A Monster Who Levels Up
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It was a day in early October, as leaves were dyeing in the Autumn winds.
On a beach located somewhere near the East Sea where the public access was strictly prohibited, quite a few Knights stood there, busy watching the vast blue ocean. Every single one of them were here to satisfy their curiosity, but funnily enough, the rate of gender split was 7 to 3 - there were far more female Knights than males present. And yes, most of the guys who came here did so for the ladies, rather than the sea itself.
"…A hatchling of the ocean, you say?"
With an expression that said how unconvinced he was, a male Knight asked a female Knight.
"Yes. Apparently, it appears on every weekend."
The female Knight replied with a bright smile.
Although this was still a part of Mid Tier Monster field, everyone present all suffered from high enough ranks and spare time and so, they showed much leisure while treating this beach as a perfect spot for dating.
And the reason why they had gathered here? A single rumour quietly spreading among the ranks of Mid Tier and above.
'A hatchling of the ocean.'
A cute and charming little Monster that floated on the ocean's surface. Those Knights who came earlier to take a look said the creature even smiled and waved its 'hand' at them.
"Just wait for a little bit longer. I hear it's really, really cute."
"Yeah, well… Doesn't matter to m…"
"Oh!! There it is!"
Then, someone pointed towards the water's surface and shouted out loudly. Surprised by this outburst, everyone quickly changed the direction of their gazes and sharpened their eyes.
And sure enough, there it was, a single lifeform floating around lazily like a buoy.
Its body may have been slightly on the wrong side of being wide and flat, but thanks to its cute puppy-crossed-with-seal countenance leaving a favourable impression behind, it was nicknamed the hatchling of the ocean.
Female Knights raised a huge fuss and began taking photos. Many guys present thought that the resulting images wouldn't be nice since the distance was too far - but then, their collective jaws fell to the floor when they spotted one or two ladies whip out cameras equipped with wide-angle lenses.
"Hey, wait a minute here… It might be cute and all, but still, if that thing is really a hatchling, then… uh, shouldn't we kill it now? We have no idea what that thing will morph into in the future." (Unnamed idiot Knight)
What he said was true - even Monsters like Treynos that resembled a rhino, looked cute and cuddly when young, grew up to be a violent and vicious bastard. On top of that, didn't someone mention that this hatchling was capable of shooting out a Breath attack?
"Huh? You wanna kill it? What nonsense are you spewing out right now?!"
Almost instantly, sharp and hostile stares focused on this guy. He quickly mumbled something about it being a joke while he scratched the back of his neck.
Kim Sae-Jin came out to the East Sea twice a week.
He was thinking that, since he couldn't do anything about the growth of this Leviathan Form that only needed the passage of time, he might as well enjoy the ocean in the meanwhile. After all, the sea gave peace and tranquility to those who were strong, thus affording him some time to sort out his thoughts alone.
'They showed up again.'
However, a handful of ruffians began appearing to disturb his peace lately.
Maybe it was because he was still stuck in some kind of transition period in its growth, this Athany Form moved rather slowly in water. And that was why he chose to swim as close to the land mass as possible. B
ut as if the rumours had gotten around, way too many onlookers had come around to gawk at him.
Initially, since the number was low, he thought their actions were cute and so didn't feel too bothered by them. Hell, he even performed a public service and waved his hand at them, too.
But as time went on, more and more people showed up, and whenever they saw Sae-Jin, they began screaming 'kkyack, kkyack'… So, how could he get some much needed peace and tranquility in this chaos?
Even worse, as Sae-Jin was doing his best to suppress his rising irritation…
"Shouldn't we kill it now?"
The words caught in his sensitive hearing caused his blood to boil in anger.
'Speaking some harsh words there, aren't you…'
And so, Sae-Jin decided to put fear of god in them, and then, began controlling the sea.
From the bottom of the ocean, an ominous vibration could be felt.
Soon after, the sounds of the Knights' cheering stopped.
All of them dumbfoundedly stared past Sae-Jin the Athany, towards the vast ocean.
And then… rather than cheers, they began screaming at the top of their lungs, and THEN, began running for their lives without even looking back.
Only then did Sae-Jin realise something had gone terribly wrong, so he turned around to see what was happening.
A massive wave that was over 30 metres tall was crashing towards the coastline like an undulating lifeform.
So, a Leviathan can become this strong while in the water, huh.
That was Sae-Jin's dazed thoughts just before he got swallowed up by the immense wave.
Around 20 minutes later.
Stealthily changing back to the human appearance, Sae-Jin was hurriedly walking within the Monster field.
Thankfully, he regained his composure in the middle of the wave and weakened the ferocity of it, so the actual damage to human lives should be minimal, but… Unfortunately, trees, plants, sand, whatever as far as his eyes could see, were all soaked to the bone by the sea water.
'What a troll move this was.'
Whenever he walked, water splashed below his feet. On top of that, the urgent notification sounded loudly from his smart watch, relaying an emergency message.
Sae-Jin scratched the back of his neck while reading the message. A momentary lapse in controlling his powers had led to a huge mess…
'I better run away.'
Kim Sae-Jin hurriedly moved his feet.
But as he was running away in haste, he couldn't help but come to a stand still after finding a rather familiar silhouette in the distance.
Her long hair tied in braids and pulled up in a clean style, revealing a white and slender neck; a narrow waist and contrastingly well endowed hips - the woman who was just as stunning even from behind, Kim Yu-Rin.
He heard that she 'came to work' to Monster field everyday - currently, she was staring at a certain place while completely soaked from head to toe. Sae-Jin slowly walked towards her, who looked kind of lonely.
At his gentle call, she ended up getting spooked rather wonderfully.
"Uhm… Guild Master? What are you doing here…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Sae-Jin smiled almost imperceptibly.
"I was out hunting, but then, a tsunami just so happened to rush in. But what are you doing here, Miss Yu-Rin? Looks like you got done in by the waves - didn't you receive the emergency notification to evacuate?"
"No, I, uh, did receive it, but…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
She swallowed the rest of her sentence down in slight bitterness. At the end of where she had been looking at, was the village of the Hero Orcs. The sudden waves did hit the surrounding mud walls but thankfully, there didn't seem to be any further issues beyond that.
"We're told to evacuate, so let's go." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Yu-Rin alternated her gaze between the village and Sae-Jin before powerlessly nodding her head. Soon, the two of them began walking through the Monster field.
Probably because of the effects of the tsunami (?), the entire Monster field seemed cloaked heavily in deep silence, as if all the Monsters and Knights had ran off to somewhere safe and dry.
They conversed while crossing the wet forest. Well, Sae-Jin was the one talking, while Kim Yu-Rin just listened.
"You seem to lack energy for some reason lately." (Sae-Jin)
"Pardon? Ah… No, it's just that, I've been feeling the 'wall'. Recently, worries about things like, 'Can I grow even further than this' have been entering my thoughts."
"Is that so? To think that a Highest Tier Knight thinks of such matters…" (Sae-Jin)
It was right then.
From somewhere, a strange fluctuation of Mana could be felt. Kim Yu-Rin too had sensed this oddity and quickly unsheathed her sword.
"…There is something out here. Guild Master, please stick behind me."
The moment her expression hardened, the atmosphere changed rapidly. Now, they could sense the flow of Mana more openly, and she quickly dragged Sae-Jin to her rear as if to hide him and vigilantly surveyed the surrounding areas.
"I also know how to fight, Miss Yu-Rin."
However, Kim Sae-Jin formed a weapon with Mana and stepped forward.
Just now, a certain scent of blood tickled his nose. Being able to hide one's presence and scent to this degree meant that the 'guest' this time was not going to be a simple pushover.
'Looks like them carrying out the hits on the hit list wasn't an unrealistic feat, after all.' (Sae-Jin)
*SFX for smoke rising suddenly*
Then, smoke began pouring out and four humanoid shapes rose up from the ground. Out of the four, three of them were totally covered in red robes, but this one guy alone had his face fully displayed.
Pale white skin and eyes dyed in the colours of blood.
The handsome man smiled in an entirely suspicious manner and looked at both Sae-Jin and Kim Yu-Rin's direction.
"A pleasant day's greetings to you both. And we should thank the advent of one unexpected calamity, as we are finally able to grace each other's company."
Inside this rather desolate forest, a man wearing a formal black-tie suit greeted the two in a stiff manner of an European nobility that matched his Western face.
"I am Count Rahaimde. I've woken up from a long slumber and made this arduous personal journey in order to reap both of your lives with my own two hands."
The tone of his voice was deeply exaggerated and theatrical. Sae-Jin and Kim Yu-Rin both narrowed their brows dumbfoundedly at the sudden entrance of this anachronistic man. What the hell was up with this strange stage actor-like dude?
Then, Sae-Jin remembered it.
After a short murmuring later, Sae-Jin's eyes opened wide.
Now he understood why this name rang a bell.
The House of Count Rahaimde. A renowned noble back in the other world, Rahaimde even served as a Margrave in a certain corrupt kingdom, even though he was a Vampire. In other words, his skills were quite considerable.
Of course, his House had been in decline for ages already. And when he came to Earth, he fell into a coma because of all the Vampire hunting back in the past. The Vampire Lord might have granted the man his second life, but still, his ability could not be dismissed as something trivial.
In terms of the actual combat prowess, Rahaimde was a powerful figure that none of the current Vampire Lord descendants could ignore.
The Vampires in the Rahaimde House could control 'blood' at will. Not only their own, but the others as well, provided the target had come in contact with the Rahaimde blood.
The viciously cruel and battle-loving Rahaimde carried about 2~3 times more blood within his body, and slaughtered all living things who obviously couldn't live without blood… or so Sae-Jin had heard.
Sae-Jin also heard from the spy he had planted amidst the Vampires that this Rahaimde was someone to watch out for.
"…Who is this crazy bastard?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
"Ahahaha. For a lady, your words are rather unrefined, no?" (Rahaimde)
Kim Yu-Rin sharply glared at the Vampires. Then, Rahaimde smiled leisurely and expelled blood out from his body. And it sure was a grotesque sight to behold, blood endlessly pouring out from all the holes in his body - eyes, nose, ears, sweat pores, etc, etc.
"What the hell is that…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
The blood exiting into the air spread widely around like a red mist. Kim Yu-Rin had covered herself in the ever-reliable Mana Barrier, but she sensed a certain trepidation from that red mist so she quickly took several steps back.
"A Mana Barrier? Hahaha. I'll have you know, such petty trickery will not aid you today." (Rahaimde)
The thinly-dispersing blood particles were smaller than Mana - no bigger than atoms, in fact - and could easily permeate past the Mana Barrier and enter through one's skin. And if a minute amount of that blood entered the target's body, then, BOOM!! The blood contained within the body would explode.
"And with this… This will be our fourth successful mission." (Rahaimde)
Rahaimde thought about the hit list and a grin broke out on his face.
And when the red mist slowly approached his targets…
His blood in gaseous form suddenly coagulated back into liquid and fell down to the ground.
Falling into a confused state of panic, Rahaimde tried to control his blood once more. Unfortunately for him, the blood on the ground didn't even budge as if it had turned into a stone.
"Miss Yu-Rin, looks like we don't have to worry anymore." (Sae-Jin)
Meanwhile, Sae-Jin glanced at Rahaimde and chuckled.
This was the reason why Sae-Jin remembered Rahaimde's name so clearly.
Blood was a form of moisture, but not all moisture was blood. To figure out which of the two was superior between the ability to control all moisture and the ability to control only blood, one didn't need to think too deeply about it.
"Fortunately, my Trait seems to overwhelm his." (Sae-Jin)
Of course, as Sae-Jin's Skill Proficiency Level was still low, the Vampire would hold an advantage in terms of 'area of effect', but that much could be overcome with Kim Yu-Rin helping him out.
"…What crazy nonsense are you blabbering on about, you knave!!!" (Rahaimde)
The previously-dazed Rahaimde took offense at Sae-Jin's words and roared out at the top of his lungs in an unbridled rage that could rip the heavens apart. He then extracted even more blood out from his body and changed it into numerous shapes that resembled needles before shooting them out.
Rahaimde believed that, without a doubt, this barrage of blood needles would pierce through the gaps of Mana and definitely kill the two targets.
"What?! But, why!! I say, why?!" (Rahaimde)
Too bad. Just like before, his blood powerlessly liquified as soon as it got near the two and fell to the ground. Rahaimde stomped on the ground like a petulant child and exploded in a fit of rage.
"I, I will, rip apart those two scums with…!!" (Rahaimde)
Unable to calm his soaring anger, Rahaimde extracted even more blood out from his body again.
Kim Yu-Rin was busy tilting her head in confusion, unable to figure out what this Vampire was trying to do, while Sae-Jin was barely holding back his laughter from leaking out.
"Eu, euuhhhhh!!!!!" (Rahaimde)
Out from Rahaimde's entire body, blood rose up powerfully.
…Seeing this, Sae-Jin thought that, if left alone, this Rahaimde guy would keel over automatically after tiring himself out.
< 31. All Tangled Up (3) > Fin.
(TL: $38 out of $50 left for this week's second sponsored chapter.)