13-2. New Year Works
Satou's here. There were many times where I had to go to work during the last day of the year once I became a working adult, but made sure to wrestle the day off during the new year's day. You have to relish the feeling of new year for at least the morning of the new year's day after all.
"--That is all, keep selling our products to procure cash until the time of the auction after the Kingdom Conference. Tell the nobles with no money that we can discuss to sell them things with credit by next month."
After putting the children to sleep, I went to Echigoya Firm and reaffirmed the direction and policy for the new year.
The people who have gathered on the top floor of the main building of Echigoya Firm are former noble daughter explorers who manage the firm including the Manager, Porina and other the workshop managers, and also Kuro's slaves, Nell and Tifaliza, six people in total.
"Kuro-sama several letters have come from nobles who are impressed with Nanashi-sama's recent endeavor, they wish to personally meet. There are letters from the three dukes and the eight marquises which require fast responses among them--"
"I won't meet them. I entrust it to Manager. Tell them that I'm going to another country with my master, Nanashi-sama."
"Certainly. As for the order of the visitations--"
"I'll leave it to you."
Manager solemnly nods without a trace of displeasure on her face even though I've left it all to her.
This girl is well-versed in the power balance of lineage nobles and negotiations, so she's more reliable in annoying negotiations than me.
"Kuro-sama, we are lacking employees for accounting and paperworks in the secret division. In addition, there have been more spies trying to intrude the residence, so I would like to request the increase of personnels that can deal with it...."
"Okay. I permit you to hire more. I'd leave it to Manager for the selection and the wages. Report only the summary to me."
"Thank you very much for your trust. However, since it's a secret division, I am thinking of buying knowledgeable slaves instead of employees."
Fumu, slaves huh.
I look up the inventory of the slave traders on the map.
It seems there are enough people in the slave trader where I bought Nell and Tifaliza.
There were many noble houses who were stripped off their peerages for the crime of treason, so maybe the retainers of those houses were sold as crime slaves.
"Very well, I permit the slave buying. Bill the payment for the end of the month."
"There is no problem with the payment, but we cannot establish master-servant contracts if Kuro-sama doesn't go yourself."
"You be the master."
"Is it alright for me to?"
I'm planning to use use Echigoya Firm's budget to buy them anyway, so there's no problem and I affirm her.
"Lastly, there's a request for our cooperation in the revival of the royal capital from the prime minister."
"Yes, although they said cooperation, it is about ordering raw materials from Echigoya Firm."
I look at the document presented by Tifaliza who's beside Manager.
The price in the contract is five times the market price so it's quite nice, but the time limit is very limited.
"Very well, accept it."
Manager told me that acquiring the raw materials would be difficult even for five times the market price since there are currently a rush for building material-buying around the royal capital.
"No problem. Order the material from the Duchy Capital, Muno territory, and Kuhanou territory."
"However, then the cost for carrying them would..."
"Have you forgotten Manager?"
There's no problem if I just carry them myself.
I can probably secure them at 20% the market price if I buy them on-site.
It shouldn't be laborious if I just have the local merchants to get the materials ready.
Once the work talk is over, we're having a new year banquet.
With Manager's instruction, the luxurious dishes and liquor prepared in downstairs are lined up on the huge table in the strategy meeting room.
--Right, I have to tell them one more thing before they all get drunk.
"Everyone, listen. Tomorrow night, I'm giving you a special duty after the night time."
The night time is around six hours after the sunset.
After confirming that everyone has heard me, I continue.
"It'll be over in a moment, but there's a high possibility that you won't be able to work afterward. Finish the work for that day beforehand."
Compared to the noise when I told them about [Special duty] at first, the room fell silent now.
I thought that there would be some complaints since they'd be getting late-night works so soon in the new year, but the atmosphere doesn't seem to be that. If anything, it seems favorable.
Good grief, you guys are too workaholic.
Manager asked me which clothes would be good for it, so I told her to wear whatever she likes.
Not like clothes would affect much during works, she sure asks some strange things.
At that time, a blue luminous point is reflected on the radar. In front of Pendragon mansion's house.
I tell everyone that I'm going to leave early since some business came up, and come back to Pendragon Mansion with [Unit Arrangement].
I realized that I had forgotten to tell the important point, "I'm taking the management-level people to the labyrinth for leveling", but since there's no danger for them anyway, telling them at the appointed day should be fine.
"Master, there is a guest."
"Ah, Lulu. Sorry for waking you up."
I change to my own clothes with Quick-Dress after getting back to my private room.
Everyone has woken up from the knocker's sound from the entrance hall, but I tell them that they may sleep, and then I go downstairs while taking only Lulu and Liza along.
When I opened the entrance, soft light of golden hair entered my view.
"Sa-Satou-san! I-I'm glad that you're alright."
Zena-san who should've been in the Labyrinth City hugs me.
While hugging me with trembling hands, she keeps repeating, "I'm glad. I'm really glad." with tearful voice.
Behind her are Lilio and the other two girls from Zena Squad. Apparently, they rode on several horses, both the girls and the horses are breathing feebly.
'Burun', I heard some familiar snort, so when I look at the horses, there are two carriage horses with dignity among the war horses and the passenger horses.
They're Gii and Darii that we left in the labyrinth city's mansion.
When I look closer, the other horses are also the horses from our mansion. Ms. Miteruna who's house-sitting the mansion probably lent them.
"Yes, please don't worry. None of our girls is hurt either. Now, everyone, you must be tired. I'll prepare the guest rooms, so please wipe your sweat and relax."
"I'll prepare the guest rooms immediately."
"Then I will take the horses to the stable."
Reacting to my words, Lulu and Liza start to act before I order them.
I invite the three people of Zena Squad while soothing Zena-san who's crying while still hugging me.
"It seemed to be terrible, but there was no victim around this area huh."
"Yes, fortune blessed us."
I guide the four to the parlor while answering Ms. Iona.
"Did a demon lord come out maybe?"
"No, it was just a round pink-colored greater demon and a lot of monsters."
When I answered the joking Lilio honestly, beside her, Zena-san who was drinking Lulu's tea turned her head as if she was going to jump.
"Ah, you don't need to worry. They were all defeated by Hero Nanashi-sama, and his Order of Golden Knights. We couldn't get a turn to come out at all."
"What a relief...."
According to Zena Squad, a priest who was training together with them in the labyrinth city suddenly received an oracle that conveyed about the crisis in the royal capital.
"Geez, stopping Zena-chi who suddenly used magic, going to run was hard you see."
"Mo-mou, Lilio! I even said so much to keep it a secret!"
You can certainly run faster than a horse with [Wind Walk] of the wind magic, but the muscle fatigue from using it is furious, so it's not suited for marathon-like long range.
"And then we asked Miteruna-dono on our accord to borrow the mansion horses and intruded everyone upon them. We forcibly and unreasonably borrowed the horses, so please I would ask your tolerance for Miteruna-dono."
"It's alright. I've given that much discretion to her."
Miss Iona apologized for Ms. Miteruna's judgment, but since there's no particular problem about it, I smile back.
Lulu come in to tell that the rooms have been prepared, so I let the girls whose stamina gauges are about to dry up to sleep.
"Zena-chi can sleep with the boy you know?"
"Mou! Stupid Lilio!"
My bed is wide, so adding only Zena-san is not a problem, but since everyone would be together, ero-things like Lilio's imagined won't happen you know.
Before parting with the girls in front of the parlor, I tell Zena-san, "Thank you for worrying about me."
"Eh? You're attending the Kingdom Conference?"
"Yes, I was elevated to Viscountcy during the 『Great Audience Ceremony』 yesterday, so I'm obliged to attend the conference."
I apologize to Zena-san and the others who are eating breakfast together with us for not being able to accompany them touring the royal capital.
I guess it can't be helped for Zena-san to mutter, "V-viscount?!" while her face is hardening. Even though I had become a honorary knight when we reunited in the labyrinth city, I jumped up three ranks to a viscount when we reunited again in the royal capital.
I wait for Zena-san to calm down and then continue the talk.
The girls intended to immediately return to the labyrinth city after confirming my safety, but since the horses need two days to rest, they're going to tour the royal capital with Ms. Lilio and Ms. Ruu recommendation.
In public, it's to be an [Inspection].
"Then maybe I should ask Liza to guide you?"
"Yes, certainly. Zena-sama, I am unfit to be Master's replacement, but I will guide you with utmost sincerity."
"Please, I'm sorry to trouble you."
Liza readily consents my request, she's going to guide Zena-san and the others.
"Getting a honorary baroness to guide you sure is luxurious~"
Reproving voice of Lulu toward Arisa's teasing words echoes in the dining room.
"Yes, I was given the peerage yesterday."
Liza solemnly answers Zena-san who's surprised.
"No way! A lizardkin is a noble?!"
"Is it because she's a mithril explorer?"
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Liza-san's achievement is not just that~"
Arisa replied the slightly rude Ms. Lilio and the plainly surprised Ms. Ruu with bragging.
"You see! She defeated that living legend, Zeff Julberg the 『Unfalling』 of Shiga Eight Swords!"
"Shiga Eight Swords is the strongest group of knights in Shiga Kingdom right?"
"I can't simply believe that being brought up suddenly, but if that's the truth, I can understand how she was given Honorary Baroness peerage."
The girls of Zena squad each reacted differently to Arisa's exaggerated remark.
It was only Zena-san who frankly commended back.
"Moreover, she declined the invitation to become a Shiga Eight Swords, and chose to be Master's retainer you know~"
Arisa sticks out her flat chest.
Lastly, she told them, "All of us have also become 『Honorary Chevaliers』 you see!", but Liza's impact was too great, their reaction were only like, "Hm~m."
I call out to Arisa to change the topic.
"Arisa, sorry but can you attend the Royal Academy until we go back to the Labyrinth city from now on?"
Actually I was to go to the royal academy myself to check the content of the lesson and head-hunting people, but since I couldn't go due to the Kingdom Conference, I thought of having Arisa as my substitute.
--However, Arisa's reaction is slightly different from my expectation.
"Awright! It's the school arc isn't it! Breaking into the school arc, in the armed battle meet, the labyrinth explorers and the triumvirate! Wooooo, I'm boilinggg!"
"Arisa, bad manners!"
Lulu scolds Arisa who stands up on her chair.
"Can't be helped nya~"
"We're in front of the guests you know?"
Arisa who's in reflecting pose is being scolded by Lulu in low voice.
"Training school nanodesu?"
"I guess it's similar. There are classes for literature, and magic besides about the labyrinth. Does everyone want to go too?"
"I want to go nodesu!"
Only four people replied energetically, Tama Pochi, Shiro, and Crow.
If Shiro and Crow go, then Nana has to go as their guardian, but I wonder how about Lulu and Mia?
"I have been given a letter of invitation from the chefs of royal castle, so I am thinking of visiting there."
Come to think of it, Lulu and the royal castle's chefs did some kind of cooking battle during the end-of-year evening party didn't they.
I'm worried to let Lulu go by herself.
"Nana, sorry but could you go with Lulu as her guard?"
"Accepted Master's order."
Nana easily nodded, so I check Mia's plan.
"Mia, what are you going to do?"
Mia had a difficult face, but she decided to go to the royal academy together with Arisa and the others since being alone in the mansion would be meaningless.
I ride with the four people of Zena Squad in the carriage going for the castle, and go toward the mansion of Earl Seryuu in the royal capital.
As expected, they can't exactly not check on Earl Seryuu's safety when they've come to the royal capital and all.
When we were telling the guards the purpose of our visit, just right at that time, a carriage carrying Earl Seryuu's party going to the royal castle came.
Zena-san and the others get down the carriage, and kneel beside the carriage of Earl Seryuu.
"Zena of Marientail house huh. I remember seeing the girls behind too."
"We have come rushing to the royal capital from the labyrinth city after hearing the disaster that happened here."
Zena-san nervously replied Earl Seryuu.
"Umu, good works."
The Earl roughly replied with appreciation and turns his view toward me.
"Then, any reason you were coming from Sir Pendragon's carriage?"
The Earl is asking Zena-san but his inquisitive line of sights are turned toward me.
Right at that, another carriage came from the mansion.
"Earl-sama, is there any problem?"
A past-thirty year-old noble with red hair comes down the carriage.
The nobleman smiles broadly when his eyes meet mine.
"Ooh, isn't it Satou-dono?!"
"Viscount Belton-sama, it has been a while."
He was the noble I saved from being eaten by spiders during the disturbance of Seryuu City's Labyrinth.
"Belton, are you two acquainted?"
"Yes, he's the benefactor who saved me and my daughter from peril in the labyrinth."
"Hou? I did not receive any report pertaining a retainer of Earl Muno being involved in the case from before...."
The earl strokes his beard as if going back his memory.
"Does Satou-dono serves Earl Muno?"
"Yes, there were some fate. I was appointed to be a honorary chevalier by Earl Muno after the incident."
"Hou, isn't that quite good!"
Viscount Belton misunderstands and claps my shoulder, bang bang, congratulating me.
This person should be a magician, but his way of rejoicing things is like a knight or a warrior. I wonder if people who use fire magic are all hearty?
"Don't be mistaken Belton. Sir Pendragon was elevated yesterday, he's a viscount like you now."
The viscount leaks out voice of surprise when the earl corrects him.
Apparently, he didn't connect that Sir Pendragon and Satou were the same person. Well, there was no way he'd thought that the peddler he knew would become a Mithril explorer.
"Master, we should go soon."
A butler-like old man who's in the same carriage as the earl warns the earl while holding a watch magic tool in one hand.
"People of Zena Squad. In light of your loyalty, I will not question the matter about you leaving your post without permission. I will provide rooms in the mansion. Relax yourself for a while before returning to the labyrinth city."
"Yes, we wish to express our gratitude."
Army-mode Zena-san sure is gallant.
Since the Earl and Viscount Belton went to the royal castle, I also went there after leaving Zena-san and the others in Earl Seryuu's mansion.
After the carriage takes me to the castle, it will go back to carry Zena-san and the others back to Pendragon Mansion where Liza is waiting.
Today's Kingdom Conference--
It's over after the selection for the people in charge of Royal Capital's revival, and the report from the three order of knights departing to go to war with Bishtal Dukedom.
There were some three-hour recesses, but at that time, a lot of nobles came to promote their daughters and daughters of their family, so I was annoyed.
The nobles who did so weren't only upper-class ones who attend the kingdom conference, but also lower-class nobles who purposely came to the conference for that sake.
Nobles from the faction of Marquis Lloyd and Earl Houen protected me during the second recess, so it was peaceful, but they came asking which dishes I was going to bring out in the cooking contest with excited faces, so I couldn't get some rest after all.
I'm thinking of doing a banquet in the guest house where Earl Muno is staying once, in order to change their target.
As expected, Pendragon Mansion is too small to invite upper nobles.