Cold sweat began soaking the adjutant’s back.
He finally realised how seriously Christopher McLaren was treating the current situation.
“D-did you just say a shower of nukes, sir?” (adjutant)
“Did I sound over the top to you?” (Christopher McLaren)
“In all honesty….” (adjutant)
Ever since humanity invented the nuclear arsenal, it had been deployed only twice – the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though humans invented nuclear weapons, they voluntarily sealed them away after witnessing the horrifying capabilities.
But now, they weren’t even talking about ‘using’ nuclear weapons, but a shower of them?
That was no different than saying he wanted to completely erase the nation of North Korea.
“Will China and Russia even agree to something like that, sir?” (adjutant)
“They won’t have a choice.” (Christopher McLaren)
They too had vividly witnessed the powers of demon kings that appeared in America as well as in London. If such demon kings poured out in their droves, then they wouldn’t have a choice but to agree with the idea of utterly annihilating the monsters even at the cost of abandoning a portion of their own territories.
“They should be the ones in the immediate firing line, after all. If demon kings really do show up in North Korea, then the ones in most danger would be China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, these four nations. Even if it p*sses me off, it’d still be a hundred times better than the whole countries getting destroyed.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Indeed, sir….” (adjutant)
“It’s pretty obvious that they will baulk badly at the idea, so tell them to carefully word the messages. Got that?” (Christopher McLaren)
“Yes, sir.” (adjutant)
“Hurry.” (Christopher McLaren)
After the adjutant left the office, Christopher McLaren covered his face.
‘We’re already doing so much, yet….’ (Christopher McLaren)
The whole world was cooperating to instantly eliminate all Gates that showed up, yet the situation was steadily getting worse.
Even if they managed to stop this event, wouldn’t there be another in the near future?
Christopher McLaren was gradually getting fatigued from the seemingly-endless war of attrition.
It was then, something popped up in his head, and he quickly accessed up the intercom.
“By the way, what is Mister Lee doing right now?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “Did you mean Yi Ji-Hyuk, sir?”
“Yeah, him.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “Sir, I regret to inform you that we don’t have much information regarding the East at the moment. The South Korean government is behaving far too prickly regarding any and all info about Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk leaking out, sir.”
“Find out immediately. No, wait. There’s no need. I’ll just personally call up Mister Choi.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren figured that it’d be quicker to ask Choi Jeong-Hoon directly in matters related to Yi Ji-Hyuk, so he dropped the intercom and dialled the South Korean’s number.
“Mister Choi, been a while.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “Mister McLaren. Likewise.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I told you that I prefer Christopher, didn’t I? You’re more stubborn than you look, it seems.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “I’d prefer to be thought of as someone who hasn’t lost his way, rather than as a stubborn mule, Mister McLaren.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Christopher McLaren smiled wryly.
This guy often came across as a truly insufferable fool, but he’d also sometimes reveal his hidden edge like this, too. Considering his young age, Choi Jeong-Hoon was indeed a rather difficult customer to deal with.
‘If only he wasn’t tangled up in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s matters….’ (Christopher McLaren)
No matter how talented you were, it’d be very difficult to shine when standing next to the sun called Yi Ji-Hyuk. Because, it’d look like he was responsible for solving everything.
“It’s fine either way. Thank you for the news regarding North Korea.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “I see that you’ve been informed by now.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“The news did get to the White House first, but as you may well know, our President is a bit indisposed at the moment.” (Christopher McLaren)
The American president Bruno had lost almost all of his sanity after going through the ‘Erukana incident’. Obviously, that wasn’t a situation where a regular powerless person could emerge unscathed.
It’s just that Christopher McLaren couldn’t openly declare his own president was suffering from ill-health.
– “Shouldn’t you elect a new leader, then?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“America do have the Vice President, Mister Choi. We’re different from South Korea, so you don’t have to worry about us. Besides, as you know already, there aren’t all that many politicians willing to step up in matters like this one, anyway.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “I see, that is indeed different from Korea. How envious.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I wonder about that. I now have to deal with an increase in my workload all thanks to this. I’m actually hoping that that side will start doing more work soon.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “I don’t know which side to sympathise with anymore.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“It’s a problem either way. Well, it’s a dilemma experienced by both sides, isn’t it? No need for sympathy or anything like that. In any case….” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren sucked in a deep breath and carried on.
“What’s going on with Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “My English isn’t quite good enough to understand you, but I still did get your intentions. I think he’s at an arcade about now.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“An arcade?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “I guess saying the game arcade might help you to understand better. It’s where you’ll find a collection of arcade gaming cabinets.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Why is he there?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “Well, should I say he’s indulging in a healthy habit?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Urgh….” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren held his head. The world was on the brink of destruction, yet he was at a game arcade?
“Did you just let him go?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “What can I do, realistically speaking?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Even then, the whole world is in danger, isn’t it?” (Christopher McLaren)
– “That’s not a new thing at this point, no?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Mm?” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren craned his neck after hearing that unexpected reply.
– “If you think about it, the world would’ve been destroyed if we failed to stop the Zombie Dragon or the American zombie incidents, or when the demon kings crossed over.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….That’s true.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “We naively thought back then that we could somehow stop those events regardless of how difficult they were. But when we look back now, humanity would’ve been finished for sure if Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk wasn’t with us. And also, he understood the severity of those situations far better than us. All this time, he pretends to be hung up on meaningless things like money and then steps forward to resolve all the problems.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Mmm….” (Christopher McLaren)
– “That’s why this event shouldn’t be too different in nature to Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk. If he stops it, then we continue to exist, but if he fails, then everything would be over. He’s been suffering under such pressure all this time. So, him needing to go to an arcade doesn’t signify how nonchalant and relaxed he is, but it means that the stress he’s under is so extreme that he needs to seek out an alternative to occupy his mind.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I see.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren had to reflect on himself.
‘Indeed, it was the correct call to ask Choi Jeong-Hoon about Yi Ji-Hyuk.’ (Christopher McLaren)
The American only saw Yi Ji-Hyuk through that man’s abilities, but failed to realise that the person wielding those abilities happened to be a human being like him.
If the continued existence of humanity was hanging on his shoulders, Christopher McLaren knew that he’d not last one single second from the sheer weight.
“Regardless what, he’s still a man.” (Christopher McLaren)
A human would have no choice but to shiver away from the burden. Even if you were someone like Yi Ji-Hyuk with mentality seemingly made out of pure grade A steel.
“This is worrisome.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren sighed while worrying about Yi Ji-Hyuk, who should be thinking quite seriously about this event right about now.
“That won’t do.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk cleanly operated the joystick.
The ‘Wind God’ connected oh-so beautifully. Launched in the air with only a third of health bar left meant certain death. Yi Ji-Hyuk performed a beautiful B&B combo and watched the golden letters of ‘Perfect’ rising up on the screen with a content grin on his face. (TL note at the end)
“Holy cow, this hyung’s a real deal.”
“That’s the 40th win in a row.”
Yi Ji-Hyuk heard all the words of praise coming from behind him and a happy grin floated up on his lips.
This was it.
He wasn’t dead yet. His gaming sense was still alive and kicking. Just how much of his own money did he sacrifice to the altars of gaming gods before he got dragged to Berafe? If he saved that money instead, he could’ve bought a rather nice mid-sized saloon car by now.
In life, you were supposed to be rewarded according to the investment you put in.
Now originally, every arcade in every district had their own alpha players. Gamers who preferred the cabinets they were familiar with obviously went to the same arcades again and again, and if you were skilled enough, you’d get acquainted with one another after going through many battles.
But then, Yi Ji-Hyuk unexpectedly showed up on this fine day and went on a killing spree, so perhaps understandably, the whole arcade was in a state of emergency.
“Where did he come from?”
“Maybe he’s from Isu?”
“I checked, and the people from Isu says they don’t know anyone like him. Did you call Chang-Hyuk hyung yet?”
“Yeah, he said he’s on the way.”
“There’s a limit to getting a beatdown like this, you know? If we get massacred like this, we’ll lose all respect, man. We need to stomp that fool.”
Of course, they didn’t mean that literally, but within the confines of the game.
This was an era where skilled gamers could make a living by becoming a Broadcast Jockey or enter a tournament and earn rewards while raising the level of overall awareness of the scene. Meaning, this was no longer the era where the defeated district had no choice but to swallow the shame and move on.
But then, a bunch of folks making a living in this scene was getting stomped on by a noob no one knew where he came from?
They thought they could collectively hear their income decreasing in real time.
Having analysed the situation, they phoned the person considered to be the strongest in this particular arcade, Choi Chang-Hyuk, and summoned him here.
“Hyung, you’re still not here yet? At this rate, this b*stard might leave, you know?”
– “I’m almost there.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“You gotta hurry! Seriously!”
– “I said, I’m almost there.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“No, hang on. Stop saying that, and….”
“I’m here now, you dumba*s!!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
The dude on the phone witnessed Choi Chang-Hyuk open the door to the arcade and enter inside while shouting angrily, and promptly turned the device off.
“You’re really here!”
“Why were you egging me on that much, man?!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk exploded in irritation before shifting his gaze over to the cabinets. A rather suspicious-looking man wearing a blue tracksuit was sitting in front of one, his leg crossed a bit as he concentrated on the game.
“That’s him?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Why the hell did he suddenly show up and….” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk’s brows quivered somewhat.
“Wait, you say this is his first time here?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Yes, hyung. Never seen him before.”
“In that case, why do I feel like I’ve seen him before somewhere? That’s freaking weird.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Eiii, he’s got such a unique face, so if you’ve met him before, you’d remember right away. No way you can’t recognise him.”
“R-right?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
For sure, that guy did have a pretty memorable face, alright. On top of that, a guy with such a face that also happened to play the game really well would make him almost unforgettable. The fact that Choi Chang-Hyuk couldn’t remember him properly? One could flip that around and say he had never seen that man before.
‘Why am I getting so anxious?’ (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
It kinda felt like when you forgot to wipe your bottom after taking a dump. It was similar to how you keep looking back because of this somewhat-bitter aftertaste in your mouth, something like that.
“In any case, please do something about him.”
“N-ng.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Didn’t matter who it was, this might prove to be problematic to the broadcasters who had to stake their honour in every battle they fought. Weren’t they being sponsored by the owner of this very arcade with equipment in return for the advertisement of his establishment? So, if they got creamed by a complete unknown, that would utterly shatter the status of this very arcade.
Choi Chang-Hyuk settled down on the opposite cabinet with an uncertain expression.
For now, he figured it’d be fine to worry after crushing the fool first.
But then, he heard a strange noise coming from his back.
“Uh? Why are you standing up?”
“Is there a problem if I stand up?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“N-no, it’s not that, but why are you suddenly standing up in the middle of gaming?”
“To smoke.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk’s dongsaengs began panicking as they watched the blue tracksuits man suddenly stand up from his spot and try to walk outside the arcade.
It’d be bad if he left just like that….
“Y-you’re coming back after the smoke break, right?”
“What’s that got to do with you?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“B-because, we’d like to challenge you for another round.”
“Mm, I’m thinking about it…. It’s not like there’s anyone left to fight here, anyway.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Someone has come! Just now!”
“Oh, really?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The tracksuits man peeked around the corner and looked at Choi Chang-Hyuk on the opposite side.
Now that they were face to face like this, Chang-Hyuk’s attention kept getting diverted towards those arched-up eyebrows. If one took the individual facial features and looked at it critically, this tracksuits man would’ve been judged not too bad looking, but those brows were completely ruining the overall vibe.
“Ng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The man with arched brows intently studied Choi Chang-Hyuk for a bit, before tilting his head.
“Can’t tell.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The man said something incomprehensible and went outside.
A brief waiting later, he returned and settled down on the opposite side again. One of the ‘dongsaengs’ sitting there and looking after the situation just in case the 40 win streak got broken by the CPU hurriedly vacated the spot.
“Oh, thanks for the service.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk confirmed the man sitting down on his opposite side, and with a slightly tense face, inserted the coin in the cabinet.
‘Seriously dude, feels like I’ve seen him before somewhere.’ (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Inside of his head was getting really messy.
< 346. Feels like I’ve seen him before -1 > Fin.
(TL: This whole paragraph is a reference to Tekken. The ‘Wind God’, or the Wind God Fist, is a move available to all the Mishima characters in the newer games. As for “B&B combo”, that’s an abbreviation of “bread and butter” combo, while all avid Tekken players will know of the golden ‘Perfect’. As an aside, In Korea, B&B combo is known rather humorously as “citizen combo”, since anyone can supposedly perform one.)
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.