A Monster Who Levels Up
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(It's the Chinese New Year!! Yay, everyone. Okay, moving on.)
Sae-Jin shot forward like a bolt of lightning and arrived at the edge of the meteor. Right away, the incredible temperature of the damn thing wrapped around him as if it wished to melt him down completely. Thanks to this scary heat, the armour set he painstakingly created was melting like wax.
He didn't expect this. Panicking somewhat, he quickly activated both the Warrior of Reversal and the Leviathan's Scales. Only then the heat finally became somewhat tolerable, allowing him to reach out towards the meteor's surface. It was boiling hot, irregularly shaped, and covered in pure darkness.
He wondered briefly what he should do with this meteor but an idea came to him soon enough. Now that he thought about it, there was no need for him to smash it up with his bare fist.
'The Mana Body.'
Couldn't he freely control Mana at will? All he had to do was to rely on this power and change the composition and property of this meteor - he could reduce the killing power to 0, but raise its visual and auditory impact to an absolutely terrifying maximum.
Concluding his thoughts up to here, he placed his hand on the surface and poured his Mana in. Then, the once-quiet meteor began humming uneasily and its surface began wavering as it kept falling to the ground. For Kim Sae-Jin, this was a good sign, but for everyone else watching from the ground below, it was an incredibly worrying change.
"W, what the hell!!"
"It's gonna explode!!"
The jet-black meteor quivered as if it was going to explode. It was as if a fireball was getting ready to expel its own flames out. Civilians and Knights looked on and cried out in despair.
But the actions taken by Kim Sae-Jin the next moment was enough to extinguish that despair out of their hearts.
He clasped the meteor tightly with both of his hands, and expelled Mana out from the bottom of his feet like a rocket, and carried the huge black object back up into the sky.
He soared higher and higher, as if he was prepared to die together with the meteor. From the perspective of the villain who caused this incident, it must've looked like a courageous decision completely out of their previous expectations.
Seeing this amazing scene straight out of their wildest dreams, everyone forgot to run away and continued to look on, completely dumbfounded. What they were seeing was a lone man lifting the heavens up, and it was an utterly heroic sight to behold.
'This… should be far enough.'
He pushed the meteor higher and higher until he arrived at the middle of the sky, then he clenched his fist as tightly as he could.
And then - slammed his fist down on the meteor, its property already changed to something else.
The world was swallowed up by gigantic explosions. The meteor was bathed in pure white light and blew up into countless fragments. Terrifying shock waves swept out and destroyed nearby buildings, and debris flung in the air to every direction. Knights moved quickly and swung their weapons in order to protect the civilians from the falling debris.
Before long, the dozens and dozens of explosions finally came to a stop. And a small gasp leaked out from someone in the crowd of civilians.
Up on the sky high above their heads, Jin Seh-Hahn was falling helplessly, his eyes deeply closed.
After blowing up the meteor, Sae-Jin withdrew the remaining energy from his body and retracted his Mana. Actually, there wasn't anything left to retract in the first place. He spent every drop of his Mana and he actually couldn't exert any strength to hi
s body, after all.
Whatever the case may have been, as soon as he lost the support of Mana, he began free falling from the high altitude.
Initially, the speed of falling was so great that it became hard to breathe due to the air pressure building up. But soon enough, the speed decreased by a huge amount and his descent became far more comfortable as a result. Probably Hazeline was to thank for that.
*SFX for a gentle swoosh*
Slowly settling down on the ground like a falling Autumn leaf, a slim smile slowly formed on his lips as if to say this had been a plentiful satisfying life he had lived.
The only thing remaining now, was Hazeline's magic to cap off the perfect finale.
"Are you alright?!"
However, a scared cry of a woman slammed into his ear canals with vengeance.
His head hurt from the high decibel of that cry, so he minutely cracked open his eyes to look, only to find Hazeline's shocked and worried face filling up his vision.
"Answer me, are you alright!!"
When Sae-Jin didn't reply, she began bursting out in tears and shook his body.
What the hell is she doing?!
Panicking inwardly, somewhat, Sae-Jin couldn't endure it and ended up opening his eyes a little wider and coughed out weakly.
At the same time, countless eyes focused on him.
Too bad, Kim Sae-Jin was determined to die. He slowly reached out with his shaking hands and gently stroked her cheek. And then…
…He whispered a rapid firing of words so low that only Hazeline could possibly hear it. She immediately realised it, quickly closed her mouth that was hanging loose in 'O' shape, and after wiping her tears away, began chanting a magic spell.
This time, Sae-Jin spoke loudly enough so others could hear him. As he staged the final moments of his death, the flow of Mana controlled by Hazeline entered his nostrils.
Almost in an instant, his consciousness began to blur. This feeling was far too complicated to describe…
And so, he passed out, seemingly dead, while showing the whites of his eyes. Since such a sight was somewhat unfitting for the final moments of a hero, Hazeline carefully closed his eyelids.
Soon after, deathly stillness visited the world. There were so many people and Knights standing here, yet not a murmur nor breathing could be heard. They simply stood there, dazedly taking in the end of a true hero, who was lying there comfortably.
Those melted armour pieces, his skin and flesh charred and burnt black; his gently closed eyes and on his lips, the last smile he'd ever make.
Just what compelled him to sacrifice himself like that? Just why was he making that satisfied smile as he lay there?
Hazeline stealthily checked the atmosphere around her, and then…
…Started a rather amateurish performance and beat her chest. This prompted a few of the tearful onlookers to slowly approach her and the dead (?) man. On the other hand, Hazeline was panicking inwardly as the prospect of being surrounded by strangers was fast becoming a reality.
"Please, make way!!"
Before she was completely surrounded, though - thankfully, a team of paramedics prepared by Kim Sun-Ho arrived on the scene. Pushing away the wall of crowd, they quickly loaded Kim Sae-Jin onto the ambulance and drove off to somewhere.
In front of the Korean National Hospital, where the entry was strongly regulated due to special circumstances of the patients resting inside - reporters from all corners of the globe had set up a camp. They all wore the kind of neat, tidy clothes that didn't stand out. They were also uncharacteristically keeping silent while waiting for the announcement from the doctors.
Although there were a lot of people present, the only sound infrequently breaking the silence was those long sighs.
A miraculous life, a tragic death - under the dark sky where rain fell like tears from heaven, no one was brave enough to raise a fuss over the life and death of a bona fide hero.
And they waited for a long time, while the anxiety kept assaulting them. Finally, they saw through the front entrance's glass a doctor with a pale face walking towards them. Reporters hurriedly got ready and waited for this man's arrival.
"My name is Kim Hark-Do."
Kim Hark-Do, a renowned surgeon who performed his operations while extracting the maximum amount of effects from various potions, faced the throng of reporters and nervously swallowed his saliva.
"…Knight Jin Seh-Hahn didn't suffer any fatal exterior wounds. It was on the level where an operation was deemed unnecessary, and potions would have been sufficient to heal his wounds."
At the good doctor's opening statement, all the eyes of the reporters went extra round. But that was not the end - he sighed out deeply and continued on with his words.
"However… by momentarily exploding several times past his limits and squeezing out every ounce of Mana… he suffered the condition of 'Mana Deviation', and so…"
His head hung down as if he couldn't face the crowd anymore.
"…20:51, Monday, 17th of March. Knight Jin Seh-Hahn has been officially declared as killed in action."
Not a single camera flash went off. As the sounds of falling rain sorrowfully echoed in this lonely place, reporters lowered their heads in heavy silence.
Officially, Jin Seh-Hahn was dead. And the aftermath was as Kim Yu-Sohn had predicted - 'a hero's death would ignite the spark of hope in the masses'.
A nationwide, nay, a worldwide mourning took place to remember his passing.
Within the open arena in front of the historic Gwang-hwamun Gate, civilians voluntarily built a platform for people to come and pay their respects to Jin Seh-Hahn.
The headlines appearing on various newspapers around the world portrayed him as a hero and competed hard against one another to get the latest news out. All the while, the Korean government was deliberating on whether to give the man a national funeral or not.
"Jin Seh-Hahn died a true hero. But the legacy of his life where he gave it all to the bitter end for the good of everyone and the society at large, as well as the martial art school founded in his honour, Jin Mudo, will continue to shine in our world."
Currently, this was the Gwang-hwamun Gate where a memorial service was being held in honour of Jin Seh-Hahn. Innumerable amount of people had gathered here, shedding tears and listening to the words of remembrance.
'Seriously, hasn't this blown out of proportions too much now?!'
Kim Sae-Jin had come here along with Yu Sae-Jung, but he just couldn't get rid of this fear of things snowballing out of control.
"A star… has fallen." (Yu Sae-Jung)
The service had come to its conclusion; Yu Sae-Jung leaned against Sae-Jin's shoulders and murmured in a lonely voice. Since Sae-Jin had no clue what to say here, he simply nodded his head.
"That guy, I hear he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame was perhaps the greatest medal of honour a Knight could hope to receive, so much so that it was often called the Nobel Prize for the Knights.
As Knights from the entire world were scrutinised and selected, there had only ever been five Knights from Korea to be inducted into this Hall of Fame so far.
"That's nice," said Sae-Jin as he placed a chrysanthemum flower in front of Jin Seh-Hahn's portrait.
"…I hope you can find never-ending happiness over there." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Not thinking about anything, he stood there in a 'silent prayer' mode, but then, heard Yu Sae-Jung's way-too serious voice from the side. He was somehow able to hold back a wry smile from breaking out.
Another two weeks passed by since then.
When the emotional memorial services came to their natural end, rational questions and suspicions began rising in the public's minds. Just who were the ringleaders behind the death of Jin Seh-Hahn?
The rage of the public and Knights began to boil over when 'someone' posited that the Vampires were the ones responsible.
Sure enough, a public demonstration took place, with its attendees demanding the extermination of Vampires. And even the president of the country, in the televised speech, clearly expressed his regret and anger, promising to uncover the true villains and make them answer for their crimes.
And so, on a certain early morning, when not a single day of peace had passed by in a while.
A bluish light and the slightly cold air woke Sae-Jin up from his sleep. The bed next to him felt empty so he looked around, and found Yu Sae-Jung busy applying make-up so early in the morning.
"…Are you going somewhere?" (Sae-Jin)
He asked as he yawned out loudly.
A woman applying make-up was at her most busiest. But still, her short answer kind of stuck a needle in him.
"What's the occasion? And where are you going to?" (Sae-Jin)
"To a ball." (Yu Sae-Jung)
Sae-Jin narrowed his eyes. She said she was going to a 'ball' - first of all, something didn't quite sound right. No, it stank, actually. After all, in a ball, didn't men and women dance together or some such?
"And why are you going there?" (Sae-Jin)
"Mm? Oh, it's nothing, really. It's actually a gathering of top 100 businesses in the country, but… because of the recent incident, it's going to be really boring, I think." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Really? But why are you getting ready alone? Can't I come with you?" (TL: Yeah, why can't he? I mean, his Guild probably makes way more moolah then some of those "top 100" businesses if one seriously thinks about it.)
He scratched the back of his neck while asking her. Yu Sae-Jung made an apologetic smile and shook her head slowly.
"I also wanna do that, but… my dad and grandpa will be there, too."
Kim Sae-Jin's eyes became even more narrower. For some weird reason, Yu Sae-Jung didn't want to introduce him to her father and grandfather. Weird, since both of them didn't even object to their relationship.
"Well, fine. Actually, I also am going to meet someone today. A woman, as a matter of fact." (Sae-Jin)
Having his ego properly poked with a needle, Sae-Jin launched his own low-blow counterattack. That caused Yu Sae-Jung to furrow her brows and react seriously.
"Why? And with who?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"I promised Miss Hazeline a good meal, you see. Why? Am I not allowed to go?" (Sae-Jin)
"Ah~~. Nope. It's okay. Have fun."
However, she was unexpectedly easy-going with her reply. Seeing this, Kim Sae-Jin couldn't help but be dazed slightly. He was joking about the meal thing, actually…
"Oppa should meet up with her and console her properly, you know? I mean, Unni must be suffering a lot right now." (Yu Sae-Jung)
A question mark floated on top of Sae-Jin's head. Console her? She was suffering? What the heck was she suddenly talking about…?
"Seriously, her lover passed on like that, so… can you imagine how hurt she is right now? Oppa needs to properly help her out, you know. Ah, right. You don't have to do it too properly, though."
Finishing up with beautifying herself already, she got up from her seat and lightly tapped on Sae-Jin's shoulder. She then put on a coat, picked up her handbag, and left the bedroom.
Stuck in a total daze, Sae-Jin's eyes chased after her departing back. Hazeline's lover… What the hell was that all about?
"…Could it be?!"
Suddenly, a thought flashed by in his mind so he quickly accessed his phone, still not completely convinced of the possibility.
He couldn't find anything remotely like what Yu Sae-Jung was talking about in the regular portal sites, but… on the forums of the Dawn's official page, it was the hottest topic being discussed there.
A tragic but passionate love story between an Elf and a certain Knight, that was.
< 33. Heroic (5) > Fin.
(TL: There will be one extra chapter tomorrow.)