Episode 4: The Great Colonizing Age / Chapter 61: Demon King (2)
The death of the Sovereign of Dark Secrets, Lao Ban, caused an immense change to occur in the world. Among others, the hit to China’s economy for losing one of their colonized lands, and the preparation of other sovereigns to connect colonized lands after Choi Hyuk were the most prominent.
However, there was a different burning question that was on everyone’s mind.
‘How strong were the Berserkers?’
They brought down the powerful and prosperous Sovereign of Dark Secrets in a single day. How strong were they?
There was speculation based on a few points.
“Lao Ban’s clan was no match for them. The battle ended in an instant.”
“… Screw off! Screw off! Hiiii! Don’t come close!”
The people who escaped from Lao Ban’s colonized lands. Those who didn’t participate in the battle all claimed it was one-sided, while the participants… shivered in fear, unable to speak properly.
Although there was a problem of morals, Lao Ban’s clan was famous for being incredibly wealthy and for possessing many experts. So the reactions of the survivors greatly resonated with the colonizers.
A large discussion would break out whenever colonizers gathered.
“It’s an exaggeration. Of course, the Berserkers are good at fighting. However, they aren’t that good. It was one-sided because they were attacked unexpectedly, completely unprepared for it. When fighting, one strike is enough if you’re caught off guard.”
“Hey. Even if you say that, look at the numbers. Even if you count every Berserker, they barely number 20 thousand, but Lao Ban has more than 80 thousand! And if you include the small subordinate clans operating in his cities, they easily number 150 thousand. So, let’s assume only 80 thousand could be mobilized immediately. But, the number of Berserkers who participated in this expedition may at most be 5 thousand. 5 thousand vs 80 thousand. No matter how unexpected it was, isn’t it ridiculous that they were able to sweep through cities with just that?”
“That’s because Lao Ban and his important executives had already been ambushed away from the cities. They obviously wouldn’t be able to face the Berserkers without a proper line of command after the clan itself was wiped out.”
“Hey… hey. I met some Berserkers on a previous outer space mission, okay? They are no joke.”
“Really? My friend was drunk and got into an argument with one. He said he could take them?”
“The hell he could. He was probably beat up. Those who haven’t fought against a Berserker need to shut up.”
“But, Alexei of the Berserkers? I saw some of the videos he posted, and while they were good, they weren’t that good? To be honest, Jessie’s clan has better techniques on Youtube.”
“Ah geez… Do you think those videos and fighting are the same? Those Berserkers are real beasts. Let’s say two sides have the same specs, right? Then the Berserkers’ side will undoubtedly win. Honestly, aren’t Berserkers the strongest in real combat?”
“That is something we’ll only know once they fight.”
The word ‘Colonizer’ was used to define warriors who had awakened karma and fought in colonized lands and outer space missions. However, when used in a more general sense, ‘colonizer’ encompassed a wider variety, as not everyone who awakened karma became warriors, in fact, warriors were the minority.
Those who worked in primary industries, producing food and minerals, workers in secondary industries, processing these raw materials, researchers, and even merchants who went around to various colonized lands to buy and sell products. These non-combative workers made up a significant portion of colonizers.
Because they too had to go through forced missions in the beginning, around half of them could be considered combat ready. However, once the colonization had passed a certain point, the number of forced missions noticeably dropped, and even if they were occasionally assigned to forced mission, it became possible to be exempted from them if they paid a certain amount of Mission Points. The number of colonizers, who worked in production, increased significantly since then. They would sell their wares to buy Mission Points, and then use those points to be exempt from forced missions.
So these production colonizers were usually the ones who collected a great deal of information as they went to and from different territories, and amongst them, merchants collected the most. Combat colonizers usually wouldn’t leave their bases often, and because of this, there weren’t many cases of them fighting against each other.
This was why it was difficult to come to a consensus on the Berserkers.
Eventually, the majority opinion was that ‘While Berserkers are strong, wasn’t this case an exception due to various fortunes and tactics aligning with each other?’
“Still, I heard the Berserk Sovereign was strong beyond imagination.”
“Beyond imagination? Then are his main stats at the mid-4-star level?”
“Like hell they are. Probably around 3 of his stats just reached 4-star. Maybe one of them is close to mid-4-star level.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit much to assume all his main stats are at the mid-4-star level. Even the strongest expert, Jessie, only recently got his second stat to 4-star.”
“But there are rumors that the Berserk Sovereign already had 3-star stats on his first mission, 2 years ago.”
“Pfft, no fucking way.”
“Really. They even say he singlehandedly killed the last boss of <Survive and Escape>.”
“Yeah, I heard that’s true.”
“Hey. Even if that’s true. You know, it becomes almost heinous to increase karma later on.”
On top of that, there wasn’t a proper evaluation of Choi Hyuk’s fighting abilities.
Choi Hyuk was sitting face-to-face with Lieutenant Colonel Lee Kangjin. In Choi Hyuk’s eyes, Lt. Col Lee Kangjin was emitting a white (goodwill) light.
Lt. Col Lee Kangjin was one of the influential figures in the Superpower Headquarters.
Although Choi Hyuk didn’t remember, he had coincidentally saved him from getting killed by Deer Antlers, Keushisuit.
Since then, Lt. Col Lee Kangjin wanted to maintain a good relationship with the Berserkers. The reason for him coming here today was the same.
“We noticed some rebellious movements.”
Lt. Col Lee Kangjin got straight to the point.
“The loyal followers under Lao Ban’s immediate command and the groups, who had lost their workplace in a single morning because the colonized lands had been shut down, are targeting you.”
Choi Hyuk figured something out from Lee Kangjin’s words.
“We actually received requests asking us to allow them to continue to do business there once I received Lao Ban’s authority.”
“What was your reply?”
“Since they sent their pawns, we didn’t kill them, and instead sent them on their way after cutting off one of their arms.”
After listening to Choi Hyuk’s story, Lee Kangjin understood why these merchants were trying to kill Choi Hyuk.
“Hu… How direct.”
Lee Kangjin, who had momentarily blanked out at Choi Hyuk’s brutal answer, continued with a serious tone.
“However, the problem isn’t simple. Colonizers, who used Lao Ban’s slave market, may even target you. And there may be… I’m sorry to say this… but there may be traitors from within the Berserkers.”
Colonizers from other groups… And traitors… Choi Hyuk showed interest in those words. Lee Kangjin calmly explained.
“They simply didn’t do it as openly as Lao Ban, but there were sovereigns who secretly ran slave markets, and those who did business with products they received from Lao Ban. They will feel greatly threatened by your actions. And…”
Lee Kangjin momentarily paused before almost spitting these words out.
“There are drugs.”
Choi Hyuk asked in a doubtful voice. This was because normal drugs had almost no effect on colonizers who had restructured their bodies with karma. Even the purest drugs in existence had no effect on colonizers.
“Yes. It’s a new drug that makes you sensitive to karma. They say it is secretly being supplied through slave markets. Although we don’t know exactly how they make it, there’s no doubt that it is a technique that followers under Lao Ban’s immediate command manage. From what I’ve figured out, it seems the scope of addicts is quite large. Although I’m embarrassed to say this, but even amongst the Super Soldiers… I feel there will be a significant number of addicts. There’s a very likely chance they may be requested to assassinate you under the pretext of receiving a supply of drugs.”
Lee Kangjin spoke with a serious tone while Choi Hyuk’s eyes shined in interest.
“This doesn’t seem easy.”
Drugs couldn’t help but become bestsellers. For there to be a drug that works on colonizers who lived through combat hell and the nightmares of loss day after day. For there to be a drug that works on colonizers when even alcohol and tobacco had no effect.
They may even be able to win Berserkers over. Choi Hyuk grinned.
“How exciting. Betrayal…”
He had always thought of this after Jung Minji had died from betrayal. Things that could destroy a strong existence in an instant. Betrayal. Mutiny. ‘Their blades can target you at any time.’ Choi Hyuk always bore that in mind. And that moment had really come…
For some reason, his heart started beating.
Berserker Lee Kijin blew smoke.
They were in a rooftop lounge that had been remodeled from a pool at a luxury hotel. The ceiling and walls were made of glass, and, with the pool as the center, a bar and a dark, remote room were arranged. It was an accommodation with a great view overlooking the Han River. The inside was currently filled with thick fog-like smoke.
The smoke wasn’t as thick as tobacco smoke, a bit more transparent, and it was smooth like vapor. The smell wasn’t that potent, it was like an aroma, pungent yet sweet. Simply smelling this scent made one feel better.
“Haa… It feels good…”
Sitting at the bar, Lee Kijin took another breath of smoke before downing a bottle of strong whiskey.
Lee Kijin’s body shivered pleasantly.
It was a drug called ‘Water Fog’. This drug, supplied by the Lao Ban clan, was rolled up and smoked like cigarettes. Only, it didn’t burn with fire but rather with karma. Perhaps it was because of this, but it did have an effect on bodies protected by karma. In fact, while you were smoking Water Fog, your karma’s defense would drop enough that you could get slightly drunk.
‘Although there may be colonizers who have never smoked Water Fog, there are no colonizers who’ve only smoked it once.’
This was a popular line between them.
Lee Kijin couldn’t help but agree 100%. After becoming a colonizer, the only time he felt happy was when he was smoking Water Fog.
“Haa… But… what did you say?”
Lee Kijin, who was happily enjoying the lingering sensation, suddenly focused his hazy eyes and stared at the bartender. The bartender’s expression didn’t change as he repeated his words.
“Please cooperate with us in eliminating the Berserk Sovereign.”
Lee Kijin’s lips fell limp. Then he smiled.
“You want me to die?”
“That’s not it. We will create a careful plan with our best warriors.”
“The best warriors? Who? Is even that team leader of the Super Soldiers over there joining as well?”
The bartender confidently nodded his head. However, Lee Kijin’s smile became even thicker. He smiled to the point where his wrinkles covered his eyes. With that expression, he said.
“Hehe, what a load of bull.”
“Hehe, fuck… who’s going to kill who?”
At his words, the bartender and the surrounding Super Soldiers’ moods turned sour. Yet, Lee Kijin didn’t care in the slightest. The other Berserkers, who accompanied Lee Kijin here, were smiling as well. The bartender thought that this was most definitely not a positive sign.
“Are you more loyal than we thought?”
The bartender muttered bitterly. Then he needed to get rid of them. However, Lee Kijin sneered at him.
“Puha… What loyalty. It just doesn’t make sense. Who’s going to kill who? Choi Hyuk? You guys? Puahahaha….”
The other Berserkers couldn’t contain their laughter anymore. After laughing for a while, Lee Kijin said.
“You guys are misunderstanding something.”
Lee Kijin slowly stood up and placed his hand on his sword. The mood became vicious in an instant. The Super Soldiers sitting around the bar, the guests who were smoking Water Fog, and even the administrators, approximately 30 in total, stood up one after another.
Lee Kijin stared at the various faces surrounding him before spitting on the ground.
“You guys… Do you even know what Berserkers are? Let alone Choi Hyuk… You guys can’t even take the three of us on.”
He said as he unsheathed his sword.
Once he had unsheathed his sword, like a domino effect, everyone raised their weapons. Metallic sounds rippled out.
That moment, Lee Kijin disappeared from their sight. A speed their eyes couldn’t keep up with.
The Super Soldier, who had stared at Alexei in the afternoon, had his arm sliced off.
“Die, bastards. Die.”
It was like a magical scene. Even if they excluded Lee Kijin, whom they couldn’t match in speed, they couldn’t block the other Berserkers’ strikes even though they didn’t seem very fast. As if they were peeling an orange or eating a live octopus, they didn’t hurry as they neutralized their opponents’ defenses and stabbed their arms and legs.
Lee Kijin, who had acted first and neutralized his opponents’ elites, said while leisurely cutting the tendons of other guests and stationed bodyguards.
“We could take a dozen of you on with similar specs, but what to do when there’s also a difference in specs?”
The difference between their specs was fine, but the difference between their fighting experience was too large. In the past 2 years, even if they compared themselves to groups who completed as many missions as they could, the Berserkers completed at least double their missions. Especially due to those who chased after fights with their ‘Combat Addict’ fate, the Berserkers specialized in dogfights and close fights.
A small-scale fight in a small area with no commanders. On top of that, their opponents were Lee Kijin, a top elite of the Berserkers, and the other two who were also elites.
Puddles of blood flowed down and dyed the pool red.
Of course, the Berserkers weren’t completely fine. They had wounds in various places and were panting. However, Berserkers would usually start fighting properly from this point. Since the level of ‘intense combat’ was quite high. These wounds and Stamina consumption were only a warmup for Berserkers.
Lee Kijin grabbed the collar of the bartender collapsed on the floor and lifted him up. His voice sounded oddly happy. Like a ‘Combat Addict’, he had become refreshed after a bout of fighting.
Lee Kijin grinned.
“So what. You’re saying you will provide an unlimited supply of drugs or whatever if we cooperate in killing Choi Hyuk? Right?”
“Th… That’s right. Ah, no, sorry.”
The bartender was trembling as he barely replied. No, he didn’t know how to reply. He couldn’t tell what exactly was going on in the minds of these druggies.
He asked them because he believed he could win them over, but they suddenly wielded their swords. His voice was currently friendly. Then how should he reply? Should he apologize for the blasphemous conspiracy, or should he ask them to cooperate by offering even more?
The bartender could only tremble.
Lee Kijin grinned and relaxed his grip on the bartender. He slowly stood up. It seemed one of the glass walls had shattered during their fight as a cool breeze ruffled through his hair.
The effects of the drug and the excitement from the battle still remained. And a cool breeze. Lee Kijin enjoyed this moment.
‘To the point where I want to just die like this.’
Behind the momentary happiness, a bottomless futility approached him. It was the same ever since that day with the <Ring of Rebirth>. Without the effects of the drug, without the excitement of battle, the daily life he faced… was always unbearably horrible.
He was only alive because he couldn’t die. No, perhaps it was because he wanted to die. He might have joined the Berserkers as a means of suicide.
Perhaps it was because of this. Lee Kijin unknowingly declared.
“I’ll help you. For my last opponent to be Choi Hyuk… That’s not so bad.”
It was exciting simply thinking about it. Though he would probably die. But he felt even more excited. Dying while fighting that monster? His comrades showed surprised expressions at first, but they too nodded their heads in understanding.
Amongst the Berserkers, there were many who had no attachment to life and were semi-insane. And they were druggies on top of that. This meant they were complete lunatics.
“Still, create a good plan so I don’t die too futilely. See you next time.”
Lee Kijin waved his hand as he left the hotel with his comrades.
Leaving bloody footprints and sounds of moaning behind them.
 Do you guys remember the military guy introduced in Ch 40? I do, and so does the SoJ ‘Dead or Alive’ List, where we keep track of whether a character is dead, alive or unsure! But besides this shameless promotion, he’s the military guy who eventually killed the cocoon at the last moment and lived.