D +65 .
“There’s nothing left to eat?” (Chang-Sik)
“No, it’s not ‘nothing’, but just that the delivery hasn’t come in yet . ” (foreman)
“Isn’t that the same thing?” (Chang-Sik)
Choi Chang-Sik could only groan while looking at the foreman struggling to answer .
“Can’t you, like, be honest with us?” (Chang-Sik)
“about… what?” (foreman)
“Whether it really is the supply issue or we’re running out of food . ” (Chang-Sik)
“T-that, that is…” (foreman)
The foreman instantly became hesitant . The surrounding workers were currently staring at him with sharp glares .
“Uncles, you should all ease up a bit, too . This isn’t the foreman’s fault, right? If we want to know the truth, we shouldn’t all behave like this . ” (Chang-Sik)
The people exchanged glances with each other after listening to Chang-Sik’s urging, then slightly lowered their heads .
“Honestly, I also don’t know . ” (foreman)
“You don’t know…” (Chang-Sik)
“All I heard was that the delivery won’t come today, and it’ll only resume sometime tomorrow . ” (foreman)
“Mister foreman, you also have no idea what’s going on?” (Chang-Sik)
“Yeah . ” (foreman)
Chang-Sik roughly scratched his head . In that case, he couldn’t just blame the foreman here, even if it was unknown whether the latter was telling the truth or not .
‘But then again, what would he know, anyway?’ (Chang-Sik)
The foreman was merely in charge of managing the workers in this place and not someone possessing up-to-date information on what was going on around the world .
It’s just that Chang-Sik figured the foreman would know a little more than everyone else here since the latter was frequently in contact with the higher-ups . However, when he thought about it some more, the ones in the upper management wouldn’t necessarily explain everything to a foreman of a small factory like theirs, even if he was in charge of distributing rations .
‘There shouldn’t be a reason for the supply to be disrupted here . ’ (Chang-Sik)
When objectively thinking about it, there was no reason for the food delivery to run into issues since it wasn’t as if bombs had been dropped behind the battlelines or something .
“What do you think is the problem, mister foreman?” (Chang-Sik)
“I told you, I don’t know . ” (foreman)
“No, I’m not asking you for the truth, just your opinion . ” (Chang-Sik)
“My opinion, is it…” (foreman)
The foreman scanned the workers with a pair of deeply anxious eyes .
“We won’t start a riot or something like that . ” (Chang-Sik)
What Chang-Sik said prompted the foreman to flinch .
“Logically speaking, you start a riot if there’s something to forcibly take away in the first place, right? We all know already that there aren’t any foodstuffs left in the supermarkets and the convenience stores, so what’s the point of rioting now? It’s not like we want extra soaps or shampoos, you know?” (Chang-Sik)
“I guess so . ” (foreman)
The foreman sighed under his breath .
“Dunno if you noticed it lately, but the rations had been decreasing in size from a little while ago . ” (foreman)
“Or we only get mixed grains, instead . ” (Chang-Sik)
“Right, that too . ” (foreman)
The foreman continued on with a slightly trembling voice .
“This is what I think… The food production hasn’t completely stopped, but… I’m beginning to think that the food reserve is running out . ” (foreman)
“The reserve?” (Chang-Sik)
“You know, things like rice and stuff . ” (foreman)
Chang-Sik became somewhat stupefied as he stared at the foreman .
“We ran out of rice?” (Chang-Sik)
What kind of an absurd tale was this??
“No, hang on . Before this crisis happened, I’ve been hearing stories about rice rotting away in storage somewhere because we have too much so we gotta financially support the farmers, and also it’s costing billions every year just to store away the surplus and things like that, yet we ran out of rice already?!” (Chang-Sik)
“But that was when we still had functioning international trade . ” (foreman)
The foreman spat out a lengthy groan .
“Back then, rice wasn’t really important . Half the people usually consumed bread or noodles or something else . But now, there’s nothing else to eat beside rice these days, isn’t it?” (foreman)
Chang-Sik became speechless .
“There are some rumblings about MREs but that’s the story for the folks in the frontlines… They can’t really spare some to the people behind the lines . ” (foreman)
“But, even if that’s true, we only lost Seoul so far, so how come we don’t have enough food?” (Chang-Sik)
“I told you, it’s just my guess . Besides, that reasoning is wrong . It’s not that we don’t have food because we lost Seoul, it’s more like the food stopped coming because the international trade has stopped . Think about it . Trade with the countries that used to export food to our country have all stopped now, right?” (foreman)
“I’m sure that the food reserve hasn’t completely run out yet . I mean, we did have plenty of farmers in the countryside, after all . So the food couldn’t have run out in only a little over two months . ” (foreman)
“Well, yeah . ” (Chang-Sik)
“The real issue, though, is whether or not the folks with spare food reserves are willing to sell them . ” (foreman)
“Why wouldn’t they?” (Chang-Sik)
“They also need to eat, don’t they? In our current situation, there’s no guarantee of buying food even if you have the money, so who would be willing to sell what they have?” (Chang-Sik)
Chang-Sik forgot what he wanted to say . He never thought about the issue that way before .
“No, hang on . I’ve not heard about countries going to war running out of food, you know?” (Chang-Sik)
“That’s because, no matter which war in history you’re talking about, the whole planet wasn’t embroiled in it, that’s why . The fighting often took place only on the frontlines and the areas behind didn’t face many problems, after all . However, you know that’s not how things are now . ” (foreman)
“Not only the whole world is fighting to stay alive, nobody knows when the locations you think are safe will start developing problems . And besides, when the world wars broke out, they didn’t rely heavily on food import like us . And finally, the government wouldn’t have planned for an all-out warfare that lasted for this long, too . ” (foreman)
“In that case, what should we do?” (Chang-Sik)
Chang-Sik asked with an idiotic-looking face, and the foreman could only sigh .
“How should I know? Except that… if the government folks have any functioning brains, they should be coming up with a solution soon enough . Either they forcibly appropriate food or find another way . ” (foreman)
“…Wow, this sucks . ” (Chang-Sik)
Chang-Sik grunted helplessly .
He had been feeling it on his skin that the country was circling down the drain lately . But forget about his skin, he could acutely feel it right down to his bones now .
‘How are we supposed to hold on without food?’ (Chang-Sik)
Worries crept all over Chang-Sik but he did his best to not show it on his face . He knew that people were focusing on him, that’s why .
Humans had this tendency to search for someone to rely on in times of crisis . And the regular hierarchy of society would break down the worse the crisis was .
Chang-Sik would’ve been treated like some wet-behind-the-ears punk who hadn’t even gone to the army yet if they were in a normally functioning society . But as things stood now, he somehow ended up as the unspoken leader of the people working in this place .
“Is it confirmed that the food supply will get going again from tomorrow?” (Chang-Sik)
“…I can’t say it’s been confirmed, but that’s what they told me . ” (foreman)
“In that case, we’ll have to wait, then . ” (Chang-Sik)
“But, look here, Chang-Sik . ”
“Eii . ” (Chang-Sik)
Chang-Sik waved his hand dismissively at the voice calling out to him from somewhere in the back .
“I know what you want to say, but we’ll look like a bunch of clowns if we go on a rampage today only for the food to show up tomorrow, you know?” (Chang-Sik)
“But, this problem concerns our livelihood . ”
“With how the situation is, we gotta accept the cards being dealt to us for now . Even I would’ve gone straight to the principal’s office if the school wasn’t giving me food, and tear out what little hair remained on the principal’s baldy head, but our current situation isn’t like that, right?” (Chang-Sik)
“W-well, yeah . That’s true . ”
“Other people are still working their butts off, so let’s not ruin the mood for everyone else . We wait until tomorrow, and if no food comes through even then, it won’t be too late to flip the table and start something . ” (Chang-Sik)
Everyone seemed to be in agreement .
“Okay, but what about today?”
“Well, we all have stashed some food away, haven’t we? Why don’t we just eat that for today?” (Chang-Sik)
Quite a few people were shooting him dissatisfied glares, but none seemed willing to express their unhappiness in the open .
This situation wouldn’t get resolved just because they got angry and threw a tantrum, and besides, they were also scared by the possibility of the gun-toting MPs patrolling the streets outside barging in here after they caused a commotion .
‘However, a major problem will happen if no food is distributed tomorrow…’ (Chang-Sik)
Everyone here was holding back because there was the hope of incoming food tomorrow . But if the supply kept getting disrupted like this in the future, then it’d be only a matter of time before the ticking bomb exploded .
To all these people who worked hard and continued to endure the hardship while holding onto the faint ray of hope that they might survive somehow, the notion of ‘no food’ would be the same thing as telling them to die of hunger after enduring for so long .
“In any case, let’s go and eat something . ” (Chang-Sik)
“But they didn’t give us any food, so what can we even eat now? All the supermarkets are empty by now, too . ”
“I’ve stashed a few packets of ramen away, so let’s just eat that for today . Mister foreman, do you have a burner with a good output? Cuz it looks like a lot of ramen needs to be cooked today . ” (Chang-Sik)
“I think there’s a stove for cooking stews in the kitchen . ” (foreman)
“Then please tell them to prepare the equipment . I’ll go with a few people to fetch the ramen . ” (Chang-Sik)
“Oh, will you do that?” (foreman)
Chang-Sik smirked and turned around to leave . Even before he said something, several people accompanied him .
However, despite turning around all cool and the like, Chang-Sik’s complexion couldn’t be described as bright at all .
‘We are really at the limit . ’ (Chang-Sik)
He had been hearing the stories of riots breaking out from here and there . Such as, some people demonstrating in some other place got forcibly suppressed yesterday, and earlier today, people who were forced into working in a factory a bit of a distance away had started a riot, etc…
Although it might not seem acceptable, he still understood where they were coming from .
Not acceptable, since the whole world was in a crisis and everyone needed to work together yet they were going on a riot, but at the same time, the rioters must’ve been deeply frustrated and tired for them to riot in the first place .
Even Chang-Sik himself got royally p*ssed off more than a couple of times already at this gradually worsening situation and the frustrating reality .
“Hey, Chang-Sik . ” (Choi)
Mister Choi next to him quietly asked him a question .
“Didn’t we have a blackout yesterday in the factory?” (Choi)
“Sure . ” (Chang-Sik)
“How many times have it been this week?” (Choi)
“I think, three times? But regular households only get electricity during a short time in the evenings these days . It’s not like we are living in North Korea or something, but oh well . ” (Chang-Sik)
“…I’m trying so hard to stay tough, but man, I’m getting more and more worried, dude . ” (Choi)
Chang-Sik sighed deeply .
“Me too, uncle . Me too . ” (Chang-Sik)
“Really? So it wasn’t just me who’s getting worried?” (Choi)
“Nah . Everyone’s scared . But we’re still holding on . ” (Chang-Sik)
“…I see . Knowing that kinda comforts me a little . ” (Choi)
Chang-Sik watched Mister Choi’s shoulders slump lower and clenched his teeth .
‘We’re really at our limit, hyung…’ (Chang-Sik)
People were still dying in droves by the frontlines even as he chatted away . He didn’t want to be that guy who whined while doing a relatively easier job behind the line, but even he was reaching the limit of suppressing his mental exhaustion .
Even if the situation stopped getting worse and stabilised as it was now, the people enduring behind the battle lines would sooner or later reach their mental limit .
‘I’m sure it’s worse at the frontlines . ’ (Chang-Sik)
A battle that continues on for two months? Now that was something no one would be able to even imagine . Didn’t it mean that you’d have to live under the fear of not knowing when you’d die for two months straight?
The physical pain would be one thing, but the mental trauma would truly be enormous .
“Didn’t you say the last time that this situation will come to an end if some guy comes back?” (Choi)
“…Yeah, I did . ” (Chang-Sik)
“Can I still believe in that?” (Choi)
Chang-Sik nodded his head .
“Yeah, he’s someone like that . And he’s someone who’ll make it happen, too . I’m sure the reason why he’s taking longer is to get better prepared . ” (Chang-Sik)
“For real, right?” (Choi)
“Eii, it’s not just me making an empty claim, you know . Do you remember that time when some people from the higher-ups came to fetch me?” (Chang-Sik)
“Yeah, that did happen . ” (Choi)
“That’s why we gotta hold on for a little bit longer . When we do, my hyung will surely show up . ” (Chang-Sik)
“I will have nothing more to wish for if that happens for real…” (Choi)
Mister Choi blurred the ends of his sentence .
He wasn’t in no shape to encourage himself only with Chang-Sik’s assurance at this stage . Should he say that those words were nothing more than the faintest thread of hope that barely held everything together?
‘What point is there to return after everything’s over?’ (Chang-Sik)
Chang-Sik felt his innards starting to boil when he remembered Yi Ji-Hyuk’s tendency to appear at the most ‘opportune’ timing in the past .
He could only pray and then, pray some more, that Yi Ji-Hyuk and Co . , would arrive before everything came to an end .
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