I had no idea where I was. According to history, seventeenth century French and English cities were supposedly gross. Europeans in ancient times didn’t pay attention to hygiene in the city. Roman’s constructed perfect sewers; however, the barbarians weren’t interested. I didn’t see neglected sewers at Bryne City or the imperial capital. After all, the humans under Queen Sisi’s rule were rather advanced in terms of culture and civilisation, which translated into stricter hygiene practices. I do admit that it was limited to the places Queen Sisi and the nobles frequented. The commoners, especially those who were poor, didn’t practice hygiene to the same extent.
I decided the first thing I’d do when I got back to the imperial capital was clean up the environment there. Everywhere. Sure, a minister of business has no business handling environmental hygiene, but I insisted because it would be Leah and Veirya living there henceforward. I had to ensure there were no hygiene issues or contagious diseases.
The city in the South wasn’t given as much attention as the imperial capital. Howbeit, thanks to it being newer and housing relatively more plants, it didn’t look too messy. With that said, I couldn’t figure out why the place stunk. I didn’t know what the sticky black stuff on the ground was, but it was more prominent than the actual colour of the ground and violated my nose. Also, there would be random things thrown out as if it was raining objects while Ross and I wandered the city.
I couldn’t shake off the feeling that some small-time hawkers or common folk would try and pinch my wallet. As such, I kept my hand pressed firmly to my wallet. I was even more worried about Ross being kidnapped. He had been kidnapped once, so he grabbed my hand tightly and looked freaked out.
We stopped at a black building. It appeared obvious that the building was built illegally high since the materials were horrendous and it was crooked… It looked as though it was one gust of one away from collapsing. How it managed to stay standing so long was a miracle that escaped my comprehension.
Ross and I cautiously headed in. The rancid stench of alcohol mixed with smoke on the first floor was awful. God forbid I knew what they were doing. Smoking? Burning paper is smoking? We apparently didn’t get anybody’s attention when we entered. Perhaps they didn’t care to acknowledge us. We had to cross through the wall of smoke, not to mention squeezing past tables to finally get to the stairs. The steps creaked and wobbled underneath our feet.
Albert sent me a letter to inform me he was at this particular building, surprisingly. I had no idea how he found this weird place. I looked to Ross, and he looked back at me with a nervous gaze. He expressed, “Is Mr. Albert really here? Why would he choose this place…? I… I do not know… It seems dangerous here…”
No kidding. The city had a blatant security issue.
I pondered, “Please don’t tell me Albert discovered what I did and deliberately lured me here to ambush me or something… No way… There’s no way he figured out what happened unless Madam Melissa betrayed me. Did the two meet again after that day? Man, I should’ve brought Veirya with me… It’s silly of me to be here alone. They say that, ‘I’ll marry you when I’m back,’ is a death flag quote, yet I boldly came here. Are my guts too large?”
I hesitated before I knocked. No answer. I scanned the dangerous corridor. There were no exits in the front or back. I couldn’t stop thinking that someone would rush out and hack me to death at any given moment. Nevertheless, I knocked again. Still no response.
“Umm, Lord Lin, shall we go downstairs to ask the owner for a key?”
Just when I considered going downstairs, I stubbornly knocked again. This time, the door swung open. I peeked inside while making sure I didn’t expose my neck. There was no blood on the ground. To the contrary, the interior was far neater and cleaner compared to outside. However, there was a strange smell coming from within. The smell was akin to… something decaying.
Ross and I found wind blowing in as the window was open. Thanks to the wind, we could smell the city’s unique stench. I didn’t understand why the room had the decaying smell when the wind was blowing in. However, when I spun around in the next moment, the suspending thing in the air that was swaying similarly to a bell startled me.
“Ah!” shrieked Ross.
I immediately covered Ross’ mouth and slammed the door shut. He had no idea what to do. I solemnly looked at Albert. I have to tip my hat to him. I received his letter three days ago, so I presumed he died three days ago. If that inference held true, then he must’ve hung himself soon after he sent the letter.
I shooed off the flies that warmed his corpse and then glanced over to the table where a letter, presumably his will, was pinned.
“Mr. Albert… Mr. Albert…” Ross was so scared that he shed tears and stuttered.
“Ross, calm down. Calm down. Go downstairs and buy some food. Don’t let anyone else notice. If word gets out that Albert died, your sister will collapse. Calm down, okay, Ross? Calm down!!”
“Uhm… Uhm…” Ross froze in place for a while due to the overwhelming shock that he had yet to process. His wobbling and tripping run made me chuckle.
Whilst rubbing my hands together, I jeered, “Now, then, Albert, what shall I do to you today?”
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