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by 로유진

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Split in Half (Part 5)

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 Chapter 15
Split in Half 5/8
The Deadmen continued to sniff and wander closer to us. They gave off a grotesque feeling, as their torn skin exposed their rotting facial bones. I could tell that the others were terrified of them. I didn’t expect anything better, as it had only been a day since they had arrived here.
Growl. Growl.
The Deadmen’s growls pierced through the otherwise silent forest. The Deadmen’s movements were extremely slow and, because of that, I was sure that we hadn’t been discovered. While watching them, I realised that for us to kill three Deadmen at once was nothing more than a dream.
Growl. Growl.
Every time a Deadman growled I could feel the trees shaking. Unsurprisingly, An-Sol was leaning against the tree, her body shaking.
Shoo, Shoo.
Deadmen didn’t lift their feet when walking, so, with every step, a large amount of grass was torn up and dragged by them. Two Deadmen soon showed up right in-front of the tree. I looked at the others.
“The Deadmen are one step closer to us. When they move forward by one step, we need to move back by one. Remember, above all, keep silent.”
This solution had the highest possibility of success, as the tree was quite large. However, the possibility of being found by a Deadmen was higher than the possibility of escape. Even so, it was better than nothing.
As we slowly fled backwards, the others mentally repeated the plan, as if it were a mantra.
‘One step closer. Move just as much as them.’
‘One step closer. Move just as much as them.’
‘One step closer. Move just as much as them.’
After several repetitions of this plan, I could see the Deadmen wandering around our previous position.
The surroundings were very quiet. After the Deadmen had finished wandering around, they let out a dissatisfied cry and then slowly made their way to the front again. Seeing the threat walk away, everyone was relieved, as they would be gone soon. However, suddenly…
Tak! Crunch!
An-Sol, who was shaking and obviously terrified, had accidentally stepped on a small branch. Following that, as if to add insult to injury, she let out an ear-piercing scream. A scream as loud as that, a Deadman would obviously hear it. Finally... she had done it.
Growl! Growl! Growl!
The Deadmen starting heading towards our position, and its growls slowly became louder. The others were so shocked that they couldn’t move. The Deadmen's footsteps gradually got faster and faster, before they finally stuck their head out . Okay, we’ve been busted.
“Opp! Ahhhhhhhh!”
The Deadmen lunged at us, showing their glistening red teeth. Eventually, An-So let out another scream. Luckily An-Hyun was covering her mouth with his hand, so it wasn’t as loud as it would’ve been. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the Deadmen still managed to hear it.
The fight against the Deadmen was growing increasingly dangerous. As I aimed my crossbow at the Deadmen, An-Hyun used his shield to defend himself and An-Sol. Soon after, a Deadmen collided into the shield that An-Hyun was holding.
Moments later, I heard a terrible crash. I turned my head to see An-Hyun reeling back from the collision. Luckily he was able to defend himself and An-Sol from the Deadmen. However, it was ineffective, as he had to protect An-Sol with his right hand. I pulled the crossbow’s trigger, but, before I did, some thoughts flashed through my mind. I changed my aim to the Deadman’s heart, rather than his head.
“It’s not enough with just one or two shots.”
The second arrow penetrated the Deadmen’s chest with a ‘PING’ sound. While the Deadmen was still reeling from the shock, I quickly pulled the long-sword from my waist.
“An-Hyun, catch the sword, and pass An-Sol to me.
An-Hyun pushed away An-Sol to where I am, and raised his right hand. Then, bitted his lips as he was preparing to fight with the Deadmen.
“Please take good care of her!”
Almost as soon as he finished talking the Deadman ran straight at him. The Deadman repeatedly collided into An-Hyun’s shield, and, as a result, he was pushed back several steps. However, he forcefully pushed An-Sol safely to my side. As soon as she arrived in my arms, I threw the sword in his direction. An-Hyun caught the long-sword and continued fighting. Suddenly, I heard Lee Yoo-Jung and Kim Han-Byul urgently scream at me.
“Hey, behind you!”
“Watch your back!”
“I know it.”
When I glanced behind me, I could see the Deadman, who had gone in a different direction earlier, running towards me from behind. However, I knew I had been well out of their range of detection. In just two seconds, I lifted my crossbow, aimed it at its forehead and pulled the trigger.
I was dead-on this time, and my arrow easily penetrated the Deadman’s forehead.
An-Sol’s hysteric and immature behaviour usually annoyed me every time, but not this time. When I saw An-Sol crying and shedding tears in my arm, my heart broke. So, I petted her and tried to comfort her.
“It’ll be alright.” I whispered.
After I said that, her shivering started to disappear.
Even though An-Hyun was equipped with a long-sword and shield, his eyes were full of fear. However, he had moved past his fear. It showed that he was finally facing up to the reality. That very attitude was what I was expecting from An-Hyun and the others. An-Hyun’s moral force had just begun to awaken.
An-Hyun raised his shield to his chest, which was a better way to fight, as he didn’t have a lot of experience. I even remembered a quote for this, “The best defense is a good offense.”
Kooong! Kuadeuk!
This time his attacked seemed quite powerful, as I could even hear something break from the collision. I took a closer look, and saw that the Deadman’s chest was badly dented. When I saw An-Hyun raising his long-sword and preparing for a counter attack, I decided to give him some advice.
“Aim for the head. Their head is their weakness.”
He listened to my advice and swung his longsword at the Deadman’s head. Although his posture seemed naïve, the Deadman’s head split apart anyways.
The fate for the following Deadman wasn’t any better. An-Hyun defended himself from the Deadman’s attack, before running into it with the shield. When the Deadman fell unconscious, he finished it off with his sword. The Deadman’s body started to collapse and fall apart soon after An-Hyun’s last attack. It looked like he was confused, as there was a vacant look on his face.

After killing all of the Deadmen, everyone let out a ragged breath. ‘Defend with the shield and attack with the sword’. Although seemingly simple, what An-Hyun had done wasn’t something that anyone could do. If these Deadmen had targeted a different person, then the end result may not have been the same. Whoever it was, they couldn't do the same thing An-Hyun did.
An-Hyun’s arm fell limp by his side, and he let out a heavy breath.
“Huuughh... Huuuuughhh… I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to fight the Deadmen by throwing rocks at them.”
“Of course. It was a life-threatening situation, after all. However, you did well maintaining yourself and not losing your calm.”
After saying that, I felt that something small was wriggling in my arms. Realizing it was An-Sol, I looked down, and released her. When freed, An-Sol sprinted to An-Hyun to check his condition.
“Brother... Are you okay?”
“I feel fine. I don’t have any injuries.”
“Ugh… Ugghhhh…. Sorry….”
“It’s alright, don’t cry.”
An-Sol shed tears like a waterfall, knowing that her brother was in danger because of her. It didn’t look like she would ever stop, even though An-Hyun soothed her. Lee Yoo-Jung walked towards us, showing relief on her face, before slapping An-Hyun on his back.
“Hey, you saved me. Better than I expected, huh?”
“Nah. I would’ve been in a big trouble if Su-Hyun hadn’t  lent me his long-sword. Oh, hey. Here’s your long-sword back.”
He looked at me with a sorrowful face, however when I refused to take it back, his face immediately brightened.
“I think it’s better for you to keep the long-sword.”
“Oh my god. Are you serious?”
“Yeah~. He already has a crossbow. Anyways, have you ever done Kendo before?"
An-Hyun gave a bow of gratitude. When I saw An-Hyun and Lee Yoo-Jung chatting, I smiled.
Just a moment ago, I had aimed my crossbow at the Deadman’s forehead, but I intentionally re-aimed it at its chest.
“I think it’s alright…..”
“Wait a minute.”
At that moment, Kim Han-Byul, who had made the Deadmen hesitate by throwing a rock at them, spoke. Her face showed her anxiousness. I was curious as to what words would come out of her mouth.
“At the empty lot…. Didn’t the Deadmen gather after we had killed one of them?”
“Is that right…?”
As soon as Lee Yoo-Jung bitterly asked her question, everyone turned pale. An-Sol looked especially bad, almost as if she was on the verge of a panic attack. An-Hyun petted her and said,
“Hey, let’s escape from here.”

“Ah, okay. Then should we make our way in the opposite direction of where those Deadmen came from?”
“Hmmm… no. We’ll continue on our way in the same way as before. If we change directions now, we might have to stay the night in this forest.”
Admiringly, An-Hyun was trying to escape from the forest before nightfall. If An-Hyun and I were in teacher-student relations, I would’ve petted him. However, I was satisfied with just nodding my head at him. Even though, I could perceive several Deadmen on the way out, his plan was the best solution.  
After resting for a moment, we quickly continued on our way.
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