Chapter 3: A Day with a Strange Fortune (3)
Choi Chi-Woos mouth hung open. He began to notice his surroundings: the space large enough to fit a soccer field and the walls that were all pure white just like the ceiling. There was nothing else in the space.
“Im sure youre surprised, sir. You must feel like you were in a dream.” The man with a fedora hat said, and Chi-Woos hand moved in a flash.
He hit his face with all he had. Then he pinched his tingling cheeks. Not yet satisfied, he pinched his thighs as well.
“Uhahhh!” He even tried running into the wall while shouting. The giant man didnt stop Chi-Woo. He simply watched from a distance with his arms crossed. Not long afterwards, Chi-Woo breathed heavily and glared at the man.
“Youre not dreaming, sir. Nor are you hypnotized,” the man said calmly. “To explain it simply, I created an avatar that is connected to your mind and called you to this place. Since this connection is quite strong, it shares senses with your main body. Of course, if you receive a big enough impact, the connection will break off.”
Chi-Woos face made it clear that he hadnt understood a word of what the man said.
“That is…I played a trick on the money I gave you, sir.” The man smiled and stretched out his hand. “But well, thats not really important. Should we go out now?”
Chi-Woo didnt take the mans hand. “I dont know what the hell youre talking about, but Im sure of one thing,” he said while continuing to glare at the man, “Youre saying that I will wake up if I receive a shock strong enough to kill me, right?”
The mans face stiffened. “Yes… but I strongly hope that you would refrain from such behavior.” His voice was stern. “Sir Choi Chi-Woo, you are an ordinary person right now.” The man pointed at Chi-Woo and placed his hand on his own chest. “However, I am not.”
“It means that I can forcefully overpower you if I wish to. Of course, I do not have the slightest desire to treat you with such disrespect.”
“Ah, is that so?” Chi-Woo cut the man off, “Thanks a lot. I suppose I should be really grateful that some con-man wont harm me after kidnapping me.”
“Thats not what I meant, sir!” The mans voice rose higher. “Im simply telling you that Im confident.” The man clenched his fist tightly and shouted, “I just need one chance. One chance to prove to you!” Clearly frustrated, he thumped his chest. “If you follow me…Im confident that I can convince you.”
“I know the situation is really confusing for you, but…”
While the man recovered his breath, Chi-Woo asked, “What are you going to tell me?” He still looked doubtful as he said, “What is it that youre going to convince me about?”
“I just told you, sir,” the man said pleadingly. “That sir Choi Chi-Hyun is a hero. And you are one too.”
Chi-Woo grunted loudly.
“Of course, youre not one currently, but you possess all the qualities to be a hero.”
“Yeah, right.” Chi-Woo snorted. “Why dont you tell me that my parents, grandpa, and grandma are all heroes too?”
“They are, sir.”
“Your parents and your grandparents are all heroes. Of course, they are all retired now.”
“…What?” Chi-Woos mouth dropped open at the mans ready admission. “How come only I didnt know?” Chi-Woo nodded in disbelief. In a voice dripping with sarcasm, he said, “To think everyone in my family were heroes just like people from the animation movies! How amazing!?” Then he asked, “How come no one told me?”
“I am also curious about that, sir,” the man responded seriously. “I thought it was strange when I researched about you. Among the direct lines in your family, there was no exception. How come only you…” The man was at a loss for words. A heavy silence descended between them.
“…Then.” Chi-Woo broke the silence and asked bitterly, “Is this the time where you tell me my parents picked me up from the streets?”
“Certainly not,” the man denied it immediately. “Most dont know of your current circumstances, but theres no doubt that you are the Choi familys hereditary son.”
Chi-Woo covered his face with both hands. Nothing he said was getting through the man.
“You said you wanted to find your brother, right sir?” After a brief pause, the man said with a tired voice. “Its the same for me too. I want to help him in any possible way.” He sounded desperate. “I promise you. Even if I have to put my insignificant life on the line, I would let you meet him. So please!” The man dropped to his knees and bowed so deeply towards Chi-Woo that his head was touching the floor. “…I beg you.”
Chi-Woo looked at the man with complicated feelings as the man laid bowing on the floor without moving. Not long afterward, the man straightened his posture and walked a couple of steps to the side. An entrance hidden by the mans large figure appeared into view. The man stretched out his hand like he was guiding Chi-Woo to the entrance, turned around, and trudged forward. He was trusting Chi-Woo to follow him willingly. Chi-Woo watched the man grow farther away from him and sighed deeply when the man disappeared into the entrance.
He rumpled his hair with both hands and scratched his scalp. Perhaps the mans heartfelt actions had moved him slightly.
Contrary to what everyone would expect him to do, Chi-Woo turned the opposite direction.
“Why should I?” he exclaimed and glared at the wall on the far side and rushed towards it. He shut his eyes tightly and used all the strength he could muster to smash his head against the wall. That was when…
The man, who had been waiting outside, ran back in, shocked by Chi-Woos abrupt behavior. He managed to snatch the back of Chi-Woos neck by a hairs breadth.
“Let me go! Let go!”
“How could you, sir! When I pleaded to you so desperately!”
The man and Chi-Woo rolled and wrestled on the floor for a while after that. In the end, Chi-Woo and the man left through the entrance “together”. Chi-Woo was dragged out with a rope wrapped around his body. He yelled all kinds of curses the whole time, but the man didnt release him.
“I will receive the punishments for my sins later. I wont resent you even if you beat me to death, but for now…” The man apologized and asked for understanding from time to time, but he continued to drag Chi-Woo. “Let me tell you about the place that we are leaving right now first. The room you were in is called the Strangers Space.”
Chi-Woo was quiet now, exhausted by his attempt to break free. Thus, the man said carefully, “Its also a place used as a filtering area.”
“Fuck off.” Chi-Woo continued to spit out swear words, but the man paid no attention to him and continued, “Sometimes these types of incidents happen. Whether its by their own will or not, they sometimes flow between the gaps and enter here.”
“I said fuck you.”
The man coughed. “Hmm, hmm. Since we dont know when or from where theyre coming, we connected all the spaces to this area.”
While glaring angrily at the man, something caught Chi-Woos eyes.
“Ah. Perhaps, would it be alright for me to remove this? I had to wear this on Earth, but its uncomfortable to keep wearing it here.”
“Yes, do whatever the fuck you want. Its funny how youre asking for my permission when you forcibly kidnapped me, and youre now dragging me along.”
“…Thank you. Please dont be too surprised.” The man took off his coat and put his fedora and mask in the air.
Chi-Woo stared intently at the air and wondered if there was some hidden pocket, and then his eyes focused on the mans nape. Two gill-like parts poked out of his neck from both sides. Chi-Woo also saw something that looked like shiny scales on the mans skin. But most of all, all of his attention shifted towards the long and thick tail that came out from the mans hip bone.
“…A lizard?” Chi-Woo was so shocked that he let out words he meant to keep it to himself. “Youre not human?”
“Haha. No, Im not. Sir, I wasnt born or raised on your planet.” The humanoid lizard-like being laughed good-naturedly and continued, “Sir, if Im following Earths expressions, Ill fit more closely towards an alien.”
Chi-Woo did not withdraw his suspicions. “You did a really good job making your costume. Did you work for Hollywood?”
“Of course not. Sir, did you really think that in this enormous, expansive universe, the only living beings were on Earth?”
Chi-Woo closed his mouth. He hadnt thought about it like that before, but…it was not a field he was an expert in. “I guess these days, even aliens learn Korean. Judging by how extremely fluent you are.”
“No, thats not the case. We dont know which planet would fall into danger or where we have to go, and it doesnt make sense to learn the language of every planet we need to go to.” The alien lizard raised his left hand and shook his wrist. “Its all thanks to this device. I work all over the galaxy, so I naturally receive special items like this.”
Chi-Woo narrowed his eyes. He had wondered why this alien lizard had tapped his left wrist a few times when they first met. Even when they were talking right now, he couldnt see anyt…? “Uh?” As soon as he thought this, Chi-Woo saw a bunch of holograms stretch out from the aliens left wrist like a mind-map.
Chi-Woo swallowed his breath as he saw various geometric patterns fill the space in front of them. When the alien lizard shook his left wrist one more time, the hologram completely disappeared.
“Well…I understand, sir. I also had a hard time when I found out that the planet I was born and raised on wasnt the only place that had intelligent life forms.” The alien lizard nodded. “But were lucky. Even though we might be different inside, we look quite similar outside, right? We dont have to feel disgusted that one of us looks like a squishy sack.”
When Chi-Woo remained silent, the alien lizard seemed to ponder for a short while and then said, “The heroes from Earth have a pretty good reputation. Even though they dont have special physical abilities, their ability to adapt and learn, especially their potential, are rated very highly. Moreover, they have also made many significant achievements.” The alien lizard continued, “However, we cant stop all the dangers in the universe with just heroes from Earth. Even if everyone on Earth is a hero, it still wont be enough.”
As the alien lizard said, the Earths human population of 6 or 7 billion was miniscule in comparison to the size of the universe. Chi-Woo understood the meaning behind the alien lizards words. Since there were other living beings on other planets, it made sense that heroes would come from other planets, too. However, understanding and accepting a piece of information were completely different matters. Chi-Woo wondered if he should really believe the alien lizards words or not. But in the first place, it didnt make sense that he was in this strange space after coming out of a café.
“So where are we?” Chi-Woo forcibly calmed his voice down and asked. “Where are you taking me now?”
“To a higher place…I guess thats not good enough of an explanation.” The alien lizard rubbed his neck, visibly pleased that Chi-Woo finally asked a proper question. “As I said before, your older brother is a hero.” Then, he said with more strength in his tone, “I am also…the same.” However, the alien lizard seemed to be embarrassed to say the last part as his voice got noticeably quieter. “Hm, hmm. Sir, the number of heroes is greater, much greater than what youd think. It might not be that much from each planet, but if you count all the heroes in the universe, its a vast number.”
The alien lizard suddenly stopped walking. “And the place were going to is where heroes gather together.”
Before Chi-Woo realized it, they were at the end of the path.
“The heroes paradise, the galaxys administration, a space outside of the flow of space and time, the milestone of dimensions, heaven… Its a place called by various names.”
Multiple paths converged together at the end of the path like a rotary.
“But heroes like me whose qualifications are officially recognized and are still working call this place with a specific name.” The alien lizard opened the thick door at the end of the path with great force. Chi-Woo instinctively turned away and closed his eyes from the blinding light bursting from the crack between the door panels.
The alien lizard grinned, revealing his sharp teeth. “Welcome to the Celestial Realm.”
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