Faster than her peers - Lena regained her composure - and in a flash, processed the situation. First, Lukas or not, the man standing before them meant no harm; otherwise, none of them could live to unsheathe their weapons. Second, he was a magus. Third, in his eyes, they held no worth. From beginning to end, he never once glanced at them, trusting in his superior magical powers to direct their fates.
The thought set her heart ablaze with rage. However, she could only suppress it. Meanwhile, unaware of the building tension, Bjorn listened to Kilian's "explanations."
"You've probably long realized that I lead a double life. For the past five years, I've secretly worked for an assassin cult specialized in the murder of nobles, but ended up failing a task and getting framed by my superiors.
Having no other choice, I could only escape for a while to - on the one hand, avoid retaliation - and on the other hand, lead them away from my relatives whom they know well.
Never did I expect that by the time I returned…" As Kilian reached this point, his half-smile vanished, his face grew pale, his heart rate quickened, and he closed his eyes in such a show of sorrow that Lena now wondered if all her assumptions weren't false.
"...Tamara was gone, mother breathed no longer, and the clatter of silver coins shook my old man's purse. In a rage, I killed him and set the house on fire. I initially planned to leave Ostria to seek Tamara's trails, and came to say goodbye." Kilian's voice died down while his arms trembled in "surging anguish."
Seeing this, the concealed Jezebel had to admit that her Lothario was quite the actor. Klaus firmly believed that a man aiming to change the world should first learn to wear 1,000 masks. Therefore, he imparted on Kilian the art of trickery. The student soon outpaced the master.
Now, Lena no longer had many doubts—realizing why "Lukas' persona" had experienced such a drastic change. Now more than ever, there was indeed no reason for him to pay her attention. Biting her lower lip, Lena clenched her fits, turned heels, and left alongside her men.
Meanwhile, Bjorn exploded.
"I should have killed the son of a bitch when I had the chance!" He slapped his thigh in outrage. A year before, believing Oskar a thorn that ought to be removed, Bjorn attempted to murder Lukas' father but was cut short by his mother's appearance and pleas. Ultimately, he could only drop the matter. A day after Lukas' disappearance, Bjorn paid Oskar a visit, giving him a ferocious beating as a warning.
But subsequently, the start of uncanny events within the slums prevented him from taking better care of his friend's family. Now, he wouldn't have enough years for regret.
"Blame this damnable disease. People have been falling like fleas, spreading fears of a new epidemic!" Bjorn spat, but as those words left his lips, Kilian's face contorted into a frown.
"An epidemic? In Arcadia?"
Meanwhile, in the viscount of Ostria's castle - within the comfort of his study - Viscount Olaf met with a mysterious man whose features remained concealed beneath a cloak. Oskar could have recognized the cloaked man as the slaver to whom he sold Tamara. And indeed, the girl stood right beside him.
Alas, her previously vibrant hazel eyes now stood dazed and void of luster, as if a foreign force kept her mind on a tight lock. Kilian could have never expected that the slaver he thought long gone now lay in Viscount Olaf's study, staring at a cup of tea. Of course - perhaps not knowing was best - for a slaver, the man was not.
"How is the thing's spread going?" The man asked in a hoarse voice that made Olaf ill at ease. Still, he didn't dare show the tiniest bit of discomfort.
"Sir, have no fear - in less than a week - the entirety of the slums will be infected. I also dispatched my men to ensure the process will follow the trend you requested. Even if by some absurd miracle those monkeys realized the ploy, they can't escape." Monkeys. In the eyes of the aristocracy, be they managers or iniquitous, the commoners were no different from monkeys.
Hearing those words, the cloaked man made no remark, reached into his cloak to pull out a bundle of banknotes, and tossed it onto the table. Dark-blue light shone in Olaf's eyes as he activated Arcane Sight for a prompt count of the banknotes.
Whereas Core Templars could achieve flawless dra circulation and safely infuse various parts of their bodies with dra surges, only Core Emissaries could use the same process to unlock magical abilities.
A common tool among seasoned magi, Arcane Sight enabled its user to obtain a 360 degrees vision, scrutinize their environment, and expand their vision across dozens of meters or kilometers depending on their dra reserves and control.
"1,000 qraftas. Sir, you are quite the generous man." Olaf jested as he picked up the banknote bundle, rubbing his protruding cheeks against its surface. As a low-level Core Emissary, Olaf's position in Orloth's aristocracy stood at the lower end. However, a magus he still was. With his strength, slaughtering thousands of helpless commoners was child's play. He could also dispatch his templars to handle the task.
Even if he razed the slums to the ground on a whim, no one could or would raise an objection. Never did he expect that someone would be so crazed as to pay him 1,000 qraftas for the slaughter of those mongrels!
At first, Olaf simply wished to dispatch his men to handle the task. However, the mysterious man insisted the task be accomplished through a mysterious virus. Olaf couldn't help but wonder why he'd go through so much trouble for Ostria's 30,000 iniquitous.
Little did he know that it wasn't about extermination, but selection.
"It started a day after you left. On the outside, the disease looks like pneumonia, but many reject the idea. First, it spreads too fast. Second, it harms too fast. It's been only two days, and I've seen people that already look like they're on the verge of death! Third, it doesn't even spare the vaccinated!" Bjorn sighed with downcast eyes.
Not all the slum residents were born iniquitous. Like Lukas' family, several escaped into the slums to avoid other threats, and therefore, finding vaccinated individuals wasn't that arduous. This world possessed a staggering medical level. If the disease indeed was pneumonia, those people should have never been affected. And yet, they were.
But if the disease spread as fast as Bjorn claimed, why then did he - who'd spent the last two days helping the infected - show no sign of it yet? Did his evolution-stage protect him? Or perhaps…
"Lead me to one afflicted," Kilian ordered, leaving Bjorn no room to dissuade him. As a quasi-fehl, Kilian feared no disease and possessed five times the lifespan of the average man. Throughout the slums, only he could approach the disease with confidence. And hearing the rigidity within his tone, Bjorn didn't bother dissuading him. On the one hand, even a fool could see that his friend now possessed magical powers—on the other hand, even without him to lead the way, finding one afflicted wasn't that difficult.
Leading Kilian across the streets, Bjorn brought him into a dark, secluded corner where ten people gathered, coughing with such intensity that it almost seemed as if they expelled their lives in every breath. But to say nothing of Kilian, as his eyes locked on them, even Bjorn stared slack-jawed.
"How the fuck did this happen?" He asked in fright. On the previous night, although those ten already stood in critical conditions - at the very least - they looked human!
Their bodies atrophied to the point they barely had any flesh left on their bones! Worse, their skin turned grey!
Instantly, Kilian realized the ploy, and to test his theory, rushed toward the frontier between the slums and the city proper. Believing in his friend's instinct, Bjorn followed without a word. But although he restrained his speed at Lesser Emissary tier to prevent suspicion, Kilian still left him far behind.
Soon, he reached the main exit, but there, an odd scene awaited. 300 guards clad in black tactical vests, and soft armor formed a blockade, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the slums! With uncanny timing, Lena appeared, bringing alongside her 12 of her goons.
Bjorn followed moments afterward, arriving fast enough to witness the confrontation between Lena and the city guard.
"What is the meaning of this?" She barked at the head officer in outrage. But though surprised that such a beauty still hid in the slums, he didn't lose his head.
"An epidemic has been detected. The slums are now officially under quarantine." The officer declared, causing Kilian to arch his eyebrows.