A Monster Who Levels Up
It was at night, with a deep darkness descending down like a fog.
A man, Kim Ji-Han, was walking on an alleyway while talking to a certain someone on the phone.
"Another one was murdered 3 days ago. Yes. A total of 2. No, I also have no idea. Even the police have no clue, so it’s impossible for me, too. Yes. Both were revenge killings. It’s revenge, because nothing was taken after the commission of the crime itself. Yes, well. I told you I don’t know who it could be. I can’t even get a feel for this guy. But still, I’m checking out all the Mercenary bastards, just in case. I’ll let the result known lat…"
Kim Ji-Han suddenly stopped talking. The reason was because of a man standing by the corner of the alleyway. Since the person’s back was turned away, Ji-Han couldn’t see the face, but it was not too difficult to figure that it was a he judging from the tall height and the athletic build.
"…Please hold on for a second. Don’t hang up."
Ji-Han held the phone in one hand and slowly approached the man. However, an ominous feeling suddenly brushed by his senses. He realised he should not get too close. The instincts of a Vampire was busy telling him so. So, he began to carefully retread his steps backwards.
"Yeah. I’m going now."
However, as if to say his worries were false, that man spoke to his own mobile phone and left the alleyway. Breathing a sigh of relief, Ji-Han raised his phone to his face.
"….It’s a false alarm."
The moment he finished speaking, a giant shadow fell upon him from above. He couldn’t even utter a single word. Terrifying fangs ripped out chunks of his throat, and monstrous hands tore off his arms away.
The blood of a Vampire was cold. An icy feeling akin to taking a cold shower enveloped his body. And at the same time, several alert windows popped up.
►The Skill Proficiency Level for the Passive Skill "Flesh of a Beast" has risen from F to D.
►The Skill Proficiency Level for the Passive Skill "High-Strength Wolf’s Claws" has risen from F to D.
►The Skill Proficiency Level for the Passive Skill "Predator" has risen from F to D.
►The Skill Proficiency Level for the Passive Skill "The Scent of a Wolf" has risen from D to C-.
– "Oi, oi!!!"
As he was revelling in the ecstasy of his level up, a sound leaked out from the mobile phone that had fallen on the ground.
Kim Sae-Jin lightly stepped on and crushed it.
On the following day. Sae-Jin headed to the coffee shop in order to meet up with Yu Sae-Jung. The meeting had to be delayed for two weeks as both of them were swarmed with stuff to do.
Yu Sae-Jung was waiting for him inside the most luxurious coffee shop in the city. She was sitting alone in a corner of the shop, manning her phone. Even though she still had that youthful feel of a high school girl, there was a sophisticated aura oozing off from her as well.
Sae-Jin carefully approached her and sat on the opposite side. Suddenly, the attention of the surroundings focused here.
"Ah, you’ve arrived? It’s been a while."
Yu Sae-Jung spoke in a relaxed manner as she shut the projections off.
"Were you looking at something?"
"News articles. Another murder of a Vampire happened yesterday. I hear this is the third victim already."
Sae-Jin’s heart missed a beat there. But he quickly adjusted his mind and relaxedly nodded his head.
"Oh. I also saw that. By the wa
y…. what is that next to you?"
He didn’t want to deliberately walk down this conversational path and give himself more pain, so he changed the topic and asked her about the rectangular box next to her instead.
"Oh, this? I wonder, will you recognise it if you see it…?"
Sae-Jung placed the box on top of the table with a strangely excited voice. And with her lips twitching in a barely concealed smile, she opened the lid of the box.
Kim Sae-Jin was left utterly shocked. However, the reason for that was rather different from what she was thinking of.
"Seeing your reactions, you must have seen that program I was in? This is that dagger. The Iron Dagger with excellent Mana infusion."
Sae-Jung had a boastful smile on her face. It was as if she was proudly declaring, Hey, I’m this kind of a woman.
"…This, how did you get to acquire this dagger?"
He asked in a serious manner. He was genuinely, really dying to know. This dagger was, without a doubt, his creation. But it was now in the hands of another person without his approval. Well, the organisers of the tournament did say they would take care of selling the submitted products, but still, they didn’t even ask for his opinion…
"Our Knights Order is the biggest sponsor of the tournament so we can choose one item each Round before anyone else can. So, we quickly took away this dagger."
"…Oh, is that right? Then, did you get in touch with the person who made this weapon yet?"
Yu Sae-Jung shook head with a regretful expression.
"I couldn’t. I really wanted to, but strangely, this person wished to be contacted through post only. And the address isn’t for home but actually, just a post office in Gangwon as well…. I did send him a letter, but seeing that there’s no reply yet… he probably didn’t receive it."
Now that he had heard her reasoning, the blame lied solely with his memories. He smiled apologetically and scratched the back of his neck.
"By the way, does Miss Sae-Jung need something like that? I thought you already possessed better weapons."
"Yes. That is true. But this dagger, there is something special about it. Normally, daggers with short blades don’t have a good built in Mana infusion so it’s harder to wield Mana with it, but this one is different."
She said that, and while gripping the dagger, sent in her Mana through to it. Sshhrunng. An eerily chilly noise accompanied the Mana Blade quickly rising out from the dagger’s blade itself.
"How is it? It’s great, right? If it’s this much, it can more than work as my backup weapon. That’s why I bought it."
"Ah, haha…. It’s a good purchase. Such an item is hard to come by, after all."
Finding her bright, satisfied expression as if she was a kid who just received a new toy rather adorable, Sae-Jin ended up smiling happily along her as well.
"Yes. I also think the same. The carvings on the surface of the blade is also really intricate, too… It’s almost like it’s a work of art, you know? Even my father was tempted by this dagger."
Yu Sae-Jung retracted her Mana and carefully stored the dagger back inside the luxurious box. He felt rather happy for some reason and stared at the box for a bit. Since his work was stored inside a luxurious container, didn’t that mean his dagger was also a luxurious item?
However, Yu Sae-Jung misunderstood the intentions behind his gaze. She hurriedly shoved the box inside her bag. It was a rather disconcertingly hurried manoeuvre.
When Sae-Jin looked at her quizzically, her body trembled for a moment as she avoided a direct eye contact.
"….Are you worried about me asking you for it?"
It seemed like he hit the nail on the head. Yu Sae-Jung’s face visibly stiffened, and it was dyeing in the colours of an unwilling defeat. Her expression was like, I shouldn’t have boasted about it to him - and after biting her lower lip, she reluctantly opened her mouth to speak.
"…If… you want it, I can give it to you. Y, you are my benefactor, after all…Of course I must give to you… If you want it…"
She inserted her imperceptibly trembling hand inside the bag to search for the box. However… instead of the box containing the dagger, she started pulling out stuff like her make up, purse, books, a gold bullion… A gold bullion?! Something with a rather enormous implication popped out in the middle there, but actually, it was all her ploy to waste time for as long as possible.
"…It’s fine. I can’t use weapons like that. I can’t use Mana."
"Is that true? What a shame, then."
As soon as Sae-Jin said those words - Sae-Jung spat out a big sigh of relief and started shoving all the junk on top of the table back inside her bag.
"That’s that, but why are we meeting here today?"
When Sae-Jin asked her for the original reason for the meeting, her eyes opened wide after realising that she had forgotten all about it.
"Ah, that. Hunting, I suggested before that we should hunt together. I should apologise. Two days from now, I’m scheduled to go out on a hunt. I’d like Mister Sae-Jin to accompany me."
"Oh… It’ll have to depend on time… How many hours are you planning to spend hunting?"
Since the amount of time he could spend as a human was limited, it would not work for him if the hunt took too long to finish.
"Around two hours. I also have other things planned afterwards, so I can’t hunt together for too long as well."
"Mmm…. It’s fine, then."
Kim Sae-Jin smiled and reached across for a handshake.
Two hours. There were more than enough people willing to pay a handsome amount just to meet with Yu Sae-Jung. For a person of her status, he was very much willing to invest just two hours of his time.
"I’ll see you then."
As she began shaking his hand, a black car came to a halt in front of the coffee shop. That was some terrific timing, that.
"I’ll be going now. Oh, do you need a lift?"
"No, thank you. I’ll be fine alone."
"If that’s the case, then I shall go ahead."
Sae-Jung walked upright first and then suddenly, started walking awkwardly as she left the shop. It seemed like she was not used to walking in high heels just yet.
Watching those high school girl-like actions, Sae-Jin smiled slightly before he himself vacated the coffee shop.
After separating from her, Sae-Jin went to the same lamp post where he had found the flyer. As before, there was another flyer there. Outwardly, it was an ad for "house for sale" but it was actually the information on his next job, judging by the thick smell of blood coming off of it.
‘Gangwon Province, Hoengseong County, Starlight Apartment immediately available to buy!! Call 05-01-0239-4039.’
The location was the Starlight Apartment in Hoengseong. And the difficulty was… 05. The Vampire he took care of yesterday was 02, so in comparison, this one should be 2.5 time more difficult.
Sae-Jin agonised for a moment. He was getting stronger, somewhat, after hunting numerous Monsters and absorbing their Mana Stones, but…
As he continued to agonise, the OLED exterior billboard hanging on a building showed a breaking news.
– Now, we bring you a public announcement from the Special Investigation Division of the Police regarding the serial killings of Vampires.
– How do you do, this is Chief Yu Baek-Song from the Special Investigation Division of Police.
That was the famous Chief of Special Police that even Sae-Jin knew of. Probably, she was the most famous person in the entire country.
Long, white hair. A pair of sharp but also elegant eyes, lips etched with a determined spirit. Outwardly appearing as a beautiful woman, she was the sole Divine Beast type Soo-in in South Korea. She was the White Tiger, Yu Baek-Song.
The bloodline that was widely acknowledged as possessing a superior strength than a regular Highest Tier ranked Knight flowed within her.
– The days of sanctioned killings ended in utter failure a long time ago, leaving nothing but bloodshed and hatred behind. We at the Special Investigation Division, in order to prevent the repeat of the past mistake, will swear to the high heavens to spare no efforts in investigating the series of murders involving Vampires. We have determined that all three murders were a hate crime committed by a single individual.
Even Sae-Jin felt momentarily pressured by someone as important as Yu Baek-Song personally announcing that on TV.
– And now, as a part of our ongoing investigation, we shall reveal the identity of the prime suspect.
Ever since he used the name Lycan, he was prepared to face suspicions from the Vampires, but still, his heart had to skip a beat here.
But that was just only for a moment.
– The prime suspect calls himself The Lycan, and he is a human Mercenary ranked A, the highest. Operating for almost 2 decades now, and his job completion rate at 100%, he is confirmed to be a true veteran among veteran Mercenaries. Operating only in the shadows, and as a consequence, little if any people know about him, this Mercenary even has earned the nickname of the Legend…
The highest ranking. Completion rate of 100%. A veteran. And a Legend, etc, etc…. Hearing all that nonsensical description of himself, only then did Sae-Jin understand what the Tavern Boss meant by, when he proudly boasted there was no need to worry about the exposure of his identity.
The governing oversight of Mercenaries had collapsed a long time ago. So, as long as a Boss said so, it became truth. On top of that, there weren’t any other Mercenaries to dispute that as a lie. The Boss already fired the first salvo by saying that very few people knew of him but even without such deception, Mercenaries were strictly independent-minded individuals anyway, so they would hold little to no interest in other Mercenaries’ affairs.
– That’s all we have uncovered so far. That is why, we are searching for those who have worked together with this Lycan in the past 20 years. Citizens, perhaps retired Mercenaries…
‘Looks like I’ll have to lay low for a while.’
The fake information on the application form had become a veil that completely covered the truth but, the existence of Yu Baek-Song still placed a great deal of pressure. The relationship between a wolf and a tiger was that of a prey and a predator so there was that, too. Of course, a wolf that grew up completely in an unnatural manner like him would eat up a tiger easily, but Yu Baek-Song wasn’t just any tiger. She was a Divine Beast, a bloody White Tiger, to boot.
< 08. Lycan the Mercenary (3) > Fin.