Chapter 365. Level 7, and (2)

Phi Sora left the office with Pneuma’s Sky Boots and a piece of the fruit in her hand.

Seol Jihu asked her to eat it on the spot and tell him its effects, but Phi Sora headed to the hot springs, saying she would eat it later in her peak condition.

Seol Jihu moved on to his last task of the day — team formation.

There was, of course, some difficulty.

“No!”

Hugo gladly accepted going to Team 2 as he wanted to try teaming up with Kazuki ever since he was in Haramark. But Chohong, who was nominated by Phi Sora, refused strongly.

“I’m so disappointed in you, Seol. How can you do this to me? You changed!”

“What are you talking about?”

“You and I have been through so much together! But now you’re saying you’re going to cast me aside? You can’t do that to me! I’m a Level 6 too!”

“Hold up, I’m not casting you aside.”

“Whatever! I’m not going! I won’t!”

Chohong adamantly refused to move teams, so Seol Jihu had no choice but to ask for others’ understanding.

Thankfully, Phi Sora retracted her nomination, nonchalantly saying, ‘It’s fine, I don’t plan on forcing anyone to join my team.’

However, she took another founding member in Chohong’s place, the only Priest among the official members, Maria.

With that, the teams were fully formed.

The main team managed by the Level 5 Lance of Nemesis, Seol Jihu, consisted of the following:

Level 7 Sicario, Hoshino Urara.

Level 6 High Templar, Chung Chohong.

And Level 4 Magus, Eun Yuri, who leveled up in one go from Level 1.

It was just the four of them for now, but with Flone and Little Chick included, the number should be considered six.

Next was Team 1 managed by the Level 6 General Duke, Phi Sora, consisting of the following four members:

Level 5 Grand Steel Sniper, Marcel Ghionea.

Level 5 Chief Priest, Maria Yeriel.

Level 3 Tracer, Yi Seol-Ah.

Level 3 Guard, Yi Sungjin.

Finally, Team 2 which was managed by the Level 6 Archranger, Ayase Kazuki, consisted of two other members:

Level 6 Imperial Knight, Oh Rahee.

Level 5 Barbarian Champion, Richard Hugo.

Although they didn’t have enough members yet, Seol Jihu finished forming the team on the condition that they would have priority in receiving new members.

This information was relayed to all members either through the meeting or through Kim Hannah, and each team was assigned a designated office on a floor and made to hold meetings led by the Team Leaders.

“Wheeewww—”

Only then did Seol Jihu sit down in his office chair and let out a sigh.

With this, the minimum amount of organization was finished.

There was only one thing left to do now.

Seol Jihu slowly examined the items placed on his desk.

The first thing that caught his attention was the pouch containing the Divine Elixirs.

He bought them all the way back when he was in the Neutral Zone and saved them until now.

If they simply raised his stats by one stage, he would have drunk them a long time ago. However, the Divine Elixirs’ effects were far superior, raising the respective stat by an entire rank.

If he drank them after pulling his stats up to High (Low), he would be able to achieve the Pinnacle rank instantly.

And if he somehow managed to reach the Pinnacle rank on his own, he would be able to go beyond that rank.

Of course, he wasn’t quite at that level yet.

It was the same for the Harmonia Magic Square.

Allowing its user to use reverse-flow energy was enticing, but the rest of its effects were concerning. Because it was made with an imperfect formula, there was no way of knowing what would happen to him once he used it.

He couldn’t shoulder another unstable factor when he had yet to even balance his mind, technique, and body.

Moreover, the Future-Gauging Nine Eyes was also showing the item in a red hue.

It wasn’t yellow, but red.

In a case like this, there would be no problem interpreting Escape Immediately as ‘don’t even get your hands near it.’

And so, Seol Jihu put away the crystal box rampaging with a black aura without regrets.

Then, he looked down at a fist-sized orb.

[Divine Stigmata]
—A special stigma among the many created for the human body. Contains a trace of divinity.
—You will be immediately sent to a trial location the moment you present it as an offering.
—If you can withstand the trials given by the god you serve, you will be given power on par with a Saint.
—Although it will be an extremely painful and difficult trial, the Stigma created in the process is sure to return as a strong power.

Seol Jihu held off using the previous two items but the Divine Stigmata was different.

He didn’t dare to use it when he was low-leveled and lacking in ability, but now he was a full-fledged High Ranker.

As if that wasn’t enough, the realm of Unique Rankers was close as well.

“Hmm….”

Seol Jihu stared fixedly at the stigmata before picking up a knife.

He took a slice of the World Tree’s fruit and threw it into his mouth.

It didn’t taste like a fruit, just like he heard from many of the others.

It melted as soon as it touched his tongue, and an icy liquid that made his insides cold slid down his throat.

[You consumed the fruit of the World Tree.]
[A random beneficial effect will be applied to the user.]
[Your body’s innate potential has increased!]

“Hah.”

Laughter escaped Seol Jihu’s mouth as soon as he saw the messages.

He didn’t expect his mind, technique, and body’s balance. But for other members, their aptitude changed, their abilities ranked up, or their physical stats increased.

So only having his innate potential increase…

Was it just telling him to train like crazy?

Despite being a little disappointed at first, Seol Jihu soon changed his mind.

Maybe this was a good thing.

Though he couldn’t be sure, the total increase shouldn’t be small, since the fruit of the World Tree was also added to Jang Maldong’s acupuncture technique.

Seol Jihu had to undertake a tough trial, so this change could also mean that his body would evolve further while enduring the trial.

Seol Jihu now had yet another reason to delay using the Divine Elixirs.

Putting away the pouch and the box, Seol Jihu put the stigmata into his pocket.

He then took a deep breath like a general who was about to set out on the deciding battle of a war.

And finally, that day arrived.

*

“How’s the situation with the offerings?”

“We’re gathering as many as we can. Don’t worry about it. We will take action as soon as Miss Seo Yuhui comes back.”

“And Mister Park Woori and Yoo Yeolmu?”

“I talked to them over the communication crystal yesterday. Park Woori will come to Eva soon. He needs to work in the intelligence team, so he needs to learn the ropes with hands-on experience. Mister Yoo Yeolmu said he needed to train a bit more before entering a team.”

“Place him in Team 2 when he comes. I already let Mister Kazuki know, and don’t be stingy with supporting him because he’s a new member. If Mister Kazuki asks for something, spend money liberally.”

“Yes, I understand.”

Kim Hannah replied in a clear voice.

Seol Jihu nodded his head and flipped the page on the document he was reading.

He was doing a thorough inspection before leaving for the trial.

“Where’s Miss Baek Haeju?”

“She hasn’t come back from Earth yet.”

“Same for the Halep siblings?”

“Yes, they went back to Earth a few days after they arrived in Eva. I haven’t heard from them since.”

“It might be difficult with Miss Baek Haeju, but keep the Halep siblings around when they come back. Let them know that there’s something I need to tell them.”

“I’ll try to accommodate them as much as possible.”

“Thanks. Next up is… Oh yeah.”

Seol Jihu glanced sideways while flipping over a page.

“Have you tried calling them?”

“…This, right?”

Kim Hannah held up a communication crystal with a grin.

“Of course. The Pavlovici brothers were alive and well. If you had something like this, you should have told me about it sooner.”

“Why?”

"Intelligence isn’t something that pops out of nowhere. You need some people to risk their lives on the front lines. They’re perfect for the job.”

“Don’t make them work too hard. They’re the only connecting links we have for the moment.”

Seol Jihu smiled softly.

“Unless there’s a pressing matter, that’s what I’m going to deal with first when I come back.”

“Aiya, I can already hear the screams of those pitiful souls.”

“You have no idea how much I was screaming internally when I was cooped up in Haramark’s palace. It’s about time I hear their screams too.”

“Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, right?”

“It’ll be a bit stronger than a whirlwind. Think typhoons… Anyway, this is it. Take care of the organization while I’m gone.”

Seol Jihu flicked the thick document and stretched out his arms.

Kim Hannah smacked her lips after putting down her notebook.

“Are you leaving right away?”

Seol Jihu didn’t reply.

He simply picked up the Spear of Purity, woke up the napping Little Chick, and put on the sea-colored cape that Vidalif gifted.

“….”

In truth, Kim Hannah already knew that something had changed inside Seol Jihu.

Seeing him work day in and day out after coming back to Paradise, she could guess that he made a firm determination to do something.

He must have had a change of mind during the Hawaii trip. But she had no doubt that he gave it a lot of thought.

“Are you fine with it?”

Kim Hannah gave a mischievous smile as she saw Seol Jihu pack up his belongings.

Seol Jihu blinked.

“Fine with what?”

“Leaving Valhalla to me. Aren’t you worried?”

“Oh, that? You’re the only one I can ask. Besides, there’s Master Jang and two other Team Leaders.”

“Heu, aren’t you underestimating me too much?”

“Do what you want if you want to put your name up next to the old Eva Alliance. How did Sombat La-ongmanee die again?”

Seol Jihu laughed as he placed the Spear of Purity on his shoulder.

Kim Hannah took a deep breath and stuck out her tongue.

“Beh. Why do you have to be so brutal?”

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Why would I kill you?”

Seol Jihu chuckled, then said.

“Especially when all I have to do is use the wish.”

Kim Hannah flinched.

“Ah, I can’t wait to see my little Jinah. She’s going to take after you and me, and be really cute…”

“Hey, hey.”

When Seol Jihu gave Kim Hannah a lewd look, Kim Hannah stepped back subconsciously.

“I’m too eager. Maybe I should make Jinah before I go. Then you’ll also have no choice but to be a good virtuous wife.”

Kim Hannah shut her eyes, deeply regretting the joke she made.

Seeing the mute Kim Hannah, Seol Jihu cackled and picked up the drowsy Little Chick.

“Get up. We have to go to the temple.”

“Uue… we’re finally going?”

“Yep. I’ll give you lots of holy power.”

“Oh, it’s about time.”

“What do you mean? Didn’t you eat until you were full last time?”

“Did I? Anyway, what happened? You are feeding me on your own and all…”

“I figured I probably can’t feed you for a while… a long while. So hold your stomach and eat as much as you can.”

Little Chick tilted its head, but Seol Jihu left the office without saying anything else.

Jang Maldong, Kazuki, and Phi Sora were waiting for him in front of the building.

“See you guys later.”

He didn’t need to say much as he had already let them know.

“…Take care.”

Jang Maldong spoke solemnly as always.

“I will. Look after Valhalla while I’m gone.”

Seol Jihu bid farewell with a smile and then turned around.

“…Come back quick! Don’t be gone for too long!”

After Phi Sora’s goodbye, Seol Jihu walked toward Gula’s temple.

Seol Jihu quietly fell into thought during the walk.

Looking back, the previous war was too exhausting.

Just preparing for the war drained him of his energy.

After experiencing it once, he was now sure.

There was a limit to running around here and there.

He needed someone reliable and trustworthy who could help him.

Perhaps this person was best described as someone who would follow him without needing to be led.

Eun Yuri was a good example of such a person.

As such, Seol Jihu had spent the past few weeks taking time to reform the organization.

He set up teams and gave independent authority to the Team Leaders.

Now Valhalla would run well even if he was gone.

With this work finished, it was time for him to reform himself.

‘What a mess it was!’

What Seol Jihu felt the most from the war was how powerless he was.

Whenever there was danger, he relied on miracles, luck, and his comrades rather than his own ability.

If he had to give himself a score, it would be zero out of a hundred without a doubt.

What if Little Chick didn’t unlock the Spear of Purity’s powers?

What if Marcel Ghionea failed to deliver the sedges and the seed to the World Tree?

What if Eun Yuri didn’t summon Roselle to protect the World Tree?

There were just too many factors that were out of his control. This was a clear sign that he was lacking in power.

With the ways things were, he couldn’t call himself a representative.

With the ways things were, he couldn’t become the Sun, a star that emitted light on its own.

He needed power.

The type of power that would allow him to get through any difficulty without relying on external help or miracles.

After entering the temple, Seol Jihu bowed his head in front of the stone statue.

[You’re finally here.]

Gula’s voice rang out in his head.

‘I had to take care of a few things so I was late.’

[I’m not blaming you. Taking care of what needs to be done is necessary…]

Gula paused in the middle of her consolation.

[This aura…]

She trailed off, feeling the energy emanating from Seol Jihu’s pocket.

[So you finally decided?]

‘Yes.’

[How are you going to use it? Right now? In your current state?]

‘No.’

Seol Jihu shook his head.

‘I’ll advance to Level 7 first. I’ll use the stigmata afterward.’

Gula gasped inwardly at Seol Jihu’s proclamation.

[I wouldn’t recommend that.]

‘….’

[The more power you seek, the greater the trial will become. You should know this as well.]

‘I do.’

[You haven’t fully learned your Level 5 skills, so to go to Level 7 in one go… It’s too dangerous. You’ll have to endure three trials. You won’t die, given the nature of the special space, but failure isn’t the problem. Your mind might break down…]

‘Sung Shihyun.’

Seol Jihu spat out the breath he had been holding in, and Gula stopped talking.

‘The Parasites’ new First Army Commander… He’s strong. Setting aside his character, he is unbelievably strong.’

[….]

‘The Dreaming Witch, Roselle La Grazia, accumulated strength for hundreds of years and the Star of Avarice, Philip Muller, is known to be the strongest Magician among Earthlings. Yet, he blocked their joint attacks with a single swing of a sword. No, never mind blocking it, he overwhelmed it. We only barely stopped it with Yuhui Noona’s help.’

[….]

‘And that was when his power was still unstable.’

Seol Jihu bit down on his lower lip.

‘The war ended quite some time ago… but that scene is still vivid in my mind. More so than the descent of the Parasite Queen.’

[….]

‘I want to get stronger. No, I must get stronger. With the way things are now, I will lose even if we fight a thousand times.’

[….]

‘For when something similar inevitably happens again in the future…’

Seol Jihu dropped his head even lower.

‘I need the power to let me deal with it myself so that I don’t rely on awakenings or luck.’

Seol Jihu relayed his firm thoughts.

‘No matter how great this tribulation may be, I will get through it and obtain the power that I need.’

[…Mmm…]

Gula raised her head and looked up at the outer space.

Starlight was undulating at the center of the celestial bodies.

It was glowing so intensely that even a small nudge might cause it to flare up fiercely.

[Even Baek Haeju lowered the number of trials to two after hearing our explanation. And if my memory serves correctly, she regretted it after all was said and done for not reducing the number to one.]

Gula spoke quietly.

[You may have said so without knowing how painful the trials will be…]

‘I—’

Seol Jihu was about to say something when he suddenly felt a gentle touch stroking his head.

He opened his eyes reflexively and looked up at the stone statue.

Though it was only a statue, the long-haired goddess seemed to be looking down at him with a profound gaze.

[But if you strongly desire it…]

After a short silence, Gula continued.

[I have no choice.]

Strength entered Seol Jihu’s eyes.

Immediately afterward…

[Fine. Let it be.]

Gula’s voice echoed out in his head.

[Henceforth, Seol Jihu will go beyond the Level 6 Savior’s Lance…]

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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

The author seems to have forgotten about Audrey Basler (or she isn't included in any teams for now). We will see how it goes in the future and make changes if needed.