Chapter 263. To Lead (3)

"Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!"

Something shrieked and leaped out of the cracked egg like a flash of light. It was a frightening speed comparable to that of a bullet and caused everyone to draw away reflexively.

'Ah!'

Its target was at the head of the table.

Greatly startled, Seol Jihu twisted his body away, causing the thing to shoot past him by a hair’s breadth. Seol Jihu’s face went blank as he turned his head around.

'Fast…!'

He couldn’t even make out its silhouette. If he hadn’t avoided it intuitively, he would have been hit. However, the surprise wasn’t over yet.

The thing that shot past Seol Jihu bounced upwards as soon as it hit the wall behind him. It then made several somersaults in the air before lightly landing back on the table.

Seol Jihu stared down at the table in a daze.

Something short and chubby was staring up at him.

'…Injeolmi?'[1]

That was the first thought that came to his mind the moment he saw it. That was because its entire body was covered in fluff that looked extremely soft. If he tossed it into his mouth and chewed, he was certain it would be chewy like rice cakes.

'No, no.’

Seol Jihu vigorously shook his head before carefully looking at it again.

First off, it was extremely tiny. Leaving out all exaggerations, it really was the size of a child’s fist.

It had two legs. The fluff that covered its entire body was yellow with a tinge of red except for the white patch around its belly.

On the sides of its torso were tiny wings, and on its round face was a pair of ruby-like eyes that sparkled beautifully.

And on its mouth was a small, light-pink beak. If one had to point out its defining feature, it would be the single, light-green feather growing on its forehead.

Instead of an Injeolmi, it now looked closer to a chick and a freshly hatched one at that.

Suddenly, it parted its tiny little beak and…

"Pyak!"

It chirped.

"…What the… It was a chick?"

"Pyak pyak!"

The chick snapped its head around at Chohong words. It let out a very angry chirp.

Seol Jihu spoke with a speechless face.

"No, wait. Why did you attack?”

"Pyak pyak pyak pyak!"

It chirped even louder.

"Pyak pyak pyak pyak pyak pyak pyak pyak!”

It flapped its adorable little wings without pause and angrily chirped. He didn’t know why, but it looked extremely indignant.

"Oh my! How cute!!”

Seo Yuhui made a dreamy expression with a hand on her cheek.

"Hyaa…."

Hugo could not stop exclaiming either. Looking at the little chicken, he licked his lips and gulped.

It really hatched at an unexpected time.

The little chick kept staring up only at Seol Jihu while the rest just stared at it speechlessly. As if it was extremely aggrieved and vexed, it shot him an angry glare with its tiny eyes and chirped.

"Uh….Orabeo-nim.”

Yi Seol-Ah, who had been standing to the side with a stunned face cautiously called out to Seol Jihu.

"Have you ever played a game where you rolled the egg? Something similar to bowling.”

Seol Jihu’s face instantly became stiff. It was a secret that only Flone knew about. How did she know?

"Or did you boil the egg, saying you wanted to eat boiled eggs.”

"…"

"Or did you toss the egg in the air and… juggle? Wow! You even juggled with the egg?”

The secrets that only Seol Jihu knew about were revealed in public.

"Y-You knew all along?”

"No. That’s not it…”

Yi Seol-Ah trailed off and tilted her head. She looked at the little chick with an uncertain face.

"What’s going on?"

Jang Maldong regained his senses and asked him at that moment.

"Ah. Actually…"

Seol Jihu also came back to his senses and explained everything, beginning from the expedition to the Pagoda of Dreams to what he heard from Luxuria. It took a while for him to explain how he got the egg and tell them its identity.

"So this is the guardian spirit that Castitas, one of the Seven Virtues, bestowed to the Rothschear House?”

"Yes. That’s right. Its name is…”

[Arcus, the Rainbow Spirit.]

"Ah right. Arcus. It’s the spirit, Arcus.”

Seol Jihu, fortunately was able to recall the name after Flone reminded him in a timely manner. As he said that, the chick’s expression somewhat eased. Its piercing glare slightly softened and its burning indignation gradually started to subside.

Jang Maldong who had been observing the chick from various angles tilted his head.

"But why did it hatch now of all times?”

That was something even Seol Jihu didn’t know. The egg was supposed to observe its partner’s every move before making a decision. It hadn’t even responded in the slightest when he had begged it to, so why did it choose to break out of its shell now? He couldn’t make heads or tails of the situation.

"And why did it attack you as soon as it came out?”

"I have no clue."

Seol Jihu looked down at the little chick with a complicated expression.

"Tell me, this time with your own mouth.”

When he asked with a tinge of expectation, the little chick suddenly made a solemn expression. And it opened its beak.

"Pyang."

"…"

What came out were only incomprehensible chirps. It looked like it had understood him and was about to say something, but…

Seol Jihu was about to sigh before suddenly blinking his eyes. Yi Seol-Ah was squatting next to the little chick, nodding her head, almost as if she understood what it was saying.

"Ah. So that’s why…"

Yi Seol-Ah glanced at Seol Jihu. With all the gazes in the room concentrated on her, she made a stern expression, imitating the little chick.

Then she spoke.

"You humiliated me.”[2]

Phi Sora burst into laughter. She jerked back her head and crazily laughed before hurriedly fixing her expression.

"No, wait! It wasn’t because it was funny! It was just too absurd!”

Seol Jihu frowned.

"Seol-Ah. You can’t joke around right now. Things are already complicated as it is.”

"No! I’m not joking!”

Yi Seol-Ah jumped up.

"…You’re not?"

"Yes! Didn’t you hear it?”

He had no clue what she was talking about. But seeing her protest like that made it likely that she wasn’t lying. In fact, he already had a few suspicions.

"Miss Seol-Ah. Excuse me.”

Seo Yuhui interrupted them at that moment. With a face of extreme shock and skepticism, she asked in a low voice.

"Were you translating what this adorable chick said just now?”

"No, I wasn’t translating.”

Yi Seol-Ah rolled her eyes before continuing in a quiet voice.

"Of course, I can only hear it chirping with my ears, too. But it felt like it was transmitting its thoughts to my mind at the same time… Ah, that’s right. It was just like how Ghost Unni transmits her voice.”

Seo Yuhui involuntarily sucked in her breath. She then immediately turned to look at Seol Jihu.

"Jihu. You said this mythical creature was the spirit, Arcus, right?”

"Huh? Yes."

Seol Jihu replied without thinking. She suddenly asked him again after whispering to herself.

"Are you sure it’s a spirit?”

"I’m certain. It said so in the records and Flone also guaranteed that it was.”

Seo Yuhui’s expression grew serious. She had a nervous expression and looked at Yi Seol-Ah with eyes of disbelief.

"There’s no way. Even if someone had a genius aptitude, unless the direction matches exactly… Without having a diverse aptitude like the Renaissance Man or a Jack-of-All-Trades, the probability is almost…”

She mumbled incomprehensible things to herself.

"Miss Seol-Ah? Can we talk a little?”

She then dragged Yi Seol-Ah out of the meeting room. Seol Jihu could only lick his dry lips as the two of them left.

In any case, the egg had hatched, so what should he do now?

Seol Jihu pondered for a while before subtly reaching out his hand. Actually, the chick’s fluffy feathers looked so soft that he had wanted to try touching it from the moment he saw it.

The little chick hunched its neck back when his palm touched the top of its head.

Seol Jihu carefully stroked it like he was touching a ball of cotton. The little chick turned its neck and twisted its body around, not staying still, but it did not cold-heartedly refuse his touch.

"Whoa…"

"H-How is it?”

When Seol Jihu let out an exclamation, Phi Sora who had been absent-mindedly gazing from the side quickly asked.

"It’s really soft… It feels like I’m touching silk… And it’s really warm, almost as if I’m holding embers.”

Phi Sora let out a small moan at the unrestrained review.

"I-I want to try touching it too.”

As if she was surprisingly weak to cute things, she quickly extended her arm. But as she did so, the little chick got startled and started glaring at her.

"Pyrrrrrrrrrr.”

It unfolded its tiny wings and growled. It told her to not touch it.

"Oh my. Look at this kid. It stayed still when Dear was touching it. Is it discriminating against people? Funny.”

Phi Sora paused for a moment before mumbling to herself and extending her hand to catch it in the end. Her attitude was, “What can you do to me, even if you have your guard up?”

"Pyak!"

The little chick swiftly pecked her palm with its beak.

"Ow, that stung!”

Phi Sora yelled and quickly retreated.

"This bitch?"

Her face suddenly grew chilly and she swiped with her hand again, but the little chick easily avoided her.

"Huh? Ara? This bastard? Fuck!"

A game of whack-a-mole unfolded.

The speed of Phi Sora’s swings was substantial, but the little chick’s nimbleness exceeded her.

Whiiik, whiik, whiik, whiik.

It showed off amazing footwork accompanied by the sound of air whishing and avoided all her attempts.

"Ah seriously! Let me touch you just once!”

Enraged, Phi Sora unleashed her mana.

As soon as she did so, the little chick quickly jumped underneath the table. It ran with its tiny legs and hid behind Seol Jihu’s leg. Seeing it peek out its head to glance at her made Phi Sora speechless and gape her mouth.

When he felt it peck his leg with his beak, Seol Jihu carefully picked up the chick with both hands.

"Pyak!"

The little chick leaped up and landed on top of Seol Jihu’s head. As if his head was its nest, it folded its two legs contentedly and curled down. And letting out a wide yawn, it dozed its head.

"…What a carefree little guy!”

Jang Maldong let out a laugh.

"That punk, isn’t it thinking Seol is its father?”

Chohong also commented.

Seo Jihu raised his eyes as far as he could before giving up and smacking his lips.

To take a nap after throwing a fit as soon as it hatched… It was beyond his understanding. After muttering to himself, Seol Jihu looked around and spoke.

"In any case, let’s wrap up the meeting here for today.”

With the tiny chick still sitting on his head.

*


When the meeting was over, Seol Jihu called Hao Win with the little chick still resting on his head. He wanted to express his thanks for cooperating with Carpe Diem and apologize once again for his selfish actions.

—It’s all good.

Hao Win, however, didn’t seem to mind.

—I’ve said it before, but there’s no need for you to apologize. I didn’t do the right thing either. So let’s call it even.

He let out a hearty laugh.

—In any case, we’ve completely crossed the line with this, so don’t let your guard down until the end.

"Of course. And I promise there won’t be a second time.”

—I’m thankful you think that way. That Fox should find this worthwhile, too.

"I’ve learned a lot this time and found a lot of things I have to keep learning.”

Seol Jihu candidly spoke. Hao Win peered at him from across the crystal.

—…That’s your scariest trait.

It was an unexpected remark.

—You’re a terrifying man if you said that intentionally. But if you said that sincerely, then you’re an even more terrifying person.

"Huh?"

—People change as their accomplishments stack and their position grows higher. They begin to think, ‘I’ve earned this much. I’ve achieved all these things. What would you know?’ They naturally begin to get full of themselves.

He crossed his arms and continued in a tired voice.

—It’s not easy to keep your initial resolve. I’m no exception to this.

Seol Jihu only smiled in response.

—Anyway, let’s have a drink together once this is all over. I’m down whether it’s in Paradise or on Earth.

"Sure."

—Then… Oh right.

Hao Win asked something just before he was about to hang up.

—I’ve wanted to ask for a while, but why do you have a rice cake on your head?

"It’s not a rice cake.”

Seol Jihu smiled bitterly.

"It’s a mythical creature. It only looks like a chick for now.”

The chick angrily pecked his head when he said that. Seol Jihu winced and corrected his words.

"It’s my partner.”

—A partner… A companion animal? A pet? Is it something like that?

Kwak! The little chick flew down and strongly pecked the crystal. Hao Win chuckled.

—Look at that. It has quite a temper.

"It does, doesn’t it… I’ll introduce you to it next time.”

—I’ll look forward to that.

The call ended.

Seol Jihu helplessly shook his head before doubting his eyes.

The little chick was gone.

He suddenly felt a weird feeling on the top of his head. When did it get up there again…

"Hey! Will you…”

Seol Jihu tried to get it off his head with his hand, but…

"Pyak!"

It immediately pecked his palm, causing him to lower his arm back down. It seemed that even he was no exception to this. The little chick must have found his head to its liking as it showed no intention of coming down.

"Hey! You’ve hatched now.”

There was no answer.

"Shouldn’t you do something now that you’ve woken up? At least talk or… just show me your abilities or something.”

Still no answer.

When he grew suspicious and looked at the reflection in the crystal ball, he saw the little chick, sound asleep.

'This guy?'

He felt like whacking it off his head but…

"…Ehew."

Seol Jihu let out a sigh and got up from his seat.


*

Seol Jihu left the building with Kim Hannah in the evening. Earlier, the two had promised to eat dinner together.

There was a restaurant within the building, but thinking that Kim Hannah wouldn’t suggest eating out for no reason, Seol Jihu left with her without saying anything.

After entering a decent restaurant in the street and ordering food and alcohol, Kim Hannah spoke.

"I have something to tell you. I don’t want you to misunderstand so just listen.”

'Already?'

Hearing her speak in a low voice, Seol Jihu prepared his heart. He hadn’t expected her to begin talking as soon as they sat down, but he was still ready.

"Fine, but I know you feel like it’s unfair from your point of view. Your punishment…”

"That."

However, Kim Hannah suddenly pointed at Seol Jihu. Her index finger pointed towards his head.

"Can’t you get that off? Everyone’s staring. It’s embarrassing.”

"…"

Seol Jihu’s face stiffened before his shoulders drooped.

"I want to, too.”

"Why? It doesn’t want to come down?”

“It’s not a matter of simply refusing to get off.”

Seol Jihu complained.

"It goes into a mad frenzy if I try to even touch it a little. It thinks my head is its nest.”

Kim Hannah laughed. With a fascinated face, she tried to touch it but unsurprisingly, the little chick noticed her like a ghost and bared its beak.

It then smacked Seol Jihu’s head with its wings as if it was saying, ‘Why are you just looking and not protecting me when someone’s trying to touch me without my permission?’

"It’s an interesting child.”

Kim Hannah helplessly lowered her hand while shaking her head. Then she asked.

"How was it?"

"?"

"The meeting. Chung Chohong was trying her hardest to crush me. Did that not hurt your pride?”

Seol Jihu gave a shallow smile. She must have asked that after seeing the reactions of some of their teammates during the meeting. Having people acknowledge his authority as a leader was something he was thankful for, but there was a limit to that as well.

A representative was certainly the highest position, but it was also one that had to bear responsibilities that it entailed. Above all, apologizing for something he had done wrong was nothing to be ashamed of.

"How about you?”

Seol Jihu asked back.

"As for the authority, I can just take it back later.”

Kim Hannah plainly replied.

"I’m still in charge of the administration in any case.”

Then again, the authority as an executive officer alone was something that couldn’t be ignored.

"It was something I was fully prepared to take off my uniform for in the first place. I’m satisfied with this.”

"Uniform, huh."

Seol Jihu looked at the coat Kim Hannah had hung over her chair with lewd eyes. Sensing a sharp gaze, he averted his eyes and switched the subject.

"Putting the Dongchun Merchants and the Red Hwaru aside, how is the Evangeline faring?”

"They've practically been flung off a cliff after having their relationship with the Eva Union revealed. They’re barely hanging onto their last rope.”

"Really?"

"But that rope seems to be quite sturdy since they’re managing to hold on. Our great Queen of Eva seems to be shutting her eyes and ears.”

"I hope things won’t be hushed up.”

"It shouldn’t be. That guy, Sorg Kühne, is hard at work on the case.”

Kim Hannah continued.

"We’ll receive a call from the Royal Palace soon in any case. It doesn’t seem like a bad idea to wait for the time being. We can finally take a breather and resolve the things we had to push back.”

Seol Jihu fully listened to Kim Hannah’s words. He hadn’t known before, but now he did.

"By things we had to push back, you mean…?”

"We should finish the work that we started, don’t you think so? I think we should wrap up registering the organization, think about how we’re going to do the opening ceremony…”

Kim Hannah didn’t use conclusive words when she talked about the direction and future plans of the organization.

Instead of a command like ‘do it’, she would say 'I think’ or ‘we should’ and leave the final decision to him. She was strictly advising him as a member of the staff.

"And you.”

"Me?"

"You should think about how you want to set up the new organization’s system composition, positions, etc., don’t you, Representative Seol?”

"Using the Carpe Diem system… won’t work, right?”

"Stop with the nonsense. Did Carpe Diem even have a system in the first place? Everything was up for grabs.”

Kim Hannah snorted.

"There will be more people the bigger the organization gets. And as a result, you’ll have to divide people into different teams for different roles. Then you’ll naturally have to have officers or managers in charge of them. You can’t be thinking that you can get along with people that are way~ underneath you, right? Like you’ve been doing up till now?”

Seol Jihu smacked his lips.

"I’ll have to personally experience it to find out but… this is hard. Being a representative, that is.”

"This kid. Then did you think it’d be easy?”

Kim Hannah smiled.

"But don’t worry too much.”

"Why?"

"There are too many factors that will make this successful. This level of network, members, budget, etc. In fact, there have been very few organizations that have started with these conditions.”

"You didn’t believe me in Scheherazade.”

"I was an outsider then. Now I’m an insider.”

After correcting him, she gave him a sideways glance.

"Well, it’s not that there aren’t any worries, but… “

The food and alcohol that they had ordered finally arrived. In any case, eating came first.

"Should we toast?"

Kim Hannah said as she poured the alcohol. Seol Jihu shrugged.

A moment later.

"For our new organization!"

Kim Hannah raised her cup after handing him one.

"For Paradise!"

Seol Jihu also raised the cup that he received.

The glass cups that collided in the air made a sharp ringing noise.


1. A variety of Korean rice cake.

2. A reference to a famous line from the Korean movie, A Bittersweet Life.

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