Yohan spoke casually while consuming an energy bar and drink that he had looted from the convenience store earlier.
The pair started moving quickly once again and did not travel far before they encountered the swarm of zombies that Yohan had predicted. Right before the Bucheon interchange, they saw a large horde of zombies tearing away at people. Yohan quickly scanned the area and noticed a bus at the head of the traffic jam, with crashed vehicles all around it. The bus was red, the color of the long-distance, intercity service buses. From the look of things, it was the main culprit behind the traffic jam.
Someone inside the bus was probably infected and, soon, all of the passengers were infected too. Once those zombies started flooding out of the bus, they must have caused the series of car crashes which now formed a veritable roadblock, spanning the entire highway. The stretch of road ahead of the bus was wide open, pretty much confirming his theory.
Anyone who got out of their car to see what happened was likely to get infected. This would make the traffic even worse and motivate more people to leave their vehicles to investigate and subsequently get infected as well. It was a vicious cycle.
Yohan buttoned his leather gloves all the way up, pulled his jacket’s sleeves over them, and inspected his clothes. Before engaging in combat, it was important to ensure that none of his skin was exposed. He wrapped his fingers around the handle of his 60cm knife and forcefully relaxed his mind and body. It was a habit that he had formed in the previous timeline, a warm-up ritual to prepare for battle.
There couldn’t have been more than 400 zombies, even if he rounded up. In fact, he only needed to kill around 20 in order to clear a path through. 400 would have been threatening if it weren’t for the fact that they were spread out thinly. No matter what they did, it was unlikely to draw the aggro of all the zombies here. This was a situation that they could comfortably handle.
‘Looks like I can take it easy for a bit.’
Yohan walked along the edge of the road. He spat on the ground and stepped up to a nearby zombie. He stabbed his knife through the zombie’s eye socket and quickly stepped back. The zombie snapped its jaws at thin air, stumbling around before collapsing. Just then, he heard a throaty groan from the side. Yohan swept his leg around without even looking at his target. He felt his leg make contact with another zombie’s legs, causing it to lose its balance and fall. He stabbed his knife into its temple and pulled it back out in a flash. Dark red blood sprayed in the air.
Left foot forward, right foot back. Like a pro boxer, Yohan floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. A zombie approached and Yohan pushed it away at the chest, but not before his right hand quickly stabbed at it. He did not waste a single movement.
Jung Mi could hardly keep up with him. She only walked behind him, not fighting, but she was already short of breath. As if he was dancing, Yohan deftly smashed through the zombies blocking—or trying to block—his way. He took each one down with a single blow. It was a jaw dropping display. He moved as if he was born to hunt zombies.
“Aaaah!” Jung Mi screamed. She had been so enthralled by Yohan that she hadn’t noticed a zombie lying on the ground until it suddenly grabbed her ankle. She fell to the ground screaming. The zombie crawled closer and bit her thigh.
“Ahh! Mr. Yohan!” she cried out urgently. Yohan, who was already further ahead, turned casually and looked right into her eyes.
‘Please help me.’ Jung Mi’s eyes pleaded to him in this brief glance. But Yohan ignored her and continued smashing through the zombies, his expression unchanged. She could only stare at his back, which looked cold and distant.
“If you can’t keep up, I’ll ditch you. If things get dangerous, don’t expect me to stick my neck out to rescue you.”
Yohan’s words echoed in her mind. Jung Mi tried to shake off the terror slowly engulfing her. Yohan hadn’t just been trying to scare her.
‘He really meant it when he said that.’
Tears began to swell in Jung Mi’s eyes. She didn’t know if she was crying out of fear or sorrow. The zombie was still clinging to her thigh and trying to move its head further up her body. The bite wound was starting to hurt more.
“Let go, you crazy bastard!” Jung Mi cursed, as she swung her knife at the zombie’s head.
“Hiya!” She swung with all her might, but the knife glanced off its skull. Her hands tingled as if she had struck a stone. The zombie growled loudly and continued crawling over her. It didn’t seem to enjoy trying to bite through her tough pants and was trying to find some exposed skin to sink its teeth into.
Jung Mi screamed again and swung wildly. Through sheer luck, the knife embedded itself into the left side of the zombie’s head. The zombie snapped at Jung Mi but couldn’t move closer with the knife stuck in its head. A disgusting hot and sticky substance, too horrific to describe with words, oozed out of its mouth and spilled all over her face.
Finally, the zombie stopped struggling and Jung Mi was able to shove it off of her. She crawled to the edge of the road and vomited. After emptying her whole dinner from her stomach, Jung Mi wiped her eyes and mouth and looked for Yohan. She saw him a good distance away.
‘I have to go after him.’
Jung Mi wasn’t confident in surviving if the distance between them grew any further. One of her slippers had been pulled off during the struggle. She put it back on and began running towards Yohan. When she caught up to him, Yohan took out some wet wipes and handed one to her. Jung Mi nodded curtly as she accepted the tissue.
“Were you bitten?”
“I—I’m not sure.”
“Does it hurt anywhere?”
Yohan’s expression darkened. There wasn’t any blood around her thigh, but he had to check whether there was a wound or not.
“Please take it off.”
“Excuse me?” Jung Mi’s face turned beet red.
“Now is not the time to be embarrassed. If we don’t check for infection, not only you, but the people around you will be in danger.”
Jung Mi got the feeling that if she didn’t immediately follow his instructions, Yohan might attack her. There was a subtle look of hostility in his eyes. Jung Mi bit her lips and lowered her jeans. Yohan examined her thigh. There was a bite impression there, but no blood. The thick denim had saved her. After Yohan was satisfied, Jung Mi pulled up her pants, her face still red.
“Do you resent me?”
Jung Mi didn’t answer. She would be lying if she said that her feelings weren’t hurt. Yohan definitely ignored her even though he was fully capable of rescuing her. However, it was also true that he had already warned her that he wouldn’t risk anything to help her. Jung Mi didn’t know what she should be feeling right now.
“Either way, well done. It’s commendable that you didn’t wet yourself. It’s always hard the first time, but you’ll get used to it,” Yohan said, with a grin. To him, Jung Mi had successfully taken the first step towards survival.
For some reason, Jung Mi took his praise adversely and looked as if she was going to tear up. Yohan ignored her strange reaction and made haste once again. Their journey became much easier after making it through the swarm. It didn’t look like the outbreak had reached this area yet.
‘I guess we should split up here.’ Yohan thought to himself. He had to ditch Jung Mi eventually. Once the outbreak reached a certain point, it would be easier to separate those who had what it took to survive and those who did not. Once that happened, Yohan planned to search for comrades to help him achieve his goals. It was still too early to do that now.
To Yohan, the current Jung Mi was a burden. She was still clueless about the whole situation, even though she had come close to guessing the truth and had questioned him about the zombies. Of course, he told her that he didn’t know anything.
“Miss Jung Mi, let’s split up here.”
“Didn’t I tell you before? We won’t stick together forever. Thankfully, it looks like the outbreak hasn’t reached this area yet, so you should be okay on your own. Still, be careful.”
“No, but how…” Jung Mi was about to ask him how he could be so cold, but the words didn’t get the chance to leave her mouth.
“Where are you going in Incheon?”
“I have to go to Guwol-dong.”
“That’s far,” Yohan muttered, more to himself than Jung Mi. “Is there someone you know in Incheon?”
“I have family there. My mom, dad, and younger sister.”
“Ah, you have people to protect.”
“Mr. Yohan, do you…”
“You already know the answer.”
His former co-workers all knew his family history. A while back, during a drinking party, he had shared his family history with Deputy Manager Moon. Then, when everyone was enjoying the bar’s side dishes, Deputy Moon told everyone else about Yohan’s personal life.
‘I was a real idiot in my past life.’
Of course, Sung Chul Moon was more to blame. Yohan didn’t even know that everyone knew until much later.
Yohan’s parents had divorced when he was young. Yohan had no other relatives and spent his childhood alone under the care of his church’s pastor. Both his parents remarried and didn’t bother looking for him. Not once. Of course, Yohan didn’t seek them out either. He never held a grudge against them. Thinking about it now, they had given him a better chance at survival.
Because he had nothing to protect.
When someone has something to protect, their chances of survival decreased proportionally to the weight of the responsibilities they shouldered.
“Well, I’m off. You have somewhere to go and so do I. Good luck, stay safe.”
“Um, Mr. Yohan.”
“Could you maybe tell me the address of the place you’re going to? If I find my family, maybe you could take us in…”
“No, I can’t.”
“…You’re quite resolute.”
Jung Mi didn’t know how to react. Yohan’s response was immediate. Blunt, but not impolite. She shook her head.
“If we happen to live and meet again by chance…I mean, surviving together at that point…would that be ok?”
Yohan had already turned to leave, but turned back to give her a nod. He was actually more concerned about giving away the address of his shelter. He wanted to point out that it was the stupidest thing a survivor could do. He decided to give her some advice. It was a superficial gesture, but it did help to relieve some of his guilt in rejecting her in her time of need.
“Don’t reveal to the location of your camp to strangers and don’t write it down anywhere either.”
“Just listen carefully, engrave this on your soul. If there are too many people grouped together, a zombie wave will come. If you feel that the group is getting too big and its fighting power isn’t comparable to its size,” Yohan paused as he looked at Jung Mi’s bewildered expression, but then continued, hoping that his words would save her one day, “be sure to leave that group immediately.”
There were just some things that you couldn’t know about the zombie apocalypse without experiencing them first. When most people think of zombies, they can surmise some general rules using common sense. However, there are other rules that one would only learn after losing their entire camp and team members several times.
Of those, the first rule would affect Jung Mi the most. The first golden rule that everyone in the previous timeline eventually learned in order to survive: When a large number of people gathered in one location for a long period of time, a zombie wave would definitely come. A zombie wave, a phenomenon where a large number of zombies become concentrated in one place.
When a large number of people settle down in place for a long period of time, countless zombies will end up flocking there. Yohan eventually ruled that the maximum capacity of a camp was 20 people. Additionally, more than half the camp must be able to fight. No more than 20 people, and at least 10 combatants.
He had nothing to support his rule of 20. There was no hard evidence, but there was his experience. Camps that broke the rule rarely lasted more than a month.
Seeing that he had nothing more to add, Jung Mi took her leave. Yohan simply watched her determined figure walk away.
* * *
At a convenience store in the center of Kkachiul town, a part-time worker was staring at a TV with a grim expression. The TV was broadcasting some grave news. No matter which channel the worker flipped to, only breaking news filled the screen. Yohan coughed, interrupting the worker.
“I don’t think now is the time for you to be doing that. Don’t you think you should head home?”
“That’s… how are things out there right now?”
“Things look fine for now, but traffic is congested and it’s a bit of a mess out there. If you don’t leave soon…” Yohan trailed off on purpose. Anxiety filled the part-timer’s eyes. The bloodstains all over Yohan’s clothes probably made him even more anxious.
The part-timer had already been feeling restless for some time now. He bit his lips, left the checkout counter, and began changing out of his work clothes. Yohan made sure that he was out of the part-timer’s sight before taking some plastic bags and filling them up with various products. He swiped any and every product he saw, whether that was food, household supplies, or medicine. They all probably had some use somewhere.
— Ω —
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