Chapter 186 Unforeseen Length
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
”Master Neil, do you know about the conflict between the Dwarf nobles and the Imperial nobles that happened in the past?”
”Yes, I know.”
”And what about the incident that sparked the escalation of that conflict?”
”I know that too. It was because the Dwarf noble was betrayed by the Imperial noble whom they believed to be their friend.”
”Um, anything else? No, I only know this much.”
”…So you only know that much. Based on what Master Neil said earlier, there is one correction to be made. That Imperial noble didn’t pretend to be a friend. They were a true friend, someone who had been together since childhood, someone who can be called a one and only.”
A one and only friend, it’s like the relationship between Ronim-san and Viscount Hedmaer from the past, I think, as I listen to the story.
”The two who gained unmatched martial feats in a certain war were both ennobled, and were granted a portion of the lands won in that war by the emperor. The Dwarf noble who confronted everyone head-on, his friend skillfully acted as a buffer, and while minor issues remained, thanks to his friend the Dwarf noble was able to develop as a noble while maintaining the traditions of the Dwarves. It should have ended there, but it didn’t end so simply.”
”This is about the falling out between those two, right?”
”Well, yes, their falling out was certainly the trigger, but it would have just remained an issue between two houses if it had stopped there. The reason it escalated into a factional issue was because of the many Dwarves the emperor took on as nobles at the time. It seems the emperor was quite fed up with the conduct of the imperial nobles, and took a strong liking to the straightforward ways of the Dwarves. But Dwarves and imperial nobles are like oil and water – if they clashed, conflict could not be avoided. So to act as mediators between the two sides, he prepared people on both the imperial noble side and the Dwarf side.”
I see, the story is becoming clearer bit by bit.
”Is it true that those two were chosen as intermediaries?”
”That’s right. The Emperor probably intended for them to be mere intermediaries and representatives for both sides, but as a result, factions were formed when they were appointed as representatives, and those two became the leaders of their respective factions. If it is said that those two, who became faction leaders in such a situation, had a falling out…”
”It means that conflict between the factions is inevitable, right?”
”If you knew about the conflict between the Imperial nobles and the Dwarf nobles, then you should also know about the outcome of that conflict. The Dwarves, who disliked unnecessary bloodshed, returned their titles to the Emperor all at once, and war was somehow avoided. However, I don’t know what happened to the Dwarves after that.”
”Yes, but with Ronim-san’s introduction about the ‘ancestors and Imperial nobles’ and the current conversation, I can roughly guess the situation. The Sincere Dwarves are the firm established by the Dwarves who were former Imperial nobles, right?”
In response to my speculation, Ronim-san nodded slowly.
”That’s correct. The name ‘Sincere Dwarves’ was also chosen as a dig at the Imperial nobles. It means ‘We are different from the dishonest Imperial nobles.’”
”I always thought it was ridiculous for the dwarves to boast about their honesty, but now I understand that it was meant as a criticism towards the imperial nobility… However, I didn’t know that the two people who started the conflict were friends before. I had heard that they became friends after becoming nobles.”
”Most likely, when they came into conflict with the dwarves, it would be inconvenient for the nobles in the same faction to know that they were friends with the dwarves. So, they conveniently fabricated the truth. Fabricating such things is a specialty of the imperial nobility. That’s why you now understand why the imperial nobility is so insistent on the Sincere Dwarves, right?”
”At first, I thought maybe they were harassing each other because they had a grudge against each other. But the imperial nobility wouldn’t do something that wouldn’t benefit them in any way, and they certainly wouldn’t try to establish a relationship with the Sincere Dwarves if it was just harassment.”
”The fact that the imperial nobility only acts when there is a benefit involved means that they must gain some sort of advantage by being connected to the Sincere Dwarves. I understood that much, but I couldn’t figure out the crucial benefit for the imperial nobility.”
The Sincere Dwarves may have a unique origin as a firm, but other than that, there is not much difference from other dwarf-established firms. Even though I have a connection with the Sincere Dwarves, I don’t think there are any special benefits to be gained, and personally, I have never felt any special benefits from being contracted with the Sincere Dwarves.
”So, have you found the answer?”
”…No, I don’t understand.”
”Well, that means your thought process has not been completely influenced by the imperial nobility. The Sincere Dwarves was founded by former dwarf nobles who turned away from the imperial nobility and descended to the common people. If you can make the Sincere Dwarves, who has stubbornly refused requests from nobles, accept a noble’s request, then you can show your power to other nobles.”
In response to the excessively imperial noble-like content, a voice mixed with astonishment escaped from my mouth.
If it is a firm created by the dwarf nobles who have a grudge against the imperial nobles in the past, with the claim that they will never accept requests from nobles, then if they can subjugate it and make them accept the request, they can demonstrate their own power by achieving what other nobles could not.
It’s a very imperial noble-like idea, scheming to make the Sincere Dwarves accept work in every possible way to be respected by others.
”Seriously, what a ridiculous story. They keep pressuring me to accept requests just to raise their own stock. I sent them ridiculously unreasonable contracts that would ruin their reputation, and when I said I would accept it if the content was like that, they all gave up…”
”Ah, ahahaha, I’m sorry.”
Feeling the awkwardness from Ronim-san’s indescribable gaze, I bow my head.
”I never thought there would be a noble who would accept that content. I haven’t asked intentionally until now, but at this point, why did you consider entering into a contract with that content?”
”I had been rejected countless times before, and I didn’t have much time to look for other vendors. I knew I was being approached, but the crop sales were going well, and I could afford to make the payment. Plus, since it was a request in the frontier, I intended to pay more as a danger allowance. I trusted that the dwarves wouldn’t slack off on the job. I wanted to entrust the task to a reliable place that would ensure a job well done, rather than risk hiring a shady vendor and getting shoddy work for my money.”
”I see, that’s just like Master Neil’s way of thinking.”
”Hmm? Why did you suddenly go silent?”
”Well, at that time, I was only focused on repairing the mansion quickly. I had no idea that the Sincere Dwarves were attracting attention from the imperial nobles.”
Due to the aforementioned reasons, the Sincere Dwarves are gaining attention from the imperial nobles. In a place where the eyes and ears of the imperial nobles were concentrated, I ended up entering into a contract with content that would ruin my reputation as a noble, completely unaware of it.
The contents of the contract I signed with that firm at the time weren’t really something that would spread around, and even if it leaked, I didn’t think it would have much of an impact. But listening to the current conversation, it’s clear that it will have a considerable effect.
”So, does this mean that the fact that I made the contract with that content has become known to the Imperial nobles?”
”Well… I’m sure those guys have known about it for a while, but don’t worry, you shouldn’t be in the situation you’re imagining.”
”What do you mean?”
”There was a time when we went back to the city. We updated the contract at that time and informed the relevant parties that we had re-received it at the regular amount. Somehow, that information leaked, and it became a rumor in Denar that you had made a contract with a Sincere Dwarves with an unreasonable content, only to renegotiate a contract advantageous to myself! They said, ‘What skills to attract and tame the other party, truly a prodigy of Atmiras.’”
”Huh? What is that rumor… or rather, won’t that rumor cause trouble for Ronim-san and the others?”
“Don’t bother, what we despise are those who only propagate pleasing stories. We don’t care about the people around us making a fuss without any relation to the person in question.”
”But if rumors spread that you’ve been appeased, it would damage the reputation of the Sincere Dwarves.”
”Enough! Don’t fuss over the details! We’re saying we don’t care! If you’re an imperial noble, you should be prepared to take advantage of such an opportunity, or else you’ll be devoured in no time!”
Ronim-san slammed the bottle on the floor, filled with indignation.
While feeling the pressure from his presence, I voiced a question that had been on my mind for a while.
”Ronim-san, you dislike the imperial nobles, right?”
”Huh? Why ask such a thing now, it’s obvious――”
”Yet, you advised me to become like an imperial noble, saying that I won’t survive otherwise. Why is that?”
”Please tell me, do you truly dislike the imperial nobles? If you do, then why did you give me contradictory advice to become like them?”
That’s a question I’ve had for a long time, and it’s a question I haven’t had the opportunity to ask. Ronim-san avoids the imperial nobility, that’s for sure, but unlike other dwarves, he never openly shows dislike. So, I thought that maybe Ronim-san doesn’t actually hate the imperial nobility as much as he says he does.
”I dislike them, there’s no lie or deceit in that. It’s because there’s no reason for me to like them, but there are plenty of reasons for me to dislike them.”
”In that case, why?”
”I understand what Master Neil is trying to say. As you said, I am hopelessly contradictory. I dislike the imperial nobility… but think about it, if your friend was about to be used as food for the imperial nobility, and the only way to prevent it was for your friend to stoop to the same level as the imperial nobility… what would you do? Would you be okay with your friend being used as food? Or would you be okay with your friend becoming tainted by the ways of the imperial nobility? Which would you choose?”
”I couldn’t find an answer to this contradiction. Should I be happy that I haven’t been turned into the food of the Empire’s nobility, like that guy? Or should I lament not only my position but also the fact that I have become a complete member of the Empire’s nobility, even in my heart? I can’t find an answer to this contradiction.”
As tears fell from Ronim-san’s eyes, the doubts that I had been carrying within me began to dissipate. The words of hating the Empire’s nobility and the advice to act like one were not lies.
Ronim-san knew. He knew that his ancestor’s friend had been completely corrupted by being a member of the Empire’s nobility, and they knew that the same fate awaited them if they were to become one.
So they were troubled. Should they accept their friend’s destruction at the hands of the Empire’s nobility while remaining friends, or should they accept their friend becoming a member of the Empire’s nobility and survive? Both options were undoubtedly Ronim-san’s wishes, and they were struggling with this contradiction.
”I can’t help but think that he’s a small-minded man. It’s such a contradiction that he despises the imperial nobility, yet he wishes for his friend to become one. It’s frustrating beyond belief.”
”That’s why, even now that Lord Hedmar has become an imperial noble, you still can’t bring yourself to hate him completely. You knew that there was no other way to survive as an imperial noble.”
”That’s right! The path he chose was an inevitable one for the survival of the Mire clan. Even though I understood that, I couldn’t forgive him… I really am too soft-hearted for my own good.”
”Shall we try talking to Lord Hedmar again? If we can show each other our true feelings, just like he did with me earlier, then maybe–“
”That would be impossible. No matter what happens, he will never show his true self. I realized that in our previous exchange. Even his desire to reconcile is just a facade, his true feelings are probably the same as any other imperial noble.”
”But you don’t know that for sure! Even if his goal as an imperial noble is as you say, there might still be a part of him deep down that wants to reconcile with Ronim-san, don’t you think?”
”If that’s the case, he is undoubtedly an imperial noble now. As an imperial noble, he chooses profit over friendship. I…I cannot tolerate being betrayed by a friend like my ancestors were.”
Because Viscount Hedmar is an imperial noble, and because Ronim-san is the representative of the sincere dwarves, the gap between them can never be bridged. They were once inseparable best friends torn apart by their positions. Although I wanted to do something to help, I couldn’t think of anything in my current state.
Then, a long silence fell, and in the room, the only sound was Ronim-san’s occasional sobbing. But suddenly, I heard the creaking sound of the door behind me, and when I turned around, I saw Zora peering through the slightly ajar door. When our eyes met, Zora looked embarrassed and slowly opened the door, entering the room.
”So, you were still talking?”
”No, I just arrived here late. It hasn’t been that long since then. Anyway, why are you here, Zora?”
”I was told by everyone to go and check on Father’s condition. So, when I came to see him, it was eerily quiet, and I wondered if he had fallen asleep after drinking. I gently opened the door and saw… that”
I think she must have seen something unsettling. Ronim-san, too, after noticing Zora’s presence, turned away and desperately rubbed her eyes, trying to hide her tears.
”There’s no need to worry, just go back and inform Larnan and the others!”
Ignoring Ronim-san’s attempt to act tough, Zora took advantage of her turned back and quietly approached me, whispering in my ear.
”It seems like persuasion didn’t work after all. What are you planning to do now?”
”I think I’ll listen to Viscount Hedmar’s story. It might be in vain, but I want to hear his true feelings.”
”…I see. In that case, I’ll do whatever I can as well.”
”What do you mean?”
”I’ll also have a talk with Father. There are so many things I want to say, things I have to say… to both sides.”
When Zora said “to both sides,” I noticed a glimmer of determination in her eyes.
It seems that within Zora, the answers to each of their respective parents were already starting to come out.
”So in other words, Father entrusted me with this place. The head of the settlement shouldn’t just be selling oil here forever.”
”…I understand. Well then, Ronim-san, I will take my leave.”
Though I called out to him, Ronim-san did not reply, and I was seen off by Zora as I left the room. I was unable to convince Ronim-san, but this was by no means a waste, as I was able to hear the true thoughts hidden deep in Ronim-san’s heart.
With this, if I can draw out the real feelings of Lord Hedmar, perhaps some kind of answer may be obtained. And so I intended to proactively request a meeting with Lord Hedmar to discuss things further.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
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