We left the merchants guild, but neither Carm-san nor I said anything even after walking for a while.
I should apologize first.
“Carm-san. I’m sorry for talking rudely to you earlier.” [Ryouma]
“I know you didn’t mean anything bad by it, but why did you act like that back there?” [Carm]
He was calm, but it was evident from his voice that he was holding back his emotions. I guess anyone would be angry after that, but…
“Because I didn’t want you to say anything there. I didn’t want you or the other employees to be ostracized. I don’t know what that guy called Wanz is going to tell the people there in that meeting he organized, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the uncooperative people end up getting labeled.”
It’s normal to refuse a deal when you don’t like the conditions or don’t agree with the reasons given, but ’emotion’ is a pesky thing. Once the idea called ‘cooperation’ has infected everyone, and it ceases to be a ‘conclusion’ and becomes a ‘premise’, then those that refuse will be treated as ‘villains’.
“Not wanting to give in to peer pressure might sound nice, but it’s no different from disrupting peace. The one who disrupted Wanz’s meeting was none other than me. That’s why I’m the bad guy. Of course, I played the villain because I believed there was a need for it, but either way, just one villain was enough.” [Ryouma]
“I figured that might’ve been the case.” [Carm]
Carm-san sighed and then confirmed one thing after another with me.
“I too realized over the course of the meeting that something was off. That Wanz was just too suspicious. Perhaps he has an agenda of his own behind his suggestions of working together and preventing crime.
Ostracism is a bit much, I think, but refusing would definitely give the other participants a bad impression. There wouldn’t be any gain to it. It would be slinging mud onto one’s reputation.
That’s why… You told me to keep quiet. And by keeping quiet, your actions became ‘yours alone’. That’s what you wanted to show them, right, Boss?
And to make sure of that, you acted the way you did. It’s said that people have an easier time seeing the bad in other people. Regardless of what you said, I’m sure a lot of the adults back there weren’t happy with you since you’re a child and yet you acted so arrogantly. It’s also their first time meeting you, so that makes it even worse.
When I first met you, I thought you were the son of some noble playing store for fun. I’m sure there were many people back there who thought the same. By taking on such an arrogant attitude and telling me to keep quiet, you made it look like I had no authority and couldn’t disobey your order, making it even more likely that they see you to be merely acting on your own… Am I right, Boss?” [Carm]
“I’m happy to have a subordinate who can understand things without needing me to explain everything.” [Ryouma]
“Don’t mock me!” [Carm]
Carm-san yelled in a rare display of anger. This might be a first. I know he’s worried about me, and it hurts to know that he’s making a face like that because of me, but…
“I’m not mocking you, Carm-san. I trust you. That’s why I want to be able to entrust everything to you if the worst were to happen. As long as you’re there and everyone else is also there, then I’m not needed. The Bamboo Forest Laundromat will be able to operate without problem.” [Ryouma]
“That’s why it’s okay to throw yourself away? Why do you keep trying to sacrifice yourself alone!?” [Carm]
“Because sometimes it’s necessary. A person responsible for something, someone, anything must take responsibility when the time calls for it. A boss is someone who protects his workers. At least, that’s what I believe. But of course, resignation is always a last resort.” [Ryouma]
“But still! …Huh? Last resort?” [Carm]
“Yes. What are you making such a weird face for? I said I’m preparing for the worst, but it’s not as if I’m about to abandon everything already.” [Ryouma]
That place was like a trap. Once you’re caught in it, you can’t free yourself without getting hurt. We managed to notice the trap and free ourselves, but in the end, we didn’t cooperate with the others and gave a bad impression to the people who agreed with Wanz.
There is a fear and a reluctance to disrupting peace, and I know all too well the risk that comes with it and the acts of vengeance that could result from it. That’s why I wanted to ensure that I would be able to protect my store and my employees even in the worst case scenario. That was his duty as their boss.
“Being ostracized is just a what-if. We don’t actually know what’s going to happen, so if nothing happens, there’s no need for me to sacrifice myself. And even in the worst case scenario, as long as I haven’t committed a crime, I could make you the manager while I remain an investor who only deals with financial-related matters, and the situation would pretty much be the same as what we have now.” [Ryouma]
Also, even if I end up unable to do my business at Gimuru, I could just take it to a different city. For example, I could move to Gaunago, where the feudal lord’s manor is.
Reinhart-san did personally ask me to start a branch there as soon as I can, and most of the people working at the main store except Dolce-san are working away from home.
It’s been nearly one year since I started my store and have gotten used to it, but it’s not as if it has to be at this town. Gimuru and Gaunago are also both within the Jamil Duchy, and they’re close enough that Dolce-san can go home regularly if he wants to. Of course, I need to get everyone’s opinion first.
There should still be something we can do.
“I understand you’re worried about me, but please don’t make a face like that. Instead, let’s look forward and do what we can to avoid the worst case scenario. It’s precisely during times when we’ve failed that we need to take a good look at the situation and try to fix the situation. So, can you lend me your mind and strength, Carm-san?” [Ryouma]
When I said that, Carm-san tried to say something but failed. He tried again, but again he failed. Each time he tried, his expression would change a little. Apparently, he himself didn’t know whether he should be angry or sad.
In the end, he just sighed deeply.
“It was me who asked why first, and you have been talking hypothetically for a while now.” [Carm]
“I know I jumped to conclusions, but still! Your actions are just too confusing, Boss!” [Carm]
“I’m sorry.” [Ryouma]
That was all I could say in response, and Carm-san sighed again.
“I’m frustrated, Boss. Just a few days ago, I said that I’m here to support you.” [Carm]
“But today that Wanz confused me and I even misunderstood and thought that you were making a scapegoat out of yourself. To make things worse, you even had to tell me to keep my head up and look toward the future. I know we don’t have time to waste on the past right now, but is this really alright? What am I doing?” [Carm]
Carm-san laughed weakly.
“I know it’s strange coming from me, but Carm-san, you’re still young, and yet you know, you didn’t look any worse compared to the adults back there. Or could it be, that deep inside you already see yourself as Serge-san’s equal?” [Ryouma]
“Of course not! Serge-sama is a much more experienced merchant than me. There’s no way I would see myself as his equal.” [Carm]
“I’m sure, but I believe Serge-san too has gone through a lot of success and failures. Compared to him, we’re just a bunch of kids with barely any. But that just means to say that we need to accumulate experience from here on out. If there’s something we don’t know, then we just need to study it. We’ve been given the time and opportunity just for that.” [Ryouma]
“…Right. You’re absolutely right.” [Carm]
“You know, Boss. For some reason, sometimes when I talk to you, I feel like you’re the older one.” [Carm]
“Ha ha ha.” [Ryouma]
I just laughed his words away, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“I know I still have a lot to learn, but I wasn’t lying when I said that I’m here to support you, Boss. Let’s continue working together, and I’d love to hear more about that stuff you were talking about regarding the duties of a boss.” [Carm]
“Yes, let’s do our best.” [Ryouma]
We bowed our heads at roughly the same time, but…
“That being said, I do still have a thing or two I’d like to say, especially, about you acting on your own to prepare yourself as a scapegoat, so let’s have a nice long chat about that later, okay?” [Carm]
“Serge-sama and the duke’s family also asked me to contact them if anything were to happen, so I’ll be reporting today’s matter.” [Carm]
“Report!? But I’m your boss!?” [Ryouma]
“That’s true, but I also have my personal relationships… I’m just getting help from some people I know. That’s all. It’s not really strange to see people go to a bar and complain to a friend about one’s troublesome boss, right?” [Carm]
T-That’s true… And it’s not like any confidential information would be leaked, but… Wait a second. He really is mad after all, isn’t he? But he has his poker face back on, so I can’t tell whether he’s serious or not!
“Umm, I was just preparing for the worst, you know? Preparing for the worst. That’s not report-worthy, right?” [Ryouma]
“In that case, it shouldn’t trouble you if I made the report.” [Carm]
“Wait, hang on, let’s not rush, let’s talk.” [Ryouma]
“About what to do from here on? Well, at the very least, I don’t think we should be participating in any more of those meetings—” [Carm]
I know it’s my fault, but Carm-san was really mean to me the whole walk back to the store.
“Like I was saying… Huh? Were we meant to have guests today?” [Ryouma]
“Guests? That’s a rather abrupt topic change.” [Carm]
“I mean, look.” [Ryouma]
There were three carriages parked at the empty lot beside the store.
I’m not sensing anything strange from them, and the weed slimes I had hiding in the grasses just in case also hasn’t sensed anything amiss.
“That is strange. That’s a lot of carriages too to park illegally.” [Carm]
“For the meantime, let’s enter the store.” [Ryouma]
When we entered the store…
“Welcome back, Ryouma-sama.” [Rurunez]
“Sup, Ryouma! You’re looking a lot livelier than I thought you’d look!” [Hyuzu]
When we entered the store, Rurunez-san the maid of the duke’s family and Hyuzu the guard of the duke’s family was there along with several people I was acquainted with.