)
"Not only crazy, but a goddamn fraud, too." (Disgruntled Knight 2)
For these folks, they could become a Knight only after sacrificing their most-important developing teenage years under the pretext of training. But now, a bloody hobo who seemingly had never put in effort in anything was looking down on the rest of Knights, simply because he awakened a nice Trait?
"A bastard who doesn't even have any skills… When is he going to show up at our Order?"
Normally, an Eden's Knight was given the right to enter or leave any Knights Orders in the country, as they were seen as the so-called "All-Purpose Knight". Of course, the Eden's Knights could only enter non-restricted areas such as cafeterias and training grounds, but if the need arose, it was possible for them to partake in missions together with the Knights from other Orders.
"When he shows up, I'm going to rip him up a new one during a duel." (Disgruntled Knight 3)
…And so, the man who was being bad mouthed by not only the Knights in the Dawn Order but by practically everyone else in the country, Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin was in the midst of leisurely attending a callout.
As if he was flying in the sky, he kicked the ground and soared up high, arriving at the outskirts of the Gangwon Province.
*SFX for a loud roar of a Monster*
His target this time was a pair of Troll 'brothers' who were causing havoc on a road with the marking 'School' painted on. No one knew how these two Monsters had made their way this far, but to Sae-Jin, this event was nothing more than a day's work to fill up his performance quota.
"Eu ah ahrk!!"
The students leaving school to head back home began scattering away as soon as the Trolls appeared, but still, a handful of girls couldn't do that as they fell on the ground, fear robbing them of their leg strength. All they could do was to cry endlessly while hoping that this was just a bad dream.
*SFX for pitiful sobbing*
A large shadow drew upon a female student who was busy massaging her twisted ankle as she sobbed pitifully. Through her eyes, only open in a narrow slit, she confirmed the horrifying arm of the Troll raised up high into the sky. It was impossible for her to think any further than this. Her head was blanking out…
*SFX for a loud explosion*
The road trembled at the powerful shock wave.
And then, the Troll's arm raised up high began falling back down rather weakly.
A Troll collapsed on its knees; and sensing something was wrong, the female student opened her tightly-shut eyes ever so carefully.
She saw the back of a certain man. It was the type of back that was so broad and dependable, the type that restored the peace of mind.
When the female student let out a soft gasp of astonishment, the dude took a glance towards her. To her, this man looked like a model from overseas, no, a piece of an artwork, even with the lengthy beard that could be seen as a definite minus point by all women.
"Run away now." (Sae-Jin)
After speaking out those simple yet weighty words, he stepped forward towards the remaining Troll. Watching him preparing for a fierce battle, even the Troll became tensed up and it let out a loud roar.
*SFX for a loud roar*
But Kim Sae-Jin didn't back away. Only that, he poured all his power to take the next step forward and then, shot out like a bullet towards the Monster.
*SFX for yet another loud roar of a Troll*
The Troll responded by punching out.
And so, a gigantic fist and a comparably puny hand met in the middle.
However, the winner of this encounter was rather plainly obvious.
The moment the two fists met, the Troll's hand and the arm simply crumbled like a piece of soft tofu. After losing its limb with only a single strike, the Troll staggered about disoriented, but then got its heart pierced by the subsequent punch and died on the spot.
The street once filled with screams had now fallen utterly silent. Every citizen present dazedly stared at the bearded man.
However, the bearded man did a fake cough as if he was embarrassed by all the attention he had garnered, and he quickly kicked the ground and left the area towards a destination unknown.
Like a flittering mirage under the broad daylight, all these events had come to its swift conclusion less than one minute later.
It didn't take too long a time to confirm what Kim Yu-Sohn's dream was all about.
The time now was two weeks after Kim Sae-Jin had killed the two Trolls with the new identity as the Eden's Knight.
Just about every headlines appearing on newspapers and broadcasts were shouting "Monster assault incidents". Throughout every corner of the country, from the densely-populated cities to sparse rural areas, on average, 40 incidents of Monsters assaulting citizens broke out and over 300 people lost their lives every day.
The world quivered in fear at this unexplainable situation.
However, during the time of unrest, heroes were destined to be born.
The media couldn't control their excitement at the timely advent of a new hero.
Possessing an unrivalled macho fighting style where he would kill any Monster with a single punch. And with a sad backstory of being a homeless; then, not pursuing wealth and instead choosing Eden; a man with a dramatic life and overflowing with righteous conviction.
Almost all the media outlets beautifully played around with all of these facts and thanks to that, only after three weeks since he began his activity, Jin Seh-Hahn had become the hottest news item in South Korea.
Although, the truth was that many Knights still denounced him as a 'manufactured hero', remembering that 'arrogant' interview Jin Seh-Hahn gave after the accolade.
Whatever. His fame and popularity soared higher everyday. And his particular fighting style also attracted the attention of the Knight Academy.
"We at the Academy would like to utilise the footage of your battle style…. but will it be okay with you? Oh, of course, we will pay you the appropriate royalties as well." (Academy official)
Eden was seen as an 'All-Purpose' Knights Order, so its Knights had the qualifications to participate in any and all events related to Monsters. However, such qualifications meant that there were responsibilities to handle as well. Jin Seh-Hahn had to meet a representative from the Knights Academy at the request of Eden's higher-ups.
"…You say, my footage?" (Sae-Jin)
"Yes. Mister Jin Seh-Hahn's fighting style has, in its own unique way, has its own uses, and it's also popular currently as well, so… Our thoughts are, by using the footage of your fighting style as an educational material, won't we be able to bring forth a positive change? Ah, and also, there's the matter of profits earned from royalties. We don't hold normal type of classes but instead, they are structured as an one-on-one lecture with an instructor and so, students can choose which classes they enter. Parents seems to go with the flow of popularity, so if we take into account the fame of Mister Jin Seh-Hahn… well, I believe the profit should be substantial." (Academy official)
Not thinking too deeply, Jin Seh-Hahn just nodded his head. If, because of him, the talents of young cadets could blossom, then wouldn't that be a good thing, all things considered? Of course, the truth of the matter was, the 'fist attack' was simply a 'bonus' derived from the Skill 'Weapon Mastery', but still…. If someone wished to follow in his footsteps, then surely, there would be someone out there who might be able to.
"Yeah, sure. Let's do it." (Sae-Jin)
The representative of the Academy didn't have as simple line of thought as Sae-Jin did, so it couldn't be helped that he got deeply stunned by Jin Seh-Hahn/Kim Sae-Jin easily agreeing to it.
Now normally, most Knights tried their best to avoid showing the footage of their battles publically the higher their Tiers rose. The excuse given was that their weaknesses could be revealed to the world, but really, it would not feel all that nice to see someone else 'copying' their moves.
But this Jin Seh-Hahn readily agreed to it. Despite the fact that he could remain as a unique individual, he didn't even put forward any other conditions. Even with this much, the representative had so much to be thankful for… but what he heard next made his jaw drop all the way to the floor.
"By the way, I don't need the royalties." (Sae-Jin)
His reason was simple. He just had too much money right now. Actually, he would not be able to exhaust it even if he spent it willy-nilly right up until his death…
"Instead, make lectures with my footage free to attend, or give cadets scholarships with it." (Sae-Jin)
The representative forgot his words.
This day, he felt it right down to his bones. That beard, goatee, those thick lines of his face, that fierce look - they were nothing but a mere shell. This man's true personality was just like that of a generous saint, something that couldn't be compared to anyone…
"Well, if that is all." (Sae-Jin)
After letting the representative taste a new and fresh type of shock, Jin Seh-Hahn rose up from his seat.
To realise how wrong he was when he blindly pursued the ideals of unchecked Capitalism - the Academy official felt a huge pang of remorse as he continued to longingly gaze at the departing back of Jin Seh-Hahn.
< 30. The Right Start (1) > Fin.
(TL: $45 out of $50 left for this week's gasp fourth sponsored chapter goal.)