Chapter 219: Chapter 219
* * *
Roy’s household, the Rawlsmans, was renowned throughout the empire.
Apparently, they had their beginning with the founding of the empire itself and enjoyed a history lengthier than any other n.o.ble household of this continent.
No one really knew just when the Rawlsman bloodline began.
Historically speaking, they were there at the founding of the empire, which meant that the family was already in existence even before they joined hands with the first emperor.
That was the explanation Su-hyeun heard after arriving in the Rawlsman residence.
“Your family is pretty amazing, then.”
“Isn’t your reply a little too soulless?”
Roy, who was doing his best to explain his family’s history until then, shook his head while looking like a deflated balloon.
Su-hyeun lightly lifted the boy off his lap and replied, “You know better than anyone whether I have a soul or not, don’t you? Take a good look now. See how much soul my words contain.”
“I can’t see a single one.”
“Really? I think your ability to see dead people has developed a problem or something.”
“No, that’s not… Hold on, how can words have souls, anyway? Also, my ability is functioning properly. Even now, behind you there are…”
“I told you to not say anything spooky, didn’t I?”
“But, they are really there…”
Roy kept glancing at the s.p.a.ce behind Su-hyeun and thought to himself. It wasn’t the first time the boy did that, though, so Su-hyeun simply shrugged his shoulders in acceptance.
It did feel a bit spooky every time he heard of such things, but he was more or less used to it by now.
I mean, I fight monsters for a living, so ghosts aren’t that much, really.
It was rather ironic that, while he didn’t fear the undead that gained physical bodies after their death, he was spooked by the ghosts that had no means to influence the material world.
Moreover, judging from Roy’s reactions until now, ghosts were common existences that could be found pretty much everywhere.
Someone suddenly lightly knocked on the door to the reception room where Su-hyeun and Roy were in.
“Dear sirs, the party is ready.”
“Thanks, we’ll be on our way.”
Su-hyeun replied and stood up, but Roy remained in the same spot, unmoving. The boy even had a puzzled expression.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you coming?”
“I was thinking that having a party is going a little overboard.”
“Well, this is the capital city, you know. If it was among my family, I can understand that, but to hold a party where other n.o.bles of the capital are attending just because I’m home, it’s all too…”
“Doesn’t that say how happy they are?”
“It’s nothing much to celebrate about, after all. It makes more sense to keep it as a secret rather than boast about it to everyone, don’t you think so? Also, my mother hates going to parties.”
After listening to Roy, Su-hyeun stared with a somewhat surprised gaze at the boy.
He already thought that the kid spoke like an old man, which didn’t match his current age, and now, it became even harder to believe that the depth of his thoughts or the way he looked at things belonged to a young kid who was only 10 years old.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Nah, it’s nothing.” Su-hyeun shook his head at Roy’s question and replied. “Let’s go. The occasion is meant for you, after all.’
He lightly patted Roy on the shoulder and opened the door to step outside. After confirming that the boy was following him, Su-hyeun’s eyes s.h.i.+fted back to the lengthy corridor, his glare getting sharper.
* * *
A wide hall filled with soft music.
The first floor of the ma.s.sive mansion located in the center of the capital had been transformed into a party venue.
Many n.o.bles, who exuded extravagance and elegance, came to visit and shared small talks, and the main hostess of the party, Reina, welcomed them warmly.
Among them, Su-hyeun’s appearance stood out like a sore thumb.
“Are you sure you don’t need to change?” Roy asked him.
“I actually prefer this getup.”
“Still, this is a party, you know.”
Su-hyeun was still wearing his usual attire.
His rather discreet set of armor was far closer in appearance to that of a mercenary’s compared with the heavy plate armor worn by the knights.
That’s why he stood out so much. Well, a mercenary wouldn’t be able to attend a n.o.ble’s party, after all.
“Who is he?”
“Is he a mercenary?”
“I heard that someone brought home the scion of the Rawlsman family, so it must be him.”
“Is he a wandering swordsman? Perhaps a mercenary?”
“His looks are pa.s.sable, but his lack of elegance is…”
Whispers about Su-hyeun could be heard.
He thought he wouldn’t hear them, but he could hear everything just fine. Some of the attendees seemed to lack tact as they didn’t even bother to lower their voices while voicing their opinions.
n.o.bles are the same no matter where I go, it seems.
Su-hyeun chuckled to himself.
He had seen many worlds by now, and these creatures called “n.o.bles” seem to exist pretty much everywhere. Even back on Earth, there were plenty of people with wealth and power who acted as if they were bona fide n.o.bles.
Funnily enough, their characteristics were generally similar.
They belittled, mocked, and disparaged those who were worse off than they were. Their standards of judging the worthlessness of others were usually based around on how there were differences in their bloodlines or the lack of power the other party possessed.
Because of things like those, these people were not that different and, therefore, familiar in every regard.
Su-hyeun ignored them all and approached a man in his mid-30s resembling Roy very closely currently standing at the center of the party venue.
The man greeted Su-hyeun first. “Ah, you’re here.”
They had already met each other briefly earlier. This man was Roy’s father, and his name was Herrels Rawlsman.
“So, do you like the party? Reina hastily organized it, saying that it’s for our benefactor.”
“I don’t really enjoy occasions like this, unfortunately. I was planning to get something to eat and retreat for the day as soon as possible.”
“I appreciate your honesty!” Herrels guffawed before leaning closer to whisper to him. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we make our escape later on and knock a few cold ones together?”
“That sounds good.”
Su-hyeun grabbed and shook Herrels’ offered hand.
Thankfully, it seemed that Herrels had a good first impression of Su-hyeun. He didn’t have any prejudices about Su-hyeun not being a n.o.ble and had a rather easy-going personality as well.
Other than their similar looks, his personality was the polar opposite of that of his own son, Roy.
“But from what I heard, you also don’t enjoy partic.i.p.ating in parties, Lord Herrels.”
“Did Roy tell you that?”
“Well, yes… It’s true that I don’t really enjoy them. No, honestly, I detest them. They’re noisy, bothersome, and I don’t enjoy chatting to strangers, you see.”
“We’re pretty similar in that regard.”
“But then again, my wife nagged me endlessly about it, so here we are. She said that a day like today deserves a good party filled with guests. I’m not really sure what could be so deserving of a party, but…”
“Your wife was the one who wanted to hold this party?”
“That is indeed so. She normally abhors parties even more than I do, so I wonder what has gotten into her.”
That was what Roy had said as well.
He said that Reina didn’t like parties. He also said a party didn’t really suit an event of this nature.
“I see. As I thought,” Su-hyeun spoke.
“Pardon me? What do you mean by as you thought?”
Herrels, who was about to press the rim of the wine gla.s.s to his lips, abruptly paused and began tilting his head at Su-hyeun’s words.
Meanwhile, Su-hyeun’s gaze was locked on Reina who was busy chatting to ladies from other n.o.ble households. It was right at that moment her gaze s.h.i.+fted over toward him, and their eyes met.
Su-hyeun spoke again, “Has your wife’s condition been strange lately?”
Herrels heard him and looked over to Reina.
He could see his wife staring at Su-hyeun with an emotionless face. That kind face was ill-suited for a party of this nature.
“Such as trying to distance herself during bedtime or sometimes disappearing out of sight for a while,” Su-hyeun continued on.
“What… could you be talking about?”
“Please, I want you to take a closer around you.”
At Su-hyeun’s words, Herrels began to carefully scan his surroundings.
One by one, expressions disappeared from the attendees’ faces. And then, some n.o.bles who were previously chatting among themselves began making awkward faces next.
The atmosphere of the party venue, which was filled with chatter and noise until a second ago, had transformed.
“Don’t you find it strange?”
“Just what… are you trying to say?”
“I’m relieved, actually.”
Su-hyeun’s hand rose.
Su-hyeun’s fist flew past Herrels’ head and punched away a knight standing behind the n.o.bleman.
“Relieved that you’re still alive.”
“W—what is the meaning of…?”
Screams suddenly reverberated throughout the party venue.
Attendees began attacking each other, biting with their teeth or hitting with the weapons they held in their persons. It was the same story for the knights behind Herrels.
Another knight rushed in, and Su-hyeun’s fist knocked this one back as well.
He then picked Roy up and placed the boy on his shoulders. Herrels seemed unable to understand what was going on and stiffly stood there with a worried and confused expression on his face.
“J—just what is happening?” he asked.
He must have thought that Su-hyeun knew something judging from the calm expression on the latter’s face because he asked that while grabbing the younger man’s arm.
“When I entered the capital, I noticed that most of the people here were already dead,” Su-hyeun replied while punching away the guests who were trying to rush at them.
“T—they are… already d—dead?!”
“Most of the ones moving in here, they are all already dead. Their bodies are merely sh.e.l.ls, and there’s a bug residing inside them right now.”
“It’s a parasite that lives in the human brain that stopped functioning after death. It absorbs the memories and thought patterns of the host when they were still alive and live for about one month or so inside the brain.”
Su-hyeun stopped talking there and swept his gaze across the attendees staggering about all around him.
“There’s a catch. The parasite needs to enter the dead host’s body in the short window of time before the brain stops functioning. Or the bug needs to enter the head of the victim before death occurs in the first place.”
Herrels’ eyebrows shot up the moment he heard all of Su-hyeun’s explanations. His disbelieving eyes sought out his wife Reina, who, with a frenzied look on her face, was also attacking other party-goers.
“I told you, didn’t I? She’s already dead.”
“Pure nonsense! She’s still alive as you can…”
Su-hyeun’s foot stomped on the floor.
The floor split apart in a circle with Su-hyeun, Roy, and Herrels at the center. All the attendees pouncing on the three staggered about clumsily.
Among them was Reina, whose sclera alone can be clearly seen.
“Please take another good look,” said Su-hyeun as he directed his gaze at Reina. “Does she really look fine to you?”
“What happened to her is truly unfortunate. However, now… you should be looking after Roy.”
Herrels bit his lower lip hard at Su-hyeun’s words. The pain was severe enough to draw blood, but he felt that his sanity wouldn’t return without going this far.
He then s.h.i.+fted his gaze between Reina and Roy.
That boy—he wouldn’t even blink at any odd situations, but he couldn’t maintain his calm right now and had this utterly shocked expression frozen on his face.
Herrels clenched his fists so tightly that his fingernails dug deep into his flesh and drew fresh blood. The pain from both his lip and hand helped his head regain its clarity just a little.
“Have you calmed down?” Su-hyeun asked.
“…Yes, I have. I thank you.”
“Then please look after Roy for a little while.”
Su-hyeun lowered Roy, and Herrels immediately picked up his son in an embrace. “What are you going to do?” Herrels asked.
“I shall create a path.”
Magical power rolled in Su-hyeun’s voice, which reverberated throughout the party venue. He was making sure that the people who were not afflicted with the parasites could hear him.
“So, all of you need to ensure your own survival. This is all I can do for you.”
At the same time, the eye on his forehead opened up.