Jason looked at the various suits of cloth armour draped over the balcony. He had taken three with him on the field assessment, and each had come back covered in rents and tears. Gary was standing next to Jason, also looking them over.
“I’m going to need some new armour before I take any contracts,” Jason said.
“I told you that you needed something heavier,” Gary said.
The armour was all heavy fabric with a few reinforced sections. A combination of magical construction and alchemical treatment of the fabric made it tougher than it looked, but the effect was limited.
“I don’t want to lose the flexibility,” Jason said. “My powers are better suited to speed and mobility, healing up the occasional hit.”
“Then if you won’t increase the bulk,” Gary said, “you’ll need to increase the quality.”
“Meaning something more expensive,” Jason said.
“That’s right,” Gary said. “It’s not like you don’t have the money, and can you really put a price on not dying?”
“That’s certainly hard to argue against,” Jason said. “And I do still have a decent amount of money.”
“You should definitely buy something good,” Gary said, “but don’t take it too far with iron-rank armour. Just find something reasonably protective and save up for bronze rank. What you really want is something that has a self-repair enchantment, which will save you a good lot of money on repairs.”
“Do you know where to find something like that?” Jason asked. “I looked around at the guild district markets, and these were the best I found.”
He pointed out the bedraggled suits of armour.
“There’s only one place to go for the really good stuff,” Gary said. “You’re an adventurer, now, so you can start enjoying the perks.”
Jason hadn’t been allowed entry to the Adventure Society trade hall, but he had seen it from the outside. It was a huge complex of buildings just off the loop line station, with several annexed structures connecting off a massive central building.
It was a huge bazaar restricted to members of the Adventure Society, along with traders who received dispensation to operate there. It was where Adventurers could trade away any valuables, sell off old equipment and buy gear and supplies for their adventures. Jason was yet to receive his Adventure Society badge, gaining entry with a temporary permit he received with the results of his assessment.
Inside the main hall, Gary led the way as they merged into a crowd as packed as any Old City street market. It was a vast, open room, three storeys high, with two mezzanine levels. Light poured in from a series of skylights that made up the bulk of the ceiling.
The ground level was a boisterous mix of stalls, ranging from the semi-permanent to the very temporary. Some were just an open tent with a few items laid out on a table. Others were essentially stores, constructed from artfully dyed and woven reed panels, complete with signage. Most fell somewhere in between, but all were swarmed with people almost shoulder to shoulder.
“I didn’t realise there were this many adventurers,” Jason said, speaking loudly over the din of people.
“A lot of them aren’t active adventurers,” Gary said. “Mostly they’re essence users from the aristocratic and wealthy families who joined the society for the benefits. Like the right to come here.”
“But they had to pass the field assessment, right?”
“Not all field assessments are alike,” Gary said. “Just ask Rufus if you want to hear him complain for an hour. The problem is worse here than in most places.”
“What about monster surges?” Jason asked. “They have to front up for those, right?”
“They do,” Gary said, “but most places have what’s called a reserve program.”
“Meaning they get to stand at the back?” Jason asked.
“That’s the one,” Gary said.
Gary led him to the side of the hall, where arcades led toward other buildings in the complex, but instead of leaving the main hall, they took one of the broad stairways leading up.
“The main floor is all iron rank stuff,” Gary said. “Next floor up is bronze.”
The second and third floor were mezzanine levels. Gary didn't pause at the second, leading them up to the third.
“The third floor is silver rank?” Jason guessed.
“No, there isn’t the market for it here,” Gary said. “Apparently there’s only forty or so silver rankers in the whole city, and they aren't very active. The magic level here is too low, so silver-rank monsters are rare. Any silver rankers here permanently are semi-retired at best. People like Danielle Geller and Thalia Mercer are only here in anticipation of the monster surge.”
“So what is the third floor for?” Jason asked.
“Brokerages,” Gary said. “Most adventurers can’t be bothered with the trouble of renting a stall and waiting around for people to buy whatever random pile of loot they have. Brokers buy almost anything of value and sort it for more effective sale. For a percentage, of course.”
“That’s fair enough,” Jason said.
“Brokers also organise the auctions,” Gary said. “In a smaller city like this, they’ll usually hold on to the valuable stuff, like essences and awakening stones. Then the brokers will work together to hold a big auction event. Once we finish that shield, that’ll sell at auction.”
The most valuable item Jason looted during the field assessment was the shell of the rune tortoise. Finding an intact one was rare and lucrative, as they could be turned into magical shields. Gary and Farrah were going to work on it together, then split the profits three ways with Jason.
“Most brokers also do money-changing services,” Gary said. “If you want to split a coin, say bronze down to iron, they’ll do it for free. If you go the other way they charge ten percent. That’s standard everywhere, so if they ask for more, just go somewhere else.”
Gary led them into a brokerage office, where they were greeted by a receptionist. They were quickly led into a room where they were met by an item assessor, who would value the items so they could get paid. They just had to put out everything on a table for the assessor to go over.
Jason put out the various items he had looted from monsters. There was bark-lurker hide, monster cores and a variety of loose quintessence gems. On Gary’s advice, Jason kept certain items, but most of it was cleared out to make room in Jason’s increasingly full inventory. Even if many items stacked into a single slot, he was getting close to filling all forty spaces. Jason had a strange moment as he took out the magical robes he had taken from Landemere Vane.
Landemere was the very first person Jason met in his new world. He was also the first person Jason killed. It had been less than two months, but he felt like a completely different person from the concussed, panicked idiot in the Vane family basement.
“Something wrong?” Gary asked, and Jason realised he was staring into space, the robes held in his hands. The blood had long since been cleaned off of them.
“I’m fine,” Jason said, putting the folded robes on the table.
With fresh coins added to the currency counter in his inventory, they headed back downstairs and into the main hall. Making their way through the throng as they looked at the goods on offer, Jason spotted a familiar face. Jory’s stand wasn’t one of the permanent stalls, but it was one of the larger ones. At the front was a glass counter lined with colourful bottles and vials, behind which stood Jory himself. Most of the stall was storage space, hidden behind a curtain. While Jory was selling a woman a bottle of perfume, Jason perused the chalkboard beside the counter listing the available products.
“Crystal wash,” he read out loud.
“Seriously?” Jory asked, as his customer rejoined the crowd. “I can only make so much of it, and there are other people who want to buy it. People who don’t get the friends discount.”
“You realise I had to trudge through a bog marsh, right? To protect the poor, innocent people of the delta?”
“I can give you one crate, but that’s it for the week.”
“Twelve bottles?” Jason said. “I can’t get by on twelve bottles.”
“You do know about showers and baths, right?” Jory asked.
“He cleans his teeth with it,” Gary said.
“What?” Jory said.
“It leaves my mouth feeling fresh,” Jason said.
“Well, if you want more,” Jory said, “I’m not the only alchemist here.”
“What about those assistants you were talking about getting from the Alchemy Association?” Jason asked.
“Expanding my operations isn’t something I can just do on a whim, you know. I have a lot of demands on my time.”
“I thought that’s why you wanted the assistants,” Jason said. “Someone to take over the grunt work.”
They paused for Jory to sell an adventurer a bundle of potions.
“It isn’t that simple,” Jory said, resuming their conversation. “If I’m going to do it properly I need to put together a whole new facility. Extra space, new equipment. Wages for the assistants. You know the kind of margins I work under.”
“That’s fair,” Jason said. “Have you considered investors?”
“You offering?” Jory asked.
Jason held up a hand, three gold coins stacked between his thumb and forefinger.
“Something like this get you started?”
The basic coin of the realm was the lesser spirit coin. Iron spirit coins were worth a hundred lesser coins, used by bulk traders, adventurers and other members of the wealthy elite. After that, it was ten iron to the bronze, ten bronze to the silver and ten silver to the gold. The gold spirit coins in Jason’s hand was worth three hundred thousand units of the basic currency.
“You’re not serious?” Jory said, to which Jason placed the coins down on the counter. Jory hesitantly picked them up, peering at them nestled in his palm.
“Do you know how many people I can help with this kind of money?” Jory asked.
“It doesn’t matter how many people you help,” Jason said. “What matters is if this gets me another crate of crystal wash.”
“I still can’t believe you gave him all that money,” Gary said as they made their way through the crowd.
“It’s an investment,” Jason said.
“In what? That guy spends all his money on helping sick poor people.”
“But imagine a world where everyone gave money for things like that,” Jason said.
Gary thought it over for a moment.
“Then there’d be more healthy poor people?”
Jason allowed himself to be led by Gary’s expertise as they looked at various armour for sale. They checked out large stalls selling armour in job lots and small stalls with expensive, handcrafted work. The main hall was only the beginning of the grand bazaar. Side corridors led to sprawling arcades lined with boutique shops. Jason spotted one with a sign so long it threatened to encroach on the abutting storefront.
GILBERT’S RESILIENT ATTIRE FOR THE DISCERNING GENTLEMAN
Jason walked inside, which was a large open space lined with armour of the lighter variety Jason preferred, largely cloth and leather. Most of the wares were draped over mannequins to demonstrate the hang of the garb. Several customers were perusing the wares, along with the proprietor in a frock coat that bulged heavily in the middle. Jason recognised the middle-aged man’s paunchy frame and balding head.
“Bert,” Jason said.
“Indeed I am, sir. Gilbert, of Gilbert’s Resilient Attire For the Discerning Gentleman. For fine men as yourselves, however, I invite and appeal upon you to call me Bert. I take it from that glint of recognition in your eye that you are familiar with one of my brothers? Please tell me it isn’t Filbert, of Filbert’s Fine Leather Emporium.”
“Uh, no,” Jason said. “I’m Jason, and this is Gary.”
Gary waved vaguely from where he was already inspecting the merchandise.
“I’ve met Bertram and Albert and Herbert, but not Filbert,” Jason said. “You’re quintuplets?”
“Actually, it’s octuplets,” Gilbert said.
“There’s eight of you?”
“Indeed there are,” Gilbert said. “There’s Robert, who sells fruit with Herbert, but on the Island instead of Old City.”
“Selling the same fruit, but charging three times as much?” Jason asked.
“I knew you for a gentleman of discernment,” Gilbert said. “There’s also Hubert, but we don’t really talk about him. Got caught up with a criminal element. That just leaves Bertrand. He’s the handsome one.”
“You aren’t all identical?”
“No, we are.”
Jason was about to inquire further when Gary jostled his arm.
“There’s some quality stuff here,” Gary said. “Take a look at this.”
“Ah,” Gilbert said. “Trap weaver silk, alchemically treated for maximum resiliency. Leather panels carefully placed to provide additional protection without compromising flexibility. The magic is integrated right down to the weaving pattern of the cloth. Tricky and laborious work, but the results speak for themselves. It also allows for the loose, flowing design, which is quite unusual with protective wear.”
Just as Gilbert said, the armour was almost a robe, in shifting shades of dark grey. The more fitted parts around the torso, arms and legs had black leather panels, but the layered garment was also draped with flowing cloth. It was a strange combination of tactical armour from Jason’s world and some kind of wizard robe. Jason was immediately taken with it.
“There’s a mythological order of dark warrior mystics where I come from,” Jason said. “They dress like this. I don’t suppose you know where I can get a sword with a blade made of red light?”
“Not in this city,” Gary said. “I’ve seen some gold-rank weapons like that.”
“Nice,” Jason said. “I have to start ranking up.”
“You’re a long, long way from gold rank,” Gary said with a laugh. “You should keep your eyes on what’s in front of you, for now.”
Gilbert smelled a sale and continued his spiel.
“The mix of shades and the flowing lines are of value to clients who value stealth,” Gilbert said, continuing with his sales pitch. “While not assisted by magic, the drape of the fabric breaks up the lines of the body, making it harder to recognise in the dark.”
“That does actually work,” Gary said, “although it doesn’t really matter with that cloak of yours.”
Jason reached out to run his fingers over cloth, which felt smooth and sleek.
Item: [Trap Weaver Battle Robe] (iron rank, epic)
A full body armour, carefully hand-crafted from the silk and leather of trap weavers. (armour, cloth/leather).
- Effect: Increased resistance to damage. Highly effective against cutting and piercing damage, less effective against blunt damage.
- Effect: Repairs damage over time. Extensive damage may require external repair.
- Effect: Absorbs blood to prevent leaving a blood trail.
- Effect: Increases resistance to bleed and poison effects.
- Effect: Resistant to adhesive substances and abilities with adhesive effects.
- Effect: Adapts fit to the wearer, within a certain range.
“Well?” asked Gary, familiar with Jason’s ability to examine items.
“I like it,” Jason said. “I like it a lot.”
“It’ll probably cost more than you should really spend,” Gary said, “but you should always spend a little more than you want to on armour. It’ll keep you alive.”
“No wiser words have ever been spoken within the walls of my establishment,” Gilbert said.
Gary took on the job of haggling the price down, both he and Gilbert seeming satisfied with where the number landed. The price was in bronze coins, unusual for iron-rank equipment, but Jason had no issue for the quality of the product. He had only seen a handful of epic-quality armour in all their browsing, none of which met his needs so well as the one he finally purchased.
After paying for the armour, Jason placed it into his inventory. He pulled up the outfits tab, slotting the armour into a new outfit. He then tapped the equip button and obscuring smoke suddenly surrounded him. It cleared a moment later, his clothes gone and the armour in their place.
“Very impressive, sir,” Gilbert said, without apparent surprise. “And might I say, it suits you well. Please, do see for yourself.”
Gilbert pointed Jason to a standing mirror in the corner, where Jason admired himself in the dark combat attire.
“I think I’m having a chuunibyou moment,” Jason said.
“My apologies sir,” Gilbert said, “but I’m not sure I grasp your meaning.”
“We find it’s better not to ask,” Gary said.
Jason’s shadow cloak appeared around him, merging well with flowing lines of dark armour.
“I’m definitely having a chuunibyou moment.”
They left Gilbert’s Resilient Attire For the Discerning Gentleman with Jason back in his street attire.
“I like how loose it feels,” he said. “I wasn’t sure about all the really loose clothes they wear here, but once I started wearing armour I really missed it.”
Jason had long ago bought fresh clothes, discarding those he looted from the Vane Estate. Daywear in Greenstone wouldn’t look out of place at a tropical resort, with bright colours and loose fits. Eveningwear was more fitted and formal, with flaring frock coats in dark, sober colours.
“I like it too,” Gary said. “Finding clothes comfortable over fur can be a pain. You should see what they wear where I come from. It’s basically just underwear and a bunch of belts strapped over everything.”
They were making their way through the crowds in the direction of the exit when Jason stopped when he spotted a stall.
“What is it?” Gary asked.
It was a large stall selling recording crystals. Jason’s eyes fell on a box of crystals being sold in bulk, which he pointed out to the bored-looking woman behind the counter.