A Monster Who Levels Up
The appearance of the Azure Dragon as seen in the video footage was, for a lack of better description, endearing. Smiles automatically found their ways to people’s faces, when they saw the Dragon caring for the marine lifeforms that had build their homes in the East Sea; the sense of admiration and trust in the creature could only soar higher when seeing it survey the distant horizon, in case an unwelcome Monster pops out.
And its scales changing its hue to faint silver - although making it a bit tricky to call it Azure now - caused a storm of curiosity and desire to learn the reason from the public as well.
Currently, inside the penthouse suite of a certain luxury hotel.
The most likely candidate to inherit the position of power from the current Vampire Lord, "queen" Prillani Bathory was dazedly staring at the image of the Azure Dragon being projected on to a wall.
As she looked on at the ‘new’ Azure Dragon, the powerful emotion she had to suppress for a long time because of her inept and dumb subordinates’ dissuasions reared its ugly head once more.
That emotion was, of course, the desire to possess; the burning curiosity and her throbbing heart, almost a fetish-like avarice.
*SFX for a cheerful growl.*
She saw the Dragon smile brightly as it surveyed the lifeforms - fish - it protected. She wanted so badly to corrupt that smile whenever she saw it. To make it more savage, more cruel, more violent. To make it only submit to her, and to see it bare its fangs at anyone else that wasn’t her…
As Bathory began stomping on the ground while completely unaware of doing it herself, an Elder Apostle called out to her in worry.
It was just a single word, but her tone of voice possessed enough killing intent within it to send chills down the Apostle’s backside. He couldn’t dare to meet her eye to eye, and kept his gaze fixed to the floor.
"Just like before… there are just too many eyewitnesses in the East Sea, my Lady." (Apostle)
The Elder Apostles, the only ones possessing enough status to seek an audience with their future queen, tried their utmost to stop her. Although the Bathory girl was someone with a stubborn personality that just had to do what she wanted in order to please herself, by using the excuse of their grand scheme of ‘returning to the homeland’, they could tie her up in the meantime.
"I also know, okay? I mean, why should I pay attention to that thing, when I had a long and nice chat with the Lord…"
*SFX for a cute-ish yawn of a Dragon*
As soon as those words left her lips.
A unique scene of the Azure Dragon yawning and stretching its arms came on the screen. Bathory looked at that in a total daze and took a big gulp of her overflowing saliva.
"…W, why would I pay attention to something like that?" (Bathory)
Unlike her words, though, her eyes were firmly glued to the wall where the images were being projected to.
"That is a relief…" (Apostle)
"If my Lady desires to possess the creature, then, isn’t it possible to capture it during Winter?"
Suddenly, a certain unnamed Apostle stepped forward. He was a young Apostle whose combat powers had seen an abrupt increase lately and had quickly climbed up into the position within the Bathory’s royal guards.
"Y, you b*stard, what are y…"
"Mm? What do you mean by that?" (Bathory)
The aged Elder Apostle, almost succeeding in pacifying her, panicked and whispered to the new guy, but those words uttered by him was more than enough to rouse her interest thoroughly.
"My Lady!! You mustn’t!! Right now, we…"
"You, shut your mouth, and you, I’m all ears." (Bathory)
ly stroked her lips with her slender fingers while staring at the young Apostle.
"I’m sure my Lady’s great insight must have informed you already, but if I was allowed to say it… Firstly, it is cold and barren during the winter months. That is why, Monsters become even more violent during this period. Humans don’t like the cold, so they try not to go out, meaning, who would think of heading over to the East Sea? In other words, there will be far less number of eyes by then."
The young Apostle’s name was ‘Rhosrahdel’. Caught by Sae-Jin in the past and becoming his slave with the power of ‘the Dark Energy Link’, this Vampire was reciting the information given to him secretly by Sae-Jin in full. (TL: This guy made his first appearance in chapters 89 and 90.)
"And also, I’m of an opinion that the Lady Bathory’s plans would greatly benefit our overall scheme as well. Maybe other Apostles don’t think the same, but isn’t it rather blindingly obvious that brainwashing a powerful divine creature like that Dragon would bolster our forces even more greatly? That is why, I believe that we shouldn’t mind small losses if it means we will be gaining greatly in the end." (Rhosrahdel)
"You young one who doesn’t know anything… My Lady, please do not listen to him. It may be true to some extent that the number of witnesses might decrease, but there is still no guarantee that brainwashing will be successful…"
"If it’s you, my Lady, I have no doubts whatsoever." (Rhosrahdel)
Rhosrahdel did his best to butter up to her, but suspicions grew larger on Bathory’s face as her eyes remained on him.
During her lifetime, she had met her share of treacherous subordinates. That is why, even she could easily figure out that unending and baseless praising were the hallmarks of those slimy b*stards.
Facing this eerie silence, Rhosrahdel’s face hardened slightly, but before the suspicion against him could grow larger, he projected the screen of his phone in the air.
"To be more helpful to you my Lady, I have been slowly advancing my membership grade in the Azure Dragon website until now. I participated in their meetings, and even donated a great deal of money as well. And as a result, I am now able to find out the Dragon’s radius and scope of movement." (Rhosrahdel)
It was true that, with his clearance, Rhosrahdel could access ‘VVIP’ level of information from the Azure Dragon website. As an aside, the membership advancement was so strict that not even Bathory, who had secretly joined, could advance past the ‘Gold’ membership even now.
Then, Bathory’s expression softened a little. Immediately sensing the change, Rhosrahdel quickly informed her of the latest development.
"The Azure Dragon during its growth phase requires a lot of sleep, so the most likely time it will be seen again is around the evening of 25th of December… or so they say. This can not be any more ideal, my Lady. Not only is it in the middle of Winter, it’s also Christmas, so people will choose to spend the day with their families, meaning there should be no one out there by the ocean."
Rhosrahdel stopped with his words right there.
However, he certainly dared not to look up for he lacked the necessary balls to do so. What kind of facial expressions would she be making right now? Could she be getting ready to drain every drop of blood out from his body at this very moment?
"Hey you, get lost." (Bathory)
Rhosradel’s heart fell to the bottom. He needed to quickly disappear from her sight, yet his body shook so much, he couldn’t move.
He wondered whether this was how he was going to die, but fortunately for him, her voice wasn’t directed towards his direction.
"Lady Bathory!! We have a far bigger plan to execute, rather than that Azure Dragon…!!"
That was a desperate cry of the elderly Elder Apostle.
"Who do you think you are to raise your voice!!" (Bathory)
In shock, Rhosrahdel quickly lifted his head. He saw the aged Elder deeply kowtowing and apologising his heart out.
"…Please forgive this foolish old man."
"I know you are not some treacherous b*stard, okay? However, I think this guy over here will be more useful for this job, don’t you think? Hey, kid." (Bathory)
Bathory looked over Rhosrahdel once and licked her lips slowly.
"Stay here from now on." (Bathory)
"That, that means…" (Rhosrahdel)
"You’re moving up in the world. Congrats. Of course, who knows for how long you can hold on, though." (Bathory)
She smirked lazily and extended her foot. It was a pale but refined foot. There were faint lines of blood vessels visible on her skin like some kind of pedicure treatment gone wrong.
This was the sign of submission and loyalty that Bathory liked to perform. Rhosrahdel very cautiously began licking her toes.
November, when the Winter was getting steadily closer. There was a strange and tense atmosphere circulating among the members present within the secret underground conference room.
– "The day of the operation is 25th of December - the Christmas day."
Lillia’s voice came out from the communication crystal placed on top of a table.
"That’s good. People won’t come out to the sea during Christmas…. It’s fine if it’s only us who has to suffer. It’s a day that comes around only once in a year, after all."
Yi Hye-Rin jokingly complained.
"But still, I can’t hardly believe it even now… Guild Master, your Trait is really you transforming into the Azure Dragon, I mean, into the Leviathan?!" (Yi Hye-Rin)
Sae-Jin nodded his head wordlessly. Yi Hye-Rin and Joo Ji-Hyuk stared at him dazedly for a while, before cautiously asked him.
"Is it possible to show us?"
"No can do." (Sae-Jin)
Of course, he could do it. But he sure as hell didn’t feel like it. After all, they would treat him like a plush toy if he did change.
Joo Ji-Hyuk chomped down hard on the biscuit as if he was upset, while Yi Hye-Rin frowned deeply as she dug in deeper into the backrest of the couch.
A text message arrived on Yi Hye-Rin’s phone at that time. She slowly pulled her phone out and checked the message, before letting out a long sigh.
"Excuse me. I am not supposed to tell Yu Sae-Jung what we are doing no matter what, yes?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
"…Was that from Sae-Jung just now?" (Sae-Jin)
"Yes. She’s asking me if I’m with you right now." (Yi Hye-Rin)
"Tell her that you are not sure, that I must still be at work," said Sae-Jin as he began putting on his jacket to leave.
Yi Hye-Rin’s mouth went O-shaped and her expression showed her confusion.
"…You’re leaving? You’re rather unexpectedly well domesticated, aren’t you?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
"…What do you mean by unexpected?" (Sae-Jin)
"No, well… This situation, no matter who sees it, it’s kinda lewd, you know?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin pointed at his thighs. On top of his hardened and muscular thighs that wouldn’t lose to slabs of granite, Yu Baek-Song was comfortably taking a nap with the softest snoring anyone could imagine. On top of this, up until a few seconds ago, Sae-Jin was busy brushing her ears and hair with his right hand, while the left was busy stroking her tail…
"….What can I do, when she’s so adorable like this? Besides, she came up all on her own, you know? I didn’t coax her or anything." (Sae-Jin)
…Well, he did lead her a little bit, though.
He lightly flicked Yu Baek-Song’s ear while making his weak-sauce excuse. As the ear was sensitive to touch, it straightened up immediately, before falling back down in a cute manner. And when he lightly grasped her tail…
*SFX for a cute growl of a cat*
…She let off a cute cat-like groan.
"Yes, she is really cute, though…" (Yi Hye-Rin)
"Besides, if we count her age in human terms, she’s only 15, 16, right? It’s like having a younger sister." (Sae-Jin)
"Well, I guess you’re right… But can I also touch her?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin sneakily reached out with her hand, but Sae-Jin was cold as he slapped her hand away.
"The white fur might get dirty." (Sae-Jin)
"…What?! Isn’t this the tyranny of the Guild Master, saying my hands are dirty?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
"Nope. She might wake up if it’s not a familiar set of hands." (Sae-Jin)
Right on cue, Yu Baek-Song rubbed her face all over his thighs and began to fret in her sleep. Sae-Jin busily moved his hands and gently brushed her nose, ears, and tail as well as other parts safe to pat, which helped her fall deeper back into her sleep.
"You almost woke her up." (Sae-Jin)
"….Seriously, you really know how to look after a child. I’m sure Sae-Jung is very happy." (Yi Hye-Rin)
Sae-Jin smiled in satisfaction and looked down at Yu Baek-Song. Unfortunately, all his efforts in trying not to wake her up were all in vain.
A loud scream pierced through the isolation barrier and entered the room. Waking up immediately from her sleep, Yu Baek-Song jumped right out of his thighs and high up in the air, while the members present in the room hurriedly ran towards the door and yanked it open.
"Miss Hazeline!! Are you alri…"
"I did it!! I did it!!" (Hazeline)
However, it wasn’t a scream, but a shout of excitement. Everyone looked at her with their mouths wide open, while Hazeline hopped and bounced around as she shouted out again and again.
"Did my voice leak out just now?" (Hazeline)
"Yes… Oh, did you succeed in controlling the artificial heart?"
"Yes!! I wielded it perfectly just now!!" (Hazeline)
Hazeline kept on shouting out in joy while she took large strides forward. She then brushed past Joo Ji-Hyuk, went past Yu Baek-Song and Yi Hye-Rin, and proceeded to embrace to Kim Sae-Jin who was right at the back.
"Perfect!! A perfection!! I definitely know what to do now!!" (Hazeline)
"….Uhm, Miss Hazeline?" (Sae-Jin)
"…Well, really, doesn’t this seem like such an undeniably immoral thing no matter who sees it~~~?" (Yi Hye-Rin)
Yi Hye-Rin shot him a pointed stare full of questions. Sae-Jin cautiously pushed Hazeline back and to her credit, she too took three steps back in embarrassment.
"Keum. Ah, I’m so sorry. I was just too excited just now…" (Hazeline)
But it was a bit too late by then; there was a somewhat complicated silence descending on the conference room.
"Hey, gimme something to eat."
….That was, excluding Yu Baek-Song who was busy tugging at Sae-Jin’s sleeve.
And the time was now 30th of November.
While standing by the edge of the East Sea, Sae-Jin took a long look at the Leviathan’s scale in his hand. As long as he eats this, the growth percentage of his Leviathan Form would increase greatly, and his overall might would also explode higher, far beyond comparison.
However, his worries were just as big. He was worried about his ‘ego’ being swept away this time around with the sudden increase of power in this Monster Form.
Lillia said there was nothing to worry about. She was definitely sure of it. It was anyone’s guess where her confidence came from, but for now, he had no choice but to believe her, and eat this thing. Well, he needed lots of time to get used to the newly-strengthened Leviathan Form, after all.
He breathed in deeply to chase away his fears.
Sae-Jin transformed into the Leviathan Form and swallowed the scale right away.
As countless alert windows popped up in his view, Sae-Jin was assaulted by the unbearable pain that felt like all of his bones were contracting and then stretching relentlessly.
< 40. The Wintering (3) > Fin.
(TL: No, the chapter actually ends like this. I didn’t mess it up. XD)
(TL: $43 out of $50 left for this week’s first sponsored chapter.)
(TL: Sorry, not sure what happened. I scheduled the chapter to be released on the regular time, but the “system” failed to do so. Hmm…)
(TL: Also, there seems to be the same bug cropping up again, the one where I put [,] near each other, spacing disappears. Not sure how to fix that.)