Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Finally, the elderly man, with gray hair by his temples, took a sip of tea and sighed with a smile.
“In truth, this is already much better than my previous situation, and it’s much better than many of the people here. For instance…”
He pointed out the window to the tramps huddled in a corner.
Klein and Mike looked over and saw a group of cowering tramps lying on the ground in a filthy place that provided shelter from the wind. They were of all sexes and ages.
It was possible for them to never wake up again in the coldness of late autumn.
It was then that Klein noticed an old woman in her sixties standing by the street. Her dress was old and worn, but she was relatively neat, and her hair was neatly trimmed.
The white-haired old lady had the usual tired look of a tramp, but she still persisted in not squeezing together with the group. Instead, she slowly walked by the roadside, occasionally gazing into the coffee shop numbly.
“She’s also a pitiful person.” The former tramp who had eaten the leftover black bread also noticed the old lady and sighed, “She was said to have led quite a good life in the past. Her husband was a grain merchant and had a very spirited child, but unfortunately, he went bankrupt and her husband and child died not long after. She’s different from us, really, and you can tell at a glance… Sigh, she won’t be able to hold on much longer, unless she’s lucky to be admitted into the workhouse every time.”
As he listened, Mike’s expression changed from quiet to somber. He slowly let out a sigh and said, “I want to interview her. Can you invite her for me? She can eat and drink whatever she wants here.”
The man wasn’t surprised by this request. He merely looked at Klein and Mike separately, as if to say: “the both of you are indeed colleagues.”
“Yes, I’m sure she would like that.” He drank his tea, got up, and walked out of the greasy coffee shop.
Not long after, the elderly woman in her old but tidy dress followed him in. Her pale face slightly lightened thanks to the warmth of the coffee shop.
She continued to tremble, as if she wanted to release the coldness in her body, bit by bit, and absorb the relatively high temperature within the coffee shop. Even after she sat down on the chair, it still took her a full minute before she could truly warm up.
“You can order whatever you want. This is the reward for accepting this interview,” Klein spoke on Mike’s behalf.
After Mike nodded, the old lady modestly ordered toast, low-quality cream, and coffee. Then she smiled and said, “I heard that one cannot eat greasy food after not having eaten in a while.”
Very polite, very self-restrained, not like a tramp at all… Klein sighed silently.
Before the food arrived, Mike asked casually, “Can you talk about how you became a tramp?”
The old lady revealed a look of reminiscence and said with a bitter smile, “My husband was a grain merchant who mainly bought all kinds of grain from domestic farmers, but we rapidly went bankrupt ever since the Grain Act was repealed.
“He wasn’t very young to begin with. After suffering that setback, his body quickly collapsed. Not long after, he passed away.
“My child, a brilliant young man, had been learning the ropes of doing business from his father. He couldn’t suffer the blow, and he ended up jumping into the Tussock River on a moonless night.
“His first suicide didn’t work. He was sent to the magistrate’s court, and the police and judges were very impatient, feeling that he was wasting their time.
“If you want to commit suicide, please do so quietly and successfully. Don’t trouble us… Yes, that was probably what they wanted to say, but they found it too direct.
“My child was put in prison. Not long after, he committed suicide for the second time and succeeded.”
The old lady spoke very calmly, as though it wasn’t something that had happened to her.
But for some reason, Klein felt a deep sense of sorrow.
Nothing is more lamentable than a dead heart… He suddenly recalled the saying he had heard in his previous life.
In this world, suicide was not only prohibited by the Churches, but it was a punishable crime.
As for the reason, Klein knew very well why. First of all, many suicides were committed by jumping into a river, and without being discovered in time, there was a certain probability of them turning into a water ghost. Second, the suicider often had very abnormal emotions. Thus, under such states, ending their lives was equivalent to a sacrificial offering which could resonate with particular strange and terrifying existences.
Thus, their corpses and certain objects that were around after them after their deaths would carry strange curses that harmed others.
This was probably where the Misfortune Cloth Puppet behind Tingen City’s Chanis Gate came from.
Therefore, the seven Orthodox Churches forbade their believers from committing suicide through their own doctrine, and the royal family also promoted the corresponding legislation.
Of course, this seemed ridiculous to Klein. How could a suicider be afraid of punishment by the law?
While Mike was taking notes, he was about to say something when the owner of the coffee shop brought the food over.
“Fill your stomach first, we’ll talk later.” Mike pointed to the toast.
“Alright.” The old lady ate the food in small bites, appearing very cultured.
Having not ordered much, she quickly finished her meal.
After reluctantly drinking the last mouthful of coffee, she rubbed her temples and pleaded, “Can I get some sleep first? It’s too cold outside.”
“No problem,” Mike answered without hesitation.
The old lady thanked him gratefully a few times before she sat down on the chair and curled up into a ball as she fell asleep.
Mike looked at the man beside him and said, “You seem to be very familiar with this place. I wish to hire you as our guide. How’s three soli for the day? I’m sorry, I forgot to ask for your name.”
The man quickly shook his head and said, “No, no, that is too much. I only earn one soli a day most of the time at the dock.
“Just call me Old Kohler.
“Then, two soli a day. You deserve it,” Mike decided firmly.
After witnessing this strange bargaining, Klein blew into a piece of tissue and was about to drink another cup of coffee, when he suddenly sensed that something was wrong. He turned to look at the old lady who was curled up, asleep on the chair.
Her face, which had turned ruddy due to the coffee, was pale again. The colors of her aura and moods had vanished.
“…” Klein stood up and subconsciously extended his hand to check the old lady’s breathing.
As Mike and Kohler looked at him in surprise, he said heavily, “She’s dead.”
Mike opened his mouth, but no words came out. Kohler tapped his chest thrice and said with a bitter smile, “I knew she wouldn’t be able to hold on for long…
“Such things happen every day in East Borough.
“At least she filled her stomach and died in a warm place. I hope—heh heh, I hope it will be the same for me in the future.”
Klein was silent for a moment before he said, “Kohler, go and get the police.”
“Alright.” Kohler tapped his chest thrice once more and ran out of the coffee shop.
The boss glanced over but didn’t come over. It was as though it wasn’t something he needed to concern himself with.
After a while, a policeman in a black-and-white checkered uniform, carrying a baton and revolver, entered the coffee shop.
He looked at the dead old lady, asked Mike and Klein a few questions, then he waved his hand and said, “That’s all there is to this. The three of you can leave after I get someone to collect the corpse.”
“That’s it?” Mike blurted out in surprise.
He was obviously not very familiar with East Borough.
The policeman sneered.
“Such incidents happen in large numbers every day in East Borough!”
He rolled his eyes and looked at Klein and Mike.
“You don’t look like people from around here. Who are you? What’s your identity?”
Mike produced his press identification, and Klein said that he was a private detective responsible for protecting him.
The policeman’s face turned serious as he looked at Klein and said, “I suspect that you’re carrying a gun illegally!
“I want to search your belongings. Please cooperate with me; otherwise, it will be considered a case of resisting arrest!”
Mike was suddenly worried because he knew that private detectives were usually unlawfully possessing firearms.
Klein expressionlessly spread out his hands.
He let the policeman search him, but nothing was found on him.
After the old lady’s corpse was taken away, the disappointed policeman left. Mike clenched his fist and pounded on the table.
“A living person just died here; yet, all he cares about is investigating the unlawful possession of firearms!?”
Upon saying this, Mike looked at Klein and asked, puzzled, “You didn’t bring a gun?”
Klein shook his head, pulled out his holster and revolver from under the table, and said calmly, “As a detective, I have a lot of experience in this area.”
As a Magician, he could place the revolver right in front of someone and make it impossible for the person to notice it.
Moreover, since he didn’t buy any ordinary bullets, the Beyonder bullets were temporarily left above the gray fog. His revolver was currently empty, but this didn’t stop him from shooting with his revolver. All he needed to do was to use his mouth to emulate a “bang” when he pulled the trigger.
Upon seeing this, Old Kohler whispered from the side, “So you’re a detective.”
Klein pointed at Mike and casually explained, “I was also entrusted with a mission by this gentleman the last time as well.”
Mike sat there without refuting. After a moment of silence, he said, “Although I’ve investigated the gangs and witnessed the miserable life of some prostitutes, I’m not familiar with the situation in East Borough. Please help me open my eyes to this place, allowing me to see if there are any problems with this investigation plan.”
As he spoke, he took a few sheets of paper from the inside pocket of his clothes and spread them out on the coffee shop table.
Klein glanced at him.
“Interviews with East Borough residents of different ages?
“That’s too troublesome, I think we can divide it according to location. In better apartments, five or six people squeeze into a one-room apartment. Others stay in the corner of a street that’s sheltered from the wind, park benches, bars, and workhouses.
“In addition, they can be segregated by what time they begin work, and when their rest times are.”
Mike listened carefully and nodded.
“Not a bad idea. What do you think, Kohler?”
Old Kohler pinched his nose and said, “I can’t read… but I think whatever Mr. Detective said seems alright.”
Mike thought about it, changed his plan, and said, “Then let’s go to a nearby apartment and make a random selection.”