Split in Half. (5/8)
The Deadmen were sniffing heavily, as they were stalking us. They looked grotesque. Their skin was falling apart at the seams and rotting bones were sticking out of their faces.
Fear filled the eyes of the party upon seeing these monsters. They had lived an ordinary life just the day before. For them to be ready for Deadmen in less than a day was a far-fetched dream.
The Deadman in the front howled in a low pitch. The monsters were moving slow, so it seemed that they hadn’t found us yet.. I frowned when I saw the Deadman at the back turn away and howled. Taking care of three monsters at the same time was a fool's dream.
I felt the trees tremble each time a Deadman howled. When I turned around, I found out it wasn’t the howls but An-Sol who was responsible. Her whole body was trembling heavily against the tree.
I heard the rustling of grass, and two Deadmen arrived in front of the tree. They stopped briefly, lowered their heads, and then began to advance again. We were currently hiding behind a considerably large tree. I was quietly signaling to the party. Each time the Deadman moved one step, we also moved one step to the left. If the Deadman turned its head, we would be instantly caught, but these bastards had a tendency to go only in a straight line so we had a chance to escape without being noticed.
One step forward. One step backward.
One step forward. One step backward.
One step forward. One step backward.
After were repeated this three or fours times, we had circled around half of the tree. The Deadmen had advanced to the point from where they could see our previous position.
Our surroundings were dead quiet, so everyone tried to breathe as quietly as possible. The Deadmen shook their heads, as if looking for something. They let out a dissatisfied howl and continued to walk forward. I could see a slight relief on everyone’s faces, but we needed to be a bit more patient. Just when we could all give a little sigh of relief…
An-Sol, whose whole body was trembling as she kept her eyes closed, had finally misstepped. When I looking down, I saw she had broken a small twig. She wasn’t able to conceal her gasp after the unlucky encounter. The gasp had certainly reached the ears of the Deadmen. Speaking of the devils.
Gureurung! Gureurung! Gureurung!
The Deadmen howls became more frequent. The whole party froze at the sounds. The sounds of the monster's footsteps became faster, as they followed us around the tree we were hiding behind, and peaked their frightening heads towards us. We were found.
The Deadmen opened their mouths and showed their blood-red teeth before they ran towards us. An-Sol screamed. The scream was slightly muffled thanks to An-Hyun covering her mouth, but the three Deadmen still heard it.
In a moment of desperation, An-Hyun held the shield in his left hand to protect An-Sol and himself, while I aimed the crossbow. A Deadman ran and crashed head first into An-Sol’s shield with a loud thud.
I heard the collision and saw An-Hyun wobbling. Although he had blocked successfully, he only repulsed the Deadman back by a single step. He had his attention split, as he tried to protect both, An-Sol and himself, so that was all his block did. I looked at the second Deadman that followed the first, and quickly prepared to release my crossbow. Worry passed through my mind for a moment, and I lowered my aim down from its head before I fired.
‘Just one or two shots won’t be enough.’
The bolt flew and, ‘Ping,’ went through the second Deadman’s chest. The Deadman reeled left, and I quickly drew my sword.
“An-Hyun! Send your sister this way! Also, use this sword!”
An-Hyun bit his lip when he saw the first Deadman violently charging at him again. He pushed An-Sol to me, and stretched out his right arm.
“Please take care of her!”
When An-Hyun smashed them with his shield, the Deadmen were sent reeling back a few step again. He had skillfully sent his sister towards at the same time. She was almost slipping as she ran into my arms, while I threw the sword towards An-Hyun. The long sword and An-Sol passed each other midway. Just when An-Sol was safely within my arms after her haphazard run, Lee Yu-Jung and Kim Han-Byeol called out urgently.
“Oppa, behind you!”
“Watch your back!”
I glancing behind my back, and saw the Deadman that had turned away earlier running towards my back. It might have been just an instant for the attacker, but my area of perception was far superior than the monster’s. In two seconds, I had already loaded my crossbow and aimed. Then fired.
I aimed at the middle of its forehead, and the arrow had no problems drilling through the Deadman’s head.
“Hu… Sob… Soo~bb…”
I glanced at An-Sol and she seemed like she was about to have a fit. When I crouched down next to her, I saw tears pouring down her eyes. She began to infect me with her sorrow as well. Unknowingly, I began to pet her head, told her that everything was going to be okay, and felt her trembling lessen.
An-Hyun’s eyes were filled with fear, even though he was equipped with a sword and shield, yet he didn’t back down. He faced his fear and stood his ground firmly.. That was the fortitude I wished for in my party. It seemed that An-Hyun was mentally awakening to the situation.
An-Hyun lifted his shield to chest level. It was said that the best defense was a good offense. An-Hyun didn’t bother swinging his sword, but he rather charged straight forward, with his shield lifted.
The charge must have been quite strong this time, I could hear something breaking. After I observed the scene, it seemed like the force of An-Hyun’s charge had carved right into the Deadman’s chest. When I saw a sword being lifted for a fast counter, I quicky gave him some advice.
“Aim for the head. Bastard’s weak point is its head.”
An-Hyun, who was about to attack aimlessly, hacked through the Deadman’s head after he heard my words. His form was a mess, but his strength was sufficient enough that the Deadman’s head crumbled without much resistance.
The fate of the next Deadman wasn’t much different. In the same manner as the first time, An-Hyun blocked with his shield, and while the Deadman was still reeling from the shock, he aimed for its head. After a penetrating sound, the Deadman’s body twitched a couple of times, and began to collapse with the sword still in its body. An-Hyun began to fall, dragged down by the Deadman’s weight, but he quicky pulled out his sword and lifted his head with a numb look on his face.
An-Hyun breathed roughly and looked around. He breathed out explosively, relieving all his tension after he safely defeated the Deadman. He blocked with the shield, and stabbed with the sword. While his actions were simple, not everyone would be able to do it. People fared differently when a Deadman approached them. I was sure most wouldn’t just freeze up like An-Sol did, but making off a neat combo against a Deadman like that would have been difficult for most as well.
An-Hyun breathed harshly, his arms were hanging by his side.
“Gasp… Gasp… It was easy when I threw rocks at it, but having to face it was rather difficult.”
Obviously. In a situation where survival instincts take over, it would have been amazing if a person could maintain their calm and keep full control over their body. He must had felt a small tingling, because he soon relieved the tension on his arm. An-Sol flew towards An-Hyun and check him all over.
“Oppa… Are you okay?”
“I’m not bitten anywhere. I’m alright.”
“Sob… Sob… I’m sorry…”
“No need to cry.”
Tears flowed from her eyes as her brother was put in danger because of her. An-Sol’s tears didn’t stop even after she confirmed An-Hyun was safe. Lee Yu-Jung, with a shocked look on her face, trudged next to An-Hyun and slapped him on his back.
“We are alive thanks to you. You are pretty good.”
“It was nothing. If Su-Hyun Hyung didn’t give me the sword, I would be fail miserably. Ah, Hyung. Here, have it back.”
When I saw the regret of returning the sword, I shook my head and some colour immediately returned to his face.
“I think it would be better if you kept the sword.”
“Can I really keep it?”
“Yeah... I have a crossbow anyways. By the way, did you learn how to use a sword somewhere?”
Lee Yu-Jung helped An-Hyun, who was looking abashed, sheath the sword. I felt satisfaction when I saw An-Hyun and Lee Yu-Jung make some light banter between themselves. Just before, I was aiming for the Deadman’s forehead, but had shot at its chest on purpose.
‘I think everything ended just fine…’
“Just a moment.”
Kim Han-Byeol, who, by throwing a rock had successfully held back the Deadman, looked at us with an uneasy look. Because she kept quiet most of the time, I was curious about what she would say.
“At the clearing… After we killed one of them, didn’t they all suddenly start to flock towards us?”
“Um… Was it so?”
Lee Yu-Jung accepted the fact uneasily, and everyone’s expressions changed. An-Sol looked like she was going to have another fit. An-Hyun must have noticed that, because he lightly patted his sister’s back.
“Then, wouldn’t it be good idea to leave this place as fast as possible?”
“Yeah, yeah, we should do that. Then, should we go the other way from where these things came from?”
“Um… not really. We will continue from where we left off. If we change the direction now, we might end up sleeping in the forest tonight.”
I felt proud about how An-Hyun was pushing us to leave the forest today. If we were in a Master to Disciple relationship, I would have petted his head in praise, but now I just nodded in agreement. Even though we spotted several Deadmen in front of us, An-Hyun had spoken truthfully.
We quickly began to withdraw from the place after taking a moment to compose ourselves.