Chapter 35. To Paradise (1)

When Seol opened his eyes early in the morning, he fell into a state of panic.

He got to experience a thoroughly wonderful dream, yet ended up being roused from sleep by something slightly weighty pressing down on his chest. By the time he spotted Yun Seora sleeping soundly within his arms, a short cry of fright escaped from his mouth.

'How can a girl do this when we've done nothing but talk a few times?!'

His thoughts bubbled up chaotically, but then he realized that his own arms were hugging her tightly as well. For some reason… he thought her body felt rather comfortably warm.

“Argh…”

When he tried to forcibly pry her off of him, Yun Seora simply….

“Mmnn…..”

….Dug in even deeper into his arms and buried her head in his chest.

'There, there, little one. Daddy's here, so don't you worry about a thing…. Eh?'

Seol belatedly realized that he'd been patting her back and hastily removed his hand.

‘What am I even doing?!’ Seol dazedly looked down at the smiling face of Yun Seora as she rubbed her cheeks against him.

'….Could this be because of her unruly sleeping habits?'

Even though he was panicking inwardly, he still managed to lift her up ever so gently and carried her back to the bed. When he placed the duvet on her, he spotted Yi Seol-Ah lying alongside on the bed. The teen girl's limbs were spreadeagled as she enjoyed the sweetness of a deep, deep slumber. Only then did Seol figure out what happened here.

'Ah. So she was forced off the bed all thanks to Yi Seol-Ah's terrible sleeping habits, huh.'

Yi Seol-Ah must have kicked around a lot since her top was bunched up enough to expose most of her tummy. Seol chuckled softly, lowered her shirt, and covered her with the blanket as well. Seeing her giggle as she continued to slumber away, she must've been having a nice dream.

'I guess I should sleep a little further away from them tonight.'

Although it was an unintentional mistake, he still did something he shouldn't have. If Yoo Seonhwa found out what happened, just how saddened would she be?

“…Tsk.”

Almost immediately, he realized how wrong he was regarding that matter. Their relationship was already over a long time ago. It was only Seol who couldn't let go and forget about her.

‘I wonder if Seonhwa’s doing well…’

As Seol headed to the adjoining bathroom, his shoulders began slumping forward, feeling slightly depressed.

On the following dawn….

“….”

Seol woke up, only to be utterly dismayed by his new discovery.

He thought his chest felt heavy and opened his eyes, and sure enough, he found Yun Seora hugging him from the top. He couldn't help but wonder how she could have gotten here since he was sleeping a fair distance away from the bed.

More importantly, he was sleeping on a couch. So, if she was forced off the bed and rolled on the floor to arrive where he was, it was still impossible to climb up and settle down on top of him.

'….Is she sleepwalking?!'

Suddenly growing fearful of Yun Seora, Seol slowly wiggled out from her embrace and got away from her.

'I have to find a safer place to sleep later on today….'

And so, Seol made up his mind as such.

When bedtime came later that day, Seol headed off to the bathroom. Since his room was already an excellent place to begin with, even the bathroom was spacious and more than comfortable enough to sleep in. Most importantly, there was a lock on the glass door, so as long as he locked it, no one could come in.

Next morning.

Seol was finally able to start the day as how it should be. Locking the door must have done the trick since Yun Seora was not sleeping on top of him this time.

'I should start sleeping here from today onwards.'

Well, it didn't really matter if he was in a bathroom. It was so big and clean, anyways. Also, as an added bonus, he could splash some water and wash his face as soon as waking up, too.

While grinning widely, Seol raised his body. He relaxedly stretched his limbs, and his gaze drifted towards the glass panel of the bathroom door.

“@%#$?!”

….And he ended up grandly crying out in fright.

“Wha, what, what the, what the hell?!”

Because, Yun Seora was glaring at Seol while sticking to the glass like a piece of gum. With her eyes completely bloodshot, to boot.


Two weeks flew by as if it was nothing after the training commenced.

“We'll take a ten-minute break.”

As soon as Agnes gave out her permission, several noises of people falling on their butts resounded out within the third-floor gym. While looking at Yi Seol-Ah massaging her aching thighs, the maid-cum-instructor fell into deep thought, stroking her chin in the process.

'She's better than I expected.'

At first, Agnes thought of this assignment as a nice little diversion to while away some free time, but gradually, her opinion changed.

Yi Seol-Ah's nature suited the role of an Archer perfectly. Maybe because she used to compete in track and field events, she was fleet of foot and possessed a really high level of concentration.

More importantly, Yi Seol-Ah was quick-witted enough to pick up on things as soon as they were taught to her. The Archer class required one to be proficient in many different skill sets; in that regard, the compatibility between her and this class seemed to be near perfect.

'I do not know who invited her, but they definitely found a gem.'

If she was nurtured well, then she had the potential to become a High Ranker.

Ending her evaluation there, Agnes then shifted her gaze over to Yun Seora, currently bent over and panting out heavily to the side.

'As for her…. I can't be sure.'

Agnes was uncertain. Not in a bad way, but definitely in a very good way. She could figure out how Yi Seol-Ah might turn out in the future, but it was almost impossible to even imagine what Yun Seora might achieve.

In other words, the depth of Yun Seora's dormant potential was unfathomably deep. Agnes dared not to pass a haphazard evaluation.

'Her physical fitness level increased surprisingly quickly. But her talents are even better.'

Perhaps, she can even become a Unique Ranker… Agnes's thoughts came to a halt there, and a wry smile formed on her lips. She was getting ahead of herself.
It was already difficult to become a High Ranker. Becoming a Unique Ranker wasn’t something anyone could do.

“Instructor?”

The voice of a young boy pulled Agnes out from her thoughts. She shifted her gaze over to him. Yi Sungjin was looking up at her while his entire body was soaked in sweat.

“Yes? What is it?”

“Uhm…. Just what is 'Teddy Bear'?”

“….”

Agnes sucked in a deep breath, somehow calming herself down in the nick of time.

“I wonder. I'm not quite sure what you're talking about.”

“Really? But, that's so strange. Seol Hyung definitely said….”

When Yi Sungjin muttered to himself, Agnes's eyes became super-sharp.

“What is strange?”

“Oh, that. Seol Hyung told me that if I say 'Teddy Bear' to you, you'll find it really funny.”

Suddenly, the nearly inaudible sound of gnashing teeth leaked out from Agnes's mouth. Even Yun Seora and Yi Seol-Ah were looking on at the maid with curious expressions etched on their faces. They too heard something similar from Seol before.

“Huh? But, I heard it's supposed to be 'lilac' instead.”

“I heard it was 'Little Bear'….?”

Even though the person in question was present, they nevertheless unwittingly went through with the public execution.

“….There is no need to waste your time on such nonsensical rubbish.”

Agnes replied without batting an eyelid because, in her mind, she had already murdered Seol several dozen times over.

“By any chance, do you know where he is right now?”

“You mean, Hyung? He should be in the middle of clearing missions with his team.”

“I see. Well, I'll have a little talk with him later on. In the meantime, let us continue with your training.”

Agnes spoke while cracking her knuckles. Yi Sungjin tilted his head in confusion while getting back up.

And, in the evening.

Three of them….

“I!!”

POW!!

“Told you to!!”

“Ouch?! Agnes?! W, wait a minute!”

“Do it!! In moderation!!

“Euhurk?! Agnes!!”

“Because of you!! The Alias!! In my Status Window!!”

“Ouch!! Help!!”

“Have you!! Any idea!! How it's!! Changed?!”

“S, stop!! I'm sorry!!”

….Got to spectate Seol getting grandly beaten up by Agnes after she came to visit them late that night.

*

Around the time when the trio almost finished with the fitness training and familiarized themselves with their Class Abilities and mana application…

Agnes suggested that they should train in the mornings and perform missions in the afternoons from here onwards. From her perspective, they weren't fully ready, although she did her best to train them as much as possible during the short time she was given.

However, Seol diligently supported them with things like Competence and other supplements, so they were ready in that regard. Just as important, they also had to clear missions and get used to how they operated quickly as well. Overall, Agnes wasn't completely happy about a couple of things, but then again, she knew very well that experiencing actual combat formed an important part of training.

Seol bought the trio proper equipment on that day. He was planning to not spend more than 10,000 points on each of them, but unfortunately, he ended up running into Aragaki Yuzuha again at the store. And like a scary vampire, she sucked away the upper limit of 30,000 points in the blink of an eye. If he thought about the 30% discount, then he just ended up buying 43,000 points worth of stuff from her.

Yi Seol-Ah was rejoicing like a little kid that just got her first proper party dress. Yun Seora found the armors worn in Paradise somewhat strange and unfamiliar, so she kept looking at herself. She even lightly swung her longsword around, and Seol couldn't help but praise how proficient she looked doing that.

Even though the amount of points that could have bought him a Divine Elixir disappeared just like that, Seol didn't regret it. No, he was feeling rather liberated, instead.

'I guess this is enough of me supporting them.'

Agnes made sure the trio received enough training, so now, all he had to do was to be there when they were attempting to clear the missions.

However, since his aim wasn't to earn points for clearing the missions but to simply help them, he was planning to do 'Normal' difficulty missions maybe three, four times together with them. He believed that should be plenty enough for the trio to get used to the combat situations. He was also pretty sure of the talent scout Kim Hannah mentioned before not being too happy about Seol following around his find and spoon-feeding Yun Seora and Co.

'Yeah, it's about time they start learning how to take care of business by themselves…. Mm?'

Seol was about to suggest to the trio that they should go check out some missions, but then, felt that something was off.

When he took a look around, he found a certain Oriental woman staring at the trio from a fair distance away. However, her gaze was not friendly at all.

'Who is she? And why is she….?'

Although Seol couldn't remember her face, she also seemed kind of familiar. No, he thought he could just about barely recall who she could be.

Seol stared at her for a long, long time before inexplicably remembering what Han the Guide said many moons ago.

“….It was easy to calculate Miss Oh Minyoung's points….”

'Ah.'

Seol finally remembered who she was. That woman passed the Tutorial after procuring enough coins right at the end of the treasure hunt.

Not only was she still alive, but it seemed that she had successfully cleared quite a few missions as well, judging from all that gear on her.

But, Seol couldn't really understand why she was glaring at the blameless trio like that.

Not too long after, the woman turned around to leave. Seol activated Nine Eyes and couldn't help but frown slightly. Oh Minyoung was glowing in a yellow hue.

'Should I let her be?'

Seol deliberated, before slowly shaking his head. It could have been nothing, but nonetheless, he remained worried. Back then, wasn't Kang Seok also glowing in the yellowish hue? At a bare minimum, some preparation might be in order, he figured.

Seol helped each of the trio to complete their first missions, and then, unbeknownst to everyone, called Hyun Sangmin over for a chat.

*

[Breakthrough (Remaining number of attempts: 10/10)]

Break through the attacks of a Sprite, cross a bridge, and secure a bridgehead!
Difficulty: Very Hard
When successful: +60,000 SP
When unsuccessful: Death
*Cooperation possible (up to 6 people)

After Seol joined her team, Delphine and her teammates were able to cleanly sweep away every mission they encountered. Eventually, they decided to take on the most challenging mission available within 'Very Hard' difficulty. And, for the first time, they almost ended up losing one of their numbers.

A Sprite was a demonic fairy-like humanoid creature that was covered in a dress made out of grass. It was about half as tall as an adult human female, with several pairs of dragonfly-like wings coming out from its back.

Its outer appearance was quite stunningly beautiful, but as soon as the battle commenced, the team got to experience firsthand how plainly cruel and sinister this creature was.

One of the most irritating things about this monster was that it did not reveal its form and poured out long-distance attacks non-stop from the other side of the bridge.

Three, four such attacks wouldn't have gotten on the team's nerves as much. However, projectiles resembling bolts and arrows rained down on the team constantly, and to make matters worse, the Sprite even knew how to cast wind magic that was almost a carbon copy of the tornado spell Delphine used every now and then. Hell, this abominable thing even used javelins as projectiles by launching them off several ballistas.

And to confound the matters even further, several obstacles and blockades were placed on top of the bridge itself in a zigzag pattern, making it even more infuriating to traverse it.

They chose to go with the tactic where they relied on the protection provided by Priest's Barrier and inched forward while getting rid of the obstacles on the bridge one at a time.

However, in the middle of doing exactly that, the Barrier shattered, bringing forth a dangerous situation for the team. Hao Win was ready for this eventuality, so he used his massive shield to guard the others, but he got swept away and fell down after the Sprite used that aforementioned powerful wind magic.

Seol and Tong Chai stepped forward to rescue Hao Win, while Leorda Salvatore speedily brought up the rear. The latter man's aim was to divert the aggression the three men ahead of him had attracted, even if it was only by a little bit. He was also thinking of sniping the enemy across the bridge if he found an opening as well.

Leorda used his amazing agility to climb over obstacles, only for a long javelin to fly out of a ballista and lodge itself in his stomach. By this time, Seol had successfully pulled Hao Win out of immediate danger and was free; the youth quickly rushed over and dragged the grievously wounded Leorda into safety.

Leorda's injury was quite serious; the whites of his eyes were showing as his body shook hard from the shock. Delphine poured a vial of very expensive healing potion she bought just in case on his wounds. If it weren't for his two layers of armor absorbing some of the force, even the healing magic of the Priest wouldn't have been enough to save his life.

Things seemed to have reached a stalemate of sorts, but then, quite unexpectedly, Seol found a path to victory – he used the spell balls he'd been saving for a rainy day. The first one he used was 'Poison Fog'; out of six remaining balls, he threw three of them at the opposing camp, and sure enough, a big commotion rose up from there.

And that short opening was their first and only opportunity to act. The team quickly checked their gear and made a run for it, and somehow crossed the bridge just in the nick of time.

It was a battle where they got lucky since no one considered the possibility that the Sprite could be weak against poison-type attacks.

Leorda gritted his teeth as he ran over to the coughing and wheezing Sprite, keeled over next to a small ballista.

While grabbing the creature, he asked the others to delay the completion of the mission for a minute or two, so he could get his revenge. Then, he proceeded to tie the creature up tightly on the ballista.

While watching Leorda slap around the cheeks of the monster, then do a several angry roundhouse kick to its belly, Seol was overcome with a strange sense of deja vu.

“Goddamn it. We almost got done in, didn't we?”

Hao Win walked with a limp as he plopped down next to Seol.

“We got careless. We didn’t prepare properly.”

Odelette Delphine's expression was also dark.

“Right. We thought we were ready with what we had since there wasn't much info provided on the mission, but hell, reality nearly proved to be anything but.”

“I think it's better for me to learn a couple of defensive spells, just in case. I thought it'd be enough for me to invest in attack magic spells only since we have a Priest among us…”

Delphine's shoulders shrunk. She still couldn't forget the sight of her flames from the fire magic she worked so hard to cast scatter away so easily by the Sprite's wind magic.

“That might be a good idea. Casting Barriers could make our lives a little bit easier.”

Hao Win agreed with her assessment.

“I should swap all my armor to metal ones while we're at it. Since I've got enough points to burn, I might as well get a couple of larger and stronger shields, too.”

“You want to buy two shields?”

“Well, there's no helping it. I mean, the main objective of this mission is to cross this bridge as safely as possible, after all.”

What Hao Win said made sense; the Sprite was quite strong when it came to long-distance attacks, but the battle itself became more or less manageable once the team got close enough to the monster.

“Indeed. Crossing the bridge was nonsensically difficult, but in reality, we only have to make sure that Seol gets to the other side safe and sound, am I wrong?”

“But, that might not be the case, though. I think the reason why the close-quarters fight ended up being easier than expected could be due to the poison.”

At Tong Chai's agreement, Odelette Delphine raised her counterpoint.

“Hmm…. Do you have anymore of those spell balls left?”

“I have three remaining, but none of them are Poison Fog.”

Seol shook his head regretfully.

“That means, there's another thing I gotta worry about now. And, I can only learn a poison-type spell when I reach level 2, you know….”

Delphine spoke in a worried voice, before licking her lips.

“For now, let's end today's mission here. Let's sufficiently strengthen ourselves at the stores and try this again tomorrow. Since now we know what to expect, it won't be hard to figure out what to get for ourselves, no?”

In the middle of the team discussing changes to their battle tactic, a loud scream exploded out behind them. The tied-up Sprite was shrieking out and desperately putting up a struggle. Seeing this, Tong Chai raised his hand to cheer Leorda on.

“More! Show that thing who's the boss!”

“Don't you worry! I'll definitely make her suffer!!”

Leorda shouted out while not even bothering to look back, before proceeding to rip the wings of the Sprite in quite a violent manner. Seol thought that he must be incensed about almost getting killed, even now.

“Okay, cool. Great. Well, let's end our self-reflection here.”

Hao Win cleared his throat with a fake cough and began grinning slightly while looking at Seol.

“Your friend, how is it going nowadays?”

Seol was in the middle of wondering what he should buy next and was caught off guard. His eyes widened in confusion.

“Oh, my, my, my. Why are you playing possum all of a sudden? Leorda might take his sweet time over there, so, in the meantime, why not tell us what happened so far? How far have you gone?”

“How far did I go where now?”

“You’re now pretending to not understand me? Look here, my man. As a person who aided you, I have every right to hear the progress made in your current state of romantic affairs.”

“My romantic affairs…. By any chance, are you talking about Miss Yun Seora?”

“That's right! That girl!”

Hao Win grinned in a lewd and suspicious manner as he puckered his lips.

“So, like, at a bare minimum, you've already done slurpppp~, right?”

“S, slurp…?! You mean, a k, kiss?”

“Aigoo, would you listen to this thick-headed guy?”

Hao Win spat out a groan, and then….

“That is smooch~, and I'm talking about slurppp~. Slurppp~!!”

….Then, he pointed at Odelette Delphine's boobs and spoke, before going 'Ohh!'

“Ahh, could it be that you're not into them 'rolling hills'? Then, maybe, you're more into the succulent 'delta', instead? So, is it more like, chomp, chomp, glug, glug?”

When Hao Win began swirling his tongue around in a clearly lewd manner, Seol hurriedly covered the older man’s mouth and sneaked a glance over at Odelette Delphine. There was every reason to think that she'd find this whole conversation displeasing.

“What are you guys talking about? What is it? Please let me in on it!”

However, the serious girl of a few moments ago was nowhere to be seen now, after she reverted back to being a sparkly-eyed teenager.

“M, Miss Delphine….”

“I might not look it, but I'm pretty quick on the uptake, you know. So please hurry up with the story!”

Delphine dragged her butt closer to sit near Seol and Hao Win.

Seol smacked his lips. Actually, he was worried about a couple of things and wouldn't mind discussing them with others.

“The thing is…. Miss Yun Seora became a bit strange ever since that afternoon….”

“How so?”

“This one time, I woke up in the morning to find her sleeping in my arms.”

“Keuh!”

Hao Win let out an exclamation of admiration.

“And so? What happened next?”

Odelette Delphine snorted in excitement.

“I thought it was just her strange sleeping habit, so I took her back to her bed.”

“What the hell? What's the matter with you? A man should know when to push someone down!”

“He's right, you know? I also don't like a vanilla guy.”

“N, no. That's not it…. Cough. In any case, I slept on the couch the following evening. Then, I woke up to find her sleeping soundly on top of me….”

“Yup, it's happening. It's definitely happening.”

“Don't tell me you put her back in her bed again. If you did, I'm gonna go around telling everyone that you're gay.”

'What's the matter with these two?!'

What with them adding unnecessary 'cheers' every time he tried to say something, Seol was rapidly losing his motivation to talk. He even thought he was a fool, trying to discuss his worries with these people.

“It's like a romance novel!”

Tong Chai exploded in a fit of loud laughter.

“I guess it does sound like that.”

Seol grinned slightly, thinking to himself that at least he found someone who was more or less normal.

“And so? What happened next?”

“Pardon?”

“Why are you trying to mumble your way out of this one? You started telling us the story, so naturally, you should get to the end.”

'Even this guy….'

Seol stared at Tong Chai with a pair of totally dumbfounded eyes, prompting the latter man to issue a long sigh.

“Really now. You truly know how to build up anticipation, don't you? Fine, I understand. I'll pay.”

“?”

“You should be honored because I've never spent my own dime on something like this.”

Before Seol could ask Tong Chai what he was talking about, the youth was interrupted by an alert announcing that 100 Survival Points had been accredited to his tally.

“I'm sure that's enough, no? Well, then. Please, I'm anxious to find out what happened next, so tell us. It is a lot more interesting than I thought at first.”

“…..Mister Tong Chai. I gotta ask, why did you give me your points?”

When he was asked, Tong Chai removed his turban and nonchalantly replied.

“Mm? Weren't you implying just now that, if we want to hear the rest of the story, we have to purchase the next chapter?”

“….”

Seol forgot what he wanted to say.

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