A Monster Who Levels Up
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From this way and that, Kim Yu-Rin began studying the treasure chest covered in black sheet. No matter which direction she observed it from, she was certain of the fact that the powerful aura oozing out of the box was definitely coming off from a bona fide treasure hidden within.
Finally~, I'm going to be the second person in here ever to own a Treasure-grade weapon…
As she basked in the feeling of an endless contentment, suddenly the sword hanging by her hips entered into her thought process.
This high-ranked sword had been by her side for a very, very long time - the 'White Night'.
It was a reward bestowed unto her by the Raven Order when she became the youngest upper Mid Tier Knight in the history many years ago. She survived many deadly crises since then with it by her side, and saved just as many lives along the way as well.
In other words, this sword truly had a priceless sentimental value to her, the one that shared her history of sweat, blood and tears, as well as all those good and bad memories she experienced as a Knight.
'…I'm sure you'll prefer to spend the rest of your days in comfort inside a good museum.'
She slowly patted her white sword and swallowed her saliva down, feeling the complicated emotions sweep over her. All those days she'd been fighting with the White Night in hand flashed by her mind like a roll of a film.
"Oh, oh. He's here."
A man stepped on to the stage while Kim Yu-Rin was busy sorting through her mixed feelings that was born out of her separation from the White Night.
That man was naturally Kim Sae-Jin, wearing a smart suit that looked expensive but not too extrovert and eye-catching.
Several ladies - Knights, no less - in the audience began blushing noticeably at his entrance, while the male counterparts were busy dreaming up of ways to get close to him as they noisily cheered on.
Although he was met by all this wonderful reception, Sae-Jin was actually under quite a bit of stress lately, thanks to several worrisome developments of last couple of days. He forced himself to assume a stiff smile, as he approached the waiting father and daughter pair of Kim Yu-Rin and Kim Hyun-Seok.
"Nice to meet you." (Kim Hyun-Seok)
Kim Hyun-Seok reached out with his hand extended first. Kim Sae-Jin lowered his head in a show of respect and shook the older man's hand.
"It's my honour to meet the Korea's greatest Knight." (Sae-Jin)
"…No, actually it's my honour. After all, there is no one who is more accomplished than you in your age group, the 20s." (Kim Hyun-Seok)
"Not at all. With Miss Kim Yu-Rin standing right besides me, I'm not deserving of such a praise." (Sae-Jin)
"Mm? Ah. Knight Kim Yu-Rin has already entered her 30s now. She's not in her 20s anymore, haven't for a long time." (Kim Hyun-Seok)
Kim Yu-Rin's shoulders shook in visible shock at this unexpectedly fatal low-blow that was aimed squarely at her heart. Fearing that other Knights might have heard this completely thoughtless and unnecessary remark of Kim Hyun-Seok, she quickly surveyed the surroundings with a horrified expression clearly etched on her face.
Several Knights knew enough to tactfully lower their gazes when her eyes landed on them.
"…Why would you say such a thing in public?!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
She angrily confronted her father/boss with a really pissed-off face. It seemed that she was ready to kill him if it came down to that.
The sensitive topics of 'age' and 'weight' were incredibly prickly subjects to talk about for ladies, indeed…
"Hahah…" (Kim Hyun-Seok)
"I'm asking you, why did you say that out aloud? Would you feel
good if I called you a 50-something geezer in front of everyone?!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
"Ahahahah…" (Kim Hyun-Seok)
Kim Hyun-Seok glossed over the teeth-gritting Kim Yu-Rin's angry mutterings and walked towards the treasure chest along with Sae-Jin. Because, now was the time for the photo op.
"Say cheese~~!" (Cameraman)
Sae-Jin forced out another smile towards the camera lens as he stood next to Kim Hyun-Seok.
With a soft click, a flash went off.
"We're going to take a couple more pictures, but will you be alright with that?" (Kim Hyun-Seok)
"Pardon? Uh, sure. I'm fine with that." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin inwardly thought, just how many can they possibly take? Can't be that many anyways.
Unfortunately for Sae-Jin, it didn't take too long for him to realise the errors in his lackadaisical judgement.
In order to show off the fact that the Raven "possessed two Treasures crafted by the world's best Blacksmith, Kim Sae-Jin", he had to take literally countless photos with many people.
It began with taking a couple with only Kim Hyun-Seok. Next, with Kim Hyun-Seok and Kim Yu-Rin, then followed by Hyun-Seok, Yu-Rin, as well as other high-ranking officials of the Order. Next, with those same officials, sans Hyun-Seok and Yu-Rin. Finally, ones with all the respective captains of each of the Knight Teams.
If it was the Raven of the past, they would have never raised a fuss to such an extent. All this show of prestige wasn't simply because the Dawn had been chasing them down hard.
Due to the frequent breakout of the Monster-related incidents throughout the world and the subsequent dispatching of Knights to literally everywhere, the national borders that normally demarcated the operational jurisdictions of the Knights Orders became rather blurred.
The competition, in other words, now included the rest of the world.
Whatever the case was, Sae-Jin was feeling really terrible after taking so many pictures. And to compound his misery even further, his photoshoot partners simply had way too many things to say to him. To see them forcibly shoving their business cards to him for the umpteenth time, hoping to receive Sae-Jin's famed platinum card in return, it was becoming so…
'…Hell, we haven't even opened the damn chest yet.' (Sae-Jin)
Inwardly feeling rather worried about this circus continuing on even after the unveiling of the weapon, Sae-Jin took the last photo and also, pocketed the 30th business card he received.
"And we shall begin the ceremony now." (Announcer)
As the conferment ceremony finally got underway, Kim Hyun-Seok and other unrelated parties climbed off the stage, leaving Sae-Jin and Kim Yu-Rin behind, as well as the lone treasure chest.
"I'd like to thank you for this incredible treasure…" (Kim Yu-Rin)
"I haven't even opened the lid yet, you know? You can lavish it praises a bit later, Miss Yu-Rin."
Sae-Jin smirked a little as he replied to Kim Yu-Rin. Before this, she said she preferred dolls over weapons, but hell, it seemed that a mere weapon was incomparable to a true Treasure even to her.
"Then, shall we take a look?" (Sae-Jin)
*SFX for covers being pulled off*
Sae-Jin lifted the veil off the chest. Immediately, the blinding light came out from the chest itself. Kim Yu-Rin nervously swallowed her saliva, wondering if the chest's price tag was just as eye-poppingly expensive as well.
"Ah, I'm asking this just in case… Have you gotten over your crush, Miss Yu-Rin?" (Sae-Jin)
Kim Yu-Rin woke up from her dazed staring of the chest and asked out in a shocked surprise. He smiled wryly and whispered to her.
"The Orc. The Hero Orc. You've gotten over it?"
"Wwwwhat on earth are you talking about?!?! It's not 'gotten over it' since there was nothing to get over with in the first place!!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
When Kim Yu-Rin suddenly cried out at the top of her lungs on the stage, it naturally drew the attention of the audience.
"….It never was like that. Really." (Kim Yu-Rin)
Feeling ashamed by that sudden outburst, she lowered her voice and whispered to him.
Of course, the Orc sometimes still appeared within her dreams - his un-Orc-like handsome face, his charming baritone voice, his broad and dependable back, and his perfect muscles, all of it…
"Such a thing never happened. Never." (Kim Yu-Rin)
It had been over 3 months since she last saw the Orc, so a certain sense of longing, a desire, to see him occasionally reared its head, but… Now, she was completely fine with it.
"Well, in that case, I am genuinely relieved to hear that." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin muttered so, as he opened the chest.
And residing within its cavity, there was a mystical, dignified weapon exuding a brilliantly blinding light that was hundreds of times purer than what the chest emitted just now.
Seeing that smooth, perfectly-formed shape from the scabbard all the way down to its hilt, Kim Yu-Rin was in a total daze - until, she spotted a peculiar little detail.
It was a certain tiny mark, a small engraving of sorts, that Sae-Jin would unconsciously leave behind when he was completely focused or immersed in the crafting process of a Treasure, or a Branded Goods graded 1st or 2nd.
She looked at that mark and recalled the Hero Orc's mace. She remembered seeing a very similar mark somewhere on the roundish hitting surface of his scary mace. She was dead sure of it. After all, she dueled with him hundreds of time already.
"You like it that much?" (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin asked her with a satisfied smile after mistaking her dazed state for something else.
Kim Yu-Rin quickly swallowed down her saliva and turned her gaze towards him.
Sae-Jin's smile remained etched on his lips, even when her questioning stare firmly landed on him.
[Hahah… that is a rather apt description. However, in case of the Red Hare, or more correctly, a Griffin - I hear that the Raven Knights Order is also trying to lease one for the period of ten years… But in all honesty, it all depends on Kim Sae-Jin's decision, so it's not certain at the moment.] [Is that so? Currently, if I'm not mistaken, it's only the Dawn Order who have successfully leased the Griffins?] [Correct. Well, the Dawn have enjoyed the most friendly relationship with Kim Sae-Jin, so… I fear, no matter how much other Knights Orders try to win over his attention, they will be unable to surpass that unbreakable bond formed from the very beginning, when he was still struggling at the very bottom. On top of this, he had given a Treasure-grade sword to the Dawn's most recognised Knight, Yu Sae-Jung, for free. It's a whole different relationship to the Raven, whom he asked for money.] [Oh-ho. I wasn't aware of that. Anyhow, it is truly a surprising thing - to think, that one single man can somehow influence the prestige of an Order as well as the status of a Knight. I mean, the Daebaek Order, who used to be a bit underwhelming to be called an important player, have grown in status and now they are threatening Goryeo's position in the rankings solely by maximising their relationship with Kim Sae-Jin, aren't they?] [Indeed. It's not for nothing many civilians are calling that man the Saviour. For sure, that nickname did start off as a sort-of attempt to ridicule him because of his wonderful Trait, but now… Now, without Kim Sae-Jin and The Monster Guild, the nation of Korea would find itself in a very difficult situation. After all, TM has taken over 50% of the artifact, weapons, and potion markets by themselves now.]
Hazeline was currently lying on a jet-black bed like a corpse. For almost the whole week, the only activities she forced herself to perform were sleeping, waking up, check up on her phone, watch TV and when she felt hungry, eat something… She was living like a zombie.
It couldn't be helped, since she could recall that huge mistake she made under the influence of alcohol, whenever she tried to do something, causing her to regret it with all of her being.
She was always like this - failing to rein in her wild emotions and then, regretting like crazy over the resulting spilt milk.
Besides, although she tried her best to not to think about it, it proved to be an impossible task. Turning on the TV and there it was, Kim Sae-Jin's face, every single damn day.
And when she heard about him giving Kim Yu-Rin a sword, that sort of made her feel disappointed as well. He hadn't even made a Wizard's wand for her yet.
"…..Wow, I'm such an incorrigible idiot."
She shook her head hard and turned the TV off.
Her feelings towards Kim Sae-Jin, she had decided it would stay as nothing more than a favourable impression. But it was much more than that now.
And the biggest reason for that was her spending 3,4 times a week with Sae-Jin disguised as Jin Seh-Hahn. She was such an idiot to actively go and see him. She knew very well things would turn out this way, yet her reasoning got suppressed by her emotions and therefore, she couldn't stop. And so, her feelings that had ballooned into something far more dangerous, ended up doing something terribly idiotic. Thankfully, it wasn't a direct confession or anything, but still…
- By the way, why did you have to kill off Jin Seh-Hahn? If he hadn't died, then I'd be able to stay with him, you know.
- I wonder, doesn't it get a bit stale seeing only one girl all the time? I hear all men feel that way. It's not too late now, you know? You can resurrect Jin Seh-Hahn with a poof, and then, and then…
Too embarrassed to recall the final bits of her drunken utterance, Hazeline instead screamed her lungs out.
She still couldn't believe the fact that she had blurted out a total bull dust containing her 'legit' desires during the moment when her reasoning and logic had fled from her brain.
What an idiot, a nutcase, a dumbass - the enemy of all alcohol kind.
Hazeline started kicking and punching her bed until it was nearly broken, out of sheer frustration and regret, but before long, she was sneakily lifting up her phone. She accessed the app for private chatting and began spying on one of the profile pics there. (TL: Not mentioned specifically in the raw which app, but it's probably Kakao Talk. Seems to be everywhere in Korea…)
However, she tossed the phone away on top of the bed after a short time had passed by.
On the screen of the phone lying on the corner of her bed, was the profile pic of Yu Sae-Jung. It was a selfie of her smiling happily while leaning against Sae-Jin's shoulder.
"…I'm so envious."
Hazeline was totally envious of Yu Sae-Jung. She also felt angry.
For sure, she met Sae-Jin before anyone else. If she was more proactive back then… Then, the person next to him would have been her, instead. She felt regret, anger, wronged, and disappointed.
'…I wanna see him.'
She crawled on the bed towards the phone and pulled up someone else's profile image, enlarging it on the screen.
This time, a 'flawless' image of Sae-Jin filled up the entire screen.
It was now Spring.
Kim Sae-Jin went to speak to Kim Yu-Sohn.
"Nosferatu, you say?" (Kim Sun-Ho)
"Yes. I think I need to go and meet them, at least once." (Sae-Jin)
"…By yourself only?" (Kim Sun-Ho)
But it wasn't the old man, but his son. Sae-Jin nodded his head, and although Kim Sun-Ho was rather worried about this, after seeing his boss's determination, he couldn't do anything but to nod his head along as well.
"…Well, in that case, I'll send a couple of operatives out and look for their whereabouts." (Kim Sun-Ho)
"No, wait. I don't think that's necessary - there should be an information provided to us by an anonymous source not too long ago. You should ask Mister Yu-Sohn about it." (Sae-Jin)
In the past, there was that time when an anonymous source sent in a bunch of photos and coordinates of an underground village located within a mountainside, saying it was Vampires' hideout. However, seeing that Bathory and her cahoots were busy slumming it out in a hotel located inside the city limits, this hidden village was more than likely the sanctuary of Nosferatus, instead.
"I understand." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Sae-Jin nodded his head once more and got up to leave. Before he could, though, Kim Sun-Ho exhorted Sae-Jin with a certain grave matter.
"Ah, right. Guild Master, I've been receiving reports of Bathory woman being seen on the coasts of the East Sea quite frequently now. It seems that she hasn't given up, yet. There is a good possibility that she might personally get involved here, so… It might be prudent to stop swimming in the ocean as the Azure Dragon for now."
Sae-Jin let off an unhappy air at that moment. After all, he was planning to head straight to the sea and swim in order to relieve all the accumulated stress.
"…Oh, well. I'll do that, then." (Sae-Jin)
But what could he possibly do? That Bathory woman was supposed to be incredibly powerful - so, all he could do for now was to appropriately avoid her.
< 34. Sorting Out the Feelings (2) > Fin.
(TL: $10 left out of $50 for this week's first sponsored chapter.)