Major companies – Part 1

The large room was filled with a dim light.
The walls were impossible to see, but the few visible objects looked quite valuable, included the ground.
At its center stood a single man.
His face was as pale as a ghost’s, and trickles of sweat were running down his body.
There wasn’t a trace of his usual obnoxious expression.

“Good grief… I had some expectations, Geiz.”

A disappointed, masculine voice rose from the darkness.
Even though the man couldn’t see who was talking, he could feel the presence of several people.

“You run an illegal business in the slums, don’t you? Despite the inferior environment, keeping up with something like that should be worth of merits.”

As the shadow spoke those words, another one sighed.

“That’s why we agreed on you joining us but… who would have expected that a child would have humiliated you like that.”

“I-I beg your pardon… but I still have slaves for gambling! I’ve been a slave merchant for a long time, so there’s nothing to be worried…”

“You fell behind that kid, though.”

Geiz remained silent after that remark.
It was the undeniable truth, so he had nothing to say.

“Rumors about the Soft-hearted slave merchant reached even us in the upper part.”

“I-It’s true that he would always provide the best solution for any kind of request and that he is skilled in the art of conversation… but it shouldn’t be necessary to ask him for slaves who will be used in fights.”

“We know that. Slaves are disposable lives. What become of them is irrelevant.”

The major companies in the upper part expanded their business and started organizing illegal gambles.
The matches weren’t limited to humans, sometimes the slaves had to fight demi-humans or monsters to provide entertainment.
There was a single, cruel rule: all fights were to the death.
The main spectators were nobles with too much free time. Even though they knew it was illegal and they could get arrested, the matches eased their boredom.
Buying beggars and criminals in far away, deserted villages that housed almost limitless human resources, and then, thanks to the connections between the organizations, corrupting the guards to create an illegal route to keep the business running… Geiz knew how to move in these situations, so he should have been the perfect person to help them.
He would have earned an important position if he provided them Valeria’s techniques and slaves.

That’s why he sold himself to the major companies.
He even turned his back to the obligations he had with his previous leader.
However, things didn’t go as expected.

“More than managing the gambling den, it’s essential for you to have a steady pace in providing us new slaves. And… recently, you’re not doing a good job, aren’t you?”

“We lack both humans and demi-humans.”

Geiz gritted his teeth in frustration.
A demi-human’s physical abilities were usually stronger than human’s, so it was necessary to restrict their movements with special handcuffs, but capturing them wasn’t hard.
They tended to refrain from fighting, given their calm temperament, and some didn’t even resist their capture. Taking advantage of that and setting up traps was easy.
That’s one of the reasons their price was now ridiculously low.
Still, human slaves weren’t always available.
Deserted villages filled with starving people swiftly sold out every child, and organizations from other cities started to keep them for themselves. Back street’s guides vanished, and the guards and custom houses were inclined to be bribed.
Furthermore, the demi-humans slowly became conscious of the type of traps used to catch them, so they started to hide in remote regions inaccessible to normal people.
Nothing was going as planned.
Even Geiz understood that the third party had noticed how grim the situation was.

“We are considering to allow Valeria to join us for our benefits. Putting your trading abilities aside, it’s said that the Soft-hearted slave merchant can fulfill any request, and that’s exactly what we are aiming for right now.”

The hatred packed within Geiz could clearly be seen in his expression.
Hatred for those who stood above everyone else and sneered at him from up there.

“You are useless. If you can’t give us Valeria as you promised, we’ll deal with this ourselves.”

“…Wait, please. If it’s a matter of slaves, I can already manage to gather enough of them.”

Someone burst into a scornful laughter.

“And yet here you are right now. You can’t do that, and we’re not going to get fooled by a failure like you!”

Geiz smiled at those words.

“I know I failed. My naivety is the reason I couldn’t predict that the Soft-hearted slave merchant would see through my plan. That’s the reason I’m here at this moment.”

This situation was something he had already accounted for.
He hadn’t any proof to confirm that Takumi, who had now taken his place in Valeria’s hierarchy, was behind his poor stock of slaves.
Still, the young guy’s position allowed him to know about the former proxy leader’s information web so it wouldn’t be hard for him to sabotage it.
Geiz expected him to act in some way after he tried to make Valeria join the major companies.

“But as long as I can fix this, there’s nothing to be worried about. I just need to run the business outside the reach of Valeria’s network.”

Knowing Takumi’s moves, he could think about a solution.

“I’ve already secured trusted personal connections and commercial routes. If I use them, I can satisfy your demand for slaves.”

“Why haven’t you used them already?”

“Because it was dangerous, but I’ve already taken care of that.”

Geiz faced the men hidden in the darkness with a stringy smile on his face.

“As an apology for my errors, I will bring you five times more slaves than usual before the next show. That will be possible if you let me use your secret routes.”

From the shadows, he could hear them muttering among themselves.

“I became close to a group of nobles, and I happened to hear that there’s a path arranged for important people. I also know that others use it for illegal trade, despite disapproving the arranged fights.”

The four major companies were recognized by the country itself and they handled the commercial affairs in the upper part of the city.
Nobles used secret routes in collusion with each other so that illegal goods could circle between them.
Those paths had to remain hidden, so only the four major companies and those who joined them were allowed to use them.
That way, they could keep the profit to themselves.

“When I was part of Valeria, I used one of the sewage routes that flows from the highest part of the city to Verna’s port, but since my former comrades also know about it, we’ll have to use a land route.”

Declared Geiz, and the murmur grew into deep voices. He couldn’t see their faces, but given their tone, he guessed that they were not exactly excited.

“What’s the point of doing it once if you can’t keep a regular flow of goods? Even if it works this time, who knows when that slave merchant might trouble us again.”

“You don’t have to worry. I can get rid of Valeria’s members… and I won’t allow anyone to stand in our way. Anyone who dares to oppose us will be swiftly dealt with.”

“Mmmh…? Let’s hear your plan, then.”

He explained in detail what he had in mind.
Those presents agreed with him, and his lips curled into an uncanny smile.

“Thank you… I won’t betray your expectations.”

He said while greed and revenge flared in his eyes.

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