"What?" Etoro sputtered out the tea he was drinking. "Are you crazy? You want me to be a... spy? Goldrose is gone, all the royal family is killed, even the last princess has gone into hiding..."

Etoro stopped his ranting and stared intently at Tyrier, "Wait, the rebels down at the south..."

"Shhh..." Tyrier placed a finger at his lips and smiled. "I just only want information, I am not a rebel or... loyalist here."

"Ahh..." Etoro comically covered his mouth his both his fat hands and quickly sat down again, ignoring the tea stain on his velvet silk shirt. "Sorry, I thought you were part of the rebels."

"Well, it doesn't matter if I am or not," Tyrier leaned front, "I just need information about the Imperials."

"But if we get caught..." Etoro whispered, "It is not safe!"

"I am not telling you to specifically spy on them," Tyrier changed his tactic, "I just want to know what you heard when you are out there doing trading. Stuff like rumors or sightings, as long as it is related to the Empire troops, I would like to know."

"But why?" Etoro countered, staring at Tyrier intently, "I doubt you are doing this just for fun!"

"Alright, but don't tell anyone else," Tyrier whispered, "I will have to kill you if I tell you."

Etoro ruby face whiten when he heard that and he backed against his chair to put as much distance against the killing aura Tyrier was giving off. "Alright, I won't ask no more!"

"Good, cause, seriously I would hate to kill you," Tyrier released the killing aura he gave off. "Now, I am willing to pay in solid gold for any information regarding the movements of the Empire." He shook out a pooch full of gold royals onto the table courtesy of the former Duke Sturm's war chest, captured when his army retreated.

"I see, what I can find out," Etoro mopped his sweating head with a silk hanky, "This is a dangerous game you are playing."

"As long as you keep it to yourself," Tyrier promised, "You will get to live long enough to enjoy life."

"Damn, what a way to treat an old friend," Etoro grumbled, "Alright, I do what I can, but no promises! When all this is over, you owe me an explanation."

"You got it, old friend," Tyrier grinned and finished his cup of tea. "So you got any work for a problem solver?"

"What? You still got the cheeky to ask for work after threatening my life?" Etoro face turned red, "Argh, I wonder why am I friends with you!"

"Hahaha, relax, that was just business and this is just me looking for work," Tyrier smiled, "Besides, there are always risks in brokering information."

Etoro shook his head, "Alright I do have a job here, just that my partners are divided on trusting you with it, but since you dropped a hot coal on my lap, I think it should be fine for you to handle it."

Etoro leaned forward and said in a low voice, "We got a client, who let's say is interested in bringing slaves out of the Empire."

"Slaves?" Tyrier raised his eyebrows, "You dealing with slavers now?"

"No, not slavers," Etoro looked uncomfortable, "Our client wants to save the slaves," He whispered, "They want to bring the slaves out of the Empire but the Empire does not allow slaves to be taken out of their territory, so we need to smuggle them out."

"That's interesting," Tyrier rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "What do you need?"

"I will need to someone to escort them through the Uncharted Forest and out from the mountains to the sea." Etoro picked up a map from one of his shelves in the room and carefully rolled it out on the table top, "There will be a ship to pick them up."

"Are you sure your client isn't just taking slaves here and selling them away at other places?" Tyrier asked.

"Yes, I am sure," Etoro nodded firmly, "One of my partners, Blackwind, you saw him last night. He used to be a slave we freed, and now he is one of my guides through the Uncharted Forest."

Tyrier gave a whistle, and leaned back on the sofa, "How long does the journey take?"

"Give or take, a month," Etoro replied.

"One month through the Uncharted Forest and Untamed Lands, and another month back?" Tyrier raised his eyebrows, "Through Goblin and Oerkin territory and heavens know what other monsters?"

"How many guards and slaves?" Tyrier narrowed his eyes and asked harshly.

Etoro gave a weak smile and muttered something, which made Tyrier ask again. "How many guards?"

"Hehe, roughly twenty?" Etoro muttered. "About a hundred slaves?"

"Twenty men escorting a hundred slaves?" Tyrier asked, "You must be mad!"

"We have done it before!" Etoro insisted, "Well, there were some casualties."

"Of course there will be casualties!" Tyrier said, "In fact it's suicidal!"

"But that's the only fastest and safest way!" Etoro stubbornly said. "Look, help me escort the freed slaves out, and I do all I can to provide the information you need."

"Let me think about it first," Tyrier said, "Are you sure there is no other ways to do this?"

"Yes, there is a hidden cove south-east of the coast," Etoro explained, "It is deep enough for the ship to dock and hide. We can't go southwards due to the war between the Empire and the rebels, and the only way to avoid Imperial patrols is to head south-east directly to the coast."

"Got it. I will get back to you again," Tyrier stood up, "How long on your side to gather all the information I need?"

"Give me a couple of days?" Etoro responded, also standing up. "Well, I look forward to you good news."

Tyrier nodded and left Etoro's office, and soon stepped out to the early afternoon sun. He turned and looked up to the 2nd floor, seeing Etoro watching him from the window and gave him a wave before leaving.

Maybe we could change the freed slaves route? Tyrier smiled to himself at the thought, but he needed to check in with High Command first.


Falledge, Adventurer's Guild

Hitsu pushed open the doors into the high ceiling building and entered a buzz of noise and clamor. He pushed his way past a couple of leather armored adventurers who were laughing over something and stood before a large notice board where dozens of parchment were pinned on the board, each listing a job or request.

A child came up to him, "Sir, sir! Do you need help on reading the jobs? I can read and write for you! All for a silver!" The boy dressed in simple homespun stood at his elbow, pulling his sleeve for attention.

"Tell you what," Hitsu grinned, "How about telling me about the latest news that is going on in this town?"

"Latest news?" The boy looked at him and smiled back, "You found the right person! I know all about what is happening in this town!"

"I give you a silver for every five news items I find worthwhile," Hitsu offered, "But if you try to give me any fake news, the deal is off."

"One silver for two news!" The boy bargained.

Hitsu grinned, "One silver for four."

"THREE!" The boy counter offered.

"Deal," HItsu ruffled the kid's hair, making him grumble. "So what's your name?"

"Bill, but everyone here calls me Billy," Billy smiled, "So what do you want to know?"

"Well, I am interested in knowing what's going on with the Empire now," Hitsu said, bringing the kid to a quiet corner out of the hustle and bustle of the guild. "Stuff like major events occurring within the Empire. Like... war."

"Why do you want to know all that?" Billy curiously asked.

"Well, my boss is a merchant," Hitsu lied easily, "Having information like war, famine and other things can help make or lose lots of money."

"Makes sense," Billy nodded sagely, "Well, for one, seems like Duke Sturm lost the war with the rebels and is on the run."

"Well, everyone knows that in this town," Hitsu replied quickly, "You need to do better than that."

"But no one knows where he has gone!" Billy retorted back, "But I heard a rumor." He leaned forward and tried to act all secretive and failing due his age and size. Hitsu had to keep his laughter down and school his face as serious as possible as he bent down to listen. "I managed to overhear some men that came to buy some supplies that they are heading back to Fallowfall and something about a keep."

Hitsu leaned back unimpressed with the information, "They could be anyone just on their way back to Fallowfall!"

"Yes, but they were wearing heavy armor underneath their cloaks! I have been around adventurers to know the difference between leather armor and plate mail!" Billy furiously replied, "And this." He looked around their surroundings before digging something out from his belt and placing it in front of Hitsu.

A rectangularly shaped palm-sized bronze token laid on the table and Hitsu picked it up, turning it over and seeing a motif of a diving dragon. "See, I know the diving dragon is the coat of arms for the Duke, I am very sure those are his men!" Billy proudly folded his arms.

"Can I have this?" Hitsu asked, "I offer you a silver for this, and you know it is dangerous to carry it around."

"Alright, so does that count as one?" Billy asked as he held up the silver coin with a motif of a dragon, commonly known as a silver dragon and pocketed it.

The kingdoms and nations here had been using the same coinage from their ancestral lands, the difference only being the printed surface depending on the nation or kingdom but all gold coins have a printed crown on one side, while silver coins have a dragon and copper coins have a printed shield. Even the weight and size are kept the same, making the coinage easy for trade among the nations and kingdoms in the new world.

Hitsu nodded, "Anything else?"

"I heard rumors that a new Imperial commander is taking over Duke Sturm, and should be arriving soon," Billy frowned in thought as he tried to recall any interesting bits of news. "His name is quite, cold sounding... think he is called... the... er the Stone?"

"The Rock?" Hitsu asked, as his eyes narrowed.

"Yes yes, the Rock!" Billy grinned. "That was what some of the adventurers were discussing the other day!"

"Do you know when he will arrive?" Hitsu asked hastily.

"I think they were saying he should be here within the month," Billy shrugged.

"Can you try to find out more about when he will arrive?" Hitsu asked, "Of course be careful when doing that, I don't want you to get into any trouble." He dug out another piece of silver dragon and passed to Billy. "Thanks for the information, I will come down here again tomorrow. You will be here?"

"Of course! I am here every day!" Billy grinned, rubbing the two silver dragons in his pocket happily.

Hitsu gave a proper look over at the kid, seeing him properly for the first time, as he was too focused on his surroundings, and said in surprise, "You are a girl?"

"What? -no.. no!" Billy face blushed, "I am a boy!" She said fiercely. He was dressed in an oversized shirt patched many times over the years. How did he know I am a girl? She thought.

"Well, no matter to me, but you be careful out there!' Hitsu said, giving her another ruffle of her shortly cropped curly ginger hair. "I see you here tomorrow!"

Billy nodded and went back to the notice board, offering to read and write for people as Hitsu quickly headed out of the guild. "Damn the Rock!" He muttered under his breath as he exited the guild, "I need to find Tyrier quick!"

He headed towards the merchant district in a hurried pace, totally missing two pairs of eyes watching and following him from the shadows.

A note from neo Koh

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