The envoy appeared around when breakfast had ended the following day.
「So sorry to trouble you all this early in the morning.」
The envoy, a man possibly approaching his fifties, lowered his head along with the two knight-looking men behind him.
「No, don’t worry about it. How might we help you？」
「There’s more in the documents, but our master has asked to see all of you and wants to know when it might be convenient to meet.」
Handing the official letter to them and bowing once again, the envoy politely asked them what their plans were. Astonished at the man’s demeanor, Tatsuya quickly glanced at the other members.
Checking the contents of the letter and studying it to ensure there was no forgery anywhere, Hiroshi nodded once at Tatsuya.
「Well, we have yet to set any plans, so as long as there is no problem with it, we would be fine with heading out right away. Actually, it would probably be a lot easier to set plans if we headed out right now. How about it？」
「Understood. In that case, I will confirm with my master, so might I have you wait a bit longer？」
Seeing Tatsuya nod, the envoy took his distance to where no one could overhear before contacting someone with a transmission device. After two or three words, the envoy returned to where he previously stood and bowed.
「My master also says he is ready to receive you all. I do apologize for how sudden this is, but once all of you have gotten ready, would you mind embarking with us？」
「Yes, that’s fine.」
The envoy bowed his head once again at Tatsuya’s reply. Feeling a bit of unpleasantness at the man’s demeanor, the group returned to their rooms to get ready. Seeing them do that, the envoy ordered the most expensive tea as an additional apology for intruding into their space.
「I thank all of you for answering the sudden summons.」
Rufeus Academy’s visiting room. Waiting there was a young man who bowed his head as soon as Hiroshi and the others got to their seats. The headmaster, sitting beside him, copied the man and bowed his head.
「The lady at the gate told us that earlier, plus we already figured this would happen ‘n prepared accordingly so it really ain’t an issue……」
Hiroshi nearly let out a voice of perplexion at how quickly the man had lowered his head, even though there was technically no one else watching. If the document was not mistaken, the young man in front of them should be the country’s top, and even if that were not the case, he was certainly affiliated with the upper echelon, so wouldn’t it be bad to just lower your head to these strangers from who knows where？
「Umm, if yer the king of this country should ya really be bowing yer head to us so willingly？」
Hiroshi ended up asking something silly when he saw how quickly the man had bowed.
「While I am indeed the king, and in front of the public I behave as such, is it not proper etiquette to lower my head in a situation like this？」
「Mm, normally sure, I guess……」
The king responded to Hiroshi’s silly question with a highly serious answer. Hiroshi and the others weren’t quite sure what to do with this king and his lack of dignity. The rulers of the three great western kingdoms were all very quirky individuals, but when acting as rulers, you could feel the dignity that accompanied their position come out naturally.
His ascension to the throne having been only a few years ago probably influenced this as well, but the Lorren king just didn’t have that same air of dignity about him.
While very taken aback by all of this, Hiroshi realized the conversation wouldn’t move forward like this and decided to get to the main topic. The important thing here was not about the king lowering his head so willingly. Usually this position was Tatsuya’s to fill, but Hiroshi figured this really wasn’t the best time to be making others do his part.
「Could ya tell us why ya called us here now？」
Hiroshi asked, and the king decided to get to the point. Discussing the need or lack thereof for a king to bow was not going to get them anywhere.
「The reason I had you all come here was for none other than the fact that I want to request your help for Lorren’s sake.」
「We can’t stay exclusively here, if that’s whatcha want. We’re in the middle of findin’ a way back to our country, ‘n even if we weren’t, stickin’ around one country would put us in a problematic position.」
「I won’t ask anything so reckless as that. Even I do not wish to have the three great western kingdoms as my enemies, after all.」
The king grimaced as he responded to Hiroshi’s warning. While this was the largest country in the center of the continent, Lorren did not have the national power to oppose the three great western kingdoms.
The food sustenance was more than enough, but unlike Forre, Lorren did not have the kind of manufacturing ability or technology to cover all of its costs whenever it felt like it. Lorren imported plenty of resources from Farlane, and it also relied on various things from Darl and Forre.
Most of all, if Lorren were to halt its exports to the western nations, a large amount of unemployed people would emerge. Of course, the three great kingdoms would probably also suffer some damage, but they also had plenty of places to sell their products to. Taking on one country was one thing, but when it came to three, Lorren clearly had a disadvantage.
As a result, Lorren absolutely did not do anything that would risk stepping on the tiger’s tail.
「Lorren wishes to have a workshop set up in Rufeus as well, in addition to sending just one person, either one of your employees or acquaintances, into Rufeus Academy to enroll.」
「I mean, for the workshop, we were plannin’ on findin’ a base anyway, so that’s not gonna be a problem, but I’m a lil unsure about the goin’ to school part. There’s the issue of expenses, staying long-term that is gonna be difficult, ‘n the employees are currently limited and I doubt they’ll be able to just go to school like that.」
「The funding will be a national expenditure. As for the workshop, we already have several buildings reserved, so just pick one you like. You can set the transportation circle up right away.」
「Those are some mighty favorable terms, mate.」
「That is simply how much of a pinch my country is in, after all.」
Hiroshi suddenly made a sour face at the king’s conditions. He could smell trouble in the air.
「Let’s speak plainly. Whatcha really want from us？」
「Azuma Workshop’s technology. I would like you to collaborate with some of the research in Rufeus Academy.」
「So yer askin’ us to sell our tech to ya？」
「……I, suppose that would be the case, yes……」
When Hiroshi pursued him further, it was now the king’s turn to grimace. When he saw that, the headmaster spoke to the king.
「Your Majesty, perhaps I should explain from here, as I was one of those present.」
「……Right. Please do.」
Realizing that his explanation would simply not sound right, the king yielded the task to the headmaster. Accepting the king’s words, the headmaster opened his mouth to explain.
「What we want is, strictly speaking, not your technology. If anything, we want your flexible way of thinking you have shown thus far.」
Tatsuya let out a remark at the headmaster’s words. He couldn’t help but feel that Hiroshi and Haruna were not so much flexible as they were loyal to their greed.
「These last five years, Rufeus Academy has not unveiled any new theses. Every research field is experiencing stagnation. This is more than just us hitting a plateau in technology advancements; organizations are stiffening and ways of thinking are becoming rigid.」
「Umm, I’m pretty sure that basic research in this world, especially to gain results, normally takes around 50-100 years, y’know……？」
「Yes, of course it is as you say. However, that is only possible by continuously repeating trial and error with new challenges. Rufeus Academy does not even currently have that.」
「Then what kinda research are ya workin’ on？」
「It really seems like we’re just repeating experiments whose results have already been proven. I think we truly seem to hate the idea of conducting a new experiment and having all of our research results denied.」
As the headmaster explained the academy’s situation with a sigh, Hiroshi didn’t even bother to hide his tired expression.