Chapter 30: Female President (6)
The shadowy figure was moving extremely carefully. It seemed to be a small baby animal, and it was sneaking towards the fields like it was aiming for the crops there.
‘I’m so lucky.’ While protecting their precious food, Chi-Woo could also secure meat, which Giant Fist had been whining about. He moved as quietly as possible. When he approached the shadowy figure, though, he realized that it wasn’t a small beast, but a person wearing a dark robe.
“Huh?” The robed figure said in surprise and stopped pulling out a root vegetable midway to look over his shoulder. A pair of small and cute eyes met Chi-Woo’s. The two of them stood still in awkward silence until the child plopped down to the ground.
“Ah…Ah…” The child’s lips closed and opened like he was greatly fl.u.s.tered. Chi-Woo immediately understood the situation. He had heard from Ru Hiana that the original inhabitants of Liber got far worse meals than the heroes. Thus, it wasn’t difficult to guess why this child was clutching a piece of root vegetable tightly with both of his tiny hands. Chi-Woo strutted forward, and the child lost his grip over his harvest, at a complete loss of what to do.
“I-I’m sorry,” The child responded weakly. Chi-Woo stopped walking and looked down at the child before picking up the root vegetable from the ground. Then he spoke in a firm voice, “Follow me.”
“Sorry?” the child asked.
“If you don’t come, I’m going tell on you to Lady Eshnunna.”
“Ah, please don’t!”
It was a childish threat, but it was clearly effective. Eshnunna was a great authoritative figure among the original inhabitants in the camp base. At the mention of her name, the child hurriedly got up to his feet.
“If you follow me willingly, I won’t tell Lady Eshnunna what happened here,” Chi-Woo said in a low voice and turned around. After taking a few steps, he glanced behind and confirmed the child was following him. Although the child was trembling, he kept walking. Chi-Woo didn’t direct the child to the restaurant where a meeting was still taking place, nor the area where Eshnunna was.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Chi-Woo told the child when they arrived at his lodging place. However, when the child remained hesitant and lingered around the door, Chi-Woo shook his head and said, “Ah! I guess I don’t have a choice. I have to go to Lady Eshnunna.”
The child clearly wanted to keep this from Eshnunna at all costs; he scrambled to sit on the bed. Chi-Woo smirked and opened the bag he had placed on the corner of his bed. He took out the food Rawiya had packed for them and thought about his options briefly.
‘Since I brought a lot, I can give away one…’ After pondering for a bit, Chi-Woo took out a long box of snacks. He opened the box, took out the wrapper inside it, and placed a pack of chips in front of the child.
“Please eat it.” Chi-Woo smiled at the blank eyes that stared at him from behind the hood.
The boy didn’t immediately reach out. He seemed very wary. Thus, instead of mentioning Eshnunna again, Chi-Woo picked up a chip and placed it in his mouth. A savory and slightly salty flavor tickled his tongue. Given his current circ.u.mstances, it tasted so heavenly to him that it made him want to cry and sent a tremor through his body.
“If you don’t eat it quickly, I’m going to finish everything.” Chi-Woo kept egging the child on and pretended to pick up another chip. When the child saw the big deal Chi-Woo made out of the chips, though, he only grew warier. Chi-Woo let out a sigh and personally popped a chip into the child’s mouth.
“Urgh!” The child shut his mouth to keep the chip out.
“I told you it’s tasty. Try it. I just ate one,” Chi-Woo suggested gently, and the boy closed his eyes like he was making a serious decision and bit into the chip. His eyes opened wide, and it didn’t take long for him to… Crunch. Crunch, crunch. Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch!
As the child’s mouth moved faster, the chips disappeared like it was getting sucked in.
“Wow…” the boy let out a soft exclamation. Chi-Woo offered him the remaining chips with a smile, and the boy stretched out his hands. He was no longer refusing Chi-Woo’s offer.
‘He’s like a squirrel.’ Chi-Woo looked at the boy warm-heartedly as he ate senselessly. The bag of chips was quickly emptied. Chi-Woo stared as the boy sucked his fingers clean and asked, “How old are you?”
After licking his lips, the boy replied warily, “Ten…”
‘That’s around third grade.’ Chi-Woo nodded and asked, “Do you have an older sister or brother? Or a younger sibling?”
“…I have one…older sister…” For some reason, the child hesitated; it seemed he was unwilling to reveal this part of himself to Chi-Woo. Thus, Chi-Woo didn’t question the child further and took out another bag of chips from the snack box, saying, “Eat this with your older sister. This, too.” Chi-Woo handed the child the small portion of food that Rawiya had packed for them as well as the root vegetable the child had secretly dug up. The boy looked lost at the unexpected gift from Chi-Woo.
“Eat the chips in secret. I would share my snacks with everyone if I could, but I don’t have that much.” Chi-Woo winked. The child seemed to have understood and nodded. He hesitated for a while before mustering the courage to ask, “Um…”
“Are you…a hero?”
Chi-Woo closed his mouth. Although it was a simple question, he didn’t want to lie.
“Did you come here to save our World?”
“You did, didn’t you?”
The boy’s questions made Chi-Woo nervous; it sounded like he wanted a.s.surance, which made it even more difficult for Chi-Woo to come up with an answer. He couldn’t tell a white lie to mislead the boy, nor did he want to make a promise he couldn’t keep.
‘Still…’ The boy’s blatant staring pressured him to open his mouth.
Someone was suddenly pounding on the door.
‘What? Is the meeting over?’
“Who is it?”
Chi-Woo was getting up when the door slammed open.
“Excuse me,” the intruder spoke in repressed rage. “Didn’t you bring a small boy with you?” Salem Eshnunna spoke quickly. Her eyes zeroed in on Chi-Woo, and the look on her face took him by surprise. Her usual gracefulness and friendly smile were replaced by fierceness, and she had a chilly air about her, making it clear that she was extremely enraged.
“Yes, you were right. I brought him here.”
“Sister! No!” The boy jumped off the bed and ran in front of Chi-Woo, saying in a protective tone, “It’s all my fault. He didn’t do anything wrong. Instead…!”
Chi-Woo stared at the child and thought, ‘Sister…?’
“Yohan!” Eshnunna kneeled so that her eyes were at the boy’s level and placed her hands on his shoulders. “How could you…!” She was so overcome with emotions that she couldn’t finish her sentence. In response, Yohan looked at his sister and explained the situation so precisely and articulately that it impressed Chi-Woo.
As Eshnunna listened to Yohan’s explanation, she gradually calmed down. She regained her usual composure and sighed at the ground.
“So that’s what happened…why did…” She bit her lower lip and quietly got up from her seat. “Yohan. Could you leave us?”
“But Eshnunna—” Yohan replied.
“I get the situation. It’s late; why don’t you go to sleep now?” Eshnunna’s tone left no room for arguments. Her att.i.tude was completely different from before, and Yohan turned back to Chi-Woo.
“Um…Mr. Yohan?” Chi-Woo spoke up, debating what he should do. “Before you leave, I have to tell you that I honestly don’t know how I should answer the question you just asked me.” Both Yohan and Eshnunna widened their eyes. “Since it’s my first time coming to a world like this, I don’t know what to do in this situation, either.”
“Even then.” Chi-Woo cleared his throat. “We’ll find the answer as we always did.” He smiled at the dazed-looking boy. “Good night and good bye.”
It wasn’t until Chi-Woo waved at him that the boy blinked and cracked a small smile for the first time. He bowed to Chi-Woo before running outside while clutching Chi-Woo’s gift to his chest tightly.
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‘Hmm. Wasn’t I a bit cool just now?’ While Chi-Woo praised himself inwardly, Eshnunna stared at Yohan with a complicated expression and sighed again. She quietly closed the door, fixing her posture before turning around.
Eshnunna fidgeted with her fingers, and in the end, took out a piece and carefully took a bite. As she slowly chewed it, her breath hitched in surprise. She let out a fake cough when she saw Chi-Woo smile as if he had expected her reaction.
“Is it good?”
“…Yes. It’s good.”
“Please eat a lot. As much as you want.”
Eshnunna nodded without saying anything. She looked at Chi-Woo like she could not understand his actions.
“I just…it doesn’t really mean much,” Chi-Woo looked into the distance and said. “I once heard someone say that when you’re tired and having a hard time, eating something delicious would be the best remedy.”
While watching Eshnunna eat, Chi-Woo continued, “I hoped that you would at least be able to feel a bit better.” To say it simply, he was telling her to cheer up.
“Honestly, I can understand your situation.” Chi-Woo linked his hands and cradled the back of his head. “You and the natives have been offering us the majority of the crops that all of you harvested after much toil. Even though we’re called heroes, we hadn’t been doing much except for eating. Some of us even complained about the food we got. I can’t even imagine how unfair you must think of this whole situation.”
Eshnunna doubled over coughing, shocked. With widened eyes, she shook her head. “I’ve committed a…! No, that’s not true at all! We don’t think like that at all—!”
“Also a kid can eat if he’s hungry.” Chi-Woo shrugged. “If someone complains about that, that person is the one with the problem.”
Eshnunna stared at Chi-Woo. “…Sir.” She tilted her head in confusion. “Sir, you’re not really like a hero.”
“Is that so?” Chi-Woo silently praised her for having a quick mind and smiled cheerfully.
Eshnunna smiled back and eased up. “Could I eat one more?”
“Lady Eshnunna, I told you that you must eat to your heart’s content.”
“It’s really good. It’s the first time I had soft cream with such a subtle taste. It makes me want to keep the taste in my mouth for a long time.”
The atmosphere was now much gentler than before. Chi-Woo was enjoying a snack break with a beautiful woman late at night under the moonlight. It would’ve felt like a date if they were elsewhere. Given the current situation, however, they didn’t think too much about it. Chi-Woo made a bitter smile.
“Now that I think about it, I don’t see the others…” Eshnunna gulped down a piece of snack and looked around.
Since it was a good time to change the topic, Chi-Woo went along with the s.h.i.+ft of conversation and said, “It’s because we’re in a meeting.”
“Yes. Since the meeting was progressing so slowly, though, I left halfway…”
“Would you perhaps be able to tell me what the meeting is about? Or would that be too intrusive?”
“No. You’re not being intrusive at all.” There weren’t any important matters being discussed in the meeting anyway. Chi-Woo didn’t think it would matter if he told her, so he relayed to her what had transpired before he left. Eshnunna listened with a serious face and closed her eyes after saying she needed to think for a bit.
It wasn’t long before she opened her eyes and asked, “Could I ask you a favor?”
“What? But you haven’t even fulfilled my request.”
“I’ll eat all of the snacks you gave me if you lend me your ears for a moment. I promise you.”
Chi-Woo couldn’t help but laugh, finding Eshnunna’s words cute. “Let’s hear about it first.”
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