Episode 4 – Line of Hypocrisy (3)
Despite the interference of Cheon Inho, the constellations didn’t ask for a bounty scenario. In other words, it wasn’t the best time to deal with him.
For around half a day, I focused on grasping the situation of Gumho Station. It was Lee Hyunsung who mainly gave information.
“Currently, there are 86 people in Gumho Station. Ah, I guess it is 87 people now with Dokja-ssi.”
“It is less than I thought.”
“Yes. When the scenario broke out, only those near the station and those on the train survived. Everyone didn’t say it but perhaps in the first scenario…”
I didn’t need to be told the next words. I could see it from the expressions of the people. Those who survived had trampled on someone’s life. All the humans here were murderers.
“Currently, Gumho Station is divided into two groups. Strictly speaking, it is one group and the rest.”
Lee Hyunsung looked at the people with a dark expression. There were men armed with iron pipes or other instruments. It was clear which was the faction in power.
“Believe in me! The group president is working hard and everyone will soon be rescued.”
The youngest son of Hankyung Group, Han Myungoh.
“Hyung-nim is right, everyone. Don’t lose hope. We will be able to led.”
The one who embraced Han Myungoh and practically led the group was Cheon Inho. They were the ‘mainstream group.’
“Mother, I’m bored…can’t I play a game on the phone?”
“Hold on for a moment. The rescue team will come soon.”
“The government will act. It isn’t that easy to collapse a country.”
And the people who were protected by the mainstream group and wanted to get on with their lives were the ‘marginalized group.’
Their will was too weak to be killers. Even if 100 murderers were gathered together, they would be divided between the weak and the strong. Maybe they were thinking that they weren’t murderers. They all believed it was unavoidable.
Lee Hyunsung watched the mainstream group inciting the people and said.
“Food distribution is determined by the mainstream group. Convenience stores and restaurants in the region have already been robbed…the foods that can be eaten right now are almost gone.”
“It is the reason why some people from the mainstream group were sent above ground for food exploration. Heewon-ssi, who you brought in, went with them”
“Ah, it is the name of the woman who Dokja-ssi saved.”
I looked at the woman who lay on the subway bench. Under the bright light, her beauty could be seen. Her raised cheeks and gentle features meant she must’ve often heard she was attractive. Thanks to the monkey’s lungs, her colour was much brighter than it was this morning.
“Is Heewon-ssi the only one who didn’t come back?”
“No. In fact, a few more people went out this morning but only those from the marginalized group didn’t return.”
“They didn’t come back?”
Lee Hyunsung’s expression became sad again. He thought he roughly knew what happened.
I grabbed Lee Hyunsung’s shoulder. I knew for sure after actually touching him. He truly was the steel sword. His strength would soon exceed level 10.
“W-Why are you…?”
“Lee Hyunsung-ssi should’ve received a love call but you didn’t accept.”
Objectively, Lee Hyunsung’s combat power was higher than Bang Cheolsoo. There was no way Cheon Inho wouldn’t aim for him.
“I can’t explain it but I thought I shouldn’t accept. I don’t know much about morals or ethics but…”
Lee Hyunsung scratched his head like he was embarrassed.
“I felt that something wasn’t right.”
Not right… It wasn’t an answer but I felt it was true. Indeed, Lee Hyunsung was Lee Hyunsung.
“Don’t forget this heart.”
That way, I could continue to believe in him.
I heard a cute sound from somewhere and looked back, seeing Yoo Sangah and Lee Gilyoung looking up at me. Their faces were like baby birds waiting for the mother bird, making me laugh.
“That reminds me, it is already evening. Aren’t you hungry? Take this one by one.”
I handed over the food from the convenience store one by one.
“Ah. Really? Can I?”
“This time is free. But next time, you should pay for it.”
“Huh? H-How much…?”
“Don’t you all have coins? It is 10 coins for one.”
Confusion filled the faces of Yoo Sangah and Lee Hyunsung. They looked like they hadn’t expected my words.
“Of course. I will pay right now. I don’t need freebies.”
Surprisingly, the one who spoke was the woman who had been lying on the bench. She had regained consciousness.
“I am Jung Heewon. Thank you for your help this morning.”
“It is nothing.”
I thought it was just a cute mask but I could see that it was a prejudice.
“Yoo Sangah-ssi, Lee Hyunsung-ssi. Everyone, please wake up. It isn’t the time to be making this look. This food, he obtained it by risking his life. Do you expect to get it for free?”
There was almost no expression on the face that spoke without hesitation.
“Ah…” Yoo Sangah turned red like she had woken up. “I was too short-sighted, I’m sorry. Of course we should pay…it is right. I don’t like freebies either. I hate depending on other people.”
“I also agree with Yoo Sangah-ssi. I will pay coins from now on.”
I was a little surprised by the unexpected reaction. Indeed, just because it was an apocalypse didn’t mean there was only one type of person.
“If you insist…I understand. Does everyone know how to exchange coins?”
“Yes. I learned a few days ago. Touch each other’s index finger, um, and…”
“Just state how many coins you want to exchange.”
Starting from Jung Heewon, Yoo Sangah and Lee Hyunsung paid 10 coins in exchange for food. It was fortunate that their resistance wasn’t bigger than what I thought.
I didn’t do this in order to get a few coins. At first, this judgment might seem harsh but people would soon realize this choice was right.
[’Lee Gilyoung’ has paid you 20 coins.]
“Huh? You gave me more than 10 coins?”
“It is the price for the chocolate bar during the day.”
Lee Gilyoung’s expression while speaking was quite good. Maybe the fastest to adapt to a new world wasn’t an adult but a child. It was easier for children to break common sense.
“Will Dokja-ssi keep staying with us?”
It wasn’t Lee Hyunsung who called out to me. I looked back and saw Cheon Inho from the mainstream group. Yes, I thought he would be back soon.
“Can I talk with you for a while?”
Bang Cheolsoo was missing some teeth and glaring at me from behind Cheon Inho. He stared at me before turning his head away. A foolish fellow.
“Okay, let’s talk.”
I nodded and Cheon Inho spoke with a satisfied expression.
“Then can the rest of you vacate this place for a moment? I want to talk to Dokja-ssi alone.”
“No, you don’t have to go. You can listen.”
Cheon Inho’s eyes twitched at my words. Lee Hyunsung stopped as he was about to retreat.
“Hmmm, is that so? Well…I don’t care.”
He acted like they were free to listen. Cheon Inho wiped the bench and sat down. Men from the Cheoldoo Group appeared on both sides of him and handed him a cigarette and lighter. He had seen too many movies.
“You seem to have a nature that dislikes cumbersome things, so I will get to the point.”
“Join our group.”
It was an expected offer.
“I can offer Dokja-ssi a high position in our group. I want to lead the group together with you.”
“Shouldn’t you know why?”
Cheon Inho glanced towards the injured Cheoldoo Group members.
“Dokja-ssi is a hero who saved people from monsters. A hero needs such a place.”
It was an interesting way of thinking. He would take advantage of my presence.
“And if I refuse?”
“Refuse? How interesting. I never thought about that.” Cheon Inho blew out cigarette smoke towards me. “Dokja-ssi, this isn’t a favour. You have a duty to do this. Can’t you see the poor people here?”
People were looking this way with scruffy faces. There were crying children and tired elderly people.
“It isn’t a big story. I am asking you to work together for survival. Dokja-ssi, don’t you have the strength?”
“What exactly do you want?”
“I need someone to be a hitman.”
“Until a few days ago, there was someone else doing the job. He procured food alone and hunted in the tunnels. To be exact, we took it one-sidedly.”
I didn’t need to ask.
This was the story of Yoo Jonghyuk.
“But he suddenly left last night.”
“So you need someone to replace him?”
“I think your strength is proven with Cheolsoo-ssi.”
Lee Hyunsung and Jung Heewon’s eyes widened. Now they noticed what was going on.
“It isn’t bad for Dokja-ssi. You are the hero of the people and will be the leader of the group with us. Everyone will like you and also…”
“I’m sorry but I can’t be responsible for anyone. I don’t want to join your group.”
“Hrmm. Is that so?”
“Above all, the way you run the group doesn’t fit me.”
I looked at the health members of the Cheoldoo Group and the sickly-looking members of the marginalized group. In particular, Jung Heewon was looking at the Cheon Inho as if he was her mortal enemy.
“Is that so? It is fine. But if you change your mind, come back anytime.”
“That will not happen.”
“Haha, it remains to be seen.”
It didn’t take long to find out what Cheon Inho’s words meant.
As the members of the Cheoldoo Group retreated, the other group members approached as if they had been waiting. It was the people of the marginalized group. They grabbed me and raised their voices.
“Hey, is the rumour true?”
“Are you really monopolizing the food?”
“Are you going to eat it all when there is enough to share with everyone?”
“We are all staying here! Why are you the only one to have it?”
“Leave the food to Inho-ssi! He will distribute it fairly!”
I knew what was going on. I could see the smiling face of Cheon Inho in the rear of the people. His lips were moving.
Would I give food and become the hero? Or would I be the villain and monopolize it alone?
If I chose to be the hero, I would fall into Cheon Inho’s game. After the food was distributed, I would have to hunt for food with the group members and would someday get stabbed in the back.
On the other hand, I would be isolated in a group in a moment if I monopolized the food alone.
[The eyes of a few constellations are shining.]
[The constellation ‘Secretive Plotter’ has snorted.]
As the people became heated up, Cheon Inho came forward.
“Ahh, everyone. Calm down. There seems to be a misunderstanding. Kim Dokja-ssi isn’t such a person.”
What was this? A decoy?
“Kim Dokja-ssi decided to work with us. The food he brought today will be left to the mainstream group and will be shared fairly. He also promised to continue to work with us―”
Of course, he believed I would choose him. It was hard to listen anymore.
I worried about it for a short moment. What would Yoo Jonghyuk do? Ah, that’s it. The answer was that he wasn’t here right now.
But I wasn’t Yoo Jonghyuk.
“Of course I will give out food.” I saw Cheon Inho’s lips curve upwards. But people should listen to the end. “However, it isn’t for free.”
Unlike Yoo Jonghyuk, I wouldn’t throw everything away to move forward. But I wouldn’t be responsible for everyone. Food was given but it wouldn’t be for free.
People were puzzled as if they didn’t understand the words.
“W-Wait a minute! It isn’t free?”
“I’ll tell you. I don’t intend to monopolize the food. But I won’t give food to Cheon Inho’s group. I’m not UNICEF and I don’t trust them.”
I smiled at Cheon Inho.
“I will make a deal with you. I will sell you the food for a fair price.”
“Uh, how much…money?”
In the distance, I could see Cheon Inho’s face stiffening. I laugh as I faced him.
“No, I only accept coins.”
* * *
After a while, only the people in the marginalized group with a relationship with me returned.
“That…D-Dokja-ssi. Is this a good choice?”
“Sheesh, is there anything free in life? Dokja-ssi, you said it well. I feel refreshed.”
Jung Heewon dismissed Lee Hyunsung’s concern. After I made the ‘trade’ declaration, many citizens turned away from me. Maybe they were disappointed.
“I agree with Heewon-ssi. The people here are too tame to the mainstream group.”
“That’s right. The sons of bitches…Gumho Station is currently in their palms. People are treated as cattle and are sometimes taken to a slaughterhouse. Just like myself this morning.”
Jung Heewon’s body trembled.
In fact, it wasn’t me but the mainstream group monopolizing the food. They monopolized the food on the pretext of ‘fair distribution’ and feed it to the tamed people.
Humans were the weakest when they believed someone protected them. Once authority was established in a one-sided relationship, people started to depend on them.
“I agree. That’s why I believe that Dokja-ssi’s declaration today was very meaningful. People need to have the will to do something on their own. However…”
Lee Hyunsung looked towards the food.
“Not even one was sold. 50 coins for one, isn’t this price too expensive? Why don’t you make it 10 coins like you did with us…?”
It wasn’t unreasonable to think so. People only paid attention to the mainstream group and showed no signs of looking this way. People still needed time.
I responded calmly.
“Let’s wait a little longer.”
Then night came.
The sound of huge monsters was heard intermittently from the ground and people often had nightmares. Lee Gilyoung and Yoo Sangah fell asleep first while Jung Heewon was dozing off.
“Dokja-ssi should sleep as well. I will stand vigil.”
“Nope. It is okay. Lee Hyunsung-ssi can sleep first.”
“But you will be tired.”
“I have work to do.”
“Work to do?”
I pointed behind Lee Hyunsung. Surprisingly, there were the shadows of people. It wasn’t just one.
“That…are you still trading the food?”
Finally, the people started to move.