After several months of work, the construction of the new village was now complete. The residents would cultivate the remaining fields which were still untouched. The fields would eventually be theirs, so there should be no complaints.
There was only one problem that needed to be solved before we could get the villagers to move in and that was whether we could convince the next door Lord to agree or not.
There were various ways to instantly settle this matter, such as threatening them with military force or appealing to the King, but I wanted to do it as peacefully as possible.
The villagers resorted to banditry because they couldn’t get any support even when they were suffering from the damage caused by the monsters. I don’t think the other party will be able to refute if we exploit their lack of management in the area.
Since they are neglecting it, the village must be of little importance. Since we are taking over a village that has been in deficit for several years, maybe even for decades, it may not be a bad deal for both sides. I guess.
It was Patrick and me who went to negotiate with them. Whenever I went somewhere for work-related matters, he always requested to come with me.
Damn it, Patrick! We’re not on a date!
“I have to keep an eye on you.”
“Does that mean you’re glued to me?”
“Or else I won’t know what you’re up to.”
Instead of a story about the charming young lady and the passionate young man, it was about a delinquent and the probation officer. I prefer to believe it is not as serious as the prisoner and the warder.
Until recently, I had assumed that the Lord I would meet, Viscount Cottnes, would be a typical local nobleman.
After some background check, we learned that the viscount was an extremist.
He was a wealthy man for a local viscount thanks to his cotton cultivation, which he had started several generations ago. Are commodity crops profitable?
Viscount Cottnes had used the money he made to associate himself with the Duke and his merry band of friends in his quest for power. I never understood why people do that.
He’s not as awful as my parents, who went to the royal capital and never returned, but he’s an ambitious man. The Viscount might have some demands, so we will have to negotiate carefully.
We were in the middle of the Viscount’s territory, in a smaller mansion than ours. Naturally, we informed him of our date and time for the visit beforehand. After all, there is no such thing as unexpected visits between nobles, unlike a certain spoiled young lady.
“It’s been a longtime Viscount Cottnes.”
“I have been expecting your visit.”
The one waiting for us was a slender man in his forties, so slender he looked like he might be blown away if a strong wind blew his way. We had only greeted him once when he first took office, so it was almost as if we had never met.
The Viscount seemed happy to see me, even though I had only informed him that I was coming over to discuss an important matter.
The mansion’s reception room was crammed with paintings and decorative armors lined up along the walls. After scanning the heavily decorated room, I took a sip of the tea served and began to speak.
“The reason I’m here today is—”
“Yes, I know. So, the rumors were true.”
I had expected him to catch us providing rations to the village without permission. However, he didn’t seem to be talking about the village. He seemed happy for some reason.
The Viscount smiled and continued with an impish grin.
“If Count Dolknes becomes a part of the Duke faction, then the plan will be more solid.”
I never said I was switching factions. Moreover, what’s this about a plan? I was going to ask, but Patrick jabbed me in the side and stopped me.
I almost made a strange noise. He just looked at me and continued the conversation without hesitation. I’m sorry.
“We came here to learn more about the plan. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I won’t be able to visit the royal capital for a while and there’s a chance that my letters would be intercepted. That’s why I need you to tell me the details.”
“Don’t know anything?”
The Viscount seemed suspicious that he didn’t know anything about it when Patrick tried to extract some information about the Dukes’ plans. He bluffed harder.
“We are only aware of the gist of it. I went through a lot of trouble in the capital just to learn about that information.”
“Ah, isn’t your parents’ home—”
“Indeed. Considering I come from a frontier count family, it is natural for them to be wary of me.”
“Ahh yes. The frontier Counts are notorious for their aversion to Remrest.”
Wow, he even mentioned the neighboring country’s name. This is definitely something dangerous, I wish I could just pretend I never heard of it and go home.
Also, the one who hates Remrest the most isn’t the Count but the Countess. What does it matter now?
The Viscount let his guard down and sang like a bird. Patrick was doing a good job keeping up with the conversation.
“The truth is, I don’t know much about it either. I have heard that the royal faction will be wiped out with neighboring countries’ help, but I have no idea regarding the details.”
“I see, so we weren’t the only ones who weren’t informed.”
“It’s unusual for the Duke himself to make a move.”
It is probably just a bunch of simple-minded people going overboard. I had been listening to the conversation and was surprised to hear that. I couldn’t help but ask back.
“Did you just said the Duke himself?”
“Yeah, it was the Duke who arranged the meeting with Remrest.”
Duke Hillrose, Eleanora and Ronald-san’s father, who the Queen told me not to worry about, who didn’t show up at the extremist meetings, the one who requested with a kind face for me to take care of his daughter.
Based on that information, I thought that maybe the Duke wasn’t such a bad person. The conflict between the Royal family and the Dukes have been around for generations, besides Duke Hillrose himself may not have that much ambition.
If we consider what Viscount Cottnes said, the Duke is trying to gain control over the kingdom with a potential enemy’s help. It would be an unmistakable coup d’etat and, in some cases, an irrevocable act of treason.
Nevertheless, we should retreat while he’s still believing that we are on the Duke’s side. We won’t get any more useful information from him, and if Patrick’s bluff is exposed, things would get even more complicated.
Then I jab Patrick in the flank to give him the signal. Rawr, feel my forefinger power! This is payback for earlier!
“Everything all right?”
“No, it’s okay. There was another reason why we came here today.”
Patrick made some strange noises and glared at me with resentful eyes, prompting me to continue. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I jab you that hard.
“I will start explaining. A couple of months ago, I was attacked by bandits in my territory.”
“Oh my, I hope you’re fine… Count Dolknes?”
“Yes, thankfully we weren’t hurt at all but the bandits were your citizens.”
“…I have no idea how to apologize for that.”
The Viscount said, his face tense. He seemed nervous about what he might be asked to do as compensation.
At this rate, the negotiations are going to be easy. All I wanted was for him to authorize the migration.
“According to them, their village is in ruins and they can’t make ends meet. Are you familiar with the villages behind the mountain with low yields?”
“Y-yes! They never pay their taxes but always ask for assistance. I am also troubled by them. What kind of punishment do you want?”
Wouldn’t that be too cruel? There are times when we have to look at people as numbers as a Lord. But treating a village with nothing but a bad location as a load of baggage is just cruel, isn’t it?
In his impatience, the Viscount continued to babble.
“But if you defeat them, then their numbers are dwindling. I appreciate it so much.”
Disgusted, I involuntarily stood up and Patrick didn’t try to stop me at all. I had expected him to stop me, so I calmed down.
Our priority now was to get what we wanted. Getting angry out of nowhere wasn’t going to solve anything.
“You don’t care about losing your unproductive citizens, do you? Then allow them to migrate to my territory.”
Seeing that I suddenly stood up, Viscount Cottnes was flustered. Let’s quickly get his approval and go home. This was the point where I started to push.
“You have a problem dealing with the village and I need manpower, our interests are aligned. Isn’t that right? You’ll allow them to migrate, won’t you?”
◆ ◆ ◆
Responding to my question, Viscount Cottnes nodded his head in agreement. He didn’t even bother to ask about how his people would be treated at my place.
On the return home, I was left with an indescribable feeling of bewilderment, even though I had accomplished my goal. Partly because of the Viscount’s attitude toward his people and there was another thing that had been bothering me.
“Hey, Patrick. Towards the end, I was threatening him rather than negotiating, wasn’t I?”
“Hmm, I guess for once it doesn’t matter.”
“I’ve got that much power now, haven’t I?”
“Yeah, and it’s up to Yumiela to ensure that the power is used properly.”
This is why the Viscount was quick to answer and accepted my demands in stride. It must have been caused by the power I had acquired.
“Also it’s because I’m a Count and he’s a Viscount.”
A Viscount and a Count might only be one rank apart, but the barrier that separates the higher nobility from the lower nobility was huge. Will I be able to wield the power that I have acquired correctly?
Patrick paused for a moment before continuing.
“No, it doesn’t matter much.”