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Chapter 15

Hiding a House in the Apocalypse

Translator/Editor: TranslatingNovice

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Chapter 15: Reverse Scale

The location where the human hunter took the photo can be estimated.

It was a wide-open farmland, a place where the crops used to turn golden before the war.

It's not an easy task to dig up and start construction on a place that is clearly listed as a paddy field (畓), not just a mountain or forest land, as if it were my own land.

In fact, as someone who frequented the area, I have never seen any signs of construction.

The human hunter must have passed by there by chance.

He also hinted that he was around Gwanggyo and the scenery in his murder verification photos he posted incessantly suggested he lived in a densely forested mountainous area.

Maybe this human hunter friend is the type who roams around frequently?

However, it doesn’t seem like he uses vehicles or other means of transportation.

All I found near the tracks left by my four-wheeler were the footprints of a man's sneakers.

The footprints headed east, but they disappeared into the tangled overgrown reed field.

But why would he go east?

I don't want to know, nor do I have any way to find out.

The issue is his recent activities.

[ Defender has sent you a friend request. ]

I just found out that Viva! Apocalypse! has a friend feature.

Why?

Because I’ve never received a friend request before.

But why him of all people?

Honestly, I don’t like this guy.

Although I empathize with the fact that this is a world where you have no choice but to kill people, his behavior of killing many people and showing it off as soon as the war started as if he was waiting for the moment felt twisted.

Even after unblocking him, that feeling hasn’t changed much.

[ Accept ] [ Decline ]

There are two clear choices here.

For some reason, I haven’t pressed the decline button yet.

1 year and 10 months since the war began.

Today’s external temperature is 32 degrees. It’s midsummer.

Around this time, the community is filled with posts cursing the viciousness of Korea’s four seasons and Dangun’s foresight.

(TL Note: Dangun is the founder of Gojoseon, Korea’s first kingdom.)

I’m not afraid of summer.

Indoor temperature is 24 degrees.

That’s the temperature in my bunker right now.

Yes.

My bunker has air conditioning.

On the table are the spaghetti all'assassina I made earlier and a bowl of shaved ice topped with condensed milk and canned red beans, which I just prepared.

After warming the mouth with pasta, if you take a big spoonful of the shaved ice,

“Kurgh~.”

The brain-freezing pain that follows brings a sense of happiness.

Should I call it the joy of summer?

I’m a considerate person.

I am aware enough not to post the shaved ice photo on the community.

Already being disliked for no reason, if I also flaunted such small luxuries, the only people left to read my posts would be weirdos like the human hunter!

In fact, you’d have to look at the rich who built fortresses to find someone living as well as I do.

The key to my luxurious life is, above all, abundant power supply.

My power generation facility is different.

While most community users use small generators like gasoline or gas, I run a large diesel generator that could be used in a factory.

This generator, named Skelton Heart, is enormous, surpassing the size of an ordinary bunker, and as its name suggests, it truly is the heart of my hideout.

Its performance is solid.

As long as there’s fuel, it generates immense power, filling up dozens of batteries in no time and then some.

The downside is the installation cost, noise, and enormous gas emissions.

The installation costs were covered by buying cheap land, and noise wasn’t an issue since I set up in an area without people, but the emissions were a headache throughout the bunker construction.

I drilled no less than seven ventilation shafts and built a duct system after countless trials and errors.

Even so, when the generator is running, black smoke billows out of the ventilation shafts.

I tried to reduce the smoke by installing dust control facilities, but unless you're looking from a distance, you can still clearly see seven smoke columns from any point where my bunker is visible.

So I usually run the generator at night, especially on rainy or very windy days, when I deliberately charge the batteries even if I don’t need electricity.

But this abundance comes with conditions.

The surroundings must be free of people.

While the smoke might be hidden by the darkness of the night, if anyone lives within the range of the generator's noise and ground vibrations, it’s a problem.

Bang! Bang!

That afternoon, from the south, the sniper mother and daughter were firing away enthusiastically.

It felt like more than usual.

Was there a battle going on?

Soon, the K-walkie-talkie buzzed with noise and spat out awkward Korean.

  • Chzzz! Skelton. Many people heading your way.

Since the day the typhoon came, I’ve maintained a loose alliance with the sniper’s side, even though our relationship was previously indifferent neighbors.

We hadn’t formally agreed to hold hands, but gradually the relationship improved.

Information sharing was one aspect.

With a bitter smile, I asked into the walkie-talkie.

“You chased them off, didn’t you?”

There was no answer from the walkie-talkie, but I faintly heard the daughter’s laughter just before it cut off.

The ones the snipers chased away were refugees.

Once a hot topic in the community, refugees have recently become rare visitors.

For a year after the war, many refugees left harsh Seoul for the provinces, but most failed, and rumors of those failures spread.

Moreover, as the war stabilized and the government began to send hopeful messages and actions, the number of refugees sharply decreased and they haven’t been seen for the past few months.

But now, refugees in this situation?

They headed straight for my territory.

“Ah, fuck.”

I felt a surge of annoyance.

With so many places to go, why my territory?

Could they be raiders?

Their armament isn’t impressive.

Most are holding handmade crossbows known as “judge killers,” with only a few carrying firearms.

They reached just outside my outer bunker.

I turned off the air conditioner, took out my firearm, loaded the bullets, and secured two axes to my belt.

I am neither the sniper duo nor the human hunter.

My strategy is to avoid combat and not reveal my location whenever possible.

I activated all my eavesdropping and surveillance equipment to monitor their movements.

“Why are we heading this way when there’s nothing here?”

“Exactly. Wasn’t this area hit by a nuclear bomb?”

“That used to be a U.S. military base over there. Didn’t you say we’re going to reclaim the U.S. military base?”

Voices murmured from the speaker.

The answer came from a man in his mid-40s wearing a makeshift military uniform.

“This area is elevated with low mounds that allow us to observe the surroundings.”

The man in the military uniform added as he looked around.

“Since reclaiming the city failed, our objective is now to reclaim the U.S. military base over there. However, due to residual radiation and potential hidden raiders like earlier, we’ll set up here, observe the surroundings, and reclaim it slowly. As you know, this area is quite dangerous.”

I later found out the man’s name was Lieutenant Colonel Choi. 

Judging by his attire and companions, he seemed more like a reservist than active duty.

His companions were all men, most around the same age as Lieutenant Colonel Choi.

They were not trained soldiers.

Most moved sluggishly and often showed signs of anxiety.

I wanted to ignore them if possible.

However, when I saw them setting up tents in my territory, I realized things had gone terribly wrong and clicked my tongue.

To make matters worse, one man found my disguised dummy bunker.

“What’s this? A bunker?”

It was empty inside.

The only thing in there was explosives I could detonate from my main bunker.

It was built in a semi-bunker style, with a long, straight hole that served both as a gun port and observation window, providing defense but not for living.

Most importantly, the bunker contained a hidden passage to my main bunker.

I stepped out of the bunker with my gun.

I revealed myself because I judged that they were at least not raiders.

When I appeared, Lieutenant Colonel Choi and the others showed considerable surprise.

“This is private property.”

I told them, keeping a reasonable distance and ready to take cover behind the industrial waste at any moment.

“Please leave.”

The people murmured among themselves.

Some showed hostility, but they were the minority; most were amazed and fearful of the armed individual, me.

Lieutenant Colonel Choi addressed me.

He looked me up and down, then motioned for the others to stay still and stepped forward.

He had a pistol holstered on his belt.

“Hello?”

He shouted energetically.

I gave a slight nod but didn’t respond.

“I’m Choi Hyuk-chan, a reserve lieutenant colonel. We’re here to pioneer this area with the Ministry of Land’s permission.”

“Pioneer?”

He tried to show me documents as he approached.

I signaled him not to come closer by aiming my gun, and he put the documents back in his pocket with a bitter smile.

“You’re very cautious for someone so young. Were you bullied in school? Anyway, have you been living here alone?”

“I don’t intend to have a long conversation with your side, so keep it short.”

“Haha. Alright, I’ll keep it short.”

Lieutenant Colonel Choi, who had been smiling amiably, suddenly changed his expression and shouted.

“You said this is your land, right? That’s an old story now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ownership has been reset. The registries have been wiped clean. Except for major cities, the countryside is now no man’s land. The one who settles first and occupies becomes the owner.”

He pulled out the documents again and waved them.

“This is the permit.”

I finally understood why the refugees, unseen for a while, had reappeared.

A thought crossed my mind.

The situation in Seoul might be even worse than I had imagined.

“Judging by your appearance, you look like a doomsday prepper or something, but we won’t touch your land. Our goal is over there.”

Lieutenant Colonel Choi pointed to the U.S. military base.

“We’ll be temporarily using this area until we clear that side. You can allow that, right? Former landowner?”

Lieutenant Colonel Choi fiddled with his pistol.

I hesitated for a moment.

I considered whether to kill them all or tolerate them.

The human hunter and his murder verifications came to mind, but I quickly dismissed the thought.

“Up to two days is fine.”

I granted conditional permission.

I didn’t want to cause trouble, and they weren’t raiders.

“Two days? That’s a bit short, but okay. I got it for now.”

Thus began an uneasy cohabitation.

Everything was unsatisfactory, but the biggest issue was that I couldn’t operate the heart of my territory.

The battery power was quickly depleting.

The temperature inside the bunker was unpleasantly rising, and candles replaced the lights.

The most critical issue was that the temperature in the underground freezer was rising faster than expected.

At most, I had a few hours.

The freezer, which had maintained sub-zero temperatures, would soon be overwhelmed by the summer heat.

This meant that my precious food supplies could be completely ruined.

Not being able to access the community was another source of frustration.

“...”

I thought of the human hunter again.

I kept recalling how he sent me a friend request and how I hadn't rejected it in the darkness.

Lieutenant Colonel Choi’s group didn’t approach my area for the first day, but after a day, they started exploring like curious children.

Especially, they showed great interest in the dummy bunker where I had appeared.

Each time, I blocked them with my firearm, but fear is easily diluted.

Those who were startled by my presence at first now talked casually to me.

“Hey, mister. What do you live off of here? Do you have food?”

When the freezer thermometer read minus 1 degree, Lieutenant Colonel Choi came to see me.

“We're in a tough situation. Could you spare some food?”

“Food?”

“You must have some, right? Aren’t you a doomsday prepper? You must have plenty stockpiled in your bunker.”

“Even if I do, why should I give it to you?”

“Because you're Korean. Koreans should help each other.”

Lieutenant Colonel Choi smirked as he looked around at his group.

“No matter how young you are, you seem to be alone. Can you handle all of us?”

Even after the promised day passed, Lieutenant Colonel Choi didn't keep his word.

Two days later, he and his group were still walking around my territory without a care.

That afternoon, something happened.

Someone knocked on the emergency door of my main bunker.

It was the entrance to the passage leading to the twelve dummy bunkers I made myself

“Oi, there's a door here?”

They had found it.

My lifeline, the main bunker.

“Push it! I’m saying it open!”

“One-two! One-two!!”

After the nightmarish shouting subsided, there was a moment of silence, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Choi’s voice echoing from right behind the iron door.

"You're there, right~? Hmm~? You're right beyond here, right~? With your face all red! Aw~!"

Hearing Lieutenant Colonel Choi's taunting, I made a firm decision.

“I have something to say.”

For the first time, I appeared unarmed in front of them.

I held a cigarette in my hand.

“It’s hot with the sun right now, but please wait inside that bunker. I’ll bring out food and alcohol. Here, have a cigarette first.”

Lieutenant Colonel Choi grinned and spoke informally.

“You should have done this from the start.”

He looked at me with a hint of condescension.

“There’s a bunker you live in beyond that iron door, isn’t there? I know. I know it all.”

He was drunk on his sense of victory.

He put his hand casually on my shoulder and took a deep drag of his cigarette.

“I won’t take your home. You’ve worked hard to prepare it, right? It looks like that. We’re not raiders. Once we settle at the U.S. base, we’ll be neighbors. Isn’t that right? You seem to live alone, but when I bring my family here, I’ll introduce you to some nice women. My friends’ daughters are all pretty. Idol-level!”

His friend request ended with an explosion.

I picked up my gun and hunted down those who survived the blast.

Lieutenant Colonel Choi was among them.

“How, how could this happen... How...!”

His death meant nothing to me.

There was something more important.

I hurried to turn on the generator and restore power.

Cold air returned to the once-defunct freezer, and the bunker, which had been sweltering, became pleasant again.

Standing in front of the air conditioner, feeling the fresh, cold breeze, I finally smiled with satisfaction for the first time in a long while.

Maybe that's why.

[ You have accepted Defender’s friend request. ]

I accepted the friend request I had put off.

The human hunter seemed delighted.

Defender: (Defender touched) Skelton, my friend. After playing hard to get, you finally accepted my friend request! Thanks!

“...”

For a moment, I had forgotten.

The human hunter and I are just ordinary people living through the apocalypse.

We are not that different.

We both have our breaking points, and when they are touched, we react.

The only difference is that the human hunter’s breaking point is a bit more extreme than mine.

That's all there is to it.


Translator Notes: Looters -> Raiders

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