Translator: SaltyTank Editor: SaltyTank
The night passed in the blink of an eye. When Soran woke up and was about to head out with Vivian to buy a horse for their journey, he noticed a large number of guards within the city.
Even Amber City’s best army corps, the 9th Army Corps, which was normally stationed within the Black Boar Forest, had been recalled. The 9th Army Corps consisted of 126 soldiers, most of whom were warriors of Level 8 or above. Others were either rangers, priests or barbarians — all intermediate professions which could easily exterminate gang leaders in the slums. They were the elites among the standing army of Amber City, which altogether had 1200 soldiers.
“What’s going on?” Soran lifted Vivian up and glanced around at his surroundings, noticing the terrorized crowd.
“Did something happen again?”
Soran was still looking around when a tanned teenager yelled at him while waving his hands, “Hey!”
The teenager speedily pushed through the crowds and reached Soran as he gasped for air.
“Ah, finally found you guys. I heard that you guys wanna buy a mount, so I was waiting here early in the morning. You might miss your chance after today, you know? Anyways, don’t ask and just follow me for now. I’ll explain everything as we walk.”
The teenager looked rather familiar, but it took Soran a while to remember that he was one of the servants of the merchant team they were going to travel with.
Why would he be waiting for them today? The original departure date was tomorrow; did they change their minds?
“What’s going on?” Soran asked. “Why are you waiting for us here?”
“The mistress will be leaving soon,” the tanned teenager answered as he continued pushing his way through the crowds. “This morning, the mistress decided to leave immediately. Even the manager had to go out and sell his remaining goods.
“The mistress remembers her agreement with you, so she sent me to tell you that we will be leaving at noon today. Let’s go. Over there!”
The teen led the siblings through the crowd, cutting through side streets and alleys here and there before finally reaching a place near the North Gate of the city. Plenty of people were gathering there, with tens of carts parked in the surroundings and a squad of fully armored soldiers standing guard nearby. They were guards from the hometown of the merchants and had been following them for over three months already. The composition of the merchant team was pretty standard considering they hailed from the North; the only noticeable difference might be that the leader was a woman from Natala.
“That daughter of a witch!”
Soran could hear the Northern merchants grumbling, probably venting their displeasure at having to sell all their products hurriedly at a low price. The profit they were hoping for was nothing but a dream at this point, and some might even suffer rather severe losses. Despite the grumbling, the merchants still ordered their workers to unload their goods so they could quickly sell them.
Witches had an extremely high reputation in the northern regions. In the eyes of the Northerners, they were exceedingly noble people who were not only strong but also mysterious, as witches had the ability to foresee the future.
“Right here.” The tanned teen slowed down and took a breath. “The merchants will be leaving at noon, so I brought you here to the gathering point.
“There’s still slightly less than half a day to prepare your things if you plan to leave with us. If you decide to leave on your own tomorrow, the mistress said you can speak to manager Fredri for a refund.”
Leaving right away?
Soran knitted his brows as he thought about the implications of this turn of events.
_Did the witch foresee that the skinning incidents would be escalating soon? But why so much of a hurry?_
_It’s just one day! Perhaps something big will happen today?_
_Argh, whatever. We’ll leave with them today just to play_ _it_ _safe,_ Soran thought to himself.
Soran nodded in agreement and carried Vivian on h is back. “I’ll go now and pack our things. We’ll be here by noon.”
“Great.” The tanned teen nodded and said with a serious tone, “Make sure you come here a bit earlier though. The mistress never takes back her words, so the moment she orders the merchant squad to leave, we will. We won’t wait for you.”
Soran nodded and headed back to the slums with Vivian on his back. There was still a bit of time till noon, so they could go back and get their belongings, but there wasn’t much time to pick a good mount. Soran had no choice but to increase his budget to 20 Gold Derahls and buy a strong travelling horse off the horse sellers.
Back at the gathering site, a long-bearded Northern merchant respectfully entered a large carriage in the middle of the merchant squad and knelt on the ground.
“Mistress, all the goods we brought have been sold.
“Due to the lack of time, the profit we earned was only thirty percent of what we had expected. For the same reason, we could not purchase goods from this city, and we will definitely suffer more losses when we reach our next destination.
“Some of the merchants are starting to complain about it.”
The interior of the carriage was rather spacious. It was decorated with a gauze curtain and could even potentially fit a table. Delicate carpets covered the floor, and the walls had queer patterns all over them.
The lithe and graceful silhouette of a lady could be seen beyond the curtains. She was lazily lying on her bed, her face covered by a veil. Her azure blue eyes were focused on the card held between her fingers, and a mysterious magic pattern which looked like a whirlpool could be seen on the back of the card.
“I smell death in this city.”
She tossed the card to the floor and picked another card from a deck of tarot cards. The card showed a ferocious skeleton rider. With a cold voice, the mysterious lady said, “If anyone wishes to stay in this city, let them do as they please.
“If not, make them shut the hell up!”
The bearded merchant lowered his head and stood up. “I shall tell them your will.”
The mysterious lady laid down on the table and held her head with one hand while in deep thought. She waved her hand to signal that the bearded merchant was now dismissed.
“You can leave. Tell them to continue travelling until midnight, then start looking for a place with water to set up camp.”
The bearded merchant exited the carriage and told the guard leader the will of their mistress word for word. The guard leader nodded with a strict face and ordered the other guards to start preparing things. If they were to keep travelling for a long period of time, everyone had to bring dried foods with them. This was a rather rare situation, as merchant squads usually travelled slowly and stopped often for short breaks.
If they kept travelling for extended periods of time, even the horses and cows pulling the carts would be unable to stand it. They would all be worn out by the second day, and some might even die of exhaustion, thus this type of order would only be given under special circumstances.
Soran hurried his way back to the slums with Vivian. After gathering their belongings, the two headed to the horse market. Given the current situation, Soran decided to buy a decent travelling horse for a price thirty percent higher than market price to speed things up. They had planned to bid the priestess of the Dawnlight Shrine farewell in the afternoon, but there was no time for that right now; they could only hope they would meet again some time in the future.
Soran barely managed to regroup with the merchant squad before they left the city as gathering their belongings and purchasing a horse took a bit of time.
Soran could hear the merchants complaining among themselves. One of them said he sold his products at an extremely low price and only received two thirds of the payment. As they left so hurriedly, the buyer did not have time to bring out the cash for the purchase, and the merchant could only wave the rest of his payment goodbye. Even so, when it was time to start travelling, the entire squad acted very promptly, and all the workers climbed onto their assigned carriages.
The manager of the merchant squad briefly told him their schedule and ordered the others to start moving. Soran was told that the squad would be covering as much ground as they could today and would only stop at midnight. The manager offered to let them sit on one of the empty carts if they could not keep up. Now that most of their goods had been sold, the carts had plenty of space.
The merchant guards went ahead on their steeds to scout the surroundings.
Their job was not simply to stay with the merchant squad as they travelled. The reason only seasoned veteran adventurers could take on the role of merchant guards was that they had to act as scouts as well. They were responsible for looking out for monsters and other dangers, and they also determined if the road ahead was suitable for the carts. If necessary, they had to plan new routes for the merchants or do something to clear the obstacles blocking the roads, such as filling the pits in the ground.
Those were the duties of merchant guards.
The simple job of walking alongside the merchants and killing bandits or monsters they came across was something which only happened in novels. In order to reflect the mightiness of the main character, the merchant guards in stories were often depicted as weak and were easily defeated by monsters, but that was far from reality.
They were people who regularly traversed the dangerous wilderness. Even an idiot would become strong if they could survive the harsh environment for long enough. There was simply no way that the merchant guards were weak and had low levels in their professions.
* * *
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*[Long Taos]: side characters in Chinese operas who perform acrobatics and fight scenes
*[12.47 to 13.07]: don’t ask me about the tree sap
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