Four days went by, and we made sure to hit a different place every night. Normal Bandits only thought about pure monetary gains, but we hit everything from a textile mill to food. Of course, every heist ended up getting exposed publicly, always with that strange symbol which everyone in town came to know as Reign’s End. They were now the talk of the town.
Lord Reign had to respond to it, and his response was the standard boilerplate that Bandits would not be stood for. He told his citizens that these thieves were not to be tolerated and that everything they stole was taking away from the comfort and lives of the people. This campaign might have been effective if the people hadn’t already felt like their comfort had been robbed from them by Lord Reign years ago.
His mandates were left all over town, and they quickly became a joke. This was because the day after, a mysterious merchant opened up in town and started selling stuff at an affordable rate. The people were eating better and living more comfortably than they had in years. Lord Reign couldn’t manage to convince the population that things were worse because of the Bandits, so they only started to ignore him even more.
The store was endorsed by the top fifty gladiator Carmine and was worked by several beautiful women of various types. The reputation of the place exploded and grew very popular in a surprisingly short period. Two nights later, some mysterious men tried to start stuff with the store, but they were sent on their way pretty brutally, and it became known that the girls were also not to be messed with.
After that, taxers came in trying to force them to collect money, hoping that would demotivate the store or cause the elusive merchant to increase his prices, but they paid everything asked without complaint and even included some nice bribes for the taxmen, which left them leaving with good feelings. When Lord Reign asked about it, they spread lies that they were about to crumble at any moment and how they were turning up the heat on them.
If we sold the supplies we just stole, it would be found out. Thankfully, I had my city to back me up. It was exceptionally easy to send all the food to Chalm and then swap with their food. So, we were selling goods we stole from Alerith at a cheap rate to the citizens of Alerith and then paying the taxes with money also stolen from Alerith. In the end, we were making a profit, considering none of my own money was being put into the business.
I had the profits go to an orphanage in the city, which only started to increase my reputation even more. Yet, no one knew what name to call me. Unlike Reign’s End, the band, I had kept my identity as a merchant hidden.
I finally decided to just register under my true name, Deacon Williams.
“That’s a clever name, Master. It sounds like a lowly merchant!” Miki gave a thumbs up.
“I think it’s a rather silly name, but it’s made up, so who cares?” Ruby added.
Shao, the only one from my world, who had seen my history and knew my name, patted my head in sympathy. No one else suspected a thing.
“Isn’t that the so-called champion?” I asked, noticing someone standing across the street from our shop.
We had to keep an eye on trouble makers. Thankfully, my Sense Life could detect the difference between those who wanted to do us harm and those who were innocent. One showed up on my Map as red, while the other showed up on my map as blue or grey. Blue or grey lives were usually ignored. I didn’t pay attention to them much at all. However, the red forms stuck out like a thumb. These were usually Knights and guards working under Lord Reign.
The night that a bunch of thugs tried something, it was pretty clear that Lord Reign had incited them to cause trouble. They showed up as red, so I could see them approaching and thus did something to counter. They had attacked at night when we should have been asleep, but thanks to our nightly raids, I was up and looking at my Map. Ever since, we had someone stay at the store as a guard all night, just in case there was more mischievousness.
Either way, this had left me on high alert and very aware of the potential for Lord Reign to send others and cause trouble. So I noticed when Bernard, the gladiatorial undefeated champion, suddenly ended up sitting on the other side of the street watching our store, it left me feeling a bit concerned. More surprising, he didn’t show up brightly on my Sense Life. It was just the faintest mark, and I couldn’t even tell if it was grey or red.
There were only two reasons that the mark would be like that. The first was if the life I was sensing was exceptionally weak. In theory, a mouse could show up on my map, but the light around its lifeforce was extremely small. Thankfully, plants didn’t typically show up, unless they were in some way aggressive, or I wouldn’t be able to see a thing anywhere. The second-way life could be weaker is if the creature was trying to hide. There were numerous ways to obscure and hide your life. It was clear to me that this guy must have had some way.
In truth, I wouldn’t have even noticed him if I hadn’t physically seen him in broad daylight. That was the extent that he was able to block my Sense Life. I went ahead and marked him so that he wouldn’t break from my sight. As soon as I did so, the man stood up and grabbed his sword. He had recognized when I had marked him! That was the first time that had ever happened to me, although I heard certain skittish animals could detect such a thing and would immediately run.
Thankfully, while this guy was sitting in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street, I was watching him out of the corner of my eyes indoors, through a window and a crowd of people. He looked around with a frown on his face, but he ultimately couldn’t see who marked him. I let out a breath of relief, but then I started to wonder just what this guy wanted. I had a feeling he was going to be a lot of trouble.
Since Bernard didn’t seem to do anything but watch us, there wasn’t much I could do but keep a track of him. That was what I thought, but the next morning when I checked my Map, the mark on him was gone. He had figured out some way to remove it. I made an annoyed sound. This was going to be a pain in the butt. I just wish I knew what he wanted.
“Master, we should get up.” Miki lifted her head from my shoulder.
“Hmm? The store doesn’t open for another day or two.”
“The next match for Carmine is occurring today.” She explained.
I sat up in a rush. “Ah, crap, I forgot to train her!”
Although she was able to deal with her opponents as long as I was giving her boosts, there was still the problem of her not having any fighting talent. She was completely defensive. I had planned to take her out and train her, getting some job like Swordsman for her to fall back on. Not only did she not have a job, but I also hadn’t increased her level at all.
I had been busy the entire week worrying about which targets to hit as well as keeping the store running. As a result, I had completely forgotten about my plans to level Carmine up so that she could be strong enough to battle that undefeated champion when the time came.
I could just allow her to win the same way we let her win last time, but it was super embarrassing, especially now that we had come out as merchants. This wasn’t just a gladiatorial reputation, but our reputation as merchants that was on the line here.
I jumped out of my bed and hastily started dressing. “What time? What time does her match happen?”
“It’ll be in the evening,” Miki explained worriedly.
“Good! There is still time.” I announced, shoving my way out the door and calling for everyone.
“You want me to go level now?” Carmine asked worriedly after I told everyone the plan. “Shouldn’t I be taking my time and going easy today in preparation for the fight?”
“No time! We need to get you in a fighting position. Maybe, if I have you do all the hard-hitting, you’ll get some kind of job. I just can’t believe that in your entire life, the only job you ever unlocked was Paladin. I just wish there was another job we could give you instantly that could increase your strength.”
“Ah… isn’t there?” Shao asked.
“What do you… oh! Of course!” I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a token. It was one of ten such tokens, my Knight’s token. Of course, Raissa had already taken one of these tokens, but I decided not to hand them out lightly. I also wasn’t going to give Carmine one of the counterfeit ones, although they seemed to work just as well.
This token was much more important though since it signified the trust the King had put in me, and I was putting into whoever I selected. Once they became a Knight, they would be my retainer, and also collect a salary from me. Of course, if that person happened to be my slave, I could forgo those things.
“Carmine, will you be my Knight?” I asked, pulling out my token.
“Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!” Carmine jumped up and threw her arms around me, her big chest pushing against my own.
Suddenly, we were kissing. I was very confused. Did I ask her something else by accident? The girls were crying through smiles, and Salicia said something like “about time.” I seriously didn’t get it, could someone explain it to me?