Chapter 12

 

***

 

Jason was calm with the situation.

 

“You look like you’ve been through a lot. You’ve lost a lot of weight in your face.”

 

The kind face was overlaid with the expressionless face he had shown to ‘commoner Ethel.’

 

Jason Evanders- Karen’s dog. I said repeatedly in my gut.

 

My mind was as calm as the ocean after a storm.

 

My eyes turned to the contract.

 

Judging by the man’s lack of generosity, the mine seemed to be a great one. But it wasn’t the mine that I wanted.

 

He was the king of the underworld, and I wanted to put him in debt.

 

Money is important, but what’s more important is power. The power to protect what is mine.

 

And power is something that comes from people. We had to be careful.

 

If I faced him with the mindset of trying to win, I would lose. But if I want to get him to my side….

 

“Instead of the mine, I will take the money that the mine is worth.”

 

He opened his eyes wide at the sound of my voice. He didn’t expect to hear such words.

 

It’s a good sign when the opponent is upset. I calmly continued with my words.

 

“I was told that Evanders has that kind of money.”

 

“…… Of course.”

 

“But it’s a loss for me to take the money as it is. Because it’s like choosing between a golden goose that constantly brings diamonds and the treasure in front of you.”

 

At that moment the mischievous smile on his face quickly disappeared. Jason stared at me, without saying a word.

 

The opponent had his full attention in conversation. Good. That was a good sign.

 

His action of focusing on me obviously helped to break the tension.

 

“I am the princess, and you are the entrepreneur. The mines that are rotting in your hands could be put to better use by me. Then again, you knew that already and hesitated to give me the mine.”

 

“You pointed out …… accurately. Frankly, I’m a little impressed.”

 

“But you can’t ignore the symbolism. Because the diamond mines of Sutherland belonged to Evanders. It belonged to my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. It’s a legacy. And what about the diamond marketing expertise I’ve accumulated over the decades? 

 

I’ve done everything from formulating and adjusting the amount of diamonds that need to be disposed of to the value of the ore in the marketplace, so leaving it in your hands would not be very desirable. Because they are all related to the logic of a huge market.”

 

Jason nodded. His red eyes twinkled.

 

“I’ll take your word for it then. Forty percent of the mine’s monthly earnings. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to get that and some gold in exchange for the mine. Don’t you think so?”

 

“Forty percent….”

 

“Of course, I’ll keep the money in your bank. That’s quite a concession I’d be willing to make.”

 

“Don’t you think that’s too much? In the end, I’ll be left with 60% of the mine’s profits.”

 

“And then there’s the special customer.”

 

“The Evanders’ bank is the most secure bank in the empire, even the royal families of other countries deposit their money there. To think that depositing your money there is a favor to the Princess…”

 

“Then give me the mine.”

 

“…”

 

“Is that too hard?”

 

Jason looked very unhappy, but I actually didn’t care what he thought of this condition.

 

Forty percent was a start.

 

That’s all that really matters.

 

“I’ll give you ten percent.”

 

“Thirty.”

 

“Isn’t it more important to find a consensus than to stick to your respective opinions? Twenty percent.”

 

He raised two fingers and looked at me.

 

“Or, I will accept the deal if the Princess lends me an hour of your time.”

 

“Alright.”

 

Gold commensurate with the value of the mine, plus twenty percent of the annual earnings, was a very generous income.

 

My goal was to manage the mine as well as I could.

 

Twenty percent was a bonus.

 

Jason Evanders, who somehow refused to pay, was no longer there.

 

“I’ll do that. And the dividend, excluding the price of the mine, is my investment in the casino. Half goes to the business and the other half goes back to the people who lost their money. If a lot of money is concentrated on one person, the aristocracy will stumble. It’s a specification that this country will be destroyed.”

 

“Then I will create a foundation in Princess Stella’s name and return the money to the nobles.”

 

“Perfect.”

 

Jason nodded, then took his pen and marked off the various parts of the contract, and wrote down the new agreement in elegant letters beneath it. Then I signed my name next to it.

 

“Once the Princess signs next to the written portion, the contract will be complete.”

 

He quickly pushed the paper in front of me.

 

“Not yet.”

 

I was adamant about it, and Jason stared at me with curiosity.

 

“This is a favor from me, Viscount.”

 

“…”

 

“It’s just that I let you off the hook. And I hope Viscount appreciates it. Don’t forget to thank me. Viscount Evanders.”

 

Jason did not answer. I was expecting that much arrogance.

 

“As a loser.”

 

It said he was quite a competitive man. Rising from the ashes, I defeated him at once.

 

“Be polite to the winner.”

 

Beside the nice handwriting, I wrote my name as the princess and took my share of the contract.

 

The contract was now signed. Creditor versus debtor.

 

He owed me a debt.

 

* *

 

“I sincerely apologize for everything I’ve done…”

 

I faced Jason in the parlor, not in his office. I was his visitor earlier, but now I was his creditor, the big client.

 

That was followed by Jason’s dead smile.

 

“You didn’t even touch the tea? Aren’t you going to drink it? It’s the best tea in the world.”

 

“I’m good.”

 

 “Excuse me then.”

 

Jason took the cup in front of me and emptied it.

 

Maybe because the tea was cold, he drank it without stopping.

 

The empty teacup was placed in front of me again, and he closed his eyes and smiled.

 

“I won’t have you poisoned, you’re my special customer now.”

 

“…”

 

“Besides, being the princess the people’s love is a power in itself. I’m just an entrepreneur. You’re an Imperial Princess. If I were foolish to kill the star lord that the people and the Imperial family love, I would not even qualify to call Her Highness ‘customer’.”

 

His voice was soft.

 

“Knowing that the Princess’s support is not weak, isn’t this the reason why you came to make a deal with me? It’s because you believe. You believe in your position.”

 

“You’re right.”

 

“It looks like you’re wondering how many minutes have passed. Do you not like me?”

 

“…”

 

“I hated you.”

 

It’s funny.

 

His eyes that once looked down at me menacingly turn to me with familiarity.

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to be such a bad guy. Please believe me.”

 

“How much was your contract with Karen?”

 

“What?”

 

“Since you changed your attitude quickly, I wonder how much your alliance with Karen cost.”

 

He was silent. The sarcasm I was making was not a very pleasant one.

 

I decided to cut to the chase and get down to business.

 

“I was told that you own the largest mercenary guild in the Empire.”

 

“That’s right.”

 

He didn’t smile or whisper sweet nothings like he did earlier.

 

He seems to have understood that sweet words wouldn’t work on me.

 

“Good. I’m in need of mercenaries.”

 

“Oh, it’s for your family, isn’t it? I’m sure you want to protect them.” (*Jason is talking about the family at the inn, Mary, Hans, and Daisy.)

 

“You think you’ve found my weakness?”

 

“No, of course not. You’re my customer….”  

 

My mouth went dry at the look on his face as if he didn’t know what was in my heart.

 

But I was not to be beaten.

 

“If you touch my family, the first thing you will lose will be a special customer, followed by the trust of your people. Lastly, the trust and dignity of the Evanders’ name. Eventually, everything.”

 

I gripped the contract tightly in my hands.

 

“I’ll get them for you, but…”

 

“What is it?”

 

The man clasped his hands together on the desk.

 

“Certainly, there’s no client to trust the man who cheated on the princess. Don’t you think so?”

 

“…”

 

“So how do you plan to keep the mercenaries in that inn?”

 

Bingo, I raised the corners of my lips.

 

* *

 

“Hans, come over here and see! You said you wanted to work here, eh, um, what did you say?”

 

Mary turned and stared at the rough men.

 

Eventually, the large red haired man scratched his head and turned away to look at the large man next to him.

 

Then he straightened up and spoke in a soft voice.

 

“I’m a chef. And this one, um…”

 

“I’m good at cleaning. I can carry heavy things too.”

 

“Oh, I’m so glad. We’re short of help.”

 

A plump, middle-aged woman jumped up and down, applauding.

 

She turned to the large red-haired man again.

 

The axe strapped to his back flashed in the sunlight.

 

“Oh, by the way, what’s with the axe?”

 

“Oh, he’s good at slaughtering animals, and chopping wood too.”

 

The third big man, who had been keeping quiet until now, was quick to answer.

 

“I see,” Mary nodded.

 

Just then the door of the inn opened and Hans walked in. He immediately froze in place with his mouth wide open.

 

It was because of the three men standing at the door.

 

Mary turned to him and said,

 

“They are young men in need of work. They only need food and a place to sleep instead of getting paid. Don’t you think it’s good? We’re short handed after Ethel left.”

 

Hans’s expression hardened. Then he took a step and looked up at the men in the distance.

 

The tanned sun cast shadows on the men’s faces, giving them a somewhat eerie atmosphere.

 

The men deliberately gave Hans a friendly smile, and at the same time, Hans smiled back awkwardly.

 

He said cautiously.

 

“Well, I think you’re more suited for mercenary work than this restaurant. You can get ten times or even a hundred times more than the restaurant’s pay if you work as mercenaries. So, why do you want to work here?”

 

“Ah…uhm…”

 

Of the three figures, the one standing in the middle stepped on the red haired man’s foot and shook his head.

 

Then the red haired man answered with a stern look on his face.

 

“There are more important things than money.”

 

“Yes, there are more important things than money. A little happiness, for example.”

 

The man standing in the middle replied with sad eyes.

 

As the two figures looked at each other, the third man said… 

 

“I’ve always dreamed of working in an inn since I was a child.”

 

He courageously confided his dream to Mary.

 

“Oh, dear, is that so?”

 

 Unlike Mary, Hans was still in a state of shock.

 

Daisy, who showed up late, wondered who these men were. As she stared at them, the three men looked at her with smiles on their faces.

 

Suddenly, the sound of the carriage door closing with a clang drew everyone’s attention. The carriage had stopped nearby. Daisy stared blankly at the man who was walking towards them.

 

Hans opened his mouth.

 

“Oh, how did you end up in such a humble place…?”

 

“I’m looking for someone.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Ethel.”

 

At the mention of Ethel’s name, Mary’s gaze turned to the seal on the man’s armor. It was the crest of the Imperial family.

 

“Why, Ethel is my child…”

 

Mary’s smile faded away.

 

Did something happen to Ethel? 

 

The daughter, whom she held in her heart.

 

In the guestbook, Ethel left a note, [ I will explain the details later. Do not worry.]

 

Ethel had never sent a single letter after that.

 

In Daisy’s words, Ethel left one day with a very beautiful sister. (Karen)

 

Mary’s mouth felt bitter.

 

Ethel came to her family like a miracle.

 

But she was a child with many secrets.

 

Mary’s heart ached, even though she knew that Ethel was a child who would one day wander off like the wind.

 

“I want to know where Ethel is.”

 

The man said.