When he returned from the Peterson Merchant Guild, Lorist locked himself in the room and burned the midnight oil.
When Howard opened the door the next morning, he saw Lorist with his eyes slightly red, wearing a pale look of fatigue.
"Milord..." mumbled Howard worriedly.
Howard and Els had accompanied Lorist to the Peterson Merchant Guild the day before. Even though they stood guard outside, they were roughly able to hear about how the Chikdor Merchant Guild had goals towards getting Silowas Island, which belonged to House Norton. When they paid attention, they also heard President Peterson advising Lorist not to start an all-out conflict with the guild for the sake of honor, and said that the best option was to sell the island to them.
When they returned, all of the guards, including Josk, got to hear the news. They were all emotionally charged. It was as though they had been insulted themselves. A merchant guild will never be allowed to strongarm House Norton. They all expressed that they'd rather die than let the dominion of the house be sold out.
Lorist, on the other hand, wore a dark expression. He asked for the maps of Morante City, the Forde Trade Union, as well as those of the neighboring nations. He locked himself in his room after receiving them, and only emerged the next day.
"Don't worry, Howard. Since I'm taller than you, if the sky falls, I'll be the first one to bear the burden. This is no big deal. Get me a basin of water to wash my face with," said Lorist, smiling as he stroked Howard's hair.
As the ice-cold linen cloth was wrapped around his face, Lorist shivered and felt the fatigue that had built up during the night drain away in an instant.
The implementation of the nobility system has nothing to do with me. But they shouldn't have set their sights on me. I only want to continue farming and developing the dominion without offending anyone, but those fools just keep knocking at my door one after another. 'A tame horse will be mounted, and a gentle man will be bullied.' The idioms of my past life truly make sense. Since that's the case, bring it. So, what if they have seven large-class merchant vessels, thousands of armed ships, and 10000 plus sailors? To me, all of them are merely small fry!
"Actually, some have expressed their desires to absorb the smaller nations two years back as the foundation for the new nobility system."
The words uttered by President Peterson yesterday echoed in Lorist's head.
He revealed an insulting smile.
So, the trade union intends to turn the sights of those they entitle to the lands of the Redlis and Andinaq Kingdoms... DO they really think it will be that simple? Merchants are still merchants at the end of the day. And it is in their nature to avoid losses to gain profit. There's no way that they'll ignore the delicious cake right next to them and go all the way to an unfamiliar land to bite on bones... Do they think that everyone within the union are as far-sighted as the seven big guilds?
I guess I'll give you guys a small push and let you know what a situation beyond man's control is like. I refuse to believe that you won't take a bite when I bring that delicacy straight to your mouth...
"Howard, have Master Mancheny come to my room," instructed Lorist.
At noon, after lunch, Lorist headed to the Dawn Academy and bid farewell to all the instructors and professors he knew. He said that he would be leaving Morante City in two days and also went to bid Academy Head Levins farewell.
When Lorist left, Levins and Blademaster Claude looked at the two letters left on the table as their faces wrinkled, giving off a troubled look. Those letters were like Pandora's boxes, ready to unleash chaos upon the world.
There was only one good way to deal with the letters, and that was to burn them and forget that they ever existed. However, upon considering the potential profit of possibly up to a million gold Fordes, Academy Head Levins made his decision. "This is not something that our academy alone can bear. Have the other academy heads invited over here. We'll split the profit and divide the risks among ourselves..."
Two days later, a piece of shocking news rocked the whole of Morante City and spread throughout Falik Plains, eventually reaching the various nations neighboring the union.
The headline of the most distributed publication, Morante Daily, read: The Truth!
The report began referring back to the case of Luxcrimson Winery which transpired within the Teribo Kingdom, as well as true reason behind the execution of Viscount Sirwa, and some others on the order of Teribo VII in front of the palace. The report stated that a glassmith called Mancheny had been kidnapped by the bandits because of Viscount Sirwa's error. That meant that the secret of glass production which the Teribo Kingdom had labored to keep for over two centuries had already been leaked.
The report also stated that a few students from various academies within Morante City managed to rescue a heavily-injured man, who turned out to be Master Mancheny who managed to escape from the bandits that captured him. Due to his injuries, Mancheny had perished despite the emergency medical treatment he had been given.
However, Master Mancheny loathed the Teribo Kingdom greatly. He said that he had worked hard for 32 years in glass-working for the kingdom, yet he wasn't able to receive its protection, causing his family to fall into ruin. It was through his testimony that the rest got to know about how the glassmith was forced to marry off his daughter to the viscount, which led to his eventual kidnapping in the first place.
Given that his daughter was in the hands of the bandits, Master Mancheny no longer felt any will to live. Before his death, he penned two letters, one of which contained the ingredients and procedures for green glass production, and another for oil glass. He hoped that the letters would cause the secret of glass production to be spread throughout Grindia. This would complete his revenge against Viscount Sirwa for forcing his hand, and the Teribo Kingdom for its cruel indifference to his plight.
Naturally, Master Mancheny wasn't aware of the hanging of Viscount Sirwa by Teribo VII. The letters he wrote troubled the students greatly. They eventually decided to bring the letters back to their academies to let them handle the matter.
After some deliberation, the heads of the academies of Morant City had come to the decision to auction off the letters. They would use the profits gained from the auction to reward the adventurous students, and make a fund in Master Mancheny's name for studious students who lacked the opportunity to further their studies because of their poor family background. This would allow the academies to honour the tragedy that befell the Mancheny family.
The report also stated that the Mayflower Merchant Guild would be hosting the auction for the two letters on the 5th day of the 12th month. The starting bid for each letter would be a million gold Fordes.
The Morant Daily article shocked the merchant guilds, and the trade union's neighboring countries, into a stupor. Every one of them was well aware that the Teribo Kingdom was the richest nation after the Forde Trade Union. They made more than 3 million gold Fordes annually from their glass exports alone. The country's royal family was said to be the richest on the whole of the Grindian continent.
With the glass production process leaked, should one nation be able to obtain either letter, the profit they would enjoy would no doubt increase by at least one million gold Fordes annually. To the various nations and merchant guilds, this was an incredible opportunity to make a huge profit. There were less than eight days until the 5th day of the 12th month, and many people flocked to Morante City as the date approached.
The whole of the Forde Trade Union had been embroiled in turmoil as a result of those two letters. Morant City was the eye of the storm. The Mayflower Merchant Guild was even more troubled. They were the hosts of the auction, and became everyone else's target.
Had it been any weaker power, the guild's heads would have taken the letter for themselves and kept it a secret. The profit they could gain from it was not something to scoff at.
But the people that had come to them with this proposal were the heads of eight of the ten greatest academies on the whole of the continent. No matter how brave the heads of the Mayflower Merchant Guild were, they wouldn't dare to take the letters for themselves. This would still be the case even if the eight academies had not each sent a blademaster to watch over the letters. Protecting the letter was only a pretense, of course, they were actually there to guard against any untoward action by the Mayflower Merchant Guild.
Academy Head Levins had said to the seven other academy heads, "There's no way we can begin producing glass ourselves. If we do, we'll definitely become the target of others. We can only profit off this once. I trust that both these letters are worth more than 8 million gold Fordes. This kind of sum is not one that the Dawn Academy can swallow alone. We have no choice but to find conspirators that will join in. After the auction, each academy will receive a million gold Fordes. Are you guys in or not?"
While one academy alone wouldn't be able to go against the seven largest merchant guilds in the trade union, a coalition of eight academies would be left untouched. Even though those academies were ranked among the top ten in Grindia, it was already an incredible feat for them to make a profit of tens of thousands of gold Fordes per year. Sometimes, they would even operate at a loss.
Academy Head Levins had once described the accounts of the academy to Lorist. The most of the Dawn Academy's income came from accepting donations. That was why the academy head wanted Lorist to help with the battleforce awakening of the son of President Peterson no matter what, even though that seemed an almost impossible task at first.
This auction, however, gave them the opportunity to gain a million gold Fordes in one go. The other seven academy heads were unanimous in their decision. For them to be able to make it to their current positions, they had to be at least as sly as Academy Head Levins. They were well aware that they would only be able to make it out of this matter unscathed if they united. Thus, each academy sent out one Blademaster. A unit of eight Blademasters was not one that could be scoffed at. It was almost guaranteed that nobody would be able to do anything to those letters.
When the Morante Daily's article was delivered to the king of the Teribo Kingdom, the king flipped out in anger and smashed whatever he could get his hands on. After that, he summoned his officials and came up with three countermeasures after four hours of discussion.
First, the kingdom would send their envoys to the Forde Trade Union to have them hand over the two letters.
Second, the kingdom would mobilize its 50000-strong army to the borders to let the trade union witness the lengths to which the Teribo Kingdom would go to maintain control of the glass production.
Third, the kingdom would send seven Blademasters with 10 million gold Fordes to Morante City to see whether the Mayflower Merchant Guild was willing to sell the letters for that amount of money.
If they weren't willing to sell them, Teribo VII said, "If we are unable to get those two letters back, we must do all we can to destroy them. Glass production is how the kingdom was able to build itself up. I will definitely not allow any other nation, house or merchant guild to grasp its secrets..."
As everyone's attention was focused on the two letters in the hands of the Mayflower Merchant Guild, on the night of the 34th day of the 11th month, Lorist headed to the port of the Peterson Merchant Guild with his guards, Josk, Howard, Dulles, and Master Mancheny's family, using four carriages.
A black-colored carriage could be seen waiting at the port. Upon noticing Lorist and the rest's arrival, Els and two other guards hopped out of the carriage with two linen sacks, before they carefully loaded the sacks onto the Flying Fish of Dawn.
The sacks appeared to contain people. The guild's guards wanted to investigate, but were stopped by the person in charge of the port.
"We didn't see anything, understood?" said he solemnly.
Lorist then bid Dulles farewell, "Dulles, there are three reasons for you to remain here at Morante City. First, take note of the effects of the two letters, and try to secretly escalate the problem. Second, recruit talented people and head to the dominion of Viscount Tebri on the ships of the Peterson Merchant Guild when the time comes. We will pick you up over there. Third, begin to collect intelligence on the Chikdor Merchant Guild. They will soon become an enemy we will have to face."
"Understood, milord. I will execute your will accordingly," Dulles answered with his chest puffed out, "Milord, please be careful on your way back."
Lorist patted Dulles's shoulder before heading towards the person in charge of the port. He took out a huge sack of coins and handed it to him. "This is my thanks for your tolerating the troubles we caused over here. Also, help us bid our farewells to the president. As the matters of my dominion are incredibly urgent, I won't have time to go thank him myself."
The person in charge was stunned when he got hold of the sack. Based on the weight, he surmised that there was at least 100 gold Fordes within. He couldn't quite hear what Lorist was saying due to his shock and could only mumble 'yes' nonstop. When the Flying Fish of Dawn departed, he was waving his hands nonstop to bid them farewell.
As the skies brightened, Young Master Moribak of the Chikdor Merchant Guild threw a fit of rage.
"What did you say?! Count Norton left Hidegold Bay around two in the morning?! What the hell is going on with our lookout?! You said he fell asleep? Very well, then he shall not wake for the rest of his life. Have the bird-breeders release some sea swallows immediately to notify the second and third interception fleets of this news. Have the first interception fleet begin pursuit. No matter what, we must have that ship! Count Norton must be brought before me! What are you waiting for?! Scram!"
"Understood, third young master."