Leader - a word referring to the commander who stands in the forefront; the individual at the center of a community, the one who proposes a direction for members to act.
That was the ‘leader’. Then what were the requirements to become a leader?
Martial prowess, wisdom, benevolence, fame…. There were all sorts of requisites, but all of them boiled down to one factor.
Strength, eloquent speech, natural virtue and charisma, fame and reputation…. Various methods existed, but in the end, the important thing was ‘trust’.
Whether it be fidelity, which encompassed loyalty and faith, or confidence, which instilled confidence in others, a leader as an existence required ‘trust’.
Seol Jihu subconsciously remembered Dylan, the brawny man of intelligence. His abilities were top-notch, and he led his teammates with calm judgment even in situations of unexpected danger. Although the time Seol Jihu spent with him was short, the impression he left on him was so great that Seol Jihu still thought about him from time to time.
‘What would Dylan have done?’ He asked himself this question, but he soon realized that it was meaningless.
Dylan was Dylan, and Seol Jihu was Seol Jihu.
He couldn’t deny that he was lacking in many areas compared to Dylan. However, he had his own methods. Because he let the situation deteriorate to the current mess, the idea of bringing the team together sounded a bit far-fetched. However, getting started was half the battle.
He had no intention of continuing this off-hand approach. As such, he quickly began to make his move.
At that moment, Sophie Chalet’s treatment ended. Her arm had been bent in a strange angle with her bones sticking out of her flesh, but the Level 4 healing spell, Cure Massive Wounds, successfully restored her left arm.
Just to be sure, Sophie Chalet took out a bottle of healing potion she carried around for emergency situations. As she was slowly drinking it, a sharp voice rang out.
“That’s enough waiting. Can you get up now?” Straight Face was looking down at her with her unique narrowed eyes. “You just lost your shield, so I understand why you’re gloomy… but stop stalling for time. Don’t you feel bad for the people who have to wait for you?”
Lara Wolff, who was listening to her quietly, dropped her jaw in shock. She stared at Straight Face with a look that said, ‘Where did this bitch come from?’
The human body wasn’t a calculator. Even if it was fully healed, it needed some time to recover from the shock. That was why Sophie Chalet was slowly drinking the healing potion - to speed up the rate of recovery. But she was saying she couldn’t even wait for that?
It was obvious that she was just being childish and picking on Sophie because Sophie had interrupted her before. With Straight Face’s condescending look and tone, even the most gentle person would get angry.
However, Sophie didn’t reveal even a hint of frustration. “Sorry, we’ll continue right away.” She smiled and gulped down the rest of the potion.
Lara grit her teeth. She wanted to yell, ‘Aren’t you being way too harsh?’ However, knowing why Sophie was holding back and why they had to hold back, all she could do was clench her fists.
Like the saying, ‘It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion’, she knew that she would either die or be eliminated the moment she was abandoned.
Sophie stood up and began to rummage through the wreckage. Her shield wasn’t broken into pieces, but it was split in half through the middle. It was now more like a washboard for doing laundry than a shield, but thinking that it was better than nothing, Sophie picked up the two pieces.
Immediately, a snicker rang out. “Wow… I’m crying. If it were up to me, I would have just crawled on the ground.”
“Oh? You’re more pragmatic than I thought.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“Of course. I like pragmatic people.”
Snake Eyes and Straight Face exchanged a conversation between themselves. Meanwhile, Lara Wolff’s face flushed red as if she had reached her limit and was about to explode. It was at this point that Seol Jihu cut in.
“I think it will be better for you to throw that shield away. It’s only going to drag you down.”
Sophie’s firm steps stopped. Her eyes widened as she stared at the young man who gently spoke up.
“Hey! Are you adding fuel to the fire? You think she doesn’t know….” Lara Wolff blew up and shot back, but the end of her speech blurred off. It was because she couldn’t detect any hint of mockery or ridicule from the young man’s tone or expression.
Seol Jihu cleared his throat.
“You did well.”
“I’ll take the lead from now on.”
The moment he stepped out of the sidelines and announced his intent…
Straight Face, Snake Eyes, Maria.
Lara, Sophie, and the white headband girl.
The two groups showed completely opposite reactions.
“Uh… um….” Sophie looked back and forth with an anxious face. She couldn’t help but be flustered when the man who had been silent until now suddenly took her side.
Snake Eyes also seemed surprised as she let out a high-pitched whistle.
“Oh- so the prince is finally coming to the rescue!” She sniggered in a mocking tone before looking back at Straight Face. “Now it’s time to defeat the witch.”
“Witch? How rude.” Straight Face murmured calmly. Although she was smiling, it obviously didn’t have good feelings behind it. After all, her eyebrows were furrowed slightly.
It was the same with Maria who muttered, ‘We would have at least gone halfway if you just stayed put.’ She was clearly unhappy that Seol Jihu had gone out of his way to intervene.
Straight Face carefully studied Seol Jihu before the corner of her mouth twisted up. “I thought you were pragmatic… but you’re surprisingly emotional.”
“Well, what can I do.” Then, she shrugged her shoulders, glancing at Lara and Sophie before smiling. “Prince Charming wants to get on his white horse, so I should move out of the way, right?”
She even remarked, “Ah~ I should have been born a white girl too.”
Understanding what she meant, Snake Eyes burst out laughing, while the Warrior and Archer duo turned red.
Seol Jihu calmly asked, “I’d like to ask you for a favor.”
“Can you take on the position of the keeper?” When he asked straightforwardly, Straight Face’s eyebrows twitched. He was asking her to take on the role of protecting the Priests when the vanguard position was the most dangerous?
Seol Jihu turned his gaze and continued, “Also- I would like you to help coordinate from the back.”
“Me?” Snake Eyes pointed at herself after being singled out unexpectedly.
“Yes, since a trap might activate like before. I’d like you to keep your eyes out for anything that might trigger it.”
This wasn’t anything difficult, especially for an Archer of Snake Eyes’ caliber. And in a way, this also seemed to be the safest role.
Snake Eyes tilted her head slightly before yelling “Ha!” and bursting into laughter.
“Hyaa…. Our prince is quite a glutton, huh?”
“Don’t act like you’re not. You’re saying you want to eat those girls and us.”
“I understand. You’re a man with a dick hanging between your legs. Who can blame you for getting horny when you’re surrounded by flowers? But don’t be a glutton. If you eat everything just because you can get your hands on them, you will only end up with a sick stomach~”
Hearing her telling him to pick a side, Seol Jihu smiled bitterly. Perhaps because of the joking comment Straight Face made, Snake Eyes was putting too much emphasis on him being the only man.
But there was one thing he couldn’t deny.
‘Glutton, she says….’
And that was his gluttony.
He could have remained a bystander. Even now, he could abandon Straight Face and Snake Eyes and take the easy way of bringing the other four with him.
However, that was not what Seol Jihu did, nor was it what he wanted to do.
The world didn’t revolve around one individual, and not everything went according to one’s expectations. If there were days when things worked out, then there were also days when things didn’t. One could be compatible with some people and incompatible with others.
Similar situations frequently occurred in life. Was choosing the convenient way out always right?
‘I don’t know.’
He couldn’t give a yes or no answer yet. However, he was willing to experiment which one was correct.
He wanted to test whether his ‘vessel’ was big enough to contain the two people trying to wander off.
Right. To be completely honest, he wanted to taste all of them, even if they weren’t to his taste.
Forcing them into submission… wasn’t quite the way he would put it. But regardless, he felt like leading them would allow him to taste a special flavor.
Once he admitted this, Snake Eyes’ food analogy was spot on, and he cracked up.
And hearing this laugh, Snake Eyes put on a strange expression. “You’re laughing?”
“Ah, sorry, I think you’re misunderstanding something.”
“Misunderstanding? What am I misunderstanding?”
Unlike how relaxed Seol Jihu appeared, Snake Eyes snapped back, “What’s the reason you’re stepping up now when you’ve stayed silent this entire time?”
The question he had been waiting for finally came out. Seol Jihu spoke loud and clear, “Because of a time limit. Though it’s only a possibility.”
“What?” Snake Eyes was expecting something along the lines of, ‘I can’t bear to watch any longer’, and so she couldn’t help but ask back hearing this unexpected answer. Even Straight Face widened her eyes a bit.
“I’m worried that this stage might have a time limit.”
“How do you know that?”
“Can you guarantee that there isn’t?”
“Oh? Get a hold of this kid. We’re playing with words now?”
“You think I won’t…. Hm?” Snake Eyes revealed a displeased expression before hearing Seol Jihu’s muttering and blinking her eyes.
Seol Jihu continued, “Not including this Banquet, we have records on four Stage 1s and four Stage 2s. And out of these eight stages, two of them had time limits.”
Seol Jihu smiled brightly. “We’re talking about a 25 percent chance. I could be wrong, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep this in mind?”
Snake Eyes became speechless. With the Banquet being so volatile and unpredictable, 25 percent was not a number that could be ignored.
Scientia potentia est. ‘Knowledge is power.’
If Seol Jihu had participated in the Banquet relying only on his teammates, then he would have been at a loss for words. However, because he had investigated it thoroughly, he was rather knowledgeable.
And now that he was using this knowledge to convince Straight Face and Snake Eyes, he definitely felt it was time well spent.
Straight Face was showing various changes in her expression to the point she shouldn’t be called ‘Straight Face’ any longer. At the moment, a hint of interest had surfaced on her irritated face, almost as if she discovered a new toy to play with.
“It’s not like we don’t have a choice. If the seven of us work together, we should be able to break through the first stage in no time.” Seol Jihu put more strength into his voice, “And even if there isn’t a time limit, it wouldn’t be bad to clear Stage 1 early. That way, we can investigate Stage 2 ahead of everyone else.”
Seol Jihu had taken a rather roundabout way of explaining things. To summarize, he was saying, ‘Let’s stop playing around and quickly get to Stage 2’.
Most Earthlings who participated in the Banquet had Stage 2 as their minimum goal. That was because they could obtain the ‘Dissonant Wish’ in Stage 2.
In this sense, Seol Jihu had given a sound argument.
Right, what he said made sense….
But the problem was with the way he put it.
Seol Jihu’s way of leading piqued Straight Face’s interest. He seemed to be stirring a conflict at first, but he provided carrots in the form of keeper and coordinator positions and offered logic with a potential time limit.
Straight Face had no reason to go against him, but she was a bit hesitant. She felt like the young man was gently consoling her after smacking her hard.
‘Should I go along with this?’
She was in the middle of contemplating her decision when her eyes met Maria’s. The blonde-haired girl grinned before stealthily moving behind Seol Jihu.
The corner of Straight Face’s mouth twisted. A skilled Priest who specialized in healing was siding with the young man. This wasn’t something she could ignore. Although she had a skilled Archer on her side, strictly speaking, it was hard to call her an ally.
As she was touchy and hypersensitive, she didn’t trust others easily. But even without this, she knew Snake Eyes was the type of person who wouldn’t hesitate to backstab.
“Hnng….” She gave a condescending smile as if she found the young man’s explanation laughable. “I was planning on taking it easy with you….”
One step, then another. She slowly approached Seol Jihu, and then stopped right in front of him. “But I see you know how to have fun.”
When Seol Jihu met her deep eyes that didn’t give off a hint of emotion, he felt cold sweat flow down his back.
What kind of things did a woman need to go through to be able to make such a face?
Calling her Straight Face was being nice. To be frank, Discomforting Face suited her more.
“Can you lend us a hand?” Seol Jihu asked in a deeper voice. On the inside, he was thinking that this would be the last time he asked her nicely.
He had a couple more cards under his sleeve to try and convince her. However, he didn’t want to reveal all his secrets from the beginning nor cling to her desperately. Just like Prihi Hussey said, everyone had a limit to their vessel.
Perhaps Straight Face felt the line drawn by the young man as she slowly raised her hand and placed it on her shoulder. The way she looked up at him while fiddling with the ends of her hair, she gave off a seductive aura.
“Mn….” She breathed out a short sigh before saying, “Fine, since our prince wants to look after us so much… I see no reason to say no.”
Next, she slowly moved her hand and placed it on her chest. “But… what should I do?”
She suddenly made a fake melancholic face. “The wound in my heart hasn’t healed yet. It hasn’t been long since a certain someone dug a blade into it.”
“Exaggerating? I really wanted to get along, but I’ve been betrayed!”
Seol Jihu made a wry smile and spoke, “Then I’d like to try to soothe your wounded heart.”
“How many doors do you want?”
Straight Face’s smile became even deep. “Hmm….” She rested her chin on her index finger, pretending to be deep in thought. Then, she opened her mouth, “Forty should be enough to console me.”
It seemed she at least had an ounce of conscience in her as she asked for the same number of doors she opened initially.
“Fine.” Seol Jihu agreed without arguing or negotiating. With this, he had gotten the biggest problem out of the way. Of course, he didn’t think he did a perfect job. He had only prevented the festered wound from exploding, but that was more than enough to keep the group as a team.
In any case, he now had a clear goal. The rest didn’t seem all that difficult.
“Are you willing to help me?”
Lara and Sophie nodded their heads in a daze. A rope had come down from the sky just when they thought it was over. How could they refuse to grab onto it?
“Thank you. Then….”
Currently, Lara and Sophie were suffering from low self-esteem. Since the reason for that was that they weren’t doing much, Seol Jihu planned to resolve this first.
When the duo heard Seol Jihu’s request, they doubted their ears.
“That’s all we have to do?”
“That’s the fastest way of breaking through the rooms.”
“It’s fine. I want to get to Stage 2 as soon as possible. Shall we get going?”
Hearing Seol Jihu’s urging, Sophie hurriedly ran to the door with a face mixed with gratitude and guilt.
“You don’t have to give me a signal. Just open the door whenever.”
When the young man’s voice flew behind her, Sophie didn’t stop to look back and grabbed the doorknob. Just as she was told, she opened the door without hesitation. Immediately….
Along with a violent tremor, an explosive sound struck her ears. Sophie was in the middle of backing off but ended up falling on her butt.
When she turned around reflexively, she saw Seol Jihu with his left arm out as if he had thrown something, and four women whose expressions were like the one she was making now.
To top it off, even the previously calm and collected Straight Face and Snake Eyes were frozen stiff.
Sophie blankly turned back to the door before letting out a gasp.
A huge monster was collapsed on the ground with its upper body blown to smithereens. It had been killed before it could even utter a death throe.
‘That’s one door.’
Seol Jihu spun his left arm around and glanced back. Perhaps surprised by the power of his Mana Spear, Straight Face’s smile was nowhere to be seen. Seol Jihu felt himself becoming more relaxed.
For some reason—
The woman who looked so big in the beginning…
“Let’s keep going.”
…Now looked just like any other Earthling.Previous Chapter Next Chapter