Chapter 34: Female President (10)
“So…” Zelit stopped mid-sentence, noticing Ru Amuh giving him the side-eye. Chi-Woo blanched. His expression was sullen, lips tightly sealed, and he clearly wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. Still, Zelit needed to get Chi-Woo talking. Chi-Woo had the greatest potential among the heroes chosen for the seventh recruitment, and whatever their plans were, they wouldn’t work without Chi-Woo’s cooperation.
“I’m sure you have your suspicions, too. I mean, you also kept it a secret that you finished off those broken beings,” Zelit said.
Chi-Woo made a bitter smile. That wasn’t it. He kept this information a secret because he didn’t want the extra attention. Chi-Woo had never once suspected Eshnunna and was simply making sure that he would be able to stay in the safety of the main base.
“As I thought.” Zelit interpreted Chi-Woo’s smile as agreement, and his face brightened, “I’ve spoken my mind. I’m curious what you are thinking.” Zelit asked with antic.i.p.ation, but Chi-Woo’s only response was silence. It didn’t seem like he would speak any time soon no matter how patiently Zelit waited.
“Is there something else you know?” Zelit prompted. “Tell us your suspicions; it’s fine even if you don’t have evidence backing it up.”
All kinds of thoughts pa.s.sed through Chi-Woo’s head. He did have things to tell them—after all, there was the information that Hawa had led him to. ‘That’s right. I’m not alone.’ Chi-Woo had companions who had come to this place with him for the same goal. Two heads were better than one. Perhaps the two heroes, whose minds had been thoroughly trained through dangers and experiences, would be able to come up with something he hadn’t thought of before. There was no reason for Chi-Woo to hold back this information.
With his thumb, Chi-Woo tapped the area of his wrist where the hologram was planted and was about to speak.
For some incomprehensible reason, however, Chi-Woo curled his thumb and pulled his hand away.
* * *
Meanwhile, Eshnunna wrote something on a piece of paper and said, “I see. I was wondering what had happened…like how Hawa regained her sanity. This is really surprising. I suppose a hero without their powers is still a hero.” She twirled her quill and smiled softly. “But why didn’t Shakira tell me this?” She suddenly stopped writing and looked up. Then, while arching her head sideways, she asked without facing who she was talking to, “And what is the reason why she entrusted me with a descendant of the Shahnaz, whom she so treasured?”
There was no reply. The figure shrouded in darkness bowed their head, seemingly to convey their inability to answer the question. Eshnunna snorted. “Fine. I’m going to increase surveillance around Hawa. For your sake, I will support the Shahnaz camp and give them supplies as promised…But.” Eshnunna trailed off to glance at one side of the room and said, “I will allow no more attempts to hide the heroes from me as before.”
“I’m emphasizing how important your role is. You’ve done well, and I hope you will continue to do so,” Eshnunna declared, and the shadow quietly got up. The door opened without a sound and closed.
“He defeated broken and eaten beings…And one of them was a mutated one that attached itself to a person who went mad.” Eshnunna twirled the quill with her fingers. “Is that what they almost told me last time?” She recalled the time when she went to meet the seventh recruits at the Shahnaz camp.
[You might not have heard, but we’ve already—]
Remembering how Ru Hiana had been silenced, the corners of Eshnunna’s mouth perked up. “That was sloppy. How annoying.” Eshnunna put her quill down and got up from her seat. She quietly left for the temple while keeping an eye on her surroundings. After making sure that no one was there, she went inside, kneeled, and prayed on her knees.
Not long afterward, tears of blood began to stream down from the statue’s eyes. Eshnunna hurriedly bowed low so that her forehead almost touched the floor.
An intangible energy surrounding the statue swept over Eshnunna as she kneeled. There was no sound. Yet Eshnunna felt a ferocious clamor throughout her whole body, and she hurriedly cried out, “Forgive me!” Enduring the terrifying and chilling bloodl.u.s.t, she spoke, “I tried to keep them in place until they were all gathered, but there was one hero who wouldn’t listen...It seemed one of those beings, who had been looking for an opportunity from the outskirts, heard the commotion and attacked. Seeing how it managed to attack quite a formidable hero, I a.s.sume it must have been a mutated one at green level.”
The energy threatening Eshnunna showed no signs of relenting, but she continued, “Furthermore, we have confirmed that our spy at Shahnaz camp was taken out by one of the seventh recruits. It was also this hero that had ruined our work on the Shahnaz descendant.” Eshnunna shuddered at these words but quickly added, “Please do not worry. I have gone to personally capture this hero, and he is currently staying in this base camp.” The energy gradually settled, but she soon felt a looming threat over her, and words poured out from her mouth, “Yes. Since this hero could clearly pose a threat…Yes, I will immediately…I understand. I will do as you command.”
The energy washed away from her. The blood flowing down from the statue was absorbed by the stems, and flowers bloomed. After sitting in her spot for a long time, Eshnunna raised her head slightly. She first checked the flowers. Then she looked up at the statue with an expressionless face before turning to leave the temple.
* * *
After Ru Amuh and Zelit left, Chi-Woo lay down on his bed, fumbling with the die in his hand and looking up at the ceiling. There was no one in the room except for him. Giant Fist had moved rooms to get treated, and Mua Janya went off to keep an eye on him out of concern. Chi-Woo was too preoccupied to feel lonely, and his head felt like it would explode.
‘Should I have told them?’ He thought about Zelit and Ru Amuh. In the end, he hadn’t told either of them the information he had acquired. Chi-Woo had been like this since he was young. Whatever he did, he rarely made the decision on the spot. Of course, as a human with emotion, he sometimes acted impulsively, but those instances were few and far between. His personality was perfectly summarized by his kindergarten teacher’s comment, ‘Even when others ask him to play together, he observes them closely for a while before he joins them.’
Chi-Woo didn’t know when he started acting in this manner. It simply became a habit of his after all the unusual incidents he’d endured. It was too ingrained in him that bad things happened when he acted hastily in unfortunate events. As his mentor had told him, [Whatever the result is, the blame lies in the instigator.] Like how people had to second guess themselves one more time before buying something, his mentor gave him several pieces of advice:
[The instigator must take responsibility and always think about the consequences of his actions.]
[He must not get swept by the situation no matter what the situation is.]
[He shouldn’t behave as if he was forcefully pushed into taking action.]
[If he doesn’t know what to do, he should try taking a few deep breaths. There will always be something that he’s missed with just his eyes.]
[And after pondering as much as he should, he should question himself what he wants. The important thing is his own will and how certain he is of his decision. He must make a decision that he won’t regret.]
Hearing this, Chi-Woo asked his mentor if he really needed to follow all these rules and why he would have to. His mentor had looked at him pitifully, saying, ‘Value your life… Don’t take it for granted…’ With his mentor’s last words whirling in his head, Chi-Woo closed his eyes.
[It’s understandable if you can’t trust us completely, but remember that you don’t have an infinite amount of time.] These were Zelit’s parting words before he left Chi-Woo’s room.
[If you are in a difficult position, call me anytime. I will put my life on the line to save you at least once,] Ru Amuh told him.
Chi-Woo understood where Zelit came from. Eshnunna was very suspicious. Given how terrible the situation was, she ought to have some expectations or express her disappointments no matter how patient she was. Yet, as the representative of the natives, she never reacted negatively towards the incompetent heroes. Even in Giant Fist’s case, who had crossed the line unprovoked, had been treated with nothing but generosity and understanding, what happened today notwithstanding.
‘Eshnunna… doesn’t expect anything from us.’ What was the reason? She might be plotting a conspiracy, and he needed to figure out her plan. If he revealed the hero sorcerer’s message to Ru Amuh and Zelit, he would gain two allies. However, would that be the right thing to do? Chi-Woo couldn’t predict what that choice would lead him to.
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‘Perhaps…’ Because Eshnunna might be hiding more secrets than the eyes let on, Chi-Woo couldn’t take her side. And he couldn’t commit to a decision yet given how unclear the current situation was. Thus, he decided to take a step back and wait.
* * *
“Are you good with knives?”
“…Sir?” Ru Amuh looked confused at Chi-Woo’s question. His reaction was entirely justified since the last time Ru Amuh visited Chi-Woo, Chi-Woo had kept his mouth firmly shut. Not long after, though, he approached Ru Amuh, and the first thing out of his mouth was if Ru Amuh was good with knives.
Nevertheless, Ru Amuh calmly answered, “Yes. Well, I’ve been consistently training my swordsmans.h.i.+p; it’s my main weapon of choice.” Ru Amuh was not the type to praise himself, so he spoke in a roundabout way. However, his voice was full of confidence.
“But you don’t have a sword in your possession right now.”
“Yes, they told me to leave everything behind.” Ru Amuh smiled and stared at Chi-Woo’s bag, but he didn’t ask about it.
“When I saw her fight last time, she also seemed very skilled at fighting barehanded.”
“Ah, you’re talking about Ru Hiana?” Ru Amuh glanced at Ru Hiana, who was sprawling on the ground in deep slumber; a stark contrast to Zelit’s orderly posture while he slept.
“Thank you for your praise. That’s probably the case. She worked very hard when I was training her.”
“You’re the one who trained her, Mr. Ru Amuh?”
“Yes. Sword fighting and martial arts as well. In the first place, she became a hero because of me.” Ru Amuh looked affectionate and apologetic at the same time.
“That must mean you’re stronger than Ms. Ru Hiana.”
“Hmm. There’s a saying that the disciple will eventually beat the master, but I think I’m still stronger for now. Even though we’ve never fought each other with our lives on the line, I’ve never once lost a spar with her.” Even though Chi-Woo’s question could be considered rude, Ru Amuh answered earnestly without a frown on his face; he believed there must be a reason why Chi-Woo was asking these questions.
“I understand.” Chi-Woo let out a deep sigh. He had gotten the confirmation he needed. It was now time to state his business. “…You told me before that you’ll risk your life for me once.”
Ru Amuh’s cheerful expression gave way to seriousness.
“Yes,” Ru Amuh replied without hesitation. “I would have died if not for you. I think it’s only right that I should risk my life for you at least once.” There was not a trace of dishonesty in Ru Amuh’s calm voice.
Chi-Woo nodded as he saw the utter certainty in Ru Amuh’s clear, bright eyes. Chi-Woo had gotten this feeling before from Ru Hiana; the Ru Clan was very committed to paying back their debts. Still, Chi-Woo preferred it that way since he could then make a request without feeling any pressure.
“Good. Mr. Ru Amuh…Let’s get something done together.”
Ru Amuh’s eyes widened.
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