Chapter 262. To Lead (2)

“…I have a question.”

After a long silence, Seol Jihu opened his mouth with his eyes still closed.

“When did you decide to do this?”

“When you accepted the royal family’s mission on your own and ordered everyone to start packing.”

Kim Hannah replied in a quiet voice. The word ‘ordered’ dug into Seol Jihu’s conscience, making him bite his lower lip.

“If I hadn’t decided on the spot and asked for everyone’s opinion….”

Kim Hannah smacked her lips.

“As I said before, you’re not a simple member, but a leader. You have the final say on any matter — big or small — that arises in the organization. That’s what it means to be the representative of an organization.”

Meaning, leaving the minor aspects aside, accepting the royal family’s mission was not a bad thing.

“It’s just…”

The problem was the way he carried out his authority.

“I hoped you would at least keep the procedure of holding a meeting.”

But Seol Jihu had not done so. He had ordered his comrades one-sidedly after accepting the royal family’s mission.

Normally, this would not have been a problem. But considering Carpe Diem’s situation at the time, he should have discussed it beforehand.

“A meeting is a gathering of people to discuss various matters. Even if you already accepted the royal family’s mission and decided on going, that’s where I have the authority to officially voice my opinion. In front of everyone.”

Although she explained in a roundabout way, she was saying that she would have explained the plan to Seol Jihu if he had held a meeting.

Seol Jihu sighed. He knew Kim Hannah wasn’t doing this just because of what he did on their first night here. Because she had already taken a step back at the cafeteria, her pent-up frustration must have burst out at the end.

In truth, Seol Jihu still did not regret what he did on the first night.

Gula had approved him, the egg encouraged him, and he himself thought that it was something that must be done.

His thoughts still hadn’t changed.

And that was the problem.

Not every Earthling in Paradise was Seol Jihu. Everyone had their own desires and wishes. He should not have forced his beliefs onto others just because his actions were righteous.

Seol Jihu had thought, ‘You could have at least told me about the plan.’ But the same applied to Seol Jihu.

[…The main point is that it would have been nice if you called me on the communication crystal before and just let me know. That way, I would have been able to prepare for the coming day and perhaps even assist you. As your friend and as your partner.]

He should have mulled over Hao Win’s words more carefully. In fact, he should have first thought about his comrades, who trust him so much.

He would not have needed to convince them anyway. The least he could have done was explain what he was planning to do.

It was just like what Kim Hannah said.

What was on everyone’s minds as they followed him that first night?
Swapping the roles, how would he have felt if he were in their shoes?

All sorts of thoughts flitted through his mind.

And soon…

“…Yeah.”

Within the icy silence…

“I think I made a mistake.”

Seol Jihu opened his eyes.

*


Following Carpe Diem’s return after successfully completing the royal family’s mission, a meeting was held.

It wasn’t for any particular reason, and there wasn’t a pressing issue that needed to be discussed either. That said, things weren’t fully resolved either, so it was too early to raise a toast and celebrate.

Because Kim Hannah pointing out Seol Jihu’s improper procedures meant what she had done was wrong as well.

Moreover, Seol Jihu and Kim Hannah had different positions.

Although they had done the same thing, Seol Jihu at least had justification as the leader. Strictly speaking, an ordinary member like Kim Hannah could not be placed on the same level as the representative of an organization.

Even if they both were in the wrong, the reality of Paradise was that she needed to be punished harsher than Seol Jihu.

As a result, the air in the meeting room was as cold as ice and as heavy as a rock.

The team members generally had pale complexions. Chohong, especially, was glaring at Kim Hannah openly, while Hugo’s facial muscles were also wriggling.

Jang Maldong showed signs of discomfort as well. Although he had agreed to Kim Hannah’s plan, that was because Kim Hannah mentioned being given the authority to act as a proxy leader. It certainly wasn’t because he approved of her actions. In fact, he had shown his reluctance by leaving the private meeting with Hao Win and Kim Hannah before the meeting was officially adjourned.

Despite this, no one spoke up.

There were three reasons — Carpe Diem made great gains with Kim Hannah’s plan, everyone knew she didn’t do so out of ill intentions, and they remembered what she proclaimed during the welcoming party, being the proxy leader in times of emergency.

In truth, this was the sole justification that could defend what Kim Hannah had done.

While everyone was keeping their thoughts to themselves, Seol Jihu slowly spoke up.

“After coming to Eva…”

As he began to talk, ten pairs of eyes fell on him.

“We went through a lot in a short time, huh.”

A few people laughed. Just as Seol Jihu said, no one expected things to turn out like this right after moving to Eva.

“It’s great if we’re just looking at the results. The Eva Alliance was destroyed, and Carpe Diem practically suffered zero damage.”

Seol Jihu spoke calmly.

“I want to say well done, but things aren’t over yet. Plus…”

He hesitated for a moment before continuing.

“Before we take the next step, there’s something we need to discuss.”

Chohong furrowed her brows. Looking at Seol Jihu, she shook her head hastily, signaling him to not speak any further.

It wasn’t that Seol Jihu didn’t catch her signal. But in this world, there was no such thing as a perfect human being. There were only people who were trying to perfect their flaws.

But to do so, one needed to acknowledge their flaws first. Only then would they be able to take the first step toward growth.

Even when facing one’s flaw directly, there was no guarantee it would be fixed. And so, covering or avoiding it was obviously a no-go.

Knowing this, Seol Jihu no longer hesitated and said.

“To everyone here, the war against the Eva Alliance must have been a little, no, very sudden.”

Maria and Phi Sora nodded their heads.

“I really want to thank everyone for following me even when I was so stubborn. And I’m sorry as well.”

Seol Jihu smiled faintly.

“From now on, I will share my thoughts more and hear everyone’s opinions.”

He sounded as if a huge burden had been lifted off his chest. After he came to terms with his mistake, he had been feeling more lighthearted.

“That’s what I wanted to tell everyone.”

Seol Jihu ended his talk with that.

When apologizing for a mistake, one should not be overly dignified, but one should also not lower oneself more than necessary either.

Seol Jihu thanked everyone for their support in the recent events and by mentioning that he had skipped the proper procedures, he admitted his mistake as well.

Jang Maldong gently closed his eyes.

Meanwhile, Chohong gritted her teeth and glared at Kim Hannah. To her, it looked like Seol Jihu was humiliated because of Kim Hannah. Just as she was about to say something, unable to hold in her anger—

“Not at all.”

A calm, quiet voice rang out in the meeting room. Marcel Ghionea had unexpectedly spoken up. He had his hand raised, seemingly asking for permission to speak, so Seol Jihu nodded his head.

“As you said, the first night was a surprise. It felt like it came out of nowhere. Of course, I understood when I saw the VIP auction house.”

Marcel Ghionea lowered his hand and continued.

“When I joined this team, I discussed many things with Leader. Among them was the direction he wanted to take Carpe Diem.”

Seol Jihu tilted his head. What Marcel Ghionea said wasn’t wrong, but he couldn’t figure out why he brought this up.

“Ultimately, Leader and I have different goals, but we certainly have coinciding steps as well. That was the deciding factor that made me join this team. Well, it was also part of the requirements.”

Marcel Ghionea cleared his throat.

“So I understand Leader’s actions and support them.”

Only now did Seol Jihu realize that Marcel Ghionea wasn’t talking to him.

“Leader, you said there was something you needed to discuss before you take the next step.”

That was because his cold gaze turned to Kim Hannah.

“I apologize, but I believe there are two things to be discussed. Of course, this second matter might have been included in the first thing you wanted to discuss, but I feel it needs to be said first.”

His grey eyes which resembled a wild wolf’s stared at Kim Hannah as if to prey on her.

“Before that, there’s something I want to ask. Miss Kim Hannah was given the authority to act as the proxy leader, but wasn’t that only in times of emergency?”

It was finally here.

The eyes that had gathered on Seol Jihu all turned to Kim Hannah. Most of them were critical of her, but Kim Hannah didn’t bat an eye.

In fact, she accepted the looks willfully.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“In times of emergency means exactly that — an unexpected situation. The dictionary meaning, I mean.”

As soon as Kim Hannah acknowledged it, Marcel Ghionea pounced on the opportunity to attack.

“I believe it’s misleading to call this matter an emergency when the event was both expected and prepared for.”

His voice even carried a little bit of hostility.

“For example, the ghost lady. From what I hear, Miss Kim Hannah predicted the attack and borrowed the pendant. Even without this piece of evidence, we can be sure of her knowledge regarding the matter by knowing the deal she made with the Triads.”

Kim Hannah’s mouth twitched slightly. The backlash was stronger than she imagined.

But she had already prepared herself for the worst. Whether it be an organization or a team, hierarchies existed and had to exist.

While Carpe Diem’s hierarchical structure looked very loose and free, it was a different story when Seol Jihu was involved.

No matter the organization, an incompetent leader was criticized and a competent leader was trusted. As a rather close-minded team, this was even more evident in Carpe Diem.

One could see this just by observing how no one voiced any complaints even though Seol Jihu had frequently skipped the proper procedures after coming to Eva.

“Miss Kim Hannah clearly expected and prepared for this situation. How can anyone call this an emergency in good conscience?”

Marcel Ghionea was a good example of this as well. The reason he ignored countless offers from various teams and organizations and joined Carpe Diem was to repay the debt he owed to Seol Jihu for saving his life. And the reason he chose to follow Seol Jihu was that he had faith that Seol Jihu would be the one to grant his deepest desire.

After the war, this faith only grew stronger.

“At least, I can’t.”

To Marcel Ghionea, who had a sense of indebtedness and high expectations from Seol Jihu, what Kim Hannah pointed out was only a ‘minor’ mistake.

In the end, it was a matter of perspective.

Birds of a feather flock together; like attracts like.

While some people empathized with Kim Hannah’s intentions, there were others who were angry and only saw her actions as overstepping of her authority.

Marcel Ghionea was clearly one of the latter.

As someone known for his loyalty and single-mindedness, there was no way he would let anyone walk over the person he looked up to. Not unless the fault was 10:0.

No matter the intention, what Kim Hannah did was wrong and could certainly be seen as her trying to boss Seol Jihu around.

“To summarize again, as Carpe Diem had been fully prepared for the recent incident, it cannot be deemed an emergency.”

Thus, the Archer of Steel aimed at the Fox.

“And I formally raise the notion that what she did should be considered an abuse of power.”

Kim Hannah smiled bitterly. She had expected this to happen ever since she revealed her plan to Jang Maldong and Hao Win.

Seol Jihu was a competent leader. Since Kim Hannah undermined the person who had the utmost trust of the team, she now had to pay the price.

“…Yes.”

She could object if she wanted to. The phrase ‘in times of emergency’ could be interpreted in a broader sense, and in preparation for this very talk, she had specifically borrowed the pendant for a ‘just in case’ situation.

“I agree.”

However, Kim Hannah chose to accept the charge. Although she could wiggle herself out of this if she wanted, she knew that doing so would turn at least half the people in the room into her enemy.

This was easy to see. As the most recent addition to the team, she didn’t share any deep bonds with anyone on the team. Unless she held gravitas that rivaled Jang Maldong’s, she wouldn’t be able to avoid criticism for trying to baby Seol Jihu, even if it was in good intention.

If she objected here, others would start to look for opportunities to get back at her. Most of the people in this room would become founding members of the organization. Getting on their bad side would only make things more difficult for her.

As she carried the lofty ambition of making Carpe Diem the greatest organization in Paradise, a punishment was needed for her to hold onto her position and reinforce it in the future.

That was why she asked for the punishment of her own accord.

“I’m sincerely sorry that this matter troubled everyone.”

Kim Hannah bowed politely. Then, she raised her head and continued.

“In regard to this matter, I talked with Leader before this meeting, and he has decided to take away a part of my authority to prevent the same thing from happening again.”

“A part, you say…”

Everyone turned to the head of the table again.

Seol Jihu sighed internally. Truthfully, he didn’t really want to punish Kim Hannah. Knowing that she shined gold, he didn’t doubt her intention at all.

Seol Jihu wasn’t a superhuman. Even though he would become the representative of an organization soon, there were still a ton of things he didn’t know.

Babying him like Seo Yuhui often did wasn’t right. Unless there was someone to say harsh words and correct mistakes, a child would grow up without knowing right and wrong.

It was essential to have an advisor who would put on the brakes when necessary.

However, Kim Hannah had refused vehemently.

Her crossing the line was an undeniable truth. If Seol Jihu said, ‘I made a mistake, and Miss Kim Hannah did this with goodwill, so let’s forgive her,’ this would be a terrible precedent that could negatively affect his future organization.

He couldn’t show biases by pardoning one person and not pardoning another. An organization’s representative had to be impartial.

“Yes.”

In the end, Seol Jihu took a deep breath before opening his mouth.

“I will take away Kim Hannah’s authority to act as a proxy leader in times of emergency. Until further notice, administrative work will be her main focus.”

He revealed the content of her punishment clearly.

Marcel Ghionea’s eyes flickered with light. To put this decision into words, she had been pulled down from the position of a queen to the position of an administrator. Although she could still advise the leader directly, there was a big difference in that she could not act as his regent.

“Yes, understood.”

With this decision, the previous incident should not happen again, and Marcel Ghionea was satisfied with it as well.

Of course, the more hot-headed members wouldn’t be content until she was either chased out of the team or forced to kowtow, but most seemed to accept this decision.

In any case, they had to consider the fact that her plan swept the Eva Alliance away, and Kim Hannah was too talented to be chased out for something like this.

“That’s an appropriate punishment.”

Jang Maldong, who had been sitting quietly until now, broke his silence. He took a brief pause before continuing.

“I agree with this punishment since it will prevent the same thing from happening again. Ah, we should probably contact the Triads as well.”

He spoke as if he just thought about it, but both Kim Hannah and Seol Jihu knew he changed the topic on purpose. Now that this matter had come to a resolution, dwelling on it any further would only make everyone more exhausted.

“Of course.”

Seol Jihu took Jang Maldong’s help right away.

“I plan to contact them as soon as the meeting ends.”

The Triads had helped them greatly in this last incident. Although the plan was a dazzling success, it wasn’t as if they didn’t suffer any loss of life. Since they acted as Carpe Diem’s shield, it was only right that Carpe Diem thanked them.

“Mm.”

As the heavy atmosphere lightened slightly, Jang Maldong nodded his head and looked back.

“Alright, then now… hmm?”

Just as he was about to say something, his eyes suddenly opened wide. He blinked rapidly, furrowed his brows, and stared straight at the other side.

“W-What, what is that thing?”

When Jang Maldong muttered in shock, everyone reflexively turned their gazes. Next, everyone doubted their eyes.

“…Egg? Isn’t that the egg from back then?”

Phi Sora said in shock. Seol Jihu’s eyes widened as well.

‘When did this little guy get here?’

He saw the red egg again. There hadn’t been a single meeting it had missed like it was some sort of a drug addict coming to get its dose.

On top of that, despite being a mere egg, it had taken a seat for itself, lying on the table in front of everyone.

What was even more startling was that it was wiggling back and forth. It looked like it was putting on an imposing air and nodding its head in approval.

But it must have felt everyone’s gaze as it suddenly stopped and turned left and right.

Phi Sora’s jaw dropped.

“Is it moving? It’s moving by itself, right?”

A small ruckus erupted. But as if this had nothing to do with it, the egg lied down on the table. Cutting through the table by rolling forward, it stopped in front of Seol Jihu.

Then, it fixed its posture and stood tall.

“Ah, I was actually going to ask you before.”

Seo Yuhui asked with a curious expression.

“What is it?”

“Ah, it’s…”

Seol Jihu made a troubled expression as he looked at the egg staring back at him. He answered.

“An egg.”

Thwack!

The egg immediately jumped up and headbutted Seol Jihu’s stomach. Although it didn’t really hurt, Seol Jihu made a dumbfounded expression.

“What? You are an egg.”

Thwack! It headbutted again.

“…You are an egg…”

Seol Jihu rubbed his stomach and muttered. Seo Yuhui tilted her head.

“I think it’s protesting and saying that it’s not an egg. Don’t you have a name for it?”

Seol Jihu fell into thought. He remembered reading something about a mythical spirit, but he couldn’t really remember it at the top of his head.

Seeing the egg bouncing up and down in anger, he spoke carefully.

“Bouncy?”

The egg twitched. Seo Yuhui covered her mouth.

“Oh? What a cute name.”

“I just made it up. I couldn’t think of its real name…”

Seol Jihu trailed off as he saw the color of the egg turn into a deeper red. It even started to convulse noticeably.

Seo Yuhui blinked.

“…I think it hates the name.”

[Yeah, like a young master from the upper society shaking after being humiliated.]

Flone also chimed in.

It was then. Tk. The egg suddenly cracked.

Tk, tk! Tk, tk, tk, tk! After the first crack, it spread like a spiderweb. Before anyone could do anything about it, the cracks spread all over the egg’s surface.

Everyone including Seol Jihu gasped. A few people even shot up from their seats. No one knew what to do facing this sudden situation.

Luxuria had mentioned that the egg would test its partner in three stages.

The first was approving the use of the spear, the second was deciding whether the human was worthy of being its life-long partner, and the third was figuring out whether the partner had the qualification to use the Spear of Purity’s hidden powers.

Apparently, among the heads of the Rothschear House, most had failed to pass even the first stage.

‘Why?’

However, Seol Jihu had suddenly passed the second test. That was what the hatching of the egg signified.

While Seol Jihu was in thought, the cracked upper part of the egg fell. And soon, something popped out of the hole.

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