ver, he had less than a week left to raise enough currency to cover the debt’s interest.

“First off, I’ll need to pay interest.”

     It wasn’t that there still weren’t unturned stones that may provide ways to scrounge up 300 cells.
The merchant–the one that was sent with all that the estate owned–was one such avenue to follow.
However, the issue was that the merchant had yet to return.

     “The governor has collapsed, and the chief attendant is on the verge of collapse.”

     Pressing hard on his temples to stave off the rising headache, Ayra called for one of the ministers in charge of state affairs.
The minister rushed straight to the study as soon as he was called.
Ayra had thought this during that morning banquet so long ago, but today he was struck by how conspicuous the man’s pink hair was.
He was in his late 50s; the fairly elderly man smiled, making an affable impression, and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
Perhaps he had come here after drinking; his face was quite bloated.

     “Did you call for me, my lord?” he said.

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     “That’s right… Sir Lan Graphney.” Ayra, after confirming his name and surname through the stat window, called out the man’s name half a beat slowly.

The administrator grinned broadly, showing all of his bright teeth.
“Please, call me Graphney.”

     “Mm, Sir Graphney.
According to the governor, he sent off a merchant a few days ago; where exactly was he sent? Could we still get in touch with that merchant?” Ayra asked while busily searching through the documents.
A while had passed but the young lord heard no response.
When Ayra looked up, Graphney looked puzzled.

     “A merchant?”

     “Why do you look as if you don’t know anything? You’re an administrative executive, right?”

     “Uh, y-yes! Of course.
I’m an administrative minister.
Uh, mm, I don’t know exactly, but wouldn’t the governor have been the one to send the merchant out?”

     Listening to his peerlessly stupid answer, Ayra realized that the minister may have had a great hand in Ginas overworking himself.
The man did not send off the merchant under Ginas’s direction; he wasn’t reporting to the governor.
Rather, while Graphney was lax in his work, Ginas had directly instructed the merchant and conducted all the post-processing.

“…In anycase, there’s no way to reach the merchant right now, correct?” Ayra asked.

“Yes, yes, that’s probably correct.
They’ll come back eventually.”

     “Are you saying he came or not? How would one contact a merchant? Are there any magic communication tools here?”

     No, Ayra thought, even in the Labyrinth, a magic communication tool was rare and precious–often used by well established mages or Great Lords.
There was no way this place would have something like that.
If they had such a tool, it would have immediately been sold to pay off the debt.

     Graphney replied with a bright expression that didn’t suit his age, “Well, I guess you would send a messenger bird or a soldier.
If you wait, I’m sure he’ll come back one day, haha.”

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     Ayra could tell from his answer that this minister knew nothing and would be of no help.
“…That’s enough.
You can go now.”

     “What? No–there must be much you don’t know, I should be by your side to help you…”

     Instead of responding further, Ayra lifted the Pebble that was sticking to his knees and loafing around.
When he blew on the Pebble, the artificial spirit flapped its small hands and floated away like a soap bubble riding on the wind.
Frightened by that sight, the administrative minister screeched, hurriedly drew a holy prayer sign with his fingers, and fled, almost stumbling and crawling, from the study.

     Afterwards, with Pebble atop his head, Ayra searched for specific documents regarding the trader, but he was unsuccessful.
First, it was clear that it would be difficult to contact him now.
Ginas wouldn’t have suffered from such severe stress, losing so much weight, otherwise.

     After brief contemplation, he called for the Knight commander this time.
He wanted to send a soldier to confirm the trader’s status.
However, for some reason, the knight commander did not arrive; instead, Bloom, the vice commander, came.

     “Why have you arrived instead of the knight commander?” Ayra asked.

     Bloom opened his mouth as if to say something before aborting that though; he soon took something out of his arms and handed it over.
This all felt somehow ominous; Ayra slowly reached out his hand. Was this a letter…? The envelope rustled as Ayra took out its contents.

      Bloom, in an angry cold voice, said, “This is the commander’s resignation letter.”

“What?!”

“The knight commander has dared to abandon his duties–this morning, he left this resignation letter.”

      Wow! The knight commander… Was this an estate where someone could run away without saying a word to their Lord?!

Reading the resignation letter, it seems that the knight commander felt overworked, paid too little for his time, and felt that his home fief had no prospects.
Was Solar’s dark future the problem? Or was it the knight commander?

     Stress slowly rising, Ayra ripped up the letter.
“Then, from today Sir Bloom will be the knight commander.
You’ve been promoted to the next level.”

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