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Chapter 30 – A City With No Laws (3)
Flurries of snow had begun to earnestly dye this tragic world with white color.
After Kim Tae Hoon and Chang Sung Hoon dealt with the corpses, they took the surviving Baek Jiyeon to a seafood restaurant.
The fish in the aquarium had spilled onto the floor as a result of the monster raid, and although they were frozen, a fishy scent still lingered in the air.
“I’ll stand guard.”
Chang Sung Hoon took out a rifle that he had brought and watched the perimeter, while Kim Tae Hoon took the shivering Baek Jiyeon, whose lips had turned blue in the cold and was wearing a jacket and a pair of pants that had been taken off the dead punks, into the kitchen.
Kim Tae Hoon handed Baek Jiyeon two hot packs he had found in the kitchen.
With glazed eyes, Baek Jiyeon pressed the hot packs to her body.
Since she was only wearing a jacket, her naked body was revealed as she tried to warm herself with the hot pack, but she couldn’t afford to concern herself about revealing herself.
Her desire to melt her frozen body was as intense as her desire to survive.
Kim Tae Hoon stood before her and spoke.
“January 1st, what did you witness?”
He didn’t bother to say anything, and instead stared at her with a cold gaze.
Baek Jiyeon then recalled something. The three conditions that Kim Tae Hoon had given her.
“1, 1st, I don’t know what happened on the first. By the time I woke up, it was already night.”
If she hesitates, she dies.
That warning caused Baek Jiyeon’s mouth to open on its own.
“Everyone was like that. On January 1st, there were very few survivors that had their wits about them. The awakened! Right! There were a few awakened who were active on January 1st. It’s not exactly accurate······.”
Of course, the words that spewed out of her mouth were mostly uncontrollably chatter.
Cold and fear, these two elements were very effective in paralyzing a human’s logic.
Kim Tae Hoon’s actions were not without reason.
The things that came out of Baek Jiyeon’s mouth were true to her thoughts and had not been altered.
‘The dragon’s aura was enormous.’
For now, it had become clear to Kim Tae Hoon that January 1st was more or less a blank page.
The point of origin was clear.
Such a terrifying monster had either killed or knocked unconscious other organisms simply by flying over.
Even if there were monsters or humans that could still move, they wouldn’t have been able to function just the same as expected.
She had revealed a crucial term.
That term was an original term that Kim Tae Hoon had coined himself, it wasn’t something that could be patented or trademarked.
However, the fact that it was a commonly used term was an indicator of Kim Tae Hoon’s influence.
“Who came up with the term ‘awakened’?”
“Survivors from a large shopping mall had spread the term. Rumors that the awakened can gain superhuman strength if they ate monster stones, also came from them. There are also rumors that the first hunter was able to kill a black orc······.” [TN: BOOM, name drop]
As expected, the term had spread because of the survivors from the big shopping mall.
“Then what happened on January 2nd? Tell me about any important events.”
“The survivors from the big shopping mall gathered at the city hall. From there they started forming groups. If you affiliated yourself with an awakened, you could fight against monsters, and if you collected more monster stones, you could hunt more monsters. So survivors began to gather there in droves.”
“When did you join them?”
“I, I didn’t join them. I was working at a department store in Sinjeong-dong. I didn’t go to them, they came to me.”
“Is Messiah the name of an organization?”
“Wait, what? Yes. It’s the name of a group. No, because of that······ it wasn’t a faction formed in the city hall. Wait no, they were gathered there so, so······.”
It was at that point that she began to stutter.
She couldn’t quite organize her thoughts and speak her mind.
Kim Tae Hoon stared at her, causing Baek Jiyeon to shiver before she spoke again.
“That, I’ll tell you soon. Please, my life······.”
“Answer my question. Who created Messiah?”
“Lee, it was a guy named Lee Jin Sung.”
“What does he look like?”
“That······ I’ve never seen him before. I don’t even know where to find him.”
Hearing her words, Kim Tae Hoon focused his gaze.
“Al, although it’s a rumor, it’s said that he uses a knife, as to what kind of knife······ it’s a special knife that could cut a monster in half. Ru, rumor, it’s just a rumor. I haven’t personally seen it.”
“On what day did Messiah come to the department store you were at?”
“That······ the 6th! I’m sure, it was the 6th.”
“What was their purpose?”
“To find a sacrifice······.”
“A sacrifice to appease the Yellow Demon in the subway.”
“The Yellow Demon in the subway?”
“It’s a huge snake. Its whole body is covered in black scales, but its eyes are yellow······ That’s why they call it a yellow demon.”
“What do you mean by sacrifice?”
“Ten sacrifices are offered every day to satiate the Yellow Demon’s hunger. Every day, they toss ten people into Sinjeong-dong Station. Ten people every day······ they cut their achilles’ tendons so that they wouldn’t run······.”
As her words trailed off, Baek Ji Yeon began to tremble as the sanity began to slip from her eyes.
“S, sorry. I’ll answer correctly, I’ll answer······.”
Thinking that there was no longer any meaning in asking her more questions, Kim Tae Hoon retrieved a chocolate bar and a can of coffee and tossed it to her.
Canned coffee and a chocolate bar, it wasn’t quite a good combination, but she accepted them with eyes wide open.
“Take a break. Organize your thoughts.”
“Th, thank you.”
She promptly began to peel away the wrapper, her fingers frozen stiff with cracked fingernails.
Barely succeeding in removing the wrapper, she began to eat the frozen chocolate bar.
Meanwhile, Kim Tae Hoon stepped out of the kitchen and approached Chang Sung Hoon who was standing guard.
“Boss, did you gain anything?”
“Even if it’s bad news, if you say you’ve gained, then you’ve gained.”
“Bad news? Was it really that bad?”
“There’s an awakened amongst the survivors that’s expanding his sphere of influence in the city. His force is called Messiah.”
“Messiah, quite a catchy name. I think it would have been better to have used an English name for our clan name. To be honest, now that I think about it, foreigners might look at our clan name and think of M_D_n_lds or an apple, I don’t think they’ll imagine a dream devouring deity. Also, I saw a M_D_n_lds near the department store, and I kind of want to eat a burger now.”
“Messiah’s way of dealing with a monster beyond their abilities to fight is to sacrifice innocent people to the monster.”
“I suppose there was a method like that.”
While nodding his head, Chang Sung Hoon’s face suddenly paled.
“Wait, what? Hu, human sacrifice? Hold on, I didn’t hear incorrectly did I? Did they already sacrifice people? To a monster?”
“She told me that there was a yellow demon snake in the subway, and that they sacrifice ten adults every day.”
“Ev, every day? Te, ten people? They’re crazy, right? No, they ARE crazy. Crazy bastards, to think they would offer living sacrifices.”
Perplexity filled Chang Sung Hoon’s eyes after having cursed those at Messiah.
“It’s cruelty more than crazy.”
Unlike Chang Sung Hoon, Kim Tae Hoon remained levelheaded.
The scenario wasn’t something that Kim Tae Hoon had expected, but he couldn’t help but acknowledge the fact that, objectively, Messiah’s actions were logical and effective.
“Regardless, since they couldn’t fight the monster, it’s somewhat reasonable for them to sacrifice humans instead.”
“But that’s just not right.”
“If you were in Messiah, you wouldn’t be able to so easily say those words.”
“A small number of daily sacrifices for the sake of the majority. Who knows if they even approached it democratically given the state of the world.”
Chang Sung Hoon closed his mouth.
Standing before him, Kim Tae Hoon kept talking.
“Furthermore, there’s a trend where survivors are flocking towards the awakened. It would be hard for people to object to sacrifices if the awakened are the ones that asked for it. Also, not only would the sacrificial system be essential for their survival, but it would also help the awakened maintain their power.”
Chang Sung Hoon stared blankly at the snow, his face pale.
Kim Tae Hoon stopped talking.
He was mulling over the situation in his head.
‘Lee Jin Sung and Messiah.’
For now, he had two clues.
Messiah was a growing faction headed by someone named Lee Jin Sung.
The name certainly gives off a good vibe. What was important was their actions.
‘Clever, cruel, and decisive.’
It makes sense that the awakened would gather together. The survivors would definitely opt to build their forces around them.
But sacrificing a living person was not something that would happen often.
It wouldn’t have been easy for someone to even consider it.
At that point, the only other option would have been to run from it instead.
If such a powerful monster emerged, it makes sense that they would run away or try to appease the monster by feeding it.
If a monster claimed a territory that ended up being an automatic buffet, would that monster ever find a reason to leave its territory?
It’s not something that you would come up with just by frequently watching National Geographic.
‘Lee Jin Sung.’
Being someone who was able to decisively make that conscious decision, Lee Jin Sung couldn’t be a regular person.
‘An awakened who had the ability to cut a monster in half with one stroke.’
It was just a story, but one that described his abilities with a sword.
It was something that not even Kim Tae Hoon could do.
‘Either his Energy rank is really high, or his Magic rank is high and he possesses a relic that could effectively utilize his mana.’
His innate abilities would definitely be high.
‘The scary thing is that he intentionally formed Messiah.’
He didn’t recklessly use his strength.
According to the story, Messiah first started from within the group of survivors that was holed up in the city hall.
Lee Jin Sung had progressed step-by-step.
He would have first played the part of the hero by fighting against the monsters, then once he had formed Messiah, he would welcome the awakened and condition them into becoming his limbs, after which he would take off the mask that Messiah was wearing.
‘His goal was never humanitarian in nature.’
Messiah sacrificing living humans was definitely not of religious origins.
His goal was to kill monsters.
‘His purpose was to raise his strength while hunting the small fries.’
Speaking in terms of a game, it was like leaving a boss monster alone while leveling up by eating up the small fries.
Meanwhile, their area of activity will increase as well. The proof? There were groups of survivors in other areas that were being subjugated and treated as sacrifices.
They had decapitated someone just to scare and subdue their captives.
‘If they continue like this, they’ll eventually come across the 17th Division barracks beyond Songnae Station······.’
The moment these groups get their hands on firepower, they’ll become powerful warlords.
The foundation had been laid. It was much bigger than the Mek Clan itself.
So Kim Tae Hoon had to choose.
‘Do I touch them, or leave them be.’
There was no way to leave Messiah as they were.
He had to choose now whether or not they were to lay their hands on Messiah or not.
Kim Tae Hoon didn’t need to worry about it for too long.
‘I cannot withhold my hand.’
He could not leave Messiah alone, nor could he associate with them.
It wasn’t a sense of justice or disgust that he held towards Messiah and Lee Jin Sung that made him decide this.
‘I cannot just let a knife be left in the dark.’
There was something that Kim Tae Hoon could not do.
Quite frankly, Kim Tae Hoon would not compromise or cooperate with other powers in this lawless world.
He could only remove other powers.
If Kim Tae Hoon were to calmly evaluate Lee Jin Sung’s power, then there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be able to take care of him.
Lee Jin Sung was someone who would decapitate a human just to prove a point.
Such a man would never abandon his ambitions.
That was something he knew for certain.
A sharp knife that he can’t control will only bring harm to himself.
There was only one option.
Kim Tae Hoon looked out by the restaurant’s broken window. The snow had begun to fall with greater intensity.
‘The weather is good.’
“Chang Sung Hoon, we’re falling back.”
“Yes sir. Then that girl······.”
Before Kim Tae Hoon replied, he had already turned around to retrieve Baek Jiyeon, who was clutching the hot packs.
While staring at her, he spoke.
“You have two choices. You go about your way and live as an unaffiliated survivor, or you can come as our captive. I’ll be clear. You have no value as a hostage for the other side. With us, don’t expect treatment like you’re a prisoner of war.”
Hearing Kim Tae Hoon’s words, her reply was obvious.
“Ca, captive, I’ll go as a captive. I’ll do whatever you say.”
The Mek Clan’s headquarters, the library, did not look much different from before.
However, there were hidden traps prepared in case of intruders.
Whether it be monsters or humans, intruders would have to pay a huge price to enter.
In some ways, it was the safest place in all of Bucheon.
Kim Tae Hoon was preparing to leave such a place.
“I’m leaving by myself.”
He was leaving without any companions.
Kim Su Ji was the first to react.
“Major, will you be able to complete your mission on your own sir?”
They had already heard his story.
They had already heard his plan.
Kim Tae Hoon was going to deal with Messiah.
Amongst those who had gathered, Kim Su Ji, Bang Hyun Wook, Ahn Sun Mi, and Chang Sung Hoon, none of them had doubts about getting rid of Messiah.
They needed to be punished for their crimes against humanity.
Furthermore, Messiah was also the Mek Clan’s largest and closest obstacle at the moment.
Messiah needed to be brought down a notch, and their morale needed to be broken.
“If Messiah has no firearms, then it would be a simple task to just lead the soldiers sir.”
What was important was the method.
Messiah could never be the Mek Clan’s opponent if they had no guns.
As soon as a handful of people died, the rest would surrender amidst the terror and panic.
Whether or not they were awakened did not matter. There wouldn’t be any awakened who could withstand a bullet.
However, Kim Tae Hoon chose not to go about things this way.
“Messiah does not directly deal with the monsters, but rather utilizes sacrifices and offerings. Their territory would essentially just be a monster’s lair. Moving too loudly in such a place is too risky. I doubt you know if the monsters there will fall to gunfire.”
The area where Messiah was located at couldn’t be considered a safe zone at all, but rather, an area where Messiah was in a symbiotic relationship with a monster.
The monster right now is called the Yellow Demon.
Messiah’s leader, Lee Jin Sung, was able to wound its body with a sword.
If they were to kill a man who could split a monster in two with one stroke of his sword, they would need to use guns.
In fact, they might have to use overwhelming firepower along the vein of grenades and claymores.
And even that might not work. At that point, the Mek Clan would swoop in to obliterate.
“There’s no reason to make this a war of attrition.”
The Mek Clan would have the most to lose in a war of attrition.
That’s just how it would be.
The price both sides would pay would be huge if they were to use intense firepower.
So a larger group equipped to the teeth would not necessarily work better than a smaller group.
“Above all, this is my specialty.”
Kim Tae Hoon, such a damnably efficient existence had been born.
He had logged numerous hours operating fighter jets, battleships, and tanks. However, there were times where it was better to just send in a highly trained soldier to take care of a problem instead of consuming massive amounts of resources.
“It’s currently 19:22, 10th of January.”
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Kim Tae Hoon was most suited at removing a power in this lawless city.
“If I don’t come back by January 11 0500 hours, prepare for battle and rush their territory, Kim Su Ji will be in command.”
Everyone who had gathered around Kim Tae Hoon, including Kim Su Ji, was concerned.
“Good luck to you Major.”
“Hyungnim, good luck.”
“Boss, come back safely.”
“Ah, then I’ll be Worldcon.” [TN: No idea what this means]
“I hope you can come back alive. I don’t want to leave my life in the hands of these two crazy punks.”
“Noonim, that’s too harsh.”
“That’s right noonim, you’ll have a hard time getting married if you’re like that.”
Kim Tae Hoon’s companions had just about finished sending him off.