One week left before the year’s end. The city was falling into a festive craze in wait for the Night of Longevity festivities. The upcoming New Year’s Eve was expected to become the greatest celebration yet since the founding of the Human Empire. Section Eight was no exception.
What was referred to as the Human Sewers had been completely ignored out of the collective disinterest throughout the Empire. But now even this section was also granted the Emperor’s favor.
Senior Superintendent General Wei Long, who could be considered the leader of this section, was now installing a large stage before the administrative building that could be considered the center of Section Eight. Entertainers were hired to give out food in order to start the festivities. Such a grand celebration was a rare sight for Sungchul who had lived in the wild for eight years. He hid himself in order to visit each section and observe the festival as it went on. Among them all, Section Four’s celebration notice made his heart waver.
[ La Grange Cooking Competition for the Emperor’s Trophy ]
[ A feast that unfolds every fifteen years ]
[ Just who will be deemed the greatest chef? ]
Sungchul’s mind was in turmoil now that he had seen the advertisement.
“Why does this person become so childish when it comes to cooking, huh?”
He might have put his name in as a participant if Bertelgia had not been holding him back from the side. Unfortunately, the final day of the year, when the festivities for the cooking competition would begin, was also when the Cult of Extinction meeting was scheduled. If Sungchul chose to participate in this cooking competition scheduled to go on for the whole day, he wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting. It was an incredibly smart decision to hold the secret meeting during the festival when everyone’s attention would be focused focused on the festivities, but Sungchul was strongly against it.
‘Mm… Cult of Extinction. I’m growing to dislike them more.’
There were dangers aside from the Cult as well. People who knew Sungchul’s face were now within the city. He found Clarise and Assam’s party, both of whom he met in Panchuria, while spectating the singing contest held at Section Seven. Clarise must have started working in a factory as she stood tall against the flood of insults and dirty jokes to finish her song on stage. As she was quite talented, there were faint sounds of clapping within the callous audience.
Clarise’s eyes that were focused on the crowd became fixed toward Sungchul as soon as her song ended. Sungchul hid himself during the brief moment when she had closed her eyes to blink, but she still looked towards where Sungchul was standing with bewildered eyes for a period.
“The lady that sings well is here too.”
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”
Sungchul decided that he should only linger around Section Eight and returned to his residence. At the entrance to his home, he could see Anglo-Saxon Boy and his mistress riding out through the main entrance on a carriage. Sungchul could see the gleeful face of Anglo-Saxon Boy through the window, and Sungchul could hear the playful laughter of a woman as it passed by him. He could see Largo smoking her cigarette when he returned to the kitchen. The cigarette could never be considered good for the child’s health, but it was a necessary choice. Without the tobacco, her psyche couldn’t handle the various withdrawal symptoms laden onto her body.
“I prepared it for you.”
Largo pointed toward the tall pile of onions and put on a faint smile.
Sungchul took off his coat and hung it on a rack before starting to prepare the onions without another word. He continued to oblige Largo’s requests despite no longer needing to do so. One part of it was because he enjoyed the process of cooking, but it was also because he knew full well that there was no future for Largo to hope for.
She will probably die before the baby could be born. It may appear as though the medication given by the Cult of Extinction had stopped the spread of the curse, but the Curse of Extinction, said to be placed by the gods, was not something so easily be resolved by a few pills.
“I’ve asked you this once before…”
Sungchul called over to Largo as he continued to peel the onions.
Largo was slightly intoxicated and slightly turned her head that had been resting comfortably against the easy chair to face Sungchul’s back.
“Do you think Anglo will change his mind once you have the kid?”
Her answer was not too much different than before, aside from the snarky attitude in which she responded to him.
“On my way here, I saw Anglo… and Christina, I think? I saw him going downtown with the young girl. They looked like they were close.”
“I know that much, but it’ll change once the kid is born. That bastard and I have a long history which the young tart can’t dare get in between.”
Largo said as such, but there was a bit of pride on her face that wasn’t there before.
“That’s right. There was a thrilling romance between us that could even be called a soap opera.”
Sungchul paused his knife and turned to Largo, and Largo answered proudly.
“Where should I begin? That’s right. I should tell you this first. I’m actually a Summoned as well.”
“Is that right? It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
He had never even considered it, and it was because Largo was much too weak to be considered a Summoned. Even the privileged Sunghae was considered weak among the Summoneds, but she could easily distinguish herself among the common folk with her abilities if she sought to do so. She was a graduate of the Summoning Plaza which would be an understatement to call it man made hell.
“By the look on your face, I guess you think I’m lying?”
If there was anything that could be considered a talent for Largo, it would be her uncanny ability to read Sungchul’s expressionless face, and she was truly amazing at that one. When Sungchul continued to watch her without any expression without confirming nor denying her statement, she smirked and suddenly pulled up one of her sleeves.
“Actually, I was one of the slaves. Was it the Crimson Plaza? Right when I was summoned there, I listened to some voice and took the path of a slave.”
The brand marking slaves was still clearly above her arm.
“You’re still quite sane considering you’re a slave?”
Sungchul knew full well the conditions in which the slaves of the Summoning Plaza were kept, as he had witnessed the scene with his own eyes.
“There are customers with unique tastes as well, you see. The person that bought me was one of the fallen noble of Ruteginea and a eunuch such as yourself.”
“I’m not saying eunuchs are bad, but that the rotten bastard’s tastes were special. He preferred to ruin a woman’s body rather than desire it. So, he wanted a sane slave. It made breaking them more worthwhile.”
She turned around and slowly pulled up her top. On the other side of her flesh that was covered in tattoos, there were hideous remnants of where she had been carved up through torture. She spoke after slowly lowering her top once again.
“That eunuch tortured and slaughtered slaves like dogs one by one. It was my turn next, but luckily, the bastard rescued me. I’m talking about Anglo-Saxon Boy. He said himself that it was love at first sight.”
“Even that bastard does good things once in a while, huh?”
“Right? Anyways, there’s that kind of romance between us. It became this way because it didn’t bear fruit, but once it does, everything will return to normal.”
Largo spoke with confidence in her voice.
“If he really did love you.”
Sungchul added suddenly. Even Bertelgia was surprised. It was the first time Sungchul had ever uttered a sentimental word like love.
“Isn’t “fruit” like that unnecessary?”
“What do you mean?”
Largo spoke indignantly.
“It’s as I said. In other words, you have to move him emotionally. If you’re not going to change, everything will revert back regardless of whether you have the kid or not.”
Sungchul said everything on his mind, but he couldn’t help but feel a bit of regret. This wasn’t like him. People like Largo who would just flow through his life should have been left alone, but he ended up speaking his mind without intending to.
“So what are you telling me to do?”
To make things worse, Largo was now all ears. He regretted spilling his guts, but it was all too late. He was now the focus of her passionate gaze, so he continued to stumble along.
“I’m just talking about Anglo… Isn’t he old enough already? Young girls might be nice, but isn’t someone his age looking for a companion for life?”
“For someone who can’t “stand up” you seem to make a lot of sense. Ok. What should I do specifically?”
Sungchul was speechless. It was because he couldn’t think of anything else to say. He briefly struggled to think before he found an easy option and suggested it.
“Why don’t you serve him something tasty for now? Homemade food always has a special magical power over men.”
Largo’s eyes shined, and Sungchul knew that he had now crossed the line of no-return, but he was already on top of the bucking bull. The best option now was to take things to their logical conclusion. Sungchul made up his mind and continued his advice.
“You said Anglo was a Jap, right? I’ll teach you a decent recipe.”
Sungchul spun the kitchen knife in his hand in a cool motion.
As Sungchul was walking out toward the kitchen after feeding the Tahm Tahm, Largo sought him out at the entrance and blocked his path. Her face was full of delight for once.
“Just what kind of magic did you use?”
Largo spoke with overflowing energy. Sungchul who saw this thought to himself.
‘Looks like it was a success.’
He had showcased to Largo a few dishes that a Japanese person might enjoy. They weren’t fancy dishes, but ordinary family ones. According to Largo, Anglo-Saxon Boy had even shed tears as he ate her boiled beef and potato stew. It was a matter of course that Largo had earned a few more points in Angle-Saxon Boy’s eyes. It was just a bonus that the young girl eating with them looked sour.
“It was the first time that person made such an expression to me after I was first chased out to the kitchen.”
Sungchul didn’t show it, but he felt quite good. It filled him with pride that his dish actually had a practical benefit on a person’s life. He showed her a few more dishes that Anglo-Saxon Boy might enjoy, and Largo continued to gain Anglo-Saxon Boy’s favor.
At some point Sungchul saw a desperate moment in which Largo was biting down in order to resist the temptation of narcotics and cigarettes, and truthfully, it was good to see. Sungchul waited for New Year’s Eve with a joyful heart.
Like the flow of a river, time passed by quickly.
Sungchul went with Largo to go buy groceries.
Buying groceries was originally something Sungchul did alone, but Largo begged for him to teach her how to buy good ingrediants so he had no choice but to let her come.
Largo no longer wore fancy outfit nor treat Sungchul like a servant.
And there were another objective in them leaving the house together.
“The location is decided. It’s the abandoned house in Rust Green Alley.”
Largo saw the secret mark from the Cult of Extinction had been discreetly posted onto the noticeboard in front of the Section Eight’s Administrative building, and she alerted Sungchul of the meeting place. Only two days remained which wasn’t all that much time.
As Sungchul kept himself busy, he happened to run into a couple, Kimchi and his other half.
“Hey look who it is! Hey! Kimchi! It’s been so long!”
Largo waved her arm and ran over to Kimchi while acting friendly. Kimchi wasn’t quite adjusted to Largo who had undergone a drastic transformation within a short period of time, and he responded to her with a befuddled expression on his face. When Sungchul filled him a moment later, Kimchi finally recognized her changed form and greeted her warmly. Largo also approached Sunghae amiably.
“You’re quite a beauty as I’ve heard. Well, not as much as me when I was younger, but… Anyways, where are you coming from? Looking at your nice clothes, you must’ve come from another Section.”
Sunghae lightly laughed in reply.
“It’s because of the child in my belly.
It was obvious why Largo would show interest. Sunghae who wasn’t aware of her situation only smiled with her eyes and spoke honestly.
“I feel bad for the child… but for us to survive, we were going to receive consultation with the Sect of Mura.”
Kimchi held Sunghae’s shoulder tight and tried to put on a relaxed smile, while Sunghae responded to his gesture with another smiling with her eyes.
Largo, who saw this exchange, looked awkward. Kimchi, who had no way of knowing her mental state, tapped Sungchul’s shoulder to change topics.
“She’s going to be hospitalized tomorrow! We gathered all of our money and paid the lump sum already! You’ve should’ve seen their expression change from when they first saw us like insects because we were from Section Eight!”
On the other hand, Sungchul could feel that Largo’s expression was shifting. He quickly bid farewell.
“Well, we’re actually in a rush, so we’ll take off first.”
Sungchul brought Largo back to Anglo-Saxon Boy’s estate. As expected, her mental state was not good. She had brought a cigarette that she had been resolutely avoiding for the past few days to her lips once again. Largo spoke with trembling hands while sucking on her cigarette.
“You might have been right.”
When Sungchul looked over with no particular expression, she continued on with a bitter tone.
“That true love doesn’t need something tangible.”
Largo had a resolute expression, as though she had decided on something in her mind. Sungchul had a bad premonition about the whole thing, but he decided that it might not be such a bad thing after all. If Largo is to live on, she will have to sacrifice a life in the end. This realization might have come through unexpected means, but it was a hurdle she had to overcome at some point. Sungchul left her with her thoughts.
Since that day, two days had passed. The greatest celebration of La Grange, to bid farewell to the past year while greeting the upcoming one, arrived.
It was a night in which everyone slept while dreaming of a magnificent celebration. Two ominous shadows revealed themselves within the Catacombs which Roxanne’s gang controlled.
“Don’t you think we should stop here for now? It’s not like a fallen country will be reborn because of this.”
The female mage with glasses turned toward the blade wielding man and spoke in a prim voice. The blade wielding man smirked and shook his head.
“You’re right, but we can’t just watch it all happen, right? Could we just let those Empire bastards that sold us to the Calamity enjoy themselves?”
“Well, I agree with you on that one, but…”
“Then let’s go. Phoebe Converse! To smear poop onto the Emperor’s face.”
Phantom Executor. The murderer that had thrown the Empire into a crucible of terror had without hesitation cut away the metal chain holding shut the Catacombs’ entrance.