Chapter 236. Flone’s True Nature

The leader scrambled up to stand at attention.

“W-W-What brings you here…? Aigoo, I’ve been living a clean life! After that incident, I washed my hands clean of those matters and haven’t even gotten anywhere near the Federation…!”

"…The heck is he saying?"

The man was acting subserviently. He kept bowing and confessing even without anyone asking him to.

Kim Hannah glanced at Seol Jihu while walking toward the leader who was babbling out gibberish.

"You know this guy?”

"Just a little."

"Interesting."

Kim Hannah commented as if it was only a trivial matter and sat down in a chair.

"Stop being a disgrace and sit. You’re driving me crazy.”

Despite Kim Hannah saying this, the leader could not take his eyes off of the slowly approaching youth and only managed to get his act together after Seol Jihu had sat down.

"You’re alive, huh.”

As Seol Jihu spoke to him, he replied with a, “Ah. Yes. That’s right,” before carefully sitting down.

"I was honestly surprised back then. We tried to get some sleep after running for the entire day, but the guys who fell asleep first suddenly let out terrible screams… Ugh!”

As if the recollection alone terrified him, the leader trembled. His lower belly started to jiggle in response, which was a rather unpleasant sight to the eyes.

"It was strange no matter how I thought about it. Seeing the guys who were fine just a day ago suddenly dropping down like flies, I thought I was losing my mind.”

Seol Jihu nodded.

"I feel you. We also discovered it by chance.”

"Yes, yes. When I scoured through my mind in that alarming situation, I suddenly recalled the Foxman children. And I thought, ‘Ah, the two were afflicted with a curse. We’ll die if we fall asleep.’”

Seol Jihu couldn’t stop marveling on the inside. The leader hadn’t figured out the correct answer, but as Kazuki had said before, he had incredible situational awareness.

Seol Jihu felt like he could accurately describe the leader with <WITS 100>.

"So I resisted my drowsiness, ran all the way to Eva, and requested for purification from the Temple of Invidia… Hehe!”

The leader gave a silly laugh before suddenly making a solemn face. This wasn’t the time to pleasantly reminisce on past memories.

"By the way… what brings the two of you here together…?”

"Ah, did I not tell you?”

Kim Hannah nonchalantly spoke.

"I joined Carpe Diem.”

The leader gasped.

"W-What? Why are you telling me this only now?”

"I told you we’re coming to look at some real estate. I thought with Mister Park Dongchun Ahjussi’s wits, you’d understand.”

"Hah…"

The leader, no, Park Dongchun only kept opening and closing his mouth. There was no helping it.

As soon as Kim Hannah had submitted her resignation letter, she had boarded a carriage for Haramark and confined herself in the building from then on.

She had lived the life of a shut-in, even going as far to do her morning exercise on the first floor. It was only recently that she started to go out.

It was no wonder that her whereabouts had not spread to Eva yet.

'They must be pretty close…’

Seol Jihu, who had been listening to the two converse, asked a question.

"May I perhaps know your name…"

"Yes, yes. I’m Park Dongchun. I lead a good-for-nothing organization called the Dongchun Merchants.”

“You’re Korean? I thought you were Japanese.”

"Ah, yes, you’re right. I’m living in Japan because of my family… but I have never forgotten my homeland.”

Park Dongchun spoke as he awkwardly laughed. Seol Jihu also grinned and extended his hand.

"I’m Seol Jihu."

"Aigoo, of course, I know! How can I not know the greatest war hero… It’s my honor to meet you like this!”

Park Dongchun grabbed Seol Jihu’s hand with both of his hands and lowered his head.

Just as Seol Jihu was feeling uncomfortable with how much he was lowering his body, Park Dongchun raised his eyes and politely asked him.

"Then is Carpe Diem here to buy land?”

"Ahjussi."

Kim Hannah immediately cut him off.

"Why are you so curious about everything? We’re not criminals or anything.”

"Oho, that’s not it.”

"If you’re here to do business, then focus on the business only. Nothing good will come out of putting your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

She had a point. As this also happened to be one of his creeds, Park Dongchun fell silent.

"You know my style, right? Let’s do this cleanly. Show us the land.”

Kim Hannah got up from her seat, her ponytail swaying around from gesturing with her chin.

"What do you mean clean… You use all sorts of dirty and despicable…”

Park Dongchun grumbled to himself before reluctantly raising his obese body.

He didn’t know why, but the thought that he’d been hoodwinked did not go away.

*

'What is it?'

Park Dongchun racked his brains the entire time he led them to the land he had previously selected.

Carpe Diem, Haramark’s oldest and greatest team, was coming to Eva. It was a significant event.

The issue was that he had no clue why.

If they were buying land, it most likely meant that they planned to establish an organization, but they had no reason to leave Haramark which was practically their home ground.

'This is driving me crazy…'

Even if he wanted to cast out all his thoughts and concentrate on doing business, his wits were complicating his mind.

Was this what it felt like to be standing in front of a gigantic storm?

He felt like he should sell the land, but he also felt like he shouldn’t.

It was the first time Park Dongchun felt something like this.

'…This doesn’t feel right. Just in case…’

After thinking for a long time, Park Dongchun turned his steps. The place they arrived at was the center of the city.

Kim Hannah looked around and spoke as if she found it surprising.

"It’s better than I expected. The land is quite large…”

"Hmhm. Of course. Purely in terms of location, there’s nowhere else like this in Eva. This place being in the center of the city speaks volumes about its value.”

Park Dongchun cleared his throat before continuing.

"The royal family has the rights to the land, but it’s been leased out for several decades so its liquidity is guaranteed. And as you can see, there are no buildings around the land. Everything is at least a block away, meaning there’s no problem if you want to raise up several buildings.”

After saying that, Park Dongchun secretly searched for their reactions.

"Well… its flaw is that it hasn’t been maintained, but that shouldn’t be a problem since you’re going to build over it, right?”

In reality, the buildings were so old and worn down that they looked like ruins. It was to the point that they looked like the haunted houses where ghosts would pop out from.

"That’s not all. The basement below—”

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. But—”

Taking off her sunglasses, Kim Hannah raised her hands to cut him off.

"Start spilling.”

"…Huh?"

"Do you take me for a pushover? There’s no way you would leave such a large plot of land located at an ideal spot alone.”

Something about the site certainly felt off. Despite it being in the downtown area, it was somewhat removed from the rest of the city.

"I was going to bring it up… Tsk, so impatient.”

Giving a bitter smile, Park Dongchun continued his explanation.

The conclusion was that the house in front of them was called ‘The House of Ghosts’ and was deemed as a cursed haunted house.

The reason for this was that everyone who moved in died horrible deaths in just 3 to 4 months with no exception.

The causes of death were diverse as well.

A healthy person suddenly suffering from an unknown illness only to die miserably, a person getting brutally murdered over a small quarrel, a person suddenly suffering from depression and hanging himself— sudden deaths without any identifiable reason, and so on…

After dozens of people died like this, no one dared to even come close to the area anymore.

"Ah~"

Kim Hannah let out an exclamation after hearing his story.

"So what you’re saying is that the land you paid good money to buy became useless, so you want to throw it at us since we happened to show up at the perfect time?”

"No, no. Jeez, why would you say it like that? It’s not like we’ve known each other for only a day or two. I only showed it to you because it happened to be up for sale, that’s all. It’s not like I only have this plot of land. If you don’t like it, we can go to another one!”

Park Dongchun hurriedly made an excuse. But as if he was reluctant to let this opportunity pass, he glanced at Seol Jihu while rubbing his palms.

"It was also because I thought it would be different for Seol Jihu-nim, the hero who defeated the Parasite’s First Army Commander… hehe!”

It might be a coincidence the first couple of times, but starting from the third time, there definitely had to be a reason behind it. Seol Jihu intently stared at the building.

"Have you tried to request purification from the Temple of Invidia?”

"Actually… I once hired a High Rank Priest under the condition that he could live here for half a year for half the price if he could solve the problem. But when I came back after a month, I found him dead with his stomach split open and his gear scattered all over the place…”

"…There must have also been the option of razing the whole place down.”

"I’ve tried, but the workers started getting injured one after the other…”

Park Dongchun trailed off at the end of his sentence.

Seol Jihu fell into thought.

'There’s definitely something there. It might actually be a ghost… Wait. A ghost?’

Seol Jihu reflexively looked down at his pendant. He had just come up with a good idea.

"Can I take a quick look inside?”

"Huh? Ah, of course! Take as long as you’d like! If you have any intention to purchase it, I can give you an offer lower than the market price… I find the place a little uncomfortable as well.”

Seeing Seol Jihu looking interested, Park Dongchun gave a wide smile and hurriedly nodded his head up and down.

But he didn’t look like he’d enter with him.

"Hey. You’re not thinking of actually buying this place, are you?”

A sharp voice was suddenly heard.

Seol Jihu stopped himself before trying to explain. It was because he saw Kim Hannah secretly gesture at his pendant while raising her eyebrows.

And understanding her intentions, Seol Jihu gave a bitter smile.

'Does she see the entire world as a target for her scams?’

He now had an inkling as to why many clattered their teeth simply hearing her name.

"I’m just taking a look around.”

"Are you crazy? Why would you take a look at that ominous house? Just go somewhere else.”

"Ayy, there’s no way ghosts exist in this world. They’re all just rumors.”

[Eh? But I’m right here?]

He could hear Flone mumble, but Seol Jihu ignored her and continued talking.

"In any case, I’m taking a look. And he said he’ll give us a lower price. We don’t have much money after all.”

"Wow, everything’s up to you, huh?”

Hearing the reproach that wasn’t a reproach, Seol Jihu walked forwards. Standing in front of the entrance, Seol Jihu quietly whispered.

"Flone."

[Sure! Just wait here for a moment!]

As if she had been listening from the start, Flone quickly disappeared into the house.

Seol Jihu wandered around the house, pretending to carefully inspect it while waiting for Flone.

'It’s actually a good plot of land.'

There was plenty of sunlight and, above all, its large size took his fancy. It just happened that he found the office a bit too cramped with the addition of new members.

It would be fun to raise a few large buildings and happily live together.

'Hiya~’

Seol Jihu’s face blossomed into a smile as he fantasized rose-colored dreams.

However, he was soon jolted out of his daydreams because Flone did not come out no matter how long he waited.

'Did something happen?'

Of course, he didn’t think that anything could happen to Flone, but there was still a one in ten thousand chance of such a thing happening.

'It doesn’t appear to be dangerous.’

After he had activated his Nine Eyes, Seol Jihu decided to enter.

Constantly circling around the perimeter of the house would look strange, and more importantly, he was starting to be worried about Flone.

Kiiik…

A rusty creak rang out as he opened the dust-covered door. His sight became restricted the moment the door closed behind him.

It was strange.

It was broad daylight outside and there were windows, but the inside was completely dark.

That wasn’t all.

A bizarre chill swept through the room. He got the same feeling as entering a house with all its windows open in the middle of the winter.

"Cough, cough."

Inhaling the old dust in the air caused Seol Jihu to cough. Suddenly feeling tense, he circulated his mana inside him.

Even if it was a ghost, it ultimately was just an evil spirit.

With Soma’s power which was created to hunt down evil, he had nothing to fear. After circulating enough mana, Seol Jihu slowly walked forwards.

Kiik… kiik…

Every time he took a step, an unsettling sound rang throughout the place.

'It’s weird, way too weird.’

He felt the uneasy feeling grow stronger the further he walked in.

Just breathing in the damp air alone made him feel unpleasant, and the aura of malice mixed in the air constantly attacked his senses even though he had only been inside for a short amount of time.

A feeling that he would find something standing behind him if he looked back.
A feeling that he would find someone staring at him from the side when he woke up.

Seol Jihu was convinced.

This house was not suited for people to live in.

'Flone…'

As he looked around the place with the intention of leaving quickly, he saw a stairway leading up to the second floor.

And when Seol Jihu was observing the mold on the railing…

"!"

…He stopped in his tracks.

A chill swept up his neck.
It was cold enough to make his whole back rise up with goosebumps.

There was something there.

Above his head was something that wasn’t human. Even if he didn’t know anything else, he was sure about that one fact.

Seol Jihu tightly clenched his Spear of Purity on instinct alone. He couldn’t properly wield it yet, but he still collected his breathing and circulated his mana.

'Danger!'

The moment he raised both his arms and tilted his head back to look up!

Seol Jihu’s two eyes widened.

"Keuk!"

He almost screamed. His gaze was locked on something above the stairs leading to the second floor.

Its two eyes were sewn together like the stitches on a baseball, its nose was decaying, and even its mouth was sewn shut. A figure with drooping hair that couldn’t be seen as a human was staring at him from atop the stairs.

It was kneeling in between the rails with its arms…

"?"

Seol Jihu blinked his eyes multiple times.

Its arms were raised up? As if it was a punished child?

It was when Seol Jihu unconsciously doubted his eyes…

Slap!

Suddenly, a slap rang out. With it, the ill-shaped face rotated.

[Are you crazy?]

A familiar voice followed. Raising his gaze a little higher, Seol Jihu could finally see Flone.

[You’re out of your mind, aren’t you?]

While materialized, Flone was staring down at the ghost after having just slapped it.

[Hey, is being a ghost a joke? Huh?]

The kneeling ghost flinched.

[My goodness! This is unbelievable.]

Flone continued speaking as if she really found it ridiculous.

[Fine, let me ask you something then. How long have you been a ghost?]

[A couple of decades? A century? Is that why you’re acting stubborn?]

[Oh, and now you’re completely ignoring me.]

[Fine. You’re taking my words for dogshit, huh?]

The stitch(?) ghost madly shook its head.

[Hey! You find me amusing, don’t you? Huh?]

[Say it. You’re looking down on me because all I did was build up resentment while being imprisoned for hundreds of years, right?]

Seol Jihu, who was looking up from below with a blank face, learned for the first time that a ghost could look wronged for having been falsely accused.

[You’re gonna keep ignoring me? If you’re a ghost, at least look at others straight in their eyes when they’re talking!]

Flinching, it raised its head. Then…

[Huh? What are you glaring at? You got a problem with me? Huh punk?]

Seeing Flone raise her hand, it hurriedly lowered its head again. The stitch ghost was stricken with fear and was weeping sorrowfully.

[You’re crying? Are those tears? Wow, you’re unbelievable. Hey you, get up.]

[Attention. At ease. Attention.]

[You little bastard, are you out of your mind?]

[Roll left. Roll right. Left, right, crawl forward, crawl backward.]

Thump, thump, bang, bang!

Flone giving out orders and a ghost receiving disciplinary punishment. It could not get any more bizarre than this.

Finally, the ghost that was sprawled on the ground, spoke between its sobs as it looked up at Flone.

Euup, euup!

Hearing it say something, Flone leaned forward with her arms crossed.

[What? You're sorry? You’ll quietly leave so please let you go?]

Flone snorted.

Sticking both her hands inside her pockets, she asked with a swagger.

[Does your ghost life end if you’re sorry?]

Euup, euup!

[Wow, you really are unbelievable. The order of ranks here is really a sight to see.]

Flone stretched her body and cracked her head left and right. After rotating her shoulders, she began kicking the stitch ghost.

[Get up. You’re not here alone, are you?]

[Listen carefully to what I’m about to say.]

[Everyone below me and above you. I want them all here.]

[You have exactly 30 seconds. If you fail to bring them within 30 seconds, I’ll destroy all your hope for ascending or wandering. You hear me?]

Then.

[Start.]

As soon as her words fell, the stitch ghost shot out.

Seeing it quickly scramble away on the walls like a spider, Seol Jihu was sure that it was frantically trying to carry out Flone’s command.

[Huh!? Why are you here?]

As if she had just discovered Seol Jihu, Flone flew down the stairs like water. Her fierce aura from before disappeared without a trace, replaced by the look of an innocent little girl.

[When did you get here?]

She stuck to Seol Jihu’s waist and acted all nice and cute. Seol Jihu barely returned to his senses and let out a half-hearted laugh.

"J-Just now. I was worried because you didn’t come out…”

[Ah, that’s why.]

"You’re okay, right…?"

[Yep, yep. There are ghosts here, but there’s nothing to worry about~ Compared to the ghosts in the ancient emperor’s mansion, these punks are nothing.]

Flone answered in a bright voice, then fidgeted her fingers.

[Actually, I tried to be nice at first, but there were some that didn’t know their place. My old temper accidentally came out.]

'Temper?'

Really?

He knew that her behavior in front of his teammates was a facade, but did she have it on in front of him as well?

Did this mean Flone’s true nature was what he saw a moment ago?

While his head was filled with a lot of thoughts, Flone pushed his back.

[Now, now. Wait outside just in case. I’ll be right out after I finish handling this.]

He felt that she was forcefully making him leave for some reason, but Seol Jihu let himself be pushed out of the house without saying anything.

Tak.

Only after leaning his back against the wall did his body shiver.

Then he had an unexpected realization. In her past life, Flone was not the flower of the upper-class society.

'She was definitely the upper-class society's gangster.’

Seol Jihu nodded to himself and heaved out a breath he had been holding in.

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