Chapter 164. Struggle (3)

—About time you called.

Kim Hannah grumbled about why he took so long to contact her but didn’t say anything about his participation in the war.

"Well, this is surprising. I thought you’d try to stop me from going.”

—I can if you want. Why? You want me to?”

"Nope."

Kim Hannah grinned and rested her chin on her hands.

—That’s why I didn't say anything. And this war… putting aside the chances of survival, it’s better to just participate. Not to mention the non-participants, those that ignore the draft call will most likely not have a good ending. When the war is over, that is.

Suddenly, several scenes flashed in Seol Jihu’s mind.

The people that nervously glanced around before disappearing into the temple.

The people that obeyed the draft call, but had unwilling expressions.

'The current Paradise…'

What was it like now?

The final battle that he saw at the end of his dream… Remembering that the vast majority of the Earthlings did not participate in the war and had escaped to Earth; Seol Jihu wondered what the current Earthlings thought about Paradise.

And upon asking Kim Hannah.

—You can split Earthlings into two categories in the face of this war.

She then warned that it was only her personal opinion before continuing to explain.

—Remember what I said during the White Rose incident? Depending on the situation, motives—”

“Change accordingly?”

—Right. For instance, when you were Level 1, the reason the Parasites attacked was to take over Arden Valley, wasn’t it?”

"Yeah."

—But the situation is different this time. It’s waaaay~ too different. With the slightest mistake, the whole board called Paradise might completely be flipped over. Considering this, what do you think the bastards that managed to comfortably settle here would feel?

The influential Earthlings that were enjoying considerable profit in Paradise would not want to lose their source of income.

On the other hand, those that failed to find a foothold or were afraid to lose their lives would escape to Earth.

The conclusion centered around profit.

Kim Hannah suggested that there was a high probability, that those who went to war to protect their profit would not leave alone the people who did not respond to the draft call.

'If that’s the case…'

Seol Jihu felt a little relieved.

While it couldn’t be said that Kim Hannah’s opinion represented the thoughts of all Earthlings, it seemed that the current situation was pretty different from the worst-case scenario of the final battle he had seen.

—The situation is ambiguous. It’s definitely dangerous, but it’s not entirely hopeless. That’s why there’s so much disagreement.

"It’s not entirely hopeless?"

—At least, not as much as you think. The fact that the Parasites laid siege on every city also means that the total number of troops around each of them have lessened. Above all, it’s not as if the Seven Armies have been deployed.”

"The Seven Armies… won’t come, right?"

—We can’t be sure. But considering the value of Tigol Fortress, the possibility of them coming is extremely low. Not to mention the amount of troops that the Parasites have already invested on Tigol Fortress, it’s a place that they couldn’t conquer for a long time even after sending five of the Seven Armies…

Her explanation made sense, so Seol Jihu nodded his head.

Besides, like Teresa said before, even if the seven armies did come, the fact that they still had to assemble their full force did not change.

They could only hope that the Federation would launch an attack on Tigol Fortress to tie up the enemy’s feet.

—Make sure to be careful and… is there anything you need?

"Can you make Scheherazade send reinforcements to Haramark?”

—The superiors have already been discussing it with the royal family. Haramark will most likely become the biggest battlefield, but… anyways, the results will come out soon, so wait a little.

Kim Hannah did not have the authority to influence decisions at such a high level.

Seol Jihu had only mentioned it just in case, so he didn’t continue to pester her about it.

Instead, he spoke of his original motive for calling to be introduced to a mercenary organization.

—A mercenary organization, huh?

"Is it possible?"

—Scheherazade hasn’t ordered an emergency draft call yet, so it shouldn’t be a problem for them to engage in external activities. Let’s see. Oolala Sisters, Red Flag, Shanghai Sword Society, Blood… Ah!

Tap, tap.

Kim Hannah tapped her table with her index finger before her eyes let out a sharp glint.

—When did you say you were leaving?

“It depends on the enemy’s speed of advancement. For now…”

—Hmm… They’re going to cut it close to make it there on time. All right. I got it.

Flick. The video turned off. Seol Jihu blankly stared at the dark crystal for a while.

‘I only asked for an introduction.’

Judging by how quickly she hung up, it seemed that she was going to immediately take action due to the lack of time.

He felt like he now owed Kim Hannah a debt, but since he wasn’t in a position to be picky, he decided to accept the favor.

'The partner group is now solved, so….’

"It’s rather hard to see your face nowadays.”

A clear voice sounded in his ears, as he was about to pick up the crystal.

Phi Sora was leaning against the wall, sending him a lackadaisical gaze.

He hadn’t felt her presence because he had been concentrating on the call.

“Then again, the war is imminent. I guess you’d be busy.”

Her voice was surprisingly pleasant. No. She looked particularly relaxed today.

Pushing her back off the wall, she walked towards him and plopped down on the couch across from him.

“I’m jealous of how busy you look. I’m bored to death having nothing to do. Phew. It’s depressing, really.”

Extending her clasped hands over her head, she twisted her neck from side to side.

Seol Jihu looked with bleary eyes.

'Is she teasing me?'

"There’s a training room on the first floor."

"Well. I do feel like one day of intense battle would loosen up my body more than a hundred days of pointless training.”

Phi Sora sneaked glances at him while twisting her body. A glint flashed across Seol Jihu’s apathetic eyes.

Then again, she wouldn’t intentionally act like this unless she had a flower growing on top of her head.

In other words, Phi Sora was signaling.

"Are you willing to help us?"

Hearing him get straight to the point, Phi Sora let out a snort.

"Dear, why are you only tactful when it comes to things like this?”

"I’m always tactful.”

"Very funny."

"Excuse me?"

Phi Sora shook her head and stopped the meaningless stretching.

“My base is still registered as Scheherazade. As long as I want to, I can return. But… there’s no reason for me not to help you. As long as the contract conditions are right.”

"Tell me what you want."

As if she had been waiting, Phi Sora replied.

"I’ll agree as long as it’s not a one-time contract.”

Seol Jihu raised his eyebrows.

"Are you asking about recruitment?"

"Wow. Look at the change in your tone. Well… I know you don’t view me very favorably right now, so I won’t expect you to recruit me. Just, don’t toss me aside after using me.”

"Toss you aside?"

“Read between the lines, would you? To be frank, as someone of my level, it’s extremely embarrassing to have to move around like a migratory bird, you know?”

Seol Jihu wanted to question what exactly she found embarrassing about it, but he brushed over it.

"A year…"

Phi Sora searched for his reaction.

"…would be too long for both of us, so at least guarantee me a six-month contract.”

Seol Jihu’s face stiffened.

"Half a year is a bit excessive."

"I’m asking you to think about my situation a little. It has to be at least six months to view it as a short-term contract. I’m not a professional mercenary or anything, so what would people think if I wander around here and there? They’re going to say, ‘Ah, that woman has skill but can’t stay in one place for long because of her bad personality.’ I don’t want any unnecessary misunderstandings.”

Phi Sora spoke according to the script she had memorized.

"But that’s not a misunderstan— hmm…"

Seol Jihu reflexively swallowed his words.

He knew that Phi Sora had exaggerated a little when listing off her reasons.

So, a question popped up.

'Why?'

Phi Sora looked like she wanted to use this chance to discreetly secure a position on his team.

A person of her caliber would easily be able to join a far better organization.

No matter how much he thought, Seol Jihu could not think of a reason that would make Phi Sora want to join Carpe Diem.

As Seol Jihu’s inner struggles became evident on his face, Phi Sora spoke with a displeased voice.

“What are you worrying so much about? Huh? Is it because of the kids? Have you seen me say anything bad to them after coming here?”

Thinking about it now, she had been surprisingly quiet as of late.

"And this is a war. While I don’t know for sure, I bet you can count people stronger than me in Haramark with one hand. I’m not boasting or anything, but I don’t think you know that most High Rankers can’t even take out their name cards in front of me.”

He knew. Phi Sora was a true High Ranker who was raised by Jang Maldong and had plenty of combat experience.

He didn’t doubt her skills.

But setting everything else aside, when he remembered Teresa desperately trying to clutch onto any straw, he made up his mind.

"Fine. If you really find me suspicious, then I won’t even receive a down payment for the contract. You don’t have to pay me now, so decide after you see me for a while.”

Seol Jihu raised his head in surprise.

“I’m a woman with dignity. And I bet you, that after seeing my accomplishments, you’d be so surprised that you’ll die. You might even beg me to sign a long-term contract, you know?”

As if she thought that he was almost convinced, Phi Sora confidently raised her index finger.

“Ah. If you’re going to accept me, since I’ve conceded once, you have to listen to my extra condition.”

"Extra condition?"

Phi Sora rotated her wrist and pointed at herself.

"Get me a pair of gloves. And a weapon, too, while you’re at it.”

Speaking of which, Phi Sora’s equipment were extremely lacking.

As she sold most of her equipment trying to conclude the expedition case, it could be said that she was practically unarmed.

“I need something to fight with, no? You’re not going to send me naked in the battlefield, right?”

"…Fine. Wait just a minute.”

Having resolved to borrow her strength, Seol Jihu rose from his seat without hesitation.

“Don’t get me something too cheap! It’s fine even if it’s borrowed!”

It looked like he had entered his room to bring out some random equipment rolling on the floor, so Phi Sora quickly shouted.

But her eyes widened seeing Seol Jihu come back with a large sack and empty its contents on the table. There was no way Phi Sora couldn’t recognize the extremely rare Banquet items.

"Oh my… Oh my, my, my…."

A longsword with a red sheen, a glossy triangular shield, a simple yet meticulously crafted armor, and a pair of slender fur boots…

There was nothing to throw away. As a Warrior herself, Phi Sora could not come to her senses in front of the lure of good equipment no matter how long she had been active in Paradise.

"Dear… just what are you really?”

Her face blossomed as if the equipment was already hers.

Seol Jihu shrugged his shoulders.

"Those should be enough, right?”

Phi Sora frantically nodded. Picking the equipment up one by one, she swung her head towards him.

"You know. Can you give these to me?"

"?"

"One year…. No, two years. I’ll sign a contract for two years without any other payment.”

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a loss taking Phi Sora’s abilities into account.

Rather, it was a profitable trade.

But Seol Jihu made a dumbfounded expression before bending down to carefully search the floor for something.

Phi Sora blankly stared at him before asking, "What are you doing?"

"Ah. I’m looking for something. I think I saw you drop something, Miss Phi Sora”

"…But I don’t have anything that can be dropped…?"

"There’s no way. I clearly saw and heard it drop."

"Huh?"

Phi Sora narrowed her eyes. Seol Jihu lifted his head before speaking with a straight face.

"Didn’t you drop your conscience?”

"…."

Phi Sora was left speechless.

*

Two days later.

A team of eight individuals knocked on the door of the Carpe Diem office.

He had heard from Kim Hannah to expect the mercenary group, Blood Line, but once the team showed up, Seol Jihu ended up being surprised.

It was because the leader of Blood Line who had come to greet him was someone he knew.

An expressionless face and a finger that fidgeted with a strand of her hair.

"Hnng."

And that low nasal sound that sounded like a hum.

The woman haughtily standing in front of seven others was none other than Oh Rahee.

"Huh? Why are you looking like you’ve seen something you shouldn’t have?”

Seol Jihu finally remembered Oh Rahee’s Status Window.

[Affiliation: Blood Line]

It was a face he was happy to see either way, so Seol Jihu welcomed her with a smile.

"I never imagined Miss Oh Ra~hee would come.”

"Actually— What?”

"Huh?"

"You. What did you just say?”

"Uh… That I never imagined Miss Oh Rahee would come…”

Seol Jihu tilted his head as he blurred the end of his speech.

"…."

Oh Rahee made a suspicious expression before opening her mouth.

“We’ve received a couple of requests here and there, but we actually weren’t going to come to Haramark.”

"Why?"

"Because we had a bad feeling about this place. But—”

Oh Rahee grinned.

"That fox offered us several handful of silver coins. How could we refuse?”

She repeatedly opened and closed her fist.

Seol Jihu looked around at the members. Whether it was a team sign or not, the six of them all had extremely dark makeup on, making him feel like he was greeting a death metal band.

While the team was a little dangerous, with enough money, they would even leap into war and would definitely be of help.

Seol Jihu thanked Kim Hannah in his heart for going to such lengths to help him.

'I need to repay her later.'

"By the way… Huh?”

Oh Rahee had been about to say something before she shifted her gaze to the side.

"Who is it?"

Seeing a crimson-haired woman walk out, Oh Rahee’s eyes widened.

But only for a moment.

"…Oh my. Look who it is."

She curled up a corner of her lips and made her trademark bitch-face.

"Isn’t it the doormat?"

"You."

"Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be at Scheherazade?”

'They knew each other?'

Seol Jihu looked at the two women back and forth. Phi Sora seemed surprised too as her face stiffened.

Oh Rahee made a big smile as if she found this unexpected encountered to be extremely enjoyable.

"You aren’t looking as shabby as I thought you would. Didn’t you lose your house and equipment after being used by Bok Jungsik— Oof?”

Pak!

Before she could even finish her sentence, Oh Rahee was kicked in the jaw.

Phi Sora had lunged forward with lightning-quick speed and smashed Oh Rahee in the face with the sole of her feet.

Seol Jihu panicked.

"You fucking bitch!"

Oh Rahee spat and barely stood her ground, but Phi Sora raised her right leg with a dull expression.

And seeing her heel strike down right on top of Oh Rahee’s head.

'…Ah.'

Seol Jihu quietly closed his eyes.

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