Etranger Chapter 6

 

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6. Derailment-6

The evening sky here is really beautiful. Fantastic to the point of cruelty.

The cumulus clouds reflected the scarlet glow of the setting sun, and above that was a breathtaking ray of emerald light across the azure expanse of the sky. And unlike yesterday, the star-nims appeared to be dim. [TN: Author writes 별님들도 which is star-nim, I think]

“So… you’re saying that this might not be Earth?

You’re saying we had left Earth? Not even by flying away on a spaceship, but purely by falling on through the air with a parachute… is that it?”

San asked flatly. In front, Biyeon looked at San with a ruddy face. Seeing the light reflecting off her face, San thought that she looked cute and pretty.

“I know that sounds crazy. However it’s too…”

“That’s enough!”

San flatly cut her off.

Biyeon looked at San with a sigh. After thinking about it, he really did say something that would warrant a sigh. However, the interpretation of the outside made no sense, what was he to do?

San had a placid expression on his face. With his lips sealed, San looked towards the magnificent disappearing sunset. However, he didn’t seem angry.

With a wry expression on her face, Biyeon pulled up her knees and wrapped her arms around them while also staring off at the sunset. With an expanse of snow as the backdrop, the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon. So far, she had seen this particular dusk three times and each time it looked like a giant sun was collapsing. Lying between the sky and the ground were pale clouds. And underneath them was a sea of trees without end, the shadows cast by the hanging dusk sun creating dark bruises on the land. Really, this world is like a crumbling illusion of an awfully large scale.

Maybe he will also be very confused. Having momentarily forgotten the hard work done during the day, even if a little bit free time popped up, fear and chaos might creep into his mind, saturating it. For the first time, Biyeon discovered what true isolation felt like. She also began to feel a fear towards loneliness as well.

Could she have been able to imagine this? If she could not understand in this world, then how could she even begin to tell what would happen the in the future, would that not lead to more anxiety and intense feelings of fear and danger?

“Lieutenant Kim…”

Biyeon lifted her neck He lit a cigarette while keeping his gaze in front of him. The smoke dispersed, scattering amongst the winds.

“What direction did the sun go down?”

“That should be west….” Biyeon replied before cutting herself off.

“Can you prove it? If it is as you say, and this place isn’t Earth, then isn’t there a chance that this planet might not rotate on an axis like Earth’s from west to east? Then couldn’t that also be east? Couldn’t it also be south?”

“…”

“By the way…

I was born in the Republic of Korea and have spent thirty years of my life there. But still there are many more places that I haven’t been to. What more, wIth the exception of long term missions to China, I have no idea what other countries even look like. Except for places shown in TV or in photos. But people don’t describe with much detail as though the listener had also visited. Rather, you talk much more than someone who has lived there. And you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you know…”

“…”

“But you sure don’t know shit. Do you know the weather in a particular neighborhood, or what people eat to live? Do you know the difference between the trees and dogs in Koreas as opposed to other places? Is the taste of water the same? Do you know how cold the arctic actually is? Do you know how hot equatorial jungles are? Have you gone there yourself? Isn’t it all just your imagination? Do you know the things that reside in the deep swamps of South America? You probably don’t even know that there are crawfish the size of your forearms living in the valleys of the hills behind your neighborhood back home, right? I wonder, how many of these things you’ve personally confirmed? When speaking about that topic, people talk about places they’ve never seen as though it’s common sense, and they talk about strange things while spouting bullshit. Even if someone had visited 1% of this world they still wouldn’t be able to properly describe, let alone observe that 1%.

“…”

“Lieutenant Kim… listen up. This is how it is. I’ve got one cardinal rule. No matter what kind of information, I never believe it 100%. If by chance the guy who hands me any information doesn’t have the scent of the battlefield, I won’t believe even 1% of that information. Rather only prejudice forms. Even if it was someone who went and came back, I would only believe 50% of his story. “

“…”

“Do you know why?”

“?”

“It’s the same as twenty questions. What recon observes and originally reports is uncertain, then when it’s delivered it’s more uncertain, and then when it reaches me and I hear it, then with my own hearing and understanding it would be even more uncertain. After all, 99% of what you perceive in your mind is painted by your imagination. Even that I have to take that poorly written report and imagine it myself.

After all, you can’t help but be uncertain unless you see it for yourself. I’m inclined to believe more in experience. But there’s no need to directly suffer it with your body. Especially with the lives of any men who are with me during an operation. I would never move out without direct verification.

“?!”

“Lieutenant Kim… we… from here let’s take it slow. Let’s go as slowly as possible. Even if you were able to quickly judge and digest the information coming in, would anything improve? And how much of that judgement could you even rely on?

Let’s wait and see. Isn’t this a situation where we don’t have any sort of proper intelligence, let alone information about this place? If you proceed on a mission under faulty assumptions, even moreso if it’s based on information from lacking spies, the results of the mission would be up in the air.

I’m sorry I had to say this to you, but a battle isn’t one with a desk worker. “

“Yes sir… I understand.”

“Let’s start with the basics. Not even that, let’s start from the basics of the basics.[TN: I’m not sure what the author wrote here. Specifically, the author penned 쌩 기초부터, I don’t know what  쌩 means in this context]

You saw it as well, right? The common sense we’ve known has already been cracked.[TN: Author uses the word 깨진 동네야 which translates to “is a cracked neighborhood”] We really must act as though we don’t know anything. We don’t even know if 1 and 1 equals two in this place. You don’t know what might break, and even more, there’s absolutely no way to tell where and when something might crop up. If we were to use the rules familiar to us as a yardstick in order to judge a broken yard, how accurate would that judgement be?”[TN: So it’s kind of hard to transcribe into English, but basically, he’s comparing the familiar common sense to what we know is a yard (measurement) and saying that it would be stupid to use that convention of what a yard is in order to measure something that would be considered a yard in a different place, but isn’t a yard according to that aforementioned convention. I can’t quite eloquently describe it, so my apologies.]

“…”

Biyeon’s face was getting redder. It was not because her face reflected the glow of twilight. He really hit the bullseye. This time, she didn’t want to, but couldn’t help admit that he was right in his judgement.

San slowly stood up. From what he could see, there was still a lot of work left. San picked up a shovel that was placed next to him, then turned around and tapped Biyeon on the shoulder before throwing some words her way.

“Hey punk! You sure are hasty… From here, there isn’t really much that requires our immediate attention. No human craves for something without reason Eat with a peace of mind and finish any work with moderation. If you worry so much you’re going to get sick. Aren’t we lacking in medicine?”

San began work on the evening routine. He felt that there were things he needed to finish by all means before it  got dark. Night time in areas without electricity are very long In addition, the nighttime is the time when one is in the most unprotected state. ‘I don’t know if lighting a fire would be a poison or a medicine, but I have to prepare something.’[TN:’Poison or medicine’ ie. a double edged sword, it could hurt or help.]

For now, San set up a makeshift seokchaek by meticulously placing large stones around the pit. [TN: I think seokchaek is stone barrier or stone circle, something like you would make for a campfire. I’m not sure since I can’t find a definition for it.] Like some kind of maze, he built a base that didn’t really have a center, and towards the outside, he took the grass and wood that had dried during the day and went around readying them for firewood. In the middle of the camp, San set up a campfire and a stone oven.

“Hmm… if it’s this much, anything flying in the air probably wouldn’t be able to see us. With barely two people, it would be difficult to stand watch through the night.”

The sun was already setting beyond the camp, and it was rapidly beginning to get dark. Biyeon lit a fire in the oven that San had made. With a material similar to the resin from tree sap, but greasier, the fire kindled easily, and the fuel material burned freely. Although it was a temporary oven, the light, rather than the heat, radiated nicely from it.

Biyeon kindled the fire, and carefully looked at San’s working figure.

‘Well, I guess it’s luck…’

From this guy’s husky tone of voice, you can tell he’s a meticulous guy. Anyways, he won’t be able to sleep until 10 o’clock. During that time, in order to work within the radius of the bonfire, San, with difficulty, setup the floor into a workspace. San picked a spot on the floor in front of the fire, and placed down some comfortable and capacious tree trunks that he had woven together. And on top of that he put down a covering of dried grass that you could sit or lay down on comfortably. In addition, Biyeon’s spot was located inwardly, and hi location was a location with good security and easily defended. The spots were in a position facing away from each other that helped the two avoid awkward eye contact, and offered a small bit of privacy where one person wouldn’t really see the other person.

San gathered the candidates for possible edibility that he had collected in the morning, and gingerly spread them out one by one, and tried to classify them one by one. He observed, with precision, the smells, the leaves and the fruit, the shape of the roots, and the shape of the seeds.

“What would you do? “

“What do you mean? I’ll have to eat and see!”

“But you don’t know if there are any toxins!”

“Then do you have a solution?”

“…(silence)”

“If not, I’m going to go ahead and eat it, ok?”

“…(silence)”

“Punk… acting up…”

San took out his Swiss pocket knife, and cut off a fine slice from where he thought might be some food in the fruit. It’s as large as a muskmelon. He put a piece in his mouth without hesitation. Next to him was some water and various other things to help should he vomit and experience stomach pains.

“I’m thinking that we should eat two types of fruits a day. If there aren’t any problems, we can eat more.”

“…”

“Hmm- we could heat it up quite a bit… there’s a good chance it won’t have any toxins.”

San put up a “V” with his fingers towards Biyeon. It was because he saw a large amount of this kind of fruit earlier. He put his hands on another fruit without hesitation.

San believed that the larger fruits would be relatively safe. Fruits with more fruit sugars have a lesser chance of containing toxins because animals eat the fruit, and the seeds spread by means of the animals walking around.  Of course, if the animals here didn’t like sweet fruits, then the issue could become only ‘slightly’ serious. [TN: The author actually pens ‘매우’, which means “Very” not “Slightly” but in regards to connotation, it fits the western audience more to say “slightly” to indicate a degree of sarcasm.]

Biyeon was watching with her mouth wide open and with a dumbfounded look on her face.  There were a lot of idiots back at headquarters, but even HQ wouldn’t have this kind of moodaepo like idiot. [TN: The gist of this sentence is that Biyeon looks like a fool and that HQ wouldn’t have someone like her. But in regards to moodaepo, the phrase was “이런 종류의 무대포 원단 골통은 없을 것이다” which is something along the lines of “This kind of Moodaepo fabric idiot would not exist” or something like that. I don’t know who or what Moodaepo is, but I think it’s a figure from a story. Googling it only brings up a bunch of Korean BBQ restaurants in LA, and I’m pretty sure that’s not it.]

Fortunately, it seemed like the day would pass without any problems. In this way, they secured 2 types of food.

Now the night deepened. Looking at the time, even though it was only 9 o’clock, it would be difficult for the two who had stayed up the previous night to bear through their drowsiness.

Another problem would be trying to fit and sleep in the narrow pit.

….

The next morning was bright.

The two had slept well.

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2 thoughts on “Etranger Chapter 6

  1. Mojo

    She says one sentence and gets a five paragraph essay of mansplaining. I’m kind of sick of this incompetent helpless female/ tough know it all man dynamic. So far the female lead is useless garbage. It’s like, why write a second character at all if her only propose to to make the male lead look better?

    Like

    1. Paul

      I can see where you’re coming from, but I disagree. Biyeon is a rookie who nearly caused the death of both herself and San. In addition, they are both soldiers, and Biyeon saying that they might be in another world sounds like she’s trying to give an excuse for her poor performance thus far. In addition, San is a seasoned veteran, while Biyeon, again, is just a recruit. More than anything, it’s just a senior officer explaining to a rookie how things work in reality. At this point, San is pissed off that Biyeon almost killed him, then accused him of various crimes then threatened him with a trial by military court. I’m not expecting you to agree with me on this, but again, this is only the sixth chapter. The author has made out Biyeon to be an intelligent, but inexperienced soldier. Look at other popular media with both a hero and heroine, then compare their initial interactions with this. In Star Wars, Han Solo/Luke Skywalker don’t exactly start off on the right foot when they meet Princess Leia. Han Solo and Leia bicker constantly, and even Leia’s first lines towards Luke are “Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper”, and she doesn’t even express any interest in the fact that he’s rescuing her until Luke mentions that he was sent by Obi’wan and that he had received the distress message from R2D2. I think it’s unfair towards the author to judge an entire story that has much more to give based on the initial rocky interactions between the two leads after having only read the first six chapters.

      Liked by 1 person

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