Flone flew for a long time even after leaving the villa and only stopped when Seol Jihu told her to.
After throwing Phi Sora down and landing on the ground, he got on his fours and panted.
Perhaps because he ran away as if to bake beans on lightning, he didn’t even remember how he managed to escape.
Only the darkness that dyed the entire fourth floor black remained in his mind, and the goosebumps on his back still had not subsided.
What if he wasn’t lucky enough to meet Flone’s grandfather? What if the spirits of the massacred expedition team didn’t throw themselves forward to stop the darkness?
No, if he didn’t ‘choose’ to bring Phi Sora out, would they have helped him so desperately?
Several thoughts brushed past his mind, giving him goosebumps once again.
‘Damned Nine Eyes. If there was something so terrifying, shouldn’t the villa have looked black?’
Seol Jihu cursed his Innate Ability without knowing his position.
Of course, he had experienced something similar a couple of times before, and guessed that the villa had something that went beyond ‘Escape Immediately’ in importance. But since he almost died, he couldn’t help but resent the Nine Eyes a little bit.
Flone was looking in the direction of the villa. Seeing her staring endlessly made Seol Jihu feel sad and a little bitter, but he didn’t have the slightest desire of going back inside.
He would rather throw the camouflage helmet on his head and hide behind a nearby rock.
Seol Jihu opened his mouth.
“…What do you think was that?”
Flone slowly turned around, then shook her head.
[I don’t know. Grandpa was really startled too.]
[Yeah. I heard him muttering, “There’s no way it should be awake. It normally doesn’t leave the emperor’s bedroom…”]
In other words, opening the wrong door on the fourth floor might have ended his life.
[Anyways, are you okay?]
Seol Jihu wanted to say, ‘No, I’m not fine at all. Why did you insist on entering?’ But when he saw Flone’s eyes heading down, he also moved his gaze down.
Phi Sora, who was having trouble breathing when he threw her down on the ground, was now sleeping peacefully as if such a thing had never happened.
“She looks peaceful.”
[People are normally at peace before entering eternal sleep. I know that because I experienced it.]
“Chet, she sure has it nice. Sleeping when I almost died…. Wait. Eternal sleep?”
Flone nodded her head. When Seol Jihu stared at her fixedly, she leisurely pointed at Phi Sora.
[Her spirit is ready to leave her body.]
“Huh? No way.”
Seol Jihu put his finger under Phi Sora’s nose.
She wasn’t breathing. Before he even noticed, her ripe, peach-colored complexion had withered and turned pale.
“Mi, Miss Phi Sora?”
Even when he shook her and slapped her cheeks with a little bit of his true feelings behind it, her response was null.
Even when he poured a healing potion down her throat, she didn’t move.
Having thought that just cutting the rope was enough, it was only now that he began to give her emergency treatment. Recalling his past experience of learning how to perform CPR, he interlocked his fingers and diligently put pressure on Phi Sora’s chest.
But as she showed no signs of breathing again, he pressed down harder and tried mouth-to-mouth.
Seol Jihu put his mouth against Phi Sora’s cold lips and blew air into it.
He could feel Flone tacitly pulling on his hair, but he ignored her and focused on giving CPR.
He knew Phi Sora would die if left alone. She wasn’t someone evil like Kang Seok nor was she someone who invited much danger in being saved. Just ignoring her… felt wrong.
Plus, it didn’t sit right with him to laugh and leave her be, just because she had been a bit temperamental earlier.
‘In a way, I had a slip of the tongue too.’
At the very least, he felt like he needed to do what he could, to not feel guilty if Phi Sora died.
He knew killing her painlessly might be easier, but he didn’t want to be that numb to killing yet.
How much time went by?
After repeatedly performing mouth-to-mouth dozens of times while sweating profusely….
A burst of breath finally broke out. A flash of light flickered in Seol Jihu’s eyes. When he pressed down on Phi Sora’s chest harder, she coughed.
When he blew air into her mouth one more time, Seol Jihu could feel her hot breath gently touch his mouth.
Her thin, long eyelashes quivered and her eyes shot open.
Confirming that she had revived, Seol Jihu took his mouth off. As he raised his body, he fell on his butt. He spat on the ground before tilting his head and looking up at the sky.
Phi Sora blinked and blankly rolled her eyes. She was clearly confused.
‘I know exactly what that feels like.’
As Seol Jihu had narrowly escaped from death many times, he fully understood what Phi Sora was going through.
After staring absent-mindedly for several minutes, Phi Sora wiped her lips with the back of her hand and gently raised her upper body. With a trembling hand, she rubbed her neck, which still had a clear rope mark around it. Her eyebrows perked up.
Her voice wasn’t clear like it used to be, but hoarse.
Rather than explaining himself in a roundabout way, Seol Jihu decided to be commanding. Of course, he couldn’t tell her everything truthfully, so he mixed in the right amount of lies.
Phi Sora furrowed her brows.
“There’s no way that old man would form a rescue team….”
Judging by her murmurings, it seemed Phi Sora knew Bok Jungsik was looking for the opportunity to kick her out.
Seol Jihu decided to use this to his advantage.
“I didn’t come to rescue White Rose.”
“Mm… there’s someone who doesn’t wish for you to die. I came here to fulfill this request.”
Seol Jihu thought about selling Jang Maldong’s name if she asked who specifically.
“I got it. I think I know who it is…. Anyways, you mean you came here without White Rose knowing?”
“What do you mean, ‘Uh….’ If you said you were going to save me, that Bok bastard would have surely thrown a fit about the ruin to try and stop you.”
Phi Sora clicked her tongue before glancing at Seol Jihu.
“Well, I understand what you’re saying, so don’t worry. You saved my life… I’m not such a bitch that I wouldn’t understand your position.”
Seol Jihu was glad she was misunderstanding things on her own, but what was more surprising was that his words got through her.
Seol Jihu stared at Phi Sora with a look of surprise.
Jang Maldong had told him that Phi Sora had a ‘black and white’ mentality. That she separated people into friend or foe.
“Let me ask you something.”
Seol Jihu abruptly asked.
“Did you not receive White Rose’s message?”
Phi Sora asked back.
“What do you mean? Forget about receiving a message. We contacted Bok Jungsik more than a dozen times, but he never responded.”
“What? He never messaged you? Not even once?”
“We didn’t receive a single message ever since we left White Rose. Not from Bok Jungsik or anyone else.”
‘The moment they left White Rose?’
That meant Bok Jungsik had not contacted her even before they entered the villa. Of course, Bok Jungsik could always find an excuse for this.
Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
“Anyways, did you come to the rescue alone…?”
Phi Sora asked with a quizzical look before suddenly looking around the area frantically.
When she realized Seol Jihu was the only one there, her jaw dropped.
“Where’s everyone else?”
The expected question finally came. Rather than responding immediately, Seol Jihu silently shook his head.
Phi Sora clenched her teeth before standing up. When she staggered past Seol Jihu, his hand snatched the back of her neck.
“Hear me out before you leave.”
Phi Sora came to a sudden halt, turning around and glaring sharply at Seol Jihu.
“They’re all dead. I’ve seen at least ten corpses, though I’m not sure if there were more.”
Seol Jihu said while roughly estimating the number of corpses stopping the darkness.
“I barely, barely escaped from that place alive. If you go back, I guarantee you will die. But if you still want to go, I won’t stop you.”
Phi Sora gave him a strong glare before quickly taking out a communication crystal. When she clutched it tightly, the crystal emitted a pure light.
She murmured to herself while staring at the crystal restlessly. However, the intensity of crystal’s light remained the same. But as she was repeating the same procedure several times without giving up, light suddenly burst out.
Phi Sora shouted happily.
“Sohyun, Sohyun! Are you okay? Where are you? Are you alive? Say something!”
Seol Jihu furrowed his brows. The call had gone through, but only darkness was reflected in the crystal.
When an indescribably dreadful sound rang out, the frantically screaming Phi Sora flinched.
—Wheeeere aaarre yooouuu… coooomee baackk….
—Saaavvveee meeee… Unnnniii….
—Yoooou raannn aaawwaayyy… allooonnee….
It was an unpleasant sound of something scratching a metal plate.
Seol Jihu sighed as he looked at Phi Sora who had become speechless and was standing in a daze.
The eerie voice was decipherable, but even Phi Sora knew that it was a trap.
Seol Jihu carefully spoke up.
“You already know it….”
Tk. The crystal ball fell on the sand and flickered off. Phi Sora’s legs went limp and she fell on her knees.
“…I don’t know….”
She muttered in a weak voice.
“I’m sure… there were four people left… we ran away… and I said I would be the bait….”
“We barely managed to escape… but it was suddenly too silent… I told them to leave while I was attracting its attention… but I didn’t hear them running away….”
“It was too quiet… and strange… so I went back in a hurry… and everyone was….”
Gulp, gulp. Seol Jihu could hear the sound of her swallowing.
“I just don’t know… I couldn’t think from that point… I went crazy, wanting to find it and kill it… and suddenly, everything turned black….”
Phi Sora muttered as though she was entranced before suddenly burying her face in the sand.
Seol Jihu bent down and quietly stared at the woman clenching her fists and gritting her teeth.
If she were to be blamed, it would be because she made the decision to enter that villa.
‘Wait, now that I think about it….’
Seol Jihu still had a question left unsolved.
Why did that villa appear colorless?
Hoping to see the villa’s change in color from a distance, Seol Jihu activated his Nine Eyes and was shocked speechless.
The villa wasn’t the problem. The whole shore had changed its color.
From yellow to orange. From Attention Required to Do Not Approach.
The situation had developed in the worst possible way.
Now wasn’t the time to just sit around like this.
Seol Jihu glanced at Flone who had canceled her materialization before he noticed. Her lower lip was protruding out in a pout, but she obediently approached him and got ready to fly.
“Miss Phi Sora! Come here.”
“Come into my arms. Hurry.”
Seol Jihu opened his arms. Phi Sora blinked several times before spitting out with a stunned expression.
“A-Are you crazy?”
“I didn’t think you were someone like this— I mean, I’m thankful that you saved me, but this is just wrong! You could have at least started off with consoling me a bit….”
“Cut the crap.”
Seol Jihu spat out angrily. He was already in a rush, and wasn’t in the mood for Phi Sora’s nonsense.
It wasn’t as if he didn’t realize that his words could have been misinterpreted. But the fact that the color of danger had increased by a level meant that it was possible for it to increase again.
He had to escape when he still could.
“This is the Parasites’ territory. We have to leave as soon as possible.”
Realizing this, Phi Sora went ‘Ah’ and got up.
“But how are we going to—”
“God! I have a good method! So hurry!”
When Seol Jihu shouted, Phi Sora shrunk back a bit in a startle. But Seol Jihu was only acting this way in fear of the color becoming red - Immediate Retreat Recommended.
“Then you should have said so first!”
Not knowing the situation, Phi Sora shouted back.
“Why are you shouting after saying something that can easily be misinterpreted!? I’m sad enough already….”
While shouting with a sobbing voice, tears began to well up around her large eyes.
“I got it, so hurry!”
Seol Jihu swallowed his anger and softened his voice. Thankfully, Phi Sora was experienced and didn’t have her head stuck up her ass. She obediently grabbed Seol Jihu’s arm.
Although she was startled when Seol Jihu sighed and suddenly pulled her in his embrace, but when they started flying up in the next moment, she could only make a confused face.
Seol Jihu took the initiative.
“It’s a flying artifact.”
“Yes, I found it in a ruin by chance. It’s bound to its user and has limited use. Anyways, don’t ask about it further.”
“W-Who asked you about it?”
“I’m telling you not to go around spreading rumors.”
“Then you should have said so. Geez.”
Phi Sora pouted.
However, the silently listening Flone seemed aggrieved.
[I’m not a flying artifact! I don’t have limited use!]
[Why did you lie!]
Because of Flone’s endless protest, Seol Jihu nodded his head and apologized secretly.
The male and female duo… no, the trio didn’t say a word as they crossed the quiet morning ocean.
When the Nine Eyes returned to green color, Seol Jihu was finally able to relax.
Phi Sora was docilely holding onto his body. Seol Jihu couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry when he saw her looking down at the ocean blankly and meekly.
She had lost seventeen of her comrades, some of whom she had been together with since the Tutorial. It wasn’t surprising for her to be a bit out of her mind.
Seol Jihu smacked his lips and finally said something.
“At the villa….”
“Many, no, more than many remained.”
Seol Jihu felt a strange gaze piercing his chin, but he kept his eyes out front.
“Your comrades, I mean. They remained at the villa after they died. Because they were worried about you.”
“What do you mean? Didn’t they die?”
“I both saw and heard them. A young Priest guided me to the room you were in and asked me to save you. She helped me escape as well”
Phi Sora’s eyes widened when she heard the words ‘young Priest’, but Seol Jihu couldn’t see her.
“She stopped that thing desperately. It was thanks to her that we were able to escape with you.”
“You can believe it or not. It’s your choice.”
“…Well, I guess it’s better than soulless comforting words like ‘Cheer up’.”
With that, the conversation ended. But soon, Seol Jihu felt his arm shaking faintly. When he looked, he saw Phi Sora crying. Although she had turned and was facing the ocean, Phi Sora was crying soundlessly.
Seeing her teardrops fall onto the ocean, Seol Jihu couldn’t help but think how disciplined she was.
Was it when he confirmed Dylan’s death?
To be frank, he felt he would go berserk if he lost even a single member of Carpe Diem.
Seol Jihu didn’t say anything and went back to looking straight ahead. Only, he slightly loosened the grip of his arm and carried Phi Sora more comfortably, like carrying a princess.
Just like that, time passed. As the sun began to rise over the horizon…
A harbor began to appear in the distance.
It was the port of Nur.Previous Chapter Next Chapter