Chapter 143. Choice of Destiny (3)

Although Kim Hannah told Seol Jihu not to involve himself in the matter, Seol Jihu forgot about White Rose after a while.

This was because his days were repetitions of morning arriving when he opened his eyes and the sun setting when he had the time to take a breather.

Just like Teresa said, Dylan’s sudden death made the transition of duties and responsibilities incomplete. Although Seol Jihu did his best to learn, it felt like he was banging his head against bare land.

It was to the point that the world began to spin like he repeatedly banged his head dozens of times. He couldn’t help but groan even if he tried not to.

If Jang Maldong weren’t there to teach him what to do, he would have been completely lost.

Recently, as Carpe Diem had the need to officially announce that a new leader had been chosen, Seol Jihu had been visiting every organization that they had originally been in a good relationship with.

Although he could send a messenger or let them know via the communication crystal, this could only be done with certain organizations.

For example, Sicilia, the most influential organization in Haramark and the so-called Conqueror of the Southern Region, was one organization that Seol Jihu had to visit in person.

“How intriguing.”

A relaxed voice mixed with nasal sound rang out.

“It feels like it was just yesterday that I saw you in the Neutral Zone…. To think that the little kid who followed Agnes around would stand in front of me a year later as the leader of a renowned team. This brings back old memories.”

Seol Jihu smiled awkwardly. When he was meeting eye to eye with this uniformed, red-haired woman who had her slightly-tilted head resting on her clenched fist, his skin broke out into goosebumps mysteriously.

Her languid, blood-colored pupils reminded him of the beast that sat proudly atop a rock during the safari bus tour he went on when he was a kid.

If he turned away for just a moment, he felt like she would aim for the back of his neck in an instant. Although he was slightly intimidated, he still managed to open his mouth.

“Thank you, Don Cinzia.”

“Don, you say.”

A smirk escaped her mouth.

“I’d rather you not call me that. Don is a way to address one’s elder out of respect.”

Cinzia raised her hands and continued.

“I’m neither a nobleman nor a godfather who made great achievements. More importantly, I only passed the 30-year-old mark recently. Calling me Don. Don’t you think it’s too much? Agnes.”

When she slightly tilted her head and asked, Agnes who was standing next to the desk nodded her head without a word.

“It looks like Agnes agrees too.”

“My apologies then.”

“There’s no need to apologize. I know you meant it out of respect. Anyways—”

Cinzia chuckled before turning her gaze back to the youth.

“I heard Carpe Diem’s new leader shared friendship with the Triads.”

She dealt a quick blow while his guard was down. Considering Sicilia and the Triads’ relationship from a few years back, this comment couldn’t be taken lightly, and Seol Jihu’s facial muscles stiffened.

“I know what you’re thinking. Don’t get too ahead of yourself.”

Cinzia shook her hand as if she found the matter a bother.

“We had a meeting with the Triads a few days ago. Hao Win personally came to visit us.”

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

“Forgetting the past and deciding to see the future…. He sure knew how to talk. At first, I doubted my ears. It was surprising enough that people who found sustenance by acting proud would personally visit an enemy. I sure didn’t expect them to say something so groveling.”

Cinzia shrugged her shoulders and took out a cigar from her coat that was wrapped in a sheaf of luxury tobacco leaves. Then, with a familiar motion, Agnes lit it for her.

“In a way, we’re looking forward to it. Choosing to reconcile with us must have been a big decision for them. It should be right to say that the internal conflict they’ve been suffering from for years is gone.”

Cinzia added, “Well, we’ll have to wait and see,” then took the cigar out of her mouth.

A turbid smoke mixed with the sound of breathing came out.

“Here’s the main point. If the Triads really meant what they said, then their method of making a profit shouldn’t conflict with ours. They have a reserve force, too. Since we entered Paradise and have been given the same duty, Sicilia is willing to cheer for them if they won’t go against us. You understand all that?”

Method of making a profit not conflicting? While both crowding Haramark? And Sicilia was willing to ‘cheer’ for them?

It sounded like she was hinting that she would silently watch their move. In any case, Seol Jihu didn’t dig deeper. He simply nodded his head.

“So.”

Cinzia made a satisfied smile.

“Who do you like more?”

Seol Jihu blinked.

“Like I said, do you like Hao Win or—”

Cinzia dragged out her speech and glanced at Agnes who was standing next to her.

“Do you like Agnes?”

“….”

Was Seol Jihu wrong for hearing, ‘Who do you like better? Mom or Dad?’

He wanted to tell her not to joke around, but he couldn’t help but feel burdened by her expectant gaze.

“Do I have to answer?”

“Yep, I have to know the answer.”

“Uh….”

“What’s wrong? Isn’t it better than asking something immature like which side you prefer?”

Seol Jihu thought her original question was more immature and also noticed a hint of mischievousness in her voice. However, he decided to bury his true feelings in his heart.

After all, it was true that the way she put it was easier to answer than choosing between Sicilia and the Triads.

Thus, after thinking about it for a moment, the youth pointed at the attractive maid hesitantly.

“I like… Miss Agnes… a bit more….”

“Keuk!”

Cinzia dropped her head.

“You hear that, Agnes?”

“Yes.”

“Congratulations. Looks like your grooming is working out. Aren’t you happy?”

“Not at all.”

Agnes replied without the slightest change in her expression. She then saw Seol Jihu’s blank gaze and turned her head slightly to the side.

Perhaps Seol Jihu was mistaken or perhaps it was just the sunlight shining through the window, but her neck seemed slightly flushed.

“Ahahaha, ahahaha!”

Cinzia cackled as she watched Agnes looking out to a far distance. She was laughing so hard that she even choked on the smoke and coughed.

After barely managing to regain her composure, Cinzia stole a glance and spoke.

“Sorry for putting you in a tough spot. As a comrade who has been with Agnes for a long time, it’s rare to see this side of Agnes.”

‘Is it?’

To Seol Jihu, getting this reaction out of Agnes wasn’t such a difficult thing to do. The only caveat was that he would have to prepare himself for getting beaten to a pulp.

“Huu. Thanks, I haven’t laughed this hard in months. Now let’s see. Since I can’t let you go home empty handed….”

Cinzia asked as she rubbed her eyes.

“Are you contracted with any information agency?”

“No.”

“I thought not. Dylan had his own contacts, but….”

Cinzia opened her drawer.

“It’s a present. Take it.”

Then she flicked her hand lightly. Seol Jihu reflexively snatched up the object that flew toward him and saw that it was a hexagonal badge with the letter ‘S’ inscribed on it.

“It’s nothing much. Just an insignia symbolizing Sicilia. Though, it’s not something that’s given out to just anyone.”

“Why are you giving me this…?”

“There is a shabby store in the southwest alleyway. It might be a bit hard to find because it’s tucked away in a corner, but I’m sure you can deal with that. It’s a dangerous area, but if the rumors of your abilities are true, there should be nothing to worry about.”

Seol Jihu asked as he fiddled with the badge.

“I have to show this to the information agency?”

“Yep. They’re called the Indian Assassins. The one in Haramark is only their branch, but they should be good enough. At the very least, they won’t try to pull anything funny with information.”

The corner of Cinzia’s mouth curled up.

“A leader needs to know what’s going on in the world, don’t you think?”

In truth, Seol Jihu had a near-omniscient informant named Hannaemon, but since what Cinzia was saying wasn’t false, he accepted it gratefully.

“Thank you!”

“No problem. Say hello to the old man for us. Agnes will be returning the visit soon.”

Seol Jihu tilted his head. No matter where he went, they would use the expression ‘returning the visit’. The Haramark Royal Family’s Teresa said the same thing, and so did Umi Tsubame’s Kazuki and the Triads’ Hao Win.

“Yes, I’ll let him know.”

Seol Jihu got up from his seat before suddenly staring at Cinzia fixedly.

“What is it?”

“…Nothing. I’ll take my leave then.”

Curious about Cinzia’s Status, he had activated Nine Eyes. However, he couldn’t see her Status Window.

She was colorless as well. She was the second person after Seo Yuhui, on whom the General Observation didn’t work.

After leaving Sicilia, Seol Jihu headed to the southwest alleyway right away. Although he felt several suspicious gazes while searching for the right place, the gazes vanished as soon as he took out his badge.

Seol Jihu found the assassins’ hideout after a little bit of trouble, and a man wearing a turban saw the guest and greeted him with more respect than necessary.

Although visitors were normally divided into different grades, the man offered Seol Jihu the second-highest grade— the VIP-grade— without even asking who he was.

Seol Jihu had to pay a sizable amount of silver coins every month for their information, but he signed a 3-month-long contract on the spot.

**

Like the saying, ‘time heals all wounds’, people got used to unfamiliar things. After all, humans were animals capable of adapting to change.

Taking care of urgent matters one by one as a leader, Seol Jihu finally got accustomed to wearing clothes that did not fit him.

When he opened his eyes in the morning, he no longer worried, thinking ‘Will I be okay today?’ At the very least, he had the leisure to enjoy a cup of coffee.

As he was sitting on the couch enjoying the scent of coffee, the sound of a door bursting open rang out.

“Oh?”

Chohong appeared with water dripping off her. Judging by the wet towel around her shoulders, she must have taken a shower after her morning exercise.

Seol Jihu retracted his gaze out of courtesy. He wasn’t all too surprised. Chohong and Hugo walking around naked was a common sight by now. He would be a fool for making a fuss of it.

“Didn’t I tell you to wear your underwear at the very least?”

Of course, he didn’t forget to say something either.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Chohong retorted half-heartedly. Then, rather than putting on her underwear, she picked up her Dolphin shorts without completely wiping off the water. She spoke as she calmly put one leg in and pulled up the shorts.

“Now that I think about it, you’re finally around in the morning.”

“You saw me yesterday as well.”

“Before, I mean. It was hard to see your face.”

“Yeah, all thanks to two people leaving everything to me. I would’ve been grateful if they helped just a little.”

When Seol Jihu muttered curtly, Chohong smirked.

“Who told you to be the leader?”

“You call this being a leader? Slave is more like it.”

“Team members have the responsibility of not interfering with the duties and responsibilities of a leader. In exchange, we’re listening to your orders, aren’t we?”

“Fine. Here’s an order. Help me work faithfully.”

“We also have the right to reject absurd orders.”

Chohong spoke shamelessly, her shoulders bouncing up and down in joy.

“Don’t look at me like that. I at least hear you out for trivial things like this, don’t I?”

Chohong smacked her Dolphin shorts. Seol Jihu stared at her dumbfoundedly before suddenly turning serious.

“Hey!”

“?”

“It’s an order. Sit.”

“What?”

“Come sit.”

Tapping on his thighs, Seol Jihu’s high-handed attitude made Chohong doubt her eyes.

“Son of a bitch, you finally went insane….?”

However, she suddenly put on a surprised face before giving a meaningful smile. Next, she walked toward Seol Jihu without a word, turned around, then placed her butt on his thighs as he ordered. She even slightly leaned against him.

When her white, muscle-toned back got near, Seol Jihu was taken aback.

“Cho, Chohong? What are you doing?”

“What? I’m doing what you told me to do.”

“No.”

“I’m just following your order.”

As if to say, ‘Do what you want’, Chohong entrusted the weight of her body to him. Her expression that seemed to say ‘You think you’ve got the balls to do something?’ was an added bonus.

Seol Jihu put down his coffee mug and tried to push her away, in vain.

This was because Chohong had suddenly turned around, grabbed his shoulders, and wrapped her legs around his sides.

“Ooh~ So cute. What movie did you learn that line from, hm?”

“G-Get off. You’re acting weird.”

“What am I going to do about this virgin boy? He can’t eat even when the food is offered at his feet. Is he retarded?”

“What? What boy?”

“I’m saying you’re a retard. Oh? What are you glaring at me for? What? Want me to devour you? Ah?”

When Chohong raised her hand as if to hit him, Seol Jihu also got mad.

“A leader is like a sky, and this is how you’re treating me?”

“Sky? This son of a bitch. What Kool-Aid did you drink while in that position?”

“I’ll give you 3 seconds. Get off.”

“And if I don’t want to?”

When Chohong simpered, Seol Jihu bit his lip.

“You want to go at it?”

“Yep. Do it. Feel free.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, do it. What’s up with all this talk?”

“Kyak!” Chohong pounced. Seol Jihu also screamed “Wak!” and stood his ground.

Crash! The sound of them falling down threw Carpe Diem’s office into utter confusion. After a long tussle of laughter, Chohong raised her white flag first.

“S, Son of a bitch! Tickling is unfair!”

“Your sides are your weakness.”

“Stop!”

“Are you going to behave or not?”

“I will! I will! So stop!”

Giggling uncontrollably and frantically rolling around, Chohong didn’t see the door and ended up smacking her head against it.

Thud!

“Uk.”

“A-Are you okay?”

“Ah, you—”

At that moment, an envelope slid through the gap underneath the door and covered Chohong’s frowning face.

Seol Jihu quickly picked up the envelope before raising his body.

Chohong panted angrily while massaging her temples.

“Fuck… what’s that?”

“Information from an assassins’ organization.”

“Now that I think about it, you’ve been getting one practically every day. Is it a newspaper or something?”

“Something like that.”

Seol Jihu returned to the couch and tore open the envelope. Chohong tilted her head before throwing off her towel and finding a t-shirt to wear.

“Any interesting news?”

“Let’s see….”

Seol Jihu took the content of the envelope out and began to read it.

“Carpe Diem’s Chung Chohong throws a rampage again at Eat, Drink, and Enjoy…. The cause is a minor argument in a drunken state. She leaves after destroying the place…?”

Seol Jihu looked up in the middle of reading the report.

“Aaah, I just remembered. I have an important meeting to go to. Good luck!”

Chohong quickly threw on the rest of her clothes before disappearing. Seol Jihu shook his head, then went back to reading.

—Gossip surrounding the reason for the ‘Daughter of Luxuria’, Seo Yuhui (Korea), moving to Haramark continues. The Temple of Luxuria’s Priests have been constantly going back and forth, carrying luggage and parcels rigorously.

Some say she is moving the location of her personal wealth along with her base of operations. But those who know how frugal and simple she usually is, are wondering what is inside her luggage.

There are baseless rumors that she is receiving bribes. Another rumor is that the Daughter of Luxuria, as the apostle who most closely serves the Goddess of Lust, is absorbed in quenching her insatiable sexual desires day and night.

“Crazy bastards.”

Seol Jihu snorted. In truth, the last rumor wasn’t completely baseless — considering that when Earthlings rose from a High Ranker to Unique Ranker, they were influenced more by the characteristics of the god they served. Still, Seol Jihu disregarded this possibility as a ridiculous tale.

—Marcel Ghionea (Romania) is searching for someone.

Once dubbed the ‘Archer of Steel’ and evaluated as Haramark’s rising star who would follow Ayase Kazuki’s steps, Marcel Ghionea disappeared without a trace but suddenly reappeared in Haramark a month and a half ago.

From what is known, he was ambushed by a group of ‘Tarneras’ on the way home from Napal Hill, taken back to their village, and reared like livestock.

Miraculously, he and four others trapped in the same way managed to escape. While on their way back to Haramark, they apparently found the group of Tarneras massacred.

It seemed an unknown Earthling was ambushed by them and ended up killing them all.

These monsters enjoyed eating human flesh, and with fifteen of them working together, they can even overpower a High-Rank Warrior. Seeing as how this mysterious Earthling butchered these monsters, one can surmise how powerful this person truly is.

In any case, many organizations have offered the Archer of Steel excellent conditions to recruit him, but Marcel Ghionea, being the straightforward person he is, is bent on finding his benefactor.

Currently, he has returned to the place where he found the dead Tarneras and is looking for traces of his savior.

“That’s great news!”

Seol Jihu nodded his head. Whoever this mysterious Earthling was, Seol Jihu thought he did a good job.

“But couldn’t he have looked around better? If there’s a group of monsters, there has to be a village nearby… tsk.”

But on the other hand, he clicked his tongue, thinking the Earthling should have thought about checking out their village.

Slurp.

Next, when he tilted his lukewarm coffee into his mouth and flipped the paper….

—Scheherazade Important News

Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed.

—White Rose in dire straits.

He remembered the matter he had forgotten about and scrutinized the report subconsciously.

—Scheherazade’s mercenary guild, White Rose, is wrapped up in a controversy. Caligo’s number one figure, PAX, has filed an official complaint.

 

According to PAX’s public announcement, White Rose has snatched the ‘Ancient Emperor’s Villa’ expedition that they had been preparing for.

Seol Jihu’s face became dyed with shock.

Paradise had several unwritten rules, but the most taboo of them all was seizing a ruin occupied by another organization.

As the value of a ruin was unimaginable and infinite, they caused several problems, and was the number one reason for conflicts among Earthlings until a few years ago.

Although the disputes subsided after the Seven Kingdoms set a law that ‘all rights to a ruin belongs to the first discoverers’, conflicts still arose from time to time.

The problem was that every time such incidents happened, the situation was vague enough that it provoked more controversy.

Proving that one was the first to find a ruin was difficult in the first place, but even if one was successful in doing so, there was no guarantee that they would be able to claim the ruin to themselves.

As a result, the safest method was to keep the discovery a secret until the expedition began, but this wasn’t a perfect method either.

If someone else found the ruin during the preparation period and claimed it to be theirs, that would be an even more difficult situation to deal with.

In any case, as conflicts around the ownership of ruins were extremely complicated, many considered it better to not involve themselves in it.

Seol Jihu swallowed his saliva and continued to read the report.

—White Rose’s leader, Bok Jungsik (Korea), claims this is as a false accusation. He says he paid 10 gold coins to purchase this information, having heard nothing about PAX from the informant who sold him the information. 

Additionally, Bok Jungsik claims that, although it is true that he spent the past few months preparing, he canceled the plan due to their failure to find a group to work in collaboration with. Evidently, Phi Sora has arbitrarily decided to go on the expedition.

Phi Sora is currently unavailable after leaving by ship through the port of Nur. PAX is supposedly preparing to ask Caligo and the Scheherazade Royal Family to judge who is right and wrong.

After reading this far, Seol Jihu shot up from his couch.

*

Seol Jihu couldn’t contact Kim Hannah at all in the morning and barely got a hold of her at noon.

She talked about how hectic her day had been and went straight to the point.

—Things have been working out quite interestingly, huh?

“What happened?”

—There are two points that are problematic on the surface.

Kim Hannah held up her index and middle finger and made a ‘V’.

—The first problem is that the informant sold the information first to PAX before selling the same information to White Rose. He’s quite a courageous one. Well, that’s obvious, so I won’t mention any more of that.

Kim Hannah folded her middle finger.

—The second problem is that Phi Sora pressed ahead with the expedition. One thing to note is that PAX made a complaint after that foul-mouthed bitch left the harbor.

“When you say ‘problematic on the surface’… you mean it’s different on the inside?”

—Obviously. There are more than a couple strange points to just say, ‘Ah, I see~’

Kim Hannah stealthily licked her upper lip.

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