The Divine Son of Destruction withdrew his troops. That piece of information was immediately reported to the capital by sending a galloper.
“The Divine Son of Destruction retreated, he says!?” King Warius murmured after a momentary confusion upon hearing the news. “In other words, you’re saying that the bastard had only targeted the copper and dwarves of Marven all along…?”
Judging by the actions of the Divine Son of Destruction, namely vacating his encampment the moment the dwarves managed to flee to Bolnis by crossing the river together with the copper, this having been his objective from the very start would be the only logical conclusion.
One of the king’s chief vassals, who couldn’t afford to simply ignore King Warius’s question, answered while trembling in fear over the possibility of the king’s rage being aimed at him, “With all due respect, if you were to analyze the situation, this would be the only feasibly answer…”
King Warius’s body began to repeatedly shake in response to his vassal’s answer. He had thought that they had some cute parts to them, despite being filthy slaves, as they were so kind to crawl out of their hiding to make it easier for them to get crushed. However, now he knew that this had been nothing other than a ruse to divert his attention. Without even having faced them directly on the battlefield, they had stolen his property.
King Warius flew into a rage over what he perceived as no more than a lousy act of common thievery.
“T-That p-piece of shit…! Just how far is he going to mock me…!?!”
And the brunt of that anger was directed at the two men prostrating themselves in the center of the audience hall. No sooner than jumping up from his throne, King Warius thundered, “Rudophus! Kuffner! You bastards betrayed my faith in you! How dare you to be so audacious to show yourself in front of me without having been able to recover the copper!”
Rudophus and Kuffner, the ones who had failed to catch the runaway slaves of Marven, shuddered with a start. They had dreaded King Warius’s wrath, but that still didn’t mean that they could simply run away. Thus the two had returned to give their report with the resolve of already standing with one leg in their graves.
However, you could only describe it as terrible luck that their reporting took place at the very moment when the message about the Divine Son of Destruction’s retreat reached the palace.
“You incompetent morons! Or are you possibly disloyal insurgents looking down on me!?”
King Warius hurled insult after insult at the two without showing any mercy. Some of those present knitted their eyebrows at the abusive language they couldn’t bear to hear, but despite that, no one tried to intervene on the behalf of the two soldiers. Everyone simply ducked their head, waiting for King Warius’s fit of anger to pass as if weathering through a storm.
After having continued to abuse the two, King Warius finally seemed to have run out of names he could call them, and thus delivered the finishing blow.
“I assign both of you to the defense of Ra’pley! I’m more than certain that you’ll lose that sloppiness of yours with Romania in front of you!”
Up until then the two had focused on not doing anything that would aggravate King Warius even further, forgoing any kind of protest, but this decree triggered them to reflexively lift their heads.
Ra’pley was a remote area close to Holmea’s border with Romania where King Warius had sent his younger brother Vulitas in the past. Being assigned from the capital to Ra’pley was paramount to a demotion. It’d be still better to be punished by death than being forced to live a life in shame.
“Y-Your Majesty! Please reconsider your decision! Even if we have to work ourselves to the bone, we shall show you that we can make up for our mistakes on this occasion! Please, please give it another thought on our behalf!”
As soon as Rudophus yelled in desperation, Kuffner also pressed his forehead against the cold floor, pleading, “If you are ordering us to fight Romania, please send us to the fortress at the Labian River! We shall demonstrate our will to fight for Your Majesty to the bitter end!”
However, their frantic pleas didn’t reach King Warius.
“You retards! Do you really think that I’d entrust the protection of the river to idiots like you!? ―Guards! Throw these worms out of the palace!”
King Warius flopped down on his throne without sparing any further glances at Rudophus and Kuffner, who kept begging in desperation while surrounded by guards on their way out of the audience hall. However, it was unthinkable that the king’s anger would abate just because he had exiled two officers to the backlands.
The hall was filled with the king’s silent rage, causing a tingling atmosphere of tension to engulf the place like a curtain. The chamberlain, who brought a new notification, had simply no luck. However, as it was impossible for him to whirl around and leave at this point, he announced with an expression on the verge of tears, “I have brought a message for His Majesty, King Warius!”
Just that alone caused the king to scowl at the chamberlain, resulting in the poor man cowering in fright. And yet, he still went on in order to carry out his duty.
“――Sir Cornelius has visited, requesting an audience!”
The air in the audience hall stirred upon the mention of Cornelius’s name. Cornelius, one of Jeboa’s Committee of Ten, had been in Holmenia for a while now, but even though the date for transferring the copper had long passed, he not only hadn’t demanded to receive his copper so far, but he didn’t even try to get an audience with the king either. Because of that, King Warius, who had the copper stolen from him, deliberately didn’t invite him over either, which led to the current state.
But, it looked like the time had finally come. Even King Warius couldn’t help but become depressed. Still, as that wouldn’t count as a reason to not meet Cornelius, the king ordered to let the merchant through.
Cornelius was guided into the hall amidst all retainers watching with bated breaths, wondering just what harsh demands Cornelius would make.
First he performed a polite Jeboan bow, and then he told the king, “Today I have humbly visited Your Majesty in person to extend my farewell as I intend to return to Jeboa henceforth.”
In front of King Warius and his retainers who were confused about the objective behind his sudden announcement, Cornelius dispassionately continued, “Also, I would like to withdraw the goods I left in your care the other day to take them back with me.”
Hearing those words, King Warius and the others finally grasped the situation. Cornelius was far from demanding the copper. Even though the information about the failure to recover the copper had reached the palace only moments ago, Cornelius was already aware of it, and thus had given up as Holmea wouldn’t be able to prepare the promised amount of copper anymore.
“N-No! W-Wait a bit longer! We shall prepare the copper without fail!”
Cornelius sighed deeply at the king’s objection.
“In that case, how long would I need to wait for you to prepare the promised copper?”
Not only King Warius, but all present vassals were hard pressed to answer that, remaining silent. At this point they had already retaken Marven, but that didn’t mean Holmea would be able to prepare the copper right away. Besides, the reason for Marven to be the foremost copper mine in the West was heavily based on the dwarven slaves with their high mining technology. Now that those dwarves had escaped without a single one staying behind, the mining output would obviously plummet to rock bottom. On top of that, the dwarves had apparently destroyed a part of the mining tunnels before running away, according to investigation reports from Marven. The same reports had stated that it’d take a significant amount of time to repair those tunnels.
Under these circumstances it was uncertain whether Holmea would be able to secure any copper in the future, not to mention at present.
“I have waited until today while believing in Holmea. But, that has already reached its limit. I would like you to prepare the copper at once, or, if you cannot do that, return the goods I entrusted to you.”
King Warius groaned with his face bright red due to Cornelius’s demand, but being under too much pressure, he proposed something outrageous.
“We just have to arrange for it, right!? We will make sure to prepare the copper, even if we have to scrape together all copper coins from all over the country!” King Warius shouted.
In response, his vassals turned ghastly pale. Certainly, if they gathered everything that contained copper within the kingdom, they might procure enough copper to fulfill the deal with Cornelius. But, this would undoubtedly plunge Holmea into a severe copper shortage. If this were to actually take place, it’d become a major issue.
The coins used the most among the commoners were bronze and brass coins. If these coins disappeared due to a copper shortage, business transactions all over the place would stagnate, and the livelihood of the masses would deteriorate.
That wouldn’t be the full extent either. If the market for gold, silver, and copper collapsed because of a sudden price jump for copper, Cornelius would be likely able to exchange the copper he would have obtained on this occasion for gold and silver. What would await Holmea then would be a massive outflow of gold and silver towards Jeboa.
“Y-Your Majesty! Please, that is something you must not do by all means!”
Even the vassals, who feared the king’s wrath, entreated the king with the blood drained from their faces, trying to stop his reckless action which would very likely ruin the country.
“Your Majesty, please reconsider! That would cause Holmea to decline!”
“That alone is something you must not do, Your Majesty!”
With all vassals remonstrating him, even King Warius couldn’t have his own way. His face was as red as a tomato from anger and humiliation, and his whole body violently trembled as if he had spasms.
Having watched all of this indifferently, Cornelius bowed in an exaggerated manner, “It appears to me that you have reached your decision. ―Well then, Your Majesty, please allow me to excuse myself. I shall pray for Your Majesty and Holmea’s prosperity in the future.”
In addition to having had a gigantic amount of copper plundered from them, Holmea’s financial affairs took an immeasurable blow from Copper Mine Marven being basically destroyed. Leaving behind the scathing sarcasm of praying for Holmea’s prosperity despite being well aware of the country’s dire state, Cornelius quickly left the audience hall.
Just as Cornelius exited the palace with King Warius’s strange voice being the last thing he heard from the audience hall, one of the servants, whom he had wait outside, whispered into his ear, “Master, a messenger from the Shapiro Company’s profligate son has arrived.”
Next the servant tried to pass on the message to his master, but forestalling him, Cornelius spat out with a sigh, “…Tell him that I accept.”
The servant looked at him with an expression asking whether it was alright to not hear the details, causing Cornelius to add, “I’m pretty sure it’s about a purchase of copper anyway, right?”
“Huh? Yes! It is as you say, Master. He has contacted us about wanting to sell copper at a cheap price.”
The servant was surprised, but for Cornelius this was but a logical conjecture.
Although Yoash had officially withdrawn from the merchant guild, he still wouldn’t have any interest in opposing Jeboa.
Especially under these circumstances, where they pissed off King Warius through the matter with the copper, they should be eager to deepen their friendship with Jeboa all the more. Even if they might not have caused me, a member of the Committee of Ten, any direct monetary loss, it’d be unwise to leave the situation at having snatched the copper that I was supposed to get. In such a case, something at the level of trying to make me feel indebted to them by selling the copper for cheap is easy to predict.
“Nothing less of you, Master. ―Ahh, he would also like to inform you that he can transfer the copper after processing it, granted that you have any requests, since his friend’s place recently had a big inflow of excellent craftsmen.”
Cornelius chuckled at his servant’s supplementation.
It’s an astoundingly clever proposal that also considers the dwarves’ employment after they had them immigrate from Marven. On top of that, it’s not a bad deal for us either.
“Very well. Then we’ll have them provide half the copper as unprocessed clumps, and ask them to make something with the remaining half. Inform him that I wish to speak with him about the details at a later date.”
Once the servant ran away to pass on Cornelius’s message, Cornelius himself let his thoughts wander while fiddling with his goatee.
Until now Cornelius had prioritized his relationship with Holmea over the Divine Son of Destruction. No matter how much momentum the Divine Son of Destruction might have as a rising power, his opponent is one of the leading powers in the West. Therefore it was only natural to pick that side.
However, this time’s matter with the copper was sufficient for the scales within Cornelius to drastically tilt towards the Divine Son of Destruction’s side.
“It might be about time to jump ship from Holmea to the Divine Son of Destruction…”
Having heard Cornelius’s monologue by chance, one of his servants advised, “Master, the lords army to suppress the revolting slaves might move out anytime soon. Would it not be wiser to make a call after ascertaining the outcome of that?”
It’d be pointless if the Divine Son of Destruction got crushed by the lords army right after Cornelius switched sides. Rather, he’d be in danger to incur Holmea’s anger by doing so, the servant pointed out.
Cornelius lightly snorted at him, “That’s already over with.”
And then Cornelius announced to his close aide, who seemed confused by his master’s incomprehensible words, “The army of the lords has collapsed a good while ago thanks to the Divine Son of Destruction.”