Chapter 302

“Father…!”

Even though Iriya was thoughtful and always calm, she was no different from an ordinary girl after seeing her father for the first time in a few months.

“Yes, yes. I am here. Has everything been all right?”

Karl Mandy smiled brightly as he patted his daughter’s head.

“I have been well, thanks to Lady Pendragon and Baroness Conrad.”

Iriya spoke shyly while leaving her father’s embrace.

“Oh my! Lady Pendragon, Baroness. Have you both been well?”

Finally noticing the two ladies, Karl Mandy spoke while bowing politely.

“Mister Mandy.”

The two ladies acted courteously towards Karl Mandy. Although Karl Mandy was not a noble, he was of great importance to the Pendragon Duchy.

“I hope my daughter has not been a bother to the both of you.”

“Of course not. On the contrary, Lady Mandy has been of great help to us both.”

“Haha, you’re praising her too much…”

Karl Mandy spoke with an exaggerated smile. He gestured towards his entourage, and his attendants stepped forward with two items in their hands.

“Hmm? What is this?”

Irene tilted her with puzzlement as the two attendants placed two small boxes on a table.

“It is a small gift for the both of you.”

As soon as Karl Mandy spoke, the attendants carefully opened the boxes.

“Oh, my!”

“Ah…!”

Irene and Lindsay’s eyes widened in shock. One box contained a necklace and a bracelet woven from large pearls, while the other housed a hairpin of pure gold studded with numerous rubies.

“How pretty… Wow!”

Despite being the eldest daughter of a renowned family, Irene did not care too much for fancy accessories, similar to her mother Elena. But the pearl necklace in front of her was simple and elegant, and it was to her liking.

“I am glad to hear you like it.”

Responding politely, Karl Mandy turned his gaze towards Lindsay. Lindsay seemed to be at a loss. Instead, the maids carefully picked up the hairpin and adorned her hair.

“Wow! You are so pretty, sister!”

“It suits you perfectly, baroness.”

Irene and Iriya were truly astonished. The hairpin exuded a bright color. Lindsay did not usually dress up extravagantly, and the hairpin fit her like a glove.

“Thank you, Mister Mandy.”

Irene gave thanks wholeheartedly. She could tell that the items had been specifically prepared with the two of them in mind. The accessories perfectly matched Lindsay and Irene’s unique charms.

“You don’t need to mention it.”

Karl Mandy grinned.

Someone stepped up from behind the Gold King and greeted the two ladies.

“It has been a while, Lady Pendragon. Baroness.”

“Ah, Mister Giovanni.”

Irene and Lindsay welcomed Dos Giovanni. They were already familiar with the merchant, since he was one of the big investors in York Town and the duchy.

“I also brought something for the both of you, although it is quite lacking.”

As soon as he finished speaking, a man stepped up and offered up a metal container to the two ladies. Inside it was a pair of pure gold rings that looked simple at first glance.

“Oh my…”

The ring fit the fingers of the two ladies as if it had been specifically crafted for them.

“These are rings created by a wizard from Altan. It will change colors when near poison, and the rings themselves have the ability to purify simple poisons, such as those from a snake.”

“What a precious thing…”

“Thank you, Mister Giovanni.”

Dos Giovanni stepped back while smiling at the two.

“It seems that both of you are here to see brother. We will be taking our leave. Thank you again for your precious gifts, both of you.”

Irene quickly picked up on their intentions. She said her farewells before taking Lindsay and Iriya outside. Karl Mandy and Dos Giovanni saw off the three ladies with their heads bowed, then straightened their postures when they disappeared.

“Rings of purification crafted by a wizard of Altan… When did you prepare such a thing?”

“It’s not a big deal. Rather, the Gold King has a very discerning eye for accessories. It has been a long time since I saw Lady Pendragon and the Baroness seem so fond of something.”

The two shared a meaningful look while praising each other.

“His Excellency Duke Pendragon.”

The official residence’s butler announced and the two hurriedly bowed.

“We greet you, Your Excellency.”

“It has been a while, both of you. Now, come sit over here.”

Raven entered the room alongside Vincent. He grinned and spoke while gesturing.

“Has it been two months now? How have you been, Mister Mandy?”

“I’m always the same. However, the duke’s complexion seems to be much better than the last time we met in El Pasa.”

“It must be because I’ve been avoiding wars. Long time no see, Mister Giovanni. Has it been half a year?”

“That is correct. I have heard of your wellbeing through Sir Vincent, Your Excellency.”

“I see. Oh, I heard from Sir Killian that it was Mister Giovanni who transported our soldiers to the South. That was of great help. The crew members of the fleet could not stop complimenting you.”

When the reinforcements from the Pendragon Duchy set off for the South, including Killian, several of the ships transporting the troops had belonged to the Giovanni Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the Giovanni Chamber of Commerce had supported John Myers and the Winter Storm Fleet of the Pendragon Duchy, as well as the people living in the islands of the inland sea.

“It was nothing. I found it a worthy investment as a merchant.”

Dos Giovanni snuck a look at Karl Mandy while deeply bowing his head. Even though a gentle smile still existed around Karl Mandy’s mouth, Dos could tell that the opponent was a little agitated.

‘No matter what anyone says, I am the biggest investor of the Pendragon Duchy. Moreover, you cannot compete with the time I spent building trust with the duchy.’

Dos Giovanni lifted his head while thinking such thoughts.

“Anyhow, why did the both of you want to see me?”

Raven spoke while locking his fingers together. Naturally, he had a rough idea after being briefed by Vincent in advance, but he feigned ignorance for now. After gazing at Raven for a moment, Karl Mandy took the initiative.

“You may have a rough idea, but with my daughter here and everything… I was thinking of settling down here.”

“Settle down?”

Raven asked back, slightly surprised at Karl Mandy’s words. He was already aware that Karl Mandy wanted to invest in York Town, but the Gold King’s intentions seemed to be a little different than what Raven originally thought.

“Yes. I am thinking of moving all my assets and the entirety of the Mandy Association to York Town.”

“Huh…!”

Both Raven and Vincent were quite surprised, but it was nothing compared to how Dos Giovanni was feeling.

‘This man is…!

He stared at Karl Mandy with incredulous eyes. His tightly clenched fists were shaking as well. The Gold King essentially controlled the South. But he wasn’t looking for a simple investment in York Town, but rather looking to move home base. This was a major incident that could cause a huge stir in the commercial world.

“Of course, I am not planning to touch the stores in El Pasa and other southern port cities. There are many people who would be in trouble if the Mandy Association disappeared completely.”

“Certainly. But… are you serious? If I understood correctly, you would like to live here…”

“Yes. I will move the headquarters of all the businesses handled by the Mandy Association to York Town.”

“Hmm…!”

Raven turned his head with a shocked expression. Vincent, who had been deep in thought, nodded towards his lord before speaking.

“Nice to meet you, Mister Mandy. I am Vincent, a knight of Pendragon.”

“Ah, I have heard a lot about you. I have heard of a genius in the Pendragon Duchy, someone blessed by the heavens with wisdom.”

“I am flattered. Anyways, according to what you just said, are you planning on bringing your personnel from the South to York Town as well?”

“I was planning to only bring along those who are essential. If I move to York Town, I should employ the residents of the city. Wouldn’t that be the better thing to do for the city?”

It wasn’t merely ‘the better thing’. If the Mandy Association relocated its headquarters to York Town, it would create jobs for hundreds, no, thousands of people. Most importantly, the relocation could solve one of the most troubling problems for the Pendragon Duchy – an issue that appeared recently.

“Then, in the case of the transportation industry, you would hire people from here…”

“Yes. If the duke will allow me, I would like to hire people from within the duchy.”

Hooh…”

Raven’s eyes glimmered.

During his expedition in the South, the entire duchy had developed tremendously with York Town in the lead. Naturally, the development triggered an explosive population growth.

Population essentially represented the power of the land. In simplest terms, having more residents equaled higher production power and more taxes. The Pendragon Duchy was also reaping the benefits of the population growth as well.

However, there were always two sides to the coin. Side effects accompanied the sudden increase in the population, and the most serious of the issues was the large influx of vagrants, especially those with blades.

“My lord, as you know very well, we increased the number of soldiers significantly due to the expedition to the South, but there is a limit to how many soldiers we can hire. No matter where, the army must not exceed 5 percent of the total population. It costs a fortune annually just to arm and feed them.”

“Hmm, that is right.”

Raven was well aware of the fact as well.

A standing army was a money-devouring monster. There had been many cases in the past where territories went bankrupt after increasing their army excessively. Of course, the Pendragon Duchy was barely managing to afford a large army after the recent, rapid progress, including the production of the Pendragon gold coins, but it could not afford to expand the army anymore.

Therefore, there were no viable options to deal with the numerous free knights and mercenaries entering the Pendragon Duchy. Those who failed to become soldiers or squires of the duchy were aimlessly wandering the territory. Even in York Town, there were many wanderers who begged for food and shelter.

But it was impossible to mobilize the troops to capture or punish them. There was no justification in doing so, and such rash actions could hinder the development of the city.

“If the Mandy Association is able to start a transportation business in York Town, it could hire a large number of free knights and mercenaries. According to simple calculations, it could create jobs for two to three hundred people.”

Hooh, I was thinking about three hundred people as well. After putting them through tests, I was thinking of offering treatment equal to territorial knights for those who are skilled.”

Karl Mandy chimed in.

“Those are words of relief. I had been quite concerned about the increasing number of wandering mercenaries and free knights. I was at a loss as to how to deal with them. However, will it be profitable?”

“York Town, along with Leus, will develop into a key point connecting the South and the mainland. Goods from the South will enter the mainland through this city. There will always be those who greed after such goods on the road. Of course, the areas within the Pendragon Duchy will be safe, but no guarantees can be made for other territories.”

“Well, that is for sure…”

Raven nodded.

The knights and soldiers of the great territories were guardians of the family. They were not responsible for guaranteeing the safety of travellers who were passing through the territory. In the end, merchants were responsible for protecting their own goods.

“If the remunerations are appropriate, it will be beneficial for not just us, but for other businesses as well. For example, the Giovanni Chamber of Commerce.”

Karl Mandy spoke while turning his head towards Dos Giovanni.

Dos Giovanni had been listening to Karl Mandy’s words with a calm expression. He nodded slowly.

“Our association hires guards on our own, but we are willing to join if Mister Mandy plans on creating a large transportation business. Only…”

“Only…?”

Karl Mandy asked back with a smile. Dos Giovanni spoke politely while turning towards Raven.

“The transportation industry must always work in conjunction with insurance. It is essential to consider the worst outcome. Even if the transport faces an unexpected natural disaster, it is the transportation industry that has to take responsibility.”

“Yes, that makes sense.”

Even as an economy illiterate, the concept made sense to Raven. He turned towards Vincent while expecting a response.

But contrary to Raven’s expectations, Vincent did not intervene in the conversation between two merchants. He maintained a gentle smile while simply observing.

Raven sensed something more in Vincent’s actions and quickly shut his mouth.

“Good point. But Mister Giovanni, I do not think my name will be taken so lightly in the world of trade… Were you thinking I did not have insurance in mind?”

Dos Giovanni shook his head at Karl Mandy’s words.

“How could that be? But I just want to point out that this is not the South. With all due respect, in the mainland, the name of Giovanni carries more trust than the Gold King of the South.”

“Well…”

The smile disappeared from Karl Mandy’s face. He, too, was a monster of commerce, and he knew Dos Giovanni’s words to be correct.

“Then Mister Giovanni is saying…”

In the end, Karl Mandy spoke while blurting the end of his words, as if he were a little disappointed. Dos Giovanni responded while looking at Raven.

“I think it would be better to leave transportation to Mister Mandy, and the insurance to the Giovanni Chamber of Commerce, Your Excellency.”

Hooh…”

The name of Giovanni carried weight in the mainland. For small and medium businesses, they were nothing short of a living myth. No one would complain if Giovanni took responsibility for insurance.

“What do you think?”

Vincent finally spoke when Raven asked for his opinion.

“I think it is an excellent suggestion, my lord. If the Gold King of the South and the Giovanni Chamber of Commerce join forces to create an insured transportation business, it could well bring fresh winds across the empire, beyond York Town.”

After speaking thus far, Vincent continued with a grin while looking at the two merchants.

“Then the duchy will be in charge of coordinating the details, since the two associations will join hands to start a business in the duchy. Do you have any objections?”

“…..!”

The eyes of the two merchants grew slightly larger as if they had been hit with a hammer.

They could not object.

Just as Vincent said, this was the Pendragon Duchy. No matter what type of business one wanted to conduct, they needed permission from the duchy.

“I think it would be best for the duchy’s knights to test the transport guards. Both of you should be well aware of the skills of our knights. Ah, why don’t you use the duchy’s crest and change it slightly when you are creating a symbol for the business? It will look good and increase credibility as well. Regarding the tax…”

Vincent continued to speak with a voice like the spring breeze and a soft expression.

‘Well then, he’s fixing the troubles and making money without moving a finger. Even though he’s my knight, he is really…’

Raven inwardly shook his head while looking at Pendragon's Raccoon Mask. Even when he was facing two of the empire’s most powerful merchants, he stood tall and proud.

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