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Chapter 24: Turning Crisis into Opportunity (4)

Explosions echo from every direction.

Screams of people plunged into panic filled the air. The black market had descended into complete chaos.

In the midst of this turmoil, a man clad in a dark robe cracks a sly smile.

‘So far, so smooth.’

The plan to terrorize the black market, claiming to be the notorious Black Fang, was proceeding without a hitch.

Black Fang. A name that struck fear and vigilance in the heart of the empire, now recklessly appropriated for criminal acts.

The reason the man had embarked on this venture was simple.

He was a knight of the empire.

‘Fight fire with fire, or so they say.’

The directive from above was straightforward.

To incite terror under the guise of the Black Fang.

The black market had always been a thorn in the side.

Those trading empire-monopolized artifacts, relying solely on the support of the Arcmage.

While previously overlooked and merely surveilled, it was a matter that eventually needed addressing.

The mysteries contained within these artifacts were vital for the survival of the empire.

It was under these circumstances that the Black Fang, a third force, emerged. The empire’s leadership decided to make the most of this situation.

They chose to disguise themselves as the Black Fang and unleash terror here.

A false justification was also prepared.

The liberation of slaves traded in the black market. Exactly the kind of cause an organization in rebellion against the empire would undertake.

The true identity of the Black Fang remained a mystery.

Thus, even for an Arcmage, distinguishing between them and the actual Black Fang was impossible.

Unwittingly, the Black Fang would be framed, becoming the Arcmage’s enmity without ever knowing why.

Although the man, who held a fairly high position, did not know what the mysteries contained within the artifact were used for, it hardly mattered to him.

As a knight of the empire, one should not question orders.

The retrieval of the artifact.

Claiming a false stance while disguised as the Black Fang.

Some captured slaves were to be released as a diversion, while the rest were to be handed over to the Royal Court.

It was a simple mission.

And it was in the midst of this task that the man was deeply engrossed when it happened.

“Aaaagh!”

There was a scream.

A dreadful scream echoed in his ears.

The man quickly looked around to grasp the situation, but there was nothing.

The subordinates who had been there had vanished without a trace, as if they had never existed in the first place.

His instincts, honed from countless battles, sent him a warning. The man quickly surveyed his surroundings to understand the situation.

Soon, two figures clad in black robes appeared before him. Instinctively, the man knew.

He knew who these people were.

It was inevitable.

His legs were shaking uncontrollably without him realizing it.

Not the position of the strong, but that of the weak.

Not the eater, but the eaten.

The man was personally experiencing this overwhelming feeling.

Yet, he did not give up.

He somehow mustered his wits and spoke.

“I apologize for borrowing the name without permission.”

It was no coincidence that the man was chosen as the leader of this operation.

With a gaze filled with an admiration that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for deceit, he continued speaking to the two individuals.

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m sorry for using the name, but despite that, I wanted to be part of achieving a noble cause.”

A perfectly near-perfect lie, asking if they could help with the slave rescue, assuming it wasn’t too presumptuous.

The man was confident.

Confident that he could somehow navigate this situation with his lies.

*****

Siel stared blankly at the man before her.

The man was babbling about something, but Siel wasn’t listening.

Of course, she wouldn’t.

Why should she pay any mind to what others say when it’s not even Ian talking?

“Devour him.”

With those words, the shadow morphed into a beast. The wolf voraciously consumed the man’s arm.

The screams are noisy, Siel thought, looking at the man writhing in pain with an expressionless face.

“Why, why would you do this?”

The man asked. Asking why he was being attacked.

The question irked Siel.

Uncharacteristically, Siel frowned slightly as she replied.

“You upset me.”

To Siel, Ian is everything in this world.

The world revolves around him, and without him, it holds no meaning.

And yet, this man had upset Ian.

Siel still remembered.

The way Ian lamented that the name of the Black Fang would be tarnished.

Siel almost wanted to ask the man.

Shouldn’t he be grateful if dying could atone for upsetting Ian’s feelings?

“Please... spare me.”

While Siel was lost in thought, the man was trying to stop the bleeding from his torn arm and was moving towards Lien.

“I truly sympathize with your ideals purely...”

It seemed like he was planning to spout some nonsensical words to Lien as well.

However, Siel didn’t particularly stop him.

She merely added one more line.

“You can play with him. He’s not a person, after all.”

*****

As I roamed the streets, an eerie sense of unease washed over me.

Strangely, there was no sign of the mysterious figures in black robes. Surely, I should have encountered at least one by now.

Was my luck really this good?

After pondering for a moment, a plausible explanation came to mind.

‘Has that apprentice managed to suppress the terror attack?’

He may not be as formidable as the deceased Archmage, but he’s no weakling either. Plus, there’s been some time since the previous incident.

It wouldn’t be odd to think he’d become stronger through training during this period.

‘I need to hurry.’

If the terror is indeed being quelled, the window for me to act the part of a righteous hero is rapidly closing with every passing moment.

I must hurry. But...

‘Where in the world is that warehouse?’

The security system, activated automatically by the explosion, had naturally moved the holy sword to the warehouse beneath the auction house.

I needed to find the secret passage leading to that warehouse... but where could it be?

Even in the original story, the secret passage was only mentioned in passing, never implemented in the actual game.

Mulling over this for a while, I suddenly came up with an absurd idea.

‘It feels like I’m getting influenced by Lien.’

Such a brutally simple solution.

Yet, why did I have this overwhelming intuition that it would work?

I quickly made my way back to the auction house.

I located where the security device had been triggered and positioned myself there. Surely, there must be a passage leading to the warehouse below.

“Phew...”

Taking a deep breath, I calmed my mind.

Just as I had practiced before, I focused my magical energy into my fist. Then, with all my might, I struck down repeatedly...!

- Boom!

With a thunderous noise, the floor of the auction house shattered.
After several attempts, a hole large enough for a person to easily enter had formed.

The mindset of creating an entrance where there was none proved surprisingly effective.

Indeed, when you’re physically strong, your mind doesn’t have to work as hard.

I immediately jumped into the hole.

Inside, it was not as dark as I had anticipated.

Perhaps sensing someone’s entry, lights flickered on as soon as I stepped in.

And what caught my eye shortly after was...

‘Why are there children here?’

Children, not even listed in the auction, inexplicably bound here, all shackled by their ankles.

...The situation was dire.

It was rare to find a child in good physical condition.

Some were missing an arm. There was even a child grotesquely stitched up, their arms and legs forcibly swapped.

The situation here was clear.

‘Utterly diligent in the worst way.’

This was the auction house directly operated by the disciple of that Archmage.

And as one could infer from the Archmage’s involvement in the black market, his expertise was in dark magic.

This was likely the result of the disciple’s diligent practice.

Whether diligently practicing dark magic is something to be praised, I’m not sure.

As I was holding back nausea from the appalling scene, I felt a strange sensation near my leg.

A girl, upon making contact with me, immediately recoiled in fear.

Judging by her reaction, she seemed to be blind.

I had a rough idea why this blind girl was frightened of me.

There were marks of being whipped.

She must have mistaken me for her owner.

“Don’t worry. I didn’t come here to harm you.”

I found myself deep in thought, wondering how to resolve this situation.

But my contemplation was brief. After all, wasn’t I here to steal?

It just meant there was more to take care of now.

Whether these kids were key characters in the original story, I wasn’t sure, but does that really matter?

I’m no psychopath; it’s better to save those I can. I don’t need to only save those who would be beneficial to me.

“Wh-Who are you?”

The child asked, her expression filled with terror.

In the heart of enemy territory.

For all I knew, there could be eavesdropping magic at play.

Pondering how to respond... I soon came up with a suitable idea.

There is one, isn’t there?

A name perfectly sellable in this situation.

“The Black Fang has come to rescue you.”

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