Side Story 16. Reunion

Seol Jihu’s relationship with his family had improved tremendously. However, that did not mean there weren’t parts that could be bettered further.

Seol Jihu had tormented his family with his gambling addiction for years. Such deeply etched wounds generally took a period that was several times longer to heal.

Seol Jihu knew this better than anyone else. So for the past several months, he made constant efforts to visit his family. He went back at least twice a week, no matter how busy he was, and thanks to his efforts, the way his family treated him had changed significantly.

At the very least, they now had no problem talking to him normally.

‘I’ve gotten far from having the door closed on my face when I first went.’

Today, Seol Jihu was coming back from seeing his family as always. His destination was SY Apartments. After getting an apartment in the residential complex by chance, he had been staying there since.

Not only were the apartments located in the center of Seoul, but they also had an excellent infrastructure, boasting flawless security and in-complex amenities.

‘Most intruders wouldn’t even be able to get past the guard post.’

Seol Jihu chuckled as he looked at the burly guard inside.

After parking his car, he went up the elevator and opened the front door. A large living room came into view. He had yet to get used to the loneliness and solitude he felt whenever he found himself alone in this large room.

‘I don’t really care who. It’d be nice to have someone at home.’

He first thought of his family. Of course, he wasn’t so careless as to tell his family about his new home just because he got a nice place. Given his father and older brother’s personalities, they were sure to ask how he could afford a place that cost over a billion won.

He decided to get Kim Hannah’s help with this matter. The company Seol Jihu was employed with on Earth was steadily growing. Kim Hannah boldly declared that she would turn it into a world-renowned conglomerate within the next 5 to 10 years. With Paradise behind the company, it should not be too difficult.

Since Seol Jihu had a position as one of its founders, he would be able to tell his family then.

‘It should be all good since Kim Hannah said she made sure that the owner of my old apartment room would stay quiet.’

It was then.

Bzz, bzz!

He heard a vibration as he was hanging his coat on the coatrack while thinking about various things.

Seol Jihu took out his cell phone from the coat pocket.

The caller was his mother.

“Yes, mother.”

—Jihu….

Seol Jihu’s heart sank. He had seen her less than half an hour ago, but she did not sound good.

“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

—No, it’s not that….

Seol Jihu could feel that she was hesitating.

—I was thinking hard about whether I should tell you or not, and….

“It’s fine. Please tell me.”

Seol Jihu pretended to be calm, but his heart was pounding. He was beginning to doubt whether his mother picked up on something.

—I’ve been having strange dreams recently.

“Dreams?”

Seol Jihu let out an empty chuckle. His legs went a little limp.

—Don’t laugh.

“Eii, mother, I thought something serious happened.”

—No, no, listen, I think they mean something.

“Just what kind of dreams did you have?”

—Well… I don’t remember them all too well. They’re different every night…. You always appear in them. One time, you were really drunk, and another time, you were in a panic. There was also a long-haired woman in white clothes crying next to you….

Seol Jihu was taken aback. The last part especially gave him the chills.

“Dreams are just that. Dreams. Some people even say they’re the opposite of what happens in real life.”

—But still….

“Don’t worry. I haven’t had any problems recently. I’ve been busy with work, but that’s better than being out of work.”

—That’s good to hear.

His mother sighed.

—Anyway, be careful. Make sure you stay safe.

“Okay, I will.”

—Oh yeah, didn’t Wooseok give you something last time? Are you still holding onto it? Or did you finish it already?

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened at his mother’s words.

[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.]

[Our company chairman developed it himself. Apparently, it has immediate effects. I brought a few as samples.]

Looking back, he did recall getting something like that.

“Ah, the pills to sober up….”

Seol Jihu rummaged through his pockets, but there was no way it would be there. He did a double-take, remembering that he had given it to a drunk driver on his way to meet Seo Yuhui.

“Of course, I have them. I haven’t been drinking all that much.”

Seol Jihu lied. Pills to sober up could easily be found at any pharmacy, and he did not want his mother to worry.

—I see. That’s good to hear.

His mother let out a sigh of relief.

—You’d have a hard time finding something like it in the market. Even Wooseok could only bring a couple of bottles with him.

“Oh, really?”

—Yep. Not only do the pills clear your mind instantly, but they also detoxify your body and increase its tolerance.

“...Huh?”

—It’s been lab-tested and everything, but the chairman of Wooseok’s company suddenly had a change of heart….

Seol Jihu blinked just as he was about to say, How can there be a medicine like that?

‘Hold on, the name of the lab Hyung goes to is….’

If there was one thing Seol Jihu recently learned while carrying out Gabriel’s request, it was that the world was much smaller than he thought.

For example, Han Soyoung happened to be the president of his alma mater. It was the same for Jegal Haesol.

‘She’s an origin-piercing magician, which is a realm that even Lady Roselle only barely touched upon in her final days….”

For someone like her, perhaps making such medicine wasn’t all that difficult. In that case, she must have pulled back on the decision to release the pills thinking that it was too early for the stage that modern medicine currently was at.

‘Maybe I should have taken them after all.’

Seol Jihu regretted belatedly, but the water had already been spilled.

—Jihu?

“Yes?”

Seol Jihu snapped out of his thoughts at his mother’s calling.

—What’s wrong? Did you not take them? Should I tell Wooseok to give you another one?

As expected, his mother was rather quick-witted.

“No, no, it’s fine.”

Seol Jihu shook his head even though he wasn’t on a video call.

It wasn’t until he endured a long worried speech from his mother that he was finally freed.

‘Mother’s too much of a worrywart.’

Seol Jihu sighed, took out a paper slip from his coat pocket, and ripped it in half.


*


Nothing much happened afterward.

Well, there was one thing. Yi Seol-Ah had officially challenged Seol Jihu to a duel.

The content of the duel was running with 5,000 wishes on the line. She even went so far as to write a contract and get it approved by the temple.

Yi Seol-Ah finished getting ready. Putting her fingers at the starting line, she put her left foot forward and her right foot back. Leaning forward a little with her upper body, she turned and looked back at Seol Jihu.

“Orabeo-nim.”

“Hmm?”

“I can win today, right?”

The corners of Yi Seol-Ah’s lips curled up.

“Fufufu, today is the day I get my revenge!”

“....”

“I can finally wash away those humiliating moments from the Neutral Zone!”

“....”

“Ah! I can see it! I can see you squirming in shame and frustration after losing to me today…!”

Seol Jihu chuckled. It seemed Yi Seol-Ah still remembered him overtaking her on the Neutral Zone’s track.

‘Come to think of it, I heard she played a big role recently in allowing an expedition to be successful.’

It seemed her self-confidence was at an all-time high thanks to that expedition.

‘I know what that feels like,’ Seol Jihu mumbled inwardly. After all, he had been the same.

Thinking about the past, laughter escaped Seol Jihu’s lips. But taking this laughter as a sneer, Yi Seol-Ah yelled angrily.

“Hmph! Let’s see if you can laugh when we’re done!”

“I just think you’re cute.”

“Of course. Of course. I’m sure I’m nothing more than a laughable kid to you. I understand. But you should know this, Orabeo-nim.”

Yi Seol-Ah’s voice suddenly sank.

“While you were living in seclusion after stepping down from the front line, I was toiling through all kinds of life-and-death situations…!”

“Okay, okay. So you’re confident?”

Seol Jihu chuckled while cracking his neck left and right.

“...Orabeo-nim.”

Flames burned in Yi Seol-Ah’s eyes. She looked greatly offended.

“I’m not the Yi Seol-Ah that used to light up your cigarette.”

She spoke more seriously than ever before.

Seol Jihu whistled.

“I get it. Why don’t we start? I have to go get ready to open my restaurant soon.”

“I’m waiting for you to get in the starting position.”

“It’s fine.”

Seol Jihu shrugged.

“An expert can’t go all out against a junior. You can get a head start. We’re making a round around Eva and coming back to the starting line, right? I can catch up easily.”

“...You’ll regret it.”

Yi Seol-Ah gritted her teeth and turned her head forward.

“On your mark!”

Shouting on her own, she began to slowly raise her butt.

“Three, two, one.” After counting down...

“Start!” She shot forward like the wind.

‘Perfect!’

Yi Seol-Ah was confident. Starting from the beginning, the angle of her ankles, torso, arms, and knees were perfect. Her strides were also optimized for acceleration.

‘How’s Orabeo-nim…?’

Yi Seol-Ah glanced back, her eyes immediately widening. Seol Jihu was running right beside her. No, it was hard to say he was running. Seol Jihu was walking with big strides. He even had his hands behind his back. He looked like someone who was going out to get a drink at a convenience store.

‘As expected…!’

Yi Seol-Ah wasn’t taken aback. Seol Jihu was still Paradise’s legend, no matter how much he was stuck in a rut. She did not expect him to be defeated so easily.

“Aura!”

Yi Seol-Ah shouted. Kyahaha. Along with the laughter of a Spirit, a fierce wind stormed out.

Yi Seol-Ah bit her lower lip.

‘Not yet.’

Though a storm was pushing her forward, Yi Seol-Ah did not think this was enough. She knew her orabeo-nim would surely catch up to her.

‘I’ll settle the winner in a single breath!’

Yi Seol-Ah gathered the mana that was flowing in her circuit and compressed it multiple times.

“Hah!”

Letting out a spirited shout, she detonated the gathered mana in an instant. Kwang! Along with an explosive boom, Yi Seol-Ah’s body shot forward.

Using the mana explosion to gain an explosive momentum, she accelerated even further with the power of her Spirit. Though this act put a significant burden on her legs, it was fine if it was for a little bit.

‘With this…!’

Yi Seol-Ah, who was running until her sweat was flying everywhere, jumped in a startle. Seol Jihu was still walking right next to her.

What was important was that he was walking while merrily eating a bowl of ramen that he made god-knows-when.

“You…!”

Yi Seol-Ah clenched her teeth.

He was walking while eating ramen in the middle of a sacred match?

As a track runner, she could not accept such a thing.

Of course, Seol Jihu’s godly skills were surprising, but it wasn’t as if she had used all her cards yet either.

‘But it’s too early to use it….’

She hesitated for a moment but soon came to a decision.

Though they were running a lap around the city, to Seol Jihu and her, the distance was no different than minuscule. She had to pull out all her cards while she still could.

“Limit Breaaaaaak!”

Yi Seol-Ah unleashed her own independent realm, Limit Break.

Immediately, her body began to shine with light.

Chweeeek!

She began to cut through the streets faster than a bullet, moving at a supersonic speed.

It’s fine even if my ankles break. It’s fine even if I can’t use my legs again. As long as I can beat Orabeo-nim now…! Yi Seol-Ah’s strong will propelled her forward while controlling her acceleration perfectly.

‘Just like this…!’

Yi Seol-Ah, who was just about to reach the finish line, suddenly became lost for words. Seol Jihu was still running next to her.

“Eh~! Macarena~!”

All the while doing the Macarena dance.

“No, no….”

Yi Seol-Ah stammered.

“I gave you more than enough time, so I’ll start now.”

Seol Jihu grinned. He finally got into a proper running posture and roused his mana.

Pang, pang, pang! He even activated the Festina Earring three times.

Then, using Spear God, he kicked off the ground.

Flash!

Lightning flashed. At least, that was what Yi Seol-Ah felt.

A beam of yellow light stormed forward and disappeared, coming back around in less than a second.

Seol Jihu slowed down significantly when going past Yi Seol-Ah, and then…

“Cheese~!”

He hopped into the air and made a V-sign with his fingers before storming forward again.

When he came back around for the second time…

“Go! Go!”

He used the Spear of Purity as a cheering stick to cheer on Yi Seol-Ah.

And when he passed her for the third time, he did a triple axel in the air like a figure skater.

By now, Yi Seol-Ah had noticed that Seol Jihu did three laps around the city before she could even finish one.

Yi Seol-Ah did not stop running. She kept going forward in a daze. It was only when the finish line came into view that her legs stopped.

Seol Jihu was hovering his leg before the finish line, going in and out. He was clearly making fun of her.

Yi Seol-Ah’s eyelids shook. Soon, she fell to her knees at the finish line. It wasn’t just because of exhaustion. A great sense of loss played a bigger role.

“Huh? Why did you stop? I might not have crossed the finish line.”

Seol Jihu giggled as he wiggled his foot back and forth.

“Uuu….”

Yi Seol-Ah’s lips trembled. In the end…

“Uuuaaaaaaang!”

Yi Seol-Ah burst into tears.


*


“Abubububububu!”

“Kkiiing! Kkiiing!”

Phi Sora, who had captured a yellow rice cake and was blowing into its stomach, suddenly turned her head. It was because the main entrance was noisy.

Looking back, she saw a man and a woman walking in.

Yi Seol-Ah was sucking on a straw, drinking from a juice cup.

“Hic, hic… hic….”

She was crying endlessly. Her eyes were tinged red, and snot continued to run down her nose. It was obvious that she had bawled her eyes out not too long ago.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I got you some juice. Forgive me, okay?”

Seol Jihu was consoling Yi Seol-Ah with a troubled expression.

“What happened?”

Sensing that something serious happened, Phi Sora let go of the squirming, yellow rice cake in her arms and got up.

“Oabeouu-nim!”

Yi Seol-Ah shouted in a teary voice.

“We had… a running competition…! And he… made fun of me…! And didn’t… fight me properly…! He ate ramen… and danced…!”

Phi Sora couldn’t understand her well with all the teary whimpers, but it seemed like Seol Jihu had made a fool of Yi Seol-Ah.

“Why’d you make the kid cry!?”

When Phi Sora raised a complaint, Seol Jihu scratched his head.

“I didn’t mean to.”

“A grown-up adult making fun of a kid. Couldn’t you have pulled a punch or two? You know how much stronger you are compared to her.”

“I couldn’t help it. There were 5,000 wishes on the line.”

“Wishes?”

Phi Sora glanced at Yi Seol-Ah.

“I had… a wish… I wanted to make…!”

Yi Seol-Ah murmured with a pout.

Phi Sora sighed and then looked back at Seol Jihu.

Seol Jihu hurriedly nodded.

“What’s the wish? Tell me.”

“It’s fine…. I lost….”

“You can at least tell me. If it isn’t anything too difficult, I can help you out.”

“...Really…?”

Yi Seol-Ah glanced at Seol Jihu.

“Then… can you meet me on Earth…?”

“Hmm?

“The people from the Neutral Zone… we promised to meet on Earth….”

“Ah, so you want him to participate in a Neutral Zone reunion.”

Phi Sora organized Yi Seol-Ah’s wish.

Seol Jihu made a dumbfounded face.

“That’s it…? You should have just told me. I thought you were going to ask for something big!”

“...But!”

Yi Seol-Ah shouted.

“But… if I don’t do something like this… Orabeo-nim doesn’t care about me at all…!”

Hearing this, Phi Sora’s expression contorted immediately.

“Of course not, stupid!”

Seol Jihu also shouted back.

“Seol-Ah, you’re my one and only cute little sister.”

“Eh… really?”

“I’ll come, so don’t worry about it.”

“...Yes! Orabeo-nim!”

Yi Seol-Ah’s complexion brightened up. She stopped crying and ran into Seol Jihu’s arms with a beaming smile. The rice cakes in the area applauded them.

Yi Seol-Ah then left, saying she needed to tell everyone else.

“...Excuse me.”

Phi Sora did not look all that happy. Looking at the two, she suddenly found herself in a foul mood for some reason. To be frank, she felt shitty.

“How are you coming up with all these corny lines?”

“Corny?”

“Yeah, tell me so I can use them to provoke people too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was completely serious.”

Phi Sora shook her head. No matter what, she did not want to witness such a scene a second time.

“That reunion, are you going?”

“Of course, I promised. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them anyway.”

“Good. Don’t just make ramen all day and go out a bit. I was getting tired of seeing you sell ramen all day long.”

“You’re getting tired of my ramen?”

“No, not your ramen. You.

Phi Sora sighed and then put her hand on her hip.

“Anyway, it sounds fun. Let me know when the date and place are decided. I wanna join in.”

“Why would you join in on our reunion?”

“Ei, don’t be like that. Aren’t you guys just going to eat and drink?”

“That’s true, but….”

“Perfect. You’ve been there once before, so you should know how good it is. It’s not too expensive and tastes great. There really isn’t a better place.”

Phi Sora nodded her head.

“You know where I work part-time, right?”

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