Chapter 17.
The reason for the ominous.


“The atmosphere is strange.”

Pavel, who came to Blan excitedly at the news of the discovery of the mine, tilted his head as he sensed a strange atmosphere.

Blan and Nadia just looked at each other and smiled awkwardly.

“It’s no big deal.
It’s just…”

Blan ran his hand through his hair and frowned at Nadia’s hand.

Only then did Pavel discover that she was fiddling with the broken wish bracelet.

“It’s broken.”

It was a calm confirmation of the truth.
Unlike Blan and Nadia, who were instilled with an ominous sensation, Pavel didn’t seem to care much.

“Well… First of all, let’s talk about the mine development.”

“Hey, aren’t you worried about the lord?”

When Blan criticised Pavel for being overly carefree, he just fixed his glasses and shrugged.

“Worrying now wouldn’t even do anything.
How about not being swayed by superstition and trusting the Lord a little more?”

“Oh, so you’ve already forgotten how much of a fuss you made when he first decided to go dragon-hunting because it’s too dangerous?”

“Why are you bringing up something that has already passed? It was only then, but since we’ve sent him away, we have no choice but to trust him and wait.”

Nadia glanced alternately between the quarreling brothers, at a loss of what to do.
Their tone was getting rougher, and it seemed like a big fight would break out at any moment.

Should I stop them?

As she repeatedly stretched out her hands and withdrew them in hesitation while keeping an eye on them, Blan was belatedly reminded of her existence and smiled softly.

“It’s okay, Madame.
We’re always like this.”

“He’s right.
We always fight like this.”

“Is-, is that so…”

It didn’t look okay at all…

Still, thanks to the two of them, her heart felt a little lighter.

Pavel is right!

Worrying with anxiety wouldn’t help to change anything, so she needed to focus on what she could do right here and now.

Altair would also want his wife to be such a strong person.

She then took a deep breath and turned to look at Pavel.

“I think it would be better to start mining development early.”


When she brought up the matter, both men started to focus on the conversation with all seriousness, as if the two of them were never arguing.

“The problem is money, right? Since it takes a lot of money to develop a mine.”

“That’s right.”

Pavel frowned slightly, and offered his alternative.

“I would like to get a loan from the central bank of the Empire or an investment from the wealthy.
To prove business feasibility, we must first identify the reserves and elaborate on the development plan.”

“I came here in a hurry because I thought you were thinking that way.
Rather than bringing in funds from outside…”

Upon saying so, Nadia took a key out of her pocket and handed it to Pavel.
It was the key to a private safe of the Imperial Central Bank, which Pavel mentioned a while ago, where the property her mother had left her was kept.

“I think it would be better to use the money I brought.
I didn’t bring much dowry, but it should be enough for the initial development cost.”

Both Pavel and Blan widened their eyes in surprise, perhaps it was something they had never expected.

“Madame.”

But Pavel, who was thought to be happy, sighed unexpectedly.

“The reason I asked you to use your dowry a while back was that… the situation was urgent.
I made a mistake.
If you use the personal property you’ve brought to the estate, His Lord will be very angry.
It’s not like there’s no other way, so please keep the key.”

“But-, but if you borrow funds from outside, you will have to pay a lot of interest…That’s why I want to pay for it.”

“The Lord will never allow it.”

“Still…….”

Please use my money! You can’t do this!

Blan, who had been watching Nadia and Pavel’s squabble, cautiously raised his hand.

“Then, what if we regard it as an investment?”

“Pardon?”

“After all, investment is necessary.
Instead of giving us the money for free, if you invest in the mine development and take some of the proceeds, I think the Lord will allow it.
And you can also raise your fortune, Madame.”

At the unexpected alternative, Pavel and Nadia shut their mouths and turned to look at each other in silence.
It was a great alternative for both.

Seeing that the two seemed to have finally understood, Blan smiled.

“See.
I think more deeply than Pavel after all, since I’m his older brother.”

***

When the financial problem, which had been the biggest obstacle to the development of the mine, was solved, things went smoothly.

As a result of bringing in an expert to investigate, it was found that the Manastone Mine in Aylesford actually had a strong ground, so tunneling was no problem, and the profit was expected to be huge because the reserves were so large that it was difficult to estimate.

Even experts who had experienced exploiting many mines were surprised at the size of the manastone mine.


“The problem is the beasts of the mountains.
Fortunately, no magical beasts appeared during the investigation period, but according to the knights’ report, there is a habitat for goblins nearby.
Only when they are completely driven out, will the full-scale development be possible.”

Although he was reporting as calmly as possible, excitement could be heard in Pavel’s tone.

“Well, it will be resolved soon once the lord comes back.
Goblins aren’t that much of a formidable beast.
But us as the Aylesford people have to be prepared to defend ourselves against-…”

“How dare you treat me like this?! Do you who I am?!”

Pavel, who was calmly reporting, was forced to a halt at the cry from outside.

Nadia looked out the window along with Pavel to see what was going on, and a middle-aged man was making a fuss at the entrance of the castle in the distance.
Blan and some of the knights were dealing with him, and it seemed quite serious.

She then looked at Pavel as though to ask if he was aware of the situation, but he just shook his head, as clueless as she was.

“That is Count Gallard.
He has never come all the way here on his own… I’ll find out what’s going on and come back in a moment.”

After waiting for a long while but the commotion did not subside, Pavel eventually opened the office door with a grimace.

But in front of the door that was supposed to be empty stood Cain with a puzzled face.

“Uh… Did I just knock on the door?”

He tilted his head, his hand hung mid-air.
It seemed that the timing was strangely right.

“There is a lot of noise outside.
What’s going on?”

When Nadia asked with a smile at Cain’s silly appearance, he let out a deep sigh and entered the office.

“Hah… It’s a very troublesome situation.
Count Gallard is making a fuss out there, demanding to meet the Lord right now.”

“Count Gallard is…”

“He is the owner of the estate that borders Aylesford.
He said he didn’t want to deal with the poor and uneducated, so he refused to listen, and he didn’t even tell us what was going on.
Besides, five years ago…”

Cain, who was lamenting, frowned, but soon shook his head.

“Ugh.
No, nevermind.
It pains me to just talk about that time.
Anyway, he’s such a nuisance.”

“He didn’t tell you what’s going on or what he’s here for?”

“Yes.
He’s very stubborn.”

“Um… The lord is away, so how about asking him to come next time?”

“That’s what we said too.
Yet, Count Gallard said that we’re ignoring him…for we don’t serve him as a guest just because our lord is not here…”

If it’s a ‘count’, he’s a pretty high-ranking noble.
Not to mention, if he was a margrave*, he would have a lot of autonomous authority and higher prestige than the counts in the capital.
In this region, he enjoyed the same amount of power as a king.

T/n: Margrave –  is a hereditary nobleman who specifically refers to the lords of some fiefs bordering other countries, assigned to maintain the defence of the border.
In addition to the rights that ordinary aristocrats had over their territories, military powers and autonomy were widely recognised.
(higher than counts though still lower than dukes and marquises)

It was not enough for the knights to stop him because such a person was insisting on his status.
 At the very least, the only person who could confront the count with status was her, a baroness from a marquise.

Altair told me not to go out of the castle no matter what, but…


It was a situation where she had to step in.

Just the thought of confronting a man who screamed in anger made her sweat, but she felt sorry for the knights who were having a hard time because of him if she left it as it is.

I am the Baroness of Aylesford.
I must save our knights!

As she repeated those thoughts a few times in her head, she gained a little courage.

“…I’ll talk to him.”

“You will?”

When Nadia stepped forward with a determined mind, Cain happily guided her.
Pavel was also worried and followed her.

As she reached the entrance to the castle, struggling to calm her pounding heart, the angry man’s voice became clear.
He was screaming in front of the knights, face as red as a tomato.

“You barbarians make me frustrated! If the baron is not here, the baroness would have to come out and greet her guests!”

Her mouth was wide agape at the blatant outpouring of harsh words.

It was quite unfamiliar for her to face such raw criticism because the nobles of the capital usually insulted others in a sarcastic way.

“…Count Gallard.”

As she called the Count carefully, he turned to glance at her up and down.

“You must be the baroness from the capital.”

“Nice to meet you, I am Nadia Vine, no, it’s Nadia Aylesford.”

The man’s momentum faded a little as she greeted him politely.

“Finally, someone who I can speak to has arrived.
But you need to educate your subordinates properly.
If you leave them be, unable to treat guests properly, they’ll be ridiculed.”

“Thank you for the advice, but may I ask what brought you to Aylesford? This is…”

She blurred at the end of her words as she looked behind Count Gallard’s back.
He was not alone.

“I see that you’ve brought a lot of soldiers, so it must be a very important issue.”

It was natural to bring a servant when heading out, but a troop was too much.
Despite her pointing it out, the count proudly raised his chin.

“Of course.
It’s a very important issue! The Knights of Aylesford have invaded our territory without permission!”

“Pardon? Our knights?”

“Yes, didn’t you make a ruckus about wanting to make some change in the mountain range? It’s our estate’s, so I’d like you to stop making a fuss and leave.”

She wondered what nonsense he was spouting, and when she looked at Blan, who had been confronting the Count before she came out, he burst out laughing.

“It’s true that our estate is bordered by that of Gallard, but the area we’ve been searching recently is definitely within Aylesford.
You can’t force us.”

“Say what? Within Aylesford? Look at this map!”


The Count took out a map and threw it at Blan.
After checking the map the man gave while grinding his teeth, Blan frowned as if it was not worth reconsidering.

“This is the map before the agreement.
Five years ago, Aylesford got a part of the mountain range in exchange for clearing out the monsters, is it not?”

“Ahem.
Come to think of it, I think it’s too much to give away the land.
I’ll pay the price set at that time, so I’ll get the land back.”

“Ha, back then you wanted to give away the useless piece of land, and now that the situation is different, you want to give us money?”

“Humph.
I’m just fulfilling the original contract!”

She didn’t know anything about what happened five years ago, but listening to the conversation between the two, she could make a rough guess.

They must have taken care of the beasts at the request of Count Gallard, and were going to receive money in return, but the Count, who did not want to waste his money, handed over the useless land of the mountain range!

And of all things, a manastone mine was found in that piece of land!

I think I can understand why the Count is unhappy, but…

If he had paid the commission properly, this wouldn’t have happened.
He’d brought it upon himself.

“It’s no use talking to a knight who doesn’t have authority anyway.”

The Count walked over to Nadia, ignoring Blan and the other knights.
As the giant man approached, she felt a sense of intimidation, and her shoulders unknowingly shuddered.

“Ah! Baroness! Since the Lord is absent, you, as the deputy, must sign here!”

“I have no reason to sign it.”

“Reason? Why is that important? I said I’d give money to your beggar’s estate!”

Perhaps trying to intimidate her, the Count’s eyes, which were staring at her, bulged.

If it were back in the capital, I would have been terrified and trembling…

Compared to Altair, his eyes were like a gentle sheep’s.
Maybe it was because she had gotten used to extreme situations, to the point it almost felt ridiculous.

“That’s why I’m telling you that we won’t take that money, Count.
We are not beggars.
Neither I nor our Lord will sign these strange documents.”

“I’m the count.
Do you think a mere baron can disobey me?”

The Count shot fiercely and grabbed her wrist.

“Argh!”

“Sign it now!”

His grip on her wrist was so rough that it hurt, to the point that her tears were on the verge of coming out.

“Madame!”

Before the startled knights, who were watching the situation, could rush to her, a cold voice was heard from not far away, shutting down the turmoil all at once.

“Huh…? What’s going on here?”

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