Chapter 397. You're Either With Us or Against Us

At last, the day of Valhalla’s announcement was finally revealed. It was their first official announcement since returning to Eva.

Coupled with the fact that Roberto Servillo and the captives were going to be placed as witnesses, as was revealed through the information newspaper of the Assassination Guild, the announcement received great public attention.

Needless to say, Eva’s central plaza was jam-packed with so many people on the day of the announcement that there was no room to move around.

Soon, the crowd of people that gathered like clouds began to buzz. It was because they had spotted Seol Jihu walking towards the square from afar.

That wasn’t all.

They had only guessed amongst themselves before, but the bishop and Kishi Yukino were really walking towards them under the escort of the Eva Guards.

Judging by the truths behind recently disclosed cases, most intelligence agencies had predicted that the bishop would become the scapegoat and take all the blame.

The reason being that they had thought punishing all 24 organizations was realistically impossible no matter how strong of an organization Valhalla had independently become.

Also, unless the said organizations were idiots, there was no way they would admit to their deeds and most likely wave all accusations away, saying they ‘didn’t know’.

Of course, a few thought the bishop wouldn’t simply take things lying down and remarked that a dog fight would erupt between Luxuria’s temple and the rest of the organizations.

The Valhalla members started their announcement shortly after arriving at the center of the square.

A moment later, Kishi Yukino and Roberto Servillo, whose eyes were blankly staring off into space, shakily stepped onto the platform that was prepared in advance.

And the confessions that flowed out the two mouths shortly after, surprised everyone present, putting them in a state of shock.

All the predictions made by intelligence agencies were completely off the mark.

"The person who schemed with us is… Sinyoung’s director of human resources, Jung Minjong…”

The bishop didn’t say things that they had expected. Rather, it was an outrageous announcement, if any.

He admitted all of his crimes and testified the truth of the incident without a hint of falsehood.

Whether it was their goal of wanting to prove their worths to the Parasite Queen, the accomplices that aided him in his plan that he crafted, and even the fact that they had delivered a communication crystal to the Parasites to communicate with Sung Shihyun in case of any mishap, the bishop spilled it all.

And when he mentioned that he and Sinyoung’s director of human resources secretly contacted each of the organizations to gather their elite troops, the atmosphere in the square reached a climax.

By the time the confession was almost over, Roberto Servillo and Kishi Yukino had started stuttering while sweat rolled off their bodies like rain.

Nobody thought it was weird considering the situation they were facing.

Seol Jihu went up to the stage to send the two of them down before speaking in a low voice.

"I will now take questions."

The instant permission was given, questions poured out like a flood.

"What will happen to the bishop?”

"Since he kept his last strand of conscience, we will not kill him.”

"We only see one captive, so what happened to the other four?”

"Despite the fact that everything had come to light, there were some that upheld their loyalty even while knowing its consequences.”

In reality, their minds had been destroyed when Charlotte Aria and Odelette Delphine messed up during their practice, but Seol Jihu lied through his teeth without even wetting his lips.

The chaos only lasted for a moment.

"All 24 of the accused organizations are keeping silent! It seems like things will change after today’s announcement, so what exactly are you planning to do?”

The square instantly quieted after someone shouted.

Though it was asked indirectly, it was a question that the crowd was the most curious about.

Everyone had seen the evidence with their own eyes and the witnesses had come out. With this, the organizations were incapable of pulling in or out at all.

"We’ll have to first hear what Sinyoung’s director of human resources, Jung Minjong, has to say.”

Seol Jihu spoke in a monotonous, yet clear voice.

"I’m sure that there are people that feel wronged. There may be those that really didn’t have a clue towards this incident since it was the actions of select individuals and organizations. Just like Kishi Yukino from the Japanese Business Federation, whom the bishop had personally called.”

Seol Jihu slowly looked over at the people who were listening while holding in their breaths, jotting down notes, or looking at his image through a communication crystal.

"But if anyone feels wronged, then they can simply prove their innocence. However, we won’t accept empty words. After all, we don’t know if people were really unaware or whether they chose to stay silent in spite of knowing everything.”

He paused for a moment before suddenly lowering his voice.

"However, those who are unable to prove their innocence or attempt to avoid their responsibilities shall be duly punished for their deeds.”

The crowd started buzzing after the concise declaration.

"I’m not only talking about this incident. Whether it’s the ambush at Haramark or the attempt to slander my reputation several years ago, we will be sure to pay back everyone involved with added interest.”

Of course, he didn’t forget to add a remark at the end.

"Here in Paradise, we can’t just leave the insects scheming in the dark alone, can we?”

Valhalla’s announcement ended.

Seol Jihu’s official statement caused another ripple throughout Paradise before it even recovered from the latest incident, and the intelligence agencies started to pump out masses of headlines.

—Roberto Servillo’s shocking confession! ‘I worked with Sinyoung’s Director of Human Resources, Jung Minjong.’ Accomplice revealed.

—Valhalla’s declaration of blood revenge… The Rubicon has been crossed!

—Valhalla’s representative will ‘first listen to what Sinyoung has to say’.

—A chance to live? Valhalla’s representative: ‘Prove your innocence. We don’t believe in empty words.’

"Damn it!"

A man, who sat behind his desk reading an article exploded in anger.

He crumpled up the paper before throwing it at the young man who delivered it to him.

The innocent young man who was suddenly the victim of his outburst of anger, glimpsed at the furious man, not knowing what to do.

Giovanni Greco. He was a Level 4 Warrior and the representative of ‘Ill Destino,’ an armed force under Sicilia that had made an enemy in Haramark.

He was also someone involved in the recent incident.

"Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!"

Giovanni Greco pounded his desk and cried out in anger again and again.

Not only did his plans fail but he had lost his group’s sole High Ranker. To top that, he was facing all sorts of accusations from the public.

Accusations were only temporary so he could just endure them. The problem was that Valhalla was constantly enlarging the issue. Because they were fanning the fire before the previous commotion died down, things didn’t look like they would quiet down soon.

By this point in time, he began worrying whether the flames would burn down the entire house. This was evident by the few members who had already started quitting his group under the pretext of this incident.

Of course, with all things considered, including the old Eva Alliance incident, everyone knew that they were pulling out solely from the fear of Valhalla’s spear.

"That damned bastard! We would have taken a step back if he had done things moderately, but does he want to take this to the end?”

Giovanni Greco ground his teeth before suddenly raising his gaze.

The young man flinched, sensing his stare.

"Is there still no call from Sinyoung?”

"Yes. They seem to be in the middle of their daily conference… They told us to wait for now…”

"Isn’t their HR director an accomplice? Then shouldn’t they weave some new story or state their defense? If not, then fuck! Are they saying they have another tail to cut?”

The young man smacked his lips.

Like Giovanni Greco said, the mastermind that planned and directed the whole incident was staying silent.

Of course, while they could be coming up with countermeasures to respond to the difficult situation they were in, it was a fact that things couldn’t be left alone.

There was no way Valhalla would accept just Sinyoung’s director of human resources as the sole scapegoat.

It was possible that Sinyoung was looking for another scapegoat to satisfy Valhalla to solve this incident, and no one knew which organization it would end up being.

To put it flat out, it wasn’t once or twice that such things happened in Paradise.

"Um…."

The young man, who hesitated for a while, spoke up.

"Why don’t we make the first move since things ended up like this anyway?”

"First move?"

"Yes, yes. Since we’re in a rather unique position…”

He was inferring the fact that Ill Destino was technically under Sicilia, not Sinyoung, at least on the surface.

"…Continue."

Realizing this point, Giovanni Greco spoke in a slightly calmer voice.

A moment later, when the young man’s explanation was over, he made a doubtful face.

"Well. It doesn’t sound too bad but… can we do this?”

"We won’t be denouncing Valhalla, so wouldn’t this much be fine? In any case, we should be digging a way to survive, shouldn’t we? To put it bluntly, if Sinyoung…”

The young man trailed off his words, but Giovanni Greco could guess what he meant.

'If Sinyoung is attempting to find a sacrificial lamb, it is highly likely that we will become their first target.’

Then again, considering the size of Ill Destino, it wasn’t unreasonable to worry about things that might happen on the off chance.

"Damn it. Crossing the line when choosing sides might fuck us over….”

"Weren’t we already picking a side? It’s not a bad idea to completely board one side this time.”

The young man suggested one more time. Giovanni Greco was conflicted for a while before he ended up nodding with difficulty.

"…Make sure you write up a damn fine article.”

*


Two days after Valhalla’s official announcement, one of the 24 organizations that participated in the raid stepped out to state their story for the first time.

An organization called Ill Destino from Haramark had independently published an article.

—…Giovanni Greco cleared up their position as follows. He was not aware of the recent happenings and that it was the independent action of ‘Matia Moretti’ whose identity was confirmed among the dead.

They complained that it was unfair, describing how Ill Destino was a force under Sicilia in the first place so they couldn’t be related to Sinyoung or Luxuria’s temple at all, and insisted that Matia Moretti had taken independent actions.

While Giovanni Greco admitted that a hundred apologies weren’t enough for the mismanagement of his subordinate, he cautiously questioned whether ‘the bishop was trying to drag others down with him.’

With the publication of the article, the die was cast.

As the saying went, a guilty conscience needs no accuser. While he had carelessly thrown out the article out of sheer desperation, Giovanni Greco paid keen attention to Valhalla’s response.

While he was waiting, an unexpected guest visited Ill Destino. Upon hearing the notice, Giovanni Greco hurriedly ran to the reception room.

"Just what do you mean by this?"

This was what he heard as soon as he opened the door.

He saw the back of a woman draped in a red coat, sitting on a chair.

It was none other than the head of Sicilia, Taciana Cinzia.

"H-How may I help you?”

"Don, Don Cinzia. About this incident….”

Giovanni Greco and the young man panicked.

"No, I’m not talking about that incident.”

Cinzia lowered one of her arms without looking back at them.

A piece of paper slipped out between her index and middle finger before landing in front of Giovanni Greco’s foot.

"This. I’m talking about this.”

It was the article published by Ill Destino.

"Actually, you did well. It was rather timely.”

As Cinzia’s voice continued, Giovanni Greco, who was initially at a loss, had his complexion grow a little brighter.

Was she praising my quick response? Just as he thought so and was about to let out a relieved sigh…

"It seems Representative Seol’s predictions were completely spot on. He said that there would be a group or two that would jump out to take advantage of the chaos.”

Giovanni Greco, who had sat himself down across from her, froze. He didn’t understand what she was saying at that instant.

“I’ve never imagined that it would be from Haramark though.”

Cinzia unpleasantly remarked while biting on a cigarette.

"In any case, perhaps I should thank you for creating an excuse for me to get involved. It was quite an interesting article to read, but Sicilia can’t let go of this opportunity.”

"That… What do you mean…”

"You’ve seen the movie a few days ago, haven’t you?”

"Movie? Are you talking about that film?”

Cinzia smirked as Giovanni Greco asked with a dazed face.

"Yes. That movie. There will be a sequel to it soon. But the film director, who also happens to be the male lead, mentioned he had a few worries.”

"Yes?"

"The first movie might have been a success, but there are often cases where the sequel doesn’t meet the audience’s expectations. Perhaps that’s why he’s thinking so hard about the opening sequence…”

Cinzia furtively glanced over.

Giovanni Greco still had a face that said he had no clue what she was saying.

"What I mean is."

Cinzia slowly explained while she lit her cigarette.

"A certain organization took advantage of Sicilia’s friendly relations with Valhalla’s previous identity, Carpe Diem, to craft an explanation… What do you think of using the destruction of that organization as the opening sequence?”

"A certain… organization?”

"Yep. A certain organization.”

Cinzia raised her eyebrows and lightly nodded.

"For example, that certain organization seemed to be affiliated under Sicilia on the surface, but in fact, they were allied with Sinyoung and were secretly spying for them. It would be quite the scene if Sicilia flew into a rage and blew up that organization. What do you think?”

Giovanni Greco blinked his eyes.

"What are you—!"

Just as he widened his eyes and slammed the table with both hands to stand up from his seat…

Crash!

"Ack!"

…He screamed out loud together with the sound of glass shattering before slumping back down in his seat.

An arrow was seen sticking out the back of Giovanni Greco’s hand.

The young man who had entered the room with him also cried out in pain before landing on the floor.

A glint could be seen on the rooftop of a distant building in the direction of the broken window.

It wasn’t only there.

Front, back, left, and right.

Through all the windows around them, they could see something flashing under the sunlight off in the distance.

They were completely surrounded.

"What do you mean by… Ahhhhh!”

Giovanni Greco screamed in pain in the middle of his sentence. Cinzia had gripped the arrow shaft and was driving it deeper into his hand.

"Did Sinyoung order you?”

Cinzia leaned forward to ask.

"No, that’s not it. Sinyoung wouldn’t be that stupid. I’m guessing that you felt guilty about something and wanted to make the first move.”

Giovanni Greco madly shook his head while clenching his teeth.

But Cinzia ignored him and instead, leaned her face closer.

"Whatever the case was— Actually, I don’t really care what you’re thinking.”

Cinzia’s eyes glinted.

"What’s important right now is that we need a sacrifice. A sacrifice, to show as an example of what happens when someone incurs the wrath of Valhalla.”

As Cinzia quietly spoke at a distance where their noses were almost touching, Giovanni Greco began visibly trembling.

He started regretting everything.

He had spilled water to douse the fire, but it turned out to be a cup full of gasoline instead of water.

"He won’t believe empty words and will be sure to pay back everyone involved with added interest. Since Valhalla’s representative had put it so clearly, our actions will be justified. As an irreplaceable ally of Valhalla, of course.”

White smoke puffed out of Cinzia’s mouth.

Giovanni Greco, who was scrunching his eyes because of the smoke, suddenly squinted.

Bright light entered his vision.

When he subconsciously looked down, he found a magic circle emitting a pale purple light underneath him and the young man.

Giovanni Greco’s mouth fell open.

"Adios, amigo."

At the same time that Cinzia bid them farewell, valkyries dashed out of the magic circles to pierce the throats of the two men with their spears.

The two convulsed together while impaled on the wall.

And once they vomited blood and their bodies went limp, Cinzia activated her teleportation magic without any hesitation.

When she appeared outside, she found Agnes stretching out her arms wide toward Ill Destino’s building.

Cinzia passed her without saying anything.

"Boss?"

She only gave a wave at Agnes’ question, as if telling her to take care of it herself before it got bothersome.

Receiving the signal, Agnes circulated her mana and firmly pressed down with her hands without a hint of hesitation.

As she did so, hundreds of thousands of invisible wires that had wrapped around the building dug into the walls and sliced through them.

A moment later, the building was cut through like a cake sliced into pieces before sliding down.

Rumble!

Kwang, kwang, kwang, kwang!

Accompanied by a loud rumbling, the structure fell apart like a sandcastle.

It didn’t take long before the enormous building completely collapsed.

It was a display of force, befitting a Unique Ranker.

The only thing left was to clean up the remnants.

Under Agnes’ command, the Sicilia members who had been waiting, all charged towards the collapsed building.

Flames with columns of black smoke soon engulfed everything.

"How is it, Valhalla’s representative?”

Cinzia spoke as she observed the scene from afar.

"It’s our gift for our previous meeting. Do you like it?”

—…It’s great.

A low voice was heard through the transparent crystal that was emitting a faint light in Cinzia’s hand.

—I just finished reading the article actually. I was preparing to take action, but you saved me the trouble… But Miss Agnes seems a little too angry, doesn’t she?

"There’s the saying ‘like teacher like student,’ but Agnes has always had quite a competitive spirit. She hasn’t been able to sleep properly ever since we’ve returned.”

Cinzia lightly laughed.

"…You know."

She drew the communication crystal closer before subtly asking.

"If we had taken action after the incident 3 years ago like we did today, do you think we could have been a little closer?”

—I’ve always considered us as close, but a little more than that, huh… Well then, can’t we get to know each other starting now? There’s the saying that something well begun is half done. Anyways, I’ve received your gift well.

"Well begun is half done, huh. I’ll need to put in effort to know your other half then.”

—You have to prepare yourself well in that case.

"There’s nothing too hard if there are benefits coming and going. I look forward to working with you, my new amigo.”

Cinzia gave a big smile as if she found Seol Jihu’s response satisfactory.

That day, a great fire blazed up in Haramark. By the time people noticed and came running, everything was already over.

The building that had once been Ill Destino’s turf vanished without a trace.

All that remained was ash.

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