7. Rise To Power
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Most radio channels contained nothing but static. The few channels that were still broadcasting all played the same pre-recorded script on a loop.
– Please stay indoors and stockpile as much food as possible. Monsters have appeared all over the country. In response, the military and police forces have started to take action.
“Boss. Look up ahead…” said one of the men.
Kwang Hwi, who had been resting, opened his eyes to find something unexpected.
The SUV and box trucks had already arrived at the compound, but they were far from the only things present.
“P-please protect us! There are monsters everywhere and we have nowhere else to go!”
“Please save us!”
Dozens of people were gathered in front of the house. Kwang Hwi’s subordinates were in the midst of trying to stop them from climbing over the fence.
“Everyone, please calm down!” One of his subordinates shouted.
While his men could easily keep their cool during combat, dealing with normal civilians like this left even them flustered. This wasn’t some enemy they could just kill. As the sedan rolled to a stop, Kwang Hwi got out of the car. His men immediately snapped to attention once they noticed his arrival.
“Our boss has arrived!” One of the men announced.
Kwang Hwi forcefully suppressed the smile creeping onto his face. When the situation truly called for it, his subordinates could act professionally. But they were never usually this formal when speaking to Kwang Hwi. Simply put, this was all an act that he and his men were putting on. Kwang Hwi followed along and pretended like he was ignorant of what was happening.
“What’s going on?”
The noisy crowd grew quiet. They had noticed the change in his subordinates’ demeanor. Instinctively, they must have realized that Kwang Hwi was the one who had the final say on whether they would live or die.
“They are asking us to protect them.”
“Protect them?” asked Kwang Hwi.
“Yes.” He nodded.
‘This is faster than I anticipated.’
Kwang Hwi had expected something like this to happen in the foreseeable future.
However, he hadn’t thought that people would come seeking protection on the first day of this catastrophe. Perhaps this was the result of attracting all those monsters with gunshots. Before the Keku could find people hiding in their houses or the surrounding factories, Kwang Hwi and his subordinates finished them off. These people must have seen their battle against the horde of monsters and decided his home was the safest place to be. Kwang Hwi climbed on top of the sedan, surveying the crowd. All of the survivors naturally looked up to him.
“My name is Kwang Hwi Baek. These men are my comrades. All of us have real combat experience.” Kwang Hwi shouted. “We have just returned from L-mart after gathering supplies. Everyone here must know by now that those monsters aren’t just killing people, but also eating them.”
The people’s faces contorted, displaying their fear and disgust. Some covered their mouths as if they were feeling ill.
“ Let me be clear. We are not part of the government or military. Therefore, we do not receive any orders from the government or military.” Kwang Hwi continued his speech.
His subordinates nodded like it was obvious this was fact. The military? The government? To them, there was only one leader they would follow. It was neither the President nor the Ministry of National Defense. Kwang Hwi Baek was their boss.
“We only fight for ourselves. We’ll do anything to protect ourselves and only ourselves.” Kwang Hwi said resolutely.
Many people gulped in apprehension without even realizing it. There was something in Kwang Hwi’s voice that attracted their attention. They were focused on nothing but his domineering voice.
“If you join us, you’ll become one of us.” Kwang Hwi’s words reverberated through the crowd. “My orders are absolute. Forget all the laws of society. You must prioritize my orders over everything else.”
Kwang Hwi’s subordinates stood still in shock, mouths agape. They did not think their boss would accept these people so easily. At the very least, this wasn’t something the Kwang Hwi they knew would do. Anything that wasn’t helpful was either ignored or eliminated. Civilians who had nothing to do with an operation were dismissed.
They were ‘mercenaries’ after all. But something was different this time.
“If you don’t like it, you don’t have to join us. I won’t force you. However, don’t stab us in the back later. We’ll hunt all traitors to the ends of the earth and punish them.” Kwang Hwi’s stern tone made it clear to everyone just how serious he was.
Kwang Hwi stared at the crowd. His eyes gleamed with a subtle light. Everyone in the crowd wanted to shrink back from his stare, but they couldn’t help but gaze back at him.
“If you can accept this, follow me.”
This was the start of Kwang Hwi’s rise to power.
Kwang Hwi was on the second floor of his home. People who decided to join his group formed a line while Kwang Hwi’s subordinates inspected them, asking for basic information such as their name, age, and occupation. While inconvenient, it was a necessary process. Holding a weapon wasn’t the only thing that made someone useful.
They had to produce more food and construct residences for people to live in.
All of this could not be done solely by Kwang Hwi and his subordinates. They needed more people to join. While he was watching his new ‘recruits’ outside, Jackson appeared behind him.
“How many people joined?” Kwang Hwi asked.
“What about the supplies we brought from L-mart?”
“According to our assessment, we’ll be able to make do for a while.”
If people hadn’t joined they would have had enough supplies to last for months.
However, the number of mouths they had to feed had increased. Perhaps they could last for a month at most, but any longer would be difficult. Kwang Hwi was a bit disappointed that the Merit Shop did not sell any food or general supplies.
“Boss, I didn’t expect you to accept these people,” Jackson quipped.
“Even if no one else mentions it, I’m not the only one who thinks so.”
Kwang Hwi turned around. “Were you surprised too, Soo Min?”
Soo Min looked around aimlessly and coughed to clear his throat. “Hm… Yes.”
“At first, I thought only we needed to stick together.” Kwang Hwi began explaining. Jackson and Soo Min listened intently. Grinning, Kwang Hwi continued. “But I quickly realized we couldn’t do that.”
The media had explained everything clearly enough. The entire world had been covered by a fog so thick, visibility was reduced to just a few feet. This same fog made guns and other weapons inoperable, meaning that every firearm across the globe had been rendered useless. To top it all off, man-eating monsters were now indiscriminately attacking people.
At a minimum, there were 6 billion humans inhabiting the earth. Was it reasonable to believe that only a few thousand monsters were all that were attacking the entire planet? If they were appearing all over the world, then there were, at the very least, tens of thousands of monsters. Moreover, the battle at the supermarket confirmed that there was not only one species of monster. It was growing increasingly dangerous to operate with a small team under these circumstances. Their group had to grow in size. No matter how many weapons Kwang Hwi bought, there needed to be people to use them. Even if he was able to get a SPG, a helicopter, or some other cutting-edge weapon, there was a limit. How many of these could Kwang Hwi and his subordinates operate at once? Ten people operating military equipment was different from one hundred, let alone thousands of people. The scale was incomparable.
“That’s why I’m recruiting people.”
“As expected, boss!” said Jackson, as he mulled over his boss’s words.
“After checking the new recruit’s personal information, report back to me. For now, let the people rest in tents. Night watch duties will be assigned as usual.”
“Understood.” said Jackson, as he left to carry out Kwang Hwi’s orders.