Chapter 2: Nervous Rick
"How did he end up like this from drinking?"
In the slums of the Lower City Second District, Quide's deputy, Nayer Rick, looked at the wine bottle in front of him with disgust. Quide was so drunk that he was like a heap of mud. Rick waved his hand and had two members of the Brotherhood carry the man down.
"Lock him in a room for a day. Release him when he is sober."
For him to drink to this state would mean that he could not do much to the child. Rick gave a mysterious smile.
Nayer Rick was a person who preferred others to address him by his surname. Quide fell in ranking from the thugs' chief to the beggars' chief after some setback. In comparison to the sluggish Quide, Rick was an ambitious and capable member of the Brotherhood.
He once studied at an accounting academy at Shocker City, south of the kingdom. If it was not because his scribe father had made a mistake, Rick could be working in the department of a city or even as a treasurer of certain households. He could also go even further and become a merchant of an industry. After some time, he would buy a title and join the upper ranks of the Constellation. Three hundred years ago, a clan with the sunflower symbol, Seucader, had risen just like this and was now a prominent noble clan in the kingdom.
But even though he fell from grace and joined a gang and thus was forever severed from the path of a noble, Rick also believed that his words would have more sway compared to his colleagues whose heads were only filled with muscle and women.
When the Brotherhood expanded to the southern coasts of the kingdom, Rick who happened to pass by was recruited. He utilized his talents and successfully sold a few slaves. The higher ranked members of the Brotherhood took notice of him and promoted him. They then dispatched him to Eternal Star City, the capital of the kingdom, the heart of Constellation and the bright pearl of the western part of the continent. They allowed him to manage the Brotherhood and the accounts of the beggars.
Rick knew that although he had been sent as Quide's deputy and accountant, the beggar's business had already been entrusted to him by the Brotherhood. He looked at his 'boss' Quide who was once a well-known thug in the Third Street for being skilled at using swords and axes. Quide had now become trash that sought dignity from beggars. If Quide was not the son of a high-ranked member of the Brotherhood, he would have long been drowned and left to rot. On top of that, most of the beggar's losses were caused by Quide.
Naturally and fortunately, Quide's father had given Rick a lot of bribe money every month. This was how Rick could still profit.
With such a son, Quide's father would have immediately loss influence and power were he not an arms-dealing Powerhouse1.
What would the outcome of an underworld bigshot that lost his influence be?
Rick shook his head and watched Quide leave.
The beggar's business appeared petty and lowly, especially when compared to smuggling weapons and drugs, the trade of Eternal Oil and Crystal Drop Ores, as well as debt collection.
However, Rick believed that this was his opportunity.
The Brotherhood had grown quickly but human trafficking had always been its major source of profits. They dealt with everything including infants, elderly, humans, elves and even intelligent beings from the Magic Empress' territory. However, the most crucial thing was the origins of the Brotherhood's member. Among them, 'Widow Blackheart' Behrs was responsible for gathering and raising them. She would also sell some of them. The older ones would be sent to Rick to be tempered into beggars. When they grew up, the teenagers would be trained as thugs by 'Ironsheet' Locke and prostitutes by Felicia 'the Unfaithful'. They may also go to the other leaders and be disciplined into becoming members of the Brotherhood.
This was why Rick who ran the beggar business thought he was working at the foundation of the Brotherhood's business and the future of the Brotherhood's transportation lifeline. It was also an information network in the capital. Thinking about it, he could identify all the promising and young future prospects for the Brotherhood. He can then obtain favors for the future.
This went to show that Nayer Rick was an ambitious person.
Besides that, Rick was very excited when he thought of something. This was Eternal Star City! It was the capital of Constellation, the second largest kingdom on the western part of the continent. It was also the birthplace of the Black Street Brotherhood. They can surely see that working here was like being a representative for the bigshots. This also meant that there would be opportunities for promotion.
Naturally, the chances for there to be a bad accident was also quite high.
'I am lucky.' Rick clasped his hands behind his back as he looked at the drunk Quide from afar with his eyebrows raised. 'I am lucky that this guy is a walking disaster.'
Under the moonlight, Rick turned and looked at the dozen or so abandoned houses. He knew that there were many beggars in each one. These seedlings were important chips for his future advancement.
One example was the black-haired Thales from the sixth house. Two years ago, the caretaker Behrs sent him here. She had displayed a different attitude towards that child.
The child who was eight years old at most was clever and crafty. He managed to act out a play and begged for money. A cute child who was beaten up by other children and had his money and food taken away. When he hid at a corner to weep alone, the ladies passing by could not help but give him compensation. Rick found that he was unlike other beggars who cried hoarsely to the extent that others felt depressed. 'We need more people who can use their brains in the Brotherhood.'
'When this child grows up, he would definitely climb higher. I should give him a reward and make him feel grateful. Naturally, without a contrast between the rewards, people will not feel grateful.'
This was also why when the boy from Thales' house claimed that Thales was secretly in possession of some money, Rick urged Quide to investigate the reason. When Thales was almost beaten to death by Quide, Rick would appear and stop him. He was even willing to antagonize Quide if necessary (that was all Quide was good for). Thales would then treat Rick as a patron.
Rick did not care about whether all the money the beggars earned was handed over. This was what only short-sighted people would care about. Compared to a few coppers, Rick understood that human relationship was a more important property.
But this Thales was too clever. Rick knew that Quide would torture Thales to death regardless of whether he possessed the money (which would only be worse if he did have money). However, the boy found a way to escape disaster. According to common understanding, the spirited Quide would 'meticulously' punish the disobedient children to foster talent regardless of whether they were actually disobedient.
'It does not matter. What must be done had to be done. If the effect was not good and it failed, a reason could be found for Quide to beat him up.'
Rick went to the sixth house and walked across the ruined door. He then saw weeds at the yard and Thales gasping for breath as he lied down on the ground. Next to him were a few children smearing something onto him. My God! Children under the age of ten knew how to grow and use Urth Dragon Leaves? Only experienced gang members and the poor that lived for a very long time possessed the know-how to use this herb as a cheap cure for injuries.
"Ah! Mister Rick!" The crippled Ryan noticed Rick's arrival. His experience of having one leg broken had made him more sensitive to the surrounding environment.
It had been less than an hour after Quide was gone, the fear in the yard had yet to have subsided. The informant, Ned's face was covered in tears. Kellet was covering her black face. The eldest, Sinti, flinched.
The youngest, Coria, even screamed from fear.
Behrs had once said that this person had a noble inheritance and was most likely a beautiful woman in the future. She must not be ruined. Profits would come after she was trained by Felicia. It was a pity that the beggars must be handed over at the age of ten, or at latest at the age of twelve. It would be great if I could keep her until fifteen. Thirteen would be fine as well.
"Mister Rick!" Thales interrupted Rick's subtle thoughts. He turned his head with difficulty. The injury on his back caused him to grimace in pain.
"Ah. Thales. I am sorry," Rick sighed and showed a compassionate expression. "I could not stop Quide. I am only his deputy. I also cannot offend his backer."
"I could only come here quietly after that." While being cautiously watched by the other children, Rick squatted down and carefully examined Thales' injuries. "Fortunately, he was not so rough today. Otherwise…"
"Mister Rick. I am fine." Thales struggled genuinely. "I am sorry. The money I earned last week was actually…"
"Forget about the money!" Rick took the worn-out bowl from Sinti's hands. He threw away the water and placed a few Urth Dragon Leaves in it. He then picked up a stone and started to grind it. "You were sent here the moment you began to be aware of your surroundings. These few years, I watched all of you grow from a mere child trembling from the cold into a rough and thick-haired child. For me, all of you are more important than a few coppers," Rick said with a pained expression. "At this age, all of you are not even supposed to be begging but these are the rules of the Brotherhood."
"Mister Rick." Thales looked as though he felt touched by Rick's sentiments. He then tightened his fists. "I…"
"Come. Use the stones to grind the leaves. It is better than chewing it." Rick smeared the contents onto his hand and then smeared it on Thales' back. Next to him, Kellet bit her lip and whimpered.
"Thank you, Mister Rick," said Coria in a soft tone. "It would be great if you were in charge of us instead of Quide."
"Don't let Quide hear this." Rick laughed helplessly. "To be honest, I am very afraid of him."
The other children also laughed. Rick knew that people would accept another person easily when a common ground and a sense of humor was shown.
"Thank you very much, Mister Rick." Thales earnestly said. He knew that he was very mature in the eyes of many and did not need to show a child-like side.
Rick nodded. "Protect yourself well. You are a smart kid. I believe you can do it!"
"Oh right." Rick seemed to suddenly remember something. He returned the bowl to Ned and took out a purse from his waist. He then handed it over to the bewildered Sinti. "I need to hand over money to the higher ups every month and do not have much. Here are thirty coppers. Go to Grove Pharmacy at the intersection between Twilight District and the Lower City District and buy some medicine. If the price of the medicine has not yet increased, the amount of money here should be enough."
Naturally, the money would not be enough. Rick thought to himself. He had been to the pharmacy a week ago and the price had just hiked. When the children discover that the money was not enough, they would think it was caused by a temporary price hike.
If they did not have enough money, they would need to beg for more. This way, they would not have enough for next week's quota. After that…
"Be careful when you leave to buy the medicine. Do not let others, especially Quide, find out." Rick said as he stood up.
Of course, Quide would find out. Rick thought.
If they do not buy the medicine, that would be even better. Quide would find out that they were hiding money.
The corners of Rick's mouth raised.
At that moment, I can obtain all of their loyalty.
"Mister Rick." Coria looked at the purse in Sinti's hand as tears were about to fall from her eyes. "You are really a good person."
Ned bit his lips and nodded.
Even the eldest, Sinti, was touched and weighed the purse in his hands.
Rick sighed and waved his hand. "No. I am the one that should apologize. I could only do this for you."
"Mister Rick," Thales was lying down on the ground and hesitantly looked at Rick. "I wonder…"
"Eh?" Rick raised his eyebrows. "What's wrong?"
"I heard that when we grow up, we would be sent elsewhere to be trained." Thales asked cautiously as though not wanting to offend Rick. "In that case, I wonder if we could work for you once our training is complete."
Hearing this, Kellet, Ned, and Coria looked at Rick expectantly.
Rick felt as though his heart grew.
Score. Faster than I expected.
"Haha. This?" Rick gave a smile. "Don't look at me like this now. I am an ideal man in the Brotherhood."
Rick smiled and bent down to touch Thales' hair, appearing more intimate. "The people under me are the best and the strongest in the Brotherhood!"
'This is just my truth.' Rick added in his heart.
"That is why, if you all want to work for me, you must work hard!"
"Mm!" The children nodded with hope. Thales was no exception.
"I am going now. Thales and the rest of you…" Rick turned his head around, showing the side of his face. "The next time this happens, secretly come over and inform me. Although I cannot stop him directly, I could look for some trouble and prevent him from approaching."
After Rick was finished, he showed his white teeth that gleamed under the moonlight and left without looking back.
"Mister Rick is such a good person." Ned's face was in a mess from the tears. "Not like that Quide."
"Mm." Coria nodded and seemed content as though she was eating sweets.
"But," The crippled and fearful Ryan hesitantly said, "I've always felt that Rick is more terrifying than Quide."
"So, you are a coward!"
"Ryan the coward. How are you going to earn money like this?"
Only Thales looked calm after Rick left.
When he saw Sinti counting the thirty coppers in the purse one by one, Thales breathed out a sigh.
He still felt pain on his back. He knew that medicine would be good for his injury. However, Thales had gone to Grove Pharmacy yesterday morning. When he took the typhoid medicine from Yanni, he had heard her complain about her stingy boss raising the price. The price of medicine for injuries had gone up to thirty-five coppers. It was five coppers more than the amount Rick had given them.
However, he also knew the daughter of the boss of the Sunset Pub. That was how he knew an important point. Rick was in charge of all of Quide's expenses at the pub.
"I would also need to hand over the money to the higher ups every month and do not have much."
Rick's voice resounded in his ears and he could no longer bear to look at the purse filled with coppers.
The other beggars had already forgotten their fears and started being noisy.
Only Thales frowned. With difficulty, he turned to look at his own bruised back. He then sighed heavily.
This damn world.
Rick went to the tenth house. There was an eight-year-old named Kalak who was young but ruthless. Rick pressured Karak into joining him when he suddenly felt his neck turn cold.
This was his innate ability.
When he was absolutely calm (a little distraction would cause it to fail), his neck would feel cold when there was a living thing five meters near him.
That was all.
However, he was not a warrior. Even if he was a warrior, his ability was useless compared to those in the military with psionic abilities, the powerful Swordsmen and Knights of Eradication, and even those mysterious Mystics. Even trainees in the temple could push him down.
However, Rick felt that one day, this skill would save his life.
Just like this very moment.
Rick quickly turned and looked around under the moonlight. At the same time, he put his left hand into his pocket and took out a compact but deadly crossbow.
The moonlight was bright. The streets were empty and there was nowhere to hide. Yet, there was nothing.
Rick took a deep breath and kept himself absolutely calm. He could feel the cool feeling behind his neck persist.
'Was it a rat in the sewers?'
Rick ran quickly to three different locations and the feeling remained. This made him reject his assumption.
What kind of rat would follow me for twenty meters after running towards three different directions?
Rick started to become more frightened.
Rick believed he should not have ventured out alone even though he was merely visiting the Abandoned Houses in the Brotherhood's territory.
He should have brought along twenty guards, with each of them wielding a Mystic Gun in each hand.
Just like the bigshot of the drug business Lazans Fischer, he always brought thirty people with him whenever he went out.
If I had enough money, I should have hired two Swordsmen of Eradication or a Psionic Warrior. Maybe even a Mystic. Forget it, Mystics were too scary.
Nayer Rick. You must be calm. He told himself. In the future, you would be in charge of Eternal Star City. Even the underground people of Constellation were calm. You must stay calm.
Rick turned around and calmly backtracked as though he was jogging.
'Did I offend someone? Does someone want my life? Was there something interesting in this neighborhood?'
He jogged away for hundreds of meters under the moonlight. There was nobody around him, yet his neck still felt cold.
1 Powerhouse: One of the three divisions of the Black Street Brotherhood.