We were visiting the Marquis of Gramp’s territory for the first time in a while. As we travelled through the countryside, the towns and villages we passed were hardly recognizable. Even the smallest of villages appeared to be prospering.
As we got to the town Crane lived in, it was clear that Crane had begun redeveloping the entirety of the city starting from the centre. There was a clear point where the old buildings ended and where buildings following our designs began. Most of the newer buildings were centred around Crane’s mansion.
There were still many sections of the town that were under construction but everyone we passed seemed bright and lively.
The Marquis was the first to be taught our techniques and given our technology, and since then, he has been striving to improve the standard of living for the commoners in his territory. And it seems that the effects are starting to show.
Another way to increase the standard of living for the commoners is to reduce the superiority the nobility has over them. At first, none of the nobles would even consider this as an option.
However, more recently, most nobles have been reconsidering.
This may seem strange but it’s not like they did this out of the kindness of their hearts. Even if they were to give up their large mansions and live in the most basic of houses built following our designs, their own standard of living would drastically increase. Seeing that they stood to benefit as well led to them reconsidering.
For example…increased tax revenue. Using our technology, any noble lord is capable of drastically improving the lives of their people. Previously, lords would do whatever they could to squeeze every last coin out of their citizens, all the while doing little to improve their lives.
People living in towns improved by our technology will earn more money, pay less for daily necessities, and live better more rewarding lives. It should go without saying which of these two would be more willing to pay higher taxes.
As a result, lords that had embraced our policies had prospered along with their towns and people. Now that several years had passed since many lords began using our technology, the difference between their cities and older cities was startling.
This has led to many more taking note of the increased prosperity of these lords and they too have started embracing our policies.
This has led to this country’s wealth increasing little by little. And the Marquis of Gramp, who was the first to be taught our technology, has improved his territory far more than any others.
As evidence of this, the commoners were all prospering, and Crane’s mansion was also improved significantly. Alice and I redesigned it without showing any self-restraint. It’s of equal quality to our own mansion.
And it wasn’t just the facade but also the interior.
We entered the mansion and were led into the drawing room. The carpet was soft and fluffy and the sofa was comfortable. As expected of the Marquis.
We were left to wait in this room for only a short while before the Marquis of Gramp appeared.
An elderly butler stood next to him. I believe we’ve met before.
I think his name was…Joseph.
“Thank you for coming, Leon. And you as well, Lady Sophia and…Lady Alistair.”
Oh, Crane actually remembered Alice’s name.
Even though she’s a little old for him to be interested in…. He actually managed to remember the name of someone that isn’t a young girl.
“Good afternoon, Crane. Your home has truly become amazing since our last visit.”
“Oh this? Lady Claire lent me an engineer, so I was able to do this in a short amount of time. She’s also helped out in many other ways.”
I gave a bitter smile after hearing this. As expected of Claire. She does so much more than I even know about.
“So, Leon, I read your letter before your arrival. You’re here looking for something?”
“Yes. I’m looking for two ingredients that I’ve been told are in your territory for a medicine that will cure Sophia’s mother of her illness.”
“Oi, oi, as usual, you have trouble expressing yourself properly. How badly do you think I’ll look if anyone finds out that information like that is leaking from my territory?”
“…how would you look bad?”
Crane lifted the edge of his mouth in a sneer.
I thought it was strange for him to be reacting like this, but Sophia pulled on my sleeve before I could speak.
I turned to her to see what she wanted but she wasn’t even facing me.
…hmm. Oh, I remember.
When we came to negotiate with the Marquis before, I told Sophia to pull on my sleeve whenever he was lying.
That was years ago but I remember it clearly.
So what he said just now was a lie. He’s not actually worried about himself, he’s actually worried about how I’m handling the situation with Sophia and her mother.
Is Crane a tsundere now? I don’t know how I feel about a middle-aged tsundere.
“…is something wrong?”
“No, it’s nothing. Thank you for your concern. But I don’t think you have to worry about that happening. There’s not many who’d speak ill of a house so close to my own.”
“Ha, that’s true.”
Crane kept up his act until the end. Sophia showed me that he was really just worried about me…. Well, I won’t say anything.
“We’re looking for the two ingredients. The first is the liver of the Lyk Skull Bear.”
“…Lyk Skull Bear? Do you mean a Garu Bear?”
Crane tilted his head and Joseph whispered into his ear that the Lyk Skull Bear was a mutated species born from the Garu Bear.
“They’re a mutation?”
“Yes. From what I know, there’s one born for every several hundred Garu Bears.”
“Several hundred? All right….”
After the brief exchange with Joseph, Crane furrowed his brow.
“Is there a problem, Crane?”
“A Garu Bear is a monster that resembles an ordinary bear, except they’re much larger and rarer. If you’re saying this Lyk Skull Bear is born in one out of several hundred, then it must be considerably rare.”
“In other words, it will be hard to find.”
“Exactly. In addition, the fur of the Garu Bear sells for a large sum so the fur of this rare mutation must be even more valuable.”
“That’s…going to be a problem.”
On top of it being a rare species, the price of its fur means that hunters would target this animal specifically. There’s few to begin with and they won’t live long due to hunters. This makes it considerably harder to find.
“How long does she have?”
“It’s hard to say for sure, but…maybe a year.”
I don’t really understand how they’re maintaining Elyse’s health, but they have medicines that can slow the progression of the disease. They’ve given her a year to live.
“All right. We have some time to work with. You could try putting a request up at the adventurer’s guild.”
“The adventurer’s guild? You should’ve only completed that recently. Is it up and running?”
“It’s still small scale but they’ve already begun accepting requests to gather materials.”
“Is that so? Then, I’ll check it out later.”
I was the one that suggested he build an adventurer’s guild but I never expected that they’d be helping me.
“You said you were looking for two ingredients earlier. What’s the second?”
“It’s the claw of an earth dragon. I’ve heard that you have one.”
“The claw of an earth dragon…I certainly do. It’s a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.”
“A family heirloom…?”
“The first lord of my house married a princess as a reward for killing an earth dragon and was also granted the title of marquis. The claw serves as a form of proof.”
“Is that so….”
It’s worse than I anticipated.
I thought it was just part of a collection of his. If that were the case we could either trade with him or buy it outright. But if it holds significance to him and his family, he may not be willing to sell it for any amount of money.
“You look troubled. Do you think I won’t be willing to part with it?”
“…eh? It’s important to you, isn’t it?”
“The earth dragon’s claw certainly is an important family heirloom. However, what you’ve done for my family and our people is far more significant than an heirloom could ever be. I’ll happily hand it over on one condition.”
“What is this condition…?”
There’s no chance I’m giving him Claire if he’s still interested in her. I shouldn’t get defensive until after I’ve heard what he has to say.
“There are actually two conditions, one of which you’ve already agreed to. As I told you before, I’d like you to inspect the guild and the school and report any problems you encounter to me.”
“I have no problem with that…. And the second?”
“Well, it’s actually — wait just one moment.”
Crane said this and snapped his fingers. Shortly after, a small…no, a young girl with a rather mature body entered the room.
She appeared to be around ten years old. Is she a servant here? The girl was wearing a set of high-quality maid clothes but the outfit had an extremely short mini-skirt and it exposed a lot of skin.
The girl lifted the hem of her skirt and curtsied.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Earl of Grances. My name is Lori. I am Crane onii-sama’s younger step-sister.”
— I have so many questions I’m not even sure where to start.
“…umm, did you mean to say you’re Crane’s step-daughter?”
“No, I’m onii-sama’s step-sister. I plan to become his mistress as soon as I turn twelve.”
Isn’t that a crime in several different ways!?
“Crane, I don’t think you should be making moves on minors….”
“Don’t worry. I am nothing if not a gentleman and I won’t lay a hand on such a young girl. I’ll wait until she’s all grown up.”
…as expected of a lolicon. He’s basically saying he’ll wait until she’s old enough to be married, and Crane will be thirty-five years old this year.
Well…the children of this world do mature fast. A twelve-year-old would have the appearance of a high schooler on Earth. If I think about it as a thirty-year-old man marrying a high schooler…nope, it’s still wrong.
I also don’t understand why he made her his step-sister if she’s going to be his mistress.
“By the way, Crane, are your parents still alive?”
“No, they passed away when I was still young.”
“Umm…then, who adopted Lori?”
“Don’t worry about the details. It’s enough to say that she’s been adopted into my house.”
“What is that supposed to mean!?”
“You of all people should know what I’m talking about. By adopting them into my house, I slowly increase the size of my harem. I’m just following your example.”
This guy is saying something completely ridiculous! Just following my lead…? No, that’s exactly what I’m doing, isn’t it?
This is how other people view me!? The mental damage this has caused me is significant.
“Leon, what’s most important is how they feel about each other, right?”
Alice whispered into my ear.
Just as she said, Lori didn’t appear sad and seemed actually excited to be with the Marquis. This must be what she actually wants.
…whatever, I won’t push any further into their business.
“Fine, I understand who Lori is to you but how does she relate to your second condition?”
“Ah, actually –”
The second condition was to help resolve a certain dispute that had been going on for many years between the Full-Flat family and the Gramp family. And Lori was somehow involved in this.
I…I have a terrible feeling about this.