Chapter 153. 3 Years (7)


Tower of Hero’s 101st floor.
In an office created solely for Aileen, her office workers were staring at a pile of documents.

“Hnng…”

After painstaking effort, they had summarized countless number of documents to only 30 pages. These documents were all related to a mysterious entity designated as Black Lotus.

“This is all we have on him?”

Aileen asked as she glanced at the summarized documents.
Black Lotus, the new black color of ‘that’ group and the one who caught Aileen’s attention. He was responsible for eleven terror incidents that happened in Pandemonium.

“Yes, we picked out the core information gathered from our informants who live in Pandemonium.”

“…Ah~ really~ it sure is flawless~”

Aileen tried her best to sound sarcastic, and no one blamed her for it. None of the documents had anything that might identify Black Lotus’ identity and only contained records of his achievements.
To make matters worse, Aileen already knew all these records, which were as simple as [destruction completed with a single arrow], [black lotus symbol engraved on the ground], etc.

“Er, he always disappears immediately afterwards, so there’s really no information about him. He might have a Gift related to teleportation…”

“Yeah~ yeah~”

Aileen didn’t pay attention to their excuses.

“It’s my fault for expecting anything use… huh? Wait a minute.”

Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in her head, and she got goosebumps on her skin.
She widened her eyes and stared at her employees.

“He always leaves after a single arrow… Then… could he… no, could she be the Divine Archer?”

“…Pardon?”

“Divine Archer. You know, Jin Seyeon the Divine Archer.”

It was a ridiculous claim. However, the office workers had trouble discerning whether Aileen was serious. After staring at her expression for a while, they shook their heads.

“There’s no way it can be Jin Seyeon-ssi.”

“She should be busy doing volunteer work…”

“…Right? I was kidding too.”

Aileen quickly changed her tone.
Jin Seyeon the Divine Archer. She was a Master rank Hero titled the ‘god of the bow’. It was worth noting that she was only rank 70, putting her on the bubble when it came to Master rank territory. Furthermore, she had retired from active duty and only showed up every once in a while in North Africa.

“By the way, why is she even doing volunteer work?”

“….”

“….”

The office workers saved their breath. Jin Seyeon was an idol to people in their early 20s to 30s. Her kind heart and righteous deeds melted the hearts of men, and her upright personality and popularity made her a Master rank Hero.

“I just don’t understand. Why did the Association put her in the Master rank class?”

Aileen expressed her displeasure. Members of the Temple of Justice were excluded from the Association’s ranking system, but Jin Seyeon’s Master rank designation was always a point of contention. Aileen acknowledged that Jin Seyeon was the best archer. The question was why Jin Seyeon was a Master rank Hero rather than Yoo Jinwoong.

“I’d win If I fought her too.”

Grumbling unhappily, Aileen suddenly got curious.
Like asking which side would win in a fight between a tiger and a lion, it was akin to an instinctive curiosity that any human would have.

“Hmm…”

Given all the same conditions, who would win between Jin Seyeon and Black Lotus?
After mulling over the question for a while, Aileen turned her gaze to the office workers.

“Girls, how strong do you think he is~?”

“Erm, I’m not sure…. Can you elaborate?”

“Mm~ you know, try estimating his rank. How do you think he fares compared to Jin Seyeon?”

Hearing Aileen’s explanation, the four office workers fell in thought. Although they were elites who graduated from top ranking universities and passed the Association’s difficult tests, they were still incapable of answering whether a lion or a tiger would win in a fight.

“Um, Black Lotus probably didn’t use 100% of his strength, right?”

The youngest office worker asked.
It was a sharp question.
Aileen rubbed her chin and mulled it over.
Black Lotus’ arrow was undoubtedly powerful. There wasn’t a single target he couldn’t destroy with a single arrow.

“Let me think…”

In reality, archers had difficulty amplifying the power of a single arrow. At the same time, it was what they desired the most as archers wanted to finish off their enemies in one blow. Otherwise, their location would be found out. Without a warrior to protect them, they would then be in great danger.

There was a reason archers had trouble doing this. Pouring too much magic power into a magic arrow made its form fainter and harder to control. In order to properly control their magic arrows, archers had to limit their power.

“40%…”

However, Black Lotus always managed to obliterate his target with one arrow. This meant that his control over his arrow was superb, which also meant that he didn’t use his full power.

“Maybe it’s only 20~30%.”

“Eh? That small?”

The surprised office worker voiced her doubt. For Black Lotus to have only used 20~30% of his power, the results he showed were too brilliant.
He had destroyed a tower that could have withstood most explosions and a hideout with a high-rank barrier surrounding it. He had even assassinated an executive of Pandemonium’s rank 10 private organization.

“If you’re going to doubt me, don’t ask in the first place.”

Aileen looked down at their doubts. As far as she was concerned, they were bookworms who rarely saw the world outside.

“…K-Kuhum, no, I apologize. Hey, you! Continue with what you were saying before!”

The flustered office worker quickly retracted her words and yelled at the youngest office worker who talked before.

“Ah, yes. So assuming that we’ve only seen 25% of Black Lotus’ full strength…”

The youngest office worker furiously typed on her laptop, performing complex calculations. When she arrived at the answer, her expression turned pale.

“This…”

“What? Hurry up and say it.”

“Well… in terms of numbers… he’s at the level of a Master rank Hero.”

“Eh? Really?”

Everyone in the office was surprised.

“Yes, the estimated value of the magic power explosion he caused is similar to Divine Archer Jin Seyeon-nim’s crystal arrow, which she used to defeat the Basilisk three years ago.”

“Oooh.”

Where did she learn how to do this? Aileen smiled.

“That’s interesting.”

“Remember that this is only theory.”

“Still, it’s interesting.”

Aileen was suddenly filled with anticipation.
Two archers aiming their bows at each other, letting go of their bowstrings in high tension, two arrows shining in different colors and flying towards each other, and the final clash…
Frankly, she hoped Jin Seyeon would lose.
Aileen didn’t like women who always acted kind, noble, and refined.

“Alright, that’s it for today. You can all go home.”

“Yes!”
“Thank you~”
“See you tomorrow!”

The office workers smiled brightly and bowed.

“Yeah~ yeah~ see ya~”

Aileen was certainly a boss with many complaints and outbursts.
However, she was still popular with her subordinates because she let them go home early.

**


Rachel had changed a lot in three years.
She now had a perfect V-line after losing her baby fat, and her innocent eyes looked more mature. Was it because of all the troubles she faced? She had a thin dark circle under both eyes, but even that looked charming on her.

“It… it’s been a while.”

Rachel stuttered. Although many things had changed, her voice was still the same.

“Yeah.”

I replied simply. Then, I purposely stayed silent. I was curious how she would react.

“…Mm, mmn.”

Her fidgeting hands were toying with her computer mouse. Seeing this awkward side of her, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Why aren’t you talking? Is it because I came too late?”

“Y-Yes? Ah, no, that’s not it…”

Rachel suddenly froze and looked straight at me. Meeting her eyes, I waited for her next words.

“Your beard… you grew it out.”

However, what came out of her mouth was something I didn’t expect.

“Oh, this?”

I rubbed my chin. I had a cool nickname like Fenrir, but because Aether kept making me look younger, I grew out my beard. In a way, I looked like Western movie stars. Oh and for the record, it wasn’t a goatee.

“A famous barber trimmed it for me. Does it look weird?”

I found the son of the master barber I met in the past. Although he wasn’t as skilled as his father, he was also working as a barber.

“No, it looks great.”

“That’s nice to hear.”

Thanks to him, I was under a 0.4-point charm buff. Since I was meeting Rachel for the first time in years, I put in some extra effort.

“But I’ll shave it off soon.”

“Eh? N-No, it really looks nice on you. Really.”

Rachel waved her hands, and I smiled.
Sometimes when I saw myself in the mirror, I arrogantly thought I looked like Jake Gyllenhaal. But because Evandel didn’t like it, I planned to cut it off soon.

“…Anyways, I heard you were taking a break from mercenary work…”

Rachel carefully changed the subject.

“I’ve been busy with other things.”

For the past six months, I was focused on the Chameleon Troupe’s missions. Robbing a rich Djinn, hunting a Jewel Whale in the deep Pacific, destroying hideouts of Pandemonium’s organizations, etc.
I tried to make the Chameleon Troupe attack Djinns as much as possible.

“Well, we can catch up on personal matters later. For now, let’s talk about our partnership.”

“Ah, yes… wait, partnership?”

Rachel’s eyes widened.

“Of course. That’s why I’m here.”

I smiled.

“Don’t you remember? I said we’d probably work together through a mercenary partnership.”

“…Ah, r-right~ I remember~”

It didn’t look like she remembered, but she nodded excitedly anyways.

“It’s coming back to me. It was… really sunny that day.”

“…It was raining.”

I narrowed my eyes and glared at her.

“R-Right, it was raining. I got confused for a moment…”

“I’m kidding, it was sunny.”

“…Sunny—”

“Or maybe I’m remembering wrong.’

“….”

In the end, Rachel closed her mouth and glared at me while pouting.

“Haha, I’m just joking. Here are our conditions. Take a look.”

I took out the contract I brought and gave it to her. Rachel picked it up respectfully.
Jeronimo Mercenary’s conditions were as follows.

===
1. The Royal Court guild is not to interfere in Jeronimo’s business.
2. England is to provide information on all Dungeons within its territory. If the Royal Court guild conquers a Dungeon, all acquired loot is to be revealed to Jeronimo Mercenary.
3. Jeronimo Mercenary is to have first priority in purchasing loot acquired from Dungeons.
4. …
===

There were only six clauses in total. After carefully reading each clause, Rachel looked up.

“If you agree to these terms, we can help England deal with its monster crisis. We’ll be forming an official partnership.”

“Partnership!”

Rachel’s eyes immediately lit up.

**


[Royal Court guild forms partnership with Jeronimo Mercenary!]
[How did England move Jeronimo?]
[Fenrir slaughters thousands of sea monsters in one hour.]

As soon as the news went out that the Royal Court guild partnered with Jeronimo, the international community blew up.
Headlines all over the world reported on England and Jeronimo’s new relationship, and the Royal Court guild’s stocks skyrocketed. The prime minister even invited Jeronimo’s mercenary leader (Jain in disguise) to a banquet.
Additionally, Rachel was appointed as the successor to the guild leader for her achievement in this negotiation.
Of course, there was also a fair amount of negative rumors, particularly about sexual favors.

In any case, a month flew by.

England’s situation had mostly calmed down, but it was hard to say it was all thanks to Jeronimo Mercenary. Jeronimo Mercenary only had 24 members. Even then, they were all fake identities, and there were only 5~6 active members.

However, the goal of this partnership was to destroy the monsters’ habitats. Once the habitats were destroyed, monsters would naturally stop reproducing, and over time, the increased monster count would naturally dwindle.

In only a month, Jeronimo destroyed six habitats of sea monsters, a feat Cheok Jungyeong achieved alone. I only had to tell him where a monster habitat was located, and Cheok Jungyeong would run over and destroy everything in sight.
As an ally, Cheok Jungyeong couldn’t be more reliable.

“I’m glad it was resolved without any civilian casualties.”

Currently, I was walking with Rachel along the English Channel’s beach.

“I agree.”

We arrived here just ten minutes ago after a report that a large number of carnivorous tunas appeared.

“By the way, I’m going to make you pay for my bullets.”

Using the heavy machine gun mode, I took care of everything in just seven minutes. Since we had time left over, we went on a stroll along the beach.

“….”

Rachel was still reticent. She strolled silently as she watched the waves glistening under the sun with a relaxed smile on her face. Feeling a bit bored, I put my finger up to my face.
It was then.

“Oh right.”

Poke.
Rachel suddenly turned around, making my finger poke her cheek.

“….”

Rachel froze and stared at my finger. Then, she stared at me asking for an explanation.

“…Er, anyways, Rachel-ssi. Or rather, vice-leader.”

I pulled my finger back and asked as if nothing happened.

“The Royal Court guild conquered several Dungeons in the past few months. Have you gotten any paper as loot?”

“…Paper?”

“Yes, something that looks like an entrance ticket.”

A piece of paper that looked like a ticket and shone in different colors.
This was not an ordinary piece of paper nor was it a ticket to an amusement park.
It was the entrance ticket to the Tower of Wish, the next major episode.

“Mm… I don’t think so.”

Rachel replied after mulling over it for a moment, and I shook my head regrettably.
Then, we went back to strolling.

Vrrr—
Suddenly, my smartwatch rang. It was loud enough for Rachel to hear as well.
I quickly looked down at my watch.

[The laptop update has been completed.]

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