༺ Investigation (4) ༻
The tense atmosphere that had existed since the beginning was broken by Count Baishur’s following words.
“Perhaps we should get going now?”
Renee took a deep breath as she answered. Her fingers that were intertwined with Vera’s were getting tighter.
Renee turned to Vera with a smile on her face.
“Vera will protect me, right?”
She believed that Vera would protect her. At that, Vera chewed his lips and let out a long breath.
“Make sure you stick close to me. If you have any problems, let me know…”
If she had let him be, he would have nitpicked for a long time. She was still frustrated that he didn’t trust her, but it wasn’t like she didn’t understand him, so Renee just wrapped her hands around his to express her feelings.
“Eh–ehem! Let’s go then!”
Albrecht, who finally came to his senses, spoke.
With that, the group set forward.
They headed deeper into the alley, into the slums.
The air changed in an instant.
They had only entered one alley and taken just a few steps inside, but it felt like an entirely different place.
The first noticeable thing was the stench. It wasn’t the usual stench of garbage. It was a stench that would turn one’s stomach inside out.
But that wasn’t all. The moisture from the air was very unpleasant, and the sound of their footsteps echoed like they were inside a cave, as if it was hitting the surrounding objects.
It was shocking and horrifying.
Even though Renee could not see, she knew. Even basic sanitation wasn’t being followed here.
There was an unpleasant tickle every time the air touched her skin, and the stench made her nauseous. She knew it from the sticky sensation on the sole of her shoes.
How could he have lived here when he was younger without any parents?
It was hard to believe that young Vera had survived in such a place, where it seemed impossible for a human to live.
Her eyes hidden under her dark hair shook. At some point, she had been chewing her lips and her hands tightened.
She acted fine, but there was a tremor in her voice that she could not hide. It was a tremor from sadness.
Renee composed herself as she heard the tremor in her voice.
I shouldn’t worry Vera. I came here to help, so I shouldn’t show him this foolish appearance.
Renee, who was determined to get herself together, turned to Rohan and spoke to him.
“We’ll leave it to you, Rohan.”
Rohan’s response was also not good.
He lifted his arm and held it in front of his nose to block out the smell, but the stench had already made his face distorted.
‘It’s going to be hard to adjust.’
Sure enough, it was the worst place on the continent.
He could tell in a glance.
It was a place that was difficult for ordinary people to tolerate. If they have lived here from the start, then they would be able to adapt to a certain extent, but an outsider would definitely get sick.
Suddenly, a picture of total despair entered Rohan’s mind.
‘If the missing people are really here…’
Most would have died already. No, even if they managed to survive, they would not be able to live the same as before. It would take a long time to get back to their former life.
Rohan had a grave frown.
Rohan pushed away his thoughts. He shouldn’t let his mind distract him.
‘We have to finish this quickly and leave.’
It was better to focus on finding the missing people as soon as possible, rather than worrying about these things.
After thinking, Rohan stretched out his hand and gathered divinity.
The indigo divinity formed into a sphere. Characters floated above the sphere. Like a band of satellites hovering around a planet, the characters circled around the sphere. Rohan looked at the framework of the finished art, and added power into it.
It was the power of direction, the power to guide those who were in a place of despair and lead them to a place of hope.
‘Look for outsiders.’
Except for themselves, there were those who have not stayed there for a long time and have not blended in with the area. They were the people who knew the despair of the rapid changes in the environment.
The sphere hummed. There were two more bands added to it.
Tracking Arts [Twilight].
Rohan took a quick breath, and held out the finished skill in front of Renee.
“You can write over this, Saint.”
It was a discussion that was formed beforehand.
Renee would imbue the art completed by Rohan to improve its accuracy, which would dramatically shorten the amount of time it would take to search.
Renee moved her hand with Vera’s guidance, placing her hand on top of the indigo sphere, covering it with white divinity.
She added a prayer.
‘’May you go in the right direction…’
She hoped that this would help them find those who disappeared.
The band around the sphere turned white.
At Vera’s words, Renee withdrew her divinity, then Rohan took a step back.
Rohan explained to Albrecht and the Count, who until then had been staring blankly at the sphere.
“We just need to follow the direction this sphere is moving.”
“Ah, hmm! I see!”
“Then, I’ll send it off.”
Rohan threw the sphere into the air, then it floated and began to fly very slowly.
Albrecht’s eyes twinkled, and he began to exclaim as the sphere rose by itself and started to fly.
For Albrecht, it was quite a sight. It wasn’t every day that he got to see an Apostle show their power.
However, the only problem was that Albrecht’s actions were not pleasing in Rohan’s eyes, whose discomfort level was already through the roof.
“Stop that, let’s go.”
Albrecht’s expression collapsed at Rohan’s words.
They would not investigate deeper into the slums on the first day.
That was the plan, but the situation just became ridiculous.
[Twilight], which started flying, moved straight in the direction of the deepest part of the slums.
What should they do? Should they withdraw and make a plan for another day?
There was no such hesitation.
Everyone knew that they could no longer waste more time, moreover, they were at a point of no return.
Three Apostles and two knights. Also, one of the knights was the current head of the Imperial Knights and the other was the owner of Pure Blood.
They wouldn’t lose unless it was a considerable danger, so the party continued deeper inside.
Beyond the muddy waters that resembled a swamp, where the stench and damp air weighed down on their skin, [Dawn] stopped.
“…It’s the junkyard.”
It was the junkyard, a black market in the deepest part of the slums.
A small workshop on the verge of collapse with all the lights out.
Seeing it, Vera suddenly remembered what Doran had said the other day.
–The–the junkyard… I heard that you can see them there from time to time.
It was his answer when he asked about the cartel who replaced the Scavengers.
‘…Was he correct?’
The disappearance and the cartel definitely seemed to be connected.
“Are we going in?”
He asked as he looked at Albrecht. Albrecht then replied with a big nod, his body shaking.
“Of course, we’re going!”
Albrecht pulled out Pure Blood. His face was full of determination.
Vera frowned at him and continued talking.
“Sheathe your sword. The enemy hasn’t even come out yet, stop being ridiculous.”
A sullen look came over Albrecht’s face. He returned Pure Blood to its sheath.
Albrecht felt depressed, as he had only been treated poorly throughout the time he had spent with the Apostles.
“…It was a mistake, I’m sorry.”
“That’s enough. Count.”
Count Baishur was filled with pity at the sight of the dispirited Albrecht. Then, he raised his hand to his chest at Vera’s call, taking something out.
What came out of his chest was a small box, a small tracking artifact.
It was to prepare for any potential accidents and notify the location to the outside.
The Count activated the artifact and buried it in the ground. If they did not return before sunrise today, Marie would come to this place.
When all the preparations had been completed, the Count dusted off his hands and stood up. Vera confirmed it and spoke to Renee.
“…You must stay by our side at all costs, Saint.”
Centering on Renee, the group formed a circle around her.
The still depressed Albrecht, who was at the forefront, staggered to the door of the junkyard and opened it.
It was an awful sound. The inside was pitch-black. Albrecht, who had a crumpled expression, focused his eyes and began to examine the interior of the junkyard.
It was spacious, and several times bigger than what it looked like from the outside.
‘The building itself is an artifact…’
It was a building with spatial expansion magic, so it was definitely suspicious.
Albrecht raised his hand, preventing the group from coming inside, then he began to enter by himself.
At that moment.
A dagger shot out in the darkness.
Albrecht, who noticed it early, pulled out Pure Blood and hit the flying dagger.
“It’s fine. I’ll handle it alone.”
At the Count’s shout, Albrecht smiled brightly at the group.
“The Imperial Family leads and takes care of the people, do they not?”
Albrecht’s white teeth shone in the darkness.
Recognizing the ambush, Albrecht thought.
That this was the perfect time to change their perception of him, who has only been treated poorly.
It was time to prove that he was not someone to be mistreated, and that he was a brilliant shining star.
Shadows rose from the darkness. They rushed towards Albrecht.
Albrecht turned his head and raised his aura.
Soon afterwards, the entire room was forced to the ground by his aura.
It was one-sided. Rather than a fight, it was more accurate to call it a massacre. Of course, the outcome was predicted the moment Albrecht pulled out Pure Blood.
The sword that governs the Flow, the Emperor’s Treasure.
With Albrecht’s masterpiece, which could dominate space just by infusing his aura, there was no way such an attack could succeed.
Vera’s gaze pierced the darkness.
Albrecht was the only one standing where the icy metal sound rang.
It was only when Vera realized that the situation was over that he lowered the Holy Sword in his hand.
Vera’s eyes narrowed.
‘It was a surprise attack.’
That meant that they knew they were coming.
‘But our plan shouldn’t have leaked, right?’
It was ridiculous to be suspicious of anyone who was there. Renee, Rohan and himself were obvious, and so were the Count and Albrecht who fought earlier. There was no reason for them to ask for help to prepare an attack, then deal with it on their own.
It may not be simply the works of a cartel.
Vera’s expression turned grim at the thought.
“Hmm, it’s not even good enough for a warm up.”
With a big smile on his face, Albrecht emerged from the darkness. Renee answered with an awkward smile at the lively voice that she heard.
“It was nothing. I just did what I had to.”
He said so with his right hand over his left chest. Vera clicked his tongue and ignored Albrecht, then he turned to Rohan and said.
“How is Twilight?”
“…It’s pointing inside.”
Rohan frowned, trying to control Twilight, that was wriggling out of his grasp.
“…Let’s go inside.”
Rohan went into the darkness, followed by the group.
He hit a body with his foot, but he could not distinguish it because it was shrouded in darkness.
“I’m turning on the light.”
As Rohan said so, he lit up the surroundings with his indigo divinity.
The whole party stiffened.
Silence swallowed up the space.
A look of horror washed over their faces.
The sight that was revealed were corpses lying down.
The bewildered sound came from the Count.
The Count felt goosebumps all over his body as he examined the faces of the corpses lying on the floor.
Corpses of different sizes, ages, and gender.
Their positions and the weapons they were holding were different.
But in the midst of it all, their faces were all identical.
The words came from Rohan.
Rohan stared at a corpse with wide eyes.
It was a face he recognized.
He knew the faces of the bodies there.
It was a woman that he had met eight years ago during the Imperial Festival. It was her.
What the hell was going on?
What kind of situation was this?
As Rohan lost control of his divinity due to his wavering mind, Twilight began to move.
Twilight flew, and their eyes followed.
Then Twilight, which had been floating slowly, stopped and landed.
…On a corpse’s chest.
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