Chapter 27: Prelude
Translator: Dess Editor: Efydatia
Following the new rating, Kieran’s Character Window changed to represent his increase in power.
Kieran didn’t need to see the rating though. He could already tell the difference by himself.
Two and a half days had turned him into a new man.
While he held the [Viper-M1], which had been his reward for taking out the sniper, Kieran felt like a veteran soldier with tons of battle experience. Deep down he knew this was all just virtual reality, but he still liked the feeling. It all felt too real.
Were it not for the Character Window and the Mission Bar, Kieran would have gladly submersed himself in the feeling.
“So this is what attracts people to underground games.”
Kieran thought of all the people who had entered the game with a different motive that him. He kind of understood their reasoning.
If he had been healthy though, he would never have joined the game, no matter how real or exciting it was.
Kieran just wanted to live like a normal person.
He had never been the greedy or adventurous type, he had just been desperate.
Still, that had not stopped him for doing his best. After all, his very life was on the line.
He leaned against a wall among the ruins, hiding in the shadows. His eyes were half-open as he took light breaths and waited.
If the situation had allowed for it, Kieran would have lied down and taken a nap.
However, he could not afford such a luxury.
The crucial moment was approaching.
Darkness covered the sky as the night fell.
The moon ascended slowly, hanging in the dark blue sky. It was a sharp crescent moon that brought a sense of peace to the war-ridden city.
The peacefulness was broken by the sound of footsteps.
They came from afar and caught Kieran’s attention.
Under the weak light of the moon, he saw the troops that had left earlier.
The rushing soldiers did not notice Kieran hiding in the shadows.
Their anxiety made them less observant.
The soldiers just wanted to search the ruins for their comrades and report back to Major Zarukhar.
Second Lieutenant Hank was dead, and so was his squad. None of them had survived.
The news had shocked them to their very core.
After all, Hank had been considered a very strong man among the soldiers. Whether it had been shooting or hand-to-hand combat, he had always been the best out of his peers. When he had completed several impossible missions, the whole base had come up with a theory that Second Lieutenant Hank was invincible.
Most of the troops really believed that.
But the Hank that every soldier used to talk about was dead now.
Brought down by a machine gun. Shot by his own men.
It puzzled the soldiers. They just couldn’t accept it.
They needed an explanation, and the only person who could provide one was none other than Major Zarukhar.
They hastened their pace.
Kieran, who was still in the shadows, saw the troops leave in a hurry and slowly stood up.
This was exactly what he’d been anticipating.
After hearing his subordinates’ report, Zarukhar jumped out of his chair fast. So fast, in fact, that his chair fell down with a bang.
None of the attendees seemed to care about the chair though. They were all looking at Zarukhar.
They needed an explanation. Why would Hank and his team get wiped out?
Even the aide, who was so afraid of Zarukhar, had not averted his eyes.
“I know you all have many questions. Everything will become clear soon. Gather all the troops that are on standby! They have the right to know the truth as well!” Zarukhar said in a deep voice while he looked everyone in the eye.
The aide and the recon soldiers saluted and left his office.
Zarukhar was left alone. There was a calm expression on his face.
Before his recon soldiers had come back, he had still been holding onto some hope in his heart.
But when the reports had come in, Zarukhar’s last hope had been crushed to pieces.
His right-hand man was dead, and so were the troops who had followed him.
All because of a sniper and one of his own machine guns!
When he’d heard the news, an image of the spy who had infiltrated the squad and backstabbed Hank and his troops had formed into Zarukhar’s mind .
Other than Zennings, no one else would have dared cross him.
After all, infiltration and murder was Zenning’s men’s strongest point.
“You crossed me and stole my stuff, and now you want me dead? Well, we shall see who will end up dead!” Zarukhar mumbled.
Then he pulled a drawer open and took out a gun.
He held the gun in his palm and felt the rough texture of its grip.
That hot-blooded attitude of his filled his head again as he turned around and looked outside the window. His troops had already gathered around.
No matter how furious Zarukhar was, he would not go directly to Zennings by himself.
That would be suicide.
Luckily, he had whole troops under his command. He was equipped with the most advanced weapons and the strongest fighters among the Rebellion.
It was the ace up his sleeve and now was the time to use it.
As Zarukhar walked out of his office, he straightened his body and hastened his step, the friction between his boots and the floor causing a loud clear sound.
It sounded like a hammer hitting a nail.
Whoever saw him would be fooled by his steadiness and discipline, and respect him for the true soldier that he was.
Aside from his fiery attitude and imposing character, wasn’t he everything a soldier aspired to be?
A couple of flaws could be forgiven.
Zarukhar knew what his troops needed in a leader, and he had become exactly that.
Looking at rows and rows of soldiers, all of them looking at him with respect, he felt satisfied.
He walked up to the dais, took a deep breath, and started speaking in his deep voice through the loudspeaker, “My soldiers, we have been betrayed!”
Zarukhar got straight to the point, revealing the shocking truth.
It shocked the troops to hear such words coming from Zarukhar himself, but respecting his prestigious position, they did not make any noise at the time.
Zarukhar continued, “It was General Zennings! He struck a deal with the enemy at the cost of our own lives! That son of a bitch chose to betray his own men to ensure his own survival! He started this war, and now he wants us to fight for him! He blamed us for everything! He treated us like scapegoats!” Zarukhar said as his tone got louder.
Then he suddenly turned gloomy.
“I know, things like this happen. It might be hard to believe, but it is the ugly truth. I had sent Second Lieutenant Hank to collect more evidence, but he was ambushed by that son of a bitch! The recon team can confirm that. Hank was my most trusted soldier. He was a true warrior, a good soldier! Such an ambush was not fair to him! It’s an insult a soldier has to bear to his grave!”
Zarukhar looked gloomier than ever. Even his eyes were all red.
The soldiers closer to him could see the tears shining in them.
Not wanting his troops to see him in this state, he turned around and signaled at the recon team soldiers who were standing to the side.
The leader of the recon team came up to the loudspeaker while the troops looked at the upset Major.
“Yes, I can confirm that Second Lieutenant Hank was ambushed and assassinated. He was shot from behind, and his whole squad was taken out by a sniper,” the team leader said.
In an instant, the troops raised their voices.
Everyone looked at each other in disbelief as rage started to fill the crowd.
Zarukhar captured the moment in his mind.
When all the soldiers were agitated, he turned around.
“My soldiers, Hank was assassinated! The next one could be me, and then you! Or you! Because only when we, the first line of defence is eliminated, can that son of a bitch Zennings complete his negotiation with the enemy! All he cares about is saving his own life!”
Zarukhar looked at the surrounding troops as he raised his voice, “I don’t want this, because I’m a soldier! I would rather die on the battlefield, sacrificing myself for the greater good, than bear an insult like this! Now, I will take the battle to that son of a bitch Zennings! Who is with me?” Zarukhar shouted.
“I am! I am!”
“I am! I am!”
The soldiers were filled with rage after listening to Zarukhar’s propaganda.
Only the aide beside Zarukhar looked shocked and puzzled.
As Zarukhar’s aide de camp, he knew a little more than the others.
Things were not exactly as his superior had described them.
There was no mention of the jewelry, for example.
But before the aide could ask any questions or make a move, a gun was pointed to his head.
It was Zarukhar.
He fired without a second thought.
The aide died, his eyes opened wide, but Zarukhar did not show any mercy or empathy.
The aide had known too much.
“He was the spy that son of a bitch Zennings had planted in my office! But it’s too late, Hank is already…”
Once again, Zarukhar put on a great performance.
The troops looked stunned, but soon their shock turned into even greater rage.
They looked at the dead aide in disgust.
“My soldiers, it’s time for Zennings to pay! Justice will be served!”
The crowd’s shouts broke the silent night.