* * *
The new members, Pio and Verda, thought that their squad was well balanced. When it came to fighting and shooting, Pio was right behind Sweeper and Ha Jin. Verda, on the other hand, was above Hyuk and Jung Hwan’s level. Overall, Pio was a bit better than Verda, but Verda excelled at something that Pio lacked. Her reports were amazing. Her clear voice delivered neat and concise reports. She was second only to Saeri in terms of compatibility with Yohan’s preferred reporting method.
On the other hand, Lina was weak in every combat scenario, from shooting to hand-to-hand combat. Even with the crossbow, no matter how much she trained, she simply did not improve. All her shots hit nothing but air. It would have been more productive to toss the ammo straight into the trash.
Yohan knew that someone like Jung Eun would have been more useful on the combat squads, but he had no choice but to train up Lina. On a long-distance expedition, he didn’t know what they may encounter. Lina’s visions may be helpful, so he wanted her next to him at all times. So Hee, on the other hand, was a different kind of special case. She didn’t seem that useful right now, but she was a wild card that may come in handy.
“Take a break.” Yohan ordered. All the combat members immediately collapsed where they were standing.
“I think I’m going to die, Yohan.”
Even though they had acquired lots of valuable experience from real combat scenarios, in Yohan’s eyes, they were still lacking in a lot of things.Sweeper and Ha Jin were top tier survivors, but even they weren’t perfect. Hyuk, Jung Hwan, and Corporal Ong weren’t quite top tiers as they each had more prominent flaws. Corporal Ong was bad at close-range, while Jung Hwan’s physical ability was only average. Hyuk was soft hearted, which was the most preferable flaw of the three. And, obviously, the members of squad three and four were even more lacking.
Yohan looked down the road and noticed Jung Eun, who was currently on active guard duty, calling for him.
“Yohan, you’re wanted in the situation room.”
“Okay, I’ll be right there.”
Yohan ordered the combat members to run another lap around the island and then made his way to the situation room. The old man from the mercenary group was on the radio.
— “Hey kid.”
“How are you?”
— “I told you to stop it with the formal small talk,” the old man replied, gruffly. Yohan smiled.
— “I’m radioing you because I have some news.”
“Okay, tell me.”
— “I got this info from my client in Seoul.”
— “After that Gae Baek Jung or Gae Jang Soon or whoever…after he died, there was a massive war between the survivors in Seoul.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Yohan replied, unsurprised. Gae Baek Jung had gathered many powerful people around him. If he wasn’t around, those people would no doubt be fighting to claim his throne.
— “The group with the most power right now is from Yeouido.”
“Yeouido?” Yohan suddenly felt nervous. In the previous timeline, he was intimately familiar with the Yeouido camp. “Do you know who their leader is?”
— “The name of their leader is Shin Noah.”
Goosebumps rose on Yohan’s back. It was Shin Noah of the Yeouido camp, the person that he had been with until his death in the previous timeline. His name had come up much earlier than before. Was it because Gae Baek Jung died?
“Shin Noah you say…”
— “Do you know him?”
— “He’s a kid too, but it seems like he’s got skills. They managed to survive three zombie waves. It seems like they purchased the info about the mutants from my client.”
— “I hope you’re not mad about not getting any royalty fees. You sold that information to me at a heavy price.”
“Of course not. It’s important that people get that information in any way.”
— “Jeez, I know you don’t really mean that, kid.”
“Am I really that obvious?”
— “Yeah, you’re a psychopath.”
“Anyway, is that what you wanted to tell me?”
— “No, the problem isn’t the zombie waves. It’s the zombie parade that you told me about last time.”
— “It’s probably heading toward Yeouido. And it’s not just one or two. As such, the entire camp is planning to move.”
— “I don’t know. This is as much as I’m willing to dig up for you in return for sharing the information about the zombie parade last week.”
“Thank you. Oh, I have some information regarding two new mutants.”
— “Oh, what is it?”
“Well…it may be hard for you to believe.”
— “Hey kid, I still can’t believe that I’m not back in my house when I open my eyes every morning. Every day I wake up hoping this was all a dream. Just tell me. Don’t worry about what I’ll believe or not.”
Yohan shared everything they knew and suspected about the two new mutants. One that was able to travel freely between land and water and another that was able to give birth to other mutants and infect people through airborne infection.
— “So it’s a type that we can’t fight.”
— “Damn it…” the old man muttered. Yohan could understand how he was feeling. It was the same way he felt when he first learned about the mutant.
“Please keep a close eye on the Yeouido camp for me.”
— “Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the info.”
“Yes, thank you too.”
— “Talk to you later, kid.”
‘Shin Noah…’ Yohan was immersed in his thoughts, looking like a forlorn lover. They had been enjoying a lot of peace on the island. They were due for a storm soon.
* * *
The sun had set and the ocean was calm. Though the water was still, the view of it was obscured by a fog that had rolled in from the ocean and enveloped the entire island. Small ripples disturbed the calm sea and, soon, bubbles could be seen on its surface. A dark shadow rose from the sea, eventually revealing a red-colored creature as it emerged from the waters. It had a protruding head, two long arms, sharp claws, and spindly legs with webbed feet. With every step it took, water splashed and soaked the ground.
* * *
Jung Hwan awoke to the sound of his dog barking. He rubbed his eyes and made his way to the living room. There, Blackie was barking at nothing.
“Blackie, what’s wrong?” Jung Hwan asked soothingly, stroking the dog’s back. However, Blackie continued to bark.
“Jung Hwan, what’s going on?” Ah Young poked her head over the second story stairwell. The sound had woken her up as well. Jung Hwan waved her away.
“It’s nothing. Blackie is just barking at the air. Maybe he saw something? They say that if a dog is barking at nothing, it’s because they saw a ghost.”
Ah Young smiled and giggled softly. “Well we better make sure we hide in our blankets well when we go to sleep.”
“I’m not joking…I wonder if the mountain creature came back.” Jung Hwan leaned his head and tried to see if he could see anything. The entire time they were talking, Blackie had been barking non-stop.
Suddenly, he heard glass breaking outside.
“50 meters, northwest side, I heard glass breaking.”
“Oh, sorry. It’s just a habit.” Jung Hwan looked down and realized he had automatically pressed the transmit button on his walkie-talkie and given a report. Yohan’s training was really scary. Jung Hwan pressed the transmit button again and called for Yohan.
“Yohan, are you awake?”
— “Yeah, what’s wrong?”
“You weren’t sleeping?”
— “I just woke up. What’s wrong?”
‘Oh, I woke him up with my earlier transmission.’ Jung Hwan felt bad, but he was just doing what Yohan trained him to do.
“Blackie kept on barking and woke me up. I heard something breaking about 50 meters outside of my house. I’m going to go check it out.”
— “Okay. Check carefully and report everything. I’m on my way over now.”
“Yes, sir.” Jung Hwan didn’t think that anything serious would happen this late into the night, but it didn’t hurt to be careful. He put on his coat and all his equipment. Lastly, he put a leash on Blackie.
In the past, his dog had barked at a rabbit in the middle of the night, which is why he didn’t think it was anything serious. However, Blackie never barked this long. Still, they had been keeping an eye on every side of the island and it had been months since anything dangerous happened. Jung Hwan didn’t know why he felt nervous, maybe it was because of his training and the fact that he was wearing his military gear.
Blackie pulled Jung Hwan northwest, directly to the source of the sound he heard. Maybe something did happen? Jung Hwan felt goosebumps prickling his skin. Suddenly, a dark figure dashed across the path in front of him, surprising him.
‘There’s really something here.’
“Yohan, I’m in front of the two-story red building in Sindo 2-ri. There’s something here.”
Blackie was still barking and some of it was transmitted along with Jung Hwan’s report. The figure had a sinister silhouette, but the way it moved made it look like it was afraid. Jung Hwan stood in his spot and pulled out his gun. As he peered down its sights, the dark figure appeared again. It was making a strange grinding noise. In the moonlight, Jung Hwan could see its red eyes. The sight of it froze his feet. He was like an ice sculpture, he couldn’t take a single step.
‘I have to move…’ It was Jung Hwan’s first time going face to face with a mutant. Before now, it was only a distant existence. The actual encounter was way worse than anything he could have imagined.
“Mu—mutant.” Jung Hwan’s finger was jammed on his walkie-talkie’s transmit button. It was a miracle that he was able to say anything.
It was the Shark mutant, the one that Yohan had them preparing for. It was the one that tragically annihilated the camp in Lina’s vision. The mutant took a step forward. Jung Hwan recovered enough to switch his gun to automatic fire and pull the trigger.
Gunfire rang off like firecrackers, breaking the tranquil evening silence on the island. Empty shells hit the floor as Jung Hwan’s gun recoiled violently. In an instant, the mutant lept to the side. It didn’t attack him immediately, but Jung Hwan wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. It seemed like it was targeting something else. It wanted to find a weak prey that wouldn’t resist. It was heading towards Jung Hwan’s house, where Ah Young was. Though his hand was trembling, Jung Hwan raised his walkie-talkie to his mouth once more.
“Sindo 2-ri! White house, one mutant has appeared!”
— “Don’t engage by yourself! Keep a safe distance!” Yohan replied almost immediately, but Jung Hwan’s legs were already running.
If it was Jung Hwan, he would have been able to fight the mutant for a few seconds, maybe even a few minutes. However, there was no way a high school girl with zero training could fight back against a mutant. Jung Hwan ran as fast as he could.
“Ah Young!” Jung Hwan shouted as he entered the two-story house.
The sound of her screams shook him to his very core. He looked around the house frantically, unable to think about anything else and his fear of mutants long forgotten. He just wanted to find Ah Young before the mutant did.
But he was too late.
Jung Hwan heard the strange grinding sound again. It was the sound of the mutant’s teeth gnashing together. All the lights in the house were already on and Jung Hwan could see the mutant right in front of him. It had a huge mouth that went all the way to its ears and its arms and legs were extremely long. It turned around to face Jung Hwan, revealing its saw-like teeth. However, Jung Hwan’s attention was focused on the figure behind it.
She was barely able to moan in pain. Foam was frothing up in her mouth.
She had already lost one of her legs.
“Ahhhh! Ah Young!” Jung Hwan raised his gun and emptied the clip into the mutant.
‘Die, die, you bastard!’
Tears and snot streamed down Jung Hwan’s face. He tried to wipe it off as he fired non-stop through his tear-blurred vision.
Bullets ricocheted off the mutant’s body and bounced around the house. The mutant recoiled from the impact, but soon realized that Jung Hwan’s gun was unable to penetrate its skin. Emboldened, it took a step toward its assailant.
Jung Hwan’s gun clicked empty. The shark mutant’s stretch out mouth looked like it was mocking him and jeering at him. Jung Hwan quickly swapped magazines. As he did so, the mutant’s mouth opened wide and the deep darkness inside filled Jung Hwan’s vision in an instant.
— Ω —