Chapter 80: Finally a Tutorial (22)
When Chi-Woo gained consciousness, he found himself in a strange place where he couldn’t see any color. He also saw a river that stretched endlessly and a line of people waiting for their turn in front of it. Like the land of the dead, everything was in ashes.
‘Now that I think about it…’ His body no longer hurt. Not only did he feel no pain, but he also didn’t feel any sensation. ‘What happened?’ Chi-Woo glanced back and forth between his two hands and looked towards the long line of people. He didn’t dare to initiate a conversation with these people, who had their heads hung low, expressionless. Thus, Chi-Woo couldn’t ask questions like where he was, or why they were waiting in line. Yet for some unknowable reason, Chi-Woo got a strong feeling that he had to stand in line with these people and go to the same place they were heading to.
‘Huh?’ He was about to walk there thoughtlessly when he felt someone grab onto the hem of his s.h.i.+rt.
‘Who?’ He turned around and saw a tall woman. She wore a faded gown with her hood pressed down so that half of her face was hidden. The only things visible were the sleek edge of her nose and plump, pretty lips. He was able to tell she was a woman by the soft, wavy, and abundant hair flowing down her protruding bust.
‘A beam balance?’ Chi-Woo noticed that the woman was carrying a balance with a scale plate on each side in her left hand. When Chi-Woo fully turned around, her slender hand let go of him. Then she walked slowly as if she was telling him to follow her.
‘But…’ He had to quickly stand in the line and was about to turn back when the woman stopped walking. She looked over her shoulder at him and shook her head.
‘Is she telling me not to look behind?’ Chi-Woo felt a strange sensation. He had felt compelled to join the line of people as quickly as possible and cross the river, but the compulsion weakened when the woman appeared. Now, he felt a stronger will to follow this woman than stand in the line.
Turning to face forward, the lady began to walk slowly again. After staring at her back blankly for a while, Chi-Woo made his way not towards the line but the mystical woman. He simply walked, and as he did, he felt an indescribable feeling. He felt colorless just like everything he saw around him. His head felt completely empty, and at the end of the emptiness, it felt as if he would become lost in this world, that he would become part of it.
Whenever the feeling hit him, Chi-Woo would be overwhelmed with the urge to turn around and join the line to cross the river. Every time he felt this way, though, the woman would stop walking and turn around to look at him.
Chi-Woo felt her gaze under her hoodie and her silent imploration for him to continue following her. Thus, Chi-Woo was able to walk towards the woman again. Like he was bewitched by the silverish energy pouring out of her, he walked. After a while, he completely forgot that he was following her lead, and the pa.s.sage of time seemed just as meaningless.
‘Ah.’ He saw a light. A cl.u.s.ter of light emerged in the direction where the woman was going and wrapped around him. The parts of the world where the light touched were regaining colors.
‘Where…?’ Before he realized it, the woman had been obscured by the light, and Chi-Woo hurried to catch up with her. A wave of intense light blanketed him, and a faint voice that was barely audible rang inside his head.
[User Choi Chi-Woo!]
At the sudden ringing in his head, Chi-Woo forced his eyes open.
[You can’t leave like this! Did you insist on coming to this place so obstinately to just die here? Quickly regain your senses! Quickly…!]
“…Ah…” Chi-Woo let out a groan.
[Are you alright? Did you regain your senses? User Choi Chi-Woo!?]
“Stop…my head…” Chi-Woo’s head was muddled since he had just regained his senses. He couldn’t hear clearly, and his head was in a mess from the constant ringing. Mimi fell silent like she had read his mind. Finally, Chi-Woo opened the eyes he had squeezed shut again, and in the hazy view, he saw a wavering silverish and reddish light that looked to be burning. Chi-Woo blinked several times and saw a silver-haired girl look down at him in slight surprise.
“Ms…Hawa…?” Chi-Woo’s voice sounded incredibly hoa.r.s.e. Looking at him calmly, Hawa crouched down by his side and poured something into his mouth. A cool substance flowed into his throat, and Chi-Woo quickly realized it was water. He gulped it down senselessly because his throat felt extremely parched.
Gulp, gulp! Hawa watched as Chi-Woo’s Adam's apple bobbed up and down and took away the water bottle from his lips when it was completely empty.
“Haaaa…!” Chi-Woo exhaled. It sounded like a sigh of relief.
“You almost died,” seeing that he had regained his senses, Hawa said. “Your injury isn’t as serious as I thought it would be, but you lost a lot of blood. You also had a fever.”
Chi-Woo checked through his own body. It hurt like he was getting pierced all over him. His back, especially, burned like it wasn’t part of his body anymore. But it seemed time had helped, and his pain was manageable enough for him to endure and talk.
“I thought you were done for just an hour ago…I didn’t think you would open your eyes again.”
Chi-Woo agreed. He thought he would really die this time. But how was he still alive? He thought he’d seen the Sanzu River or the Styx River in his dream.
Like most dreams he had, he couldn’t recall it well after he woke up. However, he still recalled clearly the feeling of something very soft and warm embracing him. After groaning for a while, Chi-Woo opened his mouth painfully.
“You don’t have to worry about them. I don’t know why, but they don’t seem able to come down here.”
“What about you…”
Hawa understood Chi-Woo’s question before he even finished like the clever girl she was, and she answered him without missing a beat. According to her, they had been teleported together, but ended up in different areas. And they would have been moving in different directions, but Hawa found the injured Chi-Woo and took care of him.
It was then the surroundings came into Chi-Woo’s view. The first thing he saw was a torch hanging on the wall.
They were in a s.p.a.ce that looked like the cave he rescued Ru Amuh in. However, rather than a completely natural cave, there were traces left by humans. Even though it seemed like it had been a while since anyone came to this cave, the torch on the wall was evidence that humans used to be here.
“I was the one who lit the fire.” Hawa raised the flint in her hand and continued, “I also used the torch I brought with me, but the sconce was already there.”
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As Hawa said, there was already a fixture to hang a torch on the wall. In short—
“It would be difficult to count each one if you start from the mythical days.”
Chi-Woo nodded. A short silence fell between them.
“What are you planning to do?” Hawa was the one to break the silence.
“Let’s first look around,” Chi-Woo didn’t ponder for too long and quickly replied. He just got confirmation that the result of the World’s Milestone was not just an ordinary success, but a huge success; he had rolled 7, which was the highest number he could get from the die. The keywords of the messages were ‘desire to live’ and ‘desire to get stronger’. He didn’t know where he was, but he was sure that this place would increase his chance of surviving in the future.
Of course, he must not lower his guard even if that was the case. Deus Ex Machina meant intervention from a G.o.d, but there was a condition to using Chi-Woo’s die. After throwing the die a couple times, Chi-Woo roughly understood what the condition was.
For example, if he wanted to eat food, the World’s Milestone would help him set the table. However, Chi-Woo needed to do the eating himself. Even though he got a 7, he didn’t think the condition would be different this time.
‘I can’t just stay still.’ As there was a saying that the heavens favored those who helped themselves, he needed to start moving. After a while, Chi-Woo got up to his feet with Hawa’s support.
Hawa carried his bag for him and held up the torch as she asked, “Where are we going?” There were many places to go; there were pockets of caverns with entrances and paths all around them. It looked like a formicary. Chi-Woo became certain of one matter as he stood up: he still didn’t know if this place was a dungeon or cave, but there had definitely been quite a lot of human habitants.
“I don’t know…What do you think, Ms. Hawa?” Chi-Woo decided to look around, but he didn’t know where to go, so he decided to get Hawa’s opinion. Honestly, he hadn’t expected a clear answer when he asked her, so he was slightly surprised when Hawa pointed at one place and responded almost immediately.
“Let’s first—go there.”
“I can hear sounds of water.”
“Yes. It’s a bit faint, but you can’t hear it?”
Chi-Woo’s eyes widened. No matter how hard he listened, he couldn’t hear any sounds of water. “I can’t hear it… Your ears must be very keen.”
“This is normal,” Hawa replied as if she thought he was the one who was strange.
‘The Shahnaz are nomadic people after all.’ Even back on Earth, it was said that Mongolians who grew up on the gra.s.slands had much better eyesight and hearing than those who grew up in the cities. The same was probably true of Hawa. In any case, water was indispensable for survival, so it was a great idea to collect some water first.
“Let’s go.” Chi-Woo began slowly moving towards where Hawa had pointed—while leaning on her, taking one step at a time.
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