Returning to the castle, while busy reviewing plans, I heard the report from the head butler, Floto.
“Are you done cleaning up already?”
I just ordered it this morning, and they did it quickly.
I glanced at some papers he passed to me.
It was a rough list of the vile things that Varia Merchant Corps had committed so far.
Starting from the problems from the upper ranks of the group to the behavior of the people under them.
Still, the investigation didn’t show something so big that could prevent the merchant group from continuing their activities. But this was enough.
In fact, there was no need to investigate.
In Calderic, the Lord was the law.
Whether or not Varia broke the law, it didn’t matter. It’s just that it’s not possible to immediately dismantle them if I wanted to.
By the way, even when Floto gave me a detailed explanation of my job as a Lord, it was funny that he did not mention the power that the Lord had over his territory. Only a few restrictions. The great constitution enacted by the Overlord, the iron-rule of non-interference between the Lords’ territories, and the inability to exercise independent military authority over other countries.
I really could do anything I wanted, as long as it wasn’t a dictatorship that destroyed the basic structure of the monarchy.
Anyway, the reason I did this kind of investigation was because of a small bit of conscience.
I knew Varia was like a villain because I had played the game, but that’s all I knew.
Wasn’t it like stepping on someone with no justification just because I didn’t like them?
“Yes, Seventh Lord.”
“Bring the head of Varia, and Scarlett, the workshop owner of Alkimas, to the castle. Treat the workshop owner politely and with respect.”
“I will do as you command immediately.”
Floto did not show the slightest hint of surprise or doubt. He just walked away quickly after giving his answer.
He must have already known what my intentions were based on my series of commands.
I looked at the map again. I finished what I was doing and waited for the two of them leisurely.
I said that I’d see her again soon, but I never thought it would be this soon.
The large room of the Alkimas Workshop.
In a chilly atmosphere, Varia said calmly while savoring his tea.
“As expected, it’s a place where artisans gather, so the tea tastes great. It makes me want to learn the secret.”
Scarlett, who was sitting across from him, said with an expressionless face.
“You should drink it in moderation. After all, it might be too fine for your coarse taste.”
“I hope you don’t misinterpret my sincere compliment like that.”
“Let’s get down to the main topic. I would feel sorry for wasting the time of Varia’s busy owner.”
Varia raised the corner of his mouth and put the teacup down.
“What do I want to say? I’m just repeating the proposal I’ve always made, and the workshop owner will reject it as always.”
Scarlett replied calmly.
“It’s an obvious ploy to mass produce Alkimas potions with your capital, and to exploit the skills of our artisans.”
“As others say, the workshop owner is too full of negative prejudices about our group.”
“Who the hell was it that created that prejudice? Blocking the distribution materials, conciliating the workshop’s customers one by one, and mobilizing many petty things until just a few years ago to put pressure on the workshop?”
Bark, the man with an eyepatch sitting next to Varia, giggled.
“Workshop owner, be careful with what you say. We are not polite enough either. It would be unfair to accuse us like that without evidence.”
“What do the elders think? For the sake of the workshop’s future, shouldn’t the loyal vassals break the stubbornness of the head of your family?”
An older elder standing near Scarlett snorted.
“For the sake of the future of the workshop, it is a proposal that should not be accepted.”
“Haha, it really makes little sense. Our group would provide all the resources and funds necessary for potion production for the workshop. What the hell is wrong with this proposal?”
“And the price would be the technology of the workshop and the ability of the family head. You probably have a workshop in operation in the nearby city of Flicke. After a few years, they will absorb most of our technology and steal the workshop’s business partners one by one. In the end, our workshop will slowly fall, or you will force us to hand over the management rights of the workshop to you. Or is there a more elaborate and vicious strategy than this?”
Varia laughed at the elder’s sharp words.
“I envy you because you have like-minded and loyal vassals, workshop owner.”
It was because she already knew that the other attempted to bribe several elders. He failed, of course.
“They are proud people who have dedicated their lives to the well-being of our family. I don’t think there will be anyone who would have the same opinion as you.”
“Is it the turn of threats next?”
Varia gave a smile that bordered on sneering.
“You don’t have to pretend to be calm. You know that things have changed.”
“The new Seventh Lord arrived in the city just yesterday, and there was no more regent. Do you think the great Lord would take the slightest interest in such a trivial quarrel? Or, if he had one at all, whose side do you think he would be? Will he listen to you? Maybe if you have an elixir hidden in your family as an heirloom. If you donate it, he might be on your side.”
Bark interjected and said with a sinister laugh.
“Or, since the workshop owner is beautiful, you can seduce him. There’s a rumor that the new Lord is a human male, after all.”
“…Watch your words.”
Thane, who had been standing behind Scarlett and kept his mouth shut, spoke with gritted teeth.
The expression of the elders also turned stern at the remark openly insulting the head of the family.
However, Bark still spoke in that manner, as if he didn’t hear Thane.
“Just in case, how about marrying some young master? The workshop owner is not too old to be married. You shouldn’t just live in such a dull place like this, you should also know the joy of being a woman.”
Thane was about to explode, but Scarlett raised a hand to stop him.
“Did you just come here to do such a lowly provocation? You’ve thrown away your modesty.”
Varia stood up with a sneer.
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“Today will probably be the last warning. I hope you make a wise choice for the future of the workshop, Miss Scarlett.”
“Then we will go now. No need to see us off.”
The elders looked at the two with dark expressions as they walked out of the room.
They came here without prior notice and threatened them.
The future situation turned too unfavorable for the workshop. Even from tomorrow, there was no way to know what kind of dirty tricks Varia Merchant Corps would use.
It was because until a few years ago, all the elders had been through so much that their teeth trembled at how nasty Varia had treated the workshop.
Scarlett touched her forehead as if her head hurt.
“Why don’t we gather again in the evening and hold a meeting, family head?”
“Yes, we should. Then, for now…”
Scarlett and the elders talked about the future.
Thane listened to the conversation with a firm expression, then sneaked out of the room.
Varia and Bark, who had passed through the workshop’s central hall and were heading towards the entrance, looked back.
The person who called them was none other than Thane.
“Do you need something?”
Thane looked at the two of them alternately, then continued to speak while glaring at Bark.
“Bark, I challenge you to a duel.”
At that statement, Bark widened his eyes and pointed at himself with a mischievous smile.
“Did you just say duel? With me?”
Varia stepped up and said.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do. But Thane Atima, is this the meaning of the workshop?”
“No, I’m doing it on my own.”
“Why are you suddenly requesting a duel?”
“Because he insulted my sister. I don’t think the One-Eyed Slayer, Bark, would refuse because he was afraid of a young swordsman like me.”
Bark looked at Thane as if he was looking at some kind of puppy.
It was common in this world to resolve trivial conflicts through a duel.
However, that was only for opponents of equal standing. Bark was a warrior with a reputation for being the best in Varia. They even gave him the name One-Eyed Slayer.
If I show off my strength here by defeating Bark, Varia cannot act recklessly.
Thane did it because he thought it was worth it.
He was also an outstanding martial artist for his age and he had his own confidence because he had made great progress recently.
Bark glanced at Varia.
Varia smiled broadly and nodded his head as telling his brother to take care of it.
“Well, good. I’ll waste my time with you for a while.”
Bark smiled and stepped forward.
The central hall was wide enough for two people to cross swords.
“Thane Atima, you’ve been fairly well-known in the capital lately. Did you make it to the finals in the last Darthmad City swordsmanship competition? A young and talented warrior’s challenge is always welcome.”
Thane drew his sword first, and Bark drew his sword slowly as well.
He raised the corner of his mouth and switched his sword to his other hand.
“Shall I give you a handicap? I’m right-handed, so I will wield my sword in my left hand. That should be enough.”
“…Do as you please!”
Thane immediately went full force, intending to startle the other and force him to use both hands. The blade of his sword shimmered in blue.
The sword, which was swung with great force, was blocked languidly.
Before one knew it, Bark with one hand behind his back, was blocking the sword attack. Even the blade of his sword shimmered with a blue aura.
A blow that was blocked too easily.
Thane was a little taken aback by the other’s sword that was not pushed and did not move at all, but he continued to attack again.
Kaang! Kang! Kakakang!
Blue lines intersecting in the air. A continuous roaring sound.
The flashes that were hard to see with the eyes of ordinary people continued to come and go.
Thane’s sword was fast and sophisticated. He was clearly a high-level swordsman for his age.
However, all his attacks were blocked and destroyed by Bark’s lightly swinging sword.
As time passed, darkness fell on Thane’s face as he wielded his sword.
He couldn’t have imagined that the gap would be this large.
And at some point, pieces of metal scattered.
Bark’s hand, which suddenly sped up, shattered Thane’s sword.
Thane, shocked as he was, let out a moan of pain and fell to his knees.
Looking down at him, Bark grinned.
People arrived at the same time. Scarlett and the elders immediately came out after hearing the commotion downstairs.
Scarlett shouted with an urgent expression and came running. She then glared intently at Varia.
“What did you do?”
“Ah, don’t misunderstand. The one who challenged Bark for a duel was your younger brother.”
Thane lowered his head with a horribly distorted expression, avoiding Scarlett’s gaze. Realizing the situation, she let out a sigh.
“…I will apologize for my brother’s rudeness. The victory had already been decided, so please stop the duel.”
At that, Bark raised an evil corner of his mouth and said.
“He’s the first to attack. Wouldn’t it make sense if I finish it at least?”
He plunged the blade into Thane’s arm as the other lay on the floor.
The faces of Scarlett and the elders turned white.
“The younger brother of the workshop owner can’t control his hot bloodedness. So we should give him a chance to learn this time.”
“N-, wait… stop!”
“Tsk, tsk, it’s not like I’m going to kill him. Why are you so nervous? There are a lot of good quality potions here, so there shouldn’t be any problem with treatment.”
Bark said that and swung the blade into his arm. Thane couldn’t stand it and let out his screams of pain.
“Stop! Stop now!”
Scarlett completely lost her composure and cried out as if pleading.
Bark chuckled as if he was having fun.
“Haha! If you’re that desperate, get down on your knees and beg a little more earnestly, workshop owner. Then I’ll stop…”
It was then.
Suddenly, the entrance to the hall opened, and a series of knights appeared.
Everyone’s eyes were drawn to their sudden appearance.
Varia’s eyes widened.
He, who had just been watching the situation with a leisurely smile, murmured with a puzzled expression.
“…Iron Blood Knights?”
Iron Blood Knights directly under the Seventh Lord’s castle.
Varia couldn’t understand why the most elite force of the Lord, who did not move unless it was a serious matter, suddenly appeared here.
Scarlett and the elders looked at them with bewildered expressions, and Bark dragged out the sword stuck in Thane’s arm.
The blonde-haired man at the head of the knights looked around, then approached the center of the hall and opened his mouth.
“Varia, the owner of the Varia Mechant Corps.”
“Follow me right now. You have no right to refuse. I will not take questions.”
And this time, he turned his head to Scarlett and spoke in a much more polite tone.
“Are you Scarlett, the owner of Alkimas Workshop?”
“…Yes, I am.”
“Please, accompany us as well. The Lord is looking for you.”
Everyone’s faces were filled with astonishment.
If the knight called someone ‘lord’, then it couldn’t be anyone than the Seventh Lord.
Meanwhile, Bark asked with a frown.
“Could it be that you’re going to the Lord’s castle? Why are you taking my older brother suddenly? At least give a reason…”
Bark’s words were cut short.
It was because the knight he asked drew his sword and attacked him without warning.
Bark also hurriedly drew his sword and defended himself, but his blade shattered.
Bark fell to his knees as fresh blood poured from his chest that had been split diagonally.
The knight looked down at him coldly and withdrew his sword.
“I said I wouldn’t take questions. Do you dare to question the Lord’s mandate?”