SPACE 5. The 3rd Group (PART: 2)
Hyun-woo looked at his appearance through the reflection in the glass. He was wearing an expensive suit and looked quite amazing. Hyun-woo’s clothes matched the flashy venue. An orchestra was playing underneath a huge chandelier and people wearing formal suits and dresses were gathered around tables laid with food.
‘The game is a hell while reality is heaven…..’
His life had changed 180 degrees in 4 years. At that time, it was heaven in the game and reality was hell. Of course, the world hadn’t changed. Hyun-woo’s position had just changed. But Hyun-woo didn’t come to this party to play around. Hyun-woo found this place unnerving. He also had no time for it considering the situation in Galaxian.
‘Damn, that Ha Myung-woo…..’
Hyun-woo sighed and scratched his head. Hyun-woo was at this party because of his job.
-New Year’s Eve donation party to help refugees overseas.
“Director Kim has to come to this party. Director Kim is in your twenties so it will be good for the company image if you show up.”
That was the reason Ha Myung-woo sent Hyun-woo here.
‘Well I am young but……’
The party didn’t match with Hyun-woo’s personality. It was an event to gather donations to help refugees abroad but they had spent a tremendous amount of money to hire a famous hotel as the venue. It was like sitting in a high place and throwing bread to someone pitiful while thinking ‘Hahaha, you should thank me!’ He would rather spend his money buying flour and sending it himself. Hyun-woo had a reason for such values. It was his mother Park So-mi and his stepfather Gwon Hwa-rang. After his mother’s body recovered from the long ago accident, she had gone overseas with Gwon Hwa-rang to help the refugees and had spent 7~8 months in places like South Africa.
‘Leaving her son alone…..’
Hyun-woo’s thoughts were then interrupted. He suddenly saw a woman with a familiar face. She was a woman in her twenties wearing a red dress. Hyun-woo looked doubtfully at her face.
‘Eh? She somehow looks familiar?’
When he first saw the woman, her face looked really familiar. Hyun-woo was curious so he turned around and gradually approached her. He held up a cocktail and stealthily looked at her face.
‘Wait? That face…..eh? I-is that Irina?’
She was the cyborg like Irina in charge of the supplies on Beltana! The woman in the red dress had a 90% synchro rate with Irina’s face.
‘Eek? I-it can’t be? This woman is really Irina?’
He already knew that Irina was a user. But he heard the rumours that she was an aunty in her forties and never thought her appearance would be like this. She didn’t even blink as she let prisoners die of starvation yet to find her helping at an event for overseas refugees…..an exclamation mark appeared in Hyun-woo’s head as he stared at her.
‘Wait? This might actually be a chance!’
Some people might be difficult to approach in the online game but were different in reality.
‘If she really is Irina then she is an officer for the galactic federation. If we became familiar then there are several ways she could help. Well, it might be too obvious if I approach her talking about the game…..’
He needed to pretend he didn’t know her. Hyun-woo thought like that and started to walk towards her. But before he could, a group consisting of 1 man and 2 women approached her. Hyun-woo missed the timing thanks to them.
“Hey unlucky woman, why are you showing your face here?”
“Ha, look at that expression.”
“Yes, that attitude makes me even angrier.”
“You unlucky woman, we had to see something inferior because of you.”
“Honestly, it is worthless if you come to a place like this.”
The man and two females cornered her.
‘What is this? What is their relationship?’
Hyun-woo just stared blankly. After a brief moment, he started to get angry at the group. She was just standing there silently as the group said more and more abusive words to her. He didn’t know what their relationship was like so he didn’t feel like he should interfere. However, she wasn’t doing anything to stop it. Then the group said with cold eyes.
“Anyway, it will be gold if you go into a corner to eat rice so we won’t notice you anymore. Or just leave.”
She still didn’t say anything.
‘Irina…..there’s no doubt she is the same person. Their characters are the same.’
Despite this situation where Hyun-woo thought she should be angry, her face was still expressionless.
‘Anyway, this isn’t the time to talk to her.’
Hyun-woo sensed the uncomfortable atmosphere and was about to turn his body.
Suddenly the two women giggled and exchanged glances. And one of them approached her with a cocktail. She intentionally pretended to stumbled and poured the contents of the cocktail onto Irina’s back. No, she tried to pour it!
“Ik! It was about to fall down.”
Hyun-woo quickly approached and helped her with a smile.
“Be careful. Won’t various people be troubled if it falls?”
The woman flared up and quickly turned around. However, there was a vague smile of satisfaction on Ark’s face. Hyun-woo aimed for this chance to speak to Irina. But stopping it was too obvious. He had been able to walk away when he saw the opportunity and grasped it. Now he had a chance to naturally talk to her.
‘It might be a little uncomfortable but……’
Hyun-woo hadn’t intentionally produced this situation. There was no reason to be stopped by his conscience.
‘Huhuhu, won’t a conversation naturally follow now?’
“Are you alright?”
Hyun-woo laughed and turned around. However……
……There was no one there. Hyun-woo looked around with confusion and saw her slipping away. Although he saved her from having a cocktail poured on her, Irina just rejected any chances of conversation and walked away.
‘She must be embarrassed……’
Ark decided to think like that.
A prisoner grabbed Ark’s hand.
“This gift! I will never forget it for my entire life!”
“This gift, it is nothing……”
“Don’t say that!”
The prisoner forcefully shook his head and said.
“I gave up on everything before meeting Hyung-nim. Going onto the battlefield when starving and then dying, I thought it was a miserable daily life that wold be repeated forever. But then I met Hyung-nim. I’m not starving thanks to Hyung-nim so I’m able to avoid the bullets better. I’m going to leave this hell place thanks to Hyung-nim. Hyung-nim is my saviour!”
Ark inwardly smirked. However, he would get more benefits from acting modest. Ark acted like he was refusing the thanks and said.
“Today’s result is because of your effort. I just gave you a small opportunity. Are we fellow buddied who have shared hardships? It is natural to help fellow soldiers and to receive their help later. You don’t need to be too thankful. No, I am the one who should be thankful. You’ve believed in me and followed me so I’m very thankful. You might not be a prisoner anymore but I hope you remember your fellow soldiers forever.”
Tears gathered in the eyes of the young prisoner. He wasn’t the only one. 10 other prisoners were gathered around him with red faces. The prisoners all looked at Ark with tearful expressions.
‘It took some time to come here……’
While watching them, memories of the past few days passed through his head like a panorama.
10 days ago, Ark had been able to use the Dig skill to find kilograms of Iridium and was able to solve his food problem. However, Ark wasn’t satisfied with just that.
‘The most necessary things in this place are colleagues!’
Ark knew. Colleagues were the most important thing on a battlefield. Prisoners paying money in return for Valencia’s protection was similar to gaining a colleague. Ark gave away free food in order to gain colleagues that would die for him on the battlefield. Even a little bit of help in a harsh environment would be impressive. Ark’s sacrifice (?) was enough to impress the prisoners and they naturally flocked around him. The 1st group among the prisoners were users who offered money to the regular troops for protection. The 2nd group were relatively high level prisoners while Ark gathered all the leftovers into the 3rd group.
‘But my organization is still lacking unity. Even if the 3rd group of prisoners are gathered around me, it isn’t possible to call them an organization yet. The prisoners received free help so they are obliged to return the help. However, that would make it impossible to show off effective group cooperation on the battlefield. They need a shared target in order to show off any teamwork.’
Ark immediately launched a two stage plan. Stage 2 is to create ‘graduates’ from among the 3rd group! Thanks to Ark’s support, the survival rate of the prisoners increased. They were able to build up achievements and some managed to escape from Beltana. The prisoners gathered around him were those who gained enough achievements to be pardoned.
“The prisoners who followed Hyung-nim have been pardoned!”
“We believe that Hyung-nim will help us escape from here!”
That idea formed within the prisoner’s consciousness. Ark had aimed for this. He planted a shared target within the prisoners! The prisoners had gathered in order to return the favour. But that was just mere courtesy. However, it was different if they had a shared goal. They had already become an organization and Ark could command them now. Of course, the leader of the organization was Ark!
“Although it is regretful that the number of prisoners who followed me decreased……”
The result was a great success. Now the prisoners gathered around Ark weren’t just thinking about paying him back. They were following Ark in the hope of escaping from Beltana. The change in consciousness made them into Royal Guards with a deep loyalty for Ark. However, Ark’s progressing plan also brought an additional effect.
“Hyung-nim, I have something to discuss before leaving.”
These were the first graduates that Ark discharged from the Royal Guards. A prisoner called Asuran visited Ark before leaving Beltana.
“In fact, I was the boss of a bandit group in the city of Sidellin. Although I might’ve spent my life stealing from others, I know how to return a favour. You handed out food to trash like me and saved me from a life of hell! Oh, I will never forget it. So Hyung-nim should visit me once you leave this place. I want to pay Hyung-nim back a little bit. Please!”
Asuran grabbed Ark’s hand.
|<Asuran will Return the Favour>
Asuran was dispatched to the disputed planet Beltana after being arrested and you’ve saved him and allowed him to be pardoned. Asuran is impressed by your favour and wants to pay you back.
Ark’s eyes popped out with surprise. He never imagined that he could get a quest from a prisoner on Beltana! But it wasn’t that unusual when he thought about it. It was natural for users to get quests from NPCs. Even if they were prisoners, it was possible for them to give quests to Ark. But he thought of the prisoners as beggars and hadn’t expected anything. However, there was one thing Ark hadn’t considered. They were NPCs. They might be prisoners but they were different from users. They might be prisoners thrilled about food but once the prisoner identity was taken off, they were thieves, engineers, merchants etc. Since then, Ark’s gaze towards the prisoners changed.
Not only could the prisoners help him on the battlefield but he could also receive rewards from the NPCs. Anyway, Ark managed to transform the prisoners into a Royal Guards organization. Therefore he needed to quickly build achievements for prisoners who would give compensation. He had to give priority to those prisoners.
‘I need to understand the prisoners in order to do this.’
So Ark started to have regular conversations with the prisoners.
“I was born as the son of a poor peasant in the slums and started stealing because I was hungry……”
‘I will put him on reserve for the moment.’
“I was a follower arrested after covering for the crime of the boss of my organization……”
‘He will be on reserve too.’
“I was the owner of a large store. I had at least 30 employees. But money was my enemy. I became too greedy and started tax evasion. Hah, if I managed to escape from this place then I could return the favour……”
He became a top priority to be pardoned. Ark rallied all his power to raise the achievements of the prisoner. It was highly likely that a compensation quest would be given. Of course, not all the compensations gave compensation as they left. However, the prisoners who didn’t give quests repaid him through other methods.
“I think Hyung-nim needs this more than me.”
|-Fading Steel II (Magic)
Item Type: Gun Wearer Restriction: Level 20
Attack: 15~20 Durability: 18/30
Number of Ammunition: 12
Fading Steel is an automatic pistol with excellent performance. Although the damage might be less than other pistols of the same grade, it is a reliable long range pistol beloved by pioneers. However, the light weight of the gun means there is a strong recoil and is a weakness of the gun. However, this gun is equipped with a laser scope which increases the hit ratio.
<Firing Rate +10%, Hit Rate +20%>
Some prisoners would give the weapon they were using!
“It’s not much but this technique might be useful to Hyung-nim.”
|-A new skill (Common Occupation ☆☆) has been learnt.
Withdrawal (User, Active): The universe is a place where you might face any risk. Therefore the most important thing to all pioneers is survival! This survival skill manifested due to that desire.
This technique concentrates all your mental power to reduce the probability of being detected by machines. However, your body has to be concealed if you want to use this. In addition, the mental consumption is big so a break is needed after 30 minutes to reapply it.
<Probability of being detected by an enemy -50% when concealed>
Mental power consumption: 30
Some prisoners also taught skills before leaving. It was the same for a prisoner called Milan.
“Even though it was only for a short time, I’m proud to serve under Hyung-nim. We might be separate but I will come running if Hyung-nim calls, even if I’m on the opposite side of the galaxy. And you didn’t forget the promise from yesterday? It’s a promise. Be sure to visit me once you leave Beltana.”
Milan spoke in a tearful tone and the information window appeared.
Milan is a treasure hunter in Tatuine. In exchange for your help on Beltana, he promised to find a treasure to repay you once he returns to Tatuine. If you visit Milan in Tatuine then it might be possible to receive a special reward.
A quest was registered. During the last 10 days, Ark managed to give 5 prisoners amnesty. As a result he received 3 quests, the Fading Steel II and a skill. It was amazing! The NPCs gave him quite a lot. Ark realized a natural truth of Galaxian. This was why Ark liked NPCs. They always repaid any good intentions. Of course, there were exceptions such as Tori but most NPCs stuck to this principle. This was the reason he didn’t hesitate to act nice with NPCs instead of users.
“But it is up to here.”
Ark waved goodbye to Milan who was leaving Beltana and murmured as he turned around.
Every time he helped a prisoner get pardoned, he would receive a compensation quest or item or skill. it will still jackpot even if it was over 10 days. But when reconsidering the number of prisoners, there was obviously a limit.
“At first there were 15 prisoners following me. 5 of them are pardoned…..”
Ark’s purpose in making the Royal Guards wasn’t to receive compensation. The prisoners had transformed into an organization. And Ark’s ultimate goal was to leave Beltana. However, the prisoners were the ones being pardoned. Ironically, Ark had made it harder for himself to escape Beltana.
“Now there are 10 people left! If the number decreases any more than I’ll be in trouble.”
A minimum of 10 people was needed for Ark’s plan. But these 10 people were different from other users. They received a lot of help from Ark and also watched other prisoners being pardoned so they trusted him 100%. They were prisoners who wouldn’t hesitate to die if Ark was in danger. In fact, the biggest benefit he got from the 5 of them leaving was their trust. Those 10 people absolutely believed in Ark! And that effect showed on the battlefield. Thanks to the prisoners, Ark’s survival rate increased to 80%. Therefore Ark’s achievements that had gone down to -200 increased to +700. His experience was also preserved and he gained 3 levels.
“If I maintain this state then I can leave in a month! I can escape in 1 month! But I shouldn’t rashly use the remaining prisoners. I have to maintain their trust. If I lose them then I won’t be able to gain anything. So it is important to raise my achievements and the prisoners’ achievements equally.”
In fact, that wasn’t his only worry. Balancing Ark’s achievements with the organization’s was difficult. But there were other problems. The problem giving heavy stress to Ark over the past few days was……
Ark flinched and stopped moving while returning to the barracks. Displeasure appeared on his face at the same time.
Ark stared with dissatisfaction at the supplies tent that caught his eye. No, to be exact it was Irina’s emotionless face sitting in the supplies tent. Ark was convinced that the female in the red dress that he met at the charity party was Irina. Therefore he went to find her when he first connected to Galaxian…..
“Did you want to exchange Iridium?”
“No, that’s not…..don’t you remember me?”
“I remember. You are the only prisoner to bring kilograms of Iridium.”
“No. I saw you outside. Yesterday during the charity party.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t remember? I stopped a girl from pouring a cocktail on you…..”
“If you have no requests then please leave. I am working.”
Irina replied with an emotionless face. She even rejected his help when he saved her in reality. She was devoted to her work. Anyway, anger welled up inside him at those words.
‘Perhaps my judgement was wrong? No, that is impossible. He couldn’t stumble upon a face that similar. She is clearly that woman. Is she just pretending that she didn’t meet a beggar like me? Then I will make her recognize me!’
Since then Ark glared and applied unspoken pressure every time he came to exchange Iridium but there was zero response. He glared at Irina for 10 days but there was no response. Right now was still the same.
‘I know I met you at the charity party!’ his expression said to Irina.
And she neatly ignored him.
‘She really is terrible. Even if she is an officer of the federation, isn’t that too pretentious? Just ignoring people. The sight of that expressionless face really makes me furious……’
Ark bit his lip while thinking.
“Hey, what is this?”
Then he heard someone’s voice from behind him. Ark automatically turned his face.
A group of soldiers were approaching behind him. The person who spoke to Ark was Valencia of the 1st armoured platoon. Ark’s face distorted at the sight. His expression said ‘I hate you. Go away!’ but Valencia just ignored it.
“If it isn’t Ark who is working hard these days? Why is Ark-nim standing around absentmindedly in a place like this? Aha, were you watching Irina? That woman is your taste? Your heart is burning yet you’re watching from a distance…..you are unexpectedly a romantic.”
“It’s not like that.”
“No. I’m also a man. I can recognize that look when I see it. Irina, she definitely has a pretty face. Although I don’t know what her real face is like. Anyway, isn’t it beautiful? Love on the battlefield. How wonderful. Then Valencia-nim will help. Hey, Irina!”
Valencia smiled and waved towards the supplies tent. Ark was surprised by the sudden situation and caught Valencia’s arm.
“W-what are you doing?”
“Jeez. This is Valencia-nim helping you.”
Ark’s reaction seemed to urge Valencia on even more and he smirked as he shouted towards Irina.
“Irina, doesn’t it seem like Ark-nim is interested in you these days? It is painful to see. How about it? How about one date on the outside? Aigoo, she isn’t looking. What do I do? You, doesn’t it seem like you’ve been dumped? Aren’t you feeling hurt?”
Ark blushed as he glared at Valencia. Valencia’s expression seemed to completely reverse.
“Really? Really what? What did you say?”
Valencia pushed his face close to Ark and muttered in a low voice.
“You are really annoying. You understand? You cheeky brat, you think you can just scrape up the remains of the prisoners and run wild? Who gave you permission?”
“I’m only doing my work.”
Valencia sneered and laughed incredulously.
“Don’t play around. You seem to be misunderstanding something. It is because of us that you prisoners can live. Without us you will just drop dead. So you should be grateful. Yet you conceitedly formed your organization?”
“I don’t remember doing any harm to you?”
“The fact that you’re doing this is damaging me.”
Valencia repeated in a low voice.
“Listen carefully. Until now I’ve left you alone. But it will be different from now on. You’ve bothered me. You got that? You’ll realize what it means soon. No, you don’t know yet. Bear this in mind. This is my battlefield.”
Valencia looked at him with sharp eyes and turned around.
‘Hah, this guy really…..’
Ark sighed as Valencia walked away. Ark’s biggest annoyance was Valencia. Once again, Valencia used his position as the leader of the 1st armoured platoon to offer protection to prisoners. Valencia had also made him an offer when Ark first arrived at Beltana. But Ark had refused! And he collected prisoners until he formed the Royal Guards. Until this point, Valencia hadn’t worried about Ark. He probably thought Ark wasn’t worth worrying about. However, Ark’s and the Royal Guards’ survival rates soared. He was even able to help 5 prisoners escape from Beltana in 10 days. Valencia’s attitude changed since then.
‘Well it is natural but…..’
To be precise, Valencia’s attitude was because of the prisoners paying a protection fee to him.
Although Valencia and his group received the money, the monopolized most of the achievements. Still, the 1st prisoner group couldn’t complain. Because they could still receive 50 achievements just from participating in the battle and surviving. But that changed thanks to Ark and the Royal Guards.
“What? Didn’t we pay money so why are they getting more achievements?”
“Then what is the reason for paying money to the 1st armoured platoon?”
“Yes, what is the point of the 1st armoured platoon? They’re just sweeping up all the achievements. We should’ve just joined Ark who is gathering guys.”
Complaints naturally poured in. Valencia started to be angry at Ark from then on. The dispute continued on the battlefield. Valencia and the 1st armoured platoon tried to snatch the achievements from Ark and the Royal Guards and lured the Rama to them. So the elite troops interfered with them the achievements for several days.
Ark was the type of character to hold a grudge forever.
‘I show them what it means to go against me.’
But the 1st armoured platoon were the elite troops of the federation. The Royal Guards were just organized so the elite troops are too strong for them. In addition, Ark couldn’t gain any achievements with the armoured platoon stuck to them. He would definitely return the grudge. But he had to leave them alone for self-protection.
“Well, I’m not going to avoid them like I’m scared of them.”
It was good for his mental health to think like this. Ark muttered an excuse as he headed towards the barracks.
Suddenly the camp’s sharp sirens rang out. At the same time, loudspeakers started broadcasting all over the camp.
-Emergency! The Rama’s scouting unit has advanced within 100 km of this camp!