Chapter 1 – No Country For Criminal Men
The carriage stopped at the end of the road.
A dry wasteland without a single tree.
Without a single shade to stop the scorching sun rays, every being of the land groaned at the heat.
In a land where even a pile of dirt heaved wavy breaths, a single sign marked the end of the road.
The two officers saw the sign, understood that they had come to the right place, and realized they would need to begin their next task.
The officers split up.
As one approached the sign, the other fiddled with his retractable steel baton while heading toward the back of the carriage.
The officer that headed to the back, gripped his only weapon tightly in his hand, nervous.
The sweat from his hands made the baton slippery, but there was no time to worry about that.
Escort vehicles were normally used to transport criminals, and people who were brazen enough to disobey the law were bound to act up at every opportunity.
Until now, the officer had given the criminals a taste of his baton and had been satisfied with its effect.
Yet today, for the first time since he had donned the insignia of the law, he worried that the baton might not be enough.
They had arrived at Tantalus*, the Abyssal Prison.
It held nefarious criminals that should never be allowed back into society.
The prison was a place many entered, but none left.
(*Please check chapter footnotes.)
It was said that the criminals held at Tantalus were more easily found in history books than the newspapers.
The only reason they were imprisoned was because they were unkillable.
A wretched place where monsters, Beast Kings, and warriors who single-handedly slaughtered entire armies wandered around like the common civilian.
What the officers were bringing today was a prisoner sentenced to imprisonment in the said prison.
What kind of crime do you need to commit to be sent to Tantalus on your first offense?」
I agreed completely with his thoughts.
Just what did I do to have been sent to Tantalus without a trial? An innocent, honest man like me.
There must have been some mistake.
The officer took a deep breath before banging on the back door with his baton.
“Back off the doors or I’ll beat you to a pulp!”
The manner in which the State treated its prisoners was akin to that of an explosive; wrapped in tight packaging and with the utmost caution.
No matter how light of a crime one committed, handcuffs and shackles with blindfolds were the very basic measures taken when dealing with criminals.
Officers would often put gags and straightjackets on top of that.
After hearing that they would be escorting a prisoner destined for Tantalus, these officers attached me to everything they knew.
Cuffs, blindfolds, gags—the entire package.
It could probably kill normal people from asphyxiation.
And because I’m a normal human, I was about to run out of breath.
The officer didn’t loosen his guard even against the prisoner who lacked the freedom to strain his lungs.
He couldn’t ever let his guard down.
After all, it was a prisoner that was to be sent to Tantalus, the worst prison of the lands.
The prisoner probably wasn’t extremely dangerous, since he had been entrusted to a low-ranking officer like himself.
Even then, he couldn’t slack on his job.
Not for the sake of duty, but for fear of his life.
Well, he would’ve been fine if he took his time.
I couldn’t untie myself from the flimsy rope.
Much less these sturdy restraints.
“I’m opening the door!”
The damned officer stayed vigilant.
He quickly backed away after opening the back door of the vehicle.
Tensing up, he gripped his baton and aimed it at the prisoner.
As the door opened, the wretched criminal revealed himself to the world again… Still trapped in his restraints, rolling around on the floor.
Slightly relieved by the sight, the officer started to approach.
Then, he suddenly raised the steel rod high above his head.
As I read that thought, I let out a cry that would go unheard.
The baton struck deep into my stomach.
I let out a painful cry at the piercing blow that reached my bones, but it didn’t make it past the gag.
I got decimated by the baton, unable to retaliate.
As if he were confirming his kill, the officer struck several more times, satisfied with my reaction.
「It looks like his restraints are completely intact.
I won’t need to worry about being attacked.」
Feeling assured, the officer tugged the belt of the straitjacket.
My helpless body—sprawled across the floor—slammed against the wall and rolled on the floor.
The officer raised a question in his mind as he watched my meek state.
「Huh? I thought he was supposed to be a criminal headed for Tantalus.
He feels no different from any lowlife thug.」
After reading the officer’s thoughts, I twisted my body in sorrow.
I’m not some criminal meant for Tantalus or some crazy terrorist.
I’ve done nothing close to being recorded in history.
All I am is just some back-alley swindler that can read thoughts!’
* * *
I was playing cards with some dolts, getting them to put their houses on the line as usual.
It was a stereotype that ‘gambling sucks’.
If you had money, power, or something special like me, gambling was like sweeping money off the ground.
There were plenty of idiots willing to bet their life savings for a couple minutes of thrill.
To them, I was like the priest in the confession chamber, hearing out their dirty desires.
I just happened to take half the money I got from them instead of a tithe.
It was just like any other day, milking some fools out of their houses.
Suddenly, there was a commotion outside.
The neighborhood granny, who was always freeloading off my winnings, signaled to us.
The idiot that I was handling cleaned up the table, rejoicing at the intervention.
Putting my dreams of buying my own house behind, I hid the evidence and waited in place when some soldiers I had never seen before rushed in.
Soldiers on patrol and gamblers who just finished cleaning the scene; it was a regular sight.
And as usual, I slipped a small complimentary gift into the soldiers’ pockets.
At that moment, a soldier grabbed my wrist.
“In the name of the law, you are all under arrest.”
The guards that barged
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