Book 3 Chapter 75 - Cohen Merchant's Scheme (2)

“The Cohen Merchant group…?”

Adonis’ eyes narrowed as he couldn’t help but wonder what Woohyuk was up to.

“Yes, I’ve heard rumors that they’ve been secretly dealing in smugglers. You might be aware that recently there have been many cases of smugglers roaming the countryside of the Rhine kingdom, kidnapping young women.”

“And what would you do if that were true?”

“I’d find some evidence and report it back to the Count. Anything other than that isn’t within my contract, so I don’t really care.”

Woohyuk had to keep up his mercenary persona. It was the reason he emphasized his indifference to anything that wasn’t directly connected to his reward conditions. It also led the other party to believe that he could at any time be bought with money.

“I’m always willing to give a warm welcome to anyone that opposes the Cohen Merchant group.”

Just as he had expected, Adonis had agreed. Woohyuk then signed the contract with a feather quill and blank ink, and then asked.

“What kind of person is Bruno?”

“As long as there is money to be made, he’s there to profit. Be it weapons, sex slaves, drugs, etc.. There is nothing that he won’t dare do. Recentyl he’s even joined in the murder for hire business.”

“Do you mean they nurture their own assassins?|

“The rumor is that assassins from the Thalis kingdom are under his employ, but it is unconfirmed. Although we do run a black market here, we are basically angels compared to those guys.

Adonis avoided anything that might bring him too many future problems.

It was the reason that he had only engaged in black market trading, something that was easy to get away from so long as they didn’t have conclusive evidence.

Woohyuk nodded upon hearing his explanation.

“You guys are indeed different.”

“Was there anything else you wanted to ask? As long it is something I know, I have no qualms answering.”

“Are the Cohen Merchant group crossbreeding monsters?”

“It’s my first time hearing that. I know they’ve been feeding their sex slaves ecstasy drugs and then sent then to the nightlife district.”

The pill that Adonis was talking about was a completely different product. It was a pill that would make the woman sterile, all the while increasing her sexual drive, just like ecstasy.

This wasn’t at all connected to what he was investigating.

‘It must be a top secret plan on their end.’

If even their main rival, the head of the Rossio Merchant association didn’t know about it, perhaps their purpose wasn’t about turning a profit this time around.

What could be their goal behind trying to increase the number of monsters?

One possibility was to throw the Rhine kingdom into chaos, which would allow them to sell more weapons and drugs. Still, it didn’t sound like a plausible reason.

Woohyuk decided that he still had to dig further.

“I’d like to join a caravan headed to Media, to collect some information.”

“Great, actually I was worried since the Cohen Merchant group has been pulling some shady shit these days.”

According to Adonis, the number of monster attacks along the land trade routes had increased significantly recently. This was what led Rossio’s association to scout strong mercenaries in the first place.

‘Something similar had happened to Erica’s Merchant faction.’

When she had been in a heated rivalry with the Kaliss group, they had targeted her caravans transporting luxury goods.

Taking everything into account, it was likely that the Cohen Merchant group had a way of communicating with the monsters, and would give the itinerary of Rossio’s caravan.

‘They might have a spy in their ranks.’

Merchant groups often had to hire mercenaries, so it was rather easy to have information leaks. Of course, it was still possible for the traitor to actually be among their upper echelon.

Woohyuk’s eyes beamed upon seeing a veteran mercenary escorting Adonis.

* * *

The Special mercenary Roy.

He had originally been a gladiator within the Holy Aperian Empire. For the enjoyment of the masses, he would put his life on the line within the coliseum, on a weekly basis.

Even after he managed to survive through them all, ultimately becoming the champion. Still, he hadn’t gained the favor of any nobles, so he was still scheduled for unfair fights, and his treatment was poor.

Those days for him had been like a nightmare. His only goal had been to win his freedom, and so he had focused all his time and energy on his swordsmanship, in order to possibly win the nobles’ favor.

Finally, one day, an opportunity had presented itself. A riot had broken out in his ludus, and the master had been killed.

After escaping along with some other gladiators, Roy began working as a mercenary in free cities located in far away lands. With his skill, he quickly made a name for himself.

His sword skills which he had so carefully honed on the coliseum sands, had benefited him greatly, and the requests for his services poured in.

But most of these requests came from slavers. As a captured slave that had been forced into his role as a gladiator and been treated like nothing more than a dog. These were commissions he didn’t want to take.

As such, he had found himself wandering from free city to free city, within the Rhine kingdom.

Ultimately he found a place with Rossio’s Merchant association, since they didn’t engage in any slave trade, signing a exclusive contract with them.

“At that time, the Cohen group had tried their best to pull me over to their side.” 

Roy explained as he escorted the caravans along with the other mercenaries.

He was the humble type, so he felt strange bragging about himself there.

“Has Bruno ever explained any of his businesses to you?”

Woohyuk asked as they walked side by side.

Roy, however, shook his head.

“No, he had mentioned that he was going to control the entire economy of the Rhine kingdom and rule it as a monopoly. At that time it sounded quite absurd.”

Bruno was quite the ambitious merchant. It is basically impossible for one merchant to own every store throughout the kingdom. Even if he somehow managed to pull it off, the nobles would never stand for it.

‘Still, if they had the support of the Golden Rose Society, things would be entirely different.’

Just the Wildfire previously sold by the Cohen group was enough to set a small city ablaze.

Not to mention that this time it was some monster stimulants. The threat they posed could very well exceed that of the rebellion of the three Counts.

“I have yet to get a hold of their plans.”

“They are always very careful with regards to any information leak, so we only learn this quite late.”

When compared to the Cohen Merchant group, Rossio’s side was behind the curb. It was the price they paid for not being fully immersed into the city’s underworld.

He would have to see if he could identify any spies, but in his mind Woohyuk had already excluded Roy as a suspect.

‘That guy won’t side with someone who has those values.’

All that was left then were the upper echelon, however they didn’t exhibit any suspicious behavior either.

As Woohyuk was occupied trying to find the rat in their group, their caravan was brought to a halt. They had arrived at their destination, an apothecary within the merchant’s district.

“It is such a huge purchase.”

“Turbulent times such as these are excellent for those in the potions business.”

Due to the rebellion of the nobles as well as the numerous monster attacks, the price of potions had been on the rise. One could make a huge sum of money if they were able to mass produce and sell potions.

Rossio’s Merchant group planned on purchasing large quantities of potions here, and then reselling them in the Issilon, Erutonia and Ionio provinces.

‘The Cohen Merchant group is likely interested in this as well.’

Even if they were in the city now, it wasn’t uncommon for a fight to break out. If anything it was quite strange that things were so quiet.

By now, it would have been normal for opposing mercenary forces to have been brought in to try and interfere with the deal.

Woohyuk expanded his perception, trying to detect anything he had missed.

‘...Is it him?’

He felt someone hiding above the roof of the General Goods store, staring in their direction. The most reasonable guess was that it was an assassin from the Thalis kingdom.

Without any hesitation, Woohyuk made his way to the assassin’s location.

“...!”

As soon as he saw Woohyuk making a beeline for him, the assassin didn’t hesitate to flee.

Although he was very agile, Woohyuk was quite fast himself.

Domdomdom!

A breathtaking chase occurred as they ran from rooftop to rooftop.

As he managed to gradually close the distance between them, the assassin realised that he wouldn’t be able to escape, and pulled out his scimitar. 

Kalang!

The sound of metal clashing rang out.

“Who do you work for?”

“....”

Rather than responding, the Assassin pulled out a poisoned dagger and threw it towards Woohyuk’s thigh.

Whiric!

An attempted assassination at such close range. Still, Woohyuk was able to easily dodge the attack.

Pak!

His fist smashed into the assassin’s stomach, causing him to collapse without even having the time to make a sound.

‘He must be from the Thalis kingdom.’

Woohyuk nodded after he removed the assassin’s mask. It was a man with tanned skin and copper red hair. No doubt he would have some kind of information regarding the Cohen Merchant group.

After lifting the unconscious assassin up over his shoulder, Woohyuk jumped down from the roof.

* * * 

After lengthy interrogation back at Adoni’s house, he had managed to learn quite a few things. The first was that no additional shipments of Wildfire had been received ever since news that the rebellion had failed arrived here.

The second was that the monster stimulants were distributed across the Rhine kingdom through the use of the smugglers.

‘I need to hurry.’

Before coming to Media, he had ordered the Elder Orc Shaman to find out where the monster stimulants exchanges were taking place.

Typically, they would occur in the mountains near Media.

It had observed several elite monsters coming and going, which meant that their plans were well underway.

After having completed his short investigation, Woohyuk felt it was now time for him to pay Bruno a visit in person.

He had to find out what the Cohen’s Merchant group’s connection to the Golden Rose Society was, as well as their purpose behind increasing the monster population.

Infiltrating their manor wouldn’t be too hard, since he had his Banshee’s Veil which rendered him invisible.

There were two assassins stationed as guards inside, but they were quickly dispatched by Woohyuk, who disappeared shortly after.

It didn’t take him long to make his way into a lavishly decorated study

“Huhu…”

The blonde haired man was staring at a document on his desk as he chuckled to himself.

‘Is that guy Bruno?’

His first impression of him was that he looked like a typical villain.

He had a scruffy beard and had the eyes of a cunning and slimy person.

Woohyuk carefully approached, and peered at the papers on his desk.

Map of the Rhine Kingdom 

It marked down different monster’s habitats, army trajectories, and points of exchange for the monster stimulant.

‘Is he trying to build himself a monster army?’

By slowly taming these elite monsters with his drug, he wanted to swallow up the entire Rhine kingdom for himself.

According to the map, the first province to be hit was Erutonia, then he’d slowly expand his influence from there. His end goal was to capture the capital city, Heidelberg. The estimated duration was marked down as 1 year, but the plan had already been underway for 5 months, so it wouldn’t be long now before they took action in full.

After storing the map, Woohyuk proceeded to repeatedly beat up Bruno, without any remorse whatsoever.

Puk! Puk!

“Agh!”

Bruno shouted in pain as he collapsed to the ground.

Only then did Woohyuk remove his Banshee’s Veil.

“Who are you!?”

Bruno’s eyes widened, a mixture of surprise and fear hidden behind them.

“You set up quite the nasty plan.”

“Oh… how did you find out?”

“If your tail is too long, eventually it’ll get caught. You were too arrogant, having placed too much faith into the Golden Rose Society.”

Bruno was nothing more than a pawn. It was the Golden Rose Society that was the true mastermind behind this plot.

As Woohyuk gave him a cold stare, Bruno began to sweat.

“You know about the Golden Rose Society… Still, no matter how great you think you are, you can’t defeat them. What is happening here in the Rhine kingdom is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their influence.”

“How did you contact them? Or was it their branch in the Owen kingdom that reached out to you?”

“.... I can’t say. If I were to speak they would never forgive me. You should be careful too, they have eyes and ears everywhere. Soon enough they will surely learn of my failure.”

The Golden Rose Society never tolerated any traitors. No matter how far away you ran, or how well you hid, they’d find you and mete out the death sentence.

As Bruno kept his mouth shut, refusing to speak, Woohyuk brought down his heel and crushed his fingers.

“Agghh!”

“You seem to have misunderstood your situation, so let me clear it up for you. From now on, every time you don’t answer, I’ll start cutting the ligaments in your limbs, one by one. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Thalis kingdom’s torture method, in which they tie down the prisoner and then proceed to cause pain over long periods of time. Of course isn’t to the point that you’d lose your life, since that would be too easy.”

Having spent his last 40 years on the battlefield, Woohyuk was more than familiar with different methods of torture.

As soon as he unsheathed Versersios, Bruno’s shoddy began to tremble uncontrollably, as he even peed himself.

“I’ll talk! Please don’t torture me!”

An unconditional surrender, he no longer had any of the backbone he had shown earlier.

Woohyuk laughed as he grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.

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