Zich’s face turned serious. However, Hans and Snoc did not understand the gravity of the situation and just stared at both Zich and Joachim.
“Sir, what did they say their justification was?”
“Since Ms. Bargot is a proficient medical expert, they want her to take a look at the Count’s condition.”
“Weren’t there a lot of people who already checked the Count’s condition?”
“Of course. We brought in a great number of skilled doctors and priests to heal the Count. But they all shook their heads, and most of them said that the Count did not have long to live.”
“Sir, then what are your thoughts? Do you really think they took Ms. Bargot so that she could check up on the Count’s condition? Or is it…” Zich lowered his voice. “Because diseases are now spreading in the castle?”
Hans and Snoc were shocked, but Joachim remained calm. He expected that Zich might have already suspected this.
“To be frank, I don’t really know.” Joachim was not able to give a clear answer. Since he didn’t have enough information, he couldn’t give a definite answer to Zich. However, it wasn’t as if he had no likely conjectures inside his mind.
“But that is also a high possibility.”
“Since they took Ms. Bargot, I guess it’s pretty clear that they aren’t going to inform us about the state of the castle.”
“Yes, that’s probably true. If infectious diseases are spreading inside the castle, Ms. Bargot would be a coveted talent. Not only is she an expert on infectious diseases, but she is also not a threat to my brother’s authority unlike you Sir Zich, who is widely known to be working with me.”
“I guess it would be better to not hear back from the castle.”
Joachim’s voice was grave.
“If they call us back to the castle to take care of the disease, it will mean that even Ms. Bargot was not able to curb the disease inside the castle.”
Moreover, there was no one here who knew more about infectious diseases than Ms. Bargot. Therefore, this would also mean that an uncontrollable disease was spreading in the castle.
“…But since nothing is definite yet, let’s continue with what we were doing. Thinking about it, didn’t you have something to say to me?”
“Before that, did you request something from me through Sir Clovey?”
“A request? No, I never did.”
Zich explained what happened with Clovey to Joachim. At first, Joachim was surprised, but as Zich continued his story, various emotions appeared on Joachim’s face—anger, confusion, disbelief, and more. When Zich finished his account, Joachim’s face was extremely serious, and he stared intently at Zich. Anyone could see that Joachim was in an intense dilemma, and after a while Joachim finally opened his mouth.
“…I believe you, Sir Zich.”
Hans and Snoc nervously stood next to Zich, and they let out breaths of relief. On the other hand, Zich predicted that Joachim would say something like this.
‘The biggest reason for Joachim’s response must be because I gave him the cure to Igram.”
That was how rare and significant the Igram cure was. Zich expected Joachim to just cover up this affair or sweep it under the rug. Even though Zich gained a lot of credibility with Joachim in an extremely short amount of time, Clovey had been with Joachim for a long time as his subordinate. Joachim would probably do an investigation, but since it was undeniable that Clovey took Zich out to the village, Zich was not worried.
“What happened to the villagers?”
“I don’t know, but I think they are probably alive.”
Zich lied this time, but Joachim didn’t seem suspicious of him.
“Mr. Zich, if your words are true, what do you think my brother is planning?”
Joachim didn’t know about the existence of Fest or the assassin organization. In addition, when Zich explained what happened to him in the village with Clovey, Zich took Fest and the assassins out of his narrative. For that reason, Joachim’s suspicion obviously went to his brother, Biyom, and he thought Biyom was the one behind recent events.
“Your brother might be irritated that I’m helping you. From their side, they would have never expected your reputation to rise so much from the cure and Ms. Bargot’s prevention strategies.”
“So those are the reasons why he wanted to kill you? Then isn’t Ms. Bargot also in a dangerous situation?”
“No, if he wanted to kill Ms. Bargot, I don’t think he would have called her to the castle. It would have been better for him to take her out of Ospurin with me. There’s a high possibility that he judged her abilities highly and wanted to use her knowledge for himself, especially if we assume that infectious diseases are currently spreading inside the castle.”
“…If I can, I really want to file a complaint.”
“But we have no evidence.”
A mysterious organization and Clovey were the ones who tried to kill Zich.
“I can’t believe Sir Clovey would betray us,” Joachim said with bitterness in his voice. He felt betrayed by someone he trusted, and at the same time, he became worried that another person in his group might betray him.
“You can never tell what’s in a person’s heart.”
“Yes, I agree. But first of all, let’s quickly end this disease as soon as possible so that I can return to the castle.”
Joachim’s eyes were filled with determination.
* * *
Despite the concern that infectious diseases might be spreading inside the castle, Joachim and Zich continued their work as usual. They were close to ending Igram once and for all. The infected areas were decreasing at a steady pace, and new cases had already decreased at a record rate; more people survived rather than died from the disease. Soon after, the last patient got up from the bed.
The people celebrated in unison. Since Igram first spread throughout the world, this was the first time people were able to stop the spread of Igram with such limited casualties.
“This is all thanks to Sir Zich and Ms. Bargot!” Joachim said with happiness in his voice. Even though there were many people who were happy about Igram’s end, Joachim, along with everyone who had been fighting the diseases from the very beginning, were completely elated. It was because this was their first victory after many devastating failures.
“But we can’t let down our guard just yet. New cases might appear again after a few days.”
“Of course! We also haven’t completely let down our guards yet!”
As the person said, while their hearts were full of joy, Joachim’s task force was still investigating whether or not there were any infected patients they overlooked, especially in areas with high infection rates.
“Then that’s fine.”
The task force was prepared for any unexpected problems. Then Zich brought up something that could be more dangerous than the recurrence of Igram.
“Did you hear anything back from the castle?”
Even though the mood had been good, Joachim’s face stiffened again.
“Yes, we ordered some people to look around the castle’s surroundings and inquired about some of the maids there, but there doesn’t seem to be anything special going on.”
“What about Ms. Bargot?”
“We didn’t hear anything about her.” Joachim shook his head.
“It would be ideal if she is residing in the castle to care for my father’s health.”
“Yes, since all other possibilities are rather gloomy.”
The other possibilities could be that an epidemic was spreading inside the castle, or they wanted to keep an important talent like her from Joachim, or that Biyom had his eyes set on Ms. Bargot’s talents.
“Whatever the case is, we can go back to the castle if we completely get rid of Igram. Even my brother can’t stop me for no reason now. I will find out what happened then.”
Although he had always gone with the flow, Joachim now burned with a firm resolve and determination to take control of his own destiny. Zich chuckled a little, seeing him like that.
* * *
Quite a bit of time passed since all traces of Igram had disappeared. The disease didn’t reappear, and people thought the disease had been fully conquered. Joachim sent out a report that Igram was gone in Ospurin, and to his surprise, he received an order to return to the castle. However, like the time when Zich and his company arrived at Ospurin for the first time, they ordered Joachim to come by himself.
“It seems like my brother is plotting something again,” Joachim said with displeasure.
“What do you think he is plotting?”
“I don’t know, but it’s probably something useless.”
Next to Joachim, Hans’ eyes widened in surprise. Considering how Joachim had always talked carefully and only hinted at his bitter feelings whenever Biyom was mentioned, this change was surprising.
“I apologize, but you and your companions will have to wait again in your previous lodgings.”
“What are you going to do, sir?”
“I am planning to make my decision after seeing the state of the castle. I’m going to make sure that my brother won’t have his way like last time.” Joachim had distinguished himself for stopping the Igram epidemic in Ospurin, and he had the people’s support. Biyom couldn’t threaten Joachim like before.
“Please call me if you need help.”
“Thank you for everything.”
With those words, Joachim took his subordinates and headed to the castle; afterward, Zich stayed in Ospurin at the same lodging he stayed in during his first days in the city. The only difference was that he met up with some of Joachim’s followers from time to time. Joachim made it seem like he would knock down Biyom as soon as he entered the castle, but even after a couple of days passed, Zich didn’t hear anything back from him.
And like that, Hans and Snoc spent their usual, carefree days at the hotel. They didn’t rest the whole time, and there were times when they were busy with Zich’s orders. But after having gone through Zich’s harsh training, they didn’t know when they would have another chance to relax like this. Their break felt like a dream, and they enjoyed their time to the fullest. But of course, this happiness didn’t last forever.
“What is it, sir?” Hans asked Zich when he called them. Yet, in his heart, Hans knew that his happy time was over when he saw a fully armored Zich.
“Go and armor yourselves immediately. We have somewhere to go.”
Hans knew for sure that they were going to do something unsettling. He sighed and wondered what kind of stupid fool angered Zich.
“Sir, may I ask where we are going?” Hans wanted to know who this fool was. However, when Snoc and Hans heard Zich’s answer, they wondered if they heard his words correctly. Then, they wondered if something was wrong with Zich’s head.
“We are barging into the castle,” Zich said while smiling.
* * *
This was the Dracul castle’s basement.
Inside the castle, which was famous for its fancy but practical interiors, there was a dreary and dirty area underneath. The basement prison locked up those who committed severe crimes such as treason or attempted assassination against the head of the family. Needless to say, the environment was beyond dreadful.
A stuffy, fishy smell filled the area, and in the deepest corner of the prison, Joachim was imprisoned. Even in this dirty environment, he sat firmly with his back straight. However, Joachim had a frail constitution, and this environment was even worse for him. His complexion looked terrible, and his breathing was rough. His lips and eyelids were clamped shut, and there was an incredible amount of rage rushing out of his heart.
Even under all kinds of persecution and slandering, Joachim had respected Biyom as his older brother. However, all of his efforts were useless in the end. To kill him, Biyom had sent Joachim to places affected by fatal infectious diseases; and in the end, Biyom had now finally used his own hands to take care of Joachim. Yet, even in the midst of his rage against Biyom, Joachim wondered about one thing.
‘How was he able to gain control of the castle?’
Biyom had always considered Joachim as a thorn in his side and plotted against his brother. However, the fact that Biyom had gone through the trouble of gathering the support of most of the castle’s forces proved how significant and large Joachim’s presence was in the castle. Even Biyom couldn’t dispose of Joachim without a proper reason. However, to Joachim’s surprise, Biyom was now able to forcefully imprison him in the castle’s basement.
Furthermore, he wasn’t simply locked up in his room like last time but locked in prison as if he was a criminal. Even Biyom’s followers should have voiced their concerns about imprisoning the Count’s second son.
‘It’s completely beyond reason, but he wouldn’t have been able to do this without thorough preparation.’
After all, Biyom’s concern for his own personal safety was the greatest of anyone Joachim knew. Joachim kept racking his head to find an answer, but he couldn’t think of anything reasonable. He groaned in frustration. Then, he suddenly heard an unfamiliar voice beyond the iron bars.
“You look like you’re suffering.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter