A month passed quickly. The eve of winter had passed, and it was now midwinter. The most obvious symbol of winter, snow, had yet to fall, but even building interiors were cold enough to make people’s breath frosty. A clear enough reminder of what season it was for even the most oblivious individuals.
A distasteful scene was unfolding in the yard.
Anglo-Saxon Boy had a traitor tied to a column, and was laying down the law. While his subordinates watched, Anglo-Saxon Boy flogged the man with a whip. The skin tore away while blood splattered everywhere. The eyes of the man had rolled back into his head, and the man had gone limp with his back bent inwards like a shrimp. Anglo-Saxon Boy handed off the man to another subordinate while issuing a warning to the rest of them.
“The Emperor of La Grange may be William Quinton Marlboro, but the emperor of Section 8 is Anglo-Saxon Boy. Don’t ever forget this, because you won’t know who’ll be tied to the rack next time.”
Anglo-Saxon Boy gestured at a man standing in the corner amidst the cold atmosphere.
“You! Drag that thing away and feed it to the monkey.”
The man the gang leader looked at was Sungchul. The most dangerous man, known as the Enemy of the World, was silently obeying the orders of a mere gang leader without any words of protest. Sungchul dragged the corpse off the rack’s frame and loaded it onto a single-wheeled wheelbarrow.
“Now that I think of it, that son of a bitch stuck around for quite a bit.”
Anglo-Saxon Boy enjoyed making up nicknames, but he didn’t usually name the Tahm Tahm keeper. It would be a waste of his sensibilities to stick a nickname onto someone who wasn’t expected to live longer than a week, but this time was different.
“How about Energizer?”
While Anglo-Saxon Boy contemplated over Sungchul’s nickname, Sungchul dragged the corpse away and lightly threw it into the Tahm Tahm’s cage.
When the corpse landed, the Tahm Tahm revealed its form from the shadows. The giant monkey had been playing with a former keeper’s skull, and moved toward the steel grating while pounding on the cage with his fists and making intimidating noises.
To a grotesque demonic beast that made a hobby of killing his keepers, Sungchul was a thorn in the beast’s side. Ultimately, he squeezed several ideas from his primitive mind in order to kill him, but his efforts were too easily thwarted. More than anything, the Tahm Tahm was bothered by Sungchul’s apathy and complete lack of fear towards the Tahm Tahm.
The Tahm Tahm bared yellow teeth toward Sungchul who was passing by with complete indifference. It was the greatest form of aggression that the Tahm Tahm could show, but a small fry such as a Tahm Tahm could never catch Sungchul’s attention.
‘The Safety Tunnel should slowly be drawing to a finish.’
In the past month, Sungchul had been covertly sneaking around the Section 8 sewers to clean up the straggling Soldiers of Salvation. It was a great boon that there was an entrance to the Great Sewers beside the Tahm Tahm cage. Sungchul had familiarized himself with the layout of the Great Sewers while passing by the Tahm Tahm cage, and it reached the point where he knew the web-like maze of the Section 8 underground like the back of his hand. Once he had memorized the layout, his work continued without trouble.
Thanks to his secret efforts, the extension of the Safety Tunnel that Roxanne was trying to construct within the Great Sewers was reaching its final stages and almost complete. If the final stages were complete, nothing more would endanger Kimchi.
As the Tahm Tahm’s cage shook violently, it began to make squeaking noises. Sungchul, who had completely forgotten about the creature’s existence, finally turned around after hearing the metal screech. The Tahm Tahm was shaking its cage left and right while baring its fangs toward Sungchul. When it finally made eye contact with Sungchul, it roared as if waiting for that moment.
The roar was loud enough to make the entire estate tremble, but of course, Sungchul did not mind it. He turned away and continued on to where he had been walking. Beyond the Tahm Tahm habitat was the estate’s kitchen The supervisor of that kitchen was Largo, and she reached out to Sungchul with a look of concern when he walked in.
“What’s wrong with him? That monkey… is he in heat?”
“I think he just doesn’t like me.”
Sungchul took a gourd and scooped out water to drink from a pot in the kitchen’s center. Largo observed Sungchul with crossed arms until she spoke with a strange smile on her face.
“In any case, you’ve managed to survive another month. Congratulations.”
“I don’t really think it’s worth celebrating.”
“Dry as always. Didn’t I say this before? You should be nicer to me if you want to move ahead in life.”
It looked as though she was about to start her spiele about finding his place in life, so Sungchul hurried to leave. However, Largo wasn’t about to let him go this time. She moved with brisk steps to block his path and continued with a confident expression on her face.
“Don’t you think there’s something different about me?”
Sungchul didn’t even have an inkling of desire to reply. More than anything, he never bothered to observe her in much detail. It might have been different had she been good at cooking, but Sungchul, who had no interest in women, found it more difficult to determine what may have changed in this woman than trying to resolve every Calamity right at this moment. However, a familiar change had caught Sungchul’s normally dull eyes. The rail thin stomach of Largo had become round. Sungchul’s eyes shook.
“Could it be…?”
“Yep… that guess is right. I’m pregnant.”
Largo nodded with a bright smile. Her haggard face overlapped with Sunghae’s face. Their situations were similar, but acceptance of her situation and Sunghae’s were not the same. Sungchul thought to himself.
‘Did she finally go mad?’
This was a woman barely sustaining herself after many struggles with drug addiction and a poor self-image. He had believed that it wouldn’t be weird for her to cause trouble, but even he couldn’t imagine that things would lead to this.
Largo enjoyed Sungchul’s fresh reaction that she had never seen, before speaking boastfully.
“It’s Daisuke’s kid.”
“It’s Anglo-Saxon Boy’s real name. About five months ago, he got stupid drunk and found me in my room. He embraced me, and it was truly a passionate night after so long.”
“I don’t remember asking for the details?”
“Didn’t I say it before? I knew I would turn that man’s heart around.”
Largo said as such before pulling a red crystal from a pouch and tried to inhale it. It was the Gladiator’s Soul she had been habitually using, but this time she stopped herself.
“Oh my, look at me now. This isn’t good for the kid.”
She stuck the red crystal back into her pouch.
Sungchul replied while indifferently looking at her still-beautiful hands tremble..
“You. Do you know what kind of situation you are in now?”
“Of course. Fortune has finally found me.”
“You’re speaking nonsense. Are you really telling me that you’re unaware of what bearing a child means in this era?”
“Oh my, it’s the first time I’ve seen you react like this. You finally look like a better man now that you’re getting all riled up like this.”
Largo snickered as she spoke, and Sungchul could no longer find any reason to talk about this any further.
‘She’s gone completely crazy.’
“You just thought that I was completely crazy just now, right?”
Largo held the less-dangerous pipe in her mouth before speaking. When Sungchul looked at her, she lit the pipe and smiled.
“I’m not that stupid. Although, I can’t read or do math.”
“That’s what stupid is!”
Bertelgia couldn’t contain herself and burst out with a retort.
“Huh? What’s that noise just now?”
Largo checked her surroundings at the sudden voice of a little girl, but Sungchul didn’t say anything.
“Is it because I stopped taking Gladiator’s Soul? I’m even hearing things now… anyways, there’s a reason I’m so confident.”
“I’m going to have the kid.”
“I’m not crazy. I’ll obviously avoid the Curse of Extinction to have the kid.”
“Avoid the Curse of Extinction? Just how are you going to avoid the divine punishment that kings and lords couldn’t avoid?”
Sungchul asked. Of course, he didn’t believe a word that Largo was saying, but he wanted to confirm just what she had such faith in. Just what gave her such confidence in what she was saying?
“It’s a bit troublesome to spill this… can you keep a secret?”
Sungchul nodded at her question, and finally, Largo checked her fortune before speaking with a serious tone.
“The Cult of Extinction. A healer at the Cult of Extinction has the answer.”
The Cult of Extinction. It was the secret society of people that have placed the Enemy of the World as their messiah. To meet these people was one of Sungchul’s reasons for coming here. This group that was selling out his own name.
However, he couldn’t find any clues leading to them after having arrived in La Grange. The recent suppression of these people had come too oppressively, and those associated with the group had all hidden underground. Even his information broker was claiming that they were no more. However, the Cult of Extinction still existed within La Grange. The former queen of the back alleys, Largo, knew where they were.
“I’m only bringing you along because you asked so nicely.”
As opposed to her usual shabby casual attire as a chef, Largo was in a fancy dress adorned with enough countless baubles to catch plenty of attention from those passing by. Her face that could be faintly seen through the wedding veil was thick with makeup.
As opposed to how she was within the estate, she was very much still playing the role. She was no longer riding on a gaudy cart like before and was forced to walk the dirty streets with her own feet, but there weren’t many who didn’t know that the woman beneath that black dress was the woman of the infamous Anglo-Saxon Boy. Sungchul, trailing behind her, was treated like a servant, which Largo requested to reinforce the illusion.
“Follow me a step behind, please. Don’t line up next to me or walk in front either.”
It was one of the conditions for being lead to the secret meeting place of the Cult of Extinction.
‘Truly fate is mischievous.’
He could never have imagined that he’d be acting together with Largo. Not only was she senseless and arrogant, who could like someone so narcissistic and vain? Not only that, but she was also a terrible cook and an addict. It looked as though she had cut the drugs out, but she also looked half delusional from the withdrawal. She might only have taken him to the secretive meeting house of the cult because her judgement was impaired.
“It’s right here.”
Largo lead him to a shabby home of a fortune teller. A withered old woman wearing a horn-shaped hat greeted them both as they stepped inside.
“Have you come, madam. Who might this young man be…?”
The old woman glared at Sungchul with angry eyes. It was a cold gaze with complete hostility. This was unavoidable as Sungchul’s actions were extremely suspicious. He had always revealed his face, but today he pulled his bandana down low and wrapped his entire face except his eyes in bandages. It was an extremely suspicious scene regardless of who saw it. As the old woman’s suspicions were about to reach its boiling point, Largo flapped her fan and spoke in a charming voice.
“I’ve brought my servant this time around because my stomach has grown quite large, and it’s difficult moving on my own.”
“Is he a servant?”
“He just injured his face a bit, so that’s why he looks like that. I’ll guarantee his identity. As Anglo-Saxon Boy’s wife that is.”
Largo spoke as such before pulling out two silver coins from her fancy purse and pushing them toward the old woman. The old woman who had received the coin didn’t look satisfied, but she decided to trust Largo’s words.
“Next time, I’d appreciate it if you brought a servant with his face uncovered.”
Surprisingly, the situation was defused just like that. Sungchul who watched the series of events unfold couldn’t help but remain skeptical.
‘It looks like she’s still keeping up appearances outside.’
In any case, Sungchul was finally able to enter the secret meeting place of the Cult of Extinction which was veiled in secrecy.The entrance to the meeting house was hidden beneath the table with the fortune teller’s crystal ball.
Once they descended down the secret stairs, a fairly wide hall appeared. It was quite a simple space with no idol nor decoration, with a fire burning at the center. There was a man wearing a robe sitting on top of a cushion on the floor. When Largo approached him, he lifted his head and greeted her with a warm voice.
“You’ve come, Madam Largo.”
“It’s been a while, teacher.”
Sungchul observed their conversation from a step away. It was an ordinary conversation. The magician being referred to as a teacher didn’t appear particularly impressive. He looked like an average magician that could be seen anywhere. The time Sungchul took to disguise his face in order to avoid being recognized almost felt like a waste of time.
After a long conversation, the healer of the Cult of Extinction handed over some medication. It was a dark root that appeared to have been soaked in darkness. It looked dangerous at first glance.
Sungchul asked Largo whether he could hold the medicine after having left the meeting place, and got a chance to hold it himself. After having touched the root, Sungchul immediately felt it was similar to the object within his own belt bag. In short, the fragment of Calamity. It felt very faint, but a similar wavelength was being emitted from the root.
Once the sun set, Sungchul set out for the fortune teller’s store once again. Sungchul waited patiently for the back alleyway foot traffic to cease. Sungchul thought to himself while he passed the time.
‘It’s different than the crystals that Aquiroa made, but I’m not wrong. This feeling. Definitely the same as the fragment of Calamity.’
Sungchul opened his belt bag. The fragment of Calamity he received as a reward for defeating the Devil King was within. As it always did, its unsettling aura poured out giving Sungchul goose bumps.
Sungchul felt the fragment within his belt bag once again to confirm that he wasn’t wrong.
‘The Cult of Extinction. Just who are those guys?’
He had long since felt that they weren’t of a good ilk since their meeting in the past. He had thought of them as opportunists who were using his name, but now that he was aware that they were using a similar power of the Fragments of Calamity as Aquiroa, he could no longer let things be.
Sungchul intruded into the fortune teller’s store once the foot traffic stopped, but there was nothing in the store. The fortune teller, the crystal ball, and the table hiding the stairs underneath were all gone. The fire that had lit the meeting place beneath the stairs had long since been extinguished. As it appeared, the group had long since moved their location.
‘They aren’t amateurs.’
Sungchul finally realized how this group called the Cult of Extinction that held the flag of revolt openly was able to survive within the Emperor’s capital even now.
“You’ve come all this way for nothing. It’s not like you. What are you going to do now?”
Bertelgia popped up to speak. Sungchul had crossed his arms and was locked in thought.
“I think that the woman called Largo is definitely holding the key.”
He thought up two ideas.