Sagami Co.’s Decision
After Zem’s funeral, Grey was arrested under the charge of wounding both Yukihiro the Hero and Duke Cyrus’s next head, Mawlek Cyrus.
And so, unbelievable kinds of rumors towards Grey and the Scarlet Phoenix spread throughout Sutherland.
But Aquido and the others had only expected as much. Still, there’s no denying that they had been a part of the problem. Every member agreed they couldn’t afford to cause any more trouble, so they borrowed the meeting room from Sagami Co.’s vice president, Judo, to ask to cancel their contract.
“There’s no need,” said Judo, readily refuting their request.
“Seriously. Just try cancelling the contract and Grey will start throwing out abuse at you after……”
“That’s right. His silent smile is seriously scary,” Leroy said.
The rest of the technology department members nodded in agreement of their head’s statement.
“That’s no good. Cancelling our contract with the Scarlet Phoenix would be admitting to the world that those shameless rumors were in fact true,” Satella squeezed out with bloodshot eyes, quite unlike her usual refrained manner.
Immediately, Leroy erased his smile and an intense hatred filled the all the employees’ eyes.
“We can’t avoid hostilities with the empire’s government anymore. What do you all think?”
The Archive Empire was a distinguished major nation of the world and confronting it would normally require the height of madness. And yet, nobody raised a single objection to Judo’s question.
“I understand. I’ll announce our company’s opinion under my name. Then, we have the soon-to-come undead attack but……”
“But why do we have to protect these citizens who speak badly of Grey-sama and Zem? I say let them get run over!” roared Carla, baring her fangs.
“Let ‘em get run over!” the Eight-Headed Dragon chimed in.
“They’ve even gone as far as demanding our president’s assets as reparation. There’s no way we can approve of their absurdities,” one employee said.
“That’s right!” Satella agreed, “This shameless city should just disappear!”
Not a single person raised any objections.
“Calm down a little. Did the citizens of Sutherland cause this incident?” Judo said.
“Since they believed the lies and attacked us, I say they’re guilty. Most of all, they dare say that Grey’s a coward!” Satella quaked, clearly displaying her feelings to the Sagami Co employees.
“Still, Boss believes in protecting Sutherland. Are we really going to abandon his will before trying anything else? Abandoning this city would be turning our hard work to naught. Boss absolutely despises wasting things because you let something get to your head, so we should try to avoid that.”
“Then are you saying we should help those pieces of trash who demand Grey’s punishment, onii-chan? Nobody wants that!” Carla butted in.
“Even still,” Judo responded.
“Because we should prioritize profit over emotions right now.”
“Profit? I don’t give a damn about profit! One of our comrades has been killed and our master insulted! Aren’t you frustrated, onii-chan!?”
Judo’s poker face warped into a demon-like one, sending chills down her spine. Overpowered by his pressure, Carla timidly let out, “Onii-chan?
“Of course I’m frustrated! A comrade who’s eaten with us out of the same pot has been killed, and everyone’s looking down on our boss! I’d ground up that shitty hero and those stupid court nobles into a fine dust right now if I could!”
“But you know, Boss said we’re merchants before we’re citizens! We’re scientists before we’re humans! If we let ourselves get swayed by our emotions, we’ll act just as those shitty nobles expect us to and Sagami Co. will be dismantled. Boss left the company to me in his absence, so I can’t let that happen!!”
“Calm down, Judo,” Leroy cut in.
Judo shook his head several times and once again killing his emotions, saying, “In order to reform our image in Sutherland, we need to successfully pull off our plan without a hitch.”
“I can agree to that, but how do you plan on persuading the other members?” Leroy asked. “They’re all thinking like Satella and Carla you know? They probably won’t listen regardless of what we say.”
“I’ll persuade them. And that boss of ours would never just let himself get arrested without a reason. There’s definitely one.”
“That’s true. In the first place, just the fact that Grey wants to be thrown in prison is laughably insane.”
“You said it.”
Leroy began bellowing in laughter, and one by one, everyone nodded in agreement.
Judo stood up from his chair and announced, “I’m sure everyone has their misgivings, but you’ll have to follow me for now. Aquido, go ahead and wait in the Millard tent.”
And with that lone statement, Judo disappeared.
“Sorry for the wait.”
After waiting for about 30 minutes, Judo appeared wearing a never-before-seen well-tailored outfit from another country.
“Change into this,” he said, taking out clothes from his bag and placing it on the table.
Aquido quickly changed into the foreign outfit, which consisted of black, leather shoes, a dashing black top and bottom, and a white undergarment with strangely shaped collar and sleeves.
He had trouble fitting his necktie, but somehow managed to tie it with Judo’s guidance.
“Let’s go,” Judo said.
“To the Commerce Guild of course.”
Judo quickly exited the tent, and Aquido followed in bewilderment soon after.
At the expeditionary force encampment, a few soldiers lathered on abuse towards them, but the majority just observed them from afar.
“I thought there’d be more……” Aquido thought.
Inside were several familiar mercenaries, as well as those who would try to pick a fight the moment their eyes met. And yet every last one just pursed their lips and stared from afar.
Once they entered the town, all the gazes disappeared. Ironically, only the names of Sagami Co.’s proprietor, Grey, and The Fools, known as the Scarlet Phoenix, were known; very few, if any, actually knew Judo and Aquido in person. Now, especially, since they were wearing clothes from a foreign country, and everyone saw them merely as foreigners.
Still, that was just what the non-merchants saw.
Once Judo and Aquido stepped foot into the Central Commerce Guild Assembly Hall, everyone immediately focused on the two of them.
Judo paid their stares no heed and stepped forward towards the first-floor receptionist and said, “I’m the vice-president of Sagami Co., Judo. We’ve come today to announce our company’s decision.”
Judo bowed once and took out a scroll from his pocket, placing it onto the counter.
A commotion stirred about the assembly hall as the merchants burst into gossip.
“Let me take a look,” the female receptionist said. As she stiffly inspected the contents of the scroll, her body tensed up and began trembling.
“Please wait a moment!!” a guild staff member yelped before disappearing into the back.
“Our business here is pretty much done,” Judo declared, ignoring the receptionist’s attempts to keep him here as he turned on his heel.
“Was it fine not meeting with the guild staff member?”
They were dealing with the Commerce Guild, a giant organization that controlled the economy of the world. Even if they were to fight against the empire, they should at least meet with and ask the Commerce Guild for their cooperation. That kind of laidback attitude might only serve to turn the guild into their enemies, in which case Sagami Co. would be finished.
“This is our fight. I don’t want any third parties sticking their necks into it,” Judo said.
“But the guild doesn’t think that.”
The Commerce Guild shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“If the Commerce Guild decides to side with the empire, then so be it. We know who our enemies are.”
Judo curled his lips into a smile, emitting the aura of a crafty mercenary, something you wouldn’t think to see from a 20-something lad.
“Don’t just stand there in a daze. Let’s go. We’ve got a mountain of work to do.”
Judo nudged Aquido along and set off towards the tent.
Four nobles of the empire were standing in front of the Millard tent, and Judo knew every one. In fact, there wasn’t a single mercenary in the empire who wouldn’t.
“Are you the current representative for Sagami Co.?” asked a white-haired old man known as the Great Sage, Siegfried Granbull.
Judo straightened his posture and replied, “I’m Sagami Co.’s vice president, Judo. Pleased to make your acquaintances, everyone.”
Judo placed his right hand on his chest and bowed once before beckoning them into the tent.
“We’ve certainly received Boss’s words, but……”
It was all thanks to their conversation with Carla. Surprisingly, everyone had come to view the Scarlet Phoenix as their comrades over the past few days. Among them, Zem, who served as the mood maker of the group and a brotherly figure, was killed for no reason at all and their honor destroyed. Grey then being arrested for an absurd reason was the nail in the coffin. It was so outrageous everyone’s patience came to a breaking point, and Grey’s orders could no longer hold them back.
“I understand. Grey placed his trust in me, so I’ll persuade the company employees.”
“Is your problem that I’m a noble? Grey’s been ostracized even by his own family, so I understand where you’re coming from. But this is Grey’s first request towards his cowardly grandpa, so I’d like to fulfill his expectations.”
Aquido had seen Dimer McGwire’s toned body time and time again on the battlefield. He was a soldier proceeding towards the battlefield even though he knew it was his deathbed. It wasn’t clear whether it was to save his fatherland or for his grandson, but in any case, Dimer would put everything into persuading them. That, at least, Aquido understood.
“I understand. Then, if you would.”
Judo stared at Dimer McGwire for a while before nodding heavily.
“And here’s something from us. I hope it comes I handy.”
Margrave McBurn and Count Hartwig placed a scroll on top of the table.
“And this is?”
“The signatures of the lords of the expeditionary force who desire Grey-kun’s release. We managed to get about 80 percent.”
“80……percent?” Aquido gaped.
They, the Scarlet Phoenix, were an organization that had committed that rumored foolish act, and Grey was an awful noble who had brought that organization to Sutherland. At least, that’s what the people should have believed. That’s why Aquido thought the lords, who already had a bad impression of the Scarlet Phoenix to start with, of the expeditionary force would have had a more negative response. He could hardly believe that they would sign to release Grey instead.
“May I ask your reason?” Judo asked.
Count Hartwig gave a hearty laugh and said, “Those greenhorns were completely enchanted by Sir Grey during their meeting with him. None of them think that you guys committed the crime, and that belief should spread before long.”
Aquido did think the mercenaries and soldiers who knew him gave off a vibe that differed from the scorn he usually received.
“You could also say it’s their sixth sense to side with the winner. How dependable.” Sieg muttered in exasperation while stroking his white beard.
“There’s no better bond than profit. It’s one of boss’s favorite sayings, and we believe it.”
“Then all’s good. We’ll use this opportunity to remove some of the pus from this empire.”
“It’s mostly the local clan leaders who have been attacked by the undead; the court nobles have barely suffered any damage. If we win this battle, the court nobles’ influence will grow to the point where even the emperor won’t be able to hold them back, so eliminating Duke Cyrus is of upmost importance,” Margrave McBurn added while nodding.
“You could even call it a fluke, but Duke Cyrus has made the Commerce Guild, the biggest monster of the world, an enemy. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Count Hartwig said with absolute delight.
Well, no wonder. The court nobles enjoyed an expansive growth after acquiring Yukihiro the Hero, and they would be destroying their ringleader. They would dramatically decrease the court nobles’ authority if they succeeded. At the very least, the distribution would return to a more even split.
“So the Commerce Guild won’t side with Duke Cyrus?” asked Aquido.
“Definitely not,” Judo said. “And just by asking that, you’ve proved that you truly don’t understand the influence of the man named Grey Millard.”
“Are you saying that you do?”
Judo’s eyebrows jumped up for the first time.
“Yeah, more than you all. As you all are in the same organization, you all serve an existence like a reserve force with his same irrationality. That’s very understandable though.”
Aquido felt sorry for Judo, but Margrave McBurn’s words struck a chord with Aquido. Judo had lived with Grey’s irrationality for a long time, so his senses had been numbed after all.
“Shouldn’t the commerce guild have several merchants among the court nobles?”
“Still, they’re merchants. The Commerce Guild has enjoyed an explosive increase in their wealth in recent years. Shouldn’t you understand just how much Grey has played a part in that? If they had to choose between their position among the nobles and money, they’d choose money. Am I wrong?”
That monster of a child, he’s already done that much……Grey’s young age is almost like a bad joke at this point.
“That Duke Cyrus, he’s probably looking down on Grey since he’s a child. That’s certainly a mistake.”
“I’m thinking we should group with the Commerce Guild and search for information that proves Grey’s innocence. There’s no point if we do it after Duke Cyrus erases the informants. You’ll cooperate, right?”
“Then let’s talk specifics.”
Judo eagerly leaned forward and Margrave McBurn began to talk.
When studying the Holy Year 1020, many historians believe that the undead attack on Sutherland served as a turning point in history.
The declining Archive Empire used this opportunity to come back to life and make a large step towards global hegemony, which would be correct in a sense.
Now, there’s a few theories here that suggest the true turning point lay in the meeting between the local clans and a single company.
Regarding it’s veracity, I leave the hackneyed maxim, a person makes an era.
If not for the outstanding existence that was Grey, the superpower, Archive, wouldn’t exist, something everyone could agree with.
However, the world wasn’t so kind nor so naïve as to allow the existence of a single hero to shift history.
We should think that only with their presences did Grey begin to overcome this unprecedented crisis.
That’s why I reason that this discussion served as the spark for Archive to walk towards global hegemony.
Yes. The gears of this era, which came to be known as the Age of Heroes, slowly, but surely, began to move.