“Don’t be ridiculous! If there was a solution like that, why did you come here instead of searching for the statues around the city?”
“Because we didn’t know how much progress you made with the ritual. How can we be so easygoing when the ritual could happen today? Also, the situation is different now.”
Zich pointed at the book that the Deputy Mayor was holding.
“Since the catalyst is in a state like that, you won’t be able to do the ritual right away. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to buy much time—probably not even a couple of days, but so what? If we find even one statue in that time, the game is over. If we destroy a statue, your power will diminish, and the ritual will get pushed off again. Then, we can use that extra time to continue to find more statues.”
As if Zich had hit the bull’s eye, the Deputy Mayor ordered all the waiting undead to come forward and opened up his book. But Zich was faster.
“Then let’s see each other later!”
As he swung his sword, a huge hole formed on the building’s wall. Then, Zich wrapped his arm around Lubella’s waist and jumped out of the hole. Indeed, the Deputy Mayor must have thought that it would be dangerous to show a scene where a great deal of undead poured out of the Mayor’s house, so none of the undead followed them.
‘It's too risky to show the saint candidate fighting the undead.’
The Deputy Mayor had falsely charged Lubella for summoning the undead and didn’t want to provide the evidence that she was actually an opposing force.
‘I am going to use this situation to make a greater case against Lubella.’
Zich softly landed on the ground, but he wasn’t completely safe. In front of him, surprised guards had seen Zich and Lubella suddenly jump out of the building.
“It’s Lubella! The Witch, Lubella!”
“The Witch came to attack again!”
The guards found Lubella, and their eyes turned hostile.
‘Well, look at what will happen.’
With this, Lubella’s false charge would worsen, and news that Zich was her companion would spread far and wide.
‘We will be falsely charged with assassinating the Mayor now too. Actually, is it not a false charge? It’s true that I killed him.’
If he thought like that, it could have been better if he hadn’t killed the Mayor. But Zich quickly threw that thought away. At that time, the Mayor was the same as a tool. He was remodeled to handle the book called the ‘Key’ better than anyone else.
‘Before my regression, those Bellid guys used this tactic a lot. If the Mayor was alive, the situation would have worsened.’
Holding Lubella like some luggage, Zich said, “You became famous, Lady Lubella. They are welcoming you as the Witch as soon as they see you.”
“Who is the man with the Witch?”
“I don’t know! He is probably the Witch’s underling or something like that! Don’t let him out!”
“What? The Witch’s underling? Underling? If I’m being particular, I am the Demon Lord, which is even higher than a witch,” Zich grumbled while fixing his grip on his sword.
“M-Mr. Zich! They don’t know anything…!”
“I know, Lady.”
If it were a dangerous situation, Zich wouldn’t have bothered to answer, but he was facing trained, ordinary soldiers at most. There was no need to kill them. He slid his sword back into its sheath and lifted his sword in its sheathed form.
“Please tolerate it if I break some of your bones.”
Then, he ran towards the guards running at him.
The guards’ long poles aimed for him, but Zich smoothly moved between the poles and escaped. Then, as a spear passed by their faces, Lubella let out a small scream.
One fell with every strike. Their arms, legs, or armor broke while their bones were smashed under Zich’s hands. The guards in front of them fell to the ground instantly, and a huge opening appeared between them. Without hesitation, Zich ran.
His new shoes shone under the sunlight. Other soldiers joined, but Zich and Lubella had already gone over the wall and disappeared.
* * *
The city was in a mess. The Deputy Mayor was dead, and Lubella, who had tried to curse the city, even succeeded in assassinating the Mayor. As expected, the city’s economy froze even more. The next in line after the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor took the now-empty leadership role, but it wasn’t as same as when the Mayor was still alive. People began to fear that their city’s autonomy would be taken away, and they cursed the Witch and her newly discovered companion.
And what the two, receiving all the insults from the city’s residents were doing was…
“Yeah, it came out well.”
Zich came out from the cover of the night and stared at the wanted poster of him that was posted next to Lubella’s. Unlike Lubella’s, the drawing of him was a rough outline that lacked in many ways and failed to identify specific characteristics.
“Even this sloppy drawing can’t hide my handsomeness. I have to say that my face is quite fine to look at.” Zich swiped his face exaggeratedly and chuckled.
‘It seems like I’m right, seeing how they drew me. Although the guards couldn’t have seen me properly, that Deputy Mayor saw my face.”
Even if he was pretending to be dead, the Deputy Mayor should have had the influence to place a more accurate drawing of Zich’s face on the wanted poster. But if the wanted poster was made this poorly, it could mean that the Deputy Mayor hadn’t intervened in its making process at all.
Zich suddenly felt a firelight and the sound of armor clanking from afar.
“Whoops! Since I am wanted, I should quickly hide. This reminds me of the old days.”
Before Zich regressed and earned his powers, he had lived hiding most of the time. While reminiscing, Zich skillfully escaped from the guards and moved. He escaped into the inner-city houses for the poor; the worn-out buildings there looked like they were about to crumble at any moment, and a foul stench seeped out of the area.
Zich knocked on the door. As promised, he knocked four times in a row, rested, knocked two more times, and rested again before he knocked five times.
The door opened like a frail old man, swallowing back his feeble groans and breaking the deafening silence.
“Come in,” Lubella said while searching Zich's surroundings in case a person had trailed Zich. As soon as Zich came in, the door closed.
“You have become a true criminal now, Lady.”
“Yes, I am thinking about changing careers,” Lubella responded while taking Zich’s luggage. What happened in the past couple of weeks had been so heavy that Lubella’s personality seemed to have grown more relaxed. Lubella searched through the luggage Zich had brought. There were food ingredients inside.
“Where did you get all of this?”
“I borrowed them.”
Zich shrugged. He said he borrowed it, but of course, Lubella couldn’t simply accept that.
“You stole them.”
“Well, I can’t make a fair deal right now.”
Lubella knew that in their situation, it couldn’t be helped. But it didn’t change the fact that her heart felt heavy.
“Don’t make a face like that. I didn’t steal.”
Zich handed her a slip of paper. On it, names of places, their locations, and items were written all over the page.
“These are the places where I got the items from. When this is all over, we can just pay them all back at once. In short, it’s like a credit—not stealing.”
“…To make a credit, don’t you need the owner’s agreement?”
“We can’t only live by the rules. What about giving them twice the price of the items as an apology?”
Zich winked. Lubella laughed despondently and nodded.
“I am going to write off the credits as a business expense. Is that fine with you?”
“I will be grateful if you do that.”
Zich and Lubella dropped the food items on the rusty table. Although the table looked dirty, since they were in an abandoned house in the slums, they were grateful that there was furniture.
While chewing the hard bread, they talked.
“We are going to look for Bellu’s stone statues now, right?”
“Yes, we have to.”
“Is there a method to find them?”
Even if they searched all around the city, Porti was large. On top of that, both of them were wanted and couldn’t move freely.
“Yes, there is a method. Let’s go to the slums first. It’s easier to move there than other places, and I already have a place in mind.”
Lubella followed Zich’s suggestion.
“By the way, what happened to the man named Hans? You didn’t just forget…?”
“That guy already left the city some time ago. I ordered him to do something.”
Lubella felt relieved since she worried that the Deputy Mayor might have captured Hans. If he left the city, Hans would at least be safer than them. So, the two finished their meal in silence and prepared for the near future.
* * *
“Hey, hasn’t it been a while?”
Zich brought Lubella to a small open area. Three people were standing in a reeking area piled with waste and trash. As if he was meeting a familiar acquaintance, Zich waved his hands at the three men and approached them.
The three men turned around and scowled as if they all had a bad temper. However, that lasted for only a moment. When they recognized Zich, they became startled.
“Wait, wait! I have something to ask you.”
Without much difficulty, Zich stopped the three from escaping. Lubella checked the men as they hung their heads down low—they lined up neatly in front of Zich and Lubella tilted her head.
“Why? Do you recognize them?” Zich asked.
“Yes, I feel like I have seen them before.”
“It’s when Lady Lubella first met me. These guys were with me when we beat that shopkeeper up.”
Lubella thought they looked familiar; they were the thugs she saw in her shocking reunion with Zich. When the three men saw Lubella, their faces filled with dread.
“I knew it! He’s the Witch’s underling!”
“Huh? Who is the underling?”
All three thugs simultaneously cowered back. But among the three, one glared at Zich and Lubella like he wanted to kill them. He looked like a young man who recently passed his adolescence.
“What are you here for?”
“What’s troubling you, buddy? We bonded while beating up a person in a back alleyway together.”
It wasn’t a bonding to brag over, but Lubella held her tongue at Zich’s shamelessness. The thugs also hung their mouths wide open, but Zich simply placed his arms around the young man.
“I have something I am curious about. Think you can cooperate with us? We will reward you very well.”
Zich took out a pouch full of money from his pockets. Zich had money; it was just that he couldn’t strike a deal with people personally in his current situation. Of course, collecting credit was another type of conversation. Besides, after all of this was over, Karuwiman would pay him back for his losses.
‘I shouldn’t try to save money in a place like this.’
Zich thought it was best to encourage them to use their heads on their own free will. Of course, if money didn’t work, Zich thought he wouldn’t hesitate to use his fists. The three thugs stared at the pouch full of money. The coins that shone brightly inside the pouch made them dizzy. However, their answer wasn’t satisfactory.
“Don’t be like that and think about it one more time. It’s not a big deal. Isn’t there anyone who suddenly fell ill or died? Like someone who has suddenly lost their vitality?”
The thugs’ expressions stiffened, and Zich’s eyes sparkled.
“You guys know something, right?”
“We don’t know!”
“It will be better for you guys to just take this money and tell us. I don’t intend to let you guys off now that I know you know something. And, because of our situation, I also intend to use whatever means and methods possible. Don’t you think it’s better to take the money rather than go through a lot of pain anyways?”
Zich put pressure on the arm that he had placed on the top of the young man’s shoulders.
The young man groaned, but in the end, he didn’t open his mouth. So, Zich’s eyes became crueler. He was thinking of all kinds of torture methods—
Lubella kneeled in front of the young man. The slums’ dirty ground dirtied her dress, but she didn’t seem to mind. Everyone’s eyes widened at the sight.
“I beg you.” She pleaded, “This is not for our personal gain. I know you won’t be able to believe us easily, but this city is in great danger right now. At worst, this city could become the city of the dead. Even now, the undead are roaming around the city, but a more terrifying—”
“Don’t make me laugh! This is all because of you guys!” the young man shouted.
“I am just telling you beforehand, but we have no relations with those skeleton bastards. Can’t you believe these pure-looking eyes?”
Zich tried to open his eyes as wide as he could and tried to make an innocent face, but it wasn’t very effective.
“You expect me to believe you with just that! If it weren’t for you guys, my younger brother wouldn’t have…!”
“Huh? Your younger brother?”
The young man closed his mouth with an expression that seemed to say, ‘Oops!’ But Zich had already gotten the information he needed.
“Oh, so the person we are looking for is your younger brother.”
The young man’s face froze.Previous Chapter Next Chapter