Chapter 13: Special Privilege (3)
—Transmission will begin soon
—Countdown starting. 100, 99, 98…
The announcement quieted the murmurs. As everyone stopped moving, someone approached Chi-Woo. Although the person looked familiar, Chi-Woo couldn’t recognize her right away.
“You finally came?” Giant Fist asked the woman with short brown hair as she staggered towards them. “Where is your hat?”
“I don’t know. They told me to leave it behind,” she said with a scowl. “It’s not even a big deal. How annoying. What about you?”
“They took everything away. Thankfully, they let me keep my fists.” Giant Fist lifted both his hands up.
Chi-Woo finally realized then that the woman in front of him was the woman with the beret hat. Without her hat, her face was in full view, and she gave off a different air than before. At a glance, she looked human, but further inspection revealed an alienness about her that suggested otherwise.
‘I didn’t know she looked like this.’ Chi-Woo looked closely at her to find the reason for her alienness and ended up meeting the woman’s eyes. As soon as she saw him, she fixed her posture and said, “Nice to meet you, sir.” She gathered her hands together and bowed. “It’s an honor. My name is Mua Janya.”
“Ah, I am—”
“Yes, I know. You are Giant Fist’s childhood friend, right?”
Chi-Woo closed his mouth. What was she talking about? He knew the woman was aware of his ident.i.ty. However, the beret hat woman—no, Mua Janya, quickly darted her eyes sideways, and Chi-Woo didn’t question her. It appeared that she was purposefully speaking wrong information out loud, and he could make a guess why she was doing this.
‘She is telling me to keep my ident.i.ty a secret.’ It was the same in every world. People connected to a famous person always garnered a lot of attention, especially if they were a blood relative. If one had to rank heroes and line them up in order, Choi Chi-Hyun would be on the first row; and even in this row, he would be standing right in the front. He was the hero of heroes, the king, and the legend. It was only natural that Choi Chi-Hyun’s one and only brother would attract all kinds of attention.
And while some of this attention might be positive, there would also be those who saw him in a negative light. Although there didn’t seem to be anyone eavesdropping on them, Chi-Woo decided to be careful just in case.
“I bet you were really surprised when we first met,” Mua Janya said in a low voice. Chi-Woo smiled, remembering when Mua Janya suddenly intervened in his meeting with Giant Fist.
“Yeah. A ton.” It especially shocked him when he saw her aggressively drag away a t.i.tan of a man like Giant Fist. “That time, I thought you were collaborating with Giant Fist to con me.”
“As if. I’m more like a stalker than a collaborator.”
“Haha…is that so…wait, stalker?”
“I had been spying on you guys from within a 100-meter distance for 24 hours straight,” she said calmly.
Chi-Woo was a bit taken aback. He was joking, but she readily admitted that she was…what? ‘And for 24 hours straight?’ He hadn’t noticed her at all then.
“It’s because I was asked to do so,” Mua Janya clarified.
“By my brother?”
“Yes. He told me to protect you…”
Chi-Woo stared at Mua Janya intently. The captain of the boat who drove him to the island had also said similar things.
“Did he tell you to make sure I didn’t come here?”
“Something like that.” Mua Janya admitted.
“Why?” This was the most pressing question he had; why did his brother and his whole family hide their ident.i.ties from him? It was the first question he wanted to ask his brother when Chi-Woo met him.
“Sorry. I only received the request and didn’t hear anything else.” It was a reply that Chi-Woo had expected. Mua Janya continued, “I also asked him for an explanation, but he wouldn’t tell me.” ‘Of course, he wouldn’t.’ “Truthfully, I’m not even supposed to tell you this.” Mua Janya shook her head sideways.
“Why are you telling me this now?” Chi-Woo asked, and Mua Janya stopped shaking her head.
“I wanted to tell you before it was too late. However, things have already progressed to this point, and it’s not like you can turn back now…” Mua Janya spoke bitterly and slightly hung her head. Her lips twitched a bit before she muttered quietly, “We don’t know what will happen after we are transmitted. Moreover, since I failed to fulfill Sir Chi-Hyun’s request…I felt like I had to atone for it in some way.”
‘Atone’- it was his second time hearing this word today. He wondered what in the world his brother did that Laguel and Mua Janya would act like this. Chi-Woo blamed his brother for putting him in such an uncomfortable position.
“It’s all my fault. There’s no need for you to also come—" Giant Fist began to feel sorry as he listened to Mua Janya and spoke up to apologize, but Mua Janya cut him off immediately.
“You, shut up.” It was completely different from the way she addressed Chi-Woo.
“Anyways, it’s fine,” Mua Janya said. While Giant Fist slouched in the corner, she cleared her throat. “It’s my decision in the end. I won’t regret it.”
Chi-Woo became speechless. It seemed many had become involved because of his actions without him meaning to. Although he hadn’t forced anyone to act, there was a part of him that felt slightly guilty.
A strong vibration shook the area. Shocked, Chi-Woo saw a faint halo of light rise from below and fill up the s.p.a.ce. The floor lit up, and straight lines were drawn to form a geometric shape, which emitted a white light and shone straight at Chi-Woo, enveloping him like it was trying to take over his body. It didn’t take long for the light to submerge him and transform his body into dazzling particles.
‘My body is…?’ It was turning into light. And that wasn’t all; Chi-Woo realized that he couldn’t hear any sound at all. He saw Mua Janya move her lips, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. He had lost all his senses except for his sight. His surroundings suddenly morphed into a very bizarre and silent s.p.a.ce. The surging light had reached the top of his head now. Chi-Woo watched as giant pillars of light shot up from the s.h.i.+ning floor like they were trying to break the ceiling.
Every hero underwent the same transformation following Chi-Woo, and they all simultaneously sprung upwards with the pillar of light. There wasn’t even a moment to gasp. The crowd of angels who had been standing around to pay their respects suddenly became dots and disappeared from their view.
The light then vanished. Chi-Woo lost his sight, which meant that all his senses were gone. It felt like he had become a nonexistent being. Complete darkness rushed in. It seemed like he was being swept somewhere, or perhaps he was just swimming in a vast sea of darkness. He didn’t know where he was going nor whether he had stopped. In his anxious state, Chi-Woo spotted something in the darkness: the milky way, an embroidery of blue and red lights against the canvas of nothingness.
Various shapes quickly flashed past him, reminding him of what one saw when they pressed their arm to their eyes for a long time. Then a ball of light approached him at an especially fast pace. It was a tiny, sparkling star. At first, it was the size of a dust speck, but it grew bigger and bigger. The light pillars that had vanished appeared faintly into view again. Its long tails stretched outwards and bent towards the star; and following the pillars’ trajectory, bursts of lights shot down like meteorites- Chi-Woo being one of them.
‘That star is…’ It was the star that placed the entire galaxy in danger: Liber.
‘…What?’ Chi-Woo wondered. Something was strange. He felt himself distancing from the meteor shower. He was falling behind the others until he seemed to have stopped altogether. No, he and only he had stopped moving. It wasn’t his imagination. The meteor shower of lights grew distant from him until they disappeared, and he was all alone. Before he could wonder why, the s.p.a.ce in front of Chi-Woo stretched horizontally.
‘What is it this time—!’
The s.p.a.ce swallowed the one still-standing ball of light in one bite and closed instantly, as if it was hiding from someone.
* * *
Chi-Woo thought he had lived a special life, but considering the way his life unfolded, it was difficult to think that special necessarily meant good. In fact, dictionaries defined the word ‘special’ as ‘different from what was usual’. If he had to measure his life between good and bad, he considered it more to be ‘bad’—especially since he had to grow up seeing things normal people couldn’t see. Furthermore, since he was young, his house was never free from incidents. Thus, Chi-Woo always had to live in fear and anxiety, not knowing what would happen next. He had to worry about strange beings causing him harm once they met his eyes or worry about getting winded into some strange incident and exposing his family to danger.
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Before he even entered elementary school, he was diagnosed with anxiety disorder; he had believed the beings only he could see to be the cause. It was only after he grew up a bit that he thought the spirits might not be the cause for his anxiety after all. He got used to them. Eventually, he reached the point where he saw spirits so frequently that they no longer scared him. They were merely annoying and tiring to deal with later on. And so, after he grew indifferent to these beings, there was no need for him to s.h.i.+ver in anxiety. This was the same for the tumultuous events that happened to him. After facing all kinds of strange situations, Chi-Woo was now unfazed by even the most bizarre situations. Yet, even then, Chi-Woo was always anxious. He couldn’t really understand why, and his childhood trauma wasn’t enough of an explanation.
—What do you think of those things around you?
The mysterious voice spoke as if it was gently trying to persuade him.
—There’s not much time.
—This s.p.a.ce is the last ability that the World has saved for the very worst-case scenario.
—If the channel disappears, this s.p.a.ce will also disappear with it.
—So, find your partner before this s.p.a.ce disappears.
‘Find my partner?’ Chi-Woo was about to ask another question, but he hesitated. The movements of the books had become strange. All of them had come to a sudden halt. Chi-Woo felt an enormous number of gazes on him. Of course, books didn’t have eyes, but he felt as if he was being stared at.
As soon as Chi-Woo faltered, all kinds of books quickly flocked to him. Their covers fluttered like wings and rotated around him as if they were asking him to look at them and choose them. Among these books, there were several that forcibly rushed forward and pushed the other books behind. They all fought to show Chi-Woo their t.i.tles and opened up to show their content. However, there were so many books that were doing this that his mind couldn’t stay focused, and Chi-Woo didn’t even think about reading any of the books.
At that moment, a book flew through the huge crowd of books. Its unusual qualities were clear even at first glance. The book was big and very thick. The edges were decorated in gold, so it looked expensive. The other books also seemed surprised by this book’s appearance as they quickly scattered away like fish facing a ferocious shark. The book arrived proudly in front of Chi-Woo. It seemed to think that it was only natural that Chi-Woo would pick it. It swept over Chi-Woo’s legs and climbed up, and the way it tickled his legs made it seem even more mysterious.
And this wasn’t the only behavior it showed. As if to tempt him, the book subtly opened and closed itself as if it was debating if it should show its inside or not.
“What the heck is this?” Chi-Woo kicked the book as it continued to play its tricks. In the first place, Chi-Woo didn’t like the way it appeared, and he also didn’t feel anything special from it.
Flutter, flutter? Whoosh, whoos.h.!.+
A commotion erupted around Chi-Woo. The books around him seemed as if they couldn’t believe that Chi-Woo had kicked the gold-rimmed book without hesitation. After being dumped by Chi-Woo, the gold-rimmed book’s bookmark trembled as if it was humiliated, but Chi-Woo didn’t give it another glance and continued on.
‘Hm?’ After looking around without rest, Chi-Woo’s gaze fell on one area. ‘That book…before.’
It was the first book he had seen as soon as he opened his eyes in this place. Unlike other books, it had beautiful white wings on its outer cover, and after flying around, it laid on another book to rest. It was still lying down. Even though the other books had caused a commotion at Chi-Woo’s appearance, it stayed quiet by itself. In the first place, it looked completely uninterested in Chi-Woo as if it was saying, “Hmph. I’m different from the other books that make such a big fuss.”
It really was elegant and chic. It also looked n.o.ble, and he felt the same dignity from the book as when he first saw Laguel. Perhaps that was why it had first grabbed his attention.
“Well…if it’s not interested, I also don’t want it.” Chi-Woo’s attention immediately s.h.i.+fted away. There was an overflowing amount of unique and special books anyway. There was no reason for Chi-Woo to stay fixated on this book just because it had wings.
“!” When Chi-Woo really began looking around at different books, the winged book flinched.
1. Called ‘s.h.i.+nnaerim’ in Korean ☜
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