Chapter 72

However, this small convoy did away with all the traditional formalities as they entered the castle. The crew could clearly hear the soldiers’ curses and angered, rough breaths as they crossed the gates. They grew more nervous as they entered deeper into the castle’s city.

San followed behind with a relaxed expression. In front, he could see Biyeon and the three other representatives that came in before them calmly waiting to join them, as if nothing special happened. She lightly waved her hand towards him. He nodded his head in response. A small smile broke out on his face…

Along the main road, various shops and buildings could be seen. The amount and variety of businesses exemplified how large and powerful the Marquis’ estate was. Right now, every resident and shopkeeper had put down what they were doing and observed the passing procession. Due to the sudden order from the Marquis, everyone had stopped what they were doing and confusedly waited for the procession to pass. The rumors of what happened to Natin and his soldiers last night had already spread throughout the entire area.

After passing through the bustling commerce street, the convoy reached a relatively empty roadway. It was only then that the crewmembers started breathing normally and relaxing their tensed expressions. They were now able to see and recognize a more normal scenery around them.

San and Biyeon scanned their surroundings. The inner landscape of this place was different than what they saw at Count Essen’s estate. For the two, who were immensely interested in all new things, their surroundings provided additional information to better understand this world. 

As they passed the city center, the landscape drastically changed. The road was filled with horse and cattle droppings. Also, the nobles seemed to throw their waste into the streets directly. There were also bare-footed slaves who picked up and cleaned all of this off the road.

On the other side, side streets went up a hillside like a maze. The streets led to various neighborhoods consisting of large estates and multiple storied buildings. A large temple could be seen atop the hill.

Men and women could be seen on the mezzanine level salon balconies. They stopped their conversation to look down upon the peculiar scene. Soon, they came upon the main square.

Biyeon, who was in front of the procession, raised her hand. The convoy stopped. In front of them, they could see a carriage pulled along by a few horses and some representatives. The representatives quickly approached the convoy.

The carriage was made of wood and steel. Above the carriage, there was a roof made of wood and fabric, likely to keep the rain out. It seemed that someone put in some effort and thought behind this preparation.

Inside the carriage were boxes of various sizes. It was their compensation from the Marquis. There were also many supplies that they couldn’t get at Count Essen’s estate, such as various sizes of paper, writing supplies, and others.

“Sedum!” San called out.

Sedum of the ‘Sword’s Eye’ quickly ran out from the convoy’s first carriage. 

“Can you take over the reins for that carriage?”

“Yes, sir.”

Without any questions or hesitation, Sedum walked over to the carriage and took hold of the horses’ reins. He moved as if it was natural for him to do so. His face was drained of energy, making him look much older than a forty-something person.

San’s expression didn’t change. However, he was swallowing the swear words that swelled inside him. The aura he felt from the people on this street was particularly disgusting. A human’s aura was markedly different from that of any animal. The unpleasant aura was difficult for him to describe in words. He tried to straighten his slightly frowned face. The headaches that seemed to only come once in a while were now becoming normal events for him. He started to become annoyed by the lingering pain.

His headaches got worse whenever he entered an area where people were present. He became upset when he recalled Biyeon mentioning the same issue. It was interesting that the pain would go away like magic if it was just the two of them alone…

‘Can I be addicted to a person…? Hmm… how weird.’

San looked around the castle’s square with narrowed eyes. A naked slave child was using his hand to get rid of a horse’s excrement and looked at San briefly with lifeless eyes.

Whether he was recently struck by a whip or a stick, a red line ran down his back. The boy must not have eaten for a few days, as only his belly protruded outward on his small, skinny frame.

San and the child’s eyes met. The child was surprised and shook his head.

Afterward, a naked, skinny woman looked at him anxiously. She was probably his mother.

The slaves here seemed to be expendable products, unlike slaves in other territories. They were ‘things’ to be sold here and there. This mother and son must have been leftover ‘products’ that couldn’t be sold. Whether they were killed or died of hunger, no one would care. A warrior popped out and stamped on the woman, making her fall onto the dirty ground..

San pulled his head back and gave an exasperated, empty laugh. He could taste something bitter in his mouth. It was truly a different world.

Even if he lived here for one hundred years, he probably wouldn’t be able to adapt to this reality. San swallowed the vomit that had suddenly swelled up inside him.

Suddenly, he recalled an incident that happened in Count Essen’s estate.

“Isn’t this too much?” asked San. He didn’t really consider what he was doing, he just wanted to act immediately.

“Huh?”

The warrior tilted his head. The slave woman, already bloodied, was wriggling under his feet.

“No matter if she’s a slave, she’s still a human being. Do you have to step on her like that?”

“A human being?”

The warrior was still staring at San with his feet on her chest. He had on a smile while talking.

“Then is she not a person?”

“What are you talking about… what?” 

“…”

“If I don't do this, they won't work. Whenever they get a chance, they become lazy and slack off. These are very troublesome ‘things.’ Even so, they are the lord and residents’ expensive property, so I don’t go overboard when I discipline them.”

The warrior kindly explained. He was very serious.

Things’…”

San looked at the slave once more before looking back up at the warrior.

The warrior was lifting his whip again. San decided to say what he wanted to say.

The warrior suddenly got goosebumps as a rush of ice-cold aura entered his body.

“Never do that again…”

“What?”

“I don’t like seeing that. Actually, I detest it.”

“But…”

The warrior’s expression distorted.

“If you do something like this in front of me again, I might really kill you. Are you listening? You understand I’m serious, right?” he said in a low and firm voice.

“Y-Yes.”

The warrior’s face was gradually becoming blue. San slowly took a step forward. The warrior flinched.

“This goes for everyone here. Baron, Count, noble, or even your grandfather… If my request is unfair, come find me. If you ever ask me what right I have to request this of you all, I’ll answer in this way… I’m the most powerful guy in town. Got it?”

“Okay…”

           “By the way, do you want to die?”

“Huh?”

The warrior exclaimed in surprise while trying to find the meaning of San’s word on his face.

“Aren’t you going to take your foot off of her? The view I’m seeing is very disgusting.”

The warrior pulled his foot off the woman’s body. The momentarily deadly fear that swept his body caused him to be drenched in a cold sweat.

San quickly turned and left. He quickly moved to a place without people and vomited. Tears filled his open eyes. He felt like shit.

After this incident, all the cruelty against slaves had ceased in the Count’s territories.

How would others interpret his action? It was probably understood as an act of tyranny by the strong. Or they may have taken it for granted because it was ordered by someone who was strong.

‘But do you guys know? Now, even without eating salt, I can hear the terrible sounds that come from everywhere… Painful sounds that pour out directly from the heart of every person… Grunts, whining, and crying… all directly in my head! Damn it! Fuck! What the hell do you want me to do? What other crazy side effects am I going to have?’

San turned and looked towards the castle. There, the Marquis was watching them.

‘Marquis… you wicked, filthy little dog. You better maintain the kennel well until we come back. If you collapse, there won’t be an easy measure to save all the people in the north. She wishes for this as well…’

***

“No, wait. Why is he over there?” A man, who looked like he was past his forties, muttered.

“Yeah… why is he there?”

The three people next to the original speaker tilted their heads. They were all at a loss for words.

Their gazes were fixed on the figure at the forefront of this interesting procession. The person they were looking at was not well known to the general public. However, for these four people and in the dark business world they were a part of, he was a mythical figure.

“What do we do now?”

“Well, I don't know why, but it seems the operation has changed. Did you hear anything from the branch office last night?”

“Hmm… No matter how I look at it, it doesn’t look like he’s picking up the goods for himself. It seems like he’s doing it as a guide. Or as part of the crew?”

“Damn, this is ridiculous… Is there a deeper meaning to this?”

Sedum alertly looked around from the front of the party. He knew that there must be a crew of his nearby. Sedum was of average height with brown hair. He had his hair neatly tied back. His outfit resembled that of an ordinary scholar. No one would believe that he was the most competent illusionist in the ‘Sword’s Eye’, one of the five great Dark Guilds.

It was also said that he was good at resolving power struggles between competing organizations, possessed a powerful information network, and had the physical and mental powers to become an Awakened Warrior later on.

‘This isn’t bad. It’ll be worth seeing in the end.’

Sedum glanced at the side of a building and smiled. He was recalling everything that happened to him last night. He would remember it all his life.

‘A promise between men…’

The procession had already left the Marquis’ territory and headed for its next destination.

As they left, many people continued to stare at them, all with their own different thoughts. There were also others who carried on with their business…

Those who had ill will towards the convoy couldn’t make a move. There were too many variables to consider and worry about now…

What they knew was that Count Essen’s commissioned convoy was leaving the Marquis’s estate ‘safely.’ What they didn’t know or understand was the reason why the insidious Marquis let them through, even escorting them in the end.

Among all of these groups, the groups that were dangerous and special enough to recognize Sedum started to reconsider their plans.

They couldn’t understand Count Essen’s intention in sending a procession of low combat power crew members to a dangerous place with such precious cargo. Furthermore, they couldn’t understand how his procession was growing in combat strength each passing day.

Various suspicious circumstances were causing hesitation amongst these powerful groups.

In addition, after passing the Marquis’ territory, even stronger organizations and powerful people would enter into the fray. It seemed like the fight for loot would become more contentious.

***

“Six times eight?” 

“Uhm… forty-eight.” 

“Seven times nine?” 

“Sixty-three.

“Eight times eight?”

“Uhm… what was it? This is too tough… I’m not smart enough for this.”

The crew was very busy. From musicians to craftsmen, even merchants who were good at calculations muttered in frustration. Two hours of training were held at the first resting place. They were given a piece of paper, a bottle filled with ink, and a pen made out of a bird feather. The learning began.

The crew members were beginning a very special experience, the first of its kind in their lives. It was stipulated in the contract. At least two hours a day must be invested in education. Once they learned something, they were expected to demonstrate their mastery in the subject area by the next meeting.

San ordered the older crewmates, Ganil and Onil, who were blood brothers, to make things. They made movable blackboards, writing instruments, tape measures, triangle rulers, protractors, and so on. The materials they used were all obtained from the Marquis. Thin and thick pieces of wood, cloth, paper, glue…

Biyeon was also writing something with a pen and paper ‘given’ by the Marquis.

Yeria and Yekin, along with the merchants, received Biyeon’s writings and worked on copying them or answering the question written on her paper.

“Whew! More than half of the people are illiterate. Even though they said they were learned people. There’s a long way to go,” San said as he let out a sigh.

“Their arithmetic ability is worse. Other than the merchants, they have difficulty with simple addition and subtraction,” Biyeon replied with a smile. 

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