༺ Border Town (1) ༻
It is considered a good habit to engage in some light stretching soon after waking up, no matter the time.
Especially, if someone had trouble sleeping due to the bed or some other environmental constraints, then it was a must to properly stretch your body and do some warm-up to relax the stiff muscle groups. Failure to follow through would result in adverse effects that would last throughout the entirety of the day.
A firm believer in that ideology, Siwoo followed through with the stretching and warming up routine to relax his body. The light exercise lasted approximately 15 minutes, leaving him refreshed and ready for the day’s ordeals.
Due to professor Amelia’s sermons, he was able to sleep longer than usual. It was a boon that he was immensely grateful for. On the flip side, however, just the thought of being alone with the great witch, Amelia, accompanying her on her shopping trip, was enough to frighten him out of his wits.
Still in the process of his light morning workout, an abrupt thought dawned upon Siwoo, inadvertently forcing him to put a stop to his morning session.
Perhaps, due to Amelia’s bizarre behavior, the previous day, Siwoo had completely forgotten about a very important appointment that was scheduled for today.
“I must go to Tarot Town today.”
He had made an arrangement with Amelia the day before. He had to go shopping with her in accordance with the arrangement.
Consequently, however, it would be impossible for him to meet the twins and fulfill his promise. Moreover, there was no way for him to inform the duo apprentice witches of his circumstances.
Oblivious to his duties, the pair of apprentice witches would eagerly wait for his arrival in their mansion located in Tarot Town. They were bound to be disappointed and enraged when he didn’t show up, in the end.
“I’m totally fucked, aren’t I?”
Dealing with the eager witches, who would be enraged beyond recognition due to his inability to go through with his promise, would be one gigantic pain in the ass. He was positive about that.
He wished to rush to Tarot Town and explain his inconveniences to them, apologizing for not being able to uphold his promise to them. He doubted that Amelia would let him drop by Tarot Town no matter what excuse he would make to her, so he didn’t even try to go down that route.
“Well, if I explain my troubles to them, I think they’ll understand…maybe.”
Considering his circumstances, he had no choice but to overlook the matter with the twins while consoling himself with that line of thought.
Fortunately, over the span of the past few days, he was able to get up close and intimate with Odil, the eldest of the twins.
Unlike Odette, who seemed friendly but oddly distant in her interactions with him, Odil treated Siwoo more as the person he was rather than the slave he was forced to become after landing in Gehenna.
He didn’t know where this change stemmed from. Whether because of their sudden interest in him or because of the respect they may have felt for being able to attain some level of success in the realm of magic, while being someone who shouldn’t be able to use magic in the first place, he could only speculate. Nobody other than them could be certain about their reasonings.
Even their constant verbal threats were now a distant memory.
With innumerable such thoughts in mind, Siwoo got dressed and went out of the barn. On his way to uphold his appointment with the great witch, Amelia.
To give a detailed explanation about the place called “Border Town”, there was a prerequisite of having a deeper understanding of all of Gehenna, the city and de facto sanctuary of the witches.
As the world evolved with the rapid progression of science and technology, the areas where witches could hide from the general populace kept dwindling over the ages.
It’s common knowledge that with the progress of science and technology the unveiling of mysteries and new discoveries is further accelerated.
In the past, witches, who were integrated into society at the time with various miscellaneous and unconventional occupations such as prophets, fortune tellers, wizards, priests, shamans, alchemists, and even pharmacists felt their positions weakening due to the better alternatives and new values that were created with technological progress.
The fear of the unknown has always been the greatest horror for humans. And with the progress of knowledge and technology, this fear slowly morphed into an obsession to either acquire or destroy said unknown. Mysteries and wonders that were out of the logic spectrum were one of such unknown factors with ‘Witchcraft’ being the foremost example of such mysteries.
When the persecution of all forms of mysteries and superstitions reached its peak in the early 14th century, the greatest witches of that time gathered their forces and conjured the entirety of their knowledge acquired through uncountable years to build cities fit for housing and hiding all the witches of the world.
A remote area that was completely out of reach of modern society out for their blood.
Gathering the towns and remnants of the forgotten landscapes that even history books seldom mentioned, they erected a wide-scale barrier and completely obscured them from the prying eyes of the world. Making these remnants disappear from the face of the modern earth.
The colossal gathering of many remnants into one unified land made way for a city that was like no other. It was a paradoxical existence that defied reality itself. Existence and non-existence, Visibility and Invisibility, and many such oxymoronic concepts merged to form the city of witches.
‘Gehenna’ was its name and thus was the story of its origins, a place like no other, a place obscured from reality— “The world within the modern world”.
“I hope that I’m not too late, this time around.”
In front of him was a fountain of incomparable beauty.
And before such a fountain stood Amelia, looking like a model back in his hometown. The glistening droplets emitted from the picturesque fountain, fluttering in the air only backed up Amelia’s everlasting ethereal beauty.
His nose was immediately drawn to the distinct scent of her perfume. It was a fragrance that he had never come across before today. Was it a new perfume she wore just for today?
The strong scent perfectly matched Amelia’s own, creating a strong sense of harmony and attraction.
Like a princess straight out of a distant fantasy— such was the impression drawn in the minds of those who saw Amelia in her current dress-up.
She was an absolutely gorgeous woman that portrayed the very definition of beauty in whatever she wore. However, the magnitude of her beauty had jumped to another level today.
Because the clothing she was wearing was embellished with gems, and those gems weren’t diamonds but rather something beautiful.
It was the perfect party dress to wear that would draw the eyes of the whole crowd if she were to just step on the dance floor; she was practically ready for it.
Siwoo couldn’t help but wonder if such an extravagant getup was really needed to go to the border down…
However, before those thoughts could crawl their way into his lips, he immediately swallowed them down, lest he might draw the ire of the associate professor.
He decided to give her some lip service instead.
“You look wonderful today, madam.”
“Oh, do I now? Hmm…”
According to the dastardly pimp, going by the name of Takasho who also happened to be his only friend in this accursed town, women, in general, adored being complimented for their beauty. There was not a single exception to this rule.
Awkwardly, Siwoo started his small campaign of trying to compliment Amelia on her looks. Clearly, he was no veteran on this field and was just spouting out whatever first came out of his mouth.
Amelia, seemingly unimpressed, kept blankly staring at him without uttering a single word. But that was already a good sign in Siwoo’s books.
On any other day, she would have just uttered things along the lines of, “Do I need your approval to look great?” or some other vain profanities that would flounder his mood. Her keeping quiet was already a godsend, so he decided to add some more praises.
“Of course, madam. Moreover, now that you aren’t adorning those gothic clothes, your beauty has become more pronounced than ever.”
Those words were spoken with the most refreshing smile he was able to muster, but they seemed to have an adverse effect on the peacefully standing Amelia.
Unexpectedly, a slight frown was drawn on the immaculate face of Amelia.
Years of being with the woman had given him enough insight into her mood and expressions. That insight dictated that Amelia’s facial expression when she was unhappy held an index point of 75. The same insight screamed at him that…she was making that same exact face right now., according to Siwoo’s scout, was 75.
To get a displeasure score of 75 all at once, and that too with a single line of praise.
It was an all-new record for Siwoo. He was thoroughly fucked…
“My apologies if I may have offended you, madam. However, the truth of the matter is that…you look rather stuffy in those baggy and oversized robes.”
Ah! Fucking shit, I completely messed up. Fucckkkk!
Distracted by his own enthusiasm, he had ended up spitting out some truths along with the compliments he was throwing at her. It had now become a recipe for his disaster, or so he thought in his mind.
Before Siwoo could enter full-blown panic mode, and say even more gibberish to save his skin, Amelia seized the slight pause in his speech and delivered her response in a cold tone.
“I didn’t dress up to impress you, janitor. So, I have no need for your compliments. Never, and I mean never have such thoughts again, understood!!?”
Without even waiting for his reply, she turned on her heels, elegantly sashaying towards the west academy building. Her gait signified that she wasn’t in the mood for any further interaction unless absolutely necessary.
Her finely braided blonde hair fluttered in the air, swaying side to side along her rapid departing gait.
It was not without reason that it was mentioned that people should avoid doing things that didn’t suit them.
Quietly, Siwoo followed Amelia, inwardly cursing himself for his stupidity.
Gehenna was quite a large city. Since the dawn of its inception, the city had added multitudes of land nonstop and kept expanding its borders even up to this day.
Although he was unsure of the exact size, it was reportedly around the size of Jeju Island in Korea. Maybe, even more…
It would take nearly a full day, traveling by a horse-drawn carriage to reach Border Town, situated at the very outskirts of the city, from Trinity Academy which was located in the very heart of the Gehenna.
To eradicate such inconveniences, witches deployed innumerable portals all across Gehenna that would allow back-and-forth travel from each destination. These portals were collectively referred to as Gates.
The ‘Gate’ situated in Border Town was thus activated by a magical device for traveling convenience.
“Hello. Ms. Associate Professor Amelia. How may I be of service?”
“Two tickets to Border Town.”
The receptionist adorning a set of black-rimmed glasses, gently nodded, standing up on the next moment to fulfill Amelia’s needs.
The woman was fairly young among the witches. She was currently working as a researcher and an operator in the portal services.
The term “young” was usually referred to a witch who inherited a newly created brand and thus became a witch in recent times, not having much experience and knowledge in the field of witchcraft.
Thus, it made way for a scene where her very demeanor resembled that of a commoner being in the presence of a princess of a prominent kingdom. This revealed that there were clear hierarchies drawn even among the witches, a story better left for other times.
Greeting Siwoo, realizing his identity, she couldn’t help but direct a confounding look toward him.
“I’m sorry, but are you traveling with the madam?”
In fact, it was a rather unusual scene indeed.
Witches hailing from the upper towns rarely traveled directly to the Border Town using gates.
Consequently, only commoners and slaves like Siwoo were the ones to use the gates and travel by paying the fare on their own.
A great witch like Amelia, who spent the majority of her time diligently working in the research building, was suddenly accompanying a slave like him. It would be weird if such a question was not asked by the receptionist. Siwoo understood where she was coming from. .
“Is there a problem?”
“Ah…! No, of course not! The fare is 2 pounds per person, madam.”
As expected of Amelia, Siwoo thought inwardly.
The sight of a bonafide witch, trembling incessantly in front of Amelia’s presence felt rather dissonant in his eyes. However, recalling Amelia’s position and the power she wielded made everything fall into place no matter how incredulous they may seem.
Reaching out, four pieces of gold coins were handed to the receptionist by Amelia.
“Please, go down by the fourth stairway.”
Bowing to the receptionist, Siwoo tottered behind Amelia who hadn’t looked back for even a second after handing over the traveling fare.
Capable of connecting two points of great distance, the portals were mechanisms of great intrigue in Siwoo’s eyes.
The stairway consisted of stone steps that had the appearance of the steps of an atypical wine cellar. The steps led to the basement of the building where the main mechanism was placed. Halfway down the stairs, the image of flowing water entered the eyes of the traveling duo.
Of course, it was not just any run-of-the-mill water. Thinly diluted traces of mana were mixed into the water to make it act similar to a mana potion. Due to the properties of mana, the water glowed with a faint, luminescent hue, akin to the glow emitted by a dimly-lit fluorescent tube light.
The liquid was quite mysterious, to say the least. Neither did submerging inside obstruct the water flow nor did it wet the clothes, acting completely opposite to any liquid that Siwoo had come across during his lifetime.
Slowly, he walked down the stairs, his gaze affixed to Amelia’s lithe back. Her head was already submerged underneath the mana-infused water.
Descending down the V-shaped stairway, they came across another set of stairs that ascended upwards. Apparently, this set of stairs led to Border Town. The stairway itself was actually the portal that connected the two points. The whole process was very fascinating to someone like Siwoo.
Soon, Siwoo arrived in Border Town feeling slightly dizzy in the head— the trademark repercussion of using the portal.
Amelia’s gaze landed on Siwoo, pitifully dry heaving as he felt rather nauseous— telltale signs of motion sickness due to traveling using the teleportation portal.
Having ridden it merely two times before today, his body was not yet used to the feeling of dissonance that accompanied the relocation of mass amounts of distance. .
“Janitor, I advise that you find a corner and just vomit. It will help relieve the sickness you’re feeling.”
“Oh, pardon…madam. I’m fine now.”
Hearing his response, Amelia decided to move on, not paying him any heed. Brushing off the faint trickles of the mana-infused water sticking to her clothes, she climbed up the stairs to reach the platform.
Compared to the Academy’s platform, which had a large array and refurbished halls, Border Town’s platform looked shabby in comparison.
Siwoo was taken aback by the sight, greeting his enamored gaze as soon as he left the platform that resembled a half-collapsed temple.
Border Town— a town with a canyon carved into an assortment of cascading paths, facing the harbor.
Huge layers of moss-covered cliffs provided ample space for people to live and support their accommodations.
A dreary atmosphere covered the entirety of Border Town due to its ever-cloudy weather. The smog and the sea fog clearly had a hand in the creation of such a weather that blocked the sun 24/7.
The dastardly raincoat that angered Siwoo to no end was a daily necessity of this place.
Located at the highest point of the Border Town, the platform provided a wide-angle view of the entirety of the town for Siwoo to witness.
The cliffs surrounding the port, arranged in the shape of a horseshoe, were a picturesque scene. The grandiose buildings mounting the cliffs were a mesmerizing sight to behold, clearly, the people constructing them were simply amazing in their crafts. Among this assortment of wonderful sights what truly amazed Siwoo was the massive, 2km long, floating circle above the sea.
It had another name, ‘Gate’. The portal that connected this world with the modern world. The name was very befitting as it was the gate to the world within the world.
From that circle, ships of large and small sizes filled to the brim with smugglers that transported goods from the outside world inside the city of Gehenna.
Among the melange of ships, some would carry items imported from the world outside while others would carry slaves, just like him, that were freshly captured from the modern world.
There were even ships carrying food supplies that will be used as stock distributed to the denizens of Gehenna.
The supplies were a must-have as the crops grown in Gehenna cannot be self-sufficient.
That’s right. All of this only indicated one thing.
The “Border” in Border Town, the meaning behind it was pretty self-explanatory…
It was the town that linked the modern world to Gehenna, the world hidden within.
“By the way, Ms. Associate Professor, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to buy today?”
Siwoo asked, his eyes still affixed on observing the residents of the distant harbor, scampering about the town like ants crawling on the ground.
“Cigarettes, and perfumes.”
As expected, there was nothing special that she needed to buy.
If it was only that, there was no need for her to personally come to this place. It would have sufficed if she simply sent him to procure the items for her.
Without a doubt, she had an ulterior motive in coming here, But what was it? He didn’t believe even for a second that she had come to this distant place to spend some quality time with him. The thought of them being on a date never crossed the janitor’s mind.
“Follow me to the Blue Snake Junction.”
As soon as Amelia started walking, Siwoo covered her head with the large umbrella he had brought along with him for this very purpose.
Of course, in no way could this scene relate to a cute couple sharing an umbrella under a light drizzle, emanating an aura of youth and romance.
Siwoo had to keep Amelia dry while he was getting drenched. It was the perfect portrait of a servant carrying the umbrella for his master. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Come to think of it, Ms. Associate Professor…”
There was no need for her to traverse the path around the cliff like him.
It was completely plausible for a witch like her to use her magical arts to jump off the click and gently land in the middle of the harbor.
Alternatively, she could also use flight magic and levitate herself to the town below.
“If you go ahead, I’ll run and catch up to you soon. I won’t leave you hanging, I promise.”
Siwoo’s suggestion didn’t stem from his concern for Amelia. In fact, it was a proposal made with the explicit purpose of keeping this girl as far away from him as possible for even a second longer.
Even though his reasonings were concise and straight to the point, the blank look etched on the great witch’s face dictated that she was lost in thought due to his very speech.
He hurriedly added, doubting that maybe he had made another error with this stupid mouth of his that didn’t know how to restrain itself.
“Don’t you think the rain will ruin your pretty dress? This way, you don’t need to stress about it getting dirty, madam.”
He had made another reasonable appeal, but only a vague expression colored the witch’s face as she kept her silence.
It had been more than five years since he became acquainted with the troublesome witch called Amelia, but not once, not even for a single moment did he see her making any expression close to what she was donning on her face right now.
Amelia sighed briefly for the second time, meanwhile, a ghastly expression painted Siwoo’s face as cold sweat ran down his back like a broken dam. He was getting scared out of his wits right now.
“My apologies for any misconduct I have committed, madam.”
He had no idea just what kind of mistake he had made just now.
But he chose to apologize nonetheless. It was better this way, Siwoo thought as he waited for her response. Fear was taking over all of his senses with each trickle in the sands of time.
“Stop whining. It’s annoying.”
Siwoo walked after Amelia, closing his mouth shut, and putting the umbrella over her again. He firmly promised to keep this bothersome mouth of his shut till it was necessary for him to talk again.
There weren’t many people in the highlands, but with their gradual descent, more and more people entered their vision. By the time they reached the middle of the staircase, there were quite a few individuals around, drastically more if compared to the highlands.
A grumpy muscular man who was dressed in rags rather than a raincoat.
A skinny young man with an impression that even pirates would have no choice but to be suspicious of him for possessing an AK47 rifle.
A gloomy-looking granny.
Perhaps due to the lack of sunlight, an aura of gloom and insidiousness emanated from each and every person they encountered.
In fact, walking around this eerie town that fit the very description of a dystopian remnant, while being a slave was rather intimidating.
Hence, whenever Siwoo had business in this town on his lonesome, he ran back home as soon as he was finished with his work.
He didn’t even bother looking around. The only thing on his mind was to get the hell out of this dump..
This time around, however, there was no need for him to adopt such vigilant thoughts. At least, as long as he was with Amelia.
Wherever they went, everyone bowed their heads and turned heels the moment they saw the sight of Amelia. It was like a deer being confronted with its natural enemy, the only option for it was to run for its life. Siwoo was sure that there was no bodyguard in the entirety of Border Town that was more dependable than the witch beside him.
The sudden voice, tinged with the flavor of a malevolent bleakness, surprised Siwoo out of his thoughts.
While he had been immersed in his own thoughts, droplets streaming down the ends of the umbrella had found their way on top of Amelia’s head, drenching it in the process. The sight was enough to almost make his soul leave his body in fright.
Anxiety surged through every nerve of his body, as Siwoo couldn’t help but wonder just what kind of scolding he would be receiving from the devilish woman this time around.
“Hold the umbrella straight.”
Surprisingly, Amelia was unusually generous today. Letting him off with just a single warning.
Evaporating the water droplets with her magic, she soon walked ahead, forcing Siwoo to run after her with an umbrella in hand, taking care to not allow any more rain to drench even a part of her skin.
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