Split in Half. (4/8)
“Rather than worrying about those who left, we should worry about ourselves. Won’t it be better to focus on get down this hill and leaving this forest?”
I pointed this out to An-Hyun, rather than speaking to everyone else. Naturally, Lee Yu-Jung and Kim Han-Byeol’s gaze gravitated toward An-Hyun. He must had some experience being the head bully in his neighbourhood, as he didn’t show any discomfort in the spotlight. Agreeingly pleasantly enough, he stood from his spot, bowed his head and look down the hill.
Lifting his head back up, An-Hyun looked back and forth between the clearing swarming with Deadman and the path that Park Don-Gul and his group took. The path Park Don-Gul took was exactly the opposite direction from the clearing. It felt like Park Don-Gul thought this out before heading out, but in my opinion it was a foolish choice.
“I think this path is okay. ”
Like the first time, the silent Kim Han-Byeol suddenly pointed out a direction. Following her finger, she was indicating a spot roughly 90 degrees from the center of the clearing. Lee Yu-Jung looked a little uneasy at the closeness to the clearing.
“Won’t it be better to just go opposite the clearing? The distance from that path and the clearing is way too close.”
Here, add another person thinking the same as Park Don-Gul.
An-Hyun thought deeply, and exclaimed with a ‘Ah.’ He looked as if he had distanced himself from academics, but his thinking belie that. Seeing the slanted confusion of Lee Yu-Jung, Kim Han-Byeol explained calmly.
“It’s simple. Currently those things have gathered in masses at the clearing. If we assume those things are evenly distributed in this forest, than if one place is crowded than another should be as empty. That path has the highest chance of being such.”
“The monsters opposite the clearing might not have heard the disturbance so they could still be there. Rather, it could be even more dangerous.”
Kim Han-Byeol nodded at An-Hyun’s added explanation. While the ideas were not the same, it followed the same path. Still, seeing that it finally felt like things were going the right way, I smiled pleasantly to myself.
“That makes sense. Then doesn’t that means the way that bastard went might be the most dangerous?”
“Yes. Anyways, we should also head down the hill and leave the forest. Sol, get up.”
An-Sol was like radish kimchi, she was sucking on her thumb as she looked on the conversation. She stood up hastily at An-Hyun’s command. As I and An-Hyun took the lead and began to make decision, I think people’s discontent settled. Rather, comparing now and when Park Don-Gul was still with us, everyone’s expression and the atmosphere seems much more settled. Especially Lee Yu-Jung, she seems happy about Park Don-Gul’s difficult path that she even had a smile on her face.
And that’s how the remaining people, me and the party, went down the hill.
Having chosen their escape path, two hours had passed since they had descend the hill. Lush trees were so tall they seems to pierce the sky, because of that the forest was darker now than what we saw on top of the hill. For two hours they traversed the dark forest without rest. With every single step, I heard the sound of mud and grass being grazed and maintained a regular breathing pattern as I followed behind An-Hyun who was taking the lead.
The gloomy forest was quiet and was terrifyingly bigger than expected. But according to my memories, if we kept our current pace, we would be out of this forest before evening. A thought floated passed, maybe the Angels intentionally dropped off people with superior Attributes on the highly difficult Forest center.
Right now, it was best to leave the forest before evening as the Preparation Room, didn’t provide food or water, only clothes and weapons. These necessities were placed in different area. There were Rest Room where you could rest for half a day, or the Save Point where you could sleep overnight. Other methods was to plunder from other Players or steal from the village shops.
Currently An-Hyun and I was in the lead, right behind us was An-Sol and Kim Han-Byeol. With Lee Yu-Jung making up the rear, we headed out, being alert to our surroundings. In the middle of this, An-Sol tugged tightly on An-Hyun’s cloth and mumbled with a flushed expression.
“I need to pee….”
At An-Sol’s shy words, everyone looked around awkwardly.
‘Is she stupid?’
She looked like a feeble minded child, but to this extent? I began to wonder how she even survived the real world.
An-Hyun momentarily stopped walking, catching our eyes, he asked.
“Can we stop here for a moment? My sister need to see some business.”
Fortunately, Lee Yu-Jung and Kim Han-Byeol gently agreed. There seems to be some kind of strange connection between women. An-Sol seems afraid to go alone as she stubbornly pestered her brother to come with her, but An-Hyun cruelly sent her off alone.
Lee Yu-Jung laughed silently seeing An-Sol being rebuked by her brother and walking shakily alone. She had quickly flopped to the ground, and was sitting there.
“Will she be alright? Those things could come at us anytime.”
“We are keeping watch so it should be okay. Also, she nineteen, it’s nonsensical if she can’t go to the toilet alone at that age. By the way, how old are you to speak so roughly?”
“Me? Twenty two. You are also speaking without respect so what are you trying to get? But aren’t you younger than me? No matter how closely I look, you look twenty or twenty one.”
“I am also twenty two.”
“Eh~? So we are equal. Well what’s done is done, so why don’t we introduce ourselves?”
As Lee Yu-Jung spoke with a more cheerful voice than before as she looked at everyone, it seems to wear down Kim Han-Byeol’s mental tension as she followed suit and cautiously sat down. Nodding along with An-Hyun, I sat down on the cold floor.
“We are going to leave immediately when my sister come back so let’s do this simple. My name is An-Hyun. Age, twenty two.”
“What did you do before coming here?”
At Lee Yu-Jung’s question, An-Hyun frown slightly but soon answered.
“I was just a neighborhood punk that lived off on part time jobs. You?”
“Me? Names Lee Yu-Jung. Same age as you, twenty two. I took a temporary leave from University and was preparing for the civil police exam.”
Civil police exam. Was that Yu-Jung’s dream? I felt that the police uniform would suit Lee Yu-Jung very well. The police and the punk that was sharing a conversation suddenly turned toward Kim Han-Byeol and I. Unable to withstand their curious gaze, Kim Han-Byeol spoke first.
“Kim Han-Byeol. Twenty one years old. University student.”
“A dongsaeng? What university did you attend?”
“I was attending Yonsei University.”
“Wa~! You must be clever. I am quite envious.”
With light of admiration in their eyes, the two turned their gaze on the me with Kim Han-Byeol following suit with a look of expectation. I felt awkward under these uncomfortable gaze, but with a calm face I faced their expectations.
“Names Kim Su-Hyun. Age, twenty three. I was a soldier.”
“Found an oppa~! Speak however you are comfortable oppa. Oppa, were you in the army or the air force or the navy?”
“Then hyung. Please speak as you wish. Hyung, what was your rank?”
Just before, I thought Lee Yu-Jung was simply a obstinate person but her character seems quite lively. An-Hyun had spoken at the same time as her, when they found out I was in the army.
“I was an army sergeant.”
“It’s really unfortunate. Just a little more and you would have been discharged..”
With a wry smile as I looked on at the laughing Lee Yu-Jung, I added a bit more.
“I was discharged. I was coming back from handing in my discharge papers when I landed here.”
What was it? Those innocent eyes? This awkward atmosphere?
“Why are you all looking at me like that? It’s alright, it’s nothing much. So stop looking at me like that.”
Even though I said it was okay, that awkward silence hanged between us. Giving a cough, An-Hyun turned to look elsewhere, while Lee Yu-Jung looked on pityingly. Even Kim Han-Byeol look at me regretfully. I was perfectly fine.
To dispel this awkward atmosphere, Lee Yu-Jung spoke lively as she changed the topic.
“I still feel like we are in a dream. Usually I would be studying in the library, then close my books and runoff and call my friends. I would be chatting at the rest rooms, then go eat something nice and while coming back home, I would promise myself that I would study seriously tomorrow. I would be doing something like that.”
Listening to that, everyone’s expression became dimn. An-Hyun gave a chuckle and joined in.
“Well, I would be at my part time job at the PC Bang and argue with customers trying to put more on their tabs. Get yelled at by that bastard of a boss for not cleaning properly. Tearing on the chicken that the Mrs gave me, and staying at the counter until finishing time where I go to fetch Sol. Hyung, what were you planning to do when you went home?”
When An-Hyun suddenly spun the arrow at me, I tilted my head thinking. Hmm. This being over 10 years, I couldn’t remember properly. Pondering for a moment, I decided to give a mediocre answer.
“Well, I don’t know. While heading home I would breath in the air of society and realize I was finally free. And when I reach home, I would bow down to my mother and give a call to my father. Then eat the delicious meal my mother made, then soak in a hot bath and then…. Wait, why are you looking at me like that again. Don’t look at me like I am those pitiful animals. I am really okay.”
We safely finished our discussion as An-Sol came back from her business. In proper manners, she gave a small bow and said, “I am back.” She looked adorable. But her words were no different than a signal bringing us back to reality. For that small moment when we introduced and chatted with each other, we forgot about this hellish place. Giving out a loud sigh, An-Hyun patted the dust off him as he stood up.
Tasting the brief honey that was our rest, we headed out once more into the dark forest. Even though An-Hyun and I was in the lead, it was me that was secretly leading. We haven’t encountered a single Deadman yet, as I was sensing the area and deliberately leading our group to places with few Deadmans.
However it would soon become impossible to evade them completely. As they got closer and closer to the outskirts of the forest, the Deadmans would be more evenly dispersed. All I could do was to lead them in the direction of the least amount of Deadmans.
The most worrying of the group was An-Sol. Even though they were going through the safest route, but the further they went it was possible to come across dozens of Deadmans. In that situation Sol might not be able to calmly face them. Suddenly An-Hyun came to a sudden stop and made an urgent sound.
As Lee Yu-Jung and I faced the direction that An-Hyun was pointing to, we could see three Deadman loitering around. With them flaring their nose and wetting their lips, without a doubt they had smelt our scent. I reflexively look at An-Sol, she clasped both her hands over her mouth, and her eyes were closed tightly. At least we had pass the first crisis.
“They can detect us not only through sight and hearing, but scent as well?”
“Well it looks like that. For now, keep low.”
Immediately An-Hyun hid himself behind the big tree, embracing An-Sol in his arms. Lee Yu-Jung, Kim Han-Byeol and I also quickly followed suit and hid, waiting for the beasts to pass us by. I saw An-Hyun lifting his shield, but I shook my head. It was better to train in killing Deadman later after leaving the forest. For what reason I couldn’t remember clearly, but some of stories I heard in the past between all the Players mouths was to never enter the forest during the Rite of Passage.
According to my perception, if we walked half the distance we traveled, we would be out of the forest. Till now we evaded them quite well, but if we kill those beasts there was high chance that we would be surrounded again. If those Deadmans receive the signal and starting amassing, then at that point, there was no longer any solution.
Even if we try to clear them before they send off the signal, it was impossible to kill all three at once with only stones or the shield. The sword strap to my waist rattled weakly. In the middle of this, the Deadmans were sniffing their nose as they moved one step at a time toward our tree.