Chapter 366. Level 7, and (3)

[In the name of Gula, I bestow Seol Jihu the title of Level 7 Star Seeker!]

[I expect great feats befitting a Unique Ranker and one who seeks out stars to obtain enlightenment!]

Finally, Seol Jihu’s Level 7 class name was revealed.

One who seeks out stars to obtain enlightenment.

Thus, Star Seeker.

For the first time ever, there was no mention of ‘spear’ or ‘lance’ in his class name.

Seol Jihu was taken aback as he hadn’t expected this at all.

Still, he understood where the meaning of the name came from.

It was from the vow he made after he met Ian on Earth.

The vow to become the Sun, a star.

But he wasn’t a star yet and was still at the stage of a cultivator who was seeking to reach enlightenment.

Gula had sensed his determination and named him appropriately.

[Do you like the name?]

‘Yes… it’s a cool name.’

[Fufu, you must have been worried that it would have ‘mana’ in it.]

‘Ah… actually, it didn’t really matter.’

[?]

‘No, rather than that… I guess it’s more correct to say I was prepared for it.’

Seol Jihu scratched his head.

‘I thought about it carefully. Why is she so intent on using the word ‘mana’ when it’s just a name? And when I did… there was something that caught my attention.’

Seol Jihu placed his hand on his heart.

‘It means that I still mainly use mana, right?’

[….]

Gula didn’t answer.

Taking her silence as an affirmation, Seol Jihu smiled bitterly.

‘Then I should blame myself for such a name, not you.’

[It isn’t a bad thing to specialize in using mana.]

‘I know. But using something and relying on it are different things.’

Seol Jihu sighed and lowered his hand.

‘So I was resolved for my fate. If I failed this time, I swore I would get rid of the word when I reached Level 8… Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.’

He grinned.

‘Thank you. I will try to achieve feats befitting a seeker of stars as you said.’

This time, Gula was struck speechless.

She unknowingly reached out toward Seol Jihu and caressed his face. Only when he flinched slightly from surprise did she do a doubletake and retract her hand.

[That is a truly commendable thought. I must admit I was worried whether you will pass the trials, but with such determination, it looks like I can breathe a sigh of relief.]

Seol Jihu clenched his hands at Gula’s encouragement.

He opened his status window and stared into the air.

[Your Status Window]

[1. General Information]
Summoned Date: 2017. 03. 16
Marking Grade: Gold
Sex/Age: Male/ 26
Height/ Weight: 180.5cm/ 74.2kg
Current Condition: Healthy
Class: Lv 7. Star Seeker
Nationality: Korea (Area 1)
Affiliation: Valhalla
Alias: The Adversary, Top Graduate, Savior of the Federation, First Star, Prankster, Jinah’s Dad, Titty-Loonie, Haramark’s War Hero, Training Masochist

[2. Traits]
1. Temperament
—Self-command (Suppresses emotions, greed, and impulses with the rational will)
—Tenacity (A deeply rooted temper of wanting to endure pain and struggles)
—Short-tempered (Impatient and hasty)
—Competitive (A desire to win)

2. Aptitude
—Effort (Endeavors with both body and mind to achieve a goal)
—Average (Normal in every way; possesses no particular talent)

[3. Physical Level]
Strength: Intermediate (Intermediate)
Endurance: Intermediate (Low)
Agility: Intermediate (High)
Stamina: Intermediate (High)
Mana: High (High)
Luck: Intermediate (Intermediate)

Remaining Ability Points: 19

[4. Abilities]
1. Innate Abilities (2)
—Future-Gauging Nine Eyes (Grade Unknown)

2. Class Abilities (4)
—Basic Spear Techniques: Thrust (High), Strike (High), Cut (High)
—Mana Spear - Multiple (High)
—Flash Thunder [Intermediate (High)]
—Righteous Heart (Intermediate)

3. Other Abilities (3)
—Reinforced Circuit (High)
—Floral Substitution [Intermediate (High)]
—Intuition [Intermediate (High)]

[5. Level of Cognition]
Manchild (Actions and thoughts are like that of a child) / Enthusiastic / Golden Rule (To treat others as they have treated you)

Finally.

Finally, he became a Level 7.

He managed to become a Unique Ranker, which numbered less than ten in all of Paradise.

Seol Jihu felt proud of how far he had come, but he cleared his mind and looked straight at the reality of the situation.

He was having trouble grasping even High Ranker skills, so was there even a need to say anything about the skills unlocked at Level 6 and 7?

Seol Jihu carefully checked out the newly unlocked abilities before asking Gula for holy power.

Once Little Chick ate its fill, Seol Jihu rubbed its bloated belly and said goodbye.

Then, he looked up at the statue.

Noticing his readied gaze, Gula slowly roused her energy.

Soon, an orb emitting a purple light slowly floated up from Seol Jihu’s pocket.

[I probably won’t need to repeat myself.]

Gula had already affirmed Seol Jihu’s will multiple times. All that was left to do was to patiently wait.

[I hereby grant Seol Jihu’s use of the Divine Stigmata.]

Suddenly, an isolation barrier formed around Seol Jihu.

A wind, fierce enough to send his hair fluttering, blew.

Then, Gula’s voice echoed out.

[In the name of Gula, I permit Seol Jihu to enter the Path of the Soul.]

What Seol Jihu saw in the next moment was darkness spreading out from the purple orb, like a pair of wings.

By the time he noticed this, the darkness had already engulfed half of his field of vision.

The world simultaneously warped and rushed toward him.

What Seol Jihu heard and saw before his consciousness faded away was the Divine Stigmata that transformed into total darkness, and…

[I look forward to the day I see you again…!]

Gula’s loud laughter.

Flash!

Seol Jihu disappeared at the same time that the darkness exploded.

No, the correct expression would be to say that he was swallowed.

Though Seol Jihu didn’t see it well, Little Chick saw it clearly — the darkness belched out by the stigmata opening up like the jaws of a beast and devouring Seol Jihu.

Tak. The pendant that usually hung around Seol Jihu’s neck fell to the ground, having lost its owner.

[Huh? What happened?]

A cloud of black smoke came out in a fluster.

[Why was I left behind?]

“Because the Path of the Soul is not a place just anyone can enter.”

Little Chick murmured as it rubbed its belly.

[What do you mean?]

“Plainly put, only those with a divine vestige or an item inscribed with divine stigmata can enter it.”

[I’m a Saintess too… though that happened after I died…]

“Don’t whine. The Divine Stigmata is a token personally inscribed by a god. It is different from receiving a god’s blessing or borrowing a god’s power. This is a matter of qualification. Even among saints and saintesses, not many have ever obtained this qualification.”

[I don’t know what that means… but he left me behind again…]

Flone dropped her head. Her shoulders drooped down, and she spiritlessly returned to the pendant.

Little Chick clicked its tongue and glanced at the stone statue.

“Now that I think about it… I remember hearing about this. Though it was a long time ago, I heard that the goddesses of the Seven Sins created a special isolated space to raise their apostles…”

[Hoh, you have an excellent memory.]

“How would I not know? I still remember receiving my master’s order and personally eliminating some of them with my partner. Apostle of Gluttony included.”

[Damned bird, you’re bringing up a painful memory.]

Gula chuckled.

[Ah, how things have changed. The phoenix that once served Castitas is now worrying about its human partner who serves the Seven Sins.]

“That’s natural given the situation of this world. Anyway—”

[You don’t have to worry.]

Gula cut off Little Chick.

[The world changed as you said, so we must change our ways as well.]

“You mean…”

[You should know if you read the explanation. The Path of the Soul is no longer a place that binds the apostles’ soul to us and gives them power in return. It has been recreated as a place that tests our children’s limits and bestows tribulation befitting the power they desire.]

“Let me ask again. You are saying that this tribulation is disconnected from the process of birthing apostles?”

[Yes, they’re two totally different processes. We have selected Executors to combat the Parasite Army Commanders, but that wasn’t enough. This space was created for children who had talent but did not choose us or were not chosen by us. Seol Jihu would be the first exception… but that is it. I swear upon my name.]

“Oho, a divine oath. Well, I have no reason to suspect you if you’re going so far as to make a vow. Fine, it seems I can be at ease. I will wait patiently.”

[…I don’t know about that.]

Gula said in a low voice.

[I let him go since he strongly desired to do so, but even then, I cannot help but worry. Perhaps doing things the old way would have been better for that child…]

“My partner is the one who asked for this. He will bear the consequences.”

Little Chick ignored Gula’s lamentation and turned around.

After picking up the sobbing pendant with its beak, it left the temple in short, quick steps.

*


When Seol Jihu opened his eyes, he noticed that he was in an unfamiliar place.

There wasn’t much worth noting, contrary to his expectations.

All he could see was an empty field filled with overgrown weeds and an endless horizon that stretched out wherever he looked.

Then, a cool breeze suddenly blew.

‘What was that?’

The first change happened as the wind swayed his bangs to tickle his forehead.

Dududududu!

The earth suddenly rumbled like there was an earthquake.

Startled, Seol Jihu roused his mana in a hurry. But contrary to his expectations, there was no direct harm done to him.

Cracks formed across the land and the earth split. The epicenter of the earthquake seemed to be far away, but the cracks, which had multiplied to thousands in number, quickly reached the spot where Seol Jihu stood.

Kwaaaaaaa!

Next, the earth shot up.

The new piece of land that broke through the shattered earth expanded its size at an exponential rate. In the blink of an eye, what started out as a small hill became a mountain.

That wasn’t all. The top of the mountain sunk in and formed a crater before another earthquake took place and lava shot up from the earth.

Then, it happened again.

As a result of the earth rising up three times in succession, the mountain in front of him had become large to the point that it pierced through the sky.

“Uwoah…”

Seol Jihu grunted quietly before looking up.

But he couldn’t see the peak of the mountain even after tilting his head all the way back.

He had never seen such a large mountain in his life.

Both Huge Stone Rocky Mountain and Eva’s volcano seemed like a child’s toy compared to this mountain.

“Ah.”

Realizing that he had fallen on his butt, Seol Jihu hopped up and dusted his butt.

‘A mountain was suddenly formed… but what am I supposed to do? Climb it?’

Speaking of which, Gula said there were three trials that he needed to pass.

The earth had also shot up three times.

Were these two phenomena related?

Dududu, dududu…!

While Seol Jihu was deep in thought, he suddenly heard the sound of something rolling toward him.

Looking up reflexively, Seol Jihu furrowed his brows.

“…A boulder?”

He could see a brown boulder rolling down from the mountain with a terrifying force.

Seol Jihu tried to dodge it in fright, but the boulder came to a sudden stop about ten meters in front of him.

A mountain suddenly formed, and now a boulder had rolled down and stopped in front of him.

Seol Jihu tilted his head.

Just as he took a careful step toward the boulder—

[The Path of the Soul, the tribulation to receive a divine vestige, will now start.]

A familiar alert rang out and a message popped up in front of him.

[Follow the route of pilgrimage and place the ‘mountain boulder’ on the peak of the first mountain.]

[The use of external help or shortcuts is strictly prohibited in the process of placing the mountain boulder on the peak. You must step on the peak solely with your own strength to be considered as having passed the trial.]

‘…I just need to place the boulder on the top of the mountain?’

It was then.

As soon as he read the last message, more alerts popped up in front of him.

[Innate Ability, ‘Future-Gauging Nine Eyes’, will vanish temporarily.]

[The use of class and miscellaneous abilities will be restricted.]

[The use of mana will be restricted.]

[All artifacts will be sealed.]

“….”

Seol Jihu stood in a daze as he watched the messages pop up one after the other.

He was wondering what this meant exactly.

He tried to rouse his mana, but it didn’t budge.

Even without the additional restrictions, his abilities didn’t activate and his artifacts became useless since he couldn’t use mana.

“…Shit.”

Seol Jihu let out a deep sigh.

He was prepared for the worst, but he couldn’t help but get a little dispirited with his mana suddenly disappearing.

‘Just what good does this do?’

It wasn’t that he didn’t have doubts, but he still walked up to the boulder.

The message said to place the boulder on the first mountain’s peak.

The colossal mountain range in front of him had three equally spaced out peaks. If all he had to do was take the boulder up to the peak, it didn’t seem like such an impossible task.

After all, he had experienced similar training under Jang Maldong.

‘No, no.’

Seol Jihu shook his head, recalling the Special Tutorial.

He had suffered unnecessary difficulties just because he looked down on it for being a Tutorial.

This was a trial bestowed by a god.

There had to be something beyond his understanding.

‘Let’s not underestimate this trial.’

Soon, Seol Jihu steeled his resolve and placed his hands on the boulder.

Putting strength into his arms, he slowly began to push it.

*


“So.”

Chohong said unenthusiastically as she stared at Kim Hannah.

“You want me to deliver this to Haramark?”

“You’re the only one I can ask, Miss Chung Chohong.”

Kim Hannah replied with a thin smile.

“What do you mean I’m the only one? Everyone’s still around.”

“Team Leader Kazuki is busy planning an exploration with his team members. On the other hand, Miss Chung Chohong’s team has more free time.”

She was saying that the representative’s team had little to do with Seol Jihu being gone.

Though she wasn’t wrong, Chohong was still discontent.

“But I’m not the only one in my team.”

“That is true, but Miss Eun Yuri still lacks experience and is low-leveled. Miss Hoshino Urara is a little, no, a lot of a worrisome person to be asked to deliver this important item.”

Kim Hannah tapped on a pouch on the table.

It was a pouch containing four high-grade enhancement stones.

Chohong sighed and dropped her head.

“So you’re really gonna make me work.”

“Please know that I’m not the one making you work. Representative Seol asked me to give you this job.”

“Seol did?”

Rather than replying to Chohong’s question, Kim Hannah pushed a document toward her.

Chohong’s frown subsided once she confirmed Seol Jihu’s signature on it.

“Okay… so I just have to deliver this?”

“Yes, and a separate gift that Representative Seol prepared. I will give that to you when you set off.”

“Jeez, I can’t even remember the last time I went on a delivery mission.”

Chohong grumbled but did not say no.

In fact, she left Eva that very day.

She stopped by Sicilia as soon as she arrived in Haramark and delivered two enhancement stones as well as a gift Seol Jihu brought from Earth.

“This is the first time I’ve seen them in person.”

The value of an enhancement stone was something she knew well, and it was enough to intrigue the usually unperturbed Cinzia.

“They look like high-quality goods too…”

After carefully examining the stones, Cinzia threw a glance at Chohong.

“Have you used it before?”

Chohong raised her mace.

“+3 Thorn of Steel.”

“+3?”

“It was +2 when Seol gave it to me. I used an enhancement stone to get it to +3, so now its power is octupled.”

Chohong laughed as she swung the mace around.

Cinzia marveled.

“An eightfold amplification… I find that hard to believe.”

“I can show you if you want.”

“No thanks. I would rather not test out the power of such a hard-headed weapon.”

Cinzia chuckled before picking up the pouch.

“I was wondering what to give Agnes as her Unique Ranker advancement gift. These should be good enough. Send Representative Seol my regards. Tell him the enhancement stones and the gift are well received.”

“Got it… Hmm? Unique Ranker?”

Chohong turned to Agnes who was standing next to Cinzia.

“You’re Level 7 now, Noonim?”

Agnes nodded silently.

Chohong gasped.

“Then Sicilia has two Unique Rankers now… Well, Hoshino Urara became Level 7 too, so I guess it isn’t too strange.”

Agnes pushed her glasses up.

“That woman became a Unique Ranker too?”

“Uh, that’s what she said. She’s not the only one. Seol should have become a Unique Ranker by now.”

“By now…?”

“Probably. I mean, considering what he’s achieved in this war, leveling up twice probably won’t make a dent in his contribution points. Or I might be wrong. Who knows?”

“Did Representative Seol not tell you what his level was?”

“Well, he’s been busy with a lot of stuff recently, mostly with reforming the teams and all. He left immediately afterward.”

Chohong shrugged.

‘He left?’ Cinzia’s eyes narrowed.

“Ah, since you’re here, there’s a message I’d like you to deliver.”

Cinzia spoke quietly.

“I would like to meet Representative Seol soon. Officially.”

“Hmm? For what?”

“It’s not something for you to know at the moment.”

“Alright… but that’s not gonna be easy.”

Chohong shook her head.

“As I said before, he left.”

“Did he go on a training trip? If he’s in Eva’s volcanic region, we can easily pay him a visit. It would be even better if he’s in Huge Stone Rocky Mountain.”

“It’s true that he went to train, but unfortunately, he’s not in either of those places.”

Chohong spoke.

“Well, I don’t know the exact place either. He said he was going to the temple and just told us that he won’t be able to come back for a while.”

At that moment, Agnes and Cinzia exchanged glances.

“I see… It can’t be helped then.”

“Also, don’t ask me about these things. Talk to the fox at our organization.”

Chohong got up, grumbling.

“Why don’t you stay a little longer? We’re quite curious about different things.”

“No thanks. I have to visit the palace too. Besides, I’m a Level 6 too now. I have a ton of things I need to do.”

Chohong picked up her mace and trudged out of the room.

As soon as the door closed behind her, Cinzia made a bored expression.

“He suddenly disappeared…? The position of Gula’s Executor is currently empty, but it’s unlikely that a new Star will be appointed at the moment.”

“I think so too. The trial needed to become an Executor is equivalent to a class advancement examination. And since it happens inside Paradise, there should be no reason for him to hide or disappear.”

“We’ll have to stay open-minded, but the fact that he went to the temple… Such a thing happened only once before, no?”

“If you’re talking about Baek Haeju, you are right.”

The corner of Cinzia’s mouth curled up at Agnes’ affirmation.

“If that is true, Paradise might flip upside down once again.”

“Of course. It is hard to believe that Valhalla’s representative was not chosen by Gula. We would have to check the Neutral Zone’s VIP shop inventory, but it’s likely that he used the Divine Stigmata.”

“Tsk, must be nice. Normally you’d have to choose between one, but to be able to have both… Not even Sung Shihyun had such a fortune.”

Cinzia rummaged through her pocket with a sincerely envious expression.

Then suddenly, she flicked her arm.

Tak! At the same time that Agnes covered her face with her hand, a stone hit her palm.

“Use it well.”

“Thank you.”

Agnes bowed respectfully.

“And keep silent about what you heard today. We received such a precious gift. We can’t go around blabbering about it now, can we?”

“Of course, especially considering our future relationship with Valhalla.”

“Paradise has too many old-timers now. It’s about time for a change of power… Anyway, what did Valhalla’s representative give us?”

Cinzia held up the shopping bags with a curious face and handed one over to Agnes.

Chung Chohong said that Seol Jihu personally prepared these gifts.

Agnes seemed to be curious too after receiving an enhancement stone as she carefully unwrapped the packaging.

Next…

“….”

Cinzia dazedly stared at the gift as she held it up. She looked like she received a huge shock.

“…This is.”

A leopard-print brassiere was dangling between her fingers.

It was underwear no matter how she looked at it.

Cinzia turned to Agnes at the unexpected gift.

Agnes was frozen solid.

Looking down, Cinzia saw light-purple underwear. More importantly, a bear with a ribbon on its head was printed in the middle.

“Pftt.”

Cinzia’s head turned back.

“What is… pfft… that… pfft… a bear… pfft…”

She tried her best to hold her laughter in.

“Puhat!”

But she exploded in the end.

“Uhahahaha!”

She must have found it quite hilarious as she laughed without a care for her position.

She even slammed the table in front of her.

The unexpected gift had caused her to crack up.

“Y-Your taste in underwear…! How!? When did you two develop such a relationship?”

Agnes’ neck turned red from Cinzia’s ridicule.

“…I respectfully ask for some time off.”

“Kekeke… why?”

“I need to go to Eva.”

“For what?”

Cinzia cackled as she wiped her eyes.

“If our prediction is correct, only one person is capable of meeting Valhalla’s representative right now.”

“Keuk,” Agnes grunted as she squeezed the underwear in her hand.

Knowing that this was true, she could only grit her teeth.

*


After Seol Jihu left, Kim Hannah shouldered the administrative duties of the representative.

To be more precise, she had to take care of work that Seol Jihu left behind without making a mistake.

Although it wasn’t easy, what troubled Kim Hannah was holding a person down.

It wasn’t the Halep siblings.

“What do you mean?”

Kim Hannah swallowed hard as a woman wearing a white ceremonial robe asked coldly.

Baek Haeju had returned to Paradise in the morning.

Kim Hannah ran to meet her as soon as she heard the news, but she couldn’t think of any ways to keep her in Eva.

After all, she was one of the few legends of Paradise.

Naturally, she was able to dismantle any schemes Kim Hannah might set up with ease.

“Jihu… Valhalla’s representative isn’t here?”

“Well…”

Kim Hannah realized how absurd the situation was since she used Seol Jihu’s name to bring her to Valhalla.

To make matters worse, Seo Yuhui wasn’t around either, making Baek Haeju an uncontrollable titan.

‘He said we could reveal the truth to her, right?’

After much consideration, Kim Hannah decided to reveal the partial truth to her.

The problem was that Baek Haeju’s expression turned worse after hearing about it.

“Divine Stigmata…? He left to take the trials to receive a divine vestige?”

“Y-Yes. I don’t know the details, but that is what I heard. But before he left…”

“How long has it been?”

Baek Haeju cut her off.

“How many days has it been since he left?”

She asked again in a hurry.

“I-It’s been a week at least…”

Baek Haeju bit her lower lip at Kim Hannah’s answer.

Baek Haeju.

She was Paradise’s first Level 8 and one who refused the gods’ selection, receiving a divine vestige in its place.

In other words, she was an Earthling who had tread the Path of the Soul before Seol Jihu.

That was how she knew how absurdly difficult the trials of the Path of the Soul were and what kind of a place the trials took place in.

For one, the flow of time was different in that place.

There was a stark difference that was incomparable to the difference in time between Earth and Paradise.

“I think it’s been ten days.”

Baek Haeju’s eyes widened at Kim Hannah’s answer.

“Ten… days?”

“Yes. He left around this time of the day after finishing up his work… It’s been about ten days exactly.”

“And he hasn’t come back yet?”

Kim Hannah made a confused face at Baek Haeju repeatedly asking the same question.

She then did a doubletake and asked.

“Ah, Miss Baek Haeju also…”

But before she could finish, Baek Haeju quickly turned back. Kim Hannah called her, but she didn’t listen.

An hour in the Path of the Soul was only six minutes in Paradise’s time.

The time difference was exactly ten times.

In other words, with ten days having passed in Paradise meant that Seol Jihu was in the Path of the Soul for 100 days.

Baek Haeju had taken seven days in Paradise’s time to finish her trials in the Path of the Soul. That was 70 days in that place’s time.

She almost became mentally disabled from her mind breaking down, so she couldn’t sit still after hearing how long Seol Jihu had stayed in that place.

And so, she ran swiftly to the temple of Gula.

*


Same time.

“Huk… huk…”

Seol Jihu was climbing a mountain accompanied by rough panting.

He pushed hard with his hands, but the boulder refused to budge. If anything, his feet were being pushed back.

“Damn it…!”

Seol Jihu shouted and turned back.

Then he looked back up and frowned.

He was not even halfway to his destination.

Right.

Seol Jihu had not even reached the one-third point of the mountain.

Even after 100 days went by.

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