Split in Half. (6/8)
I have said it once before, but in Hall Plain, Deadmen don’t even qualify as monsters. Whatever ability they had was a little intelligence and ability to spread contagions. An adult man with a steel pipe can defeat a Deadman 80% of the time, to prove his mettle to enter Hall Plain. (Assuming a one-to-one ordinary situation with nothing else happening.)
Once the dam had burst, An-Hyun became more resolved, his slashes no longer had a roughness to it. An-Hyun was a prodigious and gifted fighter. It seems he still had to overcome his fear, as he still attacked with a simple block and counter. If he became more confident, he could easily dispatch a couple of them with just his sword alone.
And like that, break straight through. We were swiftly making our way out of the forest.
Grasping for a way to escape, Kim Han-Byeol found hints of a forest trail, and there was hope that we could escape this forest by following this path. The party’s speed increased with our renewed hope. However, we could not disregard the fact that as we walked further down this path, it was more likely Deadmen would start appearing. Since we were in this situation, I decided it was good of An-Hyun to gain battle experience as he was already taking charge of most of the battles.
With their mouth wide open, four Deadmen howled irritatingly as they sniffed our scents. More and more, it seems that An-Hyun’s confidence was nothing more than bloodlust. Seeing her brother lifting his sword and shield, An-Sol spoke in a hushed voice.
“Oppa…. Be careful….”
“Yeah. Just wait for a few minute. Hyung, protect Sol and the guys please.”
“Don’t worry about it. I will protect everyone.”
Smiling back at hearing, “Who's a guy?” from Lee Yu-Jung, he ran out with a fiercely toward them.
Though he had defeated two of these things before, it was his first time facing four at once. I notched my bolt on the crossbow and prepared for any possibilities.
With just a meter left between the dashing monsters and An-Hyun, he deftly stepped left away from them. While a human’s body was flexible, these monster were not. With the Deadmen’s joints were hardened, and in their straight rush to rip him apart, they had to stop to change direction. In this instant moment of vulnerability, An-Hyun stab one of its head. One out. He immediately pulled out his sword and faced the remaining three.
Seeing An-Hyun dispatch them so easily, I felt that trash was trash. Though what I really did like was how An-Hyun preyed on their weakness, rather than falling back on the simple block and slash attack. I wanted to commend him for taking advantage of Deadmen’s vulnerability to turns.
I heard something shatter and saw one of the monsters stepping back. Deadman only had one method of attack, and that was to rip their opponent with their teeth. The most effective counter with a shield was to lift it just above the chest. Without ever being taught that, An-Hyun had instinctively used said tactic. Deadman bared it’s teeth as An-Hyun plunged his sword like a meteor. With the plunge, that was two out!
Sending the two packing, only half of the original four was left. An-Hyun held his shield more loosely on his left arm, the ease at killing the first two monsters must have made him more relaxed. One of the monsters attacked, looking for any possible way at least take one bite, but An-Hyun calmly watched the approaching monster with his sword held in reverse stance. Watching this, my eyes were tinged with surprise. Could it be…. A sword drawing technique?
An-Hyun estimated his sword point and judged his timing. I was a master in the art of unsheathing the sword and knew the principal that An-Hyun was attempting. The gaping Deadman entering the strike zone. Within that instant, I saw An-Hyun grasping his sword tightly. The time was now!
The sound of flesh being cut rang clearly through the air. While rough, the single slash was superbly done and sent the Deadman’s head flying. I saw pure pleasure on An-Hyun’s face. But I frowned again, there was still one left.
Another Deadman immediately lunged at An-Hyun’s back as the one in front of him fell. An-Hyun promptly raised his shield, but with it being held loosely, there was no way it could hold back the charging Deadman. I quickly readied my loaded crossbow and waited as I saw the two collide.
As expected, An-Hyun’s shield flew off. His left arm, rather than his whole body as before, had faced the brunt of the impact. His hand must be jittering right now. With that collision, An-Hyun became defenceless, and the Deadman didn’t miss that opportunity as it lunged towards his chest like a striking snake. Seeing this I immediately fired my crossbow. An-Hyun was too precious to become monster food.
With a sharp ringing in the air, the bolt flew and struck exactly on the Deadman’s head. An-Hyun slumped and looked on like he lost ten years of his life as the Deadman that tried to rip out his neck collapsed seamlessly.
“Boss, nice shot!”
Lee Yu-Jung joke, as if she seemingly forgot about the danger we were in just now. While An-Hyun was good, he still wasn’t able to be one step ahead in the fight. Well, this much was quite good already, it might be impertinent of me to expect more of him. Rubbing his neck while looking shell-shocked, An-Hyun thanked me.
“You saved me. Hyung, thank you.”
“Nah, I only helped with one of them. Everything was thanks to you.”
With a look of disbelief, he shook his head and muttered idly.
“I never expected it to attack like that. If it wasn’t for Hyung, I might just have been….”
Glancing at An-Sol, she was pouting and looked like she was about to cry again. An-Sol was quaking, looking like she didn’t want to hear anything more on the issue.
“There was nothing you could do. Your strike was excellent, in situations like this, I can support you as….”
Before I could finish my sentence, An-Sol couldn’t wait any longer and ran towards her brother in tears. It was a tear-jerking brother and sister relationship. Feeling awkward, I unloaded my crossbow and put the bolts back in my pouch. The militaristic of the two, Lee Lee Yu-Jung eventually spoke with an envious tone.
“This is me speaking only from observation, but it looks easy enough, I think I can do it as well…. Che. I should have also brought a weapon along. Han-Byeol, do you have anything?”
Kim Han-Byeol responded by delving around her bosom and withdrew a short knife. I am not sure if it could be used as a throwing knife, but overall it was an ineffective weapon, as the person had to be very close to the enemy to inflict a telling blow. In the hands of a master like me, it was a different story, but an ordinary person had a bigger chance of getting bitten than managing a successful strike against a monster’s head.
“I am not sure if that will be much help. Why are you carrying that thing around?”
“Just in case. If something bad happens, I rather kill myself.”
“.... Are you some kind of virtuous Joseon woman…. Chaste till death?”
Kim Han-Byeol’s calm voice cowed Lee Yu-Jung. Shaking her head, she looked at my left arm. Lee Yu-Jung looked at the crossbow on my left arm enviously. Unable to hold herself back, she babbled disappointedly.
“Don’t you have another steel pipe like that bastard had? Han-Byeol. Can you look around and see if there is anything I can use?”
Lee Yu-Jung’s babbling and talking however she please left Kim Han-Byeol looking uncomfortable. I wondered what happened to Park Don-Gul and his party? Compared to the Rite of Passage in my first life, we were having a much easier time. Back then…. The first two-day was nothing but running. I wondered how they were faring. Would they be running for their lives? Who knows. It might be possible they were already cut up and were being digested inside a Deadman’s stomach.
That wasn’t my problem, so I promptly erased it from my head. I am not sure if it was the effect of the battle, or from An-Sol’s comforting, but An-Hyun walked toward us tiredly.
“Hyung. I saw the trail becoming more distinctive. I think we are almost there, let’s continue.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Having listened in on our conversation between me and An-Hyun, Lee Yu-Jung seems to be full of regret at her weaponless state and started throwing a tantrum.
“Che. Amusing, very amusing. If you keep this up you might just snuff it. Be careful.”
“It’s better running about then getting eaten standing still. Anyway, let’s get going.”
“I know too. This forest is wearing on me as well. I would be out of here in a second if I could.”
Like this, we defeated the four Deadmen and quickly went down the path. This path would certainly let us escape this forest. But I was becoming concerned about the increasing number of Deadmen lurking about on the outskirts. I could already detect twenty Deadmen with my detection skill, and the number was rising. No matter the route, I had a feeling that it would be no different than this one.
Comparing four Deadmen to a mass of twenty was like Heaven and Earth. If it was like this, and excluding a frontal charge, there was only one way to create an opening for an escape route. Sighing loudly to myself, I tried to come up with a good argument to persuade the party.
As expected, the outskirts of the forest were crowded with the Deadmen. No matter how you saw it, there were over twenty of them scattered all over making Geureung noises. That was just the number of them in front of us, but if we caused a disturbance here the number of monsters that could pop out from the everywhere couldn’t be ignored.
Far off a stone wall could be seen, pointing to evidence of civilisation. Over it, a rough hewn thing resembled a beginning of a road. Just one more step and we would be out of this forest. Everyone seems to be gripped by this realisation. No matter how excellent An-Hyun is, it was impossible for him to handle twenty Deadmen at once. But to leave here like this, we were rooted in place by this drawback.
“Shit…. How do you expect to go through that?”
Lee Yu-Jung’s absentminded comment drilled through our ears. There was no guarantee that a different path would yield a different result. An-Hyun and Kim Han-Byeol lowered their heads silently, unable to come up with any good idea. There was only one method left. Lightly sighing, I decided to help them out a bit.
“I have an idea.”
As they heard my words, their ears tilted up. I decided to get straight to the point.