She could see him walk towards her. She turned her flashlight on and moved it in a figure eight motion to signal her location. Having watched San wandering for the past hour and only now starting to return, she felt a sense of nervousness creep in. She saw his rough façade looking at her while giving a shrug.
“There’s no way out. We’re in a nasty situation. Let’s light a fire here and wait. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll send out a search and rescue team and find us.”
They gathered branches and dried leaves and set it on fire with San’s lighter. Since the branches were still wet, the fire caused a lot of smoke, but the fire was still fairly strong.
The two of them could only stare at each other across the fire. Though they were slightly awkward staring at each other, they didn’t consider it inappropriate…
There was the strong and firm San and the graceful Biyeon, who could be considered pretty for a female soldier.
“We’re lucky to have survived. In the end, I guess I’ll still be taking the role as training advisor. Let’s rest for now.”
He lightly tossed out the words to allay her concerns. He felt an obligation as a man, more so than a ranking officer, to take care of the woman in front of him. Biyeon didn’t show any response and continued to stare at the fire. However, her thoughts were complicated. She was wondering how she got to this place. Additionally, her discontent towards the man in front of her started to rise.
She glanced at her watch again.
The watch was operating normally. It showed 03:20 earlier and was now showing a time a little past 04:20. She recalled that he searched the area for about an hour, so the flow of time seemed to be correct. Exactly what happened while she was unconscious? She couldn’t get used to the scenery around the fire, which was somewhat visible from the flickering light from the fire. She saw him suddenly get up and bring his supply bag. He took each item out and checked for damage. After his supply check, he went through all of his body gear. It seemed like he wasn’t going to rest anytime soon.
He reviewed his supplies: an officer's notebook, 2 books, toiletries, sleeping bag, air pillow, tent, poncho, spare combat clothing and sweatshirts, leather gloves, towels, special rations, running shoes, a mobile phone with PDA and MP3 capabilities, a recent version rifle, 5 magazines with live ammunition, 10 pistol magazines, field shovel, bayonet, Victorinox multi-purpose knife with magnifier, compass, field shovel, water bottle, two packs of C4, 20 grenades, 2 disposable lighters, and a carton of cigarettes.
For a Captain’s military supply, this level of preparation was very good. As a Captain, he understood that he needed to set an example for the other soldiers in the unit. As a training run, he recognized that he’d have to somewhat overpack to remedy the deficiencies of those he was appointed to command.
After thoroughly looking over his supplies, San picked up his field shovel and found a relatively flat surface nearby the fire. Though the ground was riddled with tree roots and rocks, he found that the roots easily gave way after applying some force and the rocks easily crumbled.
He placed a large leaf on the flat ground and then placed his poncho on top. He then set up a tent and dug around the tent to collect and displace any runoff water.
With the preparations done, he felt that the tent would at least shelter them from the elements. Though Biyeon had a disgruntled expression, she quietly helped San with the preparations. These preparations took about an hour. There were no signs of a search and rescue team. Actually, there were no sounds around them at all, either from birds, insects, or water. The heavens and the earth were viciously silent. This absolute silence heightened their nervousness. Perhaps this thought was why they were focused so much on their preparations.
“Lieutenant Kim, rest first. I’ll stand post and man the fire until daybreak.”
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Then get your supplies in order. There’s nothing left for you to do here.”
“Captain Kang, where do you think we are?”
“I don’t know. The map seems to indicate that we’re nearby the city of Pohang in the Angang region of Northern Gyeongsang-do Province, but looking at the vegetation, I have no idea. I don’t even recognize most of the vegetation here. I won’t be sure until daylight breaks in the area.”
“I can’t understand either, sir. Also, the climate…”
“Lieutenant Kim, what is your specialty?”
“I’m a communications and intelligence specialist, sir. Currently, I’ve been assigned as an intelligence officer for the Combined Forces Command (CFC).”
“What’s so good about the army that made you join? You could have died today?”
“It’s not something I want to state, sir. Also...” said Biyeon while looking coldly at San.
“Rather than these unnecessary questions, sir, I believe you owe me an apology! Don’t you agree? Due to your assault, I almost broke my neck. I’m still bleeding from my mouth after biting down hard on my tongue. If I don’t understand the reasoning for your actions, I’ll have to follow military rules and bring this up to the military courts.”
“Assault? Military rules and courts?”
“No matter what mistake I may have made, it could only be viewed as an accident on my part, sir. I do not believe that my actions necessitated such a violent, life threatening reaction from you. Also, didn’t you slap me to wake me up earlier? Isn’t that sexual harassment and assault?”
Biyeon lay one accusation after another.
The more she thought of what happened, the angrier she became. Even in this situation, where their lives were in danger, there was a person who used violence rather than reason. At that critical moment, rather than trying to protect his junior, he used force and threatened her life. She thought that he was one of those sadistic officers that indulged in torturing his subordinates. She detested these types. She was just looking at her surroundings to find a landing approach and remedy her predicament but was violently assaulted instead. Assaulting a woman nonetheless! The more she recalled, the more her anger rose.
“Hey… Lieutenant Kim!”
When San called out, Biyeon unconsciously snapped her head back into an attention position. It was a form of instinct that was drilled into her. San had spoken softly but with force. She heard the seriousness and something deeply unsettling in his voice.
“Watch your words, soldier. You have quite a thick face. Before bringing up military rules, the courts, or whatever bullshit you’re conjuring out of thin air, first ask yourself, did your actions cause a life-threatening situation?”
“I understand, sir. But…”
“I’m not sure if you recall, but as you were descending, you put yourself in a precarious situation by pulling down on both take-lines, causing us to come into contact. This action in itself threatened not only your life but the lives of those around you. You mentioned assault? Let me ask you this. Once our parachute lines became intertwined, do you recall trying to open your emergency parachute?”
“I-I… recall, sir.”
She specifically recalled trying to open her emergency parachute, as this was what she was taught to do when in an emergency. She was hit in the head as she was trying to do this.
“Which mother fucker told you to do that?” barked San as he stared at Biyeon as if she was pathetic.
“T-That’s…” stuttered Biyeon. Was what she learned incorrect? Did she learn incorrectly? Thinking back on it now, she wasn’t confident if she was following the proper protocol.
“Hey, spring chicken. Listen carefully. The emergency parachute should only be used in case the main parachute doesn’t deploy. If you deploy the emergency chute when your main chute is open, then they’ll intertwine before the emergency chute can even expand. You’ll die like a dog. What you tried to do, Lieutenant, is exactly that. I wouldn’t have minded too much if you were going to dig your own grave, but I didn’t want you to take me down with you. That’s why I hit you so hard and knocked you out. Thankfully, knocking you unconscious gave me the opportunity to unravel our lines. Does that suffice as an explanation?”
“And what, why did I slap you? You’re a female soldier, so I was considerate enough to try and shake you awake by your shoulders, but you were showing no signs of consciousness, with your head flopping around. You tell me what I should have done. Grab your chest? Hit your gut? Kiss your lips?”
“The only reasonable place I could think of was your face. There’s no misunderstanding that could arise, though you may feel a little ashamed. In my own way, I put a lot of thought into my actions! If you were a male, I would have hit you hard enough to bring you from consciousness back to unconsciousness.”
“…” Biyeon had her mouth slightly open while staring at San. She recalled what unfolded earlier as if it were a recording on a constant loop. Her face flushed red with embarrassment. If it wasn’t for the light from the fire, her face would be a sight to see. She lowered her head to the ground. She totally misinterpreted what had happened. She had made a critical mistake, and not only once but twice. Not only this, she threw a tantrum at the person who had saved her life. She became silent for an uncomfortable period of time before opening her mouth.”
“Sir, I’m sor…”
“Ah, something’s just off.”
Before she could say anything, San cut her off. He scratched his head, put on his helmet, and quickly stood on his feet. He picked up his field shovel and walked towards a nearby tree.
‘Well… no one would be happy after getting knocked out,’ he thought while walking towards the tree.
San touched the trunk of a tree that had a circumference about the size of his forearm and pushed. The tree gave out a ‘tu-tu-dook’ sound and gave way, pulling the tree right out from the roots before the trunk snapped.
He tilted his head to get a better look. It definitely looked like a tree, but he felt as if he was pulling out some weeds. With both hands, he brought up the trunk. It was light. With his bayonet knife, he started hitting the branches. A sticky fluid started pouring from the trunk where the branches used to be. He shifted the tree trunk like a stick, looking at it from different angles, before grabbing it with both hands and applying pressure.
With a ‘snap’ sound, the trunk easily broke. Though he applied blunt, brute force, the tree trunk neatly snapped in two like a cucumber, leaving a clean cut.
“Hmm, I felt it when I was hacking through the brush, but the trees here are really brittle and have a lot of moisture in them. They’re not good for any type of woodworking. Is this large tree the same?”
He went towards a larger tree right next to the former tree, looked at it up and down, and then started pushing onto it. The tree gave out a ‘bu-du-duk’ sound as the roots came out of the soil and the tree leaned towards the direction he pushed.Previous Chapter Next Chapter