“Okay then, why dont you guide us to your house”
“As if I will! What more are you going to do to my younger brother!”
The young man resisted desperately, but he couldnt escape out of Zichs sturdy arms. He tried to throw punches at Zichs face, but Zich avoided them with minimum movements or used his other hand to block.
The scuffling went on for a while, but in the end, the young man gave up while panting with his reddened face. Thus, Lubella intervened. She was still kneeling on the floor.
“We have no intention to do your brother any harm. We truly want to solve the problems that are going around the city right now. Besides, I might be able to heal your younger brother.”
“You want me to believe that”
Words about Zich and Lubellas deeds had spread throughout the whole city, and their not-so-great first meeting made the young man doubtful of them.
Zich added, “Hey, its understandable why you cant trust us. I will lay out the facts so that you can think about your situation more clearly. Isnt your younger brother in a really bad condition He probably isnt hurting in a specific area, but he keeps getting weaker as if he is moving closer towards death.”
The young mans pupils shook.
“No matter how much he eats, he loses weight and has a hard time walking. In the end, he can only lie on the bed. But even thats only for a short while, because he will die soon.”
The young man didnt respond, but his tightly gripped fist proved that Zichs words were correct.
“Even if you dont guide us to him, your younger brother will die. Even if you work hard selling goods, how likely will you be able to save your brothers life Shouldnt you try to grasp even a strand of hope in a situation like this”
Zichs words were like a demons temptations, and the young man bit his lips.
* * *
The young man guided Zich and Lubella to a house in the slums. Like the place they were staying in, the house was worn-out, shabby, and smelly.
“It must be him.”
A young boy was sleeping on a bed made out of a rotting pile of straw underneath him and a dirty straw mat over him. It didnt look like the boy was diseased. His complexion looked alright, and his breathing was normal. However, the boy was extremely emaciated and bony like a mummy; and even while considering the fact that the slums residents didnt get enough nutrients, the boys condition was extreme.
The young man, Timmy, answered Lubellas question. Timmy was still wary of the two, but as if he thought he should get along with them to help his younger brother, his tone and speech had become polite.
Without hesitation, Lubella placed her hand on the boys chest. Timmy flinched but didnt stop Lubella.
“Hows his condition”
“Its as we expected.”
Lubella took her hand off the boy and answered Zich.
“I almost cant feel any of his life force. Instead, I can feel Bellus dirty energy. What we thought was right. This boy is the sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice My brother is a sacrifice”
Timmy hurriedly hung onto Lubella, but Lubella wavered. She was hesitant to tell the dark truth to the boys older brother. Thus, Zich came forward in her place.
“I will explain it to you simply. Some guys spread the undead in this city and falsely charged us with those crimes. They are the Bellid guys. You know about them, right And those guys sucked away your brothers life force to complete a ritual. Thankfully, they didnt take enough to kill your brother, but that can happen any moment now.”
A bunch of gigantic schemes and conspiracies had just been revealed to him, but Timmy wasn't curious about that.
“T-then what Can my brother get better”
“Yeah, of course.”
With her head lowered and her heart filled with guilt, she asked in surprise, “Really! Is there really a way for him to get better”
Even she didnt know how to cure a person whose life force was taken away from them.
“Yes, there definitely is one.”
“H-how…” Timmy pitifully asked as if he had thrown away all of his wariness about the two.
“Its simple. We just have to give back the life force that your brother lost. Then, as you can expect, we just have to know where your brothers life force went.”
Zichs voice changed slightly.
“How did your brother become like this—does anything come to mind Like where he went or who he met before he collapsed.”
“Someone comes to my mind.”
Timmy seemed sure, and Zich and Lubella got their hopes up.
“Thats good, buddy. You just increased the chances of your brothers survival. So, tell us. Where Or who”
“That bastard, Sude.”
“The bastard, Sude. You know, the guy you helped us beat up. That bastard.”
Lubella spoke up unintentionally while listening to their conversation.
Timmy looked at Lubella. He had a lot of anger on his face, and Lubella dipped her neck.
“Im saying, its that shopkeeper bastard you saved!” Timmy shouted.
Zich quickly covered Timmys mouth. For Zich and Lubella, who were in hiding, it wasnt good to make a commotion. Thankfully, Timmy didnt shout after that, but even as Zich blocked Timmys mouth with his hands, Timmy continued to glare at Lubella.
“Hey buddy, lets calm down. We have to move secretly. That will be better for your brother. You understand, right”
Timmy nodded, and Zich took his hand away.
“Then, explain to us. Keep in mind that you will increase your brothers chance of survival the more details you give us.”
“…It happened ten or so days ago. That day, I also came back after making money. I dont know about you guys, but for us, if we rest even one day, we will starve. I cant rest even if my brothers condition is like this.”
Timmy wiped down his brothers forehead. Maybe because the boy felt a familiar hand, a smile formed on his face after a bit of tossing and turning; it was a touching scene, but the boys stick-skinny body actually made the scene look more pitiful.
“I was a bit late that day because there was some work that made good money.”
Timmy had come home with a sack that was fuller than usual. But the satisfaction he got from feeling the sacks heavy touch didnt last long.
“My younger brother wasnt at home. He was always home by the time I came back from work because I told him that he has to stay inside the house at nighttime.”
Of course, Timmy went to look for his brother. In the slums, where it wasnt an exaggeration to say law and order didnt exist, all kinds of thoughts filled Timmys head. However, he didnt give up; his brother was his only family.
“I wandered around the slums for a long time until I found my brother in an open area.”
However, his younger brother wasnt the only one there. There was a man wearing a mask.
“My younger brother was lying on the floor, and the man was crouching over him.”
The man was sticking something into his younger brothers arm. Timmy could still remember it vividly as the chilling and terrifying blade glinted under the moonlight.
“I didnt even have the time to think. I lunged towards the man while screaming. The man was surprised, but I was faster than him, and we got entangled in a fight.”
The fight had continued. Although Timmys skills were superior to the mans, he had to watch out for the mans knife—it prolonged the fight and Timmy eventually lost the man.
“But I still succeeded in taking that mans mask off.”
Timmy distinctly remembered the face revealed by the moonlight.
“To look for ways to make money or even beg sometimes, I went to the shopping and business district many times. And there, I was especially familiar with one person.”
“And that guy must be Sude.” Zich continued for him.
Without even having the time to chase after Sude, Timmy had checked his brothers state first. He examined his brothers arm which had been pierced by a knife, but it was strange.
“There wasnt a trace of blood or even a single scratch. And my younger brother woke up soon afterward. I was relieved. I just thought that my brother almost got mixed up in a kidnapping that happened in the slums, and I had just imagined the knife. But after that incident, my brother lost energy and fainted. And he began to change into this, as you can see.”
Timmy looked at his younger brother pitifully.
“Even if I somehow found some food and fed him, it was useless. I thought I was going out of my mind since it didnt seem like he was hurting anywhere, but he kept getting weaker. Like you said, it was as if his life force was getting sucked away.”
Then, he remembered the man who had attacked his brother and the mans chilling dagger.
“A dagger that didnt leave a mark after piercing into a person. I thought it had to be a rare item, and it could explain my brothers strange condition.”
As expected, Timmy had gone to look Sude; since Sude was someone he knew, it wasnt hard to find him. But there wasnt anything he could do. The Magistrate didnt care for poor people like him, and their opponent was a member of society unlike them.
“But I couldnt stand by when I thought of my younger brother. So, in the end, I thought of resolving things by force.”
“You must have met me then.”
“Yes, I thought I should take the guys dagger first. Then, I thought I could use it to trade for information about curing my brother. I also thought that even if the guy refused to tell us anything, in the end, the Magistrate might do something with a piece of evidence like that.”
Timmy stopped talking for a moment and glared at Lubella again.
“But some virtuous person ruined everything.”
“I-Im sorry. I misunderstood…”
Timmys voice was sharp.
“Why Was it because we were one-sidedly beating him up Or was it because we were people from the slums Or because I was a gangster bastards son In your eyes, did you just see us as the strong and the guy as the weak So, were you certain that we must have been in the wrong”
Timmys voice started to grow louder and louder.
“Because of your great misunderstanding, my younger brother…!”
“Ok, ok, buddy, stop it. Lets calm down.”
Zich patted Timmys shoulders.
“Dont criticize her too much. As you said, the Lady has only lived a refined, protected life and hasnt experienced much. Besides, she is aware of her faults and is trying to fix them too. And that is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.”
Timmy suppressed his anger.
Lubella couldnt make a single retort, and each of Timmys resentful words pierced the corners of her heart.
* * *
With the clue about Sude, Zich and Lubella went out of Timmys house.
Timmy even saw them off from his houses door.
“I beg you. Please cure my younger brother.” As if his emotions had calmed down, Timmy talked politely again.
“Yes, even if I have to swear it on my life, we will succeed.”
Maybe because Lubella felt a sense of debt towards Timmy, she showed fierce determination. Timmy stared at Lubella for a moment and nodded. Zich and Timmy also exchanged greetings.
“Hey, buddy. Thank you for your cooperation. Dont worry too much. Your brother will get better soon.”
“I really beg you.”
“Of course. But I am curious about one thing. Surprisingly, you dont seem to resent me. Is there a reason for that”
Zich had ignored Timmy when Lubella first appeared in the alleyway. It could be said that Zich had betrayed Timmy. However, Timmy surprisingly didnt show particular hostility towards Zich, and there was a clear difference in his attitude between Lubella and Zich.
“Ah, you mean that.” Timmy hesitated for a bit and said with embarrassment, “You were the first one besides my friends… who wanted to help me for no reason at all. Help us, who our own parents abandoned. Thats probably why I cant really feel hostile to you.”
Why Zichs face froze like a bird hit by a bird gun.
“Whats the matter”
“No, its nothing.”
Timmy looked at him strangely. But Zich didnt say much, and Timmy didnt ask further.
“Anyways, did you guys really not kill Mr. Mayor and the Deputy Mayor Or cast a great curse on the city”
Even though his mind had only been focused on his younger brother, Timmy began to collect his senses and asked questions. It was also strange that Timmy addedMr before only the Mayor, but Zich answered him.
“If you know the truth, you will be in danger. Its better for you not to know.”
“Then, just tell me if Mr. Mayor is dead or not.”
Zich thought this much was fine to tell Timmy, but Lubella thought,Why did Timmy show interest in only the Mayor Was he happy that the greedy Mayor was dead
However, Timmys response was completely unexpected.
“Thats regretful. He was a good person.”
“Sorry” Lubella was surprised. “A good person The Mayor”
“Yes, he was too good of a person, making it hard to believe that he was from this greedy city.”
“But the rumors about him werent really great…”
“Did you hear them from merchants or people related to them Those people dislike the Mayor because the Mayor tried to help poor people like us with the citys taxes. Of course, most of the merchants werent happy about that. And unfortunately, since the merchants have a strong voice in this city, rumors about Mr. Mayor naturally grew bad.”
“But the Mayors lifestyle was extravagant and wasteful, and his house was so big. Its hard to see him as a person like that! He looked greedy too!”
“What are you talking about” Timmy spat out in an annoyed voice, and Lubella closed her mouth. In her confused state, Lubella looked like a dying tree, struggling to hold onto its center.
“Why does it matter that his lifestyle was extravagant, or his house was big, or he was wasteful As someone who was in charge of the city, he was also a successful merchant. Although it can make some feel jealous, it doesnt matter what he does with his own money. In addition to that, he always donated to the poor. Among all the merchants in this damn city, he was the only one who spent money on the poor and cared about us. And what do you mean that he looked greedy! What does ones character have to do with their looks”
Lubella couldnt say a word in response.