How much time went by?
After agonizing for close to 10 minutes, Seol Jihu was just barely able to escape the Ghost Saintess’s grasp. To be honest, it was more correct to say that the Ghost Saintess had let him go.
“Ow, ow, ow….”
Sitting on the ground and massaging his temples, Seol Jihu glanced to the side. The black smoke was sticking to the wall.
She was sulking again.
Seol Jihu giggled.
‘I’m so happy.’
Should he say refreshing or invigorating? He never imagined things would go like this when he had found the tomb with Samuel’s team.
Thinking about it now, how long had it been since he let loose and played around like this?
Looking back at the past few months, he had been quite busy, from the rescue mission, the training, participating in the Banquet, etc.
He felt his emotions wear down as he busily experienced all these matters, but now that he put his worries away and fooled around with the Ghost Saintess, he felt a whole lot better. Almost like the time when he was discharged from the army, he felt full of life and ready to try anything.
‘So this is why people advise others to go on healing trips.’
Seol Jihu flipped over. Lying on his stomach, he cupped his chin and stared at the black smoke pouting angrily.
She seemed to know what he did wasn’t on purpose as she responded with an angry voice.
“Can you show me your face?”
[My face? Why?]
“I want to see it.”
He didn’t have a hobby of looking at corpses. It was just that he was a bit curious.
‘When was it again?’
He’d caught a glimpse of the Ghost Saintess’ back in the past. He remembered it looking too clean to be a dead person’s body.
There was that cold air coming out of the coffin as well.
He guessed that there had to be a reason. Otherwise, it simply didn’t make sense for a centuries-old corpse to have been preserved spotlessly.
However, the Ghost Saintess’ answer was ‘No’.
[Unless it is absolutely necessary, I don’t like seeing myself, and I don’t like showing myself either.]
Seol Jihu flinched hearing her clear refusal. As if she suddenly grew cold and serious, he felt terrifying malice flooding toward him like hail.
He wondered if he shouldn’t have asked.
[No. It’s not your fault.]
When the young man became depressed, the spirit quickly flew toward him.
[I’m not angry with you…. It’s just that one of the reasons I’m trapped in this forest is because of my body.]
This was something unexpected.
“I thought that a barrier was placed around the Forest of Denial.”
[It is. But the medium of that is the spell engraved on my body.]
Seol Jihu tilted his head.
[It’s easy if you picture a shackle. I’m dead, but my soul is forcefully tied to my body, and my body is tied to the forest.]
[It must be. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be like this. You see, my real body from when I was alive has already rotted away. I’m just reconstructing it when I want to, using the vital energy of the forest.]
In other words, the body in the coffin wasn’t a corpse, but a mysterious lump of energy formed with condensed resentment, just like the black smoke.
“Why… why did they go so far?”
[I don’t know. I think they just thought of all possibilities.]
[Those goddamned sons of bitches were afraid of me that much. I bet they did all they could to stop my corpse from being taken out of the forest.]
“Something like that happened?”
[Just once. My mother did it. She must have wanted to save me no matter what. But…]
Her voice trembled as she paused.
Seol Jihu didn’t fully understand what she meant, but this so-called sage who had established the barrier must have strengthened it by installing two or three layers.
The Ghost Saintess didn’t say anything. She simply drew a circle in the air and floated around in low spirits.
Seol Jihu’s eyes followed the wriggling spirit until he caught sight of a fancy coffin.
Organizing the information regarding the matter, the corpse inside the coffin acted as an intermediary link. In other words, releasing the seal on the body would not only lift the barrier, but it would also allow this pitiful woman’s soul to become free.
Hesitation brushed past Seol Jihu’s face.
His expression as he intently stared at the coffin turned complicated and subtle.
‘I think it’s possible, but….’
It wasn’t as if he didn’t have greed.
To Seol Jihu, the Ghost Saintess was the Giving Tree. He could visit her and relax, just like today, and she sometimes gave him amazing gifts as well.
I can’t. I shouldn’t.
Seol Jihu realized how selfish it was to hope this comfort would last forever.
The Ghost Saintess had been buried alive at the flowering age of her maidenhood. Seol Jihu couldn’t even begin to fathom how she must have felt during the hundreds of years she had to endure loneliness and injustice.
It would have been one thing if he couldn’t do anything about it. No matter how regrettable it might be, now that he had a method, he couldn’t just ignore it.
Seol Jihu took in a short breath, then asked.
“What’s your name, Miss Saintess?”
[Me? Flonecia Lusignan La Rothschear]
When Seol Jihu was taken aback by the unexpected long name, the Ghost Saintess giggled.
[Flone. You can call me Flone.]
“Flone…. That’s a cute name.”
She was emitting a murderous intent just a minute ago, but now she was smiling at a single comment.
Seol Jihu pursed his lips as if he wanted to enjoy this moment a bit longer.
But if there were meetings in life, there were also farewells.
It was better for goodbyes to be short.
Seol Jihu got straight to the point.
“Flone, don’t you want to get out of here?”
She answered without a moment of hesitation.
Seol Jihu smiled openly.
“I’ll help you.”
Flone must have realized his intentions as she spoke with a dejected voice.
[I have tried thousands, no, tens of thousands of times. But no matter how much of a mess I made, the barrier didn’t disappear.]
Hearing her depressed voice, Seol Jihu shoved his hand into his pocket.
“You never know until you try all options.”
“I should be able to make it disappear.”
Seol Jihu spoke as he took out a bead shining in purple light.
[What’s that? It’s pretty.]
“It’s an artifact that’s perfect for canceling barriers and spells.”
Seol Jihu articulated clearly.
This bead was the item he had traded with Competence. According to the man who previously possessed it, he had once discovered an ancient, secret. Apparently, he couldn’t even think about entering it because of the sheer scale of the barrier and traps protecting the place.
Although he escaped because he feared for his life, he said that he was always curious about what was inside it.
The problem was that he had obtained this bead when he sold the information about the ruin a few days before entering the Banquet.
When Seol Jihu heard about this, he immediately agreed to the trade.
Although the purple bead had a limited number of uses, it had the ability to dismantle spells and traps in a wide-area.
Of course, he had no way to guarantee that this would work. However…
Seol Jihu laughed bashfully.
“It’s an artifact containing the power of the Seven Gods. I don’t know how great that Sage guy is, but he’s only human.”
Right. No matter how skilled this Sage was, he was only human.
It wouldn’t make sense for him to be able to combat the power of gods.
Although Flone knew what Seol Jihu was saying, she remained silent. She had tried to escape this place countless times and failed, and now she also lost count of the number of times she despaired as a result.
As such, she couldn’t speak easily. She knew she wouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t hold any expectations. She had gotten too tired of being hurt.
But seeing Flone hesitate, Seol Jihu quickly struck up a conversation.
“Mm… I’ll tell you this now. Thank you for helping me out in various ways. I’m truly grateful. Rest peacefully now, Flone.”
Flone didn’t say anything.
Seol Jihu smacked his lips.
Like the saying, ‘seeing is believing’, showing her once seemed better than telling her about it a hundred times.
Well, he would have to say goodbye the moment he did though.
Seol Jihu’s slow steps stopped in front of the coffin. Then, he slowly placed the purple bead against it.
[You don’t really have to….]
A depressed voice rang out.
[It will be a waste. You should use that valuable artifact on something more worthwhile.]
Flone tried to stop him, but Seol Jihu shook his head.
“There’s nothing more worthwhile than this.”
Then, he calmly continued.
“Even if this fails… I’ll bring something else.”
“I promise. If this bead doesn’t work, I’ll bring something else to free you. A stronger, more effective method.”
Flone didn’t answer. The black smoke twisted around in the air, and Seol Jihu wondered how he should interpret this motion.
But that only lasted a moment.
If he hesitated any longer, he felt like his determination would crumble down. No, it was already wavering.
With a deep breath, Seol Jihu roused his mana. Then, when he pushed it into the bead at once—
Light sparkled on the bead before disappearing. Seol Jihu’s vision was dyed in white and then quickly returned to normal.
When he continued to steadily infuse his mana into the bead…
A vigorous vibration resounded in the tomb.
Suddenly, the noise intensified, and Seol Jihu felt a heavy energy touch his body before passing through him.
Woong! Woong! Woong! Woong!
Like a traffic light, the intensely vibrating bead began to flicker with radiant light.
As his vision began to blur, Seol Jihu was able to witness something. Every time the bead shook, a huge current wavered in the air above the bead.
Like a droplet of water falling onto a smooth mirror-like surface and causing a ripple, the formless energy continued to spread out while drawing circles in the air. It was truly a marvelous sight.
Suddenly, cracks began to appear on the vibrating coffin…
Then, it instantly exploded.
Flone must have been shocked too as she let out a long, surprised gasp.
Seol Jihu didn’t know what was happening to her, but she recognized the changes.
[Really… it really…!]
With that, the voice cut off.
Next, the black smoke disappeared as if it was being sucked in by the shattered coffin.
Soon, a frail maiden floated up with the remnants of the coffin dropping down.
As this was Seol Jihu’s first time seeing the Ghost Saintess from the front, Seol Jihu was caught by her appearance almost instinctively.
She was truly a beautiful girl.
From her well-defined facial features to her simple expression, she exuded a strange, inexplicable charm.
The same went for the small hands that were gently placed on her belly, the white skin that was hard to tell apart from the spotless white clothing she was wearing, and the silver, moonlit hair that flowed down like a waterfall.
Then, Flone slowly turned around as she opened her eyes slightly.
Seol Jihu’s jaw dropped a little.
Flone had very faint black pupils that made her look as if she had white eyes. Perhaps because of the light of the bead, they gave off a mystical air.
Seol Jihu stuttered while asking.
“Did… did it work?”
Although her mouth was closed, she gave a muffled yes and nodded her head.
[Every time the energy of the bead pulsates out, the barrier and the spell are melting down. No, they have already melted down.]
“I didn’t feel anything.”
[But how? This easily?]
The way she was muttering to herself, it seemed that she still found it hard to believe.
She looked around her surroundings before shaking tearfully.
Eventually, she burst into tears.
The Ghost Saintess’ tears weren’t transparent like a human’s, but were blood red. Clear tears of blood flowed down from her white eyes.
However, she didn’t look horrifying. The rather mystical aura she was giving off made Seol Jihu mumble as if he was enchanted.
Flone raised her weeping head.
“It’s all over now.”
No one could blame the Ghost Saintess for finding it hard to believe. What she failed to achieve for hundreds of years had been solved by the young man this easily.
When her uncertain, sad gaze landed on Seol Jihu, he grinned.
“I told you it would work.”
[W-What do I do? What do I do now?]
“What do you mean? You suffered a lot until now.”
Deeply moved, Flone couldn’t continue her words. The way she looked back at the burial accessories scattered around the coffin and searched around, it seemed she wanted to repay the favor somehow.
However, Seol Jihu was happy just knowing that the Ghost Saintess was freed.
With this, he had repaid the debt of her saving his life.
He had kept the Golden Rule.
Flone grabbed a clanging accessory and reached out with her hands.
Feeling like she was putting something around his neck, Seol Jihu looked down. There, he saw a beautiful necklace with a blue gem.
It was a keepsake from Flone’s mother, which she deeply cherished.
“Can I really take this?”
Seol Jihu shook his head. He didn’t think it would be a bad idea to have something to remind him of their relationship.
“I’ll take good care of it.”
Before Seol Jihu noticed, the inside of the tomb was filled with light and vibration and turned into a place where sound could barely be heard.
Even Flone was barely visible due to being covered by a cluster of light.
Even though Seol Jihu swore to send her off without regrets, now that he was faced with the inevitable moment, he felt his heart become empty.
When they first met.
[It must have been really hard.]
When she saved his life and comforted him.
[I’ll give you this, so stop crying.]
When she consoled him while he was crying.
When she sent him off with a warm farewell.
The moments he shared with Flone flitted past his mind. Looking back, he felt like he had only received, and not given.
Although he was facing a blinding light, he put strength into his eyes to keep them open. Seeing Flone transform into particles of light, Seol Jihu realized she would disappear soon.
Although there were many things he wanted to say….
Seol Jihu shot his arms up…
And released the emotions swirling inside his chest.
“Goodbye, Miss Saintess!”
A flash of light burst out. The feast of light sweeping out in all directions was too blindingly dazzling that Seol Jihu had to close his eyes shut.
When he opened them up again…
Flone was nowhere to be seen.
The light had disappeared, and the vibrations had subsided. The purple bead was also broken into pieces. Only three or four burial accessories were lying around him.
Seol Jihu stared fixedly at the scattered particles of light. Many things disappeared, and the tomb regained its silence.
“So she’s gone….”
He muttered briefly with a voice laced with both sadness and lightness.
After standing still for a long time, Seol Jihu tightly squeezed the necklace Flone had put around his neck.
Then, he let out a long sigh.
[Don’t grab it so hard. It hurts.]
Seol Jihu quickly opened his palm.
[Let’s get out of here first. Ah, don’t forget to take those too, alright?]
“I can? Thank you.”
Seol Jihu paused suddenly. He had responded thoughtlessly, but who was he talking to?
His neck felt itchy.
When the startled Seol Jihu looked down, his eyes were almost torn from widening too much.
‘The necklace’s color….’
The gem that was emitting a clear, blue glow was now scattered with a black, tainted luster.
It giggled happily.
Seol Jihu blankly stared at the gem that was even dangling side to side by itself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter