Chapter 41: Let’s Go! (6)
It was certainly not a place suitable for the living. From afar, he could faintly see several long wooden storages that looked like greenhouses, which brought to mind a barn that was commonplace in the countryside. There was no visible entrance, and it stuck out like a sore thumb amid the forest’s chilling landscape.
Chi-Woo suddenly remembered the depths of the cave that he had saved Ru Amuh from; the prison-like crypt reminded Chi-Woo how Eshnunna had described her job—she managed their ranch. He wondered what would be there and what kind of h.e.l.lish sight awaited him. He strutted forward and scrunched up his whole face, quickly covering his nose and lips. A foul odor that he couldn’t withstand suddenly sieged his nose.
He was about to enter one of the greenhouses, but quickly staggered back, tasting bile in the back of his throat. As soon as the odor hit his senses, extremely dark energy rushed through his entire body: rage, bloodl.u.s.t, antagonism, hate…it was an evil energy ama.s.sed with all kinds of negative emotions. Chi-Woo felt nauseous, and he felt a sense of strong rejection that made his body shudder. He almost vomited.
‘There aren’t just…one or two of them.’ There were certainly more than a few—if he had to come up with an a.n.a.logy, this was a pool of water filled up to create a swamp. Not only would ordinary people escape as soon as they saw the area, but those with spiritual power would also do the same. Even the famous psychic tunnel in j.a.pan paled in comparison.
Eshnunna and the middle-aged man came to a halt. Their instincts were stopping them from continuing.
‘d.a.m.n it. Almighty G.o.d, Jesus, Buddha, Allah…’ If his wise mentor had been with him, he would have scolded Chi-Woo for turning to G.o.ds who were irrelevant to this situation instead of running away; and his mentor would have warned him to not linger in such a place again. However, this wasn’t a time for him to back down. He had already entered their territory. While calming his breath, Chi-Woo organized his thoughts. The fact that such an extraordinary number of them had gathered at one place suggested that it was a voluntary act. He didn’t know the exact circ.u.mstances, but there was a possibility that the majority were forced into submission out of fear to a leader; a jukgwi was a being that commonly acted in this manner. And that was the one Chi-Woo had to catch. The only problem was whether or not things would go his way.
“W-What is this place?” Chi-Wo said as he reached back for his bag. Before he did anything, he had to make sure Eshnunna would be able to escape unscathed. “What is this unpleasant place…why did you bring me here?” Chi-Woo had begun his act, but Eshnunna didn’t answer. She didn’t say anything for a good long while.
‘What is she doing?’ Chi-Woo thought she would catch on and respond to him, but it seemed she was still hesitating. No, that wasn’t it. Chi-Woo saw fear etched deeply into Eshnunna’s face, and he noticed something suspicious. She wasn’t the only one. The middle-aged man was also staring at the s.p.a.ce in front of him. The hand that had been gripping his sword now hung loosely by his side, and the man’s mouth was dripping saliva like he had lost his mind.
“Jeonggueop Jineon. Surisuri mahasuri—.” Chi-Woo recanted the Thousand Hands sutra. The incantation seemed to have offset some of the evil energy, which gave him some comfort, and he continued walking. Once he was about 60 meters away from the ranch, he managed to get a better look at its interiors, and what he saw rendered him speechless.
Skeletons of humans and other animals were hanging on rods all over the place; interestingly, they were all upside down, and items that weren’t bones were placed among them: there was a statue with its neck cracked and bent 90 degrees, and a decoration that appeared to be a religious symbol. Likewise, all these a.s.sortments of items were hung upside down. Moreover, they were all plastered with blood—The statue’s broken neck was drenched in blood, and the religious symbol was painted crimson all over.
Chi-Woo realized then why his body had instinctively rejected this place, and with such a negative response at that. If a temple was a place where one served and prayed to a G.o.d, this place was the opposite. It was a place that defiled G.o.ds and insulted them. It was akin to seeing an upside-down cross or a statue of Buddha and Virgin Mary with their necks broken on Earth. A monk would have been shocked by the impurity of it, while a pastor would have cried out, “Blasphemy!”
“S-Sir…” Stricken with fear, Eshnunnna stuttered. She lifted her shaking thumb and pointed at something. It was a figure hanging upside down upon several rods that were fixed to the wall, their limp body trembling. The tremor worsened as the person whimpered in a weak, high-pitched voice, “H-Help…”
Thud! It dropped to the ground.
Splatter! There was a wet sound conjuring the image of skin bursting with water. And a small fountain of blood emerged.
That wasn’t a sound a body dropping two meters should make. Instead, it sounded like someone had pulled the body off the rod and roughly thrust it down. Not long afterwards, something wavered and rose from the place that the figure had dropped onto. It no longer looked like a person. The… thing with leathery skin exploded, scrambled, and toppled over before hanging itself back onto the rod. Chi-Woo took the display as the warning it was. These beings seemed to be showing him what they would do to him.
The surroundings suddenly became quiet as if in response to his speculation. Even though the moonlight was blocked, Eshnunna had brought a torch. And yet they found themselves fallen into a complete darkness devoid of even a speck of light. Then a fierce, chilling wind brushed past the three of them.
The intense cold was br.i.m.m.i.n.g with haunting energy, which brought s.h.i.+vers to the back of his knees and made his legs limp. Chi-Woo hurriedly took out a talisman. He lifted it high, closed his eyes, and was about to mutter a scripture, but he felt someone s.n.a.t.c.h it away from him.
The talisman rose to the air, flipped upside down, and was shredded apart until it scattered away in ashes.
“T-that’s the one!” The middle-aged man yelled in fear. “That’s the one we talked about! The one who caused all that chaos at Shahnaz camp!” The man yelled desperately while pointing at Chi-Woo. “W-We brought him like you asked us to! Do as you wish, so please…!”
“What? What are you suddenly saying?”
“Shut the f.u.c.k up! Die! You f.u.c.king b.a.s.t.a.r.d! Die, d.a.m.n it!”
‘What the h.e.l.l?’ The man didn’t seem to be acting. It was so convincing that if it had been an act, he should receive several awards for his acting. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter; the man had done what Eshnunna was supposed to do. And while his attention was stolen by the middle-aged man’s performance, Chi-Woo felt an icy sensation at the back of his neck.
It was there. Something not human. It gave off an indescribable, haunting feeling that didn’t belong to a living creature. He felt as if a predator had secretly approached him from behind and was about to bite his neck with its mouth wide open.
“Ah…Ah…” The struggling middle-aged man was now heaving for breath, opening and closing his mouth in quick succession. Eshnunna reacted similarly. Neither were looking at Chi-Woo, but instead staring at the being behind his shoulders. Given the sheer energy the beings gave off, even an ordinary who couldn’t see them would be able to sense them. Chi-Woo froze and gulped. As someone who had gone through h.e.l.l and came back from the worst of such situations, his whole body was warning him, ‘Don’t look back. You will die the moment you turn around.’
Chi-Woo was fearful, scared. Feelings he had forgotten for some time rose inside him. No, he hadn’t forgotten; he had simply become accustomed to these feelings after enduring them for so long. Chi-Woo closed his eyes.
‘The talisman didn’t work.’ The talisman he tried to use was one that warded off evil spirits. As long as he carried this talisman, spirits that accidentally came within his vicinity would disappear without a chance to escape. This also meant the spirits would be unaffected as long as they didn’t get too close to him, and both parties would get out of the situation unscathed.
When Chi-Woo lifted his talisman, he was clearly telling the spirits, ‘I see your antagonism, so I am going to take this out and protect myself with it. Don’t get too close to me or try anything.’ However, his opponent hadn’t listened but instead stole his talisman and made a mess of it. That in and of itself was a response to Chi-Woo.
‘I guess they have no intention of communicating.’ Chi-Woo opened his eyes wide. He didn’t look back. He stared at Eshnunna and the middle-aged man as they stared blankly into the air. Chi-Woo reached back and sneakily grabbed something from his bag. His hand moved in a flash.
Chi-Woo’s arm swung like lightning, and a loud thud followed. At the same time, the feeling of something pressing down on the nape of his neck disappeared.
“?” The middle-aged man who had been watching him widened his eyes.
“?” Eshnunna blinked in surprise.
—? And the being Chi-Woo hit fell to the ground, confused and shocked by Chi-Woo’s attack.
“!” Chi-Woo nodded as he felt the sensation of hitting something. As expected, his strike was effective; he had made sure of that.
‘Why wouldn’t it work? I have this item after all.’
Chi-Woo found a half-transparent clump that was wriggling on the ground with its body turned over; he twisted his neck right and left in preparation. Chi-Woo had no intentions to converse with this being. Instead, he just said, “Great Lord of h.e.l.l?” Raising his club high in the air, he added, “Please drop the beat.”
* * *
Chi-Woo remembered his mentor as a remarkable person. His mentor didn’t have a separate shrine, so it didn’t seem like he was a shaman. He also didn’t seem like a Buddhist monk who trained in religious asceticism for a long time. He didn’t seem like a pastor who preached in church, either. However, his mentor was extraordinary; he had a different aura from the others. It was a conclusion Chi-Woo had come to after seeing the way people treated his mentor. For example:
“Father~ Please~ Would you be able to help just this once~?”
“Since when have I become your father?”
“Come on~ Don’t be like that. I’m having a hard time with this. Help, please?”
Chi-Woo was shocked when one of the masters he had trained under came to visit his mentor. In the short time he had met her, she had been a dignified, strict, and serious person. She was known as a tiger lady in the neighborhood, but in front of his mentor, she became a humble and meek house cat.
“Sir, I know it’s shameless of me to visit suddenly, but there’s no other way. I’m having a really hard time. This thing is really evil!”
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His mentor couldn’t coldly refuse her constant pleas, so in the end, he made his final decision. “For goodness’ sake! Since I took him under my wing, I’ve been going through all kinds of…You know I’ve washed my hands from all this a long time ago.” Even though his mentor had complained while blaming Chi-Woo, his answer was ‘Yes’. “If it was just a newbie, I would have refused, but there must be a reason a person of your level is acting like this. Okay, I got it.”
“It’s not as easy as it sounds.”
“Well, it’s said that if you can’t escape something, you might as well enjoy it.” His mentor snickered. “Anything is fine. Be it cussing, singing, or even s.h.i.+tting and peeing. You must rid yourself of fear by any means necessary.”
“Even so, sir, s.h.i.+tting and peeing is too much, isn’t it? Why should you do that in front of those guys?”
“Well, then they’ll think, ‘Wow, this guy is one crazy punk! We should quickly run!’ I’m telling you that’s how crazy you should act.”
Chi-Woo smacked his lips because he wasn’t convinced. “Sir, you told me to solve matters by words before.” Chi-Woo’s quiet murmur was met with a club to his back.
“Ack! Why did you hit me!”
“Who told you to do that every time? They’re punks like you who can’t be taught with just words!”
“No! Wait a bit! Why does that hurt so much!?”
“Of course it hurts, you punk. This club is hundreds of years old!”
Honestly, Chi-Woo had been curious about the club; it could easily defeat a spirit that even his previous master couldn’t defeat. However, he couldn’t ask about it then because his mentor had been chasing after him, yelling at Chi-Woo for talking back insistently when he was already exhausted. And after this, his mentor rarely used the club, so he didn’t have an opportunity to ask about it…
Until the day before his mentor pa.s.sed away.
* * *
[It’s the name of this precious artifact.]
His mentor hadn’t given him the club for him to use it for his satisfaction. His mentor had agonized over whether he should pa.s.s down the club to Chi-Woo. Before he pa.s.sed away, his mentor had told him that this club was a clump of karma. It was able to gain strong power by gathering strong desires over a long period of time. However, in exchange, the club came with serious restrictions. If one used it for personal reasons or abused its powers, the user’s lifespan would decrease, or they would be swept up in an unfortunate incident and get hurt. In other words, the karma gathered in the club would land on the user. Thus, this club had to be used according to its name Gwibolsemyongsi—which meant ‘punish ghosts and light up the world’.
Chi-Woo had no doubts that this was now time for him to use this club. The reason was clear.
Did words not work on this ghost, and was it causing harm to people and deserve punishment?
Would he be bringing light to Liber’s World by punis.h.i.+ng this ghost?
“Isn’t that right, Mentor?” Then there was no reason for him to hesitate any longer. Even though he was scared, so scared that he felt he was going to die, Chi-Woo swung his club with great force as his mentor had and shouted out a cheer for Korea, “Dae—han min guk! ”
1. From the song Crossing the Bakdaljae Pa.s.s in Tears (1948) sung by Park Jae-Hong and made by Kim Gyo-Sung. ☜
2. Dae han min guk is the Korean for Republic of Korea. ☜
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