Side Story 25. That Man and Those People

It was just as the woman predicted.

After entering Paradise, Hugo grew accustomed to the new world quickly. Almost like a wild animal placed in a new environment.

Hugo passed the Tutorial and the Neutral Zone with an above-average grade. Then he signed the contract offered by the woman standing outside the Neutral Zone.

He knew that a Red Mark was a slave contract but did not mind it much. He was satisfied with having met a new world that could help him escape his repetitive, everyday life.

The problem was the time in which Hugo entered Paradise.

The Parasites were wreaking havoc everywhere, and humanity was at an all-time hostile relationship with the Parasites. To top it all off, humanity’s internal affairs were in a horrible state.

In the end, the Haramark Royal Family took up arms to suppress the Earthlings, who had been gradually crossing the line more and more. They announced that the royal families would start to play an active role concerning Earthlings, including their entrance to Paradise and their promotion to become High Rankers.

Unsurprisingly, this announcement brought about a huge uproar. When the Haramark Royal Family tried to continue with their efforts despite the protests, many organizations rose up in defiance.

Starting in the southern region, the situation worsened so much that the Haramark Royal Family had to evacuate to Scheherazade.

The uprising was so huge and intense that control over Haramark might have fallen to the Earthlings had Sinyoung not interfered in the end.

Although Sinyoung’s show of force disguised as mediation calmed down the situation, that wasn’t the end. It was because all organizations involved with the revolt were forced to move to the city bordering the Parasites’ territory in exchange for not being punished.

With multiple criminal organizations gathering together in a single city, the outcome was obvious.

Immediately after the revolt, one poor city was given the title City of Crimes.

That was the start of Haramark’s civil unrest.


*


UDD. It was an abbreviation of the name, Underdog, the organization to which Hugo was contracted. It wasn’t a huge organization by any means, but it was influential enough to acquire invitation letters.

No, perhaps it would be correct to say they were influential. Due to participating in the massive revolt, they had lost a great deal of influence and power.

The organizations that were forced to Haramark began to eye each other like hawks. Then one day, an incident broke out.

While the organizations were having a battle of nerves, unable to reach a compromise, Ill Destino, which supported the Triads, had sniped the head of Sicilia’s subordinate organization.

This action was akin to lighting a warehouse of explosives. An inter-organizational war broke out afterward, taking the lives of thousands.

Screams echoed out in the city day and night, and the streets became littered with flesh and blood.

UDD, which once boasted its name as a small but strong organization, was placed into a position where they had to worry about their continued existence. Although UDD supported the Triads, Sicilia was the organization that held the tide of victory by the end of the conflict.

Before the conflict, UDD had around forty members. By the end, they had less than half that number. Its representative and executives had been assassinated by the ‘Tarantula’, and with no leader to guide them, UDD had no choice but to run like hunted beasts.

Eventually, the remaining members judged their loss was too great and decided to return to Earth. But on their way to the temple, they were attacked by enemies who were lying in ambush.

Only ten or so members escaped with their lives, running back to hide in their organization’s building.

“What should we do now? This place will surely be raided soon…!”

“Damn it! Just what are the Triads doing!? They should be working together right now, not fighting amongst themselves…!”

The surviving members put their heads together, but no smart solution came up.

Meanwhile, Hugo sat quietly in the corner. He wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. It wasn’t as if he feared death either. He had experienced death many times in the slums. He didn’t think Paradise would be any different.

Hugo’s head was completely empty. He entered Paradise because he was told to do so, and he fought because he was told to do so.

‘Come to think of it….’

Was there ever a time when I did something of my own will?

When he thought this, a chuckle escaped his lips. Looking back, he realized how passive he had been his entire life. Of course, a part of the reason was because of his environment. Still….

“Hugo? Why are you laughing?”

At that moment, a woman asked angrily.

Hugo was woken out of his daze and stepped back instinctively. It was because the dark room suddenly turned bright.

“Get back! Hurry!”

“Hmm? What are you…?”

Realizing the room getting brighter, the blinking woman suddenly stopped talking. She looked at the source of the light with widening eyes.

She saw a huge fireball falling on everyone’s heads.

E-Explosion?”

“RUUUUUUN!”

As one person shouted frantically, the rest hurriedly shot up. However, it was already too late. Flash! Their vision turned white. Not a single yelp escaped their mouths.

All Hugo could do in this brief moment was hide behind the furniture, face-down.

KWANG!

A fierce explosion shook the air. Hugo protected his head as a dull shock beat up his body.

How much time went by? As screams subsided and intermittent grunts began to ring out, several footsteps got closer.

These were the Earthlings who had allied with Sicilia.

“I knew I smelled rats that had crawled out of the sewage….”

Cinzia, the tall woman with a red coat and thick hair resembling a lion’s mane, walked in with her hands buried in her pockets.

“We sure cooked them well. I can smell the freshness.”

Many corpses were burnt beyond recognition.

“How about we use these rats as decorations too? They’ll be excellent examples for the other rats that don’t know who they’re up against.”

Cinzia grinned after glancing around the room.

Agnes nodded slightly before spreading out her arms. Chwaak! Silver threads shot out in all directions. While they picked up the burnt corpses, some also touched Hugo’s body.

Cinzia and Agnes simultaneously glanced sideways.

“...Looks like there was one rat with good senses.”

Cinzia said.

“He might have gotten lucky.”

And Agnes retorted.

Tsk. Hugo clicked his tongue and then scanned his surroundings briefly. In the next instant, he turned back and shot out of the rubble.

He moved purely out of instinct and at a frightening speed. Shooting toward Cinzia, who was standing in front of the group, he swung down the axe in his hand.

It was then. Tatatang! A series of gunshots rang out.

Three of them brushed past Hugo’s body, but the last one pierced his shoulder joint. At the same time, a long-haired woman threw herself at the stuttering Hugo.

A stupidly large mace was swung at his face, and Hugo simultaneously changed the grip on his axe from his right hand to his left hand, blocking the attack that almost smashed his head.

CLANG!

An ear-piercing, metallic ring rang out. As Hugo had blocked the attack while he had lost balance, it was only natural that he was sent flying back. The important thing was the direction he was sent flying.

The direction had not changed. Although his back was facing his target from turning his body to block the attack, the direction he was shooting toward was still the same.

In fact, he accelerated toward Cinzia, and he swung his axe backward without even looking. This all happened in the blink of an eye.

Blood spurted out. The sensation of a chilling blade brushed past the area between Cinzia’s left eye and cheek. Her face turned ashen for the first time.

She had taken a step back as soon as she noticed, but the axe had cut deeper than she expected. Had Agnes not flung her threads in a hurry, it surely would have dealt a fatal blow.

“This bastard!”

The mace-wielding woman rushed in and kicked Hugo. Koong. With his stomach stomped on, Hugo was helplessly pushed down to the ground.

“Did you see this bastard just now?”

The mace-wielding woman exclaimed in surprise after kicking Hugo’s axe away.

“I can’t believe he calculated all that in a split second.”

A burly black man, who was aiming at Hugo, commented in awe.

“He changed his grip in an instant and used the force of the kick to accelerate himself…. Noonim, he was targeting you the whole time, right?”

Chohong raised her head while marveling in astonishment.

“Why don’t you worry about her first?”

The burly black man shook his head.

“...I’m fine, Dylan.”

Cinzia spoke calmly before raising her left hand and caressing her cheek. A copious amount of blood rubbed off on her hand.

“My apologies, Boss. I didn’t think he’d—”

“No, it’s fine. I underestimated him as well. Chohong? Hold on a second.”

Cinzia shook her head and then raised her hand to signal Chohong, who was just about to smash Hugo’s head. Chohong paused and looked back in surprise.

Cinzia trudged up and stopped in front of Hugo. Their eyes met. It was obvious to everyone that Hugo was not in a good state. It was due to forcing himself to move in an already injured state. His mind was blurring as he slowly bled out, but….

“Hoh.”

Hugo’s pupils were still alive.

A look of interest appeared on Cinzia as she gazed down at his calm eyes.

“Interesting. Very interesting.”

“....”

“He desires survival yet does not fear death. He seems a little similar to Agnes in that regard… but also different.”

Cinzia chuckled quietly and glanced at Agnes.

“Come to think of it, didn’t our plan to exterminate the UDD rats fail not too long ago because of a single, beast-like Earthling’s rampage?”

“Yes. Boss, you and I had to step in personally to resolve it. With the conflict nearing the end, there was a chance that the ace of another city’s organization might have interfered.”

Agnes raised her glasses.

Cinzia examined Hugo as if to evaluate him.

“He doesn’t look high-leveled… and his movements resemble a beast’s. But.”

Cinzia changed her tone towards the end as her eyes curled.

“He doesn’t look like the type that can be tamed by someone.”

“....”

“That’s how it is for guys that act based solely on their instinct rather than reason. They refuse to yield to violence, and even the ones they acknowledge, they take their time to watch before swearing their loyalty subconsciously. They might look simple on the outside but are rather tricky to deal with in reality.”

“So, what are you getting at?”

Chohong asked, somewhat frustrated.

“He is fundamentally incompatible with Sicilia. Kill him.”

When Cinzia turned around without hesitation, Chohong snorted.

“Hmph, you were talking like you were going to recruit him or something.”

“I considered it… but there’s a saying in the East, you shouldn’t trust black-haired animals. Well, not that this saying really fits the situation.”

Cinzia walked out while laughing.

“You stopped me for nothing then. Anyway, let’s clean up quickly and go home.”

Chohong grumbled and raised the mace she put down.

It was then.

“....”

Cinzia stopped.

Given Chohong’s personality, a loud thud should have sounded out immediately. However, it was quiet.

When Cinzia glanced back, she saw Chohong blinking dazedly with her mace held up and a wooden stick that had cut in between Chohong and Hugo. Moving her gaze slightly to the left, she saw another person, a short, old man with a well-built physique, wearing a black suit and a fedora.

Cinzia’s eyes flashed.

“O-Old Man….”

Chohong stepped back, hesitating.

“...Mister Jang.”

The old man slowly put his cane down at Cinzia’s call. Then, he spoke quietly.

“Why don’t we stop here.”

A calm voice flowed out, rapidly cooling the heated atmosphere. Cinzia’s eyes turned sharp, and Agnes’ eyebrows wriggled.

After a moment of silence, Cinzia spoke.

“I’m surprised. I did not think Mister Jang would be interested in a low-level Warrior like him. Did you see wasted potential in him?”

She sounded somewhat sarcastic.

“No, not at all.”

Jang Maldong shook his head slowly.

“I just thought this was enough.”

“All the more reason not to stop then.”

Cinzia spoke like a growling beast.

“We do not avoid the war that is brought to us. Sicilia has destroyed all enemies that dared to challenge it until now, and it will continue to do so.”

She was resolute in her decision not to let a single enemy escape alive.

Jang Maldong did not back down either.

“They were going to the warp gate.”

“Runaways are enemies all the same. They can point their weapons at Sicilia again at any moment.”

“...Taciana Cinzia.”

Jang Maldong sighed.

“The conflict is over.”

“No, the war—”

It isn’t over until it’s over. I know that is Sicilia’s motto. But….”

Jang Maldong let out a long sigh again. Then, he spoke.

“As the soon-to-be victors, why not show a little mercy and generosity? For my sake.”

Cinzia’s eyes narrowed.

“If I did not mishear just now, I am deeply intrigued.”

“....”

“What is the reason someone of your status is going this far? I will decide based on your answer.”

“That’s….”

Jang Maldong took a brief pause before continuing.

“You can think of it as an old man’s foolish self-comfort.”

“Self-comfort?”

“Yes.”

Jang Maldong raised his hand and slowly took off his fedora. He then gazed at Cinzia with a helpless gaze.

“Because I feel partially responsible for this conflict.”

Cinzia’s face stiffened. She glared at Jang Maldong as if there was something she didn’t like and bit her lower lip. Of course, this look vanished in the next moment.

“That is very interesting. While we are the ones who chose this war, the one who planned and carried it out was Sinyoung’s Miss Foxy. Don’t tell me you are not aware of this.”

“I still feel morally responsible. Think of it as involuntary manslaughter.”

Cinzia closed her mouth at Jang Maldong’s words.

“I beseech you. I will take responsibility.”

Cinzia smacked her lips at Jang Maldong’s continued request.

She hesitated for a long time. What she eventually said, shocked everyone.

“...Fine. I suppose it’s fine sparing a single, low-level Warrior.”

“Boss?”

Agnes asked, doubting her ears, but Cinzia snorted.

“I was getting tired of playing along with that fox’s political ploy anyway.”

“But—”

“Stop. We are done here.”

Cinzia turned back without letting Agnes finish. Her coat fluttered in her violent turn, and Sicilia’s members quickly left the broken down building. Soon, only four people were left inside it.

“Huaaaaa!”

Chohong spat out the breath she had been holding in.

She stuck out her tongue and then let out an empty chuckle while looking at Jang Maldong.

“What’s up with you, Old Man? Are you crazy? It’s not like you don’t know Noonim’s temperament.”

“Chohong.”

Dylan warned Chohong, but he was just as confused as her.

“It was indeed a surprise. Although the possibility is low, given Sicilia’s nature, they might have designated us as their enemy.”

“Exactly! We would be done for if Noonim or just one of those crazies came at us!”

Chohong voiced her complaint.

Jang Maldong did not say much. He simply helped the unconscious Hugo up...

“...It’s all over.”

...and said a few words.

“Let’s go back now.”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter