Overcome with joy, there were tears in her eyes. Ji Hye bowed toward Yohan, moved beyond words. Whenever Yohan smiled at her like this, it never failed to brighten her day. It was like a light and she would always cherish it in her heart.
“Thank you for saying that. I’m always thankful to have you in my life, Yohan.”
Yohan watched as she headed off, the image of her bowing toward him lingering in his mind. After spending a few moments lost in thought, Yohan turned back to his previous task, finished cleaning up, and put everything away.
By the time he was finished, exhaustion had started to set in. He hadn’t done anything too physically intensive, but, perhaps that was why he was feeling tired. Tired from doing nothing of any real importance all day. Instead of going to bed, however, he decided to take a seat on one of the sunbed recliners in front of his place to enjoy the night air for a little while. Slung over his shoulder, he had a roll of important documents that he planned on looking over one more time that night.
Sitting down, he looked out over the ocean. It had become a habit of his―sitting in this very chair and thinking about the upcoming expedition. Tomorrow, he’d be leaving this place, marking today as the very last time he’d be able to take in Sindo’s nighttime oceanview. The idea made him a bit nostalgic and emotional. Even though it had been a temporary thing, they had worked hard on this shelter. After his revival, he had invested a lot of time and effort to prepare everything. After all of the residents had settled here, he had thought of this place as his home. In the end, however, he believed that it had all been worth it. None of it had been a waste and all of that effort had allowed them to make it this far.
“You’re not going to sleep?” a voice asked from behind him.
Yohan turned and watched Saeri walk over with two cans of beer in her hands.
‘This situation feels familiar.’
The nighttime ocean. The two of them being moderately drunk. Saeri’s expression. It all gave Yohan a sense of deja vu.
Saeri sat down next to him and handed him a beer. Yohan shook his head, declining the offer.
“Stop drinking, you drunk. And if you’re thinking about throwing yourself at me while you’re like this then you can stop right now.”
Saeri clicked her tongue in irritation.
“I’m not drunk.”
The wind was cold. Even though Yohan was wearing thick outerwear, he could still feel the cold air blowing through. Saeri shivered next to him. As Yohan stared into her eyes, he could easily read the flow of her emotions and her thoughts. It was always clear to him what she wanted.
“Stop liking me.”
He decided to make it clear.
“If we keep doing this, it’ll just be harder for both of us later. So it’d be best if you stopped right now. I’m not going to change my mind and nothing is going to start between us.”
There was a moment of silence between them before Saeri answered.
“I didn’t expect anything like that from you. Not yet, anyway. But who are you to tell me to stop liking you?”
“Is it because of what happened to Ji Hye?’
Yohan did feel a bit of guilt so he couldn’t push her away. He remembered that night very vividly. It wasn’t a mistake. The two of them were adults and they were sober enough to make decisions. The impulse was there and there was a ton of sexual tension. But, that was it.
“I may look like an idiot for saying this, but I’m not giving up. But, I won’t force it either. I do have my pride. It’s your choice whether to like me or not, but don’t tell me what to do with my feelings,” Saeri said, her voice trembling.
Yohan turned away.
“But, thanks for being blunt with me,” Saeri continued. “I think it would’ve been harder if it had been left ambiguous any longer.”
Saeri stood up and walked away.
Yohan decided to take a sip of the beer that she had left for him after all.
It was warm.
* * *
The day of the expedition arrived. Everyone was moving busily, preparing to set sail. Noah stood in front of the warship, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Who knew that I’d be riding on another warship?” he mumbled to himself.
“Think of it as your destiny,” Yohan replied as he walked up to him.
Yohan clapped him on his shoulder before continuing on his way towards the top deck. He made several detours on his way, inspecting various other sections of the ship to ensure that everything was in order. After reaching the CCC―the Command Control Center―Yohan radioed the others that were on stand-by.
“MCR, are you ready?” he asked, referring to the Machine Control Room.
— “The diesel room is all set and the engine is in good condition.”
“What about the pilot room?”
— “No problems here.”
“And the deck?”
— “There are no issues on the deck.”
— “The helipad is good as well.”
The preparations were going well and everything was proceeding as planned. It had been worth staying up late last night to re-check everything.
“Once the engine is done warming up, call me. Get ready to close the door.”
There was only one more thing left to do before he could give the signal to set sail. Yohan walked out onto the top deck of the warship and gazed out over the surface of the water. He was waiting for one last call over the radio.
It was time. After a brief conversation, Yohan ordered the warship on standby and boarded a small fishing boat to set sail for Incheon Port. He was there to pick up Jae Ho.
Yohan was able to spot him from afar. Jae Ho was on a motorcycle, but he jumped off and ran towards the boat once he noticed Yohan.
“I guess I made it in time…” Jae Ho said, breathless from his journey.
“I thought you died,” Yohan replied.
“I thought I was going to as well.”
“Did you get any results?”
Jae Ho shook his head. He had an odd smile on his face. It made it look like he wanted to say something, but decided not to at the last moment. Yohan didn’t ask about it and the two of them sailed back to the warship in awkward silence.
Once they arrived, Jae Ho emptied all of the documents that he had collected inside his bag. He grabbed a few of the books and started separating them into piles.
“First, these books are related to navigation,” Jae Ho explained, gesturing to the pile he was referring to. “They show the locations where we can refuel during the voyage and the harbors all around the world.”
After he finished sorting them, he looked up at Yohan.
“Did you decide on a destination?”
“Somewhat. Nothing is finalized. I need a navigator to make a final decision.”
Jae Ho smiled, knowing that Yohan was referring to him.
“Let’s go to New Zealand.”
“Oh? Why there?”
“The GPS doesn’t work, right?”
“I figured as much. One year is more than long enough for the functions of a GPS to stop working. If we wanted to go to Hawaii instead, for example, the journey would be risky. It’s located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint your exact position without GPS out there. We might miss the islands and get lost. Instead, we should sail along the coast. That way, if we do get lost, it’ll be easier to find ourselves again since we’ll have a point of reference. We should also split the journey up into pieces.”
Jae Ho took out a large map and started making dots on it.
“To put it simply, we may not be able to go directly to New Zealand in one go. We should split our journey up and think of the trip more along the lines of traveling the distance between here and Jeju island 200 times rather than one huge leg. We’ll follow the west coast all the way down to Jeju Island and continue towards China. Then we’ll go south to Taiwan and follow the coast all the way down to the Philippines. Then we’ll go to Papua New Guinea and, from there, we’ll head straight to New Zealand. The distance will be much greater if we do it this way, but the journey will be a lot safer. We’d be able to dock almost anywhere along the way in the event of an emergency.”
Yohan nodded, having no significant objections to Jae Ho’s plan. Yohan didn’t really care all that much where they ended up. As long as it was safe and they could find supplies, anywhere was okay with him. Jae Ho’s idea looked like a good one. Especially since it focused so strongly on safety.
“Great, let’s do that,” Yohan decided.
Yohan immediately relayed the orders to his comrades.
“15 minutes until departure. Everyone to their stations.”
This was the start of Camp Yohan’s final journey to survival.
* * *
Baekryeong Ship. Somewhere in the ocean.
They had been sailing for 17 days. The ship had docked on an island in the Philippines. By all appearances, it seemed as if they were having a peaceful time. However, they were lost. Weaving through the islands of the Philippines required navigating skills far higher than any of them had imagined. There were many small islands and, while they were all marked on the map, they still caused a massive amount of confusion whenever the navigators did not know their precise position. Eventually, at the end of their rope, when nobody had been able to figure out where to go, they had decided to dock and temporarily halt the voyage on Jae Ho’s recommendation.
This was the second time in which they had needed to do that.
The recon team was currently searching the island for clues as to which one it was. A few of the other survivors were standing guard on the dock and the rest were resting on board the ship.
Yohan was walking through the interior of the ship, checking to see if there were any issues requiring his attention when he overheard a familiar conversation. Stepping out onto the deck, he noticed a small group of survivors making use of a small table to play a card game.
“Number one. Assassin.”
“Um, I’m going to kill the magician. I’ll build a guard post.”
Sailing through the open ocean had proved to be monotonous and boring for a lot of the people on board because there weren’t many things to do. The majority of them had not brought anything to entertain themselves with. However, they had found a few board games lying around that the marine corps had left behind and many chose to make use of them to pass the time. Yohan didn’t mind. Even he had been bored lately, so he didn’t ban anyone from taking these sorts of breaks. As long as everyone still got their jobs done, anyway. But there hadn’t been any problems on that front as of yet.
Yohan headed towards the wheelhouse next. Inside, Jae Ho and his assistant were brainstorming.
“How about flying the helicopter for a while?”
“No, that’d be a big waste. We need to save the fuel in case of an emergency.”
Yohan watched them argue about what their next move should be for a little while.
When Jae Ho had been given control of the wheel of the ship, the voyage to Taiwan had proceeded smoothly. They had even docked there and picked up some more supplies. Yohan had assumed at the time that this meant that the rest of the voyage would continue without any issues as well. However, as soon as they had entered the Philippine Islands, the navigators had been stopped dead in their tracks.
“We need to go this way, 900 kilometers southeast. We’ll head towards Papua New Guinea.”
“And what if we end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean instead?”
“It’s better than being pulled into the strait. We’re going to have to travel far to the south anyway.”
Jae Ho sighed.
“Not having a way to track our route makes everything so much harder. It feels like we’re in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean.”
When the two of them noticed Yohan there, they froze and immediately stood up. Yohan gave them a quick signal to let them know they can keep working. They tentatively sat back down.
“Is something not working out?” Yohan asked.
“Leader, It’s really difficult trying to pinpoint the ship’s location…”
“Take your time. No need to rush.”
He applauded them for their passion, but he didn’t want them overlooking anything. They were responsible for the survival of a hundred people now. So, it would be a problem if they tried to rush their plans and didn’t think everything through.
Yohan didn’t interrupt them any further and exited the wheelhouse. There wasn’t much he could do in there anyway. For once, he wasn’t the one at the helm making all of the important decisions. That was up to the navigators. He just made sure there wasn’t any unnecessary tension between the survivors, made sure that all the tasks were split evenly amongst everyone, and constantly checked to prevent any accidents.
Yohan continued on his tour of the ship, greeting everyone he came across.
Noah’s group had gone out on a search earlier on, so they were missing for the time being. Hyuk and a few of the other survivors were cleaning off the salt that had accumulated on the ship. When they spotted him they smiled brightly and waved. Sweeper and a few of the younger members of the recon group were fishing with a cast net on the shore a short distance away. Ji Hye and Seo Jun were at the rear of the ship organizing the supplies.
After circling the ship and greeting everyone, Yohan returned to the captain’s quarters and wrote another entry in the ship’s log. He had been doing that every single day since they had departed and he recorded a summary of each day’s events.
They had stopped a few times on their journey. They had stopped at Jeju Island, Okinawa, and Miyako. Then ten days after that, they had stopped in Taiwan. They had refueled one more time at Keelung Harbor and picked up some extra supplies there. On the 15th day, they had arrived at the Philippine Islands. Yohan had recorded all of these events in the log including the first time they had experienced a storm and the time it had taken for them to travel everywhere. He hadn’t missed a single day. He almost felt as if recording these events was his duty.
On the last line of his daily entry, he recorded his thoughts.
‘It may be slow-going, but we aren’t about to give up.’
* * *
New Zealand. Auckland.
The beach was wide and peaceful. The ocean was crystal clear and looked incredibly out of place for being in a post-apocalyptic world. A school of fish could be seen swimming beneath the waves.
A shadow was suddenly cast over the water and the group of fish swam away, frightened.
Five men were in a helicopter. Yohan opened the door as they hovered in the air and stuck his head outside. He gazed at the land of the foreign country with a complicated expression. He was excited, nervous, and determined.
“Luca!” Yohan shouted over the whir of the helicopter blades. “Bring us in a little closer!”
Luca complied immediately and changed the helicopter’s direction, moving closer to the harbor.
Yohan moved to the other side of the helicopter and took a look out the window through his binoculars.
“What about the other side?” Yohan asked, directing his question to Sweeper.
“There isn’t anything particularly threatening over there,” Sweeper replied. “It’s filled with caucasian zombies.”
“Shall we count?” Sweeper asked sarcastically. There were way too many to do that.
Yohan shook his head, amused.
“Since there’s a port on the island next to us, let’s go there,” he decided.
Luca searched for a place they could land. On the east coast of Auckland, there were a lot of islands, both big and small. One appeared to be a former tourist attraction and that was the one where Luca chose to set the helicopter down.
Yohan opened the door and stepped out, taking his first steps in New Zealand. When he planted both of his feet, he stood there perfectly still for several moments, feeling a bit like the first man on the moon.
Almost immediately, he heard a gunshot in the distance.
They had come across quite a few groups of survivors on their journey over, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise that there were some here as well. A lot of people were still alive throughout the world. Yohan and his group had even had a few conflicts with some of them, many of which had ended with him wiping them out. Here on this island nation, he expected there to be many more groups like that, and he expected that he would need to fight them too.
As time passed, the remaining survivors seemed to get more and more violent and aggressive. So it was rare to find a group that was willing to be friends. Instead, they all acted like warlords, competing with each other to see who was the most dominant.
They may have been in a new location, but Yohan‘s tactics, strategies, and goals remained largely the same. If a group showed interest in joining forces, then Yohan would allow them to. But if they were a threat, he would end them. Whether his enemy was alive or undead, it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t allow anything to stand in his way.
He had about 8 months by his count. He had until then to remove all nearby threats so that the next generation could be born in peace. That was what he had promised, after all.
“Is this going to be our final settlement?” Ha Jin asked.
“I like it,” Noah said. “ I always wanted to live in a house with an ocean view.”
Yohan smirked and started stretching.
“First, let’s take care of all the zombies.”
“Roger. The New Zealand takeover starts now.”
— Ω —