Chapter 66. Encounter (1)

All Seol Jihu could think about during his trip to the temple was his level.

There were three 'benefits' he'd get to enjoy after going through a level up. First, he could earn 'points' to increase the status of his physical body.

He received 1 point when he rose from Level 0 to Level 1, and he would receive 2 points when he becomes Level 2. Similarly, he would receive 3 points when leveling up to Level 3.

In other words, by choosing to become a Level 3 Lancer, Seol Jihu would immediately find himself with 6 points to use.

The second benefit had to do with learning abilities reserved for each level, and the third one would be that his future activities in Paradise would become that much easier to carry out. A Warrior had to be at least Level 3 if he wanted to enter an expedition. Of course, the equipment was equally important, but that was another story.

Those were the benefits in a nutshell.

Having heard the new choices laid out before him, Seol Jihu inexplicably recalled the days back in the Neutral Zone. He remembered seeing the item list of the VIP store and then, in order to gather a lot of Survival Points as soon as possible, he disregarded everything and tried his hand at a 'Hard' difficulty mission. As a result, he nearly died.

And now, he was utterly blinded by the notion of leveling up quickly.

He couldn't help but question himself as he felt a strong sense of deja vu when comparing the past and the current him.

'I can't rush this.'

Indeed, he needed to be thoughtful about it. The future direction of his growth depended on the choice he makes right here, right now.

Seol Jihu tightly grasped the spear Teresa Hussey gifted him. The cold energy seeping into his flesh quickly cooled off his body that had been heated up from nervous tension and agitation. Eventually, he was able to calmly fire up the calculator in his head.

'….The points.'

If he was so eager to raise the current status of his physical body, then he would have consumed the Divine Elixirs already. However, he hadn't done so yet, all because Agnes dissuaded him. She told him that there was room to improve himself through training, so there was no reason to waste his potential by raising his powers through the usage of potions, or for that matter, points given through leveling up.

Also, one needed progressively more points to increase the front grade of one’s stats.

For instance, trying to raise a stat from 'Extreme' to 'Low' required a single point, ‘Low’ to ‘Intermediate’ required two points, ‘Intermediate’ to ‘High’ required three points, and ‘High’ to ‘Highest' required four points.

However, the Divine Elixirs possessed a special property of ignoring what that front 'grade' was and raised the Stat a realm higher with no limitations. Thus, it made more of a logical sense to use them once his physical stats gone up much higher.

The reason Agnes said 'The differences would become even starker as time wears on' was precisely this.

'New abilities…?'

This was also the same story. Agnes recommended that he learn them through practice, rather than spending his hard-earned 'achievement points' to acquire them.

'….Then, what about working in Paradise?'

Since he was now a part of Carpe Diem, he was no longer as worried as before regarding that topic.

[Fufu. Fufufufu.]

Gula began to laugh.

Seol Jihu felt embarrassed because it was as if his private thoughts were laid bare. But he didn’t feel too bad either. After all, he had been feeling a soft hand gently stroking his head from a while ago. It was like he was getting praised for being so meticulous and thoughtful.

'Gula-nim.’

[Hm?]

'I'd like to know the difference between a Magic Spearman and an Mana Spearman.'

[It will be better to see it once than hearing it hundreds of times. Now, open your eyes.]

He did, and right at that moment, the surroundings suddenly blackened out, before something weird happened in front of his eyes. A giant 'screen' suddenly appeared there. Although he couldn't hear any sound, it was kinda similar to being in a cinema.

The person standing tall in the middle of the screen was none other than Seol Jihu himself. He was standing on top of a tall hill with a haughty expression on his face as he glared at the hundreds of enemies rushing up from below.

He opened his mouth and lazily raised his left hand up. Four magic circles suddenly formed in the surrounding air and began rotating as they grew larger and larger.

Shortly thereafter, the Seol Jihu of the screen lowered his left arm with some vigor. Dozens upon dozens of electrified spears rained out of the magic circles to cause a colorful cacophony of explosions down below.

About half of the original number managed to break past the explosions. However, even before they could reach the summit, the magic circles came down from the sky to surround Seol Jihu. Their colors changed from yellow to blue, and as if to protect him, they began spinning around his vicinity.

These magic circles defended him from the attacks of the approaching enemies, all the while continuously spitting out ice-cold frost.

Frost gradually covered up the bodies of the enemies, and it was at this point that Seol Jihu stopped concentrating on his defense with the spinning magic circles, immediately switching over to the attack mode. Using a physical spear, he then began stabbing the enemies that had their movements dulled significantly. He killed all of his opponents in no time.

[You can say that the 'Magic Spearman' is a hybrid class that aims to synergistically combine two disparate abilities.]

Gula's voice resounded out.

[Meaning, by adding the advantages of wielding magic to your foundation as a Warrior, you'd be able to enjoy a good balance of long-distance and close-quarter combat capabilities.]

'So, what I saw just now was the Magic Spearman….'

Seol Jihu swallowed his saliva and quickly nodded his head.

[And then…]

The scene on the screen changed. Now, a horde of creatures was running on a grassy plain.

There was one thing noticeably different from this footage compared to the previous one, and that would be Seol Jihu – he wasn't standing still anymore. He was still alone, but at the moment, he was dashing rapidly on the same grassy plain as the horde, but from the opposite side, instead.

He resembled a furious lion with that angry scowl and the fearsome glare on his face. His aura was so strong that Seol Jihu the viewer almost mistakenly thought that a powerful storm was being kicked up around the Seol Jihu in the screen.

The two sides violently crashed into each other. Seol Jihu had been paying the utmost attention until then, and his shoulders instinctively shrunk back from that scarcely believable impact force. But then, his jaw nearly dropped to the floor from the ensuing spectacle.

Centered around the point of contact, dozens of enemies were thrown up high in the air. Digging into the enemy ranks like a hungry tiger, Seol Jihu of the screen danced and darted about among the confused and hapless opponents. An overwhelming, many-meters-long aura exploded out from the sharp blades of his weapon as he swung his spear around valiantly.

And when that brilliant light of destruction flashed past twice, every single enemy standing straight was split cleanly in half. That wasn't all, though. One enemy got lucky and somehow managed to survive that. It tried to attack from the blind spot, but….

'!!'

Seol Jihu of the screen disappeared. No, actually, he was already airborne. Seol Jihu the viewer never even blinked once, yet he failed to capture that movement.

The Seol Jihu of the screen pierced forward with his spear mid-air and killed the last one, and he gently landed back on the corpse-filled grassy plain. In the literal blink of an eye, the battleground had been swept clean. Now that was a battle prowess reaching the level of godhood.

[Back in the Chamber of Awakening, you wished to tread on the Warrior's path.]

The screen disappeared then, and his vision was restored.

[Greatly enhancing the combat capabilities of a Warrior, which are based off on one's own physical attributes, with the fundamental amplifying effect of the mana – that is the Mana Spearman.]

Seol Jihu sucked in cold breaths.

[I shall mention this once more. Your current mana is a realm higher than many High Ranker Warriors. When you reach their league with this class, you will be able to produce superhuman feats that normal Warriors can’t even dream about achieving.]

So, then. The main topic was here. Aim towards the perfect synergy of two disparate sources of power and try to catch two birds at once, or simply choose to dig one well, but dig it deep enough to break past what is considered the accepted norm….

'….I've made up my mind, Gula-nim.'

After a long deliberation, Seol Jihu finally made his decision.

[Indeed, I suspected as much.]

She must have read his mind because Gula responded to him immediately.

[I must ask you this. Will you not regret your decision later on?]

'No. I won't.'

His own reply was just as immediate, too.

[In that case, it shall be so.]

The gentle hand brushing his head withdrew.

A short moment of stillness later, Gula's voice continued on.

[In the name of Gula, I shall henceforth bestow the title of Level 2 Mana Spearman to Seol Jihu. I expect great feats befitting the one-of-a-kind class from you.]

*

Dylan was leaning against one of the support pillars of the temple, a cigarette burning on the end of his lips. He spotted Seol Jihu staggering out of the entrance and quickly pushed off from the pillar.

“Are you done?”

“Yes. Sorry, I kinda got delayed.”

“Well, the longer you take, the better your…. What's the matter?”

Dylan gazed on with a questioning look. Seol Jihu rubbed the top of his head for a bit, before opening his mouth to grumble a bit.

“I got smacked on the head.”

“By who?”

“Gula-nim.”

“…What?”

Seol Jihu could only lick his lower lip at Dylan's confused reply.

After his new class had been decided, he didn't immediately leave the side of Gula's statue. Nope. He decided to throw two more questions, just in case.

The first one was regarding his 'Nine Eyes'.

He politely inquired if he could 'unlock' the remaining direction of his Innate Ability with the achievement points he had earned from participating in the battle of the Arden Valley. The answer he got in return was resoundingly simple – not even nearly enough.

He then unwisely went on a complaining spree, asking what she could possibly mean by 'not even enough' when he was able to unlock other directions just fine back in the Tutorial or back in the Neutral Zone.

However, those were from the special benefit of the Gold Mark as well as the effect of the Ambrosia. What he got in return for his complaints was Gula chiding him in no uncertain terms, telling him that it was no easy feat to evolve one's abilities that didn't fall under the category of those learned through leveling up.

Then, she even added that the right direction of his 'Nine Eyes' contained the powers of all three directions overlapping with one another, so he better stop dreaming about unlocking it with one or two simple achievements.

He'd have been fine if he stopped there. But no – he cautiously asked her again if it was possible to rename his class because the current name seemed a bit too… uncool. He ended up getting smacked on the top of his head for being ungrateful.

“I'm not sure what exactly happened in there, but…. In any case, don't worry about it. It’s not that easy to level up.”

Dylan came up with an explanation on his own and lightly patted the youth on his back. Seol Jihu stopped being dejected and opened his eyes wider.

“Ah, but I did level up, though.”

Dylan's patting hand came to an abrupt stop.

*

As soon as returning from the temple, they packed up their luggage and climbed aboard the carriage. The team of Carpe Diem was now heading to Scheherazade. It would've been fine to dispose of their loot in Haramark if they were dealing with simple treasures, but well, jewelry this intricate and finely crafted would only fetch their correct prices back in the capital city.

“Level 2?!”

After the carriage left the gates of Haramark, Chohong finally asked him about the results and naturally began freaking out.

[Your current Status Window]

[1. General Information]

Class: LV 2. Mana Spearman
Affiliation: Carpe Diem

[3. Physical Level]

Strength: Low (High)
Endurance: Low (High)
Agility: Intermediate (Low)
Stamina: Low (High)
Magic: Intermediate (High)
Luck: Intermediate (Low)

Remaining ability points: 3

Seol Jihu grinned after taking a good look at his Status Window.

“Wow…. I can't believe it.”

Hugo formed a shocked face. Dylan heard it beforehand, so he at least could manage a nonplussed expression.

“Although rare, there have been other cases before.”

“Even then…”

“I heard a couple of pretty interesting things from Sicilia.”

Dylan continued on.

“First of all. I hear that there's a brand new star rising up in Scheherazade. Signed up with Sinyoung and also a March graduate, just like Seol.”

Seol Jihu's brows shot up. Chohong snorted unhappily as if all of her enthusiasm had dissipated in an instant.

“If it's Sinyoung, then it's no surprise. They probably dumped a crap ton of support on that rookie, right? Totally different from our Seol here, who's basically headbutting the ground naked.”

“I agree 100%.”

Hugo nodded his head in an exaggerated manner. Not minding them, Seol Jihu hurriedly asked Dylan.

“Do you know who this super rookie is?”

“No, not really. I didn't get to hear the name.”

Dylan scratched the side of his head.

“But apparently, the public perception of this person isn't so good. In fact, I heard that this rookie can sometimes be a bit psychotic at times. Her nickname is supposedly the Crimson-Eyed Amazoness or something close to that.”

Chohong snorted derisively.

“What the hell? What's up with that cringey name? Is she supposed to be a Berserker or something?”

“That's the funny thing. I hear that she's walking around with these bloodshot eyes all the time because she has trouble going to sleep. Maybe she's got insomnia or something.”

“….You sure you got correct info?”

“Cinzia was the one who told me.”

Dylan shrugged his shoulders.

Seol Jihu wasn't feeling sure now. Initially, he thought that the super rookie had to be Yun Seora, but now that he heard the description, it couldn't have been her. She wasn't someone with a tendency to have psychotic breakdowns, after all. At least, not according to his memories, anyway.

'Well, this person might have been newly scouted by Sinyoung.'

Seol Jihu thought like so, but out of the blue, he felt something weighty on his thighs. He looked down to find Chohong resting her head there.

“….You're heavy.”

“Eiii, come on now, be still…. Whew, this is really comfortable, you know. Anyways. I'm guessing that it's a bit noisy in Scheherazade right now.”

She stretched her legs while speaking up.

“Yeah, it's pretty noisy over there. But with something else, actually.”

“About what? Did you hear something else from Noonim?”

Dylan hesitated somewhat when Chohong asked him in a hurry.

“Mm…. Honestly, I can't believe it's really happening, either.”

“What's going on? Cinzia Noonim isn't the type to bullshit around, right?”

Dylan nodded in agreement and opened his mouth.

“She said the Temple of Luxuria’s movements have been suspicious.”

“Really? What did she say?”

Dylan mulled over his words before quietly opening his mouth.

“Cinzia thinks that, just maybe, the Daughter of Luxuria is coming back.”

Chohong shot right up from the lap pillow.

“What did you say?!”

“It's not confirmed, but Cinzia seemed almost convinced.”

By then, even Hugo looked utterly stunned by this revelation. Which left Seol Jihu with a feeling that he was observing this discussion from very far away. So, he sneaked closer to Hugo and his still-open jaw.

“Hugo, what's going on here?”

“Hap.”

Hugo quickly shut his mouth up and blinked his eyes.

“Oh, that. It's about the apostle of god. We’re talking about the Executor.”

“The Executor?”

“Yup. You see, Luxuria is the god in charge of looking after the Priests. She's the best when it comes to the power of healing.”

“…Okay.”

“You can think of this Executor as the end boss among the healing-type Priests. She’s a Unique Ranker, and that’s enough to show how amazing she is.”

Seol Jihu tilted his head. This explanation was somewhat lacking.

“Do you know who she is?”

“I obviously don’t know her personally, but I’ve seen her a few times from afar. She showed up in Haramark a bunch of times to do some volunteer work and stuff.”

Hugo then suddenly poked Chohong on the side.

“Hey, now that I think about it, isn't she also from Area 1?”

“Yeah, you're right.”

Hearing Chohong's reply, Seol Jihu began forming a look of curiosity. Stuff about her that's been mentioned so far painted this unknown person to be an absolutely amazing Earthling. Naturally, his curiosity had been stoked now.

“Can you tell me more, please?”

“Argh, he's starting again.”

Chohong formed a fed-up face and quickly distanced herself, but as he had done always, Hugo replied earnestly.

“Hmm, okay. First of all.”

“First of all?”

Seol Jihu's eyes sparkled in anticipation. Hugo enjoyed that reaction for a second or two, before speaking in a rare, weighty, and grave tone of voice.

“She's got a huge rack.”

“…Hugo.”

Seol Jihu had been seriously paying attention, so understandably, his expression gradually hardened. Hugo was smiling relaxedly, and he quickly waved his hand about.

“N-no, hang on! I'm telling you the truth! I told you that I saw her, right? She's definitely a 65G…!”

“….”

“Uh… and… oh, she's a real knockout too. So much so that some people even call her the physical manifestation of Luxuria.”

Hugo took a bit of pause in between his words, and Chohong burst out in laughter when he was done.

“Eiii, you know that ain't true. Everyone knows that Luxuria is a goddess of lust. And that woman is as far removed from being a bitch in heat as you can get.”

“That's only because you don't know the truth. Doesn't matter whether you're a guy or a chick, those who look prim and proper are the nastiest in bed, you know.”

“Don't you remember what the nickname of that woman is? It's the Steel Wall. THE Steel Wall. I mean, even the famous Sung Shihyun tried to woo her for a long time only to get rejected by her outright. Yup, that woman's as far removed from being a lusty slut as you can possibly get.”

“I'm telling you, you gotta take a deeper look inside the person first.”

They were casually exchanging their opinions in the beginning, but eventually, the whole thing morphed into a full-on debate in no time. Seol Jihu could only shake his head while looking at the two arguing over something completely inconsequential. Dylan chuckled from the side.

“Here's the reason I scouted you, Seol.”

*

Their carriage arrived in Scheherazade exactly four days later.

As soon as they set foot on the soils of the capital city, they decided to go their separate ways. There was no real reason to act together, and besides that, disposing of their individual share of loot depended on each person's tastes, anyway.

For instance, both Chohong and Hugo were thinking of utilizing the services of the auction house, but on the other hand, Dylan was going to see his connections in the city for a private sale.

Dylan suggested that, since he knew a guy who'd name a fair price, he and Seol Jihu should travel together, but the youth declined the invite, at least for the time being. He knew way too little of the way of this world, so he wanted to use this opportunity to wander around here and there to personally experience things.

Also, he already had someone who'd buy his things anyway. And, his desire to relaxedly sightsee what the capital city had to offer played a pretty big part in that decision making, as well.

The four of them settled on which inn to stay and dispersed after promising to meet up later that evening.

Haramark was a pretty large city in its own right, but compared to Scheherazade, it was definitely lacking in many areas. No matter where he went, he found a large crowd of people walking on the avenues, and when he looked at all the tall buildings and the straight roads, he could definitely feel that, yes, he was now inside the capital city.

A short while later….

'Wow.'

Seol Jihu asked around and found his way to Sinyoung's HQ. Once he felt the impressive splendor coming from the entrance of the building, he couldn't help but let out a stunned gasp. He was expecting to be awed somewhat already since Sinyoung was supposed to be the biggest organization in Paradise, but well, this was the case of 'seeing is believing'.

'It's like I've come to the Taj Mahal or something.'

He was momentarily overwhelmed by the sight, but he quickly reined in his emotions. Originally, he wasn't supposed to come here, but his situation had changed rather greatly compared to before.

Kim Hannah told him not to show up here until he had built up a sufficient reputation for himself to prevent Sinyoung from trying to entrap him. And if she needed him for something, she'd personally come seeking him out. That's what she said.

Well, Seol Jihu believed that he already met all the prerequisites. Carpe Diem was one of the top-ranked teams in Haramark, and its leader Dylan was an Earthling with deep ties to both the Triads and Sicilia. Not only that, he was on speaking terms with Princess Teresa Hussey and was also a friend to Ian Denzel the famed Alchemist, so Sinyoung wouldn't try something rash now, he thought.

'It's not like I've done something wrong, either.'

He just came here to meet Kim Hannah, that was all.

Because of the massive size of the organization, there were plenty of people going in and out of the front entrance, so Seol Jihu was successful in his attempt to slip in among the crowd unnoticed.

He began glancing around, wondering if he could spot any familiar faces. Soon, his steps took him past the front entrance.

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