There were no graves like before, and the terrain was rough. The weeds growing everywhere came up to my waist. Unnamed thorn bushes and trees blocked my path wherever I went. Blood seeped out of the light scratches they made as I made my way through them. Also, the ground was slippery as the snow had melted and frozen again, and another snowfall covered the treacherous patches of ice. I could not discern the dangers with my eyes.
Unlike my past life the military, under the government’s orders, had not dragged Awakened to the dungeon entrance. This place, decades ago from that time, was a drastically different place.
The government had been harsh the first time I had come to this hill in my past life. Martial laws had been enforced, and I had been the only one of the reserve forces who had been summoned. Because I had survived the trial tests, I had been managed under a stricter regimen than ordinary soldiers under the Ministry of National Defence. (EN: Sun is one of some 3 million men in South Korea’s reserve forces. Every man who finishes his mandatory service is classified as a member of the reserve forces and required to serve as a reservist for another eight years.)
It had been when the Awakened had been treated like the Ministry’s strategic resources. There had been insufficient research, and no one knew how much we could do. No one knew how much potential we had, and if they had known earlier, they would have treated us in a completely different manner. They would have begged on their knees instead of ordering us at gunpoint.
Anyway, this hill and dungeon had been under government management, and at first, we thought we had been transferred to a government research facility. We believed that we would become experimental rats and looked for a chance to escape.
I still remember when we had decided we would kill to get away, and I had marked my targets with my eyes, letting my fellow Awakened know who I would take out. I was planning to kill the three young soldiers who were leading me. One of them had become a non-commissioned officer recently, and the other two were corporals.
They held me at gunpoint, and I saw that they were scared at every movement I made, perhaps because of a prior incident. I waited for a chance. While I would most likely be shot and killed, I thought it would be better than being an experimental rat for the rest of my life.
It had been natural that we had misunderstood this place as a secret government research lab, as there had been military facilities instead of this wild hill at the time. Even the dungeon entrance had been camouflaged as a temporary building with outer walls. While anyone would be suspicious of these facilities, the Korean government owned them.
Due to their fear and alertness, there had been no chance until we moved into the structure hiding the dungeon entrance.
Our plans to break out had been delayed, and so we were all alive when we stood in front of the dungeon entrance and we realized we had come not as rats but as soldiers.
“So where is the eagle’s beak…”
No matter how much I tried to remember, it was useless when the hill was so different from my memories. There was no path, and I could not cut down every tree on this big hill. I therefore called Ilju Constructions, a local firm located at the bottom of the hill and near a rural village.
“It must have been a difficult trip. Hello, I am Cheolmin Choi.”
Since there were no navigation devices, he arrived at sunset after getting directions. He looked at my reddened face from the cold and waved me over into the cab of his truck. I warmed my body with the heater and I pointed him to the hill, and we drove through a narrow path after passing the village.
It had been quite a dangerous ride until the middle of the hill.
“Cars cannot pass from here.”
We tried to drive as far as we could and after the car almost slid a few times from the steep incline Mr. Choi finally parked. While his face was rigid, his voice was still bright since I revealed that I managed the hill for the new owner.
“We will start the construction here and carve a new entry path.”
I pointed at the construction area, and the size was larger than the man’s expectations. It was work that had come in this IMF era, where no one had anything to do. He gulped so hugely that I could see his Adam’s apple wobble.
“Can you do it? You have to start now, even though it is winter, because the scale is quite large.”
I called Ilju Constructions after looking over the regional information. While I should collect bids and spend time selecting the best bid, I wanted to do things quietly and quickly without any noise. From the man’s surprise, he never led a project this big before.
His surprise was inevitable since they were a small company. Therefore, he had to win this project at all costs. His voice was urgent in his answer.
The size of the company did not matter, as many companies were suffering because they could not win bids. If a company managed to secure a contract, they would be able to temporarily expand their size, by calling on a team they had gone drinking with a while back, a team they had worked with before, and call up another team that someone knew. Everyone was hungry for work.
We went back to the car again, and I handed him the Jeonil Investments business card. I was not wearing a suit, and my face was young, even if I was big. I did not look trustworthy, and the man’s attitude became even more careful at the business card.
I had no need to show him the documents that said I owned the hill, but since I had to show it anyway, I took out the document file from my bag. Logging and cultivation need a permit from the regional government and an approved program.
The man looked at the file and then carefully stared at me desperately, and I did not need to explain that I held all authority over the decisions for the construction project.
“I’m looking for a firm that will also apply for the permit, and that’s why I asked you whether you can handle this and give me an estimate.”
The man’s fingers were shaking, and while his voice was loud, it also shook.
“I cannot give you much time since this was a sudden change for us. That’s why we’re using regional firms without collecting bids, but it does not mean we will use any firm we see. Do you understand?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Can I get the estimate by tomorrow?”
“I’ll call you on this number!”
“The hill needs to be cleared without landscaping. Plan your estimate that way, and also…”
“Do you do buildings?”
“We can do anything!”
“Then you can also pave roads.”
The man fell silent for a minute and only blinked his eyes. I could hear his nostrils flaring through the engine. Taking a hill, paving a road, and constructing a building? It was for him a chance in a lifetime, and he could see the golden rope clearly laid in front of him.
“Please try to set the completion time as early as you can. I will get estimates from other firms but will not advise them like this. I hope that you win this bid, as we will prioritize time over money.”
The man looked moved, and I could see a picture of him and his daughter at her elementary school graduation ceremony taped to the driver’s side windshield. The person who took the picture would be his wife.
“This is a difficult time for fathers, so please send me a good estimate.”
Tears welled in his eyes in an instant, even when nothing was decided yet.
Mr. Choi was quite passionate, and he had shaved and cut his hair, and I could smell his fabric conditioner. He explained for a long time how the construction would go, and since Ilju Constructions had limited options, he started by revealing everything, such as where he would rent the equipment and which firms would come in as partners.
“All right, let’s sign a contract.”
He opened and closed his eyes when I gave him an answer. Everything went by quickly after that, as the equipment came from the next day. Since the hill could be accessed through the small village, Mr. Choi had to reassure the village people so there would not be any trouble. The good thing was that snow had stopped from yesterday.
However, we began snow removal, so the completion time could be quickened. I had requested speed over cost, so there were so many workers it seemed as if I was going to pave over the mountain.
The village people who had come out to watch the construction did not look happy. While I saw Mr. Choi hand the village foreman some money, they would be thinking of things differently. There had been land that the village people were using as a field without a permit at the hill’s entrance. Also, the hill had been used by them to forage for mushrooms and beekeeping.
While it was private lands, if civil complaints popped up, things would become complicated. I called Mr. Choi, who was busy at the site.
“There isn’t a village hall here, and I want you to build one to placate the village people.”
“A hall? You don’t need to go that far. I have spoken with the village foreman.”
“I had not told you, but we will block the lower part of the mountain with a chain link fence.”
A fence would disturb the village, as there would be threatening warning signs everywhere and surveillance cameras with blinking red lenses. What village would be silent about that?
We can’t risk someone seeing the dungeon by going up the mountain!
“The entire area?”
“Yes, I’m planning to completely control entry so no one can enter the hill.”
It was almost unprecedented that a regular hill would be controlled like that, and Mr. Choi looked surprised enough to not know what to say.
“Since we’re a foreign firm, we can be abrupt at times. Things will go to court if something bad happens, so we should build them a village hall. Instead of someone as young as me, please explain the matter well to the village elders. That means that I will also entrust the village hall to you.”
Mr. Choi again showed teary eyes at my words, and it was not because he cried easily. The economy was so bad that he had to have been worrying about how to feed his family before meeting me.
Mr. Choi composed himself like he was embarrassed, and he looked for a cigarette in his pocket.
“We should go downtown together and speak about the rest in a warm place with coffee…”
I will build walls with reinforced concrete at the entrance, emplace barbed wire fences surrounding the walls, and install surveillance cameras. I had to make this spot secure to a military level, so nothing can come in or out. I should buy a large construction firm after Mr. Choi finishes the basic facilities, as that’s specialized construction.
Edited by Userunfriendly