A Monster Who Levels Up
[Will you evolve into the Lycanthrope Form?]
Kim Sae-Jin in his Athany Form was floating on the water filling up his bathtub, with his gaze firmly focused on the alert window, currently superimposed on the ceiling.
At first, it was his end goal. But now, this thing where he couldn’t readily decide on what to do next, had become the proverbial Pandora’s Box.
There were two big reasons why he was so reluctant to evolve into the Lycanthrope.
First of all, there was a high possibility of his outward appearance changing after his Human Form and the Wolf Form merged.
Up until now, the Human Kim Sae-Jin’s face remained broadly the same as before, but due to the qualities of a Wolf slowly encroaching on him, certain facial features did sharpen up a bit. But if he chose to become the Lycanthrope, he just could not tell how his face might look like afterwards.
Right now, he had made many personal connections. If he went ahead with the evolution and his appearance changed way too dramatically compared to the Kim Sae-Jin of now…
Now that would be the worst of all the terrible calamities he could potentially face.
Second problem was the racial tendencies of the Lycanthrope.
The Lycanthropes of the legends were infamous for their hot-blooded and violent tempers. So much so, they were even treated as the ‘talking Monsters’ by the fellow Soo-ins.
If he were to win against such instincts, at minimum, the Human Kim Sae-Jin had to level up not only his physical strength, but his mental resistance as well – the so-called ‘mentality of a human’.
Sae-Jin shot out water gun out of his mouth. The spouts of water drew a straight line as they hit the ceiling where the alert window was superimposed on.
Leveling up this Athany Form could also be one of the ways to balance out the Lycanthrope Form as well. However, the risk associated with evolving this Form was far greater than any other Forms.
One just had to think about the real Leviathan that was currently roaming out in the expansive Atlantic Ocean, or taking a nap under a tremendously great depth.
The flow of time, the currents of the oceans, the blazing sun – all the things and elements provided by the mother nature became the foundation of this creature’s strength, which made the ranking of a Leviathan as ‘unclassifiable’. It wasn’t an exaggeration to call the Leviathan ‘a dragon of the seas’.
Kim Yu-Rin could somehow contend with the Leviathan that had appeared in the Han River of Seoul only because the summoning process had greatly limited its overall might. If it appeared in the middle of the city without being summoned, but by its own volition…
Then Seoul would’ve become nothing more than a collection of collapsed rubble by now.
‘…Now that I think about it, my body has grown a little, hasn’t it?’
As he was thinking about Leviathan-related matters, he suddenly came to a realisation. Was it because Athany was the so-called growth-type Monster that leveled up simply with the passage of time while being in contact with any form of moisture? The bathtub had definitely gotten smaller for his body compared to before.
Feeling rather uneasy about this development, Sae-Jin quickly changed back to Human Form and left the tub.
He took a glance at the clock – it said 11AM. The scheduled time for training was almost here.
Ever since the Red Moon concluded, Kim Sae-Jin concentrated on training that would level up his Human Form.
Under the advent of the Red Moon, the Orc Great Warrior’s instincts had become harder to control, that was why – but also, he was m
indful of the undecided evolution towards the Lycanthrope as well.
The sword training was easy. His Weapon Mastery was now at the level of a ‘High Class User’, so there weren’t too many Knights who could contend with him on that regard.
Every Knight praised Sae-Jin for being a genius with the sword, even saying things like he’d have been the world’s greatest swordsman if he was born in the middle ages or something.
Even learning ‘martial arts’ for the first time in his life proved to be easier than expected as well. The ‘Warrior’s Special Quality’ had gifted him with instincts on how to move his body efficiently; many martial art techniques such as breaking the fall, feet movement, hand to hand combat, etc, etc., were deeply ingrained within his body already.
As far as his physical body was concerned, it was pretty much perfect, leaving Mana as his only problem to tackle.
It was incredibly important to start the education on how to use Mana very early in one’s life. No matter how much potential one had, ‘they’ said that if the ‘golden time’ of around 5~6 years of age was missed, that person would never ever be able to store Mana in his or her body – so, for someone like Sae-Jin who was in his 20s already, the concept of him storing Mana within his body was a hugely difficult prospect, even if he cheated a little with his Trait sometimes.
The idea was as impossible as trying to grasp a passing cloud, and just as ambiguous and intangible as the fading morning fog.
So, in order to overcome this shortcoming of his, he asked Hazeline for a favour, who just so happened to be an A-ranked Wizard in her spare time. With her readily agreeing to it, a new schedule for ‘Mana Tutelage’ was set up, the lessons happening on every second week of a month on the days of Friday and Saturday.
“Close your eyes, and try to receive Mana into your body. Shuwook- Shuwook-”
Inside the members-only training area.
While sitting in the lotus position, Sae-Jin’s eyes were closed as he repeatedly breathed in and out deeply.
This was a part of the Mana-related lessons, focusing on increasing the amount of usable Mana in him.
“Please continue ‘shuwook, shuwook’ repeatedly.”
“…Will this really work?”
Unfortunately, Sae-Jin’s suspicions remained unanswered. He had been doing nothing but shuwooking, shuwooking for the past 30 minutes, after all.
“Just as do as you’re told, please. This is a test to see how good your affinity with Mana is.”
Too bad for him, Hazeline was adamant with her orders.
“…Really? If that’s the case, then… Shuwook~, shuwook.”
Sae-Jin resumed this sort-of-but-not-really meditation technique slash breathing thing.
And so, he repeated this for countless dozens of times until Hazeline lightly tapped on his shoulder to signal the end of the exercise.
“That’s enough. The concentration level of Mana in your breaths is equivalent to that of a low Mid Tier Knight.”
He momentarily got shocked. Even if he knew that the Stat values for the Magic Strength and Mana Affinity were inferior to his Physical strength-related Stats, wasn’t this unexpectedly low? He honestly thought it was at least at the level of a Mid Tier…
“…What’s up with that expression? A High Tier Hunter would never possess the equivalent Mana level of a Low Tier Knight no matter how hard he tries. In other words, it’s already very impressive that your level approaches that of a low Mid Tier Knight. Well then, shall we start with the real training now?”
As soon as Hazeline finished speaking, she activated a spell even before Sae-Jin had gotten ready.
“@#$%?!?!” (Kim Sae-Jin)
In the blink of an eye, an overbearing current of Mana was generated, and began powerfully pushing down on Sae-Jin’s seated body.
“Perform push-ups under this pressure, please. I know it’s tough, but it can’t be helped, you know? After all, this is the only method left for someone like Mister Sae-Jin, who has missed his ideal time for Mana training by a span of decades, to increase his overall Mana capacity, even if it’s only by a little.”
When Sae-Jin could only whimper under the pressure, unable to reply back, she withdrew the Mana pressing down on him – at least for now.
“Please listen well. The concentration level of Mana in here is very high because of the Athany doll and a Mana Spring, right? And I’ll be compressing the Mana in the air and press it down on you. So, even if it’s for a short while, doesn’t that mean that you, Mister Sae-Jin, will be receiving the ‘love’ of Mana present in the air with all of your body, no?”
Hazeline brightly smiled and swung her arms around in circles. Since that looked like her loosening up before activating her spell again, Sae-Jin became tense once more.
“And when you sweat during an exercise while being subjected under this kind of situation, your sweat pores will open up wide and through those open pores, Mana will enter your body. It’ll also become easier to absorb Mana when muscles are working, too. Of course, 99% of the Mana will leave your body again, but still, your Mana reserve should increase this way even if it would only be a little bit. So now, please take off your clothes.”
“Eh? Why… my clothes?”
Seeing Sae-Jin covering up his chest by crossing his arms and pretending to be embarrassed, Hazeline frowned deeply.
“Please stop fooling around. It’ll be easier to absorb Mana with less layering of clothing, you see. You also know that air can’t easily pass through fabrics. There’s a big difference.”
“…Well, I get that, but…”
“Please hurry up. I’ll get angry if you don’t listen to the teacher, you know? I came here after answering Mister Sae-Jin’s earnest plea, but it’ll become troublesome if you’re being uncooperative. I mean, do you have any idea how much is the fee for a tutelage by an A-ranked Wizard?”
Hearing all this, Sae-Jin carried a complicated expression as he began unzipping his top.
“…Even my pants?”
“…I’ll let you keep that on, so for now, take off your T-shirt as well.”
He really did feel somewhat embarrassed, but he removed the shirt in the end. His battle-hardened, perfectly shaped and tight muscles revealed themselves in all their glory.
“…Hmm. Hm, hmm…”
Hazeline’s cheeks slightly reddened as she took in the sight of his broad shoulders, well-built chest, clearly-defined eight pack, and the lower abdominal muscles.
“M, must be thanks to your Trait, since your body looks nice.”
Although she tried to sound normal, in all honesty, his body was already well past the level of being ‘nice’.
By using her Trait called ‘Eyes of the Wizard’, she could easily tell. As exactly as these words meant, Sae-Jin’s body was as close to as being perfect as possible, something not even Knights training for the rest of their lives might achieve.
Although the amount of Mana circulating within his body was low, the ‘quality’ of it was very high.
“…Keum.” (Kim Sae-Jin)
“What are you doing? Why aren’t you getting ready?”
The embarrassed Sae-Jin hurriedly got down to the push-up position as soon as she spoke. When he did, those already well-defined muscles on his shoulders and that broad back stood out even more.
Hazeline tried her best to avert her gaze, but because she was still a member of the female species, she couldn’t completely prevent her eyes from taking several quick glances.
“…I’m activating the spell. Please, try you best.”
Again, before he got properly ready, an overwhelming atmospheric pressure pressed down on his back. However, he still began the push-up while gritting his teeth. Only ten seconds had passed by, but his arms and legs were already shaking around like leaves and sweat drops were pouring down like a waterfall.
Hazeline counted for him, but it didn’t enter his ears. Whether this was his first or second, he couldn’t tell, nor did he wanted to know.
The only words leaking out of his mouth were nothing but curses.
After hearing him swear out, Hazeline actually increased the severity of the spell.
“Now then. Let’s do the second one, shall we? But when can you do it? Do I have to wait for an hour?”
“…Kkeu, euh euh…”
While hearing her ridicule, Sae-Jin continued to exert all of his strength.
[‘Magic Strength’ has increased by 2. ‘Mana Affinity’ has increased by 1.]
This was the result of today’s training.
Kim Sae-Jin smiled brightly as he lay on the floor, roughly huffing and puffing. It was seriously a wonderful result. After all, this much increase was equal to absorbing dozens of Mid Tier Mana Stones. It was the right decision to ask for Hazeline’s aid.
However, the actual person who helped him achieve this growth, Hazeline, was carrying quite a complicated expression. She wasn’t sure how, but the amount of Mana now staying in his body easily exceeded her initial estimates.
In truth, this was an inefficient method that had a clear dead end. To use an analogy of a person’s height, it was similar to trying to locate the ‘hidden height’ by correcting the bone structure of a person who had already stopped growing. (TL: Really? Such a thing exists? Where do I sign up?)
‘…But seriously, just what kind of a body is this greedy for Mana?!’
Normally, about 50% of the Mana existing in the air would enter a person’s body. But then, 99% of that would escape back out so, theoretically, only around 0.5% should remain inside that person’s body.
But when peeking into Sae-Jin’s body, over 25% of the Mana entering his body remained behind. No, it was more like being ‘captured’ – by the Mana already existing within his body.
‘Is it also because of his Trait?’ (Hazeline)
She couldn’t get a bead on just what kind of Trait he had. If Mana continued to remain in his body without limit, then within a year, he’d even leapfrog her in terms of overall Mana reserve…
“…Mister Sae-Jin. Is your body feeling okay?”
“Ah, yes, of course. Miss Teacher.”
“The results are pretty good, right? Well then… can you stand? Why don’t we go and eat something?”
Hazeline smiled bitterly as she offered her hand. Feeling satisfied, Sae-Jin was about to grab the offered hand.
“Oppa, are you he…?”
Yu Sae-Jung arrived at the training facility with a spooky good timing.
She began alternating her gaze between Sae-Jin who was covered in buckets of sweat, and a surprised woman who was hurriedly pulling the robe to hide her face.
“….Uhm… You came early today?”
There was still an hour left until their promised time…
Kim Sae-Jin picked up his article of clothing and began putting them on, all the while looking at Yu Sae-Jung with a slightly stupefied expression.
“The tracing is complete, sir. The current location of the artificial heart is inside the city near the Monster field in Gangwon Province, within the grounds of ‘The Monster’.”
“…How troublesome. Does the Society Chairman, who is supposedly in cahoots with the Lycan, have the heart?”
The Apostle Beren let out a frustrated groan after hearing the subordinate’s report.
“We’re not sure of that, sir, but the likelihood of that is very high.”
Beren roughly massaged his temples. To think, the item they had to recover at any cost was unexpectedly in the hands of a big fish…
“…What are your orders, sir?”
The ‘friend’ of Lycan. His job description, ‘Chairman’ of the Society, The Monster – this man named Kim Sae-Jin was an important enough individual that even made the Apostle of the House of Bathory hesitate.
“For now… keep him under surveillance. It’s possible that the Lycan is protecting him, so use pawns for this purpose.”
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
The short answer from the subordinate echoed in the empty room.
< 24. Calm Before the Storm (3) > Fin.
(TL: The next chapter will go live in a couple of minutes.)