Develop 162

Chapter 162 Secret Meeting

Edited by: Kanaa-senpai

 In the imperial capital of the Cladigium Empire, there was a quiet tavern. It was not bustling; the calm clientele that frequented it enjoyed their drinks in silence. In the back of the establishment, within a few private rooms, a large room held nearly ten individuals who were gathered around a table, engaged in conversation without touching the drinks. Not only was it strange to be discussing matters without consuming food or drink, but what made it even stranger were the people sitting there. They came from various walks of life—different ages, genders, and even social standings. People who shouldn’t have even sat at the same table were conversing with seemingly no barriers.

 ”The kingdom seems mostly clean. So, the prime suspect is the republic, isn’t it? How about that side?”

 ”No signs. Couldn’t find a trace of Curtio or anything related.”

 ”What? But didn’t you boldly claim that you’ll handle the investigation since your family controls the trade route with the republic?”

 ”Kakkakka, well, it seems I couldn’t investigate as much as I thought, all thanks to that kid’s father.”

 ”That’s right. Haah, I wish that conniving bastard would just pass away soon. That scheming, vile old man.”

 They exchanged words as if it was perfectly natural, but the man who spoke first was a mid-level employee of a major transportation firm responsible for logistics between the empire and the kingdom. The person he was sarcastically addressing was the heir of Viscount Pelland, who held the sole trading route between the empire and the republic within their territory.

 Even just this would be an unlikely interaction due to their differing statuses. However, interjected between them, making fun of their positions, was an old homeless man with no status or even wealth. Normally, these relationships shouldn’t allow for conversation at all. Yet, here they sat at the same table, where a noble’s heir was jestingly confronted by a firm employee, and a vagabond interrupted—a scene that would leave any outsider doubting their own eyes.

 ”Well then, can we consider that the source and distribution path of Curtio are still unknown?”

 A woman with long hair interjected into the trio’s conversation, and both the firm employee and noble’s heir answered her question.

 ”Yes, nothing has changed since the last report on my end.”

 ”On my part, there hasn’t been any progress in the investigation since the last time. That damned father has been cautious, so we didn’t make much headway. We found two types of illegal substances unrelated to Curtio, about a dozen illegal slaves, and some odd money flows.”

 ”For other matters, everything is fine for now. Such poisons can sometimes turn into medicine. But Curtio, the prohibited substance, is a deadly poison that cannot be overlooked. Have we gathered any information from the criminal slave?”

 The long-haired woman turned to another woman sitting diagonally across from her.

 ”No, despite our efforts, he’s still in a daze. Conversations are impossible. Amelia-sama plans to take him to the settlement and extract information using the authority of Neil Atmiras. However, it’s unlikely we’ll get any significant information.”

 ”Even if we were to extract something from the criminal slave, it would probably be only information about the person who performed the surgery, and most likely, the perpetrator is Baron Florentz, who is almost certainly also a victim. Oh, what a cliché and predictable story it would be. No need to turn it into a story.”

 ”Nobody’s asking for your opinion…”

 The noble’s heir muttered with a hint of exasperation at the words of the man who seemed like a minstrel.

 ”As for the perpetrator, it’s still speculative at this point. Just confirming it would be sufficient. Please continue your efforts to extract information from the criminal slave.”


 As the discussion about Curtio came to an end and everyone fell into silence, the firm employee murmured something in a low voice.

 ”But then again, people are talking about the ‘settlement’ again. I’ve been hearing that term a lot lately.”

 ”Is that so? I haven’t heard it on my end.”

 ”Well, in your case, you just intentionally ignore everything except stories that might be good material for a story! If you just listened to rumors, you’d inevitably catch wind of it. Especially regarding crops growing out of season, it’s even spreading to other countries.”

 ”Talk about crops, but the talk that’s spreading amongst the nobles is about the Sincere Dwarf who’s been willingly working for nobles and happily cooperating. That’s the hot topic.”

 ”Happily? From what I heard, the Sincere Dwarf gave them outrageous demands to discourage them, and they reluctantly accepted to keep their own promises. Well, what a mundane and unsurprising story that would be. No need to turn it into a story.”

 ”At first, that’s true. But when you look deeper, they’ve received additional requests, and the nature of those requests has become quite concessional towards the settlement. They’re even lending money to the settlement without interest to build structures.”

 ”Really? The Sincere Dwarf… it’s hard to believe.”

 ”Indeed, the Sincere Dwarf and their group returned to the city at the end of the year and happily headed to the settlement, claiming they still have work to do there. How they managed to lure in the Sincere Dwarf, who had staunchly avoided dealings with nobles until now, is the talk of the nobles.”

 ”Kakkakka, the nobles have always been trying various tactics to make the Sincere Dwarf listen. They must be annoyed that some upstart got ahead of them. Quite amusing.”

 The old homeless man chuckled joyfully, but just then, there was a knock on the door of the private room. After a moment’s pause, the tavern’s owner opened the door and entered the room.

 ”I brought some refreshments—food and drinks.”

 ”Oh, perfect timing. We were just losing focus and chatting.”

 The owner placed the dishes on the table, set a glass of Gras in front of each person, and poured the drinks. As the owner came to her side, the woman with long hair gave a slightly apologetic look.

 ”Sorry as always. We’re using your place after all.”

 ”What’s the matter? I’m getting more than enough for the rent. I have to do something to avoid retribution. Anyway, here’s today’s drink.”

 The owner revealed a bottle of alcohol he had in his hand while saying that. The woman’s eyebrow twitched slightly at the sight of the bottle, but her reaction lasted only for a moment. She consciously suppressed any further reaction and took a sip of the Gras that had been poured for her.

 As they enjoyed the food and drinks, the conversation continued, and eventually, the meeting came to an end for the day.

 ”Well then, if you’ll excuse me.”

 The noble’s heir stood up and left the private room. A few minutes later, one person after another got up and left as well, exiting the establishment one by one to avoid attracting attention and to maintain the appearance of normalcy in their relationships.

 Finally, only the woman with long hair remained. However, even after the previous occupants had left for several minutes, she showed no intention of leaving her seat. Quietly sipping her drink, she seemed lost in thought. At that moment, the door to the private room opened without a knock, and a man entered.

 ”You’re quite absorbed in your drinking. Even though I picked out this alcohol specifically for you.”

 ”If that’s the case, then I’ll ask for something with a bit less alcohol content. This drink is too strong.”

 Saying that, the woman finished the last drops of the alcohol in her glass of Gras and fixed a piercing gaze on the man.

 ”So, what brings you here this time? You’ve gone to the trouble of calling me over, so I assume you have something fitting to discuss?”

 The woman asked as she tapped the empty bottle of the drink she had just finished. This was a signal, a secret arrangement between the man and woman that was exchanged when the bottle was presented as a gift. Incidentally, they shared only the bottle; the alcohol inside was something entirely different that the man had chosen on the spot.

 ”Do you know that I recently visited the settlement?”

 ”Of course. Don’t underestimate our information network. I would have liked to say ‘Don’t bother hiding anything from us,’ but knowing you, you probably didn’t intend to hide it from us anyway, did you?”

 ”Well then, as you might have deduced from the preliminary information, I visited for the purpose of discussing matters related to the settlement.”

 ”Oh, are you going to provide us with information? We’ve been struggling to infiltrate that rumored settlement. It’s quite welcome to have someone who’s actually been there share their insights.”

 ”Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for idle chitchat. I left without a word, specifically to return promptly.”

 ”That’s disappointing… Sthen what do you want me to do with my precious time?”

 As the woman inquired with a probing tone, the man retrieved an envelope from his pocket and tossed it onto the table.

 ”What’s this?”

 ”It’s an introduction letter to the settlement. If you show it to Neil, he’ll welcome you under any conditions.”

 ”…If my memory serves me right, you had quite an attachment to Atmiras’ prodigy. Why would you resort to something like this?”

 ”I told you, I don’t have time to chat. So, what’s it going to be? Will you accept that introduction letter or not?”

 After the man’s question, the woman showed a hint of contemplation before decisively reaching for the envelope and stowing it away in her pocket.

 ”We show no mercy to anyone, no matter who they are. Nobles, of course, even members of the royal family. If we determine that Atmiras’ prodigy poses a threat to the Empire, we will not hesitate to act. Since I’ve given you this, don’t hold any resentment even if it comes to that.”

 ”I understand. Then…”


 As the man turned on his heel to leave the room, the woman stopped him.

 ”Tell me one last thing, please. What exactly is Atmiras’ prodigy to you? I thought he was your favorite, and yet you’re suddenly resorting to such tactics. What are you after?”

 Filled with doubt about the man’s intentions, the woman questioned him. Meanwhile, the man, who was impossible to read, showed a slight, almost imperceptible hint of loneliness in his expression.

 ”You don’t understand because you’re looking at a different place than I am. The reason you don’t get it is that you’re seeing things differently from me and Neil.”

 ”So, Atmiras’ prodigy sees the same place as you?”

 ”Not exactly the same. When I look up, he look down. When I look right, he look left. The scenery in our line of sight is different, but I believe we’re aiming for the same destination.”

 ”…I don’t get it.”

 ”You’ll probably never understand. Our conversation ends here. You’re free to do as you please now.”

 With those words left hanging, the man walked away. After seeing his departure, the woman named Shouhyou leaned back deeply into her chair.

 ”Sigh… I’d do whatever I want even without being told. He’s always so cryptic, I can’t fathom what’s going on in his head.”

 Muttering such words in frustration, the woman took out the folded letter from her pocket and examined it.

 ”Atmiras’ prodigy… well, he’s not really a prodigy anymore since he has reached adulthood. But to make that man say such things… I’ll need to carefully select the personnel I send.”

 And so, in places unknown to Neil, the circumstances surrounding the settlement continued to change with each passing moment.

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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
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