“How are we going to distribute this money without being caught?” I asked, holding another meeting at our house in Alerith.
In the end, I dumped the carriage and put all the coins and tokens into my storage ring. I didn’t use it before because few Bandits were rich enough that they’d be wandering around with storage rings.
It was a day after our successful robbery. The girls had spent half the day out and about through Alerith to try to see how Lord Reign was reacting. Other than tightened security and an overall feeling like something was off in the city, there were very few signs of retaliation.
Lord Reign wasn’t the kind of guy to do things on the surface. He preferred to smile to your face while sliding a knife into your back. Any actions he was taking to address these issues would be difficult to discover.
“I think the best action is to subtly give money back. Let’s create a business in the city. We’ll buy up goods using Lord Reign’s money, then sell them at affordable prices, even if it means selling at a major loss. The loss will all be Lord Reign’s money anyway. We’ll just steal more, and then give back the money we stole. We will sell necessities like food, firewood, and goods necessary for survival.
“Alright, Master, I’ll go get the paperwork going for that.” Miki declared.
“I’ll check with the Adventurer’s Guild. We have one located in Alerith. I’ll see if I can get a hold of any vendors.” Ruby added.
“I have some contacts from when I used to be a slave. I might be able to help.” Raissa said.
“Ah… well, if you change your face, it should be fine.” Rather than waste fairy dust, I gave her my amulet so that she could go out and do that job. “Just be careful, okay?’
“It makes me happy to see Deek worry.” Her tail waved happily.
“In that case, we’ll see if we can use Carmine’s gladiator status to endorse your business. It’s common for merchants to break into the city by first showing off a popular gladiator that works under them. Honestly, our excuse that you were a rich merchant was starting to wear thin since we weren’t making very many large purchases. Now that you’re opening a shop, this will resolve all doubt.” Drake spoke up. “Plus, with her reveal yesterday, this is the best time to strike!”
Shao stretched. “I’ll see about personnel. I’m good at reading people.”
“I am! Didn’t I live as a gladiator myself for some time? The only way I survived was by knowing who I could trust.”
“In that case, since everyone else is doing something important, I’ll be taking a nap.” Salicia stood up.
I grabbed her arm. “No, you’re not. You’re coming with me.”
“Huuuh? What is that about?” She asked in a deliberately irritating voice.
“We need to plan our next hit. You were the Bandit King, you have to know how to find out about trade routes and where money was going. I plan to hit another place tonight.”
“We need to make a name for ourselves. We need to keep striking while the iron is hot.”
Salicia nodded and gave me a pout. “Didn’t you ask for my opinion?”
“I did, but there isn’t a river or lake near here. There are no docks.”
“Gah! Th-then… how about the bars?”
“Are you just trying to get drunk?”
“M-master… please… I know what I’m doing! You’ll have to trust me!”
That’s how I ended up heading to the downtown portion of Alerith with Salicia. I didn’t have my face changed, so I just kept my hood up and hidden. Salicia did the same. That kind of made us both more suspicious, but we were in a suspicious area of town where people weren’t likely to reveal their identity anyway. In short, we fit right in and wouldn’t draw attention.
There weren’t guards in this area. I felt a tug at my pocket only to see a kid run away. Thankfully, I didn’t have anything on me to steal. Even my storage ring was left in my Inventory. Unless a thief had some way to break into an interdimensional Hero skill, all of my items were completely safe.
“Hey!” Salicia’s hand jumped out and she caught the wrist of another kid who did the same to her.
She pulled a knife with her other hand and waved the blade in front of the kid threateningly.
“I need that money to drink! Don’t think I won’t cut a child!”
“Salicia, weren’t you just like them once?” I asked, grabbing her hand, and pulling free the child before flipping a silver coin his way.
“Maybe!” She cursed, with her knife clenched in her hand aimed threateningly at the kid. “That’s why I know they need frequent lessons!”
The boy snatched the coin from my hand while eying Salicia’s knife. Then, he stuck his tongue out at her and raced away excitedly. She tried to go after him, but I held her by my side.
I felt more tugs as other kids saw I had money. It seemed like giving one a coin had emboldened the others. There were child hands in places I didn’t want a kid’s hands. A certain kind of pervert could probably find a lot of enjoyment in the poor district just by handing coins and hiding the rest on him. With a sigh, I pulled a bag of coins out of inventory and then slit it myself.
“Ah! Someone cut my purse!” I yelled furiously as coins suddenly dropped to the floor.
The kids all raced out from every nook and cranny nearby to grab anything that touched the ground. Meanwhile, I pulled Salicia who had tried to jump at some of the coins and brought her out of the crowd of crawling children. As we left the kids to pick up the last coins on the ground, they seemed to leave us alone, assuming we only had the one purse and they had cleaned us out.
“Hmph… Master is far too lenient with thieving children!” She made an unhappy noise. “They’re just the first step toward banditry. You’re just given money to future bandits!”
I had a thought like she was one to talk, but I decided not to say anything. This seemed to be a personal thing. Perhaps, it had something to do with her time after her village was destroyed and Carmine was taken away. She would have lived on her own as a street urchin before becoming a Bandit.
The pair of us walked into a tavern. At least, I was going to call it a tavern. It was mostly just a few chairs and tables under a tarp. It was truly the poorest dive I could imagine. The man behind the bar was a hairy beast of a guy who was missing half his teeth. He even spat into the cup he was washing to clean it. We weren’t the only ones in here, even though it was not quite evening yet and the sun was still out. I didn’t want to be in this area of town in the dark, so I was hoping we finished our business quickly. I’d even open a Portal rather than walking home in the dark.
“So, what are we doing here?” I whispered to Salicia.
“Hey! Barkeep! I’ll take a bottle of your best!” Salicia cried out as she approached the bar with her hand up. “I’ll also take any trade route maps or money rumors.”
“Just like that!” I let out a noise.
“Relax, Master, this place is a craphole. You think anyone here cares about codewords or caution?” She snorted. “Everyone’s a stranger!”
The man glared at both of us for a solid minute, and I was beginning to think that Salicia was completely wrong. Then, he reached under the counter and slammed a bottle on the table.
“10 gold, take it, or leave it.” He said in a deep, husky voice.
Salicia looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I sighed and pulled a pouch from my inventory, sliding it over to him. He didn’t even look as he cut it and then slid it under the counter. He reached and pulled out two glasses. He then popped off the bottle and started pouring. As he did so, he leaned toward the pair of us.
“I don’t have a map, but I know a guy who used to work with the Merchant’s Guild. He might be able to help. As for rumors, the money in Alerith runs deep. Even the local thieves and bandits are afraid to go after it. If you try to steal anything from this city, you’re as good as making a personal enemy of Lord Reign.”
When he said he didn’t have a map, I had felt gypped, but after his advice, I suddenly started to see the guy in a new light. He was warning us away from doing something stupid we might not be prepared for. It was admirable.
“Making an enemy out of the Lord might just be our bread and butter,” Salicia responded coyly, grabbing one of the glasses pushed in her direction.
Both eyes ended up on me.
“The drink, Master…” She looked down at the other glass. “You got to drink it?”
It looked like brown and water. I was not interested in it. However, the man’s look started to darken, so I equipped Poison Immunity and hoped for the best. We clicked our glasses together and slammed the drink down. I will give it one thing. It tasted exactly like it looked.