Chapter 182 – Fierce Person
The head of Withered Leaf was called Aqua Smoke Stub.1 He ranked third among all professional players, even higher than Kill Love. For the vast majority of players, such an esteemed figure could only be heard about, never seen. Unlike other famous players like Sleepy Fox and Kill Love, he always stayed relatively low-key, but that didn’t mean he was any less ambitious. He simply walked a different path from them.
His operations in Conviction didn’t expand beyond creating a top-tier elite team, which took on various tasks from large financial groups, including completing quests and clearing dungeons.
They didn’t discriminate between enemy and ally. As long as the employer was willing to spend the money, they were willing to take on any task. According to hearsay, the Withered Leaf gaming organization generated immense sums of money for the Tuoba Financial Group every day.
“Tell him not today. We can chat when I get back to the city,” Nie Yan said. Logically speaking, a set of Level 30 Gold-grade equipment wasn’t enough to attract the attention of the head of Withered Leaf. Was it possibly something else…?
“Impressive…” Tuoba gazed at Nie Yan with a somewhat dissatisfied look. Any guild leader would be wild with joy if they heard Smoke Stub wanted to meet with them. Withered Leaf was indeed a formidable organization, but its interests lied elsewhere, so they didn’t often come in conflict with the guilds. In a situation where there were only merits and no demerits, who wouldn’t want to rope in such an ally? Yet, he had actually directly refused.
Tuoba told Withered Leaf of Nie Yan’s reply.
Not long after, Nie Yan suddenly received a call from Withered Leaf. Wryly smiling, he pressed accept.
「How are you? I’m Smoke Stub.」An air of dignity lurked within his gentle tone.
From Nie Yan’s recollection, Smoke Stub was a fierce person who was very protective of his own people. In the previous timeline, a guild had killed a member of Withered Leaf. In retaliation, not only did Smoke Stub ruin that guild’s business connections, he also led an army to directly seize their stronghold. The massacre that followed remained fresh in the minds of players even long after the event, as well as the declaration that he made to everyone present: “Whoever touches the people of my Withered Leaf should be prepared to lose not only their life but everything else!” The reputation of Withered Leaf grew immensely after that.
Nie Yan thought Smoke Stub was going to be a bandit-type character like Heaven Breaker, aggressive and overbearing. He didn’t expect him to be so soft-spoken and polite.
「Uh, hello…」Nie Yan answered, trying to guess why Smoke Stub was so impatient to reach him.
「Kill Love and I have some dealings together, so I know about the Union of Assassins. Name a price, I’d like to request a prince role in the union.」Smoke Stub got straight to the point. Even a blind man could easily spot the bright future that lay ahead of the union. If he could enter such an organization, it would be very helpful to the growth of Withered Leaf. Another point of concern was that if he didn’t take the initiative to join now, he couldn’t say for sure that a lot of potential work later on wouldn’t be snatched away from them. No matter how strong Withered Leaf was, there was no way it could contend against such a large syndicate of professional players. Even now, a mere several days after its inception, it had far surpassed Withered Leaf in manpower.
Nie Yan finally cleared the mystery. It seemed Smoke Stub had found out about the Union of Assassins from Kill Love. Smoke Stub could’ve easily joined the organization on the basis that Withered Leaf wasn’t much weaker than Battle Crazed Alliance, but he required the prince role for them to gain any sort of strong foothold later on.
Kill Love knew what Smoke Stub wanted, but the matter was out of his hands. He simply didn’t have the authority to give out the prince role. Even so, Withered Leaf was an important business partner to Battle Crazed Alliance. If they could join, business in the Union of Assassins would rise by at least several fold, not to mention the significant boost in manpower. Kill Love would never go as far as to reject Withered Leaf, so he threw the ball in Nie Yan’s court.
「Don’t worry, I promised Kill Love I wouldn’t leak your identity,」Smoke Stub added, hoping to dispel any potential doubts.
「I can assign you the prince role, but I’d like you to listen to my request,」Nie Yan answered after some deliberation. Since the head of Withered Leaf had sought him out, why not take advantage of the opportunity to make them fight for him?
「Speak, I’ll accept if I think the request is reasonable,」Smoke Stub replied. Withered Leaf operated on the principle of equivalent exchange. They never made a loss in any business deal.
「I want Withered Leaf to become a part of my guild.」 Nie Yan purposely made a ridiculous demand in order to gauge Smoke Stub’s reaction.
「Impossible,」 Smoke Stub directly refused. Withered Leaf only had so much business because they didn’t join with any camp, even if they had relations. They would lose many clients if they entered Asskickers United.
「There’s plenty of clients in the Union of Assassins. The business you’d lose from joining my guild would be negligible at that point,」Nie Yan pointed out, as if he knew exactly what Smoke Stub was thinking. The gap between him and Heaven Breaker would instantly close by a wide margin if he could recruit such an influential figure to his side. However, he also understood that his guild was too weak right now. It didn’t have any appeal to Smoke Stub. Withered Leaf might be a neutral entity for the time being, but he knew that several years from now, they would become an important force under Cao Xu’s control. In this life, he was determined to prevent that from happening. Instead, he planned to bind them to his ship, bit by gradual bit.
「It’s temporarily impossible.」Smoke Stub shook his head.
「Fine, have Withered Leaf join Asskickers United for one month. We’ll buy any surplus equipment you wish to sell at market price. In exchange, any Honour that Withered Leaf earns from running dungeons on Specialist will go to my guild. We won’t interfere with your business either. After the month is over, we can discuss any further cooperation. How does that sound?」Nie Yan proposed. Since it was contracted work, and they could keep doing business the same as before, Smoke Stub would probably have a bit of an easier time agreeing.「One other thing, I want to have some promising individuals in my guild accompany your team during dungeon runs. Naturally, there’ll be compensation.」
A lot of players in his guild showed great potential. If they could gain experience by observing the seasoned professional players in Withered Leaf, they would develop even faster.
Smoke Stub silently deliberated for a good while. The offer wasn’t bad. Withered Leaf’s business could continue unimpeded, and Asskickers United would also settle the problem of excess equipment. From an objective standpoint, the deal was only beneficial. Although it would be slightly inconvenient babysitting newcomers—especially if they didn’t understand anything and ended up dragging the team down—he understood that he needed to make some concessions for the other side to agree to giving him the prince role in the Union of Assassins. Besides, he could just tell the players Nie Yan sent his way to stay in the back and do nothing but watch.
The matter was crucial to the future of Withered Leaf; Smoke Stub naturally had to ponder over it carefully.
A while later, Smoke Stub finally decided,「I agree to your proposal. Let’s sign a contract.」He had consulted the opinion of the person directly above his head in the Tuoba Financial Group.
The Tuoba Family seemed interested in the power behind Asskickers United’s sudden rise to prominence.
「Head to the Asskickers United guild headquarters. Watchful Snail will process you guys into the guild,」Nie Yan replied. He was pleasantly surprised. Smoke Stub had agreed to the proposal. This was a great stroke of luck for his guild
Both parties signed and stamped their fingerprints on the contact. With the agreement taking effect, Nie Yan added Smoke Stub to the Union of Assassins. And so, the organization gained another prince.
It seemed the number of princes would increase in the future. There were many influential figures on the professional player rankings, so the Union of Assassins would definitely attract more organizations like Withered Leaf. However, aside from the founders, the people who followed wouldn’t receive any shares.
Not long after Smoke Stub entering, a string of notices of other players joining appeared in the chat.Withered Leaf Fashionable has joined the Union of Assassins.
Withered Leaf Paper Sheet has joined the Union of Assassins.
More than six hundred players from Withered Leaf joined the Union of Assassins, bringing the total number of members to almost four thousand.
The addition of Withered Leaf was a great boon to the Union of Assassins which was already expanding at a rapid pace.
Nie Yan skimmed down the list of clients and agents. There were quite a few who had received the baron title by now. Among them was Hapless Frog, who had been in the organization for less than a day. Yet he was already approaching the rank of viscount. The main factor for his rise was that he had many good things to sell on the union’s trading platform. With clients purchasing them and the union taking a small cut of every transaction, he quickly accumulated contribution points. After becoming a baron, there were clients who were willing to pay great sums of money for him to help them complete quests.
The profits from the Union of Assassins had already reached 50 gold. According to how the shares were divided up, Nie Yan would receive 30 gold, and this huge money-making machine was only beginning to get into gear.
Recently, Nie Yan had heard from Fa Lan, Sleepy Fox, and Kill Love that a venture capitalist was interested in purchasing the Union of Assassins. Naturally, they refused. They weren’t fools. No matter what price was offered, they wouldn’t hand over this golden goose to someone else. Besides, they needed Nie Yan’s approval first.
After Nie Yan and Smoke Stub finalized the details of their cooperation, Smoke Stub brought all of the players from Withered Leaf to the Asskickers United guild headquarters.
Their headquarters had just recently been upgraded to Tier 2. It was considerably more spacious than before. A steady stream of players flowed in and out of the entrance, with the lively vigour of a newly emerged guild on full display.
“Boss, I’m here to hand in a mission!”
A group of players surrounded Zhao Li. He was in charge of handing out guild missions and giving out the rewards for completing them. For example, if the Starry Night Potion Shop required a certain type of medicinal herb, he would give out a mission asking members to collect it, with the reward being a certain amount of merit points based on contribution.
“Is Watchful Snail here?” a voice called out from outside the entrance gates of the guild headquarters.
The Asskickers United players all looked over. A crowd of several dozen players stood outside the entrance. The tidy sets of equipment they wore all looked to be least Gold-grade and reflected a dazzling, metallic lustre. The surrounding guild members drew in a breath of cold air. What an intimidating group of people!