A Monster Who Levels Up
(This extra chapter is brought to you by these explorers of the great unknown: Keneth P. Fiennes, Jared S. Fiennes, Koolpin Fiennes, Julien H. Fiennes, Dale B. Fiennes, Robert R. Fiennes, Justin C. Fiennes, and Zain Z. Fiennes. Thank you for your support!!)
(Also, 100 Internet Points for those who got the reference first!!)
He didn’t even have the time to check the new skill out.
As soon as he evolved into the Orc Great Warrior, the Warrior of Reversal got activated once more. Right away, his stamina that had hit rock bottom rose up again like the rising dragon uppercut, and an unbearable strength spread throughout his body.
The Orc let out a roar that could rip the world apart; and then, he powerfully slammed his mace against the empty air.
The shock wave spreading out from the air formed a crescent moon shape and turned every Monster coming in contact into smithereens. As expected, the power on display was on another level compared to that of the Orc Jaguar.
And with that single attack, the Monsters inundating his front got completely wiped out.
Of course, there was still one creature left here.
The Orc spat out rough breaths and turned around.
The Manticore had stepped back and was surveying the situation after the Orc’s vigour went a sudden reversal - as if it was studying the scene, with its tentacle-like tail swaying gently back and forth.
Unfortunately for the Monster, the Orc’s instincts would not allow for such an easy-going attitude.
The Orc rushed towards the Manticore as his feet crushed the tiles of the bank’s floor underfoot. The incredible turn of speed displayed by the creature did not match up with its huge, muscular body.
There was simply no time for the Manticore to take an evasive action; it could only stare at the approaching mace wielded by the Orc helplessly.
That was the final, final strike. An attack with every ounce of power squeezed out of the Orc separated the head of the Manticore from its body cleanly.
And after it lost its head, the Manticore’s sticky blood sprayed on the floor.
The only thing remaining afterwards was silence.
The overflowing aura of danger oozing from the Orc Great Warrior scared away the lower Tiered Monsters from getting near it, and thanks to that, the bank could somehow enjoy a lengthy bout of quiet stillness that was obviously contrary to the severe emergency situation on the outside.
Unfortunately, though, Sae-Jin’s own situation wasn’t so stable at the moment.
‘…Damn it, the bleeding won’t stop.’
Breathing with some difficulty, Sae-Jin stumbled around for a moment or two while enduring the aftereffects and then began to move his feet. As the dazed eyes of the bank’s customers followed him, he trudged out of the bank altogether.
Was it because he had used the ‘Warrior of Reversal’ twice, as well as abused ‘Fierce Strike’ quite a lot? His consciousness was getting sleepier by the second and his sights were blurring rapidly. Even still, he searched for a deserted area. If he ended up passing out like this, then everything he had built up until now would be gone. He could never allow that to happen…
He desperately walked on and on until he found a partially destroyed building. He quickly hid among the rubble and once more, made sure there were no eyes around him. Fortunately, there were none but even if there were, his time had run out anyway.
He then assumed the Ebony Wolf Form for the first time in a long while and activated ‘Whirlwind Dash’. Like a black lightning, the Wolf sped along quickly towards the safety of his own house.
The way this event unfolded was quite similar to how the Monster Outbreak that oc
curred in Seoul half a year ago played out.
But there was one crucial difference. The conclusion from the investigation to the cause of this disturbance was that there was not a single trace of a Fissure to be found anywhere.
There were two ways Monsters could end up attacking a city.
One was where a Fissure opened up near a settlement and the countless Monsters contained within poured out like a hailstorm. The other possibility was that some ‘wild’ Monsters aimlessly wandering outside the Monster field somehow evaded the patrols and walked into a nearby city.
Since there was no Fissure, the former option had to be dismissed. But there were just too many Monsters in this event to say the latter option was the cause. And so, the government, as well as the UN investigators, could not even begin to grasp the potential reason for this incident.
On top of that, another unfortunate thing happened. A truly destructive piece of news was broadcast that caused much consternation among the so-called experts, while at the same time, it caused much fanfare from the general public.
– This is the footage captured by the CCTV cameras of the Demon Orc. The Orc swings its mace around and kills countless other Monsters, and it’s as if the creature is trying to protect the people trapped inside the bank. And the following footage is taken from a male student’s mobile phone who was also trapped within the same bank. It shows the development of the situation more clearly.
The Demon Orc that made so many Knights taste defeat in the Monster field, had now become the ‘Hero’ Orc that protected many people from other Monsters. Some people even jokingly suggested nonsense like the Orc should be awarded with a medal or some such.
– Hahaha. We’ve already received real-time requests to correct the term we used, the ‘Demon’ Orc. We’d like to sincerely apologise. We shall change it to the ‘Hero’ Orc from now on. By the way, by calling it the ‘Hero’ Orc, does it not evoke the feeling of a video game or a legendary tale of the distant past?
– Indeed, hahaha. It does feel that way. But what’s really interesting is that, with the arrival of this ‘Hero’ Orc, even the way people call the Orc Blacksmith has gone through a certain change as well. Like, the Two Orcs that help the humanity or something like that.
Almost all the TV channels were talking about the stories related to the Orc. Not only the TV stations, even the internet, the SNS, etc, etc were also dominated by it.
"That’s so mysterious. Judging from the footage, that Orc’s beard and the hair was really long so, most likely it has grown past the level of a Jaguar now. There must be something really special about that guy… Gosh, I wanna meet him at least once."
Even Hazeline was the same, while sitting by Sae-Jin’s bedside and leisurely enjoying a tangerine.
"That Orc… Kkheung… You differentiate Orcs by their hair style? I thought that was only for Lichs."
Sae-Jin’s brows tightened from the pain coming from his sides whenever he tried to speak. However, Hazeline didn’t even spare him who was suffering in agony a single glance; she replied while only paying attention towards the TV on the wall.
"Of course. Mister Sae-Jin, you’ve never seen a real Orc Great Warrior before, haven’t you? You have no idea how cool they are in reality. Lengthy beards, long hair tied at the back; the hair and the beard symbolises the level of experience and strength for Orcs."
"I didn’t know that. By the way… are you sure you used a potion that I’ve made? This… the pain doesn’t seem to be lessening at all?!"
Sae-Jin moaned in pain as he touched his side. Currently, his situation was that, the wounds he suffered during the Orc Great Warrior carried over even to his Human Form.
He couldn’t move freely because of the severity of the wounds, resulting him unable to concoct a potion by himself and so, he came up with a hasty excuse and asked Hazeline to send him one, instead.
However, he wasn’t expecting to see Hazeline herself show up rather than some gopher.
"Well, of course. You said you got struck by a Spartoi? A wound from the Spartoi’s bone sword is difficult to treat, so it can’t be helped, you know. So, please endure for now. Nyam."
Hazeline continuously ate tangerine pieces one at a time even while speaking her words. Chew~chew. Those cute and smooth lips bobbed up and down rather adorably.
"…I think it’s fine for you to go now, you know?"
Sae-Jin muttered in disbelief after watching her act like this. It had been almost 30 minutes since she showed up. And so far, she had already consumed more than 20 tangerines without a break. He was really grateful for her bringing the potion, but… he didn’t have a lot of time left.
…And his tangerine stock was running out, too.
"Mm? No, it’s alright. Not sure why, but being here puts my mind at ease… Nyam."
He was about to say something, but Sae-Jin stopped for a moment or two. Maybe because she was an Elf, although she was simply eating tangerine, the whole scene looked like it was straight out of some famous painting or some such.
"NyamNam." (TL: in case if you’re wondering what this is, it’s a literal TL of Korean onomatopoeia, the overtly cute-ish sound made by girls and children when eating something delicious.)
Besides the weird noise leaking out of her mouth, that was.
"…Please, just get going already, would you? It’s getting late, you know?"
Another five minutes went by while he observed her obsession with the fruit called tangerine. So, Sae-Jin pleaded with her again.
"No, it’s fine. I don’t have much to do today anyways. Because of all the chaos, looks like the Alchemy House will go on a break too… While I’m here, my mind really feels so comfortable."
At her relaxed reply, Sae-Jin’s brows twitched automatically. How come she was acting so dense right now?
"If you feel that uncomfortable, I will get going in around 30 minutes."
Sae-Jin quickly confirmed the remaining time for himself. There was just over 2 hours and 23 minutes. Since there was some wiggle room here, he relaxed a bit and gently lied down on the bed.
And exactly 30 minutes later, Hazeline did leave while saying, "Get well soon, okay~?"
As the experts had feared, this incident with the Monsters was not a one-off thing. From all corners of the country, small to mid scale attacks involving Monsters broke out dozens of times a day. In the end, the Korean government declared a temporary state of emergency throughout the entire country and at the same time, ordered all the Knights Orders to be in state of readiness.
However - the focus of the public was directed elsewhere, regardless of whether there was a state of emergency declared or not. And that was the topic of the so-called ‘Good’ Monsters.
The public was going crazy with excitement at the ‘Demon’ Orc that had appeared during the chaos, rescued people and then abruptly disappeared from the scene. It was the same story around the world as well.
SNS and community chat rooms were focused only on delivering any new news stories related to this ‘Hero’ Orc. And serious discussions regarding the topics of ‘if Monsters could be tamed’, or ‘Monsters that can possibly communicate with people’ with the ‘Demon/Hero’ Orc as the main subject took place among the academic circles.
‘What the hell are these…’
However, despite these hot reactions, the man responsible was just feeling dumbfounded at the moment. He bitterly chuckled as he read the news articles and comments sections full of people praising the Orc.
Someone knocked on his door. Sae-Jin put his mobile phone down and said, "Come in". Jo Hahn-Sung walked in with an armful of documents in tow.
"What is it?"
"These are purchase request forms for the Athany doll version 2.0. As a result of expanding the scope of operations worldwide as ordered by you, the Chairman, we’ve received requests from hundreds of Knights Orders located throughout the globe. Even if we schedule meetings right away, at least a month is ne…."
"Ah, that. Please, you should take care of that matter, Mister Hahn-Sung. You are the Chief of the marketing department, after all."
Jo Hahn-Sung initially thought he heard wrong.
Nowadays, as a simple merchandise, one Athany doll would go for several tens of millions of dollars. But when taking into consideration whether a Knights Order owned an Athany doll or not affected the prestige of the said Order, then the real value of that doll was truly astronomical.
Seriously, even the Korean government’s Foreign Relations Office ended up sending a half-a-favour, half-threatening request, asking for an Athany doll to be sold to them in order to use it as a tool for diplomacy between nations. An Athany diplomacy, as they had put it.
So, just why would the Chairman give such an important business matter to a mere former deputy of a marketing department like himself?
"Oh, by the way, Mister Hahn-Sung. Please take a seat over there."
"Oh, yes. Yes, of course."
Jo Hahn-Sung was still in a somewhat dazed state, but he somehow walked towards the front of Sae-Jin and sat down on his opposite side. The pleasant scent coming off Sae-Jin helped in relaxing his mind a little.
"Correct me if I’m wrong, but the highest academic degree you’ve earned is a doctorate in the Monster Anthropology, yes?"
"Yes. I also earned a Bachelor’s in Economics as well."
"Mm. That’s good. And that is why…"
Sae-Jin scratched the back of his neck and hesitated a little. His expression was whether he should openly discuss this matter or not.
"…Well, here’s the thing. In your opinion, how would the public, the media and the government react when, hypothetically speaking, it’s announced that a Monster has been tamed?"
Jo Hahn-Sung tilted his head in confusion. Since what he heard was so outrageous, he thought it must’ve been a joke. However, Sae-Jin’s face showed he was dead serious.
"S, so, you’re saying you can actually communicate with Monsters, is that what you’re saying?!"
"…Well, yeah. It’s something like that. You can think of it as one of my Skills."
Sae-Jin spoke up to here and entered the elevator, which prompted Jo Hahn-Sung to hurriedly follow him while still carrying a confused expression.
"But just how did you tame a Griffin? It’s famous as a unruly and vicious creature, after all."
"I found an egg by accident, so I began brainwashing it since it hatched. With my Skill, I can use a bit of power of coercion as well, you see."
The elevator soon arrived on the rooftop.
The layout of the roof on the Society’s HQ was peculiar. There was no roof so the sky was visible, but all the sides were blocked by opaque glasses that made it impossible to look inwardly from the outside.
It was the result of the construction work that started a week ago, but to think, it was all for a Griffin…
Jo Hahn-Sung ended up gulping down his saliva.
"It’s over there. It’s living in that cave-like structure."
Sae-Jin spoke as he pointed towards the section of the roof that was shaped into a deep and dark artificial cave. Seeing that, a sigh involuntarily escaped his lips, just remembering how troublesome it was to move that creature over here…
"In all honesty, I was planning to keep it a secret for a while longer. But coincidentally, the topic of taming Monsters is doing the rounds thanks to the incident with that Orc. Since the timing seemed right, and also, if I don’t take this chance, it somehow feels like there will never be another one in the future…"
Sae-Jin stopped talking here and whistled. Then, there was a strange vibration coming out from the cave.
Jo Hahn-Sung hastily took a step back.
Completely disregarding that, the vibration coming from the cave intensified - until, finally…
A single Griffin revealed its beautiful appearance.
The beautiful and tidy white fur on its head imparting the impression of a nobility and the sturdy, powerfully built body of a lion - without a doubt, that mysterious being was a Griffin, a creature rarely spotted even in the wilderness…
Jo Hahn-Sung’s brain stopped working then.
"It’s pretty docile, actually. Its name is ‘Muffin’. I took the last two syllables off ‘Griffin’ but ‘Riffin’ sounded a bit lacking, so…"
Kim Sae-Jin left behind Jo Hahn-Sung whose entire thought process had grinded to a halt, and approached Muffin. While gently patting its head, he began sending more ‘thought orders’ to the creature.
‘Humans are your friends. Jo Hahn-Sung is a human. So, Jo Hahn-Sung is your friend.’
"Would you like to touch it?"
Sae-Jin secured the safety measures just in case, and then called for Jo Hahn-Sung.
In that moment, Hahn-Sung felt goosebumps exploding on his skin out of sheer shock. But then, the dedication of a scholar he had to bury deep in his heart reacted first. That something within him, that instinct he had to abandon in order to get a job and to survive in this world, made his legs move.
Before he realised it himself, Hahn-Sung had walked to the place right in front of the Griffin and was carefully reaching his hand out.
Muffin didn’t even show a hint of hostility at all. It just had its eyes closed, quietly accepting the arrival of a new person.
And that’s how he succeeded in brushing the head of a Griffin. It was unbelievably soft.
"…How is it? It’s amazing, right?"
"Yes. It, it truly is."
Kim Sae-Jin smiled in satisfaction. He was actually looking for someone to share the responsibilities of looking after the Griffin. And now, the perfect person for the job was right here.
"T… that’s it. Nice and easy."
In the eyes of Jo Hahn-Sung who was busy stroking the Griffin, flames of strong desire lit up.
"Mister Jo Hahn-Sung. Since it has come to this, how about taking on the role of the Chief of the Monster Research department as well? I will double your monthly salary. If you want, I am prepared to offer you more."
Sae-Jin’s smile resembled that of a devil’s. But to Jo Hahn-Sung’s point of view, that smile sure looked like that of an angel’s.
After Sae-Jin had left.
Jo Hahn-Sung, with his chest full of determination to take care of Muffin’s…
‘Huh? Where did it go?’
"Mm? What is it, Muffin?"
When Hahn-Sung called out, Muffin revealed itself again. This time, though, there was a ball between its beaks.
"You want to play?"
Hahn-Sung smiled and reached out for the ball. However, Muffin chucked the ball to a corner, and then…
Muffin stretched its wings wide open and began threatening Jo Hahn-Sung. Its appearance had gone a complete 180 from when Sae-Jin was here.
"…But, but, why?"
Muffin continued to point at the ball with one of her front limbs and threatened him. He understood just a bit what she wanted from him, so he hurriedly ran over to the ball and brought it back to her. (TL: yep, Muffin is a female.)
As she was satisfied by that, Muffin bestowed the privilege of stroking her head one more time to Hahn-Sung while carrying a purely evil grin.
"R, right…. There, there."
Unfortunately for him, that was not the end. She then picked the ball up again, and this time, she threw it a little bit further - outside the roof altogether.
The ball drew a gentle arc as it flew outside the roof of the Society’s HQ, and landed somewhere on the grasslands near the building. And as Jo Hahn-Sung stood there in daze with his mouth agape at this needlessly cruel act, Muffin slowly approached him and then…
She expanded her wings again and loudly spat out a cry that said… Hurry up!!
< 17. The Omen (2) > Fin.