9. Cleansing -3
San grabbed then yanked out the blade that was embedded in bamboo. Strangely enough, it was hard to just pull out the blade. He was only able to pull out the blade after a considerable amount of effort.
“Why did this get so easily entrenched into the tree? Did I really cut this thing all the way to here? It wasn’t even vertical, but diagonally?” [TN: I think what the author is trying to say here is that it’s easier to cut a bamboo vertically, since a cut would follow the grains, but he had cut it diagonally.]
Tilting his neck, San put his blade back into the groove he had made in the wood, and pushed down with his strength.
“This jittery feeling came just like this…”
Although he had put in a lot of strength, the ten centimeter thick bamboo sheath no longer budged.
“Where should I once again…”
San used what he thought to be the limit of his strength, but as his arm began to jitter again, the excruciating pain from before began to surge again. To his surprise, when he stood up, the pain gradually diminished. San’s eyes calmly began to change again. San looked at where he had inserted the knife again.
“Well… the dug further down…”
There was definitely a change.
San felt troubled. If the hypothesis he established is correct, then he could bring out a lot of strength in exchange for excruciating pain. The problem is the pain.[TN: Duh?] It felt as though the pain were searing away at his life. He really did not want to feel that again. He would never try it, even as a joke.
“Ah- This is quite worrying…sseup…”
After slightly trying it out about three more times, San trudged back to the pit. His thoughts were correct. But he really did not care. [TN: The author writes ‘그렇지만 정말 엄두가 안 난다’ which is ‘but he really did not 엄두’ and I think 엄두 means something like ‘to care’] If you were frying with fire with one hand, would you use strength. [TN: It’s an idiom or something] It is really something to worry about. Besides, there wasn’t even a way to confirm that it’s safe. The level of the pain was terrible enough to die very badly.
However, San’s courage and curiosity overcame the fear of the pain.
“Screw it… a man only lives once!”[TN: I translated it poorly, but I’m certain it’s an idiom]
San turned around. He can be curious about things to be curious about, but eventually it is something to be done. [TN: He can be curious and stay complacent, but eventually he’ll have to take action.] Why should he avoid it today? Will it hurt less tomorrow?
San once again stood in front of the bamboo tree, then after taking a deep breath, he slowly began to bring out some strength.
His whole body was boiling. [TN: Boiling or hot] His exterior felt like it was boiling, and his interior felt like it was cooking. The blood veins on his head looked bumpy after they popped out. San’s hands shook and trembled. His eyes were bloodshot and the veins around his pupils popped out. However, San’s gaze relentlessly followed the path of his hand that held the blade.
The knife cut the bamboo vertically, and it easily went through it as though he was cutting radish. Again, he cut along the side in a circle. Although he had only spent half the time as last time, his patience was wearing thin.
‘Kkeu-euk- just a little bit more- more… A bit more and… this-iik.’
Before long, the bamboo slid forward where it had been cut and fell down.
While tightly gripping the knife in his hand, San sat down on his knees. San’s rammed his head against the tree stump, and trembling like an unsightly bug. The pain lasted so long that he feared it would last forever. A mixture of blood and saliva dripped out of both sides of his mouth. Raging in his mind was the urge to commit suicide with the knife held in his hand.
Fortunately, the pain gradually diminished. After a while he was able to move his body. The muscles in his body were stunned, and there was not a single place that didn’t feel like it had been beaten.
Even still, San took out a cigarette with trembling hands and bit down on it.
He became a little calmer. His head felt light. He looked at the sky with resentment in his gaze. Dark clouds had gathered in the sky.
“Damn it… This is too much! Fine, this enough for today… Phew, tomorrow!!!”
San leisurely took a puff of his cigarette, and became lost in his thoughts. After having clenched his teeth so hard, blood had flowed out of his mouth.
‘This really sucks. The torture I had to go through during survival training would be a joke compared to this. What now… ‘
After repeatedly considering whether or not he should do it again, he did not want to as so much as get his fingernails dirty. However, he felt that reality required that going through that pain would be the only way. And he inquired to himself.
‘Phew- Exactly what in the world is happening to me? A strange world, an enclosed space, a bizarre ability… and what more? And it’s not some sort of test either…’
San unsteadily walked back towards the pit and complained.
‘Whatever, it’s a checkmate anyways. Regardless, it’s something that must be done. Might as well be optimistic. Yup, better be optimistic…. In the end, he had become stronger, right? Shouldn’t he be glad? He should practice utilizing his new strength, and gradually become acclimated to it. Time is aplenty! Do not be hasty… carefully, very carefully… This is not an excuse!’
* * *
They had finished dinner. Although they had eaten their fill, their meals were never pleasant.
They had grinded a small fruit similar to a bean and had boiled it like porridge. The roots were cooked thoroughly then cut and eaten. It had a bland taste devoid of any salt, and had a strange grassy smell, but for the sake of survival, they could only patiently endure and eat it. And in the end, they ate a sweet fruit. Their military packs had several rationed meals, but it was better to conserve the food that could be stored for long periods of time in a sealed state.
“Right… I have to plan some measures, I wonder where I can find some salt? I wish I could ferment something into a vinegar like substance…”
San said while smacking his lips.
“I’ll try and start making some tomorrow, sir.” Biyeon said with an empty appetite. [TN: I’m not quite sure how this translation is supposed to go. The gist of it is that neither Biyeon nor San have an appetite for this bland food.]
“Well, the beans we had today weren’t too bad, do we have any more?”
“We did not have much of them to begin with, sir.”
“Yeah? For now, harvest those beans for as much as they’re worth for tomorrow.”
The night was coming Judging by the flocking of dark clouds, it looked like it was going to rain soon. San began to prepare for the big rain coming, and checked around the pit before doing some maintenance on other accessories that were laying around. Without lowering his guard, San carefully investigated his surroundings in the dimming darkness.
After, the two sat down in from of the camp fire facing each other, then exchanged thoughts on what they had done during the day and what they had investigated.
“Eventually… You’re saying we have to punch a path through the giant bamboo forest, sir.”
“Yes… And it’s not an easy task either.”
“It seems like we’ll have to start powering through it starting tomorrow, sir.”
“I agree, it seems like we’ll have to do so as well. We have to find a different location for a new base camp before the food runs out here. Lieutenant Kim, secure the rations. Also, it’d be nice to keep a record of it.” San told her while wiping down his knife.
“Furthermore… I think we’ll have to start fitness training starting tomorrow. Do you know any martial arts?”
“I had achieved taekwondo fourth poom, and had also been an athlete in archery.”
“Good… what about swimming?”
“I know how to swim, sir.”
[TN: So, fourth ‘poom’ is the same as fourth ‘dan’, aka fourth degree. The World Taekwondo Federation differentiates between the two with age. Anyone under the age of 15 who achieves the black belt up till the third degree has achieved up to the third ‘poom’. Once they turn 15 years old, they can convert their certificate of achievement of the ‘poom’ into the achievement of the ‘dan’. Any child who reaches the fourth degree must wait until they are 18 years old before they can convert their certificate of ‘poom’ into the certificate of ‘dan’. In the context of the story, I’m sure she just means that she’s a fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo. For more information, visit this site here]
“Thank goodness. Indeed, maybe it’s because you lived such a life that you volunteered to join the army… I don’t know what might happen while we’re here, but I think we definitely must develop our strength. Let’s practice starting from tomorrow.”
“Yes sir. However…”
Biyeon stopped and hesitated, cutting herself off.
“It’ll be difficult for a few days. Also, I have a favor to ask you, sir…”
Biyeon said with an embarrassed look on her face.
“Could you perhaps give me an undergarment, sir?”
“An undershirt please.” With a red face, Biyeon replied in a small voice.
San silently went through his stuff before tossing out two white undershirts.
“Those are brand new. Two of those should be more than enough.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Did you bring a sewing needle with you?’
“Do what you will at your own discretion, but by default we should be trying to conserve as much as we can, and so you should never discard anything that you don’t know the purpose of or anything that you would have taken for granted in the past.”
“ Yes sir.”
“By the way, it looks like a heavy storm is coming… huh?”
The two screamed at around the same time and looked at each other. And then at the same time the two of them brought out luggage that was familiar to them and held it in their hands. That was something they did not think would ever arrive here again.
“How is this possible? I could have sworn I had turned it off and taken out the batteries…”
San shouted at Biyeon with an agitated look on his face.
Biyeon had brought her head to her trembling hands.
On their cell phones, a light went off, indicating that a text message had been received.