SoJ Episode 5 Chapter 74

Episode 5: Citizenship / Chapter 74: Advancement Evaluation (8)

TL: emptycube

Editor: Obelisk


 

There was no announcement when they returned. There weren’t even any events where they congratulated or consoled the soldiers who returned after saving more than a billion lives. They simply returned suddenly, without anyone knowing. Life was progressing as usual, and only they had returned from hell.

Chirp, chirp.

A bird chirped.

The day they returned to was sweeter and warmer than yesterday, the morning of a spring day.

The cool, yet soft breeze and the flowery scent which accompanied it created a stark contrast to their blood soaked clothes and the acidic stench of the dimensional wasps’ bodily fluids.

“… I’m alive!”

Even though there was no fanfare, the beginner warriors, who had returned from hell, were moved. For colonizers with lots of experience, this hell was something they were used to, and they didn’t feel anything new.

Chirp, chirp.

Still, the bird was pleasant to listen to.

 

**

“There will probably be almost no flowers blooming by spring next year. Since there won’t be any flowers, the number of insects will drop drastically, and since there won’t be any insects, birds won’t sing. A silent spring will come.”

Naro’s white hologram spread its mitten-like hands apart and shook them before lowering them towards the floor. Then, while shaking its head, it covered its mouth as it said, ‘A spring of silence will come.’

Although it could speak Korean more fluently than Koreans, its unique mime was still the same. Accompanying its mime-like actions, the images of what it was thinking were telepathically transmitted as well.

“Hu… Rachel Carson{1}… You even read books now? It’s quite the classic.”

Baek Seoin was surprised at the passage Naro used. He had already been surprised when it had perfectly mastered Korean in a single day. However, it still did not know how to read in Korean back then. It had never read a book before, and it had yet to know how to access the internet. But, after only a day had passed, by the time they returned from the advancement evaluation, the fellow had changed.

“Yes. I succeeded in accessing the internet yesterday. I can now use most of the languages used online.”

As if it was bragging, it twirled around in place.

Although it had a simple appearance, in reality, it was an artificial intelligence which possessed superintelligence far beyond that of a human’s. Because its abilities were beyond his imagination, Baek Seoin felt somewhat overwhelmed.

 

Nonetheless, in a tone which sounded as if things had become easier rather than being surprised, Choi Hyuk asked,

“Really? That’s good. Then tell me the global trends.”

Even when it was abruptly requested for ‘global trends’, the super-intelligent artificial intelligence Naro selected and reported topics Choi Hyuk would be interested in.

“First… The number of identified participants of the advancement evaluation is around 20 million. If we consider those not identified as well, I estimate there to be around 30-40 million in total.”

It was a number that didn’t even account for 1% of the world’s population. That was the number of people who had willingly decided to fight.

“The majority of the sovereigns participated in the advancement evaluation. Of the 40 total sovereigns, two sovereigns have been confirmed to not have participated.”

“Really? Who are the two?”

He had been curious about this. The number of teams formed during the attack on the dimensional wasps’ nest was 38. Two sovereigns were missing.

“The Clown Sovereign, Freeman, and the Sovereign of Opportunity, Nasir. They were caught going out.”

“… Even though, as sovereigns, they should be clearly aware of what the Consumables fate is, they didn’t participate…”

Choi Hyuk tapped his cheek with his index finger and thought for a moment.

“That aside, what about the treatment of returnees?”

“Including South Korea, the 17 countries with sovereigns as their political leaders ordered to prepare rewards for the participants. Besides them, it seems each sovereign has been trying to reward them… the actual effectiveness seems to be low. There isn’t a method to prove that the participants who died actually died there or a suitable method to filter out the people who claim they participated even though they didn’t.”

In some ways, this was irrational. Although the people, who fought for peace with their lives on the line, returned, drenched in blood, it seemed they hadn’t gained anything. However, Choi Hyuk didn’t really feel pity for them.

“Okay, well… The reward is that they became stronger than yesterday. That’s their reward. The real problem should be the treatment of those who did not participate?”

“Even if I used every monitoring device towards analyzing that… There is no way to find out the real debate. I think that punishing those who did not participate is rare.”

Baek Seoin agreed with Naro’s judgment.

“Indeed… Since the majority of the population didn’t participate… It will be difficult to take unfavorable actions against such a majority.”

Of course, Choi Hyuk’s thoughts were different.

“It’s not like we can’t take any action.”

“Of course, that is true… But, if we look at it from the perspective of our group, we will take a loss. Leader… You said that you acted harshly against the beginner warriors already. We are already a small force, if we keep this up, we’ll be isolated.”

Baek Seoin sounded like he was complaining.

Choi Hyuk was silent for a moment before asking Naro,

“Advancement Evaluation… This isn’t all, is it?”

Naro replied,

“Of course, this won’t be all. If I analyze the tests and mission patterns up until now, it isn’t. Since the condition this time was the extinction of 1/5 of the non-awakenees, it seems the same test will be repeated four more times. Of course, it could end earlier…”

“Four more times… If we don’t set upright laws, then the further along we go, the fewer people will participate.”

When Choi Hyuk protested to Baek Seoin, Baek Seoin shrugged.

“Or, the veterans, who had already gone once, might be more active.”

“Hmm…”

Choi Hyuk thought for a while.

The isolation of the Berserkers wasn’t what Choi Hyuk wanted. From the fight against the eyeless observers not too long ago to the dimensional wasps’ nest attack this time, the damages to the Berserkers were too large. There were 2,000 casualties. The most and second most losses the Berserkers faced until now had actually occurred one after another. The number of Berserkers, which approached 20,000 in total, had now been reduced to 14,000.

This wasn’t the only problem.

“If we start to crack down on those who did not participate, we will have to start by cracking down on Berserkers. It’s not like 100% of the Berserkers participated. It seems around 40% hadn’t participated…”

It was as he said. There was no way that, just because they were Berserkers, they all participated in the advancement evaluation that less than 1% of the world’s population participated in. Still, since around 60% of the total members participated, it was a great participation rate… but the fact that 40% didn’t participate was true as well. If they blamed them, then there was the danger that the already reduced Berserkers would be reduced even further.

Baek Seoin’s worry made sense. Choi Hyuk slowly nodded his head.

“… Then, I’ll think about this problem a little more.”

In the end, he pushed back his decision and looked at Naro before asking his last question.

“But if we pass the advancement evaluation, can we… stop the collapse of Earth?”

Naro slowly shook its head.

“That’s not it. It has already passed the point of stopping. Like I said before, there won’t be a spring starting next year. Even if earthlings succeed in advancing… Earth will collapse.”

 

**

Over the past two months, Choi Hyuk grew at a dazzling rate. Important fights continued without rest. The fight against the El Tribe, the fight against the ground devourer, the fight against the Sovereign of Dark Secrets, Lao Ban, the capture battle for occupying Lao Ban’s cities, the fight against the eyeless observers, the dogfight between colonizers right afterwards and the dimensional wasps’ nest attack.

The ‘Combat Addict’ fate had activated without rest, and he had also obtained additional rewards. Because of this, his stats, which had stagnated, were able to increase by 51 points. Choi Hyuk invested these points into his Control and Stamina. Besides that, his Retribution had also been increased for free as a reward for killing the queen wasp and establishing trade between colonized lands, among others.

 

Stamina: 359 (3★) ->0 (4★)

Control: 453 (4★) -> 463 (4★)

Retribution: 400 (4★) -> 421 (4★)

 

He raised his Stamina, which had been stuck at 3-star, up to 4-star and invested the remaining points into Control. Choi Hyuk was now aiming for 5-star stats. Once he reached 5-star stats, he would thoroughly straighten out his three skills, Instant Void Annihilation, Flaming Wing Dance and Heart Injection.

They were skills that were so difficult to comprehend that he had to rely on automatic activation to use them. However, if he could figure out the fundamentals of the skills after gaining stronger Control and a higher Retribution rank, he felt expectant at the thought of activating the skills with his own abilities and even possibly improving them.

How strong would his skills be then? To endure that power, he raised his Stamina to a 4-star stat in advance. With just this, Choi Hyuk felt that he had become much stronger than before. 4-star Stamina and an almost 5-star Control allowed him to use Flaming Wing Dance and Instant Void Annihilation, which consumed a lot of karma, with more ease. Perhaps if he were to face the fight that broke out in Hyehwa District again, he would now be able to dominate the battlefield much more easily.

A period of rapid growth that followed after stagnation.

Yet, Choi Hyuk was unsatisfied.

“… I have to get stronger.”

Although this was a desire which was carved into his instincts, it was also a characteristic which allowed him to be Sovereign Choi Hyuk as well. The mistreatment of beginner warriors this time, the slaughter of the other forces’ colonizers last time, and even when he killed the Sovereign of Dark Secrets, the reason why he was able to remain as a sovereign was because he never lost. It was because he was stronger than the rest and had always won. If Choi Hyuk showed even the slightest opening, those who held a grudge against him would swarm to him like bees. Because of this, Choi Hyuk had to be stronger than anyone else. Of course, he himself didn’t calculate all this.

Due to Baek Seoin’s dissuasion, he decided to think about officially punishing nonparticipants a little longer, however, the more he swung his sword, the more his mind became set.

“Hooo…”

Steam rose from his body. He tried to control the Flaming Wing Dance skill, but he failed today as well. However, while he was training, his mind became more simplistic.

‘I can’t leave those who don’t fight alone.’

Various side effects? What if there were.

“If a problem comes up, I just need to get that much stronger.”

Although Choi Hyuk always trusted Baek Seoin’s judgment, he needed to uphold the identity of the organization he led. This wasn’t a problem others could decide, but a decision he alone had to make as the sovereign.

Choi Hyuk, who had finished training in the training area arranged inside Naro’s spaceship, had hardened his mind.

The moment he stepped out of the training area, Naro appeared in front of him.

“Leader! The second advancement evaluation has started!”

The reason why he was surprised was,

“…What? What about me?”

Choi Hyuk hadn’t received a mission announcement. This occurred the day after they returned.

 

**

It wasn’t only Choi Hyuk who hadn’t received a mission announcement. The majority of the people who participated in the previous advancement evaluation were excluded from this advancement evaluation.

{The members who participated in the past advancement evaluation are exempt. Only the 10 sovereigns named below can participate.}

 

The second advancement evaluation began with an unexpected announcement.

It ended in failure before the day ended.

When the sun was setting, 1/5 of the non-awakenees ceased to exist. Starting from the tips of their fingers, their bodies turned white and melted before scattering away. The scene looked like snowflakes rising up towards the sky. The snowflakes, which gathered in the sky, flashed brightly before disappearing.

That time, Lee Jinhee was holding onto her phone.

Her mother, who was in her hometown, had called her to tell her that her father had gone missing. She was worried that he might have gone to the advancement evaluation.

“Ah… Really, you Lee’s need to fix your tempers. You and that man, why do you guys always lose your tempers and go out? Even if we don’t do it, others will take of it on their own. I thought we had passed over it last time, but what’s all this now.”

She was finding fault in her husband while simultaneously worrying about him as she talked with Lee Jinhee.

“Dad went there? Euah… That’s worrying. It’s not easy…”

“Haa, it’s fine. Don’t worry, don’t you know your father’s temper? He’s not that easy to deal with.”

She had just been worrying about him, but when Lee Jinhee began to worry, she waved her hand dismissively.

The two of them continued their normal conversation. However, not long after, Lee Jinhee’s mother saw her fingertips turn white as they melted and scattered like snowflakes.

“Huh? Huh? What’s this? Why is my hand…”

“What? Mom? What’s going on? Why does your voice sound like that?!”

Lee Jinhee asked when she felt something was wrong in her mother’s voice. At the same time, a telepathic message sent by Naro entered her mind.

{It looks like they failed the second advancement evaluation. There is a phenomenon where people are evaporating throughout the world.}

Images of people’s bodies fading away like snowflakes appeared from the message Naro sent. They were videos taken by surveillance cameras in the streets, subways, and elevators.

Lee Jinhee became astonished.

“Mom! Mom! It’s not you, right? Mom!”

However, Lee Jinhee soon heard a strangely resigned voice.

“… It seems my time has come. I never thought this would happen to me. Daughter! Daughter, are you alright? Jinhee, you’re alright, right?”

“I’m fine! Mom. Where are you? I’ll go right now!”

“It’s a relief you’re okay. I’m only worried about that man… Whether he’s alive or not.”

That was the last phone call Lee Jinhee shared with her mother. Lee Jinhee lost both her parents that day. Although she learned that her father died on the battlefield a few days later…

“…Ah…”

Lee Jinhee’s body trembled in rage.

 

Perhaps failing the second advancement evaluation was inevitable from the start. The ones who willingly chose to fight had already gone. On top of that, only 10 sovereigns, who could organize and lead the people, could participate.

The test devised by the Exalted Wings was cruel.

The soldiers, who fought for a cause, couldn’t take part multiple times, and it wasn’t like the soldiers who fought in the first advancement evaluation received any special benefit.

Some families, who hadn’t fought in both tests, were fine, whilst Lee Jinhee’s parents had passed away even though she had played an active role in the first advancement evaluation.

Conditions which supported Choi Hyuk’s strong views were being established.

At the same time, there would be inevitable friction between colonizers whose non-awakened family members had not participated in the fight and other awakenees.

 

**

One of the Exalted Wings asked,

{However, isn’t it a loss to annihilate 1/5 of the population to take out only one dimensional wasps’ nest? We never know if there are soldiers with outstanding talent amongst them.}

Another Exalted Wing replied,

{We may never know. However, finding them incurs a cost. It has already been well over 2 years since Earth received a deferred judgment. Yet, if they still haven’t chosen to fight, then isn’t it best to think they never had the talent of a warrior? As you all know, Earthlings aren’t generally a species with incredible fighting talent. And if they don’t even have the will to fight, then I believe they are useless. Using our budget to screen warriors amongst them will be nothing more than a luxury.}

A quick counterargument. The Exalted Wing who asked the question was still unconvinced. However, he simply nodded his head and said,

{… I understand.}

The war was too monstrous and Earth was, like a speck of dust, too insignificant of a planet to waste time on.

 


{1} Author of Silent Spring. The book documented the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment.

 

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Comments 16

      1. I have a feeling that if this ends how I think it will there won’t be enough left for this grudge to matter.

  1. IF everyone can only participate once, unless they specify they can participate more than once, they would have to plan out, so that each wave has enough veterans to help the rookies. And then of course, they would need a method to make sure they actually follow through on that.

    On the bright side, Berserkers should atleast get some possible new recruits who don’t really give a damn about life or death, because they’ve just lost most of their relatives.

    Still, i’m curious if exactly 100% of the non-awakenees can awaken, eg. cripples and too young children. I don’t think the system would exclude them from the 20% killed, but sending them to fight would at best have them pass the first round, if all the tests are the wasps nests.

    I do doubt that at the end everyone will either participate or be dead in any case. There will always be some who wouldn’t dare to fight, even knowing they’re rather likely to die if they don’t.

    Another good thing would be that Choi Hyuk won’t have to change his standpoint too much, because he had earlier said time is ticking, and now it has proven true.

  2. Oh snap. Lee JinHee is going on a rampage, if Choi Hyuk doesn’t go on one first. They are probably going to start slaughtering every single person to make people run into the test.

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  3. {The members who participated in the past advancement evaluation are exempt. Only the 10 sovereigns named below can participate.}

    where is the name? Thanks for chapter

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  4. Well the second test was more cruel, but just really, the problem is that people on erath haven’t realised the deep sh*t that they are in, and the fact that 2 Sovereigns that are in the know choose not to go to the first test, doesn’t bode well for earth. Lets see what other srprise the author has for us in store. I hope this text doesn’t break Lee Jinhee.

  5. So that means 10 sovereins didn’t participate? Choi hyuk is gonna kill them if he finds any of them still alive

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  6. ────────────¸,o​¤°“°¤o,¸
    ─────────── (….◕​ ‿ ◕.…)
    ───────── oOO——`​♥´——OOo
    ▀█▀─█▄█─█▀█─█▄─█─█▄▀──█▄█─█▀█─█─█
    ─█──█▀█─█▀█─█─▀█─█▀▄───█──█▄█─█▄█
    ───── Foя тнє cнαpтєя ──────

    Life is hard…

  7. Ahh.. and so the only light of the top elite berserkers has finally dimmed.. her parents’ death will definietly take a toll on her

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