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Ten days following the submission of his dagger to the Blacksmiths tournament, Sae-Jin maintained a regimented lifestyle.
In the mornings, he practised Alchemy and Blacksmithing Technique, and in the afternoons, he went downtown to take a break. Even though he called it a break, it was nothing more than him walking around the city’s streets aimlessly. But that was enough to put his mind at ease.
And at nights, when the number of Hunters and Knights were few and far in between, he hunted Monsters in the low Mid Tier and Mid Tier hunting grounds. Most of the time, he hunted in his Ebony Wolf Form’s Beast Mode, but sometimes, he deliberately went out in the Orc Form too. He did that in order to evolve. Well, the thing was… he ran into a particularly tough wall while performing the Smithing Technique.
[As an "Orc Warrior", Hardness Level: D and the Skill Proficiency Level: D is the maximum attainable limit.]
Unfortunately, though - no matter how many Monsters he hunted, the Orc Warrior showed no sign of evolving.
Right now, the time was 11 am. Sae-Jin put the mortar and pestle down after making three bottles of potions. He’d been grinding herbs for so long now, the Goblin’s tiny little hands were all swollen up in red and everything.
The potion-crafting proved to be a cumbersome and difficult endeavor. Even though he was blessed with the Goblin’s Craftsmanship skill, it’s Proficiency Level was still low; and to repeatedly refine ingredients as well as to compound them to the minute, exacting degree, a great deal of his mental strength and focus was required.
[Crafting of the Element Resistance potion has failed. Skill Proficiency Level will be increased.]
He often encountered failure whenever he tried to concoct difficult potions. Just as its high price suggested, the Element Resistance potion was difficult as hell to make. This was his fourth try today, but he hadn’t succeeded once. Right about now, he was seriously missing the powder of Sabre-tooth tiger’s fang as that thing not only doubled as a Mana Stone but also could greatly bolster the success rate of potion-crafting.
As he tasted yet another defeat, the strength abandoned him in droves. And the lightheadedness from inhaling the fumes of the ingredients belatedly began to assault him, too.
For the sake of taking a break, Sae-Jin changed to the Human Mode of the Wolf Form and switched on the TV. Without a doubt, proper resting or playing needed to be done in a human’s body. Of course, just by being inside this stupid cave, the level of enjoyment he’d derive would be halved - no, maybe even worse than that, but still.
– Precisely 10 days ago, a man’s body was discovered in one of the Gangwon Province’s rental houses. The victim had died instantly after his neck bones were twisted, and on his neck, imprints of unidentifiable animal claws were discovered. The crack team of detectives investigated the case using that evidence as the lead off point, until they announced that they have made a surprising discovery. As to what that exact discovery is, can you inform us, Professor Kim?
It was a programme related to currently trending news topics. Taking the already happened event as its topic of discussion, the chat show let the anchor and a panel of so-called experts talk about stuff and present information to the viewers. Sae-Jin’
s ears had to perk up from this show’s contents, since it was definitely related to what he had done.
– Thank you.Well, the identity of our victim just so happens to be that of a Vampire. This fact was uncovered by the investigators after they had fast tracked the autopsy. The decision came about after hearing the peculiar testimony of the first person to find the body, as well as the discovery of several blood packs inside the fridge of the victim.
This incident has ignited fierce debate among the public. On one side, there are those arguing that the Vampires are a sub-species of humans so the perpetrator must be caught and punished, while the other side is opposing that view by arguing that Vampires are the enemies of mankind to be exterminated and thus there’s no need to investigate this matter any further.
Also, there are arguments regarding whether the culprit knew the identity of the victim as a Vampire and thus committed this act or not….
Sae-Jin subconsciously leaked a mocking grin. Even after suffering at the hands of these damnable Vampires, there still seemed to be morons busy yapping on about respecting the f*cking human rights of these bloodsuckers. No, at this point, he had to suspect whether Vampire sleeper cells had infiltrated the human society and what not.
It was then, as he thought up to this point, his heart suddenly felt like it was going to explode. The insatiable thirst for murder assaulted his brain, telling him to track down every single one of these bastards and massacre them all.
It was a poisonous and powerful hatred born out of the deeply rooted hostility Sae-Jin carried in his heart combining with the primal instincts of the Werewolf.
And that’s when he discovered himself busy destroying the floor of his cave with both of his arms changed to that of a Werewolf’s. This…. was weird. Totally spooked by this…. event, he quickly assumed the Human Form and flipped the channel.
His heart had calmed down somewhat by doing that, but his rage towards Vampires wouldn’t cool down so easily. Sae-Jin concentrated hard on the TV in order to appease this boiling anger. Luckily enough, his attention was grabbed by a very interesting program on the channel he changed to.
– A total number of 33 workshops and 1308 blacksmiths have entered in this year’s 4th Blacksmiths Open Invitational Tournament.
He remembered hearing that every step of the selection processes by the judges would be televised. And during the Final Round of judging, over one thousand audience members would participate in finding the winner that possessed the mass market appeal and also, was acknowledged by the professional users.
– The previous tournament’s Preliminary saw only 100 participants making it through, but this year, 208 people have managed to reach this stage, ensuring that we will be blessed with a fierce competition to determine the eventual winner. And right here, inside the main headquarter of the Dawn Knights Order, 20 items selected from those 208 participants are on display. The accomplished Knights will lend us their expert opinions on judging these items…. Oh, here they are!
Sae-Jin wondered if his dagger was among those on display and looked closer, only to let out a small gasp of surprise after seeing the face of one of the Knights there trying to play the roles of judges.
– To start off the proceedings, we secured the aid of someone that was very difficult to get a hold of. Welcome, the Knight of the Dawn Order, Miss Yu Sae-Jung!!
It was her, the girl Sae-Jin saved from the Troll way back when.
– Oh… yes, hello to you as well.
– I heard that last week, you were promoted to the ranks of low Mid Tier. Now that you are the reigning record holder of the youngest low Mid Tier Knight ever in history, how do you feel right now?
– ….I’m not sure. But as I’ve agreed to do this 1st Round thing, I would like to concentrate only on judging for now.
The Dawn Knights Order got the first dibs on acquiring a single weapon after every round of judging process, thanks to being the biggest sponsor of the tournament.
Obviously, as this was just the 1st Round, even the armaments rated Low Quality would still be rare. But it was still possible to identify the "good seedlings" from early on. That’s why Yu Sae-Jung volunteered and said she wanted to participate in the judging process. She still hadn’t found a weapon that could be called her "primary" just yet.
She already had a sword rated High Quality that other low Mid Tier Knights wouldn’t even be able to think about touching, but for the granddaughter of the Dawn Corporation’s Chairman, it simply wasn’t satisfactory enough for both her and her grandpa.
"Haha. Well, then. Please score these 20 weapons on display here after giving them your considered opinions, Miss Sae-Jung. The scores you give them will be combined with the scores from other judges and the winners will be decided from that, so please give it your best!!"
Normal equipment used by the Knights were divided into the ranking system of [Lowest → Low → Mid → High → Highest] in that order. And on the very top, there were those that exceeded these classifications and achieved the ranks of a "Branded Goods" or a "Treasure." (TL: this is the first time the author has clarified one of his ranking systems. Hooray!! And BTW, the Treasure ranking is a literal TL from the raw. We can probably expect that the other ranks and Tiers work on the same classification system.)
So, a Low Tier Knight would use a Low Quality equipment, and low Mid and Mid Tiers would use up to the Mid Quality. And the Knights of upper Mid Tiers and above, needed at least the High Quality weapons or better. (Of course, this changed slightly depending on the level of the Knights Orders.) (TL: this bracketed sentence is from the author.)
Yu Sae-Jung walked with heavy footsteps and took a look at the weapons arranged in a row. Her judging was super quick and rather strict as well. One look, and she gave 2 points, another quick look, then a single point awarded - this repeated for a couple of times. The maximum possible points that could be awarded was 10.
"…..Pardon me, but if you could just tell us what’s on your mind…"
In a clearly restless manner, the announcer exhorted Sae-Jung who was too busy stabbing the hearts of the blacksmiths countrywide with a lethal blade while not saying a single word.
"Oh, my apologies. It’s my first time being on TV."
She quickly lowered her head, and then pointed at the item she gave a single point to, just now.
"That sword is too malleable to be of any use. It’s the lower than the lowest quality that wouldn’t even leave behind a cut on the bones of a Skeleton. That’s why it’s only worth one point. I have to wonder how did that get past the Preliminary screening."
The announcer wasn’t expecting an avalanche of praises, obviously. Yu Sae-Jung’s particularly fussy personality was famous throughout the Dawn Knights Order already. But he didn’t expect her to be so ruthless with her put-downs at all…
"Hmm. Alright, please, continue with your evaluations."
However, wouldn’t such a character go down well with the audiences as well? An ice-cold highschool girl with a cute face spitting out decidedly harsh judgements. The announcer’s face regained its happy bearings and he relaxedly smiled.
"And this axe over here, looks like it might break if I slam it down just once. Oh, it really did break. It’s made out of steel but, I think there was a problem with the base material. If not, then…… well, the skill of the smith must’ve been terrible."
After that, she continued to pour out more scorn. Yu Sae-Jung never gave out points higher than a 4. The passing criteria for the 1st Round was, at minimum, "better than Lowest Quality" but maybe she wasn’t aware of this little fact, as she continued to slap terrible points to all the equipment she saw.
And so, her evaluations for the 17 weapons ended in a blink of an eye. When she arrived at the 18th…
Yu Sae-Jung’s feet that were constantly moving forward, finally stopped still. At this strange behaviour, the camera hurriedly closed in and alternated between her face and the weapon that made her stop.
"Is this one different from the others?"
"…Yes. Quite different. Is it okay if I touch it?"
Yu Sae-Jung picked up the weapon, her eyes sparkling brightly. It was an expertly crafted dagger, the reflections off its sharp blade imparting a chilly sensation down her spine.
"…And your evaluations are?"
The announcer asked, full of expectations. Even he, who was not a blacksmith, could see that this dagger was an excellent item as well.
"It’s excellent. It’s been crafted wonderfully and the blade is really sharp. The carvings on the blade itself are also quite intricate too… and the feeling of the grip is stable and light as well. Most importantly though, it’s surprisingly easy to infuse it with Mana. On the open market, this dagger would be good enough to earn the ranking of the Low, even the upper Low Quality quite easily. What a pity that it’s a dagger, but still, a very good product. It’s the best among what’s on display here."
Yu Sae-Jung spoke to the announcer after examining the dagger this and that for a while.
"Is it possible for me to learn the name of the blacksmith who made this?"
"I heard that it’s been engraved at the bottom of the hilt."
Yu Sae-Jung upturned the dagger and checked the bottom of the hilt. There were exactly three English alphabets engraved there.
"…ORK? Is this supposed to be ‘Orc’?"
"The blacksmith has asked to be called The Orc, apparently."
"….But isn’t the spelling suppose to be O, R, and C?"
"Haha.. well, even I’m not… oh, please assign the points first."
Yu Sae-Jung gave it 8 points.
"Oh, did you deduct the last 2 points because it's a dagger?"
"Haha, but wouldn’t the blacksmith be slightly unhappy if you deduct points like that?"
The announcer was making a small joke. But Yu Sae-Jung suddenly became dead serious and contemplated for a bit, before nodding in agreement and changed her evaluation.
"10 points. It’s 10 points."
The announcer’s lips automatically twitched at the sight of Yu Sae-Jung’s rather adorable actions, but since she was quite serious about this whole thing, he worked very hard to swallow his smiles down.
"That 8 points, it was my mistake so please edit it out."
Unfortunately for her, Yu Sae-Jung’s gaffe wasn’t edited out, and Kim Sae-Jin was busy bursting into laughter.
‘I thought she was picky and rude, but I guess she also has an adorable side, too.’
He felt that she was even more cute now after she had heaped praises on his dagger when she thoroughly rubbished the others so much.
– Now then, next up - we’ll chat with Mister Kim Hyuk-Joon, a Mid Tier Knight from the Gaebyuk Knights Order who’s been igniting the world of celebrity gossip.
Before he knew it, the coverage of the tournament had ended; Sae-Jin checked the current time, and stood up to leave.
It was 1 PM. Time to go to the city.
< 07. The Orc’s Forge (4) > Fin.