Yohan walked down the path towards Noryangjin Station. The recon group followed after him. However, they were missing a few notable members among their ranks. Jung Eun, Eddie, and Jin Soo had all had varying degrees of injuries, so they stayed back at Yongsan Station, leaving this mission up to the remaining members.
Upon arriving at the Noryangjin Station transfer passageway, Yohan ordered the recon group to remain by the entrance while he continued inside the station on his own. He spent the next few minutes walking down the darkened passageway until he eventually found the fast-food restaurant where the meeting was to take place. Yohan ended up making it there before Noah, so he was forced to wait for a little while.
It took some time, but eventually, Noah appeared in the distance.
Yohan wasn’t sure if he had truly come alone or if Noah had secretly brought allies with him, but he couldn’t sense anyone else in the area. So at the very least, none of Noah’s allies seemed to be lying in wait, preparing an ambush.
Noah had entered at the far end of the passage and Yohan watched as the man approached at a leisurely pace.
He could remember Noah as if they had just met yesterday. They had gone through so much together back in that other timeline. But after reminiscing on those memories for a few more moments, Yohan decided to finally get this meeting over with. With a sigh, he started walking towards Noah.
They eventually met in the middle. Neither said anything at first. Their eyes met, sizing each other up, and then they both quietly entered the fast-food restaurant next to them.
There was an office at the back of the building. Before the apocalypse, the room would have been used primarily by the managers while the rest of the staff worked at the front. This office was where logistics, the payroll, and the supplies that the restaurant needed to function would be handled. It was where all of the documentation was kept. It was a tightly enclosed space away from any windows, so it was the perfect place to meet. While inside, neither side would have to worry about snipers or ambushes from the other party.
There was a table inside and a few chairs, so they both took a seat.
This version of Noah was cleaner and more well-groomed than the version Yohan remembered. His messy mustache was missing, as was the toughened skin that showed just how much he had gone through. Instead, he seemed far more relaxed and at ease.
“You really came by yourself,” Noah said, breaking the silence. “You’re pretty gutsy.”
“You look nice without a beard. Shin Noah.”
Noah’s eyes widened.
“So… You know me?”
“I do,” Yohan replied calmly, trying to force down the conflicting feelings of joy and misery at seeing his old friend again. “But I don’t think you know me.”
“How do you know me?” Noah asked.
“Sorry. I want to tell you, but even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“I guess it’s not that important anyway.”
The conversation died out for a few moments as Noah broke eye contact and started idly looking around the room.
He seemed extremely relaxed, making it look as if he was treating the situation the same way he would a meeting with a friend. However, Yohan could tell that the man’s guard was up. The energy he was giving off created a thick, underlying tension in the air.
Yohan couldn’t guarantee that he’d win here.
“It would be nice to talk over a cup of coffee,” Noah spoke lightheartedly, “but no one is working today.”
“I see you’re still making jokes that aren’t funny.”
Yohan had no intention of concealing the fact that he knew the man. He actually planned on telling Noah outright. Regardless of whether the other man believed his story or not, Yohan at least wanted to let him know.
“Why are you talking to me as if we’re friends?”
“If I told you, you’d think of it as a bad joke.”
Noah stared at him and crossed his arms. To Yohan, it was obvious what the man was thinking. He was considering the possibility of a spy in his camp feeding Yohan information about him. But regardless, there was a lot that Yohan still needed to find out, so he switched topics and asked a question of his own.
“Why did you attack first?”
“…Did we?” Noah replied, a confused look appearing on his face.
Yohan raised an eyebrow. Noah was acting as if he didn’t already know this.
“You didn’t know?”
“It’s not that I didn’t know, but…”
“You’re not in total control of your camp,” Yohan concluded.
“Is there a lot of infighting going on?” Yohan asked. “It sounds to me like there’s a rogue faction that dogmatically believes every intruder must be killed on sight and is willing to break orders to that end.”
“Wow, that’s surprising. You figured all of that out just like that?”
Yohan didn’t reply.
Noah leaned forward and his expression hardened.
“Did you plant a spy?” he asked.
“It’s your choice on whether you want to believe me or not, but no. I don’t have a spy in your camp.”
“Well, I guess that’s probably true. If you did, you would have arrived at a better time.”
Noah suddenly stood up and started searching around the office. He moved a few items around, seemingly looking for something, and then he brought out a canned drink that he found somewhere.
“It’s unfortunate that my people attacked first,” Noah said. “But you guys are the intruders and you ignored our warning.”
“There’s a warning sign near Singil Station. You didn’t see it?”
Yohan recalled the zombie at the Singil Station boarding area that looked like a hunting trophy, stuffed and mounted. He remembered feeling that it was out of place.
“Let me ask you a question,” Yohan requested.
“How did you know we were coming?”
“Hm,” Noah hummed in acknowledgment.
Yohan’s straightforward question caused Noah to contemplate for a bit. From what Yohan remembered of the man, if Noah was asked a question that he couldn’t answer, then he didn’t answer. He would remain silent until he had something to say. It was a habit of his that he fell into whenever he was thinking. Knowing this, instead of pressing Noah for an answer, Yohan made a guess that he expected was close to what Noah was thinking.
There was no way that Noah’s people could have reacted so quickly if they had not already known that the recon group was heading this way. So they had to have been warned. But Yohan was pretty sure that it wasn’t the mercenary group that was responsible. He didn’t think that they would sell him out. But by excluding them, that really left only one realistic option remaining. Camp Chunhyang was the only other group that knew the route.
Noah didn’t need to say anything out loud for Yohan to figure out that his guess was correct. The man’s reaction alone was more than enough.
‘As I said before, a good deed without reason is scary.’
“I guess I was complacent,” Yohan mumbled.
“You were careless,” Noah agreed.
“How does your relationship with Camp Chunhyang work?”
“Well, it’s not as bad as you think. We made a deal to not attack them, and, in exchange, they would give us information about the intruders that enter our territory.”
“What’s stopping them from running away or simply refusing to tell you about a group of intruders?”
“If they just ran away or didn’t tell us ahead of time about the people that were coming, then we could have easily captured and killed them all. I’m the type of person that repays my debts, and I expect others to do the same. So, we weren’t going to break our end of the agreement. But if they broke theirs, well, if you knew how the rest of Gae Baek Jung’s underlings died, you wouldn’t have asked me that.”
Yohan nodded in understanding. The people at Camp Chunhyang had only made the decision to stab them in the back so that they could live.
“I’ll ask the question this time,” Noah said. “Why are you here?”
“I told you earlier. I came here to find something.”
“What are you looking for?”
“You have a lot of secrets,” Noah pointed out. “I can’t negotiate with you if you don’t talk to me. I was answering you honestly before, so why can’t you do the same for me?”
Noah took a swig of his canned drink. He immediately grimaced and complained about the taste.
“Shit! It’s gross and warm!”
Setting the can down, Noah pushed it away.
“I’m looking for a blueprint,” Yohan conceded.
“Oh? A blueprint, you say?”
“We have to make something,” Yohan answered vaguely.
“I see. I can’t imagine there are too many uses for a blueprint these days.”
“It won’t take long. You can even watch us until we find it. If you don’t mess with us, we won’t bite. But if you do, we’ll kill you all. I’m sure you’ve heard, but our camp was the one that killed Gae Baek Jung.”
Yohan was serious about this warning. He didn’t plan on losing, not even against his old friend. Even if it was an all-out war, he was confident.
Noah must’ve felt a bit unsettled because a troubled look formed on his face.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you guys go,” Noah declared.
“Why is that?” Yohan asked. “You’re definitely going to regret it.”
“Because you killed my comrades. Some of them were close friends of mine.”
“Your comrades shot first. We defended ourselves. They attacked us and paid for it with their lives. And just to make it clear, my friends died back there too, you know.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah. So am I.”
“But my answer remains the same. You guys ignored my warning and entered my territory. Then you killed my friends. And I can’t just let go of the people that did that.”
Noah had definitely changed a lot, Yohan realized. He was a lot colder and fiercer than he used to be.
“If you weren’t going to let us go in the first place, then why did you call? This whole meeting was your idea.”
“I personally wanted to meet you. I wanted to thank you.”
“You said that you killed Gae Baek Jung. Thanks to you, we’re alive, so I should thank you.”
“You took this massive, dangerous risk, and that’s your reason?”
“It’s a debt.”
“You’re an idiot,” Yohan claimed.
“Y-you’re pretty blunt.”
Noah smiled sheepishly, and Yohan smiled back.
‘Maybe he didn’t change that much after all,’ Yohan thought. Noah was still the same. At least, a part of him was. The Shin Noah that Yohan remembered was still in there.
“If you think of it as a debt, then you should pay me back,” Yohan said. “That’s your creed. Letting us go would be a great way to do that. Let’s not fight.”
“You’re talking as if you know me well.”
“I do know you well.”
Yohan knew Noah better than anyone. Choosing to play his next card, Yohan decided that it was time to prove it and finish up the negotiation.
“Are Seung Hee, Soo Hyun, Seon Jae, and Seon Hwa doing well?” Yohan asked softly.
“…What the hell?”
When these familiar names escaped Yohan’s lips, the atmosphere around him suddenly changed. It became as cold as ice as if they had all suddenly teleported to the North Pole. Noah’s eyes were murderous and he looked as if he was a moment away from tearing Yohan to pieces.
“I’m sure you still haven’t told your comrades that you were stationed at UDT. It’s not even that great of a secret.”
Noah slammed his fist down on the table.
Yohan didn’t blink.
“Who the hell are you?” Noah asked in a low, dangerous tone.
“Listen carefully to what I have to say, Shin Noah.” Yohan began. “It’s up to you whether you want to believe me or not, but everything that I’m about to tell you is the truth.”
“Tell me this instant before I rip your head off.”
“I died once and came back. I revived.”
Noah frowned in irritation as if what he had just heard was nonsense.
“In other words,” Yohan continued, “what I’m saying is that I died and returned to the past. This is the second time that I’ve experienced this apocalypse. The previous time, I survived for three years. Then I died and came back to a few months before it started again.”
“And right before I died last time, I was with you. We were comrades. You were my friend. We were together for nearly a year and a half.”
Yohan continued spilling his secret. Unlike with the others, he didn’t feel all that uncomfortable about telling Noah any of this. It was clear that Noah thought that Yohan was a crazy person, judging by the expression on his face, but Yohan didn’t care about that. He wanted to tell Noah the truth.
“Those people that I mentioned earlier were our comrades. We lived together, fought together, and we even fought a mutant together once. And we fought Gae Baek Jung together, but that didn’t go so well, and we ended up losing.”
“That’s a ridiculous story,” Noah said. “It’s crazy.”
“Sure is. But it’s why I know you so well,” Yohan explained. “And it’s why I know your younger sister. That’s why I feel like I’ve fallen into the depths of hell right now. Shin Noah. Right now, I’m watching my former and current comrades die at each other’s hands. Please, let’s just stop fighting.”
After finishing his explanation, Yohan waited for Noah’s response for a long time.
‘Will he believe me?’
He might. That’s what the situation was telling him, anyway. But on the other hand, he might not. Noah was a very skeptical person. If Noah believed him, then they could join forces and work together. But if he didn’t, then they’d have no choice but to fight. That was what it came down to.
“I see,” Noah finally said.
The moment he said this, Yohan felt something surging up inside him.
“Yeah. It’s been a while. Friend,” Yohan greeted him, as if for the first time.
Noah extended his hand.
Yohan raised an eyebrow.
“…What is this?”
“It’s just, I may not know you, but you just said that you’ve known me for years. It’s been a while since you’ve seen me, right? So I thought that this would be appropriate. I can tell how happy you are to see me just from looking at your face. It’s like a courtesy to my former comrade.”
His eyes were starting to turn red. Even though he wasn’t crying, Yohan felt overwhelmed by this emotion.
‘Is this how I would feel if I died in this lifetime and met Sweeper and Ha Jin in the next? If they didn’t remember me?’
He liked to think so.
“I can’t believe you did this twice,” Noah joked. “You’re really going through a lot.”
Noah laughed at the expression that formed on Yohan’s face after he said that.
“You must’ve really liked me,” he continued. “I do have a bit of that bisexual charm within me. Or so I’ve been told. Did we date?”
“Are you out of your mind?” Yohan asked, utterly bewildered.
“Hm? I guess not.”
“Are the others doing well?” Yohan asked, switching topics to something that made more sense.
Noah’s expression dropped immediately.
“Seung Hee died. Seon Hwa as well. Please don’t ask me how.”
The zombie apocalypse had occurred only three months earlier than the last time, but so many things had changed despite that. Originally, they had all been alive for almost three years, but this time, they had all died within ten months. The only reason Yohan could think of as to why that might be the case was that they had been killed by Gae Baek Jung. And if that were true, it must’ve been a horrific death. Yohan didn’t want to imagine it. So he respected his friend’s wishes and didn’t ask.
“Seon Hwa and I dated.”
“Fucking shit,” Noah cursed. “It’s a shitty situation… I’m ashamed of myself.”
“I’m sorry,” Yohan apologized.
‘You weren’t able to protect them.’
Noah was feeling guilty. Yohan shook his head.
“It’s okay. Because I personally got revenge.”
“Tearing that bastard to pieces still won’t be enough. Not being able to kill him myself is my deepest regret. Tell me. Did you make him suffer for everything he did?”
— Ω —