The Crimson Lady:
One month later.
“One more beer for me master.” A man ordered loudly before continuing his conversation, “Hahaha….. You jest Kingston. How can such a precious jade slip only cost three hundred gold? Why don’t we come to an agreement soon? I have a wife waiting for me at home.”
Kingston laughed upon listening to the man and said, “Well, you are one hell of a man Kuon. Just how did you make such an elegant woman fall for you. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of you but as a brother, I am happy for you. How about this? Considering our relationship, I will give you four hundred gold, but that’s about it.
Think about it brother; I can guarantee you that you won’t find anyone who is willing to pay more than me.” The man named Kingston said with a smile.
Kuon thought for a second before he sighed and said, “Very well, brother. I will believe your word. With this, the trade is complete.” Both parties signed an agreement before exchanging the agreed amount.
A smile bloomed on Kingston’s face as he counted the money, and so the two friends ordered more beer to celebrate the successful trade. They didn’t mind how much they spent, and didn’t even seem to care about people who may try to rob them as they drank until they were wasted.
Anywhere outside that single tavern, this scene would have caused an incredible commotion. Things which didn’t even exist according to commoners knowledge were in abundance inside that tavern. Gold, beer and paper. Things which can only be considered as marvels of outside world were visible in plain sight in there.
People laughed and drank while they traded in gold. No one in the tavern cared about anyone else as they drank or engaged in their business. However, in the midst that tavern, there was a boy carrying beer and cleaning the floor with a thoughtful expression on his face. He was Rigel.
Everything started a month ago when Rigel came back to the city to collect more information. Disguised in an old robe, he sat outside on streets listening carefully to strangers and warriors whenever they passed by him.
People weren’t capable of keeping a leash on their mouth in most cases, but they were selective with whom they shared their secrets. However, many times, we tend to ignore those who we think are insignificant like beggars. They aren’t inconspicuous; we just believe they are.
Rigel sat there calmly without any hurry because he knew that rushing won’t change anything. The flow of information around the name of Blood Emperor was airtight, and any probe at any level would eventually lead to him, and then, he would fall a prey like many others before him.
Above all, Rigel was still recuperating from his injuries so he simply sat there in the alley listening to everything he can and observing everything he found to be unusual. Two weeks passed by and then suddenly something happened which changed everything.
That day, Rigel slept by an alley. He covered himself with his blanket and slept without a care in the world. Over caution will lead to trouble. The ultimate disguise is to become whoever you want to be.
A beggar wouldn’t be cautious enough in the middle of the night because he has no reason to be and thus, Rigel wasn’t either. However, it was an entirely another thing for him to be mentally cautious. Throughout the night he still kept a watch through the slit of his blanket and thus, he saw something in the depths of the night.
A middle-aged man drenched in sweat was beheaded with a small table knife wielded by a young man in his twenties. This scene by itself was astonishing because a neck isn’t something which can be slit with a table knife, and the only one who can accomplish such a feat was a man of great strength who has threaded far in the path of cultivation.
Rigel’s heart trembled as he saw that, but he still didn’t move an inch nor did he let himself be shaken enough to change the rate of his breathing. He still slept there without the care of the world.
The young man who killed the middle age man laughed cruelly as he bent down and picked up a small bag from the robes of the dead man. He rubbed the sac and satisfied with what his stroke of luck, he smiled broadly.
“I did not expect to find such a treasure when I decided to come to this good for nothing place. Loyd, you died such a miserable death. Well, well. As your friend, I should at least give you a good farewell. Here, take this gold coin, hope this will pay for your ferry in your afterlife.” The young man smirked as he tossed a coin carelessly and left.
Rigel, who listened to this one-sided conversation, felt confused and then he rose silently. Carefully observing the surroundings, he tread slowly into the alley upon confirming that no one had their eyes on him.
He imagined to find a corpse of a murdered man, but what he did not expect to find was a gold coin with the symbol of Blood red skull on it.
Rigel was shocked because he knew how much gold mattered in Gehenna. However, he was aware that such a thing would attract not only vultures, but also predators, so he quickly grabbed the gold coin and then searched the man.
Although he didn’t find any more coins, he did find a small wooden token with a symbol of a tavern on it. On the other side was the name, The Crimson Lady.
Rigel didn’t waste any more time, and he took off at high speed to a different part of the city because he didn’t want to give any chances for anyone to track him down.
Upon arriving at the opposite side of the city, he once again disguised himself as a homeless beggar while searched for anyone who may have followed him.
Hours passed by, and when he was sure that he was safe, Rigel slowly made his way back to his alley. He then very naturally occupied his usual position by the alley on the street. However, inside his mind, he was frantically anxious because, in just a few hours, the alley returned to its usual state.
Gehenna wasn’t like the outside world. People died regularly, and murder was as common as robbery. Sometimes corpses littered the street for days before anyone cared to remove them but the middle-aged man’s body disappeared in just a few hours without leaving a single blood mark about its existence.
What was frightening about the entire thing wasn’t the murder or the power of the young man. It was the systematical removal of evidence in the lawless world of Gehenna. Rigel didn’t know who did that, but he knew that whoever did that, they were undoubtedly connected to the Blood emperor.
Frank was related to the Blood Emperor. The mysterious man was probably related to him as well. There was a currency and a system underneath the disguise of a barbaric culture of Gehenna prison.
Rigel sat there for three whole days thinking about how he should proceed, but he couldn’t come to any conclusions as he knew too little to make a plan. He originally disguised himself as a beggar because he wanted to learn more about the Blood Emperor and now, he finally had a clue. The tavern, Crimson Lady.
Finding the tavern by itself wasn’t a big task for Rigel. Wandering the streets, listening to people and following the footsteps of strong warriors, he eventually found a big mansion with a small sign of a lady dressed in a crimson robe on the door.
However, what he found to be very troublesome was the security around the tavern. Four warriors stood guard before the door but upon sitting on that street for a day, Rigel found something which made his heart tremble with fear.
Four warriors did stand guard by the door but just like him, the street had dozens of lurkers. However, they weren’t beggars or homeless people. Every one of them wore good clothes and had strong physique giving an image of a strong warrior.
Rigel knew then and there that he can never enter the tavern from the front door. The tavern was more like a fort than a little bar, so he instead disappeared into the shadows.
Frank always said to Rigel when he wasn’t able to concoct a poison or acquire an ingredient. “Every goal has a path to achieve it and no matter how much one tried to defend their treasure, they will for sure leave a gap in their defenses.
Remember Rigel; there is no perfect barrier in this world. Similarly, there is no perfect poison in this world. Everything has something which makes it an imperfection and when you are faced with a near perfection. Remember, it is still an imperfection.”
Rigel recalled Frank’s words and he remembered them very clearly. He wasn’t in a hurry, so he observed the tavern for three days before he found a loop in their perfect defense. Waiters, unlike the customers, were mere slaves and thus were worked to the bone. They stayed in a cottage a little distance away from the tavern with no security and scrutiny.
Well, what can a poor waiter do? Nothing. So no one cared.
Everyone knew that, and so did Rigel. That very day, Rigel silently entered that cottage and selected an old man. His eyes held no sense of pity even as he saw the old man sleeping peacefully.
Life in a sentence is our selfish path in the world. Everyone lives for himself. Rigel shed tears for Frank but was he kind enough to show such sympathy to others? He wasn’t.
The next day that old man died. No one doubted how because he was old and everyone thought that he died naturally. News spread among the servants, and a boy ran towards the cottage from some part of the city crying his heart out claiming to be the old man’s grandson.
A week later, that grandson claimed his grandfather’s job and started working in the tavern. That was Rigel. Working with a fearful attitude, like a naive kid, the master, and the fellow workers quickly accepted Rigel.
They made him clean the floor and tables. Rigel did everything he was told to do with utmost sincerity. He never lifted his head in the tavern, but his ears, they were sharp as the wind. They picked up every single conversation that happened at the bar and slowly he began to understand the truth about Gehenna.
The tavern wasn’t a tavern. It was a relay point. The city wasn’t a city; it was an outpost. The Gehenna he witnessed for two years wasn’t the Gehenna. It was just the tip of it. The Blood Emperor didn’t rule over the city; he ruled over an empire.
The Gehenna, the world’s largest and most mysterious prison wasn’t a prison at all. It was just a cover story made up for the people transported to it. These people were transported to Gehenna Prison only to be used as slaves.
Rigel heard many things and had learned much in the tavern but above everything, he learned the one thing he wanted to know. The information about the Blood Emperor.
The Blood Emperor wasn’t in the Gehenna Prison; Rigel thought he knew about. He was in an another world situated right underneath him. The world of Immortals, Devils, Supernatural beasts, and Taoist cultivators, The Great Gehenna.