TDL BK I, CH 20: A Simple Business Offer

Chapter Twenty: A Simple Business Offer

Whiles Dunstan appraised the old man, said old man did the same to him. For someone as old and experienced as Ranulyn, the state of the Vast Heaven Palace could be seen through with a glance. They were good, steady customers and he would be sorry to see them go especially with the mollifying effect they had on the region’s more… rash personalities. Nevertheless, such was how the world turned. There was a new overlord and as the deposed party, the Vast Heaven Palace’s days were numbered. 

Unlike the ignorant fools, such as the True Fire Lord– a parrot who had grown too used to yelling with the voice of his master– he did not believe that they would be wiped out. He knew too much of the sect’s history and connections to make such a stupid assumption but he could also see the trends. Bit by bit, they were getting pushed out and cut off from the halls of power that controlled the region. Still, he made sure to remain on amiable terms with them knowing that when the inevitable came and the sect was forced to abandon this region and move — they had done it before— his recommendation and aid might merit a few kickbacks. 

Or so he thought.

At first, he dismissed all the claims of the new Sect Master’s prowess as Vast Heaven Propaganda. Theirs wasn’t a situation that could be flipped by a twenty-something-year-old neophyte, cut from the same cloth as his ancestors or not. But then his spies brought him news of an artefact so precious and secret even the sect had been unaware of its existence. An artefact that only responded to said, neophyte leader. It prompted a closer reexamination of affairs. 

It led him here, standing face to face with a man too young to be his twice great-grandchild and yet feeling like he was the junior party. It didn’t help that he was tall enough that even the one hundred and ninety centimetres tall Ranulyn needed to crane his head to look him in the eyes. Dunstan Kaguri was a figure that commanded attention. His face was maybe too hawk-like to be considered classically handsome but it lent him an intense, focused gaze that made his golden eyes that much more piercing. Combine that with skin that was a deep, rich brown, and hair styled in thick, shoulder-length locks and you had someone more than capable of turning heads his way. Nevertheless, stand in his shadow, with his powerful frame, athletic build and broad shoulders looming over you and you were instantly reminded that you were standing in front of a warrior. 

“How may I help you, Pavillion Master Ranulyn”, spoke the tall Sect Master, his victim seemingly forgotten.

Ranulyn tried to catch the True Fire Sect Master’s eye, to acknowledge the debt he now held but the young giant advanced too quickly for him to keep his attention split. 

“I was wondering if we could discuss some business in private?” he said, standing his ground.

Dunstan looked at the man quizzically before acquiescing and leading him towards a private booth, “Please, this way!”

The private booth Dunstan led his guest to was located behind the pavilion offering a sense of privacy and seclusion from the rest of the area. The booth was lined with dark, polished wood, which gave it a rich, elegant feel. The seating was plush, with comfortable leather cushions that cradled the occupants in comfort. The table was covered in a crisp white tablecloth, above which floated a small, magical orb of light which cast a soft light onto the centre of the table and provided a warm glow that illuminated their faces.

Intended as a meeting area and eatery for their high-class guests, the walls of the booth were draped with heavy curtains made of velvet, which added to the luxurious feel of the place as well as several privacy enchantments that provided sound insulation to ensure any conversations occurring within remained private. When the doors were closed and the curtains were drawn to completely enclose the booth, it created a cocoon-like space where the two men could focus on their discussion without distractions.

“An ancient training ground like that is…”

“It is not for sale!” Dunstan interrupted, cutting the man off before he could even finish his 

At his outburst, the old man paused with what looked like surprise passing fleetingly over his face. “Of course!” he accepted. 

“I would imagine not. I was thinking of a much smaller venture”, he revealed. “I was simply noting that such mystic realms are all too rare in this age. Whatever items it may provide are sure to fetch a high price, especially among certain enlightened buyers. My pavilion is more than happy to simply purchase these ancient artefacts and perhaps connect you with some of our clientele… for a small commission.”

Dunstan steepled his fingers and nodded slightly as he listened. Mentally, he could not help but wonder if the Preceptor had not made a mistake by having them prop up his dungeons as relics from the Cataclysm because right now, he was scrambling to recall if the aloof Myriad Treasures Pavilion had ever offered such a deal to anyone. He especially couldn’t call up a single instance where they had done so of their own volition. That said, he was aware that they did a lot of business with the Jade Dragon Row. They might know.  

“That is a much more preferable arrangement”, he confessed to the other man while trying to keep his cool. “Unfortunately, I cannot promise much. The Mausoleum will be made available to all parties who pay the entrance fee. Even for us, its owners, it will be difficult if not impossible to monopolise its contents.”

“Understandable”, Ranulyn said to him. “Our pavilion is fine delving on our own. That said, I would be remiss if I did not ask for the tools necessary to ensure their safety.”

Dunstan frowned not sure what the man was getting at. “Delving into mystic realms has always been dangerous work. Life and safety are not things that can be guaranteed in such circumstances.” 

The man gave him a small conspiratory smile. “Come on now. The ancient sects wouldn’t send their prized disciples into a dangerous mystic realm without some means to ensure their safety. I can understand your desire to keep it to your sect but I would not be doing my duty if I did not inquire into their sale if only for our own exploratory ventures.” 

A light bulb flickered to life in Dunstan’s head. Reaching for his glass, he discretely opened his dungeon maker interface and scrolled through the shop. Within moments, his mental cursor stumbled on his target; dungeon escape tokens, each one guaranteed to deliver a person out of the dungeon safely if triggered.

Taking a slow sip from his tumbler, Dunstan said, “The item you’re asking for only exists in limited quantities. Our palace has yet to master their creation and so we are unable to offer any for sale at this juncture.”

Contrary to expectations, Ranulyn smiled like a cat who had gotten into the cream at his words. “Palace Master Kaguri, need I remind you that money is no obstacle for my organisation?”

Dunstan hmmned for a second before setting his tumbler back onto the table. “Something like this will affect my sect’s efforts to delve into the mystic realm. I will have to discuss this with a few of my elders before I can give a definitive answer.”

“I look forward to your consideration then!” the man said raising his glass.

No sooner had Ranulyn left that Dunstan’s bodyguards made themselves known.

“What were you thinking?” Elder Homatt asked in a tense tone. “Do not make the mistake of thinking Ranulyn to be a simple businessman. The Myriad Treasures Pavilion has means of getting what they’re owed. If he thinks we’re intentionally holding out on him…”

“Relax!” Elder Dorn said trying to calm his friend down. “Dunstan is no fool. He wouldn’t have promised something he couldn’t deliver.” Despite the vote of confidence, the portly old man shot him a glance to confirm.

Dunstan nodded his way. “Believe me, I was surprised as you were but I checked and indeed, there are protective talismans to protect disciples in the mystic realm. They do not work exactly as he said but they do exist.”

“Really?” “How?” they asked at the same time.

“Wait, you checked?” Elder Hommatt realised. “In here? In front of Ranulyn?”

Dunstan knew what he was asking. “Relax!” he said, repeating Dorn’s statement. “The artefact is with the preceptor. However, my bond is strong enough that I can commune with it from anywhere in the sect. 

“Elder Homatt!” he called. “Do you mind keeping the guests busy while I quickly make the items required?”

The man shot him a look before nodding and leaving the booth.

“What do you need?” Elder Dorn asked him.

Dunstan took a moment to check his interface. It cost 3 AP to create a basic escape token effectively reducing his AP gain from casual visitors even resulting in negative gain if they were weak enough. Given that it was 10 es to 1 AP, Dunstan did some quick maths in his head. 

“Get me three thousand low-grade essence stones. It should be enough to create a hundred tokens.”

“30 es per token?” Elder Dorn said softly also doing the maths. 

“Here’s five thousand. If we make some for him, we’re going to have to make some for the Jade Dragons and the Gold Mountains,” he added, reminding Dunstan about their allies.

“How much should we sell them for?”

“To a moneybags like Ranulyn, at least a hundred es each!” his great-uncle stated firmly.

An idea occurred to Dunstan then, the Myriad Treasures Pavilion was the single richest organisation in the region with access to contacts and resources the current Vast Heaven Palace could only dream of. He thought back to the dungeon entrance or more specifically, the sky stone pillars they had ‘used’ to anchor it. 

“How about we charge Ranulyn something more precious than money?”

Outside the booth, the first group of explorers delved into the dungeon. 

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