“It’s a no go, huh,” Ner muttered as Luon exited the sixth store they had visited, the latter only lightly nodded in response as he had expected this.
“As I said, sir, most of us from Alpha Hideout isn’t too fond of foreigners, the only one we do imports and exports with is Harmonic Forest and that’s for food. Other merchants wouldn’t want to deal with us because of our notorious status,” replied the Embassy’s Delegate.
Luon and Ner stayed at the embassy for a night. The next day after their talk, Luon asked to see the stores that dealt with cruisers or ship components so they could improve their ship. To his request, the ambassador designated a local guide to show them around the ropes. The man knew his way around town, the rules, the trends, even the gossip that the locals didn’t escape from his ears.
Despite this advantage, once Luon entered the shop and explained his needs, the shop owners negatively treated him. Word got out that a foreigner had come to Alpha Hideout while he was at the embassy. For someone from such a prosperous land to visit Alpha Hideout, there were no doubt signs of discrimination from these store owners.
Most of them rejected their business, some of which even threw objects at them, the ones that didn’t deny them right away were even worse to deal with. Scammers, they were all the subpar scum classification of an honest merchant. They wanted Luon to trade in excessive amounts of resources for a damaged cruiser, parts or a seat in the passenger compartment of a cruiser with a considerable fee. At this rate, Luon was better off just camping down at the embassy, waiting for the traders from Harmonic Forest to come by.
Unfortunately, they had already left a week ago and would have to wait for another three before the ship arrived. As for embarking on their own, the ambassador was reluctant to part with their food supplies as the governing powers of Alpha Hideout rigidly managed food supplies. Also, the duration it would take to get back was longer, and in space, anything can happen as the path wasn’t entirely secure.
The ambassador proclaimed that they were allowed to stay until he could get a ride from other convoys. However, there was nothing such as a free lunch. Besides the first night, as long as they stayed, it would cost them extra Galaxia Coins. They were also offered the opportunity to do odd jobs for the embassy. However, Luon had a feeling that the man seemed more sly than he appeared to be. Who knew if the embassy was in cahoots with the local forces at Alpha Hideout, especially with how fast word of his appearance came about, as for the odd jobs he might have in store, Luon didn’t consider them.
Another reason Luon didn’t trust the man from the embassy was that he suspected the leak might have come from him. Unlike the thugs, he had dealt with before coming to Alpha Hideout, who wouldn’t spread too much gossip about it as it may affect their reputation, the ambassador who was said to have a neutral stance to things deemed to be more suspicious.
Because of the lack of information Luon had over Alpha Hideout, there wasn’t anyone that Luon could genuinely believe in. Rats scoured the cityscape.
The guide asked Luon was in deep within his thoughts, “So what’s your next plan? Should we call it a day?”
It was midday now, there was no sun to show so, but the massive digital clock tower in the middle of the city revealed the time. Time was a concept of the world, there was the localized time dependent on region and world, and the Alliance Universal Clock, the tower had displayed both.
Luon shook his head as he replied, “Not yet, let’s change up our plans. You mentioned earlier that the Alliance’s network is accessible at the library, right? Ner go look up some information there. Maybe we can find another way out. I’ll continue to search for someone to make a deal with.”
“All right, I’ll see you later then,” Ner nodded. He was curious about how advanced civilization had become after his seclusion. He welcomed the opportunity with ease as he started to depart.
The guide twitched upon hearing Luon’s plans, and after glancing at Ner, he hurriedly said, “Uh, sir, might I say separation isn’t a good thing. Public security is under-developed here. I wouldn’t recommend this. If you want to, I can get the embassy to send out another person to-“
“It’s fine. We can go about on our own. We’re not weak as you think we are I am sure you’ve heard the news by now seeing how informed you are,” Luon glared at the guide as he spoke.
“N-n-no sir, please excuse me,” the man hastily replied as he started to chase after Ner. Compared to the fully armoured man whose facial expression and tone of voice couldn’t be depicted at a glance, the guide felt that Luon was more difficult to deal with.
‘It’s not like anything will change. But just in case I’ll notify them about the changes,’ he thought.
Luon’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the departing figure of the pair. Although he didn’t understand the ambassador’ stance on things, he knew they weren’t simple from the probing he had done so far. He turned and walked towards an alleyway. The darkness coated his body, and he vanished from the comfort of light.
The darkness welcomed him, but the musky air didn’t change. The strange musty smell of metals, hypnotically addictive oil, and the sting from the random piss and garbage was clearer than before.
Hygiene was the least that the citizens of this place worried about.
“Come out. I know you’re there.” Luon politely asked. Although his tone was sincere, his actions betrayed the thought, Luon pulled out a gun and aimed it into the darkness. Despite his lack of proficiency in firearms, he still used it as it seemed to be more intimidating and fitting for the mood. Not that his guest knew of this.
From the sidelines of an alley, emerging from the trash left aside as cover, four cloaked figures appeared before him guarded.
Luon looked at the four, and with his Eye of Insight, he recognized that his opponents aren’t ordinary people. Their average levels were comparable to elite guards at around 60.
Seeing how they hadn’t made a move yet, Luon asked, “How may I help you?”
After spitting out some words, the four of them still hadn’t replied to his query. The only change was that a new figure appeared between them as if they had appeared out of thin air. It surprised Luon as he could not find out how they did it. The newly arrived person replied to Luon, “My name… well, it doesn’t matter that much, but you can call me, Drex, and I am here to make a deal.”
“What kind of deal?” Although his face was expressionless, inwardly, he was filled with joy. People wouldn’t just come up to him and blurt out words like this. To meet in a shady region, voided from sight, either the person is an idiot trader or a powerful individual with quite the backing. The latter option was more evident in this case.
“Since you know who I am, and you’re proposing something, you must know what I want, right?” Luon probed.
“You and your friend need to find a way the Nexus solar system or Dragon’s Valley in a short amount of time, am I right? Well, I want something from you, and trust me, unlike the other people you may meet up with my conditions, would be more favourable for you. Are you interested?”
“Let’s hear it first. I may disappoint you. What do you want?”
“A trade route.”
“Excuse me? I am but a simple person, not a trader of any kind,” Luon quickly retorted. He wasn’t a merchant, so how was he supposed to provide this? However, the man understood his thoughts as answered, “You’re from the Nexus solar system, and you’re famous too. I’m sure you have a few connections to people that deal with goods. What I want is a stable trade route to convert our excess Galaxia coins into goods.”
When robbing, it was easy to use most goods, Galaxia coins can be transferred quickly, but if there was no market for them, then they were useless. Even if the members at Alpha Hideout were to head to the Global Market at the Alliance headquarters, their treatment would be no less than the same as someone sells goods to a foreigner at Alpha Hideout, expensive and unfair.
Luon gave it some thought. Most traders wouldn’t want to deal with Alpha Hideout; The trader must have enough strength to safeguard their goods. As for how many merchants and traders Luon knew, there were none. If anything Zekar, who was lord of the underworld in the Nexus capital planet was the closest existence that may help.
Knowing these facts, Luon asked, “I may know someone, but right now I am unable to connect to them. I wonder if you have a method to do so?”
The man nodded and waved his hand. One guard walked towards Luon while holding an object, prompting Luon to use it.
It was an old-fashioned tablet. There weren’t many features available on it; The only one Luon could see right away was the messaging and call system. All he needed to do was fill in the addressee to make contact. However, the moment he did, so he would make a bond between the two groups.
Luon hesitated for a moment. The man added on, “The tablet can connect to a private signal tower we constructed, unlike the BMPU, it’s easier to get a signal with it.”
Luon nodded, the man seemed honest enough, and worst-case scenario Zekar would have a bunch of random callers. Luon operated the device, the line connected and Zekar appeared, he looked confused as few people would have his contact information, but his confusion turned to a surprised look as he said, “My gods, could ghost call people on digital devices these days?”
“Enough, with the jokes. You know I wouldn’t contact you for no reason, right?”
“Well, you could have called me to say that you’re still well, right?” Zekar slyly replied.
“Yes, yes. I’m still alive and well,” Luon answered before he explained his current circumstances to Zekar before handing it to the other party.
Zekar and the man continued to exchange words for a few minutes before he turned the tablet off and said, “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you. In a few days, our convoy will depart to make a trade at Dragon City. We will contact you and your partner on the day. That being said, where are you staying at?”
Luon didn’t want to stay at the embassy as it would cost him an excessive amount of Galaxia coins, but he didn’t know how well other places would treat him, he asked Drex if he could arrange for him a place to stay.
Drex nodded as he said, “I have some friends at a hotel, the location is within our territory so you shouldn’t face too much trouble, but I would recommend keeping it down low. The ambassador knows about your arrival and has already notified the Black Hand.”
“The Black Hand?”
“They are a recently emerging group that has been causing trouble recently. Word has it they have a foreign backer, and they’re trying to control the pirating and trading business at Alpha Hideout. The ambassador seemed to have partnered with them. I’m not surprised if they had already marked you.”
“Take this. Zekar said he needed to contact you later. I’ll notify the hotel about your arrival. If you need to contact me, ask the receptionist there. Until then.” After warning Luon, the man handed the tablet before vanishing with his guards.
Tucking the device away Luon left the alleyway. Immediately he met up with another man proclaiming that he was from the embassy sent for his protection.
‘Monitoring, it looks like the ambassador truly ain’t that simple,’ Luon thought as the two began to left the area, but the only thought Luon had was what to do next.