Theodore nodded unconsciously. He remembered that face too clearly. In a sense, it was one of the people who had helped him in this city. The person was the black market trader he had visited in order to fill up his insufficient magic power.
Theo clearly recalled his name, "Canis?"
"…Thanks for remembering," the black market trader, Canis, replied with a resigned expression. He had tried to withdraw but had been suppressed helplessly. His stealth had been noticed, and he couldn't resist even once. One mistake was enough to bind him on the ground.
Vince grasped the situation and asked, "Is this perhaps the black market trader that you dealt with?"
"Yes, it certain is."
Theo and Vince had talked briefly about the black market trader. He was a human from the dark side of the world who couldn't be trusted, and they had caught him in an unexpected place. Since that day, Theo hadn't gone to find the black market trader. He could obtain artifacts with Vince's help, so there was no reason to take the risk.
The quietly listening Canis interrupted, "Excuse me, can you just let me go?"
The two people were talking, but the magic binding him hadn't been lifted. No, the power continued increasing, so sweat flowed down Canis' forehead. Theo's magic power had become stronger after completing the 5th Circle, to an extent where he could suppress some aura users.
Theo heard the request and looked at Vince, who shook his head with a resolute expression.
"No, we need to hear why he is following us," Vince said. Then grabbed Canis' neck and threatened, "But keep this in mind. I know lowlives like you very well. If you lie even once, I will pull out an eyeball and repeat this until you stop lying. You know that this isn't just a threat, right?"
"…Damn, you're an executor?" Canis gulped as he determined Vince's identity.
Vince's killing intent was different from rookies. He was an expert at hunting humans and wasn't the type of opponent who Canis could go against. The executives of the Red Tower would tear people into pieces without raising an eyebrow. They were natural enemies of those who lived in the lawless zone.
"Keok, I understand. So, let me go. At this rate—kek—I can't speak."
"You only have one chance." Vince let Canis go after one final eerie warning, and Canis hurriedly took in deep breaths.
The grip of the magician was so strong that finger marks still remained on his neck. It was also a warning that Canis' life could be taken at any time. Canis opened his mouth and spoke in a slightly hoarse voice, "So, you must be wondering why I was following you?"
"Today was pretty much a coincidence. Young Master hasn't come to visit me for almost two months already. I just thought of it as extra income until I coincidentally passed by you today."
"Coincidence? It seems like you want to lose an eyeball."
"W-Wait a minute! Please listen a bit more!" Canis screamed hurriedly as a flame emerged from Vince's fingertip. It was a conventional threat, but it was extra scary since it came from an executive of the Red Tower.
"I'm going to leave this area! I thought I would find Young Master and do one last deal!"
Vince turned off the flames and asked, "Leave? A black market trader?"
It was hard to leave an organization, especially one in the dark side of the world. Cutting off fingers, arms, or legs would be considered a moderately severe ritual required before a person could leave.
Why would a black market trader, who was treated as a senior executive, want to leave? His unrecognizable body might be found after a few days.
However, Canis' thoughts were a little different. "Things have gone wrong in this territory. The guild idiots don't know what they are doing and are digging their graves. I never expected slavery in Meltor, and I don't want to be burned along with those idiots."
"I'm not lying! A week ago, people from Austen secretly crossed the wall! It will eventually come out!"
The two magicians looked at each other, ignoring Canis' urgent voice. Maybe the organization that the black market trader belonged to was directly connected to this case. Indeed, an organization without any connections to Bergen couldn't have done something as large as slave trading here. It made sense to join hands with the local organization.
Then it was worth using the black market trader. The two people exchanged glances a few times before coming to a mutual understanding.
In the end, Theodore released the spell binding Canis.
"The story, tell us in a little more detail." Vince's voice grabbed Canis before he could enjoy the sensation of freedom.
As soon as the three people left the alley, they started walking toward a specific destination.
The location was somewhere out of the reach of outside gazes, so it was a good location to share a secret story. It was the black market trader's store.
Kkiiik… The rundown door hinges creaked as the door opened. Canis entered the store first. Then Theodore followed him inside and looked around the store.
'It has been around two months… Quite a long time.'
Things hadn't changed too much. Items were jumbled together and covered in dust, while there were a few items at his feet. Canis haphazardly made a seat by kicking all these things. It took around five minutes to clean the area, so that there was enough room for three people to sit down.
"Come on, sit down. There is no where else to entertain you."
It was pretty ridiculous for three big men to sit down on small desk chairs, but the atmosphere got a little lighter.
"Forget the small talk, and tell us the story. I will decide your treatment depending on the value of your information."
"Hoo, how bloodthirsty." Canis had managed to regain some composure from being in a familiar place, but that went away again with Vince's words.
Neither did Theodore show Canis a bit of softness at all. Theo just looked away at every joke.
Canis had a hunch and quickly opened his mouth, "Do you want information related to slavery? Like the locations of the people from Austen and the transaction dates."
"Didn't I say to tell me what you know?"
"I'll be honest, I don't know a lot of the details."
The atmosphere inside the room subsided. This was the result of the increased pressure from the surrounding mana as the two people's circles rotated. Canis knew there would be this reaction, but he couldn't tell them things he didn't know.
"My cardinal rule is to never set foot in dangerous places. My life is at risk in such incidents. So, I was preparing to flee from this area."
Canis was the careful type who didn't accept a favourable deal until there was a strong pledge. If he were a person directly involved in slavery, Vince would've cut off his legs without any hesitation and chosen torture instead. In a sense, that prudence was the same as Canis'.
"So, I am suggesting a deal." Sweat flowed down his back as he spoke the words he'd prepared in his head, "I will bring you the information you need. In return for that cooperation, I would like your help."
"Do you think you are in the position to ask for funds?"
"I'm sorry, but my life is also at stake. Anyway, I don't know anything worth torturing out of me. Think of it as a good story for a bit of money."
Canis' words weren't wrong. The slavers hadn't been revealed yet, so it was highly unlikely they would be found tonight. Using an insider to obtain information was an opportunity. It was good business for Canis if he could get a new identity and a bit of money.
The question was whether or not to trust him. Vince glared at Canis with cold eyes. It was because he had learned from experience not to trust the words of a criminal. This person was related to his disciple, so his guard was thicker than usual.
"How can I believe you? You might betray us as soon as you meet the organization. Do you have any guarantees that you won't go back on your words?"
"The same goes for you as well. I don't think an executor will keep his promise to a person like me." Canis looked at Theodore after he spoke.
Theo knew how to fix this situation as he recalled the past. Theirs had also been a relationship where neither of them trusted each other. The appraiser had proposed a trade where the black market trader would gain money, but the black market trader was worried about the suspicious proposal.
The two people had built a trusting relationship through one method.
"Do you want to use the Geass Scroll?"
"Well, there is that method." Canis smiled as the intended words were spoken.
The Geass Scroll was a means of binding each other, and the effect was applied, regardless of whether they were a criminal or executor. After all, artifacts couldn't distinguish between a person's status or position. In any case, verbal promises could never be trusted. The Geass Scroll was a means for an equal negotiation.
Vince belatedly grasped Canis' intentions and laughed. "…One of the skills of a mouse is escaping through holes."
"I'll take that as a compliment. If I didn't dig holes like this, then my life would be different."
"But don't be mistaken. You understand it isn't enough, right?" Vince laughed again.
At first glance, it seemed like a favourable condition, but Canis had a hidden loophole in his proposal. If he failed, there would be more negative consequences for the two people. Therefore, Canis needed to get rid of that risk.
Canis didn't miss this and eventually said, "Dammit, I'll pay an advance."
He got up and sighed as he looked around.
There were genuine, defective, and cursed items displayed in a confusing array. Among them were many things Theo had appraised, as well as those he hadn't. He didn't know about the quality, but the amount was enormous.
The owner of the store, Canis pointed to the items with a grim look. "Take what you want."
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"Huh?" Theodore was unable to understand the words.
However, he hadn't heard wrongly as Canis repeated again in a regretful voice, "I'll give it all to you, so take as much as you want."