1

Winter, along with its biting cold winds, enveloped the entire city of Maple Leaf in an unrelenting chill.

Even so, with it being the most prosperous city in the southwestern section of Holy Maniya Empire, Maple Leaf City still remained as lively as ever.

Several horse-drawn carriages laden with goods hurriedly traversed the marble-paved main road of the city, while various vendors selling hot drinks and cooked food enthusiastically called out to any pedestrian walking by the streets.

The guards, clad in half-plate armor patrolled the streets diligently to uphold the city’s order, while distant chimes echoed from the cathedral located in the central square, as its loud knell reverberated throughout the city in waves…

Suddenly, a slight commotion arose at the gate entrance, but it was swiftly pacified by the guards stationed at that area.

What followed was a procession of carriages, as the very ground trembled and dust swirled as each wooden vehicles bearing the distinctive emblem of an oriental serpent slowly make their way through the towering gates of the city.

Yet, the citizens within the vicinity merely cast a cursory glance at the new arrivals before resuming their prior activities as nothing was anew.

And in fact, it wasn’t anew as locals had long been accustomed to such a sight, especially moreso recently with caravans like these becoming more and more frequent as of late.

“Oh, another merchant caravan has arrived.”

“Judging by their style, it seems to be a caravan from the Kingdom of Aries. What brings these southerners here from such a distant place?”

“They’re probably here to attend the Count’s auction, right?”

“Most likely. Rumor has it the Lord seized another resistance stronghold and captured numerous Oakhand elves.”

“Not just elves! I heard that there were also some humans as well, all of whom were eventually enslaved.”

“Shh… Keep your voice down.”

Such whispered exchanges were shared amongst the city residents.

Meanwhile, back at the city gates, the newly arrived caravan was finally permitted entry as these newcomers proceeded towards the heart of the city.

Sitting by the front and peering through the carriage windows, numerous players couldn’t conceal their excitement as they inspect the bustling city passing right before their eyes.

“Maple City…So this is Maple Leaf City!”

Little Salty Cat gazed at the bustling street crowd with sparkling delight.

So many humans! What a lively city!

This human metropolis seemed way more prosperous in comparison to the bleak Blackrock City of the Dark-Dwarves underground.

“This should be the former Elven Royal Capital. Looking at the buildings around us, there’s still some semblance of elven architecture, although the outer city walls appeared to have been built much later.”

HootyBird spoke as her gaze keenly observed the structures around her.

Li Mu, on the other hand, looked at the busy pedestrians around him. Silently observing them as some bargained with merchants, while others do mundane things or converse with each other.

Finally, the Guildmaster of Natural Hearts couldn’t contain himself anymore as he let out an astonished sigh.

“Man…Entering Blackrock City was one thing, and reaching Riverwood was another, but here…a city so lively and bustling, with NPCs so vivid and lifelike—it’s really hard to believe that this degree of realism could be recreated within a game…I truly wonder how the game servers could handle such a crazy amount of load, and it seems like, just like the older maps, every NPC in this city also uses a unique character model. So far, I’ve seen no reskin do far. My God, just how—”

“Tch, Brother Mu, you talk way too much! If it weren’t for its realistic and vivid elements, wouldn’t this game still be called Elven Kingdom? I’d say just don’t worry about it and just think of it like some advanced black alien-tech fuckery or something,”

Demacia interjected as he rubbed his hands expectantly.

“Anyhow, regardless of how it was achieved, what’s only important to us players is to explore new maps, triggering hidden questlines, and of course, making some boatload of cash along the way!”

While the players expressed their excitement, Anders, who had also returned along with the caravan, jumped down from another carriage and walked towards them.

“Mr. Li Mu, Miss. Little Salty Cat.”

The old butler bowed slightly to the two youngsters.

“This is Maple Leaf City. I have urgent matters to attend to and won’t be accompanying you much further in exploring the city.”

“However…I know most of you came for the Elven slaves. Fret not, I can introduce you to the most renowned slaving company in the city.”

“Feel free to ask any personnel of that company if you need anything. With my introduction, they will definitely accomodate you well and conduct business with your caravan.”

“As the Borderlord’s personal steward, I have the capacity to connect you with these people.”

Proudly stated by Anders.

The players’ eyes lit up after hearing the older man’s words.

A Slaving Company!

It’s exactly what they needed!

When they learned that there would be an auction in Maple Leaf City, and that there were elves among the things that will be auctioned, the players immediately knew… that they have to involve themselves in this auction no matter what!

An special event where enslaved elves will be sold…

Why, this upcoming auction practically has ‘hidden questline’ written all over it and nobody would have believed it otherwise, if they say that it wouldn’t be the case!

“Thank you, Mr. Anders.”

Li Mu politely smiled and bowed to the old butler as Anders showed a look of satisfaction with Li Mu’s courteous demeanor.

Subtly, the old man’s posture straightened even more.

Then, he reached into his pocket and took out a pen he always carried with him before ordering a guard to fetch a piece of paper. He then nimbly wrote something on it and promptly handed it to Li Mu.

“Mr. Li Mu, this is the address of Maple Leaf City’s most famous slave company. Mention my name, and they will certainly treat you well.”

“There are still three days until the day of the Silver Moon, and the annual auction will also be held during that time. With the introduction from the slave company, you can attend as honored guests in this event.”

“Well then…I wish you all a pleasant time during your stay here in Maple Leaf City, farewell.”

After saying this, Anders finally bid farewell to the players and hastily left.

Once the old butler finally completely disappeared from their view, the players swiftly exchanged glances and felt the urge to explore the city…

However, at this moment, the lanky guard who had come along with them suddenly approached their group with a look of hesitation.

“Do you have something to say, Mr. Tom?”

Li Mu subtly inquired without changing his expression.

After spending some time together, the players eventually learned that the guard’s name was actually Tom.

However, being a commoner, he only had a first name and no last name.

“Young master Li Mu.”

Tom hesitated for a moment, then gritted his teeth and said:

“Please hear me out…Never go to that address given to you by Sir. Anders.”

“Hmm? Why is that?”

Taking a deep breath, Tom continued.

“Since you are from the Kingdom of Aries, most of you are likely unaware of certain matters concerning our territory. Mr. Anders is the Lord’s steward in charge of affairs regarding the slavery trade and has close ties with many companies in Maple Leaf City, particularly the shady types. “

“Let me tell you, that old steward is a very greedy guy! He often leads newly arrived caravans to a company where he has close connection to.”

“Also, some locals knew that if the steward personally accompanied someone, it meant he was fostering genuine relationship with the other party. However, if he only provided an introduction letter, then the personnel of the company you were introduced to would know right away that Anders’ intention was to take advantage of the group written on his letter.”

“Looking at the way it turned out, that steward introduced the slave company to your group but didn’t escort you personally so he definitely doesn’t have good intentions towards your caravan.”

“Be careful young masters! All these companies have really deep backgrounds. Even if you have nobles backing you in the Kingdom, you are still within the territory of the Empire. As outsiders without deep imperial backing, you will definitely suffer at their hands…”

“I’m afraid…that greedy steward must have regarded your group as…flocks of fat sheeps waiting to be butchered.”

The lanky guard blurted out in an impassioned speech as if revealing everything all he wanted to say.

“…Why are you telling us this?”

Surprised by his words, Little Salty Cat asked.

After a moment of hesitation, Tom continued:

“I know… your group are definitely not just a simple caravan, and while you young masters might be nobles from the south, but… you are also the good and rare kind of nobles, so I don’t want to see your group being taken advantage of here in our country.”

“Please believe me, young masters. Just stroll around the city while you’re waiting for the auction instead of acquainting yourselves with a shady company. During the auction, there will naturally be many kinds of trade companies participating, and there will also be caravans on-site willing to do business with anyone.”

“So if you really want to do business, you’re better off transacting directly at that time and it’ll be more secured rather than involving yourselves with shady companies…”

Looking at the guard who spoke such series of words, Demacia looked surprised.

“How do you know so much anyway?”

A hint of nostalgia appeared on Tom’s face.

“I actually used to be a city guard here in Maple Leaf City, but then one day, I was hit by an arrow in the knee and had to retire…”

Demacia: “…”

Tomato: “…”

Li Mu: “…”

After finishing what he wanted to say, Tom politely bowed to the players.

“Young masters, that’s all I wanted to say. Whether you believe it or not is up to you. I won’t continue following you any longer seeing as we’ve already arrived here in Maple Leaf City. Please take care…”

After saying that, he left in a hurry without ever looking back.

“Why did he run away? Even if we don’t believe him, it’s not like we will eat him, right?”

Watching the lanky guard’s departing figure, Little Salty Cat frowned slightly.

“We won’t, but old man Anders might not. He’s probably trying to avoid that butler.” HootyBird said.

Little Salty Cat suddenly showed a look of realization.

After the two humans left, the group of players stared at each other in a bemused manner while their caravan stopped at the city square.

As soon as they parked their carriages, many onlookers were gradually drawn towards them.

After all, with more than a dozen carriages and two hundred good-looking people, it’s came to no surprise that a crowd would then immediately gather, given their conspicuous presence at a heavily crowded area.

“…So what should we do next? Should we explore separately or do we still have act together? Or perhaps do we need to go to that slave company right away?”

A player asked.

Li Mu glanced at the note Anders gave him and formed a wry smile. He then took a screenshot of it and shared it over to the group’s chatroom:

⤷ Hey everyone, look at what this company is called.

Tomato opened the chat and looked at the image that was uploaded just seconds ago.

“…Sauron Trade Company?”

“Hmm? Why does this sounds so familiar?”

“Oh! Doesn’t this company have the same name as that syndicate that operated the smuggling caravan where Boss Box and Miss Nightingale first hooked up?!”

Demacia exclaimed but he was unceremoniously kicked by Boxlunch immediately after.

“Yeah, that very same Sauron Syndicate!”

Li Mu’s nodded as his eyes brightened.

“That smuggling syndicate and this slaving company are probably both connected to the Sauron Household…which if I remember, is an officially recognized hostile force in ElvKing and according to what Lady Alice had said, it’s a noble household that mainly oversees the trade of enslaved elves!”

“Now that we uncovered this, doesn’t we now have more reasons to go to this address?”

He suggested:

“However, we have too many people in our group. I propose that the three major guilds act separately, and each individual players can decide for themselves what they want to do on their own.”

“Some of you can go to the Sauron Company to gather information, while some can also inquire about the ruins and other noteworthy information from the locals, and others can also try to contact this city’s underworld organizations just to see if they can find some information about the Oakhand Resistance that was mentioned before by those two humans we traveled along the way…”

“Of course, the last two options can be done together. But our main focus should be the first task and I don’t think we need too many people to go to the Sauron Company.”

Each of the players then began to talk amongst themselves as they weigh in the options. A couple of moments passed and when the conversation was finally dying down, Little Salty Cat stepped forward and said,

“Then, my guild Moe Moe will inquire about the ruins. Sister Birdy and I are quite curious about this mysterious ruins you see,”

Tomato also stepped forward and proclaimed,

“We of the First Legion will go look for the underworld organization.”

“Heh, are you really looking? Or are you going to just pick a fight with the underworld organizations of this city?”

Demacia mockingly chuckled as he received a disdainful looks from Tomato. However, he payed it no mind and rubbed his hands eagerly.

“So…that leaves us, Nature’s Hearts to infiltrate Sauron Company, right Brother Mu?” Demacia smirked and added, “That’s great! I was just thinking of doing some business with that slaving company! And I’ve already discussed it with a few buddies of mine…”

After saying that, he and several other players draped their arms around each other, before sharing a sinister laughter while looking as mischievous as they could.

“What are you guys up to? Planning to commit suicide-scam again?”

Li Mu raised an eyebrow.

“Cough… we’ve already chosen the Sauron Company option anyway, so… can’t we do whatever we want?”

Demacia’s eyes darted around.

Li Mu: “…”

“By the way, Little Cat, did you bring the Lionheart Sword with you? Lend it to me, will ya! I’ll definitely return it to you later!” After saying that, Demacia looked at the petite girl in a comical pleading manner.

“…What are you doing?”

Little Salty Cat instinctively took two steps back.

“Cough…don’t you want to do some business?” Demacia said awkwardly.

Little Salty Cat: “…”

Her eyes then flickered slightly as if realizing something, and suddenly, she pulled out a long sword wrapped in a cloth from the carriage without hesitation, before handing it to Demacia:

“Here, take it. No need to pay rent. We’ll split whatever gains you’ll make 30-70, with you getting thirty percent.”

Demacia: “…”

“Only thirty?…Isn’t my share too little?” he wailed.

“Hey, I invested the capital.”

Little Salty Cat remarked casually whilst shifting her gaze towards the Lionheart Sword.

Demacia: “…”

“Also, I temporarily unbound it so you can bind it to yourself for a few days. If you dare lose it or if you somehow damaged the sword then be fully prepared to be hunted down by my people.”

Demacia: “…”

Maple Leaf City, West District.

Being the commercial district of the entire city, adjacent to the slums, this business district is rife with chaos, as myriads of incident occurs here on an almost daily basis.

As such, the lawlessness of this district eventually gave rise to numerous underworld organizations, including the black market, but along with it also came endless flow of money, and whenever money amassed, a multitude of other major legitimate commercial companies would sure to follow.

The same goes for Sauron Trade Company.

As the largest smuggling group on the continent, it naturally also has its own branch office in Maple Leaf City.

Inside, a middle-aged man wearing a wig while dressed in the attire of an imperial noble, sat gloomily in his luxurious seat.

This middle-aged man’s name is Caige Sauron, the acting branch leader of the Maple Leaf City’s Sauron Company branch.

At this moment, Mr. Caige was not in a particularly good mood.

“Are those elves still refusing to eat?”

He asked gloomily while rhythmically tapping the glass sculptures imported from the south on his table.

“Yes, Master Caige, those elves still refuses to eat no matter what…”

On the other side, a fat man dressed as a steward reported while wiping the sweat off his forehead.

“These stubborn long-eared bitches! Do they really want to die so badly!?”

Caige then grabbed the ornament sculpture on the table and threw it to the ground, smashing it to pieces.

The steward was startled; he hesitated for a moment and said:

“W-Why don’t we just use mind control then? Master Caige, these elves are all die-hard fanatical members of Oakhand Resistance. I’m afraid… they would rather die than submit to us. In the end…I’m afraid we’ll have to use some force to control these slaves.”

“…Mind control?”

Caige frowned.

“No, It’ll damage the souls of these slaves if we use such magic. They are elves, which are magically-attuned creatures. Under the spell of mind control, their souls will inevitably be harmed, thus losing their sanity…and elves without a sane mind won’t fetch a good price.”

The fat steward then showed a troubled expression after hearing it.

“But… as you know, we bought these elves from the Count at a low price since all of them were part of Oakhand Resistance, and every member of that organization are tough as hell and almost cannot be tamed…”

Caige’s brows furrowed even tighter.

However at this moment, suddenly, the office door was knocked on lightly.

“What is it?”

Caige raised his head, feeling annoyed at the voice that interrupted his thoughts.

At this moment, the respectful voice of a subordinate came from outside the door:

“Sir Caige, some southern young nobles have arrived outside. These people claimed to be introduced by Lord Anders and stated that they have a big business deal to discuss with you.”

“Introduced by Anders? A big business?”

Caige narrowed his eyes slightly.

275

BIG BUSINESS IN MAPLE LEAF CITY 】

TL/N : Soren now changed to Sauron.

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