Chapter 488. After

Both sides had staked everything on this final war.

It was a fierce war, one that resulted in numerous casualties. The blood spilled was enough to form a lake, but in the end, Seol Jihu’s spear prevailed and pierced the Parasite Queen. And the Federation and humanity triumphed over the Parasites.

The threat of the Parasites, which lasted more than two decades, a period long enough for a newborn baby to grow into an adult, was finally gone forever.

Those liberated from years of intimidation and fear enjoyed their newly regained freedom. The festival, which took place after the resurrection of the deceased, lasted more than 14 days.

But now that excitement was beginning to fade. Popping champagnes was fun, but they still had a lot left to do.

The long war left deep scars on both the Federation and humanity.

In addition to healing the wounded, it was time for all the races to get together to discuss how things would proceed from here on. They also had to decide what to do with the vast imperial territory that had just lost its owner.

Their agenda also included discussions on what would happen to the Earthlings in the future.

There’s a saying that the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend.

But that mutual enemy was now gone.

Everyone worked together during the war, but it was simply foolish to expect them to maintain the same friendly relationship forever. Not only was the future an unknown territory, but also some races had never been on good terms with each other from the beginning.

One example of such a case was the Sky Fairies and the Cave Fairies, who only joined hands with each other because they had no other choice.

Fortunately, at this point, no one had enough resources left to pursue another war. When the historic first meeting was held, the heads of all races agreed that their first and foremost aim should be to help each other recover from the wounds of war.

But this hardly meant that the rest was smooth sailing. Because each race craved something different, they often faced conflicts of interest. The situation became especially tense when the Sky Fairies claimed that the Cave Fairies should return their spirits as promised, now that the war was over.

Soon, it became apparent that a mediator was needed to help two opposing parties reach a negotiated resolution.

This mediator would have to meet two conditions. First, they had to be strong enough to control numerous groups, and second, they had to be qualified to act as a mediator.

There was only one person in the entire Paradise who met both conditions.

He united humanity, sought peace with the Federation, and played the greatest role in defeating the Parasites.

In short—Seol Jihu.

His influence in Paradise was greater now than ever before and even surpassed that of the Seven Sins.

It was nothing to be surprised about. Many had viewed him as the representative of humanity even before the war. His biggest achievement in the war—the extermination of the Parasite Queen—only served to strengthen the foundation that had already been laid.

Seol Jihu quickly emerged as the most influential person in Paradise.

And when the news spread that he surrendered the divinity of the Chief Deity to resurrect the victims of the war, many began to praise him not only as a war hero but also as a benevolent saint.

As proof of his popularity, he was showered with gifts from various organizations—though Kim Hannah saw them merely as acts of flattery.

Anyhow, when Seol Jihu volunteered to become the mediator, some of the members of Valhalla could not hide their worry. They knew that, despite the fancy titles, Seol Jihu was a prankster who loved to pull tricks on people.

But their fears were soon found to be unnecessary.

Seol Jihu excelled as a mediator, just as he did in the past when he returned from the Path of the Soul.

He presented two rules in relation to the mediation:

First—everything will be returned to their rightful owners, be it land or rights.

Second—as agreed upon, restoring the damage caused by the war will be the number one priority.

His opinion was that the damaged cities should be restored first before cultivating the newly acquired territory.

Everyone agreed. Although the central area had already been purified, it would take some time for the blessing of the World Tree to reach the remote corners of the Empire anyway.

Of course, not all issues could be resolved through his rules. In those cases, Seol Jihu gave the involved parties a chance to make the final decision.

For example, regarding the issue between the Sky and the Cave Fairies, Seol Jihu told them, “I, personally, would like to give the Cave Fairies another chance. If both of you agree, I’d be happy to speak to the two Spirit Lords.”

The Cave Fairies were content that Seol Jihu had sided with them, and the Sky Fairies were content that the mediator did not force his ideas on them and respected formal procedures.

Many hectic days followed.

During this period, Seol Jihu was so busy that he found himself wishing for a clone. Nevertheless, he remembered to repay those who helped him unconditionally during difficult times.

The Triads became a representative organization of a city, as Hao Win had hoped. Although Nur had been completely devastated by the Parasites’ attack, Seol Jihu promised Hao Win a speedy restoration.

Seol Jihu also remembered to reward the Yi siblings.

Unfortunately, there were no more Elixeers left in the Spirit Realm, according to the Sky Fairies.

But this was not a problem. Seol Jihu took the siblings to the temple and made a Wish. Then he spent contribution points to bring the Elixeer to Earth and handed it over to the siblings.

A smile of satisfaction spread over Seol Jihu’s face as he watched the siblings shed tears of joy in the arms of their now healthy mother, though it did take him by surprise when she asked if he was Yi Seol-Ah’s boyfriend.

There was more.

The Seven Sins resurrected only those who had passed away during the final war, but Seol Jihu’s helping hand reached even further.

He resurrected Dylan and Ian, then went with Jang Maldong to visit them in Hawaii and handed over the invitations.

He also helped Marika Larisa, Marcel Ghionea’s fiancé, and Ayase Yui, Kazuki’s little sister.

When Kim Hannah told Seol Jihu that he was being way too generous, he answered, “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but for now, I think this will be the last thing I do for them.”

Everything was coming to an end. This would be the last time he’d work for Paradise.

Time passed by, and finally, he was rewarded with a small compensation.


*


Seol Jihu sat in his chair in his office and picked up a paper from his desk.

This was the fruit of all his hard work. A peace treaty signed by the heads of all races promising to cooperate for the next 50 years to restore and revitalize Paradise.

Seol Jihu conveniently named it the Half Century Treaty. Others practically begged him to choose a different name, but Seol Jihu refused. He believed that no other name would be more appropriate.

“Well, I do like that the Federation isn’t dissolving right away.”

Kim Hannah nodded at the paper before suddenly letting out a chuckle.

“What you said at the very end was especially remarkable.”

“What did I say?”

“You don’t remember?”

Kim Hannah cleared her throat.

“I will treat anyone who violates the terms set forth in this treaty for the next 50 years as the next Parasites, no matter who they are or what their reasons might be.”

Kim Hannah did her best impression of Seol Jihu, trying to sound serious.

Seol Jihu smiled bitterly.

“Congratulations. You took care of everything that needs to be taken care of.”

“You know… I feel like the past few weeks may have been more intense than the war itself.”

Seol Jihu placed the treaty back down on the desk and stretched his shoulders. A groan slipped out of his mouth.

“You did well. From here on out….”

Kim Hannah’s eyes sparkled with hope as she looked at Seol Jihu.

She could see the future—the future of a young man, who, as the greatest hero in the history of Paradise, would enjoy absolute and untouchable authority, freedom, and fame.

It was then that Seol Jihu spoke.

“I’m going back to Earth tomorrow, early in the morning.”

Kim Hannah’s eyes widened.

“That’s up to you, but… why so suddenly?”

“I got a call from the temple. I figured I might as well visit home since I’ve got some business to take care of on Earth anyway.”

Seol Jihu did not elaborate on what the ‘business’ was.

“…Kim Hannah.”

Suddenly, he lowered his voice.

“Does this count as keeping my promise?”

“?”

“You know, the promise I made to you back at the inn, where we slept on the same bed.”

Kim Hannah’s eyes quickly narrowed.

“Will you stop phrasing it weirdly?”

She rolled her eyes at Seol Jihu before giving a nod.

“Well…. Yes.”

Seol Jihu did keep his promise. He gave her considerable authority over Valhalla, he became a big tree that easily looked down on Sinyoung, and he never betrayed her.

“Seems like it was just yesterday….”

Kim Hannah smiled, recalling the time when Seol Jihu suddenly announced to her that he would create an organization.

Seol Jihu, too, smiled softly.

“Hey.”

However, solemnity soon replaced his smile.

“I want you to gather everyone together before I leave tomorrow. No absences allowed. Everyone has to be there.”

“What? You mean, like a meeting?”

“A meeting sounds way too formal. I just… have something I want to tell everyone.”

Seol Jihu smiled again.

A look of suspicion crossed Kim Hannah’s face.

She could tell that he was downplaying the situation. Whatever it was that he was going to say, tomorrow would be a big announcement for all.

‘I know you too well to fall for that tone.’

But at the same time, she couldn’t help but doubt whether this was another one of his famous practical jokes. There had been simply too many precedents.

“I’m a bit tired, so I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Seol Jihu rose from his chair and made his way to the door.

“Representative….”

Kim Hannah stretched out her arm to grab him.

But when she saw Seol Jihu walk down the hallway, she brought her arm back down to her side.

For some reason, she felt like she shouldn’t stop him.

Kim Hannah stood dazedly for a moment before turning her head.

‘Could it be?’

“…”

She stared at Seol Jihu’s empty chair in silence.

Meanwhile, Seol Jihu puffed his cheeks and then let out a long breath as he descended the stairs.

‘It’s finally tomorrow.’

Tomorrow was the day he had been waiting for. He felt both relieved and sad at the same time.

With a heart full of mixed feelings, Seol Jihu began making preparations to go to bed.

The steps were simple, really. First, he wandered around the building until he found Seo Yuhui, who had just finished bathing in the hot spring. Then he rushed at her with all his might.

“H-Huh?”

Seo Yuhui flinched in surprise, but her reaction did nothing to deter Seol Jihu from lifting her off her feet and carrying her to his room.

He laid Seo Yuhui down on his bed and then settled down next to her. His face snuggled into her right, and his hand found its way over to her left. Finally, he placed one leg diagonally over the area between her pelvis and her thigh.

Now he was ready to sleep.

“Again?”

Seo Yuhui gave a puzzled smile and pinched Seol Jihu’s cheek lightly.

“…Yuhui.”

Seol Jihu, who had been rubbing his face against her skin, suddenly raised his head.

“Yes?”

“I have something I want to tell you.”

Sensing the gravity in his tone, Seo Yuhui raised her head slightly and brought her face closer to his.

“What is it?”

“The truth is….”


*


The next day, Seol Jihu set out early in the morning as planned.

As he walked out of Valhalla’s building, memories of the times he had spent here began to race through his mind.

That first day when he took everyone to the auction house.

The first time he met Charlotte Aria.

When Little Chick hatched from its egg, when they all sat around in a circle to discuss what their name should be, when they got drunk and partied all night long….

The memories continued to flood in.

If Haramark was where Seol Jihu began his life in Paradise, Eva was where he finished it.

Leaving it all behind, Seol Jihu headed for the temple with a carefree gait and smile.

The reason Gula summoned him was to give notice.

[We finally reached a conclusion.]

[We decided to reincarnate rather than resurrect the Chief Deity.]

[We’ll start all over again from the beginning.]

[However, in order for us to do so, the Seven Virtues will have to be resurrected first.]

The bottom line was that they would resurrect the Seven Virtues as they were but raise the Chief Deity from birth.

[I’m sure you understand why we came to this conclusion.]

Gula read Seol Jihu’s mind and continued.

[We’d always known that someday the Goddess of Parasitism would invade this planet.]

[We knew, so the Chief Deity must surely have known, too.]

[He assured us that there was nothing to be afraid of.]

[But in the end, we couldn’t avoid the future that we always feared.]

Because the Chief Deity could not overcome the Parasite Queen’s temptation.

[Blinded by greed for promotion, the Chief Deity helped restore the Parasite Queen’s power.]

[When we confronted him on this matter, he only told us, ‘This much is okay.’]

[Not long after that, we noticed that the number of parasites was increasing rapidly.]

It was a mistake on the Chief Deity’s part. His overconfidence prevented him from realizing just how big a difference one rank was. Or, maybe he knew but chose to ignore it out of greed.

[Of course, we saw that future, too.]

[All we could do then was prepare for what might happen behind the Chief Deity’s back.]

The atmosphere was grave, but Seol Jihu listened with a lightness in his heart. This was only a story of the past and had nothing to do with the future.

“What’s going to happen to the Earthlings now?”

[What everyone is concerned about will not happen.]

Gula answered simply.

[We’ve decided to maintain the status quo for the time being.]

[Because another tragedy may befall us in the future. Also, we believe that the Earthlings are vital to the reconstruction and prosperity of Paradise.]

[Just like how the world needs not only the Seven Sins but also the Seven Virtues.]

This was all he needed to hear.

“Will there be any Neutral Zones in the future?”

[We may decide to open one from time to time, but no, there won’t be any regular occurrences.]

Seol Jihu nodded.

“I understand.”

[Are you okay?]

Gula asked.

[I mean, do you regret your decision at all?]

“No.”

Seol Jihu answered without hesitation.

“The truth is, I’m a little tired.”

He continued with a small smile.

“So I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to enjoy my life for myself.”

[That’s not a bad idea, but….]

Gula continued.

[What I meant was, do you not want to become a Level 10?]

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

Soon, one of his eyebrows rose slightly.

“I think I’d better not.”

[How come? To stay human?]

“Yes, and also… I’m a little nervous.”

Seol Jihu licked his lips.

“If I do become a Level 10, what’s my class name gonna be?”

[Well—]

“Don’t tell me it’s gonna be something like ‘Mana God’.”

[….]

Gula fell silent.

“I’ll just stop here, at Level 9 Divine Spear.”

Seol Jihu clicked his tongue as if he had expected the goddess’ response.

“If I really end up becoming ‘Mana God’, I might turn to the dark side and become the next Parasite Queen, so please understand.”

He stressed.

[…Okay….]

Gula, who indeed was thinking ‘Golden Mana God’, muttered in a dejected voice.

[Anyway, about what you told others today.]

She quickly changed the subject, lifting her voice up a notch.

[You….]

Gula read Seol Jihu’s mind.

[…Have very little intention of coming back.]

She sounded disappointed.

“Little doesn’t mean zero.”

Seol Jihu didn’t deny it.

“But you’re right. It probably won’t happen.”

He had already paved the way for various races in Paradise to cooperate with each other. From now on, there wouldn’t be any reason for Seol Jihu to interfere with the affairs of Paradise unless another calamity struck—unless, for example, another alien species attempted to invade Paradise.

“Well then, I should get going now.”

Seol Jihu bowed to Gula.

But just as he was about to set foot on the pathway leading to the warp gate….

‘Preparing in advance….’

Seol Jihu stopped, recalling what Gula had said in his head.

“Gula-nim.”

He turned back around and looked at Gula.

“Can I ask you two… no, three questions?”

[You may.]

“You said you started preparing for the future early. Was that before we came to Paradise or after?”

[Before.]

Before. Seol Jihu repeated inside his head and continued.

“Can you and other Seven Sins visit Earth?”

[Yes, as long as we receive permission.]

“Then.”

Seol Jihu glanced quickly at Gula’s statue.

“Have you ever been to Earth?”

[No, I have not.]

“Mm….”

Though initially confused, Seol Jihu quickly regained his composure.

It made sense. Gula had no reason to lie to him, and he himself didn’t think Gula was the woman in his memory.

He remembered that the woman he met at the zoo when he was little was… soft.

But Gula… when he became the Apostle of Gluttony, and she hugged him….

‘She was warm but kind of flat….’

[What did you say?]

Suddenly, Gula’s enraged voice echoed inside Seol Jihu’s head.

[How insolent!]

“But it’s true.”

[You!]

FLASH!

White lightning fell from the ceiling.

But Seol Jihu dodged it with ease.

“Come on, don’t be mad.”

[You! You!]

Seol Jihu hopped like a rabbit to dodge the lightning and sometimes summoned lightning of his own to protect himself as he dashed toward the warp gate.

“Thanks for the fun!”

With his back turned to the goddess, Seol Jihu waved his hand and jumped into the portal.

“See ya!”

[Come back here at once!]

Gula’s voice reached him a beat too late.

[You! I’ll punish you the second you return…!]

The goddess clenched her teeth and swallowed her anger.

Luxuria, who had been watching them in secret, quietly giggled to herself.

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