It was too early to celebrate with just winning custody over the Neutral Zone.
'There’s a reason the auction opened 2 months in advance.’
They were hit with a storm of work.
While they didn’t know how many would enter, they still had to prepare for a maximum of 525 people, so there weren’t just one or two things they had to procure.
The problem was that they couldn’t only worry about the Neutral Zone.
Step 1. Personnel Recruitment
This was the first on the list of things Valhalla had to urgently resolve, which Kim Hannah emphasized as a ‘must’.
Actually, Seol Jihu didn’t want to recruit more people at the moment. Rather, it was correct to say he didn’t have the time or energy to do so.
While he acknowledged the need for it, he was so swamped with work that the thought of, ‘Do I really have to do it now?’ was inevitable.
However, Kim Hannah was adamant about Step 1, even if they couldn’t do Step 2 or 3. Her reason was that they were unable to leave the Neutral Zone for at least three months once they entered.
"Representative. We will not be able to do anything for three months once we enter the Neutral Zone. We can’t, even if we want to. Were you thinking of remotely working from inside the place? You know that all forms of communications with the outside world will be blocked, don’t you?”
"You’ll have to work when you come out too. You know this. The more work you finish now, the easier it’ll be later.”
"That’s not all either. We’d be able to form contracts that are more advantageous to us with the condition of allowing them to enter the Neutral Zone with us. Also, the new members would be able to bond with the existing members during the three months in the Neutral Zone.”
"I know it’s hard for you, but there’s not much time left. Let’s work a little harder, okay?”
"Alright, alright. I got it."
In the end, he couldn’t endure Kim Hannah’s imploring and reluctantly nodded his head. These were all correct words, so Seol Jihu didn’t have anything to say against them.
Even so, his cooperative relationship with the Assassination Guild was a stroke of fortune amid misfortunes.
After a discussion with the other members, Seol Jihu sent a registration notice to the Assassination Guild branch. The notice beckoned people that wished to join Valhalla to come for an interview at the specified date and time.
Tong Chai immediately contacted the headquarters and the Assassination Guild posted the recruitment notice throughout the entire city on that very day.
As Valhalla was a newly founded organization that also represented an entire city, it received a lot of interest.
A lot of people thought, ‘Should I try taking the interview?’ when they read that Valhalla would recruit regardless of their class, but everyone became dumbstruck when they got to the minimum job requirements.
—Level 4, awaiting to be a High Ranker.
—Level 5+ preferred.
In other words, it was saying Level 4s should only come if they were confident in their abilities while Level 5s were unconditionally accepted.
"Damn. What’s this? Isn’t it saying only those who are almost High Rankers or are already High Rankers should come?”
"I guess they’re going for a small group of elites for now.”
"Well, there’s no way I’m qualified. I don’t know if there is anyone who’ll go.”
"They're that confident of providing treatment of that level, huh. Then again, they do represent a city.”
The people who were looking at the announcement board began to leave one by one while complaining.
However, not everyone left. Although it was only one person, there was definitely a person who was carefully reading the recruitment notice.
The day of the interview came.
Seol Jihu received a call from Kim Hannah while he was having a conversation with Charlotte Aria.
She told him to quickly come and conduct the interviews as the applicants had arrived.
Seol Jihu looked at Charlotte Aria, who was busy chattering away with a look that said, ‘I’m saved.’
He had rushed to the palace, hearing that something big happened, but… It turned out to be an excuse to call him since he was so busy nowadays… Using the authority of a queen.
In any case, now that he had a perfect reason, Seol Jihu politely asked to be excused and left the palace.
Well. That’s what he tried to do.
"Hmm. Alright. Then I shall go too.”
Because Charlotte Aria started following him like it was only natural, he could only leave the palace after finding Sorg Kühne.
Marcel Ghionea was waiting at the entrance.
"Let's go. They're waiting for you in the meeting room.”
"How many came?”
"That’s odd. We even included Level 4’s. Fewer people came than I expected…”
Seol Jihu wistfully began walking. Marcel Ghionea gave a bitter smile, but didn’t comment.
Several people were in front of the meeting room, peering inside. It was natural for an interest to build since there were new faces.
"Hehe, there are two girls, hehe.”
He walked past the giggling Hugo…
"That’s surprising. I never expected those two would come.”
"That means Valhalla’s class is just this high. Anyways, who’s the other one? Her eyes are quite something.”
"Ah. That snake eyes? She was once my slave. She’s a bitch that sure knows how to shake her ass.”
…And squeezed past Chohong and Phi Sora who were whispering to each other to enter the room.
He saw a total of four people. The backs of the three individuals sitting in front of Kim Hannah looked strangely familiar.
Kim Hannah, who found Seol Jihu entering the room, rose up from her seat to greet him.
The three turned around at the same time, causing Seol Jihu to stop in his steps. His eyes slightly widened after seeing their faces.
"Ooh. You’re looking more handsome in the short while we’ve haven’t seen each other.”
The playfully giggling snake eyes, Audrey Basler.
A curtly nodding emotionless face, Oh Rahee.
And a silently observing Ayase Kazuki.
"Representative Seol, please take a seat.”
Seol Jihu sat down first, barely coming back to his senses. He then scanned the people in front of him with an awkward gaze.
"All three people here wish to become a member of Valhalla.”
'I know that, but…'
It was just that the three individuals who visited Valhalla were rather unexpected.
There wasn’t any need for a customary introduction as he’d met all of them before. Thinking he should first hear their stories, Seol Jihu began to talk.
"I'm surprised. I didn’t expect to see the three of you in this place.”
He started with the only man.
"Mister Kazuki, Didn’t you say you’ll form a new team?”
Kazuki nodded his head.
"I wanted to make a team of my own. That still hasn’t changed.”
That was why it was questionable.
Not all affiliates were the same. It might have been different if it was in the form of external cooperation like the relationship between Sicilia and Carpe Diem back in their times at Haramark.
Kazuki’s objective of joining Valhalla could be viewed as him intending to create a team within the organization by borrowing Valhalla’s help. However, this would inevitably put Kazuki beneath Seol Jihu…
The Kazuki that Seol Jihu knew was a man who would not go under anyone. He had even once told him he wanted to become his own leader.
Nevertheless, he could only think of one reason that made him come here.
"Is it because…"
"…Yes. It’s because of the Japan Business Federation.”
"I’d rather not speak ill of them since there was a time we shared the same bowl, but they’re persistent enough to make my teeth clatter.”
Seol Jihu stuck out his tongue.
"Did they come to harass you or something?”
"No, they didn’t. Perhaps it’s because they're conscious of the Triads, but they haven’t directly approached me. However…”
Kazuki clenched his teeth.
"I couldn’t make a team.”
"Well, I probably could have if I forced it. But making a ragtag group isn’t any better than not making one at all.”
Then again, as the leader of Haramark’s once greatest team, Umi Tsubame, Kazuki probably had high standards.
"It wasn’t that there wasn’t a single person that met my requirements. Some even positively reacted to my proposal. However, every single one of them suddenly changed their minds, saying they were too exhausted to join.”
Kazuki spoke calmly, but his eyes emitted a chill.
He didn’t have to even guess why they all acted like that. It was obvious that the Japan Business Federation had interfered.
"So I wanted to at least try to look for a Warrior that could pair up with me. But the results were the same despite reaching out to everyone I knew. Who knew there were things that couldn’t be solved with money?”
Kazuki let out a sigh and turned to look at Seol Jihu.
"There was nothing I could do once the situation became like this. Then I happened to see Valhalla’s recruitment notice.”
In other words, he was saying he wanted to form a team using Valhalla’s might since his own power was lacking. While they may still be a hollow shell, they were still an organization that took out the giant coalition called the Eva Alliance.
Unless the Japan Business Federation went crazy, they wouldn’t bother him again. Especially since it might result in a war between cities…
"You could have borrowed the Triad’s help, couldn’t you?”
Kim Hannah who was silently listening suddenly threw in a question.
Kazuki smacked his lips. He had an expression that said he didn’t want to speak ill of a place that he owed a favor to.
"…Have a strong tendency to look out for their own first. Valhalla seemed to be a better choice if I was going to become a member anyways. It’s better suited for fulfilling my dreams as well.”
"What do you plan to do after the contract duration ends?”
Valhalla was also thinking of forming a new team, but they were worried that Kazuki would leave with a part of their team when his contract ended.
"Don’t worry. I don’t take you guys lightly enough to do shameless things without hesitation. Neither do I expect Valhalla to be that generous.”
Kazuki shook his head.
"Only, I’m hoping that if I work really hard, Valhalla would share a part of its territory in the future. That much I have hopes for.”
Kazuki revealed his true, sincere thoughts without hiding anything.
"I have no issues with it."
He then lifted a piece of paper he received from Kim Hannah and spoke.
"I don’t mind starting from the bottom. I’ll never forget this favor if you help me.”
It was a speech full of confidence.
'If it’s Mister Kazuki.’
Ayase Kazuki, the elite Archer hailing from Haramark, would join Valhalla. Seol Jihu wanted to shout in joy, marveling at his ridiculous luck, but there were still two people left.
Oh Rahee was fidgeting with her hair with an indifferent face.
"Wasn’t Miss Oh Rahee the leader of the Bloodline Mercenaries?”
"It disbanded. We lacked members. Four members died during the war in Haramark.”
Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.
"You didn’t know?"
It was a voice that was as emotionless as her face.
"Well, I guess you couldn’t have known. After all, you were in a coma for several months after the war.”
The voice became slightly sharper.
"We were prepared ever since we received the payment. We didn’t expect three of the Seven Armies to show up, but I guess that’s the life of a mercenary.”
Oh Rahee spoke apathetically.
"In any case, of the remaining members, one received a major injury, big enough for her recovery to be uncertain. Another suddenly had a change in mind, saying she would retire. When I told them to do whatever they wanted, I was suddenly left with two members, myself included.”
"Don’t look at me like that. It was a team that was formed to make money from the start. I disbanded it without any regrets since it looked like it would be hard for us to continue. And so while I was looking for any good places to join, I found your notice.”
Seol Jihu felt a little sorry inside, but it couldn’t be helped. It was the same as foolishly wishing for luck expecting to not lose a single person in a war of that magnitude.
"Have you read through the contract?”
"Yeah. The contract fee is a little disappointing, but it’s enough considering the Neutral Zone.”
Oh Rahee plainly acknowledged it.
"I want a 2-year contract for now. I’d rather not sign off a 4-year contract all of a sudden like the man sitting next to me.”
Seol Jihu nodded his head.
'2 years isn’t bad.’
Oh Rahee, a Level 5 master of the quickdraw who received personal training from Jang Maldong himself in the same year as Phi Sora.
It went without saying that she, too, was an expert.
Now there was one person remaining.
"Hmm. I don’t have a touching story like the two of them.”
Feeling that it was finally her turn, Audrey Basler grinned.
"I’m just here to make you take responsibility.”
"You made me like this. Take responsibility.”
Audrey Basler spoke while tapping her open mouth with her finger.
Seeing Seol Jihu make a dumbfounded face, she began giggling.
"It’s a joke. A joke, okay?”
"It’s not a very funny joke.”
"Sorry. Anyway, I came here after seeing the notice too. There was talk about you not too long ago after the Eva incident wrapped up. I didn’t think a notice would actually go up, but I came just in case.”
She talked like a wanderer, who went wherever the road or the wind led her. It could be said that she was being honest, but…
Seol Jihu couldn’t help mentally tilting his head.
"Are you sure you’d fit into an organization, Miss Basler? Given your personality, that is.”
“Who do you think I am? "
Audrey Basler gave him a sidelong scowl. Her snake eyes made her look a bit frightening.
"I’m happy to be anywhere as long as it’s fun. I can even roll inside a shithole. According to my standards, Valhalla is a place that does a lot of interesting things. I can say with confidence that obeying some regulations is a trivial matter if it’s for the sake of my enjoyment.”
She then shrugged her shoulders.
"Well, I won’t deny that I want to reap some profits at the Neutral Zone. Ehehehe.”
"I understand what you’re saying, but…”
Kim Hannah spoke at that moment. She stared at her with her face slightly lowered.
"While it’s good to see that you’re relaxed, this isn’t a place where you can joke around.”
Audrey Basler’s eyebrow shot up.
She didn’t back away and stared back for a while before asking Seol Jihu a question.
"Who’s this? She sounded smart from how well she explained things earlier.”
Oh Rahee and Kazuki smirked while Seol Jihu willingly answered.
"This is Kim Hannah."
"Kim Hannah, huh. Where have I heard that name before…”
"She’s in charge of overseeing Valhalla’s administrative duties. She’ll soon be the head of the intelligence team as well.”
"Aha. Eya~ She’s an important person. I didn’t know.”
"That’s understandable. She’s more well known by her nickname, Miss Foxy, after all.”
Audrey Baser abruptly stopped giggling.
She let out a shrill sound and rapidly blinked her eyes.
"By Miss Foxy… You mean Sinyoung’s vixen. Ah.”
She sneaked a sideward glance at Oh Rahee and Kazuki before stopping herself mid-sentence.
She immediately bowed at her waist.
"I-I’m terribly sorry.”
She tilted her head before proceeding to gather her hands at her knees and assuming a proper posture. She didn’t look like she was being sarcastic but instead, making a desperate attempt to fix her blunders.
Kim Hannah faintly smiled.
"An Archer must have good situational judgment. From the looks of it, you seem to have quite the skill.”
"You praise me too much. The things I’ve said before were not serious. It’s just that I’ve always admired Valhalla’s representative, so—”
"Yes, yes. That’s fine. We’ll always welcome a skilled Archer.”
Looking closely, he could see Audrey Basler’s forehead drenched in sweat.
'Is she that scary?’
Both Agnes and Kim Hannah. He couldn’t understand why all the people he met were like that.
'Is there a hierarchy among the Six Crazies?’
Just as he thought of the other member of the Six Crazies stuck inside Eva’s prison…
"What will you do?”
Kim Hannah asked.
It was a problem that didn’t need any more thinking. There was no need to say anything about Oh Rahee and Kazuki. He was also aware of Audrey Basler's abilities.
He didn’t think he hit a jackpot or anything like that. It was just that Valhalla’s position had risen to the point where talented people came to knock on their door on their own.
However, he still felt good. Clenching both his fists, Seol Jihu spoke with a smile.
"All three of you. Welcome to Valhalla.”
After his cool declaration of acceptance, the three signed their contracts on the spot.
Valhalla’s total members increased. Normally, they would get to share deep conversations and hold a welcoming ceremony hosted by the representative to help the new members adapt, but there was no time for that.
This was because Kim Hannah immediately left for Earth the very next day to scout out Eun Yuri in advance. He couldn’t pay them any attention as he had to take care of all her responsibilities in her place in addition to his own. Still, they were all familiar faces and Chohong was doing a good job touring them around but…
'I never thought it would be this much.’
Seol Jihu had always thought that the Neutral Zone’s items were automatically produced.
But he was wrong.
Basic clothing, food, and drinks along with basic weapons, armors, etc… Excluding a small number of special items, the things the organization in charge had to prepare were tremendous.
For example, the magic spear that Seol Jihu used in the Neutral Zone was a high-quality spear that Sicilia had prepared and enchanted using contribution points.
As the saying went, it wasn’t easy taking other people’s money. In order to eat the achievement points of the trainees, they had to make the corresponding preparations.
The good news was that the total cost didn’t add up to as much as he had expected. It was because several organizations that wished to participate as instructors periodically visited him after the auction to declare that they would help with a portion of the preparations.
Seol Jihu finally had some room to breathe after he busied himself running about the place with the Dongchun Merchants’ timely aid.
As February passed and early March came around in Earth’s time, the finish line to the preparations that once seemed endless began to come in view.
Seol Jihu slumped on his desk after signing yet another contract that day. He wanted to collapse on his bed, but there was still some work he had remaining. He felt he could rest easy after finishing that.
'I want to play too.’
He sometimes wondered if he had to do things to this extent, but…
Seol Jihu reminded himself of his objective in the Neutral Zone whenever that thought surfaced. Surprisingly, the negative thoughts in his mind vanished when he did so.
'It’s my chance to finally repay the favor.’
Just as he raised his body while muttering to himself to work harder, the door opened with the sound of knocking.
Seol Jihu’s expression relaxed as soon as he saw the woman coming in with a tray in her hands.
Seo Yuhui was the only one who looked after Seol Jihu while he was swamped with work. She brought him snacks every now and then and occasionally helped him with his work. How could he not be grateful?
"Aigoo~ Look at our Jihu’s face. What do we do? It’s gotten so thin.”
Seo Yuhui walked in with short and quick steps before hurriedly putting down the tray and smothering Seol Jihu in a hug.
Seol Jihu’s eyes gently closed as he felt an indescribable warmth cover his face.
‘Now I feel alive.’
Sure enough, color began to flush back to his haggard face. A healing place wasn’t always at a faraway location.
"Wouldn’t it be better to take a little break?”
Seol Jihu shook his head.
"No. It’s better to rest after finishing.”
"I’m almost done anyway. Ah. I’m good now.”
After recharging himself with high-quality clean energy called Seo Yuhui, Seol Jihu drew back his head and asked.
"Speaking of which. How is Noona doing these days?”
Seo Yuhui trailed off her sentence.
"I’m fine. I’m constantly offering up prayers.”
While she didn’t give a clear answer, both of them knew that there were no improvements. Although she had slightly recovered after offering up the offerings they had gathered, she was far off from regaining her former power.
"Don’t worry too much."
Seo Yuhui’s eyes widened.
Actually, she wasn’t too happy with him bringing this topic up. It was because she could see his face darken whenever this came up, clearly showing how indebted he felt towards her.
Seo Yuhui didn’t feel well whenever she saw Seol Jihu in distress.
"You’ll be able to recover soon.”
But for some reason, he seemed to be burning with enthusiasm.
"Please wait a little more. I'm certain…”
He even emphasized it three times. He didn’t look like he’d charge in the Parasite’s territory looking for offerings with the opening of the Neutral Zone approaching.
Seo Yuhui could only tilt her head in confusion, unable to guess what was going on in his mind.Previous Chapter Next Chapter