Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability - Chapter 113 - 113 Tenants
“You’re such an interesting person!”
A drunk Charlie slung his arm around Lumian’s shoulder as they stumbled out of the raucous bar.
Inside, nearly 20 people sang, gambled, and yelled, releasing pent-up emotions.
At moments like these, they didn’t seem like paupers on meager wages but rather kings and queens.
“I thought you’d play Billy B with them.” Lumian draped his arm over Charlie’s back and grinned as they headed for the stairs leading upstairs.
Billy B was a popular gambling game in Trier, one Lumian had just recently learned.
Unlike Trieriens’ favorite Fighting Evil, Billy B only required a piece of paper. Depending on the number of players, the dealer drew a grid of squares, ranging from 9 to 64. Each square was assigned a number, allowing participants to place their bets.
The dealer then determined a lucky number by drawing lots, tossing coins, or throwing dice. The winner took the entire pot.
If no one won, the money went to the dealer.
The patrons of the Auberge du Coq Doré’s underground bar were either locals or impoverished folks from nearby. Their wallets were thin, so they mainly wagered alcohol instead of cash. For instance, a game of Billy B might only reward the winner with a glass of booze bought by everyone’s pooled money.
Charlie released a long burp.
“I haven’t gotten my salary for this week. Can’t be too indulgent!”
He turned to Lumian, excitement in his voice, “Did you know? I’m now an apprentice attendant at Hôtel du Cygne Blanc, the one on Rue Neuve in Quartier des Thermes.
“What does that mean? It means I get to wear a white shirt, red vest, and black suit. I’ll tie an elegant bow and earn 65 verl d’or a month! When I become a full attendant, I hear that during peak season, I can make 7 verl d’or a day just in tips!
“When I strike it rich, I’ll open my own motel—no, a hotel. When the time comes, I’ll hire you as an attendant foreman. That jerk just walks around in his tailcoat, nitpicking, and earns 150 verl d’or a month!”
Apprentice attendants earn slightly more than manual laborers… Lumian reeked of alcohol, but his eyes remained clear. He nodded almost imperceptibly.
He recalled reading a newspaper in his study earlier in the year, boasting that Trier’s laborers earned about 700 verl d’or annually.
At the time, Lumian didn’t have a clear concept of that figure. He didn’t know if it was too much or too little. As a vagrant, he’d only worried about how much food he could get each day and whether kind people might offer him a few licks. The income of Cordu villagers was mainly in goods, so he understood specific prices and the value of various banknotes, but he lacked a broader understanding.
Of course, this was also because Aurore’s income was very high, so he hardly fretted about family finances.
As far as Lumian knew, Aurore’s fame brought her a significant income through book sales and contracts. Last year’s royalties had neared 130,000 verl d’or.
However, Aurore spent as much as she earned. Spells, materials, and arcane knowledge accounted for most of her expenses. She might also be supporting struggling members of the Curly-Haired Baboons Research Society or donating to government- or church-run charities.
Yet what puzzled Lumian was the absence of a deposit slip at home when he left Cordu.
He knew all too well that Aurore was a saver. Spending big was only possible because she had stashed away plenty of cash at Suchit Bank and other institutions.
For a moment, Lumian suspected that Guillaume Bénet’s crew had snatched it while he and his sister were being used as sacrifices or vessels.
As Lumian and Charlie made their way to the second floor, arms slung around each other’s shoulders, a mournful cry pierced the air.
Bang! A door slammed, muffling the wail and leaving only echoes in the hallway.
A figure in a crisp black tailcoat approached the stairs from the far end of the hall.
He was a young man, roughly Charlie’s age. His brownish-yellow hair was styled in a 30-70 parting, and his dark brown eyes were devoid of expression. His thin lips were pressed tightly together.
Quite handsome, he held a black top hat in his hand, looking more like he belonged at a high-society soirée than the Auberge du Coq Doré.
Following the man’s cries was a woman’s voice, heavy with pain and despair.
As Charlie watched the man vanish down the stairs, his flushed face contorted.
“What a bastard!”
“You know him?” Lumian was still rather ‘concerned’ about his neighbors. After all, he might be staying here for a while. The more he knew about his surroundings, the safer he’d be.
Charlie scoffed, “That’s Laurent, Mrs. Lakazan’s son from Room 201.
“Mrs. Lakazan slaves away, mending socks and crafting all sorts for 16 hours a day just to support that bastard. He always dresses nicely and spends her money at fancy cafés, claiming he’s mingling with high society to find opportunities to make it big!
“Heh, he thinks he’s so talented…”
Before Charlie could finish, another heated argument erupted between a man and a woman nearby.
They hurled insults at each other.
“Third floor’s a couple who eloped. They’re like this every day when they’re almost broke.” Charlie clicked his tongue and grinned. “My friend, you’ll have to get used to it. This is the market district, Rue Anarchie, the Auberge du Coq Doré. We’ve got the seriously ill, the bankrupt, swindling peddlers, foreigners who never leave the inn and only drink downstairs, broke street girls, lunatics who wake up in a frenzy, jobless stonemasons, veterans, miserly old men, and wanted criminals…
“They should all thank Monsieur Ive for being so lenient. As long as they don’t default on rent, he’s pretty forgiving.”
“Monsieur Ive… The innkeeper? The miser Madame Fels mentioned?” Lumian inquired.
Charlie grinned and replied, “That’s him, a kind but stingy fellow. He even provides everyone with free sulfur!
“Burp, I haven’t seen Monsieur Ive in a few days. I’m really worried he’ll try to save a few coppets by visiting some random woman on Rue Anarchie and catch some nasty disease instead of patronizing Rue de la Muraille or Quartier de la Princesse Rouge…”
As he spoke, Charlie waved his hand.
“Ciel, burp. I’m off to bed. I’ve got to leave at six tomorrow morning and get to the hotel by seven.
“Burp, if you can’t find a job, let me know. I’ll introduce you to a handyman at our hotel. You can earn 50 verl d’or a month. Stick around long enough, and you might make 75. Plus, there’s free food. We even get a liter of wine every night!”
“Alright.” Lumian smiled as he watched Charlie climb the stairs.
At the same time, he muttered to himself, Simple provocation isn’t doing much for the potion’s digestion…
He had assembled the Idiot Instrument in the bar to rile everyone up. The result was successful, but it didn’t further the potion’s digestion.
During his journey from Dariège to Trier, Lumian frequently provoked others. Sometimes he felt the potion digest, but most times, he gained nothing.
If he couldn’t find a better way to act, he suspected it would take at least a year to fully digest the Provoker potion.
Heading back to Room 207, Lumian heard a bout of coughing from upstairs. He heard a woman berating her lover, calling him “lazy” and “trash.” Gunshots rang out, followed by the sound of a group chasing someone outside.
This was life at the Auberge du Coq Doré and on Rue Anarchie.
Charlie had said that even the police wouldn’t dare walk here alone at night. They needed a partner to bolster their courage.
Taking out the brass key, Lumian opened the door and stepped back into his room.
The bedbugs seemed to have sensed something and stayed away.
Lumian sniffed the sulfur and glanced up. A letter lay silently on the wooden table beside the window.
He took a few steps forward and picked up the folded piece of paper.
Madam Magician’s reply? Lumian mused, unfolding the letter and reading it under the crimson moonlight streaming through the window.
“I’m glad you arrived in Trier without issue. This shows you’ve mastered the basic technique of evading capture and regained your experience navigating the dark underbelly of society.
“At 3:30 p.m. this Sunday, a psychologist will treat you at Booth D in Mason Café, located in Quartier du Jardin Botanique.
“For the next few days, your mission is to venture near the catacombs in Quartier de l’Observatoire and locate a man named Osta Trul. He often masquerades as a warlock to con tourists and locals alike.
“By any means necessary, earn Osta Trul’s trust and reveal your powers when the time is right.”
Quartier du Jardin Botanique and Quartier de l’Observatoire were west of Le Marché du Quartier du Gentleman, adjacent to one another. The former lay further south, while the latter was closer to the north, right by the Srenzo River.
Lumian read Madam Magician’s reply over and over, committing the relevant locations, times, and names to memory. Then he struck a match and burned the Intisian-scripted paper.
Having done all this, he headed to the nearest washroom to freshen up. Afterward, he took out Fallen Mercury, wrapped in black cloth, removed his coat, and lay on the bed.
The bedbug-infested ceiling met his gaze, and the faint sounds of coughing, crying, and arguing filled the room.
Soon after, the eloped couple announced their reconciliation through a passionate and vigorous exercise, accompanied by uninhibited moans.
Outside on the street, a few coarse voices sang vulgar songs, punctuated by gunshots, followed by curses, the clashing of poles, and the sound of sharp weapons piercing flesh.
Compared to Cordu, the nights here were far from quiet.