Yohan was deep in thought after hearing Noah’s story. Eventually, his eyes widened as he had an epiphany.
“A Piccolo doesn’t have the ability to fight, but its ability is dangerous. However, if you happen to be immune, then you should be able to handle one and your story would make a lot more sense.”
Noah didn’t understand a word Yohan was saying, so he just blinked with a dumbfounded expression. Everyone from the Yeouido Camp looked lost as well.
“Piccolo? Immune? What are you talking about?”
“You don’t know anything about the immune?”
“No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Yohan had thought that Noah would have encountered at least one person with immunity during his fight against Gae Baek Jung. But apparently not. Yohan decided to explain the concept to him.
“It’s rare, but there are people that are immune to the current situation. People that don’t turn into zombies after being bitten or attacked by a mutant.”
“What?” Noah blurted out, astonished.
He wasn’t the only one that was surprised. There was a wave of muttering among the Yeouido Camp survivors as well at this news.
Yohan was surprised that none of them had known. Noah hadn’t recognized any of his own members as having this ability. On the other hand, Yohan’s group had three known members with immunity.
“There wasn’t a single person in your camp that was like that?” Yohan asked.
“No. Well, even if there was one, we wouldn’t have known. Our camp’s rule was… killing the moment they get bit. So that they won’t suffer or be in pain,” Noah explained.
Noah’s expression was filled with guilt. The possibility of someone getting bitten and not becoming infected hadn’t occurred to him. This meant that someone had possibly experienced an unfair death under his watch without him ever knowing. He had killed them all before ever getting a chance to notice an ability like this.
He hadn’t known. His camp’s rule had been based on the best information that he had at the time. They had saved a lot of lives with it, brutal as it was, but this didn’t make him feel any better. If he had known that people with immunity existed then he would have done things differently.
“You made the right decision,” Yohan told him. “Don’t feel guilty about it.”
Killing someone like that wasn’t an easy decision to make. Yohan could clearly see the logic behind it. It was a terrible situation that he couldn’t blame anyone over. Noah had done the best that he could with the information that he had and Yohan couldn’t fault him for it. It was because of that rule, though, that Noah had never discovered anyone with that gift.
Yohan knew that Noah must have that ability himself. There was no way he would have survived his encounter with that Piccolo mutant otherwise.
“That type of mutant that you met… we refer to it as a Piccolo. You need to be extremely cautious around them. It’s a horrible mutant that infects people just by being nearby. Piccolos are probably the reason why those soldiers and your comrades were infected like that.”
Yohan smirked. Noah wasn’t the type to use profanity often. So seeing him swear like that reminded him of the other timeline.
After he finished explaining everything to Noah and his group, Yohan organized his thoughts. Various questions and hypotheses appeared in his head. He focused on the things that he was reasonably sure about, first.
The Piccolos were what had caused the start of the outbreak, Yohan was pretty sure. That made the most sense to him. They had appeared all over the world and started infecting the population. That was the source of it. The other mutants―David, Shark, and Gremlin―weren’t actually too much of an issue. If they had been the only types of mutants then Yohan couldn’t see humanity falling the way that it had. It was the Piccolos that were the real problem. They had been the reason why the military had failed to contain the outbreak. There was just no way for them to deal with a threat like that. How could they? Anytime anyone got near one of those things, they’d instantly turn. But it was actually even worse than that. There wouldn’t be any witnesses to report back any information about what had happened. Humanity hadn’t ever learned about this mutant before because everyone that ever found out about it became infected. It created the perfect storm and the results had been absolutely devastating.
The existence of the immune, however, gave them a fighting chance. In his past life, there hadn’t been anyone with that ability. He hadn’t come across a single person throughout the entire 3 years with that gift. That’s why none of them had ever learned about this mutant back then. No one had ever survived an encounter with one, so there had been no witnesses.
Thinking about it now, Yohan couldn’t imagine just how dire the situation would have been if immunity didn’t exist. Noah would have probably died back then and Yohan’s camp would have been annihilated. This thought gave him goosebumps.
‘But, what causes immunity in the first place? Why did it only show up now? What triggers it?’
There were a surprising number of people with that ability now. It didn’t feel so rare anymore.
‘Sweeper, Ha Jin, Noah, Jae Won, Gae Baek Jung, Messiah…’
And, of course, Yohan himself. There could even be more within their own group that they didn’t know about. But there was one other thing that was unusual about the ability. Everyone who had it seemed to possess a talent of some kind. They were unusually skilled at one thing in particular. Whether that was combat prowess, intelligence, or even being really good at stabbing others in the back. They were optimized for survival. In his past life, Noah, Jae Won, and himself were almost the last ones to survive.
‘Me, Gae Baek Jung, Noah and Jae Won. Before I revived, we were the ones that survived until the very end. After seeing Sweeper and Ha Jin’s survival skills, there’s a good chance that they had survived for a long time in that past life as well.’
Yohan frowned upon noticing something else. It was just a hypothesis for now, but it did make him think. The more zombies a person seemed to fight, the stronger their immunity seemed to become. Furthermore, it seemed to be connected to how long they had survived in that past life. The longer they had survived, the stronger their immunity. He had no idea about how something like that would work, but there seemed to be a correlation there.
But, to be fair, it could also all just be a coincidence as well. He didn’t really know and had no proof one way or the other. But the trend was there.
‘Is it even worth thinking about?’
With no proof either way, he might just be wasting his time trying to chase down these leads. The only real thing that he could conclude with certainty was that he needed more information to know for sure. With that in mind, he tried to push back his curiosity and refocus on the present. In the end, his goal was to see the end of the apocalypse, so he needed to keep moving forwards.
* * *
The next morning, at dawn, the recon group headed out. They traveled to the Yongsan Gamdong Church in order to see the inside of the headquarters. Once they arrived, Yohan briefed everyone on the situation while scouting out the headquarters with his own eyes. Information about the interior of the building was nonexistent, so they had no choice but to go inside blindly.
“I’m going to reorganize the groups. We are going to use the grand zombie war formation. The lead group will infiltrate first. They will explore inside the building and create a path to our destination for everyone else.”
“I know the location of the supplies storage and the welfare center,” Noah pointed out.
“No, we don’t need to go there,” Yohan replied, shaking his head. “We’re practically overflowing with supplies and don’t need any more right now.”
“Are you kidding?” Noah asked, surprised.
“We’re going to the government building. The lead group will be me, Sweeper, Ha Jin, and Noah.”
Unlike a battle against other groups of survivors, sending their strongest members first was the best option.
“Only four people?” Noah asked. “Don’t you think that’s a bit risky?”
“Us four will go inside to see if the Piccolo or any other mutants are inside. That way, we can avoid losing anyone.”
For Noah, this plan was difficult to comprehend. No matter how strong each and every person was, they were walking into a zombie den. He had already experienced going inside once, so he didn’t mind risking his life again because he knew what to expect. But for the others, it could be a burdensome task.
Noah glanced at the other two members of the lead group. Unlike what he expected, though, they didn’t even blink at the orders given to them and simply nodded in acknowledgement. It was as if they didn’t care about the danger.
‘Just what kind of people are these guys?’
Yohan also didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with this plan. He continued issuing orders as if this was just an everyday operation.
“The main group will take care of the zombies that are outside, and will not advance too deeply. During that time, they will take care of the zombies that are slipping out through the rear guard post. No matter how many of them there are, with this many people, it shouldn’t be difficult to handle them all. Once the inside is safe, head towards the government building and locate the object we are looking for.”
Everyone nodded their heads.
“Are you talking about that blueprint?” Noah asked.
“Blueprint is a bit of a misnomer. I was being purposefully vague before. Back then, we couldn’t reveal our exact goal, so we had to conceal some things.”
“That’s too bad. I completely trusted you.”
“Our goal is getting on a warship and moving out to sea. We’re looking for anything that mentions the Baekryeong Ship. We want to gather all the documents related to it. All the materials about navigation, refueling, maintenance, and other related documents.”
The group nodded their heads in unison. Noah’s new comrades were listening closely to Yohan and their eyes were almost glistening.
“Hyuk will be the leader of the second group.”
“I don’t know how long it’ll take once we start looking around the government building and the main group shows up, but the most important thing is safety. You lead the group, but make sure that you lead properly so that no one dies. If someone gets infected just from breathing in the air, report the situation and immediately escape to Yongsan Station.”
“If you enter the government building, assign a few people to guard the entrance and the remaining will help in the search.”
“Great. Safety is the most important thing. Keep that in mind.”
After repeatedly emphasizing that safety was the most important aspect of the mission, Yohan finally ordered the rest of the lead group to follow him. Sweeper and Ha Jin were at his sides and Noah was behind him. With these people, Yohan felt more reassured than ever before. No matter what kind of enemy appeared, his comrades gave off an energy that made it seem like they were invincible.
The four climbed over the guard post wall. A K-2 rifle was on Yohan’s back, a machete was on his waist, and he was holding a crossbow, which he got from one of the other members. It felt a bit strange in his hands because he hadn’t used it in a while.
Inside the complex was a pile of corpses that hadn’t been cleaned up so they gave off a foul smell. It was so bad that they had to stop for a few moments to get used to it. Other than the corpses, there were still a good number of zombies roaming around inside.
Once they were ready, Yohan gave the signal to begin. He immediately fired a bolt from his crossbow and it pierced a zombie’s skull. While Yohan reloaded, his comrades began slaughtering the zombies in earnest.
To Noah, the ensuing battle looked like a meat grinder. Zombie heads were flying in all directions as they were mowed down. He hadn’t known how strong these people were beforehand, so seeing them in action was shocking.
Most people didn’t really feel like they were in danger when there were only a few zombies approaching them in a wide-open area, but everything changed when there was a group of them this big. But his new comrades didn’t even flinch. They were completely unconcerned at the number of zombies charging towards them.
Ha Jin was swinging a Kukri with one hand and was killing zombies two or three at a time. Sweeper’s movements were so fast that Noah’s eyes couldn’t keep up.
Noah’s jaw dropped at what he saw. The combat potential of this group was insane. With three monsters as skilled as these guys, even Jae Won, who was the ace of his camp, would’ve lost against them. It was inevitable. And Yohan’s combat skills were impressive as well.
‘I can’t believe these guys. They’re not human.’
At the start of the mission, Noah had been worried about those three, but now he was the one that was lagging behind. He had taken pride in the fact that he had been the strongest in his group. After evacuating his comrades to Mapo, the reason why he had been able to remain as the leader was because of his fighting power. This was the first time where he had ever felt like he was falling behind when it came to the speed of killing the zombies and how fast they were moving forward.
Despite what Noah was thinking, Yohan was more than satisfied with his squad. There hadn’t been a time in his past life or in his current life where he wasn’t worried about his back. Until now. Now he could safely focus on the zombies in front of him without much concern.
Noah, the new addition, was above average. He was the weakest of the group. The rear was the most dangerous as a result, but Noah was managing to keep up with them. As a former soldier of the top special forces unit of the Korean Armed Forces, this was to be expected and he wasn’t falling behind.
But of course, Noah’s worth was far more than just his combat prowess. He had accurate judgment, cold but effective leadership, amazing interpersonal combat power, incredible strength and agility, and many other things. He was talented and would be an amazing addition to the camp.
As they cut their way through the horde of zombies, Yohan led the group over towards the location where Noah had first encountered the Piccolo. Just like he had explained earlier, its corpse was there.
Though perhaps ‘corpse’ was not the correct word. Even though its body had been ripped to pieces, it was still wriggling like an insect.
“This is it,” Noah said.
Thankfully, its body had been torn apart so effectively that regeneration was impossible.
“You really went all out,” Yohan replied.
“I didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t dying.”
“It would be best if we burned it.”
Yohan didn’t know if it was still alive or not, but leaving the area while the mutant was still wriggling didn’t sit right with him. After gathering some supplies that he could use to burn the mutant corpse with, Yohan used a lighter to create a fire. The smell of the mutant corpse burning reminded him of roasted squid.
The smoke was definitely going to be noticed. They had to leave the area before the nearby zombies gathered to investigate. The four of them calmly advanced. They made their way around the building and entered inside it, deciding to take a short rest.
“Aren’t you too relaxed?” Noah asked, wiping the sweat from his brow. “There are way too many zombies here.”
“Are you tired already?”
“It’s not that.”
Noah didn’t feel physically tired, but since he had been fighting for so long while feeling anxious, he was starting to feel drained. But upon looking at the other members of the group, he noticed that they all seemed to be perfectly fine. Clearly, they were each far more used to these sorts of hardcore expeditions than he was. After only a few minutes, they were ready to go again. Refusing to slow them down, Noah followed after them. He made sure to watch their backs, but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t help but feel a bit out of place. It felt like these people were giants compared to him.
However, he couldn’t help but feel like he was having some fun as well. He had never been a member of a group that moved so swiftly before. There was something immensely satisfying about that.
— Ω —