Side Story 20. Stories of the Future Wives

Seol Jihu looked back, startled. He turned so suddenly that even Seo Yuhui was alarmed.

“Ah…. Yuhui.”

“...Honey? What’s wrong? You’re acting a little strange…. It doesn’t look like you have a fever….”

Seo Yuhui put a hand on Seol Jihu’s forehead before abruptly glaring at him.

“Tell me the truth. Did you get another woman?”

“No! Of course not!”

Seol Jihu jumped and waved his hands in denial. Seo Yuhui giggled.

“You really are acting weird today. You even told the kids their naengmyeons were good.”

“Ah, that’s….”

Seol Jihu shut his mouth. He didn’t know what to say.

To be completely honest, both dishes were fine, but he did see some parts that could be improved upon. But when he thought about how his children cooked for him, he couldn’t help but give them extra points.

“I understand that you did it because Jihui has been picking on Sohu more and more recently, but don’t worry too much. You know that Sohu is genuine when it comes to noodles.”

So the name of that polite boy is Sohu. Seol Sohu.

Seol Jihu inwardly cursed the person who named his kids with such obvious names.

“Anyway, didn’t you say you had to go somewhere today?”

“Hmm? I did?”

“You said there was a meeting in that place.”

“That place?”

“You know, that place. Didn’t you guys decide to meet at your restaurant?”

It was only then that Seol Jihu realized she was talking about Paradise.

“Ah, aaaah. You’re right. When was it again?”

“Hold on. It’s a little past nine right now, so in that world’s time…. You should be able to make it. There’s still some time left, but it’s a little tight. Shouldn’t you get going?”

“Right, I should. I almost forgot.”

It was better to avoid doing anything suspicious. Seol Jihu followed his instincts and rummaged through his pocket. However, he couldn’t find the paper slip.

Seo Yuhui stared fixedly at the flustering Seol Jihu. After observing him closely, she chuckled and left quietly. Then, she brought the paper slip that connected him to Paradise.

“Here.”

“...Thanks.”

“You always leave it inside the safe. Did you forget?”

Seo Yuhui said with a smile. She seemed to be teasing him.

Seol Jihu laughed.

“See you later.”

“Come home as soon as you’re done, okay? Seol-Ah, Miss Yun Seora, Miss Agnes, Miss Cinzia, Miss Flone, and others…. Don’t go with the women, either familiar or unfamiliar, okay?”

Seo Yuhui said this very fast, her words clearly full of hidden meaning.

Seol Jihu hurriedly ripped the paper slip while watching Seo Yuhui waving her hand with a smile. He felt like he needed to.

After returning to Paradise, Seol Jihu first left the temple. Though it was morning on Earth, the sun was setting in Paradise.

‘I can tell this is Eva….’

It wasn’t too hard to recognize the place with traces of the past scenery still in place, but the city had naturally changed with the passage of time. Of course, in a better, more flourishing way.

Seol Jihu was worried that ‘Seol Jihu Ramen?’ would have changed too to the point he would not recognize it. Thankfully, the restaurant was still in the same spot, looking the same as always, not having undergone any expansion or renovation work.

The inside was the same. Seol Jihu breathed a sigh of relief after seeing that nothing had changed. He was relieved now that he was in a more familiar environment.

“You’re here.”

A familiar voice entered his ears. Seol Jihu, who was looking around the restaurant, widened his eyes.

Unless he was seeing things, the person standing in the kitchen in a chef’s uniform was none other than Charlotte Aria.

“Charlotte Aria-nim?”

“Hmm? Nim? Why are you calling me that all of a sudden? Aha, is it because you are late?”

Charlotte Aria smiled bashfully. Seol Jihu was about to ask, Why are you here, Your Majesty?, but changed his mind at the last second.

“Ah, um, by the way, how has Eva been recently?”

“Hm? Why do you ask…? You resurrected my family members, and everything has been peaceful since Father has reclaimed the throne.”

Charlotte Aria blushed as she murmured.

“It’s all thanks to you that I can be here like this. As I said many times before, I’m fine. I am happier being by your side and receiving your love than being a queen.”

Seol Jihu closed his eyes. By the looks of it, he seemed to have laid his hands on Charlotte Aria too.

“I did everything I could. You should be able to start cooking right away.”

Charlotte Aria’s eyes lit up as if asking for praise. Seol Jihu looked around the kitchen without much expectation and could not help being shocked.

‘It’s perfect.’

Just like Charlotte Aria said, everything was ready. Pots, cookware, and the ingredients were placed perfectly with the movement of the chef in mind. An arrangement of this level would surely have taken years of study and experience.

“Amazing. Everything is laid out perfectly.”

Seol Jihu gave an honest evaluation.

“Hehe, it’s nothing much.”

Charlotte Aria smiled joyfully before jumping into Seol Jihu’s embrace. She rubbed her cheek on his chest and laughed cheerfully.

Seol Jihu patted her head. At exactly the same moment, the restaurant door opened suddenly.

An old man whose face was full of wrinkles came in with a warm smile. Despite his old age, he was lively and energetic.

“My, did we come too early?”

Seol Jihu’s eyes slowly widened.

“...Master Jang?”

“Oh, don’t mind us. You can keep going. Pretend we’re not here!”

Ian also popped in. His hair and beard were as shaggy as ever, and so was his playful look and genial smile.

“N-No! I…!”

Charlotte Aria went red and hid behind Seol Jihu. The two old men guffawed loudly.

Soon, more and more people began to arrive. Seol Jihu had been wondering what this meeting was about, but it was looking like a gathering of friends.

“This place never changes, huh. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the two of you.”

Philip Muller came in.

“That’s the charm of this restaurant. It really makes you feel nostalgic!”

“Yo! It’s been a while!”

Dylan and Hugo also came.

“Hello. I’m here, Hyung.”

And so did Yi Sungjin, who had turned into a handsome man.

“Yo.”

Vlad Halep also came, looking just as menacing and stoic as ever.

The quiet restaurant quickly grew rowdy as more and more people gathered. A strange emotion enveloped Seol Jihu as he cooked ramen for everyone.

‘I see…. Mister Kazuki married Miss Oh Rahee….’

Seeing Kazuki and Oh Rahee sitting at the same table, he couldn’t help but smile. They both had cold, expressionless faces, but the way they shared their ramen seemed very affectionate.

‘Looks like Mister Marcel Ghionea is doing well too….’

Marcel Ghionea was busy tending to a child who was eating ramen busily. He would wipe his mouth and hands when the child spilled the ramen soup. Marika Larisa sat next to them, watching the two with a smile.

Seol Jihu had heard that the two of them had gotten married. It seemed they had a kid now and were living happily.

‘Anyway, who’s that…?’

There was one person he was unfamiliar with. She had neatly trimmed bobbed hair, and she carried herself with dignity and elegance.

‘Wait, a kimono?’

Now that he took a closer look, he had seen her before.

The moment Seol Jihu recognized her was the moment when the modestly sitting woman gulped down the drink in her hand and abruptly shot up.

After taking off her kimono out of nowhere….

“Tiriri~ Tiririra~ Tirirarira~!”

She started to dance.

‘Looks like Miss Hoshino Urara is the same as ever….’

Seol Jihu found himself smiling.

“Kuhahaha! It’s been a while since I’ve seen that dance!”

“You’re not gonna show us the Free Bird dance?”

“No, that’s a bit…. Anyway, it looks like our restaurant owner’s very quiet today.”

“Right! Why aren’t you talking? Isn’t it about time you come out and say, No nudity in the restaurant!?”

Hugo shouted and then looked around the kitchen.

“Hm~ I caught him staring fixedly at Kazuki and Marcel Ghionea just now….”

He grinned, looking at the dazedly standing Seol Jihu.

“I get it. He’s got the seven-year itch. Right, Seol?”

“?”

“Don’t pretend like you don’t understand! I told you, having many isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

“It’s not his fault. Fate works in cruel ways sometimes. It’s not like Seol Jihu didn’t try.”

Philip Muller spoke calmly while pouring wine into his glass.

“Oh, I know that. To be honest, I was laughing my ass off back then. He was doing everything he could to avoid meeting them, but he somehow always did and even finished the deed! How funny is that?”

Hugo shot up from his seat and raised his wine glass high. Next, he began to sing.

“Oh~! The great legend of Paradise, Seol Jihu! Although he exterminated the Parasite Queen and saved Paradise, he could not change his own fate!”

Huge laughter broke out. Satisfied at his joke, Hugo also guffawed.

The important thing was that the corners of his eyes were turning red at the same time. For the record, Hugo was still single.

“No~ No~! My husband hasn’t done anything wrong! Don’t make fun of him~!”

Charlotte Aria ran around the restaurant, flailing her arms around left and right.

Seol Jihu smiled bitterly in the meanwhile.


*


The gathering continued for a long time. As the group had not met like this for quite some time, it wasn’t until night time that people began to leave one by one.

Although Seol Jihu ended up spending a lot of his time here, he wasn’t too worried because Gula had given him six hours, and the ratio of the flow of time between Paradise and Earth was three to one.

Of course, that didn’t mean he could be lax.

‘What do I do now?’

No, he shouldn’t be trying to do anything. Black Seol Jihu had told him to see and experience the future and use what he felt as a guidepost for his next actions.

‘Was there anything useful?’

Seol Jihu organized the information he collected during the gathering.

This included the birth of a new Chief Deity in Paradise and the revival of the Seven Virtues, which enabled the creation of a new class system.

But this information wasn’t relevant to the situation as he neither had the need nor necessity to change it.

In any case, it was true that going back like this felt unfruitful.

‘...I guess I should give it a try.’

After pondering for some time, Seol Jihu decided to be a little bold. That was to reveal his situation to someone he could trust and seek advice.

And so, Seol Jihu went to Valhalla’s building. The building now looked like some sort of a palace but wasn’t difficult to find as it was still in the same spot.

“Huh?”

Kim Hannah, who was sitting at the office desk, stared at Seol Jihu blankly.

Seol Jihu was also surprised. Now, it looked like he was looking at a nine-tailed fox, not just a regular fox.

“What’s up? I thought you’d come in the morning. You’re earlier than I thought.”

She thought I’d come? Seol Jihu tilted his head and spoke.

“Ei, just between us, I came earlier because I wanted to see you.”

He thought he responded well.

“...Who are you? Seol Jihu’s doppelganger?”

However, to his surprise, Kim Hannah immediately gave him a suspicious glare.

‘Just what kind of a person am I in this time period?’

Since he was here to come clean anyway, Seol Jihu raised the white flag and started speaking. Starting from revealing his identity, he explained the reason he came to the future.

“...So.”

Kim Hannah looked half convinced but also half in doubt.

“You’re Seol Jihu from the past?”

This sounded like another one of Seol Jihu’s pranks, but his face and voice were telling her that it was real.

“What nonsense are you…. No, you can’t be this good at acting. Then what point in time did you come from?”

“Uh….”

“Just tell me. We have talked about it among ourselves without you knowing anyway.”

“Right after I did it with Miss Phi Sora….”

“Oh, then it’s a long, long time ago. Well over ten years, in fact. It was even before we did it for the first time in this office.”

“You and I did… it? In here?”

“Yep. You were acting too cocky. Well, I admit that I kind of led you on, though.”

Kim Hannah murmured while carefully observing Seol Jihu.

“Talk about a lightning bolt from a clear sky….”

She looked like she still couldn’t fully believe him, but her ability told her that Seol Jihu was being truthful. In the end, she had no choice but to admit it.

“Haa…. You bastard…. I worked so hard to lay this smokescreen, going so far as to say I can’t come home tonight, and you avoid it like this…?”

Kim Hannah murmured while gritting her teeth.

Seol Jihu tilted his head. Who avoided what?

“Since it’s turned to this, why don’t I just do it with this guy? He’s Seol Jihu too, isn’t he? It’s not like I would be cheating.”

Seol Jihu was a little taken aback. He felt like he heard something dangerous just now.

“I can’t believe it. I reduce your work time from 24 days a month to 8 days a month, so you don’t get tired, and this is what you do? ...No, I shouldn’t.”

After murmuring a bunch of things he couldn’t understand, Kim Hannah shook her head. Then, she glared at Seol Jihu.

“So, what do you want me to do?”

“....”

“Let’s say you’re not joking for once. Shouldn’t you go back to Earth quickly? It doesn’t sound like you have a lot of time left.”

“Yeah, but….”

“What are you hesitating for? You should have realized that nothing’s wrong with the future by now.”

“Yeah.”

“Then go back home and try to bring it up. If I were to guess though, Miss Seo Yuhui and Miss Phi Sora probably noticed already.”

“What about you? Do you—”

“I don’t have anything to say. Wouldn’t it be better to talk to Miss Seo Yuhui and Miss Phi Sora? If that’s the time period you came from, you should be talking to those two.”

Kim Hannah said firmly.

“Take care of your business quietly and then go back. Don’t do anything weird and get kicked out.”

Kim Hannah shooed him away as if swatting away a fly.

“Aigoo~ I’ve seen you go back to the past, but going to the future? That’s a first. The past you and the future you sure are something.”

Seol Jihu turned around, leaving Kim Hannah’s grumbling behind.

“Ah! Wait!”

Kim Hannah stopped Seol Jihu before he walked out.

“Just so you know, I don’t have a pantyhose fetish. I only did it because you were into it.”

“?”

“Just remember that.”

Kim Hannah looked away and shooed him again.

Unless he was mistaken, Kim Hannah’s neck was flushed red.


*


After going through the portal…

“Ah.”

He met Seo Yuhui right away. It was almost as if she knew he would come back around this time.

“Welcome back.”

Seol Jihu flinched just as he was about to say something. Seo Yuhui had talked to him politely, almost like she was talking to a stranger.

“Have you eaten?”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

Seol Jihu unwittingly talked in polite speech as well.

“Then why don’t we have some tea?”

Seol Jihu sat down at the veranda and drank the tea Seo Yuhui brewed. Kim Hannah’s words that Seo Yuhui must have noticed his secret weighed on his mind.

“Being here like this really reminds me of the past.”

Seo Yuhui sat on a chair a small distance away and looked up at the sun hanging in the middle of the sky.

“By past, you mean….”

Seol Jihu trailed off cautiously.

Seo Yuhui smiled faintly.

“When the past you, the person who is in front of me right now, said we should break up.”

Pft. Seol Jihu spat out the tea.

“Is that why you came to the future?”

Seol Jihu blanked out. He looked like he had seen a ghost.

“How….”

“It was easy. How long do you think we’ve been living together?”

Seo Yuhui winked.

“Fufu. So what brings you to the future after one-sidedly breaking up with me?”

It sounded like she was teasing him, but Seol Jihu could not take it as a joke.

“No, I haven’t said anything about breaking up with you….”

Seo Yuhui’s eyes widened.

“Not yet, anyway….”

Seol Jihu scratched his head. Seo Yuhui nodded slowly.

After squeezing the teacup for a while, Seol Jihu clenched his teeth. Since Seo Yuhui found out, he decided to be straightforward.

“There is something I’d like to ask you.”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“When you found out that I slept with Miss Phi Sora… how did you feel?”

Seol Jihu’s face reddened. It was a stupid question, even in his head.

“Mm…. I was more shocked when you said we should break up.”

Seo Yuhui continued.

“Because I always knew that you would get together with other women. I had somewhat prepared my heart for that, but I never imagined you would break up with me…. I remember curling up into a ball and crying all night.”

Seol Jihu lowered his head even further.

“After I calmed down, all sorts of thoughts raced through my head. Should I break it off completely and find someone else? Should I pretend to forgive him, get back together, and then cheat as revenge?”

Seol Jihu flinched.

“I didn’t do anything in the end, though.”

Seo Yuhui smiled softly. Though it must not have been a good memory, perhaps because over ten years had gone by, she talked about it smoothly.

“Because I felt like doing so would be denying myself and my future. I guess it’s my fault though for not being able to leave and for falling in love.”

Seo Yuhui chuckled before looking back at Seol Jihu and resting her chin on the back of her hands.

“Anyway, you being here must mean that you met Blacky, or rather, Black Seol Jihu.”

“Yes.”

“Then you must have heard what happened afterward.”

“Kind of.”

“...To tell you the truth, I was the one who egged him on.”

Seo Yuhui smiled bitterly.

“I didn’t accept this fate from the start. Along with you, I tried everything I could to change the future….”

Seo Yuhui paused and heaved out a deep sigh.

“But, it turns out some things just weren’t meant to be.”

“....”

“Something that is bound to happen will happen, no matter what. Funny, isn’t it?”

Seo Yuhui’s voice sank a little.

“I don’t know who decided this so-called, predetermined fate, but….”

She tilted her head up and glared at the sky.

“After saying he would reject senseless harems no matter what, he pats himself on the back for halving the number from 16. Just how shameless can a person be?”

Somebody flinched.

“Who were you talking to just now…?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

Seo Yuhui waved her hand.

“Anyway, I eventually gave up and accepted this fate.”

Seo Yuhui shrugged.

“Obviously, I didn’t just sit back afterward. Changing the plan, I decided to talk with each woman you bring back.”

“Plan? Talk?”

“That’s….”

Seo Yuhui smiled faintly.

“A secret. A secret among just us women.”

Seol Jihu shut his mouth. Not only did he feel like a criminal, but he also didn’t have the courage to ask. He felt like he would only hurt himself with the knowledge.

“Ah, since you’re here, can I ask you for a favor?”

Seo Yuhui asked.

“Of course, anything is fine.”

“It’s nothing much. Just… don’t break up with me when you go back.”

Seol Jihu slowly lowered his hands that were covering his face. Seo Yuhui had a hard-to-read, expressionless face.

“Just tell me what happened exactly. Don’t assume things and jump to conclusions and leave the decision to the past me.”

“....”

“I don’t think this is too much to ask. What happened with Miss Phi Sora is one thing, but when you said you’d break up with me, I felt like my trust in you really shattered….”

It seemed like what happened back then remained a trauma even after all this time.

“Got that?”

“...I will bear it in mind.”

“You better!”

Seo Yuhui giggled.

“Otherwise, you will suffer ve~ry much in the future. You know what people say, a woman’s mood fluctuates more when she is pregnant due to hormonal changes.”

It sounded like Seo Yuhui just gave him a crucial hint.

“But, you don’t need to worry all that much.”

Seo Yuhui stretched.

“As long as you don’t forget what I just said, I at least won’t think about doing anything extreme.”

“Extreme? Don’t tell me!”

“No, it’s not that.”

Seo Yuhui glanced at Seol Jihu.

“Mmm….”

“Is that a secret too?”

“No, rather than a secret….”

Then, she spoke with a smile.

“I think it’s probably better that you hear the news from my past self.”

It was a warm, tender smile.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter