Charles slammed open the door almost hard enough to break it.
“Y-Young Lady,” Count Troi, one of her vassals, said. “They… They’ve begun striking our family’s remaining convoys… and the queue of customers… Well, they’re not our only problem. The most serious issue is that all products entering the regions have been cut off completely. If our food reserves fall at this pace, the entire province will starve.”
Cox stepped forward angrily.
“Are they not even pretending to not be bandits anymore? There are unspoken rules they need to follow—they can’t just attack whenever they want! We should lodge an official complaint to the Palace! They’ll settle this much faster. What would a different family do?”
“At this rate, we will be completely cut off, Young Lady.”
Charles rubbed her eyes.
“In addition to trade products… Is there any way to produce the quantities of food required to feed the population currently inside our territory?”
“Somewhat, based on the yearly harvests, but only about 70%. There is nothing for the remaining 30%.”
The meeting room was deafeningly quiet.
“Where is Icarus?”
“A stranger is not permitted into private family disc—”
“Stop yapping!” Charles’s scream froze the room like a bucket of cold water. “Are we really going to put our pride first in this situation? Our family is in jeopardy and anyone who has the heart to help is welcome! We need their help, and we need it now!”
“Y-young… Young Lady…” The vassals stared at her, wide-eyed. Charles may have matured lately, but she was still embarrassed—these people had been watching over her since she was young.
Regardless, she powered on with dignity.
“Bring me Icarus… Now.”
Any inn here is linked to the Haiburi family, so sending a message should be straightforward.
Joshua needed to depart quickly, but it would be rude to leave without a word when Count Haiburi had welcomed him.
And… Reifonbeo’s daughter was there. That was the only reason why Joshua had accepted Count Haiburi’s request, burdensome as it was. Torosen lu Reinfonbeo commanded the 7th Battalion—neither a high nor a low battalion. However, he would lead the Imperial Knights in the not-too-distant future. Joshua’s return may have altered destiny, but it didn’t matter.
I don’t want to pull him in just for networking. He may look like a cheerful guy, but his personality is superb. Even if I left the Imperial Family for personal reasons, there’s no reason to carelessly discard the relationships I built.
He recalled the people he’d met in the last five years fondly. They weren’t entirely new relationships—several of them, including Viper, had followed him in his last life.
It wouldn’t be so bad to have them as friends now.
Joshua shook his head and returned to the task at hand. He pushed the door open.
“Welcome!” A youthful voice greeted him. “Allow us to extend you a warm welcome from Blue Shelter!”
The kid looked docile and tame, and had to be no more than eleven years old. The sight made Joshua’s chest throb, for some reason.
He reminds me of myself… not his appearance, but his atmosphere. Joshua let out a breath, remembering yet another relationship. There was a kid who adored Joshua; he had no parents, so he treated Joshua as one. His life had been just as awful as Joshua’s.
I’ll see you soon.
“Are you ordering something? Or staying? Either way, I can offer you a discount.”
Joshua let down his robe as the child chattered, exposing his face.
“Oh my…” The boy’s lips stilled.
After a long moment, the kid bounced up from the counters, eyes alight.
“Bro! I swear I’ve never seen anyone as handsome as you! I promise!”
“You’ve got a good sense for business.” Joshua grinned. “I’m flattered. You certainly know how to capture the hearts of your customers.”
“It’s not flattery, though.” The kid pounded his chest. “I’m serious!”
“What’s your name?”
“Aden?” Joshua choked down a fit of laughter.
“Hehe… My father named me after the pride of the Empire, Duke Aden von Agnus. It’s embarrassing, but…”
“I see.” Joshua nodded cheerfully.
Naming your children after idols and great figures was a rare thing in the aristocracy. On the surface, they treated it as an act of disdain and an affront to the gods.
They’ve developed a distinct culture. Respecting it would be the right thing to do.
It’s not incorrect, it’s unique. Joshua knew that the first step towards appreciating people is acknowledging their differences.
I see myself in the most unexpected places. Not just these little children, but also from other living beings and even inanimate objects. There’s so much to learn.
If someone heard what Joshua was thinking, they’d probably call him an old man.
“But! My views have changed!”
“Duke Agnus is so great that I’m afraid to talk about him, but my hero has changed!”
“Have you heard?” The lad bounced up, eyes twinkling. “His son, Baron Joshua Sanders—they say he’s even more magnificent than Duke Agnus! The Empire’s youngest baron! The world’s smallest mana knight! The Imperial Knights’ youngest captain!” He was over the moon. “When I was younger, I’d already heard hundreds of tales of the Reinhardt Tournament. They still make my heart throb. They even say he grew up miserably, but…” The boy’s eyes grew wistful. “Could I ever become like him?”
The kid got right up to Joshua while he was busy gaping.
“I’d be ready to die if I could meet him just once! I’d brag about it to Loony and Tom for days and days! When they saw one of the Duke’s knights, they talked about it so much I almost hated them! I heard whispers that Baron Sanders is so attractive that elves fall in love with him—like you, bro!” He cast an admiring gaze over Joshua.
“He’s got dark blue eyes that suck you in, and black hair that…” Aden stared at Joshua blankly. “...skin fairer than a woman’s, and a thin, lean frame, over 180cm tall, and…” His eyes crept up to Joshua’s ear. “...an earring on one… ear…” Aden’s voice trailed off into silence.
Joshua scratched his head in embarrassment.
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