Chapter 363 - Linshui Harbor
Gu Fei did not know where the harbor was located in this city. He had ridden a dhow to enter Linshui City, and even grounded it over by the beach. In his effort to escape from being surrounded en masse by the players, he did not seem to recall seeing anything that indicated they were near the harbor.
Gu Fei asked around as he walked, even attracting the city guards’ attention twice because of his unfamiliarity with the city’s layout. However, since his PK value was below 30 points, he could get away from them just by running far enough away, as the guards would give up on their pursuit once he managed to get some distance away.. This was not exactly difficult for him to accomplish thanks to his Blink skill.
Gu Fei finally reached Linshui City’s official harbor in this fashion. The harbor was huge, with plenty of berths. Some had ships moored at them, with players in the process of boarding them, while others were devoid of both ships and players. There were some berths that had no ships docked, yet plenty of players were waiting, hoping that the vessels would arrive soon. There were even some ships that had just left. Those players that did not make it onboard in time were still angrily cursing and stomping their feet by the berth.
This was an appropriate scene for a harbor, so Gu Fei was not bothered by this. What actually surprised him was that the place was not only a harbor, but also a huge bazaar!
The blue skies against the crystal clear water, the light sea breeze that brought forth the light sea spray, the pristine white beach… everything next to the harbor was clearly marked out into various zones.
The left had obviously been converted into a trading area. Plenty of players had set up their stalls and were fully utilizing their most readily available resource: sand. Everyone had used the sand to form mounds into various strange and intriguing shapes and styles, placing the items they were selling on them in an effort to attract the attention of prospective buyers.
One of the most amazing merchants had actually sculpted out life-sized human figures from the sand and adorned them with equipment and weapons. While the stats for these items were not visible, just these items being on full display like that drew quite a crowd. This man had quite the brisk business, as the equipment these sand models wore was quickly getting sold, replaced by new equipment every now and then. That player was forming more even human sand sculptures whenever he had the time between sales.
The other merchants around the man could only watch with envy at his ingenious idea, yet they had no means of copying him. It was apparent that the man doing the modeling had used a special technique or skill to make his models. Many of them wanted to learn it, yet they simply did not know what the trick to it was.
While trade was the focus on the left, the right side of this beach had transformed into an area for leisurely pursuits..
There were plenty of round tables and wooden stools sitting around the beach, which were of course not placed without a reason. It was actually an open-air bar that a player had opened, with a barkeep by the counter selling alcohol to the players passing by. This was clearly a better way to operate a bar and earn money from it, compared to Ray’s Bar. Ray invested quite a lot in leasing a spacious building from the system and paid a hefty amount to apply for a business permit to operate the business. This meant the system would make a record of the business and would proceed to take a cut from the daily turnover, an amount that all the players had taken to calling a ‘tax’.
Meanwhile, the system was truly despicable, taking the players’ ridicule as a source of pride instead of shame. Seeing that there were more and more players who were starting up businesses, it actually began to evaluate the amount of tax it collected from these merchants everyday. It even went as far as to create a daily search for the ‘star tax payer’, and allocating the appropriate reward for it. These rewards were very extravagant, and the greed of some of these merchants overcame them, competing by undercutting the other players and playing the markets, creating a whole murky mess of questionable practices within the in-game economy.
Of course, there were various benefits for opening a business officially, like how Ray’s Bar had. For example, Ray would be able to send a short message to call the guards on a player that refused to pay for their liquor. After all, his business was under the care of the system, so the system could easily investigate the existence of such transactions and would not simply consider Ray’s words alone. However, now that the boss had the ability to call for help like this, it was entirely possible for the summoned guards to indiscriminately arrest those players who were being treated to a drink or two by their friends, as well.
Compared to Ray, these players before him did not pay any sort of tax to the system, so they were naturally not under the system’s protection. What could these bar owners do if some powerful players were to wine and dine in their establishments for free? Even if these business owners were peerless experts, they could simply not afford to offend an entire guild of players!
Gu Fei admired the scene for a bit, even as he worried on behalf of the bosses in charge. However, when he drew near and saw the sign by the bar counter, he finally understood how this worked.
None of the open-air bars that operated without the system’s protection were owned by just one player, but were opened under the auspices of a guild. Each of these open-air bars had the name of the guild they belonged to displayed in the most conspicuous place in their bars to deter any potential wrongdoers. If any player dared to eat a free meal off of them with the threat of an entire guild hunting them down, they were free to do so!
There were plenty of people passing time by these bars, which lent a far different feeling to things than that room Gu Fei and his fellow mercenaries frequented back in Yunduan City. Gu Fei found everything a novelty as he strolled by and took in the sights, momentarily forgetting about his original intention to grind monsters. He began to look around for an empty seat, hoping to experience this for himself.
This action was spotted by an experienced barkeep, who rushed over as quickly as if he were stealing a BOSS. “Bro, are you looking for a place to rest?”
“Yes!” Gu Fei nodded his head.
“This way please; there’s still a seat over here. How many are you expecting?” the man asked.
“Just me alone,” he replied.
“Big Ben, I’ve got one man! Get him a table!” the barkeep shouted.
“Coming!” A Warrior that had been squatting beside a liquor shelf stood up and made his over. With a heave, he reached into his dimensional pocket and pulled out a round table the size of a small nightstand before casually grabbing a stool from the side and placing it down properly. “Sit down!”
“How much can you carry?” Gu Fei stared in shock as he sat down.
The Warrior laughed thickly as he retreated back to his position to play with the sand.
“Bro, what are you ordering?” The server extended a hand and actually passed him a liquor menu.
Gu Fei looked through the list. The liquor was still the same few types normally offered, but the price listed was more expensive than the price that the system-registered Ray’s Bar had. It seemed like the place was not merely selling the liquor alone, but the atmosphere as well. Gu Fei sighed in his heart as he snuck a glance at the surrounding players to see what they were drinking.
In that one glance, Gu Fei realized that the players’ take on expenditures in Parallel World was still the same, despite being in a different environment; most of the players here were still ordering the cheapest liquor available. Gu Fei was just about to do the same when he suddenly noticed there was someone sitting in a table similar to his all by himself, with two bottles of the most expensive liquor set on the table. Someone was actually drinking that sort of liquor!
Gu Fei lifted his gaze and saw that it was indeed Young Master Han who was sitting there drinking. While everyone present was drinking while admiring the view around them, doing their utmost to soak in the atmosphere, this man had all his attention focused on his glass of liquor alone.
“Excuse me!” He suddenly got up. “I have a friend seated over there. I’ll head over and join him!”
“Where?” The server revealed a look of mild displeasure when he heard this. After all, this table had been specifically opened for Gu Fei.
“Over there!” The player’s face instantly lit up with glee when he saw where Gu Fei pointed. The man Gu Fei was pointing at was Young Master Han. The liquor he had ordered was expensive and he drank quickly and in copious amounts; this sort of customer was essentially the most ideal for any bar owner. With Gu Fei actually identifying this person as a friend and heading over to help him consume the bottles, would he not drink even faster than before? The price of a glass of the finest liquor was many times more profitable than the cheapest liquor, especially since that man was drinking by the bottle.
The server instantly regarded Gu Fei warmly, grabbed the stool he was sitting on and placed it by Young Master Han’s table.
Young Master Han’s attention was finally drawn away from the glass of liquor he had been savoring as he turned his eyes to look at the newcomer. Seeing Gu Fei right behind that server, he did not say a word as he turned his head back and continued to haughtily imbibe his liquor.
The server became suspicious, as Young Master Han’s attitude seemed to have treated Gu Fei as if he was nothing but air. Gu Fei however was unfazed by this as he patted that man and instructed him, “Get me a glass.” He then took a seat.
The man instantly searched through his dimensional pocket and took out one of the largest glasses he had on him for Gu Fei. It was so large that even Young Master Han showed a slight hint of surprise.
The corner of the barkeep’s eyes glinted as he pleasantly patted Gu Fei’s shoulder. “Enjoy.”
Gu Fei nodded, ignoring the expression on Young Master Han’s face as he took that bottle of liquor and poured his glass to the brim. The size of his glass could hold almost half of the bottle in one go, so Gu Fei felt utterly satisfied when he lifted it.
Before he could even take his first sip, someone appeared beside him who asked, “Bro, are you interested in some grilled fish?”
“Grilled fish?” He was intrigued.
The person replied by pointing him in a direction. Gu Fei followed his finger and saw a less picturesque part of the beach, where plenty of campfires could be seen. Smoke filled the air in that area as many players squatted before the fire, busying themselves with sticks. Each stick had a fish skewered on it. The players grilled the meat and checked this side of the beach for new customers. Several of them showed regret when they saw that someone else had approached Gu Fei before them.
“My cooking proficiency is at 2700; I guarantee that you’ll be satisfied!” the player continued to tout.
“How much is it… uhm… Is it just a stick or an entire fish?” Gu Fei asked.
“A stick is the entire fish,” the man replied, “but we prefer to call it a rod.”
“Are the fish that big?” Gu Fei was rather curious and wanted to know more.
“The system spawns them, so I guarantee that each fish is equally big,” the man confidently assured.
“Five gold coins.”
“That’s pretty expensive.” Gu Fei stuck his tongue out. In truth, the food industry had not begun to develop in Yunduan City, and since they had been in a hurry to make their way through every city, Gu Fei did not have much of a clue about this matter, so he could only express his thoughts at the price he was presented with.
“That’s the market rate,” the man said.
“Bring us two rods to have a taste, then!” he said.
“Right away!” The man nodded repeatedly as he backed away and sprinted off. In no time, he came back holding two wooden rods, each with a fish skewered on it. In all honesty, it looked very rudimentary, but that particularly wild aspect seemed to add to its flavor. Gu Fei gazed at the fish and felt that it was visually mouthwatering.
He happily paid the coins and took the fish from the man, casually lifting the other over to Young Master Han.
Young Master Han happened to have his glass to his lips as he slowly shook his head in response.
“Try it!” Gu Fei had already taken a bite of the fish and felt it tasted pretty good, something he would highly recommend.
“I’ve already had six,” Young Master Han said, pointing at the ground with his foot.
Gu Fei looked down and saw the rods on the ground, exclaiming in shock, “Eating and drinking, you’re a classic ne'er-do-well1!”
Young Master Han face turned ice cold as he frigidly reminded him, “That liquor you’re drinking is mine.”
“Yes, yes. That’s right.” Gu Fei nodded his head as he took a big gulp of the drink in his hand.
It was at this moment that a shout was heard. “Look! It’s that person!”