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T/N: Welcome to Jack and Pamela Xiong as my first ever members! Also Yackeline Ruby Barajas for the coffee!
“CEO, please come this way. The ground is slippery there.”
Gaon, who had stepped on a mossy stone before Ji-Won finished speaking, gently gave her hand to Ji-Won, who reached out his hand reflexively. Ji-Won grabbed Gaon’s slender wrist and pulled her up onto the rock with force. He had to exert great patience to let her hand go again.
This is why people put hiking on a date course. He was worried if showing each other sweaty faces would help him maintain the relationship, but this also has its own tremendous merit. As expected, classics can’t be ignored even if they’re a little cliche.
“Would you like some water?”
“Aren’t you tired?”
“I’m fine so far.”
‘Really? I think you’re already out of breath…. If this kind of walking-level mountain climbing makes her tired, it’s obviously because of lack of exercise. I need her to build up her basic physical strength. Then problems such as low blood pressure and sleep disorders will be much better. What kind of exercise can be recommended so that she doesn’t feel burdensome? Swimming is really good, but if we want to do that together, it’ll only be possible after we get really close, right?’
Ji-Won, who was thinking about this and that in his head, peeled off a packet of chocolate and held it out as soon as Gaon took the water bottle away from her mouth. He wanted to feed her affectionately, but it would be going too far.
“This is delicious.”
“That’s a relief. Eating one or two less sweet chocolates a day is good for low blood pressure.”
“Director Cha knows a lot of things.”
“I didn’t know until I went to London.”
I studied desperately just for you. Of course. Gaon, who was accustomed to receiving care, didn’t show any reaction at all with his hasty appeal. But Ji-Won still maintained a satisfied smile. Yeah, he didn’t say this with high expectations. It is enough for him to be alone with her far away from Seoul. Even if they have to go back today, at least they’ll be guaranteed three hours together.
“CEO, do you have any idea why the dead disappear here?”
“I’ll have to see the scene to know what’s certain…. The most likely case is when a very spiritual soul settles down here. It’s what most humans call a Deity…. If Deities live in Yeongsan Mountain, miscellaneous spirits cannot put their feet on it.”
“Do their energy reach people? But I heard the guide couldn’t even access it at all.”
“It is rare, but the spirit that has stayed in seclusion for a very long time and developed its strength also makes a certain space completely as its own territory. To the point that even living humans are affected. Those who haven’t opened their inner eyes may ignore it and pass by, but in the eyes of guides who are spiritually sensitive, it must have been difficult to step in.”
There is no big problem as long as the spirit or Deity does not directly harm humans. Those who get the title of Deity are spirits who choose to remain in the world in seclusion just before going to heaven, so they rarely commit evil acts, and they often benefit the living by boosting the energy of the mountain. But if the spirit turns black due to any accident, it is enough to kill all the people of a place. If the damage caused by it is to the extent that even the dead are bounced off, it will eventually be found somewhere. Therefore, she just needed to expand the scope of management a little.
But as they got closer to the destination that the guide said, Gaon became increasingly unsure of the hypothesis she had established. She felt that subtle techniques were used to limit the movement of the deceased everywhere in the mountain. And if her intuition is correct, it wasn’t coincidentally done, but someone did it intentionally with a purpose.
Gaon, who was rushing to walk while looking around with a keen gaze, stopped in front of a small waterfall and murmured with a serious face.
“I don’t think it’s a Deity.”
“Is there anything else you can feel?”
“Yes. No, should I say it’s like a kind of a trap. Someone set up a trap here to trap the dead. Starting with that waterfall, it went around the whole area.”
When Ji-Won followed Gaon’s finger with his eyes, he noticed a slightly twisted space. Warm and brilliant sunshine was falling in the fresh green forest, but unlike before, he could feel a gloomy energy.
“Who could have done this?”
Gaon slowly looked around and tilted her head with a somewhat dubious expression. Two or three causes came to mind, but she didn’t feel like anything matched the situation.
“I’ve heard that a shaman who lost his way to God sometimes chooses a place with good spiritual energy to worship a new god and calls for a strong spirit…. This seems so inefficient. There is no sign of sacrifice.”
“You must pay a price to call a strong spirit. Usually, they kill a living beast and offer its blood, most of the time they use chickens.”
“Well, it’s not easy to be a shaman.”
“…it’s not easy.”
“They said if you don’t serve God, you’ll get beaten and shunned by people. Me and my son too…. Does that mean we should’ve just died hugging each other? Is it my fault that I was born like this?”
Gaon’s heart became a little stuffy when she remembered the scream of a poor woman whom she could not find anything to say back to. She didn’t think she was showing her emotion outside, so she didn’t know that the person standing next to her was watching her closely to the point if she was breathing properly.
“It may be an evil spirit with the purpose of harming humans, like the one who imitated Archduke Rosenvalov. It’s trying to collect the darkened spirits to make himself strong. Whether it’s a person or a ghost, once they’re in a group, they become strong.”
“If that’s the case, wouldn’t you have felt the presence of the deceased for sure? Didn’t you know right away when you entered Rosenvalov Castle? I don’t feel like there’s anything malicious around here right now.”
“It may be that the sun’s energy is too strong here to feel the spirit.”
Maybe it can hide its presence well. Then it’s a little dangerous…. Gaon, who judged that there was no need to make Ji-Won worry for nothing, swallowed the late remarks. Anyway, now that she’s sure there’s something here, she will just have to check it out properly. But to do that, she had to wait until it got dark. Gaon’s face, looking back at Ji-Won, was filled with apology.
“What should I do? We can’t go to the art museum today. We must come back here at night.”
“There are so many people around me right now that I can’t use my power properly. I don’t want anyone to get involved and get hurt. Maybe if I don’t do my best, we’ll both be in danger….”
“Don’t worry, I’m really fine, so you don’t have to worry about such small things. Don’t overdo yourself.”
Huh? Didn’t you say it’s an exhibition that you really want to see? When Gaon looked at the face that did not feel a bit of regret, Ji-Won smiled brightly, making gentle eye contact with Gaon. Gaon could not guess why she suddenly felt better, but unknowingly raised the corners of her mouth a little at the fresh smile that made even the viewer feel better.
“Then let’s hurry up and go eat first. If it’s late, we have to wait a long time.”
Fortunately, the two, who arrived at the restaurant just before lunch time began, were able to be guided to their seats right away without waiting. The neatly prepared side dishes raised expectations for the main dish to the fullest, and the savory Kalguksu, which was boiled roughly without any garnish, peaked the satisfaction.
When they took a bite of the crispy potato pancake that was almost fried brown, Ji-Won thought that Gaon’s expression would probably be unforgettable for the rest of his life. It was the moment he felt rewarded for sitting up late and reading hundreds of reviews carefully.
“It’s worth coming all the way here from Seoul. I’m going to remember it for a long time.”
“I’m glad you liked it.”
“Anything Director Cha recommends is delicious. Come to think of it, it was also the first time I only ate such delicious food in London. Usually, at least one really bad food must be on my plate.”
“Oh, yes. The city is very hard for gourmet lovers. I lived in London for a year after my master’s degree, and I had a hard time finding a restaurant that suited my taste.”
Ji-Won, who was watching Gaon eating two palm-sized potato pancakes, slipped the remaining potato pancake plates of his share in front of her, making an excuse that he wasn’t craving greasy food today.
He wanted to take her to drink coffee in the most famous place in Taebaek, but Gaon said she wanted to enter a small cafe right away from the restaurant. The two hours of intense contemplation over the three final candidates became meaningless, but Ji-Won still nodded without hesitation. As he lived his life on aesthetics, he didn’t even step into a cafe with a rustic interior, but now he feels like he can enter a coffee shop that acts as a local senior citizen’s centre with Gaon if he wants.
“The coffee I drank yesterday is definitely better.”
“This is delicious, too. It’s very savory. I loved this scent from the moment I got out of the car.”
“Yes. The one I drank yesterday smelled really good, but it tasted like a little undercooked fruit. I like fruits well-done to the point where they are almost bland. This tastes like nuts. Well, I think it also tastes a bit like chocolate. It kind of feels like chocolate cake….Anyway, I like it because it’s soft and not bitter. It’s very delicious.”
Seeing Gaon sipping coffee pleasantly, Ji-Won was shocked. His mouth opened automatically at the unexpected sharp criticism. No, Mrs. Kwon. Why didn’t you say anything about her having such a keen sense of taste? You said she doesn’t have any favourite food. But this person can distinguish the taste of blended beans? Surprisingly, he thought she was being picky, but he didn’t know it was this much.
“I heard from Mrs. Kwon that the CEO doesn’t have a liking for a specific food.”
“Ha ha. I can’t tell Mrs. Kwon. She works hard on nutrition for every meal. If she wants to be careful of my taste buds, it’ll be too hard. The vegetables on my table are grown organically by Mrs. Kwon in the garden. How can you complain to such a person saying that I personally like salty and sweet? I should just eat as I’m told.”
Unable to think of anything to say back, Ji-Won took a sip of coffee without saying anything. He couldn’t cover the fire with water. How can I make her fall in love with me? He felt a little resentful, but it was not something he could tell the person involved.
This is pretty good the more I keep drinking it. What Ji-Won usually enjoys is a clean coffee with a slight acidity and a refreshing fruit flavor, but as he heard Gaon’s words, the heavy taste mixed with various flavors was not bad.
‘As I thought yesterday, falling in love is really scary. Look, it can even make a man change his taste thereof.’
Most of all, the serious thing was that he had no will to shake it off. Ji-Won looked at Gaon with complicated eyes, but immediately folded his eyes and smiled. He thought everything was going really slow, but he couldn’t find a reason to change it.
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