As shadow accompanies light, dark alleys also lay within the shimmering Golden City. Slave Street was one such back alley. A crowd of slavers were putting their slaves up for auction just as Sungchul stepped into the dirty plaza. He passed by the auctions and watched the faces of the slaves out of the corner of his eyes.
A familiar head of black hair. They were a part of the most recent mass summoning which had brought them to Other World. Their eyes, lacking intellect, looked at their potential owners with dull gazes. Sungchul left the auction house looking bored.
When Sungchul left the auction house a street filled with thugs, beggars, and prostitutes opened up before him. He sought out a particular store and headed towards it. It was a glamorous inn with a sign that read, ‘Palace of Pleasures’. Christian was spending a joyous time surrounded by several beauties in a room inside the Palace of Pleasures.
“Oh, my! Look who it is? It is Sir Warrior!”
Christian, who was thoroughly drunk, greeted Sungchul with a loose smile on his face.
“You’ve come at the right time. Please sit over here. There are beauties for everyone!”
He began to scold the women with fake anger in his voice.
“What are you doing? Take care of Sir Warrior!”
“Send them all away.”
Sungchul spoke briefly, but with force. Christian tactfully judged that Sungchul was not in a good mood. He hurriedly sent out the girls, then stammered with a different attitude while fidgeting with his prosthetic hand.
“Uh…regarding Professor Altugius’s book…I am looking into it, through someone knowledgeable at Logotete’s side. They are working hard at it, so I assume that the results will be in soon.”
“I’m done with that.”
Sungchul raised and smelled a glass of the alcohol on the table, then frowned.
“Is it not to your tastes?”
“I can’t even tell the number of different spits mixed in here anymore. It looks like this establishment mixes leftover alcohol, so unless you’ve got guts of steel, stay away from the drinks.”
“I-I’ll keep that in mind.”
“And I came by to learn about another topic.”
Sungchul wanted to hear detailed information about the person called Leonard Sanctum. When he first heard about Leonard, the man had been a secondary problem, but it had quickly become his primary concern. Christian, who had been depressed, revitalized as though he was confident about the topic.
“Ah, Leonard Sanctum. I know plenty about that son of a bitch.”
Christian said frankly.
“That bastard is suspected of being a Follower of Calamity.”
“Follower of Calamity?”
Sungchul’s eyes lit up.
“That’s right. He has Professor Fregius of the School of Pyromancy supporting him, and Fregius is already publicly known as a Follower of Calamity.”
“I want to hear more.”
It had been quite a while since Sungchul had an enemy within Airfruit Academy. It was about time that he dug into the situation behind the school. Christian explained the current situation within Airfruit Academy with his own knowledge as well as the information he collected.
According to Christian, the rapid decline of Airfruit Academy ultimately began with the death of Headmaster Magnus three years ago. When the Headmaster in charge of the school disappeared, Fregius and Robert Danton, both respective heads of the schools of Pyromancy and Cryomancy, and also the most powerful forces within the school, began fighting to fill the vacancy.
If one side had been able to oppress the other completely, it would have ended with a few small incidents, but it was as if a tiger had been pit against a dragon; they were both equally matched. Time continued to slip away as their feud grew deeper in the endless rivalry, and during this time, the school’s ability to function had fallen to the wayside. Rumors that the school was teeming with the Followers of Calamity also sprung up around the same time. And another rumor, one that said the Followers of Calamity had killed the Headmaster, also began to circulate, with the actual killer never being found.
“…Leonard Sanctum is THAT Fregius’ main disciple. He was originally under Altugius, but after he was expelled under dubious circumstances, he began to follow Fregius. As Fregius is the ringleader of the cult residing within the Academy, it could only mean that Leonard must also be a Follower of Calamity.”
He understood the gist of it. Of how the atmosphere of Airfruit Academy truly was. He suppressed an urge to vomit from the sheer repulsion he was feeling.
“Ah. There’s one more interesting tidbit.”
Christian carefully gauged Sungchul’s reaction.
“Spit it out.”
“It’s not confirmed, but they say that Professor Altugius has a huge debt to Professor Fregius.”
“That’s right. I don’t know the reason, but the rumor is that it is quite an astronomical debt. They say it is because of this, that Professor Altugius cannot oppose Professor Fregius. Well, it is still just a rumor in the end.”
He had everything he wanted. Sungchul finally rose from his seat.
On the table, there was a large pile of gold coins that Sungchul had put out earlier. He grabbed one and examined it. Coinage without a mint–unmarked currency. He looked at the coin with disinterest before he left the room.
“Excuse me, Sir Warrior. Are there no other orders?”
“Make a list of everyone within the Airfruit campus suspected of being a Follower of Calamity.”
“Followers of Calamity…It’s a difficult ask, but this Christian will devote his all to this task, Sir Warrior.”
Sungchul held out a gem for gratuity, and Christian received it happily with both hands.
“Send the Sky Squirrel if anything happens.”
As he left the room, he was plunged into dizzying decadent red lights. But what truly befuddled him were not the lights, but the situation ahead. He couldn’t see an easy path to obtain the knowledge behind Cosmomancy. In order to unravel such a difficult problem, he would need to resolve the issue with the Followers of Calamity quickly. Especially Leonard and his cabal. However, he could meet an undesirable result if he were to approach this situation rashly. The Followers of the Cult were a vile group, akin to a reptile with many heads. If he wanted to strike, he needed to cut off all the heads at once. Otherwise, there was a chance he might be bitten by the poisonous fangs of a remaining head.
‘The known Followers of Calamity members are Leonard and Fregius, but there are bound to be more of them hidden within the school. An influential person must be leading the cult.’
Sungchul was the reaper of the Followers of Calamity. He thoroughly understood the enemy’s methods. The first ironclad rule for dealing with the Followers of Calamity was to suspect everyone. Altugius himself might be a Follower. Even if that was true, Sungchul was prepared to use any means necessary.
At the same time, several Mages had gathered within the House of Recollections to perform a ritual. The person at the center of the Magical formation was Sarasa Xero. Her body wasn’t covered with the usual thick robe, but only a thin, light nightgown. She was allowing the spells the Mages chanted to seep into her body slowly.
Altuguius looked upon his Granddaughter with a worried gaze. Sarasa, who lay there with her eyes closed, felt her Grandfather’s gaze and briefly winked at him. As the spell that came pouring into her grew even stronger, she couldn’t resist furrowing her delicate brows and clenching her eyes. Altugius deeply furrowed his own brows. A man standing near him spoke in a soft voice.
“You do not need to concern yourself. There will be a brief moment of pain, but your Granddaughter’s loveliness will be preserved for eternity.”
There was the clear image of a skull drawn on his robe. He was a Necromancer and knew of methods to stop the decomposition of the dead. He offered his services in exchange for a small fortune or gifts. Sarasa’s appearance had been maintained by their Mage craft.
“Mm…it appears that the payment is a bit light?”
Like a ghost*, the Necromancer knew that the payment was lacking by the weight of the coin pouch. Altugius felt a cold sweat trailing down his spine.
“Let’s see here…You’re lacking three entire coins. May I ask the reason for this?”
“T-that is…I’ll give you the rest the next time we meet.”
The Necromancer’s response was apathetic. He looked at Altugius callously as if he was looking at a corpse, and spoke perfunctorily.
“If I recall, this happened once before. I trusted in the Professor’s reputation and overlooked the matter, but if the problem continues to present itself, I suggest you look into other Necromancers.”
Unfortunately, the other Necromancers would not help Altugius. That was because the Necromancers were all affiliated with the rising star, Logotete Magic Academy. He would be falling out with the Logotete-affiliated…no…all of the Necromancers within the entire Golden City if things turned awry with this man.
“I will try to prepare the missing amount as quickly as possible.”
Despite his own pride, Altugius lowered his head to a Necromancer from a rival school. The Necromancer looked upon the bowed Altugius with disinterest then nodded with an unsatisfied expression.
“This is the last time. Any more of this, and you leave us in a difficult position.”
The ritual continued as expected. The Preservation Magic upon Sarasa’s body regained its original vigor, and her appearance would retain its original form for a short duration. However, this would be the final time. Altugius needed money. Lots of money. There was only one way he could earn a lump sum within a short amount of time. He sought out a man that he never wanted to meet again. The figure wore a crow mask and was dressed in immaculate, white judge’s robes.
The man, looking out a window at the sun with his hands held behind his back, felt Altugius approaching him and turned to speak in a gentle voice.
“Did you finally resolve to save the school?”
The man’s identity was the Heresy Inquisitor Magnus Maxima. He was the man who had been sent to investigate the rumors of heresy surrounding Airfruit Academy and was known to resort to any method when it came to eradicating heresy.
“Are you going to the School of Alchemy?”
Bertelgia popped up from his breast pocket and spoke. Sungchul nodded as he said,
“I’ll spend some time within the School of Alchemy for now.”
Leonard Sanctum was bound to be waiting at the School of Cosmomancy to pick a fight with him. Sungchul wouldn’t avoid such a fight, but there was also no reason for him to create any more problems through conflict. It wouldn’t be too late for him to act after the information regarding the Followers of Calamity had been gathered.
Bertelgia trembled slightly within his pocket as she brightly continued,
“Yesterday, I noticed that your spells looked wimpy as hell due to you lacking in Magic Power, and I thought that there was a need to train up your Magic Power by spending a lot of time at the School of Alchemy.”
“I doubt it’ll go up by that much.”
He had managed to raise his low Magic Power past 130 through the manual labor known as synthesis, but his growth rate had plummeted after breaking through 100. Ineffective growth was the opposite of what he sought.
“Growth by synthesizing is too slow compared to the amount of effort required.”
“That’s what an ignorant person would say.”
Bertelgia retorted immediately.
“There are innate levels for all alchemic items, you know? Your growth rate is garbage because you keep making low-level alchemic items, but you’ll get faster growth with higher-level items!”
“Is that right?”
“Yes! The downside is that ingredients are hard to come by…and also expensive…but…”
Sungchul couldn’t obtain ingredients that were hard to find, but cost was not a problem. He decided to try his hand at synthesizing high-level alchemical concoctions which Bertelgia had mentioned when he got back to the School of Alchemy. However, he witnessed something completely unexpected when he arrived at the site of the school.
The tent for the School of Alchemy had vanished.
*Korean Idiom meaning the person is able to see through and know things they should not be able to see or know