”… Although the lower-ranking paladins were easy to fool, the maids, on the other hand, were not, for as would be expected from the difference between brawny but brainless ignoramuses and people rigorously trained to cater to high-class guests, they knew how to see through my lies. However, this was only at the beginning since, as time went by, as I adapted to their ways, they finally gave in, giving the deserved importance to my will. Moreover, some of them even succumbed to my body. Oh, don’t worry about future inconveniences because I did my research before sleeping with them. Then I understood that they were not forbidden to have relations between man and woman. A blessed grace granted by her Highness the Saint, as I must accept that those were the best specimens I have-…”
After refreshing his dry throat, the man sitting in front of the desk placed the empty glass he had been drinking from on it, making a noise that was not too loud but evident enough to silence the young man, who understood the subtle intention behind that action.
Worried that he had upset him by bringing up an inappropriate and vulgar subject, the son’s heart skipped a beat. Fortunately, though, that was not the case.
”It is already quite late. Stop for now, boy. Another day you can continue to tell me about it”
Despite looking more haggard than at first, the man did not seem annoyed. On the contrary, in an act that went against his usual attitude, he showed interest in his son’s useless chatter. Thus, after declaring his intention, he pointed with his chin to the window, from which came the noise of people passing through the streets.
Work hours were over, so it was time for everyone to return home, for the night was about to fall.
”That’s okay, Father. Thank you for allowing me your time. I am retiring for today, but tomorrow I will stop by to give you the list of the items sold in the Holy Kingdom, as well as the goods we exported from there to sell in the Klere City branch, considering that it is a tourist site”
Having witnessed the scene outside, the young man understood that it was time for him to leave. So, he prepared to get up as he respectfully took his leave, but before the action was completed, he had to stop.
”Don’t get up. At no time did I tell you to leave. I have only demanded silence because I still have something to inform you of”
”… I understand. Forgive me for having been too hasty in grasping your intentions”
Pulling his hands away from the armrests, he dropped his weight downward, returning him to his seat.
”Now, do you remember the time frame before you took over the leadership of the caravan?”
”Yes, I do. From what you told me, it should be a year or a little less than that”
Watching his father yawn as he hid his open mouth with the back of his hand, the young man spoke with absolute confidence in his memory.
”… Exactly. I don’t like that you speak vaguely, but you’re right. That’s what I originally said, but things have changed. You now have less than six months until you make your first trip”
Upon receiving news he had not expected, the young man was surprised but quickly recovered, proceeding to ramble aloud in search of the reason for this development as he stroked his short beard.
”I see. If so, it means the duke’s discomfort was greater than estimated. What a troublesome thing. For the high caste, this is just a game, but for us, it’s a problem that puts various businesses at risk. After all, because of this, the time I have to familiarize myself with my servants will be scarce… what’s more, how long has it been since this information became known?”
”If we rely solely on hearsay, this began to be suspected shortly after your departure. Nonetheless, since those sources are unreliable, substantiated reports were obtained only a few weeks ago, for it was then that the movement of cargo, troops, and the creation of new roadblocks around the edges of the forest became evident”
With that said, there was silence between the two. The father was busy putting away his possessions and a few documents he planned to review on right after waking up in a briefcase that, until then, had been placed at his feet. Meanwhile, the son was looking carefully at the piles of papers laid out on the table.
”… Surely, the headquarters must have become chaotic with the news. After all, something so unexpected must have ruined the immediate businesses”
Moving to pick up two random documents from the top of the stack, he passed them to his son before continuing to speak to him as he turned his back.
”As you can read there, many complications have arisen from this event”
Saying this, the man began to put the rest of the papers in the desk drawers.
”Don’t underestimate the level of the company, boy. We plan and list all business deals several months in advance in order to avoid, as much as possible, the occurrence of human errors in the middle of the process. Moreover, with this mechanism, theft by our employees is easily discernible”
”So that’s how it is… But in such a case, Father, there would not have to be so many losses due to the advance of the raid…”
”In fact, there were almost none at all, for the transactions lost were small trades in which our customers, not us, were the ones most affected. However, what has undoubtedly been wasted is the potential use of our labor force, along with the sacrifice of the health of our most excellent employees”
After those words, the young man could not help but fix his gaze on the merchant’s dark circles under his eyes, which were more visible now that he had removed his glasses.
”So, you’ve had a hard time these last few days, Father”
”It’s not just me, boy. All the top brass has been doing the same task, even your grandfather, who is about to retire, is checking these files with the help of his secretary. Ultimately, several heads work better than one”
On hearing these words, a gesture of reluctance came over the young man’s face, for he felt reticent to lead such a life. He liked the trade, for it enabled him to take advantage of others, but he did not enjoy being burdened with duties that, behind the scenes, had to be attended to.
The man spoke as he walked towards where his son was.
”…the truth is, I have had it the worst, for having been out of town until recently, I have had to spend sleepless nights to match the progress of the others, who have had enough time to do their work”
”So, you’ve just returned from the last deal with our oldest customer”
”Well, actually, I’m not sure if this is the last one”
”Huh!? What do you mean by that?”
With him by his side, the young man spoke in astonishment to his father, who was closing the window to the outside.
”I told the crazy old man about the attack he was soon to receive”
”… Why did you do it? I thought the plan was to let him die without giving him a chance to defend himself so that the authorities would not realize the connection between him and us”
”Correct, that was the idea. However, I was forced to change it when I discovered that the old bastard might not need our help to survive”
”Father, are you sure about that? After all, I have read the written records of their milestones during my great-grandfather’s time, but facing a group of scholars is nowhere near the same level as doing so against well-trained knights, especially if it is the magical knights of the Crete Kingdom, possessing equally astounding feats, who will surely also participate in the expedition”
Questioning his father’s decision, the young man spoke in a tone of criticism for his reckless action, which could have disastrous consequences.
”Of course, I know that, stupid brat. If I did it, it’s because I was sure of it”
For his disrespect, he earned a scolding.
”Nevertheless, I understand your fears but don’t worry, because before doing so, I asked your grandfather’s permission”
”Did he agree to it?”
Again, the son was in for a surprise.
”He did, although he was not easy to convince. To do so, I had to present them with conclusive proof that maintaining our alliance with the madman was not a mistake. That is to say…”
”That is to say?”
Pausing to put on the coat hanging on the coat rack, the merchant continued as he fastened its buttons.
”I had to introduce him in person to the greedy mage, who told me some useless things for a high price but also talked about others that cleared up a misconception we had, for, apparently, the magic that allows lifting objects in the air without requiring elements, such as fire and wind, is described in books as a fantasy. An unreal feat that is believed to be attainable only by brushing against the limits of power. Nonetheless, it was something I saw routinely on each of my trips to the forest”
A loud gulp of saliva was heard coming from the young man.
”Close your mouth, boy. That’s unseemly. But, yes. That old bastard is a bigger monster than we assumed. So, it’s risky that he’ll think we betrayed him. Stand up”
Shocked by the new revelation, the young man rose to his feet mechanically and, without uttering a word, followed his father out of the room.
”Speaking of aberrations, on my recent visit, I met a new one”
From the other side of the door, the merchant’s voice rang out as he locked it.
”What a disgusting beast that was. A large, muscular, wrinkled creature in a woman’s dress. Besides, it was also strange, as I could see a glimpse of intelligence in his eyes, or so I thought it was, until I saw him acting stupid, trying to hide it. No doubt that thing is more intelligent than the others of its kind, but it’s not on the level of a human. In any case, it might be one of those who survive the attack, so I’ve recorded it in my memory to-…”
The man’s voice slowly drifted away, and eventually, it vanished.