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Chapter 348 – Smuggling

    Chapter 348 - Smuggling

    Nie Yan and Warlance walked past many streets before arriving at a small tavern. The furnishings were old-fashioned, and the lighting was a dim yellow. An old fat man stood behind the counter muttering something under his breath.

    Rows of shabby-looking chairs and beaten-up tables filled the tavern. There weren't many players about, as only those with a specific purpose came here. No one would choose to waste their time sitting around such a dingy place.

    A man who looked to be in his late twenties sat quietly at a table in the corner. He wore an ash-grey robe and his hand rested on a bonewood staff. The man raised his glass in greeting as Nie Yan approached.

    Nie Yan's gaze immediately sharpened. The familiar figure before him brought back yet another tide of old memories.

    This was the head of Fallen Angel!

    During the interfaction conflicts of the previous timeline, Plenty had personally led an army of tens of thousands on a slaughter in Calore. They kicked off their campaign by steamrolling Lincoln Village before seizing control over 6 strongholds near Calore. At first, Victorious Return and Radiant Sacred Flame tried to avoid fighting them, but public outrage forced them into waging a massive war between factions. Fallen Angel managed to hold out for over a month before finally succumbing to Calore's war of attrition. They retreated to the Underworld, but their conquest would forever be a stain on the Viridian Empire's history.

    Many images of Fallen Angel's guild leader had been taken and shared, leaving an extremely deep impression on the players of Calore.

    At the time, Nie Yan had been a complete nobody. Legendary figures such as Plenty wouldn't take note of him. He never expected to one day sit down at a table with this man.

    Nie Yan activated Transcendent Insight.

    Plenty: Level 51

    Health: 2,112/2,112

    Level 51...! Damn!

    Nie Yan was finally certain. It was him! There was a joke in the previous timeline: "Plenty of money, Plenty of people." Fallen Angel at its peak was an existence even Radiant Sacred Flame and Victorious Return could only look up to. With over 100 master-class players, six major branches with a total of 600,000 members, and over 300 strongholds to their name, they were a true behemoth. Their influence reached across the entire Underworld. This was why Victorious Return and Radiant Sacred Flame were hesitant to go to war against them, and why they ended up resorting to a war of attrition.

    "Hello," Nie Yan greeted, calmly observing Plenty.

    "Sit," Plenty replied, unfazed by Nie Yan's gaze.

    Nie Yan sat across from him, inwardly marveling about how things had changed. Having seen so much in his two lives, he naturally wasn't fazed by Plenty's status. He was confident Asskickers United would grow to be no weaker than Fallen Angel at their prime!

    "I didn't expect you to hide in plain sight by pretending to be a member of the Evil Faction! I'm surprised you managed to get past the guards. I assume you used some sort of alignment-concealing accessory?" Plenty asked. His knowledge of the Mad Rogue was limited to only a handful of videos, However, it was enough recognize Nie Yan as an important personage of the Viridian Empire. Only a few members of the Righteous Faction were worthy of his attention: Angyi Tianshi from Angel Corps, Mad Blade from Bloodlust Blades, and Nirvana Flame from Asskickers United.

    "A necklace."

    "How long does the disguise last?"

    "Three hours." Nie Yan decided there was no need to conceal this information.

    "Three hours! Yours is much better than mine," Plenty exclaimed as he took out a black ring. It featured a nail-sized black gemstone that gleamed with a dark light. "Here's mine. It only hides my alignment for half an hour."

    Nie Yan was startled for a moment when Plenty admitted he possessed a similar item. Even when most players were over Level 100, very few had faction-disguising items. However, it made sense. Even if equipment with such effects were rare, it wasn't too far-fetched for the guild leader of the Undead Empire's biggest guild to have one already.

    Nie Yan knew better than anyone what two pieces of faction-disguising equipment meant!

    It was easy for the NPC guards to track illegal trade between factions, but this didn't account for the ability to change one's alignment. With two pieces of faction-disguising equipment, a pair of business partners could easily make trades free of oversight. However, they would still have to be careful when making the transaction. People had done this in the previous timeline, to mixed results. Some made a fortune and got off scot-free, while others were imprisoned and had their illegal assets seized.

    However, under the allure of immense profit, many still took the risk. It wasn't easy to go from the surface to the Underworld or vice versa. Players had to traverse the Gates of Hell and Endless Caverns. It was extremely dangerous, living up to the saying that great rewards came with great risk.

    "How about we form a partnership?" Plenty asked knowingly. As he waited for Nie Yan's reply, he sipped his drink with a carefree smile on his face. In the face of such potential riches, he refused to believe Nie Yan could resist his offer.

    Nie Yan took a deep breath and paused for a moment. Exchanging equipment from the two factions would be an incredibly lucrative business. The possible profit was utterly incalculable! He replied, "I can think about it."

    Asskickers United and Fallen Angel certainly wouldn't clash with each other anytime soon. Even if a war between factions broke out, such behemoths with shared interests would naturally avoid each other.

    A partnership would be a win-win situation!

    "How long does it take for you to go through the Gates of Hell and Endless Caverns? I tasked people with finding a route through once, but they couldn't do it. They estimated that players would have to be around Level 100 before even being able to make a serious attempt.

    Plenty looked intently at Nie Yan, genuinely curious this time. Just how did he get here?

    "I didn't take that route, but I'm afraid I'll have to keep my means of transportation a secret for now." Even if they were partnering up, Nie Yan couldn't lay all his cards out on the table.

    "So you didn't go through those danger zones. No wonder!"

    "I can probably make a trip every 10 days," Nie Yan said. The Dark Portal could be used every 5 days, so if their partnership went through he could trade five bags' worth of equipment every 10 days.

    The two of them fleshed out a rough outline of their cooperation and exchanged contact information. Nie Yan gave Plenty his phone number, since real-life phones couldn't be traced to either faction. Every time he came to the Underworld, he would use it to call Plenty and inform him of his location. Fallen Angel would immediately send someone disguised as a member of the Righteous Faction to take the surface equipment from Nie Yan. Then, Nie Yan would receive the Underworld equipment from a separate individual while disguised as a member of the Evil faction. Finally, Nie Yan would return to the surface to sell the smuggled goods for a massive profit.

    Most smugglers from the previous timeline did things this way. Because faction-disguising equipment was simply too rare, it was very difficult to run into someone from the opposing faction who had one. Plus, it was far too difficult to pass the Gates of Hell and go through the Endless Caverns. Usually, only a massive team could make this journey with any sort of reliability, so the expenses were sky-high. Topping off all these hardships was the sheer danger of the act itself. If even the slightest mishap happened with their trade, the whole operation could get exposed and both sides would be in deep trouble.

    Because Nie Yan could go through the Dark Portal, the transaction costs were practically negated. However, they still had to be extremely cautious when making the trades.

    This wasn't unlike what Nie Yan's parents did in the real world. Harsh government regulations and strictly enforced customs still couldn't eliminate the problem of smuggling, so people took the risk to smuggle rare goods for sky-high prices.

    Nie Yan and Plenty began discussing the details of their partnership. Plenty ordered his men to go gather items for Nie Yan to bring back to the surface. Night Vision equipment and similarly specialized equipment weren't all that valuable in the Underworld, but were worth hundreds of times more on the surface.

    "You should give that Black Kingsnake Shield you picked up back to us. After all, it's not that useful for you," Plenty tried to persuade Nie Yan. To Fallen Angel, that shield was still of vital importance.

    Nie Yan thought for a moment. Even if the Black Kingsnake Shield was valuable, it was still only around 5,000 gold. If his trade deal with Fallen Angel went through, he would make far more than just that amount.

    "Once your men come back with all the equipment, I'll take that chance to trade them the shield," Nie Yan replied. Trading equipment was much safer than dealing with money.

    Plenty thought for a moment before understanding Nie Yan's meaning. He nodded in understanding. "Sure."

    He raised his glass and toasted, "A pleasure doing business with you."

    "And with you too," Nie Yan smiled. Making direct contact with the leader of Fallen Angel saved him a ton of trouble.

    "You have to be careful. Don't get exposed, or the Evil Guards will be after you."

    "I know my limits," Nie Yan reassured. If he got on the Evil Guards' watchlist, he would have no place in the Underworld from then on out. Even worse, they would carefully monitor any transactions dealing with him.

    "To avoid suspicion, I'll leave first. We can communicate further outside the game."

    "Alright."

    Plenty stood up and left the tavern as Warlance followed closely behind.

    Watching Plenty's back disappear through the doorway, Nie Yan mused about his ignorance of Plenty's background. He would have to ask Guo Huai and Ah Chen to look into him. Someone who could gather so much power in the Underworld certainly wouldn't have a simple origin.

    As Nie Yan sat in the tavern, he tried to remember as much as he could about the previous Fallen Angel. Suddenly, he recalled a tidbit that made him chuckle: Fallen Angel and Angel Corps weren't on good terms in the past. With Angel Corps' Angyi Tianshi and Fallen Angel's Plenty both leading an Angel guild on opposite factions, things were going to get interesting.

    Finally, quite some time after Plenty left, Nie Yan got up and exited the tavern. He went in search for a market of sorts to buy some basic consumables. Since he would be in the Underworld for three more days, he needed to restock on supplies.
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