Chapter 216. A Dream Inside a Dream (4)

“….”

His cheeks hurt. Damp fog tickled his eyes and caused them to water up. Seol Jihu rubbed his eyes harshly.

He felt like he woke up from a catnap he took in the middle of an exam period.

[Are you okay?]

Flone shoved her face in front of Seol Jihu.

“Yes….”

Seol Jihu replied powerlessly, then turned his gaze.

‘This is…’

He could tell he was in a forest, but he couldn’t see the sky.

[Do you think you can stand up?]

It was then that Seol Jihu realized he was lying down.

‘So that’s why my back felt so comfortable.’

He raised his upper body and immediately became dazed. Everyone was lying down on their backs or stomachs. Their eyes were closed as if they were all sleeping.

At that moment, the bluish light flowed through the fog, glimmering in front of him once again.

[Don’t look!]

Flone placed her hand on Seol Jihu’s head and pushed it down.

“Flone?”

[The same thing happened before!]

Flone shouted impatiently.

[Everyone fainted when the stone suddenly shone!]

“…What?”

[It’s true! Everyone just plopped down one by one…!]

According to Flone, the expedition team had lost consciousness after seeing the light. This had to mean that the light had the power to forcefully put people to sleep.

Seol Jihu quickly turned his back on the dolmen.

“What about you, Flone? You’re okay…?”

[Me? I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong with me.]

Flone didn’t dream. She didn’t even lose consciousness. She had proven that the curse didn’t work on her.

Perhaps it was because she wasn’t a living being, or perhaps it was because members of the Rothschear family were being protected somehow.

[Are you sure you can just sit still?]

Flone asked carefully while Seol Jihu was organizing his thoughts.

[Your comrades… they seem to be in danger. Though it’s not as bad as you.]

Seol Jihu looked around in a startle. Just like Flone said, he could hear groans ringing out everywhere. Everyone looked sick and pale…

“Uek… keuk…”

But there was one person in particular who seemed to be in a serious condition.

“Liar… you’re a liar…”

Phi Sora was drenched in cold sweat, murmuring in her sleep. Seol Jihu wasn’t sure what she was dreaming about, but it was easy to see she was in agony. He shot up, then paused.

He had to save her, but how?

“Flone, you were the one who talked to me in my dream, right?”

[Yeah. You heard me?]

“Yes, how did you talk to me?”

[Well… I’m not sure.]

Flone spoke hesitantly.

[Everyone suddenly collapsed… and I didn’t know what to do. You didn’t wake up when I shook you, and slapping your cheeks didn’t work…]

‘So that’s why my cheeks hurt.’

Seol Jihu asked as he rubbed his chin.

“So?”

[So I put my mouth against the pendant as a last-ditch effort and just shouted….]

“Ah.”

Flone must have shouted when he was in his room wallowing in despair.

[Do you have any idea how worried I was? Your face turned pale and you suddenly had trouble breathing…]

While Flone grumbled quietly, Seol Jihu fell into thought.

‘I don’t have enough information.’

“Flone, did you hear anything else about the pendant?”

[Mm… I think it has some other secrets.]

“Really?”

[Yeah, but Grandpa stopped to tell me to run away, when he was in the middle of telling me about it….]

Flone spoke sulkingly.

[But he said to bring the pendant if we’re going to go search for the inheritance. He said it would work as a lighthouse.]

“Lighthouse?”

[Yep. Even if there is an external threat, he said the ‘promise’ would protect us…]

Seol Jihu bit his lip. He was sure that the pendant would help them find the inheritance, but he had no way of knowing what function it had exactly.

‘At this rate….’

The nightmare was getting more and more intense the longer the dream went on. He had to hurry and wake everyone up.

“Kuk… kuk…”

While Seol Jihu was racking his brain for an answer, Phi Sora’s breathing became irregular.

Now wasn’t the time to hold anything back. Seol Jihu approached Phi Sora as if to clutch at straws. He wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was worth trying the same thing Flone did.

And so just as he held the pendant up with his left hand and rested Phi Sora’s head on his right…

Pzzzt!

An intense current of electricity flowed through his palm to his body.

“Ah…!”

He immediately experienced the feeling of freefall as if the ground vanished and he was descending into an abyss.

[Ehh!?]

As Flone’s voice grew faint, Seol Jihu’s vision instantly blackened.

*

When light returned to his eyes, a familiar scenery was spread out in front of Seol Jihu’s eyes.

An endless sandy beach and a single villa standing on a steep seaside cliff. It was the ancient emperor’s villa.

Seol Jihu was taken aback, but he soon analyzed the situation stoically. He threw his sense out the window when it came to romance, but he was rather quick-witted about things like this.

‘It’s Miss Phi Sora’s dream.’

Seol Jihu arrived at the correct answer instantly. After all, he had touched Phi Sora’s body without staring at the stone’s light. He must have been sucked in when he made contact.

Considering how he could be influenced by the curse, it wasn’t surprising that he was experiencing something different than what Flone did.

This situation wasn’t so bad if his goal was to rescue Phi Sora. Rather than shouting endlessly from the outside world, it was far more efficient to appear in person and help her wake up.

The only problem was that it was dangerous.

‘I don’t have much time.’

Phi Sora was in a dangerous state. Dilly-dallying for too long might end with the dream devouring her alive. As such, Seol Jihu immediately entered the ancient emperor’s villa. He had a feeling he knew where Phi Sora was.

The inside of the villa carried a gloomy atmosphere, but Seol Jihu didn’t think it was dark. Rather, bright light spread out wherever he went and illuminated the area.

Seol Jihu tilted his head, wondering ‘What phenomenon is this?’ His gaze then landed on the pendant.

The pendant was shining several times brighter than before. Looking back, it seemed to be blinking incessantly when he was in his dream. He had just realized too late.

Seol Jihu gave a bitter smile and ran forward at full speed. As soon as he reached the 4th floor, he paused unknowingly.

He had no other choice. Because the things filling up the floor hardly left any room to step forward. He could see several people, who had died during the villa expedition and were likely Phi Sora’s comrades.

[It’s your fault…]

[We died because of your greed! It’s all your fault!]

Seol Jihu doubted his ears. Over ten corpses were pointing their fingers at someone, spitting out spiteful, vicious comments. The evil spirits in the villa were also dancing in the air, enjoying the scene play out.

It was a truly bizarre sight. And in the middle of it all was Phi Sora.

[You goddamn, despicable wench! You dare to run away after killing us all?]

[Die! If you have any conscience left, go kill yourself!]

She was crying. Surrounded by the corpses, Phi Sora was crying quietly with her face buried between her knees. She flinched every time a hateful comment flew her way as though it was spearing her alive.

“I’m sorry… I’m really sorry…”

[Sorry? You think apologizing will fix anything?]

“Then… what should I do…?”

[Didn’t I just say it? You should die too. Now! Kill yourself painfully.]

It was then that Phi Sora lifted her head slightly.

“I just have to die…? Then you’ll forgive me…?”

[Of course! Of course, we’ll forgive you! Hurry, hurry…!]

The corpse rejoiced. Seol Jihu shouted aloud.

“You can’t, Miss Phi Sora!”

Phi Sora flinched. Raising her head and seeing Seol Jihu, she made a dumbfounded expression.

“Miss Phi Sora! This is a dream! A dream!!”

Even so, Phi Sora only stared at him blankly. Seol Jihu raced forward, unable to hold back his frustration. But then, he paused.

The murmurs filling up the 4th floor had subsided before he noticed. He couldn’t even hear a peep. He might be mistaken, but he felt like hundreds of pairs of eyes were glaring at him.

Craaaaaaaaack!

Then suddenly, bone-chilling cracks rang out. The sound was coming from the corpses’ necks.

Their necks creaked 180 degrees sideways until they were all facing Seol Jihu. Seeing their hollow eyes, Seol Jihu groaned inwardly.

[A dream?]

[Kik. So what if it’s a dream? So what?]

They sneered. Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed.

[Wait, he must have walked in here by himself!]

[We can’t let him leave then! Heehee! Heeheehee!]

They burst into creepy laughter before turning around fully. Clear hostility shot out.

[You come here too!]

[Kihihihihi!]

Just as they began to run forward like starving hyenas…

Paat! A brilliant light erupted from the pendant. It was so dazzling that Seol Jihu was blinded momentarily.

Next, screams rang out from all directions in a truly uproarious fashion. Wherever the light shone, the evil spirits would writhe in agony. Only then was Seol Jihu convinced.

‘This pendant!’

Flone’s grandfather had left this pendant for a future generation of the Rothschear family to find the inheritance. The Pagoda of Dreams’ curse worked regardless of whether one was a member of the Rothschear family or not. However, the pendant acted as a shield protecting its holder from being afflicted by the curse.

That was why it kept blinking in Seol Jihu’s dream and helped him wake up through Flone’s voice. Assuming that Flone was unaffected by the curse because she wasn’t a living being, it all made sense.

Knowing this, Seol Jihu was no longer afraid of anything. After all, this pendant was basically a free-pass in finding the Rothschear’s inheritance.

“Alright, Miss Phi Sora!”

As soon as he came to this realization, he quickly went into action. He grabbed Phi Sora’s hand and ran down the stairs swiftly.

Even after leaving the 1st floor, Seol Jihu continued to run without stopping. Although he didn’t really need to run, he forcefully dragged Phi Sora out because she was so down. She was noisy as well.

“Wait, wait!”

Seol Jihu stopped only after running along the sandy beach for a long time. It was because Phi Sora’s legs had become limp and stumbled. Seeing Phi Sora lying face-down on the ground was quite the sight to behold.

“What’s… going on…?”

“A dream. This is a dream. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“Dream? No, I definitely…”

Phi Sora looked extremely confused.

Seol Jihu smacked his lips. He told her about the inconsistencies in this dream world, yet she didn’t show any signs of waking up. The trauma she was suffering must have blown up and influenced her mind somehow. The nightmare seemed to have eaten up her mental state quite a bit.

“But everything is so vivid…”

Seol Jihu was starting to get annoyed, but he held himself back.

‘I was like that too.’

It was just like what Flone said. Someone dreaming wouldn’t necessarily feel that they were dreaming, while someone interfering in a dream would be fully aware that they were in a dream.

But the fact was that he didn’t have much time. The pendant would help them escape, but staying in the dream any longer than necessary wouldn’t help one bit.

So what should he do? How could he break Phi Sora’s nightmare?

He knew how. From his experience, Phi Sora just had to strongly deny that this world was real.

Seol Jihu got on one knee with patience. He got on Phi Sora’s eye-level and carefully wrapped his arms around her shoulders.

“Miss Phi Sora, listen carefully. We experienced something similar in the past, right?”

“That…”

Phi Sora nodded without realizing it. Seol Jihu spoke calmly with a serious face.

“Try to remember. A lot has happened since then. We met because of the Yi siblings’ recruitment issue, you followed me to Carpe Diem, we fought in a war together, then met on Earth.”

Phi Sora’s mouth opened slightly. Seol Jihu didn’t miss this reaction.

“Do you remember what you told me in a fit of anger while we were eating budae-jjigae[1]?”

Phi Sora’s eyes shot open.

“Eh? Wait, now that you mention it, meeting you on Earth was…”

Something that happened after the ancient emperor’s villa incident.

Phi Sora must have realized something as she muttered to herself.

“Right, after the war… I was taking shifts looking after you… then I heard that my friend committed suicide and went to Earth…”

“You said you went to a funeral.”

Seol Jihu felt like he was poking at a painful memory, but there wasn’t a better proof. Phi Sora’s faint eyes slowly became clearer.

“…Then.”

Phi Sora’s complexion regained its color, and she muttered with a subdued voice.

“Fuck, this is a dream.”

She spat out a curse. Seol Jihu smiled.

Right, this was Phi Sora.

“Since when—”

“We can think about the details later. You’re not the only one who’s asleep. We need to hurry.”

Seol Jihu spoke firmly.

“Why don’t you wake up now, Princess Phi Sora? If it’s too hard—”

Nervousness blazed up inside him, but Seol Jihu tried to keep a straight face and muttered shamelessly.

“Do you want me to give you a kiss?”

“What?”

Phi Sora’s eyebrows perked up.

“You son of a— aack!”

Thwack!

“Keuk!”

As soon as Phi Sora woke up, she rolled around on the ground with Seol Jihu. She had smashed her forehead into him while getting up reflexively.

“…You have terrible sleeping habits.”

Seol Jihu rubbed his forehead with tears around his eyes.

“Y-You’re the one to speak!”

Phi Sora, who was also rubbing her forehead, looked around the area and became lost for words.

“You’re right…”

“Ah, don’t look at the stone unless you want to have another nightmare.”

Phi Sora quickly turned around.

‘That’s one.’

Seol Jihu gulped.

“I’m sorry to tell you this right after you woke up, but we don’t have much time. You see what’s happening, right?”

“Ye-Yes.”

“You and I are the only ones who are awake right now. Everyone else must be in their nightmares.”

Gulp. Phi Sora’s throat drew a huge gulp. She wasn’t a fool. Her sharpness returned once she was back in reality, and she immediately understood what Seol Jihu wanted to do.

“What do I do?”

“Okay, first—”

“Uuuuuk!”

Just as Seol Jihu was about to explain, a short scream suddenly rang out. Phi Sora and Seol Jihu instinctively turned to the direction of the sound and saw Teresa, who was flailing her arms and convulsing.

Soon—

“Huk…! Huk…!”

Teresa’s eyes shot open, and she spat out several rough pants.

“A dream?”

She muttered blankly, then pushed herself up.

“That was a dream, right?”

Seeing Teresa murmuring to herself, Seol Jihu exclaimed in shock inwardly.

She woke up by herself without the help of the pendant? From such a chillingly realistic nightmare?

“Princess?”

Teresa’s head turned to the side.

“…Seol?”

She stared dazedly, confusion still undulating in her pupils.

“Are you okay?”

Teresa didn’t say anything. She only stared at him suspiciously.

“Princess…?”

When he called her again, Teresa suddenly curled her arms up and made a heart.

“Hubby!”

She then shouted in a sweet, animated voice.

“I love you!”

“…Excuse me?”

Seol Jihu’s face contorted.

What the hell was this woman suddenly on about?

However, Teresa didn’t stop there.

“Excuse me? What do you mean, excuse me? I said I love you! When are you going to propose to me? I’m dying to get married!”

“Excuse me?”

Phi Sora stared at her like she was looking at a crazy bitch, but Teresa paid no attention to her and continued shouting.

“Aii~ Stop pretending to be deaf. If you make me angry, I might push you down. Ah, now that we’re on this topic, why not make a baby first? You up for it?”

“Excuse me?”

After spouting nonsense four times in a row, Teresa stared at Seol Jihu fixedly and repeated ‘So? So?’

“…Right.”

Next, she closed her eyes with an accepting face, then let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s the right reaction.”

“?”

Now what did this mean?

Teresa sprawled down and muttered.

“This is reality.”

Seol Jihu became dazed. Needless to say, the curse dragged out the memory one feared the most and made them have a nightmare.

In that case…

‘Just what dream did the Princess have?’

And also…

‘Just how did she escape?’


1. Korean army stew.

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