A Monster Who Levels Up
"Please confirm that it is the right item."
Kim Yu-Rin was still beautiful. Subtly different from back when she was lively and refreshing; though, he still found her current robotic and cold mannerisms just as alluring as before.
"Here it is."
Kim Yu-Rin handed the briefcase containing the Mana Crystal over to Sae-Jin. From the slight opening, the light shone from the Mana Stone. Sae-Jin spoke while giving her the certificate of transfer. (TL: no, I didn’t make a mistake here. The author again said Mana Crystal in the raw, then reverted back to Stone in the very next sentence.)
"Thank you very much."
One more handshake followed that. Their business-like conduct really suited the claim of this meeting being their very first. Their focus was solely on getting the official business completed, leaving a very little gap for anyone else to butt in. Still, Kim Yu-Rin found the attitude of Sae-Jin quite agreeable as he showed no ulterior motives towards her.
"Ah. Well then, you two. Shall we go somewhere and have a nice meal together?"
Suddenly, the Hyunwol Auction House’s director spoke after observing the duo for a while.
His suggestion wasn’t really a necessary procedure to follow, where the auction house’s director takes both the seller and the bidder out for a meal after a successful transaction. Most of the time, it was requested by the buyer, and seller refusing the invitation would be seen as being disrespectful.
One could argue that truthfully, the chance to have this meal was one of the reasons why the final hammer price of the Mana Crystal exceeded the maximum expected amount of $3.5 million. A chance of having a meal together with Kim Yu-Rin would be of quite a worth, after all.
"If that’s the case, shall we go? I know a good restaurant frequented by our Knights Order."
At this suggestion, Kim Yu-Rin assumed a polite smile and tried to guide Sae-Jin.
But, against all expectation, Sae-Jin shook his head.
"Is it possible to delay the meal for a later date? I’m currently running short on time."
Kim Yu-Rin’s body stopped dead, still in her trek towards the elevator. Sae-Jin couldn’t see it, but her face was strangely distorted at that moment. A profession that was busier than a Highest Tier Knight would be rather difficult to find….
She worked hard to straighten her face and turned around to stare at the lower half of his face before opening her mouth. Because of the robe’s hood pulled low, she could only see his face’s lower half.
"I apologise, but if it’s not today, then I won’t have enough time as well. Another date is a little…"
"If that’s the case, then let us forget about the meal. Apologies, for my lack of time."
Sae-Jin was adamant in his position. In that moment as she was opening her mouth to say something, Sae-Jin had already walked past her and was entering the elevator.
"W, wait a moment!!"
As she was being flustered after receiving this strange indifference for the very first time in her life, the elevator doors were already closing.
"…wow. Miss Yu-Rin, you just got rejected, right?!"
The junior Knights around her spoke in a shocked tone. They weren’t mocking her, but rather, they seemed to be genuinely surprised as well.
But Yu-Rin dazedly watched for a long time the elevator that had now arrived back down to the 1st floor, unable to even make a retort.
ke me to the Seoul Station."
Sae-Jin checked the remaining time after he boarded a taxi. Around 70 minutes. Thankfully, there was enough breathing room left.
Sighing out in relief, he again confirmed that the Mana Stone was carefully housed inside the briefcase. A thick smile automatically spread on his lips.
As soon as he arrives back at the cave in Gangwon Province, he’d absorb this Mana Stone and wait in leisure for the evolution to occur….
But that kind of relaxed thought couldn’t last for long.
First, there was an ear-busting explosion of noise, and right after, an enormous vibration shook the car’s frame. This unidentifiable event made Sae-Jin’s body float up, and when he came to, he found himself thrown out of the taxi.
"…. Oh, sh*t…"
Through the hazy view, he could see cruelly twisted wrecks of cars and debris littering the asphalt. Suppressing the pain from his head and ribs, Sae-Jin confirmed the status of the item in his arms. Fortunately, the Mana Stone was intact.
A wicked cackle dominated his ringing ears. He followed the sound back to its origin, and looked past the twisted wreckage of the car.
Wings of a bat on its back, its looks reminiscent of a miniature devil, a Monster called Gargoyle was there. This bastard mindlessly slammed its body against a poor taxi and totally crushed it.
Sae-Jin’s body trembled as he stood up.
As he began to think why on earth a Gargoyle had shown up in the middle of a city, a completely unrealistic sight a hundred times worse than that was unfolding before his eyes.
And that was the countless hordes of Monsters. There were Monsters in the sky and on the streets. From the ragtag groups of Monsters such as Orcs and Skeleton Soldiers, to a Wyvern slicing up the air and blocking the sunlight with its massive body, and even Ogres that violently shook the earth every time they took a step forward. All of this was unfolding in less than three minutes.
Unable to differentiate whether this was still the capital of Korea, Seoul, or a Monster field from this unfolding spectacle, Sae-Jin momentarily stood there, his mouth hanging loose in a daze.
– AMonster Outbreak, 1st level alert!! All citizens must evacuate the area. The Knights Orders will arrive shortly…
Sae-Jin woke up from his stupor thanks to the automated alert coming from somewhere. Only then, did he realise that the Gargoyle was staring daggers at him. With those full moon-like grey eyes.
He didn’t show any further reaction, but slid his hand slowly inside the briefcase. A Gargoyle was a shrewd and cruel Monster. He heard that due to its abundant curiosity, this Monster was known to play around with its human victims.
"S, save me!!"
At the sudden outbreak of these Monsters’ assault, the surroundings had rapidly deteriorated past the level of Purgatory, and now resembled Hell. Wrecked cars exploded and flames rose up from the spot, dyeing the world crimson. Buildings were collapsing, and a child was crying out in terror after losing the sight of its parents.
But the Gargoyle focused its stares only on Sae-Jin. Seeing its slightly crooked leer, he could tell it was now regarding him as its a plaything.
A Gargoyle was a Mid Tier ranked Monster. Although it wasn’t because of its physical strength, but rather, due to its sneaky characteristics that favoured setting up traps and such, but Gargoyles participating in an Outbreak would have its stats boosted to one level higher. It was hopelessly impossible for Sae-Jin of now to defeat this thing.
Sae-Jin’s hand that was soaked in sweat blindly stumbled around inside the case until he could feel what he was looking for. It was hard and cold - the Werewolf’s Mana Stone.
[Will you absorb the Mana Stone of a upper Mid Tier Werewolf? Yes/No (Warning: Currently, this Monster is much stronger than the host.)]
At the same as the message window popped up into his view, the Gargoyle flapped its wings and took flight. There was that warning, but he couldn’t think too deeply about it. Gritting his teeth, he pressed "yes".
[Synchronising with the Ebony Wolf Form, the absorption of the Werewolf’s Mana Stone has commenced…. During the process of absorption, it is not possible to change to other Forms.]
And in that moment, Sae-Jin could only open his eyes abruptly.
An incredible pain. From all over his body, bones began growing uncontrollably, tearing his flesh and internal organs apart. This indescribable pain, comparable to being pierced by a steel pipe dozens of times in a single second. Tears of blood dripped out from the corners of his reddened eyes and the mixture of spit and blood spewed out from his loosely hanging mouth.
At the sight of a man that looked like he was committing suicide, the Gargoyle tilted its head and came in closer.
"*guttural groan in pain*…"
All over his body, bones repeatedly stretched then tore out of his flesh before retracting back. The sight of him vomiting out a bucket of blood with a pained whimper every time that happened was enough to make the Gargoyle break out in a grin.
"Keek Keek Keek."
The Gargoyle slowly flew up and landed on Sae-Jin’s back after he collapsed on the asphalt. It poked his head with its finger for a moment or two, then as if it found this amusing, the Monster cackled again.
"Keek Keek Keek…"
Unfortunately, a Gargoyle was a type of Monster that got bored rather easily. The ugly creature raised its sharp claws with a smile on its face after having instantly lost all interest in him. The claw that could easily rip apart a person’s body like cutting a radish gleamed icily.
The bastard’s weapon was raised high in the air. And Sae-Jin’s head would soon be split clean open by those ugly claws…
[The absorption has been partially completed. From now on, "Beast Mode" can be utilised. Beast Mode will automatically activate when the host’s life is in danger.]
It was also at this time when Sae-Jin’s eyes glowed in deep yellow. Right when the claw reflecting the sunlight descended down on his head.
The claw seemed very slow. Also, it looked weak, as if it just might break into pieces after he shook it around a couple of times. Maybe, this was what a predator must’ve felt looking at its prey.
Sae-Jin lightly swung one of his arms and threw the creature away.
*Massive noise of destruction*
But the end result couldn’t be called "light" at all. The claws of Gargoyle did break apart and scattered in the air, and its body was flung away into distance with a loud, explosive noise as if it was exploding drum barrel.
Only then, did the flow of time restore back to normal; Sae-Jin tried to grasp his boiling heart as he heavily breathed in and out.
Unfortunately for him, the idea of feeling relieved was as distant as it could possibly get.
His hands had become larger and sharper like that of a beast, and his body was being covered in fur. A tail was coming out of his rear, his jaws were extending, and his teeth were becoming more horrifying.
Sae-Jin dazedly stared at his hand, now covered in black fur. This…. was the appearance of the Werewolf in the "Beast Mode". He hurriedly scanned his surroundings. Fortunately, in this hellhole there wasn’t anyone with enough leeway to pay attention to his sudden transformation.
‘The Human Form. Why can’t I change back to the Human Form?’
That was his first question. Why was he now in the form of bipedal beast, instead of a human? Thankfully, the friendly system solved that quandary for him.
[Until the Mana Stone absorption is completed, the Human Form will not be available to the host.]
Right after that message, countless other alert windows swarmed in front of his eyes, enough to block the entirety of his view.
⸢Condition Complete: The Heart of a Beast.⸥
– The host has absorbed the Mana Stone of the mighty Werewolf into his heart. All stats rise by 15.
– When the absorption reaches 100%, in the Ebony Wolf Form the host can activate/deactivate either the Beast Mode or the Human Mode. (Not possible to change to other Forms until the absorption is complete.)
– Acquired Passive Skills "Flesh of a Beast", "High-Strength Claws" and "Predator."
►Passive Skill "Flesh of a Beast" [Skill Proficiency Level: F]
– The flesh is strengthened, and small amount of damage from magic is negated.
– The wounds on the body heal rapidly through the body’s excellent resilience.
– The host can freely manipulate the flow of his blood as well as a target’s. However, a part of the host’s body, such as claws or fangs, must be in contact with the target’s bloodstream.
– During the Human Form, the effects of the skill will be decreased.
►Passive Skill "High-Strength Wolf’s Claws" [Skill Proficiency Level: F]
– The claws of a wolf that boast the strength and hardness of steel.
– When the skill level is raised, the "corporeal", "incorporeal" and even aura can be exterminated.
►Passive Skill "Predator" [Skill Proficiency Level: F]
– The host will grow stronger the more enemies the host eliminates. When a stronger enemy is killed, the rate of growth will be greater.
– The prey can feel fear towards the Predator and could surrender/wish to submit under the rule of the host.
Too bad, there just wasn’t enough time for him to sit down and properly go through all these messages.
"Take the Ogre first!! Leave the Wyvern to the Highest Tier Knight!!"
Knights were already approaching this place. Sae-Jin hid from their eyes and moved as stealthily as possible.
< 06. The Mana Stone of a Beast (4) > Fin