As he left the main busy streets in the outer district, White followed a certain road and found his way to a place filled with squatters. Having prepared for this, he had chosen to drape a worn robe over his equipment in order to blend in.
Take a right turn around a drugstore, and then a long left at the five-and-dime until the first lamp post is in sight— Seeming to follow a certain set of directions in his head, White eventually reached a narrow alleyway... and ducked into the side. He stayed close to the wall, as if he was hiding from something.
A few seconds later, footsteps emerged. White glanced to the corner of the wall, where he could see two shadows. There were some indistinctly angry voices, before they chased ahead.
Really now. He didn't think he would be let off that easily. But since he was sure that Filly had already completely submitted to him, it seemed that this wasn't her handiwork. Or maybe it was? Did she take some extra measures before, in case something happened to her?
Whatever the case, there shouldn't be any more tails behind him.
Taking a deep breath to recollect himself, White turned to the place he had entered.
There was nothing conspicuous in this alleyway, yet supposedly—this was one of the entrances into the ghetto as he was informed. An impressionable, musty smell of poverty greeted his arrival; hanging laundry in between the old terraces, their clothes casting a shadow over the face of the young man as he glanced up to look.
A four-eyed cat, the Demure Feline which had somehow managed to get on top of it, met its eyes with White's before it leaped down skillfully onto the ground, proceeding to scutter back into a pile of discarded lumber where it'd most likely claimed its home. Rats were abundant too, but being no stranger to such a place the young man didn't feel too discomforted by their presence.
The upkeep was terrible, which gave White the double confirmation that he needed. This was indeed a separate territory like he was told, much different from the city; The bright and lively atmosphere of Halvan was no more, and was instead replaced with an umbrageous discoloration along the walls. Old and used furniture, wooden crates and smashed glass bottles all strewn about indicated a sense of lawlessness that permeated this place.
White walked forward, careful not to step on any of the wreckage.
It's just as damned as his fellow inmate described it. No, it's probably worse.
For one, this was the type of place that screamed "danger" to him.
White knew about this place through a brawny Russian-looking man by the name of Yuri. As one of his neighboring inmates, Yuri happened to be starved for a conversational partner. These slums were just one of the many things he'd told him about.
The slums were interspersed areas connected through sewers, hidden corners of the city and even the basements of some buildings in the main districts. Because of how it was constructed, or connected, the slums was the sort of place where one had to consciously look in order to find it. It was certainly not a simple hangout one would stumble onto by accident.
Being out of sight naturally meant that the slums were usually out of the city's jurisdiction. And because of that, many things that happened in the slums oftentimes went under the radar. One could find all sorts of shady things in this place; weapons with unknown origins, potions with 'special concoctions' made from suspicious-looking herbs, and of course, the trading of slaves. The list went on; no crime was too great for the dwellers living here. As long as there was money and demand involved, the slums would accommodate that niche in the market.
But there was also a certain notoriety he'd heard about the slums.
That is, to survive here, there were unspoken rules he needed to abide by. And for a newcomer like him... ...
"Ooh? Nii-chan, don't see you around here before, ye'?"
A nasal voice called out.
White calmly turned around, and looked at the guy's massive build. He was practically towering over him with that menacing pose. A halberd with ivory fangs on its rusty blade poked its presence from behind, tied to his body with dark leather straps.
This slum dweller had probably been eyeing him ever since stepped foot into this place.
"Walking around all alone like that, aren't you a lonely one." A trio of ragtags appeared from behind the walls.
Effectively cutting off my escape route. The old pattern he'd fallen victim to before.
White immediately glanced once over at them with cold eyes. When he'd fallen for the same trap once before, it really seemed quite predictable and full of exploitable holes.
With a low voice, White spoke.
"I'm in quite the rush here. Could you let me pass? It's important to me."
There was a short pause, before the squatters started laughing.
"Oi oi, are you serious? Do you know what kind of situation you're in right now? Important? Your life isn't important right now, huhhh?"
"Gahahaha what a delusional kid, I heard the Skull Artist needs another head for her recent work. Why don't we crack open that pea-sized brain for his good and get some money while we're at it~"
Another cackled as he whipped out a small serrated knife.
The toughest-looking one stepped forward and spoke. It was the same guy who had the halberd.
"Judging from how confident you look, you're probably an ascendant, aren't you."
...Seems like he's the leader like I thought.
"But I'm sorry... you're the weaker one here. Give up quickly, and you won't feel more pain than you should."
Saying so, Halberd pulled out the weapon from his back. That simple action drew a slow and dreary sound of metal, making the ruffian appear quite intimidating.
Hmm? He's not even budging?
"...Hehh... To still be this composed after seeing my [Bloodthirsty Requiem], I'll give you praise for not trying to run away at least." He boasted with a childish glee on his face. At this point, White had already been completely surrounded. A total of six people in the encirclement. But the young man didn't even register the underlings. His eyes carefully scrutinized the man before him.
A much bigger physique than him, just one swing from that halberd would most likely take him out of commission. But apart from that, White didn't see anything else that would put him at an overwhelming disadvantage.
Halberd seemed to be peeved about White ignoring his boast, as his voice raised a pitch when he added on,
"You don't even comprehend the situation you're in. Good grief, this is why brats are... I'll just end it in one s—"
Halberd haven't even finished his stance, when he'd already collapsed onto the ground.
Blood splattered out of his mouth, as Halberd's eyes widened in shock. The idea of being attacked probably didn't even cross his mind.
"...You talk too much."
The underlings shook, but they immediately came to their senses in the next moment. Fury blinded their eyes.
"G-Get him!" "This bastard!"
The rest of the encirclement rushed forward, and White took in a deep breath.
His mind was in deep focus.
Once again, he was submerged in that deep ocean. But this time, his spatial perception was unhindered.
In that instant the one from behind had shot forth a broken pipe that looked as if it would cut into White's neck... a slight distortion in space appeared from where White was!
Followed by an unusual glare of light. That change in brightness caused the skinny assailant to flinch.
"The hell did you do?!"
He regained his vision in the next moment, but the figure of the young man had already vanished.
"Shit, the bastard disappeared!"
"Behind you!" Someone shouted in a panic.
That warning came too late.
White had already thrusted his purple dagger forward, stabbing through the man's back. He twisted the blade so that it cut even deeper into the wound. The man died quickly.
And from White's sudden lunge came a small updraft of wind, pushing back and revealing his black hair underneath the hood.
"Y-You... the Stray?!" Someone noticed, causing a moment of unrest amongst the gang of squatters.
"Th-That is... I thought that idiot was already put in jail!"
Idiot huh. They're not wrong. What I did back then, was truly stupid.
White slowly drew his extended arm back, his position still in a half-kneel.
...But I don't regret it.
He raised his head and glared at them. As a final warning,
"Can I leave now?"
Without a leader, the squatters knew their limits and escaped without even bothering to drag the bodies of their companions away.
"So much for teamwork." White hid the dagger back under his sleeve, where it turned invisible again.