That day, the Costacurta House received a rare guest for the first time in several years. He was Vicente Barunaro—that was to say, the younger brother, who was far apart in age, of Valeria’s father, Borha.
Although the Barunaro House was a prominent mercantile house even in Roma, the second son, Borha, who was hard to say to have business ability by any standard, was adopted into his wife’s family, the Costacurta House, together with a large amount of dowry. Afterwards, the eldest brother succeeded the parents’ house, and the youngest child, Vicente, was made to work at the place of a person in the same profession in the neighbouring country, Picabia. It was their deceased father’s judgement to entrust him to other people and let him diligently accumulate experience as a merchant, and then get him to eventually return to the parents’ home and assist his eldest brother’s business rather than being pampered and be brought up in the parents’ home.
That Vicente said that he had received a rare vacation and came to visit Borha.
「Roughly…how many years have it been since then?」
「That’s right…if I remember correctly, it was when Valeria was still around 10 that you intruded previously, so isn’t it at least five, six years already?」
Vicente who was led into the Costacurta House’s living room extended his healthily suntanned arm and picked up the wine glass.
Vicente, who was more than 12 years younger than Borha, just finally became 30 this year, and was a handsome man with masculine features who didn’t resemble his older brothers. Since the Bellanda Company, which Vicente was entrusted to, traded in various foodstuffs centring on wheat, he probably became like this naturally while carrying heavy sacks of wheat on his shoulder and working. The growth of his younger brother was a small surprise for Borha who remembered well the childhood of Vicente who had a weak constitution; at the same time, he also felt happy.
「—Nevertheless, exactly what kind of curious turn of event is it? For you to have come to visit my place」
「That’s why I said it, right? I received a vacation」
「If it’s a vacation, you should have had it many times during these five years, right? In spite of that, even though you returned to our parents’ home, you didn’t come to show your face at my place at all. It’s normal to think that something special has happened since you suddenly came along now」
「…Borha-aniue is also sharp, contrary to my expectations」
Stroking his chin that had grown a thin beard, Vicente smiled broadly.
「Did you think that I was an idiot!?」
「Iya iya, I’d never think that Ani-ue who was allowed to go to university was a mere idiot. It just wasn’t entirely being made the best use of for business; if anything, your head is good, isn’t it? However, what’s bad about Ani-ue is that when things become related to Valeria, you really become an idiot. …At any rate, you remained hated by her even now, right?」
When he was being told that, Borha had no words to reciprocate. It was a fact that the relationship between him and his daughter was strained.
Vicente, who was grinning and gazing at the expression of such an older brother, suddenly tightened his lips,
「…As a matter of fact, I’ve been visiting several places here and there for the purchasing of grains in this one month or so. Hence, I received a vacation the day before yesterday and came back to Roma」
「…I heard that Valeria is going to Haiderota?」
「Ha? Ah…I don’t know if she’s the goodwill ambassador or what, but umu, she had went out anyway」
Borha became slightly bad-tempered at his younger brother’s words. When he recalled the matter of his daughter’s mission, he remembered even the matter of the impertinent Hiera Glaphicos as it was a set with that.
After Vicente had looked around his surroundings as if he was afraid of the vicinity for some reason, he pushed the wine glass aside and leaned his body forward on the low table.
「Though I think that it’ll be terrible if I carelessly talk about a thing like this and then it becomes a strange rumour, …there’s something weighing on my mind just a little. I thought that it might be better to tell it to Ani-ue」
「What? What in the world is it?」
「There was a strange change in the market price of grain in Picabia. …It looked like someone purchased quite a sizeable quantity of grains; things such as wheat and corn」
「What’s so strange about that? I don’t understand business well, so explain it a little easier for me to comprehend」
「To put it simply…that’s right, the harvesting of the wheat which was sowed in winter is generally the period after this until summer, but you understand that, don’t you?」
「In other words, now is the period when the quantity of wheat which appears on the market is the fewest in the year. Hence, it’s expensive」
「I see…that’s indeed strange. Do you mean that if it’s a bit longer, this year’s harvest will begin, and new wheat will instantly appear on the market, and its market price will also decrease, and yet there’s someone intentionally purchasing them at this timing when the price is high…?」
「Yes. If there’s a famine somewhere, then it’s still understandable, but the climate has also been stable these several years, and there’s no place that seems to be experiencing a famine. I don’t know about the other side of the mountain in the south though」
「Mu? Then, who on earth would carry out such an uneconomical behaviour? And for what exactly?」
“Kon kon”, Vicente tapped the table with his finger and furrowed his brow.
「A situation where a large quantity of grains becomes necessary even though there’s no famine—can you not guess it?」
「…It can’t be?」
Feeling like the outline of the conversation had finally come into sight, Borha’s complexion changed.
When grains which constituted staple food like wheat were purchased in a large quantity, what one must consider in the foremost was the possibility of war occurring. No matter how powerful an army might be, it couldn’t fight if there were no provisions.
Borha stood up from the sofa, joined his hands together behind his waist and started to walk aimlessly inside the wide living room.
「…And the whereabouts of those wheat?」
「Ah, Bellanda-san also said that he was bothered by this and tried to investigate in different ways, but it seems that quite an amount of wheat is flowing into Yururogu through various wholesale stores」
「In addition, Amaddo’s Dominas said that they’d visit Haiderota at this timing. …It’s a little suspicious, right?」
Borha slapped his forehead with a “pechin” and looked outside the window.
There was still a bit more time until evening. If he hurried to the royal palace from now, he might be able to meet with the minister within today. Of course, a mere citizen who didn’t have any kind of title shouldn’t be able to meet with an important person of the government so easily, but even though things might appear this way, Borha came from the wealthy Barunaro House, and moreover, he was the son-in-law of the Costacurta House now; additionally, he was the biological father and guardian of the active service Dominas, Valeria Costacurta. Even without an appointment, he could probably get him to listen to his story at least.
「…Vicente, I’m going to the royal palace after this」
「As expected, you’re going, huh?」
「Umu. If something were to happen to Valeria by any chance, it won’t be a problem of our Costacurta House only. If it’s the Finance Minister, Kaparos-kyou, I can probably meet him at once」
「If that’s the case, please promote Bellanda-san at any cost for me」
Vicente floated a bold smile with a “niyari” again and held out his right hand towards his plump older brother.
「—I’m not saying that I expect gratitude in return, but I quickly taught you the information that I’ve caught hold of in the business here, so that much is fine, isn’t it?」
「I don’t really understand business though」
Grabbing his younger brother’s hand back, Borha shrugged his shoulders.
「It seems that the master of your workplace is quite a capable person. Though I, who have left the family, am not in the position to be able to say this, study to the utmost; sooner or later, you’ll have to support Ani-ue」
「Yes. …For the time being, I’ll return to our parents’ home tonight and be Ani-ue’s liquor partner」
The face of Vicente who laughed with a grin was completely an adult already.
When Borha who had seen his younger brother, who said that he’d walk leisurely and go back, to the entrance hall returned to his study at a quick pace, he summoned the maids, Nei and Maru.
「I’m going to the royal palace, so I’ll entrust the preparation of the carriage to you. And if I remember correctly, there’s the wine that was sent here from my parents’ home to celebrate Valeria’s Dominas inauguration, right? Hurry up and wrap that up. I’ll make it into a gift to Minister-kakka」
「Ano…is that fine; taking, um, Ojou-sama’s wine out as you please—?」
「Since she said that she didn’t want a present from my parents’ home, ma, it’ll probably be fine」
Borha, who had laughed in what looked to be self-ridicule, noticed that his face in the mirror was slightly nervous and lightly clapped his cheeks. Borha, who was born in the wealthy Barunaro House and was also now the biological father of a Dominas, had not a few opportunities to meet with royalty and titled nobility, so he wouldn’t be nervous because of a meeting with the minister now, but the topic was, as one would expect, a topic this time.
「—Though Valeria didn’t inform me, did you not hear about roughly when she’d be coming back?」
「Ojou-sama’s return, is it? I was told that it might be a little long this time, but even concretely when it’ll be is—」
Nei who had brought the wine, which was put in a wooden box, from the basement shook her head at Borha’s question.
「…Ano, did something happen to Ojou-sama?」
「I’ll be troubled if something happened. That’s why I’m going to take measures ahead of time」
Coughing “after all, I can only do that much”, Borha personally carried the box of wine in his arms and headed to the entrance hall.