Altugius looked towards the Inquisitor of Heresy with disbelief.
“No… How did you…”
The Inquisitor of Heresy shoved past the surrounding people and approached Altugius. He spoke to him in a quiet voice that only Altugius could hear.
“This is an act. All for the effort of restoring your school.”
The entire situation was like a bolt from the blue, but if the Inquisitor said it so, then it is as he said. Altugius’ eyes shook restlessly, but his shoulders finally gave way and accepted the situation. The Inquisitor’s minions bound Altugius and gagged his mouth.
Sarasa ran towards the minions with a sad look on her face, but Altugius only shook his head. His words couldn’t be understood at the moment due to the gag around his mouth, but he sent out a warm gaze instead. Finally, he looked towards Sungchul. He tried to signal Sungchul with his eyes, but Sungchul was also trying to convey something. He had a rigid expression as he shook his head, then glared coldly at the Inquisitor.
‘Does he mean not to trust the Inquisitor of Heresy?’
There wasn’t much time for thought. The Inquisitor of Heresy, Magnus Maxima, left the building and his minions roughly dragged Altugius along with them. When the crowd of people left, the pale girl and the silent man were left with the cold corpse.
“W-what should we do? What should we do now?”
Too many things happened at once. Sarasa could feel all of her strength leaving her body as she collapsed where she stood.
“W-what should I do now?”
She suddenly became alone. There was no one left to look after her. To make matters worse, the preservation magic contained in her left cheek had been shattered, causing her skin to start withering slowly. She would soon lose her beauty until she would look no different than any other liches with their mummified face. Despite all this, the thing that shook her most deeply was the frustration of the unforeseeable future unfolding in front of her. It was at this moment when sorrow replaced despair. She felt enough pain to make her chest ache, but her eyes could not shed a single tear. The dead cannot cry.
It was at that moment.
The man of mystery spoke firmly yet with force.
“Stand up and face reality.”
It was a simple command, but his words contained some strange persuasiveness. Sarasa found herself righting herself as he had told her to. The preservation in her right arm was partially destroyed during the battle causing her right arm to also decay like a corpse.
“How should I meet this reality?”
Sungchul pointed towards the House of Recollections at the words of Sarasa, who had turned into a half corpse at this point.
“When there is nothing you can do, you will have to rely on someone you trust and just wait.
Sungchul let those words linger and walked forward.
“Wait here. Without fear. Time will give you an answer.”
Sarasa tightly made a fist and nodded. Sungchul stood before the sound sealing barrier which was on the verge of collapse and spoke once more.
“Don’t forget to feed the Sky Squirrel.”
He then stepped past the barrier.
‘That assassin. He was looking for me.’
He had no intention of returning empty handed today.
Kaz Almeira was a genius among geniuses within the family that came around once a decade. He had narrowly escaped the threshold of the era of extinction and had all the qualities of an assassin such as brutality, precision, and patience in spades along with his innate talent, allowing him to master a variety of assassination techniques from the maternal family along with the paternal family.
He also carried the inevitable characteristic of arrogance that all geniuses had, but for him, it was closer to a form of confidence from knowing the exact measure of his abilities than true arrogance. He put himself in extreme situations and enjoyed pulling himself out of any obstacle, and he managed to gain great benefits from this dangerous method. The Almeira family was wary of his methods while ultimately doing nothing to restrict him.
“Thanks to the commotion you’ve created in Airfruit, our existence has been made aware to the Inquisitor of Heresy. If I didn’t make negotiations, we would have had the Order of Purity, the Enemy of the World, and the Followers of Calamity beset us on all three sides.”
D’Vici sternly scolded his son, but he knew that his words were falling on deaf ears.
“Ah~ I don’t know, father. I only heard that the mage held hands with the World’s Enemy and decided to take a stab at it.”
“So, was Altugius someone you could handle?”
“He was plenty powerful. Honestly, I might lose by myself. That guy is a magician, but moved with the dexterity of an archer and suppressed me with magic that was difficult to dodge while sneaking in a powerful spell.”
Kaz spoke without any particular joy in his expression or voice. Pict, who had been watching beside them, rose from his seat to leave. He didn’t want to look at his more powerful and successful brother. Kaz peeked over at his brother’s backside as he spoke again.
“But father, I have learned it. I learned what Altugius’ secret is.”
“Is that so?”
“That person is hiding a weapon called dimension magic. It was remarkable. If I hadn’t retreated halfway through the fight, I would have been flattened like the Vice-captain.”
“It won’t be too late to explain all of this later. For now, go to your dwelling and confine yourself.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Kaz, who was returning from his scolding, met his youngest brother Pict again. Pict looked as though he was waiting for Kaz. He laughed as soon as he saw Kaz.
“I’m going to be hunting the Followers of Calamity right now.”
“Ah? Is that right? With your strength?”
When Kaz mocked him, Pict gave him a frosty glare and left.
“Let’s see how long you can mock me for. Ten years. I’ll catch up to you in ten years, you bastard.”
“Calling your brother a bastard. You bitch. Did I let you have it too easy for too long?”
“You only got the respect you wrought. Anyways, just wait for me.”
Pict stuck out his tongue and disappeared into the darkness in a hurry. Kaz looked at such a brother with a smile and shook his head.
“Catch up to me? You’ll have to train for at least a 1000 years.”
He said this, but he knew that his brother was a possessor of great talent. That kid handled his first torture brilliantly. He unmistakably had the assassin’s characteristic of brutality and apathy toward his victims.
‘Brat. Once you’re a bit older, I’ll guide you myself.’
Pict was too lacking for Kaz to teach himself, but he planned on going on assassinations together with Pict after his brother managed to gather some experience and intuition under his belt. Without knowing his brother had such intentions, Pict could only make himself the victim.
“A genius my ass! I’ll teach you that true geniuses need time to cultivate.”
Pict’s mission of the day was to hunt down the Followers of Calamity picked out by the Inquisitor of Heresy. D’vici had told him it was enough to hunt down a single one, but Pict had decided for himself to find 3 of them and interrogate them at once. He had failed his first interrogation due to a covenant that bound the man, but he knew he could succeed this time. He could still vividly feel his blade cutting through his victim’s flesh.
There were magicians wearing robes dyed in blue on the other side of the road. They were insignificant in Pict’s eyes. They were weak folks that could be killed with a single slice, but his objective was live capture. He began to stalk the magicians while waiting for his opportunity. His deft movements allowed him to roam from alley to alley while pursuing the magicians diligently and watched with bated breath as the magicians retreated to their individual quarters.
As beasts lowered their guards within their nests, humans were also the most relaxed within their beds. Christian, the slave hunter, was also captured in his bed. Pict relived the sensation of that day and revealed himself slowly from the darkness. It was at that moment when he discovered a vague figure reflecting in the moonlight standing on the ground beside him.
There was no time to react before a hand gripped his throat. It contained a tremendous amount of strength. When the grip held his throat, he felt a terrifying pain as if his eyes would pop out and his brain would burst.
Rather than the cry of a person, it sounded like something from an ugly fowl. The man who held his throat soon spoke.
“Are you guys the ones responsible for killing a slave hunter named Christian?”
That person’s identity was Sungchul. He relaxed his grip on the young assassin’s throat ever so slightly with indifferent eyes.
“Answer the question.”
Instantly, Pict tried to squeeze all the strength in his body to let out a scream to call upon his family that had surrounded the area, but Sungchul’s reaction on his throat was faster than the time it took for the voice to spill out from his throat.
Pict could feel the voice being squelched within his throat and his vision being dyed with a yellow tint.
‘Assassins are a tenacious bunch as expected.’
Assassins of the Assassin’s Guild were taught to tolerate pain from an early age. The result was that half-assed interrogations had no effect at all. Not only that, the greatest virtue of assassins were to put their mission ahead of their lives. They were actively developing and practising countless methods of suicide in case any secrets could be leaked. Pict was also thinking up methods of taking his life.
‘This… looks to be my limit.’
He firmly decided to take his life regardless of the method at the first opportunity. However, Sunghul would not relinquish such an easy death to the assassin. Sungchul discovered torture tools and some effective medicine on Pict’s body. He tore Pict’s clothes and shoved it down his throat before striking his right arm. Pict’s arm twisted in a strange direction before being torn away in a mess. Pict thrashed about wildly, but he couldn’t let out a scream.
“I have no intention of interrogating you, assassin.”
Sungchul applied Pict’s medicine to the open wound before hanging the feline mask to the wall with Pict’s arm placed below it; then he wrote a message with the blood flowing from Pict’s open wound.
[If you wish to save the kid, come inside. You must come alone.]
Sungchul forcefully turned Pict’s head to have him witness the message.
“You lot sure like to think your level of brutality is something spectacular.”
Sungchul dragged Pict in a way so that his stump of an arm, which bled despite the medicine, painted the floor red and then threw him into a storage room. The bloodstain marked the route from the feline mask to the storage room like a red carpet.
“Today, I’ll teach you something on brutality.”
Sungchul leapt onto the roof of a building where he had a clear view of both the mask and the storage room. A different assassin soon followed in. It was Mayra who dealt in venomous insects. She flinched at the scene of Pict’s mask and amputated right arm. They were assassins trained to tolerate great amounts of physical pain, but in the end, they were still human. They were apathetic towards their victims but warm towards one of their own. She hesitated again at the message written in Pict’s blood, but she stepped forward as though she had already prepared her heart.
‘No! Sister! Don’t come in!’
Pict flailed about with all his might, but it was all pointless. Mayra mentally prepared herself for battle and slowly moved step by step into the storage room. It didn’t take long before a dark shadow appeared behind her.
The man had appeared like a ghost. Before she had time to blink, he grabbed the back of her head and lifted her straight up only to smash it down into the ground and grind her face against the rough floor. The feline mask shattered and Mayra’s bloodied face revealed itself.
Sungchul, who had shredded her face, tied a rope around her neck and lifted her above him. The person’s body spun around like some toy. At that moment, all the venomous insects hidden on her body rained down onto the floor. Mayra gripped the rope tied around her neck with both her hands with all of her strength, but ultimately succumbed to exhaustion and fell unconscious.
Sungchul had no intention of allowing her a comfortable death either. He slugged her bloodied face to wake her up before hanging her upside down in front of Pict. Sungchul glared at Pict before speaking in a steady voice.
“Are you guys the ones who killed a slave hunter named Christian?”
Pict did not answer. Sungchul searched the floor while stomping on the venomous insects until he found the most suitable one. It was the stink bug that lays eggs in human flesh.
Sungchul grabbed the stink bug and held it over Mayra’s body until it laid its eggs. Mayra’s body resisted weakly, but Sungchul only continued to look at Pict. Pict realised that the man had no intentions of showing mercy.
At that moment, a miracle occurred. Mayra, who looked as though she had lost consciousness, suddenly opened her eyes.
“Pict! I’ll be going first.”
Mayra’s bloodied eyes shook violently before it rolled over; revealing only the whites of her eyes. Sungchul confirmed her death with indifferent eyes. Pict found renewed confidence at his sister’s exemplary death and glared at Sungchul with hate-filled eyes once again.
‘Try whatever interrogation you want. I’ll take it all with the name of the Almeira family at stake!’
However, Sungchul only looked indifferent. He let Mayra’s corpse fall to the floor and squatted down to start some kind of procedure. The stench of blood began to flood the room. Sungchul held Mayra’s corpse and walked out of the storage room. Both his hands held Mayra’s corpse that hadn’t even cooled yet. Soon, something unbelievable occurred.
Mayra’s corpse began to cry out. It was something unintelligible, but it had Mayra’s distinct sound. Sungchul held the corpse and looked puzzled before muttering to himself.
“It’s not working so well since I hadn’t done it in so long.”
He lifted the corpse and began to manipulate it to his whim.
Mayra’s jaw flew open and let out a terrifying shriek. Much more strongly. Pict, who was watching the scene, knew the monster’s intentions.
‘That bastard… he’s calling them. He’s calling my family…!’
Pict began to thrash about wildly to draw Sungchul’s attention to himself, and when his eyes finally met Sungchul’s, he nodded vigorously.
“That’s right. I killed that slave hunter. We done now? You happy?”
Sungchul only continued to look at him indifferently and shook his head.
“I’m just getting started.”