Side Story 11. Between Heaven-rank 9 and Heaven-rank 10

SY General Hospital. The snow-white building standing in the heart of downtown Seoul was full of unusual tension today. The reason was the unexpected and sudden visit from the SY Group’s CEO. Even though the CEO revealed that she visited the hospital simply on a whim, the staff could not rest at ease knowing that one of their nurses was alone with their boss in a private room.

“He’s not bad.”

Han Soyoung began.

“What was his name again? Seol Jihu? I heard he came, so I went to take a peek…. My Supersense couldn’t detect anything either.”

“I told you he’s not a bad person.”

“You’re right. He’s not. Also, I see that you have great taste in men. I’ll give you that.”

“Right? …Wait, what?”

“The problem is….”

Han Soyoung cleared her throat as she changed the subject.

“Others don’t quite agree with me.”

She put her coffee down on the table and continued.

“Miss Goh Yeonju is especially obstinate, and the rest are equally skeptical.”

“But that’s not everyone.”

The woman dressed in scrubs remarked as she took a sip of her hot cocoa.

“Silence is an implicit accordance.”

Han Soyoung let out a small sigh.

“And it’s not like I don’t understand where they’re coming from. Fallen Angels… they’re the reason for his darkness in a way. I don’t see what good would come of him being associated with them again.”

“But that’s your opinion, not Oppa’s.”

“…You’re right.”

Han Soyoung admitted.

“I know what you’re thinking. Why should we even bother with them? Let’s just ignore them so that everything can stay the same. But can’t you see that you’re just avoiding the issue?”

The nurse girl continued.

“I believe that sometimes we need to face problems head-on. That way, things might take a turn for the better.”

With a look of mild surprise, Han Soyoung glanced up at the angel in white sitting across from her.

“…Ahn Sol.”

Her voice sounded softer now.

“What you’re saying sounds nice and all, but you know that life doesn’t always work out quite so conveniently.”

“That’s true, too.”

Ahn Sol nodded in assent.

“You agree. Yet your opinion is still the same…. Does that mean you’re sure this is going to be fine?”

“Mm…. Maybe?”

“Maybe isn’t enough. I need you to convince me. Can you do that?”

“I had a dream.”

“A dream?”

Yes. A dream. Ahn Sol said in a whisper before breaking into a smile.

With mixed feelings, Han Soyoung stared at Ahn Sol stroking her paper cup.

The Priestess of Brilliance, a girl whose existence itself was a miracle. Her singularity surpassed even him. It wasn’t that Han Soyoung didn’t trust her. The girl in front of her was so extraordinary that she couldn’t be judged by human standards.

However….

“What kind of dream was it?”

“I saw a rabbit.”

Ahn Sol replied simply.

Han Soyoung frowned.

“Ah, but he wasn’t just any rabbit. This rabbit had golden fur…. You might even call him a super-rabbit!”

Ahn Sol continued with a playful smile.

“And the moment the golden rabbit jumped into the chaos….”


*


He finally reunited with Seo Yuhui, but nothing unexpected happened afterward. There wasn’t anything he could do either. In the end, Seol Jihu had no choice but to retreat. Just like that, his first expedition to SY Apartments ended in failure.

Instead of returning to Paradise immediately, Seol Jihu stayed on Earth for a few more days. During this time, he contacted Kim Hanbyul again and checked through Kim Hannah if a unit in building 101 was listed for sale.

Of course, even as he did all this, he had only the faintest hope of his efforts bearing fruit. He just thought he’d try everything possible before returning to Paradise for good.

Then one day, a miracle happened.

—Hey, hey, hey…. What happened?

Kim Hannah’s voice over the phone was shaking.

—What the hell did you do!?

“What do you mean? What’s going on?”

—I just got a call from the realtor…!

What Kim Hannah said next was enough to make Seol Jihu’s jaw drop, and for the next minute, he stood frozen and in silence.

According to Kim Hannah, Seol Jihu managed to gain a spot in SY Apartments in Building 101, suite 5202. He was now the Martial God’s neighbor!

“This doesn’t make any sense!”

Kim Hannah came over right away and made a big fuss.

“Seriously, it makes no sense! The application process for SY Apartments is even more complicated than Mastercard’s gold card! I’ve never heard of an instance when they responded this fast….”

This had to be some sort of a scheme, Kim Hannah insisted.

Seol Jihu fell into thought.

“Is this good or bad?”

“Bad.”

Kim Hanah asserted.

“They’re obviously trying to lure you into a trap. That’s the only sensible explanation.”

“But why would they go that far? Given how powerful they are, wouldn’t it make more sense for them just to kill me outright? Though I don’t intend to go down easily, of course.”

Kim Hannah shut her mouth. She had seen them with her own eyes and knew that Seol Jihu was right.

“But… it makes even less sense to think they’re doing this in your favor.”

She was adamant.

“There’s no such thing as free goodwill. If this is truly an act of hospitality, there must be something they want from you. What do you think it is?”

This time, Seol Jihu fell silent. He couldn’t think of a single thing they would want from him. They were, after all, a bunch made up of multiple Heaven-rank 9s. What could they possibly need from someone like him?

“…I don’t know.”

Finally, after a long thought, Seol Jihu made his decision.

“But we should still accept their offer. We never know what will happen unless we dive right in.”

“Are you sure? I mean, do you really have to?”

Kim Hannah asked, her voice full of concern.

“Listen to me, Jihu. Let’s just go back, and—”

“I would’ve given up if I had run into a dead end. But it looks like there still is a way, and I can’t just ignore it.”

“You should think again. This isn’t something to be taken lightly. Remember, you’re on Earth and not there.”

Kim Hannah tried to persuade him but to no avail. Seol Jihu never changed his mind.


*


Just like that, Seol Jihu found a new home—although he chose to keep his old place in case something went wrong.

Money wasn’t a problem at all. The apartment cost about 1 billion won, which he paid with 20 gold coins.

“So, this is it….”

Seol Jihu’s jaw dropped in awe as soon as he stepped inside his new apartment. He had heard that this unit was over 400 square meters in size, and it was indeed extremely spacious. So spacious that it could even be used as a soccer field.

‘This is great and all, but….’

However, his initial excitement soon faded as Seol Jihu recalled the reason he moved here in the first place.

He remembered the old saying, strike while the iron is hot. He also recalled that traditionally, people moving into new homes are supposed to distribute rice cakes to their neighbors.

And so, Seol Jihu set out with a carefully packed box of rice cakes in his hand. He walked down the corridor past the elevator and arrived at his neighbor’s door. Taking a deep breath, he pressed the doorbell.

Five seconds later….

Bee-beep!

The door opened with a click.

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

There was no voice asking, “Who is it?”

While he hesitated to enter, the door suddenly swung open.

“Ah…. Hello! I just moved in…?”

Seol Jihu stopped in the middle of his sentence.

He couldn’t help it.

The woman standing in front of him was breathtakingly beautiful.

Her silver hair sparkled like the Milky Way, and her eyes glowed with mystic light. Her beauty reminded him of an angel from the ancient myths.

“Welcome.”

The angel-like beauty clasped her hands in front of her waist and smiled.

“Would you like to come inside?”

“Padron? Ah…. Can I?”

“Of course. Please come in.”

Seol Jihu stepped inside with a dazed expression. He had only planned to ask if he could meet the Martial God. He never thought that he would be invited in.

“Excuse me, this….”

“Thank you.”

The silver-haired woman received the box of rice cakes with a graceful gesture of the hand.

“Also… I’d like to thank you for your visit. It’s an honor to have you as my guest.”

She politely bowed her head.

“Please, I….”

Seol Jihu too bowed his head in return.

Then, all of a sudden, he began to blink.

His eyes met the eyes of a little girl clinging to the woman’s leg. Her cute face resembled her mother. The girl smiled shyly before hiding behind her mother.

When Seol Jihu raised his back, he was greeted with a smile from the woman.

“You needn’t be so humble. Your being here means a lot to me.”

Her sweet voice continued.

“I admire that you’ve taken on a job that is in no way related to you simply out of loyalty.”

Seol Jihu flinched. From the way she spoke, the woman seemed to be well aware of the situation.

“Is it possible for me to….”

“…I’m sorry, but he isn’t here right now.”

A light flickered in Seol Jihu’s eyes.

“May I ask when he will be back?”

“I can’t say.”

Seraph shook her head slowly.

“He received a call from the Shadow Queen two hours ago… and said he was going on a trip with her.”

“So… suddenly…?”

“She probably knew you’d visit today and made plans in advance.”

Seraph gave a bitter smile.

After a moment of silence, Seol Jihu spoke.

“May I ask how you’re related to all this?”

“I used to serve Lord Gabriel.”

It was then that Seol Jihu finally realized who this woman was. Seraph—the angel who turned to the Martial God’s side and later begged him to give the Fallen Angels another chance.

“Ah, come this way, Sylraph. The adults need to talk, and I need you to go to your room.”

“Okayy….”

The tiny angel called Sylraph shuffled into her room, casting a curious glance toward Seol Jihu.

Seol Jihu followed Seraph deeper into the house.

Breaking the silence, he asked.

“Is the Martial God aware of the Fallen Angels’ situation?”

“I’m not sure. But my guess is that he’s probably not very interested.”

Seol Jihu organized his thoughts and asked again.

“I would think that you would have talked to him about them….”

“No.”

Her answer took Seol Jihu by surprise.

“After repeated pleas, the Martial God eventually agreed to my terms. However… that was all I was allowed to do.”

Seraph continued.

I’ll give them a chance. But you are never to speak of them again. Those are the exact words he said to me then.”

Which meant Seraph couldn’t have talked to the Martial God about the Fallen Angels, let alone their salvation.

“So….”

Seol Jihu listened quietly before speaking.

“You can’t arrange a meeting or deliver my message to the Martial God.”

“You’re right, unfortunately. He very rarely changes a decision once it has been made, and I’m not in a position to force anything on him….”

It’s not that she didn’t want to. She just couldn’t. Seraph lowered her head. She felt sorry that she couldn’t do anything to assist Seol Jihu, who was helping the Fallen Angels out of goodwill alone.

“Couldn’t you have asked him about the Fallen Angels through other people? Someone close to the Martial God, perhaps?”

“Yes, but….”

Seraph’s voice dwindled.

“Most of those close to the Martial God think negatively of the Fallen Angels.”

“.…”

“The prevailing opinion is that we should pretend as if this had never happened. I regret to inform you that they are doing everything they can to stop you from meeting the Martial God. A few days ago, and even now.”

Seol Jihu remembered the four women he met a few days back.

“Of course, not everyone is so determined….”

Seraph continued.

“But the rest are the least interested in this issue.”

“….”

“Which is precisely why I’d like to recruit your help.”

Seraph turned her eyes towards Seol Jihu.

“I can’t do it alone…. I need help, even if it comes from an outsider.”

The moment Seol Jihu looked into those eyes filled with anticipation, he felt even more pressure than before.

“Ah, but I’m not anything special.”

“…Pardon?”

Seraph’s eyes widened slightly. She seemed almost to doubt her ears. But instead of showing her surprise, she smiled.

“Lord Gabriel wouldn’t have asked just anyone to help her out. She has the most discerning eyes out of all of us.”

It was then.

Just as they neared the end of the hallway, Seol Jihu’s nostrils began to flare.

‘This smell….’

He immediately recognized the familiar smell. It was the smell of noodles being cooked.

Seol Jihu sniffed the air a few more times before clicking his tongue.

‘Whoever’s cooking must be an amateur. Those noodles are gonna be all mushy and soggy…. They cooked it for way too long.’

As Seol Jihu silently mourned the noodles, someone suddenly appeared before them. This someone, a woman with calm features, seemed to have stopped on her way to the front door.

“Who…?”

“He’s my guest.”

“Your guest, Miss Seraph?”

“Yes.”

Seraph nodded as she passed the woman.

Seol Jihu felt the woman’s gaze on him and bowed his head slightly. As he did so, his eyes grazed over the name ‘Cha Sorim’ embroidered on the apron she was wearing.

‘Is she the housekeeper?’

It made sense. This apartment was too big to take care of alone.

‘So she’s the one.’

As much as he felt bad for the noodles, Seol Jihu knew he had to focus on the matter at hand.

“So, how can I help?”

“The Priestess of Brilliance believes that everything will work out on its own once you two meet each other…. But that is unlikely to happen under the present circumstances. The Shadow Queen has set her mind to keep you away from him. And so….”

Seraph cleared her throat.

“You’ll have to convince people who are indifferent to this issue at the moment but can exert more influence on the Martial God than the Shadow Queen.”

Seraph stopped. She turned around and faced the opposite direction. Seol Jihu also turned his gaze to where she was looking.

His eyes immediately widened in surprise.

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