Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability - Chapter 114 - 114 Life Experience
114 Life Experience
At the break of dawn in early May, the sky remained cloaked in darkness. The setting crimson moon and the scattered stars cast a faint glow, thinning the darkness just enough to reveal nearby silhouettes.
Lumian awoke early and freshened up. He donned his formal attire from the previous day and a wide-brimmed top hat. He tried his best to smile at his reflection in the glass window that served as a mirror.
As he descended the stairs, hurried footsteps echoed from above.
Soon, Charlie came into view.
He was still dressed in a linen shirt, black trousers, and strapless leather shoes. His flushed complexion had turned a shade paler, and his small blue eyes betrayed unmistakable fatigue.
“Good morning, Ciel,” Charlie greeted Lumian with enthusiasm.
He seemed quite pumped.
“Shouldn’t you have left long ago?” Lumian asked, smiling.
He had only awoken to freshen up when he heard the cathedral clock chime six o’clock. Charlie should have departed by then.
Charlie lowered his head, adjusting his clothes as he muttered, “I drank too much last night and had a wonderful dream. I didn’t want to wake up…”
As they conversed, the pair reached the ground floor. They traversed the dingy, dimly lit hall towards the door reflecting starlight.
An elderly couple, grizzled and slightly stooped, opened the door. In their sixties, they were both short, the man barely 1.65 meters tall and the woman even shorter. Their dark jackets and yellowish cloth dresses were tattered and oil-stained.
“Who are they?” Lumian had expected Madame Fels or the miserly motel owner, Monsieur Ive, to be in charge of opening the door in the morning.
Charlie didn’t slow down, casually explaining, “Monsieur Ruhr and Madame Michel, they’re the swindlers I mentioned yesterday. They scam tourists into buying things.
“They rise early every day, and Madame Fels has them open the inn’s door. In return, she turns a blind eye to the mess and stench they create in their room.
“Can you believe it? They haven’t changed their clothes since I moved in. It’s been seven months. Seven months!”
No wonder it’s so filthy… Lumian could recall his own grimy days as a vagabond, but Aurore’s penchant for cleanliness still made him frown.
Charlie strode quickly out of Auberge du Coq Doré, puzzledly asking, “Ciel, why are you up so early too?”
As they stepped onto the street, a bustling scene unfolded before them.
Countless workers, clerks, and laborers hurried along in their gray, blue, black, and brown clothes, occasionally stopping to purchase food from street vendors.
Some women carrying wooden baskets moved more leisurely. They meandered between various vendors, comparing prices and quality.
The peddlers lined both sides of Rue Anarchie, occupying half the street and leaving just enough room for a carriage to pass.
They bellowed loudly, vying for customers’ attention.
“Whiskey Sour, Apple Whiskey Sour. Two licks a liter!”
“Freshwater fish from Bondi’s fish pond!”
“Fresh cod and herring, come and take a look!”
“Onion bread, one lick, just one lick!”
“Salted meat, delicious salted meat!”
“Soap and wigs imported from Loen!”
“Buy the kids a bottle of refreshing soda!”
“Hot sauce, soybean paste, scallions, water celery!”
Absorbing the sounds and energy of Rue Anarchie, Lumian turned to Charlie and smiled.
“I just arrived in Trier and couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d walk around and see if I could find a suitable job.”
As a Hunter, it was essential for him to familiarize himself with the area he frequented and understand its intricacies.
It would be too late to adapt if something were to happen.
Charlie nodded knowingly.
He said with enthusiasm, “You could try your luck at Rue des Blouses Blanches. It’s between Le Marché du Gentleman and the steam locomotive station.
“Many motel, hotel, and restaurant managers like to chat at the café there. They use the opportunity to hire dishwashers, floor cleaners, washroom attendants, and apprentice attendants.
“If you have money on you, remember to buy the café waiters a drink. They’ll introduce you to the right person and give you a shot at a better job.”
Without waiting for Lumian’s reply, Charlie shared his wisdom.
“You must pay attention to your appearance. Do as I do.”
As he spoke, he raised his hands and slapped his face, mimicking an actual slap, but with less force.
Soon, Charlie’s pallid complexion regained its “rosiness.”
“Look, look.” He pointed at himself smugly and said, “Don’t I appear more energetic? Those managers don’t want to hire someone who looks particularly destitute and sickly. They think it’ll bring trouble. They’re either unwilling to give you a decent job or will slash your salary. If you do this before entering the café like me, it’ll make you seem like someone who has a place to sleep and breakfast to eat. But doing it too early won’t work, as this ‘rosiness’ will gradually fade.”
This clever job-hunting technique was new to Lumian, a former vagabond. He found it fascinating.
He smiled and nodded.
“I still have enough money to rent a place and fill my stomach. I don’t need to do this for now, but who knows if I’ll need it in the future?”
He deliberately didn’t conceal the fact that he still had a fair amount of verl d’or.
What if a generous soul was willing to “donate” another sum?
Charlie expressed his understanding and took out 5 coppet worth of copper coins to buy onion bread from a nearby vendor.
Lumian felt a pang of familiarity.
During his time on the streets, if he could acquire money, his first choice was onion bread.
It was cheap, and the aroma of onions lingered, creating the illusion of having just eaten a satisfying meal.
Lumian also purchased onion bread for breakfast. Alongside Charlie, they navigated through the numerous vendors and exited Rue Anarchie.
“I love the mornings here!” Charlie glanced back and sighed with his signature zeal. “Those gangsters who deserve to rot in hell can’t get up this early. They can’t destroy this captivating vitality.”
He then waved at Lumian.
“I’ve got to take the subway. Otherwise, I’ll be late today. That damned foreman will surely dock my pay!”
After saying goodbye to Charlie, Lumian wandered around Rue Anarchie, exploring the area like a curious tourist.
Le Marché du Quartier du Gentleman was situated on the south bank of the Srenzo River, in the southeast corner of Trier, officially known as “Quartier 13.” Trier boasted various quarters named by numbers, each with its own historical and characteristic monikers. Even officials sometimes used these colloquial names.
The district earned its name from Le Marché du Gentleman. Proximity to the Srenzo River allowed for a Suhit steam locomotive station, which catered to travelers from southern Intis.
Encircled by the market and the steam locomotive station, many of its streets were notoriously dangerous and teeming with impoverished inhabitants. It was one of Trier’s slums.
To the north of the market district, on the south bank of the Srenzo River, lay Quartier 5, the Quartier de la Cathédrale Commémorative or Quartier Universitaire. Trier Normal College, Trier Higher Mining College, and Intis Academy of Fine Arts were all located here.
To the northeast of the city, on the north bank of the Srenzo River, stood Quartier 12, known as the Noel Quartier. It housed the Veterans’ Home, Wounded Soldiers’ Hospital, and several large medical facilities.
To the northwest of the market district was Quartier 6—Quartier de l’Observatoire—where Lumian planned to visit later. It contained the primary entrance to the catacombs.
To the southwest of the market district was Quartier 14, known as Quartier du Jardin Botanique. On Sunday, Lumian was scheduled for treatment with a psychologist at the Mason café there. This area was also called Quartier du Sans-Culottes due to the large factories located south of the botanical garden.
And so, Lumian spent nearly the entire morning traversing the streets of Le Marché du Quartier du Gentleman.
As noon approached, Lumian returned to the vicinity of Suhit’s train station, intending to find a spot for lunch before heading to the catacombs in search of the phony warlock, Osta Trul.
Walking along, Lumian spotted the couple—Ruhr and Michel—who also resided at Auberge du Coq Doré.
They were hawking parcels of items wrapped in paper bags to groups that appeared to be foreigners.
As Lumian drew near, the gray-haired, ragged, and wrinkled Ruhr leaned towards him and lowered his voice. “Do you want photos of a street maîtresse d’atelier?”
“What’s a street maîtresse d’atelier?” Lumian didn’t conceal his confusion or his revulsion at Ruer’s stench.
Ruhr waved the thin paper bag in his hand and whispered, “In Trier, beautiful girls who model for painters are called ‘maîtresse d’atelier.’
“With the advent of cameras and photographers, they also began taking photo subjects. As you might imagine, some of these photos were sold to painters as reference material, while others…”
Ruhr flashed a sly grin and shook the paper bag in his hand again.
“Four licks per bag, with two photos inside!
“Others sell them for over 10 licks!”
“Monsieur Ruhr, Madame Michel, is this the souvenir you peddle to tourists?”
Hearing Lumian address them by name, Ruhr and Michel’s expressions shifted dramatically.
They spun around, trying to escape, but Lumian was quicker and clamped down on Ruhr’s shoulder.
Michel, who had weaved her way through the crowd, noticed her husband couldn’t keep pace and returned, her face etched with bitterness.
“I also live at Auberge du Coq Doré. My name is Ciel,” Lumian introduced himself.
Finally realizing how Lumian knew them, the couple breathed a sigh of relief and looked at him pleadingly. “What’s the matter, Monsieur Ciel?”
“What kind of photos are you selling?” Lumian inquired curiously.
Ruhr responded timidly, “Scenic photos of the Srenzo River, as well as images of Trier’s castles and palaces.”
“No one is causing trouble for you?” Lumian asked, grinning.
Ruhr swallowed and said, “The people who buy them don’t dare to open them on the spot or confront us later. They feel guilty.”
“Besides, no police will bother you if you sell landscape photos.” Lumian nodded. “Does anyone really sell street maîtresse d’atelier?”
“Yes,” Ruhr confirmed. “Last month, the police arrested a group of photographers and art dealers. They said they confiscated over 10,000 photos. If only they could give them to us. Who knows how much we could sell them for!”
Madame Michel, also sporting a wrinkled face and hunched figure, mumbled, “There was a model staying at our inn previously, but she hasn’t been around lately. Perhaps she became the mistress of some painter, or maybe she was captured to be a street maîtresse d’atelier…”
Auberge du Coq Doré has quite a variety of guests… Lumian asked with interest, “How much can you earn in a week by tricking foreigners into buying photos?”
“We sell them very cheaply. About 10 verl d’or,” Ruhr replied, his gaze slightly evasive.
From the looks of it, it’s more than 10 verl d’or, but not much more. I’ll count it as 12 verl d’or, which is 1,200 coppet or 240 licks… 60 fools fall for it every week? Lumian surveyed the square and expressed his disdain for the average intelligence of the people there.
As for Ruhr and Michel, they took a significant risk to deceive others; yet, they only earned about 50 verl d’or a month, far less than the apprentice attendants or even laborers.
Observing their slightly hunched backs, slender frames, and wrinkled faces, Lumian understood that it wasn’t that they didn’t want to do more legitimate work for better pay, but rather that they couldn’t handle those jobs.
With a wave of his hand, he left Suhit’s steam locomotive station and headed northwest towards Quartier de l’Observatoire.