A Monster Who Levels Up
"The profession of Alchemy is all about creating value out of things that are of little worth by themselves. Not only is it a platform for concocting potions but also…"
Every single person present here wore thick hoods covering their heads like a bunch of criminals - and here being, a conference organised by the Alchemy Association. And as expected, it was quite a boring affair. It wasn't only Sae-Jin who thought like this, but his companion sitting next to him, Hazeline, also thought so as well, judging by how often she yawned out and sighed deeply as the proceedings continued.
"Just when is this going to end?" (Sae-Jin)
The reason why he attended this conference as the Master of the Guild and not as the Goblin Alchemist, was rather simple.
The efforts of the Goblin Alchemist had stirred up the other Alchemists and that led to the Korean potion market going through an unprecedented boom right now. And so, with a surplus of potion supplies locally, he was planning to export to overseas markets that were suffering from acute potion shortages.
"…Please wait for a little while longer. It'll be our turn soon to announce the 'innovative new plan' of the Goblin Alchemist. As soon as that's done, we'll leave." (Hazeline)
He continued to yawn out while waiting for their turn to come. And so, five minutes passed by, then ten minutes, then another twenty…. his valuable time was slowly bleeding away.
"There is currently a certain Alchemist who is receiving a lot of attention from all over the world, and he is the Goblin Alchemist. One or two among us here have either called him the inheritor of Rodes's legacy, or as the revolutionary of the Alchemical profession."
"Well, I should get going now. When I call for you, Mister Sae-Jin should come up to the stage and read off the script we prepared before." (Hazeline)
Hazeline lightly tapped Sae-Jin's shoulder and while lowering her head, disappeared off to somewhere.
"And now, we would like to welcome the manager of the Yoseon Alchemy House, who had discovered that very Alchemist, to the stage."
Hazeline walked up on the stage. As Alchemists didn't enjoy raising loud ruckus, not one of them clapped hands. Only that, a handful of them shot gazes of envy and jealousy towards the stage.
Her entire body hidden under a thick robe, Hazeline surveyed the surroundings for a bit before swallowing down her saliva.
"….H, h, h, hello. E, e, e, e, everyone."
…And then, a catastrophe began unfolding.
Hazeline and Kim Sae-Jin made their announcement of exporting the Goblin Alchemist's potions overseas. As expected of a Dark Elf who had never stepped on a stage in front of so many people, Hazeline's speech was all over the place, full of stuttering and going off topic constantly. But since it was seen as a normal thing, Alchemists simply accepted the presentation without much problem.
"Your new car is really nice and comfortable." (Hazeline)
After safely (?) negotiating her way out of the seminar, they were currently returning home in Sae-Jin's new car. Hazeline was busy touching here, there and everywhere of the car's interior and admiring it.
"…You think so?" (Sae-Jin)
"Yes. You made a good choice. Isn't this model from a famous brand?" (Hazeline)
He smiled without saying anything. Not only was the brand very famous, this particular model had such a low production volume, it was very hard to buy one… but he didn't feel the need to say this out aloud.
- Knight Jin Seh-Hahn has ascended to low Mid Tier…
When Hazeline's curious fingers touched the stereo, the news about Jin Seh Hahn leaked out, causing Kim Sae-Jin to quickly switch it off.
"We are hearing a lot of that guy's news nowadays." (Hazeline)
"Seems like it. By the way, there is something that makes me curious whenever I am with M
iss Hazeline…" (Sae-Jin)
He glanced at the perfect side profile of her face and carefully changed the subject.
"Mm? What is it?" (Hazeline)
"Ah, the thing is…"
"But Mister Kim Sae-Jin, are you really in a position to be curious about other women? I thought you're no different from a married man now?" (Hazeline)
Hazeline replied while smiling. So Sae-Jin let out a fake cough and concentrated on driving instead.
As an aside, the matter of him living together with/dating Yu Sae-Jung was widely known by every member of the Guild by now. According to Yi Hye-Rin's testimony, Yu Sae-Jung said it herself in a 'slip of a tongue' type of incident.
"Hahat, I was just kidding. It's a joke. Well, in any case… I'm quite close to Sae-Jung, so I guess it's fine. What are you curious about? You can ask me anything. After all, Sae-Jin is my benefactor and all." (Hazeline)
At those words, Sae-Jin glanced at her once more.
"Well, Miss Hazeline. You are… a Dark Elf, yes?" (Sae-Jin)
"Yes, that's correct." (Hazeline)
Before he could finish saying what was on his mind, she began nodding her head slowly as if she figured it out.
"My skin. You are curious about that, yes?" (Hazeline)
There were three types of Elves out there - regular Elves, High Elves, and Dark Elves.
Here, the regular Elves referred to those beautiful beings known in the mass media for possessing flawless milky skin, gorgeous facial features, as well as smooth and supple limbs.
Next was the High Elves. Also sometimes referred to as 'Noble' Elves, they possessed rich and pure bloodlines and commanded admiration and respect from other Elves.
Finally, Dark Elves. Not only they preferred darker places, their skin tone was also darker than other Elves, so they were called Dark Elves.
Seeing Hazeline's creased brows as if this question was greatly troubling her, Sae-Jin ended up swallowing down his saliva. Maybe it was because of curiosity, the words You don't have to tell me if it's too troublesome circled around in his mouth before disappearing completely.
"…Do you wish to know?" (Hazeline)
"Oh, that… well." (Sae-Jin)
He deliberately hesitated. Hazeline deeply stared at him before a slight grin broke out on her lips.
"Since the Goblin Alchemist says he's curious… It's actually simple, really. I brewed a certain potion, you see." (Hazeline)
"You know, a potion. A potion. A potion that whitens the skin. I almost died after drinking that thing but still, I ended up with this pale skin." (Hazeline)
Her words were difficult to understand, but on the flip side, he could accept some part of her explanation. After all, she didn't question him too much and believed him when he spewed out that nonsense about concocting a potion to grow taller and stuff back then.
"But why did you create a potion like that? Surely, Miss Hazeline would have been plenty beautiful with a darker skin tone…" (Hazeline)
"Mister Kim Sae-Jin, you seem curious about a lot of things today." (Hazeline)
Sae-Jin tried to inquire a little bit further but Hazeline cut him off with a smile. He stopped asking there after detecting a clear message of warning in the tone of her voice.
The topic of conversation then changed back to their daily lives; did he and Yu Sae-Jung move house, no they didn't; how much did they earn, that was a secret. As their chatting continued, before long they arrived in front of Hazeline's house. While inwardly praising its capability that matched its million dollar price tag, Sae-Jin parked the car.
"Take care." (Sae-Jin)
"I will. Thank you for your help again. Ah, right. You still remember that we are meeting again in two weeks time, yes? We need to negotiate with the overseas contact, the one suggested by you. Looks like we'll have to fly over to the USA." (Hazeline)
At this unexpected revelation, Sae-Jin went blank-faced as he tilted his head.
"What's the matter?" (Hazeline)
"You mean, I, I need to fly over there on a plane?"
"Of course. A proxy officially appointed by the Alchemist must be present during the talks - I thought I told you this already?" (Hazeline)
Watching Sae-Jin breaking out in panic, a thick smile began to infuse on Hazeline's lips.
"Well, it shouldn't be a problem, yes? Mister Sae-Jin can afford a lot of time nowadays, too. Three days and two nights should be more than enough, I think." (Hazeline)
"But you know of my…" (Sae-Jin)
"Yes, I remember. But I know Mister Sae-Jin's secrets already, so it's fine. I'll personally call and tell Sae-Jung after I finish up work tomorrow." (Hazeline)
Yu Sae-Jung angrily slammed the spoon down on the table. There were many emotions showing up on her face; anger, dismay, fear, worries, etc, etc.
"But do you think that even makes sense?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Her voice was as cold as permafrost.
"…But it's work, though." (Sae-Jin)
"Even then!! No wait. If that's the case, then I'll go with you!" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"I wish that's possible, but right now, you got your mobilisation orders, don't you?" (Sae-Jin)
Not only the Dawn Knights Order, but everyone else except Eden, received the mobilisation orders because of the ongoing Monster incidents; not only were they tasked with eradicating the Monsters, but they had to go out on patrol and currently, Knights couldn't even sleep for more than three hours a day as a result.
"Ah, ah… But why? Does Oppa have to go? Is it a problem for Unni to go alone?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"That's how important this deal is. Besides, I'll be accompanied by Mister Sun-Ho and a few other Mercenaries, so you don't have to worry about me." (Sae-Jin)
"…Dang it." (Yu Sae-Jung)
To think the son of Kim Yu-Sohn, Kim Sun-Ho was going too… She carried a big pout while roughly fidgeting around with the poor spoon. She had lots of things she'd like to say. Really lots. But she couldn't voice any of them in fear of being seen as a narrow-minded woman.
Sae-Jin quietly looked at her for a while, before reaching out and smoothly held her hand.
"I'll be back soon. In fact, I'll hurry it up. Since I'll end up missing you way too much, you know." (Sae-Jin)
He spoke with a smooth baritone voice while a gentle smile hung on his lips.
Yu Sae-Jung met his eyes and then, let out a long sigh. It was a fact that the person who loved more would feel more anxiety as well. And she had already decided to persevere through it all anyways.
"…You'll call everyday?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Always with slick answers… I wonder if a flying Monster will show up or something." (Yu Sae-Jung)
A late evening, the day before Sae-Jin's departure.
He had to make his way towards the Mercenary Company offices after Kim Yu-Sohn urgently called for him. And before Sae-Jin could say words of concern regarding the veteran Mercernary's pale complexion, Kim Yu-Sohn hurriedly brought up the reason for this unplanned meeting.
"I had another dream, sir. However, in this one… I believe that we need to alert the world right away." (Kim Yu-Sohn)
"…Excuse me?" (Sae-Jin)
"The future world I saw in my dream was not prepared at all, sir. It was no different from a living hell. That is why, we need to raise the alertness of the world at a bare minimum." (Kim Yu-Sohn)
Sae-Jin became flustered slightly by the sight of Kim Yu-Sohn who was seemingly a lot more urgent compared to when they conversed over the magic communication crystal.
"Ah… That… There are a lot of questions I'd like to ask, but first, will anyone believe it even if it's us saying it?" (Sae-Jin)
It was a reasonable question. When one tried to predict the advent of a huge event, there was a danger of being branded as a crazy man suffering from delusions, or be seen as a conspiracy theorist instead. Even if one used the excuse of a Trait, the result might end up the same.
"Of course, no one would listen seriously at the words of either me or you, the Guild Master. However, don't we have a certain trump card that can make everyone within South Korea trust in our words?" (Kim Yu-Sohn)
Even Kim Sae-Jin understood right away.
The Mercenary Lycan.
"We should send a letter with the Lycan's signature to the SID, and then hold a press conference." (Kim Yu-Sohn)
"Still, even if they believe us, wouldn't the confusion within the populace be too great? I mean, since the current situation of the Monster incidents are serious, we'll have to come to a compromise with the government, too…" (Sae-Jin)
This could bring about mass hysteria in the form of panic-buying of supplies, armed robbery and other survival instincts of humans commonly seen during the time of conflict, or even during the quasi-state of war.
"That is just the tip of the iceberg, sir." (Kim Yu-Sohn)
Within the energy-less eyes of Kim Yu-Sohn, impatience could be spied.
Seeing such urgency from him was a first; Kim Sae-Jin could only nod his head in silence while looking at him.
Even then, Kim Yu-Sohn showed no signs of standing up from his seat, so Sae-Jin pulled out his phone and called Jo Hahn-Sung.
- "Hello, Master. It's Jo Hahn-Sung here."
Although he was being treated as the real authority of the Guild and received hundreds of "requests" a day, as usual, Jo Hahn-Sung maintained humility when talking to Sae-Jin.
"I'm not sure when it'll happen, but… No, in two months' time, the Lycan is going to announce something big, so please have a chat with the relevant government officials. And prepare accordingly as well." (Sae-Jin)
- "I beg your pardon?"
Jo Hahn-Sung wielded considerable power and had become a person who wouldn't even bat an eyelid when hearing the names of politicians and Chaebols, but then, the weight that name carried still seemed quite considerable.
- "But how…"
"Please don't ask any more than this. And……. right, there is something else. Those idiots from MBS network. When we are holding the press conference, don't invite them." (Sae-Jin)
As an aside, MBS was a trashy media outlet that always tried to pick a fault with the activities of Sae-Jin and The Monster Guild. Although this might be seen as a cheap trick, it couldn't be helped as those bastards weren't the type of people who'd listen when spoken to nicely.
- "I already told them we won't give them any more information whatsoever in the future unless their president comes over here and apologises personally." (Jo Hahn-Sung)
"…As expected, you took care of that really well." (Sae-Jin)
- "Thank you very much, sir. As for preparations… firstly, for the venue, which place should we choose, sir?"
Selecting a correct place to hold a press conference was important. Rather than holding it within the grounds of the Guild or the main hall of the Monster Mercenary Company…
"Can we get permission from the Dawn Order?" (Sae-Jin)
Lately, Yu Sae-Jung had been saying this as if she was throwing it out there - that he was neglecting the Dawn and was getting too friendly with the Raven instead. If she was saying this much, then her father and grandfather must've had displayed their dissatisfaction since from a while ago.
- "Yes, sir. It shouldn't be an issue. In fact, I believe they might welcome us."
With this conference being held within the Dawn's premises, Sae-Jin would be able to show to the rest of the country that their relationship was still tight as ever.
"Then, let's go with that." (Sae-Jin)
When Kim Sae-Jin decided and ended the call, Kim Yu-Sohn let out a relieved sigh with an equally relieved expression.
< 30. The Right Start (2) > Fin
(TL: There will be three extra chapters this weekend - probably two on Saturday and another one on Sunday. Most likely. I dunno. Maybe yes, maybe no. Will see. Lol.)