For some reason, Yohan’s cynical expression came to mind in that moment. When Yohan made his suggestion, Gunn felt a glimmer of hope that he could get what he had originally wanted and people would cooperate.
“I’m not suggesting that we throw our lives away. As you know, Yohan has survived outside for six months. He’s agreed to teach us how to fight zombies. Yohan… huh?” Gunn turned around and finally noticed that Yohan was no longer behind him.
“Where did—” Gunn was interrupted by the sound of the emergency exit door being kicked open. Some of the people in the crowd started screaming.
“Raaaauuuughhhh…” A horrific looking zombie was thrown to the ground, causing more screams to erupt from the crowd.
“What is that!?”
“It’s a zombie!”
Yohan came in behind it. He grabbed the zombie by the scruff of the neck and pulled it up.
“I went and found some teaching materials so that we can start the lessons right away. Who would like to go first?”
No one volunteered. All they did was stare at Yohan as if he had transformed into a giant cockroach. Everyone began privately questioning his sanity.
“Seriously? No one?” Yohan spat. “Scaredy cats.”
“I’ll do it. What do I need to do?” Saeri stood up.
“You’re putting the men here to shame. I’ll finish preparing here. Go put those on.” Yohan motioned towards a pile of clothes with his chin.
“What… is this?”
“Now you’re questioning me too? I’ll list it out for you. There’s some leather gloves, a wrist band, forearm guards, elbow pads, and arm pads.” Yohan grabbed a monkey wrench and smashed the zombie’s lower jaw. Its chin broke off and blood started flowing out.
“Tear off some cardboard and put it on top of the protection gear. Use the packaging tape to keep it in place. This way, the zombie won’t be able to bite through. We’ll refer to the area from your fingertips to your elbows as the ‘forearm’ and the area from your elbows to your shoulders as the ‘upper arm’. You’re right-handed, right?”
“Put everything on your left side. You have to wear this at all times when you fight. Right now, our teaching material doesn’t have teeth anymore so you don’t have to worry about it biting you.”
“I feel like I’m wearing a cast,” Saeri complained.
“An actual cast would be better. If you get in a bad situation, you could just bash its head in with the cast.”
“No thanks, my hands will smell like feet if they’re in a cast all day.”
“Anyways, you want to stand diagonal to the zombie and turn your body so that your left arm is always in between you and the zombie.”
“Like this?” Saeri’s stance looked awkward. Yohan smirked. It looked ridiculous enough that he thought about correcting it immediately, but he then decided to just move on.
“Good enough, the stance doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m going to give you a knife and you’ll need to hold it in a reverse grip like this. The rest of this lesson is simple—use your protected arm to block the zombie from getting closer to you…” Yohan hooked his own protective arm pad under the zombie’s chin and pulled it up to its feet. The zombie was still struggling.
“Always keep one foot back so that you don’t get overpowered and fall. If you lose your balance, you’re dead.”
When fighting a zombie, it was better to crouch down a bit and lower your center of gravity. If you stood up tall, it was easier to lose your balance when a zombie got too close.
“The zombie’s weakness is its head and heart. It’s easier to stab the heart with a knife, but you need to find the gaps between the ribs, which gives them a chance to counterattack. Also, it takes a while for them to die after being stabbed in the heart, so we should always aim for the head instead. Stab them in the eyes, the temple, or the nape. The best thing to do when fighting straight on is…” Yohan stabbed the zombie in the eye with his knife. He then kicked the zombie and it fell down.
“…gouging its eyes out. If you’re attacking them from behind, pull the zombie’s head, so that it’s looking upwards, and then slice the bottom of its neck lengthwise.” As Yohan demonstrated, the fallen zombie’s body shuddered and then became still. Several people in the crowd vomited. Yohan tossed his knife to Saeri, who reacted hastily to catch it.
“Since you courageously volunteered, you get to demonstrate next. I’ll go get some more teaching materials.” Yohan got up and made his way to the emergency exit, moving as if he didn’t have a care in the world. People started murmuring behind his back as they watched him go.
Yohan went through the emergency exit and walked up to the first floor. He took a look around. He was just here a moment ago, but the number of zombies had already increased. At a glance, there were easily over 100 undead. The zombies were gathering, an early sign of a zombie wave.
‘We don’t have much time left.’ Yohan really wanted to help Gunn’s group build up experience, but the circumstances didn’t let him.
“Raaaauuuughhhh…” A zombie approached him. Yohan easily sidestepped the zombie’s attack and got behind it so that he could push it into the emergency exit. He was about to go in as well, but then noticed a zombie wearing a police uniform.
‘Today is my lucky day.’
Yohan closed the emergency exit door. He killed a zombie directly in front of him and then took out three more as he made his way towards his quarry. Nearby zombies howled as soon as they saw a potential meal, attracting more zombies.
Yohan stabbed the police zombie with his knife and pulled out his crossbow. He got down on one knee and held the crossbow up with one hand while the other rummaged through the uniform.
‘Found it.’ Yohan’s fingers wrapped around a pistol. He put the gun into his back pocket and began searching the zombie’s pouches for extra bullets.
A crossbow bolt flew through a zombie that got too close. Yohan only needed to fire his crossbow once before he was back at the emergency exit. He opened the door and took a step back, expecting the zombie that he had shoved inside earlier to charge at him. When it did, he kicked it in the stomach. The zombie crumpled to the floor, hitting its head on the ground.
Ah, I hope I didn’t kill it.’
Thankfully, the zombie survived the blow. Yohan stepped down on its neck and inspected his new pistol. It was a M-10, a .38 caliber revolver. Two shots had been fired from the cylinder. Yohan took out the empty shells in the gun and reloaded it with fresh bullets. Even though it was small, the pistol had some weight to it. Yohan put the revolver into the cargo pocket on his thigh. Now both sides of his pants felt balanced.
* * *
“Great. Good job.” Yohan complimented. Min Seo’s hands were still shaking. Simply volunteering took a lot of courage. Even though her stance and actions were sloppy, just having the courage to fight a zombie was enough for him to compliment her.
Including Gunn and Hyuk, there was a total of seven volunteers. Yohan had hoped for at least 10 people, but he was thankful that they managed to even get seven. If it weren’t for the new policy that Gunn imposed, they wouldn’t have even gotten this many.
Yohan worked hard to catch lots of ‘teaching materials’ for the volunteers. At first, some of them would only approach the zombies if he was directly supervising them, but now, they could all comfortably stalk the zombies by themselves, like a predator hunting its prey. Yohan did two things to help alleviate their fears. He broke the zombies’ jaws and also demonstrated with his own padded arms in the zombie’s mouth to show everyone that it was safe.
There were quite a few people who did not volunteer, but instead watched from afar, staring at the participants as if they were crazy. However, this was also fine as they could still learn just from watching.
Yohan rushed them through the practice. Gunn wanted everyone to get more training, but they were out of time. Yohan had already seen the signs that a zombie wave was coming. If they took any more time, they would be caught unprepared.
“Stop. Everyone, gather around.” Yohan tore down a map of the mall that was hanging on the wall and laid it out on the floor. The seven volunteers gathered around him.
“I can get bossy during a fight. I hope you’ll all understand.” Yohan began. The volunteers nodded.
“We’ll split into two groups of four. The first group will be me, Saeri, Jung Hwan, and Elder Park,” Yohan said. Elder Park was the last to volunteer. He told Yohan that he was there to represent the elderly survivors. He hoped his sacrifice would be enough to absolve the elderly of responsibility and wanted his share of the supplies to be distributed among the elderly if he died. Yohan nodded his head at Elder Park.
“Gunn, Hyuk, Min Seo, and Byung Jin will be the second group,” Yohan continued. Min Seo and Byung Jin were newlyweds that had ventured out with Gunn previously in an attempt to reach the loading dock. They were clearly scared, but Gunn had somehow managed to convince them.
Yohan knew the reason why they were compelled to follow Gunn. One of the women kidnapped by the gangsters was Min Seo’s younger sister, Byung Jin’s sister-in-law, and they would do anything for Gunn and Yohan’s help. Apparently, Gunn had told them that they would help rescue their sister. Yohan lamented that they had to go to such extremes in order to get volunteers.
“Think of yourselves as watchguards. Each person is responsible for a direction—north, south, east, and west. Group one will enter first and group two will follow. I’ll lead group one and Jung Hwan will cover the rear. Hyuk will lead group two with Gunn in the back.”
“So I’m in the far back,” said Gunn.
“The front and back positions are the most dangerous. If any of us are going to die, it’ll probably be you,” replied Yohan.
“How could you say something like that so casually?” asked Gunn. Yohan simply smirked. He traced his finger from the emergency exit to the edge of the mall.
“Both groups will move together until we reach the cosmetics store. Follow closely and watch your respective directions carefully. Don’t look away just because someone says a zombie is coming. Remember, you could die the moment you look away. Always watch your direction.” Yohan said it twice for emphasis.
“Once we reach the cosmetics store, the groups will split up and go to their respective entrance,” Yohan’s fingers traced the route from the store to the entrances, “if we succeed in barricading the entrances, rotate around and rendez-vous at the cosmetics store. Eventually we’ll open up a narrow entryway and create a combat zone where we can practice fighting the zombies that trickle in.”
“When you get to the entrance, the group leader will protect the rear guard as they seal the entrance. The two people on the side will have to watch all the directions during this time. This will be the most dangerous moment, especially for the person closing the door. Hyuk, make sure you guard your brother well. If he dies, then we’ll all die.”
“Okay. Got it.” Hyuk nodded nervously. Yohan patted his back.
“Jung Hwan, since you’re so good at barricading, I don’t have to worry, right?”
“Jeez, Yohan!” Jung Hwan exclaimed. The tension in the air loosened up a bit as the volunteers laughed.
“Don’t worry too much Jung Hwan. And the same goes for all of you. Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone die.”
It was a well-laid plan and Yohan felt confident. In fact, if he was willing to take the risk, he could have carried out the plan by himself. However, there were other reasons why he worked so hard to get volunteers. First, he wanted to boost the group’s confidence by successfully clearing out the zombies and capturing the mall. Second, he wanted to minimize casualties, which would help him earn the group’s trust. Most importantly, he wanted the fighters of the group to gain experience.
“How many zombies have you guys killed so far?”
“Hm, maybe around three.”
“Great. Let’s head out.” Yohan declared. Nervousness washed over the group.
“Yohan, I’m scared that I might wet myself during the mission. What should I do?” Saeri whispered.
“What do you mean, silly? Go to the restroom now.” Yohan replied. He watched her rush to the restroom as he buttoned up his leather gloves and performed his ritual clothing inspection. After he was satisfied with that, he wrapped his fingers around the grip of his 60cm knife and twirled it with a flourish.
The volunteers stared for a moment before getting up, one by one, and falling in line behind him. Yohan grabbed his backpack as Saeri returned.
“Let’s go. Don’t lower your guard just because a zombie is lying down on the floor. Make sure you test them before walking past them. You’ll die if you’re careless,” Yohan issued warnings non-stop. All the volunteers nodded. Once they climbed the stairs up to the emergency exit door for the first floor, Yohan pulled something out of his backpack.
“What’s that?” Gunn asked, frowning.
“A grenade,” replied Yohan, holding two dog plushies.
“Ready? Let’s go. Three, two, one. FIRE IN THE HOLE.”
Yohan flung open the door and kicked over some zombies that were gathered nearby. He then assumed a pitcher’s stance and threw the plushies as far as he could in opposite directions. The dog plushies emitted loud barking sounds as they flew through the air.
— Ω —
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