Episode 3: Age of Ghosts / Chapter 43: Consumables (6)
The Predator’s Blade sucked in Keushisuit’s blood at a rate of 1 liter per second. When he was alive, his karma stopped the blood from flowing out so it wasn’t able to absorb a lot, but, now that the karma had dispersed from his corpse, his blade didn’t have to hold back any longer.
Choi Hyuk felt refreshed. The blood drained by the Predator’s Blade’s [Blood Drain] skill returned to him as a recuperative force. His heavy karma that felt as if it had been stretched became taut and his wounds healed. It was the refreshing feeling you felt when you gulped water through your dry, cracked lips.
The Predator’s blade, that was greedily drinking blood, turned red and became silent. There was still blood left in the corpse, however, it seemed to be full.
——————–[Greedy Predator’s Blade]
Rank: C (Unique, Growth-type)
Sharp and sturdy. The more blood it absorbs of strong foes, the stronger it will get.
Blood Drain: Absorbs the blood of enemies to replenish its owner’s karma and heal their wounds. Able to absorb 1L of blood per second.
Before it needed to eat the whole corpse to grow, but now it only needed to kill. It seemed as though its effectiveness had increased when it went from D rank to C rank. Its current evolution stat was 3. He had killed 3 individuals up until now, the Wyvern of Destruction, Keholeun, and Keushisuit.
He placed Keushisuit’s corpse and his equipment into his Handy Bag.
Choi Hyuk who was momentarily catching his breath felt a haze-like wave approach him.
“First, Dawn Lightning and now, Deer Antlers. Aren’t you incredible?”
An alien. However, she was fluent in Korean. Her figure was covered by a veil of wavering lights and heat waves so he was unable to see her properly. Yet, somehow, he knew naturally. That her name was ‘Flare-Rain’ and that she was a woman. As if he had always known this fact.
He didn’t even sense her approach. She was emitting a white light (goodwill), but Choi Hyuk did his best and kept his guard up. He pointed the Predator’s Blade in her direction.
“Just~ A greeting.”
When Choi Hyuk spoke informally, blue flames flared up and she replied informally without reserve.
Flare-Rain’s attitude felt strange to him. All the lowest ranked warriors he met here were hostile, crazy bastards, but she was friendly and there wasn’t a sense of tension.
When he silently stared at her, she uncovered the flames, that were covering her body, to reveal a surprisingly human-like face.
“Don’t be like that. We might even meet again on the next mission.”
“… We’re going to meet again?”
“Not every time. We usually get transferred to a nearby planet and they have a tendency to send those who are of similar strength together. There are a few friends I see often as well.”
“I don’t think they are worth being friends with?”
He looked around at the lowest ranked warriors, who were slaughtering others. There were some who had left and others who were spectating, but there were still around 30 warriors crazily running amok.
“They give you a mission score if you take out the target. They are like that so others don’t covet them.”
She said in a somewhat bitter voice. Her voice contained such human emotion that it was hard to believe she was an alien.
“They give you a higher score if you take out the target? Then why are they attacking me? And what about those who are just observing?”
“They are reading the situation. The ones who go crazy are typically stronger. And you’re a tasty prey. At least, you look like one. First, it seems like you hit 3-star Retribution Points but the rest of your stats seem low. You obtain more karma if you kill someone with a lot of Retribution Points… meaning you look tasty.”
Specific calculations for the karma system was crazy difficult to calculate but its principle was simple. The higher your opponent’s total stats were or the higher your opponent’s Retribution Points was, the more karma you would receive after killing them. This applied to both monsters and aliens.
Meaning Keushisuit had planned on killing Choi Hyuk for karma points.
“Then there’s no need to be friendly with each other.”
Just because they were in the same situation didn’t mean they were allies. Instead, it was better to think of them as enemies in this case. You would be devoured the moment you seemed like a pushover.
Choi Hyuk took a step away from Flare-Rain. He had basically heard all the information he needed. He felt that her friendliness was dangerous.
“Don’t be like that. It’s because everyone has it tough.”
Her expression looked sad as she said those words. However, the white light and the soft flames covered her face like a wedding veil.
“Anyways, let’s meet again. It’s about time monster start flooding in.”
As if her words were a signal, the ground started to shake. The sounds of flapping wings itched their ears. They were in the middle of the enemy headquarters. Monsters were coming from all directions to take out the intruders. When you looked around, the original targets, the cocoons, had all been destroyed. It was time to return.
Flare-Rain shook her hand to activate the return code and disappeared. Crunch. Crunch. She disappeared in a gruesome fashion as if she was devoured into the void.
Choi Hyuk looked around for his followers. They were still fighting Keken. They looked like they had the advantage, but they seemed to lack the firepower to finish him off and were progressing at a snail’s pace. Keken kept enduring as he believed he could end this once his eyes healed.
However, the sounds of monsters coming from everywhere were loud. Eventually, the first to give up was Keken.[You, insect bastards! I’ll kill you all next time!]
He lashed out in rage, however, Lee Jinhee lashed out in return.
“You, don’t appear in front of me again!”
Keken retreated and activated his return code. It seemed Lee Jinhee was out of stamina as she didn’t give chase.
The gazes of Lee Jinhee, Baek Seoin, and Chu Youngjin, who were all catching their breaths, turned towards Choi Hyuk who was walking towards them. As soon as their eyes met, Choi Hyuk nodded his head.
He felt a strange sense of relief.
Like an endless nightmare, missions would continue and their level of danger would increase. If they couldn’t keep up, they would die.
It was a world where the ones who shouldn’t die died
And where ones who no one thought would die died.
A world where yesterday’s enemies could be today’s friends and today’s friends could be dead tomorrow.
Choi Hyuk recalled one of the criteria he had for someone to become his comrade.
‘People who won’t die easily.’
He saw his followers who shook their hands to activate their return codes. He felt happy.
It was now time for him to return as well. He had stolen Keushisuit’s return code and his timer had ended before the fight.
He shouted in a low voice and his stomach felt like it was flipping over. Crunch. Crunch. His body crumbled into the void.
——————–[Calculating Mission Score]
Base Score: 100
Killed over 50 monsters: 100
Total 200 points.
It was something he learned later, but Baek Seoin, Lee Jinhee, and Chu Youngjin earned another 100 points for as a reward for ‘Killed Target’. A total of 300 points. Only Choi Hyuk, who was busy fighting monsters and didn’t kill a target, earned 200 points.
When he learned this fact.
“Deer Antlers… Damn bastard…”
He ground his teeth.
Captain Lee Kangjin escaped when Choi Hyuk and Keushisuit started to fight. It was because he thought that even a stray blade could kill him. His crushed arm was starting to heal with the power of the Recovery potion. He pressed his arm against his chest and desperately wandering around the battlefield. To find an undestroyed cocoon.
“I will live…”
He wanted to live with sincerity. He wanted to live and become stronger.
Choi Hyuk was a shock to him. No matter how he looked at him, he was a human like himself. However, Choi Hyuk was pretty even with Keushisuit, who was a nightmare to him.
‘Though it was the same in the previous mission…’
The strong were really strong. Even if they had all received karma, at some point, there was a difference of heaven and earth between them. Some were so strong it was unbelievable that they were humans. He had even believed they were simply from another world previously.
However, it was different now.
“You fucking bastard…”
He hated himself. He hated himself so much that he wanted to gnaw on his heart and stab it repeatedly.
He hated his powerlessness and incompetence. He wanted to kill himself who could only bark at First Sergeant Jang Sudong.
“I will live… and get stronger…”
His eyes caught sight of a cocoon that seemed to be ready to hatch. It was in a deep crater in the basin so it hadn’t been destroyed yet.
The cocoon started to rip and a piercing wind swooshed out from within.
An alien closest to it was sliced into four pieces before falling to the ground.
Its long razor-sharp legs ripped the cocoon apart and its figure emerged.
‘It’s evolution is about to be complete.’
He instinctively understood the situation. He felt a mighty aura that was incomparable to the others just inside the cocoon. All the aliens who had gathered to destroy it fled in the other direction. The warrior aliens, who were still in the middle of their slaughter, revealed a tense expression as they kept their guard against the cocoon. Even they didn’t think to recklessly approach it. This just showed how powerful the monster, that was about to complete its evolution, felt.
Nonetheless, Captain Lee Kangjin didn’t back down.
He passed by the screaming aliens.
And ran towards the pulsating cocoon. Luckily, it seemed the piercing wind only came out at the start as he avoided getting sliced and was able to get close to it.
Instead, a razor-sharp leg, that was stretched outside the cocoon, targeted him and swung down. He ducked and slid his left foot away to avoid the attack.
The long leg pierced into the ground in vain. He rolled on the ground.
Bang! Bang! Slash!
It was a continuous attack this time. Another leg stabbed at him twice as the first one sliced above his head. He was able to avoid them by rolling due to luck, but, either way, he had ended up really close to the cocoon. Lee Kangjin jumped forward with all his strength. He erased all his fears. Only forward. Forward.
He was able to dodge three attacks with that jump.
As he avoided the third, the dangerously swinging legs were unable to block him right away.
On the other hand, his concentration had reached its peak.
[Unique Skill ‘Weakness Detection’ awakened!]
He saw a brightly shining point.
The monster was still partially wrapped in the cocoon. It was just about to complete its evolution.
An explosive energy that was necessary to evolve was gathered in the center of the cocoon, constantly expanding and contracting. Lee Kangjin instinctively knew that he had to stab that center exactly where the brightly shining point was located.
He jumped into the cocoon. Its legs and antennas sliced open his shoulders in desperation.
The monster’s whole body squirmed and despaired. Even in this mess, even though his skin was peeling off and blood was flowing out, he didn’t stop. He finally reached his target.
He stabbed the nucleus of evolution.
The monster collapsed along with a horrible scream. Lee Kangjin collapsed as well. He fell, exhausted, inside its corpse, covered in its mucus.[Cleared target. Transforming the corpse into return energy. Remaining Time: 5 minutes]
The moment he confirmed the message, he was lying down as if he was dead, counting the seconds as they passed by. The aliens, who were madly searching for return codes, didn’t approach Lee Kangjin, perhaps thinking he was dead or because they had already fled far away.
While he was counting the time pass, the ground suddenly started to shake. The noisy screams of aliens, who hadn’t been able to return, were like bees in a hive. It seemed like monsters were incoming from every direction. As this was their headquarters.
He continued to count.
Just when there were only 5 seconds left.
The cocoon split apart.
A monster he had never seen before stuck its head in. It was a beast whose head was double the size of Lee Kangjin.
However, he remained calm and swung his sword.
His sword didn’t slice into its face but the monster flinched and lifted its head back out. That moment,[Activation of the return code complete.]
It was time.
“Return! You, fuck!”
Lee Kangjin was devoured into the void.
The monster swung its human-sized foot, crushing the cocoon, but Lee Kangjin had already disappeared.
That day and a few days after, people returned to earth. The military and police, who had disappeared, were among them.
It was an event that brought the world together.