The empty lot was quiet. Apart from the crackling sound of the bonfire and the sound of crickets chirping, it was quiet enough to be able to hear people breathing.
A handsome young man finally broke the awkward silence.
“I have a question.”
Although he raised his hand to ask for permission like Seol Jihu, Phi Sora answered with a hard no.
“Answer my question first. You sure you’re speaking after listening to everything, right?”
“Yes or no. Answer clearly. Are you sure you’ve thought things through after hearing those two idiots’ conversation and my warnings?”
The young man slowly lowered his hand, scared from her cold and intense stare.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Phi Sora roughly wiped her face. Her impatience started to show up in her expression.
‘I’m supposed to keep as many of them alive as possible and send them to the Neutral Zone…’
Because that would increase the number of people they could get Survival Points out of. In other words, it was less a matter of responsibility and more a matter of saving face.
“You’re driving me insane. Listen, are you that eager to die? Does this situation seem like some B-rated survival movie scene to you?”
“Of course I don’t want to die. I don’t see the situation that way either.”
The young man’s words carried a peculiar confidence in it. Phi Sora clicked her tongue.
“If you’re swayed by the whole reward thing, wake up. As I said before, this stage wasn’t made for you.”
“I did hear that.”
“If you heard it then why… Phew. Listen. Even the Basic Tutorial isn’t easy. Once we get to the third stage, at least half of the people here will have failed. In the first place, there is only one Invited and the rest are all Contracted. I don’t understand why you’re so confident.”
“Because I’m a Contracted, just like you said. Maybe it’s better to stay in the place that the Invited chose.”
Phi Sora scoffed.
“Bullshit. Even I’m busy minding my own business here. Do you think there are many Invited that would help because you ask them so? Plus, this stage was opened because those two fulfilled some unreasonable conditions. I’m sure they’d feel great about others making a profit out of it!”
“If that’s what you think, then I apologize. I didn’t mean that they had to help necessarily.”
Although Phi Sora spat out words at him like a machine gun, the young man calmly answered.
“But anyway, don’t we also have the right to choose? Just as you said, Miss Guide.”
He was speaking politely but did not lose an inch.
“Also, I heard that the Guide has no authority to force us.”
Phi Sora’s face slightly twitched. The Guide could not say much in situations like this.
“So you’re saying the Guide should only guide.”
“We’ll deal with this ourselves so just say what you’ve got to say and get lost. That’s what you mean, right?”
“I didn’t say that. I apologize if I’ve upset you.”
The young man said with a bright smile. It did not seem like the attitude of someone apologizing at all.
“I also think it’s better for you people to proceed with the basic tutorial.”
Seol Jihu, after silently watching all this time, stepped in. Even for him, it was better to proceed separately from the Contracted. That way, he could focus his attention on Eun Yuri, and he would not have to be concerned with the Contracted messing things up as they roamed around. Of course, there was a sense of invasion as Phi Sora said. After all, this Special Tutorial hidden piece was something that was activated by Eun Yuri and his existence.
“The Guide has the role of keeping as many people alive as possible and sending them all to the Neutral Zone safely. When we say, ‘don’t do this,’ there is a good reason for it.”
That was why Seol Jihu tried to persuade them to go back.
The young man’s expression turned strange.
“Ah, of course, I am grateful that you opened this special stage. And I understand that you want to keep it to yourself since you’re the first one to find it.”
The young man spoke loudly.
“But as I said earlier, we have the right to choose.”
He claimed the right of choice while speaking loudly for everyone to hear.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking you to take care of us in the Special Tutorial. All I’m saying is that we have the right to make our own decisions.”
The man had a rather glib tongue. With only a few words, he emphasized the value of the space that Phi Sora guaranteed and made it sound like Seol Jihu was trying to monopolize it.
The man’s intentions were clear. It was obvious from the way he asked for approval and support from people around him, asking, “Don’t you think so? Everyone?”
The underlying intention was to leave as many as people as possible in this stage and take control over them.
“It’s still dangerous no matter whether you stay here or go there. But in the end, it’s just the Tutorial. It can’t be harder than the next Neutral Zone stage, right?”
Seol Jihu could not help but laugh hearing the statement, “It’s just the Tutorial.”
“I think it would be better for me to stay here risking the danger and taking it easy in the Neutral Zone rather than suffering in the Neutral Zone after proceeding with the Basic Tutorial. Therefore, I’m going to stay.”
Seeing as how he understood the situation to a certain degree, he must have paid attention to the explanation he was given. This would normally be a praiseworthy thing, but in this case, it only made the situation worse for him.
But no matter what, the fact that the young man would not change his mind. In the end, all his words were out of ignorance.
“It’s time to wake up and stop dreaming.”
At that moment Phi Sora jumped in.
“I was sharing useful insights out of kindness, but what? Hah, alright, fine. Do whatever you want.”
Phi Sora stopped glaring at the young man and turned back to Seol Jihu.
“You stop too, dear. No matter what you say they won’t listen if they’re so dogged. Once they experience it themselves, they’ll finally understand, ‘Ah, I fucked up!’”
Maintaining her mocking behavior filled with anger, Phi Sora furiously stared up at the sky.
“You saw that, right?”
Although there was nothing up in the sky, it was obvious that her words were meant for the Earthlings who were watching the Tutorial currently.
“Listen carefully. I tried to stop them several times. Don’t you dare come at me later and ask why I didn’t stop them, or I’ll crack your heads open.”
After spitting out a threat, she took a deep breath and crossed her arms.
“Anyways, no one wants to go back? This is your last chance.”
The Contracted were still motionless.
It was possible that people with some insight on the situation could be swayed by the young man’s sweet words. Since the Guide guaranteed that a single reward would allow them to live like kings in the Neutral Zone, it made sense for them to be enthralled.
But among the clueless people, there could be at least one person who wanted to proceed with the Basic Tutorial. But because the general atmosphere was leaning toward staying in the Special Tutorial, it definitely would not be easy to speak up. After all, sticking with a large crowd definitely seemed safer than proceeding alone.
It was a simple crowd mentality. Of course, many of them were likely hoping to strike it rich as well.
“Alright, then I’m not going to ask anymore. And the same goes for you guys. You better not say nonsense like, ‘why didn’t you stop us?’ And don’t go asking those two, ‘Why did you activate this space?’”
After growling at the crowd, Phi Sora started to call people one by one and threw invitation letters at them. Soon, dozens of leather bags fell from the sky. Phi Sora took out her cell phone after delivering some formal guiding announcements.
“Thursday, March 22nd, 2018. Area 1.”
She pressed the screen.
“Starting the Tutorial’s stage 1, ‘Island Escape’.”
She announced the start of the Tutorial with a cold voice.
Bzzz! Phones all over the place vibrated.
Seol Jihu subconsciously looked back at Eun Yuri, then realized his mistake and turned back to the bonfire. However, Phi Sora was already gone, and so was the portal.
‘Was she given a teleportation Authority?’
Seol Jihu left the question to be asked later and walked forward. Eun Yuri was staring at her phone screen.
[Sender: The Guide]
[1. Escape the island within the given time and gather on the way to the next island.]
[2. Time left 119:59:45]
They gave five days to escape the island when the time limit for the auditorium escape was only three hours.
Seol Jihu asked with an unsure tone of voice.
“Did the Diary of the Unknown Student, or rather Survivor, update?”
“Yes, I’ll show you.”
Just as Eun Yuri lightly pressed on her screen….
“Did everyone see the message?”
A cheerful voice filled the empty lot.
The duo’s attention automatically followed the voice. The young man who was previously refuting Phi Sora stepped up.
Once he took over the spot Phi Sora was standing at, Seol Jihu started to find the situation interesting. It seemed that the man was trying to start taking control over the crowd, but whether it would work as well as he thought remained to be seen.
After all, agitating people and rallying them were entirely separate matters.
“What does this mean? Island Escape? Do we have to escape from this island?”
The young man answered without losing the smile on his face.
“Island escape… it sounds quite tricky but don’t be afraid. Together we can all make it.”
“If we all joined our forces—”
“Excuse me, wait a second.”
“I get what you’re saying. But what are we supposed to do?”
The person who cut him off stepped up.
The young man answered, still grinning, “We should all join our forces, we can think our way through this together.”
“Wait, I thought you knew something about the situation. You talked about rewards and the Neutral Zone, didn’t you?”
“That comes after the Tutorial. Were you not given an explanation before coming here?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it. Anyways, we have a way to escape, right?”
The young man’s face slowly lost its smile. It was a moonless night, and they were on an island so dark that they were not able to see anything. Humans would naturally be frightened in such a situation.
Since the Guide disappeared and the Tutorial already started, it was only natural that the mood was getting increasingly tense.
“Can we get going? It might be just me, but this island gives me the creeps.”
Murmur, murmur. The crowd grew louder in response to a young woman’s urging.
If the young man wanted to ease the mood and earn trust from the crowd, he had to provide them with a solution that everyone could agree with.
Eun Yuri was able to do so. She understood the situation fully and she had the privilege of accessing the ‘Diary of an Unknown Survivor’, which made her capable of providing a clear direction. But what about the young man? He knew of nothing and had nothing.
“People there, quiet down.”
Someone voiced up at that moment.
“Why are you all so loud? Let the man say what he has to say.”
The young man seemed relieved. At that moment, Seol Jihu understood why the young man was so full of confidence.
‘So he had a companion.’
They could have met up beforehand to plan or they could have become allies after they entered. But one thing was sure. The person that just spoke up stood on the young man’s side.
“What did you say?”
However, it backfired.
“What, did I ever stop you? Say what you have to say. I never shut you off, did I?”
“Let’s cooperate, let’s join hands. Fine. It all sounds wonderful, but don’t make it so vague and say it clearly. We stayed because of what that man said, so we have the right to know.”
“What… Haa. No one told you to stay.”
“What did you just say? No one told us to stay?”
Soon, the crowd broke out into chaos.
“W-Wait. Let’s first get our bags!”
The young man tried to calm the situation down, but the crowd did not relax.
Seol Jihu became disappointed, having had his hopes that people would peacefully cooperate.
‘He spoke too much.’
If he showed that he was confident with his actions like Kang Seok, it would have at least been better. Bluffing could not get one too far. His extreme words to keep people into staying came back at him.
‘Once the situation gets to this stage it…’
“Aigoo~ Why are y’all fighting? What a great start we’ve got here!”
Of course, there should be one more person stepping up. After all, the crowd was made of 70 people. There was no way not a single person disapproved of the young man or saw through his intentions.
“And who are you?”
“Watch your mouth, young man… Now now, people, could I please get your attention?”
“Who are you to make us do anything?”
“Well listen. Let me first introduce myself. My name is Kim Taehyung. I’m 42 and I’m a professional hiker. Has anyone ever heard of mountaineering?”
As Seol Jihu watched the middle-aged man standing his ground and facing the young man, Seol Jihu sighed.
‘Looks like they’re going to split into two or three teams.’
Beginning to lose interest, he took the phone that Eun Yuri gave him.
#Empty Lot (Diary of the Unknown Survivor - Page 1)
I want to go back. I want to return home. I want to escape this goddamn island as soon as possible.
There was no way out. With the abrupt situation, we couldn’t do anything.
One by one, people started to speak up while everyone was frightened.
One side said we should just stay, the other side leaned towards leaving the empty lot. We couldn’t agree on a decision.
What should I do here….
Wait a minute, when did the fire die?
Why isn’t anyone saying anything all of a sudden?
“Not to brag or anything, but I’ve encountered several disasters while mountaineering. Some were pretty critical. But me standing here right now means that I made it out every time. Along with companions that trusted and followed me.”
Although the professional hiker was sharing his experience, Seol Jihu was focusing on something else.
He checked the bonfire right away. The fire had died.
“5 days? It isn’t that big of a deal. We have so many people here. Look, I was once stranded in the Himalayas with only eight people and we survived for ten days. And do you know how I managed to survive through it all?”
“It was because we didn’t have conflicts, we didn't fight. What’s important is not waging a nerve war with the person next to you because you’re stressed and scared.”
Whoosh! With the sound traveling through the dark swiftly—
“First, we need to accurately evaluate the situation we are in—”
Puk! The voice cut off.Previous Chapter Next Chapter