Chapter 271. Jackpot (2)

It wasn’t like this when she left the palace. When she put on a servant’s clothes, draped a hood over her head, and half-heartedly smeared some dirt on herself, her heart was thumping in excitement while sneaking out from the palace’s back door.

But as soon as she passed through the main street and entered an unfamiliar alleyway, her mood plummeted to the bottom of the earth.

After Campbell Aria’s death, Charlotte Aria had almost never left the palace.

Although she didn’t stay inside the palace the entire 365 days of the year, she only looked around the royal palace or went back and forth through the main street to see Jung Sua at Evangeline’s headquarters.

She was told that things were okay, that things weren’t so bad.

Although people became impoverished from the long war, she was told that Eva’s situation was better than that of the other cities. That was what Jung Sua said.

So when she faced Eva’s bare face, Charlotte Aria became lost for words. She could not even breathe from utter shock at the visible horrors.

The streets were dirty and reeked with a foul stench. The residents sitting helplessly on the streets were considered the noblemen. There were boney children rummaging through trash cans and short corpses mixed with filth abandoned in alleyways.

Charlotte Aria’s pupils shook violently as she witnessed this scenery.

Even a king could not take care of all the poor. Valhalla was spending large amounts of money every day to support the masses, but it was impossible to save all of Eva.

This was after the corrupt Eva Alliance disappeared and the streets had gotten better with Valhalla’s help.

“Uuuk!”

Charlotte Aria threw up unknowingly. If she had witnessed the same nightlife scenery that Seol Jihu did on his first night in Eva, she might have fainted on the spot.

Suddenly, she felt several stares. It wasn’t just one or two. There were gazes from all directions.

“!”

Raising her head with difficulty, Charlotte Aria flinched. Unfamiliar gazes were directed at her.

Eyes that lost the will to live stared at her. Feeling like they were looks of resentment, Charlotte Aria shook her head reflexively.

‘No.’

This place wasn’t Eva. It wasn’t the city Charlotte Aria knew, no, heard about.

The excitement in her heart disappeared as if it never existed. As an indescribable dread crept up in its place, Charlotte Aria turned around, following her instinct.

‘No!’

She ran. She ran aimlessly through the streets. She felt like she would not be able to keep standing if she stayed here any longer.

And so, she ran away again.

But before she made it far, her ragged breath caught up with her. Once she saw the main street again, her legs stopped automatically.

Leaning on the wall and collecting her breath, she heard several murmurs coming from the distance. Charlotte Aria raised her head, her eyes widening.

In front of an imposing building, hundreds of people were gathered together like clouds. The street was filled with vitality just as much as it was loud.

Everyone was standing in an orderly line, and the people walking away with a box in their hands were full of smiles. Their eyes weren’t lifeless like dead fish, but full of vigor.

To think it would be this different.

This scenery was too different than the scenery she saw before. In fact, it almost felt like she was in an entirely different world, even though the only difference was the location.

Charlotte Aria stared at the scene in front of her in a daze.

“We’ll be able to last another week with this.”

“You can last 10 days if you eat conservatively.”

At that moment, a man and a woman who seemed to be residents walked toward Charlotte Aria.

Charlotte Aria dropped her head in a fluster.

“But to think these relief goods came from the queen. I didn’t know.”

“I was surprised too.”

Charlotte Aria was surprised as well.

“I thought the queen didn’t care about us. Looks like she hasn’t forgotten about us completely.”

“I think that’s not the case.”

“What do you mean?”

“Listen to me. When Evangeline and the Eva Alliance were in charge, the queen couldn’t do anything. But now that Valhalla is here, she’s a lot more active.”

“Are you saying that it’s not that she forgot, but that she couldn’t do anything?”

“Yes. Evangeline and the Alliance must have pressured her to stay put, but now we have Valhalla.”

Charlotte Aria frowned as she eavesdropped on their conversation. It sounded like Valhalla was slandering Jung Sua. Perhaps that was the reason why they were handing out these relief goods.

“True. That Jung Sua bitch has been blindfolding the queen’s eyes forever.”

“Shh, watch what you say.”

But when she heard what they said next, she doubted her ears.

It’s been forever? Valhalla wasn’t spreading this rumor, but they knew about it all along?

“Why? It’s an open secret anyway.”

“But still…”

“Anyway, you have a point. I guess I shouldn’t have cursed the queen so much without knowing the circumstance.”

“This Jung Sua is so evil. Did she think we wouldn’t notice if she used the queen as a scapegoat for verbal abuse? I wonder just how rich she got working behind the queen’s back.”

“Sigh. I feel bad for the queen.”

“Right? Thankfully, we have Valhalla now…”

The voices trailed off as the couple went away.

Charlotte Aria could not raise her head. No, she could not even think clearly.

She thought that the royal administrator was making a mountain out of a molehill, but Eva’s ordinary residents were saying the same thing.

Charlotte Aria did not know.

‘Jung Sua said…’

Just as Charlotte Aria’s expression turned complicated.

“To be honest, this Valhalla organization is funny too.”

A sharp voice struck her ears. Two people wearing white Priest’s robes were standing with their hood pulled down. Judging by their uniform, they seemed to be Priests from the Temple of Luxuria who came to volunteer.

“It’s already been several weeks since they started doing this. Just how much money do they have?”

“Well, they said it’s ending soon. They’re out of money, apparently.”

“I thought they were trying to win over the public, but they lied and said the goods came from the queen. I wonder why?”

“Ah, I heard that too.”

‘Lie?’

Come to think of it, Charlotte Aria did not remember ordering any relief goods to be handed out. Although Sorg Kühne requested it a couple of times, Jung Sua did not allow it due to budget problems.

Charlotte Aria doubted her ears as she turned her gaze stealthily. The two Priests were chatting, not paying attention to her in the slightest.

“I just don’t get it. Why are they spending their own money for the queen?”

“That’s not all. What’s the point in spending all that effort to eliminate the Eva Alliance? Is anyone even recognizing them for their work?”

“Exactly. If the queen were smart, she would call dear, I mean, Valhalla’s representative. But she’s pretending as if nothing happened!”

“I don’t understand why they came to Eva in the first place. Anywhere else, they would be treated as a national guest, so why Eva?”

Before the previous shock could disappear, a new shock overwrote it. She thought Teresa was exaggerating, but these Earthlings were saying the same thing, word by word.

“Jung Sua sure has it nice, being able to pull a fast one over the queen like that. I’m jealous~”

“Yeah, I’m jealous too~”

Charlotte Aria’s complexion continued to darken. Regardless, the two Priests continued to chatter.

*


Today’s distribution ended. People who came to receive relief goods had all left, and the Priests who came to volunteer began to return one by one. Only a few remained to clean up the street.

“Hmhm~ Hmhmhm~”

Kim Hannah hummed happily as she cleaned the scene. Of course, she did not forget to subtly keep an eye on the alleyway.

After walking closer, she straightened her back while turning around. She widened her eyes as if this was a real coincidence.

Two pairs of eyes met. Charlotte Aria shrunk back like someone who committed a crime.

Kim Hannah stared for only a moment. Soon, she gave a sweet smile that was dangerous below the surface.

“Kid!”

Charlotte Aria furrowed her brows.

‘Kid?’

She was about to get mad but held herself back after remembering her current position. Charlotte Aria was not here as the queen. She had disguised herself as an ordinary civilian.

“Why are you standing there? Come here!”

Kim Hannah gestured toward her to come forward. Not expecting that they’d talk to her, she was at a loss for what to do. She tried to run away, but Kim Hannah would not be Kim Hannah if she allowed this so easily. She grabbed Charlotte Aria’s arm and pulled her forcefully.

“Come here, why are you trying to run away?”

“Let go.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. You’re here for the relief goods, right?”

“No, that’s not it!”

Charlotte Aria twisted her arm and struggled to escape, but in vain. Kim Hannah shouted with a bright smile.

“Leader! Do we have any relief goods left?”

“Relief goods? Hold on!”

Seol Jihu, who was folding boxes, moved into action as if he had been waiting. Next, he appeared with a large box.

“We have one box left.”

“Thank goodness. Give it to this kid.”

“Got it. Here you go.”

When Seol Jihu handed the box to Charlotte Aria, she took the box without realizing it. No, she tried to take it.

“Uuk!”

Koong. The box fell. Because of her frail and weak arms, she had dropped the box.

“Ah, are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?”

As Seol Jihu asked with a startle, Charlotte Aria shook her head fiercely.

“I-I’m fine.”

“Oh, man. Ah, where do you live? I’ll carry the box home for you.”

“N-No! I don’t need it!”

Charlotte Aria jumped. She had done well hiding her identity, but she was now at risk of being found out. Seeing Kim Hannah and Seol Jihu staring at her fixedly, she went ‘Ah’ and continued.

“My family already took one… I can’t take another one.”

“Ah, so that’s why…”

Seeing that the other side understood her situation, Charlotte Aria internally breathed a sigh of relief. Then, she looked up at the young man nodding his head.

‘So this is him…’

Seol Jihu also looked down at the big eyes of the girl who had her blonde hair braided in a twin-tail.

‘So this is her…’

The current queen of Eva, Charlotte Aria.

She was surprisingly short, likely not even 155 centimeters tall. She had delicate facial features, white skin that faintly reflected the sunlight, and cherry-like lips with the color of Japanese apricot flowers. Although these features made her look like a child, her body made it clear that she was an adult.

Moreover, seeing her blue, tranquil, ocean-like eyes, Seol Jihu felt a natural reverence toward her.

In truth, he had felt it from the time Kim Hannah dragged her over. Although the queen tried her best to disguise herself, her appearance and the air around her could not be hidden with shoddy disguises.

Perhaps because she was a royal, dignity exuded from each of her steps and gestures.

“Are you Valhalla’s representative?”

Charlotte Aria asked abruptly.

“Yes, I am.”

Seol Jihu smiled brightly.

“You knew?”

“How could I not?”

She sounded somewhat curt.

“I’ve been hearing about you from various places.”

“Oh?”

“With what intention are you doing all this?”

Seol Jihu blinked in a daze. Setting aside how sudden this question was…

“What are you hoping for?”

With these questions, Charlotte Aria was practically announcing her identity openly. Only fools would not figure this out when she was basically screaming, ‘I am someone special!’

Seol Jihu could not tell whether she was revealing her identity indirectly, whether she was hinting at him to recognize her, or whether she was simply inept at something like this.

Even Kim Hannah looked troubled by this.

However, Seol Jihu was a former gambler. He had experienced countless unexpected situations.

“There’s a saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

“Hmm?”

Charlotte Aria tilted her head.

“This city is Eva, right?”

“Mhm.”

Charlotte Aria nodded like a meek and obedient puppy. Seol Jihu said with a smile.

“I can’t do something that goes against the law, but I also can’t stand by and watch other people do things that go against the law. Being an unmoving spectator isn’t a crime, but it is injustice.”

“Y-Yeah?”

“It’s simple. I’m in Eva, so I have to follow its laws as long as I am in this city. And the one who decides Eva’s laws is the queen. I’ve only acted based on the queen’s will.”

Meaning, he had no ulterior motives.

“Hmm…”

Although she did not understand everything he said, Charlotte Aria nodded her head. It didn’t sound like he said anything farfetched.

“Right, this city is Eva. When in Eva, you must follow Eva’s laws. You’re totally right.”

“Right?”

Seol Jihu asked with a smile.

“Did that answer your question?”

“…I have another question.”

“?”

“I understand that you mean to follow Eva’s laws… but…”

Charlotte Aria hesitated for a long time before continuing.

“Eva’s queen… She doesn’t really care about the laws or the city, right?”

Seol Jihu shut his mouth. He instinctively knew that he should not be careless with this question.

It was then. Kim Hannah suddenly bent down, rolled her finger, and then flicked Charlotte Aria’s forehead.

“Ow!”

“What did you say, brat?”

“You dare?”

“The queen doesn’t care about the city? Who taught a brat like you to speak like that?”

When Kim Hannah made an angry face, Charlotte Aria flinched.

“I-I’m not a brat…”

She rubbed her forehead with her hands and pouted. Kim Hannah put one hand on her waist and pointed at the box with the other.

“She doesn’t care? How can you say that? The queen is handing out these relief goods, you know?”

“L-Lie, that’s a lie.”

“Oh? Where is this coming from? Who says it’s a lie?”

“People. They said that Eva’s queen is a dumb idiot.”

Charlotte Aria stuck out her lower lip in a huge pout.

“They said she’s a puppet who doesn’t know anything!”

Seol Jihu barely held himself back from answering, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’

He didn’t expect her to berate herself. By the looks of it, she was rather despondent.

‘Just what did they say?’

Since they were in a hurry, Kim Hannah had cast Maria and Phi Sora. Just how harsh were they to make Charlotte Aria so dejected? She was like a puppy drenched from the rain!

To be frank, her expression showed what answer she wanted. Kim Hannah’s action just now must have been to guide his answer.

Seol Jihu replied gently.

“No, the queen is a wonderful person.”

“Have you met the queen?”

Seol Jihu flinched at the question that hit the nail on the head. He expected her to laugh frivolously if he praised her, but she must have been hurt quite a bit as it wasn’t so easy.

‘Rather than just taking her side…’

Just like Kim Hannah said, this was an important opportunity. Rather than throwing this chance away with meaningless talk, he had to make it meaningful for Valhalla.

“…No, unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to meet her yet.”

Charlotte Aria looked up at Seol Jihu with an anxious look.

“But I think she is a wonderful person. Probably.”

“Why? You’ve never—”

Seol Jihu decided to make his bid for victory here.

“Because the queen is a member of the Aria family which rules Eva.”

Not expecting the royal family to be mentioned, Charlotte Aria’s eyes widened.

“Do you know the Aria family?”

“Of course, I do.”

Seol Jihu continued like he had been waiting for this moment.

“Starting from the Thunder Monarch who achieved mastery in lightning magic to his first son Soel Aria…”

Seol Jihu recited everything he knew about the royal family. Yun Seohui’s gift was fully showing its worth.

“And there’s also Prince Campbell Aria who refused to give up and tried to protect the city until the end! They’re all heroes who made great contributions toward Paradise.”

“Yes, that’s right!”

Charlotte Aria nodded her head vehemently as if she was never dejected. Teresa said she had a little bit of an inferiority complex, but judging by how happy she was as she echoed Seol Jihu’s praise, it seemed she didn’t hate her family.

“So Queen Charlotte Aria must be a wonderful ruler as well. As evidence, she got back on her feet amidst the war without anyone helping her! Even though I’ve never met her before, this is what I think.”

If Sorg Kühne heard this, he might erupt and scream, ‘What bullshit is this!?’ However, Charlotte Aria twisted her body and wiggled her foot back and forth.

“Is that what you really think?”

“Of course. That’s why I came to Eva.”

Charlotte Aria’s eyes twinkled.

“You came to Eva because you believed in the Aria family?”

“Yep.”

“Really? Is that true?”

“Of course, it’s true.”

Charlotte Aria’s complexion brightened.

“Aha, so that’s why… Mm, mm. I get it. Thank you for the kind words.”

She clasped her hands behind her back and looked up at Seol Jihu.

“What is your name?”

She had a cheerful tone and slightly flushed cheeks.

“I’m Seol Jihu.”

“Seol Jihu. Seol Jihu.”

Charlotte Aria smiled innocently.

“Got it. Seol Jihu, I will make sure to remember your name!”

With that, she turned around and ran. It was in the direction of the palace.

“Ah!”

Seol Jihu tried to stop Charlotte Aria from running away, but he couldn’t reach out. It was because Kim Hannah stopped him. The way she winked at him, he seemed to have done a good job.

When Charlotte Aria eventually disappeared from their view, Kim Hannah smiled and patted Seol Jihu’s butt.

“Aiguu~ my baby. Good job. I’m impressed by you mentioning the law and the royal family.”

“Are you sure this is okay?”

Seol Jihu smacked his lips, feeling like he just toyed with an innocent, young girl. Kim Hannah shrugged.

“Of course. It’s not like we did anything harmful to the queen. We’re just taking a page out of Jung Sua’s book.”

“Anyway, I did what you suggested. What’s the next plan?”

“Oh, the next plan? Fufu.”

Kim Hannah laughed before sticking out her tongue. Seeing her move her tongue capriciously, Seol Jihu realized that this little meeting was only the appetizer.

The main entrée had yet to come.

*


Charlotte Aria summoned Sorg Kühne as soon as she returned to the palace. Sorg Kühne could not remember the last time the queen summoned him of her own volition, so he suppressed his anxiety and entered the grand hall.

“Royal Administrator Kühne, were relief goods sent out recently under the royal family’s name?”

“?”

“Why are you looking at me like that? Did I not ask a question?”

“…N-No, the royal family has not sent out any relief goods.”

“I see.”

Charlotte Aria nodded her head.

“With the recent disappearance of the Eva Alliance, administration of different areas of the city must have gotten lax. Is this the case?”

“Pardon?”

Since she just came back from checking out the city, Charlotte Aria took this opportunity to cop an attitude.

“Did you not know? Hmph. How can the so-called royal administrator be so indifferent with regards to the matters of the city?”

“Pardon?”

“Come to think of it, this organization named Valhalla.”

“Pardon?”

“I’ve judged it with my own eyes and ears, and it is a rather excellent organization.”

“Pardon?”

“A misunderstanding is a misunderstanding, but a contribution is a contribution. Moreover, this Earthling named Seol Jihu is a very trustworthy person. He is very capable and has excellent character. You were right.”

“Pardon?”

Sorg Kühne blinked dazedly as if he was possessed by Seol Jihu and his ‘pardons’. Charlotte Aria scowled.

“You are asking far too many confirmations today? Did you go deaf?”

Sorg Kühne was tapping his ears and rubbing his eyes. As if that wasn’t enough, he even shook his head intensely.

Charlotte Aria was a little taken aback by his actions. But soon, she cleared her throat and continued.

“I will not say it again. Summon Valhalla’s representative. I shall invite him under my name and reward him for his contributions.”

An earth-shattering matter unfolded. Sorg Kühne’s jaw dropped all the way down to the floor.

Was he dreaming? Or was he suddenly struck by a bolt of lightning from the clear sky?

Regardless of what the answer was…

“Yes, Your Majesty!”

Sorg Kühne bowed in a hurry.

“Your humble servant shall obey your command!”

*


That night, the royal palace contacted Valhalla, asking them to come to the palace first thing in the morning tomorrow.

“Kik. She must have come to her senses.”

“Only brainless retards wouldn’t understand after we said all that.”

Phi Sora and Maria giggled as they praised each other’s acting skills.

Seol Jihu stayed up to discuss the main dish with Kim Hannah before dragging his exhausted body to sleep. And when he opened his eyes…

“….”

He saw an unfamiliar scenery.

Seol Jihu was lying in the middle of a beautiful garden, where petals were fluttering in the air. He felt like he was dreaming.

‘This is….’

When he raised his upper body with a confused look…

“Seol Jihu-niiiiim!”

He heard someone calling his name from afar. Turning his gaze reflexively, he saw a person running toward him in a fluttering black goth-loli dress.

She skidded to a halt, then hopped right into Seol Jihu’s embrace. As a result, Seol Jihu had to lie down once again.

Looking up blankly, he saw the girl sitting on top of him, her blue hair slicked back neatly.

“Ah.”

Seol Jihu’s mouth opened wide. He was thinking she looked familiar, and now, he realized who she was.

Roselle La Grazia, the Dreaming Witch from the Pagoda of Dreams.

‘Wait.’

How? Why?

Seol Jihu had fallen asleep in his room inside Valhalla’s building, thinking about how he would finally become Eva’s King tomorrow.

So why did he wake up in this place?

Seol Jihu looked left and right in a fluster. However, in much excitement, Roselle only said what was on her mind.

“You said it was going to take a long time! So mean~!”

Like the saying, humans form plans and the heaven grants them, life was often full of surprises.

“To think you would uphold your promise this quickly. How can this poor lady express her gratitude?”

But the phrase, ‘full of surprises’…

“I was going to be satisfied with an above-average talent, but my goodness, to think someone like this was still alive in this wartorn world… I am truly touched.”

…did not necessarily mean something bad.

“Please don’t say no. I clearly felt it today.”

Among surprises, there were cases that led to an advantageous direction by pure coincidence or miscalculation.

“I could not be happier. A member of the Aria family known for their thunder and lightning ‘lineage magic’, and such a dangerously powerful blood flows within her too….”

And among these…

“I am certain she will be able to handle the Eternal Light of Wisdom!”

A so-called jackpot would occasionally pop up.

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