A Monster Who Levels Up
With Kim Sae-Jin riding shotgun, Yu Sae-Jung drove the car by herself to the restaurant located within the city limits of Gangwon Province. (TL: The name of the city isn’t specified in the raw.)
She drove quickly for 10 minutes, before arriving at their destination.
"Oh. You’re pretty good at driving."
Her skills behind the wheel, whether it was driving or parking, was so perfect it made him exclaim out in admiration. Honestly speaking, at first, he got so nervous, he had to pull the seat belt as tightly as possible…
"Obviously. I’m good at everything, you know."
What she said could’ve been seen as a jinx, but he couldn’t help but find her brightly-smiling face simply endearing.
She got off the car first, then hurriedly walked over to the passenger side and opened the door for him. Sae-Jin chuckled slightly as he exited the car, thinking, isn’t a man supposed to do that for a lady instead?
And so, the two of them approached the restaurant’s entrance.
Yu Sae-Jung continuously searched for the right opportunity to link their arms together, but simply couldn’t work up the courage to go for it.
And so, her body continued to flinch this way and that while still searching for that right timing - but, before that could happen, the Maître D’ had already approached them. Feeling genuinely bummed out, she began to resent the waiter in her mind.
"Have you made reservations?"
"Yes, yesterday. Under ‘Yu Sae-Jung’, for two."
The restaurant she had made reservations with, the "Dinner In Angel", was so famous for its wonderful flavour and classy atmosphere, it operated on the reservation basis only. As far as Sae-Jin knew, a regular Joe would have to make a reservation a month in advance for his spot - that’s how famous it was. (TL: that’s the name of the restaurant in the raw. I didn’t mess it up.)
"Of course. Please follow me."
Sae-Jin and Yu Sae-Jung followed the Maître D’s guidance and entered the restaurant’s interior.
The melody of a classical music number gently floated in the air; one could tell that the décor was very expensive, even at a casual glance. And the patrons here were all someone Sae-Jin thought he might recognize from somewhere.
His facial expression became slightly stunned as he discovered celebrities he saw often in TV shows, as well as famous Knights and Wizards here.
"This is your reserved table."
The place they were guided to - the table Yu Sae-Jung had reserved - was located in the best spot next to the windows where one could see the panoramic view of the cityscape below.
Kim Sae-Jin still felt out of place in such a luxurious restaurant, but as expected of a gold spoon, Yu Sae-Jung was just fine. She placed her order in a relaxed manner and then shifted her gaze towards Sae-Jin, who was still scanning the other diners around them.
"It’s going to taste great."
As she spoke, a brilliant smile was spreading on her face.
"I think so, too."
Shortly after, their food arrived. Their meal started off with soup, then moved onto tiny little steaks, followed by slightly bigger steaks, etc, etc.
They chatted away while savouring the food.
Even though Sae-Jin spoke about things that just randomly popped into his head, the big smile on Yu Sae-Jung’s face showed no sign of disappearing. At one point, she even laughed out too loudly and drew in the attention of the surroundings.
And so, over 40 minutes had gone past; the meal came to an end just as Sae-Jin was beginning to feel nervous about the time idling away.
"Let’s get going."
He got up from his seat first. Yu Sae-Jung also got up, but her expression was somewhat regretful at the same time. Right away, Sae-Jin q
uickly ran towards the counter. He was trying to pay for the meal, but unfortunately for him, there was no need to do that in the first place.
"This restaurant is owned by the Dawn Corporation, and as such, Miss Yu Sae-Jung and her fellow patron is exempt from paying." (Waiter)
"…Oh. Is that right?"
As Sae-Jin blankly nodded his head, a sonorous voice could be heard from his back.
"Did you hear that? Maybe Oppa got too used to it and keeps on forgetting it, but I am that kind of a woman, you know~."
She puffed her chest out and tried to sound imposing and all.
It was then, the expression of the waiter behind the counter became a little strange. Obviously, it was not her first time dining in this restaurant. She had brought along other Knights from the Dawn Order, saying they were her colleagues and stuff like that.
But her expressions now and back then were completely on the opposite side of the spectrum. It was enough to make the waiter wonder if she was the same person or not.
She did not smile at all back then, ditto for the coy facial expression.
Her rigid lips were only used for consuming her food, and it was quite obvious from her expressions just how much she wanted to go home as soon as possible.
‘…Is she flirting with him?’
That notion sounded totally nonsensical. Just what would make Yu Sae-Jung flirt like that with another person?
Of course, the waiter knew the guy next to her as he’d heard and saw him before.
Although he hadn’t yet made an official appearance on TV, but still, he was a man the attentions of the public was focused on, as evidenced by his name being mentioned at least once every day in every television programme there was, even including those variety shows.
‘But they do look good together.’
The waiter silently stared at the departing backs of Sae-Jin and Yu Sae-Jung while feeling a sense of emptiness.
"Oppa, um, since there’s some time left, so… how about we catch a movie?"
As they stepped out of the restaurant, Yu Sae-Jung carefully asked him.
"Uh? Oh… That…. I, uh, I’m not really into movies."
He replied while scratching the back of his neck. Movies… Well, he never really had any luck with such leisure activities before but ever since his Trait awakened, it had become totally impossible now.
"Ah, if that’s the case, then what about those machines where you win plush toys? There are loads of them around here."
She walked alongside him and tried to lead him towards the ‘next’ thing. She really didn’t want to end today’s meeting with only a single lunch together.
However, his situation didn’t permit that.
"Even that is, still…."
"T, then, why don’t we go to a cafe and just talk? You see, after today, we won’t be able to see each other for a few weeks… You heard, right? The order for the emergency stand-by."
Anxiety could be heard in Yu Sae-Jung’s voice. But there was nothing he could do. After sighing out deeply, he patted her head and spoke.
"I’m sorry. Let’s just head home for today."
Sae-Jung’s gaze remained directed to the floor without saying a single word for a while.
But that didn’t last for long. As if nothing had happened, she smiled brightly and replied to him in a lively manner.
"Yeah, well. I guess it can’t be helped. By the way, Oppa, you know you missed a big chance today, right?"
She quickly walked towards the car and entered it - but Sae-Jin stood there momentarily after sensing her voice tremble.
He was left utterly frustrated and bitter. The meaning behind the time limit for his Human Form was that he wouldn’t be able to develop a deep relationship with another person. He wasn’t sure since when Yu Sae-Jung developed such feelings for him, but…
"What are you doing? I’ll drive you back to your house."
She lowered the driver’s side window and shouted at him. He trudged to the passenger side and entered the car. Right away, the engine roared into life, and she expertly manoeuvred out of the parking lot.
"…Did you enjoy the food?"
Sae-Jung tried to engage in small talk as if everything was fine, but it was plain to see that she was not okay while sitting behind the wheel. He felt so apologetic towards her, seeing her rigid face with a forced smile on it.
After that day, Sae-Jin immersed himself even deeper in his evolution.
Until the night fell, he really tried pretty much all sorts of things while utilising the Wolf Form, and even resorting to the Forms of the Goblin and Athany.
However, while his evolution seemed so far away still, an official decree for his subjugation was issued. It was called - [The subjugation order for the black-coloured Werewolf found between the low Mid and upper Mid Tier hunting grounds.]
The problem came from the fact that, while he still didn’t kill anyone just like when he was the Demon Orc, his much stronger bestial tendencies ended up causing various psychological issues to his victims.
His Skill ‘Predator’ was active during all Forms but since it was acquired after he became the Werewolf, so naturally, its effects were the strongest when he was in the Wolf Form. On top of that, there were times when he couldn’t properly control his instincts at all…
Jung Eun-Ji, who had suffered the hardest, was still confined to the hospital room and besides her, twenty more Knights were suffering from lighter psychological traumas, which then precipitated the government and the Knights Orders placing a bounty on his head and issue that subjugation decree.
And that’s how, the fame of the Werewolf, once referred to as the Guardian of the Monster field, had been replaced by infamy.
*SFX for claws tearing through stuff*
The lightning-fast claws of the Wolf tore through a Knight’s armour. A shrill scream reverberated throughout the mountain side.
Today’s opponent was a four-men hunting party comprised of Mid Tier Knights from the Raven Order.
As if the members of this team had worked together for long time, their cooperation, individual stamina management, as well as their abilities left nothing to be desired.
But the reality was, there was just too wide a gap of strength between them and the Werewolf, since there were five Branded Goods-level items stored in him via Spiritualisation, currently level B-.
The most significant bit was the last one, ‘Light Refraction’. In a close-quarter battle involving bladed weapons, the one of the most important part was correctly judging the distance between oneself and the enemy. But this ‘Light Refraction’ made the concept of correct distance pretty much irrelevant.
The claws definitely aimed towards the lower torso, but the resulting terrible wound appeared on the upper part; or, the claw swung from a distance would twist around quite strangely before arriving right in front of the target’s nostrils in the blink of an eye.
On top of this, the Wolf’s Claws had leveled up over and over again until they rivaled adamantium in hardness alone. Dealing with each of the slashes from these claws was the same as a brush with death.
And so, these four Knights were swept away by the Wolf’s unconventional attacks. To these Knights ranked around Mid Tier or lower, they just didn’t have much experience in unpredictable battle situations. Sae-Jin in the Wolf Form was just too tall a wall for them to climb.
Sae-Jin fell into a dilemma while seeing the four heavily bleeding Knights grovelling on the ground.
Did he really need to take a human life, or at least cut off a limb or something, to evolve? If that was the case, then… Then…
However, he quickly distanced himself from the fallen Knights and ran.
Kim Sae-Jin was a human, not a Monster.
In the case if the condition for his evolution really required him to take a human life, then he’d never accept it. Because, that act alone would push him further away from being ‘human’.
Sae-Jin, accompanied by Joo Ji-Hyuk, was heading towards a hospital fairly early in the morning.
"You wished to see Miss Jung Eun-Ji? She’s not…" (Nurse)
"My name is Joo Ji-Hyuk. Eun-Ji should feel okay around me. I also got the permission from the Order as well, since I’m here to treat her."
The reason was Jung Eun-Ji.
Even if he couldn’t help it as the Wolf’s instincts had taken over back then, his conscience made him feel responsible after seeing her going through so much for the past month or so. And since his Wolf Form was the cause of her distress, there was a good chance that he also possessed the means to cure her.
"By the way, why Eun-Ji, suddenly….?"
Joo Ji-Hyuk asked carefully as they headed towards one of those single-bed patient rooms.
"Ah, that… I am Miss Eun-Ji’s fan, you see. That’s why I even brought the Goblin’s potion along as well."
Although Jung Eun-Ji was nominally a Knight, she also actively participated in the entertainment industry as well, which meant that she had quite a fan base - so it was not a strange excuse to make.
"Uht, eh? The Goblin, you mean the Goblin Alchemist?"
However, Joo Ji-Hyuk was more interested in the Goblin Alchemist instead of Sae-Jin allegedly being Jung Eun-Ji’s fan.
But that was par for the course, really. Since the Goblin Alchemist was being seen as some sort of religion in the world of potion making by the so-called ‘mud spoon’ Knights as well as regular citizens going through tough financial situations.
It was a well known fact that making recovery potions graded upper Mid or High was far more profitable. But disregarding that, he was busy making low Mid grade potions for sale at a low price. Even more, he maintained the rule of one potion per person when selling them.
And so, the Goblin was currently being praised that bordered on reverence as the ideal example of ‘Noblesse Oblige’.
Of course, the reality was slightly different.
The low Mid grade potions he ‘brewed’ wasn’t even a proper potion to begin with. It was actually saliva from the Athany Form. The nature of the moisture within the Athany Form was changed to mimic potions and then was discharged - in other words, it was his spit.
As he could produce over 100 litres of spit a day quite easily, he couldn’t in good conscience sell that with a high price tag, so that was the reason for the low cost. And he only set the rule of one potion per person because he didn’t like those people that acted like scalpers and resold his wares.
"Yes, it is that alchemist."
While he spoke, the elevator had arrived at the top floor already.
< 18. The Vicious Cycle (2) > Fin.
(TL: Hey y’all. Happy belated Thanksgiving for those who observe it, and for the rest – hell yeah it’s Black Friday!!! Shop till you drop!!! Muahahaha…)
(TL: Oh, I almost forgot. Have you checked out JFB’s announcement page yet? That’s right, I’ll be releasing ten chapters of A Monster Who Levels Up, starting with two chapters tomorrow. For now, the sponsored chapters will be entered into the “queue” and will be released after the end of this end-of-year event. Please do look forward to it.)
(TL: the amount left for the third extra chapter that will show up in… well, after the end of the event: $12.)