After bidding farewell to Ian, Seol Jihu headed to a grocery store run by an Earthling.
After carefully selecting and purchasing food ingredients, he went to the stables to hire a carriage. However, when he mentioned the Forest of Denial, most coachmen refused to go. It was only after bribing them with extra money that there finally was one volunteer willing to take him.
Immediately after contracting a carriage, Seol Jihu returned to the office to get ready for another journey.
“You’re leaving as soon as you’ve come.”
Jang Maldong clicked his tongue while shaking his head. Seol Jihu had just come back from a tiring event, so to see him leaving again without resting, not to mention even showering, made Jang Maldong feel sorry for him.
Seol Jihu, who was carefully packing his bag, grinned.
“I’ll feel uncomfortable if I keep pushing this off. Not to mention, it’s something I’d eventually have to do. And I’ll only be gone for a short while anyway.”
Jang Maldong snorted hearing Seol Jihu making it sound like he was going off on a vacation.
“You’re definitely the only one who can make a trip to the Forest of Denial sound like a stroll in the park.”
Despite saying this, he knew where Seol Jihu’s confidence in going alone stemmed from.
Having the protection of a centuries-old evil spirit strong enough to instantly obliterate hundreds of Parasites certainly guaranteed Seol Jihu’s life, at least inside of the Forest of Denial.
“Anyways, what are you packing so much for? The bag’s going to explode at that rate, you scoundrel.”
“Ah. It’s a farewell gift."
“A farewell gift?”
Jang Maldong stopped commenting. It was because he saw a sad expression flit past Seol Jihu’s face.
He changed the subject.
“How long do you think you’ll take?”
“Four days should be enough. Five days at the most.”
“Five days huh… it shouldn’t be a problem then. Anyways, I won’t say much to someone who has managed to drag himself alive from the Parasite’s territory, but you make sure to be careful, alright?”
Hearing the worried undertone, Seol Jihu, who was tightly packing his bag, paused. Thinking back, it had been a while since he had received someone's heartfelt concern.
It was a little embarrassing, but Jang Maldong felt like his grandfather.
‘Then am I a grandson?’
“Put that gross stare away this instant.”
Jang Maldong spat as he felt Seol’s intent gaze.
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
Seol Jihu pointed at his earring.
“If push comes to shove, I can just activate my Festina Earring and escape.”
“Someone’s certainly talking big. Who was the one boasting about training to not run away again?”
Jang Maldong remarked sarcastically. After an awkward laugh, Seol Jihu lifted up his bag.
“Well, I’ll be off then.”
Seol Jihu left the Carpe Diem office after leaving words of farewell.
[That’s not all either. They say that, as if flipping the carefully prepared ceremony table wasn’t enough, she also refused the altar.]
[The issue was that no one knew what went wrong. Not to mention that there was no way to communicate, it was just utter chaos. It wasn’t as if anyone touched anything or was disrespectful…]
[But they supposedly weren’t denied entry though. There was no sign of refusal, and at first, the black smoke looked like it was excitedly swishing around the attendants. Then suddenly…]
[Well. According to Princess Teresa, it strangely looked like a little girl throwing a tantrum because she didn’t like her present.]
Ian voiced his opinion of whether the spirit had finally lost its ego and transformed into a complete evil spirit, but Seol Jihu thought otherwise.
He couldn’t deny that the poor spirit was born from massive amounts of resentment, but she was still a pure spirit with clear consciousness.
Most importantly, if it had fully transformed into an evil spirit, then everyone who had entered the Forest of Denial would have been massacred.
But the fact remained that not one of them died.
Thus, there must have been a reason for its actions. A reason as to why the Ghost Saintess threw a fit.
‘What made her do that?’
In a way, the Ghost Saintess was an extreme example of the Golden Commandment.
She would be as cruel as a witch to those who harmed the grave, but as generous as a saint to those who showed respect.
He didn’t know why she got angry this time and was honestly afraid of getting lashed at.
But ever since he became determined to live according to the Golden Commandment, Seol Jihu never once considered the option of not visiting. He needed to repay her favor of saving his life.
Seol Jihu carefully placed the things he was holding into his pocket and picked up his pace.
Seol Jihu unhesitantly entered the Forest of Denial after getting off at Napal Hill. Because he had already come here on several occasions, he knew the road to the grave like the back of his hand.
Excluding the one time he felt like he wanted to deny the existence of his sister, the trip was relatively smooth. As soon as his destination came into view, Seol Jihu opened his mouth.
“It’s me! I’m here!”
But in spite of raising his voice to shout out several times, the door didn’t fling open like it usually did. There was no reaction.
Considering that she always rushed over whenever he had called previously, this definitely wasn’t a good sign.
A moment later, Seol Jihu arrived at the secluded grave in the middle of the Forest of Denial.
The area near the grave was dead silent. It was a place where even monsters were hesitant to approach. The grave was covered in a gloomy and ominous atmosphere.
Nothing happened when he carefully knocked on the entrance after calling out one more time.
Why was there no sign of refusal but at the same time, no response? After hesitating for a while, Seol Jihu extended his arm.
“Excuse me. I’ll be coming in.”
And at the moment he was going to open the door—
An expression of disbelief dawned on Seol Jihu’s face.
‘It won’t open?’
The door didn’t budge. No matter how much he forced it, the door showed no signs of opening.
Finally, after a long time of wrestling with the door, he retreated with no results.
Maybe he was just unlucky. Thinking that the Saintess might have taken a stroll outside, he plopped down on the grass to wait for her return.
They said the black smoke was there the last time they came. At this point, his imagination started roaming wild, thinking that she might even be dealing with the Parasites that came back for revenge.
After waiting for over an hour, Seol Jihu let loose a deep sigh.
‘There’s nothing I can do about it, I guess.’
He couldn’t just dumbly wait here day and night. Eventually, he slowly stood up.
It was then…
As Seol Jihu bent his body to lift his bag, a stone the size of a bean, hit his head. But unable to feel it, Seol Jihu turned his body.
Seol Jihu flinched. He touched his neck with his hand.
Rubbing a small piece of rock between his thumb and forefinger, he swiftly looked around the grave.
He could see it clearly. The black smoke hiding behind the grave.
Seol Jihu’s eyes became as wide as lanterns.
Rushing over to the other side, there was a cloud of black smoke in a corner as expected. As if it was hiding.
“Y-You were there?”
“Why are you hiding here…”
A pouting Ghost Saintess.
As Seol Jihu felt troubled, the smoke seemed to try to inch away from him.
It didn’t forget to leave a snort before leaving.
“Wait a second!”
Seol Jihu hesitated after extending his arm forward reflexively. He was trying to stop it from leaving, but thinking through the smoke didn’t have a physical form. It couldn’t be caught.
…Yeah. It was obviously like that.
[Noooooo! Let go!]
It got caught?
To be precise, the smoke stopped in place as soon as his hands touched it.
Seol Jihu rubbed his eyes repeatedly at the unbelievable sight.
It was logically impossible. Waving his hand around, he was sure that his hands passed right through the smoke.
But it told him to let go.
Unable to wave because of his confusion, Seol Jihu staggered backwards. The smoke turned around and slipped away.
Barely getting back to his senses, Seol Jihu hurriedly chased after the smoke.
‘Did the smoke stop intentionally?’
This thought suddenly came to his mind, but it wasn’t important at the moment. He told himself that since the jet-black smoke was the Ghost Saintess’ soul, it could have different properties than that of gases.
But what he still couldn’t understand was why the door that had been sealed shut all this time was now wide open.
Seol Jihu desperately called out, barging into the entryway.
The black smoke was huddled in a corner. Seol Jihu cautiously approached it like a hunter stalking its prey.
“I heard… that you chased out the people that visited.”
As soon as he said that, the upper part of the smoke turned sideways. Was it an illusion or did it looked like it turned its head?
Seol Jihu continued talking as if he was calming a pouting child.
“I don’t think you’re angry without a reason.”
“May I know why?”
As if his polite manner got through, the smoke began fidgeting. Seol Jihu cautiously sat down next to it. He began to patiently wait, as it didn’t look like it’d try to escape again.
After a minute or two, a voice could be heard from the fidgeting cloud of smoke.
“Pink hair…. The Princess?”
[Mmm… yeah… She irritated me….]
“What did Princess Teresa say?"
[I-I don’t know.]
"You…. don’t know?”
Teresa had misspoken and caused the Ghost Saintess to get irritated. And when he asked what she said, she replied with an “I don’t know.”
'What in the…'
Seol Jihu rubbed his face with both his hands.
'What on earth am I even supposed to do?'
Seol Jihu quietly closed his eyes. He suddenly remembered a heated debate that he had with Yoo Seonhwa.
[Jihu. People are capable of logical thinking, but they’re also emotional creatures.]
[Sympathy is also important. How can a person always stay rational?]
[Hey! I’m not joking. Be serious.]
[Dunno. Hug me.]
[See? You act so spoiled whenever you feel like it, and even when you’re wrong, you’re always so demanding!]
[But you let me.]
[Yeah fine. You can be like that with me. Because I like you. But—]
[So soft and cushiony…]
‘I was happy then….'
Ignorant of his humiliating past, Seol Jihu remained immersed in his recollections, only coming back to reality when a sound echoed in his mind.
[I couldn’t find you… but she kept on chattering so I got irritated…]
What? Come again?
Seol Jihu gave up trying to understand. While he was sure Princess Teresa would never do that, and that he had to listen to both sides to judge, he decided to solely take the Ghost Saintess’ side for now.
“The Princess was wrong.”
“She should have kept her manners when she visited your grave. It would have been better if she had just kept quiet.”
[Y-You think so too? I was so disappointed that you didn’t come when I was waiting for you for so long. But she kept saying that you were busy and couldn’t come, that I had to understand, and ughh! I almost thought that she was making excuses as your wife or something!]
The Ghost Saintess started chattering nonstop as if she was never angry to begin with. Seol Jihu silently thanked Yoo Seonhwa.
“Anyway, it was all Princess Teresa’s fault.”
[Yup, yup. You’re right.]
As if siding with her made her happy, the black smoke bounced up and down. It looked like she was feeling better, so it was time to move on to the main act.
"Saintess. Aren’t you hungry?”
"Wait just a minute."
Seol Jihu started taking out the ingredients he had packed one by one. He then lit a fire and placed a pan over it.
He smiled as he heard the sound of water boiling.
"I’ll cook you a meal."
What Seol Jihu prepared as a farewell gift was his personal cooking. It was called buddae-jjigae.
Buddae-jjigae was definitely unusual in Paradise of all places, but as most of the ingredients were permitted for entry, it wasn’t hard to procure them.
Anyways, his long experience of living alone made him confident in his cooking, and above anything else, he wanted to show the Ghost Saintess a taste of his homeland.
The Ghost Saintess started floating around him as if she was showing interest.
"It’s chili pepper."
"That’s not what I meant!"
A shrieking Ghost Saintess and a troubled young man. As they bantered back and forth, the dish that Seol Jihu cooked with care was finally done.
To his usual preferences, he sliced in chili pepper and green onions, and sprinkled in a lot of chili powder….
Soon, the tomb was filled with a spicy, mouth-watering aroma.
Seol Jihu took a sip and shivered, indicating his satisfaction with his dish. Next to him, the Ghost Saintess who had been waiting swallowed her saliva.
Since she had continuously pestered him throughout the cooking process, Seol Jihu handed her a very big ladle of the buddae-jjigae.
"You can try it now."
"Yes. But it’s hot so blow on it before you do."
As he said that, the smoke let loose small puffs of air.
Seol Jihu broke up in laughter after seeing what looked like lips appear within the smoke.
The moment the smoke touched the soup…
A shrill squeak was heard.
"How is it?"
Instead of a reply, a stream of water spouted from the smoke.
Like a flamethrower, a hot stream of air shot out from the smoke.
He finally realized that the Ghost Saintess was screaming for water. His usual preference must have been too much for her to handle.
Seol Jihu hurriedly took out a bottle of water and sprayed it. The black smoke immediately charged for the puddle of water on the ground.
Seeing the spirit squirming in the puddle made Seol Jihu not know what to do, but hearing her start to whimper made him burst out into laughter.
How should he put it? It was like a cub licking up the water, and it was just too cute to look at.
He was met with a strong glare. He tried covering his laughter, but it was too late. The black smoke started fuming and after swaying a bit, it charged at him.
Hit by the overwhelming momentum, Seol Jihu was knocked over without a speck of resistance.
"Sorry! Aak! I’m sorry! Aak!"
[You did it on purpose! To tease me!]
"Nonono! I swear I… aak …didn’t!!"
Seol Jihu’s head was bitten and his ears were stretched.
Compared to when the intruder’s neck had been twisted off or when the Parasites were ripped into pieces, this was a far lighter punishment.
“It hurts, pfft! It hurts, pffft!”
For a while, the tomb was filled with an unusual scene of a young man and a spirit wrestling each other.