Sude’s house was inside an ordinary residence. Zich and Lubella needed to move more carefully than they did in the slums to get there. However, because of Zich’s ‘Sensing and Detecting’ skills, it only took them a bit longer, and they arrived at Sude’s place without much difficulty.
The house wasn’t different from the other houses. It was a two-story house made out of wood, and in front of it, fences surrounded a small lawn in a complicated weave. It seemed like Sude wasn’t home since the lights in the house weren’t on.
“Let’s wait inside for now.”
Zich took the lead and trespassed the lawn. The door was firmly locked. It wasn’t hard to break the door, but if Sude saw the broken door, he might run away or let other people know. Thus, like before, Zich decided to enter the house through a window.
It was messy inside the house. As if its owner hadn’t cleaned in a while, a thin layer of dust layered the ground, and clothes were carelessly scattered on the floor.
“It seems like he doesn’t do much housework.”
“No, that’s probably not it.”
Zich cautiously looked around the room.
‘Rather than dirty, it looks messy. It doesn’t feel like he didn’t keep his place tidy because he was lazy, but because he didn’t feel the need to. It looks like the house of someone who is preparing to escape.’
Zich’s eyes shone.
‘He is preparing to escape. I think I’m right on the mark.”
Zich continued to search all over the room, and his eyes sparkled.
“What’s the matter?”
“Below us. Don’t you think it's strange?”
Zich pointed to the floor and then rolled his feet to emphasize his point.
Hearing the sound, Lubella’s eyes also became sharp.
“There’s an empty space below us.”
Zich kneeled with one leg and placed his palms on the floor.
‘Let me see. He pierced a hole to the entrance of a secret basement, but it’s nothing amazing. The cover is sloppy. It doesn’t seem to have a moving mechanism. That means a handle should be nearby.’
After a while, Zich found two holes right next to each other.
Zich placed his fingers inside the holes and pulled. The door was light, and an entrance to a basement appeared.
“It stinks of a suspicious smell.”
Zich comically blocked his nose.
“Let’s try going in.”
“I will go in first.”
Zich tried stamping his feet on the stairs that led to the basement. Then, he walked confidently downstairs and Lubella followed behind him.
The basement stairs weren’t that long; in floors, the staircase was about 1.5 floors long. And at the end of the staircase, there was a door. Zich cautiously opened it.
They saw a medium-sized room. It was almost vacant with no furniture in place. The only noticeable thing about the room was a dirty puddle of water collected on the ground. But Zich was satisfied.
In the center of the room, the ugly statue of a fish’s head floated on top of the collected water.
“Statue of Bellu,” Lubella murmured and gripped the staff she was holding. She wanted to break apart the statue right away.
The statue looked more incomplete than the one they saw at the Mayor’s mansion. That one looked fancier.
“The one in the Mayor’s residence is the center statue for sure,” Zich said with satisfaction. The more evidence there was, the better.
Zich suddenly turned his head toward the entrance.
“It seems like the house’s owner has returned.”
Zich took Lubella out of the room in the basement and went back to the first floor. They saw a small light shining from outside, and Zich placed his index finger on his mouth to signal to Lubella to be quiet.
Lubella nodded and moved quietly to a corner of the room. She moved so that she didn’t bother Zich. In comparison, Zich quietly moved towards the entrance like a hunter approaching his prey.
The door’s lock unlocked, and the door opened. As expected, Sude entered the house. He placed the lamp he was holding down next to the door. Then, he tried to light up the closest candle.
“Hey, it’s been a while.”
Sude became stunned as Zich suddenly jumped out. Then, after confirming Zich’s face, Sude grew pale and Zich quickly blocked Sude’s mouth to stop him from screaming.
“Woah! We are also glad to see you again, but let’s be quiet. There’s no need for you to greet us so fervently.”
“I know, I know. If I am so glad to see you, how glad would you be? Sometimes the sensation of beating you up comes out in my dreams. Don’t you think we really match each other well?”
Sude struggled and tried to scream, but he couldn’t escape out of Zich’s sturdy grip.
“How about finishing things from last time? Ah, you don’t have to worry about interventions this time. Do you see her?”
Zich put more strength into his hands and forcefully moved Sude’s neck. And Sude hopelessly turned to what Zich wanted him to see.
“Look. Your guardian angel from Heaven who protected you last time has come back as the angel from Hell.”
There, he saw Lubella who shined with the lamp’s red lights and stood like a godly judge in a trial. At her hardened expression, Sude’s fear deepened.
* * *
Zich dragged Sude into the basement.
Sude floundered and staggered a couple of steps after getting kicked. Then, he collided with Bellu’s statue and fell. His pants became soaked with dirty water.
“Why? Why are you doing this?” Sude shouted in a flurry, but Zich was carefree. He slowly went inside the room with the lamp that Sude was holding. The darkness that filled up the room lit up, and Zich placed the lamp in the corner of the room.
“Let me see. Why would we do this? If you ask the ugly fish head behind you, wouldn’t you find out something?”
Sude looked at the statue of Bellu behind him and looked at Zich again. Then, he saw Lubella’s cold expression behind Zich and babbled, “D-do you think that I am Bellid’s follower?”
“I didn’t say that. I also don’t think you are the fish head’s follower.”
“But I get the feeling that you are like a sea roach, sticking around those Bellid guys and eating the crumbs they leave.”
“I am saying that you are like a fucking bastard.”
At another kick from Zich, Sude’s bottom stuck to the puddle. Dirty water splashed on his face and head.
Zich then stomped on Sude’s back. Sude’s body wiggled on the floor, and Zich was satisfied with seeing Sude look like a dirty cockroach.
“What are you going to do now?”
Lubella was surprised at her own words. Even if he was Bellid’s accompaniment, she didn’t know that she was capable of sounding so cold to another person. However, even when she realized this, she didn’t have any further thoughts.
“Truthfully, we don’t need him since we found the fish head’s statue.”
Zich took out something from his waist—the object sharply shone with the lamp’s dim lights. It was a dagger.
“Let’s kill him.”
There were chilling words without a trace of warmth. Even Lubella, who was on the same side as Zich, flinched, feeling the chill. She couldn’t even see even a portion of the carefree attitude that Zich had always shown her.
About to utter some excuses, Sude also closed his mouth. Swept by surprise and fear, he could only roll his eyes. He gulped.
“I-I don’t know anything! It’s true!”
He managed to say something, but Zich’s glass bead-like eyes seemed to not believe him.
“You don’t know anything? I guess it can’t be helped then. I will kill you since you are useless.”
Zich grabbed his dagger in reverse and raised it high. It looked like a monster’s tooth about to shred its victim.
“L-Lady Lubella! Please stop this man!”
Since it didn’t seem like he could convince Zich at all, Sude turned his attention to Lubella.
“Hey, it’s useless. Because of shits like you, Lady Lubella is going through a lot and becoming tougher. There’s no point in thinking that she’ll help you like she did in the past. Besides, Karuwiman’s people are completely merciless to those who cooperate with Bellid.”
As Zich spoke, Lubella’s eyes that looked down on Sude were cold.
“Are you done with your last words? I will give you that much time. Since I have decided to live a kind life, I will be generous.”
Sude’s head went round and round. Both Zich and Lubella were beyond combative, and they didn’t seem like they would believe anything he said.
“Wait! Didn’t you say that you don’t need me since you found the fish head’s statue…?!”
Sude was sure that Zich had been talking about Bellu’s statue when he mentioned a fish head. Hope sprouted in his heart.
“T-the other statues! I know where the other statues are!”
The dagger, which looked like it was going to fall like a guillotine, stopped. It worked. Sude felt strength leave his body as relief seeped into him.
“Hm. To be honest, we are interested in that.”
Zich let down his dagger.
“Where are they?”
Zich’s cold voice pierced Sude’s heart. It was a voice scary enough to make Sude want to confess everything, but he was barely able to swallow back the truth that was rising in his throat.
“D-do you think I will just tell you that easily?”
“That’s true. Guys like you stubbornly pluck out whatever they can if it benefits them.”
Zich looked down at Sude with his glass bead-like eyes. It didn’t look like he was looking at a human. As if he was staring at a dead beast’s worn-out piece of meat, his glare was chilling. However, Sude smelled a chance to survive and didn’t back down.
‘It’s too late for me to deny that I am cooperating with Bellid. It’s not like they will believe me if I deny it. I should use the locations of the other stone statues to secure my safety.’
After worrying for a bit, Sude yelled out loud, “I don’t care what you say! Don’t you dare lay a finger on me! If you do, you will never be able to learn where the other statues are.”
“Ah, that’s a bit troubling.”
Zich scratched the back of his head.
Sude thought he had seized the initiative, and with that thought, he became bolder.
“You bastards! How could you just attack a person like this every time! Like how you acted with violence right away in the back alleyway last time! This is why we have to wipe out all the thugs and smelly poor bastards in the city!”
After speaking, Sude seemed to have thought he had gone a bit too far and glanced at Zich. But Zich just furrowed his eyebrows like he was annoyed and didn’t show a reaction more significant than that.
Thus, Sude thought Zich couldn’t touch him, and he became completely relieved. Then, his attention went to Lubella.
“The great Karuwiman follower has fallen lower than low! To go around with this complete thug and using violence everywhere! No, are you not Karuwiman’s holy follower anymore but a witch?”
He didn’t have to consider their feelings anymore. Sude’s heart filled with a vulgar satisfaction that he could say whatever he wanted to the holy Karuwiman Saint Candidate he normally wouldn’t have even dared to look in the eye.
“…Is this your true self?”
The Sude that Lubella knew was someone who generously forgave someone who one-sidedly acted violently towards him and possessed the warmth to protect his family’s store. Now, the man in front of her was so different from the person she had met in the shop that it made her doubt that they were the same person.
“True self! Ha! Are you saying that the naíve geek you saw before and the bastard in front of you don’t look the same? It’s only natural for a merchant to wear a mask. The one who gets tricked is the moron.”
Lubella glanced at the statue behind Sude and asked, “I see. Then, why did you do something like this? You said that you weren’t one of Bellid’s followers. What’s the merit of helping Bellid?”
“What kind of amazing reason would a merchant need to work? Of course, it’s money.”
“Yes, money! A huge amount so that I won’t have to smile and suck up to the customers while running a damningly small shop anymore!”
“Didn’t you say that you liked the shop? You told us your family cherished and protected it for a long time.”
“Like? Cherish and protect? What bullshit! I have never thought that even once!” Sude roughly yelled, “That worn-out building and my long years there are just shackles! The store is a loser’s emblem that I inherited from my father and grandfathers who had zero talent in business as merchants!”
Sude’s eyes glistened. He glared at Lubella spitefully.
“What did you tell me before? That it was an impressive shop? Did you know how much it angers me to hear that nonsense from you—who grew up eating only good food and wearing good clothes, and always looked down at us from your sheltered life? I don’t want to hear bullshit from people who have everything in the first place!”
They were malicious remarks mixed with greed and self-righteousness. It was the first time Lubella had heard of something like this. Hearing the flood of insults and sarcastic comments, Lubella’s face grew pale, but she firmly held her ground. She didn’t stop Sude from talking and withstood all of his spiteful insults.
“Well, there ought to be guys like this too. Since Lady Lubella is traveling to see the world and hear more people, you are helping her.”
After consoling Lubella, Zich approached Sude.
“Are you finished?”
“No, but I will stop here since I am also a busy man. Release me right now! Then I will tell you where Bellu’s statues are!”
Sude made a request like he was asking for an expected service.
‘It’s over now. If I just get out of this situation, I’ll be rich!’
Sude had already received a hefty sum for putting life force into Bellu’s statue. If he just left the city with the money he got, he could live the splendid life he dreamed of.
‘It seems like something will happen to this city, but that’s not my problem. As long as I live well, who cares?’
Whatever happened to other people, Sude’s happiness was most important to him.
“What are you dawdling for! Move aside at once!”
“Ah, but you know,” Zich smiled widely at Sude who spoke with a triumphant look. “I changed my mind.”
It was funny how Sude puffed up his mouth like a stupid fish.
“I said, I changed my mind. I will just kill you here.”
“D-don’t bullshit! If you lay even a finger on me, you won’t know the statues’ locations…!”
“You don’t know the statues’ locations, though.”
“Also, it doesn’t matter if you know or don’t know the locations.”
Zich gently whispered to Sude who grew pale, “How was it? How sweet was your moment of hope?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter