Chapter 1. The fiancé is back
Where we followed the big man was a complicated alley.
It was like a maze of buildings that looked alike and mixed up in an unordered way.
After walking for a while, the big man stopped in front of a door that looked exactly like the one I had seen so far.
“Give me that parasol.”
The big man asked me.
Not knowing what to do, I looked at Kalian. He nodded as if telling me to do what he said.
I handed the parasol to the big man.
When the big man knocked, the small side door opened and a skinny hand popped out. It was so skinny that I could see the bones.
I was startled and clung to Kalian.
Then Kalian comforted my arm as if telling me not to worry about anything.
He pulled out a black invitation card from his inner chest pocket and handed it to the skinny hand.
The skinny hand grabbed the invitation and disappeared inside.
Shortly after, the side door closed and the big door opened.
“Let’s go in.”
I wanted to ask where we were going, but I couldn’t ask because the big man was staring hard at me, so I went inside without asking.
The inside of the building was dark and narrow. Candles were hanging on the wall.
Kalian put the hood he wore on my head.
“No matter what, don’t take it off.”
I carefully grabbed his hood over my head.
Perhaps because he’s wearing it all the time, the hood smelled like him.
Strangely, his smell calmed my mind.
In front of us, there’s a narrow corridor that only one person could pass through.
After walking there for a while, Kalian and I went down the stairs.
At the end of the stairs, there’s a wooden door that looked rather old.
Kalian knocked on the wooden door with a certain rule.
Then there’s a sound of a lock being opened from the inside, and the door opened with a squeaking and loud noise.
Behind the wooden door was a completely different world.
“Take a look at it at once!”
“You’ll never see something like this again!”
With the merchants selling all kinds of rare items on the stalls.
“How much is this?”
“That’s too expensive. Please give me a discount.”
The underground square was crowded with people who came to buy things or onlookers.
It looked like a market on the surface, but it didn’t seem to be an ordinary market.
If it’s an ordinary market, it wouldn’t have been held in the underground square, and there would be no need for an invitation.
And also, the big men wouldn’t have to be wary of Kalian by raising such blades like that.
“Where are we?”
When I asked a question out of curiosity, Kalian answered while looking through the underground square.
“Yes? Black market?”
Oh, my God. A black market?
When I was surprised by the unexpected answer, Kalian turned to me.
“Why are you so surprised? Is it your first time coming to a black market… Ah, it’s your first time going to one.”
Kalian nodded as if he had realized it too late.
“Because a good person like you will never come to a black market.”
“Does that mean Your Majesty is not a good person?”
I was just asking jokingly.
And hearing him say yes made me a little perplexed.
“I’m sorry. You came all the way here because of me.”
I was a little surprised by the word black market, but that’s all.
It’s not like I didn’t like coming here or had the thought of coming here.
I was rather curious. Because it’s my first time coming to a black market in my life.
“If that’s the case, I’m relieved.”
Kalian looked around again and grabbed my hand as if he had found what he was looking for.
It was not the first time I held hands with him, but strangely, I was excited.
Is it because I heard the word ‘honey’ from him?
It seemed that the aftermath of the acting earlier was still there.
I followed him, staring at the hand he held.
Like a black market, they sold many rare items that couldn’t be found in general stores, such as fairy wings and mermaid scales.
But Kalian continued to go inside without giving a single glance to those things.
Following him, I saw a group of young children who didn’t fit in with the black market.
Why are the children here?
Curious, I continued to look at the children, then stopped when I saw their hands and feet were handcuffed.
Don’t tell me… those children are slaves?
“What’s wrong, Leila?”
Kalian, who stopped with me, looked at me.
I just looked at the children without answering.
Kalian soon saw the children and nodded as if he understood my reaction.
“I guess those kids are bothering you.”
“Are you okay with that, Mr. Carl?”
I remembered he asked me to call him Carl in the past, so I called him that.
Kalian replied, “I’m not sure.”
You’re not sure even after seeing that?
In a different way, I looked back at him, bewildered.
“They are all children. Children, who are not even 10 years old, are going through such a thing…”
“Slavery is legal in the Empire.”
I was speechless at the somewhat cold words that came back.
I knew that too. As he said, slavery was legal in the Empire.
Even if someone frowned seeing that, what they did was not illegal.
I knew that, but still…
“I want to help them.”
Kalian asked indifferently.
I couldn’t find a proper answer again this time, so I kept my mouth shut.
The joyous feeling I felt from seeing the strange and interesting items subsided in an instant and I became depressed.
Kalian sighed deeply and added.
“I know you feel pity for those kids, but there’s nothing you can do. It’ll be good for you not to care.”
Every single word he said was right.
My head understood what he was saying, but not my heart.
“Let’s go now.”
My heart didn’t understand Kalian, who turned around coldly even after seeing the poor children.
Now that I thought about it, he was the ruthless, merciless emperor, who cut even a crying child with a single stroke.
He had been so good to me that I forgot about it for a while.
I glanced at Kalian’s back as he strode forward while holding my hand.
Until just now, I was excited to hold hands with him, but now… it was somehow uncomfortable.
After passing through several stalls, he stopped at the one in the far corner.
A glass bottle containing someone’s eyeballs. Lizard skin. Unidentified powder and vials.
There were only bizarre items on the stall.
The seller also had a bizarre atmosphere.
I glanced at the old woman sitting in front of the stall.
Wrinkled face and skinny body. Unfocused eyes.
Her left eye… artificial?
The old woman wore a black hood. She looked scary like the witch in a fairy tale that often eats children.
It wasn’t right to judge people based on their appearance, but I was still a little scared, so I turned my head.
The old woman smiled strangely when she saw Kalian.
“Oh, my. A precious person is here.”
Kalian’s eyebrow rose slightly at the old woman’s meaningful words.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Well. If I know, I know, if I don’t know, I don’t know.”
The old woman smirked darkly as she recounted riddles.
“Okay. What do you need with this poor old woman?”
“They said if I came here, I might be able to find the poison I want.”
Come to think of it, he said there’s a plant he really wanted to find.
Was that plant a plant that was used as an ingredient for poison?
Since we came to the black market, I thought the item Kalian was looking for would be unusual, but I didn’t expect it to be poison.
Although I had said that I believed he wouldn’t do anything bad, seeing him actually looking for a poison made me anxious.
Who… he’s not trying to really kill someone, right?
“If it’s poison, it’s my specialty.”
The old woman pointed to the unidentified powder with her skinny hand.
“That pure white powder is a powder made from a flower called Baektae. It has no effect on ordinary people, but if someone with diabetes eats it, it can kill them at once.”
At the terrifying word of kill, I held the hood I was wearing tightly. Meanwhile, the old woman’s explanation of poison continued.
“And this is…”
“What I’m looking for is a colorless, odorless poison.”
Kalian said, cutting the old woman’s words.
“Tsk tsk. This old woman is still talking, but you cut her off. Kids these days don’t know how to respect the elderly. Don’t glare at me fiercely like that.”
The old woman clicked her tongue and stroked her chin.
“Colorless, odorless poison. There are more than a hundred that come to mind right now. I need more detailed information to know what you want.”
Kalian immediately added more explanation.
“After eating it, your mouth will smell sweet and your fingertips will turn black. And the poison doesn’t react to silver.”
“Hmm, the poison that will smell sweet and turn your fingertips black.”
The old woman thought for a moment, then took out two vials from her bottari.
[T/N: Bottari is a traditional wrapping cloth of Korea.]
“Of what comes to mind, these are the poison I have right now.”
“What about the other poisons? I want to know the names.”
“I’ll tell you if you give me money.”
“How much? I’ll buy these poisons too.”
After getting the information and poison he wanted, Kalian put the poison in his inner pocket.
“Come back next time.”
The old woman said as she put the money she had received from Kalian in her bottari.
“I’ll bring the poisons that I couldn’t bring today. If there’s anything that comes to mind, I’ll bring them too.”
“I’ll be grateful if you do that.”
When Kalian, who finished talking to the old woman, turned around.
“The emperor’s spy is here?”
“No way. This is a black market with strict security…”
The people began to buzz.
Kalian clicked his tongue as if annoyed.
“I think I’ve been caught.”
“Yes? Th, then what should we do?”
“What should we do? Of course, we have to run away.”
How do we run away through this many people?
Not to mention, all over the place, I saw the big men with swords that I saw on the street earlier.
They were looking around fiercely.
As Kalian said, if he had been caught, they’d probably be looking for us.
I grabbed Kalian’s arm and whispered softly.
“I think it’s impossible to run away from those people.”
Kalian took my hand and went further inside.