Stray High Minister
… In Rusworth’s castle, starting with Elza, the important members had been called for a meeting.
That being the case, Elza was a decoration. Her authority in the conference was akin to nothing.
The agenda this time pertained to the biological brother of Galleria’s Grand Duke Proxy Gracia, and countermeasures in regards to the movements of other neighboring lands.
Rusworth’s high minister 【Redl Haldoir】’s side-rolled hair was in a bit of a mess. All of those he had gathered belonged to his faction.
He thought of Elza as nothing but a decoration, but even so, she was the strongest magician in the country, and those who pledged loyalty to her as the strongest warrior didn’t exist in small numbers. She had tremendous popularity among the lower and middle class government officials.
It was but a slight amount, however, some high officials heeded her words as well. But Redl heeded them not. The reason being, Elza was the royal blood he’d brought out, and an extra ornament to the throne. And on the battlefield, she was the greatest trumpcard. But that’s all she was.
As he brought Elza, who had been living a poor lifestyle to the royal palace, he seriously believed she thought him her savior.
And using the girl’s military might as the backdrop, he was able to enlarge his faction this far. The only one to ever do what they liked to Rusworth to such an extent in a single generation was Redl.
His policies were drastically focused on the center, and in Rusworth’s capital, his popularity was high. As the Queen’s loyal retainer, he received tremendous support from the people.
But even Redl had his worries.
“Galleria’s witch… the problem isn’t that her brother succeeded in cultivation. A drop of proficiency won’t affect the present situation. But the fact an adventurer with ties to Zayin and Lorphys assisted it is a terrible predicament!”
Reading the report, it listed Galleria’s affairs in detail.
One of the members gathered held no sense of crisis as he opened his mouth.
“Getting so high and mighty after defeating something of Selva’s level, there’s nothing good to find in a second-rate country like Lorphys. They’re no enemy of us. The fact Galleria is relying on both countries just goes to prove how cornered it is.”
Redl glared at the man, and had him shut his mouth.
(To enlarge the faction, I even took in incompetents, but for them to drag my feet… just sit there with your mouth shut.)
Elsa sat in the chair, and listened to the talks, but she didn’t speak out. She spoke to open, and again at the close.
Other than that, she could open her mouth solely when Redl sought her words.
Redle continued reading down the report.
“… There’s also of how Beim is backing them. The possibility that Zayin, Lorphys and Beim may become our enemy is high. From what I heard, the one who achieved victory over the legions of monsters from the Labyrinth rampage, the Holy Knight of Zayin has taken up service in their government, has he not.”
On his statement, one of the vassals looking through the reports spoke up.
“No, it seems the Holy Knnight’s comrades took up service, and the individual himself has taken up a stay in a Lorphan village near the border. And there hasn’t been a word of him making a clear alliance with Galleria. Could there be something going on behind is all?”
A vein popped up on Redl’s forehead.
(Of fricking course there is! There’s no way a detestable adventurer would side with Galleria if there wasn’t any profit in it. What’s his goal? Is it because we refused that four-country union proposal? Bring Galleria in, he plans to take Rusworth down?)
Lost in thought, Redl knew he needed more information. He decided to order the lords of Galleria he had connections to to collect more information.
“Dammit, you’ve sure gone and done an unnecessary thing, adventurer!”
He began moving towards countermeasures for Lyle…
Having dropped by the Trēs House’s mansion, I heard from Fidel-san that Vera was out at sea on a job.
In regards to me, he spoke with a truly delighted expression.
“How unfortunate, whelp. Vera’s seas away. So there’s no one here to answer a beggar’s pleas for money.”
He said. He seemed considerably irritated, but as I had done enough to deserve it, it didn’t really irritate me.
I also smiled.
“How unfortunate. And here I had come to borrow money again.”
“When you’ve no intentions of returning it, you can’t call it borrowing. If you weren’t such a famed adventurer, I wouldn’t even have to deal with you. Look, I’m quite busy, so could you go back soon?”
We smiled at one another as we brought up some horrid subjects, but even if Vera wasn’t there, I had to state my business.
For today, I had come to negotiate with Fidel-san.
I took a sip of tea.
“… I did a bit of work in Galleria. Got a little close to the Grand Duke Proxy’s little brother.”
Fidel-san’s face turned serious.
“I’ve heard. Scheming something again? It seems you lack awareness of how much misfortune you bring to your surroundings.”
It was painful how I had nothing to refute that one. But this time’s talk was a profitable one for the Trēs House. It’s not like we’d just be extorting from them forever… or so I’d like to believe.
“Well, right now, I’m working with Leold Galleria… said Grand Duke Proxy’s brother. In domestic affairs. It’s all because of the Trēs House’s aid.”
Fidel-san looked annoyed. It seems he couldn’t forgive how I got Vera to offer funding.
“Don’t be so angry. It’s not like I’m assisting Galleria for my sake alone. The truth is, within Galleria, Leold-sama’s evaluation is rising, you see. I can’t call it perfect, but we cultivated a land previously called impossible. It’s a land that can be sufficiently taxed in two to three years’ time.”
“Getting back what you put into that investment will take several years, no… some decades, perhaps? It’s not something you wouldn’t be able to calculate, I’m sure.”
On top of that, I sought more support.
“Well, it’s true that all we did is cultivate a portion of the Grand Duke’s territory. You can’t call it a large result by any means. So I’d like to ask for additional backing.”
He told me to leave with quite a look on his face, but if I was in his place, I’d want to kick myself out as well. I sat on the sofa with a smile.
“… There’s a good plot of land in Galleria. The best possible location if they wanted to build a port. Large-scale ships could easily pass through.”
Fidel’s eyebrows twitched. Taking a sip of tea, he said, ‘go on’, and permitted negotiations to go on.
“Once a port is completed, naturally enough, a tax will be necessary to use it. But what if you were of the merchant house that supported the Grand Duke from the start While zero won’t pass, don’t you think you’d be able to use it cheaply?”
His expression didn’t change.
“How much do you think it costs to build a port? What’s more, it’s a place where the area’s feudal lords personally commit piracy. Do you think I’m unaware of the points suited for a port? And it’s a country that goes to war with Rusworth several times each year. Even use of the port free of charge, and a monopolization contract wouldn’t be enough.”
Up to now, they had been using land routes, and the cargo they could transport was limited.
What’s more, the toll to pass through Galleria was way too high.
If they had a port, those such expenses wouldn’t be taken. And a larger load of products could be sold.
From the envelope I had on me, I took out some papers, and showed them to Fidel-san.
“The truth is, my comrades have taken up government service in Galleria. I had them look into this and that. It does seem there are plenty of their feudal lords on good terms with Rusworth.”
Written were the names Miranda and Monica had looked into, the feudal lords who likely had connections with Rusworth.
Most of them were distanced from the border, and the names of lords with points suited to ports were also listed. Plundering in war, many of them were in regions where their own lands wouldn’t meet any damages.
Looking at the papers, Fidel stroked his orderly moustache with a finger.
“… If twenty to thirty percent are in cohorts with the enemy, then Galleria must be frailer that I’ve heard. On the contrary, this lessens my incentive to back them. Do you plan to work up a civil war in Galleria this time?”
I shook my head to the side.
“I wouldn’t think it. I’ve no intent of taking on all of it. But I’ll have a portion disappear. Don’t you think a port would be best under Grand Duke management? And if we can form a sea route, then we wouldn’t mind if it be monopolized by the Trēs House.”
If a port was completed, to the merchants, it meant their trading partners would increase. Their customer base would grow. It was a large profit.
“And that isn’t enough. You should properly listen to what people have to say.”
I laughed, while feeling worn out in my heart.
“Then listen to my story too. It’s not like it’s only Galleria. Wouldn’t you want a port in Rusworth as well?”
Fidel-san made a serious expression, and stayed quiet. That likely meant for me to keep talking.
“Rusworth’s policy focuses on the center of its lands. Without laying a hand on its coast. Well, I’m sure they’d be too insecure if power went to the border. Both Galleria and Rusworth are countries of considerable scale. Even without feuding with local merchants, I do think you’ll make more than enough.”
It seems Fidel-san was getting on board. He smiled, and gave his demands.
“You’re serious about monopolization of the port, right? It won’t work out if the tariff is too high either. If the conditions are favorable enough, I won’t mind considering it.”
I nodded with a smile. Cheers were raised from the Jewel as well.
“Local fishermen, and non-mercantile use will have to be permitted, though. The Grand Duke House will have to take care of pirate extermination and all. Ah, merchants recognized by your House will also be able to use it.”
Meaning as merchants, the Trēs House had the monopoly, but its use by other merchants could be permitted if the Trēs House gave permission.
Fidel-san’s expression turned to an inexplicably nice smile.
“Could you get permission from Galleria and Rusworth’s representatives? Deliver a document we’ll prepare on our side, and if you can get them to sign it, I’ll sponsor you. If it’s Galleria alone, I’ll support it as well.”
In the Jewel, the Third jumped for joy.
『It’s quite a delectable offer for Fidel-kun! Exclusive rights to a port, and he can manage permissions for its use on his own, after all! With that, he can sell the rights to other merchants of Beim, and it puts him on a superior standing. I was sure he’d bite on!』
And I was sure the Third was laughing with a dark expression. As the Third had his fun, I felt some pity for Fidel-san.
The Fourth also rejoiced.
『We at least have to give him the monopolization of the port. Rather, if we don’t do it, my heart is going to hurt. There’s what’s to come, after all.』
The Fifth, quietly.
『Rejoice for now. Right, just for now.』
The Seventh was enjoying himself.
『It’s certainly a large profit. Monopoly… a nice ring to it. But what will the other think of that? I’m sure you think you’ll be able to do something about it. And up to now, it’s true that you could. But this time is different, Fidel-kun!』
Milleia-san gave a, ‘my oy my, there’s no helping it,’ sort of feel as she spoke.
『Fidel-kun, even if you hate it, from the eyes of those around you, you’re already a splendid member of the support Lyle faction. He’s being a little naïve on how other merchants will think of it. Really… it’s too late for him.』
Eva spread money among her brethren elves, and the trap was already laid. It was a small, and valueless rumor, but it was certain to spread to lands beyond Beim.
Behind Fidel-san’s smile, he was surely thinking, ‘I’ll wring Galleria and Rusworth dry,’ or something along those lines.
So I felt quite apologetic for him.
(I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.)
Fidel-san made a smile in regards to me.
“I hate ‘you’, but I trust you as a business partner. So wield about that ability of yours to your heart’s content in foreign lands. I promise as much support as possible.”
He had dropped the rude tone.
Watching his joy, I returned a smile. But inside, I was brimming with apologetic sentiment.
… Galleria’s Grand Duke House’s mansion.
In it, Gracia beckoned her brother Leold to her office.
At present, it was the sister and brother alone, and having read Leold’s report, Gracia was in good spirits.
Not with her usual militaristic air, she was a kind sister for her cute brother.
“That’s amazing, isn’t it Leold? Defending against monsters and succeeding to develop that land! Your sister was really, really worried, you know.”
To his sister Gracia, Leold-kun gave a dubious smile.
“No, Lyle-dono followed through quite a bit. And with the monsters, those around me secured my safety throughout. With the cultivation, we only got to seventy percent of our objective, and…”
Upon realizing that rather than the cultivation’s success, he was being evaluated for protecting his cultivating comrades from monsters, Leold’s smile turned bitter.
Gracia-san noticed his sentiment.
“It’s true it didn’t go as far as planned. But those around have praised you for finding success in such a difficult region. It’s a fact that your evaluation around has begun to change. So stick out your chest some more.”
When his large-breasted sister hit her right hand against her chest, they swayed in a manner quite evident, even from over her clothes.
Wondering if they had grown even larger while he was away, he began to feel pitiful for not being able to make her wear anything more feminine.
“I’m sorry, Gracia. I had always spoken as if I knew everything, but I’ve gotten to understand a little why no one around would recognize me. While being saved by Lyle-dono all the way through, I could only accomplish seventy percent of a goal… it’s nothing but shameful.”
Gracia placed a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s splendid if you could do that much on the first attempt. And those around were sure you would fail. Seventy percent complete isn’t a problem. Give it two years, and we’ll be able to take a tax on that land. And because of the support from Beim, there was barely any influence on the finances of the Grand Duke house. If you keep going like this, the day you receive the title of Grand Duke may not be so far off.”
Seeing his sister’s joy, Leold, once more, smiled bitterly.
『In this world, there’s nothing scarier than the word free.』
Riding on quilin-form May’s back, we raced across Rusworth’s sky under the moonlight.
From the Jewel, I could hear the Third’s profound-sounding words, but now was the time for some important work.
What we aimed for was Rusworth’s royal castle, and my baggage contained a letter from Gracia-san.
Its contents were of Rusworth’s supposed invasion of Galleria in a month’s time… mainly reconfirming the terms of the rule book sent before.
“What’s this, all of a sudden?”
May knew of how I conversed with the ancestors in the Jewel, so even if I whispered to myself, she didn’t mind it.
Because of that, I could talk with them like this. The Third spoke a little happily.
『No, I suddenly felt the urge to say it. Thinking of how Galleria’s Grand Duke Proxy-chan sees us… that word just came up.』
The aloof Third Generation Head was the greatest schemer of the ancestors. He led the Walt House through its Baronet period, and scale-wise, he only ever ruled a territory several times smaller than the others. But having led a land that could neither be called too big or too small, he had a viewpoint different from the other feudal lords.
The Third, in regards to me.
『Now then, next is Rusworth’s maiden of war… or was it witch here? You’ll be approaching Elza-chan, but make sure not to get killed, okay?』
“… I know that. Please don’t scare me too much. For argument’s sake, I’ve confirmed the signal from that adventurer and Gracia-san.”
When I said that, the Fourth laughed.
“What is it?”
『Oh, I was just thinking of how reliable you’ve grown from the start is all. Back then, you were so terrible, than even acting normally makes it feel like you’ve grown.』
He called me terrible, but thinking of how I was when I met the ancestors, perhaps it couldn’t be helped. Back then, no matter what I did, I was unreliable.
But the Fourth sounded a little disappointed.
『Well, I wanted to see you show spirit strong enough to woo Elza-chan of Rusworth, though. And wait, in Galleria as well, it wasn’t Gracia-chan, but Leold-kun who you got close to. How about we be more assertive here?』
I wanted him to cut me some slack. If possible, I wanted to get on comrade standings, and keep romance out of it.
The reason being, even now, the female camp was too large.
“It’s not like I really have to seduce them…”
There, the Fourth, somewhat excited.
『Naïve! You’re naïve, Lyle! After coming so far, you have to go for a complete set! There seem to be quite a few countries with female leaders around here, so if you want to think of what’s to come after the war, a situation where you’ve wooed them all is truly favorable!』
“You, didn’t you just have a single wife yourself!?”
『No, it’s not like she wouldn’t permit mistresses, but age-wise, it was already getting rough. Also, while my wife was best in the world, it’s not like I’m going to push my ideal onto everyone else. See, it’s case by case.』
At the start, he had said something about being devoted to Novem, but now, he kept trying to expand the harem.
Fourth… could it be he’s actually just enjoying all of this?
“At the start, you denied the thought of a harem, didn’t you?”
『You’ve got me there. But if you’re going to be emperor, wouldn’t it be better the more wives you have? Even more so if they’re women who’ve shared pains and pleasures with you! … Well, as long as you can make everyone happy, isn’t it fine? You’re the type that gets lonely quite easily, after all.』
He said something I couldn’t let slip by, but when I tried to refute, May opened her mouth.
“Hey, we’ve just about reached the castle.”
Resolving to have a talk with the Fourth on a later date, for now I thought to safely deliver the letter.