A Monster Who Levels Up
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A certain video footage was being played inside the editing suite of a media company called "Guk-Nyeom Daily".
In it, one could see an Azure Dragon yawning and stretching its limbs while floating on top of the ocean surface when, all of a sudden, the sea Monster 'Ness' made its entrance.
It was one of East Sea's most infamous Monsters. Facing the provocation of this Ness, Azure Dragon began radiating charm filled with wondrous leisure outward.
And when the adorable Azure Dragon opened its eyes wide open and glared, the sea containing the Ness split completely apart, just like how Moses split the Red Sea.
In the end, Ness couldn't even do anything and died a death of drying up like a jerky and then, the Azure Dragon triumphantly dived under the water's surface.
"…Holy cow. This is some serious sh*t. PD Kim, how the hell did you capture this footage?!"
Thanks to the power of this massive, exclusive scoop, even the Chief Director of the Guk-Nyeom Daily, Park Jung-Hyuk, had to make his way to the editing suite. Maintaining a slim smile, PD Kim Hyun-Jeh did his best to rein in his overflowing pride and tried to appear as humble as possible.
"We had received a call from the Monster Mercenary Company. A notice of the Azure Dragon's potential appearance had popped up in a website called 'A Deity of Four Directions, Azure Dragon' and they wanted us to verify the veracity of that claim."
"Heum… To verify, huh?"
"Yes, sir. I also thought it could be nothing more than some swindlers trying their luck, but since the Mercenary Company made the request, I had no choice but to check it out."
Chief Director Park scratched his chin as he thought about something. If that Mercenary Company suddenly asked one of his men to verify the claims of a fishy-sounding website, then that could only mean… Well, they were doing things in a sort of 'roundabout way'.
"Okay, so who is the owner of that website? Don't tell me, it's also Mister Kim Sae-Jin?"
Director Park said as he began typing on the keyboard. On the screen of the editing room's computer, that video footage was replaced by the website 'A Deity of Four Directions, Azure Dragon'.
"They were denying it, but… I think it's quite likely. I mean, Kim Sae-Jin did say he could communicate with Monsters. And coincidentally, the ones to tip us off was the Monster Mercenary too, so…"
"Is that right? In that case… For now, keep everything to yourself. Our station has been surviving thanks to Mister Kim Sae-Jin, so don't you dare f*ck this one up."
'Guk-Nyeom Daily' was a big multi-media conglomerate that also owned the station 'KNS', but the truth was, it had been lagging behind their rivals due to experiencing numerous hardships and headwinds in the past.
However, from a certain point in time, things changed - beginning with The Monster Guild revealing important information through Guk-Nyeom only. And they even made an entertainment show which didn't seem all that promising on paper with Yu Sae-Jung, Joo Ji-Hyuk, Yi Hye-Rin as well as other famous members of the Guild. And now, they had become so intimate, that some were openly wondering if The Monster had acquired the media outlet or not.
And that led to the prestige of 'Guk-Nyeom' to naturally soar at a remarkable rate. At minimum, they no longer heard these damnable words: "KNS? Ah… Apologies, you guys are a bit…" from the agents of Knights and celebrities. No, in the case with Knights, their eyes gleamed dangerously as they actively tried to jump in with both their feet. After all, there was this shining backer called The Monster behind Guk-Nyeom now.
Director Park closed his eyes and be
gan comparing the turbulent, difficult past and the good times of now, falling deeply into a state of pride at how things had turned out.
"Ah, by the way, PD Kim."
Then, suddenly, he began glaring at PD Kim.
"You are being rude, saying Kim Sae-Jin this and Kim Sae-Jin that. You better address him with a ssi at the end… No, you start calling him with a nim attached, understand? It's now Kim Sae-Jin-nim. Got that? Even if he's not around, you use the honorific. If you don't, you might end up having a slip of a tongue during an interview or something."
It seemed that 'Kim Sae-Jin' had already become a religion for Director Park.
"…….Ah. Yes, sir."
PD Kim scratched the back of his neck and replied in a reluctant manner.
"Repeat after me. Kim Sae-Jin-nim, Kim Sae-Jin-nim, Kim Sae-Jin-nim…."
In the middle of the winter.
For the purpose of going out on a date, Sae-Jin brought Yu Sae-Jung along to the Monster Mercenary Company HQ.
Numerous modifications, new additions and repair works must have had some contributions here, because the Mercenary Company building not only failed to resemble a garden shed constructed out of plywood, it instead looked far more pristine, imposing, and impressive than a regular Knights Order's HQ.
As expected of the world's best Mercenary Company. As an aside, there were now more than 30 Mercenary Companies established around the world, making the title of the world's best all that more meaningful.
"The infrastructure looks clean and well thought out." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin looked around the interior and showed his admiration. The lobby, the front counter, the board with jobs listed, etc, etc… what he saw here was a space that perfectly blended the storied tradition of the freedom-loving Mercenaries and the cutting-edge technology of the present.
"Thank you. Well, after the story of how well designed our systems are, as well as superior benefits and bonuses we offer, current and former Knights are tripping over each other to register as our members." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho said, his voice overflowing with pride.
"Oh, really?" (Sae-Jin)
"Ng. Even within my Dawn Order, a handful of Knights stealthily submitted their papers to the Monster Mercenary Company. They initially denied doing it as if their lives were depending on it, but when they got admitted in, poof, they left, just like that. Did you know how speechless I was back then?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Yu Sae-Jung replied in Sun-Ho's stead with a slightly sour face.
"Hahaha… it's true. In my opinion, I think the clincher is the no-cost artifact rental service the Company offers. Ah, since we are talking about that, would you like to go and take a look?" (Kim Sun-Ho)
The no-cost artifact rental service.
It was a service where various artifacts of TM (The Monster) Company, known for their intricate design and outstanding performance, were rented out for free. It was also perhaps one of the exclusive benefits the Monster Mercenary Company offered that all the other Knights Orders was envious of.
Mercenaries who worked for The Monster could rent out an artifact carefully crafted by the lead designer of the 'Undisputed number one desired artifact brand as voted by the Knights' TM for free. As an aside, the job title of 'lead designer' was coined by people not from the company - and that title belonged to none other than Kim Sae-Jin, of course.
"I'm also kinda curious. Oppa, can we go?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Well, sure. Let's go." (Sae-Jin)
"Please, this way." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho assumed a bright smile and led the way.
The interior of the rental office, simply named 'Artifact Service', was definitely not simple at all. The incredibly massive safe and the state-of-the-art security systems seemed to possess a brutal ambiance and made one shrivel away just by their presence alone.
"Has there been any theft attempts?" (Sae-Jin)
"No, sir. This security system here is bulletproof." (Kim Sun-Ho)
"…Very good." (Sae-Jin)
Since there were quite a few number of people waiting to rent out artifacts inside the office, they couldn't stay for too long. They spent ten minutes there exploring, before leaving that place and headed to the break room.
"Wow, this place, looks way better than in the photos." (Yu Sae-Jung)
The break room, over 200 pyeong in size, was impressively kitted out, enough even for Yu Sae-Jung to show how pleasantly surprised she was - there were liquid refreshments and food available, and even facilities such as snookers and ten-pin bowling were installed here. (TL: 1 pyeong = 3.3058 square metres)
"I'm sure this is one break room that Knights of various Orders are most envious of. We're different from Knights Orders in that, our members are free to spend their time any way they like."
Kim Sae-Jin wrapped his arm around the shoulders of impressed Yu Sae-Jung and pulled her closer, before observing the activities of the Mercenaries with great interest.
"Hey, dude. Did you check this out yet? This 'A Deity of Four Directions, Azure Dragon' website?"
"Oh… you mean that crap about some fairy tale?"
In the middle of all that, Yu Sae-Jung overheard a conversation that tugged at her curiosity. She stopped in her tracks for a bit and eavesdropped on the two male Mercenaries.
"No, man. Really. Haven't you seen the news? The site has predicted the location where the Azure Dragon was going to appear. And you know what, it was true…"
"It's obviously a bull crap, so how can you believe in this sh*t?"
The number of visitors to the website 'Azure Dragon' had exploded as soon as its existence was mentioned on the television. Of course, since the site was ready for such an eventuality, the servers ably handled all the increased traffic. And so, the website had become really famous now. Still, a part of the population mocked others who believed in the site's claims, calling it nothing but a fairy tale.
"It's not bullsh*t. Didn't you hear that rumour about Spain trying to get in touch with the site owners in official capacity? You know just how many sea Monsters are out there."
"…Oh? So, who are the site owners, then?"
"How the hell should I know that? Some say, it's definitely the Guild Master Kim Sae-Jin…"
It was then, a single alarm went off from the Mercenary Clock. (TL: Don't ask me, either. No clue what this Mercenary Clock is. I'm just TLing it as literally as possible…)
"Hey, hey, hey. Looks like the job rewards are finally in. Let's go and get it."
"Uh? Really? Let's go, then. Next round is on the person with the lower…"
But when they stood up to leave, Kim Sae-Jin and Yu Sae-Jung were standing right behind them.
Both of them froze on the spot thanks to the unexpected entrance of these two people, who were basically, practically, figuratively speaking, their bosses.
"You should be on your way," said Yu Sae-Jung.
The way she talked to Sae-Jin and when addressing other people were completely, utterly different. There was not a speck of emotion contained in her indifferent voice, for the latter case.
Misunderstanding the cold tone of her voice, the two Mercenaries began wrecking their brains earnestly in order to remember what they had done wrong.
Unfortunately, there was one. They did allege that Sae-Jin was the owner of that website…
Two Mercenaries spoke in heavy voices and suddenly, knelt down on the ground.
"Huh? What are you doing all of a sudden…?"
Flustered, Sae-Jin and Yu Sae-Jung waved their hands around in panic and meanwhile, Kim Sun-Ho watched the proceedings, full of interest.
On the uppermost floor of a certain hotel.
Inside this darkly-decorated penthouse suite, a news programme was unexpectedly being shown on a giant TV screen.
- The Azure Dragon has helped people out today as well. The infamous Monster that attacked the filming crew of KNS, the Ness, was killed by the Dragon. This miraculous event was captured on film by the brave reporter of KNS…
"I wanna make that thing my pet. So, what do you think?" (Bathory)
At Bathory's words, the Apostle lightly bit his lip.
He kind of expected this outcome, after seeing the appearance of that unknown lifeform. Bathory had this unexplainable thing of finding Monsters more adorable than actual people, after all.
"Ha, hahaha… Well, that is… We're just a bit too swarmed with work, so at the moment… To tame such a Monster, we might end up committing away a lot of resources, my lady…."
The Apostle did his best to beat around the bush, but Bathory's gaze that was sharper than the sharpest blade remained pointing at him.
"I know that. But well… I want it so much, so what can I do? Besides, that creature killed my Ness, too. So, don't you think it's only fair that that baby Monster takes over the empty spot of Ness in my life?" (Bathory)
Within the blood of Vampires, demonic energy flowed naturally. So, it was incredibly rare to see a Vampire getting attacked by Monsters.
Instead, more often than not, there were cases of them being rather friendly towards one another. Well, rather than being friendly, it was more like Vampires manipulating Monsters using their unique Seduction magic…
"Of course, what you said is hundreds time, thousands time, ten thousands times correct, but… that, that creature seems just too powerful to be fully tamed…"
"…Hey you, are you trying to diss me or something? It's easy for me, if it's only that strong. And on top of that, it's still a baby. No matter how resistant it is, beat it up real good a few times, and it won't fight back no more. Don't you think it will be useful once we tame it? And most of all…" (Bathory)
Bathory pointed at the 'kid' on the TV screen and licked her lips in a somewhat suspicious manner.
"Look how adorable it is. Look at it cocking its eyebrows to appear dignified!! I just wanna bite it so much!! Kkyah!"
'…It'll die if you bite it, though…'
The Apostle somehow was able to swallow back his retort.
He really felt like killing himself. Just how was he going to capture a creature that was being called the 'deity of the East Sea' and the 'king of infinite oceans'? It wasn't like Bathory herself was going to help anyway, either.
"Besides that, I'm pretty sure that even the Lord will like it. I mean, the Lord already owns four pet Monsters - a Basilisk, a Cerberus, and, and…"
- You can find more information on the Azure Dragon in the website 'A Deity of Four Directions, Azure Dragon'.
Bathory's head snapped towards the direction of the Apostle in an instant.
"You heard that, right?" (Bathory)
"Y, yes, my lady. This servant has heard it. But…"
"But what? Are you standing there waiting for your neck to fly off your body?" (Bathory)
"Ah, tha, that is… No, uh…"
The Apostle stood there hesitantly, his face now nearly full of tears. But he hurriedly run out of the room after Bathory stomped down on the floor with her high heel.
Almost at the same time.
Kim Sae-Jin was in the middle of realising just what a bear living in a zoo must've felt like. No matter what he did - literally anything - he could hear people raising cries of cheers from the side.
When he shook his tail and jumped into the water…
…Shouts of joy rose up.
And when he opened his mouth wide and yawned….
…Again, another shouts of joy.
When he floated there and did nothing but blink his eyes…
…Even then, people cheered out.
'Seriously, where the heck did this cruise show up from?'
Sae-Jin scratched the back of his neck with his front limb as he looked at the ship full of people that started to follow him around from some time ago.
Just like before, another shouts of cheer.
Seeing the label 'TM' on the side of the ship, it seemed that Jo Hahn-Sung saw yet another opportunity and quickly started a new line of business as soon as the East Sea was cleared out, but…
…They were beginning to annoy him. Sae-Jin the baby Leviathan let out a long sigh.
…And that was followed by yet another bout of cheering.
Hearing the same thing over and over again irritated him so much, so Sae-Jin spitefully spat out a stream of water.
*SFX for a sound of water exploding in the air*
The stream of water shooting up into the air spread open like an umbrella and showered down on the heads of everyone onboard the ship.
But instead of screaming, they rewarded his hard work with even louder cheering and laughter.
"That was a great show displayed by the guardian of the East Sea, the Azure Dragon~."
The guide shouted out loudly. Just who could it be? When Sae-Jin took a glance… why, it was 'Jo Hahn-Sung', of course!!
Sae-Jin had entrusted him with very important work, but there he was, enjoying a holiday? Anger boiled in Sae-Jin's mind suddenly, so he shot out a thin and long jet of water and smacked the back of Jo Hahn-Sung's head.
Jo Hahn-Sung let out a big cry as he squatted down on the floor.
Satisfied, Sae-Jin let out a snort.
The people enjoying the cruise didn't even care about Jo Hahn-Sung's condition and continued to shower Sae-Jin with appreciation.
…As an aside, he learned later that Jo Hahn-Sung was actually on the ship that day because of work-related matters. All those onboard were potential future investors from the financial world, apparently.
< 32. King of the Infinite Oceans, Leviathan (4) > Fin.
(TL: $35 out of $50 still left for next week's first sponsored chapter. Sorry, no extra chapters this weekend.)