Dead End Chapter 110

Dead End

Episode 110

As I looked towards the men, they were all feigning ignorance. It was then that Alejandro, standing next to Sontae-hwan, whistled sharply and took his place by his side.

“Alright. Let’s grab the bags and take plenty of medical supplies – we’ll need them even after we escape.”

Alejandro nodded, looking amiable, and showed off a duffel bag. Absurdly enough, the duffel bag was one belonging to the Korean military, and even had the name of a sergeant inscribed on it. Sontae-hwan offered a bitter smile at this odd coincidence and nodded in agreement.

“Alright. Two of us will go. Please draw the Beta zombies’ attention this way for a moment. We need to head in that direction.”

Sontae-hwan was simplifying the plan to head towards the Maestro’s territory when Paula interrupted.

“Wait, I’m coming too.”

“What? Paula, wouldn’t it be better for you to stay and guard this place?”

“If you get killed, I want to retrieve the guns.”

“That’s sharply put.”

“No, it’s vitally important.”

“…….”

Sontae-hwan was silently observing Paula when a man walked out from the group of men. It was Kelly.

“Hmph. It’s dangerous for a woman to handle a gun. I’ll go too.”

Kelly glared at Sontae-hwan with shining eyes. He already had two shotgun shells. If he were to get a gun, it would completely throw off the power balance within the school.

Sontae-hwan wanted to refuse, but no good reason for objection came to mind.

“I, I too. That woman’s brother.”

A local man pointed at a groaning pregnant woman, indicating he would join the expedition. There were no others joining the expedition. Everyone else was just hesitantly looking in the direction of the Maestro’s territory.

“Okay. Let’s go.”

The old man who had been holding the ladder earlier gripped it again with a worried look. Without this ladder, they couldn’t leave. The old man spoke anxiously in Spanish to Paula and they both made the sign of the cross. Alejandro and the brother of the pregnant woman also made the sign of the cross and recited their prayers.

Although Sontae-hwan was an atheist, he pretended to join in prayer.

“Are you religious too?”

“No. But right now, whether it’s Buddha or the ancestors, prayer seems necessary.”

Paula quizzically tilted her head at Sontae-hwan’s words, but indeed it was a time in need of prayers. In Sontae-hwan’s mind, the image of the Maestro hurling a crawler kept replaying. Would they be able to enter the Maestro’s territory and return unharmed?

‘Certainly, that guy isn’t a god. He’s just a zombie that’ll go down with a shot to the head.’

Of course, Sontae-hwan was well aware that getting close enough to the Maestro to blow off his head with a shotgun or pistol was as difficult as trying to bell a cat. But it was better than trembling in fear.

Before long, the old man secured the ladder against the neighboring building, and the five-member expedition quietly descended onto the roof of the adjacent building. After Paula crossed the ladder last, they transferred the ladder to their side.

“Wait, Paula. What if we take the ladder from here? If we take it and lose it, that would be a disaster, right?”

“Don’t worry, there are several more ladders inside the school. Some we found, some that were already there.”

“I see. It wouldn’t be any use to have just one ladder for the seventy people to move.”

“Anyway, we need to hurry. According to the nurse, we’re out of time.”

Paula nodded lightly to Sontae-hwan’s words. The map, the ladders necessary for evacuation, she must have been meticulously planning the escape route to the yacht.

“Paula, if you return safely, please help us out.”

“That would be appreciated.”

Paula strapped a rope with a hook around her waist, and also slung a quiver of about twenty arrows across her back like a crossbody bag. This action unavoidably emphasized the generous curve of her bosom, making Sontae-hwan awkwardly change the subject.

“When did you start shooting arrows?”

“I was a national archery representative. My coach was Korean. Ah, of course, from the South.”

Paula shrugged cutely as she drew an arrow and loaded it onto her bow. Loaded? There is a simple device on a bow called an Arrow Rest, similar to the holding mechanism that would grasp the arrow in place, saving you from having to position each arrow by hand like Robin Hood.

A national archery champion. It was no coincidence she had become a leader after the soldiers had vanished. Sontae-hwan could easily imagine Paula saving numerous people with her bow and struggling valiantly.

“Hey, you. Don’t get distracted. Oh, that reminds me, I didn’t ask for your name?”

“You can just call me ‘Son.’”

“Son? That’s an odd name, isn’t it?”

Paula thought of the English word ‘son’ and tilted her head, puzzled.

“It’s fine. My full name is even harder to pronounce. Call it whatever you like.”

Kelly’s mocking laughter about Sontae-hwan’s family name could be heard from behind, but Sontae-hwan didn’t pay it any mind.

The group descended from the building using the ladder and then crawled back up onto a roof near the school. Paula unfolded the map in front of Sontae-hwan, pointing southeast.

“There’s a dental clinic and other small hospitals, but Naval General Hospital is the only place likely to still have medical supplies.”

From where Sontae-hwan’s group was positioned, the hospital was not in clear view.

“Just in case Alejandro or Miguel are dead, let me tell you, the hospital has a ‘blue roof’. It’s a large building right next to the racetrack, so you should be able to recognize it easily.”

“Blue building, golf course, next to the racetrack. Got it.”

“The problem is that the hospital building is right on the path where the Maestro roams.”

“Wait, Paula. I’ve been wanting to ask, have all of you actually seen the Maestro?”

Even Kelly shook his head “no” to Sontae-hwan’s question, too terror-stricken to utter a word.

“It’s important. I’ve killed an Alpha, as you call ‘Steam’, in Antarctica before.”

“Alpha? Why do you call those Steam-like creatures Alphas?”

“That… I’ll tell you later. More importantly, the Maestro. I’m about to walk in there and might die soon; I have a right to know, don’t I?”

Paula and Kelly looked at each other, shivering with fear. Their behavior was exactly like that of a herbivore who had seen a predator. A herbivore instinctively knows when it has encountered a predator stronger than itself.

‘This creature is going to devour me.’

They were instantly submerged in the terror shown by the Maestro. Sontae-hwan observed their reactions as he continued…

Sighing, he grabbed Paula’s collar.

“Listen up. I’ve told you before, I’ve killed ten Alphas. That Maestro might be impressive, but in the end, it’s just a zombie head.”

Sohn Tae-hwan tapped his own forehead with the index finger of his left hand.

“Destroy this, and it dies too.”

He intended his words to boost Paula’s and the others’ morale, but their reaction was lukewarm at best.

“We’ve killed a couple of Steammen too. But the Maestro is fundamentally different.”

“Right, Paula’s got a point. Steammen are tricky, but we were able to kill a few. But…”

Kelly shook like a person emerging from freezing water and swiftly reached for the gun that Sohn Tae-hwan was holding. Tae-hwan quickly turned his back to block the grab and pushed Kelly against the wall.

Next, he tried to shove the wrist of his right hand, wreathed in black energy, into the mouth of his assailant. Black blood seemed as if it would ooze from his wrist if it were cut with a knife.

“Just wait. I made a mistake.”

“One more time and you’ll be the first to go.”

“Okay, I get it. I understand.”

“Hand over the bullets.”

At the word “bullets,” Paula’s eyebrows twitched. Kelly, watching both Paula and Sohn Tae-hwan, reluctantly handed over two shotgun shells to Paula. Paula’s face turned deathly pale. The men had been hiding the bullets.

“Hold on, Kelly. What’s this about? The men agreed, didn’t they?”

“Well, that… I just found them while searching the house. The other guys don’t know much about it.”

Paula looked suspiciously at Alejandro and Miguel, but at this point, there was no use in questioning it. And as if to sound a warning, the shrill scream of a woman in agony ripped through the air from inside a school building nearby.

Miguel’s face darkened again, and he spoke hurriedly in Spanish to Paula, Kelly, and Sohn Tae-hwan. Paula had no choice but to let go of Kelly’s collar.

“We’ll talk more later. That’s not what matters now. Everyone follow closely. We’ll head toward the area where the dog disappeared last.”

This strange expedition had been creaking from the outset. Sohn Tae-hwan wanted to ask more about the Alpha zombie Maestro, but the others deliberately avoided the topic. He got the feeling that if he prodded further, Paula would refuse to answer, almost as if she’d have a fit. With no other option, Tae-hwan clammed up and followed behind Paula.

Eventually, Paula led them around some detached houses towards a crossroad that was visible even from the second floor of the school earlier.

The asphalt on the ground was scattered as if a meteor had struck the earth. At a glance, it appeared as if black mud had splattered around. At the center of the destruction was a heavy roller’s front wheel embedded in the ground, with a mangled bench crushed and stuck in the asphalt beside the roller’s wreckage. As Paula had said, these clearly were the traces left by the Maestro when it had approached the school.

“This… this was done by the Maestro?”

“Shh. From here on out, we’re in Nonsteam territory. Keep it down. Maestro isn’t sensitive to noise, but they are different.”

Even as Paula explained, Sohn Tae-hwan’s eyes remained fixed on the crushed bench. Familiar with the surreal sights of zombie Alphas akin to metal stakes, Tae-hwan felt somewhat accustomed to the unreal spectacle. The dents in the crushed bench clearly showed handprints, with the finger indentations suggesting the rough size of the hand that had caused the damage.

The problem was that these handprints looked like they belonged to a giant rather than a human. Each of the sunken prints was easily over a meter long. It suggested that whoever had done this had crushed the two-meter-long iron bench as easily as crumpling a can and thrown it aside.

‘A giant?’

Tae-hwan briefly entertained the idea before shaking his head. If the creature had hands over a meter in length, it would have surely been visible atop a hill or a rampart. Even the Steammen, standing nearly two meters tall, were noticeable from anywhere. However, Tae-hwan was certain he had never seen such a giant in the landscape of Punta Arenas.

Paula called to Tae-hwan in a low voice from atop an overturned trailer, which too bore the unmistakable handprints. The trailer seemed to have been pulled up from the beach, its crane cable still attached.

A monster that could toss such objects around at will?

As he entered the Maestro’s territory, Tae-hwan began to understand why Paula and Kelly had been so irritable.

The trailer led right to a church rooftop nearby, and from there, the group made their way to a bus garage next to it.

“Sun. You understand why we can’t drive, right?”

“There’s no intact road left. Everything’s been torn up.”

Ignoring the roads, there were hardly any intact cars. It looked as if the heavens had rained down destruction, with car bonnets pockmarked with holes and the remains of vehicles strewn about.

“Those are the traces of people who tried to escape through the barricade in their cars at the end.”

Paula pointed with her chin to a distance where an overturned van lay. It seemed the van had almost made it over the barricade into the field.

“Not the work of Maestro, but the Beast.”

“What’s with those holes?”

“The Beast’s ‘ability’.”

The van looked as though a giant awl had pierced it, leaving several large holes. With such damage, those inside the van had no chance of survival.

“You’ll see for yourself.”

“You make it sound like some third-rate drama. Telling me to find out next time? And here I am, not even sure if I’ll be here next time.”

Paula just shrugged her shoulders and didn’t elaborate on the Beast.

“If you survive in this Maestro’s domain, then I’ll tell you.”

“This is quite complicated.”

Having descended from the bus in the bus garage, they scanned their surroundings. Though their journey here had been relatively safe, Beta zombies loitered nearby.

“It’s just a 20-minute walk to the hospital from here. Damn.”

Paula seemed to be circling the same short distance, puzzled. They had been wandering for 20 minutes, yet walking the distance should have taken the same amount of time. Only upon exiting the school did Tae-hwan realize how cleverly Paula had been avoiding the Beta zombies.



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