Episode 51

To The West (1)
1 week ago
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The mercenary business involved a lot of intricacies, but ultimately, the crux of it all was recruitment. It was all about how cheaply you could hire good mercenaries and how expensive you could sell their services.

Especially compared to the constantly bickering Eastern and Northern regions, the relatively peaceful Western region was expected to experience a major event soon, so Allen needed to hurry and recruit some capable members before heading to the West.

Of course, while other businesses were important too, it made sense to first organize the mercenary group to a certain extent before proceeding with other businesses with the remaining money. After all, no matter what business it may be, without a strong mercenary group as support, one would eventually be devoured by the others.

Thus, Allen once again found himself indebted to the ever-busy office of the guild house.

Even so, it seemed the prestige of the Allen-Mercenary Group had risen more than before as the number of mercenaries wishing to join had noticeably increased. There were rumors from the Silver City Agnentia, but the decisive factor was that they were under the protection of Viola, a group leader from one of the top 10. Everyone seemed to regard the Allen-Mercenary Group as a satellite concept of the Viola Mercenary Group.

‘…Rather, this is good.’

Having come to this point, Allen decided to actively use the halo of Viola to his advantage. Compared to the other malicious leaders of the top 10, Viola was practically a saint. Even if, by some unavoidable circumstance, they were to take different paths, she wasn’t the type to bear a grudge and seek revenge.

Anyway, thanks to the rumor that he was Viola’s man, the caliber of mercenaries seeking Allen had significantly improved.

[Attributes]
Strength: 45
Agility: 39
Stamina: 49
Intelligence: 11
Magic: 7
[Traits]
♦ Talent
♦ Reckless
♦ Narcissism
♦ Desire
♦ Miser

A female warrior from the Northern region had come looking for Allen, her ambitious eyes clearly visible at a glance.

Her skin was rough and freckled, her hair seemed prickly and carelessly tied up, and her confident gaze seemed to look above Allen as if nothing in the world could scare her.

“Your name?”

“Zunisha.”

“Are you from the North?”

“Yes.”

“…Did you come here after hearing rumors that I’m close to Lady Viola… something like that?”

She, with her arms crossed, looked at Allen boldly and nodded her head without a hint of hesitation to affirm his question.

“Yes.”

Allen laughed out loud, finding her confidence too much.

“I like your honesty. You’ve got my approval.”

“One can’t stay in one place for a lifetime.”

“That’s true. Alright. If you do well, I might recommend you to the group leader.”

“Thank you.”

People with [Narcissism] definitely had personalities that stood out. Just like that woman, Charlotte.

“So, I think there’s no need to make it too long. Let’s go with a one-year term.”

“How much will you give?”

Allen considered that the other party had traits of [Desire] and [Miser]. …Surely, any modest amount would be scoffed at.

The appropriate amount was about 25. Of course, Allen wouldn’t offer that much.

“22 gold coins.”

The woman’s eyebrows immediately came together.

“That’s too little.”

“Then what do you think?”

“At least 27.”

“No way.”

Allen cut her off decisively as if it was absurd. …In truth, he was capable of giving that much. It was just that he was quite the cheapskate.

“So you’re telling me to work for peanuts?”

“Instead, if you do well, I’ll put in a recommendation letter to Group Leader Viola. Isn’t that somewhat compensating for the salary? Can the weight of the name ‘Top 10’ really be shaken by just a few gold coins?”

As the name Viola, one of the top 10 group leaders, was mentioned, Zunisha’s mouth closed. ‘Is that right?’ her expression seemed to say.

‘Good, it seems her head is just dumb enough—.’

It was never good for mercenaries to be too smart. Otherwise, they should at least follow orders without complaint, like with the milk-jug mage.

“…Alright. Then let’s make it 25.”

“24. That should be just right, right? It’s a recommendation letter, after all. Do I look like someone who writes those for just anyone?”

“Well… Alright. 24.”

“Deal. But since you just showed you don’t trust me, I’ll make it 23.”

“How can you do that—!”

Zunisha protested. Her intelligence seemed to have slightly spiked due to her greed for money.

“If you don’t like it, then so be it. …I thought a great mercenary had appeared after so long, but to be swayed by just a few coins. Lady Viola wouldn’t want such talent.”

Ugh.

Will it be [Narcissism], or will it [Miser]—?!

Allen delivered the final blow.

“Next—!”

“Ah, okay…. 23 pieces. I really can’t give any more.”

Allen laughed deeply.

“As expected, excellent. My eyes weren’t mistaken.”

Her intelligence, which had slightly increased, returned to its original state.

···

Indeed, Allen, who fully enjoyed the effects of the popularity, managed to gather four members in just two days.

The Northern Female Warrior, Zunisha.

The Bald, Illiterate, Billy.

The Devout Believer, Christopher.

The Inkster, Arnold.

Especially the Inkster Arnold was someone Allen personally sought out, having scoured the mercenary group’s discharge list on foot. And, just in case, he had even rummaged through the employment agency known as the Trash Bin, but as expected, there were no recyclables worth using.

Usually, the employment agencies stuffed with discharge candidates wouldn’t produce any valuable gems unless thrown away by mistake or on purpose. So, the chances of finding hidden gems weren’t high. It was just out of sheer desperation that he had even bothered to look through the trash bin.

Anyway, having filled the necessary number of heads, Allen began to prepare to head west.

After accounting for various expenses, the remaining available funds amounted to about eight hundred gold coins. It was too much to just sit on, yet an awkward amount to invest. At best, Allen could manage a few street stalls here and there, but after paying the stall fees and purchasing goods from the Vermandois merchant groups to sell, there’d be nothing left. It would be better to look in a different direction.

‘…Since I’m heading west anyway, maybe I’ll pick up some goods there. The West is known for making good accessories.’

Targeting prostitutes and pimps as the main customer base for selling accessories could be quite profitable. It was a strategy often used in [Guild Master]. After all, the profit from luxury goods was great in comparison to their weight.

Of course, if you brought grain from the West and sold it in the East, where its value had skyrocketed, you could make a fortune, but currently, Allen wasn’t in a position to operate a merchant group on that scale. At the moment, the plan was to gradually grow by dealing in luxury goods.

Having made that decision, Allen headed to Viola’s house before leaving for the West to keep a promise he had made to her. She had said he was welcome to visit anytime for a meal.

Allen walked along the riverbank, watching the reddish sunset flickering over the river with Kalisman by his side.

Soon, the two arrived at the Viola House, situated in a scenic yet strategic location. As Allen stood confidently in front of the main gate, a guard asked who he was.

“Tell Group Leader Viola that Group Leader Allen has come to see her.”

“Understood. Please wait a moment.”

The guard quickly ran inside and soon came out. He opened the main gate, saying, “Please come in.”

The two men entered the three-story building. Allen looked around the spacious and splendid house interior and nodded, thinking, ‘Indeed—. This must be why mercenaries are so eager to succeed—.’

Soon, a young butler came out and guided Allen to the drawing room. It was a place with a beautiful view. The quick-witted Kalisman stepped aside, saying he would vacate the space, and entered a small waiting room provided next to the reception room.

As Allen sat in a chair, idly fiddling with his fingers while waiting, Group Leader Viola appeared after a while. He stood up briskly to greet her.

Seeing her after a long time, she was still beautiful. She was a perfect example of maturity, one might say.

“It’s been a long time, Group Leader Viola.”

“Indeed. I was waiting to have a meal with you.”

“Ah, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with this and that….”

“No worries. The meal is still being prepared, so let’s sit and wait for a bit.”

“Yes.”

Allen took a seat next to Group Leader Viola after she sat down first.

“You look tired.”

“…Well, there’s a lot on my mind. Always.”

She had been thinking about introducing him to a business opportunity—Not too big, something manageable for him. Of course, the profits would be split 80% her, 20% him.

Since she was the one putting in all the capital, it was only natural to expect that much. She was not a philanthropist, after all.

“I… will be leaving soon.”

Viola, who had been gazing at the gently flowing river in the distance with a light sigh, was suddenly hit with an unexpected punchline.

“……Wh, what?”

And then, realizing her disgrace, she cleared her throat and asked again.

“Are you leaving? Why all of a sudden?”

“I have some business in the Western Region. …It might take a few months if it’s long.”

“…Are you coming back?”

“Of course. Since Group Leader Viola is here.”

Allen said with a slight smile.

‘……huh……?’

For a moment, Viola racked her brain, trying to understand what he meant by that.

“…That’s fortunate.”

“Anyway, it seems we won’t see each other for quite a while. Thank you for all your help during this time.”

“I don’t think I’ve really helped much.”

“You’ve turned a blind eye to the rumors, haven’t you?”

Viola nodded lightly, thinking that it was fortunate that he was not completely oblivious.

“So, when are you leaving?”

“I’ll probably leave within three days at the latest.”

“I see. …It’s a pity. We could have formed a closer relationship as business partners.”

“…Are we not?”

When Allen asked with a playful smile, Viola also smiled faintly.

“Right. A close relationship.”

With that, she extended her hand.

“In that sense, here.”

He looked at the hand she extended and reached out his own to grasp it.

“Go and take care of your business well. When you return next time, I’ll make a business proposal so you won’t feel burdened.”

“…Understood.”

The hands of the man and woman gently moved up and down together.

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