Neither of them said a word. Nor did they look at each other the entire time. They just quietly walked around the room and stared at the walls.
At the back of the pit was a flowing stream. The stream was unexpectedly clear and cold. Nearby, they saw some firewood and charcoal. Bones from unknown animals were scattered around in the cooking area and a mound of torn skin was formed on one side.
A human-looking skull could also be seen. Some bones had some decaying organic matter on them. The finger bones of a young child were also present.
San punched a tree with a tight fist. A ‘Koong’ sound rang out. He dropped his head down and shouted,
“This… what kind of fucked up situation is this. So fucking disgusting.”
Biyeon quickly turned around and started throwing up.
The two spent half a day cleaning the inside of the pit. They burned and then buried the disgusting, unmentionable items within the pit. They also cleaned off all the writings on the wall. They tilled the ground inside the pit and re-flattened the surface.
They thought of escaping, but it didn’t seem correct to do that at the moment. They didn’t know how strong their enemy was. They needed to find out their enemy’s strength. One inescapable fact was that their enemy was strong. Additionally, the enemy seemed to possess power beyond what they could understand with their common sense.
Biyeon looked through her supply bag and found her notebook and pen. She realized what she needed to do. There was no way to understand this world with her common sense and current knowledge. If San was to provide the brute force for their survival, she needed to use her mind to do the same.
She was about to write with her pen but decided to put it back into the pencil case. She then took out a mechanical pencil.
She opened the top of the pencil and found the pencil filled with lead. Since she was planning to write her thoughts, rather than record something, a mechanical pencil would be more appropriate than a pen. She should only use the pen if she was sure about something, as she needed to ration her materials.
She wrote down a to-do list. She made a list of what needed to be done first and a list of what supplies needed to be gathered. The basics of her communication’s specialty dictated that a current summary of events and analysis be thoroughly written down, along with what additional information was needed. She also wrote down a variety of possible hypotheses. She needed to confirm these hypotheses first. She left the pit with her notebook and walked toward San.
San worked without taking a break. He was chewing on a piece of field ration beef jerky while moving on to the next task. He didn’t know what foodstuff was available in the area. He needed to find a source of edible food just in case. Scouring through an area outside the pit, he focused on observing the vegetation. All special forces members must specialize in one of five different areas. One of those areas was the recognition of edible and inedible plants and poisons. As a Captain, San was well-versed in all five areas. However, San’s training and knowledge was worthless, as there was no recognizable vegetation that grew in this area. This meant that he couldn’t discern among edible, inedible, or poisonous plants.
He first looked for fruits. After nearly two hours of scrutinizing plants and fruits, he found a few fruit-bearing plants that seemed edible. If all the fruits were edible, it would provide a good alternative food source. Then, the probability of survival would rise. Next, with his field shovel, he dug down into the roots of various plants, hoping to find a plant with developed roots. After spending half the day, he found plants that grew something similar to finger potatoes and radishes.
“Let’s finish today with this,” muttered San to himself, as he walked back towards the cooking area in the pit.
“Hmm, this smell? It smells pretty savory and good! She must know her way around the kitchen.”
He saw her preparing a meal nearby a flowing stream. She must have taken out foodstuff outside of the MRE rations. Red pepper paste, sesame leaves, and instant rice. She must have chosen to first eat the foodstuff that would go bad the quickest.
They made a pretty good team. He would be hard pressed to find a military team member who didn’t need orders for every action. She was someone who could recognize what’s important and do it. The army inevitably made soldiers into cogs that would fit into the larger machine. Soldiers needed to refrain from personal thought and dutifully follow a chain of command. This sort of training ultimately killed off the creative and independent part of an individual. San always thought this was a problem in the Korean army.
Luckily, Biyeon wasn’t one of those cog-like soldiers and knew how to independently think for herself. This wasn’t a time to ration for rations-sake. They needed to eat well to support their energy level. In times of high stress and nervousness, it’s especially important to take in proper nutrition to gain confidence and think correctly.
“I see you’ve finished the day’s work,” she said as she finished her meal preparation. The darkness of night was quickly descending down.
“Yeah… it’s time to call it a day.”
Deviation – Chapter 7
The evening sky in this world is beautiful. Billowy clouds glowed red in the sunset, and the beauty of the darkening blue sky could take one’s breath away. Unlike yesterday, stars also dimly appeared in the dusk sky.
San had a blank expression. With his mouth tightly closed, he gazed at the spectacular sunset. Biyeon wanted to strike up a conversation, but she wasn't sure what to say. She also looked at the sunset with her arms wrapped around her raised knees.
The sun set against the backdrop of the mountain range’s ice cap. A large sun, three times larger than the sun she lived under her whole life, slowly fell behind the mountain range. A lightly crimson colored cloud floated between the sky and the earth. From the bottom of the bamboo forest, the darkness rose up like knife blades, consuming the light as if the darkness had waited for its turn. The large-scale movement of darkness taking over the visible surrounding gave the illusion that the world was being consumed.
Biyeon glanced at San. They were both very confused. They forgot about everything by keeping themselves busy during the day, but whenever there was spare time to think and reflect, the fear and confusion of their predicament seeped in.
For the first time, she was experiencing true solitude. Both were feeling how terrifying this lonely solitude was. Could they have ever imagined it? Living in a world they hardly understood, the anxiety that came with an uncertain tomorrow, and the constant fear of never truly feeling safe. Even one of these situations could drive a person mad.
“Are you very confused?”
“I'd like to plan something out, but I can’t think of anything. I don't even know what to do tomorrow,” she replied while shaking her head.
She turned her head. San was lighting a cigarette while facing forward. The cigarette smoke was instantly scattered from the blowing winds.
“Which direction is that dusk setting?”
“That would be the west,” replied Biyeon without much thought.
“Can you prove it? In this place, the axis of the planet could turn in the opposite direction, right? Then the setting sun could be the east. Or even the south.”
“Um…" she murmured with widening eyes.
“Lieutenant Kim, I have one rule. I don't believe 100% of any information. If the information was scraped from the head of a person behind a desk who doesn't know the smell of the battlefield, I don't believe even 1% of what that person says. Furthermore, I only believe in 50% of what others tell me personally.”
“Do you know why?”
“It's the same as a game of telephone. Reconnaissance observations are inherently uncertain, words that are conveyed from one person to another are more uncertain, and my ability to comprehend what I’m listening to is even more uncertain. In the end, I fill in 99% of the information to conjure an image in my head. And with my level of elementary creativity and imagination, that doesn’t mean much.”
“In the end, the uncertainty is withdrawn only when I verify something myself. I believe in experience more than knowledge. Especially if my life and those I work with hinges on the accuracy of information for an operation! I will never act on even the smallest uncertainty without first checking it out myself.”
“Lieutenant Kim, the same principle applies here. We…… Let's approach things slowly here. Let’s go as slow as possible. I want to rush things too, but what good would a rushed judgement bring? Let’s observe for now. We can only rely on ourselves in gathering information, as there’s no proper intelligence we can rely on. If one prepares for an operation under the wrong premise and with insufficient intelligence, the result will be obviously poor."
“I'm sorry for saying this so bluntly, but the battle doesn't happen in front of a desk.”
San threw his cigarette into the campfire.
“This is a place where common sense is already broken. How accurate is our judgement, which relies on past standards, when the familiar rules of the world we know are incorrect? Don’t you agree that what we need right now is not ‘theory’ but ‘data’?”
Biyeon looked at San’s face with an unexpected look. Her face became red. It wasn’t only due to being dyed by the dusk sunset.
San rose slowly from his seat. There was still a lot of work left to do. He picked up the field shovel that he placed next to him, tapped encouragingly on Biyeon's shoulders, and added another word.
“Hey! Don’t be in a rush. There's nothing urgent here. There’s no one else pressuring us to do anything. Let’s take it easy. If you wrap yourself in unnecessary worries and concerns, you’ll get sick. There's no medicine for that, right?”
San started his evening work. He already had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish. Nights spent in an area without electricity are long. It’s also the time when one was the most defenseless. He didn’t know if lighting a fire tonight would be poison or medicine, but in any case, it’d be better than struggling alone in the darkness.
First off, he meticulously reinforced the pit by stacking large stones around the pit entrance. By stacking stones here and there, he reinforced the maze-like structure. Inside the pit, the dry grass and firewood he harvested during the day were placed strategically to provide firewood for the fire and also double as a makeshift fence. In the middle, a bonfire doubled as an oven and as a source of lighting. The top of the pit was covered with a tent canvas to block out the light from the fire.
“Hmm, this should be enough from being recognized from the air. Since there’s only the two of us, we can’t stand watch over the fire overnight.”
As the sun set, the area around the pit quickly became dark. Biyeon lit the oven that San made. The sap from the trees seemed somewhat greasy and flammable, allowing the firewood to catch fire easily. It was a temporary oven arranged in an elongated manner, as it focused on emitting light more so than centralizing heat. While lighting the fire, she closely watched San at work.
‘Still, I should be thankful.’ Compared to his rough language, he was very meticulous in his work. She unexpectedly felt his consideration in his actions.