The group found themselves in a space of roughly 400 square meters. Several torches illuminated the area, which was totally devoid of buildings. There were, however, many stalls selling a wide array of products, from food, weapons, to even slaves...
Around the entrance, a group of gangsters were standing around. All of them had arms covered in tattoos, announcing to the world that they were not to be messed with. They were the guards of the black market. If anything were to go awry, they would be the ones jumping into action.
Locke quickly scanned the group. Apart from two or three with sharp gazes wearing shoulder pads, the rest weren't cause for concern.
"I think those two guys over there are about as strong as a third-rate soldier," whispered Hans. Everyone saw it but did not say much.
"It's not too shabby for a black market," Caen said nonchalantly. He had been in a foul mood ever since Hans had been promoted to a second-rate soldier and appointed as squad jarl. He had been training intensely. Now, his strength was just about up to the standard of a second-rate soldier, so he was qualified to make such a comment.
Gulas kept quiet. He merely looked at the gangsters cheekily, itching to stir up some trouble with them.
Having gotten to know the group and what they were probably going to do next, he quickly steered them away from the gangsters and towards the centre of the black market, where all the biggest vendors sold their wares. Generally, the biggest sellers in the black market were there, where their asking prices were denoted in silver thalers and upwards.
Having spent most of their days watching over the black market, the gangsters had not only enjoyed their time lounging around and eating to their heart's content, they naturally developed a skill for analysing people. The predatory looks shot by Gulas, Hans and the others were making them feel very uneasy. If it weren't for the two leaders pulling them back, the group would have gone up to pick a fight.
The two leaders were also smart people. At a glance, they knew that taking these people on would not be easy. For them to have survived the war clearly meant that they had some wits about them. Quickly, they restrained their men. "Whoever dares to cause me trouble is not going to see the moon tonight," the scar-faced leader said fiercely.
When Locke and the group reached the centre, they found a small place in the space underneath. Upon entering, they noticed that it was extremely cramped, being only about 30 square metres in area.
"How may I help you, fine gentlemen?" While Locke and the others were still taking a look at the room, a sombre voice came from an elderly man sitting behind the only counter in the room.
This place was strange. There were no physical goods on display here, but the walls were lined with shelves containing paper strips, which each consisted of a list of goods. At a glance, there appeared to be around twenty to thirty shelves. This house was certainly not as small as it initially seemed. There were sufficient food supplies and daily necessities to be found here, but there were very few weapons and no armour at all.
Korby was certainly handy in dealing with such things. "Old man, I've got an excellent business proposition for you, if you're up for it." He then gave Hans and Gulas a wink and the two of them took the money bag from their waist and placed it down on the counter with a heavy clunk. As the group had planned earlier, Korby would be handling the trade while the rest would simply be his entourage.
The old man stared at Korby with a look of contempt. He clearly wasn't captivated by Korby's words, but he did pay more attention to the presence of Locke and the rest. When he heard the jangle of the coins in their money bags, his eyes widened with the recognition of the jingle of money. After living so many decades, who wouldn't be able to? Oddly enough, they didn't sound like the coins he was used to...
The old man stretched out his shrivelled palm and opened the money bag. The glimmering shimmer of the silver thalers lit up his eyes. Without hesitation, he took out a few to check if they were genuine. The Shalorian coins ratio of silver to other metals were 6:3, not accounting for 10% impurities. But while the ratio of Faustian silver thalers was 5:5, they had a much lower percentage of impurities, so they were significantly harder. Anyone familiar with these currencies would have no problem distinguishing a real from a fake.
"And… what would you like to do with these?" After being satisfied with their authenticity, the old man asked the group.
"We want silver coins. Please convert these into silver coins. You know what, it would be even better if you could change them for gold coins." Korby made his request. Silver coins were Shalorian currency. It was the highest value of currency a civilian could get their hands on, much like the silver thalers of the Faustian currency.
"Gold coins, haha, even I can't pull that off." The old man let out an eerie chuckle. Despite the official exchange rate being 100 silver thalers for 1 gold thaler, no one would be willing to trade at that rate. It was also the same case in Shalor, where the ideal ratio of gold coins to silver coins was approximately 1:12, or perhaps even higher.
If the old man had channels to get gold coins, Locke could expect to get 20 gold coins in exchange, equivalent to the 2000 silver coins he was expecting. Even if the old man offered him only 18 gold coins, Locke would have agreed to the trade. The value of gold coins held up better than silver coins over time, as they had a lower depreciation rate. However, if the logistics department was not willing to give him at least 2000 silver thalers for the gold coins, he would not agree. If he managed to get the 2000 silver thalers, that would earn him a profit of 1600 silver thalers. There was no quicker way to earn money than this!
"We don't have any gold coins to offer you, but we'll be happy to trade for silver coins." The old man laughed and waved his hand. A servant wearing a black robe walked in, listened to the old man's orders and left.
After a while, a larger bag was sent in by four big men. It seemed that these people had been raised in this very shop in the black market. The four guards then put the bag down and took their positions outside the door.
Korby stepped forward and opened up the bag. It was filled to the brim with silver coins.
The transaction was completed. Locke and the others did not stay any longer in Wallier and returned to the battalion quickly. Initially, they brought Gulas, Hans and the others along in fear that they would be robbed. Thankfully, their fears were not realised. There was no such incident on their way back.
A total of nearly 2000 silver coins were exchanged this time. This amount would certainly raise some eyebrows if they were to bring it directly to the logistics office, so Locke took out 700 silver coins and instructed Hans to bring them to Yoshk. The value of these 700 silver coins was nearly double the value of what Yoshk had lent him, so it would certainly be a fitting repayment to him.
The rest of the money would be distributed gradually over the following days. Locke had never been much of an ambitious person. In the beginning, his only goal was to survive. Now, he was looking to build a better life for himself. He strived to earn his life savings for himself and his family. After the war, he would buy a manor in the baron's territory for him and his family to enjoy. This was Locke's dream and these additional 1000 silver coins took him one step closer to bringing his dream to fruition.
In the evening, the troops stopped by a forest.
"Set up your tents!" The patrol sergeant shouted. The troops started to organize themselves.
Locke was riding a horse with a dried branch in his mouth, looking at the woods not far away.
To be honest, Locke was still very curious about monsters and beasts. The forest up ahead would be a great place to go looking for them.
"We're in the northwest area of the Bering Mountains. This forest should be part of it," Yoshk said on horseback, right next to Locke. "I know you want to find monsters to improve your strength, but I would still advise you to train as you normally would. Wait for your impetus level to increase before considering other options."
"Yes, Uncle," Locke nodded.
Yoshk didn't know that Solon had given Locke redsea flower. Besides, Locke wasn't one to brag and boast to just anyone. This month of hard work coupled with two redsea flowers caused Locke's impetus to grow to two-thirds that of Yoshk's.
However, he kept it to himself.
"Bering Mountains is just part of Morphey Forest. We should be reaching the city of Bimore which is located at the northwest of the mountain the day after tomorrow," Yoshk rode ahead and said.
"The forces are gathering again. It's going to be another tough battle," Locke said as he cracked his whip at the horse.
"Winter is coming. If the war drags on for another year, even the toughest soldiers wouldn't last." As Yoshk grew older, he grew wiser too. He had a sinking feeling that the kingdom was being sucked dry.
"We marched in a hurry this time so we might be the first company to reach corps headquarters." Locke rode towards the battalion.
"Perhaps. I know you are a rich young man. Once you find your way to the headquarters, there's a lot of good stuff waiting for you!" Yoshk smiled and rode towards the battalion.
It was late autumn. The crimson streaks of light flirted near the horizons, but they did not emit the heat they should. The cold wind breezed through and dried, yellow branches fell with their rustling.