A luxury hotel’s lounge.
The hotel arranged by my merchant Thomas was a historic building renovated to modern standards.
It was a waste of money, but this was how evil lords were supposed to use their funds.
Crossing my legs as I sat down on the couch, I looked at the two people Thomas had mediated a meeting for me with.
Dressed in a suit while having his blonde hair set in a seven-three ratio, was the young head of the Clave Company– their president Elliot.
His appearance was that of one in their early twenties, and he actually seemed to be that age.
He sent a smile my way,
“I’d like to thank you for meeting with us today.”
Sitting next to him was an executive of the Newlands Company– Patrice.
She had crimson red hair and emerald green eyes.
Her suit that emphasised her chest seemed to match them… was she aiming for a certain colour scheme?
“It brings me great joy to finally meet with the famous Count– no, the future Duke, Lord Liam.”
She was a beautiful lady with an alluring voice, but girls of her type weren’t my preference.
–she reminded me of my former wife.
I didn’t like flashy women.
Turning towards Thomas, he seems to have curled himself up, trying to make his presence as small as possible.
“Lord Liam, there’s some things we want to talk to you about today. This concerns us becoming your exclusive purveyors.”
The biggest vendors in the imperial capital have approached me to become my merchants.
Because the scale they operated on was far larger than Thomas’ firm, they had the potential to be quite useful in many ways.
“My exclusive purveyors?”
“Yes, please allow us to serve you, Lord Liam. The Clave company is an imperial merchant group with deep ties to tradition and history. I’m sure that we could be of value to you.”
When Elliot said so with a smile, Patrice– who was sitting next to him, went on to appeal to me as well.
“While it is true that the Clave company is the best in the imperial capital, our Newlands Company does business across the entire Empire. Our company is widely supported by innumerable nobles, whose connections will surely be useful to you, Lord Liam.”
I love people who shamelessly sell flattery to me.
However– their offers seemed too good to be true.
And I’d never trust anyone who said they were willing to help me only out of the goodness of their own hearts.
“Thomas is my exclusive merchant, do you understand what the implications of your proposals are?”
Thomas made a flustered expression.
He really should try acting more dignified sometimes.
Elliot made another gesture to persuade me.
“Of course I understand. Make no mistake, I have no wish to expel the Henfrey Company from their position, but I’d be grateful it if you used our Clave Company in addition to them.”
Patrice did the same.
They both smiled while trying to sell me dreams of what the future could be like.
If I joined hands with them, they would do various things for my sake– it was just too convenient.
“…and so? What are you aiming for, approaching me like this?”
At my query, Elliot and Patrice’s smiles didn’t seem fazed at all.
“What are we aiming for? I’m a merchant too, my lord. Of course my aim here is the monetary profit that I predict you’ll bring me.”
“The Newlands Company holds the momentum your quickly rising Banfield house has in high-regard, and doesn’t wish to miss out on this opportunity to build a connection with you.”
I quietly observed the grins they had plastered on.
They gave off the same feeling as my ex-wife.
I still haven’t forgotten the face of the woman who made a fool of me.
“Wipe those damn smiles off already.”
When I said that, all expression seemed to vanish from Elliot’s face.
“…I’ve heard rumours that you were a virtuous lord full of affection, but I guess there are some things you just can’t understand without meeting the person in question face-to-face.”
Patrice was still smiling, but it seemed to have a different ‘depth’ to it.
It looked like one full of expectations, but also one of impatience.
“Is this what your true nature is like? I can’t say I hate it though.”
“I see… so? What do you want from me?”
When the atmosphere behind the two changed, Thomas quickly went on to explain,
“Lord Liam, both of them are seeking the strength of your Banfield house.”
“That’s somewhat reasonable, but I don’t understand why such powerful merchants would need to rely on me.”
Many merchants have expressed their desire to borrow the Banfield house’s power before.
However, these two must have other nobles in their pockets they could rely on.
They wouldn’t be big merchants otherwise.
For the powerful imperial merchant groups these two were parts of, there should be no reason for them to reach out to my house at all.
Elliot covered his mouth with his hand.
“I’ve only succeeded as the head of my group a few years ago, and I’ve been clashing with the other executives ever since.”
Considering the situation, it looks like the Clave Company was too close to noble politics.
“There are a lot of people who seek to take advantage of my youth and manipulate me. To be honest, after investigating my father’s death, it turns out he was assassinated.”
It looks like the big trading companies had their own fair share of problems to deal with.
“Why haven’t you reported this to the Empire?”
“Because the Empire needs the Clave company, not myself as an individual. It was actually the nobles who hired the people that killed my father.”
Just like the other executives, it looks like he was looking for an aristocrat to become his backer.
I turned to Patrice, and when she explained her circumstances– she revealed her ambitions.
“Unlike Elliot, who wants someone to defend himself, I want the Newlands Company for my own.”
Although Elliot didn’t seem interested, this piqued my interest.
“The Newlands Company has many executives, including myself. Although we generally work together, things are different now that the ownership is changing. Everyone is wondering, ‘who will be the next head?’”
Patrice took a pose that emphasised her chest, as if to appeal to me.
“Lord Liam, will you lend me your power to help me become the Newlands Company’s next president? Of course, I’ll make sure to reward you appropriately.”
Thomas looked away from the two.
“Lord Liam, with these two’s support, the Banfield house will be able to reach even greater heights, but they also come with various problems as well.”
These powerful merchants sought me out because they wanted my strength for their internal struggles.
Now isn’t that easy to understand?
In other words, they held the power of violence I could wield in high regard.
I called out towards them,
“…because you’ve piqued my interest, I’ve decided I’ll lend you my support.”
The expressions on Elliot and Patrice’s faces were serious.
“You do understand what this means, right?”
Elliot warned me, but for these two to seek me out means that they’re considerably evil, no?
They should’ve already heard from Thomas of all the villainous things I’ve done so far.
“Don’t worry about it, but let me say this– as long as you two make sure I profit from this deal, I’ll support you in turn. Don’t you think that a mutually beneficial relationship would be the best for all of us?”
Loyalty? Gratitude? Honour?
I didn’t believe in such things.
But as long as these two can profit from this situation, I knew they wouldn’t betray me.
Simple, isn’t it?
Patrice placed a finger on her lips.
“…you’re different from what I imagined, Lord Liam. Of course, in a good sense, but I thought you would’ve been a person who valued honour over profits.”
Honour? What is honour to an evil lord? Ahh, was she referring to the sense of honour that might appear in some television drama?
I’ve never valued such a thing before, and I didn’t value it now.
“Are you afraid that your profits may be thrown away in favour of morals? What great merchants you are, don’t you think so as well, Thomas?”
When I turned the conversation to him, Thomas made a troubled expression.
“W-what do you want me to say?”
“…well, as long as they can bring me profits, I’ll support them. Now, isn’t that quite simple and easy for a contract?”
Elliot began to smile, but it wasn’t that fake smile of a good and serious youth he showed me at first.
“I completely understand. Rather than the invisible ties of morals and honour, the material bindings of a contract are far more trustworthy.”
Patrice’s cheeks flushed red in excitement.
“I’ll bring you the contract immediately. Lord Liam… I’d like for you to sign the contract together with me, personally.”
Rather than the polished expressions they first showed, I prefered them far more as they were now.
◇ ◇ ◇
After having signed their contracts with Liam, Elliot and Patrice were now alone in the elevator.
It’s walls were made of glass, making the beautiful night view of the imperial capital visible.
Elliot loosened his tie and called out to Patrice.
“…he was easier of a person to talk to than I thought.”
Patrice crossed her arms, refusing to show her back to him.
“Don’t act so over familiarly with me. This doesn’t change the fact that we’re still enemies.”
“Oh? I would’ve thought it’d be far more beneficial for us to cooperate with each other.”
“…it’s meaningless to join hands with the head of a group that has no power.”
“You’re telling me…”
There were various reasons why they approached Liam, but for Elliot, it was because many of his company’s executives had close ties with the Berkley family.
As long as you paid the Pirate Nobles, they’d support you, that’s just how society was.
But if the pirates gained any more power, they’d start interfering with his business.
Elliot hated this idea and decided to support Liam, who was openly fighting the Berkley family from the front.
At first, he was worried when he heard about how serious he was, but that’s exactly why Liam’s true nature was so interesting.
“But I thought you were in the same situation as me. Aren’t many of your company’s executives close to the Berkley family as well?”
“There’s no point in following in their footsteps. If they’re going to bet on the Berkley family, then I’m going to put my chips on the Banfield house instead.”
Patrice wanted to use Liam to gain power within her company.
Originally, she was going to skillfully manipulate him with her language skills, but she was completely caught off guard.
“Still, things sure have taken an interesting turn. I’m glad that he’s not just another goody-two-shoes.”
The majority of aristocrats prioritised their personal profits for deals like this, but Liam didn’t trust such one-sided relationships.
“…we’ve gone too far now, the Count needs to win this war.”
When Elliot said so, Patrice agreed.
“He has to, because If he doesn’t, we’re screwed.”
◇ ◇ ◇
While Liam was in the middle of training, problems had clearly arisen with his designation of supplies.
They mostly came from those his policies affected– the corrupt soldiers.
“Damn it! That Banfield brat is getting full of himself!”
In addition to the nobles who had lazily wasted their time in the patrol fleets, the soldiers who had been living indulgent lives in the regular fleets until now were enraged.
“Seriously, the amount of alcohol we’ve been receiving has decreased.”
“What the hell does he mean by he can’t waste funds on premium liquor for us?! We’re nobles damn it!”
“On top of that, he’s messed with our fleets! After giving some random reason, he reduced the number of vessels I was in charge of!”
They raved on, turning everything that was wrong with their lives the fault of the Banfield house’s Liam.
Their opinions were in sync.
And the guide was silently watching over all of it.
Sitting down in a chair, he started applauding while swinging his legs.
“It looks like he’s smoothly creating more enemies for himself. Now, let’s put these guys to work.”
After snapping his fingers, black smoke began to emanate from his body.
The dark smog quickly filled up the room, but the nobles didn’t seem notice.
That’s when one of them spoke out,
“I’ve heard rumours that the Berkley family is going to settle things with the Banfield house soon.”
The gathered soldiers suddenly became interested in that story.
“It looks like they’re recruiting soldiers, so how about this? –As imperial noblemen, why don’t we join the Berkley family to help restore the military to how it’s supposed to be? They also said they’d provide us with a mountain of rewards.”
The military men broke out into grins.
The guide was preparing human resources to join the Berkley family’s army, further increasing Liam’s enemies.
“This still isn’t enough. I need to make all the contingency plans possible to ensure Liam’s demise.”
He needed to make sure he wasn’t negligent.
Or else he’d never be able to kill Liam.
Standing up, the guide fixed the position of his hat, and left the room.
However, a faint light in the shape of a dog was watching everything from the room’s corner, and silently followed after him.
Brian(´・ω・) “It’s painful. How Lord Liam didn’t even consider consulting us beforehand on increasing the number of contracted merchants is… painful. Not that I objected with his decision, of course.”
Written by Mishima Yomu/Wai (三嶋 与夢)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com