Chapter 73

The battle was over. Zich took out a potion and gulped it down. All the shallow and deep injuries in his body disappeared at once. However, the uncomfortable pain inside his body persisted.

‘It will probably take at least one or two days for the pain to completely disappear.’

It had been a while since Zich experienced this type of pain.

‘Before I regressed, when I first came out of the Steelwall family, I experienced this type of pain on a daily basis.’

It was not only on a daily basis. While his whole body was in severe pain, he had to continuously fight new battles. Zich walked towards Hans and Snoc. They had their backs to each other and were trying to catch their breaths. Their bodies were full of wounds from their fierce battles.

“Hey, take this!” Zich took out two potions and threw them at Snoc and Hans. They quickly gulped down the potions, and as their injuries and pain faded away, their complexions improved.

“This is really good, right?” Snoc said to Nowem. Snoc was still amazed by the existence of potions that instantly healed people’s injuries. But Hans was calm, and he looked at Snoc with pity in his eyes.

‘There will come a time when you will get sick of these potions.’

To be more specific, Snoc would have many more opportunities to consume potions in the future—from Zich’s training and the events Zich led them into. By now, Hans expected an intense event to come up wherever Zich went, and Hans sighed that his expectations were always right.

Zich placed an enormous amount of potions down in front of Hans and Snoc.

“Treat everyone in this temple with these potions.”

Hans became speechless at the giant pile of potions in front of him. He was not only surprised by the number of potions, but the ones that Zich laid in front of them were of the highest quality so it was even more expensive than usual.

‘I can’t believe he’s giving such expensive goods to commoners like them.’

Did Zich just like giving people stuff?

‘No way.’

Even though Hans was the one who thought this, he laughed at how ridiculous this thought was. Instead, Hans asked, “Do we really treat them all? They tried to attack us.”

“I saw their skills and movements, but they probably only attacked us because they were blackmailed. But it’s good to be definite about matters like this. Before you heal them, give them a warning—if they try to harm us again, we will show them no mercy.”

“What if they attack us?”

“Kill them,” Zich commanded Hans without an ounce of hesitation. Hans and Snoc gulped  and nodded at Zich’s menacing aura. Hans and Snoc each carried a pile of potions and went inside the temple. After Zich saw them go in, he turned back and walked towards the assassins’ corpses.

Zich began looking through the corpses. From their bodies, he found several self-detonation artifacts that they couldn’t use this time. Assassins typically used these devices. However, other than the artifacts, there were no other clues about their identities.

‘I wish I could have investigated that Clovey bastard too.’

Zich glanced over at the traces of Clovey’s shredded body.

‘Well, whatever. It’s already enough that I found out that Fest and the organization group are working together.’

Moreover, there were more people he could retrieve information from. Zich turned his glance back to the temple and went inside. Hans and Snoc looked like they did a good job in giving out the potions since the villagers looked completely fine. The villagers were sitting together in a group, and Hans and Snoc stood at a distance and watched over them. It seemed as if their warning worked very well because the villagers were trembling in fear, and they could not even bring themselves to resist.

Zich walked towards them. The villagers near him dragged their butts and desperately tried to move away from him. However, the walls of the temple stopped them. The villagers’ ages were diverse— they ranged from elderly men and women to young children. The assassins probably placed them there to lessen Zich’s suspicion.

‘Even though it was useless.’

Their opponents were too experienced. Zich experienced traps like these far too many times that it gave him a headache. In the first place, it was weird that no matter how urgent the situation was, Joachim, who greatly respected Zich, sent Clovey over to ask a request in his stead.

‘And Clovey also let out his bloodlust a few times.’

Since Clovey was not experienced in tricking people, he probably couldn’t help it. But Clovey was not a bad actor.

‘Snoc and Hans didn’t notice anything was off.’

Clovey could have probably tricked most people. However, Zich was too experienced, and his senses were way too sharp to fall for Clovey’s act. The patient’s attitudes had also been off. Whenever a caretaker or a specific individual passed by, fear crept into the villagers’ eyes.

If Zich had not known that it was a trap early on, he might have approached the patients to check their conditions; then, the assassins disguised as patients would have jumped out with daggers and forced him into battle.

“Hey,” Zich called out to the nearest villager. His brash attitude was like that of a gangster’s. “Who is your leader?”

The villagers’ eyes wandered until they all landed on one person: he was an old man whose head was half balding.

“Are you the village chief?”

“Yes, yes, that’s right.” The village chief felt threatened by Zich’s rough way of speaking and readily admitted his position.

“Explain.” Zich spat out a very simple, single word. He couldn’t have been any ruder, but the village chief understood what Zich meant and began to explain their situation to Zich. One day, a disease began to spread around the village. The disease was so infectious that by the time they realized the situation they were in, the whole village had been infected. It was also a disease that inflicted great pain and caused intense symptoms strong enough to kill people one by one.

It was during this time that the assassins approached them. To their amazement, the assassins had the cure to the disease. The villagers celebrated, but unfortunately for them, they soon realized they were dealing with fiendish people. The assassins blackmailed the villagers with the cure to kill Zich and his companions.

“So that’s why you all worked together to kill me?”

“P-Please have mercy! We simply wanted to live!”

The scene of an old man wailing with his knees on the ground wasn’t a nice sight to see. Hans and Snoc felt pity for the old man. However, Zich’s pitch-black heart didn’t feel an ounce of sympathy. He glanced at the villagers. They looked like they still hadn’t recovered from their disease.

‘It must be that, right?’ When he heard that they were blackmailed,  Zich recalled something. ‘Fest frequently used diseases to get more underlings.’

Thinking about how the villagers’ physical abilities had also increased, Zich was even more confident that this was Fest’s doing. From what he knew, Fest also infected their underlings with some kind of special disease to keep them in check. The disease had a long latency period, and once the disease began its onset, it killed its victim with certainty. Fest used a cruel disease that caused intense pain and killed any victims that dared to betray Fest. 

‘The disease came with an increase in physical activities as well.’

Thus, it was a humane act to kill all of Fest’s underlings. However, Zich, who was farthest away from the word ‘humane,’ purposefully didn’t end their lives and let them be.

‘This disease got so strong that it became impossible to cure it later on. But right now, it might be…’

But before that, Zich needed confirmation that this disease was what he was thinking of. He pulled on the ears of the village chief who was crying. The village chief groaned while the villagers screamed and wailed, but Zich just stared at the back of the village chief’s ears. 

‘It’s there.’

Zich’s eyes shone. 

*   *   *

The butler of the Dracul family was busy. Because of the Count’s absence and the catastrophic epidemic around the estate, he was hundreds of times busier than usual. If he wasn’t originally a knight and possessed great stamina, Shalom would have fainted from exhaustion a couple of times by now.

But even though Shalom should have still been busy, he was out in the castle’s backyard. Anyone could see that the place wasn’t suitable for work. However, Shalom was staring at a tree with great intensity.

“…You’re late.”

He heard some movement near him and looked at where it came from. It was chilling to see only Shalom’s pupils moving while his face didn’t budge. A man wearing a robe stood in front of him. 

“Do you all not understand the concept of time?” Shalom criticized the robed man, but the man didn’t seem bothered. He simply said one line: “We failed.”

“…Failed?”

“Yeah. We were annihilated.”

Shalom’s face turned from annoyance to rage.

“We took a lot of care and time in making Clovey. We let you borrow him even though we didn’t want to since you kept insisting and told us about some unknown variable. But you failed? Got annihilated?”

“Yeah. He was stronger than we expected.”

“So didn’t I tell you to just leave him alone?”

“We have our own plans like your group has its own plans. Besides, I really hate unexpected variables.”

“A plan is just a plan! Unknown variables will always exist! That’s why a plan always has to be revised! Even if you eliminate the unknown variable, another one will pop out! Then, do you plan on continuing to eliminate all the unknown variables! Moreover, what do you mean by an unknown variable!? What is your standard for deciding if something is an unknown variable!”

“Any foreign obstacle that is not part of our plan.”

“Hmph! It almost sounds as if your organization is aware of all the players in their plan beforehand and can control them accordingly. Can you guys see the future or something?”

“Of course.”

“What bullshit.” Shalom immediately cut the man’s words. Was the man saying he was like a god who was able to see the future? However, the unusually stoic man smiled slightly. 

“Do you still think that even while considering Joachim’s case?”

“…”

Shalom didn’t have anything to say about that. The second son of the Dracul family was too weak to even learn mana. Even if his subordinates had shielded him in the field, he should have been infected by the epidemic in the countryside and died. However, Joachim was still alive. 

“Didn’t I tell you? That Joachim will come back alive.”

“…Don’t claim that you guys can see the future with just that much.”

Shalom still couldn’t believe that the man or anyone in his organization could see the future.

“It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not.”

“That’s true.”

They had no trust in each other. They had simply joined hands for the same goal.

“It seems like the villagers are still alive.”

“They are going to die anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

“But they could expose us and say we artificially spread a disease.”

“All they can find out is that there's medicine for the disease they got. If your underlings’ mouths aren’t loose, we won’t get found out.”

“My subordinates have tight lips. I’m not sure about yours though.”

“In any case, the village chief doesn’t know anything about us anyway. He fell to blackmail like the rest of the villagers. That strengthening medicine is rare, but we still have plenty others like it. Don’t you guys also have something similar?”

“That is also true.”

The man didn’t say more. It was an unemotional conversation where they only exchanged information, but both Shalom and the man found this system most suitable for them. Their relationship was perfect like this.

“Even if you failed to get rid of him, I have no intention of continuing with your fickleness. I will call that person.”

“Doesn’t the unknown variable also have medical knowledge?”

“It was revealed that he doesn’t have knowledge in medicine. It seems as if he really found the medicine’s formula by coincidence.”

“…He really is full of unknown variables.”

It was the first time Shalom saw the man disgruntled. The man must really hate unknown variables.

“Okay, fine. If I can do my work, I’m fine with that.”

The man finally agreed; he also didn’t intend to continue talking about the unknown variable any longer. Just like that, the night filled with plotting grew darker.

*   *    *

Zich, Hans, and Snoc came back to Ospurin. To tell Joachim what happened in the village, they looked for Joachim’s whereabouts. Fortunately, Joachim also had something urgent to tell Zich, so when Zich came to look for him, Joachim spoke first with a stiff face.

“They took Ms. Bargot to the castle.”

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