The capital of the Holy Kingdom of Ruthenigea, La Grange, was structured so that it formed a spiral from the ground to the top. The Emperor of the Human Empire, Quinton Marlboro, divided that gradual spiral structure into 8 sections and had people that suited each section live there.
The section on the peak of the spiral was referred to as Section 1. This section that was situated directly below the imperial palace, the Floating Palace, was the most prestigious of all sections where the key figures and large contributors of the rebellion resided. Sungchul was once a resident of Section 1 as well. He had lived in a mansion on top of a small hill with a full view of the Floating Palace, served by dozens of servants.
Situated slightly below Section 1 was Section 2 where those slightly worse off than those of Section 1 lived. Those included the royal family of Rutheginea and the up-and-coming nobles of the rebellion faction. It might be called Section 2, but it was packed with fancy mansions that didn’t fall behind those of Section 1 and was famed as the closest location to the former colosseum that had once been the symbol of Rutheginea of the past. Wealthy citizens and nobles lived below them in Section 3 while those even worse off than those in Section 3 lived in Section 4.
In this manner, the status of the residents was decreased inversely the higher the number of the section was. The Maginot Line in which the people still lived in humane condition was at Section 6, but people still lived in areas below it. Section 7 was classified up as uninhabitable industrial district, but countless laborers lived in houses reminiscent of chicken coops trying to survive day to day, but even the awful state of Section 7 was heaven compared to the lowest section, Section 8. The citizens of La Grange called it the Human Sewers. It got its name for being the eventual final stop for all those undesirables who flowed down from each section.
There was a simple reason why the emperor chose to allow something like Section 8 in the city he was so proud of: trash belongs with trash. Hence, law and order didn’t exist within Section 8. There were semblance of official investigations from the Imperial Enforcers, but it was rare that any of their investigations led to prosecutions. However, the story was different when a criminal from Section 8 was discovered in another section. For the simple reason that they had stepped into another section, they would suddenly be found guilty of all the past crimes committed within Section 8 and be sentenced to death. As such, those who enter Section 8 cannot leave that place and slowly rot away within the Human Sewers.
Sungchul was within that Human Sewers.
His shabby attire was not something that would lack compared to the people living in the Human Sewers. In terms of shabbiness alone, Sungchul might even be a bit ahead. Sungchul might have found himself endlessly hounded by the hidden Imperial Enforcers if he had run around an upper section like Section 2. In fact, he already had to evade more than 10 patrol teams before arriving in Section 8. He had met 5 of them just in Section 2 alone. There was truth in saying that the degree of public order was related to the number of the sections.
Sungchul, having safely arrived in Section 8, sought out a shabby inn while carrying the sack of peaches. The sound of fighting and sharp shrieking heard from outside did interrupt his sleep, but he managed to get some decent rest.
Once a day had passed, Sungchul officially began his search in earnest with the peach sack slung across his back. However, not even a few steps out, he was met with the hot topic of discussion that had engulfed La Grange.
“They say the Imperial Botanical Garden was robbed by an unknown assailant!”
“Did you hear of the mysterious thief who stole all of the Emperor’s treasured peaches?”
“The peaches, but they said that he swiped every precious flower and herb as well. Apparently the Emperor was so furious that he threw an ashtray at the Deputy Head Enforcer’s forehead.”
It was all rumors about Sungchul.
‘The Emperor doesn’t smoke, though.’
It might be a minor error, but it was bound to get dangerous at this rate.
“Doesn’t it smell like peaches somewhere?”
“Sniff! Sniff! Now that I think about it, there is a peach smell coming from somewhere.”
The people nearby began to turn their heads toward Sungchul. Sungchul lowered his head and entered an alley.
“Are you a squirrel? Why are you carrying all of that around when you can’t even eat it all?”
As though she had been waiting, Bertelgia opened her mouth again.
Sungchul normally chose to plead the fifth when he had nothing to say. He returned to his room and hid the peaches, but Section 8 was teeming with thieves. It was commonplace within Section 8 proper for innkeepers to steal the possessions of their guests. However, Sungchul felt it was the perfect opportunity to test out his newly learned Formation techniques. The entrance door, window, and the narrow area around the bed were packed densely with 15 Formations. Sungchul warned the innkeeper as he left.
“I would advise against touching anything in my room.”
Sungchul returned to the street again and looked around the bleak streets of Section 8 with a lighter heart. It might be due to prejudice, but everyone walking by appeared like bandits or con artists. In this place, it wasn’t odd to see bodies that could have been corpses or the homeless lying on their side. Normally, the conditions of the streets in Section 8 were unspeakable as there was no one in particular cleaning it, but there was a clean stretch of pavement within Section 8. It was the base of the gang in control of Section 8. Even 10 lives wouldn’t guarantee that one could step out of there alive if rashly entered.
‘It really is a shitty place.’
It was really a terrible place, but it had its benefits. No one would suspect of Sungchul in this place. No matter how the infamy of the Enemy of the World spread in the outside world, it was but a tale of a distant land to these people whose lives were hanging by a thread, never knowing when and by whom they’d be killed. He first headed toward the administrative office of Section 8 and casually read the notice board in front of the imperial soldiers guarding the office. Posted there was the familiar sight of his wanted poster, and the reason for the sealing of La Grange.
[ Ruin of the Cult of Extinction ]
It was written that because the congregation of the Order of Extinction is growing day by day, a decision to annihilate them completely was made by locking the city gates before starting the purge.
Sungchul thought to himself.
‘Had the congregation of the Order grown that big? It’s one thing to lock the gates for a day, but this will affect tax revenue.’
He couldn’t simply believe what the noticeboard posted in the empire at face value. He sought out an information broker and, indeed, the broker lingering in the back alleyways revealed the hidden story behind the imperial announcement. But, of course, not for free.
“Three silver coins. Fuck off for anything less.”
Once he handed over the three silver coins, Sungchul heard shocking news from the man.
“The idiots just foolishly believe that La Grange has been sealed to exterminate the Order of Extinction, but the ones being cleaned up are a different party entirely.”
The one-eyed information broker, who looked older than he was, spoke with a meaningful smile.
“After the east was stomped on by the Colossi, the higher-ups within that region sought refuge in the capital in quick succession to seek the Emperor’s help. The Emperor provided them with brilliant homes within Section 1 and Section 2 to quell their complaints, but they all disappeared overnight. Do you know what that means?”
“I know, so stop beating around the bush and keep talking.”
“What? You little chick!”
When the broker flared up in anger, Sungchul punched the nearby wall. The wall Sungchul was leaning on had a fist-shaped hole in it.
The broker gulped before continuing his story, meek as a lamb.
“S-so the ones being hunted aren’t actually the Order of Extinction, but the nobles of the east, Sir. A man who drank cola with a brother of my cousin’s friend said he saw it himself. He saw the seen some unidentifiable men drag a cart full of the corpses of the nobles of the east.”
That was all the information broker knew. Although the broker had used the unreliable words of a friend as evidence, Sungchul had already seen how the nobles of the east had died pitifully as he was walking through the Great Sewers.
‘So it really was the Emperor’s doing.’
Deep disappointment and an uneasy feeling began to expand exponentially within his mind. The foul stench like those he smelled during his time as the 13th Continental Champion lingered around his nose.
‘Surely he isn’t trying to join hands with those bastards, is he?’
Those in power of this world had also joined hands with the Demon King, who was the enemy of humanity. They might be Calamities, but the Seven Heroes were once human and, therefore, were much better negotiating partners compared to the Demon King. Of course, it would be after handing over what the Seven Heroes wanted before beginning negotiations. Anyone could guess that anything those of the Seven Heroes’ caliber would want couldn’t be something ordinary. According to past records, the Seven Heroes had demanded the domain of the sovereigns of that era once they had cleared the first Calamity.
In other words, territory in which each of them could rule over as king. However, those in power at that time had refused them. They would have had nothing left had they relinquished even their domain, which was the foundation that allowed them to enjoy great power. It was from this moment that the Seven Heroes harbored a grudge against them and began to lash out. Thinking back to the present situation, the circumstances were different from before.
Presently, there was a vast fertile empty canvas available. The areas of the east and north that the Colossi had swept through. About half of the continent was left unclaimed. Not only that, the number of the Seven Heroes had been reduced from seven to four. It was an opportunity that the Emperor could have easily taken. As long as he eliminated the eastern nobles that might rebel to this, that is.
‘If you had come to that decision, I will never forgive you.’
Sungchul’s face twisted with anger and the one who unintentionally received the greatest harm happened to be the one-eyed information broker. The man of monstrous power, who had punched through a granite wall with no effort, was now standing before him with a scowl. He was scared for his life.
He tactfully gauged Sungchul’s expressions as he carefully piped up.
“Y-you seem to be upset, so let me relay some good news. They say that the Empire will make an important announcement to all the citizens of the city at the castle plaza in Section 4, three days later. Apparently, the people of Sections 1 to 6 have been notified.”
“What are they going to announce?”
Sungchul who had been deep in through rolled his eyes and asked curtly. The information broker bowed his head servilely as he continued to speak.
“Well, opinions are divided on what the announcement might be, but the most likely possibility is speculated to be good news of the Emperor’s victory against the Seven Heroes out in the eastern region. We actually have unconfirmed rumors saying that the Colossi retreated on their own. Hehe…”
“Can I take my leave now?”
The broker smiled awkwardly as he spoke. Sungchul looked at him indifferently before pulling out 3 more silver coins and holding it toward him. Once Sungchul returned to the inn, he discovered the innkeeper dead before his door. He had immediately died from being hit with a barrage of Glare after disturbing the incantations cast upon the room when he tried to enter it. There was a single nameless corpse with a hole through his body at the window as well. Sungchul grabbed the sack of peaches and left the inn.
Three days later groundbreaking news was announced at the capital of the Human Empire. The proxy of the Emperor, wearing a tall crown, stood before the gathered crowd and spoke as such.
“Through the relentless l efforts of the Emperor, the Human Empire and the cooperative nations of the World Parliament had come to a peaceful conclusion. Therefore, the Colossi threat was completely eliminated!”
The crowd that heard the news cheered on their Emperor. The fierce passion was enough to boil the blood of onlookers. The Emperor’s proxy spoke on in a smaller voice amidst the passion.
“In its stead, we have decided to recognize the Seven Heroes’ sovereignty over the Kantonia and Trowyn regions.”
The roaring crowd showed a complicated reaction. Some continued shouting passionate cheers while others bawled out profanities. What the Emperor’s proxy had just said was no different than stating that the entirety of the eastern and northern regions were being handed over to the Seven Heroes completely.
Sungchul stood within the scene where cheers and profanities clashed.
“So it has come to pass?”
Everything now became clear as day. Sungchul brooded in cold anger, of the dire consequences this decision would bring to the entire continent in the future. The false peace headed by the 13 Champions would be shaken from the roots if those people who had lost their homes and land by the Colossi were to raise their voices. The Third Calamity recorded in the Scripture of Calamity was beginning to taking form even before the Second Calamity had come to its end. There was another important change. It was not a loud speech, a formal decree or a natural disaster. It was but a mere shift of heart of an individual that no one could see, but the effects of this change would be more dire than any other events that had existed.
That day, Sungchul tossed aside what sliver of expectation remained for the sovereigns of this land before abruptly disappearing from the plaza, leaving a few rotting peaches in his wake.