Humans were adaptable animals. They had to fight and adjust to their changing environments as times changed. Liber was extremely different from Earth. To survive in this place, a person had to have superb physical abilities. Of course, having good physical abilities didn’t guarantee one’s survival, but it did increase their chances. Thus, Chi-Woo ran and ran again. A desperate desire to survive was one of the most powerful factors to inspire change in a human. Even though he felt like he was dying every day, he continued to run two times a day nonstop. He wouldn’t have gone this far back on Earth.
Phrases like ‘The more I sweat today, the less blood I will flow at the battlefield’ used to make him snort, but it was different on Liber, where the phrase simply described the reality. To survive here, he needed to know how to fight, and to fight well, his body had to act as a reliable foundation. In other words, he needed to strengthen his body to live.
With this belief in mind, Chi-Woo gritted his teeth and dragged his unwilling body outside every day. And when his willpower ran low, he took off his clothes and looked at the lumps of fat attached to parts of his body. Chi-Woo was over 80 kilograms. Considering that his height was 180cm, he wouldn’t be considered fat, but he wasn’t thin, either. And this was in Earth terms; by Liber’s standard, he could be considered overweight. After looking at his own body, Chi-Woo recalled what Ru Amuh and Allen Leonard’s bodies looked like; even areas that were difficult to train were covered in lean, compacted muscles.
A bitter smile tugged at his lips as he compared himself to the two heroes; and surprisingly, his willpower became fully charged again.
‘I have to live,’ Chi-Woo repeated to himself and ran again.
* * *
After his afternoon run, Chi-Woo collapsed onto the ground. He simply heaved and didn’t move at all. He no longer set a specific number of laps as his goal before running. In fact, he had stopped counting how much he’d run altogether. He simply worked hard to keep up a constant pace and ran until he was exhausted. There were times when he almost tripped and fell, but in those instances, he would question if his body truly was collapsing because he couldn’t run anymore, or if his brain was lying to himself. Unlike his head, his body was always honest.
‘I can’t do this anymore,’ was a thought the brain made up as a defense mechanism to relieve pain. Chi-Woo got up and started running again.
“Huff! Huff!” Then, before he even made it to another 200 meters, Chi-Woo fell again. Once more, he questioned himself if he had fallen because he was simply tired, or because he had really used up all his strength. Chi-Woo decided to just ask his body to get up again, but he ended up twisting his feet and falling before he could even run 5 more meters this time. After he experienced first hand that he didn’t even have the strength to get up, he became certain that he had really exhausted his strength.
“Haa…Haa…” Soaked in sweat, Chi-Woo lay down with his arms and legs stretched wide and looked up at the night sky.
‘I’m…dying.’ Chi-Woo suddenly recalled a celebrity he saw on a tv program before. The celebrity said that he was addicted to exercising, and even when his company and doctors told him to rest, he couldn’t stop himself from running.
‘How is that possible?’ It seemed unbelievable that anyone could become addicted to such pain; Chi-Woo thought someone like that couldn’t exist unless they were a serious masochist. However, there was certainly one thing about himself that had improved from before. On the first day of running, Chi-Woo went to sleep the instant he returned home; but now, he washed himself and changed into new clothes before going to bed. It was proof that he was starting to get used to his daily routine. He was now starting to feel refreshed after finishing his run and washing up, and he often returned home with a light heart even though he had to stagger his way there while moaning in pain.
On his way back home today, he visited the square and ate dinner as usual. While he was returning his plate, he saw a familiar face. After serving food, Eshnunna was talking with several natives. Feeling Chi-Woo’s stare, Eshnunna turned to meet his eyes. Chi-Woo put down his eating utensils and walked up to her after a moment of deliberation. Eshnunna looked too serious for him to simply ignore.
“What’s going on?”
“It certainly doesn’t look like nothing is going on.”
“I see that you still love to play with words.” Eshnunna sighed. She seemed conflicted whether to tell Chi-Woo about something, but in the end, she told him the truth. “It’s a farming issue.”
“We’ve started to farm since we were asked to do it, but…”
As soon as they arrived at the fortress, Zelit prioritized establishing their own agriculture system in order to become self-sufficient in food. Since they didn’t have any livestock, the only thing they could do was to grow crops by using the land around them. Thus, Zelit had requested the natives’ cooperation in this matter. Chi-Woo nodded in agreement at this explanation. The problem of food supply hadn’t been solved once and for all. Eshnunna had found a lot of food, but the supply was decreasing day by day. They could go search for more food, but that would only lengthen the time they had rather than solve the fundamental problem. Before they completely ran out, they had to quickly figure out a solution, which was to produce their own food.
“What’s the problem?” Chi-Woo asked.
“It’s impossible to farm near this area,” a small and thin middle-aged native answered in place of Eshnunna.
“Really? Even when there’s a river nearby?” Chi-Woo knew that civilizations often prospered near bodies of water. He tilted his head in confusion.
“Just because there’s a river nearby, it doesn’t mean we can farm.” The native shook his head. “The conditions for farming are more complex than most people think; and among them, the most important condition is the fertility of the soil.”
It was simple logic. In order to grow crops on the land, the soil had to be fertile with the right nutritional balance. The more fertile the soil was, the more produce they could expect.
“But on this land, there’s no way we can do that…” Crumbs of dried-up dirt scattered away from the native’s hand. Only then did Chi-Woo remember the area around the fortress was a barren wilderness, and the mountain behind it was a bare cliff without any green leaf in sight.
“There’s a way that we can change the soil by using the river’s water, but we don’t know how long it will take for the soil to become suitable for farming…”
They didn’t have much time. At the current pace that food was decreasing, they had about one month left. It was impossible for them to farm and produce crops within that time frame.
“Do you have any ideas?” Eshnunna asked Chi-Woo like she was trying to grasp onto the last straw. Chi-Woo thought deeply, but nothing came to mind. He was never an expert in farming, so his knowledge was very limited. After telling them that he would try to find a solution, he turned to leave.
* * *
Chi-Woo didn’t return to his house immediately. He realized later that he forgot to cool down his body after exercising, and decided to walk around the fortress to do so. As he walked, he thought about the problem with the food supply. Since everyone had their own thing going on, Zelit had asked the natives for a solution, but it was such an essential issue that everyone should be thinking about it in addition to the natives.
‘I don’t want to starve again.’ Since Chi-Woo had almost reached the point of starvation before, he wondered if there was anything he could do to help. He wasn’t sure how long he had been walking before something gave him pause. ‘Hmm?’ Chi-Woo saw a familiar figure holding a familiar object. Dressed in white shirt and red skirt, a silver-haired girl was sweeping the floor with a long broom at the oval entrance of a stone structure—it was Shahnaz Hawa.
‘I wonder what this place is?’ Chi-Woo looked around in confusion and let out a small exclamation when he saw the statue behind Hawa. It was more of a temporary shrine than a fully built temple. Hawa stopped sweeping and looked up at Chi-Woo, staring.
“Ah, it’s been a while.” Now that he thought about it, it was the first time he saw her since they left the main camp. “Hello?” It had really been a while, so Chi-Woo awkwardly smiled and waved.
Hawa closed her eyes and pushed her hair back before lowering her head slightly to greet him. Then she tightly clutched the broom and walked towards Chi-Woo with an intense gaze boring into him.
“Uh…Have you been well?”
She didn’t say a single word.
‘Why is she acting like this again?’ Chi-Woo thought before going straight to the point, “Is there anything you would like to tell me?”
“…No.” Hawa finally spoke. “There was something.”
“But not anymore.”
Her voice sounded empty and dull.
“Then that means…” Chi-Woo blinked twice. “You must have had something to tell me before.”
“Yes,” Hawa immediately replied.
“It’s late, but what was it? I’m curious now.”
“Just.” Hawa paused and continued, “I was curious why you saved the Salem Princess’ life.” Her words were completely emotionless; it was chilling how not even a trace of emotion could be heard from her voice. “But after arriving here, I realized that she was necessary for the future.”
This was true. Eshnunna was needed for finding food and guiding them to different destinations. Even after they arrived at the fortress, Eshnunna had been in charge of many tasks. While her responsibilities were all important, they involved ordinary day-to-day activities, so it was easy to overlook them.
“Hmm…” Chi-Woo sighed. Despite the monotone, Hawa’s words sounded a little hostile. He decided to ask just in case, “I’m just asking, but is your relationship with Ms. Eshnunna bad?”
“Bad doesn’t begin to describe our relationship; we’re closer to being enemies.”
Chi-Woo’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why?”
“Nothing unusual,” Hawa said indifferently, “Salem and Shahnaz had been at war for generations.”
Chi-Woo gaped; he could now understand the source of her animosity. It was nothing unusual. There had been a long war between the Salem kingdom and the Shahnaz tribe on Liber. Moreover, since Eshnunna was the princess of the kingdom, and Hawa the tribe’s heir, it was understandable that their relationship would be particularly strained.
“You don’t have to worry,” Hawa noticed Chi-Woo’s expression and said matter-of-factly. “I know such emotions are meaningless in a situation like this.”
Chi-Woo searched through his past memories. Now that he thought about it, both of them had maintained formal cordialities around each other. There was no need for him to be concerned.
“There’s someone who wants to talk with you. Please come this way.” While Chi-Woo was still deep in thought, Hawa turned around and walked through the entrance.
‘Who?’ Chi-Woo wanted to ask, but since Hawa had already gone inside, he followed behind her. There was nothing in the 8-square-meter room except for an altar and a statue.
“Who wants to…” While looking around, Chi-Woo found Hawa with her hands together and head bowed in prayer. It was at that moment…
—It’s been a while.
He heard a voice inside his head.
‘What? Ms. Mimi?’ Startled, Chi-Woo called out to his assistant.
[It’s not me. And I’m asking for the second time, but please don’t call me Mimi.]
It was not Mimi.
—It’s me. Right in front of you.
Chi-Woo, who had been listening to Mimi, looked at the statue and realized the owner of the voice.
—I saw you passing by and sent my child to bring you here.
He had found her voice familiar, and it turned out to be Goddess Shahnaz.
‘Hello.’ Since he was talking to a god, Chi-Woo bowed. ‘It’s been a while. Have you enjoyed propitious health and spirit since we last met?’
—Don’t use such big words. My head hurts.
Chi-Woo had expected to be complimented for his politeness, but he was scolded instead. He scratched his head.
—I called you here because I was curious.
—I understand that you have strong abilities, but isn’t it about time for you to choose?
Chi-Woo tilted his head in confusion before recalling Ru Amuh’s words, and realization dawned on him. She was probably talking about choosing a god to sponsor him.
—I don’t have any lingering attachment because you’ve already rejected me, but you should at least find another god or build a shrine. It’s not like you don’t have any holy objects.
‘Yes, that’s true, but I’m not ready yet.’
—What do you mean by that? What you’re capable of right now…
‘I’m not talking about my spiritual abilities.’
Shahnaz became quiet for a moment.
She expressed her surprise.
—Are you trying to reach for both sides? You’re really trying to become a frightening being.
It was now Chi-Woo’s turn to be confused.
—Well, to survive in a World like this, that is necessary…
Shahnaz murmured to herself and continued.
—If that’s your wish, you should find a god to sponsor you as soon as possible.
She wasn’t wrong. Chi-Woo wouldn’t be able to gain the strength he aimed for even after ten years of constant training. To obtain power beyond human abilities, and to shorten the time required, he needed to choose a god to sponsor him and receive help from the system.
—I’m not telling you to choose me, but the situation is extremely dire right now.
Chi-Woo smacked his lips and crossed his arms.
‘Yes, everything you say is right…but even if I want to choose, I can’t do so right now.’
‘I don’t have divinity.’
—Hmm? What do you mean?
‘To wake a god and get sponsored by a god, I heard that I needed divinity.’
‘I don’t have divinity.’
It was difficult to find a potential sponsor, but even if he found one, he needed divinity to utilize the system. The problem was that Chi-Woo had zero divinity.
—What are you talking about? You have a considerable amount of divinity.
That surprised Chi-Woo; he almost wanted to ask her what she was talking about.
‘Me? What, there’s no way…ah, about that.’
Chi-Woo suddenly recalled the divinity that Laguel gave him and smiled thinly. ‘Even if I want to use that, I can’t. Its usage has been decided already, so it can only be used at specific times.’
However, Shahnaz still refuted Chi-Woo’s statement.
—I also know that ‘Tanay’ has been placed on that divinity.
Shahnaz wasn’t talking about the ‘Blessed Luck’ he’d received from Laguel.
—You have a considerable amount of divinity accumulated in you outside of the one with a designated purpose.
She continued with a slightly frustrated voice.
—You have enough divinity to get several more people like Ru Amuh to be chosen, and you’ll still be left with more.Previous Chapter Next Chapter