A Monster Who Levels Up
From the blood-soaked altar, an eerie aura spread out and descended like a darkest, blackest fog, casting a heavy veil on the surroundings.
A certain ritual-type ceremony was occurring in this accursed place.
The purpose of this ceremony was to take the deepest wishes of the gathered few and to turn that into mental energy which then would cause a physical phenomenon.
"Is everything ready?"
A bewitching voice could be heard from the throne located one level higher than the altar located in the middle. The language used was of unknown origin - not English, not Chinese, nor was it Korean.
But her voice was a clear proof of its owner being the next ruler of all Vampires, judging by the way all nine Vampires stopped their preparations and deeply bowed their heads.
"There is no need. Instead, please inform me of the progress made so far."
The benevolent voice spread out like a cold wind. One of the nine Vampires present, with his eyes red and a robe covering his entire body, carefully opened his mouth.
"We’re almost done with the preparations. We’ve found the coordinates of our home world following the wisdom of our Lord, and all that’s left to do is to open the portal with the sacrifices and the accumulated Mana Stones, my Queen."
"..Huhut. Haven’t I told you not to refer to me as a Queen yet? You must stop that immediately."
Unlike her words, she sounded pretty chuffed, however.
"So, then - where will this portal be opened?"
"There are total of three possible locations. The country we’re currently located in, England; the country where ‘Dretoon’ has chosen as their base, China; and Korea, where the old man and the kid are currently residing in. However…."
Vampire with the robe showed signs of hesitation and stopped his words there.
"It’s quite alright. Speak."
"That is… the one with the highest possibility of being the right portal is the one in Korea. It’s probably because there are two Dead Fissures located in the vicinity of such a tiny landmass and so, the probability of our portal connecting there is very high…"
The Vampire suddenly stopped talking here. It was because the wavering aura oozing from the ‘Queen’ sitting atop the throne was becoming quite serious.
The Vampire who spoke just now quickly began prostrating on the floor. But the ‘Queen’ simply sighed out once, and instead of reprimanding him, she encouraged him to continue.
"No, it is quite alright. This is actually for the better. I would have settled our quarrel with the kid sooner or later anyway. Then, let us simply head over to Korea. I trust that you have made the prior preparations already."
"…Pardon? Ah, yes. O, of course."
"Then it’s all good. We shall believe in you and leave the rest to your capable hands."
Only then, the powerful pressure bearing down on the entire altar scattered away like the blowing dust. She was gone. The 9 Vampires present could only breathe out and try to calm their minds.
"It is good that she wasn’t as furious as we feared."
"That is that, but… besides that, what are we going to do? We haven’t even made a single preparation whatsoever…"
A different Vampire asked in frustration.
"…Keum. Just book out a room in a five star hotel, I’m sure she will enjoy that. Our Queen isn’t too knowledgeable of the outside world anyway."
"Huh? But what about the other hotel guests, then?"
"Just say they are her attendants or something. There’s a chance she might be happier this way with the increase in the number of servants since she’d never set foot outside the Ancient Frederik Castle, not even once."
At this nonsensical suggestion, the
other eight Vampires looked at this guy with disbelieving eyes.
"Truly, there will not be any problems. After all, does she not hate being in the same space as the poorer bloodlines? There’s simply no way she’ll run into other hotel guests."
"Enough. Let us stop this discussion here and begin the most important part of our operation."
A certain afternoon of a Summer day with bright sunlight casting down.
Even today, Kim Sae-Jin was diligently hunting in the low Mid Tier hunting ground alone. This was a repeated labour he performed every weekday. Being alone posed no significant problems. With all the Magic Tattoos inscribed on him, as well as the items stored inside with Spiritualisation, he had grown strong enough to defeat a gang of low Mid Tier Monsters by himself.
Sae-Jin spat out the blood of a Monster that had entered his mouth.
His current appearance after massacring seven Monsters was quite a sight to behold.
On his face, streaks of blood he didn’t yet wipe away had solidified, and his armour had become unrecognizable, after being completely repainted with blood, top to bottom.
All this was due to the combat style he naturally developed, one that was born out of the Orc’s rough and unsophisticated instincts. He was massacring Monsters worse than Monsters themselves could, with cruelty and no mercy shown.
While still looking like a blood-thirsty demon when seen from other’s perspective, Sae-Jin started moving his feet.
But after he took only a few steps forward…
Suddenly, a strange vibration could be felt by his senses. Since it was something he couldn’t really fathom, he changed his Form into the Ebony Wolf which possessed far sharper senses.
And that’s how he was able to pick up the metallic smell so faint, it was close to being undetectable, coming from a great distance away.
And it was a somewhat familiar smell to boot.
Judging by the variety of smells, looked like there were more than one. The chances of their number being over ten were pretty high.
‘..What’s going on?’
He became greatly curious as to why Vampires were moving in a group, when they were well known to prefer moving around solo - as well as to what that vibration he felt just now could be.
Unfortunately, the distance was just too great. The likely location of where their smell was coming from was over 10 kilometres away, judging from how faint it was even with his olfactory sense deployed to the absolute maximum.
"…Way too far."
Changing back to the Human Form, Sae-Jin’s brows narrowed. He thought about returning home and ignore this, but he still felt quite uneasy. The mere fact of those Vampires moving around in a group meant that they were busy doing something definitely dubious over there.
‘Well, since I can’t be sure, I should call someo… Hmm?’
After deliberating for a while, Sae-Jin pulled his phone out from the pocket and then…
All of a sudden, the smell of Vampires disappeared.
At the same time, a powerful shock wave coming to life from out of nowhere thundered across the horizon.
A stupendously loud noise that ripped the skies asunder; the vibration that shook the earth; no, this wasn’t some measly vibration at all.
The earth’s crust itself was undergoing a transformation.
When the flat piece of ground he was standing on began rising up sharply, Sae-Jin rapidly assumed a Monster Form.
Normally, a Monster field referred to areas that fell under the influences of a Dead Fissure. A Dead Fissure referred to a Fissure that was ‘dead’, meaning it did not expand any further but still continue to produce Monsters from within.
However, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon…
A Dead Fissure ‘suddenly generated’ on the boundaries between the Monster field of Gangwon Province and the adjoining North Gyeongsang Province. (TL: "경상북도")
And the result was… the earth’s crust was twisted apart by the distortion caused by the Dead Fissure’s appearance, and a portion of the North Gyeongsang Province had become a new, uncategorized Monster field.
As this was quite possibly the worst catastrophe to befall this country ever since its inception, the government immediately declared a state of national emergency.
Unfortunately, even though all the Knights residing in the neighbouring Gangwon Province sprang to action almost immediately, the casualties numbered in the thousands, and the damage to property was thought to be truly astronomical.
And what made the matters even worse was that the scale of the destruction was still increasing even now.
That was why a cold tempest wind that contradicted the hot Summer weather was blowing within the halls of the Special Investigation Division, the folks entrusted with preventing such disasters from occurring in the first place.
"That is… Mister President has summoned you to the Blue House…"
Yu Baek-Song sighed out grandly after hearing her subordinate. She was busy alternating her attention between the various reports coming in from the affected areas and the live news broadcast on the television.
On top of the desk belonging to Yu Baek-Song, who was busy massaging her temples while her forehead was deeply creased, was a single notebook. It was the only method of communication with the Mercenary Lycan. But there hadn’t been a single reply from him appearing on this mysterious notebook for quite a while now.
"Hmph. It seems that chaos is breaking out even in the President’s office. Then, I’ll be on my way."
Yu Baek-Song deliberately tried to speak in a relaxed manner, but it was incredibly difficult for Soo-ins to hide their true emotions. Her pure white tiger ears atop her head that usually stood up straight, were drooping down low, demonstrating how upset she really was.
"Make sure to take care of things during my absence."
The subordinates present all looked on at the sight of Yu Baek-Song’s petite figure trudging towards her execution ground with pitying eyes.
And precisely one hour 30 minutes later, she returned even more downcast compared to at the time of leaving. Not only her ears, even her tail had lost all energy.
Still, she declared out in a deliberately energetic expression.
"Call for a press conference. We’re making a public apology to Lycan."
And an unrest quickly developed within the office.
The ‘evidence’ given out by the Lycan while claiming to know everything already, did indeed sound like a proper lead to follow. They even had found a Summoning Stone by accident, after all.
But the issue with the Lycan was just how trustworthy he could possibly be. With only a piece of Mercenary application paper dating back from 20 years ago, and every other scrap of information lost during the decline of the Mercenary profession, there was just not enough info to determine whether his achievements and abilities were real or not.
"But, there will be a lot of problems…"
"The President gave his go-ahead already. I’m sure we’ll be criticised by one or two Minority Races Rights groups, but by applying the laws regulating Mercenaries, there should be no problems, legally speaking. And also… since we know that this isn’t a natural phenomena, we need to grab hold onto any straws we can find."
Yu Baek-Song’s decision was unchangeable.
Since it was impossible for a White Tiger, famed for its inflexible ego, to apologise just because of some external pressure, it could only mean that even herself had made up her mind well beforehand.
And such a determination would not be changed easily, so her subordinates didn’t speak any further and simply did as they were told.
At the same time Yu Baek-Song had made up her mind.
Kim Sae-Jin was lost.
The sudden twisting of the land caused the previously-nice-to-walk trails to become a difficult mountainous terrain, and the banks of stream had now changed into a steep cliff…
And to compound his misery, he had to assume the Orc Great Warrior Form which he had been avoiding using until now, all thanks to encountering three upper Mid Tier Monsters. It seemed that there was a problem with the machines separating Monsters by their Tiers.
‘…Imma go crazy here.’
That was not the end, though. On top of all this misfortune, unexpected leeches had appeared.
"Right now, the Raven Knights Orders has been deployed near here."
The leeches were the group of survivors busy following behind him like a row of baby ducks.
About an hour ago. After defeating a upper Mid Tier Monster called ‘Bladed Ghost’ with some difficulty, a group of three survivors had approached him before he knew it and stared at him with doe-like eyes, full of hope.
They probably wanted to rely on the ‘beautiful’ fame of the Demon, no, the Hero Orc that everyone had heard of.
‘Should I have left them then?’
Back then, he thought they might die if left alone, and since they didn’t say anything before following him so he let them be, but now…
"Whew-oo. What a relief…"
"It’s all thanks to that Orc, isn’t it."
"Indeed. But compared to what I’ve seen on TV, his beard and his hair has become much longer now. It’s all shiny and stuff. It’s really awesome-looking."
And as he walked westward after thinking there might be an exit there, he continued to ‘pick up’ more survivors and before long, three had ballooned to 13.
9 of them were Hunters, while the rest four were Knights.
He entertained the idea of leaving it all to the Knights but from what he could overhear, they were at most low Mid Tiers. They wouldn’t be much of a help in this place where only the Monsters classified Mid to upper Mid Tier continued to pop out.
"Hmm… Will it be alright to take a photo of his back? He’s pretty sexy for a Monster, you know."
"…Huh. What the heck are you even saying right now when our lives are still hanging in the balance? Please don’t do anything that might agitate the Orc."
While hearing that conversation, Sae-Jin sighed out inwardly.
It was then, suddenly his intuition rang the alarm bell.
Fortunately, there was only one movement. No, it was just one person moving.
"Something’s coming!! Get your weapons ready!!"
A Knight who also sensed the movement shouted out loudly.
*SFX for sound of light footsteps*
Following the sounds of light footsteps…
….A lone female Knight revealed herself from behind the thicket. It was Kim Yu-Rin.
And when Kim Sae-Jin saw her, with her body covered in vegetation and Monster blood, his heart nearly jumped out of his mouth.
< 19. The Dead Ball (1) > Fin.
(TL: 2/10 of the scheduled chapters)