Chapter 402. To Change (4)

Some organizations surrendered to Valhalla, while others disappeared overnight…. This was the kind of news that had been flooding the newspapers lately. And now finally there was a change.

The Federation decided to settle down in Eva!

Those who heard the news were baffled as they had not expected the Federation to come forth in these chaotic times.

Only a few of them realized that Valhalla had deliberately raised the stakes in the conflict that followed the recent terror incident.

The Federation’s intervention would certainly help settle the chaos that seemed to be growing day by day.

Gabriel had been watching the situation for a while and understood the role Valhalla expected the Federation to play.

So she made several significant remarks in public.

She stressed the need to fortify Eva, thanked Valhalla and the royal family of Eva for their forgiveness and acceptance, and promised to lend support to Eva, which she knew would become the Federation’s loyal partner in the future.

Gabriel also announced that the Federation considered not only Eva but all the cities and humans as friends, and would welcome other cities that sought its technological prowess with open arms as long as they agreed to abide by certain ‘conditions’.

Her speech became the subject of people’s debate.

Not many people knew this, but just the fact that Vidalif, the leader of the Dwarves who rarely appeared in public, came to Eva indicated that the Federation’s sincerity in resolving the current conflict was genuine.

And of course, the ‘conditions’ that Gabriel mentioned had everything to do with the recent incident.

Seol Jihu went out to walk the fuzzballs and took a stroll around the city.

The streets of Eva were as lively as ever.

“This—this is amazing. I can’t believe you made such delicate and precise engravings with only your hands.”

“Hmph! I’m just a trainee. Also, can’t you see that I’m busy? Go away! You could get hurt!”

A man stood in amazement near the construction site where the Dwarves were busy tearing down buildings and rebuilding them from scratch.

“Ah, I’m sorry. Wait, did you just say you’re a trainee? No way! I’ve been in the construction business for more than twenty years, and let me just say, your skills are far too amazing for a trainee.”

“Hmph! Twenty years is nothing. And don’t make me laugh! The master blacksmiths are on their way here, and when you see their work you’ll want to take back what you just said!”

“R-Really? Do you mind if I watch? I won’t bother them. I’ll even run errands for them!”

“Hmph! Didn’t I just say it’s dangerous here? If you really want to help, go sit under the shade over there and bring us some beer during the break!”

The young Dwarf’s tone was blunt, but not malicious.

Rather, he seemed flattered by the human’s praise, made apparent by the smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

Seol Jihu watched the Dwarf and the human and nodded before moving on.

The construction site wasn’t the only place where exchanges between the Federation and humanity were taking place.

On the street, an Earthling woman took a piece of chocolate out of her pocket and carefully handed it to a crying Foxman child in his mother’s arms.

The Foxman child, drawn to the sweet scent, stopped at once and began sniffing, his eyes wide open. The child licked the chocolate on the woman’s palm as if he had never tasted one before.

As a huge smile spread across the child’s face, the mother thanked the woman, who then waved shyly at the child.

Those who were watching couldn’t help but smile.

Seol Jihu, too, smiled softly and continued down the street.

‘They really are amazing.’

Looking down at the neatly paved sidewalk, Seol Jihu was filled with awe.

The Dwarves began with construction the day they arrived in Eva.

Worried that the Dwarves might overexert themselves, Seol Jihu had suggested they rest a few days before starting work. But the answer he received from the Dwarf craftsman was unexpected.

[You want us to rest in this building? Don’t make me laugh.]

[I know you said that out of consideration for us, but do you have any idea how we feel right now?]

[It’s like we have a diary full of our embarrassing secrets spread wide open on the table for everyone to read.]

[In other words, we can’t stop thinking about it. There’s no way we can rest knowing that the diary is still out there, so we’d rather take care of it first.]

Seol Jihu no longer felt the need to stop them when he saw the satisfied looks on their faces after they had taken all the bricks off from the sidewalk, polished them, then put them back one by one.

In any case, thanks to the meticulous nature and delicate skills of the Dwarves, Eva became more and more beautiful day by day.

Of course, they couldn’t have repaired 80 percent of all roads in a week without the Eastern Spring Merchants, who provided them with the necessary resources, and the royal family of Eva, who opened up the pre-secured territories, including the royal sites, to the members of the Federation.

In addition, the Sky Fairy’s shop was due to open in about two days, thanks to the huge wealth Seol Jihu had offered Eva.

Kim Hannah worried that the change might be too radical but nevertheless did not oppose it.

She knew that the success of Seol Jihu’s plan depended on how well the Federation adapted to Eva and how prosperous Eva became.

‘Still….’

After a tour of the city, Seol Jihu, standing in front of Valhalla’s front gate, smiled bitterly.

‘They didn’t have to make them so big and magnificent.’

The Valhalla building was huge from the start, but now its splendor was comparable to the Taj Mahal after the Dwarves added various ornaments to it.

‘Hmm? What’s that?’

Seol Jihu frowned while looking around the construction site.

Vidalif was carving a huge stone statue in the garden by himself.

He seemed completely focused on his work as he moved his hands with the utmost caution, sweating profusely.

The statue seemed like it would be a good addition to the garden, but somehow it looked familiar.

The statue was of a man holding a spear, bending his arm back above his head.

‘Wait. Is that me?’

Seol Jihu began to blink rapidly.

He couldn’t be sure with just the hair and the face, but the Spear of Purity and other equipment were definite giveaways.

The Dwarf was most definitely carving a statue of Seol Jihu aiming his spear at the Parasite Queen.

There was no way Seol Jihu could stop him now.

Seol Jihu’s face turned red.

‘Damn it. Of all the models he could have chosen, why did he choose me?’

He shook his head and looked down at the rice cakes with a sigh.

“Hey, rainbow rice cake. You agree with me, right?”

“Kkiing?”

The white rice cake with black stripes tilted its head.

*


Haramark’s most popular pub, Eat, Drink, And Enjoy was bustling with people as always.

“Valhalla’s been annoying lately.”

A man sitting at a log table grumbled softly, pouring liquor into his cup.

“They want to manage our settings? Are they really Earthlings like us? I just don’t understand why they’re supporting Eva….”

He emptied the contents of his cup into his mouth and frowned.

“I mean, isn’t their target Sinyoung? Why should we suffer in the process?”

Two other men at the same table nodded in agreement.

“And now the Federation wants to settle in Eva…. I have no idea what’s going on anymore.”

“I don’t know. Aside from everything else, the fact that the Federation wants to settle in Eva… I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.”

When the man complained again, the only woman at the table of four remarked carefully.

One of the men looked at her, as if he had just remembered something.

“That’s right, you said you visited Eva the other day. How was it?”

“Huhu. Get ready to have your mind blown away.”

With a grin, the woman took off the bow on her back and placed it on the table, as if she had been waiting for this question.

The men widened their eyes.

“Oh? You changed your bow?”

“The day I arrived in Eva was the day the Sky Fairies’ shop opened up. I was curious, so I went to take a look and ended up buying some of their stuff.”

“Is this bow any good?”

“You have no idea. My old bow doesn’t even compare to it. You see, the wooden part of this bow is made from the branches of the World Tree.”

“What?”

“Surprised, eh? You know that the World Tree is a sacred ash tree, right? When you fix an arrow on this bow, it’s instantly infused with an anti-evil attribute that has a very powerful effect on the Parasites, not to mention undead monsters. So how could I resist?”

The woman beamed and the man exclaimed in amazement.

“Wow…. It must have been expensive.”

“No, it actually wasn’t as expensive as I’d expected.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. It did cost more than the longbow but was still very affordable. They didn’t deliberately break the World Tree’s branches, but only used branches that had naturally fallen during its growth. And I got a grand opening discount, too.”

“Is this all you got?”

“Of course not.”

The next thing she showed them was her quiver, and inside it were arrows with colorful feathers.

“Ta-da. Take a look! These arrows have been infused with the power of the Spirits.”

“Spirits?”

“Yup! It’s made from Fallen Angels’ feathers infused with the five Spirits’ power. With this, I can shoot fire arrows and wind arrows like Magicians do. So, what do you think? Pretty cool, huh?”

The eyes of the men looking at the bow and arrows began to glow with admiration.

“But my biggest achievement…”

The woman was far from done.

She grabbed a particularly long arrow from the quiver and carefully held it up for everyone to see.

“…Is this. This is a limited edition arrow—they only had ten in stock. They held an impromptu archery competition and allowed only the top 10 customers to purchase one arrow each. I managed to secure one by placing ninth.”

There was something ominous about the way the arrowhead glowed blue under the light.

The man gave a light chuckle.

“Why is this such a big deal? I see the arrowhead is blue.”

“Oh, it’s Thunder.”

“W-What?”

The man’s eyes shot open and he quickly pulled himself back.

The other two did the same.

The woman burst into laughter and waved a hand.

“Don’t be scared. It’s made from the same material but safe.”

“…”

“There’s only a little bit mixed in the arrowhead, so technically it’s not even a Thunder. Still….”

The woman smiled and carefully rubbed the arrowhead with her thumb.

“In terms of destructive power, it doesn’t even compare to the other arrows. Hit a weak spot, and even a Medusa will explode.”

She raised the arm holding the arrow in a shooting position.

“One visit to Eva, and you’re head over heels for it.”

The man who was the first to complain said nonchalantly.

“Maybe you should just move there.”

The woman paused.

With a sigh, she carefully placed the arrow back into the quiver.

“Why do you have to say it like that?”

“Don’t you know that what you’re doing right now is helping them? First, you visit Eva, and now you’re advertising their merchandise! How could you, with everything that’s going on? Are you out of your mind?”

“Why would I be out of my mind? I’m just expressing satisfaction with what I bought. Should I be lying about how I feel?”

The woman said in a firm voice.

“And technically, Valhalla did nothing wrong.”

“I never said they did. But why are they meddling with our—”

“That’s because Sinyoung is doing nothing to root out humanity’s defectors. Recent events have proven that there are traitors among us, and I believe they should be eradicated.”

“Wow. Who could’ve imagined that one visit to Eva would make you a Valhalla advocate?”

“I’m not their advocate. I’m just saying they’re pretty reasonable.”

The man mocked, but the woman remained calm.

“And the Seven Gods designated only criminals as targets for the settings evaluations. We haven’t committed any crime, and we never will. So this doesn’t affect us.”

The woman shrugged.

“Hmph. Except we will. They’re saying if we don’t respond to their draft call, we’ll be branded as criminals.”

The man snorted.

“That’s true…. But their decision does make sense.”

She put her hand on the new bow.

After a moment of hesitation, she spoke with a sigh.

“Actually… well, I haven’t decided for sure, but I’m thinking of joining the war.”

“What?”

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. You’re right. I might have changed after visiting Eva.”

The woman continued.

“We’ve been stuck at Level 4 for some time now. Are we going to stay like this forever? Level 5s get a completely different treatment. Shouldn’t we aim for High Rank before it’s too late?”

“Before it’s too late?”

“Yes, before it’s too late.”

The woman cleared her throat.

“Listen. From now on, Paradise will revolve around Eva and other cities that accept the Federation. Why? Because of this.”

She tapped on the bow and the quiver.

“Remember what it was like to buy new equipment until now? Every time we leveled up, the price of equipment soared. But from now on, better equipment will be sold at a much lower price.”

“We don’t have to cave in to Valhalla to buy Eva’s weapons. It’s not like there’s a limit to who can buy and who can’t.”

“Sure, there might be cherry pickers like you. But what about the others? Even I’m convinced that this is a sweet deal. Can you be sure there are no more people like me?”

The man didn’t seem particularly impressed.

His expression remained flat.

“The situation has never been better. Humanity’s been winning against the Parasites for years and now the Federation is with us. More and more people will join the war, seeing that there is hope for victory.”

“So you’re saying we should cave in to Valhalla’s demands?”

“I’m just saying that we should go along for the ride. You guys do know that the easiest way to earn contribution points is through war, right?”

The three men nodded in unison.

“Well, just think about it. There are many more like us stuck at Level 4. What if half of those people join the war, and 10 percent of them become High Rankers?”

The woman stopped and shifted her gaze from side to side. One of the men, the quick-witted one, stiffened immediately.

“Do you think even then High Rankers will be treated the way they are now? No, because it’s only natural that demand decreases as supply increases. Currently, Level 5 is considered an ace in any organization, but its value will drop in the future.”

An upturn in the skills of Earthlings. Not to mention Level 4s, even Level 5s were likely to lose value.

“The leaders of most cities are already following Valhalla. Because for them, opening up their cities is much more advantageous whether we like it or not.”

The woman swallowed hard.

“Scheherazade is still resisting, of course, but who knows what kind of decision Sinyoung will make? And, even if Scheherazade doesn’t change, all that’s waiting for them down the road is destruction.”

Some fish stay in small rivers while others travel to the sea.

Those heading to the sea naturally become strong in the face of many adversaries, while those remaining in the river do not change.

Just like how Valhalla became stronger than Sinyoung.

“Do you think even then we’ll be able to enjoy Paradise as we do now? I don’t. People are going to look down on us for not participating in the war, and we’ll probably struggle to get a seat in expeditions as well…. We’ll be walking on eggshells the entire time.”

The two men seemed convinced by the woman’s words.

The remaining man, who was the first to complain, lowered his head.

“…I understand what you’re trying to say.”

After a moment of silence, he spoke in a slightly softer tone.

“But joining the war is a bit…. I was told that the Parasite Queen and the Army Commanders were all gods. How can ordinary humans like us kill gods?”

The woman smiled as she realized what the man was worried about.

“I understand. Participating in the war is in itself a risk. But do we really have to take more risks than we can afford?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re right. How can humans beat gods? So we should just avoid them from the start.”

The man looked at the woman with a dumbfounded look on his face.

“Do you get what I’m saying? Why should we fight them? There’s an Earthling who’s already killed an Army Commander, and there are plenty of strong people in the Federation.”

The woman raised her hands and continued.

“We should let monsters fight other monsters while we deal with enemies that fit our level. I mean, we can easily beat the lowest-ranked species even now. And if we had more weapons like this? I think we can defeat even stronger ones. And if by any chance, my arrow actually does hit a Medusa….”

With the Thunder arrow in her hand, the woman trembled and her eyes sparkled.

“These are from the Sky Fairies’ shop, but soon the Dwarves, Cave Fairies, and Beastmen will also open up shops of their own. What do you think?”

“So….”

The man smacked his lips.

“We should move to Eva?”

“Nah. I’m just saying we should go together. I don’t think moving there will be necessary.”

“?”

“See, I heard this rumor from a reliable source….”

The woman signaled her comrades to gather.

The three men leaned close to the woman.

“The next city to be opened up is likely to be Haramark.”

“What? But isn’t Haramark controlled by Sicilia?”

“Jeez. Don’t you know that the day Valhalla announced its position, the leader of Sicilia flew to Eva immediately to butter up Valhalla?”

“Really?”

“You really are oblivious. Do you know they even cut off ties with an ally organization? And Cinzia has already negotiated with Haramark to accept Valhalla’s terms as long as they limit their supervision to criminals.”

“I can’t believe Sicilia. It was only a few years ago that they started a civil war because they didn’t like the royal family.”

“The situation has changed. They’ve been steadily involved in wars since becoming a representative organization. I’m sure they’re glad that Valhalla stepped in this time.”

The woman lowered her voice further.

“Anyway, the next city to open will either be Odor or Haramark. Rumor has it that Princess Teresa has been staying in Eva lately, and she’s trying to convince Valhalla’s representative to choose Haramark….”

The woman whispered as if she was confiding a big secret, and the three men kept nodding their heads.

But one thing that the woman did not know was that the rumor she knew had been deliberately spread by someone.

In short, it was an open secret, as evidenced by the fact that the usually noisy pub was full of whispers today.

Earthlings were agonizing over the things they had never thought about before.

This was a prelude to humanity’s change.


*

A month had passed since the Federation settled in Eva.

It was still too early to determine the success of the plan, but so far everything was going smoothly.

The Federation had successfully integrated as part of the human city, and the streets of Eva were busy day after day with tourists and Earthlings coming to shop.

And today there was an announcement that Odor and Haramark would open simultaneously.

“…”

Alone in her office, Yun Seohui buried her face in her hands.

Those who knew her would have known that this was a rare sight.

But her reaction was understandable. Even she hadn’t expected the Federation to join Eva.

Previously, she was confident that Sinyoung could hold out. Now? Not so much.

But that wasn’t the only thing she hadn’t expected.

‘It’s way too fast….’

The pace at which Eva was changing was too fast.

This meant that the opponent had been preparing this plan for at least a year.

For Sinyoung, it was a sneak attack, but for Valhalla, this was something they had been preparing for a long time.

Yun Seohui could no longer deny that she was in trouble.

The Federation and its technological prowess were undoubtedly a tempting bait.

If it were another time, she would have asked them to let Scheherazade join.

However, Sinyoung’s status wasn’t exactly great at the moment.

Many Earthlings were pinning the blame on Sinyoung for the royal family’s prosperity.

They argued that this would not have happened if Sinyoung had announced its position early on or had not planned the incident in the first place.

Now Sinyoung couldn’t even dream of rivaling Valhalla.

At this rate, even number two would be a luxury. Sinyoung would become one of many mundane organizations out there.

Just as Valhalla overtook Sinyoung in just two years, this was sure to happen.

If she did nothing, Sinyoung would fall behind.

She had to do something before it was too late.

Something—that would enable Sinyoung to regain its former glory.

Yun Seohui had never been much of a risk-taker, but right now she had no choice.

She put her hand on the communication crystal and called her secretary.

Not long after, a young man, not the HR director, entered her office, stiff with tension.

“You called me?”

“Contact….”

Yun Seohui bit her lip, exhaled her breath, and started again.

“Contact Valhalla.”

“…Pardon?”

Yun Seohui raised her head in a flash.

She hated repeating herself.

“I said, contact Valhalla. We need to talk.”

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