Chapter 360. What It Means to Change (2)

Seol Jihu didn’t feel tired even though the flight lasted longer than 8 hours.

That was because he flew first class.

The seats were expensive, costing about 10 million won per person, but the price didn’t matter because most of them had already made a name for themselves in Paradise.

After all, the tickets were worth only about 20 silver coins in Paradise currency.

As a result, they had an enjoyable flight and didn’t have to wait long to receive their luggage.

On the other hand, he did feel sorry.

Eun Yuri was from a wealthy family, so she could afford the ticket, but Yi Seol-Ah and Yi Sungjin were in a tight spot.

He later found out that Jang Maldong had paid for their seats.

He should’ve been the one to take care of their financial needs since he was the representative and all, but because he had his hands full with matters concerning his family, he failed to notice the sibling’s situation. Seol Jihu blamed himself for that.

When they walked out of Honolulu Airport, the members who had arrived in advance were waiting for them outside.

“Hey! Look here!”

Seol Jihu gave a faint smile when he noticed Chohong waving her arms at them as loudly as ever.

She was dressed in the same casual style she maintained in Paradise— a sleeveless shirt and dolphin shorts.

Next to Chohong stood Hugo with a broad smile across his face, dressed in a blue shirt with a floral pattern and white tennis shorts.

“So we finally meet on Earth. Here, give me your suitcase. I’ll carry it to the car.”

With doubtful eyes, Jang Maldong watched Chohong grab his suitcase.

“No, thank you, I can carry it myself.”

“Just give it to me, you damned old man! Do you know how long I’ve waited for the chance to smack you with this?”

“…I appreciate your offer, but I’m fine.”

“Hand it over! Wanna die!?”

Chohong said all this with a bright smile on her face.

But her smile faded when she saw Jang Maldong glaring at her.

“Enough is enough!”

Tak! A stick hit her head.

Chohong grabbed her head with a shriek.

“Ow! What was that for? I just wanted to help!”

“Enough with the lying! You just said you’d hit me with this suitcase.”

Chohong blinked rapidly.

“What the… you speak Cantonese?”

“Not just Cantonese. I can speak English, Mandarin, Japanese, and French. I bet you’ve never imagined that I used to be an interpreter! You bastard.”

Jang Maldong’s sudden confession turned Chohong’s face pale.

‘Damn it! But I haven’t said a tenth of what I want to say!’

She pounded the ground with her fists and wailed.

Meanwhile, Seol Jihu was exchanging greetings with another man.

“Ohaiyo, Kazuki-san.”

“Annyeong. So we finally meet on Earth.”

The Korean spoke Japanese and the Japanese spoke Korean.

“Oh, do you speak Korean?”

“A little. I read a conversation book on the plane. I probably won’t be able to understand a complex sentence.”

Kazuki answered without hesitation as though he had expected the question.

Suddenly, Seol Jihu’s eyes traveled behind Kazuki to the tiny woman in a cherry blossom haori.

The fair-skinned beauty with neatly combed black hair gave off the warm scent of tea.

She stood with her hands clasped together in front of her waist. When Seol Jihu’s gaze met hers, she smiled politely and bowed her head to him.

Startled, Seol Jihu bowed in return.

He could’ve sworn that he’d never seen this woman before.

‘Who is she?’

Still, there was something about her that was oddly familiar to him.

Seol Jihu tried to recall if, in fact, he had seen her anywhere before. It was then that Kazuki cleared his throat, and the sound prompted Seol Jihu to draw a conclusion.

“I see you brought your girlfriend, Mister Kazuki.”

“I don’t understand what you just said, but I have a feeling it was an insult.”

“Lover. I said, lover. She’s your ‘girlfriend’, right?”

Kazuki slowly closed his eyes.

“Hoshino Urara.”

“…Pardon?”

Seol Jihu stood dazed for a while before waving his hand and bursting into laughter.

Hoshino Urara, the epitome of a lady? Did Kazuki really think he’d believe that?

“Haha. Right. Very funny.”

“She’s Hoshino Urara. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”

“Right…. I’m disappointed in you, Mister Kazuki. You’re just saying whatever comes to your mind, thinking I won’t be able to understand you.”

Seol Jihu narrowed his eyes and glared at Kazuki.

Even though Kazuki couldn’t understand a word Seol Jihu had just said, he knew the representative was suspecting him of lying.

“I’m telling the truth. I was surprised, too. Check her passport. It’ll say ‘Hoshino Urara’.”

“Ah, you keep saying that, but I’m not going to fall for it.”

Seol Jihu shook his head and turned his gaze to the woman with a faint smile.

“Hello. Can I ask you a question?”

“H-Hi.”

“What's your relationship with Mr. Kazuki?”

He did learn English at school for almost 20 years.

Amazed by his own English skills, Seol Jihu felt subtle confidence emanating from within.

The woman looked perplexed by the sudden question.

“Ah….”

She looked alternately at Seol Jihu and at Kazuki, hesitating, opening, and then closing her mouth several times.

She then lowered her gaze slightly and blushed before taking a few short steps towards Kazuki and locking her arm in his.

Kazuki stepped back in surprise.

“Wow! That was cruel, Mister Kazuki.”

“Don’t fall for it! Look!”

Kazuki pointed angrily at the woman.

Seol Jihu furrowed his brow.

‘Huh?’

The woman was rolling on the floor laughing.

Their eyes met and, with a smirk, she removed her obi and threw her haori into the air.

This revealed the brightly colored dress she was wearing underneath.

“Hula hula~ Hula hula~”

Dressed in a muumuu, the traditional Hawaiian dress, she began dancing the hula.

“Miss Hoshino Urara?”

Seol Jihu’s jaw dropped.

She only changed her expression, yet everything else about her seemed different.

A lady befitting calligraphy and tea ceremony had turned into a whacko in the blink of an eye.

“See? I told you.”

“Wait, why is Miss Hoshino Urara here….”

The commotion stopped when Jang Maldong called them.

Seol Jihu crawled inside the SUV, and Hugo drove to the hotel.

They were scheduled to stay at ‘Full Moon’, a five-star hotel founded by an ex-Paradise Earthling near the Waikiki Beach.

Nothing interesting happened on the first day.

Their flight was comfortable, but because most of them had spent the entire day before the flight preparing for the trip, fatigue had built up inside them.

So on the first day, they changed into comfortable clothes and relaxed at the hotel, chatted, had dinner, and went to bed early.

And the next day, everyone went to the beach as promised.

The beach was bustling with tourists, but Seol Jihu sat alone under a parasol away from all the commotion.

He stared at the sea absent-mindedly. There was not a thought in his head. He felt like he was in the reserve forces training all over again.

“What are you doing there alone and lonely?”

It was then that he heard a lively voice.

Phi Sora and the rest of the Valhalla girls, all dressed in bikinis of various colors, were approaching him.

They must have noticed all the attention they had drawn to themselves, for there was an air of arrogance about the way they walked.

Seol Jihu stared at Phi Sora, dazed and silent.

She was wearing a shockingly sexy, red velvet bikini that showed off her figure to perfection. It was hard to tell whether the bikini was a swimsuit or lingerie.

“Why are you looking at me like that? You’re such a perv….”

Phi Sora began but stopped halfway through her sentence and put on a confused face.

Seol Jihu’s eyes were dead like those of a rotten fish.

He didn’t seem to care at all about them. Phi Sora could read the thoughts in his head. ‘Who am I? Where am I?’ ‘Why am I wasting my time here?’ ‘Ah, I’m so bored.’ ‘I want to go to Paradise.’

Perplexed, she blurted out.

“W-what do you think? I treated myself to a new bikini.”

“…Ah. Sure. You girls are all pretty.”

“I think the man in front of us might be a zombie. It’s like he has no soul.”

Oh Rahee, dressed in a black halterneck bikini, giggled as she ran her hand through her hair.

With a deep sigh, Seol Jihu lay down on the sand.

The truth was that he’d rather look at Maria, dressed in a loose t-shirt, denim shorts, and a straw hat, yawning her head off, than the assortment of bikinis right in front of his eyes.

‘If I fall asleep now, I might wake up on the last day of the trip.’

Seol Jihu closed his eyes with a vague sense of anticipation.

“Wait, why are you lying down? And why are you closing your eyes?”

Of course, that never happened, and he felt a hand lift him up by his legs.

“Rather than sleeping, dear, you should have some fun.”

She grabbed both of his ankles and pulled them towards her.

Seol Jihu wiggled his body.

“Let me go— I don’t want to play beach volleyball.”

“That’s funny. Just because we’re at the beach and wearing bikinis doesn’t mean we’re gonna play beach volleyball.”

“I can picture it in my head. A character sits at his desk fanning himself with his hand, complaining, ‘Hot~ It’s so hot~’ And then another one comes in wearing a swimsuit and a tube around his waist, yelling, ‘Let’s go to the beach!’ The opening song plays and the scene changes to a beach. Everyone runs to the sea screaming, ‘Uahhhhhh!’”

“What are you talking about…? Your excuse is bad and way too long. Come on, let’s go. Mr. Hugo borrowed jet skis for us.”

“No—”

“For God’s sake, stay still, will you? Let’s play together—”

Zzzzz.

Phi Sora dragged Seol Jihu across the sandy beach, leaving a long trail behind.

As Phi Sora had said, there were several jet skis parked on the beach, waiting patiently for their owners to arrive.

Two people could get on one. Seol Jihu ended up pairing with Eun Yuri.

“…Would you like to drive, Miss Eun Yuri?”

Eun Yuri shook her head so hard that the white frill on her bikini swayed side to side.

She confessed she didn’t have the license.

With a soft sigh, Seol Jihu crawled into the front seat and started the engine.

“O-Oppa. Can you start out slow…?”

He felt Eun Yuri’s arms tighten around his waist, so he drove the jet ski at low speed.

For a while, he continued to drive in a straight line without taking any turn.

As a result, the shore was now quite far away.

“…Oppa?”

Alarmed, Eun Yuri called out Seol Jihu’s name, but there was no response.

Seol Jihu’s dazed eyes stared off into the horizon.

Even while driving, his head was full of Paradise.

In the middle of the vast ocean with no end in sight, the line at which the water and the sky met was breathtakingly beautiful.

Yes, that must be where paradise is. If he could go beyond that horizon, he would certainly reach paradise….

Thinking so, Seol Jihu was about to speed up his jet ski when suddenly….

Chwaa!

A big wave splashed on him.

The cold temperature of the water brought Seol Jihu to his senses.

“What the?”

“You couldn’t possibly be here for a casual boat ride!”

Chohong smirked, and the jet ski carrying Chohong and Maria quickly moved away.

Chwaa!

Just then another splash of water struck him.

Hoshino Urara had braked, splashing water into the air seconds before her jet ski collided with Seol Jihu’s.

“Ugh. What are you doing?”

“What do you think we’re doing? This is a war!”

Eun Yuri protested, but all she got for it was a sneer.

“Getting wet is all part of the jet ski experience. You do know this is competition, right? Don’t let your guard down, or else you’ll fall off!”

Phi Sora, sitting in the back seat, gently waved her hand as Hoshino Urara drove their jet ski away from Seol Jihu and Eun Yuri.

Looking around, they spotted Hugo and Audrey Basler vigilantly waiting for an opportunity to strike them.

‘Damn it.’ Completely soaked from head to toe, Eun Yuri bit her lower lip.

“Oppa, we should also…?”

She stopped halfway through her sentence, feeling a slight tremble against her skin.

“O-Oppa?”

Seol Jihu was shaking with his head down.

He was, in fact, pissed. His heart began racing.

Thinking about Paradise was his respite from the present. He didn’t want to come on this trip from the start.

‘They dragged me here by force, and now they won’t even let me daydream in peace?’

Fury whirled inside Seol Jihu like a storm.

They were giving him no choice.

He clenched his teeth and tightened his grip on the handlebars.

“Oppa. Let’s try our best.”

Eun Yuri chirped, without realizing the seriousness of the situation. This only made the matter worse.

Seol Jihu’s patience finally ran out and he raised his head in a flash.

His eyes blazed with a sharp glow.

“…I’m going to kill you all.”

Vruaaang!

Seol Jihu muttered and stepped on the accelerator. As the jet ski bounded forward, Eun Yuri’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Waaaait—!”

Her desperate cry echoed in the air.

“Hmm?”

Jang Maldong, who was watching them from the shore, couldn’t hide his surprise.

Suddenly one of the jet skis accelerated after the one carrying Chohong and Maria.

As soon as the jet ski overtook its target, it swung in a circle, drifting sideways.

‘Oho, what a beautiful drive…!’

The stunning drift surprised Jang Maldong.

Enormous waves created by the drift struck Chohong and Maria from all sides and the pair fell into the water, hopelessly waving their arms in a desperate struggle to stay afloat.

But Seol Jihu didn’t stop there.

He immediately charged towards the jet ski carrying Hugo and Yi Seol-Ah.

“Not so easy!”

Hugo confronted Seol Jihu.

He was absolutely confident in his driving skills but soon found himself screaming.

Seol Jihu’s jet ski approached Hugo, and as it quickly moved left and right in succession, waves soared, causing Hugo’s jet ski to flip over.

Yi Seol-Ah and Eun Yuri’s screams beautifully harmonized together.

Screams such as ‘Uak’ or ‘Kyak’ weren’t exactly authentic. When you made those kinds of sounds, you’re still conscious of your surroundings, at least to some degree.

A person overcome with fear would never make such designing sounds.

And in that regard….

“KIEEEEUKIAAAKK”

Eun Yuri couldn’t be more authentic if she tried.

“What the hell? What’s wrong with him? Is he out of his mind?”

Chohong muttered in shock. Only her head was visible above water.

“Don’t worry! I’ll stop him!”

“Well, well, well. Aren’t you pretty good, dear? Come play with us too!”

Brimming with confidence, Hoshino Urara and Phi Sora began charging at Seol Jihu.

Of course, what happened next was….

Vruaaaaang!

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

“Dear, dear, dear, dear, wait, wait, wait, wait!”

Not even 10 seconds passed before they fled from Seol Jihu, who then began chasing them at full speed. He quickly overtook their jet ski, and to nobody’s surprise, the pair ended up in the water.

“…Hey.”

Oh Rahee, who was sitting behind Kazuki, reached out her arm and poked the driver in the side.

“Let’s run away. There are only two teams left.”

“What are you saying?”

“I said, let’s get out of here. Damn it, what’s ‘run away’ in Japanese?”

“I don’t understand you, but we should leave now. That stuff looks too dangerous.”

Seol Jihu turned his jet ski around to search for the next target, and Audrey Basler and Yi Sungjin decided to jump into the water voluntarily. When he saw what had happened, Kazuki turned his jet ski in the other direction, towards the shore.

But he was too late. He was hunted down before he could escape, and he and Oh Rahee fell into the water together.

It wasn’t until after he parked the jet ski at the beach that Seol Jihu came to his senses.

“Ouch….”

A sudden and sharp pain made him grimace.

He looked down to discover the nail marks on his sides.

His back was also burning with pain. It seemed someone had clawed him.

Upon returning to the beach, the culprit immediately escaped from the jet ski, but fell before she could get far.

“Uaah, ueeehh, huaaaang.”

Clearly terrified, she crawled away from the shore, bawling her eyes out.

‘What just happened?’

Seol Jihu tilted his head questioningly.

There were several ownerless jet skis floating in the sea.

He remembered being angry with the others, but nothing after that.

But he had a feeling that something very terrible and violent had happened.

‘Did Future Vision get activated or something?’

“That was no joke. You’re quite the show-off, aren’t you?”

Kim Hannah approached Seol Jihu, who stood dazed and confused.

She was dressed in a blue-black monokini, which gracefully revealed her slim waist.

Seol Jihu’s gaze lingered on her, and she smirked at him.

“What’s with those eyes? What are you thinking?”

“Our second child.”

“?”

“What should we name Jinah’s sibling?”

Immediately a kick flew in and Seol Jihu backed away.

Kim Hannah clicked her tongue.

“Anyway, congratulations on your win.”

“My win?”

“For the jet ski race just now. You guys were judged on how beautifully you drove the jet skis, and you won by a landslide.”

Kim Hannah praised him, but Seol Jihu clearly wasn’t interested.

“What are you keeping score for?”

“Don’t you know that games and prizes are mandatory for a workshop? They’re recipes for fun.”

Still, Seol Jihu didn’t seem to care.

Kim Hannah pulled down her sunglasses just enough for him to see her eyes.

“You don’t look very impressed. But I bet you’d be surprised to hear what the first-place prize is.”

“What is it?”

“A wish. Within realistic ranges, of course.”

“A wish? We’re on Earth. What good can that do?”

“Believe me, depending on how you use it, you’ll find it very satisfying. For example… you may wish to leave Hawaii and return to Paradise.”

“…Can I really wish for that?”

“Of course. That’s why it’s called a wish. And, Master already gave consent.”

Seol Jihu’s face immediately brightened.

“I’ve prepared 6 individual games and 6 team games, for a total of 12 games. If you can place first in half of these games, you won’t have a problem winning the grand prize.”

Pushing her sunglasses back up, Kim Hannah gave a mischievous smile.

“Next up is beach volleyball. Participation is not mandatory, but if you choose to participate, you’ll have to pair up with someone. You can choose a different partner for each game. Now, have I piqued your interest?”

Kim Hannah’s words had a great effect on him. Seol Jihu left right away to search for a partner.

Under a parasol, Eun Yuri lay flat on her stomach, trying to calm her breath.

“Miss Eun Yuri!”

She flinched when she heard Seol Jihu’s footsteps.

“Beach volleyball is next!”

“Eh?”

“Team up with me again. Come on, get up!”

“Eh?”

“Let’s go! Let’s win first place one more time!”

Eun Yuri fled with a scream.

Seol Jihu smacked his lips as he watched her run away with all her might.

It was then that his eyes noticed Phi Sora walking out of the water with faltering steps.

Seol Jihu turned around.

“Miss Phi Sora!”

“Y-Yes? Why are you suddenly so sparkly?”

“Be my partner for the next game.”

“Hold on. I’m too tired— Wait!”

Their position was reversed.

This time, Seol Jihu was the one dragging Phi Sora by force.

Kim Hannah nodded contentedly, looking at Seol Jihu, now far more into the game than anyone else.

‘Huhu. Looks like he’s having fun.’

She called it Operation Drill Sergeant.

She applied the same method used by drill instructors in Reserve Forces, in which they encourage soldiers to train harder than usual by telling them they can go home early that day. But when everything is over, it’s already their regular quitting time.

‘The jet ski was unexpected, but there’s no way he’ll win all of them!’

Kim Hannah was a little surprised when Seol Jihu also ended up winning the beach volleyball but remained undisturbed regardless.

She was confident that her operation would succeed because she had organized these games after a thorough investigation into what the members were good at. She even felt a little sorry for Seol Jihu.

Kim Hannah flashed a sly smile as she watched Seol Jihu roar in victory.

But her smile disappeared not even halfway through the day.

The third game was billiards.

“Kuhuhuhu. Sorry, but billiards is my game. I’m definitely going to win this time. My score goes way beyond 27 points for 3-cushion!”

Hugo announced arrogantly, holding up his cue stick.

And his confidence wasn’t unfounded. He beat his opponents one after another and reached the final, but then he ran into a problem.

“No way… how are you so good? You a pro or somethin’?”

Hugo’s jaw dropped as he watched Seol Jihu play.

He tried his best to catch up, but his opponent kept scoring at an unimaginably fast pace until he finally took the victory.

“Huu, I won. You’re pretty good, Hugo.”

Seol Jihu praised Hugo as he wiped the sweat off of his forehead.

Hugo fell to his knees in shock.

The same thing happened in the fourth game.

Kazuki and Chohong reached the finals but were beaten by Seol Jihu and Hoshino Urara after a fierce battle.

“Suckers! Did you all see that? The human bulldo-zer! Seol Jihu-nim is here!”

Hoshino Urara raised both of her arms in the air, psyched by the victory.

Kim Hannah could no longer afford to relax.

To dampen Seol Jihu’s spirits, she decided to host the fifth game, Poker, which was originally planned to take place the next day.

She even teamed up with Seol Jihu just for the sake of trolling him, but he stooped even lower.

Using Nine Eyes, which he had vowed to never rely on again, Seol Jihu won again by a landslide.

He had topped the list five times in just one day.

“…I’m sorry….”

In the end, Kim Hannah ended up apologizing to Jang Maldong.

“I never imagined Jihu would be this good…. Seriously, this makes no sense. No sense at all.”

Kim Hannah complained, raising her hands.

“Jihu’s billiard skills are worth at least 30 points, according to Mr. Hugo. With a little practice, he could even become a professional player. Can you imagine? He said he’d never played billiards before college!”

“…I’m more amazed by the jet ski.”

“And ping-pong, too! I heard Kazuki was once a promising amateur ping-pong prospect. How can Jihu win against someone like that? He said he was first in his class in high school, but that’s nothing compared to Kazuki.”

“…Well, they say the ball is round.”

“And Poker! I played bad on purpose, but it was like he was making fun of me…!”

Kim Hannah was hopping mad.

Seol Jihu was crushing through all the obstacles she’d prepared for him.

She could almost understand how the Parasite Queen felt.

“…It can’t be helped.”

Jang Maldong shook his head and smiled bitterly, as he hadn’t expected Seol Jihu’s persistence to be this terrifying.

“I was actually going to do this the day before we left Hawaii, but I think I’ll have to move it up to tonight.”

That night, Jang Maldong took Seol Jihu to downtown Honolulu.

They arrived at a hospital called ‘Eden Paradise’.

Seol Jihu learned that this hospital was also founded by an Earthling.

A man who looked to be a hospital staff rushed out to greet Jang Maldong.

Seol Jihu fell silent as he watched the old man talk to the hospital staff.

He wasn’t sure why Jang Maldong brought him here, but he was prepared for anything.

Jang Maldong had told him that there was a place he wanted to show Seol Jihu, his pupil, and someone he wanted him to meet.

Jang Maldong soon returned with a file and two lanyards, each attached to a visitor’s pass in the form of a card.

“Let’s go in.”

He handed Seol Jihu one of the cards and turned around.

The hospital was busy.

Even though it was late, the hallways were filled with doctors, nurses, and patients in robes.

“Hawaii is a gathering place for people who work there.”

Jang Maldong explained, leading Seol Jihu down the hall.

“Because it has a specialist hospital dedicated for people like us. This place is not a charity, of course, but it’s better than nothing. At least there’s a safety net for when things go wrong.”

“So if we die on the other side, this hospital takes care of us?”

“Yes. A lot of people move to Hawaii just to be near this hospital because shorter distance means faster response time. However….”

Jang Maldong paused and smacked his lips.

“Do you know what life people who died there live on Earth?”

“I don’t….”

“They live a wretched life.”

Jang Maldong said simply.

“The survival rate for ex-Paradise Earthlings is about 57 percent…. But that number includes Level 1. The mortality rate increases exponentially for every increase in level.”

Jang Maldong took his eyes off the document and stopped in his tracks.

He stared quietly into the open room.


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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

TL: It pains me to use Miss/Mister instead of ‘-ssi’, but I gotta stick with it since that’s what the previous translator did ;-; and I’ve been doing it for so long.