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    After graduation, it became hard to meet up with Park Kang-woo, but whenever he had the chance he would suddenly come up with some pointless scheme. So I can definitely say that monkey Park Kang-woo must have deceived us all with some covering about it being for old times’ sake or to maintain our close friendship.

    In reality, he probably just wanted to play some sort of survival game. It wasn’t the first or second time he tricked us. Why did I ever go along with this? I couldn’t understand it, and my forehead involuntarily furrowed. With him and the other two guys, trekking up the mountain, the probability of either just me or all of us getting lost or stranded suddenly skyrocketed.

    I managed to get up from where I was sitting, but walking without anything to lean on was impossible. Luckily, I found a thick branch and used it as a makeshift cane. It would have been nice if there were caves around. Unable to find any rabbit holes, I eventually settled for what seemed like a decent bush.

    As soon as I put my luggage down, I felt uncomfortable in my mouth, so I brushed my teeth and gargled. I wanted to change my clothes, but to be honest, brushing my teeth was difficult due to my lack of strength, so I roughly cleaned up and laid down between the bushes.

    I still felt nauseous, dizzy, and uneasy about the possibility of bugs, and even though I gathered some leaves to cushion the hard ground, it was uncomfortable. But for now, I had to accept that relying on a few hot packs and the bushes to block the wind was all I had to be satisfied with.

    Without any more complaints, I closed my tired, dizzy eyes. Not having any memories was scary and suffocating, but I firmly believed it was temporary and decided to think more about what to do tomorrow. It took quite a while to fall asleep though.

    “Ughh…”

    Did I really eat something bad? The nausea wouldn’t stop, making me feel like vomiting instead. I spent the night that way with open eyes, to the point of feeling crazy by morning. Hearing the birds chirping, I scowled fiercely. This bad dream was still continuing.

    “…”

    I secretly hoped it was just a nightmare and I wanted to wake up from it, but it was inevitably reality. I got up and rubbed my dry face. My physical condition wasn’t any better than yesterday, if not worse. Just more muscle aches.

    Ironically, I wasn’t hungry. I definitely hadn’t eaten properly since yesterday, which was strange. Not feeling hunger in this uncertain situation of not knowing when I’d need to ration food could be a good thing. But given my poor condition now, that stroke of luck only made me anxious.

    Ultimately, worried that the compact rations I had opened at some point might spoil, I ate a little bit. Though I ended up finishing them all. I should have left some but carelessly forgot in my absentmindedness. Even though hiking was supposed to clear my mind, I still made mistakes because I wasn’t in my right mind.

    “Huff, huff.”

    I was already in a very uncomfortable state, but I was sweating so much that the back of my neck was wet and I desperately wanted to wash up. I also want to drink water. I felt thirsty, but as I drank the little water I had left, my desire to drink as much as I could was growing.

    Leaning on the cane, I painstakingly trudged my unbelievably wrecked body in search of an open vantage point. But the problem was everywhere I found such a place, it was just trees, trees, trees… I begged to see a road, but all I saw were mountains, giving me no sense of which way to go at all.

    I feel like I’m trapped in a maze. I lowered my head as I realized how helpless mere humans are in front of nature. What grand ambitions was I pursuing by being here? I frowned while resting against a tree to avoid the stinging autumn sun.

    Fortunately, very fortunately, not long after, I spotted a magnificent canyon and lake in the distance. After walking aimlessly, I now had a destination to head towards and walked to get there. Amidst this search for a path, I heard the sound of water and stopped.

    A valley.

    It was shallow enough to just get my feet wet, let alone soaking my body, but it was good enough. I stared blankly at the water glistening in the sunlight and walked shakily. The tip of my nose wrinkled as I dipped my weak hand which was almost like a decoration.

    Ah… Refreshing…

    In the deserted mountain where only the valley water trickled, my languid sighs rang out leisurely. Despite being overheated, dipping my hands in the cold water made me feel truly alive. I stayed there for a while. Although short, it was a sweet rest. I dip my hands in to wash my face, but the back of my hands touches a hard stone. In the end, I had no choice but to wash my face like a cat. But no matter how much I scrubbed, blood kept oozing out.

    “…?”

    Thinking I must have gotten injured somewhere, I used the water’s surface as a mirror to inspect my face. Then I was startled to glimpse red under my nose, around my mouth, and on my chin. Damn, did I face-plant when I fell over? Only then did I notice my blood-stained clothes too.

    It was so filthy that I had skimmed over it, assuming something was just smeared on, but it turned out to be all blood. Everything except the coat was soaked in water. I held it in place with a heavy stone to get it thoroughly wet and wiped my body with clean water. The wind was a little cold, but whether from the sunlight or my feverish skin, I didn’t shiver.

    “Ah, ouch.”

    I touched the back of my head to wash my hair, but I felt a sharp pain and put my hand away. Something felt damp, so I opened my palm after touching my head to find it smeared with blood. Did I crack it open? Or was it torn? That would explain the dizziness that made me feel so strange. Was it because of this that I couldn’t remember anything?

    I remembered that there was a first aid kit, but I didn’t know what to do with it so couldn’t bring myself to use it. It was difficult to apply medicine to my stinging face, so I treated my broken knees first. Same thing with my calves, I think there will be scars. By the time I finished it, my hair had dried in the wind. I put on my dirty coat over my new clothes and looked at the sky. The sun started to set.

    Worries start creeping up on me. My travel speed is far too slow compared to the time spent. The cold could become severe in just a few more days. As for water, even if I boil stream water to drink, I’m severely lacking food. Even if I eat sparingly, how long could I keep it up?

    The enormous canyon seen from above, and the large lake below. It was an astounding landscape. Something that grand must have appeared on TV programs or at least in textbooks. There was a high probability that it was a famous mountain. The size of the canyon and lake was so enormous that it overwhelmed people, so there was no way it wasn’t famous. It has to be that way.

    If I knew what mountain it was, I could roughly figure out my location. Then I could go home.

    Harboring that feeble glimmer of hope, I prepared a simple meal. My appetite was still revoltingly non-existent, but worried my depleted stamina or overall weakened condition could cause problems, I took my time thoroughly chewing the hard bread.

    When night fell, I spread my wet clothes out to dry on a large flat rock like a washboard, while I made my spot in a soft bed of grass further away. It wasn’t too cold today, but I briefly debated whether to make a campfire just in case the temperature dropped sharply at midnight. But I quickly dismissed that idea, having frequently seen the news about forest fires caused by that. Still, if tomorrow ends up colder than today, I’ll have to gather fallen leaves and dry branches to attempt a fire.

    Perhaps because it was cold, it was fortunate that there were fewer bugs than expected. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there at all. Even the slightest sound gave me goosebumps. In the end, I finally fell asleep only after covering my head with my coat.

    The unending nightmare, the second morning.

    “…”

    My condition had deteriorated further. Not physically, but mentally. Though my physical state was extremely challenging too, I could feel my mental fortitude fraying in real time, stretched thinner and thinner to the breaking point. It was definitely impossible to keep going in the worst conditions accompanied by dizziness. It was obvious that if I continued like this, I would fall again.

    In the end, I decided to rest for one more day to replenish my energy which was not improving even after sleeping.

    I soaked my tumbler filled with boiled water in the stream to cool it down, blankly watching my clothes dry meaninglessly in the sun. My whole body throbbed like I’d been beaten. The fatigue refused to dissipate. …How could I keep going in this state?

    If this were a survival movie, I would have been abandoned by the other survivors long ago. Head drooping, I spaced out, only to notice blood droplets plopping onto my coat hem. I plugged my nose, wondering why this was happening.

    Didn’t it seem like I get nosebleeds a bit often? Was this also because I hit my head? Thankfully it stopped quickly, but my drenched hand looked unnervingly ghastly. Utterly repulsed, I hurriedly washed it clean in the stream before flopping down to catch my breath on a warm rock. But within a minute, I jolted upright again. 

    “What the… This is a school uniform.”

    I pulled over the still-damp clothes for a closer look. No matter how I saw it, it was a school uniform. But wait, I graduated months ago. Why was I wearing a school uniform? I graduated…from high school, right? My memories became jumbled. Just as vivid recollections of college orientation, midterms, and finals surfaced, I regained my composure.

    Did I agree to go hiking in our uniforms with those guys?

    I angrily tossed the cold uniform aside. Does this mountain look like an amusement park? Surely it was that guy who led us here. That… that guy.

    “Oh, what was his name?”

    It’s strange. How could I forget that? My back shivered at the thought of the fuzzy memory, but I brushed it off. I just thought, ‘Oh, I must have hit my head really hard,’ I skimmed past it like that. Still, how could I not remember the name of a friend?

    I tried to recall, but I couldn’t remember the names of the other guys besides him. Then suddenly, I felt a chill. No, I definitely knew their names just yesterday. I couldn’t even remember the face of the friend who laughed and joked with me.

    For a moment, all color drained from my face.

    “My name.”

    What was my name?

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