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Chapter 21: Turning Crisis into Opportunity (1)

The developers behind Blood And Bone were infamous for their perverted creations, not in a lewd sense but more for their gore.

The story changes based on choices.

This, coupled with an extensive degree of freedom, should have been a gamer’s dream come true, yet it remained underrated, likely due to its gruesome nature.

The company was notoriously fond of grinding orphans into their narratives.

And now, I found myself in a black market.

A place that seemed to gather only the abyss of the already dark world.

“...Ugh.”

I fought back the urge to vomit.

After all, I was wearing a mask.

A mask given to those using VIP entry tickets, impervious to most forms of magical scrutiny.

There was nothing to gain from showing one’s face here, so I kept on the wolf mask, although the idea of it getting dirty was somewhat unsettling.

As I averted my gaze from those revolting scenes, a thought suddenly crossed my mind.

‘What about the others? They’re younger than me.’

With that thought, I looked over at Siel.

...She was fine.

Actually, it would have been scarier if she had freaked out in such a situation.

“Why are you covering my eyes?”

I had covered her eyes every time something unsettling passed by, just in case. And that was her question in return.

“...No, it’s because of the elves.”

Elves usually have a deep sense of kinship. I didn’t particularly want to show her the amputated elf slaves.

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t really care.”

It seemed Siel’s sense of kinship was rather shallow.

Or, perhaps she even disliked it.

“Besides, that’s not an elf.”

At Siel’s unexpected remark,

I took another look at the slave I had seen before and... soon realized.

An elf at that price?

That’s absurd.

And upon giving it some serious thought, it’s peculiar that a race as esteemed as elves would be so miserably enslaved.

Even if that were the case, being away from the World Tree long enough for their amputated parts to heal would naturally result in death before that.

Elves and the World Tree are inseparable entities.

To be alive away from the World Tree because of being a half-elf seems unlikely, given the excessive length of the ears.

So, are these just fake ears then?

The deception is crafted with quite the dedication.

Nevertheless, since Siel seemed unfazed, I turned my attention to Lien, who had a more sensitive disposition.

Through the puppy mask, a glint in the eyes was visible.

Eyes filled with madness sparkled dangerously, as if they might explode at any moment.

“...Snap out of it.”

I lightly tapped the back of the girl’s head using a snap of my wrist.

Was the problem here that she enjoyed this too much?

I had to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t lose her senses.

As I entertained these thoughts... I soon realized.

Was I the only one feeling terrified here?

A strange feeling crept in.

These kids are fine, yet here I am, panicking.

With these thoughts, I tried my best to avert my eyes from the entrails and various grotesque items as I walked... until I found a comrade.

Miss Rubia was trembling.

Her face, hidden behind a fox mask, was not visible, but I could roughly imagine her expression.

Feeling a strange sense of familiarity and empathy, I approached Miss Rubia, thinking that sharing our fears might lessen them a bit.

And then... the trembling intensified.

How fearful could this person be?

It seems like she’s always trembling whenever I see her.

*****

The black market.

The black market is held every six months.

However, the location of the building and the landmarks are all similar.

No, more than similar, they are identical.

The reason is simple.

All these buildings are constructed through magic.

A creation by an archmage.

It’s no wonder the Empire dares not tamper with the black market.

‘...Well, the truth is, that archmage died a long time ago.’

It’s merely his disciple who’s recreating the magic using the relics left by the master. However, the Empire is oblivious to this fact.

They wouldn’t want to mess with an archmage, and regardless, such illicit trades would surface elsewhere even if banned.

It’s a tacit tolerance under surveillance.

It’s possible that there might be Empire soldiers hiding somewhere here.

Considering the average in the Empire, there are likely quite a few soldiers who came here not for surveillance but purely for vile leisure.

After all, this place houses all sorts of horrific entertainments.

Like a venue that offers the experience of dissecting a living human. Or places even more dreadful than that.

Just the thought brings nausea back, and I desperately erase those images from my mind.

Anyway, that’s none of our business right now.

I roamed the streets, searching for our destination, passing by stores I sincerely hoped not to learn more about... until we entered the largest building.

“Thank you for visiting our auction house.”

With a polite greeting,

A man dressed in a sleek suit courteously greeted us.

This was the main event, the largest auction house here.

Naturally, it was bustling with people.

The large building was completely packed.

But that didn’t concern us.

There’s a reason why VIP is VIP.

Instead of the overcrowded passageways, we were led through a spacious, almost empty private corridor by the staff.

Large glass windows.

A lofty position.

From the private seats, the entire view of the auction house was visible at a glance.

“If there’s anything you wish to bid on, please feel free to press the button in front of you.”

With courteous service, the man brought us drinks.

...Not that we could drink them, being minors.

Regardless, the man left after offering kind words and reminding us to call him anytime if we needed anything.

The more I looked, the more astonished I became, prompting me to ask her.

“How on earth did you manage to get this?”

Securing a VIP entry ticket is notoriously difficult. Knowing from the original work how much of a struggle it was to obtain one, I couldn’t help but be amazed.

“...”

But the look she returned was fierce.

Miss Rubia didn’t say a word, and though her face was not visible behind the mask, I could almost hear an accusatory voice saying, ‘You’re the one who asked me to get it.’

No, I did mention that a VIP ticket would be ideal, but I had no idea it was actually attainable.

I do have a conscience.

With less than three days left, I never expected to actually get hold of such a prized possession.

I felt a twinge of guilt.

“Let’s buy something on our way out after the auction.”

Being human, I felt compelled to say that.

It would be inhuman not to repay this favor, especially since I had saved a recipe for such an occasion. Maybe Miss Rubia and I could even start a potion brewing business together.

“...”

I said it with that in mind, but the look she gave me was even more intimidating than before.

Her eyes seemed to ask, ‘How much more do you need to take from me to be satisfied?’

I was about to quickly explain myself when...

“The first item is a 300-year-old elf eyeball!”

That announcement drew my gaze back through the glass window.

The auction had begun.

Though the item was of little use to me.

“Siel?”

While I was waiting for the next item to be presented, Siel suddenly pressed her forehead against the glass window, scrutinizing the item intently.

When I asked her why, the answer came back far too simple.

“I thought it might be my mother.”

...What am I supposed to say to that? After pondering for a while, I barely managed to speak.

“Do you... want me to buy it if it’s bothering you?”

However, Siel shook her head, dismissing the idea.

“It’s fine. It doesn’t seem like her.”

“That’s... good, I guess.”

...Is it really appropriate to feel relieved about this? My head suddenly felt dizzy.

‘Why do I feel like we shouldn’t have come here?’

The plan was to acquire artifacts and recruit allies, but it feels like we’re not achieving anything substantial.

The second and third items were presented. While they could be considered valuable, they were not what I needed.

Perhaps it would have been better to visit an auction house specializing in slaves instead.

It was at this moment, as I sighed deeply with frustration, that something changed.

“This next item is quite special.”

The man announced with a sense of gravity. Of course, from his perspective, embellishing the items to fetch a higher price is to be expected.

Something was different this time.

The man presenting the items was moving something while clad in all sorts of protective gear.

Suddenly, Siel wrapped around me. Miss Rubia went beyond trembling legs and collapsed onto the floor.

This strange phenomenon was happening to everyone in the auction house.

Yet, I remained unaffected.

It was clear what this meant: something was contaminating the minds of these people right now.

A staff member, armored in expensive protective gear, showcased the item to the audience.

And then, I was at a loss for words.

It was to be expected.

That design.

That blade.

It was an item I had seen over and over again while playing the previous game.

“An enigmatic cursed sword, emanating an ominous curse!”

It’s the holy sword.

The one used by the protagonist in the previous work.

...A broken holy sword, emanating a dark light.

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