“What do you mean ‘use it?’ You’re not even asking for our opin—” Jung Hwan stood up from his seat in a fit of anger, but Yohan pulled him back down.
“I’m sure you’re feeling anxious since we appeared so abruptly, but if you think about it, it’s not such a bad situation. Just look at our military power, isn’t it reassuring? Right? With us around, you can enjoy peace and safety on this island. We’ll protect you.”
“Is it safe for me to assume that you’ll protect us in exchange for our supplies and labor?”
“That’s right! Seems like you understand me well since you’re a leader too. Haha.” The captain laughed happily, thinking that Yohan was looking favorably at his offer. Yohan laughed as well. The captain, who was hoping to take over the entire island without any effort, was in for a rude awakening.
“What will you be protecting us from?”
“Don’t be foolish. Naturally, we’ll be protecting you from the main culprit that created this situation. The zombies.”
“But zombies aren’t able to swim, captain. This island is already zombie-free. Our only enemy is starvation.”
With just a few words, the merry atmosphere turned cold. The message was clear. They didn’t need their help; they would just be unnecessary baggage. The tension was so stifling that a few people coughed.
“We’re thankful for your kindness, Captain Jin Joo Ha. Before the apocalypse, when I was just an ordinary citizen of Korea, I had always thought about giving back to our soldiers in the armed forces who volunteered their lives for the country.”
The officers’ expression shimmered with hope again. Yohan was taking their emotions for a ride and they were alternating between highs and lows from one moment to the next. Yohan sharply criticized their proposal, but then talked about his desire to be generous to the military. He talked continuously, not giving anyone a chance to get a word in edgewise.
“The hospitality provided to you today was my way of giving back. However, this island is only just barely able to sustain us. We’re not in a situation where we can provide help to others, nor do we need help from others. As soon as you’re done with your top secret military operations, I ask that you leave for your original destination. I’m sorry, but it’s impossible for us to provide food to you even now. As you can see, harvest season hasn’t started yet.”
Yohan talked incredibly smoothly. Even the experienced captain couldn’t find an opportunity to interrupt.
“Not too long ago, I heard that the navy was going to lead a counterattack against the zombies for the sake of humanity. I know that you wouldn’t give such a heavy responsibility to ordinary citizens like us, who are just trying to survive peacefully in an isolated place. I feel reassured that amazing and trustworthy soldiers like yourselves exist.”
With those words, the captain was neutered. He had intended to come up with a reason to take over the island while they talked over drinks, but the whole thing backfired on him. Yohan glanced over to his camp members, who all looked reassured now. He allowed a smile to spread on his face.
“Ah, it’s pretty late. Shall we call it a night?” Yohan had finished talking and moved to stand up. However, the captain waved both of his hands.
“Wait. I have something else that I need to say.”
“I know we’ve barely helped out, so I’m ashamed to even bring this up, but…”
‘Barely? More like not at all.’ Yohan thought to himself.
“According to the Enforcement Decree of the Reserve Army Act, all soldiers are to be transferred to the reserve forces during a time of war. Thus, according to the act, we’re going to transfer the citizens on this island to the reserve forces.”
‘What the hell is this guy saying now?’ Yohan frowned.
“I know it’s sudden, but it’s military law.”
“Do you have official or supporting documents?”
“It’s written in the Law of War. Breaking the law will result in the highest punishment, which is execution.” The captain spoke as if he was trying to persuade Yohan, but there was no denying the implied threat.
‘So now they want to use their government authority, huh?’
“Even if what you say is true, the citizens here wouldn’t necessarily be transferred to the navy’s reserve forces or even to your unit. Is there something in the law that states that you can forcefully transfer soldiers from the reserve force into your personal unit?”
“That…there might be something like that.”
“Is that so? I’ve never heard of anything like it. Well then, please put me on trial for breaking the law. I’ll get my lawyer. You said that breaking this law could lead to the death penalty, but I feel like you wouldn’t just straight up execute ordinary citizens who haven’t even been transferred to a reserve force yet. It goes against the armed force’s duty to protect the country and its people. As a captain in the navy, I’m sure you’re already aware of that.”
At first, it seemed like they were engaging in a simple debate, but, the more they talked, the more obvious it was that Yohan was just ridiculing and criticizing them. The captain looked angry, with the veins on his face and neck bulging. It was a sight to behold. No doubt he was doing all he could to restrain himself from pulling out his gun and shooting Yohan in the head right then and there.
However, Yohan was right. He was a soldier. Honor and justice were important to him. Additionally, he wasn’t stupid enough to act out rashly in their current situation. He had tried everything he could think of to take over the island peacefully. It was a good try, but Yohan wasn’t going easy on them.
“Yohan!” Suddenly, Saeri burst through the door.
“They…Sweeper…the sailors started beating up Sweeper!”
‘What?’ Yohan wasn’t sure if he heard her correctly. At the same time, the officers paled.
“Ahhh! I’m dying! I’m going to die! The soldier bros tried to kill me!” Sweeper’s voice could be heard from a far off distance. For someone that was apparently dying, his voice was incredibly loud.
There were more than ten people between Yohan’s group and the naval officers. They all followed Saeri to the ammunition warehouse. There, they saw a sailor being held back by his comrades and Sweeper playing an exaggerated victim, nursing his cheeks with a pitiful expression on his face.
“What happened?” the captain asked his sailors. They were still holding back their senior officer.
“You bastard, say it again. Huh? Say it again!” The senior officer was raging so hard that Yohan couldn’t help but be curious as to what was said.
“Petty Officer Lee!” Captain Jin’s shout brought the raging sailor back to his senses. He immediately stopped struggling, but he still looked angry.
‘It seems like he’s a bit drunk.’
“Captain! That bastard looked down on the navy and our warship. He’s an arrogant bastard!”
Yohan knew the captain had a cautious personality. No doubt he would have warned his sailors to not act rashly, so why was this sailor being so emotional? Yohan was really curious now. He glanced over to Sweeper, who gave him a sly smile.
“What are you saying, navy man? All I said was that you weren’t allowed to go into the ammunition warehouse,” Sweeper said, mockingly.
‘This bastard. He planned this.’ Yohan was 100% certain of this. There was no way that Sweeper couldn’t dodge a strike from a normal, slow human. He had purposefully provoked the soldier.
Yohan didn’t know what Sweeper actually said that made the sailor strike him, but he was happy with the situation. The other camp members were looking at Yohan, fearing what he would do to punish Sweeper, who had caused trouble. However, Sweeper didn’t seem to be worried at all.
Sweeper was the only one who figured out what Yohan was trying to do. Justification. Yohan was looking for justification. Sweeper remembered how Yohan dealt with Lieutenant Ahn when they first met them. People typically acted strangely around the military. They had learned loyalty and fear while doing their mandatory service and, despite the state of the world, they still harbored hope that the government would recover. There was a fear of repercussions if the world somehow returned to a civilized state. Ultimately, if they didn’t have legitimate justification, attacking the soldiers would carry a heavy and dangerous burden. It was completely different from fighting gangs and thugs.
‘If we rebel against the government, the camp members will wonder if we’ve turned into a violent gang.’
Doubt would be sown and that could fracture the camp and upset the balance of things. Aside from the recon team members who have shared life and death experiences with him, Yohan didn’t expect the camp members to be blindly loyal to him—especially the new members that had just joined recently.
He couldn’t make them think ‘wasn’t that a bit harsh?’ first. He had to have justification. In that sense, Jung Hwan and Saeri’s behavior toward the sailors impacted them negatively while Sweeper’s actions were positive. Yohan wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. He looked at the captain with a complicated expression on his face.
“Just a moment ago, you were talking about how you were going to protect us, but that’s starting to sound a bit shady. Please manage your men, captain. If you find something disagreeable, violence isn’t the answer.” Yohan looked the captain right in the eyes. “I hope that’s not too much to ask?”
The captain had the grace to look at least a bit embarrassed and his officers followed suit. It was an unexpected reaction.
“Let’s try to figure out what happened and then resolve the problem…”
“Hm? Are you saying there’s a possibility that an ordinary citizen did something wrong even though he was the one who got hit?”
“That’s not what I meant…” The captain was trying to sneak away, but Yohan raised his voice, trying to ensnare him.
“They’re already acting this way now. If you have to supervise them just so you can ensure our safety, I wonder what will happen in the future. Who knows? Maybe you guys will start treating us like slaves.”
“That’s going too far!” blurted another officer. Things had devolved into a powderkeg situation. It was like a full ammunition warehouse that was on the verge of exploding.
Yohan pressed on; the justification created by Sweeper was still too weak. He needed the captain to go crazy and maybe even pull out his gun. However, the captain was sly. He simply laughed off Yohan’s provocation and showed an embarrassed expression.
‘This won’t be enough.’ Yohan needed a better plan. Thankfully, they had a lot of time. Justification was bound to come around. It would be shocking to the camp members if they slaughtered the sailors right now, but they could cultivate a sense of hostility over time. Yohan was certain that something would happen eventually. Something concrete.
“Good job everyone. Clean up and go rest. You too, Sweeper. I’ll guard the ammunition warehouse myself tonight. I would be thankful if the navy left as soon as possible.” Yohan spoke loudly so that everyone could hear, however he wasn’t planning on letting them leave the island so easily. After everyone went their separate ways, Yohan entered the warehouse.
* * *
“Nothing. It’s a bit frustrating,” Saeri grumbled, grumpy as usual. “I wish we could just kill them off.”
After Sweeper’s ‘assault’, there was a weird cold war between the navy and the Sindo residents. The fact that one of their own was attacked led the camp members to be cold toward the sailors. The ordinary camp members were innocent to the fact that Sweeper wasn’t so easy to assault.
Similarly, the captain and his men were quiet. Apparently there was an internal disciplinary session and meeting. The captain and his officers lived in the pier house that Yohan ceded to them. They didn’t make a single move and seemed content to camp in their spot like squatters. However, the sailors were acting suspicious.
On the fourth day of this uncomfortable stalemate, an incident occurred.
— Ω —