I joined Malta-san and the rest of the Marida Company staff after I escaped from the bandits’ attack. We continued onward to the royal capital in the middle of the night with only a lantern to light our way. In the end, the bandits didn’t chase after us. At dawn, we arrived in Kurtmelga, the Royal Capital of the kingdom.
When we entered the gates, we told the guards about the attack at the rest stop near Kurtmelga. The inquiry and identification process took place, but I entered the capital as Shaft. I told them that my papers had been left behind together with our other wagons. Entry into the capital was heavily restricted for those who couldn’t prove their identities, but under the guarantee of Malta-san, chairman of Marida Company, they issued me temporary identification papers.
The Marida company was quite prominent here.
We glossed over a few details of the attack. Afterward, a group of knights was quickly dispatched towards the rest stop. After the guards finished with their procedures, they released us from the guard station. Smiles returned to the staffs’ tired faces. A whole night of running while worrying about another attack had worn all our nerves.
“So this is the Royal Capital…”
I sat down on the coachman’s bench as we drove to the Marida Company’s headquarters while I listened to Malta-san’s stories about the capital. The Royal Capital was built at the time of the Kingdom’s founding, more than five hundred years ago. It sprawled out in a circle with the Royal Castle at the Center. Its walls had been extended multiple times through the years, resulting in the three-fold shape it has today.
The first district, with the royal castle at the center, was where the nobles lived. Businesses such as stores and the pleasure quarters gathered in the second district. The third district was the place for ordinary citizens as well as the shops that could not enter the second district. Outside the capital’s wall was a vast fertile land, providing food for the 500,000 people living within the capital and its outskirts. In addition, the river running through the capital was a convenient source for water and transportation.
Wooden buildings were common in the third district, but the buildings within the second district were mainly stone, like in Barga. Marida company’s HQ was in the second district, but they also had a branch office in the third district. Malta-san’s home was inside the head office – where we were currently heading to.
“Shaft-sama, we’re almost there. How should I introduce you to my family?”
“As Shaft, please. Also, later, I have something I want to discuss with you in private.”
I had not talked with Malta-san about how Marida Company itself was probably the target of the bandit group. The rest of his staff listened to us from behind the curtain, and I had decided to not mention it until everyone had calmed down.
“Here we are. This is the head office of Marida Company.”
The head office was a three-story stone building, similar to the Barga branch, but larger. Part of the first floor also served as the parking lot, so our wagon went straight inside.
“President?! We thought you won’t arrive until tonight?”
The office staff appeared and called out to us as soon as we entered. We were scheduled to arrive tonight so it was understandable how they were surprised. Hearing about the attack from Malta-san, the easy mood of the morning reversed suddenly and everyone moved in a hurry. The Barga staff went to the staff lodging at the back of the office. They needed rest after being relieved from the tension of last night. The unloading was left to the head office’s staff. They thanked me with tearful eyes.
As for me, to put it clearly, the impact of this mission went straight to my heart. I had killed humans, but above all, I was saved by the sincere gratitude from Malta-san and the staff.
“Shaft-sama, we’ve prepared tea inside. Let’s leave things here for the staff; we need some rest too.”
“Ah, thank you, but before that…”
I summoned the Giftbox through the TSS and light particles gathered, and a box wrapped in flashy wrapping paper appeared. The scene attracted the staff and surprised them. I lifted the lid and reached my hand into the blackness inside, pulling out the goods of the wagons that had been left behind. I had burned the wagons with the thermate grenade, literally, but all of their goods had been put into the gift box before the attack.
All the valuable mana stones that had been on Malta-san’s wagon because if something happened to me, the gift box could not be summoned and the goods inside would be lost. To avoid that, mana stones had been loaded onto Malta-san’s wagon, and I had kept the food and other less expensive materials. The decision to burn those two wagons had been made on the spot, but Malta-san had chosen which wagons to abandon based on their goods. I had burned the empty wagons to distract the bandits from my retreat and to prevent them from being used as transportation.
I took sacks and boxes of goods out of the gift box one by one, leaving them to the staff. Then I followed Malt-san to his private quarters deep inside.
“Ah, so tasty…”
In Malta-san’s room, I sipped the tea a maid had brought over and I was finally able to take a breather.
“This tea is harvested from a selective plantation north of the Capital. From each stem, only the part from the tip to the first two leaves is picked. It’s a first-grade tea.”
“The color is very deep, but it doesn’t carry any bitterness and has a sweet floral scent. It’s a wonderful tea.”
“Schwarz-sama, you are as well, for knowing this.”
Ah, so tasty…
In my previous world, I used to enjoy the tea of each country I had visited. Sipping tea while admiring their etiquette had also represented the country’s culture. The space to drink, the teacups, and the other tableware. It had been a kind of tranquility to enjoy after being released from the FPS world, a world of constant stress where I had to react just from a sound and only had one chance to aim and fire.
Once my cup was emptied, I put my mask back on and brought up the topic I wanted to discuss.
“Malta, about the bandit attack. Their target probably wasn’t the goods but Marida Company, meaning you yourself.”
“…I see. Did they say something?”
“Only to not let you get away.”
“Is that so. Shaft-sama, I’m truly sorry about this. Seems like the conflict in the business district here has caught up with us.”
Malta-san told me about the trouble behind the scenes between the traders in the Royal Capital. On the surface, the traders in the second district were a close-knit group -behind the scenes though… They sought connections to nobles and influential clans as well as specialized guilds. They also fought violently for control of the business district. It wasn’t just a few that also conspired with both the assassin and bandit guilds to steal business as well. They also sought to monopolize goods and markets by getting support from influential families or clans, but Malta-san was sure this attack was related to these issues.
And which market was that? It was the Harvest at the labyrinth west of Barga.
Malta-san was the first to know about the Emerald Demon Labyrinth’s existence, and he had shown he was capable of moving between the Capital and Barga fast and independently. He had been acquainted with Barga’s lord and other influential people as well as providing goods and food for the city. The rice I had eaten in the Labyrinth had also come from Malta-san. So, he was able to obtain the priority purchase right to trade goods and mana stones coming from the Emerald Demon Labyrinth before anyone else.
The large number of mana stones he had purchased this time had been from that, this priority purchase right was equal to a monopoly in reality. In addition, Malta-san was planning to introduce the lunch boxes during this harvest festival. Adventurers and the Knight Orders would clean up the labyrinth in the opening phase of the harvest festival. After that, there would be no monsters in the labyrinth. The labyrinth would then be declared safe, and ordinary citizens without permits could also enter.
Malta-san had his eyes on this chance, planning to sell the boxes to those citizens and workers inside the labyrinth.
These people didn’t carry portable cookware like adventurers, and some didn’t even have a utility bag, but they would still come for the air mana stones. In that case, what if they could eat delicious meals inside the labyrinth? Of course, the items used would be cheap to keep the price low, but they would still jump for it. Anyone would get tired of jerky, bread, and water. The longer one stayed inside the labyrinth, the easier one could obtain mana stones – this meant more money to make.
Moreover, the lunch boxes on sale during the festival would also attract adventurers. After the festival ended, it was easy to see that demand for lunch boxes from adventurers would surge. Creating a new demand would turn the economy around and circulate a large amount of money. All by Marida company alone. The other trading companies didn’t seem to know about this objective, but it was possible they were targeted simply for the priority purchase right.
The attack at the rest stop hadn’t been by one gang of bandits; they probably were a group of thugs gathered by a large sum of money. This was the hypothesis we had, but what to do from now on? At that time, someone entered the room.
“Father! Is it true that you were attacked?!”
A brown haired girl, who looked like she was not even ten, shouted as she came in.