༺ Border Town (5) ༻
There was a slight issue, however.
The villa belonging to Amelia’s friend, the one she lent to her to stay on during this trip…
They had next to no idea where the villa was located inside Border Town. The address given was unfamiliar to both of them.
Amelia, born into nobility, was understandably unfamiliar with the geology of Border Town. Thus it fell to Siwoo to figure out the location of the villa. With no clues nor maps at hand, he inevitably resorted to asking the passersby about the location, thinking that the residents may be able to kindly point them to their destination. However, the only response he received were tilted heads and eyes brimming with confusion and doubt.
Thus with no one to help, they wandered the road for almost an hour with Siwoo trying his utmost to figure out the directions to the damn Villa. However, his inability to find out the location had resulted in an increasingly worse expression settling on Amelia’s face and subsequently her mind, making Siwoo almost faint from the blistering sense of anxiety he felt.
“Please, could you kindly point me in the direction of Cloud Mushroom Village 1-12?”
“Oh, finding it can be quite difficult for a newcomer. Listen, closely young man, lest you might miss it. It’s in quite the enclosed area after all.”
Roaming the streets for a while more, Siwoo decided to ask the reliable lady selling the chicken skewers from earlier. And she didn’t disappoint.
Along with giving him precise and meticulous directions leading to the village, the good-natured lady also informed him of different events regarding the village. Events that he couldn’t really find it in himself to give a damn about right now.
“Thank you so much, really. You’ve saved my skin.”
“Why are you thanking me? We’re both from the east, aren’t we? Easterners should live by sticking out for each other, especially in a place like this.”
If what he heard from the lady was true, then they might’ve been lost all along.
According to the rumors, the villa that they were searching for was located in the village that was formerly the primary living place for the witches of the town.
However, the place had been abandoned for 10 years, already.
The exact location of this Cloud Mushroom Village was to the north of Border Town, straight in the center of a forest extending a considerable area.
The original village had been overridden by this forest. Reportedly, a witch during one of her experiments royally fucked up and caused the widespread growth of thousands of oak trees, destroying the village in the process.
Allegedly, the witch was said to have been expelled from Gehenna due to this incident which also accosted her with a huge amount of debt. From that moment on, this incident was termed as the “Sprout Rebellion” by the locales.
Siwoo shared all of his acquired information with Amelia.
“….What if Ms. Associate Professor’s friend made a mistake with the address?”
“I don’t think so. From what I’ve heard, it was only built three years ago. So, it shouldn’t have been destroyed due to the incident.”
Well, he believed that the meticulous witch, that was Amelia, would never make a blunder like this. She should’ve double-checked the authenticity of the info already.”
So, the only way left was to traverse the dock and locate the exact place of the villa by themselves.
Ships carrying goods collected from the other side, the modern world, frequented the docks even at the tardive hours of the night.
Floodlights, typically used in construction sites during the dead hours of the night, illuminated the night harbor with their incandescent glow. Meanwhile, slaves transferring the piles of goods from the ships could be seen as far as the eyes could perceive, being whipped every now and then to hasten their steps,
In a corner, a large bidding war was held for a gigantic shark; pulled out from an inconspicuous fishing boat.
And on another corner, one could witness the smugglers busily counting the cash notes and exchanging them for gold bars.
Rather than the distinct smell of the ocean, a musty stench of sweat, mixed in with the smoggy scents of opium and cigarettes filled the entirety of the harbor area.
Had Siwoo not been lucky enough to land a position as a slave in the city hall, his fate would most definitely not have been better than those slaves, carrying goods while not even having the leisure to tend to the wounds and bruises inflicted.
His body shivered instinctively merely imagining that horrifying scene.
Amelia, however, didn’t even give a cursory glance at the dreadful scene surrounding her, as though everything was inconsequential to her.
She didn’t even feel the slightest bit of guilt, fully knowing that this absurd system was the making of witches like her.
That was the sort of person Amelia was. He was well aware of that truth.
However, more than the feelings of displeasure or contempt, Siwoo felt a bleak sense of disappointment settle in him at her actions.
“I, I can’t…! I can’t do it…!”
Suddenly, a slave began to rebel in one of the loading docks.
The slave, that looked to be in his 30s, threw away all the goods he was carrying and collapsed on the floor. No clothes could be seen on his upper torso and merely pants of even worse quality than Siwoo’s were the last line of clothes protecting his dignity.
Despite the fact that he was half naked in this chilly weather of the night, the hem of his pants was stained with the salt stains of his sticky dried sweat.
“Is this bastard for real? You won’t get up right away, will you?”
Rushing over in his direction was a burly-looking slave manager equipped with a serrated whip.
The surrounding clamor caught Amelia’s attention, and thus they stopped moving as they witnessed the harrowing scene ahead.
“Kill me! Just fucking kill me already! What kind of person can work for 16 hours a day?”
The middle-aged man, with bloodshot eyes that emanated a maddening ferocity, started screaming fiercely and resisted against the manager even after being mercilessly whipped.
Busy thrashing the slave for his transgression, the manager belatedly realized Amelia’s presence and got visibly flustered.
He felt thoroughly humiliated. A slave under him was rioting while being in the presence of a noble witch; this was a testament to his incompetence. What else could he feel other than shame?
Such was the mentality of Gehenna’s citizens, deeply entrenched in feudalism.
Reaching the limits of his shame and the subsequent anger, the manager unsheathed the curved sword from his waist.
“Even though you were as slow as a pig, I tolerated your incompetence it and let you go, but I won’t stand it any longer!”
The moment, the slave manager attempted to behead the slave, something unexpected occurred…
Amelia stepped forward.
“Ms. Witch! Bastards like these need to be punished to serve as an example!”
The slave seemed to have gone mad already as he had not stopped shrieking even once from the beginning to the end.
Once the slave had spotted Amelia, however, he started yelling at her. Vulgar words poured out of the ungrateful slave’s mouth. He had really gone mad from rage, it seemed.
“Is that good-looking lady over there a witch, mate? Damn, they do look sexy, these rotten bitches.”
“You fucking imbecile!”
The dastardly slave, having made the horrifying transgression of crudely mocking Amelia, got swiftly kicked in the head by the manager.
Sparks may be lit against the manager if the slave’s comments were deemed to be disrespectful.
The manager had enough of the foul slave. As he tried to trample on the half-fainted slave, Amelia intervened, stopping him from stomping the slave to death.
“I told you to stop. Did you not hear me speak?”
“Yes, I understand, madam!.”
The manager reluctantly withdrew his foot. He was dissatisfied but he could not disrespect Amelia so he chose to remain silent.
As he was familiar with the customs and the taboos of Gehenna, he sensibly refrained from challenging the great witch’s orders.
The middle-aged slave, finally awake from his half-fainted state, immediately burst into an uncontrollable fit of grief and sorrow.
“Why? Just WHY!!? Why did you have to bring someone just trying to lead an honest life into this hell? Tell…me…WHY!!!?”
Crawling on the ground, the old man glared daggers toward Amelia, eyes blaring with untold fury.
“Do you believe you’re great? Merciful? Benevolent? Do you think your oh-so-great beauty gives you the right to trample on our lives? Just fucking kill me already, you whore! Kill me now!!!”
Seeing Amelia’s brows twitch in displeasure, Siwoo knew it was time for him to step in. So, he did step in…
He was already aware of Amelia’s nasty personality. He knew that she may lose it if things drag on. And…he sincerely didn’t wish to see her murder someone on a fit of rage.
“Hey, uncle, uncle! Please, calm down!”
“Who are you?”
Siwoo could feel all the gazes of the still surroundings, all work coming to a halt due to the commotion, nailing him down.
Shoving the manager aside, ripping off a piece of his jacket in the process, he came down to the middle-aged slave and wiped the mud off his weary face.
“You’re going to get yourself killed at this rate. So, please, let’s be rational from now on, alright?”
The manager was shocked by Siwoo’s outrageous act, but he was unable to stop him.
How could he? The witch, Amelia was standing still, watching the spectacle in silence.
Abruptly, the slave stood on his feet and pushed Siwoo on the chest without warning.
“You’re a fucking paramour, aren’t you? I can see that from how you’re clinging with that witch. I hate bastards like you the most. Do you know who did this to us? Who snatched our freedoms and turned us into this? Those bitches! Like her! What’s the difference between you and the pro-Japanese?””
A punch thus landed on Siwoo, forcing him to retreat from the crazed man.
Watching that scene, Amelia’s eyebrows shot up, making her move from her position.
A faint aroma of lilac lingered in the air. It was an artificial scent as there was nothing apart from the dried seaweed latched on the shore. Not even a faint trace of a flower could be found in the harbor.
Soon the scent became so strong that it gave one the illusion of having stepped into a garden of flowers. The sweet scent of lilac spread far and wide, masking all the nasty smells that emanated from the harbor. Be it the horrid smell of dried fish, the salty scent of the sea, or the musky aroma of the exploited slaves, everything was shadowed by the scent of fresh lilacs.
This alluring scent, one that someone could only hope to encounter in the sweetest dreams, could never be natural.
This was the great witch Amelia’s self-essence magic.
Through this magic, Amelia Marigold was enshrined with the title of the ‘Witch of Fragrance’.
As soon as the people caught a whiff of the oddities they fled without a second of doubt.
Even the angry manager threw his sword and fled for his life, showing the severity of this situation.
“Very well. I shall grant your wish if that’s what your heart desires.”
Leisurely, Amelia’s hand lifted in the air, pointing toward the lunatic slave. But before she could obliterate the man…
Her wrist was firmly gripped by a hand, it was Siwoo’s.
Her azure-blue eyes, faintly glowing with the reflection of mana trembled at the sudden intrusion.
The transgression of touching a witch’s body without permission; that too by a mere slave.
It was a major offense that warranted extreme measures.
Surprisingly, Siwoo wasn’t obliterated on the spot. Even the sign of slight surprise vanished from Amelia’s face as her face slowly returned to her usual expressionless state. Turning her head she questioned Siwoo in a cold tone.
“What do you think you are doing, Janitor?”
“Do you believe this is the right thing to do, madam?”
“A slave humiliated me in public, Janitor. He seems to wish for death, and I’m only doing him the favor of granting him that wish. I see nothing wrong here.”
That was not a word existing in the dictionary of a pure-blooded witch like Amelia.
She was not going to listen, even if he endlessly preached to her about how ridiculous this system was.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. But, Ms. Associate Professor Amelia…”
Siwoo gave strength to the hand holding Amelia’s wrist in a tight grip, preventing her from extending her hand any further.
Even though he knew that he could get fucked for this blasphemous act, he still didn’t wish to witness Amelia killing someone.
“If the Ms. Associate Professor kills that slave, I don’t think I can ever forgive you.”
It was an absurd statement, bordering lunacy. It was a nonsensical statement to bet someone’s life on.
In what sane world could a slave ever threaten a witch as he did?
Siwoo was aware of the contradiction in his words. But he was still willing to bet on it.
Siwoo faced Amelia without averting his eyes from her. The witch silently nailed him with her gaze.
After a while, however, Amelia’s eyes sparkling in the power of mana, slowly lost their glow.
She retracted her mana, deciding to listen to Siwoo. .
The dreamlike fragrance of lilac emanating throughout was soon replaced with the original smell of Border Town.
Only then could Siwoo afford to look at his surroundings.
Everyone who had been screaming and fleeing everywhere halted on their steps…together.
Their movements were so in sync that it felt like they were doing a group performance.
Slowly, the halted populace started moving again.
“What… Just what was that?”
“I felt like I caught a whiff of a lovely scent of flowers and then I was suddenly here.”
People buzzed about. Words indicated that they had lost a part of their memories.
Unbothered by their clamor, Amelia walked past Siwoo and approached the manager who was holding the sword that had tumbled on the ground during his escape.
“Who’s in charge here?”
“I’M JACK, THE 3RD ANCHORAGE’S LOGISTICS OFFICER, MADAM!”
The officer introduced himself in a deafening tone.
“Please investigate the slave’s origin and send him to the appropriate location. If you leave him here, well, he will most likely drop dead in a few days anyways. Might as well get rid of the extra baggage.”
“Yes! Understood, madam!”
The officer responded with the same disciplined voice of a new recruit filled with vigor.
It was a starkly different response compared to the rudely behaving slave.
Moments later, the middle-aged slave, seemingly still mad with rage, yelled at the departing back of a slowly retreating Amelia. His words are still harsh and full of contempt.
“Why? I told you to kill me! Can’t do it, huh?”
Amelia didn’t look back, opting to not respond to his taunts.
Siwoo stood next to Amelia the entire time, watching silently as the middle-aged man’s echoing voice gradually died down. The officer covering the lunatic’s lips with his hand played a huge part in finally ending this farce.
“Thank you, Ms. Associate Professor.”
Siwoo was feeling ecstatic.
He couldn’t really pinpoint the exact reason behind his happiness…
Though, what he could say for sure was that… He was glad to know that Amelia wasn’t a witch who was rotten to her very core.
“Don’t get me wrong. Nothing in the Janitor’s speech caused me to change my decision.”
Amelia’s voice was still as cold as always.
Yes, Siwoo could more or less understand why she did it.
Even though Amelia was a cold and ruthless witch, she didn’t wish to soil her hands in a fit of anger.
Just when they were about to step foot into the path leading to the oak forest, clearly visible even from a great distance…
Amelia’s voice echoed beside Siwoo. It was a distant voice as though she were reciting a poem.
“Live like a noble while adhering to the path of a witch.”
“That was the final teaching my master imparted to me. She used to say that to me on a regular basis during her last days, you see…
Siwoo was so startled by her statement that he thought he might pass out any minute.
Five years. Five long years he spent with her and this was the first time he heard her speak about herself. It was a great shock to Siwoo.
“I know what it means to live like a witch. Walking on this path. I think it’s good to just live as I do now.
Siwoo glanced at Amelia’s side profile. He had to admit, Amelia was the perfect definition of a witch to Siwoo. There was none like her.
However, in that lofty face of hers that shone with arrogance and stoicism, he felt that he might’ve caught a brief glimpse of a shadow. A shadow of grief plaguing her for a long time. He felt as if he had just glimpsed the shadow of grief in her haughty, cold face.
“However, I could never really understand what it meant to live like a noble.”
Amelia, who had previously appeared like a pretty doll (due to a dreadful curse), now appeared a little more human.
Listening to her, Siwoo voiced his thoughts.
“A while ago, Ms. Amelia looked far more noble than anybody I have ever witnessed.”
Amelia’s expression, which had looked vulnerable for a brief moment, went back to its previous expressionless state.
The sudden shift in appearance seemed forceful, almost stubborn. It was like she was obliged to maintain that appearance at all times.
“The Janitor needs to stop sounding like a smartass.”
Amelia snapped back at him.
Siwoo only smiled merrily in response to her angry retort.
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