21st Century Archmage - Chapter 11
Chapter 11: The Rubis Merchants
“Who are they?”
Yesterday, the village held a festival after seeing the various mushrooms and grasses I had harvested. Knowing they didn’t have to rely on potatoes and wheat—their village’s lifeline—to pay the tax made smiles bloom on the villagers’ faces for the first time in a while. However, I didn’t show the villagers the demon beast hide. Seeing as I wandered the forest alone, they were already curious about my identity, so they would definitely be wary of me if I were to show them the hide as well.
“Are they merchants?”
I was dwelling on the battle with the demonic beast while practicing my insufficient sword skills atop the cliff, where I could see in every direction, when a line of carriages and people approached the village. A rough look at the twenty plus carriages and fifty or so armed people made me think they were merchants and mercenaries.
“The merchants are coming!” A villager who was on lookout on top of the village barricade alerted the arrival of merchants.
‘Oh-ho, the merchants, you say?’
Something I’d only seen in novels—this world’s merchants! I was pretty curious.
“I’ve finished what I needed to do today, so shall I go and watch?”
Unlike the simple villagers, the merchants and mercenaries knew more about the vast world. I needed to get ready to go out into the world, so I welcomed their arrival.
“Dry nicely even if I’m not here~!”
I was told that leather had to be dried in the shade, so I was drying the golden panther hide under a small overhang atop the cliff. The villagers couldn’t come this far; surprisingly enough, even the bugs vanished the moment I brought the demon beast hide here, leaving the place deserted. It was clear evidence that the beast’s habitual killing had been rather terrible indeed.
* * *
‘The mercenaries aren’t allowed in the village, huh.’
After climbing down the cliff, I saw dozens of tough-looking mercenaries who had come as the merchants’ escort sitting comfortably in front of the village barricade. They scrutinized me as I tried to enter the village with a sword on my hip.
The carriages the merchants brought were mostly empty. Now that they were done guarding those empty carriages, some of the mercenaries must have been bored because the few who were close by called to stop me. They dared to lose their sense of fear.
“Bros, what’s up?”
Only those who spoke politely would be spoken to with the same courtesy.
Most of the mercenaries were wearing worm-shaped scars on their faces and bodies like medals of honor. They must have found my provocation funny, because they were busy laughing, revealing yellowed teeth.
‘Should I give these guys a taste of fire?’
You could tell just by looking at them that they were third-rate mercenaries who didn’t have a hint of mana—only their thick skulls and idiotic strength. If I wanted to, I could probably take care of them in the time it took to eat a meal.
“You, do you know how to use that sword?” There was a decent-looking fellow among the mercenaries. A man in his mid-thirties approached me, gesturing at my sword with his eyes.
“Can’t you tell just by looking?” I didn’t like how the mercenaries were treating me, so I responded flatly. As someone who lived proudly and unrestrained in the world, of course I felt offended when these inept mercenaries were provoking me.
“You’re quite the irritable young man, aren’t you. How about it? Instead of staying in this backcountry, why don’t you join our mercenary group? You look to be pretty fit, and you’ve got a good look in your eye.”
‘What? I-is this the rumored street recruiting?’
[TN: In Korea, people sometimes get recruited into idol groups or acting gigs by agents prowling the streets.]
The man was suddenly offering me to join the mercenaries. Considering the earnest look in his eyes, it didn’t seem to be a joke.
“Leader, when will we have the time to take care of a kid like him?”
“The Black Wyvern Mercenaries might be treated like a third-rate group, but taking in a child is…”
‘The Black Wyvern Mercenaries? You guys?’
Just by looking at them, it was clear that their name, The Black Wyvern Mercenaries, was an exaggeration.
“You don’t want to? Wouldn’t it be better to live like a real man as a mercenary rather than just farming in a backcountry like this and then dying one day?”
“It doesn’t sound that attractive to me. Just look at that big-bellied mister over there.” I pointed at the mercenary who had been the first to ruffle my feathers.
“Gahahahaha! Ron, he says he doesn’t like your potbelly.”
“Kekeke, for the great Ron to be insulted by a kiddo! Don’t eat anything from now on. The food is wasted on you~!”
They must have been rather bored, because the mercenaries enjoyed making fun of Ron.
“This… this kiddo!”
If he weren’t such an ignoramus, Ron would not have been so enraged by a little teasing. The big mercenary—whose belly jiggled as he walked—was holding a simple axe, from which I could feel an imposing air.
“Mister Belly.” Snickering, I teased Ron, whose eyes were as wide as a cow’s.
“Why you little kiddo with no manners!”
Ron was all hot air—he wasn’t as violent-natured as I had thought.
“Watch your step at night.”
I turned around and headed towards the village walls, ignoring Ron, who had frozen at my quiet warning.
“Oh my god! Oh god, I’m—I’m dying! Kahahahaha!”
I could hear the stream of the mercenaries’ deep-bellied laughter from behind me. Even if these third-rate mercenaries were to grab me by the pants and beg me to become a mercenary, I might just barely consider it. The way they acted was third-rate too.
* * *
‘All the villagers have gathered.’
There was only one reason for merchants and mercenaries to have come all the way here—it was to sell something. The people who looked like merchants were talking to the villagers, including the chief, at an empty lot in the village.
“You… you won’t sell your grain? Village chief, please say it again.”
“Harrumph, why are you making me repeat myself. This year, we don’t have enough grain to pass over to you merchants.”
The village chief was believing in the mushrooms and acting bold. He clasped his hands behind his back and feigned indifference.
“But what is our company supposed to do, then? We used 10 Gold to hire those mercenaries.”
“That’s not our problem. Last year, you wheedled the prices down so low that we were forced to sell our remaining cow, and even the donkey, in order to pay the taxes. But to say that you’ll maintain those prices this year as well… I don’t have to say any more.”
‘Oi, are these guys those wicked Daron Merchants?’
The evil Daron Merchants had made the kind Hans spout curses when he had mentioned them with the taxes. Ten years ago, after the monster invasion, they had apparently taken advantage of the fact that other merchant groups didn’t come this far out and had continually lowered the prices. Moreover, whenever the village sold to the Daron Merchants, the merchants would buy at their price and pay the village tax for them at the viscounty. With that, there would be no need to take the potatoes and grain and sell them separately.
However, the problem was their excessive profiteering. After a certain point, they began to buy the precious grain at ridiculous prices, forcing the villagers to sell even the grain they had starved to save.
‘When they were talking about the official merchants who stole from the poor citizens in the Joseon era, they were talking about these guys.’
You could tell with a single glance that these round, fattened merchants were cunning as hell.
“I don’t know what you’re believing in to do such a thing… You will be in trouble if you do this, you know? If you do not pay the taxes by the end of the month, everyone will be sold into slavery… Huhuhu.”
The guy that seemed to be the merchants’ boss was slowly revealing his true colors. His balding head, glistening oily face and beady eyes so small you couldn’t see them made him look like the model specimen of an evil merchant.
“Hmph! It’s fine as long as we pay the tax!”
As if to prove that he had really lived a fairly rough life when he was young, Chief Aves showed off his guts. Unlike the other villagers, who were looking on with uncertain expressions, the chief was emanating an aura of utter confidence.
“This is your last chance! Will you really not sell your wheat or potatoes? Keep in mind that no merchant group will come all this way after we leave today!” Despite being flustered, the merchant didn’t forget to spit out one last threat.
“Do as you wish. The negotiations have broken down, so please get out. Captain Jacob, our guests wish to leave, so please politely escort them to the exit.”
“Yes, Chief!” shouted Mister Jacob, the tall captain of the village militia.
As if venting the injustices he had suffered from the merchants all this time, the Chief was going out fists akimbo.
“J-just wait and see!”
Cowed by the approaching armed militiamen, the merchants rapidly went out and disappeared, shouting ‘just wait and see!’
‘Even an onlooker like me feels refreshed.’
The merchants, whose names I didn’t know, had turned tail and left behind vicious words. I had the feeling that this wouldn’t be the end, but I didn’t worry too much.
‘Huhu, tomorrow is finally the day.’
Hans and I planned to leave for the viscount’s castle to go pay the tax—a two-day trip on foot.
The merchants left, their carriages rattling. After coming with empty pockets, they left with still-empty pockets.
* * *
“We’ve arrived. That over there is Fiore Castle where the Lord resides.”
Before me stood the territory’s castle, which had taken two days of walking to reach. Hans and I had arrived at the castle with the mushrooms we planned to use for the tax, two blankets and a few simple things to eat. In the past, the villagers would have needed at least twenty armed villagers to get here, but no one doubted my skills, so I was able to come here no problem with just Hans.
The sturdy castle had been built with large stones even without a crane or other construction tools. Despite being the castle of a rural lord, it looked like a typical medieval castle—towering at least 7 meters high with several watchtowers.
“Kyre, watch what you say while we’re here. If commoners like us say something wrong, we could be killed right away,” warned Hans, who was more cowardly than his bulk suggested.
‘Commoner… Haah, I’m a commoner, huh.’
This world’s civilization was completely different from the 21st century’s. I was once again rendered speechless by the realization that I was a commoner.
“Let’s go in.”
The castle was bigger than the Eastern European ones I had seen on the school trip. Squeezing through the countless people coming and going, Hans and I managed to reach the front of the castle gate.
“Halt! Where are you from?”
Dozens of archers with bows, alongside armed soldiers, were on the lookout atop the castle wall; in front of the gate were around ten soldiers who were screening the people coming and going for anyone suspicious.
“Thank you for your hard work. We are people from Luna Village and have come to pay the taxes.”
“Luna Village? Ah! You mean that village that burned down ten years ago.”
I was itching to meet those people who were called true knights, but the people in front of the castle gate were normal soldiers with chainmail and halberd-like polearms. The one that looked like the senior among them was talking to Hans.
“Here, this is our village identification token.” Hans offered the identification token that represented Luna Village.
“It’s fine. You may enter.”
Looking at the round token in Han’s hand with a look of annoyance, the soldier permitted our entrance. Because quite a lot of people were coming and going, they couldn’t hold just us back.
‘That armor is sick!’
It was ordinary armor worn by regular soldiers who weren’t even knights, but the well-oiled armor sparkled in the sun, inspiring a burst of admiration from me.
The moment I was about to follow Hans into the castle while admiring the armor, one soldier called us.
“Wh-what is the matter?” asked Hans hurriedly with the typical mannerism of a normal commoner.
“Is he also one of your villagers? Black hair is quite a rare sight…”
The soldier closely examined my face, which had become as rough as a hillbilly’s after these last few months of sun.
“That—that is…” stammered Hans, true to his honest personality that couldn’t tell a lie.
“Haha, you have worked hard. I should have greeted you all earlier, but I was unable to open my mouth because you all looked so outstanding. My name is Kyre,” I greeted politely with a smiling face.
‘Dammit, to think I have to lower my head to run-of-the-mill soldiers that aren’t even the lord!’
In this world, status determined everything. As a person who had only reached the level of a commoner, I was forced to experience what it felt like to be at the very bottom.
“Kyre? A good name. Alright. You may pass.”
As per the saying ‘don’t spit on a smiling face’, the soldier nodded at my courteous words and let me pass.
‘Over here, it’s not money that counts, but status alone! I should at least become a knight.’
It wasn’t even some kind of license you could get, but I’ve decided to become a knight. I couldn’t keep living while bowing and scraping the floor like a eunuch with this commoner status.
“Thank you for your hard work, sirs,” I shouted loudly as I dragged Hans along, the mushrooms strapped to his back.
‘This is no good. If I just leave things to Hans, we’ll be thrown into prison without even being able to pay the taxes.’
In the village, Hans was the reliable, kind and simple farmer; in a city like this, I couldn’t leave things to him. His clumsy appearance was just like a runaway teen who had just arrived in Seoul.
“Hans, let’s go.”
Dragged by my hand, Hans moved along.
Thus, I was able to enter a castle from Master’s hometown, the Kallian Continent, for the first time.
* * *
Translator – Lei
Proofreader – yukitokata
Join our discord for updates on releases! https://discord.gg/MaRegMFhRb
* * *
‘This is a place where merchants gather, right?’
In the village, only the Chief and a few others had visited the castle. Hans was one of them, but because it had been such a long time, he couldn’t gather his bearings once we entered. In particular, he was quick to lose his wits as soon as he saw the middle-aged ladies shaking their voluminous butts.
‘I’m gonna go nuts.’
How could someone like him possibly sell the mushrooms, pay the taxes and acquire the necessary items for the village? I could only shake my head at the Chief’s inability to have a single shred of foresight.
“Huh? What’s wrong?”
“Wipe your drool.”
“S-sorry. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been here that I’m completely out of it.”
More specifically, it wasn’t because it had been a long time, but because he was spirited away by the sight of those middle-aged ladies wearing rather clean and flashy clothes.
“We’re selling the mushrooms now. Please don’t say a thing and just stay still next to me.”
“You will? Alright.” Perhaps aware of his own condition, Hans meekly nodded. At least he listened well.
“Please take out one mushroom.”
“Why? Y-you aren’t selling it here, are you?”
As soon as we passed the castle gates, I saw various stores. Ringing with the sounds of hammering, the expansive street was filled with shops that sold clothes, food and other goods necessary for daily life. This was the perfect place to sell something.
‘I can’t trust the merchants here. So there’s only one way—a price war.’
From what I’ve heard, sharif mushrooms were precious goods that couldn’t be easily acquired. In particular, the ones we brought were top-grade. As the seller, there was nothing to regret about these goods.
‘It would have been better if the castle was a bit bigger, but this is good enough.’
“Ahem, ahem!” I organized my thoughts and cleared my voice. “Alright! They’re here, they’re here! This is a rare opportunity that doesn’t come every day! Sharif mushrooms of the highest grade, picked fresh from Luna Village, where the water runs clear and the air is clean!”
I stood on a leg-high boulder and bellowed like I had seen often in dramas.
The people about to pass had been staring at me like I was crazy at first, but at the mention of ‘sharif mushrooms’, their eyes grew wide with surprise.
“OH! They really are top-grade!”
As soon as I drew out the round, grey mushroom the size of an adult’s fist I had gotten from Hans, people gathered with excited exclamations.
“Kyaa, the fragrance is so intense!”
“My goodness, how very desirable.”
From what the villagers said, sharif mushrooms could only be enjoyed by the nobility because of their amazing fragrance and taste. The gathered crowd licked their lips at the fragrance emitted by the luxurious sharif mushrooms.
‘Today, we brought a total of 70 sharif mushrooms. Even if we earn just 2 Gold per piece… Huhuhu.’
There probably weren’t many within the crowd who could buy a sharif mushroom. However, seeing as several people ran off like flames were lit under their butts after checking the mushroom in my hand, I was sure that the real customers would soon come calling.
“These are precious sharif mushrooms that you never know when you will be able to taste. As these sharif mushrooms are top-quality, the auction starts at 2 Gold per mushroom. This isn’t your everyday occurrence, so I hope you won’t miss out on this good opportunity, everyone!”
“It’s cheap! At that price, you could fill your stomach with it…”
Just like how matsutake mushrooms were treated as valuable in Korea, here, people knew the value of sharif mushrooms. Everything was progressing as smoothly as I had hoped.
‘Ara? Those guys are—?’
People wearing merchant clothes—not commoners—came hurriedly running to where I was. Among them were the all-too-familiar Daron Merchants. After disappearing from the village as if fleeing, at some point, they had come to the castle.
‘Have a taste of frustration today! Kuku.’
An evil thought came to mind. The sharif mushroom in my hand was an item that merchants could not easily acquire with money alone. I had easily discovered them, but actually, sharif mushrooms weren’t supposed to be mushrooms that you could find so easily.
Not only that, but apparently, sharif mushrooms picked on the rising of Luena’s moon—which brought everyone’s movements to a grinding halt—were the cream of the crop.
“These are sharif mushrooms gathered by risking one’s life to go into the mountains during Luena’s moon! It seems that everyone has gathered, so we will go right into the auctioning! As a commemoration, the sharif mushroom in my hand will start at 1 Gold!”
After around ten merchants that gave off the stench of money gathered, I added oil to the flame and boosted the desirability of the sharif mushroom.
‘Ah, this is why domestic education is so important!’
From the moment I entered middle school, my parents would sometimes give me a survival mission. Saying that there was a possibility that they could die from an unfortunate accident, I was made to take the kimbap made by my mother and sell them at subway entrances or the airport.
And it wasn’t just kimbap, either. I sometimes had to take the things we didn’t need at home, change it to cash and contribute to the family. As a result of such missions, I rose to a level where I could easily lure in these merchants.
“I’ll buy it for 2 Gold!”
‘Woot! Good start!’
One of the merchants in the mixed crowd yelled out 2 Gold.
“3 Gold! I’ll buy it!”
“4 Gold! Please sell it to me!”
The start wasn’t the problem. The merchants were going crazy, shouting 1 Gold higher than the prices given by others.
‘Was 1 Gold really such a worthless amount?’
From what I heard, 1 Gold was enough to feed a regular family until they were full for a month. That was a considerable amount even with a rough calculation, but it seemed these merchants didn’t see money as money.
“7 Gold! I’ll buy!”
Even as I sank into speculation, a familiar person’s cry rang out.
‘Jerk, let’s see you get mad this time.’
“Sold! This one goes to the merchant sir over there for 4 Gold!”
At my words, the triumphant Daron Merchant Group’s fat merchant stiffened in a manner that sure was nice to see.
“Please do not worry~! We have a lot in stock! Once you are successful with a bid, please give the money to this person here and come find your wares!”
Three Gold was wasted, but I thought of it as a fee to see the twisted face of this evil merchant.
“Next item!” As I spoke, Hans took out another mushroom. “From now on, they will be sold in bundles of ten!”
Who was it that said the sale was at the whim of the seller?
“Alright! Ten top-grade sharif mushrooms begin at 20 Gold!”
Their eyes rolling back at the very reasonable price I started off with, the merchants frothed at the mouths again and shot their fingers up.
“7-70 Gold!” For some reason, the pig Daron merchant would always call at least 7 Gold per piece.
“Is there anyone there! I will sell ten for 50 Gold!”
“50 Gold! I’ll buyout!”
As I feigned deafness at the Daron merchant and sought a different buyer, a quick merchant cried out 50 Gold.
“Sold! Ten mushrooms to the thin person over there!”
‘Ara? This guy—?’
He must have been angered, because the fatty Daron merchant pointed at me while cussing me out.
“What did you just call me?” I wasn’t one to take things sitting down.
“A mere commoner dares to insult the Daron Merchants!”
“Aren’t you also a commoner? And when did I insult you?”
The red-faced pig spat out, “Th-then why didn’t you sell at the price I offered?”
“Oh, that? What to do? My ears only hear human speech.”
“Wh-what did you say?!” The piggy merchant’s face went from being so red it seemed it would burst, to pale blue.
“You wanna complain about me selling at that price? If so, you can go into the mountains crawling with demon beasts yourself and dig them up to sell.”
When making a kill, do it thoroughly. I rubbed my ear with an unconcerned look and made him feel really crappy.
“J-just wait and see! Graah!”
He was boiling with so much anger that I could even hear the sound of his teeth grinding.
“Alright then. But I’m busy today, so let’s see about that later. Okay?” I teased the pig as if talking to a neighborhood kiddo.
‘Jerk, he’s real determined.’
He was much older than me, but a person only had worth if they acted like one. The pig merchant glared at me viciously while leaving.
“I will buy the remaining sharif mushrooms for 8 Gold per piece.”
‘8 Gold? What kind of sucker is this?’
While I was faintly watching the panting pig hustle away, I heard a sitting duck’s voice ring out from the crowd.
“It…it’s the Rubis Merchants.”
“Che, it’s over for today.”
There were still many things I needed to learn about the Kallian Continent. A neat and tidy man in his early thirties who looked like a noble appeared. As soon as he made his entrance, the other merchants smacked their lips in regret and backed off.
“Isn’t Rubis one of the continent’s Big Five?”
“To think they’ve even come to our territory, what a surprise.”
The people watching the exciting mushroom auction suddenly began to whisper amongst themselves.
‘Continent’s Big Five? Hooh, a conglomerate?’
Now that I looked at him, the person seemed to be shining.
“I am Jamir from the Rubis Merchants.”
If the typical appearance of an evil merchant was the pig from the Daron Merchants, the person named Jamir, who offered his hand for a handshake, was a picture-perfect example of a merchant with principles.
“I am called Kyre.”
“Kyre? It’s a name that suits your unique hair well.”
‘Ooh! Dong-gun hyung, go away!’
[TN: Jang Dong-gun is a Korean actor known for his suaveness.]
Jamir was about as tall as me. His golden head of hair and lavender-colored eyes were charming, and deeply set eyes and raised nose were more than enough to qualify him as a handsome man.
“It’s not appropriate to talk here, so let us go to the inn I am staying at.”
“Sounds good. Only, I’m hungry, so please treat me!”
“Treat you? Haha! Alright. I’ll treat you to a meal.”
Though he was still in his early 30s, Jamir looked like a person who would achieve great success later on as a merchant.
“Hans, let’s go.”
“Huh? Oh, okay.”
Still unable to figure out head or tail of what was happening, Hans nodded as he followed us with a stupefied expression.