A Monster Who Levels Up
After receiving the general summary of the information ahead of time, the Korean government requested a delay of three months for the press conference, till late November, saying that they needed to make their own preparations. They also requested that, in order to minimise mass panic and confusion, the wording and the sentence structures should be softened up a bit.
- "It seems that Miss Yu Baek-Song and the members of the National Assembly who are friendly with the Dawn have given us a great deal of their considerations, sir. I heard that the administration was going to announce the findings of the Lycan as if they had uncovered it first." (Jo Hahn-Sung)
"Is that how it was? Anyhow… I understand. But what a relief this is. I thought they might simply choose to ignore us." (Sae-Jin)
Bureaucrats didn't like uncertainty and instability, almost every single one of them. That was the reason why one often saw The Government hurriedly trying to fix the mess only after the actual event had come and gone.
- "I think it's only possible due to the name value of the Lycan, the man who had correctly predicted the Red Moon, sir."
"…I know, right? Well, Mister Hahn-Sung, I know you're busy, so let me not keep you from your work." (Sae-Jin)
- "Yes, sir. Take care. Please give me a call if you need anything."
Sae-Jin ended the call there. Yu Sae-Jung waited by his side quietly until then, before carefully asking him.
"Seriously now, won't our country be destroyed at this rate?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…It's not going to, so don't you worry." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Yu-Sohn said that he saw countless Boss-level Monsters and many cities being decimated in his dreams. However, what he saw was not the past that had already happened. No, that was the undetermined future that could be changed at any time.
Since he was planning to expose everything, including the hit list compiled by the Vampires, there were literally a crap ton of variables still left to play yet.
"Look, there are so many geniuses in our country as we speak. Including you, too - aren't you the youngest ever upper Mid Tier in history? It's quicker than Miss Yu-Rin by two years, right?" (Sae-Jin)
"…Three years." (Yu Sae-Jung)
She bashfully corrected him and then fell into his arms.
"The youngest in the world…Well, really. It's all thanks to Oppa." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Murmuring the words that were hard to tell whether she was boasting or praising Sae-Jin, Yu Sae-Jung rubbed her face against his chest.
"Ah, right! By the way, I really had no idea that Oppa could fight so well like that. I got really shocked, you know. Didn't know Oppa was on such a level…" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Suddenly, she began saying something he couldn't quite catch.
"What are you talking about out of the blue?" (Sae-Jin)
"Mm? You don't know?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Yu Sae-Jung tilted her head, before pulling out her phone and then logged on to the official page of the Dawn Order.
"Here. Someone uploaded the CCTV footage when Oppa got ambushed by the Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees, and the whole thing's getting really hot right now, but… Hmm, maybe because the vid is circulating only within the Knights communities, is that why you didn't know?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
The story about Sae-Jin being under heavy assault in a foreign country was already a big news locally. It was to a point where the President of the USA had expressed his regret, even.
"Wait a minute. What is this…" (Sae-Jin)
He got somewhat concerned so he snatched Yu Sae-Jung's phone away.
Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees could only be seen with naked eyes so they didn't show up on the CCTV footage, but…
His concerns became reality. The Kim Sae-Jin shown on the screen was busy thrusting swords and spears and other types of weapons at empty air.
"Ah~, that. Even though it looks a bit weird witho
ut anyone else there, your movements alone looks really good, you know? Really nice. Plus, those weapons, you are using Mana to form those weapons, right? How did you do that? Every Knight in the country is seemingly dying of curiosity right now. Some are saying, isn't that like, exceeding the levels of regular sword aura and stuff?"
As if she too wanted to know, Yu Sae-Jung asked him, her eyes sparkling with genuine curiosity.
"No, uh, it's not what you think, it's… just my Trait." (Sae-Jin)
"…Is that so? Anyhow, everyone on the Dawn's forum are praising it nonstop. There are even talks of asking you to take the Knight exam, since it's damn shame to waste your talent away." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Keum. R, really?"
He couldn't tell whether that was only her opinion or not, but now that he heard this much praise, the footage felt a bit different to him somehow. The sight of him rapidly slashing the empty air with the Mana sword was…
"In that case, should we spar for a while?" (Sae-Jin)
…It was more than enough to make his shoulders straighten up.
But Yu Sae-Jung lightly shook her head and then said…
"No, well, I… want to do the 'other' type of sparring instead of that one."
Her face flushing deep red, she pushed her face towards his lips.
*SFX for door bells ringing*
Unfortunately, the 'other' type of sparring that was all ready to begin got blocked by the sudden intrusion of the door bells, causing Yu Sae-Jung to frown very deeply. She then grumpily stomped towards the front door and then shouted in dissatisfaction.
"Who is it?!"
That was her anger-ridden loud shout that not one person had heard of until now.
- "What the… Uh… It, it's Kim Yu-Rin. Uh… Is Mister Sae-Jin home? I wanted to talk to him regarding the appearances in the talk shows…"
Stunned silly by this development, Yu Sae-Jung signaled Sae-Jin with her eyes and then, hid herself in the dressing room rather promptly.
Buried among all the eerie events where the huge number of Monsters appeared seemingly out of the blue regardless of time and location, several unexplainable 'incidents' began taking place as well.
Several reporters, Wizards, Alchemists and even Knights - all these people were met with puzzling accidents and died during the hours where most would be fast asleep.
Although the SID suspected foul play, as there was not one shred of evidence recovered, they could only think of them as victims of the aforementioned unfortunate circumstances.
"….Excuse me, Miss Yu-Rin? Did you hear me? Surely, you can also tell that this is an important matter, no?" (Sae-Jin)
Of course, Sae-Jin knew very well that those deaths were linked to the 'hit list'. That was why he was in the middle of speaking the hard truths to Kim Yu-Rin, who came to see him regarding her work in the entertainment business.
Unfortunately, she didn't seem to hear him at all. All she did was to mumble continuously about quitting the entertainment industry altogether while carrying an utterly dejected facial expression.
"People are dying left, right and centre, Miss Yu-Rin. But in these dangerous times, you are planning to enter the Monster field all alone late at night? That is not only reckless, but also…" (Sae-Jin)
"You don't have to worry about me. I'm not someone who will easily crumble because of an ambush." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"But still, we don't know what…"
"Even if it's like that, that's not the issue at hand here. I'm quitting the industry not because of the reasons you think, but I fear that I've been focusing too much on the entertainment side of things. As a Knight, I should concentrate on my original duties, instead. And that's one of the reasons why I roam around in the Monster field as well. So, I would really appreciate it if you can respect my wishes." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Saying that there was nothing else left to say, Kim Yu-Rin stood up from her seat. After letting out yet another long sigh, she bowed her head and left.
'What should I do about this now?' (Sae-Jin)
Without a doubt, her current state was because of the Orc.
After Kim Yu-Rin left, Sae-Jin begun massaging his aching head.
"…Is she gone?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
But there was no time to worry about this matter. And that was because, creeping up on him stealthily like a cat, Yu Sae-Jung jumped on him with a strangely flushed face.
A week after Kim Yu-Rin quit the entertainment industry.
Completely unaware of the passage of time, Kim Sae-Jin was busy drifting along on the ocean.
The waves of the East Sea caressed his skin, and the gentle breeze as well as the warm sunlight made both his mind and body to feel rather lethargic.
His current appearance was not of a human but the 'Leviathan'.
The Leviathan naturally grew bigger without him needing to do anything; the body had grown to 140 centimetres long now, so it was too big to call it 'Athany' anymore, and the power this body carried also saw a huge increase as well. To understand how powerful he had become, not one hyena-like opportunistic sea Monster dared to get close to him as he just floated on the water, doing absolutely nothing.
From a distance, a wave crashed into him. Of course, it wasn't a naturally occurring phenomenon but Sae-Jin trying to appease his boredom with a bit of impromptu surfing by controlling the water.
The cresting wave tickled past his skin and created a rollercoaster ride for him in an instant.
'Another for ma, mother…' (TL: Ooookay, so, this random bit of utterance here is our MC suddenly reciting a poem written in the 40s by a Korean poet Yun Dohng-Joo, called "별헤는 밤", TLed as "Counting the Stars at Night". There is an English translation of it floating around the web, done by a bloke named Alex Rose. I'm using his version here.)
*SFX for weapons colliding*
While he was peacefully reciting a poem and blissfully enjoying the tranquil calmness of it all, out of the blue, he could hear the harmonious noises of weapons and Mana colliding from a distant beach.
When he raised his head a little to take a gander, he spotted three Knights and an Ogre having an intense battle over there.
Sae-Jin began observing the scene of this untimely battlefield.
Two men and one woman, affiliated with… 'Goryeo' Knights Order. It was one of the Orders that were practically pleading with Sae-Jin of late. That was probably because, the Dawn Order which previously occupied a similar position in the rankings had soared past them and flew towards the heavens, currently competing against the Raven for the top spot, while other rivals were busy forcing their way from below, threatening them.
However, out of the three over there, Sae-Jin realised he knew the lone female of the group. It was Jung Eun-Ji. She had been constantly contacting him through his SNS profile, or via the Guild as if her Order, well, ordered her to do so.
'Well, doesn't that… look a bit dangerous?' (Sae-Jin)
Just now, the sword of one of the Knights got broken by the Ogre's club.
The strength of this particular Ogre seemed high, as it was a Two-Horned Grey Ogre, known to be a cumbersome Monster to fight against. The flow of the battle seemed to be on the knife-edge. Looked like the Knights were holding on thanks to the effects of potions, but…
After observing the battle for a while longer, Sae-Jin decided to help them out a bit in order to test the rapidly-growing Leviathan Form's current level of combat strength.
He opened his mouth wide and gathered Mana there.
He changed the naturally-occurring Mana resonating and converging in his mouth into the element that Ogres were weak against: 'fire'. At the sudden transformation of the atmosphere, storm winds whipped up violently and large ripples expanded out on the water's surface.
Boasting a deep crimson colour, the flames gathered near the Leviathan's maws and formed a distinguishable shape, before… firing out like a Dragon's Breath attack in the blink of an eye.
…Unfortunately, the sound effect was still quite a bit lacking, mostly thanks to his young age.
Still, the flames gathered in front of his mouth exploded out forward like a giant pillar of fire.
The pure flames of hell burned the sea water and the atmosphere around it - and in less than a moment's breath, it arrived at that distant beach and covered the Ogre's entire torso.
"Kkyack!!" (Jung Eun-Ji)
"Eu, eu-uh?! What the f*ck!!"
The hyper-hot boiling flames of the 'Breath' melted the Ogre's upper body in one blink, and at this display of overwhelming destructive might, not only the Knights, even Sae-Jin was shocked out of his mind.
'Wha, what the hell is this sh*t?!' (Sae-Jin)
Right then, Jung Eun-Ji pointed towards Sae-Jin's direction after searching the surroundings in a hurry. Panicking somewhat, he quickly dived underwater to escape.
The three Knights dumbfoundedly stared at the spot where the mysterious creature spouting that flames was just now.
"…What was that?" Asked Jung Eun-Ji.
"It dived under the water's surface just now."
One of the male Knights answered, his face still slack from the shock.
"…You know I can also see that, right?" (Jung Eun-Ji)
"Could it have been a dragon?"
"Huh?!" (Jung Eun-Ji)
The male Knight pointed at the Ogre's half-melted corpse. That incredible pillar of flames didn't stop at simply blasting away the Ogre, but it also blazed past and burned a huge circular hole in the thick forest behind them.
"But well, if that was really a dragon, it should have fldwn away instead of diving under water, right?" (Jung Eun-Ji)
"…You think so too? It sure is weird, seeing a creature with wings dive into water."
"Yep. It really is weird." (Jung Eun-Ji)
All three of them continued to stare at the distant ocean in awkward silence for a while, hoping that, maybe, the creature might pop back up again.
Finding out that the Leviathan Form possessed this much might proved to be both a great harvest and yet another matter to worry about for Sae-Jin.
If this Form grew up a bit more, then defeating all those Boss-level Monsters appearing in the future would be a piece of cake - but on the flip side, if the only condition for the continued growth was the passage of time, then it also meant that he'd fail at trying to rein in the instincts that were on par with that incredible might pretty soon as well.
*SFX for the phone ring*
As he drove home while filled to the brim with worries, Sae-Jin's phone suddenly went off. It was from Hazeline, according to the LCD screen.
"Hello, Miss Hazeline. What can I do for you?"
- "Ah, Mister Sae-Jin. Well, nothing in particular, although I'm calling you because, I was thinking, now that a meeting for the potion export deal has been scheduled, wouldn't it be nice~ if Mister Sae-Jin also attends it?"
"…When will it be?"
- "It's next week Tuesday." (Hazeline)
Next week Tuesday… he muttered to himself while combing his memories to see if he had anything scheduled that day. Other than getting achievements as Jin Seh-Hahn, though, he had nothing lined up.
"But, uh… do I really have to show up?" (Sae-Jin)
However, he felt too lazy for that. After all, it wouldn't be wrong to say he was currently living three separate lives… So, he'd like to not go to meetings where his presence wasn't absolutely needed.
- "Ah… Well… Even if you don't come… But, it'll be better if you do. I mean, if Mister Sae-Jin does show up, the other party will think, we're being treated fairly~ and stuff like that. And when the news spreads around, other countries will compete with one another in order to not lose out, right? And so, we lead them on a game of chicken…"
She began explaining in a haphazard fashion suddenly.
"In that case… I'll be there."
- "Oh, you promise?"
"Yes. Then, see you there."
- "Alright. I'll see you then."
Their 'business' had come to an end. Puzzlingly, though, Hazeline spat out a wistful sigh and didn't hang up first.
"Uh, so, should I hang up first?"
Hazeline didn't reply.
She acted this way lately. For some reason, she had been calling him for trivial matters, and the emotions hidden in her voice seemed quite far removed from normal as well.
"Is there something else you'd like to talk about?"
- "….Actually, you see, I went to a certain restaurant…"
"I'm hanging up."
- "Ah!! Wait!! This is an interesting stor…"
Kim Sae-Jin resolutely hung up.
< 31. All Tangled Up (2) > Fin.
(TL: $45 out of $50 left for this week's first sponsored chapter.)