Chapter 335 – Brilliant Method
Zhao Hai looked at the situation and relaxed, "Looks like these people were waiting in ambush since this morning, just waiting for some fat sheep. But do we really look like fat sheep?"
When Shue, Blockhead and Rockhead hear what Zhao Hai said, they couldn't help but chuckle. Shue smiled and replied, "We’re not, but Ruyen does."
The trio's reaction made Zhao Hai ask, "Why? Everything seems to add up, we only have a few people, while Ruyen has a hundred guards. What's wrong with that?"
Shue smiled faintly and said, "All travellers inside Lifeline know that only those with absolute confidence in their strength travel without guards. Our group only has two carriages and seem to have nobody acting as guards. Thus, for these mercenaries, only an idiot would not think that an expert was present inside one of the carriages. If these weak mercenaries provoke a hidden expert, they would only be courting death. Because of this, they didn't target us. But Ruyen was the exact opposite, she had a hundred guards with her, along with several carriages. Moreover, the mercenaries could see that the strength of her guards are only on par with them, so they branded Ruyen's group as fat sheep."
Zhao Hai smiled and said to Shue, "I didn't think that there's such a thing, but it seems right. Not counting anybody else, you alone number more than the group outside, if they come attack us they would certainly be courting death."
Shue smiled, to be honest, he was very satisfied with his capabilities. In the entire continent, the name Shue of a Thousand Shadows was very well-known.
At this time, the tent's curtain moved slightly, then Shun's form appeared inside. He told Zhao Hai, "Young Master, I've already informed Jill of the situation, they had prepared but they are not optimistic."
Zhao Hai thought for a moment and said, "Let's go out, make sure to prevent your weapons from making any noise, we don't want to alarm too many people." Shun nodded and held the tent curtain up, Blockhead and Rockhead walked out first, then Zhao Hai, and finally Shue.
When the group went out of the tent, Zhao Hao waved his staff lightly and a one meter diameter Fireball appeared at the top of the staff. Zhao Hai made the Fireball rise in mid-air, making sure the vicinity of their camp was well lit.
The mercenaries didn't expect Zhao Hai to immediately reveal his hand. While they were overwhelmed, Zhao Hai calmly said, "Dear friends, no need to hide, I want to speak to your representative."
The mercenaries made a ruckus, then a fully bearded man came out of the crowd. He glanced at Zhao Hai and then the Fireball. The man had extraordinary vision, and he can see from the Fireball that Zhao Hai had the power of at least a 7th rank mage. And 7th rank Fire element mages were especially an absolute nightmare for small mercenaries.
The bearded man walked up and bowed to Zhao Hai, "This one didn't know that mister is here. I ask mister to forgive us, we'll immediately retreat and not disturb mister's rest anymore."
Zhao Hai smiled faintly and said, "Good, very good. You and your people also didn't have it easy by coming out at night. Shue, give them 1,000 gold coins to buy drinks with.
Although Shue didn't understand what Zhao Hai was plannig, he still turned around towards the tent and fetched a bag of coins. Inside the bag was exactly 1,000 gold coins. Shue took the bag and headed for the bearded man, then he placed the bag full of coins on the ground.
The bearded man examined Shue and finally wasn't able to stop himself from asking, "I'm not sure, but is mister Shue of a Thousand Shadows?"
Shue looked at the man and knit his brows. He doesn't seem to remember this person. He couldn't help but ask, "You know me?"
When the man heard Shue's confirmation, he couldn't help but reveal a panicked expression, "So it really was Mister Shue. Please forgive us Mister Shue. We really didn't mean to bother you this time."
Shue faintly smiled, "Forget it, this is a gift given by the Young Master. Go buy yourselves some drink. The young master's mood is good today and your responses have satisfied him, otherwise you people wouldn't be able to go back alive." Then he returned to Zhao Hai's side.
The bearded man didn't know if he should take the coin bag or not, the other people in his group were also helpless. Zhao Hai looked at the bearded man and said, "I have kindly given you this money, but you cannot just take it. I don't want to be bothered this evening anymore. I'll have to trouble you to be my night guards. Are you willing?"
The bearded man froze, then he immediately said, "Of course, of course we're willing. Mister can rest assured, we guarantee that even a mosquito wouldn't be able to enter mister's tent."
Zhao Hai smiled faintly and said, "Good." Then he returned to his tent in silence.
Zhao Hai's move attracted the admiration of the other people in Lifeline Canyon. His move was too brilliant. First, he used his strength to shake the minds of the bandits then not only did he bribe them with money, he also hired them to be his night guards. This was a very clever method.
All the merchants who travel here knew that you shouldn't offend thieves and bandits inside Lifeline Canyon. Even if you are strong, it's also best not to offend them. Even if they weren't capable of fighting strong people, they had a lot of crooked ways to annoy you.
They can harass you at night, and even if you managed to defend, they could still make you suffer some losses. They could also find a way to direct magic beasts down the mountain to attack you. Without even using a single person, they could still make you suffer. One could say that these bandits were like insects, unless you exterminate them in one fell swoop, they would annoy and attack you constantly until you feel very uncomfortable.
There was also another reason why these merchants didn't dare offend the bandits inside Lifeline Canyon. These bandits were linked to some people inside Cold Wind Fortress and Hundred Battles Fortress, if you push them back too much, the garrison troops of the two fortresses may even cause you a bit of trouble, causing you to suffer more losses. So the general travellers in the canyon didn't dare to offend these bandits. They would regularly send some protection money to them so that they wouldn't be attacked.
This time, in this area, there were seasoned travellers of the canyon, and they could see at a glance that Zhao Hai's group were newcomers and had never passed by the canyon before. And looking at the strength of Zhao Hai's group, they wanted to know how they would deal with the bandits. Therefore, there were quite the number of people keeping track of Zhao Hai's campsite, looking at how they would deal with the situation.
These people didn't expect Zhao Hai to make such a brilliant move. With a thousand coins, they didn't only erase the crisis, they also developed some connections with the bandits. If they pass through this canyon again, these bandits would certainly give them some face.
Because of Zhao Hai's action, he managed to attract a lot of attention. They wanted to see where these people came from, their way of doing things was very unique.
That evening, nothing else happened inside Lifeline Canyon. The next morning, Zhao Hai got up and saw that the mercenary bandits were really acting as his night guards, moreover they were very spirited while doing so.
This was especially true for the bearded man, when he saw that Zhao Hai had come out, he immediately welcomed him with a salute, "Mister, you've woken up. We brothers should also leave now. I ask mister to take care, I can guarantee that as long as mister continues to use the same carriage to pass through, nobody would disturb mister."
Zhao Hai smiled faintly and said, "Good, you've worked hard. Right, I have something to give you, Blockhead, go get two bags of rations." When Blockhead heard the command, he went to their supply carriage and fetched two big bags of food, weighing a few hundred jin each, sufficient for these group to stuff themselves full a couple of times.
Blockhead placed the bags in front of the bearded man. Zhao Hai smiled and said, "These rations were made by the beastmen. If you want to consume it, just take a piece and add it to a pot to boil, then you can eat it. Don't underestimate these two bags of rations, the two of them were made from four agralis worth of meat each. These two bags should be enough for your brothers to eat for three or four meals. Take it, it's my small gift to you."
When the bearded man heard Zhao Hai, he couldn't help but be stunned for a moment. Then he gratefully said, "Thank you very much, Mister." Although these bandits weren't far from Cold Wind Fortress and Hundred Battles Fortress, they still need to control the roads and perform raids. So generally, they would live their lives in the wilderness, feeding on dry flatbread for food. Hearing about Zhao Hai's rations, they couldn't help but get happy, for them these rations were rare delicacies.
Zhao Hai didn't care about their reactions and only smiled, "Good, you can go. We should also be hurrying along." The bearded man called two brothers over to get the bags of food, then they bowed to Zhao Hai and retreated to the mountains.
At this time, Laura and the others walked out of the tent. Laura looked at Zhao Hai and smiled, "For bandits to be like this, it's my first time seeing it. Interesting."
Zhao Hai didn't say anything, he faintly smiled then replied, "It's not that easy. Forget it, let's eat something then let's get ready for the road."
At this moment Jill arrived, he bowed to Zhao Hai and said, "We thank Mister Wales for last night, the young lady has sent me to represent her in expressing our gratitude."
Zhao Hai waved his hand, "Forget it, it's only a small batter, no big deal. You guys should also get ready. We'll be on our way soon." Jill nodded then returned to their camp to get ready as they needed hurry along to arrive at Rosen Empire's territory.
Chapter 336 – Freewind Merchant Company
Soon, Zhao Hai's camp started being collected, after which they will immediately leave. But at this time, they saw a man walking towards their camp.
The person wore elegant garments, but not the type worn by Nobles. Although he wore commoner type clothes, Zhao Hai could see that the man had quite the temperament hidden inside. Additionally, if one were to closely investigate the material used to make his garment, one could see that it costs an entire year's worth of income for ordinary mercenaries.
Zhao Hai looked at the person walking towards him curiously, the person didn't bring a weapon and he wore a smile on his face, he didn't look like a threat.
Well aware of customs, the man stopped about 5 meters away from Zhao Hai's carriage and bowed to Zhao Hai as he said, "Mister, this one is Freewind Merchant Company's servant. I didn't have any other purpose coming today other than to wish to accompany mister on his travel. I don't know if mister can agree to this one's request?"
Zhao Hai was surprised, even though the man looked ordinary, his convoy wasn't small. Looking at it, Zhao Hai could count about more than 200 carriages.
The man looked at Zhao Hai's reaction and quickly added, "Mister, please don't misunderstand. We didn't offend any bandits inside the canyon. Our Freewind Merchant Company had a hundred years of history doing trades between Rosen Empire and Aksu Empire. I have become familiar with the other travellers in the canyon, this time, I wanted to accompany mister and get to know you, I bear no ill intent."
Zhao Hai looked at the man as he showed a faint smiled and said, "Good, this is my first time travelling towards Rosen Empire and we don't know the local custom, so I may ask mister about them. This one's name is Wales, mister is?"
The man quickly replied, "This one is Freewind Merchant Company's servant, Storm. We'll follow mister immediately when mister's camp gets settled."
Zhao Hai faintly smiled then replied, "Very well, we'll go set out together, mister Storm." Storm smiled then returned to his convoy.
Zhao Hai didn't understand Storm's intentions. Why did he want to suddenly travel together with him. After entering his carriage, Zhao Hai asked Laura, "Laura, have you heard about Freewind Merchant Company?"
Laura nodded, "Of course I've heard of them. Freewind Merchant Company is a medium-sized company inside Rosen Empire. Their scale of operations isn't that big, they trade frequently between Rosen Empire and Aksu Empire, going back and forth. But because Purcell Duchy is quite far, their company's operations didn't reach there.
Zhao Hai nodded and asked again, "What about their reputation? We're currently going blind entering Rosen Empire. It would be great to have someone who clearly knows what’s happening inside."
Laura nodded, "Their reputation is very good, their company is famous for their honesty and trustworthiness. Although they aren't a large-sized company between the Rosen and Aksu Empires, they're quite famous in the business community."
Zhao Hai smiled, "That's good, but why do you think they approached me this time? We didn't have any contact with them, and we only have two carriages. And seeing the carriages we use, it was clear that we don't intend to do business."
Laura smiled faintly, "Although we don't look like we're doing business, but you're someone who would become very important in the future. Don't forget that you've not only shown a power of a 7th rank, you also dealt with the bandits brilliantly. In addition to giving them some coins, you also had them act as your night guards, attracting admiration to you. How could they overlook such qualities?"
Zhao Hai smiled a little, "I just don't want to make enemies out of those mercenary bandits. Think about it, there were a lot of groups surrounding our camp, so it was impossible for their night guards to not notice the bandits. But why did they pretend to not see them? It clearly showed that there's some special relationships going on inside the canyon. Therefore, I chose to not offend those bandits."
Actually, when Zhao Hai saw these bandits, the first thing that came to his mind were those protection agencies (Biāojú) mentioned in novels back on Earth. The men from these agencies would set up an area where they'll ask for "protection money", they even inform travellers about their agency.
Just like what novels show, when erecting these agencies, one needs sufficient strength and background. One should make sure that they don't get underestimated, or else the people passing by your territory won't give you much face.
These bandits would steal goods from the canyon and sell them to either Cold Wind Fortress or Hundred Battles Fortress. It's impossible to think that these bandits have no relation to anyone inside those two places. Zhao Hai didn't reach Hundred Battles Fortress yet, and he didn't want to provoke the garrison there, so he decided to just give 1,000 gold coins to the bandits.
Naturally, Laura didn't have anything to say regarding this method. Even though 1,000 gold coins was a lot of money to ordinary people, to Laura and the group, those coins were just spare change. Spending 1,000 gold coins to establish rapport with the bandits, as well as having them act as their night guard was very well worth it.
As soon as their convoy departed, they heard a voice sounding out nearby, "Mister Wales, might I have the honor in inviting you inside my carriage? I have prepared some dishes as well as some fruit wine. How about having a drink?"
Zhao Hai smiled and turned to Laura, "I'll go and take a look." Then he laughed loudly and replied, "I was thinking the same thing." Then he opened his carriage door and walked outside.
As the carriage outside slowed down to a halt, Zhao Hai inspected it. The carriage was structurally the same as his, but this one was horse-drawn. And the horse wasn't any ordinary horse, but instead it was a flaming horse. Storm was sitting inside the carriage smiling at Zhao Hai.
The two carriages were close to each other, as long as one took a few strides they would arrive at the other carriage. Zhao Hai smiled and walked toward Storm.
Storm welcomed Zhao Hai to his carriage. The carriage's interior was similar to Zhao Hai's. All essential furniture were there, it seemed like this kind of design was quite famous in the continent.
On the carriage's table, there were four small dishes present as well as two glasses filled with wine. Zhao Hai looked at the dishes and they turned out to be magic vegetables popular in the continent. They were also cooked very well, although the quantity was small, the dishes looked very refined.
One must know that eating magic vegetables during winter was very hard for commoners to do. For the numerous commoners in the continent, they would only eat rice and pickled food during the winter, some even had no pickled food.
Zhao Hai didn't say anything, Laura once said that Freewind Merchant Company was a medium-sized company. Medium-sized companies held extraordinary status in the continent. Laura's Magic Lily Store back at Purcell Duchy, even though it had quite the number of customers, could only be classified as a small-sized company if placed on the continent's stage.
After Storm invited Zhao Hai to sit down, he held his wine glass and said, "Being able to meet mister on this journey was a kind of fated encounter, so let me offer this glass to mister, cheers." Zhao Hai also held his wine glass and clinked it with Storm's, "Cheers."
Taking a small sip of his liquor, Zhao Hai then placed it down and asked while smiling, "Why did Mister Storm suddenly want to travel with me today?"
Storm froze for a moment, he didn't think that Zhao Hai would go straight to the point, but he recovered and smiled, "The method that Mister used last night was very beautiful. I must be honest to mister, all the people in the canyon knew about these bandits. We saw that mister was a newcomer so we already knew that you would get raided tonight. However, mister handled the matter beautifully. When I saw it, my heart couldn't help but feel admiration."
Zhao Hai smiled, "Mister is too polite. Actually, it was quite easy for me to exterminate those bandits. But I'm afraid that they were related to some people inside Cold Wind Fortress and Hundred Battles Fortress, so I didn't dare make a move on them."
Storm nodded, "Mister is right. These bandits indeed have connections inside Cold Wind and Hundred Battles. Don't think that all of the loot that these bandits acquire would end up entirely as their belongings. Most of their earnings were handed over to the people inside the two fortresses. We're also aware of this kind of thing."
Zhao Hai was confused and asked, "But why do they do this? Isn't it just the same if they ask for tariffs directly at the fortress?"
Storm smiled faintly and replied, "Didn't you notice? Most of the convoys inside Lifeline Canyon belong to great nobilities. Do you think that the fortress garrison had any courage to ask for tariffs to these convoys? The bandits was the plan the garrison thought of in order to recoup their losses. Everyone understood this, so they couldn't just exterminate those bandits."
Zhao Hai nodded, he understood that what Storm said was the truth. One couldn't underestimate the power of the great nobilities in the continent. All the people who did so ended up dead. The great nobles indeed have the influence to prevent the garrison from asking them for tariffs.
So the easiest method to use were bandits. They would be the ones robbing small convoys passing through Lifeline as the garrison wouldn't be able to do so. Even if those great nobles think that using bandits were excessive, it was a good trade-off in exchange of being in conflict with the garrison because of tariffs.
Storm looked at Zhao Hai and smiled, "What does mister intend to do inside Rosen Empire? Looking at the emblem on your carriage, it looks like you're a person from Akus Empire's Purcell Duchy. And from those carriages behind you, it looks like they were from the Purcell Family's direct line. Am I right?"
Zhao Hai nodded, "Correct, I'm a viscount of Purcell Duchy. I came to do something in Sky Water City. The carriages behind me belonged to the Purcell Family's young lady. She's going to Carson City to study."
Storm began to nod and said, "Sky Water City is really a good place, being a port city, it's very good for trade. Moreover, the tax in the city is very low. Going there to do business is a good idea. If you want to do business there, you can tell me."