11. Cleansing -5
[I know that it’s kind of awkward for there to be a ‘sir’ in all of Biyeon’s dialogue, but she is a subordinate rank in comparison to San’s officer rank. She never explicitly uses a word that means ‘sir’ in her dialogue, but she does speak to him in an elevated tone which isn’t something that exists in the English language. The best way to get the feeling across is to use the word ‘sir’.]
“Here is my analysis of the current situation thus far.”
Biyeon finished saying. She felt like she was giving a presentation on the plan of action.
“Thanks… it’ll be a huge help for our survival.”
San nodded his head and looked at it with a fresh pair of eyes. San truly admired this female colleague of his. She was a talented woman with a keen eye and great judgement.
“It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? In such a short amount of time you were able to cover so much research.”
“It was something that had an absolute priority. It is because we must survive, sir.”
In the midst of the noisy and hazy rain, the two were having what was essentially a war council. Maybe it was because the two of them were thinking that their lives were in immediate danger, but the two of them were incomparably serious. Their heads were side by side, their ears nearly touching, the two of them staring at the window of the battery-less cell phone. They repeatedly played the short video clips on the phone, and made detailed observations and analyses of the what they had to hunt.
“So… looking at this guy’s body structure and proportions, it looks like he’ll have a great jumping ability, and looking at his claws, he’ll probably lash out with them to attack, right?”
“Since its hind leg muscles are large and sturdy like that of a bird’s, the forelimbs are likely to have evolved exclusively for hunting. Because of that, he’ll probably be able to swing up and down, and attack at various angles. But because its finishing strike is with its teeth, rather than attacking and tearing things up with its front limbs, I think that it’s more likely that it’ll hold down its prey with its front limbs, then deliver a decisive strike by biting down on it. .”
“So, with how developed its lower body’s muscles are, then its movements would be dulled?”
“It would seem so, sir. But because its center of gravity is stable, it won’t budge unless hit with a considerable amount of force.”
“What if its hind legs were shot with a gun, would its mobility drop?”
“We would have to try and see, sir. The toughness of the skin is a huge problem, but once we severed even just one of its muscle groups, its ability to jump and maneuver should both drop considerably…”
“I see… Well regardless, the biggest problem is that ammunition is limited. After all, once we run of out bullets, our guns will be no better than a primitive clubbing weapon… ah.. Sseub…. If it were humans then it could work, but with those things, I have no confidence…”
“It seems like we’ll have to resort to that, sir. Ever since we came here, our strength has risen by quite a bit, has it not, sir? I was thinking that our increase in strength is probably related to this survival game. It would sound funny back home, but since the common sense we know can’t relate to this world, this is just something I thought I would say for comfort, sir. When I played a game, the progression was never made easy. Captain Kang, have you ever played an online game?” [TN: Remember, San’s name is Kang San, in the western world, that would San Kang. Surname Kang]
“Huh? When I was stationed at Seoul HQ I played one at BOQ. Although it was an American game, it was very fun. I was so absorbed by it, so that was the only one I played. It was the best way to pass the time. But it was so addicting that I quit once I went back to training.” [TN: BOQ stands for Bachelor Officer Quarters. Also, in this last part, he says he quit once he went back to 자대. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s either home or some sort of training thing.]
“Well if it’s that much, then what I said should have been received pretty well, sir.”
“So are we in that kind of game?” San asked while looking at Biyeon with an amused expression on his face. He had felt a similar sentiment when he had first received his cell phone message.
“It would seem so, sir. However, I suspect that we are not the players, but rather ‘something’ that a player is assigned to take care of. It’s not a game that we chose, but rather a situation where something chose us and therefore summoned (召還) us. In particular, the fact that we somehow ended up in a place that’s nearly impossible to escape, the strange messaging situation, and these missions that were given to us by some entity, all with the intention that we grow, does it not? And if that’s the case…”
“And if that’s the case, these abilities we obtained are not just mere coincidence, but something that was intentionally given to us? Huh- If what you said is true, then what exactly does that make us? Then are we some sort of clones like from a movie? Are our original bodies still living in the original world? ”
“I can’t make sense of it sir, who knows, maybe this world is one that simply doesn’t make sense. The problem isn’t whether or not we are clones, but if my speculations about the rules of this survival game are true, then our abilities will slowly grow stronger and stronger. Going forward, we should try to figure these things out ourselves, and who knows, perhaps in the future we may be given a choice as well. Of course, this could also just be a ridiculous speculation on my part. Nothing is certain. If we survive tomorrow, we can only be more certain, sir.”
“No… I think I can confirm these things right now…” San said carefully.
San went ahead and briefly explained to Biyeon his experiments regarding his strength from the other day, including all the pain he suffered through.
“So, if you draw out your strength to the limit, your body will react on its own and allow you to use a greater strength than before?”
“Well… I can’t say if this phenomenon is only exclusive to me, but if the same thing happens to you, you must consider it very seriously. If you would like, I could show you how to do it once…”
San looked at Biyeon straight in the eye as he offered. Although he didn’t actually want to recommend that she’d do it, he felt that it was necessary to do so. If it would help their chances of survival better, shouldn’t she do it?
“How should I go about it, sir?”
“Try breaking this stick first.”
San tossed a big stick to Biyeon. It was a stick as thick as a forearm, something that originally even a grown man would have difficulty breaking.
Biyeon held both sides of the stick and tried to break it.
Putting her strength into it, Biyeon’s body slightly trembled.
“How does it feel? Did you feel as though your whole body was shaking?”
“Yes sir… it sort of felt like that,” Biyeon replied while clenching her teeth.
“Hu- it actually broke…”
Biyeon stared at the stick that snapped into two, her eyes wide open.
“For now- it seems like we can confirm that there were physical changes to our bodies. Even the symptoms were the same… do you feel like you can use your strength again? This time think as though you are going to use all the strength your body has to offer.”
This time San found an elongated stone and fished it out. It was a ‘rock’ that was as long as the length of one’s lap, and as thick as one’s hand span. Then he put the stone on the floor and held it down on both sides.
“Use all the strength you currently have. Based on my experience, once you get to a certain point, you’ll experience a tremendous pain. For now, try to get to that threshold.”
Biyeon exerted her strength. As she poured in more strength, her hands began to tremble. She was putting in so much strength that the veins in her forehead looked as though they would tear right out. And then…
Biyeon also felt as though the pain was searing her body. The pain caused her to swallow her groans.
“That’s enough- that’s… ” San tried to say with a look of pity, but closed his mouth.
Biyeon was still desperately holding on. Her lips were shut so tight that blood was flowing from the sides of her mouth. Both forearms trembled but were empowered.
At last the large stone split, and both pieces collapsed onto the sides.
Biyeon collapsed and was trembling on the floor. Biyeon rammed her head against the floor, trying to withstand the pain.
“It may feel like a long time, but it’s actually not. It’ll last for about two more minutes…” San said with a bitter look. Of course, she did not hear anything he said.
* * *
Both of them were lying in their sleeping bags in the dark pit, but neither of them actually slept. Now that the two of them were left with their own thoughts, the unbelievable and unreal feeling they got shook their minds.
‘This is my body, but it’s a body that I do not know… Just who am I… Aside from my name, Kang San, is there anything that can prove that I am me? Has my mind changed as well? Am I still the same Kang San?’
Like this, San had a time of philosophical self-reflection… but soon his thoughts turned towards tomorrow’s hunt. He was worried about this and that, but trying to figure out a solution to the current situation was more useful.
In fact, this is even more important than the fear of loved ones suddenly leaving. He’s just trying to get out from a long-term training so he can go back… [TN: Lost in translation. Perhaps an idiom?]
Biyeon couldn’t sleep because she was locked in her thoughts. The second time she went through the strength exercise her body endured excruciating pain, but her speed of recovery was surprisingly fast. Biyeon had reached the same conclusion as San.
‘There’s no point in worrying… No matter who I am, my mind thinks as Biyeon, and I currently hold an identity as Biyeon. This exalted self, no matter where I am, no matter when I am at, this identity of mine is the ‘one’ thing that cannot be broken.
‘I think. Therefore I am.’ Any further questions are meaningless. [TN: A fundamental philosophical phrase in regards to self by Rene Descartes. “Cogito Ergo Sum’ translates to ‘I think therefore I am’] It is unnecessary. I am alive, and going forward, I must survive… anyway, I should try my best on this test before us….’
After mulling over her thoughts for a long time, this is the conclusion that Biyeon reached.
San turned his gaze towards Biyeon’s side of the barrier that separated the two.
‘The more I see, the better an impression I have of this punk. Even if I decided not to marry, I would still do some work… Alright, Lieutenant Kim! We will survive to the very end and return together!’
Of course, Biyeon was also looking towards San’s side.
‘He is much more sensitive and thoughtful than I thought he was. Thank goodness… once a chance comes up, I think I’ll be able to get closer to him…’
The two of them passed the end of the second day in the darkness of this new world, both of them staring at the barrier.