A Monster Who Levels Up
After receiving the aid of those two Knights, Sae-Jin was able to safely leave the sewers.
"Oh, so your profession is a Hunter?"
However, a slightly irritating problem had developed. Although he wasn’t particularly hurt anywhere, the female Knight still dragged him to an emergency ward, and after placing him in one of the sick beds, she plopped down next to him and began asking an endless stream of questions while her black-spotted yellow ears atop her head busily twitched this way and that.
Since he wanted to leave as soon as possible, he kept his answers brief, but this woman showed no signs of giving up at all. She even came real close to his side and openly started sniffing him out. As expected, it was his nice body odour causing the problem. To a Soo-in that desired a pleasant body scent over that of good looks, the aroma of a wolf would probably be no different than an irresistible pheromone.
"So that’s how it is. I happen to be a Mid Tier Knight, you know. On top of that, I’m a person with an excellent future prospect, too. And my annual salary is pretty high, as well… Ehehehe. We should go out hunting together some time. I’m a Leopard type, I’ll have you know. I’m really fast and sturdy."
Khwoung~ She made an adorable roar and tried very hard to get into Sae-Jin’s good books.
Honestly speaking, he didn’t feel bad at all. No, he felt rather freaking great. Because, this lady Knight was a stunner. Contrary to her sharp, leopard-like facial features, her actions were cute like a puppy dog’s and that helped a lot with how he was feeling right now.
"Ah, you just smiled. That means you’ll go out with me, right? We are, right~? You won’t regret it! I’ll help you raise your ranks by a couple of Tiers in no time!!"
"…Ahaha, no, I’m…"
As they conversed, the atmosphere bloomed in pink colour, but out of nowhere a proverbial dark cloud loomed over their heads. And that was the other male Knight who found Sae-Jin. His face convulsing intermittently, he spoke in a tone that indicated how completely displeased he was at the moment.
"Mister Kim Sae-Jin?"
"….What is it that you want now?"
The male Knight definitely called for Sae-Jin but it was the woman who replied instead in a prickly manner, blocking him at the same time.
"You, go away. Mister Sae-Jin, you are feeling okay, no? Unfortunately, there are a lot of other injured civilians crying out in pain as we speak. If you are okay, then…."
"What do you mean, he’s okay?! Can’t you see he’s suffered a lot? Even his clothes got burnt!! We don’t know if he’s suffering from some kind of emotional trauma right now."
No freaking way. Sae-Jin chuckled in slight awkwardness as he raised his body.
"I’m fine. Since I’m okay, I should get going. There are promises I need to keep, too."
"Eh? Why? It’s okay if you stayed a bit longer…. oh, that’s right!!"
She grabbed the rising shoulders of Sae-Jin and forcibly pushed him down on the bed. Then she shot the pestering male Knight a sharp glare. But the dude was pretending to know nothing while whistling leisurely.
"No, Miss Knight, it’s just that…"
"It’s Rozen. Call me in the form you feel most comfortable."
"Okay, Miss Rozen, I am thankful for everything you’ve done for me, but I really have to get going now."
It was indeed pleasant to receive the undivided attention of
a good woman. But, to a person like him that never experienced proper love all his life, such focus felt a bit foreign and uncomfortable, plus there was the restriction of time factoring in his mind as well.
"…If, if that’s the case, then please give me your phone number!!"
Seeing his unshakeable resolution, the flustered Miss Rozen grabbed hold of his collars and handed over her phone. (TL: something like the image at the end of the chapter….) Sae-Jin just couldn’t find it in himself to refuse her on this one so he gave her the numbers and said his goodbye.
"Please, please let’s go out on a hunt together later!!"
Rozen sounded like she wanted to play online games with him and that made Sae-Jin chuckle softly. There was no meaning behind the smile, though. But her face remained deep shade of red as she longingly gazed his back.
"….Ah. Oi, you wanna die? What the heck were you trying to pull? You pickin’ a fight to death with me, a wild leopard, or something?!"
As soon as Sae-Jin was far away, Rozen's face crumpled and began throwing sharp words at the male Knight. But his lips arched slightly upwards as if he was satisfied about something.
"What are you on about? I was just following protocol. He wasn’t even injured. Why should he take up a bed?"
"You, today, you…"
For a while after that, she continued to spit out nonstop verbal insults at him.
Sae-Jin walked past the emergency ward, scanning various injured civilians there. There was a guy with serious burns covering up his entire body, while another had slight bruising on the skin.
And as he observed the injuries of the patients, a strange and painful sensation assaulted his eyes all of a sudden.
Leaking out a soft groan, he massaged his temples, while squeezing shut his eyes before opening them.
Then, the world had changed. It was an illusion brought on by the scope of his eyesight widening to an unrealistic level.
A normal person’s field of view was 180 degrees. But Sae-Jin could see what was happening behind him as well. And the whole world seemed richer in hue and brighter too. The light from the bulbs stung his eyes, and there were no longer any dark corners he couldn’t see.
He stopped moving and stood there like a rock and surveyed the surroundings until he caught a distant reflection of himself in the mirror mounted on a wall of the ward.
The colour of his eyes had changed to a hue of eerie golden shade.
[Condition Complete: Sense at least ten cases of negative aura at once while maintaining the Ebony Wolf Form,]
►Passive Skill "Eyes of the Wolf" has been acquired.
– The host’s eyesight has been widened and not affected by the obstruction from light. Also, the host will be able to discern what is normally invisible to naked eyes.
– It’s possible to activate this skill during Forms other than the Ebony Wolf Form.
It was another message saying that he had acquired a new skill.
‘Discern what is normally invisible?’
His query was quickly answered. There were some sort of strange, ominous-feeling strands of aura dancing above the moaning patients. There were so many colours - blue, green, purple, red, even black. Sae-Jin was actually able to discern these strands of "light", with different colours potentially denoting severity of each injury.
As if he got possessed by a spirit or something, Sae-Jin approached one of the patients letting out this mysterious aura. He dazedly stared at this light strand before suddenly recalling a message he had read before.
‘When the skill level is raised, the "corporeal", "incorporeal" and even aura can be exterminated.’
If that was true…. no, he was certain.
The Wolf’s claw could cut away this illness as well…. After nervously swallowing down his saliva, Sae-Jin placed his hand at the faintly rising aura and swiped at it with his nails.
*SFX for slicing the air and fingers flailing around*
But there was no change.
‘Is my Skill Level too low?’
As if to match his thoughts, the system responded once more.
[The Skill Proficiency Level is too low.]
He let out a groan of acceptance. That was when a nurse asked him if he was a relative of this patient; Sae-Jin shook his head no, and then he left the emergency ward as if he was making a quick getaway.
Until now, he could stay as a human for only 2 hours in a day but now, Sae-Jin found himself with a huge surplus of time. The first thing he did was to head to the one room apartment he had rented on the outskirts of the city. For the last 2 months, he was far too busy living as a Monster, so he couldn’t even tell the landlord he was moving out.
"….It’s been a while."
A single room in a shabby building, 3rd floor, no. 302. Slightly overcome with nostalgia, Sae-Jin slowly stroked the metal gate. The place’s only security feature was a numberpad style door lock, not a fingerprint nor a retina scanner.
The door opened after he entered the four digit code, and he stepped over the doorsill, entering the apartment….
He bumped his forehead on the low-hanging upper frame of the metal gate.
In the past, there was enough gap there to pass through the metal gate… but now that his body had gotten sturdier, he didn’t feel much pain. He lowered his head and entered the apartment.
The condition of his place remained largely the same as the moment he left, but with the exception of dust that had settled down everywhere. Even though it’d been empty for only 2 months, scents of a person living here had all disappeared without a trace now.
As he was checking out his home, he spotted a blue light leaking out from his home phone, meaning there were recorded voice messages to listen to. Wondering just who could have left him messages, as something like this had never happened before, he soon thought of one reason for them.
Hazeline. Sae-Jin was asleep for nearly 3 days inside the sewer, and when he asked for the date after waking up, he learned that already 4 days had passed by. Since there was no way he’d call someone during that time, the only possibility left was Hazeline calling him nonstop as he owed her a lot of money.
Feeling apologetic, he quickly accessed the voice messages. There was a total of five recordings.
– "Mister Sae-Jin? This is Hazeline speaking. I was shocked to find out there was an incident of Monster Outbreak in Seoul…. I perused the list of the deceased but didn’t see your name on it. You must’ve made it out okay. When things have settled down, please give me a call."
The first message was comparatively calm, and exactly 12 hours later, there was another one.
– "Has everything settled down? I haven’t heard from you yet. The reports say the incident is now more or less under control…. I guess you’re still busy? If you get this voice message, please call me."
The next message was 14 hours later, and her voice in the message was audibly trembling with worry.
– "Mister Sae-Jin? Where are you? Let me come and see you. I think, maybe we need to meet and talk? Also, that Mana Stone was a lot more expensive than the initial estimates. It was over $4.5 million. Even if you sell all the potions here, after deducting tax and other stuff, it’s only about half of that amount. So, please… Haaa, Mister Sae-Jin. Mister Sae-Jin? Please give me a call as soon as you hear this message."
Sae-Jin listened to the next message as sweat drops formed on his forehead.
– "Mister Kim Sae-Jin. I hope you are not planning to run away using this Outbreak as an excuse. I sincerely wish that you don’t even think of entertaining such a foolish idea. You may not be aware of this, but I have a bit of fame in certain circles. Finding a single person isn’t even a challenge for me. You even gave me your name, too…. Wait a second, that is your real name, right? Wait, what if he gave me a fake name?! Oh, no, that’s why!! I thought it was weird that an alchemist was giving away his name too easily… Fuu. I can still find you. No, I will find you. I will chase you down to the ends of this earth, no, even to hell itself. You better believe that."
Now it was rage. Her voice itself was boiling with anger, and somewhere in the middle, there were several instances of pronunciation of words being messed up after she gritted her molars hard. Sae-Jin sighed weakly as he listened to the final message.
– "Mister Sae-Jin. Yesterday I was distraught with emotions so I couldn’t help it. I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from. If you think about how more than half of your fortune that you worked so hard to accumulate in your entire life just flying away…. you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. You’d be angry and sad, wondering why your money had suddenly grew wings and flew away… I feel like that. To me, past 4 days felt like 3 years. And you also know this, don’t you? Dark Elves don’t easily trust banks so we mostly keep hard cash. Me, I don’t have any other assets. You must not run away without repaying that debt. I’ve shed so much tears and blood earning that money…. Please, please, just give me a call."
Her heavy, emotional voice became desperately tearful towards the end.
As soon as the last message played out, Sae-Jin quickly called her.
Hazeline answered the phone even before the first beep finished ringing.
"Ah, it’s me."
Hearing his voice, on the other side of the line Hazeline was letting out a long sigh of relief. She continuously mumbled "Thank god, oh thank god…" several times, so Sae-Jin started talking first.
"I’m truly sorry. As you have expected, I got embroiled in the Outbreak. And I lost my mobile phone. That’s why I ended up calling you so late…"
– "No, no, it’s fine, it’s all fine. No, I’m very thankful instead. Actually, I was expecting the worst, at least for about one year, to be honest, but you called me after only four days…. Where are you now? Let us meet."
"Ah, the thing is…."
At her suggestion, he studied the reflections of his face and body in the mirror for a moment.
Kim Sae-Jin in Human Form, and Kim Sae-Jin in the Ebony Wolf’s Human Mode seemed similar, but they were actually like two completely separate entities. The latter’s face was similar to "normal" Sae-Jin’s, but there were different points as well. Firstly, the lines of his face were sharper, and the features were now better defined, too. To put it another way, his previous puppy dog-like face had morphed into a keener, wolf-like visage.
Hell, even the Human Form Sae-Jin was different from the normal human Sae-Jin before the change. Maybe it was because of the sudden explosive increase in his stats, his bone mass and the overall body size also grew by a lot.
Simply put, comparing the numbers of the Human Form and the Human Mode went like this:
The Human Form Kim Sae-Jin was 179 cm tall, weight of 77 kgs and the body in a pretty damn good shape, while the Sae-Jin in the Human Mode exceeded 189 cm in height and all of his 100kgs were mostly of muscles, making his body no different from a living weapon.
‘There will be problems if we meet like this.’
Of course, since he always wore the hood over his head when he met her so his facial appearance wasn’t a problem, but the issue was his hulking frame. Whatever "mode" he chose to go with, he became just too damn big.
"Let’s meet up at a later date. How about a week from today? There is a potion I’m making right now. I can’t vacate the private workshop as I am on the cusp of achieving success."
– "Eh? Right now? What potion are you making?"
He hesitated for a moment or two, before wetting his lips and replied to her.
"It’s a potion to become taller."
– "……I’m sorry?"
Hazeline let out a shocked voice, and Sae-Jin ended up biting his lower lip. But it was too late now, no matter how ridiculous the lie sounded. He couldn’t think of any other excuses. Since he didn’t grow by just 2, 3 centimetres, but 7 for one and 17 for the other.
"I’m telling you this just in case, but I will not sell this potion. No matter what happens."
He decided to ignore the speechless Hazeline and just keep at it with a straight face.
< 06. The Mana Stone of a Beast (6) > Fin.