The noises of fighting, shouting and weapons discharges spread out chaotically in the distance.
Even in this lower shopping deck which mainly hosted shops and facilities catering towards technical and industrial purposes, the different bars and watering holes attracted drunk pirates like a moth to flame.
And when fans of different mech champions showed up in a single place, bodies tended to drop!

The repercussions of this seemingly inconsequential grudge match between the Deathless and the Hellvoice was much more severe than Ves expected!

”Damnit, what is up with these folks? ” He asked while he waited for Big Dickson ’s to completely retract its barricades.
The sheer amount of them protecting the shopfront took some time to stow away.
”What ’s the big deal with those mech champions? ”

Ketis looked at Ves as if he was a sandman.
”You really don ’t know? They ’re famous! They ’re one of the two biggest names at the top of the duelling circuit! Rowland Ryke, otherwise known as the Deathless, is famous for never dying even during the worst matches of his life! That man is an old geezer who made it all the way to his sixties while squashing mech champions left and right throughout his entire career! He ’s the poster boy of the Castle Breakers, who are even larger than our Swordmaidens! ”

”He ’s sixty years old? And made it out alive through all kinds of mech duels? I have to admit, that ’s really impressive! ”

Even in the rule-bound sanctioned mech arenas, the average mech athlete never risked their bodies when they started to suffer from the first signs of old age.
Retiring in their forties became commonplace and expected for these faltering mech pilots.

”What ’s even more impressive is his duelling opponent.
Sonora Bridges rose up from the Omen of Misfortune like a rocket and beat established mech champions one after the other.
Everyone knew she was going to challenge the Deathless sooner or later, but she was still too green! She pilots her own custom mech which have these weird sonic attacks, that ’s why she ’s called the Hellvoice.
The only thing I can ’t figure out is why the duel turned into a grudge match.
That ’s a duel to the death! ”

”Maybe the Deathless mistook her for a whore and asked her to get into bed with him for a couple of K-coins. ” Ves morbidly joked.

The joke fell flat, especially since the cleaning bots were spraying some deodorizing agent that wiped away the coppery bloody smell and replaced it with the scent of blooming sunflowers.

”Haha. ” Ketis replied flatly.
”Nah, she wouldn ’t be provoked that easily.
I ’ve been following her career, so I know she ’s always careful about challenging mech champions above her tier.
In fact, did you know I met her once? We ’re a little chummy with the Omen of Misfortune.
Commander Lydia made some deals with them a couple of times.
Maybe they ’ll call on us to back them up if the Castle Breakers start to go to war with them.
I can easily see that happen! ”

Ves almost palmed his face before he remembered that he would be smacking himself with an armored palm.
Something like that would definitely dent his softer features.

He still groaned though.
”Why can ’t I go anywhere without anything going wrong? ”

”Ves, this space station is looking increasingly hairy. ” Nolsen spoke up.
”Don ’t underestimate the capacity for stupidity among the people who have spent too much time in the frontier.
While regular people back in civilized space know when to back off and get away as fast as possible when they see an exoskeleton soldier, you can ’t be sure of anything when it comes to pirates.
I suggest we immediately return to the fleet and skip the shopping for another time. ”

”I appreciate your concerns, Nolsen, but Big Dickson ’s is almost opening up.
If we spilled blood trying to reach this store, the least we can do is enter it.
Besides, I ’m not returning until I obtain what I want. ”

It took a few more minutes until the store tidied up its interior and let customers inside.
In order to convey the right message, he left his security guards at the entrance while stepping inside with Ketis.
The woman immediately walked ahead and approached the proprietor of the store.

”Hey Big Dickson! Sorry about the red carpet on the street.
Do you recognize me? ”

”Pff, you ’re that brat who follows Mayra around, right? ” The skinny fellow behind the counter replied.
”You sure grew up the last time you stopped by here.
Slain your own exobeast and used its remains to spiff up your armor and all.
That makes you a real adult now, right? ”

Ketis glowed with pride, though she still looked a bit awkward interacting with a man by herself.
Anyway, I ’m here for business.
My pal over there with the fancy cape wants to get his hands on sulomnium, beta-otricine and Flesha ’s Tears.
Do you have ’em in stock? ”

The thin fellow scratched his messy brown beard and his eyes stared off into the air.
To be honest, there was nothing ’big ’ about Dickson at all.
If there was anything about him that was big, Ves couldn ’t find any sign of it so far.

”I think we recently received a shipment of Flesha ’s Tears.
You ’re lucky it shipped to us recently, because they ’re always a hot seller.
As for sulomnium and beta-otricine, we ’ve got both of them in stock, though not in any great volume.
All of them will cost you an arm and a leg, though. ”

”I have K-coins. ” Ves took over from here.
”As long as you have the goods, I ’ll take some off your hands.
I need 735 grams of sulomnium, 450 milligrams of beta-otricine, and ninety milligrams of Flesha ’s Tears, all in medium-grade quality.
I don ’t accept any of that sub-standard stuff. ”

The experienced Big Dickson nodded several times and eyes Ves like he already figured out what kind of customer he was facing.
It helped that Ves looked a bit larger than life right now with his extravagant outfit.
”Here at Big Dickson ’s we guarantee our products come from the finest suppliers in the frontier.
All of our exotic products are carefully inspected by bots and by hand to ensure our clients leave our doorstep with a smile! We have a range of multiscanners and mineral scanning devices available for you to borrow if you feel the need to inspect our products thoroughly. ”

”No thanks, I brought my own multiscanner. ”

He carried a variety of gadgets on his toolbelt.
The convenience of carrying them made Ves grew more attached to wearing these kinds of belts.
Not only did it allow him to bring his useful stuff while keeping his pockets and hands free, people ’s perception of him also started to shift.
Everyone trusted that Ves knew what he was doing because he wore a toolbelt.
Its effect of enhancing everyone ’s perception of his competence was the same as if he wore a professional white lab coat.

It was another case of function following form! 

In other words, as long as Ves looked the part, the people who saw him instantly believed the role he was trying to play!

A couple of decently-constructed lab bots brought three sturdy alloy lockboxes from the store ’s vault and placed them side by side on the counter.
Various codes and other incomprehensible symbols marked the lockboxes.

Big Dickson retrieved a big decryption device from his jumpsuit pocket and held it onto their surfaces, causing them to unfold in a matter of seconds.
They revealed numerous transparent thumb-sized cubes, each of them holding a standard amount highly valuable exotics.

The store proprietor then proceeded to measure out the exact mass for each exotic, transferring them into three larger cubes for transportation.
He made sure to keep the exotics within their transparent cubes in order to protect them from exposure and to protect the environment from getting exposed by them.
These trace exotics were incredibly volatile in the open.

”Here you go.
You can measure the mass, volume and integrity of these exotics yourself.
You can also bring a third-party appraiser if you want to verify the contents. ”

”My multiscanner will do. ” Ves said and proceeded to scan with his own device.
He didn ’t expect a store that looked as big and respectable as Big Dickson ’s to pull a fast one on him, but it never hurt to make sure.
”Looks like it all checks out, though the volatility of your sulomnium and beta-otricine has gone a little stale. ”

The store owner shrugged.
”That doesn ’t detract from their uses.
Besides, the sample of Flesha ’s Tears is so lively that it makes up for the other two materials.
That should compensate for their age. ”

The negotiation had already begun.

”What ’s the price. ”

”2,372 K-bars. ”

”What?! That ’s ridiculous! ”

”I ’ve already factored in a friendly discount on account of Lydia ’s Swordmaidens, but that ’s where we draw the line.
Company policy, you see. ”

No matter how much Ves argued, Big Dickson truly didn ’t mean to lower the price he quoted at the start.

From his estimates, Ves knew that while the price was on the high side, it was already somewhat fair.
By the time these exotics got shipped back to the Bright Republic or the Reinald Republic, the total price might get jacked up by at least twenty percent or more!

If Ves wanted to be really thorough, he should put this deal on hold and visit some of the other stores that sold the exotics he wanted and obtain their price quotes as well.
However, Ves figured the differences wouldn ’t be too big, as these exotics already carried a somewhat static price.

Another factor that played a role was that Ves needed to finish his business quickly.
The Flagrant Swordmaidens didn ’t wish to stick around in the Mancroft System, and the Independent Harbor itself had been thrown into turmoil due to the aftermath of the grudge match.

Ves felt as if he had entered a ticking time bomb that was ready to explode at any moment!

Please put the exotics in a sturdy container like those lockboxes if possible. ”

”That ’ll cost you an extra K-bar. ”

Now that was a ripoff.

”Hell no, I ’m not that gullible.
Ten K-coins! ”Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

”Five-hundred. ”

”Fifty! ”

”Two-hundred-and-fifty! ”

”A hundred! No more or I ’ll take my luck elsewhere! ”

”Fine. ” Big Dickson breathed out in exasperation.
”If you want to bring out a lockbox with you, you ’ll need a decryption key as well.
That ’s an additional hundred K-coins. ”

”Oh come on, I ’m an ally of the Swordmaidens! Give me a break, please.
Can ’t I get a freebie? ”

Moments later, Ves stepped out of the premises of Big Dickson ’s cradling a heavy lockbox with Ketis following behind him like an eager kitten.
She made a few attempts at grabbing the lockbox, but Ves firmly kept it in his grasp.
He paid 2,372 K-bars and a hundred-and-fifty K-coins for it all! That was practically 900 million bright credits worth of precious materials, two of which was smaller than a strand of his hair! He was not about to entrust his valuables to others!

His waiting security guards took up position around him.
”Do you have additional errands to run? ”

This is everything I need, Nolsen.
Let ’s get back to the fleet as fast as possible.
I ’m carrying some very hot cargo. ”

”That lockbox is very conspicuous.
It ’s going to attract a lot of unwanted attention if you keep holding it like that. ”

”Then what do you suggest? ”

”We should wrap it around a less conspicuous package to camouflage its value. ”

”Good idea.
I think there are some general stores around here that sells various knick-knacks. ”

Ten minutes and couple of K-coins later, they left another store with a scrappy second-hand cargo bot in tow.
The pony-sized bot carried numerous cheap composite boxes containing neat stacks of nutrient packs.

If there was anything the people on the space station ignored, it was nutrient pack.
Cheap as dirt, hard to chew through, awful taste, the list of why people hated them went on and on.
Their only merits were that they cost little to produce while containing all the necessary nutrients to survive.
They became more palatable if used as raw materials to form imitation meals, but in emergencies that was a luxury they couldn ’t afford because the processing destroyed valuable nutrients.

Thus, while they were a necessary fact of life in spaceborn environments to the point they were everywhere, everybody hated them.
Ves took advantage of these traits and buried his lockbox deep inside the open boxes revealing what they contained on the surface.
Not even filthiest pickpockets lifted nutrient packs if they could help it!

”I think that ’s good enough.
Let ’s head back to the shuttles. ”

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