A Monster Who Levels Up
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The changes in Sae-Jin's life after evolving into the Lycanthrope was quite varied. Firstly, his outward appearance hadn't changed all that much, but the physical abilities had gone through a massive change. Although, having said that, maybe he had become too famous or something - when he made his first public appearance there were quiet rumours of him having some work done on his face whispered around.
As an example, he didn't have to assume the form of a 'Wolf' in order to twist metal with his bare hands, not to mention he could also cut away Mana of the Knights as well.
And thanks to many new Passives he acquired, both the Orc and the Goblin Forms also enjoyed increase in power along with his human form. Notably, the synergy between the Goblin Form and the Passive Skills of the Lycanthrope were so good, it led Sae-Jin to think seriously about leveling up his Goblin Form in earnest.
However, not every change could be classified simply as a positive one.
It was during training; he got scared all of a sudden, watching Yi Hye-Rin panic after he 'destroyed' Mana with the literal single fist strike. He was scared, wondering whether he would be able to suppress the instincts of the Lycanthrope which were as strong as that power he had just demonstrated unwittingly.
But it seemed that Sae-Jin's personality had changed subtly as well without him being able to notice it, and things like his worries were quickly forgotten.
"Thank you for your hard work today."
He began massaging Yi Hye-Rin's shoulders as she sat on the training facility floor, her breath shallow and heavy. It was the first time she came in physical contact - AKA skinship - with Sae-Jin, but since she did not sense any ulterior motive behind his actions, not to mention it felt refreshing as well, Yi Hye-Rin didn't offer any resistance.
"Oh. Yes, my… pleasure…"
Although she replied this way, Hye-Rin could definitely sense a chilly glare being shot towards her. She didn't have to check to figure out who was behind it.
"Well then, Miss Hye-Rin. I'll be leaving first. Take care during the remainder of your training, and please give the recruitment process for the new Society members your consideration." (Sae-Jin)
Kim Sae-Jin had made a request to all the current Society members. Separate from the soon-to-be launched second open recruitment, he told them to select people who might serve as their own 'direct subordinates' within the Society.
"Yes, sir. I'm looking real hard right now~."
Yi Hye-Rin replied enthusiastically. Actually, there were already one or two people busy trying to kiss her a*s, after somehow hearing about this whole thing. Heck, there were a few Knights with pretty good backgrounds asking her outright if she'd like any new piece of equipment, even…
Since Yi Hye-Rin focused more on a person's nature more than anything else, such behaviours made her feel just a bit bitter inside. But still, she accepted it as the result of her Society's prestige rising up so high.
"Ah, right. By the way, Guild Master, didn't you make a schedule for my Tattoo a couple of weeks ago~?"
She then suddenly recalled it. The special treatment only the members of The Monster received, the Magic Tattoos - the thing that made pretty much every other Knights and Wizards go crazy with envy and jealousy; the thing that some folks criticised as being a cheat that didn't even require proper hard work from its recipients.
Finally, it was Yi Hye-Rin's turn after others had their fun already.
"Surely, you didn't forget, did you~?"
To get a rise out of Yu Sae-Jung, Yi Hye-Rin deliberately approached Sae-Jin with flirty steps and began 'lightly' touching him here and there. She could hear a person gritting her teeth from somewhere, but Hye-Rin also 'lightly' ignored that.
course. I didn't forget. Please come find me on next week Saturday."
Sae-Jin smiled and replied, then stepped outside the training facility. Not too long after that, Yu Sae-Jung hoofed it towards Hye-Rin in an angry, stomping gait.
"…Unni, are you openly declaring war?" (Yu Sae-Jung)
Yu Sae-Jung narrowed her eyes and glared, but…
"Mm? Dunno what you mean~?"
…Yi Hye-Rin simply replied back with an easy-going smile.
- Since we have snagged such an important guest for today, I've got this feeling that our ratings will go right through the roof.
A current affairs show could be seen on TV. Its 'format' was quite simple in execution, so much so that there were only a few chairs present with a black background in the studio. The emcee and the guest would simply chat away on the current hot button topics.
But it would be unwise to dismiss this show because of its simplicity - since it was known as the best of its kind in the Republic of Korea, after all.
- The number one Society people wish to join! The number one Society employees wish to work for! On top of this, entering the world of business proper with the establishment of the corporation, 'TM' - please welcome the Society Chairman of The Monster, Mister Kim Sae-Jin.
When the emcee finished his intro, Sae-Jin inside the TV screen bowed his head towards the camera.
- How do you do. Name's Kim Sae-Jin.
- I gotta say, I'm greatly intrigued. Didn't you refuse making an appearance on pretty much every single show out there? Why did you agree so easily to come on this one?
The emcee's voice was seemingly filled to the brim with pride.
- Well, that is… The reason's simple, actually. I've been a fan of this show for a while now, and it seems that our Society has been in the media's spotlight quite often lately. So, I've decided to come here and scratch that itch of curiosity in the audience at home. Also, this was the most important part… it turns out that your show has the shortest recording time compared to others. (Kim Sae-Jin)
Sae-Jin's actual reason for this appearance was his own curiosity. After evolving into the Lycanthrope, Sae-Jin had lost quite a bit of inhibition in his personality. And now, having a lot of leeway with his 'time', he was getting rather interested in appearing on a TV show. It just happened so that this one called him up first before anybody else.
- Haha. You have quite a good sense of humour, sir~. It's true that we don't take up a lot of time to record, though.
The show started with laughter, and gradually, they moved on to other subjects. First, they talked about his family background. Secondly, the reason why he founded The Monster as well as its explosive growth of late. Thirdly, the allure (?) of plastic surgery. And finally, even the thing many viewers were no doubt curious about - the 'treasure' crafted by the Orc Blacksmith.
Kim Sae-Jin seen on the TV screen showed not one moment of nervousness and smoothly carried on with the conversation. It was the moment the Skills 'Eloquence' and 'Pleasant Voice' showed off their true worth.
To think of himself in that manner was just a bit… But the truth was, the combination of his nice voice, excellent eloquence and the handsome face as seen on the TV screen made him come across as a gentle and wonderful man.
As if to reinforce that notion, the show's ratings had increased by two and a half times. The reactions of the viewers were also very positive as well. And after making that one appearance, his social media followers had increased by another two hundred thousand.
If it was by this much, then, wasn't this the proof of everyone thinking along the same thing as him and not the case of simple narcissism?
"Guild Master, the auction will begin in three hours."
And so, as Sae-Jin was deeply submerged in narcissism that wasn't, Jo Hahn-Sung opened the door and entered the waiting room. He had combed his hair up to look neat and tidy for the occasion, but as if to show how nervous he was, his fingers were trembling noticeably.
"What's the current situation like?" (Sae-Jin)
"Haha. It's no joke out there, sir. Maybe it's the first auctioning of a Treasure grade item in ages that's to blame, but regardless, I heard that there are ten helicopters flying above the Hyunwol Auction House as we speak. There were apparently more, but it seems that, due to safety concerns, they had to be grounded."
Jo Hahn-Sung changed the channel on the TV, saying that Sae-Jin should see for himself. Right now, it was Saturday evening - according to regular schedule, entertainment programmes should be on the public broadcasting channels, but almost all of them were covering the auction being held at the Hyunwol.
- At 8 o'clock this evening, the auctioning process for the heaven shaking work crafted by the Orc Blacksmith will finally take place. The weapon that was unanimously judged as the genuine Treasure grade by 10 judges from both the local and international Blacksmith Associations, is now named as…
The Hyunwol Auction House as seen within the TV screen looked really busy. There were seemingly tens of thousands of regular people gathering around the vicinity of the Sebit island where the auction house was located on; and the professional bodyguards were working tirelessly as the stream of high-value individuals continued to enter the auction venue unabated.
- Indeed! We can even see that the Britain's top ranked Knight, Arthur Fontere has come as well. Previously, Mister Fontere had strongly expressed his determination to procure this Treasure on his social media posts as well as on interviews with various Korean media outlets. It's a well known fact that he has sent numerous video messages to both the Chairman Kim Sae-Jin and the Orc Blacksmi… Oh! Oh! Over there! We just spotted the Prime Minister of Japan, Mister Naraka, entering the auction venue!!
The cameras filmed the Japanese Prime Minister entering the auction venue in a hurry as if someone was busy chasing him down or something.
Kim Sae-Jin let out a hollow chuckle. That guy had shown up in the end, after all that yapping on and on about some national pride and whether he was coming or not.
"I hear that the Japanese Prime Minister is personally accompanied by 20 odd Knights as well. And they are all supposedly Highest Tiers to boot. I think the Japanese and their strong desire to acquire the merchandise is now on the national level."
No matter how valuable an equipment was, if there was no one capable of using it, it would be a waste of everyone's time. Also, if a Knight didn't become its new owner, there was a real danger of the sword becoming the part of the so-called "future investment portfolio" and rot away in some dimly-lit vault somewhere.
That was why Sae-Jin placed a condition for purchase. The only ones eligible to buy the weapon were Knights - and even among them, those without ability would be eliminated from the process through the Orc's evaluation.
"Yes, sir. But besides that… You should be getting ready, sir."
Jo Hahn-Sung fiddled around the edges of his tie once more before taking in a deep breath. However, Kim Sae-Jin simply waited, while his gaze alternated between his phone and Hahn-Sung.
And after about three minutes went by like that…
*SFX for a mobile phone vibrating*
His mobile began buzzing.
"Oh. Well, I, uh… will have to show up a bit later. I mean, our merchandise is the finale of the auction, anyway." (Sae-Jin)
Leaving behind the panicking Jo Hahn-Sung, Sae-Jin hurriedly moved his feet.
The call was from Yu Baek-Song.
The very best timing for sharing of sensitive information was right now, when almost all the agents of the SID were assigned as the guards of the auction venue.
Feeling dumbfounded, Kim Sae-Jin's eyes narrowed to a slit.
- "That is absolutely the everything I could uncover. Any more than that, well…" (Yu Baek-Song)
Yu Baek-Song pointed at the manila envelope with a slightly uneasy expression. But that wasn't the reason why Sae-Jin was feeling miffed at the moment.
"Hey, what the hell? Do I look like a criminal to you?!"
Although they were in Yu Baek-Song's house, there was a thick plate glass standing between him and her, the kind one might find in a visiting room inside a prison. No, that was not strictly accurate, as there were air holes in those glasses in the visiting room. This place was sealed up so tight, they were actually conversing through their mobile phones.
- "Can't be helped. Your scent robs me of my judgement, after all."
- "In any case, check out the documents first."
Sae-Jin was deeply dissatisfied by this arrangement, but regardless, he still picked up the envelope.
- "The contents are the results of secret autopsy procedures performed by us, the National Police Agency. I even went through the last available records to make sure, but that's all there is."
He slowly absorbed the contents of the documents. There wasn't a lot of information to go through - only three pages' worth. But he did his best not to miss one single letter.
And the information contained within was shocking to him, to say the least.
'Something' was trying to force its way out of his throat and he couldn't even swallow down his saliva.
- "…I'm sure there is much to take in. The result of the autopsy shows that, although he was a bit peculiar, your father was a human. After all, it's a bit of a stretch to call an '88%' as a halfling or a quarterling, right? And since your mother was definitely human, you don't have worry about what you are - you're also human."
Yu Baek-Song carefully continued. However, not one word could enter Sae-Jin's ears.
He rummaged through the documents for a very long time, his hands trembling uncontrollably - then he stopped. His breathing ragged and heavy, Sae-Jin stared at Yu Baek-Song. His eyes were full of confusion and rage.
"Is there no other way to find out what got deleted? Those should be the most important information of them all."
- "Yeah, well, it's impossible right now. That is the limit of my current position, after all."
"…Your position, you say?"
- "Yeah. I told you. I have other people above me…"
"In that case…"
Kim Sae-Jin clenched his fist tightly. He was already well aware of his parents being murdered. But he simply had no idea how incredibly bad and agonising their final moments were.
He just could not rein in this tsunami-like waves of rage boiling in his heart. So much so, even he was beginning to think that such an anger was unusual for him. There probably was a side effect from evolving into the Lycanthrope at play here, but right now, Sae-Jin was not in the correct frame of mind to question his current state at all.
- "H, hey, wait a second!! What are you trying to do? Sto…"
He slammed the glass with his fist.
The ultra-tough reinforced glass shattered into pieces, and Yu Baek-Song looked at the result with her eyes completely round. She was wondering just how the heck the glass reinforced with magic could be breached this easily…
"In that case, all we have to do is to move Miss Yu Baek-Song up the career ladder, no?"
Sae-Jin ripped the bothersome glass completely off, and then grasped the scruff of hurriedly-fleeing Yu Baek-Song's neck.
"Euck! Tha, that isn't a simple thing at all!! But besides that, lemme go, right now!! I can send you straight to jail if I want to, you kno…"
"For now, please be quiet."
The only thing filling up Sae-Jin's head, now that he had lost much of his reasoning, was purest form of rage.
"It is simple. I'll support you. I've accumulated enough power and influence for that."
His voice was trembling as the words flowed out.
"No matter who sits above you, push him away and take that position. Then, everything shall be resolved that way."
While gently stroking her hair, the corners of his lips were lifting up in a fake smile. His brown eyes were gleaming coldly, enough to give a person goosebumps.
Yu Baek-Song gave up looking into those eyes. Her body was shaking all on by itself. It was the first time this White Tiger had felt like this - the sensation of being a prey standing before a true predator.
< 26. Truth? (1) > Fin.
(TL: This is the regular chapter for Wednesday.)
(TL: $39 left out of $50 for another sponsored chapter to be added to the queue.)