Chapter 103. The Threads of Bonds Coming Together (5)

[Well done.]

Gula spoke in a rare, upbeat voice.

[Not only did you stop the Parasites’ plan, but you also dealt their forces a considerable blow. Even the Parasite Queen should have no choice but to falter because of that.]

It sounded like she was praising him. To confirm this, Seol Jihu bowed down and immediately felt a gentle touch stroking his hair. Was it because it was the hand of a goddess? He liked how warm it was.

[Well done. You earned us a lot of time.]

‘Time?’

[Yes, this event will serve as a sturdy breakwater for when you fully jump into the flow of fate in the future.]

He was happy to be praised but not so much with her riddles.

‘Goddess Gula, I may sound impertinent, but can you be a bit more straightforward?’

[What do you mean?]

‘Straightforward. You always seem to say things in a roundabout way.’

[….]

‘For example, the five Ws — who, what, when, where, why. If you could at least explain things this way, won’t it be easier for both of us?’

His bold question stopped Gula’s hand, and Seol Jihu felt a tapping on his head; almost as if Gula was contemplating, ‘What should I do with this child?’

[Didn’t I tell you before? Revealing profound secrets would greatly affect the law of causality.]

‘Is it that important to not affect the law of causality?’

[Of course, it is. You can bring about a desired effect by interfering with the cause. But the law of causality is always impartial.]

The gentle and consoling voice continued.

[Even if you can make the scale tip on one side, the law of causality will always balance it back.]

‘Do you mean to say if you affect the cause to bring about a favorable effect, the other side will be given a similar cause and effect?’

[That’s right. And if we are not careful, it might nullify everything we have done until now.]

‘Then I guess, I can’t pester you about that….’

Seol Jihu acquiesced quietly. Gula must have felt bad seeing his dejected look. Her voice rang out.

[It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say. Thankfully there are some possibilities ahead of us, so for the time being, be patient and focus on your growth. Worrying too much about this now would be the same as putting the cart before the horse.]

Seol Jihu’s ears perked up after hearing that there was a method to avoid the balancing effect of the law of causality. However, he didn’t press for an explanation any further than he needed.

Gula’s serious tone made him feel that he shouldn’t investigate the matter any further. Although his curiosity hadn’t been satisfied, he decided to move along and finish what he came to do.

The situation with his level was exactly as he expected it to be. By participating in the rescue mission, he had amassed quite a bit of experience and merit. His indirect involvement in the destruction of the laboratory and his subsequent survival against all odds gave him a large amount of contribution points.

It was so much that….

[In the name of Gula, I shall henceforth bestow Seol Jihu the title of Level 3 Mana Lancer! I expect great feats befitting the one-of-a-kind class from you!]

…He had experience points left over after he leveled up.

‘What?’

Seol Jihu quickly raised his head, his excitement disappearing as a look of horror appeared on his face.

[What’s wrong?]

‘T-The class name.’

[It’s Mana Lancer.]

Seol Jihu’s jaw dropped at Gula’s firm answer, and then he quickly became depressed. After hesitating for a moment, he opened his eyes and muttered in his head, ‘That’s too harsh.’

[?]

‘What the heck is a Mana Lancer….’

[What do you mean?]

‘I mean, don’t you have cooler class names? I’m embarrassed to tell people my class name.’

[You little brat.]

Seol Jihu felt more strength entering the hand stroking his head. He quickly asked before he got smacked.

‘Gula-nim, there’s something I want to ask.’

[Speak.]

‘Would it be possible for you to awaken just one of the colors of the right side?’

[Not even remotely possible.]

Just as he expected, Gula refused flatly. Seol Jihu was rubbing his hands together with a pleading smile, but as soon as he heard Gula’s answer, his expression turned cold.

[Don’t even dream about it. The three colors of the right side are tied together and need to be awakened simultaneously. As I told you the last time, this takes a large amount of contribution points.]

Hearing this reply, Seol Jihu grumbled inwardly, ‘You’re a goddess, so do you have to be so stingy? At the very least, can’t you change my class name? Your naming sense sucks.’ He complained in all possible ways.

[Impertinent!]

Thwack. In the end, Gula smacked him.

‘Che!’

Seol Jihu rubbed his steaming head and snorted.

‘Wait and see!’

He remembered hearing that Luxuria, the goddess of lust, was like a kind older sister, who would give you a warm embrace. Furthermore, her voice was said to be sensual.

Seol Jihu vowed to start going to Luxuria’s temple henceforth, instead of going here.

[Whew….]

While Gula sighed like she was disappointed, Seol Jihu confirmed the new abilities he could awaken. Mana Spear could evolve into ‘Mana Spear - Multiple’, but he passed on it for now since he planned to learn this himself.

There was also the ‘Aura’, which amplified the cutting power and the destructive power of his spear. When he thought about how he learned this skill under Jang Maldong’s training, a dumbfounded laugh escaped his mouth. Aura was a skill that could be learned at Level 3 and was extremely difficult to learn at Level 2.

Old Man Maldong was only trying to help him learn how to materialize his mana. But one thing Jang Maldong had overlooked was Seol Jihu’s abnormally high Mana stat, which easily contended with the ‘High Rankers’. He was able to learn Aura quickly with the help of Mana Circulation, which boasted a higher proficiency rank compared to his level, and the effect of Psychi’s Tears.

The old man’s face at the time was quite a sight to behold.

In any case, the remaining skill was the ‘Flash Step’, which sounded vaguely familiar.

‘Some sort of a movement technique….?’

He felt like he’d seen it before in martial arts novels, but that was it. A worried look appeared on his face. He was obviously thinking, ‘Just how the heck am I supposed to learn this?’

[I see that you’re worried.]

‘No, it’s just….’

Seol Jihu shook his head, but upon realizing that Gula could read his mind, he laughed feebly.

[Fufu, you are worried over nothing.]

‘Worried over nothing?’

[You don’t have to worry about what is to come. That is, as long as you don’t choose to run away or do nothing. After all, you’ve been weaving the threads of bonds one by one.]

‘Ah, here she goes again with her enigmatic riddles.’

[The threads tied to you are trying to bind new bonds. So just be patient and wait.]

He had no clue what she meant by threads or bonds. He also didn’t like the word ‘bind’, since it sounded like he was forcing people. But the message as a whole seemed to be a good one.

Seol Jihu nodded his head. He knew that talking back would only end up with him getting smacked. More importantly, his mind was currently filled with thoughts about Flash Step.

*

Jang Maldong must have been exhausted, as he lay sprawled on the couch. He had already met everyone he needed to, and wanted to head back. But people kept visiting him nonstop.

It wasn’t that he disliked it. In fact, he was rather grateful that they remembered him. But even good things needed to be in moderation.

Plus, there were more than a few people who were expecting him to come out of retirement and return to Paradise. Also, it was a chore to have deep conversations.

And that wasn’t all. If there was one topic he heard more than his retirement, it was the newbie. Everyone who visited him brought up the newbie, so much so that he was starting to get annoyed. But then again, his interest was piqued.

‘Wait, what was that guy’s name again…? Ah, no!’

He didn’t finish his thought. He was retired. He didn’t want to involve himself any further.

“I’ll need to go back soon. If I stay any longer than this….”

Jang Maldong picked up his tie and coat before anyone else could come to bother him. But the heavens weren’t so kind.

Knock, knock. Before he could even put on his tie, knocks rang out on the door. Jang Maldong let out a groan before plopping down on the couch and pressing his temples.

“…Come in, the door is open.”

The door opened. Who was it this time? Jang Maldong narrowed his eyes and turned to the door, only to be surprised.

“Is anyone here?”

An old voice rang out. The visitor looked just as old as Jang Maldong. The important thing was that he was someone Jang Maldong had never seen before. The old visitor looked at Jang Maldong and asked quietly.

“Excuse me, is there an Earthling named Seol here?”

‘Right, it was Seol…. Wait, Earthling?’

People from Earth rarely referred to themselves as Earthlings. In the first place, the word was coined to distinguish between Earthlings and Paradisians, so it was often used by Paradisians.

“He seems to be out…. Ah, come in.”

“I see. Excuse me then, I’ll be troubling you for a bit.”

The old visitor walked in and sat down on the couch across from Jang Maldong. Because the old visitor seemed to be the same age as him, Jang Maldong spoke politely, “Would you like to drink some tea while you wait?”

The old visitor did the same.

“No, I’m fine. Plus, I am not an Earthling.”

“Does it matter whether you are an Earthling or a Paradisian? Haha.”

Jang Maldong chuckled before brewing two cups of tea and handing one to the old visitor.

“T-Thank you.”

“No problem. That’s a traditional Korean tea made from tea leaves found on Earth. It’s sweet even though it doesn’t have any sugar in it.”

The old visitor carefully took a sip before nodding his head.

“It tastes wonderful!”

“I’m happy that you like it. If you’d like, I can bring some for you to take back home.”

Seeing Jang Maldong roar with laughter, the old visitor was slightly taken aback. It seemed like he didn’t know what to make of the unexpected treatment.

After taking a few more sips, Jang Maldong finally asked what he was wondering.

“Pardon me, but who might you be? Why are you trying to find that young man?” He asked politely.

As the old visitor was used to being treated as an NPC, he couldn’t help but see Jang Maldong in a different light. He quickly fixed his posture to look like a gentleman before finally opening his mouth.

“I’m the village head of Ramman Village. I came to thank him on behalf of the village.”

“Excuse me?”

Jang Maldong was taken by surprise at the old visitor’s unexpected reason for stopping by. It was then. Kiik. The door creaked open. Two pairs of eyes turned to the side simultaneously and found a young man walking in dejectedly.

“Huh?”

Seol Jihu must have seen the village head as he let out a surprised voice.

“Village head?”

Only then did the village head reveal a gentle smile.

“It’s been a while.”

*

Seol Jihu and the village head conversed cordially for a long time. The atmosphere was quite decent, which was to be expected, given how much help they had given each other.

After being relegated to a spectator, Jang Maldong carefully listened to their conversation.

“You must be a fool, telling the king to use the gold bar you earned for our village. Do you know how surprised I was hearing that?”

‘What?’

Jang Maldong was listening with his chin on his hand when he heard what the village head said and raised his head.

He earned what and used it how?

“I remembered you saying that you wanted to move to the city. I don’t really like carrying debts on my shoulders, you see.”

“That’s quite the way of paying back your debts. How did you manage to convince the king? I doubt he agreed easily.”

“He was troubled at first, so I had to tell him about your invaluable contribution on making the rescue mission a success. Ah, I also made sure to explain your circumstances, so you won’t have to worry about being bothered by him.”

“Please! He already came to see me personally and indirectly asked if I would lend the royal family a hand.”

“Huuh?”

“Well, don’t worry about it too much. He said he wouldn’t mention my past, and I told him that I’d think about it.”

Despite what he was saying, the village head seemed happy that the king personally came to recruit him. At that moment, Seol Jihu was suddenly reminded of Gula’s words about ‘binding’ others with bonds. But he quickly forgot about it and congratulated the old man.

The village head let out a dry cough. That was when he saw Jang Maldong sitting there in a daze and went, “Ah.” He realized he had gotten swept away by the atmosphere and ended up talking too much.

“Ah, he is….”

When Seol Jihu tried to introduce him, Jang Maldong opened his mouth, “I’m Jang Maldong, an insignificant villager.”

“Jang Maldong?”

The village head showed signs of being startled.

“Could you be Haramark’s famous martial arts master…?”

“It’s a false reputation.”

The village head shook his head.

“False reputation? I see that you’re humble. Even among Paradisians, there are few who have not heard of the name Jang Maldong.”

After saying that, the village head held out his hand, “This insignificant villager is named Arbor Muto. May I have the honor?”

“I’m embarrassed to take your hand.”

“Don’t be. I know full well just how much you’ve done for Paradise until now. Since even the Head of a remote village knows about you, what more is there to say?”

Once the village head put it that way, Jang Maldong found it harder to refuse. Seol Jihu watched the two old men shake hands and smiled in awe.

‘Old Man Maldong really is amazing!’

After shaking hands, the village head, no, Arbor Muto got up. Jang Maldong followed him in a hurry.

“Why don’t you stay a little longer?”

“It’s fine. You see, the entire village has been quite busy preparing for the migration.”

Jang Maldong couldn’t say much once he heard this. Arbor Muto looked back and forth between Jang Maldong and Seol Jihu before smiling happily.

“I was thinking that this man was different…. It seems it’s all thanks to you. Mm, it is normal for a courageous master to nurture a courageous disciple.”

“N-No….”

“Then I must thank you as well. You helped save the lives of hundreds of villagers.”

Jang Maldong was flustered. This old man in front of him seemed to be mistaken about something. However, Arbor Muto continued unfazed.

“You have an excellent disciple. I’m envious.”

At that moment, Jang Maldong’s eyes opened wide. He looked dazed as if he had just been struck in the head with a hammer.

“I’ll see you off.”

“Please, don’t. I’ll be uncomfortable if you do.”

Arbor Muto walked towards the door before suddenly stopping.

“Ah… there’s actually one thing I forgot to mention. Well, it’s more of a request.”

“Please, go ahead.”

Arbor Muto rummaged through his pockets before taking out a folded piece of paper.

“Have you heard of Huge Stone Rocky Mountain?”

Seol Jihu tilted his head. He had no clue, but this was a place Jang Maldong was familiar with. After all, this was where countless memories from when he was in his prime were buried. Then again, it was a place of nightmares for Chohong and Hugo.

Seol Jihu took the folded paper and asked.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a map to my hideout in that mountain.”

“Pardon?”

“What’s there to be so surprised of?”

“…Just how many hideouts do you have?”

Arbor Muto paused for a moment before replying, “Twenty-two?”

“….”

“The smart ones are always digging tunnels to escape for when they need to.”

After snickering like a child, he continued, “Anyways, it’s close to Haramark. It will only take a day by carriage.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing much. There should be a few worn-down equipment and books lying around. All you have to do is bring them to me.”

“That sounds easy.”

“It should be. But, I recommend you to be careful. It’s been a while since anyone’s visited that place, and because I built the hideout in a cave, I don’t know what might be dwelling in it now.”

“Yes, I understand.”

Seol Jihu nodded his head slowly.

“When do you need them?”

“You can take your time. As you know, I’ve been a bit busy lately. You can go when you’re bored and want a fresh breath of air.”

“So it looks like I have time.” Seol Jihu smiled brightly.

“Also….”

Arbor Muto made a furtive smile.

“I plan on paying with what’s inside the hideout. Is that okay?”

“With what’s inside the hideout?”

“Yes, there should be items and potions inside. They’re nothing great, so I understand if you’d rather take money.”

“No, that’s fine with me.” Seol Jihu agreed immediately, remembering that the village head was a distinguished Mage back in the day.

“Anyways, you can go when you have time.” With that, Arbor Muto left the office.

“What kind of person is he?” Jang Maldong finally snapped out of his daze and asked as soon as the door closed shut. Seol Jihu hesitated as if he found it difficult to answer him.

“He doesn’t seem like the kind of man who belongs in a remote village.”

“How did you know?”

“He didn’t look simple, and I could easily figure it out from your conversation. If the king personally made him an offer, he shouldn’t be an ordinary old man.”

“Ah… that’s true.”

“It’s fine. I can keep secrets.”

Seol Jihu scratched his cheek and opened his mouth like he didn’t have a choice.

“He went into seclusion, but he was once a famous Mage in the Delphinion Duchy.”

“Delphinion Duchy,” Jang Maldong exclaimed in surprise.

“A Mage from the Empire. He’s an even bigger man than I imagined.”

“The Empire? But he’s from the Delphinion Duchy.”

“Delphinion Duchy was one of the duchies under the duke families of the Empire.”

Having heard this for the first time, Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

“But that old man sure likes to go about things in a roundabout way. He could have just told you straight out. Instead, he makes it a request….”

Jang Maldong snickered before suddenly raising his arm with a gentle face, and placing his hand on the youth’s shoulder.

“Thank you.”

Tap, tap. He tapped his shoulders a couple of times and smiled. This was the first smile Seol Jihu was seeing.

*

Despite saying he would leave as soon as possible, Jang Maldong stayed for another day under the pretext he would see Chohong and Hugo one more time. Of course, his real reason was something else.

He couldn’t get his meeting with Arbor Muto out of his mind. He couldn’t forget the words that were said to him. A refreshing feeling constantly surged inside him, not wanting to disappear.

He had been full of complaints, but now he wanted to stay in Paradise.

Of course, staying in Paradise came with the risk of having to meet someone. And Jang Maldong’s intuition was spot on.

“Maldong!”

Ian came to visit him once more. Jang Maldong showed clear hints of being tired, but after being convinced by Ian’s words that this might be the last chance for them to drink together, he headed to Eat, Drink, and Enjoy.

“I thought you would have already left by now. I’m surprised.”

“I’m leaving soon.”

“C’mon, do you really have to?”

“Of course, I won’t really be welcomed if I stayed anyway.”

“Ha! Who in Paradise won’t welcome you? Who!?”

Ian spat out a mouthful of saliva as he protested strongly.

“Think about it, friend, hm? Haramark still needs you!”

In truth, Ian Denzel was one of the people Jang Maldong was most uncomfortable around. That was because Ian was one of his closest friends who earnestly wished for his return.

“Whew….”

Seeing Jang Maldong staying silent, Ian heaved out a deep sigh. He must have drunk quite a lot as the smell of alcohol oozed out of his mouth.

“Roger, Garp, Sengoku…. There aren’t many left who know the old Paradise.”

“It’s been dozens of years. It’s obvious….”

Jang Maldong was nodding his head in agreement when…. “What? Ro… Who?”

He furrowed his brows and asked back. Ian dropped his head before breaking out into an uncontrollable laughter.

“Shame! What a shame! I was hoping you’d bitterly agree with what I said!”

Jang Maldong clicked his tongue with a dumbfounded look.

“I see that you haven’t lost your habit of spouting nonsense. You still watch those animations?”

“Of course, I do. You should see them too. Anime is fun.”

“At my age? Even you should watch in moderation. I won’t nag you about watching them, but isn’t it embarrassing to spout nonsense like that?”

“Advice from a friend? Fine! I won’t see it from now on.”

Tak. Ian smacked the table, his eyes flickering with light.

“So you should come back.”

Jang Maldong put on a tired expression at Ian’s jump in logic.

“You sure are persistent, I’ll give you that. Don’t you get tired?”

“Do you know why I’m not giving up and pestering you until the end?”

His question was met with another question.

“I don’t.”

“It’s because I know you have regrets.”

Jang Maldong was about to empty a glass when he paused and looked at Ian solemnly.

“The Jang Maldong I know is sure about tying and cutting off connections, but your visits from time to time means that you still have lingering feelings here.” Ian emphasized his point.

Jang Maldong slowly put his glass down.

“What do you know?”

“I doubt there’s anyone in Paradise who knows you better than me.”

“….”

“Not helping the Beastman Alliance. The revolts and internal conflicts. The countless Paradisians who died as a result.”

“….”

“I don’t think any of that is your fault.”

“…You’re right,” Jang Maldong agreed readily.

“But I believe, at the very least, I played a role in them. I shouldn’t have given them power so easily.”

His voice was full of regret.

“How humans change once they obtain power…. I’ve never been so regretful of my profession in my life.”

“If that’s what you really think, then I won’t stop you.”

Ian shrugged his shoulders.

“But the Jang Maldong I know isn’t someone who would forget about his mistake and abandon it. No, he’s the type to fix it and make up for it.”

“Let’s stop talking about this.”

Jang Maldong revealed his discomfort.

“There’s no reason for me to stay in Paradise.”

“No.”

However, Ian didn’t stop.

“There is. You still have a dream to achieve.”

“It’s an unachievable dream.”

Jang Maldong remarked bitterly.

“It’s too late. Paradise is already…”

“No, you’re wrong.” Ian refuted him before he could even finish his thought.

“I think life is like the four seasons. When spring passes, summer comes. When summer leaves, autumn comes knocking. And when autumn departs, winter enters.”

“Enough with the ambiguous riddles. If there’s something you want to say, say it clearly.”

“It’s Seol.”

Ian brought up his main point.

“What about him?”

“I think the change has already begun.”

“You make it sound like he will return Paradise to what it used to be.”

“I’m not lying. I know it will happen, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Jang Maldong could tell from Ian’s eyes that he was completely serious. He could feel that each word he spoke had a weight behind it.

“Every time we think it can’t be done, every time we think it’s impossible, Seol made it come true. When I heard he had returned from the rescue mission alive, I was convinced. He might have been lucky the first couple of times, but not the third time. Seol has a special power.”

Jang Maldong closed his eyes. A long sigh escaped his mouth.

“That guy… I know that he’s special. I acknowledge that he’s good. But….”

Jang Maldong hesitated, then twisted his lips.

“But you never know. Who knows if he will change in the future like the rest of them?”

“That’s why he needs you.”

Ian spoke as if he’d been waiting for this exact moment.

“Seol needs someone to guide him, someone to keep him on the right track.”

He blurted out as if he was tired of having to say such obvious things. Jang Maldong didn’t say anything. He only fiddled with his glass of alcohol. From the outside, he looked like he was thinking about something.

Ian tilted his own glass, even though his face was flushed red.

“Maldong.”

His tongue slurred, but the words he spoke were clear.

“In the four seasons of life, spring won’t come just by waiting.”

“….”

“You have to endure the bitter cold and struggle to break through the frozen earth. Only then can you see the light of day and welcome spring.”

“….”

“I’m not telling you to do anything. I’m not telling you to return to the front lines. Both you and I already failed once, and we’ve aged.”

After saying that….

“But if you still hold onto the dream we once held….” He continued with sincerity and earnestness that wasn’t present before.

“Then at least put out your last chips. Like a final hurrah… bet on the card that can turn the tide of…”

Koong! Ian slurred the last bits of speech before his head slammed the table. For the next few moments, a long silence ensued. Jang Maldong listened to Ian’s inebriated mumblings, then smiled bitterly.

“Easy to say, damned guy.”

He raised the glass in his hand and poured it into his mouth.

*

It wasn’t until late at night that Jang Maldong left the pub. After telling the owner to throw Ian somewhere on the side of the road, he headed back to Carpe Diem’s office. Perhaps because he was drunk, his feet staggered from side to side.

Jang Maldong’s steps halted in front of the office door. Now that he thought about it, he didn’t have a reason to go in. He just had to turn back and leave Paradise. Then, everything would be over.

After hesitating for some time, Jang Maldong took a peek inside. “Hoh.” Then, he subconsciously exclaimed in awe.

On the first floor, a young man was training arduously. Even though it was late, he just as hardworking as the first day he saw him.

Looking at him, several statements flashed in his mind.

[Can you believe it? He consoled a soul. A soul!]

[That was hilarious. He stood there and said, ‘If you want to take it, do it over my dead body!’ God, I still remember it clearly.]

[He’s an idiot. Do you know why he volunteered to be the bait during the battle of Arden Fortress? He said he didn’t want any harm to come to the royal army!]

[He’s a bit of a unique Earthling. How should I say this… well, you can tell just from the way he’s uncomfortable around me, the king…. It doesn’t look like he’s treating Paradise as a game. Teresa fell for him, which says everything.]

Most importantly….

[You have an excellent disciple.]

The words Muto said to him made him tremble. He had heard the same words multiple times for the countless Earthlings he trained. However, this was the first time he received this feeling.

After all, even the same words could hold different meanings.

The more he thought about it, a tight thread seemed to be binding his leg, telling him to stay.

[I know you still have regrets.]

Jang Maldong sighed.

“I didn’t have regrets… they just appeared now, you bastard.”

After murmuring to himself, he stared at the young man with complicated eyes.

‘If only he was a genius….’

From what he could gather during the short time he trained him, the young man’s physical body was incredible for his level. However, his talents were strictly average.

He wasn’t the type to surprise anyone if left alone, but he wasn’t the type to disappoint anyone either.

If he wasn’t exactly the way he was, he would have been able to leave without hesitation. That’s what was regrettable.

If he could teach him this, if he could teach him that….

In other words, he could do it if he just knew how.

‘Why did he have to appear now of all times?’

Jang Maldong pressed his fedora down. Then, he slowly walked forward.

*

Seol Jihu was happy. That was because Agnes had just contacted him, telling him she would come to visit soon. Although she said she might be late, he knew Agnes kept her promises.

Excited to ask her about Flash Step the moment she came, he trained by himself while waiting.

It was then…

“Hoh.”

Seol Jihu turned around hearing the door open. He then blinked his eyes in surprise.

“Elder Jang Maldong?”

“You said your name was Seol?”

Putting aside the fact that Jang Maldong came in without an announcement, Seol was more surprised that he called him by his name for the first time.

“There’s something I want to ask you.”

Curious about his sudden statement, he calmly came down from the workout machine.

“What’s the reason you come to Paradise?”

Seol Jihu’s face contorted. He couldn’t determine the intent behind the question. He smelled a hint of alcohol coming from him. His gentle eyes seemed to be burning with invisible flames.

“I want to know why you come to Paradise.”

Feeling that something wasn’t right, Seol Jihu carefully reflected on the question before opening his mouth.

“Because I like this place.”

“No, not something abstract like that.”

The old man asked again.

“Be more concrete. Money and fame! Benefits or freedom! Things like that!”

Seol Jihu shook his head.

“Um… it’s nothing like that.”

“It’s not?”

The old man asked sharply.

“You don’t like money and fame?”

“No, it’s not that I hate them. In the first place, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking them.”

“That’s true.”

“But I’m not coming to Paradise because of them.”

“Then why?”

“Because this is the place I belong.”

Seol Jihu scratched his cheek.

“It’s also the place that gave me a fresh start….”

He made a troubled expression before smiling.

“I really can’t think of anything to say other than that I like it here.”

The old man kept his eyes fixed on him the whole time. As if to not miss even the slightest twitch of his facial muscles, he examined every fiber of his hair and reflected on every single word he spoke.

After a brief moment of silence, the old man began to talk once more.

“Then.”

“?”

“You will be sad if Paradise disappears.”

“O-Of course.”

Seol Jihu replied in a fluster. Paradise disappearing? He’d finally found his place to be. He didn’t even want to imagine such a thing.

In fact, he didn’t know why he was asking such a thing in the first place. So when he gave the old man a confused glance, his fierce expression softened.

“…Is that true?”

His hoarse voice mellowed as well.

“Yes.”

Seol Jihu tilted his head and replied clearly.

“But why are you asking me that?”

Although he asked this question, the old man didn’t respond. His wooden cane, which had been constantly tapping the ground, finally stopped.

“Damned brat.”

He suddenly cursed.

“10 years… no, if only you came 5 years earlier.”

He even gritted his teeth.

“Appearing now of all times…!”

He bit his lips before turning back and stomping out.

‘D-Did I do something wrong?’

As if he was struck by a bolt of lightning under a clear sky, Seol Jihu pouted his lower lip.

Jang Maldong walked down to the basement and opened the iron cabinet. The closet was full of clothes he used to wear in the past. With thirsty eyes, he roughly took off his coat. He proceeded to take off his shirt and pants before changing into his training clothes.

When he saw himself in the mirror, a refreshed feeling surged inside him.

Soon, carrying his wooden stick, Jang Maldong made his way up the stairs.

The creator of legends.

Paradise’s King Maker had finally returned.

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