The Japanese assault began at dawn with an artillery bombardment softening the defences. It also meant their forces would arrive soon.
Joon-young tucked himself into the corner of his trench, humming in sync with the dropping shells as he chewed on some dried squid.
The man next to Joon-young screamed each time a shell landed, burying his head between his legs. Next to him was a broken two-way radio, buzzing with reports and orders from the headquarters. The front line forces screamed for permission to retreat, but all that came back were orders to delay the enemy for as long as possible.
“Hm? The bombardment stopped. It’s time to move!”
Joon-young’s men peeked their heads above the trench. With the thundering bombardment halted, there was only tension in the battlefield. But just as their ears adjusted to the sudden silence, they could feel the earth vibrate under their feet. Soon, the Japanese tanks could be seen over the horizon.
“Tsk… our bullets won’t even leave a scratch on that.”
Armoured with top-of-the-line plating, these tanks could withstand a rocket from an RPG-7. Joon-young scratched his head. He knew friendly tanks and anti-tank guns had been cut off a long time ago, and it was hard to expect any assistance from them.
It seemed that fear had taken over another trench. Gun shots could be seen, firing at the tanks too distant to do any harm. The tank’s turret turned and fired, making a direct hit on the trench.
“Well, at least it’s not a chemical bomb. I guess it’s the aftermath of Busan.”
Japan was criticised by the world for dropping a bomb comparable to a nuclear bomb on civilians. With their reputation in the world tarnished, using a chemical or biological weapon was out of question. So they had to resort to traditional method.
“They even brought a helicopter?”
Joon-young remarked with his head leaning on his arms. His men were impressed at his attitude. Here they were, scared for their life, while Joon-young looked like he was watching a movie.
“I guess it’s time to run.”
As the tanks drove closer, Joon-young made the decision to retreat. It may have seemed cowardly and dishonourable to some, running without firing a single bullet. But his men were relieved to hear those words.
Joon-young and the rest of the frontline forces knew they were a sacrificial pawn. They were a group of conscripted soldiers without proper supplies or support from the rest of the army. The real defence line was behind them, stocked with all the supplies they could gather. Their job was to make the job of the real defence line easier by taking the initial charge from the assault. To them, retreat was the only option.
Joon-young’s messengers ran to their designated trenches, while the rest of them gathered at the rally point. He lit a cigarette as he waited for them.
Noises could be heard as they gathered, one by one.
“Hm? Where’s the 3rd squad leader?”
Joon-young’s company was cut in half after all the children surrendered. The 3rd squad had the most children in their squad but after the surrender, only 7 remained. However, only 3 came to the rally point. One of the soldiers from the 3rd squad replied.
“A shell landed directly on his trench, sir.”
“Tsk. Unlucky bastard. What about the 2nd squad leader?”
“Um… One of the recruits fired his gun at the tank. The tank made a direct hit on them.”
“Fucking bastard. If you’re going to die, don’t take others with you.”
There was a sudden ruckus as a man was carried back to Joon-young.
“Kuku, they got me.”
It was Min Won-hoo. A metal plate had driven itself into his stomach, leaving a giant gash and a pool of blood under him. Min Won-hoo asked about the missing squad leaders.
“Where’s the rest?”
“…They left before you.”
“Kuk, those bastards.”
Min Won-hoo shook off the assisting hands and leaned his back on to the trench wall. As his face tensed with pain, Joon-young asked.
“Does it hurt?”
“Bloody hell it does.”
“How do you want it?”
“Kukuku. It hurts so much, but I still don’t have the courage. I’m a Catholic, you see.”
“Is that so?”
Joon-young pulled out a pistol from his waist. He pulled the slider, and aimed at Min Won-hoo’s head.
Min Won-hoo pulled out a cigarette with a patch of red from his pocket. As his bloody and shaking hands struggled to light the damp cigarette, one of the soldiers quickly pulled out a lighter of his own to help him. He took one deep breath then began to cough violently, dropping the cigarette.
“Shit! I wanted to at least die like a badass, but my body’s not helping.”
A soldier picked the cigarette and gave it back to Min Won-hoo.
“You lot, at least die a SUGOI death like me.”
Min Won-hoo smiled at the rest of the soldiers.
“You do know right?”
“Sugoi is Japanese.”
Min Won-hoo snickered at those words, and then made a smile. Not a shred of regret could be seen in his face.
“Hoo… It was fun serving with you.”
“Ah, I had fun too.”
“Kuku, I’ll be waiting.”
“Be there soon.”
Joon-young placed the pistol back in its holder. Shells, gunshots and screams echoed all around them, but there was only silence where Joon-young stood.
“We are retreating.”
“Where to, sir?”
Joon-young smiled at that question, and pointed toward the sky. A glimmer of sunlight could be seen just beyond.
“We will run toward the sun.”
As his men stood confused, Joon-young scolded them.
“I swear this war made the kids dumber. How can they not understand this joke?”
For a moment, these soldiers looked like they were about to murder Joon-young.
“We are going to wherever the higher ups are hiding in. It should still be safe there. Well, until it turns into our grave. But it’s better to live even for a second longer right?”