136 – Simultaneous Development – I
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Sitting atop a hidden balcony overlooking the auditorium, a young woman with curly light brown hair smiled.

Sipping on her tea, Odelette Delphine glanced over at her companions and said, "This is nostalgic, isn't it?"

Hao Win nodded while staring at Ian reading out the rewards. "Yeah, in more ways than one." He looked over to Jinhee and said, "I get that Bro is insane, but I didn't think his little sis was crazy too."

A man wearing an outfit reminiscent of a ninja with cloth wrappings covering his entire body nodded. Tong Chai. He adjusted the wrapping around his mouth while looking over at Jinhee as well. "Indeed. To think that she would not only survive that incredible tutorial but even thrive in it..."

A man with light gray hair and a tailored suit chuckled. Salvatore Leorda. Pouring himself a glass of wine from a bottle nearby, he smiled and said, "I am looking forward to the impossible mission results."

A priest with wild white hair and washed out pale skin nodded. Karna. "It will indeed be interesting. Although..." Looking out at the stage, especially at the three beauties there, he frowned and said, "...Perhaps my parting blessing for Jihu was a little too effective."

Hao Win's eyes widened and he smacked his fist into his palm. "That's right!" He pointed at Karna and said, "You're the reason my brother in arm's drowning in women!"

Odelette pouted and said, "Women that don't include me! It's not fair! I called dibs first!"

Salvatore Leorda sipped on his wine and said, "All is fair in love and war... And I would suggest you give up on that love unless you want to war against all the major powers of Paradise and a few on Earth, Delphine."

Odelette clicked her tongue. "...Fine." She paused and said, "Do you think I could get a donation though? A kid with both our talents-"

Hao Win snorted and said, "I'll start writing your eulogy."

"But they would break the world in half!" Odelette jumped out of her chair and said, "Magic sword! Explosion magic! BOOM! You know it'd be cool!"

Salvatore Leorda shook his head and said, "Even if that may be true... and that is an incredible 'if' considering that Jihu taught you all you know."

"Hey! I studied more! ...A little!"

"...You have steep competition." After saying that, he turned his chin towards the stage.

Another group of women were walking up, each dressed in sharp suits paired with majestic cloaks embroidered with clusters of silver Alyssum flowers, the symbol of Elysium.

Among those women were Baek Haeju, Kim Hannah, Yun Seohui, and even Princess Teresa.

Odelette glanced down at the women and then sat back down, visibly deflated. "...It's not fair."

Hao Win chuckled, cracking open a beer. After that, he said, "Enough about that. Now..." He reached under the table and pulled out a small cup with five wooden sticks. "...It's time to figure out who's getting which store."

Odelette immediately reached over to pull out a stick and said, "VIP Store let's-"

She turned it over to read the words written on it and then froze.

"...Go?"

Hao Win glanced at the straw and laughed. "A magician hosting a gym?"

"S-Shut up! I'll do a great job at it! I mean... it's all just like science, right?"

Salvatore Leorda gave Odelette a look filled with pity.

She noticed and puffed out her cheeks. "What?! Got something to say, Leo?!"

"No."

Although he said that, he quietly reached over to Tong Chai and handed over a small handful of coins.

xxx

A vast and grand room that looked straight out of a fantasy world.

A towering tree with actual emerald leaves. A clear blue sky and golden sun without a cloud in sight. A babbling creek coursing around the tree and leading into an endless blue sea. And then a cozy wooden cabin at the foot of the tree, completely decorated with modern furniture, Wi-Fi, a completely over-specced laptop with a 22 TERABYTE hard drive, 64 flipping gigabytes of RAM, a GForce ARTX 4090 of all things... and even more crazy stuff that Jinhee didn't know enough about to judge.

Then there was the fully stocked fridge with all of Jinhee's favorite foods, a super fancy coffee machine that could whip up any sort of drink imaginable, and the distorted time scale that made time pass 3x faster than outside the room.

Standing there in her private room- No, her private 'world,' Jinhee shook her head and said, "Okay. I guess I'll forgive you, Oppa."

If he was going to this much effort to try and make it up to her, Jinhee should stop messing with him.

...Even if it was fun seeing him squirm a bit.

[Your sponsor, Demon-Like Judge of Fire nods and says teasing men is an enjoyable past time.]

"Gah!" Jinhee jumped and then jabbed a finger at the message. "Can't you give me a bit of privacy?! Aren't you supposed to be an angel?!"

[Your sponsor, Demon-Like Judge of Fire gasps and asks how you figured out she was an angel.]

"...Are you an airhead too? You literally announced it when you were doing Judgment Time."

[Your sponsor, Demon-Like Judge of Fire blinks and then taps her head, saying 'teehee.']

Jinhee felt her eyebrow twitch.

[Your sponsor, Demon-Like Judge of Fire apologizes.]

[Your sponsor, Demon-Like Judge of Fire is revealing her true name.]

[Archangel Uriel of the Living Flame stretches and says that it's nice having internet again.]

[Archangel Uriel of the Living Flame has decided to shorten her screen name.]

[Uriel sticks up her thumb and says she'll have your back whatever you decide to do.]

[Fallen Archangel Mikael grabs Uriel by the scruff of her neck and apologizes. She says she will discipline her sister about proper boundaries and privacy.]

[Uriel flails and says to wait!]

[Channel <FED-01> is temporarily closed.]

"...Hah." Jinhee shook her head and walked over to the fridge to pull out a soda. "...Might as well relax, take a nice warm shower, and unwind before dealing with the crazy that's waiting outside this room..."

xxx

Another private room, fashioned after a luxury hotel suite. One rewarded to the person who placed third in Survival Points.

There, Seonhwa and Seunghae sat around a table, staring at each other. A pair of tea cups and a platter of chocolate chip cookies sat between them on the table top, but both were long forgotten and had already cooled down.

After another long silence, Seunghae spoke up. Staring at her older sister, she slowly said, "So you cheated on Jihu Oppa first."

Seonhwa's face turned red and she said, "I didn't cheat! I just met a good friend overseas who reminded me a lot of Jihu who I started to hang out a lot with."

"That's cheating, Unni."

Seonhwa flinched.

Seunghae let out a long and deep suffering sigh. "Okay. Now I know why Jinhee's been so mad at me. Ugh." She shook her head and said, "I must have looked like a stubborn idiot. Here I was thinking that Jihu Oppa was cheating when it was Unni the entire time..."

"L-Like I said, it's complicated-"

Seunghae narrowed her eyes and said, "That's what all cheaters say."

"B-But it is!" Seonhwa spoke up and said, "It turns out that friend was actually-"

Seunghae shook her head and stood up. "I don't want to hear it Unni. Hah..." She ran her hand through her hair and said, "...Well, I guess it's good that Jihu Oppa even bothered geting back together with you, even if he has all those other girls. And I guess he isn't really cheating since he clearly likes all of him and they all know about it... Tch. Now I need to apologize to Jinhee."

"W-Wait, Seunghae-"

Seunghae glared at her older sister and said, "We've talked enough. I'll come back after hearing Jihu Oppa's side."

And with that, Seunghae left.

Seonhwa sat in the room for a while before letting out a deep sigh. "...Why is everything so complicated? Maybe I should have listened to my Pipster back then and just stayed in Korea..."

xxx

Yet another private room, one awarded to the second place in terms of survival points.

Unlike the first, which was a veritable world unto itself, and unlike the third, which was just a luxurious hotel suite, the private room for the second place was a place fit for an Emperor.

Floor space that stretched far enough to blur near the end. Luxurious painting and sculptures decorating the walls. A gorgeous crystal chandelier hanging in the ceiling, shining with iridscent light. A giant bed that could fit a dozen people... and even more luxurious furniture all around.

It was the epitome of luxury.

And it was all Yuri's.

"This is still so unreal." Looking around at the overly opulent surroundings, Yuri walked over to cushy sofa and sat down. As she did, she held out her hands and focused, imagining a smaller scale version of the chandelier. The moment she did, ice crystals formed and gathered to make a small scale copy, floating in the palm of her hand.

Staring at it, Yuri let out a wistful sigh.

A second chance. Something that she never would have even remembered she had if she had never met her 'Oppa,' Jihu. And even then, it was only by chance.

The only reason she was in the Tutorial was because Jihu had been concerned about sending in Jinhee alone.

Not that he should have been worried considering how ridiculous Jinhee turned out to be.

Then again, when an author of a popular webnovel got transported into a world with all the same tropes and even a 99% similar plot, what did you expect would happen?

But that was a side tangent.

Yuri clenched her hand, shattering the chandelier. After that, she laid down on the sofa and kicked up her feet.

"Paradise..."

The reason she agreed to that promise with Evangeline Rose was because they both agreed it would be possible for Yuri to become even more incredible with magic by monopolizing the VIP shop.

Because of that, Evangeline Rose was supposed to pick her up at this halfway point.

Except she had apparently died, and Yuri got picked up by Jihu instead.

And as a result...

Yuri held out her hand, watching the flow of mana in the room naturally drift towards her. Something that she couldn't have even conceived during her first time in Paradise.

She lowered her hand and placed it over her heart, letting out another wistful sigh. "Oppa... You're really like a god, you know? Granting all my wishes like this without me even asking..."

Yuri let out a soft smile and then closed her eyes to sleep.

It would be a long and exciting few months up ahead, so it was best to rest while she could.

xxx

I felt a shiver run down my spine. And the moment I did, I saw a certain red thread turn into red chains.

Hannah noticed my reaction and clicked her tongue. "Another one, huh?"

"Um..." I rubbed the back of my neck and said, "Not a new one, at least?"

"Hah..." Hannah pinched the bridge of her nose and said, "Whatever. Just remember to take proper care and give attention to everyone. Like Chohong. It's been a while since you've gone out on a date with her, so make sure to do that while you have the time here."

I quickly nodded. "Got it, Hannah. Love you."

She rolled her eyes and said, "You're an ass for saying that to your wife when she's helping you woo other women... but sure. Love you too, Honey."

I laughed and gave her a quick peck on the lips.

She blushed and looked away.

We were in my private office in the Neutral Zone.

...Well, technically it wasn't 'my' office since Cinzia had used it in the last halfway point.

But it was definitely mine now since I dropped enough cash to fuel Paradise's economy for a year and then some.

Hannah and I were seated next to each other at the office's main desk and were planning out the enxt steps while we had the chance.

"A-Anyway..." Hannah cleared her throat and picked up a stack of papers from the table in front of her and said, "We were talking about how to wrap up things on Paradise."

"Right." I leaned over to read the papers and said, "Still need to smack that bug, clean up the worms, and then boot all the idiots abusing the Paradisians."

Hannah nodded and said, "Yes. But before even that, I just had an interesting report from Seohui on the outside..."

xxx

Sung Shihyun jumped in the seat of a helicopter and said, "This is the greatest plan."

Seol covered his face and said, "This is totally not going to work."

"Says you."

"Says me who can literally see destiny."

Yun Seohui glanced at the pair of mysterious masked men and said, "Are you sure that's all you need...?"

Sung Shihyun shivered at hearing Seohui's concerned voice and said, "Yeah. Could you just leave now? You're giving me the creeps."

Seol shivered as well and said, "Tell me about it. To think that she could change this much..."

Seohui looked confused, but then she slowly nodded and said, "If you say so. Then... best of luck."

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