The colosseum of La Grange symbolized the cruelty of Ruteginea. Almost every day, a festival of blood would be held in this place. Sungchul stood before tens of thousands of people in the audience and watched dozens, if not hundreds, of humans, people of other races, beasts, and Demons bleed upon the colosseum’s earth.
However, as the Human Empire came into control, the colosseum was naturally shut down and was now being used as the Imperial Botanical Garden. Exotic plants now grew upon the earth that had drunk its fill of human and animal blood.
Sungchul looked around his surroundings. The evening sun had set, and darkness was soon drawing close. It was the ideal time.
He first changed his clothes to the shabby coat and worn-out jeans he usually wore. The clothes that were now reeking of sewage were tossed onto the pile of manure in a corner of the garden.
Sungchul leisurely checked his surroundings for any sign of movement after changing. There was a bit of light flickering in a building off to the distance and a faint sound of coughing, but they weren’t a cause for concern. He waited in the vicinity of the entrance for the sun to set completely. It wasn’t difficult to stay hidden as the foliage that had grown past the height of an average man worked great to hide him.
“To use this great and historic building as a farm… Is this not an unspeakable crime? In any case, these grasses should grow well. This was land that had been given plenty of fertilizer over hundreds of years after all, isn’t it?”
Krombui appeared dissatisfied with the scenery around the colosseum. But Sungchul also didn’t quite like Krombui. When he shoved the sword back into the Soul Storage, Bertelgia laughed giddily at this.
Soon, the sun had set completely. Sungchul’s time had arrived. He contemplated between two methods. He could slip past like a ghost without anyone noticing or he could leave boldly under the guards’ watch. Sungchul decided on the first method and headed toward the colosseum and tore the Detect Life scroll in his Soul Storage.
The number of guards he could see through the spell wasn’t something to scoff at. In contrast to the inner area of the botanical garden where no one was standing guard, the circular building of the colosseum that surrounded the garden had a forbidding amount of security. Just on security alone, it was at the level of the Imperial Palace.
It might have been possible to kill them one at a time as he did while overtaking Aquiroa’s airship, but Sungchul didn’t want to use a violent method as he wasn’t sure whether his former subordinates were among the guards or not.
He could choose to use Fly to escape into the skies, but at this level of security, they would most definitely have put up precautions against it.
‘Forcing my way in isn’t going to be easy. I should use the second method.’
The second option required a bit of acting, but Sungchul’s talent at anything creative, whether that be in the arts or theatre, was nonexistent. Still, he didn’t look nervous because he was confident in himself. Sungchul, who had once overseen the entire army of the Empire, knew the lives of the soldiers of the Empire better than anyone else. It goes without saying that not only can he guess what the soldiers were thinking or trying to do by their gaze or actions alone, he knew beliefs or details of their daily lives to the smallest detail. He knew exactly what to do in order to get out of this place.
He climbed out of the foliage and headed toward the rotund colosseum’s entrance. There were the trowels, gardening scissors, outerwear for laborers, and various other similar tools lying untidily on top of a plank. Sungchul grabbed one of the cleaner outerwear and tried it on. It fit perfectly. As the finishing touch, after draping on the outerwear, he smeared some manure on it. With this, his disguise was complete. All he had to do now was wait for an appropriate moment.
‘There’s about an hour left before the shift ends Should I go look at some plants in the meantime?’
Sungchul roamed the botanical garden shrouded in darkness. Something caught his eyes within a few steps in. It was a captivating flower with yellow petals and red stamens. It was a precious spice that grew every few years known as Fox Tongue in La Grange that produced a similar flavor to saffron. Sungchul checked his surroundings before pulling out a sack from his Soul Storage and stuffing every single one of the flowers into the sack leaving none behind.
‘What a boon.’
A faint smile rose onto Sungchul’s lips. On the other hand, Bertelgia didn’t seem pleased with his actions.
“Looks like you’ve done this plenty of times before.”
She spoke accusingly before shaking her body. Sungchul felt the urge to stuff her into the Soul Storage as well but suppressed it. Instead, he continued to roam around looking to see if there was anything more to take.
Sungchul’s eyes lit up. A tree full of succulently ripened peaches caught his eyes. They weren’t ordinary peaches either. It was incredible enough that the fruits had ripened as the winter approached, but the plump flesh with the shimmering golden light that lingered around it meant that it was the Spectral Peach of Benevolence that they had barely managed to acquire from the far east. Even within the Imperial Botanical Garden where rare plants abounded, it appeared that the tree was receiving special treatment as a red tape formed a barrier around it to prevent entry.
‘Now that I think about it, that Emperor really liked peaches.’
Sungchul immediately activated the Eye of Truth. There was a Spirit Type acceleration magic promoting the tree to bear fruit at any time along with a barrier spread to protect it from cold winds. Sungchul pulled out a clean sack from his Soul Storage. It was a fresh item that had never been used before. Bertelgia who saw this found it odd and asked.
“I noticed since a while back, but why do you carry around so many ropes and sacks? It’s almost like you’re preparing for these kinds of situations!”
Her words were tongue-in-cheek, but Sungchul, who was already preoccupied with the peaches, didn’t quite dwell on it.
“The more ropes and sacks you have, the better.”
Sungchul moved toward the tree of Spectral Peach of Benevolence, and gathered every fruit with rapid hand movements that could barely be seen with the naked eye to stuff them into his sack. Other than a single peach marred by insects that had dug into it, he had bagged them all. Sungchul glared at the last fruit and spoke calmly.
“I’ll leave this one for the Emperor.”
“You get weirder every time I look at you.”
The large sack was bulging. Objects such as fruits that held a lot of water and was sensative might go bad when placed within the Soul Storage, so he hefted them onto his shoulder. He had managed to get more than a fair share, but he wasn’t satisfied. He lugged the peaches around as he scoured the vicinity for more things to take.
“Just what did we come here for? Did you come here to do this?”
“It was just on the way.”
Sungchul pulled out a peach from his sack and bit deeply into it. A brilliant flavor that would force anyone’s eyes go wide filled his mouth.
He felt the depressive mood, that had lingered since he passed through the crimson tunnel, wash away as he continued to eat the fragrant fruit and look up toward the starry night sky. Sungchul used the moonlight as a guide to roam the botanical garden and grabbed everything that wasn’t nailed down. In any case, anything that Sungchul didn’t eat would go to the Emperor’s mouth, so he didn’t hesitate in taking everything.
‘This is just the start.’
Furthermore, there was some purpose to Sungchul’s plundering. While he was plundering and savoring the fruit, the shift of the guards guarding the door ended. The moment he had been waiting for had arrived.
Sungchul put on the outerwear that he had momentarily taken off and walked toward the tunnel for laborers. Although its appearance had changed greatly, the tunnel was still vividly etched in Sungchul’s memory.
“When this place was being used as a colosseum, they called this tunnel the path to heaven. This place was where all the corpses of the dead were dragged out. Except for large guys like Tahm-Tahm that is.”
As he passed through the tunnel, Sungchul looked around the various places of the tunnel with an amused expression. It was a strange thing. He had talked with his fellow combat slaves about when they would be dragged out of the colosseum through this tunnel as corpses during his time as a combat slave where the future wasn’t guaranteed, but he was released under the Wandering King and left the fighting pit in another path and thought he would never cross paths with this path to heaven anymore. He couldn’t have imagined that he would cross through this sentimental path while still breathing.
As he followed the long dark path an exit formed by metal gratings soon appeared.
Two soldiers were guarding the entrance. The security appeared shabby, but in reality, that wasn’t the case. Invisible Eye of Observers were stationed around to overlook the guards. Trying to overtake the place because the number of soldiers looked small would cause alarm to be raised throughout the entirety of the botanical garden.
Sungchul leisurely revealed himself to the soldiers. When the soldiers noticed that Sungchul was laden with a sack, they furrowed their brows and each said a piece.
“Who are you, a laborer?”
“What are you doing at this hour? Don’t you know working is prohibited after sundown?”
Sungchul just nodded.
“Take off your bandana.”
Sungchul did as they asked, and the guards furrowed their brows again.
“I haven’t seen you before. What’s in the sack?”
Sungchul tapped his mouth in reply to their questioning and pretended to be unable to speak. It looked like a casual action, but it was completely calculated. Although a fact not widely known outside, the former royal family of Rutheginea had cut off the tongues of all the menial laborers working for the royal household under the pretext of maintaining secrecy. Once the Ruteginea had fallen, the Human Empire that had assimilated the kingdom acquired all of these workers since these people who now couldn’t speak could do no other tasks.
The guards who knew this very well continued to glare at Sungchul before saying,
“What the… it’s a Rutheginea mute.”
Sungchul nodded his head. Secrets that only those in the insider knew about worked wonders in getting others to put their guards down, but the danger was not over yet. This scam would be busted just by the guards simply asking him to open his mouth, so Sungchul acted preemptively before the soldiers could say anything else. He pulled out a peach from his sack and pointed his finger toward the residence of the Emperor floating above the city and made a strange cry with his mouth slightly opened.
The soldiers frowned and spoke again.
“What? You’re going to deliver the Spectral Peaches of Benevolence to the Emperor?”
Sungchul nodded and held out another peach to the guards.
A hint of temptation lit up within the eyes of the soldiers. Sungchul nodded and shoved the peach a little closer.
“You’re giving it to us?”
Sungchul nodded and looked around before holding a finger to his lips and making a shushing sound. The soldiers held grins of understanding.
“I’ve never seen your face before, but you know how it goes here.”
They gladly let Sungchul pass through. Sungchul believed the rest would be easy, but suddenly he heard the sound of someone bounding down in a rush as he began to walk between the walls.
“Hey, Rutheginea mute over there!”
It was an unfamiliar voice. Sunchul looked back while considering whether there had been a problem with his plans. It was a magician. He looked quite young, and once he scanned his surroundings, he approached Sungchul and said one thing in a hushed voice.
“Give me one too!”
He seemed like one of the mages who watched over the entrance through the Observer’s Eye. Sungchul handed him two peaches.
That was the final obstacle and Sungchul leisurely escaped the heavily guarded colosseum with no problems. The only thing that could be considered an issue was that Bertelgia began to mock him.
She must have found it hilarious for some reason as she continuously mimicked him.
‘She enjoys childish things like a brat.’
Sungchul thought as such before looking at the city of La Grange unfolding before him with disinterested eyes. There was a quiet street where not even a single man nor beast roamed. It was impeccably clean and well maintained to be aesthetically pleasing, but it was a long ways away from being personable. Sungchul recalled a long forgotten truth as he looked at it.
‘Now that I think about it, this is Section 2.’
Excluding the old section where no one currently lived, La Grange, the capital of the Human Empire, was divided into 8 sections. These divisions weren’t simply made for the convenience of administration. Each section had authority and meaning in itself. There is a saying passed down in La Grange: If you want to know a person, know where they live first.
Sungchul hefted the peaches onto his shoulders again and headed toward the place he had planned to go: Section 8. The streets of the poor once called the slums of La Grange.