Chapter 24: I Take Refuge (Namu) (7)
The being exposed itself for a brief moment and went into a craze. Every time it struggled wildly, the talisman burned more quickly.
“Woah.” Chi-Woo clicked his tongue when he saw the talisman getting charred black. It had been a long time since he saw a talisman burn so fast.
When the talisman finally turned to dust and scattered away, the being howled in rage. Ru Hiana s.h.i.+elded her ears from its ear-splitting shriek.
‘No. It’s all wrong…!’ Ru Hiana thought everything was over when she saw the stunned look on Chi-Woo’s face. The ghost shook violently and rushed towards them. With a surprised look on his face, Chi-Woo moved his hands quickly. He took out a new piece of talisman and stamped it on the rus.h.i.+ng ghost.
From the talisman came a pouring path of flames, burning vibrantly in the air.
A painful scream incomparable to the one before rang inside the pit.
“Wow, amazing,” Chi-Woo exclaimed in admiration at the talisman as it swallowed the ghost.
“W-What?” Ru Hiana asked in shock. Likewise, Chi-Woo looked surprised by what he had done.
“Ah, this is called a Jakyulbu. It’s a talisman that inflict burning pain on ghosts if they trespa.s.s…” Although Chi-Woo had seen plenty of ghosts suffer from Jakyulbu, it was his first time seeing a talisman actually emit fire. Ru Hiana gulped and looked forward. It took her a while to understand the situation since everything had happened so suddenly.
“Huh…?” Her eyes widened. On top of these pained beings who were suffering from the fire, black energy bloomed upwards like a haze. Like paint dampened by water, it scattered across the air and wrapped around Chi-Woo.
“Be careful!” Ru Hiana shouted. Meanwhile, Chi-Woo felt an unfamiliar sensation seep into him from all parts of his body. It was an unpleasant sensation. It felt like the thing was trying to penetrate him. His head was about to jerk suddenly, but Chi-Woo resisted with all his might and stopped his movements. Still, his whole body, including his two hands, trembled furiously. His body no longer seemed to be listening to his will. Chi-Woo felt his control stolen away. ‘This is…!’
How could he forget about this when it had happened so often in his childhood?
“This b.a.s.t.a.r.d…!” Chi-Woo pressed his lips together. He moved the leg that he still had control over and staggered to sit down. Then he forcefully clasped his trembling hands and murmured. “Nama…Saddarunma…puntarika…sutura…” He chanted the same seemingly meaningless words twice and closed his eyes. “Nama…Saddarunma…puntarika…sutura…”
Ru Hiana watched from behind, obviously confused why Chi-Woo was suddenly praying on the floor after being enveloped by a dark aura that caused his whole body to tremble. As someone who swung spears against monsters, she couldn’t comprehend Chi-Woo’s actions at all. Not knowing what to do, Ru Hiana fumbled and noticed a change happening. ‘It’s getting pushed back?’
The dark aura that was trying to enter Chi-Woo’s body was pulling back like it was running away. The aura broke in parts and twisted, and Chi-Woo’s noticeable tremor died down to some extent. In the meantime, Chi-Woo was so concentrated on his prayer that sweat was collecting on his forehead. “Nama…Saddarunma…puntarika…sutura…”
After seeing things he shouldn’t see—more specifically after ghosts found out that a small child could see them, Chi-Woo went through an intense level of torment. The ghosts all begged him to free them of their resentment or lend them his body. There were even some who attempted to forcefully steal his body. When things were at their worst, Chi-Woo had wandered around places at dawn like a sleepwalker. There was even a time when he woke up inside a mountain. It still sent s.h.i.+vers down his spine when he recalled opening his eyes to find himself standing at the edge of a veranda.
Yet, among the many masters he served to escape from this torment, there was one famous monk. Chi-Woo stayed in the temple with the monk and wrote sutras and prayed every day according to their wishes; among the sutras were the Diamond Sutra, The Thousand Hands Sutra, The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Flower Garland Sutra, and many more. Unfortunately, none of them could free Chi-Woo from the clutches of his unidentifiable destiny. There was a silver lining, though. Something he’d tried proved to have an effect: chanting the prayer of the Lotus Sutra— one of the three Mahayana Scriptures written in the early days of Buddhism. This scripture was spoken right after Buddha finished his pursuit in Bhod Gaya and came out to the world; thus, it was considered one of the most important scriptures in Buddhism. It was also the scripture that vengeful spirits feared the most.
The prayer expressed resolute faith for Buddha, and the belief that as long as they had a strong will to memorize the Buddha’s name, there was nothing they couldn’t defeat. It didn’t matter whether Chi-Woo was a Buddhist or a shaman when he was suffering so much. After he witnessed the power of the prayer, he prayed whenever he had the time and was never possessed again.
“Nama…Saddarunma…puntarika…sutura…” Having repeated the same chants for the third time, Chi-Woo slowly raised his head and opened his eyes. His dizzy head felt clearer now. The uncomfortable sensation that squeezed at his body was also gone. He turned slightly and made a fist two times before he got to his feet and walked to the path of fire. The fire was still burning, but it was much weaker than before.
“That b.a.s.t.a.r.d.” He looked down at the vengeful spirit that made him recall a bad memory and took out a new talisman. He usually comforted spirits and prayed for them so that they could pa.s.s onto the afterlife, but for vengeful spirits with deep resentment, he prayed for support and annihilated them.
“Go away. You’re not even worth talking to,” Chi-Woo said coldly and scattered his talisman. It had a clear effect. The being with a strong evil aura began to grow fainter. Then they stopped moving altogether helplessly. Once the vengeful spirit began turning to dust, Chi-Woo let out the breath that he had been holding. His mind was still in disarray like the aftermath of a typhoon.
“How…” Ru Hiana muttered. “Could you… so easily…defeat a jukgwi?”
“Huh?” Chi-Woo tilted his head. “Ah. That one wasn’t a jukgwi.”
“No, it was just a vengeful spirit. It was stronger than the one possessing Hawa, but nowhere near an evil spirit.” An evil spirit was beyond awful. One of his masters took a year and six months vanquis.h.i.+ng an evil spirit possessing a woman, and in the end, they lost their lives from the tremendous task. Chi-Woo made a bitter smile in remembrance of his master. If even an evil spirit was capable of wreaking such havoc, it was obvious how powerful a jukgwi must be.
‘Still, if I had known it was just a vengeful spirit, I would’ve handled it as soon as I was transmitted here.’ But with this, he had finished the task that needed to be done and made an important discovery: his techniques worked on these beings, which was significant progress in itself.
“Still…” Ru Hiana looked at Chi-Woo with admiring eyes. “That’s amazing.” She looked more in awe than in disbelief. In her point of view, Chi-Woo had vanquished a vengeful spirit by pulling out a couple of sheets of paper and praying. And his opponent was something Ru Hiana couldn’t do anything against. She wondered how strong this hero was; and what kind of arduous life and hards.h.i.+ps he had overcome that he was able to see spirits in a world like this one. Seeing how he was able to respond to a dangerous situation calmly, she a.s.sumed he was a seasoned hero with much more experience than her.
“No. I’m not…such an amazing person.”
Ru Hiana also added humility to her mental list of Chi-Woo’s character. Now, her impression of Chi-Woo was one of a veteran hero who made ice-cold, logical judgments of situations and solved them.
“It’s my teachers who were great.”
Ru Hiana thought people who respected their teachers tended to have good personalities, and her expression became even softer. Chi-Woo scratched his head. It felt nice to receive a gaze full of admiration, but he didn’t feel very comfortable because of Ru Hiana’s status. Even though he was a non-hero, Ru Hiana probably admired him as one. The very sound of that statement was a bit strange.
Moreover, he hadn’t made the talismans himself; they were given to him. Chi-Woo didn’t know how to make a talisman, in fact. He had merely seen people produce a couple at a time after praying intensely all day long for several days.
‘I need to save them.’
It hadn’t even been a day, and Chi-Woo had already used five talismans. If he kept this up, he would run out of his supply in a month.
‘Anyways, they’re amazing though.’
Even though Chi-Woo had followed many masters and his church mentor, it was the first time he saw a talisman burn so quickly or let out such a huge fire. On the other hand, the effects of the talisman were astounding. He was able to neutralize the spirit way more easily than he thought he would. Chi-Woo could only think of one reason for this.
[It reminds me of the time when we had a revolution. Are you going on some kind of war…ah well, you are.] Raphael had said this before.
[Where did you get such precious items?] Laguel had also been amazed by his items.
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Chi-Woo didn’t know exactly what happened, but it seems like his items might have received an enormous buff while coming over to Liber, or they were finally showing their full potential. Using a c.r.a.pload of money was definitely worth it.
Ru Hiana didn’t know what was happening, either. However, she had been able to gather a little bit of information from the earlier experience. When she met the vengeful spirit, Ru Hiana couldn’t do anything. It was the first time she felt such a sinister presence. However, the monster that suddenly appeared after Chi-Woo defeated the vengeful spirit didn’t give off the mysterious sinister feeling that the vengeful spirit gave off. Most of all, she could see the monster with her own eyes, which told her that it was just a common monster. Ru Hiana made a split-second decision and she rushed forward to attack the monster in Chi-Woo’s stead; her judgment turned out to be correct.
The being in front of her was as strong as a monster—but that was all. Even though Ru Hiana had lost her unique strength as a hero and couldn’t receive the World’s Blessing, she was still a hero at her core. She retained the techniques she trained for and the experience of fighting hundreds and thousands of battles to save the world. Fighting with a monster was a specialty for heroes like her. Unless her opponents were beings like the vengeful spirits she had never encountered before, there was no way Ru Hiana would be hit by a monster recklessly swinging their fists. The battle soon ended.
Ru Hiana successfully grabbed the monster’s back and tightly wrapped her arms around its head. Then with a push—
The sound of bones crus.h.i.+ng could be heard. The monster’s head twisted at a grotesque angle. However, Ru Hiana didn’t lower her guard, and she stayed fixed in her position. She only released her grip when the monster’s body began to collapse. It slipped and lay sprawling on the ground, no longer moving. Even though the situation was now over, Chi-Woo was unable to tear his gaze away. He had only seen fights like this in movies. If someone told him to move like Ru Hiana just now, he would never be able to do so.
“What happened?” Ru Hiana softly asked.
Only then did Chi-Woo regain his senses. “I don’t know, either.” Chi-Woo controlled his breathing and swiped his chest. ‘Thank goodness we came together. If not…’
Because of his past experiences, Chi-Woo was used to dealing with vengeful spirits, but he had never faced a monster. Thinking of the monster’s reaction to his talisman sent a chill down his spine. While his body s.h.i.+vered, Chi-Woo found and picked up the talisman he cast before.
“Thank you for saving me.” Chi-Woo didn’t forget to thank the person who saved his life. “I almost crossed the river of Styx. Ms. Ru Hiana, you’re a great fighter. I was really surprised!”
Chi-Woo gave her a thumbs up and praised her, and Ru Hiana looked at him with puzzlement.
‘Is he angry that I intervened without asking?’ Ru Hiana wasn’t sure if Chi-Woo was making fun of her or being courteous. All heroes would have been able to fight that monster if they didn’t win their t.i.tle through dumb luck. However, the person who enabled her to fight that monster was none other than Chi-Woo.
“I apologize…I stepped forward because I thought it might be dangerous…I also didn’t feel comfortable watching from the sidelines, so…” It seemed that Ru Hiana had decided to just keep speaking politely to him from now on.
“Ms. Ru Hiana, what are you sorry about? You’re amazing. I feel very rea.s.sured with you. I always have great trust in you.”
“Ah, yes. Well…” In Ru Hiana’s eyes, Chi-Woo was a hero with extensive knowledge, experience, and skills. It would thus serve her well to stay on his good side. “Thank you for your thoughtful words.” Ru Hiana politely gave him a bow. “But may I ask what that is?” Ru Hiana became curious after seeing Chi-Woo shake his crumpled talisman.
“Hmm. I can explain it to you, but...” As Chi-Woo put the neatly straightened out talisman into his backpack, he said, “Isn’t there something more important right now?”
Ru Hiana realized her mistake.
“Please wait! He’s not there, but over here!”
Chi-Woo and Ru Hiana ran, following the long marks on the cave’s floor.
1. Bu-rip-twe-gwi literally translates to "deny entry and ward off ghosts". ☜
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