Several months passed since the treaty was signed.
Paradise was enjoying a well-deserved peace. The Federation and humanity were heading toward a better future without any big incidents or quarrels.
Well, there was one incident. It was a rather big one that raised quite a bit of commotion in Paradise. It was Seol Jihu retiring from Valhalla.
He did not retire from Paradise. Not long after the Half Century Treaty was signed, Seol Jihu resigned as Valhalla’s representative and left the organization.
Valhalla’s representative. In Paradise, it was a position that held more power than the six kingdoms and exerted more influence than the Seven Sins.
Since he stepped down from such a position on his own, it was only natural for all sorts of rumors to spread.
Some said that Seol Jihu was tired of Paradise and would retire. Others suggested that Seol Jihu would found a new organization to lead the unification of Paradise.
However, the reality was different from everyone’s expectations.
Seol Jihu made a home in the corner of Eva’s alleyways. In a form that no one expected.
A constant stream of foreign races visited Eva as always. As the city served as a bridge connecting the Federation and humanity, it was flourishing and thriving by the day.
“Eva feels a little different than Haramark.”
One man looked around the streets while walking. He was a tall, black man who could easily be playing for the NBA.
“It’s to be expected.”
An old man walking next to him responded. He was slender and short, drawing a stark contrast from the first man.
“Eva is the only city that was unscathed from the destruction of the final war.”
The old man spoke as he stroked his long, white beard.
“It is also the city that accepted the Federation the earliest, and the entire city was blessed with fortification. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the capital of humanity is no longer Scheherazade, but Eva.”
“Hmm…. It isn’t as if I haven’t heard this before, but I have to admit. It feels rather strange.”
“Haha, I’m no different. But that’s just how the world works! You might go to sleep one night and wake up to a completely different world. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones who feel this way.”
The old man laughed.
Right, the two men were none other than Edward Dylan and Ian Denzel.
They had revived thanks to Seol Jihu, regained their memories, and were now actively participating in the revitalization of Paradise.
They had come to Eva today to visit a certain person.
“Alright, alright, that’s enough chitchat! Let’s hurry! Didn’t we come to see Eva’s specialty?”
“Huh? No, we….”
“It’s a chilly day, let’s hurry! If we’re late by a minute, we’re going to have to wait for 20 minutes more!”
Ian hastened his steps, pushed forward by the blowing cold wind. Dylan tilted his head as he followed after Ian’s fluttering gown.
“This is the place.”
Soon, Ian stopped.
“We have to stand behind them. This must be the line.”
Dylan blinked. A long line of people was stretched out from an alleyway all the way to the main street.
It was nothing like seeing a bus stop at rush hour. A massive crowd of people was lined up like the crowd that gathers at the airport during the holiday season.
“I know what you want to ask.”
Ian quietly said.
“You want to ask whether Eva’s specialty is so good that it’s worth waiting for in such long lines?”
Dylan subconsciously nodded his head.
“Then, I will answer without a moment of hesitation.”
“...Still, this line is a little too long.”
“It can’t be helped. That’s how popular this place is. Education, friendship, and blood-relation. The royal administrator of Eva, who doesn’t care about any of these, personally advertised this place as Eva’s specialty product. There must be a reason it was given such a title.”
“Well, if I wait in the cold for several hours, I’m confident I can eat anything as if it’s the best food in the world.”
“Haha, but things aren’t so bad now. Before, you couldn’t eat even after waiting in line for four hours.”
“It was that bad?”
“People refused to get up once they sat down. So now there is a limit of two bowls per person, and they have to leave after 45 minutes from sitting down.”
“45 minutes. That’s pretty tight.”
Dylan shook his head.
“Well, you’ll change your mind once you take a bite.”
At that moment, Dylan saw a couple walking out of the restaurant.
“Wow, that was amazing.”
“See? At first, I thought it was famous only because of the master’s name, but….”
Seeing the merrily chatting couple, Dylan made a flustered expression. He recalled getting in line not too long ago, but there were already dozens of people standing in line behind him. The couple that just left the restaurant also got back in the line. They were all eagerly waiting for their turn.
“I guess I have nothing to lose by giving it a try.”
Just like Ian said, the line moved quickly. Still, he had to wait two hours until they could get in. When he entered the alleyway after turning the corner, a new hell opened up. It was so bad that he felt liberated when he entered the small, shabby restaurant with only seven or so tables inside.
“Whew, finally. What was the name of this place again? I saw the sign but didn’t get a chance to read it.”
Dylan asked while rubbing his flushed palms.
“It’s Seol Jihu Ramen? With the question mark included. Apparently, in Korean, ‘-ramen?’ is a shortened way of saying, “What if it was…?” So the name is a play on the actual word, ramen, and that shortened question.”
Ian laughed, commenting on the name’s wittiness.
Dylan replied awkwardly. After waiting just a little longer, a party that was sitting at the table in front of the kitchen stood up.
“There’s an open table.”
Just as Dylan began to walk forward to sit down...
A three-person group, led by a red-haired woman, cut in front of them. Dylan was about to raise a complaint before seeing a familiar face and holding himself back.
Eun Yuri looked for her daddy the moment she walked in.
“Hey! We’re here! Aren’t you gonna say hi?”
Chohong spoke audaciously while laughing. Judging by the angry protest in the background, they seemed to have ignored the line and walked in.
A woman dressed as a waitress carefully walked up. The trio shut their mouths after taking a look at the rose-gold-haired woman walking over while patting her stomach. The problem was that her stomach was protruding out.
Chohong blinked rapidly.
“Ah…. I’m due soon.”
Teresa blushed bashfully.
“Hold on just one moment. I’ll clean the table for you. My darling told me to rest, but I wanted to move around….”
She smiled and then wiped the table off with a cloth.
Eun Yuri looked at her fixedly before flying forward. Then, she pressed down on Teresa’s stomach.
A large pillow fell out of Teresa’s top.
A silence filled the atmosphere for a moment.
Teresa clicked her tongue as if it was a shame before quickly cleaning up the table and disappearing.
“That woman’s starting to lose it.”
Chohong spoke dumbfoundedly before walking up to the chair.
“Anyway, we’re gonna sit here! Sorry, Dylan and Old Man… eh?”
However, she stopped before she sat down. It was because a finger pointed at the three of them and then at the door.
A clear voice came out.
“Ah, hey, the line’s too long….”
“Nope, you have to get in line like everyone else.”
Chohong’s protest didn’t do anything.
“Aren’t you being too harsh, dear? Aren’t we all comrades?”
“Former comrades. Am I still Valhalla’s representative?”
Phi Sora’s protest did not work either.
“Why am I your daddy, Miss Eun Yuri?”
Eun Yuri’s attempt to gain sympathy was futile as well.
“All customers are the same. Not even the Seven Sins are an exception.”
A resolved reply came out.
“T-Then what about them!?”
Phi Sora pointed to the corner of the restaurant. Two women were busily eating ramen at a table. There should be a limit of two bowls per person, but more than ten bowls were stacked on top of each other on their table.
“You’ll know if you look at the wall.”
Just like the head chef said, a piece of paper was hanging on the wall.
The notice said the following:
—I, Seol Jihu, for committing a grave sin to Claire Agnes in front of everyone, will allow Claire Agnes and one companion of her choice to enter the restaurant without a wait, and until I am forgiven, Claire Agnes and her companion of choice will get unlimited meals at the restaurant.
“Miss Agnes is an exception because of my wrongdoing.”
Phi Sora shut her mouth. What Seol Jihu did that day was indeed out of line. She heard that even Hoshino Urara, who was there at the time, cackled and called him a madman.
“You guys are holding up the line.”
Tap, tap, tap, tap. The head chef placed the Spear of Purity, with which he was cutting green onions, on his shoulder.
“Do you want to leave quietly and wait? Or do you prefer to be guided out forcefully?”
Although Seol Jihu stepped down from his former position, his abilities did not go anywhere. As formidable energy began to flow out, the trio lowered their tails.
Phi Sora, Chohong, and Eun Yuri turned around dejectedly.
“Agnes, do you want to know something?”
Watching the trio trudge away, Cinzia had a proud expression.
“Lately, I’ve been very proud to have you as my subordinate.”
“If it is because of this restaurant, then I will have to agree.”
Agnes replied proudly as well.
“Don’t forgive him, ever.”
The duo laughed among themselves before digging into another bowl. Once the trio that cut in line left, Dylan could finally see the head chef’s face.
“Welcome! Take a seat right here!”
Seol Jihu greeted them with a bright smile, wearing a white chef’s uniform and a white bandana.
He wasn’t alone either. There were two women next to him wearing the same outfit.
They were Baek Haeju and Seo Yuhui.
“Sorry for the long wait. Come warm yourselves up a little.”
Teresa came back out in a waitress’ uniform and put down two teacups on the table.
“Great, great! I’ll go with the Seol Jihu Ramen!”
“Just the ramen? Or do you want the special?”
“Do you even need to ask? Of course, I want the special!”
“Mm… I’ll take the same thing.”
Dylan raised his hand meekly.
Seol Jihu smiled.
“Two Seol Jihu Ramen Specials!”
Then, the two women next to him hummed, “Two Seol Jihu Ramen Specials~”
“Long time no see, you two. This is the first time you’re coming to my restaurant, right, Dylan?”
“Old Man keeps talking about it. The wait was a killer.”
Dylan replied casually, making a subtle jab at Ian.
“Fufu, I can’t wait to see your shocked face.”
Ian retorted and then took out a thick book.
“How’s Haramark doing?”
Seol Jihu asked while pouring water into a pot.
“Not much different. Well, it’s much more relaxed than before.”
“It would’ve been good if Dylan joined Valhalla too.”
“The new representative did come to see me a few times.”
“Kim Hannah did?”
“Yep. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider it. But I like the way things are now.”
“No problem. Doing what you want is best.”
Seol Jihu moved busily while chatting with Dylan.
Then, the conversation halted. Only the sound of Ian moving his pen was heard.
Seeing Seol Jihu, who was moving and making ramen with great fluidity...
Dylan suddenly said.
“I recently discovered a ruin.”
Seol Jihu glanced at Dylan.
“Master Ian also confirmed its existence. Since it’s in uncharted territory, it will be fun exploring it.”
“I came to ask if you were interested….”
Dylan crossed his arms.
“But it looks like you’re already having fun.”
A smile emerged on Seol Jihu’s face.
“After I killed the Parasite Queen… I felt kind of empty.”
Seol Jihu said.
“I didn’t know what to do since I no longer had a goal. It was like I burned myself out.”
Looking at a stopwatch, he put the noodles in as soon as the alarm rang.
“I actually thought about retiring, but…”
Cracking open an egg, he continued.
“When I thought about it more, I realized there was still a lot that had to be done.”
Ian raised his head and looked at Seol Jihu.
“Not things that I have to do, but things that I want to do.”
Things I want to do. Ian murmured to himself before moving his pen again.
Seol Jihu looked up and stared at Dylan.
“This is how I live nowadays.”
“It’s fun. I enjoy it, and I’m happy.”
Seo Yuhui turned to the side and smiled bashfully while looking at Seol Jihu.
Baek Haeju also revealed a faint smile while preparing the ingredients.
“...Yeah, I can tell.”
Dylan smiled as well.
“Then it looks like your story ends here.”
Tak. Ian put a period and spoke cheerfully.
“You’re still writing that novel?”
“Of course! I actually thought today would be the last chapter. Looks like I was right.”
Ian closed the book.
“I’m thinking about ending the main story here and moving on to side stories.”
“Oh, that sounds good!”
Seol Jihu laughed and put out a tray with both hands.
“Here’s your order!”
“Oooooh, do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for this moment?”
Ian rubbed his chopsticks together in joy.
And after smelling the spicy aroma that wafted out with the rising steam, Dylan’s nostrils also flared up.
Then, the moment he took a bite…
What happened next was the same for Ian and Dylan.
The duo slurped up the noodles in the blink of an eye, eating kimchi with their left hand, licking their fingers, and eating rice with the leftover soup.
Finally, they gulped down the remaining soup from the bowl.
Tang! Dylan and Ian heaved out a gasp after putting down their bowls. Then, they simultaneously shouted.
“Another Seol Jihu Ramen Special, please!”
“Yes, sir~! Two Seol Jihu Ramen Specials coming right up!”
Seol Jihu replied cheerfully.
“Two Seol Jihu Ramen Specials coming right up~!”
Baek Haeju and Seo Yuhui also shouted back with cheerful expressions.
Time flew, and the afternoon arrived.
Seol Jihu Ramen? closed when the sun set. Except for the customers already eating, other customers were sent back with an apology. Only then did the restaurant become quiet.
“Udadada~! We’re done with another fruitful day!”
Seol Jihu stretched. Then, he felt someone poking him on his side.
Seo Yuhui hushed him with a finger on her lips. Then, she pointed at a table in the corner of the restaurant. There, a hooded person was eating his ramen.
Haa, haa. Pulling back the long hair that peeked out of the hood, the customer ate busily with delicate lips. Although a baggy robe covered her body, her bulging breasts and delicate fingers made it obvious that she was a woman.
Of course, Seol Jihu felt like he knew who she was. Although he had never seen her before, he could feel a strong aura of lust coming from her.
The satisfied moan that escaped her mouth after she finished the soup was also exceptionally sensual.
Seol Jihu smiled and stared at the woman.
Did she feel his gaze? The woman did a double-take, fumbled around a bit, and then stood up.
“Thank you for the meal. I’ll leave the money here.”
Hearing Seol Jihu’s call, the hurriedly leaving woman stopped.
“Come by often.”
“And later, we can again go to the zoo together.”
The woman slowly turned around. As if she was caught red-handed, an embarrassed smile appeared on her lips.
“Are you asking me out on a date…? Ah, no, okay. See you again next time.”
The woman suddenly jumped in fright and then ran off.
Seol Jihu tilted his head and looked back. Baek Haeju was grinding her kitchen knife, and Seo Yuhui was cracking her neck with her hands locked together.
Baek Haeju cut him off with a bright smile.
“You didn’t forget your dinner appointment with the family, right?”
“Of course not.”
It looked like she was trying to change the subject, but Seol Jihu nodded his head.
After cleaning the restaurant and closing the door, the three of them walked to the warp gate side by side. Before stepping into the portal, Seo Yuhui looked at Seol Jihu and winked.
Seol Jihu also winked in return.
Earth was having winter as well. Seol Jihu put on warm clothes and left his apartment room to head home.
In the past, he would feel nervous and anxious when he thought about going back. Even after he went inside, he would stay timid and walk on eggshells around his family.
But that was no longer the case. Visiting and calling them frequently, his relationship with his family was slowly returning to the way it was in the past.
Hopping in the SUV that Kim Hannah gifted him, he hummed in joy as he started the engine.
Home was just as warm as always. Seol Jihu walked in with his hands full and sat around the dinner table with everyone to join a hearty meal.
Seol Jihu’s father barely touched the food.
Sitting silently in his seat…
He was in awe at the gift Seol Jihu brought.
“It’s the first time I’m seeing this brand.”
“It should be. It’s not sold in Korea, so you can only get it in Europe or other foreign countries.”
What Seol Jihu brought was cognac. It was the perfect gift for his father, who had a hobby of collecting foreign liquor.
“With what money?”
“I got it when I was on my recent overseas business trip. It wasn’t that expensive because I got it from a duty-free shop.”
His father nodded his head. Judging by the way the corner of his lips was curled up, he must be satisfied without a doubt.
“Anyway, I’m glad you found a new workplace.”
Seol Wooseok cut in while munching on food.
“It sounded like an amazing place to work. How did you get into a company like that?”
“It wasn’t by coincidence. Just connections. A former Sinyoung employee founded the company, and he hit me up.”
Seol Jihu smiled vaguely. The company indeed offered amazing benefits and conditions. That was only natural since Kim Hannah founded the company separately from Valhalla.
She put Jang Maldong as its chairman to make it seem more legitimate, and Seol Jihu was given a believable role as well.
Seol Jinhee observed Seol Jihu while fiddling around with her chopsticks.
“How do we know he’s not lying? Why would this person treat Oppa so well?”
“The chairman likes me a lot.”
Though that doesn’t begin to describe it. Seol Jihu chuckled.
“I’m not lying. You can come to see me at work if you want. Bring your friends too.”
With Seol Jihu going so far, Seol Jinhee had no choice but to back down.
“Thanks for the meal!”
Finishing her bowl of rice, she shot up. Their mother frowned as she saw Seol Jinhee run up the stairs.
“Ah! I told you I have to be somewhere today! I’m going to be late for the movies! I have already delayed the meeting time for two hours!”
The door closed shut, followed by an angry shout.
“You know that the SATs ended yesterday, right?”
Seol Wooseok whispered from the side.
“Her boyfriend took the SATs yesterday, you see.”
“Huh? She’s dating a high schooler?”
Seol Jihu was startled.
“No, I think he just took a gap year. I’m not sure of the specifics, but she broke up with her ex about a month ago and has a new boyfriend now.”
“Wow, she’s popular, huh….”
“They must have hit it off on their first date. Anyway, try to understand. They’ve been planning this date for a while, it seems.”
Seol Jihu shrugged.
After finishing the meal and having a light chat, Seol Jihu walked up the stairs.
Tok, tok. After knocking on the door and opening it, he could see Seol Jinhee, dressed up pretty and applying her makeup.
Seol Jinhee asked curtly after glancing sideways.
“Do you have time?”
“Make it quick. I have to go see my boyfriend.”
“I have a gift for you.”
“A gift? It’s not like it’s my birthday or anything.”
Despite saying this, Seol Jinhee’s eyes were already fixated on the shopping bag Seol Jihu brought.
“...You can leave it there.”
Seol Jihu also put down a white envelope.
“Here’s some allowance. I heard your boyfriend took the SATs yesterday. Tell him ‘good job’ and treat him to some good food.”
Seol Jihu waved his hand and turned back. After pretending to walk down, he went back up silently and peeked into Seol Jinhee’s room.
Seol Jinhee was busy doing her makeup with one hand and opening the gift with the other.
‘I feel like she’d be a perfect match with Kim Hannah….’
Seol Jihu couldn’t hide his shock at her dexterity, which neared the level of a god.
“Let’s see. 300,000 won, that’s a good amount. The wallet’s cute…. Fuck, a condom? He’s a virgin who only just mustered up the courage to hold my hand.”
Seonhwa Unni’s the problem. Seol Jinhee shook her head before shouting abruptly.
“Ah! A music box! They only sell this in Japan!”
Seol Jihu clenched his fist. He had planned the gift knowing that Seol Jinhee liked anime and manga.
‘Hehe, I knew I was good.’
He rubbed his nose and turned back.
“This is perfect. He was down because he didn’t think he did that well on the SATs. Maybe this will brighten him up a little.”
Seol Jihu staggered on his way down.
‘Well, I guess it’s okay if she’s happy.’
He walked down to the living room with a bitter smile.
“Then I’ll be off.”
“Huh? You’re leaving already?”
“I have somewhere to go too.”
Seol Wooseok turned and faced Yoo Seonhwa.
“Like a lost child~”
Yoo Seonhwa had suddenly begun to sing.
Seol Jihu coughed harshly.
“Uh… alright. Take this.”
Seol Wooseok gave him a bottle of pills.
“They’re pills to help you sober up.”
“Mother consulted a famous fortune-teller regarding you. She said you should be careful when drinking for the next three years and that you’d have a women problem if you didn’t. Have this with you just in case.”
“I’m okay…. Is this your company’s product?”
“Our company chairman developed it himself. Apparently, it has immediate effects. I brought a few as samples.”
“Oh, the guy with the two-syllable last name?”
Seol Jihu took the bottle.
“Even if I cry and beg you not to go~”
Meanwhile, Yoo Seonhwa’s singing continued.
“Unni, why are you singing all of a sudden?”
“Hmm? No reason.”
As if to run away, Seol Jihu left the giggling Yoo Seonhwa behind and left.
The nighttime streets were chilly.
Seol Jihu hunched his shoulders and walked quickly.
Several colors brushed past him.
Green, green, blue, green, yellow, orange, yellow, yellow….
Seol Jihu, who was waiting for the traffic lights to change, suddenly narrowed his eyes.
He quickly scanned his surroundings. Soon, he saw a driver dozing off in a car parked halfway between the crosswalk.
Seol Jihu quickly walked up.
Tang, tang! When he hit the windows hard, the driver jolted up. The window went down, and a strong smell of alcohol wafted out.
“You shouldn’t be drinking and driving.”
“Hm? Ah, I….”
The driver looked more than a little flustered. He must have confused Seol Jihu for an off-duty officer.
What should I do? Seol Jihu pondered for a moment before taking out a bottle from his pocket. It was the bottle of pills he got from Seol Wooseok before leaving his parents’ house.
“Take this. It helps you sober up.”
When he opened the bottle and took out a pill, the driver took it and threw it into his mouth. His unfocused eyes became clear in a second.
“Park your car on the side of the road and get some fresh air. Call a chauffeur service if possible.”
Seol Jihu turned around only after confirming that the driver was parking his car and getting out.
The traffic light changed, and Seol Jihu crossed the street.
Just now, he had changed another future. Perhaps it would have been the future of dozens.
That was how futures were.
The same person might walk the same road and end up in a completely different place. One insignificant choice could be the factor in determining their destination.
For example, Seol Jihu and Seol Jinhee had yet to make up with each other completely. But Seol Jihu no longer worried about the matter. It was because he could tell things were getting better over time.
To treat others the way you want to be treated.
As long as he acted properly with the thought of repenting, he believed he would eventually arrive at the future he desired.
Black Seol Jihu said so as well. That he did not have a dream or the will to achieve it. That he was dragged around by fate without seeing what was in store for the future. That this was the reason, he failed.
Seol Jihu now understood what he meant.
And now, Seol Jihu believed.
That all futures were open to those, who had dreams and the will to achieve them.
SY Apartment. It was a multi-use, high-rise complex that was said to be among Korea’s most expensive apartments.
Seol Jihu stood at the entrance and blew on his hands as he waited for the person he was supposed to meet.
How much time went by? Suddenly, he felt a cold touch on the back of his hand.
Looking down, he saw a tiny, white crystal.
Staring in a daze, the crystal quickly liquified and disappeared. Seol Jihu tilted his head up and looked at the sky.
It started snowing.
Seol Jihu heaved out a breath towards the falling snow. He could see his breath scattering like a puff of smoke.
It was then.
“My apologies, but it is forbidden to smoke here.”
A calm yet warm voice spoke to him.
“There’s a smoking area a little away from here.”
Seol Jihu slowly turned his head.
“If you’d like, you can come inside.”
She was standing there.
A snow-like woman, wearing a white coat and a white scarf.
Their eyes met. For a moment, they just stared at each other.
Seol Jihu quietly said.
“This is the first time we’re meeting on Earth, right?”
Seo Yuhui smiled.
She shook her head.
“It’s… the second time for me.”
Her eyes became a little dim as if she was recalling the past. After a short silence, Seo Yuhui grabbed Seol Jihu’s hands. Her eyes glinting with an unknown expectation, she asked.
“What’s your name?”
Seol Jihu lowered his head a little and buried his mouth in his scarf. He didn’t want her to see him laughing. For some reason, smiles refused to leave his face.
The snow was flurrying down before he noticed.
Seol Jihu stepped forward. So did Seo Yuhui.
Inside the world of falling snow, Seol Jihu looked at Seo Yuhui, walking toward him step by step.
“My name is….”
Then, like the enormous snowflakes wishing the world happiness...
He smiled brightly and happily.
<THE END>Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Fudge: Hope you guys enjoyed the ride just as much I did. Stay in tune for the fun side stories! ^^
Momo: What an amazing journey this has been!!