Chapter 396. Resolve (2)

The next morning, Seol Jihu had breakfast made personally by Seo Yuhui for the first time in a long while.

Afterward, he drank coffee and picked up the newspaper that Kim Hannah had brought him.

Examining the Valhalla Assault Incident in Full Detail.

Not long ago, a group of unidentified assailants attacked the members of Valhalla while they were traveling to find a cure for Seo Yuhui, the apostle of Luxuria.

But they were met with fierce resistance.

The identities of these assailants have now been confirmed, and a total of twenty-four organizations were found to have participated in the planning of the assault.

“We have strong evidence against these organizations. Should any of them deny their charges, Valhalla will take strong actions to seek justice,” said Valhalla’s representative, who arrived in Eva a few days ago.

Valhalla has already issued a warning. The twenty-four organizations, including Sinyoung, have yet to publicly respond to Valhalla’s accusations as, even now, we wait in anticipation for a response.

“Consequently the remark made by Valhalla’s representative regarding the Fourth Army Commander appears to be directed at the defectors of humanity, and maybe intended to mock the Parasites….”

Seol Jihu, who was reading the article out loud, smiled and handed the paper back to Kim Hannah.

“Great article. They hit the bullseye, as expected. Please thank Mister Tong Chai for me.”

“I will. So what are we going to do from now on?”

Kim Hannah asked as she grabbed the paper from his hand.

“We’re going to shake them.”

Seol Jihu replied, setting his cup on the table.

“We’ll bring in some more firewood and put it in one by one. If they attempt to put the fire out, we’ll pour over an entire barrel of oil.”

The words flowed naturally from his mouth as if he had already thought it through.

He seemed intent on building up the flames that were heating up all the human territories in Paradise.

“You sound like you know what they’re going to do next….”

“Of course I do.”

Seol Jihu sneered.

“You know what they say. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’ve already experienced it once in Haramark, I know their way. But at least this time they won’t be able to pretend as if nothing happened.”

Seol Jihu opened his mouth wide and yawned as he looked up at Kim Hannah.

“Well, doesn’t the mere fact that they tried to capture the bishop give you an idea of what they were trying to do?”

“Severing connections…. It does happen all the time. And it’s quite a useful tactic.”

Kim Hannah agreed without putting up a fight.

“Yeah, but thanks to Miss Phi Sora’s hard work, that plan is now in tatters. ‘We knew nothing about the assault, but a close investigation revealed that certain members of our organization were involved in the incident. We deeply apologize and promise that this will never happen again….’ That speech won’t work anymore.”

“It’s good that we were able to capture him before they did, but I’m not sure he’ll confess so easily.”

“The bishop isn’t stupid. Right now he’s probably busy racking his brains trying to think of a way out of all this.”

“He’ll probably attempt to minimize his role and blame his accomplice for what happened. That’ll be fun to watch.”

“Ah, I doubt it. We have to get rid of them both anyway, so why would we watch them fight each other over who’s less evil? It’s bad taste.”

Seol Jihu snickered quietly.

“Anyway, they must be very confused. It’s a coalition of 24 organizations. I’m sure one or two will make mistakes.”

“And when they do… we’ll use those mistakes to fuel the fire? Is that what you meant by firewood earlier?”

“I don’t think it’ll be easy.”

Seol Jihu continued.

“They’ll do anything to stop the fire from growing. That means what we need most right now is something that can keep them busy enough to prevent them from spying our every move.”

‘Something to keep them busy.’

Suddenly Kim Hannah came to a realization.

“Ah, that’s why….”

She wondered why he had so tenaciously tried to capture the five Level 6s alive. The bishop alone was all evidence he needed. But now she understood.

“So it’s important to get them to speak as soon as possible.”

“Right. How’s the public reacting?”

“They’re angry.”

“With us? Or….”

“Of course not. They’re angry with Sinyoung and the other 23 organizations.”

Seol Jihu gave a smile of satisfaction.

“Alright, so the public is on our side.”

That was to be expected.

Normally, public interest in this incident would have subsided quickly.

But the situation changed when the Parasites entered the scene and all witnessed that the defectors had joined hands with the Parasites.

It was obvious what the Earthlings, who sought their own interests first, would think of the situation.

‘Which means….’

It meant that Seol Jihu had considered the tendencies of Earthlings from as early as the planning stage.

“Good, good. This gives us enough justification.”

Kim Hannah trembled slightly. He made it sound like Valhalla now had the justification to do whatever they wanted to their enemies.

‘What is he planning to do?’

Suddenly, Seol Jihu stood up.

“This time, speed will be the key to our success. I should get the bait ready before it’s too late…. Wait, didn’t you say an envoy was coming from Scheherazade today?”

“Oh, that?”

Kim Hannah smiled.

“I forgot to tell you. I received a call this morning.”

“A call?”

“Queen Charlotte Aria and King Prihi Hussey will be taking care of the envoy.”

“What? King Prihi is here?”

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

“Why didn’t he come to Valhalla?”

“I invited him, but he refused. He said he knew you were busy and didn’t want to bother you. He wants you to spend your time on more important matters.”

“…Yeah?”

A smile flickered across the corner of Seol Jihu’s lips.

“I feel… more at ease knowing that he’s helping us.”

“Ah, there’s one more thing he wanted me to tell you.”

Kim Hannah cleared her throat and lowered her voice.

“‘Don’t think it’s just the Earthlings….’”

The smile faded from Seol Jihu’s face.

His eyes spun in a circle and then narrowed to a slit.

“Not just the Earthlings….”

After a moment of contemplation, Seol Jihu glanced at Kim Hannah.

“…Tell him I’ll bear that in mind.”

His voice sounded solemn.

*


At around the same time.

“Absolute….”

At the Eva Royal Palace….

“…Nonsense.”

The envoy from Scheherazade, dressed in a fancy suit, looked around the room in confusion. He turned his eyes to the left and then to the right.

The Queen of Eva snickered at him from her throne. Next to her, the Royal Administrator glowered down at him with scornful eyes.

And then he saw the Princess of Haramark trying her best to suppress her laughter. The General of Haramark was playing with the sword at his waist.

None of them were on his side.

Finally, the envoy came to his senses and turned his gaze to the man who had just answered him.

“W-What did you just say?”

“I said, absolute nonsense.”

Prihi, the King of Haramark, remarked straightforwardly.

“T-That’s all you have to say to me, the official envoy of Scheherazade?”

“Ah. Was that too rude?”

“Ha! Clearly, you’ve been spending too much time around Earthlings. You’re starting to resemble them, both in speech and in manner!”

The envoy shouted angrily at the king, who was now picking his ears. Prihi reacted with a mocking sneer.

“I won’t deny that I've been spending time around Earthlings. But isn’t the same true of your queen?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve heard that the Queen of Scheherazade became Sinyoung’s beloved pet….”

“P-Pet?”

The envoy’s face stiffened.

“Who knew she would turn out like that? Queen Roe used to be so bright and clever when she was young…. What a shame.”

Prihi clicked his tongue and shook his head.

The envoy’s neck reddened with angry heat.

“Will you take responsibility for what you just said?”

“Hm? Of course.”

Prihi nodded without hesitation.

“In fact, I would like for you to deliver my message to her word for word. I can’t quite imagine how Roe Scheherazade would react, but what’s the worst that could happen? A war?”

“W-What? Are those words really coming from the mouth of a king?”

“Now, calm down. I’m only assuming the worst. If Scheherazade wants war, then Haramark is ready to give one. That was the point that I was trying to make.”

Prihi spoke with a playful smile.

There was not a trace of seriousness in his manner. It could only mean that he was toying with the envoy.

“I can’t believe it! This matter is between Scheherazade and Eva! Why on earth is Haramark interfering in it?”

The envoy clenched his teeth.

“Interfering? As far as I can tell this is a just intervention. The representative of the organization affected by this incident is my son-in-law. Isn’t that enough reason for Haramark to intervene?”

“S-Son-in-law?”

“Were you not aware? The representative of Valhalla is my son-in-law. What kind of father-in-law would I be if I were to sit idly knowing that a member of my family has been hurt?”

The king’s words came as unexpected, and the envoy unwittingly turned his gaze to the princess.

Teresa covered her pink cheeks with her hands and twisted her body coyly.

“I was expecting Scheherazade’s full cooperation, but instead you’re busy trying to cover what happened. So of course, as a father-in-law, I’m upset.”

“We’re not trying to cover it up!”

After a brief pause, the envoy shouted again.

“Bishop Servillo Roberto is a citizen of Scheherazade! The right to try and punish our citizens belongs to us! We’re merely asking you to follow the law!

“The law.”

Prihi stood with his hands behind his back and raised his chin.

“It’s a great thing. But isn’t it meaningless if you don’t obey it at all times?”

“What do you mean?”

“You didn’t seem very interested in enforcing the law when Earthlings who committed crimes in Scheherazade began to flood Haramark.”

“T-That’s!”

“Or did Scheherazade pass a new bill that I haven’t heard of yet? ‘Ignore the law when it’s in our favor. Only enforce it when we’re at a disadvantage.’ Something like that. Then I would understand.”

The envoy’s mouth closed shut.

“I only hope Scheherazade hasn’t stooped so low.”

“…”

“Now go home, if you have nothing more to say.”

Prihi said with a sly smile.

After minutes of angry silence, the envoy finally managed to speak.

“…We will not forget what happened today.”

“I told you, do as you want.”

Prihi answered nonchalantly.

“I don’t believe our soldiers, trained in the war against the Parasites, will lose. Ah, but Scheherazade has Sinyoung.”

The envoy tried to refute but Prihi was quicker.

“Haramark isn’t walking on eggshells anymore. We don’t need Scheherazade’s approval. Also, I’ve heard that my son-in-law is a very powerful figure among Earthlings…. Hm, I wonder, why does my body feel so stiff?”

Prihi paused and began massaging his shoulders.

“Thanks to my son-in-law, I’m always holding my head up high these days, to the point where my neck and shoulders hurt. Would you care to join me for a massage?”

The king’s sarcastic response angered the envoy and he began to breathe heavily through his nose.

At the next moment, he spun his body around with great force, then stomped across the court towards the exit.

“Thank you for your help.”

When the envoy disappeared from their sight, Charlotte Aria descended from the throne and bowed her head politely.

The mocking smile was finally wiped off Prihi’s face.

“Please, you shouldn’t lower your head. You’re a queen now.”

“Ah, but….”

“The truth is, I came here because I was worried. But I can see that you’re doing well on your own. All my worry was for nothing.”

“For that, I’m indebted to my talented administrator.”

Sorg Kühne gave a deep bow at the queen’s acknowledgment.

“Thank you for helping me in getting rid of that envoy. I’d like to invite you to a feast as a token of my gratitude. Perhaps we should invite the representative of Valhalla as well….”

“No, that’s alright.”

Prihi shook his head.

“Speed is the key to success in this mission. Time waits for no one. To maximize the effect, he must take the next step in the plan before public interest in this case disappears. I’m sure the representative knows this, too.”

It was a roundabout refusal.

Charlotte Aria and Teresa seemed visibly disappointed.

Their plan to use Prihi as an excuse to see Seol Jihu seemed to have failed.

“But I will have that lunch with you. Talking always makes me hungry.”

Prihi announced playfully and then began to chat with Sorg Kühne.

While the two of them talked, Teresa whispered in Charlotte Aria’s ear.

“Want to hang out with me tonight? I’m definitely going there.”

Charlotte Aria seemed tempted, but soon scratched her head with a troubled look.

“What should I do? I have to go to bed early tonight….”

“Why?”

“There’s an important class I can’t miss….”

“A class?”

Teresa’s eyes widened.

*


Seol Jihu left the Valhalla building that afternoon and headed for Eva’s underground prison.

It wasn’t hard to locate the bishop. He was locked in the very cell where Jung Sua had been previously locked up.

Clunk!

The guard opened the door and Seol Jihu quietly entered the cell.

The bishop sat facing the wall in one corner of the cell.

He must have heard the door open but didn’t even look back.

“It’s been a while.”

Seol Jihu approached the bishop and looked at his face.

“How have you been?”

There was no reply. The bishop only stared at the wall.

Suddenly, a small smile spread across his lips.

“…I’ll admit.”

“…”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced this kind of failure. You’re incredible. I applaud you.”

The bishop spoke calmly before letting out a light chuckle.

“I knocked on the stones… but it seems I wasn’t careful enough.”

Seol Jihu’s eyebrows slowly went up.

He seemed strangely tranquil for a man caught by an enemy.

“You look calm.”

“Perhaps because I know what you want from me.”

The bishop gave a wink. Seol Jihu shrugged.

“Huhu. Well then! Now that things have come to this, there’s no reason why I can’t give it to you. But in return, I….”

The bishop spoke as if he was the one doing Seol Jihu a favor, but suddenly stopped.

Seol Jihu had raised his hand in front of the bishop’s face.

“That’s okay.”

“…Pardon?”

“I know you aren’t going to tell me straight up. I know I can’t persuade you with words and that you, being the great bishop that you are, don’t give in to torture either.”

“Wait.”

“And even if you do tell me, that will be after you get what you want. Am I right?”

This time Seol Jihu gave a wink.

“However.”

His opponent’s unexpected reaction left the bishop speechless. Seol Jihu proceeded to grab the bishop by the collar and shook him.

“H-Hold on!”

The bishop’s facade of calm was now gone and panic filled his eyes.

“Why would I even waste my time?”

Seol Jihu rummaged through his pockets.

“You see, I have a much easier way to get what I want from you.”

He rubbed hard against the bishop’s face with what he had taken out of his pocket.

The bishop couldn’t make sense of the situation, but he instinctively struggled.

“Uup! Uep!

“Bishop.”

With a smile, Seol Jihu tightened his grip on the man’s collar, yanking him.

“Don’t make this hard on both of us, okay?”

Puk!

Suddenly, a hard blow struck the bishop’s head.

His consciousness began to fade and his vision began to darken.

“Well then….”

As he slowly fell, the last thing the bishop saw was…

“Have a nice dream.”

…Seol Jihu’s devilish smile.

*

When the bishop opened his eyes again, he knew something was wrong.

‘Where… am I?’

He was in a cell just a moment ago. But now he was standing in the middle of a garden, flower petals blowing in the wind.

“Mental magic has long been regarded as a forbidden form of magic.”

That wasn’t the only thing that seemed wrong.

“It is a mystical yet enormously complex study of the mind and the body, or more specifically the human soul and the human brain.”

The faint voice almost sounded like it was singing.

The bishop staggered to his feet, one hand grabbing his aching head.

“Many different approaches have been explored. For example, touching the human brain directly, hypnotizing the subjects with illusion magic, or using drugs to control the nervous system….”

The bishop, barely standing upright, was speechless. Never mind the fact that he didn’t know where he was. More importantly….

“These experimental efforts have not been futile.”

A girl with blond hair braided in pigtails.

“We can now make an enemy spy confess classified information or our political rival admit to a crime he did not commit.”

Another girl with light brown hair.

“There was even a case in which an old foe became a new friend.”

And a woman with long black hair like ebony.

“Of course, these results are very difficult to achieve. You must pay extra attention to detail and precision when performing mental magic. One small mistake could break your subject’s mind. In fact, that is what happens in most cases.”

They were listening attentively to a girl in a black gothic, lolita style dress holding a parasol.

The bishop and the girls’ eyes met.

“…”

He felt as if they were looking at him like they were looking at a lab rat.

“…But don’t worry too much.”

The girl glanced behind her and flicked her fingers.

The bishop, who had barely stood up, immediately fell to the ground again.

An invisible rope tied him up and a mass of shapeless energy clogged his throat so that no sound could come out.

“Do you remember what I said?”

The goth-loli girl smiled as she watched the bishop repeatedly open and close his mouth in futile attempts to speak.

“Magic always starts with confidence! You should take failure into consideration, but don’t let fear get the best of you.”

‘Okay!’ The three girls replied in unison.

“You girls are so adorable!”

Blown away by the cuteness of her students, the goth-loli girl turned around with a smile of satisfaction.

“He said he’d soon send us five more subjects that we can break. You cuties can practice then! Delphine and Charlotte will get two subjects each. Yuri, I think you have a better understanding than those two, so you’ll get only one. Is that alright?”

Eun Yuri gave a small nod.

“Good. Now then, I’ll give you a demonstration before the rest of the subjects arrive.”

The goth-loli girl strode with a dignified gait towards the bishop.

“I actually wanted to give this human to Yuri, but he says we’re not supposed to break this one. Please understand.”

She twisted his neck from side to side, rolling up her sleeves.

“I need to do this perfectly to save my face in front of him and my students.”

She placed one hand above the subject.

The bishop’s lips trembled slightly as he felt a soft touch above his head.

“I don’t know how long he’ll last, but— Focus.”

The joy in her sea-colored eyes quickly faded and her face now looked solemn.

“Don’t try to see with your eyes. Feel the flow of my mana and its movements.”

Her eyes glistened faintly, full of seriousness.

The bishop’s mouth slowly opened wide.

It was as if a thin, stringy snake had penetrated his head and was stirring in his brain.

This feeling intensified every second and became an agonizing pain.

“!”

The bishop’s eyes shot open.

They quickly went out of focus, veins of blood forking out over the whites of his eyes.

His arms and legs became stiff. He began to twitch like a frog on the verge of death, and his mouth opened so wide that his skin almost tore.

“…!”

A silent scream burst from the fully open mouth.

Finally, when the bishop woke up from the long, seemingly endless nightmare….

“…Hoh.”

Seol Jihu was struck with awe.

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