Theodore was a secondhand bookseller.
As this profession was passed down in his family for generations, Theodore had been 12 when he began assisting his father at Tulip Bookstore. Since then, he had been in the trade for over three decades and had garnered quite some reputation in Norzin due to his extensive experience.
Besides trading secondhand book collections, he would collect some books that only had sole copies or ones that intrigued him as his personal hobby.
Or rather, everyone who ran a bookstore would more or less have a special relationship with books.
Yet, it was this very hobby that got him into trouble…
Theodore did not have the ability to determine how much trouble it was, but he instinctively understood that it was probably beyond what a bookseller could manage.
Even though he had forged friendly ties with some powerful aristocrats in the Central District through out-of-print or expensive book collections, these connections were utterly useless here.
Because this matter had exceeded the range of foreseeable expectations and was quickly moving toward one which far surpassed the imagination of ordinary beings…
Theodore had gotten his hands on the book through a Lower District smuggler.
Interactions between the Upper and Lower District were forbidden, and the sole passageway beneath the Central District was under the watch of Rolle Resource Development and Central District military. Theoretically speaking, smuggling activities were basically impossible, and Theodore didn’t have the slightest clue how the other party managed to do it.
That fellow had been very tight-lipped and refused to divulge any information. Naturally, Theodore understood the rules and did not probe any further.
Yet, it was undeniable that smuggling between the Lower District and Upper Districts would bring about a hefty sum of profit. Apart from books, there were much more valuable items.
This book was merely an ancient book that was both incomprehensible and damaged and was something the other party wanted to conveniently get rid of.
It so happened that Theodore was fascinated by such unique books. Thus, when he received this news, Theodore got someone to deal with the smuggler and get hold of the book.
But it all went wrong somewhere and information was leaked. That smuggler who seemed to have a powerful backing just vanished, and nothing was heard since then.
The middleman that Theodore had entrusted the deal with also similarly vanished without a trace. Days before the disappearance, the middleman had come by in a hurry and dropped a single sentence before leaving—”Don’t admit it!”
Theodore was befuddled and at a loss, but the matter died down for a period of time.
He had nearly forgotten about it until… a customer showed up asking about that book.
“I heard from Juliana that you have some goods from the Lower District. I’m interested in stuff like that, so may I have a look?”
Juliana was another middleman that Theodore was acquainted with. She was a long-term partner who recommended customers that were all reliable and trustworthy.
Theodore didn’t think much of it and since nobody had bought any of the things he had gotten from the Lower District for quite some time, he decided to bring the customer to the room where he exhibited his collection.
But just as he was about to open his mouth and speak, he suddenly recalled the deathly stare of the missing middleman before he had left that resembled the look of a trapped beast.
“Don’t admit it!”
As Theodore observed the exceptionally profound, sincere eyes of the customer, out of nowhere, a sudden instinct came over him.
Trying his utmost to keep his cool, Theodore instantly gave an apologetic look and explained that he had entrusted it all to the missing middleman to get rid of those items because he had felt they were dangerous.
“I’m truly sorry.” That had been what Theodore had said.
The customer turned silent and stared at his face for about half a minute before meekly replying, “Such a pity.”
And then, the customer left immediately.
Theodore subconsciously heaved a sigh of relief and only then realized that his entire back was drenched with sweat. Deep down, he was rejoicing about having recalled that stark warning.
Yet, evidently, it was way too early for him to be happy.
This entire matter only truly began after that encounter.
People would show up enquiring about the book every couple of days, as well as the appearance of a couple of strange fellows among the customers that visited his bookstore.
This novel is available on Hosted Novel.
Theodore could sense that some of them harbored ill intentions but didn’t take any further actions due to some concerns he was unaware of.
One time, he overheard a customer’s murmuring, “Bookstore? No way another one, right?”
Afterwards, the way the customer viewed Theodore strangely… as though pondering whether he was observing some form of extraterrestrial.
Theodore vaguely understood a bit. That so-called fear seemed to be due to a particular bookstore which subsequently made these people develop some sort of trepidation toward all ‘bookstores.’
He didn't know either… Exactly what sort of bookstore was capable of making them so jittery?
However, such apprehension did not persist for a long time. As more people turned up, these people gradually stopped concealing their expressions and their words turned more pressurizing.
Danger was silently approaching.
Till one fateful day where Theodore witnessed a customer that came to enquire about the book morph into an eagle immediately after stepping out of Tulip Bookstore!
That’s right, that person transformed from a human into a bird!
Moreover, right before the eagle took flight, it intentionally turned around and shot Theodore a look of pure unadorned evilness.
Theodore understood at once. Something big was going on around him!
He had long heard about the existence of ‘Transcendent Beings’ in Norzin—entities that transcended mere mortals, including magicians, knights, elves, and even dragons that were still a part of the many legends that were still in circulation in this day and age!
Yet, having never seen any of it, Theodore had merely viewed this as casual mealtime conversation topics.
But now, he had really encountered such a thing!
And they were all headed straight at him.
Theodore was paralyzed with fear from this realization…
After panicking for quite some time, Theodore finally calmed down and recalled the advertisement Rolle Resource Development had put up some time ago in the commercial district between Street 23 and 24.
Given Rolle Resource Development’s enormous scale, these transcendent beings couldn’t possibly make their move there, could they?
Without any hesitation, Theorodore spared no effort to obtain a lease for a unit there and managed to successfully relocate all his goods and business in the shortest time possible.
“Hopefully, Rolle Resource Development would cause them some apprehension… But what should I do if they were to really pursue me there?” Theodore could only grimace weakly.
What could he even do as a mere defenseless mortal?
“This book… What exactly is it?”
Theodore stared at the book in his hands. He couldn't help but mutter aloud the question he had no answer to and did not have the guts to find out.
He had also tried reading the book in secret before, but unfortunately, he didn’t understand a single thing written on it.
While it was classified as a book, it actually seemed more like a diary as the writings were all handwritten and accompanied by some indecipherable hand-drawn illustrations. Most of the pages were damaged, and there were even some bloodstains.
Besides that, the only comprehensible words were some meaningless scribblings scattered across the pages. The handwriting, too, was exceptionally strange, as though they were being copied by a kid who had recently learned how to write with many drawings beside as if to explain something.
Theodore mulled over it for a long time, and after repeated comparisons, he vaguely reckoned that the book’s format resembled…
Some sort of research journal?