The Korean Army’s headquarter was situated within the heavily-forested mountain, far from any civilization. It was a giant tunnel, leading deep into the mountain itself. Joon-young wondered when and how this place came into existence when he saw it.
At the gates was a sign. Considering it had the name ‘New Energy Research Centre,’ Joon-young guessed it was originally a research facility, not a military one.
The generals and officers were dumbfounded when they saw Joon-young and his men knocking on the front gate. The orders to stand ground were given only a moment ago, yet they came back so confidently as if they belonged here.
The newly joined officers and generals fumed with rage and stated they should be executed for insubordination, but the veteran generals and officers simply shook their heads to that idea. They were in a desperate time for survival, and every soldier mattered. They also felt sorry for using these infamous, battle hardened veterans as sacrificial pawns. Some suggested they should be sent back to the front lines, but it was met with the argument that they would simply desert their post again, and aid in the collapse of the front line. They had no choice but to incorporate Joon-young’s men into the research centre’s security force.
Joon-young had a good reason to come here. There was a rumour about a new weapon under development in this facility. This information was given to him by his now-deceased regimental commander, to cheer up Joon-young with the hope of victory when he was grieving for the loss of his family in Busan.
Joon-young wasn’t aware of the details, but the rumour suggested that its completion could change the war, and that Japan was aware of its development. The Japanese forces would only harass the research centre instead of an all-out attack, waiting for the results of the weapon’s development. If this rumour was true, Joon-young believed that the Japanese forces were attacking now because its development was nearing completion.
“You’ve got to give it to them. They’re putting up a good fight.”
The battle still continued in the darkness of the night. The artillery shells echoed in the mountain like the beating of the drum, while tracer ammunitions lit up the night sky with its dazzling display.
“Can I have one too?”
As Joon-Young sat on an ammo crate on top of the guard tower, admiring the battle like it was a movie, a beautiful researcher wearing black rim glasses and a lab coat approached. Her face was pale, and her eyes were soaked in depression as if she had no will to live on.
“Have a sit.”
Joon-Young moved to the side of the box, making some space for her and handed her a cigarette. The moment he lit her cigarette, she began to cough furiously. It seemed like this was her first time.
“Kuh! I don’t understand why people enjoy smoking if it’s so bad for you.”
“What does that matter when you could die at any moment?”
The woman smiled back at Joon-young’s reply.
“Huhu! You must be that famous sergeant.”
“Hm? Do you know me?”
“Of course. Even the researchers know about the sergeant who fled the battlefield with all of his men. Most of them call you a coward but strangely, many in the army don’t seem to be bothered at all.”
Joon-Young simply shrugged. It seemed the woman had nothing more to say as well. They just sat there and watched the battlefield together in silence. Despite the constant struggle, the woman continued to smoke. When she finally finished the cigarette, Joon-Young asked a question.
“How’s the research going? I can imagine that making a weapon that can turn the tide of this war would be difficult.”
Her eyes turned cold as she stared back at Joon-Young.
“Where did you hear that?”
Joon-Young snorted as he replied back at the defensive woman.
“Well, let’s just say it’s the reason I ran here with all my men.”
With his words, the woman’s eyes softened and began to have a soft smile, with a hint of ridicule.
“Huhu, I see you’ve heard the rumours. I guess it would be impossible to hold on like this without some kind of hope like that.”
“Did the research meet a dead-end?”
“Have you heard about the Rainbow Project?”
“Isn’t that the famous mystery? They call it the Philadelphia experiment right?”
“That’s right. The technology we’ve been working on even before this war was teleportation. Haha, it was an impossible project from the start. How can we develop something from a sci-fi movie when we’ve only just managed to begin testing for nuclear fusion technology? Impossible. Do you know why the Japanese army suddenly attacked after the countless offers to surrender? The research director took the results of our project and defected. Japan realised it was all a bluff, so they had no reason to wait anymore. There is no hope now. Even if I survive somehow, I’ll be locked away in a laboratory as a slave until I die a lonely death…”
As her voice slowly turned into a sob, Joon-Young looked around awkwardly. He was alone with her on the roof, but he could not get close to comfort her.
He was sure there were snipers watching this facility at all times. If he tried to comfort her with an alternative goal in mind, a jealous sniper might pull the trigger on Joon-young’s head.
“Have you heard the phrase, ‘Those who seek to die will live, and those who seek to live will die’?”
“Yes. Didn’t Admiral Yi say that?”
“Well, it originally comes from China’s Wu Zixu, but let’s just say you’re right. That phrase used to work when we fought with swords and spears but not in modern days you see.”
“What do you mean?”
Joon-Young smiled as she wiped her tears and looked back with intrigue.
“Those who seek to live tend to make openings in search of a way out without repercussions. That means they are easy picking for their enemies. But for those who fight to the death, enemies will think ‘ah, I might die trying to kill him’ and tend to avoid them. Your enemies are humans too. They want to live just as much as you do. They would rather take the safe choice of killing the runners instead of getting bogged down in a life-or-death fight.”
It was a rather distorted understanding of the phrase, but had some logic behind it. The woman nodded hesitantly. Joon-Young quickly pulled out another cig, trying to hide the fact that he thought her nod looked cute for a second.
“But that doesn’t work anymore. Enemies can’t tell if you’re coming to fight or surrender, because their range is too long. That range also keeps them safe from combat injuries too. Who orders the infantry to charge into battle these days anyway? The artillery strikes first, the planes follow with their bombs, the tanks run through the ruins and then the infantry does the clean-up.”
“So what’s your point?”
The woman asked, unable to understand his words.
“Well, the key point is if you want to live, surrender properly and if not make sure it’s a ‘if I die, you die too’ situation. The way to the afterlife is better when it’s crowded after all. Come on baby, I guess?”
PR Note: Bolded text will henceforth refer to text that was in English in the raws.
The woman laughed, baffled by that answer.
“Do you even know what that means?”
“I may have only graduated high school, but I am rather proud of the knowledge I’ve gathered from movies and books. I don’t know nor do I care about the theory on nuclear fusion or fission. At the end of the day, they are both nuclear. Just do it.”
“Do you have any idea of what you’re saying? If we did that from this research centre, the radiation will encompass the entire southern half of Korea, including Daejeon.”
“Even better. From what I know, radiation can spread with clouds and rain, which would mean Japan would get hit too right? Then every time they are hit by the irradiated rain, the Japanese will think of this: ‘Ah! Those bastards. We should have left them alone.’ At the end of all that fighting, we shit all over the land they fought so hard to take, making it useless.”
“What about the Korean citizens who will suffer from the radiation?”
Joon-Young laughed at her question.
“Korean citizens? How can there be Korean citizens when Korea doesn’t even exist?”
She was lost for words from Joon-young’s outrageous answer. Joon-Young couldn’t stop himself from patting her head as she sat there with a blank expression.
“If you don’t want to see that, live on. Whether it means you live on as their slave in a laboratory or as their toy. My point is, don’t die later with regret. Either die now, or live on until the end. You must not regret. For the soldiers who died and will die out there believing in the false hope.”
Her eyes followed as Joon-Young pointed toward the battlefield, the explosions encroaching ever so slowly. As Joon-Young tried to leave quietly, she stood up and called out to him.
“… Can I ask your name?”
“Joon-Young. Sergeant Kim Joon-Young.”
Joon-Young gave her a proper salute. She gave a bright smile.
“My name’s Han Yoo-Ra. Remember it.”