Chapter 1: A Day with a Strange Fortune (1)
“How can big brother Chi-Hyun do this?” a chubby man remarked. He had a round, bald head with beady eyes gleaming from behind his gla.s.ses. “He left without a warning again...How many times has it been now?”
The pale, young man in front of him remained silent.
“Seven? Taking into account the instances I heard about, I think it’s around seven.”
Even when the chubby man’s voice rose with rage, the young man simply yawned in response.
“I’ve been hearing about big brother Chi-Hyun’s disappearances since I was in elementary school. How could your brother not have changed at all since then?”
Chi-Woo, the young man, covered his wide-open mouth.
“But anyway, don’t worry too much. You know what they say. No news is good news,” the chubby man said and glanced at Chi-Woo. “He is gone for longer than usual, but I’m sure he’s going to suddenly appear like he always…” He then noticed that Chi-Woo was looking far off while smacking his lips. “…I might as well have been talking to myself,” the man grumbled and placed his mouth back onto his cup’s straw.
As he drank, the chubby man observed the young man in front of him. On his wrist, there was a beaded bracelet that he had never seen Chi-Woo without. A silver cross necklace was especially noticeable on his black turtleneck, and a bible sat on top of the table before him.
The chubby man pulled his mouth away from the straw and spoke, “I thought you were living in a temple? When did you move to a church?”
Instead of answering, Chi-Woo kept his gaze far off in the distance.
“A Buddhist prayer bead, a cross, and a bible. Now that I think about it, don’t you carry around a talisman too?”
Chi-Woo shrugged, but didn’t respond any further. Frustrated, the chubby man slammed the cup down and demanded, “Is this really how you’re going to treat me?”
“Do you know how long it has been since we last saw each other?”
At last, Chi-Woo turned to look at him.
“Do you know why I asked to meet you?” the chubby man asked.
Chi-Woo snorted as if he was telling the man to continue.
“I called you to buy you a meal! To feed you! And to see how you’re doing!”
“When was the last time you looked into a mirror or went outside? You should go out more often and get some fresh air, man.”
“Ha.” Chi-Woo finally opened his mouth. Placing his hand on his jaw, he continued, “Are you serious?”
“Gil-Duk, did you really call me to buy me a meal and check on me?”
“Yeah! I did!” Gil-Duk shouted.
Chi-Woo smiled and said, “Okay! Then let’s just do that.”
“Let’s catch up and eat together.” Chi-Woo nodded. “But nothing more than that.”
“You’re not going to do or bring up anything besides that, right?” Chi-Woo asked for confirmation. Gil-Duk opened his mouth, but no words came out. He turned a blind eye to Chi-Woo’s strong gaze and fiddled with his cup.
“No….” Gil-Duk soon confessed the truth. “I also have things to confide in you while we’re at it…”
Chi-Woo snorted knowingly, and Gil-Duk yelled, “Come on! You don’t have to be so mean about it!” After his outburst, Gil-Duk let out a big sigh and clenched both fists. Then, he tilted his torso slightly forward and told Chi-Woo, “Just listen to me for a bit. I have been feeling funny these days.”
“You know that I have been working as a Content Creator recently, right?”
“Yeah, you suddenly took a year off from school to make vlogs or whatever it’s called.”
“Okay, so I think I went too far, and I am really screwed now.”
Chi-Woo looked taken aback. Gil-Duk wasn’t someone who admitted his mistakes so easily.
“I created a new video recently and uploaded it. But afterward, I began to feel a bit strange. I started to feel chills even when I wasn’t doing anything. My shoulders began to feel heavy, and I keep having these terrible nightmares…”
“If you’re having chills, dress more warmly. And if you’re having shoulder pains, go to the hospital. As for nightmares… Well, why don’t you try changing your bed?”
“No, Chi-Woo, please listen to me.” Gil-duk desperately pleaded. Chi-Woo clicked his tongue at him and scrolled up his phone. He opened an app and typed into the search bar. Soon, a channel with Gil-Duk’s name appeared, and Chi-Woo clicked on the most recent video.
[h.e.l.lo, everyone! This is your dirty, dirty, lovable boy, Gil-Duk!]
“Oh, yeah, that’s the video. You just have to watch that.” Gil-Duk’s voice overlapped with his video.
Chi-Woo blinked and asked, “Okay, I understand that you were introducing yourself, but why the heck did you call yourself ‘dirty, dirty, lovable boy’?”
“It’s my signature greeting. How is it? Isn’t it funny?”
“I don’t know about that, but it sure sounds dirty.”
“It’s not dirty but lovable.”
“If I was a viewer, I would want to turn this video off as soon as I hear this greeting,” Chi-Woo said, and the video continued.
[Today’s video is about! Tatatatata~! Touring the haunted house!]
Chi-Woo scowled slightly as he heard this line, but he remained silent as he focused intently on his phone’s screen. After watching the video for around ten minutes, he shut the app off and looked up. He glanced behind Gil-Duk’s shoulders as he asked, “How did you learn of this place?”
“The haunted house? I did some legwork. You know, famous places have all been covered many times before. I happened to find this place when I was wandering around—”
“It looks like a house in a rural area. Did no one try to stop you from going in?”
“Uh… A grandpa from a supermarket tried to stop me. He asked me if I was crazy and warned me to not go in there if I didn’t want to die…”
Chi-Woo sighed deeply. He looked at Gil-Duk like he was pleading to G.o.d to save this stupid soul, which made Gil-Duk’s anxious face fill with more dread.
“What’s going to happen to me? A ghost from the haunted house is following me, right?”
“…I don’t know.”
“Why are you asking me? What can I do?”
“But since you were young, you have been—” Gil-Duk trailed off as Chi-Woo’s eyes turned cold. He quickly changed the topic, “Can’t you do something? I can't sleep at night because I’m too scared of nightmares. It’s killing me.”
Chi-Woo s.h.i.+fted his annoyed gaze from Gil-Duk to the window and said, “There’s nothing I can do. Deal with it yourself.”
“But? If it’s really affecting you, why don’t you go back there to apologize?”
“Yeah, just think,” Chi-Woo said with disinterest, “How would you feel if you were resting peacefully at home, and some stranger barges into your home and starts filming a video there? Wouldn’t you feel completely peeved?”
“That…” Gil-Duk couldn’t answer.
“You mentioned a supermarket nearby. Tell the grandpa there your situation and prepare an ancestral offering. Then beg for forgiveness, saying that you were in the wrong.”
“Will that fix…everything?”
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“I don’t know. It depends on the ghost living in the haunted house. They’ll decide if they’re going to accept your apology.”
So instead, Chi-Woo immediately took out his bible to extract the talisman he stuck between the pages, wrapping it around his hand. Then he silently mouthed ‘this f.u.c.king s.h.i.+t’ and rolled the talisman around his hand. With his other hand, he seized the smoke and threw the spirit down as hard as possible.
With a thud, the spirit hit the ground at about the same time that Chi-Woo opened his mouth. Both the spirit flung to the ground and the spirit watching this exchange were shocked. He was able to hit us?
But Chi-Woo was not interested in their reactions. “Are you crazy?” Chi-Woo grabbed onto his cross necklace and pulled it off. “I was already in a rotten mood…Oh my, were you surprised?”
He grabbed the trembling spirit by its throat and pulled it up. “Why are you so surprised? I’m able to see you. Why wouldn’t I be able to touch you?”
Chi-Woo stabbed the spirit’s head with the protruding part of the cross.
A scream that only Chi-Woo could hear rang in the air.
“The one who wronged you was that b.a.s.t.a.r.d.” Chi-Woo did not stop. “Did I do anything to you guys?” He pulled out the cross and stabbed the spirit’s head again.
“Why. Are. You. f.u.c.king. With. Me. Then?” Chi-Woo stabbed the spirit’s head nonstop and kept shaking it.
Noticing the other spirit trembling in shock, Chi-Woo flung the spirit he was holding to the ground. “Ah, can’t forget about you, can I?”
“Get over here, you f.u.c.king s.h.i.+t.” Chi-Woo opened his backpack and took out a darkened club. The startled spirit quickly moved back.
“…Oh?” Chi-woo came to a halt. “Are you claiming innocence now? You tried to go back, but this b.a.s.t.a.r.d kept pus.h.i.+ng you?”
The remaining spirit fluttered violently, as if it was agreeing with Chi-Woo.
“Do you really expect me to believe that?”
Chi-Woo bobbed the black club on his shoulder up and down. “Aha. So then, I guess I should leave you alone and beat only this guy to a pulp.”
Hearing this, the spirit quickly got on its knees. Two hands popped out from the smoke and rubbed against each other in a pleading gesture. Chi-Woo snorted at this sight and looked down at the other spirit he had just beaten down.
“Hey.” He nudged the smoke wiggling on the ground like a bug and told it, “I just want to live quietly. Are you listening? We’ll leave each other alone. Do you understand me?”
The spirit didn’t answer. It seemed like it was on the verge of disappearing. Chi-Woo got up from his spot and kicked the collapsed spirit away. Then he told the other spirit, “Take it and p.i.s.s off.”
The spirit stopped rubbing its hands together and hurriedly took its companion away. Chi-Woo watched the two spirits until they became mere dots and disappeared. Then he clicked his tongue and put his club back into his backpack, along with his belongings. He latched the cross to its string and hung the necklace around his neck again. He also tried to put the talisman back into the Bible, but shoved it into his pocket instead when he noticed that it was blackened. Only then did he realize that many eyes were on him.
“What is that man doing…?”
“Oh my…he must be crazy…”
“Mom! I want to be like that guy when I grow up!”
Many people pa.s.sed by Chi-Woo like they were looking at a monkey in a zoo. All kinds of resentful thoughts whirled inside his mind, such as ‘I should’ve moved spots’, ‘Why do I have to suffer such humiliation because of those b.a.s.t.a.r.ds?’, ‘That d.a.m.n Gil-Duk’, and so on.
Suddenly, something in his pants pocket began to ring.
There was another ring, and Chi-Woo reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. He pushed back his hair in annoyance and pushed the call b.u.t.ton.
—Am I speaking to Mr. Choi Chi-Hyun’s younger brother?
It was an old but deep voice. Chi-Woo flinched and pulled his phone away to check its screen. It was a number he didn’t recognize. After looking at his phone’s screen intently, he placed his phone back to his ear and asked, “Who are you?”
—If it’s fine with you, could I have some of your time? Possibly right now?
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