Yangcha followed the man on horseback, obedient. The chains on his shoulder weighed too much; he still didn't get used to walking with them. The young man didn't want to use such weapons. Although he was the only one capable of handling the chains so well at such an early age, he preferred to use the sword. However, he wasn't free to decide which weapons to use.
Beside him, Tagon, one of his companions, struck him gently on the shoulder, trying to get his attention. When the boy looked at him, Tagon pointed out something in front of them. Yangcha looked in that direction.
It was a village; it seemed small and humble. There were no more than twenty medium-sized houses, and the few people that roamed there made it clear that they didn't have many inhabitants.
ーWhy do you think they brought us here? ーTagon asked in whispers, as they would be scolded if they heard them speak; they had been forbidden to do so.
They had left Arthdal a few hours ago. Their superiors had not told them where they were going or what they would do. They had only been ordered to take all their weapons and follow them. Yangcha supposed it was part of the training. Two years ago, a man named Mugwang had picked up Tagon and him from the ashes of a small village near Arthdal and had taken them with his boss and older brother, Mubaek. Since then, they had lived with them and with other young people who had been rescued. The only condition was to do what they ordered and be willing to do everything to be the best soldiers; otherwise, not only would they not be worthy of being part of the Daekan Forces, but they could lose their lives.
ーI don't know ーYangcha responded, also in whispers.
A few meters from the entrance, Mugwang stopped and got off his horse, drawing his sword. With a smile, he turned to the twelve young men behind him.
ーLet's see what things you have learned ーhe said, playing with his sword, as if he were stabbing someoneー. If you become members of the Daekan Forces, you will conquer lands ーhe grimaced, then clicked his tongue and smiled againー. Sometimes those lands will be occupied... but that will not be any impediment. You know what I mean?
Several of the boys nodded, somewhat doubtfully. Mugwang raised his arm with which he held the sword and aimed at the village, where several were already beginning to notice their presence.
ーThey are Wahan village ーMugwang laughed a little, very funny with what was going to happenー. They... they aren't important, so Sanung allowed me to kill them for their training. So... go ーhe ordered, with his voice in a more serious toneー. Don't leave anyone alive.
The young men nodded once more, and each drew their respective weapons. Tagon took his bow and arrows, while Yangcha grabbed his chains, and together, they ran towards the village.
Upon arrival, the few wanderers looked at them confused, frowning. But their expressions changed to panic and terror when Tagon attacked, throwing one of his arrows at the neck of a man carrying two large baskets full of flowers.
ー¡Yeonsol! ーexclaimed another, running towards the body of the man.
Yangcha was faster; he caught him on the road, throwing his chains at his feet, making him fall. He dragged him to him, and when he had him in front, he suffocated him with the rest of the chains, killing him in seconds.
The others present started screaming, desperate. Some managed to enter the houses; others were killed.
Yangcha exchanged glances with Tagon when there was no one outside. The other approached.
ーI will go see inside these houses ーTagon said, again in whispers, pointing to the houses on his rightー. You go with those over there ーhe indicated, referring to those at the bottom of village.
The minor nodded and addressed them. There were three, side by side. The middle one seemed to be much bigger than the others, so Yangcha decided to enter.
When he opened the wooden door, the first thing he saw was a woman turned, with her back to him. This is so easy, Yangcha thought, approaching her in silence. However, being only a few steps away, Yangcha made the mistake of moving his chains slowly, causing noise, and without the young man seeing him coming, the woman turned quickly and stabbed his right leg with a dagger.
Yangcha clenched his teeth to prevent a scream from coming out of his mouth. He quickly removed her dagger from his leg and looked at the woman, who tried to approach once more with another dagger in her hand.
Again, Yangcha was faster. He wrapped his chains around her hands, causing her to drop the dagger. He approached her and suffocated her, just as he had done with the man outside.
She tried to break free, fighting with him, but after a few seconds, she began to lose strength in her arms and, finally, died. When he removed the chains from her neck and hands, Yangcha heard something fall at his side. He turned after leaving the woman on the floor, frowning.
To his right, there was an open door. Apparently, that door led to one of the rooms. In it was a little girl. She was short, with brown hair full of small braids. At her feet, there was a basket with fruits scattered on the floor. Her gaze was fixed on the dead woman who lay at Yangcha's feet.
ーMom! ーshe exclaimed, in a trembling voice. She ran to her and sat beside her, shaking her in a futile attempt to wake her up.
Yangcha didn't know what to do. He could kill men and women without hesitation, but children? He didn't think he could.
He looked at the girl, feeling sorry. For some reason, she reminded him of himself. Yangcha was equally naive and innocent when they attacked his village; he had tried to wake everyone up, even knowing there was no way to do it.
ーMom, wake up ーdemanded, shaking her mother againー. Please ーshe begged, crying.
Yangcha's sudden grip made her scream. The boy had taken her in his arms and had quickly entered the room through which she had left. Looking around, Yangcha saw a large wooden closet at the back of the room.
With all the speed and delicacy he could, he opened the doors and put the girl inside; she looked at him with a frown.
ーStay here ーordered Yangchaー. Whatever happens, don't go out. Wait until it's night to do it.
ーDid you do something to my mom? ーshe asked suddenlyー. Why doesn't she wake up?
Yangcha looked away.
ーI did nothing to your mother ーhe lied, still not looking at herー. But you'll end up like her if you go out. You... ーhe looked at her againー. You just have to wait here. Wait for me to come back, okay?
The girl nodded. As she had stopped crying, Yangcha assumed he could leave her, so he closed the closet doors and left.
Inside the closet, Tanya waited patiently for the boy's return for hours, but he never returned.