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Chapter 91: Tilting Scale Balance (4)
After bickering for a while, the pair of brother and sister not related by blood fell asleep in the pond before waking up the next day. Unable to forget yesterday’s defeat, Hawa said, “I have been living so thoughtlessly these past weeks. I’m gonna sharpen my rusty battle senses. When I come back, let’s battle properly” With that, she went outside.
‘She first said she lost because she was caught off guard. Now she says it’s because she’s gotten rusty.’ Chi-Woo wondered what Hawa’s third reason would be if she lost to him another time. Today, Chi-Woo didn’t go to the upper floor right away, and after taking a bath, he properly put on his torn and ragged clothes. He had overcome his fear against the mud monster, and with his victory over Hawa in battling, he had washed away yet another painful memory. After accomplis.h.i.+ng these two things, Chi-Woo thought he had the qualifications to do what he should’ve done from the beginning. Now was the perfect time since Hawa was gone, so after tidying up his clothes, Chi-Woo went up to the statue with a thumping heart. After pondering about what he should do, Chi-Woo kneeled, bowed his head, and clasped his hands in prayer.
‘I want to thank you first.’ Thanks to La Bella, Chi-Woo was able to come back alive from the underworld after almost crossing the Styx River. Furthermore, they had been well fed and hydrated in the sanctuary due to the food and water created by the G.o.ddess. And above all, Chi-Woo gained the power to survive on Liber thanks to her blessings. Chi-Woo was so grateful that he didn’t know how he was going to pay her back for all those favors. The least he could do was express his grat.i.tude to the G.o.ddess.
‘I’d also like to apologize.’ Chi-Woo knew the reason why La Bella showed only her favor to Chi-Woo. On the first day he arrived at the cave, he had seen a message. Although he didn’t admit it out loud, Chi-Woo wanted the power to survive on Liber, and La Bella was the one who granted this desire. The World Milestone guided Chi-Woo to the now forgotten and lost sanctuary, and now that he was at the sanctuary, Chi-Woo had the obligation to swear by La Bella’s name. Chi-Woo was aware of this, but he had been avoiding this obligation all this time.
First of all, he had been afraid that nothing would change even if he swore by the G.o.ddess’ name. And secondly, he remembered what Shahnaz had told him.
[A hero has to live and swear by their conviction, and a G.o.d selects a hero whose conviction coincides with theirs.]
[In short, a conviction could also be a form of a ‘promise’. A promise must be kept at all costs, and if a hero breaks the promise, the relations.h.i.+p falls apart.]
[Thus, it’s very important for a hero to find a G.o.d with a matching conviction. If a hero formed a connection with a G.o.d with differing beliefs, they would clash frequently about every matter. In those cases, it would have been better for them to have not established a relations.h.i.+p at all.]
While Chi-Woo no longer worried that the G.o.ddess’s blessing would have no effect on him, he was still unsure if he could serve the G.o.ddess in the ways that Shahnaz had told him about. He was bothered that there was currently almost no record regarding La Bella, and additionally, he was bothered by how serving her might clash with his own goal for coming to Liber.
“To tell you the truth, I’m still unsure,” Chi-Woo muttered with his eyes closed. “I didn’t come to this world to save it. I came here for a very personal reason.” He had come to Liber to solve the mystery of his birth and to return home with his brother; his parents would regain their original liveliness if they both came back, and Chi-Woo’s ultimate goal was to return to his past, comparatively normal lifestyle.
“Furthermore, I’m not even a hero.” After hesitating for a while, Chi-Woo said, “My life might have been hectic, but there was nothing more to it. I had lived an ordinary life where I never thought of saving a world even once.” Chi-Woo confessed what he had never told anyone until now. It felt like he was inside a confessional pouring everything in his heart out. Still, he had gained too much from the G.o.ddess, and Chi-Woo always paid back what he had received. One way to return the favors he received was swearing by La Bella’s name.
But before that, Chi-Woo wanted to speak candidly. “Of course, things have changed for me.” As he talked, Chi-Woo was. .h.i.t by a strange sensation; it felt as if the atmosphere around him had suddenly changed. He peeked his eyes open and realized that he was no longer at the sanctuary, but a white s.p.a.ce. And there stood a tall woman with a pressed-down and faded hood covering half of her face. Chi-Woo instinctively knew who she was. The scale balance she was raising in one hand and the mysterious, warm, and wise air that she radiated were exactly the same as before. While kneeling, Chi-Woo looked up and gaped at her.
It was baffling. The woman was slightly shorter than him, but he felt an indescribable pressure coming off from her, so strong that she made the giant monster he encountered at the Evalaya mountain seem as small as a tiny bug. He felt as if he was facing a true giant who could shoulder the weight of the heavens above her. Overwhelmed by her immense, majestic presence, Chi-Woo closed his eyes once again. But he wasn’t afraid. It seemed like the G.o.ddess was waiting quietly for him to continue. Gaining strength from her support, Chi-Woo opened his mouth again.
“Although not by a lot, my thoughts have changed now…” Chi-Woo continued in a low voice. “But my ultimate goal for coming here hasn’t changed.” He had to save Liber to a certain extent—only then would he be able to survive, meet his brother more easily, and above all, return home with him. After all, even if he found Choi Chi-Hyun, his brother might refuse to return until he saved Liber.
When he said that his mission was to save ‘the world which had fallen into chaos’, it meant many things. It didn’t mean that Chi-Woo wanted to save the world for some n.o.ble sacrifice; he regarded the salvation of Liber as the means to achieve his personal goals.
“I don’t know what you think, G.o.ddess La Bella, but…” Yet, Chi-Woo didn’t think he was wrong. Even the Celestial Realm didn’t seek Liber’s salvation, but for the heroes to stabilize the situation there to the point that salvation was possible. As Zelit had said before, the recruits were brought to Liber as expendables, and there was no need for them to go as far as saving the world completely.
“But if you are still fine with me with all this…” Chi-Woo trailed off and clasped his mouth shut. He said everything he wanted to say and waited for La Bella to answer. Some time later…
An elegant yet clear and calm voice resonated in his ears and brain simultaneously. It was the first time he was hearing La Bella’s voice directly. Chi-Woo focused all his senses on his ears.
—But there’s one thing you are misunderstanding.
La Bella continued.
—You talked about the normalization of this world so that there is hope of saving it. Do you know how difficult and strenuous it would be to reach this normalization, considering the current state of affairs?
If one only considered Chi-Woo’s pursuit of the normalization of Liber, he matched well with La Balla since she was a G.o.ddess of perfect neutrality who sought balance. However, even that was extremely difficult considering the mess Liber was in. Were she to categorize all the forces that were messing up Liber as “evil”, and all the original inhabitants who used to rule over Liber as “good”, the ratio of evil to good was currently 99.99 to 0.01. That was how much the scale was tilted to one side, and it seemed simply impossible to change the ratio to 50:50.
—Events beyond your and my expectations would block your path. A danger akin to saving most Worlds and incomparably more threatening would be thrown in your way. Knowing all this, do you still swear by what you’ve said?
“Yes,” Chi-Woo immediately replied.
La Bella stared closely at him before lifting her gaze slightly. A strong energy had been emitting from Chi-Woo’s back for a while now.
La Bella heard a snort when she stared past Chi-Woo’s shoulders.
—La Bella…a lineage of Jupiter and the daughter of a maiden G.o.ddess…
Princess Saheu, who had mercilessly rejected Shahnaz, began critiquing La Bella.
—Well, she’s not bad. I guess a G.o.d at her level is all right.
Surprisingly, her evaluation of La Bella wasn’t bad. In her own right, La Bella was a “pure-blood” G.o.d born from a renowned G.o.d with a long history. In Princess Saheu’s perspective, she was much better than Shahnaz, who was born as a human without any proper lineage.
—When humans fell into corruption and all G.o.ds turned their backs on them, your mother was the only one who stayed behind and called for justice. Of course, she became sick of human’s evil acts and eventually returned to the heavens, but…
—I wonder what you’ll be like?
—You, the daughter of Astraea, the maiden G.o.ddess of Virgo, and the one who inherited the scale of balance of the G.o.ddess of justice. Someone of your caliber must have noticed the limitless potential of this child.
La Bella fell silent since she understood Princess Saheu’s intentions.
—Will you be able to guide this child without making any mistakes or missteps?
La Bella couldn’t answer easily since Chi-Woo’s existence was unbelievable for even an immortal being like herself.
—Are you hesitating now?
Princess Saheu mockingly laughed at La Bella’s hesitation, and only then did La Bella begin moving forward. She slowly walked up to Chi-Woo, looking down at the young man who had yet to move even an inch. Even though she had already given him a blessing, she couldn’t help but ask for confirmation. She knew that the events that would unfold in the future would shake even the strongest and hardest conviction.
—What if you can go back?
“…Huh?” Chi-Woo didn’t expect this question, so he replied a few seconds later.
—This is a paradise created just for me. I was able to exist for so long because of it. Even though my presence has faded greatly, I was still able to respond to your wishes and help you. In other words, I have enough strength to send one person—you to where you originally came from. If that’s what you want.
Chi-Woo couldn’t reply immediately to her unexpected suggestion. He could leave all this behind and return home. it did give him pause, but it did not take him long to reach a decision.
“No.” Chi-Woo smiled without realizing it. “I won’t go back.”
—Why? Is it because you have to leave your brother behind?
“There’s that, but…” Chi-Woo smacked his lips, and his expression became slightly sentimental. “I received a request.”
“Yes. I got a request to help this world…” Chi-Woo recalled those who sacrificed themselves in the ritual; they had all given up their lives while trusting that those left behind would save Liber.
—There’s no reason for you to accept that request.
“Yes, if I only received a request.” Chi-Woo smiled ruefully. “Thanks to their efforts, I’m still alive.”
“I’m indebted to them for my life.” Chi-Woo needed to repay this debt; he needed to give back as much as he had received, which was applicable to La Bella as well. “But of course…that isn’t the only reason why.” Chi-Woo let out a small sigh. “If I return, I won’t have to worry about dying, but on the other hand, I’ll have to start worrying about how to live.”
“I’ll have to worry about how and what I’m going to do with my life.” There were many things he had wanted to do. He had wanted to become a chef, a teacher, and a photographer. However, in the end, he couldn’t realize any of his dreams. Even though his efforts paid off somewhat in real life, whenever he was about to be successful, a supernatural force that couldn’t be explained by ordinary means always hindered Chi-Woo’s pursuit.
The same thing happened to him when he decided to let go of the secular world and become a pastor, monk, or shaman. Those occurrences always happened at the right time to stop him from committing, and couldn’t be considered as simple bad luck—it was as if someone was telling him he couldn’t chase after those dreams. He was not fated to do those jobs.
However, once he arrived at Liber, everything changed. Even though the circ.u.mstances here were extremely dire, the ‘coincidences’ that had only hindered him in real life began to help him out. The extraordinary life he had long considered a disadvantage became valuable to him. He felt like he was finally standing on a stage where he was the main character.
“The distinction between life and death here is very clear.” He wasn’t just living because he couldn’t die. He strived to survive so he wouldn’t die and worked hard to keep surviving. There was a thick line between life and death, as their difference was informed by the purpose of one’s life and their reason for living. Even though it was temporary, Chi-Woo was able to set a clear goal and motivation to live while he was on Liber.
“Rather than returning and living an unfruitful life…and rather than living on as if nothing had happened, as if that was the life I was fated to lead, I’m going to take on what this place has to offer.” He wanted to discover as much as he could. “Only then would I be able to choose whether to submit to my cursed fate or resist it. Isn’t that right, G.o.ddess?”
La Bella gently tilted her head. His conviction was already firm.
—On the first day you came here, you were injured to the point of dying. And you cried.
La Bella had been watching Chi-Woo the whole time. She had seen him crying pitifully after getting attacked by the monster when he first arrived at the cave.
—I saw you despair in your fear towards the monster.
And La Bella had seen him frustrated and angry. But she had also seen him get up despite all the challenges and bravely face his fears head-on to overcome them. She had seen all his bad and good moments.
—The path you’re walking on would have despairs and fears that are incomparably greater than the ones you’ve experienced here.
—Are you planning to walk that path despite all that?
“Yes.” Chi-Woo showed no hesitation in his reply. In the first place, he had entered by his own choice. He didn’t regret any of his decisions, and even if he died in the worst case scenario, he wouldn’t regret it if he had done his best. “I’ve already made up my mind.” He was now prepared to get hurt and hurt others, and to die or take lives.
La Bella stood in front of Chi-Woo and raised the scale balance in her hand above his head.
—If you are truly sincere, I will always be with you and protect you until your conviction falls.
She spoke with a solemn voice and shouted the next words.
—As the guardian of balance, I swear on this scale.
The scale balance that had always maintained its balance began to tilt to one side. La Bella made her promise, and it was now Chi-Woo’s turn to make a pledge.
“…I swear.” As soon as the scale balance touched his head, he opened his eyes and looked up. “That I’ll become your sword and defeat the evils that prevail in this world, returning balance to the world according to your will.” Chi-Woo’s eyes seemed to be glowing with pa.s.sion. “I swear on the scale of the G.o.ddess of Balance, La Bella!”