Chapter 43

Sam woke up. He felt as if he had just gotten out of a long tunnel, and he felt dizzy. But paradoxically, his body felt normal.

“He came back to his senses.”

He heard a familiar voice.

“…Zich?”

“Yeah. It’s your great friend Zich.”

Sam got up. He was in his house. As if many people lived in it, his house was filled with multiple pieces of furniture and daily necessities, but somehow it didn’t look very hospitable.

“What happened?”

“You don’t remember?”

He shook his head.

“You went to Drew to settle a complaint and got totally beaten up.”

Drew. He remembered now. After hearing that Snoc got conned, he went to complain and got beaten up until he thought he was going to die.

Twitch!

Recalling the trauma, Sam’s body trembled. There were times when he got into a fight while doing rough mining work, but that attack had been on another level. A person who killed living creatures for a job had used violence against him without a care for his life.

“Don’t worry.”

As if he caught what Sam was thinking, Zich said, “I completely avenged you.”

“…Avenge?”

“Didn’t I say this to you before? If you die an unjust death, I will avenge you.”

“I didn’t die though?”

“You were beaten up until you were a foot away from death’s door. I’ll count it as the same thing.”

At this point, Zich seemed to do whatever he felt like doing. Sam let out a burst of laughter.

“How did you avenge me?”

“I just returned everything back to him.”

“Return?”

“The injuries you sustained. I inflicted the same, exact wounds he gave you- from fractures to small scratches.”

Sam couldn’t close his mouth. Although he had fainted, he knew that his wounds had been severe. 

“Is that person still alive?”

“Not sure. After I beat him up, I stopped paying attention to him. It’s his problem if he dies there or not. But I don’t think he will die since the guy from the Monster Exterminator Building was watching. He probably got some aid. Well, but…”

Zich smiled.

“Even if he is still alive, he won’t be able to go for anybody again. Since I completely crushed his mind.”

“I-I see.”

Sam didn’t know what Zich meant by ‘crushing a person’s mind,’ but he didn’t dare to ask. The conversation ended like that. Truthfully, Sam didn’t want to hear more about the man who beat him up. A part of him felt relieved, hearing that the guy became a mess like him, but another part of him felt chills imagining what Zich did to Drew.

“How much time has passed since then?”

“Two days.”

“All those injuries healed in just two days? Actually, I think my body feels better than usual?”

“I used potions.”

Sam had heard about potions before, but he’d never seen one in real life. Although he made a good wage as a miner, it wasn’t enough to buy a potion.

“Isn’t that expensive?”

“It is a bit pricey, but it’s not unaffordable. I can earn as much money as I want anytime anyways.”

“…Adventurers are amazing.”

“It’s not adventurers who are amazing. I am just amazing.”

It was as if Zich’s face was painted in metal; if his face was really painted with gold, it would have been enough to buy a castle.

“The price for the potion…”

“I don’t need it. I don’t want to take money from a poor friend.”

“…Then, I will buy you a drink later.”

“I won’t refuse that.”

It was the same as repaying gold with sand, but Sam accepted his friend’s consideration with gratitude and his heart stirred with emotions. Although Zich was cold to others, it seemed as if Zich really thought of him as a friend.

Then Zich took out things from a box, which changed the atmosphere.

“What is that?”

“It’s fair compensation that I got from Drew: medical bills, rewards, nuisance expenses, and so on.”

“…What?”

Sam shouted in surprise, but while smirking, Zich opened the box like a gangster checking all the money he collected.

“Ah, now that I think about it, you went to Drew to complain about the money he took from Snoc, right?”

“Yeah.”

Of course, Sam thought about complaining directly to Drew, but he gave up on that. After encountering him once, Sam knew that common logic didn’t work on Drew.

“Let me see.”

Zich opened the box’s lid, and items poured out. Sam stared at the goods that piled up on the floor next to his bed. He couldn’t believe that gold coins were falling from the air.

“Let me see, how much did I take?”

“…What is that?”

Sam asked about the box first.

“It’s an artifact. It lets you store goods regardless of their volume or weight. There’s a limit, but it’s a handy item.”

Zich made a refreshing smile.

“It was from that guy. I took it as compensation for the many things he did.”

“Then, these gold coins…”

“They’re also his.”

Sam couldn’t find the right words to say.

“Well, it’s yours now. That guy was pretty rich. With this, you can easily pay for the price of the potions, but of course, I have to share it with you and Snoc who suffered the damages.”

Zich gripped one of the gold coins and put it in front of Sam.

“So, how much do you want for compensation?”

“Ah, no. I’m fine.”

Even though he had been one-sidedly beaten up by Drew, Sam refused the immense pile of wealth in front of him instinctively. The large sum of money made him feel uncomfortable rather than greedy, and Zich didn’t continue to press the matter.

“Really? Okay. I guess people will be surprised if so much money gets forced in front of them so suddenly. But if you change your mind, tell me anytime. The time limit is until I leave this city.”

Zich placed the gold coins back into the box, and the mountain-pile of gold coins disappeared instantly.

“Tell me the amount Drew stole from Snoc so I can evenly distribute the sum. I can only decide how much to take after I know how much to leave you and Snoc.”

“Did you also suffer any losses?”

Zich told Sam that the money was a form of compensation. If Zich took some of the capital, it meant that he also suffered a loss.

“Of course.”

Zich nodded without hesitation.

“On top of the stress he gave me for attacking my friend, he forced me to move and even insulted me. It won’t be enough even if I sell him as a slave and get more money. Considering how I ended the matter with so little, I am so generous.”

It sounded like the calculations of some back-alleyway gangster. Sam studied Zich’s face, and he wondered if Zich felt any sense of guilt or embarrassment from his words.

‘It doesn’t seem like that at all.’

Zich’s face was composed.

To not hurt Zich’s feelings, Sam asked carefully,,“Um, didn’t you say that you would live a kind life? Is it ok for you to do something like stealing?”

“Why do you say stealing? I keep telling you that all I did was receive fair compensation. It doesn’t affect my resolution to live a kind life, at all.”

“…I see.”

In the end, Sam followed the path that Hans had taken a few days ago. He reaffirmed his beliefs that Zich’s train of thought was completely out of common way of thinking and gave up on trying to understand Zich.

*     *     *

Drew walked inside a mountain. He looked completely fine even though Zich had left him half-dead not so long ago. It was thanks to the priest, who Paul Chenu called. However, no matter how well the priest healed him, he wasn’t the same as before.

First of all, he didn’t have any money. Zich took all the money and items he had as ‘fair compensation.’ Thus, he didn’t even have the money to pay for his medical bills and had to borrow money by using his artifact. If Zich hadn’t thought that the goods inside his artifact were enough for his compensation, Drew wouldn’t even have had the money to cure himself.

For that reason, he had to go out to catch monsters as soon as his wounds were healed. But there was a more serious matter.

“Urgh!”

Drew swallowed his saliva back down. His heart ached. His wounds were already all healed, but he sometimes felt pain for no reason. The cause was probably psychological, and he knew when these side-effects first started.

“That bastard…!”

Rage and hate flared up, but simultaneously, fear and despair filled his heart. Zich had inflicted the same wounds on Drew as Drew did to Sam without a trace of discomfort on his face. Even Drew was aware that he was a person without any sense of humanity, but he thought Zich far exceeded him in that area. Drew was sure Zich didn’t feel any guilt or joy when inflicting wounds on a person.

‘It was just a job for him.’

In short, Zich didn’t look at him as a human or even a living creature.

‘Damn it! Stop! Stop it!’

His legs trembled out of control, and he slammed his fists on them. The only thing that came back to him was more pain and bruise marks. He couldn’t stop his legs from trembling. Drew knew what this side-effect was. It was what people who battled monsters or fought other countries’ wars suffered through. It was what Drew had mocked as, ‘Coward Reader.’ But now, he was facing the condition.

Drew also knew the way to stop this side-effect: removing the cause of the trauma. But as soon as he thought this, his heart fell.

‘Fighting…with that guy…again?’

Zich’s face, his slimy smile, and his stern pupils—as soon as they popped into Drew’s head, all the strength in his legs left him.

Drop!

He collapsed to the ground. Thankfully, he was in the mountains, and no one saw him. However, he didn’t feel relieved; more than embarrassment, fear overcame him.

‘I-It’s impossible.’

He was just a small fry who was a bit strong. The thought of facing Zich again after overcoming his fears pained his heart.

“Oh, dear! Your condition is worse than I expected.”

He suddenly heard a voice he disliked and turned his head.

When did he approach me? A figure covered from head to toe in a black robe stood in front of him.

“You are…”

“It hasn’t been long enough for me to say… it’s been a while.”

It was a kind and warm tone, but Drew didn’t feel an ounce of sincerity in the man’s words. It was the robed man who had struck a strange deal with him recently. The man met eyes with Drew and then crouched his knees on the ground to be on the same level with Drew. He made the motions as if he was a parent making a point to his children. However, the man’s face, which was covered by the robe’s darkness, gave Drew chills.

“What did you come here for?”

“I have another commission that I want you to take care of.”

“What is it? I will take it if it’s decent.”

The man gave Drew a fortune for merely helping Snoc activate his mana and making him walk through the mine until he met a mole. For Drew who seriously lacked money, the offer couldn’t have been more attractive. However, the robed figure glanced up and down at him like the man was assessing Drew.

“Will you be able to do it? I heard you were badly beaten.”

“I am fine enough to take a commission.”

“What if you have to clash with the man who made you like this again?”

“What…!”

Drew’s face became dead-pale, and his hands shook.

‘It’s hopeless.’

The man shook his head.

‘I had a hunch, but this is beyond my expectations. I didn’t think he would be broken down to this extent.’

The man thought Drew’s usefulness had gone down to zero.

“Hmm.”

The man twitched his nose in dissatisfaction and straightened his knee. Drew saw that the man was going to take back his offer, so he shouted urgently, “I-I can handle it! I was going to get my revenge on that guy any—!”

“No, thanks,” the man answered. Any trace of politeness disappeared from his speech, and his tone was dry. Drew froze at the man’s sudden change.

Push!

A blade pierced Drew’s throat.

“I don’t need you.”

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