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4 Chapter 4 – Zephyx

A bit later, three people walked out of the crowd.

All three of them were tall men with muscular bodies, and they were all wearing the same uniform.

It looked like a military uniform painted in black with grey sleeves.

This was the uniform of the Insurance Gang.

"Welcome," the leader of the Insurance Gang said with a polite smile.

One of the five city agents just extended a hand like they were asking for something.

"Of course," the leader said.

A moment later, he took out a suitcase, opened it, and handed it to the man.

Inside the suitcase were stacks upon stacks of credits in paper form.

The city agent counted the money, which took several minutes.

"474," he spoke with a distorted voice.

When the leader of the Insurance Gang heard that, he became nervous, and his smile seemed more strained.

"Excuse me, but it should be 482," he said. "Could you recount, please?"

"474," the city agent repeated.

Silence.

The leader of the Insurance Gang looked at the person to the right of him and gestured with his head.

The guy quickly took out a couple more bills and handed them over.

The city agent counted them and nodded.

"482."

The leader of the Insurance Gang also nodded.

A moment later, the three people walked to the side.

"One by one, come forward. You better not try to cheat us," the leader of the Insurance Gang shouted.

A moment later, all the people with the black pins walked forward and passed by the three men from the Insurance Gang.

The Insurance Gang inspected all of them and collected the black pins from everyone that passed by.

By the end, 479 people had walked past them.

Then, the three people from the Insurance Gang followed them, making the total 482.

After that, four of the five city agents walked towards the less-crowded marketplace and commanded everyone to come forward one by one. The last of them waited in the back, making sure that no one was trying to sneak by them.

Next, all the people in the marketplace walked forward, handing over a stack of credits each.

Nick stood up and passed through the crowd.

A moment later, he stood in front of one of the people with the gasmasks.

Nick handed over a stack of bills and walked past them just like any other person in the marketplace.

After several minutes, only around 800 people were left in the marketplace.

When no one else stepped forward for several seconds, the fifth city agent stepped forward.

"Last call," they shouted with a distorted voice. "Anyone not coming forward now will be considered as not able to pay."

No one moved.

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"Alright," the man shouted. "As always, do not make any sudden movements, and don't show any aggression. The mosquitos are all minions of the Blood Mosquito Specter, and they will not drink more than what you owe."

The crowd of people became scared and nervous.

A moment later, the buzzing of the mosquitos intensified, and they flew forward.

The mosquitos scattered across the crowd and started to suck the blood of the people.

As time passed, mosquitos that had filled up flew away as new ones joined.

People were crying, hyperventilating, gritting their teeth, and praying.

Others had already grown used to it.

After around two minutes, all the mosquitos flew back to the five people in gasmasks.

The crowd of people had all become noticeably thinner and whiter.

Lastly, the mosquitos entered all the houses in the marketplace to make sure that no one was trying to hide.

And finally, the five people turned around and left the marketplace behind as they walked down another street.

It was over.

This happened every month on the last day.

Once a month, every citizen of Crimson Fungus City had to pay 100 credits to the city as tax.lightsnovel

One could only pay the tax in full or not at all. Partial payments were not permitted.

If one paid the tax, nothing would happen, but if one failed to pay the tax, they would need to pay with their blood.

A group of people accompanied by large swarms of sizable mosquitos walked through the Dregs once a month, and if a citizen wasn't able to pay the tax, the swarm of mosquitos would fall onto the citizen.

The swarm of mosquitos would gather blood until a collective two liters had been gathered from adults.

Children below the age of 14 only needed to pay 50 credits or one liter of blood.

Children below the age of six didn't need to pay taxes.

Naturally, losing two liters of blood wasn't lethal, and the mosquitos were excellent at not inflicting injuries on the people while gathering blood.

However, recovering from something like that usually took six to eight weeks.

So, if a citizen didn't manage to pay the tax next month as well, things would become dangerous.

Getting 100 credits in one month was nearly impossible for normal people living in the Dregs, but getting 100 credits over two months was manageable.

Because of that, around 50% of people paid blood one month, credits the next, and then blood again.

Of course, countless people had tried to fight their way out of paying taxes, but it always ended the same way.

With the person turning into a bloodless corpse.

In fact, the mosquitos weren't accompanying the tax collectors, but the tax collectors were accompanying the mosquitos.

The tax collectors only came for two reasons.

They dealt with the money.

And they stopped people from panicking in front of the mosquitos.

If the mosquitos wanted, they could kill every living person in the Dregs in less than 10 minutes.

One had to know that there were over 2,000 people living in the Dregs.

It wasn't that the mosquitos were very powerful but that there were literally millions of them, and every mosquito was bigger than a giant hornet.

Naturally, not all of the mosquitos accompanied the tax collectors. There were only around 100 following each tax collector, but if things became serious, millions of them would appear.

Even more, the mosquitos were the minions of a very powerful Specter, the Blood Mosquito.

The rat Nick had talked to two years ago was also a minion of a very powerful Specter called the Parasite.

Some Specters could control animals or create their own animals and control them. Their minions would share the perception of the Specter, and the Specter could also talk and act through the minions.

While nearly all Specters were the enemies of humanity, there were some Specters that cooperated and helped humanity.

The Blood Mosquito was one of them.

The Parasite was not.

The Blood Mosquito gained power by consuming human blood. Naturally, it could send some isolated mosquitos to gather blood from sleeping people, but if it overdid things, the truly powerful Zephyx Manufacturers would notice it and kill it.

So, the Blood Mosquito had decided to help humanity instead, and Crimson Fungus City was the perfect place.

Crimson Fungus City was named after the strongest Specter that was being confined inside the most prestigious Zephyx Manufacturer, the Crimson Fungus.

In contrast to nearly all powerful Specters, the Crimson Fungus was not intelligent.

As the name implied, the Crimson Fungus was just a huge fungus living inside a containment unit.

Just like the Blood Mosquito, the Crimson Fungus gained power by absorbing human blood.

But in return, the Crimson Fungus was creating electricity and, most importantly, Zephyx.

Zephyx could be used for basically everything.

It could be transformed into electricity, heat, movement, and so on, and it was extremely efficient at it.

Even more, Zephyx could also be used to increase the powers of Zephyx Extractors, and it could also be used to create powerful weapons that could deal with Specters.

The Crimson Fungus was the reason why the Blood Mosquito had chosen this city.

The Blood Mosquito would help the Zephyx Manufacturer in collecting the blood, and it would get to keep some of the blood in exchange.

The remaining blood would be sprinkled onto the Crimson Fungus, which would then produce Zephyx.

The Zephyx Extractors would collect the Zephyx, and they would be allowed to keep a bit of it as payment.

The Zephyx Manufacturer would then use the harvested Zephyx to increase the power of their company or sell it to other cities.

But if the Zephyx Manufacturer wanted to get bigger and earn even more money, they needed even stronger Specters.

And to get these even stronger Specters, they needed stronger Zephyx Extractors.

This was what Nick wanted to become.

Being a Zephyx Extractor meant being able to become powerful and having a better life.

Nick wanted to get out of the Dregs and finally live a better life.