“How can you think like that”
It was late; the candles dreamy lights lit up the room and chased away the darkness that was trying to settle down. Two people sat in the center of the room where there was a worn-out table and stains spotted the floors surface. It was Zich and Lubella.
The situation was like this: after Lubella chased the thugs away, healed the victim, and checked his identity, she brought Zich to her lodging. Criticism was apparent on Lubellas face, but Zich looked calm.
“What do you mean”
“I told you to help those who were in need. Who could take that to mean helping gangsters!”
Some of the Holy Knights protecting Lubella in the room also looked stunned.
“Didnt you just tell me to help those in need without adding any other conditions Those guys looked like they were having some serious difficulties.”
“But its common sense!”
“I asked you for advice because I dont have that common sense though”
Lubella was at a loss for words at Zichs response and grabbed her head. As someone who had spent most of her life in church, this was her first time experiencing something like this.
No, this isnt because of my lack of experience.
Even a person with a lot of experience would have probably never met a person like Zich.
If I consider that, even this is an incredible experience to have.
If she didnt at least think this way, Lubella felt like her head would have cracked.
“Please continue to try to help the weak.”
“You are sneakily changing the conditions a bit.”
“And who do you think is the cause for that”
Lubella glared at Zich. All kinds of thoughts of how she should settle the matter with Zich flashed across her mind. Then, she got up from her seat.
“Well, for now, lets apologize to the victim tomorrow.”
“The person you hit.”
“I already said this before, but I just did what you told me to do…”
At Lubellas glaring, Zich shrugged.
“I will apologize.”
* * *
Briand Sude graciously accepted Lubella and Zichs apology. Thanks to Lubellas treatment, he had a happy-go-lucky smile and looked very easy—no, nice. Zich made a satisfied smile and nodded. Then, he looked towards Lubella.
“He says its fine.”
“…Please apologize to him sincerely.”
“I am really fine.”
With Sudes words, Zich raised his chin even higher. Lubella wanted to say more, but she gave up because she thought nothing would go through Zich.
“I am sorry. In place of him, I apologize.”
“No, its really fine. Furthermore, its not like you, Lady Lubella, did anything wrong.”
“I am the one who gave him the suggestion. I share some blame too.”
Of course, Lubella had not given him the wrong advice. Who would have thought someone could so inaccurately interpret her words like that But Lubella still thought she had some responsibility about the matter.
“You really are kind, Lady. As expected of someone from Karuwiman.”
“No, I am still lacking.”
But as if she liked the compliment that Karuwiman got, a small smile curved up her lips.
“But what happened What did the thugs hit you in the alleyway for”
Lubella looked from Zich to Sude in search of the truth. The one who answered first was Zich.
“I dont know exactly. The thugs said that he had an important item. They said that they just needed to take that.”
“What was it”
“I dont know.”
“You didnt know what you had to take, but you beat up a person”
“The important part was to take the item. What the item was didnt matter.”
“Are you really a gangster or a person like that”
“Didnt I tell you that I lived a rough life”
As if he had coated his face with metal, Zichs expression didnt change at all. It was at a point where even Hans, who came with him, sighed.
Anyhow, what does he mean by a rough life Didnt Sir Zich live a quiet life until recently
But Hans recalled the environment Zich grew up in.
Well, if I consider the Steelwall and Zichs situation, I guess you could say that he lived a harsh life.
Suddenly, Hans felt a bit regretful for his past behavior. If he had maintained even the most basic etiquette, Zich wouldnt have forcefully dragged him out of the Counts residence, and he wouldnt have to suffer like this.
Since it felt like she couldnt gain any more useful information from Zich, Lubella turned her attention towards Sude again.
“Can we know more Of course, it may be hard to reveal everything to us, but we could help you with your situation.”
Lubella quietly and carefully convinced him, but Sude hesitated. He looked as if he was wondering if he should tell or not.
“…First of all, I dont have an important item like he mentioned,” Sude said while pointing at Zich.
“You dont have the item”
“Yes, they just made that up to harass me for no reason.”
“It was only to harass you”
“Yes, but they did have a purpose.”
Sude slowly looked around his surroundings. Following his gaze, everyone in the room twisted their neck in all directions. The place they were all in was a shop. It looked like the shop sold clothes as rolled-up fabrics filled the shelves and walls. However, if anyone asked a hundred people if the shop looked good, all hundred would answer:No, it doesnt.
The wooden building sloped down like it was going to break down at any moment. A spider web hung in the corner of the room, display stands were spotted with stains that looked like they couldnt be erased no matter how much one rubbed against it, and the shops rusty floor made onlookers feel gloomy.
“Its a worn-out shop, right”
Sude pointed it out. Lubella shook her head firmly.
“No, it is a great shop. We cant just judge something based on its exterior.”
“I am thankful that you say that. Like Lady Lubella says, this is a special place to us. Since our grandfathers time, we were able to survive thanks to the shop. But besides what Lady Lubella and I think, it doesnt have a very inviting exterior,” Sude said in a bit of a self-mocking tone.
“It has somehow become so deplorable. Although the shop is very precious to us, if you look at it objectively, it doesnt have much worth. No, it used to be like that.”
“What is different about it now”
“A lot of it is different. Did you take a look at the shops surroundings when you came here”
“Yes, most places were getting reconstructed.”
“It had been recently decided that this area would turn into a business zone. I dont know if I am lucky or not, but my shop is included inside the zone.”
Porti was a colossal business city. Using its strategic background, the city had amassed great wealth and gained autonomous control over a specific region from the state. As expected, business was the most important thing to Porti. The reason why they chose a new business zone was also for that reason.
“Are they trying to take your shop
At Lubellas question, Sude made a heavy nod.
“Since some time ago, they have been asking me to hand my shop over to them. Of course, I dont have the slightest bit of interest in letting this place go in the memory of my grandfather and father…”
“The harassment must have started then.”
Sude didnt answer, but everyone knew what his silence meant.
“Who are they”
“They are the Siren Corporation. They are the group making the new shops next to my shop. From what I know, they are planning to make a huge store thats big enough to include mine.”
“Does it mean that they have decided to steal the shop from you” Lubellas voice was mixed with distress, “Have you requested help from the Magistrate”
“Its no use. He is part of them. The head of the Siren Corporation is offering bribes to the Mayor, and not only that, but he is also the younger brother of one the Mayors associates.”
“In fact, there arent any good rumors about the citys mayor.”
One of the Holy Knights explained further to Lubella, and Lubellas distress peaked.
“…I will try meeting with the Mayor tomorrow.”
“Thank goodness theres a way for me to atone for my sins.”
As Sude looked at her with bewildered eyes, Lubella made a reassuring smile.
“Lady Lubella, for cautions sake…”
“I know. Even if we are Karuwiman, we shouldnt try to get involved in politics.”
Lubella nodded in response to the Holy Knights careful words. Although Karuwiman was a religion that had considerable influence on many people, it ended there. Even the royals and aristocrats who bowed their heads in delight to receive Karunas blessing from her would forget their smiles, pour out murderous intent, and antagonize her if she tried to intrude upon their interests.
Even if I cant outrightly harm them, I can keep them in check.
But if the worst happened, it could backfire on Karuwiman.
“If we try to intrude in every little matter, we could lose our ability to use Karuwimans name. What will happen if others try to hold Karuwiman in check But if we hold onto our faith and help the weak, people will continue to love us.”
Even with the danger of outside influences, the way the group acted throughout the decades was the reason why Karuwiman was so loved today. The Holy Knights nodded. They didnt mean to cover up this incident and pass it over, but they also wanted to give a word of advice to Lubella who they served.
Sude stopped them with a difficult expression.
“You dont have to go that far…”
“This doesnt only involve you. As a person from Karuwiman, I can't just ignore injustice and stand by. Dont worry. I will make sure that no harm will befall you as a result.”
“…You really are a virtuous and noble person. I will pray for your future to be endowed with an everlasting blessing.”
Sude bowed deeply and thanked her. Zich stared at Lubella bowing deeply to receive his thanks. On the other hand, Zich was as shameless as ever. He even yawned as if the conversation bored him.
“What is it”
“…Haaa! Since its also my fault that I gave you the wrong advice and Mr. Sude also said that he forgives you, I think we should settle this matter here. Especially since you dont seem to be lying that you want tolive a kind life. But I hope that you will think twice before you use violence and think about if that is really a kind action.”
“Also, please dont forget the other piece of advice I gave you.”
“You mean the one tohelp the weak I dont really like the advice, though.” Zich shrugged his shoulders. “Well, since its what Lady Lubella said, I understand.”
After finishing her conversation with Zich, Lubella gave her farewells to the two again and left the shop.
“Um, I am sorry.”
Maybe it was because Lubella had told him to help the weak, but after Lubella left, Zich apologized awkwardly again.
“I forgot everything now, but if you still feel some guilt, I hope you will protect the weak as Lady Lubella told you.”
“Ah, ok. I will try.”
Zich left the shop while swaying his hands.
* * *
Soon, it became midnight. A dark mass of clouds covered the moon and the stars, so it was hard to see where they were going. Holding a torch, Hans turned behind him.
“Is there something that you are dissatisfied with, sir”
Zich had walked without saying anything for a while now. It seemed like he was thinking deeply about something, and even though Hans didnt want to do something like wake a sleeping dog, it was chilling to see Zich just follow him from behind like a ghost. In the end, Hans had no choice but to open his mouth.
“You know what Lubella told me. Is it really true”
Although Zich didnt addLady to Lubellas name, Hans let it go. Truthfully, he thought if the current Zich added an honorific to anyones name, it would be more surprising.
“What are you talking about, sir”
“What she said about helping the weak.”
“Is there something wrong about that, sir”
“It doesnt feel right somehow. Can I really do that Isnt she confused about something
You are the one who is confused.
Hans was shocked when he found out that Zich had helped thugs to help someone in need.
What do you think she is confused about
“I can understand the part about helping the weak. But according to her, it seems like she is telling me to help someone like Sude.”
“Its notit seems butit is, sir.”
Zich tilted his head.
“Well, since I have no other option, should I follow that I still think its the wrong approach, but what Lubella said…”
Zich stopped walking. At this, Hans also halted in his steps.
“What is it, sir”
“Look over there.”
Zich pointed to the front. Without realizing it, they had come to a mostly uninhabited area. On their left, the creek trickled, while to their right, shabby houses sparsely lined up the area. There wasnt a single light as if those were empty houses or their residents were sleeping.
Hans squinted his eyes to see what Zich was pointing at.
“Is it… a person, sir” Hans trailed off.
The obscure figure seemed to be the shape of a person. However, it was hard to say that it was a human as the shadows movements were bizarre.
“Its not human.”
“Sorry Then, what is it, sir”
Before Hans could hear the answer, the shadowy figure entered the torch lights range and gave off a nauseating stench.
“Its a zombie.”