Yohan, Sweeper, Ha Jin, and Noah wiped out all the zombies in their way as they moved towards the entrance of the government building. They confirmed that there wasn’t a mutant or similar threats near the building. Yohan checked the time and realized that three hours had already passed.
Despite the winter chill, their clothes were drenched in sweat and heat emanated from their bodies. The government building was a new, large, and relatively clean, L-shaped building. There was a sign above the entrance with the motto “Establish a perfect, well-rounded military.”
Yohan hesitated for a moment as they reached the entrance and noticed that the glass doors were sealed shut. Usually he would break the door and enter, but he was worried about the alarm systems that a military building would have. If it was a loud sound that could be heard several blocks away, it would be troublesome. Yohan rapped his knuckles against the glass door.
“Is this bulletproof?” Yohan wondered. The other three members of his group shrugged. Once again, the lack of intel made things awkward.
Yohan looked around, but he couldn’t identify any other ways to get inside. Even if they wanted to break the glass, he didn’t want to do it in the open like this. Yohan’s eyes spotted some plants sticking out about three or four floors above them. His instincts told him that they might be a safe way to enter the building if they could get up there. Once inside, they would easily be able to open the entrance from the inside. The question was, how were they going to get up there?
“Thinking about going up?” Noah asked.
“Yeah. There’s a rooftop garden there, it seems. If we can get up there, I think we’ll be able to get in and open the entrance for the others. Even if there isn’t an easy way to get in from there, it’s better to break in through a window up there than here on the ground.”
“Should I try climbing it?”
“Is it possible?”
“It’s not impossible.”
There were enough footholds that climbing along the outer walls was more than possible. Yohan recalled that Noah had a lot of training. It was a hobby, but he was serious enough to attempt a world record several times. Still, Yohan felt anxious as there were no safety precautions in place. However, it wasn’t so high that Noah would die if he fell.
“Don’t overdo it.”
Yohan didn’t try to stop Noah. He knew he was skilled. He remembered a few situations in the previous timeline where Noah had impressed him with his climbing ability. Noah looked at the wall and started climbing. He primarily used window sills and ventilation shafts to support his weight. He moved quickly, looking like a spider skittering up the wall. The three members on the ground watched on with a mixture of worry and excitement etched on their faces. There was no need to worry, however, as Noah scaled up the wall in the matter of moments. Ha Jin gave a shout of excitement as Noah clambered into the rooftop garden.
Noah stood up in the rooftop garden and looked around to see if there was a rope or something that he could throw down for the others to use. Unfortunately, all he saw were some zombies that had noticed him and were slowly approaching him. Two, three…there were maybe 30 in total. It was too many for him to take on by himself. However, since the area was fairly wide, it wasn’t too difficult for him to move around them.
Noah tightened his grip on his weapon. His footsteps felt light, probably because he was inspired by the performance of Yohan, Sweeper, and Ha Jin. His muscles bulged and he didn’t feel threatened at all by the approaching zombies. He was too used to them now. Noah started swinging his fire axe and instantly chopped down two zombies at once.
Five zombies broke out of their slow gait to charge at him. Noah met the closest one head on and pushed it into the others to create an escape route. As he stepped away, he swung down low and chopped off the zombie’s legs, causing it to get tangled up with the other charging zombies.
With every swing of the axe, rotten blood flew into the air. Everytime a zombie got close, Noah would either shoulder them or kick them away and then run around the horde to make some space. He repeatedly kited the zombies in a circle around the rooftop garden, slowly whittling down their numbers until they were just a pile of corpses.
‘Whew…’ Noah took a deep breath and tried to slow his heart rate. He could feel heat escaping his body with every breath.
As Yohan predicted, the door connecting the rooftop garden to the building was unlocked. However, as soon as Noah entered the building, a monster jumped at him. It had a face like a newborn baby, but its body was shaped like two basketballs merged together.
It was fast, but Noah managed to dodge it purely by instinct. The monster looked like a new mutant, or maybe a mutant that hadn’t fully grown yet. It bounced after Noah as he dodged. Noah cross-checked it with the long handle of his axe and slammed it against a wall.
“Kyahhhhh!” The mutant screeched, but couldn’t get out of the pin.
Noah kicked at it with his heavy military boots. It was awkward and it felt like he was stepping on a frog’s stomach. Noah used one arm to maintain the pin and pulled out his double barrel shotgun. He braced the butt of the shotgun against his body and aimed at the mutant’s head. One shot was all he needed to blow it to pieces, but Noah hesitated. If he fired, he would be putting Yohan and the others in danger.
Instead, Noah shifted around again. He planted his foot against the mutant and began hacking away at its head with his axe. On the second strike, yellowy green blood bursted out, splattering all over the place. The mutant was relatively easy to kill.
‘What the hell is this?’ Noah frowned as he stared at the mysteriously corpse.
* * *
Yohan, Sweeper, and Ha Jin were waiting patiently by the entrance on the ground floor. Noah peeked over the rooftop garden and waved at them. They didn’t know what hurdles he had faced, but they could see that he was dripping with sweat.
“He’s about to throw something, careful.”
Noah disappeared back over the ledge and, a moment later, he tossed down a long line made of electrical cables tied together. He had taken the other end of the line and wrapped it around a tree in the rooftop garden. Ha Jin grabbed the cable as it reached them and tugged on the line. It felt secure.
Soon, all four of them were in the building, killing all the zombies on their way down to the main entrance. They encountered a few more bouncy ball zombies, but they weren’t that threatening. After confirming that the area was safe, Yohan called in the rest of the survivors so that they could officially start searching.
“Let’s search in this order: operations, strategic planning, military support, and then analysis. I’m sure there’s a place where they store the documents we’re looking for. If you find anything related to the navy, bring it to the rooftop garden.”
They all split up and began ransacking the building, looking for documents. Very quickly, books began stacking up on one side of the garden. Yohan felt like there couldn’t possibly be any relevant documents left in the building, they should have more information than they needed. He turned his head to call for Jae Ho, but couldn’t find him.
“Where’s Jae Ho?”
“Huh? Jae Ho? He was here a moment ago.”
‘No way.’ Yohan thought. Jae Ho was a diligent and considerate person. He wouldn’t leave the group without telling someone. Yohan frowned and pulled out his walkie-talkie.
“Jae Ho, where are you?” Yohan spoke into the radio, but got no response. Yohan frowned again. He was about to go into the building to look for him when he spotted Jae Ho one floor above them, looking out from the window. Yohan went to where he was.
“What are you doing? You didn’t answer me on the radio.” Yohan said sharply, as he bursted into the room. Jae Ho jumped a bit and then waved sheepishly at Yohan.
“Oh sorry, I was lost in thought for a moment there…”
“Wake up. Let’s go downstairs. Time to do your job.”
“I didn’t even say anything yet!”
Yohan knew what Jae Ho was going to say before he even said it. He still wanted to go to the National Library of Korea.
“It’s right there. If we just cross the bridge, it’ll be right there.”
“Why are you so obsessed with the library? There’s no guarantee that there’s anything worthwhile there. It could be all trash. What can you find there that would be relevant to this mess we’re currently in? Will it change anything?”
“No, it wouldn’t change anything, but…it’s our last chance. Our last chance to check it out before we leave Korea. The last clue.”
“There’s a quote, by William Wirt. ‘Seize the moment of excited curiosity on any subject to solve your doubts; for if you let it pass, the desire may never return, and you may remain in ignorance.’”
“It’s your own life on the line here. I won’t help or wait for you. Doing this is no different than leaving the group with little chance of survival on your own.”
“Is it really worth it? Is it satisfying your curiosity really worth your life?”
“Yes.” Jae Ho replied. The more they talked, the more confident he sounded. No doubt, he had been thinking about it for days. He had made his decision already.
“I just can’t understand people like you.”
“But I respect your decision. We’ll take some time to prepare for departure. I’m not sure how long we’ll take, but you have to get back to us before then. If you don’t come back in time, we’re going to leave you behind.”
“Don’t forget to do your job before you leave.”
“Categorize the documents we collected so that we can decide what we need to bring with us.”
“If it’s a chore, you can always just stay with us and do it later.”
“Also, if you come back to us with a tail or something, just die.”
Yohan sighed. He realized that there were lots of different kinds of people in the world. He didn’t have the right to stop someone from risking their life in something they believed in.
* * *
Having accomplished what they set out to do, Yohan and his group left Seoul. As they exited the city, there weren’t any obstacles in their way. Additionally, there was no hesitation in their actions. They simply honed their focus and made a swift exodus. Some people asked questions when Jae Ho left, but Yohan stayed quiet and they eventually stopped asking.
The group made their way back to the Bupyeong District Office. As they had suspected, Camp Chunhyang had attacked. They had killed all the guards and camp members that had stayed behind. There was nothing left, except corpses and an empty warehouse. There weren’t even zombies, no one had turned. Camp Chunhyang was merciful in that way. They weren’t overly violent, eliminating people as quickly and painlessly as possible while also ensuring that they wouldn’t turn into zombies.
The old man was smoking a cigarette in front of a pile of corpses, with Jung Mi’s body on the top. The other mercenaries were nowhere in sight. Yohan didn’t move to comfort the old man. He also didn’t feel any guilt about the situation. Instead, he started sharing the information he had, which was the price they had to pay for hiring the old man and his mercenaries. He explained why they had to go to Yongsang, about the nuclear power plants, and the possibility of a nuclear fallout.
“I see, we’re fucked.” That was all the old man had to say after hearing everything. He continued to smoke his cigarette in front of Jung Mi’s body, a blank expression on his face. Yohan suspected that he had considered Jung Mi to be a surrogate daughter.
* * *
“Old man.” Chul Goo returned the next day, in time for the funeral.
“I set an example, as you ordered and…sent them off.” Chul Goo was holding onto something wrapped in blood soaked fabric.
Inside was the head of a person. It was the guide that greeted Yohan’s group when they first arrived at Camp Chunhyang. Once they saw that their main base had been attacked, the old man sent Chul Goo to chase after them. He caught the rear guard and killed them all. However, that was all they did. The old man wanted to send a message. They could kill them all, like they did with the rear guard, but they were also showing mercy.
After all, Camp Chunhyang was only doing what they needed to survive. It was a camp centered around a child. Since it was a matter of survival and wasn’t vindictive, the old man could almost overlook it. Thus, he showed mercy.
Yohan could understand that line of thinking. It was partially his fault that the core of the mercenary group was not at the camp and wasn’t prepared for an attack. Because of Camp Chunhyang, he lost Jung Mi, someone who he cared about. However, he wasn’t thinking about revenge. Pursuing something like that in this situation was meaningless. As the funeral concluded, Yohan stood in front of their grave markers and spared a thought for those who had left before them.
“Hey kid.” The old man called out, sounding dispirited.
“Yeah old man?”
“I’m sure Mamma Chunhyang was only doing what she needed to do to protect her daughter.”
“I’m sure they were backed into a corner. I know what kind of life they were living and what situation they were in. I also want to go there and kill them all, but when I think about it…would I have done differently if it was my daughter?”
“Damn it. Fuck this world.”
Yohan had no response to that. The old man was thinking clearer than he was. If he tried to comfort him right now, it would make him look arrogant or conceited. Instead, Yohan just talked business.
“Old man. Do you remember what I was saying to you?”
“About the power plant blowing up or whatever?”
“Yeah, I remember. But what can you do? Not like you can stop it from happening. Shit, I should’ve just stayed here. We went with you and ended up losing so many people.”
“The reason why I went to Yongsan was because we have a warship that we can use to get out of the fallout zone.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.”
“Thanks to you, old man, all the preparations are complete. We can operate the ship now.”
“Congratulations kid. Is that what you want me to say?”
Yohan slowly shook his head. He had been thinking about something and decided now to go with it. He had prepared what he wanted to say in his head earlier and now spoke the words confidently.
“I’m sorry about the people who died. However, you’re not the type that gets shaken up by people dying. Come with me. You’ll have to follow my lead and my orders, but I promise you that you won’t regret it.”
The old man looked up at Yohan, surprised. Yohan stared straight back at him.
“This is the last enemy we’ll ever have to fight. The apocalypse itself. Stick with me to the end?”
The muscles on the old man’s face twitched.
“Please be my comrade.”
The sad look on the old man’s face gave way to a hearty laugh.
— Ω —