A Monster Who Levels Up
"If Miss Kim Yu-Rin joins our Society, then, well - I may end up reviewing the case with a far more open mind."
Inside the newly constructed office of the Chairman of The Monster, located in their central headquarters.
Sae-Jin was having a business-related meeting with Kim Yu-Rin.
"That is… I’d also love to join you. But I am unable to stay as long as the duration you have put forward. I believe that it will be better to not cause an inconvenience by breaking the rule of ’10 years or longer’. That is why I ask of your gracious understanding on this matter…."
Yu-Rin came over to speak to him personally regarding two business matters this day.
One was to find out the current state of things regarding the Athany doll version 2.0, which, under the pretext of checking out the technical capabilities of the potential buyers, still hadn’t found a home yet. The other was to purchase a certain artifact now available in the Society’s new Artifact store.
The artifact in question was an obsidian bracelet called [Wolf’s Claws.]
In addition to enhancing the overall power of its wearer, this mysterious artifact had an on/off hidden function that, when activated, would transform into a gauntlet that covered the entire hand.
As its name suggested, it was truly an item that morphed into the so-called ‘Wolf’s Claws’.
Although this artifact had a seemingly ridiculous price tag of over $17 million US, in truth, it was not as expensive as one might think since an artifact designed for combat would be rotated among the Knights through a ‘hiring’ system.
Plus, with its already-proven effects of enhancing the wearer’s strength and endurance by nearly 30%, as well as the warranty period of 30 years added on top, it was not an exaggeration to say the price was on the low side if one considered the guaranteed profit made with it - not to mention the protection offered by equipping this bracelet as well.
"In that case, I guess it can’t be helped, but… But please, do consider it some more. Our doors will always remain open for you."
He licked his lips at this missed opportunity.
Sae-Jin had this one more plan he wanted to carry out. And that plan was to buy a bit more land near the Monster field in Gangwon Province to expand the boundaries of his Society and then, form a Knights Order of his own which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Society.
Of course, this idea didn’t come out of Sae-Jin’s head but it was the planning department that suggested it instead.
Even though the initial costs involved with the recruitment of manpower, construction of the premises and lobbying the relevant government entities would run into hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention another tens of millions for the annual operating budget alone, Sae-Jin still wanted to pursue this idea to the fullest.
"Uhm… then, is our meeting over?"
When Kim Yu-Rin cautiously inquired, Sae-Jin indifferently replied back.
Her irides began to tremble.
All she got in reply from him regarding the Athany doll version 2.0 was "I’ll think about it". Not only she couldn’t get a definite confirmation, this couldn’t even be called a positive understanding between them. But still, that didn’t mean she could just join his Society now.
"Perhaps it’s time for you to return?"
Actually, Sae-Jin was aiming precisely for this moment. Even if Kim Yu-Rin joined his Society, the chance of her becoming the Order Master of his Knights Order was slimmer than slim. But even with that, she was still the kind of Knight he’d want to have working for him.
"I, I still have something else to say!!" (Kim Yu-Rin)
Kim Yu-Rin hurriedly shouted out when she saw Sae-Jin stand up from his seat t
o seemingly show her way out.
He sat back down on his seat for the time being.
"What would you like to discuss?"
"I’ve heard that The Monster has recently started an entertainment company as well."
"Yes, that is correct."
About a month ago, at the behest of the planning department, Sae-Jin began pursuing a new revenue model - the so-called talent management company.
The planning department strongly suggested for this business venture, as the current members of the Society, besides Yu Sae-Jung and Yi Hye-Rin, were already huge attention drawers themselves. On top of that, he could use the equipment provided as a bait to make other Knights join the company, too.
And only after a month of operation, The Monster Entertainment was going from strength to strength. There was no point in mentioning the two that were practically top stars to begin with - Yu Sae-Jung and Yi Hye-Rin; it was now at the point where the famous celebrities, after being attracted by the halo of The Monster, were inquiring about signing a contract with Sae-Jin’s company.
"I, Kim Yu-Rin, would like to sign up with your company."
"….Oh. Is that so?"
Yu-Rin made this decision with quite a difficulty, yet Sae-Jin’s reaction was lukewarm at best. At that moment, she briefly wondered whether her worth had become insignificant all of a sudden.
"By the way, You should inquire with the related department's head, instead of me, you know." (Kim Sae-Jin)
"…Eh? No, that’s not… Well, I… uh, my appearance fee is $27000 US, per episode…"
"Ah, really? Miss Sae-Jung’s is around $23000, actually. It’s pretty close."
With a sneaky smile on his face, Sae-Jin provoked Yu-Rin.
"Is, is that right? Only a $4000 difference… Ah… However, I have not done much broadcasting work, that is why. So, if you allow me to sign up, then I give you my promise that I will work extra hard and widen the gap between me and Miss Sae-Jung…"
And so, she bit the bait rather beautifully.
The beginning of December, with the first snow still waiting to fall.
As soon as The Monster’s Society ranking rose up from B- to B when the success of its various business ventures were publicly acknowledged, suddenly from seemingly everywhere, several hostile attempts to keep its growth in check came forth.
Petty schemes such as endlessly delaying the issuing of business permits while nitpicking over nothing, issuing fines that ran up to millions of dollars on the grounds of not following the environmental protection laws, and even spreading false rumours of him speculating on real estate prices…
"Judging by the current circumstances, we strongly suspect that several large corporations and Trilogy have joined hands together, but… we can not be 100% certain." (Jo Hahn-Sung)
And so, Sae-Jin ended up creating a dedicated response team. Somehow, he had developed a personality where he could not stand back and accept defeats.
"…Really? I understand. For now, let us wait until we can find more concrete evidence."
But since getting angry was akin to admitting that he had lost, Sae-Jin maintained as much level-headedness as humanly possible.
"But you’re certain that Trilogy is involved?"
"Yes, sir. There is evidence of one of that Society’s directors lobbying the related parties."
It was most likely that Trilogy didn’t care for one bit about their stronghold on the top spot of South Korea’s Society rankings being threatened by anyone.
It was almost understandable as the mass media that loved to pit others for a juicy fight was already comparing the histories of both Trilogy and The Monster side by side so there was that, but still, what that Society had done was quite a dirty and cheap trick.
"Oh, and Mister Chairman, should we submit our Guild registration as well?"
"Yes, of course."
A ‘Guild’. A law proposed half a year ago had went into effect just last week, finally establishing the concept of Guilds officially in the Republic of Korea.
In the layman’s terms, a Guild was the evolved form of a Society. A Society with a Class higher than B was given the chance to advance to a Guild, and after going through three months of complicated testing procedures and proving it can become a Guild without an issue, it would be officially recognised as one.
The First World countries in Western Europe, the United States as well as many other nations had already adopted this system, but Korea was only implementing it now due to several overlapping reasons.
In actual truth, The Monster’s contribution in getting this law enacted belatedly in Korea was great.
The backstory surrounding this law was like this:
The Dawn dynasty, which did not enjoy an amiable relationship with Trilogy for some reason, spent an exorbitant amount of money lobbying against the Guild system. The Dawn had already found Trilogy threatening, yet with the implementation of this system, they knew their enemy’s influence would only strengthen further.
It was then, a new Society co-founded by Yu Sae-Jung called The Monster entered into the fray like a new star, which meant that it would be friendly towards the Dawn’s interests. And so, the Dawn decided to divert the enormous lobbying funds to support the development of The Monster that would become the dark horse to oppose Trilogy.
The disappearance of the Dawn’s lobbying efforts meant that the ‘Guild Law’ ended up smoothly passing with little trouble.
Obviously, there was no guarantee that The Monster would be able to become a Guild just because the law came into effect. First of all, many high ranking directors of the corporations unfriendly towards the Dawn were members of Trilogy as well, so it was likely that they would resort to even nastier and dirtier schemes from now on.
"And by the way, sir. There is one more item still left on the agenda."
"Another one? Hu-uh… Our people must be getting really busy nowadays, I’m guessing?"
The continuing parade of reports that lasted nearly three hours so far - Kim Sae-Jin rubbed his head which was getting dizzy from mental fatigue.
The administrative work for the Society had increased by that much.
The number of employees now easily exceeded three digits after he repeatedly hired new people due to the shortage of manpower. Three new departments were established, with each department now having on an average 23 employees, 4 times the size compared to only 3 months ago.
The annual budget set aside just for salaries was almost $20 million, but just like he promised to himself, Kim Sae-Jin was not stingy when it came to spending on people.
The fact of his employees being treated well naturally spread around and so, when one of those rare opportunities to get hired by The Monster came around, CVs sent in by those working in the prominent local companies as well as famous overseas corporations could be found every now and then.
"Haha. It is quite alright, sir. The individually assigned sleeping quarters are better than some regular houses, so it’s not much of a problem to pull an all-nighter for us."
"It can’t be helped under the current circumstances as there are just too much work to go through, but as soon as things quieten down, please make sure to go home at the correct time, please."
"Yes, sir. I understand. And now, we need your decision on the technical department’s…"
Jo Hahn-Sung continued on with his report.
"Oppa, what are you thinking about now?"
Sae-Jin was currently with Yu Sae-Jung in a restaurant. Although the work was tough and he still felt dizzy, but he just couldn’t ignore the sad light in her eyes.
"Ah! You were thinking of Miss Kim Yu-Rin, right? I heard you had a meeting with her yesterday."
As if her jealousy was kicking in again, Yu Sae-Jung’s lips pouted and her eyes narrowed to a slit.
"That’s not true at all. It’s just that… I’m kinda tired today."
As he had spent 4 hours out of 7 he could stay as a Human purely listening to reports, reading many documents and making decisions, it was understandable he would be exhausted by now.
"…Are you going home right away, even today?"
"Yeah. My bad."
"And I’m still forever barred from going to Oppa’s place?"
"That’s par for the course, you know. You haven’t even graduated from a high school yet, but you want to go to a house of a man who lives alone…"
With a deeply sulking expression, Yu Sae-Jung began roughly chewing on the steak.
She resembled an angry puppy for some reason, so she didn’t look all that threatening to him.
"…Ah! I just remembered. Oppa, would you like to come to my graduation ceremony?"
Even though they had agreed to address each other informally, she had this strange habit of using honorifics whenever she asked him for a favour.
"Mm? Isn’t it usually the family members attending such things?"
Yu Sae-Jung smiled sadly at his question. He then quickly realised his mistake. If her family was going, then she’d not have the reason to invite him in the first place.
"My dad’s too busy, my grandpa is also busy because it’s the year-end, my divorced mom’s whereabouts are unknown, and since I’m the only child, I don’t have any siblings, you see. That’s why there is no one to show up, except for you, Oppa."
She seemed calm, but Sae-Jin couldn’t say anything after detecting a hint of sadness hidden in her voice.
"Will you… come?"
There was no need to delay his answer. As soon as he nodded his head…
Yu Sae-Jung looked into his eyes and smiled bravely. But Sae-Jin thought that smile looked lonely as well. That is why, he shifted his hand resting on top of the table and quietly held hers.
Meanwhile, she was inwardly shouting out in happiness.
There was indeed someone who could come to her graduation ceremony - the butler, Park Hyun-Oh. However, he would not be able to make it anymore.
"I’m thankful for everything you've done for me." (Kim Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin and Yu Sae-Jung smiled as they looked at each other.
"You’re really thankful?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
It was a question with a hidden meaning.
When Sae-Jin tilted his head in confusion, Yu Sae-Jung sneakily approached his front. And then, not even giving him a chance to say no, she ambushed him with a tight embrace.
"It’s a farewell hug. They all do in the West, you know. That’s why I… If you are really thankful, stay like this for a little while longer…."
Yu Sae-Jung leaned her head on his chest. Her fatigue and worries were all gone, just like that, and her mind became more comfortable. When she was in his arms, fully enjoying his pleasant scent with all her body… nothing in this world would be able to make her feel envious.
"Don’t just stand there… Oppa hug me too."
She looked up at him with a gentle eyes.
Her affectionate eyes and sincere voice.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her in even tighter.
On the following day, Sae-Jin secretly summoned the ‘manager’ of the Mercenary Company, Kim Yu-Sohn. It was to discuss the deployment of 13 Mercenaries and 20 intelligence operatives affiliated with his Company.
"Of course, I’ll leave the direction of our future to your discretion, Mister Chairman."
Kim Yu-Sohn smiled warmly.
Currently, The Monster Mercenary Company was being inundated with all the job requests coming in. First of all, there was only one properly organised Mercenary Company in the entire world which just so happened to be Sae-Jin’s; so the fault of overwhelming workload laid with the inevitable obtainment of the title ‘Best In The World’.
"Then, putting the Mercenary matters to a side for now, how goes the training of the intelligence operatives?"
"It’s going well. They are training hard as we speak in techniques such as putting on disguise, moving in stealth as well as forging identity documents at The Monster Intelligence Agency’s underground base constructed under your orders."
Calling it The Monster Intelligence Agency sounded a bit embarrassing and all that, but Sae-Jin really needed this organization right now.
"…Are they ready to enter real combat situations?"
"The six out of the twenty, those whom you have identified as ‘Agents with rich golden auras’ are now skilled enough for that purpose. And even though it’s nominally a real combat situation, it’s still nothing more than searching for the right hotels, sir, so I believe it should be good to give them this opportunity."
Forming his own intelligence gathering agency was without a doubt, very illegal, so he had to be extra careful. But still…
"Understood. Then, for the moment, have those six deployed to the field."
Their aim was to find the hotel where the future ruler of the Vampires was hiding in. Hesitation was no longer an option.
< 22. Preparation (1) > Fin.
(TL: 10/10. This is the end of the 10-chapter mini-marathon. From tomorrow onwards, normal programming shall resume – chapters will go live on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And as before, sponsored chapters will drop on the weekends. As for how many that will be… whew.)
(TL: The remaining amount for the ohmygawd EIGHTH extra chapter is: $50.)