Chapter 14: Special Privilege (4)
‘W-What? Didn’t he just see me? But he’s still looking at another book? Really?’ The winged book tried to hold onto its pride, but when it saw Chi-Woo reach for another book, it hurriedly flapped towards him.
‘Look! Look at me! I have such beautiful wings! How could you look at any other?’ The winged book dropped all pretense and tried to appeal to Chi-Woo aggressively, but it was too late now.
“Ah, seriously. Go! Go away!” Chi-Woo scolded the book for hindering him and pushed it back. The book flew weakly away like a fly hit by a fly trap, lost consciousness, and flopped down to the ground.
‘This is driving me crazy.’ Chi-Woo looked visibly tired now. He picked up books by random and tried to read them, but he couldn’t process the writings on the pages. There were simply too many of them. Even if he only read the t.i.tle of the books and flipped through them, it would take him several decades to get through them all. He didn’t know how he was going to find a fitting book in this case.
—I understand your confusion in this unfamiliar situation.
—Aren’t you the one who said it’s easier to make mistakes if you’re in a hurry?
—Don’t be so anxious and take things more slowly.
—Follow your intuition.
The mysterious voice muttered in his head.
‘You were the one who told me to pick fast since I don’t have much time…’ Chi-Woo grumbled inside his mind and soon closed his eyes. It was his habit whenever he had to concentrate.
‘With my intuition…’ It didn’t seem like he would get anything done by standing still, so he moved both hands. Like he was swimming, he swerved his arms in the air and heightened all the senses in his body, feeling books sweeping past him like water.
‘…Oh?’ To his surprise, his intuition was telling him something. He felt a variety of sensations—cold and hot and even hard and soft… Among these sensations, he just had to find one that he liked. Flip. He didn’t know how much time had pa.s.sed. He opened an eye to peek as he swam in a circle of books, following his intuition and tightly grabbing the book that tickled his left hand.
‘It’s this one.’ He felt nothing but basic physical sensations from other books, while this particular one gave him a special feeling. When he grabbed the book, the feeling became stronger, and he felt a burst of a.s.surance rise in his heart.
‘I know it. This is the one!’ It was just like the feeling one would have when seeing an ally amid a losing battle.
“Ok, I'll pick you,” Chi-Woo said. As soon as he declared these words, everything halted. The movements of all other books—the gold-rimmed book with a shaking tail, the crying book that hid its cover with its wings, and the book that flew around in a frenzy—seized. Then they began to disappear. Like ice melting from the sunlight, they gradually evaporated, starting from their tops until there was nothing left. Soon, Chi-Woo was standing in a white s.p.a.ce without anything in it. Chi-Woo looked around in amazement.
A voice rang. Chi-Woo’s eyes naturally darted towards the front and saw a gentle ripple. There hadn’t been anything just a moment before, but now he was seeing something glimmer in the air.
‘A child?’ The figure looked like a child, or a girl, to be more precise. Her body was covered in wounds, and she was crying. She cried so sorrowfully as if she was an orphan who had just lost their parents on the battlefield. She looked so pitiful that Chi-Woo wanted to approach the girl and hug and pat her, telling them that everything would be alright.
The voice rang again.
—You are the owner of this s.p.a.ce.
‘I am the master of the library I just saw?’ Chi-Woo wondered. Simultaneously, the child lifted her head. As tears dripped down her face, she stared at Chi-Woo and approached him, taking one slow step at a time. When the child finally reached Chi-Woo, she looked up at him and stared for a moment. Then she fumbled through her belongings and carefully stretched out her hand.
A die lay on top of her small palm. It wasn’t a normal, cube-shaped die, but a seven-sided one. Chi-Woo couldn’t hear the child’s voice, but he could understand what she was trying to tell him. It looked like she was asking him to take the die, but Chi-Woo couldn’t accept this offer easily. He didn’t know who this child was and why they had invited him to a place that looked like a library and made him choose a book—and why they were suddenly giving him a die now. Questions popped up in his mind and formed more questions.
—Why don’t you take it?
Chi-Woo felt a slight push against his back, and he took one step forward towards the child. The child raised both hands as if she was pleading to Chi-Woo to take the die. When Chi-Woo met the child’s eyes, he stretched out his hands like he was hypnotized. He wiped away the child’s tears and picked up the die from her palm.
The voice rang again.
—You have received it.
The child’s eyes darted around, and her mouth opened slightly.
—You have suffered a lot. It must have been very difficult, but now, you can go on and finally rest.
At these words, the child smiled brightly as her face glittered from dried-up tears. It was a smile that filled all on-lookers with happiness. The child closed her eyes like she was finally relieved now. As if she wanted to thank Chi-Woo, she opened her arms widely and leaned her body towards him.
But before she could, she disappeared. The child was gone as if she had never existed in the first place. Chi-Woo felt a sense of regret and squeezed the die twice before he stretched his hand back out and lowered his arm. It felt like he was dreaming. What was the die? And what about the book? Chi-Woo raised the book he was holding. It was a simple book with a deep blue-indigo cover; just the right thickness, and it pleased him whenever he looked at it.
Chi-Woo thought he just heard laughter.
—How surprising. Of all the books you could’ve chosen, you chose that one.
“What kind of book is it…No, before that, who are you, really?’
—Fu, fu. Why don’t you take a look at your book first?
It felt like he was getting ridiculed, but since Chi-Woo was curious, he decided to open the book to its first page.
“…” Chi-Woo was speechless when he saw curly shapes that he didn’t recognize at all. Yet the shapes soon wavered until they changed to Hangul, which Chi-Woo could read.
‘Is this the effect of the translation device?’ Chi-Woo read the writings that had changed shape. The t.i.tle said:
[7 Ways to Become a Great and Respected Parent]
“…What?” Chi-Woo gasped when he saw a t.i.tle he hadn’t expected at all. It wasn’t an instruction book, detailing celestial martial arts or a legacy written by a wise sage. It wasn’t even a guide to a hidden or hard job. What need did a 20-year-old young man who had barely lived his life have for such a book?
Before Chi-Woo could finish his sentence, he heard bookcases fall over and saw a blinding flash of light burst in the center of the books. Simultaneously, Chi-Woo felt his body drop.
* * *
Chi-Woo trembled on the floor.
“Ah, ughhhh!” He stretched and wrapped the back of his head with his hands, rolling sideways.
Chi-Woo groaned for a while, but eventually sat up. His face was all scrunched up in pain.
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The sound of air escaping through teeth rang in the warehouse. An evil energy swept through the s.p.a.ce in the form of cold air. After a while.
He heard the sound of something getting pulled again, then…
He heard other doors opening.
Swish, Bam! Swish, Bam! Swish, Bam! Swish, Bam!
It seemed like the unknown being was opening and checking each door. Chi-Woo sat paralyzed and didn’t move for a while. He didn’t even budge an inch until the sound moved far away. By that time, he was completely out of breath.
“Pw…..eh………” Chi-Woo let out his breath as softly as possible and quietly dropped to the ground. All the emotions he had suppressed flowed out of him like water. He felt an innate fear towards the unknown.
—Even if you’re extremely careful, it’s still not enough.
He suddenly recalled Laguel’s words.
‘What was that…just now…’ The evil energy he felt was enough to make him s.h.i.+ver head to toe in fear. What would have happened if he had hidden behind the wooden boxes a second slower?
The sound of him gulping was way louder than usual. He hadn’t realized it, but his heart was beating in a frenzy. Now that he thought about it, he had been way too calm about all this. Even he thought it was strange how calmly he had accepted this role and situation. He had acted way too indifferent to everything else because he was overwhelmed with the joy of finally finding something he could do. At the end of the day, however, he was not a hero, but an ordinary person.
Mua Janya said that they were now in the same boat as him, but that was not true at all. Even though Chi-Woo had lived an unusual life, he was still an ordinary person in the end. It was absurd to compare himself to heroes who had gone through all kinds of th.o.r.n.y paths filled with hards.h.i.+ps and adversity.
‘If this is how it’s going to be…’
‘I shouldn’t have come…’ But Chi-Woo strongly shook his head. He had come here after resisting dissuasions from multiple individuals.
‘I need to stay focused.’ He needed to understand his limits and rea.s.sess himself. Because everyone he met was so awed by him and treated him so politely, a part of him had thought he had become someone great without meaning to. However, they were treating him this way not because of who he was, but because of his brother and his family. The thought jolted Chi-Woo’s mind awake like a bucket of cold water. He chastised himself for being way too careless, for thinking only that he needed to find his brother and bring him back.
‘This is not a game.’
If he died, it would be all over. Before he found his brother, he first needed to be concerned about his survival. Chi-Woo took a deep breath and peeked out his head a tiny bit and stared at where he had been before. Nothing had changed except the fact that the door was now wide open. No, there was one more difference.
‘This smell is…’
A metallic smell wafted into his nose—it was the smell of blood. He saw a hall past the opened door. It seemed that he had been teleported into a building.
‘I should first get out.’
He couldn’t just stay here all day. There was no guarantee that this place was safe, and someone might come in again. Chi-Woo got up from his seat. Pus.h.i.+ng his trembling legs to move, he carefully stepped around the fallen door and stood in front of the entrance.
‘It’d be really creepy if someone was waiting outside.’
He snuck a glance again. After checking that there was no one around, he went outside. The smell of blood immediately thickened. Chi-Woo’s eyes narrowed.
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