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    Deep Pivot Episode 26

    Eventually, the gate violently spewed out a mass mingled with mucus. The creatures collapsed onto the floor but quickly stood up, snapping their misaligned joints back into place.

    These monsters, with dozens of eyes clustered together on their heads, were known as Ghouls, first discovered in Israel. If they’d been found in the United States, they might have been called zombies based on their appearance. While they were considered relatively intelligent among strange species, their major weakness was their lack of auditory organs.

    Screeeeech!

    Dozens of Ghouls leaped over the empty seats with twisted limbs and charged. Young-gyo ignited flames in his hands, setting the theater floor ablaze and creating a towering fire.

    The lead Ghoul jumped high, its body engulfed in flames. Do-young raised his hand toward it, gripping the air. The Ghoul writhed and screamed in agony, bound in midair.

    The more Do-young tightened his grip, the louder the Ghoul’s screams grew. As its grotesquely contorted body was locked in place, its head exploded, spraying blue blood everywhere.

    “Oh, come on! That was mine!”

    Do-young snapped at the man behind him. Lieutenant Choi Dong-ha, an S-grade Blood Bomber, was sequentially detonating the nearby Ghouls and responded, “You’re too slow. We’re here to kill these monsters, not play around with them.”

    “I wasn’t trying to play with them!”

    At that moment, a Ghoul scaling the wall lunged toward the two.

    Bang! Bang!

    “You guys still not paying attention?”

    Two gunshots pierced the Ghoul’s chest and head. Cheong-oh reloaded his gun and aimed again. Bang! As he hit another target, someone shouted, “Everyone, get down!”

    A man leaped onto the backrests of the theater seats, and his body lit up brightly. Electric currents radiated from him, crackling and filling the air of the screening room. The Ghouls, electrocuted, all collapsed to the ground.

    But if that were the end, the SAU wouldn’t have been called here. Every time the gate writhed, dozens of new Ghouls poured out.

    Scatter!

    There was no way they could handle this entirely from inside. Cheong-oh, who understood the number of monsters the gate was spewing out, gave the command.

    Fighting inside the building had its limitations. Salamander’s flames could easily set the entire structure on fire, and if the berserkers went on a rampage, the entire shopping mall could collapse in a disaster.

    With costs for both tackling the gate and repairing the building in mind, Cheong-oh felt overwhelmed by the situation.

    Following his command, Yeon-woo retreated with the other guides to the rear. Lieutenant Park Min-gun, who had worked with Yeon-woo at the Hyoseok-dong quarantine site, guided him to the snack corner.

    Hiding behind the counter, the two aimed at the oncoming Ghouls. With Yeon-woo still new to firearms, he shot to slow them down by targeting their chests and legs, while Min-gun delivered the killing blow to their heads.

    Blue blood splattered over the popcorn and drink machines. After shooting down a Ghoul that had jumped inside the counter, Yeon-woo urgently searched for Seo-joon. After taking out a few more Ghouls, Seo-joon was finally seen aiming from behind the bathroom corner.

    While the other Espers were using their specialized abilities to fight, Seo-joon relied on his gun, skillfully popping off the heads of Ghouls scaling the walls.

    In the chaos, Yeon-woo thought about Seo-joon’s awakening ability. Considering how he quickly pulled him away from being sucked into the gate, it seemed like a body transformation type…

    “Two of them!”

    Min-gun’s shout made Yeon-woo reflexively fire his gun. Bang, bang! The two Ghouls that had leaped at them fell to the ground. Gunfire echoed throughout the theater, and fallen Ghouls lay scattered everywhere.

    Yet no matter how many they killed, more Ghouls kept pouring out. Just when it seemed endless, the Ghouls lying on the ground suddenly began to rise.

    ―Valkyrie has arrived on site.

    It was the power of a tamer, who could control the corpses of dead monsters. While A-grade tamers could control up to dozens, S-grade tamers could handle up to hundreds.

    A calm female voice came through the radio.

    ―We’ll drag the bodies down to the lower floor. Guides who need to move with us, go now.

    A Ghoul leaped onto the counter, baring its teeth at Yeon-woo. He stepped back, urgently trying to reload his gun, but the Ghoul lunged too quickly.

    Min-gun, who had been looking the other way, aimed belatedly but couldn’t fire due to the proximity between Yeon-woo and the Ghoul. The Ghoul grabbed Yeon-woo’s gun barrel and growled menacingly, shoving its face close to his.

    “Ugh…!”

    Yeon-woo struggled, fumbling for the knife in his holster with one hand, but suddenly another Ghoul jumped in and pulled its kin off him. The two Ghouls tumbled to the ground, fighting fiercely.

    ―Hey, baldy, get the baby out of there.

    Yeon-woo managed to stand up and peered over the counter. A woman, flanked by dozens of Ghouls, calmly crossed the chaos toward the escalator. That must have been Lieutenant Gil Tae-hee, the SAU tamer.

    “Let’s go, let’s go!”

    Min-gun grabbed Yeon-woo’s arm, and they sprinted after Tae-hee, running down the escalator just as newly born Ghouls poured out of the screening room like a wave.

    ✽✽✽

    ― Support needed on the 6th floor, B-wing.

    ― Go Gil-dong is on the way.

    ― Injured person on the 4th floor, A-wing.

    ― If it’s a minor injury, handle it at the base camp; for major injuries, transport to the 1st floor.

    ― Are there any ammo clips left at the 8th floor base camp?

    ― That’s where you’ll find the most, but going there is a death trap with the gate.

    ― The 5th floor base camp is also out. Requesting external support.

    The empty shopping center, now fully evacuated, had more strange creatures than people. One-third were controlled corpses by Tae-hee, another third were damaged bodies she couldn’t use, and the rest were Ghouls running wild.

    The one advantage of indoor combat was the abundance of cover, but it also worked in the Ghouls’ favor, ultimately proving to be a disadvantage.

    Yeon-woo was hiding in the fitting room of the sportswear section, aiming at a Ghoul perched on a display shelf. He had been separated from Lieutenant Park Min-gun for a while, and at some point, the power went out, plunging the entire area into darkness.

    He wasn’t used to viewing the world through the night vision display on his helmet, finding the perspective unfamiliar. Bang! The Ghoul’s head exploded.

    ― Where are you, baby?

    “4th floor, C-wing.”

    Click, click. As Yeon-woo reloaded after replying via radio, he realized he was out of bullets.

    “Oh.”

    Instinctively, he checked for any remaining Ghouls nearby. The area was clear.

    “I’m out of bullets.”

    ― Who?

    Frowning, Yeon-woo hesitated before replying reluctantly.

    “…baby’s out of bullets. 4th floor, C-wing….”

    He liked having matching code names with Seo-joon, so he hadn’t changed it, but saying it aloud made him feel embarrassed. He crouched low and crawled out of the fitting room, spotting an escalator heading to the upper floor near the women’s clothing section.

    Yeon-woo crawled to the display where he had taken down a Ghoul earlier and was about to move toward the women’s section when something odd caught his eye through the night vision: faint green shapes that didn’t fit. Mannequins stood in various poses, each wearing wide-brimmed vacation hats.

    …Weren’t there only two mannequins in the women’s section originally? Wasn’t there something off about seeing three?

    Hiding behind the display, Yeon-woo turned to check again. The bright LED structure seemed to run on battery power, severely distorting his vision. His night vision flickered as it struggled to focus on the three mannequins, which stood perfectly still.

    He was sure there were two earlier, but he must have been mistaken. As Yeon-woo concluded this and moved again, his gaze lingered on the last mannequin.

    Do they usually display mannequins like that for clothing? The pose is really odd.

    Crack, crack. The mannequin’s head slowly turned and tilted to the side, and the straw hat perched on top fell to the floor. Dozens of eyes rolled wildly, all staring at Yeon-woo.

    “Oh….”

    His faint sigh was cut off as the grotesque green form lunged toward him in an instant.

    T/N: I think these aes would be a bot confusing for you guys. I mean if you guys want I can add my name doc in the chapter Tl notes. If you guys want.

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