Chapter 84: It Hurts to Be a Hero (2)
Their lives inside the cave began. Chi-Woo slept in the spring pool every day, and when he woke up, he got dressed and picked fruits, mushrooms, and other food available to them. After eating a meal with Hawa, he ventured outside to scout the area. The path was too complicated for him to remember in detail, so Chi-Woo simply picked a path and ran. Rather than trying to memorize the directions, he thought he would gain muscle memory if he ran enough times.
Of course, besides memorizing directions, he also wanted to keep up the habit of running. Thus a daily routine was established: he ate breakfast and ran; then he returned to wash himself and have lunch before going out running again; after that was another round of was.h.i.+ng up, having dinner, and running. And after returning from his final run, Chi-Woo fell asleep while taking a warm bath in the spring pool.
When he woke up again, there was always a message hovering in the air. Chi-Woo checked the percentage of his purification and started his daily routines anew. One additional thing he did on top of everything was drinking at least three mouthfuls of holy water every day by Mimi’s request. She had told him to do that before he ran, and although he didn’t know the reason for that, Chi-Woo did as he was told.
The effect spoke for itself; the more he ran, the more his body was filled with renewed vigor rather than getting tired. Chi-Woo knew something was different now from his daily routines alone.
Since he was inside the cave, he didn’t know exactly how much time had pa.s.sed. However, Chi-Woo trusted his body’s intrinsic circadian rhythm; although he had only been able to run around the fortress two times a day before, he was now able to run three times a day inside the cave. And even when he ran for longer and collapsed from the fatigue, his body quickly recovered. It was a bit scary. For some reason, his body didn’t feel like it belonged to him.
Counting each day by the times he slept inside the spring pool and woke up, he estimated that eleven days had pa.s.sed. Chi-Woo was running hard again after eating a hearty meal when he suddenly saw a message. It was a simple message that said his physique had improved.
1. Name & Rank: Choi Chi-Woo (EX)
His strength had reached a higher rank.
“…What?” He was so shocked that he muttered out loud. It was ridiculous; when he was at the fortress, he had run like mad, but it didn’t change anything. Yet here in the sanctuary, he had managed to rank up in only eleven days.
He knew to turn to Mimi when something baffled him now.
[My name isn’t Mimi. I think it’s my fourth time telling you directly.]
Mimi responded as soon as Chi-Woo clicked the b.u.t.ton to call upon his a.s.sistant.
[Anyways, there are four reasons for your rapid growth.]
Mimi explained the first three reasons slowly. The first was the three gulps of holy water he had been drinking every day. The second was the purification process in the form of a hot bath. The third was the feasts he was having daily.
‘What of the holy water?’
[Haven’t you felt that something was different after drinking it?]
He had. He had felt like all his bodily senses were heightened, but that was all.
[You were originally unable to hear the holy water flowing, right? But you were able to hear it once you drank the water.]
That was true. Before he drank the water, he had doubts about what Hawa said, but he could clearly hear the sound of the water after drinking it.
[By drinking the holy water, the senses that you hadn’t been able to use were activated. Think of the ‘Spirit Eye’. That will probably make it easier for you to understand.]
Chi-Woo let out a small gasp. Spirit Eye was an uncommon ability, but there were instances where people awakened the ability later in life. For example, possession often opened the victim’s eyes to spirits. Similarly, the holy water had activated his senses and awakened cells that usually remained dormant.
[There’s a stark difference between someone with 6% of their senses open and someone with 60% of their senses open. Thanks to the holy water, you are now able to train the senses that you couldn’t tap into before.]
In other words, drinking the holy water increased the efficiency with which his body moved to its maximum. Additionally, the purification process that was currently ongoing was just as effective in opening his extra senses.
[The purification process awakens dormant senses, too, but it’s also effective in discharging waste that had acc.u.mulated in your body over the years. It was only natural for your physical condition to improve.]
Chi-Woo nodded in understanding.
‘Then, what do you mean by having feasts?’
The fruit the trees in the cave bore were sweet and fresh, and the mushrooms were chewy and tasty, but he didn’t feel anything particularly special about them. However, he had been curious why he got a message saying that he was eating a feast whenever he ate them.
[Think about it.]
Mimi answered cryptically.
[After the meals, have you ever felt the need to release yourself?]
Chi-Woo’s eyes turned round. Now that he thought about it, Chi-Woo had never felt the need for a toilet while living in this cave.
[You can think of a feast as a form of a supplement. Of course, it’s much more than that. The feast cleanses your blood, supplies nutrients, and more to help purify and strengthen your body.]
Chi-Woo was a little surprised. He knew this place would allow him to become stronger, but he didn’t expect each and every little thing here to facilitate his growth. But there was one more thing Mimi hadn’t told him.
‘You said there were four reasons. What’s the last one?’
[It’s the training you had done until now.]
Mimi replied simply.
[Your habit of running at the fortress without missing a day contributed to the result.]
In other words, everything he had done wasn’t meaningless. This was all he needed to know. Chi-Woo looked around his surroundings, and everything he saw appeared in a new light. This place existed for the purpose of making him stronger. He must become stronger to survive, and he needed to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Chi-Woo began to run again.
After finis.h.i.+ng his run, Chi-Woo spotted something strange while he was picking fruit from a tree. Inside the spring pool, fish were cl.u.s.tered close together in a circle with their heads touching. Their mouths kept opening and closing like they were in a meeting. And as if one of them had sensed Chi-Woo’s gaze, a fish glanced behind to look at him. It then turned back and whispered eagerly again. What were they talking about so secretively?
[Who is that human?]
He heard a voice inside his mind.
[What kind of human purifies so slowly?]
[Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying. I thought we’d be done with him in a day since he’s a lowly human, but tch, it’s been several days.]
[That b.a.s.t.a.r.d’s not human. Only his outer sh.e.l.l is human, but the inside is different. It has to be the case, or it doesn’t make any sense.]
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[Yep. While working, I felt some kind of unknown power inside his body. It felt like all h.e.l.l would break loose if it burst…]
“You lost your power as a hero, right?” Hawa cut him off. “And if you really are a hero who doesn’t know how to fight…I don’t think I would lose to you.”
Chi-Woo was about to avert his gaze but focused on Hawa again. “…Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Hawa said. “I told you I’ve received various training since I was young.” As the Shahnaz tribe’s heir, Hawa had undergone robust and strict training; hand-to-hand fighting was part of it. Shakira had also told them that Hawa was a child who could at least protect herself wherever she went.
“Hmm…” Chi-Woo contemplated the matter. Hawa was a young girl who wasn’t even twenty yet; she looked seventeen at most. Chi-Woo didn’t feel comfortable swinging his fist at a minor. But things were different on Liber compared to Earth, weren’t they?
Hawa interrupted his thoughts and said, “If you don’t believe me, why don’t you try fighting me once?”
“Try fighting you?”
“If we exchange a few blows, we can roughly judge each other’s skill level.”
However, Chi-Woo still hesitated to say yes, so Hawa provoked him by saying, “Why? Are you afraid of losing?”
Chi-Woo narrowed his eyes at her. He was feeling confident since his stamina had gone up to E rank.
“Fine. Let’s do it.”
Chi-Woo stuffed the last remaining fruit into his mouth and got up. They soon found themselves facing each other with an appropriate distance between them.
“Please tell me when you’re ready,” Chi-Woo said and got into a boxing posture. He even took a few steps on the spot. Hawa blankly stared at his footwork and let out a small ‘pfffh’. It was the second time he had seen her smile since he met her.
Chi-Woo got embarra.s.sed and asked, “Why are you laughing?”
“No—it’s nothing.” Hawa lowered her head and shook with suppressed laughter for a while before schooling her expression into her usual indifference. “Do you want to make a bet?” Hawa suggested, saying that it would be no fun without a bet. “The loser has to accept one request from the winner.”
“Why so suddenly? I don’t want to accept a request that’s too hard to fulfill.”
“Don’t worry. It’s something you can easily accomplish.”
As expected, there was a reason why Hawa suddenly suggested a bet. She wanted something from him, and she seemed completely a.s.sured of her victory. Chi-Woo pondered for a few moments, and the corners of his lips curled up. He suddenly thought of a good idea.
“I can also make a request, right?”
“If you win.” Hawa shrugged and nodded. There was no reason for her to say no.
“That’s good. I got it. I’ll also make a request that Ms. Hawa can easily fulfill.”
A smile tugged at Hawa’s lips. She looked eager to start fighting. She smiled more than she had done in the past during the short exchange alone.
“The first one to collapse loses—”
“I’ll start!” Chi-Woo rushed towards Hawa even before she finished talking like the terrible sportsman he was. He quickly closed the gap between them and lunged at her slender frame. Then…
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