Chapter 52 – Gwangmyeong City (3)
It was dark, like a raven. A light suddenly flared to life within the dark surroundings which had been devoid of light for quite some time.
Kim Tae Hoon pushed his arm outward, extending the area illuminated by the light in his hand.
It was just like described. The flashlight in Kim Tae Hoon’s hand began to move by itself.
Having let go of his first flashlight, Kim Tae Hoon fished out for another one. Kim Tae Hoon walked down the dark subway track with his two flashlights.
The first thing Kim Tae Hoon saw was a body.
And just beyond that were multiple corpses strewn about.
There were five corpses before him.
It was a gruesome sight.
‘It looks like blunt force……’
At first glance, everything seemed to have suffered from a type of blunt damage, but the wounds themselves looked like they had been hit by bombs. It looked like the point of impact had exploded. One of the corpses’ head was smashed into pieces to the point where you couldn’t find any of the fragments anywhere, while another corpse had been struck in the stomach, its torso and lower body separated from each other.
‘Strength beyond common sense.’
They looked like they had been struck by lumps of metal flying at hundreds of kilometers an hour.
Aside from their injuries, the corpses shared other injuries as well.
‘Rather than that, these outfits……’
All of them were wearing sneakers.
It was an outfit that Kim Tae Hoon was familiar with.
Counter-terrorist outfit, it wasn’t an outfit that just any org would supply to their units. It was a very meticulously designed uniform that a counter-terrorist unit would wear when on duty– of course, it was something that Kim Tae Hoon was familiar with.
So it was only natural that he knew what these clothes were for.
‘Monster hunt, and a stealth hunt at that.’
Black was a color reserved for secretive and stealthy operations. Ironically, wearing such clothes was basically announcing to the world that they were carrying out some sort of secret plan.
However, their outfit wasn’t exactly the best match when faced up against a monster.
It was a product made with fighting humans in mind.
But the ones in front of Kim Tae Hoon were different from the ones that Kim Tae Hoon knew of.
Kim Tae Hoon rapped his knuckles on the most intact outfit. There was a hard material inlaid within the fabric.
‘It’s not something they wore, it’s inside the clothes.’ They sewed it in.’
That meant that they had improved upon preexisting clothes.
It was one step beyond simply using some sort of protector.
The next thing that came into view was a right hand.
As expected, he saw that there was an Awakened’s tattoo when he took the glove off of a corpse.
Kim Tae Hoon’s pupils turned black.
– Strength : 71
– Stamina : 49
– Energy : D- Rank
– Mana : E Rank
– Physical Defense: D- Rank
– Magic Resistance : E Rank
– Hobgoblin’s Fervor (6th Grade)
– Troll’s Vitality (6th Grade)
Pupil’s pitch black, Kim Tae Hoon frowned.
‘His stats are better than I thought.’
He immediately inspected another corpse’s right hand.
It was another Awakened, one whose stats were not much different from the body he had just inspected.
Both of them had acquired [Hobgoblin’s Fervor] and [Troll’s Vitality].
In fact, the third corpse he inspected was the same as well.
‘Systematically nurtured soldiers.’
They weren’t soldiers who fought and killed monsters on the battlefield, but rather soldiers who were fed specific monster stones and bred intentionally.
Kim Tae Hoon couldn’t help but frown.
‘That’s a wrap.’
He had suspected that it was possible, but he was surprised nonetheless to find that there was an organization capable of bringing up Awakened in this manner.
However, he still held some doubts.
‘However, this much still isn’t enough.’
They were definitely well-raised Awakened. The Mek Guild at present wouldn’t be able to boast such a high number of skilled Awakened like these.
‘It’s suicide to try and hunt a green grade monster with just this.’
But it wasn’t enough to hunt a green grade monster.
‘They wouldn’t even be able to withstand the monster’s Fear.’
They wouldn’t even have been able to stand up to a yellow grade monster or a yellow grade monster’s Fear.
Regardless, even if they didn’t know there was a green ranked monster present, it was hard to understand why they would have entered the subway station. The dark environment of the subway was a haven for monsters, and the lack of space to move around in made it a dangerous environment to explore.
One should never enter unless they were absolutely confident in themselves.
‘…… It looks like they had a really great artifact.’
It was the most reliable source of power in the world at the moment.
Kim Tae Hoon began to rummage through the corpses. The first thing he found was a smartphone.
Smartphones with broken screens definitely didn’t work.
The next thing he found was a piece of finely folded hanji.
[TN: Hanji is a traditional Korean paper parchment that is made from Mulberry trees]
Kim Tae Hoon unfolded the paper.
‘It’s a rubbing of some sort of stele.’
The hanji bore the markings of a rubbing of a monument.
It wasn’t very old. The hanji was still fairly stiff, and the ink had yet to fade.
More importantly, Kim Tae Hoon’s blackened eyes allowed him to see what it was.
[Rubbing of Bukhansan(Sunsubi) Monument]
– Relic Grade : Grade 5
– Relic Rarity: Normal
– Relic Effect : Contains a trace of King Jinheung’s dignity. It is possible to make weaker monsters tremble in fear.
A rubbing of Silla Dynasty’s Great King Jinheung’s Sunsubi.
‘Looks like they came from Seoul.’
King Jingheung’s Sunsubi was located in the National Museum of Korea. Possessing a rubbing of Sunsubi meant that they had come from Seoul.
As expected, there were already forces that had claimed the relics in the National Museum of Korea.
It was not very pleasant news.
Kim Tae Hoon lightly clicked his tongue.
‘If just the rubbing is powerful enough to make monsters tremble in fear, then the real monument…..’
He could only imagine how powerful the real Sunsubi would be.
King Jinheung was one of the greatest conquerors of Silla. A monarch of conquest who fought in countless battles!
Then it would be without a doubt that the monument carved by King Jinheung would hold the dignity and spirit of King Jinheung himself.
It was more than enough to make monsters tremble in fear.
With a rubbing of this quality, the spirit of King Jinheung would be more than enough to serve as an invisible barrier against weaker monsters.
So it was without question that Kim Tae Hoon would take the rubbings. While doing so, he thought to himself.
‘I wonder what effects the Gwanggaeto Stele would have.’
Exactly what were the effects of the Gwanggaeto Stele that was on the future him’s wishlist?
Such thoughts flashed through his minds as soon as he laid hands on one of the weapons that used to belong to one of the corpses.
Panzerfaust 3, they had weapons that Kim Tae Hoon had been using.
But they weren’t exactly the same.
There was a bronze spear at the end of the unused shell instead of the expected rpg tip.
Kim Tae Hoon closely examined the bronze spear.
[Warrior’s Bronze Spear]
– Relic Grade : Grade 4
– Relic Rarity: Rare
– Relic Effect : A bronze spear wielded by ancient warriors. A warrior’s fighting spirit resides within.
It too, was also an artifact. It wasn’t just a regular antique either, it was something right out of the bronze age that you would see in a textbook.
The relic was attached to the front of the projectile.
An absolutely crazy thing to do. The Panzerfaust launched anti-tank explosives. In this way, both the monster and the artifact would be destroyed together.
Looking at it, Kim Tae Hoon felt a spine tingling chill.
‘With both the power of the explosive shell and the power of the relic combined…….’
Combining modern day weaponry with relics in this manner was unexpected.
But it was still something anyone could have thought of.
However, relics weren’t common items that could be replaced. It just wasn’t practical to think of relics as mere consumables.
You would first need to verify that the effects of the relic are suitable. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to draw out the power of the relic.
No, this weapon had already proved itself.
‘It was hit by these.’
Even a green ranked monster would succumb to these weapons if there were enough of them. The special forces must have fired their weapons into the green ranked monster’s mouth, inflicting fatal injuries and causing it to eventually succumb to its injuries three days ago.
‘A Panzerfaust is able to penetrate the hide of a yellow ranked monster. If you add the destructive power of relics on top of that……’
Of course, luck would be necessary as well.
‘It would be enough to inflict injuries. It was most definitely thanks to luck that they had been able to deal a fatal injury.’
However, luck isn’t just something anyone can seek out. Luck is blind and favors no one man.
The weak humans scored a lucky hit while the stronger green ranked monster was dealt a severe blow.
Kim Tae Hoon rose from his spot.
‘I have to investigate this more carefully.’
Now it was time to find the unlucky bastard.
Kim Tae Hoon had finally emerged from the station at the crack of dawn.
Kim Tae Hoon arrived at the Bucheon Mayor’s Office while everyone was still sleeping. The only one to greet him was a bleary-eyed Chang Sung Hoon.
“Was your venture fruitful?”
Instead of replying back to the drowsy Chang Sung Hoon, Kim Tae Hoon took out his smart phone, opened up an image file, and handed the phone to Chang Sung Hoon.
– Strength : 215
– Stamina : 198
– Energy : C- Rank
– Mana : C- Rank
– Telekinesis : A Rank
– Physical Defense : C- Rank
– Magic Resistance : C- Rank
– Flamespitter(5th Grade) : Converts Energy into a flame that can be spat. The strength is determined by the amount of Energy consumed. The properties of the flame are aligned to the properties of the Energy consumed.
– Rattle-tailed Mouse’s Hearing(4th Grade) : The rattle-tailed mouse can hear even the slightest drop of water.
“Wow, you leveled up like crazy! Congratulations Boss. More importantly, what’s this ability that you received this time?”
Despite the excitement in Chang Sung Hoon’s voice, Kim Tae Hoon simply closed his eyes instead of replying.
Chang Sung Hoon couldn’t help but be confused at Kim Tae Hoon’s appearance.
Understanding the situation, Chang Sung Hoon lowered his voice.
Grade 4 was the same grade as the Black Snake’s eyes that Kim Tae Hoon had acquired. So its effects wouldn’t be so simple as to just end at simply being able to hear well.
He could clearly hear the sound of water dropping on the floor, so the sound of Chang Sung Hoon’s excited yammering was like thunder right next to his ear.
“Although the ability is adjustable, I can’t control it……”
“Just the fact that it’s adjustable is a relief in itself sir.”
Chang Sung Hoon lowered his voice as much as possible.
“But more importantly, if you look at the 4th grade ability, then the green grade monster…… “
There was no reason for him to stop talking.
But there was no other way to keep the silence.
Except if Kim Tae Hoon wanted to maintain the silence, he wouldn’t have woken up the sleeping Chang Sung Hoon.
The explanation began.
Kim Tae Hoon began to talk about everything that had happened while he was in Gwangmyeong.
He talked about his run-in with Messiah and the green ranked Rattle-tailed Mouse who was found dead with a hole in its heart.
According to his story, Kim Tae Hoon made an absolute killing. He was able to come into possession of a green ranked monster’s body and monster stone. None of it could be converted into money. It was an all expenses paid road trip.
However, Chang Sung Hoon didn’t pay too much attention to Kim Tae Hoon’s gains.
“It looks like you’ve run into a much bigger competitor than you thought you would. The army has the National Museum…… I don’t think they’re 8th Mechanized Infantry Division, then could they be Capital Defense Command?”
“I don’t know. We shouldn’t recklessly guess either.”
It was the best word to describe the organization that had emerged this time around.
The reason why they were a competitor was simple.
The world had turned into a zero-sum game with a finite number of monsters to hunt and monster stones to scavenge.
“As Awakened, they should already be aware of the necessary risks required in order to gather as many monster stones as possible. Their Awakened should have already come to the realization that monster stones are more important than anything else.”
It was a fact that the group that had recently showed up knew.
That was why they had organized a special task force dedicated to hunting monsters.
“But there’s something that I don’t understand. Despite their level of preparation, it would have been impossible to kill a green ranked monster. Furthermore, the National Museum of Korea is obviously a treasure trove of goods. It should have photo negatives instead of simple wood-block prints as well……”
It was only natural for there to be some points that Chang Sung Hoon didn’t understand.
“This area shouldn’t be an area of high focus for their Awakened. There wouldn’t really be much they could do to raise their stats here……”
The National Museum of Korea also housed an edition of the Daedongyeojido. Although it wasn’t a full copy, they had photo negatives that acted as supplementary gap fillers.
If they have a copy of Daedongyeojido, then they should know of the presence of the green ranked monster in Gwangmyeong. So why would they send such well-groomed awakened to their deaths?
“Could they not have secured Daedongyeojido?”
Kim Tae Hoon gave no response to Chang Sung Hoon’s question. How would either of the two people present know the answer?
A guess could only be a guess.
So Kim Tae Hoon decided to discuss something else.
Kim Tae Hoon took out a notebook. Kim Tae Hoon flipped to the fourth page and showed it to Chang Sung Hoon.
[March 3 Gimpo Airport Rendezvous]
Chang Sung Hoon’s eyes focused on that short phrase.
It wasn’t very difficult to understand what that meant.
“So it wasn’t just one unit, sir. There were multiple units that went hunting for monsters outside of Seoul before meeting back again at one place at a designated time…… if they’re meeting at Gimpo International Airport, then are they going to try and launch a plane?”
“It’s probably a safer place than you would think since it would be free of people and is an open space.”
Kim Tae Hoon had found a means to contact these forces.
All that was left to do was choose.
“Are you going to negotiate with them on that day then?”
They had two choices.
One of the choices was to go and negotiate with this unknown party with both sides having no knowledge of the other.
The second choice was to make contact and get to know each other a little bit before undergoing negotiations.
“What do you think?”
“Immediately undergoing negotiations would be the same as going in blindfolded and playing peek-a-boo. Regardless, isn’t Gimpo Airport just north of Bucheon? No, rather, they had already arrived at Gwangmyeong. Contact with them is inevitable.”
Realistically speaking, there was really only one option.
“Boss, no matter how you look at it, the other side is much larger. So it might be good to negotiate with them and work under them. They would have no reason to be hostile towards such a large group of survivors consisting of strong awakened like Boss and the others in the Mek Guild. This is my opinion.”
Contact would be inevitable.
It would be better to be proactive with the negotiations instead of pretending not to notice them before face planting right into them.
No, it would be much much better.
‘Negotiations would lead to survival.’
Even if the two sides ended up competing, it would be better to compete under a circumstance where the two sides had already agreed to hold hands and walk together rather than engage in a competition of life or death.
Above all, there was bound to be more than one competitor.
There are already several groups in South Korea and even stronger foes in Japan, North Korea, and China.
Globally, there would be competitors in Europe, Russia, and the United States.
Looking at it that way, even if all of the survivors in South Korea banded together, they would still be lacking compared to the rest of the world.
‘As a soldier, I’m well aware of the potential of other countries, so the other party should be aware as well. That would make negotiations much easier.’
The organization based in Seoul is made up of mostly soldiers.
Soldiers exist to fight against an enemy. All soldiers of South Korea should be well aware of the enemies around South Korea.
There’s only one problem.
“It looks like there is no choice but to negotiate. The problem is……”
“If the negotiations fall through, they would make problems for Boss.”
There was no guarantee that good conditions would be achieved through the negotiations.
It wouldn’t be unlikely for Kim Tae Hoon to run into problems right then and there.
“Sunmi noonim’s hair is still short so I don’t think you’ll be in immediate danger. Don’t worry too much.”
Chang Sung Hoon said in an effort to relieve Kim Tae Hoon. Hearing what Chang Sung Hoon said, Kim Tae Hoon tried to keep his laughter contained in his mouth.
The smile on his lips instantly disappeared.
He couldn’t forget.
‘I had sent a signal to myself, telling me to set my sights on Buyeo and Gyeongju.’
Kim Tae Hoon had made a wishlist for his past self in the second dream. In the dream, Kim Tae Hoon had made a wishlist for himself.
And using that wish list, he had encoded a secret message.
He would prefer to set his sights on Gyeongju or Buyeon instead of Seoul.
It didn’t mean that Seoul was an unconditionally dangerous place. But it would be smarter and safer to head towards an area that might be ownerless.
‘It’s very likely that those who had settled in Seoul are very dangerous.’
But on the other hand, who knew if it was just a warning or not.
‘It’s also fairly dangerous to try and meet them at the Gimpo Airport on that day as well.’
Going down that path might end up quickening his death.
Kim Tae Hoon closed his eyes for a moment.
‘I really can’t adapt to this situation.’
It was the fact that either decision could result to his death, but he had no choice but to choose.
“I should prepare for the worst outcome.”
However, Kim Tae Hoon didn’t just give up.
He just needed to prepare for the outcome of his choice.
If a problem arises, then all he has to do is prepare for it.
Even as the dead rot and decompose, the living must still carry on.
“For now, gather all the technicians.”
“I’ve already gathered those on the list. All you have to do is assign them a job.”
“For now, have them extract the data from the smartphone in my bag. We don’t know what else might be on the phone after all.”
“Also, put up a mission notice for the clans. Tell them to bring any usable solar power generators from Gwangmyeong to Bucheon.”
“The condition of the roads aren’t that great…… It wouldn’t be easy.”
“Have them move along the subway tracks.”
“Are the tracks fine?”
“With the exception of some monster corpses, yes. I couldn’t stand the loud heartbeats of the monsters so I cleaned them out.”
Chang Sung Hoon couldn’t help but admire Kim Tae Hoon.
Would anyone clean up the subway lines on their way back for future usage? Even if someone decided to do so, could just anyone have the strength to do so?
“Amazing. Then all the way from Bucheon City Hall Station to Cheolsan Station…… still, we could avoid the streets.”
“It’s something that we would have had to do eventually.”
“Also, gather up some trustworthy people to go and retrieve the body of the Rattle-Tailed Mouse. Send them off first. That’s our priority at the moment.”
Watching ceaselessly coming up with plans, Chang Sung Hoon formed a wry smile on his face.
The conversation continued until after the sun had come up.
That’s how the day started.
Kim Tae Hoon couldn’t feel anything in his right arm.
“Was my arm cut off? Was it cut off from the shoulder?’
It seemed like his arm had been cut off.
But he could neither confirm nor deny that fact.
His gaze was currently affixed towards the front.
There were two women in front of him.
The two looked identical with one holding onto a sword and the other holding onto a mandolin.
“Worthy of being a dragon hunter. To have held out against the two of us for this long. It’s truly amazing, isn’t it?”
The sword-wielding twin spoke in a long string of Chinese words.
“It’s to the point where I just want to rip you apart.”
A very murderous string of Chinese words.
It goes without saying, Kim Tae Hoon had no idea what they were saying.
‘All I can do is try and memorize what they’re saying.’
He tried to focus his mind in order to try and memorize what the girl had said just mere moments before.
It was at that moment.
“If you have something to say before you die, say it now. Considering your accomplishments, I figure I should at least let you leave a will or testament or something.”
Kim Tae Hoon heard a voice behind him.
Feeling the point of a sword up against his back, Kim Tae Hoon knew that there was a man behind him ready to stab his heart.
Regardless, he wouldn’t even give Kim Tae Hoon much time to say anything anyways.
‘So he stabbed my heart. The blood is flooding my throat. I can’t say much.’
Therefore, Kim Tae Hoon perked up his ears and listened intently.
“The ones here, they are the Six Snakes…….’
These were the words that the future Kim Tae Hoon was leaving his past self.
“The name of the traitor is Oh Saebum. Remember his voice. And, make good use of him…… “
At that moment, the surrounding atmosphere changed.
“FUCK, QUICK, KILL HIM!
“RIP HIS FUCKING THROAT OUT!”
The dream ended there.