Western continent calendar August 8, 2812: (Toward the peninsula 6)
“So, Genou shall I hear your report now?”
Ryouma directed his gaze towards Genou.Only Genou’s and the Marfisto sister’s reports remained but since Ryouma had a bad feeling about Genou’s report he chose to prioritize it over the sisters who were in charge of reporting about the merchants who they should purchase goods from.
However, Genou shook his head.
“No… I will be reporting last… Laura-sama should give their report first.”
There seems to be something wrong.
Ryouma nods his head while feeling doubtful and asks the Marfisto sisters to begin their report.
“Hmm… Fine, there’s seems to be some reason for you to say that… Laura, Sara. Please give your report first.”
“Understood… Well then…”
After nodding her head Laura begins her report, the contents of the report dropped Ryouma’s optimism to the depths of an abyss.
“In conclusion, most of the business here have strong ties with Earl Salzberg.”
Ryouma tilted his head due to Laura’s words. From her way of saying it, it felt more than just the ordinary relationship between a lord and merchants.
“Yes, in fact, it is a very close relationship…”
Saying so, Sara spreads out a map on the table.
“This is… The map of Epiroz?”
“Yes, And these red dots represent the places where the merchants conduct their businesses…”
Sara pointed out all the red dots on the map.
There are ten of them. That is the number of shops located in this fortified city of Epiroz.
“Mistel Firm… Rafiel Firm…”
Sara reads the name of the shops written next to the dots.
“All ten of these businesses are united, they are in full control of the economy within Epiroz…. The problem is that the daughter of Mistel firm is the Earl’s wife, and Mistel Firm is the acting representative of the coalition.”
“Is that true?”
Ryouma complexion changes. It was natural for him to be surprised.
When he entered Wortenia peninsula, he knew he wouldn’t be able to be immediately self-sufficient in terms of food, in other words he had to temporarily rely on Epiroz city for food until he was able to produce enough food for themselves.
Although monsters can be eaten, hunting was not an option for him as a majority of the monsters within his territory are inedible. It was a precarious situation since food and water was not something they could easily disregard.
If he were to get on the bad side of the Earl’s wife’s family whom has large influence over the economy… it was something that even Ryouma did not want to imagine.
“Yes… To steadily purchase more than a certain amount of food, there’s no choice but to have trade negotiation with one of these ten shops… But the problem is the Earl’s wife is the daughter of the leader of this business coalition…”
Laura cut her words shorts, because even without saying it everyone understood.
This means Ryouma can’t disregard Earl Salzberg no matter how small the matter was since if the Earl were to apply pressure on their trades then everything would be over as Ryouma would starve to death in the peninsula.
“It seems like the one who leads Mistel Firm is someone who has big ambition… The representative of the coalition was originally Christoph Firm. However, due to the daughter who is married to the Earl, Mistel firm seems to have taken over the seat.”
“Well, I guess if one’s daughter got married to a nobleman, it was no wonder for them to expand using the influence…. That’s good and all, I can understand…”
Everyone nodded their head hearing Ryouma’s words.
Sure that was not an uncommon story. It even happens back at his original worlds.
“But still… Do nobles in this country usually take daughters of merchants as their wives??”
When it comes to social status, Merchants are just a commoner. No matter how much money they have, they still a commoner.
Yet, one of their daughters manages to become a noble wife. It is natural for Ryouma to feel puzzled over it, since the daughter did not become the noble’s concubine or mistress, but rather the legal wife.
“I’ve investigated regarding that as well… But it seems like the Earl’s finances is under considerable pressure…”
“Fuuh… That’s means he borrowed some money? In the first place, why did his finance deteriorate so much, could it be due to military expenses?”
The Earl found himself with enough financial problems to make him marry the daughter of a merchant… such a move could be considered quite bold among nobles.
The question is why the Earl suffers such a crisis…
“Yes… The Earl needed a big budget for his military because of his territory near the border, and countermeasures against the monsters that occasionally invade from the peninsula.”
Everyone present nodded in understanding.
The military is always something that cost a very considerable sum of money to maintain.
It does not produce anything, but always consumed a lot of resources. It was a gluttonous monster called ‘The Military’.
The stronger the military becomes, the bigger the budget they needed.
Starting with the soldier’s salary all the way down to their armaments as well as continuous supplies to maintain a soldier’s health such as food and medical supplies.
Besides, that is the story of a ‘normal’ situation. When such military enter a war, they will consume even more supplies. No matter how much money is poured into them, it’s never enough.
But even with that, one should always prepare a budget for the military. That is because the military is the one who protects the people.
If a nobleman was entrusted to a territory nearing the border then the responsibility becomes much heavier, it was not unusual for the Earl to be facing financial difficulties in such a situation.
“Well, I guess that’s natural? After all his territory is bordered with Zalda, and not only that, he also needs to be vigilant when it comes to the monsters living within the peninsula.”
“According to the documents I’ve investigated… It seems that there’s a large scale of monsters invasion once every ten years.”
Lione nodded in agreement with Bolts statement.
“And as you can see, this land is not suitable for agricultural development. A land that does not have any specialty… can be called a poor land.”
“Then what about the salt? Yesterday when I talked with them, apparently they have found a rock salt vein.”
In respond to Genou’s words, Ryouma gave out a question.
Considering their attire when welcoming him yesterday, they don’t seem to have any financial difficulty.
Although there’s also the possibility that they done something like that to protect their pride, but there is a limit even for things like that.
Whether it be their attire or meals, the Earl indeed looks like he does not have any trouble with money. The dishes atop the table was also not something ordinary.
Moreover, those dishes also used a lot of spices. If he was really in trouble with money, he would be unable to do that.
That’s why he suspects it might be due to the rock salt vein. Although the salt price is not that high, but because it is needed for daily life, the demand is constant. If the Earl really in the possession of it, he should be able to recover from his financial situation.
“No… There are no rock salt vein within Earl’s territory.”
Genou shook his head while showing a meaningful smile.
(What does that mean? If there’s no rock salt vein how did he manage to handle his finance? Does he have some kind of other industries?)
Ryouma thought of the various possibilities.
(If he has other resources, why did his wife lied to me and told me that they have rock salt vein?…)
A good way to lie is by mixing some truth in with said lie.
It is surprisingly difficult to tell something that is 100% a lie. Because in reality, a 100% lie is something that always easy to crumbles.
Sara suddenly raises her voice.
“What’s wrong Sara? Did you find something?”
When Sara nodded her head when Laura asked the question, then she turns her eyes toward Genou.
“Perhaps… The Earl does not have rock salt vein within his territory? But it existed within the Wortenia peninsula?”
Everyone raised a surprised voice.
Meanwhile, only Genou showed a subtle smile.
“Ah, it seems the lady noticed. Just like she said, there’s a rock salt vein within the territory. He kept it secret from the kingdom…”
It was something unexpected, but if Genou is the one who said it then it is possible…
“Did the Earl actually embezzle the rock salt vein in the peninsula without permission from the kingdom? Even if it was an abandoned territory, that was a very huge catch… Won’t he get executed if the kingdom found out about it?”
Before Wortenia peninsula was passed to Ryouma, it was in possession of the Royal family. Even if the royal family left the territory untouched, it was still a bad idea to use the land’s resources without permission as if the royal family were to find out about this, the Earl’s head would definitely roll and not to mention those who carry his blood.
He was crossing a dangerous path and had brought his entire family with him.
“Is that how it is? Damn it! And here I was wondering why they were so friendly like that… He really wants me to quickly step into the peninsula and die huh?”
Ryouma manage to understand the Earl’s intention from hearing all the reports.
“He does not want to immediately kill me because the royal government will come and investigate…”
“The reason why he had welcomed milord with such warm welcome is to indicate that if something were to happen, it was the fault of the monsters within the peninsula, thus the central won’t suspect anything…”
“He wants us to become food for the monsters huh…”
Ryouma’s eyes turn sharp…
“What should we do? If it was me or Sakuya, we both could take the Earl’s head immediately…”
“I wonder about that? I think we will actually lose a lot by doing that?”
“Hou? Does Sara-dono think the opposite? May I hear the reason?”
Sara seems to disagree with Genou’s suggestion of assassination.
“Although assassination is an effective method to erase the Earl’s motive, but the stability of Epiroz is very important for us to survive in the peninsula… If the assassination succeeds, the evil hands of the Earl might disappear, but who’s going to rule this land after that? Someone under direct command of Queen Lupis would come then…”
Instead of killing a wolf, the result might actually invite a tiger.
Since Lupis is very cautious when it comes to Ryouma, no one can predict what kind of move she’s going to make at that time.
Such claim was reasonable.
“Fumu… I can understand Sara-dono’s concern. I guess we can regard my suggestion as a last resort.”
Genou nodded his head in agreement with Sara’s claim.
“I guess so… Even if we took over the rock salt vein, we still do not have any business channels to sell it… I guess I should turn blind eye until I can pick a fight against him huh…”
“I guess, that is the right move… Although it is regrettable, since that is a very good source of income. Even if we took over the vein from the Earl, Epiroz merchants will refuse to make trade with us…”
“I guess I agree with that… Since the Earl and the head of the business coalition are close, he can use his influence to put pressure on the coalition.”
Even if Ryouma was to take back the rock salt vein, who wouldn’t be able to turn into money. It would be a different matter if there were other towns nearby to trade with but to perform trades between the Wortenia peninsula and places besides Epiroz one would need a sea trade route.
In the future, Ryouma planned to be able to do maritime trade but in their present situation it was not something he could do.
“Then why don’t we leave the Earl alone for now?”
“Leave him alone huh?”
Toward Laura’s suggestion Ryouma frowned.
There’s no lord that would feel pleased when someone is stealing from their territory.
“Well, we can’t bring this matter to the royal family either. The Earl will be executed if we told them. And the result would be the same as us assassinating the Earl…”
“I guess you’re right…”
There was also another problem, even if it was good to kill the earl and methods beside assassination existed to end his life it would invite princess Lupis’s intervention.
“That’s right, that’s why we should give up the rock salt vein to the Earl, and ask him to help us in return… In the meantime, we should consolidate our power, in order to crush him in the future… Don’t you agree?”
Laura’s plan might be not the best plan, but it was a very realistic one.
The question is whether or not the Earl would accept such proposal.
“I agree with Laura-dono.”
“I guess I have to agree too… That was the most realistic plan… We should take a step back for a while and increase our power…”
“I agree as well…”
Lione and the other agrees one after another.
“Not bad… With that, we can earn some time, but the problem is, whether the Earl is willing to accept this proposal… No, I guess he can’t make a move on us huh? Since he doesn’t want to attract a lot of attention of the royal family. If I the feudal lord of the territory give him the official permission, it will reduce any unnecessary fear in him… I guess that is an advantage for him… There’s a high possibility that the Earl may accept the proposal… Though it is really regrettable… But then again, even if I hold on to the vein, I don’t have any means to make a money out of it yet either…)
Ryouma hardened his determination.
First of all, he planned to increase his power, not just military power but also the economical and political power of his land.
“Very well… We will buy some time and build our power first.”
Following Ryouma decision, everyone nodded their head.
“Well then, we’ve already made our decision. First, what should we do?”
In response to Ryouma’s question, Laura voices her opinion.
“First, we should search for a trustworthy merchant… We need to purchase food and other supplies, not to mention we’re going to need someone who we can sell the salt to in the future… My aim is Christoph firm, the one who lost their influence within the coalition due to Mistel firm…”
“I also agree with my sister. Since the other eight companies are under Mistel firm’s umbrella, dealing with them might be bad news. And we heard that Christoph firm has been trying its best not to get influenced by the other firms, which means there’s room for negotiations…”
As expected… These two seems to have thoroughly examined every single firm.
Ryouma who realize that can only be thanks to his excellent subordinates who support him. Everyone has been doing their best to help Ryouma. They pledge their loyalty to Ryouma despite him being just a youngster.
(Earl… I will let you do what you want for now, but… I will definitely get it back!)
Ryouma’s heart feels satisfied. And he immediately steeled his determination.
He cannot lose. Because his defeat would result in the death of his companions.