Professor Morals. I think the corruption has gone too far.
A day had passed since I struck a deal with the King. Although the injuries all over my body were healed with Lanuvel’s magic, there was nothing that could be done about my anemia, so I was lying down in a luxurious room as if passed out. Still, my bloody struggle had borne fruit.
I had gained a hero activity fund — a splendid feat that was impossible in the 1st episode.
But in any case… students?
Professor Morals only left the words “try harder” before going away.
Today’s conversation came as a significant shock to me.
I’m the mill owner? It turns out I had Eight-Grader Syndrome…?
The world didn’t revolve around ‘me’ as the center. It wasn’t only ‘the Korean Kang Han Soo’ who had crossed over to a fantasy world. The countless promising Eight-Graders of earth were being raised into heroes, using huge practical rooms each.
An educational facility on a dimensional-scale meant for one person. The magnitude of it was so ludicrous that I couldn’t keep up with the reality of it.
“Hero-nim. Is there something troubling you?”
Lanuvel, who had been sticking to my side all day long starting from yesterday except when sleeping, asked me with her head tilted to the side.
“Lanuvel. Is it certain that I’m the only hero summoned to these lands?”
“Yes? Yes. It’s certain.”
Professor Morals had said he was busy because of the influx of students. That even at this very moment, countless heroes were in the middle of a journey to slay Demon King Pedonar. But the hero of this world was me alone.
That being the case…
Could it be that there existed as many fantasy worlds identical to this one as the number of students? Like an offline role-playing game that is enjoyed alone.
The ludicrous scale of all this became even more nonsensical to me.
My head throbbed with pain, so for the time being I put that train of thought on hold. I decided to think on how to return to my home planet a day sooner. Those graduates were said to have returned to Earth and were living happy and well. There was no rule saying that I couldn’t do the same.
“Lanuvel. Follow me.”
I received a whole bunch of gold coins from the Dumpling King. The king, who had felt a sense of crisis at hearing that the hard-summoned hero would be leaving, had opened wide the national treasury to try and gain my goodwill even if by using money.
But, a condition came along with it.
“Wow! Just how much is all this?! There must be no one in the history of heroes who saved humanity that loved money as you do, Hero-nim. You’re really amazing!”
“Ssh! Lower your voice will you. People are giving us strange looks.”
The Dumpling King had entrusted the money bag with Archaeologist Lanuvel who was expected to become the Hero’s comrade.
I would have done the same myself had I been the king.
“Hero-nim! Hero-nim! I want to have that magic orb, is it alright to buy it? I’ve always really wanted to have it.”
… It seemed that the Dumpling King had chosen the wrong person to watch over me.
I sneaked a glance at the price tag and then said…
It wasn’t my money.
“Woohoo! Thank you!”
The place me and Lanuvel were walking in was the kingdom’s hub of economic activity, the great market of the capital. The prices here were staggering in equal proportion to high quality and expensive tax of the products that were frequently stocked. Even among them, in particular, the magic tools containing magic which were exclusive to fantasy worlds were luxury goods whose price tag humbled even nobles.
Magic wands, magic orbs, magic powders, magic brooms, magic…
At any rate, anything with the word ‘magic’ in it would unconditionally become expensive — just like how the phrase ‘cutting-edge technology’ was well received on Earth.
Lanuvel ran into the shop, her mood brightened at my consent. Afterwards, she came out hugging with both arms an orb the size of her own head.
She was wearing an extremely happy face. At the sight of her like this, the youths passing by on the street stared vacantly.
“Lanuvel. Hurry up and follow.”
I gave a click of my tongue and called her over with a gesture as if beckoning to a puppy. This was all for the sake of those ignorant youths.
They appeared to be dazzled by the detestable Lanuvel, but you needed to at least be a wealthy high noble in order to cope with the expenditures of this young, genius mage. A date or two and the pillar of your household would be pulled out entirely.
Currently, my outfit was perfectly fantasy-style. The reason for this change was partly because the uniform I had been previously worn was reduced to tatters by the palace knights, but mainly because in the 1st episode, I had drawn unnecessary interest and trouble by boldly strutting down this street in uniform.
I wouldn’t do such a stupid thing now. That, and I had become used to wearing fantasy-style clothing in my 10 years spent in this world.
This didn’t mean that I liked it though.
Fluttering sleeves, tight stockings, long collars, peacock feather hat, pumpkin pants that was tight in the crotch, crimson shoes, shiny floral pattern…
It was fashion terrorism with unknown origins.
“What an extraordinarily splendid attire.”
“A, a noble. And a distinguished one at that…”
“Is he the son of some amazing family?”
The people of the kingdom who mistook me for a noble didn’t cause trouble for me. Even 10 lives wouldn’t be enough if you made a wrong move in front of a noble, after all. The reason why I couldn’t see any males spouting cliche lines like “Sonny boy, I’ll spare you if you leave behind the pretty thing by your side and get lost.” upon seeing Lanuvel tagging along right beside me was also something along those lines.
In short, it was a good environment for shopping.
“By the way, Hero-nim. Where are you going? You’re not even giving a glance at famous smithies and herb shops. It’s your first time here isn’t it, Hero-nim?”
“The black market.”
“I’m begging you please, but shut up a little. Because of you, people are looking at me strangely as well when I’m normal.”
Her neck shrunk back like a turtle, Lanuvel retorted timidly.
“Bu-, but isn’t it the black market? For the righteous Hero-nim to get involved in illegal auctions, it’s only natural to be surprised.”
“The magic orb you just bought is illegal too?”
She had bought that orb out of her own self-interest. While I was the one who approved it, she was the one who didn’t refuse and went for it.
In other words, we were partners in crime.
“… Hero-nim. I’ve thought it over carefully, but I think the black market also seems fine as long as it helps in achieving peace for humankind. Deadly venoms are used in medicine too right~”
Lanuvel switched attitudes like the flip of a hand.
“If you’ve understood, then come along quietly.”
“Yes! But how will you find the black market? Even I’ve only heard rumors of it despite having lived here for a long time. They say it’s hard to find because the auction location always changes.”
It was a sharp question. No, perhaps it was only natural to ask. It would be plenty suspicious for a fledgeling hero who had only just entered a fantasy world to be more knowledgeable than a local.
What kind of excuse can I cook up… Ah!
“Who am I?”
“The Chosen Hero-nim.”
“Then think carefully. Would a hero be a hero if he was ordinary? If it was possible to defeat the Demon King with just a 5 times experience bonus perk, those dragons and fairies that have lived for millenia would have long taken him out.”
“If, if that’s the case…?”
As intelligent as she was, befitting of an archaeologist, a subtle change came over Lanuvel’s gaze.
“Listen well. The truth worth of the hero who will slay the Demon King isn’t shown in status abilities.”
“If you’ve got it then stop talking back and shut up for a bit.”
I made my way towards the pub I had frequented in the 1st episode. As the place of gathering for the black market would always change, just as Lanuvel had said, even the great me had no way of knowing where it would take place.
Of course, as I had been a regular patron of the black market, I remembered several of the locations. But this time round, the time to visit the black market was moved up greatly thanks to the Dumpling King’s funding.
I needed new information… from none other than this place.
I pushed aside the sliding door with rusted tracks and entered the shabby pub. I took in at a glance the interior of this establishment which was illuminated by lanterns and a fireplace. The various voices of the customers who had come before us overlapped one another.
“Just slam down! You’re dead if you lose, hear me!”
“Hoho! And then?”
“A glass of beer for one here! No, make that two!”
The noisy cries from the fellows who were making bets on arm wrestling, the coquettish laughter of young ladies seducing men, the bard playing a guitar in the corner, the female worker quickly serving glasses of alcohol…
It was just as how I remembered it.
Very slowly, I stepped inside as I savored the nostalgia of the past. Wary glances were thrown at me from all sides. Although the atmosphere didn’t grow cold at my appearance, it was without a doubt that something in the air had changed — because I was a newcomer and a ‘noble’.
Although I felt inwardly disappointed at the attitudes of the pub folks which had become different from the 1st episode, I paid it no mind and walked up to the bartender.
The bartender who had been wiping a glass spoke to me first.
“This lowly one’s eyes are delighted that Your Lordship has come to this shabby pub together with an amazing beauty. What will you order? Though our establishment seems old on the outside, we deal in all liquor that are traded within the kingdom.”
His manner of speech was as smooth as flowing water. Although his eyes that were shaped like a rattlesnake’s gave off a sharp impression, his amiable smile, well-groomed moustache and immaculately white suit made up for this. Just as I remembered him in the 1st episode.
I called out the name of my dear friend, the bartender.
“… Does Your Lordship know of me?”
The great hero would go around defeating the forces of evil. The things that were also considered evil were the smugglers who dealt in shady goods like slaves or drugs, the merchants who circulated them, as well as the customers who desired those goods.
This was commonly known as dark commerce.
In the 1st episode, the hero‘s party destroyed much of the dark dealings spread throughout this fantasy continent and found out a lot of passwords and locations of secret hideouts.
By no means was it a pleasant adventure. I had lost friends who were alright along the way.
Tony was a former assassin. He, who had opened a pub after retiring, was a friend who had taught me the way to live in this savage world when I was lost. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he was my spiritual mentor.
While I wanted to form a good relationship with him this time as well like in the 1st episode, the bothersome Lanuvel was present, and I hadn’t come here to rekindle a past friendship.
I spoke in the ‘language of promise’ that was only used in the black market.
“Tony. Has some stock of good liquor arrived today?”
“I will accommodate you a little if you give me a price you would like.”
I had been worried about what I would do if the ‘language of promise’ was different as the timing was too early, but it turned out I was fretting for naught.
I inwardly yelled out in delight as I continued the conversation.
“Tony. Don’t make me speak thrice.”
“Huht! This lowly one has been rude.”
Lanuvel who was sitting beside me with her buttocks firmly against her seat cluelessly whispered “Hero-nim. You’ve only spoken once.”, but I cleanly ignored her.
The 1st time was the question, 2nd time his name.
3 times in total.
“Your Lordship has good fortune. Black-Dragon, a 27-year-old stout that came in today. The flavor will be even better if taken with roast mutton.”
The liquor that came in today. This would reveal the time and place of the next black market. For instance, if Tony were to say that some good liquor came in two days ago, it could be interpreted as “It will open two days later.”. And the ‘27-year-old Black-Dragon’ pointed to the exact location of the black market. In addition to this, the promised location could completely change depending on the serving bartender’s expression and position.
“That is so.”
“You wouldn’t have already opened the bottle, right?”
It would be better to aim for the next auction if it had already begun.
“If that were the case I would have introduced another liquor.”
“Ahh, I apologize. I’m quite the suspicious fellow you see. Tony. One more question while I’m at it. Is the quality of mutton good?”
Roast mutton. This meant that the main product of this time’s black market were ‘slaves’. Although they were hard to find on Earth where democracy and ideas of equality were prevalent, slaves were quite commonly traded in this savage world. The laws slightly differed by the region, but most countries prohibited the enslavement of humans aside from prisoners of war.
Hence, it was illegal.
“You can look forward to it.”
Tony replied in a tone full of confidence. Bluffs and exaggerations were extremely dangerous in this line of business, which was why it was safe to objectively consider that the slaves to be auctioned in the upcoming black market would be of good quality. This was very satisfying news to me.
“I’ll keep the order as is, mutton for two.”
“Mutton for two. I will prepare it at once.”
I reserved two seats for the illegal auction of darkness.