But Raven was confused at the reactions of the nobles and the officials. He turned his head towards Vincent and spoke.
“What is wrong with these people? Why are they acting like this.”
“It would be good for you to quickly brief them on your report, my lord.”
Vincent answered with a mysterious smile. Raven shrugged his shoulders before speaking to the gathered personnel.
“I get it, so why don’t you all raise your heads now.”
“Yes, Your Excellency…”
Their expressions were still full of tension. Raven looked over them with a calm gaze before speaking.
“Everyone did a great job.”
He went on to speak words that none of the nobles and officials expected. They even flinched at the unexpected response.
“There were no mistakes or faults to be found. All of you are much more capable, talented, and outstanding than I thought. As duke, I commend all of you for your hard work. Thank you all.”
Everyone’s eyes grew larger in surprise and some even gasped without realizing it. They had felt something was different with their lord after he returned from the South, but to think that the cold and arrogant monarch was thanking his subjects without hesitation? Everyone seemed to be in disbelief as they stared at Raven, but one person, Vincent, maintained a grin as he observed the scene.
“W, we are not worthy, my lord! It is not due to our abilities, but because of your leadership and wisdom that…”
Raven shook his head as some of the nobles scurried to bow.
“No, not at all. It is all thanks to all of you that this city has grown and improved, much beyond my imaginations. All I did was swing my sword around in the South.”
“Oh, no, well...”
Officials were unable to find words to speak. The master of this grand city was being much too modest.
“Ah, there is no need to say any more. I may be capable when it comes to swinging my sword and running the military, but no good when it comes to other things. It would have been a terrible idea for me to run a city or overlook its economy. Frankly, none of this would have been possible without Sir Vincent and those gathered here today. I understood after reading the report. I would never have been able to do any of this alone.”
The nobles and the officials were touched at Raven’s words. Knights were not the only ones who would give their life to a lord that recognized them. Even civil servants would give everything they had to a monarch who appreciated their worth. The ideal monarch would recognize their abilities and let them perform to the best of their abilities. Any civil servants would dream of having such a lord.
“I heard that we are continuing to see an influx of people into the city. I will support you with everything you need to accommodate the changes, whether it be extra staff or materials. In addition…”
Raven gestured towards Vincent. Vincent stepped up and continued on behalf of Raven.
“In recognition of all your efforts, His Excellency the Duke will be constructing private mansions for you on the south side of York Town Stream, instead of a large-scale public residence. This means that all of you can bring your family to York Town. If you find the mansion unnecessary, you are free to do whatever you want with it, including selling it.”
The faces of the nobles and officials brightened up.
Most of them originated from Conrad Castle or Lowpool, which meant that their families were located back in their hometown. Some of them had brought along some personnel to York Town, including employees, but there were many inconveniences to stay in the official residence along with others. They were thankful that a mass-residence would be built for them to stay in, but now they were being granted something even more shocking. All of them would be given a mansion to stay in. It was truly a shocking event.
But Vincent was still not finished with his words.
“In addition, His Excellency the Duke is planning to have all the officials of York Town knighted or given various titles as well.”
Everyone’s eyes grew even larger with disbelief.
“For all of the sirs who are here today, His Excellency has decided to bestow 30 percent of the cotton fields owned by the duchy. All of you will receive land befitting your positions. The tax will be ten percent, but you will not need to pay taxes until next year.”
“I am eternally grateful for your generous considerations, Your Excellency!”
The nobles and the officials looked as if they were about to cry with joy. They quickly stood up and bowed deeply. Feeling a little embarrassed, Raven spoke with a smirk.
“This is the least I can do if I want to continue to work you harder. Anyway, all of you may return to your duties. I’ve taken up too much of your time.”
“Yes, Your Excellency!”
After responding vigorously, the officials and nobles exited the chamber after saluting towards their monarch.
“I need to contact Conrad Castle immediately!”
“I had been contemplating whether I should call my family here or not. This is great! Haha!”
The nobles and the officials could not hide their joy as they exited the room. Raven and Vincent shared a meaningful gaze while glancing at the backs of the leaving personnel. Soon, the door closed and only the two people were left in the room.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
At Raven’s words, Vincent sat in a chair across from Raven without hesitation.
“They are all very excited.”
“There is nothing like this to boost their morale. They will continue to be faithful and loyal to the duchy and to York Town, even through the generations.”
Vincent smiled at Raven’s appearance. Even though the lord has accepted his proposal without hesitation, it was evident by his expression that the lord did not fully comprehend the decision.
“My lord, this is not just about rewarding them for their hard work.”
“Is that so…?”
Having his innermost thoughts revealed, Raven licked his lips awkwardly. He had made the decision because he trusted Vincent. In fact, there was no one as reliable as Vincent regarding the operations of the duchy and the economy as a whole. However, he still had some doubts.
For example, it seemed as if the rewards given to the York Town nobles and the officials a while ago were much too excessive.
“A massive reward was required for the knights and soldiers who returned from their journey to the South with their lord. They put their lives on the line for Pendragon.”
“But as you know very well, war is not just about knights and soldiers. It costs a great deal of money to arm, dress, and feed the soldiers. The royal family provided subsidies, and some of the capital was provided by El Pasa and some of the southern nobles, but 30 percent still fell as responsibility of our duchy. The people who made it possible were the people of York Town.”
Raven nodded slowly.
Just as Vincent said, the expedition to the South had cost a fortune. When he first received the report from Vincent, he had doubted his eyes. Even though he was ignorant of economical matters, it was evident that the duchy would not have been able to bear the cost of the expedition without York Town. The massive production of cotton, distribution of gold coins, and large investments garnered in York Town were the only things that allowed the duchy to pay its share in the expedition. Otherwise, the duchy would have gone bankrupt.
“Even those who did not fight directly on the battlefield have their own pride, although they absolutely honor and respect the soldiers who fought in person. Moreover, everyone saw the hospitality and rewards that the knights and soldiers received.”
“Hmm. So you are saying that those who remained in the duchy may have felt left out?”
Vincent grinned, then continued calmly.
“The Pendragon Duchy must be united. Those who fought bravely deserved appropriate rewards. But for the others, just because they did not battle directly, doesn’t mean they were living comfortably. They were also fighting a silent war in York Town.”
“However, no one would be willing to stand up to speak for themselves when my lord fought in the South directly. No one could vocalize the fact that we were facing responsibilities back home, providing and contributing to the victory of my lord and the troops.”
Only then did Raven agree wholeheartedly.
“In the end, although the rewards may have been a little extravagant, it was the best way to boost the morale of the York Town officials while nipping any possible complaints that may have been building up. In addition…”
A sneaky smile hung around the mouth of Vincent. There was always something more when Vincent was smiling in such a fashion.
“Don’t tell me… There’s something more?”
“There is still a lot of land left in the south of York Town Stream. Since it is a little distance away from the center of the city, it had been difficult to develop it at the same rate as everything else. Now, however, the residences of York Town’s officials and the residence of you, my lord, will become centered around the region. The great nobles and big hands of the empire are rushing to build villas in the same area. Now, how would the other nobles and merchants react after visiting this area?”
Raven let out a chortle.
There was no need to answer. If he were them, Raven would try anything in order to acquire a residence in the area. It would provide an advantage in doing business, since connections were significant in the industry.
“You will gain popularity and loyalty from the officials and the nobles, and the empty land will be cleared up on its own. You will also gain back as much as you spent, or rather, even more.”
“You are truly…”
Raven shook his head in wonder. The Pendragon Duchy’s Raccoon Mask was truly a meticulous man.
“Once His Highness Ian finishes with his expedition, York Town will develop even further, and you will gain even more influence, my lord. At that time, you will have to maintain the same policy as now.”
A light appeared in Raven’s gaze when Vincent mentioned Prince Ian.
Raven had returned from the long campaign because of the fatigue and the guilt he suffered from due to the many sacrifices. However, the Arangis Duchy was still his greatest enemy as well as the main culprit behind all events. Furthermore, the Arangis Duchy could resolve the unsolved questions he had as well. That was why he had Baltai locked up in a prison spire in Conrad Castle without killing him.
“Now that you brought it up, what if I…”
“No, you can’t.”
Vincent replied in a stern voice. Raven frowned.
It was imperative that the matter with the Arangis Duchy was resolved. Only he knew the truth behind Biskra and the Nameless Necromancer. But despite the monarch’s sharp response, Vincent remained unmoving.
“The biggest visible accomplishment must be taken by His Highness Ian. His Highness will soon become the master of the empire. Whether or not it is true, the lord should not shine brighter than His Highness in the eyes of others.”
“I am not looking for fame and credit, Sir Vincent.”
“I know. I know very well that the lord is not that kind of person. You are wanting to personally break the chain of ill-fated ties with the Arangis Duchy. Perhaps for reasons unbeknownst to me.”
Raven remained silent.
Only himself and Soldrake knew the entire truth. But this intelligent, wise man in front of him seemed to have his guesses. Nevertheless, Vincent had never asked for an explanation.
“Let His Highness Ian finish the job. Let him take the crown of glory. He is not a stranger to the duchy. After he finishes in the South, he will definitely call on my lord regarding matters concerning the Arangis Duchy. At that time, you will be able to achieve what you want. Whatever that is, I will trust and follow you as a knight of Pendragon.”
Raven felt strange as he met Vincent’s gaze. There was no raccoon mask covering Vincent’s face, but rather, the knight was meeting his eyes with a strong, unwavering gaze. He was also a true knight.
Originally, he would have shaken the empire’s commerce, but Vincent was now serving him as a knight. He was a true aide who knew the heart of his monarch but did not hesitate to speak his mind.
‘Yes, this is why I made Vincent my man…’
After staring into Vincent’s eyes for a short while, Raven sighed before replying.
“All right. I will do as you say.”
“My apologies, lord.”
“What is there to apologize for? I called you to the duchy so you could do whatever you wanted.”
“Yes, well, that is true. That is also why I decided to serve you, my lord.”
“Well then… Hahaha!”
Raven could not hold back his laughter at Vincent’s crafty words. Raven was not a true noble, but rather a man of the battlefield. He rather liked someone like Vincent, who was unlike other nobles.
The butler of the official residence approached Raven before bowing.
“What’s going on?”
“A merchant named Karl Mandy has arrived to see you. Sir Dos Giovanni is also here as well.”
He already knew that the Gold King of the South had set out for York Town, but to think he was with Dos Giovanni?
Raven’s eyebrows lifted slightly in wonder, and he turned his head.
“It seems the fox of the South and the mainland are going to battle over this city and the lord.”
Before Raven knew it, Vincent was smiling deeply behind his raccoon mask.Previous Chapter Next Chapter