제 17 장: A Spirited Conspiracy

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The sun was just slipping beneath the waves as I made by way down the bluffs from the diver's house.  A strong breeze had picked up, whipping my hair to one side and flattening the skirt of my hanbok against my legs as it howled over the rocks and down into the ocean.

It wasn't long before I found a deserted section of beach, not far from a treacherous outcropping of sharp rocks that poked out of the water at low tide.  I did my best to tidy up my hair despite the wind, and smoothed out my dress before settling down on a washed-up log to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Just as the last weak threads of light were disappearing from the sky, I finally saw what I was looking for.  Beneath the water, a greenish-yellow glow had appeared, drifting closer as the tide rose and drew closer to my spot on the beach.  When the glow was close enough, I could finally begin to make out the translucent shape of the unfortunate soul, and the two luminescent eyes that were peering up at me.

"Well, are you going to just gape at me all evening, or will you come up here so we can have a conversation?" I said at last.

With a soft slosh, the spirit poked its head above the water.

My smile was sharp to hide my grimace.  The water ghost's face was gaunt, barely clinging to the illusion of the body it once had with the appearance of loose skin stretching over bone.  Its eyes were so sunken in its face that the browbone cast a shadow, or the impression of one at least.  But its appearance was preferable to the second water ghost that suddenly popped up behind it, as bloated and swollen as its seawater-logged corpse had been, at some point.

I cleared my throat, but the first ghost held up a skeletal hand.  Beneath the surface of the water, another pair of ghostly eyes emerged from the depths, rising like a bubble to join the other two.  This one was as thin as the first, and like the other two, shadowy memories of long dark hair clung to the spiritual echo of the body she had once possessed.  Her hair, however, fell even longer than that of the other two ghosts, well past her shoulders and spreading out in the water around her like shady seaweed.  But its length could not completely cover the fact that her left arm was missing, bitten off just above the elbow.  She sunk lower in the water to hide the stump when she noticed me staring.

I merely broadened my smile.

What do you want?  the first ghost asked, its mouth opening but not moving it as it spoke.  I fought the urge to lift a surprised eyebrow.  The spirit had been departed from its body for so long that it had forgotten how to use a mouth to form words anymore.

Where is the shaman that came with you?  the second ghost asked.  Its impression of still having a body was a bit better, though its timing was off and continued to mouth the last few words after its question had been asked. The bloating probably didn't help with the illusion of keeping its jaw moving, I thought.

"The shaman is unavailable at the moment," I replied lightly, as that question was easier to answer than the first.  "And she's a bit squeamish, so it's probably best we don't have to deal with her nonsense at the moment, anyway.  I don't want to waste your valuable time."

Yes, we have grottos to haunt, the first said, opening its mouth again in a silent scream.  I found myself wishing it didn't try to pretend it could still actually speak.

And shipwrecks, the female ghost added.  She was only slightly better than the second ghost in her ability to match her words with the illusion of her moving lips.  Her hair shifted as she pretended to speak, gliding over the remains of her left arm like a slippery, dark eel.

"Yes, how lovely.  I--"

And rocks, the bloated ghost belatedly added, apparently not wanting to be left out.

"Rocks!" I gave a single clap, feigning delight.  "Of course.  How exciting.  Well, speaking of underwater...things, I was wondering if you would be able to do me a favor."

Depends, the bloated ghost replied.

What favor?  the gaunt ghost asked.

"I need to meet someone," I said, running my tongue along the bottom of my teeth as I thought of the best way to approach the topic.  "He lives in the sea.  But he doesn't come to the surface often, and I'm not a great swimmer."

Yes, we can see that, the female ghost said, giving me a blank assessment with her glowing eyeballs.  If you swam with us, you would drown.

I narrowed my eyes.  A yokwe can't die, but I was sure that whatever the equivalent of drowning is for an immortal demon, it wouldn't be pleasant.  I don't have gills, and that was really the main point here.

"Yes, well, I was hoping you could get this person's attention for me, then," I said.

Who?  the bloated ghost asked, its lips pursed just a bit too long on the "oo" sound after its question.

"Oh, I'd say the important question here is more of a how," I replied.  No need to frighten off my creepy new friends with talk of a powerful ancient dragon king.

How?  Gaunt Ghost obediently asked.  Had it still had a body, its teeth would have clacked with the unnatural speed and force that it used to close its mouth after the question.

I smiled and gave a conspiratorial tilt of my head.

"How would you like to have a bit of fun drowning a mortal?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm sorry it's been so long!  My updates are still going to be slow, but a lot has been and continues to be happening in my life at the moment so I don't have much time to write lately.  I'm also probably not going to be doing chapter banners anymore...they take me a bit too long when I'd rather spend that time writing.  But the good news is, I've been introduced to a wonderful new collection of songs from the TV show Lucifer, so that's giving me some new inspiration for chapter writing.  :)   Thank you for reading, and please vote if you enjoyed this chapter!




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