San used so much force that his face flushed red. His knife swung down and stabbed the vertical grain of the bamboo. There wasn’t even a small scratch. If he gave it a little more strength, the knife wouldn’t be able to withstand it. He shook his head. Curses started flowing out of his mouth.
‘This is why I probably won’t be able to escape.’
Weapons for defense was one thing, but if he couldn’t penetrate this bamboo forest, which stood like a wall, he couldn’t even imagine escaping. There were gaps between the bamboo trees, but they weren’t wide enough for a person to pass. This type of bamboo growth seemed to be a kind that clogs open space as it grows. His face became darker.
San put the bayonet away. It was the only weapon he had outside of his rifle and handgun. He would find things more difficult if his bayonet knife were to break. In its place, he took out his field shovel. He started digging under the bamboo tree. The ground gave way and allowed him to shovel fairly easily. However, although he dug more than 2 meters down, the hard bamboo wood was still blocking his forward progress. At this rate, he would never be able to dig a tunnel underneath unless he dug at least 5 meters down.
He dug the ground for over two hours, but there was no hope. As he became more convinced that this approach was impossible, his annoyance soared. It seemed as if he could hear someone laughing at him. A few tears came out.
“Am I digging my own grave?”
He clenched his teeth and raised his field shovel. With all his might, he struck the bamboo tree. Afterwards, mixing all kinds of swear words, he started kicking the bamboo as if he had met an enemy.
“E-Euck” he swallowed down hard, preventing himself from screaming. He dropped his shovel and fell down on his knees. Holding both hands, he fell down onto the ground and curled like a shrimp Suddenly, his arms started boiling. It was as if his arms were dipped in boiling water. The pain soon spread all over his body. He tried to calm his wildly beating heart, but the burning pain ebbed and flowed across his whole body. He couldn't even scream and rolled around on the ground.
His pain gradually subsided. He was sweating and breathing raggedly.
“What the hell is this? What happened to my body?”
San stretched his neck left and right. He touched various parts of his body. It didn’t seem like anything was wrong with his body.
He turned to the bamboo, blinking his eyes in surprise.
The solid bamboo tree was torn up, revealing its white, inner flesh…
Episode 1. Book 2: Unravelling – Chapter 3
San touched the rough, splintered section of the inner bamboo with his hand. He felt warmth from the roughly cut wood. He looked at his shovel. The tip of the shovel was slightly bent. He touched the blade tip with his hand and felt warmth, as if it was recently heated.
“Uh… What happened just now? How did I easily dig into the bamboo?”
He tilted his head, lifted the field shovel again, and struck hard at the bamboo. The shovel just bounced off. There were only a few scratches on the wood, but no meaningful results.
“That's weird,” muttered San with a serious face.
Again, he looked at where the bamboo was dug in. He was trying to understand the source of this power. He instinctively knew that this power held the key to their survival. He tried to reproduce the previous situation. Spending nearly two hours trying to reproduce the results, San wasn’t able to make any headway. The bamboo was still hard and didn’t allow the shovel to make any meaningful marks.
‘Then what was it? Is someone playing a joke on me?’
After nearly three hours wrestling with this problem, San threw his shovel onto the ground. Blisters had formed on his hands. Again, a terrible sense of helplessness came upon him. Hopelessness and irritation. Tears came out again.
He frustratingly punched a bamboo tree with his fist. Thump- enough to make a sound.
San opened his eyes wide in pain and astonishment. The sharp pain flashed through his body, starting from the knuckles on his fist, up his arms, and throughout his shoulders. The pain swept past his body in a moment. His whole body fluttered and spasmed in its aftermath.
With eyes narrowed, he slowly turned to the bamboo. The spot where his fist hit caved inward. San touched his fist and started looking to see if he was hurt. There seemed to be no major abnormality in the joints of his fingers or on the knuckles of his hands.
San scratched his back, took out a cigarette, and sat down. While leaning against the bamboo tree, he started smoking, white cigarette smoke slowly billowing into the air.
“Despair. Frustration. Annoyance. Desperation... what else was I feeling just now?”
After sitting for a while and reflecting on his previous state-of-mind, he picked up a small stone next to him. It was a fairly solid stone. He placed the stone inside the palm of his hand and curled his fingers inward. He stared at the sky for a while with his mouth closed and then opened his fist. Fine white powder flowed through his fingers. After sitting in place for a while, he picked up his field shovel and bayonet knife and then turned to the pit. He started mumbling,
“Unconsciousness. Concentration. And…” The blood near his mouth, which had flowed when he went berserk, was now smeared, dried, and caked onto his face. However, San had on a mischievous grin.
They finished their second dinner since their arrival. They ate until they were full, but it was never a pleasant meal.
They had found small, edible beans that resembled soybeans, so they decided to ground and boil them into a porridge. Thinly sliced roots were put into the porridge. The porridge was bland and had an unfamiliar scent, like the smell of grass, but it was passable since it was for their survival. After their meal, they ate sweet fruit. Though they had quite a few military rations, Biyeon stressed that they should save these long-term shelf life items for emergencies. That is, unless they gave up on escaping.
“Well, the meal worked out, but is there any way to get salt? Maybe we can ferment something to make a type of vinegar," stated San.
“I'll try making it tomorrow,” answered Biyeon with a similarly unsatisfied visage.
"The beans were okay, but were there a lot?"
"There weren’t many."
“Yeah? Try to gather as much as you can tomorrow.”
Another night was approaching. The appearance of dark clouds in the sky seemed to allude to imminent rain. San was rechecking the area around the pit in case of heavy rain and reorganized their supplies. With constant vigilance, he scanned the darkening surroundings.
The two sat face to face and exchanged opinions on what they did today, what was investigated, and what new information was gathered. Inside the rather large pit, a temporary oil lantern was dimly lit, lighting up the two of them.
“Starting from tomorrow, I think we’ll have to start physical training. Do you know any martial arts skills?”
“I’m level 4 in Taekwondo and was an archery athlete.”
“Good. How about swimming?”
“I know how to swim.”
“Good. We don’t know what to expect here, so I think it's necessary to increase our fighting power. Let's start training in earnest from tomorrow.”
“Okay, but...” Biyeon paused and hesitated.
“It'll be a bit difficult for me for a few days. And I have a request. That’s...” Biyeon said with a confused expression.
“Do you have any spare underwear?”
“Top or bottom?”
“Top,” Biyeon replied with a small voice. Her face turned red.
San silently went through his supplies and threw two undershirts toward Biyeon.
“They’re new. Two should be enough.”
“Did you bring some thread and needle?”
“It’ll be a good idea for us to save everything. Don’t throw away anything because it’s embarrassing. We don’t know what purpose something may serve later on.”
“By the way, it looks like a big storm will be coming in... huh?”
The two screamed from fright at the same time. A sound rang out from something that they thought would never work here. An artificial light was flickering in the darkness.
Episode 1. Book 2: Unravelling – Chapter 4
The rain was pouring down like a tropical monsoon.
Water dripped from the ceiling of the pit to the floor, creating a loud sound.
Inside the dark pit, the two leaned against a wall and looked at the gloomy conditions outside while immersed in their own thoughts. There were two entrances to the pit, one in the left and one in the right. In the middle of the left corridor entrance, a hole was dug, and a small bonfire was lit to provide warmth, like a furnace.
The two were facing each other on opposite sides of the corridor wall. He gazed toward the outside, where the rain was pouring down in seemingly continuous lines, like a spilled bottle of ink. He had already spent an hour in this state.
“This is... what the hell is this situation? This must be a dream. Actually, it’s probably a nightmare,” he muttered quietly to himself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter