Chapter 128 - Kargas' Underground Auction (1)
In the central continent, sunset was one or two hours behind the south and north, where the sun started to fall at 6 o'clock in the evening.
For that reason, Kargas' lively nights were short but intense. No one could deny that such geographical conditions contributed to the rise of the trade kingdom. It was sincere enjoyment when the sun shone, and once the moon emerged, there was more entertainment than any other country.
The trading kingdom of Kargas was this type of two-sided country. Just like how long shadows stretched out behind the radiant light, the subtle desires of people gathered in the back alleys of the bustling city.
The climate of the large border city of Sipoto, where a large quantity of people moved through, was no exception. No, in fact, the night prospered in proportion to the number of outsiders. Those who didn't set up signs during the day would start shouting throughout the city as soon as the sun went down.
Then there were those who gave seductive smiles and suggestive gestures to those passing by.
"The handsome fellow over there! It is a chance to get with a hot babe from the south for only 1 gold!"
"Hey, why are you picking up gum like that? Our store is full of beautiful girls from the north! The best service!"
There were those who aimed for the gap between that.
"A gorgeous half-elf beauty is waiting for tonight's master! Only the first four will be accepted! One time is five gold!"
"Hey! What a shameful human!"
"Isn't it five gold for an hour, instead of the whole night? Stop talking nonsense!"
Of course, sometimes there was a bit of fuss. However, the residents of Sipoto smiled instead of frowning, evidence that such an uproar wasn't anything new. It wasn't uncommon for drunks to hit a brick in the backstreets or for pickpockets to move among the crowds. In other words, this was the chaos of a main street.
However, the atmosphere of the night market was a little bit different tonight.
Ching! Ching! Ching!
Several heavily armed knights marched through the crowd with loud noises. An old man in an unusual outfit followed them leisurely. The knights, who had considerable skills, were escorting him. Then as the entire area fell silent, it was like a lord was making an appearance.
However, it wasn't just that.
"Make way! Agent of the Orcus Company is coming through!"
There was a horse-pulled carriage moving through the road, creating a path through the citizens roughly with loud yells.
On one side of the lavish carriage, there was a flag of a hawk which symbolized the Orcus Company. This was considered one of the top three companies in the central continent! It was also said that the power of money the company could use was equivalent to that of royalty. Even the guards didn't dare restrain them, so the authority they had was obvious.
Additionally, a number of other bigwigs had appeared all over the city. A wealthy person exiled from the Austen Kingdom, a mercenary leader who led A rank mercenaries, nobles visiting from neighbouring countries... They were all well known figures in their field.
These people were those who came a long way to participate in the underground auctions, the hidden specialty of Kargas.
"What a spectacle." However, Theodore ridiculed them with a cold face. "Driving a carriage in the middle of the city... The agent of a business company shouldn't be acting so stupidly."
"Cough, hrmm, cough...!" Someone started coughing at Theo's sharp words. Theodore didn't like the reaction, so he looked over and asked, "Are you afraid someone will be listening? You are the branch director of the Information Guild."
That's right. Right now, the King of Mice, who was the head of the Sipoto branch, was accompanying Theodore. However, Gibra's appearance was different from what Theo had seen underground. Theo didn't know what method was being used, but Gibra's height was now similar to Theodore's, while and his skin colour was similar to everyone else's.
It seemed like an impossible disguise because Gibra had been so unique.
The seemingly ordinary middle-aged man, Gibra, replied in a reproachful voice, "Employer, the Orcus Company isn't just a group making money. You should be careful about any statements you make with your mouth."
"What does that mean? Please explain it properly."
"Uhh... The cost for the information is separate from the commission fee..."
"Tell me." Theodore smiled as he played around with a gold coin. His attitude made the gold seem like it was just a pebble.
Gibra took it quickly, and after confirming it was pure gold, he decided to open his mouth. Five gold coins had already been consumed this way, but Theo had no dissatisfaction because Gibra gave valuable and steady information.
Gibra delivered the information using an aura technique which eastern warriors used. It was called Sound Transmission.
[Don't answer and just listen. This information isn't something I'm sure about. Otherwise, it would be worth at least 10 gold.]
Simultaneously, Theodore nodded naturally.
[The Orcus Company was founded just 27 years ago, so it is still new. There wasn't a solid background or a great deal of business talent.
[But in less than 30 years, it has grown to be one of the top three companies in the central continent. Even if they got lucky, that growth is beyond common sense. So, our guild decided to send elites to dig out the information.]
It was definitely as he said. A common company growing to become one of the top three in the central continent within less than 30 years...? It was impossible unless the god of luck was at their door.
Theodore thought of more questions after knowing about the Information Guild's actions. Maybe they planned to expand their power by discovering the Orcus Company's secret.
However, Gibra's expression sunk heavily. [None of them returned. They were elites who could at least escape even when the opponent was a master, but none of them came back. After that, we didn't accept any requests from the Orcus Company.]
"...Did you decide to give up?"
[Just the direct investigation. The indirect investigation continued. And we realizing an amazing fact.]
Theodore couldn't help squinting and realized that Gibra was sweating slightly.
[All the people who persecuted the Orcus Company or who stood in their way are dead. It wasn't due to assassins. They died because of a sudden illness, an accident, or were betrayed by the people around them. In the meantime, the Orcus Company easily got what they wanted.]
"Is there any evidence?"
[Not at all. If there was evidence, would we remain quiet? They would've paid a price for all of the dead.]
In the shadow world, loyalty was absolute. Members who didn't feel loyalty toward their organization wouldn't last long.
There were different motives behind the loyalty. Logically, it wasn't a question of good and evil but giving back what they had received. Indiscriminate violence was part of the nature of humans. The Information Guild was relatively moderate, but they couldn't escape from feeling like this.
However, Gibra said that retaliation was impossible.
'...Orcus Company, I have to remember that.'
It might be groundless, but Theodore felt a strange sense of anxiety inside him.
People who had been abandoned by their family and friends, had suddenly become ill, or had encountered an incident... At first glance, they seemed unrelated, but Theodore knew of one possibility which could link them.
Thousands of random illnesses, inviting misfortune such as a lightning strike from the dry skies, and confusing the hearts of others... they were all acts which the Magic Society had declared as taboo.
The magic system had mostly disappeared after the necropolis of the warlocks had been subdued a few centuries ago.
In principle, if Theo suspected information about the possible existence of black magic, he should inform the Magic Society and arrange an investigation team. However, the present Theodore was an invisible person hiding secretly in a distant country. He wasn't in a position to communicate with an investigation team or the Magic Society.
Theo could only hope that this foreboding feeling wouldn't come true.
* * *
After Gibra's story about the Orcus Company, the two of them walked through the city wordlessly. Some people felt the uncomfortable atmosphere and carefully avoided them. The unnatural silence continued until they reached the gambling casino which contained one of the northern auctions.
This was when the two people neared the entrance,
"You're here." A man intercepted their path and greeted them with a polite attitude.
Unlike Theodore who didn't know who the man was, Gibra responded as if he had been waiting for the greeting. "You're on time, Akan."
"Yes, Branch Director."
Then Gibra turned to Theo and said, "I haven't introduced you yet. This guy is Akan, a member of the Sipoto branch."
Regardless of whether he knew that Theodore was the employer, Akan bowed and treated Theo as politely as he did Gibra.
Akan didn't look even 30 years old, but since he was a member of the Information Guild, it was meaningless to grasp his identity with just his appearance. The pair became a trio, and they approached the casino.
Then a security guard blocked the three of them. "I'm sorry. Today, we are holding a special event at our casino and won't accept those who aren't invited."
Akan walked forward without any hesitation. "Ha, do you know who I am?"
"That's okay. I can tell that you have a dull head, and I will need to make it obvious to you."
This was a pride which went beyond arrogance! The appearance of the polite guild member had completely disappeared. It seemed like he actually was an important member of a business company. The guards became nervous at the attitude of Akan, who was big and using rough movements.
Theodore admired the change in Akan, who seemed like a real actor. 'Indeed, this is the Information Guild.'
The man called 'Akan' was an excellent scammer who could disguise himself and trick the eyes of others. If Theodore had been in the position of the security guard, he would definitely have been deceived. Akan's behaviour was perfect without any flaws.
Within a short amount of time, Akan pulled out an object. It was the item which Theodore had handed him in advance, the mark of the Polonell Company.
"Now, if you have eyes, look! Do you dare to doubt my qualifications after seeing this?"
"...T-The Polonell Company?"
"Hah, you're making another mistake."
"Huh? M-Mistake?!" The guard's body shook at the words. It was obvious that he was uneasy.
"Even though you know my position, you are still blocking the way. Is this a challenge to the name of the Polonell Company?"
"Ah, no! T-that's not it!" The guard quickly cleared the way while bowing at a 90 degree angle. "I'm sorry! Have a good time!"
"Tsk, be careful next time."
"Yes! I will keep that in mind!"
There was no inspection performed for Theodore and Gibra, and the two people followed behind Akan's big steps. The security guards at the front door had seen the suffering of the first security guard. So, there was now no security guard who dared block the three of them.
Gibra chuckled as they crossed the threshold of the northern auction house. He pointed to the stiff behaviour of the guards and said, "How was that, Employer? Wasn't it fun?"
"...Certainly. You do as much as you receive."
"Huhu, it isn't over yet. You will be much more surprised by the end of the auction." Gibra's disguised face smiled.
At a corner of the casino, the steps of the three people walked past the security guards and down the stairs to the underground area.
There was a such a vast space hiding under the casino that Theodore made a surprised expression as he calculated the underground space. It was an area which could comfortably accommodate a thousand people.
The sight which was beyond his imagination didn't end there. This was a special place in the Kargas Kingdom-an underground auction house. The three people descended a few dozen meters before the true face of the auction house was revealed.
"...Hah." Theodore was forced to stare blankly as he arrived at the entrance.
He didn't know that this type of space would be hidden in a city which wasn't even the capital. 'No, I knew but didn't realize it.'
Seeing it with his own eyes was completely different from hearing the information from Gibra. Dozens of colourful chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and from the floor to the pillars, nothing was shabby. All the luxury and debauchery of the city seemed to flow into here.
The bottom of the auction house was alive and breathing. A masked man, a man in a robe, a woman in a dress, a man in armour, a man sipping from a glass of wine...
There was a whirlwind of human desire raging before the magician. It was a desire completely different from the magicians who pursued truth and the causes of various things.
A faint dizziness welled up inside Theo.
"Hey, Employer. What is it?"
Theodore took a firm step forward into his first experience with human desires. The one who had created a storm in Meltor was now entering this rich country.
The curtain rose on the first day of Kargas' underground auction.