༺ Old Acquaintance ༻
After the meal at the restaurant, we headed to the tram station in District 7.
There were no more classes on Monday afternoons, and we happened to have plans to go somewhere today.
So, having already submitted a vacation request, I asked instructor Lirya for her understanding and accompanied her to the station.
“Well, I’ll go in first. Instructor Graham, you should be careful when entering, too. There’s a lot of bad news going around these days.”
“Yes, see you tomorrow.”
Instructor Lirya waved with a bright smile, and I left the station after confirming she got on the tram.
Shall we go then?
Saladin’s problem, the atmosphere of the Opal Black class, and the consultation with Instructor Lirya were important, but the real purpose of today was from now on.
I dodged around telling Instructor Lirya that I had a brief stop nearby, but in fact, the place I was going to was not nearby.
Shangria was divided into 25 Districts, but there is a separate District that ordinary people do not know about.
A place where the law does not apply, a District that is not a District.
A place where all the filthy desires and dirty money of the city gather.
People who know the place commonly call it this way.
District 26 of the capital, the Dark District.
Of course, I haven’t been in the capital for long, so I know that the Dark District exists, but I don’t know the exact location.
The only information I know is that it is hidden underground, unnoticed by people, and that an old criminal organization rules the place. And the fact that the Royal Family also knows of its existence but tacitly approves of it.
However, not knowing where it was doesn’t mean there was no way to find it.
The security in District 7, close to the central road, was quite good. Therefore, this place was not suitable for finding the Dark District.
District 8, District 9, District 10… I gradually moved away from the central road of the capital, and deliberately walked only through the dirty back alleys where few people were in each District.
The instructor’s uniform was too conspicuous, so I took off my coat in advance. Inevitably, this attracts the attention of bad gangs.
As expected, I felt the presence of several people subtly following me from behind.
I defiantly entered a deeper and darker back alley. Then, the presence following me became more and more blatantly closer.
It is natural to be cautious when thinking that a person who has come alone to such a dangerous back alley must have something going on.
But if there is someone who would still approach me, they would either be a third-rate thug who couldn’t even think of such a thing or someone who is quite confident in their skills.
They seemed to be the latter.
“Hey. What kind of person are you, wandering around here?”
“I haven’t seen your face before. Did you know this is the territory of the Black Scorpions?”
The men who followed me all had rough faces and considerable physiques that did not suit the image of back alley thugs, giving off an atmosphere of having had their fair share of knife fights.
They were probably members of an organization that controlled the back alleys of this area.
I was lucky. I thought I would have to repeat this several times, but it seemed unnecessary.
Despite their questions, when I didn’t respond, their already fierce faces grew more distorted, and they spoke in an irritated tone.
“Is this bastard mute?”
“Enough. Let’s cripple him first. If we break his legs a bit, he’ll probably willingly tell us which organization he belongs to.”
They narrowed the distance with threatening gestures such as cracking their knuckles and bumping their fists.
I stood still with my arms crossed and silently stared at them. Then, the most well-fed and sturdy-looking man among them twisted his face and threw a punch at me.
“Ha! Kid, let’s see if you can keep that expression after getting hit!”
It seemed that the man had thrown a punch or two before, as his gesture of putting power into his waist and swinging his fist was quite convincing. It would have been quite a skill for a back alley level.
I casually turned my head, and his punch barely grazed my cheek, leaving a faint trace.
Instead of answering, I unfolded my arms. At the same time, my fist struck the guy’s solar plexus in an instant.
With the sound of several ribs cracking, the man flew into the air and hit the wall.
He clutched his chest, struggling to breathe properly, then soon rolled his eyes back and fell forward.
The other men around him gaped in astonishment.
I slowly stepped forward, and soon the screams of the men echoed throughout the back alley.
“Here, here it is, sir….”
I had the guy, known as the Black Scorpion or some other nickname, who was the leader of the back alley organization in this area, guide me to the path leading to the Dark Guild.
Since the ordinary organization members I had captured didn’t know the way to the Dark Guild, I had to find someone who knew, trace my way back up, and eventually find and bring the leader from the organization’s headquarters.
From his perspective, it must have been an unexpected disaster as the headquarters suddenly got destroyed. But on second thought, it was his subordinates who threatened me first, so it could be seen as self-defense.
Following the leader’s guidance, I went down to the basement of a shabby building. At first, I thought it was just a basement of a simple building, but it turned out to be an old sewer connected to the underground of the district.
A remnant of the Third Empire era, used when Shangria was first created before the Galatea Empire was established.
The now-unused underground sewer was the passage leading to the Dark Guild.
“If you follow this path, it connects to the Dark Guild.”
“Is this the only path?”
“In District 11, yes. There are a few more similar passages in other districts, but I don’t know much about them because other organizations manage those areas…! I’m telling the truth!”
Although there was only one organization managing the Dark Guild, they couldn’t control all the entrances to the numerous underground sewers spread across the entire district. Therefore, these organizations were more like subordinate organizations that controlled the Dark Guild.
I sent the now-useless leader of the organization back and followed the underground sewer path.
As I thought the path was coming to an end, at some point, the once pitch-dark underground began to be illuminated by the light of magic lamps.
A large square connected to all the underground sewer paths. Once a reservoir storing rainwater from the entire district, but now a place where all sorts of desires from the people of the district gathered.
This was District 26, the Dark Guild.
There were no guards at the entrance. According to an acquaintance who informed me about the Dark Guild, District 26 was just a district, and anyone who knew the way here could freely visit.
As long as they followed the rules here, not asking questions or showing interest in each other was an interesting feature of the place called the Dark Guild.
I looked around the landscape of the Dark Guild and was lost in thought for a moment.
The reason I came to the Dark Guild was to find Ella’s whereabouts.
After encountering Ella’s illusion in the forest, I had made up my mind not to run away from the truth any longer.
However, it had been 20 years since Ella left the village. Amidst a war that resulted in many deaths and disappearances, the chance of me finding Ella by asking around diligently on my own was close to a miracle.
It was difficult to find Ella’s whereabouts through conventional means. So, there were only two organizations with potential.
The Imperial Intelligence Agency.
And the information broker of the Dark Guild.
I considered asking Elizabeth to entrust the matter to the Imperial Intelligence Agency, but I hesitated because it felt like using a student for my personal affairs, regardless of whether she would listen to my request. I also didn’t want to be indebted to the Imperial Royal Family.
In that regard, the information broker of the Dark Guild was a clear choice. As long as I provided the money, they wouldn’t ask questions and would somehow get the job done.
It wasn’t a great place for an Imperial soldier or an Academy instructor to visit, but there was no other alternative. Besides, I also knew someone in the Dark Guild.
Although it was my first time in the Dark Guild, I was sure that person would know the location of the information broker. So, of course, I knew where I should go.
It wasn’t a place I particularly wanted to go, nor a person I particularly wanted to meet, but…
I had no choice. Since I’ve already come this far, there’s no reason to back down.
I steeled myself and observed the people around the Dark Guild: adventurers, mercenaries, and even nobles accompanied by escorts.
Most of them covered their faces with masks or robes to hide their identities, but there were also those who boldly revealed their faces.
These people were generally not from the surface but residents of the 26th district, who lived only in this underground area.
Even as I walked the streets of the Dark Guild alone, I didn’t get caught up in any unnecessary disputes. There were rules in this district where the laws of the surface didn’t apply. If people were immediately caught in various conflicts and dangers upon entering, no one would come here.
The kind of people I was looking for on the streets were those who were clearly thirsty for desires and desperately seeking women. It was obvious where they were heading.
Eventually, I arrived at the entrance of a flashy building filled with the scent of perfume, alcohol, and the risqué laughter of women.
“Oh my, what a handsome gentleman has come today.”
“Handsome guy. Would you like to have a good time with us?”
Feeling momentarily dizzy, I let out a deep sigh.
The place I found was the brothel of the Dark Guild.
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