Episode 42

War On The Table (7)
3 weeks ago
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“Just a moment; let’s discuss the terms of the contract. Please bear with us, Your Majesty.”

Two ministers of the empire began to whisper in the Imperial language over the draft of the contract.

“Your Majesty.”

“Hmm. This is tricky.”

Baron Hex whispered beside her, and Carmen also lowered her voice and sneered.

“I know a bit of the Imperial language, but I can’t catch such quiet whispers.”

“But they are quite proficient in the language of our kingdom.”

“We’ll have to be careful with our words. Tsk.”

Careless talk could lead to troublesome issues if the Imperials overheard it.

“Your Majesty, but about Grey, is it really okay to just leave him be?”

“What about Grey?”

“You did ask him to guide that woman… the Chairman of Iperia, but he seemed rather pleased.”

“So what?”

Carmen’s voice involuntarily rose.

“It’s not right for the Chairman to be at the table. She’ll just give everything to our side generously. I sent her away because the agreement needs to be made within their understanding.”

“It seemed like you were quite concerned about Grey now and then.”

“Well, of course.”

Carmen lowered her voice even further.

“…That guy, he’s sniffing out money.”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t you get it? In plain language, he’s trying to set up a sucker.”

The two ministers of the empire were too focused on the terms of the agreement to hear Carmen’s words.

Or rather, they chose not to pay attention.

“That guy, while escorting her in the elevator, must have been thinking ‘how can I squeeze money out of this cash bag’?”

“The Chairman of Iperia doesn’t seem like someone easy to manipulate…”

“Is Grey easy then?”

“Uh…”

Baron Hex nodded emphatically.

“Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it’s more likely that Grey will manipulate the Chairman.”

“Right… Should I have been more lenient about embezzling the budget?”

Carmen fiddled with her dress and licked her lips.

“Maybe I was too harsh.”

“No. If we hadn’t been that strict, they would’ve realized sooner that we had ties with Morgania.”

“Right. We took action, so everyone just went along with it. If another family had stepped in to audit, I don’t even want to think about the consequences.”

The project was worth 50 billion.

Exactly how much of that budget ended up in Grey’s pocket is unclear, but even at 3%, that’s a whopping 1.5 billion.

For a project executed by a 13-year-old child, it was an astronomical sum.

And the project was progressing smoothly.

Although at a loss.

“Will the mass production of the magic herb succeed?”

“The chances of failure are still high. I sneaked a peek at the orphanage’s basement yesterday, and there were numerous records of failures.”

“But if, miraculously, it succeeds?”

“It would be a joyous event for the entire kingdom. It might even become a major export item to the empire.”

An export item to the empire.

It was unlikely to fetch its true value within the kingdom.

If Gibraltar officially sold it, people would demand discounts just because it came from Gibraltar, and if it was expensive, they would criticize Gibraltar for being greedy.

Did that make sense?

Humans tended to belittle and exploited those superior to them if they acted like easy targets, even unknowingly.

That’s why, as it had been for the past several hundred years, Gibraltar’s magic herb business had low commercial viability under ‘the name of Gibraltar.’

“That guy, he’s surely planning to make contact later on.”

“Huh? But…”

“He’ll formally propose it. To allow only certain approved individuals to come and go. There, what a perfect target for trade has arrived, hasn’t it?”

Carmen sighed deeply within.

“Whatever he’s planning to sell, he sure seems thrilled.”

“…He’s not planning to sell anything strange, is he?”

“What strange thing could there be? Ha. Unless he’s selling his own future or something—”

Suddenly, Carmen felt a chill down her spine.

“…Nah, that can’t be it.”

A fleeting possibility crossed her mind.

“There’s something he told me.”

Carmen tried to deny it.

“…….”

Atop the city walls.

Although it was hard to see from such a high place, it appeared differently for that reason.

Grey Gibraltar and Erwin Iperia looked like a friendly mother and son you might see passing through a plaza.

“…….”

Suddenly,

Carmen felt a heaviness in her heart.


Erwin Iperia was someone I had always wanted to recruit—

No.

‘But at this moment, she’s my top priority.’

It was different now that we had met like this.

‘When you get a chance, don’t let it slip away. That’s the basics of business.’

Though I hadn’t met Erwin directly, I had heard indirectly about her life and way of thinking.

-Cough. Marquis Grey. Please don’t discuss this elsewhere. Iperia under the former Chairman…

Even though the Chairman was gone, the employees below remained.

In the future, I had heard quite a bit from them.

But setting that information aside, even just based on current information, it was a ‘cash flow’ you couldn’t afford to miss.

“Are you single?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m single. Why? Interested in me, ma’am?”

“Ma’am? If we had met privately without titles, I might have called you sister.”

“Look at this guy. No shortage of smooth talk. So, are you asking me to wait 7 years? In this world.”

“If you’re okay with me, I don’t mind.”

“Uh….”

Chairman Erwin seemed momentarily at a loss for words, frowning.

“Lord Gibraltar. I’m being serious here.”

“So am I. Of course, there might be others more suitable for you than me.”

“What are you talking about…?”

“Maybe…”

He pondered potential candidates in his mind.

A handsome man who would make her heart flutter at first sight.

A man who, regardless of his conditions, would allure Chairman Erwin.

And a person who, if a good relationship were to form, would ultimately benefit me.

“…No. I’m hoping to build a cooperative relationship and worried that personal feelings might interfere with business.”

“Business? Wow, you really know the Imperial language well. How did you learn it? Do you have Imperial servants?”

“Newspapers keep blowing in with the wind.”

“…Wow, that’s quite a stretch. Hmm, sorry. I’ll give them a piece of my mind next time I pass by the newspaper office.”

The Imperial Daily, a media outlet, fell under Chairman Erwin’s influence.

More precisely, she was an investor with a significant stake.

“That’s fine. It helps me stay informed about the Empire, and I’m personally curious about various matters there.”

“Oh, is that so? That’s good to hear.”

“That’s why I’d like Iperia Market, the Empire’s ‘Mart’, to enter Gibraltar.”

“……Huh?”

A sudden proposal.

To succeed in business, one had to catch the other party off-guard.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, Gibraltar is positively considering trade relations with the Empire.”

“Why?”

“My father is tired of constant conflicts.”

“Uh….”

Chairman Erwin looked confused.

“Being the shield of Nostrum and protecting the kingdom is fine once or twice, but His Majesty the King dislikes having to come here every time there’s trouble.”

Now was not the time to ease the offensive.

“So, if we start with simple trade, it will at least prevent outright war.”

“Trade relations.”

“Of course, there will be thorough inspections and checks, but if there’s interaction between Gibraltar and the Empire, it could change the relationship between the kingdom and the Empire, right?”

“That’s… I’m not sure if I should be saying this, but wouldn’t that be treasonous?”

“Gibraltar has enough power to do so.”

“Power, sure. Being a Swordmaster and all.”

Chairman Erwin’s eyes darted left and right.

“How extensive exactly?”

“As much as possible, as long as it doesn’t lead to war or conflict at the border.”

“…….”

She blinked.

It seemed like she was calculating in her head.

‘So alike.’

Just like the princess.

Bloodlines didn’t lie.

Even though the current Imperial Princess claimed Erwin’s child as her own daughter, rumors were inevitable when someone looked so similar, from hair color to appearance.

That was why they were purged.

As much as it was a shame for such a person to die, since we had met like this, it wouldn’t hurt for me to make some moves in advance.

Chairman Erwin’s capabilities were not just in capital, but in significant technical skills as well.

‘I should give her options.’

If she felt like she might be executed in the Empire, it wouldn’t be bad to prepare for asylum in the kingdom or Gibraltar in advance.

“Oh, right.”

It seemed like she was done calculating; time to probe.

“You’re welcome to personally oversee the business in Gibraltar, but I’m slightly worried it might be uncomfortable if you happen to meet my father.”

“What? Does the Margrave dislike me or something?”

“No, actually.”

If there was something she was curious about at this point.

“I’m just worried you might develop feelings for my father.”

“…….”

“My father is a married man. My mother is still alive.”

“Ah, pfft, I see. That was your concern? Indeed, I’ve heard such stories.”

Chairman Erwin nodded, seemingly understanding.

“Crimson Gibraltar’s portrait sold for a billion. They say even the handsomest man in the Empire can’t compare to the Marquis.”

“My father is quite handsome.”

“I know. This might be a bit awkward, but… do you remember 3 years ago, when General Claydol came here?”

“Of course.”

Officially, Duke Claydol had spent a night outside the city gates, and unofficially, there was an intruder in the mansion.

“That time, a war correspondent took a photo of your father and it was broadcast in an early morning news flash, leading to 24 reprints. Ah, what I mean is…”

“You’re saying the newspaper with my father’s picture sold a lot?”

“That’s right. You know it well. Hmm, this is really…”

“It would sell well, wouldn’t it?”

“You’re planning to sell your father?”

“I think he would be a good model for our business. A great opportunity to spread the charm of Crimson Gibraltar throughout the Empire.”

Snap.

“As his son.”

He clapped lightly, smiling.

“Enhancing my father’s reputation, what filial piety, right?”

“The Marquis’ modeling fee will go into his own pocket, won’t it?”

“After my father passes, the inheritance goes to the next Marquis.”

“Wow. You really don’t hold back, do you?”

“Just being realistic, Chairman.”

She hardened her expression, serious for a moment.

“When you die, Chairman, where will all the wealth you’ve accumulated go?”

“…….”

“Although it’s too early to talk about death, death doesn’t necessarily come in order of birth.”

“You… You’re really something, aren’t you? You know, in the Empire, there are plenty of people who want to dine with me?”

“Wouldn’t you prefer listening to a nonsensical but profitable idea from someone like me over flattering words from those people? Realistically speaking.”

“…….”

Silence.

She crossed her arms and stared intently at me.

“True, if I die, my wealth will just float away.”

“Will it go to someone you love as an inheritance? Or will you return it all to society? Donate it to the state?”

“Ha. Do you think I’m crazy enough to give away the company I built to the Empire?”

Erwin laughed derisively, showing her displeasure.

“I will leave everything to my one true love…”

“Your love?”

“…for my only family. If I happen to die, that is.”

Erwin looked towards the Empire and smiled bitterly.

“I have only one love in this world.”

“A man?”

“…No. A woman. I have a daughter. Nobody knows about her. Happy now? Why are you so obsessed with whether I’m alone or not?”

“I told you. It would be problematic if you fell for my father.”

“Ha. You’re too confident. Do you really think I’ll be smitten just by seeing your father? I’ve seen him in photos several times.”

“Seeing in a photo and in person are entirely different… Oh dear. We haven’t even gotten to the main point, but it seems the meeting is wrapping up.”

I wanted to talk more, but the table was being cleared.

“Chairman, would you mind visiting the gorge again within a month?”

“A month? Secretly?”

“Yes. If you come around midnight, I’ll arrange for you to meet my father. After all, this agreement is with Nostrum.”

I turned my back to avoid being seen from the table and alternately pointed at myself and Chairman Erwin with my finger.

“The trade between Iperia Industry and the Gibraltar Margravate can continue separately, as much as needed. For instance.”

It was an irresistible proposal.

“The ‘branch school’ of the academy to be established in the royal capital.”

“…….”

“If you have a daughter, sending her to the branch school might be an option? As you know, all the students going to study in the royal capital are actually this.”

I stepped into the elevator and lightly grasped my neck.

“Hostages sent by the Empire to reassure the Kingdom.”

“…….”

“The idea is for the future, but reality is cold and harsh.”

And if you didn’t know that, you couldn’t be the Chairman of a major corporation.

“I look forward to our next meeting, Chairman.”


The agreement was concluded.

The outcome of the small war on the table, in terms of the treaty, was a unilateral victory for Nostrum.

The Empire had agreed to invest in the academy through Iperia Industry and send some students.

One part of the treaty was concerning.

-Among the students, there should be the Imperial Granddaughter.

On the day the academy was built.

The Princess would come to Nostrum.

And about this result, as soon as I returned to the Margrave’s mansion, I went straight to the study to report to my father.

“I’ve decided to sell father to the Empire.”

“…Don’t just give the conclusion, explain the whole process.”

“It’s the method you always liked, father. Like that day when you suddenly announced your plan to commit treason.”

“…….”

Father was speechless.

“Anyway, father. Just in case, I want to ask, are you still serious about committing treason?”

“Yes. I am serious.”

“You’re willing to do anything, right?”

“……What are you planning now?”

“Nothing much.”

This task was one father had asked me to undertake in the future.

“I need to win over a single mother who is a Chairman with a child, and I can’t think of anyone but you for the job right now.”

Father would definitely be a hit.

“You’ll have to play your part.”

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