A few days later, the highly anticipated auction finally began. Saul went through the standard procedure, assigned a number to each bidder, and distributed detailed product introductions to everyone. With his insistence, the sweet-looking Marlene was selected as the auction girl, and for each product, she would walk around the venue holding a small model or brochure. Her beauty was truly extraordinary, and the atmosphere of the auction remained lively and enthusiastic.
Saul had originally intended to find someone to secretly raise the price among the crowd and make a big profit. However, there was no suitable candidate within his territory, and since everyone was experiencing an auction for the first time, there was some skepticism. Going too far would have backfired, so he eventually abandoned the idea.
To show his appreciation, Saul personally presided over the auction. Everyone was fascinated by this new buying and selling method, and the atmosphere was lively. The bidding sounds were heard one after another, and Saul was so happy that he almost grinned from ear to ear.
“50,000 gold coins, going once… going twice… going thrice… sold!”
As expected, the representatives of the powerful Barin territory snatched up the water wheel and mill plans. When they called out a sky-high price of 50,000 gold coins, everyone gasped in astonishment, and no one dared to compete with them.
Despite the high cost, the Barin Lord owned the largest agricultural land in the kingdom, and buying these machines would undoubtedly be a profitable investment for them. Additionally, they could even produce products to sell to others. As they watched Saul hand over the detailed design drawings to the Barin representatives with utmost seriousness, everyone present couldn’t help but envy them.
Reed was even more excited and almost fainted at the thought of 50,000 gold coins going to their coffers. According to his agreement with Saul, he would receive 2,500 gold coins. Nevertheless, being able to earn such a huge sum of money just by running errands for the Lord was indeed a promising “career” path.
The auction of the most eye-catching water wheels had lowered the atmosphere of the scene, but the next item, folding tables and chairs manufacturing technology, still aroused considerable interest among the attendees. After some competition, a merchant successfully bought it for 8,000 gold coins.
The three golden umbrellas were also highly sought after, and in the end, representatives from the Barin, Paige, and Masdie territories were chosen to split them, each paying a high price of 600 gold coins. Except for the representative from the Barin territory, the other two representatives were secretly happy to offer the item to their respective lord’s wives, hoping to escape punishment for failing their mission.
With the successful conclusion of the auction, everyone was happy. That evening, Saul hosted a banquet for all attending merchants and representatives and actively engaged in diplomatic relations, promising to prioritize those who left empty-handed at future auctions when new inventions were introduced. The gathering of so many esteemed individuals was unprecedented in Lowell’s history, which brought great comfort to the invited Vince, who deeply felt that welcoming the young lord back to the territory was a wise decision.
After the banquet, the first comprehensive meeting of Lowell was held in the Lord’s study following Saul’s succession. Attendees included Jessica, Reed, Manson, and Kress, as well as some merchants and craftsmen from the territory.
Saul delivered the promised reward to Reed in a high-profile manner, and as they watched the hefty sum of 2,500 gold coins change hands, several merchants who were not selected at the beginning could not help feeling regretful. However, Reed was grinning from ear to ear.
Following this, Saul brought out thousands more gold coins and rewarded all those who had contributed, ensuring that everyone who had put in effort received a share. The owners of several blacksmith shops received particularly generous rewards for their help in Manson’s creations. Saul was not stingy with his money because he wanted to establish the trust and confidence of his followers. He wanted them to know that following him would only lead to good things and lay the foundation for future plans.
Real, tangible gold coins were the best catalyst, and when everyone held the money, no one doubted Saul’s ability anymore. At that moment, even if Saul claimed to be a god, they would probably believe him without hesitation.
After the joyous celebration, Saul began implementing the next step of his plan. He stated to Reed, “We can’t be satisfied with just getting the gold. In fact, there’s a lot of work waiting for us to do. Reed, I hope you can set off tomorrow under the guise of helping the craftsmen in the Barin territory make water wheels, but your real task is to go out and purchase some necessary resources.”
“My lord, you can count on me,” Reed said without hesitation.
“Alright, I will entrust you with twenty thousand gold coins. You must use the network you established on this trip to purchase a batch of high-quality weapons and armor for the territory at the lowest possible price. In addition, you must buy a large quantity of high-quality ore and some raw iron, as well as some urgently needed materials for the territory. Jessica will give you a list later. I will have a few people accompany you, and you can teach them as well. This will help alleviate your workload.”
The people he was talking about were the sons and relatives of several shop owners in the Lowell territory. Saul had them follow Reed, not to monitor him but because if he were to monopolize all financial power, it would eventually cause resentment from others. Bringing them in was a way to balance things out. As the territory’s financial situation developed, there would be more business opportunities, and relying solely on Reed would not suffice. This could also be seen as a way to cultivate talent in advance.
How could Reed not understand this point? The latter readily agreed without any hesitation, and the several shop owners who had been hanging on for a while finally let out a sigh of relief and nodded in approval. The last trace of envy in their hearts disappeared without a trace.
After the merchants left, Saul asked Manson to continue crafting items for the territory and to guide the blacksmiths in their techniques once the ore arrived. Saul was not satisfied with relying solely on buying, as no amount of money would be enough. His hope was to establish his own team of craftsmen.
Manson readily agreed. For him, receiving such unprecedented attention in Lowell meant not only having the opportunity to forge new and exciting items, but also receiving generous compensation for his craft, which allowed him to fully showcase his worth. With his innate desire for forging satisfied and a large sum of money to be earned, what could be more satisfying in life?
Finally, Saul asked Kress about the security situation in his territory and reminded the latter to be careful and vigilant, as the Adventurer’s Guild’s retaliation could come at any time.
Kress was in awe of his lord and readily agreed, but expressed his concerns: “Every year at this time, the monsters in the mountains become more active, raiding crops and attacking livestock. In past years, the Adventurer’s Guild would catch them, but without their help, we can hardly cope with so many monsters with just our guards. Just yesterday, the two brothers from the Maya family were bitten by a horned wolf while working in the field, and now everyone is worried.”
Saul sighed and held his head in frustration, “Are you kidding me? People are causing trouble, and the monsters are not idle either. Let’s wait until Reed buys us the supplies before we do anything. You don’t need to send the hunters into the mountains, just set up more traps outside the town to deal with this trouble temporarily, and Jessica will provide them with the necessary supplies to cover their losses.”
At the same time, he was thinking that things would be much easier if Manson could make the weapons. However, this was a technical job, so it was better to wait for Lowell’s own team to develop the necessary skills.
After discussing some matters with them, Saul dispersed the group.
The next day, when Reed led the procurement team, Saul held onto his hand and insisted that he should try to save as much as possible. After all, this money was hard-earned. They had finally earned over sixty thousand gold coins, but one third of it was gone in just one go.
Watching the glowing coins being spent, Saul felt his heart ache. He finally realized how important those piles of numbers were in those games. His earnest and concerned expression was like that of a loving mother sending her child on a long journey.
After seeing Reed off, Saul threw himself into the development of his territory. The crops had to be harvested in time to prevent them from being destroyed by the monsters. Many houses in the town needed repairs. He also had to organize the sale of herbs collected by the residents, which was an important source of income for many families. In addition, he had to be on guard against the adventurer’s guild…
“Ah, I’m so busy!” Many times, cries of anguish could be heard coming from the lord’s mansion as Saul struggled to manage everything.
However, what is meant to happen will eventually happen. On the seventh day after Reed’s departure, Saul organized the purchase of herbs with the herbal shop owner, and spent the entire day collecting them and storing them in the warehouse, feeling exhausted and worn out.
Just as he climbed into bed and had barely slept for three hours, he was awakened by the commotion outside. He groggily got up and saw a red glow in the center of the town, and Marlene had already rushed in.
“Young master Saul, something terrible has happened. There are bandits in town.”
“Bandits!?” Saul’s heart skipped a beat, and he quickly got up.
“Somebody started a fire in the town, and the guards on duty rushed over just in time to see a group of suspicious-looking men trying to escape. They got away quickly, and we didn’t manage to catch anyone. Kress has taken his men to pursue them into the mountains.”
Jessica walked in and quickly briefed Saul on the situation. Compared to Saul, who was still dazed and disheveled, she looked much more competent. Her clothes were neatly pressed, her spirits were high, and she carried the rapier Saul had bought her from Manson at her waist, giving her a commanding presence.
What’s going on with these guys? They should have come during the day. They don’t even let us sleep properly. Saul grumbled irresponsibly in his mind. Rubbing his groggy eyes, he quickly put on some clothes and hurried out with Jessica.
One of the guards, named Brown, was waiting outside. Jessica asked him, “What’s the current situation?” She then elbowed Saul hard, causing him to wince in pain as his facial muscles involuntarily contracted.
After giving a strange look at Saul and Jessica, the guard Brown replied, “The building that was set on fire was a grain warehouse, but fortunately the grains had not been transported there yet, so only an empty building was burned. The captain has already led a team to pursue the perpetrators.”
After exchanging a glance, Saul and Jessica both secretly breathed a sigh of relief. If the fire had destroyed the grains, it would have caused a great panic. Rubbing his sore spot, Saul asked, “Were there any injuries? What did these robbers steal?”
Brown shook his head and said, “No, we arrived in time, and they hadn’t had a chance to steal anything before fleeing.”
Saul nodded and said to Jessica, “Let’s go to the scene and take a look.” At the same time, he felt a faint sense of unease, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.
When the three arrived at the scene of the fire, the blaze had already been extinguished. Half of the grain warehouse had been burned down, leaving a charred gap that looked like a grotesque eye staring at the people putting out the fire. The warehouse was no longer usable.
“My Lord.” Vice Captain Bocci quickly walked over when he saw Saul had arrived.
“Do you know where the bandits came from?” Jessica whispered.
Bocci shook his head. “Lowell is very poor, and there are many monsters in the surrounding mountains. We haven’t had many bandits. Everyone is puzzled about where these people came from tonight.”
Startled, Saul immediately thought, could it be the Adventurers’ Guild? They could have disguised themselves as bandits to start a fire, then used their advantage of being familiar with the terrain to escape. This assumption is indeed very likely.
Pulling Jessica and Bocci over, Saul whispered, “This is likely the work of the adventurer’s guild. Let’s not make a scene for now to avoid causing panic. If you have anything to say, wait until Kress comes back.”
Jessica and Bocci nodded in understanding and walked away. Since only an empty warehouse was burned, the residents who rushed over after hearing the news were not greatly affected. However, news of the bandit intrusion made people somewhat worried, but Jessica’s reassurance prevented any major chaos.
Just then, a farmer named Buck who lived in the west of the town rushed over, panting and shouting, “Something’s not right, my lord! A group of people took advantage of everyone being in town to put out the fire and secretly moved the wheat stacked by the fields, then ran off into the mountains!”
“What!?” Everyone present was stunned for a moment.
Twenty minutes later, as he looked at the field with only a half-cut wheat field, Saul was at a loss for words. This field was harvested under Jessica’s organization a few days ago, and all the wheat was packaged and piled up in several grass sheds at the edge of the field, but it hadn’t been stored yet. Now, the sheds were empty, and there was only a layer of wheat on the ground.
Just a moment ago, Saul was relieved that the food wasn’t burned, but now it had been stolen. This wheat field had nearly 20,000 pounds of wheat, which was one-fifth of the town’s grain for half a year. The fact that it could all be taken away in such a short time meant that the thieves had at least three hundred people, not to mention those who were causing trouble and setting fires in the town. The entire “bandit” group was unimaginably huge.
In fact, the loss of this grain wasn’t too much of a problem, as each family had stored grain and the territory had reserve grain. However, the trouble was the chain reaction caused by the theft of the grain. Even a blind man could see that a huge band of thieves had quietly arrived on the edge of Lowell. Everyone present was discussing it, and the situation was getting out of hand.
Realizing that the situation could not continue, Saul jumped onto a mound and shouted, “Listen up everyone, Kress has already taken people to pursue those bandits, and we will definitely catch them. Please don’t worry about the food, I will send people to buy food outside the territory, and we will not let anyone go hungry this year.”
Vince, who arrived at the scene, also reassured, “Yes, everyone, don’t panic. Although Lowell is poor, we have not gone hungry for many years. The young master will not let anyone go hungry. Everyone can go back to his house now.”
Saul now had some prestige, and with Vince’s support, the crowd was finally persuaded and gradually dispersed.
From various indications, it seemed that the other party was not part of the Adventurer’s Guild, as they would not have brought so many people. Furthermore, stealing food would be of no use to them. So, who were they? Were they really bandits? Bandits who specialized in raiding food from the mountains?
These nagging questions gave Saul a headache. Damn it, even if I don’t treat this as a game, there are still too many unexpected events! Just as he was struggling with these thoughts, Kress and the others who had gone out to pursue the intruders finally returned.
“Did you find anything?” Jessica asked as she approached them.
Kress shook his head. “The other party was as agile as a monkey, and they are all quite familiar with the surrounding terrain. We were quickly left behind. However, I found this on the way.” He took out a knife.
The knife was over two feet long and well-made, emitting a cold and eerie aura when held in the hand. There was a small bat emblem on the handle of the knife, which looked quite strange.
Upon seeing the dagger, Jessica’s face displayed a look of shock: “This is!?”
Sau leaned over and muttered to himself that it was just a dagger—was it worth making such a fuss over? He took the dagger and examined it from all angles, murmuring, “It’s just a little sharper than usual, why are you all so strange about it?”
Little did he know that when he said this, everyone looked at him like he was a monster. After a while, Bocci explained, “My Lord, don’t joke around. This is the famous ‘Night Shadow Brigade’ special dagger from the Rulin Empire.”
It was only then that Saul realized he had just said something foolish once again. As a neighbor of the Dinar Kingdom, the Rulin Empire had always been its enemy. The two sides had been fighting for hundreds of years in order to expand their territories. It would appear really strange that he, as a lord who had studied at the Almak Academy, did not recognize the signature weapon of their enemy.
The “Night Shadow Brigade” was a mysterious army within the Rulin Empire’s military forces. It is said that all soldiers in this brigade receive specialized training in thievery, assassination, and stealth techniques. They specialize in gathering intelligence and infiltrating foreign countries to assassinate noble officials. Just mentioning them causes countless people to turn pale with fear, earning them the moniker “Night Shadows.”
“Ahaha, how could I not recognize them? I was just joking around because the atmosphere was too serious,” Saul quickly laughed, attempting to cover up his earlier mistake.
Fortunately, shocked by Kress’s discovery, no one really pursued the matter. Passing the dagger around, everyone’s face was solemn, and everyone had only one thought in mind—has the Rulin Empire invaded Lowell?
In fact, as the westernmost territory of the kingdom, Lowell was only separated from the Rulin Empire by the western mountain range, making the two neighbors. However, precisely because of the western mountain range, neither side could reach the other, and it was a complete joke to lead a large army to cross the western mountain range. Therefore, the Lowell territory had never been worried about this issue. The conflicts between the two kingdoms in the west only occurred on the relatively peaceful Sylvara Plains.
However, launching a full-scale attack was one thing, while a small-scale “night shadow brigade” infiltration was another. If the enemy was really as magical as the legends say, then crossing the Western Mountains for them was not an impossible task.
At the thought of this possibility, everyone couldn’t help but shudder. It was hard enough for the lord’s territory to finally make some progress, but would they now have to face an enemy invasion? If war were to break out, Lowell, with less than two thousand inhabitants, would likely have no chance to resist and would be crushed to pieces.
Swallowing a mouthful of saliva, Kress asked with difficulty, “What should we do now?”
Jessica fell silent for a moment before decisively saying, “It’s just too dangerous. We need to organize everyone to evacuate immediately.”
As soon as those words were spoken, the crowd became frenzied. Bocci immediately went to gather people to inform the town of the situation. Saul couldn’t help but feel amused and exasperated as everyone seemed to be scared out of their wits by the intimidating “Night Shadow Brigade”.
“Stop!” he stepped forward and shouted at the crowd. “I mean, do we really need to be this afraid? Let’s calm down and think about the situation at hand. If it really was the Night Shadow Brigade that came, why did they only steal food and not harm anyone? And why didn’t they attack Kress and the other guards who were chasing after them? A single knife can’t prove anything. What if they were just a group of hungry peasnats stealing food? If we scare ourselves away, we’ll lose face. Even I, as your lord, would be ridiculed by my peers.”
His words calmed the people down. Indeed, upon careful consideration, there were too many doubts in this matter. A guard whispered, “Perhaps they ran out of food while crossing the mountains, so they came to steal our provisions.”
Immediately, Bocci retorted, “If that was the case, they could just barge in and rob us directly. Why bother with all these tricks? Besides, the Night Shadow Brigade wouldn’t make such a low-level mistake of stirring up trouble for no reason.”
Jessica nodded in agreement and said, “Indeed, we can’t jump to conclusions about whether it’s the Night Shadow Brigade or not. But it’s definitely not starving peasants. Not only do they lack the ability, but where could so many of them have come from?”
Seeing everyone finally calm down and start thinking rationally, Saul breathed a sigh of relief. He yawned and said, “Anyway, we need to investigate this carefully and not let the news leak out to the town. Our health is our capital for a counterattack, so let’s all rest up and deal with these thieves slowly.”
After speaking, he ignored the surprised looks from the others and leisurely went back to sleep.
The next day, Jessica urgently mobilized the residents to collect the remaining food and dispatched the guards to keep watch day and night. She also organized adult men to monitor both inside and outside the town to guard against the arrival of the thieving gang. Compared to this diligent and capable steward, Saul, who was only interested in sitting in his study, had no sense of responsibility as a lord.
Despite Jessica’s efforts, within a few days, more than 10,000 pounds of food were stolen by batches. The other party seemed to be well aware of Lowell’s garrison weakness. Unless they encountered the guard team, they were not afraid to face ordinary, unarmed residents.
As a result, the shortage of personnel on the guard team was exposed. Often, when the team members rushed to the scene of a thief sighting, the loot would have already been taken. Despite their superior martial arts skills, the guard members were not able to gain an advantage in several confrontations. The thieves always had the upper hand due to their larger numbers and tendency to avoid direct confrontation. When they encountered the guards, they simply dispersed.
After several clashes, although several thieves were injured, none were caught. This allowed the thieves to continue stealing livestock and raiding orchards as if Lowell were a supermarket where they could take whatever they pleased. Fortunately, they had not yet harmed any ordinary residents.
For the next two weeks, everyone was exhausted, and the whole town was dead silent, with doors closed and no activity at night, as if it were a ghost town. Despite Kress and Jessica’s best efforts, they were unable to effectively stop the problem.
Saul was also quite troubled. After observing for a few days, he was cetain that the other party was indeed a gang of thieves, but their scale was beyond belief. Moreover, these people seemed to only be interested in food and rarely broke into homes to steal valuables. Their abnormal behavior made people very uneasy.
“Ah, this can’t be happening! Are these thieves all reincarnated evil spirits? Why is my luck so bad that I always encounter these rare and strange things!” Saul exclaimed, looking up at the sky in frustration.