Chapter 1: A Day with a Strange Fortune (1)
“How can big brother Chi-Hyun do this?” a chubby man remarked. He had a round, bald head with beady eyes gleaming from behind his glasses. “He left without a warning again…How many times has it been now?”
The pale, young man in front of him remained silent.
“Seven? Taking into account the instances I heard about, I think its around seven.”
Even when the chubby mans voice rose with rage, the young man simply yawned in response.
“Ive been hearing about big brother Chi-Hyuns disappearances since I was in elementary school. How could your brother not have changed at all since then?”
Chi-Woo, the young man, covered his wide-open mouth.
“But anyway, dont worry too much. You know what they say. No news is good news,” the chubby man said and glanced at Chi-Woo. “He is gone for longer than usual, but Im sure hes going to suddenly appear like he always…” He then noticed that Chi-Woo was looking far off while smacking his lips. “…I might as well have been talking to myself,” the man grumbled and placed his mouth back onto his cups straw.
As he drank, the chubby man observed the young man in front of him. On his wrist, there was a beaded bracelet that he had never seen Chi-Woo without. A silver cross necklace was especially noticeable on his black turtleneck, and a bible sat on top of the table before him.
The chubby man pulled his mouth away from the straw and spoke, “I thought you were living in a temple? When did you move to a church?”
Instead of answering, Chi-Woo kept his gaze far off in the distance.
“A Buddhist prayer bead, a cross, and a bible. Now that I think about it, dont you carry around a talisman too?”
Chi-Woo shrugged, but didnt respond any further. Frustrated, the chubby man slammed the cup down and demanded, “Is this really how youre going to treat me?”
“Do you know how long it has been since we last saw each other?”
At last, Chi-Woo turned to look at him.
“Do you know why I asked to meet you?” the chubby man asked.
Chi-Woo snorted as if he was telling the man to continue.
“I called you to buy you a meal! To feed you! And to see how youre doing!”
“When was the last time you looked into a mirror or went outside? You should go out more often and get some fresh air, man.”
“Ha.” Chi-Woo finally opened his mouth. Placing his hand on his jaw, he continued, “Are you serious?”
“Gil-Duk, did you really call me to buy me a meal and check on me?”
“Yeah! I did!” Gil-Duk shouted.
Chi-Woo smiled and said, “Okay! Then lets just do that.”
“Lets catch up and eat together.” Chi-Woo nodded. “But nothing more than that.”
“Youre not going to do or bring up anything besides that, right?” Chi-Woo asked for confirmation. Gil-Duk opened his mouth, but no words came out. He turned a blind eye to Chi-Woos strong gaze and fiddled with his cup.
“No….” Gil-Duk soon confessed the truth. “I also have things to confide in you while were at it…”
Chi-Woo snorted knowingly, and Gil-Duk yelled, “Come on! You dont have to be so mean about it!” After his outburst, Gil-Duk let out a big sigh and clenched both fists. Then, he tilted his torso slightly forward and told Chi-Woo, “Just listen to me for a bit. I have been feeling funny these days.”
“What is it again?”
“You know that I have been working as a Content Creator recently, right?”
“Yeah, you suddenly took a year off from school to make vlogs or whatever its called.”
“Okay, so I think I went too far, and I am really screwed now.”
Chi-Woo looked taken aback. Gil-Duk wasnt someone who admitted his mistakes so easily.
“I created a new video recently and uploaded it. But afterward, I began to feel a bit strange. I started to feel chills even when I wasnt doing anything. My shoulders began to feel heavy, and I keep having these terrible nightmares…”
“If youre having chills, dress more warmly. And if youre having shoulder pains, go to the hospital. As for nightmares… Well, why dont you try changing your bed?”
“No, Chi-Woo, please listen to me.” Gil-duk desperately pleaded. Chi-Woo clicked his tongue at him and scrolled up his phone. He opened an app and typed into the search bar. Soon, a channel with Gil-Duks name appeared, and Chi-Woo clicked on the most recent video.
[Hello, everyone! This is your dirty, dirty, lovable boy, Gil-Duk!]
“Oh, yeah, thats the video. You just have to watch that.” Gil-Duks voice overlapped with his video.
Chi-Woo blinked and asked, “Okay, I understand that you were introducing yourself, but why the heck did you call yourselfdirty, dirty, lovable boy?”
“Its my signature greeting. How is it? Isnt it funny?”
“I dont know about that, but it sure sounds dirty.”
“Its not dirty but lovable.”
“If I was a viewer, I would want to turn this video off as soon as I hear this greeting,” Chi-Woo said, and the video continued.
[Todays video is about! Tatatatata~! Touring the haunted house!]
Chi-Woo scowled slightly as he heard this line, but he remained silent as he focused intently on his phones screen. After watching the video for around ten minutes, he shut the app off and looked up. He glanced behind Gil-Duks shoulders as he asked, “How did you learn of this place?”
“The haunted house? I did some legwork. You know, famous places have all been covered many times before. I happened to find this place when I was wandering around—”
“It looks like a house in a rural area. Did no one try to stop you from going in?”
“Uh… A grandpa from a supermarket tried to stop me. He asked me if I was crazy and warned me to not go in there if I didnt want to die…”
Chi-Woo sighed deeply. He looked at Gil-Duk like he was pleading to God to save this stupid soul, which made Gil-Duks anxious face fill with more dread.
“Whats going to happen to me? A ghost from the haunted house is following me, right?”
“…I dont know.”
“Why are you asking me? What can I do?”
“But since you were young, you have been—” Gil-Duk trailed off as Chi-Woos eyes turned cold. He quickly changed the topic, “Cant you do something? I can ’t sleep at night because Im too scared of nightmares. Its killing me.”
Chi-Woo shifted his annoyed gaze from Gil-Duk to the window and said, “Theres nothing I can do. Deal with it yourself.”
“But? If its really affecting you, why dont you go back there to apologize?”
“Yeah, just think,” Chi-Woo said with disinterest, “How would you feel if you were resting peacefully at home, and some stranger barges into your home and starts filming a video there? Wouldnt you feel completely peeved?”
“That…” Gil-Duk couldnt answer.
“You mentioned a supermarket nearby. Tell the grandpa there your situation and prepare an ancestral offering. Then beg for forgiveness, saying that you were in the wrong.”
“Will that fix…everything?”
“I dont know. It depends on the ghost living in the haunted house. Theyll decide if theyre going to accept your apology.”
Gil-Duk scratched his head like he didnt like that idea. Then he asked carefully, “Could you perhaps exterminate…”
“Do you have a conscience? It sounds like you dont have one if you are asking me to do that.” Chi-Woos meaning was clear: if Gil-Duk had a conscience, he wouldnt have even asked such a question; and if he didnt, the solution was already given to him, so he had to figure out the rest by himself.
“You know the saying,the one who is at fault grumbles the loudest. You are the one at fault, but you are talking about extermination.”
“Anyways, deal with it yourself if you really want to do that. Or turn to religion like me.” With that, Chi-Woo picked up his bag and rose from his seat.
“C-Chi-Woo. Wait, Choi Chi-Woo!”
“Im leaving.” Chi-Woo turned his back to Gil-Duk without hesitation.
After leaving the café, Choi Chi-Woo headed to the station. “Seriously. I cant believe it…” When a friend he hadnt seen in a long time called him, Chi-Woo had an inkling what the meeting was going to be about.
‘There were two of them.
Chi-Woo didnt know what exactly Gil-Duk did in that haunted house, but now, one guy was hanging on his back while another guy was fervently choking his throat. Chi-Woo might be willing to help him out a bit if Gil-Duk had been in an unfair situation. However, once Chi-Woo listened to the full story, it was clear that Gil-Duk was wholly to blame.
‘That guy only calls me when he needs help. Chi-Woo recalled, and his mood worsened. However, he soon calmed himself down and thought of what Gil-Duk had said.
[But since you were young, you have been—]
As Gil-Duk said, since he was young—no, since he was born, he had experienced all kinds of strange incidents to the point that this event didnt even count as strange for him. For example, there was currently a black smoke-like figure on top of a streetlight in his path. When he saw a spirit for the very first time and realized they werent humans, he really was—
Chi-Woo halted his steps. He quickly went back and rechecked the top of the streetlight. He saw two black smoke-like figures that looked as disheveled as a rats nest.
‘Those guys…? Chi-Woo made a startled expression. ‘Did they follow me?
The two spirits had seemed familiar; now that he looked at them more carefully, he realized that they were the spirits that had been attached to Gil-Duk. He didnt know the reason why, but they were following him now.
“Sigh…” Chi-Woo covered his face with both hands. His head hurt, so he rubbed at his temples. “Ah… Seriously…”
Now that he was aware of them, he could feel the unpleasant sensation radiating from the spirits more clearly than before. He had a few guesses as to why they were following him. It could be because he had briefly met their eyes before, or it could be because they heard Gil-Duks words.
‘What the hell did that fucker get himself into… Chi-Woo poured a bucket of insults towards Gil-Duk inside his mind and pondered what he should do next. Should he just ignore them and go on with his life or send them back? Honestly, the former option was usually better, but his parents were at home. Most of all, he had experienced the unpredictable nature of spirits countless times, so he couldnt just leave them alone.
“Hello. What do you want?” In the end, Chi-Woo turned back and asked while looking at the top of the streetlight. “Why are you here?”
The two puffs of smoke flowing around the streetlight shook, seemingly startled that Chi-Woo talked to them. They soon flowed down like water to face Chi-Woo.
‘See. I told you, right? Our eyes met before.How interesting. How can he see us? That seemed to be what they were saying to each other.
“I already told that guy to apologize. I wont intervene whether you decide to accept his apology or not, so please quickly go back.”
Even though Chi-Woo spoke nicely to them, the two spirits did not move at all. Instead, they moved one step closer to Chi-Woo.
“…What did you say?” Chi-Woo furrowed his brows. “You want me to listen to you two for a bit? You want to borrow my body for a bit? No, I refuse. Why would I do that?”
Chi-Woo was used to these requests. In the first place, vengeful spirits had lingering attachments to the living world and could not move on to the next world. For that reason, they tried everything they could do to borrow a living persons body to fulfill their wishes. Of course, this was not an easy feat, but there were humans with special characteristics, Chi-Woo being one of them.
“Stop doing useless things and just go back. And its best to move on to the afterlife if possible.”
Chi-Woo rejected their request outright and made his intentions clear. When he then turned around, he felt a great force bending his head back so violently that his neck could have ended up snapped should things go wrong. An ominous presence crawled up the back of his neck and hair. Even without seeing who it was, the perpetrator was obvious. One of the vengeful spirits had used its powers, angry that Chi-Woo refused to listen to their requests.
“Ha.” Chi-Woo stared up at the sky involuntarily and let out a laugh in astonishment. He wanted to tell them that the more they used their powers in the living world, the harder it would be for them to move on to the afterlife, but he would be wasting his breath. The two spirits werent the types to care about such things to begin with.
So instead, Chi-Woo immediately took out his bible to extract the talisman he stuck between the pages, wrapping it around his hand. Then he silently mouthedthis fucking shit and rolled the talisman around his hand. With his other hand, he seized the smoke and threw the spirit down as hard as possible.
With a thud, the spirit hit the ground at about the same time that Chi-Woo opened his mouth. Both the spirit flung to the ground and the spirit watching this exchange were shocked. He was able to hit us?
But Chi-Woo was not interested in their reactions. “Are you crazy?” Chi-Woo grabbed onto his cross necklace and pulled it off. “I was already in a rotten mood…Oh my, were you surprised?”
He grabbed the trembling spirit by its throat and pulled it up. “Why are you so surprised? Im able to see you. Why wouldnt I be able to touch you?”
Chi-Woo stabbed the spirits head with the protruding part of the cross.
A scream that only Chi-Woo could hear rang in the air.
“The one who wronged you was that bastard.” Chi-Woo did not stop. “Did I do anything to you guys?” He pulled out the cross and stabbed the spirits head again.
“Why. Are. You. Fucking. With. Me. Then?” Chi-Woo stabbed the spirits head nonstop and kept shaking it.
Noticing the other spirit trembling in shock, Chi-Woo flung the spirit he was holding to the ground. “Ah, cant forget about you, can I?”
“Get over here, you fucking shit.” Chi-Woo opened his backpack and took out a darkened club. The startled spirit quickly moved back.
“…Oh?” Chi-woo came to a halt. “Are you claiming innocence now? You tried to go back, but this bastard kept pushing you?”
The remaining spirit fluttered violently, as if it was agreeing with Chi-Woo.
“Do you really expect me to believe that?”
Chi-Woo bobbed the black club on his shoulder up and down. “Aha. So then, I guess I should leave you alone and beat only this guy to a pulp.”
Hearing this, the spirit quickly got on its knees. Two hands popped out from the smoke and rubbed against each other in a pleading gesture. Chi-Woo snorted at this sight and looked down at the other spirit he had just beaten down.
“Hey.” He nudged the smoke wiggling on the ground like a bug and told it, “I just want to live quietly. Are you listening? Well leave each other alone. Do you understand me?”
The spirit didnt answer. It seemed like it was on the verge of disappearing. Chi-Woo got up from his spot and kicked the collapsed spirit away. Then he told the other spirit, “Take it and piss off.”
The spirit stopped rubbing its hands together and hurriedly took its companion away. Chi-Woo watched the two spirits until they became mere dots and disappeared. Then he clicked his tongue and put his club back into his backpack, along with his belongings. He latched the cross to its string and hung the necklace around his neck again. He also tried to put the talisman back into the Bible, but shoved it into his pocket instead when he noticed that it was blackened. Only then did he realize that many eyes were on him.
“What is that man doing…?”
“Oh my…he must be crazy…”
“Mom! I want to be like that guy when I grow up!”
Many people passed by Chi-Woo like they were looking at a monkey in a zoo. All kinds of resentful thoughts whirled inside his mind, such as ‘I shouldve moved spots,Why do I have to suffer such humiliation because of those bastards?,That damn Gil-Duk, and so on.
Suddenly, something in his pants pocket began to ring.
There was another ring, and Chi-Woo reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. He pushed back his hair in annoyance and pushed the call button.
—Am I speaking to Mr. Choi Chi-Hyuns younger brother?
It was an old but deep voice. Chi-Woo flinched and pulled his phone away to check its screen. It was a number he didnt recognize. After looking at his phones screen intently, he placed his phone back to his ear and asked, “Who are you?”
—If its fine with you, could I have some of your time? Possibly right now?
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