A Monster Who Levels Up
It was an ordinary afternoon.
And just like any other day, Sae-Jin came to the Monster Store to unload the Monster materials when, out of the blue, the lady government official demanded to see his Hunter Licence.
"Here, please take this newly issued Hunter Licence."
After the official did this and that with the new card, he noticed that there were new and different words from before added to the front of it.
"TheHeavenlyGifted Hunter…? What is this?"
Sae-Jin asked, his head tilting slightly.
"Ah, that is what you call a Title…. It’s just a nice, simplified way to describe your current set of abilities."
"Didn’t you bring in Monster carcasses worth 23 creatures within your first month as a Hunter, Mr. Kim Sae-Jin? Because you satisfied the conditions, a prefix was added to your job description. Overflowing with a great talent, that’s what the title Heavenly Gifted means. It’s really a rare and wonderful Title, you know. You can’t receive it if you’ve been a Hunter for over 6 months, and also, the Knights Orders actually do prefer this Title over the likes of The Seasoned Pro or The Distinguished Individual."(The latter one was something called "관록있는" I’ve no idea what this is, and Google was no help either, so, I made stuff up. Oh well…)
The government official explained with ardent fervor and zeal, but Sae-Jin showed little interest as he lightly nodded his head. After all, this wasn’t a very helpful tale for someone like him who could only maintain his Human Form for 80 minutes a day.
"…Thanks, I guess."
When Sae-Jin turned around to leave, the government official shot up from her seat and lightly held onto his sleeve. As he frowned and stared at the official with questioning eyes, she quickly pushed forward a paper at him while her cheeks reddened in a bashful manner.
"This… Please take a look at this!!"
A government official’s trying to sell me something? Even though Sae-Jin was slightly speechless, he ended up finding the shy female official twisting her body in embarrassment, objectively speaking, rather adorable in his eyes.
There was still… 66 minutes left.
"What am I reading here?"
He asked out aloud as he checked out the writings on the paper. The large words "Public Recruitment for Hunters by Pabaek Knights Order" were written on top, and below that were some fine prints detailing what’s what.
"Pabaek is a government-owned Knights Order with its headquarters located in our neck of the woods, and currently, they are looking to hire capable Hunters. Of course, it’s true that only the ranks of Mid Tier or higher can possibly apply, but…. I’m sure that Mr. Sae-Jin’s Title will receive a favourable consideration in this case! Besides, the plan was to upgrade your ranking to low Mid Tier or higher as soon as Mr. Sae-Jin satisfied the required amount of hunting experience, you see."
To clarify, the widely accepted definition for a low Mid Tier Hunter was "Can hunt a Low Tier Monster if three people with similar skill sets gather". And for a low Mid Tier Knight, it was the exact opposite - "Can deal with more than three Low Tier Monsters at the same time, alone."
That’s why Sae-Jin’s existence was a little, no, very special to the e
yes of this lady official. In most cases, Hunters formed parties of three or more when moving about, yet here was a man that always came in alone, and always left by himself as well.
"Well, are you… interested in taking this opportunity? If you want, it’s possible to apply right here and now. Mr. Sae-Jin will be accepted right away when you submit your application, I’m sure of it! In the past, Hunters with the Title Heavenly Gifted all got scouted by the famous Knights Orders even before they’ve been active for less than a year. Heck, some even went and converted their professions and became Knights in the end, you know!"
She became slightly desperate and her grip on Sae-Jin’s sleeve got a little stronger.
He was going to decline right away, but then, he found it a bit regretful too, looking at the lady official’s round, clear and sparkling eyes. It was a sight of a woman actively pursuing him, something he had never experienced before in his life yet.
A man’s worth was indeed judged by his abilities, thought Sae-Jin. To see a cute woman, a well paid government employee to boot, acting so aggressive like this…. It was indeed a mystical yet somewhat difficult new world for him to tread in. If it weren’t for his Trait of being a "Monster" he wouldn’t even have a chance to do so, but at the same time, he couldn’t really go around boasting his achievements either, precisely because of his condition as a "Monster"…
"…..Is that so?"
When Sae-Jin’s lips wiggled and formed an indecipherable smile, she mistakenly thought the talk was proceeding swimmingly, and so she smiled happily and added a bit more to the sales pitch.
"Yes, of course!! Hehe… By the way, there’s… a favour I’d really, really love to ask you related to this…"
It was right at this moment. Sae-Jin swallowed that mysterious smile back down. His intuition, forcibly cultivated by being subjected to many painful things at a young age, went off like an alarm bell in his head. It said, don’t listen to the rest, just leave as soon as possible.
"So… when you are recruited, please, would you mention my name, Kim Hye-Jin, as the person who recommended you…. What the, wait a second!! Please, just a second!! Mister Sae-Jin!!" (Another Kim?! I’m telling you right now, there are other surnames in Korea, too….)
Before she could finish her sentence, Sae-Jin was already leaving the Monster Store at a walking speed that bordered on a full-on sprint.
Hunting became a lot easier, after his Goblin Form morphed from being what he previously thought of as a useless burden to one of the most valuable assets in a single day. That was all thanks to, of course, the Body Strengthening potion and its effects.
After "doping", the Orc Form now exhibited strength that equalled an Orc Warrior’s. But as Sae-Jin went around with a steel mace bought from the local Monster Store, when it came to the matters of overall destructive power, he could easily overwhelm an Orc Warrior that only knew how to wield a crude weapon.
His doped Grey Wolf Form might have displayed a similar level of increased destructive prowess, but unfortunately, the Wolf’s limbs strengthened so much that he couldn’t fully control the resulting speed boost so, for now, until he got more familiar with the changes, he had to hunt in a form that most resembled a humanoid shape - an Orc.
And the warcry he made just now before the battle, was completely instinctual. When in the middle of the battle, the rabidly-boiling fighting spirit made him feel like he was an invincible warrior from some legends of the distant past, and it became harder to endure the rapidly-mutating madness without roaring out aloud. (Jesus on a pogo stick, this sentence was so choke-a-full of tough Hanja characters my brain actually imploded trying to TL this sh*t up. WTF, indeed.)
But his opponent didn’t respond at all. Par for the course, really. Its entire body made up of bleached bones, this bastard was not much different from a corpse reanimated by a Lich using Mana.
A dull-bladed scimitar collided with a steel mace. There was no need to even confirm the end result. The forest shook violently from the explosion of noise and the shockwave from the collision, while the skull and the scimitar of the Skeleton Soldier were literally blown into smithereens. Standing proudly amidst the broken white bones scattering in the air, an Orc was busy enjoying the wonderful taste of his victory.
[Condition Complete: Required Experience Points Attained]
► Trait Level now increased to 4.
► All Stats rise by 1, and all Stats related to Forms will be adjusted accordingly.
And his happiness could only double while silently observing the message window popping up into his view.
His elation couldn’t last for long, though.
The tall grasses shook, and there were sounds of feet leaving traces on the ground. He had sensed people’s presence nearby.
They weren’t close, but neither could they be described as far, so Sae-Jin quickly assumed his Human Form. His survival depended on it.
In truth, the most dangerous element for Sae-Jin in the Monster field wasn’t Monsters but fellow humans. With the notable exception of Trolls, he could more or less contend with the rest of the Monsters found in this Low Tier hunting ground, but then, there were the existences called the "Knights" whose powers were just too ridiculously beyond the realm of the common sense. One mistake, and if he got spotted by one of them, then it’d be curtains for him, just like that.
That’s why he always maintained all five of his senses at the highest possible state of awareness. The clothings he wore during his Monster Forms were different from when he was in the Human Form, and thankfully, when he changed, the clothes changed along with him like magic, making it possible to pull the ruse off rather splendidly.
"….Huh, it was just a person?"
Just in time, as Sae-Jin was relaxedly reaching down to grab the Mana Stone from the fallen Skeleton’s remains, a party of Hunters emerged from the bushes. This 4-person party carefully studied Sae-Jin’s apparels for a bit before offering greetings when they saw the mace in his hands.
"Ah, hello there!"
Hunters were not "friendly" with Mana, and as a result, their bodies weren’t as powerful, so they couldn’t utilise close-range combat weapons. The only remaining weapon of choice for them was the type of guns that fired Mana bullets. That’s why these Hunters mistook Sae-Jin as a Knight instead. Plus, there was that deafening noise earlier, so they assumed his Knight rank was, at least, a Low Tier.
"Haha, what a coincidence. It’s quite a rare thing to run into other humans in a Monster field, see…."
A guy who seemed to be the leader of the party approached Sae-Jin while carrying a disarming smile. But when Sae-Jin showed no reaction and simply stared back at him, this Hunter promptly produced a business card from his inner pocket and handed it over.
"We’re Hunting Team 1, from the Taereung Knights Order. My name is Kim Ji-Han, a upper Mid Tier ranked Hunter, and these guys are… well, it doesn’t really matter. They are just still young hatchlings, after all." (OMG. Another Kim?! I swear, this author hates other surnames. Has to be it.)
On the face of this rather expensive-looking business card, the letters "Upper Mid Tier" were embroidered in gold ink. It seemed like that a veteran Hunter employed by the Knights Order brought along a bunch of promising eggs on a demonstration hunt for the express purpose of educating the young ‘uns.
"Is that right."
"Yeah, hahaha. These guys here somehow managed to hit the rankings of lower Mid Tier within 2 years, but the fact they are still clueless hatchlings, that haven’t changed at all… Oh, if it’s not much trouble, may I inquire which Knights Order you’re affiliated with…?"
Kim Ji-Han asked in a friendly voice. He figured that making a friendly connection with a Knight would never be a bad thing and only prove advantageous for him in the long run.
Of course, that was only if Sae-Jin was a Knight in the first place.
"…Ah, I think you’re mistaken about something here… I’m not a Knight."
Sae-Jin replied while pocketing the business card.
At the unexpected answer, Kim Ji-Han’s head tilted slightly while carrying a confused expression on his face. Then his gaze drifted towards the scattered remains of the Skeleton Soldier on the ground. To utterly annihilate a Skeleton like this singlehandedly, and to claim he wasn’t a Knight?
"…..So that means…"
"Ah, I’m also a Hunter. Good to make your acquaintance. My rank is a Low Tier."
Ignoring the flabbergasted expression of Kim Ji-Han, Sae-Jin offered his hand for a shake while smiling amiably. Somehow grabbing hold of the offered hand, Kim Ji-Han continued his disbelieving expressions.
"Ah… well, that was a joke… right? Haha, well, your sense of humour is pretty good, I must say. But, you know it’s not permitted, right? A Low Tier Hunter isn’t permitted to hunt in the Low Tier hunting ground alone. I mean, if a Low Tier rank can chase down a Monster alone, then why stay as a Hunter and not become a Knight instead, right? Ahahaha!!"
"Haha… is that so? But it’s the truth."
Sae-Jin could now maintain his Human Form for 90 minutes thanks to his level up just now, but that was still not enough. He quickly pulled out his Hunter licence and showed it to Kim Ji-Han.
"Uh? This is a real Hunter licence…. eh?"
Ji-Han’s eyes and mouth widened as he discovered something incredulous on the card after he examined it back to front.
"The Heavenly Gifted…? Could this be…"
Ji-Han momentarily stopped talking and simply studied the man in front of him. The Heavenly Gifted - this was one of the greatest Titles available among the Hunters, only granted to those who could, within the space of half a year from the beginning of one’s career as a Hunter, kill over 20 Monsters in a month.
Those possessing this Title were all invariably got scouted by the biggest Knights Orders and it was a common occurrence to see many of them switching their profession to that of a Knight instead.
At the back of the licence, there was Sae-Jin’s hunting record, and as expected, it was quite a remarkable thing. Maybe it was all down to the difference in talent. 23 Monsters in a month, and to top it off, all self dismantled and disposed of. This record was so overbearing that, even though Kim Ji-Han knew this guy’s ranking was two tiers lower than his, he found it impossible to say anything about it.
As Kim Ji-Han studied the licence some more, his eyes lit up brightly all of a sudden. He finally noticed the space for "Affiliation" was blank.
Regular Hunters hunted in either one of two ways. One was to form a temporary party with other Hunters, and the other was, like Kim Ji-Han here, to become a Hunter employed by a Knights Order and hunt in a designated team.
But it wasn’t a given that the former was a worse choice than the latter, and that the latter option wasn’t always a better of the two. There were enough Hunters out there choosing the first option simply because they didn’t enjoy being in a strict group environment and all its accompanying rules and regulations, even though they possessed enough skills and abilities to enter a Knights Order.
"You’re not affiliated with anyone yet?!"
"….Ah, yeah. Somehow, it’s like that, but I like moving solo. I’m not thinking of joining anyone."
Sae-Jin was adamant, but Kim Ji-Han thought that he was clearly the latter case. So, with a smile on his face, he presented Sae-Jin with another business card.
This time, it was for the "Taereung" Knights Order.
< 03. A Heavenly Gifted Hunter (1) > Fin.