Chapter 13 – Traders
Six days have passed since the night Veronica revealed her emotions to Regal. Veronica has practically become a new person, proactively pressing herself onto Regal and refusing to leave his side. Regal is troubled by this as it has detrimentally affected the squad’s teamwork when entering the dungeon, and has even interfered with his work.
Veronica has continued to try helping Regal with his compounding, even though she lacks the necessary skills. This results in quite a number of wasted materials and failed experiments. She also has started to follow him while he is working with the Community Defence Team, and despite the other crafters happily accepting the sudden addition of her beauty into their mix, her presence constantly distracts Regal while he works on the additional wall armor construction.
During their last trip to the dungeon, Regal and his squad members gained three more levels, but the speed in which they were growing is beginning to slow down. The ‘Blood Flint Bullets’ broke common leveling patterns and helped the squad do in a week what a normal hunter squad would do in a year, but the increased leveling speed still has its limits, and is starting to even out. Lande and Lore are still at level 26 each, with extremely slow growth as they aren’t able to venture deeper than the current floor they are hiding on.
Regal also spent part of the last six days returning to the new Greyhorn Iron Mine, taking advantage of the time before hired miners would arrive, to mine a large amount of iron ore for his own crafting. He was only able to keep thirty percent of what he mined, but after a long day of hard work his thirty percent was around two hundred pieces of low quality ores and twenty medium quality ore.
On the seventh day since Veronica revealed her emotions to Regal, it is time for him to return to the Community Defence Crafting Team once again, and continue to help with the community’s wall upgrade. Now that he has ‘Forging – Intermediate’, Regal plans to offer his aid in constructing the bronze reinforcement plates so he can train his new crafting skill further.
Regal leaves the Villa early in the morning with Veronica holding his arm in the crook of her elbow with a vice grip. They head toward the southern gate where all the crafters under the employment of the city lord have been congregating before they continue work on the walls. Even though Regal has a higher strength than Veronica, due to all the passive divine arts from his crafting skills boosting his stats, he can’t bare to even attempt to break his arm free due to his tender feelings for her.
Amidst the wide streets of Greyhorn Townsend, Regal notices a sparsity of residents. When Regal and Veronica reach the gate they don’t find a single crafter from the Community Defense Team present. They even go outside to look around but are unable to find anyone from the team.
“Where is everyone?” Regal asks without expecting an answer. Veronica takes the question seriously and scrunches her brow in thought.
Ignoring Veronica as she ponders one explanation or another, Regal takes out his Transmission Plate and scrolls through a small list of names until he finds Seref’s name and presses it to initiate contact.
“Seref, I’m at the city gate where we usually meet, but no one is here. Is everyone at the crafting hall?”
Not long after, Seref’s voice sounds out through the plate.
“Hahahaha,” The reply begins with a long bout of laughter, “We don’t have to work today because the traders arrived just before dawn, didn’t you see their airships?”
Regal is stunned. He didn’t expect that nobody would be working today, and moreover didn’t know that the traders arrived this morning. He quickly ascends the wall with Veronica and looks over the community to see the figures of several airships tied to the ground near the eastern wall. It can’t be helped that he didn’t see them this morning, as they arrived before he or any of his squad members were outside and their villa is located in a position where it is impossible to see past the eastern wall.
Regal hurries Veronica excitedly as they make their way through the city to where the traders have situated themselves, making sure to notify the rest of his squad members through the transmission plate to meet them there.
Regal and Veronica arrive outside the eastern gate of the community wall to find Astore, Aqua, and Kilde there waiting for them. Regal stands just outside the gate and gazes passionately at the airships, which he has only ever seen flying in the sky outside Grand Theore.
The airships have an enormous elongated balloon which allows them to fly through the sky. The balloons are held in shape by steel ribs and many parts are covered with dense metal plates to protect and reinforce them. Beneath the balloon, attached by large ropes of weaved willow steel, is what looks like a sea ship with no sails and a flat base. The ship counterpart is where all the crew live and all the cargo is held.
Regal has some knowledge of airships as a crafter and knows that on the inside of the balloon’s structure are pieces of refined gravity ore, a rare and expensive mineral which creates and releases a unique gas to defy gravity when charged with mana. Special alchemy formations have been set up to allow the crew to charge the ore. The gravity ore is the reason why airships can freely fly in the sky and carry such heavy loads.
What stuns Regal the most about the traders’ airships situated on the ground is that there is not just one, but six. This means there are six different traders here at the same time, not only to sell their goods, but also to purchase resources in large quantities.
“Regal, you’re here!” Seref approaches Regal’s squad from the side and happily greets him. He also says hello to Veronica, whom he has gotten to know more closely over the past week, while smiling and waving to each of the other squad members for which he has trouble putting names to faces.
Regal nods in greeting and seeing that Seref had waited, knowing Regal was coming. He asks, “Seref, why are there so many traders? Is it always like this?”
“Hah, of course not. Most months it is only two, sometimes three. The news of our new iron ore mine has probably been exposed by the workers the lord is hiring and they all want to form a contract with the lord to have exclusive purchasing rights. This kind of thing is quite common.”
“Would the lord accept that?” Aqua asks in confusion, “An exclusive contract would eliminate any other customers and would set a fixed price when others may offer more later.”
“It’s hard to say Miss. Iron ore itself isn’t all that valuable, but a full vein of it can have a frightening amount of the stuff. Forming a contract with a trader can help sell it faster and increase the rate of profit. Sometimes deals include other lucrative options as well, but I don’t think Lord Solace will agree to a deal that easily.”
“Because of the way he is. He doesn’t want to lose any money from the potential value of the mine, even if it will take longer to sell. Not only that, but I’m sure the lord will use a large portion of it for the community rather than just selling it. While it’s true that there will be less security if it can’t be sent from the mine directly to an airship, some of the Greyhorn Guards will take rotational shifts protecting the mine and cargo.”
Seref scratches his head in thought, then leans over toward the squad and says in a quiet voice inaudible to anyone not within several feet of him.
“I have also heard that the Lord has a large bandit group under his employ. They protect the community and its interests from other bandits in the shadows, while the Community Guard protects us from other communities.”
Regal and the others are shocked by this news. Even Astore and Kilde, with their near mute emotions, are surprised to hear the City lord has connections with bandits. Bandits are shunned and hated by people even worse than the Soulless, so it is practically unthinkable that a figure who is supposed to be righteous and a leader of the people works hand-in-hand with them.
“Of course, that is only hearsay, and I have never seen any evidence to prove he is. Let’s not talk about this anymore and go see what the traders have for sale this time.”
Seref quickly guides Regal and his squad toward several of the airships. Massive doors are opened on the rear of the ships, allowing a large number of people to enter and exit.
Regal enters the nearest airship via a large ramp and sees that inside there are many large tables and shelves, all having goods for sale with the ship’s crew acting as storekeepers. He can also see at the front of the ship innumerable crates stacked up, most of which are full of raw materials they purchase and sell elsewhere for large profits. Regal can also buy some, but buying in small quantities is always extremely expensive, especially the rarer materials.
The groups splits into two with Regal, Veronica, and Seref looking at one section of goods, while Astore, Aqua, and Kilde head off elsewhere. Apart from Seref, no one else has a large amount of money, so they can only look at the goods and can’t purchase anything expensive such as new weapons or armor.
Regal looks over a shelf that has several rifles lined up, inspecting their stats as he goes. One particular rifle catches his attention by a complicated alchemical array inscribed on it and is surprised how good its stats are.
Immortal Thunder Blast Rifle A germanium alloy rifle made with fine craftsmanship and inscripted with three separate alchemy formulae. The material used increases durability and firing speed without any repercussive damage to the weapon. A custom cylinder allows for two additional rounds to be loaded into the weapon. Weapon Type: Rifle/Two Handed Item Grade: Exclusive Requirements: Lvl 35, Dex 50, Str 27 Damage: 87 – 112 Range: 525 Yards Ammunition: .61 Rounds Durability: 120/120 Abilities: ~ Thunder Flare Formulae: Bullets will explode on contact with an explosion of lightning, dealing 20% damage to nearby targets. ~ Heavy Ammunition Formulae: Will automatically refill 1 round every 7 seconds. ~ Regeneration Formulae: Will automatically repair 1 durability every hour.
The rifle Regal is staring at is a massive weapon 4 feet long with a dark green tinge to the metal. A large cylinder at the base of the rifle can hold 15 heavy caliber bullets. The most frightening aspect about the weapon however, is that twenty percent of the gun’s massive damage will be transmitted to every nearby enemy. If enough mutant beasts are close together, the damage produced would be astronomical.
Regal’s hopes are quickly dashed however at a massive price tag of over twenty thousand gold coins. Even if he was over level 35 and spent every day hunting more valuable mutant beasts, he wouldn’t have that kind of wealth.
Continuing on, Regal found many other interesting items but their prices were all far outside his price range. The only items that he could afford to purchase with his mediocre wealth were just some of the cheaper raw resources. With such a small choice of items he can buy, Regal decides to use nearly all of the squad’s money on a dozen Umbrasteel ingots of medium quality, a black metal several times as strong as ordinary steel, which he can now smelt and craft items out of with his ‘Forging – Intermediate’, and some supplementary materials to help with crafting weapons.
Regal’s plan is to create new weapons and armor for his squad now that they are at a higher level.
“Is that all you’re buying?” Seref asks Regal with a gentle laugh as he easily spends ten times as much as Regal did on raw materials and some rare monster materials.
Regal scratches his head awkwardly and replies, “Even though our squad pools our money together, we spent a bunch not too long ago to help us level faster.”
“Would you like me to get you anything?”
“No, the traders come once a month, so we will have more coin by then.”
“If you ever need anything, just let me know.”
While Seref offers Regal to purchase him things he needs, Regal understands that he only means it within a certain limited value. Regal also keeps his firm beliefs about not accepting charity and would stubbornly resist it unless there is something he could do for Seref.
“If there’s anything you want, I will save up my share of coins to help buy it for you.” Veronica stares intently at Regal and says in an assertive tone, leaving little room for him to reject her as she knows what Regal is like.
Feeling helpless, Regal silently accompanies Seref with Veronica beside him for another hour before finally deciding to leave the traders’ markets. Regal, then joined by the rest of his squad, head back to their villa. Seref remains to continue looking around the trader’s goods in case he comes across anything else he might want to use. As a trader who makes the most of the lord’s investments to the Crafters’ Hall, he has a large amount of personal savings and is quite free with his purchases.
Back at their villa, Regal’s squad’s excitement from visiting the traders for the first time has been extinguished. They have solemn and serious expressions as they sit around the dining room table, which has a detailed map of the town on top of it.
“This is the the south gate where I noticed Piora last before she disappeared. Not long after I noticed her, but before she vanished, Veronica could feel her somewhere around here.” Regal indicated on the map and draws a line from the south gate to the east vicinity of the Lord’s castle.
“So if there is a dungeon, it will be underneath Lord Solace’s mansion?” Aqua asks nervously while trying to hide her guilt, believing she caused this whole mess.
Regal, noticing Aqua’s conflicting emotions, decides not to say anything as he has no thoughts that could help alleviate her of her guilt. Telling her that the squad’s problems are not her fault might only make her burden heavier, so he decides to wait until Piora is free and let her comfort Aqua. Piora, despite her hot temper and brashness, has always been better at this aspect of social interaction than Regal.
“No, locating someone through the party isn’t that accurate,” Kilde says emotionlessly. “It could be located beneath any one of the buildings in the area, or simply disguised as a different building.”
Regal affirms with a nod of his head and conjectures, “That is the problem, but we will still start with the community lord’s mansion. A hidden jail such as this would have to be out of the general public eye and also secretly under guard. Too many guards around a random residence would be too suspicious, so it being beneath the lord’s mansion, where the Greyhorn Guard always patrol, is the most likely scenario.”
Veronica gives her unconditional agreement with Regal’s thoughts. Only just recently having grown emotions, or what Regal refers to as a ‘soul’, she is still unfamiliar with thinking outside of the box and has to ponder for a while before actually understanding Regal’s point of view, but her trust in him makes her believe in him regardless his chance of being wrong.
“Kilde, you will use your new skill to infiltrate the lord’s mansion and try locate the dungeon and Piora. Once we know where she is, it will be easier to make a plan to get her out. The most important thing is to not be seen. As a secret prison that nobody should know about, it is likely to have very few guards patrolling nearby. Once it is known that we know, or are even suspecting, rescuing Piora at our current strength will be impossible. We would have to turn to outside help.”
Regal then turns to Aqua who looks like she wants to say something and gently shakes his head. Aqua looks downcast and doesn’t express her idea that they should ask her father, the king of Grand Theore, to send some of the city’s guards to overwhelm the community and rescue Piora.
The squad quickly finalizes their plan and Regal uses the ‘Cartography’ divine art ‘Erase’ to remove the fresh drawings on the map and return it to its pristine condition. Astore and Aqua go out the back of the villa to practice and train their skills while Regal and Veronica go over to one of his crafter acquaintances to borrow their forge and work late into the night. Regal wants to craft new weapons and armor for his squad anyway, but this is a good cover to attract attention from anyone watching them so that Kilde can accomplish his assigned task. Later that evening, when the sun sinks below the horizon and the myriad rivers of stars shine in the sky, Kilde slips out of the Villa and into the shadows. His body seeming to distort the light around him and blend into the night. If one didn’t look closely, it would be easy for him to be overlooked.
Despite being slightly transparent, Kilde still needs to exercise the utmost caution and ensure that he doesn’t make any movements when others’ eyes are in his direction. While it is easy to overlook him when he is using his new Tier 1 Divine Art ‘Visual Key’ from the ‘Presence Concealment’ skill, the high levelled guards’ eyes and quick reactions will easily notice him if he is moving.
Kilde jumps between the shadows of buildings once he is sure that nobody is looking in his direction, slowly travelling to the lord’s mansion in the center of Greyhorn Townsend. Kilde proceeds much easier than Regal had imagined him doing, but this is mostly due to an abnormal lack of guards patrolling the community compared to normal. Although Regal would find this highly suspicious and adopt extreme caution, Kilde pays it no mind as his thoughts are focused on locating Piora.
Barely half an hour later, Kilde scales over a stone wall and enters the mansion grounds. The lord’s mansion is standing not far away, the dim light of the moon barely reflecting off the obsidian colored stone walls and casting long shadows across the area. Apart from several lights shining out through some remote windows giving life to the mansion, the building gives off a terribly ominous feeling at night.
Kilde slowly scouts around the mansion without seeing any secret entrances nor guards patrolling and quickly assesses that there is nothing hidden outside the mansion. With nothing outside he searches around and, perhaps due to Lord Solace not having a strong sense of security, finds an unlocked window which he uses to sneak inside.
Inside the dark room is a study full of loose documents which the lord uses while managing the community. Kilde has no interest in lordly affairs so he ignores the paperwork and quickly checks around the room for anything out of the ordinary. Finding nothing to be out of place he creeps up to the door, pressing his ear against the solid wood door to listen for anyone in the corridor.
Finding the other side of the door to be void of noise, he safely assesses that there is no one there and leaves the study, stealthily closing the door behind him.
The corridor is dimly lit with sparse candles on the wall. Despite the lord’s wealth, he still doesn’t have enough coin to comfortably afford light crystals, so most of the mansion is only vaguely lit.
Kilde, not as hidden beneath the flickering candles, looks through each room one at a time. Whenever he is in the hallway, he strains his hearing and prepares to duck into one of the rooms at the slightest possibility of any guards or Lord Solace himself approaching, but strangely enough the mansion seems to be empty.
Kilde still avoids the main hall, kitchen, and the second floor, in case the lord or any guards are present. He is looking for an entrance to a basement which shouldn’t be in any of those locations.
At the end of one of the hallways near the rear of the mansion, Kilde has a spot of luck and finds a large, iron-reinforced door. He tries to open it, but finds the door to be locked, needing a key to open it. There are certain skills that can be used to open the door, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have any of those.
Just as Kilde is comparing options on what to do next, the loud ringing of a bell sounds across Greyhorn Townsend which wakes and alerts the entire community. Suddenly alert to the alarm, and thinking his infiltration has been detected, Kilde darts into a nearby room and prepares to flee the mansion.
At the same time, an alert appears in front of Kilde, just as it does to everyone else.
Greyhorn Townsend is under siege, spawning disabled until after siege. Should Greyhorn Townsend fall and be taken over by the invaders, all fallen residents will revive at their primary city.
Another window alerting Kilde that Regal is contacting him through his transmission plate appears in front of him as he dismisses the community alarm. He quickly removes the new message before pulling out his reflective plate and hearing, “Kilde, are you still hidden?”
“Yes. I haven’t seen a single guard around tonight, but it’s possible they have or could have detected intruders into the mansion,” Kilde whispers back so as to not alert anyone nearby with keen hearing.
“No guards? Are you sure?”
“Not a single one. The mansion appears to be empty.”
There is a minute of silence from the transmission plate before Regal finally speaks through it again and says, “Kilde, I just heard from Seref. As this is an alert of an attack on the community, everyone needs to go to the city wall to help defend. The Greyhorn Guard are the main defenders, as it’s their responsibility, but if the community is raided successfully, we could lose everything not in our inventory. It is in our best interest to help defend the town from the rear where it is safer.”
Kilde, inconclusive as to what Regal wants him to do, calculates the possibility of each, but without any preference as to which is better, asks Regal instead.
“That depends, I found a place in the mansion that could be a dungeon.”
“There is a locked, thick iron door that could lead to a basement inside the lord’s mansion, but nothing outside. I haven’t scouted the surrounding buildings in the event a prison could be hidden there.”
“Go to that door. From what I understand, the lord and the guards are all at the community wall. They most likely have been there all afternoon, but I don’t understand how they knew about the attack or why they didn’t warn the residents. Regardless, without them there you can make noise without fearing capture.”
“I still don’t have a method to get through the door.”
“Use the blood flint bullets. They have a destructive effect on everything. Unless that door is made of an advanced alloy, which it shouldn’t be, rapidly firing several bullets should break it down. If you locate Piora inside, use the same method to break her out. This is a golden opportunity that won’t come again, make sure you don’t waste it.”
“Understood,” Kilde affirms through the transmission plate before dropping all pretense of being stealthy, walking up to the locked door in the hall, pulling out his gun, and firing several of the Blood Flint Bullets into it.
The bullets explode as they hit the door, creating a destructive effect outside the world’s damage system. As strong as the door is, Regal’s insights are extremely precise and the outcome is as he explicitly explained. The door couldn’t sustain the damage from several Blood Flint Bullets and deforms horribly, breaking off from the hinges in the process.
Regardless of the fact that there are no guards nor the lord in the mansion, the noise created by Kilde is deafening, and any guard or even residents anywhere near the mansion would have heard it. Calculating that it is highly likely for someone to come investigate the noise soon, he hurries past the broken door and descends a steep staircase.
Just as Kilde predicted, the stairs do lead to a basement, but unlike any ordinary basement, this one is many times larger, and is lined with cells. The air is cool and damp from being underground and with the loud noises caused by his entrance, there are stirrings in one of the far cells.
Kilde passes through the semi-basement, semi-prison to find a fiery red-haired girl sitting in the corner of one of the cells, her eyes blinking at the light entering from the broken door in order to see who came this time.
“Piora, I’ve come to break you out, stand away from the bars,” Kilde says with a lack of emotion, but his words still cause waves of emotion to flood through Piora as if she has heard the most touching words in her life.
“I-I couldn’t contact anyone… You found, y-you came for me,” Piora says, forcing her composure, yet still stuttering at a few words.
Kilde draws his gun again and aims at the base of the cell bars. The prison cell is near impossible to break from the inside due to world system restrictions on the prisoner, but someone on the outside can do it. The Blood Flint Bullets make short work of several iron bars just like the door, creating an opening that Piora can easily escape from.
Piora exits the prison cell immediately and intensely stares at Kilde. Within her gaze is a mix of relief, gratitude and determination.
“Regal, I have found and rescued Piora,” Kilde speaks into his transmission plate to notify the squad leader.
Piora also pulls out her transmission plate, also contacting Regal and shouting, “Asshole! What took you so long!? I thought you had forgotten about me!”
Piora was truly scared, locked away in the prison cell with no method to escape. She believed that she would be locked in there for at least a hundred years, and would never get to see the friends she made again. Her outburst shows that much of those worries have already dissipated, even so, there is now a large scar of distrust for strangers in her heart.
There is a long pause before Regal dodges Piora’s accusation and says to Kilde, “This is excellent! Take Piora out the western gate toward the Lost Water Caverns. I will have Lande and Lore meet you near there. After that, head south. Veronica, Aqua, Astore, and I are already at the community wall to help defend against the invasion. We are in the back lines so we will have to find a chance to sneak away and catch up with you.”
“Understood, we will leave immediately.”
“Good! Don’t waste any time. Lord Solace is the recognized leader of this community by the world and his dungeon is a part of his lordship. It is highly likely he received a notification of a prisoner escaping and will send people after you.”
After that, with Piora still huffing and trying to hide her insecurity, Kilde leads the way out for the two of them to quickly escape.