5 Bargain Bin Soup
To describe Mephisto's expression as terrified would be an understatement. If it weren't for his tyrannical actions up till now, Draco would even believe that Mephisto was a poor tormented child who heard the approaching footsteps of his dreaded bully.
"N-Nakiu! Dammit, why are you still alive?? Fuck!" Mephisto cursed before turning to flee.
"Haha! Best buddy Phisto, stay around. I want to kill you once and for all today! Then afterwards, I'll worm my way into the heart of Crysta and cuckold you!" Lord Nakiu laughed as he gave chase to Mephisto's fleeing form.
The old man's voice was different from his appearance. While his voice made him sound like he was one inch away from death, the man looked like those old men who were placed on fitness magazines. He had flowing white hair that reached his waist that was billowing in the air. Draco assumed he was tall, but couldn't tell due to the distance between them. He wore a simple white robe and rode on a nimbus cloud like Goku. He looked more like a character from a xianxia cultivation novel rather than a western game NPC.
Draco wasn't surprised. After all, the AI for Boundless had access to almost everything except for military assets. This world was made to accommodate everything fictional and historical, so there were a myriad of elements within.
After the two disappeared into the horizon, Draco breathed a sigh of relief. Remembering himself, he creeped out of the alleyway to see the players and NPCs in heated discussion about what just occurred.
"What the hell was that? It felt like my body was trapped in ice!"
"This game is too wonky. That was too weird."
"I swear I saw something in the sky. Like a face or something."
"I did too! A really arrogant face that needed punching!"
Draco ignored them and blended in as if nothing strange had happened as he made his way to one corner of the marketplace from the townhall area. Unbeknownst to him, there was a hooded woman watching him carefully. Nothing could be seen of her features, but her form told of an exquisite beauty.
Beside her stood a woman wearing the basic outfit for clerics, a white dress with delicate embroidery. She was observing the area warily when she saw her companion's riveted gaze.
"Guild leader, what's wrong?" Sublime Notion asked.
"He is… interesting. I feel like I… I know him. But…" Riveting Night answered with an unsteady voice.
This made Sublime Notion perk up. Her best friend hardly ever spoke much and she never sounded uncertain. The fact that two characteristics of her personality had been breached instantly roused her interest. When she saw who her Guild leader was observing, she let out a cold snort.
"Him? He's slightly above average. The boys who are chasing after you in the University are much more attractive. Especially that rich young master, Johnny Blaze. This scrawny guy can hardly match up."
Riveting Night did not reply to that, but continued staring at Draco. Her eyes shined with interest and complex emotions were roiling through her. She was mostly cold and aloof to everything and everyone, but she felt… something… from him.
No one could hear it, but a Mad God was laughing in the background.
Draco entered the marketplace and walked up to the Merchant's association. Upon entry, he was admitted to fairly impressive lounge where NPCs were either relaxing or conversing about political and financial topics. These men were obviously affluent, in fact the basic requirement to even enter this building was to be a Lord. No one seated here was someone a normal player could afford to offend.
Draco walked up to one of the counters to see a beautiful young lady manning it. The NPCs he passed stopped what they were talking to greet him with a "Good day, Lord Duke". None of them ranked higher than him in this town. The highest would probably be a minor noble and they definitely could not afford to offend Draco.
"Good day, My Lord Duke. What would you need from the Merchant's association?" The Clerk asked with a calm demeanor. After all, serving people in power 24/7 would render you immune to their power.
"I would like to obtain a permit to set up a small stall in the marketplace." Draco replied while leaning on the counter.
The girl's calm demeanor broke due to her surprise, which was understandable. Mostly, it was commoners who came for such permits. Draco's actions were the equivalent of a known billionaire asking to buy a second hand car. Not exactly illegal or wrong, but weird.
Still, she was smart enough not to ask or delay. "My Lord Duke, that would normally cost 10 bronze, but such fees are waived for nobility at your level. Taxes are also waived. Please fill in the details here and your request will be processed."
It actually wasn't a rule for nobility not to pay taxes or fees for common stalls, but this was unprecedented. This clerk was clever enough not to risk asking a Minor Duke for 10 bronze. She would rather have her pay deducted, though she surmised her superiors would be understanding.
In less than half an hour, Draco was seated at a polished and custom built stall near the center of the marketplace. He also paid for a beauty to be present to help advertise the stall.
His stall's banner read: "Buying common weapons and armor for 15 bronze a set! Buying materials for 50 bronze for a stack!"
Naturally, the combination of a beautiful lady and such an outrageous stall attracted attention of players. Many flocked over to see whether this was real or a scam and soon a crowd had formed around Draco's stall.
Before Draco opened his stall, he purchased a Vagrant's Bandana which was an item that prevented players from seeing your face, name and level for half a day. He wasn't foolish enough to show himself while making a commotion like this.
"Oi, do you guys see this? Some noob's offering such outrageous prices for these useless weapons the devs made to help players earn some basic funds."
"I feel like it's a scam. This is way too good to be true. But then again, how would a player get the permission of the Merchant's Guild and such a hot beauty from their store to advertise for him?"
"Honestly, does it matter? I heard the going price for a common armor set is now 5 bronze. This guy is offering almost triple the price!"
"You'd be lucky to get 5 bronze. That tyrannical armor smith is offering 2 bronze for each set and he's the last person offering since he can smelt it for raw materials. The other shopkeepers won't even accept it for free."
"Well, then fuck it. I'm going to bite the bullet and be the scapegoat."
A player wearing plate mail stepped forth from the chattering crowd and stood before Draco's stall with a determined gaze. The crowd hushed and watched to see what would happen. Most were skeptical about the authenticity of Draco's claims, but stuck around just in case.
"Hello fellow player, I want to sell my weapon and armor set to you at the price you've offered. Is such a thing possible?" The player, whose name showed to be Scorched Earth, asked warily.
Draco replied without moving. "That's the point of this stall. I wouldn't have the Merchant Guild's permit to operate if I couldn't pay. They've taken a safety deposit to reimburse aggrieved parties in case I default."
Scorched Earth unconsciously looked towards the beauty from the Merchant's Guild to confirm Draco's words. When she nodded and graced him with a beautiful smile, his heart fluttered. Taking a deep breath, Scorched Earth decided to go all in.
"Here's my items."
The two opened their trade panels and initiated the trade. Draco received the items and Scorched Earth received payment. His eyes widened comically at the sight of just under 100 bronze in his inventory. Laughing almost manically, he turned and announced to the crowd that everything was legit.
Naturally, this caused an uproar and a fight ensued to get in the line to trade. Draco sighed and nodded to his aide. She nodded back and clapped her hands, which caused all the players within 100 meters of the stalls area to freeze. This was different from the pressure of Mephisto's killing intent which was a skill or ability. The aide's ability to freeze players in the marketplace was one of the power of the Merchant's Guild: Order!
With this power, unruly players causing trouble to sellers would be frozen and arrested without fail. The players in Draco's past life would never have caused such a commotion, even if a legendary item was being sold. The consequences weren't worth it.
"Please line up and place your goods to be sold or you will be arrested for harassment of Guild licensed sellers," She announced with a smile.
With that, players were released from their temporary spell. Almost as if it were planned, each of them quietly joined the queue with looks of shame and wariness.
The trade resumed and went on for almost six hours. More than half the player population in Stagnant Moss town had sold weapons, armor and some materials to Draco and had felt like they'd profited. Draco chuckled and didn't rise to taunts or jeers that he was throwing away money like an idiot.
He had spent over 300 gold so far, but his gains couldn't even be measured based on his plans. This would probably be the easiest hurdle he would ever jump in his career in Boundless.
When the amount of players coming to his stall died down, he closed up and thanked everyone before leaving. Of course a crowd had formed to see if he would unveil his identity. Many had asked about his identity to which he ignored. Some asked him to join their guilds which he rejected regardless of how sweet they made it. Others just stood around hoping to get something out if this. After all, Draco's protection was only in the marketplace.
Should he leave town to grind, he'd find a whole slew of players looking to rob him. How could Draco not have considered this before setting up his stall? He had a 1001 ways to avoid these guys, but took the evilest route.
Draco entered the Merchant's Guild to drop off the aide and give her a hefty tip for helping him out. Normal players couldn't enter the guild without a certain status, so they all realized that Draco was not a normal player. Many who were looking to profit from his misfortune decided to give up and left.
Only the truly hardy players remained and they each looked to each other before nodding. The general consensus: rob him first, divide later. It was undoubtedly rare to see thieves working in harmony, but this was a special occasion.
These hardy men stood outside the guild for hours. Occasionally, a person would exit and they would rush forth to accost them, but each time they realized it wasn't their prey but some pompous NPC.
They remained waiting for hours on end, and the constant false alarms had made them irritable and impatient. Suddenly, a young looking fellow came out of the building. He wore a cloak that concealed his face as he hurried into one of the nearby alleys. The fellows who were watching his exit sighed in relief and looked to one another with excitement. Finally, their payday had arrived!
They made no subtle movements to hide their intent, as they all rushed into the alley and surrounded the youngster. A cold voice came from the cloak in response to their actions.
"What is the meaning of this?"
They smirked to each other and the burliest one of them all stepped forth to become the spokesperson. "Listen here friend, empty your inventory and we'll let you go."
The man in the cloaked watched them coldly, casting his gaze around.
"There's no escape friend. Just make it easy on yourself and do the right thing," The Burly Player repeated, who name turned out to be Moar Wine.
The victim however, let out a cold snort before speaking. "Do you really think I'm so stupid as to flaunt my wealth and then walk into an alleyway with no one around? Did you not stop to think that this might be a trap? After all, I'm a player with money and reputation. The city guard is on my side."
"No, the very system is on my side."
Draco's words were like a bucket of cold water that splashed on top of their heads. It instantly sobered them up and the greed that had been clouding their minds receded as logic took hold.
Some of those at the back revealed hesitant expressions. After all, they had been waiting for hours to get the loot and even though there might be nothing for them, they just couldn't muster the will to turn around and leave.
Draco still observed everyone calmly, as if everything that was occurring was happening to someone else and he was just a bystander. The assailants around him had gone quiet, even Moar Wine. They didn't spout anymore nonsense because they weren't scripted characters, they knew when they were in a bind. False confidence would not help.
Instead, they stood there and waited. If Draco made a move, they would too. Both sides were observing each other silently to see who would make the first move. There was palpable tension in the air as a stare down occurred in this alleyway.
"Aiya, thank god you guys waited. Now I can send you off well!" Draco broke the tension with a relieved voice.
"Huh?" Moar Wine's confusion was present in every assailant's expression as they parsed Draco's words. They couldn't make heads or tails of what he meant. Send them off well?
Suddenly, a white toothed smile bloomed from under the hood of the cloak and Moar Wine felt like he was looking into the abyss of doom.
"Not good! Scatter!" He shouted while turning to run.
He barely took two steps when his body froze and his screen went grey. His avatar disappeared from the game and two words were embossed into his retinas.
"That was risky. Thankfully, thugs will always be the same. So easy to manipulate," Draco remarked with a sneer. He tucked away his second Goblinwerk bomb that he purchased from the Merchant's Guild with his special status.
Gnomish and Goblinwerk items were prized tools in Boundless as they mostly incorporated steampunk elements. In a world where Sword and Sorcery was the norm, a bomb or a flintlock pistol went a long way. But access to these items was reserved for those with enough money and had weight to their names, otherwise this world would've hit the industrial revolution already.
Draco sighed and looked to the sky, pondering his next actions. He needed to purchase a few supplies before heading out of town to trek across the countryside. There was a shanty town about 20km from this location that held an A-level Guild tier quest that had amazing rewards. That was what Draco purchased all the items for, since there was a workaround for having low manpower for that quest.
He left to make preparations for his journey to the west.
On a rooftop nearby was the concealed form of a woman clad in tight leathers. If Draco were to see her, his heart would stop. That was because she was none other than Riveting Night, the woman who stole his heart and crushed it, turning a lovesick boy into a heartless fiend!
At this moment, Riveting Night was watching Draco leave with complex emotions. Some part of her wanted to approach him and… apologize? While another part wanted to stay idle and remain vigilant.
The source of these emotions were not Riveting Night herself! There was a force working in the shadows that was trying to subtly upset the flow of time! This being had connected a tiny thread from Draco's old timeline – which was slowly fading away due to redundancy – and the current one.
This thread was from one person in the future to another in the past! Only one person was slowly receiving memories and feelings from an era which would no longer exist after Draco upsets the timeline again.
"This man… I must keep an eye on him. For safety reasons… Yes, that's right…" Riveting Night whispered to herself while clutching her chest. A palpable feeling of discomfort arose which she couldn't interpret. This was emotional pain, but the usually indifferent Riveting Night wouldn't know this.