Chapter 94: Went Outside But (3)
Very carefully, Hawa moved past the mud monster. Thinking that it could be a trick, she kept her guard up, but the mud monster didn’t move at all. She looked back afterward, dumbfounded by what had transpired between the monster and Chi-Woo.
‘How did those two…?’ Hawa wondered, but decided to not think too deeply about the matter.
Once he was left alone with the monster, Chi-Woo took the first step forward; seeing this, the mud monster followed suit. They met each other’s eyes, and their gazes burned with feelings that neither of them could explain. Both had saved each other’s life once; Chi-Woo did it because he considered the mud monster a worthy opponent the likes of which he would be unlikely to encounter another time, and the mud monster did it because it couldn’t let its opponent die so foolishly. Both wanted to finish their opponents with their own hands!
With their hearts aligned, Chi-Woo and the mud monster shared their thoughts without talking. It was a promise made between two free-willing individuals, and there was no need for them to say more. Chi-Woo arched his back and knees to lower his stance. The battleground of the mud monster’s choosing was a wide clearing without corners. However, Chi-Woo didn’t necessarily think he was at a disadvantage because he had formed a contract with La Bella. The mud monster beckoned Chi-Woo to come forth. Chi-Woo concentrated his energy, determined to give as good as he got.
‘I will pierce through it.’ His spiritual energy raged and flowed toward his two legs, and with a hearty shout, Chi-Woo flew to the left, propelling himself at an astonis.h.i.+ng speed. However, his opponent was a monster that had appeared in ancient mythologies. Even though it had been weakened by the significant pa.s.sage of time, it still showed remnants of its glory days. It immediately caught onto Chi-Woo’s trajectory and blocked his path.
Two arms shot out as if it was saying, ‘I won’t let you pa.s.s. While corners slow me down, I am superior to you on a straight path.’
Chi-Woo smirked. As soon as he was blocked, he pivoted to the opposite direction and kicked off the floor, shooting to the right like a ray of light, but the mud monster intercepted Chi-Woo quite easily. Still, Chi-Woo didn’t panic. He knew it would be no easy task going past this monster anyways, and in fact, he would’ve been disappointed if it had failed to stop him.
It would be a battle of speed and endurance from here on out. Thus, Chi-Woo pretended to tilt to the left again before quickly going right. He moved like a soccer player doing feints to go past the defense, and when he added spiritual energy on top of that, it appeared as if there were two Chi-Woos. However, the mud monster was no easy opponent.
If Chi-Woo was a swift forward, the mud monster was a steel wall of a defender. Although his speed was a bit lacking, Chi-Woo made up for it by taking efficient routes and minimizing any unnecessary movements. And yet he was intercepted every time. Chi-Woo wasn’t the only one making progress; the monster had also gotten better over time while facing him. Left, right, left once more, right once more, then right again. The two changed directions at frightening speed without attacking. That was how much focus this battle of speed required that there was absolutely no room for the monster to make an attack without Chi-Woo whizzing past it.
In the meantime, Hawa watched the two from afar quietly and blinked hard in surprise. Chi-Woo and the mud monster looked like the natives when they danced around a campfire, twirling in semi-circles and dancing pa.s.sionately—but of course, the two of them were doing it at an inhuman speed.
Hawa had been wondering what the h.e.l.l these two were doing and why they were doing it, but seeing how serious the atmosphere seemed to be, she couldn’t intervene. Like she had thought before, it seemed Chi-Woo and the mud monster were too engrossed in their own world.
After some time—even Chi-Woo didn’t know how long it had been—Chi-Woo’s forehead was covered in droplets of sweat. It was the same for the mud monster. Clumps of mud were dripping down its body.
“Will you be alright?” Chi-Woo said without stopping his movements. “I can sense that you are losing speed.”
He got a snort in return. It was as if the mud monster was saying to him, ‘Don’t make me laugh. Aren’t you the one who is breathing too heavily now?’
Chi-Woo laughed but felt a sense of regret since he had a sinking feeling that the intense and pa.s.sionate fight was coming to its end, which was made evident by the way the mud monster’s body size appeared to have shrunk a little. It must have been putting all the strength it had preserved up to this point, thinking this would be its last battle.
“Won’t you stop?” Chi-Woo suddenly asked, making the mud monster flinch for a moment. “Do you have any intention of stopping things here and leaving with me?”
The monster raised its head.
“You must also know in your heart,” Chi-Woo continued when the monster gave him a questioning look. “That your mission…had ended a long time ago.”
When the good and bad joined hands to destroy perfect neutrality, La Bella made a sanctuary in a deep, hidden place to protect her followers. Fearing La Bella’s second coming, the joined forces of good and evil created an existence—a monster that would stop La Bella’s followers from coming out of their sanctuary.
“Thousands of years have pa.s.sed since then, or is it tens of thousands of years?” The monster was the product of all those acc.u.mulated years. “I don’t know the reason, but the followers of La Bella from that period didn’t get out of their sanctuary in the end. Thus, you have already completed your mission splendidly.” As a result, La Bella had been forgotten for a very long time. “The era you had once known is now over, so long gone that it’s considered ancient myths.”
Noting the mud monster’s lack of response, Chi-Woo sighed and continued, “What I meant to say is ‘haven’t you done enough’?”
“All lives are equal. Every being has the right to live their own life after birth.” As the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Satre had said, ‘Existence precedes essence. “It’s not too late. Since you’ve been living for a purpose forced on you until now after going above and beyond the mission, lead the rest of your life however you like.”
The mud monster made a clear response this time.
“If you don’t know what to do from now on, don’t worry about that,” Chi-Woo said with a slight smile. “If you have nothing else to do, maybe you could follow me…?” Chi-Woo’s eyes shone as he looked at the hesitating mud monster. It seemed the mud monster was getting affected by his words, and in a battle going as quickly and intensely as this, the mud monster’s momentary hesitation created a huge opening.
Chi-Woo didn’t think he was cowardly. The mud monster would have to own up to the fact that it had faltered and revealed its weakness due to its inability to ignore Chi-Woo’s words. Although he had not intended to distract it with the spiel, Chi-Woo had the right to exploit its moment of weakness. Moreover, if Chi-Woo managed to get past it, that would mean the mud monster had failed its duty, which might finally help free it from the chains that had bound it to this place in the first place. Thus, Chi-Woo spurted with no hesitation. Recollecting itself, the mud monster hurriedly chased after him to catch him, but Chi-Woo had already changed directions.
The air exploded, and Chi-Woo shot past the mud monster. The monster turned around reflexively and blankly stared as Chi-Woo drifted far away from it. It was too late for it to chase after him now.
No, it wasn’t over yet. Not yet. Chi-Woo’s words had triggered something inside the mud monster’s core; it had stirred up its rage. Like Chi-Woo said, the mud monster had lived in this cave for tens of thousands of years. At first, its purpose had been to stop La Bella’s followers from leaving their sanctuary, but after all the followers had died, it waited quietly while trying to conserve most of its strength—so patiently and obediently…like an idiot.
Thus, the mud monster was glad when it found a human with La Bella’s energy. Even though there had been a very long hiatus, its long wait had finally paid off. The mud monster had been absorbed in its sense of duty from then on, filled with only determination to end everything related to La Bella.
However, the mud monster’s mindset changed after it was saved by Chi-Woo. It was still shocked when it recalled what had happened. The mud monster had gotten so frustrated at Chi-Woo that it even forgot about its mission and recklessly chased after him, and before it realized it, it had already fallen into an area under the sanctuary’s influence. After waiting for thousands of years, it would meet its demise because of a moment of carelessness. It was too pathetic for it to accept, and the monster had shrieked in resentment and frantically struggled to survive. It had been sure that it was going to die like that until Chi-Woo lifted it up and dragged it back to the upper floor.
[Don’t misunderstand. I didn’t save you because I like you.]
[I don’t want to beat you by luck.]
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The mud monster distinctly remembered Chi-Woo’s words.
The mud monster closed its eyes. It was remorseful about its defeat, but also relieved. It had done its best till the very end to fulfill its mission, and had no regrets.
The mud monster heard footsteps coming towards it.
“Are you satisfied with this?” Chi-Woo looked down at the mud monster that was slowly decreasing like the paradise they had left behind. He seemed to have gotten a new idea. He opened his backpack and walked up to the monster. After shuffling through his bag, he dropped something in front of it.
“Eat this.” He dropped a fruit from paradise. “Drink this.” Then a bottle of holy water. “And live.”
The mud monster looked blankly up at Chi-Woo. It soon gained focus and pushed back all the things Chi-Woo offered him. Chi-Woo furrowed his brows at the mud monster’s firm refusal.
“It’s not a request, but an order.”
“You lost. And the loser has a duty to listen to the winner.”
The mud monster snorted. It had been a fair fight, so the mud monster respected the winner’s rights. However, the loser also had the right to die. If it continued to live like this, it would only lead a sad and pitiful life.
“Did you feel pathetic when I saved your life? Did you wish for me to feel humiliated when you saved mine?”
The mud monster paused at Chi-Woo’s words.
The mud monster slowly shook its head. It had felt some humiliation when it was saved by Chi-Woo, but there was a stronger feeling of relief to be alive so that it could complete its mission.
“There’s a saying that third time’s the charm,” Chi-Woo softly said. “We’ve each saved the other once.” He crossed his arm and continued, “In other words, there’s still one chance left for you.”
There was still a chance for the mud monster to beat Chi-Woo and reach a tie. Chi-Woo saw the mud monster hesitate, and Chi-Woo’s eyes sharpened at the monster’s reaction. The mud monster, which seemed to have accepted its death before, began to shake like crazy.
“…I’ll come back stronger.” Chi-Woo turned around. “You should keep living and get stronger as well. That’s my order as the victor of this battle.” With these last words, Chi-Woo started moving out without any hesitation. Gradually, his footsteps grew faint before he disappeared into the distance. Then the mud monster, which had been lying p.r.o.ne in hopelessness, reached out after a great struggle— toward the sacramental fruit and holy water Chi-Woo left behind.
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