Seo Yuhui looked around with a wandering gaze, but when she saw Seol Jihu staring back with unwavering eyes, she stopped the meaningless avoiding.
Looking back at the youth with a complicated gaze, she spoke.
“Are you suspecting that I have an ulterior motive?”
Seol Jihu shook his head.
“No. I am grateful for everything you’ve done. I simply don’t understand what you expect from me to treat me so well.”
“I didn’t say that what I did was because I’m expecting you to treat me a certain way.”
“Then that’s even more strange. You aren’t expecting me to do anything, yet you’re going so far…. Of course, I already heard how generous and charitable you are, but then again, I can’t help but think this is excessive.”
As this was an objective truth, Seo Yuhui became speechless for a moment. Realizing that Seol Jihu wasn’t in the mood to back down, she let out a quiet sigh.
Then after a brief moment of silence….
“…By any chance…”
Seo Yuhui opened her mouth with hesitation.
“Have you heard of this saying?”
“Memories become the nutrients to live another day.”
Seol Jihu furrowed his brows at her cryptic reply.
“When I went to support the villagers of Ramman Village who entered Haramark, how should I say this…? They looked really happy. Children were smiling brightly even in a world like this, and adults were watching them play around with pleased expressions…. Many of them even cried from being overwhelmed.”
“Why are you suddenly bringing up that—”
“I could empathize with them. Unable to do anything, living every day trembling in fear and despair, then suddenly having a prince carry them into the castle…. These villagers from Ramman Village will probably carry this memory with them until the day they die.”
Seo Yuhui suddenly raised her voice, making Seol Jihu shut his mouth.
She slowly put her hand over her chest.
“…have memories that help me live another day.”
Her reminiscing eyes shone with such intense light that Seol Jihu thought he was seeing an illusion.
“Memories… that I can never forget. Never.”
Emphasizing the word ‘never’, Seo Yuhui slowly put her hand down.
“You see, I wasn’t as kind back then.”
“I said hurtful things because I was too proud… and I purposely made someone worry because of my poor personality…. Now that I think about it, I’ve committed quite a big sin.”
Seo Yuhui smiled bashfully.
Looking at her somewhat sorrowful face, Seol Jihu opened his mouth with a slightly hoarse voice.
“I don’t get it.”
“I don’t know who you are talking about… but at the very least, I don’t recall making such memories for you.”
When he said this, Seo Yuhui stared at him for a long time with a barely visible smile. Then, she let out a long breath.
“Then let’s do this.”
“I’ll make a few more requests. But, the one I made earlier will be included as well.”
Seol Jihu felt an inexplicable resoluteness from Seo Yuhui’s ‘but’.
“You mean about us getting closer?”
When he asked awkwardly, Seo Yuhui immediately nodded her head.
“Yes. We’ll start with the ‘-nim’… it’s kind of embarrassing.”
Not expecting to hear back the same words that he said to Marcel Ghionea from Seo Yuhui, Seol Jihu looked as if he’d been dealt a good blow.
“I understand. Then what should I call you from now on?”
Seo Yuhui blushed slightly and smiled broadly, looking like she was thoroughly enjoying this situation.
Seol Jihu tilted his head.
“This might sound too forward, but… Yuhui-ssi.”1
“Huh? But people who are close don’t use ‘-ssi’ with each other.”
“No, I want something more affectionate.”
“No fooling around.”
“I’ll scold you.”
Seo Yuhui raised her eyebrows and turned serious. Seol flinched and smacked his lips.
“Then I’ll just go with Noona.”
Seol Jihu mentioned fleetingly since Seo Yuhui was refusing every other name, but veins swelled up on Seo Yuhui’s forehead. From the way the corners of her mouth were wriggling, she was clearly unhappy with the title.
“Why, why do you think I’m older than you…?”
Her tone was several notches higher than normal.
“You’re not? I’m 26….”
Seo Yuhui dropped her head. She then nodded her head somewhat vexed before biting her lower lip as though she had come to some sort of a decision.
“Yes, okay. Since I’m the noona, can I talk to you more casually?”
“Then I will. Ji… Jihu.”
“Yes. Noo… na.”
In the next moment, the two of them looked away as if they’d promised each other to do this beforehand. Saying the new names out loud, they found the names more embarrassing than they imagined.
Seol Jihu could feel his face heating up, but he mustered up the courage to ask.
“What are your other requests…?”
In truth, Seol Jihu wasn’t too concerned with honorifics, casual speech, and the like.
Seo Yuhui opened her mouth with a look of apprehension on her face.
“You see, I’m currently Level 7.”
“Is that surprising?”
“Yes, I thought you were Level 10.”
Seo Yuhui snickered.
“There isn’t even a single Level 9. And there is only one Level 8 Earthling.”3
Seo Yuhui was only awkward at first and had no problem switching over to casual speech.
“For me to become Level 8, I need to resolve two problems.”
“Could the problems be experience points and contribution points…?”
“No. I have more than enough of both of them. Starting from Level 5, leveling up isn’t just a simple increase in power. It is equivalent to a whole class advancement.”
To be completely honest, Seol Jihu had no idea what that meant, but he still nodded his head.
“The same goes for Unique Rankers. For me to advance to Level 8, I need to prove that I am qualified by meeting certain conditions.”
“The first condition is two bring back two items. The second condition is to increase my Luck stat by a single stage.”
In other words, Seo Yuhui wanted him to find these two items and help raise her Luck stat. Interpreting her words as such, Seol Jihu asked.
“What are the two items?”
“They’re both tokens the ancient Empire passed down to their saintesses as a symbolic gesture. One looks like a crucifix that Priests often use, and the other looks like a ring.”
“The ancient Empire…? Wait, what are they called?”
Seol Jihu began to talk fast.
“If I remember correctly, the crucifix artifact… is called the Proof of Castitas.”
Seeing Seol Jihu’s jaw drop down, Seo Yuhui calmly added another line.
“I’m not telling you to go find it for me now. It’s an item from hundreds of years ago, so it’s naturally extremely rare and precious. I’ll give you the Flower of Soma for now, so when you have time, you can come with me to….”
However, Seol Jihu wasn’t dazed because finding this artifact was difficult. In fact, it was the opposite.
[I know what that token is. It is called the Proof of Castitas.]
[It’s the proof of one’s chastity. It is one of the artifacts given to a saintess.]
Remembering Ian’s words from all those months ago, Seol Jihu clenched his fists, half in doubt.
“I just have to help you with these?”
“No, I’m not expecting you to help me raise my Luck. To be honest, I’ve half given up on rising to Level 8.”
Hearing Seol Jihu speak as though he was confident in resolving her problems, Seo Yuhui continued while tilting her head.
“Of course, it would be nice if I could raise my Luck stat soon. It will give me a bit more breathing room to prepare for the upcoming danger….”
“I’ll give it to you.”
“Proof of Castitas is the crucifix artifact, and the ring is called the Proof of Devotion, right?”
Not expecting Seol Jihu to know about the items in such detail, Seo Yuhui’s eyes opened wide.
“Y-You’ve heard of them?”
“I can help you raise your Luck stat too.”
“I mean I will help you advance to Level 8.”
When Seo Yuhui put on a dumbfounded expression…
Seol Jihu smiled.
“I’m nicknamed the problem-solver.”
This time, it was Seo Yuhui’s turn to be surprised.
A deal was made.
Seo Yuhui would give the Flower of Soma, and Seol Jihu promised to give three items once they returned to Haramark.
He had received the Proof of Castitas when he first visited the Forest of Denial, and he had obtained the ring when he took Flone out of the tomb for good.
Because Seol Jihu kept getting an item or two whenever he visited, the burial goods he brought out when Flone was freed only consisted of a longsword, a shield, and a ring.
And of these three items, he remembered the ring being called the Proof of Devotion.
Furthermore, since he had two Divine Elixirs of Luck, Seo Yuhui leveling up was practically guaranteed.
The moment they returned to Haramark, a Level 8 Earthling would appear for the second time in Paradise’s history.
‘I never thought I would use those items like this.’
Seol Jihu had finally found a use for the items he was keeping safe at the temple. Jang Maldong even accepted the trade, saying, ‘That is a fair trade.’ So, Seol Jihu was even more ecstatic.
Not only did he feel like he paid back some of his debts to Seo Yuhui, but he also obtained the Flower of Soma.
Of course, that didn’t mean all of his questions were answered.
In any case, Seo Yuhui began to explain how to use the Flower of Soma.
“Place your hand here, like you’re about to gently grab it.”
When Seo Yuhui carefully extended her hand holding the flower stem, the nervous Seol Jihu carefully held her hand with both of his hands.
While he was absorbed in the warmth of her hand, he heard Seo Yuhui sigh.
“Don’t grab my hand. Grab the essence.”
With a soft ‘Ah’, Seol Jihu quickly took his hands off. The moment he brought his hand up to the essence…
The essence at the center of the flower shone and changed color.
Seeing this, Seo Yuhui blinked her eyes.
“Is that bad?”
Seo Yuhui shook her head.
“The Essence of Soma radiates a transparent light in its natural state and changes color to match an external force that stimulates it. The records generally say it becomes deep yellow or blue, and sometimes red. But this color….”
It wasn’t deep yellow, but dazzling gold.
“It’s good, right?”
“I don’t know…. There isn’t any record regarding the gold color.”
This made Seol Jihu worry slightly, but as he was rather fond of the gold color, he shook off his anxiousness.
“What should I do next?”
Rather than answering, Seo Yuhui held up the Flower of Soma to Seol Jihu’s mouth.
She was clearly telling him to eat it.
“Until the stem?”
“Just the essence.”
Without hesitation, Seol Jihu moved his mouth closer and bit down on the circular essence. He couldn’t help but think that this motion was a little lewd, but when he snapped the essence off, an electrifying sensation spread through his mouth and wiped away any idle thoughts.
It didn’t taste all that special. If he had to compare it to something, he would say it tasted like candy with the scent of flowers.
He had a strong urge to try and bite down on the essence, but worried about the thing exploding in his mouth, he obediently swallowed it.
As the essence went down his throat, he could feel a clear, electrifying sensation spread out.
Shaking his body, Seol Jihu slowly blinked his eyes. Irresistible drowsiness flooded his body as if his brain had ordered a complete shutdown due to the sudden appearance of the foreign substance.
“You’ll get sleepy.”
Seo Yuhui whispered to not disturb Seol Jihu.
“Don’t worry. It’s part of the process for the essence to take root inside your body.”
‘It’s simpler than I thought.’
Thinking so, Seol Jihu stopped resisting and let his consciousness fade away.
He had a dream.
And just like all dreams, once conscious, the contents of the dream became murky like a foggy night sea.
Thinking about it carefully, he felt like he saw a burning city and Teresa’s convulsing, decapitated body….
He wasn’t sure. But judging by the sweat drenching his clothes, he guessed that he must have seen a terrifying nightmare.
His entire body felt numb, and he felt like his eyeballs would pop out from fatigue. For some reason, the faint vibration from his heartbeats seemed to cause his body to spasm.
After moaning for a long time, Seol Jihu barely opened his heavy eyelids.
‘How long have I been asleep?’
“Are you awake?”
A familiar voice entered his ears. Seo Yuhui was looking down at him with her back bent and a relieved look on her face.
The throbbing pain intensified before quickly subsiding. Seol Jihu’s body was heavy.
“You’ll find it difficult to move still.”
But thanks to Seo Yuhui’s consoling voice, Seol Jihu quickly regained his calm.
“The essence took root, but it hasn’t been fully accepted yet.”
“How, how long has it been?”
“Four days. You slept like you were dead for four days, while moaning every now and then.”
When Seol Jihu gasped, Seo Yuhui sat down next to him while chuckling.
“The human body is more sensitive than you think. The essence took root since you ate it, but your body is still deciding whether to make it a part of itself or not. It’s the same for your brain, your heart, and your other organs.”
Seo Yuhui pressed Seol Jihu’s forehead, left chest, then stomach before pressing the center of his lower abdomen hard.
A groan escaped Seol Jihu’s mouth. He could feel something round and hard in his dantian.
“You now have an inner core inside you.”
When Seo Yuhui relaxed her hand and gently caressed his stomach, Seol Jihu twisted his body in pain.
“Be patient and wait. The fact that you opened your eyes must mean that your body has finished preparing to accept the essence.”
Collecting his breath, Seol Jihu looked up at the grey ceiling. Staring blankly, he couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Did I obtain a power that is beyond my capability to control?’
That was how Seol Jihu was. No matter what he did, rather than getting a taste of multiple things, he much preferred to dig into one thing.
Looking back, he had gone through great changes during this training at the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain, and most of these changes had come consecutively.
As Seol Jihu was used to achieving success after an arduous trial, this was an entirely new experience.
Take the anti-evil attribute, for example. He was only Level 4, yet he had grasped an opportunity that only a few Level 6s ran into.
Would he be able to wield a power he obtained with such ease properly?
“Anyways, this is strange.”
At that moment, Seo Yuhui spoke up. Seol Jihu’s heart dropped.
“The Essence of Soma is supposed to take root at the solar plexus or the heart… but it suddenly moved to the dantian.”
“Yep. It happened two days ago. Almost like it really liked your dantian….”
‘Liked? Is my dantian a bird’s nest? How cute!’
Seol Jihu pondered for a long time before asking to be helped up. After sitting cross-legged with Seo Yuhui’s help, he examined his internal body.
The fiercely pounding heart, the rhythmically flowing blood, and the large, unknown reserves sleeping in parts of his body — everything was the same.
The anti-evil lighting energy had simply been added to all these.
Seol Jihu busily examined his body brimming with life force, and suddenly, courage shot up from the bottom of his heart.
He felt confident he could do anything.
Thinking about it now, his growth rate had always been incredibly quick. Although it was true that having more tools at his disposal meant he had to worry about more things, but he would have said something already if he wanted to complain.
‘Let’s think positively.’
This could be his destiny as well. Perhaps, he was following a prearranged fate to prepare for the unknown future.
There had to be a reason he came to possess the anti-evil attribute and an incredible growth rate.
What was important was that this was not an opportunity he could miss, and that he had willfully accepted it because he needed it.
There was no use worrying about what was already done.
The die had been cast.
‘I’ll just have to master it.’
When he thought that—
The Essence of Soma, which felt out of place, suddenly dug deeper into his dantian.
Then, his heart jumped loudly. The intense reverberation almost caused Seol Jihu to open his tightly shut eyes.
The pain endlessly tormenting his body slowly subsided until what little remained turned into a pleasant sensation that stimulated the muscles and veins.
A golden light slowly enveloped Seol Jihu’s flesh. When he opened his eyes, unable to endure any longer, brilliant golden light shone from his eyes.
A golden current of electricity crackled out, and a powerful energy slowly emerged as if to peek its head out of the surface of the water.
Seol Jihu subconsciously raised his chin and opened his mouth. Flop. His hands tilted back, and his chest strutted out.
Feeling an impossibly pure and powerful energy that seemed to want to burst inside him, Seol Jihu roared silently.
A terrifying lightning energy rippled out and shook the cave.
A legend had finished the preparation to take its first step.
-ssi is usually translated as “Miss” but I’ve left this as is to match the rest of the conversation.Similar to ‘-ssi’ but exclusive forto younger, unmarried females.Seo Yuhui starts talking in casual speech (informal) from here on out.