Chapter 24: Homeward (3)

News that the House of Forrest would be auctioning off surplus food quickly spread between the merchants. Since they were usually good at ferreting out information, it was easy to spread the news of the auction. The merchants who were quick on their feet reacted positively to this news and made their way to the fief with readied finances. As food prices went up, it was easy to quickly earn money if they had the supplies, so merchants were eager to buy even just a little more food. As more merchants gathered, those who had arrived at the Forrest Manor first expressed unhappiness. More competitors would only mean food prices would rise quicker.

Milton had a smile on his face as he heard how many merchants had gathered at the fief.

‘The more competitors there are, the less chance there should be for them to work together against me.’

Opportunities like this were rare. Milton thought he would take this opportunity to earn money by selling food at the most expensive price possible.

But…

The chamberlain reported to Milton, “My Lord, guests have arrived.”

“Guests? Didn’t I say to turn down everyone’s request to meet?”

Currently, there were a lot of merchants trying to see him privately. However, Milton rejected all meetings because private meetings would only interfere with the fairness of the auction.

“That’s…um… they’re not merchants, My Lord.”

“Who are they then?”

“They’re…”

As soon as Milton heard who it was, he couldn’t help but frown.

“Tch, guess I should at least meet with them. Show them to the parlor.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

After sending the chamberlain to guide the guests, Milton reluctantly made his way to the parlor.

A couple of minutes later.

Three middle-aged noblemen were waiting for Milton in the parlor.

Since they had seen him growing up, Milton politely greeted them by name.

“It’s been a while Count Rosscaiz.”

“Ah, it’s great to see you again. I think the last time I saw you, you were just a child… it must have been about ten years ago?”

“About that long. It’s great to see you as well Viscounts Rosswai and Harmon.”

Milton greeted Count Rosscaiz first, then the two Viscounts because they were of a different rank from Count Rosscaiz, and etiquette demanded he greeted them separately. These three nobles were neighboring lords of Forrest Fief and previously had a relationship with Milton’s father, the former Viscount Forrest. If based on rank, only Count Rosscaiz was higher than Milton, but because the other two were older than Milton, he had to respect and honor them.

At Milton’s respectful greeting, the two Viscounts happily replied, “Congratulations on inheriting the viscounty, Viscount Forrest.”

“It must be a lot of pressure to take care of the fief at such a young age. If you have any questions, don’t be shy and feel free to ask.”

Milton smiled at Viscounts Rosswai and Harmons’ words. Harmon’s “feel free to ask” was comical. Previously, Milton had asked to borrow funds from the neighboring fiefs to resolve the debt with Charlotte Merchant Company. But, none of the lords had lent him a single gold coin.

‘And to come here now and say this…’

Milton had an inkling why they were here.

Once they had all sat down, Milton stopped with the small talk, “It’s a bit surprising for the three of you to visit so unexpectedly. May I ask why you’ve come?”

The three lords were a bit startled to hear Milton ask them so directly, but Count Rosscaiz answered calmly.

“Oh, it’s nothing important. Since you’ve inherited the fief, we came to greet you.”

“Is that so? I apologize, I should have gone to greet you first.”

At Milton’s humble apology, the three lords laughed.

“Hahaha… Don’t worry about it. You’re a young lord, it happens. Aren’t I right, Viscounts?”

“You’re absolutely right, Count Rosscaiz.”

“It’s understandable, Viscount Forrest is so young. We should do everything to teach and guide him.”

Listening to the three, Milton couldn’t help but curse.

‘These old bastards…’

Milton was fuming on the inside but continued to smile as he talked with them.

“Since inheriting the title, I’ve had some difficult issues that needed to be resolved and didn’t have the time to greet the elders of the neighboring fiefs.”

“……”

“……”

“……”

As Milton subtly reminded them of their past behavior, the three of them had an awkward expression on their face. He had originally gone to them for help when things were difficult, but they had coldly turned him away. And now, here they were, behaving as if they were the elders of his family.

With the intent of stopping Milton from bringing up the past, Count Rosscaiz remarked, “Cough, well, the past is all in the past. Isn’t it more important that we have a good relationship between the territories?”

As though positively agreeing with him, Milton answered, “You’re right. Thankfully, the territory’s problems were all resolved and you don’t need to worry.”

Of course, by those words, Milton really meant ‘I can live without your help, so stop with your bullshit and leave.’ Since it seemed like Milton wasn’t in a good mood, Count Rosscaiz got to the main point.

“Well, anyway. I heard that your fief is auctioning off surplus foods. Is that true?”

‘And here it is.’

Milton could see where this was going.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Ah… that’s amazing. Our territories all had a poor harvest and the villagers are worried about surviving the winter.”

“Really? That’s odd, my territory is doing alright. Was there an issue with the taxes?”

Viscount Harmon erupted in anger.

“What do you mean by that? Are you accusing Count Rosscaiz of overtaxing his villagers?”

‘Ha, you’re telling me he didn’t?’ 

While Milton might mock Viscount Harmon in his head, he was able to lie with a straight face.

“I apologize. I only assumed that because Count Rosscaiz is older and more competent than I am, but there was a shortage of food. Perhaps, the administrator made a mistake with the taxes?”

“Your words…”

“Or, does Viscount Harman think that Count Rosscaiz deliberately imposed a “harsh” tax to the innocent villagers and now they’re suffering for it?”

“……”

Viscount Harmon’s face hardened, but if he denied Milton’s words, then Count Rosscaiz would either become an incompetent lord or a vicious and harsh lord.

‘What an insolent and sharp-tongued bastard.’ 

Count Rosscaiz was displeased with Milton’s behavior and tendency to spit out words laden with thorns. Even so, he had to put aside his anger in order to achieve the reason he came to Forrest Manor.

“Anyway, I hear you have quite a bit of food stocked up in your Manor. Am I correct?”

“No, I don’t have a lot of extra food. Just enough to be comfortable.”

“Even being comfortable is a blessing right now.”

“What are you getting at?”

“I’ll be direct. Since you’re planning on selling the food anyway, why don’t you sell it to us.”

“To you?”

“That’s right. We’ve even brought with us the money to buy the food right now.”

While telling Milton his proposal, Count Rosscaiz gave him a slip of paper. On that paper was the amount they were willing to spend to buy the food from him.

But…

‘These f**kers…’

As soon as Milton saw the amount, he wanted to kick over the table. The price they offered was far below this year’s food prices, no, it was even lower than last year’s. Of course in commerce, it was natural to try to buy things cheaply. But there was a limit. This was a price that could only be offered if they thought Milton was a pushover. With a hard expression, Milton responded.

“This price doesn’t match the current prices.”

“Huh… Are you perhaps trying to do business with us? Us? The people you’ve been neighbors with for so long?”

“Tsk tsk… if the former Viscount Forrest heard this, he’d be turning in his grave.”

“It must be because he’s so young. He doesn’t know how the world works yet.”

Each word these old bastards spoke just served to further irritate Milton.

Whether he didn’t know of Milton’s anger or was simply ignoring it, Count Rosscaiz calmly spoke next.

“Look, Viscount Forrest. We’re all neighbors, you can even say we’re in the same faction. So how can you turn away your own neighbors when they’re struggling, just to make quick money?

“Is that so? So you’re saying it’s not right to turn your neighbors away when they need help? Then that's weird. I don't remember receiving your help when I was in trouble.”

At that, Count Rosscaiz waved his hand as if it was bothersome.

“That’s all in the past. Isn’t focusing on the future the important thing here?”

“……”

Count Rosscaiz’s behavior of ignoring everything but what was beneficial to him was absurd and disgusting. And the funniest thing was, Milton was familiar with this “self-beneficial” kind of logic.

The reason was…

‘Was this bastard Department Head Lee in his previous life?’

That’s right. His behavior was exactly the same as the previous life’s Park Moonsoo’s department head — the same department head who forcibly tried to erase his own mistakes from the memories of his subordinates while emphasizing their own mistakes. Count Rosscaiz was so similar to the department head that Milton couldn’t help but be suspicious that the old bastard had also lived a similar life as Park Moonsoo. In a way, since Park Moonsoo had died from overworking, the old bastard might be considered the enemy of his past life. If he wanted to eat, Milton, then Park Moonsoo, had to obey the unreasonable demands from bastards like the department head in his previous life.

But things were different now. Ignoring the two Viscounts, as much as Count Rosscaiz might want to be, he wasn’t Milton’s superior. Strictly speaking, although Count Rosscaiz’s title was one rank higher, that didn’t mean he had rank and command over Milton. This was Forrest Fief and Milton, as the owner of this territory, had independent autonomy. Signaling he didn’t want to listen any further, Milton cut them off.

“I’m sorry, but I refuse your offer.”

If possible, Milton would have liked to refuse the offer in a roundabout way. But the three lords in front of him made that impossible. He could only reject the offer directly.

Viscount Harmon immediately jumped out of his seat shouting, “Viscount Forrest! What do you mean by this?!”

“Please stop shouting. You made me an offer, and I rejected it. Is there anything more you would like to say?”

Out of the three, Viscount Harmon was the most hot-tempered and his glaring eyes were saying, ‘how dare you’ to Milton.

Without even blinking an eye, Milton just stared at him.

‘What. You got a problem?’

In the end, it was Viscount Harmon who had to look away from Milton’s cold and unflinching eyes.

‘This… this bastard! How impudent…!’

Standing up, Milton said, “If you have nothing more to say, please leave. This isn’t a very pleasant atmosphere.”

At Milton’s rude demand, Count Rosscaiz stood up saying, “You won’t regret this?”

If Count Rosscaiz’s words were coercive before, they were threatening now.

“That isn’t something you need to be worried about, Count Rosscaiz.”

Viscount Rosswai frowned.

“You! You dare…”

“That’s enough.”

Count Rosscaiz interrupted Viscount Rosswai and stood up. As he was leaving the parlor, he stopped at the door and looked at Milton.

“We’ll be seeing you soon.”

His words were more of a threat than a farewell.

And because Milton understood that…

“As often as you want.”

He promised to meet any provocation head-on.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter