PDM Chapter 55
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At the moment when the old doorknob rattled, a shout ran through the hallway.
“What are you doing!”
I patted Rafnel’s trembling back, comforting her, and looked at the door.
“Did you forget the rule of not going anywhere except where you were assigned? Huh?”
“I-I was just passing by. I’m sorry, Manager.”
Shrill voices begged for forgiveness. Manager? So it was the suspicious person who guided Takan.
“P-please, to the Leader…”
The woman’s voice, full of tension and fear, subsided, and I heard the Manager click his tongue.
I heard them run away as the Manager shouted.
“Anyway, they brought a little money.”*
The murmur ceased, and the sound of the footsteps faded. I let go of Rafnel’s hand when I heard a soft knock at the door.
Rafnel took a rough breath and grabbed my hand, but I patted it to reassure her and headed for the door. A creaking, hinged sound rang as the door opened, and light permeated the darkened space.
“What are you doing? You should have gone already.” The Manager, lit behind by the hallway light, stood intimidatingly in front of the door. “Sir Carje is waiting for you. Hurry.”
The Manager seemed nervous. Was he in cahoots with Carje?
I gripped the lantern tighter when the thought crossed my mind.
I didn’t have evidence to reveal Carje’s true nature to the people at the inn, and I wasn’t even sure they’d trust me. So it would be safer to join Takan and get out of here and for the Duke’s troops to rush in and subdue them.
I didn’t expect the time would come that I’d want Kyle to track me down even though I ran away. It was absurd.
But if that happened, I’d be able to know about my brother’s state and keep that woman safe. I turned to look at Rafnel as she remained rooted to her spot.
“Huh? Rafnel!” The Manager narrowed his eyes when he found Rafnel hiding in the dark. Soon, he turned to me, who had been in the same room with her for quite a long time. “What did you do here?”
Suspicious eyes alternated between Rafnel and me.
“It’s a pretty long story, but I’ll tell you if it’s okay to keep Sir Carje waiting.”
The Manager groaned as he got rid of the knot on his neck. I turned the robe hood over to reveal my face.
The Manager started at my face for a moment, raised his brows and mumbled to himself, “It’s not that d*mn girl.”
Then he turned around, waving his hand. “Follow me!”
I was about to leave the room and close the door, but the Manager noticed and snapped his finger.
“Hey, why are you closing the door when someone is inside?” The Manager knocked on the door, narrowing his eyes at me.
I thought it would be easier to keep Rafnel in the room. When I opened the door again, Rafnel fumbled into the air for a while then came out into the hallway.
“That kind of thing is my subordinate*,” the Manager mumbled before begrudgingly going downstairs. I placed the lantern on the wall mount and turned to Rafnel, hoping she would continue to stay quiet.
My heart just about stopped when I heard her speak. I was terrified the Manager might have heard it, too. Fortunately, he continued making his way downstairs as if he hadn’t heard anything.
I hesitated because I was worried about leaving Rafnel but soon followed the Manager. For me, it was more urgent to check if Takan was alive or not. If we escaped this place, the knights of the duchy would come in and attack Carje of atrocities, and things would be resolved.
I hurriedly closed the distance with the manager. I glanced at the restaurant as I passed the first floor, but strangely, unlike before, it was deserted.
“Follow me,” the Manager beckoned to the dark basement. So there was one floor left. The Manager’s lantern illuminated the darkness that engulfed the stairs.
I held onto the handrail as I followed the Manager downstairs. Soon, a long and narrow corridor appeared. I stopped briefly, feeling a chill down my back, then moved.
After a while, the Manager stopped and took a key ring from his pocket. He picked one from the pile as it rattled against each other.
As the Manager struggled, the door suddenly opened. Behind the slowly opening door was a smirking Carje.
The Manager hid his pile of keys and lightly bowed. “Mr. Carje.”
After some time, his eyes widened, startled by my bare face. Then, he looked at me intently with his lustful eyes before closing his eyes.
Carje stepped aside and cleared the way, but I didn’t have the courage to enter immediately.
As I took a deep breath, a large, clunky hand mercilessly pushed my back.
My eyes widened as I looked around the place. Like a navigator’s office, forest maps were strewn on the wall. It wasn’t just the walls. They were on the ceiling, tabletop, chairs and couches, even the floor.
A deer’s head was attached to the front, but when I met its shiny golden eyes, my mood dampened. For a moment, Carje and Father’s looks overlapped, but I tried to shake off those thoughts.
Below it, two men of the same physique as the Manager stood with their hands behind their backs like trained, loyal dogs.
My mouth remained agape as I took in the scene, and Carje coughed and covered his mouth with his fist, a chain golden bracelet shining on his wrist.
“Oh my, you’re surprised,” he looked impatient that he couldn’t show off that it took a lot of effort to find the hourglass. “I have been following the whereabouts of the hourglass here for a long time.”
Then, for a long time, he preached the existence of the hourglass by touching the walls, floors, and furniture with his hands. Carje narrowed his eyes as he explained, as if he had really put in an effort. But, even if he really did, the result didn’t change.
Suddenly, there was a knock, the door closed, and the Manager disappeared.
“Please sit down.” Carje sat in front of the table and invited me to sit on the other side.
Questions about Takan’s whereabouts bubbled in my throat, but I swallowed them. I couldn’t afford to show them my impatience.
“Have you heard from Rafnel?” Carje asked as he caressed his chin, his lustful eyes gleaming.
Soon, I realized what his question meant and nodded.
“If you have heard the principles and rules, the story will be quick. Only by accumulating virtues will you be qualified to leave the trainee position and go to the forest. If you ask if you can go to the forest just because you’re qualified, you can’t.”
“What?” I slammed the table with my fists.
Carje placed a finger over his mouth and shushed me, and the act reminded me of an adult comforting a child.
“I came just for that.”
“Yes, I know. How desperate you are. Even the people here were angry at first.”
“So what?” I snapped back with a curt remark.
“Since Quetray does not allow it, I, his messenger, can’t allow it either.”
Carje rubbed his chest in remorse. It was a pathetic performance that a stranger would have instantly realized it was acting when they saw it. I caught the sight of his frowning lips slowly rising.
“So I ask,” Carje said, opening his eyes to look at me. The gloomy atmosphere disappeared instantly. “What kind of life did you lead before you came here?”
“What does that have to do with the forest?”
Carje shrugged. “I don’t mean to pry, but it’s up to me to understand everyone’s feelings as long as they’re at the inn.”
Was it for insurance? Or to gauge if they could handle me?
No, it was probably both. Even if the power and money blinded them, they must know that regardless of status, it’s a risk for someone to enter the inn. What’s more, a rare person came with a precious thing.
Carje’s ravenous eyes fell into the pocket of my trousers where my necklace had come from. After a while, he put on a kind mask and asked softly, “Why did you come to this place?”
“Do I have to tell you?” The words came out sharper than I expected.
Carje frowned, but soon, his smiling mark returned.
“But in this place–”
“Where is the man who came with me?”
Enough with the introductions.
*Not 100% sure about the translations
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