Hey everyone, hope you’re well!
4 chapters left to this volume.
Anyway, here is the chapter, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
【”―― Just what in the world is Ostmark doing?!”】
Albert violently threw his glass at the wall in his fury.
A crimson stain of red wine colored the white wall.
For Albert, who lagged behind when it came to military forces, wealth was immensely important.
It gave him an advantage he could not afford to lose.
If Kurats could turn the tables on him financially, Albert and the faction that he led for so long would no longer have any hope of winning.
Felbell’s faction would never have managed to stay afloat if not for the large sums they invested in bribes, and even then, they were walking a thin line.
A few months ago, when Kurats’ mission started, the possibility that Lunaria would take the throne had not crossed Albert’s mind.
Back then, Kurats had been nothing more than an upstart, with no relatives or even acquaintances to speak of among the kingdom’s nobility.
Albert once believed that was a fatal weakness.
For a man whose only redeeming feature was being able to hold his own in a fight, it should have been impossible to properly manage a territory.
After all, he did not have the right connections to acquire the necessary know-how.
While Lunaria was by no means an incompetent person, the matters that pertained to royalty and nobility were not the same.
And so, Albert figured he would be able to slowly take over Bashtar economically while Kurats and his allies would cluelessly push the territory to a financial crisis.
If Kurats failed at managing his territory and became drowned in debts, he would no longer be such a dreadful opponent.
After all, hero or not, money was the great equalizer. Anyone would starve if they could not afford food.
A debt-stricken Kurats would have brought Albert immense, spiteful joy.
This should have been an easy task for Albert with the power of the merchants supplying the kingdom, such as the Ostmark company.
In fact, through Albert’s rigging, the price of food and supplies sold to Bashtar had risen up so far that the territory had shown signs of an incoming depression even earlier than expected.
Not much time had passed, yet Bashtar had already been a few months away from bankruptcy.
It was precisely during that period that the Bolivia mine was recaptured.
(If it weren’t for that cursed mine ―― he would have been done for!)
Albert was not aware that Kurats had also obtained many riches from Triestella.
That being said, it was true that Bashtar would not have gotten back on its feet so quickly if not for the Bolivia mine.
【”Master ―― Sir Shylock has come…”】
【”Oooh! Hurry and lent him in!”】
The long awaited appearance of this important personnage was a great relief for Albert.
This man was Clive Shylock ―― 77-year-old as of the current year, he was the head of a conglomerate that every single person in the kingdom of Jormungand knew.
The sphere of his influence was not limited to the world of business, for he even had hands in the kingdom’s agriculture and industry.
Even an important noble like Albert had to somewhat watch his behavior around him.
Of course, there were some nobles who aimed for his fortune, but when it came to nobility, there was no such thing as having no enemy.
In any case, the power of money could be a terrifying weapon when used well. If this old man intervened, it would still be possible to bring Bashtar’s economy back to where it once was.
That was Albert’s firm belief.
【”It has been a whole year since we last met, hasn’t it?”】
【”I’m afraid the more I age, the less I get to go out like this.”】
Despite his words, his dark hair and his straight back left no hint of his age.
From appearances alone, no one would think he was any older than 60.
Moreover, old or not, he still kept himself very busy, standing at the forefront of his firm.
【”The reason I had to expressly trouble you to come here is related to the particular turn Bashtar’s business has been taking lately.”】
【”I never thought I would get to see the Mythril from that place again in this lifetime.”】
Clive had been just a kid at the time of the great invasion, but when he started his apprenticeship, some of the Bolivia mine’s mithril had still been circulating in the city.
The quality of that mithril was close to the best in the whole continent.
After it was taken by the monsters, its price had increased more than ten fold.
Recalling those old memories was quite invigorating for Clive.
【”It’s not an exaggeration to say that that mine is the treasure of the kingdom, and yet we are letting foreign nations snatch it away. I’d say the honor of Jormungand’s merchants is at play here.”】
Strictly speaking, Bashtar had only traded Mithril with Lapland’s merchants a single time.
The Gaillard company did not have enough assets to buy all of Bashtar’s reserves.
After all, even in the Jormungand kingdom, there were no more than five large business like the Shylock firm and the Ostmark company.
Still, the fact Bashtar had given priority to Lapland’s merchants, even just a single time, was undeniably a big deal.
This was a non-negligeable opportunity to add a just cause to a false accusation.
If this had been half a year ago, or even just two months ago, maybe such a plan would have worked.
(How can Albert be so blind to the situation? Has he become weak or has his time simply passed?)
Up to this day, Albert had brought enormous profits to the Shylock company.
Clive felt sorry for him.
【”This should be a matter of course, but you should know my firm is making gains in Bashtar, too.”】
Feeling the clear rejection behind Clive’s words, Albert was astonished.
Clive was the type of man who would never fail to make a move when there was money to be made.
Taking that into consideration, Albert intended to give Clive all possible rights to the Bashtar territory if he helped him.
Clive had probably already realized that that was his intent. If he couldn’t tell at least that much, he would never have been able to hold the largest firm of the entire kingdom afloat.
Albert was presenting Clive a chance to make money.
Why was Clive not siding with him?
Albert was feeling more confusion and doubt than anger.
He knew Clive. He knew he would never pass on such an opportunity.
【”It’s a bit too late.”】
Albert thought the game was still in session, but it was already over.
To begin with, the mission to bring Bashtar back on its feet only happened due to the prime minister, Eustache, being unreasonable.
Aware of how difficult of a test that was, Eustache had been paying close attention to Kurats’ actions.
He had very quickly been made aware of how Kurats had repelled the seemingly overwhelming presence of monsters, how he had hired excellent workers like Marika and Clodette to handle his finances, and how he had taken back the Bolivia mine.
The worst thing he could blame him for was that one time he had fixed the mithril’s prices through the intervention of Lapland.
Still, as one would expect, Eustache had to acknowledge Kurats’ talent.
Even though Marika and the bureaucrats under her were the ones who had ultimately accomplished the task, appointing the right people and managing to control them to accomplish one’s objectives was a part of a ruler’s strengths.
Kurats・Hans・Almadianos was, without a doubt, worthy of marrying princess Lunaria.
Having realized that, Eustache no longer could afford to impose unreasonable tests on Kurats. On the contrary, he had to take the initiative to support him.
This was a part of his wisdom as the prime minister. It was his way of surviving the next generation.
Eustache knew he had to make Kurats owe him, lest he bring his own ruin by being hated by the next king.
Soon enough, the prime minister, the center of the kingdom’s administration, had ended up publicly declaring his support towards Kurats.
No matter how many noble businessmen joined Albert’s faction or how much influence he had over bureaucrats, that would never surpass a prime minister on active duty.
In other words, Albert had already completely lost the superiority he thought he had.
From the information Clive had acquired, there were already two or three important noble businessmen trying to join Lunaria’s faction with Eustache as their intermediary.
【”Right now, the prime minister and your faction’s nobles alike are falling onto the count of Bashtar’s lap like an avalanche to gain his favor. Merchants like us can’t interfere.”】
In any conflict, merchants would always cooperate with the winning side.
There was no merchant in the world who would dare to stick to the losing side.
【”The Prime Minister…? That is ridiculous… He’s going to hand Jormungand to that plebeian?”】
Albert was greatly distraught. This was an unthinkable turn of events.
【”In the name of our long friendship, the Shylock firm will not show the marquisate of Strasbourg any hostility… But we cannot antagonize the count of Bashtar, either. I hope you’ll understand.”】
As one would expect from the kingdom’s biggest merchant, Clive was careful not to kick Albert while he was down.
But that sort of sympathy did not please Albert in the slightest.
(Unforgivable, unforgivable, unforgivable!!)
Waiting for defeat powerlessly was not an option.
It was no longer possible to win in a straightforward political strife.
However, Albert still had one option left.
(I’ll show you! Be it the king, the prime minister, or that all-brawn-no-brains plebeian nobody; I swear I will take your heads!)
It was going to be very difficult for Albert to make Asgard crown him as king of Jormungand like he had planned to at first.
But cooperating with them could not leave him any worse off than his current, powerless state.
Surely, he could snatch at least a third of the kingdom or so as his reward.
More importantly, he could make that insufferable plebeian wallow in despair….
Albert laughed out loud, conscious of the dark sludge of emotions welling from the depths of his stomach.
His wife, Felbell, was anxiously watching this scene unfold, before Albert violently pushed her down.
At this moment, Albert openly unleashed his thirst for revenge.
【”Take on me, Felbell.”】
A month after the treasonous turn of the marquis of Strasbourg, the Jormungand kingdom was hit by an unprecedented crisis.
Translator’s note: Fun fact of the day. From what I just saw, Felbell is actually pretty old. I always assumed she was a bit older than Lunaria, but it turns out she’s way older.