Should I say that I was fortunate? The Veji Merchant a.s.sociation was well known, and all the border officials recognized Sindy Veji. We proceeded quite smoothly.
Well, except for the fact that this was a time of turmoil; border security was raised by several levels. The unfamiliar faces of the Silver Coin Squad led to some small trouble.
"Isn’t it all because of the troublesome times we live in? I invited some extra mercenaries to help protect me."
Sindy’s reason sounded quite convincing, and the other two famous mercenary groups he hired lent further credence to his claim. We, however, were the unconvincing ones as we didn’t resemble mercenaries at all.
We were without any reputation or combat achievements, and even our mercenary registrations had been just recently done. We definitely appeared more like spies than merchants. However, thanks to the "s.h.i.+ny gold gifts" that Sindy handed to the border guards, they pretended to not see us.
The approval process would normally take a minimum of two or three days to report all goods brought into the Bardi Empire. Yet since the goods were precious "seasonal wares" that were vital for replenishment, the head of border security helped simply the process as much as possible and only glanced over the goods before letting us pa.s.s through.
As for me, I still had yet to realize that this was the beginning of my misfortune. As a "small merchant" who had successfully fooled a bigger merchant into helping smuggle me across, I was quite happy at how I made it past this difficult obstacle. Of course, I thanked the "big boss" for helping me out.
"No, no, I should be the one thanking you. Although you’re quite young, the depth of your knowledge is amazing. I’ve learned so much from you these past few days… If possible, could I invite you to come join our Veji Merchant a.s.sociation? I shall personally recommend you to our leader. You should consider it more, as even a genius like you will find it difficult to start a business from scratch. Connections and capital need to be acc.u.mulated over several decades, after all. As long as you’re willing to join our Veji Merchant a.s.sociation, I promise that your future job level won’t be lower than mine at all."
Sindy Veji was quite sincere with his words. Everything had been abnormally quiet along the way. He didn’t understand the small amount of friction between the mercenary groups, but this young man named Rolo had unimaginable ideas about the banking industry, business development, loans, and debts—and they were all theories that he had never heard about before. And, the more he thought about Rolo’s theories, the better he felt that they sounded.
As for the fact that he spent so much money on this trip hiring two mercenary groups, he felt it was all worth it with the knowledge he gained. Sindy, who treated the Veji Merchant a.s.sociation like his own family, was doing his very best to recruit a talent for his boss.
I was beginning to feel awkward because I could sense the sincerity of this middle-aged merchant. I seemed to have gotten too carried away in acting the part of a merchant. In the end, I could only go along with the rumors about me and tell him that I was from a rich family, and that I was only out here to gain experience but still needed to go home in the end to take over the family business.
Yep, all of that was the truth. Of course, I slightly glossed over some things, such as not telling him that the family business was a kingdom.
"…That’s such a pity. If you ever change your mind, the Veji Merchant a.s.sociation shall forever welcome you."
I observed this middle-aged merchant who had such a look of regret, who could only give up in front of my sincere and polite rejection. He ended up giving me a recommendation letter to the Veji Merchant a.s.sociation that I would probably never end up using, which even caused me to feel guilt, an emotion I rarely felt.
"It seems that I have quite the potential as a merchant, which caused him to feel so much regret."
But just as I was getting all happy, that silly cat immediately jumped out and cast a cold bucket of water upon my thoughts.
"Ridiculous. An expert merchant was actually fooled by a layman? Do you even know what the current price of salt is, or which trade route is the most profitable one? Theory and practice are two different things entirely. And, the most important of all, did you see how a merchant like him was talking to the border guards? Do you know how to speak so politely and give bribes like him?"
Alright then. Reality was quite cruel. Be polite and profit? Speak softly? Smile like a merchant? I would probably just punch the border guards straight in the face instead.
"Hmph, you silly cat. Talking like you understand."
"Ridiculous! Of course I understand. Mages are a job cla.s.s that uses a lot of money. How can they live if they don’t understand some of the merchant business? After so many years of acc.u.mulation, I have numerous large merchant a.s.sociations under my name. My income every year can support me in activating several tens of seven-circle research projects."
Seven-circle was already at the level of a Legend-ranked mage. Normally speaking, even a Legend-ranked mage could only afford to activate one research project at a time. This meant that this cat could actually afford to pay for several tens of Legend-ranked mages’ expenses all at once. Just how rich was she?
I was outright astonished to hear this. I never expected such a rich girl to be right by my side. This silly cat was actually a white, rich, and beautiful rich girl? I did some rough calculations, which told me that her income was at the minimum equal to a mid-sized city’s.
"Please, carry me, rich girl! Please sponsor me! Please support me! Please loan me money… please be my sugar mommy!"
"Sure, Princess Peach…"
"Shut up, silly cat! If you ever mention this again, I shall sell you off as a cat who can talk."
Alright, after another typical battle between human and cat, I won yet another round. Hmph! Did she really think that transforming herself into a humanoid form would help her defeat me? I know how to spit! I also have longer arms and legs! And I know how to grope and pinch—cough—cough—something like proper limits were never important during fights!
Still… when I touched the loli on her chest in the heat of chaotic battle, she really was quite flat. It even hurt to touch; she was so flat, just like an airport runway, causing me to cry in sympathy.
"…I should prepare some extra milk for you. It even hurt my hand! It’s also bad to have other people say I’m abusing my pet."
"Pervert, you’re dead! I’m going to go all-out against you! Weren’t you the one who forbade me from transforming into a mature form!"
"Dream on, silly cat! You actually want to be taller than me!? Just obediently be Princess Flat, and remember to wax that airport runway chest of yours."
Alright then. The second round of the human-cat battle began with this.
Cough—cough—getting back to the main topic, our fake ident.i.ties became real ident.i.ties thanks to Sindy’s careful protection. We smuggled ourselves into the Bardi Empire quite successfully. By the time we arrived in the Bardi Empire’s first border city, Raclaila Town, not only did we not meet with any dangerous magical monsters, but we didn’t even come across a single bandit.
"Whew. The domain lord here is an old friend of our Veji Merchant a.s.sociation. More than 40% of our goods are sold to him. It seems that I won’t be saddled with a monetary loss this time after all."
Sindy was laughing quite happily. He had already mentally prepared himself to lose money on this trip, but things were unexpectedly smooth so far.
"Although those undead are quite cruel, they actually made the road safer."
Unlike the typical magic of mages, which required a large amount of money to fund their research, the biggest problem with undead magic research was typically the "lack of materials." That was why in the past, catching undead mages typically required one to only have to guard a cemetery or a large burial site. It was even said that some high-level Holy Knights could even receive a cemetery guarding sponsors.h.i.+p fee, as they basically lived in cemeteries.
And from what I learned through certain channels, the Bardi Empire actually even gave the high-level undead the status of n.o.bles and allowed them to freely gather "materials" as they liked. This doubtlessly caused a huge wave in the Bardi Empire’s society.
In order to avoid incurring public outrage and rebellion, the undead didn’t touch anything like the n.o.bles’ cemeteries as of yet. Instead, outlaws, bandits, and magical beasts on the road met with trouble. The undead volunteered as "defenders of justice" and wouldn’t listen to any excuses. Typically, the high-level undead would then add numerous new skeleton soldiers and zombies to their subordinates after delivering a vicious beating.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I heard this rumor. Should I say that the undead had evil intentions but did a good deed? At the very least, the bandits and other lawless individuals who didn’t become research materials speedily gave up their illegal ways and vanished. Every main road soon became much more peaceful and safer.
"Well, it’s just temporary. The material’s quality directly influences the final product’s quality. Commoners’ bones are at the quality of being blown apart by a single gust of wind. The corpses of the strong are the real high-quality materials. In this era of strong ruling over the weak, the corpses of the strong will typically be at some respectable location, and would never be just randomly thrown into a ma.s.s burial site."
"For undead mages, if commoners’ cemeteries are appetizers, n.o.bles’ graves are desserts. The royal mausoleums are the true feasts for them. I refuse to believe that they’ll be able to stand letting such a feast pa.s.s them by."
As the both of us were veteran undead mages, Harloys and I exchanged smiles of mutual understanding.
"It seems that you have quite a deep understanding of royal mausoleums. You’ve done something like this in the past? How many times? And how many times were you caught? What’s the reward on your head?"
"Ridiculous! You think that you’re incredible just because you’ve dug up a few elven royal mausoleums before? I’m your teacher. Have you ever heard of the books that I wrote, ‘Ten Greatest Missteps by Grave Guardians—the Joy I Had from Stealing Right Under Their Noses’ or ‘How to a.n.a.lyze a n.o.ble’s Status and Quality of Materials from the Emblem and Design of a Mausoleum’? These are must-read books for any undead mage."
"Ohhh! You were the one who wrote those cla.s.sics! I’m a loyal fan of yours. But, even though the book’s t.i.tle says ‘ten,’ why did you write more than ninety and the book series still hasn’t concluded yet?"
"Hmph! How would I be able to scam more funding if I ended it just like that? Start from ‘ten’ and never finis.h.!.+ My goal is to reach the stars! When I finally finish, the number of chapters I have shall equal the number of stars!"
"…Doesn’t that mean it’ll never end? Sigh, this area of research (shamelessness) is something I’m still lacking in. If there’s no more content, I just stop writing. But you must have heard of my book on practical methods, ‘Eighteen Ways to use Luoyang Shovels’. I even heard that my book sold pretty well."
"That d.a.m.ned unfinished book that ended only halfway through was written by you? You even dare to brag about such a thing? I’m going to stuff you into a pit!"
"…People should look forward towards the future. It’s too difficult to fill old pits, and I prefer to continually dig new ones."
"You really are an absolutely shameless b.a.s.t.a.r.d. Forget it, I shouldn’t say anything about you as that’d be the pot calling the kettle black. Let’s just forget things."
In some ways, Harloys and I were quite similar. We were both academic theorists (what a farce). At this moment, if you ignored the fact that I had teeth and claw marks all over my face, as well as the fact that Harloys’ fake tail was snapped in two and her blonde hair was rumpled all over, we were really such a good teacher and disciple pairing that got along quite well (knaves of a feather flocking together).
Cough—cough—I should get back to the main topic again.
While exclaiming at how surprisingly peaceful this trip had been so far, Sindy was going to wait here in this town for at least two weeks for various small merchants from other cities. Meanwhile, our goal was Port Victoria, so it was naturally time to split up.
But, before I left, Sindy was actually invited by the local domain lord for a dinner party. As he wanted to help the "merchant Rolo" establish connections, he kindly invited me to go along with him as well. Originally, I wanted to refuse politely.
"Apparently, there’s a major personage from the Bardi Empire’s capital here, a distant relative of the Bardi royalty who’s going to attend this dinner party. If you want to do merchant business in Bardi in the future, this is a great chance for you."
I didn’t care one whit about merchant opportunities in Bardi, but if I could receive information about the current situation in the Bardi royalty and Bardi capital directly from a high-ranked n.o.ble, then that was something I wanted more than anything.
And, so, I agreed to go together with him, but as a result…
"d.a.m.n it, why are these guys still chasing after us!?"
"Weren’t you going to the domain lord’s dinner party? Why are they all chasing after you for your head, and you even dragged us into it!?"
I turned to look behind me. The n.o.ble’s private soldiers were still on my tail, chasing me.
"Um, it’s a long story. On a well-lit night with a full moon and no wind, we…"
"We’re currently being chased, so explain it to me with only one sentence!"
"I’m so unfortunate!!!!"
Alright then, that was definitely quite a short explanation. But the grudge and deep agony contained in that sentence reverberated through all the mountains and forests. The deep emotions within could single-handedly shake the heavens and earth and cause even the G.o.ds to tremble upon hearing it. Just how pitiful and how much of a grudge was there?
"I’m truly so pitiful!"