Chapter 7 - Setting up shop
Draco coalesced in a grassland that seemed almost endless. With a sigh, he thought back to everything that had occurred with a weary smile.
I didn't think killing Ratchet would have such far reaching effects.
That last conversation with Richmond might seem cryptic to a bystander, but Draco understood it perfectly. Richmond didn't give him the heraldry to spread his fame. After all, that old man chose such a remote location to hide himself from the problems of the world. Why would he want to attract worldly trouble in that case?
No, Richmond was a Rank 7 Mage God. He was one of the hidden powers who Draco had been thinking would take note of his actions and he had. But by giving him the heraldry and letting him see his true power, Richmond was telling Draco that every action had a consequence.
Forget Mephisto, there were thousands of others who had taken undue interest in him, and these people would be knocking on his door soon. Richmond gifted the heraldy to give him a way to protect himself until he was strong enough to deal with the monsters who lived in the darkness.
Draco himself knew of a few. After all, he had been one of the two ultimate powers in Sturgehaven Kingdom in his past life. His victory over Darkrow was precisely due to the help of one of the hidden powers. Just one of them was enough to upset the stalemate war between two ultimate powers, so that alone is a good indicator of their power.
With Richmond's heraldry, he was safe from majority of these fellows, as they wouldn't easily enter conflict with a rank 7 Mage god who had almost reached the pinnacle.
But that didn't mean they wouldn't get to do it. These old monsters would have their underlings who were either at Draco's level – or slightly higher within reason – challenge him in order to offset Richmond's anger. Draco losing to them would be due to his own weakness and Richmond couldn't retaliate due to that.
In fact, Draco had no idea that Mephisto was preparing hurdles of a similar nature to test Draco and help him grow.
With a sigh, Draco put it out of his mind. He had other objectives to fulfill in the meantime and brooding over this wouldn't do much to help. He observed the plain he was on carefully.
Then, Draco removed a few items he had purchased from the market before leaving Stagnant Moss town. He began to carefully place them based on his memories and calculations.
When he finished, he sighed and faced the western end of the plain. With a frown, he traversed forward for about an hour before he saw a very small town that had a palisade as its only defense.
Draco activated Appearance Deception: 9 forms which allowed him to create a new avatar in the character creation menu. It was only valid as long as the skill was active, so Draco styled himself as a handsome rogue-like fellow, similar to Han Solo.
With that done, he crossed the town's border and entered it truly. The first thing he was met with was weapons suddenly pointed at his face. Despite the pointy ends aimed at his face, Draco smiled wryly.
A dainty pale skinned woman with eye catching fiery red hair came from the depths of the sudden weapon storm with a wary smile on her face. She had two beauty spots on her lip and her cheek, and her thin pink lips were twitching subtly. She wore a traveler's garb of linens and had a bag of holding attached to her waist.
"Hello Adventurer, welcome to our little settlement. May I ask what your objective is?" Her voice was smooth as silk and very pleasant to the ear. It was very disarming, coupled with her willowy form and feminine posture. She invoked the feeling to protect from those who looked upon her; a natural defense.
Draco simply smiled and didn't answer, instead he chose to observe each of the people arrayed before him with weapons pointed at his face. They were all a mismatch of races and colors, most of them being young a.d.u.l.ts rather than children or middle aged folks. Each of the hands holding a weapon was trembling, yet there was a firmness in their eyes that belied their fear. These people were scared shitless, but would fight rather than run.
"My Lord Adventurer…?" Her voice was slightly hitched, as if she was worried he'd take offence from being questioned twice.
Draco shook his head. "You are all not going to win against the savages like this."
His casual admission was like a thunderbolt striking the ground right beside all the people in front of him. Their previously firm gazes wavered and the fear displayed itself. The pale woman found a way to become even paler from Draco's words and her breathing stopped.
Draco sighed and made a shrugging gesture. "But then, I came."
With that line delivered, he walked by them and entered a building that looked like an inn, although it was roughly built and looked somewhat new. Draco's movement was casual, but to these people, they didn't even see him move.
To them, he just spoke and disappeared behind them, right in front of their eyes. Draco's movement speed out of combat wasn't something normal humans could perceive, not with Lord Richmond's boons.
Their alarm could no longer be described with words. Draco's sudden appearance, words and power was the same as living in a small room with a clock spider. They had no idea of his intentions but his lack of action so far at least told that he wasn't hostile… yet.
Truthfully, these people weren't always so hostile to outsiders. In fact, this community was a frontier group that had been commissioned by the Adventurer's Guild to explore untamed lands and verify it they could be safely settled upon.
When they first settled, everything seemed perfect. This region was lush with resources and the amount of minerals and metal veins found just underneath the settlement alone made it a goldmine. If the Adventurer's Guild could tame and lay claim to this land, their prospects would grow endlessly.
But if it were so simple, then why hadn't Sturgehaven kingdom taken this land already but left it up for grabs?
The reason was simple: there was someone here already. These indigenous people were seemingly typical savages, with a different language, a violent and xenophobic nature and weird, barbaric customs.
They had whittled down the frontier group over the years until they were barely shell of what they were before. These frontier people weren't fighters, only prospectors. Their fighting force had long expired under the continued assaults, leaving these young scholars and travelers to fend for themselves.
This experience had hardened them somewhat, but it was a pipe dream to think they'd become fierce tigers under this assault. If mental strength could be obtained from conflict so easily, PTSD wouldn't exist.
Draco sat at a counter reviewing all the information he had on this particular event in his head. He didn't even waste his breath pretending to not know what was going on. He had more knowledge about the happenings leading up to this as well as what would even occur on the future.
This particular quest was known as the War of Attrition. Any player could trigger this quest, but it was limited to guilds only. Only a strong guild with members willing to kamikaze themselves could overcome the savages in the area and gain a slight foothold in the frontier.
The reward? Land. What else could incentivize a guild to sacrifice its fighting force so easily? Whether it was in Boundless or the real world, Land would always be the most valuable commodity, moreso in a region like this with rich resources and no clear overlord.
But this land title would only be valid as long as the Adventurer's Guild was willing to give it. It was a pipe dream to think a player guild could match the force of the Adventurer's Guild within the first 10 years of Boundless.
Draco came here without a guild and without the blessing of the Adventurer's Guild, yet his chances of success was higher than both of the guilds from his past life.
The mistake the Guild players of old made was that they tried to take a side in this war, obviously against the indigenes who have a home field advantage. No one stopped to wonder why they had managed to keep this land over the countless years it has existed, why the monsters here know to keep their head under the water and stay in their zones.
The fatal mistake was that they had underestimated the so called savages, only taking their superficial representation as fact. It wasn't until almost 3 years of constant war and losses did one ordinary player who had deserted find a tunnel that led underground.
What was underground? A beautiful city that spanned thousands of kilometers. The sheer amount of 'savages' there surpassed the total population of Sturgehaven Kingdom. In fact, the spies sent there afterwards found that the war aboveground was seen as a training event for the young to get some battle experience.
The indigenes had never taken them seriously.
This was a true war of attrition, where both sides had vast numbers and a lot of manpower, but no real progress was being made. At best, a victory here would be pyrrhic.
Draco wasn't here to help the Adventurer's Guild or the Indigenes. He was here to help himself, plain and simple. The easiest way to be involved in a war yet profit from it was… you guessed it, weapons trading.
That was why Draco purchased a whole slew of items from players who felt they were trash tier. To parties in a war, common weapons were slightly above standard. No one was going to equip their infantry with anything other than trash tier swords, after all, if you died the enemy can harvest it and use it against you.
Bringing a common weapon to a fight with trash tier weapons is the Boundless equivalent of bring a gun to a knife fight. Draco would even have preferred to visit a few more towns to purchase items but most players would've sold theirs by now. It was the first thing majority of them would do anyway.
The door to the Inn opened and the delicate woman along with a nerdy looking guy in glasses walked up to Draco with forced smiles. "My Lord Adventurer, we are pleased to host you. I hope everything is to your liking?"
Draco didn't even look at them. To keep up the façade of an uninterested and mysterious party was an easy task, because that was Draco in his default state.
His simple answer contained a simple meaning, yet to those hearing it, it seemed… well, Boundless.
"Ah, that's great then." She replied with a worried glance towards her partner.
The skinny nerd pushed up his glasses and spoke with a firm tone, firmer than anyone he'd seen so far. "What do you want here? You're either here to sell weapons or you're from the Guild to observe our progress."
The woman beside him gripped his sleeve tightly and gave a frightened expression from her compatriot's sharp and provocative words. For the first time since coming, Draco turned to face this man and truly looked at him. "What is your name?"
"Anguis. I'm the leader of the frontier group here. Yours?"
Draco was so startled that he chuckled. The AI for Boundless sure was twisted. The two people before him looked to each other in confusion. What had Anguis said that would warrant such an amused laugh?
"Forgive me. My name is Drake," Draco replied with a wry smile.
Anguis was also startled, but then smiled self-deprecatingly. "I see why you chortled."
The two didn't elaborate further, so the woman beside Anguis was clueless as to what went on. "My name is Sasha. I am Anguis' sister and his vice leader. It is nice to be acquainted with you, Lord Drake."
Sasha did look a bit similar to Anguis, so Draco didn't doubt it. He decided to examine them and see what level they were at currently.
｢Name: Anguis – Rank 1 Runemaker
｢Name: Sasha – Rank 1 Scribe
Rank 1 Tradeskill classes. Anguis was a Runemaker and Sasha was a Scribe. Clearly, these two were not suited for anything related to combat, but life wasn't fair to everyone in equal measure. Even though they were one rank above Draco, he could easily end them before they could call for help.
After all, his gear alone was enough to make these people wary. That was one of the many reasons they had been polite with him so far.
"To answer your question, yes. I am here to sell weapons and set up a distribution outlet here for you guys in the war effort. I will also hire out my services occasionally in exchange for certain resources. I wonder if there is any empty land I could purchase here for my shop?"
Like the real world, shops could be opened to sell a variety of goods. Draco was going to open a shop in this frontier town to distribute weapons, armor and potions which would net him a profit.
Of course, what he wasn't telling Anguis and Sasha was that he'd do same for the savages. This was a war he had nothing to do with, so he wasn't interested in who was right or wrong, just how much he could make off it. He was also interested in a taking a portion of the wild land here to develop his new empire, starting with his new guild. But that was a bit away from now, so he focused on the steps leading up to it.
Anguis and Sasha revealed startled expressions as first, then wary joy. Such a thing was too good to be true. They were far from the only frontier town out here and the guild had already pretty much deemed them a failed expedition. There was nothing but the label of deserter awaiting them if they tried to leave too, so they were stuck fighting till they either died or won.
Over the years, the guild had consistently furnished them with fighting forces and resources, but they had made absolutely no headway, only taking losses throughout. Hence, Draco's offer was exactly what they needed more than anything.
One thing they had in abundance was coins and resources. After all, this area was a goldmine. However, they had no way to easily transport it out, so only the rarest materials were taken back. The people here were paid wages, but what use was that in this estranged society? The food that was produced was made through everyone's hard work, so no one could claim the right to sell it. Since they were all individuals with Tradeskills, they lacked no services or goods. What use was giving the tailor coins for patching your garment when he would never be able to leave this dead zone to spend it?
But with Draco bringing in fresh goods that were necessary and especially which there was currently no supply, their stockpile of money could finally regain use. This town could regain life and more importantly, a fighting chance.
"My Lord Drake, we wouldn't ask you to pay for land here, after all do we even own any title? You can select any empty lot and place your store there and we shall patronize your goods!" Sasha exclaimed excitedly, giving in to her optimism.
"Yeah, just set up shop anywhere. We have some builders here who'd be able to set something up for you. I don't know what they'd take as compensation though." Anguis added with a wry smile.
Draco nodded. He didn't expect anyone to work for him for free, just getting the land alone was his only concern. After all, despite Sasha's claim, this was undoubtedly their land. They just didn't have the ability to protect it. If they did, they would knock on his door for rent or title deeds. They might seem like nice people now, but that was only because they were desperate.
"I'll have to trouble you all then. Gather five Rank 1 builders and tell them I'd pay in anything they need from outside for the construction of my shop."
Sasha nodded happily. "No problem, my lord."
Anguis however frowned. "Sounds like you don't plan on staying to see it built."
Draco smiled thinly. This Anguis fellow was too perceptive, able to see the hidden meaning in words and actions. He was a lot like Draco was during his relationship with Riveting Night. No longer naïve and cowardly, but slightly sharp and observant yet still physically underwhelming.
Sasha frowned at Anguis for his sharp words after noticing Draco's expression. Even Anguis felt that he might have stepped out of line, after all this man would be their benefactor soon. He just had a feeling…
"Actually forget it, what you do is your business. Is there anything you need us to do in the meanwhile?" Anguis asked with a slight scowl.
"Nothing for now. When the shop is complete, I will know. For now, I need to go gather resources and inform my superiors that we can expand here." Draco replied while turning to leave the establishment.
His nonchalant answer made Anguis look bad, as it seemed he was being overly suspicious of Draco. Sasha soon made that dissatisfaction known as she harangued her big brother till he covered his ears.
Draco himself had already selected his plot of land for the shop and had spoken to the people who would construct it. He had already bought a basic shop design from the Merchant's Guild for 200 gold, which was a noticeable dent in his early game funds.
He stood at the edge of the plain he had originally teleported into and activated Appearance Deception: 9 forms again. His second form he made into a tall robust male who was dark skinned and handsome, with features slightly similar to his real self. He also changed his outfit to what he remembered the indigenes wore, cotton shirts and khaki shorts with sandals.
After making sure he looked the part, he made his way to his next target: the town the indigenes used to mobilize troops to the surface.