Side Story 27. I Know Even If You Don’t Tell Me

At first, nothing felt special. Hugo thought he was just like any others he met during missions.

The first time Seol Jihu caught Hugo’s attention was when the group of Moles attacked their carriage. Hugo thought he looked scrawny and weak, but to his surprise, Seol Jihu slaughtered the Moles with ease.

It was just like Alex said. He was too strong to be a Level 1. In terms of ability, Seol Jihu seemed to match Level 2 and even Level 3. However, the fact that he hesitated to plunder the corpses proved that he was indeed a newbie.

After their carriage was shattered, they were forced to walk to Haramark. During the march, Hugo found himself becoming more and more fond of Seol Jihu. He never fell behind even when Hugo increased the pace, and listened to Hugo’s random and trivial stories without complaint. Most of all, Hugo liked that when Alex asked Seol Jihu about looting, he kept quiet, as Hugo asked him to. Hugo wanted to get to know him more.

So when they arrived in Haramark, Hugo was planning to ask Seol Jihu out for a drink, but Alex beat him to it. Hugo got a little sulky about it, but it wasn’t a big deal.

“Hey, Chohong. Is it possible for a Level 1 Warrior to defeat Moles?”

“What are you talking about? How can a Level 1 defeat Moles?”

“You see, I was on my way back from Scheherazade….”

“Maybe he’s not a Level 1?”

“You think so?”

“Obviously. But pretending to be at a lower level than he actually is and not the other way round? I guess that’s new. He must be either a pervert or a wacko.”

Chohong told Hugo to forget it and changed the subject. Apparently, the Triads had reached out to them to arrange a meeting for the following day, and Dylan had gone to Sicilia to prepare for the meeting.

So Hugo quickly forgot about him. He couldn’t deny that he was interested in Seol Jihu, but he wasn’t desperate.

And then….

“Who… Seol?”

“You…. No, wait. First, come on in!”

“Seol, what brings you here? You surprised me.”

Fate continued to bring them together.

For example, when Seol Jihu visited Carpe Diem and got rejected, but later that day, they met again during Samuel’s expedition. According to Jang Maldong, this was a coincidence. For Hugo, however, their meeting was the pathway to a miracle.

A miracle. He couldn’t describe it as anything else but that.

When the Parasites invaded the valley fortress, Hugo witnessed a miracle. Seol Jihu lured the enemy into a narrow terrain, and ten squads ambushed them from all sides.

The strategy itself was simple. Anyone could have come up with it. But there is a big difference between just thinking and actually doing. At first, Hugo was skeptical of Seol Jihu’s plan, but the subsequent results removed all his doubts. The excitement began to fill his heart as he rushed toward the enemy, crushed under rocks. He felt as if he were dreaming.

That wasn’t all.

Ever since Seol Jihu joined Carpe Diem, every day brought new surprises. Hugo did things that he never thought he was capable of doing and met people he thought he would never meet. Even Jang Maldong, who retired from Paradise, had returned.

The constant miracles kept Hugo on the edge of his seat. Every day was different but in a good way. Not only did his life become more lively, but in the process, he was able to discover who he really was. These experiences changed Hugo.

“Yea, yea. Sure. Okay. From now on, Seol is our leader.”

Hugo readily agreed with Chohong to appoint Seol Jihu as the leader of Carpe Diem because….

[That’s how it is for guys that act based solely on their instinct rather than reason.]

[Even the ones they acknowledge, they take their time to watch before swearing their loyalty subconsciously.]

Just like Cinzia said….

“…Hey, I’m sure you already know this, but if Hugo didn’t like your decision, he would have said so. He’s not the type to hide his feelings.”

“The fact that he’s quiet means he has no complaints.”

As Chohong said, Hugo had grown attached to Seol Jihu without even realizing it. And, ever since then….

Hugo was driving down the streets of Detroit.

His car was full of luggage, and a special guest was sitting in the passenger seat.

The car stopped in front of an orphanage.

“Oho. This place looks great!”

Ian got out of the car and looked around. A whistle escaped his lips.

He was right. The orphanage had undergone tremendous changes recently. The building was repaired, and the garden was filled with exquisite fragrances. Most importantly, children’s laughter was everywhere.

“I can see why Maldong is so pleased! This is great!”

“Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for agreeing to meet the kids. They’ve been dying to see you.”

Hugo smiled shyly as he unloaded his bag and other belongings from the car.

He had worked hard to be where he was today. Money wasn’t the problem. The problem was the people in charge of the donations. Through threats and intimidation, he weeded out the director and other corrupt employees and replaced them with honest, trustworthy people. The result of his efforts was today’s orphanage standing in front of them.

“It’s Hugo! Hugo!”

“Hugoooo!”

The children who were playing in the yard saw Hugo and ran toward him.

“Hey, you guys! How are you?”

“Great! Did you bring him? Is he here?”

The children asked, their eyes sparkling with anticipation. Hugo grinned broadly and pointed his thumb behind his shoulder. Dozens of pairs of eyes followed Hugo’s thumb, at the end of which Ian smiled and waved his hand.

“Nice to meet you. I heard you guys have wanted to see me?”

Waaaaah! The children rushed at Ian in unison.

“Is it real? Are you really the author?”

“Yes, I am. You can find my picture on the book flap!”

“Wow! He’s real! He’s the Ian Denzel!”

“Huhu. I told you I am.”

Ian rubbed his nose. He was making a name for himself on Earth. His book, published after rigorous editing, had become a global bestseller. It had recently been adapted into a comic book, expanding his fan base to include not only adults but also children and teenagers.

“Mr. Author! Mr. Author! I wanna ask you something!”

One of the children shouted, jumping up and down.

“Huhu. Calm down, now. I’ll answer all of your questions, so don’t hesitate.”

Ian chuckled contentedly as he faced the crowd.

“Why does the main character like big boobs so much? He’s a pervert!”

Ian flinched. But as a professional author, he knew he had to remain calm.

“Hahahaha. It’s normal to like them big. People who like them small are even more dangerous.”

“I see,” the kid nodded.

But the questions did not stop. In fact, this was only the beginning.

Suddenly the children straightened their faces, and….

“Korea is a small country, yet most of the strong characters in your novel are Koreans. I think that’s too unrealistic. I’m okay with the main character being the strongest, but… the rest, you could’ve done better.”

“He’s right. Some things are better than your last work, but the overall improvement is not sufficient. And I’d also like to point out certain characters’ lack of appearance. Chohong, Flone, and Teresa. I haven’t seen much of them after a certain point.”

“Certain episodes are too improbable and very contrived.”

“And the narrative… it’s too inconsistent. Some parts are too detailed, and other parts lack details.”

Starting with an overall criticism of his work….

“And what’s with the Hawaii Arc? The main character jet skis like a pro, beats a semi-professional ping-pong player even though the only time he’s played ping-pong was in high school PE class, and he plays billiards like a top professional player?”

“The festival was even more absurd. Who knew gambling would be the solution to everything?”

“And take care of Hugo! Why is he the only one without a girlfriend?”

They made pretty sharp observations.

Ian began sweating profusely. Then he pouted, clearly frustrated.

“See, this is how it always turns out. My work is remarkably candid, but the main character accomplishes so many unbelievable feats that the readers won’t believe me!”

Hugo smiled awkwardly while unloading his car.

He tried to stop the children, but they wouldn’t listen.

“The side stories are worse!”

“Right? Ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen! Seriously, can you stop with the ramen?”

“Also, harem. Stop using fate as an excuse for harem! I wanna see something different!”

“Be honest with me! You wrote the entire novel just so you could get to the side stories, am I right?”

Faced with relentless criticism, Ian stroked his white beard with downcast eyes.

“No…. The ramen is real….”

“Liar! Why would the gods care about something so trivial like ramen? If it’s real, then why didn’t he just make ramen and give it to the Parasite Queen?”

Speechless at last, Ian recruited Hugo for help.

“Mm! The ramen is real. And it’s out of the world!”

Hugo quickly affirmed.

“But isn’t it, like, super-exaggerated? I was curious, so I made it myself, but it wasn’t all that great….”

“Seol’s ramen is different. In fact, I had a bowl a few days ago!”

“Really? The model for the main character… his ramen is different?”

“I’m telling you it is!”

Hugo said and blinked. The children had gone quiet. All of them were looking up at Hugo with their large, round eyes full of curiosity.

Hugo realized he made a mistake, but it was too late. Their eyes were already sparkling with excitement.

“I wanna meet him!”

“Bring him here, too!”

The children rushed to Hugo and grabbed his legs.

“Wait!”

“Bring him here!”

“I…! I think he’s swamped these days.”

“But you guys are comrades! You said you were close to him! You said he’d come right away if you asked!”

The children argued in unison, and Hugo floundered.

In conclusion, today’s visit left Ian hurt and wounded, and Hugo pressured.


*


Today again, ‘Seol Jihu Ramen?’ was bustling with customers. Hugo waited until all the customers left before entering the restaurant.

“Hugo?”

Seol Jihu called out to him while washing the dishes in the kitchen.

“You’re a little late today.”

“Uh, yeah, sorry.”

“That’s okay. Please, sit.”

“Actually, I….”

Hugo hesitated before changing the subject.

“You, uh, seem busy these days.”

“Well, yes. I’m questioning whether it was a good idea to implement a reservation system. I did it for customers’ convenience, but some people are asking if they can make reservations every day for the next 1,000 years. I mean, they can’t be serious, right?”

Seol Jihu grumbled, shaking his head left and right.

“Ahaha! So weird!”

Hugo feigned a laugh, then sighed.

Seol Jihu tilted his head but patiently waited for Hugo to start speaking.

After a moment of silence, Hugo began reluctantly.

“Um… Seol. Have I told you this before? That there are people who aren’t Earthlings but still want your ramen?”

“Who…. Ah, you mean the kids?”

“Yeah. So you remember.”

“Of course. I was actually going to talk to you about them today. Should I get started right away?”

“Huh?”

“Making one or two dozen bowls of ramen isn’t really that much work. And you don’t have to worry about the noodles becoming too soft. I have containers infused with preservation magic.”

To Hugo’s surprise, Seol Jihu offered generously.

The problem was that Hugo needed more than just ramens.

After a moment of hesitation, he decided to be honest.

“Thanks for your offer, but… um, how should I say this…. You know how Mr. Ian’s book is really popular on Earth?”

“Yes, I’ve heard.”

“The kids must have read the comic book version of it. I told them about you, and now they’re obsessed with the idea of meeting you in person….”

Hugo scratched his head awkwardly, unable to finish his sentence.

Seol Jihu looked at Hugo, who was avoiding his gaze.

He suddenly asked.

“How many kids are there?”

“Huh? Um, a little over a hundred. There weren’t that many at first, but the number steadily grew…. It’s a lot, isn’t it?”

Seol Jihu gave a soft smile.

“You know, Hugo—”

He abruptly paused in the middle of his sentence.

Then he quickly changed the subject.

“Ah, I should tell you that we’re planning a trip abroad.”

Hugo’s eyes widened.

“Really?”

“Yes, we’re thinking of visiting Michigan, and we’ll probably take a look around Detroit while we’re at it.”

Seol Jihu continued.

“But you see, we don’t know much about the city. We were hoping we could find a guide to show us around.”

Hugo’s eyes lit up. He wasn’t so dense as to not know what Seol Jihu was talking about.

“I’ll help you!”

Hugo announced in excitement.

Seo Yuhui, who was helping with the cleaning, glanced at Seol Jihu before breaking into a small smile. This was the first time she heard about their trip, let alone their destination. But she read Seol Jihu’s intention and did not oppose it.

“Thank you, Mr. Hugo. I’ll be traveling with him.”

So she backed him up.

“Alright, so when is this trip?”

“Now.”

“?”

“We’ll get ready as soon as we finish cleaning up.”

Hugo looked dumbfounded. This soon? His face seemed to say.

But Seol Jihu wasn’t lying. He closed the restaurant and headed for the temple.

“I’ll call you once I get to Earth. See you then!”

Waving his hand, Seol Jihu turned around and began to walk away with Seo Yuhui.

Hugo stared at Seol Jihu’s back, which was getting further and further away.

‘Come to think of it….’

He’d always been like this. Seol Jihu always surprised him with the unexpected.

“…Seol!”

At that point, Hugo found himself almost instinctively calling out Seol Jihu’s name.

Seol Jihu stopped. He turned around and looked at Hugo.

Hugo’s lips moved slightly. He had a lot to say, but no words came. He felt a little bit shy and awkward.

It was then that Seol Jihu’s lips curved into a grin.

A sudden flash of realization crossed Hugo’s face.

That’s right. No words were needed between the two of them. Their bond was stronger than words could convey.

“Wait up! Let’s go together!”

Hugo hurriedly ran toward Seol Jihu.

“But you don’t have to rush, Hugo.”

“Ah, who cares? And it’s 1:3. It’s better to be on Earth.”

The two men walked side by side toward the temple, chatting like always.

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