Chapter 126. Hidden Authority
Noel Freya treaded softly out of the shrine with her ivory hair swaying behind her. Then, when she saw Chi-Woo, she stopped.
“h.e.l.lo,” Chi-Woo greeted her first.
“h.e.l.lo to you too,” Noel greeted back and bowed, lowering not just her head, but her whole upper body.
‘What?’ Noel thought. She planned to greet Chi-Woo simply, but she had unintentionally bowed the same way she did only to Choi Chi-Hyun. Like it had its own free will, her body had given Chi-Woo the respectful greeting in her book. And for some reason, she had an incomprehensible urge to call Chi-Woo ‘young master’. 
“Did you make a contract with G.o.ddess Shahnaz?” Chi-Woo asked.
“Ah, no.” Noel quickly shook her head. “I got an offer, but I turned her down since a priestess must be especially close to a G.o.d.” In other words, the direction she wanted to progress in didn’t match what Shahnaz wanted.
“Hm, Hm.” Noel cleared her throat and shook off the uncomfortable feeling she kept having around Chi-Woo. “For what reason have you come here for, Sir Chichibbong…?”
“I’m looking for someone who would be my temporary companion.”
“A temporary companion?”
“Yes. I am planning to go somewhere for a bit.”
Noel nodded. She thought Chi-Woo was planning to lead a group of heroes who hadn’t awakened yet so that they could make contracts with a G.o.d. She was already made aware of this method by Zelit recently.
“Oh, that reminds me, I heard that G.o.ddess Shanaz made new contracts with dozens of heroes recently without even receiving merits from them.” Normally, the concept of free gifts didn’t exist between a relations.h.i.+p between a G.o.d and a hero. One always needed divinity for things like a contract with a G.o.d and a progress system. The idea that a G.o.d would make a contract without receiving anything defied common sense, especially in a world like this one. It would only make sense if someone else had donated the huge sum of merits necessary to make this happen, like an altruistic man donating money while leaving the instruction, ‘Please use this to provide necessities to starving children’.
Chi-Woo didn’t reveal that it was he who had provided the merits, but Noel was already sure that the anonymous sponsor was Chi-Woo.
“Ah, yes…haha,” Chi-Woo awkwardly responded.
“You are amazing, sir,” Noel complimented Chi-Woo and sighed. “I suppose it would be too greedy to expect everyone to be like you.”
“No, it’s nothing. Please excuse me. I have something to attend to…” Noel looked around and bowed to Chi-Woo again before leaving. She appeared to be displeased about something.
‘Why did she suddenly act like that?’ Chi-Woo wondered. Noel didn’t appear to be displeased with him, but with another matter.
—I think I know the reason why she’s upset.
It was then Philip leaned toward Chi-Woo’s face.
‘You surprised me. But what is it?’
—Look over there.
Philiip pointed to a spot where four or more people were gathered. They were talking to each other while smiling.
‘Why? Is there someone you are interested in again?’
—Oh yeah. Do you see that hafling with her wings folded? She has very sharp…ah no, that’s not what I was saying!
Philip shouted in embarra.s.sment and coughed.
—Look at those guys. They have all awakened.
—They’re saying G.o.ddess Shahnaz looked favorably upon them and made contracts with them for free.
‘Then that means they can use divinity now.’
—Yeah, and from what I heard from them, they are planning to go out by themselves to collect merits when there are still so many heroes who haven't awakened yet.
Philip scanned his surroundings to make his point, and Chi-Woo finally realized the current situation at the square. Now he knew why there were some heroes sitting by themselves, sucking on their thumbs as they looked at other heroes enviously. The number of awakened heroes was abnormally less than the number of heroes who hadn’t awakened. And to fix this imbalance, the heroes in the former group needed to step forward and help others.
They were in a situation where everyone needed to unite and work together for the common good, yet many of the awakened heroes were grouping together instead and going outside since it was much safer and more efficient to acc.u.mulate merits that way. They were placing their personal gains above all and prioritizing using the growth system. It was selfish of them.
Eventually, the awakened heroes began to leave the square with smiles on their faces.
—Is it time for the protectors of justice to step forward?
Philip circled around Chi-Woo expectantly.
—Pop out in front of them and give them a piece of your mind. If they resist, make sure they learn their lesson. Haha!
Philip said excitedly, but Chi-Woo remained indifferent.
‘I don’t really want to,’ Chi-Woo thought, his disinterest giving Philip pause.
‘Ms. Noel Freya didn’t say much about it, either…and I think they’re free to do what they want.’
After all, the method Zelit gave was simply a suggestion, and whether the hero acted upon this method depending on their own will. Thus, even Noel had pa.s.sed over the matter although she disapproved of those who didn’t follow the suggestion.
‘Also, I’m not really in the position to say anything.’ When Chi-Woo heard that Ru Amuh’s schedule was packed, the first thing he thought of was training by himself. While he had changed his mind after hearing Philip’s words, Chi-Woo hadn’t been much different from those heroes before that.
—…Oh, I see…
Unlike his usual self, Philip listened quietly before his lips curved into a smirk. He liked this about Chi-Woo.
—Yes, a king has to hold standards fairly for everyone, or else there will be many complaints coming from below.
Philip snickered and placed his interlaced hands on top of his head.
—But I think you are qualified to speak about this problem. I mean, you’ve accomplished and done so much for others since your time here.
‘I’m still not interested. I don’t want to go through all the trouble.’
—Think about it carefully. This could be an opportunity. You could even gain stardom… Well, maybe not stardom per se, but you can gain some fame by taking action.
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‘I really don’t want to. Really.”
Philip replied with a cheerful face. Chi-Woo shot Philip a brief glare and turned back to Eval after schooling his expression into one of seriousness. Eval Sevaru gulped; the only thing in his mind was to get away from this dilemma as fast as possible.
“Then…” Chi-Woo said, “Fine. Can I entrust the matter to you?”
Eval Sevaru immediately turned away and racked his brain to figure out a way to use this opportunity to his best advantage. “Of course! Bro, just leave it up to me! First of all, how many people do you need?”
* * *
The next day, Eval Sevaru arrived at Chi-Woo’s house and fixed his clothes. Taking a deep breath, he turned around to meet the eyes of the three people behind him. He had tapped into all his connections to carefully select these heroes.
“Make sure you leave a good impression,” Eval Sevaru said with an extremely serious expression. “This is sacred ground you’re stepping into, and you must show him your best.” He continued with a hard and tough voice as if he was someone of great importance, “As you have all heard, it wasn’t easy making s.p.a.ce for you guys here. He’s not someone you can just meet because you want to.”
The three people behind him remained silent.
“You might not know since you aren’t an insider like me, but any of the fifth, sixth, or seventh recruits would all be extremely glad to be in your position.” Eval Sevaru continued as if he was a princ.i.p.al giving a sermon, “I’m sorry for emphasizing this, but all of you must never, ever make a mistake. He’s like a brother to me, and he entrusted this job to me because he believes in my ability. If any of you make a mistake, you’re going to be disgracing me, and he’ll judge me based on your actions.”
The woman covering her eyes with a hood smacked her lips. When was this man going to stop talking? It was annoying, but she couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. Then she suddenly recalled the conversation they had yesterday. She had heard Eval Sevaru’s side of the story in the afternoon. He had suddenly approached her and began telling his business without any warning or explanation, asking her if she was up for a job. She refused in the beginning because she was taken aback; she hadn’t awakened her powers yet, after all.
However, Eval Sevaru told her that didn’t matter, and it was actually better that she hadn’t awoken her powers yet. That sparked her interest. She was so surprised that she asked for confirmation many times. Eval Sevaru replied with an affirmative, but acted extremely arrogant every time he said so.
[Honestly, I should be paid for doing this. I think 100 gold coins will be the appropriate compensation. That’s how much the job is worth. I’m giving you an opportunity right now—an opportunity that you’ll never be able to get in your life.]
She had snorted inwardly at the time. Eval Sevaru was making such a fuss about merely introducing her to one hero. He also made it sound like he was introducing her to Choi Chi-Hyun. Of course, she knew that would be impossible. Following a more realistic logic, she asked him if the hero he wanted to introduce her to was the famous hero, Ru Amuh.
Ru Amuh was someone she knew even before she came to Liber. A hero who had resolved a star-cl.u.s.ter danger. There had been quite a commotion when words got out that the Celestial Realm had reached out to him as a special talent. From what she heard, he came to Liber as one of the seventh recruits and made quite a lot of achievements. If Eval Sevaru was introducing him to Ru Amuh, she could understand why he was making such a fuss. However, Eval Sevaru’s reaction was perplexing to say the least.
[What? Ru Amuh? Ru Amuh? Ahhaha…]
[Ru Amuh…yeah, he’s all right. He’s not bad, and he’s a pretty skilled friend of mine.]
[But you need to get one thing straight—he’s nowhere near my bro.]
[What? You think I’m lying? Come on. Ru Amuh calls my bro teacher and follows me. You understand me now?]
She didn’t believe what Eval Sevaru told her. After they separated, she went around to find other heroes for more information. However, her effort ended up in vain since most of the fifth, sixth, and seventh recruits had left the capital already to use the yongmaek in the fortress. Thus, she came to Chi-Woo’s house as per Eval’s instruction, but she was still unconvinced.
“Hmm. Then.” Eval Sevaru fake-coughed a couple times and politely knocked on the door. After a while, the door opened with the sound of metal creaking, and a young man walked out.
* * *
“Ah, you’ve arr—” Chi-Woo was about to greet Eval Sevaru, but paused when Eval Sevaru bowed deeply until his back was as low as his waist.
“Have you been well, boss?” Eval Sevaru straightened his back. “I’ve brought three people as per your order.” He even gathered both of his hands together and politely enunciated each word.
‘…What the h.e.l.l is up with this guy?’
1. ‘Young master’ here can also mean brother-in-law. ☜
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