The battle was taking a lot longer than Yohan had anticipated. They were doing their best to move forward and not get pushed back by the horde, but progress was slow.
“Yohan! There are a lot of zombies behind us!” Jung Eun called out urgently.
“Sweeper, switch with Jin Soo in the rear group.”
“We have to pick up the pace even if it means the front line has to work harder. If this continues, we’ll be stuck in the middle of a horde.”
Ha Jin and Hyuk started moving faster. They had been pacing themselves so that the other members could keep up, but now they released all their pent up frustration and repeatedly stabbed, cut, and swung their weapons. Zombie corpses began stacking up on the streets and the asphalt was painted red with rotten blood.
All the members were panting and short of breath, but they had to endure it. No one was thinking about the endless waves of zombies. They were all focused on reaching their goal, when they would finally be able to stop swinging and fighting. Yohan moved as if he was in a trance, slicing through zombies like a killing machine. Finally, as he lopped off the heads of two zombies with a single swipe of his machete, he saw a clear path ahead of them.
“We’re almost there, let’s finish this.”
Morale surged in an instant. The faces of all the members lit up with renewed vigor and they attacked without holding anything back. Arrows that had been saved for emergencies were now spent, finishing off the limbless zombies on the ground. Hyuk and Ha Jin were all over the place, jumping in everywhere to help finish the fight. Saeri took down the last zombie in the way and suddenly the streets seemed quiet. The subway entrance was right in front of them, looking like a monkfish with its mouth wide open.
“Good job. Front line fighters, stay on guard. Middle group members, gather up the arrows.”
Yohan flicked the blood off of his machete and wiped it off with a rag. In just one fight, the blade had dulled, evidence of his significant contribution in the battle.
“Sweeper, Ha Jin. You guys still have some energy, right?”
“Of course, bro. What do you take us for?”
“Then, the three of us will go down into the subway to get started on the second part of this detour. Everyone else is too tired.”
Ha Jin and Sweeper nodded energetically. They weren’t even sweating yet. Yohan stretched his shoulders and walked towards the subway entrance. However, Hyuk intercepted him.
“Yohan, I’ll go too.”
“You too? Just rest.” Yohan was surprised. Hyuk had fought the hardest among the front line fighters. He did more than enough already.
However, Hyuk simply stared at Yohan, determination written all over his face. Hyuk was drenched in sweat, but his breathing was calm and steady. It seemed like all the extra training he did on his own had paid off. Yohan gave him a small smile.
“Okay, let’s go. What’s Jae Ho doing?” Yohan stared quizzically at Jae Ho, who was running around the area.
“I’m setting up traps. If I set this up at the neck and ankle levels, it can stop zombies from following in behind us.” Jae Ho replied, revealing a small, fluorescent fishing line container in his hand.
“When did you get that?”
“I’ve always had it on me. When I was trying to survive on my own, I got into the habit of carrying random things with me.”
“Hm, it’s a good habit.” Yohan said, complimenting Jae Ho. He then pulled out his flashlight and headed into the subway station.
The group of four walked into the dark tunnel, anticipating a second big battle inside. Meanwhile, the remaining recon team members outside were retrieving the arrows used during the first fight while Jae Ho installed his trap at the entrance. Zombies weren’t intelligent or dextrous. The fishing line wasn’t much of a threat, but if someone tripped over it, they would fall down the stairs and potentially break an arm, leg, or even their skull. Once they were done with their tasks, the recon team members all sat down. They were exhausted to the point where they could collapse at any moment.
“Rest for half an hour and then move in,” Yohan ordered, coming back out of the subway and pressing the manual override for the door to drop the shutter.
The iron bars came down blocking the dark subway corridor, as if the place had closed down for the night. Yohan checked the batteries for his flashlight and frowned. The route seemed to be further than anticipated and he wasn’t sure if his flashlight would last.
“Jae Ho, how many extra batteries do we have?”
“About 50. We have enough.”
“That’s more than enough,” Yohan replied.
He was thankful to Seo Jun, who had packed their gear for this expedition. Yohan didn’t ask him to pack this many batteries, but Seo Jun knew it was going to be a long journey and had the foresight to pack a lot of lithium-ion batteries.
“How about the batteries for the night-vision goggles?”
“We have four of them,” Jae Ho replied. Seo Jun was really meticulous, they had more than enough of both types of batteries.
“Okay, everyone listen while you rest.”
All the recon team members turned their heads towards Yohan.
“From now on, there’s something you have to remember. This area is the Yeouido camp’s territory. Their leader’s name is Shin Noah.”
Yohan wanted to get ahead of any possible encounters. If Noah was the same as he was in the previous timeline, it would be easy to talk to him. He couldn’t imagine a scenario where they would need to fight against the Yeouido camp, but he was worried because of…Lina’s dream.
‘I saw you fighting people. A lot people died and…during the fight, you became really sad.’
A battle against other humans and Yohan looking sad throughout the fight. Instinctively, Yohan was convinced that the dream was about the Yeouido camp. The timing and situation was ripe for it. The only problem was that he didn’t know if the future had already changed or if they were still on track for this event to occur.
Yohan already knew that he could change the future predicted in Lina’s dreams based on their encounter with the Shark. If they were fighting Noah, then there was probably a reason for it. All he needed to do is to stop the catalyst of the fight and avoid combat. It wasn’t like they were here to scavenge for supplies or kidnap people. Yohan knew Noah better than anyone. Noah wouldn’t attack unless he was attacked first.
‘Still, I can’t be completely sure.’
The Noah of this timeline might not be the same Noah that he knew in the previous timeline. Yohan had to keep in mind that there were many variables at play here.
“Noah was my comrade in the past.”
Some of the recon team members looked confused, but a few caught onto the fact that Yohan was referring to his past in the previous timeline.
“He’s pretty strong and belligerent. If possible, I want to avoid fighting at all costs. Our goal is to just find the documents.”
“But what should we do if we encounter them?”
“We’ll have to parley. Starting from now, don’t kill or attack people that you encounter. Avoid them if possible and, if you can’t avoid them, try talking to them. If we end up fighting, try to capture them alive. Try not to shoot, these guys should have some common sense.”
“What if an unfamiliar survivor attacks first and capturing them alive is impossible?” Ha Jin asked. “Also, we may encounter people that aren’t from the Yeouido camp. Is there some way for us to identify Yeouido camp members?”
“Hm…” Yohan thought for a moment, but couldn’t think of a solid method to identify Yeouido members. There were too many variables. The recon team members could see how unsure Yohan was and it made them anxious. It was rare for Yohan to be this way.
“Before you say anything, make sure you’ve made up your mind. It’s going to be a dangerous scenario,” Ha Jin said, firmly. Yohan nodded, realizing that Ha Jin was 100 percent correct.
“Fight back. We can’t just sit down and die.”
“Okay.” Ha Jin replied, looking satisfied with the answer. Yohan realized that he had essentially picked his current friends over his old friend. All the recon team members felt a surge of pride.
‘Should I go find Noah on my own when we get to Singil or Yongsan?’
It was a dangerous thought. Even though he was an experienced veteran, he wasn’t so reckless as to stroll through the middle of Seoul on his own. He had to think of a solid plan to minimize the danger, as well as a way to become allies with Noah once he managed to contact him. While Yohan was deep in thought, the recon team members began to perform some light chores. They knew better than to interrupt him when he was like this.
‘Shin Noah…Shin Noah…’
Yohan knew that, if they fought, it would be the result of the decisions he was making right now. Depending on his choices, one would lead him down the path where they would reconnect peacefully. He already knew what choices he would have made without knowing Lina’s dream ahead of time. Those were the choices that he had to be careful of.
‘Originally, I would’ve told them to fight back if they attacked us first.’
Yohan thought about that scenario and the results it would bring. If they attacked first, Yohan’s group would fight back, and then they’ll find out later that they had killed Noah’s men. It was clear what would happen after that. But what about the opposite reaction? If they were attacked and didn’t fight back, then they would just become victims. That would be stupid.
Another option was to seek out Shin Noah alone. However, this would also be a stupid decision. If Shin Noah was different in this timeline, they wouldn’t be able to talk things out. Yohan would just be walking into the lion’s den. If he was killed or kidnapped, then the recon team would retaliate and fight to the death. Yohan had repeatedly stressed to them to leave him behind if he was ever kidnapped, but he knew in his heart that they wouldn’t be able to leave without him. He was certain of that.
‘The last option would be to just avoid them.’
If they decide not to go to the Yongsan Joint Chiefs of Staff building, then they could potentially avoid the Yeouido camp altogether. That location was the closest to their main base and, thus, the most dangerous place to go to. Yohan made up his mind.
‘There is no retreat.’
They had already used up a lot of time. They weren’t sure if the documents could be found at Seocho or Hwasung. They could probably find the documents at Jinhae or Gyeryong, but they were too far away. No other option was as good as the current one that they were pursuing. Going back now would be a complete waste. He was the one who told Jae Ho to not look back and yet he was currently the one feeling more anxious by the second. If he ordered them to go back just because they might encounter his old comrade, they wouldn’t understand it. Even he couldn’t rationalize it to himself.
‘I like you, but if you get in my way, I’ll have to step over you just to keep on surviving.’
If something got in the way of his survival, then he just had to get rid of it completely. Yohan had lived with this single-minded determination ever since he revived in this timeline. Whether it was Gae Baek Jung or Shin Noah, if they got in his way, he would take them all down. Even Gae Baek Jung was no match for him in this timeline. They were undoubtedly stronger. Yohan just had to get over his sentimentalism.
“From now until the end of this expedition, if you encounter another survivor, don’t kill them or antagonize them. Unless they attack first. Try to hide and avoid them if possible. However, if a fight does break out…” Yohan paused for a moment, before stating firmly, “don’t leave any survivors. Fight with the intent of annihilating the whole group.”
The dead can’t talk. There would be no problems if there were no witnesses.
“Can we use guns?”
“Only if they use them first.”
“This is going to be a difficult mission.”
Yohan agreed inwardly. Fighting a mutant or Gae Baek Jung head on would have been easier. Instead, it had to be Shin Noah, whom they didn’t want to antagonize. How did it come to this? Yohan once again felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, thinking that he might have to fight the one person he wanted to avoid the most. He felt a headache coming on, as if thousands of needles were being jabbed into his head.
“We’ve rested long enough, let’s head out.” Yohan got his recon team members to stand up and they made their way into the subway station.
There were no lights inside, so they had to tread carefully and rely on their other senses. Their flashlights could only cut through a small part of the sheer darkness underground.
“Mr. Yohan, this…”
As they got to the subway platform where the subway tracks were, they noticed a zombie trapped in a steel pipe, acting as a guard to the ghost city that was the subway. The zombie started howling.
— Ω —