Chapter 54 – Gimpo International Airport (2)
It was the middle of nowhere.
Kim Tae Hoon stood in the middle of a snowy field, his arms raised up high. In his left hand was a glistening white flag. A thin cloth flapped in the wind.
A man approached Kim Tae Hoon.
The beret wearing middle-aged man kept his hand on his head so as to prevent the beret flying away and walked towards Kim Tae Hoon, stopping two meters in front of him.
“Major Kim Tae Hoon.”
Identifying the face of the man before him, he continued to walk. Step by step, the man stopped when they were just a bit more than a meter apart, at which point both parties extended their hands.
“You survived. No, if it’s you, then there’s no way you wouldn’t have survived.”
“You’ve been doing well Colonel Yoo Daehyun.”
Colonel Yoo Daehyun.
From what Kim Tae Hoon could remember, the colonel was from Capital Defense Command.
‘Battalion commander of the special forces.’
The 35th battalion responsible for keeping Seoul safe.
He was their commander.
‘It’s a relief that I don’t need to reveal my identity, but this is quite the awkward confrontation.’
Kim Tae Hoon was a man with a complicated identity. Human? I guess you could say that. Kim Tae Hoon was a human weapon knowledgeable of all state secrets.
He was a powerful man. He was powerful partly because of the fact that the special forces were the defacto, corrupt hegemony of Seoul.
It wasn’t a position that a powerless party could take.
“I don’t know what your situation’s been like, but it’s good to see you.”
With that, Colonel Yoo Daehyun extended his hand.
However, Kim Tae Hoon did not return the handshake. He was still holding the white flag up towards the sky.
That was because he wasn’t here to exchange pleasantries.
“I’ve come to negotiate.”
Kim Tae Hoon had come to negotiate with the party that had arrived from Seoul, which in this case, meant Colonel Yoo Daehyun and his men.
If it was necessary, then they were even willing to spill blood.
‘As difficult to deal with as always. Major General Chang Young Sung has created quite the monster.’
Analyzing Kim Tae Hoon, Colonel Yoo Daehyun retracted his extended hand. The distance between the two of them was still about one meter.
“A negotiation you say……’
“Currently, Bucheon City and its surrounding areas are managed by the Mek Guild. And I am the head of the Mek Guild.”
“A guild…… it’s a funny name.”
“My goal is to establish a peaceful alliance with the people currently in control of Seoul.”
A peaceful alliance.
Hearing those words, Colonel Yoo Daehyun was not surprised.
‘Humans are social creatures, so the collapse of society would naturally motivate humans to seek out others. It’s to the extent that even Major Kim Tae Hoon would reveal himself like this.’
He had already experienced similar encounters before.
Even if civilization collapses, every survivor would strive to survive. In the process of surviving, Kim Tae Hoon had realized that he couldn’t survive on his own, so he struck out to make a group. In such a group, a definite hierarchy would form and replace any sense of pure equality.
Of course, those who had power beforehand would do what they could to hold onto that power.
Such people were everywhere, and Colonel Yoo Daehyun had had many dealings with them thus far.
Those people had said something similar to Colonel Yoo Daehyun and his men.
They wanted to resolve things peacefully.
They wanted to negotiate.
They would gladly cooperate if he would acknowledge their interests.
“It’s not something that I can decide on my own.”
Colonel Yoo Daehyun didn’t even give them the briefest of moments to negotiate.
“I do not have the authority to negotiate with an anti-government group.”
It was his role to deal with the various groups that committed great crimes.
Kim Tae Hoon was not very surprised at Colonel Yoo Daehyun’s response or the underlying threat.
‘Looks like he’s taken control of the system to a certain extent.’
It was a reasonable response from the colonel, and it was the correct response as well.
The existence of the Capital Defense Command was evidence that some government structures of the Republic of Korea hadn’t been destroyed yet.
So it was without a doubt that they would work towards defending their country.
Their duties included hunting monsters along with suppressing the anti-government forces that ran rampant.
Kim Tae Hoon and the Mek Guild fell under that same category.
There could be no negotiations. The only option was eradication.
‘Eventually things would turn out like this.’
That was why Kim Tae Hoon came here.
“I want to talk with the person who has the right to decide.”
“Because a war of attrition should be avoided.”
“A war of attrition…… I don’t know how much power you have, but I doubt you have enough strength to contest the Capital Defense Command.”
“If you lead an armored unit to Bucheon right now, you would probably be able to kill everyone in Bucheon City.”
In case negotiation fell through, a threat would need to be issued.
“But if I survive, then you better prepare for an exhausting guerilla warfare.”
“What are you……”
Kim Tae Hoon lowered both of his raised hands. He immediately took off the glove on his right hand. He revealed his tattoo of the Awakened.
Colonel Yoo Daehyun’s face stiffened.
In the meantime, Kim Tae Hoon stared at a person coming towards him from the distance.
‘Somebody is coming.’
He heard a man approaching from the distance.
Kim Tae Hoon didn’t show interest towards the other party. Of course, Colonel Yoo Daehyun hadn’t noticed yet.
“Sorry I’m late Lieutenant Colonel sir!”
It wasn’t long before a voice flitted in between Kim Tae Hoon and Colonel Yoo Daehyun.
The two of them turned their heads towards the source of the voice in a surprised manner.
“It looks like I overslept a little. I’m really sorry.”
A young man had appeared near them.
It was the voice of the young man from his vision.
He was a good-looking young man about twenty-five years old that anyone who laid eyes on him would admire him.
He was even attractively tall. Even though fully clothed, anyone could see his chiseled body.
He had a very handsome hairstyle, and the appearance of the cigarette and smoke coming out of his mouth was like a scene straight out of a movie.
“So he wants us to cooperate with him so that he can keep playing king in Bucheon? What a funny aristocrat.”
Whatmore, he was also one of the most remarkable athletes amongst the survivors in Seoul. He was also one of the most promising Awakened under the command of the Capital Defense Command.
So the nickname they had given him was Roadmaker.
He was the man who had paved the road for humans to live in Seoul.
“Looking at your response colonel, it doesn’t look like you’re bullshitting.”
That was the reason.
That was the reason why the charismatic Colonel Yoo Daehyun allowed the man to speak so bluntly in front of him while smoking a cigarette.
“Who is this sir?”
“Major Kim Tae Hoon.”
“Major? He looks young, does he have an affiliation?”
“He does, but his unit has no name. Under the command of Major General Chang Young Sung, he was called a ghost.”
“Ah, so a secret unit then. That’s fantastic. So how amazing is he? He wears the same uniform, but there’s no way he would be on the same level as me.”
“If I were allowed to hire only one person in order to get rid of a problem, I would hire him without hesitation.”
“Aiyah, he’s really amazing.”
Hearing what the colonel said, Oh Sae Bum let out the smoke in his mouth alongside with his praises. He spit out the cigarette in his mouth and stamped it out with his foot.
“Then what do you need me to do?”
“You need me to fight with someone who was deemed to be a human weapon even before he became an Awakened? What if there’s a death?”
Although surprised, Oh Saebum’s eyes were laughing.
His eyes were clearly telling of his intentions.
He wasn’t worried about Kim Tae Hoon killing him, he was concerned about killing Kim Tae Hoon.
“It’s just a simple test. There’s no need for someone to die.”
Yoo Daehyun gave him a brief warning. He had the same thoughts as Oh Saebum.
‘It’s impossible for Kim Tae Hoon to win over Major Oh Saebum.’
He had already killed a yellow grade monster and had even succeeded in hunting a green ranked monster as well.
In the case of the green ranked monster, it was thanks to the powerful relics obtained from the National Museum of Korea that he had come out on top. It was safe to say that was enough to serve as a hope for Korea.
So no matter how amazing Kim Tae Hoon was, he still wouldn’t be able to do anything.
Regardless, the world had changed.
‘However, he shouldn’t be at a weak level.’
The scariest part about Kim Tae Hoon wasn’t his strength.
The fact that he had survived up until now was proof of that.
Kim Tae Hoon had achieved victory in many battlefields against opponents he couldn’t win against with mere power.
If people were to be told of Kim Tae Hoon’s Hollywood-like exploits, none would believe it.
‘If he’s an Awakened, then he should be really strong.’
The fact that Kim Tae Hoon is an Awakened is already tough to deal with.
The Awakened consumed monster stones in order to absorb the power within and the chance to acquire new abilities.
That alone was enough reason to proceed with caution.
‘He’s not someone who craves power though.’
There was something that didn’t quite make sense.
He called himself the head of the Mek Guild which ruled over Bucheon.
But he was now baring his teeth at an opponent much stronger than him.
Well it could be that. It could be that he was willing to risk his life for the power he had gathered thus far.
However, Colonel Yoo Daehyun knew what kind of man Kim Tae Hoon was. He knew that Kim Tae Hoon was not someone who would strive for power in order to become a king in this ruined world.
‘Regardless, if he becomes an enemy, it would be a real headache.’
In addition, Kim Tae Hoon didn’t receive the rank of Major simply because he partook in dangerous missions.
He was given the rank Major so he could lead a unit.
‘I should test his skills for now.’
Regardless, the most important thing right now was to gauge how strong Kim Tae Hoon is.
If he was strong, then they would have to consider negotiations.
As a matter of fact, the amount of troops belonging to those in charge of Seoul was not enough to keep Seoul safe.
Even if they were to receive Bucheon, they simply didn’t have the capacity to manage it.
There’s no oil coming from Bucheon and there aren’t any important munitions plants. Is there some sort of important developmental factory in Bucheon?
By collecting all of the survivors and getting rid of the monsters, the denizens of Bucheon would naturally give Kim Tae Hoon their support.
Of course, there was no need to reveal his intentions so easily.
“More importantly, what kind of test? The use of guns and swords will probably be forbidden.”
“Use your fists.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to use guns? Do you know? What kind of fist my fists are?”
“Keep in mind. You’re comparing skills. You’re not killing your opponent.”
“Yes sir, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Of course, considering Oh Saebum’s string of successes until now, there was no way that Oh Saebum was going to lose.
‘So it turned out like this.’
While walking from Bucheon to Gimpo International Airport, Kim Tae Hoon thought of many things.
But something like a test was outside of his expectations.
If the negotiations went through, then all that would be required would be some simple give and take. If the negotiations fell through, then all they would have to do is flex their power a little to show how much of a threat they are.
There wasn’t even the slightest expectation that something like a test might occur.
But Oh Saebum’s appearance had dashed any all scenarios Kim Tae Hoon had in mind without hesitation.
‘I suppose it’s not a different person with the same name.’
It was the person from his vision.
He was certain.
Although he could have been talking to nobody, the future Kim Tae Hoon from the vision had assured the present Kim Tae Hoon of the identity and existence of the traitor.
It was at that time that he had warned his past self.
‘I didn’t say to kill him on sight.’
The person who knew Kim Tae Hoon the best was, well, Kim Tae Hoon.
So the advice he received was trustworthy.
There was a reason why of all the words to use, Kim Tae Hoon had used the word ‘Use’.
‘There’s something worth getting out of a relationship with him, so I might as well use him.’
Additionally, it seemed like Oh Saebum was the Capital Defense Command’s ace.
It was something rather obvious.
– More importantly, what kind of test…..
– Use your fists……
It was an easy feat for Kim Tae Hoon to listen in on the conversation between Oh Saebum and Colonel Yoo Daehyun despite the distance between the two parties in Gimpo International Airport.
He was able to sharply hear Oh Saebum take a long draw of his cigarette while standing before Colonel Yoo Daehyun.
‘Looking at Colonel Yoo Daehyun, he looks like he’s taking the stance of nothing-can-be-done.’
The Colonel Yoo Daehyun that Kim Tae Hoon knew was a determined man.
The Republic of Korea’s 35th Special Assault Team of the Capital Defense Command was a prestigious unit. It was a place where only the best of the best gathered, and it wasn’t a place you could just eat and sleep as a simple career soldier.
In other words, it wasn’t place where a superior officer would allow for a subordinate to so casually smoke a cigarette right in front of him.
‘He’s a major.’
The fact that he had received the rank of major despite only being in his mid-twenties meant that he had the skills and merits worthy of his high position.
In this world, there was only one merit that was enough to bring him up to major.
‘For now, I should test his skill.’
This was how Kim Tae Hoon was going to respond to the test.
It was at the same time that Kim Tae Hoon made a reference point.
‘And in the case I deem him to be a threat…… I’ll remove him.’
“Hello, I’m Oh Saebum. My rank is the same as yours, major. Ah, well, you’re not a soldier at the moment.”
While speaking, Oh Saebum threw a light punch in Kim Tae Hoon’s direction.
A light jab.
But the sound of the wind was unfathomable. It didn’t feel like a fist at all, but rather, a bullet.
The level of a transcendent human.
“Let’s do a light, 5 minute warmup for the first round. We’re just exchanging pointers, so there’s no need to overdo it. Nothing good would come of either of us getting hurt, right? We can’t get health insurance coverage or a pension if we get injured.”
Getting hit with that kind of hit wouldn’t simply end with a bruise or light injury.
No matter how you looked at it, this was why they had proposed a bare-handed fight.
‘It looks like they want to see what abilities I possess.’
They hadn’t expressed any restrictions on abilities gained from monsters.
That was the key.
The thing that Colonel Yoo Daehyun wanted to see was Kim Tae Hoon’s cards.
And that was exactly what Kim Tae Hoon wanted to see as well. He needed to know what cards Oh Saebum was holding.
“Ja, we’ll begin when you’re ready.”
Neither Kim Tae Hoon nor Oh Saebum indulged in useless banter.
Making a bell noise with his mouth, Oh Saebum narrowed the distance between Kim Tae Hoon and himself whilst throwing a left-handed jab.
The fist flying towards Kim Tae Hoon was unfathomable.
Instead of dodging, Kim Tae Hoon put up both of his arms to block.
The defending Kim Tae Hoon’s body didn’t even stagger.
‘Looks like this aristocrat has been eating some proper monsters.’
The two of them were able to glean some information from this first exchange.
Both of their Strength and Stamina were at a similar level.
At that moment, Oh Saebum drew upon the Energy that lay dormant in his belly.
The Energy spread through Oh Saebum’s body with a momentum so large it seemed as though Oh Saebum’s body were going to burst. Oh Saebum’s momentum changed like wildfire.
With both arms up to defend, Kim Tae Hoon felt a chill down his spine as he looked at Oh Saebum.
‘His Energy rank…… it’s higher than B Rank.’
Kim Tae Hoon’s thoughts were cut short as Oh Saebum’s fist flew towards his nose.
It was a speed incomparable to that of the previous punch.
It was impossible to dodge by relying only on his basic stats.
So at the moment before impact, Kim Tae Hoon used his Telekinesis to move his body off to the side.
Oh Saebum’s straight punch sliced through the air, launching the compressed air in front of it.
The snow where Kim Tae Hoon had been standing just mere moments before bore the marks of the wind pressure.
‘So his real intention was to kill me.’
Kim Tae Hoon had every reason to dodge. Kim Tae Hoon was nervous.
‘Using Telekinesis to force your body to dodge? This?’
However, Oh Saebum was nervous as well.
Oh Saebum had felt it necessary to kill Kim Tae Hoon and had kept that in mind as he had thrown that punch.
However, Kim Tae Hoon had easily dodged his attack and had opened up the distance between the two.
‘His Telekinesis Rank and proficiency isn’t a joke.’
Kim Tae Hoon had used Telekinesis for sure.
Otherwise, it would have been impossible to dodge.
‘I don’t know what’ll happen if the distance widens..’
It was never a good idea to widen the distance when fighting against someone with Telekinesis.
It was natural that both of their gazes changed.
Kim Tae Hoon’s eyes turned black while the playfulness in Oh Saebum’s eyes disappeared.
Oh Saebum aggressively ran towards Kim Tae Hoon, closing the distance between the two again.
There was no chance for Kim Tae Hoon to rob Oh Saebum of his Energy reinforced physical abilities.
Even with the activation of the Black Snake’s Evil Eye, it would be impossible for Kim Tae Hoon to dodge Oh Saebum’s flurry of punches with just his basic stats.
So of course he used Telekinesis.
‘I’ll catch him.’
He was going to start with catching Oh Saebum’s body with his Telekinesis.
Using his Telekinesis, Kim Tae Hoon pulled apart his arms with chains.
A grinding noise came out of Oh Saebum’s mouth as he tried to free himself from the Telekinetic chains that bound him.
Afterall, it was impossible to completely stop Oh Saebum’s movements with the chains. Oh Saebum repeatedly try to free his two arms.
However, he wasn’t able to extricate himself before Kim Tae Hoon made his move.
Oh Saebum broke free from the chains in one go, shattering the Telekinetic power Kim Tae Hoon had over him.
He gathered strength in his right hand and executed a straight with enough power to shatter Kim Tae Hoon’s skull.
Oh Saebum’s punch suddenly stopped.
It was the moment Kim Tae Hoon was waiting for. What awaited Oh Saebum was a huge ball of fire.
The flame obscured Oh Saebum’s vision and engulfed his body.
The flame stuck to his body like sticky glue.
Since leaving the flames alone would result in burns, Oh Saebum directed his Energy to burst out of his body.
The flames that were stuck to Oh Saebum’s body were thrown into the air and his surroundings.
‘I’m going to kill him!’
Having dispersed the flames off his body, Oh Saebum looked around, searching for Kim Tae Hoon.
The notion of a test had already disappeared from his mind.
Instead what filled his mind was a desire to kill Kim Tae Hoon.
‘Where did he go?’
However, he couldn’t find Kim Tae Hoon.
Oh Saebum reflexively looked towards the ground. It was to look for his footsteps.
‘What’s going on?’
However, he couldn’t find Kim Tae Hoon’s footsteps anywhere.
Oh Saebum suddenly turned around, as though he had sensed something. Kim Tae Hoon’s right fist smashed into his face.
That’s all that Oh Saebum remembered.