Episode 3: Age of Ghosts / Chapter 34: Break Time (2)
It was the same around the world. 5% of the global population experienced the game of death and among them, only a fraction survived. All military and police personnel had also disappeared.
There was a difference between how those who experienced the game of death and those who did not viewed the world. If one side had experienced hell for the past month, the other side had not. In their world, there was great cellphone reception and no ring suddenly appeared in their schools or offices. Only the military and police had disappeared, they lived in a world of common sense without the presence of karma or monsters.
Of course, the absence of the military and police left a huge hole.
There were even sayings that violence was the foundation of countries. Within specific regions, there was no way to create a country without being the strongest or at least one of the strongest. People followed a country’s order because they had the power to forcefully penalize them.
That was why the disappearance of the most fundamental foundations of creating a country, the police and military, left an enormous impact.
However, the world didn’t suddenly become lawless like in ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Fist of the North Star’. There were some countries like that but in the very least, Korea wasn’t one of them. While it was chaotic, sufficient order was present that people still went to work.
These ‘normal people’ who never stood out. However, the ones who preserved this world were these very people. They wished for basic order as soon as possible. Normally they were invisible like air but now that the lid was opened, there were plenty of them. While there were ruffians who wanted to wreck havoc, it wasn’t easy against so many of them.
Countries that had established themselves had the capacity to maintain order. At the end of the Han dynasty, when He Jin, the Ten Attendants and the Yellow Turban Rebellion ran amuck, and even when Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, Cao Cao and Yuan Shao caused a mess, the Han dynasty did not collapse. It was like that in the past and Korea did not collapse after a month without the police or the military.
Though, to do so, the president had to suffer through quite the headache.
The first thing he did was organize the firefighters, then he reorganized the public officials and made a new military force. “But the weapons have disappeared along with the military!” “Get whatever’s left over and if that’s not enough, arm them with clubs! And if there still aren’t enough, create more! Start producing guns tomorrow, stat! Get your minds out of the gutter!” “Yes!” “Impose martial law and start recruiting reserve troops in order.” “Yes!”
While he was executing those plans, survivors appeared from the locked down Kangdong and Seongbuk districts. They were areas covered by an opaque wall that made it impossible for them to look inside or even enter. Areas that left citizens uneasy.
The president had the responsibility to look into the situation. He called the leaders of the groups over to the Blue House and held a meeting. As the leaders also had to understand what happened outside their areas, they willingly agreed.
Choi Hyuk sent Baek Seoin a message. It was a skill he learned after awakening as a ‘sovereign’. He was able to converse with his followers wherever they were.
-You remember how you said you thought that the main army retreated?
-Did you find out what happened?
Baek Seoin hesitated slightly. Choi Hyuk’s voice seemed serious. He seemed so menacing that it was worrying. However, he eventually opened his mouth.
The betrayal of the troops under Jung Minji’s command. Especially the betrayal of Song Simin and Yoon Girim. As it was already an open secret, it wasn’t hard to find out.
-… So that’s what happened. Are they at the Blue House?
Choi Hyuk hung up. Baek Seoin hurriedly called out to him.
– Don’t tell me you’re just going to kill them right when you get there?
Choi Hyuk didn’t reply. He currently wasn’t normal. He was simply going to the Blue House because they were there. He didn’t have any plans on what he would do when he arrived. It was highly likely he would ‘just kill’ them.
He was silent.
-How many are you going to kill?
-The kings who were under Jung Minji and Yoon Girim.
-And if there is someone who tries to stop you?
Choi Hyuk didn’t reply. However, wouldn’t he kill them as well?
-Then what if the president stops you?
Choi Hyuk ground his teeth. His insides were boiling. He started to breathe raggedly, before asking with a slightly trembling voice.
-So what is it that you want to say?
-It’s fine that you want to kill them. But we need to at least follow the basic rules and procedures.
-Rules and procedures? There’s something like that in a world like this?
-Then you have to make them yourself.
-… Even if the result is the same, there is a difference between having the kings on our side and not… Please give me a day. I’ll plan something out.
-Please wait. I’m on my way. Go to the Blue House with me.
Baek Seoin appeared with a bag full of expensive liquor.
Choi Hyuk didn’t have any trouble entering the Blue House as the Guardian Bae Jinman, General Cha Taeshik of the Alliance of Comrades in Arms, the Knight Captain Ryu Hyunsung, and others could confirm his identity.
That night, in celebration of Choi Hyuk’s return, they shared the liquor amongst themselves.
Then they had a deep conversation with Baek Seoin. He gained their sympathy while understanding the situation. The mood that night was excellent.
“If there are kings from other areas I should notify, who would they be?”
This was the last question that he asked before they were about to leave with bottles of liquor in their hands.
The next day.
The meeting took place that day as well.
When the president confirmed that they had superhuman abilities, he had no choice but to try to gain their cooperation. He attempted to appoint them as generals so as to resolve the situation and the meeting dragged on endlessly as they adjusted the specific details and discussed what they should do next.
“So… what you are saying is that opaque wall could appear again?”
“Yes… As someone who participated in the game, I feel that’s possible. The game hasn’t ended. In fact, there was even an announcement about a 3-day break. It ends tomorrow.”
“… By any chance, if the wall appears again, can the survivors hop over and help them out?”
“That’s impossible. We weren’t able to re-enter once we came out.”
“… This means that if new survivors appear, we need someone to control them.”
“Yes. That is correct.”
The kings who spoke with the president had already been decided – Song Simin of Kangdong District, Min Jaram of Mapo District and three or four others. Besides them, the other kings only silently listened.
The reason was simple.
Their conversation felt so distant from their reality. The break only lasted 3 days. No one knew what kind of game would start afterwards. The majority of kings felt dizzy listening to their talks of trying to maintain order.
In fact, General Cha Taeshik of the Alliance of Comrades in Arms’s ‘draft all citizens plan’ seemed more realistic. Of course, the president’s reaction to that was lukewarm.
So, when Choi Hyuk came out, many kings felt excited. They were able to figure out that something was about to unfold from their talks yesterday night. Though they didn’t know exactly what would happen.
That moment was when the president was about to appoint Song Simin to the role. As Song Simin was very cooperative, the president couldn’t help but try to appoint him first.
“Then how does Leader Song Simin think about taking the role of maintaining order in the metropolitan area?”
Choi Hyuk came forward.
Choi Hyuk calmly and respectfully started to speak.
“The president probably is unaware of this but inside that opaque wall is hell.”
Many kings nodded at his words.
“Monsters aren’t the only problem. Humans killed each other frequently.”
This time, even more kings nodded their heads.
“Song Simin was one of them. He betrayed his comrades and schemed to retreat by himself. At that time, he even killed the respected leader, Jung Minji. On top of that, due to their reckless retreat, many people died in vain. The suicide squad who kept the final boss at bay was annihilated. Even I was about to die.”
The president was silent.
Choi Hyuk asked him.
“You aren’t planning on having these people, who fled and left their comrades behind, to take up office, are you?”
General Cha Taeshik added in.
“That’s right! Loyalty is the most important thing during a war!”
The Knight Captain Ryu Hyunsung and Bae Jinman chimed in.
The president read the atmosphere. He never thought that they would oppose him so directly. He was still the president…
But, that wasn’t the end.
“There is also the grudge Song Simin and I personally need to resolve. It would have been good if we could resolve it after the meeting but since it looks like we’re going to be here the whole break, I will just publicly resolve it now.”
“Pardon? Just what…”
The president felt shivers down his spine. The situation was progressing strangely. However, Choi Hyuk wasn’t looking at him anymore.
“Hey, Choi Hyuk! It looks like there is a misunderstanding…”
Even in this situation, Song Simin smiled friendlily.
Choi Hyuk said one thing.
“Don’t smile, Fucker.”
Song Simin’s face stiffened awkwardly.
“And Ma Dongshik, Yoon Girim, Min Kyungchul and all the kings who were under Jung Minji’s command. I don’t know why you killed her. But, you know…”
He placed his hand on the table as he stood up.
“Don’t you think you need to take responsibility for the deaths of the suicide squad?”
While the kings who were under Jung Minji’s command could only blink, he continued.
“Come out. Let’s end this our way.”
The tension in the room rose. His actions were beyond common sense. To act that way at the Blue House and in front of the president.
If it wasn’t for Baek Seoin going around, explaining the situation and gaining their sympathy last night, someone would have already tried to stop him. However, the majority of the kings were taking a wait-and-see attitude. ‘What to do?’ Some thought that Choi Hyuk’s actions were too severe and couldn’t understand him. But, they concluded that this was something the ‘people in question’ needed to resolve. Though they were a bit dazed.
Song Simin spoke informally.
“What kind of crazy things are you saying? And in front of the president! If there is a problem, then solve it formally! Let’s stick to the law and have a trial with a judge or something!”
However, his words were so feeble that it might have been better not saying them at all. The word that pierced through their current identity crisis. ‘Law’. Choi Hyuk instantly smashed apart that delusion.
Choi Hyuk laughed out loud.
The meeting room resonated with his laughter as if they were reinforced with karma. The chairs and desks trembled. The president’s face became pale.
This changed the mood.
The other kings were in a state of confusion up until now. Once they had escaped hell, a world that looked complete unscathed was revealed right in front of them. Different from inside where they were kings, the outside still had a functioning society and even a president. Their attitudes reflexively changed back to the ones from before the slaughter game. They felt embarrassed to come forward and they felt like they needed to respect the existing order and power.
Because they felt like they had to act that way, they felt more awkward and frustrated.
Those feelings were all blown away with Choi Hyuk’s laughter.
The other kings gradually started to laugh as well. The red haze that had obstructed their vision had instantly cleared up.
The law he said! How amusing that word was.
The law he said! Weren’t they kings?
The kings started to laugh, shaking their shoulders up and down. The president quickly understood the situation.
‘I… let tigers in.’
The people, who were gathered here, weren’t people he could control.
Even still, the president said.
“Wait, please wait. Leader Choi Hyuk. I understand your feelings but please believe in the country. If there are any grudges, we will properly investigate and help resolve them.”
He knew that this was forcing it but he had no choice. If he didn’t do anything now, it was obvious that the survivors would disregard the role of the country. It meant that a country would form within the country.
This was exactly what Baek Seoin was aiming for.
The Knight Captain Ryu Hyunsung stepped forward. Just like the conversation he had with Baek Seoin last night.
“I’m sorry, Mr. President. However, this is something that occurred outside the country’s reach. This is our problem and it is right that we solve it our way.”
They were immature words. It was like children fighting among themselves and saying, ‘This is our problem!’. However, these immature words were primitive yet powerful.
‘We solve our problems our way.’
At these words that seemed to lodge into their hearts, the kings nodded. The mood seemed to solidify.
The president was pushed into a corner. The armed security guards nervously looked at the president. He held them back… Force them with firepower? That wasn’t an option. Perhaps this situation was expected the moment they refused his request to unarm themselves. They didn’t fear bullets. On the other hand, the president was extremely scared of their physical abilities.
‘So this is it…’
Perhaps this was an evitable result from the moment the military and police disappeared and tens of thousands of survivors flooded in. A world only for the strong that the government couldn’t control. Their order.
Choi Hyuk separated from the president and stared at Song Simin.
“Don’t spout useless shit and come out.”
Choi Hyuk said without a single trace of a smile.
“Or… should we see some blood right here?”
His menacing voice seemed to drip with blood.
“… Fuck… I had no choice!”
Choi Hyuk shook his head.
“No- It’s a very simple problem.”
He unsheathed his sword and aimed at Song Simin.
“If you’re right, then beat me.”
That moment, the kings who didn’t originate from Kangdong District felt strange. Including Song Simin and Yoon Girim, there were 8, on the other hand, wasn’t Choi Hyuk by himself? Why was it that they felt so pressured fighting him?
That secret was revealed soon after.
“… Fuck, get him!”
Along with Song Simin’s frantic last-ditch effort, the other kings raised their swords.
Choi Hyuk swung his sword twice.
The air rolled like waves. The waves followed a path and sliced the necks of the kings. As if drawing with a red paintbrush, the red blood spurted out and drew a long line before being absorbed into the black blade.
The sound erupted afterwards. Their ears deafened as they heard a ‘Woowoowoo’ sound. Choi Hyuk was still standing on the exact same spot. The space around them became agitated and the kings’ necks slowly dropped onto the floor. A body that was leaned forward flopped onto a desk and its head rolled behind the chair.
With a loud noise, 2 lines were drawn onto the wall behind the dead kings. It was so cleanly cut that they could clearly see outside.
Everyone’s faces stiffened. No one had seen that technique before. With two slashes, he massacred the 6 kings who stood on either side of Song Simin and Yoon Girim.
Song Simin had a blank face.
Yoon Girim flopped onto the floor.
Choi Hyuk stepped onto the conference room table. He then slowly walked towards them and stopped in front of them.
“Who should have died and who should have lived?”
Choi Hyuk muttered to himself. Song Simin lifted his head and looked at Choi Hyuk. His eyes were blank as if they had been emptied out.
“At the very least, you weren’t one of them.”
It was unknown when he stabbed his sword but Choi Hyuk’s blade was embedded into Song Simin’s neck.
Yoon Girim’s screaming expression remained as her head was lopped off. Choi Hyuk momentarily recalled the ‘Bonus Game’ where Jung Minji had piggybacked her and had overcome the life-or-death crisis. His mouth felt bitter.
Choi Hyuk lowered his sword and bowed his head to the other kings.
“I am sorry for causing you trouble.”
Then he bowed toward the president.
“Please forgive my impoliteness. But, I trust that you understand our situation.”
On the surface, it looked like he respected the existing power, however, their own rules applied to the survivors. This was the attitude Choi Hyuk put forward and the one the other kings silently agreed on. A new rule was being created at this very moment.
The president didn’t say a word. He, as well, agreed with silence.
It all started then.
If there was a dispute, it was resolved by a fight between the related parties. It had become a part of their culture. No outsiders tried to assert themselves into their relationship.
Two worlds had formed in one country.
The world was changing at its roots with the return of the survivors.