Side Story 38. Fate Does Not Change

“Puhahahahahaha!”

When Seol Jihu explained the situation, Kim Hannah burst into laughter.

“For real? God, I’m losing it!”

She cackled uncontrollably while repeatedly hitting the desk.

“Puaht! Right, I guess that’s a solution! You won’t have to worry about getting someone pregnant if you’re a girl!”

Kim Hannah wiped her tears and collected her breath.

Seol Jihu gave a bitter smile.

“Damn, what a solution! But becoming a woman all of a sudden… I understand it’s effective, but isn’t it a little too much?”

“No, not at all. Yuhui is the one who suggested it, but I’m the one who agreed. I admit that I feel a little awkward being a woman… but it’s not like I have to live like this forever. It gives me peace of mind too.”

“Well, if you say so.”

Kim Hannah nodded before abruptly leaning forward.

“Wait, then what’s going to happen from now on?”

“What do you mean?”

“The flow of time is different between Earth and Paradise. Your body is going to age in Paradise’s time, but it resets when it goes back to Earth.”

“Technically, it doesn’t reset. It just adjusts itself based on Earth’s flow of time.”

Seol Jihu corrected Kim Hannah, but she shook her head as if that wasn’t important.

“Anyway, what’s going to happen on Earth?”

“The time setting remains the same. Apart from that, I can choose what gender I want to be.”

“Oh, that’s possible?”

“Apparently. Gula-nim did request something from me though.”

Seol Jihu spoke like it wasn’t a big deal. Kim Hannah tilted her head.

“A request? Not a condition?”

“Nope. She explained that all contribution points have different quality levels. Because my wish was to go back to Earth against the setting that the Seven Sins originally created, it uses up a lot of standard-quality contribution points. It's not like I don’t have high-quality contribution points, but looks like they can only be used for certain limited things, so I should use them sparingly.”

“So?”

“She said she would take care of everything if I just gave her one of the items I have stockpiled in my temple storage, so that’s what I did.”

“What did you give her?”

“I had some customers before that left weird items instead of paying with money. I thought they were dine-and-dashers. Who knew that the chunk of flesh and the piece of tentacle they gave were divinities?”

Seol Jihu grumbled softly. Kim Hannah also let out an empty chuckle.

‘This guy….’

He always did incredible, over the top things as if they were a piece of cake. He really seemed to have a talent in this regard. If it weren’t for his gambling addiction, he surely would have achieved something remarkable on Earth.

“So, did I answer all the questions you have?”

“No, not yet.”

Kim Hannah gave a suggestive smile.

“I’m wondering why an eye-catching beauty like yourself came to find me. Surely it’s not just to make me jealous?”

“Huh? Am I that pretty? Really?”

The ‘woman’ in front of Kim Hannah tilted her head and opened her eyes wide. Kim Hannah’s breath stopped. The female Seol Jihu had immaculately pure eyes, an innocent appearance, and slender, well-shaped facial features. Together with an air of ingenuous beauty, this adorable white rabbit invoked Kim Hannah’s protective instinct.

Even as a woman, female Seol Jihu’s destructive power was no joke.

“Anyway, I came here to get your advice.”

“Advice? Ah, I guess men and women are very different biologically. But….” Kim Hannah scanned Seol Jihu before crossing her arms. “I don’t know if I need to teach you anything. Why not act the same way you always do?”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’s a little different now that you’re a girl.”

“Hmm? How?”

“You don’t need to know. Anyway, I can’t let you leave like this. Stay there for a moment.”

Kim Hannah stood up and approached Seol Jihu.

“Why?”

She spread her arms toward Seol Jihu, who was tilting his head. Between each finger were the basic makeup tools like a comb and brush.

“Ah, I don’t really want to wear makeup….”

“Stay still. This unni will turn you into the most beautiful flower in Paradise.”

After putting toner on a cotton pad, Kim Hannah bent down and began to work on Seol Jihu’s face with care.


*


Seol Jihu’s transformation began. Lotion, essence, cream… After finishing the basic makeup process, Kim Hannah took Seol Jihu to the basement hot spring and washed him clean from head to toe.

Seol Jihu questioned the order of makeup being wrong, but Kim Hannah only answered, ‘Don’t look down on Miss Foxy’s secret makeup skills.’

Supposedly, her makeup would last for a full day, and not even rain or hot water would be able to erase it. The reasoning was that washing after putting on basic makeup allowed the skin to absorb moisture and have a synergistic effect.

Of course, Seol Jihu had no idea what any of that meant. So he just allowed Kim Hannah to do her thing.

Kim Hannah had a god-given talent and incomparable technique when it came to giving someone a makeover. After the bath, Kim Hannah put fragrant oil on Seol Jihu’s body. Then, she put on eyeliner to give a clearer contour, put on fake lashes with a curler, which was used to provide them with more staying power, and topped it off with mascara.

After giving the makeup a finishing touch, Kim Hannah gave him underwear and a white dress to wear.

“Great! Perfect!”

Kim Hannah smiled in satisfaction while seeing Seol Jihu with a glum look. Seol Jihu didn’t think all of this was even remotely necessary, but he had gone along with it seeing how happy it made Kim Hannah.

“Alright girl, try going out. Everyone is going to swoon for you.”

Kim Hannah tapped Seol Jihu’s back with a confident smile. Though Seol Jihu felt like he was used for Kim Hannah’s hobby, he thanked her and walked out with a sigh.


*


“Uhaaaaam! I slept well~”

The sun hung in the middle of the sky. Hugo walked out of his room, stretching and yawning.

“Mm…. I think I’ll have my brunch at Seol’s place again… hmm?”

Hugo, who was walking down excitedly at the thought of eating Seol Jihu’s ramen again, suddenly came to a pause. It was because he ran into a woman on his way down.

“....”

In an instant, Hugo became dazed. The woman also looked back at Hugo in a startle.

“Hello!”

Soon, the woman greeted him with a bright smile.

“How have you been?”

Hugo was still in a daze. For some reason, his mind seemed to turn completely blank.

“Hmm?”

When Hugo stood there without saying anything, the woman tilted her head. She then gave him a gorgeous smile before walking down.

Her black hair swayed in the air like water. Her cheerful expression and clear eyes gave off an innocent charm. Beneath her fluttering skirt was a pair of milky-white legs. Moreover, she gave off a fragrance that seemed to elevate one’s mood.

Hugo did not even think to ask her name. He did not have the courage to do so. Just looking at her was enough to fill his mind with complete emptiness.

Even after she left, Hugo stood still for a long time. Only the faint fragrance she left behind tickled his nose.

Hugo dazedly stared down the stairs for a long time.


*


Kazuki walked out of the conference room after a meeting.

“Rather than going to uncharted territory where we can’t guarantee our safety, even if it takes us longer….”

He was talking about an expedition even on the way out when he suddenly stopped. Ayase Yui, Kazuki’s younger sister, who was walking out with him, looked up at Kazuki’s strange reaction.

Kazuki was looking straight in a daze.

“Oppa?”

Kazuki did not answer. His jaw seemed to have dropped a little as well. Yui turned in the direction he was facing and found a woman walking down the stairs. It was her first time seeing her.

“Ah! Hello~ Ka…”

The woman waved her hand and greeted Kazuki before doing a double-take. Now that she thought about it, others did not know about her situation. But it also felt kind of strange to have to explain it to them.

Just as she was debating whether to tell them or not, Kazuki approached her as if he was entranced.

‘Ah.’

The woman’s heart sank, but it was already too late. If it was Kazuki, who was one of the best Archers in Paradise and was famous for being cold-hearted, wouldn’t he be able to notice who she was? By the time the woman thought this, Kazuki was already standing in front of her.

“Excuse me, but who are you?”

“...Pardon?”

“I’ve never seen you around before.”

It seemed like Kazuki did not notice. The woman inwardly let out a sigh of relief.

“Oh, I’m….”

The woman hesitated before showing a troubled expression on her face. Kazuki’s eyes lit up.

“I came here to take care of a business.”

“A business?”

“Yes, I’m here to meet the representative.”

“Ah, you must mean Representative Kim Hannah.”

Kazuki nodded with a gentle smile that was rarely seen.

“Perfect. I was just on my way to report to Representative Kim.”

“Ah, I see.”

“If you’d like, I can guide you there.”

“Eh?”

When the woman blinked, Kazuki hurriedly continued.

“My name is Ayase Kazuki. I’m in charge of Valhalla’s Team 3.”

The way he waved his hand and attempted to make the woman feel at ease, it seemed like he was a little flustered.

Kazuki then furrowed his brows. Thinking about it again, verifying the identity of an unfamiliar person was an obvious thing to do. So why was he making an excuse? And why did he think he did something wrong?

At that moment, the woman smiled softly.

“Of course, I’ve heard of you.”

“...You have? I’m honored.”

Hearing these words, the doubt in Kazuki’s mind disappeared into the void. His complexion brightened.

“And thank you for the offer, but it’s fine.”

He did, however, flinch at her next words.

“I met with her just now.”

“Ah…”

Kazuki exclaimed. He looked extremely regretful.

‘What’s wrong with him?’

Yui furrowed her brows while looking at Kazuki. He wasn’t like his usual self. Setting aside the matter of verifying a stranger’s identity, he should have just let her go since she said she already took care of her business. No, the usual Kazuki wouldn’t have even bothered to ask who she was.

“Uh… then… can you at least tell me your name?”

That wasn’t all. Just what was up with his tone? He was talking deeper and more politely than usual.

“My name?”

“Who are you?”

Yui cut in between them. When she gave a suspicious look, the woman became flustered and ran down the stairs.

“Isn’t she a bit suspicious?”

Yui smacked her lips then turned to the side, feeling a piercing gaze. Kazuki was glaring at her resentfully.

“Why are you glaring?”

“....”

“I asked, why are you glaring!?”

“...No, nothing.”

Kazuki closed his eyes. With a deep sigh, he dropped his head and pressed his forehead.

“What’s wrong with you, Oppa? Are you crazy? You’ve never seen her before! Did you fall in love at first sight or something?”

“...I don’t know.”

Kazuki bit his lip at Yui’s flurry of questions. Even the first time he saw Seo Yuhui wasn’t this bad. But the moment he laid his eyes on this woman, he was attracted by a strange emotion.

“I’ve never felt anything like this either….”


*


‘That was close.’

The woman quickly walked across the lobby. To be honest, others seeing him wasn’t a huge deal. He could always explain the situation, after all. The problem was that she felt a strong physiological repulsion to everyone she met.

Just as she was thinking about going back to her restaurant…

“Ah!”

She accidentally tripped and fell forward. It was because she had not gotten used to her change in height and physique.

It was then. Her body stopped short of hitting the ground. The woman widened her eyes. A long, muscular arm was supporting her waist. It even helped her up in the next moment.

When she slowly raised her head, she saw a long-haired, burly man with an intimidating face. It was, of course, Vlad Halep.

“Ah…. T-Thank you.”

The woman bowed with a hint of nervousness. It was because Vlad was staring fixedly at her.

“Um… can you move over a bit…?”

Vlad Halep gazed straight at the flustered woman in front of him, then…

“Eh?”

He suddenly grabbed the woman’s arm and pulled her to the side.

“W-Wait!”

Pulled over by Vlad Halep unwittingly, the woman sat down on a lounge chair and took the cup that Vlad Halep offered. It was butter-coffee.

“Why are you… Well, I’m thankful for it, but…”

Though flustered, the woman took the coffee and carefully took a sip. Her frail hands wrapped around the cup, her small, delicate lips sipped the coffee, and her milky white throat drew a gulp. Vlad Halep stared blankly at the woman as she drank the coffee. She looked like she had come out of a painting.

“Hmm?”

When the woman glanced at him, Vlad Halep flinched and looked away.

“Um… what was this for?”

Hearing this question, Vlad Halep’s mouth opened slightly. He spoke.

“You looked anxious….”

“Me?”

“Like you were being chased… so I wanted you to calm down first….”

He continued hesitatingly.

“I also wanted to protect you in case you were in danger….”

Vlad Halep spoke inarticulately.

“...Pft!”

At that moment, the woman burst into laughter, her hand covering her mouth. Vlad Halep’s eyes widened.

“Ah, sorry. I just found it funny.”

“Why….”

“I mean, aren’t you a member of Valhalla? Then you should catch me, not protect me!”

The woman clapped as if she found the situation hilarious. She then hit Vlad Halep’s forearm with her palm.

“I’ve never seen you like this. Who knew you had a romantic side?”

Vlad Halep winced every time her hand touched him. For some reason, he didn’t hate the feeling.

“Anyway, thank you. I appreciate the coffee.”

Seeing her beaming smile, Vlad Halep felt more at ease, and he mustered up the courage to ask.

“How is the fla….”

“It tastes great!”

“...I’m glad….”

The corners of his mouth wiggled up.

Soon, the woman left, waving her hand. Vlad Halep fiddled with the coffee cup she left behind. It was still warm.

“...Oppa?”

Oana Halep, who was coincidentally passing by the lounge, doubted her eyes. If she was not seeing things, then Vlad Halep was laughing like an idiot with his mouth open.


*


“Hey!”

After going out to the garden, the woman flashed her eyes. It was because she saw a group of baby Beastmen gathered together with their mouths open.

“Guys~!”

When she called the fuzzballs aloud, they turned toward her and immediately froze.

“Have you been well?”

She walked over after a light greeting and then found a young man sitting at the center of the group. It was Yi Sungjin.

“Oh, you were feeding them?”

She walked over to Yi Sungjin, bent down, and looked at the plate in his hand. Her voluptuous breasts hung down because of it, and Yi Sungjin jumped back in fright.

“Kking!”

At that moment, one of the baby Beastmen barked. It stood on its hind legs on Yi Sungjin’s lap, its mouth holding a flower.

“Oh, are you giving this to me?”

The woman pushed her hair behind her ear and squatted down. Taking the flower, she tickled the baby Beastman here and there. The fuzzball sprawled over in happiness.

“I’m glad you’re doing well. I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to.”

After getting up, the woman smiled at the perpetually frozen Yi Sungjin.

“Thank you for taking care of them. That’s very kind of you.”

She reached forward and gently stroked Yi Sungjin’s head. Feeling the soft touch of her hand, Yi Sungjin’s neck hunched in like a turtle’s.

“I’m gonna get going now. I’ll see you later!”

The woman turned back. The fuzzballs chased after her and saw her off. Yi Sungjin, who was staring at her slender waist, dropped his head low. Rubbing his flushed nose, he touched his head, where the woman’s warmth still remained.


*


After coming back to the restaurant, the woman started the day’s business right away. Not only were people waiting in line before the restaurant opened, but she also wanted to know how the ramen she cooked in her current state tasted like.

However, the customers were a little different today. Not only were there a lot more customers than usual, but most of them were also men. Some of the people in line even began to yell at the customers dining in, telling them to hurry up and get out.

‘This is why I said we should close the restaurant for now.’

Seo Yuhui smiled bitterly while looking at the woman who was hard at work, cooking. But what could she do? Even she was incapable of stopping the chef’s passion for noodles.

“Where’d the owner go? More importantly, where did such a beautiful lady come from?”

“She’s Jihu’s cousin. Jihu has to be away for a while, so we brought her in as a substitute.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know the Neutral Zone opened.”

“We used a wish.”

“Ah, right. So, what’s the new chef’s name?”

“Seol Jisoo.”

Seo Yuhui replied to each and every question she got. It was to allow the woman, Seol Jisoo, to cook without worrying about anything else.

“Seol Jisoo. What a pretty name. She’s an excellent cook too. I think her ramen is even better than the owner’s!”

One customer joked and laughed.

“What did you say?”

He was kidding, of course, but Seol Jisoo yelled angrily.

“Stop. You’re the same person anyway.”

Seo Yuhui whispered and consoled Seol Jisoo.

“I don’t think it’s any different though….”

Seol Jisoo grumbled quietly before glancing toward a table. A couple was sitting there—Marcel Ghionea and Marika Larisa.

Marika Larisa was enjoying the ramen in front of her, but Marcel Ghionea was only pretending to eat it. He only fiddled with his chopsticks while his gaze was fixed on her face.

Seol Jisoo’s eyes narrowed.

‘The noodles….’

Seol Jisoo clicked her tongue and made a new bowl of ramen. She left the kitchen and replaced the ramen bowl.

“Eat this.”

“Y-Yes?”

“Your noodles are all soggy now.”

“N-No.”

“It’s fine. This time, make sure you eat it before your noodles go soggy.”

Seol Jisoo winked at him and then turned around.

“O-Okay! Thank you! Thank you very much!”

Marcel Ghionea replied loudly. He then stuffed his face into the bowl with a deeply moved expression.

“....”

Marika Larisa stared at Marcel Ghionea before glancing at Seol Jisoo. She then looked back at Marcel Ghionea, whose face was red.

“...You happy?”

“Hmm?”

“Enjoy your noodles. I’m leaving first.”

Tak. She put down her chopsticks and angrily stomped off.

“M-Marika!”

Marcel Ghionea shot up in a hurry. He finished the noodles clean before chasing after her.


*


The restaurant closed down. Seol Jisoo headed to the temple, saying she would go back home, and Seo Yuhui headed to Valhalla’s building. She knew Seol Jisoo went to see Kim Hannah and came back a goddess. She wanted to know what happened.

But when she went into the lobby, she immediately sensed a strange atmosphere. Looking around, she saw a group of four men. Starting from Hugo, Kazuki, Vlad Halep, and Yi Sungjin all were sitting helplessly. A couple of them were staring at the ceiling with hazy eyes.

“...What’s wrong with them?”

Seo Yuhui grabbed Chohong, who was nearby and asked.

“I don’t know.”

Chohong clicked her tongue and shrugged.

“Some woman came here around noon, and they’ve been like that ever since.”

“Noon?”

Seo Yuhui’s eyebrows went up.

“Jeez, are they ten-year-olds? Did they suddenly catch love sickness or something?”

Hearing this, Seo Yuhui could no longer ignore the gravity of this issue.

“Mister Hugo, hello.”

To make a proper assessment of the situation, she approached Hugo and said hello. But to her surprise, Hugo did not respond.

“Mister Hugo?”

“Haaaaa….”

When she called his name again, Hugo let out a deep sigh. He then spoke as if he found her to be a hassle.

“I’m sorry, but can you leave me alone?”

“?”

“I’m thinking about something. I just… need some time right now.”

Hugo turned his back on her. The shock Seo Yuhui received was big. Hugo had never missed the opportunity to talk to her before, yet now, he was flat out rejecting her! It wasn’t just Hugo either.

“Strange….”

Kazuki frowned with his hand on his heart.

“Why does my heart feel so empty… and why does it hurt so much…?”

Unlike the previous two, Vlad Halep was grinning from ear to ear.

“Fufu, my coffee… Next time, I’ll make an even tastier one….”

Meanwhile, Yi Sungjin was rubbing his head again and again.

After watching the crew for a while, Seo Yuhui opened her status window. Then, she jumped in fright. The title ‘Flower of Paradise’ had disappeared from her status window. It was too much of a coincidence to be so.

‘No way. That’s impossible!’

Right, it was impossible. If Seol Jisoo had really taken the title from her, it meant she had raised a destructive wave in the city in less than a day.

‘Don’t tell me. On Earth too?’

Seo Yuhui quickly turned back.


*


After leaving Building 102, Seo Yuhui ran to the guard post of the main entrance. Since Phi Sora was currently in Paradise, she judged that the guards would have stopped Seol Jisoo.

But that wasn’t the case. She could not find Seol Jisoo at the main entrance. She only saw a guard staring dazedly into the sky. It was just like the scene she saw at Valhalla.

The same thing could be seen at Building 101’s front desk.

“What happened? You let an outsider in without checking her identity?”

“She said she came to visit someone….”

“And the intercom? Did someone call to vouch for her?”

“No….”

“Then, why!?”

“Well… I told her to write her info on the visitor’s log. I have her name and number.”

“...Hand it over, and I’ll pretend this never happened.”

“I’d rather resign.”

The employees were fighting among themselves. Even SY Apartments, which boasted iron-tight security, was broken through.

‘Please, please….’

Seo Yuhui gazed at the elevator while praying for nothing to have happened. Then, the moment she walked out… Kwang! A loud sound rang out. Seo Yuhui ran over in a hurry and saw a scene surpassing even her wildest imagination.

Seol Jisoo hunched her shoulders with her back against the wall. Standing in front of her was Kim Soohyun, who was leaning close to Seol Jisoo with one hand on the wall. A look of confusion filled his face.

“Why… are you doing this….”

Kim Soohyun responded to Seol Jisoo’s frail voice.

“...Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Kim Soohyun slowly took his hand off the wall.

“It’s just… I don’t know… I’ve never felt anything like this either….”

“I told you, I’m…”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Kim Soohyun took a deep breath as if he didn’t understand himself. He then looked at Seol Jisoo resolutely.

“I just want you to know this.”

He spoke.

“If it’s for you, I’m willing to do…!”

Puk! A dull sound rang out. Kwack! Kim Soohyun swayed before falling on his back.

“That’s enough crap.”

Seol Jisoo looked up. She saw a disgruntled Hwajung.

“What? Who cares if she’s a man on the inside? It’s enough that she’s a woman on the outside? Are you crazy, huh!?”

Hwajung nudged Kim Soohyun with her foot.

Kim Soohyun did not react. He seemed to be dead.

“Haaa…. I’ve thought you’ve been too quiet. Old habits never die, huh?”

Hwajung picked up Kim Soohyun before looking at Seol Jisoo and clicking her tongue. She then looked back at Seo Yuhui.

“You should give it a break too.”

“....”

“Doing this won’t change his fate on a fundamental level. It will only change his harem to a reverse-harem.”

“....”

“You can continue if you want to see a bunch of guys around him though.”

After reprimanding Seo Yuhui, Hwajung dragged Kim Soohyun back to their unit. An awkward silence filled the air.

Why does everything have to be so extreme with you?

Seo Yuhui sighed.

“Jihu….”

She approached Seol Jihu and dropped her head.

“Let’s just… go back….”

Seo Yuhui raised the white flag. In the end, Seol Jihu returned to being a guy in less than a day.

The only aftermath of this incident was that Seol Jihu kept being pestered by a group of guys asking him to introduce them to his cousin for weeks to come.

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