A Monster Who Levels Up
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After ending the meeting with Kim Sun-Ho, Sae-Jin headed off to a famous restaurant with Hazeline who was waiting for him outside. Each of the tables were partitioned off in this restaurant, which meant it was perfect for someone like Sae-Jin who was just too well known by pretty much everybody.
"Excuse me? You're going to participate in the boss raid? But why?!" (Hazeline)
In the midst of having a quiet meal, Hazeline suddenly let out a loud cry as her eyes went extra round.
To show how shocked she was, she even ended up inadvertently squashing the meat of a fish she had been carefully cutting into.
"I thought that it might be for the best." (Sae-Jin)
"No, wait, why does Mister Sae-Jin have to go? Besides turning into Monsters, you aren't that good at anything else, though." (Hazeline)
"…What do you mean by that? Haven't you seen that video of me fighting all those Doo-Urk-Shi-Nees online? Hell, the number of views for that is already past ten million now."
Hearing Hazeline's words that could either be interpreted as words of worry or a barely disguised insult, Sae-Jin's eyes narrowed to a slit.
"No, that's not it. What if you encounter a situation where you can't deal with it as a human? Your Trait might be revealed to the rest of the world!"
"Something like that won't happen, so don't you worry about that. Besides… You know, I got this feeling that, even the current me as a human can easily defeat you, Miss Hazeline," said Sae-Jin, while smiling brightly.
Hazeline reciprocated his smile with her own for a short while, but then, her expression hardened very soon as if her pride had been damaged by his claims.
"It's nice to be treated as a damsel in distress, but… You won't even last ten seconds against me." (Hazeline)
At Hazeline's cold voice, this time it was Sae-Jin's pride that got wounded.
"Ten seconds?! Hmm. Back then, when you got ambushed, just who was it that came to your rescue… If I remember correctly, a certain someone was just standing there, lost and confused - did I see that wrong, I wonder?" (Sae-Jin)
Chopsticks in her hand suddenly snapped in half.
"Back then, that weird barrier prevented Mana from following my orders, didn't it? Don't you know that Mana is more important than life itself for a Wizard? If they didn't deploy that stupid barrier, I wouldn't have needed your help in the first pl…"
"Yes, yes. I got it. You're indeed the A-class Wizard, Shenarine."
"Please don't push my buttons and make my old temper to flare up. Even though I look like this, as an Elf Wizard, my pride knows no bounds."
One could say the true essence of the modern day Wizards consisted solely of stubbornness, ego, pride and unshakeable confidence. In other words, a Wizard was incredibly proud of her abilities, but if one considered that said Wizard to be an Elf on top of it all… it didn't take a genius to figure out how crazy stubborn she would be.
"Okay, fine. However, just what kind of work did you do in the past? I heard you mention the Mafia, the Triads, etc, etc, back then." (Sae-Jin)
Hearing his question, Hazeline narrowed her brows as she picked up new chopsticks. Her hand movement was quite rough, her desire to warn him off the topic rather apparent in her mannerisms.
"You're better off not knowing." (Hazeline)
Kim Sae-Jin's expressions hardened. It sure didn't feel good to be treated as a weakling, unfortunately.
"If you're like this, would you like to spar with me after the meal's over?" (Sae-Jin)
He suggested as he sipped the cold water. Meanwhile, Hazeline had to lower her head to make su
re he didn't see her lips trying to curve upwards in a grin.
"…But what will you do if you end up getting killed?" (Hazeline)
"Hah. Wow. I don't even know what to say to that."
"Okay, then let's meet up again tomorrow. I shall take a look whether you have the qualifications to participate in that boss raid or not." (Hazeline)
"Yes, fine. We'll see. We'll see."
Sae-Jin replied back bluntly, while Hazeline was laughing inside her mind. She was pleased by the fact that they were able to smoothly (?) plan out yet another appointment, just like that.
In order to counter all the chaotic Monster incidents happening lately, the Korean government temporarily created the 'Monster-related Disaster Management Task Force'. And currently, inside the briefing room located within the Task Force's HQ in the main city of Gangwon Province, a meeting was taking place.
"This Boss Monster is a brand new type that hasn't appeared before until now. Its outer appearance resembles a cat with a big 5-metre body, but it seems that the Monster's specialty lies in its ability to manipulate minds. It has somehow gained control of many Monsters within the Monster field and has created an army."
The identities of those in the meeting were who's who of the Knight society. Kim Yu-Rin from the Raven Order, Vice Order Master from Goryeo, Daebaek, etc, etc - all of them were individuals wielding tremendous influences.
"In order to combat this enormous army, unlike the last two Boss raids where only the Knights with Tiers higher than Mid, upper Mid had participated, this time we are going to call on the Knights with lower Tiers, as well as Hunters with upper Mid Tier rankings."
"Ah, hang on for a second there. It's related to what you just said… Is it true that 'person' is also going to participate in this boss raid?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
The Vice Master of the Daebaek Order, Oh Jung-Hyuk, carefully tested the waters. After becoming a Highest Tier after his achievements got publicly recognised, he was walking around lately with his shoulders and back stiff from ego. Obviously, he was busy showing off, with the excuse of this being the resulting pride of a Highest Tier or some such.
"Yes, he said he will."
"Huh-uh. That means we must be especially considerate towards his needs. If, for some reason, something untoward happens to him, that will be a great misfortune for this nation…" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
This was an expected response from the Daebaek Order - after all, they were able to rise up through the rankings solely due to The Monster's generosity and support.
"What do you all think?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
Oh Jung-Hyuk took a glance at Kim Yu-Rin. His eyes told her to follow up on his words, but she could only avoid his gaze while looking decidedly embarrassed.
"…Still, as a High Tier Hunter, it's only right for him to participate. I think it's already a show of consideration from our government by requesting him to join in this raid. Besides, didn't he say he'd participate with his own mouth?" (Kim Soo-Hoh)
It was then, Vice Master Kim Soo-Hoh from the Goryeo Order let his displeasure known. It seemed that, since the Trilogy's founder, Kim Yak-Sahn, was the Order's Master, and that the 'negotiation' with The Monster had collapsed some time ago, they were planning to be in an openly hostile relationship now.
"How the hell do you refuse such a request? From the beginning, they should have excluded him because of his circumstances. It's not always the best to stick to the conventional rules all the time. If the Guild Master of The Monster is going to join in this raid, what would other countries think of us?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
"Obviously, they would go, 'what a fair-minded and advanced nation'. What do you think?!" (Kim Soo-Hoh)
"What did you say? Is it 'fair' in your country if your president enters the battlefield personally?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
"What a strange example. Is Kim Sae-Jin a president already? Obviously he's not! Also, since he's no longer active in the front lines, and he's a Hunter only in name now…" (Kim Soo-Hoh)
"Uh-huh!! You're being too careless with your remarks!!" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
A sudden outburst of arguement over Kim Sae-Jin became incredibly heated in the blink of an eye. There were quite a few members of the Trilogy present, so the two sides were split equally down in the middle. And so, the briefing room had become the ground for the totally-unnecessary factional infighting.
"…Everyone, just stop what you're doing, right now. Didn't mister Kim Sae-Jin say he will participate?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Finally, unable to endure it any longer, Kim Yu-Rin shouted out.
"Huh-uh. Even the Knight Kim Yu-Rin is saying such a thing?" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
Was this a display of over the top near-religious fervor? Oh Jung-Hyuk slammed his palm down on the table and clicked his tongue.
"Mister Kim Sae-Jin did so many good things for you guys, yet you're acting so ungratefully…" (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
"What do you mean by that!! I shall call him right now and confirm his intentions, once and for all!! Will that be fine?" (Kim Yu-Rin)
At her declaration, all the others kept their mouths shut. Some of them even looked at Kim Yu-Rin with eyes of undisguised envy. After all, being able to call Kim Sae-Jin on a personal level meant that she was that close to him.
*SFX for continuous ring tones*
They could hear the sounds of the phone's ringtone over the speaker. Everyone tensed up and waited - and waited, and then, waited for some more. Unfortunately, what greeted them at the end of all that waiting was a voice of a woman saying…
A loud chuckle broke all that graveyard-like silence pervading the briefing room.
"…With you acting like that, obviously he wouldn't answer your call." (Oh Jung-Hyuk)
Oh Jung-Hyuk's lips twitched in a barely-contained satisfaction.
"I, I shall call him one more time." (Kim Yu-Rin)
"No, that won't be necessary. He isn't going to answer it anyways."
"No, no. Wait a minute…"
"For now, let's postpone that discussion after confirming with him at a later stage, and resume the rest of the meeting."
For some reason, the mood inside the briefing room turned for the better at the expense of Kim Yu-Rin's embarrassment.
And as the meeting resumed, she continuously glared at the phone while carrying a sullen expression. But by the time Sae-Jin called her back, it was one hour after the meeting had come to an end.
1st of February.
The defensive line was constructed on the passage lying between Seoul and the Gangwon Province. Because of the Boss's ability to mind control many other Monsters, there were numerous Knights, Hunters and Wizards gathered up by the line this time.
And, if one were to pick someone rather special amidst them… Then, it would be a certain someone who was neither a Knight nor a Wizard, but a measly Hunter.
"W, wowsers. Isn't he that Kim Sae-Jin?"
"It's my first time seeing him in the flesh… He's really as incredible as rumoured, right?"
Almost everyone gathered by the defensive line continued to glance at the High Tier Hunter Kim Sae-Jin's direction, but none dared to approach him.
And as he stood there, being on the receiving end of all those envious stares, out of the blue, four Griffins flew in the sky above his position. Even though they carried riders on their backs, these creatures temporarily ignored their commands and circled above Sae-Jin as if to give their greetings.
"Oh! So this is where you were, Guild Master! I was looking for you just now."
Not only that, many high-ranking government officials, as well as Vice Masters of well-known Orders and several Highest Tier Knights came over, bowing their heads and requested for a handshake, too. One or two of them suffering from lack of patience tried to talk to him about this and that business-related matters, but Sae-Jin politely told them such things should be discussed after the current calamity was addressed first.
It sure was an awkward spectacle that didn't fit the description of a battlefield.
'…And as expected, he is surrounded.'
Hazeline was loitering on the background, unable to find a good timing to get a word in. As she was in a dilemma, wondering whether to swallow the brave pill and step forward or not, Yu Sae-Jung appeared out from somewhere and occupied a place right next to Sae-Jin.
When Hazeline saw the two of them together, a sigh from the depth of her heart automatically leaked out. She forced herself to show up here because she was worried, but now, seeing the two of them together, it was likely her heart would ache bitterly for a long time.
"Excuse me. Which Wizard Tower did you come from?"
It was then, Hazeline heard a really familiar voice from her back, and her scalp tingled in coldness. It was just a simple voice, but still, she could feel her temperature rise up, and cold sweat began forming on her forehead.
Kim Yu-Rin spoke again as she tapped on the thick-robe wearing Hazeline's shoulder. Hazeline's breathing quickened. Sensing a strange change in atmosphere, Kim Yu-Rin tilted her head, and then…
"Miss Yu-Rin!! We're ready to start the operation, ma'am!"
…At the call of her subordinate, she quickly returned to her original position.
Hazeline did her best to rein her wildly beating heart and let out a long sigh - before falling into yet another dilemma. Should she go away now, or should she stay and take a look for a bit longer…?
Lamentably, it proved to be too late to escape from this place.
That was because, in the far off distance, the marching army of the Monsters could be seen.
Small and medium sized Monsters such as Gnolls, Hoggs, Trolls, Orcs were being accompanied by larger lifeforms such as Ogres, Wyverns, and Basilisks; it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, seeing so many Monsters working together to form an army and marching forward like that. (TL: I've no idea what a Hogg Monster is. Did a bit of research, but the closest I could find was some character from Overwatch. I never played that game before, so totally no clue whatsoever. Shrugs shoulders.)
'There's more than expected.'
Kim Sae-Jin lightly bit his lower lip at the sight of the five thousand-strong army of Monsters. The front of the marching pack consisted of weaklings, but the numerous Boss-level Monsters such as Basilisks, Three-Headed Ogres could be seen in the distance as well.
'…This won't turn out to be more difficult than the Flesh Golem, right?'
Although there were a lot of enemies, almost every single Highest Tier in Korea had gathered here. As long as there were no unforeseen events, like the Red Moon suddenly occurring or something similar, they should be able to overcome this crisis relatively safely.
*SFX for a sword being drawn out*
Kim Sae-Jin unsheathed his sword from his hips. A pure-white scabbard, and the jet-black blade that perfectly contrasted it - a sword so beautiful and intricately crafted, all the surrounding Knights froze in their tracks, totally forgetting the current situation and dazedly staring at it.
"Don't tense up, let's do this thing properly now." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin took a glance at the female Knight next to him who was staring at his sword, and lightly tapped on her shoulder while chuckling slightly to himself.
"Ye, yes? Oh, yes. That's right!"
The Knight of Eden, Yi Yu-Jin, shouted out in her frozen state. To run into a familiar face here, although he wasn't Jin Seh-Hahn currently, Sae-Jin still found it rather a welcome coincidence.
It was then. The cannons fired Mana projectiles and signaled the beginning of the battle. With a loud explosion, projectiles accurately slammed into one of the faces of the Three-Headed Ogre.
"All personnel, charge!!"
And with that loud roaring, the entire world seemed to bathe in the blue hues of Mana.
< 33. Heroic (1) > Fin.
(TL: There will be one extra chapter this weekend. Actually, the funny thing is, the donation amount was met, but PayPal decided to charge me a buck and a few cents (again), making it around $1 and something-something short. So I said, screw it. You are getting a chapter!! You are getting a chapter!! You all are getting a CHAPPPPPTTTTEEERR!!)