The sound of Yohan’s gunshot echoed throughout the room. As if it had been some sort of signal, many more gunshots could suddenly be heard in the distance. An intense battle had sprung up outside.
Noah, startled, quickly reached for his gun.
“Don’t,” Yohan warned, repositioning his gun and pointing it at Noah.
Noah froze and raised his hands. He glanced to his left and watched as Moon Sung Chul finished crumpling to the ground, lifeless. There was a bullet hole in Moon Sung Chul’s forehead and he was twitching as a veritable waterfall of blood poured out of it.
Noah was white as a sheet for several moments before finally coming to his senses. He quickly got over his shock and snarled, furious.
“What the hell are you doing?!” he shouted.
“Everything that I told you was the truth,” Yohan said, his voice grave. “None of it was a lie. But I can’t negotiate with someone that can’t control their own camp. Especially when they are being controlled and manipulated both by Kim Joon―a spy from the Seoul Survival Union―and this nosy, wannabe politician that meddles in everyone’s affairs. It’s obvious that they’re both going to stab you in the back and sabotage any agreement we try to make. So don’t move. Don’t make me kill you.”
“Kim Joon is the Seoul Survival Union’s spy?”
Seeing his old friend’s expression, Yohan immediately assumed that Kim Joon had done something in the past that had made Noah suspicious of him.
As the standoff between them continued, so did the distant gunfire outside. It picked up, and the sounds of people screaming in agony could suddenly be heard.
Noah’s expression hardened. This made Yohan believe that the man was still confident that he and his comrades outside would win.
“Don’t move,” Yohan repeated. “I’ll put a hole in your face.”
“I don’t think you will,” Noah replied. “With that look on your face, you don’t look very threatening. Not even with that gun in your hand. It’s still not too late, you know. Tell your comrades to stop.”
“I don’t think this is the time to joke around,” Yohan said with a frown. “You expect me to believe that? It’s way too late to stop it now. They’ve already started. Just wait a few minutes. It’ll all be over soon.”
“Weren’t you the one saying a few moments ago that you didn’t want to fight? What happened to that? A lot of people are going to die now. On both sides. Both your comrades and mine.”
“The majority of them will be yours.”
“Wow. You sure are pretty cocky.”
“I’m not being cocky. It’s the truth. My comrades are strong.”
‘He’ll be really surprised once he finds out just how disgustingly strong and persistent they are,’ Yohan thought to himself with a grin.
* * *
While Yohan was confronting Noah, Ha Jin rolled out a gigantic steel plate on an L-shaped dolly and parked it in front of his comrades.
Everyone stared at him in undisguised wonder.
“What is that?” Sweeper asked.
“A steel plate,” Ha Jin replied.
“I can see that, bro. Where in the world did you find it?”
“Over there.” Ha Jin gestured towards a control box in the distance.
Ha Jin lifted the plate off the dolly and dropped it onto the ground. It made an incredibly noisy clattering sound as it smashed against the concrete. The thing was heavy, and he had needed to put in almost all of his energy into moving it around. Struggling to lift it, Ha Jin elected to just drag the thing across the ground. A screeching, metallic, sliding sound rang out as he pulled it behind him. Everyone frowned in irritation at the high-pitched, grating noise, and there were more than a few winces among the group.
“What the hell are you planning on doing with this thing?”
“It’s a shield. It’ll help us move forward when we get the signal.
“Did you forget, bro? Our job is to keep their front line distracted.”
“I know. But once the fight starts, we can use this as a shield and push forward all the way to where Yohan is. I don’t plan on leaving Yohan stranded alone with the enemy while we fight them outside.”
The other members were at a loss when they heard this. Ha Jin’s determination was clear. But in some ways, this idea would go against what Yohan had ordered. It was extremely risky and it made some of the other recon members uncomfortable.
Sweeper, on the other hand, had other things in mind. His eyes were wide in astonishment.
“Hey bro,” Sweeper said.
“What?” Ha Jin replied.
“I always thought that you were an unlucky, overly-muscular, pigheaded buffoon, but―”
“What the hell did you just say to me?! If you wanted to fight me so badly all you had to do was ask!”
“―But you’re actually pretty smart,” Sweeper continued. “That’s the side of you that I like.”
“Hey guys!” Sweeper shouted, turning to the rest of the group and catching their attention. “We’re not planning on leaving our leader all alone in the middle, are we?”
“No!” The collective reply was unanimous, and energetic.
Everyone’s expressions brightened up. They were all about to take part in another firefight that was rife with danger and would likely see some of them killed, but Sweeper had lightened the mood and they were hopeful now. The atmosphere had changed.
There was a stark difference between Yohan and Sweeper when they acted as leader. When Yohan was filling that role, everyone was calm and focused. But when Sweeper was filling that role, everyone was cheerful and excited. Regardless of who it was, everyone always felt like they had already won.
Sweeper stared at the steel plate as Ha Jin propped it up vertically like a wall. He tried to imagine how effective it would be.
“It is pretty thick, but are you sure that this thing can stop bullets?” Sweeper asked.
“I have no idea. Should we test it?” Ha Jin replied.
Sweeper knocked on the plate a few times. There were several layers, so it looked thick and sturdy enough. However, they didn’t want to risk their lives on a simple hunch. So they decided to give it a test.
Sweeper gave a signal and everyone stepped back. He attached a silencer to his pistol and aimed it at the plate at an angle to make sure that, if the bullet happened to ricochet, it wouldn’t hit anyone. When he was ready, he fired the gun.
The bullet pierced through several layers of the plate but it did not go all the way through. The plate had successfully stopped the round.
“It’ll be difficult for even a five millimeter round to get through, right? Same with a seven?”
“Bros, this is an adult pistol. If it can’t make it through, nothing wimpier will either. This thing can pierce through five or six people in a row and couldn’t get through this. Not even armor piercing rounds will have an effect.”
“That thing can pierce through five people?” Corporal Ong asked. “That must be one hell of a pistol. Anyways, what you’re saying is that it’s safe, right? We just need to watch our feet?”
Sweeper mumbled to himself as he watched Ha Jin prop the steel plate up onto the dolly, turning the whole apparatus into some sort of makeshift, mobile wall. Between the dolly’s supporting board and the ground, there was a slight gap, but Sweeper didn’t think that anyone would be able to shoot through it. It was just too small. So he didn’t think it would pose a problem for them.
Sweeper walked next to Ha Jin just as he finished setting up the portable wall, and inspected his handiwork.
“How the hell did you move this thing, bro? Do you run on hydraulics? You’re seriously a monster.”
“Being a man is all about being strong.”
Ha Jin stood up and rolled his shoulders a few times.
“Me, Ha Jin, and Ong will be in the front pushing forward with this thing,” Sweeper said.
“I’ll go instead,” Hyuk objected. “Ong is at his best when he’s attacking from long range. There’s no need for him in the front.”
Recently, Hyuk hadn’t volunteered for dangerous missions like these, fearing that he may end up in a coffin. So it came as a bit of a surprise that he had chosen to volunteer now.
Sweeper nodded his head in confirmation, but was still a bit worried. It was true that he felt proud that Hyuk had had the courage to volunteer for this, but this was an important mission. Sweeper wasn’t totally confident that Hyuk would be able to handle it. They were living in a world where people preferred safety in order to protect themselves, after all. And people tended to freeze or act irrationally in the heat of the moment if they weren’t prepared.
“Great!” Sweeper replied. “That is definitely the quality of a leader. That’s how they need to act.”
Sweeper patted Hyuk on the back in a friendly gesture. He might have hit him too hard, because Hyuk hunched over in pain.
“The three of us will take the steel plate and hold position near where Yohan is and draw some of their fire,” Sweeper explained. “During that time, I need you guys to kill as many of them as you can. Try and snipe them right as they peek around the corners. Make sense? Cover each other. I don’t want any stupid deaths. Ong, you’re going to be putting in some work. I can trust you, right?”
“Leave it to me. I’ll blow their heads clean off.”
“I knew I could count on you!”
Sweeper patted Corporal Ong on the back in a friendly gesture. Corporal Ong also hunched over in pain.
“Ouch, that hurts…”
“Jeez, stop being such a crybaby.”
After forming the groups and making sure everyone understood their roles, Sweeper called the mercenary group.
“Mercenary group, this is Camp Yohan.”
— “Is that you, kid?”
“I’m not the kid. But I am his number one underling, old man.”
— “Oh, the guy with the bobbed hair that looks like a girl?”
“It isn’t bobbed hair…” Sweeper whined, a sad expression on his face.
The rest of the group overheard the comment and many of the members started to laugh.
— “What’s going on?”
“We’re requesting for the backup that you promised.”
“We ran into the Yeouido Camp. We’re currently face-to-face at the Noryangjin transfer passageway and Yohan is in the center of the enemy camp.”
— “What!? The kid is!?”
“So we need you to enter from the Noryangjin Station Line Nine and attack them from behind. We’ll be fighting from the front.”
— “Got it. Jeez, you guys are a bunch of troublemakers.”
The old man clicked his tongue in annoyance and then the walkie-talkie went silent.
Sweeper grumbled to himself for a few moments about what a rough old man the guy was, before placing his walkie-talkie back on his shoulder.
‘How is this whole thing going to turn out?’ he thought to himself.
He was broken out of his silent contemplation when his walkie-talkie beeped twice. No voice came from the other end, so there was no mistaking the fact that this was the signal that Yohan had told them about.
It was time.
Sweeper immediately gestured to the rest of the group next to them and they started preparing. While they were getting ready, Sweeper looked down the passageway to check to see if there was anyone visible on the other side. After confirming that no one was there, he contacted the mercenary group on standby.
“Old man, are you ready?”
— “Preparations complete, kid.”
“Roger. Please start.”
— “Do we just need to kill everyone we see?”
“We’ll grab the leader, so you don’t have to worry about keeping anyone alive. You can shoot to your heart’s content.”
— “Fantastic. The way you talk is the same as your leader and I like it.”
The conversation went silent, and Sweeper put away the walkie-talkie. He stretched out his body for a few moments before reaching down and grabbing his gun.
“You ready, Ha Jin?” Sweeper asked.
Ha Jin smirked. Then he released an energetic roar as he started to push the mobile shield down the passageway. Sweeper and Hyuk followed right behind him. They both had their guns drawn and were carefully observing the path in front of them.
The Yeouido Camp survivors on the other end of the passage suddenly noticed that there were people advancing towards them, so they poked their heads out from behind their cover to take a closer look. This proved to be a fatal mistake, however, as every single person who exposed their heads in this fashion was killed in the opening volley. It did not matter that the shots came from almost 500 meters away. Every shot landed.
The sound of rapid gunfire immediately filled the air.
“Good!” Sweeper shouted. “Push forward!”
The mobile shield quickly met its first test, as a series of projectiles rained down against it. However, they all either ricocheted off its surface, or were embedded inside it. None penetrated all the way through, leaving the three using it as cover, unharmed.
“Stop,” Sweeper ordered, just as they rolled the shield next to the cafe. If they moved too much further, they’d reach an intersection that was close enough to the enemy to be within range of thrown weapons―grenades and the like. So to be safe, Sweeper told them to hang back.
However, they had a monster on their side―one that even Sweeper underestimated the strength of. And this man didn’t understand the meaning of the word restraint.
Ha Jin suddenly stood up.
“Ha Jin!” Sweeper shouted.
Ha Jin roared in exertion as he absolutely hurled the grenade in his hand on an insane trajectory, way off into the distance with all his might. He had been doing intense physical training every single day for months now. His shoulders were just as strong as an active, professional baseball pitcher. His maximum throwing range far exceeded what most people even considered possible.
The grenade flew well over 100 meters. However, the accuracy behind this throw was just as impressive as its range. It landed exactly on target, right in the middle of a group of enemies. Since the grenade had been the air for so long before reaching its target, there was almost no time at all for the enemy to react to it. The moment they saw the grenade hit the ground next to them, it detonated and they were blown to pieces. The ones that survived the initial blast did not escape the shockwave or the hail of metal fragments from the grenade itself. Many were seriously injured or crippled and their screams of agony could be heard all throughout the passageway.
The hairs on Sweeper’s neck were standing up and his jaw was agape at the unbelievable display of strength and ferocity he had just seen from his comrade. He was stunned speechless. Ha Jin turned to face him with a neutral expression, as if precision firebombing a group of enemies from hundreds of meters away was just a thing people did sometimes.
‘You’re a monster!’
“Uhh… just keep doin’ what you’re doin’ bro,” Sweeper told him, handing Ha Jin another grenade. He could almost feel the fear that their enemies were experiencing now, and he did not envy them at all.
Ha Jin launched the second grenade in the same way that he did the first. This time, the grenade landed in the midst of a different group of enemies, but when it detonated, it produced similar effects. More dead, and the ones lucky enough to survive were crippled, screaming in agony.
“Let’s move forward!” Sweeper ordered. “Push!”
Ha Jin and Hyuk started pushing the wall and they advanced forwards. They stopped next to a corner. The air was filled with smoke and the smell of death was in the air. On the other side of the corner and far down the passage, gunshots could be heard. They were from the mercenary group that was attacking the enemy from behind.
“Let’s turn,” Sweeper ordered. “On three. One, two, three.”
The three turned the corner at the same time. There were people wriggling on the ground, having been ravaged by grenade fragments. On the other side of the passage, on a set of stairs, the old man from the mercenary group seemed to be re-enacting a scene from Rambo with a giant machine gun. Sweeper quickly ducked behind the shield as a volley of stray bullets ricocheted off the walls and headed in his direction. They bounced harmlessly off the steel plate.
“Wow, they’re seriously tough,” Sweeper observed. He poked his head out from behind the wall and rejoined the firefight. Ha Jin and Hyuk were unable to hear him over the constant sound of gunfire.
“I think we should move back,” Sweeper said. “If we stay here, we’ll end up dead.”
They pulled the dolly back and retreated. Sweeper called out to his allies behind him and told them to fall back a ways.
“Sweeper, don’t we have to take care of the rest of them?”
“Leave them,” Sweeper declared. “The mercenary group are going nuts over there. You’ll just end up getting shot if you go. Those are armor piercing rounds that they’re shooting. If you get hit with one of those, you’re dead.”
“Uh… then what should we do about Yohan? Should we go inside?”
“No, leave him. I’m sure he’ll take care of it. Let’s just trust him for now. Our current mission is to take down any stragglers. We’re on standby and we’ll kill anyone that tries to run away.”
— Ω —