Chapter 137. He Who Wishes To Wear the Crown

He did what he needed to do and gathered everything he required.

[Outside! Outside!]

“….”

Unexpectedly obtaining something he had to bring along everywhere, Seol Jihu turned back feeling strange.

The travel back home was smooth, except for one troublesome situation he ran into. As he was in the southernmost region renowned for being unsafe, he should have had a difficult journey.

Traveling alone made one an easy prey, and as monsters generally enjoyed the taste of human flesh, they wouldn’t let a delicacy escape so easily.

As a result, a group of seven monsters had commenced their hunt while swallowing their saliva, and it wasn’t until half of them were steamed cold by Seol Jihu’s Ice Spear that they ran for their lives.

The problem was that the ones who managed to escape informed the deaths of their comrades to their village.

It would have been better if they just stayed quiet, but the leader of the monsters grew furious at the deaths of its subordinates and swore vendetta against the perpetrator.

No matter how strong the human was, he was alone. If the entire clan ambushed him while he was asleep at night, his demise seemed inevitable.

Thinking so, the leader became confident in its plans.

That was, of course, until it got beaten to a pulp.

If there was one mistake it made, it was that it didn’t realize the human wasn’t alone. And if one were to put a second charge to its list of crimes, it would be that it disrupted Flone’s secret enjoyment.

She was giggling and taking delight in watching Seol Jihu’s sleeping face, but when sharp killing intent swept over his campsite, Seol Jihu had instantly opened his eyes.

When his and Flone’s eyes met at a nose-close distance, Flone felt extremely embarrassed, and this humiliation transformed into unreasonable rage.

In the end, the pack of monsters that caused this situation faced Flone’s rage in full force.

Not only did she beat the warriors of the pack into a pulp, but she even tore the trembling mothers and babies hugging each other into pieces. Seeing this, Seol Jihu became speechless.

An unexpected consequence of this massacre was freeing the few Earthlings who were being kept in the monsters’ village as if they were livestock, but the two of them had no way of knowing this.

In any case, Seol Jihu returned to Haramark safe and sound and headed straight to Carpe Diem’s office.

The three others must have gone out as the building was empty.

[Is this your room?]

When he returned to his room, the pendant floated up and moved side to side.

[Can I look around?]

“Sure.”

Immediately, black smoke flowed out from the gem and flew around the room.

For the record, Seol Jihu called this gaseous state of Flone as ‘stage 1’.

[Bed!]

Next, the smoke blazed up and transformed into a half-transparent figure of Flone. This ghost form that was invisible to Seol Jihu’s eyes was ‘stage 2’.

‘Stage 3’ was when she manifested, being no longer half-transparent and visible to everyone else.

[Wow, wow!]

Seol Jihu made a bitter smile as he watched Flone roll around in his bed.

‘I was too hasty again.’

He thought Flone would be freed if the barrier and the spell tying her to the Forest of Denial were lifted. In a way, he wasn’t wrong. After all, Flone had been freed.

The problem was that Seol Jihu equated freedom to entering the afterlife.

To be more precise, when she became an evil spirit from resentment, she became a type of haunting spirit. Simply put, she hadn’t given up on revenge and was refusing to move on to the afterlife.

‘I really made a fool out of myself.’

Flone repeatedly asking ‘What do I do?’ and putting the pendant around his neck was just a way of telling him to bring her with him.

He’d shouted ‘Goodbye!’ without even knowing that. Just how comical did he look?

When the barrier and the spell tying her down vanished, she had lost the place she haunted, making the pendant she cherished her new home. Now, she was hanging on Seol Jihu’s neck, enjoying freedom to her fullest.

[Can I go out and play?]

Seol Jihu smiled faintly. As long as he had the pendant, there was nothing to worry about.

Being outside the Forest of Denial for the first time in centuries, Flone was as curious as a child, always disappearing on her own to take a look around and coming back to the pendant to sleep.

“Where are you going?”

[On a stroll. I want to check out the city.]

“You know you can’t let other people see you, right?”

[Yep.]

Flone became half-transparent again and passed through the window.

“You can’t randomly kill someone, okay?”

[Okay!]

Seeing Flone fly away in the blink of an eye, Seol Jihu plopped down on the bed before sprawling down on his back and looking up at the ceiling.

“….”

To be honest, he was still a bit embarrassed. The Ghost Saintess not passing on to the afterlife was an unexpected result, but he didn’t think traveling together like this was bad.

There were other reasons too, but he was happy that Flone herself wanted to stay in Paradise.

‘Who would have thought I would get a ghost friend?’

Seol Jihu closed his eyes, thinking how unpredictable life was.

**

Making a report after returning from an expedition or an exploration was a ‘must’. One could find out about this just by seeing how Alex reported the appearance of the Moles to the Temple as soon as he returned to Haramark, and had the information appear in the plaza.

Paradise’s ecosystem being disrupted was a frequent occurrence. Continuous sharing and updating of information was practically an unspoken rule in Paradise.

After all, just knowing ‘Monster A appeared in Region B’ greatly increased one’s chance of survival.

This was also the reason the Haramark Royal Magician invited Seol Jihu. Ian had requested him to help him with his report on the fifth Banquet.

Although he’d heard the story at the pub before, there was a huge difference between listening while drunk and listening as a serious business.

The Royal Magician’s private library was stacked full with books. Ian sat in front of a desk, spinning a fountain pen between his fingers. Seol Jihu was slightly taken aback by this side of Ian, which was different from his usual flippant attitude.

Seol Jihu readily agreed to Ian’s request, hoping to see Princess Teresa and give her a gift while he was at it. However, Princess Teresa was out.

According to Ian, she was working hard at Arden Valley with the village head of Ramman Village. When Seol Jihu heard that the village head’s knowledge greatly bolstered the plan of fortifying Arden Valley, he felt content.

While helping Ian get the story of the Banquet straight, Seol Jihu also told him the reason the Ghost Saintess was angry. When Ian said, “She could have just asked why you weren’t there. What a narrow-minded Saintess,” Seol Jihu jumped up in shock.

He had to expend quite a bit of effort to stop Flone, who was struggling wildly and yelling that she would pull the old man’s beard out.

He consoled Flone by taking her to a lake at the center of the capital, then barely sent her off by telling her how beautiful she was.

By the time Seol Jihu was almost finished with going over the report, Ian who was silently focused on the report suddenly asked.

“Are you feeling better?”

“Huh? Me?”

“When you came back, your face was full of worry.”

Seol Jihu laughed lightly.

“I am always worried.”

“Aiya, it’s like they say. A tree with many branches is always concerned about the wind. What are you worried about now?”

“Uh… I’m not sure.”

Seol Jihu pulled his arm back and rubbed his neck.

“What I should do… where I should begin… I’m just not sure.”

“Hm.”

Ian asked, not taking his eyes off the report.

“Now that I think about it, aren’t you still Level 3?”

“Yes.”

“Since you passed Stage 3, you should be able to get to Level 4.”

“Probably.”

“Hoh, I’m also Level 4. To think we’re already at the same level….”

Ian shook his head.

“Can’t you become a High Ranker if you want, Master Ian?”

“I haven’t been Enlightened yet, and even if I were, it doesn’t change the fact that your growth speed is incredible. Well, considering the things you’ve done, it’s no surprise.”

Seol Jihu’s explosive rate of growth was explained by the impossibly difficult missions he’s completed since he was a Level 1.

“Anyways, a Level 4…. I guess it is time to get ready.”

Ian took a deep breath and nodded his head. After staring at the report for a long time….

“There is this saying.”

He opened his mouth.

“He who wishes to wear the crown, bear its weight.”

Hearing the word ‘crown’, Seol Jihu flinched.

First Kazuki, and now Ian. Was he that easy to see through?

“I think you want to become the leader of Carpe Diem. Am I right?”

When he asked to confirm, Seol Jihu nodded his head.

“Then do you know the difference between a leader and a member? What do you think is the most important virtue a leader must have?”

“Eyes that can read the situation, no?”

“If it were that obvious, I wouldn’t have asked, don’t you think?”

Seol Jihu fell into thought for a moment before replying.

“I think it’s strength.”

“Strength? Don’t tell me you mean physical strength?”

“Rather than being the physical strength of the leader… I would say it’s the physical strength of the group.”

Ian tilted his head and slowly rubbed his beard.

“That’s too broad. In my opinion, a leader has to be someone with diplomatic skills.”

“Diplomatic skills?”

“That’s right. More than ten years have passed in Paradise’s time since it began to invite Earthlings. There are countless for-profit groups and organizations co-existing in this world for various goals.”

"…."

“To survive in these rough waters, diplomacy is key. Don’t you think so?”

Seeing Seol Jihu only tilt his head at this question, Ian smacked his lips.

“Mm…. What is the goal of the team you are trying to create?”

When Seol Jihu opened his mouth to talk, Ian quickly asked again.

“And how will you create that team? How many members are you thinking of having? What will be the requirements to join? Do you have a recruiting strategy in mind?”

Seol Jihu listened attentively as his complexion slowly paled.

“You probably never thought about the matter in detail. After all, I doubt you told anyone about it until now.”

Ian let out a big sigh.

“The goal of a team is certainly important because it decides the color and personality of a team. But you cannot stop at just thinking about it. You have to say it and put it into action. Only then can you add meat and scent to your team.”

“Right.”

“In Dylan’s case, his actions were befitting of the name Carpe Diem. Since it means to enjoy the moment, there was no problem working as a small team of elites. But your goals aren’t the same as Carpe Diem’s.”

Seol Jihu nodded as he rubbed his face.

“I understand what you’re feeling. The bigger your goals are, the bigger burden you must face. Even I am not confident in accomplishing what you’re trying to do.”

Ian chuckled while clicking his tongue.

“Because of the sheer difficulty of your goals, your team must inevitably rise beyond to become an organization. And on your path to becoming a large organization, your diplomatic skills will be tested multiple times.”

“By diplomatic skills, you don’t just mean relationships between groups….”

“Of course. It also includes relationships between individuals. Frankly speaking, if a stranger suddenly came up and said, ‘Hello! Let’s save Paradise from its peril!’, will you answer, ‘Sure! Let’s do it!’?”

“…No.”

“Exactly. Of course, some people might work for a righteous cause. But most people won’t make a move based on righteousness alone. How righteous you are won’t matter.”

Ian then added with a bitter tone, “The Haramark Royal Family isn’t generous with rewards because they’re pushovers.”

“Then what should I do?”

“That’s obvious. Money, fame, and….”

Ian paused before breaking out into a grin.

“Wit.”

“Wit?”

“Appeasing a soul with a Ceremony, baiting the Parasites in Arden Valley, coming up with a plan to escape the laboratory… it’s wittiness that made these things possible. This ability of yours transcends materialistic things. I think it will become a charm that only you possess.”

“You’re exaggerating it.”

“Don’t deny it. After all, I’m one of the people who’s fallen head over heels for this charm.”

Seol Jihu scratched his cheek, feeling a bit itchy.

“In the future, a lot will change.”

Ian let out a long sigh once again.

“You’ll have to change the name, and if needed, you might have to move your base of operations. You might have to reaffirm your alliances, and you might even have to change your teammates completely….”

“Chohong and Hugo, you mean?”

Ian’s pen stopped. He glanced up and spoke calmly.

“Those two are members of Carpe Diem, which Dylan made.”

“….”

“We don’t know if they will agree to follow you.”

“If they don’t….”

“Then it’s simple.”

Ian spoke clearly.

“Either you will leave the team, or they will.”

Seol Jihu leaned back against the chair and tilted his chin up. He felt dizzy staring at the high ceiling.

“It’s pretty difficult, huh.”

Hearing Seol Jihu’s groan, Ian smirked.

“So, what. You’re going to quit?”

Seol Jihu snickered too. Of course, he didn’t forget to say thanks.

“Thank you. You always give me advice worth more than gold.”

“I’m happy you think my nonsense is worth so much. I’m flattered.”

Ian burst out into laughter as he put his pen down. Then, his eyes flickered as he looked at the equipment lying on the table.

“Great, why don’t I give one homework for our future leader?”

“?”

“This.”

Ian picked up the longsword and the shield. They were the burial goods Seol Jihu brought from the tomb. As these were equipment from the era of the Empire, they would fetch an astronomical price if sold.

“Excellent. You told me to give this to them….”

Ian expressed his awe before putting the sword and shield back down.

“But give these to them yourself the next time you see them. Except, you will add conditions.”

“Conditions…. You mean I should trade them?”

“Exactly. Equivalent exchange. You see, giving these away for free would be too much. I don’t mind whether you do it for yourself or for others, so give this diplomacy thing a chance.”

“But— No, okay.”

Seol Jihu swallowed the words that were just about to come out of his mouth and obediently nodded his head. To be honest, he was feeling greatly indebted to Teresa, but there had to be a reason Ian gave him this homework.

“Good. Ah, you can go now. I finished going over all the details.”

“Got it.”

Seol Jihu got up from his seat.

“Seol.”

Just as he was about to open the door and leave, Ian added.

“A leader is not someone who is placed in that position by someone else. A leader is someone who wishes to become a leader himself.”

Hearing Ian’s affirming tone, Seol Jihu nodded his head. Ian giggled.

“Don’t make Maldong worry too much. I’m sure he’s steaming right now with restlessness.”

“Got it. Thank you for your kind words.”

Seol Jihu bowed before leaving.

When the sound of the door closing rang out, Ian put his pipe back into his mouth and took up his fountain pen. Puffing out one smoke after the other, he stared at the report fixedly.

As this report could be a matter of life or death for someone, there was nothing wrong with reviewing it multiple times.

『…And thus, just when the catastrophe of the fourth Banquet was about to repeat itself, one youth stepped up.

The protagonist who normalized the trouble-ridden fifth Banquet was Carpe Diem’s Seol Jihu (Korea)….』

While reading about the events of Stage 2, Ian smiled.

He grabbed his pen tightly and, without hesitation, scratched out the words ‘Carpe Diem’.

**

Seol Jihu walked while looking down at the ground, his footsteps heavy. He was walking out of the palace’s main gate, but he was so deep in thought that he didn’t even notice it.

Although he had expected as much, now that he was faced with the problem, he realized how impossibly difficult and complicated it was to become a leader.

Moreover, just as Ian said, the number of things he had to worry about increased, the bigger he set his goals. The weight of it all seemed to crush down on his shoulders.

It was to the point that he began to admire Dylan.

‘Money….’

All sorts of thoughts swirled inside his head, but money was at the focus of it all. If he had an astronomical amount of money, he felt like he would have more choices as well.

Then suddenly, he recalled Stage 3.

‘I should have brought it.’

And he thought about the Dissonant Wishes the deceased carried with them.

At the very least, they would have been worth a gold coin.

Although he regretted it, the bus had already left.

‘It’s no time to sit still.’

He couldn’t stand around in a daze just because a big event had ended. There were just too many things he needed to take care of.

When he set his resolve, his steps naturally quickened. Soon, he found himself at Carpe Diem’s office.

One of Seol Jihu’s habits was to first take care of the most difficult and time-consuming things. As soon as he entered his room, he took out his communication crystal and infused his mana into it.

—Oh? It’s been a while.

Along with a familiar voice, Kim Hannah appeared on the crystal.

—You’re contacting me now after the Banquet ended?

“There was something I had to take care of, so I was a bit late.”

—Hnng, okay. Anyways, I heard you caused another big stir.

“I did. Anyhow, let’s talk about the Banquet later.”

—…Huh?

Kim Hannah blinked her smiling eyes.

“I need to ask you for a favor.”

—Favor? You’re out of money? I can send you some if you want.

“Sure, but the favor is something else.”

Kim Hannah must have felt that something was off as she straightened her tilted chair and sat up straight.

—What’s gotten into you? Being so serious…. I’m not used to this. Anyways, go on. What is it?

“I want you to help me find someone.”

One of Kim Hannah’s eyes perked up.

—Who?

“Can you do it?”

—I don’t see why I can’t. Finding and observing someone are my specialties.

As expected of a woman who became a High Ranker with just the ability of a broker, her businesslike voice was filled with pride.

—I want to ask why….

Kim Hannah muttered hintingly, then asked while she tapped on her desk with her index finger.

—But I’ll hear you out first. Who is it?

“There are two people, actually.”

Seol Jihu spoke calmly.

“A brother and sister duo. Their names are….”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter