Side Story 42. IF: Internal Fight

Seol Jihu observed Sung Shihyun closely to see just what prank he would pull. The perfect prank had to take the target and the situation into account and also make it impossible for the target to respond. With how confident Sung Shihyun was, Seol Jihu was dying to know how he would play around with Exploding Patience.

But what Sung Shihyun did next shocked Seol Jihu. He suppressed his energy and concealed his presence. Then, after creeping up to Exploding Patience, he squatted down behind her.

He grabbed the hem of the robe she was wearing.

“Take this!”

And he shouted.

“This is the human skirt-flip!!”

Flipping the robe up, he exposed Exploding Patience’s lower half.

“Kyaaaak!”

Exploding Patience covered her crotch and squatted down. She had no time to respond due to how sudden it was.

Seol Jihu, who was watching this, had a blank expression. Sung Shihyun’s prank wasn’t anything special. It was very one-dimensional. But for some reason, it caused a ripple in his heart. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Sung Shihyun.

After thinking about it for a while, he figured out why.

‘That prank…’

It was a prank that immature kids played when they didn’t know how to express their affection. Seol Jihu was no different. He had done the same thing to Yoo Seonhwa and made her cry on multiple occasions. Of course, Yoo Seonhwa bound him by saying, ‘You made me show an embarrassing part of myself, so you have to take responsibility.’

‘Right… I was like that too in the past….’

Perhaps Sung Shihyun was trying to say that going back to the basics wasn’t bad every once in a while.

Seol Jihu smiled. Returning to his childhood innocence, he ran out to play with Sung Shihyun. Of course, Exploding Patience had no idea what was happening. She could only tremble like a tree caught in a storm.

“Ei, how boring.”

A shadow appeared in front of the quivering Exploding Patience.

“Listen, you.”

Exploding Patience raised her head with a dazed face.

“I never liked you. You always go on about how humans are this, humans are that. Did you think I wouldn’t notice you using the Fourth Army Commander to diss me indirectly?”

Sung Shihyun spoke while looking down with an arrogant gaze. Exploding Patience was so dumbfounded that she was at a loss for words.

“It’s kind of funny if you think about it. You call humans lowly creatures, yet you make yourself appear like one despite being a banshee.”

“W-What!?”

“Ah, you want to say you’re just similar to a human's appearance?”

Sung Shihyun grinned. Seeing this, Exploding Patience felt an explicable terror.

“Fine, then.”

With a smile, Sung Shihyun pointed at the lower half of the robe that Exploding Patience was pressing down. Then, the terror Exploding Patience felt became real.

“Then how are you going to explain those frog panties?”

“!?”

“I saw it. A green frog hopping joyfully on a white fabric~”

Exploding Patience’s cheeks turned red, almost as if they would explode at any moment.

“How laughable. Always going on about how humans are bad, yet you take the form of a human, wear clothes made by humans, and even have such a cute taste in underwear~”

Sung Shihyun spoke snarkily before putting out his hand as if to hand over a mic.

“What do you think about this matter, Mister Temperance?”

“I think it is disgraceful.”

“Indeed, it is disgraceful.”

Sung Shihyun nodded. Then, he spoke.

“She’s a disgraceful frog.”

Fire blazed up from Exploding Patience’s eyes. What came after great humiliation was incalculable rage. However…

“Oh, you wanna have a go at it?”

She had no choice but to suppress her rage. Now that she thought about it, Sung Shihyun was an Army Commander who fully absorbed the divinity he was bestowed. Seol Jihu, who had stealthily butted in, was the same. She couldn’t defeat one, let alone two.

The duo did not stop making fun of her.

“Froggy~”

“Froggy~”

They poked Exploding Patience while grinning.

“Why don’t we call her Froggy Patience from now on?”

“Perfect. And when we talk to her, we should say ‘croak croak’ at the end, so she understands!”

“Sounds amazing, croak croak!”

Sung Shihyun and Seol Jihu laughed between themselves. Exploding Patience was in complete despair. Had she ever felt this much humiliation and indignity before? Her body shook violently like someone standing outside naked in the middle of winter.

Soon, tears began to well up in her trembling eyes. Meanwhile, the two pranksters were disheveling Exploding Patience’s hair and teasing her.

“Her hair looks like noodles. Do you have a pair of chopsticks? I’m gonna need them to slurp this up.”

“Ah, hey, don’t braid it into a churro. Make it look like a frog.”

“By the way, was it really a frog?”

“Yep. Didn’t you see?”

“No, she covered herself up too quickly.”

“Oh, I’ll show you again then.”

Sung Shihyun squatted down and grabbed the hem of Exploding Patience’s robe. Just as he was about to lift it with a grin…

“Uwaaaaaang!”

Exploding Patience burst out crying.

“Eh? She’s crying.”

Seol Jihu stuttered.

“Hey, are you crying? For real?”

“Uwaaaang! Uwaaaaaang!”

When Sung Shihyun tilted his head and tried to look at Exploding Patience’s face, she smacked his hand away and then cried even louder. Sung Shihyun took a few steps back with an awkward smile. Then, he turned to Seol Jihu.

“Frog girl~”[1]

“...Bambabam!”

Seol Jihu immediately sang the lyrics back.

“Frog girl~”

“Bambabam!”

“When you cry~ it rains~ in rainbow pond~”

With Exploding Patience between them, the two pranksters joined hands and sang.

“Don’t cry and stand up~ Bambabam!”

“Play the flute~ Bambabam!”

“Ppiriri, croak croak, ppiriri~”

“Ppiriri, croak croak, ppiriri~”

““A smile blooms~ in rainbow pond~””

The two of them sang the last line together while dancing in circles around Exploding Patience. Not knowing what to do, Exploding Patience only cried louder.

It was then.

—Hey, you bastaaaaards!

A loud voice echoed out from a distance. Then, Vulgar Chastity shot down from the sky.

“You son of a bitch, what did you do this time? Huh? Why are you here?”

Vulgar Chastity growled at Sung Shihyun.

“Hm? I was just going on about my day but suddenly heard someone crying.”

Sung Shihyun put his hands behind his head and looked at the distant mountain. Seol Jihu was dumbstruck at his quick betrayal, but Vulgar Chastity had already changed her target.

“Are you crazy? What are you, a manchild? Why are you so immature?”

Tadadada! She shot a machine gun full of words.

“Aren’t you an Army Commander? So why are you like this? What are you trying to do?”

“No, I…”

“You made Twisted Kindness cry, then you came to me to start shit, and now you even made Exploding Patience cry?”

“I didn’t do this.”

“What? Then who did?”

“Him…?”

Seol Jihu widened his eyes in the middle of his sentence. He couldn’t see Sung Shihyun. He had escaped!

“Oh, so you’re lying now?”

Vulgar Chastity hurled all sorts of curses at Seol Jihu. It was so intense that even Seol Jihu became a little downcast.

“It wasn’t me this time….”

He closed his eyes and dropped his head. Feeling wronged, he puckered out his lower lip.

“I can’t believe this. Why are you pouting like you have been wronged? Un-pout right now!”

Seol Jihu remained steadfast.

[Why is it so noisy?]

At that moment, a subliminal voice echoed out in the area.

“Y-Your Majesty.”

Vulgar Chastity jumped in fright. The Parasite Queen, who usually did not leave the Corrupted Throne, had come out personally.

The Parasite Queen looked back and forth between the crying Exploding Patience and the pouting Seol Jihu. Seemingly having caught on, she got in between Seol Jihu and Vulgar Chastity.

[Don’t you think you were a little too harsh?]

“Your Majesty! That’s not it!”

[He’s trying to play with you guys to become friends, so how can you lash out at him with such viciousness?]

“He’s the one who…!”

[Stop!]

The Parasite Queen’s voice went up.

[It happens when a child is playing around. Why are you trying to crush my baby’s spirit?]

Vulgar Chastity doubted her ears for a moment.

[Now, let’s go back.]

“....”

[It’s okay. I scolded her, so she will be more careful next time. You can raise your head.]

“...Okay….”

The Parasite Queen consoled Seol Jihu.

“....”

Vulgar Chastity could not pick up her dropped jaw. To be frank, she wanted to cry just like Exploding Patience.


*


That day, all Army Commanders, excluding Seol Jihu, gathered together. Vulgar Chastity led the meeting and claimed that they must work together to strip him of his Army Commander’s position.

However, the reaction she got wasn’t what she expected.

“Why? He’s fun.”

Sung Shihyun just giggled like a man watching a city burn from across the river.

“Impossible! The Fourth Army Commander is an important tactical asset! Moreover, the hatred he has for humanity is real. There are infinite ways to make use of him, so how can we throw away such an important trump card!?”

Abhorrent Charity defended Seol Jihu with passion.

“I agree wholeheartedly. That is not all. The Fourth Army Commander has also taken on the role of reforming our forces, making them more efficient. If he is our enemy, why would he do this?”

Even Unsightly Humility took Seol Jihu’s side.

When Vulgar Chastity turned to Twisted Kindness, hoping she was different…

“Damn it…. Just how are you supposed to beat this three by three tactic?”

Twisted Kindness had no interest in the meeting and was only looking at a board with a bunch of circles drawn on it.

It almost looked like all of the Army Commanders were high on drugs.


*


After Seol Jihu defected to the Parasites, a rift began to form among the Army Commanders. However, the Parasite Queen was astute. When she saw signs of a potential internal conflict occurring, she used an external force to mediate the situation.

First, she announced Seol Jihu’s defection and the birth of a new Army Commander. Then, she raised the Parasite army and marched toward humanity.

Everything went as the Parasite Queen expected. Humanity and the Federation’s morale fell to an all-time low.

“No way! He really…!”

“Jihu! We’re sorry! Please come back!”

All they could do was beg Seol Jihu for his forgiveness.

[I’m sorry, my child. It is all my fault. I will not do it again, so…]

Even Gula came out to apologize.

“Shut it!”

However, Seol Jihu was resolute. No, he was fierce.

“It’s all over! I, I…!”

Shaking in rage, he glared at the sky and shouted.

“This is all your fault!”

He howled at the top of his lungs.

“If it weren’t for you…! If you, Gula, didn’t make such a class name…!”

“Hm? Class name?”

Sung Shihyun’s eyes flashed.

“What was the class name?”

He asked Seol Jihu rather tenaciously. Seol Jihu bit his lip and turned away. It was obvious that he did not want to talk about it.

“Oi~! Just what class name did he get?”

Sung Shihyun faced the city wall and shouted aloud. Seol Jihu jumped in a startle, but it was already too late. Though it wasn’t clear who said it, someone replied, “It was Lancer of the Mana, by the Mana, for the Mana!”

“Mana…?”

And Sung Shihyun….

“Uhehehehehehe!”

...flipped over on the spot.

“Of the mana! By the mana! For the Mana! Ahahahaha! What is he, the Gettysburg lancer? Hahahahaha!”

He rolled on the ground, commenting how Pinnacle-rank Mana Swordsman could be a better name.

“Gula really went too far with mana~”

“But he does have incredible mana. I’d say it’s the perfect name! Hohoho!”

Vulgar Chastity and Exploding Patience, who had a grudge against Seol Jihu, commented snarkily. Taking the opportunity, they mocked him until they were utterly satisfied.

Unsightly Humility also clattered his teeth in laughter, and Twisted Kindness smirked.

“Heh, mana….”

Abhorrent Charity, who was about to laugh along, suddenly paused.

‘Wait, come to think of it…’

He remembered what Seol Jihu said during their private conversation.

[If I tell you why I switched sides—will you promise not to laugh at me?]

[You may think the reason is trivial, but it isn’t for me. Everyone has something that they just can’t condone.]

[Damn it! It’s not like I asked for money or fame! I’ve done so much for them, yet they refuse to give me the one thing I want—]

[What I want is humanity’s total destruction. Paradisians, Earthlings, the Seven Sins…. I’ll make sure everyone pays for the humiliation and torment I had to suffer at their hands.]

Abhorrent Charity immediately had a bad feeling. He hurriedly turned around and looked at Seol Jihu.

[Why are you all laughing?]

A solemn voice rang out in the area. It was the Parasite Queen’s voice.

[I don’t find it funny at all. Just what is so special about a class name for you to be laughing so much?]

Seol Jihu’s dead pupils regained a hint of vitality. The Parasite Queen revealed a gentle smile before glaring sharply at the city wall.

[We should not be laughing at this child. We should be cursing Gula for making such a horrific name.]

Seol Jihu nodded vigorously as if he agreed with this sentiment wholeheartedly.

[Anyway, what a naming sense. It’s not just Mana Lancer, but Lancer of, by, and… Pfft.]

Faint laughter escaped the Parasite Queen’s mouth. Seol Jihu’s face stiffened. The surrounding area suddenly became dead silent, and everyone’s gaze fell on the Parasite Queen.

[No! It is not funny at all! I only laughed because it was so absurd!]

The Parasite Queen raised her voice. She herself did not know why she was so frantically making an excuse.

[Don’t you agree? Of, by, and…]

The Parasite Queen lowered her head in the middle of her speech. Covering her mouth with her hand, she shut her eyes tight and shook.

“Fuck, just say it! You think it’s funny too!”

Sung Shihyun shouted while crying.

[Absurd!]

The Parasite Queen denied it vehemently. She took a deep breath to calm herself down and then spoke a tone quieter.

[Anyhow…]

For some reason, she seemed to have great difficulty speaking.

[The class name, Lancer of the Mana, by the Mana, and for the Ma… tehehehehehehe!]

In the end, she couldn’t hold herself back.

“...Your Majesty?”

Seol Jihu became expressionless.

[No! I did not laugh because it was funny! It was because of how absurd it was! Bahahaha!]

The nature of laughter is such that it bursts out harder the more one holds it in. This was no exception for gods too.

[W-Wait! I really…!]

The Parasite Queen tried her damnedest to calm down. But when Sung Shihyun walked up to her and whispered mana into her ears…

[Kyahahaahaha—! Bahahahahaha—!]

She burst into laughter again. Though she continued to deny it as being funny, to be completely honest, it was hilarious!

With how contagious laughter was, everyone else started to laugh. When the Parasites laughed, humans and the foreign races laughed as well. The grass and the trees laughed, and even heaven and earth laughed!

By the time the laughter finally subsided, it had already happened.

“...You think it’s funny?”

Seol Jihu’s crooked head showed an indescribably frightening face. Only his eyes were opened wide on his otherwise emotionless expression, making him look like an evil demon.

[No, child! I…!]

The Parasite Queen reached out her hand, but Seol Jihu turned around. He ran at breakneck speed and disappeared in an instant. He only left behind the words, “You will see!”

“N-No!”

Baek Haeju fell on her butt.

“That reaction just now… Could it be a stage beyond extreme-sulk…!?”

Only despairing laughter that was crying about how it was all over, echoed in the laughless battlefield.


*


Baek Haeju’s prediction came true, not long afterward. The day after Seol Jihu disappeared and the war ended on an odd note, Paradise had to face a never-before-seen threat in its long history.

A demon lord had appeared.

Destroying Nur in a single day, Seol Jihu proclaimed war against every force in Paradise.

“I will pay back the humiliation I suffered!”

Having awakened as a demon lord, Seol Jihu howled. With his overwhelming strength, he began to sweep through all regions of Paradise.

He said his class name whenever he ran into someone and immediately punished them if they laughed even slightly—the Federation, humanity, Parasites. Belatedly realizing the seriousness of the situation, the three forces joined hands to resist the demon lord.

However, they were unable to defeat Seol Jihu. In the end, all of Paradise fell into the demon lord’s hands. Not just the humans but all races cried sorrowfully. It was obvious what would happen to Paradise from now on.

But to their surprise, Seol Jihu did not turn Paradise inside out. He guaranteed most races their right to autonomy and only selected a few to receive punishment.

“Ramen… So good… Jihu’s ramen is the best….”

“Heh… I don’t care what happens now…”

Baek Haeju, Seo Yuhui, and others were locked up in underground cells, and Seol Jihu made them eat his ramen for every meal.

“Demon Lord, mana. Please, mana. Please forgive Gula-nim, mana…”

“What was that? Gula? Who’s that?”

“Ah, I’m sorry, mana. I meant Glug Glug Glug Mana-nim, mana…”

Besides that, Seol Jihu’s punishment took the form of name changes. He also named the newly created empire the Mana Empire, and required all new-borns to have the word ‘mana’ in their names. He also forced everyone to say the word ‘mana’ at the end of every sentence.

Before anyone noticed, Paradise came to be called Mana.

“Oh, welcome, Abhorrent Charity.”

Seol Jihu welcomed Abhorrent Charity, who sought an audience with him. Abhorrent Charity was recognized by Seol Jihu for being the only one not to have laughed and so was free from the new restrictions.

“I came because I am curious about something.”

But for some reason, Abhorrent Charity sounded resolute today.

“Did you… really do all this because of a class name?”

Seol Jihu froze.

“Is that why you defected?”

“Who do you think I am? Of course, that wasn’t the only reason.”

Seol Jihu waved his hand.

Right, he wouldn’t be that petty. Abhorrent Charity muttered inwardly and continued.

“Then what is the reason? Isn’t this too cruel?”

“To tell you the truth…”

Seol Jihu trailed off, and he seemed to be hesitating. Abhorrent Charity remained patient.

“I made ramen after receiving that class name….”

Eventually, Seol Jihu spoke.

“Everyone made fun of it….”

“?”

Abhorrent Charity doubted his ears.

“They asked why the ramen tasted so strange… That it tasted like mana, perhaps because of my class name… so….”

“...So?”

Abhorrent Charity asked to no avail.

“That’s… it?”

Seol Jihu nodded slowly.

“Really?”

Seol Jihu must have some shame left in him as he smacked his lips and averted his gaze.

Standing still for a long time while dazedly staring…

“You wacko!”

Abhorrent Charity shoved Seol Jihu.


1. Lyrics from a well-known anime (Korean vers).

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