Slave merchant and slave merchant – Part 3

While Takumi seized Geiz, the guards raided the gambling den and arrested each and every participant. The show was evidence of the city’s corruption.
Things needed to be investigated further, so the young man visited a certain place.

“Hello, Soft-hearted slave merchant. Sorry for making you come here.”

Lux Fairstadt, the minister of justice of the Holy Kingdom of Richtert who wasn’t even thirty years old, smiled gently at the merchant.
He sat on the other side of the desk, dressed in fine, formal clothes.

“Hi. No, don’t worry. I should be the one apologizing for bothering you while you’re busy.”

Elsa, who was sitting near Takumi, hit him on the head.

“How dare you speak so casually to an authority of this kingdom?!”

“I do not mind, Elsa. It would have been a problem if we were in public, but there is no reason to be formal in this situation.”

He spoke without changing expression, but Takumi could catch a glimpse of his true character.

“Well then, let us get down to business… Elsa, can you explain again how the operation to stop the illegal gambles was carried out?”

The girl stood up with a stiff face.

“After asking the cooperation of the upper part’s guards a few days ago, we coordinated with them to raid the basement of the Marquis of Kelbeg’s house, where we caught the participants of the illegal gambles red-handed.”

She then fell silent with a sour expression.

“What’s the matter, Elsa? Keep going, please.”

“Gh… Okay, fine! We investigated the place and found Amberg’s records in a related building…”

She took a deep breath, trying to keep her composure.

“But there wasn’t any information regarding the illegal gambles.”

Lux let out a grave sigh.

“I see… Amberg members are denying everything, and so are the other nobles. There is no trace of demi-humans or slaves who should have been used in fights, and both the records and the account books are clean.”

“I’m ashamed of myself, Brother Lux. I didn’t expect this result after asking your help…”

“I would like to say that I do not mind but… we assaulted one of the four major companies and arrested a number of influential nobles. If this act is misinterpreted, the supervisor of the operation, which is me, and the original proposer, which is you, along with the entire guards’ regiment, will have to take responsibility…”

The girl frowned and let out a deep sigh.
A gloomy mood filled the room, but it didn’t affect Takumi, who noticed something.

“No, wait. You’re not gonna ask me to cover you, right?”

“Ahahaha… Personally, I would love you to.”

The man was starting to reveal his true nature.

“E-Ehm… Brother Lux…?”

“…Elsa, I would like to talk in private with this slave merchant, so could you wait outside for a moment? If you stay here, we might not be able to speak freely.”

She looked at him puzzled before bowing and leaving the room.
The two, now alone, faced each other with different smiles.
One of them was trying to control his rage, while the other one was enjoying the situation from the bottom of his heart.
Lux reached his limit first.

“Guess I should start with a ‘nice job, shitty brat’.”

“Then let me reply with a ‘hats off to you, idiot’.”

Their intense gazes clashed with each other.

“Takumi, right? So, how much did it go as you planned?”

“Well, pretty much everything.”

“Wow… It pisses me off, but it doesn’t sound like a lie.”

The man leaned on the backrest of his chair that squeaked loudly. The dignified behavior he showed earlier was nowhere to be seen.

“I’m gonna ask you this, Lux. What do you know?”

“Well… I know you told Amberg about the operation, for example.”

Flames of rage burned into the minister’s eyes.

“C’mon, don’t be like that. It would’ve been better if they suspended the show as soon as they heard about it, though.”

The company knew everything, but it decided to let the guards arrest them anyway, so that they could raise the entrance fee hereafter.

“No one tried to step out of this, and they could simply hide or destroy the evidence. That way, we arrested the perpetrators on a false accusation, and we lost credibility.”

The guards’ regiment created by Lux had to keep the city safe and maintain order.
They gained trust by arresting criminals, and the Fairstadt family’s authority grew from it.
Still, this incident was going to stain their reputation.

“If this mess isn’t resolved, the guards might not be able to do their work anymore. That’s why Amberg erased all the evidence and let you raid their place.”

If this was seen as a mistaken arrest, even the nobles who didn’t participate wouldn’t have ignored the guards.
In the worst-case scenario, the guards’ regiment might have been disbanded.
Also, if the upper part became a lawless area, how wicked would the slums become?

“Holy shit… Founding the guards’ regiment in the city to keep those lowlifes at bay was a huge pain in the ass for me… They act as if the law doesn’t apply to them…”

“Your sense of justice is admirable, but you underestimated them, so this is your fault. As soon as they understood they could profit from the situation, they set up a trap.”

“I didn’t underestimate them. I just… didn’t expect an illegal merchant from the slums to mess everything up.”

The minister’s smile disappeared from his face as he tried to regain his composure.

“Let me go straight to the point, Takumi. I know you are in possession of the evidence, so can you hand them over?”

“Well, I’m a merchant, you know? You have to give me something in exchange.”

“If you really planned everything, I doubt you’re after money. Since I’m quite desperate right now, I’ll try to grant your request… to a certain extent.”

Lux couldn’t help but cringe, and Takumi smiled while looking at him.

“First, I want every single possession of Amberg, meaning their buildings, fortune, lands, mining rights certificates and so on, to become Valeria’s.”

“…Can I see the evidence beforehand? If I don’t have them, I will be overthrown and lose my authority.”

“Of course. Still, since I couldn’t find many myself, I don’t have them with me right now, but I brought you this.”

He pulled a bunch of paper out from his jacket’s pocket and placed it in front of Lux.
The man immediately started to read them, and his expression lightened.

“They contain the dates and places of every gamble that was organized so far, along with the earnings, the names of the participants and the money laundering technique used… if you compare them with Amberg’s records, you might find a lot of information.”

“…Can I trust what’s written here?”

“Of course. That is the account book of the guy who was supplying slaves to Amberg. He’s obsessed with money, so he always writes down everything in his diary and in an account book.”

Geiz had the habit to write in detail the earnings of the day.
He started doing it since he joined Valeria, and he kept doing it while working for this new company. Takumi knew about it, so he let him prepare that precious data before seizing him.

“Since these are personal documents, Amberg couldn’t falsify them.”

“I see… we can let them blame each other. Since they were so frantic to destroy the evidence, maybe we can find some genuine clues with this. Even if we don’t, we still have the register of the participants, so a noble might make a mistake and spill the beans.”

Now that Lux had what he needed, he faced Takumi again.

“Now no one will cut my head for this supposed flop, but… earlier you said ‘first’, so you want more, right?”

Takumi showed a toothy smile to the man’s sour face.

“I want Valeria to become a major company in Amberg’s place.”

The minister of justice was petrified.

“Do you… understand how impossible your request is?”

“Of course. That’s exactly why I’m asking you.”

“No, it’s impossible even for me. I can’t let an illegal organization from the slums take part in the national politics as a major company without a valid reason.”

“But you do have one.”

“…Okay, what is it? Nothing can surprise me anymore.”

He held his head, trying to suppress a headache while Takumi kept talking.

“If things had gone as planned, you would’ve found the slaves used for those gambles, but Amberg couldn’t leave them in Listina, since they could be used as evidence… so they were transported to another place.”

Geiz gathered a lot of slaves, but after a chain of riots, they managed to escape.

“We are looking after them temporarily, but… they see you guys as wrongdoers.”

“Wrongdoers? I don’t think we did anything to them.”

“Sadly, if they’re poorly handled, they’ll cause more harm than a bomb.”

Takumi seemed to really enjoy the situation.

“That guy couldn’t gather many slaves due to a fight with another merchant, and when he finally had a considerable amount of goods, the other organizations stopped dealing with him and he ended up in a tough spot.”

He raised his index finger.

“Now… where do you think they came from?”

Lux couldn’t help but frown. He had a guess, but he didn’t want to say it.

“Don’t tell me…”

“They were all captured from different countries.”

If it was made public, it would’ve become a big scandal.

“He didn’t care about Amberg in the slightest… he just wanted to start a war to earn more money?”

“Well, when a war starts, money circulates easily. Merchants think like that, you know?”

“Damn! Why can I imagine that so easily?!”

Lux turned pale, but he kept talking.

“Still, I understand your request. Essentially, you want to bring them back home in secret, am I right?”

“Precisely. I’m used to do this kind of shady deals, so I won’t ask for your help. I’ll get them home safely, even if they have to cross mountains or be smuggled on boats.”

Takumi folded his arms and smiled.

“Either way, if you can’t meet my conditions, you’ll have to handle a war. I expect a positive answer, Sir Fairstadt.”

“As if I have a choice… Now I understand why Elsa has that sour expression whenever you’re mentioned.”

He sighed deeply and shrugged his shoulders.

“We will punish Amberg for their sins, and, according to our deal, you will obtain their properties and Valeria will become one of the major companies. The public won’t know that you helped maintaining Richtert’s peace, or that you helped with our diplomatic relations, but your achievements won’t be ignored by the royal family… What a great synopsis.”

Lux clapped his hands without smiling.

“So, why are you doing all this? You succeeded this time, but… if you try to do anything funny in this city, I swear on the name of Fairstadt that I will put my heart and soul into sinking you.”

Those were the words of someone who, despite his family name, earned his place thanks to his own abilities. Takumi’s tactic worked exactly because no one expected him to act like that, but it wouldn’t work a second time.
Lux understood that the slave merchant in front of him was a threat. Once Valeria officially expanded, the minister of justice would monitor their every move.
That was exactly why the young man smiled.

“Let’s say… I want the slums to become colorful and cozy.”

The man opened his eyes wide.

“That was quite poetic for someone who does things in such a way.”

“Well, it’s what my kind leader wishes for. To change the slums’ current situation, we must become stronger.”

“If this is your leader’s wish… what are you yourself aiming for?”

“I only want to see how far my abilities can bring me.”

Takumi didn’t change his tone of voice as he smiled with confidence.
As if driven by it, Lux smiled back gently.

“Incredible… I can’t believe someone said the same words as Vatel…”

“Wait, you knew him?”

“Yes, pretty well. He was… a dear friend of my father.”

The man closed his eyes and reminisced about the distant past.

“Well, looking at what you guys will do from now on will be interesting. No one has done anything in a long time, and the nobles are all rotten to the core, so we can’t really distinct good ones from bad ones. A change of air won’t be that bad.”

“Okay, and what do you really think?”

“Honestly, dealing with you is tiring as fuck, so I hope we can both profit from being on good terms.”

The young man returned a wry smile to those words.

“I’ll start to bring back home those slaves right away. Be sure to do everything right.”

“I can do things pretty well without you worrying about them. I can’t let my family’s name get soiled, and neither I want Richtert to become a war zone.”

Lux took a pen and started to write on a sheet of paper.

“Here, this is your written pledge. Let’s be on good terms, Soft-hearted slave merchant.”

Takumi accepted it and smiled back at Lux.

“Yeah, hope we can get along.”

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