— “We’ll be engaging the Blisters soon!”
The driver gave a warning over the radio. Kwang Hwi immediately shifted to the gunner’s position and got ready for action. The remote-controlled weapon system allowed the simultaneous operation of a 30mm cannon and a 7.62mm machine gun.
The APC ran over something with a clunk. Kwang Hwi observed the surroundings through a camera mounted outside. The Blisters were running amok everywhere, their appearance alone made him shudder in disgust. Kwang Hwi squeezed his index finger without hesitation.
The yellow glow of the tracer rounds streaked out of the muzzle and tore through the monsters. Bloody flesh flew everywhere as the monsters’ bodies fell in droves.
— “This is the support team! ETA: 2 minutes!”
— “Affirmative! Current situation: our machine gun is silent and we are defending with primary arms! There’s just too many of them!”
— “We’ll be there soon! Just hold on and defend your position!”
There was a lot of chatter on the radio as the men were clamoring on the other side. The sounds of gunfire and shouting in the background also made it difficult to distinguish anything. Kwang Hwi, however, focused on firing the machine gun.
The black wall blocking the APC’s way disappeared in an instant with his incessant firing. Familiar-looking vehicles came into view as they got closer. One was overturned on its roof while the other sat perilously atop a sea of Blisters. There were dozens of monsters who were clinging to the car, trying to force themselves in. Had it not been for the bulletproof body, it would have been pierced long ago, with the people inside ripped to pieces.
Kwang Hwi turned the machine gun and aimed in the direction of the car. The monsters sticking on the Light Tactical Vehicle needed to be taken care of first before the troops could reunite.
Bullets rained in the direction of the car. To be more precise, they were aimed at the monsters surrounding the vehicle.
The bullets tore apart the monsters without mercy, shredding them to pieces. Occasionally, a stray bullet would hit the car, but the Light Tactical Vehicle was bulletproof, so it remained unaffected. It could deflect 7.62mm rounds indefinitely. Rather, those rounds would instead ricochet off and hit the monsters, causing even more damage. In an instant, ground superiority was seized and support was ready to be deployed.
Kwang Hwi, who was observing the situation with the remote camera, barked an order.
The team promptly followed his command as the members hastily rushed out. They formed up behind the APC and their guns began firing as they cleared a path to Ryker 2. The approaching Blisters started to fall one after another and the rescue team dashed to the vehicle.
Hiding inside the vehicle, Jackson’s expression lit up with relief.
“Hurry and open up. We’re getting out of here!”
Jackson, who was in a relatively good condition compared to his fellow passengers, walked on his own while the driver and passengers were assisted out of their seats.
“Come on! Make it fast!”
The men providing cover fire were the last to return to the APC. Kwang Hwi pulled his trigger at the monsters rushing at their rear and created an opening. The Blisters that were attempting to close the distance were cleared in a few moments.
“Rescue complete. Is Ryker 1 capable of driving?”
— “Ryker 1 can drive!”
“Alright. We’re escaping at full speed!”
The recently arrived APC began moving again. Immediately following it was Ryker 1. The engines roared violently, but the speed was surprisingly slow.
No matter how well built the APC was, it was difficult to gain speed with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Blisters blocking their path. And that was not all.
With a bang, the APC that had been gradually gaining speed abruptly rocked. All the occupants of the APC, including Kwang Hwi, were surprised by the sudden sound. Something had collided with the APC, causing it to tilt to one side.
Loud explosions and vibrations sounded nonstop. Kwang Hwi handed over control of the remote weapons system to another member and returned to the carrier compartment.
“The Blisters are exploding, commander.”
He was right. The Blisters kept appearing from all over. They ran at full speed and slammed into the APC, exploding with loud booms. The crystals spewing out were like shrapnel that bounced off the APC. Fortunately, they weren’t powerful enough to penetrate the armor of the APC, or else they would have been doomed.
‘Their heads are about 3-4 times larger,’ Kwang Hwi analyzed.
As their heads exploded, the shrapnel would be launched in all directions. Thankfully, they were easy to identify. However, the problem was that the number of exploding Blisters were increasing. The APC would be fine, but the Light Tactical Vehicle would be a concern as it could not withstand such substantial damage.
“Jackson, are you okay?”
“The Blisters are human. They are people who have transformed.”
“…What did you say?”
“I saw it myself! A survivor we found turned into a Blister in an instant!”
Kwang Hwi’s eyes darkened and his expression turned gloomy. Jackson was not one to spout nonsense. If he said something like this, it must be true.
‘Transformed people…? Then does that mean the Blister we encountered at the hospital was initially human too? But how did they transform?’
One species turning into another, there must be a cause or reason behind this phenomenon, or else it would be too mind-boggling.
‘Bacteria? Infection? Bugs?’
It could be anything. But the fact that the ‘suicide bombers’ appeared as soon as they saw the APC was too much of a coincidence. Even if they could evolve depending on the situation, they were doing it too fast. There was only one conclusion in the end.
‘A high-rank being!’
There should be an entity, like a Queen, that could artificially create and manipulate the evolution of Blisters by some means. It should have seen the APC and created a new exploding Blister, a suicide bomber.
“HQ, this is your boss.”
— “Yes, boss!”
“Use the Heron to find the Blister Queen.”
Kwang Hwi explained his thoughts simply and described the situation of the new breed of Blisters.
“It will look different than a regular Blister in some way. There’s a good chance it’s watching us, so it can’t be too far away.”
There were no questions asked or doubts raised, only a single word of acknowledgment. As the namesake of the Kwang Hwi Faction, his authority was absolute.
The Heron, which was hovering near the APC, flew higher into the air. The video switched to infrared. As the regular Blisters had heat signatures, the high-rank being should also be detectable by its body heat. They did not have to wait long for an answer.
“Did you find it?”
— “We found something suspicious at the Dongducheon Stadium. Apart from a number of Blisters, a huge heat source was also detected.”
It was good they had the Heron. If not for the UAV, it would have been difficult to find.
“You said the Dongducheon Stadium?”
— “Affirmative. Setting the course now.”
“Ryker 1, return to HQ.”
Now that the ammunition of the machine gun had all been spent, the Light Tactical Vehicle was only a hindrance. It could not provide support, so it was ordered to return.
The APC swerved sharply. The maneuver resulted in a collision with a car, launching it into several Blisters and crushing them into meat patties.
The stadium was not very far away. On the path to their destination, the number of self-destructing Blisters increased significantly but did not cause any significant damage to the APC.
Kwang Hwi was sure this was the place once he neared it. Although the situation didn’t seem to have changed much, the Blisters’ movements had definitely become more urgent. The one at the rear controlling them had felt the danger coming.
— “Boss. We’ve arrived at the stadium.”
The shutters to the entrances were down, cutting off the path of the APC. Of course, it was futile as they wouldn’t be able to stop the speeding APC.
The shutters crumpled as the APC rolled through, sending the metal debris flying. The vehicle’s continuous tracks trampled over the grass field.
The APC slowed down to a halt as the driver followed the command. It didn’t take long to identify the high-rank being. In contrast to other Blisters, it was distinctly larger and had some recognizable facial features. However, they were unlike typical human facial features. It had no ears and instead three eyes and a single nostril and mouth.
Blister Lord! Its eyes were on the APC.
The Blister Lord’s sharp screech rang out in all directions. The Blisters filling one side of the grandstand rose in unison and turned in their direction.
However, it wasn’t the Blisters that caught the attention of Kwang Hwi’s group.
Jackson’s jaw was agape with shock and terror. He was horror-stricken by the spectacle in front of him.
“What the fuck…”
Hundreds of people hung from a pole similar to how a butcher hangs meat in a slaughterhouse. They swayed in a state of helplessness, unable to change their fates. From the back of each person, a black tube was protruding. The tubes were connected to the Blister Lord.
Boils covered all parts of their bodies, resulting in a hideous and grotesque appearance. It took less than 10 seconds for a normal human being to turn into a Blister.
While everyone was overwhelmed by the sight and felt at a loss, only Kwang Hwi kept his cool.
“Gunner! Fire the autocannon at the Blister Lord!”
Only after a short moment of daze did Kwang Hwi’s men regain their senses and responded to his orders.
The autocannon aimed at the Blister Lord. Realizing the danger it was in, the Blister Lord scrambled to get itself up.
It had tried to evade, but it was a futile effort. The cannon shell reached it in a split second.
Its left shoulder was blown off clean and the remnant pieces flew in the air, blood flying everywhere. Crystalline shards scattered in all directions. An average person would have been blown to pieces, but the Blister Lord just stared at the APC, enraged and furious.
“What are you waiting for? Keep shooting!”
The shell that followed penetrated its body, leaving a large hole. A person would have been blown away without a trace by that blast. The Blister Lord’s body was instantly covered in wounds.
The Blisters in the grandstands collapsed. However, it was definitely not a good thing. The black crystals flew into the sky as if they had wings and gathered towards the Blister Lord.
The large hole rapidly mended. The remaining crystals wrapped around the Blister Lord as if to protect it with armor. The Blister Lord’s body grew in height and became more sturdy. It was a daunting sight.
The size of the cannon shells was twice the length of an adult male hand and it could penetrate through unbelievably thick walls. However, it failed to work on the new form of the Blister Lord.
As powerful as they were, they were not as effective as before the transformation. Only the crystals from its exterior fell down, considerably reducing the damage it received.
The gunner quickly aimed at its head, but this time, the Blister Lord was ready as it raised its arms to prevent the shells from hitting its head. Unlike other Blisters, this one was at least intelligent.
The Blister Lord that had only been passively taking fire till now raised its leg.
“Evade it! Evade!”
Before Kwang Hwi had even given the order, the driver began moving the APC in a hurry. An enormous foot missed the APC by mere inches.
The neatly arranged grass field was turned over with a crash. The ground shook as if a bomb had just fallen, wreaking havoc everywhere. One side of the APC slightly lifted due to the tremor. The seated men hurriedly grasped a handle to steady themselves.
The APC found the ground again, and its continuous tracks absorbed much of the shock, barely surviving the aftermath of the strike. Realizing that its attack had missed, the Blister Lord took a step back.
Soil rained down. The APC distanced itself from the Blister Lord with haste. Amid the chaos, the autocannon kept its aim on the Blister Lord’s head.
The Blister Lord, reaching for the APC, faltered. Even though it wasn’t able to land a critical hit, its kinetic energy was not lost.
— “Fire preparations complete! Ready to commence firing!”
— Ω —
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