“Oh, this is my wife’s handiwork.”
It’s clear that Ju Shin-hwan’s taste is white, which makes the gallery all the more untouchable. He must be a great lover to keep such a polar opposite room so immaculate. What’s troubling is that, when I googled Ju Shin-hwan, I couldn’t find any information about his wife.
“I’m managing it now, but….”
Ju Shin-hwan murmured quietly and looked on the shelf. There was a picture of an unknown woman with two white Ranunculus. Embracing a beautiful bouquet of flowers, she was smiling lovingly at the person beyond the lens.
Unable to stay still, I said something out of politeness.
“She has a beautiful smile.”
“…she used to.”
A perfect past tense answer that came out a beat late. A silver ring placed in front of a picture frame. The face of a young wife who seems to be in her thirties at best. I realized it only when I saw a distinctly different appearance from Ju Shin-hwan, who had white hair. Her time stopped then.
When I closed my mouth tightly, Ju Shin-hwan smiled, pointing at the leather sofa in the middle.
“Please make yourself comfortable, my assistant will bring you tea shortly.”
As soon as we sat face to face with the table in between, there was a leaden silence. I tried to score points by praising his wife, but I ended up sinking the mood. I was wondering how to break the ice, but Ju Shin-hwan spoke first.
“Are you an apostle?”
“But you have a piece of Midas’ work.”
The work of Midas? When I tilted my head curiously, Ju Shin-hwan pointed at my wrist. Only then did I see a watch hidden by my sleeve. . . . . . Yes. I’m wearing a mask now. I was so nervous that I forgot about the mask and was working hard to manage the expression that he couldn’t see anyway.
I coughed loudly, trying to shake off my embarrassment.
“It was given to me by the head of the Apostle’s Guild when I entered the gate last time.”
“I heard you can’t have it unless you’re an apostle, so are you planning to become one?”
“What? It’s not like that.”
“Hoo-hoo, then you must be receiving a lot of trust from the guild leader.”
Trust? Our relationship has festered beyond such beautiful words. He had put me on a leash, and I did not trust him, so I traded for my life. The misunderstanding was almost resolved the other day, but it eventually resulted in distrust. Since we are still following each other to know each other’s secrets, how can we call this rotten mess trust.
“…No way. I just missed the timing to give it back.”
I’m sorry I used it however I wanted, but that’s not what matters right now.
I had no idea that the Apostle’s watch was called the ‘work of Midas’. I don’t know if this is very common information that comes out when you search for it, but one thing is for sure thatJu Shin-hwan knows more about the Apostle than I thought.
“But you must know a lot about the Apostle.”
“I’ve been indebted to them for a long time.”
“Indebted to… them?”
“Yes. In many ways.”
The more you chew, the more meaningful it is. It didn’t sound like I was simply asking for this request.
“That’s an unexpected reaction. Shin Hajae-ssi.”
Ju Shin-hwan. I thought he was a wealthy middle-aged man, widowed and living alone. But the more we talked, the more I realized that he knew much more than I thought.
That decent man is certainly the key to digging up Simeon’s purpose. But for now, it seemed like he would never tell me information about <Blue Hope>…No, it’s only natural to think about it. Who is willing to give information to a person who is not influential like the Apostle and covers his face.
After much consideration, Ju Shin-hwan’s eyes slowly widened as I turned the bezel of the watch to reveal my face.
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble if they saw my face.”
“Haha, no, it’s better to be thorough than complacent.”
Ju Shin-hwan said with a half-moon shaped smile.
“Rather, I was relieved that Shin Ha-jae was a more reliable person than I thought.”
It was good to gain trust by taking off the mask, but the tension doubled as I thought I couldn’t hide my expression anymore. When I gulped down my dry saliva, Ju Shin-hwan raised the corners of his mouth and naturally induced the conversation.
“You said you wanted to hear a story from me.”
“Oh, yes. When did you move <Blue Hope> to the bunker?”
“It’s from the time the symptoms of outburst appeared. The gate shouldn’t be open in such a quiet neighborhood.”
Ju Shin-hwan added the words, caressing his chin with his neat fingers.
“He was a troubled child from the time I won the auction, and he should have been, because so many people were killed by that gem, including the incident that led to the <Blue Hope> becoming a spirit.”
“And by that incident, you mean….”
“It is, of course, the suicide of the Countess Winston.”
Before <Blue Hope> became a fief, the last owner and victim was the Countess Winston. The Earl of Winston, who had only a daughter, adopted Ector, the second son of the Viscount, whom he had known since childhood, as his son-in-law. After that, after the death of the Countess, Ector plotted to acquire the family estate.
“Ector spent a long time planning to assassinate the Countess Winston. In addition, he tried to make a maid, who was an affair partner, as the hostess.”
“It’s reckless. Did he succeed?”
“No, he failed …for now.”
Ector poisoned her glass for the banquet day, but fortunately the plan failed. The Countess, who noticed the intention of murder, tried to sneak away, but was caught by Ector and driven to the terrace. Just then a tragic accident happened.
“The terrace collapsed?”
“Yes. It literally ‘suddenly’ collapsed.”
Thus, the countess was buried in the sea with the <Blue Hope> on her neck. The maid, who wanted to have the necklace, walked around the sea diligently, but could not find the body of the countess as well as the <Blue Hope>.
After a long time, <Blue Hope> created a huge gate over the sea. With the lives of her owners accumulated over the years, plus her bitter resentment, it was only natural for it to awaken as a spirit.
After hearing the story, the current situation made even less sense.
“Isn’t the original spirit’s power manifested after the initial outburst?”
“That’s right. But <Blue Hope> is an unusual case. That’s why I asked the Apostle.”
I must come up with a way before the Apostle. Only when it’s worth using for me, I have to do a little bit to seal so that I have the right to access Simeon’s secrets.
“What are the precursors to the outburst you were talking about?”
“It may sound like some old man’s rambling, but… I had a nightmare not long after I won the bid for <Blue Hope>. A dream of falling off a cliff and drowning in the sea. Even at dawn when everyone was sleeping, I heard a woman crying.”
“And that sound was only heard by you?”
“Yes. I think it’s only heard by the owner, to be exact. Before it was auctioned off, the owner told me that he had the same symptoms as me because of <Blue Hope>. Unfortunately, I heard that he is still in the hospital.”
Hearing that the previous owner had been hospitalized after suffering from <Blue Hope>, Joon-hwan was nonchalant. He didn’t seem to be worried that he might be in the same situation soon.
“After I heard the cry, I left in the safe and set up security. But a few days later, two guards guarding the safe collapsed. One vomited blood, and one suffered from a severe headache and lost consciousness.”
“And you believe it was the curse of the <Blue Hope>?”
“I had no choice but to. I immediately transferred them to the hospital for a thorough examination, and they were all normal.”
Accidents happening around the <Blue Hope>, crying only heard by the owner, recurring nightmares. Things like ghost stories that I heard somewhere are happening in reality. And there is usually only one reason when a strange event occurs in a ghost story.
“If everything is true, it would be futile to seal the spirit with the same method.”
“But usually, the way to seal the spirit is to reenact its origin. The countess will fall off the terrace with the necklace again this time.”
Why does the spirit constantly show us the woman’s tragic end. Doesn’t it seem like it’s begging to release her grudge. If the spirit is indeed unable to awaken because of countess soul, it shouldn’t kill her again.
“Is it possible to change the ending of the origin?”
“No. The owner of the necklace must die.”
Wait. The owner of the necklace must die? That means it doesn’t have to be Countess Winston who dies. It’s the tragic ending of the owner of the <Blue Hope> that matters. Then….
“Well, I don’t know if this is possible…”
“You have an idea?”