Chapter 8: Departure Towards Fate
Half-past four in the morning, Red Street Market.
The fearsome assassin of the Brotherhood, Layork, appeared on top of a residence's roof like a phantom. The next moment, he appeared at an alley beside the residence. The following moment, he lurched towards a spacious street.
The floor was dyed red in blood and there were dozens of dead bodies on it. There were aces from the Brotherhood with black cloths tied around them, and members of the Blood Bottle Gang with red bandanas on their heads.
Layork growled again and disappeared. When he reappeared, he was on top of the signboard of the shop opposite.
It was as though, as though he was trying with all his might to escape something that was following behind him.
Battle cries can be heard from far away.
Suddenly, Layork's nervous countenance disappeared and was replaced by a calm but fierce expression.
The next moment, Layork's curved blade glided past his left armpit at a strange angle. Like a hunting black mamba, the blade stabbed the area to the left behind Layork like a bolt of lightning.
There was no one, but…
There was the sound of clothing being torn.
'A direct hit.'
Layork thought inwardly.
"'Phantom Wind Follower', Ralf," he softly uttered his opponent's name.
Layork picked up his curved blade and wiped the fresh blood from the tip. The nervous and rage-filled expression was gone from his face and replaced by veiled crazed cold-bloodedness.
"'The Silent Assassin', Layork. It's not a bad nickname."
"Is your luck really this good, or could you really sense my position?" An unfamiliar and gentle voice drifted over from all directions.
Layork maintained his original posture and kept quiet.
"What a waste it is, for an assassin like you to be in the Brotherhood."
As the voice settled down, a figure appeared on the street in front of Layork.
It was a man wearing a grey leotard. He had tattoos on his face and had green hair. He touched his left collarbone as he chuckled.
There, a wound was slowly bleeding.
Layork's pupil immediately constricted. In his attack just now, the blade was supposed to thrust perfectly into his opponent's heart and was supposed to be pulled back right after the instant it cut through the veins and artery in the heart.
In the end, the knife only grazed past his opponent's collarbone?
Layork was shocked for a moment, but he immediately recovered his calm form, preparing for the next attack.
An assassin must be perpetually confident that his next attack will be fatal.
If Rick were here, he would surely scoff at Layork's nickname of "The Silent Assassin". That annoying assassin… he was the one who always mocked him with the most amount of nonsense.
Even if it were Thales, he would just nod and say, "The Layork who battled with Felicia wasn't very 'silent'."
However, the Layork right now had a dark gaze and did not move at all, standing like a statue on the signboard. Although he did not make a sound, his presence was an unsettling one.
The next moment, Ralf, who was known as "Phantom Wind Follower", changed his expression.
"Fine," Ralf muttered. "I can't believe that Karka was killed by Morris. Or should I say, as expected of the fatty, who is one of the Brotherhood's six Powerhouses?"
"I'm gonna go hide. But don't get me wrong, our game is not over yet, 'Silent Assassin'."
The next moment, Ralf disappeared.
At the same time, Morris, who was one of the Black Street Brotherhood's six Powerhouses and the person in charge of the human trafficking business appeared at the corner of the street with a fierce expression on his face. He had a group of elite fighters with him.
"Boss!" Layork flew down from the signboard in an instant and saluted Morris.
"It was 'Phantom Wind Follower' Ralf."
The big-sized Morris nodded and threw a corpse onto the floor.
It was a muscular man who looked like he was in extreme pain before dying. If the Brotherhood's exclusive doctor, Ramon the Strange Doctor were here, he would be able to discern quickly that the muscular man's lips are purplish, with blood surging towards the corner of his eyes, and that his nails are pinkish.
This man from the Sele Prairies in the Eastern Peninsula, "Battle Wolf" Karka, who was a Psionic Warrior from the nomadic tribes died of asphyxiation.
"Have you found the other people?" Morris asked with a serious expression devoid of any joy that came with the elimination of a strong opponent, even when the latter was a Psionic Warrior.
Layork solemnly shook his head, "No. But I bumped into transparent air barriers in a few places. According to descriptions I have heard before—" The assassin paused for a moment and spoke with a serious and worried tone, "I suspect that a Psionic Warrior whom we don't know much about has gotten involved."
Morris did not say anything.
He only frowned.
"That was not a psionic ability, but an 'Air Wall'."
Under Layork's confused gaze, Morris clenched his teeth with an unpleasant expression.
"The one who got involved was the Air Mystic."
'The Air Mystic?
'The legendary person who is one of the two leaders of Blood Bottle Gang?'
Layork tried to recall any memory related to Mystics, but shockingly realized that in the few years he had been involved in the gang, he had not a single memory directly related to Mystics. All of them were rumors and legends.
The Mystics in Blood Bottle Gang were just like… just like the "Black Sword" in Black Street Brotherhood.
As he thought about the legends related to "Black Sword" in the Brotherhood, Layork shuddered.
For the sake of this ambush, which had no room for failure, the Brotherhood summoned almost all the elite fighters in Eternal Star City and assembled them into groups. The aim was to catch the opponents off guard and finish them off with one hit.
However, at the beginning of the attack, the elite fighters of the Brotherhood were forcibly dispersed by numerous gigantic waves of energy and strong wind. They could not even pass through certain areas of Red Street Market. In the blink of an eye, the originally powerful elite team was divided into a multi-headed snake that could not coordinate its heads to its tail.
According to the poems sung by storytellers, in the end, Kilika the multi-headed snake was killed by Raikaru the hero by having its head chopped off one by one.
Judging from Morris' reaction, the team was without doubt separated by "the Air Mystic".
Soon after, Morris, the chubby Powerhouse of the Brotherhood fiercely spat out. His expression was profound but complicated.
'Such bad luck!' Morris was far less calm than he seemed. As he was thinking, he listened to the battle cries that kept coming towards his ears and identified their positions.
"This was supposed to be a glorious battle where we gather all our elites and conquer Red Street Market by catching them off guard…
"Even though there was such a huge commotion just now, the police station from Western City made no move at all. They were probably bribed. Even the entire Red Street Market is devoid of their presence…motherf*cker, we were ambushed by Red Bottle Gang."
Morris clenched his teeth. He was thinking non-stop and his heart rate increased slowly with each passing moment.
'The Air Mystic.'
No one knew better than him about how scary that person was.
'It had braved that massive risk and came.
'Tonight, The Air Mystic was not supposed to appear here…it was not supposed to know about all this…'
"There must be a traitor!" Morris spat out fiercely.
"After going back, I will definitely squeeze Lance's lungs out! This stupid rat, how did he even gather his information!"
Layork lowered his head, making the smart move of now cursing another member of the six Powerhouses along with his boss, who was one of the six Powerhouses himself.
'It's the legendary Air Mystic.
'How is the boss going to defeat him?'
However, at that moment, Morris made a completely different decision.
Morris drew a deep breath and suddenly turned.
"Since the enemy is a Mystic…
As soon as he finished speaking, Layork and the others raised their heads in shock.
Morris said without a single doubt, "Our operation to secretly attack Red Street Market has completely failed."
Layork could not believe his ears.
'Although there are unexpected circumstances…
'The battle had just begun?'
"You guys spread out and order all your subordinates to abandon their targets and return to their original routes with full force!" Morris said fiercely.
"We are going back to Black Street!"
Layork looked at his determined boss with a dumbfounded expression.
'A few months of preparation…
'And we paid such a high price…
'Are we giving up just like this?
'Is the Air Mystic…'
Layork could not help but raise the question in his heart. 'Is the Air Mystic really this scary?'
Jala looked at Thales as she slowly hid the expression on her face.
It was as though a long time has passed.
But Thales did not move and continued staring at her.
It remained that way until the latter sighed and gently lowered her head.
"Stupid little brat."
Jala's face was expressionless as she gazed at the gloomy cellar floor.
Thales did not even dare to breathe loudly.
But the young female bartender started to quietly speak, "You, you, has anyone ever told you that…"
Thales listened attentively.
"You are very mature for your age?"
It was Thales' turn to be stunned.
'Mature for my age?
'I need to quickly come out with something. How did the past transmigrators handle the local's suspicions?'
The young boy scratched his head and blushed. He spoke, embarrassed.
"Hehe, am I very mature for my age? Haha, about this, Jala, I know what you mean. However, I am enjoying my single life. Right now, I don't feel like…"
Jala's expression immediately became warped. She fiercely jabbed her finger on Thales' forehead.
"Brat, watch what you say!
"Also, call me big sister Jala!"
Thales rubbed his forehead in pain. A memory appeared in front of his eyes.
It was a warm afternoon.
"Wu Qiren! It's not like DotA 2 can't operate without you! Have some self-control!"
"Why are you always saying the same thing lately?"
"Hey, that line's from an anime, of course I have to… Why are you signing up for the next tournament?"
"Well, my friend is asking me to join his team. It would be rude not to!"
"With your DotA skills? Pfft! You'd better have some self-control!"
"The same line again… Hey, give me my gaming mouse!"
Thales rubbed his head and buried the memory deep inside his head.
'What's going on lately? Why are there more and more flashbacks?
'It's a good thing that I can recover plenty of knowledge and wisdom that I only have from my past life…
'But the flashbacks can't always just happen during vital moments!'
He shook his head and looked at Jala, whose expression had changed.
He stated clearly and simply, "I'm not asking for much. We only need to cross Red Street Market to reach Blood Bottle Gang's territory. From then onwards, we'll take care of ourselves. No one will know about your involvement in this. You won't get into any trouble! It's before the rise of dawn now; the night is at its darkest. Hiding from the Brotherhood's informants from the XC District to Red Street Market shouldn't be a problem for you.
"I wouldn't dare say that the same would apply to other places. In fact, the moment we appear, we would be noticed by the Brotherhood, but Red Street Market is the border between the Brotherhood and Blood Bottle Gang. It is the only opportunity for us to escape! The Brotherhood will definitely spend time capturing the child beggars who have escaped everywhere. When they manage to react, it would be impossible for them to come for us in Red Street Market."
At this moment, Thales, who became confident and determined let out a slight smile.
Jala sighed and closed her eyes.
"To head straight to Red Street Market when the other child beggars are escaping everywhere, it's not a bad plan. With my skills and experience, diverting the Brotherhood's informants is not impossible."
When she opened her eyes, her gaze suddenly became sharp and clear, stern and fearsome. It was as though she suddenly became a female assassin again.
Even Thales rarely saw Jala looking like this.
"But do you think you will be safe when you arrive in the Blood Bottle Gang's territory? This plan of yours can make Black Street Brotherhood be swathed by troubles, but it is only temporary.
"The Brotherhood is full of capable people and their fighting prowess is strong. Even their opponents, the Blood Bottle Gang, is inferior to them. It will only be a matter of time before they find the real culprit."
"And where can you go after that? As long as you are still in Eternal Star City, Black Street Brotherhood will eventually find you.
"Even if you leave Eternal Star City, how would you cope if the Brotherhood's influence out there turns out to be scarier or more rampant than within this city?"
It was as though Jala's words immediately struck Thales' weakness.
His face paled and his body swayed slightly.
True, he had not planned that far ahead yet. His capability was limited and his knowledge was lacking. What will come after they have reached Red Street Market, he could not say.
But they had no other choice, did they?
They can only go to Red Street Market.
"That would be our business," he said stubbornly after his thinking about it.
Jala, the assassin with a clever and fierce countenance, not the Jala who was previously an aloof and cold bartender, shook her head.
"But this is impossible…"
Seeing that Jala was still shaking her head, Thales became anxious.
To obtain Jala's help, he had used every method at his disposal...
He could not fail.
He glanced at the other children from the corner of his eye and clenched his fists tighter.
'This is not a game of Football Manager!
'I cannot fail!'
Thales raised his head and spoke with difficulty, "I know that compared to providing us with food and giving me a dagger, this request is outrageous. But please look at those three children, all their hopes are set in this bar! Jala, please help me! Besides…"
Jala raised a brow.
The boy very reluctantly spoke the following words, because to him, that was obvious coercion and torture.
Thales took a deep breath. There was no other way. As a small fry, he could not begrudge the chance to let himself shine during the critical moments in a gang battle due to greed, avarice, and love for money!
"Besides, you owe me a favor, don't you?"
Thales said with a firm tone.
Jala's gaze was full of doubt and shock, but she soon burst out laughing.
The bartender took out a Wolf Limb Blade from her thigh and placed it in front of Thales.
"Favor? Are you referring to the time you suggested that I modify my weapon this way? Alright, maybe I do owe you a favor. But isn't this a bit of an unfair deal?
Thales looked at the Wolf Limb Blade.
He recalled the memory he shared with Jala.
It happened a long time ago.
"Jala, Jala, I thought of a way to compensate for your lack of strength and speed while attacking with the blade!"
"How many times do I have to remind you to call me big sister Jala? Go away. You're just a little brat who knows nothing about battles, has no psionic abilities nor divine arts, and knows nothing about mystic craft. Don't disturb me while I train."
"Jala, I'm talking about this! Look at this picture!"
"Eh! This design and curvature… Brat, where did you get this from? It looks quite interesting."
"This is called the khukuri! Whether you believe it or not, this weapon is from another world!"
"Pfft, khukuri? Even if I were to use it, I would need to give it a better, cooler name. Also, call me big sister Jala!"
"Besides, what other world are you talking about? Don't watch so many Dark Night Temple stage plays. The people there are all out of their minds!"
Having recalled this, Thales shook his head and tried to chase the memory away.
He spoke firmly, slowly enunciating each word.
"No, you don't owe me a favor for that. You owe it to me for… for agitating Quide to the point of lunacy. For causing widespread injury and death among the child beggars and leaving us no choice but to escape."
While speaking, Thales' tone was solemn.
As soon as he finished speaking…
Jala opened her eyes wide and looked at Thales in disbelief. Her beautiful lashes kept trembling.
"You, how did you…"
Thales originally had his doubts, but upon seeing Jala's expression, he was sure of his hypothesis.
Thales nodded his head. His heart felt a little heavy.
"You were the one who hurt Quide's hand earlier, right? He was cursing while calling out your name. Besides, Quide might have gotten furious when his biggest humiliation in life was mentioned; but mostly, he felt shame. How did he get so frenzied that he started killing child beggars? I don't know what happened, but I am certain that Quide was drinking in Sunset Pub and somehow angered you before this. After that, for some reason, he lost his sanity and came to the Abandoned Houses and slaughtered… slaughtered half the child beggars.
"This was what happened, was it not?
"The death of half the child beggars was actually related to you."
At that moment, Thales definitely saw the quiver in Jala's eyes.
'This twice cursed, damned brat.'
Jala cursed inwardly, but the Wolf Limb Blade in her hand could not stop shaking, betraying her emotions.
'Way too clever.
'It was just a couple dozen child beggars…' Jala's heart was trembling. 'It was not like I killed them. It has nothing to do with me.
'It's all Rick's fault, that damn accountant.
'It has nothing to do with me.
'Is it really?'
She suddenly saw an image of a baby covered in blood. The baby was wrapped in an expensive woolen blanket.
All at once, her heart felt so heavy that it was as though it could not pump any blood.
"That's why, please help the four child beggars left in front of you. Because this is- this is a favor you owe us.
Although Thales felt extremely uncomfortable, he finished the sentence while his heart clenched in pain.
Jala tightly shut her eyes and returned the Wolf Limb Blade to her boot.
"Of course, if you think that you owe me a favor because I gave you the prototype for the Wolf Limb Blade, you can always include it on the list. I don't mind being owed more favors."
As though he found the atmosphere too stifling, Thales chuckled again.
But it was a very forced chuckle.
After a long while, Jala opened her eyes.
She raised her head gently.
"Thales, you are truly one special child. Always able to hit others right on their weaknesses. Quide probably died this way too, with one direct hit."
Her tone was quite feeble, making Thales' heart pound in fear.
But what she said next turned Thales stone cold.
"But it's useless…"
Jala paused slightly between each word. To Thales, every single pause felt like it would be fatal. "Even if I'm willing to help you and sacrifice my life to protect you guys, it will still impossible for you to cross Red Street Market. Because tonight, the Brotherhood will be launching a surprise attack on Red Street Market.
"It has already begun.
"Red Street Market will become the most horrifying battlefield in Eternal Star City tonight."
It was as though time had stopped for a while, and took forever to return to the present dimension.
"What did you say…" Thales asked, his trembling lips drained of all color.
"So, please give up. As you already know, Red Street Market has become a battlefield. It doesn't matter how strong I am, or if I possessed abilities such as 'The King's Wrath', It would be impossible for me to bring along four injured children through the battlefield of the two big gangs," Jala said faintly.
Thales stared at Jala in shock and looked at the other three children, who had almost finished their bread. Seeing that Thales was looking at them, Coria waved happily. It was easy for a four-year-old girl to forget pain and sadness.
"Don't worry," Sinti licked the bread crumbs on his hands and tapped Ryan, who was still fearful. "Thales will lead us in our escape."
"Yup, Thales is the smartest." Coria raised up a small piece of bread and happily continued, "He can do anything."
Ryan nodded with tears in his eyes, holding his severed hand.
On the other side of the cellar, in front of Jala, the boy whom the other child beggars had placed their hope and confidence in, buried his face in his hands in despair.
"Why is this happening… Why is the Brotherhood launching a secret attack on Red Street Market today… Why is it tonight… It shouldn't be so… An unforeseen circumstance, another unforeseen circumstance… It's impossible for us to go somewhere else… The Brotherhood has informants in every single place apart from Red Street Market and the western districts that follow… Unless we head straight for the first lower district and go towards the sewers from there. There's a shortcut there, but it's the Iron Bat Organization's territory…
"That won't work, the Iron Bat Organization has long since submitted themselves to the Brotherhood… Go back to the Abandoned Houses and destroy all evidence of Quide's corpse? Impossible, the other children already know about it… We'll eventually be found out… What do I do now… What do I do now?!"
Thales' face was greenish, and his lips were pale. His forehead was drenched in cold sweat.
Jala could not bear to see that, but she could only shake her head and pat Thales' shoulder.
"You guys can stay here at my place." Jala sighed. "I know someone I can trust who can hide you guys for at least a month. But no matter what, since Quide is dead, the Brotherhood will definitely come looking for the culprit.
"I can go and find the old man." Jala paused for a while and said awkwardly, "The Brotherhood respects the old man a lot. You guys… you guys won't die at least."
'But dying is definitely better than living like that.' The hopeless Thales added inwardly.
'Sometimes,' Jala looked at Thales' desolate visage and mused about how even the clever boy had reached his wit's end, 'we have to submit to fate.'
Thales' vision blurred again.
"Qiren… Ha... she has already left. You, you have to accept it… sniff…"
"I… I'm okay, don't worry… Don't worry, aunty. I'm okay… really okay."
"I know, Qiren. Haha, sometimes, we have to accept fate. Since she has left, we will have to get over it. No one is spared from it, haha."
"Aunty… you… she…"
"Must accept fate… sniff … accept fate… sniff..."
'What is my fate?
'Reincarnate into this world and get slaughtered?
'And I have to submit to it?
'I have read so many books.
'Done so much research.
'And written so many papers.
'Why would I submit to fate?!'
Suddenly, Thales raised his head, greatly surprising Jala.
His gaze was full of resolution and anger.
"Brat, are you, are you okay?" Jala asked.
For some reason, right now, she was afraid of this seven-year-old boy.
"The Brotherhood will definitely search for the culprit, right?" Thales suddenly asked.
Jala narrowed her eyes. "Mm-hmm."
"They only need one murderer," Thales said plainly as if it was something insignificant.
Thales took a deep breath and spoke slowly, "Let them stay with you here."
Jala was completely stunned.
"Let all three of them stay here. You need to stay, too, to protect them. Tell the Brotherhood that you managed to capture these three child beggars."
Thales spoke without emotion as if everything in front of him had lost their color.
"What?" Jala was a little surprised, but Thales ignored her.
"I will coordinate with these three children, about how I am- I am the 'only' murderer of Quide, and how the three children are only innocent child beggars who had escaped. I believe you will be able to shelter them well," Thales continued speaking stoically, placing emphasis on the word "only". "When the Brotherhood gets here, tell them… tell them to go find me.
"To find Quide's only murderer."
An unbearable silence.
Until Jala raised her head in disbelief and looked at the slovenly child in front of her.
Jala clenched her teeth and frowned. "Then how about you? Do I surrender you to them?"
Thales shook his head.
"I will leave by myself."
Somehow, Jala had suddenly realized that the child had already made his decision.
And no one would be able to sway or break his resolve.
But she could not just let him walk towards his death like this.
"You won't even be able to leave the lower districts, brat," Jala said with a complicated look on her face, "from beggars to shopkeepers, and from thugs to stall-owners; their informants are everywhere—hidden but widespread.
"When morning comes, the people from the Brotherhood will capture you. At that time, you will only regret the fact that you didn't beg me to kill you right now."
Thales turned his head around. His gaze was terrifyingly cold.
"True," he said icily. Ever since he came to this place, he had stayed in the Brotherhood's base in the outskirts for a year, and in the lower districts for four years. He understood deeply the extent of the Brotherhood's powers and capabilities. "I probably won't be able to escape.
"But they will be able to live and not endure the pain left behind by Quide."
'No. Quide had already left them with scars that will be hard to forget for their entire lives.' He thought inwardly.
Jala extended her hands and placed them on Thales' shoulders while turning her head away.
Thales could feel the trembling hands that used to always be so steady and precise.
'No, there's still one more place that I can go.
'The only place possible.
'I knew that all along, didn't I?'
Thales burst out laughing.
'Fate is a funny thing.
'It's always playing tricks on you.
'You must try to go against it.'
He looked at the three children who had just finished eating their bread. They were looking at his direction with hope— they were not child beggars anymore.
Thales turned his head back and looked at Jala with a determined but calm gaze.
Looking at Jala, whose expression was gloomy and eyes red, Thales spoke, "It's already half-past four, and the sun will be out soon. Red Street Market is quite far away. Please tell me about the location of all the informants that I should pay attention to. I have to depart now to Red Street Market."