Chapter 197. Currency Reform (14)

At the end of the first day of the conference, the first person to get out of their seat was Duke Asteria.

"Well, I think this concludes today’s schedule, so let's get up first. I want to rest until the banquet.” The duke insinuated and left the hall with me in tow.

When the duke said he wanted to rest, other nobles looked at him with complex and subtle gazes.

Those who wanted to borrow the duke’s power through the agenda of the conference would probably be anxious, and those that wanted to build a connection with the duke, irrelevant to the agenda, were probably disappointed.

Leaving all those gazes behind, Duke Asteria headed to the room assigned to us, and when we were out of everybody’s sight, he asked with a playful smile, "What do you think of today's conference?"

What he was asking about was probably the war of nerves between the prime minister and the nobles over the currency reform.

"I thought the prime minister was a very terrifying person,” I said with a slight smile

The duke also smiled and nodded. "Kuhaha! Yes. Arthemius is a very scary person. Although people say that he had the Blood Emperor’s backing since he was a child, as soon as he became the prime minister, he suddenly abolished slavery saying that the nobles needed to be put in their place."

The prime minister's abolition of slavery was a very famous story. In fact, there was a rumor doing the round that the Blood Emperor manipulated the prime minister in abolishing slavery. But seeing the prime minister today, it was likely something led by the prime minister.

“And? What about the other nobles?” 

“Honestly, I was disappointed,” I answered truthfully.

The duke smiled and waited for me to continue.

I sighed and continued. "Anyone can see that the currency reform is a sign that he will put a leash on the nobles. Ironically, however, the cooperation of the nobles is indispensable in reforming the currency. If they had kept that in mind and persisted on that point, they could have hindered currency reform."

The premise of the prime minister's currency reform was to create banks in various provinces of the empire. However, the provinces that the prime minister talked about were strictly the lands of the nobles. If the nobles interfered with this point, it was possible to overturn the currency reform. 

"And at the end, I couldn't bear to watch him look triumphant about the alliance with the Crows and other tribes. It was ridiculous to think that someone like the prime minister wouldn’t have  taken that much into account."

The duke burst into laughter at my answer. "Kuhahahaha! That's right. It's ridiculous. But you're also still naïve.”

I looked at him curiously.

"To be honest, when I am speaking with you, I think that there isn’t anyone as cunning as you,  but now that I see it, you don't have enough experience. Well, since you've never been amid a political arena at your age, it makes sense that you didn’t notice.”

"Is there something I missed?"

"Yes, there is." He nodded confidently.

"Could you teach me?"

"Well, what should I do? Try acting cute. Now that I'm this old, I'm at an age where I want to play with my grandchildren. If I had a grandchild, he would be about your age."

I laughed freely at Duke Asteria's mischievous remarks.

"I will take you to your room. You must be tired, so it would be good to have a good rest," I said.

My acting cute was not cheap enough to be seen except when I wanted something badly or when I was provoking my opponent.

The duke grumbled. "Tch, you’re mean, too. How could you refuse this old man's request? The more I see you, the more you resemble my daughter." He whined and grinned.

"Oh well. I'll especially give you the answer. You probably only focused on the words and actions of the prime minister who was unilaterally attacking. But you shouldn't do that. You should have also focused on the words and actions of Count Druval, who was being attacked."

"Count Druval?"

"Yes, you seem to think of this conference, or broadly, the whole of politics, as a battlefield."

Duke Asteria spoke as if he knew my thoughts.

I tilted my head and asked back, "Is it not?"

The duke grinned at my retort. "Not, if it isn’t, and yes, if it is."

Seeing him answering in an ambiguous manner, I asked sullenly, "Do you mean like, if you put it on your nose, it is a nose ring, and if you put it on your ear, it is an earring?”

The duke flicked his finger at my grumbling. "That's correct. You're smart enough to get the point immediately. That's politics."

I was dumbfounded by the praise.

"The political battle just now was like a well-organized puppet show. The prime minister has been secretly preparing for currency reform for years. To describe how well he kept it a secret in terms of information agencies, there wouldn’t be any information agencies that could have done better other than Big Mama Information Agency. So, it was so much a secret that even Count Druval, who is proficient in gathering information, didn't know."

The duke, who had been talking for a long time, became thirsty and asked me for water. After wetting his throat, the duke continued his explanation.

"But even if it's been hidden under tight security, there's a gap before it's announced. Through that gap, Druval might have noticed the currency reform, but it would have been too late to do anything. So Count Druval probably gathered as much information as he could on the currency reform. Since, if you enter the palace without any information, you will only become food for the prime minister. That's why Count Druval risked his life to gain a valuable "one minute" and arrived late.

For someone who was not a duke, but a mere count, being a minute late was like risking losing everything. The situation was probably that Count Druval was having an argument with the prime minister with his life on the line, and survived.

"Hmm, you should understand with this much explanation, right?”

"Yes, that is enough. The point is that Count Druval proposed to secure the weaknesses of the reform by arguing without deliberately pointing out loopholes in the reform. In return, it's a request to save himself."

As mentioned earlier, there was an insecure element that the prime minister's currency reform needed the cooperation of the nobles. Count Druval was suggesting that he would solve the insecure element.

"That's exactly right. Count Druval's opposition to the prime minister drew the attention of the nobles to the paper currency. That's why the banks, which are at the heart of the currency reform, weren’t discussed."

If you wondered if the prime minister and Count Druval had talked in advance, it did not seem to be the case given the Count Druval’s appearance during the conference. This meant that they sent each other implicit messages in the middle of the dispute.

My gosh, I heard that there was enmity within the palace but it felt more like a monster’s den!

I felt something was strange when Duke Asteria nodded. Did the prime minister perhaps not know about the insecure element?

"Has Your Highness, by chance, been working together with the prime minister?”

Come to think of it, there was no way that the prime minister would have pushed for reform with such a weak point. That meant that the prime minister had already found someone to do what Count Druval had proposed in the first place.

If the prime minister had considered Count Druval an obstacle and pushed ahead, he would have chosen a person who could take care of Count Druval's financial power. There were several markets of similar sizes to Count Druval’s, but Duke Asteria was the only one who could also account for a count’s power.

"Uhuhuhu, that's correct.” The duke smiled and clapped. "Of course, as you may have guessed, some of the other markets besides mine have agreed to cooperate. But I think I'm the only one who can pull together the cooperation of other nobles."

Another reason that Duke Asteria was chosen was probably that he was moderate while Count Druval was like a typical noble. Above all, the duke was the best choice for the prime minister as he contributed to the abdication of the previous emperor and helped enthrone the current emperor.

No matter how Count Druval struggled, the game was already over as soon as the two dukes joined hands. The conference itself was like a staged gambling match. The reform would probably cause the fall of many nobles, but no one would care.

"By the way, as I thought, I like you. What do you think? Do you still not want to come work for me?"

I smiled humbly at the duke’s suggestion. “In the end, I am just a civil servant, and so, I think it would be better for me to live comfortably."

Having to calculate and have psychological warfare with my life on the line was not my cup of tea. 

The duke smiled playfully. "That's too bad. The political world has lost a great talent.”

Upon arriving at the assigned room, the duke and I entered.

Anyways, I think people from my hometown will be attending the banquet. Should I run away?

-o-

The emperor glanced at the clock and put down the cup he was holding.

"Thank you for understanding the circumstances of the empire."

The Dragon King laughed aloud. "Uahahahaha! What is there to be thankful for? All we have to do is just receive a new currency on behalf of the existing one. Rather, I have no complaints since it will increase the convenience of using banks and reduce the hassle."

Hestia grinned at the Dragon King, "For the details of this, I should talk with the prime minister, right?”

The emperor was instinctively alarmed by Hestia's smile.

"Hahaha, yes. You can talk to the prime minister about everything."

The emperor intuitively felt that it was more dangerous to argue with Hestia about profits than to deal with the old raccoons of the political world, and dumped everything on to the prime minister. Thinking that since the prime minister was much smarter than himself, and that he wouldn't be beaten easily, the emperor unknowingly pushed him to hell.

"We will have the banquet soon, so we had better all go back to our quarters and get ready," said the emperor.

Everybody nodded.

"Then I will excuse myself first."

After the Dragon King got up from his seat, the Great Elder also got up from his seat. "See you in a little while.”

When the Dragon King and the Great Elder left their seats first, Hestia also rose from her seat.

"Oh, may I know where Duke Asteria-nim is staying?" asked Hestia.

The emperor looked at her curiously. "Why do you ask where the duke is staying?"

"I just want to see him before the banquet because I think we will be seeing each other more often about the currency reform.”

The emperor nodded. "I see. The head butler outside will show you the way."

"Thank you." Hestia greeted lightly and left the audience room.

When Hestia and her aides disappeared completely from the audience room, the emperor sighed, drooping over the sofa.

"She really looks like Anemone." He smiled sadly.

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