A Monster Who Levels Up
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Although he fell from the top floor of the hotel located high up, it only took briefest of moments for his airborne feet to touch the solid ground.
The ground where Kim Sae-Jin landed on caved in to a deep crater, and a powerful shock wave spread around to the surroundings.
"Are you unhurt?" (Sae-Jin)
He looked at Hazeline who had tightly wrapped her arms around his neck. Fortunately, she seemed to have activated the barrier in time, and wasn't negatively affected by the abrupt descent.
"Yeah. I'm fine thanks to you. However…" (Hazeline)
Indeed, there was a far more pressing matter to focus at that moment. On the road they had just landed on quite noisily, countless small and large Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees were there waiting, as if to surround the duo.
"First time seeing one with my own eyes." (Sae-Jin)
"Me too." (Hazeline)
The 'Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee'. A creature of 'emptiness' that made nary a sound nor possessed substance; a creature that could only be seen by the naked eye and by nothing else.
Their individual sizes may have differed from one to the other, but without fail, all of them were glaring at Kim Sae-Jin and Hazeline's direction with those creepy red eyes. At this rather unsettling sight, Hazeline hugged Sae-Jin tighter without realising it.
At this unexpected skinship, Sae-Jin even forgot how severe the current situation was and ended up getting tensed up somewhat. But then…
"Are you two alright?" (Kim Sun-Ho)
Belatedly, Mercenaries led by Kim Sun-Ho descended and landed on the ground as well.
Almost at the same time, the gigantic Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee swung its equally huge arm and slammed into the hotel Kim Sae-Jin and company were staying just now.
A huge explosion filled up the world, shaking the eerie stillness and ripping it apart; the streets, formerly bathed with pitch-black darkness became showered in bright lights at the same time.
As if that was the signal, all the small and large Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees occupying every inch of the road began their frenzied activity.
Kim Sae-Jin quickly put Hazeline down on the ground and swung his fist towards a Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee that was right in front of the rushing pack. Although its face was smashed to bits in one hit, a certain unpleasant sensation came washing all over his body from coming in contact with the uniquely-disgusting skin of a Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee as well as from its blackish-red blood.
While frowning deeply in disgust, Sae-Jin extracted Mana out of his body and then used the Orc's Smithing Technique.
Mana slowly condensed as if to form a crystal, and soon enough, it took on the shape of a blue sword.
Since Sae-Jin's Proficiency Level for 'Mana Body' was still on the low, the sword's strength and overall hardness was somewhat imperfect, but as he had used Mana as the base ingredient, its sharpness would still be top notch.
He struck out a sword aura and it bisected a Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee cleanly in half.
Unfortunately, this created-from-Mana weapon he wielded couldn't last long. When he cut five or six Monsters down, the sword dissipated away like a cloud of dust. Whenever that happened, though, Sae-Jin created a weapon that could last a bit longer than before and continued to slay countless Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees.
The afterimage left behind in the wake of a sword swing was then pierced straight through by a lengthy spear, and the smooth sword aura drawn from a longsword undulated like a snake, effortlessly slicing apart limbs and bodies of the Monsters coming in contact with it.
A longsword, a podao, a long sabre, a rapier, a main-gauche, a clay
more, a spear, etc, etc… All these disparate weapon types found themselves in the hands of a weapons expert and were utilised like true treasures.
"But how…" (Hazeline)
Hazeline dazedly stared at Sae-Jin's battle as he fought relying solely on his senses while swapping his weapons out every ten seconds, before she finally woke up and began reciting the chants for a magic spell.
Her target was the gigantic Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee that was currently searching for a certain someone without making a single noise.
Although a totally unexpected hell had broken out, Kim Sae-Jin and his party could safely survive the ensuing chaos. That was because, in less than five minutes, a state-wide mobilization order had been issued by the Californian State Governor.
Exactly 15 minutes after the hotel collapsed, army tanks and seemingly thousands of Knights and Hunters poured in, completely sweeping away every single Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees present.
After the incident came to an end, that same Vice Minister from earlier arrived in haste, and began explaining the reason for this unprecedented swiftness of the response - that it was because the US government didn't want to see the export deal going down the proverbial drain. He even made a desperate face as he implored Sae-Jin to not think too badly of them because of this incident.
And so, Sae-Jin and his group could catch their breath while being protected by the Knights. After hearing the rumours about them, all the Knights present here were deeply fearful of this potion deal going down the drain, so they were constantly worrying about Sae-Jin and company being 'comfortable' and stuff.
"I was panicking then… what a relief that Mister Sae-Jin was there. Also, for the first time in my life, I'm now a top VIP, too… I'm more used to being chased around, you know." (Hazeline)
There was no energy in Hazeline's voice.
"Are you hurt anywhere?" (Sae-Jin)
"Maybe because I've exhausted my Mana… I'm kinda feeling dizzy and sleepy." (Hazeline)
She spoke up to here and slowly leaned her head against Sae-Jin's shoulder. Of course, her fragrant scent drifted into his nose and lightly tickled the senses. Most other women would get really alarmed and call Hazeline's actions crafty like a fox, but as a guy, Sae-Jin simply couldn't push her away - so, all he could do was to let out a fake cough just once.
"Keum… Is that so?" (Sae-Jin)
"Yeah. By the way, Mister Sae-Jin? You were somewhat cool back there. Since when did you become so proficient in handling weapons like that?" (Hazeline)
Recalling once more the sight of the overwhelming martial prowess he displayed, Hazeline asked, her face glowing warmly. Molding Mana into various weapons such as swords, greatswords, spears - anyone would be deeply impressed by the coolness of him defeating all his enemies regardless of what the weapon was in his hand.
Kim Sae-Jin simply broke out in laughter. Hazeline looked at him as if she found his demeanor rather interesting, but then, her expressions hardened.
"However… just who summoned all those Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees here?" (Hazeline)
A Doo-Urk-Shi-Nee was not a normal type of a Monster. Special existences found in the gap between 'the Rift' and 'the material world', they could only be called forth with a summoning ceremony or a witchcraft of some kind, and more importantly, they would follow the command of the one who summoned them to the letter.
In other words, to see a swarm of Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees suddenly attack the hotel Sae-Jin was staying in, there was really no need to ponder too deeply what their purpose was.
Sae-Jin could think of 'someone' who might be behind this incident. However, he didn't feel like saying the truth out aloud right now.
"Don't worry about such things and just get a good rest."
He gritted his teeth and hardened his expression as well. Hazeline gazed at him for a bit longer, and then, lowered her head back down against his shoulder. While closing her eyes, she was thinking, His shoulders are so broad…
The following day.
Leaving the responsibility of finding out the culprits behind the mass summoning of Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees to the American government, Sae-Jin and Hazeline hurried with concluding the deal.
Since they had already received advice from Jo Hahn-Sung, they were able to get the ball rolling faster than expected. Sae-Jin then signed the contract with both corporations at the same time, the distribution of potions in the west of the USA now being handled by them.
To minimise the risk of getting ambushed once more, as soon as the deal was signed, Sae-Jin and his group rushed back to South Korea. And now, he was driving Hazeline back home towards the Gangwon Province.
"My first impression of Mister Sae-Jin was… only about so-so." (Hazeline)
"…Just so-so?!" (Sae-Jin)
"Yep. You know this too, don't you? That Elves have high standards. It's the same story for Dark Elves, too." (Hazeline)
Kim Sae-Jin and Hazeline - she was perhaps one person Sae-Jin had known the longest. While driving, they chatted about this and that in a friendly atmosphere, as for the past two years there was unexpectedly a lot of memories they had shared.
The day they first met; when Sae-Jin revealed his identity to her; when she mistook him as the inheritor of Rodes's legacy; when those Vampires suddenly ambushed them, etc, etc…
"Ah, that's right. Mister Sae-Jin, you said you were curious, right? The reason for my skin being this colour." (Hazeline)
"…Mm? Oh, I was curious back then, but if it's not a comfortable subject, you don't have to say anything." (Sae-Jin)
At her sudden change of topic, Sae-Jin took a quick glance towards the passenger seat, but when their eyes met, he quickly averted his gaze.
"Even still. I felt that it's unfair to you, somehow. I mean, you've told me everything about your secrets, yet… Honestly, we even went through two life-or-death situations together. But more importantly, I wish to tell you the truth." (Hazeline)
"…Ha, haha… Umm, really?"
As an aside, he still hadn't told her the true reason behind the Vampires ambushing them. Still unaware of the truth, she carried a gentle smile on her lips as she slowly continued with her words.
"Well, there is this old saying. That Elves are pure and noble and so, can only fall in love with one person… Many humans think it's nothing but a lie, but actually, it's real."
For Elves, the meaning of 'love' was incomparably deep. Whether it was Dark Elves, High Elves, or regular Elves, it was the same.
"But did you know that saying has been romantically repackaged a great deal? The reality is very different." (Hazeline)
"Yes. For an Elf, 'love' is the same thing as obsession and persistence all rolled into one. Doesn't matter what the situations and the conditions of the target of love are like, if an Elf falls in love, then that Elf will not hesitate doing everything in order be loved back. The reality of the species, who are known to possess the perfect appearance and mindset, is that we're simply the collection of imperfections." (Hazeline)
As she spoke, her voice contained a certain feeling of utter, desolate emptiness.
"And so, I… used to love someone. And that person liked women with lighter skin, so I lightened my own. And when I learned that he liked another woman who was gentle and loyal, I even dropped everything I was doing as a Wizard." (Hazeline)
Panicking at her sudden, impromptu confession of the past, Sae-Jin slowed the car's speed slightly. Meanwhile, Hazeline grandly sighed out and continued.
"However, that person didn't love me back. Until the end, he only had that woman in his mind, and then, died trying to protect that very woman. Back then, I've never felt sadness stronger than that before. If I didn't blame someone, I thought I might end up killing myself. So… I did something really deplorable." (Hazeline)
Kim Sae-Jin quietly observed her.
"That is why… Mister Sae-Jin, you should be wary of Elves. You shouldn't treat us too nicely, and you must keep a safe distance away from us. Elves just don't have the strength to distance themselves from a person they find interesting. Of course, there is a big gap between 'interest' and 'love', but still." (Hazeline)
The moment her words ended, the car came to a stop. They were in front of her house. As if she found her confession embarrassing, she lightly slapped her cheeks and undid the seat belt buckle.
"Well then, I'll get going now~. Mister Sae-Jin, thank you for always~."
"Ah, hang on a sec." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin quickly stopped her just before she could rush out of the car. He carefully studied her darkened expression, and then extracted a smallish box from his pocket.
"Please take this with you. It's a present."
While roaming around the city of Los Angeles, there was this one thing that seemed to have drawn her interest. As she was busy with meetings and thus unable to personally buy it, Sae-Jin had bought it behind her back after he caught her gaze with his acute intuition of the Wolf.
"This is…" (Hazeline)
She dazedly looked at the gift in her hand.
"Well, isn't that the thing that makes sound when you open it? I thought you were interested in it." (Sae-Jin)
The 'thing' she was looking at with complicated emotions two days ago - a music box.
"I should get going. Take care of yourself." (Sae-Jin)
Leaving behind those words, Sae-Jin drove off.
"Honestly. Didn't he hear my advice…" (Hazeline)
Watching the car moving further away, Hazeline muttered without much strength.
The exporting potions not only helped to increase the fame of Kim Sae-Jin and his Guild, it also had the effect of two countries solidifying their relationship. The US President held a conference to personally announce the deal, and Kim Sae-Jin had been invited to the Blue House, even…
Whatever the case may have been, when he returned home, he also returned to his daily routine. Sometimes as Jin Seh-Hahn, sometimes as Kim Sae-Jin, sometimes as a Monster.
In the meantime, Jin Seh-Hahn's rank had increased to Mid Tier after only two months of activity as the 'Special Employee from Eden', and it seemed that he could hit his goal of upper Mid Tier before the end of that self-imposed six months deadline.
However, as the time continuously flowed forward, the ominous atmosphere for the world became worse and worse.
The frequency of Monster incidents soared higher and higher, and hundreds of people lost their lives every day. Although the loss wasn't as serious in South Korea where the foundation of potion and weapons supply was well established, in places such as Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, etc, etc… The situation had deteriorated so bad in several Third World nations that there was no more point in governance anymore.
"I got called into action eight times in one single day, even… it was really difficult, you know?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
And now - a morning in the middle of September, the time when Summer was slowly coming to its inevitable end. Kim Sae-Jin yawned inwardly as he listened to Yu Sae-Jung's complaints.
"If that's the case, take today and tomorrow off." (Sae-Jin)
"It's not as simple as that… Dad won't give me a time off." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"I'll speak to him." (Sae-Jin)
"Really? That might work~." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Kim Sae-Jin's influence had become such that he could let one Knight miss the mobilization order without too much trouble. Yu Sae-Jung energetically dived into his arms.
Suddenly, the mobile phone went off. Both Yu Sae-Jung and Kim Sae-Jin's eyes focused on its direction. He moved slightly faster than her, reaching out and snatching the phone away.
"Who is it?" Asked Yu Sae-Jung.
"Oh, it's nothing." (Sae-Jin)
Making a half-hearted excuse, he sent his reply, and then placed the phone down.
On the LCD of the phone facing downwards…
The name 'Hazeline' was showing on it.
< 30. The Right Start (4) > Fin.
(TL: See you tomorrow for the third sponsored chapter.)
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