Chapter 140. A Red Rose with Thorns

Seol Jihu sighed for a long time.

He dragged his eyes around left and right, and then up towards the ceiling. Then around the statue of Gula, back and forth.

The reason he repeated these meaningless actions was clear; it was a clear cry of ‘Change my class name!’

But no matter how long he waited, there were no signs of Gula changing her mind. Eventually, the upset Seol Jihu gripped his ice spear and Bang! slammed down on the floor.

Considering that the temples were sacred areas, Seol Jihu would have had nothing to say in defense even if a thunderbolt struck him down right there and then.

There was, of course, a reason.

He could somewhat bear it when he was still a low-level newbie, but a Level 4 was acknowledged as an experienced person anywhere in Paradise. It was a level that would automatically get him assigned to the main combat force if a draft call was ordered.

Above all, some were called Barbarian Warriors, while others were called Pathfinders and so on. There were plenty of decent names, but him?

‘Mana this, mana that… Stupid mana.’

It wasn’t like he wanted anything big. He didn’t wish for riches or honor. Was making a decent class name that hard?

Seol Jihu began brooding about how unfair she was, working him like a dog but not listening to such a simple request.

[Haaah…..]

Gula sighed.

[This kid…. Just when I thought he was maturing a bit…]

The sound of Gula clicking her tongue echoed out.

Seol Jihu, who left the temple as if he was driven out, came back to his senses and checked his stats.

His stat points had increased to 10. If he leveled up once more, he would have 15 points, but that was just a pie in the sky.

There were two new abilities he could learn.

Like Agnes mentioned, there was Mana Cultivation which was the evolution of his Mana Circulation.

And…

‘Flash Thunder?’

Reading the description, it was an ability that awakened the body using lightning energy.

The demo vision only showed flashes of lightning here and there, so it wasn’t of much help.

Still, it was an ability that was unlocked at Level 4, so it wasn’t going to be easy to learn.

Though he really wanted to push everything aside and head straight to Huge Stone Rocky Mountain to train, he couldn’t.

It was because Jang Maldong had informed him that a meeting with White Rose was scheduled before Seol Jihu managed to say anything.

Though learning new skills was important, it wasn’t as important as recruiting the siblings, so Seol Jihu immediately got ready.

Chohong and Hugo giggled on the side saying they could rest easy with such a hardworking leader… until they were ardently beaten by Jang Maldong’s cane.

Seol Jihu left Chohong and Hugo moaning on the floor to board a carriage for Scheherazade.

*

“They made a request.”

Jang Maldong spoke when they were passing Zahrah.

“They want today’s meeting to be a secret.”

"It’s not like we would have gone around talking about it anyway.”

"Obviously. But White Rose is also keeping it a secret from the siblings.”

Seol Jihu narrowed his eyes. It seemed like they were trying to sign them off without their knowledge.

“Don’t feel troubled. Even the FCs don’t consider how the players feel when they sell them.”

That was right. Anyhow, White Rose was the one losing out on two Bronze stamps.

“But to do it without letting them know is a bit… I wouldn’t feel too good if I were them.”

"How so?"

“The size disparity between Carpe Diem and White Rose is just too big. The kids might prefer a large, stable workplace.”

"Well, you’re not wrong."

The nodding Jang Maldong suddenly threw a question.

"Then why did you turn down Sinyoung?"

Seol Jihu hesitated. How had he known when he hadn’t told anyone?

"There isn’t a law for every decision. Everyone has their own circumstances.”

Jang Maldong grinned.

"I know what’s troubling you, but don’t worry. Those two seem like they want to leave White Rose as well."

"Yi Seol-Ah and Yi Sungjin?"

"The siblings just couldn’t voice it out probably. But White Rose insisted that it was the case. They said that the siblings would chase you even to the depths of hell if you told them that you’d recruit the two.”

So White Rose wasn’t the one trying to make them leave, but it was in fact the other way round?

“That’s why they want it to be a secret. Imagine how big their disappointment would be if you gave them hope, only for things to not work out.”

Seol Jihu suddenly asked after pondering.

"What kind of group is White Rose?"

"I told you. Did you forget already?"

"No, not that. I want to know about their internal structure or if they recently had any important issues within their group.”

"Issues?" Jang Maldong frowned before asking again. "Why?"

"Huh? If you ask me why…."

"No, why did you suddenly become interested in that."

Jang Maldong didn’t seem disapproving but just a bit taken aback. Seol Jihu scratched his head.

"Was it something I shouldn’t have asked?"

"It’s not like that. As for me, I know White Rose to some extent, but you. You don’t know a thing about them."

"Yes."

"Then how—"

Jang Maldong closed his mouth at a loss for words.

"…you interesting little bastard…."

Shaking his head, he turned to stare out the window.

"I do have a few conjectures.."

A deep sigh followed.

“It just doesn’t seem right. I’m getting the feeling that there’s an ulterior motive behind handing the siblings over.”

“You’re saying…”

Seol Jihu gulped.

"They’re bait?"

"I’m not sure."

Jang Maldong replied solemnly.

“If it really is due to their internal circumstances, then they’ll negotiate with the usual conditions. But if not, then they might ask for special requests.”

“By special requests you mean…"

“For example, they might guise it as looking out for Carpe Diem’s benefits… Hmm. Well since their leader is a crafty snake, then it wouldn’t be strange if they offered something that looked normal on the surface. They already have a perfect pretense to do so.”

The pretense was the siblings wanting to leave White Rose.

"If this is the case…."

Jang Maldong narrowed his eyes.

"We can’t cross off the possibility that you’re their main objective.”

Seol Jihu widened his eyes at the unexpected remark.

“Well let’s just go and see. There’s no point making blind guesses between ourselves.”

"…We’ll have to listen to their conditions first."

Seol Jihu accepted the situation but just couldn’t shake off the thought that something wasn’t right.

There was this uneasy feeling in a corner of his heart, like a stone shard digging in. His eyes were also itchy.

Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands, he suddenly remembered Kim Hannah’s words.

[There will be a ton of people who are going to try to use you.]

'……'

Unless White Rose went crazy, they wouldn’t release the siblings for free without at least receiving back the amount they had invested in them.

Seol Jihu narrowed his eyes.

*

The carriage arrived at Scheherazade on the noon of the second day.

Seeing Flone fly off excitedly the minute she saw the new city, Seol Jihu chased after Jang Maldong.

White Rose’s building was located slightly to the west of the city center.

If modern buildings were tall towers, then the exterior of White Rose’s building looked like a beautiful flower.

Compared to the Carpe Diem’s office, its scale was on a whole another level, so as Seol Jihu followed the escort, he constantly glanced around.

As if they were really meeting secretly, they were guided to a relatively secluded backdoor.

After going up the stairs and opening the door at the end of the hall, they were greeted by a crudely dressed man with glasses getting up from his seat.

"Sir."

The man had a slender figure with wrinkles around his mouth, making him appear slightly older.

“Thank you for coming all this way."

"En. It wasn’t that far of a journey."

“But I should have visited instead. Ah. And this friend?”

“Don’t ask if you already know.”

As Jang Maldong bluntly spoke, the man awkwardly laughed and stretched out a hand.

Seol Jihu shook his hand.

"Nice to meet you!"

"Likewise. My name—."

"I actually know already. Seol Jihu, right?"

He had been about to introduce himself as just ‘Seol,’ but ended up dumbly nodding his head.

"I’m the leader of White Rose, Bok Jungsik.”

Bok Jungsik gestured to the long table while still grabbing his hand.

“Let’s sit first. There’s someone else coming as well.”

“Who?”

Jang Maldong asked as he sat down.

“Who else could it be? It’s someone that you know very~ well.”

“What? Why is that kid coming?”

“That’s what I wanted to know. I couldn’t help it when she refused to listen no matter what I said. So I ask for your understanding…”

Jang Maldong lightly sighed before turning to look at the door.

Clack, clack.

A clear sound of heels rang out from the hall. Seol Jihu who was quietly sitting next to Jang Maldong also turned to face the door.

“Speak of the devil.”

Jang Maldong muttered.

"What do you mean a devil…"

Bok Jungsik made a bitter smile.

"You must have meant a thorny flower."

The door was flung open.

“And who is this thorny flower?”

A clear voice rang out, followed by a beautiful lady with a breathtaking appearance.

“Our leader must have all grown up now, knowing how to gossip behind my back."

“S-sora. It’s not like that.”

“Whatever. Anyways…”

The beautiful lady brushed back her winding hair that flowed down to her chest and glanced at Seol Jihu. Then upon seeing Jang Maldong, a smile blossomed on her face.

"Grandpa?"

As if showing off her long slender legs, she strode towards him and blinked charmingly.

"It’s been a while. Have you been well?"

"Yes."

"What’s with the cold response? It’s been several years since we last saw each other. "

Seeing her subtly lean the upper half of her body against the table, Jang Maldong pushed her away while making a frown.

“Stay back, you’re being burdensome. What do you think you’re doing in front of others?”

"Aww. Can’t a granddaughter act cute in front of her grandfather?"

‘Granddaughter?'

Seol Jihu turned to stare at Jang Maldong with amazed eyes.

"You’re misunderstanding!"

Jang Maldong shouted indignantly.

The lady giggled, unveiling a charming smile before glancing towards the dumbfounded youth. Then she leisurely walked over towards the seat next to him.

As Seol Jihu was about to get up, he felt a sensation of someone pushing down on his neck. The lady had put her arms around his neck and was leaning forward.

"This is the person?"

He felt her lightly tap his head.

Bok Jungsik who had been sitting there, stunned, finally reacted.

“Y-You!”

"Me?"

"Sora! You, you!"

“What? Oh, you mean this?”

“Get away this instance!”

Sora blinked a few times after being shouted at and obediently took her arms off.

But she was still leaning on the back of Seol Jihu’s chair, causing Jang Maldong to cover his face.

“Haah… I’m terribly sorry about this.”

Bok Jungsik apologized while Jang Maldong helplessly shook his head.

Seol Jihu slightly inhaled. The air still had a lingering fragrance of roses.

Then a hand abruptly appeared in front of his chest.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Phi Sora.”

The lady continued.

"It’s an interesting last name, isn’t it?"

Phi Sora waved her extended hand. Seol Jihu who unconsciously shook her hand was startled.

'It’s rough.'

The texture of her palm was like sandpaper. Besides the rough calluses, Seol Jihu could see a lot of scars upon careful observation.

He could finally deduce the relationship between Jang Maldong and Phi Sora.

'She’s strong.'

He instantly went on high alert.

“Let’s see. How far have you discussed? I ran over as soon as I heard you arrived.”

Phi Sora drew back her hand and plopped herself down on the table. On top of the table, not the chair.

It was bewildering but Seol Jihu came to his senses thanks to the cool energy from his ice spear.

Counting numbers in his head, Seol Jihu calmly observed Phi Sora.

The first thing that came into his eyes was her stylish crimson uniform. And upon further observation, her hair that flowed down like waterfalls seemed to have a hint of red as well.

Adding her prideful stare and the way she sat on the table made her look flashy yet haughty like a red rose in full bloom.

Fed up with how she was acting, Bok Jungsik spoke.

“Are you really going to be like this?”

“What now?”

“Do you really not know…? Quickly sit properly! This is why I told you not to come!”

"Oh please. I’m close with my grandpa, okay?“

Phi Sora snorted and turned to Jang Maldong.

“Aren’t we?”

Jang Maldong shut his eyes.

“S-Sir.”

“I stopped expecting anything ever since you told me she’d come.”

“I’m truly sorry.”

Bok Jungsik repeatedly bent his waist to apologize to Jang Maldong and Seol Jihu. As if she didn’t care about her leader’s back, Phi Sora spat grumpily.

“Enough already and get on with the discussion. Don’t you know grandpa’s personality?”

“You—”

Bok Jungsik who stared daggers at her took deep breaths before carefully addressing Jang Maldong.

“Sir, are you fine continuing like this…? If not, I will her chase her out by force.”

“Chase me out? Who? You?”

“No need for more trouble.”

“I apologize for today’s mess.”

Bok Jungsik sat back down rubbing his temple.

“First.”

“Let’s get straight to the point.”

“Alright. Firstly, may I take this meeting as a sign of you being interested in the recruitment?”

“Hmm.”

Jang Maldong secretly sent a look while nodding. Seol Jihu straightened his posture.

“Uh.”

“Then… huh? Yes, please speak.”

“Are Yi Seol-Ah and Yi Sungjin doing well?”

Seol Jihu asked with a beaming smile. Bok Jungsik blinked.

“Yes… they’re doing fine.”

An awkward laugh rang out. It was a half-hearted laugh no matter who heard it.

Before arriving at Scheherazade, Jang Maldong had given him two instructions.

First, Seol Jihu had to act like he was interested in how the Yi siblings were doing. It was to make it evident that they were only here because of their friendship.

Second, unless White Rose first spoke out, he was to never ask the reason why they were trying to send away the siblings.

Seol Jihu smiled brightly.

“That’s a big relief. If it’s not a problem, can I see their faces? It’s fine even if it’s just for a bit.”

“Huh?”

“We haven’t seen each other ever since we left the Neutral zone. It’s been a while so I’d like to chat with them over dinner… is that not okay?”

Bok Jungsik was startled by the earnest request.

“Well, go ahead. But after our discussion…”

He quickly switched the subject.

“Sir, you must also be aware, but isn’t money the most trustworthy thing in the transfer market?”

And so the conversation subject was switched.

“But as you’ve mentioned before, you currently don’t have much in terms of funding.”

He continued after glancing at Seol Jihu.

“So I was wondering if you could show us any items of value that you might have. For example, the Wish you received at the Banquet.”

Seol Jihu realized what Bok Jungsik was hinting at.

"The Harmonious Wish isn’t something that can be traded, so that’d be difficult."

"Of course, the Dissonant Wish is also fine. The Banquet rewards are known to be of high quality. They can’t be bought even if one had money.”

Having delivered his request, Bok Jungsik laughed heartily.

“I don’t have the Dissonant Wish either. I’ve already used them all.”

The laughter stopped.

“You’ve used them all?”

“Yes. I only received one in the first place, not to mention it was a consumable item.”

“Oh…”

Bok Jungsik was stunned. Or at least it seemed like he had assumed Seol Jihu came out with multiple Dissonant Wishes.

“What to do…”

But due to his pre-established prejudice, it looked like he was only keeping an act up.

“I’ve heard you found a lot of success at the Banquet, so I had assumed that you’d have some leftover harvest… It seems like it was my miscalculation.”

Seol Jihu stopped himself from snorting with everything he had.

“To be honest, Yi Seol-Ah and Yi Sungjin missed you very much.”

“They must have talked about me a lot.”

“Yes. But Yi Seol-Ah seemed to be interested in a lot of places, so I wanted to try to send her to where she wanted… “

It was then…

"Fuu."

A snort was heard. It wasn’t Seol Jihu but Phi Sora.

“How long are you going to keep this up for?”

Staring at Bok Jungsik, Phi Sora continued with a bored expression.

“Just when do you plan to stop going around in circles? Just get it over with. They already know.”

“S-Sora…”

Though Seol Jihu didn’t express it, he was very much shocked inside.

‘Weren’t they from the same group?’

It felt like Bok Jungsik was desperately leading the conversation to a certain place before Phi Sora unexpectedly intruded.

Moreover, was it a misunderstanding to think that Phi Sora’s authority looked higher than the leader, Bok Jungsik?

“It’s fine. I’ll start talking instead. What nonsense are you spouting in front of my grandpa?”

Phi Sora shook her hand in disapproval and elegantly got off the table.

“Unlike him, I…”

She walked around the table in a serious manner.

“…can’t talk in circles or hide anything. Neither do I ever want to.”

Then she suddenly intently gazed at Seol Jihu.

“Dear, I heard you were a problem-solver.”

‘What was she saying now?’

While Seol Jihu was wondering whether to retort to why he was her ‘dear’ or why he suddenly was this ‘problem-solver,’ a clear voice rang out.

“Or at least, that’s what people say. That you’ve never once failed a job.”

The clicking of heels stopped.

“And that once you’ve even struck the Parasites a good blow?”

Seol Jihu stared at Phi Sora who was licking her upper lip.

He had already listened to their impossible request.

That meant…

It was time for their ‘special’ request to be revealed.

Phi Sora’s two hands leisurely gripped the table.

"Dear."

And she spoke.

"Won’t you work with me once?"

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