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Chapter 20: Cliché (2)

Despite receiving a substantial sum from Miss Rubia, I had not invested in artifacts for a simple reason.

Artifacts aren’t items you can just obtain by seeking them out.

Of course, one could easily purchase any item enchanted with magic if they have the money.

Take me, for example, I’m wearing a robe enhanced with various functions like defense and temperature regulation.

After Lien and Siel both took a liking to the robe we wore last time, I acquired one of a similar design.

However, such garments are not classified as artifacts.

The reason is straightforward.

A magician has merely enchanted an ordinary object, which does not possess the innate ability to conjure magic.

True artifacts are imbued with mystique, capable of wielding magic independently.

And naturally, such artifacts are monopolized by the empire.

Merely trading them is considered a serious crime.

In games, players could relatively easily acquire such artifacts.

By playing multiple rounds.

After clearing the game once, you could simply use the currency obtained from deleting that character to craft whatever you desired.

‘...But how on earth am I supposed to do that now?’

As a result, the sources for artifacts are inevitably scarce.

In such circumstances, the black market becomes a rare source of artifacts, like rain in a drought.

Therefore, for someone like me, who needs to grow stronger, it was a place I had to visit at least once.

‘Besides, even setting artifacts aside, I might meet a good character there.’

There are many characters who, once slaves, now support the protagonist.

With some luck... I might even find a decent companion there.

But the problem is, not just anyone can enter the black market.

You can’t just buy your way into the black market with money.

‘I don’t want to miss this opportunity, as I would have to wait another six months if I do.’

Over the past two days, I’ve been learning various basic spells from Siel and receiving physical combat training from Lien, amidst other preparations.

But honestly, I couldn’t see any way Miss Rubia could secure the entry tickets in time.

The black market opens tomorrow. We need those tickets by today at the latest.

Realistically, acquiring such items in just two days is no easy feat.

So, I thought we might have to give up on this venture, but then...

“…Huff. Haah.”

In the midst of training with Siel, a panting Rubia appeared before me.

She must have run so desperately that her usual red bun hair was a complete mess.

Her clothes were drenched, revealing more than intended, and I had to consciously avert my eyes.

“I got it!”

What she meant by ‘got it’ was clear without asking.

In Miss Rubia’s hand was a ticket, the kind that had appeared in previous work, complete with a golden border.

That’s a VIP-exclusive entry ticket.

Essential for participating in the exclusive auction.

‘How on earth did she manage to get that?’

I had to reassess Rubia’s capabilities.

It seemed obvious in hindsight. I had wondered how someone who seemed to give away too much to others, seemingly to their own detriment, could succeed in business.

But obtaining this meant that a regular entry ticket could have been easily acquired in less than a day.

…It seems she misunderstood me somehow and took the trouble to secure a VIP ticket.

‘I would have been satisfied with just a regular ticket, to be honest.’

That thought crossed my mind, but I wasn’t tactless enough to say it out loud. I graciously expressed my gratitude and accepted the ticket from Miss Rubia.

“Then, have a good trip.”

There was a sense of relief on Miss Rubia’s face as she said that.

But then,

“Miss Rubia, you should come with us…”

How are we supposed to ride the magic train without her?

I feel guilty seeing her so exhausted.

But with only a day left, walking that distance isn’t feasible.

Once this is over, I’ll share the recipe with her and practically print money for her.

Despite the shame, I’ll have to rely on her kindness just one more time.

*****

The empire is far more technologically advanced than one might think.

This is evident from the scene before me.

A black train adorned with intricate golden gears and the flow of blue light from mana stone fuel through transparent tubes.

It exudes a steampunk vibe that never fails to impress.

Even to my modern eyes, its aesthetic is flawless.

‘Well, it’s just like the empire to create such marvels and then restrict their use to nobility.’

“Wow...”

Lien gapes in awe, scanning the station’s surroundings, while Siel remains expressionless as ever.

Miss Rubia is ahead of us, checking tickets and identities.

I expected this process to take longer, but it seems we’re being waved through rather easily, likely due to familiarity.

It’s a stark reminder that Miss Rubia, too, belongs to the nobility.

Thus, we boarded the train.

Naturally, Miss Rubia was separated from the three of us.

It’s to be expected.

Our presence here is only permissible because servants are considered property of the nobility.

How could property sit alongside its owners? Naturally, we were relegated to seats that were narrower and more uncomfortable.

‘Well, it doesn’t bother me.’

Unlike the ever-stoic Siel, Lien is visibly excited, eagerly looking around.

My reaction wasn’t much different.

In the original story, the player character was nobility, so this part of the train is new to me as well.

In fact, I was more curious about this section than the noble’s compartment I had watched so many times.

‘This isn’t as bad as I expected.’

Perhaps it’s the luxury amenities.

Despite being treated like luggage and stuffed into a different compartment, it’s not as bad as I thought.

With so few people around, it might even be more comfortable than a modern subway during rush hour.

The fact that we can at least sit down gives this side a clear advantage.

We found a spot with just enough room for the three of us to sit.

With nothing much to do until we arrived, Lien and I were idly gazing out at the scenery when a moment caught my attention.

“I just can’t seem to keep up...”

A white-haired man reading a newspaper muttered to himself.

Out of boredom and curiosity, I asked him what he meant.

“The world is changing too fast. It’s overwhelming for an old man like me.”

With those words, the gentleman passed the newspaper to me.

It contained a story about the Black Fangs.

Of course, being the empire’s news, the Black Fangs were depicted as deranged psychopathic murderers.

But knowing what I do from the original work, if you sift through for the facts, it hinted at the beginnings of an anti-imperial movement starting with the Black Fangs.

“I just hope we don’t get caught up in some senseless conflict...”

The old man sighed as he said this, as if lamenting the unintended consequences often suffered by bystanders like us.

...For some reason, his words struck a chord with me.

This train is a symbol of noble authority.

If there were an anti-imperial organization, this train would undoubtedly be a target.

Moreover...

‘This is such a cliché.’

A sense of unease washed over me.

Terrorist attacks are almost expected on trains in stories.

In fact, it would be more surprising if a train-related plot didn’t involve some sort of attack.

In such a situation, was it really just a coincidence that the old man brought up such ominous talk out of the blue?

“Lien, Siel. Just to be safe, don’t let your guard down.”

With those words, I kept a vigilant watch over our surroundings.

Come to think of it, the train was eerily quiet.

It was like the calm before a storm, as if something was about to happen.

A sinister premonition crept over me.

A feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong.

And then… an explosion sounded.

It started in the compartment in front of us. The train began to shake wildly, derailing…

-Thank you for choosing our train. We wish all passengers a comfortable journey...

Instead, the soothing voice of the announcement filled the air.

We arrived at our destination comfortably.

I avoided Lien’s puzzled gaze and scratched the back of my neck.

‘That’s really strange.’

My intuition is usually spot on.

But lately, it seems I’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

I was sure I had a feeling. An intuition that there were suspicious people on board.

But... what can I do when reality says otherwise?

Maybe I need to stop overestimating my gut feelings.

‘After all, a cliché is just a cliché.’

When you think about it, it’s obvious.

The idea that a terrorist organization would be on the same train as me is just as unrealistic as it sounds, isn’t it?

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