“Honestly, we should kill you right now just to be safe.”
So Hee blinked twice and then started crying. It was an unexpected reaction.
“That’s cheating,” Sweeper mumbled. Her miserable crying face definitely tugged at his heart strings.
“If only her opponent wasn’t Yohan,” Ha Jin remarked. Yohan was staring at her, unaffected. His expression seemed to say ‘So what?’ or ‘Why are you crying?’
“Help me.” Finally, So Hee said the words that Yohan was waiting for. He walked up to the young woman and squatted down so that his face was right in front of hers.
“Can you promise me that you’ll follow orders and won’t act on your own like you did just now?”
So Hee nodded.
“Are you able to kill a human?”
“I’ve killed one before.”
It was natural. It would be weird if someone survived this long without having to kill another human.
“What I want you to do is to act like a kid and then stab those people in the neck once they’re distracted.”
“O—okay, is this how you normally do things?”
Sweeper made a beast-like growling sound, but Saeri elbowed him.
“Can you do this or not? Answer me, kid.”
“I told you, I’m not a kid.”
“I can do it. I want to ask you something though.”
“What is it?”
“Are you good guys or bad guys?”
It was a naive question, the kind you would expect from a 20-year-old. Of course, the answer was obvious.
“We aren’t good or bad.”
“We just want to survive. Don’t worry kid. We don’t bite unless we’re attacked first. However, if someone attacks us, we’re the type that would keep biting until there’s nothing left.”
So Hee nodded thoughtfully. Yohan wasn’t sure how much value So Hee would bring to the team, but, if they didn’t recruit her, they would essentially have nothing to show for this recon expedition. It didn’t hurt to have her with them. Yohan turned away with a smile. He looked satisfied with the fact that he had obtained something useful. The people around him recognized that smug expression and groaned inwardly.
* * *
Now that So Hee was part of the team, Yohan wanted to see her archery skills in action. He knew that she was somewhat talented, but he wanted to assess her exact level. Everyone watched quietly as So Hee prepared to hunt. She had several knotted threads and tied them to the end of her arrows. There were so many strands that, if she made a mistake, the whole thing would become one giant tangled mess.
The recon team members guessed that the threads were used to retrieve arrows safely. So Hee stepped out to the veranda and spread out her arrows so that the threads wouldn’t get tangled. She aimed quickly and soon an arrow was embedded in a zombie’s head. So Hee carefully pulled the thread to avoid snapping the line and retrieved the arrow. The time it took for her to aim and shoot was short. Her method of retrieving arrows after shooting was efficient and effective. She was very skilled.
“Pretty good,” Yohan replied, his voice flat and emotionless.
“Don’t bother complimenting me if you don’t mean it,” So Hee grumbled. However, she still looked happy.
“How did you get left behind?” Yohan decided to ask one more question before they headed out.
“Everyone probably went to the shelter. Why are you here alone?”
“I was waiting for someone.”
‘Was.’ Yohan noted that So Hee spoke in past tense.
“I was afraid that, if I left this place, my older brother wouldn’t be able to find me. I waited because I was scared that I wouldn’t see him again.”
“Where’s your brother?”
“…In the army.”
That was unfortunate. Even if her brother was alive, an active soldier during a state of emergency would have been arrested if they tried to desert their position. Yohan recalled someone from the previous timeline. A young soldier who used a bow and arrow.
‘I wonder how he’s doing.’
“Chuncheon City in Kangwon Province.”
“Do you know how many bases there are in Chuncheon? Where in Chuncheon city?”
“I don’t know. How am i supposed to know that?”
Yohan gritted his teeth, holding back his frustration. Sweeper laughed at his expression, enjoying the interaction.
“I noticed there are other survivors nearby. Do you know who they are?”
“I’ve never interacted with them, but I’ve seen them around.”
Hearing about the other survivors, the recon team members suddenly became serious.
“Tell me everything.”
“I heard cars moving on that side. I peeked out and saw a military car. I don’t know too much because they didn’t come this way. Oh, I heard gunshots. It went on for a really long time.”
“Was there a fight against the zombies?”
“Probably not. Gunshots were coming from different directions,” So Hee replied. Most of the recon team members were puzzled, but Yohan, Jae Ho, and Sweeper understood what was happening.
“Then there must have been a struggle for power. It sounds like the soldiers were fighting each other,” Jae Ho commented. So Hee nodded, confirming his suspicions. Jae Ho loved to talk and explained things, so he continued. “Listen carefully. If the soldiers were fighting zombies, then you would only hear guns coming from one area. However, if guns were being fired from different directions, it would mean there were two groups shooting at each other. There’s no way that ordinary people would attack armed soldiers…there must be some sort of internal conflict between the soldiers.”
“There are two artillery units at Yeongjong Island. The two units are close to eachother, but their relationship isn’t great. It’s a reasonable hypothesis.”
Yohan had seen power struggles among soldiers stationed in the same base. If there were multiple units in a city or region, the chances of them fighting each other would rapidly increase. And the ultimate source of this conflict was probably supplies. There was a limited amount of supplies on the island and there was probably a serious clash when the two units were trying to scavenge for supplies.
“What should we do?”
“Let’s return for now.”
There were two clashing units. If they intervened, they would just give them a common enemy to fight against. It was better to just avoid the military bases entirely.
* * *
As soon as Yohan returned to Sindo, he called all the leaders to the wellness center. This included all the elites of the recon team and heads of production.
“Yohan, you’re back early.” Seo Jun, Elder Park, and Mr. Kim arrived and greeted Yohan.
“Yes, did anything happen while we were gone?”
“The previous residents took good care of their homes. Honestly, we won’t have any problems even in the winter.”
“That’s good news. How about you, Elder Park?”
“No problems. Everyone has been working hard.”
“That’s reassuring. And you, Mr. Kim?”
“I finished installing the ham radio. You can check it out in the situation room.”
“Oh, it’s done?” Yohan was happy, as it was something he had been waiting for. Their wireless walkie-talkie and military radios couldn’t reach the Bupyeong District Office. Since he got the channel rotation information from the old man and the mercenaries, he wanted to start communicating with them. He had promised the old man that he would reach out once they got settled down, but it had been a month now. The old man was probably pissed. Still, there were more pressing issues at the moment.
“Hyuk?” Yohan looked over to Hyuk. Survivors on a nearby island were probably the most pressing matter.
“I think you should take a look yourself,” Hyuk replied. He had a serious look on his face.
“Okay. Lead the way.”
Hyuk led him off of Three Brother island and to the top of Modo island. Even though it was a small mountain that was less than 100m above sea level, in a wide open area, it allowed them to see almost everything. Hyuk pointed west to the coastline of Jangbon island, which was next to Modo island.
“It’s a bit hard to see right now because it’s dark. However, look over there on the coast, near the private homes. There are signs of campfires. I asked the others if they noticed anything and some of them said that they’ve seen smoke rising up from around there.”
Yohan pulled out his binoculars and scanned the coastline. Just as Hyuk said, there were remnants of campfires scattered by the shore. It was hard to be certain, but Yohan felt instinctively that they had been made recently.
“Has anything unusual happened since then?”
“No. I haven’t even seen anyone there.”
“Hm.” Yohan thought for a moment. If people were living on the coast, they would’ve been spotted by now. However, the campfires were only discovered recently. This meant that they weren’t living on the coast. Either they lived on the mountains or they only recently arrived on the island.
‘Could it be a rescue signal?’ Yohan thought. If the survivors made the fire intentionally, this would make the most sense.
“Let’s go visit.”
It was the best to find out for themselves. Otherwise, if there were unknown people near their main base, they wouldn’t be able to move freely. Their existence would hamper their ability to go on recon expeditions. Visiting them randomly might be dangerous, but leaving them alone was like ignoring a ticking time bomb. It was similar to the situation with the H Mall gang. Getting rid of potential threats was the number one priority.
Yohan immediately gathered his combatants and got them armed up. This included the elite members and the recon team members that were originally left to guard the camp when they went out on their recon expedition. They hopped on the boat and departed. The remaining camp members treated it as an emergency situation and went on high alert. Since this was right by their main base, if there was a fight, they had to win at all cost.
“Group two protect the boat. Group one, follow me.” Yohan moored the boat by the dock and ten people followed him deeper into the island.
They fanned out and hid among the foliage as they moved. However, the security detail on the island was pretty sloppy. Some of the recon team members felt underwhelmed. Even Yohan felt like they were just sneaking up on ordinary survivors. However, they suddenly noticed that one of the buildings on the mountainside was releasing plumes of smoke. Someone was cooking. Yohan made a signal with his hands and the recon team members split up. They formed a circle and slowly closed in until Yohan signaled them to stand by.
The smoke was coming from a chapel. Yohan watched and waited patiently. Finally, the door opened and someone came out. He was a college-aged male that looked to be around Hyuk’s age. He was unarmed. Yohan studied the young man as he came out of the door and stretched his arms.
‘Should we restrain him?’
There was a freight car parked in front of the building. It blocked their line of sight, making it hard to shoot. If they missed, it would only put their opponents on alert. As Yohan tried to think up a plan, the young man suddenly flinched and looked around. A serious look crossed his face and he ran back indoors.
‘Did he spot us?’ If he did, it would mean he had impressive senses. The recon team was perfectly hidden and everything was dead quiet. The only way he would have noticed them is if he had amazing survival instincts.
Yohan noticed Corporal Ong shifting his position. He was trying to get a better view of the chapel. Just then, the door opened again and the young man came back out, along with four other people. They were all unarmed, unless you counted the wooden stick held by one of the women. She was wearing a maid outfit that didn’t look good on her. Another woman, who was wearing a nun outfit and looked of mixed ethnicity, spoke up.
“There’s no one here, Pio.”
“I’m telling you that someone’s here. Try calling them out.”
“Is there anyone here, by any chance?”
A few recon team members flinched. Yohan reiterated his instructions to stand by. Hearing no answer, the nun yelled out.
“Is there anyone here?”
Sweeper looked over to Yohan. With a glance, he seemed to say that he felt like they should go talk to them since these people were unarmed. Yohan nodded in agreement. He gave a signal and the recon team members slowly came out of hiding, guns raised.
The five survivors were surprised to see so many people appear out of nowhere. The nun looked at Yohan. She bowed her head gently in his direction.
“Hello. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Paulina. So…can I call you Mr. Yohan?”
The moment the mysterious woman said Yohan’s name, the sound of several people turning off the safety on their guns could be heard.
— Ω —