“He’s tougher than I anticipated.”
After the meetings with His Highness Cleo and the merchants had finished, I returned to my hotel room to organise my thoughts.
I expected the prince to be some pushover pretending to act like a grown-up, but he remained stalwart even in front of the brazen attitude I took towards him.
Without even the smallest of flinches, he faced me head on.
It’s a shame, if he had displayed even the slightest sign of disrespect, I would’ve had an excuse to show him his place.
As a side note, he was quite the androgynous beauty, though that was probably because of how he was originally a girl.
Despite his body being male, he still gave off quite the effeminate feeling.
I guess sex change technology wasn’t perfect even in this universe.
As I pondered that, Rosetta burst into the room through the door.
“Darling, I just heard His Highness Linus is abusing his power to pressure the Banfield house! Is this true?!”
I hated seeing her panic like this.
Seeing the girl with a spirit of steel lose her cool infuriated me.
It was embarrassing, and it made me feel uncomfortable inside.
“…it’s not that big of a deal.”
“Of course it is! Rare metals are the main export of the Banfield house! What are we going to do?!”
Though I’ll admit, it was kind of funny to watch her wave her arms around in a fluster.
Let’s try teasing her a bit.
“Yeah, I guess we’ll fall into poverty if this lasts. Others might even take advantage of our plight to buy our materials at criminally low prices. When this all happens, are you going to throw me away and disappear?”
As soon as I uttered those words, Rosetta turned a serious expression my way.
“…I’ll always be there for you, Darling. Even if our source of income disappears, even if we end up living in poverty, I’ll still find some way to provide for us.”
I… wasn’t expecting that kind of answer.
She really was an easy heroine.
“…it was just a joke. I’m not worried about finding new buyers, and I have plans in motion to start selling to foreign countries.”
“Foreigners… wouldn’t that be considered a felony if done poorly?”
“His Highness Linus is the one who picked a fight with me first. I’m not going to let him get away with this. Besides, we can still make money from selling other products outside of rare metals.”
Well, I can only say that because I had the Alchemy Box.
Everything should be fine if I use it to mass produce non-rare metals outside of the Empire’s current export regulations.
And if they end up regulating those as well, there were still other avenues to pursue for profit.
Or rather, they didn’t stand out because of the rare metal sales, but we made quite the pretty penny from our other products too.
Even without the rare metal market, we’ll still be earning enough for a Count house.
Risk diversification is the basic of basics.
“Well, I can’t deny that I’m also using this as an opportunity to develop international connections.”
Seeing my smile, Rosetta plopped herself down next to me.
“International connections? Are you trying to develop your own trade channels?”
“As long as the relationship benefits me, I don’t care who I make a connection with. Whether they’re hostile towards the Empire or not is irrelevant.”
Rosetta fell speechless at my words.
Was that a little too much for her?
As the wife of an evil lord, she shouldn’t be surprised by something of this level.
Wait… I feel like she’s misunderstanding me somehow, so I should take this chance to really imprint my treacherous image.
“Rosetta, the true villain will always join their enemy while betraying their allies. Remember that.”
As I made my intentions known, Rosetta fell silent.
I didn’t care if this was detrimental to the Empire.
I will pursue my own happiness!
◇ ◇ ◇
While on her way back to her room, Rosetta was muttering to herself as she walked down the hall.
“The true villain– who was he referring to?”
The truth that Liam was actually talking about himself was impossible for Rosetta to imagine.
After all, he was the hero in her eyes.
She thought that he was moving in earnest to fight against the true villain.
Considering Liam’s previous actions, it wasn’t unheard of for him to take such extreme actions.
However, rather than grasping hold of Calvin or Linus’ outstretched royal hands, he had chosen the prince that nobody believed had a chance of inheriting the throne.
What did this mean?
Even the Empire couldn’t ignore the power Liam held.
As long as they had him on their side, even Linus– who was widely considered the underdog of the two princes, would have a far greater chance of victory in the succession war.
They had the chance to sell a favour to him and develop the Banfield house to new heights.
The same could even be said for Calvin.
Their assistance wouldn’t be as valued as it would’ve been with Linus, but it would still be greatly appreciated in the battle for the throne.
“Darling is a powerful aristocrat. Those two would have definitely done all they could to keep him appeased and on their side, so for him to reject them both in favour of the third prince means–”
Rosetta read quite deeply into the decisions Liam made on a whim.
“–that the princes Calvin and Linus are in league with our true enemy?”
Was Liam– who was actively moving to create foreign connections, keeping something from her?
Was it the sort of information that would put her in danger if she knew?
A shiver ran down Rosetta’s spine.
“…is it related to the darkness of the Empire?”
She wasn’t aware of it herself until recently, but the Empire has a deep and powerful underworld.
When considering that Liam was still alive after fighting against such a force, Rosetta couldn’t help but be moved.
If this country’s royals, and even the Empire itself were conspiring with the enemy, then Liam’s actions could be taken as him making a personal stand against their injustice.
As Rosetta’s complexion suddenly blanched pale, Marie appeared.
“Lady Rosetta, I’ve finally found you.”
“Marie? When did you get back?”
“I won’t be here for long, unfortunately. I just received new orders from Lord Liam, and it seems I’ll be leaving for a while, so I thought I’d give you my greetings befor– what’s wrong?”
“…Marie, where have you been assigned to go exactly?”
A foreign country– Liam’s order had her dispatched to another nation.
Rosetta asked Marie for more details.
The knight was a little confused at the request, but figured that it wasn’t really confidential.
“It’s Lustral. We’ve been ordered to infiltrate the intergalactic nation known as ‘The Unified Government’ as a mercenary company under a contract to guard the merchants.”
Marie herself was assigned as part of Patrice’s protection detail.
“The Unified Government? –has Darling told you anything else?”
“He hasn’t said anything directly, but Lord Liam has plans in motion to build connections to Lustral. I have a personal assignment to act as an ambassador and meet with some dignitaries. Apparently, they’re pretty overwhelmed with domestic disputes at the moment, and I’m supposed to look into those as well.”
(I knew it!)
The connections finally clicked in Rosetta’s mind.
“Lady Rosetta, is there something wrong?”
Marie only said this much because Rosetta was Liam’s wife and an important member of the Banfield house, but that reaction was concerning.
She wasn’t told that her orders were confidential, so she figured it was fine.
“I’ll set aside a budget for you, so can you gather as much information about Lustral that you can? I want you to find out if the Empire is involved with their internal problems.”
Marie narrowed her eyes.
After hearing Rosetta’s request, even Marie felt like there was something happening behind the scenes.
◇ ◇ ◇
“‘Special Staff Officer’, my ass!!!”
It was Wallace’s older brother Cedric that was currently cursing at me over the comm lines.
Despite being a member of the royal family, he had chosen to live his life as a soldier, and had risen to the rank of a Major General that led thousands of ships.
The only reason why I allowed him to indulge in his cursings was because he had already sworn himself into my faction.
“I know this sounds bad, but don’t worry. I’ll be sending you the latest models in ships to command.”
“Like hell I care about that! I decided to live my own life to get away from the court battles, not to join them!”
“Hey, calm down. I’ll give you the money you’ll need to tide this over.”
The reason Cedric was complaining to me was because after he was assigned to the regular fleet, he was suddenly being harassed by his superiors.
His fleet’s funds were reduced and the open hate he was receiving was taking a toll on morale.
“And why Cleo of all people?! You can’t win this! If you really felt pity and wanted to help him, you could’ve helped him escape or something in secret!”
“That wouldn’t really work for me, I’ve already decided to make him Emperor.”
It was in my best interests to do so.
Besides, Linus has already solidified his position as my enemy, while his older brother and the Emperor were likely to follow in his place.
“There’s no escaping now, Cedric. The die has already been cast. There’s no way out of this, so you might as well follow my orders and command the fleet. I’ll make sure to provide you with an ample budget and the latest weapons to control.”
“…if you’re going to do that much, then I can probably convince my men to follow, but I can only move about a thousand ships. I’m not sure how much help I’ll be.”
“That’s not a problem, I’ll pull some strings and get you another promotion.”
“Don’t! I’ll end up being the target of everyone’s jealousy if that happens! I want to be promoted for my merits, not my connections!”
I was glad to see how motivated he was.
“That’s good to hear, then I’ll make it work somehow.”
There’s no point in a tool that’s never used.
If the regular fleet isn’t going to use him properly, I’ll pull him out and place him in a area where he could.
“The truth is that Cleo– no, His Highness, has come to me with a multitude of requests. Many of them involve the extermination of pirates, but there’s too many for my fleets to handle alone, so I’ll delegate some of them to you.”
“Send me a list of everything you’ll need, and I’ll prepare an additional thousand vessels for you. There are a multitude of people starving for action in the military! When I gave them a call, they gathered like flies!”
There were plenty of opportunities to grasp in the Empire!
To begin with, nations of an intergalactic scale were chock full of gaps.
They were just too large to be managed as a whole.
I learned that myself during my time serving in my old patrol fleet.
So let’s collect all these stagnant human resources and put them to use!
“Oh yeah, I’ve been talking to my contacts in the military about you. If you ever need help re-supplying, just ask them.”
The gifts of greetings– which definitely weren’t bribes, that I sent them every year were of the utmost importance.
They always accepted them with gratitude.
I disconnected there, and began planning my next move with glee.
“Now, what act of villainy should I do next?”
Being an evil lord was the best!
◇ ◇ ◇
The Banfield family estate.
Brian was trembling as he read the report together with Serena– the head maid.
“So, not only are we going all out in development, but we’re also fully mobilizing our military?”
The Banfield house was currently busy with the development of their newly acquired planet.
Settlements have been built, and a huge amount of manpower, resources, and money had been invested into it.
In the midst of all of this, almost all of their armies had been called to action.
Except for the fleets that were undergoing reorganization and training, they had thirty thousand ships now on active duty.
The remaining fleets were distributed through the territory and were indispensable for its defense.
Even Serena was surprised.
“We’re almost entirely foregoing defense. If even one thing goes wrong, there’s a danger of total collapse.”
If even a single thing fell short, a chain reaction of consequences was sure to follow.
The Banfield house was in real danger of collapse if they failed.
“Lord Liam! Why didn’t you consult with me beforehand?!”
While Brian broke out into tears, Serena seemed amused.
“No matter what advice we gave him, he wouldn’t change his mind. This is a big gamble, but if he somehow succeeds, then His Highness Cleo could actually have a chance.”
What was once considered impossible would then have the smallest of likelihoods of becoming true.
Serena could tell that Liam was seriously moving to make Cleo the Emperor, but that didn’t matter to Brian at all.
“Why does Lord Liam always have to take such extreme actions? Well… at least you can really feel his character in times like this. Even with the situation as it is, there’s barely any pressure on the populace at all.”
He could’ve mobilized all the people in his territory if he wanted, but he didn’t.
Brian thought this was a show of his kindness.
But Serena shook her head.
“He’s a sweetheart, but I don’t think that’s it. Still, when you look into his movements into the surrounding countries– do you think there’s something there? Brian, are you listening to me?”
“This Brian here doesn’t hear anything. Well, as long the transactions don’t involve rare metals, we won’t be breaking any laws, so it’s fine.”
“…yes, as long as he’s serious about not trading rare metals.”
Serena seemed quite concerned about this.
Seeing that, Brian broke out into laughter and answered her.
“I’ve looked over the listed items to be handled, and they’re fine. You’re worrying too much, Serena.”
“I certainly hope so.”
Guide(｀・ω・´)キリッ! “I didn’t do anything!”
Written by Mishima Yomu/Wai (三嶋 与夢)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com