A Monster Who Levels Up
(TL: This extra chapter is sponsored by these Kool Kats: Josh G, Gerald C, Edi C, and VVIP, Dale B!! Thanks for your support, guys!! I really appreciate it. Hmm, although I don't mind coffee or tea, I'd rather go with a mug full of cold Mountain Dew, thanks. XD)
Sae-Jin's voice slowly settled down in the office where there were only two people present.
But, Hazeline didn't release her embrace. Instead, she proceeded to rub her face all over his chest, and fully savoured this sudden bout of happiness her impulsive actions had brought along.
Sae-Jin blankly stared Hazeline as she hugged him. Her faintly trembling shoulders seemed to indicate her fears of the consequences, yet the strength of her two arms squeezing his waist said otherwise.
- "Is there something the matter?"
Lillia's voice came out of the communication crystal, right then. Judging from the way the tone of her words climbing up towards the end, it seemed that she was tilting her head on the other side of the line.
- "Uhm… Ah, what was today's date again… I, well, I should get going."
Lillia said some weird stuff before ending the communication. Today was Saturday, but still, did she have something to do?
Sae-Jin did his best to think of inane and unrelated things in order to calm down both his shocked mind and the body. But that much-needed calmness continued to evade him, so he even took several deep breaths.
In all honesty, it wasn't as if he hadn't foreseen just what kind of feelings she had for him. The reality was… he just didn't want to think about it too deeply.
It sure was a cowardly way of dealing with the matter, but he couldn't help it. Even though they could not be in a romantic relationship, she was still a very precious person to him. So, no matter what, he didn't want to lose her. In the end, he maintained his denial that her feelings towards him were not that serious, that it was just an intense form of friendship, instead.
But didn't someone say this before? That there could never be a simple, platonic 'friendship' between men and women?
Sae-Jin called out her name again. But she didn't want to listen to him.
When his voice hardened ever so slightly, Hazeline's shoulders shook visibly. Only then, she released the hug and hung her head. Then, while sniffling a reddened nose, she spoke with a trembling voice.
"….I'm sorry. I acted without thinking, because I loved this staff so much… I'm so grateful…. Something inside me just wanted to burst out so suddenly, you know? I couldn't hold it back… You know already, yes? That Elves are like this. That was why I…"
She blamed the innate personality of her race for her impulsive actions.
And while seeing her like this, Sae-Jin gritted his teeth.
Hazeline was an important person to him, someone he cherished greatly. No matter how selfish he sounded, he didn't want to lose her.
And so… he had to undo the hardened expression, and had to forcibly squeeze out a smile. He needed to pretend that he wasn't any wiser and talk to her. He knew that he was truly a rotten son of a bi*ch, but in this very moment, this was the only thing he could do or say to her.
"……Ha, haha. You like this staff… that much?" (Sae-Jin)
With a calm voice, he gently placed the staff back in the hands of Hazeline who didn't seem to know what to do next.
"It's…. a really expensive and a great staff, so please don't lose it." (Sae-Jin)
Hearing his words, Hazeline bit her lower lip and her grip on the staff tightened as if she was trying to crush it.
She could faintly tell the hidden meanings of his words. She could understand. But she hated it. She didn't want to acknowledge it, either.
That's why she didn't answer him, but instead, continue
d to stare at the floor while thinking about the future at the same time.
Looking at him from afar, or to stay right by his side?
Under the condition of 'Can't have him', which of the two options would prove to be more torturous?
A puzzle seemingly impossible to decipher. If both propositions were placed on a scale, they would most likely maintain equilibrium for all eternity.
But, right now, she had to give her answer to him. And… being born as an Elf, perhaps this was an unavoidable inevitability for her.
To hold a conversation with him in the same room, and at minimum, still get to see him… She wasn't sure if these were enough to satisfy herself, but still… it would be better than looking at him from afar. Looking at him only… Now that would be the worst form of torture to endure.
That was why, she had to forcibly squeeze out something past her totally blocked up throat.
"…..Yes. Of course. I'll… never lose it." (Hazeline)
Unexpectedly, her desperately squeezed-out voice didn't shake. But Hazeline didn't raise her head. Although she did want to look into his eyes, she also didn't want to show her tearful expression as she was still fighting hard to hold back her tears.
And Sae-Jin gently grasped her hands, as gently and considerate as possible.
"Thank you." (Sae-Jin)
Hazeline nearly burst out into tears, then.
Yes. Let's be satisfied with only this. Take it as a punishment, and be happy with the fact that I can stay by his side. Be grateful rather than greedy. Be satisfied rather than sad. Let me not repeat the mistake of the past by becoming too greedy… (Hazeline)
"No, not at all." (Hazeline)
Hazeline wiped the corners of her eyes and raised her head. Although her reddened eyes and nose must've looked pretty pathetic, she still smiled.
"Instead…. I should be the one thanking you." (Hazeline)
After Sae-Jin managed to pacify Hazeline and sent her home, he returned to his own place late at night. Yu Sae-Jung was already asleep, while holding a long pillow that must've been a substitute for him. It was a sight adorable enough to bring a grin to his tired face.
Sae-Jin sat on the corner of the bed and gently stroked her hair. He sat there and did this for the next five minutes, before leaving a light kiss on her forehead and he got back up.
The next destination he headed to was a small desk in the corner of the bedroom.
As soon as he sat down, he pulled out his diary from the drawer.
Writing a diary was a habit he formed a long while ago. He didn't write on it everyday, but he made sure to write on it at least once or twice a week - so he could potentially stop his humanity from disappearing, buried away by the instincts of the Monsters within him.
He remembered starting this habit the day after he lost his self control and murdered that Vampire a couple of years ago. Of course, he applied a special magic treatment on the diary so no one else could read it by accident.
He picked up the pen, and began committing each and every letter on the page as if he was spitting out a long sigh.
It hadn't been long, before the sound of rustling came from the bed. Sae-Jin quickly finished writing on the diary and put it back inside the drawer.
"…Oppa, you were writing on the diary again?"
Hearing the sleepy voice, Sae-Jin turned around to look, and saw Yu Sae-Jung with her messy bed hair gazing at him with half-closed eyes.
"Yeah. But I'm done now."
He smiled thinly, and slowly approached her side. Her still-sleepy eyes followed him in a daze. He then lightly grasped the back of her neck and gave a light kiss. But soon enough, she placed her hands against his chest and pushed hard, stopping him. When he tilted his head in confusion, she abashedly murmured her reasons out in the open.
"I've got bad breaths… I just woke up now, you idiot." (Yu Sae-Jung)
"…Fut. You know I'm fine with that." (Sae-Jin)
"But I'm not fine with it, though."
She cutely glared at him and blew into her palm, then smelled the resulting odour. It must not have been that bad, since she let out a sigh of relief.
"Argh, you are so damn adorable!"
This really was the unendurable cuteness. That was why Sae-Jin jumped right into her arms.
"Wait!! I told you I just woke up…. Ah, ahat!! That tickles, tickles~~!!"
She initially put some resistance, but she couldn't win against his mischievous and wicked ways that concentrated on conquering all her erogenous zones.
Her silk pyjamas powerlessly got ripped off, and as it turned out, she wasn't wearing any under garments.
That night, Sae-Jin gave it his all.
And on the following day, Yu Sae-Jung had to ask for a temporary leave of absence from work.
As usual, as soon as Sae-Jin uploaded the drone footage to his blog, all hell broke loose. And just as he expected, they initially questioned him for being a fraud or for combining preexisting spells and claimed it as his own. However, the opinions of experts and the data captured from within the Monster field proved that this spell was indeed the real deal.
- When you take a look at his staff, you can see Mana being amplified by an incredible amount on that ruby the moment the spell activates. This amplification is great enough to allow a low level Wizard to display fearsome might equal to upper mid level Wizards. That's why, I posit that the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong was borrowing the power of this staff….
The next avenue of attack was, again as predicted, the staff. How could they be so predictably on the mark all the time? Sae-Jin chuckled out a bitter laughter as he continued to watch the news broadcast on the TV.
- Despite all the controversy, today's most actively working Wizard, the 'Wizard of Bangbae-Dong' has entered the top 1000 of worldwide rankings and is continuing on with his unstoppable march forward. The grimoires he corrected and released for sale have now become true treasures that many Wizard Towers around the world can't even get their hands on due to their scarcity. And the soon-to-be-published [Bangbae-Dong Grimoire number 24] has caused a great deal of excitement and anticipation as the rumours and guesses on what it might contain boils over around the world.
However, even after being the target of all this petty jealousy, the fame and the influence of the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong's name was still spreading further everyday.
"I really didn't expect the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong to be our Guild Master…"
Joo Ji-Hyuk muttered audibly, his voice full of admiration and awe.
The place was the top secret conference room built in the underground of The Monster Guild HQ without anyone's knowledge.
Inside this conference room decorated with many top ranked artifacts, equipment, potions as well as entertainment facilities, there were seven people present at the moment.
Unlike the seriousness of the overall atmosphere, these people were sitting freely on couches while busy watching the TV: Sae-Jin, Yu Baek-Song, Joo Ji-Hyuk, Hazeline, Yi Hye-Rin, Kim Sun-Ho, and the Soo-in, Rejen.
"So, uh, that Bangbae-Dong dude is really you?" (Yu Baek-Song)
Yu Baek-Song asked after Joo Ji-Hyuk's utterances ended. Sae-Jin wordlessly nodded his head.
"Hmph. I heard that one of those grimoires written by Bangbae-Dong guy can cause stock prices of Wizard Towers to go up and down… What a shock…" (Yu Baek-Song)
The stock price of a Wizard Tower named "Pareum" Tower rose up from $19 per share to over $30 in less than a week, after it emerged that this Tower had successfully acquired Bangbae-Dong grimoires numbers 18 to 23. Actually, Sae-Jin helped out with that, since this Tower was unusually humble in their attitude.
"Mm? The head of the SID didn't know?" (Sae-Jin)
"The information protected by our intelligence agents won't leak out that easily, boss." (Kim Sun-Ho)
Kim Sun-Ho replied instead. There were thick traces of pride in his speech.
"Seriously… You're too much. Waaay too much… Just why did I study magic for twenty years… All I needed was a nice Trait…" (Hazeline)
These powerless words were uttered out by Hazeline, whose soul had left her around twenty minutes ago when Sae-Jin confessed to her that he was 'the Wizard of Bangbae-Dong'.
A crystal placed next to the TV screen suddenly lit up in red colour. When Joo Ji-Hyuk hurriedly turned the TV off, Lillia's voice leaked out from the crystal.
- "Everyone, I'd like to convey my gratitude for your decisions to participate in this very dangerous operation. However, the leader of the Bathorys is a woman possessing the most destructive power. Please, take this last opportunity where you can quit, to think your choices over."
Since Sae-Jin and Hazeline had explained the plan in detail to the rest of the group using hand gestures and even pantomime, all Lillia had to do was to reaffirm their resolve and determination.
"…I know all about that Bathory woman's power after hearing so much about it. That's why, I agree with the opinion on getting rid of her before the situation gets worse than now." (Yu Baek-Song)
Yu Baek-Song said out aloud as she stroked the back of Kaiser the 2nd. Too bad, Kaiser only wanted to be on Sae-Jin's lap, though.
- "Of course."
"But, you know what? I also find your stories hard to believe." (Yu Baek-Song)
Yu Baek-Song's eyes narrowed like a predator.
"Vampires are a untrustworthy bunch to begin with, so at minimum, shouldn't you reveal yourselves to show how sincere you are?" (Yu Baek-Song)
Her ears stood up straight and stiff. And Sae-Jin promptly reached out pinched both of them tightly.
"Ouch! H, hey!! What are you doing?!"
While looking at the small white tiger jumping up in pure shock after the unexpected touching, Sae-Jin clicked his tongue and spoke.
"I'll guarantee their credibility. Besides, now that the Lord of Vampires has awakened, how do you expect them to come out in the open?" (TL: Just for the record, it has been mentioned in passing that the Vampire Lord possesses an ability that can control all Vampires. That includes Nosferatus as well.)
"…I, I can still inquire about this matter, no? Still, why did you go and pinch my ears!!" (Yu Baek-Song)
Yu Baek-Song rubbed her small ears and pouted. At that adorable appearance, everyone in the room broke out in laughter.
"In any case, have you all come to a decision? To participate in this dangerous mission, where you might lose your lives?" (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin asked with a hardened face.
And they answered energetically in their own preferred way.
"Alright. Then, please, head over to the tattooing area. One tattoo per month - let's get stronger by tattooing ourselves until there's no room left!" (Sae-Jung)
The time remaining was five months. Sae-Jin decided to give each person participating in this mission one Mana Tattoo per month.
"Doesn't… doesn't it hurt?" (Yu Baek-Song)
"It doesn't hurt during the process, so be still, please." (Sae-Jin)
"During? Then, what happens afterwards?" (Yu Baek-Song)
Everyone else got their Tattoos no problem, but strangely Yu Baek-Song kept on evading Sae-Jin's hands.
"Un, unhand me at once!!! Growl!! Grrrooooowwwl!!!" (Yu Baek-Song)
"Just be still!! I'll buy you something really tasty when we are all finished here!!" (Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin finally succeeded in catching her by using tasty treats as bait. It seemed that, with her lips resolutely closed shut, she was getting ready to receive her Tattoo.
But, just as the needle tip gleamed under the light, she jumped up into the air like a scalded cat, and shouted out in a really loud voice.
"NOPE!! Now that I think about it, I don't need it since I'm already super strong!!!" (Yu Baek-Song)
Sae-Jin shook his head, and then… spread out a white-coloured potion in front of her face.
"Eeek!! what are you doi…"
She tried to spit out the liquid that entered her mouth and shouted angrily, but less than three seconds later, she figuratively melted into a puddle.
That was a potion with the effect of inducing a deep sleep. Of course, since she was Yu Baek-Song, she would regain her consciousness in less than five minutes, but that was more than enough time.
Sae-Jin sighed out and resumed the tattooing operation.
As the tattooing needle came in contact with her, Yu Baek-Song's small body trembled intermittently.
< 40. The Wintering (1) > Fin.
(TL: See you tomorrow for the remaining sponsored chapter!!)
(TL: $43 out $50 left for next week's first sponsored chapter.)