After leaving the gloomy pub, we made our way towards the black market’s promised location at a slightly quick pace. Originally we had time to spare, but owing to Lanuvel saying eating mutton by itself would be greasy and additionally ordering salad and so on, we were held back quite a bit.
Having eaten her fill to satisfaction, Lanuvel fixed a stare on my face.
“Hero-nim. Do you know that bartender?”
“Tony? I know him well.”
He was a wonderful friend who taught me about women and survival of the fittest back when I was an innocent high schooler. I would have opened a business together with him had I not been a hero.
“How did you know his name?”
“‘Cause I’m a hero.”
Although former assassin Tony was a true friend whom I knew well in the 1st episode, that didn’t mean I had lied to Lanuvel previously.
The perk of a hero wasn’t just the 5 times bonus experience.
I was capable of freely seeing the status abilities of others. I had wondered as to why only I could see them, but I realized why after listening to Professor Morals’ talk — it was a form of consideration so that the hero candidate wouldn’t be unable to distinguish between the weak and the strong, throwing themselves at a powerful foe from the start and dying a dog’s death.
This ability was still in effect in the 2nd episode as well.
“Wow! Then can you see my abilities as well?”
“Of course. Level 200.”
It couldn’t even compare to the weakest underling of Demon King Pedonar’s. But because Lanuvel’s Skill Ranks were on the extremely high end, her potential alone could be appraised as remarkable. Relatively speaking, the Skill Ranks of common folk were extremely low.
To give an idea…
This was about the standard an average person would achieve upon reaching adulthood. Like this young man who was stealthily stretching out his hand toward the money bag hung by Lanuvel’s waist, not to mention their Skills, even their levels were very much pathetic. And they would remain that way until they died.
Lanuvel let out a short scream.
At the same time I made my move as well. Not even looking towards the panicking Lanuvel, I pushed out my left foot to the left as if by reflex.
The thief tripped over my foot and crashed to the ground. But the thief who hadn’t let go of the money bag he stole quickly tried to get up. Still, I was faster this time as well.
I kneed the thief in the small of his back and pressed down, in the spot between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae where a herniated disc was most prone to occur. Waist pain would be a given if not treated in time, and daily life would become difficult due to numbing of the legs.
It was one of the spots I liked to target.
“Ho-oh? Aren’t you quite a tenacious one?”
The young thief whose face was twisted in pain didn’t loosen his right hand which was holding onto the money bag. He wildly waved around his empty left hand in resistance.
If, at this point, this thief had decisively given up the money bag, then there would have been a chance for him to run away from me.
The thief was Level 8; his physical abilities were superior to what I had as a Level 1. However, his greed brought disaster upon himself.
I delivered a forceful knifehand strike to the band of the thief’s neck. It was an action I had repeated over the past 10 years to the point of tediousness — murder.
I heard the appalling sound of neck bone breaking. I had struck the spot between the 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae, where students and office workers who would sit for long periods of time would be frequently afflicted with cervical herniated discs. You needed to take good care of your neck unless you wanted to suffer numb arms and stiff shoulders.
Though this thief wouldn’t be able to look after himself, ever.
“That was clean.”
Not a drop of blood had stained my clothes, much less a speck of dust. The nobles and the wealthy would be crowding to the black market from now, so it wouldn’t be good for appearances to have blood on me.
Lanuvel spoke as she picked up the money bag.
“Hero-nim seems to be familiar with killing.”
It had seemed idiotic so I gave up counting from the 100th murder I committed.
I wasn’t the strange one. There were truly many killers in this savage world, the reason being that rarely was there a man who hadn’t experienced one war in their lifetime. That’s why the average Level of adult men was Level 3. On the other hand, the majority of women were Level 1 regardless of age.
Returning to the previous subject…
The young thief I had killed was Level 8, far beyond the average Level 3 of adult men. Where could he have secured so much experience points? I wondered. From his Skill set, he neither appeared to be a former hunter nor soldier.
I reached an answer immediately.
It meant the young thief was a wicked person who had murdered dozens of innocent civilians. Though the story would be different if he had the job of ‘Hero’ like me.
My Level had risen by leaps. Although it was thanks to the Hero perk 5 times experience booster, I had gained a pretty good amount of experience points because he had a high Level for a thief.
I had a good feeling going from my first hunt.
“Ah! Right, Hero-nim. Didn’t your Level go up?”
It had reached Level 4 no less. This was at the standard of an athlete of Earth.
“I’ll explain the reason behind it. All living animals and plants possess a power inside of them. Some grow stronger as they develop, but the majority can only increase their power by stealing or consuming, and the accumulated power is shown in the form of Level in your status abilities.”
It was from this point on that the insanity of the Fantasy world began.
A system wherein you would grow stronger the more you killed. It was a story setting which you would lightly pass over in a growing-type role-playing game, but it would become a nightmarish world of survival in reality.
Kill your neighbors, do so and you shall become strong!
The Fantasy God was definitely a pervert.
I left the thief’s corpse to the security squad patrolling the market. Lanuvel guaranteed our statuses so we were able to lightly pass over the incident. Naturally, the truth that I was the Hero wasn’t revealed. In a few days rumors would explode throughout the entire kingdom, but hiding it until then would make it easier for me to move around.
“Lanuvel. Take good care of the money bag.”
“Stop acting cute.”
From my experiences, there wouldn’t be any more customers with slippery hands today. The danger we posed was bound to have been made known around here after all.
“Are you Tony’s customer?”
In a dark and shady alleyway, at the promised place which lead to the black market, a scrawny-looking youth asked me this question politely.
The Dark Commerce which worked in the shadows of all the continents of this fantasy world was by no means an easy opponent. Their level of security could be compared to a case of mysophobia, so even if you caught their tail it would be hard to arrive at their body. Even in the 1st episode I was ultimately unable to find the head.
“Not a customer, but an archenemy.”
I didn’t get careless until the last moment and spoke the promised password.
“Hahah! Please follow me.”
The youth gave an amiable smile and immediately lead the way, following which we arrived at a 2-story wooden building.
It looked extremely ordinary from the outside. Even the interiors were the same as a wealthy home of the kingdom’s capital until you entered one of its rooms.
Lanuvel murmured to herself as she looked at the diagram drawn on the floor.
“This is a spatial transfer magic circle. The materials that went into it should be terribly expensive…”
Spatial transfer magic circle. True to its name, it was a magic circle that transferred space. Anybody could activate this magic circle that was drawn by an excellent mage, as long as a sufficient catalyst was inserted and the promised command was spoken.
“The black market folk are completely thorough, you see.”
A spatial transfer magic circle wasn’t a cheap item, but it was in fact cheap when taking into account the amount of money traded at the black market, its products, and the safety and trust of its customers.
Lanuvel continued to look about.
“Woah… I didn’t know at all. I thought that the capital’s black market would naturally be hidden somewhere in the capital.”
“Don’t get surprised at every little thing like a country bumpkin.”
“Wuu… Hero-nim is the strange one I tell you.”
Even though Lanuvel had called me ‘Hero-nim’ several times, the expression of the youth who had guided us to this point was calm and composed; he was thinking it was an alias that we had decided on in advance.
“Sir. Please wear this.”
We received masks for the purpose of hiding our identities and wore them.
I had a wolf mask, and Lanuvel a fox mask.
While there were the occasional attention whores who boldly roamed the black market without a mask, I couldn’t do the same as the Hero who would become renown here and there in the future.
“I would like to get a bit of a move on.”
After the youth confirmed that we had worn our asks and stood atop the magic circle, he quietly muttered the ‘promised command’. Soon afterwards, the magic circle enveloped in light activated.
We were instantly transferred to somewhere else from the wooden building. That place was a pitch-dark underground. I held back Lanuvel from trying to use illuminating magic, as that could provoke the guards lurking in the surroundings.
This was a place I had experienced in the 1st episode. A secret hideout built by the Dark Commerce beneath a forest to the south of the kingdom’s capital. It was frequently used as a black marketplace until some moron who was fascinated by a cult performed a demon summoning here. I had come here several times purely as a customer.
“It is an honor that you came to our market.”
The middle-aged guide who appeared out of the darkness gave a courteous greeting. I merely slightly nodded my head before asking a question.
“It will begin soon. As time is short, I will guide you to your reserved seat after a quick explanation. If you wish to bid, you can lightly press the bell in front of your seat. Payment must always be made in advance, and we receive only coins and gems. We do not take responsibility for problems or losses that result from taking off your own mask or revealing your own identity.”
I already knew of these things, but it should be Lanuvel’s first time hearing it.
“Miss Extra. You carefully listened to the guide’s explanation, yes?”
“I’m not an extra, I’m La—mmph?!”
“You should just keep your mouth shut.”
I took away my hand from the mouth of Lanuvel who was frantically nodding.
Archaeologist Lanuvel. She was quite famous in the middle continent of Fantasia. But what was she trying to do by revealing her name at a black market? Things had gone well up to the point of ripping off a load of money from the Dumpling King, but I simply couldn’t rest at ease with this caretaker.
We swiftly moved through a dark tunnel under the lead of the guide. It was absolutely taboo to make trouble here — if you didn’t want to be buried alive that is.
“Hero-nim. Explosion magic circles are set up everywhere.”
I knew this as well. No, I had fully realized it in my experience from the 1st episode.
“It has a deep meaning of ‘never make trouble here if you don’t want to get buried 5 floors underground’.”
We passed through the dark tunnel and arrived in a spacious area. There wasn’t a single window as it was underground, yet it was as bright as day on the surface and the air was pleasant.
“May you have a fruitful time.”
The guide took his leave after bidding a polite farewell.
The area we were lead to resembled an awards stage at a broadcasting station. It was a thrust stage which extended into the gallery seats, so that the customers would be able to see the products, slaves, in full detail.
All the customers were seated separately according to their respective companions for the sake of privacy. Prepared on top of the round tables which were allocated to each seat were some simple refreshments, and a pure-gold tabletop bell.
This was precisely the black market, where the Hero-nim’s perk would play an active role.
“… Well then, we will now be starting the auction!”
Clap clap clap!
The auction host finished his greeting to the dry applause of the customers, and the first merchandise shackled in manacles climbed onto the stage.
“A seasoned warrior who has survived in the territory of demons! Can you see these scars all over his body? It was by good fortune we found him when he had just slain a powerful demon and was on the verge of dying, so we healed him! The seasoned warrior offered himself as a slave in order to repay this debt! Suitable as a gladiator or bodyguard!”
Was it truly so? I wondered.
Let’s check his status.
Seasoned warrior my ass!
No matter how prettily packaged, it wouldn’t work on me. His Fortune being the only highly ranked Skill he had, strangely enough, there was no blind fool that would pay to buy such a weakling full of hot air. This wasn’t a flea market where only a couple of pennies would exchange hands. The people here had an extremely discerning eye for goo-…
It seemed like everyone had a lot of money to spend.