Ever since Ms. Bargot joined the task force, Ms. Bargot and Zich always hung out together. Even though Zich didn’t have much medical knowledge, Ms. Bargot seemed to be fond of Zich for sharing the formula to Igram’s cure, so she shared little bits of medical knowledge with him. It looked like she was one-sidedly dragging him to places, but Zich also followed her without any complaints and listened to what she said.
And because of that, rumors about the two began to spread. Zich was a handsome youth from a noble lineage, and Ms. Bargot was also a beauty. When such noticeable people hung out together, rumors began to naturally spread. There was a significant age difference between them, but that fact only made their relationship sound more romantic.
Nosy people began to gossip and make conclusions about the two. Both of their efforts to quickly calm the Igram situation also played a significant part in improving their image. Although gossip usually led to tarnishing one or both parties’ reputation, hardly anyone talked badly about their relationship.
“What are you looking at?”
As Zich was getting ready to make his final blow on Igram’s gradually dying existence, he noticed Hans staring at him and Hans asked, “Are the rumors true, sir?”
“You know, the rumors that you and Ms. Bargot are a couple.” Hans didn’t ask just out of curiosity. He also didn’t have the smallest intention to intervene in Zich’s love life. He had simply asked because he still had some of his habits from his servant days.
‘If the rumors are true, then I will have to treat Ms. Bargot differently from other people.”
Hans had a different mindset than Snoc who was listening with his ears perked up, excited to hear a heart-thumping story of fated love. Zich smirked like he knew Hans’ motive for asking such a question.
“There’s no need for you to treat her differently from before. And in the first place, our relationship is not that sweet.”
“Is that so?” Hans nodded. If Zich said that was the case, he had no reason to ask further questions. After hearing Zich’s response, Hans grabbed a disappointed Snoc by the back of his neck and got ready to prepare for the day.
Someone suddenly knocked on the temporary shelter that Zich and his companions were staying at. Hans and Snoc’s expression stiffened. Most of the people who visited their shelter were soldiers who came to get Zich under Joachim’s orders. And most of the time, they didn’t bring good news. They wondered if Igram that was beginning to disappear was starting up a second wave. However, Zich’s words made their worries disappear.
“It’s not a soldier, so don’t worry. They probably came to talk to me about something.” Then Zich personally moved to open the door. Usually, Hans or Snoc opened the door when guests came, so his action was most unusual. But when they saw who was standing outside the door, they understood. They knew who she was by her all-black clothes and the cotton veil covering her face.
“Greetings, Mr. Zich. Did you sleep well?”
“Thanks to you, I was knocked out.”
“That’s a relief to hear. Sleep is one of the most important factors to good health.” Ms. Bargot smiled widely.
“I am honored to have the fortune of seeing your beautiful face so early in the morning, but to what do I owe this pleasure to?”
“Fufu! You are so skillful with your words. If I didn’t still love my husband, I would have fallen for you.” Ms. Bargot covered her mouth with her hands and smiled lovingly. Hans and Snoc stole furtive glances at her; she was beautiful enough to make their minds go blank. “I’m sorry to intrude, but there’s someone I’d like you to meet. Ah, I have gotten permission from Sir Joachim of course. Since Igram is slowing down, he told me it’s fine for me to leave for a bit.”
“Someone you want me to meet? It’s a pity that it’s not an offer to go on a date. But since you are the one doing the introduction, it’s more than enough for me to make time. I will get ready immediately.” Zich went back inside the house and finished getting ready.
“Should we leave now?”
Zich offered his arm, and Ms. Bargot placed her hand on his arm. Then he escorted her to the road. Anyone would have thought that there was something going on between them. Hans and Snoc watched the two leave sticking side by side and thought the same thing.
‘How can he act like that and still say that they’re not in a relationship?’
* * *
Ms. Bargot led Zich outside of Ospurin. Fortunately, there was another gate near the quarantine area (used for moving corpses outside of the castle to burn them), so they didn’t have to walk through people unexposed to the disease.
The outside was quiet without a sign of life. The area that was connected to the gate was also blocked from outsiders. Besides a couple of trees that waved under light breezes, the place was a meadow, colored with green grass. However, the slates on the ground indicated that the place wasn’t only for resting. It was a cemetery.
Zich glanced around the cemetery; they all had different names but the same family name: Bargot.
‘It must be the Bargot family’s cemetery.’
The cemetery was well maintained even after the family’s collapse. It proved that somebody was taking care of the place.
‘Ms. Bargot must be the one taking care of it.’
Zich glanced at her. Ms. Bargot moved and stopped in front of the two slates at the end of the cemetery.
Even without asking, Zich knew who they were. Besides Ms. Bargot, he looked down at the graves below him.
‘Are they her family members who died from the epidemic?’
“They are my family,” Ms. Bargot finally said. Her voice was calm, almost as if time lessened the affection she felt for her family. However, that wasn’t it. Time had simply changed a person’s sorrows into longing, and she couldn’t erase the love she had for them in her heart. Ms. Bargot placed her hand on top of the stone slab which had the name Alex Bargot written on it.
“This is my husband.”
She quietly began her explanation.
“He was much older than me, but we truly loved each other. Even while my husband was busy with his business, he was always attentive to me. I loved my husband for that. So when our love bore fruit, I felt like I had the whole world in my hands.”
Ms. Bargot moved her hands to the slab which said ‘Luin Bargot.’
“She was such a lovely child. Always smiling, crying, and sleeping a lot. Every time Luin squirmed inside my grasp; I thought my heart would drop from her cuteness. I didn’t know until I had a child of my own and realized what a child meant to their mother. Luin was a child who made me realize why mothers care for their children so much.”
As if time hadn’t fully healed her sadness, her eyes soon watered, and a teardrop slid down her cheek. Then she took out a handkerchief and wiped her tears. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it whenever I come to this place.”
“The people I wanted to introduce to you are my family.” She stood in the center of the two slates and placed her hands on both of them at once. It almost seemed like she was holding her husband and child’s hands. “I don’t know how you obtained the cure to Igram, but thanks to that, I saw hope. Hope that we can beat all the infectious diseases. Did you notice that I’m wearing mourning clothes?”
“I was aware of it.”
“I swore at my family’s funeral that I would take these clothes off once we overcame all the diseases.”
It was basically an impossible goal, but who could laugh at her?
“That’s why I wanted to show you my husband and child. I wanted to show them that thanks to you, we were able to accomplish a bit of our goal. I wanted to tell them that at the very least, no one would meet the same fate as them from Igram,” she said bitterly. “Now that I think about it again, this might be very selfish of me.”
“No, that’s not true. You have done so much. No one would find fault in you for this.”
“Thank you.” She smiled. As a mother and wife, she shone blindingly. “Let’s go back now.”
As if she was trying to forcefully brighten up the gloomy mood, she increased the pitch of her voice and stated, “Igram hasn’t completely disappeared yet. Let’s go and cut off its last breath.” Ms. Bargot held Zich’s hands, and the warmth of her soft hands slowly spread to his fingertips.
* * *
After returning to his temporary shelter, Zich lay on his bed. Hans and Snoc had looked at Zich with curiosity when he first returned with his arms crossed with Ms. Bargot, but after Zich slammed each of their heads down with a disciplinary punch, they turned their eyes away. But those punches probably didn’t make them change their minds.
Zich knew what Hans and Snoc were obviously thinking.
‘I guess that’s what it looks like to outsiders.’
Because Zich didn’t care about what other people thought, he didn’t realize how other people might have looked at him and Ms. Bargot. Yet, to the point that it might shock and exasperate them, Zich didn’t possess even an inkling of romantic feelings for Ms. Bargot.
Of course, it was true that since her first appearance, Zich’s gaze continued to search for Ms. Bargot, and he tried to gain her favor. However, the reason for that wasn’t something as sweet as romance but for something much more sinister.
‘There’s a chance that she could be Fest.’
With the introduction of the cure to Igram, Ms. Bargot suddenly appeared and expressed her interest in Zich. She was extremely knowledgeable about infectious diseases and spouted words that Zich knew he had heard of in the future. Truthfully, she was the most likely candidate to be Fest among everyone he had met so far. Thus, Zich didn’t reject the interest she showed him and he instead welcomed it to observe her more closely.
However, he didn’t obtain much information so far. All he found was that she possessed a vast amount of knowledge and interest in infectious diseases, and that was it. Overall, she didn’t seem like a Demon Person.
‘I should observe her for a bit longer and then distance myself.’
This didn’t mean that Zich had gotten rid of his suspicions about her. He simply judged that he wouldn’t be able to find out more useful information by staying next to her.
Zich thought of the two suspicious figures: Dracul’s previous knight and current butler, Shalom, and Ms. Bargot who lost her whole family in an epidemic—and then fell asleep.
* * *
A couple of days passed by. After a few more days, Igram seemed to have completely lost its power. It could no longer bring fear to people’s faces. During the previous day, even the lockdown and quarantine policies had been lifted.
They had won against the disease. People thought that Igram would soon be done for good. However, the task force, including Joachim, didn’t let their guard down. They would only be able to fully relax after catching and beating all the diseases spreading around the region. Zich thought the same and headed to his temporary shelter again. As usual, he cared for the sick and made the cure.
Then, suddenly, someone called out, “Zich!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter