Chapter 181

“Nice to meet you all. I was delayed because something came up.”

“Haha! Not at all. You came right on time. Now, now, I will guide you to your seat.”

“Let’s do that. Oh, by the way….”

Raven turned his head slightly as he was walking under the guidance of the acquaintances. The black-skinned merchant became startled at Raven’s gaze. Raven continued with a grin.

“As I just said, I won’t stop you if you want to leave.”

“…..!”

The black-skinned merchant’s face distorted at once.

“I can’t help it if the governor says so. Then excuse me. Let us go!”

The black-skinned merchant ran some fairly large businesses in Leus. When he jerked his head around, some merchants who were affiliated with him awkwardly ran after him.

“But…”

But then, the governor’s cold voice forced them to stop walking.

“Those who leave will have to stop thinking about doing business in Leus ever again. As the Governor-General of Leus, and with the authority granted to me by the emperor, I promise you.”

“Hm…”

The faces of the merchants who were following the black-skinned merchant turned gray.

Just as Leus relied on taxes paid by merchants, the merchants also relied on the huge port city called Leus. The population of Leus reached nearly 100,000 when combined with nearby villages and towns, and it was no different than a death sentence for small and medium-sized merchants to be banned from operating there.

Furthermore, even if ports were built in Ills and Lens, it would be no match for Leus. Leus was the starting point for the Imperial Road, which led to the west and the east, and to the central part of the empire.

On the other hand, Ills and Lens were located on the outskirts, and one needed to travel four more days through winding coastal roads.

What would they gain from opening a new store in Lens and Ills, which was farther away and had incomparably small populations?

The black-skinned merchant had connections and many stores here and there, but it was a matter of survival for the small and medium-sized merchants who only had locations in Leus.

‘And if we go to Ills or Lens, we would need to hire mercenaries until we reach the Imperial Road…’

‘The cost of meals, labor, and various expenses will increase dramatically…’

‘W, we might really be wiped out!’

The contemplation only lasted for an instant. The quick-witted merchants shared a glance and slipped away from the side of the black-skinned merchant.

“W, what are you all doing?”

The black-skinned merchant spoke as if was dumbfounded by the betrayal of his colleagues. The merchants avoided his gaze and coughed as they returned to their original positions.

“Tsk! All of you will regret it.”

The black-skinned merchant clicked his tongue before jerking his body and striding out of the parliament.

“Let’s see who’s going to be the one regretting, little rat…”

A faint smile appeared on Raven’s mouth as he watched the merchant walk away. Raven already knew of the black-skinned merchant’s identity and why he was creating such a stir in the parliament.

Even though he was a warrior to the bones, Viscount Moraine was by no means a fool. After the death of Count Sagunda, Viscount Moraine had made a list of his own as he removed those who were related to Sagunda. He had handed over the list to Raven a few days ago.

On the list, there were several figures and merchants who were thought to be related to Sagunda. They could not be targeted because there was no direct evidence for their relationship to Sagunda.

And on the top of the list was the name Emad Galli, the black-skinned merchant who had just stormed out of the parliament. However, he could not just blindly trust a list, so Raven tasked the most trustworthy ones of the newly elected officials to inspect the merchants who were on the list. He had tasked the young man named Cedric Zabu, the same man who had become the head of the import and export management office after the interview.

7th regiment commander Viscount Moraine had informed Raven that several possible smuggler ships had gone to the ports of Ills and Lens, and Raven had tasked Cedric to find out more about the ships in a sudden inspiration.

Cedric Zabu had worked in various fields in the pier for the past few years, so he had a good network of people from general porters to security guards. It was clear that he would be able to investigate the issue without any problems.

The result was as Raven expected.

The suspected ships were all owned by or related to a particular person. The figure’s identity was none other than Emad Galli, the one who had just left parliament.

As soon as Raven learned about the connection, he had ordered Cedric to keep an eye on the area around Emad Galli’s store.

‘I’ll wipe out all the rats that pollute my city at once.’

“Come on, pay no attention to such people. I will lead you to your seat, your excellency.”

“Let’s do that.”

A gentle smile appeared on Raven’s face at the words of a merchant, contrary to his innermost thoughts. When Raven reached the seat of the chairman, the members of the parliament also sat down.

Raven spoke while looking around. He could see around thirty participants.

“I would like to express my great gratitude to you for responding to this sudden call to parliament. And those friends over there are brave warriors from Ancona Forest, and they are an ally of the Pendragon Duchy. Since the security of the parliament has been disbanded due to circumstances, they will be responsible for the safety of everyone here and the security of the parliament.”

“Hm…”

At Raven’s words, the participants looked around at the stone-faced Ancona Orcs warriors. All of them were equipped in a similar fashion, and they emitted a daunting force.

It was custom for the chairman of the parliament, the governor, to take responsibility for the security of the parliament, whether it be by hiring mercenaries or employing his own soldiers. Of course, the members were somewhat surprised since it was the first time orcs were hired to be guards.

But unlike the orcs they knew to be pirates and villains, the orc warriors accompanying the new governor seemed trustworthy and disciplined. They were certainly better than the 7th regiment soldiers who would arrest them at a single misspoken word.

“Well, then… I will formally declare the opening of the Leus Parliament.”

Thud! Thud! Thud!

Raven tapped the wooden hammer on the podium, then continued while looking around at the members of the parliament. The gazes of the members contained a slight nervousness.

“I will start with what all of you are most curious about. Everything I say now has already been approved by the emperor. First of all, the tax rate on ships entering the port until now has been…”

Recalling the information and advice he heard from Vincent, Raven continued his speech in an imposing manner.

***

“Damn it… Dammit!”

After being half-forced out of the parliament, the black-skinned merchant, Emad Galli, was letting out a constant stream of profanity in his carriage.

Parliament was a very good opportunity for him to engage in foreign activities after a long time. He had been unable to work in public because of the 7th regiment’s careful watch, but when parliament convened, the 7th regiment could not intervene in the meeting.

“If I had gotten five or six small merchants to join in, it would have been quite a profitable business... Dammit!”

He had been covertly laying foundations for it. However, the unprecedented move by Duke Pendragon prevented the small and medium-sized merchants from standing behind him.

Most of the newly elected city officials were young people that he did not know well, and all of them stood against the former governor and the officials and nobles that worked with Sagunda. Therefore, there was no way that they would be favorable towards him, as he had maintained a relationship with the previous officials through personal connections or bribes.

It would be fortunate if they did not hold any ill feelings towards him. Now that he could not win over the newly elected officials, it was natural for the small and medium-sized merchants to lie flat and carefully observe the situation.

“Tsk! Did I trust in that guy’s words too much?”

Galli recalled the man who told him to go to parliament to rally small merchants.

Bard, the best smuggler in the south.

He was Galli’s partner and largest investor.

“But it’s not like I could ignore his words…”

Galli smacked his lips with a dark expression.

One of his stores in Leus was a camouflage company that handled smuggled goods brought in by Bard. Even though he was guaranteed 20% of the profits made from the smuggling, he was not in a position to reject the proposition. Otherwise, he would have no business with the South.

Above all, Bard was a scary character widely rumored to be closely related to one of the three major pirates.

“I’m already on the same boat as him. Tsk! I can only wait for the wind to blow this way.”

Galli observed the back alley where the carriage was about to enter with his cold, sunken eyes. He was hoping that Bard would take care of everything if he reported today’s events.

***

“…And I would like to conclude my proposal on new tax rates and the distribution of the new currency. As I said in the beginning, please remember that the emperor himself granted permission after reviewing the matter. Now, I would like to hear your opinions.”

“…..”

Even though Raven finished his speech, none of the members could speak any words. Rather, they sat there with shocked expressions. The new governor had just told an unbelievable story.

“G, governor, no, chairman. My name is Fabian Delmont.”

A middle-aged man with a nice mustache and tidy clothing carefully raised his hand and stood up.

“Speak.”

Raven nodded lightly, and the middle-aged man named Delmont continued.

“It is regarding the new Pendragon currency… You said you would take all taxes relating to imports and exports in the new currency for the time being, but most of us have never even seen a Pendragon gold coin before.”

“Yes. I have only heard stories but…”

“There are so many merchants here that do not deal with York Town.”

Delmont’s words caused the members to murmur among themselves.

They were well aware of the construction of the new city of York Town, but as far as the entire empire was concerned, only a small number of large businesses and merchants were involved in the businesses related to York Town.

Thus, many of the small-scale merchants had never seen a Pendragon gold coin, and thus they could not pay taxes in the currency.

They were even forced to wonder if the young governor was putting up a pretense without knowing the reality at all.

“That is an issue you do not need to be worried about. It will be resolved soon.”

“What?”

Delmont and other members showed confusion when Raven replied with a smirk.

“A ship carrying ten boxes full of the new currency will arrive at the port tomorrow morning. The exchange will start at noon.”

“Hm…”

Nevertheless, the expressions of the participants remained solemn. Some even burst out laughing outright.

“Ehem!”

Delmont also endured a bitter smile and coughed in vain, stroking his moustache out of habit. He may have peaked at a young age as a knight, but surely the new governor was ignorant towards the world of merching and commerce.

“With all due respect, chairman, Leus is not a small country town. Thousands of merchants and sailors come and go in a day, and there are more than thirty associations that are taxed and licensed.”

The members nodded their heads in agreement. Delmont was teaching the governor with a kind smile. After all, the governor who was still a child in management.

“In addition, a public exchange will attract ordinary citizens. I am not sure if you know, but the amount…”

“300,000.”

“Ye, yes?”

Delmont’s eyes widened at the sudden remark.

“A total of 300,000 gold coins are being shipped from York Town. I am planning to release more than half in Leus. Will that not be enough?”

“…..!”

Delmont froze on the spot with his hand resting on his moustache.

The whole parliament soon clamored with disbelief.

“T, t, three hundred thousand!”

Most of the members, mainly merchants, were on the verge of losing their minds at the incredulous amount.

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