408 – Steward
Even though it was called the upper district, the overall quality of the structures within it didn’t differ much from those in the lower district. They were a bit flashier I suppose…… No, it’s more like the signages of the establishments were a bit more refined, and their placements weren’t as haphazard. Also, there was no graffiti drawn on the walls, nor was there any sign of garbage on the ground. Overall, it gave off a feeling of tidiness and order.
“It’s being kept pretty clean and orderly just because it’s called the upper district huh? What’s that theory called again……? Oh, I remember. The broken windows theory.”
“Broken windows theory?”
“Basically, if you leave a window broken, people will think that no one is paying the matter any attention, and eventually, all the other windows will be broken. Something like that. In other words, the theory claims that as long as one keeps a place constantly clean and orderly, it will discourage people from dirtying it. After all, one needs to muster up enough courage to take the lead in messing up such a place.”
“I see. I feel like I encountered a similar theory during my lessons in proper governance from way back.”
“You studied governance?”
“I’m the daughter of a high-ranking noble after all, so something like that’s par for the course.”
Elma shrugged her shoulders as she responded. Come to think of it, Elma was the daughter of a viscount, so if things went the usual route, she would have eventually married a noble who was in charge of his own territory, and she might have to get involved in territory management as well. If that’s the case, then those kinds of lessons were a given.
“Gaining new knowledge is never a waste of time huh?”
“What are you on about all of a sudden?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I just thought it might be good to study up a bit. As part of my regular routine, I mean.”
“I’m not sure what exactly brought this up, but…… I suppose it’s good that you’re motivated to improve yourself more.”
I just thought it was a pity. Elma’s so well-educated, but as long as we continued living our lives as mercenaries, she probably won’t have enough opportunities to put her knowledge to good use. Maybe I should prepare a place where she can freely display her knowledge and use it to its full potential. At first, I thought it would be enough to get a detached house with a garden on a relatively peaceful planet somewhere, but should I actually set my sights on something greater? Because at the rate I was going, a normal detached house just won’t cut it anymore. It’d have to be a fairly large mansion at least. Or maybe even multiple mansions……? Heck, why not go for an entire town while I’m at it?
“That face you’re making tells me you’re thinking of something weird again.”
“We’ve known each other for a fairly long time now, so…… I can already kinda guess your thought process, mister.”
“Hou…… Oh, we’re here huh? How should I put this? It kinda feels like I just heard someone scream ‘I’m better than you!’ in the background.”
“Did you just hit your head on something? Or did those mushrooms already get inside your brain?”
Can you please quit making such a worried expression, Elma-san? I mean, I couldn’t help it. A mansion with a neatly trimmed lawn surrounded by walls made out of red bricks and iron grills suddenly appeared in the middle of a colony filled with cold and inorganic structures. I thought something was wrong with my eyes for a second.
“I mean, that thing’s actually floating in the air y’know? It’s obviously floating above all the surrounding structures. It’s probably equipped with an anti-grav device. And what the heck is with that verdant green lawn?”
“It’s probably fake grass.”
“An artificial lawn huh……?”
“It’s impossible to have live grass inside a colony. That’s in order to keep the interior of the colony as sterile and free of microbes as possible…… After all, it’s gonna cost a lot to deal with the aftermath if something goes wrong.”
“It’s a matter of money huh……? Feels kinda stingy.”
“He’s just a baronet after all.”
“I kinda feel like I better understand just where a baronet stands in the social pecking order.”
In other words, baronets were nobles who were just one step below other higher-ranking nobles when it comes to status and wealth.
“Baronets tend to be quite sensitive about the topic of peerage, so make sure not to bring it up later. It’s a really touchy subject for them.”
I also didn’t want to unnecessarily make enemies. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind then.
We approached the seemingly old-fashioned iron grill gate, and after informing the soldiers standing guard about our appointment and my status as a Platinum-rank mercenary and honorary viscount, we were immediately led inside.
(Hey, is there anything else I should pay attention to when giving our greetings later?)
(Just remove your helmet and hold it under your left arm. Then, you just need to talk normally.)
While following after the soldier guiding us around the mansion, I used my helmet’s comms to secretly converse with Elma.
(Don’t you think this soldier looks a lot like the ones who were guarding the gate to the upper district we met earlier? The ones under Viscount Magnelli.)
(Their equipment certainly looks quite similar. It’s possible that Baronet Raydias’s men and those under Viscount Magnelli are supplied with standardized equipment.)
Using this method of communication, even the professional soldier guiding us wouldn’t be able to hear our conversation without the use of any special measures. That’s unless he was intercepting the transmission. I don’t believe there’s any chance of that though.
“My Lord, I brought the guests over.”
“Have them come in.”
The voice I heard from the other side of the door sounded younger than I expected. I was a bit puzzled because of that. If I remembered the stuff I researched beforehand correctly, I’m sure that Baronet Raydias was supposed to be getting on in years already.
“Welcome, Lord Hiro. Lady Elma. I am Hartmut Magnelli. Viscount Gunther Magnelli’s eldest son, and House Magnelli’s heir apparent. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
The person who greeted me and Elma inside the private room was a handsome man who appeared to be the same age or even younger than us.
Oh. So, he’s Hartmut Magnelli huh? Okay?
“Oh, uh…… Hello. I’m the mercenary, Captain Hiro. It’s an honor to meet you, but…… I believe we made an appointment with Baronet Raydias though?”
I took my helmet off and held it under my left armpit just like Elma instructed earlier, and then voiced my concern. Hartmut nodded and opened his mouth to respond.
“Apologies. Lord Fabian was relieved of his post as the steward of the Reemay system earlier this morning due to poor health, and I was appointed as his replacement instead. By the order of my father. You made an appointment with Lord Fabian before he was relieved, and that led to this situation, Lord Hiro. However, I am now the acting governor of this system, so if you have any business with him, you can run it through me instead. I do hope you understand.”
“Got it. Actually, our purpose for coming here is……”
I gave Elma a quick glance, and she shrugged her shoulders without saying anything in response. Did that mean everything’s fine? Well, I should just go ahead and try it, I suppose. It’s not like I was particularly well-versed in negotiating with nobles anyway. Let’s just go straight to the point.
“There’s a high chance that we’ll be heading into a seedier part of the lower district later on for some personal business. I thought it was a good idea to give you a heads-up in advance since we might need to get a little, err, rough.”
“……Lord Hiro, are you actually asking me to issue a letter of pardon that will absolve you from the act of killing the people living in my territory?”
“Are you mistaking me for some sort of bloodthirsty killer……? I’ll only fight back when attacked first, so my actions are just for self-defense y’know? It’s not like I’m gonna go to the lower district to cause a bloodbath just for kicks.”
I immediately refuted the frowning Hartmut while displaying a bitter smile. It would be fine if nothing actually happens while we’re down there, but just in case something did, I simply wanted to avoid unnecessary trouble by letting the authorities know in advance.
“Forgive me. It’s just that there have been many rumors of your various…… exploits.”
“Just what kind of rumors are they spreading anyway……? I really wanna find out for myself.”
“Stop that. Just let them say whatever they want.”
Elma warned me against my thoughts as I held my head in frustration. Since she was warning me not to mind the matter, I wonder if she already had an idea about the content of those rumors herself. I’ll have her tell me about them later. As gently as possible.
“Well, we’re aware of the colony’s current state, so we just didn’t want to cause too much trouble if we can help it. It’s just that I have a certain knack for getting into trouble, so……”
“Understood. Thank you for informing me in advance. I will notify the soldiers and security personnel to give you all the utmost consideration.”
“Thank you. We’d really appreciate that. Though they probably won’t be much of an apology, we do have medical supplies brought over from the Alein system among our cargo, and we’ll provide them at a reasonable price. They’re still loaded inside our mothership. The number of supplies isn’t that much, but we do hope they will be of some help.”
“Many thanks. The merchants seem to be taking advantage of the situation and have been steadily raising their prices after all.”
“We’ll send you the item list later.”
The reason we were selling them for a reasonable price and not providing them for free instead was to avoid being saddled with a debt of gratitude. We could have given them for free so Hartmut would owe us a favor, but it was honestly troublesome to do so if the other party was a noble. That’s why it was better to frame it as a business transaction instead, in order to avoid all the potential hiccups later down the line. And judging from Hartmut’s response, it seemed that we made a good call.
We’ll have more agency when moving around inside the colony. And in exchange, we’ll sell them medical supplies at reasonable prices. It’s a fair deal.
“How long do you expect to stay in the colony?”
“We probably won’t stay that long here. This place isn’t exactly suitable for our line of work right now either.”
Aside from the pandemic that was going on, it just took too much time and effort to leave and enter the port due to the quarantine measures being imposed. There was probably a good number of space pirates targeting merchant ships carrying those valuable medical supplies, but it wasn’t worth going through the trouble of hunting them down due to all the effort it took simply to get in and out of the colony.
“I see…… I might need to rely on your expertise for something during your stay here, so if that time comes–”
“We’ll consider it as long as you run it by the Mercenary Guild first. However, whether or not we’ll actually accept the request still depends on the terms.”
“Understood. I do hope you wouldn’t make it too expensive to hire your services though.”
“I can’t afford to sell my skills for a bargain price, so please temper your expectations.”
If I offered my services for cheap, it might cause issues for the other Platinum-rankers. And that might lead to me becoming the subject of their ire. That’s why I won’t ever work for cheap. No matter what.