Chapter 83: It Hurts to Be a Hero
Chi-Woo and Hawa reached a decision quickly.
“Let’s stay here in the meantime.” They had to do something about the monster roaming around the lost paradise before they could get out of here. There were several methods, but the best would be to kill it. That, however, was impossible when they were so weak. Chi-Woo believed that in order to beat their tutorial, they had to grow their powers until they were strong enough to defeat the monster outside.
“It’s a monster from ancient mythology,” Hawa said in response to Chi-Woo’s claim and stared at him like he had lost his mind.
“Let’s keep all possibilities in mind. We could also deter the monster or find another exit.” Of course, as someone who prioritized safety foremost, Chi-Woo didn’t want to take on any danger. Should he face an honorary death, or escape cowardly? If he had to choose between the two, he would choose the latter with no hesitation. The problem was that Liber was a d.a.m.ningly challenging world to survive in, and this place was no exception.
During this search alone, his party had gone to another fortress thinking that even if there were mutants there, they could at least escape, but they ended up getting chased by monsters that made the mutants look like child’s play. Thus, they always had to consider the worst possible situation on this d.a.m.n planet. That Hawa seemed to agree with, and she kept her mouth shut.
Moreover, the cave they were currently at was a place she had only heard from legends. Even if they didn’t know how they ended up in this place, it seemed likely there would be something to gain if they invested enough time. In the end, they decided to stay.
“I’ll walk the parameter.” Hawa got up to her feet. If they were going to stay here, for now, she wanted to learn about her surroundings first.
“I’ll investigate this area a bit more.” Chi-Woo also got up. And the two of them parted ways—Hawa went outward, while Chi-Woo headed to the spring pool. After making sure that Hawa was gone, Chi-Woo quickly took off his clothes. They were in a terrible state: ripped and tattered while also being soaked with blood.
“Hm…” Looking like Einstein researching the theory of relativity, Chi-Woo put his clothes inside the spring pool. Even if he couldn’t do anything about the rips and tears, he wanted to at least get rid of the bloodstains. Now that he thought about it, he recalled that this water was also called the ‘Water of Wishes’, which as its name suggested, granted wishes.
‘Laundry, laundry, laundry, laundry…’ Chi-Woo desperately pleaded. Then his eyes turned wide as the stains that covered the entire clothing faded and soon disappeared.
His pants, socks, shoes, and even his underwear had all become pristine clean. If they weren’t so tattered, they would have been good as new. After hanging his clothes sloppily onto some tree branches, Chi-Woo went inside the spring pool himself. A refres.h.i.+ng sensation engulfed him.
“Um…” After pondering for a bit, Chi-Woo made a wish again. Although he liked the coldness of the water, he wanted it to be warmer so that he could have a hot bath. Then, blurp, blurp… The water began to stir.
“Huh?” Chi-Woo’s eyes turned wide. The spring pool turned into a hot tub that let out steam and bubbles in places. The temperature was just warm enough against his skin.
“Yesssh…” His body loosened. He lay his head on the ground and let out a long sigh.
“Nice…” It was heaven. This was truly like a Peach Blossom Spring. After staying like that for a while, Chi-Woo began to feel sleepy. Over the past few days, he had been sleeping out in the elements, climbing mountains, getting chased again and again, and injuring himself; he was exhausted even though his injuries had been healed. As his body grew lethargic, his eyes grew heavy as well. He couldn’t sleep. He had to find a way to be stronger even a moment stronger.
‘I have to become stronger…’ That was Chi-Woo’s last thought before he fully closed his eyes.
A moment later, blurp, blurp! A transparent fire boiled even more fiercely.
Hawa almost died during her exploration outside. To see how deep the place was, she tried climbing the rock cliff and almost got killed by the monster. If she hadn’t loosened her grip as soon as the chilling feeling hit her, her head would’ve been sliced off from her neck.
‘I’m not sure if it’s because of the sanctuary, but the monster can’t come to the lowest floor. If I go even a floor above, though, I’d have entered the monster’s territory,’ Hawa concluded and returned to the sanctuary while rubbing her neck.
She was stunned to see Chi-Woo lying inside the spring pool so comfortably. While she was out scouting their surroundings at the risk of death, Chi-Woo was having the time of his life and taking a warm bath.
‘…Wait, a warm bath?’ Hawa dipped her hand into the spring pool to make sure and realized that the water had changed once again.
‘How can it change so easily?’ She wondered, aghast. Not only was seeing the pool a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but the holy water wasn’t the answer to all problems. Although the water possessed almost infinite powers, it didn’t lend its powers to others easily; after all, Hawa had prayed without moving for three days in a row to earn a single drop before. Yet this man was able to change this water as easily as breathing. The water seemed to be granting each and every one of Chi-Woo’s wishes even when he hadn’t cast any magic.
‘Who is this man exactly? Is it because he’s a hero?’ Hawa wondered with a tinge of jealousy. Then she scrunched up her forehead when she looked down at Chi-Woo. The spring pool was changing again, and the clear water turned yellowish.
Upon a closer look, she realized that a yellowish substance was seeping out from all over Chi-Woo’s body. As they did, they mixed with the holy water and either became translucent or gathered into small clumps, which the fishes ate up. And above all, it appeared that the giant pearl that was conveniently covering Chi-Woo’s private area was emitting a silverish light. Hawa blinked frantically.
“What is happening…?”
* * *
Chi-Woo soon woke up from his sleep and opened his eyes.
“Um. Hm.” He inhaled deeply and wiped his lips. He slept so well that the edges of his mouth were glistening with saliva.
‘I must have fallen asleep.’ He tilted his head sideways and flinched. Even though he was still inside the spring pool, he felt cold. It seemed his hot bath was over. And there were a bunch of small fish around his body, all of them floating upside down with swollen bellies.
‘What? Are they dead? Why so suddenly?’ Worried, Chi-Woo poked at a small fish, and it immediately slapped his finger with its fin. The fish wasn’t dead, but it seemed to be telling him to not bother them because they were exhausted.
“Wow, but I had a good rest.” Nevertheless, Chi-Woo’s whole body felt light from the warm bath he hadn’t been able to have in a long time. He stretched and got up, but suddenly stopped to stare blankly again. He realized that there was a message hovering in the air.
[Purification of the body in the works… 23.6%]
‘Purification process?’ What in the world did that mean? He’d never heard of it, nor had he made a wish for that to happen. The only likely culprit behind this sudden change was the spring pool. Just in case, Chi-Woo submerged his body back into the spring pool again, but no matter how long he waited, the percentage didn’t increase from 23.6%. It seemed the process had halted for some unknowable reason, which might have something to do with the fish currently struggling with their bellies full.
“Did you have a good sleep?” a p.r.i.c.kly voice asked.
Chi-Woo quickly turned around and saw Hawa with her arms crossed. “Ah, Ms. Hawa.” He was startled. “When did you…”
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“I don’t know. It’s been quite a while, but I don’t know how much time has pa.s.sed exactly.” Hawa continued, “First of all, I think we’re on the lowest level. We can climb up, but monsters are waiting for us. I don’t know if it’s because of the sanctuary’s influence, but the monsters can’t come down here. It seems like this floor and the floor above it are the boundaries.”
* * *
“Welcome back,” Hawa greeted him when Chi-Woo returned. She was in the middle of preparing food. Honestly, all she did was pick some fruit and mushrooms, but Chi-Woo was grateful.
“I thought you would be hungry by now. Why are you sweating so much?”
“I went on a run. But can we eat that as well?” Chi-Woo said while pointing at the mushroom; he was asking her if the mushroom was poisonous.
“Of course we can’t just eat it.” However, Hawa seemed to have misinterpreted his words. She carried the fruit and mushrooms to the statue and dropped to her knees. Glancing at Chi-Woo, she beckoned him over to kneel down next to her.
“Come here and pray with me.”
“Yes. We have to do it since everything here is G.o.ddess La Bella’s property. We should at least offer our prayers before we eat to avoid her wrath.”
Convinced, Chi-Woo obediently knelt down next to Hawa. Following her lead, he clasped his hands together and lowered his head. ‘Do I have to come up with my own prayer?’ Chi-Woo pondered about what to do, but since he was praying to a G.o.d, he thought he should show at least some basic courtesy.
“Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…” Chi-Woo used the Lord’s Prayer and started from Matthews 6:11. “I pray that the nation’s power and glory would eternally be with you, G.o.ddess La Bella. Amen.”
When he finished his prayer, Hawa looked at him with slight surprise. She seemed startled and taken aback that he had said a proper prayer. “Can we eat now?”
Hawa nodded. Chi-Woo picked up a fruit that looked like a pear, and when he was about to take a bite—
He suddenly felt someone gently patting the top of his head, but it soon disappeared. Chi-Woo was shocked and instinctively turned towards Hawa. Hawa was holding a fruit with both hands and peeling the skin off. If it was not Hawa, who could it be? Chi-Woo’s gaze s.h.i.+fted upwards.
“…” He looked up at the stone statue and took a bite of the fruit. Then, a message popped up.
[You have consumed a sacramental fruit.]
In Christianity, the sacramental bread and wine referred to the bread and wine that symbolized Christ’s flesh and blood, and in Buddhism, it referred to food offered to Buddha. Whichever it was, a sacramental fruit was food related to the G.o.ds, and there was only one G.o.d here.
‘…Thank you for the food…’ Chi-Woo was uncertain as he glanced at the statue and chewed on the mouthful of fruit. It might have been a trick of the light, but the statue’s lips seemed to have curled into a small smile.
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