“Take a seat right here!” Lihilt said, gesturing to a pair of lounge chairs facing each other in front of his work desk.
Laura and I sat down side-by-side, and Lihilt took a seat on the chair in front of us.
“Thanks for coming all the way here! I’ll be holding a welcome party today, so look forward to it!”
We then talked about this and that, catching up with each other after all this time.
“But seriously… Being a Lord is all so new to me, and it’s driving me nuts! Day after day, it’s studying, studying, and more studying! My head’s killing me! I’m the type that learns by doing!” Lihilt vented, getting everything off his chest. “But still, it’s worth it! I’ll do my damndest to make sure the people living in this territory are happy! And I’ll improve their standards of living, even by a little! Nothing’s gonna stop me, I say!”
Lihilt’s eyes were burning with enthusiasm.
He’s always been a kindhearted person. He’s driven purely by the thought of helping his people, not by self-interest or greed.
He’ll make for a great Lord, I’m sure of it.
“There’s something new in store for you every day, huh?”
“For the most part. It’ll all pay off in the end, so I’m more than willing to put in the work… but that, on the other hand…”
“I mentioned it in the letter I sent you, didn’t I? I’m having trouble dealing with the neighboring Lord…”
The moment he said that, his face went from being full of positivity to that of doom and gloom.
I’d almost forgotten. He called us over because he got into a disagreement with the neighboring Count, and he wants me, a high-ranking noble, to be present.
“That old man is seriously such a pain in the neck…!” Lihilt said, grinding his teeth together so hard that it was nearly audible.
“…Mind telling me what happened?” I asked. His letter didn’t go into much detail.
“Where do I begin… Do you know what Heavy Mithril is?”
Heavy Mithril is a mineral with very high resistance to mana. However, it’s much too heavy for humans to carry, so it’s primarily used in construction… There’re several buildings that have rooms reinforced with Heavy Mithril in the Academy, too.
“In my territory, y’see, there’s a mine that has Heavy Mithril in it. But because it’s such a valuable mineral, it’s required that I give priority to the Kingdom and deliver it all to them.”
“Do they pay?”
“Yup. Lower than market price, though. The buyer is the Kingdom, after all… But still, I’m grateful that we have a source of income. This territory isn’t very industrialized,” he said. “The thing is… This territory was originally under the direct control of the Kingdom, but the neighboring Count had been taking care of managing the mine up till now. Naturally, that includes delivering the Heavy Mithril to the Kingdom, too.”
I can’t really blame the Count for starting a dispute—he practically had his job stolen from him.
Although, that doesn’t seem to be the reason why this all started.
“So, since I became this territory’s Lord, I also took over the management of the mine, but after doing a bit of digging… I found that the numbers weren’t adding up.”
“…Weren’t adding up, you say?”
“That’s right. There was a significant gap between the amount of Heavy Mithril being outputted as written in the account book, and what was actually being outputted.”
Where did all that Heavy Mithril go, then?
If the Count had been handling its delivery all this time, that could only mean…
Lihilt lowered his voice to a whisper and said, “This doesn’t just end at mere embezzlement—this is an act of betrayal against the entire Kingdom!”
…This is a huge deal…
If what Lihilt’s saying is true, there’ll be a lot more in store for the Count than just a slap on the wrist. Without a doubt, his household will be eliminated from the Kingdom in its entirety.
“Did you bring this up with him?”
“I sure did! Countless times, at that! He feigned complete ignorance! You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about, so couldn’t this be a mistake on your end? is what he told me, over and over!” Lihilt raised his voice. Just remembering it must’ve enraged him to no end.
If the Count ever acknowledged what Lihilt said, then his punishment for betraying the royal family’s trust would be set in stone, so it’s no wonder that he tried so desperately to deceive Lihilt.
“…Just to make sure, you’re confident that this isn’t a mistake on your part, right?”
“Yes, 100%! Only after I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked, did I bring this up to you! I had to, since I’m the new guy with zero experience to his name!”
He seems pretty confident to me.
If you’re that confident, why not just present your evidence to the Kingdom? …is what I wanted to say, but that has its fair share of repercussions, too.
He’d be accusing someone of a crime heavy enough to spell the end of their household.
And if the Count somehow manages to refute his claim, Lihilt’s reputation would be stained. Not the best start for a newly-appointed Lord.
Not to mention, the person he’s up against has been managing that mine for years; it wouldn’t be at all strange if he had a get-out-of-jail-free card or two up his sleeve.
As such, Lihilt wants to make the Count spill the beans on his own.
“This time around, though, I’ll have you be present, and I’ll corner him until his back’s against the wall! I’ve already given him a date and time!”
…I doubt that I’d actually be of any use here, but doing the same thing would only bring the same result. I suppose Lihilt wants to mix things up a bit.
Guess I’ll do what I can…
“Quite the rough start to your new job, huh, Lihilt?”
“Oh, no, not in the slightest! This isn’t anything to write home about! I am destined to be a Duke, after all! This is just another Tuesday for me! Ahahahaha!” Lihilt laughed. “Ah,” He then let out a voice and looked at Laura, “Sorry, Laura! Me and Albert hogged the conversation!”
Laura, having suddenly been brought into the conversation, shook her hands in a panic. “N-Nonono, it’s alright! D-Don’t mind me and carry on…!”
“Why, I can’t just ignore you. You went through the trouble of coming here too, so I shouldn’t bore you. You have any interesting stories you wanna tell me?”
That was a pretty generic, catch-all way of starting a conversation, kind of like asking about the weather.
But among the vast majority of nobles who acted like commoners didn’t even exist, Lihilt’s openheartedness was one of his strong points.
I was just glad that he treated Laura like a human being.
“U-Uhhh…” Taken by surprise, Laura looked up at the roof, then said, “I’m pretty interested in Heavy Mithril.”
“Ah, Heavy Mithril! I’d have expected nothing less from an Academy student! How about I show you some, then?”
“Wait, what do you mean?”
“Come this way. I actually have some on display for any visitors or guests. Heavy Mithril is, after all, what we’re known for,” Lihilt said. He stood up and opened the door to the adjoining room, and sitting inside was a glass display.
Lihilt stood in front of it. “Is this your first time seeing it? This is unprocessed Heavy Mithril.”
We peered into the glass case. There were several black crystals with pointy rocks sticking out of them on display.
“Woow, so this is how they look!”
“And this is how it looks after being refined,” Lihilt said, pointing at a jet-black sheet of metal sitting in the corner of the glass case.
“Yup. Although, it’s too dark to use as a material, so it gets painted afterward.” Lihilt opened the glass case with the key he retrieved. “Opportunities like these don’t come so often, so try holding it, Albert!”
I did as he asked and extended my hand toward the sheet of Heavy Mithril. I knew it was heavy, but it was small enough that it fit in the palm of my hand. It can’t be that—
I tried picking it up, but it didn’t budge an inch.
“Hahaha! See? It’s weight is nothing to scoff at. I’m pretty fit myself, but I still can barely move it without breaking my back in the process!”
…Using this in human equipment was totally out of the question.
Lihilt pointed at the wall. Embedded in it was a large, jet-black sheet of Heavy Mithril the size of a person.
“It’s about that large when used as a material. It’s ridiculously heavy, so a bunch of macho dudes with all kinds of machinery try their best to haul it around.”
“Ooh.” Laura got closer and stared hard at it. “Um, may I touch it?”
Having gotten Lihilt’s approval, Laura apprehensively poked at the sheet of Heavy Mithril, then let out a voice of awe.
“Ah, Laura,” Lihilt said, “wanna try shooting it with Magic Arrow?”
“Huh? Can I?!”
“Sure can. I guarantee you it won’t get damaged!” Lihilt answered, full of confidence.
Laura distanced herself from the wall and retrieved the wand at her waist. “Magic Arrow!”
A white arrow flew from her wand. The instant it hit the wall, it scattered like fireworks and vanished in the span of milliseconds.
“WHA! That’s amazing!”
“Hahaha! This sheet is on the thicker side! It has even more defensive power than usual!” Lihilt exclaimed. He then looked at me. “What about you, Albert? Wanna give it a go?”
“You’re confident in your Magic Arrow, aren’t you?”
“…Are you sure this is alright?”
My Magic Arrow was a little stronger than most, after all.
“It’ll be fine!” Lihilt responded like it was no big deal.
…If you say so. This is a rare opportunity, so why not? Lihilt saw my Magic Arrow at the Lizardman battle, so he knows how strong it is; despite that, he was giving me the green light.
“Can I shoot it at full power?”
“That’s a given! I want 100% of your 100%!”
I raised my right hand and said the words that acted as the trigger:
A white arrow flew from my hand, violently crashing into the jet-black mineral—
and I heard the sound of something shattering.
Today’s chap, wanted to post this earlier but it was longer than usual. I have the recreator chap that I didn’t post Friday mostly finished, so I’ll post that tomorrow and see if I can squeeze in another chap. Thanks for reading.