Seon-Hu collected the mana stones that were in the village and returned to the boundary after cleaning up the newly opened area. The reason he didn’t take Seong-Il there was obvious. The compensation for blocking waves in advance was generous and was more than enough to make up for anything the older man would receive there. To Seong-Il, every moment had felt like hell, but the rewards had paid him well.
In the past, there had only been a few cases where waves had been blocked in advance. It had only happened on the stages where pre-Awakened were summoned, but there were only one or two stages that had them.
Kwon Seong-Il, it’s time for you to get used to the stats you have upgraded so far.
Seon-Hu looked at Seong-Il, who was waiting for him in front of the boundary.
Seong-Il said, “I moved your stuff to one of the buildings, and I’m sure you will like it. As for Cheol-Yeong… the more I spend time with him, the better he seems.”
It was the largest building remaining in the village. The room looked empty as there was no furniture, but Seong-Il had made the innermost room as cozy as possible. He had created a bed by stacking the clothes that people had brought.
The older man continued, “It will be much better than lying on straw. I have a separate bed.”
“Don’t worry. We didn’t confiscate those clothes. They are simply trying to apologize to you in this way. I hope you appreciate it.”
“What’s all this?” Seon-Hu asked expressionlessly.
“Oh, are you in a bad mood because of all of this?”
Seon-Hu kicked at the items that had been piled up in layers, and some small boxes and jewelry fell out. Also, there were plenty of ten-thousand and fifty-thousand won bills on one side with dollars and yen piled up as well.
“I was going to tell you. They were wondering if you’d be willing to take these in return for food, and they had asked me about that in a very careful and polite manner. I hope you are not offended by these offerings,” Seong-Il was talking in a very roundabout way as he tried to defend Cheol-Yeong as much as possible.
“...The bills are ridiculous, but what about those gold pieces? Don’t you think they will be useful in the future? Or are you only accepting the mana stones?” Seong-Il continued chattering.
Seon-Hu snorted slightly. “Gold is ridiculous too.”
“Is a monster's heart an important thing?” Seong-Il asked curiously.
Seon-Hu responded shortly, “It will be.”
The mana stone itself was of no use at the moment. It was only valuable when the research came out that the level of potential energy contained inside it was higher than what could be found on average. Therefore, the mana stone was just a rock in the Stage of Advent, but Seon-Hu still insisted on only asking for it instead of items or insignias.
He had completely isolated himself from the villagers and minimized his interactions with them by making Seong-Il his message boy. He had already announced that he would never talk to any villagers even if it was Cheol-Yeong, their current leader.
Cheol-Yeong and the villagers had no choice but to watch as Seon-Hu walked towards the boundary. Cheol-Yeong watched Seon-Hu going into the darkness to block one starting point of the wave, then approached Seong-Il.
“Take the stuff back. He said he doesn’t need them,” the older man advised.
Cheol-Yeong grimaced slightly. “If that’s what Odin thinks, then it can’t be helped. But I don’t understand.”
Seong-Il responded sympathetically, “Don’t try to understand and just accept it. That’s all you guys have to do.”
“He wasn’t angry, was he?” Cheol-Yeong asked somewhat anxiously.
Seong-Il shrugged. “I explained as best I could.”
“Thank you, Hyung.”
The older man continued, “Anyway, bring the monster’s heart over to him if you need something to eat and drink.”
Calling a mana stone ‘the monster’s heart’ was incorrect as the monsters had actual hearts in them in addition to the mana stones, but Cheol-Yeong laughed it off. It was a charming smile as his teeth were quite neat and straight.
He admitted candidly, “Without you, we would have been in a desperate situation.”
Seong-Il shook his head. “Nah, I didn’t do much.”
Cheol-Yeong pressed on, “You are our only connection to Odin. I respect you.”
“Hey, stop flattering me. Hahaha.”
“I believe that only extreme situations will reveal a person’s true face. No one recognized Odin when they were scared, yet you did. You defended him with your life on the line. Thanks to you, Odin is taking care of us. I admire your wise decision-making skills under urgent circumstances and your ability to recognize important people. During that time, I was…” Cheol-Yeong suddenly choked on his tears.
“Hey! Stop talking nonsense and gather people.”
Seong-Il tapped Cheol-Yeong’s shoulder and smiled briefly.
“Did Odin say something?”
“He said he will fish and go get some water after blocking the wave.”
Cheol-Yeong hesitated before asking, “Can we fish… here?”
“Are you basically asking whether Odin is telling us lies? I’m only telling you because it works.”
“You mean… beyond the boundary, right?”
Seong-Il nodded. “Join if you want. He said he will give you four mana stones.”
Cheol-Yeong quickly read the situation. He was aware that Odin had secured a puddle. However, now he knew that not only water was available there, but food could be also gathered through fishing. Also, all the by-products from there were owned by Odin as he stated the entire cleared area was under his jurisdiction. Therefore, he was recruiting workers and paying them in mana stones instead of money. He would order workers to secure water and food, then exchange those with mana stones.
He still had one unanswered question he was pondering over: why did Odin insist on asking for mana stones as payment?
What kind of secret is there behind it?
Cheol-Yeong then asked the same question that Seong-Il had asked to Seon-Hu, “Are the mana stones important?”
The older man shrugged. “I guess so.”
Odin might have skills that have to do with mana stone. Then, there might be other Awakened with the same skill.
Cheol-Yeong searched through the list of people’s skills even though he had already read through it hundreds of times and had basically memorized everything. However, he couldn’t find the answer. He even tried using his attack skill on a mana stone, but nothing happened. The mana stone didn’t react, and instead it looked like it had absorbed the attack energy.
He decided to break it down. After smacking it countless times with a random hammer, the stone finally cracked and broke into pieces. At the same time, his expectations also shattered as he had discovered there was nothing inside the now-broken stone.
Anyway, it was urgent to secure food and water right now. The villagers often quarreled amongst each other due to hunger and stress whenever they began talking to each other. It was fortunate that the previous conflicts had merely ended verbally or with someone grabbing someone else by the collar. There had already been two incidents where people with relatively aggressive skills had used them against each other as they couldn’t suppress their anger.
“I’ll accept ten applicants.”
Cheol-Yeong spoke after gathering people and told them exactly what Seong-Il had said. Everyone’s faces brightened when they heard that fishing and water were available. However, the uproar began to grow out of control when they heard that the owner of the region was Odin.
He attempted to placate the crowd, “I understand how you feel, but we have to follow new laws in this new world. I don’t think any of you here want to follow the footsteps of the lieutenant.”
Cheol-Yeong continued, “It is the same for me. Everything here is frightening and dreadful. But, I believe that we can be happy no matter what situation we are in. I have lived with that mindset so far.”
People started focusing on him after hearing the word ‘happy.’
“The most essential factor for our happiness now is safety. Safety comes first, and the rest will come later. Don’t forget that Odin is protecting us.”
One person protested, “But that can’t be the sole reason he needs to hog all the resources.”
“It is possible because, throughout history, our country has been like that…”
Cheol-Yeong swallowed what he was about to say next with a troubled look on his face.
“The important thing is that we now have the means to secure food and water. Let’s focus on that. There is an organ in monsters that is the size of a thumb and looks like a small stone. Odin calls it a mana stone.”
Cheol-Yeong then proceeded to explain more to the group. There were two ways that people could obtain mana stones. One was working for Odin and getting mana stones for wages. The other was collecting them directly from monsters when the next wave quest began and a new boundary opened. However, Odin had to give them permission and yield a certain area where the monsters inhabited.
Yes, Cheol-Yeong did use the word ‘yield.’
He promised, “I will make it happen somehow. So, I will accept applicants from now on. Those who want to apply can raise their hands quietly.”
At that moment, the space heated up as almost everyone raised their hands. Then, they started screaming in a hurry. Contrary to the thought that not many would volunteer, the majority of them were clamoring, competing against each other. If they didn’t work for Odin, then the only way for them to gain mana stones was directly from monsters. People could still recall their previous horrifying encounter. The chubby, adorable-looking creatures had hit their evil faces in their fur, and they also enjoyed the taste of human flesh.
“Me?” Seong-Il’s eyes widened
Seon-Hu nodded. “Yes, you can use the branch broken by the lieutenant as a milestone. Don’t get close to the summoning nest.”
“I know that.”
“It’s a bit scary.”
“Are you referring to the people? If a problem arises, we can easily deal with ten of them. I’ve already planned out every possible occasion,” Seon-Hu replied.
Seong-Il shook his head. “That’s what I am afraid of. I’m not as generous as you are.”
Seon-Hu shrugged. “If they jump on you, don’t go easy on them.”
“Huh?” The older man looked confused.
Seon-Hu patiently explained, “You don’t have to feel guilty. The moment they attack you first, think of them as monsters.”
“You are basically telling me to crush their heads, right? So why haven’t you slaughtered them yet?”
Seon-Hu smiled mirthlessly. “Well, because no one has truly gone against me so far.”
The older man blinked for a few moments before finally responding, “Ah… was that why? That makes sense since they only talked shit behind your back. Are you going to sleep then?”
Seong-Il thought Seon-Hu needed to rest as the younger man’s eyes were bloodshot.
Seon-Hu replied curtly, “Yes, I’m a human, too.”
Seong-Il complained, “I still don’t trust villagers, so I don’t know if I can sleep comfortably here.”
Seon-Hu closed his eyes after sending Seong-Il off. He had nothing to worry about from his perspective as his senses were quite acute now, so he placed his backpack containing the items right next to his head and relaxed.
When Seong-Il returned with the selected people, things would start with Seon-Hu exchanging their mana stones with food and water. Mana stones would soon become valuable enough to be used as a currency. Seon-Hu was planning to use mana stones not only for food and water but also for items and insignias. Before long, some people would steal from others as they would soon figure out that getting the stones from monsters was difficult. Plus, they would also notice that carrying mana stones was inconvenient.
“The community will gain vitality when the economy runs. To make a living, to be safer, and to be stronger,” Seon-Hu murmured with his eyes closed.
“Yes… to survive.”