Chapter 452 - Dark Crimson Gold
Nie Yan recalled the time the Hilton Stronghold was besieged by a particularly powerful invasion force from the Underworld. The fighting was fierce and lasted a full five days, wiping out almost all of the NPCs here. By the time players started arriving, the place was in ruins with collapsed walls and buildings everywhere in sight. This marked the turning point where players would replace NPCs as the main protectors of the surface world.
The NPCs walking around the street wore odd-looking garbs made out of weird scales and other exotic materials. With hordes of monsters flooding out of the Underworld every year, the residents used their body parts to craft armour. These beings came in all shapes and sizes, so there was no lack of variety.
After making some inquiries, Nie Yan learned from the NPCs that Great General Breakspear never stayed in the Hilton Stronghold for long. He would frequently go off on expeditions in the passages leading to the Underworld, often not returning for days at a time.
"Excuse me, could you tell me how I can find Great General Breakspear?" Nie Yan asked an NPC fur vendor.
"S-s-sir Devil Slayer, the general returns to the stronghold once every six days. He sells his spoils from battle to us merchants in exchange for supplies. He should be back again in around a day, so I ask that you please wait patiently," the NPC replied in a deferential tone. He was evidently shaken by the grandness of Nie Yan's titles, which few others in the whole of the Hilton Stronghold could match.
With no other choice but to wait, Nie Yan decided to take a stroll around the place in the meantime.
As Nie Yan tried to recall information about the Hilton Stronghold from his past life, he suddenly remembered there was a secret shop around here that sold all sorts of exotic goods, even rare crafting materials for Legendary-grade items. They also had a large repository of Tailor blueprints which popped out some good things every now and then.
The secret shop only sold a limited quantity of materials and blueprints every day. In the previous timeline, many large guilds dispatched people to stake out this place on the regular in the hopes of snatching up some rare finds. If nothing was sold for a prolonged period of time, the items would begin to gradually accumulate. No one had visited the secret shop yet in the present, so it was bound to have many great things for sale.
Apart from the secret shop, the Hilton Stronghold also had a slave market which sold slaves pulled from various regions. A mercenary had to be paid regularly, with late payments incurring penalty fees, and would leave once the contracted period was over. A slave on the other hand once bought became the sole property of the owner.
The system only allowed those who class advanced to purchase slaves. It was normally limited to one slave per player. However, when certain criteria were met such as possessing special skills, it was possible to own multiple slaves. Being a guild leader was another such criteria. How many extra slaves they could purchase depended on guild level. For example, the guild leader of a Level 5 guild could own up to three slaves.
Every slave differed in talent and ability. Some were completely useless. Others were master crafters, or gods of death on the battlefield.
Nie Yan could take advantage of the fact he was the first player to visit the Hilton Stronghold to reap some benefits from these two places.
After finding the slave market, he could have all the class advanced players in Asskickers United come over to purchase a slave or two.
As for the specific location of these two places, Nie Yan hadn't the slightest clue. He had no luck in asking the NPCs either.
Nie Yan suddenly recalled he had an old acquaintance of his in the Hilton Stronghold, Physician Blevins!
Not long after entering the game, Nie Yan had travelled to Lake Random and accepted the quest from Physician Blevins to collect Fine Silk. Back then, he was still a low level player. He wondered if he could find out the location of the secret shop and slave market from Physician Blevins.
Nie Yan started asking around for Physician Blevins.
"Physician Blevins resides in the garrison office. It's on the south side of the stronghold," a short elderly man informed Nie Yan.
Nie Yan leisurely looked around while he strolled south. It was at least a 15 minute walk.
Arriving at a wide open square with no buildings around, Nie Yan looked north at a volcano on the distant horizon. The smoke rising up from the crater formed dark clouds that blotted out the sky.
Nie Yan overheard the worried whispers of a few nearby NPCs.
"These past two days Mt. Anfrit has started becoming active again. It's probably going to erupt soon, maybe already in the next five or six days. The last eruption was over 20 years ago," a wrinkled old man said in a hoarse tone.
"Relax, old man. Mt. Anfrit is way too far from here to affect us. When it erupts, it'll just be like watching a fireworks show," a young Warrior heartily laughed.
"We've had two earthquakes in a row in the past few days…" the old man continued on pessimistically.
Nie Yan simply smiled. The young and elderly would always have differing perspectives on life.
This was only a brief interlude. The main street was always full of chatting NPCs. Nie Yan learned a lot from listening in on their conversations. What took him by surprise the most was the fact that the Hilton Stronghold had five Great Generals and 30 Generals. This was quite rare in the Viridian Empire. Even Calore only had one Great General and two Generals.
One could imagine the strength of the force garrisoned in the Hilton Stronghold.
"Sir Devil Slayer, would you like to take a look at our goods? We have top quality sulfur produced from Mt. Anfrit and…" An NPC merchant happened to approach Nie Yan.
"No thank you, I don't need anything." Nie Yan shook his head.
Not daring to impede Nie Yan, the NPC merchant backed off.
Mt. Anfrit, Mt. Anfrit… Nie Yan couldn't help but feel like he was forgetting something important. But he simply couldn't recall what for the life of him.
Am I just overthinking things? Nie Yan wryly chuckled to himself. Mt. Anfrit had nothing to do with him at all!
Just how long would the Hilton Stronghold continue flourishing? When would players finally start arriving here? These were questions Nie Yan didn't have the answer to.
Nie Yan felt desolate and lonely as he walked along the streets. In both this life and the past, he had witnessed this ancient stronghold prosper and decline, its glory and suffering.
"Sir, would you like to buy some Dark Crimson Gold from Mt. Anfrit?" A short 12 year old boy in shabby clothes approached Nie Yan. His jet black pupils shone with intelligence. He held a nugget of Dark Crimson Gold in his hand.
"No thank you..." After being approached by so many peddlers trying to sell him things, Nie Yan habitually declined.
The expectant look on the boy's face transformed into disappointment. He was just about to turn away.
"Wait! Did you just say Dark Crimson Gold?" Nie Yan suddenly called out to the boy. He gazed at the nugget in the boy's hand. Based on the deep gold lustre, he confirmed it was in fact Dark Crimson Gold, with a quality rating of 3 at least! He had almost passed up on something good!
"Yes, sir! I picked up this nugget of Dark Crimson Gold while I was exploring the holes near the base of Mt. Anfrit. An old man told me it would sell for 2 gold," the boy earnestly explained. He felt 2 gold was an enormous sum.
"Can you let me take a look?" Nie Yan asked. He couldn't help but laugh to himself. A nugget of Dark Crimson Gold (3), using today's market price, would sell for at least 1,000 gold. It was an exceptional material for crafting shields and the like, and was rarely seen in the marketplace. Yet this little boy only wanted 2 gold for it. He inspected the boy's name, Collins.
"Sure." Collins handed over the nugget to Nie Yan.
Nie Yan confirmed that the nugget's quality rating was 3.
"Sir, would you like to buy it?" Collins asked Nie Yan with a hopeful look.
"Of course." Nie Yan nodded. After closer observation, he noticed Collins was as thin as a match and looked malnourished. His hands were black with dirt and covered in scald marks.
"Yes! Thank you, sir! You don't know how much I appreciate this!" Collins said excitedly.
Nie Yan's heart softened. "This nugget of Dark Crimson Gold isn't worth only 2 gold."
"Then how much is it worth?" Collins asked in bewilderment.
"1,000 gold. I'd like to ask, what would you do with that kind of money?"
Collins sank in thought for a moment. "I'll use it to help the other kids!"
Nie Yan placed 1,000 gold into the trade window and hit confirm. He didn't know why he did something stupid like buying the Dark Crimson Cold for 1,000 gold. Maybe in his cold and unmoving heart was still a hint of childish innocence.
"Thank you, sir! Thank you so much! May God bless you!" Collins got on his knees and prostrated toward Nie Yan. This was the most sincere and solemn form of showing thanks. Only this could convey the feelings of gratitude in his heart.
Nie Yan was stunned for a brief moment. Just as he wanted to say something, Collins got up and ran off toward a nearby alleyway, disappearing after turning a corner.
A peculiar feeling arose in Nie Yan's heart, one that could only be felt from showing genuine empathy toward the plight of an NPC.
Nie Yan was just about to move on when he noticed the 'Sincere' property was added to his character window.
It appeared he was rewarded by the system for telling Collins the true value of that nugget of Dark Crimson Gold.
Nie Yan had previously received 'Brave', 'Just', and 'Benevolent'. Now he had received 'Sincere'. Just what sort of quest did the system have in store for him? He really wanted to unravel this mystery.