Even after my lengthy explanation about the circumstances of the Holy Sword Tiamata was over, Eleris looked puzzled.
So it wasn’t until I finally showed her Tiamata, to which I was spirit bonded, that she understood the situation.
However, it was quite problematic because she reacted to it as violently as a terrified vampire faced with garlic.
She was even more startled than the time when she was directly hit by the sun. She jumped out of her apartment and clung to a wall as if she was about to make her escape, trembling.
“…Do the undead take damage just by looking at this Holy Sword?”
“That… that’s not it, but… Well, maybe. Since it’s our polar opposite…”
Eleris sighed in relief when I sent Tiamata back. She explained that she didn’t take any damage, but she felt like shivering just by looking at it.
“How fascinating… That the sword actually turned out to be Tiamata…”
Eleris seemed very surprised by the fact that the Holy Sword Tiamata could actually be corrupted in such a way.
“I would like to congratulate you for becoming the master of a Holy Sword, but… Well, for me, it’s just… Yeah.”
“I know what you mean.”
Since I had become the master of a weapon most lethal to her, Eleris seemed a little terrified.
“Still, thank you for telling me.”
Eleris thanked me, seeing my honesty about Tiamata as proof that I trusted her.
Eleris and I had been talking for a long time about the difference between the demon gods and the orthodox gods. In the end, the word “orthodox” was completely meaningless, as the gods’ power would vary depending on one’s direction of belief.
Olivia Lanze was able to use the power of Kier after she had changed the way she used Towan’s power.
“Gods seem to be even stranger than we first imagined.”
That problem came to be because I didn’t set them up properly.
“But I don’t really need this thing. I just happened to get my hands on it.”
If I continued to take classes in Temple and sparred with Ellen, I would become strong on my own. And although Tiamata was a powerful weapon, it was very limited.
There was no way I would get to fight undead monsters there, and even if it was the corrupted Tiamata, wouldn’t that mean that I would have to kill people to raise them as undead? My conscience wouldn’t be able to allow that to begin with.
I had brought it with me because it was something good, and it was true that it turned out to be an even better item than I expected, but in the end, there was nothing I needed to use it for.
Eleris was lost in thought, as she kept her mouth closed as if she was agonizing over what I had just said.
“At the moment, its use as a symbol would be much stronger than its use as a weapon.”
“If you say using it as a symbol, do you mean using it as the Divine Relic of the Church of Towan?”
I had a rough idea of what Eleris was talking about.
“If it were to be discovered that my Lord is a demon, but also the master of Towan’s Divine Relic, Tiamata, then…”
“Then the Church of Towan has to choose between two things: Either deny that it is Tiamata, or admit that demons can also become Towan’s champion.”
I knew exactly what she meant.
The Church of Towan strictly followed the doctrine of purity, which rejected all undead races and demons.
That meant that demons, the demon king’s race, the archdemons, included, shouldn’t be able to become Tiamata’s, master.
However, a demon prince had actually managed to become Tiamata’s owner.
In that case they had to either state that my Tiamata was fake or that demons could become Towan’s champions as well.
“But as you may know, the high priests would be able to tell that it was the real Tiamata right away. Even if they aren’t the most faithful, they wouldn’t be able to deny that the sword’s power was the same.”
No matter what one did, one couldn’t cover the sky with one’s palm.
Denying that it was Tiamata or admitting that demons could become Towan’s champion…
Both were incredibly difficult for believers of Towan.
“The fact that your Highness is the owner of Tiamata would be a major issue that could shake all of the five great religions.”
“I’m not sure if the entire Church of Towan would be on your Highness’ side. However, in cases like that, Tiamata would be a very powerful tool to gain political and religious protection.”
Tiamata was an object that had a lot of other uses other than its use as a weapon.
If the worst-case scenario became reality, the Church of Towan might actually try to protect me if they found out that I was actually Tiamata’s owner.
Of course, there was also a good chance that they would try to get rid of me.
Once Eleris informed me of Tiamata’s other uses, she didn’t seem to be too concerned about me becoming Tiamata’s owner.
Of course, I didn’t just go to her to report about Tiamata.
I had to earnestly start to prepare for the Gates incident from that point on.
As my main focus of preparation, I repeatedly trained and trained some more to make myself stronger.
Of course, that wouldn’t be enough.
The Gates incident was basically a disaster.
—A disaster that no one was prepared for.
That was the reason why there weren’t only enormous amounts of casualties, but also, because of the gigantic level of damage that couldn’t be recovered from, they had called kids, who were still just students, even high-ranking Temple students, to arms.
I was the only one who knew about that disaster, no one in this world could predict it at that point.
If everyone could make some preparations in advance, we would be able to reduce casualties astronomically. The moment the Gates would occur, how it would happen, and the flow of events…
If they were able to know those kinds of things in advance, no matter if they were part of the Empire or some nobody, they would be able to prepare adequately.
There was no reason not to do it, after all.
Of course, just strengthening myself wouldn’t be enough. If I were able to make use of more people, I would be able to do a lot more.
But how should I even explain and persuade people that I actually knew that an extraordinary and unprecedented large-scale disaster called the Appearance of Gates would happen in the future and that all of us had to prepare for it?
While it was true that the prince and princess who could move countless people were among my acquaintances, what should I do if they asked me how I knew about those Gates and was so confident that they would appear?
Even the fact that I was a demon prince would explain that.
So before doing anything else…
I had to get my hands on the best tool to gather people.
I needed an astronomical amount of money to prepare for the Gate Disaster, not to control the Empire.
Money was just a means to my goal. I didn’t know yet what to do with it or how much I would need, but once I made a lot of money, which was the basic requirement, I could earnestly start preparing for the future.
The first source was the Rotary Gang.
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“How’s Airi been doing recently?”
And the second was Airi, who solely lived for the purpose of making money itself, residing on the Edina Islands.
Eleris, Sarkegaar, Loyar, the Rotary Gang, the Thieves’ Guild, and the connection I had to the Prince and the Princess…
Airi on the Edina Islands and her close relationship with the local wealthy…
Influence and power in the Capital…
Money on the Edina Islands…
—I had to make thorough preparations for the Gates by means of those two things.
Eleris tilted her head at my question about Airi’s situation.
“Well… According to my most recent information, things seem to have progressed quite a bit since the last time I checked.”
“What do you mean by, ‘progressed’?”
“Whether it’s shipowners or loan sharks, it seems like she made quite a lot of acquaintances within the local populace. Rather than making more money, she is now able to move the people who are responsible for moving capital itself… Apparently, she has achieved what she intended to achieve.”
Airi said that money was fine and good, but what she wanted was to control those that owned gigantic amounts of capital. I didn’t really know how she did it, but it seemed like everything went as she expected anyway. Being able to control people who moved money wasn’t much different from being rich yourself.
However, Eleris seemed a bit worried.
“We don’t know how much money is needed to shake up the Empire, but the Princess might be able to place the Edina Islands under her complete influence if it continues like this.”
I just suggested she do it on a whim, but Airi had actually managed to do a great job. Less than a year later, she now located in the Capital of the Edina Islands, where she had already established many connections to local wealthy and powerful people.
That was what Eleris was worried about.
She was worried that Airi might do so well that she might cause great chaos in the actual human realm in the future.
“She makes a lot of money, so that’s all I need to know. Though they only move according to my words, if they actually do something like that, we can take our own actions then.”
“…Is that so?”
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Eleris still seemed anxious, even after I assured her that they were under my complete control.
I would use Airi’s wealth in a slightly different manner than she intended. It couldn’t be helped that Eleris felt so anxious, but Airi doing well only had great merit for me. The more tools I could use, the better.
“How’s the Rotary Gang these days?”
“Oh, are you talking about that?”
The only topic missing was the Rotary Gang.
The headquarters, the new home for the Gang, had already been completed, and I knew that all of them were trying to escape from being beggars, posing as proper citizens.
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After that bizarre incident of the Thieves’ Guild kidnapping me, Loyar continued to share the Gang’s progress with Eleris and Sarkegaar to prevent something like that from happening again.
In Airi’s case, things became kind of problematic because she did too well, but judging by how Eleris narrowed her eyebrows when I mentioned the Rotary Gang, there seemed to be a problem with them as well.
“Selling products is becoming harder and harder. There are just too many other competitors, so it seems like the mana train passengers are increasingly shunning them.”
It was getting harder and harder to do business on the trains.
Of course, I expected as much.
“I guessed as much. I never thought that this would be a long-running business anyway.”
“The gang members’ living standards are much better than before, so the amount of money they need to keep it up has increased as well. It seems like they have no idea how to run the gang, and it’s rather difficult to keep reaching out to the Thieves’ Guild as well.”
There were certain things one needed to live like a proper human. The living standards of the club members had improved, but the train business, which had become their support, was bringing in less and less income.
I was thinking that it was about time to implement a different revenue model. It was kind of weird calling it a revenue model.
Anyway, Loyar seemed to have a lot of worries.
Her head was about to explode because she suddenly had to take care of a lot more things after she had only ever lived a rough but simple life.
“How about this…?”
“What do you…?”
“We’ll do business legally.”
Eleris tilted her head as she heard the word “legal”.
“We’ll literally make peddling inside mana trains legal. It’s a good business, right?”
“…Are you going to borrow the power of the prince and princess?”
The sale of goods on the mana trains wasn’t illegal at the moment, but it would soon become illegal because it inconvenienced the passengers.
—But we could still make it legal.
It wasn’t me who would be able to do that, but the prince or the princess could.
“Yeah, we won’t just carry around stuff and sell them anymore like we’re doing now, we’ll do proper business.”
At first, I thought about those kinds of businesses that sold snacks from carts they would drag around the trains, but that wouldn’t get approved.
If someone were to move around a cart in a mana train, which didn’t only have seats, that would be rather uncomfortable for the passengers. Sometimes the passengers had to stand to ride the train, after all.
“Every station the mana trains stop at is pretty much empty at the moment, they are just stations. Let’s set up stores there and do proper business.”
Every station simply served as a boarding platform. There were no stores or anything similar placed there.
Why were they teasing me like that when it was such a waste? After opening stores or something similar in those places, we would have to think about what to sell there. Stations were places with a huge amount of floating population, after all.
We had started with hawker trains, but we would move on to do completely legal business. Bertus or the princess certainly would give me their permission. It wasn’t an unprofitable proposition, in the end, so their responses should be rather positive.
If they didn’t, I could still think about what to do when the time came.
“…It certainly seems like a good idea. But… even if you get permission, wouldn’t it cost a fortune to set up stands and shops in so many stations?”
We would have to set up more than a dozen stores. Even if we got permission, we’d end up as fools if we didn’t even have enough money to set them up.
That woman, really…
“Who even starts a business with their own money? We can get an investment. There are a lot of places that would do something like that.”
“The Imperial Government will give us exclusive business rights, and there are no other competitors besides us. Why would we use our own money to start it up? One has to use other peoples’ money, of course.”
Business was supposed to be done using other people’s money!
If things worked out, we would be holding a monopoly over that business with the government’s permission.
Oh, what a beautiful word it was.
The Rotary Gang would have an exclusive contract with the government.
One would be crazy not to invest their money in our business. Eleris looked rather stunned. While she was very knowledgeable in the field of magic, she didn’t know a thing about business.
You want to run a business without putting in your money?
Is that possible? Can we really do something like that?
That was what she seemed to be thinking.
Sometimes, Eleris was pretty cute as well.
“First, one place that will unconditionally sponsor us would be the Merchants Guild. They’ll come running to us like starving dogs even if we only give them the rights to supply our goods.”
“Yeah… I guess so.”
Although the Merchants Guild didn’t particularly like us as a group, they lived by the saying, “Don’t hate the money, even if you hate the people.” They should have a lot of money already, but if we decided to get all the goods to supply our Mana Train Station Shops through the Merchant Guild, they’d faint from joy.
Besides investments, we would also be able to do something about the price of goods. If we asked them to compete in bidding for the supply rights internally, they would quickly turn to glare at each other before trying to crush each other. Merchants would ultimately try to compete with each other.
We would receive investments from the Merchants Guild while also being able to sell goods supplied by them.
In the end, the Merchants Guild would shoulder everything while the money went to the Rotary Gang. Of course, the Merchants Guild was sure to make huge profits as well.
The Rotary Gang would only have people and the monopoly to offer, but those two things alone were enough to make a lot of money.
Having that kind of power was just that good.
It was easier to make money with power than to buy power with money.
“Tell Loyar what we discussed here. I’ll go talk to Bertus and Charlotte.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
It would be good if they allowed us to do it, if they didn’t, we just had to think of another way.
Airi seemed to be doing well on her own, and if the plan worked, the amount of money the Rotary Gang would earn would be on a completely different level from whatever they had seen before.
Eleris seemed to be worried about a different matter next.
“But… Your Highness, can Loyar even handle a business of that size?”
“She doesn’t have to worry much about running her Gang as it is now, but if she had to take charge of such a large business, I think things would end well.”
In Eleris’ mind, Loyar was hella stupid. I felt like it had gotten a bit better after she started managing some people, but she was originally a muscle brain.
Technically, she had a dog’s brain, though.
Eleris was worried that Loyar wasn’t capable enough to take charge of a project that size. I had to go to Temple, so I couldn’t do it.
“Eleris, are there any beggars that don’t have a story?”
“Beggars and tramps are all people with stories, no matter how big or small they may be.”
“Y-yes… You’re right, but…”
Eleris tilted her head as if she thought something like, “What does that have to do with this topic?”
“We have more than 200 beggars in our rows holding many stories within them.”
A famous quote from one of Tolstoy’s novels, Anna Karenina, goes as follows:
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
The Rotary Gang was one such unhappy family.
Each of them had to go through two hundred different kinds of misfortune.
“Among all those people, wouldn’t there be at least one person who’s done business for a long time and ended up getting betrayed or had it all blow up in their face?”
There wouldn’t be just one or two among them who had lost money due to a failed business.
Loyar wouldn’t be alone in taking charge of that business—she could just proceed while getting advice from those kinds of people.
Eleris nodded wildly at my words, saying that it had to be like that.
* * *
After I gave Eleris some rough instructions, I went back to Temple.
I had to slowly proceed with the next step.
—The take-over of the Capital’s underworld.
I had to think about how to go about that as well.
I could either do it through the Thieves’ Guild, or I could do it differently and proceed with the Rotary Gang. However, I thought it would be better, for many reasons, to take the path through the Thieves’ Guild.
I wondered just what kinds of things I would get done with them.
If I could control the whole underworld, I might be able to destroy all the Warp Gates inside the Capital all at once.
That was the key point.
Two years from then, meaning the beginning of the first semester of my third year, all the Warp Gates on the whole continent would connect this world with another world, from which monsters would start to pour in.
—That was the Gate Incident.
I had to figure out a way to stop that incident at its source, or at least minimize the damage it would cause if I couldn’t stop it completely.