Yohan made his way to the office on the second floor of the shopping complex, kicked in the door, and entered. He scoured the interior of the room thoroughly while maintaining his firing stance. However, the director wasn’t in the office. Instead, there was an unconscious man tied up in the corner. It was the martial artist that Yohan saw earlier when he was spying on the director from the vents.
‘Did he not come here?’ Yohan’s eyes shifted over to the conference room, which was a part of the office. There was a good amount of supplies piled up there. Knowing this, Yohan had thought that the director would flee to this office.
‘Would he go to the infirmary first?’ There was only so much that one could do in a mall’s first aid room when there is no medical personnel. Normally a person wouldn’t know about the risks of open air infections and would bunker down with their supplies instead.
Yohan decided not to dwell on it too much. Predictions can be wrong. Instead, he directed his attention and interest at the man before him. The martial artist had a prominent, muscular build that was apparent even though he was tied up and unconscious on the floor. Yohan thought back to when he first saw the man.
‘See? If you weren’t so stubborn and just obeyed me, things would’ve been a lot better.’
The martial artist was being held captive for some reason. Maybe he was hostile to the director, but couldn’t beat him. Since then, he had been cajoled by the director but, presumably, remained stubborn and incapacitated. Yohan was taking the time to assess the man because he would inevitably encounter a large number of zombies while trying to escape the zombie wave. To get through the horde safely, he would need at least one person to watch his back.
Here was a potential ally. However, there was always the possibility that he could catch Yohan unaware and stab him in the back. Once again, Yohan was at an important decision crossroad. Should he untie the man and have him watch his back or should he try to break through the horde alone? In emergency situations like this, it was better to rely on your survival instincts than to try and think strategically. Yohan had to trust his instincts, which had helped him survive for three years in the previous timeline.
This situation was different from the earlier one with Sweeper. Back then, he had no reason to help the other man. He was still suspicious of how Sweeper had initially approached him. Additionally, the previous situation required him to move around stealthily, which was better served alone. Now, there was plenty of reasons to untie the martial artist. Additionally, Yohan liked what he had overheard in the conversation between the man and the director.
“Wake up.” Yohan shook the man. He decided to talk to him first before untying him.
“Uugghh… who are you?” The man opened his eyes. As his voice wasn’t very hoarse, Yohan realized that he probably fell asleep rather than faint from the beating he got.
“I’m Yohan. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to explain the situation. There’s a lot of zombies in the camp right now. Can you stand up and fight?”
“… What happened to the Gold Moon guys?” The man’s primary concern was the gangsters.
‘Were they called the Gold Moon? That’s novel.’ Yohan laughed. “Many of them are dead. A few are still alive, but it’ll be hard for them to get out of here. You can say that they’re in a disorganized mess right now.”
The man reflected on Yohan’s words. However, they didn’t have much time and the current situation was difficult to grasp.
“There’s no time, so I’ll just ask you a few questions. Who are you? Why were you captured and held captive here?”
“Please answer the question. I can’t help you if you’re not honest with me.”
“I’m Ha Jin Kang from the Bucheon Business Taekwondo team. After those monsters appeared, my colleagues and I went to the grocery store to get some food. We got ambushed there.”
‘So he’s an athlete.’ Yohan nodded, appreciating the man’s well-trained body. “Where is your group?”
Ha Jin shook his head. His group members had become addicted to the drugs given to them by the gangsters and were thrown at the zombies. He didn’t want to share this shameful fact with a stranger. It was enough to just imply that they were dead. Yohan understood what Ha Jin was hinting at.
“If I let you go, will you cooperate with me in escaping?”
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“Well, I’m asking out of common courtesy. Also, I want to feel safe during our escape. Do you promise to cooperate?”
The man nodded silently. A man of few words was more trustworthy than a man of a hundred words. Or, perhaps Yohan just wanted to believe that because he really didn’t have a choice. Yohan cut the bindings around Ha Jin’s hands and feet with his knife. The martial artist stumbled for a moment when he stood up, but quickly found his balance.
“How long were you held captive for?”
“I think… it’s been around four days.”
If a person was tied up in such an uncomfortable position for four days, they would definitely feel dizzy. It seemed like Ha Jin had a lot of mental fortitude. Yohan felt admiration for the man’s constitution. He took out a canteen from his waist pocket and handed it over to his new partner.
“Take this as well.” Yohan twirled the knife he used to cut the rope bindings and gave it to Ha Jin handle first. The martial artist accepted the knife, but gave him a puzzled look.
“You have two guns. Wouldn’t it be better to split them between us equally?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not generous enough to hand over a gun to someone I just met.”
Ha Jin stared at Yohan. He didn’t look unhappy, but rather confused. So Yohan elaborated. “To be honest, I normally would not be freeing people randomly. However, the situation is urgent.”
“Okay, I understand. So, what should I do now?” Ha Jin asked.
Yohan took a moment to organize his thoughts before answering. Zombies were already pouring in through the broken glass doors on the ground floor, making the four exits on the ground floor useless. The entrance and exit to the parking lot were on opposite sides of the building. If they wanted an easy place to get through, it would be the underground parking lot.
It was a difficult decision to make. It was easy to defend a large concrete building like this most of the time but, during a zombie wave, it was better to have a place that was more open so that it was easier to run away. Being in this building during a zombie wave was akin to being on a sinking ship. Zombies were gushing from everywhere like tides. The longer he thought about it, the more difficult the situation became. Yohan finished gathering his thoughts and opened his mouth to reply.
“Let’s head towards the underground parking lot through the emergency exit and clear our way to either the entrance or the exit of the parking lot so that we can escape. I’ll take the lead. Please cover me.”
Yohan stuffed his pockets with what he felt was just the right amount of food and water and opened the office door to leave. There were already three zombies there to greet him. Yohan shoved the zombies with his left arm and pierced their heads one after another.
He was about to advance through the zombies that were stabbed in the brain when, suddenly, he felt a sense of uneasiness around his left foot. Yohan quickly retracted his foot. A zombie, who was missing the lower half of its body, snapped its jaws at the air. Yohan promptly dismembered the zombie’s lower jaw with a brutal kick.
Yohan avoided using his gun as much as possible as they advanced. Instead, he attached a bayonet to the gun barrel and wielded the weapon like a spear. It was much heavier and took more strength to wield than a knife, but it was safer in that he could still use the gun in an emergency. He just had to make sure that blood and guts weren’t clogging the gun barrel before firing it.
Every time Yohan heard a zombie approaching from behind, he would also hear Ha Jin swinging his knife. Ha Jin was so strong that the knife went through the entire skull and popped back out on the other side. Normally a zombie would struggle for 3-5 seconds after being stabbed in the brain. However, with Ha Jin’s attack, the zombies died instantaneously. They didn’t even have a chance to move. Yohan silently praised himself for making a good decision in freeing him and focused on the front, trusting his back to Ha Jin.
They crossed the sky bridge and could see the emergency exit, still tightly closed. Yohan’s eyes honed in on the zombies near the exit. They were about 50 meters away from the exit and there were around 40 zombies nearby. This was an issue. The sky bridge has a wide variety of objects, such as mannequins and display boards, that served as barriers. However, the second floor of the department store was a wide, open area. They could get surrounded in an instant if they were stalled for even a second.
Yohan concentrated harder, plotting out the route to the emergency exit, which zombies he needed to eliminate, and the most efficient method of doing so. One by one, he envisioned himself taking out the zombies. There were a total of eight along the route to the exit. They had to eliminate them with eight swift strikes. Yohan’s concentration was a great asset for crisis situations like this.
However, Yohan’s concentration was responsible for a different kind of crisis. He was too focused on the zombies and the exit to notice the director aiming his gun at him from across the courtyard on the third floor.
A loud gunshot echoed throughout the department store as muzzle fire erupted from the director’s handgun. Yohan tried to return fire at the source of the sound, but a bullet decisively lodged itself inside him, causing immediate and intense pain.
Yohan let out a guttural groan as the impact forced him back a few steps before his legs gave out and he collapsed. Dark crimson blood trickled down from his mouth. He had a shocked expression on his face as he tried to see where he was shot, but his vision was becoming increasingly blurry as the wound throbbed with pain.
“Hey!” Ha Jin called out to Yohan, flustered. He was still covering Yohan from behind. Yohan did not reply. He was silent and still as if he had passed out. A second shot rang out. Ha Jin lowered his head and covered his head with his hands. Thankfully, the second bullet went astray. However, they were still in a crisis situation.
Zombies were slowly approaching the pair. Ha Jin dragged Yohan’s limp body towards a nearby office door and kicked it open. Inside, two zombies greeted them. As if they were eager to demonstrate how hungry they were, the two infected flew at their prey with blatant bloodlust.
* * *
While Yohan was in a life or death situation, Jung Hwan was still at their camp, reinforcing the security of the parking lot entrance. It was barricaded by a truck and SUV. Four of the younger men had climbed on top of the truck, aided by an iron ladder they had brought with them. The four were busy knocking down zombies with a weapon they referred to as ‘zombie harpoons’.
It was a close-to-mid range weapon made by securing a blade to a burlap bag with some zip ties and duct tape. Although it was a bit difficult to use, due to its weight and poor accuracy, it had the advantage of being able to knock down zombies without putting its wielder at risk.
Defending the parking lot was simply a matter of killing zombies as they appeared. Zombie hunting had become a tedious, everyday chore. However, recently the number of zombies had been increasing.
“Jung Hwan, there seems to be more and more zombies.” Ki Moon said, shuddering. He was zombie hunting with Jung Hwan. A gross amount of zombies was slowly piling up.
“Yeah, it seems like it.” What was even more terrifying were the zombies outside the parking lot. A seemingly endless number of zombies were moving towards the H mall across the street. However, with so many zombies crowding together, some eventually ended up in their building. These zombies screeched and attracted more zombies, causing the horde outside their building to gradually increase.
It was a precarious situation and they weren’t sure if the truck and SUV barricade could withstand this many zombies. The side with the SUV included various items stacked on top of the vehicle to supplement its height. It wasn’t the best blockade.
Jung Hwan and the other men continuously stabbed at the zombies without rest. If the barricade collapsed now, the loading dock that they fought to secure would be useless again. There were still a lot of stuff that had not been moved yet. They had conquered the area with much effort and couldn’t let it go down so easily. However, no matter how many zombies they killed, the horde was only getting larger.
‘If only Yohan was here.’ Jung Hwan was keenly aware of Yohan’s absence.
Zombies started stepping on their fallen brethren and were able to reach higher. The higher they reached, the more the group’s anxiety level rose.
“Aaaah!” Suddenly, a shrill scream could be heard.
In the end, a zombie stepped on a fellow zombie and climbed up the barricade from the side. It headed towards the group and bit Sang Joon in the neck. The instant the group was distracted by this misfortune, the zombies below seemed to swarm even more.
“Go down! We can’t hold out. Let’s get inside the building for now!” Even as Jung Hwan was speaking, zombies were overrunning the barrier. By the time they climbed down the ladder, they would be surrounded by zombies.
Two men hesitated, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Jung Hwan pushed the two onwards as he turned around to buy them some time.
“Go down first, quickly!”
— Ω —
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