༺ Suspicion (2) ༻
The muddy water splashed and made a gurgling sound. The muddy water splashed up and plunged down.
Vera watched the scene for a moment, then looked up.
He saw a deep red landscape. On top of the gloomy lot were black and red planks, with worn out pieces of cloth covering them.
The air was damp against his skin, and there was a foul stench.
It was the slums of 13th Street in the Imperial Capital.
Returning to his old home, Vera took in the sight with cold eyes.
Something had definitely changed in his absence, but this scene somehow remained unchanged. It was the same as how Vera remembered it.
As Vera looked at the view, he suddenly felt a strange sensation come over him.
Even though he had been away from this place for a long time, he could not get rid of his past, and the feeling of ‘familiarity’ took over him.
Having lived here, he was forced to face all the evil acts that he had done in this place.
The muddy water splashed again. The lower hem of his robe was stained with a dark red color and a foul smell was permeating throughout his body.
The strange and tickling feelings he had that afternoon were disappearing.
It was replaced with depression and annoyance. Vera took a deep breath at those rising emotions, then clenched his teeth.
He didn’t want to be swept away by those emotions.
He was no longer Vera of the slums. He was now Vera, the Apostle of Oath, and Renee’s Knight.
The reason he came here was to investigate possible risks.
Vera pushed those thoughts out of his mind, composed himself, and started walking forward.
He went further and further through the slums, and into a den where the stench was even worse.
He walked past, trying to ignore the scenes unfolding before him.
Then, Vera stopped walking.
His gaze was on a shack that was about to fall apart.
…It was the same house that he had shared with Renee at the end of his previous life.
The place where everything changed for him. The place where he broke his oath and engraved a new one in its place.
Looking at that place, Vera, who had a cloudy expression, moved and opened the door of the shack.
The sound echoed, and the scene that he saw was a shabby and cold space that had not changed in the slightest.
‘…Is it still empty?’
There were no signs of life, so he was probably right.
Vera took a glance at the spot where he used to lay, and the spot next to it where Renee always sat. Shortly after, he left the house.
He wandered about aimlessly. He was walking along the same path where he had crawled around in an unsightly manner at the end of his life.
At the end of his walk, with a stronger body compared to his past life, Vera found himself in a dark alley.
It was the spot where Renee had died.
The spot was filled with muddy water that was still tainted with dark colors like paint.
Vera knelt down and swept his hand over the muddy water.
The oath carved into his soul burned brightly, as if welcoming the place where it was born.
The oath, which signified the end of his previous life and the beginning of this one, was speaking to Vera.
Don’t let Renee’s blood be spilled here again.
Give it your all so that she will have a brilliant end.
Vera stood up, wiping the dirt that stuck to his fingertips on his robe.
I know what I must do, so don’t even bother explaining.
Vera answered the oath he had engraved and continued walking further.
Once again, he was heading deeper into the slums.
Remembering the movements on how to investigate the slums, Vera did not hesitate.
Because there was someone who could explain the slums after he had disappeared.
Vera’s hand was on a middle-aged man’s head as he pushed him to the floor with a thud.
Vera looked at him with somber eyes.
The leader of the beggars who persecuted him a long time ago. A man who drunkenly broke his neck in his past life. A man who, in this life, had somehow managed to continue his miserable existence.
Vera had come to the deep alley to hear the movements of the slums from Doran.
Generally speaking, there was no better way to find out what was going on in an unfamiliar place than to ask a local.
“I came here because there’s something I want to know.”
Vera’s hand pressed harder on Doran’s head.
Doran’s eyes grew wider as a suppressed groan slipped out of his mouth.
“Who— who are you…!”
He said, not knowing why this unknown man was threatening him like this.
And with that, Vera smirked.
“So you don’t remember…”
That somehow made him furious, but Vera did not press Doran further.
From Doran’s perspective, it was understandable that he had forgotten.
Many things have changed from the bastard Vera of the slums to who he was now.
For starters, he was taller than an average man, and his well-built body was clearly showing through even when he was bundled up.
Aside from that, he was just one of those who disappeared seven years ago, so it was no surprise that Doran didn’t remember him in a place where people died every day.
After finishing his thoughts, Vera concluded that there was no need for him to reveal his identity, so he relaxed his grip.
Doran, who was now able to breathe, squirmed and tried to escape from Vera.
He was stopped by Vera’s kick.
“Escape is futile.”
Vera continued, looking at Doran with cold eyes.
“I told you, I’m here because there’s something I want to know. Are you an idiot for not even understanding what I said?”
Doran crouched, his hands were wrapping tightly around his stomach that was kicked earlier.
He was tainted with fear.
Is this how I die? Will I die from some unknown person’s hands? Doran thought for a while.
Doran’s survival instinct took over and he prostrated himself.
“Spare me… I-I’ll tell you everything I know…!”
“Who said I’m going to kill you?”
Vera grinned. Doran glanced up, saw his smile, and slammed his head into the ground again.
Watching Doran’s pathetic display, Vera felt an odd sense of satisfaction and asked in a whisper.
“I want to know how the cartels in the slums are moving right now.”
Doran didn’t ask any questions. He just wanted to answer quickly and get out of there.
Doran quickly spat out his answer.
“C-Croden is making drugs! Pomil is selling organs outside, and Zeze is kidnapping children and selling them to slave dealers! Also, also…”
One poke and the information kept pouring out.
While listening to him, Vera thought, ‘this bastard still has no guts’. Then, he asked him suddenly.
“What about Derrick?”
Among the information Doran mentioned, there was no word about the Scavenger’s leader.
Vera, taking out a dagger, watched the very flustered Doran’s eyes roll back in his head.
“I want to know what happened to the Scavengers.”
As expected, the answer came out right away.
“They are screwed! Derrick and the Scavengers are all dead!”
“Stop fooling around and…”
Doran’s exclamation was one of genuine frustration.
Trembling, Doran continued speaking quickly.
“About seven years ago…a few Scavenger branches were suddenly wiped out, weakening their power. The other cartels took advantage of that and took over their territory…”
His rambling suddenly reminded Vera of something he had forgotten.
‘…Come to think of it.’
Before leaving this place, he had beaten the Scavengers to death with his own hands.
Did the actions that he did to vent out his anger at that time led to this?
After a moment of reflection, Vera still didn’t understand something, so he turned to Doran again.
“Didn’t the Scavengers reappear again?”
The Scavengers were like weeds. Even if you exterminate them all, they were bound to spring up again and reclaim their territory at some point.
So, how were they being suppressed?
Doran wiped a hand across his face and answered Vera’s question.
“Well, there’s a new cartel that replaced them…”
“Who? Coco? Sara? Gilgan?”
They were the names of the new cartel leaders who had come to the slums in his past life.
If there was anyone who would fill the void left by the shift in power, it would be one of them.
…Was what he thought. However, Doran’s answer was different from the names he mentioned.
“I-I don’t know. No one knows who the leader is.”
Doran’s head sank deeper.
“They just came out of nowhere. They’ve started supplying goods from the outside, and the other cartels were making deals with them.”
“Making deals? They’re not just taking it away?”
“Well, they didn’t expand their territory…also, thanks to them, I am able to sleep comfortably… since they also give out rations.”
What nonsense was that?
That was the first thing that came to Vera’s mind as he listened to Doran.
How could there be someone like that? People with that kind of power in the slums, and they didn’t even fight over territory?
“I asked where they are located.”
This needed to be checked.
Vera knew better than anyone what kind of people crawl into the slums and make their own territory.
‘They are scheming something.’
He was certain.
No one was here to do volunteer work.
A volunteer wouldn’t have made deals with the cartels. Wasn’t there a chance that this group dealt with organs or drugs and was responsible for the distribution?
Vera’s eyes became heinous. As a result, Doran’s trembling intensified.
“The junkyard…I heard that they are there from time to time.”
The junkyard. It was somewhere further inside from where he was.
Vera scowled and let out a deep breath.
‘I think I’ve heard everything I need to hear.’
What should I do with this guy?
Vera continued to think as he looked at Doran.
Part of him wanted to kill him, but he wondered if there was any reason to do it. It was something the old Vera would never have done.
Vera’s finger tapped the handle of the dagger.
At that beat, Doran’s body trembled.
The moment when pleading words came out of Doran’s mouth.
New voices rang out.
Vera and Doran’s eyes turned in the same direction at the same time.
Two figures dressed in robes came into sight.
One of them appeared to be a tall man, and the other was only as tall as the other man’s shoulder.
Given that the last voice was a bit younger, it was probably the shorter one who spoke.
Tension shot through Vera’s entire body.
Before he knew it, he already pulled out the dagger from its sheath.
He was cautious of the two unknown figures.
While the air became more tense, the taller of the two suddenly halted.
The man stopped and whispered something to the shorter guy, and the short guy also suddenly halted.
It was an unexpected move.
Sure enough, Vera frowned as he watched.
‘What are they doing?’
As Vera was thinking about it, the smaller figure took off the hood of his robe.
Vera’s eyes widened.
The identity of the revealed figure was someone he knew.
Fancy blonde curls. Underneath it were golden eyes that shone bright even in the dark slums. Delicate features for a man and a fair complexion.
Albrecht van Freich.
The Second Prince of the Empire and the Knight of Honor.
The figure revealed from under the hood was none other than him.
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