Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
Only after the sound of waltz arose did I realize I was obligated to lead the first dance.
Speaking of this particular activity, none of my closed ones had given me any positive testimonials. Luckily, Fischer had volunteered to give me extra lessons on dancing because only in this way could he scold me fairly and openly.
Even with Fischer’s devoted instruction, I had only learned so much due to my preoccupied job nature.
As the overture was nearly half played, I helplessly peeped about for an appropriate-looking lady to carry on this social activity more tiresome than fighting a war. And nobility socializing custom told me the rest of the guest cannot start before I finished half of the dance.
As I scoped, I tried not over-intensify my potential partner, I kept a smiling face till I found her. She can’t be too young for dancing was a team working job; she mustn’t be too young or everybody will think my I had a weird taste. As for the girl I’m currently looking, she was like a newly-bloomed flower because I knew she married not long ago.
My choice had proven worthy. She stepped into the center of the dancing ground with me, a hint of pride showed, she was able to follow my lead after a moment or so adjustments.
It looked like I will be able to finish safely because the audience began applauding.
“It was a delight to dance, thank you.” I let go of her at the finishing tune.
“It was a great honor to share a dance with Lord Viceroy.” She curtsied and left. As a gentleman, I cannot look elsewhere before she made her exit.
When she was back to her girlfriends’, she glanced back and smiled. Only until then I headed to Kirk and at this very moment, several men beside him were expecting my presence.
“Lord Viceroy, shall we be in the neighboring hall?” Kirk said.
“I’d love to. Walk with me, you all.” I nodded to all who were nearby Kirk and replied with a gentle smile.
The destination was separated by several layers of a heavy curtain in order to completely cut off sound from the ball.
“Sit down, make yourselves at home.” I seated myself in a cozy armchair, “I’ve longed to have a formal conversation with you all, though lack proper opportunity. I suppose you have been looking forward to tonight’s dance as much as I do, haven’t you?”
“Absolutely. It never occurred to me that someone wanted to bid on my invitation with huge money!” Kirk cut in, “I guess I should make it clear beforehand. Anyway, our Lord Viceroy is always open to suggestions. Tonight is a private party, you have questions, you ask; you have dissatisfaction, you tell. Speak out freely before our Lord Viceroy goes back to normal audiencing procedure tomorrow.”
Hence my interaction with Winper’s most renowned nobilities and businessmen began in a light-hearted atmosphere.
“It’s the city’s glorious moment to have you here, Your Excellency.” A mid-aged nobleman raised his cup, “And of course, our glorious moment to be said. We wish for Your Excellency’s staying here longer so that all of us can make friends with you.”
(Okay, here he’s asking how much longer I’ll be staying here.)
“Rest assured, I have more business here than you think besides policing the smugglers and I’ll be around longer.”
“So what kind of business You Excellency intends to deal with? Pardon me, we’re trying to share your concern if it’s within our ability.” An anxious merchant said.
“That is very kind, thank you. Speaking of that, I do need a favor as well as your understanding and support. As we all know, our homeland is at risk.” I sipped my wine.
“Er… we do, more or less.” Half a moment later, a voice said, “But I’m confused since we’re inclined to doing business than warfare here in Winper, a commercial harbor.”
“Of course I know that. I doubt I would put any of you to fight a battle.” I laughed.
“Then, Your Excellency, what else can we be of service?” A second prudent voice said.
“You’re all smart people so I’ll get to the point. Warring needs money, a lot of it. What I need from you is money.” I put away the smiling face.
Hearing that I went straight to asking money from them, the ones who presented shared their looks and looked away from me at the same time.
I spared them a look, “Well, you’re all fat, second-to-none businessmen in Winper. You can’t be too stingy if the government is low on funds.”
“Of course not…” They answered carelessly.
“My friends, calm down, our viceroy is not asking you to offer everything to support the war.” Said Kirk, “He and I still need you to run business for our great province.”
“But we are… small business, really small.”
“Small? Don’t be absurd. Mister, you have 4 spice stores, a food staff workshop, a coastal fleet, and 3 ocean liners. And you call your business small?”
He blushed and argued with a low voice, “But it’s a tough time to do business recently.”
“None of everything is easy. Talking about business hardship, our viceroy has a whole province’s military and politics to manage. Of all that, one thing I’m sure of is that you all did make a fortune because of His Excellency’s policies in Winper City, and I don’t see a reason why you can’t offer something in return.
Kirk’s rhetorical question drove every poor businessmen’s eyes to me.
“Your money is safe with yourselves. Like I said, I was seeking for support instead of forcing you to give up your fortune. It mostly depends on how much you can spare.” I explained gently.
“And sure enough, consider your support as venture capital, which will benefit you proportionally based on the extent of your contribution, as long as I, Cohen Kheda, holds the power of Dark City.”
The said reward tempted my audiences. They began sharing eyes.
At such a time, no one could be certain how things were going to be in the future. And them investing in my army meant enormous risk.
I doubted anyone would make up his mind if no benefits were promised.”
“Pardon me, Your Excellency, may I ask you a question?” The ‘small businessman’ stood up, he said modestly.
“Yes.” I offered great patience.
“Thank you, and may I humbly inquire the kinds of benefit if we choose to support you.”
“Decrees!” I said firmly.
“Positive. If you chose to give me support now, I will do the same for you in times appropriate. It is a mutual thing. Imagine the benefits you’ll get if your contribution is large enough.”
“Meaning?” Small-business’ eyes glinted.
“As a businessman, have you ever dreamt of having complete control over a single industry, a monopoly of one merchant, or have total jurisdiction of all businesses in a certain area?”
He turned into a stone at my statement, his eyes grew confusion, then obsession, and finally his body lost control and slumped into the chair.
I chortled and sipped my wine.
(Hmm, the liquid tastes better now.)
“What say you? How much can you offer?” Kirk timely urged, seeing that everybody has made up his mind.
Still, their eyes were too ambiguous to tell.
“Since the viceroy has asked, I… I’ve offering 1,000 in gold.”
“Count me in, I’m offering 1,000.”
“I… I’ll take 1,500.”
The agony on their faces and sincere eyes made me almost believe these few thousands were all they had.
Indeed, 1,000 gold was impossible for any commoners to make in their lives. Even my dear wife Dior Merlin was worth less than 4,000 when I met her, besides she had a lavish father.
After becoming my wife, Dior had no choice but to spare other businessmen something in order to keep her activities as the biggest merchant in the dark. And she had informed me of the net worth of the men I was going to meet at lunch today.
Therefore I was fully aware that these despicable human beings were being perfunctory notwithstanding my munificent offer.
I glanced Kirk.
“Well done, Mr. One Thousand. That’s quite a few. I’d be grateful.” Kirk approached Small-Business and remained standing beside him.
“Don’t mention it, it’s all I’ve saved in recent years…”
Kirk’s left hand took over his goblet and landed his right hand onto Small-Business’ shoulder.
“Tell me, have I been a good mayor to you?”
“Y… yes, of course, you are, my lord.”
“Then why did you disrespect and humiliated me in front of Lord Viceroy?”
“I… I didn’t… my lord?”
Almost immediately, Kirk’s right hand quickly pinched Small-Business’ face. Kirk’s only been in civil duty for a few years, he’s not lost his soldier instinct as my first deputy.
“Fifteen days ago, you bet 800 in gold in our own Pub Rose in one night. Twenty-seven days ago, you fell into a dispute with a stranger and claimed yourself the richest of the rich, having tens of thousands in the deposit. Was that you?”
“I… I was drunk. Besides, I was in an argument, I bluffed.”
“Good, but let me finish. You’ve got 32 people in your family, not including 12 maidservants, 43 manservants, over 50 guards. How much does that cost?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, I’m not finished…”
“Kirk, quit it. I told them it’s their freedom how much they’d offer. I don’t intend to force them.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.” Kirk let the man go but continued, “Forget all that, but I cannot allow you to stay in this city for maliciously lying to our viceroy! You don’t need to give up any money. Take your gold, your fleet and leave!”
All the other men watched silently.
To be fair, Kirk’s handling made sense and was even lenient.
But as a déclassé businessman, from now on, he’s allowed to do anything other than stepping into any sort of business in any other places. Local nobilities forces will eradicate his family as ‘source of shame’.
Small-Business grew pale, sweaty, he whimpered, “My Lord, please have mercy! PLEASE! Let me stay in Winper…”
His ‘mercy’ reminded me of the dead AUF slave soldiers during the clay city battle. Those who were killed by their friendly soldiers. They, too, cried for mercy, cried for life. Small-Business was essentially, like a slave, my slave.
What about I? Whose slave was I? I was definitely not Fischer’s slave. I considered myself a man out of this world’s circle. I might as well be a slave of my own.
Out of nowhere, I grew irritable so I stood up and declared, “Forget it. Stay here, buy a piece of land in god-knows-where and live on for good.”
This was my final stand. At least he got his life back.
“I’m truly grateful, for your merciless… my lord…”
“That’ll be all today.” I spared the rest a look and ready to leave.
“Lord Viceroy, a word, please.”
“Talk now.” I stopped but didn’t bother to face him.
This prudent businessman talked, “Lord Viceroy, as we said earlier, we’ll endure great risk if we choose to support your career.”
“We’re businessmen and we understand all kinds of risks and losing money is very normal for us.”
(He is a clever one.)
“Here it goes, I’m willing to offer half of what I have to assist your army. The mayor knows how much I have.”
I slowly turned to face him, “Name your conditions.”
“I assume you don’t know that we’ve been having a hard time doing business in the city because there developed an enormous smuggling network on the edge of the city. Every money we earned recently was, sadly, tiny profits the smuggler chose to omit.”
“I’m listening.” I didn’t show any emotions.
“If you can give us a fair environment to do our business, I’m saying a truly fair, smuggling-free place.” Said him, “We will do anything for you, with nothing holding back.”
I said emotionlessly though I was laughing underneath, “You’re talking about ‘the woman’ who lives in the coastal villa?”
“Indeed I am. The reason for her smuggling business to be this huge had multiple aspects, not because our business instruments are worse.” He glanced at Kirk and continued, “I won’t mention anything here…”
I did the same: pretended to glance at Kirk.
“If Lord Viceroy could give an order to clear the illegal smuggling activities, I’ll be on your side and so will the rest of us.”
“I agree!” Small-Business suddenly grew a high emotion, he yelled, “I’m taking half of what I have! 20,000 in gold!”
The rest agreed, moments later, the total number mounted up to 170,000.
I acted and pondered, “Deal.”
“Appreciated, my lord. We’ll bring the money tomorrow. Would all in gold good for you?”
“Not all, I need other supplies. As for what, Kirk will brief you with the details.”
“Yes, my lord. Whatever you need, as long as it’s circulating on this continent, we’ll get it for you.”
Finally, I couldn’t control myself and laughed, “Today I’ve seen good businessmen. That’ll be all for this meeting. I’m getting changed. See you all later.”
“My lord! Please, give me another chance.” Seeing that I was about to leave, Small-Business caught the last moment.
“You?” I spared him a glance and told the rest, “If you think this gentleman is worth salvaging, write a letter with all of your names on it. Perhaps I’ll reconsider.”
Then I left the side hall, I nodded and showed my regards to all men and women I came into along the way and made my destination: my room in the well-guarded backyard.
“Young Lord.” Lily released Arnold and took over my trench coat.
Dior Merlin was conversing with Lily, she, too, stood up and asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be dancing, it’s your social ball, may I remind you.”
“I thought I was a rustic redneck who can’t dance, said by a beautiful lady.” I took her hand.
“Aren’t you?” She gazed at me with taunting eyes, and she blushed, “You are my rustic vulgarian for life. I’m not interested in your other identities.”
“My darling wife…” I took her in my arms and spoke with the huskiest voice, “My babe’s a hearty wench!”
At my comment, Arnold barked and fell to the floor, played dead. Lily was holding back her laugh so hard that her both hands were covering her lips and face reddened.
“Petty thief, what did you say?” Dior Merlin glared at me, her nails pinched into my skin.
“Er… I said, my dearest wife is indeed a broad-minded lady.”
“You can’t be less serious.”
“I have good news. The businessmen have agreed to sponsor us.”
“That was fast. How much?” Dior blinked.
“170,000, in gold.” I took the glass of water Lily poured.
“That’s indeed a great deal of money for them. Someone must be crying now” Dior said, “How did you convince them?”
I drunk and kept silent.
“Well? Tell me.”
“I didn’t convince them, I negotiated.” Said I, “Praise me for my visionary judgment. They demanded that I must arrest the biggest smuggler in the city.
It took Dior Merlin a while to remember I was referring to her.
“Fools, past hope. If I were them…” Dior Merlin shook her head.
“Humph, if I were them, my love, you’ll be the one crying.”
I nodded carefully, “You’re right. But dear, are you ready to cry now?”
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.