The bar was filled with drunk patrons laughing and shouting obnoxiously beyond the door. He could see a glittering chandelier hanging high above their heads. Just about the time when he was thinking that the objet d’art was looking very out of place in this otherwise rather disgusting location, a loud group of musicians making a racket moved past him.
One of the band members stared at him absentmindedly, but then he suddenly grinned and looked away. In the place where the band had passed by, there were all manner of people sitting on the many tables and chairs that had been arranged in rows and columns.
The tables and chairs were fixed to the ground with large nails. The reason needed no explanation. There were drunks fistfighting on a table in the distance with onlookers in a circle making bets on the victor.
“Wow… This.. is no joke. Out of all the bars I’ve seen, this one is a mess.”
Bertelgia spoke with a slight tremble from her pocket. Sungchul was also in agreement.
‘You’d be hard-pressed to find a place more apt to call a mess than here.”
Sungchul found an empty table and sat while observing the surroundings. He first sought out those who looked particularly dangerous. There was bound to be one or two spies or agents from the upper crust of Panchuria or the Human Empire within a crowd of this many people.
A group of gloomy and hostile individuals soon appeared in his sight. They were positioned on the second-floor terrace from where they overlooked the entirety of the large hall below while sipping on their beers.
There were six in all, split into 3 groups of 2-member teams, and they seemed to have been swept up in the atmosphere as they appeared quite relaxed. They were more focused on betting with their partners than monitoring and only gave a cursory look whenever a ruckus broke out.
Sungchul continued observing the various crowds in the bar. He particularly took notice of the mannerisms and conversations of those he believed to be regulars.
When he managed to finish his surveillance, Sungchul approached the bartender and made an order in a natural manner.
“Hm? Haven’t seen your face around here before? First time?”
“I came by three years ago. I’m a bit sad that you didn’t recognize me.”
“Ah, is that right? Well, it’s fine either way. What’s your poison?”
Sungchul ordered adequate drinks and food before asking his question with a bit of financial lubrication.
“It’s a bit out of nowhere, but I need some information worth some money.”
“I don’t deal with that stuff, but that Elf Thief in the corner might know something.”
The bartender introduced him to a member of the Thieves’ Guild.
Sungchul devoured the food before heading toward the thief.
[This recipe’s score is 13 points.]
The food here couldn’t be considered tasty.
“Someone recommended you to me.”
Sungchul washed out his mouth with a strong drink before introducing himself. The thief kept his guard up as he glared at Sungchul, but the latter’s mannerism kept the conversation flowing.
There were largely three pieces of information Sungchul wanted from the thief. First was the movements of the Seven Heroes. The Thieves’ Guild possessed fast networks all around the continent and would be able to gather external information relatively quickly even in these backwoods. The Elven Thief reported that there was nothing worth mentioning of the Seven Heroes’ activities before he frankly stated his own thoughts on the matter.
“Regardless of how great these Seven Heroes claim to be, it’d be difficult for them to move about with the current state of affairs. All of the fat bigwigs are waiting for them to show themselves with their eyes peeled. How would even one of them make an appearance now? The bigwigs would gather a much greater suppression force than they did for the Enemy of the World if that happened.”
The bigwigs who were uninterested when the Demon King was expanding his borders suddenly put everything they had into vigilance when their own livelihood came into jeopardy.
In addition to this, Sungchul asked for information on two more topics. The other two were about the legend of Sajators that had been passed down in this region and about the tales regarding Multicasting. With these two questions, he particularly made sure to avoid the word “Multicasting” and carefully used words associated with it instead. Unfortunately, the Elf didn’t seem to have any idea regarding the latter two subjects. He pointed to the old man harassing the female staff of the establishment in another corner instead.
“Well, I’m just a person that had wandered in here, so I don’t know much about history and stuff, but that old fogey might know something.”
As soon as the words left the Elf’s lips, the old man was beaten up by a younger healthier man and was laid out onto the table like a frog. The second-floor observers’ callous gazes swept over in that direction, but they quickly lost interest and moved back to what they were doing.
“Turned out the guy was an alderman some odd years ago. He even published a few books.”
Sungchul approached the old man when every single one of the observers had turned their gazes away. When he got near, the stench of cheap booze rolled out in waves.
“The fist of a man that hasn’t surpassed 100 in Strength won’t leave a mark on my skin!”
But in contrast to the old man’s bold claims, blood was pouring from his nose. Sungchul handed him a rag as he spoke.
“I heard you were familiar with the history of this region.”
“History? Of Panchuria? What history is there to a shithole of a city made of planks? Would there be a history of a den of bats filled with shit and piss?”
The old man didn’t seem to be quite of his own mind yet. Sungchul temporarily let him be and looked behind instead. It was because the entire establishment had gone silent as though someone had doused the entire place with cold water.
At the door of the building, a group of people resembling humans had entered. Head of a snake, slithering tongue and the wide, scaly humanoid body just below it; they were the Lizardmen. They were famous as a race that created a world of their own, having raised a kingdom centered around the Screaming Sword’s Edge Mountains and extending out into the great expanse of marshes and jungles around it.
“Woah… It’s the lizardmen. It’s my first time seeing them in person.”
Bertelgia could not hide her awe as she shrunk into her pocket to peek from within. This was also Sungchul’s first time seeing the Lizardmen so close. His mind suddenly flashed back to a peaceful moment in the past.
“You might not know it, but the Lizardmen hold the most ideal society within Other World. It might be nice if you manage to find yourself in the Great Wetlands and see it for yourself. See how they act on their own sense of duty and how well they work together. Humans might not even be able to mimic such a thing.”
That teenager who was looking out at a distance with a passionate voice later became the emperor.
‘Are these the Lizardmen who you couldn’t stop praising?’
Sungchul scattered the memories of his past and focused on the lizardmen that had entered the building. The Lizardmen who were individually donned with armor casually took seats at the counter before making their orders with a lisp.
“One mealworm special. Don’t skimp on the pepper fruits.”
“Give me a fresh horse head, if you got one. Donkey is fine as well.”
“A shot of hard liquor with calf blood. Shaken not stirred.”
Despite how they appeared, they were very specific in their tastes. The server courteously handed them a dish as though he was already familiar with the Lizardmen already. A bumpy wooden dish filled with wriggling mealworms was on the counter. The server didn’t spare any of the pepper fruits before handing it to an armored lizardman.
“Here’s the mealworm special with plenty of pepper fruits.”
The Lizardman must have had a difficult personality because he stared into the bowl for a long while before cautiously tasting the content with his tongue.
The Lizardman suddenly slammed onto the table angrily.
“This is a 3-year-old mealworm! I don’t eat anything below 4-year-old mealworms. Take it back right away!”
It appeared that there was a palate to eating insects.
The server appeared troubled as he attempted to persuade the Lizardman to eat it anyways while explaining that he had nothing better to serve him. The Lizardman muttered under his breath as he swallowed all of the mealworms with the peppers in tow.
“Ugh… why are you being so difficult? What difference does it make whether it’s a 3-year-old or 4-year-old mealworm? You’re going to eat it all anyway!”
The chilled atmosphere caused by their appearance soon grew heated once again. There was a simple reason why the humans feared the lizardmen. It was because they were strong. They were born with powerful physiques, possessed rapid regenerative abilities and were resistant to diseases while also bearing sharp fangs and a muscular tail that humans did not have.
They also lived with a steadfast belief of predestination that made them fearless warriors in battle. This all meant that there was nothing to gain from making enemies of them.
Sungchul observed the Lizardmen for quite a bit before deciding that they weren’t much different from humans.
‘I can’t figure out what makes them any different.’
Sungchul sunk another shot of liquor down his throat and looked around for anything of interest. A group of men and women who were making an unusually loud fuss nearby stood out. By appearances, they looked like traditional hunters, but the game they hunted was an unexpectedly small rodent. What was likely to be the hunters’ catch of the day was laid out over the table.
‘Are those Carbuncles?’
He had never seen a live one before, but he had seen several of the creature’s hides or objects crafted from their parts.
To begin with, Carbuncles were intelligent creatures. They may appear to be a cousin to squirrels, but there was a large ruby embedded into their forehead that was larger than an eye which they used to cast magic. Carbuncles were known to be the only creature incapable of speech that could cast magic.
At one point, these creatures were easily sighted within all parts of the forest, but the gemstone in their forehead dyed in beautiful colors and markings, not to mention their magical power, resulted in them being hunted indiscriminately until they were known to be facing extinction. It appeared as though they might have a habitat near the Screaming Sword’s Edge mountain range.
Sungchul was not a nature conservationist, but seeing rare animals killed and pitifully laid out like that did not sit well with him. On the other hand, Bertelgia was shouting excitedly on seeing the Carbuncle corpses.
“Wow! Carbuncle crystals! Those are really rare Alchemic ingredients! You have plenty of gold. Why don’t you try your hand at haggling?”
He wasn’t happy about it, but hearing that it was rare ingredient moved Sungchul to walk over to the hunters.
There were six Carbuncle corpses laid out on the table in all. One of the hunters turned to look at Sungchul who was lingering behind them. Sungchul immediately spoke his intentions.
“Can I buy those Carbuncle crystals there?”
The hunter scanned Sungchul’s appearance from top to bottom. Worn down attire with a face that seemed far from aristocracy. Not a single piece of accessory was eye-catching. However, he saw a golden broach that was peeking out from beneath his coat and changed his mind.
“This is a bit pricey. How much do you got?”
At the hunter’s question, Sungchul pulled out a single gold coin of high grade from the Empire and laid it on the table. One man’s eyes lit up. It was the drunken old man that was bleeding from his nose. The hunters, on the other hand, remained indifferent. They waved away the old man that ran toward them with his mouth agape and sharply shot back toward Sungchul.
“It’s not even close with just one.”
With this, Sungchul shot back in kind with a low voice.
“I don’t think there’s anything to gain from flashing gold around? Why don’t you just tell me how much is enough.”
The hunters looked back at Sungchul after hearing those words and held a smug smile on their face. After a brief back and forth the deal was set at three Carbuncle crystals in exchange for twenty gold coins. They told Sungchul that three of these were sadly going to be sold for a lower price thanks to a certain precious customer.
“I am all for breaking that promise, but there is no way to earn your keep around here without that man’s grace so it can’t be helped.”
The hunters separated the Carbuncle crystals from the corpses and handed them to Sungchul. There was a slight fishy stench as Sungchul received the crystals and paid with his gold coin.
The hunter who received the gold coins pulled off the glove he was wearing to gauge the gold’s feel and weight. At that moment, a familiar light caught Sungchul’s eye coming from the hand of the hunter that was confirming the gold coins.
‘Isn’t that the blue gemstone ring?’
It was the same ring that he couldn’t figure out the purpose of. Although this particular ring looked far inferior to the blue gemstone ring that he had in his possession.
“What is that for?”
Sungchul abruptly asked.
“This? It’s my lucky charm.”
The hunter absentmindedly answered him.
Sungchul checked the hands of the other hunters as well. There were two others that had also taken off their gloves, but they were not wearing the ring.
‘Could it be simply coincidence?’
As Sungchul was immersed in thought, the hunter who had checked the gold lightly tapped the table.
“Done verifying. I hope there’s another good opportunity to trade like this.”
With that, the deal was complete. Sungchul returned to this seat and placed the Carbuncle crystals on the table for Bertelgia to look at.
“Eh hem. This is high quality. Since it’s this quality, we might be able to make it even if you were short by a few.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know, making a golem, or a golem, or a golem.”
Bertelgia let out a strong vibration from her pocket to reflect her good mood. Sungchul firmly pressed on her to calm her before asking again.
“Is it the main ingredient for golems?”
“That’s right! Not the cheap knock-offs, but the real golems!”
While they were speaking, a man lingered in front of Sungchul. Sungchul looked up to see who it was, and it turned out to be none other than the nose bleeding old drunk.
Sungchul spoke callously.
“What’s your intention?”
The old man felt his heart sink from the hostility instilled in Sungchul’s sharp gaze, but liquid courage allowed him to speak with much difficulty.
“You, just now. Didn’t you ask about this city’s history?”
“I did, and?”
Sungchul placed the Carbuncle crystals into his Soul Storage before fixing his stature.
The bloodshot eyes of the old man lit up.
‘He even has a Soul Storage… Undoubtedly this man… is incredibly wealthy!’
The old man wiped off the drool before continuing to speak.
“I didn’t remember so good before from the alcohol, but now that I’m a bit more sober, I definitely recall something!”
His words lacked credibility. But Sungchul knew that anyone could break down and fall from grace. He pulled out his own blue gemstone ring from his pocket as a test and laid it before the old man.
“Do you know where this is used?”
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