A Monster Who Levels Up
The reason why a weapon was important to a Knight wasn’t solely because it was directly linked to his or her survival.
It was, in a way, an "expression" of a certain gap within the same Tiers.
When the abilities were similar - no, when the abilities were just about the same - the strength of the weapon would separate the two, and the ranks would be divided.
And such a division would determine everything for the Knight affected by it - the annual salary, the fame, the prestige, etc, etc.
*SFX for a sword swinging in the air*
A heavy sword left behind a clear afterimage in the air as it descended.
The aim of this terrible strike was a type of turtle.
However, it was not an ordinary turtle at all. No, it was the Big-Giant-Turtle. It was a big and rare Monster that had to have two words stuck to its name just to signify how huge its size was. (TL: yes, that’s the Monster’s name in the raw. Hell, the author even wrote that in Korean version of the English words.)
This creature came about when a turtle couldn’t absorb Mana properly and ends up mutating into a Monster. It wasn’t particularly strong, but the strength and the hardness of its shell was not something to scoff at. Hell, the dang thing even possessed a sort of immunity that would negate a certain portion of every attack containing Mana.
So, although the payoff was quite good for its shell which could be made into weapons or armour, those Knights who relied on Mana rather than physical strength could only give up on hunting this Monster.
This time, however, was different. The Zweihänder, made out of black steel and currently wielded by Joo Ji-Hyuk, easily sliced apart the tough shell of this turtle. This was the resulting synergistic effect of the weapon’s attribute, ‘Material Destruction’ and Joo Ji-Hyuk’s skills with the heavy sword.
"Now that’s something else. I honestly believed that when your Trait of Heavy Sword Master became known, you’d be stuck in the Mid Tier for the rest of your life… You sure did get a great weapon, huh."
Ji-Hyuk’s fellow Knight who bore witness to this event sent out a glare and some words, both containing slight jealousy.
But Joo Ji-Hyuk didn’t mind that and simply scratched the back of his neck while picking up the pieces of the turtle’s shell.
Joo Ji-Hyuk’s Trait, ‘Heavy Swords Mastery’.
When he wielded a heavy sword that required the usage of both hands, he could demonstrate the maximum power and skills without any prior training whatsoever - a completed Trait, in other words, one that didn’t need leveling up. That’s why Joo Ji-Hyuk could become a Knight only a week after his Trait awakened.
However, it was wonderful only at the beginning - since his Trait was heavily affected by the weapons he wielded, it soon became his shackles and he ended up getting stuck in the Mid Tier for the last five years or so.
But that was until he got his hands on the Orc’s Zweihänder.
"Haha… well, I guess so."
"Hey, by the way, you’re going to sell that to the guys we promised to, right? Should I call them now?"
Joo Ji-Hyuk stopped his fellow Knight pulling out the phone.
"There is someone else that I’d like to give this to."
"…Is that right? If it’s like that, well… but who are you going to sell it to?"
At the Knight’s question, Joo Ji-Hyuk grinned widely.
"No, it’s not selling, but paying back the favour."
"…What? You’re going to give that to the Orc Blacksmith, aren’t you? Something that expensive?"
"I’m gifting it precisely because it’s expensive."
As the Big-Giant-Turtle was such a rare Monster, the pricing of its shell per gram nearly equalled
that of pure gold. It was the type of item that would easily fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in the market if they sold it right away.
The fellow Knight’s face became incredulous as he asked again. He was thinking that, how can a guy with a poor household even dream of giving away something so valuable…
However, Joo Ji-Hyuk simply nodded his head with a smile on his face.
The requests for interviews came in droves. Kim Sae-Jin finally realised that there were so many media outlets in South Korea for the first time in his life when over 50 of them contacted him.
Sae-Jin was going to refuse them all at first, but then remembered the event in the past when the Orc Blacksmith got disparaged by the media. So, he gave the go ahead only to four of the most reputable, well known media outlets.
But even that proved to be quite a trudge. Of course he understood where they were coming from, but well, just why did they have so many questions? Each of the interviews wasted a minimum of 30 minutes or so.
On top of that, although it probably was nothing more than a gossip-style throwaway question, one of the reporters even asked him about the Lycan joining the Society. The word Lycan was derived from the term Lycanthrope, and even though that creature was seen as another species of human, it still had some outer resemblance with Monsters, so that was enough of the connections for this guy.
"Ah, well then, this is the final, final, final question. Are you planning to admit new members to the hottest Society in town, The Monster? Whether it’s a public, open recruitment, or as a special case. I mean, isn’t it true that many, many Hunters and Knights are eyeballing Mister Sae-Jin’s Society as their potential target for signing up?"
This was already the fourth ‘final’ question. It made him suspect whether the ‘final’ had various stages or not to go through, but Sae-Jin still smiled resolutely and soldiered on.
"Well, There is no plan at the moment. Unfortunately, I’m the type to shy away from showing his face around too much…"
"Aha. So, in order to join the Society, firstly a person should become more friendly with you, is that it?"
"Eh? Ah…. well, yes. It’s something like that."
Fortunately, that really was the last question. The reporter thanked him for his time and bowed, before leaving altogether.
Thanks to that, the time limit for the Human Form was running perilously close. As he was hurriedly getting ready to go home, someone knocked on the door to his office.
"Who is it?"
"It’s Euphras." (TL: 유프라스)
Euphras was one of the employees for the armoury Hazeline had selected. Her official role was a manager of the employees. As her Western name implied, her race was an Elf, and as a result, her pride was quite high.
"Was there something else?"
"A Knight named Joo Ji-Hyuk has sent a present for you."
Euphras brought the gift box and placed it on top of the manager’s desk in a display of utmost respect and politeness, and without showing her back to him, carefully exited the office. Apparently, that was the Elf’s way of showing respect to a superior or some such.
Sae-Jin looked at that black box for a bit, before lifting open the lid without thinking too much about it.
The contents were puzzling, to say the least. Why would he send a present of these things…. But before he could finish that line of thought, the rising information window educated the ignorance of Sae-Jin rather nicely.
‘It’s rated at the level B+ for potential strength?’
The level for potential strength signaled the maximum attainable ranking for the material after crafting was completed. At a B+, it was just below that of adamantium.
Along with the turtle’s shell pieces, Joo Ji-Hyuk even enclosed a hand written letter as well. In it, he chronicled how much his life had changed thanks to the new sword, and just how grateful he was.
‘What a swell guy.’
The expression of Sae-Jin after he finished reading the letter was slightly unreadable.
After all, he had never received such a sincere, heartfelt thanks from anyone in his life before.
It was January - the month of the harshest chills.
The month of January might be so cold that most folks would rather not go outside, but it happened to be one of the most busiest months for the Knights there was.
Not only was the rank advancement exams held every half year taking place, there was also the matter of the ‘Knights Duel’, which was a battle between Knights with the honour of the participants and their Orders hanging in the balance. Plus, they also had to be mindful of the so-called ‘Monster wave’ that always broke out in the middle of the Winter.
On top of that, the battles of the Knights Duel were broadcast live since five years ago, adding further burden to the participants. A few Knights who enjoyed garnering attention to themselves obviously looked forward to the opportunity to flaunt their skills, however.
– "…I can feel the wall, you know."
Thanks to all these situations, a young school girl who should have enjoyed a Winter school break was training like hell as a Knight at the moment.
"A wall? What wall?"
– "You know, that thing. The insurmountable wall. Nowadays even my levels hasn’t been rising…. Oh."
Right then, Yu Sae-Jung’s voice stopped coming out of the phone. It was the slip of a tongue caused by her mind loosening up after finishing a lengthy training session just now.
"Your Trait is a leveling-up type?"
– "……Yeah. Well, but, uh…. If it’s Oppa, then it’s okay to know, but… please, keep it a secret, a SECRET, from other people, okay?"
When Sae-Jin replied he got it, she then resumed unloading all her complaints to him. Obviously, she would’ve been under a lot of strain, as she became a Knight before turning into a proper adult and had to train like there’s no tomorrow for 14 hours straight everyday.
– "Ah, my current win/loss count is 8 victories and 28 losses. I know I’ve been fighting against Mid Tier Knights only, but still, isn’t this a bit too much…?"
"Oh, okay. By the way…"
Sae-Jin suddenly recalled a way he could help Yu Sae-Jung out.
The Magic Tattoos.
Even if one argued a girl her age shouldn’t get a tattoo, if it was the same colour as her skin, it would not become a problem during the so-called ‘normal’ life.
He should know, as he already tattooed one of his arms.
The tattoo he inscribed on himself had the following effects - [Tattoos that store Mana. Both the amount of usable Mana, as well as the recovery rate for Mana, increases.]
"You… don’t wanna try out a tattoo?"
– "…Eh? What are you even talking about…"
As he expected, she replied in disbelief. After all, to inscribe a tattoo on not just any girl, but on the body of a precious descendant of a Chaebol was… (TL: a Chaebol is a Korean word for a massive business conglomerate, in case if you were wondering.)
Even he thought this was a bad idea. So, he muttered some incomprehensible excuse and tried to hang up.
– "No, wait a second, Oppa. Why did you suddenly mention tattoos? Is it linked to getting stronger somehow?"
However, Yu Sae-Jung had this insatiable need to become more powerful, and as her stubborn manner persisted, Sae-Jin couldn’t help but continue on from where he left off.
"Ah, the thing is… it’s related to my Trait, see?"
This was not a lie, but the actual truth. The Goblin’s Witchcraft technique was indeed a part of his Trait.
"You can become a bit more stronger after getting a tattoo."
Taking a Mana Stone and turning it into a liquid form by using the Orc’s Smithing Technique, and then by using the Witchcraft technique, this liquid Mana is inscribed onto the body. After that, the usable amount of Mana increased permanently, and the spent Mana recovered a bit quicker.
It was perhaps the greatest way to advance for a Knight who was very sensitive towards his or her Mana reserve. It wouldn’t be incorrect to think of it as a type of an artifact that could be inscribed directly onto the body.
– "Huh?! That… what is that? What do you mean?"
Unfortunately, Sae-Jin’s explanations were just too sparse to contain all the meaningful information for her.
"Ah, you see, remember when I said my Trait is related to my physical constitution? This tattoo thing is one of the ways to utilise my Trait. When I inscribe a tattoo on you, depending on what ingredients are used, there will be different special effects. If you use a Mana Stone, your overall Mana increases…"
– "Excuse me?! Is that really possible?"
*SFX for someone tumbling out of a bed in an undignified way*
He could hear Yu Sae-Jung messily getting up from her bed over the line.
"Yeah, it’s real."
Thinking that there was no reason to let one of his skills rot, he replied plainly to her.
– "Ah, but, that… a tattoo…"
"I can do it in your skin colour, so it won’t show up too much."
– "No, no that’s not it…"
She took her sweet time before shyly continuing with the rest of her sentence.
– "…Wouldn’t it be painful?"
When Sae-Jin asked her back with a tone of disbelief, she began to ramble out her extensive excuses all of a sudden.
– "No, that is not… Actually, I don’t feel much pain when fighting Monsters because of my Trait, but, um, since this isn’t a combat situation my Trait won’t probably apply, so it’s possible it might hurt just a bit, right? It’s not only me, but there are other Knights like that too, you know? I mean, there are Knights who are afraid of needles too. Of course, I’m not saying I’m like that…"
The following day, Yu Sae-Jung came straight to Sae-Jin’s house.
The tightly-closed eyelids of Yu Sae-Jung trembled ever so slightly. And that inexplicable tremble spread from her eyes to the rest of her body.
"Come on now, it won’t hurt."
Sae-Jin thought her being like this, eyes tightly shut and her body shaking like a leaf, was quite adorable. But he couldn’t start the tattooing process if she didn’t stop shaking. He forcibly stopped himself from laughing out and admonished her.
"Yes. Please do it."
Her shaking body remained the same, but her voice sounded strangely composed.
"I’m telling you, it’s not going to hurt. So, just relax."
As he said, the procedure didn’t hurt. And the tattoo needle he wielded was just for him to draw a pretty image, that was all. Honestly, he could do the whole procedure with nothing but his own fingers.
< 13. A Small Footstep (3) > Fin.
(TL: Uh, the amount left for this week’s two sponsored chapters is… Hmm. Well, looks like you will definitely get some extra chapters this week, that’s for sure. The number of chapters will change depending on how much donations come in before the midnight of this week’s Thursday. Anyways, thanks for your generous support, folks!! Do keep them coming.)