“That’s cute, kid.” The old man laughed.
He continued laughing for a while, waving his hand in the air with a broad smile on his face.
“I don’t want to.” The old man said.
“You don’t want to?”
“How many meals have we shared? We’re barely acquaintances and now you want to be comrades? How about this, just let me adopt you. You’ll be my foster son. I’ll still listen to your orders. How do those terms sound?”
“Foster son…isn’t that even more…”
“It’s my fault for not having strong kids. I’ve outlived each and every one of them. But you…well, it’s not a bad deal, right? If you agree to these terms, I’ll watch your back forever. Come on, ask me to be your dad.”
Yohan stared at the old man for a moment and then shook his head.
“Let’s forget we ever had this conversation.”
“Jeez, you can’t even take a joke. These kinds of jokes are really popular in America.”
“Did you study abroad?”
“Yeah, if you consider Joengeup in the Jeolla province to be abroad.” The old man laughed again and patted Yohan on the shoulder. Yohan grimaced slightly from the intensity of the old man’s pats. It reminded him of a certain recon team member.
“Are any of your children missing?”
“None that I can recall, unless you’re talking about the kids that have been killed.”
“I was just thinking that you’re a lot like Sweeper.”
“You also seem similar to that drooling girl.” Yohan said, pointing at Saeri, who was passed out, fast asleep in the middle of all the recon team members.
“You just pointed at a boy that looks like a girl and a girl that acts like a guy. I don’t raise those kinds of kids.”
“Your way of thinking is old-fashioned.”
“I’m an old man, so it’s okay for me to be old-fashioned.” The old man tapped out a cigarette from his cigarette box and put it to his lips. He pulled out his lighter, but Yohan put his hand in the way.
“You’ve already smoked a lot today.”
“Already thinking about your dad’s health eh?”
Yohan didn’t reply, but the old man put the cigarette back into the box. He had a dejected look on his face as he stretched his arms and scratched his head.
“Are you thinking about getting revenge on Camp Chunhyang?” He asked, “You said one of your guys died too.”
Yohan shook his head. “If I was going to stay here, then I might consider getting rid of a source of future problems, but…I don’t think we need another battle right now.”
“Yeah? That’s surprising. It’s not like you.”
“I’m not the type that enjoys killing people unnecessarily. I just act preemptively to eliminate problems before they start. Right now, the chance of meeting them again is low. We’re in a hurry, we don’t have time for petty vengeance. I could say the same thing to you. I’m sure it’s difficult for you to not go and avenge your dead comrades.”
“You’re right. Maybe it’s a sign that it’s my time to die.”
Yohan shrugged and stood up. He dusted off the seat of his pants. “Let’s get ready. Time to move everyone to our camp.”
“There’s nothing for us to prepare. Those bastards literally took everything. I just need to carry my body.”
“Then let’s head out.”
Yohan headed back to the recon team, who were resting. They had gathered up on one side of the camp and were leaning against each other to sleep. As he woke them up, the old man was rallying his camp members.
“Gather your belongings.”
“…Old man, where are we going?”
“We’re travelling overseas.” The old man replied, bluntly. The mercenaries looked confused, but didn’t question it any further. Instead, they followed orders and began gathering their belongings.
“Is the old man coming too?” Sweeper asked, seeing the mercenaries preparing to travel.
“That’s what’s happening.”
“Well, that’s good. Even though he has a foul temper, he’s reliable. Our group’s power really spiked suddenly.”
Yohan nodded in agreement. Everyone in Noah’s camp was a fighter. Additionally, there were extremely talented people, like Chul Goo of the mercenaries. Yohan remembered the one time they fought against each other. Chul Goo was on the same level as him.
However, there were now three people who were used to leading their own camps. It was a bit worrisome, but Yohan tried not to dwell on it. Both Noah and the old man were more like soldiers than politicians. If there was anyone that would cause drama, Yohan would remove them. It was similar to when they were at the Bucheon City Hall last time. As long as he could maintain the balance of the camp, they shouldn’t have any issues.
Once everyone was prepared to move out, Yohan ordered them to head out. Everyone moved in sync with each other.
* * *
Yohan and his large entourage reached the dock of the Incheon Coastal Passenger Terminal. This was the base that connected Sindo to the inland and it was where they had been dropped off when they first started the expedition to search the military buildings for documents.
“Situation Room, this is Yohan.”
It had been a while since he called, as they didn’t want to communicate over long distance unless it was an emergency. After a moment, he heard a familiar voice through the radio.
— “Mr. Yohan, are you okay?” Lina asked.
“Yes. Is everything okay?”
— “Yes, everything is okay here.”
“That’s a relief. We’re at the dock near Yeongjong bridge. Can you send the boat?”
There was a hint of giddiness in Lina’s voice. Pio and Verda’s expressions perked up when they heard her voice. Though they hadn’t said anything, it was clear that they had been worried about Lina while they were far apart. Yohan knew he had been working the pair hard ever since they’d joined the camp. It was something he was both grateful and apologetic for.
“Once we’re done with his mission, you guys can go back to being Lina’s dedicated guard. You did well.”
“Wow, really? Thank you!” Pio and Verda were ecstatic.
Yohan wasn’t just doing it to be considerate. Lina was an important member of the camp. Additionally, they were no longer lacking in manpower anymore. With all the new members, half of the camp would be combatants. He had already trusted his back to the mercenaries several times and he was sure that Noah’s comrades would be skilled as well. He remembered that Choi Soo Hyun was a skilled shot. There wasn’t a real need to test their skills. If Noah brought them along, they would be reliable.
Yohan was worried that people would just stick to their cliques. He would need to ensure that they spend more time with each other so that they can all bond.
‘There’s a lot of people here that enjoy socializing, so I shouldn’t need to worry.’
There was plenty of supplies to go around, which means that there should be less conflict overall.
‘And Noah should be able to rein his comrades.’
Noah seemed to be taking care of his comrades in the same way he did in the previous timeline, so it shouldn’t be an issue. A few minutes passed before they could hear a boat approaching them from the direction of Sindo. Seo Jun peeked out from behind the helm and hopped off the boat as soon as it docked.
“You came by yourself?” Yohan asked, walking over to Seo Jun.
“Yeah, I’m here to pick you up…looks like there’s a lot of people.” Seo Jun glanced at all the new people that had gathered. There were some faces that he recognized and many that he didn’t. He noticed Gap Soo in the crowd and frowned.
“Yohan, that guy…”
Seo Jun and Gap Soo had spent a lot of time together back in the original camp. They had developed a sort of a love-hate relationship that eventually ended with Seo Jun speaking up and getting Gap Soo kicked out of the camp. No doubt, Gap Soo would have some ill will towards him. Seo Jun probably thought of Gap Soo as a bad seed. Yohan glanced over at the old man.
“Oh, this guy? Don’t worry. I’ve educated him well, right?” The old man patted Gap Soo on the shoulder. Gap Soo immediately straightened up his posture and spoke clearly with a firm expression on his face.
“Yes. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
That surprised Seo Jun. Could someone really change this much in just a few months? He knew that Gap Soo wasn’t a bad person at heart, but he had high self-esteem and could be a bit overbearing at times. However, now he was behaving like a new recruit in the military. On top of that, the way he spoke had changed drastically as well. Yohan saw Seo Jun’s reaction and smirked.
“Don’t worry. We have a scary drill sergeant here. Anyways, I’m sure Elder Park will be happy to see you. He regretted leaving you behind.”
“I also look forward to seeing him again. It has been a while.”
“Um, well, I’m sure you have a plan Yohan.” Seo Jun said. He had nothing to complain about. After all, Yohan had personally saved his life many times now and had fully earned his trust. If Yohan thought it was a good idea to bring Gap Soo back, then who was he to question that decision?
“Let’s go. People are waiting for us. There’s a lot of people here, so we’ll have to make two trips.”
Seo Jun started up the boat again and people started hopping on. For those seeing Sindo for the first time, they couldn’t help but be impressed. They had left behind a gray city and were now greeted by a base surrounded by nature, people, and livestock. There were grain, vegetables, and fish hung out to dry everywhere in the camp. There were puppies playing with kids and they could even hear chickens clucking somewhere. It was as if they had stepped into a whole different world.
As the newcomer’s excitement surged, so did the Sindo camp member’s. They swarmed around Yohan and the recon team members. They had finished their tasks for the day and were enthusiastically greeting the survivors with bright smiles on their faces. It was hard to believe that they were still in the middle of an apocalypse.
“Woof, woof!” Blackie dashed through the crowd and jumped into Saeri’s arms. He started licking her face so enthusiastically that she had to work to fight him off.
“Thank you for your hard work Yohan.”
They hadn’t been gone for that long, but all the Sindo camp members looked relieved to see that they had come back safely. Yohan searched through the crowd for Lina. Pio and Verda were already with her, each sticking to one side of her like glue. Lina noticed Yohan watching and bowed at him.
“Was everything okay?”
“Yes, thank you for your hard work Mr. Yohan.”
“Any news?” Yohan asked, pointedly.
Lina shook her head and Yohan nodded. There were no new visions, which was a good thing. Every time Lina had a dream, it was a sign of some major calamity.
“Excuse me, Yohan. I don’t see Jung Soo or Jae Ho.” Seo Jun said, looking at the crowd. All at once, the recon team member’s expressions became grim. They all snuck a glance at Ji Hye at the same time.
“Yohan, where’s Jung Soo?” Ji Hye asked, barely whispering the words. She looked confused as she tried to find her husband in the crowd.
“…” No one on the recon team knew what to say. Someone had to say something, but it wasn’t easy. Yohan sighed.
“Saeri, bring that thing over.”
Saeri had a dark expression on her face as she pulled out a blood-soaked bundle of cloth from a pouch on her military vest. Slowly, she handed the bundle to Ji Hye, who took it with shaking hands. Ji Hye opened the bundle and saw a ring. It was the wedding ring that Jung Soo had found once upon a time during a different expedition. Ji Hye had a matching ring.
“Yohan…?” Ji Hye looked at Yohan, confused. Unable—or unwilling—to comprehend what it meant.
“It’s Jung Soo’s stuff. We took care of his corpse but…we couldn’t bring him home.”
“Excuse me? C—corpse?” Ji Hye blinked several times. She couldn’t believe it. Her vision blurred as the world seemed to spin around her.
Ji Hye fainted for a moment and collapsed to the ground. The people around her quickly moved to help her back up. Other people in the crowd were starting to notice the scene, but they looked away almost immediately. It was a difficult thing to watch. Ji Hye stumbled as she walked towards Yohan on unsteady legs. She grabbed at Yohan’s clothes, clinging onto him.
“Jung Soo died in a battle. I’m sorry.”
“You’re lying!!” Tears were streaming down from Ji Hye’s eyes. She fell to her knees, still gripping onto Yohan’s clothes. Park Jae Beom stepped out from the crowd and helped her up.
“Ji Hye, be careful with your body.”
Three people helped the sobbing Ji Hye somewhere where she could rest. It was a strange scene, feeling familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Yohan was used to losing comrades, but the atmosphere here was still heavy. All the island camp members and the recon team members had sad expressions on their faces, but there was something else on the face of the island residents. They weren’t just sad because they lost a comrade, there was a look of pity there too.
“Did something happen to Ji Hye?” Yohan asked Seo Jun.
“Oh you see…” Seo Jun hesitated and sighed. It was something that was difficult for him to say. Finally, he managed to mumble, “You see, Ji Hye is…pregnant.”
“It hasn’t been that long. She just found out recently. I know how dangerous it is to have a baby during these times, but it’ll be the first baby born in our camp since the apocalypse started. The residents have even nicknamed the baby ‘Hope’. They were happy because it felt like it would be the first baby in a new era. Ji Hye had been excitedly waiting for you guys to come back so that she could share the news with Jung Soo.”
Someone in the crowd let out a mournful wail.
* * *
Yohan called for an all-hands meeting.
The island leaders looked a little intimidated by Noah and the mercenaries, but Yohan ignored them as he produced the results of their expedition.
“I would like everyone here to study the documents so that you can pass on the information to the camp members that we’ll eventually assign to operate the warship. Since Luca has a lot of experience with the coast guard, he’ll be in charge of general operations while Mr. Kim will be responsible for the engine room and other facilities.”
People immediately started moving into action.
“Most of the tasks aren’t difficult, so we should be able to get through them quickly, but we are short on fuel. Even the 20 barrels we got before weren’t enough to create the proportions Luca wanted,” Mr. Kim said.
“It would be best to prepare a refueling truck. I think we should anchor the warship at Incheon Port and fuel it directly there.” Luca added.
“Yes.” Yohan nodded, thoughtfully.
The recon team was reorganized into three teams with Sweeper, Noah, and the old man leading each group. They now had more than 50 combatants. In just one expedition, they had gained so many fighters that they made up nearly half of the members of the camp.
“I’ve been meaning to ask, why a warship of all things? I think a cargo ship would be better.”
“First, there aren’t any cargo ships, but, even if there was one, we would still want to have the warship’s weapons with us in case we run into a mutant in the ocean.”
Yohan noticed Sweeper was interpreting some English documents to some camp members.
“You can read English?”
“Of course, I studied overseas.”
“You studied overseas to become an insurance dealer?”
Sweeper only smirked at him.
“How long do you think it will take?” Yohan asked Luca.
“I don’t think it’ll take that long. Like I said, it’s honestly not that difficult. Mr. Kim is pretty skilled at maintenance stuff. I don’t think he’s just an average hardware store owner. I think it’ll take two days to do a test run. If we take into account all the supplies we have to move and the refueling, maybe four days?”
Jae Ho just needed to come back before then.
— Ω —