As soon as they finished organizing, Shersha said she’d take a few demons with her and join Seven Stars. Chi-Woo succeeded in gaining their cooperation more easily than he thought and didn’t immediately return to Seven Stars. There was one more stop he needed to make. It was one of the conditions offered by the six gods. To have at least three Celestial Lights under his command; he had one candidate in mind. One of the other Chi-Woos had told him the solution, saying there wasn’t even need to worry. Chi-Woo planned to do as he was told, but he still had a hard time believing it.
—It’s for real, man. It’s basically just an automatic win, for real.
—I’m telling you, she’s like the childhood friend in a dating sim who started out with MAX affection level. I don’t know why, but she likes me a lot.
—Of course, she’s human, so her feelings will be hurt if you just ask her to come all of the sudden. So I’m telling you, if you give the impression that you want her, everything will be solved.
—Having three stars for potential isn’t common, and she’s a magician at that. If you use the Power to Rule the World on top of that, you’ll have someone with killer firepower.
—Have you tried it? Try it. Tell me how it goes after…Oh, right. Will we not be able to meet again once we separate?
Chi-Woo heard that if he approached Apoline first, everything would work out on its own, but he had a hard time believing it because he had experienced first-hand how strong her pride was.
‘Will it really work…?’
* * *
Apoline had been sitting at her desk since morning and had not moved even a bit. Or to be more exact, she was looking down at a few sheets of paper scattered on the desk with an extremely strained expression. It was a letter of resignation; a document stating that they were leaving Afrilith. She wasn’t even surprised now as she had received letters of resignation in the past. It had been a rare occasion before, but the number of people leaving increased significantly after the great war. The arrival of the twelfth reinforcements was the decisive blow, and strictly speaking, the Afrilith has been on a steady decline since its establishment.
At the time, it surpassed Seven Stars in size and was comparable to Ho Lactea, but now, to put it bluntly, it had fallen to a level where she couldn’t even give out her business card. In other words, it was the fall of a noble family… No, it had never even reached such high status. The Celestial Realm’s Afrilith was an elite family, but Liber’s Afrilith could not even be considered nobility. Apoline let out a self-deprecating laugh and swiped her face with both hands. Who could she blame for this situation? It was all because she was incompetent. What was the reason heroes had flocked like clouds when she first created this organization? It was simple: because of the name Afrilith. However, Apoline had not performed well enough to live up to her family name.
She hadn’t made any remarkable achievements nor made great contributions during the great war—and this was the result. Since she hadn’t met the expectations of her members, it was natural for those who didn’t find her offer attractive to leave.
However, she couldn’t just let the situation be, so she had tried to rally recruits among the twelfth recruitments with the determination that this might really be her last try. However, when the hero she invested coins and approached rejected the offer by saying, ‘Afrilith…? I don’t know. Rather than being the tail of a snake, I think it would be better to be the head of a chicken.’, she could only laugh emptily. They hadn’t said tail of a dragon, but a snake. That accurately reflected the current state of Afrilith; it was a worthy name, but not substantial.
Of course, that was not to say that Afrilith was the weakest organization in Shalyh. Compared to ordinary organizations, it had potential and a considerable force. However, the fact that she even compared her organization with mediocre organizations deeply hurt her pride. Originally, her organization should have been compared to Seven Stars or Ho Lactea, but Afrilith’s current status was too low to make the comparison. She would be too ashamed to return to her family at this rate. Would her parents and older sister and brother understand if she said, ‘Well, I did as much as others did.’
‘There’s no way.’ The Afrilith needed to always be the best; she had grown up with that mindset from birth. She had come here after talking so big, but… “…Should I have done the same as them?” Apoline muttered unconsciously while sitting in a daze. When Emmanuel dismantled his group on his own and Yeriel followed him right behind, she had clicked her tongue and said that they had no pride, but they were probably clicking their tongues at her now. Apoline sighed deeply and pushed her beautiful platinum blonde hair up in frustration. She had no idea what to do now. She couldn’t see a solution in sight.
And that were the circumstances under which Chi-Woo suddenly visited, taking Apoline completely by surprise. The offer he made after that was even more surprising.
* * *
Chi-Woo spoke for a long time, but in summary, Seven Stars was about to officially begin their move and wanted Apoline to be part of it as a Celestial Light member. Or in short, he was telling her to join the Seven Stars, which was what Apoline had been wishing for. Truthfully, there was one instance when Apololine, unable to bear the heavy burden weighing on her, made up her mind to propose to Chi-Woo a merger. However, Alice Ho Lactea beat her to it and took Chi-Woo away before she could even approach him, so she hadn’t even been able to bring it up.
“All the heroes who enter here earnestly wish for Liber’s salvation. Then we have no reason to compete. Who’ll criticize us when we’re just trying to unite our strengths for a single purpose?”
Seeing Chi-Woo passionately persuade her, Apoline immediately realizes—‘Ah, he’s giving me a justification. For me.’ It was impossible to not understand his intentions. Seven Stars. Choi Chi-Woo. He was someone who made even the legend, his older brother, back down. To put it bluntly, Afrilith was nothing compared to him. What if this man really wanted her organization, Afrilith? Apoline wouldn’t have been able to do anything even if he opted to absorb them through more aggressive means. However, Chi-Woo didn’t want Afrilith, or to be exact, there was no need for him to do this. Whether he accepted Afrilith or not, Seven Stars was doing well on its own. Nevertheless, the reason he came directly and made an offer…there could only be one.
‘Since I was once his fiancée, he is…’ Apoline was already well aware that Chi-Woo secretly cared about her. The fact that he sent a separate messenger to her when Yeriel first invented the AI Armor was proof of this. Thus, she was thankful to him, but felt even more sorry. She was also embarrassed because it felt like she couldn’t meet his expectations.
“I’m not sure I’ll be of much help…” That might have been the reason she said this meekly unlike her usual self. Usually, she would have responded by shouting, ‘What kind of nonsense is that!’
“Of course you will. You’re an Afrilith.”
Since Chi-Woo approached her like this, Apoline was at a complete loss; he had given her a justification to help her save face. But above all, there was no room for pride anymore. She needed to face reality before it was too late. Would she remain at the bottom with unknown heroes, or would she stand by him and leave her name in history even if she wouldn’t be the one and only main character?
“I know it’s not an easy decision, but please consider it in a positive light. Seven Stars will treat Afrilith no less than Eustitia and Mariaju.” With that, Chi-Woo stood up from his seat.
After he left, Apoline fell into thought. Honestly, there was nothing more to think about. Originally, she had wanted to be like Ho Lactea and stand by him proudly on the same playing field—and she still wanted that now. But all her conflicting emotions melted like snow when Chi-Woo said that he wanted her. She made up her mind. Apoline reached out for the paper on her desk with a slightly different expression than before; it was an expression of relief.
* * *
The next few days, Shalyh became noisy for the first time in a while. It was because Seven Stars, which they all thought had been hibernating until now, had finally made their first move, and it was no ordinary move. First, many organizations that coveted the abilities of the great demons had tried to woo the Demon Empire, but there was news that Shersha, who had refused all offers until then, had joined Seven Stars. Second, there was news that Afrilith was going to pack up and dissolve.
While the first was understandable somewhat, the latter was shocking as Afrilith’s dissolution meant that Apoline was going to join Seven Stars. Otherwise, there was no reason for her to dissolve her organization. Even a member of the Afrilith family, who were known for their pride as much as the Ho Lactea, were bowing down at a Choi. And like this, Seven Stars held three of the Celestial Lights in their arms—four including Chi-Woo. Some feared that Seven Stars might be monopolizing the powers too much, but such narratives didn’t gain much strength as there were many people dismissing those concerns as nonsense.
“Come on, Seven Stars need to reap some benefits for themselves too.” Mangil was one of them. “Regardless of everything, they always take the lead and step forward whenever something happens. And what else—he has waited for a long time too. Compared to what he did, this is nothing.”
Theft is never good, try looking at bit.ly/3iBfjkV.
Mangil, who received a lot from Seven Stars including the AI Armor, enthusiastically defended them more than anyone else. This was also the moment Eval Sevaru’s efforts at Apertum showed results. Thanks to him, the public sentiment seemed favorable to Seven Stars absorbing the Demon Empire survivors and Afrilith. A commotion erupted in Seven Stars instead. No, rather than a commotion, it was more accurate to say that a subtle tension began to flow between the members, especially among the new blood from the twelfth reinforcements.
Teresa smacked her lips bitterly. ‘This is what he meant?’ He had told them if they wanted to be a star, they had to prove themselves. Teresa thought she could finally understand what he meant now. Du Eun-Hyang and Umaru weren’t her only competition.
‘The fact that an Afrilith is joining must mean that she was at least guaranteed one of the team leader positions, or it wouldn’t make any sense. Then…’ Chi-Woo made a clear statement not too long ago. Though the current team leaders were not all stars, he was planning to fill all the remaining team leader positions with stars. Teresa had thought that she'd definitely get at least one of the three seats left, but this was no time to relax. ‘There’s no guarantee that there are two seats left. He may have saved only one spot for the twelfth reinforcements.’
Chi-Woo’s move after his return raised the competitive spirit among the members. Of course, unlike them, there were those who screamed in happiness instead; it was Eval Sevaru. He couldn’t help but show his admiration for Chi-Woo every day. ‘What’s suddenly up with him recently?’ In the past, there were times when Chi-Woo acted like he didn’t know anything like an ordinary person, unbefitting his last name, but after coming out of his room after half a year, he had suddenly changed so much. His actions showed no hesitation, and at the same time, he had taken complete control over the internal affairs of the Seven Stars with a single action.
‘Did he pick up a walkthrough somewhere…’ Anyway, it was good that their organization had bulked up. If they just struck the right balance befitting their bigger body, the golden age of Seven Stars would begin. Eval Sevaru had no doubt that this would come to be.
* * *
After successfully making his first move, Chi-Woo steadied his breathing for a while before making his next. It was because he saw a small wolf lying leisurely and rolling around in the lobby. Chi-Woo’s mouth twisted as he saw the fenrir cub lounging around after a big meal once again. He concealed his presence as much as possible and crept toward the cub. And when he was right in front of the cub, he screamed, “woofwoofwoofwoof!”
Naturally, the fenrir cub, who had been sound asleep, jumped up in fright. “Barkbarkbarkbark!” The cub barked frantically for a while, and after seeing Chi-Woo staring down at him, he stopped barking. Then he lowered his tail and turned away slightly. The reason the fenrir cub avoided Chi-Woo was simple; it was because Chi-Woo nagged at him endlessly, asking when the cub would go out and do something productive. What was so bad about playing a bit? He had to go out and work anyway when it was the time. Why must Chi-Woo keep badgering and pressuring him?
“You there? Stop.”
The cub pretended not to hear and sneaked away, but it was wishful thinking because Chi-Woo walked right up to him and lifted him up. “Where are you going?”
“Hey…no, that’s not it. I should give you a name now since I can’t call you ‘hey’ forever.”
“Arf…ruff?” The cub, who had been struggling to get out of Chi-Woo’s grasp, stopped at Chi-Woo’s words.
“I’ll give you a name.”
The fenrir cub quickly turned towards Chi-Woo; his eyes seemed to be saying, ‘You’re finally doing that, you fucking bastard.’
“Hmm, a name, a name…” Under the cub’s half-expectant and half-worried eyes, Chi-Woo fell into thought. The cub’s mother, Hurodvitniru’s name meant the ‘famous wolf’. In fact, Hurodvitniru had the reputation as the most famous fenrir on Liber. Thus, giving the cub a proper name was the most important…that was what Stupid Yoo-Joo had strongly emphasized to him over and over again.
“Terminator. It means a very strong wolf that will blow even the Sernitas into smithereens in one shot. What do you think?”
The fenrir cub flinched and shook his head like crazy. He got the meaning, but he didn’t want to live with such an awful name. Chi-Woo called out several names he had in mind, but the cub fiercely rejected all of them. It was to the extent that the cub convulsed with bubbles in his mouth.
‘Geez, this is one hell of a picky dude.’ Chi-Woo smacked his lips, but he wasn’t worried. He had prepared an appropriate solution for this as well.