Chapter 38: The Secret Meeting of a Villain
「How much do you know about the Saint, my heroes? 」
Largud Ann asked if we knew her name. It was a fact that woman introduced herself to us… But, we didn’t know anything else about her. Ann shook strangely her neck and sighed deeply.
That gesture. Our guide behaved exactly like a child. It was hard to believe that this child had such an eloquent speech that not even the “heavenly people” could match her skill. Still, it was thanks to these conversational skills that made her shine among other merchants and dealers.
「The Saint woman…Lady Matia is not someone for you to underestimate. She hides her double-faced devil character beneath her serene persona.」
Largud Ann made a bold statement when she described the Saint woman. She compared that sacred woman to a devil. That was not a very good compliment. Rather, Ann warned us about that woman’s real personality.
「She saved my life once. That’s why she nominated me as a liaison this time. I guess it was unavoidable. However, we must expect that some sort of interest will come along with the contents of this negotiation.」
I would rather say that that Saint woman had a different perspective when examining things… I could say that she didn’t look at things with a mere curiosity or interest. She probably had ulterior motives, and wanted to know about what type of people we were and what kind of objectives we had. However, that cunning woman spoke in a serene manner back then. She most likely didn’t want anyone to be suspicious of her true colors.
「I don’t have a clue on what these negotiations will bring for us. But, I do know about two things so far.」
I spoke while I chew my chewing tobacco that I bought back in the town center. I showed her my two fingers. I folded one of them and continued to speak.
「First. That Saint woman is mimicking the Beloved Maria. 」
The Beloved Maria. A famous person which inspired people to user her name to name the strong iron wall that forbids the free transit. After all, Garoua Maria became a fortified city thanks to the pride of its name. It was a place blessed by safety and glory.
However, it was strange. Why would a Saint woman mimicking the Beloved Maria settle down on a temple in ruins? Why not in the holy and fortified city-state? Besides, why did the heraldic order do its best to go up against the rules of that city?
Of course, an important place for trade would be an obvious answer. If someone controlled that place, it would have a great influence on the surroundings. Certainly. In addition, the heraldic order could gain influence if they controlled the economic influx. Moreover, it would become extremely advantageous if they gained access to the political jurisdiction of the city because they would control who left and who arrived.
But, that wasn’t the reason. For them, small things such as strategical advantages were invisible in their eyes.
It wasn’t trade that mattered to them. Their ambition to recapture Garoua Maria was because of their desire to retake the Holy Land. Garoua Maria was a sacred place of worship and wisdom for the heraldic people. This city was once their main path of knowledge because all the wisdom from the East and the West gathered in one place.
Recapturing this city-state must be a top priority. In order to make this happen, the Saint woman had to claim her authenticity and gather the remaining people of the heraldic order to participate in such calculating act. That’s why Saint Woman posed herself as a fake Maria.
My chewing tobacco was in my mouth for a very long time. Before long, the strong aroma passed through my nose and I exhaled to the air. It was a good feeling. Everything felt tense to me except this. A very good and rewarding relaxation. I continued to speak while I held the other finger.
「Second. It’s about you, Largud Ann. I just spit some rubbish words on the spur of the moment back then. But, it seemed that everything changed when I mentioned you. It’s likely that you’re in the favor of that Saint woman.」
She raised the corner of her mouth and took a deep breath.
Speaking of which, when I gave that piece of information to the Saint woman, I realized that it felt different. Her killing eyes changed color and her demeanor altered. It was obvious. Even Caria and Helot Stanley, which were with me during that time, noticed that difference. It was a perfect moment to create a collaboration. Though I must confess that my companions weren’t that willing to cooperate with the people who had tried to murder us.
After all, if I remembered correctly, Helot Stanley was definitely a Christian. Well, even if the depths of his faith were not at the degree of obsession as the heraldic people, he was still bound by the rules of his faith. Yes, there was no mistake about it.
Everything was clear to me. No doubt. Ah, the party I used to be part of in the future. All of us in that group went on a journey of salvation as the saviors of the Great Christianity.
The poor people’s odor. A very nostalgic smell. Yet, it was a smell of vomit, a rotten odor of an unwashed person, and a smell of dirty streets. A very intense smell that increased gradually over the day. It was as if it were boiling in a pot. Ah, the nostalgic smell of my hometown. A smell of the dark corners where I once lived. The dirty and shoddy alleys. It really reminded me of home. There was no liveliness in the surroundings. Everyone kept walking without looking at the sky.
These people only had today’s day. There was no such thing as tomorrow. Looking forward to tomorrow was a luxury of the lucky men that whose lives were guaranteed. Still, poor people were not allowed to have such blessings. They could never dream of better days. This was a harsh way of life for weaklings like them. No better prospects for tomorrow. These poor people could only afford to give their best to live day by day, and keep doing their very best to survive until the end of the day, and then repeat the process until they got old. That’s all they’ve got.
「So, why don’t you relax a little bit to walk with ease? 」
Yes, Largud Ann asked me to relax. But, I was wary in this sort of place. This rotten area was like a maze. We walked through similar places over and over again. And outsider would get lost immediately. In fact, the terrain itself became unreadable. It was the “poor people’s dark cave” after all. A dimly lit place where every corner was the same.
Largud Ann had a bitter smile on her face upon looking at my anxious expression.
「Yeah, sure. I know that it’s difficult to get used to this sort of place. However, I had no choice but to come here because of the meeting place.」
The upcoming negotiations with the enemy’s party. Well, I was sure that the heraldic people were involved in a bigger scheme than just a mere negotiation. No wonder that Largud Ann was somewhat bitter with me. After all, if it weren’t for that Saint woman, I wouldn’t have needed to expose Largud Ann like this.
Yes, I had another purpose beneath this entire plan. I was doing a surveillance job as well. I was watching over Largud Ann. She was the one that brought Caria and me to Garoua Maria. She provided accommodation for us, and she negotiated with the local Guild to help us find our next path in life. There was no way that I’ll lose someone like Largud Ann. Her precious help could be of use in the future as well. So, I shouldn’t just ignore that Saint woman’s story. I had to cooperate with Largud Ann so that nothing would happen to her. She was our lifeline.
It was absolutely imperative to create a business relationship. A state of cooperation in order not to create a bad connection. Anyways, the biggest mystery to me was why on earth did “they” buy so many tools?
Ah, I must be silly indeed. I shook my neck lightly to realize the seriousness of the situation. Caria, Filaret and Helot Stanley were with me during that abduction. They knew those insane people. No wonder that they bought so many tools in case something went wrong. It was just for precaution. If that was the case, then it made sense in a way.
In addition, those heraldic runaways must have some grudge against me. After all, I was the one who destroyed part of their accumulated knowledge. I burned everything down. They valued their wisdom above all. From their point of view, it would be tempting to crucify the instigator. To kill me.
Actually, it was worse than that. Saint Matia was a greedy woman with deep hatred towards everyone on this world. I wouldn’t be the only one to suffer the consequences. Caria and Filaret La Volgograd would meet their demise as well.
Yes, even Filaret.
「…I must say that the person tracking us down could’ve done a better job. 」
She showed me her hand and pointed discretely to our backside. There was a shadowy figure following us from behind our backs. Ah, Largud Ann was extremely sharp.
「I didn’t say much about it before because I wasn’t sure. But, do you want me to find out who is pursuing us?」
After she spoke those words, she stopped walking ahead. She took her bag and made me a signal. I tried to peek at our backs to see who was following us.
Something felt abruptly on the floor from Largud Ann’s bag. It was as if iron clashed strongly on a marble floor. A high roar echoed around us. On this instant, a voice of a woman screamed at the distance.
So, there was really someone tailing us. At least, Largud Ann’s plan to find out if there was someone following us or not was successfully. She managed to scare our pursuer.
We waited on that spot for a while. But, no one came out. Then, something crossed my mind and I realized the familiarity of our pursuer’s voice.
I wasn’t entirely sure though. I put my hand on my cheeks to think about what to do and, before long, I thought of calling this person’s name.
「Ah…Are you practicing some kind of a comedy act? Filaret La Volgograd, my employer. 」
The sound of an old wood board cracked badly. Largud Ann noticed our pursuers’ presence and stared suspiciously on the direction of the sound. I didn’t tell my companions about the exact place of my location. If one of them followed us of their own volition, then I was not to blame.
We saw a moving shadow at a corner of the “poor people’s cave”. That mysterious person came out from there and I saw immediately some familiar traits. A Sorceress with a long and shiny black hair. A very deep but troubled gaze. It was that person. It was Filaret La Volgograd.
I had a hunch that it was Filaret based on her voice. But, I didn’t expect to see her for real. This was unexpected.
「I just saw you coming this way. But, I didn’t chase you. 」
Filaret professed some hastily words. It looked as if she was giving us some excuse. Her eyes didn’t even meet ours while she spoke. Her behavior was extremely suspicious.
Her movements were strange. Without a doubt. I had no idea what was going on. Why did she follow me in the first place?
I couldn’t help it but sigh at this awkward situation. Largud Ann stared at me with a confusing expression on her face.
It seemed that “bad spirits” kept following me everywhere I went on this timeline. They kept tracking me down to slow down my path, either be in a form of a perilous situation or a person. “They” just wouldn’t let me go. I would call this “bad luck”.
After wandering around through the dark streets of the “poor people’s cave”, we finally arrived at a bizarre-looking inn. It looked like a brothel.
We went inside and went to the designated room. It was a simple room with a bed and a round chair. The room was too small and narrow. It was extremely hot because we were four people inside. In addition, it had a large barrel on the corner. I became worried and curious whenever I stared at that barrel.
I wondered why they chose this place. Too narrow and too stifling. Maybe they wanted this room to be the meeting place because of their cautiousness. Even so, their prudence was quite troublesome.
「I know this isn’t an ideal place to meet. But, the inhabitants of this place are very lethargic. So, we have nothing to worry about.」
Largud Ann shook her hand with this unknown man. He introduced to us as a fellow collaborator. He bowed his head as a greeting and sat on the chair. His large face and robust shoulders were so overwhelming that it looked like he “crushed” his lower body because of that heavy burden.
「What kind of reply should I get if I do the arrangement of food and money supplies? 」
Largud Ann stroke her chin with her tiny fingers. She wrinkled her eyebrows while she was immersed on her thoughts. It was rather unusual to see her with a troubled expression. She always met us with a cheerful persona.
I blank my eyes involuntarily after I observed the surroundings. It was not a mere coincidence that we met on this obscure place. This place was quite hidden in a shadowy alley. Inside was really dark, and the rooms were narrow. It was hard to see who came in and who came out. Maybe that was the reason why Largud Ann knew that the Heraldic order built their outside base on a poverty-stricken area.
「There are unique rules and practices among the poor. There are no limits when it comes to offers and rewards. I’ll take everything I’ll receive. So, Ann. Is the one we’ve talked about among these two?」
The man of the heavy-looking face turned his gaze to Filaret and me.
Filaret thought this was a ring dealer’s house at first. When she realized that this place was a brothel, she shook her shoulders and touched her hair nervously. We could hear several voices of women coming from the thin walls. They came and faded away several times. It was awkward but their loud voices camouflaged our conversation in the narrowly room. That’s why they chose this exact room for secret meetings. It was pretty convenient to be honest.
「Yes. This is my hero, Lugis. And Lugis’ friend, Filaret. 」
Largud Ann introduced us. Soon after, Filaret looked extremely uncomfortable and opened her lips.
「Excuse me. What kind of meeting is this? A secret meeting in a poverty-stricken area feels wrong. This feels like a villain’s lair. This doesn’t feel right.」
The man rounded his eyes and then he stared closely at Largud Ann. Afterwards, Largud Ann’s eyes stared at me on that sequence. Her questionable gaze told me all. Why did I brought Filaret with me in the end? That was what Largud Ann’s expression was saying to me.
Of course, she was right. But, I had no choice but to bring Filaret with me after I found out that she followed me. Perhaps, it wasn’t a good choice. But, it was a great opportunity. If I do everything well, I’ll be able to draw Filaret to my side and pull her away from Helot Stanley. I’ll try any measures to accomplish that even if I fail at first. After all, I was an adventurer that was used to dark and depressive minds.
Besides, I thought that I had a chance of winning this. Why? Because of what happened in the underground temple. The winning rate might be at half away through by now. I mustn’t stall. Every minute counts. Even five minutes of charming her would make a huge difference. I would be far superior than my fateful enemy.
I opened my lips and spoke aloud to the “six eyes” that were in the room.
「A haunted secret meeting, a “poor people’s caves” and a gathering of people who can’t disclose the meaning of their negotiations…Yes, this place doesn’t give any good vibe indeed, my employer.」
Filaret’s eyebrows wrinkled on this moment. She bit her lips, and her body shivered in fear. She was surely frightened by this situation. Her throat was dry as she tried her hardest to gulp.
「It’s just as you say…A secret meeting of a villain…Why did you come here instead of staying in your beloved Garoua Maria?」
In the darkness, the words of that man resonated in our earlobes. A mixed tension surrounded the three different parties at the narrowly room.
Largud Ann and that mysterious man stared at Filaret with wide opened eyes. They were watching every move. She wouldn’t be able to escape from here no matter what. There wasn’t anything she could now.
Everyone was tense. A long moment of silence consumed the whole room. Filaret’s beautiful dark eyes were widely open, and they reflected my appearance as if they were a mirror.
I’m free of cats, and…. and… IT’S GREAT!
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