Chapter 8 – Room 101, Cursed Room – ‘A Strange Family’ (3)
Tch! Tch! Tch tch tch tch tch tch!
In the midst of a noisy echo, Jinchul heaved a sigh. It was the sound made by his mother who was glaring at him and clicking her tongue.
Ever since Jinchul was young, his mother used to click her tongue once instead of voicing out a few words whenever he did something wrong, and her habit stayed with her even after he was over 30.
One slight change was that she used to look at him from the front while clicking her tongue but… today she was standing upside down on her hands.
Were her arms okay? Has she always been that strong…? His memories were a little blurry.
“C’mon, mum. Please just sit down. I told you I seriously nailed this interview. I don’t understand why you are so worried.”
“That’s what you’ve been saying for the last 5 years. I did it well this time; there’s nothing wrong – is that why you quit your job three times in just 5 years? I’m too scared to leave behind my stupid only son who’s done nothing until 30 to die, for goodness’ sake!”
“Don’t say that. Why would you die? You sound like you’re in your eighties or nineties. You only just hit sixty… And looking at you doing that handstand, you still look very energetic.”
“You just can’t handle losing an argument, can you? Look at you, you’re as big as a bull and you are still so immature… A good man should be reserved and more quiet. I should have stopped you from going to that stupid studio when you were young. That’s my lifetime regret!”
Studio. The moment she started talking about the martial art studio, Jinchul had no confidence in containing his emotions in front of her so he quietly turned around and walked outside.
Ever since a young age, Jinchul used to be a sports prodigy. Seeing him grow tremendously bulky in comparison to other kids ever since elementary school, the sumo club called him the successor of Kang Hodong, whereas the soccer club used to call him the successor of Park Jisung.
But what attracted the young Jinchul the most was the most primitive form of sports.
What was the most primitive and the wildest thing a human could do with their refined body? In the end, it was competing against each other with their fists. Martial arts!
Jinchul wasn’t a particularly violent child or anything. Though it might be laughable, he considered himself diligent and well-tempered. His dream was to share a bout on the ring with an opponent who also refined their skills, and had never once even wanted to become an underground thug.
Time went by. In the flow of time, a prodigy at youth tended to become a normal adult. Jinchul never expected that phrase to be applied to himself.
In the world of normal people, his build was more than enough. His height reached 192 cm, and his muscles were well-developed throughout. Most of the other men felt pressured by him simply walking down the street, and that used to give Jinchul a strong sense of pride.
However… he later realised that physique alone was not enough in the world of martial arts. To be exact, in the world of heavyweight boxers which was full of half-superhumans who already pumped up their physiques, everyone was taller than 190 and weighed heavier than 100 kg, so there was no way he could beat them with nothing but his physique.
Why? Why can I not react to their fists? Why do the things that worked during spars not work in the actual fights?
Why is the opponent never falling for my feints, and why am I constantly getting pulled into their pace?
He lost once, twice, and three times. Only after five consecutive defeats did he notice it.
His talents weren’t enough to let him stay in a place full of true monsters. Jinchul had no place in a world where everyone could see fists that were as fast as the wind, and put in 2 feints in the span of 0.5 seconds.
When he came to himself, everything was late. He was already almost 30, and all he had under his belt was the useless record of his failure.
Actually, the problem was not in those objective conditions.
He was in late twenties, and it was definitely not too late to stand back up, and his well-developed body was powerful enough to let him earn money.
One of his acquaintances at the studio opened a gym. Some became securities, and some became police officers.
Even though they all had to stop mid-way because of their lack of talents, they made use of their bodies that were still in the top 0.1 percentile and made a living.
The problem was in his heart and not his body.
Jinchul did not want to give up, nor did he want to fall to a different path.
He found a job thanks to the recommendations of his previous colleagues but he quit every one of them using various excuses, and consistently turned down his acquaintance who suggested they run the gym together.
As his connections disappeared one by one and the ember in his heart started to dwindle…
He finally realised that his life was going nowhere.
It was a depressing line of thought. Although he wanted to stop lingering on such thoughts, it was hard to do so.
He returned home after collecting his mind.
Firstly, let’s apologise to mum. She was the one who had to support her unstable son after her husband’s early death.
And let’s really do my best in this new company.
Thinking that, Jinchul returned home but was slightly flustered.
There was a familiar person in his house. The grandmaster of the studio who had been looking after him for 10 years was here!
He was a special person who acted as a father figure after the early death of his father.
They had been staying in touch even after Jinchul dropped his dream of becoming a boxer, and besides, it was thanks to his recommendation that Jinchul was able to do the interview this time at the health-related company.
“Wait, Mister Park? What brings you all the way here?”
“Aigo, Jinchul. Hurry up and thank him. He has great news for you!” his mother said.
“Haha, I’m not the great one here! It’s because everyone knows Jinchul is very earnest that he gets recommendations like this all the time.”
“Sir? What is this about?”
“They’re going to have a big MMA competition in Busan soon. This is a big opportunity! They used a lot of money for this… but unfortunately for them, they’re doing it at the same time as XXX Competition! So the bigshots won’t be able to come to Busan this time around. And what does that mean? There are only small fries but the prize pool is decent, and there are a lot of eyes on it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
“Haha… Sir, uhh, you know it better than anyone yourself. Honestly, I’m a lot weaker now. It doesn’t mean much even if there are only small fries. Because I’m a small fry myself…”
“Buddy, this time it’s a little different! The competition is going to be using the ‘last man standing’ rule which is a fad in Japan these days.”
“Last man standing? What is that? It’s my first time hearing it.”
“First time hearing that? It’s been 10 years already; what do you mean? It’s where only one person survives from the arena. Isn’t that what you’re good at?”
What… It was very astonishing. How could there be only one survivor in an MMA match?
And I’m good at that? What in the world——————
That’s right. How did I forget this? Looking back, wasn’t ‘last man standing’ quite popular in Japan even when I was in high school?
But half of the registered MMA fighters had died during the competition, and because of that they had to momentarily pause the competition. That must be why I forgot about it.
Of course this was my forte.
Who was I? Wasn’t I the one who bashed a human-devouring monkey with a wooden club? I was at the pinnacle of killing.
Since I was the only one who would have experienced fighting a monster, it was obvious I was the strongest one.
At last, the long-awaited opportunity was right around the corner.
But when exactly did I fight a human-devouring monkey? Was there something like that in Korea? Well, whatever it was, it was nothing important.
Because it was definitely true that I had bashed a monkey to death.
A tremendous roar was resonating all across the building. I thought I blinked my eyes for a second in the middle of a conversation with the grandmaster but…
By the time I came to myself, I was standing in the arena and there was a large man on the other side.
What was happening?
Oh, right! I immediately understood what was going on. Today was the day of Busan’s last man standing competition.
Seriously, to think I lost myself for a moment despite standing in the arena – there must be something wrong with me.
Kung kung kung kung kung kung.
Before long, the opponent came running towards me with an iron mace in his hand. He ran up until he was around 3 to 4 metres away from me as the iron mace in his waist suddenly began flying at me like a storm.
An iron mace? Why was he using this in an MMA competition? Was this also quite popular these days?
Fortunately, there was a tonfa in my hands as well, so I stepped up and parried the iron mace before it turned any faster. An iron mace was a blunt weapon rather than a blade, so blocking after it picked up speed would be too late. The impact would end up breaking your bones.
That was why I ran up and parried it away, as the opponent became flustered in response. I was definitely in the advantage as long as I didn’t give him enough space to make use of his weapon.
I quickly smacked the man on his mouth with the tonfa as his teeth fell like corn kernels. That was when a heavy thud echoed from my leg.
It seemed that the opponent had slammed on my leg with his mace.
Overall it was bearable because we were too close for it to pick up enough speed.
I calmly crammed the tonfa into his mouth and shook my hand as things dropped from his mouth. At first it was the teeth, which was soon followed by mysterious pieces of flesh. I pushed my fist deeper in as a hole appeared on the opponent’s neck.
Was I always this strong? A tonfa wasn’t a sword – how could this blunt piece of wood come out of a person’s neck?
Oh well, that wasn’t very important. It was all good as long as a man – a martial artist at that – was strong, right! There was no need to harbour any doubt in mind!
Taking a step back, I laughed out loud when the next opponent walked onto the arena. This time, it was an axe. A very insolent weapon!
If we were on a similar level, it would be impossible to approach a person swinging an axe with something like a tonfa.
That was ‘if we were on a similar level’.
In just three strides, I jumped across 20 metres and approached in an instant as shock tainted his eyes.
Was it something to be surprised about? Right now, I was as fast as a tiger. Even I wondered when I earned such a ridiculous physical ability.
If I was like this from the start, then reaction speed and feints wouldn’t have even mattered. It would have been extremely easy for me to become the world champion.
That wasn’t too big of a problem either. All I had to do was become one now.
My finger pierced through the opponent’s eyes before he could even swing his axe. Going through his eyes, it smashed his brain. My fingers dug through the front part of his skull and even reached the back of his skull.
After that, I killed a lot of people. Maybe 10? Or 20? When I was starting to lose track of the number of people I killed, there was no longer anyone left in the arena.
Waaaaaaaaahhhh! Cha Jinchul! Cha Jinchul! Cha Jinchul!!
An unfathomably large crowd was shouting out my name. The bitterness that stayed inside for 10 years or perhaps even more, was dissolved in an instant.
Nearby, my mum was crying her eyes out. Although the grandmaster was proudly standing tall, I could still see his reddened eyes.
Ahh… How long have I been yearning for this moment? Right now, I was the protagonist of this world.
I saw an old man wearing a suit walking from the other side.
He’s the mayor of Busan, isn’t he? Was he going to personally hand over the belt to the victor?
Thinking that I managed to win a competition in front of someone like him… it filled my heart with an overwhelming sweetness.
A thunderous roar echoed across. It flashed and I suddenly felt a scorching pain in my chest.
What was going on? I blankly turned to the mayor and noticed the glock in his hand.
The moment I realised there was a bullet in my chest, my body crumbled down.
What was this; what in the world was going on? After slight contemplation, I immediately realised it.
Ahah! Only one person can leave this arena right! The moment the mayor walked onto the arena, it was obvious that one of us had to die. Instead of dropping my guard, I should have snapped his neck immediately…
I felt my consciousness fading away. It wasn’t that sad because I managed to achieve my lifelong dream already but… I wanted to see mum one last time before leaving.
/You have failed!
A dream that couldn’t be achieved for a long time! An unrelinquishable thirst towards that goal! In the end, you were bewitched by your unachievable dream.
You were unable to spot the strange change in your beloved mother and your father-like Grandmaster, attended a killing martial art competition, and at last lost your life at the hands of the mayor.
You were unable to escape the curse, nor were you able to resolve the root cause of the curse. It is very unfortunate.
However, there is still a chance! Wait for your teammates.
One of your teammates has successfully escaped! Congratulations! The successful escape allows everyone to return safely./
Cha Jinchul felt his sedimented consciousness slowly floating back up…