“… And your efforts in stabilising public order as representatives of Isaac, the Lord’s Representative, have been acknowledged by the Empire. We now acknowledge you all as the official militia of New Port City, and the Empire will reimburse you for the fallen militia member.”
Isaac’s rosy prediction didn’t even last three days. Unlike his expectation that Rivelia would take the credit, it was the syndicate bosses who received its glory. In return, the syndicate bosses became the official militia of the city. Isaac couldn’t help but feel frustrated that the notorious criminals that everyone knew about had became official peacekeepers, and Rivelia was still pecking at his side all the while, pestering him to find the murderer.
“What do you mean, ‘do an investigation?’ Isn’t Central involved now?”
“Central won’t be getting involved in this incident.”
“When I’ve just suffered through that interrogation of theirs?”
Isaac asked Rivelia as he remembered the arrogant agent of Central, who questioned him about the most trifling facts and his past as if he was interrogating the culprit. Rivelia answered Isaac with a smile on her face that would make the hearts of men pound furiously.
“I put a good word in for you. If your report is correct, the victim is just an apprentice warlock, and Central doesn’t have the free time to deal with such a minor subject.”
‘So you just want to see me suffer.’
Isaac felt the urge to flick Rivelia’s forehead, whose bright smile would steal the hearts of any who witnessed it. It wouldn’t have mattered much if it was anywhere else, but the people of the slums lived desperate lives whose daily wages allowed them to survive barely another day. In the last three days since Central received the report of the wyvern’s appearance, they turned the city upside down, and most of the residents in the area were left prisoners in their own homes and starving, unable to leave for work. Plus, many of them took to the streets, worried to death that their houses weren’t safe. They became easy prey for pickpockets and muggers, so Isaac had to put more pressure on the syndicate bosses as the frequency of these crimes increased.
Reaching the limit of his temper, Isaac turned serious and spoke to Rivelia.
“Even if Central won’t be investigating the murder, they will still try to find the warlock responsible for the black magic, so how am I supposed to report on that?”
“Y, you can simply report to me.”
The sudden shift in tone befuddled Rivelia, and she stuttered her answer. Isaac took the opening to continue his aggression.
“Am I supposed to report to the Mayor instead of Central when the killer is a mysterious figure that managed to kill an apprentice warlock?”
This spoiled damsel must have insisted on her way without considering the political aspects behind this issue. Rivelia began to ponder about the subjects that she seemed to have not thought about and soon came to a simple conclusion.
“Report to both Central and me.”
“… Who am I supposed to report to first? Do I report to Central first, then report to you, Mayor? Or the opposite?”
Rivelia hesitated, and Isaac quickly pressed on without giving her the time.
“Who do we ask for reinforcements? What will the work schedule be for the squad investigating this incident? Is that squad going to be solely dedicated to the investigation or will that just be support for Central? Do we dictate the investigation, or do we take orders from Central? How and which method will we use to maintain contact with Central, since we will require regular contact for the investigation?”
“That’s… I mean… eek! Do I have to tell you everything! You’re the man in charge of the administration!”
I knew it.
Isaac sighed. He didn’t come in with expectations anyway. He only said those things to deal a blow to Rivelia. Rivelia’s face was bright red, her pride seemingly wounded. She glared at Isaac and shouted annoyingly.
“Squad 3 will follow emergency duty protocols until the murder incident is solved!”
Shit! Did I tease her too much?
Isaac regretted slightly and shrugged.
‘Crap! Reisha’s going to get mad again.’
Isaac left the Mayor’s room composedly, keeping his frustration bottled up. He didn’t know why he, the Lord’s Representative and Administrator, had to run about the field personally and appease Reisha – all the while having no idea as to what everyone else was doing at this point.
‘I’ll hold back just this once.’
Although her motive was impure, it was thanks to Rivelia that they managed to prevent a disaster. What if Axlon’s minions opened the door? And if the wyvern was summoned then? Just imagining how much damage it would have caused until the knights arrived at the scene brought a chill through Isaac’s spine. Even if he was used to death, it still left a bad taste to watch the slaughter of innocents. So Isaac was going to go along with Rivelia’s stubbornness just this once. Although his body would suffer the consequences.
“Man, one wrong move and I might get stabbed in my back.”
Isaac smiled bitterly and muttered, being the target of malicious stares from all around him. These residents of the slum, who stayed motionless like rats hiding from a cat when they were in the presence of the agents from Central, seemed to have lost their sanity when the agents left and were openly hostile towards Isaac and his squad.
Isaac was innocent, but he wasn’t interested in trying to prove it; he didn’t feel irritated by their actions anyway. Central wouldn’t have left a single stone unturned regarding the surrounding area and its residents, so there was no need for Isaac to do the same again.
“Everyone except Reisha and Kunette are to visit every house and tell them to get back to their lives from tomorrow onwards.”
Everyone in the squad looked at Isaac questioningly. Seeing the gravity of the murder incident, all of the slum residents should be treated as suspects until the investigation was solved. That was why they established a quarantine around the area and announced that any who broke the rule would be treated as a main suspect.
“I’m sure Central would have investigated all of it already. The fact that they left means that none of them were of help in the investigation. Let’s not keep these poor fellas suffering anymore. The city won’t run properly if there’s a sudden absence of workers.”
All of the squad members shrugged and split off in different directions.
“Are you sure you can do this, sunbaenim? Rivelia-sunbaenim won’t stay put if she finds out.”
“Ah, who cares. I’ll just take the hit if she says something about it. I’ve got to let these people eat.”
Reisha smiled brightly and hugged Isaac. Kunette seemed to follow Reisha and clung onto Isaac’s left leg.
“Hehe, this is why I like you, sunbaenim!”
“Can you stop acting like this and go up the stairs? At this rate, you’ll start baseless rumors.”
Isaac tried to maintain his composure, trying to distract himself from sinking into Reisha’s warm and soft body. He pushed Reisha and Kunette away from him.
“Uum, I was told that humans like it when we do this. Was that wrong?”
“Who told you that?”
“Hehe, it was my mum!”
“Just what do they teach in an elf’s household? What are you going to do if an incident… I guess that won’t happen.”
Anyone who had ulterior motives and ambushed Reisha would see another face of hers. Who was it again? That man who misunderstood Reisha’s innocent act and jumped at her, only to become a husk of a man whose body and mind were broken beyond recovery?
As Isaac walked up the stairs, he remembered that arrogant and proud knight that was carried out of the city in a stretcher just two days after the police force arrived in the city. He left as a bloody pancake at the hands of Reisha.
“Tsk, how could there be no one guarding the scene of crime, even if it’s dangerous to do so.”
Isaac grumbled as he remembered Axlon’s minion, who disappeared with great haste once he saw Isaac and his squad arrive. Warlocks were the symbol of evil, and even killing them was problematic. They were the most common antagonists in fairy tales.
Their most common weapon in the stories were curses. Curses that brought misfortune, curses that would drive someone mad. There were many different kinds of curses; curses of impotence often showed up in adult novels. The equation of warlocks to curses was engraved deeply in everyone’s minds. This was perhaps the reason that nobody wanted to remain near an apprentice warlock’s room.
“But don’t you think it’s very traditional? It’s got everything it needs.”
Every artefact that was mandatory for a warlock was present in the room.
“Ugh! Can you stop just watching and help me?”
Reisha, who had been shuffling through the room for evidence, complained to Isaac, who was simply watching from the corridor blankly.
“Are you going to take responsibility if I get cursed?”
“But you said that there weren’t any curses!”
“That’s just a comment I made to reassure the public.”
“So are you saying it’s fine if I get cursed?”
“I think it’ll be easier to believe in a dwarf giving up on alcohol than to believe an elf getting cursed.”
“… Isaac, what about me?”
“You can just watch too, Kunette. I’m sure Reisha can take care of it.”
Reisha’s constant grumbling echoed from the room as Isaac made his comments.
Suddenly, a small voice came from behind Isaac – a voice so faint that he barely noticed.
“U, um… Sir Isaac.”
Isaac turned to see the owner of the voice. In front of him stood a number of slum residents in the corridors who lived on the same floor as the apprentice warlock. Surprisingly, they were still lingering around their homes.
Isaac said with disdainful tone, which made the man even more careful with his words.
“Um… there isn’t any more issues right?”
“Now that I think about it, not one of them came to this building.”
The so-called 1st rank knights never entered this building to tell the news. Isaac placed a curse of eternal solitude to those cowards and began to ponder. Even if the warlock was just an apprentice, the residents would be ostracized purely because they lived under the same roof as a warlock. This may have been the reason why their eyes quivered with worry.
Isaac needed to calm them somehow… but he wasn’t interested in reassuring them himself. Plus, it seemed much more probable that they’d trust the words of the likable Reisha and Kunette over him, who emitted an aura of deception and hostility.
But that would mean he would have to search the room himself. Isaac was placed in a bit of a predicament. The people’s worry worsened the longer Isaac remained silent as he was still deciding on what to do. In the end, Isaac called out to Reisha.
Reisha replied, not even turning her head toward Isaac. She still seemed mad from before, and Isaac smirked.
“You can stop and tell the residents of this building that there’s nothing wrong.”
Reisha finally straightened her back after hearing that and turned to see the people of the slums peeking into the room with just their heads. Reisha tilted her head, then quickly nodded as if she had understood what was happening.
“I guess not many people would believe you no matter how much you prattle on, sunbaenim.”
“… Although I do agree with what you say, it still hurts to hear it.”
“My mum told me ‘the truth is always cruel.’”
Reisha passed Isaac, who smiled bitterly and approached the residents. She reassured them nothing was wrong and that they could return to their lives from tomorrow onwards. The people of the slums seemed to be relieved hearing those words from an elf, a being they’d never imagined seeing in their entire lives. And the beauty of Reisha and cuteness of Kunette aided their efforts. Soon, a crowd gathered around Reisha and Kunette, keenly listening to their words. The children looked to Kunette with bright eyes while Reisha gathered gazes of admiration from the young men. The middle-aged men looked to her, seemingly charmed by her beauty, while their wives pinched at their husbands’ sides, their eyes burning with fury. All the while thanking Reisha and Kunette.
Isaac briefly chuckled while watching the scene and entered the room. It was in complete chaos, having already been rummaged through by Reisha in search for clues. All kinds of artefacts were arranged on the floor. Isaac searched the cabinets for paper, opened boxes, and acted as if he was doing his job until he noticed something. He stopped; his eyes were fixed on the two items that were placed on top of the bedside cabinet. Shock and bewilderment overtook Isaac when he realised what it was. They were items that were impossible to create, much less exist in this world’s civilization with their current technology. It was a plastic container the size of a finger shaped like a figure 8 and a Monami ballpoint pen that was familiar to all of South Korea for its cheapness.
“Contact lens and a Monami?”
PR Note: Monami is a company that produces stationery supplies in Korea, including pens, highlighters, and more. They have a website and export a wide range of pens, from cheap ballpoint pens to premium writing instruments. They can go from a couple of USD for a pack of twenty pens to about $20 USD per pen.
Isaac quickly pulled out a cigarette to calm his beating heart and looked around him. The people were still focused on Reisha and Kunette, Isaac being outside their attention. Kunette was growling at the people around her, guarded, while Reisha was constantly speaking to them as she was if preaching to them.
Isaac quickly used the opportunity to pocket the pen and opened the plastic container. As expected, there was a contact lens slightly submerged in a container, but there was only one.
“How did Central miss this?”
Isaac couldn’t fathom it. With the presence of black magic confirmed, all suspicious objects should have been confiscated by Central, even if the victim was just an apprentice. How could they simply leave behind an object in the open that even Isaac could find? It shouldn’t have happened.
Isaac pondered for a moment, glimpsing behind him at Reisha. He then quickly placed the contact lens into his left eye.
Flash! It felt as if someone had hit him with a hammer at the back of his head the moment he placed the lens in his eye. The searing pain was accompanied with his vision turning white. Isaac curled into a ball on the floor shaking as he grasped at his burning eyes. Reisha quickly noticed the abnormality and ran to Isaac.
“Sunbaenim! What’s going on?”
“… Isaac is in pain?”
“Kuuk. I, it’s nothing. Uhik!”
Isaac just barely managed to keep himself from screaming. The pain began to subside, and when vision returned, he tried to act composed but instead ended up making a bizarre scream.
Reisha tilted her head as she asked Isaac with worry, but Isaac wasn’t in a state to reply.
“Shit! I shouldn’t have touched it so carelessly! How is this happening? What are those lines!”
When Isaac opened his eyes, all kinds of strings could be seen floating in the air, the likes of which he had never witnessed until he put the lens on. He tried closing one eye at a time, and the fact that those strings could only be seen with the left eye confirmed that this was due to the lens.
‘Did my retina get detached?’
Isaac’s wide yet shallow pool of knowledge told him that when floaters suddenly appeared in your vision, it was due to the retina being detached. Remembering the searing pain he felt when he put the lens on, Isaac worried if he was going to become a cyclops.
“Sunbaenim, are you alright?”
“I don’t like it when Isaac’s in pain!”
“No, there’s no need to worry. Some dust got in my eye…”
Isaac tried to form a smile with his lips at Reisha and Kunette to reassure them, who were worried and sobbing, respectively. But his smile froze in place.
‘What, is that!’
Isaac screamed in his mind. Reisha’s blood vessels were in plain sight, almost as if her skin had turned transparent. The blood that flowed in her vessels wasn’t red but bright gold. Strangely, Kunette looked like a giant ball of white mass.
‘Hm hm, now that I look at it like this, Reisha has a very nice…’
The golden stream gathered at her heart before disseminating into all parts of her body with each beat. Isaac could also see Reisha’s body in its fullest, as if she was in front of him naked.
Reisha flinched at the sudden chill of disgust she felt.
“Ahem, it’s nothing.”
“… Isaac looked really evil just now. He lied while he was in pain!”
Isaac instinctively acted innocent and coughed dryly as Kunette’s scolding attracted the crowd’s attention. Reisha’s concerns also deepened, and she kept her guard up as she distanced herself from Isaac. Her elven instinct seemed to warn her that he was dangerous. Isaac couldn’t even complain against such treatment since he had no excuses, and he even turned his back on her and began to ponder what this lens was doing.
‘It doesn’t seem like my eye is damaged… so why can I see Reisha’s body? Huh, it’s a lot more voluptuous than I… No! now isn’t the time to be distracted! Wake up! I know you’ve been starved for some time, but one wrong move and your life will be ruined forever! What is it that I’m seeing? Is it mana? That seems most likely right now… but why can I see mana by wearing a contact lens?’
Reisha and Kunette found Isaac to be odd, suddenly turning his back on them and beginning a cycle of tilting his head then shaking it repeatedly. They began to sob.
“What are you two doing?”
“Hiinh. Sunbaenim became weird! He must be cursed!”
“… Isaac is dying? I don’t like that!”
“What! Is it true that sunbaenim is cursed!”
“Huh? Did you just arrive?”
Isaac turned to see when he suddenly heard Krent’s voice, only for his face to crumple up in disgust. It may have been pleasing on the eye to see beautiful women, but he suddenly got the urge to gouge it out when he saw a man standing in front of him. Reisha watched Isaac’s face color with disgust when he looked at Krent, but then he would turn to look at her and see his face melt with pleasure. Her spine began to tingle, as if insects were crawling all over her. Meanwhile, Krent made a commotion.
“Uwaah! Sunbaenim’s cursed! Get away everyone! Or you’ll get the curse too!”
Isaac frowned when Krent suddenly made that comment and stared him down.
“What bullshit are you saying?”
“D, don’t come to me! Get away, everyone!”
Because of Krent’s commotion, the people that Reisha just convinced put their heads out to listen and began to scream when they heard the word curse. They screamed as they ran toward the stairs, desperately trying to escape the building.
“M, move it!”
“Piss off! I’m first!”
Isaac took one step forward at the sudden turn of events, and even Krent jumped out of the building, breaking through a wall as he screamed.
“Uwaah! It’s the warlock’s curse! Get away, everyone!”
The outside seemed like it was in a complete panic, and despite the knights’ attempt to maintain order, the people scattered in all directions.
“Uwaaah! Sunbaenim, what do we do?”
“Don’t die, Isaac! You can’t die!”
Only Reisha and Kunette were left behind, crying like children. Isaac looked at the sight in silence, then shouted out into the air at what had happened, fuelled by his boiling anger.
“Krent, you bastard!”