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Castle Of Black Iron - Volume 1 - Chapter 11

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Fool's Gold

When he reached the general store, Zhang Tie has already thrown away what happened to Doug to the back of his mind. Doug's encounter will definitely become the joke of Airplane Brotherhood, that unlucky fella might never be able to escape their jokes for rest of his life.

When Zhang Tie entered the store, he saw Tang De servicing a customer and stood at the side instead to observe. Only when the customer left did Zhang Tie enter the counter and began to do his cleaning duties, sweeping and wiping the area.

After cleaning, he took out the abacus and began to work on the ledgers checking the accounts and transactions that happened over the past few days.

Ever since Zhang Tie started working in the store and learnt the abacus, he noticed the store owner, Tang De, is becoming more and more lazy. Each round of checking will take him slightly more than an hour to finish and today is also the same.

Seeing Zhang Tie is being busy inside the store, Tang De went to lie down on that chair of his before leisurely closing his eyes.

Remembering the tea leaves that Barry brought along today, Zhang Tie got curious and casually started a conversation with Tang De.

’’Boss, do you know about an item called tea leave?’’

’’Oh? Tea leaves?’’ Tang Die turned his head curiously as he heard the question and gave Zhang Tie a look, ’’That is a very precious and rarely seen drink, something only those old men with money and influence who likes to act refined and high class will purchase to flaunt their status.’’

’’That can't be, it doesn't seem like a drink. I saw someone keeping it inside their mouth. You drink using your saliva?’’

’’Idiot, tea leaves are supposed to steep in boiled water, it requires a lot of attention!’’ Tang De scolded, ’’To keep tea leaves inside the mouth, only those rich upstarts will use this method to freshen their breath!’’

’’Oh, so this thing is very expensive!’’

’’Not very expensive, it is exceedingly expensive. The lowest grade sold in Black Flame City was imported from outside and sold in 500 gram packets, it costs this amount!’’ Tang De showed his open palm with his fingers spread wide.

’’As for the higher grade stuff, you can forget about it in this life time!’’

’’Five silver coins!’’ from Zhang Tie's perspective this is already a very ridiculous amount.

’’Five silver coins...’’ Tang De snorted out a laugh, ’’is only enough for you to sniff it. It is five gold coins and that's the minimum price when there's more stock available, at other times it can go higher!’’

Zhang Tie was flabbergasted, no wonder Barry that fella carefully packed those ugly and broken bits of leaves in many layers of paper. To think that this stuff is so expensive, no normal person would dare to deal with it.

’’Since it is so expensive, isn't this a jackpot if planted it in Black Flame City!’’

’’Even if there is a jackpot, it will not be yours. This stuff can only be found in the Eastern Continent because they can't be grown anywhere else. Those that are in this line of business are major enterprises and merchant associations with powerful backings!’’

’’The school teacher taught before that the Eastern Continent is a place with numerous human countries, many of them powerful. Some countries even have a few thousand cities that are on the same scale as Black Flame City...!’’

’’Country bumpkin. A mere Black Flame City, there are many cities out there that are ten times bigger. When you find the chance to travel to the Eastern Continent you will discover that there is even a country that is formed by Chinese people. Remembering the times when I was younger......’’ Tang De's face displayed a yearning expression as he recollected and told his experiences, Zhang Tie listened to everything in earnest.

Tang De seems to be speaking the truth about him travelling the Eastern Continent when he was young, some of the details he mentioned are also spoken by others before and are rather legit. As for others, such as following the warrior customs of the Eastern Continent by drinking blood to form a bond with his sworn brother. Or fighting on the battlefield against the non-human races that seeks to exterminate all humans, fighting the seemingly endless battle even when his armor shattered and his helmet broke. Or discovering some priceless ruins with a frontier pioneer. Or adventuring the underground tunnels with a big bust beauty and nearly being raped by another group of beauties. Or having seen countless head-size diamonds and house-size gold etc.

Basically, content that has been repeated countless of times in those knight novels are filtered off by Zhang Tie.

As Tang De continues to add details to his life, talking to the point where the big bust beauty he is adventuring with is crying in tears while asking him to marry her.

Two customers entered the shop, the customers are both in their thirties with weathered looks and unkempt beards. They are wearing cowhide boots and bronze button belts with rivet half-body armor*. Attached on their waist is a long sword while a steel crossbow is being carried on their backs. On the shoulders of their rivet half-body armor, a hooded cape is buckled to it.

This is the look of a frontier pioneer, having worked in the store for a year has trained Zhang Tie's observation skills to a sharp degree. Although the two of them are frontier pioneers, their pioneering duration likely isn't long.

This could be seen from their equipment, the rookies that just joined the profession for the first few years all looked like this, as if worried that people will not know they are pioneers, the equipment they wear all looks the same like standard issue uniform, even when it is not required to do so.

(Cuppa: Here's a guess of how the half armor looks like, first picture of the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almain_rivet)

’’How may I assist the two of you?’’ Zhang Tie greeted them professionally.

The two of them measured Zhang Tie with a glance and looked around the store before giving each other a nod. The taller guy moved forward, lowering his body and spoke in a suppressed voice, ’’Is your boss here, I have business for him!’’

’’I am the boss, I make the decisions in this shop!’’

The two pioneers looked at Tang De from top to bottom before wordlessly looked at each other nodding their heads

’’Do you buy goods?’’

’’As long it has reasonable value, I will buy all types of goods. If the item brought by the two of you is too precious and beyond my shop's capabilities to purchase, I can also provide introductions to other suitable places. If a transaction is made, I will charge a 5% middle man fee instead’’ Tang De's experienced manner of speech and offers immediately confirmed the pioneers' decision in their minds.

After cautiously looking out of the store and ensuring that no one is taking note of this shop, one of the pioneers stood in an angle that used his body to block the vision of anyone looking into the store. The other pioneer on the other hand, retrieved a fist-size mineral ore from his pouch and placed it on the counter.

The ore's surface gives off a golden shine, it looks like gold but seems to be even more expensive and frightening.

Zhang Tie initially thought the precious treasure that the two of them brought can broaden his horizons but the item that they took out stunned him, causing him to silently shake his head instead.

’’Just this?’’ Tang De looked as though he had a tooth ache while sucking in his breath

’’Just this...’’ one of the pioneer gave Tang De a solemn look. ’’Give me your price, as long as it is reasonable, us brothers will form a long term relationship with your store!’’

’’One copper coin for 5 kilograms!’’ Tang De gave his price.

’’What!? Repeated that to me again! Did I hear wrongly...’’ the two pioneers glared angrily at Tang De.

’’Even if I repeat ten thousand times it will be the same, one copper coin for 5 kilograms!’’ Tang De casually replied, ignoring the reddening faces of the pioneers. The one that is blocking the view even impulsively placed his hand on the sword on his waist.

’’You two gentlemen must have thought this is a gold ore right? Its color is just right and the quality is good?’’ hearing Tang De's question, the two pioneers nodded their heads after awhile, the one with his hand on the sword hilt also slightly loosen his grip.

’’Keke, certain gold ores do look very similar to this one. However, very regrettably, this is not gold ore but rather yellow iron ore instead. One copper for 5 kilograms is actually a very fair offer!’’

’’Yellow iron ore?’’ the pioneer lifted the shiny gold ore in his hand, unable to accept the fact that this item that cause them some painstaking effort to obtain is even more worthless than scrap metal. The other pioneer on the other hand have a look of suspicion, doubting the words of Tang De.

Seeing the looks on the two pioneers, Tang De did not speak further but turned to Zhang Tie and said, ’’Take out the yellow iron ore samples that we have in our store’’

After doing some searching at a corner of the store, Zhang Tie brought out a dusty tattered bag and placed it on the floor to reveal its contents. More than ten kilos of the stuff fell out of the bag, each of them looked like the mineral ore on top of the counter. The two pioneers squatted down, each of them taking the worthless ore in their hand and compared it with the one they brought. A multitude of colors flashed across their faces before they deflated like a balloon.

’’About 100km the south west of Black Flame City around the red high grounds* is a canyon, your ore likely originates from there. This stuff indeed does look like gold ores, the pioneers that first discovered them in the past also thought that they are gold ores and caused some jokes, the two of you should not take it to heart. When pioneering, all types of weird and strange things are discovered, no one is all-knowing and has knowledge of everything!’’

(Cuppa: This might be a form of categorizing the terrain, will update more if I find more clues)

As he accurately pointed out the origin of their ore, Tang De's words destroyed the pioneers' last ray of hope. They stood up and gloomily thank him before quickly leaving the store, likely due to embarrassment. As they exit the store entrance, one of the pioneers remembered the 'treasure' held in his hands and shouted a curse before angrily throwing the yellow iron ore out onto the streets.

’’Yellow iron ore also called Fool's Gold, does lives up to its name, another couple of fools are fooled...’’ looking at the two men leaving, Tang De sighed as he shakes his head before returning to his chair to slack off.

A few more waves of customers visited the shop after that, buying more than ten silver coins worth of products in total. When Tang De said his standard sentence ’’...as usual, I will not be inviting you to dinner today’’ Zhang Tie knew that it is time for him to go.

As he left the store, Zhang Tie wondered what the two fellows Doug and Barry are doing now.

As the sky darkens, the lamp lighters rang their bells as they lit up the lamps along the city streets. After walking no more than ten steps, Zhang Tie stopped in his tracks. Using the light from the lamps, he saw an item faintly shining at a corner in front of him...

Oh, it is the yellow iron ore that was thrown by the two fools earlier. The ore is now broken into two pieces and seems to have rolled to the corner after being thrown on the streets. Zhang Tie continued and took another two steps...

Hmm, cannot be, there seems to be something inside the ore. The shine I saw, its color under the light seems to be different from normal yellow iron ore.

Zhang Tie acted immediately and took two steps towards the corner before bending down. While acting as though he is tying his shoe laces and checking that no one is noticing, he quickly picked up the two pieces of ore and placed it inside his pockets.

There is definitely something inside the yellow iron ore, Zhang Tie instantly felt his heart beating faster...



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