“Uwaaaaahk!” Noh Su-Bong screamed as he jumped up from his bedding.
His fellow squad mates stared at him in shock.
What a familiar scene this was.
It was so familiar that some squad members even became deathly pale with fright.
Lee Sang-Yeop was one of them.
“S-sir?! Are you alright?”
Immediately after asking that question, Lee Sang-Yeop knew he was wasting his time.
Look at Noh Su-Bong's pale face, his sweat raining down, eyes filled with confusion, and his lips trembling like a madman! Those didn't belong to an 'alright' person at all.
“Sir, should I call for a medic?” Lee Sang-Yeop asked the expected question in this case, but he already knew.
He could clearly see that Noh Su-Bong's current appearance and behavior were practically the same as the initial stages of Kim Hak-Cheol going mad.
However, no one dared to say that out aloud.
First, it was Ju Yeong-Gi.
Then, Kim Hak-Cheol.
If Noh Su-Bong also started acting weird now, that would make three members of one squad causing a serious 'problem.’ The inspectors from the HQ should be flooding the base from today, so what would happen if Noh Su-Bong also started to lose his marbles like this? It was scary even to think about it.
“Sergeant Noh? Sir? Can you hear me?”
Noh Su-Bong's unfocused eyes shifted to Lee Sang-Yeop before he slowly nodded.
“I… I'm fine.”
“Are you sure, sir?”
Get me some water…”
Lee Sang-Yeop signaled with his eyes, prompting Kim Do-Hyeong to quickly get up and head to the water cooler.
After glancing at the private hurriedly leaving the living area, Lee Sang-Yeop turned his attention back to Noh Su-Bong.
An ominous foreboding began to rise up like a creepy black shadow in his heart as he watched the sitting Noh Su-Bong wordlessly rub his pale face.
A few seconds later, Kim Do-Hyeong rushed back inside with a cup of water.
Noh Su-Bong urgently drank the cold liquid before putting the cup down noisily.
He then staggered back up to his feet.
“Corporal Lee Sang-Yeop, sir.”
“Tell the duty officer that I'm not feeling well and want to skip the morning roll call.”
After leaving that 'order' behind, Noh Su-Bong stumbled outside the doorway, leaving the living area blanketed in icy silence.
Not one soldier dared to pipe up or break the silence in any shape or form.
Noh Su-Bong's scream earlier was like a sinister prelude to what was about to go down in this squad.
“Sir, what just happened?” Kim Do-Hyeong asked in a nervous voice.
Lee Sang-Yeop slowly shook his head.
“…He's under a lot of stress, so he must have had a bad nightmare.”
Sir, why did it have to be today…?”
“Because it’s today, and that’s why it happened.”
Kim Do-Hyeong shuddered, his expression crumpled and frightened.
“Sir, did you see Sergeant Noh's face just now?”
Lee Sang-Yeop replied in a less-than-impressed voice, “That's enough.”
“We all know that Sergeant Noh is mentally tough, sir.
For him to look so pale like that… Gee whiz, I've never seen anything like that before.”
“Yeah, I know, so stop.”
“Could it really be some kind of a haunting in our…”
“I said, that's enough, you dipsh*t!” Lee Sang-Yeop inadvertently started shouting at the top of his lungs.
“Goddamn it! You're old enough to know better, so why are you still spouting this ghost nonsense?! Can't you read the room, man?! The whole squad is like we have stepped on sh*t! If you're worried about a haunting or whatever, why don't you perform an exorcism or something? And make matters even worse in the process!”
“I… I'm sorry, sir.” Kim Do-Hyeong's head faltered dejectedly.
Lee Sang-Yeop saw the sorrowful look on his junior soldier's face and groaned deeply.
“I'm also sorry for biting your head off, man… In any case, hurry up and prepare for the morning roll call.”
Lee Sang-Yeop slowly chewed on his lips while watching Kim Do-Hyeong tidy up his bedding.
Noh Su-Bong's hand trembled so much that his thumb kept slipping off the lighter.
He desperately tried a few more times, but he eventually gave up and angrily threw the lighter on the ground.
The noise of the lighter breaking sounded sinister for some reason.
As if to worsen the mood, the cold mountain air was also settling down near the ground.
Noh Su-Bong sat on a bench and blankly stared into the distance.
However, his trembling hands were more than enough to convey his current thoughts.
What should I do…?”
Why didn't he pay more attention to what Kim Hak-Cheol had been saying? Especially when he knew that things like nightmares and obsessive neurosis couldn't logically happen to a person on a regular basis.
Moreover, he shouldn't have overlooked the fact that he dozed off while monitoring Kim Hak-Cheol that night.
All these things seemed to be proof of the 'inevitability' of the shadow's appearance.
what is that thing?'
Noh Su-Bong recalled the shadow's outer appearance, that bizarre physique seemingly created out of an unknown black substance.
He couldn't figure out how such a thing even existed in this world.
Racking his brain this way wouldn't get him anywhere in figuring out the truth behind that bizarre creature.
The crucial key to solving this puzzle was already with him, after all.
Actually, make that he 'used to have.’
Now that Noh Su-Bong knew Kim Hak-Cheol's rambling wasn't some crazy talk, he should carefully pore over his underling's 'testimony' and see what he could find out.
If the culprit was not a devil…
No, even if it was a devil! That bastard should be inside this base.
In that case, who could be holding deep resentment toward Noh Su-Bong and Kim Hak-Cheol in this army base? Unfortunately, there were too many suspects, making it tough to single anyone out.
Noh Su-Bong's lips trembled slightly.
He chewed those words out unconsciously.
Despite discovering Ju Yeong-Gi's diary, Kang Jin-Ho hadn’t demanded anything from Noh Su-Bong.
He even burned the diary, didn't he? Not to mention that Kim Hak-Cheol had also woken up from his nightmare one morning and charged straight at Kang Jin-Ho with the intention to kill.
Everything seemed to click into place once Noh Su-Bong carefully mulled over those events.
Except for one thing…
What Noh Su-Bong couldn't figure out was the external appearance of the shadowy figure standing before his eyes during the night.
How could anyone look like that? In addition, what kind of ability was at work to prevent Noh Su-Bong from lifting even a finger?
'…No! Don't try to understand it logically!'
Noh Su-Bong instinctively realized it.
He shouldn't even try to apply common sense in this case.
Using logic to analyze this situation would never yield him any desirable results.
So, he should focus only on the phenomenon itself.
Someone inside this artillery company was targeting him, and this individual possessed some kind of unexplainable ability.
In that case, what should Noh Su-Bong do to respond and resist that shadowy creature?
Noh Su-Bong's body broke into fearful shivers.
Simply recalling that shadow caused a flood of terror to crash into him.
The terror was so powerful that he was having a hard time maintaining his reasoning!
However, how could he not? That shadowy figure, covered in the creepy, sinister darkness, with his eyes blazing in a crimson light as he broke Noh Su-Bong piece by piece…
Just recalling that figure quite literally disintegrating Noh Su-Bong's soul forced his heart to pound hard enough that it seemed like it would explode, while bone-chilling coldness seemed to invade every pore of his body.
That creature said one week, didn't he?
“Hehehehe…” Noh Su-Bong broke into a helpless cackle.
One week of this torture? Experiencing it for only one night was already hellish, yet he had to endure it for one whole week?
“N-no, I can't let that happen!” Noh Su-Bong shot up to his feet.
His frightened eyes stared at the barracks, and then he forced his unwilling feet to walk toward living area no.5.
“Sir? What can I do for you?” Kang Jin-Ho asked nonchalantly.
He was so laidback that his attitude couldn't have been connected to Noh Su-Bong and his troubles.
wrong about this?'
Noh Su-Bong momentarily had to question himself.
That was how laidback Kang Jin-Ho looked right now.
His expression seemed so…
gentle? It was nigh impossible to think that someone with such an expression was also the devil responsible for tearing Noh Su-Bong apart the night before!
“Corporal Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
Noh Su-Bong gulped, then asked in a trembling voice.
“It's not you, right?”
“Sir? I don't follow.”
really, really not you, right? Right?”
Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly.
“Sir, for me to respond satisfactorily, I need a more in-depth explanation from you.
I don't understand what you're asking me; therefore, I cannot answer you.”
Noh Su-Bong's breathing got heavier.
“…You know, that notebook!”
“That notebook, sir?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“What notebook are you talking about, Sergeant Noh?”
Noh Su-Bong turned his head and stared at Seong Tae-Ho.
“Yes, Sergeant Noh?”
“Give us a minute alone.”
Seong Tae-Ho stared at Noh Su-Bong with an unwilling expression.
Sergeant Noh did hold seniority in rank, but how could Seong Tae-Ho be happy about one of his fellow squad members having a private chat with someone making that kind of face?
“It won't take long,” said Noh Su-Bong.
“I see, sir.”
“…And stop others from interrupting us for a bit.”
Sir.” Seong Tae-Ho nodded, then got up to leave the smoking area.
Before he stepped inside the barrack, he glanced back and saw Kang Jin-Ho nodding at him.
'…I'm sure it'll be fine.'
Even if Noh Su-Bong were infamous for his bad personality, he wouldn't dare to harm Kang Jin-Ho.
Once Seong Tae-Ho was gone from view, Noh Su-Bong addressed Kang Jin-Ho again in his trembling voice, “Y-you…”
“Yes, sir?” Kang Jin-Ho looked back without any changes to his expression.
“That, that notebook…
Why did you burn it? That notebook!” Noh Su-Bong stuttered, his voice trembling even more.
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes.
“Is that what you are curious about, sir?”
I thought you'd demand…
s-something from me.
But you haven't asked me for anything yet.
Why? How come? Why did you burn that notebook, then? Why?” Noh Su-Bong asked as madness filled his expression more and more.
In his view, Kang Jin-Ho's face was gradually overlapping that of the shadow from the night before.
“Why did you do that? Why! Why did you burn it?!”
Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders.
“Sir, let me say this again.”
“I still don't know what you're trying to say, Sergeant Noh.”
Noh Su-Bong's eyes powerfully quaked.
“But, but! You burned it, didn't you? That notebook! Yeong-Gi's diary!”
“Who told you that, sir?”
“Hak-Cheol told me! Kim Hak-Cheol did!”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.
“I'm sorry, sir.
It sounds like Corporal Kim made a mistake.
I've never done anything like that.
I don't know what diary you're talking about, and truth be told, I've never come into possession of Yeong-Gi's personal articles, nor have I ever burned one.”
Noh Su-Bong stared in dismay at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Are you trying to say he was lying?”
“You should ask Corporal Kim later to find out, sir.”
Hahaha…” Noh Su-Bong chuckled in dumbfoundedness.
Did this punk really say he should ask Kim Hak-Cheol? Kim Hak-Cheol did regain consciousness, but his mind was already gone.
He might be alive, but he would have to spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric facility.
Yet, this punk was telling Noh Su-Bong to ask someone like that?
“Besides that…” Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes and asked quietly.
“…Now isn't the time to ask around for things like that, don't you think?”
Noh Su-Bong's eyes widened.
“You don't have much time left, after all…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered as a strange grin floated up his lips.
That grin…! It looked so familiar, even though the person didn't look the same.
The bone-chilling sensation traveled down Noh Su-Bong's entire body.
It was reacting to Kang Jin-Ho's strange grin even before his mind could catch up.
“Uwaaaaah!” Noh Su-Bong screamed like a wild beast and pounced on Kang Jin-Ho.
He grabbed Kang Jin-Ho's throat and pushed the latter down as he screamed, “You, you son of a b*tch! I'm gonna kill you! Diiiiiie!”
That was when the barrack's door flung open.
Seong Tae-Ho and other soldiers rushed outside to grab and yank Noh Su-Bong off Kang Jin-Ho.
“What the f*ck! Seriously now?!” Seong Tae-Ho swore loudly.
“What's the matter with you, Sergeant Noh?! Get a hold of yourself!”
“Let me go! Let me go, noooow! I gotta; I gotta kill that bastard! I must kill him! Uwaaaaaah!”
The members of the 3rd Squad finally managed to pull Noh Su-Bong away and suppress him on the floor.
Seong Tae-Ho quickly walked over to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Hey, are you alright, Jin-Ho?”
“What the hell?! What's going on here? What's gotten into him and Hak-Cheol?! Did you do something to the 1st Squad, Jin-Ho?”
“Sir, you think I'm capable of such a thing?”
“I know you are not, and that's why I don't understand what's going on here.
Gimme a break…” Seong Tae-Ho slowly shook his head while glancing at Noh Su-Bong struggling like a madman on the ground with foam bubbling in his mouth.
That man looked somewhat 'normal' only a few minutes ago, so why did he suddenly lose his sh*t like this?
“Is there really something going on here?”
Noh Su-Bong was forcibly dragged back to his own squad's living area.
Even as he sat there, his sharp, burning glare was scanning his surroundings in paranoia.
Unsurprisingly, no one tried to meet his glare.
Hehehe…” Noh Su-Bong could only chuckle weakly.
He was far too familiar with their reactions.
Didn't they behave the same back when Kim Hak-Cheol first displayed signs of madness? In other words, they also saw Noh Su-Bong as someone steadily losing his mind right now.
“…I need to record this.”
Like an entranced man, Noh Su-Bong trudged over to his locker and pulled out a notebook and a pen.
He knew he would probably go insane.
The 'him' of today might become different from the 'him' of tomorrow.
That was why he had to record everything.
To prevent himself from going utterly crazy!
Noh Su-Bong grabbed his pen—sheer determination was written on his face.
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