As he walked, Sungchul contemplated on what occurred in Kimchi’s home. Kimchi finished his meal and scratched his head as he revealed plans he had worked on for a long time.
“You see, I agreed to work under Roxanne.”
“Roxanne? You’re talking about Roxanne, the smuggler?”
Kimchi nodded, and continued talking.
“It is comfortable working under Anglo, but he pays too little. If I knew this was the case, I should have been a keeper like you. Honestly, I can easily suppress something like a Tahm Tahm.”
“What kind of work would you be doing under Roxanne?”
Sungchul recalled Roxanne’s ‘Help Wanted’ ad he saw before. The job was possibly the most dangerous within La Grange. To that point, might be better to be a gladiator instead. At least in a gladiatorial battle, they control your odds of victory enough to be worth it for people to bet money on the outcome. But against the Soldiers of Salvation beneath the earth, the rate of victory could very well be zero.
Sungchul’s feeling of dread was right on target.
“These days, Roxanne is working to make a new route within the sewers, and I will be posted as a guard to protect the laborers. I was already tested in front Roxanne, and she offered quite a big payday. I haven’t received it yet, but I’ll treat you when I do.”
“That is the one job you should never do.”
Sungchul spoke without doubt. The result was too obvious.
“It’s much too dangerous.”
However, it looked as though Sungchul’s words hurt Kimchi, since his facial expression changed. Kimchi’s pleasantly smiling face changed to a serious one Sungchul had never seen before.
“I might be working as a guard under some gang boss like Anglo, but I am much stronger than you think. I’m only here due to certain circumstances!”
In Kimchi’s expression was a burning determination to leave this place and have a better life, but Sungchul believed that Kimchi was making the wrong choice. Sungchul thought so to himself.
‘He’s young and talented, but this man lacks the experience.’
All in all, it didn’t matter to Sungchul whether the man lived or died. Sungchul had given Kimchi a warning. Whether he listened was up to him.
Sungchul left the matter at that, and continued to ask for the reason behind Kimchi’s choice.
“For what reason are you wanting to take such a risk?”
Kimchi put forth an answer Sungchul did not expect at all.
“My wife is pregnant.”
Sungchul’s eyes trembled slightly. This situation was likely the worst calamity possible to happen at the scale of a family. Known to all, the Curse of Extinction acted as the harbinger of Calamity. The curse swept across the world, killed every child, and left every sentient creature sterile.
However, there were still rare cases of pregnancy, and it was such a curse that might even be called a divine punishment. As they grew, children carrying the Curse the Extinction transferred the curse to their mother. Sungchul witnessed a child and mother slowly die from the curse right beside him. A pitiful experience he did not wish to repeat. It was not the foremost reason why Sungchul had chosen to abandon the role of Imperial Commander in Chief to act as the Enemy of the World instead, but the experience was traumatic enough to completely change his views on the Calamity.
When Sungchul fell silent, Kimchi put his hand on Sungchul’s shoulder and spoke in a cheerful voice.
“It’s not that bad. She’s still at the beginning stages of the pregnancy, and I can save her if I get the medication at the right time. The only issue is the medicine is fucking expensive.”
Sungchul spoke with complete disbelief. To produce a medicine for sickness brought on by the Calamity was not possible. At the very least, it wasn’t so when Sungchul lived in La Grange.
“It’s not as though there are no options, but it is only possible with money!”
Kimchi spoke with confidence he would show Sungchul the special location once the money was prepared. In any case, this was not the most important matter at hand. Sungchul wasn’t a prophet, but the fate of Kimchi and Sunghae was all but too clear in Sungchul’s eyes. Because of this, Sungchul looked clearly uncomfortable as he returned to his own room.
Bertelgia’s urging for Sungchul ‘to earn his own keep’ lead him to Roxanne the Smuggler. After seeing her poster, several people were loitering around the catacomb entrance of Roxanne’s hideout. Their expressions weren’t very bright as even these people heard something was going on in the underground sewers from vague rumors. However, the pay offered gathered people here as workers despite such dangers.
“You all must have come despite the rumors.”
Roxanne was a middle-aged woman with a decisive and cool demeanor. She wasn’t large, but her natural disposition and temperament prevented most men from even sharing their business cards. Sungchul thought Roxanne was more suited for the boss role than Anglo upon first sight.
‘Quite a character.’
Not only that, she dealt with money thoroughly without deception, contrary to smuggler stereotypes. This led Sungchul to believe she must have dealt more often with larger deals rather than smaller ones. What Sungchul liked the most about her was how she did not even attempt to lie about things that would be easily be exposed.
“The rumors are true. Two more died yesterday, and those that don’t want to die should just head back out the door and leave. Go find other work.”
Of course, Sungchul and five others remained. Someone calling himself the task-leader appeared to lead them into the catacombs. Sungchul could finally see the catacombs that he had heard so much about. True to the name, it was a space stacked tall with skeletons and surrounded by walls.
‘The size looks smaller than the Nahark race of the Avian Kingdom, but the density is much higher. Might bethere are many more skeletons here than over there.’
Sungchul moved past the catacombs with the eerie atmosphere, and finally entered the Great Sewers. In the distance, the strange cries of the Soldiers of Salvation could be heard.
A few of the laborers who heard these cries fled quickly, and the task-leader did not go after them. Instead, he looked over the remaining left over and urged them to leave if they wished to do so.
“Of course, I won’t give you a coin if you leave now, but nothing is more precious than living.”
On the other hand, Roxanne who had followed them to the entrance of the Great Sewers looked over them and spoke warmly.
“Just run if there’s something even slightly amiss. I’m saying don’t get yourself killed, because it’ll be a problem if there’s a corpse on our trade route.”
Roxanne left, and the work began. The work consisted of creating safe zones by putting up a fence to prevent the unidentified creatures from entering regions of the Great Sewers. The work must have been going on for a while because a considerably lengthy safe route was constructed already. Several single-wheeled wheelbarrows and large quantities of materials were laid out at the end of the path, along with two mercenaries wielding large swords who waited for the laborers.
“Now, let’s get started. I’ll blow the whistle if I think things may go south, so drop whatever you were doing and just crawl back into the safezone. If you leave a corpse behind, it’ll lead to trouble as the creature will just linger around the whole day.”
The work began under the order of the task-leader. Sungchul took the task of moving the steel materials. The creatures simply cried out from a distance, but did not attack. As the laborers continued their work, the two men stationed as sentries stood like statues at the worksite’s outer region to listen for any noise.
‘This must be the job Kimchi took.’
Sungchul approached the mercenaries during his break. Sungchul had prepared expensive spirits and tobacco as gifts. He even handed over some money to the wholesome man who was both nondrinker and nonsmoker in order to obtain some information.
“The creatures are mostly residing below the grounds of the upper districts. The ones that appear here in Section Eight are stragglers separated from the group. I don’t really know it that well, but the creature seems to behave similarly to wild Homunculi. They seem to torment and chase out the weak among them.”
“Who are these creatures getting orders from? Not sure. I’ve never thought about it. At the beginning, Boss Roxanne got some mercenaries together from various regions who went and had a real fight with the creatures, but I’ve never gotten the feeling they were organized. No one knows what the creatures at the upper districts are.”
Even if it was vague, it was all important information to Sungchul. Sungchul had passed through the upper districts when he arrived at La Grange. After all, the old part of town along the outer wall was right next to Section Two Sungchul had seen what definitely looked like Soldiers of Salvation. The creatures the mercenaries were referring to that were guarding the higher sections. This information meant this section of the underground was not as dangerous as below Section Two. From the sound of it, the fierce battle that Roxanne attempted with a large group of mercenaries was against merely three of the creatures. The mercenary group barely managed to kill creature after over 10 mercenaries had been killed in the effort.
In that case, this situation may be resolved much more easily than Sungchul had expected. Sungchul quietly snuck away from his work place during his work hours and explored the sewers himself. The lax atmosphere was a stark contrast to when he had found the Soldiers of Salvations around every corner in Section Two.
Sungchul followed the cries of the creatures that could be heard from a distance. There were two of them bitten and torn all over their bodies.
“Ugh… I don’t like those things.”
Somehow these hideous creatures appeared even more hideous.
“You told me to earn my keep, right?”
Fal Garaz appeared in his hand. The Soldiers of Salvation making such strange cries within the darkness discovered Sungchul and raised their lengthy bodies. Soon, Sungchul had left behind two flattened unrecognizable corpses and began to examine his surroundings.
‘Are there any more Soldiers?’
He could feel some sort of presence in the distance, but it didn’t appear to be the creatures. Rather, the presence felt more human. As Sungchul’s objective were the Soldiers of Salvation, he didn’t pay any mind to the presence as they were coming his way regardless of whether he minded them or not.
Sungchul circled around the sewers once before arriving back at the ‘workplace’. Sungchul was scolded by the task-leader the moment he saw him.
“Hey, where did you go? I thought you died!”
“I’m sorry. I had to poop so bad.”
“You want to get killed pooping? Get back to work!”
Sungchul started up his work again in silence, but he had already finished what he had set out to do. Sungchul immediately told the task-leader that he could not work anymore.
“I don’t think I can work because my stomach hurts so bad.”
“You won’t get paid for today.”
“I’m fine with that.”
As Sungchul was bothering the task-leader, the presence that Sungchul had felt a while back had revealed itself. One man and one woman. A blonde haired young man with a sword and a female mage with a large veil wearing glasses. Sungchul could feel a strange aura around the two. They both appeared to be around their twenties. Their appearance could not be much older than that.
‘Who are these people?’
They were definitely no ordinary people. More than anything, the object in the young man’s hand was not simple. In his hand was the bluish head of the Soldier of Salvation with its zipper-like eyes.
“This is one hell of a place. La Grange, that is. These creatures I had never seen or heard of are living here. Isn’t that right, Phoebe?”
“Stop complaining. Wasn’t it you that wanted to come here, Angelo?”
The pair that had come from within the sewers walked toward Sungchul with leisurely steps. The mercenaries didn’t dare impede their path. The unexpected guests weren’t Soldiers of Salvations, and the head of one of the creatures held by the young man named Angelo had shocked the mercenaries.
‘What is this? Two of them managed to kill a creature that took a dozen mercenaries to take down?’
Angelo approached the mercenaries and dropped the head before asking in a cheery voice.
“Ey, do we go this way to reach La Grange?”
When a mercenary managed to finally nod, the teenager smirked and headed toward the tunnel. The female magician wearing a large veil bowed emotionlessly before following behind him.
As the unwelcome guests entered the tunnel, the task-leader ran over to the mercenaries and whispered into their ears.
“What are you doing? Stop them!”
The mercenaries finally moved to catch up with the strangers upon the order of the task-leader, as no one could know what the strangers would do once they entered the catacombs. Sungchul simply watched them from a corner with dispassionate eyes.
‘They are significantly powerful people looking at the atmosphere and aura surrounding them.’
Their exact abilities could only be properly determined after facing off against them, but they appeared to be capable enough to easily take the seat of the lower positions among the 13 Continental Champions.
‘It’s already been 10 years since the 13 Continental Champions was formed. They were left complacent for too long. It’s about time new powerhouses appeared.’
As he had already decided to quit his work mid-way, Sungchul followed after them. He discovered that an unruly group had stopped their path. Among the group, Roxanne was standing with her arms crossed with a long cigarette in her mouth. She asked their purpose in coming here.
Ordinary people might have felt afraid of Roxanne’s gang that held some degree of power, but Angelo only replied with mocking laughter.
“Just to play. This is my first time in La Grange.”
Roxanne may be just a smuggler, but she also had a discerning eye for people.
‘He smells dangerous.’
Roxanne let the unwelcome guests pass through the catacombs unchallenged. The mysterious pair did not cause any problems. They quietly passed through the catacombs filled with skulls, and did not share in much conversation. They only shared a brief bit of conversation as they entered the stone chamber filled with skulls.
“Hey, Phoebe. This place is filled with toys that you love so much.”
The bespectacled female magician did not confirm nor deny the young man’s words, and the mysterious pair passed through the catacombs and disappeared to the streets of La Grange.
Sungchul watched them disappear with callous eyes.
“Do they bother you?”
However, Sungchul erased all his attention for the pair.
‘If they’re that strong, there is bound to be news sooner or later as long as they aren’t hiding their strength like me.’
More than anything, he had accomplished what he wanted here. He cleansed the sewers of the lingering Soldiers of Salvation, and Kimchi would be safe. At the very least, for now. Sungchul shoved his hands into his coat pockets before heading down the empty streets. An indifferent moon shone down upon his back as he walked the lonely streets.