A Monster Who Levels Up
(This extra chapter is brought to you by these exemplary human beings: Mindaugas A.,Mikael M., Tristan B., and Anon. Thank you for your donations!!)
– What the!! Hey, did you get that? Oii!! I said, did you film that sh*t?!
The loud shouts of the TV crew could be heard.
– Were you able to witness that? Around the wolf, several strange ghost lights have started appearing one by one, as if the creature can manipulate Mana… huh?
Next, it was the turn of the reporter to shout out aloud beyond the scope of the camera lens.
But not minding that, the wolf turned around and lightly hopped down from the mountain top. The camera hurriedly chased after it, but by then, it was gone without a trace.
Hazeline frowned slightly as she watched the hologram display projected from her mobile phone.
A Spirit Beast, the divine creature. A being of mystery that a person may or may not get to see even once in his or her entire lifetime.
When she was 25, she got to see a Spirit Beast, the "Black Turtle". Even though it was massive, because of its laid back nature, it didn’t enjoy moving around too much. Found originally in Eastern China, it was a creature that would have lived its days in a lazy stupor and barely moving one of its legs, but in the end it was murdered because of a child of some wealthy personage from the Middle East who suffered from a deadly illness.
The child suffered from the Mana Overflow. To cure this worst kind of Mana-related inflictions that couldn’t be cured by any known potion to man and subjected its sufferers to a hellish torment before killing them, the Black Turtle that had lived for 400 years or more in various worlds out there was turned into a medical ingredient in a single day.
The sound of knocking on the door brought Hazeline back to the present from the reminiscence of the past and she took a glance at the watch to confirm the time. It was now 11:50. It was also the time for the appointment with that alchemist after finally getting one phone call through to him.
"Please come in."
The figure entering through the gap between the smoothly opening doors was a robe-wearing man.
"Yes, it’s good to see you again."
The two shared a handshake and sat down on their seats while gazing at each other.
"Have you been well? You…."
Hazeline tilted her head in confusion. Something was different about him…. Soon, she was able to figure what that difference was after she sniffed the air.
"I see you bought a perfume…"
The subtle yet pleasant scent coming off of Sae-Jin tickled her nose. Not too light, nor too gaudy, the odour settled in the air rather wonderfully. She ended up unconsciously closing her eyes and savoured this scent before regaining her senses, and made a fake cough.
"Heuhm. It’s nice. If it’s not much trouble, can I inquire as to where you purchased this perfume?"
Hazeline possessed a very sensitive nose making her very interested and knowledgeable towards the topic of perfumes. It’d be difficult for her to ignore this wonderful new scent at all. She just had to have it ready in her home or she’d never be satisfied.
"I didn’t use one. It’s all natural."
Sae-Jin just smiled and shook his head.
Hazeline’s brows wiggled a tiny bit. There definitely wasn’t a scent like this the first time they met. At the time, he had no body odour. So why was he t
rying to sell such an unconvincing lie?
"Ah, is that so~ You have a… very nice natural odour."
But Hazeline could only perform the "Capitalist Smile" for now. As he currently held all the cards in this transaction, she just could not afford to make him unhappy. (TL: this is the second time I encountered the phrase 갑을관계 which as far as I know there isn’t a direct translation available. So ended up changing it to mean roughly the same thing. Sorry.)
"Ah, yes. Thank you."
Sae-Jin swallowed his saliva while feeling complicated, and replied to her. He could pretty much tell what she was thinking right now. She probably thought that he was lying through his teeth. But he was helpless to fix this misunderstanding. The Scent of a Wolf was a passive skill that couldn’t be switched on and off at will.
"Haha, well then, is it okay if we end the prologue here?"
When Sae-Jin nodded in agreement, Hazeline pulled out a paper from one of the drawers in the desk. It was a regular A4 paper with nothing on it.
"As I’ve mentioned over the phone yesterday…"
Hazeline spoke as she handed over a pen. On a side note, it was only yesterday that Sae-Jin belatedly realised he could actually receive phone calls directed to his home via his bracelet TV.
"…Please write down all the ingredients you’d like to acquire. We’ll source them for you. As long as it’s not something like a heart of a person or a fang of a Sabre-tooth Tiger, it’s possible to procure them within a month. One of the roles the Alchemy Houses perform is the circulation of medical ingredients, you know. Ah, you don’t have to feel burdened about this. It’s not a free service so you’ll have to purchase them from us. But we’ll be able to sell you at cost. It’ll probably be about half of what you’d pay for in the open market."
"Oh, right. Thank you."
Sae-Jin picked up the pen and thought hard about what to write when his eyes inadvertently caught the images floating up from the hologram display above her desk.
It was the scene of the Ebony Wolf framed by a full moon, the one where he deliberately showed up for the TV cameras as a…. bit of a service.
At the time, it was one of those nights that made his emotions go a bit hot headed, so he ended up creating this mess….. but now that he got to see his actions in the broad daylight, his face got all reddened up.
"Ah, Spirit Beasts are a no-go."
Misunderstanding the reasons for his gazes, Hazeline raised her index finger and waved it side to side while making a serious face.
"Hunting down a Spirit Beast is morally and legally prohibited, you see. We have no idea if the Spirit Beast has a direct influence in the area it resides in. There might be a big disaster like a landslide occurring if we hunted down that Wolf."
That was what happened back when the Black Turtle was killed. As soon as it died, the Mana dwelling deep within the ocean floor that lost the focal point overflowed and resulted in a massive tsunami wave sweeping up the entire Eastern Seaboard of China.
"Right. No, definitely not. We should never kill such a cool wolf."
He swallowed the rising laughter back down and genially spoke in a natural manner. While obviously unaware of Kim Sae-Jin being that very wolf, Hazeline looked at the display and continued with her speech.
"Yes, well. It is a cool creature, what with its somewhat dependable appearance, and also its personality of helping people out, too. But most of all, I love those eyes that resemble the full moon. It’s really understandable why all the girls are going crazy in the social networking sites nowadays. Honestly, even I shared a couple of posts on the Profile Book. Oh, by any chance, do you also do Profile Book?"
(TL: 프로필북 literally profile book. After a short Googling, I think it generally means Facebook-ing, twitting and posting social media comments. At least, that was the impression I got. Left as is.)
"Heuheup… No, no. I don’t do social media."
Seeing Hazeline giggle like that, even Sae-Jin ended up leaking out a mysterious smile. She looked at him with eyes full of questions but he pretended that nothing was wrong and started writing down on the paper.
A Goblin’s Kindness was impossible without the fangs of the Sabre-tooth Tiger, so he wrote down ingredients for other potions. He even thought of their names in advance. The potion to strengthen the stats of the drinker would be called "A Goblin’s Rage", and, and….
"If you can find these, I’ll be grateful."
When he handed over the paper, she studied every word in detail, even though she was acting disinterested by the contents. It was a normal list of ingredients that didn’t seem to differ from what other alchemists would have asked for.
"Alright. As soon as we procure them, I’ll give you a call. Oh, and… if it’s okay with you, will you be partnering us on your next batch of potions as well…?"
Sae-Jin spoke without a hint of hesitation. In all honesty, he couldn’t really go anywhere else anyway, because he could only remain as a human for 2 hours a day.
"Wah, Really? You truly are wonderfully decisive, sir. Normally, other alchemists would be reluctant to choose but Sir Alchemist doesn’t…"
"It’s Kim Sae-Jin."
He told her while studying her eyes. He could see the surprise in her jewel-like eyes at his sudden self introduction.
"And my race is human."
Sae-Jin reached out with his hand. Hazeline stared at the hand for a moment in a daze, before breaking out in a smile and shaking it.
"Yes, Sir Alchemist Kim Sae-Jin. I’ll do my utmost best to make sure you won’t regret choosing Yoseon Alchemy House."
As the handshake ended, the two stood up from their seats.
"It’s just about lunch time, but have you eaten yet?"
"Yes, I have already."
"If that’s the case, why don’t we, together… eh?"
At Sae-Jin’s reply, Hazeline tilted her head in confusion, wondering if she’d heard wrong.
An Elf like her was not at all accustomed with rejections such as this. And from a man, no less…. it was obviously the first time in her life. Even if it was a gentle no.
"I already had lunch."
"But, but it’s only now 12?!"
"Ah, I usually eat my meals a bit early. My apologies."
Of course, he had his own unfortunate reasons for doing this, but the deeply shocked Hazeline could only nod her head after blinking repeatedly in disbelief for a while.
"Ah, yes, well, yes, well…. Of course…. Of course it is, of course it has to be…."
"Yes. Well, when we have the time later. Then, please excuse me."
His last words landed the decisive blow.
Hazeline’s mouth hung loose. She just could not figure out this situation no matter what. He said when we have the time later, but she was the one saying that, usually. She was not the one on the receiving end. It was a kind of unwelcome shock to her system that she could never, ever grow to understand.
She watched the back of Sae-Jin leaving her office in a daze and totally crumbled into her seats right after.
And she remained in that position for 10 minutes, looking like as if her soul had been sucked out.
By sheer accident, she ended up smelling the air around her. The scent was gone now. She felt a bit regretful.
She thought that she had become a Soo-in (beast man) but it really could not be helped.
There was a trace of that scent lingering inside her nose, making her miss it even more now. Even though it had been only 10 minutes.
"I should’ve just asked…"
If it could make someone miss another with only its scent, then it was without a doubt, an excellent perfume.
If it was at this level, then she should have found out what it was even at the risk of annoying him. She muttered slowly, her face full of regret.
She continued to sniff the air for a while, before finding herself browsing the Internet for men’s perfumes.
Sae-Jin could often overhear people talking about the Spirit Wolf Beast everywhere as he walked. Students, Knights, even magicians - it seemed like every resident living near or on Gangwon Province had talked about the wolf at least once. And more flesh was getting added to the story of the Spirit Wolf Beast, just like that.
Since now he could remain a bit longer as a Human, Sae-Jin chose to walk into the Monster field the official way, through the Reception area by the entrance. This was the place where the Hunters and Knights could take a short respite before going on a hunt or after completing it.
It wasn’t originally a quiet place to begin with, but now, with the numerous reporters mixed in, trying to get more stories on the Spirit Beast, it was a lot more chaotic than usual.
"Ah, now that I think about it, that thing’s cry was like, there’s a Monster up ahead, so don’t go~ That’s what that meant, right? It was a real smart thing to turn back then, after feeling uneasy of that howl."
"Does that mean you Mister Hunter also got to see this Spirit Wolf Beast?"
"…..Eh? Ah~ well, no. But, but, I really did hear it with these two ears of mine, I did!! It was going Awoooo and everything. Ya also know well, that wolves in the Monster field never cry, right? Seriously, when I was thinking, did I go in too deep~? This wolf cries out and I got so surprised, I just bolted right outta there."
"Does that mean, this Spirit Wolf Beast has helped people out before?"
"Yep, that’s right. I’m telling ya right now, ya really can’t see a cleverer creature than that guy. Oi!! That man over there, that’s the Hunter who got help from that Brown Wolf - hey, hey Mister Kim Tae-Jo!! Come over here. This reporter wants to ask ya something…"
Sae-Jin smiled in satisfaction while hearing all these conversations.
To him, it looked like the momentum of the story would continue to gather for a while longer as those people wanting some attention ended up telling tall tales and outright lies.
< 05. A Spirit Beast, the Mystical Wolf (3) > Fin.