“So, you mean that I’m like a hero…or something?”
Well, there had been many who had said things like that at the beginning of the Trial Tests. However, when the tests came to an end, there were no heroes. Him, me, and the other survivors had turned into the exact opposite.
“I didn’t say that. I said monsters exist, and we could defeat them before their attacks begin one day.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“That they will attack? So, you do believe in monsters?”
Yeonhee Woo looked at the bandage on my shoulder rather than answering. I had begun recovering, even though a baby’s fist size hunk of my flesh had been torn away, and you could see the white bone. However, it was still an ugly wound, and Yeonhee Woo would have never seen a wound like this before.
“Can you show it to me?”
“No, the monsters.”
Yeonhee Woo spoke despite a far-off gaze, and she was immersed in the story I was telling. She was placing us in a narrative where the chosen pair will kill monsters and save the world…
“Think of this, Yeonhee. You’re surrounded by darkness, and monsters are endlessly creeping out to kill you.”
I shook my head at her as she tried to open her mouth, and I covered her eyes with one hand.
“You’re alone and trembling with fear but you’re desperately trying to survive. So, your hand touches a monster when you try to feel your way out, and you shriek and open your eyes wide. It hurts worse than the most painful memory you have, and that was when you met the monster’s yellow eyes that are shining in the dark, chewing on your hand.”
She may have imagined the scene too well or perhaps she was feeling the fear from me as I described my memory. Anyway, her body was shaking.
“Then, you see other monsters in the dark you have forgotten about. They have surrounded you and are charging to you. While you see only a few, you know that there are many others that you cannot see. You try to shout but cannot do so because a monster bit through your throat. You cannot see what comes next because you’re busy drowning in your own blood as you die.”
“However, you know what will come. Monsters will violate your corpse, and some may rip off your limbs to run off into a dark corner to gnaw on your arms or legs, while some will fight over your bloody intestines that one of them ripped out of your stomach.”
I took my hand off Yeonhee Woo’s eyes.
“Open your eyes.”
She followed my command, and she looked as frightened as she had been when she first came here.
“No matter what terrors you thought of, things are worse. Do you think that you’re still in a fantasy film?”
I leaned over toward her to get the message through as she stood still, trembling.
“This is a horror film.”
Yeonhee Woo’s emotions were rubbed raw, as Unawakened could immerse themselves deeply in their imagination. Awakened had no need to imagine horrors. She acted like she had been dropped into the terror I had described, and she shuddered for a while with a pale face. She looked at me like a three-year-old child who had lost her way.
“But you mean…that we have to do this, right?”
“You have to choose.”
“…I guess I have to.”
“Yes. Either start preparing with me or forget about everything and be killed leading an isolated life.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“While monsters may not attack for a while, that day is coming. You can be prepared or not. In fact, without my interference, you would not have been able to survive until that day. You cannot say you would have endured your family’s gaze, the society’s gaze, and how you see yourself. Until you came here, you were a madwoman who could not stand up to your mother.”
“Just listen. I gave you a reason to live, something that’s just as valuable as a reward from a challenger box. You won’t commit suicide and you will live on until monsters come. Won’t you?”
Yeonhee Woo remained quiet.
“I don’t care if you decide to become the heroine of a horror film, but if you don’t, I’m telling you that you can live quietly until the day the monsters come. And drag you out from under your bed, screaming.”
I leaned against the bench after I finished talking.
“About not caring. You need me not as your teacher but as one of you.”
Yeonhee Woo was hesitant but certain.
“That’s right. However, I’ll find a way to win in the dungeon without you. So, you don’t have to take on that burden since this is about your life.”
I was sincere. While I did need her for another try, I would not drag her in by her hair. I stood up.
“You don’t have to decide here. Go home and think about it.”
“…You said they will come one day even if I don’t want it to happen.”
“About my traits and skills. I think I’m a healer who could heal hurt minds.”
“You will be mainly doing what you’re thinking of, and other things. If you don’t understand, go and play the game I gave you some more. I think you can learn some things.” (EN: Chapter 36)
She nodded with a tense face, and I pressed down my emotions with a deep breath. Now she had to be left alone to choose.
“I’ll take you outside.”
I stood up.
“Go back home and think things over while imagining monsters surrounding you. And this.”
I gave her two contract documents, and the first was to become my partner, and the other was to become my employee. She had to realize then how dangerous it would be to work with me.
“Go back and read it. You don’t have to come back if something bothers you. If then, we did not meet today. Remember that.”
Yeonhee hurriedly pulled in after seeing the sign to a rest area. While her driving may have been erratic enough to cause an accident, she was lucky as it was the only car moving in the rest area, everyone else was parked. She stopped her car somewhere in the parking lot, and she did not know how she had managed to drive. However, the reason Yeonhee’s heart was beating fast was not due to her dangerous driving, but the emotion she had felt from Sunhoo.
Lots of people lived with fear, but this was the first time she had felt it so raw from another person. She had thought she was the only one who would feel something like that, like when her mother had come to school.
“His fear was so much more intense…”
Yeonhee hugged herself with both arms but could not help shaking. She thought of Sunhoo again. She had known that he was an inexplicable person for a long time, as he was more mature in both mind and soul than any adult. However, to think that he would harbor such fear. Yeonhee was more shocked at that emotion compared to what Sunhoo had explained about himself.
Yeonhee could not remain in the car, and she sat down on the bench in front of the crowded area in front of the restrooms and tried to focus on the music coming from the speakers. However, she found the usual sights of parents buying food for kids, men smoking or stretching, or young couples walking by suddenly strange. (EN: Generally, rest stops in Korea feature a large cafeteria space with tables and chairs to eat food from one of multiple fast options. There is a convenience store and large bathrooms. There are also a few coffee shops too, but that’s about it and that’s pretty standard.)
[Name: Yeonhee Woo
Mental Strength: F(12)
Accumulated points: 50
She had thought this only an illusion a few hours back, but now seeing it calmed her down. Yeonhee wiped the tears that had come on again and went back to her car. She then remembered the documents Sunhoo had given her, and they had been two different contracts. However, they included words that she had not seen before, like cooperation, betrayal, points, and dungeon boxes. The one she was most familiar with was the death compensation fee, and it was written in the second contract.
[Your designated beneficiary will receive three billion won immediately if you die in a dungeon.]
She realized that the world would not recognize this contract, as anyone would laugh after reading it. However, Yeonhee’s face was serious as she thought back at the barren mountain, the new hospital, and Sunhoo, who seemed to own the place.
“Being alone like that…”
Yeonhee bit her lips at the thought.
Edited by Userunfriendly