Seol Jihu came back.
The position of Valhalla’s representative, which had been empty for eight months, was filled once again.
This news was immediately delivered to all members, including those working outside the building.
As a result, Seol Jihu was quickly surrounded by his comrades, who came running from downstairs after hearing the news.
“He’s back! Seol is back!”
Hugo picked Seol Jihu up and rejoiced like a kid.
“Iya~ Look at your shoulder and back muscles. Did you go and get steroids for eight months?”
Chohong expressed her awe while constantly rubbing and fondling Seol Jihu’s wide, hard back.
“Welcome back, Representative.”
Marcel Ghionea greeted him with his usual monotonous voice.
“Oppa~ Sorry to ask you when you just got here, but can you lend me some money? It’s kind of urgent.”
Maria put her hands out while asking in a nasal voice.
“Come ooonnn! If you came back, you should have gone around and said something! It’s not like you’ve been gone a month or two. It’s been eight whole months!”
Phi Sora was still complaining.
The quiet building quickly became noisy.
Seol Jihu quietly smiled inside all the ruckus and looked around.
He had been longing for this scenery for seven years.
The loneliness he felt after Black Seol Jihu left seemed to subside slightly.
Where have you been, did you get stronger, do you have any money on you? Seol Jihu answered the never-ending questions one by one.
“How can you say, have you eaten?, so nonchalantly!? Shouldn’t it be, have you been well? I almost got fooled!”
Seol Jihu’s eyes met the grumbling Phi Sora’s.
He suddenly put down his silverware and winked at her.
Phi Sora stopped talking with a flustered expression.
Jang Maldong, who was standing back and watching the warm reunion with a smile, cleared his throat after seeing Seol Jihu eyeing him.
“What are y’all doing so early in the morning?”
“Haah? Can’t you see? Seol’s back, so we’re saying hi. Isn’t that obvious?”
“Well, keep it to a minimum. Can’t you see that you forced him to put his silverware down? Even a dog wouldn’t bother someone who’s eating.”
“We’re just curious! Aren’t you curious too, old man?”
“Don’t talk back to me. You can say your hellos later. Can’t you see that he’s eating after coming back early in the morning? Look at the shadows under his eyes! Throw him a warm welcoming party in the evening and let him be for now.”
“Ah, now that you mention it, he does seem a little tired.”
Chohong was quickly convinced by Jang Maldong.
“Right, and welcoming parties need alcohol! Seol, you better come tonight! Hugo, Maria, follow me.”
“Yeess! Tonight, we drink ‘til we die!!”
As Chohong began to rush downstairs, Hugo followed after her jubilantly. Maria responded in a lukewarm manner and went after them as well.
The trio, who couldn’t live without alcohol, left.
‘It’s not even noon. Just how much are they planning to buy?’
Seol Jihu smiled bitterly.
With the three loudest members leaving, the cafeteria quickly regained its serenity.
Only Jang Maldong and Phi Sora were left talking to him.
“Thank you. I didn’t mind it all that much, but I guess it was a little uncomfortable because it’s been a while.”
Seol Jihu said with a smile.
“I don’t blame you. I see them every day and I’m still not used to it.”
Jang Maldong also laughed.
While a warm atmosphere flowed between the master and the disciple, Phi Sora spoke indifferently.
“Why did you wink at me? You better not ask me out on a date, saying we haven’t met in a while.”
Phi Sora put down her foot, having suffered from Seol Jihu’s manipulations multiple times already.
Seol Jihu looked around at the few members that were still in the cafeteria, eating, and then spoke.
“Should we move to a quieter place?”
The three of them then left the cafeteria and moved to Team 1’s office.
“I heard that you introduced Seol-Ah to the Federation.”
Seol Jihu brought up the matter that he was curious about the most.
“Ah, you mean Yishino Seolara?”
“Yep. I asked Mister Marcel Ghionea to help her form a contract with a Spirit.”
Phi Sora giggled.
“But don’t misunderstand. I didn’t help her because I like her or anything. There was your request, and I also just thought it was a waste of valuable talent.”
Seol Jihu gave Phi Sora an odd look as she acted like a typical tsundere.
“…Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Nothing. So, are Sungjin and Seol-Ah back yet?”
“Yi Sungjin is in the middle of an expedition, and Yishino Seolara came back a week ago.”
“Why are you mixing Seol-Ah’s name with Miss Hoshino Urara?”
“You’ll know once you see her. It’s… kind of hard to believe. I wonder just what she learned in the Federation to have become like that… Though, it’s much better than the victim cosplay she used to do before.”
Phi Sora smacked her lips.
The way Seol Jihu understood it, it sounded like Yi Seol-Ah was Hoshino Urara-fied.
For such a kind, soft-spoken girl to become a madwoman… it was indeed hard to believe.
“Well, it looks like she had some gains.”
Phi Sora continued.
“I guess you can say she’s finally like an Archer now. She seemed pretty skilled at handling her Spirit, and she also rose to Level 4. She might even become a High Ranker soon.”
“A High Ranker? Really?”
“To be more precise, I heard she was given a free pass for the High Ranker examination. Her spending more than half a year in the Hiral Mountain Range counted as a valuable contribution apparently.”
Seol Jihu unknowingly exclaimed.
Although he had never been to the Hiral Mountain Range, he knew it was a dangerous place where scuffles against the Parasites were common.
She must have constantly fought the Parasites while working as a scout in that region, so her receiving a free pass wasn’t so hard to accept.
“I could tell she went through a lot while she was there. Anyway, it sounded like she had enough contribution points and only needed more experience points…”
Phi Sora trailed off in the middle of her explanation.
Seol Jihu and Phi Sora simultaneously turned toward the door.
Speaking of the devil, the closed door opened with a clunk.
Next, an unusual storm charged into the room.
“O, ra, beo, niiiim!”
Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.
He could see a teenage girl, who received the news late, running toward him.
No, she was floating above the ground, stirring up winds by kicking the air and quite literally flying at him.
“Didn’t I tell you to stop using your Spirit inside the building!?”
Phi Sora shouted.
Yi Seol-Ah rushed into the room, ignoring Phi Sora completely, and then came to a sudden stop.
Dancing in the air, she looked down at Seol Jihu.
“He’s the real one!”
Whish! She shot down in an instant and hugged him.
Seol Jihu flinched.
Her past long black hair was nowhere to be found, and he saw short hair that only half-covered her neck.
“I’m not kidding, Aura!”
Yi Seol-Ah shouted into the empty air.
“This is him! This is my Orabeo-nim! Representative Seol!”
However, Seol Jihu could clearly sense a foreign mass of energy in the air.
It twisted its body bashfully and stealthily hid behind Yi Seol-Ah. Though it acted cute and child-like, it gave off a rather powerful energy.
Though Seol Jihu did not stay inside the Spirit Realm for long, he had not come across such a powerful Spirit other than the Spirit Kings.
“What do you mean you’re embarrassed? You’ve been wanting to see him since forever, asking me when he’s coming back everyday… Huh? You want me to be quiet because you’re embarrassed? You need time to compose yourself? You want to start by writing a letter? Am I crazy? I should shut up?”
Yi Seol-Ah advertised Aura’s words to the whole world in a rich, fruity voice.
Seol Jihu chuckled before suddenly furrowing brows.
“Okay, okay! I’m sorry! Don’t say you’re gonna pack up and leave… Huh?”
Yi Seol-Ah quickly turned to Seol Jihu, who was pointing at the girl’s face.
Yi Seol-Ah rubbed the back end of her hair and smiled cheerfully.
“I cut it short because it was getting in the way in fights. What do you think? This suits me too, right?”
It did suit her. It highlighted her cheerful, sweet smile well. The way it gave the impression of liveliness, she seemed like a pretty boy as well.
But the problem wasn’t with her hairstyle.
There was a long scar cutting across her left eye.
Quickly falling silent, Yi Seol-Ah gently rubbed her left eye and then smiled.
“Well… it was the price of lowering my guard. Huu. When it rains… this scar stings a bit…”
“Don’t start that again.”
Phi Sora cut in, unable to stand watching her give the same cringey speech.
Yi Seol-Ah giggled.
“It’s really nothing though. I got it while I was fighting an Evil Phantom.”
Seol Jihu doubted his ears.
“Evil Phantom? You fought an Evil Phantom?”
“Yep. Tang! A gunshot sound suddenly rang out, and then my eyes started burning… Thankfully, the first shot missed because of Aura. And then Taitaitai Unni came to save me right away.”
This ‘Taitaitai Unni’ seemed to be the Fairy General, Taihi Ingraria, but Seol Jihu decided to gloss over that for now.
“Shouldn’t you get it treated? Scars get harder to erase the longer they stay with you.”
“I know, but I want to keep it.”
“To be honest, it hasn’t been that long since I got this scar. Was it a week before I came back? It was when I was feeling confident and content with my strength.”
Yi Seol-Ah smiled bitterly.
“I was too excited that I was playing around and got hurt when I could have avoided it…. I thought about getting rid of it, but then I remember that incident every time I look at the mirror and think, ‘Ah, the Parasites really aren’t easy to deal with. I shouldn’t have fooled around like that back then…’”
So it seemed Yi Seol-Ah wanted to keep the scar as a reminder not to make the same mistake.
Seol Jihu nodded his head in approval. Since this was what she herself wished for, he didn’t see the need to force her or convince her otherwise.
“But this scar actually has its good point.”
Yi Seol-Ah bent her knees slightly and then hopped up.
Using the air as a chair, she lifted her right leg and slowly crossed it over her left thigh. She lowered her head in a 45-degree angle, crossed her arms, and then gave a seductive wink.
“What do you think?”
“Isn’t it kind of sensual? Like it feels dangerous, but in an alluring, provocative way~”
“Oh god,” Phi Sora’s sigh rang out.
“Keuk,” A laughter escaped Seol Jihu’s mouth. He clenched his teeth and nodded his head.
Right, it was sexy. But it was an adorable, lovable sexiness.
“Hey, can’t you see that we’re talking?”
Phi Sora spoke in an annoyed tone.
“Come on, I haven’t seen him in ages. I want to talk to him more!”
“Do it later. An ordinary member shouldn’t be barging into the office when the representative is talking with the adviser and a team leader!”
“Meh! You bully!”
“What was that?”
“Okay, fine! I’ll leave!”
The self-proclaimed, Sexy Seol-Ah pouted. She floated back down and then slammed something down on the desk.
“What’s this…? A fruit?”
Phi Sora raised her eyebrow after rummaging through the bag she placed on the desk. It was filled with her favorite fruit from Paradise.
“I bought some on my way back from my morning jog. Shouldn’t high-ranking people have some refreshments while they talk? How can you be so thoughtless?”
“Are you hearing yourself right now? Why would you buy this?”
“Don’t misunderstand. I didn’t buy them to give them to you. They just caught my attention.”
Seeing this exchange, Seol Jihu and Jang Maldong laughed quietly. The way she was chattering with an indifferent expression, it was obvious who she was imitating.
Phi Sora seemed to be at a loss for words because of it.
Yi Seol-Ah turned her head with a hmph and then clapped her hands after seeing Seol Jihu.
“Orabeo-nim! Let’s have a race later!”
“Sure. Are you confident?”
“Huhu, I’ll show you the true power of Sexy Provocative Seol-Ah. The loser has to grant 5,000 wishes to the winner!”
‘Bang!’ Yi Seol-Ah shot Seol Jihu with a finger gun before winking at him and flying out of the room.
The storm left just as quickly as it rushed in.
“…Do you see why I call her Yishino Seolara?”
Phi Sora gritted her teeth as soon as the door closed behind her.
Seol Jihu had no choice but to agree.
Bubbly like a sparkling soda. That would be how Seol Jihu would describe the current Yi Seol-Ah. Though she was a little too bubbly, it was far better than being flat.
“Anyway, you winked at me just to ask about Seol-Ah and Sungjin?”
That wasn’t the case. While that was one of the things Seol Jihu wanted to check up on, his real goal was something else.
“I have a favor to ask.”
Now that his curiosity had been satisfied, Seol Jihu cut to the chase.
“Can you spar with me one more time?”
Phi Sora paused while shuffling through the fruits. She then raised her eyes as she slowly picked out a fruit.
“The first thing you want to do after coming back from your training is to show off your strength? Why, are you confident in winning now?”
“I’m not trying to get revenge or anything.”
Seol Jihu shook his head.
“I want the same condition as before. Fighting without using mana.”
Phi Sora furrowed her brows. Jang Maldong let out a surprised grunt as well.
This made his favor rather intriguing.
No one knew exactly where Seol Jihu had been for the past eight months. Even how long he had been there and what exactly he had been doing were a mystery.
The only person who had an idea was Baek Haeju. Kim Hannah and the others only knew that Seol Jihu had gone to use the Divine Stigmata.
Jang Maldong was worried as he didn’t know anything about the Divine Stigmata. Because the current Phi Sora was several times stronger than the past.
Time was fair to everyone.
Phi Sora did not just sit around during the eight months that Seol Jihu was gone. She spent the majority of the time training in Mount Peléeom’s volcanic region, and Jang Maldong had also guided her with all his heart.
The result of her hard work was revealed not long ago.
As such, Jang Maldong judged Phi Sora to be the strongest member among Valhalla’s official members.
She was far out of Chung Chohong’s reach, and there was a chance that she would not lose to Hoshino Urara either.
He didn’t know how much Seol Jihu improved during this time, but he did not think Phi Sora would lose in a battle of technique that left out the use of mana.
“Did you make some gains?”
Just as Jang Maldong carefully asked, Phi Sora raised her hand and asked.
“Because Miss Phi Sora is the only one.”
“Why not Chohong or Hoshino Urara?”
“They won’t do. I wanted to ask Miss Baek Haeju, but she’s not around. That’s why I’m asking you.”
“Because Miss Baek Haeju isn’t here…? Hah.”
Phi Sora let out a chuckle.
Did he say that knowing what position Baek Haeju held within Paradise?
“You know you sound really arrogant right now.”
“While I was cultivating…”
Feeling that more explanation was in order, Seol Jihu said.
“I thought about you from time to time.”
Phi Sora blinked with a somewhat uneasy look.
“Because the more I thought about it, the more amazing you seemed.”
“Didn’t you reach an independent realm without anyone’s help?”
“Well… yes, if you’re talking about One With the Sword. It’s not something you can learn by having someone teach it to you.”
“Right, and you achieved that on your own! This time, I learned just how amazing that really is. I even got a new-found respect for you. That’s why I want to fight you one more time.”
Seol Jihu carried himself with gravitas while sounding completely serious. He didn’t seem to be joking at all.
From Phi Sora’s perspective, the hero of Paradise was directly expressing his respect for her as a martial artist.
“Er, well, if you put it that way…. Though I might be a little dumb, I guess I am pretty talented with swords…”
She sounded calm and unfazed, but her nose was already reaching the height of Eiffel Tower.
But she wasn’t necessarily wrong.
Phi Sora’s aptitude was ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Passionate’. These two traits were specialized for battle and swordsmanship.
“Alright, I guess it’s okay. I’ve been wanting to test my techniques, which have been optimized for Level 6, anyways. I’m also curious how strong you’ve gotten.”
Phi Sora fiddled with the fruit excitedly. Then…
She gave a sharp look.
“You know I don’t go easy, right?”
Seol Jihu nodded silently. He then spoke with a light bow.
“Please take care of me.”
Phi Sora got up and then brought the fruit to her mouth.
Crunch. After taking a bite, she puffed out her cheeks and pointed to the door.
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