Chapter 7: JC
Five hours ago.
Lorbec Deira, forty-three years old, was a Class One director of the city defense team, the Western Police Station, and he was responsible for safeguarding the western side of Eternal Star City.
Twenty public security teams, police officers of various ranks from the entire center, and countless civil servants. These people were all under his subordination.
Over a hundred police officers armed with superior, compact equipment such as riot control sticks, mini crossbows, and anti-force shield. Almost three hundred high-quality soldiers armed with anti-mystic equipment such as anti-mystic swords, arched light shields, Eternally New Armors, and spell-breaking bows and arrows. Finally, he had twenty Swordsmen of Eradication as elite garrisons. All of them answered only to his command.
All of this was seldom heard of for a low-level noble, especially since Lorbec's father was only a little lord in the western part of the country, Keira County.
If he had not associated himself with the Covendier family, he would not have become Eternal Star City's Director of Department for Western City Police Station at such a young age. In this splendid relationship, where he pledged fealty to the Covendier family and obtained an official position in return, there was only one tiny imperfection.
He was responsible for six patrol areas in Eternal Star City: the three western districts, and the three lower districts.
Yes, those were the frontlines of the bloody battle between the Blood Bottle Gang and the Black Street Brotherhood.
A tiny imperfection.
Goodness gracious, this was a total calamity!
Oh, he was also responsible for the patrolling of the Western City Gate along with the safety of the streets.
As he took over the position, his white-haired predecessor warned him.
"You must remind your followers: even when they lead a team and exit the barracks, pass through the western districts, the lower districts and head towards the Western City Gate…"
That was right, his predecessor believed that the public security teams who were responsible for keeping the western portion of the city safe could only patrol at the Western City Gate, and that police officers could only enforce the law there.
"You must remember-
"For the sake of your money, when you pass by the three western districts, you must be polite and friendly.
"For the sake of your life, when you pass by the three lower districts, you must be careful and pay attention to your steps.
"For the sake of your position, when you reach the Western City Gate, you must be conscientious, energetic and ready for action!"
Lorbec soon understood why.
The Blood Bottle Gang, who were active in the three western districts, had deep roots within the district and a lengthy history. They had a lot of dubious relations with powerful people in the court and regularly pay significant sums as "tribute" to the city defense team. That was why for the sake of their wallets, whenever they passed by the western districts, they had to be friendly and full of joy, turning a blind eye to whatever the gang did.
The Black Street Brotherhood who forcibly occupied the three lower districts was ruthless and violent. Half the unsolved crimes in the kingdom were linked to them. They did not go easy on the officers either. That was why, for the sake of survival, when passing by the lower districts, they had to be alert and observant—they must move fast and not linger without reason.
The Western City Gate was Eternal Star City's façade, all the important people from foreign countries, various nobles, temple officers, and adventurers would pass through the gate while visiting Eternal Star City. Plenty of foreign affairs disputes, royal power struggles, religious clashes, and civil conflicts took place there. The elders of the monarchy kept a close eye on the Western City Gate too. That was why, for the sake of their positions, when they carried out their duty there, they must be fair, professional, and willing to selflessly serve the people.
Having said that, in the three years since Lorbec took over the position as director of Western City Police Station, half of his hair had turned white, and the wrinkles on his face increased by three lines. And because of his erratic schedule, his wife protested constantly by giving him the silent treatment in bed, and it was understandable why she did so.
Right now, Lorbec was sitting in his office, gazing out the window at the moonlight with a worried expression.
He did not want to work overtime either, but a big shot decided to pay him a visit, and he had no choice but to work overtime.
It was not the work he was worried about, it was the brainless man working for him in front of him.
The twenty-two-year-old Kohen was promoted to Class Two police officer cum third public security team's leader two months ago. He had managed to do this due to several factors.
One, his fighting skills were exceptional even when compared to the Swordsmen of Eradication.
("It would be even better if I can defeat that lunatic Miranda."–Kohen)
Two, his status was also unbelievably prestigious.
("Ha... old man, it would be even better if you were the king, then I could be a prince- Ouch, dad! Why are you hitting me?"–Kohen)
Finally, his military experience was hard to come by among young nobles. After he was discharged from the military, he became Western City Police Station's elite.
("Damned old man! I didn't even sign anything, why was I 'discharged'? You must have shamelessly- Ouch! Why are you hitting me again?!"–Kohen)
("They all say that it's because I have a good dad. But, old man, you must be surer than anyone else that I obviously don't have a good dad- Ouch, ouch! Old man, if you hit me again, I won't talk to you anymore!"–Also Kohen).
At this moment, Kohen was wearing a neat and stately officer cap. A few strands of beautiful blonde hair could be seen behind his cap. His blue Constellation uniform enveloped him snugly, accentuating his balanced, muscular physique, and he wore non-reflective black army boots. Combined with his determined, handsome, and heroic countenance, he was undoubtedly the "lady killer" of the capital.
'What a pity, if only I were twenty years younger or dispatched to Eternal Star City earlier, the noblewomen would probably be screaming for me, too.' These were Lorbec's thoughts as he daydreamed.
That was because the young and heroic "lady killer" was speaking non-stop with a tone full of honor. He firmly explained his opinions to Director Lorbec while patting on his own chest resolutely, as if trying to convey his determination to his boss.
"Sir, as I said just now, I believe that it is not ideal for us to clear all our defenses at Red Street Market! Especially tonight! A huge riot might erupt between the Blood Bottle Gang and Black Street Brotherhood! Also, I received information from my subordinate that the Black Street Brotherhood will come before our headquarters and…"
"You have spies in Black Street?" Lorbec's interest was slightly piqued. He yawned, interrupting the police officer.
"Hah, it was indeed a little difficult to place a spy among those lunatics in the Brotherhood," Kohen shyly scratched his head and grinned, "But thanks to my intelligence and expertise..."
"Idiot! You must be suicidal!"
Director Lorbec's sudden outburst created quite a commotion. Even Miss Jorah, the beautiful, redheaded secretary who was walking past the door with a stack of documents, stumbled from shock.
"Do you think that just because you got third place in the Class One Swordsmen of Eradication's final assessment, the Brotherhood won't be able to touch you? Do you think that just because you are from the Karabeyan family, the Blood Bottle Gang wouldn't dare to touch you? Most importantly, do you think that-"
Director Lorbec was furious, and his voice became louder and louder. Kohen, who was so chatty a while back, was stunned into silence.
"-just because you are more handsome than me, you can order your direct superior around?"
Outside the door, Miss Jorah's hands quivered and dropped the documents that she had been picking back up.
"Erm, director, that is a bit out-of-topic. Although I'm handsome, the Black Street Brotherhood…"
"Shut up! Idiot!"
Lorbec's embarrassment turned to anger. He suddenly felt that it was not unreasonable that his old friend was always hitting his son.
Lorbec paused to catch his breath and spoke slowly, "I know how you feel. I was passionate once, too. Three years ago, when I was first transferred here, I thought of the same thing—to one day eradicate all the crime and darkness from the lower and western districts so that the people can live without fear any longer and walk the streets in peace.
"But do you really think that the Blood Bottle Gang and Black Street Brotherhood are your average street gangs? That I only have to dispatch twenty Swordsmen of Eradication that have the power of a hundred in each, a garrison of four hundred men, and also soldiers from the patrol team to eradicate them? The Blood Bottle Gang has two Mystics, eight Psionic Warriors, and the Strongest Twelve. The Brotherhood has three or four main Assassins, six Powerhouses, and Thirteen Generals. Do you know how many of these people are supra class, or even at supreme class? What if one of these troublesome ones escapes? Also, they are spread all over the kingdom—their influence extends to the thugs, bandits, wanderers, and adventures in the Western Peninsula. They have a flawless web of information, deep-rooted social connections, huge and impressive businesses, circles of benefits that would affect large circles of people if you touch even a single one of them, and dangerous secrets. Do you think that they are harmless herbivores? Do you think that this is a battle between the Barren Bone people and the Orcs on the Western front? Do you think that my police officers and defense soldiers have no family and children, no social connections, no worries, and no burdens? Do you think that they are a suicide squad who would sacrifice their lives for you just because you order them to?
"Even if the two gangs are eradicated, what happens to the nobles who have secret relations with them? Then what about the administrative departments that rely on the ill-gotten profits of the gangs' 'protection fees' from the people for themselves to survive? Or their yearly tributes to the monarchy? What about the impoverished, the mobs, and the unemployed who will lose their source of income without the gang's restrictions and protection? What if the people stopped praying and donating to the temples when they are no longer threatened by the gangs? Without the violence of the gangs, what will happen to the pharmaceutical, alchemical, and farming industries in our city? What if items that can only be obtained through smugglings such as rare medicine and battle supplies are no longer available? How about the adventurers, mercenaries, and Psionic Warriors who might get restless after losing their income? Without the local gangs working and coordinating with the government, whether in the dark or not, what happens if the Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department can't gauge the underground activities of foreign spies?
"All these miscellaneous and messed up things that cannot be ignored, have they crossed your mind at all?
"Why do you think I'm clearing our defenses in the Red Street Market tonight? You're right, let me tell you—it's because some big shot directly told me that the place will become the bloodiest battlefield tonight! No matter who goes near it, it will not end well for them! This is why I'm not only clearing our defenses. I'm also going to set up a notice for curfew and warn everyone not to go near that place. Why do you think we are working overtime tonight? It is so that in the morning, our people can cooperate with the governmental healthcare, fire brigade, and municipal departments to clear the dead bodies from the battlefield and clean up the wreckage brought by the battle!"
Lorbec stopped raging and panted, loosening his collar that was constricting his breath.
Kohen was silent, keeping his clenched fists at his sides.
"Now, team leader Kohen Karabeyan," Lorbec paused for a moment and spoke with his normal tone, "You can leave, reflect on this and think about why your father decided to send you to the most challenging police station in the entire Constellation, even in the entire Western Peninsula. Also, remember to help Miss Jorah pick up that pile of documents outside the door. That is all your fault."
The door opened, and Kohen slowly walked out. But at that moment, his gaze was dull with desolation and helplessness.
That made Miss Jorah, who was still picking up documents by the side, feel sorry for him.
'All this, everything that Director Lorbec said, I'm already aware,' Kohen thought inwardly.
He extended his hand towards the sword stand outside the director's office, wanting to retrieve his saber.
'If even the youngest director of the police station in the kingdom who is so experienced and sly does not even dare face these blood-leeching gangs who hide in the darkness, how can there be any change in the kingdom?'
Kohen slowly lowered his hand.
He stepped before Miss Jorah, who was crouching down and tidying up her documents. The secretary felt Kohen approach and blushed, wondering what tone she should use to thank him for his help.
Kohen laughed bitterly in his heart.
'When I emerge from the piles of corpses at the Western Battlefield, this term can no longer be used to describe me anymore.
'This is not hot-bloodedness.
Kohen lowered his head and clenched his fists, there was now anger and determination in his eyes.
'This is the right thing to do. This is something that has to be done.'
Miss Jorah's face became even redder. She suddenly realized that from Kohen's position, he would be able to see what was inside her uniform—a majestic cleavage comparable to the Sighing Mountains. Also, this was very important and must be repeated three times: he is very handsome, he is very handsome, he is really, extremely handsome!
'Red Street Market, huh?'
Kohen narrowed his eyes.
In the next moment, his features turned icy. Without even looking, he suddenly flipped over his clenched right fist, and it was as though a hurricane swept past the door to the director's office.
When the hurricane dissipated, Kohen had disappeared.
Disappearing together with him was his saber from the sword stand.
Only the annoyed Miss Jorah was left, furiously tidying her windswept red hair.
The messy pile of documents beside her was tidied by the wind at some unknown point in time and had become a neat stack on the ground.
In the director's office, Lorbec helplessly shut his eyes and sighed.
Compared to the Red Street Market…
The big shot had requested something even more troublesome from him.
To find out from the Sunset believers as they passed by the Western City Gates the reason behind Sunset Temple locking up their inner altar.
'Those crazy believers.' Lorbec shook his head. When it came to religious matters, he did not dare to provoke them.
'Especially the Sunset Goddess, that shrew!
'Nope, nope, nope!'
Lorbec shook his head and removed the thought from his mind.
If it was six hundred years ago, the Sunset Goddess' temple priests would probably have thrown him into the judiciary for harboring such thoughts.
From this perspective, although the two Magic Empresses were also bad-tempered shrews, at least they have done something good.
'Nope, nope, nope!'
Lorbec shook his head and again, removed the thought from his mind.
No, the consequences for such thoughts would be more dire than the previous one.
Back to the present.
"You said that you… you killed Quide?" Jala stared at Thales in shock, as if it was the first time she truly knew him.
"Yes, and," Thales calmly spoke to the beautiful but dangerous young woman, making a seemingly outrageous request.
"Please help the four of us to escape from the three lower districts."
Thales was not just trying his luck.
Despite his four years of begging, his world was not just full of darkness—apart from the few children in the same house, he also had Yanni, the helper in Grove Pharmacy, and this seemingly unapproachable female bartender. Speaking of which, was she really a mere bartender? Anyway, they were the few splashes of warm colors that Thales could find in this world.
Three years ago, if it was not for Jala, he would have been mauled to death by Morris' Angry Wolfhound while looking for food from the piles of rubbish outside Sunset Pub.
Morris grumbled for a long time after that, about how disloyal the Angry Wolfhound he had kept for six years had run out by itself and disappeared.
"Say that again?" Jala looked as though she just heard the most unbelievable thing ever. Something like "the demons from hell were coming back to earth", or "the Gods in heaven had descended upon the world."
"I was saying that I would like you to…"
Jala immediately cut him off.
"You just killed Quide Roda, the firearms leader; 'Iron Heart' Shanda Roda's only son, the head of the child beggar business in Eternal Star City who belongs to the most fearsome faction of power in Constellation, Black Street Brotherhood."
Having said that in one breath, Jala extended her slim index finger with a furious expression on her face and poked Thales' forehead hard.
"And having done that, you want me to protect you and betray the 'scariest force in Constellation's underworld', to help you evade the Black Street Brotherhood's inevitable manhunt, and... escape?"
"Erm, not entirely correct." Thales massaged the finger mark on his forehead while Jala leveled him a deadly glare. He wryly smiled. "But it's something like that."
Jala took a while to digest this information. Although Thales was feeling anxious, he waited quietly.
Jala refocused and sighed. Her expression very quickly became cold and nonchalant again.
"Hmph, to go against the entire Brotherhood for your sake? Do you think that I'm such a good person? No, I should say, do I look like a good person to you?"
"You don't have to show your face to the people in the Brotherhood!" Thales said hurriedly, "We have our own escape plan. You just need to provide us with some food and materials and help us hide from the Brotherhood's people on the roads through the three lower districts to the Red Street Market! For you, this is easy!"
"Please!" Thales said earnestly, "You are the only one we can depend on, big sister Jala!"
However, Jala did not seem like she was buying it.
"Hmph, you are just a little child beggar."
Jala coldly chuckled. "No matter what, I am part of the Brotherhood. What makes you think that I won't immediately send you, a murderer who killed one of our leaders, along with your accomplices, to the Brotherhood?"
Thales was quiet for a moment.
Jala tilted her head and waited for him to answer with the ghost of a smile.
"Because I believe in you."
Jala froze. She could not keep up with Thales' logic.
"Because I believe in you, I believe that you are different!"
Jala was stunned.
'Is he using the wrong script?
'How did he even manage to utter such a nauseatingly cheesy line?
'Hasn't this brat been quite mature all along?'
After all, he was raised by the Brotherhood in the beggars' nest through beatings. What is with this sudden… has he watched too many stage plays in the Dark Night Temple lately? A story of friendship between the heroine Jala and the prophet Kaplan?
Or was his head damaged by Quide's beatings?'
But what Thales said next after taking a deep breath stunned her speechless.
"I know that most of the people in the Brotherhood are scum and bullies. They are all lunatics whose hands are bloodied. They are wolves and demons in human skin. Concepts such as empathy and kindness, or a conscience, and sympathy— for them, these are worth lesser than the mud found in drains.
"They sell young ladies who have lost their families to whorehouses and beat desperate children into invalids, they sell drugs to girls in their teens, and extort honest businessmen until they are left with nothing, they drive farmers into starvation after they had to sell their children due to natural disasters, they bring those who can't pay their debts to the desert and sell them as slaves, and they harbor dark, ugly secrets together with degenerate nobles.
"But I also know that a lot of them are forced to do that for a living—some have no choice, some were influenced since young, some can't leave—a lot of them are doing it for survival. They all have reasons because they were forced into it. That is how they became the Brotherhood's most merciless and cruel minions.
"That's precisely why I believe that to be able to survive in such an environment while still maintaining the capacity for empathy, sympathy, kindness, and a conscience; to persist in doing deeds of kindness, being a good person, and to forgo the thought of earning easy, black money through your skills with the blade. To give the most abject drunkards a free glass of beer, to give those who are beaten and abused a coat, to save the life of a child you don't know from the rubbish heaps by killing the head of the Brotherhood's beloved dog in the process, and to go on helping, supporting and caring about that child for the subsequent four years…"
Jala frowned tightly. She did not realize that she had started biting her bottom lip.
Having said all that, Thales raised his head to look at Jala with sincerity and hope.
"Compared to being a pure scoundrel in the Brotherhood, a bad person who has abandoned their conscience and happily commits detestable crimes daily while becoming a person whose cup of sins are full, I believe that it is harder, more dangerous to do all these things…"
"Stop!" Jala raised her head in defiance. Her eyes were red, "Brat, you are not even related to me, how dare, how dare you…"
Thales cut her off without thinking.
"Jala Charleton! I have seen you chop a dog into three parts with a blade and cut off the finger of some troublemaker. I also know that all the customers in Sunset Pub fear you. Even the likes of Quide, Rick, and Morris are courteous towards you. When they knew that you were bringing down the price of their stocks, they could only curse in silence. I don't know the significance of the Charleton surname in the Brotherhood, but I could guess that your hands were once full of blood, too, and that you must have killed a lot of people. Perhaps, the people in your family and the ones around you are all members of the Brotherhood. Maybe all your family members have committed numerous crimes."
Jala did not cut him off. Her face became desolate and she sank into a dead silence.
"Actually, I don't really know whether you are a good person, or whether you can even be considered as one."
Thales quietly took out a dagger.
"I stole this dagger from your pub, but earlier that day, I said something to you: 'I don't even have a knife, how am I going to chop firewood?' Later that evening, this dagger appeared at the most obvious position in the storeroom. I've always known that."
"Before this, I thought someone else such as Edmund left the dagger there. But today, after the dagger was stained with blood, the initials JC appeared at the side of the blade."
Thales raised his head and gazed directly at Jala. The sparkle in his eyes made her heart jump.
"This should be the abbreviation of your name, JC. I recently heard your full name from Quide."
Jala clenched her teeth.
She did not even wonder why a child beggar, who never had the chance to study, would understand the letters on the dagger and could even spell her name.
"Jala Charleton, Miss JC, I want you to know, I must let you know that today, the knife you gave as a gift saved my life and the other three children over there, children who think that even normal white loaves are a king's meal."
Jala clenched her fists, and her eyes gradually gained focus.
'This damned brat.'
"That is why, even though I don't know who you were before, and neither do I know who you will be in the future, I somehow always thought that, well, I thought that…
"You still want to be a good person! JC!"