Chapter 206 – The Sea (1)
Translated by : betterdays
Proofread by : Hogu
It was a noisy atmosphere at the bar Lee Sungmin was at. Lee Sungmin was drinking casually at the bar, sipping his beer and basking himself in the smell of alcohol, loud mercenaries and laughter.
A man suddenly started to approach Lee Sungmin, who was sitting.
“Are you trying to get on a boat like the others here?”
Lee Sungmin shifted his gaze to meet the voice who was talking to him. In front of him, stood a man of a sturdy build, tanned skin, rugged physique, and tattoos along his forearms. The man noticed Lee Sungmin’s silent gaze and burst out into laughter.
“Don’t be too nervous. I’m just asking.”
The man reached out his hand to shake as he said so. Lee Sungmin immediately noticed the deep calluses on his huge hands.
Lee Sungmin slowly reached out and shook the man’s hand.
“Are you a boatman?”
“Huh? Well, yeah.”
The man nodded at Lee Sungmin’s question. He had an excellent physique, but a few traces of his internal circuitry could be detected by Lee Sungmin.
He may be some type of master that was beyond Lee Sungmin’s capabilities, but such suspicions were light. Even if he was some type of master that was seeking to hide his strength, it would not get past Lee Sungmin’s eyes and ears. Since even if the man was a realm above Transcendence, Lee Sungmin would inevitably know.
Lee Sungmin reached the decision that the man in front of him was not a warrior.
“So. Where are you going?”, the man asked Lee Sungmin.
“I’m looking to go to Belador.”
Lee Sungmin replied. Belador, a port city on the west side of the continent, relatively close to the Forest of Fairies, was the destination of Lee Sungmin.
The reasons why he chose the sea route instead of travelling on land was due to the pursuit that ‘Beyond The Heavens’ would naturally be sending soon and would bother him if he travelled in the main cities.
‘Even if it’s the sea, it won’t be safe though.’
It couldn’t be helped. Moreover, the reasons why he chose to ride a ship was not all about the pursuit of the secret organization. When Lee Sungmin took time and efficiency into account, his decision to ride a boat was likely to be the best in terms of speed.
Why was this man talking to him? Lee Sungmin glanced at the man’s face to try and guess his intentions. He could tell from reading the man’s expression that the man was wanting to ask him something.
Lee Sungmin’s face was circulating through information guilds as a rogue. Right now, Lee Sungmin had no way of getting information other than through Erebrisa and had found out about this information, so naturally Lee Sungmin was hiding his identity at the moment.
“……Do you have any intention of trying to make a fortune?”
The man asked slowly in a quiet voice. His choice of words were off-putting.
“You mean a lump sum of money?”
“Yes, it’s not that difficult. You just have to deliver something to someone in Belador.….”
“It’s not that difficult.”
“No, why don’t you tell me what it is?”
“Are you going to or not?”
A man asked tenaciously. Lee Sungmin already figured out what the man was trying to do. He was trying to get some goods smuggled over to Bellador.
Most commercial transactions in Eria went through merchant guilds. The merchant guilds would take commission prices and sometimes even tax heavily through tariffs to obtain huge gains of money, hence why smuggling was somewhat popular but still dangerous.
“No, thank you.”
“You’re worried, aren’t you? You don’t have to worry about anything like your safety. You just have to run a quick errand and I’ll give you more than enough money.”
“I already have enough money.”, Lee Sungmin replied curtly.
“You said you had enough money. But is it enough to get on the ship?”
A man chirped around as if he knew everything Lee Sungmin was doing.
Lee Sungmin no longer continued to listen to the man. It was best not to make things for himself more troublesome before going to see Wijihoyeon and Sima Ryunju.
If one was to get caught up in the smuggling ring and the underworld of Eria, they would naturally be entangled with the caché of the Merchant Guilds. The Merchant Guilds had strong connections everywhere and that included the Murim Alliance.
“Hey, if you’re not going to do it, you’ll only be losing out on money. Don’t regret it later.”
After a glance at Lee Sungmin, who was blatantly ignoring his words, the rugged man lifted himself up.
Then, he looked around the bar and headed to another man drinking alone. Lee Sungmin chuckled as the man was indeed precisely aiming for people visiting the town and none of the locals with his proposals of ‘business’.
After emptying his glass of beer, Lee Sungmin raised himself up. He fiddled with the small mercenary badge in his arms.
It was a fake mercenary badge purchased through Erebrisa. Even if it was indeed forged, there is no fear of being caught. As a matter of fact, it was a genuine mercenary badge that belonged to someone else, so technically there was no possible way Lee Sungmin could get caught with a fake badge.
A C-Classmercenary, Jeong Hyun-soo. Lee Sungmin didn’t know the name of the badge’s owner. He was probably dead, or he’s better off dying, considering it was being handled through Erebrisa.
Lee Sungmin, who left the bar, checked the time. It was time for him to get on board his ship.
Among the many trade ships to Belador, what Lee Sungmin chose was a humble merchant’s trade ship, which was neither big, nor too small. He wanted to ride in a larger ship if possible, but he would never get the opportunity to ride a ship of such calibre with his fake identity because they would never hire C-Class mercenaries for guarding important and significant shipments.
Of course, it was not something he couldn’t ride of course if he decided to give up his identity as a mercenary guard and just pay the ticket fare.
‘But, if I do that, I would only stand out.’
Naturally he would have to show another form of identity which he did not want to try and obtain. Not only that, but that information would be registered through the wider networks of the Merchant Guild and immediately signal red flags about his identity.
Having purchased a C-Class mercenary badge, Lee Sungmin was determined to act the part. Information networks and people would not care too much as long as he was careful with his actions and played the part.
Even if it was Erebrisa, one of the largest and most secretive information brokers, Nobody could buy information as long as it didn’t exist in the first place.
[And you’re gonna put this old man in this pathetic armor?]
Heoju complained to Lee Sungmin. It was sadly inevitable. The flashy and magical Demonic Armor that Heoju generally rested his conscience in, was too flashy for a C-Class Mercenary to afford, so Lee Sungmin had to move Heoju’s conscience into a piece of lacklustre and quite average armor.
[You’re just being silly. Why don’t you just board and then take over the ship? Just tell them to shut up and head to Belador. Isn’t that easy to do?]
‘It’s just an easy way for us to gain more notoriety and an even worse public image than it already is. Not only that, but it would tip off the Black Dragon Association quickly. And… weren’t you the one who said for me to be careful with my actions?’
[Of course, I’m just trying to lighten up the atmosphere with a joke or two. This is a better course of action, even if it’s annoying.]
The Heoju of the past, would have not tried to restrain Lee Sungmin from taking violent or forceful action, but over the course of being together, many things had changed since then.
Heoju knew that Lee Sungmin did not want to turn into a monster, and Heoju himself wanted to help Lee Sungmin keep track of his humanity.
That was also the reason he had restrained Lee Sungmin from committing a mass murder in the Elven Forest, out of cold blood.
‘Well, if things don’t go to plan and go awry somehow, in the worst case scenario, it might not be a terrible plan of action.’
Lee Sungmin thought so and headed for the ship.
Zod had an ambition.
He was just a lowly individual merchant right now without much backing, but his ambition was to be at the top of the merchant guild someday. Although his retired father used to always tell him not to be overly ambitious and to live within his means, Zod still stayed faithful to his ambition.
Even if his ship was an old caravel inherited from his father, and he had only about ten C-Class mercenaries as guards for his goods because of his lacking budget, it was his first trip to the great port city known as Belador, where he would start his business.
(T/N : a caravel is a special type of Portuguese ship from the 15th-17th century ish I believe)
It would be alright, he thought. Zod picked up a cheap wine in his room.
For him, wine was only for show, and Zod knew nothing about the profound taste of wine.
‘If I’m going to Belador, I’ll buy a true bottle of fine wine.’
Zod twirled around his wine glasses and bluffed when it came to social occasions. But never mind that, it was time to start sailing soon. Zod wanted to savor the moment before departure. It was because of the fleeting expectation that if this voyage ended successfully, there would be a significant profit for him.
Before drinking the last bit of wine in his glass, someone burst open the door and came inside. Zod, who was leaning back in his chair and drunk on the taste of the cheap wine, was not embarrassed or angered at all. Because… It had happened all the time.
‘And… the mercenaries are arguing yet again.’
He would constantly pretend to be the innocent merchant who did not know much about the mercenary world and simply ignored them. The mercenaries that Zod hired were not mercenaries from the mercenary corps inside the mercenary guild. They were freelancers.
In many ways, the quality of protection and skill was poor, but it was incredibly cheap. In addition, even if the quality of skill was lacklustre, as long as they were paid, they would honor their word. That was the code of all mercenaries.
But that was only what Zod expected.
Lee Sungmin slowly turned his head. The blow didn’t hurt a bit. It wasn’t even powerful enough to scratch an itch. Still, Lee Sungmin took the blow and played weak. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t make much sense for him to still be standing if he was indeed a C-Class mercenary.
“Are you all sick or something?”
The one who had punched Lee Sungmin was a man with a brawny build. Lee Sungmin couldn’t quite recall his name… No wait he did. His name was Yang-Suk. He was a C-Class mercenary like the rest of those on board.
Lee Sungmin was not the only one who was punched by Yang-Suk. Eight other mercenaries were fuming in anger quietly as they glared at Yang-Suk and rubbed their faces where they had gotten punched.
However, as mad as they were, none of them dared to attack Yang-Suk. They were C-Class mercenaries. Based on the criteria of the group, they were, at most, barely second-rate martial artists. It was difficult to truly gauge other people’s level when they were that weak, so the best way to do it was through combat….
“If you listen to me carefully without arguing, you won’t get hit again.”
Yang-Suk. Lee Sungmin rubbed the cheek that was struck with his hands, just like other mercenaries were.
Yang-Suk seemed to have the intentions of suppressing the others and getting more pay and recognition for a rank-up. And it seemed his intimidation was successful. None of the other mercenaries got up to resist him.
Yang-suk made domineering eye contact with each of the mercenaries he hit, one by one. Everyone lowered their eyes when they met his gaze. When Lee Sungmin’s eyes met Yang-Suk’s, however, he did not lower them at all.
[Gahahaha! How can a master in the Transcendence Realm accept a beating from someone so incompetent?]
Heoju burst into laughter. Yang-Suk gave Lee Sungmin a glare and stared at Lee Sungmin. His big fist suddenly went up and flew towards Lee Sungmin.
However, Yang-Suk could not swing his fist. This was because Lee Sungmin kicked Yang Suk’s shin. If it was kicked properly, the leg would have been completely smashed and the bones crushed, but Lee Sungmin reduced the strength as much as possible.
Yang-Suk grabbed his leg and screamed. Lee Sungmin quickly followed up with his fist at Yang-Suk.
Yang-Suk’s head went wide to the side. Lee Sungmin initially thought it would be better to get beaten up and stay on the down low. But, Lee Sungmin also had his pride as a martial artist, and if there were complications in the future, he did not want to have to bow down to someone else.
“What’s wrong, are you sick?”
Lee Sungmin repeated Yang-Suk’s initial question right back at him with a sarcastic tone of voice. Yang-Suk’s shin was in immense pain, and he could not stand properly, as well as his cheek bone throbbing from Lee Sungmin’s punch. Yang-Suk fell on the floor and looked up at Lee Sungmin.
“Don’t bother me from now on.”
Lee Sungmin said, tapping the spear on his back with his fingertips. It was a cheap spear he bought at a weapons store, but the blade was still sharp. Yang-Suk swallowed his saliva as he watched the sharp blade of the spear, dangle in the sunlight.
By subduing the mercenary who had beaten and angered the other 8 mercenaries, this also gave Lee Sungmin a bit of a positive image in their minds. Lee Sungmin turned around and headed towards his room, satisfied with the outcome of the events.
Driving the ship is what the sailors would do, not the mercenaries. What the mercenaries were here for, was when any task required force : like subduing pirates, monsters, rebelling sailors etc.
In other words, there was no reason for Lee Sungmin to stay on the deck if there was nothing to be done.
“I’ll be in my room. If there’s a problem…….”
Lee Sungmin raised his fingertips to point at Yang-Suk.
“Solve it yourselves.”
Yang-Suk replied in a timid voice. Lee Sungmin headed to the room assigned to him. As he passed by the deck, he made eye contact with the crew.
They only glanced at Lee Sungmin and did not say anything to him. This was because they knew well, that mercenaries were fundamentally different from sailors in their jobs and how they operated.
[You’ll be uncomfortable going forwards.]
‘I think so as well.’
Lee Sungmin had never been on a boat whilst working as a mercenary in both of his two lives. It was mostly because Lee Sungmin had almost never travelled outside of Behenger in his previous life.
But he heard stories about his travels at sea, several times. In the case of long-distance voyages, there were always bound to be troublesome events. The sea itself was large and wide, along with being inhabited by countless underwater monsters and brutal pirates.
Simply put, the ship he was on was insignificant on these vast waters. It was essentially the perfect prey for all sorts of monsters and pirates.
To be honest, even Lee Sungmin didn’t understand his employer’s actions. Wasn’t having only 10 C-Class mercenaries too low of a number for such a long voyage?
“So you’re one of the mercenaries on this voyage.”
Someone approached Lee Sungmin and spoke. He was a middle-aged man watching the petty disturbance between mercenaries earlier from afar.
Lee Sungmin glanced at the man. The man was wearing a plausible-looking knife around his waist. Lee Sungmin immediately measured the man’s internal energy levels and noticed that the man speaking to him was a Peak Realm martial artist.
“What about you?”, Lee Sungmin asked, feigning ignorance.
“The shipowner’s escort. Don’t make too much of a fuss going forwards. We’re all on the same boat together for this voyage, and I don’t want to kill a colleague.”
The man said. Lee Sungmin immediately scoffed inwardly at the blatant idiocy of the ship owner. He must have believed if there was at least one Peak-Realm martial artist they would be safe.
“Are you a mercenary as well?”
“That’s the way it is for now. Even my water supply is different from yours. I belong to the Merchant Guild. I got on this ship to prevent any kind of… unnecessary mishaps on this voyage.”
Lee Sungmin understood what he meant. He had heard about it in his previous life. If a smaller merchant invested some of their money into the merchant guild early on, before going on a voyage. The merchant guild would send an arbitrator of sorts to ensure the smaller merchant’s safety.
They would play the role of the shipowner’s escort, and if the ship had a conflict with any kind of rogue pirates, they would negotiate with the pirates in the name of the merchant guild on behalf of the shipowner.
Negotiation meant paying the toll that the pirates requested on the behalf of the merchant guild, while still ensuring the shipowner’s safety, but the shipowner would have the extracted toll be placed on their tab with the guild when they reached their destination.
It was a bit of a failsafe in case things broke down with people on board during the journey. Most pirates did not want to be at odds with the merchant guild. Therefore, if a mediator was identified on board one of the ships, they would simply ask for some money from the shipowners as a toll and then let the ship go on their way.
“If you are an arbitrator, then it’s safe to say this ship will be safe.”
“Sure thing, there’s an unspoken promise between the rogue pirates and merchant guild in the waters leading up to Belador that they don’t attack the ships with mediators on board.”
The mediator said so and looked up and down at Lee Sungmin.
“Do you understand what I mean? My existence is protecting your life.”
“Thank you for your hard work.”
Lee Sungmin bowed his head and passed the mediator.
[There are plenty of bastards who don’t know anything about respect these days when it comes to those greater in power.]
Lee Sungmin responded to Heoju’s bitter remarks and came into his room.
‘But I’m glad. I think we’ll be able to get to Belador without getting involved with any pirates.’
[I don’t know if it’s going to be that easy.]
Heoju giggled mysteriously.
Chapter 206 – Fin