Chapter 99. The Threads of Bonds Coming Together

The letter was written in characters he had never seen before, but the words soon wiggled around and transformed into Korean. There were times when Synchronization took a second or two to happen, so Seol Jihu didn’t find it too surprising.

—I heard from the temple that you came back. You didn’t pick up when I called you, so I’m leaving you this message. You remember our promise, right? Come to my place tonight for dinner….

A look of surprise and joy flashed in Seol Jihu’s face. The tone of the letter was light, almost like someone inviting their neighbor to catch up over dinner.

The problem was that the sender was Teresa Hussey. In other words, he would need to go to the royal palace and potentially meet the king. The Haramark Royal Family was famous for abandoning formalities after their conflict with Earthlings, but the word ‘royal palace’ carried weight in Seol Jihu’s head.

Even though the letter said to come comfortably, there was an invisible pressure weighing down on him as an average person going to a palace. However, for Teresa’s sake, he couldn’t skip out, and to be honest, he kind of wanted to go as well.

Seol Jihu read the letter until the end. When he read the final two lines, ‘P.S. Don’t go back after dinner! Come hit up a special dessert with me so we can digest what we ate ♥’, a chuckle escaped his mouth.

‘Good thing I brought something nice to wear.’

It was an invitation from the royal palace. Not wanting to embarrass himself by acting like a fool, Seol Jihu headed to the library to study basic decorum.

*

After finishing up his afternoon training early, Seol Jihu washed himself clean. Since he didn’t know what would happen at the palace, he filled his belly up a tiny bit too. At the very least, he wanted to avoid eating mindlessly like that time he ate with Yun Seora.

He changed into the clothes he picked out beforehand. As soon as he looked at himself in the mirror and thought, ‘Good, perfect’, something unexpected happened. He was about to head out, but a giant man was standing in front of the door.

Of course, it wasn’t all that surprising for Carpe Diem’s office to have visitors, but….

“Are you the Earthling known as Seol?”

His well-toned muscles were protruding out from his 2-meter tall figure, and a long scar from a blade stretched across his nose. Just looking at his appearance, he didn’t seem like he would lose fighting an orc one on one.

“I’m Jan Sanctus. I’ve come to escort you under Princess Teresa’s orders.”

He had a tough voice befitting his intimidating appearance. Hearing that the Princess sent him, Seol Jihu put down the spear he subconsciously raised up.

“Will you come?”

He asked rather bluntly. Seol Jihu regained his composure and answered.

“Of course.”

“Follow me. I will guide you.”

Just like that, Seol Jihu followed Jan Sanctus and entered the premises of the Haramark Royal Palace.

‘Everyone’s so busy.’

It was dinner time, yet the palace seemed very busy. He could often see people running about in a haste and others who were urgently shouting at a communication crystal.

The atmosphere was completely different compared to the city. By walking through the palace gate, he felt like he entered a whole new world.

‘Who would have thought so much is going on behind the wall?’

Haramark was well known for having a strong local color even with the presence of a royal family. But as expected of the home of a king, it had all the right appearances befitting a palace.

Seol Jihu asked quietly while walking through a long corridor.

“Is there anything I need to watch out for in the palace?”

Although he already looked up Paradise’s decorum in the library, he still asked just to be sure.

“No.”

Jan Sanctus returned a brusque answer. Rather than hostile, he seemed to be cold naturally.

“You just have to not point your weapons at them or curse them out.”

“…Doesn’t that go without saying?”

“All I’m saying is that you only have to keep basic manners.”

Jan Sanctus looked back at the youth.

“Earthlings aren’t like us. My Lord acknowledged and accepted the difference in culture between Earth and Paradise. As long as you keep basic manners that anyone would know, there won’t be any problems.”

They arrived at the entrance after a brief conversation.

Apparently, when the Haramark Palace was being constructed, an emphasis was placed on aspects of communal life rather than functionalities, war, or solitary living.

Jan Sanctus left once he guided Seol Jihu to the grand hall. Once Seol Jihu went inside, he was able to see a young woman wearing a pink dress, as well as a middle-aged man sitting on a throne being attended by two maids.

Teresa gave a beaming smile when she saw the youth, but his attention was somewhere else.

‘So that’s….’

He met the middle-aged man’s calm eyes that also seemed to carry a spark of fire. Unlike Teresa, he had blonde hair and beard, which was groomed neatly.

Prihi Hussey, the king of Haramark, one of the seven kingdoms that survived the foreign races’ invasion.

“Are you the Earthling named Seol?”

A clear voice resounded. His willowy appearance made him look more like a scholar than a warrior.

“There’s no need.”

When Seol Jihu tried to get on his knees, the king immediately stopped him.

“On Earth, I heard that people are the owners of a nation, while the king exists to serve the people. I respect their culture.”

Seol Jihu was surprised by his humble manner of speech. He obediently got up.

“It is my honor, Your Majesty.”

When he spoke with a slight bow, Prihi chuckled.

“Your honor, huh. I understand what you mean by that, but it’s fine. Think of me as a village head… or if even that is not enough to make you comfortable, think of me as whatever you’d like.”

The word ‘whatever’ was quite a tricky one. He felt like he was just told, ‘put however much salt you want’ in cooking.

Prihi Hussey calmly stared at the youth before opening his mouth.

“First, I would like to express my gratitude for your deeds. I’ve heard what you have done for this world.”

“You’re too kind.”

From the way he talked, it seemed he was aware of his position as a king. Seol Jihu was quite glad to learn this as he was somewhat worried the king might act like a backstreet hoodlum like his daughter.

“I would also like to thank you for responding to our summons. You see, my daughter kept pestering me about wanting to meet you.”

He made it sound like Teresa forced him. Prihi used both hands to slowly push himself off of his throne.

“Then, let us go.”

“Pardon?”

“We invited you under the pretext of a dinner. How could we let our guest starve while talking about boring things?”

He talked somewhat jokingly as he waved his hand around. When Seol Jihu gazed at him dazedly, Teresa skipped over to him.

“Heh, aren’t you too tense?”

‘Am I?’ Seol Jihu rubbed his face. His facial muscles indeed felt a little tighter than usual.

“You don’t need to be so formal. Just relax. We’re just going to chitchat while we eat.”

For some reason, Teresa’s eyes seemed to be sparkling with anticipation. She carefully grabbed his arm as if to link arms.

“Let’s go.”

He wouldn’t describe the food as delicacies, but all sorts of appetizing dishes were placed on top of a long table with a white tablecloth.

Prihi asked a few questions that had nothing to do with the state of affairs, but because Seol Jihu was too busy paying attention to the way he talked, he had no clue what food he was stuffing into his mouth.

Of course, he thought he was doing a pretty good job, but Teresa only smiled wryly. As someone who once ruled the high society filled with shameless scheming and secret strife, she was immediately able to tell that the young man in front of her was paying too much attention to being courteous. There was no need to even mention Prihi.

“Looks like our hero doesn’t find the food to his liking.”

“No, they’re excellent.”

Seol Jihu immediately refuted, but Prihi continued without batting an eye.

“It looks like I’ll have to do something about it. As the one who invited you, I have the duty to help you relax. Let’s see…. Ah, why don’t we talk about something?”

Prihi spoke as if he just remembered something.

“Have you heard of the past conflict between Earthlings and the Haramark Royal Family?”

Prihi said he would help the young man relax, but the topic he brought up made him tense up more. Seol Jihu opened his mouth.

“If you are talking about the revolt, I have indeed heard about it.”

“Right, let’s skip the details and talk about the outcome. Sinyoung helped create a room for negotiation between the two groups. You see, since it was meant to be a place of reconciliation, I thought they would at least keep the minimal decorum.”

“Did something happen?”

“Yes, I’ve never experienced such disrespect before. Rather than sending the ringleader of the revolt, they sent some bastard I’ve never seen. Still, I revealed my identity out of courtesy first. And when I asked for his name, this is what he said: ‘Nice to meet you, Haramark’s King.’”

Seeing Seol Jihu confused look, Prihi cleared his throat before continuing.

“‘My name is Prihi’s Belly King-Sized Belly.’”

“Pft.”

Cough. When Seol Jihu coughed and looked up, he saw Prihi calmly slicing his steak. He didn’t seem to be joking.

“…Did that really happen?”

“I’m not talented enough to make up such stories. The people who know this story are too many to count. Ah, there’s a live witness right here.”

When Prirhi looked at Teresa, she immediately nodded her head.

“He’s right. It was so shocking that I still remember it clearly.”

“I can’t believe….”

“That’s not all. The bitch sitting next to that bastard went a step further and said this with a smirk, ‘Nice to meet you. My name is Teresa Pink.’”

“Princess.”

Seol Jihu quickly cut her off. However, Teresa wasn’t fazed in the slightest.

“Just listen, the pink part doesn’t matter all that much. So after saying that, she….”

“Princess!”

Seol Jihu’s voice went up. Teresa shrugged her shoulders, while Seol Jihu massaged his temples and asked the king.

“You stayed silent, Your Majesty?”

“The man insisted his name was Prihi’s Belly while his surname was King-Sized Belly. Once he got angry and asked if we were making fun of the name he received from his parents, there wasn’t much we could say.”

“What a bunch of psychopaths.”

“I agree. They’re a bunch of lunatics.”

Prihi agreed with dignity.

“But that’s when I began to realize how the Earthlings thought of this world. A fun game. Nothing more, nothing less.”

He suddenly rubbed his beard.

“Well… We got to learn an important piece of info because of it.”

“By that, you mean…?”

Prihi continued.

“We found out they had a spy in the palace.”

Hearing this, Seol Jihu fell in thought. The king found out there was a spy because of the rude man making up such an absurd name? That was hard to understand.

“Why did you think so?”

“Think about it. If they didn’t have a spy in the palace, they would not have known about our physical traits so clearly.”

Prihi said in a firm tone.

“He’s right. Since they were able to acquire information about our private regions, the spy must have been fairly close to us.”

Teresa added bashfully.

“….”

Seol Jihu gave up on thinking.

“We were angry… but we laughed and let it slide. We refused to give in to such an obvious provocation.”

“I see…. That must have been tough.”

“It certainly wasn’t easy. But this is quite a surprise. The Earthlings I’ve met so far giggled whenever I told them this story.”

“My apologies. I do not believe it’s a laughing matter.”

Seol Jihu was straightforward. Prihi stared at him fixedly.

“…You don’t need to apologize.”

Just when it was looking like the conversation was coming to an end….

“Oh, yes, I heard you slept with my daughter.”

The king’s sudden question made Seol Jihu calmly spat out the water he was drinking. He thought that was certainly better than spraying it everywhere.

“…Your Majesty.”

“Hm? What’s up with that sour look? From what Teresa told me….”

Seol Jihu quickly turned to Teresa. She was acting embarrassed with her hands over her cheeks.

‘Why is she blushing…. No, why is she pretending to be coy all of a sudden?’

When he stared at her intently, Teresa shook her head.

“Geez, Father, say we shared a bed. Sleeping… that’s too candid.”

“What are you talking about… I understand the phrasing was a bit explicit, but you’re the one who told me to….”

Suddenly, the end of his speech blurred. Prihi dropped his head and groaned, but Teresa played with her steak knife as if nothing happened.

“That hurt.”

“Hoho, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“Hm, I should’ve known from when you put on a dress for the first time in eight years.”

“I told you to say it jokingly to help him relax. Who told you to say it so bluntly? Ah, how embarrassing.”

Words Seol Jihu couldn’t understand went back and forth.

‘What did I expect….’

He smacked his lips. He experienced it when he met the Princess for the first time, but… they were quite an extraordinary father and daughter duo.

“I apologize for the unsightly behavior.”

Prihi sighed and brought a piece of cloth to wipe his mouth.

“Anyways… there’s no need to be so tense. This isn’t a place for punishment or arrest. Rather, it is a place to grant awards befitting one’s achievements.”

The king spoke in somewhat of a heavy tone. Seol Jihu wanted to tell him it was too late to act dignified, but what actually came out of his mouth was “Thank you for your kindness.”

“At first, I thought the rumors were exaggerated.”

Prihi spoke as he put down his napkin.

“But since Teresa said the same thing, I had no choice but to believe it. I’m not so doubtful as to not trust the words of my own blood.”

“I’m humbled, Your Majesty.”

“…Can you stop with that way of talking, please?”

“Pardon?”

“I got used to the Earthling’s culture after years of painstaking effort. Trying to match the proprieties of my position is only confusing me.”

In Paradise, the concept of nobility was faint. Even if one looked to find one, they would only come up with a lord in charge of a large town. Even then, the lord would be close to a village head.

Furthermore, many Paradisians had either died in the long war or escaped their birthplace to survive.

‘…So this is why.’

Seol Jihu began to understand why the Haramark Royal Family abandoned formalities. He spoke quietly.

“Got it.”

*

The dinner ended quietly. The maids cleaned up the table and brought out tea. After enjoying a sip, Prihi put his cup down before opening his mouth.

“The Haramark Royal Family is always fair when it comes to rewards and punishments.”

“….”

“Your achievements…. Yes, you saved the Ramman Village, came up with the plan for the rescue operation and helped greatly in the rescue and the subsequent destruction of the laboratory….’

Hearing Prihi’s words, Seol Jihu felt an unknown sense of incongruity. The way he was listing out his achievements… how should he say this, rather than for praising him, it felt like it was for a clear payout.

Prihi ruined the mood by throwing in jokes here and there, but for some unknown reason, the king looked like someone who had ‘given up’ since the first time they met.

“After much deliberation on rewards befitting your achievements, I came to a conclusion.”

When talk of his reward came up, Seol Jihu’s ears perked up.

“I truly hope you like it.”

Despite saying this, Prihi sounded confident that Seol Jihu would love it. He gestured at his maid, who promptly returned with a plate covered by a white cloth. Seol Jihu’s eyes opened wide.

“This is….”

A quiet moan escaped his mouth. Sitting on the plate was a rectangular, shining bar of pure gold that emitted a reddish light. Seol Jihu was entranced by its beauty, yet he couldn’t keep his eyes open properly.

‘A gold bar?’

Considering how jealous Chohong and Hugo were of a pinky-sized piece of gold, a whole gold bar was well beyond his imaginations.

Gulp. He swallowed hard, and his Adam’s Apple twitched. On Earth, the power of money was absolute. Although Paradise was currently in a state of war, the value of gold shouldn’t be any less.

‘With this….’

It would be quicker to count the things he couldn’t do rather than counting what he could do.

Greed slowly rose from the young man’s eyes. At that moment, a thought crossed his mind.

“…Ah.”

Seol Jihu suddenly closed his mouth. His ecstatic expression disappeared, replaced by a frown. He stared at the gold bar with a complicated expression.

“This item is extremely easy to convert to Earth’s currency. In terms of gold coins, I believe it should be… hm?”

Prihi stopped when he looked at the young man.

“Do you not like the reward?”

“…Pardon? Ah, no.”

Seol Jihu shook his head vigorously as if the notion was absurd.

“You don’t look satisfied.”

“No, it’s not that….”

“Hm, then what? If there is something you want, then speak without reserve.”

Hearing Prihi’s benevolent voice, Seol Jihu stared at the gold bar conflictingly and nibbled on his lower lip.

[We don’t have a place to go. We’re not living outside the city because we like it.]

There was the village head who gave his precious rudium to make a foothold for the rescue mission’s success. But… couldn’t he be satisfied with buying food and sending it to the village?

[Come again.]

There was the ghost saintess who saved his life and became the Gift-Giving Tree. But… but….

After much internal conflict, he activated Nine Eyes instinctively. When he saw the gold bar, his face contorted and he went “Ah!”

Soon, Seol Jihu let out a deep sigh. He then opened his mouth, a bit calmer than before.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

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