Silence filled the air. The spectators watched on with varied expressions - Seol Jihu’s comrades with stiff faces, the 32 minority members with nervousness, and the 78 majority members with curiosity.
The majority’s silence could be seen as a tacit agreement of Audrey Basler’s words. Although they weren’t agreeing with her openly, what she said must have caught their interest.
That was simply how the human psyche worked. The moment they were directly involved in a problem, the fairness of the situation no longer mattered. Only gains and losses were important.
“Don’t think too badly of me.”
Audrey Basler knew this too well.
“Ask them if you want…. Ah! Of course, they might feel disgusted since they have to give up their rewards, but deep inside, I’m sure they’re happy to have a chance of survival.”
She said whatever she wanted….
“Anyways, talk among yourselves and come to a decision.”
And came up with the terms of agreement herself.
Seol Jihu stared at her intently. Snake Eyes smiled ferociously, and asked, “What’s up with those eyes?”
“Why are you glaring at me like that?”
“…The 78 people from the majority side and the 32 people from the minority side need a symbiotic relationship.” Seol Jihu finally opened his mouth. “With one side missing, the other side cannot conquer the Stage.”
Basler dragged out the end of her sentence and smiled with her eyes. An ominous feeling welled up inside Seol Jihu, and his mood quickly sunk. He wasn’t sure if Basler was doing this on purpose or if this was just her personality. Regardless, she really seemed to be a borne provocateur.
Seol Jihu was about to ask, ‘What do you mean?’ However, his complexion quickly stiffened. He realized the cause of his previous ominous feeling.
What came next wasn’t something that should be said in this place. However, Audrey Basler’s mouth didn’t stop.
“You might find out… tomorrow morning.”
…In the end, she said it. Cackling to herself, while staring at the 32 minorities.
She shouldn’t have said that.
If she knew how the 32 people, the victims of the previous incident included, felt; if she knew why this conference was called for, she shouldn’t have said that even as a joke.
After all, that was equivalent to kicking away the chance they barely managed to clutch on to.
Seol Jihu slowly tilted his head up and stared at the sky.
“Kekekeke! Huh? You’re mad?”
Did she really think that? Or was she doing this on ‘purpose’, fully knowing the consequences behind her words?
[Where’s all the killing and backstabbing and, you know, the fun stuff? It’s gotta be more hardcore than this!]
Perhaps, it was both. Considering the Status Window he saw in Stage 1, she was more than capable of doing so.
[I can guarantee you one thing.]
[Even if you don’t do anything, there will be people who curse you. The more famous you get, the more hate you will receive. Some people will even resent you. That’s not the end of it. There will be a ton of people who are going to try to use you.]
Words he had heard in the past brushed past his head.
[Because you’re trying to jump ahead.]
Despite how horrible she was, Seol Jihu still thought it was worth it to try and lead her.
Although he failed magnificently the first time, he tried to learn from it and searched for a way to improve. However it was the same in Stage 2.
“Hey~ Are you mad~?”
In truth, he knew the reason. Just like Kim Hannah said, the world wasn’t so simple and clear. And he thoroughly realized this through the Banquet.
“Aigo, what are we gonna do~? Our Prince is really angry~”
Giving one did not guarantee receiving one. Stealing two did not require giving two either.
“Okay, I was too harsh. Stop being so angry. Here! Let’s shake hands and makeup.”
It was the same with human relationships. There were those who expressed gratitude for a show of goodwill, but there were also those who considered it a right. There were people like Oh Rahee, who were quick to understand, and people like Audrey Basler, who ignored everything.
Thus, the world wasn’t a Golden Rule. If the world operated under the law of equivalent exchange, then it would be dyed golden.
“Are you ignoring me?”
So what should he do? If words didn’t do any good, what method should he use?
“What are you so worried about?”
The answer was simple. After all, he was looking at it every single day.
“It’s easy. Just come to a decision by tomorrow morning, and we can do things your way.”
He shouldn’t be waiting or searching for the Golden Rule….
“You understand me, right?”
He had to become the Golden Rule.
“Did you get that?”
He had no intention of playing the role of an ‘ally of justice’. He wasn’t trying to become someone who was strong against the strong, and weak against the weak.
“Ah, this fucker is ignoring me like some mutt on the streets.”
It was just that… if the world was like this… if this was the world he lived in….
Although he might be late, he would have to adapt to it properly.
“No emotions~ No fun~ I’m out.”
Before he noticed, the sky of the vast field was shining in a golden light.
‘The Golden Commandment.’
…Right. Everything according to the Golden Commandment.
[Your ‘Chaotic’ level of cognition….]
[…changes to ‘Golden Rule’.]
[Moderate (Actions and thoughts are sensible; hard-working) / Awakening / Golden Rule (To treat others as they have treated you)]
The moment his standard was set….
Seol Jihu threw off his mask.
Audrey Basler’s steps halted.
“I’m not done talking.”
She turned back. A look of ecstasy spread on her face, almost as if she was thinking, ‘He’s finally reacting’.
Without a doubt, she was enjoying the situation. Fine. Then he had to enjoy it as well.
“Oooh~ Getting feisty, eh?”
“I said, sit.”
When Seol Jihu walked forward, Audrey Basler’s head slowly tilted up. The youth stopped right in front of her. When he glared down, Audrey Basler’s serpentine eyes curled like crescent moons.
“Scary, scary. You gonna hit me?”
“I won’t say it a third time,” Seol Jihu said in a low voice.
“Kik!” Blink, blink. Basler closed and opened her eyes twice before snorting, “I don’t want to!”
As if she found the youth to be laughably funny, her face distorted venomously. She yacked, “I was going to let it slide, but you must really be out of your mind.”
It was then…
“Who the hell are you to tell me what to—!”
Thwack! Basler suddenly plunked down as her eyes widened. Unable to withstand the instantaneous shock, she fell on her butt and pressed her temples at the pain flooding in.
Looking up with a scowl, she saw the youth’s fist. Only then did she realize what happened.
She was flustered only for a moment.
A few of her comrades tried to step forward but stopped when Basler signaled them with her hand.
“Wow….” With her butt still touching the ground, she slowly opened her mouth, “Confident, eh, Prince? It must be nice to have so many friends!”
The smirk never left her face. “You finally showed your true colors…. Fine, I’ll bark like you want me to do. I don’t see why not.”
“What? You want me to wag my tail too? Like this?” She got on her hands and knees and began to shake her butt.
“The one in the minority like the poor old me have to do this to survive….” She sneered while emphasizing the word ‘minority’.
“This isn’t enough? You’re not satisfied? You really want me to bark?” She then opened and closed her mouth repeatedly, pretending to bark.
Knowing why she was doing this, Seol Jihu replied with a calm smile, “Sounds good. Do it.”
Audrey Basler’s eyes widened.
“Since we’re doing this, let’s do it right. Ah, how about you pee as well? With one leg up, of course.”
For every problem, there was a bottom line that could not be crossed. Audrey Basler’s mischievous face contorted indescribably.
“Ha!” She paused completely. She then dropped her head and slowly got up. “Hiyaa…. You have quite the taste!”
“You wanted to act like a dog, didn’t you? I’m just giving good suggestions.”
“You must really think you’re something special because I keep calling you Prince…. Oi.” Playfulness disappeared from her expression. One of her eyebrows perked up. “You sure you can handle it?”
“Looks like you’re greatly mistaken here. We’re not staying still because we’re afraid of you. We’re afraid of them - the Triads, Umi Tsubame, and Carpe Diem. Got it?”
Seol Jihu smirked.
“Huh? You think it’s funny? Sure, go ahead, laugh all you want. But things will be different once we go back to Paradise.”
“Really?” Seol Jihu crossed his arms leisurely. “If it’s just you, I think I alone am more than enough.”
“Oh?” Basler rejoiced as if she had been waiting for these words. “Is that your pride as a man? Looks like you have balls. Then you wanna fight? Without anyone interfering from our teams, of course.”
She stealthily distanced herself and raised her guard up like a boxer. Seeing this with a vacant look, Seol Jihu threw away his Ice Spear and lightly dusted his hands.
Audrey Basler chuckled.
“You must have seen a lot of mo-” She quickly lowered her upper body and finished, “-vies!”
Then, she abruptly bolted to the side before charging forward in an ambush.
She shot forward like a ray of light, but in the next moment, her proud face became blank. Along with the sound of the air bursting, the youth, who had been standing in a defenseless state, instantly rushed in.
Thwack! With a clear striking sound, Basler’s head forcefully turned. Her body also tilted and she spun in the air. But before she could mutter out a single cry, her left eye turned hot.
As expected of a high-level Archer, she didn’t fall. However, she had already lost her balance.
Next, another dull blow struck her head. A short cry rang out. In the end, she stumbled down once again.
She quickly lost her composure. With her head drooped low, she fell into despair. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She knew the youth was strong, but how could an Archer lose out in speed to a Warrior of the same level?
That was simply impossible.
As if she couldn’t accept the result, she tumbled up and brought one hand to her thigh.
Pang! The sound of the air bursting rang out again. Seol Jihu shot forward twice as fast as before and kicked her hand, which was pulling out a dagger.
The kicked hand flailed in the air, and she could see Seol Jihu with his right hand pulled back.
When his punch landed, Basler covered her eyes as if her vision had been muddied.
“If, like you say, we sacrifice….”
Seol Jihu spoke calmly and didn’t stop punching.
“The 32 people….”
Her nose was smashed in, causing blood to spurt out.
“Only 30 out of the 78 people can leave.”
Her cheekbones sunk in….
“And the remaining 48 will have to fight again…. And what?”
And fresh blood flowed out from her burst lips.
“I’ll find out in the morning?”
A straight filled with rage shot out. It smashed her mouth, and three or four teeth trickled down.
“The fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Seeing her lowered head, Seol Jihu struck her head. Basler once again fell to the ground.
It seemed she hadn’t lost her consciousness as she staggered up. However, she tripped over her own feet and fell on her butt once again.
Basler’s comrades, who thought she was simply playing around, realized the gravity of the situation. They exchanged quick glances with each other.
“Oi! That’s enou—”
“Mhm, that’s enough out of you too.”
Hearing an interfering voice from a close distance, the man who was taking out his weapon froze. He could feel someone wrapping their arm around his neck.
When he creaked his head back, he saw a neatly dressed man biting down on a cigarette.
“Don’t think you interfering in a one on one fight is cheating?”
Before he noticed, the members of the Triads had all gathered behind him.
“Don’t you agree, friend?”
Hao Win winked at the man he had his arm around and puffed out a smoke. The man furrowed his brows.
“But he’s going too f—”
At that moment, something black tore through the white smoke and stopped right in front of his face.
“What was that?”
Hugo had shoved his face with his hand over his ear. Crack. When he heard the man grit his teeth, he nodded his head and exclaimed.
“Aha! You want to get beaten up?”
Hic! The man hiccuped. Hugo and the Triads were both famous for their cruelty.
He called Ayase Kazuki, who usually held a moderate position.
But when he saw Kazuki loading his crossbow with bolts, he couldn’t help but close his mouth shut.
As a result, Seol Jihu was able to do what had to be done without any interference.
An airy sound came out. Because Seol Jihu had repeatedly struck her face, her hair was disheveled and her face was plastered with blood.
“Get up. I don’t want to hear you making excuses later, like you tripped or something.”
“Not getting up?”
Seol Jihu stomped forward and snatched her ponytail up.
After forcefully picking her up by her hair, he lightly pushed her body. Snake Eyes bobbed back and forth before she took a few steps back.
This time, it wasn’t to distance herself for battle. It was out of complete fear.
When he struck the back of her neck, a breath-severing sound came out. Basler no longer remembered how many times she had fallen.
Her knocked down body twitched. When the youth’s footsteps got close, her arms and legs flailed in desperation.
Basler swam through the grass field before barely managing to flip herself over and hugging Seol Jihu’s ankle.
“Sph… spware me….”
Because of her broken teeth, the sound of a flute rang out with her words.
“I’m sowwy…. I’m sowwy… spware me….”
With her eyes dyed from bluish-red bruises, she begged for her life while reeking of blood.
Seol Jihu spoke calmly, “Get up.”
Hearing his cold voice, Basler grimaced. Tears of blood continued to fall from her eyes.
“I'ww… I’ww do ash you shay… sho… pweash….”
“Barw! I’ww barw! Wan! Wan, wan! Wan, wan, wan!”
She even barked for real.
Seol Jihu was about to pick her up by her collar when a conspicuous light caught his attention.
When he checked her color in Stage 1, she had been yellow - Attention Required. It remained the same until now when it suddenly began to change.
From yellow to colorless.
This wasn’t the first time someone’s color changed. He had seen Teresa’s color change from colorless to gold.
However, this was the first time he was seeing a color of danger change.
Looking down with a fixed gaze, Seol Jihu squatted down. He raised her chin with his index finger until they met eyes.
Seeing the eyes completely succumbed to fear, he could guess why the color changed.
“Was this really necessary to get you to understand?”
“Why couldn’t you have just listened when I spoke nicely?”
“It’s not like I told you to go die alone.”
“It was so that everyone could live.”
Basler was trembling intensely and barely managing to look at him in the eye. But when she heard the calmness in his voice, goosebumps suddenly shot up on her body. She couldn’t believe she was looking at the same youth she saw in Stage 1.
“Let’s be honest. You knew it too.”
He most certainly wasn’t speaking to just Audrey Basler. Seeing Snake Eyes nodding her head crazily, Seol Jihu stood up.
“Let me add one more condition.”
He looked back at the majority faction and wiped the sweat on his forehead. Because of the blood and flesh covering his hand, a line of blood was drawn across his forehead.
“Audrey Basler and her five teammates. We will consider them as part of the minority faction when we’re forming the teams.”
He was basically saying he would split up Snake Eyes and her team so they wouldn’t have any other intentions.
“Also….” Seol Jihu continued, “If anyone has a better idea, I’m open to discussion.”
He was telling them to speak out now if they had any problems.
Suddenly, a muffled cackle rang out. Oh Rahee had her head dropped with her hand over her mouth. Her shoulders shook for a while before she finally got up. She walked toward the youth with light steps before scrutinizing him from top to bottom.
When she kept staring at him, Seol Jihu opened his mouth first.
“Is there a problem?”
“No, no, it’s not about that.”
Hnnng. With a long hum, Oh Rahee shrugged.
“I want to be in the first team that enters the Plaza of the Dissonant Wish. Is that okay?”
Looking at Audrey Basler, who was shaking like a bug, she burst into laughter.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying that the first button has to be fastened right. In exchange for going in first, I’ll make sure to bring them all out.”
Seol Jihuh took a deep breath. With her statement, the conference had come to a decision. With Oh Rahee, one of the strongest members of the majority faction agreeing, the scale had been tipped in his favor.
“We can decide during the team conference.”
She seemed to completely agree with all his conditions. And as long as she didn’t violate any rule, Seol Jihu had no qualms with letting her go first.
“Should I take her?” Oh Rahee asked as she glanced at Snake Eyes. She seemed to be saying she would keep an eye on her. Surely, it was a sign of goodwill.
However, Seol Jihu shook his head. Trusting Basler just because her color changed was a foolish thing to do.
“We will take Audrey Basler.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. Chohong!”
Chohong raised her hand as if she had been waiting for this moment. She quickly approached them while dragging her intimidating Thorn of Steel on the grass field.
“Yeah, yeah. I just gotta take care of her until the end of the Banquet, right?”
As Seol Jihu had already asked for help, she agreed right away. She picked up her mace and rested it on her shoulder before glaring at Basler who was still on the ground.
“The fuck are you glaring at me for? Drop your eyes.”
Seeing Snake Eyes bite her lips, Chohong let out a chuckle before suddenly turning serious.
“Drop your eyes, fucking bitch. You want me to blow your head off?”
The crazies often recognized each other. Feeling Chohong’s chilling, madness-drenched aura, Basler gulped hard.
Soon, she lowered her gaze along with her head.
“Look forward to it. I’ll personally take care of you until the Banquet ends.”
Chohong dragged Audrey Basler’s sagging body away. Having watched the scene play from beginning to end with keen interest, Oh Rahee asked with a meaningful smile.
“What’s your last name?”
“…Didn’t I tell you?”
“You only told me your given name. So? Kim Seol? Yi Seol?”
Seol Jihu’s eyes spun at the abrupt question. He then let out a long sigh before opening his mouth.
“Seol is my last name.”
“My name is….”
After picking up the Ice Spear, Seol Jihu took a look around his surroundings. Most people had not gotten up from their seats.
Another thing that changed was the atmosphere.
Kazuki with a calm face, the 32 minority members with flustered expressions as if they didn’t think Seol Jihu would go this far, and the 78 majority with tired looks.
“My name is…”
Facing the numerous gazes that were all pointing towards him….
The youth smiled lightheartedly.
“I’m Seol Jihu.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter