Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Backlund’s East Borough, at an intersection.
Mike Joseph saw a number of pitiful-looking children in rags along the street. He wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and planned to head over to give them some pennies.
However, his action was stopped by the former tramp, Old Kohler.
“Thieves? What about their parents? Or are they controlled by the gangs?” As a senior journalist, Mike had never been to the East Borough, but he had heard of instances of a few gangs controlling street children to steal and beg.
“Parents? They either don’t have parents, or their parents were once thieves or might still be thieves. Of course, Mr. Reporter, you’re right, many of them are under the control of gangs, and it’s said that the gangs will teach them how to steal. For example, they will hang a gentleman’s coat on a wall, put a handkerchief in the pocket, and hang a pocket watch on the outside, and through repeated practice, the children will attempt to steal the handkerchief without shaking the pocket watch. Heh, this is what I heard from others while at the workhouse when I was homeless.” Old Kohler babbled on, “I remember the youngest thief ever caught on this street was only six years old. Sigh, six years old…”
He seemed to recall his child who was lost to a disease and couldn’t help but take out a cigarette from his pocket. He couldn’t bring himself to smoke it, so all he did was take a sniff.
“Six years old…” Mike was stunned by this number.
Klein quietly listened and sighed.
“This is East Borough.”
He looked around, composed himself, and said, “This place is closer to the jungle than to human society.
“Our interview has to be treated as an adventure. You have to learn how to avoid the territory of dangerous creatures, but you must also avoid those little things that don’t seem to be too harmful to you. Well, I’m talking about mosquitoes in the jungle.
“Mike, if you expose the thickness of your wallet to those kids, then even if you protect it well and don’t let them steal it, robbery is a destined outcome during the rest of the adventure. If you dare to resist, then perhaps there will be one more body floating in the Tussock River tomorrow morning.”
“Mr. Detective, you’re absolutely right! There are so many people in East Borough. No one pays notice to the few missing people every day,” Old Kohler agreed.
Mike listened intently for a few seconds, and after a few seconds of silence, he suddenly said, “1.35 million.”
“Huh?” Because of his cold, Klein’s throat was obviously a little hoarse.
Mike stepped forward and said, “This is a preliminary estimate of the population count of East Borough.
“But I know that there’s definitely more than that.”
“That many?” Old Kohler was startled.
Although he had experienced the days and nights in East Borough and knew that there were a lot of residents here, he didn’t expect there to be this many.
This is several times the population of Tingen City… Klein subconsciously compared it with the place that was most familiar to him.
He looked at the intersection a few steps away and asked, “Which way should we go next?”
Old Kohler looked up and said, “Definitely not straight. That area is under the control of the Zmanger gang. They’re very vicious and completely unreasonable. If they discover any reporters doing interviews, then they’ll definitely beat us up!”
The Zmanger gang? Isn’t that the “brainless” gang that caused me to lose 10,000 pounds? He was some kind of executioner. Hmm, I don’t even remember his name… Fortunately, the 10,000 pounds was eventually exchanged for the Seer’s corresponding Sequence 7, 6, and 5 potion formulas and the All-Black Eye, as well as the Intis Ambassador’s life… I wonder who ended up obtaining the manuscript of the third-generation difference engine… Klein instantly recalled what had happened early last month.
“Zmanger gang? The gang that is mainly composed of highlanders?” Mike asked thoughtfully.
“Mr. Reporter, have you heard of them?” Old Kohler asked in surprise.
“They’re involved in a lot of cases, and they have some reputation outside East Borough as well. It’s said that one of the members was involved in a case of Intis espionage.”
… The person next to you was the person in question, the person who made the report, and also the victim… Klein silently added.
“If you gentlemen know about the Zmanger gang, then why doesn’t the police arrest them?” Old Kohler asked from his viewpoint, of someone at the bottom of society.
Mike’s expression suddenly turned a little awkward, and he coughed twice.
“We can only capture those who have committed crimes. There is no evidence for the rest, so we can’t arrest them. Moreover, East Borough is so broad, and there are so many people. It would be hard to find anyone who is bent on hiding.”
As he spoke, he sighed.
“It’s easy to destroy one Zmanger gang, but as long as a highlander comes to Backlund, and if they keep up their strong tradition of being combative while failing to find any other means of earning a living, it’s only a matter of time before a new Zmanger gang appears.”
This is a complex social issue… Klein pointed to the left and right.
Old Kohler looked at the right side of the street.
“That’s where the Proscrito gang is active. As long as we don’t provoke the girls who do business on the streets or in the bars, they won’t notice us. Heh heh, it’s still morning, so there shouldn’t be any problems. They’re still sleeping.”
The word “Proscrito” meant “outlaw” in the Loen language, so it could be said that the gang who gave itself such a name was pretty self-aware.
Klein and Mike had no objection to this, and with the guide leading the way, they entered the district.
The buildings here were relatively better. The streets were less squalid, and the air was filled with the smells of oyster soup, fried fish, ginger beer, and the smell of various food and beverages left behind by street vendors, as well as the fishy smell of fish-related products.
While walking here, Klein felt an inexplicable sense of familiarity. It was as if he had returned to Tingen City, to Iron Cross Street, and to the street outside the apartment where he had originally lived in.
The only difference was that Backlund was closer to the sea and had more traffic. There was a lot more fish.
“This is a relatively good apartment in this area. Back when I loitered around here, I discovered that the gentlemen and ladies inside are all, hmm—quite clean.” Old Kohler pointed to a pale yellow three-story building.
As they got closer, they noticed a sign hanging in front of the apartment. It had a picture of a pocket watch, a clock, and a screwdriver, with the words “Watch Repair.”
“A watch craftsman lives here?” Klein dug up a similar scene from the memory fragments of the original Klein.
Back then, Benson, Melissa, and himself had gone to somewhere similar to repair the silver pocket watch which his father had left behind, but despite repairing it several times, it would quickly break. This continued until Melissa fiddled with it and ultimately fully repaired it. It became the most decent thing on Klein’s person during that period of time.
After Klein’s “death”, the pocket watch, which had both monetary and sentimental value, was not buried with him.
It should now belong to Benson, right? I wonder if he will think of me every time he takes out that pocket watch… Klein suddenly blinked and curled the corner of his lips.
“Probably.” Mike wasn’t sure.
If anything went wrong with his pocket watch, it was usually sent to the original watch store he bought it from. The store would then send it to a repairman or to a craftsman who had partnered with them.
As soon as they entered the apartment, they saw a middle-aged man with a messy beard.
The gentleman had just come out of the bathroom and was about to return to his room. When he saw the three strangers come in, he hurriedly asked, “Do you want to repair something?”
What a coincidence… We actually met the craftsman immediately… Klein was slightly puzzled.
Mike took out his pocket watch, smiled, and said, “Yes, my pocket watch has recently not been keeping time well. Can you help me take a look?”
He didn’t reveal his identity and planned to interview him over some casual chit chat.
The middle-aged man immediately revealed a smile and led them into a two-bedroom apartment which had its door half concealed. He pointed at a chair beside the table and said, “Please wait a moment. I’ll go get my tools.”
“Your tools are not at home?” Mike asked in surprise.
The watch craftsman shook his head and laughed.
“How is that possible?
“A set of tools is very expensive. There’s no way I can buy them on my own. The only way is to pool everyone’s money together to buy three or four sets, and whoever has business will use them. So, we moved in together. Heh heh, it’s more convenient this way. If we live too far away, we will have to spend extra time and pay for the public carriage to borrow the tools.
As he spoke, he left the room and walked to the side.
So it isn’t a coincidence that we met a watch craftsman. Many of the residents here are of this profession… Klein was suddenly enlightened.
Old Kohler looked around the room and enviously said, “Before I fell ill, I lived in such a place as well. My wife would help others sew clothes at home. And my two children, my two children…”
Mike sighed and lowered his voice.
“I thought watch craftsmen were rich.”
“Me too…” Klein covered his mouth.
After a cordial exchange with several of the apartment’s residents, Klein and the others once again embarked on their adventure.
They had walked about a hundred meters when they heard people quarreling along the street.
The two women were using all sorts of obscenities against each other, allowing Klein to learn many words he had never heard before.
The reason for their argument was that the one on the left accused the woman on the right for making the apartment they lived in dirty and noisy. The woman on the right was scolding the woman on the left, thinking that it had nothing to do with her. After all, no one asked her to recruit guests at night and sleep during the day.
“Is that a laundry maid?” Mike asked, frowning slightly.
“Yes, I know her. She’s a widow, helping people wash their clothes with her two daughters,” Old Kohler answered certainly.
Mike thought for a few seconds and said, “Take me to their place.”
Old Kohler nodded and led the two of them around the argument before they entered the dilapidated apartment building that was obviously inferior to the one they had just seen.
As soon as he arrived outside the laundry maid’s room, Klein immediately felt the dampness.
In the room hung dresses that were not dried yet. A seventeen or eighteen-year-old girl was squatting in front of a large basin, scrubbing clothes that were covered in bubbles. A girl, that was younger than her, was holding a hot iron wrapped in wet linen cloth. She was carefully ironing the clothes that were done washing and drying. Her careful actions implied that she had been scalded by the steam several times.
This was both their workplace and the place where they slept at night. Wet moisture permeated the room and seeped into their bodies.
In addition, the stench of all kinds of smells was very distinct.
“Doesn’t it feel terrible?” Mike pinched his nose.
Klein replied in a muffled voice, “I’ve got a cold.”
There was no humor in his words.
Mike released his fingers, walked into the room, and said to the two surprised girls, “I’m a reporter. I would like to interview a laundry maid.”
The girl who was scrubbing the clothes shook her head numbly and said, “We have a lot of things to do and cannot afford to waste time.”
Mike’s request for an interview was rejected.
He came out with a heavy expression and silently walked back across the street.
After taking a look, he pursed his lips and said, “Let’s continue.”
City of Silver. After a thorough examination of Derrick Berg, who had experienced hallucinations both visually and auditory, he was brought to the bottom of the spire.
This place took in residents who showed signs of losing control, and various methods were used to save them.
Walking in the gloomy and creepy corridor, he suddenly felt a strange chill.
A sharp shrill voice suddenly sounded from a sealed room.
The voice came to a sudden halt, and then there was silence.