Joseph's deep blue eyes sized up Ivan Zachary, making certain that he had never seen this shabbily dressed person before.
However, the fear that Zachary exhibited as if he recognized Joseph was clear in Lin Jie's eyes.
Lin Jie blinked several times and couldn't help but find it strange... This robber seemed to know Joseph.
Zachary scrambled to his feet, then silently shuffled backward.
His eyes widened in shock. The scene that he witnessed before losing consciousness became much more distinct the more he tried to forget it.
And now, he could discern that this robust middle-aged man before him was that divine entity which had transformed into a sun when Zachary had clambered out from the ruins of the factory.
Joseph's eyes narrowed. He, too, was puzzled by this person's reaction, but despite having a hard think, he still wasn't sure if he knew this poor refugee before him.
There were just too many people that he had met and saved.
This moment of hesitation only served to heighten Zachary's fear, causing him to trip and fall backward as he retreated.
"Hey, hey—ah!" Lin Jie subconsciously put his book down and attempted to stand.
Zachary panicked and slammed into the stack of books that Lin Jie had recently brought out.
Mu'en and Joseph's eyes widened simultaneously.
Zachary subconsciously looked up, only to see the tottering stack of books in his field of view. From his perspective, it was like a magnificent skyscraper crashing down on him. The books emitted a terrifying aura as they came crashing down, as if some sort of demon was hidden within that would break the seal and escape once the books hit the ground.
To Joseph, these books were Boss Lin's knowledge and authority—all these books recorded extraordinary truths, and each one could create a Supreme-rank transcendent being.
Even if Boss Lin didn't care about these, Joseph couldn't let it go. These books mustn't fall to the ground!
Thus, Joseph's pupils constricted as every inch of muscle tensed up. Aether burned all around him, covering every inch of his body. In an instant, even the air around him became scorching and distorted.
Joseph disappeared near instantaneously and appeared beside the tottering stack of books in the next moment, raising a strong arm and stopping the books that had been about to come crashing down.
However, he had overlooked one thing: his injuries had yet to completely recover, and he couldn't yet fully control the power of a Supreme-rank.
Therefore, in his bid to protect this books, he couldn't prevent an aetheric burst leaking out from his body—
The moment the toppling books were stopped, the wall behind the nearest bookshelf... cracked.
Cobweb-like fissures appeared on the wall and fine dust rained down.
The few refugees near Joseph felt as if they had been hit in the back of their heads and fainted.
Not a single one of those books had hit the ground! It was a massive success!
Joseph heaved a sigh of relief, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead as he started to tidy up the bookshelf.
Lin Jie: "..."
Boss Lin's butt, which had yet to rise, sat back down. Then, he propped his chin on his hands and mulled.
If he wasn't mistaken, the one that had rushed past him in a flash and caused the wall to crack in the next moment had been Joseph...
No, no, no. There might not have been a causal relation between the two events.
Lin Jie seriously thought about it. After all, there was even a ridiculous geological phenomenon like periodic subsidence in Norzin. Perhaps the ground strata had been unstable in recent times, and a small imperceptible earthquake had occurred, which led to the cracked wall.
He had clearly seen Joseph catching the books before they fell and the latter hadn't touched the counter nor wall at all.
As a police officer from a secret department fitted with prosthetic limbs, could Joseph's martial ability have reached beyond the limits of an ordinary person?
This wasn't impossible... In his previous life on Earth, there were martial arts experts that could break marble with their bare hands. In this world where the technology was slightly warped, perhaps such a degree of ability was somewhat normal.
Totally not worth making a fuss about, thought Lin Jie to himself as he nodded.
He covered his mouth and stifled a cough while observing the wall. "Joseph, it seems like you are recovering well from your injuries... That's some quick reaction. Thank you."
"No, no, no. You're too kind, Boss Lin. I just didn't want those precious books of yours to fall on the ground and be dirtied," Joseph said with a bright smile. "It's what I ought to do. If I hadn't done anything, your assistant would have probably done the same."
"Oh… that's true."
Lin Jie glanced at Mu'en, the young lass still as cool as a cucumber, completely unfazed by everything she had witnessed.
Indeed, Mu'en could even take on six people alone, so Joseph's case ought to be rather normal.
Joseph is the head of a special department in the Central Police Unit after all. It isn't too far-fetched to think he possesses some skills. Perhaps he's like one of those special forces soldiers that has trained from young?
But, speaking of which—my wall!!!
Joseph! How are you going to compensate me!!!
Nevermind, nevermind. He's still injured, and it was to protect the books. Moreover, Joseph still has to deal with these refugees.
"Huu..." Lin Jie took a few deep breaths to calm himself down.
Just as he was about to do some asking, he noticed from the corner of his eyes that the one who had pointed a knife at him was the only one amongst this group of refugees that hadn't been knocked out.
"Uh…" Lin Jie propped himself against the counter and eyed the refugee that had fallen to the ground in fear.
Joseph turned around and was surprised too. This person wasn't a transcendent being, but he could still maintain his composure in the face of the pressurizing aura of a Supreme-rank.
Zachary hadn't fainted amid the surging aether blow. Instead, he sat on the ground with lifeless eyes and a blank expression, replaying the scene in his mind that he had witnessed after crawling out of the factory ruins.
He was now certain that Joseph had been the last thing he saw before losing consciousness. The knight that had turned into flames.
I-I wouldn't be silenced, would I?!
Zachary gulped nervously, recalling that the Central District government had chosen to keep this matter a secret. And he'd inadvertently seen it—
The more one knew, the quicker the death.
Fear completely gripped Zachary's heart. But right now, he wasn't alone. He needed to think about the lives of his comrades too...
"Are you alright?" Lin Jie asked Zachary.
"I-I'm fine." Zachary carefully got up from the ground and forced a smile. But in truth, his legs were already weak from fright.
"Your companions… why did they all faint, huh?" Lin Jie frowned as he eyed the bunch of refugees sprawled on the ground.
It couldn't be because of Joseph, could it? He didn't even touch these people.
Zachary's mouth twitched. Wasn't this your doing?!
It was you who instigated this burly man to do so, right?! What's up with you asking me this question with an innocent look on your face?!
Are you even human?
He could clearly sense that the aura emitted in this instant was exactly the same one he felt when he was unconscious.
"They probably… fainted from hunger?"
Zachary actually managed a smile. Since the other party asked such a thing, he probably wanted to pretend that he didn't know anything.
I can't say. I definitely can't say that I've seen that guy... I'll be silenced otherwise.
"Huh?" was Lin Jie's reaction.
"B-Boss… To be honest, we haven't eaten for a few days," Zachary said with a trembling voice. "We were originally working as laborers at 67th Avenue, but the periodic subsidence caused the ground layer to collapse, leaving us homeless. That was why we thought about robbing your bookstore. We were really desperate.
Zachary put his hands to ask for forgiveness while stealing glances at Joseph while he recounted all that had happened to his group.
To Zachary, Joseph was much more frightening than the bookstore owner before him. However, Joseph was being so deferential toward the bookstore owner. This meant that the young man at the counter was even more fearsome than Joseph. Zachary definitely could not afford to offend someone even more powerful!
So that's the case...
Lin Jie felt his heart ache a little when he heard the reason as he recalled the television reports of the tragic situation at 67th Avenue he had seen. Lin Jie had already come up with some guesses, just that he didn't want to bring it to light. And now, there was even less reason to send them to the police station.
"Haa... Since you know it's wrong and you are sorry, don't do such things ever again."
For a second, Lin Jie thought about it but realized that these people probably couldn't afford to buy books either. However, being helpful had always been a principle of his, and thus, he flashed a bright smile and said, "Since you are so hungry, have a meal with me."
Zachary's legs turned to jelly out of fear the moment he heard this.
"No need, no need. Thank you for your kindness." Zachary waved his hands and kept muttering, "We'll leave now, we'll leave now."
Zachary had indeed gone hungry for several days, but at this moment, his strength overflowed as he started dragging his accomplices out of the bookstore.
"Hey, wait a minute," Lin Jie suddenly shouted behind him, and Zachary quickened his pace.
"Boss Lin is calling you," Joseph growled, causing Zachary to freeze.
"Is there anything else? Boss?" Zachary looked back, on the verge of tears.
As the saying goes, give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day... Lin Jie mused. "Even if I taught you a lesson today or gave you a full meal, you might steal or rob in future if you encounter the same desperate situation again.
"In that case, I'll give you a book." Lin Jie smiled at Zachary. "It's free, but if this book helps you get out of poverty in the future, make sure to repay me," Lin Jie said as he turned around to pick a book from the shelf behind the counter.
It can be hard to make great work when its stolen from tinyurl.com/37k7u89t.
Zachary stood rooted to the spot, feeling somewhat at a loss.
Didn't I say I no longer wished to be a good person anymore... But why did I have to encounter something like this again?!
However, this sensation merely lasted for an instant. When he shifted his gaze to watch the bookstore owner's back, he suddenly realized that the bookstore in front of him wasn't a bookstore. Rather, it was like the deep, dark mouth of a scary beast. The smile of the harmless bookstore owner was hidden within the darkness, filled with an evil bewitching power like poison.
The bookstore owner turned around, having picked out a book which he placed in front of Zachary, who couldn't help but hold his breath.
"This is a rather dated technique, but it's still very practical to this day. I believe that it can help show you a brand new path."
Lin Jie pushed the book titled How To Pickle across the counter.