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Chapter 021 - Human Hunting(2)
I devised a thorough plan in order to recruit Laura. For starters, I disguised myself and infiltrated the city. Lapis was the one who got me an identification card.
I hired a carter and 3 mercenaries while disguised as a peddler.
“We'll be in your care, Mr. Merchant.”
“I should be the one to say that. My safety is in your hands, after all. If I remain unharmed throughout the entire trip, then I'll double your pay.”
This was all for the sake of naturally approaching a slave merchant.
The slave merchant was traveling together with a large company of merchants. Merchants traveled in large groups like this in fear of being a.s.saulted by bandits. As expected of the scale of a group which the slave merchant was traveling with, they had 40 mercenaries along with 5 large and small dogs. From afar, this group could possibly be mistaken for as an army. Average bandit groups wouldn't even dare to mess with a group of this size.
I pretended as if I had the same destination as them which allowed me to naturally fit into the large merchant company. Once I told them I had 3 mercenaries, the smaller merchant groups welcomed me without any complaints. An increase in security was always welcomed, after all.
“What product do you deal in, Merchant Lolita?”
“I mostly deal in medicinal herbs.”
“Medicinal herbs, is it? That doesn't sound particularly profitable…….”
The man who called himself the president of a small merchant firm furrowed his brows slightly. He was looking down on me since I had pretty much told him that I went around selling gra.s.s. Was he trying to compare our merchant's pride? I gave him a bold-faced response.
“Haha. Certainly, if I were to sell and buy medicinal herbs in the city, then it wouldn't be profitable. However! There are many times when herbs commonly found in one city are priceless in another region.”
“Oh? How is that possible?”
“In each town, there are two or three herbalists who only deal in the herbs which they have always handled. Even if you were to catch the same cold, the medicinal herbs prescribed in this town are different from the medicinal herbs prescribed in another town. Therefore, even if they have similar effects, it's only natural for people to be amazed as if they had found a miracle herb when they see a herb with a different shape.”
‘Is that so?' the other party replied. It was around this point that the other merchants started to turn their ears towards our conversation as well. Merchants were the type of people to have an interest in something at least once if it seemed profitable. I most likely attracted their interest because it was probably their first time hearing about a medicinal herb peddler. I spoke in my head.
A now familiar sound effect rang in my head.
「Acting has been activated.」
「A bonus effect will be granted to your skill according to your intelligence and charm stats.」
「The die of luck has slipped from your hand! The chance that the other party doubts your statement has been 'slightly' lowered.」
I continued in a tone that sounded as if I were disclosing very precious information.
“It's normally a decent business to earn a living off of, but, hah, circ.u.mstances have changed. It's become really profitable.”
“Circ.u.mstances? There has never been a time where the economy was as bad as it is now.”
“Is the reason the economy has gone bad not because of the ‘Black Death'?”
The other party agreed. Being a merchant meant that you had to deal with other people in order to buy or sell products. Merchants can't really do much when their suppliers and customers are dying to the plague.
“Merchants may all be groaning about the current state of the economy, but I'm the only exception. Wouldn't people's interest in medicinal herbs grow higher as hundreds of people die off to an unknown disease? For example, if there is a medicinal herb the effects of which have been confirmed in another city, then it would only be natural for beggars and aristocrats to come in swarms.”
The merchant's face was filled with shock.
“Don't tell me, Merchant Lolita! Are you telling me that you possess an herb that can cure the Black Death!?”
“I might be the only person throughout the entire continent to have registered to both the Herbalist Guild and the Merchant Guild. In other words, I'm the only one who has encountered the medicinal herbs in every region of the continent.”
I smiled slyly.
“The Black Death isn't that rare of a disease in that country of plains over yonder. Haha!”
“O Dear Lord! Is that true?”
“I swear on the guild's name.”
The merchants around us became noisy. It was a given that they would be surprised and delighted after having just learned that there is a cure for the contagious disease that has been taking people's lives mercilessly. There were even a couple of envious gazes directed towards me as they realized I was going to have an incredibly good haul. I confirmed that among those gazes, the slave merchant I had been targeting was one of them. I intentionally made eye contact with him and grinned.
That night, we set up for the night on the side of a highway. It was in the middle of the summer, so staying up all night wasn't a difficult task. The coachmen released the horses from the carriages and allowed them to graze freely. The hired soldiers ma.s.saged their tired legs and drank a gulp of heavily diluted beer.
I awarded the 3 men I had hired with more concentrated beer. They were extremely grateful. Under the pretext of friends.h.i.+p, I decided to share a barrel of beer to each of the other merchant groups while I was at it. Each merchant group sent an errand boy to thank me. As I was becoming friends with strangers like this, someone came to visit my tent. It was the slave merchant.
“I apologize for visiting you this late at night.”
A young man. He was so kind and polite that it was hard to believe that he traded in humans.
‘Good. He took the bait.'
I told him to not worry about it and welcomed him as I had just prepared a table of drinks and snacks. The young man seemed relieved by my welcome as he soon melded into the mood and drank with me. As expected of a merchant, he had solid interpersonal skills and a sound way of talking despite his young age.
“I'm really relieved to have met you, Merchant Lolita! In truth, it's my first time meeting another peddler who's around the same age as me.”
The young man spoke in a slightly intoxicated tone. His name was Jack.
“I thought that peddlers would all be nothing but old foxes. You're really amazing for your young age.”
“Are you not younger than me, Jack? Hah, that sounds more like self-praise.”
“Fufufu……I'm just a rookie. All I did was receive the small firm that my father, who's a big merchant, prepared for me since I'm his second son.”
Jack gulped down his beer.
“Why does it matter if you received it? The beginning is not important. To us merchants, are the results not what ultimately matter the most?”
“……I thought so as well. I started off ambitious! I wanted to succeed even if it meant using our family's connections, but.”
Jack let out a big sigh.
“My father wouldn't even let me do my own business! He ordered me to handle a portion of the business he had already created. In the end, I'm no different from a slightly trustworthy employee.”
Jack looked depressed. Sheesh, was he 20 years old at most? As expected of someone in the stormy period of their adolescence, his concerns weren't very surprising. The easiest trap to get caught in at that age is being under the impression that his concerns are incredibly unique compared to others. If anything, if he realized his concerns weren't unique and were actually universal, then he would be able to have unique concerns. Albeit, the people who just give up completely are innumerable.
I didn't come here to become a counselor. I deliberately chose pleasant to hear and comforting words. Things like telling him that his father did all that for his sake, in other words, completely pointless chitchat.
Honestly, there aren't a lot of things that are as useful as useless chitchat. Even now, a hologram was giving me a live display of Jack's affection points going up. It seems that when alcohol is involved, the rate at which affection points increase is raised.
Name: Jack Aland
Race: Human Faction: Medoranm Firm(Lombards Firm-affiliated)
Level: 5 Fame: 57
Leaders.h.i.+p: 10 Might: 5 Intelligence: 23
Politics: 20 Charm: 9 Technique: 6
Current thought: 'Merchant Lolita is almost like an idol to me!'
His affection points had exceeded 40. If you only look at the numbers, then he was close to Lapis. Oh dear, at this rate, I'm worried that raising people's affection might become my greatest talent.
It wasn't until he became completely drunk did Jack start to genuinely talk about himself.
“Honestly……I wanted to do business like you, Merchant Lolita.”
He was trying to show off how unusual his life was by saying this, but to me, it sounded as if he were confessing to me about how boring his life was. According to him, he came to visit me because he felt like his subordinates were disregarding him. Dear me! He was like the physical manifestation of an inferiority complex due to having such a distinguished father.
Nevertheless, his real intention was pure and beautiful.
“They say that commerce is often carried out through greed, but, despite that, I want to do business for the world……a business that can benefit the world. This is what I think. People who deal in commerce for their own sake are small merchants, those that do it for their family and their firm are average merchants, and those that do it for the nation are great merchants. But what about merchants that do business for the sake of the world? Isn't this what merchants should truly strive to do……?”
He's young, has a severe inferiority complex, and is innocent. In other words,
“Most certainly. You're right about that, Jack.”
“As expected of Merchant Lolita, you think so as well!”
he's the easiest type of greenhorn to take advantage of.
“A medicinal herb that can save all nations! To deal in such a product! Amazing. You are truly amazing.”
“I was simply lucky. There have been numerous times when I pursued my own benefit as well.”
“But you aren't now, right? Merchants only look at the end result, weren't you the one who said this? In the end, Mr. Lolita is pursuing the benefit of the entire world.”
“I don't deserve such praise.”
I smiled bashfully. Tsk, even as someone who always gets haggled by Lapis, it was as clear as day to even me. This guy is a pushover. An incredibly big pushover, at that. Even though his intelligence and politics stats are over 20, I understood why his merchant rank only reached E. The reason why his father left him with a stable job was probably partially because he didn't find his son to be trustworthy.
A benefit for the entire world? That sentence in itself was already a contradiction. A benefit is a benefit for someone. Merchants are people who put their names into that ‘someone' spot. People who cry out such contradictions sincerely are either revolutionists or idiots, and Jack was currently the latter.
“What merchandise do you deal in, Jack? Come to think of it, I haven't heard about your business.”
“……It's not something I can honorably talk about in front of others. No, it's a question as to whether it should even be considered as merchandise.”
Jack chuckled dejectedly.
“How could I hide anything from you, Mr. Lolita? This may seem hypocritical. Yes, I deal in slaves. I'm a slave merchant that transports slaves and sells them in cities.”
I pretended to be relatively surprised.
“A slave merchant? I would have never guessed.”
“Mr. Lolita……do you perhaps also consider slaves as merchandise?”
“If slaves are merchandise, then everything in the world should be merchandise as well. Jack, I'm not trying to accost you. I'm simply surprised that a man like yourself is in the slave-trading business. I now understand why you dislike your father.”
Mhm, that's right, Jack muttered. Our candid conversation continued after that. I mean that it was candid for Jack.
I waited for the most opportune moment to ask him if I could personally confirm the way he manages his slaves. At first, Jack didn't seem to like the idea, however, once I alluded that I could perhaps give him advice as a more experienced merchant, he gladly accepted. We walked pa.s.sed the hired soldiers who were dozing off as we headed towards Jack's quarters.
“This is where I'm staying. Welcome to the Medoranm Firm!”
Jack's quarters were a lot more impressive than mine. 4 bonfires were lit up and there were over 10 hired soldiers present. There were also roughly 20 slaves. They were all sitting around a bonfire with chains around their ankles. A group of around 6 slaves shared a single chain.
Once we approached, a couple of the mercenaries glared at us, but once they realized it was Jack, they went back to their card game. They were being rather discourteous to their employer, but it seems that neither party really cared.
“It's normal to put a chain around their ankles when traveling as well, but I only put chains on them at night. It's very likely for their feet to get messed up after traveling all day with chains on their legs. Even if they're slaves, that's too cruel.”
Jack spoke in a low voice. It seems he wanted me to praise him. I met his expectations and complimented him for being an incredibly merciful and human gentleman. I believe that the term ‘a.s.s-kissing' was created for situations like this.
Contrary to how I appeared on the outside, I was completely unsatisfied on the inside. What I wanted wasn't here. At that moment, it was almost as if Jack had read my mind as he scratched my itch.
“There's a slave that I want to especially show Mr. Lolita. One of my most prized possession! I believe that even Mr. Lolita will be surprised.”
My heart raced.
TL Note: Thanks for reading the chapter. I'm back to translating DD again. I do feel bad for those who've been really looking forward to Handholding, but I already promised to do this method, so I'll be sticking with it for as long as I can. This does prevent me from getting burnt out on a single series, so that's good.