Episode 5: Citizenship / Chapter 75: Advancement Evaluation (9)
Alexei’s Youtube channel had become incredibly famous. At first, it started off as his own hobby, but now people started to regard it as the Berserkers’ official channel. This was because the Berserkers were such an unsociable group, and besides Alexei’s channel, there were no other outlets which released information on them.
Even Choi Hyuk ended up regarding Alexei as the Berserkers’ spokesperson.
The night they failed the second advancement evaluation, the Berserk Sovereign, Choi Hyuk, held an extensive press conference and also uploaded a video on Alexei’s Youtube channel, which clearly indicating his stance, before midnight. The video created such immense waves that it reached 100 million views in a day.
The message of the video was simple.
“This is a fight with humanity’s survival on the line. It is difficult to tolerate selfish actions. I will give a penalty to those who do not participate in the fight.”
“The method is simple. All citizens and colonizers of the Berserkers’ cities, Barhaloleun, Spartoi’s Fortress, Grassland Castle, Zhiyu, Pyungryu, Wanwu, and Yeshi, will assemble at their city square by noon tomorrow starting now. Remain there until all advancement evaluations have ended. We will use a recording medium and mobilize people to identify those who did not participate in the advancement evaluations from now on. Also, those who have already participated, please immediately come to the administrative office of your city to prove your participation. This action applies to all citizens and colonizers who are over the age of 14.”
“Also, from this moment, all assets within the colonized land will be frozen. Furthermore, I will not allow anyone to leave the colonized land. Those who have been determined to have not participated in the advancement evaluations until the end, regardless of their status, will be kicked out from all Berserkers’ territories. Of course, your assets will be confiscated.”
“Due to the current urgency of the matter, we will only be conducting this within the Berserkers. However, we will need the joint response of many more sovereigns. No matter who it is, those who do not participate in the advancement evaluations need to pay a price. Especially the Clown Sovereign, Freeman, and the Sovereign of Opportunity, Nasir, who abandoned their duty as sovereigns. They will need to pay a harsher price. Times have changed. You cannot survive on the blood of others. If you want to survive, you must be ready to spill your own.”
While this announcement, which became known as ‘Choi Hyuk’s Statement’, received strong support from one side who reacted by saying, ‘Refreshing!’ ‘Great!’ ‘I’m going to join the Berserkers,’ it was also met with concerns such as, ‘A dangerous thought that will push those who aren’t ready to fight towards their deaths!’
A fierce dispute erupted. Whether it was on Earth or in the colonized lands, whenever people gathered, they would always get into a heated discussion about this issue. The purpose of Choi Hyuk’s decision was clear.
“Can you still talk about different methods at this time? 1/5 of the non-awakenees died! Within our team, Kim Daeri and Lee Hojin have already died. In this situation, you still want to look at different methods? What? Not ready to fight? Who fights because they’re ready? And what’s better, dying dejectedly or dying while fighting?”
However, while Choi Hyuk’s method was strong and simple, it lacked polish.
“However, this sort of forceful push will only increase unnecessary casualties. How can the elderly or handicapped, who have never fought in their life, be able to fight overnight? Even though you are able to overcome the deficiencies that come from age and most disabilities when you receive karma, won’t they need to fight while they still haven’t adapted to their new physical state? That’s like telling them to die. Instead of foolishly saying, ‘Everyone fight!’, they should receive the help of supporters who are physically healthy and give them a big reward.”
When two company employees were discussing in a bar, there were times when a colonizer sitting next to them would abruptly join in,
“Ha- I’m speechless at your words. Look. Don’t you know how it was for 1st generation awakenees? Don’t you know that a ring suddenly appeared and that they had to kill each other regardless of age or gender? Handicap, your mother. Doctors murdered patients at a hospital. Although patients also killed doctors as well. What? Not ready to fight? How can they fight when they’ve never fought in their life? Motherfucker. If you need to fight, you fight.”
Then another colonizer would join in,
“Hey. You’re right. But aren’t you mistaken about something? The subject is the Berserk Sovereign’s territory. His colonized land. Barhaloleun, Zhiyu, Pyungryu… Hey. Everyone there is already an awakenee or colonizer. Even if you considered non-combatant members, they are still people who aren’t afraid to die in these advancement evaluations. But, why do we need to risk our lives for these non-awakenee scum? And why do we need to lose our possessions? Fuck, does that make sense? You need to solve your own problems, you non-awakenee bastards. Or just die.”
Occasionally, dissatisfaction grew larger amongst awakenees than non-awakenees.
Even though it was a strong cause, Choi Hyuk’s decision was embroiled in negative public opinion. That was because Choi Hyuk’s statement was a ‘wide scale provocation’.
Choi Hyuk directly targeted the majority, who didn’t participate, and the targeted majority wanted to justify their decisions in any way they could. It was difficult for there to be a good public opinion of him after making the majority his enemy. On top of that, because Choi Hyuk’s decision forced the hand of the colonizers and awakenees who were his support, he wasn’t able to get an amicable reaction from them either. Whether they were awakenees or not, they disliked Choi Hyuk’s statement. This was even so when considering the fact the ones who benefitted from this were the non-awakenees.
Even the colonizers who thought they had the responsibility to successfully complete the advancement evaluations even if it meant taking sacrifices were unable to readily support Choi Hyuk. The majority, who had not seen a monster before, were influencing the judgments of the colonizers they were close with. It didn’t matter what the colonizers thought inwardly, they were unable to thoughtlessly tell others to fight just because they fought. The decision was so difficult that even the top executive of the Berserkers, Lee Jinhee, mumbled, “If my mom was alive, I would have opposed this decision. But… I don’t know what’s what anymore…”
That was why other sovereigns had to find a more polished, yet effective, method than Choi Hyuk’s. However, was such a method easily found?
In contrast to them, the starting time of the advancement evaluations was all over the place. There was a day grace period between the first and second advancement evaluations, but the third one began the early morning of the day after the second evaluation. It was even before everyone in the Berserkers’ territories could gather at their city squares.
The third advancement evaluation progressed the same way. An announcement appeared to those who did not participate in the first or second evaluation, and an offer was only given to 10 of the sovereigns, excluding the ones who participated in the second evaluation.
Was it because 1/5 of the non-awakenees lost their lives? It was counted that more people participated in the third evaluation than the second evaluation. However, the absolute majority was still hesitant. ‘I’m just one person.’ Many still thought this as they aimed for a free ride. There were even some who held baseless confidence that they would be able to survive this time as they had survived the first 1/5 probability.
In the end, that night as well, they failed the advancement evaluation.
It was better than the second advancement evaluation. That time, they weren’t even able to go beyond the 1st Stage – Dimensional Wasps’ Nest Boundary Region before the majority of people decided to return. Because the number of participates was unconditionally small, they failed to deteriorate the growing wasps’ nest. This time was much better since they were able to attempt the 2nd stage. However, they were unable to go to the end. With the 3rd stage left, everyone returned. It was because they didn’t have sufficient soldiers remaining to aim for the queen wasp.
The only reason why they were barely able to attack the 1st and 2nd stages was because the Sovereign of Paradise, Camilla, who had participated twice, and her clan members fought hard and didn’t give up until the end. The number of warriors who participated in the evaluations was still too small, but the Camilla clan fought with all they had, and the beginner warriors were influenced by them and fought fiercely as well. It was to the point where each beginner warrior attacked more than 10 times. However, ironically, the desperate fight caused their already small troops to reduce even further, and the attack eventually failed even after taking immense losses.
The night sky, containing snowflakes left behind by the non-awakenees who ceased to exist on Earth, was beautiful.
Frustrated, Choi Hyuk was about to go out on a walk.
From the hair of a passing person, inside a passing car, and above buildings, white snowflakes flew up like a snowstorm. People disappearing, scattering without a sound.
More people died. At least 1.2 billion people. All in an instant.
Choi Hyuk was depressed.
Life and death. There were scenes he recalled whenever he thought of these words. He didn’t know why, but he thought of the last smile Jung Minji showed him, the Marronnier Park incident where he bawled while hugging his mother’s gravestone, and the funeral that day which still felt unreal to this moment.
At times, he wouldn’t feel anything when he killed another person, but at other times, the person’s dying figure seemed so sudden and painful.
Choi Hyuk held one of the gently rising snowflakes in his hand. The snowflake passed through his hand as if it didn’t exist. It was pure karma. It was the purification of karma which had been accumulated over long periods of time by natural beings. Only, it wasn’t the life of one being, but his father’s father’s father, and his mother’s mother’s mother. The decisions made through the accumulation of billions of years of crying, laughing, deception, and more deception. That was karma.
In other words, when a living being died and its karma was scattered away… it didn’t simply mean the death of one life. The billions of years it took for that living being to be born, the history of his ancestors which had never been broken since being a single-cell organism. It meant that the genealogy of their evolution was erased.
The reason why Earth was dying wasn’t simply because the ground was drying up. Earth was burning its history to give humanity the strength to fight against the monsters. Earth would disappear. Forever within the endless loop of cause and effect that is karma, as if it never existed in the first place.
Choi Hyuk didn’t know all this in his mind, but he could somehow feel it. As his Retribution increased, and he could more sensitively sense karma… he instinctively realized that the extinction of the non-awakenees was something more saddening than death.
Then, as he was walking absentmindedly, something small and warm slipped into Choi Hyuk’s left hand.
“There’s no way you’re alright, right?”
When did she appear… It was Flame-Rain. Choi Hyuk didn’t grab her hand nor did he shake her off, he just halted, vacantly.
Choi Hyuk stood still before abruptly asking,
“This… is a best 3 out of 5, right?”
Choi Hyuk shut his mouth in frustration.
It was as Naro predicted. 5 evaluations, 1/5 of the non-awakenees each time. The current score was 1 win and 2 losses. This meant that they absolutely had to win the next one.
However, there was a problem.
Would Choi Hyuk be given the opportunity to participate in the next evaluation? Also, even if he was given the opportunity, would he be able to pass through the 1st and 2nd stages? The 1st and 2nd stages were games they needed an absolute advantage in numbers for. The burden was heavy as that wasn’t something he could accomplish with his own power.
He was crazy for revenge.
Unfortunately, in the end, he was unable to do everything by himself… For it to be this hard to get rid of their Consumables fate, he felt a sense of shame.
“Why is it that the Exalted Wings don’t distinguish between the families of those who participate and those who don’t when ceasing their existence? If it’s like this, there isn’t a big merit in participating in the fight. Instead, the participants face the risk of losing their lives in the fight as well as losing their family.”
Choi Hyuk expressed his frustrated thoughts to Flame-Rain.
Flame-Rain only slightly held his hand before letting go.
“That’s because the test you are taking is a qualification test on becoming a member of the alliance… So… a citizenship. It’s not a problem of who’s strong or weak, but a qualification test of whether you are existences who can develop alongside the alliance in the long run… The treatment you described just now is more fitting of consumables, not citizens. ‘You fight. Or else I will kill your family.’ Those who move because of these threats cannot be seen as equals. The alliance wants those who judge for themselves, without the need for threats. A person who says, ‘Even though there isn’t an immediate benefit, if I judge that I need to fight, I will willingly fight.’… That is what the alliance is testing right now.”
Choi Hyuk was silent. Indignation rose up from inside. ‘Why are you the one testing that? With what right? Have you ever proved your qualifications to us?’
Flame-Rain inspected his expression and continued,
“… Is what they say. I don’t know much either. I don’t like it as well.”
She turned her gaze towards the sky where the karma snowflakes shined white.
“Isn’t it pretty? Purely refined karma. The history of one species… Remember, they are much more powerful than you think. An incredible power that melted the endlessly growing dimensional wasps’ nest within a dimension in an instant… A power that would still have a lot left over after that.”
Then she turned her gaze towards Choi Hyuk. The flames which covered her face had, at some point, faded away and disappeared.
“If it’s you, you might be able to produce a true flame.”
Her lips smiled, though her eyes were sad.
With those words, Flame-Rain was engulfed in flames and disappeared. They were familiar flames. It looked similar to the skill Choi Hyuk had endlessly been practicing to control more finely.
“… Flaming Wing…”
However, it was a true flame, purer and clearer than Choi Hyuk’s, writhing with its own living will.