As I walked into my kitchen, I was playing with my watch, quickly sending out several texts to several choice people. Once I was done, I looked up at the loanshark with a disdainful and dismissive look.
“What are you doing here?” I asked coldly.
It was the same scumlord from a few weeks before. He had three other guys with him. Naturally, Caleb wasn’t one of them. I recognized at least one of the guys from before, but it looked like he had hired new help. My behavior naturally angered him, but Mom spoke up first.
“Honey, please…” Mom shot me a worrying look, clearly not wanting me to make things worse.
“You should listen to your mother, kid. You may have managed last month’s payment, but you still owe us.”
I had kind of expected I’d still need to deal with him. Mizuki had squared away Mom’s official debts, but it was doubtful that a loanshark like this guy would leave his business on the books. Naturally, I had looked into this supposed loan, and it wasn’t legal in many different ways. However, these people had resources, and if we got a lawyer, it’d cost us. Even if we could find a way to fight it, they were dangerous, and defying them had consequences that the law couldn’t protect us from. Mom had made a deal with a devil, and breaking from their influence was something she wasn’t capable of doing.
Mom had only taken such a loan in the first place because she had been truly been in a hard place. It was my fault. She had just lost her job, and I ended up having health problems. I suddenly got a pain in my stomach, and I needed to go to the ER. I had stomach problems and they thought it was appendicitis. It turned out to be a harmless stress ulcer caused by my upcoming finals, but that didn’t stop us from accruing all of the bills.
“I should still have a week or so,” I responded angrily as I thought about how this guy had exploited us in the past, and even tried to force my family into doing questionable things to appease them.
“Yeah?” He raised a smug smile. “Well, it looks like our policies have changed recently. Payments have been moved up a week. Didn’t you get the letter?”
“Ahhh… too bad. You’re late. Late fees can get quite expensive.”
“You…” I took a step forward, but my sister reached out and grabbed me, pulling me back against her large chest and hugging me tightly.
“Hey… as soon as you missed the payment, as your concerned lender, I came out here myself. You should feel lucky that I’ve taken such concern. Another man would just allow you to accrue more debt than you can handle.”
“A decent lender wouldn’t trick us into accruing undeserved debt in the first place.”
Once again, he was framing himself as someone honorable. It might work on stupid people, but I knew better. I wore an extremely bitter expression on my face, and if my sister wasn’t holding me, I wasn’t sure if I could have kept myself from lunging at them. I had found myself changing this last month since I had ended up in the apocalyptic world through the mirror. I was less tolerant and less patient. I had killed in this world before, and I wouldn’t hesitate to kill these men too. Once I brought them back to the apocalyptic world as corpses, they would no longer be a threat to anyone anymore.
I didn’t even consider the issue with Caleb.
“If you don’t like what I’m offered, we can always end things now. You just need to pay me what you owe me.” He grinned. “All of it.”
I shook slightly, and mom took the opportunity to speak up.
“We, can’t afford it. However, we will have more money-”
“How much?” I cut in.”
“Hmm?” They both glanced in my direction.
“How much money? To pay things off today?”
“Oh? After another month of interest, plus your late fees, it’s $6718.20.” He responded.
My sister’s arms tightened around me, and my mother went a bit white. I only continued to glare at him. After having experienced so much death in that other world, having had to kill to survive and even get tortured, I didn’t notice how much my demeanor had changed. He once might have just laughed it off, but my current glare caused him to become somewhat uncomfortable. Before he could open his mouth again, I spoke.
“If you receive $6,718.20 today, you’ll leave?” I asked in a quiet voice.
The guy threw his head back and laughed. The men still standing behind him with their arms crossed in a menacing pose also took the opportunity to laugh. Mom glanced at me uncertainly, but she didn’t say a word. As the guy’s laughter died down and he wiped a tier from his eye, he grinned at me.
“If you pay that amount off, then we’ll be done and I won’t bother your family again… unless, of course, the lady needs another loan?” He raised a provocative eyebrow toward my Mother, who reeled back slightly.
I took a sudden step forward, pulling out of Hazel’s grip. She let out a cry, having expected to keep me in place and failing. The men stiffened slightly, but they didn’t see me as much of a threat. That was useful since I didn’t see them as one either. There might have been a time when I saw this guy as intimidating. However, once you lived with drugged-up raiders who murdered, raped, and didn’t give a crap about human rights, this guy seemed rather weak in comparison. Any threatening looks he gave washed off of me like water.
I reached into my pocket and then tossed a card onto a table. It landed with a click. The man frowned, leaning forward and peering down at it. This was the black card with the golden text, ‘Chloe’s Auction House’ on it. He looked at it, but he didn’t touch it.
“A credit card. You can charge the rest of the debt onto that.” I snapped.
Technically, the card only had about two grand on it, leftover from the diamond lots. I had spent some of that money, but I still had the $10,000 credit line. I wasn’t worried about it. Even if I maxed the credit, those dinosaur bones filling up my digitizer would be enough to fetch me twice that amount. Once I had that money, it would be my startup fund. His reaction wasn’t as pleasant as I hoped.
“I’m not a credit card machine.” He responded in a low voice.
“You’re telling me you can’t take it on credit?”
“Not from you, kid.”
We glared at each other, but one of the men tapped on the loanshark’s shoulder. He shot the man a glare, but the man still leaned over and hastily whispered in his ear. After a few moments, his eyes widened, and then the smile returned to his face. He looked down at the card again, and something else had also appeared on his face. Greed.
“Where you steal this card from, kid?”
“I didn’t steal it.” I blinked. “It’s my card.”
“Hah… I’ve just been informed that this card is given out from Chloe’s Auction House. Anyone who has such a card is considered a high-roller. There is no way a dirt rat like you managed to get your hands on a credit line from them. Thus, the only option was that you stole it.”
“That’s not true!”
“He’s not!” Hazel shouted defensively.
“It’s best if I just take this card myself, for safekeeping.” He started to reach for the card.
“Now, wait just a minute, you can’t call my-” Mom started to speak up.
His hand was near to the card when I moved. I slammed a knife down into the table, just in front of his hand, but in front of the card. I wasn’t even sure when I had snatched the steak knife, but I moved with such speed and precision that the entire room was cut to silence. I let go of the knife, but it still vibrated for several moments before finally settling down. I reached down, grabbed the card, and pulled it into my pocket.
The loanshark only seemed to recover after my action. “You have a lot of nerve, punk. I’m going to”
His words were interrupted at a pounding at the door. I glanced at my watch and nodded. It was about time.
“That’s for me,” I responded coolly. “Mom?”
Mother, still very shaken, stood up, and then walked to the door and opened it. Five men walked into the room. The men the loanshark brought were a rough lot. They were there to be muscle, and not do anything good. Furthermore, by their looks, they hadn’t come from a good place in life. The loansharks at least had an illusion, however thin, of looking like businessmen. These five all looked like rough guys. The one in front was Caleb.
“Wh-what is this?” He asked, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
“Ahh… come on…” I leaned my knuckles on the table. “You’re the one who taught me this lesson. It’s a kill or be killed world. To make money, you have to do whatever it takes, right?”