”The shipment has been stored as you have instructed us in the past. The salt crystals were placed in the most visible area of the boxes, that is, on the upper part of these, and the money was placed in its hidden compartments. In addition, I sent a couple of men to patrol the vicinity of the carriage to ensure that no sla-… that none of the greenhorns came near while we were working. We also didn’t forget to carry the picks and shovels to the storehouse in front of the eyes of the others as we talked about how hard the job was this time”
”I see. What are your men doing right now?”
”I sent them off to rest with the others before we prepared to resume our journey. Oh, and of course, I also reminded them to keep their mouths shut about everything we saw”
”Nice work. It’s good that you’ve learned from your past mistakes. Looks like this time I won’t have to lose any good, cheap workers”
”I am very sorry, sir. Because of us many-…”
”Stop, I don’t need any apology from you, nor do I need you to do such an embarrassing act in front of me. After all, I am not a psychopath who likes to see my loyal workers humiliate themselves. Not to mention that your apology would not change the immutable past. They would not recover the potential money that was lost. So, if you have that much time to waste, you better go and do something for me”
”I am at your service, sir. Ask me for whatever you want, for I will give all of me to achieve it”
”It’s pleasant to see that you’re keeping the right attitude. Well, then go do me a favor and double check the storage status”
”Huh? But sir-…”
”No, no, no. No buts. There are no ifs and buts when it comes to an order. Oh, and don’t worry about this, I trust you, or else I wouldn’t have taken you with me when it came time to deliver. However, let me give you some advice as your boss and friend. In everything that concerns money, confidence in what you or others do is worthless. It is part of the duty and obligation of traders to doubt every step they take, as a contract does not allow the appearance of even one mistake that could have been solved with just a little precaution. That is why, go. Go and call the others so that you together can check a second time if the cargo is well guarded, for if we are discovered in the city, every penny lost there will become a written word that I will send in a letter to my father, and neither you nor I want that to happen, right?”
”… Yes… sir”
”Wow. Man, my goodness, I may have exaggerated a bit with what I said, but I hope that didn’t bother you. After all, I didn’t mean it as a threat since something like that would be pretty wild of me. No, what I gave you was a piece of advice, one intended for that friend of mine who might become the future leader of the caravan when I retire to take over my father’s position”
”I guess I spoke too much again… Well, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, I think that was something we all knew. Considering that, unfortunately, I have no children to inherit my position. It was obvious that my friend and right-hand man, Claren, would be the one to entrust everything to. For that reason, I gave you the leadership of my guards so that you would learn what it means to lead others. To you, my friend, I gave you the control of the people who protect my life”
”Sir… thank you very much, and don’t worry, at this very moment, I will go call my comrades so that we can repeat the whole act from the beginning. No, it is more. For the sake of our company’s future, I myself will capture a baby beast before we depart so as to obtain a valid excuse that will allow us to stay in the warehouse and keep the rookies away without causing suspicion”
”Oh! As expected of you, my dear friend. You are so clever to come up with something I would never have thought of. Experience is truly the mother of wisdom. Then, since you’ve volunteered, I’ll take you at your word. Just be careful not to break anything when doing so”
Having finished speaking, without waiting for any answer, the brown-suited man turned around to finally climb the small stairs of the carriage previously behind him, and after that, he opened the door of this one, intending to step inside.
”Farewell, Sir. Have a nic-…”
Leaving his burly subordinate behind, the merchant entered his destination, then closed the door at his back.
”Here you are, sir”
With a mute nod, he took in his dominant hand a cup filled with water offered to him by the other crewman in the carriage, a slim, young-looking boy with no hair on his face other than the hair neatly combed to one side of his head.
The young man wore similar clothing to the merchant’s, with the only difference being that the former’s garment had less ornamentation woven into it. His top was covered by a simple short-sleeved shirt with a single pocket attached to his left breast. As for the pants and shoes, both pairs were identical. They had probably ordered them from the same store.
After taking the offered cup, the man advanced until he sat on one of the three chairs found on the site. Two of them were located on the sides, with appearances similar to modern armchairs, and the third one was firmly nailed to the floor, made of wood, of the same material as the table in front of it, which held on its surface several loose documents and a couple of books with undetailed covers.
Even though two people were sitting nearby, an air of silence reigned inside the place. There was only the sound of the leaves being lifted, the pen touching the paper, and the occasional slurp of the man drinking when he drank water. With total concentration, he reviewed and wrote document after document, supported by the sunlight that filtered through the two windows next to him, but mainly from the one on the roof.
However, that atmosphere of silence was broken after several minutes when the merchant, in a frustrated voice, muttered.
”… That fool is taking too long”
Tired of waiting for the resumption of the trip, he took his eyes off the table and then, with the hand with which he had been writing until recently, began to massage his shoulders and neck.
”… You know? If you had any doubts in mind, you should have asked. I don’t know if this was taught to you by your teachers, but just in case, I’ll tell you right now. In our world, there is no such thing as a dumb question, only fools who don’t ask, and I don’t want to have one of them by my side. Not that close to me, at least. Speak”
As he stretched, loosening his tense muscles with pain and satisfaction reflected on his face, the man turned to his young companion, who, with evident nervousness, was sitting on one of the armchairs while with one of his hands, he was holding a book, which he was not reading carefully because his eyes kept wandering elsewhere.
”Speak up, I said! For heaven’s sake, what kind of karma am I paying for? Why do I have to be surrounded by so many indecisive fools? This can’t be normal”
Fed up with listening to so much babbling and hesitation, without trying to keep up appearances, the merchant shouted in a restrained voice, to the young man, before complaining to the heavens about his misfortune.
Then, the receiver of such a shout, after seeing the man’s anger, forced himself to speak fluently.
”All right, sir. Although, I hope you don’t get mad at what I’ll say. Well… I was just wondering if it was worth continuing to do this. I mean, coming all this way to bring potentially dangerous shipments that could ruin the company’s reputation if they were to be discovered by the cities’ governments. Besides, that is still the least of it, since even if that happens, it would only be a waste of money, but I am concerned that we have to enter a forest full of ferocious beasts, and worse, you, someone with such a high rank, must go in person to the most dangerous place in the area. I don’t know, or rather, I don’t understand. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but I still don’t see a good reason why we should do it, and I do not consider a monetary gain sufficient to take such a risk, as I believe we have already made enough profit from this work.”
”… Oh… wow… you really surprised me this time, boy”
”Uh, why do you say so, sir?”
”Nothing important. I just thought that, even though I said there was no such thing as a dumb question, what you said is severe stupidity”
With just those few words, the attitudes of both individuals took a sharp turn. While the man looked at his companion with eyes that looked surprised but with a slightly mocking smile on his mouth, the young man kept silent while secretly clenching his fists tightly.
”Hahaha! What nonsense. Seriously, what a silly thing to ask. It’s a good thing you told me and not your grandfather because if you had, he probably would have kicked you out of the house”
The smirk and disguised surprise quickly turned into a loud laugh that the merchant let out as he stood up from the chair he had been sitting in.
”Motive? That’s so obvious that I don’t understand how your brain works for this one not to have thought of it. The reason is money. Money and more money. As businessmen, that is our sole objective and mission. What do we have enough of? What stupidity, there is no such thing as enough, and if there is, it would be until we can buy a whole kingdom, inhabitants included, of course, because we could not lose such a valuable labor force that would allow us to recover the money spent. With that said, in the end, it all boils down to an infinite cycle in the expansion of wealth”
Already standing, with his laughter contained but still with a smile on his face, the man walked to a small piece of furniture located in the corner of the room and then took out a bottle of wine from one of its drawers.
”Either way, you’ve done well, kid. A good, very good job of making me laugh. I guess that’s what I needed to get over the stress of dealing with that crazy old man”
The man moved to sit in the armchair opposite the young man, and after filling the glass with wine before putting the bottle on the floor, he continued talking while crossing his legs to be more comfortable.
”Well, let’s forget the formalities for a bit while we’re both alone and have a little chat. Ah! But before that, go and put away the things on the table. After all, we don’t want these to fall off when the carriage starts moving”
The young man, with a bit of annoyance and reluctance on his face, got up from where he was to carry out the order he had been given. Meanwhile, the merchant waited patiently for him to finish, sipping his wine, before continuing to speak.
”There you go, boy. Now sit down, so we can talk about a bit of history”