Kim Su-Hyun, Beginning the Rite of Passage. Pt.(2/3)
“Ha…. I can’t stand it anymore!”
Park Don-Gul, who had been looking around shiftily for some time, seemed to have found the right moment as he shouted at the top of his voice and walked to the centre of the clearing. Lee Shin-Wu seems shocked at his sudden use of profanity as he gasped. I didn’t miss the instance where Park Don-Gul had that satisfied smirk while looking down at Lee Shin-Wu. As they say, he beat everyone to the punch.
An-Sol had dugged into An-Hyun’s side and was trembling harder. An-Hyun and the two women I couldn’t check, all had different expressions. One of them was relatively composed, but the other seems to disagree with the raucous caused by Park Don-Gul. Her eyes narrowed as she scowled at him. I was hit by an urge to check the Player status of the two women, but for now, I decided to keep watch on Park Don-Gul.
“Are you all deaf? Don’t keep your mouth shut, say something already!”
Did he want to show off his temper to the world? Or flaunt his masculinity? Park Don-Gul gestured violently and gave a fist-size rock near him a hard kick. The rock flew with a strong momentum and disappeared into the forest. The people in the clearing settled in an awkward silence at his sudden outburst.
But I could hear it clearly. Or rather what I didn’t hear - the rock falling back onto the ground.
A low cry echoed through the silent forest. While nobody seemed to have noticed the sound of the rock, they all had heard the sound. Anxiety floated passed their faces. All of this was 10 years ago so I couldn’t remember everything, but the fuzzy memory popped in quick succession.
The memory of what had happened in this clearing.
“Sh, Shit! Who the fuck was it? If you have a fucking problem, come out. Come and face me! Is it you? No? You?”
Park Don-Gul began to despicably pick out the weak looking opponents. Lee Bo-Rim and Lee Shin-Wu were deadly pale as they hurriedly shook no. Then suddenly, the woman that was glaring at Park Don-Gul stood up resolutely. She was breathing in quickly to keep her temper in check.
“Ajussi, stop. Act your age and stop this nonsense.”
“What? What~? Stop? Act my age? Did you just said that to my face?”
“Sure, I did. What are you going to do about it? Aren’t you ashamed? We are all in the same boat so what is with your high and mighty bullshit?”
“You are swearing now? Bitch, didn’t your parents teach you to respect your elders? What kind of parents were they?”
“Bitch? Ha, let’s see~ let’s see…. Yeah, what did your parents teach you? Become a geezer and bully everyone? You piece of trash!”
I laughed heartily seeing the woman fighting back in equal measure without retreating one step back. Playacting as if he was initially taken back, Park Don-Gul chuckled. But soon anger overtook him as his face became pale and red. He breathed deeply from his nose and like a predator he stalked toward the woman.
Reaching the woman soon after, he stared down at her with a sinister look.
“Hey, Bitch. What did my parents do? Say it one more time.”
When a man came this far, anyone would chicken out. I am not sure if she was just a strong person or just lacked fear, but she continued to look Park Don-Gul straight in the eye and sneered.
“This is funny. You think I am going to be scared of you? Yeah, did your mommy and daddy taught you like that~? Bastard!”
“This bitch really want’s to die….”
Park Don-Gul seemed really ticked off as his fists rose slowly in the air. Even then, the woman didn’t blink an eye. It was the moment that Park Don-Gul was posed to beat the woman.
“Hey, Ajussi. Enough already.”
An-Hyun, who was silent till now, spoke up for the first time. Park Don-Gul, who was about the smack the woman’s cheeks, turned around and looked at An-Hyun comically. I could see An-Sol tugging at An-Hyun’s collar. However, An-Hyun ignored it as he opened his mouth once more.
“She’s not wrong. We are all in the same boat like she said. So what's her crime?”
“You…. You bastard….”
Shame seemed to creep up on Park Don-Gul as he bit tightly on his lips. It seems he finally felt the gaze of everyone on the clearing and he slowly lowered his fist. The faint sneer on the woman was visible, seeing that Park Don-Gul screamed out in frustration and just turned around from her. He went back and sat at his original position, wheezing out his pent up anger as nothing went as he planned.
“Fuck, what you looking at! Stop looking at me like that!”
Looks like Park Don-Gul couldn’t keep it all down as he let off steam at the quietly sitting Lee Shin-Wu next to him. With the look of mortification at the mistreatment, Lee Shin-Wu moved away.
The cry we heard just before rang clearly in our ears once more, and from the depth of my faint memory, I could dredge up some details for the first time. While we were idly killing time, a surprise attack had scattered all of us. The cause was the rock that Park Don-Gul kicked and the raucous he created with that woman.
This was all the memories I had of these people. I don’t know what happens afterwards, but seeing I never saw them again in Hall Plain….
‘Does that mean they all die in the Rite of Passage? Ah, so An-Sol might not be who I thought it was.’
If we waste time like we did on my first run through, we could be repeating history. No, I am certain the exact same event would occur.
I decided to give a little push, though nothing so direct as getting personally involved. First of all, I would give them a chance to move and work together. But that would be the total extent of my help. So with that decided, I lifted up my crossbow.
“Excuse me. What are you doing….?”
Seems like everyone had become super sensitive, as the tiny noise I had made caused everyone’s gaze to focus on me.
The person who spoke up was the woman with quite a smart mouth. Though she seemed to have a general idea as she did not make any wisecrack remarks right from the start. Looks like the hate was embedded toward Park Don-Gul.
“Don’t you feel uneasy?”
“I feel more uneasy because of your crossbow.”
“Well let me see…. Where do you think we are right now?”
The woman’s eyes became wide. While her eyes were sharp, suggesting a fierce temperament, overall she had a pretty face.
“While coming to this place, I experienced a lot of outlandish things. Isn’t it same for everyone here as well?”
“Well…. Yes, but….”
Heads nodded as people recalled their memories. The Room of Summoning, the Angel, the Transfer. They definitely experienced and witnessed all of it. This might be impossible to accept right away, but the most important thing was for them to accept that this was reality and become proactive in trying to survive the Rite of Passage.
On the open slot of the crossbow, I began to insert an arrow. The crossbow was smaller than average, but I could attach and detach it from my wrist making it quite convenient. I am not sure if it was the shriek early or my actions, but one by one, they began to hold the weapon they brought personally.
Soon after, excluding the people who came empty handed, everyone was armed. Most of the preparation was done. Looking around, I began to think calmly.
We were currently located in a clearing in the middle of the forest. Trees and bushes were packed outside the clearing. I began to walk away from the direction where Park Don-Gul kicked his rock.
I had only moved a few steps away from the clearing, but I could definitely feel it becoming darker. The trees and grasses I saw in front of me reflected a melancholic light.
With the growling, they would feel insecure up to a point. I felt the number of people following behind me slowly increasing. When I thought my actions was well thought out, my plan crashed and halted right from then.
“Ya, An-Sol. Get up. We need to follow that Hyung.”
“I hate it…. I don’t wanna go…. It’s scary….”
“Then are you going to stay here forever? You told me before. This place isn’t safe. We shouldn’t stay here. Why are you doing this now?”
Hearing the siblings talk, I felt my eyes tense up automatically. Seeing that her Luck Attributes was 100 points, there might be something she felt. But that was mere speculation on my part. Seems she couldn’t overcome her instinctual fear as she had no plan to get her bum off the ground.
In between their arguments, I could hear the growl. The sound had become louder, it had definitely come closer. At first, the group had waited patiently for the two, but soon after, one or two began to fret.
“Ex, excuse me. Can’t we depart first? To be honest, my body keeps on, can’t stop shaking….”
“Ye, Yeah!! Let’s leave these trash and go! Wait what did you say after that….?”
Lee Shin-Wu’s seems to have pulled whatever courage he had as his voice was cracked with sorrow. From Park Don-Gul, I heard immediate agreement.
I am not sure if he heard that, or if he felt as such as An-Hyun began to pull on An-Sol with greater desperation.
“Come on, stand up. I am right here. Please, just listen to me for once.”
“Bu…. But my feet won’t move…. Sob….”
An-Sol burst into tears at the end. Even in the midst of all this, Lee Shin-Wu and Park Don-Gul was giving them the look. It seems they want to leave this troubling place as soon as possible. Of course, I had no plans to abandon those two. Rather, ditching everyone else and travelling with those two had greater benefits.
“Let’s go! Why are we just standing around!”
“Uh, yes, quickly….”
As the commotion became worse, An-Hyun’s expression became hard. Then he suddenly slapped away the hand that was grabbing tightly onto his collar. An-Sol’e eyes flew open as she mumbled.
“Sure. Then stay here. I am going to go somewhere else.”
That was a load of crap, but his acting was kinda believable. After saying his piece, An-Hyun heartlessly turned his back on her. Armed with the sword and shield, he began to stride toward us. Seeing this An-Sol seems to experience a great shock as her mouth kept opening and closing. She shed fresh tears as An-Hyun’s spoke, “Sorry to keep you waiting. Shall we go?” Regardless of that, An-Hyun intentionally pressed us to go as he took the lead and pretended to walk toward the forest.
“Sob…. Oppa.... don’t go….”
“An-Sol, get up now. Can’t you understand the situation?”
“I was wrong…. Don’t leave me again….. Don’t go…. Sob…. Sob sob….”
“You…. Seriously, get up now!”
In the end, An-Hyun had to raise his voice with his eyes glaring fiercely. This seems to work a little as An-Sol stood up slowly, still crying her eyes out.
It was then.
Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung!
‘Oh dear, we dawdle for far too long.’’
I felt dismayed. Not the one caused by fear, but the dismay caused by the uncertainty that I had changed the future and caused the death of An-Sol. The growl was a stone throw away from us, with the sound becoming all the more louder. The problem was, An-Sol seems to have lost it.
We were gradually distancing ourselves from her, and seeing An-Sol dazedly stretching her hand for help, An-Hyun became even more resolute. No, it looks like he was pretending. The smart mouth lady gave in as she stepped into help, but An-Hyun held out his hand and stopped her.
“Just leave her.”
“Oppa! Don’t leave me!”
“Then come here by yourself. It’s not too late. If you can’t do this much, you definitely won’t survive.”
With renewed vigour and confidence in his eyes, An-Hyun watched An-Sol intently. His sincerity must have been conveyed, as An-Sol clenched her teeth. Just a bit more and she should be able to rise by herself, but unfortunately it was too late.
‘This growl, it’s a Deadman.’
Deadman. While the name incited a monstrous image, in reality, it wasn’t much. In fact, in Hall Plain, the Deadmans were so weak, Players did not even consider them as monsters. They had some intelligence and had the ability to infect others, but infection, if treated in time, could be completely healed. (Of course, treatment here was impossible.)
Also, if they had one characteristic….
They usually prowled about slowly, but when they found a prey, the Deadmans began to run.
Screeching with delight, the Deadman jumped out from the forest. It’s mouth wide open as it dashes toward An-Sol. This must have been completely unexpected for An-Hyun as he ran toward her, screaming.
It wasn’t only An-Hyun that was screaming.
The scene closely resembled a Zombie film. The monster’s ripped flesh hanging from various parts of its body, pouncing and the party immediately descending into chaos. It’s innards could be seen through its chest, and a rock was embedded in it. That rock was definitely the one that Park Don-Gul kicked just now. This monster must have been loitering around us after getting hit by that rock.
Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung!
The Deadman seems to be responding to the screams of the party, as from the forest, it’s growl increased.
“Sol! Snap out of it! SOL!”
An-Sol, who had just managed to stand up, lost it completely when she saw the Deadman. An-Hyun had swiftly run toward her, but the Deadman was closer. An-Hyun must have felt it as well as he pulled back the hand holding the sword, and swung it hard toward the Deadman.
‘Oh? A hit?’
With a great momentum, the sword slashed cut off the Deadman’s left arm. But that was it. The monster shambled and reeled, but it quickly recovered and snapped its attention to An-Sol as it ran toward her. It had finally reached her.
Deadman jaws wide open.
An-Sol’s eyes agape.
And An-Hyun, screaming in horror.
I knew for certain then. With my various actions, I had without a doubt, changed An-Sol’s future. Without hesitation, I fired my crossbow.
With a sharp striking sound, the arrow flew. With a PUK sound, the arrow cleanly pierced through the Deadman’s head. The Deadman’s weakness was its head. The rock had sliced into its chest, but it had no chance against the arrow to its head. With its mouth wide open, the Deadman fell.
Everyone had the same reaction at seeing the monster. They all clutched at their weapons reflexively and have woken up to the realisation that this was not a joke. Sure, they knew the basics and had a vague feeling of what was happening, but it seems this showed them how serious it was.
In the midst of all this, An-Hyun acted swiftly. He dashed toward the still gaping An-Sol and lifted her up. And promptly returned back to our side. He must have been extremely surprised at the situation as his breathing was laboured.
Soon after, all eyes were on me. I shifted and faced forward. While it was only one, there would be more gathering soon enough. I could hear the surge in the growling. Without a doubt, more Deadman would be arriving here quite soon. If they managed to encircle us, it would be quite a pain in the butt.