Chapter 193. High Ranker 1
The sound of someone loudly stomping up the stairs rang out. Following that, the metal door crashed open to reveal a person huffing behind it.
It was none other than Phi Sora who was fuming hot air from her nostrils like a mad bull. Jang Maldong shouted at her with a displeased face.
“Will it kill you to gently open the door? My ears almost fell off!”
However, Phi Sora did not respond in the slightest.
Rather than worrying about Jang Maldong, Phi Sora was glaring at Seol Jihu like an enraged bull watching the matador waving a red cloth in front of it.
And the moment Seol Jihu realized what was going on, Phi Sora’s jaws stretched open.
It was a monster’s roar birthed by endless indignancy and rage.
"W-What’s going on? Why is that brat like this all of a sudden?”
It didn’t matter whether Jang Maldong found it absurd or not. Phi Sora let loose the rage she had amassed from suffering several nights without sleep.
And as she charged over with both her arms raised, threatening to pull out all of his hair…
Seol Jihu shot up from his seat and firmly pressed his palm forward.
At the sudden action filled with bravado, Phi Sora stopped her charge just as she was about to pounce on him.
It took her only a moment to look at the shopping bag swaying from his hand.
She snorted, and her flaming eyes bent into crescent moons.
"You’re planning to call it even with just this?”
Her tone was boiling hot, like that of a blazing furnace.
"I bought Master something else, but besides him, I bought the same thing for everyone. It’s nothing big. Just something I bought while I was out.”
The sound of Jang Maldong dryly coughing in the back could be heard.
Of course, Phi Sora did not hear it.
"So what you’re saying is, I should just take this and quietly fuck off.”
She cracked her neck left and right and curled up one side of her lip in a sneer. Her eyes weren’t smiling at all, making her look extra frightening.
From the looks of it, it didn’t seem like she had any intention of receiving the gift, so Seol Jihu carefully put down the present.
Then, he tilted his head and asked.
"Are you going to hit me?"
"Yes, I’m going to fucking hit you."
As Phi Sora threateningly widened her eyes, Seol Jihu calmly shook his head.
"Don’t be like that. Why are you trying to hit people?”
"This fucking bastard. It wouldn’t have been enough even if you had gone down on your knees to apologize, but what? Cheeky as hell, really!”
As if she was getting more triggered after seeing Seol Jihu boldly attempt to persuade her, a string of colorful cuss words poured out of Phi Sora’s mouth.
“Sure, I can laugh over Phi-za or Phi-colo. But what? Phi-diot?”
"This son of a bitch—"
As if she was unable to bear saying anything more, Phi Sora’s eyes flipped. Seol Jihu plopped down on the couch, then shrugged his shoulders and raised both of his hands.
"Well, do whatever you want. I’ll just stay still here.”
"Oh? Okay! I will do whatever I want. You thought I wouldn’t?”
Seol Jihu leisurely glanced up and down Phi Sora’s body with carefree eyes. Then, he smirked.
"That equipment, it really suits you, doesn’t it?”
Phi Sora who had been cracking her fingers abruptly stopped moving. After confirming the opponent’s reaction, Seol Jihu’s tongue began to dance.
"A long sword, a shield, an armor, and even boots… Aiyaa. I don’t know who gave them to you, but they sure are marvelous. Marvelous indeed!”
"It must be because they’re from the Banquet. Don’t they look gorgeous? You think so too, right?”
Seol Jihu leaned his chin on the back of his hand and grinned. With her teeth tightly clenched, Phi Sora’s neck began to visibly tremble.
"Ah! Now that I think about it, the war is over so—”
"Y-You shameless bastard!”
Phi Sora couldn’t bear it anymore and began to shake in indignation.
"What do you mean shameless? It’s in the contract. Did you forget that the equipment was rented to you only until the end of the war?”
He wasn’t wrong, but the situation was. The reason he suddenly brought up her equipment— Phi Sora wasn’t stupid enough to not know what he meant.
She could just kick away the present he brought from Earth, but it was a completely different story when it concerned items in Paradise. After all, it wasn’t easy to find equipment with such quality and performance.
She could just return them and request for funds to purchase new equipment, but even that decision was up to Seol Jihu.
The sound of violent gnashing of teeth was heard.
“I mean, you only need to get hit a couple of times. Do you really have to be like this?"
"What do you mean? Are you saying I can’t ask for that equipment as the rightful owner?”
"So childish, really. How does a person get so rotten?”
"Who exactly tricked whom first?”
Phi Sora made a face of disbelief.
He was still holding that grudge? No matter how many times she screamed how old he was and that he was being childish, Seol Jihu’s response remained the same.
Phi Sora felt like she would explode if she continued this conversation. After staring at the childish Seol Jihu for a while, she widened her eyes and growled as if she was going to eat him alive.
"Fuck! From now on, this equipment is mine. Don’t even think about taking it back. Okay?”
Seol Jihu laughed like an old man.
"Miss Phi Sora, does thou conscience… exist?”
"No, it doesn’t!"
After yelling that, Phi Sora swung around so fast that cold air blew. And not forgetting to snatch the shopping bag, she stomped out.
And while storming out, she stopped to stamp down hard on the ground. Just how indignant was she?
Looking at Phi Sora stomping into her room, Seol Jihu giggled while holding his belly. And when the thud of a door slamming shut rang out—
"…Since when did you two get so close?”
Jang Maldong asked with a blank face.
People that didn’t know them would ask just what was friendly about the situation, but as someone who knew Phi Sora very well, Jang Maldong was surprised beyond belief.
If Phi Sora who hated being teased about her name the most repressed her temper, it meant at the very least that she viewed Seol Jihu as an ally.
"We’re not really friends yet. We just bicker whenever we see each other.”
Jang Maldong let out an empty laugh hearing him say it wasn’t anything big. Then after letting out a sigh of relief, he got up from his seat shaking his head.
Seol Jihu’s laughter stopped.
"Where are you going?"
"I’m going out for a bit."
"What about our talk…."
"We’ll continue that once you become a High Ranker.”
Jang Maldong grinned.
“True or False, a High Ranker is a High Ranker. As a leader, raising your level would raise your team’s outward appearance, will it not?"
With that, Jang Maldong took out a plate the size of a palm and placed it on the table.
Seol Jihu’s gaze naturally followed down with it. The geometric patterns covering it emitted a golden light that made it look impressive.
"It’s a tablet of certification from King Prihi. He dropped by the office personally to give it.”
"A tablet of certification?"
"This punk. Strictly speaking, becoming a High Ranker should be viewed as a job advancement or a promotion. Don’t you know that the royal families are involved in the evaluation of such promotions?”
Seol Jihu’s face became dazed as he finally remembered the fact.
“He said that you’ve already proven yourself to be more than certified, so you don’t need any other test.”
"Then again, if he tried to assign you a difficult mission disguised under all sorts of excuses, I was prepared to move our base.”
Seol Jihu carefully held the tablet.
"I’ll be right back.”
He looked like he would beg him to talk again as soon as he came back, so Jang Maldong hurriedly took out a record book from his clothes.
"It’s a record book we found while sorting out Ian’s belongings. You know that Ian was responsible for keeping records, right?”
Hearing him mention Ian, Seol Jihu immediately became solemn.
"I have something I personally want to hear from you.”
"Talking with you today made me see that you’ve only been focusing on your own personal growth.”
Jang Maldong continued.
“However, there’s a limit to what you can accomplish by yourself.”
Seol Jihu unconsciously expressed agreement.
If he had been alone during the war, he would have never been able to win no matter how many times he died and revived.
"The vision you’re drawing for the upcoming future beyond your personal goals.”
Jang Maldong paused and pulled down his fedora lower.
"I’m curious about that."
Looking at Seol Jihu’s clueless face, Jang Maldong chuckled.
"If you don’t know what I mean, I’d like you to take a day and slowly read through that record book. It’ll probably help.”
Seol Jihu tightly held the record book.
Immediately after the conversation was over, Seol Jihu dashed straight towards the temple of Gula.
There were a lot of things to think about, but he felt like becoming a High Ranker should be his first step.
Of course, just raising his level didn’t mean that he would gain the abilities of a High Ranker, but like Jang Maldong said, it would be useful for showing off.
And truthfully, he desired to be a High Ranker himself too.
Seol Jihu stopped his steps in front of the temple and searched for something inside his pockets.
—A special stigma among the many created for the human body. Contains a trace of divinity.
—You will be immediately sent to a trial location the moment you present it as an offering.
—If you can withstand the trials given by the god you serve, you will be given power on par with a Saint.
—Although it will be an extremely painful and difficult trial, the Stigma created in the process is sure to return as a strong power.
'Is it right to use it now?’
After reading the description and putting it away, Seol Jihu entered the temple. Interestingly, he couldn’t see a single person at the temple today.
Seol Jihu immediately stopped his steps and bowed his head when the statue came into view.
A still silence followed. Seol Jihu stood still without moving a muscle for a while. The reason he didn’t speak was that he felt the sensation of Gula placing her hand on his head the moment he bowed.
Seol Jihu relished the sensation of the goddess’ soft hand, which he hadn’t felt for a long time.
Gula also didn’t say anything and continued to stroke his head.
How much time passed by?
[Looks like the time has come.]
A relaxed voice rang in his ears.
[Our decision of accepting Earthlings was probably one close to that of gambling.]
Hearing her suddenly jump to the main subject, Seol Jihu who had been drowned in a hazy feeling immediately came to his senses.
[But there was no other choice than to do so.]
Gula waited for Seol Jihu to be ready to listen and started speaking after clearing her voice.
[It was because the situation was hopeless. Do you know what the Parasite Queen did the moment she gained control of the ‘Middle World’?]
'I heard she destroyed the Empire.’
Gula quietly affirmed.
[The Empire was an absolute nation that reigned over the Middle World back then.]
[But that was only a part of the reason.]
Gula’s voice continued to speak.
[The Parasite Queen knew.]
[That if she exterminated the Empire without leaving anything behind, there would only be destruction left in Paradise’s future.]
'Only destruction left?'
Seol Jihu tilted his head.
[The moment the Empire fell, it became no different from Paradise’s future falling into the hands of the Parasite Queen.]
Gula didn’t speak in circles like before, but he still couldn’t understand anything like usual. Seol Jihu decided to carefully listen first.
[The Parasite Queen devoured the Chief Deity with the power she used to conquer the Empire. She then proceeded to devour the Seven Virtues.]
Seol Jihu knew this from hearing bits and pieces from various places.
[At that point, there were no paths left to a hopeful future, but…]
[The appearance of another alien species, the Fallen Angels, was something outside of both her and our calculations.]
[After the Fallen Angels established the Federation, we confirmed that the future leading to life, which we hadn’t been able to see before, began to faintly appear.]
[And so we made a decision then.]
And that decision was—
[If it was difficult to achieve the future with the powers that remained in this world, then we would try to revive the future with the help of another world.]
[While there was only one precedent, there was the case of the Martial God, so it was worth a try.]
Gula’s voice calmly continued.
[It wasn’t bad at first.]
[Of course, the difference between a mortal and an immortal still existed, so we didn’t expect much.]
[But we hoped that if there were hundreds of thousands of salmon that fought against the river, maybe the current itself would change.]
[At the very least, we hoped that it would support the future that the Federation opened up just a little bit. That’s all we expected, but…]
Gula hesitated before speaking despairingly.
[The problem was that the Parasite Queen knew of our intentions too well.]
[As if she was ridiculing us, she began to eliminate any Earthling that had the potential to harm her, one by one.]
[And on the other hand, she craftily picked and left alive those that would help her in the future.]
[Her intentions were very clear. She planned to reverse our final move into one that helped her instead.]
Seol Jihu who had been quietly listening narrowed his eyes.
'There is one thing I’m curious about.’
[What is it?]
'If the Parasite Queen has been intentionally interfering, couldn’t the Seven Gods have also helped as well? At the very least, they could have at least given a word of caution…’
'The enemy is targeting you’ or 'Don’t remain in Paradise and return to Earth for a while.’ He was asking why they couldn’t have said those simple words.
From Seol Jihu’s standpoint, it was something that was at least worth a try.
[It is impossible for two reasons.]
Gula calmly replied.
[The first reason is that the Parasite Queen will not give up after failing just once or twice. The second reason is that any divine interference will cause a large ripple due to the laws of causality.]
'The laws of causality?'
[If we interfere and cause something to happen as a result, then the Parasite Queen will receive the same right to reverse that result. This is the law of the world.]
'I don’t understand. Then that means that according to the laws of causality, the Parasite Queen—’
[She is currently the absolute ruler of Paradise, and hence the only existence exempt from the laws of the world. By seizing the position of the Chief Deity, she received the power to see the stars of destiny and the right to directly interfere with them. Her situation is different from ours.]
Hearing this, Seol Jihu closed his mouth.
In other words, it practically meant that the Parasite Queen was able to use maphack without any restrictions.
He now realized how unfavorable of a fight the Seven Gods and the human camp were fighting.
[However, there is always an exception.]
[Luxuria was right.]
Gula’s voice suddenly rose.
[We finally have someone who can exercise the same strength as our enemy.]
What was this?
[…To be honest, I wanted to keep you safe a little longer.]
[The precious ray of hope that we found when we were truly tired and desperate… I wanted to give it more time to grow.]
[But because of Ira’s selfishness, the Parasite Queen noticed it much sooner than we had hoped.]
[And feeling an unprecedented threat, she raised up a never-before-seen army. But…]
Gula stroked him, starting from his head, then his neck, shoulder, and back.
[You truly did a great job.]
[You’ve marvelously proven the words you said to us back at the Banquet.]
Gula’s voice became excited.
[And as a result, we finally started to see it as well.]
[Although there’s only a single one, a future… centered around you!]
Her voice was shaking towards the end.
A sigh was heard as if she was trying to calm herself.
[The time has come.]
The time has come… It was the second time she mentioned it.
While he was confused about what exactly she was meant, he abruptly felt a hand touching his eye.
Seol Jihu’s eyes shot open. He hurriedly raised his head and looked at the statue. He finally understood.
The Nine Eyes.
'Are you finally allowing it?’
[I have no choice, but to allow it.]
Gula spoke as if it was a matter of fact.
[Not only is there nothing to hide now.]
[You’ve already proven your uniqueness, and you have earned more than enough contribution points.]
Seol Jihu’s body lightly trembled.
A tremor shook through his body. Every single cell in his body awakened, causing his body to shiver.
[Do you wish for it?]
'Yes, I wish for it.'
He didn’t fully understand everything Gula told him. But Seol Jihu noticed ‘intuitively’ that this was an extremely important moment. More than anything else, this was something he wanted even before he entered Paradise.
Finally, Gula’s permission was granted.
[Come closer, my child.]
The goddess rested her hand on his head again.
[In the name of Gula, I henceforth bestow Seol Jihu the title of Level 5 Lance of Nemesis.]
[As a High Ranker who disregards kindness and evil, and acts according to the laws of causality, I look forward to your accomplishments befitting your name!]
And at the same time.
[Your Innate Ability, ‘Future Vision’, is responding to the new evolution of your Innate Ability, ‘Nine Eyes’.]
And before he had the time to figure out what the word ‘new’ in the message meant—
Seol Jihu’s vision became enveloped in a pure white light.