Chi-Woo asked Teresa her reason for choosing Seven Stars, but she responded to his question by suddenly talking about the current situation on Liber. He looked at her curiously.
“Compared to the reinforcements who came before us, there’s a sense that we are here too late. Thus, I was greatly conflicted before coming to this place. Perhaps being early or late shouldn’t matter concerning the salvation of a world, but I wondered what I could do with my will alone…” Terea went on while looking very serious and refined. “But then, I was able to find the answer to this question in an unexpected place.”
“The answer…?” Chi-Woo asked, and Teresa cheered inside her mind. She thought the fact that Chi-Woo asked a question meant that he was hooked.
“It was at Apertum when I first heard the name ‘Seven Stars’.” After Teresa confirmed that Chi-Woo was looking at her with surprise, she straightened her back. “Seven Stars! Realization struck me that the group would light up the dying torch that was Liber! All the worries filling my mind cleared instantly!” Teresa said very passionately. “Ah, I see! That’s why they are called Seven Stars! I came to this place to provide a bit of my aid for their purpose! That immediately came to my mind once I learned of the meaning behind their name!”
Teresa thought it would be too obvious if she sang praises of Chi-Woo. Since he probably had lived a life where he was always put on the pedestal, that wouldn’t work. Thus, she emphasized the connection she felt toward Seven Stars, the organization he had established. Ah, there was no way this wouldn’t work. It was a flawless way to appeal to him. Look at him! This hero who was said to be more special than anyone in the Celestial Realm was nodding now while looking only at her!
Teresa laughed to herself, ‘Ohohoho!’ and in her mind, she gave herself a good pat on the back. Yet outwardly, she had her hands gathered in prayer and couldn’t look more holy and subservient. While she was thinking such thoughts, she glanced at Chi-Woo. He was simply stroking his chin without saying anything, but it appeared she had succeeded in leaving a good impression on him. She couldn’t go farther than this, because going overboard would only backfire. She thought she already had success with this much.
After nodding slowly, Chi-Woo turned to the others. “Okay, I understand. What about you, Du Eun-Hyang?”
“You can just call me Eun-Hyang, sir. Also, my answer is the same as hers,” Eun-Hyang replied with a slight bow. “Lady Teresa took the words right out of my mouth.”
‘Ha!’ Teresa snorted as soon as she heard that. She thought that seeing their leader’s response had made Eun-Hyang crave some of the interest she had gained, and Eun-Hyang was trying to ride on her coattails after her successful attempt. Well, it didn’t really matter. In cases like this, the person who said it first won everything; those who said it afterward made little impact. It seemed clear the one who would rise victorious in this spot was her! Teresa was sure of that. At least, that was what she thought before Chi-Woo turned back to her and asked, “I see. Then what is the answer?”
“The meaning behind Seven Stars as you understood it.”
Chi-Woo clearly witnessed Teresa’s eyes widening and her mouth opening slightly. ‘…Huh?’ She quickly shut it close.
“Ah…” She hadn’t prepared an answer to this. “Haha…ahahaha…well—” Teresa quickly rolled her eyes and turned to Eun-Hyang. “I feel like I’ve been talking too much. Is there anything you’d like to say?”
“It is at you our leader has directed the question. Thus, it is only right that you gain the privilege to answer.”
‘Ah, damn it! Not even a little help! See how she is trying to back off now. This sneaky weasel!’ Teresa cursed profusely inside her mind, but of course, dared not let those words out of her mouth. She managed to smile, but her gaze wavered. “Well, Seven Stars…Seven Starrrrs….” Her nose reddened and eyes became misty, and Chi-Woo thought he should stop joking at this point. Just as Grumpy Chi-Woo told him, there was a cute side to her.
“Haha, it’s fine. The meaning behind Seven Stars is…” Chi-Woo explained, and Teresa simply nodded with her head lowered. Parts of her neck came to view between the locks of her hair and were completely red. On the other hand, after hearing Chi-Woo’s explanation, Eun-Hyang raised her hand and asked if she could ask just one question.
“Then, does that mean getting a team to manage means that you’ll become one of the seven stars, who will play a pivotal role in the salvation of Liber?”
“Not necessarily, but generally, yes. Since Ru Amuh, Emmanuela, and Yunael are all stars I’ve chosen.” There were also Yeriel and Asha, but they were exceptions with special roles. Eun-Hyang’s eyes widened with Chi-Woo’s affirmation.
“Then, I would like to be a star in this place, sir,” she said. Teresa immediately flicked her head toward her. She glared at Eun-Hyan piercingly. Eun-Hyang didn’t back down either. A tense atmosphere flowed between the two, and only Umaru appeared uninterested in the topic. He actually yawned like he was bored.
“Why don’t you give it a try?” Chi-Woo said while looking at the two and added, “If you can, that is.”
The interview with the three newbies was over. Chi-Woo recalled the three user information he saw from time to time during the interview process.
Name & rank: El Lache Teresa (☆☆☆)
Name & rank: Lajak Al-Umaru (☆☆☆)
Name & rank: Du Eun-Hyang (☆☆☆)
Though he would need to observe them a bit more, his first impressions of them were all right. It wasn’t bad that all their dormant potential was three stars either. Though their stats weren’t stellar as Ru Amuh’s, it would be unfair to compare them to a rising supernova like him. Anyways, with this, Chi-Woo had confirmed their individual goals. Two out of three had the ambition to become part of Seven Stars. That was better for him.
But there wasn't an infinite number of vacancies for the stars; there weren’t many left, in fact. In order to take those positions, they needed to prove that they were fit for them. In some ways, one person's victory and a loss were already foretold, but the decision wouldn’t be made this instant. Furthermore, it would be better for him to get everything done once he finished everything he had been pushing off.
Organizations in Shalyh hadn’t rested while Chi-Woo was gone. They recruited heroes who came in as the twelfth reinforcements, replenished the forces they had lost during the great war, and focused on cultivating their recruits. Almost half a year later, their efforts came to bear fruit. Likewise, the Seven Stars hadn’t exactly been playing around, but their activities seemed trivial and conservative compared to their scale and reputation. Thus, many had been shocked by the way Seven Stars seemed to have been acting out of consideration of the other organizations.
But that would soon be over. Now, they would straighten their hunched backs and fly toward the sky. They would become so big that they would be able to make even the legend back away. Chi-Woo already had some people in mind to help him with this goal, and he went outside without hesitation. The Demon Empire’s zone was more vibrant than at any other time.
Demons who had been cautious of even going outside during the day now went around freely; and among them, there were those who didn’t appear to be demons or demonic creatures. It seemed the Demon Empire’s survivors had been completely accepted as part of Shalyh. Chi-Woo walked around the area for a while and stopped when he spotted a girl from not so far away.
The gray-haired girl was watching children playing in the streets. Then, she turned around and looked in Chi-Woo’s direction. Chi-Woo moved.
“I knew. That you would come. Today.” Shersha’s prophetic abilities were superb enough for even Chi-Hyun to be wary of it. It was in a different league compared to Aida’s. While Aida specialized in finding and saving people, Shersha’s ability was closest to prophesying the future.
“How have you been feeling?”
“It’s good. Much better than before.”
Chi-Woo was about to say that was good, but then he paused when he realized that something was different; Shersha’s way of speaking had changed a bit. It sounded much more natural than before. Shersha looked a bit embarrassed by Chi-Woo’s attention and replied, “I’m trying to change it. After I began to be able. To speak again.”
“Because this place. Isn’t the Demon Empire,” Shersha replied. She still divided sentences into shorter phrases though. Then, Shersha cautiously looked up toward Chi-Woo.
“Is it strange…?”
“Of course not.” Chi-Woo smiled and shook his head. “It’s much better than before. “
Shersha smiled faintly like she was relieved. Now that Chi-Woo thought about it, they had so much to talk about. They had been pushing their conversation off because things kept coming up. Thus, they changed locations to Shersha’s residence and when they arrived there, Chi-Woo saw Astarte waiting for them. Astarte prepared tea, and Chi-Woo heard what had happened after the war.
As heard before, the faction that crushed and doomed the Demon Empire was the Sernitas. Yet the surprising part was that they had put Bael on the frontline to complete this task.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Shersha said in a hollow voice, like she still couldn’t believe how things turned out. “Why? Bael, why…?”
For the humans, it would be equivalent to Chi-Hyun dying and coming back from the grave, only to annihilate humanity and the Cassiubia League. It really was that shocking if they didn’t know what truly happened.
“It probably wasn’t Bael,” Chi-Woo said after hearing everything. “Near the end of the great war, Bael accepted the Sernitas into her. Her information went to them at that time.” In other words, the Bael that crushed the Demon Empire wasn’t the great demon, Bael. It was nothing more than a puppet that the Sernitas created with the information they newly acquired.
“We thought so too…but that’s why it was harder to believe,” Astarte said after having been quiet until now. “Shersha warned her many times before. She told Bael to never stay with the Sernitas alone.”
A heavy silence filled the room. They pondered about the reason Bael still made the decision despite that. Perhaps the loss at the gate had had a significant impact on her mind and body, compelling her to make a move she shouldn’t have made. In this way, one could say it was Chi-Woo who pushed Bael to that length. Yet Chi-Woo didn’t regret anything he did that day.
Bael was his enemy that day. If he hadn’t killed her, she would’ve killed him. And Shersha and Astarte thought the same. Though Chi-Woo was the one who had caused the death of their loved one, they didn’t consider him their mortal enemy. It was not only because they grew up in a society where it was accepted and natural for the strong to eat the weak, but also because it had been Bael’s choice to be absorbed by the Sernitas in the end.
After a long pause, Shersha murmured in a low voice, “…I want to recover it.”
Chi-Woo didn’t know how to respond if she meant that she wanted to get Bael back from the Sernitas. He smacked his lips because that wish couldn’t be fulfilled.
“She isn’t saying that she wants to save Bael,” Astarte said. “She wants to thoroughly destroy her remnants.”
What did this mean? Chi-Woo looked perplexed, but he understood after hearing the whole explanation.
“Bael is the first-ranking great demon. In a way, you could consider her a Demon Lord of sorts and the peak of the Demon Empire’s power. And only the Demon Lord can open and close the path that connects our Demon World to the Middle World.” The Demon Empire survivors hadn’t chosen not to return to the Demon World; they couldn’t. Bael was extinguished as a great demon but her existence continued on, unable to either die or really live.
“Bael died, but her existence wasn’t extinguished. So, you could say that the Sernitas possess the authority of the Demon Lord.”
Chi-Woo finally understood what Shersha meant. By completely erasing Bael’s existence, which was now in Sernitas’ hands, they planned to establish a new demon lord. Only if Bael died would they be able to get a new great demon who would rise to the first rank.
“Will you help us?”
Chi-Woo contemplated this for a bit. It wasn’t an easy decision. This could end up giving rise to a demon lord who would drive Liber to ruins hundreds or thousands of years later. While worrying about this, Chi-Woo recalled Chi-Hyun from the past, and all his worries disappeared immediately. His brother had tried to hold onto too many things. He strived for perfection beyond necessary, which resulted in the disappearance of the World.
It was a problem that Chi-Woo didn’t even need to concern himself with. They could think about what would happen in a thousand years when the time actually arrived. For Chi-Woo, who lived in the present, this current moment was the most important.
This novel is available on bit.ly/3iBfjkV.
“…There’s a saying. Enemy of your enemy is your friend,” Chi-Woo said after organizing his thoughts. “ Join Seven Stars.” He extended his hand and said, “Let’s do this together.
Shersha hesitated, but she shyly took Chi-Woo’s hand, as if she had already known this would happen.