The old street was said to be among the first built in the town. The settlers that founded Whitestag initially built it to connect the town to Lake Balinga and the jetty there. Later, people built their houses and shops on both sides of the road. It turned into the town’s main street.
Whitestag slowly grew from a hamlet, to a village, to a full-fledged town. As it did, its central business district shifted further and further east. Nowadays, the old street was the messiest jetty slum in town.
Claude the transmigrator had never gone there. He recalled his body’s last owner that he had been there twice. The first was when he went fishing near the public jetty. The other was when he stole Old Benz’s horse for a ride, startling it and causing it to gallop to the slums and onto the jetty. Eriksson, who sat on the horse’s back behind him, was completely terrified. The people who chased behind them could barely breathe by the end of it.
Those two visits had been brief and passing at best. Nothing happened, so he didn’t have any strong impression of the place. However, the four’s parents had warned them to not play there again after the last incident.
It didn’t seem dangerous though. There were only two rows of run-down huts along the street and a few people passed by occasionally.
“It looks peaceful, right?” Eriksson said, knowing Claude’s thoughts.
“Dad told me the security here is bad and forbade me from coming here. It doesn’t look much different from the other parts of town.”
“Your dad is right. This is the most dangerous part of town. Don’t be fooled by the calm. It’s still day now, things are completely different at night…”
“Hahaha,” Borkal laughed. “Eyke, you told this was the merriest in town. You told me women filled the street at night and that the sailors came here to have fun. What is this about danger now?”
Claude realised what was going on and changed the topic.
“Is Mock’s Goods nearby?”
“No, it’s further ahead. It’s almost at the end of the street, near the jetty. See it? It’s that grey two-storey building over there,” Eriksson answered as he pointed down the road.
The grey two-storey building was actually five lots in a row connected. The lower floor was filled with storefronts. Claude didn’t see a sign with, only a new wooden plaque with ‘Mock’s Fishing and Boat Tools’.
The three shops to its left were already open. Many linen ropes hung outside the shop. A rolled-up sail and large and medium barrels lined the storefront. The outside of one of the shops was covered in scaffolding. The oldest two shops were being renovated.
“That’s Mock’s Goods,” Eriksson said as he pointed at the scaffolds, “The three on the left are also theirs, but they rented them to someone else. The guy opened a restaurant. Pijak’s son ended the lease when he took over so it’s fallen back to him.”
“Are you sure it’ll really buy our pelts?” Claude asked.
“Yes. I’m Eriksson, the young master of the Shark of Red Sea. My father is the famed Captain Altroni and half the sailors here know me. I get to hear about what happens on the jetty faster than anyone else. I found out about Wakri changing his shop long ago. I also know all about what he buys and sells.”
“Well, I bet anyone who isn’t blind is aware of that,” Borkal chirped, pointing at two large wooden boards.
The boards depicted the goods and prices sold at the shop while the smaller ones displayed what the shop bought though they weren’t priced.
“Wakri went to Chirp Leather hoping to buy fur and pelts off them as part of a long-term deal. They turned him away so now the stores are competitors. He will buy Wero’s pelts for a higher price,” Borkal said confidently.
“Uncle Wakri? Uncle Wakri! Are you here?” Eriksson called out as they entered the empty shop.
“Who is it?” a voice called from somewhere in the darkness further inside. A tall, lanky man in his forties stepped out, chewing something.
Ah, they had forgotten it was noon. Wakri was probably having lunch.
“Oh, it’s Lil’ Eyke. What brings you here?” the middle-aged man asked in a muddled voice.
Eriksson didn’t notice he had interrupted the man’s lunch at all.
“My classmate was about to take two pelts to Chirp Leathers. I remembered you buy leather as well and dragged him here instead. I told him you pay much better than them.”
“Oh? What pelt?–” Wakri chewed on his food a little faster and swallowed. “–Let me take a look. If it is good, I’ll make a good offer.”
“It’s goat pelts,” Eriksson said honestly, beckoning Welikro over.
Wakri inspected the pelts closely. He appeared a practiced hand.
“If you take these to Chirp Leathers, you’ll only get six riyas. Since Lil’ Eyke brought you here, I won’t disappoint. How about seven riyas?” Wakri offered after a while.
“Nine and they’re yours.” Brokal immediately started bargaining.
“No, no, no. Nine riyas is too much. Nobody would pay that much for these two. Just look at them. New pelts might fetch that price, but not these two.”
Wakri put the pelts down.
“If you insist on this price, then I’m afraid you’ll have to go try your luck with Chirp Leathers. Who knows? Maybe they’ll buy them.”
“Come on, Uncle Wakri, just raise the price a bit. I’ll get him to lower his. It’s troublesome to have to come all the way here,” Eriksson chirped.
“Fine, seven riyas and four sunars. Only because Lil’ Eyke’s here.”
“Eight riyas and you have a deal,” Borkal countered immediately, “Uncle Wakri, unlike normal leather shops, you use the pelts you buy to make fishing and boat supplies. You need wild animal pelts because they keep heat better and are water resistant. You don’t really care about the size.
“That’s because even the largest goods you make are leather vests and gloves and shoes. The leftovers can be cut into threads and woven into fishing nets. You can easily make a nice profit even if you buy these for eight riyas.
“His dad’s Kubrik Fezka. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He’s the best hunter in Whitestag. If you buy his pelts for eight riyas, I believe his dad will stop selling to Chirp Leathers. If word of this spreads, all the hunters will know where they ought to sell their catches.”
Wakri stared at the group for a few moments before finally yielding.
“Fine, eight riyas. You better make sure your father comes here next time.”
Nobody could promise that, but they knew if Welikro’s thrifty sister found out about how much the man had paid for the pelts, she would not let her father sell them to Chirp Leathers, so they quickly agreed.
“We also want to buy something. Do you still have some of the stuff you sold before?”
Eriksson was almost dumbstruck. He had seen the board outside, much of the stuff they wanted to buy wasn’t on it.
“What are you looking for?” Wakri asked, handing Welikro his eight riyases.
“Bullets, gunpowder, sulphur, and lime powder, and some bug repellant.”
“Oh, it’s all inside. Come and take a look. I only put our main products on the board.”
The inside was more or less the same size as the storefront. Only, the wooden windows at the rearmost wall were smaller and there were a number of wooden sticks rested against it, so the lighting wasn’t that good. But it was a sunny afternoon, so it was still enough to see.
“Whoa! You put your gem all the way back here?” Eriksson yelped as his gaze caught on the silver-yellow shortsword hanging on the wall.
“Hey, you guys, come take a look! This is that precious ivory shortsword I told you about.”
A one by half a meter box hung on the wall. Inside, a dark-blue velvet cloth hung. In the middle of it was a short, silver-yellow shortsword about seventy centimetres long.
Claude recalled Eriksson had called it a precious weapon. The handle was said to be made entirely of ivory and its body was silver-yellow. The blade was rumoured to be forged of a metal alloy mixed with a meteorite and be able to cut through other metal easily. It was a weapon fitting of the label ‘treasure’.
Everybody knew its story. The first owner of Mock’s Goods saved a troubled captain at sea. The captain turned out to be a foreign noble. After he recovered enough to return to his kingdom, he gave the sword to Mock.
Someone had once offered him ten crowns for the sword, but Mock wouldn’t sell. He treated it like an heirloom. It was passed down to his son upon his death, and to his grandson upon his.
“How much is it worth?” Borkal asked habitually.
“Can it really cut metal?” Welikro chirped.
Claude shrugged. He believed it was nothing more than an ornament nobles used to show off their wealth. The ivory handle was definitely not as tough as a normal hemp-wrapped one. Putting aside the latter’s sweat absorption, the sheer force from strikes would be enough crack the ivory. Naturally, it was a whole other story if the sword could really cut metal like mud.
“What type of bullets and gunpowder are you looking for?” Wakri asked, ignoring their questions completely.