Noon, 17th Day, 12 Month, the Year 2813.
A group of soldiers camped in the plain on the outskirts of Epiroz.
The soldiers numbered around 300 people.
In addition, approximately around 100 men in poor clothes sat down on the ground.
The soldiers who wore black leather armor gave sharp eyes toward the surroundings that did not match the young face they had.
A fluttering flag with a black background raised in the campsite, was blown by the wind.
The design on the surface of the flag was a double-edged sword with two snakes coiling around it. The red eyes of those snakes gave off a mysterious light.
The flag that was swayed by the wind felt very intimidating to the surroundings.
But, everyone in the camp was very proud of that flag.
The sword symbolized power. And the two snakes , that twined around the sword symbolized stratagem and political maneuvering.
That design was the exact embodiment of their master, it was also a testimony to the new country that they had built together with their own hands.
“Salted Fish, forty barrels.”
“Dried Dates, fifty barrels.”
“Dried pig meat, fifty barrels.”
Voices of soldiers could be heard in sequences near the wagon that had been brought to the campsite.
“It might be a hassle, but please open the lid and check the contents one by one.”
After the soldiers received Laura’s instruction, they began working once again.
At the same time, confirming the soldiers’ words, a good-looking merchant checked the parchments in his hand in a hurry.
“I guess this is everything… Geez, Earl Salzberg’s recommendation aside, it was truly hard to gather this amount with such a short-time notice, you know?”
Having finished to check all the goods, the merchant greatly sighed.
Ten wagons of goods were brought by this merchant to the campsite.
They then began checking the goods one by one matching the register.
It was natural for him that fatigue could be seen from his expression.
Still, after two hours of work, a smile finally appeared on his whole face.
“I did add an extra payment because of that, no? And in addition to that, isn’t this all being sold above the market price?”
Laura turned her cold eyes toward the merchant who complained while he kept his eyes on the parchments.
As a result of the inspection, there were no problems when it came to the number of items or their quality, but the amount in the invoice delivered to Laura was too high.
As a matter of fact, the merchants were enthusiastic about today’s business, because their opponents were someone unprepared.
That also showed how experienced they were when it came to negotiation with an unskillful noble.
They aimed at such opportunities with eagle eyes, just so they could increase the profits even a tiny bit more.
Even in front of Laura, the merchant continued showing a good smile while looking at the parchments in his hands. She could not let her guard down just because the good-looking merchant appeared to be a sincere man.
“Please don’t joke like that. These all are the same prices Earl Salzberg usually pay us…”
The merchant protested while looking vexed.
Mentioning the Earl’s name here showed how sly this merchant was.
Certainly, once he had mentioned the Earl’s name, the aristocrats who had ranks below him wouldn’t be able to protest.
They won’t be able to protest because the aristocrats with lower ranks did not want the Earl to have a bad impression toward them.
Thus such fear caused them to be unable to protest against the merchant.
The goods brought by this man were food that could be preserved, such as dried meat and fish.
Although it was true that the items were hard to gather because they were items that are consumed on a daily basis by ordinary people, but in much greater quantity, Laura still could not accept the amount in the invoice that the merchant just gave her.
Because it was a little bit of an unreasonable demand, Ryouma had already told Laura to pay silently if it was 10% higher than the market prices, but as expected, a 30% increase was too much.
Ryouma had conducted a market survey in advance and honestly bought some from the smaller shops who dealt with the household.
Thus, he could easily determine the appropriate prices for all the items.
Ryouma was not naive enough to easily accept the merchant’s words. –
“Is that so? Then you can take all of this back. We can just purchase the goods from another company.”
Laura told the merchant to take the goods back home without hesitation.
Ryouma certainly needed supplies, but there was still a limit to everything.
This was one of those things where he could not compromise with.
“Wha?! That would be unreasonable. We had arranged the items despite them being impossible to gather, only because of the Earl’s recommendation. If we bring them all back home like this… your relationship with the Earl would turn bad, you know?”
The merchant seemed to have seen Laura as a naive girl. He threatened her while mentioning the Earl’s name.
Indeed, this method would have been effective if it was the usual, but right now, he will regret his own words.
“What’s going on?”
After the merchant said those words, Earl Salzberg appeared while being protected by his guards.
One could guess that he had arrived since a while ago.
The merchant’s mouth trembled looking at him.
“Oh my, Earl Salzberg-sama. pardon my rudeness, welcome to our camp.”
Laura showed respect for the Earl with a perfect movement.
“Umu. Since Mikoshiba-dono is going for an expedition, I’m thinking of saying goodbye personally. I did not send a messenger beforehand, but is the time alright?”
With a happy smile on his face, Earl Salzberg asked Laura.
“Although we’re busy preparing everything, toward the Earl who gave us consideration in various things, how can we say no?”
“Is that so? Then, please guide me.”
After saying that, The Earl directed his eyes toward the merchant.
“You’re one from Rafiel firm right?”
Earl Salzberg didn’t particularly raised his voice, but the merchant’s expression changed as if he was sentenced to death.
It was the words of a feudal lord who also married the daughter of a firm’s chairman and had Epiroz business alliance within his grasp.
For this merchant, the Earl’s words were equal to that of an oracle from God.
“Mikoshiba-dono worked hard for the sake of the Rozeria Kingdom. How about you think about that a little?”
The Earl himself did not order the merchant to do something in particular.
However, the merchant was not a fool and he knew the real meaning behind the Earl’s words.
“O-Oh, it was very rude of me. It seems like we’ve made some mistake here…”
The merchant did not say anything about giving a discount openly, but it was obvious that he was going to do just so.
And Earl Salzberg didn’t say anything more.
Since the merchant seemed to understand what his words meant.
“Umu, I’ve forced an unreasonable demand to the association, but this is all for the sake of the country. I’m counting on you.”
“Yes. I’m sorry for my mistake. We will redo the calculation immediately.”
Perhaps after the calculation being redone a few more times, he was going to make an excuse that there was some mistakes in the previous estimate.
(That was bad luck for him.)
While she laughed within her heart, Laura gazed at the merchant who began checking the goods with sweat on his face.
In her eyes, because the merchants wanted more profits he ended up giving a discount instead.
Well, since it was also impossible to predict that the Earl was going to show up, it was more than appropriate for him to curse his own luck for this incident.
“Well then, shall we go?”
Earl Salzberg then urged Laura to guide him as if nothing had happened. –
Of course, in actuality, for the Earl this was an insignificant accident.
Because it was just about a greedy merchant being reproved.
“Geez, you’re too good of a person. No matter how much she implored you to do, to think she asked you to participate in the reinforcement mission. That was very unreasonable of her.”
As soon as Earl Salzberg entered the tent where Ryouma was staying, he immediately spoke those words while smirking.
Hearing his voice and looking at that expression, it was not really a sarcasm on his part.
His behavior gave off a feeling like a friend who spoke of abusive language directed at his friend.
“It has been a while. Earl Salzberg. Thank you for your assistance for this time…”
Immediately after Ryouma gestured Laura to leave, he greeted the Earl without showing any surprise. –
“Well, a dull greeting is good too. Since you’ve made me gain a lot of money this time.”
The Earl stopped Ryouma who was about to lower his head, and in a good mood Earl Salzberg immediately sat down on a nearby chair.
“There is no such a thing. Thanks to Your Excellency, we have gathered enough of the goods that we need.”
“Good then. From now on, let’s work together for our mutual benefits.”
Looking at Ryouma who lowered his head in agreement, Earl Salzberg had a satisfying smile on his face. –
Well, that would be natural on his part.
Since just merely by having the Mistel firm chairman as his father-in-law, he had managed to make the business alliance to guarantee the number of goods Ryouma needed.
The Earl didn’t need to sweat to do it.
At the same time, as an intermediary for the purchase, he had received mediation fee from Ryouma, and the numbers were not that bad either. –
Plus, he also should have gotten some kind of rewards from the firms’ side as well.
It was unknown as to how much Earl Salzberg made money out of this trade, but it should not be lower than one million baht.
Having Ryouma bringing that much profits for the Earl, he had no intentions of asking Ryouma to show his gratitude toward himself.
As for Ryouma, he precisely knew what kind of human being the Earl was.
Human beings such as the Earl didn’t like to act as if he owed a favor.
On the other hand, due to his pride, he will also guarantee a proper return if the other side had taken a respectful approach.
The important thing here was not to harm the opponent’s pride.
“By the way, was Elena Steiner already heading toward the Zalda Kingdom?”
With the atmosphere relaxed, Earl Salzberg began to talk about the upcoming war
Because he was originally a military man, he seemed to be more interested in the reinforcement mission.
“Indeed, it would make Zalda and Mist Kingdoms have a bad impression if we delay the reinforcements much longer.”
Of course, it was not a good reason.
But if Rozeria had delayed much longer, Mist Kingdom would declare war against the Rozeria Kingdom because of it.
“Well, that would be obvious. For the Mist Kingdom, the Zalda Kingdom is an important shield after all. I can even say that the Mist Kingdom has quite the patience for waiting for over a year like that.”
“Well, they must already know the situation within the Rozeria Kingdom. I can see that they don’t want to pass through Rozeria in a situation where her majesty can’t keep the nobles under control.”
“Even if they don’t know that, they must have expected the expedition would be difficult if they had to go through an unstable country after all…”
It was fairly difficult for any country to perform a military expedition.
Even just keeping the morale of the soldiers who have to live far from their country was very hard
Furthermore, they also needed to procure supplies.
And also many other concerns that needed to be addressed.
If there was an unstable country where the expedition needed to pass through on top of that, it would be difficult for them to decide whether or not to execute the expedition.
“So, what will you do from here on?”
“We will go west from Epiroz and enter the Zalda territory. Afterwards, we will go south and join with Elena at Zalda’s capital city Periveria.”
“I guess, that is a good choice… Afterwards, everything depends on your luck huh?”
Ryouma answered the Earl’s words who felt like a tease with a silence.
There was nothing for him to say.
A lucky man would survive, and an unlucky man would die.
No matter the world, that had not changed. <TLN: The Wiseman said “Luck is a skill”.>
After the talk, Earl Salzberg who was about to leave with his escort guards turned his eyes toward the flag with a black background.
(Fumu… A sword entwined by snakes huh?… That design really suits that man.)
At least, the snakes certainly represented that man accurately.
(I have no intention of following his schemes but, well, I wonder what’s going to happen next.)
He did not trust Ryouma in particular.
However, because Ryouma had given him an advantage, he ended up lending his power a little.
Although they spoke to each other like a friend would do, that was only on the surface.
And both of them understood that.
(If that man can save Zalda, then good. If he fails then at that time we just have to negotiate with the Ortomea Empire together along the other northern aristocrats.)
They were many ways for the nobles to survive if they didn’t stick with the survival of their nations.
However, it did not meant that they didn’t have any wish of invading Ortomea Empire either.
But, the war cost money.
Even if you did not get involved with it directly.
(I can see that man’s intelligence being represented by the snakes… So the sword would be power then? I guess, whether this flag ends up as the truth or just a bluff, it would be a sight worthy to be witnessed.)
A cold smile appeared on the Earl’s face. –
It was the appearance of a man looking down on someone in a grand manner.