Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability-Chapter 154 - Mini-Theater
Taking in Osta’s revelation, Lumian couldn’t help a chuckle, thinking, What kind of strange rule is this?
His mind flicked back to the turtle-walking, the space bridge, clutching a candle while touring the catacombs, and sprinting just to keep up with the latest fad. He felt that this seemed inconsequential, but perhaps not for the folks of Trier, who seemed to relish something unique.
As the stream of monocle-clad patrons flowed in, Lumian queried with a casual air, “What happens if a newcomer isn’t privy to the rule?”
Osta gestured to the far end of Rue Ancienne.
“There’s a place selling monocles and short suits there.
“I’d wager the proprietor of Salle de Bal Unique is behind it.”
No doubt about it… Lumian murmured under his breath.
He wouldn’t put it past Timmons to concoct such a rule for the Salle de Bal Unique to cash in on the monocle and short suit trade.
Undeniably, it was also a nod to the citizens of Trier’s relentless pursuit of the latest trends and fashion.
“How long has this joint been in business?” Lumian nonchalantly gestured toward the Salle de Bal Unique across the street.
“Over two decades. It’s been here since I first landed in Trier. Rumor has it, it opened when dance halls became the rage.” Osta stole a glance toward Place du Purgatoire. “Anything else? I need to get back underground.”
His mind was on making money, wary of missing out on potential clients seeking his divination and “assistance.”
Lumian swung his gaze onto him.
Osta’s heart stuttered, feeling as though he were in the crosshairs of a formidable predator.
“What’s the matter?” He subconsciously forced a smile again.
Lumian withdrew his gaze, nonchalantly advising, “Stay sharp for the next couple of days.”
“What?” Osta found himself flustered, bewildered, and somewhat frightened.
Ciel isn’t threatening me, is he? We just had a smooth collaboration. He even tasked me with finding some materials!
A grin played at the corners of Lumian’s mouth.
“Exactly as I said, but it’s got nothing to do with me.
“Also, do me a favor and dig up more details on the aquatic monster. The more comprehensive, the better. Same pay as before.”
Is he implying that I might be getting unlucky and be beaten up? Osta tried to decipher Lumian’s cryptic message.
At the same time, he found something oddly familiar about Lumian’s demeanor and tone but couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
As a Secrets Suppliant, his divination prowess was remarkably superior to the average person.
Suddenly, it struck him why he found the whole exchange eerily familiar.
Wasn’t this the exact manner he addressed his own “customers”?
Across from the antiquated building, Lumian contemplated whether to invest in a short suit and monocle to infiltrate the Salle de Bal Unique and gather intel.
If Timmons is indeed part of some mysterious organization and chummy with the police commissioner, snatching him for a bounty of verl d’or isn’t a smart move. It’d muck up my operation. Wouldn’t the money spent on the short suits and monocles go down the drain? They don’t come cheap, after all. Lumian was never one to hold back on expenses, with Trier teeming with “generous souls,” but he knew when to pinch pennies.
Mulling over his options, he scanned his surroundings, his eyes landing on an “Alone” bar diagonally across the Salle de Bal Unique.
Patrons of a dance hall would likely frequent a bar too. They must be rivals… Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Lumian’s head.
After all, enemies often knew one another best, and those most familiar with a dance hall would likely be its competitors!
Even if their accounts were likely embellished, they could still offer some grains of truth.
Without missing a beat, Lumian swiveled around and sauntered into the Alone bar.
The buildings on Rue Ancienne were steeped in antiquity, with most dating back to pre-Roselle times. Their windows were mere slits, letting in scant daylight. The overarching theme here was one of darkness.
Unperturbed by the unlit gas lamps, Lumian navigated through the dimly lit hall, sparsely populated by patrons, and took a stool at the bar.
Removing his cap, he ordered, “A gin on the rocks.”
The bar counter was tucked away in the darkest corner of the joint. The lean bartender was shrouded in shadows, his features obscured, revealing only a silhouette.
Despite Lumian’s keen eyesight, he could barely discern the man’s curly black hair, slightly blue eyes, and a somewhat low bridge of his nose.
As he awaited his gin, Lumian flashed a casual smile and remarked,
“Business seems slow here. The Salle de Bal Unique across the way appears to be drawing quite the crowd.”
The bartender slid a lemon wedge and iced gin across to Lumian.
Casting a glance at the door, he replied, “We do alright, but most folks are downstairs waiting for the play.
“How about it? Fancy a peek? Patrons with drinks can gain entry to the cellar for five licks. Uh, make it eight for your gin.”
“A play?” Lumian couldn’t hide his astonishment.
This was a facet none of the Rue Anarchie bars could boast.
The bartender sighed, explaining, “They can dance, sing, shoot pool, play cards across the road. We’ve got to stand out somehow to lure in customers.
“Many bars and cafes on the north shore now have their own mini-theaters.”
Lumian was at a loss for words, resorting to a mere sigh. “Has the bar scene gotten so cutthroat?”
He then produced three 20-coppet silver coins etched with gears and a 5-coppet copper coin, handing them to the bartender.
The total amounted to 13 licks or 65 coppets, including the ticket to the mini-theater for the performance.
The bartender promptly pointed to the stairs next to the counter leading down.
“You can head to the cellar anytime. Feel free to take your drink with you.”
No ticket required? Lumian wasn’t in a rush to vacate the counter. He smiled, asking, “The Salle de Bal Unique across the way seems rather… unique?”
“It certainly is.” The bartender lowered his voice. “Did you get swindled over there? Is that why you’re so curious?”
“Exactly.” Lumian nodded without missing a beat.
He saw no reason of hiding it.
The bartender chortled.
“We get scammed hopefuls straggling in here every day, but none ever pull it off. Heck, I once spotted the police commissioner of Quartier de l’Observatoire, Conde, strutting into the dance hall, all decked out in a short suit and a monocle.”
Timmons is no pushover… Lumian quickly abandoned any notion of conning the proprietor of Salle de Bal Unique.
Gin in hand, he pushed away from the counter, making his way down to the cellar.
Before he could reach the timber door, the bartender’s shout echoed, “Patron coming through!”
The door creaked open with a groan.
Lumian slowed his stride, taking in his surroundings as he stepped inside.
It was a makeshift theater, a half-height wooden platform stretching across the far end. Two gas wall lamps cast a feeble light.
Where the illumination fell short, stools and chairs were scattered sparsely.
At that moment, over 20 guests were settled in, engrossed in the show unfolding on the stage.
The silence was deafening, punctuated only by the sporadic clink of glasses, the dimly lit cellar rendered almost eerily hushed.
Lumian claimed a chair near the exit, his eyes drifting to the stage.
The performer was not a person but a puppet half the height of a person.
Adorned in a palette of yellow, white, and red paint, regardless of gender, each puppet bore an overstated grin.
Guided by nearly invisible threads, the puppets moved, opening their mouths, turning, running, carrying out a variety of plays.
From somewhere, a deep male voice and a slightly shrill female voice took turns delivering the lines.
Bathed in the faint, yellowish glow from the gas lamps, against the looming darkness, the painted clown puppets took on a sinister edge.
Lumian was instinctively put off by the ambiance.
Not one to squander the ticket cost, he stuck around a bit longer until the play wrapped up.
Throughout, not a sound was made. The audience, some faces bathed in the yellow light, others shrouded in darkness, were far more engrossed than Lumian had imagined.
Having drained his gin, Lumian took his leave of the mini-theater, where only two gas lamps held off the darkness.
As Lumian made his way back to Le Marché du Quartier du Gentleman, he claimed a window seat in a public carriage. As the shops and pedestrians retreated in the backdrop, he mulled over his next moves.
First order of business, secure some aquatic monster flesh and collect the necessary components for the Prophecy Spell. Second, elevate my standing in the Savoie Mob, aiming for a leadership position sooner rather than later… What’s the plan…
Lost in his thoughts, his eyes snagged on a familiar figure.
There was Wilson of the Poison Spur Mob, clad in a white shirt and black jacket, his craggy face framed by a mop of curly brown hair.
With his two goons in tow, Wilson navigated Avenue du Marché, disappearing down a side alley. He moved with an assured stride, his posture unscathed.
Lumian was taken aback. He’s up and about after being thrown down by him?
The fall was from four stories high!
That was some recovery. Made cockroaches look like amateurs!
A theory started to form in Lumian’s mind.
The Poison Spur Mob has extraordinary healing powers?
Possibly Planter pathway’s Doctor?
As he pondered, a memory surfaced.
In his dream, Madame Pualis had demonstrated the power to heal wounds instantaneously!
Although the dream might have distorted or exaggerated the reality, Madame Pualis’s anomalous pathway did encompass a sphere related to life.
And Louis Lund was suspected to show up on Avenue du Marché… Could the force behind the Poison Spur Mob be linked to the evil god worshiped by Madame Pualis? As Lumian ruminated over this, a smirk slowly crept onto his face.