Chapter 4: Celestial Realm (1)
An intense light blinded Chi-Woo. By the time he regained his sight, Chi-Woo felt strong pressure on his pupils. A vast sea of clouds loomed over a sky so pure blue that it gripped his heart. Below the clear blue sky, white steam bloomed upwards and stretched out like an endless carpet.
“…What…” Chi-Woo couldn’t help but admire the far-off horizon before him. Even words like vast and infinite seemed far too lacking to describe the scene. His dazed admiration was interrupted when the alien lizard lifted his body up. After stomping down the stairs, the alien lizard placed Chi-Woo carefully down on the carpet made of clouds. Chi-Woo was about to ask what the alien lizard was doing when a soft sensation embraced him.
‘What if I suddenly fall off?’ Chi-Woo wondered anxiously. The cloud was so soft and fluffy that it made him nervous. It felt like he was floating.
“How is it, sir?” The alien lizard’s face suddenly popped out above him. “Does your planet have the technological capability to configure a scene like this?” It was like he was asking if Chi-Woo still thought he was in a dream or not.
It was irritating to see how pleased the alien lizard looked with himself, but Chi-Woo couldn’t find the words to refute. He had seen advertis.e.m.e.nts claiming that their beds were as comfortable as clouds before, but he had never seen or heard of a bed that was made of clouds. Even when he told himself everything was created by computer graphics, the sensation he felt told him otherwise.
“I suppose you find it difficult to believe everything with just this.” As if he had read Chi-Woo’s mind, the alien lizard winked. “But do not worry, sir. I still have a mountain full of things to show you. This isn’t even the beginning.” The alien lizard’s past promises to change his mind seemed much more convincing now.
Looking around his surroundings quietly, Chi-Woo realized that he had reached the bottom of the stairs, and he stared at the direction he had come from. A large, white building that resembled ones from the medieval ages stood magnificently on top. As he stared at the building blankly, one of the many things the alien lizard had blabbered to him about crossed his mind.
“…Let me ask you one thing.” Chi-Woo’s voice sounded slightly relaxed, and he spoke much more politely than before. “Didn’t you say those who aren’t invited to the Celestial Realm or whatever go to that building over there first?”
“You have been listening to me the whole time, sir?” the alien lizard smiled widely in joy and answered, “Yes, it is as you say. Those without permission lose their consciousness upon entering the realm. Then they wake up inside that building.”
Chi-Woo was about to remark, ‘Isn’t that me?’ but stopped and asked, “Then, what happens to them?”
“They are taken care of,” the alien lizard replied simply, but when he saw Chi-Woo stare hard at him, the alien lizard quickly said, “…No, not all of them are. They go through the necessary procedures…Uh…Well, it’s not as if you weren’t invited at all, sir…” By the way he stammered, it seemed the alien lizard wasn’t completely confident about his statements either.
“Do you often hear that you don’t think things through?”
The alien lizard twitched. He averted Chi-Woo’s gaze and coughed. “Urmph! As I told you before, there’s no need to worry, sir. By ‘taken care of’, I mean that they had their memories erased and dropped back to the place they were originally at.”
Chi-Woo smacked his lips. In that case, it was exactly what he wanted to happen.
“Well, it’s about time for them to come… Oh! See, there’s one coming. Look!” The alien lizard pointed forward with his tail.
Chi-Woo wanted to complain how he was supposed to look when he was tied and laid on the floor, but he turned to the direction where the alien lizard was pointing at anyway. At first, he only saw a faint haze. Upon a closer look, he saw a simmering object speedily rus.h.i.+ng his way.
“What is coming…?” Chi-Woo was about to ask and stopped.
The alien lizard’s face froze. He pursed his lips tightly and his tail was stiffened upwards, clearly showing his tenseness. Chi-Woo suddenly felt an unfamiliar touch beside his head. His body also went still like the alien lizard.
He s.h.i.+fted his eyes for a moment when he felt a presence near him. He tried to tilt his head as much as possible, but he couldn’t see anything from his position. Instead, a chilly sensation touched his left cheek. Then the mysterious presence moved again.
“Don’t move. Please stay still, sir,” The alien lizard said in a low voice.
Chi-Woo felt a momentary urge to cause havoc so that he could return home, but decided to stay still; it was because for some reason, he had a foreboding feeling that something very bad would happen if he did otherwise.
“You must not move recklessly, sir. Their first instinct is to be extremely, extremely wary. The moment that they judge you as a harmful existence, they will…”
Chi-Woo was in such a nervous state that he couldn’t hear the alien lizard well. Even though the sensation he felt at his left cheek bothered him, he couldn’t dare to look around.
“…Be careful, sir. If h.e.l.l’s gate has Cerberus, the Celestial Realm has Sorebrek.”
‘d.a.m.n it. He is the one who brought me here. Instead of watching, he should do something!’ Chi-Woo grumbled inside his mind as he laid fixed on the spot.
Something licked his left cheek and startled him.
Chi-Woo looked forward instinctively and stared in disbelief. The first thought he had was: ‘A cat?’
A pair of pointy ears protruded from a round face. The creature looked to be about thirty centimeters in length and had four legs and a long tail. Of course, it would be ludicrous to think the creature in front of him was a real cat. When he saw it from far away, he thought it was wavering; and now, he saw its whole body was made up of rippling lights. Its eyes reflected this light and shone, but its pupils were not visible. However, the most significant difference they had with a real cat was its pair of wings, neatly folded on top of its back.
Chi-Woo felt his body relax. He had been anxious when he heard that this creature rivaled the three-headed guard dog in h.e.l.l that breathed out h.e.l.lish flames.
The way they licked his face was just like a friendly, street cat. ‘No.’ He couldn’t let his guard down. He couldn’t judge a creature he had never met just by its outward appearance.
As soon as he thought this, the cat—no, the sorebrek rubbed its cheek against Chi-Woo’s while letting out cute sounds.
Chi-Woo was confused. Was the creature trying to lower his guard by using its cuteness? Yet, no matter how he looked at it, the sorebrek didn’t seem wary of him at all. Chi-Woo looked towards the alien lizard for confirmation and saw that he was staring blankly with his eyes wide and mouth hanging wide open at Chi-Woo.
The sorebrek purred happily after rubbing its cheeks.
—Mya? Mya, mya, mya, mya?
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—Mya, mya! Mya, mya, mya, mya!
Even then, however, he could feel their sharp, piercing gazes boring into his face and the great wariness they held against him. Moreover, he also felt their awe, respect, and…a kind of fear directed towards Chi-Woo’s older brother. Yes, he had definitely felt those emotions back then.
Chi-Woo ordered, “Make a sound like a cat. Together.”
“While acting cute.”
While tightly tied up, Chi-Woo cooed with a relaxed face, and the sorebreks energetically responded, thinking that Chi-Woo was playing with them. The alien lizard had a hard time believing his eyes. Hope filled up his heart seeing Chi-Woo surrounded by light. Even after finding out that Chi-Woo was an ordinary person, he had initiated contact in a desperate attempt to grasp at straws. Perhaps…
“…Ok, ok. I understand that all of you are welcoming him, but stop it. He’s a very busy person.” The alien lizard shook his head and approached Chi-Woo. “Sir, let’s go. I’ll lead you there.”
“What are you doing?” Chi-Woo angrily glared at him as the alien lizard lifted him up and held him like a princess. Chi-Woo asked, “Are you going to keep me tied up like this?”
“Yes, until I showed you everything.”
“Please untie me. I will walk with my own feet.”
“Sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t know what actions you might take.” The alien lizard smirked. “As you know, I don’t think things through.”
Chi-Woo had no words to say to that.
“I felt this before, but, as expected of his younger brother, you’re really not a person I should look down on. And…” The alien lizard continued, “Even if I untie you here, I’ll still have to carry you. The place we’re at right now is the outermost area. If we want to go to the central area, it’ll take a bit more time.”
The alien lizard looked to one side and slightly bent his body. “Of course, sir, it’s not a bad idea to slowly move and explore our sights, but that’s probably not what you would want, right?”
“Is it very far away?”
“For you it would be, sir, but I can get there quickly.”
While they were talking, the sorebreks climbed into Chi-Woo’s arms as if they didn’t want to be separated from him.
“Sir, we’re going. Don’t be too surprised.”
One sorebrek raised its arm and made a gesture for departure, and the alien lizard strongly kicked his feet off the cloud at the same time.
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