Chapter 135 - The Goal is the Port (1)
As the sun rose the next morning, Theodore watched the horses get attached to the carriage in preparation to leave.
The two horses naturally had luxury pedigrees. It wasn't comparable to the limited express carriages of the big companies, but it was the best that individuals could afford. He would've been able to obtain it if he used the Polonell Company, but that would mean exposing their tracks.
It was natural for Theodore, a foreigner, to be extra careful.
'...It won't mean much if they've already found me.'
Fortunately, there were no signs that the watchdogs had caught up yet. However, Theo had to hide until he left the gates. Until then, he focused his senses carefully. This was how Theo knew about the shadow that had appeared behind him while he was stroking a horse's mane.
It was affected by the angle, but the shadow was extra long.
"Good morning. Have you come to say goodbye?" Theo looked back to see the gigantic Gibra standing there with a shrug.
Last night, Gibra had drunk more than half of the tavern's casks, but his complexion was just as good as that of a master level aura user. A common person would have to lie down for a week, or they may have even died on the spot.
Gibra nodded and opened his mouth to speak. The commission was over, so his tone was the same as when they first met. "Well, something like that. I would've just sent you off, but the request this time turned out bigger than I thought."
"Do you have useful information?"
"It is called the after sales service. Be thankful."
Theodore was interested and listened obediently.
"You said that you don't have a designated destination right now?"
"Yes, I was supposed to stay longer."
It was now an old story, but Theodore was originally planning to spend at least three months in Kargas. However, there was the variable called the underground auction, where he had clashed with the Orcus Company.
Of course, the original books he collected were more than expected. He had expected to be stuck here for a few months, but he exceeded his target slightly and gained an unthinkable extra income. From now on, it was time to worry about the backlash caused by the jackpot.
"If possible, go to the east."
"Yes, the east."
Theodore made a vaguely puzzled expression. Then Gibra explained, emphasizing the reason, "The base of the Orcus Company is to the southwest of the central continent. Therefore, its influence is particularly strong in the south and west, while it is weaker in the east. You will be able to breathe easier if you go the coastal kingdom."
"Thank you for teaching me, but is it okay for Gibra to be giving me this after sales service?"
"No, I think this is just right." Gibra was pleased that a blow had been dealt to the Orcus Company. "There have been a few times when my jaw dropped open, but it was a fun request."
Theodore noticed that Gibra had his own ulterior motives, but he could also tell that Gibra's answer wasn't a lie. It was because Theo's developing senses were gradually improving his intuition. It was also true that Gibra's advice was helpful.
So, Theo bowed sincerely. "...Thank you."
"I hope to see you at a later time. I will collect a few original books and sell them to you for a high price."
"Yes, then next time."
After the short goodbye, the two men turned their backs to each other. They might meet again, or they might never meet again. Everyone in the world knew this fact, but they continued to move on with a vague expectation.
As Theodore climbed onto the driver's seat, Gibra entered the much more familiar back alleys. Then Akan appeared from where he had been waiting in the shadows.
"Thank you for the good work, Branch Director."
The positions of the two people were the same as always. Gibra walked first, while Akan followed behind. They had been working together for several years, so Gibra could tell that there was something suspicious in Akan's stride. It wasn't difficult to guess the reason for that.
"Akan, are you curious about why I helped 'him'?"
"T-That... I'm sorry."
"There is no need to be sorry. It is natural to be curious when thinking about it. The Empire's intelligence network has placed a bounty for information about 'Meltor's Hero,' so why did I miss the gold coins lying before me?"
The atmosphere of the alley cooled as soon as those words, 'Meltor's Hero,' were mentioned. The power of the Information Guild might not stretch to the northern continent, but they were the best information guild in the central continent.
They was no reason why they wouldn't hear about the reputation of the hero, who had rescued a high elf from slavery and created the alliance with the neutral Elvenheim. They were also aware that the Andras Empire would pay a lot of money for information about him.
Nevertheless, Gibra had kicked away his chance.
"Well, I would've gained a lot of gold if I sold the information. The empire is filled with barbarians, but they aren't ones to break their promises. Perhaps it is true that they will give the gold."
"Hey, Akan," Gibra's chilly voice interrupted, "We are rats in the gutter, but we are still rats that live in the gutters of Kargas. Earning a few extra gold coins isn't worth risking the whole country. If we sell this information to Andras, we will become enemies of Meltor."
"The Andras Empire is a country that has no interest in alliances. Our help is only worth a few gold coins. Once we are thrown away, the armies of Meltor will come down to the central continent."
Once that happened, they were screwed. Unlike the north which had experienced war for hundreds of years, the central continent was weakened by a long period of peace.
They only had one or two master level people, compared to the north which had more than six or seven. Meltor and Andras... either one of them was a power the central continent couldn't afford going against. However, more than anything else, Meltor wasn't a warmonger like the Andras Empire.
The grace he was giving Theo now could be paid back for an expensive price later. It wasn't about a personal favour to Theodore Miller. These thorough calculations were Gibra's real intentions. He had expected Akan to have some reservations, so Gibra had come to this alley.
"-So, you can't be left alive."
Akan's body fell to the ground. He died before he even noticed the black dagger stabbed in his neck. This was the remarkable ability of the man assigned as the branch manager of Sipoto, the 'King of Mice.'
As he looked at the face of the man he'd killed with one attack, Gibra muttered, "...You are competent, but you are a cheap bastard. I know that you won't be able to keep your mouth shut in the face of gold."
So, Gibra killed him. He pierced his the neck of his subordinate, whom he had known for several years, to prevent the possibility of this information leaking. As always, there was a bitter aftertaste. Gibra spat out a mouthful of phlegm in attempt to shake off the bitter taste.
He couldn't reverse what he had already done. From now on, he could only look forward.
Today's investment would be returned several times over in the future.
* * *
Without knowing about the murder that had just taken place, Theodore's carriage ran aggressively out of the city. Theodore, sitting in the driver's seat, was in the midst of drawing something.
"30 degrees on the right... 42 degrees on the left again... add a triangle to the hexagon and a pentagram to the circle..."
To outsiders, it would be mumbling with an unknown meaning, but any magician would be surprised to hear it. Theodore's mumbled words were dozens of equations and hundreds of arithmetic operations being completed. It was also done during the rough carriage ride. There were more impacts than there would be when riding in a high class carriage, but Theo didn't feel any nausea.
Instead, he successfully completed his calculations. "Okay, this is done."
With satisfied eyes, he looked down at the magic circle he drew in minutes. It was a magic circle used to call a summon, which he pulled from Satomer's absorbed knowledge. Originally, this spell required an offering which would act as a catalyst to summon something, but Theodore didn't need to have one. It was because of the 'contract' handed over by Satomer.
One drop of blood was enough for the call.
There was a bright light as the drop of blood fell. Light flowed along the magic circle drawn on the parchment, and as mana flowed near it, a gate was created which the summons could access. After signing the contract, he could just call the summons by using its name. However, this process was inevitable since he wasn't the contractor yet.
Eventually, all the preparations were over, and Theodore recited the name of the summon.
"I call you as your name contractor, the crow who thinks-"
It was the summons he'd gained from Satomer.
"Your name is Hugin!"
Simultaneously, something black emerged from the magic circle. A few feathers fluttered as the wings staggered, and a crow soon rose up before Theodore's eyes. Theodore looked at it with admiration, then the crow's beak opened. Was it going to cry out like an eagle? Theo was filled with expectations.
After a moment, the crow called Hugin cried out, Kyaack-!
Kuwaaack-! It was a small cry. Theodore, who had been expecting a lot, let out a long sigh, while someone appeared at the sound.
"Hey, Young Master. What was that sound? It sounded like a drunk person was vomiting."
"Eh? A crow?" Randolph's expression changed the moment he heard it was something Theodore had summoned. It was because the crow didn't fit Young Master's image at all. He covered his mouth while he hunched over like he had cramps.
"P-Puah. I laughed very well. I didn't know you could summon such a thing."
"I thought it was time to do so."
Theo could feel some of the frustration that Satomer had felt all throughout his life. As Theodore felt like he was chewing shit, Randolph sat down beside him. For an aura user who was close to a master, nausea was a distant story, and he had no interest in reading books like Theodore.
After a minute of silence, Theodore opened his mouth first. "...I'm sorry I got you caught up in something so annoying."
"Hmm?" Randolph looked over at the abrupt apology.
"You became enemies with the Orcus Company because of me. If I hadn't done this, you wouldn't have to run away-"
"Stop there, Young Master." It was a fair apology, but Randolph shook his head firmly and denied it. "Do you think I did this just to help you? I had my own thoughts when I decided to follow you. So, you don't have to feel sorry for a decision I made."
"No, I wasn't honest. I actually am fortunate to be accompanying Young Master."
'Fortunate?' Theodore's eyes became bigger at the unexpected answer.
Randolph became the enemy of a warlock and even fought against a death knight. Still, he was sincere. He was genuinely delighted that he got to meet Theodore again. It might be the intuition Randolph got when he found his ancestor's swords in the Miller Barony.
Fun things always happened around this person.
"I regained the heirlooms and trained my skills for a year, but I couldn't get that feeling of urgency or improvement from that time. Then I met Young Master and experienced a fight that made my blood boil. It has been a long time since my hair stuck up like that."
Randolph realized it while colliding with the death knight. His stagnant skills had started to experience a breakthrough in that fight. The back of his neck cooled as he moved around the boundary of life and death. It wasn't easy to meet these types of opponents.
That was why he had decided to accompany Theodore. It was in order to reach the master level shimmering in front of him.
"This is a journey to complete my sword. So, don't worry or feel sorry, Young Master." Before Theodore could reply, Randolph changed the subject. "By the way, where are we going now?"
Theo laughed at the clumsy method and replied, "I am thinking about going to the east. The influence of the Orcus Company is less in the Soldun Kingdom, so we can breathe and sort things out there."
Theodore needed a break now. He had obtained more than 20 original books and needed to experiment with 'Charlotte's Necklace.' If he arrived at the coastal kingdom in the east of the continent, he would be able to secure some time.
However, Randolph's expression changed subtly at Theo's words. He looked at Theodore uncertainly before muttering, "Well, will it turn out that way?"
"What do you mean?"
"In the meantime, wherever Young Master goes, incidents happen. I don't think Soldun will be an exception..."
Theodore had no choice but to smile wryly. "No way... I have to believe that won't be the case."
"Is that so?"
The two men sighed and looked at the broad grasslands of Kargas.
If they maintained this speed, they would be able to leave the Kargas Kingdom and cross the border of Soldun in a week. As to whether the Orcus Company's hands would reach them by then... there was such a bet.