"Khan, I heard the rumour. But…you aren't drinking?"
It happened when I was working hard raising my blacksmith skills in the smithy. Khan's friend arrived and started talking.
"Not drinking? What are you saying?"
"No, if you're sober, then why are you hanging out with this unimpressive newbie every day? Tsk tsk. At first glance, he looks like someone who is ignorant of the world."
I was referred to as an 'unimpressive newbie' by this damn bastard. This damn bastard had been talking ever since he entered the smithy.
"Old Man, if you stopped drinking because of this person…"
I placed strength in the hand holding my hammer. A rapidly rising killing instinct! Khan noticed that the hammer in my hand was shaking and hurriedly told his friend.
"Hey, shut up. You're mistaken."
"Yes, mistaken. That young man might have a garbage-like appearance, but you shouldn't judge a person from their outer appearance. That young man is actually a big person."
Garbage-like appearance? Did Khan always think like that about me? I felt betrayed.
I seethed with anger and hammered the steel with more strength. Then I suddenly looked at myself. I had levelled up from the gangsters, but I was still only level 21. Since both my armor and weapon were left in the warehouse, I was just wearing beginner clothes.
The criteria that an NPC used to judge users was their level, equipment and reputation. I didn't have any equipment, my level was low and my reputation was low, so I naturally looked like crap to the NPCs.
'What about the reputation I gained when I killed the gangsters?'
As I had some doubts, I listened to Khan and his friend's conversation.
"You don't believe it? Don't be deceived by his appearance and watch his techniques closely. That isn't the normal skill for a blacksmith. Isn't it? And this is a secret, but this young man took care of Veil's gang alone."
"Uhuh! What nonsense are you talking? Yes, I admit that his blacksmithing technique is great now that I've seen it with my own eyes. That young man seems moderately good, unlike his appearance. But taking care of Veil's gang alone? Aren't they the fiercest outlaws in Winston? It's impossible! How could a blacksmith take them out alone?"
"I saw it directly. Have you seen any of Veil's gang on the street today? Aren't they missing? It was all done by this young man."
"Huhu… this friend should really drink less. If this is true, shouldn't his reputation have already spread?"
Khan clicked his tongue. "Think about it. If rumors spread that this young man defeated Veil, the Mero Company wouldn't leave him alone. So why bother spreading it? There are no rumors because I was the only witness. Therefore, his reputation is still unknown."
"Well, you were the one who witnessed it. Is that young man so great? Huhut, now that I'm looking closely, doesn't he seem rather dignified?"
I see. There were no rumors that I defeated Veil's group, so the effect of my reputation hadn't spread yet.
"Khan! Are you here?"
At that moment, a group of people entered the smithy. They were holding flyers in their hands. A middle aged person showed Khan the flyer and asked, "Is this true?"
Khan verified the contents of the flyer and nodded. "That's right."
The people were agitated. What was this about? I was intrigued, so I moved closer and examined the details of the flyer.
(The Mero Company will compete with Blacksmith Khan in an item production game. The reason that we chose to do this is because we respect Khan as a human and admire his blacksmith skills. If the Mero Company loses to Khan in this game, our company will help Khan keep his smithy by paying off his debt. On the other hand, the smithy will get transferred to us if we win, but we will leave the operating rights to Khan. A coexistence with the residents of Winston is our ultimate goal. The date of the game will be announced in the near future, so please pay attention to it.)
These words were printed on the flyers that the people were carrying. I could feel that the day of the competition was steadily approaching.
'Heh. I'm not even the slightest bit nervous. No matter how skilled the blacksmith hired by the Mero Company is, I am Pagma's Descendant!'
As Pagma's Descendant, I had the 'Legendary Blacksmith's Craftsmanship Skill.' Even if the Mero Company hired a blacksmith, it was highly probably that I would produce a higher rated item.
Was the blacksmith skill so common? Even the most renowned NPC blacksmith was likely to just be at the advanced level. The opponent I would face was likely to be an advanced level blacksmith. As Pagma's Descendant, I could easily defeat an advanced level blacksmith.
The people were agitated.
"It is easy for the Mero Company to take Khan's smithy. But they didn't just forcibly take the smithy, and instead asked for a fair game. They are giving Khan a job. According to their claim, they genuinely respect Khan."
"That's right. Even if they win the game, they will allow Khan to operate the smithy? Then is the rumor that the Mero Company plans to create jobs for the residents true?"
"This seems to be the case. Maybe the Mero Company isn't as bad as we thought. They really are trying to coexist with us."
It sounded really plausible when listening to the people talking.
'The Mero Company… They hired gangsters to threaten Khan, so I thought they were bad guys. But they are actually decent. Then why were the gangsters so arrogant? Was there an error in the command system?'
My vague hostility towards the Mero Company disappeared.
'The Mero Company gave me a quest that will allow me to receive 600 gold. There is no need to think badly of them. Yes.'
Most of the people present, as well as myself, developed a slight liking towards the Mero Company. However, Khan was different.
"That's it. This is why the Mero Company asked for the game! That Rabbit, he isn't an ordinary man!"
The indignant Khan grabbed the flyer. Chwaak! He ripped it. Then he reproached the people.
"You forgot about all your humiliation and suffering just from seeing this piece of paper! The Mero Company is a villain who knew about Winston's development beforehand and used the information to monopolize our land. You were deprived of everything, becoming poor and hungry. What has the Mero Company done for us since then?"
Many people sympathized with Khan.
"That's right. The Mero Company is the enemy! Are we going to commit another mistake by being deceived by their tricks? Don't be nice to them! We will be stabbed in the back then fall to hell."
The affinity between the Winston residents and the Mero Company was bad. Their grudge against the company was quite deep.
"Excuse me." In the midst of the rage, someone held up his hand. Everyone's eyes concentrated on the man.
NPCs had a green name above their heads. But the name of this man was white. It meant he was a normal user who hadn't done any bad deeds.
Khan asked him. "Young man, you aren't a resident of this village."
"My name is Huroi. I am an ordinary visitor who came to Winston for the first time."
"I see. Huroi, what question do you have?"
"Yes. You might feel uncomfortable but…can you let me speak?"
The NPCs were acting favourable towards a person they met for the first time? Unlike me, Huroi seemed to be a high level traveller, or a traveller with a high reputation on the continent.
"According to the rumors I heard when I came here to Winston…the Mero Company, who knew about Winston's development plan, approached you and bought land and commercial areas from those who didn't know about the development plan. Right after that, Winston made great strides in its development and the Mero Company received great benefits. Is this correct?"
"Were you forced to sell the land to the Mero Company?"
"Then are the Mero Company's actions towards you truly unscrupulous? Weren't you blinded by money when you sold your land and stores to the Mero Company? Weren't you trying to move your homes with the money you earned? But you didn't want to leave after belatedly realized that Winston was going to be developed and the situation turned out like this. Ultimately, the ones you should blame aren't the Mero Company. It is your own ignorance and self-interest."
"What are you saying?"
"You are clearly the Mero Company's crony!"
The atmosphere abruptly changed, but Huroi didn't back down.
"A company is formed to build wealth! The act of taking advantage of information to form a monopoly is natural for them. Many of you hate them, but there is no need to be enemies. Did they actually do anything wrong?"
"This bastard is talking until the end!"
"Should we shut his mouth?"
The residents didn't like the Mero Company being defended. There were some people so enraged that they wanted to beat Huroi up. But Huroi wasn't afraid.
"I'm not hired by the Mero Company! The reason I'm saying these words is for you. Everyone! Don't try to fight with the Mero Company, but coexist with them. That is the much wiser choice."
The angry people listening to Huroi's words calmed down. It was evidence that Huroi was persuading them.
Then Khan spoke. "This young man is meddling in other people's business. What is your intention behind giving such advice?"
Khan didn't hide his suspicions. He was convinced that Huroi was sent by the Mero Company.
'Isn't it obvious? He must have a compelling reason to speak up like this.'
I was certain that Huroi had received a quest from the Mero Company. If people were persuaded, his quest would be successful. 'Most people have already been persuaded. I absolutely can't allow this to happen. I should interfere!'
It was irrelevant to me if the Mero Company was an enemy or not. So why was I bothered? The reason…
'The misfortune of others is my happiness! I don't want to see him clear his quest in front of me. I will make him fail!'
Yes, it was a simple reason. I wanted to make Huroi fail the quest.
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