A Monster Who Levels Up
On the frontlines near the west of Italy where a fierce battle against the demon, Asmodeus, raged on.
Knights Orders worked together with the regular army personnel and succeeded in drawing the giant demon towards the coast of the famed Mediterranean Sea.
"Has the reinforcement arrive yet?!"
Asmodeus was as tall as the leaning tower of Pisa, and the muscles on its body easily trumped that of an Ogre. However, the nimbleness of this creature belied its humongous physical girth and it could escape unscathed most of the joint attacks performed by countless Knights.
"Wait for a little bit longer!!"
The Rome Knights Order's Master, Brefone shouted out desperately. The deal with Kim Sae-Jin stated that, he would dispatch a Kraken to the Mediterranean, so the Knights should cooperate with the sea Monster to kill Asmodeus. Since it was a Kraken and not an Azure Dragon, the fee they had to pony up wasn't as much, but…
'Just when is that damn thing arriving here?'
Just as the Rome Knights Order's Master was about to form a big grudge in his heart against Kim Sae-Jin…
The waters of the Mediterranean Sea rippled violently.
Thick white foams bubbled up on the ocean's surface, and the Kraken finally rose up high from the depth, blocking out the harsh glare of the Mediterranean sun.
The entrance of the Kraken was as noisy and awesome as if a part of the ocean floor was lifting up to the surface. And sure enough, the incredible size of the Kraken easily overwhelmed the demon, Asmodeus.
*SFX for a low-pitched growl*
The Kraken glared at Asmodeus for a bit, before wrapping up the fiery demon with its long tentacles. Of course, the demon resisted and spat out hellfire all around it in an instant.
Asmodeus's hellish flames could not be weakened.
Still, 'heat' could be stolen away.
From the suction pads of the Kraken's tentacles, bitterly cold energy rushed out, and these cold winds quickly dissipated the high temperature of the demon's hellfire.
Only then did the demon fall into a state of panic, and began retreating hastily.
"D, do not miss this opening!! Attack!! Attack!!"
With this call, Knights, who had been pushed back time and time again throughout the encounter, rushed in towards Asmodeus.
"That Kraken is our reinforcement!! Attack the demon!!"
"These are the payments we received from Italy, the horns of the demon Asmodeus and its Mana Stone." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho handed over the loot from the Boss raid. Sae-Jin checked them out while he carefully probed Sun-Ho with a question.
"So, how useful was Sahrahng out there?" (Sae-Jin)
During the battle, Sae-Jin was in the Leviathan Form in order to boost Sahrahng's - the Kraken's - Stats; as for the amount of exposure gained through the Asmodeus raid, that was still unknown as Italy was still going through the post-battle recovery phase.
"According to the Rome Knights Order - it was utter domination. They can't stop praising the Kraken's ability to freeze the demon's fire with its ejected ink, Boss." (Kim Sun-Ho)
"…That's a relief." (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin nodded his head in satisfaction. There was indeed a merit to giving the Kraken a Mana Tattoo that strengthened its innate 'water' based abilities, as well as attaching a specially-crafted weapon of sorts that could freeze anything at a lightning-quick speed to its suction pads.
"So, that is why, it may be not a bad thing to continue utilising the Kraken like this, Director Kim Yu-Sohn said… no, my father said as much, Guild Master." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Hearing Kim Yu-Sohn's name out of the blue, Sae-Jin couldn't help but nod his head in a bitter, downbeat mood.
"How is he doing nowadays?" (Sae-Jin)
Currently confined to a hospital bed, the time Kim Yu-Sohn stayed unconscious
was getting increasingly longer than compared to when he was awake.
Not too long ago, Sae-Jin went to see the veteran Mercenary, holding in one hand a potion he made with all his focus and effort, a medicine that had a near-miraculous elixir-like effect.
However… Kim Yu-Sohn didn't want to drink it. And Sae-Jin couldn't force the older man to drink it, either.
With both his mind and body in steep decline, Kim Yu-Sohn said that his Trait had stopped working now. Judging from the bright smile etched on his lips, Sae-Jin thought that he looked happy with not one ounce of regret. His dreamscape was now freed from the torturous visions of the incoming future, and it seemed that he was finally given the chance to dive into the memories of his happier past…
"….Doctors said dad has around three months left." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho clenched his fist tightly as he spoke. His voice was trembling.
Feeling the tip of his nose sting with sad emotions, Sae-Jin let off a fake cough and tried to change the subject.
"Keum. I understand. Oh, by the way - what's happening with the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong currently?" (Sae-Jin)
The overwhelming, unparalleled genius who had corrected 23 grimoires in less than a year - the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong fell like a meteor into the stale world of Wizards and magic, becoming its hottest celebrity in no time.
The funny thing was, grimoires 'fixed' by the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong was priced around $500K, which was considered really cheap - but, the number of corrected grimoires published was quite low; only 100 were printed and were sold, so when one grimoire did come out, books were sold out in the blink of an eye and led to chronic shortage of stocks.
The impassioned requests from the Wizard Towers to reprint more stock went unheard and unanswered, and in the end, they had to bet their very livelihood on getting there first when a new grimoire was about to surface.
It would've been better if these guys learned to share, but unfortunately, Wizard Towers, small minded and closed off from the outside scrutiny, ruled by jealousy and pettiness, would never do something like that.
And so, time had flowed steadily by and the number of corrected grimoires published by the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong now reached 23.
Thanks to the peculiar arrangement described above, not one Wizard Tower around the world possessed every single edition of these valuable books in their collections.
If they happened to have the 1st book from the series within their 'Wizard of Bangbae-Dong's grimoires collection', then they wouldn't have the second or the third book, and if they had the fourth, then they would be missing fifth and the sixth. It was like those annoying missing pieces of puzzle, really.
"Hahah… Thanks to 'him', the stock of our Guild has increased by another notch, Boss. They are saying, 'The Monster Guild's members-only library has all the volumes of the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong's grimoires, something no other Wizard Tower has'."
Kim Sun-Ho pulled his phone out and showed off the current situation to Sae-Jin personally.
- Holy moly. How can anyone write a grimoire this quickly? He must be a real super genius.
- You will find more Wizards in Bangbae-Dong thanks to the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong. ㅋ ㅋ. My uncle-in-law who runs a pub there is loving it. He says they spend money like there's no tomorrow.
- BTW, because all the grimoires are written in Korean, Wizards are tripping over each other to learn the language. The reason for all those language cram schools popping up in Bangbae-Dong is because of all the foreign Wizards found there. ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ. One of my friends is an instructor. Says that the foreign Wizards list reading the original versions in Korean as their reason for applying. ㅋ ㅋ.
Sae-Jin chuckled as he read the comments, before handing the phone back.
"I guess it's par for the course, really. This Wizard of Bangbae-Dong has done the same work other Wizards might take ten years to do in less than one." (Kim Sun-Ho)
"Haha… Is that so? Oh, right. Mister Sun-Ho, there is this thing… Ah, never mind, don't worry about it. Well, shall we end the meeting here? I should return to my other work right about now." (Sae-Jin)
The plans to get rid of the Bathory woman was, for now, a secret even from Kim Sun-Ho.
"Yes, boss. Understood. See you later."
Kim Sun-Ho didn't think about it too much and vacated his seat.
As soon as he left, Sae-Jin headed off towards the underground private training facility with the loot from the Asmodeus raid.
After absorbing the Mana Stone of Asmodeus, Sae-Jin was able to gain one more Skill.
- Damage from fire-based attacks will be negated, and when performing attacks based on fire, 'Flames of Retribution' will be added. These flames will not go out unless the caster wills it. (TL: Huh. Is this a version of 'Amaterasu' from the Sharingan?)
It sure was a wonderful Skill, indeed - since, he could now use flame-based Breath attacks whether he was in the Leviathan Form or in the human's appearance. And not only that, his flames would be upgraded to 'Flames of Retribution', even.
Hell, even the name "Breath: the Flames of Retribution" sounded really, utterly domineering, didn't it?
As for the demon's horns, Sae-Jin grinded it down to make potions. This potion would enter not only the heart and the muscles, but even Mana flowing in one's body and increase the overall power of its drinker by two times or more.
"With this much…"
Sae-Jin felt this should be enough preparation for the upcoming hunt, so he pulled out the communication crystal connected directly to the Nosferatus.
"…Can you hear me?"
There was a moment of static, before he could hear Lillia's voice coming from the crystal.
- "Yes, I can hear you."
"I'm more or less done with my preparations. What about your side?"
There was a gap of silence.
- "We are also ready, but… I must express my concern in regards to the way this matter being rushed a great deal. I must reiterate that our target, the leader of the Bathory House, is not someone you can think lightly of. No, you could become one of her victims, instead."
"However, we do have the scale of an adult Leviathan, don't we?"
The fully-grown Leviathan, the Monster of the sea that could give a real dragon a run for its money.
If Sae-Jin in his Leviathan Form could eat that scale, then he'd be able to 'understand' Mana and all its majestic glory contained within, and use that to evolve rapidly. Then, someone like that Bathory woman wouldn't even be a threat any more.
- "If this is your wish… We understand. We will deploy our agents and try to lead our target towards the East Sea when there aren't that many people there - during the December period."
"Isn't that too far away?"
- "Not at all. We need to set up an isolation barrier as well as other preparations there in the meantime."
"Hmm. Okay, then. Got it."
As Sae-Jin was about to end the communication, he heard Lillia's voice continuing on from the crystal.
- "Oh, before you go, is it possible to hire a Wizard with excellent abilities as a backup?"
"…A Wizard? Why?"
- "We will be needing a Wizard that you can trust."
Sae-Jin thought about this for a second, before recalling a certain woman that fitted the description 'a trustworthy and skilled Wizard' rather perfectly, and nodded his head.
A week later, within The Monster's Guild HQ building.
Inside the members-only library, Hazeline was busy poring through the pages of grimoires 'authored' by the famed Wizard of Bangbae-Dong.
"Ohh. So, moving it over here makes it easier…"
Finally understanding why other Wizards were singing 'Bangbae-Dong, Bangbae-Dong' all the time, Hazeline's lips formed a 'O' shape, showing how impressed she was.
And so, while completely oblivious to the fact of Sae-Jin being the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong, Hazeline let out her exclamation of admiration at the grimoires' user friendliness and improvements that could be felt almost immediately. But then…
"Unni? What are you doing here?"
Before she had the chance to react, Yu Sae-Jung approached her. Yu Sae-Jung took a glance at the front cover and her eyes went extra round.
"The Wizard of Bangbae-Dong… Is this the grimoire published by that famous Wizard?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Uh? Oh, uh… Yes, it is. I already know all these spells, but since I heard that they were corrected for better efficiency, so…" (Hazeline)
Hazeline stealthily closed the grimoire. She felt oddly embarrassed all of a sudden - well, she was someone who had left the world of Wizardry and magic a long time ago, yet here she was, busy studying the works of a junior who had only made his "official" debut less than a year ago.
"But why a sudden interest in grimoires?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
The instincts of woman possessed by Yu Sae-Jung floated a question mark. She even took a seat next to Hazeline.
"Well, I, uh, I was a Wizard before, you know?" (Hazeline)
Hazeline became extremely awkward, and felt apologetic too, while facing Yu Sae-Jung. The emotions she had for Sae-Jin might be love from her perspective, but from Yu Sae-Jung's point of view, it could only be seen as malicious emotions instead.
"Hmm… Isn't this grimoire suppose to be very rare?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Y, yeah. I suppose it is? I got curious, you see? Whenever this Wizard publishes something, it goes out of stock almost immediately, right? So, how could our Guild…" (Hazeline)
"…Well, this is within my Oppa's abilities, of course~~."
Yu Sae-Jung spoke with an obviously pleased smile on her face. Meanwhile, Hazeline tasted a somewhat bitter-than-bitter aftertaste while nodding her head powerlessly.
"Well then, I should start studying, too…" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Slightly lost within the sense of victory, Yu Sae-Jung didn't leave Hazeline's side. Instead, she pulled out her notebook PC, several textbooks, and even donned a pair of very intellectual-looking glasses.
*SFX for doors suddenly opening*
Suddenly, the doors to the library were pushed open very hard.
"Argh, what the?!"
Yu Sae-Jung hurriedly took off her glasses and turned her head around to look. At the same time, a huge shouting exploded out like a clap of thunder.
"My name is Yi Yu-Jin, a new member of the Guilddddddd!!!"
"*&%#!! What the?! Who the heck is she?" (Hazeline)
Hazeline blocked her ears and frowned deeply.
"That girl… Ah, right. We did pick her as the new member of the Guild…" (Yu Sae-Jung)
The Guild held a 'new members selection' which ended up causing much consternation in the country not too long ago. It was such a hot topic of news that, The Monster and around 13 Knights Orders even held a joint contest among the populace to vote for who could be a good fit for The Monster Guild.
"Yi Yu-Jin… Ahh, so she got selected." (Hazeline)
Although an official announcement hadn't been made yet, Sae-Jin did inform them of the selection already.
Yu Sae-Jung got up from her chair and walked towards Yu Yu-Jin.
"Congratulations." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"Ahh, yes!!! Thank you very much!!!" (Yi Yu-Jin)
"Let's get along well together, you and I." (Yu Sae-Jung)
…And behind Yi Yu-Jin, Sae-Jin was walking in through the door as well. His body trembled imperceptibly when he spotted Yu Sae-Jung just now.
"Uh, Oppa? Whatcha doing here?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Oh, uh, I was…" (Sae-Jin)
….He came here to discuss some very serious matters with Hazeline, actually. He told her over the phone, "Help me", but hadn't told her all the details yet.
"….Here to introduce Yi Yu-Jin to you all." (Sae-Jin)
But since he didn't expect to spot Yu Sae-Jung to be with her, he hastily used Yi Yu-Jin as a suitable excuse.
"Well then, you should break the ice among yourselves." (Sae-Jin)
"Ah, Oppa, wait." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…What? Why?" (Sae-Jin)
When Sae-Jin tilted his head, Yu Sae-Jung walked closer right up to his face.
She stood on the tip of her toes, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the lips. And it wasn't just a little peck, either. It was so intimate that Yi Yu-Jin, who was standing next to them and witnessing the tongue-wrangling going on in its full glory, couldn't help but have her face dyed in crimson red.
"….What was that all about, out of the blue?" (Sae-Jin)
The kiss ended after one full minute and Sae-Jin awkwardly asked.
"Just. I wanted to do it, is all."
Yu Sae-Jung giggled and tapped on his shoulder. He scratched his cheek and left the library.
Meanwhile, all Hazeline could do was to bite down hard on her teeth while staring at that torturous sight.
She was so envious. Her heart ached, too - as if a blunt knife stabbed it and was twisting this way and that.
On top of that, she even unconsciously imagined something she shouldn't have - Sae-Jin and her kissing. If it was her instead of Yu Sae-Jung, then she wouldn't have to stand on tiptoes, either…
She held her fountain pen real tightly, until it was this close from breaking into pieces. She even felt hints of tears welling up…. So, so jealous, envious, and the mere fact that she couldn't say anything made it doubly more difficult…
Yu Sae-Jung hummed as she sat back down next to Hazeline.
Hazeline did her very best to hold everything back in and concentrated on the grimoire. Meanwhile, Yu Sae-Jung took a sneaky and quick glance at her, and a hint of smile formed on her lips.
< 39. Preparations for the Hunt (3) > Fin.
(TL: There will be three sponsored chapters this weekend. Haven't decided on how I'll release them, though. Most likely, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Probably.)