At a certain place in the town of Gimuru was a bar that people kept entering despite the ‘closing’ sign.
On this day, 9 men visited it.
They visited the store in groups of three. One of them sat at the table at the center of the bar, while the remaining two sat in the table behind him.
One after another, the people took their seats, and a dangerous atmosphere filled the store as the representatives of all three groups took the center table.
“Wanz-san, can you explain to us what’s going on?” [Representative 1]
“Yeah, give us an explanation. Or what? Has our swindler, who’s all talk, gone mute all of the sudden?” [Representative 2]
“You want an explanation? Fine, I’ll admit that our work isn’t going as planned, but isn’t that the same for you?” [Wanz]
“What was that!?” [Representative 2]
One of the people seated at the table of the representatives was Wanz. He was the man who created the Association of Mid-Sized Stores of Gimuru and opened a meeting, where he fought a battle of words with Ryouma.
That same Wanz’s provocative attitude caused one of the other representatives to become angry, while another one clicked his tongue. The people who accompanied them became nervous.
But before things could escalate, the man, who clicked his tongue, stopped them.
“Stop it. There’s no point arguing here.” [Representative 1]
“Yes. Everything was going well for me up till the part where I gathered the merchants and opened the Association of Mid-Sized Stores of Gimuru…” [Wanz]
“? Hey, it was going well, so what happened—” [Representative 2]
The angry man from before was still acting belligerently.
“Yes, it was going well,
“…Hey, didn’t this guy always have his nose up in the air? So he’s actually like this.” [Representative 2]
He liked how Wanz cussed without so much as raising a brow.
“I’d had my suspicions, but it seems ‘Ryouma Takebayashi’ really is the problem… Our people are having problems with him too. I had my subordinates pretend to look for jobs and quarrel with his subordinates to make it hard for the real people looking for jobs, but…” [Representative 2]
“I tried that too. I tried getting people to commit crimes by taking advantage of how hard their life is, but that kid employing a lot of people seems to have given them hope. They’re not as willing as before. And he did in fact hire a hundred people. He even says there’s going to be another round of employment soon. Just how much money does he have? Do laundromats make that much?” [Representative 1]
“Ha, ha ha, no, that’s not it. If you look at the conditions he promises, it’s really good. There’s a salary, of course, but on top of that, there’s lodging, food, and even health care. His store definitely makes a lot of money, but that alone isn’t enough.
Of course, we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed this. Word has it that the stupid brat’s grandparents left him a lot of money. But it’s too convenient to have a wealthy inheritance at this point in time, and even if it did exist, no one would use it like this. He’d either be a saint or an idiot who doesn’t know the value of money.
Evidently, he’s working against us, so the duke must be the one behind him, the money and the orders, must be from him too. That stupid… boy is nothing more than a bait and a puppet… Well, given his age, I suppose he’s pretty smart to be able to play the role of a puppet.” [Wanz]
Wanz seemed to have calmed down while talking, as his expression and attitude returned to normal.
“It’s much more believable to think that instead of blindly believing that the boy thought of everything and brought about this situation. The duke’s people are with him too… But enough of that, what are we going to do now? That security company is supposed to start doing rounds already. Won’t your thieves have a hard time moving?” [Representative 1]
“They’re already having a hard time… That security company is working with the guild. They’re thoroughly targeting our targets and exposing a lot of our modus operandi. It looks like they have someone familiar with our work.” [Representative 2]
“…I see. Actually, several of the empty houses in the slums that could be used as a hideout or to accommodate our secret deals have been demolished. The land readjustment has changed the air in the whole slums for the better too.” [Representative 1]
“So the land sharks are having problems too, huh. Then what about the swindlers? Can you give us some intel? If we know the route and schedule of the patrols, we can target the stores lacking hands and wait for the patrols to come, then give them a world of pain. We’ll try to make it easier for the land sharks to do their job too. That’s why we’re cooperating right?” [Representative 2]
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t get enough people. Some of the people became suspicious because of that boy, and now it takes me a lot of effort just to get a conversation going. I’ll need to take things slowly and earn their trust first.” [Wanz]
Silence filled the room. The one who caused it was Wanz, but he was also the first to break it.
“Let’s continue our respective work for the time being. They’re not the only ones backed by the nobles, after all. And there will probably still be people looking for jobs. There are just too many unneeded people in the city.” [Wanz]
“It doesn’t look like there’s anything else we can do… All we can do right now is take on jobs like before. We can’t stop either. For people in our line of work, stopping means death. Even if we survive, we won’t be able to live decently.” [Representative 1]
“The land shark is right. It’s gotten harder for us to move, but we’re not out of cards just yet.” [Representative 2]
The men all wore grim faces.