To Hell With Being a Hero!

Chapter 23: I Take Refuge (Namu) (6)

Chapter 22: I Take Refuge (Namu) (5)

After talking to Ru Hiana, Chi-Woo returned to the first tent they were guided to and flung himself down on the ground. It wasnt as soft as his rooms bed, but the guard captain had laid a heap of fresh hay for them, so it wasnt too uncomfortable. As soon as he closed his eyes, he fell asleep. He was exhausted after the relentless effort it took to exorcise Hayi.

When Chi-Woo opened his eyes again, his whole body felt like a block of ice. It seemed he had dozed off despite the unfamiliar environment and the cold. Chi-Woo lay blankly on the floor before jerking his head around. There was Zelit, sleeping with his head on a book, and Eval Sevaru, sleeping curled up like a shrimp. Ru Hiana was leaning on a corner of the tent. She had her head on top of her knees and showed no movements. It seemed she had stayed awake all night and blacked out at some point. Chi-Woo shifted his eyes back to the ceiling and sighed quietly. This was their first night after coming to a new World; all kinds of emotions whirled inside him before fading away.

He thought of his parents first. Then he remembered his teacher, monks he served as masters, shamans, a couple of friends including Gil-Duk, and finally his brother. Chi-Woo still couldnt believe it. In fact, he was in greater disbelief now than he had been on his first night in the military. Of course, he no longer felt the need to deny his reality by saying everything was a dream since he had come to this place of his own will. He was fully aware of the reality. However, things were a bit—no, a lot different from what he had expected. He thought he would at least start his journey in an ordinary village if not a fancy kingdom right out of an adventure story, but instead, he was staying in a shabby camp that was clearly exposed to danger and residing with those who feared for their lives every day.

Chi-Woo had thought he would be looking for clues about his brother while staying in a safe place. Finding his brother seemed far-fetched now, and he had to worry about his immediate survival. When he thought about what had happened up until now, it almost felt like he was bewitched into coming to this place. Just like last time, he simply had a strong urge to go.

‘Maybe I just wanted to run away.

What compelled him might have been his desire to get out of the rock bottom his life had hit, but who knew he would have escaped to a gutter worse than the dump he used to be in.

‘No. Chi-Woo shook his head. There was no point in crying over spilled milk. It was his decision to come to Liber even though everyone around him had tried to stop him. He had to take responsibility for his decision. Sleep didnt come easy to Chi-Woo with his mind whirling with thoughts. After fidgeting around for a while, Chi-Woo quietly rose from his spot and walked out of the tent. He breathed in the morning air and cleared his head. It was still raining, but it was more of a light drizzle now. Droplets fell onto his hair, and Chi-Woo stared at the darkness before him.

“Are you already awake?” He heard a strong, rough voice. “You look tired. Why dont you rest some more? It does seem like the sun will rise soon though.”

Chi-Woo turned to the source of the voice and saw a woman he had never seen before. She had heavily bleached copper hair and matching eye color. She didnt appear as old as Shakira, but her rough skin detailed the difficult years she had gone through. Chi-Woo didnt recognize the middle-aged woman at first. He looked at her in confusion, and the middle-aged woman smiled and pulled out the dagger on her waist. It was the dagger that Chi-Woo had asked to borrow.

Chi-Woo racked through his head and asked, “Guard Captain?”

“My name is Rawiya,” the guard captain replied and continued, “I was talking to Shakira and came out to get some fresh air.”

“Are you still in a meeting?”

“Yeah, since the safety of the entire camp depends on it.” Rawiya glanced at Chi-Woo and asked curiously, “Whats the string tied to your wrist?”

“Ah, this?”

Chi-Woo raised his wrist and said nonchalantly, “It was used to tie up Ms. Ru Hiana. Its sort of my safety device.”

Rawiya looked at the item curiously, but apropos of nothing, she then coughed and said, “Hawa woke up once just now.”

“How is she?”

“She quickly fell asleep again, but shes fine. Much better than she was before even though shes weak. She could recognize us and even ask us for water. She was also fully conscious.” Rawiya paused for a bit. She was obviously grateful and wanted to express her gratitude. She hesitated, however, since Chi-Woo had purposefully done them a favor in order to make a request that could jeopardize the safety of the whole camp.

Thus, she brought up another topic. “Were you serious about what you said before? I know it sounds foolish to talk about hope in a situation like this, but Hawa is our one and only hope for a future.”

‘Shes quite an important figure, Chi-Woo thought to himself.

“Thus, Im asking you if you can make sure that she doesnt go through the same experience ever again,” Rawiya asked. It seemed Chi-Woos parting words after saving Hawa had left a deep impression on her.

Chi-Woo pondered briefly before replying, “I dont know.”

“Hm?”

“I cant make a promise like that. I cant even manage whats happening right now. How can I make any promise about the potential future? Who knows what and when something will happen to her?” Chi-Woo continued, “What I meant was Id put in my best effort. If a situation that I cant control arises, I cant do anything, either.”

“…Youre quite honest.”

“Im not the type to make promises I cant keep.”

Rawiya looked surprised to hear this. After staring intently at Chi-Woos face, she said, “Then why did you say that you would help us?”

“Sorry?”

“Lets say you stepped forward in the beginning to show us your skills. That would have been enough for us to be indebted to you. But why did you keep talking as if you would protect us while not being confident about it at all?”

The topic of the conversation changed. Rawiya didnt speak in an accusing tone. It seemed she was asking out of curiosity and wanted to check something. Chi-Woo wondered how he should answer such a question, and decided to answer truthfully.

“I used to be afflicted with the same condition.”

“You too?”

“Yes. My condition was much worse than Ms. Hawa. It was so serious that nobody was able to tackle even its most basic symptom.”

“You couldnt deal with it?”

“But I am standing in front of you, alive and well.” Chi-Woo shrugged. “Its thanks to those who didnt give up on me despite knowing how difficult it would be to cure me.” Rawiya listened quietly as Chi-Woo continued, “I always thanked those who helped me, but every time, they gave me the same response.Dont thank me. I only did what was expected of me. If you ever run into a person in pain, you shouldnt pass by them without helping.”

“…”

“I plan to help others in a similar manner until I die, offering at least the same degree of help Ive received before.”

“Oh ho. Are you telling me to keep that in mind?” Rawiya smirked, and Chi-Woo smiled in response.

After a brief silence, Rawiya began, “You know, I am not really fond of guys like you, who called themselvesheroes.” It was Chi-Woos turn to listen now. “They all talk so well, sayingWe can get it back. We can do it. We can save them. But they were always too idealistic.” Rawiyas voice was cold and flat. “Of course, I know where those lofty ideals came from; youve all accomplished great feats in your respective worlds. That, Im not gonna deny, but what is true in your world does not apply here. Youre all on Liber now; thats what matters to me.”

Chi-Woo unconsciously nodded. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Rawiyas words were completely reasonable.

“When the fifth recruits came, I understood their reasonings in my brain, but I dont think I fully accepted them in reality.” Rawiyas voice sounded empty as she continued, “They might sound logical and calculative, but in important matters, they clearly had a blind faith that everything would turn out just fine in the end. And they acted like it was natural for us to take a huge amount of risks for things to work out.” The heroes had acted so confidently even though they shouldnt have; after all, Liber didnt have the blessing of a World like other planets.

“Weve lost…more than our comrades lives.”

Crack.

Chi-Woo heard Rawiya grit her teeth. “We had to sacrifice what remaining hope and future we had in order to make their unreasonable ideals a reality, which did not bring us the promised rose-colored future, but despair that was two times more hellish than before.” Rawiya clenched her fist and looked at Chi-Woo with burning eyes. “Theres something I want to ask you.”

Chi-Woo was taken aback; he didnt expect her to suddenly question him.

“You ’ve shown me what youre capable of. That Ill admit. I understand that, unlike the previous recruits, you seem to have some skills.” Rawiyas voice hardened. “Tell me, will you be able to return the hope we lost?”

Chi-Woo immediately replied, “I dont know.” His words were exactly the same as before.

Rawiya looked confused. “…You.” She seemed to be wondering if she had misheard. “Are you sticking to the same answer even after knowing that I have the highest authority among those who were against your request?”

“Yes.”

“Dont you think you need to persuade me to borrow the statue?”

“No, I need something that would persuade you, but I don ’t have anything.” Chi-Woo grumbled, “Even the term jukgwi is merely used where Im from. In reality, neither I nor anyone in this camp knows for sure what those beings are. I need more information before I can tell you if Ill be capable of doing something.”

Rawiya looked at him like she had no idea what to make of him, but what could she say in response? There was nothing wrong with Chi-Woos words.

Instead, she asked, “What if I tell you Im grateful that you saved Hawa, but I cant let you borrow the statue?”

“Then it cant be helped,” Chi-Woo replied indifferently.

“But youre still going forward with your plan? Are you going to be like the fifth recruits and take dangerous and unknown risks?”

“Nope,” Chi-Woo immediately answered. “Im not going forward with any plan.”

Rawiya looked shocked. “Youre…not going to?”

“Yes.”

“What about that female comrade of yours?”

“Well…if theres no other way.”

Rawiya could tell that Chi-Woo was being honest. He might have stepped forward, but it didnt mean he was committed to helping out.

After sleeping a bit, Chi-Woo had organized most of his thoughts. In the first place, he had felt uncomfortable about being pushed to the front, so there was no reason for him to carry out such a dangerous plan if the necessary conditions couldnt be met. Of course, he would help out if he could—but only if the prerequisites he set for himself were fulfilled. Ultimately, Chi-Woo only had one goal. That was the reason why he came to Liber, and he was going to put this goal above everything else. The Worlds Milestone, message, and whatever else all came after.

Even though he was going to do his best, he couldnt do things that surpassed his abilities, or to put it simply, there was no reason for him to risk his life. It didnt really matter to him if he couldnt borrow the statue. No, it would actually put him more at ease. He had already made his intentions clear to the captain. Even though this situation was regretful for Ru Hiana, he would simply tell her,I tried to borrow the statue, but they told me I couldnt borrow it. Im sorry, and be over with it. In that case, he had no intentions to stop Ru Hiana if she wanted to leave by herself.

“Are you really…fine with that?”

“I think thats rather natural.”

“Natural?”

“I understand why youre not letting me borrow the statue. Honestly, itll be less burdensome for me if you dont let me borrow it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean.” Chi-Woo looked irked at having to explain something this obvious. “If you let me borrow it and something goes wrong, itll doom not only me but also every single one of you. How can it not be burdensome?”

It was said that if you know your enemy and know yourself, even a hundred battles would pose no danger. But perhaps the opposite was also true—if you didnt know your enemy and didnt know yourself, even a single battle would pose great danger.

“Im the type of person who only fights battles that I can win for sure.”

Rawiya didnt say anything. She just stared at Chi-Woo with an astonished expression, as if she was staring at a strange animal. “You…” She spoke after a long pause with a slightly raspy voice. “Dont really seem like a hero.”

Chi-Woo felt a prick from his conscience. Inwardly, he was praising her for her good instincts.

“So…” Rawiya let out a deep breath. “Thats your stance.” She nodded with a lighthearted expression. “I got it now.” She smiled before continuing, “It seems I expected too much. I apologize for giving you a burden you cant endure.”

She was right. Her words stung a little, but ultimately, there was nothing wrong with what she just said. Chi-Woo was going to let it pass when—

“Why dont you get ready if youre not going to rest more, then?” said Rawiya. “Well be leaving as soon as the sun rises. You must need someone to guide you, right?”

Chi-Woos eyes widened. “Didnt you say youre still discussing whether or not to let me borrow that statue?”

“Yep. And the discussion is going to end soon.”

“?”

“Because the person with the highest authority among those who oppose the idea has changed her mind, and is going to vote in favor soon.”

‘…What? Chi-Woo had been rationalizing inside his mind that he had done enough, but Rawiyas words struck him like a thunderbolt out of the blue.

“Please wait.”

“Whats wrong?”

“Why the sudden change of mind?”

“Is there a reason why I shouldnt?” Rawiya seemed to be teasing him. “Its not like we want to live like this forever.” She continued while looking straight at him. “If theres a way to overcome our current situation, if you have the foresight to take care of not only yourself but us as well, and if you arent chasing lofty ideals, but can instead face the reality and recognize the gravity of the mission youre undertaking—,” Rawiya spoke with a soft voice tinged with liveliness. Then with perfect precision, she enunciated her next few words, “If youre that type of hero, I want to try trusting you at least once.”

Chi-Woo became speechless. Rawiya smiled brightly and turned around. “I heard your thoughts very well. It was refreshing to hear such a realistic answer. I like it.”

“…”

“As you told Hawa, Ill try trusting and relying on you. I look forward to collaborating with you.”

Rawiya waved at him and disappeared into a tent.

Chi-Woo stood frozen like a stone statue. ‘Trusting and relying on me? When did I say such a thing?

Chi-Woos jaw fell when realization dawned on him. The namu part in the mantra he had chanted to Hawa meant “to rely on”, which indicated absolute faith in Buddhas teachings.

‘How did things turn out like this… Chi-Woo let out a deep sigh. He tilted his head and looked at the sky. Before he realized it, the light drizzle earlier had stopped. From far away, he saw the sunrise.

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