A Monster Who Levels Up
(This extra chapter is brought to you by these following Kings and Queens of Promise: Misraim V, Anon, Keneth P, Evelyn K. W., Peter S, Markus S, Kevin H, Daniel T, Jan B, Rigo G, Dale B, Zain Z, Erik Å, and Zofia L. Thank you for your donations!!)
(Also, 30 Seconds to Mars reference FTW!!!)
For about a week, Sae-Jin searched for every scrap of information there was for the Lycan.
There was a total of three crimes committed which he had no memories of; and according to what he found, all the bodies discovered were maimed horrifically as if a wild animal had attacked them.
So, he thought that… this was not the work of a copycat.
Everything was in doubt.
The continuously growing height. The sharply-changing facial structure. And the crimes of Lycan which he could not remember. What if they were…
‘Is my Human Form being slowly taken over by the Monster Form?!’
Definitely, the power balance of all five Forms within his body had been seriously out of whack for a while now.
Specifically, ever since acquiring the beast’s heart through absorbing the Werewolf’s Mana Stone, the Wolf side had become much stronger than the others. After all, he could now throw down with a upper Mid Tier Knight quite easily in that Form.
Sae-Jin hugged his head that ached so much it might split apart; from the gap in the window, the grey light of the dawn’s moon entered the room. That new moon’s clear light seemed so sinister for some reason.
He did his best to avoid using the Wolf Form, instead preferring to stick with the Goblin, Orc and the Human Forms while sleeping for less than three hours a day.
To lose his own self, even it was only for a bit - he found such a notion as an unimaginable terror, a powerful fear.
There was the good possibility that the full moon had the most effect on him, of course. But his current state of mind was too unstable to consider such points yet.
He even swore out loudly at this difficult problem that seemingly had no answers as he hit his own head.
On top of this, there were only 30 minutes remaining on his Human Form.
Only now had he realised that the Human Mode in the Wolf Form was not truly a ‘human’. He remembered that time when his consciousness blurred after discovering a Vampire. And when he was fighting Kim In-Soo, he remembered clearly his body moving on its own volition.
"For a while…"
I should not use the Ebony Wolf Form.
Sae-Jin decided thus.
That would reduce the total amount of time he could remain as a human to around five hours but, it was still much better than losing himself from the unknown instincts of a Monster and become something that was… not human.
He began to rub his chin without realising it. His beard had grown somewhat, all thick and bushy-like.
But he was never the type where lots of beard grew naturally…
"*SFX for gagging noise*"
As soon as his thoughts reached there, he felt nauseous all of a sudden, and ran to the bathroom.
Since he hadn’t eaten anything of late, only the dull-yellow stomach acid came out.
He emptied his insides for a long time, and then stood before the washbasin.
The face in the mirror was similar to Kim Sae-Jin’s; but at the same time, also different from before. Of course, he might have made a mistake as his mind was not completely healthy at the moment.
But no matter what, the sharp eyes and the thick jaws…
They totally resembled a wolf.
At first, when the rumour of a doll-type artifact that could recover energy and Mana began to circulate, the public as well as the majority of Knights and Wizards thought of it as nothing more than a dog’s empty bark not even worthy to be called a rumour.
An artifact was d
ifficult to make. The consensus of those in the magic-related industry was that a material like a doll was just too weak to withstand the high level of magic enchantment required to bestow a single magic effect on an item.
The rumour that everyone thought of as nothing but hot air - the Knights of the Raven Order ended up proving as truth.
"So, this is… that artifact?"
Currently, this was the 1st Class training facility of the Raven Knights Order. Most Knights Orders had divided training facilities according to the rankings. Rather obviously, the higher the ranking was, the better the training equipment provided.
Wizards affiliated with the ‘Dae-Han’ Wizard Tower were busy examining the doll-type artifact placed inside this facility. (TL: the word Dae-Han actually comes from the first two letters of the Republic of Korea’s Korean name. *대한민국*)
"Yeah, but uh, by the way…"
The Knight tasked with showing these Wizards around was actually feeling rather nervous at the moment. He was afraid that these guys might start touching the doll or stuff like that.
One could say, this was a case of the so-called reversal of fortunes. This doll, Athany, was left forgotten on the shelves of the 4th Class training facility, or sometimes even, thrown around and discarded on the floor.
But now, the very same Athany was sitting pretty in the middle of the 1st Class facility, protected by the magic-reinforced glass case. Now, it was being treated with utmost care after transforming into one of the Raven’s treasures.
"Excuse me… Can you step back for a bit there? I think Athany is a little afraid of you."
Wizards all showed disbelieving faces, but they still did as told and moved away.
"It’s really faint, but there definitely is a strange aura coming off of it. When did you first notice this doll’s effects?"
"It hasn’t been long. Has it been a week? At first, we left this doll by the 4th Class training facility and nobody paid attention to it, but then, the efficiency of lower ranked Knights began to improve dramatically. They began to train for three hours or more, when two used to be their limit. And the rate of their Mana recovery was also abnormally fast - but only within that training facility."
At that revelation, Wizards’ lips went 'O' shaped as they exclaimed slightly. Just from the words alone, wasn’t the effects just wonderful?
"And there were no noticeable changes in the Mana Spring?"
"That’s correct. Finding this event strange, we took a measurement of Mana’s concentration in the 4th Class training facility and found that the recovery rate there was higher than the 1st Class facility. And that’s when we discovered the doll’s effects as we investigated the cause of this change."
A Wizard made a puzzled face and tilted his head.
According to their estimates, the story was that this doll possessed abilities to aid in recovering Mana as well as one’s energy.
However, these two recovery abilities were expensive enough to be only found added to high-class wearable accessories. To his knowledge, there hadn’t been a way invented yet to let the effects permeate around like an aura…
"I heard the Dawn also received this doll as a gift…. But why are they remaining silent over this matter?"
"They tend to monopolise the good stuff, don’t they. Most likely, they realised the effects well before we have. Just that, they are keeping their mouths shut."
The Wizard took another glance at the doll.
He thought that, when the clueless government officials approved of a strange artifact, they were wasting their time once more… But honestly now, he really wanted to dissect that doll. Of course, considering its effects, it should be incredibly expensive, but if he could just find out what its secrets were, then…
"You can not."
The Wizard was blocked the moment the guiding Knight noticed the perverted light shining in those eyes. The Wizard let out a fake cough and then in a serious tone, asked, "Keheum. How much did you say it was?"
"From what I hear, you can’t buy it even if you wanted to."
"…As expected, then. It should be impossible to mass manufacture an artifact like this."
"Yep. And with the situation as is, where even the news outlets have reported on the doll’s proven effects, not only the local organizations but even the international bodies have apparently lodged requests for purchase to ‘The Monster’ Society as well."
The Wizard nodded his head. Obviously, stories related to this doll were trending big time in overseas social media forums as well.
"But the Society itself isn’t giving out any replies yet. That’s why besides the Dawn and us, no other Knights Order possesses this doll."
"So, that’s how it was?"
"Yes. Thanks to this ‘shortage’, I hear that the lower ranked Orders are apparently burning in useless competitive spirits. For the right to become the next owner of Athany, or stuff like that…."
The Wizards present chuckled slightly at that.
Knights Orders and their Knights - from the point of view of these Wizards, they were the types that became harder to fathom the more one got to know them.
– "…You are really, really okay, right?"
"Yeah. I’m fine."
Since his mind was preoccupied, Sae-Jin ended up missing the phone calls from other people inadvertently.
But his mind had calmed down after a month - to the point of being able to welcome the fact that there was someone worried about him.
– "But why didn’t you answer your phone until now?"
Yu Sae-Jung asked him. Her voice sounded genuinely worried.
"Well… I got occupied. You also know, right? How our mascot became this huge phenomenon."
He heard about this from Hazeline yesterday.
A doll-type artifact that aided with the recovery of Mana and energy.
He heard that both the Knights Orders and Wizard Towers were going mad with desire as soon as Athany’s effects were proved. Which was understandable, as they were obsessed with Mana - obsessed enough to spend tens of millions of dollars to construct a Mana Spring and further hundreds of thousands just in its upkeep annually.
Hazeline added that several overseas Knights Orders and corporations had inquired directly about the Magic Tattoos and the Athany dolls via the Korean government already.
– "Oh, right! What’s your plan on selling the Athany dolls? If you got any, we’ll buy them all. We’ll more than adequately satisfy your demands."
"Ah, that… Later. I’ll let you know later."
For now, he didn’t want to think about the complicated stuff yet.
Actually, only ten minutes ago, someone from the Foreign Relations department gave him a call regarding the Athany doll issue. It seemed that a famous American Knights Order had requested for a serious meeting with him or something…
– "Huh? Oh…. I understand. So, by th…"
"Right. I’m hanging up now."
– "NO, WAIT!! Stop!! Hey, DON’T HANG UP!!"
As he was about to end the call, Yu Sae-Jung suddenly screamed at him from the other side of the line.
"…What’s the matter now?"
– "Why do you keep on hanging up in the middle of a conversation?! I still have things left to say, you know!! Seriously…"
She sounded genuinely ticked off.
"Ah, my bad. I like to rush things, you see."
As he was a guy who used to do 2-3 part time jobs in a single day, he had this mentality of doing things fast without delay. Now that he thought about it, compared to those days, right now this was… a Heaven amongst heavens.
– "Fuu… We, uh… haven’t seen each other in a while, right?"
"… Oh, you mean as in hunting?"
– "…Khm. Right, yeah, hunting."
Sae-Jin deliberated for a bit. The time to go out on a hunt with someone else, well…
"My bad, I can’t, for the time being."
…He no longer had that.
He deeply agonised about the possible solutions to the problematic situation of him slowly becoming an Ebony Wolf.
One definite cause for this was…. there was an internal power imbalance due to the Ebony Wolf Form becoming far stronger than the others.
The best possibility to rectify this situation was to enhance the strength of other Monster Forms.
And the other one was to let the Ebony Wolf Form fully evolve into a Lycanthrope.
Since the Lycanthropes were a subspecies of humans, maybe something might happen if he evolved into one…
Of course, both of these methods were not 100% guaranteed to work and that only made his chest tighten with worry. Hell, he even felt nauseous several times a day from the worries.
Whatever the case may have been, all the possibilities pointed towards hunting Monsters and so, wasting time was a luxury he couldn’t afford anymore.
– "Eh? But why?"
Yu Sae-Jung hurriedly asked.
"That is… I’ve got a situation."
– "What is it?"
"Can’t say at the moment."
She became silent for a moment. Then, in a powerless voice, she spoke in a tone that clearly indicated how upset she was.
– "Okay, fine. Then… When you find the time later, give me a call."
"Right. I got it."
– "But not sure if I’ll have the time la…"
He hung up the phone quickly.
Yu Sae-Jung seemed to be saying something, but… his old habit ended up rearing its head again.
‘…It’s time to go.’
But the call had ended already.
Carrying a bag full of luggage, he headed to the Monster field.
A certain afternoon, with sunlight shining down.
A hunting party consisting of one somewhat overweight male Knight and two female Hunters were searching for prey in the forest of the hunting ground.
"Ah… So that doll is still in possession of only the Dawn and the Raven?"
The main topic of the conversation happening in the middle of the hunt was about the ‘hot potato’, Athany.
"Of course. It seems obvious that it would be difficult to make an artifact like that. But, hmm. I dunno if I should be saying this or not…"
With two rather pretty female Hunters attached to both of his arms and walking around with a triumphant air, this Knight was named Oh Dae-Soo, a Mid Tier Knight. He was the second son of the Vice Order Master of the mid-ranked Daebaek Knights Order. (TL: "대백"- Daebaek means "great white". I just couldn’t name this Order as the Great White Knights Order as it sounds a bit… well.)
"Eh? What is it? Please tell us~"
"She’s right. You should finish what you started~"
When he suddenly stopped talking, the two pretty female Hunters began acting coquettishly and teased his sides.
"Ke, kehuem. This is a secret, so… You must never tell anyone, got that?"
Oh Dae-Soo did another fake cough.
Abnormally sensitive towards their rankings and gradings, Knights Orders would often compete aggressively with one another even in small, insignificant squabbles.
But from the Knights Orders' view, it could not be helped. One only had to witness the state of affairs where the public and the media were ridiculing the Dawn Knights Order after they lost to the Raven at the all-important Knights Duel.
"Many people are wondering who could possibly become the next owner of the third Athany doll…"
The doll of Athany - it was the artifact trending hotly among the various Knights Orders.
But a month had passed by without a single sign of the third doll appearing in public, and the fact that the Dawn and the Raven were the only two to possess the dolls, were enough to fan the flames of competitive streak of the Orders in the lower rankings.
And the media, of course, took bite of this fun little bait; the public too began to hold a great deal of interest and watched things unfold.
Really, which Knights Order could become the next owner of the Athany doll?
Before anyone knew it, this matter had become a battle of pride between different Knights Orders.
"…It looks like we may become the next owner."
"Wow, that’s such a big news! What about the Goryeo Knights Order?"
"Uh-huh. Still with Goryeo this and that… Let’s not talk about a Knights Order that’s been abandoned behind, eh? Ahahaha." (TL: author made another pun-based joke here. Goryeo used to be a name of a Korean kingdom founded over one thousand years ago. However, he used the term "goryeojahng" which means leaving one’s aged parents behind in a pit to die. Hence, my attempt at trying to save this joke. Which was not funny to begin with…)
The two female Hunters grabbed their tummies and began guffawing loudly at his lame wordplay. And feeling even more confident than before thanks to their laughter, Oh Dae-Soo straightened his shoulders a bit more.
"By the way, how did you accomplish that? I heard that guy Kim Sae-Jin is really famous for being picky. I also heard that the Vice Masters who got promptly turned away already number four or five."
"You’re right. He’s one difficult customer, that one. My dad had to work real hard to make this thing happen. He even had to stoop low to associate himself with a bottom-feeder employee of an armoury, someone he’d never even bother to take a glance at… Fuu. Let’s just end this talk here, shall we?"
As if to show that he was distressed by his father’s humiliation, Dae-Soo briefly paused his words there.
"However. Thanks to my dad’s unceasing toil and hard work, the owner of the third Athany will be us. We’ve indeed brushed aside the Orders Sochung, Genesis and Goryeo, you see?"
Oh Dae-Soo further added to that in a proud voice, as if to demonstrate how great his Order’s current status was.
"I knew it~ You’re so amazing, Mister Knight!!"
With that, both girls clung onto him even more, and the smile on Oh Dae-Soo’s face grew so wide it might have poked the heavens above.
He even thought, Oh, this is so much fun!! I hope that a Monster shows up soon so I can display my great skills!!
And Oh Dae-Soo’s wish was granted not too long after.
"Uh! Look over there, an Orc!"
One of the female Hunters pointed to the hill visible past the bush and shouted.
"Oh. It’s an Orc Jaguar."
He made a guess that an Orc found in the low Mid Tier hunting ground could only be a measly Jaguar. Oh Dae-Soo stepped forward, full of confidence. The pair of female Hunters followed him too, without showing any worries whatsoever.
Even though his reputation wasn’t so good, but still, Oh Dae-Soo was a Mid Tier Knight who passed the required exams of The Eden. There was just no way he’d lose to an Orc in the low Mid Tier hunting ground…
"Hey, you bastard!!"
Oh Dae-Soo took great strides and shouted. Only then, the Orc turned around to face him.
And when their eyes met, all three in the hunting party froze where they stood.
The appearance of this particular Orc was…. somewhat strange.
Its height was nearly 3 metres tall; the muscles on its body were far more sinister than its brethren’s; it was covered in blood from head to toe, and on one of its hands, it held a menacing mace.
That was the unmistakable appearance of a battle-hardened warrior; even though it was standing over there looking at them, its overwhelming spirit still traveled to where they were.
"…Maybe it’s better for us to run."
One of the two female Hunters swallowed her saliva and spoke.
"I, I also think so, too."
The other female Hunter cautiously agreed as well.
Everyone in this party was thinking the same thing.
That was not a normal Orc. There was a heavy pressure comparable to an Ogre bearing down on them emanating from the creature, and from those pair of brightly burning eyes, they could sense the majestic aura of a heroic warrior.
So, how can any one of them call it a measly Orc now?
"…No. All you guys have to do is to hide behind me. I’ll take care of everythi…."
However, when the prideful Oh Dae-Soo unsheathed his sword in a show of useless and reckless boldness….
*SFX for a very loud roaring of an Orc*
The Orc roared out in anger and slammed its mace down on the ground.
The shock wave from that terrifying attack caused the earth to rip apart like quivering snakes.
< 15. A Doubt, An Endeavor (2) > Fin.
(TL: Okay, here's the two extra chapters for today. Aaaand, here's also the announcements I wish to make. Don't worry, I'm not dropping this novel or anything like that…)
(TL: I've received enough donations for six chapters, but quite frankly… I couldn't make it. So, the remaining two chapters will arrive in… Well, it should be on the following Saturday, then. However, I'm also seriously thinking about releasing a chapter on Tuesday and on Thursday instead. I'll sleep on it and decide later.)
(TL: Which leads to the real reason for this "little" TL notes here. Until now, I've set the extra chapter sponsor amount at $35, naively believing that I'd receive enough for maybe one or two extra chapters per weekend. How wrong I was.)
(TL: Of course, I am deeply grateful for all of you who have donated so far, and some who still donate regularly. You guys are just amazing. Thank you.)
(TL: After consulting with literally three people, I've decided to raise the sponsor amount somewhat, to prevent myself from getting burnt out. The new amount is $50. Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot, but the idea is, when I'd receive enough for four extra chapters when it was 35, with 50 I'd have to do three instead, which should be less taxing for me. Same thing, when instead of six, I'd only need to do four chapters. Like this weekend.)
(TL: To all those generous sponsors who donated on last Friday – the donation cut-off time for the week is on midnight Thursday, GMT – your chapters will land on this week Saturday. Again, thank you for your kindness. Means a lot.)
(TL: Well then, thank you for reading this needlessly lengthy TL note. See you tomorrow for Monday's regular chapter.)