Chapter 154. Extravagant Meals (2)

The inside of Seo Yuhui’s house wasn’t a complete mess, but he could see familiar sacks strewn around the floor.

‘This is…’

The Daughter of Luxuria’s house.

It was a humble place compared to her fame, but it had a warm atmosphere.

‘Hugo would have been green with envy if he knew.’

After getting caught sniffing the aroma of sandalwood around the room, Seol Jihu blushed a bit before he rolled up his sleeves and began to help tidy the room.

The work wasn’t too hard or tiresome, but Seol Jihu struggled to keep his distance from Seo Yuhui while he helped her clean.

It was because desires that were too embarrassing to even word out would assault his mind if she came too close.

He wanted to play pranks on her, whine about things, and…

'What’s wrong with me?'

His mind knew that he couldn’t, but he felt as if his instincts were throwing a fit, screaming ‘I wanna hug! I wanna hug!’

It was to the point where he was confident that even if he went ‘Screw this! I’m hugging her!’ and embraced her, Seo Yuhui would only let out a helpless sigh and forgive him.

'What the fuck am I thinking?'

While he ended up not doing anything as even he believed his thoughts were retarded, Seol Jihu was completely bewildered.

Was it weird if he felt like his body was automatically reacting?

He could almost understand why Chohong and Hugo ran away; there wasn’t anything harder than the situation he was in.

Upon sneaking a glance at the fine neckline of Seo Yuhui who was hard at work, Seol Jihu moaned inside and forcibly tore his gaze away.

And as he did so, a sack placed in the corner of the room came into view. While he was staring at it since he had nowhere else to place his eyes on…

“They’re ingredients.”

"Huk!"

Seol Jihu jumped up in surprise at the sudden voice.

"Are you okay?"

When Seo Yuhui approached him, Seol Jihu shrank back instinctively.

"Yes, yes."

Seeing the youth go ‘Haha’ and stumble away towards the sack, Seo Yuhui made a surprised expression.

"…You’re holding out surprising well, aren’t you?"

"Huh?"

"No, it’s nothing."

Seo Yuhui who had mumbled to herself, laughed it off, waving her hands as if nothing happened.

Suddenly feeling that the conversation had gotten awkward, Seol Jihu hurriedly searched for a new topic.

“Oh, they were ingredients. Ingredients, huh. I almost thought…”

"Thought what?"

“There were all sorts of weird rumors because of these sacks.”

“Really? They’re really just ingredients… You can check them yourself.”

Urged by curiosity, Seol Jihu opened the sacks and found familiar things inside.

They were normal food ingredients no matter how he saw.

‘She is right.’

He had thought there would be something special inside. Receiving the answer to the question he had had for a while, his anxiety dropped significantly.

“The residents of Ramman Village settled down faster than I expected. I had prepared a lot thinking they would take longer, so I ended up having a lot of unused ingredients…”

The Order of Luxuria had actively supported King Prihi’s decision and did not spare any efforts doing so.

Seol Jihu nodded in acknowledgment remembering that Seo Yuhui had been at the center of this support.

'She’s a good person.'

Seo Yuhui gathered her hands and made a beautiful smile.

"Speaking of which, you’re an amazing person."

Seol Jihu doubted his ears.

“Is it true? That after solving the unsolvable mystery of the Ramman Village, you turned down the gold bar and asked the king to use it for the residents instead?”

Seol Jihu’s cheeks flushed.

Whether she did or didn’t know Seol Jihu’s complicated mind, Seo Yuhui happily chirped on.

“Normal Earthlings would find it hard to make such a decision. You must really be… a kind person.”

He stopped breathing. His face also became stiff.

His heart started pounding as if he was a child that finally got caught for doing something wrong.

‘Why all of a sudden?'

An unexplainable feeling enveloped his body.

It was like he was placed in a moment of choice. Although it wasn’t a big deal, it definitely felt as if he was at an important ‘fork’ in the road.

Seol Jihu who had been standing there stunned with his hands on his chest, "…No."

He unconsciously spoke out.

"That’s not it."

A slightly hoarse voice.

“It’s not like that.”

Seo Yuhui’s eyes widened at the three consecutive denials.

It wasn’t out of humbleness; it was what Seol Jihu really thought.

Thinking back, he felt like this ever since the Forest of Denial— no, since the Neutral Zone.

Every time people around him praised and raised him up for being kind and amazing, he had felt an unexplainable sense of burden and discomfort.

Seo Yuhui asked.

"What do you mean?"

"…I don’t know."

Seol Jihu let out a deep sigh. He knew he was speaking gibberish, but once he tried to explain, no words came out.

Only, while it could have been his misunderstanding, he felt as if Seo Yuhui was expecting a certain ‘image’ of him, and he wanted to just say that he wasn’t it.

“It’s just that the sins I’ve committed… they’re too much to count.”

Seol Jihu bit his lips.

“I wanted to lessen the guilt I was feeling…”

He continued on as if he was lamenting.

“And I hoped that if I kept living right, I might be forgiven one day…”

Even while knowing it wasn’t going to happen.

Seol Jihu bitterly pursed his lips.

“I’m… I’m not a good person.”

Seol Jihu realized he slipped up after saying that.

What fault did she have? It wasn’t that they were complete strangers, but he had unconsciously spilled out all his worries to her.

Seo Yuhui no longer had the gentle smile on her face. She was staring at him with sunken eyes.

Her fine lips slightly parted as if she was going to say something before closing them again.

Feeling her quiet eyes penetrate through him, Seol Jihu lowered his head.

“I’m sorry.”

He began to concentrate on cleaning, feeling like he had spoken unnecessarily.

The conversation that had awkwardly ended only resumed when they were almost done tidying up the room.

"Are you free tomorrow too?"

Seo Yuhui was making an ambiguous smile like the one Mona Lisa had. Her current expression seemed more natural than the always-smiling face she had put on.

"Tomorrow?"

"Yes. There are a lot of ingredients left, so…”

"Oh, what should I do… I’m not sure if I’ll have time from tomorrow onwards…”

Seo Yuhui blinked her eyes.

“Our team decided to go to the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain tomorrow. The new recruits are going to receive training from Master Jang.”

Then a second later, Seo Yuhui’s eyes widened.

"Oh my! Huge Stone Rocky Mountain?”

"Huh? Yes."

"That’s great!"

Lightly clapping her hands, she requested to accompany him after explaining that she too had things she had to do at the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain.

“It’s a danger zone after all. I’m not too comfortable going alone so it’s fine even if you view it as an official request from me.”

"Ah, it’s okay."

Seol Jihu easily accepted after hearing her situation.

“We’re planning to be there for a while anyways. Since our destinations are the same, let’s go together.”

He accepted her request because having her could only be beneficial to them.

‘But wasn’t she supposed to be a High Ranker?’

After Seo Yuhui saw him off, a suspicion arose in Seol Jihu’s mind. But he quickly brushed off the thought, reminding himself of her occupation as a priest which was known for its poor combat abilities.

As expected, Jang Maldong did not refuse but rather welcomed her.

He wondered what someone like her would have to do in a mountain, but he did not dig further into it as it was her personal business.

The next day.

The Carpe Diem team boarded a carriage headed for the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain with Seo Yuhui who had come wearing a neat set of robes.

The company was originally composed of five people, but with the addition of Phi Sora who decided to come at the last minute, the sum added up to six.

*

As soon as they arrived, Seol Jihu immediately headed towards the hideout that the village chief had told him before.

They were planning to stay for at least a couple weeks, and it was difficult to find a better place to use as a base camp than there.

The cave was occupied by six Cave Ettins, but they were all massacred by Seol Jihu who suddenly attacked them.

The siblings shouted in surprise seeing the six monsters sent to their deaths with exactly six spear strikes.

They knew he wasn’t normal, but they didn’t imagine that the skill gap between them was this big considering that they were all from the same year.

Jang Maldong who was proudly watching from the side commented, “This is what I expected the first time we came,” before proceeding to take off his gear and prepare for the upcoming training.

‘Finally.’

It was time for training.

As Seol Jihu was stretching his body while restraining his explosive desire to train, Jang Maldong approached him.

The training was officially for the siblings, but Jang Maldong’s first priority was always Seol Jihu.

“I think I can finally see the direction of your growth.”

Jang Maldong opened his mouth.

“It’s speed.”

"Speed?"

“Yes. Especially considering your Festina Earring, Flash Step, etc. I find it highly likely that your fundamental combat style will center around on your speed. Try to think how you took down the Orc Champion.”

“Master. Then my Flash Thunder…”

"Don’t be too hasty."

Jang Maldong bluntly interrupted.

“It’s a little better now, but the incongruity between your mind, technique, and body still exists. Like I’ve said several times, your priority should be harmonizing these three elements. Your body needs to be able to house your tsunami-like mana in order to…”

Jang Maldong went on explaining for a while before suddenly turning his gaze. He saw Seo Yuhui wholeheartedly taking notes beside them.

“So that’s why. While his growth speed is fast, there is an incongruity between his mind, technique, and body… especially his mana…”

She could be seen lightly nodding her head and even biting the end of her pen while deep in thought.

“Ah. I almost made a mistake now that I think about it… If I had given him that drink yesterday, then his mana would have… I assumed that his base mana stat was low because he was a warrior but… Hmm… Then instead of raising his mana, I should feed him things that will enhance his physique…”

And as if she felt the gazes on herself, she stopped her murmurs and raised her head.

She waved off her hands seeing the two men stare at her.

“Oh. Please don’t mind me.”

"….Well, to explain a little further."

After letting out a dry cough, Jang Maldong turned towards Seol Jihu and continued.

“While speed is important in battle, power is also important. Flash Thunder can be viewed as an Awakening Skill that combines these two factors. The important part is that your originally attributeless mana will be imbued with the lightning attribute.”

He lifted his index finger and pointed it at Seol Jihu.

“What comes to your mind when you see lightning strikes?”

"That it’s fast… and powerful…."

"You’re right. The lightning essence is one that boasts extreme speed and almost perversely strong power. It suits you in a way, and is almost tailor-made for a warrior.”

Jang Maldong continued speaking solemnly.

“The point is that you have to make a body capable of enduring the extreme speed, allowing you to then pursue the power that comes along with it.”

Flash like light, and strike like thunder.

He had the speed, but his control over it was weak. Power came afterwards.

After pondering for a while, Seol Jihu asked.

“Master, I may be going ahead of myself, but how do I change my attribute?”

“That’s a good question.”

Jang Maldong crossed his arms.

“Along with everything I’ve mentioned before, you must prepare to evolve your Mana Cultivation.”

"Mana Cultivation?"

“Yes. Beyond simply gathering the mana in the atmosphere, the cultivation technique must be able to gather lightning energy, allowing you to utilize it.”

Seeing Seol Jihu at a loss for words, Jang Maldong smirked.

“You little punk. Haven’t I warned you before? Your training path is going to be full of thorns.”

He knew, but he stuck out his tongue as he didn’t expect it to be this hard.

‘When do I finish all of this…’

His future seemed bleak as the premonition that he might have to spend his whole life training dawned on him, but Seol Jihu adjusted his mind and steeled himself.

Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

No. He couldn’t even take the first step yet.

One had to have durable shoes to complete the thousand-mile journey.

Whether it was the Flash Step, Intuition, or the Festina Earring, he couldn’t properly use any of the skills he possessed. It was greedy for him to desire higher abilities at this point.

“So how is it? It’s not too late to back out yet…”

The smirking Jang Maldong paused again and turned his gaze.

“Lightning… Lightning…. Right. Luckily I still have the Essence of Soma…?”

Seo Yuhui rapidly blinked her eyes and quietly turned away to stare at a faraway peak.

Shrugging his shoulders, Jang Maldong passed a thick rope to Seol Jihu.

“Tie it around your waist.”

Seol Jihu slightly smiled, seeing the heavy logs tied on the other end of the rope.

“It’s not normal running anymore, huh?”

“We came all the way here so I’ve at least got to make you do this.”

Seol Jihu didn’t say anything else and tied the rope tightly around his waist.

“Do I practice the Thrust, Strike, and Cut afterwards?”

“Huhu. Try if you can. I won’t stop you.”

"Alright! I’ll be back!”

Without further ado, Seol Jihu dashed off.

Keutongtongtong!

Wincing at the loud rattling of the logs, Jang Maldong turned to the siblings who were standing straight on the side.

“You remember what I’ve told you before, right?”

The two nodded.

Jang Maldong pointed his chin at the now far away silhouette of Seol Jihu.

“Chase after him.”

In the next moment, the siblings started running after the youth.

“Sungjin, I’m sorry!”

Yi Seol-Ah raised her speed, leaving her brother behind who was tiredly going up the hill.

“N-Noona?”

She didn’t slow down despite hearing Yi Sungjin’s shout.

Yi Seol-Ah wasn’t stupid. Rather, she wasn’t any less smarter than Yun Seora.

Starting with them being able to leave the White Rose, she knew exactly how big of a fortune it was to be directly trained by Jang Maldong.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that any Earthing would wish for.

'All thanks to Orabeo-nim!'

As much as this was an opportunity prepared by Seol Jihu, she had no intention of missing out.

So instead of looking out for her brother, she decided to follow her personal desire and chase after Seol Jihu.

And above all, running was her specialty among specialties. She had run whenever she had felt down while she was with the White Rose, so she felt confident.

…But that confidence crashed in less than five minutes.

No matter how much she tried, the distance between them didn’t decrease at all, but instead grew larger.

It wasn’t a misconception. Seol Jihu who was running with ten large logs tied behind him was already climbing the peak that marked the first turning point of the course.

'I-impossible!’

"Hak!"

Seol Jihu let out a rough breath. His forehead showed signs of sweating, but his face still had a refreshed expression.

‘This is it.’

Yes, he wanted this.

To immerse himself in training without worrying about anything else. How long had he waited for this?

The refreshing wind that blew his hair up made his chest feel lighter.

"Haha!"

Breaking into laughter, Seol Jihu strongly pushed out his legs.

*

Hell training began.

The training intensity was beyond imagination, causing Yi Seol-Ah to break down in tears in just one day. The next day, Yi Sungjin was on the floor screaming ‘Kill me now!’ before he was caned by Jang Maldong until he fainted.

It was painful for Seol Jihu too, but after experiencing it once beforehand, he quietly continued the training.

The first week served as a warm-up to focus on training the physique.

The days were simple. Early morning training, followed by breakfast and morning training, followed by lunch and evening training, followed by dinner and night training.

After everything, Seol Jihu would float on the lake, after which he would return back to the cave to drink a healing potion and sleep.

And this was repeated after waking up the next day.

However, one thing had changed after a few days, and this was walking around the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain with Seo Yuhui after his evening training.

Seo Yuhui had, at first, carefully observed Seol Jihu’s training until she suddenly requested protection during her walks. Seol Jihu accepted without any hesitation.

It wasn’t bad taking a break for an hour or two after vigorously training the entire day, and besides, among their group only Seol Jihu could help her out.

The siblings were busy falling down, while Jang Maldong had to oversee their training. Anyway, Seo Yuhui had promised to take care of their meals in compensation for escorting her, so it could only be seen as being profitable.

In fact, he felt like they were on a date whenever they went out to look for medicinal herbs and flowers, so Seol Jihu secretly waited for Seo Yuhui to call him each day.

There wasn’t anything special that day.

After his night training, Seol Jihu had washed himself in the lake and was coming back dripping wet.

If he hadn’t seen Seo Yuhui waving at him in the distance, he would have gone straight into the cave.

'?'

But after approaching her, he found her gesturing for him to come near instead of waving at him.

As if she wanted him to come to her instead of going into the cave.

When their eyes met, she placed her index finger on her lips, going ‘Shhh,’ before retreating backwards.

After tilting his head in confusion, Seol Jihu suddenly flared his nose.

'This smell…'

He didn’t know what smell it was, but just a whiff of it made him salivate.

'What is it?'

Swallowing his saliva, Seol Jihu moved towards the direction Seo Yuhui had disappeared to.

'What could it be?'

His face full of expectation.

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