67 – Warm Return
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Ahaha... since we're trending number one again, I feel morally obligated to do a double release... so here we are. This is number two! Go back one if you haven't read that yet!

2/2

Setting my aliases aside, my status screen looked broken. At least, the fact that it couldn't measure my abilities seemed like it wasn't normal... Hadn't it been able to keep track of Seol's abilities even after he became a god? The fact that it couldn't read mine...

Well, it was a good thing. Though the fact remained that my physical body didn't match up with my abilities since they were still only EX, I had a few new abilities that might fix that.

Enduring Soul... was probably that thing Seol mentioned about me being immortal. Conceptual Manipulation though... that was new.

My initial impression was that it let me do things like enforce concepts a la BS shenanigans, but I'd have to test it out to be sure.

Overall though, it seemed like a net plus as a result from this mess. I was alive, I powered up, and everyone was safe. Not only that, but the Parasite Queen lost two of her important commanders and the third was probably out of commission for a while.

I sat up and focused on my body, wondering if there was anything that needed immediate attention. But before I could do anything, the door to my room slammed open...

"JIHU!"

...And a silver blur shot towards me, pulling me into a hug.

I laughed and hugged her back. "Sorry to worry you, Flonnie."

xxx

A flurry of activity filled the intensive care unit after Flone hugged me.

Carpe Diem appeared in a flash to welcome and congratulate their leader on his miraculous results and recovery.

Everyone was there to greet me... Minus Sora who seemed to be back on Earth still. It looked like Chohong booked it and grabbed Ian first before getting everyone else.

To put it short, I got a lot of crying faces, scolding, and then praise for doing the impossible.

But after that, everyone got shooed out except for three people. Ian, Maldong, and Yuhui.

I sat up to face the three and let out an awkward wave. "Hey. Thanks for everything... I'm guessing you guys were the main ones that helped fix my mess?"

Ian let out a deep sigh and then waved his hand. When he did, an iron chair appeared out of thin air and he sat down.

I raised an eyebrow and said, "Looks like someone figured out how transmutation works."

Ian chuckled and said, "After the hellish homework you gave me to solve, something like this is simple."

Maldong pulled a chair over from the side and sat down. After that, he frowned and stared at me. "Is everything well? Any complications?"

I shook my head. "None. Everything is fine... and my stats actually rose as well. A lot. I'm fine."

Yuhui walked over and grabbed my arm. She glared at me and said, "I'll be the judge of that, Mister." She muttered some spells under her breath and then let out a sigh of relief.

I smiled. "All good, right?"

Yuhui huffed and let me go. "Do you find it funny to make others worry or something, Jihu? Honestly..."

Maldong glanced at Yuhui and said, "Then it went well?"

Yuhui turned around and nodded. "Like Mister Ian said, Master Maldong's treatment made Jihu's body reform." She glanced back to glare at me and said, "Enough to where it's almost like Jihu wasn't bedridden for two whole months."

I shrugged and said, "Hey. I'm just built different."

Ian shook his head and then stood up. "If that wasn't true before, it definitely is now, my friend." He looked at me and said, "I can only imagine what other magicians would think when they realize how your magic circuits are now."

"That I'm obviously an exception to every rule in the book?"

Ian snorted. "Well, if you're in a good enough mood to talk like that, it seems like you're fine." He nodded his head to Yuhui and Maldong and then waved at me. "I'll be off. Muto and I need to resolve some things at the fortress... and I have some research I need to catch up with back on Earth, so I'll be gone for a while."

"Ah." I nodded and said, "See you later, Ian."

He smiled and then warped away.

Yuhui stared at me and then glanced at Maldong.

Maldong nodded and said, "I'll only be a moment, Miss Yuhui. Then you can speak with him as long as you wish."

Yuhui smiled. "I'll wait outside then. And please, no need to rush, Master Maldong." After that, she left the room.

When the door shut, Maldong stood up from his chair and walked over to my bed. Staring at me, he said, "You crazy bastard."

I let out a wry smile and said, "Yeah... Everyone seems to be calling me that lately."

Maldong leaned on his walking stick and said, "You deserve to be. Killing two Army Commanders and eradicating the divinity of one... Such a thing has never been done in all of Paradise's history."

"...I'm guessing the gods filled you in on that?"

Maldong scoffed and said, "Of course. Lady Gula went out of her way to praise me for doing my part in helping you train and achieve that." He frowned. "Not that I did anything much. A monster like you didn't need anything else to reach that point."

"You're selling yourself short, Coach."

"Hmph." Maldong smirked, but fixed his expression. "In any case... I just wanted to tell you to be careful. There isn't a person who doesn't know your name in Paradise now. While the major players are hesitant and your allies are still moving about to prepare the stage, the time for you to step onto the field yourself has come."

I nodded. "I know."

It was inevitable. After all, I did what even Seol couldn't manage.

"...Good." Maldong nodded and adjusted his fedora. "Then I won't say much else other than for you to take a break back on Earth until things are prepared. ...Ah. And if you have the chance, I hear that there's a good pork belly restaurant near Hongik University Station's 8th exit. You should go visit when you get the chance."

I blinked. "A pork belly restaurant?"

Maldong didn't elaborate and simply left.

Before I could think about what he was telling me that for, Yuhui came back.

The beautiful Daughter of Luxuria shut the door behind her and then sighed. She walked over to me, dragging Maldong's vacated chair with her, and then set up right in front of me. Placing her arms on her thighs, she propped up her head with her hands and stared into my eyes.

I stared back and said, "Is something wrong?"

"No. Just... You really are a lot of trouble, Jihu." Yuhui sighed and said, "I was really worried when I heard about it, you know? Imagine my surprise, returning as fast as I could with reinforcements only to see you fighting by yourself against the Parasite Army Commanders. I almost had a heart attack, you know!"

"Yeah... Not the smartest idea. But necessary."

Yuhui frowned. "Necessary?"

"Yeah. They were there for me, after all. And I went in with a plan... Besides, it turned out well in the end, right?"

Yuhui let out a deep sigh. "It seems some things never change, huh...?"

I played dumb and said, "What was that?"

"Nothing~!" Yuhui smiled and then said, "But are you sure you're well, Jihu? Your body is fine, but don't push yourself, alright?"

I frowned and said, "You too, huh? Seems like everyone's worried about me..."

"Of course!" Yuhui huffed and said, "You destroyed two Parasite armies, turned the people in one of those armies into our allies, and killed two Army Commanders! And to do that, you turned your whole body into pure energy!" She narrowed her eyes and said, "I'm scared that if I look away, a certain man I know might decide to do something crazy like run off to fight the Parasite Queen."

"Hey now, I'm not that reckless."

"So you admit that you're reckless then?"

I nodded. "Of course. But it was a calculated gamble. Besides, I believed in my friends."

Yuhui let out a deep sigh. "Your belief is a bit too heavy, Jihu..."

"Only because I trust everyone that much."

Yuhui shook her head.

Silence fell in the room.

I took the time to examine Yuhui.

She looked like she had every time I saw her before I was properly awake, but now that I could see her with my own eyes, I noticed that she looked tired.

It wasn't tangible. In fact, I could clearly see that she was in the best shape ever. Perfectly healthy. But she seemed to be carrying an intangible fatigue around her.

"...Sorry."

"Hm?" Yuhui looked up and said, "What for?"

"I didn't mean to make you worry so much."

Yuhui blinked and then smiled. "Thank you, Jihu. But if you're feeling guilty, there are two other people you should apologize to first, you know? Princess Teresa and Flonnie have been worried the most about you."

"Then I'll make sure to apologize to them when I'm back in top form."

Yuhui nodded. But then she paused and glared at me. "...I thought you said your body was fine?"

I coughed. "It is. But I've got a lot of mental fatigue, you know? Turns out being unconscious for a couple of months makes your brain pretty mushy."

Yuhui looked like she didn't buy my excuse, but she sighed. "Fine. I'll believe you. But if I find out later that you got hurt overdoing things, I'm not going to be the only one scolding you."

"I know, I know. And I'd deserve it."

Yuhui nodded.

Silence fell in the room again. A comfortable silence.

Yuhui seemed more than happy to just wait there, and I didn't mind her company.

But after a while, Yuhui looked troubled and said, "Jihu..."

"Yes?"

Yuhui looked at me and seemed hesitant. But she gathered her resolve and said, "...You're not seeing anyone right now, are you?"

Ah. Crap.

Did she read my thoughts? Yuhui quickly held up her hands and said, "I don't mean to probe or anything, but, um-"

"It's about Seonhwa, right?"

Yuhui froze. And then she blinked and said, "You knew?"

I sighed and fluffed my pillow, making myself comfortable. "I didn't until recently. The Sacred Empress Baek Haeju... Yeah, it definitely explained a lot. But if you're asking if I'm still dating her, then no." I gazed off in the distance and said, "...I'm not the Jihu she fell in love with anymore. While I still care for her, being like that..."

It was complicated. And seeing her emotions while I was unconscious... I'd be lying if I said that didn't tug on my heart a little.

But it wouldn't work. Trying to be like it used to when we were both different people, her having grown up to be independent and me being a completely different person than Jihu, would only end in heartbreak.

"O-Oh?" Yuhui's eyes lit up, but she tried to hide it. "I see..."

I chuckled. For a split second, I was tempted to tease her... but my intuition screamed at me not to and I quickly decided to change the subject. "By the way, I owe you one for helping Seora out, Yuhui."

"Hm?" Yuhui blinked and then smiled. "Oh! No, it was my pleasure. Miss Seora seemed like a nice and hardworking girl, so it was only natural to help her when she asked for my help. Besides, we both wanted the same thing."

"Still." I gave Yuhui a serious look and said, "I owe you one. So if there's anything you need in the future-"

Yuhui reached over and bopped my head.

I blinked.

"Dummy." Yuhui smiled and said, "Remember? There aren't any favors between friends. Just take me out for lunch sometime-" She paused and then said, "Actually, just make me a bowl of ramen when you have time."

"A bowl of ramen, huh?" I placed my hand on my chin and nodded. "Alright. It's a promise."

Yuhui's smile widened and then she stood up. "Okay~! Now... I've got some business to catch up with now that my patient's awake, so I'll be off."

I frowned. "Business... Anything that needs my help?"

Yuhui flexed her arm and said, "Don't worry! I'm a big girl, Jihu. I don't need you to come in and save me every time... but thank you." She paused and said, "I might need your help later, but I'll make sure to tell you when I do. For now, just take care and rest, okay?"

"Alright... but you'd better not try and do everything yourself."

"Hypocrite."

"And proudly one."

Yuhui rolled her eyes and then walked out. "I'll see you, Jihu. Rest up!"

The door shut, and I was alone again.

When I was, I stared at my hand, clenching and closing it. "Rest up, huh?"

Faint and frayed azure threads started flickering around my fingertips. The 'destiny' that was shattered after my fight against the Army Commanders.

"Mm... I guess I might as well let the dust settle a bit here."

xxx

After Yuhui left, I checked myself out of the intensive care unit and headed back to the office. Of course, I made sure to disguise myself.

While I didn't expect any trouble, I had a feeling that Murphy's Law would smack me in the face if I tempted things too much.

When I entered the office, it was empty. Maybe because everyone didn't expect me to get out so soon, or maybe because they were all finding get well soon presents or something, there wasn't a single person inside when I got there.

Walking into my room, I planned to get some rest and then gather everyone together later to go over plans.

And then I realized that I had been wrong about the office being empty.

"I knew it." An unfamiliar female voice with a familiar cadence called out to me. "You would definitely leave as soon as you woke up."

A beautiful woman with an aloof expression. Wearing a martial artist's uniform, a pure white robe, and carrying a jade spear on her back, she stood in the middle of the room, clearly waiting for me.

I shut the door behind me and chuckled. "I guess I should have realized you would still be here after what I said."

Baek Haeju- No, Yoo Seonhwa stared at me, her mouth pursed in a thin line.

I waved my hand toward my bed and said, "Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable."

She shook her head. "I'm fine."

"Suit yourself... But do you want a soda?" I conjured an orange soda from thin air and then handed one over to her. "My treat."

She stared at me a moment longer and then sighed, taking the can. She cracked it open without a word and then sipped on it.

I made another one and walked over to sit down on my bed.

Seonhwa didn't move from her spot, only turning to look at me.

I stared back, idly sipping on my soda.

She was still Baek Haeju. I didn't recognize the appearance of the woman standing there. But there was no mistaking that it was Seonhwa.

Even if I didn't have my Transcendent Insight to tell me the truth, and even if I didn't have the crimson and golden threads wrapping around her to tell me who she was, my body could tell. Was it because Seol still had a large influence on me, or because this body just remembered her? Either way, there was no way that the person standing there could be anyone except for Seonhwa.

Especially with that slight pursed lips expression that Seonhwa always did.

After a few moments, it was clear that she didn't intend on saying anything. So I spoke up instead. "I'm surprised you stuck around. I would have thought that you would have gone back by now, Seonhwa."

She flinched. Was it because she wasn't expecting it? Or did she think that she had been mistaken last time when I called her that? Seonhwa shook her head and said, "How did you find out? And when?"

I swirled around my soda to think about an answer. And then I said, "Intuition. And I didn't know about it until recently, but I figured something was up when you were a bit too concerned about my new job and asked a bit too many pointed questions."

"...That still shouldn't have given it away. There's nothing connecting Baek Haeju and Yoo Seonhwa."

I nodded. "That's right... Except for one thing. Me."

"...You?"

"Yep. For such an important person to show up to try and help me in a fight like that while being determined to lay down her life... Even if you were Yuhui's friend, it was too much, you know? Besides... You were always fairly talented. If you came here at the start of university, I figured you'd be roughly around her level."

Seonhwa stared at me for a long time and then let out a sigh. After that, she gave me a weak smile and said, "You're as smart as ever, Jihu."

"Mm. If you say so, guess I'll have to believe it." I took a sip from my orange soda and stared at her.

Seonhwa stared back and then said, "You aren't mad?"

"About what?"

"...I kept this place a secret from you for all those years. I... thought you'd be more upset than this."

"Why should I be upset?" I shook my head and said, "You had your reasons for being here, just like I have mine. And we're both grown adults now. It's not like we need to get into a row about it or something."

"...You've really matured, Jihu."

"I had to."

Silence. And then Seonhwa said, "You're still planning to come to Paradise, aren't you? Even after all of that, you don't have any intention of stopping."

"That's right."

"Why?" Seonhwa bit her lip and then said, "Why do you have to risk your life like that? You have everything you need back on Earth already, don't you?"

"I do. But... I can't give this place up, you know? Not when I can help it."

Seonhwa stared at me and then let out a deep sigh. As if resolving herself, she nodded and said, "I thought so." She let out a sad smile and said, "My little Pipster doesn't need me anymore."

I couldn't respond. No. That was a lie. I chose not to respond.

A part of me still wanted Seonhwa to stay by my side. And from her expression, it seemed like she would if I just asked.

But that part of me wasn't 'me.' Not the person who I was now. Not the person who had become Seol Jihu.

So I didn't say it.

Even so, she seemed to pick up on my thoughts and nodded. Schooling her expression back to the aloof cold beauty, she said, "I'll leave you be."

I smiled and said, "What? Nothing left to say?"

Seonhwa paused. Glancing back at me, she shook her head and said, "This isn't the place. And..." Her gaze turned distant and she muttered, "I need time to gather my thoughts." With that said, she left.

And I was alone again.

When I was sure she was gone, I let out a deep sigh and rubbed my face with my hands. "Jihu, you bastard. Seems like you just can't help going around hurting women, can you?"

No response. But of course. It was just me, and I knew the answer to that question.

I sighed again and then unmade my soda can. After that, I laid down in my bed to rest.

My body might be fine... mostly. But I really did need some rest to get rid of my mental fatigue.

Staring at the ceiling, I slowly closed my eyes, letting my fatigue pull me away into sleep.

xxx

When I woke up, I sent a message to gather everyone back in the office. Or rather, I found Flone and asked her to send the message for me.

I would have preferred to do it in person, but I had a feeling that more than one person would protest at me using so much magic after getting knocked into a coma for a few months.

Anyway, while I was waiting for everyone to show up, I sat down in the living room of Carpe Diem's HQ and checked on my body again.

The sleep did wonders. Mostly for my state of mind. After getting a decent and proper rest instead of being in that weird half-conscious state earlier, I felt refreshed and ready to fight off another few armies if need be.

Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing though...

Anyway, my body was in great shape. The 'EX' rank in my status wasn't for show. Just by tensing my muscles, I could sense the amount of force stored within them. If before I had been superhuman, now I was superman.

But that didn't change the fact that I still possessed a source of energy far outstripping my body's capacity to handle it.

While I could sense an untapped source of physical power in my body now after it had leveled up from healing, I could also sense the unfathomable well of energy deep inside me. While it wasn't clashing with my body anymore or threatened to envelop it, I was still limited.

To put it into perspective... if before my body was a fragile glass faucet, now it was made of pure adamantine. But that didn't change the fact that it was trying to pump out an entire ocean's worth of energy.

In short, my bottle neck on my power was still the fact that my body hadn't yet matched up.

But that was fine. At the least, I didn't have to worry about it blowing up into smithereens now. And just because I couldn't channel my energy through my body didn't mean I couldn't use it.

I was still in the brainstorming stage, but those two new skills I had... Conceptual Manipulation and Enduring Soul. If they were what I thought they were, then I was fairly sure I could do some crazy shenanigans pretty soon. But-

"Oh? It seems that I am the first to return." A male voice echoed through the room, followed by the sound of the door closing shut. Not long after, Ghio walked over.

I glanced at him and waved my hand. "Morning, Ghio. Long time no see."

The silver-haired archer let out a bright smile and nodded. "Indeed, Great Benefactor. It has been a great while since we last spoke."

I sighed and said, "Just call me Jihu or Leader, Ghio. Great Benefactor... I already had to get Kazuki to stop calling me that and just managed to do so recently. I don't need another one."

Ghio laughed and said, "I suppose that's true. Leader has always been a humble and noble person." He reached around his back and then walked over, holding out a grocery bag. "In any case, I rushed back to buy this for you."

"Hm?" I took the bag from him and looked inside. "What's this?"

"Tofu." Ghio smiled and said, "I heard that it is customary to pass it out in Oriental cultures to welcome someone back from a hospital."

I blinked and then chuckled. "It's a bit off, but I appreciate the thought. Thanks."

If I remembered right, tofu was actually supposed to be a gift to members of the yakuza and the underworld who recently got out from prison.

Ghio's heart was in the right place, but it seemed like he got it mixed up somewhere.

"You're welcome, Leader. This is the least that I can do for you after saving my beloved."

Hearing his response suddenly reminded me of what he was doing when I was unconscious. Remember that, I frowned and said, "Speaking of that-"

"Oppa!"

"Hyung!"

Before I could respond, the door opened and two energetic voices called out from outside. One female and one male.

Seol-Ah and Sungjin walked through the door.

Seol-Ah looked more tanned than the last time I saw her while Sungjin looked even more muscular.

I didn't notice before since I was still a bit groggy from adjusting to everything, but... Just what the heck had those two been doing? 

"Oi, you two bastards!" A young female voice called out after the two. "Don't run off without me!"

After that, Maria walked into the building.

Like the two siblings, she looked a bit different. Or rather, a lot different.

Before, it was easy for Maria to pass as a kid or a young teenager. But there was no way for her to do that now.

Long, flowing gold hair. Clear blue eyes, and a body that had been trained in practical combat. Lithe, while still curved in all the right places...

Was that the influence of Luxuria?

I sensed that Maria's mana was a lot stronger now, and I could also sense a bit of the same holy aura around her that Yuhui had. Not only that, but she was also taller, like she hit her growth spurt.

Maria looked at me and then let out a bright smile. "Looks like Oppa's finally awake! Good. I was just about to smack you with my crucifix for making me worried so much."

"...Nice to see you again too?"

Seol-Ah laughed and said, "Don't mind her, Oppa. Maria's just dishonest with her feelings."

"Shut it, brat!" Maria blushed and said, "Don't think I won't beat you up just because you call me Unni!"

Seol-Ah grinned and then turned towards Ghio. Bowing her head, she said, "It's nice to see you again, Mister Ghio! Is your fiancée doing better?"

Ghio nodded. "She's doing well. Thank you for asking."

Sungjin walked over, smiling while looking at me. "Of course she is. With Hyung saving her, it'd be impossible for her to not be fine."

Ghio laughed. "I suppose that's true. Leader is quite the miracle worker."

Seol-Ah looked at me with stars in her eyes and said, "More like a hero! Do you know what people are saying about you all around Paradise, Oppa? It's like you're a superstar!"

I sighed. "Maybe I should have been a bit more lowkey then..."

A snort echoed from outside and Chohong walked in. "You, lowkey? As if that could happen, Mister Showoff."

I raised my hand. "Hey, Chohong."

She rolled her eyes. "Sure, sure. Ignore the jab... Doesn't change the fact that you pulled off a ridiculous stunt."

Hugo walked in after Chohong and said, "Can you blame Bro though? He's just too damned cool for all of us."

"Uh-huh." Chohong glanced at Hugo and said, "Then are you going to do what you said? I seem to remember a certain muscle head saying that he'd eat his shoes if Jihu got the Sacred Empress as well..."

"Grk."

I blinked and then looked at Hugo. "Eat your shoes...?"

Hugo laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Don't worry about it, Bro. Just something stupid I said back then."

Chohong clicked her tongue and then sat down on a nearby couch.

"My, my." An aged male voice echoed through the room. Not long after, Ian walked in and smiled. "Well isn't this a lively bunch?"

Flone walked in behind him and giggled. "It is! But it's better than the gloomy atmosphere it had the past two months, right?"

Ian chuckled. "True, Miss Flone." Gazing around at everyone, Ian smiled and said, "I much prefer this warm atmosphere to the other one." He looked at me and winked. "Isn't that right, Leader?"

I smiled. "Ian. Flone." I waved at the two and said, "Yeah... Hanging out with everyone like this is great."

Flone wagged her finger and said, "Then you'd better behave yourself, Mister! You can't do that if you run off and do something reckless again!"

I blinked, caught off guard at the out of character act.

Flone laughed and then laced her hands behind her back. "How'd I do? Resa and I have been going through some old plays, and I thought I'd try something new to roleplay!"

"Er, that was-"

The sound of a wooden cane striking the ground echoed. Shortly after that, Maldong walked into the building. The old man took a look around and then chuckled. "How amusing. Looks like I'm the one late today."

"Ah." I waved at Maldong and said, "Don't worry, Coach. Everyone else just got here."

"Even so, it won't do for this old man to be slacking." He walked over and then took up a spot against the wall. Looking at me, he said, "Well... you called us up here, Leader. What is it that you had in mind?"

"Right." I looked out at everyone and said, "In that case... I guess I'll get straight to the point."

Everyone's eyes settled on me, waiting for my next words.

Seeing that, I nodded and said, "From today on, Carpe Diem's on break. I'm ordering all of you to head back home to Earth and take time off. Two weeks minimum in real life."

Maldong gave me an approving nod and said, "Time off... Yes. It would be good to let the dust settle."

Chohong laced her hands behind her neck and hummed. "I was going to head back anyway, so I guess I'll take the time now then."

Hugo nodded. "Yeah. I've got a long trip planned too, so this is great."

"Mm." Ghio looked at me and said, "Not that I am against this, Leader. But might I ask the reason? Is your body in that much of a poor condition?"

Silence, everyone's eyes suddenly back on me.

Maria in particular narrowed her eyes in suspicion.

I held up my hands and said, "Hey now, I'm fine. At most, I'm just a bit drained. This trip is more to just make sure nobody gets hunted down or wrapped up in the craziness of the celebrations."

"Ah." Sungjin nodded. "True. Hyung is a huge celebrity right now. Since we're part of your team, we might get bothered by association."

Seol-Ah hummed. "I guess so... That would explain the pushy people trying to stalk us all the time."

"Hm?" I frowned and looked towards her. "What do you mean?"

"Oh." Seol-Ah shook her head. "Nothing much, Oppa. Just-"

Maria cut in and said, "Just some idiots who're trying to pick up scraps by faking interest. Don't worry about it, Oppa. I handled them."

"...I'm a bit concerned on what you mean by that, but sure. Anyway, the point is that things are going to be busy. And definitely going to kick up soon. To make sure we're ready for that, I want all of us to take some time off. Though, it seems like someone already got the message ahead of time."

Sora was missing, and considering what I remembered from seeing her while I was unconscious, she was probably still back on Earth.

Ghio nodded. "Understood. Then, I will head off first."

"E-Eh?" Seol-Ah turned to look at Ghio and said, "So soon?"

"Yes. My beloved is waiting for me back on Earth." A flash of guilt passed through his face, but then he firmed his expression and said, "I could not be with her in her time of need. So at the very least, now..."

"Ah." Seol-Ah nodded. "I understand, Mister Ghio."

Ghio smiled and then turned towards me. "Apologies, Leader. My beloved and I will give you a proper thanks when she is recovered."

I waved my hand and said, "No rush. Though before we all go... How about we exchange contact information first?"

"Oh yeah!" Seol-Ah's eyes lit up and she said, "We can talk to each other back on Earth!"

Ian grinned. "Great enthusiasm, Miss Seol-Ah! But do remember that the language synchronization doesn't apply on Earth. It may be a bit troublesome to communicate between us all."

"A-Ah..." Seol-Ah lowered her head and said, "That's true... But that doesn't mean we shouldn't exchange contact information, right?" She paused. "Though it'll be hard if it's all in different languages..."

"Don't worry about that." I spoke up and said, "I can translate for everyone and pass the message along."

Maria raised an eyebrow and said, "Oppa can speak multiple languages?"

Ian blinked and then gave me a pointed look. "Say, Friend... By any chance, for you, does the-"

I stuck my finger on my lips and smiled. "Trade secret. But anyway..." I flicked my hand and materialized a business card for everyone. "That's my contact info. I'll leave it to you guys to contact me first when you get on the other side and I'll pass on everyone's contact information when I get everyone."

Ghio nodded. "I'll be off then, Leader." He waved the card and said, "I will send you a message as soon as I return."

After that, he left.

Chohong glanced at her card and nodded. "I'll be going too then. Don't do anything stupid, Oppa." She waved and walked off.

"Ah, wait up, Chohong!" Hugo ran after her and grabbed her shoulder. "Let me come with! Ira's going to yell at me if I go alone!"

"Oi, you bastard! Keep your hands to yourself!"

Seol-Ah glanced at the card and then nodded. She looked back up at me and said, "Then... We're going too, Oppa."

Sungjin nodded. "It's been a while since we've seen Mom... She might be worried."

Seol-Ah frowned and then nodded. "We should hurry back. Bye, Oppa! Miss Flone! Grandpa Maldong and Ian!" She waved and then dashed off, quickly followed by Sungjin.

Maria hummed and said, "I guess I should get going too. There's some stocks on the rise that I need to check up on." She waved at me and said, "Treat me to something when you have the time, Oppa!"

After that, it was just me, Flone, Ian, and Maldong.

Ian chuckled and said, "It really feels like a holiday like this with everyone leaving. Although..." He turned towards Flone and then looked back at me. "Are we going to leave Miss Flone by her lonesome here?"

"Hm?" I shook my head. "Of course not. She's going back with me."

Ian blinked. "Did you earn enough contribution to do that with the battle, Jihu?"

Maldong frowned. "Even if you have, using it on Miss Flone like that... I won't say that it's a waste, but Jihu-"

I waved my hand. "Don't worry. I'm not doing anything like that."

"Hm?" Maldong's frown deepened. "Then... How are you going to bring her back to Earth with you?"

"Easy. Teleportation."

"Tele-" Maldong blinked and then let out a sigh. "You know what? I'll just believe you. I have a feeling that I'll have less of a headache if I do."

Flone giggled and said, "Don't worry, Grandpa Maldong. I'll make sure Jihu won't do anything reckless back on Earth."

"That's not the headache I'm talking about... but please do, Miss Flone." Maldong sighed and then walked out.

Ian looked at me and Flone and then shook his head, a bemused smile on his face. "Love truly finds a way, it seems."

"Oi!" I snapped at him and said, "Don't think I don't know about the mess you caused with Yuhui and Seonhwa!"

Ian blinked and then he chuckled. "Guilty as charged... But such is life, is it not, my friend? In any case..." He winked and said, "Enjoy your honeymoon!"

With that, he warped away.

Flone blinked. "Honeymoon...?"

I sighed. "Ignore him, Flone. Now..." I focused and then said, "Gotta leave a few messages for Teresa and the others..."

It'd be rude to just vanish without a trace, after all.

After scanning the area and dropping some notes, I held my hand out to Flone and smiled. "Shall we go then, Flone?"

She smiled and took my hand. "Let's go, Husband."

"Oi."

Flone giggled.

I rolled my eyes and then warped us back.

24