…Let’s calm down and confirm the situation first.
Inside the office was Carm-san and me. The guards of the duke’s family, Hyuzu-san, Jill-san, Zeff-san, and Camil-san were also here along with the maids of the duke’s family, Rurunez-san, Lilian-san, and Riviola-san, and for some reason even the guild master of the merchant guild, Grisiera-san, was here as well. With 10 people gathered in the office, it couldn’t be helped that it felt cramped.
For the meantime, I offered Grisiera-san a seat.
I have a lot of things I want to ask, but the first thing I should ask is definitely this.
“So, what brings everyone here?” [Ryouma]
When I asked that, Hyuzu-san answered honestly.
“I’m here under the orders of the duke. You wanted his permission to start a store that dispatched guards plus some other things, right?” [Hyuzu]
It was discussed in the earlier meeting too, but the current public order of Gimuru was indeed bad. One method I thought of to deal with that was the ‘establishment of a security company’. I spoke with the guild master and the others on how to solve the issues surrounding that, then summarized the conditions and submitted a proposal to the duke.
But all I did really was to ask them if the idea was possible. There wasn’t any need to send so many people just to deliver me their reply.
“The duke’s decision was to support you ‘thoroughly’. I mean, your plan was all benefits for the duke and the town, so there was no way you’d be refused in the first place.” [Hyuzu]
“That’s because if the plan succeeds, I will be making a considerable amount of money even if it’s just a portion of the whole thing. There are also other benefits. By not being overly greedy and making it so that the duke and the laborers will benefit a lot, I figured I’d surely be able to get the duke to accept my proposal.” [Ryouma]
“And that’s exactly why they sent us!” [Hyuzu]
“What do you mean?” [Ryouma]
“The duke agreed to your proposal, but your conditions benefit their side too much. If he were to accept it just like that, it would look like he’s fleecing to you, and that would be terrible for his reputation. So that’s why… Uh, what was it again?” [Hyuzu]
Are you serious? That’s the most important part!
An equally dumbfounded Jill-san explained in his place.
“Reinhart-sama added another condition wherein you have to let Hyuzu-san be in charge of bringing together the security personnel and educating them.
Hyuzu might not seem very reliable, but he’s been properly promoted and will be in a position where he has to lead other people. So the duke wants him to gain experience at your security company. I will also be working in the security company as the aide of this forgetful officer.
It’s also better for you to have someone experienced educate those laborers you plan to hire, right? And while I don’t really think anyone would, in case someone tries to interfere, since we’re direct subordinates of the duke, we’ll be able to deal with such situations quite effectively.” [Jill]
“That’s great news for me indeed. Much obliged in fact, but in that case, are the others also?” [Ryouma]
“It is as you’ve surmised, Ryouma-sama.” [Rurunez]
Hyuzu-san’s wife, a maid of the duke’s family, and member of the cat tribe, Rurunez-san, stepped forward.
“I’m sure you’re acquainted with the head maid, Arone, but she’s already put on the years, and there’s no telling when she’ll have to retire. As such, it’s necessary to start training those with potential to be the next head maid.
The job of the head maid is no different from the head guard; hence, she is expected to have the ability to educate her subordinates and lead them, the insight to delegate work properly, and the ability to perform other clerical functions.
In other words, Lilian, Riviola, and I have been chosen to be candidates, and we’ve also been ordered to aide you, Ryouma-sama. Our ability will be measured by our work.
Please use us as however you please until the household orders our return.” [Rurunez]
However I please? …Woah, woah, wait a sec.
“We were also told to help out with the security company, but really, we can work on anything if you need help. Use us well, alright, young man?” [Zeff]
“I’m not that good with physical labor, so if possible, I’d prefer to work behind the scenes.” [Camil]
“Zeff-san and Camil-san too.” [Ryouma]
A new commanding officer, candidates of the next head maid… Although all of that is true, it’s obvious Reinhart-san is just looking for an excuse to send them here.
The main point is that he wanted to send these people here to help me.
These people have helped me out before, and I know that they’re all brilliant people.
Considering how busy it’s going to be in the coming days, I’m really grateful that they’re here.
That’s also probably the reason why they came here without telling me anything.
I have no intentions of refusing them, though they probably wouldn’t accept it even if I did.
“Thank you, everyone. I’ll be in your care. Let’s talk again later for the more specific details… So, guild master, how about you? What brings you here?” [Ryouma]
“I had a bit of a jump start, actually. After all, I knew they were coming here today.” [Grisiera]
“You knew!?” [Ryouma]
“You’re not the only one who communicates with the duke, I’ll have you know. I’m sure you understand just what kind of situation the town is in right now.” [Grisiera]
Ahh, so the guild master is also doing what she can for the town. But of course, that should be a given…
“Besides, you’ve been strange lately.” [Grisiera]
“Uu… That’s…” [Ryouma]
“What? You think I wouldn’t notice even though we’ve been talking for the past few days?” [Grisiera]
“No, that’s not it.” [Ryouma]
When I thought back to what happened earlier, I couldn’t help but glance at Carm-san for a moment.
Naturally, that didn’t escape the guild master.
“Come to think of it, the two of you went somewhere, didn’t you? You joined the meeting at the guild? It was organized by the ‘Association of Mid-Sized Stores of Gimuru’, right? I think it sounds suspicious, but from the way you’re behaving, I’m guessing something must’ve happened. Tell us.” [Grisiera]
That one glance was enough for her to figure out that something must’ve happened, so I had no choice but to explain.
Realizing that it would’ve been pointless to hide things, I told them everything even up to the part when we walked back home.
After finishing my explanation, Grisiera-san looked at me.
“Good grief, I really can’t tell if you’re brilliant or stupid. I’ve already been keeping tabs on that Wanz.” [Grisiera]
“I’m doing my own investigations at the merchant guild, you see. I noticed him then, but he hasn’t done anything to stand out and his history is also clean. Naturally, I can’t just forcefully have him searched or dealt with just because I think he’s suspicious.” [Grisiera]
If she could do something like that without any basis, that in itself would be a problem.
“That’s why I left him alone… But human ’emotions’ really are troublesome. It’s common to be unable to reason with someone once their blood gets to their head.
Deals that have been going smoothly could also break down at a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t mean you have to play the role of the villain.
Although I will commend you for wanting to protect your store and employees at all costs.” [Grisiera]
“Isn’t it fine? Ryouma’s still young, so it’s great that he’s so spirited, right?” [Hyuzu]
Hyuzu-san placed his arm around my shoulders, but it was quite heavy, probably because of the difference in height.
“Personally, I think it’s a lot better than not saying anything. It’s not like he gave up, and everyone has one or two things they won’t budge on. It’s not uncommon for people to have conflicts from time to time too.” [Hyuzu]
“…Well, you have become honest enough to be able to accept other people’s help, so I guess you’ve grown a little.” [Grisiera]
“T-Thank you very much.” [Ryouma]
Was I forgiven? Although if this were a test, it feels like I’ve just barely made the passing mark.
While I was thinking that, someone knocked on the door.
“What is it?” [Carm]
Carm-san immediately checked on it, and then came back with a troubled face.
“Boss, Zeke-san and Pauline-san from the neighboring stores came back…” [Carm]
Ah, they must’ve come to pick up their kids.
After what happened earlier, it must be awkward.
“Darson-san from the Tigger’s Arms Store is also with them, and apparently, they want to talk with you.” [Carm]
“Darson-san? Alright. Where are they?” [Ryouma]
“They’re waiting at the reception.” [Carm]
And so, I excused myself and left the room. When I went to the reception, they immediately noticed me.
“Welcome back. Did the meeting end?” [Ryouma]
“Don’t know. We left early too.” [Darson]
They left early too?
“Everyone’s eyes were opened because of you, Ryouma-kun.” [Zeke]
The one who said that was Zeke-san.
“We were overwhelmed by the air in that place and just vaguely accepted the words of the host. But after you spoke out, we were able to calm down. After you came back, the people who’ve been keeping quiet started talking.” [Zeke]
“There were people other than us who left midway too. Among them were people who knew you, Ryouma-kun.” [Pauline]
Pauline-san started listing names. The names she gave were people related to the stores I used when I went out to buy stuff in town.
“It’s this late already, so we’re the only ones who came here, but they all wanted to apologize. Because we adults were too timid, you ended up getting the short end of the stick.” [Pauline]
Pauline-san and the two men bowed their heads.
As I panicked and asked them to raise their heads, Darson-san continued.
“Most of the people who didn’t leave early like us should also be thinking. The place was already a mess before we left, after all. I don’t know how to put this, but… You speaking out like that wasn’t a waste.” [Darson]
“…Thank you.” [Ryouma]
Just a little, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
“Looks like everything worked out in the end.” [Grisiera]
“Guild master.” [Ryouma]
The guild master came out of the earlier room with Hyuzu and the others.
I know they were worried about me and were keeping an eye out for me, but when they all come out one after another like that, it’s only natural that these three would be shocked. I had to calm them down and explain to them why all these people were here.
“…So in other words, that plan you were proposing about ‘hiring people who can fight’ was actually already in the works? And you’ve even gotten permission from the duke already?” [Darson]
“That would be the case.” [Ryouma]
“Then you could have just said that back there… Though I suppose you did say something close.” [Darson]
“I actually wasn’t aware that the plan has progressed this far already. Besides, even if I was expecting a good result, without any evidence at hand, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to get anyone’s trust.” [Ryouma]
“If I’d known it would turn out like this, I would have ridden that horse quicker to get here a moment’s sooner even if I had to do so alone.” [Hyuzu]
“It can’t be helped. The timing was just poor. Besides, since you’re all here, this means that we can start working out the details, right?” [Ryouma]
When I asked that, everyone that came from the duke’s family bowed deeply.
Zeke-san and Pauline-san also bowed.
“Ryouma-kun. If it’s alright with you, can you call out to us if there’s anything we can help with?” [Zeke]
“Obviously. Don’t hold back at all, okay? If you want we could even call those people who left the meeting. At the very least, you’re a lot more trustworthy than that Wanz.” [Pauline]
“That’s actually a good idea. We could have a meeting of our own.” [Darson]
When Darson-san said that, everyone laughed. After confirming a couple of things, we decided to conclude the day and dispersed.
“Ryouma, come here for a sec.” [Grisiera]
When I saw them off, Grisiera-san called me to her carriage.
As I approached the entrance of the carriage, she pulled me with her cane.
“Listen, Ryouma. Listen well. You can’t do business without looking at reality. If idealism is all you have, you will lose your store. That’s the undeniable truth. But a person who’s only harsh can’t attract people. That’s true too.
The gentleness to talk about ideals and value other people. The cruelty to cast away your emotion, consider the benefits, and sacrifice what must be. If you want to become a first-rate merchant, then you need both.
And actually, you already have both, you just don’t know how to use them… I don’t know if you’re just unskilled…
But regardless, you should remember what happened today. Take a good look at the people around you. And believe in the things you’ve built up, and above all else, yourself.” [Grisiera]
She looked at me gently as she said those words earnestly, then without waiting for a reply, she released me from her cane and bid me farewell in her usual tone.
“Next time, you be the one to pay me a visit at the guild, alright?”
As she said that, the doors to her carriage closed, and she went back to the merchant guild.