Chapter 57 – National Treasure (2)
Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk stared at the bungeoppang in front of them.
[TN: Bungeoppang is a fish shaped red bean jam bun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungeo-ppang]
It was without a doubt some of the best snacks you could eat on a cold wintry day, but the two of them stared at the bungeoppang like it was from another world.
‘Just how in the world did they make bunggeoppang of all things?’ ‘Do they have the materials? No, wait…… these aren’t the usual ingredients that go into bunggeoppang?’
To be frank, bunggeoppang didn’t require any special ingredients or a great amount of effort.
All you needed was a mold placed over a flame, dough to pour into the mold, the red beans to go into the dough, and finally some time for the dough to cook.
‘It isn’t really anything special……’
But it wasn’t something that could currently be found in Seoul.
There were rations being handed out to the survivors in Seoul, but the distribution was one-sided and mechanical. The amount they handed out gave just enough energy to survive.
So when the moist bunggeoppang entered their mouths, they felt an explosion of warm sweetness fill their mouths.
Between Seoul and Bucheon, everyone would make the same choice.
“In a short amount of time, Boss will go out to hunt.”
Chang Sung Hoon said towards Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk, both of which were enjoying the texture of the incredulous bunggeoppang in their possession.
“At that time, the two of you will go and observe.”
When such unexpected words came out of Chang Sung Hoon’s mouth, their eyes changed.
‘He’s just going to show us?’
‘What’s his purpose?’
They couldn’t understand why they were being allowed to observe.
“It’s just as I’ve said. After you’ve observed Boss hunting, you can go and report it your superior. Of course it goes without saying, but I hope you don’t hinder the Boss or cause trouble.”
However, with Chang Sung Hoon’s explanation, the two were able to grasp the situation.
It was something they had wanted to see.
Although they had seen Kim Tae Hoon clinch an easy victory when facing off against Oh Saebum, that was, in the end, just a test. Although they had seen some of his cards, they hadn’t quite seen the ways he utilized them.
The fight was too bland. It was Kim Tae Hoon’s one-sided victory. The information that could be obtained from such a battle would be fragmentary at best.
Above all, fighting against monsters and fighting against humans were totally different. What Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun wanted to know was Kim Tae Hoon’s ability to kill monsters.
This was a chance for the two to witness it.
‘What should we do?’
It was a golden opportunity.
‘We do have to see it……’
But on the other hand, the entire proposition was fairly sketchy.
‘Just what is going on?’
‘Could he have other intentions?’
If 50,000 won suddenly landed at your feet, you would carefully look around as opposed to picking it up right away.
To Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk, their current situation was similar.
“Ah, this isn’t a request for cooperation or anything like that.”
Chang Sung Hoon’s words helped lift some of their burden.
“No matter, you must attend. If you refuse, we’ll be forced to drag you there, even if that means beating you senseless. Boss said that if you refuse, he’ll tie up your limbs, strap on a diaper, and forcibly carry you around like a luggage. If it were me, I would definitely not want to experience wearing a diaper again in my adult life.”
“Load it! Faster, hurry up and load it on!”
“Alright, you’re good to go!”
Men in black raincoats were swiftly and skillfully loading monster bodies onto a truck before quickly leaving.
The bodies loaded onto the truck immediately underwent dismantling. They split open the monsters’ chests and retrieved the monster stones from within.
All of these actions were carried out swiftly.
‘Everything is happening in real time.’
‘It’s like watching clockwork.’
Kim Yuri’s and Kim Joohyuk’s watching eyes rolled incessantly.
They had suffered through all sorts of hardships.
But despite that, everything they saw was alarming.
‘They are not Awakened but rather regular civilians, yet they’re able to carry out these tasks so swiftly?’
From the very start, everything was alarming.
Kim Tae Hoon said that he would go hunting alone and had only taken a support team to handle the dismantling.
He had decided to recruit the members of the team by accepting applicants, a position that was heavily competed after.
‘When he was recruiting, people gladly turned in their applications with a smile on their faces.’
On top of that, all of the applicants were regular people. They were members of the general public that would normally piss their pants at the slightest monster roar.
It was a sight that Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk had never imagined was possible. There eyes kept moving.
Their eyes only stopped roving around once they noticed Kim Tae Hoon descending from the sky.
Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk looked at Kim Tae Hoon as though they had just seen a ghost. Kim Tae Hoon had just in mere moments before, stopped a charging herd of mini bears on his own.
Its rank is red, but its body is like that of a bear’s, just smaller and similar in size to that of a wolf.
But its strength and daring far exceeded that of a regular bear. It was such that a group of them wouldn’t be afraid of provoking an orange ranked monster.
Seeing someone block that crazy rush of mini bears was insane.
Even those in mechanized infantry riding tanks would have their hair turn white with fright, so what further explanation was needed.
However, facing the mini bears’ charge, Kim Tae Hoon had simply glanced at the twenty or so strong herd and turned them into corpses with a single hole in each of them.
After hunting down the monsters, a featherless arrow made its way into Kim Tae Hoon’s waist. Eyeing the arrow, Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk had come to the realization that it was Kim Tae Hoon’s weapon.
It was a weapon way stronger, faster, more unpredictable, and stealthier than modern day guns. The two shivered after having witnessed its usage.
‘If he had fought with a relic in hand…… then Major Oh Saebum wouldn’t have been able to even struggle.’
At the same time, they had come to the realization that Kim Tae Hoon’s ability to hunt down monsters was at a level that Oh Saebum couldn’t compare to.
Assuredly, Oh Saebum was also incredibly strong.
With his B+ Rank Energy he had hunted down and killed an orange grade monster with his bare hands, but after being armed with the relics from the National Museum, he ended being able to deal with yellow grade monsters as well.
When the Capital Defense Command went on a campaign to hunt down a green ranked monster, Oh Saebum was the one who jumped out of an attack helicopter and clung onto the giant, 10-legged, green ranked monster.
That was why Oh Saebum was a spark of hope.
He showed that monsters were not to be feared and were enemies that humans could stand up to and that humans were very well capable of fighting and defeating them.
Kim Tae Hoon was different.
Resisting, struggling…… Kim Tae Hoon exhibited none of that.
Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk tried to stifle their emotions.
‘Red ranked monsters can easily be killed with guns.’
‘Although the mini bears are strong, one platoon armed with firearms is enough to deal with them.’
If they were to acknowledge and admit to Kim Tae Hoon’s strength right here, then all their hard work thus far would seem like garbage.
So they attempted to cut down the imposing figure of Kim Tae Hoon imprinted in their minds and bring him down to a level they felt they could cope with.
“Be wary of Fear.”
Kim Tae Hoon briefly warned the two.
“What do you mean?”
Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk were surprised at his warning, but Kim Tae Hoon did not reply.
Instead, a giant bear, as opposed to the mini bears, let out a loud roar.
It was a Chameleon Bear, one whose hide would change colors according to its surroundings.
‘Oh my God!’
Exposed to the monster’s Fear, Kim Yuri and Kim Joohyuk’s bodies froze.
Even Kim Tae Hoon didn’t move.
The only thing that moved was the Sword of the Commander on Kim Tae Hoon’s back.
Although the weather had started to warm up, Gimpo International Airport’s bleak atmosphere still remained.
Rather, as the snow melted away, the sense of desolation grew stronger.
Within that desert of bleakness was a group of people.
They were like a pack of wolves. The atmosphere was full of tension and caution.
Only one man located in the center of the crowd exuded an aura different from that of a wolf.
He had a hooked nose and full cheeks– an appearance that could never resemble that of a wolf’s.
“Are you sure today is the agreed date?
So why isn’t he coming?”
The man’s name was Lee Dongseok.
He was neither a soldier nor an Awakened and had a folksy air about him. He was a former staff member of the National Museum and was brought along as a specialist in regards to the negotiations with Kim Tae Hoon.
It was the same with Kim Tae Hoon. Off in the distance at the other end of the runway were Kim Tae Hoon and Chang Sung Hoon.
Confirming the presence of the two, Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun’s mouth twisted.
It wasn’t because Kim Tae Hoon disgusted him or anything.
‘Identifying the location of the sniper.’
The problem was that Kim Tae Hoon was approaching from the direction of the sniper’s location.
It was a message.
[Since I know where the sniper is, cut the shit and forget about any funny business.]
‘He’s become even more of a monster.’
It was hard to come to terms with. Even though Kim Tae Hoon could be considered to be the world’s foremost specialist in that field of work, it wouldn’t have been possible to identify the location of a sniper placed a day in advance.
In other words, it was obvious. It was proof that this world had long since been unbound by the chains of common sense.
Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun sent a signal to his men.
Having received the signal, his men began to wave a white flag. If it were the same as before, he would have simply sent a message through a walkie-talkie, but as it were, it was currently impossible.
It wasn’t long before Kim Tae Hoon and Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun were face to face again.
“What are the results?”
“Your conditions will be accepted.”
There were no greetings.
Neither of them were the kind to waste time with needless greetings.
“I’ll give you a task. If your work isn’t satisfactory, you won’t be paid. The compensation will definitely be paid in relics.”
“I have a wishlist. I will only accept the goods on that list.”
The two spoke what they wanted to say.
Having said what they wanted to say, the two looked at each other.
Of the two expressionless faces, the Lieutenant Colonel was the first to make an expression by wrinkling his face.
With a frown on his face, he gestured to Lee Dongseok.
Fixing his round glasses, Lee Dongseok walked over to Kim Tae Hoon.
“For now, I would like to know what you want.”
Standing behind Kim Tae Hoon, Chang Sung Hoon made his move. Chang Sung Hoon pulled out a box.
It didn’t look like a box you’d store papers in. Quite frankly, it looked like a box you’d put walnut cookies in. In addition, a long nose belonging to an animal, like that of an elephant’s, was painted on the cover with a brush.
Lee Dongseok tilted his neck upwards.
“This is a gift. These are walnuts cookies that the Mek Guild had produced. The animals depicted are meks. It’s our guild’s mascot. Of course, it’s not just a simple walnut cookie. Included are some monster materials as ingredients. It’s delicious. I guarantee that it’ll become a world-class hit product once we can start mass production.”
Lee Dongseok had an expression as though he didn’t understand what was going on while Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun furrowed his brow.
He had received them as gifts before in the past.
But to receive such a confection in today’s day and age?
Even those made of monster ingredients?
It was something he couldn’t expect.
He had no leisure to even think about something like that.
‘I guess I should listen to what you have to say. I want to know just exactly what is happening in Bucheon right now.’
Because of that, the walnut snack presented by Chang Sung Hoon was like a surprise punch.
A punch that renders you momentarily senseless.
But an even stronger punch followed soon after.
“This is a wish list.”
Chang Sung Hoon handed Lee Dongseok a folded bundle of paper. There was a lot written on the three sheets of A4 paper. Reading the list, he was instantly shocked at the contents and exclaimed out loud.
“Aren’t these all national treasures?”
“What are you saying? The Golden Crown from the Tomb of the Golden Crown! The Royal Girdle of Korea! Clay Horseback Rider Figurine! Geumsansa Stone Statue of Maitreya! Even the Bell of King Seongdeok! These are all national treasures!”
“Aren’t Kim Hong-do’s Danwon Pungsokdo Cheop treasures as well?”
“T, that is……”
“Ah, I forgot to mention King Muryeong’s set from the Tomb of King Muryeong. That includes everything from the foot rests to the pillows.”
Lee Dongseok exclaimed in indignation after looking at the ridiculous wishlist. His tone became unpleasant.
“Why don’t you just ask for the entire National Museum of Korea!”
“Hm? Is that ok?”
“What nonsense are you saying! All of these are exhibited as national treasures at the National Museum in Korea!”
“Hunminjeongeum, the Bronze Gilded Buddha Trio Statue, and the Cranes and Cloud Celadon Vase are all things located in Gansong Art Museum? Since when were those in the National Museum of Korea? Also now that I think about it, I must have forgotten to put those. I also seem to have forgotten to mention Geumgangsan. Can you give the wish list back to me? I have a few more things to write down.”
Lee Dongseok could no longer stand Chang Sung Hoon, and so he turned around and faced Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun.
Then he whispered something towards the lieutenant colonel.
These bastards are crazy!
Hearing that Lieutenant Colonel stopped frowning. He gave Kim Tae Hoon a smug look.
“You were the one who proposed a negotiation, but you don’t seem to be willing to negotiate.”
National treasures weren’t designated as such for no reason. They were treasures designated as such by the Republic of Korea in order to preserve the nation’s identity, culture, and history.
On the list were items that weren’t quite national treasures but were not too different from them.
Those that turned into relics had done so with amazing options attached, but even those without any options and those that hadn’t been turned into relics couldn’t casually handed over to just anyone.
They were not objects that could be the subject of a transaction.
Basically, Kim Tae Hoon was willing to give an intangible product but was unwilling to negotiate terms.
“In this world where there aren’t just one or two monsters, tens of thousands of humans have put their lives on the line to survive, so I think that receiving a national treasure is fair compensation.”
But Kim Tae Hoon was serious.
“That sounds ridiculous.”
“If it sounds ridiculous, then I’ll just go and negotiate with someone else.”
Kim Tae Hoon countered with a serious look on his face.
Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun stiffened.
He directed a murderous gaze towards Kim Tae Hoon. He looked like a beast that had been stabbed in the chest.
Kim Tae Hoon did nothing to dodge his murderous gaze. Rather, he stared back with an even stronger gaze.
“We’ll only accept the items on the list. Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Dae Hyun, all you’re doing is bringing me proper compensation for my work.”
“…… Major Kim Tae Hoon has changed a lot.”
Kim Tae Hoon did not answer. That was because what he wanted to hear wasn’t the details of that.
Lieutenant Colonel Yoo Daehyun did not immediately speak. After struggling for a bit, he opened his mouth.
“There are important figures currently in Incheon. If you’re able to rescue them, then one treasure will be proper compensation.”
“The price will unconditionally be at least one treasure. I’ll accept it somehow after finishing the mission.”