A month had passed since the world-shattering news that half of the world was given away to the Seven Heroes. Sungchul remained within La Grange during that time. There were several practical reasons that were keeping him in Section 8. First and foremost, it was easier to gather information since all the information from all over the world flowed into La Grange and, as long as he was in Section 8, it was easy to remain hidden. Both of these factors were important to Sungchul. He needed information regarding the exact location of the Seven Heroes and the time to unseal the Soul Gems.
The objective of stepping into the battlefield to stop the southward advance of the Devils from the Demon Realm Battlefront was greatly diminished by the appearance of the Colossi. But, as long as people remained in the ruined lands, news was bound to flow into La Grange somehow. Therefore, there was no need to rush.
Sungchul was planning on moving only after having gotten his hands on every bit of information on the Seven Heroes: Ga Xi Ong, Dragoman, Vestiare, and their leader, Desfort. He was planning on ending all of them in a single blow, without an ounce of hesitation. It was the only way to reduce the magnitude of chaos that would bring forth the upcoming Third Calamity. As such, he would have to hole up and gather his strength until the right moment.
Sungchul was currently in the dream world. He was lying on the grass in the middle of an endlessly rolling fields of green, staring absentmindedly at the flowing clouds. He thought he heard the sound of bustling feet in the distance when an energetic shout of a little girl burst out.
“Caught you! You little bugger!”
Bertelgia grabbed the large ears of the Carbuncle peeking out the top of a bush and carefully lifted it up.
The white Carbuncle was caught, but it perked up its tail and cried out as though it was happy. Bertelgia stroked the Carbuncles head as she gazed at the gem embedded on the creature’s forehead with shiny eyes.
“what a great ingredient it would make.”
When she held ill will in her heart, the white Carbuncle shook its tail roughly and swiped at her face.
“Hey! Stop it! I was kidding. It was a joke!”
Bertelgia held the white Carbuncle within her bosom despite being hit and walked toward Sungchul. She released it as soon as she reached him.
The Carbuncle approached Sungchul’s feet, curled its body into a ball, and closed its eyes. By its rhythmically moving belly, the Carbuncle appeared fast asleep. Bertelgia brushed her messy hair and spoke to Sungchul.
“He asked me to stop here. Said this much was enough.”
Bertelgia who had found her original form in the dream world pulled out a mirror and looked at herself frequently.
“Oh my, look how this fair face got all bloated after being hit by the Carbuncle.”
Her appearance that resembled Vestiare of the Seven Heroes was beautiful enough to proclaim herself as the Queen Bee of Kodia Village. Of course, Vestiare was not her mom. They were just similar looking people.
Sungchul did not rise from his resting position.
“Isn’t it about time to go back to reality?”
Bertelgia looked around her surroundings and spoke with concern. Sungchul had an unconcerned look on his face.
“Don’t fret. The place we’re in is probably the safest place in La Grange, excluding maybe the palace.”
Sungchul wasn’t confident without reason. He was currently residing in the home of Anglo-Saxon Boy, one of the three gang leaders that ruled over Section 8. As a zookeeper, that is. Anglo-Saxon Boy, who was often called Anglo in short, was also a Summoned like Sungchul, but he was a Japanese man despite what his name would suggest. Like how back alley gang leaders are, he was an extremely cruel and violent man who had the tendency of trying to fill his lacking fortune with people with fear.
The demonic beast Tahm Tahm he was raising was one of his methods of instilling terror. He would provide to Tahm Tahm the subordinates who betrayed him or captured subordinates of enemy factions as its food or toy. Unfortunately, Section 8 wasn’t in a constant state of strife or rebellion despite its reputation, and normally a keeper was required to provide the Tahm Tahm with food. Sungchul’s job was to provide it with fruits and meats. The unfortunate zookeeper he had replaced had apparently been grabbed while feeding the creature and had met a gruesome end. Even now, the skull of that former zookeeper could be seen in the corner of the Tahm Tahm’s pen. However, the Tahm Tahm couldn’t threaten Sungchul any more than a slippery floor could.
As the metal door used for feedings was opened and Sungchul headed down through the feeding entrance, a rock that was about the size of an adult’s skull fell toward him. It was a trap prepared by the Tahm Tahm. It might be called a demonic beast. But its true nature was closer to that of an anthropoid; it was impossible to know how many keepers it had killed using this method. The beast would knock out the keeper with the stone, leaving the keeper just barely alive, and used sticks to claw through the bars surrounding the feeding passage to pull the keeper in to play with him.
Of course, this method wouldn’t work on Sungchul. He evaded the stone falling from his blindspot with light steps and the poured various fruits, chopped meat, boiled grains he had brought in a wheelbarrow into the large Tahm Tahm’s feeding bowl which had the name ‘Congo’ imprinted on it.
As though it was enraged that Sungchul didn’t fall for its trap, the Tahm Tahm began to rampage at the front of the pen while crying out. It was truly a vile scene, but Sungchul’s current employer, Anglo-Saxon Boy, found this Tahm Tahm to be extremely cute. Once Sungchul returned to the kitchen after feeding the Tahm Tahm, a certain woman greeted him with a whistle.
“The keeper this time is enduring for quite a bit. At this rate, you might manage to fill up a full month.”
She could not be called young, but she was of the ambiguous age where neither could she be called old. She was a woman who possessed a yellowish face with sultry eyes. Her name was Largo. It might be difficult to believe now, but she had once been Anglo’s secret lover in the past. She glanced over at Sungchul through the corner of her eyes before she emptied a crystal glowing with a red light into her mouth and crunched it with her teeth.
Sungchul knew exactly what the identity of the red crystal was. It was a narcotic known as the Gladiator’s Soul.
Rather than a euphoric effect, it allowed one to forget fear and terror for a long time, which made it ideal to be purchased in bulk and handed out to gladiators. In reality, gladiators who had consumed the drug fought better than those who hadn’t. But Sungchul had never touched the stuff. It was because it was addictive. Largo already appeared to be addicted. Her hand holding a tobacco pipe trembled as she spoke on.
“That’s great. Keep at it for as long as you can. You’ll only be able to see me return to where I’m supposed to be if you keep surviving. So, you got to suck up to me now. Who knows? Maybe I’ll prepare a place for you.”
She said these things like a habit. That she may only be relegated to making food in the kitchen for now but that, one day, she would return to her rightful place. However, it wouldn’t be easy. As far as Sungchul knew, Anglo was currently keeping a beautiful and younger woman as his lover, to whom Largo could not compare.
Of course, people say that outer beauty isn’t everything but finding the inner beauty of Largo, who was constantly complaining and living firmly in the past, was no easy feat.
Sungchul put Largo behind him and left the kitchen to head outside the residence. There was a bulky man dressed in armor guarding the servant’s passage. A refined appearance that didn’t suit the dirty floor. He was a Korean-born Summoned whom people called Kimchi. With a single glance, Sungchul could already see that Kimchi was not an ordinary fellow.
‘He’s a Superhuman warrior at minimum. A person of such skill wouldn’t stay here as a guard. It looks like he has his own set of troubles.’
In contrast to Largo who could only speak of the past and complain, Kimchi appeared as though he wanted to befriend Sungchul. He called out to Sungchul with affection each time Sungchul approached the door.
“Going out for groceries?”
When Sungchul nodded, he held out a black leaf-shaped brooch to Sungchul.
“You can’t go out without this. Always keep it on when you walk around outside. If you don’t, third-rate bullies could jump you.”
Sungchul looked blankly at the black accessory on top of the palm resembling a pot lid before attaching it to the hem of his clothes.
The black ribbon symbolized Anglo-Saxon Boy’s gang while assaulting those with the black leaf meant declaring war against the gang. In short, it acted as a warning for nobodies to not lay a hand on these people. In effect, the leaf worked great. Even the noisiest pubs immediately went silent if one entered the store with it on, but it was a useless item to Sungchul.
Especially an eye-catching object that would draw attention was something that Sungchul had to avoid. Sungchul appreciated Kimchi’s intentions, but he took off the brooch and stuck it into his pocket as soon as he left the residence. The place he headed to now was the familiar back alley where the one-eyed information broker resided. It was annoying when he got uppity and went beyond his station, but the man’s intel was something Sungchul could rely on.
“Oh ho. You’ve come again, sir?”
Sungchul held out a silver coin toward the broker and requested the usual information.
“This information is hot off the press.”
He made a meaningful smile and delivered the information he had newly received from the east and north. The intentions of the Seven Heroes were slowly beginning to reveal itself as Sungchul expected. They, who possessed half the continent within their hands, deployed Colossi to key cities and made these territories their own. At present, Daltanius was the only hero whose exact location was known. He held the Trowyn region that had once been the territory of Martin Breggas of the 13 Continental Champions and promised adequate rewards to draw in the scattered citizens. However, Daltanius had already died at Sungchul’s hands. The one acting as Daltanius currently should be a fake.
‘What a bust.’
There was also encouraging news. It was news regarding Vestiare the Echo Mage. She had appeared in the small eastern country of Icsion, that had been ruined by the Colossi, by herself and declared it the land of mages and began to gather countless mages beginning with those of the Followers of Calamity. It was hard to believe, but it was said that Vestiare had managed to restore the completely ruined city of Icsion to its former state in just 3 days. There were rumors that this miraculous ability and her fantastical beauty were drawing countless followers even at this very moment, and increasing its influence.
The small figure of a king who was pitifully weak, yet whose pride was comparable to the Emperor himself lingered in Sungchul’s mind. A bitter smile slipped out unintentionally.
“In any case, what happened to Icsion’s king?”
“He is missing. There are rumors that he arrived in La Grange, but isn’t it the same thing whether he died in his own palace or within La Grange’s Great Sewers?”
“Is that so?”
He spoke indifferently, but a bitter taste lingered on his tongue. He had fought with Icsion’s king till the point he was sick of it, but it also meant that Sungchul knew the man very well. Icsion’s king tried to bring Sungchul into his family through wedlock, but he had refused as the promised girl was far too young. However, there was no bad memory between them.
“How about the princess?”
“She is also unaccounted for. Wouldn’t she have met the same fate as Icsion’s King?”
The death of the princess didn’t hit him as hard as the news of the King’s death. Not only had she inherited only the King’s bad traits, but she was a selfish person who ran amok, drunk on power, whom no one would have liked.
‘Are there only 3 places left now?’
Ga Xi Ong. Dragoman. Desfort. The remaining three Heroes must be making their own territories somewhere within the east and north. They most probably would be wielding the small bit of authority given to them with tremendous glee, but that was what Sungchul too desired.
‘Enjoy playing your game of blocks for now. The moment your castles are erected, I’ll tear them down along with you bastards.’
However, there was one thing that bothered him. The words that the Demon King left behind. He had said as such to Sungchul: that the true desire of the Seven Heroes was the complete annihilation of humanity. For ones who desired the annihilation of humanity, their fixation on mere territories didn’t quite add up. If Sungchul had been in their shoes, he would have deployed all the remaining Colossi to set off for battle. However, what if their current actions are in preparation for the bigger picture behind them? Whatever it is, it wouldn’t be easy to deal with.
Sungchul felt his brain cramping as he left the broker.