"My carriage hit someone," Robert told him.
"You could’ve just let your men take care of it. Why stay and do it yourself?"
"It’s my responsibility," Robert said.
Shanteler nodded, his eyes was filled with admiration. He knew Robert very well after twenty years of friendship, and he knew that Robert’s best traits were that he was responsible, loyal, and honest. Sometimes he could be a bit careless at times, but as the years went on, this trait was replaced by maturity due to his experience. Shanteler remembered, many years ago, when they went out to a gathering one night and all got seriously drunk. Robert and his lover of many years went to a tavern. The next morning, Robert woke up and thought the woman next to him was not his lover but a random prostitute. He threw a few silver coins on the bed and left without waking the woman up. When his lover woke up, she was furious after finding the coins. She found Robert and berated him loudly for it. They mended their relationships soon after, but this event had already made its way around.
Of course, it wasn’t seriously damaging to his reputation. There were very few people that refused to pay the prostitute, since the women did bring them pleasure. It was because Robert had paid the wrong woman that made the situation interesting. Many people spoke of the event and imagined Robert as someone who was adorably careless.
"We must have known each other for at least twenty years," Shanteler said.
"Say no more, old sport, I know what you’re thinking," Robert sighed and said. "I will never forget how I came by my first deal. If it wasn’t for you selling me that batch of high tier magic crystals at a discount, I would not be the Robert I am today."
Shanteler remained silent and smiled. All smart people had one tendency, and that is to observe others quietly while acting as if the other person was the center of the world. Sometimes, these people were able to understand what kind of person they were observing. Others would be baffled by the people they were observing. And others were fooled by the people they were observing. The last two types of people were often these smart men’s downfall. The last type was especially dangerous.
Shanteler had known Robert for twenty years, and was very familiar with what kind of a person he was. He didn’t need to play the emotional card. All he needed to do was help Robert recall some memories.
There were many truths that were buried by the flow of time. When Robert first started doing business, he often found himself at a disadvantage. Sometimes he knew he was going to be tricked, but as long as he made a promise, he would stubbornly follow through with it. Luckily for him, he had some secret patrons helping him, and every time he was down in the dumps he would always find a way to start making money again.
Slowly Robert established the reputation of being honest and responsible, and more and more people began to do business with him. Everyone trusted him. Robert had become what he was largely because of his reputation.
Of course, there were things Robert didn’t know about Shanteler, either. The story Shanteler told Robert about the magic crystals wasn’t the full story. Back in the day, Anthony hadn’t yet inherited the mercenary group, and they were still out in the world, training. They were on the way to White Mountain City when they discovered a few secret guards. Cargos that required secret guards was usually very valuable and few in number. For unknown reasons, they didn't travel by the usual road due to the fear of being seen by others. Anthony and his men discussed the matter and, in the dark of night, attacked the guards. They found out that the guards were mercenaries from Brotherhood mercenary group, and that they were guarding some top tier magic crystals they had stolen from the group. After that, Brotherhood mercenary group was meticulous about checking every merchant in the city. Anthony, however, wasn’t one to surrender valuables. In the end, Shanteler found Robert, whom they had trusted, and sold him the crystals at the much lower price than the market price. He told Robert that there was another story behind how he had came by the crystals, and that Robert should immediately leave the city.
After careful consideration, Shanteler made the choice he thought was best. He waited for Robert to make his own decision. Robert would tell him everything he should, and nothing that he shouldn’t.
Robert’s expression changed. One moment he appeared hesitant, another he seemed troubled, the next looked nervous, as if he was fearing something. To Shanteler, this was normal. If Robert had immediately made a decision and told him everything, it would appear suspicious to him.
"Sir, we’re home," the old butler called from outside the carriage.
Shanteler stared at Robert, who hesitated for a second and said, "come in for a cup of tea, old sport."
"Alright," Shanteler said. If Robert wasn’t going to tell him anything, then inviting him in for tea would be pointless.
Robert was a business tycoon, and his home was decorated very lavishly. If he purposely made it seem squalid, it would appear strange and unlike Robert’s personality.
They walked through numerous strangely shaped doors on cobblestone paths. They passed through a blooming garden and towards a small building protected by magic. Shanteler lifted a brow. He had visited Robert’s home many times and had been to every corner of the estate except for this building. He had always only observed this building from afar. Now that Robert was taking him there, it meant that whatever he was going to tell Shanteler, it was something serious.
"My lord." A shadow walked out of the door.
Robert waved his hand. The person began whispering a spell, and the light on the building began to dim.
Shanteler narrowed his eyes. He did not expect that Robert was able to recruit an intermediate magister to work for him. Then he realized it wasn't anything serious. Everyone had a trump card, and Robert was no exception. He would show Shanteler this meant that he had trusted him.
"Come in, old sport," Robert said quietly. He then turned and walked into the building, his slightly stooped back looking troubled.
Shanteler walked in behind him. The magister whispered a spell and the light of the magic began to shine again.
They walked into a lobby. The room was lavish and clean, and was clearly the home of a rich man. The large chandelier hanging from the ceiling was an everlasting light using magic crystals. This kind of lighting was impossible to find in a commoner’s home. Even Glory mercenary group didn’t use this kind. If Robert had used low tier magic crystals, he could have wasted several dozen a day. Top tier crystals could last for a few days at best. Shanteler was almost left flabbergasted by Robert’s display of wealth.
"Old sport, what should I say…" Robert said. He smiled bitterly and sat down on a chair slowly. He motioned for Shanteler to sit as well. "It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. That’s like I’m conspiring with someone else against you. If I do, I am betraying other's trust in me. You’re putting me in a very difficult position, old sport."
Shanteler sat on the chair and looked at Robert, but didn’t say anything. He knew in this situation listening would do him more good than talking. Robert invited him inside to offer him information. He couldn’t express his gratitude with words.
"Don't put me in a difficult situation now, old sport," Robert said. "I’ll talk. You’ll listen. Don’t ask me anything. I can only tell you some things. I think don’t it will be hard for you piece them together."
Snanteler smiled and nodded. He appeared calm but was in fact very nervous. What was it that could make Robert so nervous?
"You know how Shansa Empire invaded Maho?"
Shanteler nodded. It wasn’t a secret anymore. When Anthony told him about it, he had laughed about the situation and Yolanthe. He said that thank god Yolanthe had died early, or else he would be worried sick now.
"Maho Empire’s people were contacting Brotherhood mercenary group."
Shanteler felt his heart skip a beat. It was a short sentence, but it described a difficult situation. Maho Empire’s people had contacted Brotherhood mercenary group? What were they talking about? Cooperation? Was Brotherhood mercenary group behind all of this? Shanteler thought about it for a second, and said, "Yolanthe is dead. None of the princes had the guts to do something like this. Could it be…"
"Yolanthe died too unexpectedly, and didn’t leave a will. All the princes had the right to the throne, so they have a lot to offer," Robert said, smiling. "Like I’ve said, I’ll speak, you’ll listen. Don’t ask any questions."
"Sorry," Shanteler said. Robert was right. The princes would offer amazing conditions in order to draw followers. Maho Empire was being invaded by two empires. Even if they weren’t aiming for the throne, they could be doing this to preserve their empire.
"There’s something else but…you should hear it from an insider and not me," Robert said. "Let Hui Wei come in here."
Hui Wei? Shanteler searched for the name in his mind, but couldn’t find anything.
After a moment, a young man with black hair and a blank expression walked in through the side door and sat down next to Shanteler.
"Ask what you want, old sport. Hui Wei, this is my old friend and my closest ally. Tell him everything that you know. Don't hold anything back." Robert stood up slowly and said, "You guys talk. I’ll be outside."