The story about the world becoming even more chaotic due to a nuclear plant exploding had been formed based on Lina’s vision and Jae Ho’s ideas. They could ignore the hypothesis if they wanted to, prepare for the Shark mutant, and live on Sindo without any big issues. But if the nuclear plant really did end up exploding, then a lot of people would become a victim of radiation exposure. No matter what ended up happening, Yohan couldn’t come up with a clear picture of how to move forward.
What he did know was that he trusted his instincts above all else. His body told him when there was imminent danger and it was highly reliable. This part of him is what had allowed him to survive for so long. And so, he was not about to ignore it. His instincts were telling him that the reactor was dangerous. He didn’t know whether it was the core fusion or the automatic cooling that was going to fail, just that something was going to go wrong. He just knew that he needed to avoid the danger as best as he could and prepare for it. That was what his instincts were telling him to do. After coming to this conclusion, Yohan called a meeting with the leaders.
“Did you make a decision?”
The dice that Yohan was about to throw at this moment would decide everything. Everyone held their breaths as they waited for Yohan to speak. However, Yohan found it difficult to do so. If he made the wrong decision there would be no going back, so he didn’t want to speak carelessly. It wasn’t an easy choice to make. The lights in his room were always on late into the night and the bags under his eyes were clearly visible. These things were proof as to just how much thought he had been putting into this lately. Everyone knew this, so they remained quiet. Waiting for him to speak his mind and decide their future.
“I don’t know what kind of result my decision will bring. I also don’t know if I have the right to make this kind of decision,” Yohan began.
“Yohan,” Ha Jin interrupted. “No matter what decision you make, we’ll―no, at least I’ll―follow you. Even if that decision gets us all killed. We already owe our lives to you plenty of times over. So, don’t feel too burdened by it. Whatever you decide, I’ll follow.”
“I’m also with him, bro.”
“You kids are cute,” Elder Yong said, exchanging a glance with Noah.
“Well, if you guys didn’t kill Gae Baek Jeong for us, then he would have made our lives a living hell. So I guess you could say that we’re also in your debt,” Noah commented.
Yohan had a feeling that they would say things like this. However, even if he was expecting it, he was still grateful to them.
“We’ll be leaving here as planned,” Yohan declared. “Our destination is New Zealand. However, that’s not our ultimate goal. Even if we don’t actually make it there and instead find somewhere else on our journey, if we decide that it’s safe from radioactivity and that it’s possible to grow our own food, then we’ll settle there.”
Instead of thanking everyone for believing in him, Yohan decided to show his gratitude in another way.
“Let’s butcher all the remaining livestock today and enjoy a feast to celebrate our last night at Sindo.”
This was Yohan’s only way of repaying them. After sending everyone off, Yohan started preparing for the feast.
While Elder Park was taking care of the meat, Yohan set up the tables and washed the vegetables. Then he prepared some white rice. Various people did try to help in-between as they watched Yohan prepare everything, but Yohan took care of most of it on his own. While he was cooking, Yohan saw Saeri walk in with Ji Hye who was holding her hand. Even though her expression was dark, she had calmed down during the past few days and she seemed a bit more comfortable.
“You can rest, you know?”
“It’s fine, Yohan.”
Ji Hye took off her outerwear, rolled up her sleeves, and stepped in to help with the preparations. She saw it as her job, after all.
No one said anything after seeing her act so bravely. No one mentioned Ji Hye being pregnant with Jung Soo’s baby. They acted cheerfully instead. More so than usual because Ji Hye was acting brightly herself. Seeing Saeri exaggerating as she told a story beside her made Yohan smile.
Ji Hye placed a grill on top of the fire and the sound and smell of meat cooking filled Sindo. There was pork, chicken, and even goat meat on the plate. There was alcohol, fresh vegetables, and more than enough rice for everyone. Once they start sailing, all the fresh food they wouldn’t be able to store on the ship’s fridge would have to be thrown away. Rather than doing that, it was better to try and eat as much of it beforehand as they could.
“Don’t waste any food. Eat it all even if it falls on the ground.”
Sweeper and Ha Jin were stuffing their mouths as if they were having a competition.
As the atmosphere became more relaxed and exuberant, everyone started eating more and more. Many of the people from Camp Noah and the mercenary camp had tears in their eyes as they had never expected to ever be eating fresh meat like this again.
‘Oh my, I can’t believe this is meat!’
‘This is heaven!’
‘I wouldn’t have any regrets even if I died now!’
The people there were practically cheering. The residents enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Yohan and Ji Hye had to keep preparing more and more meat because of how fast everyone was going through it.
“Yohan, open wide.”
“I’m eating while I’m cooking, so you shouldn’t worry about that.”
“Can’t you just open your mouth?”
Yohan quietly opened his mouth when he saw her smile and the determined gleam in her eye.
After Sweeper and Ha Jin ate for a bit, they approached Yohan.
“Leader bro, stop cooking, and let’s switch. Go have fun with the others.”
“I’m okay. You guys go ahead.”
Ha Jin snorted.
“This bastard doesn’t need to eat any more. He ate like a pig.”
“What are you talking about?” Sweeper asked, sounding insulted. “You ate just as much as me!”
Ha Jin hummed in response.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have any music. I think I understand now why sailors get so excited whenever they return to land.”
Yohan grinned after hearing the random comment. He didn’t mind how loud everyone was being today.
“Hey, you kids over there!” Elder Yong shouted upon seeing some of Yohan’s camp members talking to each other. “Come over here and drink with me!”
The two tried to ignore the old man’s call, but when they saw poor Noah already at the table drinking beer with the old man, they knew that they had no choice but to head over.
“Jeez,” Ha Jin complained as he walked over to the table. ”There are plenty of other people here, so why are you calling us?”
“I’m an old man. So if I go to a different table, I’ll just ruin the mood there, kid.”
In the end, Noah, Sweeper, and Ha Jin were stuck with Elder Yong.
“Damn it old man, I’m sure you just called us out because we’re comfortable to drink with.”
“Then raise your glass since you’ve caught on, kid.”
Four glasses clinked in the air.
“Ah, that’s refreshing.”
Elder Yong waved to Yohan with a happy expression.
“Hey, kid. Leader. Stop cooking and come have a drink with us. Are you working at a barbeque restaurant or something?”
“Well, I’m not. Get over here.”
“If everyone gets drunk, then at least one person needs to remain sober.”
“The new recruits are standing guard, plenty sober. So stop worrying and acting like an old man and have a drink, kid.”
“Old man? I’m offended.”
“If the leader acts all serious, then the others won’t be able to enjoy the atmosphere. You get that, right? It’s no different from a boss saying ‘Everyone go home and enjoy yourselves. I’m going to be working overtime.’ It just makes everybody feel bad.”
“He’s right, bro,” Sweeper yelled, feeling tipsy.
Yohan made an awkward expression.
“Don’t you guys have liquor or soju?” the old man asked. “This isn’t even worth the effort for my liver.”
“You’re so strict.”
It was okay to be moderately drunk, but Yohan didn’t want it affecting the work that needed to be done tomorrow. Soju and liquor were used when cooking and, excluding the infused liquor that they brought in when they entered the island, it was one of the restricted items. Even though the naval officers came and drank them all.
Now that he thought about it, the appearance of the naval ship had been a bit strange. After capturing the ship and the weapons from them, the Mutant Shark had attacked and the nuclear plant issue came up.
It felt like all those incidents had been arranged in order to conveniently set them up to resolve those issues. If they hadn’t landed here, then they would’ve ended up in a difficult position when the mutant appeared. It was all luck.
“Ah! My arm is about to fall off!”
Elder Yong was making a fuss while holding his beer, so Yohan had no choice but to walk over to the seat next to him. As soon as he got there, beer filled his glass.
Four glass cups clinked. The carbonation and the taste of barley slid down his throat, waking him up. He felt refreshed.
“Hey old guys, mind if I join?” Saeri asked as she squeezed in next to Yohan.
“Why are you here and not hanging out with your friends?”
“Because you guys look like you’re having more fun!” she replied, smiling brightly. “I just joined and you guys aren’t going to refill my glass? I was hoping this good-looking grandpa would know better.”
“Wow, kid. You definitely have good drinking etiquette. Okay, here you go!”
Saeri and the old man immediately clicked and they started pouring drinks for each other. Yohan smiled as he watched them.
“You arrogant kid. I heard that you’re really useful,” the old man spoke to Saeri.
“Of course. Do you know what Yohan told me?”
“You’re better than most people who have dicks,” she said, doing her best to impersonate Yohan’s voice.
Everyone around her started to laugh besides Yohan, who frowned slightly. The old man in particular nearly busted a gut.
“Wow, you sound just like him!”
“I’ve actually beaten up a few of those dicks before, too.”
“Ahahaha! You’re amazing!”
After laughing and clapping his hands for a while, the old man’s eyes started glistening.
“You’re pretty straightforward and I like that. How about it? Want to be my foster daughter?”
“No thanks. I’m going to marry Yohan. I’ll be your daughter-in-law instead.”
“Yeah? That’s great too!”
“Jeez, take it easy,” Yohan said. “It’s childish and cringey. Yoon Saeri, do you want to be kicked out?”
“You’ve taken it too far too, old man,” Yohan continued.
The two of them clicked their tongues in annoyance. Yohan’s eyes landed on the three others at the table. Sweeper, Ha Jin, and Noah were stuffing their faces as if they were all competing against each other.
“You three, don’t overeat, okay. Are you guys really going to eat all of that?”
The portion sizes on their plates were outrageous.
“Jeez, you eat a lot.”
“You told us to eat a lot,” Sweeper tried to say. However, his cheeks were stuffed with food like a chipmunk at the time, so nobody but Saeri could actually understand him, and she needed to translate.
‘Yeah, I guess I did, didn’t I?’
Yohan turned his attention to the next table over. Hyuk was there, chatting with a few other people his age. He listened to them for a little while as the night continued.
The fire that was cooking the meat continued to burn and the ash was flying up into the dark sky. It was a peaceful night. Like the calm before the storm.
Everyone was finished and the place was cleared just before midnight. People looked sad, but Yohan was resolute. He flipped the tables over and encouraged everyone to go to sleep.
Everyone was full and moderately drunk and they had a difficult day tomorrow, so they needed to get some rest. Tonight, countless people would sleep while their heads were filled with anxiety. Part of the reason why the voyage would be so difficult is the fact that none of them knew how long it would actually take. There were also going to be people on board that got seasick just from riding on a fishing boat for a few minutes.
Yohan stopped Ji Hye as she was the last one remaining to clean up.
“Ji Hye, go in and rest. You did well today.”
“You did well too. I’ll clean this up and go.”
“No, I’ll clean everything up, so go inside and rest.”
Ji Hye hesitated, but when she saw Yohan’s determined expression, she nodded her head. As she took off her apron and gloves, Yohan managed to say one more thing.
“I’ll make sure your kid is born safely.”
It was a short sentence, but there was a lot of weight behind it.
“I will, no matter what,” he promised.
— Ω —