Chi-Woo started running after Ru Amuh, and before he could even finish one lap around the fortress, he was completely out of breath. Ru Amuh waited for him to catch up, but he didn’t wait by standing still. He weaved around like a boxer and threw punches at the air while chanting ‘one, two’. And when Chi-Woo finally caught up to him, he started running again.
“Sir, you have to run in proper form.” Ru Amuh’s breathing was completely stable even though he was running just like Chi-Woo. “Look straight ahead. Imagine staring 10 meters ahead the whole time.”
“Hm! Ha! Huah! Urgh!”
“Breathing is important, too. Whether you breathe through your mouth or nose, it’s essential that you find a breathing technique that works for you.”
“Fuuuu! Huuuugh! Fuuuu! Hieeeh!”
“…I don’t think this is working. Let’s slow down a bit.”
Because Chi-Woo seemed to be struggling more than Ru Amuh had expected, Ru Amuh suggested slowing down. Chi-Woo felt like he could finally catch a breath.
“Okay, why don’t we try talking while running now?”
“Yes. There’s no need for you to hold your breath. I think we are at a level where we can converse with the person next to us while we run.”
That made some sense to Chi-Woo, and he nodded in agreement. However, it soon became impossible after they ran another lap, and their conversation was cut off entirely.
“Hm…” After running another half lap, Ru Amuh looked at Chi-Woo with a troubled face. They had only managed to finish two and a half laps, but Chi-Woo’s condition was already so bad it was almost laughable. His head and arms seemed barely attached to his body and swung like a rag doll as he moved. His body shook like crazy, and drool was streaming down his mouth. He was barely managing to move his legs.
‘Proper posture, my ass!’
Chi-Woo was a second away from losing his breath. He thought he would be able to run five laps, but he had reached his limit after two. He wanted to collapse to the ground this instant and wondered how comfortable it would be to lie on the soft dirt ground.
“I can’t anymore…!” Chi-Woo shouted with his eyes squeezed shut, but Ru Amuh continued to encourage him.
“No! You can run more!”
Chi-Woo gritted his teeth. He closed his eyes shut and ran like there was no turning back. Eventually, when they passed the stone bridge, he collapsed to the ground.
“Kuh! Kuuuuh!” Chi-Woo lay with his body curled forward and didn’t move for a while. His heart thumped so hard that it felt like it would burst out of his chest. His entire body seemed to be throbbing. His view was blurry as sweat trickled down and obscured his eyesight. The faint sky was yellow, and by the time he managed to steady his breath, he had a moment of clarity.
2. [Chi-Woo]’s status
‘I really am weak…’ The user information didn’t lie. His stamina was so weak that he could be described as a wimp. He had only run three laps around the fortress—no, in Chi-Woo’s perspective, he’d run as far as three laps. After running the course, he almost couldn’t believe he had done it.
“Are you able to get up, sir?”
Chi-Woo nodded while heaving. He pushed himself off the ground with both hands and managed to get up with a lot of effort. As if his body was inflated with water, his limbs kept going limp and wobbling.
“Why don’t you stabilize your breathing first? Once you have calmed down, we can do a couple more rounds to cool off.”
Chi-Woo jerked his head toward him.
“There would be no need for you to run.” Ru Amuh said while laughing when Chi-Woo looked at him menacingly. “Just quick steps. My original plan was to warm up with a light jog. Next time, we should do some practice exercises before running.”
“Yes, we’ll be running for a while. We won’t need to do anything else but run at the moment,” Ru Amuh said firmly like he didn’t intend to back off from this matter.
Chi-Woo hung his head low. He had just wanted to learn some hand-to-hand combat, but what he was going through right now was just hell.
“Okay, let’s try again. For fast walking, follow me. Try to minimize the time it takes to lift your feet off the floor…”
Unable to resist Ru Amuh’s insistent pushing, Chi-Woo forcefully moved his feet and finished two more laps. In the end, he completed five laps before the training was over for the day.
Ever since he went to Ru Amuh for training, Chi-Woo’s daily routine had completely changed. Every day, he followed a simple routine: after getting up at sunrise, he went outside the fortress and ran with Ru Amuh until he was exhausted. Then he crawled back to the square and ate a late breakfast before going home to rest. He moaned while slumping onto the bed, and when his body recuperated by the afternoon, he went back outside. Then he ran until he was exhausted again and returned home after eating dinner. He ran and ran again. When he finally finished his daily routine, he felt keen that it was possible to reach one’s limit simply by running. Since he always ran until he couldn’t take another step, his body always finished the day in a tattered state. There were many days when he had to clutch onto the walls for support.
This continued for three days and finally, on the fourth day, Chi-Woo missed his early morning exercise. Well, he almost missed it. He had fainted the night before, and when he regained his senses, someone was shaking him. He opened his eyes to Ru Amuh smiling brightly at him, and he felt a fear he couldn’t put into words.
“I waited for you, but you didn’t show up, sir, so I came to find you. You must have been really tired yesterday.”
“Yes, yes. But you still have to run. If you miss one day, there will be a second time, and then a third and a fourth time. Let’s go together now.”
Ru Amuh dragged the zombie-like Chi-Woo outside. There was a saying that going to the gym was the hard part, and once you were there, you ended up exercising. Just like that, once Chi-Woo was outside, he somehow ended up running. It was only later that Chi-Woo heard from Ru Hiana that Ru Amuh had been waiting early every day—even before the day broke—on the off chance that Chi-Woo might decide to come out earlier; he didn’t want to make Chi-Woo wait. After he found this out, Chi-Woo stopped skipping the runs out of guilt—it also helped that he was scared that Ru Amuh would personally come to his house to fetch him. And the one who was most happy about Chi-Woo’s change in lifestyle was none other than Mimi.
[Good. Very good.]
She sensed recently that Chi-Woo’s bio-rhythms had finally stabilized. Since he went through a cycle of exercising, eating, resting, exercising again, eating, and sleeping every day, his health inevitably improved. Of course, Chi-Woo felt like dying every day.
[Running is perfect for you right now.]
He understood this part already.
[It builds cardiorespiratory function, endurance, overall body strength, and many more. There’s no training more fitting for someone who desperately needs to improve their athletic ability.]
Yes, Chi-Woo understood that this exercise was necessary. But Chi-Woo was also human; he was growing sick of looking at the same scenery every day while running. Just like the number of dollar bills one had in their wallet, nobody’s willpower was infinite. As days passed by, Chi-Woo’s patience reached rock bottom.
[There’s a saying that a child has to fall down 2000 times before they can get up. I know how difficult and tiring this process is, but later…]
As Mimi continued to lecture him, Chi-Woo got angry. ‘I know. I know. Since I can’t fly or run, I am at least trying to walk here.’
[Before walking, you also have to know how to pick yourself back up. So that even if you fall, you will try taking another step again. Do you understand?]
‘I get it, so could you please shut up?’ Chi-Woo growled angrily inside his mind and moved his legs again while gritting his teeth. Time passed by without a hitch, and soon, it had been ten days since Chi-Woo started running.
On the eleventh day, Ru Amuh suddenly apologized and said that it would be difficult for them to continue exercising from now on. “I wanted to do at least the morning exercises with you, but given the situation, I would be otherwise occupied…” Ru Amuh explained that Zelit had found a method to help the other heroes recover their powers through a conversation with Shahnaz, and had made an important request to him. Since it was a dangerous method, he needed Ru Amuh’s full support. Chi-Woo didn’t know what the method was, but he wasn’t selfish enough to stop Ru Amuh from taking part. Of course, a part of him was excited about the news.
‘I guess it can’t be helped. Only Mr. Ru Amuh can use a little bit of his power.’ Under their current circumstances, Ru Amuh was an extremely valuable member. He was far too important to be helping Chi-Woo exercise every day. After rationalizing his thoughts, Chi-Woo easily nodded.
“It’s alright. It’s just running anyway. I can do it by myself.”
“Sir, I’m grateful that you’re saying that but…you’ll still continue even without me, right?”
Chi-Woo felt a slight prick of conscience at Ru Amuh’s question; he had been thinking that he would wake up a bit later tomorrow. “Well, of course.” He laughed awkwardly, and Ru Amuh beamed.
“Haha, I got it. I trust you. We’ll be running for about two months. When you’ve built up enough stamina, we’ll begin the next stage.”
“Ok, ok.” Chi-Woo listened half-heartedly and made a happy smile inside his mind. His mood suddenly brightened. After parting ways with Ru Amuh, Chi-Woo ate dinner and hummed while going back home. It had been a while since he fell asleep with a peaceful heart. Then, the next day arrived.
“…Damn it.” His eyes opened at the crack of dawn. Even though no one had woken him up, his eyes automatically opened. It seemed that Ru Amuh’s early wake up calls had traumatized him.
‘I need to sleep more, but…’ Even when he closed his eyes, he couldn’t fall asleep. He fidgeted around his bed for a while, and then went outside and zoned out while sitting on the verandah. His mind sharpened as he felt the morning’s cold breeze. He didn’t know how much time had passed.
“Sighhhhhh…” Chi-Woo sighed deeply. “…Tch.” He smacked his lips and got up from the verandah. In the end, he went outside at dawn without anyone in sight. “Huff! Huff!” Running was still difficult, and negative emotions welled suddenly in his heart. He felt sad, and everything felt meaningless. However, as he continued running, those emotions soon disappeared. As he got closer to his goal, he felt an unknown sense of hope. Chi-Woo ran for a long time, and before he knew it, he had run five laps around the fortress. The sun began to rise after his morning routine.
“Ughhh!” Even though his whole body groaned in pain, Chi-Woo stretched his arms with a look of satisfaction. ‘But I still did it.’ He felt accomplished and proud of himself that he went running by himself when everyone was sleeping.
‘Good, this is enough. I’ve worked hard today.’ He was about to turn back when—
Chi-Woo heard a high-pitched voice. It was a familiar voice.
“Here! I’m here!”
Chi-Woo turned around and looked up. He saw Ru Hiana swinging both her arms on top of the castle wall.
“What are you doing!? Did you finish your morning exercise!?” Ru Hiana shouted with her hands around her mouth once Chi-Woo looked up. “If you’re not done yet, can you wait for me a bit!? Let’s eat breakfast together! I just need to run twenty more laps!”
“…What?” Chi-Woo blurted out in shock. He couldn’t believe his ears. She just needed to run twenty more laps? Ru Hiana tilted her head as Chi-Woo just quietly stared at her. But she told him she’d finish soon anyway and asked him to wait. Then, she began running on top of the walls again.
Chi-Woo stared up at where Ru Hiana had disappeared off to for a long time and walked while being stunned. A weird feeling had suddenly sprouted in his heart. Glancing back briefly, he passed the stone bridge and walked through the entrance. When he was about to go past the second wall, he stopped again.
Chi-Woo saw someone fiercely swinging his sword—it was Allen Leonard. He didn’t know when Allen Leonard began training, but he did know that the man’s shirtless body was positively steaming with heat, and he wasn’t the only one absorbed in training. A group of people flocked out from the entrance of the third wall. All of them were heroes armed with armors and gloves found in the fortress.
“Then if we go out…”
“That’s why Ru Amuh returns and…”
“It’s too dangerous…but if we want to get stronger as fast as possible…”
Chi-Woo could only catch a few words as the heroes quickly passed him by. Chi-Woo didn’t know what they were talking about, but there was one thing he did catch—‘if we want to get stronger’. Chi-Woo stood still and looked up at the castle wall once again. Then, he looked at Allen Leonard one more time and stared at the heroes who had already gone far away. While he stood like this, he suddenly recalled what he had thought just before. Accomplished? Proud of himself? He felt himself flush, and he felt so embarrassed that he wanted to hide in a hole.
Chi-Woo tightly clenched his fists. He had dared to think that he could soon surpass these heroes if he kept on training like this, but he couldn’t be more wrong. In reality, their starting lines were different in the first place. Chi-Woo was an ordinary person who hadn’t held a sword or even done any harsh exercise for over twenty years. That was why Chi-Woo had to train in ways the others didn’t. They had already gone through the basic training, and their bodies were so fit that they didn’t have to increase their stamina by running.
Moreover, there were heroes who never slacked off even though their bodies had been thoroughly trained. Chi-Woo could never catch up to them by exercising like this, and the gap between him and them would only get bigger. He couldn’t stand still; he needed to shape up. There was also a part of him that believed himself to be untalented, and he should at least put in a lot more effort.
Could he really say that he had been working hard with the determination that he might die? This wasn’t Earth. It was a place where he needed to constantly worry about his life. Most importantly, even heroes didn’t laze around like the grasshopper in the fable The Ant and the Grasshopper; and he wasn’t like the ant who had worked hard to prepare for the coming winter. He shouldn’t be filled with a sense of superiority just because he ran a little. If he wanted to catch up at least a little bit, if he wanted to survive…
Chi-Woo gritted his teeth and turned around with a stiff face. He went back to the outer wall and began running again. While running, Ru Amuh had emphasized three factors. The first was proper posture, the second was breathing, and the third was—
[While running, don’t decide beforehand how many laps you’re going to run.]
[Just run until you can’t run anymore.]
[Your body will know how much longer you can run.]
[If you stop because you’ve reached your goal and you’re tired, your body will become accustomed to that.]
Ru Amuh added that the habit would make it harder for him to surpass his limits later on, and warned him to never set limits for himself. There would be a day when he looked back and realized how much further and longer he was able to run than before, and when that day came…
‘Would it be okay…for me to be proud of myself then?’
Chi-Woo ran; he focused only on running like a crazy man. He was still out of breath, and he still felt like dying, but he endured and continued running. When he thought he really couldn’t continue, he walked, and like Ru Amuh had advised him, he walked like he was running. When he was able to breathe properly again, he went back to running. As he repeated this process continuously, all of his thoughts disappeared. His head felt empty, and he fell into a trance. He even forgot his pain. It was a very strange experience. His body that used to feel heavy as stones grew lighter, his muddled head cleared up, and he felt refreshed. Endorphins were coursing through his body, and he felt like he could run like this forever. Chi-Woo had reached a runner’s high.Previous Chapter Next Chapter