Level up with swords (64)
Karen, who was wandering the streets at night, suddenly turned around. It was because I felt someone’s gaze on me for some reason.
Both eyes contract briefly and then expand several times.
The method of manipulating the pupils is a basic skill for a top-notch assassin. Even so, Karen, whose eyesight was nearly ten times better than that of an average person and who concentrated auras in her eyes, was able to distinguish the facial expressions of people from several kilometers away.
Still, I couldn’t find Leon, who was on the fifth floor of the tavern, so I thought it was just my bad mood and closed my eyes.
A sound of heavily suppressed breathing came out from beneath his feet.
It was a sound made by a man with a grim face whose neck was stepped on by Karen’s boot. He had been successful in robbing thirty times so far, but today was a completely bad match for him.
The chill running down my spine was telling.
‘You’re going to die…’
It was a mistake to attack her just because of her pretty appearance. Those who came with him had already been exterminated a long time ago.
The guy whose head turned several times, the guy whose dagger was swung into my heart, the guy whose airway was crushed by a single hand snatch and even the guy who suffocated to death. The sight of several corpses lying around like trash made his fear even more vivid.
When that fear raised my heart rate to the limit, I said,
Karen’s dry voice pierced my ears.
“Huh? Oh no, just say anything!”
Not realizing that his feet had already been removed, the robber put his face down on the ground and begged for mercy.
I had the confidence to tell him to gouge out one of his eyes. The fact that this woman didn’t break his neck just now was just a whim. If I had answered just one beat late, I would have died.
“Where is the biggest organization in this city? “Not petty thieves like you, but people who manage things like smuggling and black markets.”
If you speak, you will die.
If you don’t speak, you die.
His response was a little delayed as the two fears became intertwined. Karen moved before he realized his mistake. A dagger fired without a sound pierced the back of the man’s hand.
I desperately suppress my screams.
I didn’t endure it because I wanted to. Before he could scream, Karen’s foot pressed down on the back of his head. Only after the guy quieted down did the boots fall again.
The robber’s mouth did not hesitate twice.
With his face covered in blood and tears, he lowered his face and spoke openly about what Karen asked.
“I see, this area is under the jurisdiction of ‘owls’.”
Before becoming an A-rank adventurer, Karen was a top-ranked assassin and was well aware of the circumstances of the underworld.
The name is ‘Golden Owl’.
It is an organization of merchants whose main purpose is smuggling and black trading, and is mainly distributed along the border areas of each country. Because they moved a huge amount of money, their social status and status were quite high, and they often lived as parasites on powerful people and had their own security guaranteed.
“It would be a bit troublesome if Margrave Balkas was watching over me personally.”
Although nobles rule like kings over their domains, the Margrave holds a special position among them.
A nobleman who reigns in the region furthest from the royal power.
Because they possess military jurisdiction, they cannot be punished for crimes other than treason. Moreover, the creation of slush funds through smuggling and black marketing has been a practice that has continued since ancient times.
If so, you should not apply force.
Karen decided how to respond and looked down at the robber lying at her feet.
‘…Shall I kill you?’
If it were like before, I wouldn’t have even worried about it.
Killing and killing people. As an assassin, the rule was not to spare anyone who saw him. Because there was no way to silence a person more conveniently or more surely than death.
But Karen couldn’t swing that hand.
Although I thought my actions were hypocrisy, I did not want to behave the same way as before, even now that I had become a companion of the warrior.
She retrieved her dagger and kicked him.
“Leave this territory. “If you show your face to me again, I will kill you no matter what happens.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
Blood poured out from the punctured back of his hand, but the guy didn’t even feel the pain and turned his back and ran away.
Karen looked at the guy’s back for a moment and then moved her feet in the direction indicated by the ‘owl’ sign.
‘I think I saw it more than 10 years ago, but I still haven’t forgotten it.’
Shady organizations had their own methods of contact.
In the case of 〈Dusk〉, which she was a part of, an undertaker had to be brought to the area and place a request fee and items related to the target’s identity in the coffin.
The tangential method in 〈Golden Owl〉 was simpler.
Lights that create an optical illusion are hung to confuse the entrance and the road. So, just move in the opposite direction of the crooked light.
But Karen didn’t have to do it that way.
“Oh, it’s here.”
As I took a step into the darkness that was as solid as a wall, the path that had been blocked a moment ago was cleared up. There was no way she, who controlled the auror of ‘Shadow’, would be fooled by optical illusions.
Unlike the shabby building, I walk down the well-maintained stairs.
Every time I took a step, I moved forward without showing any signs, finding a hidden trap path through the vibration.
An old man dressed neatly immediately greeted her.
Karen, who felt something strange about that upright posture, opened her eyes round. This is not the type of person you would find in a back alley. He was a person who could be the head of a butler in a famous family.
There was something that seemed to indicate his identity.
The old man also seemed to have noticed her suspicions and pointed to the chair across from her with an unknown smile.
“Please sit down.”
“Is that so?”
Karen did not reject the offer.
The two sat across from each other at a table and exchanged glances in silence for a moment. When she glared at him with intent to overpower him, the old man did not look away, even though he broke into a cold sweat.
It is an unusual mental strength.
Karen said, blinking once and losing sight of her life.
“I want to buy information.”
At those words, the old man with a poker face asked back.
“What information are you talking about?”
Karen spoke briefly and looked at the other person’s reaction. The value of information varies depending on how you react to what I say.
There wasn’t a single gap on the old man’s face, but even the changes in his pulse and pupils couldn’t be hidden. Karen, who read the change with the sense of a top assassin, smiled.
“I already know everything, so please don’t think about hiding it. “I’ve already been attacked once.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard of an attack.”
“You have to pay the right price for things. Each other.”
The eyes of the two people collided at the meaningful words.
The first principle of The Golden Owl is money. Get and sell anything if you can pay the right price. Information is no exception, and under no circumstances was there an option to ‘not sell’.
The old man let out a long sigh and threw it at Karen first.
“What if I deduct the value for my information?”
“I’ll give you a discount of up to 700 gold.”
Karen waved her hand and scoffed at the suggestion.
“Shall we cut it a little more? “Deacon?”
“Your disguise skills are pretty good, but there are traces around your ears. And the movement of my left shoulder is also unstable. I guess the implants were put in for the purpose of camouflaging the body shape? “You can find more if you look for it, so what should I do?”
The old man’s eyes glowed coldly.
It was indeed as he said.
He was one of the most trusted vassals of the Margrave of Balchas. An executive-level member of <Golden Owl>, he is in charge of smuggling and black trading in the Balkas Territory.
He lowered his voice when his identity was suddenly revealed.
“…You are very bold.”
Karen responded in a completely unintimidated manner.
“So are you going to sell it or not? “They seem quite interested in the information I brought, so don’t hit them like you did before.”
When there was no response to the outright threat, the old man was unable to press further and had to retreat. As she said, there was a need to purchase that information.
His true identity was unintentionally revealed, and he is so skilled that it is difficult to silence him. If you are an A-rank adventurer, you cannot be sure even if you mobilize a knight commander, and even if you succeed, it is obvious that the guild will dispatch an investigation team, so it is difficult to touch it.
Glenn, the elderly butler, ultimately chose to break even.
“260 gold. “You can’t go below that.”
As if she had been waiting for that, Karen snapped her fingers and placed several jewels she had taken out of <Mole>’s clothes.
The head deacon quickly calculated the appraised value using an estimate.
“It would be appropriate.”
Fearing that he would ask me to give him some change, he quickly took the jewels and stuffed them into his arms.
Fortunately, Karen didn’t have the heart to go that far either.
Only then were the two able to get to the point.
“Rubena territory is now in a state no different from a hole in the water.”
“Yes, it means whatever goes in can’t come out again. It just keeps sucking in and not letting anything out. It is possible to go in and out lightly…”
The head butler tapped the table with the tip of his index finger.
“We also sent in nearly 20 people, but except for those who came to the outskirts or toured the area a few times, all of them went missing. “There were three or four B-rank people involved.”
“I guess there is a secret that cannot be revealed to the outside world.”
“I have selected some information that could be a clue. “I’ll show you one by one in chronological order.”
The head deacon took out several pieces of parchment from a drawer, shuffled them around, and held them out toward Karen.
She fixed her gaze to read from the first page.
One sheet, two sheets, three sheets.
As the pages turn, the face becomes more and more rigid, the fingers become stronger, and the fluttering sound becomes louder. After Karen had read about half of the book, she couldn’t hold back any longer and asked a question to the deacon.
“Wait a minute, the ‘necklace’ moved?”
It was a metaphor for the restraints attached to the necks of slaves, and was the name of the organization that led the slave trade on the continent’s largest scale.
Crows roaming the border between legal and illegal.
They bought prisoners of war and used them as mine laborers, or they stole women kidnapped by bandits and sold them as prostitutes. Despite its vicious behavior, it was an organization that was not subjugated due to its demand and size and only kept an eye on the Holy Church.
They are so large that it is easy to find out their whereabouts, so it is rare for things to be carried out as secretly as they are now.
“If the large-scale slave trade wasn’t enough, they even hoarded certain minerals… It looks suspicious at first glance, but it’s hard to know the purpose.”
“No, if you find the intersection, one keyword appears.”
When she complained after looking at all the documents, the head deacon shook his head.
〈Golden Owl〉 also talked a lot about Rubena’s strange situation, and among them, the most powerful hypothesis was drawn out.
This deal was also an opportunity to prove that hypothesis.
Glenn, the Margrave’s chief butler, spoke.
“That keyword is…”
* * *
I don’t know if it was coincidence or necessity, but when Karen and the butler were making a secret deal, Leon was also talking about it.
Merchants were not the only ones particularly sensitive to rumors. Mercenaries who had to risk their lives for their work also had their ears perked up. Leon, who had become dizzy after emptying several bottles, also saw his eyes become slightly clearer when the next destination was mentioned.
But the story was so absurd.
“Yes, blood-sucking monsters! There are widespread rumors that they are hiding in Rubena territory and ruling the night. That’s why there are only a few people walking around the streets at night, and even mercenaries avoid that area.”
“Leonic! Stop saying nonsense! “The vampire isn’t even someone’s asshole!”
Hansen, who scolded Leonik for his words, drank a glass of beer in one go. That accusation wasn’t completely wrong.
Equipped with intelligence no different from that of a human, superior magical abilities, and even immortality, each vampire is comparable to a mid-to-upper-level monster. It was a species in a truly ambiguous position, with the possibility of coexistence with humanity, but avoided because the risk was too high.
Although the cult has not designated them as extinct, their existence is not recognized in any territory.
Turning his back on the two people’s rough argument, Leon thought about the vampire he had not yet met.
An ecology of immortality with an appearance that is not much different from that of a human.
The habit of drinking the blood of intelligent beings and great strength.
As a warrior, should he exclude vampires or try to talk to them first? I asked El Cid once, but unfortunately his answer wasn’t very helpful.
[Vampires were rare in my time. The strong ones joined the Demon King’s army and were all beaten to death by me… If it’s what you think of as an ‘ordinary vampire,’ I’ve never seen one before.]
I don’t know much about the possibility of coexistence with humanity yet.
Still, Leon thought it might be worth talking about. A warrior is a being who punishes evil, but judging what evil is is his domain.
Vampires are on hold for now.
As soon as he could make a decision, several people approached him.
It was a strange, unfriendly and unpleasant presence.
“Hey Gustav! “Did you guys at least rent out the 5th floor?”
A mercenary with strong energy entered the room.
He was a man who looked like he had been trained by a swordsman with a cross-shaped sword mark on his face.
Gustav, seeing the man, put down his drink and stood up.
When the two giants faced each other, the room instantly became stuffy.
“Good day, Jerome. “Don’t make a fuss.”
“You’re still handsome! Hey, am I your friend? “Why are you giving orders?”
“If it sounds that way, I’d like to ask you again. “Just go.”
Despite Gustav’s polite attitude, the mercenary named Jerome laughed unpleasantly and spat.
Yellow saliva stuck to the smooth, polished floor.
“What if you don’t like it?”
Gustav growled, holding the great sword propped against the wall.
“You probably walked when you came, right? I’ll make you crawl when I leave.”