21st Century Archmage - Chapter 59
Chapter 59: The Corvain Merchants
“My liege, an urgent message has come from a southern fort.”
Currently, I was swept up in a sudden wave of magic circle research. I spent the time making around ten Mana Concentrators, thinking about a new mana circuit that could be applied to the dravits, and creating a long-distance mana communication device that could be given to each castle and fort. The monsters or Temir hadn’t shown aggressive signs of movement, so two weeks had passed like this.
But suddenly, Derval, who was busy taking care of this and that with me every day, came running into the office wearing a grave expression.
The wall of the magic circle felt almost in reach, but strangely eluded me. Because I had grasped a hint for the first time in a while, most things didn’t come into my radar.
“The Corvain Merchants are coming.”
“Corvain? Corvain, the top merchant group in the continent? Why?”
Even I was familiar with the Corvain Merchants. The major merchant groups who had guaranteed and unimpeded passage through empires and kingdoms were called the Big Five on the continent. Among them, the merchant group with the greatest vitality and influence was Corvain.
“From what I found out, it seems they will pass through the territory and go deep into the Rual Mountains.”
“Pass through the territory? Who said they could do that?”
I was already displeased because of the magic towers, so that one sentence from Derval aroused my temper.
“They have apparently done so for many years. Every year, they cross through Nerman in order to trade with the Dwarves.”
It just so happened that I had been wanting to go meet the dwarf hyung-nims once.
[TN: Hyung-nim is a term of respect for an older brother.]
Specialized construction laborers crucial for the future territory development—naturally, those were the Dwarves!
“I heard that of the few dwarf villages currently left on the continent, some are located in the Rual Mountains and Litore Mountains. It seems that Corvain has made a contract with one of those villages. Dwarves have a peculiar temperament and seldom make contracts with humans, but they are said to never betray your faith once you make a contract. And most people on the continent know that the decisive reason why Corvain was able to become the major merchant group of today is because of their contract with the Dwarves,” Derval explained in detail.
‘Dwarven-made weapons and products are all considered masterpieces, right? Then a merchant group contracted with the Dwarves must be…’
“I am told that around 200 carriages, 300 merchants and coachmen, around 500 mercenaries, and approximately 20 wyverns are coming into the territory.”
Those numbers reflected how much importance the Corvain Merchants placed on this trade.
“What are they trading?”
“We do not know for sure, but it is most likely top-quality wheat, magic-preserved beer, and other kinds of food items and fabrics.”
“Eh? That’s all? And what does the merchant group get? Don’t tell me—!”
The various masterworks made by Dwarves flashed through my head. Among them were wyvern mithril alloy armor, sans magic defense circles.
“It should be all kinds of mithril products, including wyvern armor and airplates, as well as weapons like swords and decorations favored by nobles.”
“Geh! They get all of that in return?!”
“Yes… That’s why merchants on the continent have since ancient times put their lives on the line to attempt trades with Dwarves. However, Dwarves are a race that have little interest in anything other than eating, drinking, and making items. If people carelessly intrude upon their villages, they are a race that will never, ever surrender, even if they are all killed. That is why there are not many dwarven people left on the continent.”
Dwarves lived and died by their pride. Their personalities sure were intense, as if daring you to see them as anything but descendants of master craftsmen.
“Tell Knights Janice and Ryker to block them when they’re about to pass Denfors.”
“M-my liege…” Derval said with an astounded expression.
What would happen if we were to turn our backs on the merchants when things were already like this with the magic towers was clear to Derval, and clear to me. But as long as I was Nerman’s master, I couldn’t just send them scot-free. Only by at least receiving a transit tax(?) could I preserve my face.
“Their mercenaries are probably strong too, right?”
“Most likely… I think that most of them are probably Blade Users of at least the 2nd Grade.”
If they wanted to pass through Nerman, the monster haven, they probably needed that level of force.
‘They probably have high level mages as well.’
It would easily take 1 million Gold to hire 20 wyverns and 500 Blade User-grade mercenaries. That level of force was enough to take down most countryside count territories in the empire in a single breath.
‘A contract with the Dwarves… Dwarves…’
I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
I was about to embark on a quest of the highest difficulty!
* * *
“H-How can this be…”
Their caravan had ten wyverns flying in defense formation, as well as hundreds of tense mercenaries of at least Grade 2 who were glaring as they protected the carriages.
Because of the sudden appearance of a troop of soldiers, the long trail of merchant carriages stopped. And the person in charge of the trade route, Theske, scowled as he looked at the mounted soldiers that fearlessly blocked the merchants.
“Deputy-nim, they seem to be the soldiers of Baronet Kyre, the person who recently subjugated Nerman.”
A merchant aiding the caravan cautiously spoke the identity of the troop of soldiers.
“I know. But… Why did they block our path? They dare to do so without any fear…”
It was merchanting 101 to thoroughly investigate the information about the path before departing on an important trade route like this one. Even a small variable could affect the fate of the merchant group, so they had to be careful and then some.
As such, they had comprehensively gathered information about Nerman. That’s why the moment they saw the flag with a golden-striped wyvern and moon drawn on it next to the flag of the Bajran Empire, they knew the soldiers belonged to Baronet Kyre.
“What will you do, sir?”
The cavalry blocking their path numbered five hundred at most. There were five wyverns flying above them, but Theske wasn’t scared of them at all. The ten wyverns in the back should have gotten the message about now and should be here soon.
At the assistant merchant’s words, Theske stared at the impudent fools with half-lidded eyes.
“Prepare an adequate sign of our sincerity.”
He wanted to knock them all out of the way, but the soldiers had appeared with a flag of the Bajran Empire. Moreover, according to the information, it was rumored that the man who had subjugated Nerman, Kyre, was a magic swordsman. And strong enough to fight over ten wyverns on his own.
Though of course, that rumor was unbelievable…
* * *
‘What a shame.’
I would have liked them to take the bait and attack, but they behaved themselves with merchant-like caution.
‘If I could recover even half of those guys… Argh.’
Ten wyverns were drawing large circles as they glided in defensive formation. And behind them, I could see yet another ten. There were twenty wyverns in total. I harbored a hidden desire to catch them all if they looked down on us and attacked, but they weren’t foolish.
‘That guy must be the leader.’
Even among the robes worn by the merchants, one person had on a silver robe that clearly stood out—it was likely a magic item. The man walked slowly to the front of the convoy and headed towards the cavalry blocking the merchants’ way.
“Bebeto, let’s go down.”
Letting out a loud roar as if he were the master of Nerman, Bebeto descended to the ground.
It was time for my first legal extortion.
“I am Theske, Deputy of the Corvain Merchants. It is an honor to meet you, Baronet Kyre. Rumors of you have spread far and wide.”
‘Ara, just look at this mister.’
The man in his late-forties named Theske looked more like a scholar than a merchant. He made a gesture acknowledging me.
“Haha, so it is Deputy Theske. My name is Kyre.”
I greeted him with a placid expression that was at odds with my inward thoughts.
“I apologize for not coming to you first although we are crossing through the territory. Such mistakes happen when one goes on a convoy in a hurry. I hope you will forgive that point with a generous mind.”
‘Hooh, I guess this is how he became a deputy of a major merchant group.’
In other territories, there was probably no one who would recklessly block Corvain’s path. Major merchant groups were, for the most part, protected by every imperial or royal family, and conducted their trade routes with the cooperation of high nobles. For someone with a baronet title to fearlessly block an important trade route of the continent’s number one merchant group was simply out of the bounds of common sense.
“That can indeed happen when one is busy. But is there anything that has caused you discomfort during your trip?”
“There weren’t as many monsters as before. And as long as they have a brain, they do not recklessly attack our merchant group… If they don’t want to die, that is.”
As he spoke, Theske looked straight into my eyes. The implication that I was doing something even a monster wouldn’t do was thinly veiled in his words.
“Haha, of course. What kind of idiot would dare to block the path of the great Corvain Merchants?”
“Um, this is a small sign of our sincerity. It is merely a trifle, but please accept it.”
‘Shall we take a look~?’
Contrary to the merchant’s words, a heavy pouch was passed over to me.
“There’s no need…” I took the pouch with a satisfied smile.
‘J-Just a few hundred Gold?’
Because the pouch was smaller than expected, I thought a golden token issued by the merchant group or jewelry might be inside, but just a few hundred Gold? That wasn’t even enough to buy gum for a kid.
“It seems you are in the middle of patrols, so please do not worry about us and go on your way.”
‘Jerks, you’re telling me to eat this and scram when you’re going to a trade that will net you a profit of at least 10 million Gold?? You stingy scrooges!’
I had invested over 1 million of my precious, precious Gold in Nerman. As soon as it came into my pockets, your money was my money, and my money was absolutely my money. But the Corvain Merchants dared to fob me off with a few snot-smudged pennies when they were doing a whale of a trade in my territory.
“Since you say it like that, we will continue our patrol. Please give us a call if you encounter any difficulties. We will come running right away.”
Like the words ‘strategic retreat,’ this much was fine for today.
“Ah! And for your reference, in the future, it has been decided that merchant groups that pass through our territory will pay 10% of their trade goods as a territory management and development donation. I would be thankful if you keep that in mind.”
“W-what, 10%, you say… Our merchant group is contracted with the Bajran Imperial Family and can pass through all territories duty-free…” Theske said in shock.
“Of course, that must be the case for a major merchant group. That is why I didn’t say anything before. It is a voluntary territory management and development donation.”
Theske frowned a little at my emphasis on “donation.”
‘You jerks, would you guys not get a stomachache when your next-door neighbor is raking in a jackpot?’
And that was a profit they were getting from land I was spilling blood and tears to plough. Those intending to rake in the profits were thieves.
“I will keep that in mind. Then, goodbye.”
His face obviously icier than before, Deputy Theske gave a slight bow before turning his back.
“I was happy to have met you today. Let us meet again in the near future~!”
I sent a cheerful, friendly farewell to Theske’s back. He stopped mid-walk, trembling visibly.
In the future, there would probably be very few chances to see him with a smiling face.
This would be the first and last time they waltz in and out of my territory as they please.
* * *
‘The Rubis Merchants have arrived.’
The Rubis Merchants, who had crossed into the territory a few days ago, were filling up the expansive covert with the provisions I had asked them to acquire.
‘Hm? Somehow, that back is awfully familiar?’
Two merchants were waiting in front of Bebeto’s hangar. I could see the backs of Nerman’s Rubis branch manager, Lenkis, and another man. As soon as Bebeto landed, he turned his head.
An unexpected, but welcome face greeted me with a smile and a slight bow. It was Executive Jamir Baines, one of the top leaders of the Rubis Merchants.
“Why, if it isn’t Jamir-nim!”
As soon as Bebeto’s feet hit the ground, I jumped in front of Jamir.
“It has been a while, Baronet Kyre! I heard that you have achieved truly impressive feats in a short amount of time, but now you have become the master of an entire region. I give you my sincere congratulations.” Jamir offered me his congratulations while bowing his head low and acting like an old acquaintance.
‘It’s all thanks to your help, hyung.’
“What congratulations~ Come, come, let us go inside. A special guest has come today, so we should have some beer.”
“Haha, I see your personality hasn’t changed.”
As I grabbed his hand and dragged him along, Jamir burst out in hearty laughter. I was now a noble, unlike when we met in the past, but I wasn’t someone who would forget other people’s favors. Jamir and the Rubis Merchants had given me a lot of help in becoming the person I was today. They had to become a regular store for me to visit in the future like now.
‘I should ask him to raise my credit cap. To about 3 million Gold.’
Of course, nothing was free!
* * *
“W-What! Priestess Aramis has disappeared?!”
Inside the Temple of Neran in Fiore Viscounty, which was always filled with silence or quiet prayer, Pontiff Hedor rose from his seat in shock. Before this alarming statement, he had been impatiently counting down the few days left before he would rise to the seat of bishop, which could be called the center of the church.
“Y-Yes. I thought she was doing a silent prayer from yesterday evening, but she has disappeared.”
“What kind of nonsense is this!! How can you be a paladin and not block the departure of a single priestess!”
Just like how a person’s true nature would come to light when they were flustered, Pontiff Hedor shed his usual pretense, his face glowing crimson red.
They had to catch her.
The reason why he could become a pontiff was also in fact due to the apprentice priestess named Aramis, the woman who possessed sacred power that even the current clergy’s cardinal could not match. She was currently Neran’s most beloved priestess.
Only, wanting to prevent Aramis from getting snatched by other places, Hedor and the bishop of the Dapis Kingdom had shackled her down as an apprentice priestess.
‘We must find her! Without Aramis, who else can make the top-grade holy water?!’
If this matter was found out, it wasn’t just his bishop position that would fly away, but all of the glory he had accumulated would also disappear. Only Priestess Aramis could make top-grade holy water, and Pontiff Hedor had been garnering enormous wealth by taking that holy water as his own achievement in the church.
“Call all of the paladins at once to find Priestess Aramis! She has surely been kidnapped by someone! Deploy every means possible to find the priestess!”
“Your wish is my command!”
The paladin bowed at Hedor’s obvious panic. If it was revealed that a priestess was kidnapped from the temple, the honor of the paladins would also fall. Like Hedor said, they had to find the priestess through whatever means necessary.
‘Dammit… It wasn’t long now…’
Even as he called down the order, Hedor rained down curses instead of prayer, his face as black as the rotten liver of a pig.
* * *
“Please move the merchant group.”
After eating dinner, we were leisurely drinking beer with some jerky, and I suddenly asked them to move the merchant group. Jamir and Lenkis looked at me, bewildered.
“For Rubis to do that is still—” Branch Manager Lenkis began carefully, knowing that besides orc and monster hides, Nerman did not yet have a product that merited such a move.
“Aren’t you hungry?” I asked with a grin.
“We are always hungry. We will probably only become full once we swallow this entire continent.”
Unlike Lenkis, who was looking at us with a puzzled gaze and wide eyes, Jamir answered with a faint smile.
“What kinds of goods do Dwarves like?”
“Dwarves…? To begin with, besides hunting, they do not farm on their own, so they would like provisions like wheat and potatoes as well as beer. the only thing they want from humans… Ah! Besides that, there is one thing they like very much.”
It was tradition that craftsmen lived simple lives by nature. Only with a clean mind could one produce a work imbued with one’s spirit.
Still curious about my words, Branch Manager Lenkis continued his response. “I also heard that they like things like rare ores and new production methods or construction blueprints. Of course, there are currently almost no ores or production methods left in the continent that could sway the Dwarves.”
‘Ores, production methods or construction techniques…’
This was a huge endeavour that could only be successful by putting a few heads together. I would have liked to profit all on my own, but it was a law of the heavens that greed would be one’s downfall.
“I also heard they like mages.”
Jamir and I used honorifics towards each other now.
‘What would they do with a mage?’
“Dwarves are called natural-born warriors. They possess stamina, dexterity, and muscular strength that far outstrip that of orcs. Such a race throws itself into the creation of outstanding powerful armor and weapons that cannot be made by humans. However, from the moment they are born, Dwarves have very little intimacy with spirits and ability to use mana. From what I heard, after suffering a defeat in the war of races with humans over 1,000 years ago due to mana-using Aura Blade swordsmen and mages, the Dwarves did their research on mana. I heard that in the ancient times, there were even Dwarves that could use Aura Blade and rose to Master level. However, perhaps because of their physique, Dwarves cannot use magic.”
Even though he was a merchant and not a scholar, Jamir gave me a history lecture.
“But in the case of things like dwarven-made mithril armor, doesn’t it block 5th Circle magic? Do they really need to be afraid of mages?” asked Lenkis with curiosity.
“It isn’t because of mages themselves. The reason lies in furnaces.”
‘Furnace? The heck is he talking about now?’
“The temperature of a furnace that can be made by natural means is not as high as you think. However, if a magic crystal and magic circle are used to make a magic furnace, then even dragon bones can be melted. Because of that, the only humans the proud Dwarves acknowledge are mages. And only mages of at least the 6th Circle at that.”
‘Mm… Magic furnace, huh…’
As to be expected, the technology of this continent was quite different from Earth .
“And according to the information, most Dwarves possess magic furnaces and only barter with mages. There is most likely a mage with the Corvain Merchants that are passing through Nerman. A mage of at least the 6th Circle, I mean.”
Like a certain Mr. Spock, Jamir sure knew a lot of stuff.
‘I can get grains and beer; the 6th Circle magic is the problem.’
The blueprint for a magic furnace naturally came to mind as soon as I thought about it. It was a blueprint of the highest performance, capable of melting not just dragon bones, but even a great ancestor dragon.
“Shall we make the preparations?”
His eyes gleaming bright, Jamir uttered a sentence pregnant with meaning. His light purple eyes were filled with an inexplicable ardor.
“Of course. Even a dog is able to eat half its fill when the prize is in their backyard. Let us give it a try.”
“Thank you. I will just believe in you, Kyre-nim.”
This could lead to a round of war with the Corvain Merchants, but Jamir was taking the chance.
“Believe in me! You have to risk it for the biscuit!”
Of course, I could never take responsibility for that.
In this world, it was hard enough for me to take responsibility for myself.
If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out!
* * *
“Wouldn’t it be fun if I could make a guy that could take on a Blessed Spear? If it had speed on top of that…”
Things were different in practice than in theory. As I dissected a dravit, I compared what I saw to the knowledge in my head.
“I think it would work if I protected the joints with slightly stronger mithril alloy… As for the mana circuit, if I use master’s circuit, it should show at least twice the efficiency…”
The dravits looked like the robot toys I played with as a kid. After finishing the conversation with Jamir, I went to the hangar with the dravits.
Like mathematical principles, magic formulas were connected to one another. In particular, mana circuits, the synthesis of magic theory, were more fun the more I tinkered with them. A small mana panel would usually be engraved with around ten magic circles working in mutual cooperation with each other.
“If a dravit could somehow block a Blessed Spear, then they would be very useful in ground battles.”
Their uses didn’t stop at war.
Dravits could be very useful in day to day life as well.
Like a robot-making engineer, I immersed myself in dravit research.
And in my head, I drew out a new kind of dravit blueprint.
An ultimate Mazinger Z that would protect my land.
[TN: Mazinger Z, a super robot from a Japanese manga.]