“Didn’t you ask me about destiny before?”
“It was written in the diary.”
Ian flipped over a few pages and began to read it aloud.
“While I was joyfully drinking alcohol, drunk on the wonderful tale I just heard, I felt a gaze staring straight at me. ‘Master Ian, I’m curious about something,’ Seol asked. ‘Do you know what destiny means?’ It was an unexpected question.”
Seol Jihu did a doubletake.
It must have been after the Banquet.
After Ira opened up the right direction of his Nine Eyes, he asked Ian, who came to hear what happened at the Banquet, about the possible meaning of ‘Choice of Destiny’.
“Apparently this was what I said back then.”
Ian heaved a dry cough before assuming a talking posture. It was then that Seol Jihu muttered in a calm voice.
“Destiny refers to a fate that is determined at birth. You might think fate is something amazing, but that’s not the case at all. It’s not that complicated. There isn’t just one predetermined fate; there are multiple. Even a seemingly trivial choice can affect a large fate like your life and death.”
Ian’s eyes widened as he heard Seol Jihu reiterate his past words.
“Now that’s a surprise! Thank you! I’m surer of my thoughts now, thanks to you.”
“You can ask more if you’d like.”
Seol Jihu spoke quietly.
“Every one of your advice became a part of my flesh and blood. How could I forget them?”
“Haha, don’t embarrass an old man like me. But since you say that, I’m curious what kind of a person I was to you.”
Seol Jihu smiled in response and looked back at Jang Maldong.
“Master, can you let him know he can talk at ease? I’ll be more comfortable with that too.”
Jang Maldong relayed the message, and Ian smiled.
“Fufu, alright. Talking to you in a polite way feels weird to me too. Now let’s see… do you remember what we talked about next?”
“Humans always make choices while they live. Whether that be in the past, present, or the future. Huge destinies like life and death are usually placed toward the end of one’s life. And life is long.”
“Unlike in games, you can’t see the ending just by making one or two choices.”
Ian covered his face with his hands and groaned.
“Damn it, damn it! It’s just too damn accurate!”
He pulled on his beard hard and furrowed his brows.
“Do forgive me. When I was reading this passage in my diary, every fiber of my being was cringing hard. Just what the heck was I thinking, blabbering on like that…? So, how did you interpret it? Give me your honest thoughts.”
“I thought it was valuable advice and ruminated over it multiple times. That’s why I still remember it.”
“You can’t do that.”
Ian shook his head and gave a faint smile.
“Words, especially in philosophy, aren’t used to logically explain that one plus one is two. No matter how nice something sounds, you need to ruminate over it and interpret it in such a way that it benefits you personally. Doubt is the origin of wisdom. Isn’t that what Descartes said?”
Ian spoke as he flicked away the few strands of beard he pulled out.
He then closed the notebook, placed it on the counter, and spoke.
“Hmm, I have a mountain load of questions I want to ask, but I’ll wait until later to ask those. For now, I need to tell you something I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time.”
Ian suddenly displayed a serious expression, so Seol Jihu straightened in his seat as well.
“Have you heard of existentialism?”
“Existentialism…? I’ve heard of it, but I wouldn’t say I’m exactly familiar…”
“Simply put, it’s an idea that emphasizes the existence of an individual person. The opposite of it would be essentialism, which emphasizes the existence of an object.”
Ian chuckled seeing Seol Jihu’s expression.
“Don’t think about it in such a complicated way. Take the TV for example. It exists to show people different TV programs, right?”
“It’s the same for the clothes we’re wearing. They’re made to cover our bodies and protect them. That is the purpose, or the essence, of TVs and clothes.”
Seol Jihu nodded his head as if he finally understood.
“You can see countless examples of this all around us. For example, this notebook or this chair. The important thing is that they cannot change what they are on their own. So the essence of TVs or clothes is fixed. You can say their destiny is set from creation.”
Ian gave a long explanation before clearing his throat. He leaned forward slightly as if he was about to get to his real point.
“But that’s not the case with humans.”
Ian’s voice got deeper.
“Let me ask you something. Do you have a fixed purpose or an unchangeable reason for being born?”
Seol Jihu shook his head.
“Right? Your father and mother probably didn’t decide, ‘Ah, my child this time will become the president’ or ‘We will make him delve into a world outside of Earth.’”
Seol Jihu laughed while he was listening to Ian’s half-joking comment.
“Existence precedes essence. That’s what the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, said.”
“Humans are not born for the sake of existing. Humans exist first. They decide on the meaning of life and their own values afterward. Through their own choice.”
Ian let loose a deep sigh.
“What I’m trying to get at is the importance of choice.”
“I think I blabbered on back then without thinking too much about it.”
Ian scratched his nose and laughed awkwardly.
“Sartre also said this: life is C between B and D. It means that life is choice (C) between birth (B) and death (D).”
“Choice between birth and death…”
“Existentialism emphasizes the freedom of choice and the consequence of that choice. Depending on what you choose to do and how you choose to take responsibility, you can decide what life you will lead and what death you will meet.”
“In other words, human beings are not trapped by destiny. They are existences capable of pioneering their own fate. They can decide for themselves by choosing and taking responsibility.”
Seol Jihu’s eyes strengthened.
“So, in a way, destiny is related to choice. But I also think you can go even further… That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
Indigo, Fate Pioneering.
The stage after Choice of Destiny.
Seol Jihu did not expect to hear these words from Ian.
Seol Jihu took a deep breath.
“There’s something I’d like to ask.”
Ian’s smile thickened.
He shrugged, gesturing at him to speak.
“If Choice of Destiny is connected to Fate Pioneering… would there be a next stage as well?”
“What would it mean to go beyond deciding on your destiny and pioneering your fate, and for fate itself to evolve?”
Ian was taken aback by the sudden, unexpected question.
Seol Jihu felt a bit sorry. Rather than asking something philosophical after mulling over what Ian said, he had just asked straightforwardly, knowing that Stellar Evolution came after Fate Pioneering.
Ian narrowed his eyes and furrowed his brows. Rubbing his chin, he let out a deep groan.
“That’s difficult to say. The meaning of the word ‘evolution’ is just too broad.”
“I read something similar in a book. It was called Stellar Evolution…”
Seol Jihu hinted at the full name, seeing how perplexed Ian was.
Ian’s eyes flashed.
“Stellar Evolution, huh…”
Seol Jihu was worried Ian would ask him for the name of the book, but thankfully that did not happen.
Ian thought for a long time in silence before speaking.
“Choice of Destiny… and Fate Pioneering which encompasses it.”
He drew a small circle in the air when he said ‘Choice of Destiny’, and then he drew another circle when he said ‘Fate Pioneering’ that encompassed the first small circle he drew.
Ian didn’t stop there and moved his finger again.
“And if there is something that encompasses both of these…”
He drew a large circle that encompassed the previous two circles.
“Then my thought is this.”
Seol Jihu unwittingly leaned forward and focused.
“There are countless people in this world. Naturally, countless fates are intertwined with each other in incomprehensible ways. Kind of like the stars in the night sky.”
Ian raised his arm higher, and Seol Jihu’s eyes also went up.
Countless stars were scintillating in the night sky.
“Let me apologize in advance. We’re going to need to stray off topic a little and discuss outer space.”
Ian asked for Seol Jihu’s understanding before continuing.
“The solar system is centered around the Sun. Planets, including the Earth, orbit around it.”
“But do you know this? The Earth isn’t a star. Not just Earth, but all the orbiting celestial bodies from Mercury to Neptune.”
“Right, because they don’t produce their own light.”
“Exactly. That’s the definition of a planet. So the Sun is the only celestial body capable of producing its own light in our solar system.”
Ian emphasized the last point.
“To be honest, I’m just making a wild guess. If the word ‘stellar’ in Stellar Evolution refers to stars, then the word ‘evolution’ must refer to their gradual change. A transformation of the stars, if you will. I think a star is in the center of this phenomenon.”
“A star that produces its own light, to be more precise. Think about it.
Venus is a planet, not a star, but it shines brilliantly in our eyes. Why is that?”
“Because of the Sun.”
“Exactly. Despite being a planet, Venus gives off light because it reflects the light of the Sun. So putting this in terms of human beings…”
Only now did Ian put his arm down.
“I decided it must refer to someone, a person who not only can alter their own fate but also the fates of those around him.”
After the long explanation, Ian grabbed a bottle of water and gulped it down.
“Being able to control the fate of others. In a way, that is a very terrifying prospect.”
Ian sighed as he stroked his beard.
“It’s hard to believe that there would be a human capable of that though. Do you have someone in mind? A person that is like the Sun.”
Seol Jihu thought about it carefully before shaking his head. He couldn’t think of anyone at the moment.
“I can’t either. Of course, you can liken your parents or a revered hero to the Sun, but that is exceedingly subjective. It would be hard to get others to agree.”
Ian interlocked his fingers and continued.
“But if you had to characterize someone with this quality, I would say it is a king.”
“Yes. A king commands and is revered by all. With a single choice, he can decide the fates of hundreds or even thousands of people. So wouldn’t a king be comparable to the Sun?”
At that moment, for some reason—
[Don’t you have any thoughts about becoming a King?]
What Hao Win had said long ago flashed in his mind.
“Well, I might be able to come up with a better answer if I have time to mull over it… but this is all I can offer for now. Haha, I think I got a little too excited.”
Ian let out a deep breath and fanned his face.
Seol Jihu raised his eyes after quietly ruminating over Ian’s words.
He bowed gently.
“I was completely lost… but I think I have an idea as to what it means now. You practically gave me the perfect explanation.”
“No problem! I had fun as well. It’s not often that I have a chance to talk about something like this.”
Ian laughed happily.
“Ah, do you remember what I told you before?”
“To think and interpret your words myself?”
“Yes. So if you want, you can treat what I said as an old man’s useless dribble.”
“I know what you mean, but I would never think that.”
“Haha, then I’d be grateful. It seems running my mouth off was worthwhile.”
With his wrinkly face, Ian gave a soft, genial smile.
Ian and Seol Jihu conversed for a long time.
As they both had many questions to ask each other, the conversation naturally dragged on for a long time.
It was fun.
Never once during the whole conversation did Seol Jihu think it was boring.
Perhaps because it had been such a long time since he met Ian, Seol Jihu felt like he returned to the days when he met and talked with Ian at the Haramark Royal Palace.
But Earth wasn’t Paradise, and Ian was no longer an Earthling.
As the conversation hit the four-hour mark, Ian expressed exhaustion first, and Seol Jihu and Jang Maldong got up.
They left the old bookstore, saying they would come back tomorrow.
It was 2 a.m. by the time they arrived at the hotel.
“Thanks to you, I regained confidence in translating French,” Jang Maldong grumbled while walking to his room. Seol Jihu bowed to him, then went to his room as well.
He lay down on his bed, but couldn’t fall asleep.
From going to the hospital to meeting Ian, all sorts of things had happened during the day that prevented him from emptying his mind.
He felt complicated when he thought about Samuel, Alex, and Veronica.
His heart ached when he thought about Dylan.
He became relaxed when he recalled his meeting with Ian.
Eventually, Seol Jihu thought about himself.
Jang Maldong said that the chance of dying on Earth immediately after dying in Paradise increased the longer one stayed in Paradise.
Seol Jihu was a bit of a special case. Though he was a Level 5, he became a High Ranker much quicker than the average Earthling.
But examining the actual state of things, this was not a good thing.
Because it meant he invested a lot more into Paradise in a shorter period of time.
Even in reality, he had only returned to Earth four times in the three years he spent in Paradise. He was only leaving Paradise about once a year.
‘I guess that really is bad.’
Seol Jihu thought about it carefully.
What if he died in Paradise and came back to Earth?
With memories of Paradise filling up his head as it was now, he would commit suicide nine times out of ten.
He had to lower the probability of this happening.
Ian said that life was the choice between birth and death.
That one could decide what life they would lead and what death they would meet.
It was simple enough.
Seol Jihu liked Paradise.
Perhaps more than Earth.
But he didn’t have the confidence to completely give up on his life on Earth.
It might have been a different story just a few days ago, but his thoughts changed after meeting his family, especially his mother and older brother.
Then what did he need to do to live out both lives in harmony?
The answer was already out there.
[Existentialism emphasizes the freedom of choice and the consequence of that choice. Depending on what you choose to do and how you choose to take responsibility, you can decide what life you will lead and what death you will meet.]
To pioneer was to cultivate barren land and turn it into useful land.
But that required one to choose to perform the action of ‘cultivating’. If not, the land would forever remain useless.
The outcome was not guaranteed even if he tried his best. Even so, hoping for the best outcome without doing anything to achieve it was nothing more than an irresponsible wish.
Going to Earth every once in a while wasn’t a bad thing at all, and in the long term, it was something that would benefit him.
[‘So what if I die? It’s only a game.’ Frankly, that’s how you act.]
Earthlings had the duty to develop a safe environment to enter Paradise.
Only now did the true meaning of this saying reach his heart.
Was this what Jang Maldong wanted to tell him?
Did he want to shock him because he wasn’t making any preparations on Earth unlike other Earthlings?
‘From now on…’
Daybreak arrived as he thought repeatedly.
It was too late to sleep.
Seol Jihu tossed and turned in bed before crawling out of his bed and walking out to the terrace.
His mind cleared up when he took in the cold, morning air.
He felt at ease even though he didn’t sleep a wink.
The sun was rising above the horizon. The brilliant light of the sun cleared the darkness away in an instant, dyeing the endless open sea with brilliant light.
Soon, it would not just illuminate the sea, but also the entire city, the entire Earth.
Looking at the rising sun, Seol Jihu vowed internally.
To become a sun that gives off the light on its own.
To become a star that can share its light to other people.
Both in Paradise and on Earth.
[I just don’t get it. Why are you so stubborn about it when that child clearly expressed his displeasure? Are you trying to make fun of him?]
[I’m only adding ‘mana’ into the name because mana is his specialty.]
Two goddesses were in a heated argument in Paradise.
[Why does it have to be mana? There are tons of better names out there!]
[Because it is a unique class.]
[You’re too inflexible, Gula. It’s just a class name. Aah, my poor child…]
When the lamenting Luxuria looked up at the celestial bodies…
She suddenly let out a surprised yelp.
Gula, who was listening absentmindedly, also tilted her head up.
A star was shining.
No, it had been shining for a while, but its intensity had grown by a level.
It was shaky in the past like candlelight flickering in the wind, but now it was standing firm in place, radiating a bright light.
If its intensity got just a little stronger, it would be able to shine by itself onto its surroundings.
[Uh… Gula, it wasn’t to that degree before, right?]
[Yes, the intensity of the light just got several times brighter.]
Gula nodded her head in agreement.
Without any notice, the star had grown brighter.
Even Luxuria and Gula, two goddesses that kept a close eye on the star, did not notice until it suddenly happened.
[Yes… it’s a very beautiful light…]
Luxuria spoke in a dreamy voice.
[The Star gained a firm will. Did it finally find its path?]
Gula seemed satisfied as well.
[Just what happened?]
[A couple of stars around it moved… but it’s hard to say that’s what caused it to change. Since we can’t see the cause from here, a Star on Earth might have directly influenced it.]
[Ah, that might be it. You’re talking about a dead Star, right?]
[Not exactly dead, but one that disappeared once.]
The two goddesses talked in a friendly manner. Though they weren’t sure what happened, they knew that the change that happened to the Star was a good thing.
[Ah, I’m excited~ I’m looking forward to what he will do when he comes back~]
It was just as Luxuria said.
The Star had twisted the movements of celestial bodies just by reviving from a state of death and bearing a faint light.
Just what would happen if the Star fully regained its light and shined its brilliant light to its surroundings was something all the goddesses looked forward to seeing.
Gula crossed her arms as she stared at the Star.
A hint of conflict flashed on the goddess’ face.
Because her hands were forced for the Star’s High Ranker name, she had been determined to decide the Unique Ranker name of her own accord.
[See! How admirable and commendable is he? So why can’t you listen to our child’s request for something like a class name?]
[…I will think about it.]
Gula smacked her lips at Luxuria’s protest.