Divine Punishment for the Evil Merchants
And so we finished the dungeon exploration that Ryoma had requested us to do.
It was now time to go to the city of Berneze, and save it from certain danger, just as we had promised.
I had given my word not only to Sakamoto Ryoma and his wife, but also with Ryoma.
However, I was a Demon King.
A ruler who governed multiple lands.
I couldn’t leave my castle for so long.
And so we decided to split up.
Eve and I would first return to the Ashtaroth castle. And only after I had taken care of business there, would we set off to Berneze.
In the meantimes, Ryoma and Jeanne would go to Berneze and gather information.
The danger in that city had to do with a ghost ship that was interfering with trade. However, there was also a battle being waged in that back by the council as well.
Both problems needed to be solved in order to bring peace to the city. This was what Ryoma had said.
“So those villains that attacked us before entering the dungeon were sent by your political enemies.”
“Then it’s a good thing that Jeanne will go with you as a guard. She won’t allow any assassins to get close to you.”
Jeanne said proudly. But I whispered into Ryoma’s ear.
“…She is indeed strong, but she becomes very vulnerable when affected by food poisoning. So you must be careful.”
Ryoma chuckled at this and said that she would. And then she got into the carriage.
Jeanne sat in the back and waved at us until we were out of sight.
Once we separated from them, we rushed back to Ashtaroth castle.
According to Fuma Kotaro, there were no signs of any enemies preparing to attack. However, the castle had been facing many problems in my absence.
The first was related to food.
Several months had passed since Sabnac’s people had come to Ashtaroth castle. And it wasn’t just them. People from the neighboring lands had all come to my town.
Other demi-humans heard that the earth dwarves were living here happily, and they decided to come.
Of course, this put pressure on our agricultural productivity.
Productivity had been raised through the adoption of new systems and developing more farmland. But such things would not make much difference until at least six months later.
In other words, we had to import food, which meant higher prices.
And this was not met with much support from old residents of Ashtaroth castle.
There were some who wished for the expulsion of the new residents.
But it had not been easy to gather so many skilled workers to this place from different lands, and I did not want to negatively affect their comfort of living over such a thing.
After receiving the report in my office, Gottlieb visited me.
“Now, Demon King. I would very much like for you to solve this problem before you depart to Berneze.”
“However, the thing is that this problem can be solved if I go to Berneze. The south is rich with food that we would be able to import.”
“That may be, but the residents want bread for their tables today. It’s important that they have meat the day after tomorrow as well, but it’s clear what they need now.”
“Indeed. I suppose the first thing I can do now is arrest the villainous merchants who are illegally hording the food in order to manipulate prices.”
“I see. So it’s not just a matter of population, but also human greed.”
“Exactly. While the people cry out over the lack of food. Someone has large stocks. It happens in every world.”
Eve heard this and bowed politely.
“Here is a list of the merchants that Hanzo made.”
She showed me the document.
That was Eve for you. Preparing everything I could want in advance.
I was grateful for this, but Gottlieb seemed most surprised as he looked at it.
“When was this list made!”
“We predicted that something like this could happen when the population started to rise. And so I asked Hanzo to look into it before we left for Sabnac’s castle.”
“That’s impressively perceptive.”
“Not at all.”
I said modestly and then called out Hijikata Toshizou.
These kinds of merchants always hired armed mercenaries. And so it was certain that any searches and seizures would lead to violence.
I told Hijikata this, but he had nothing to be afraid of.
If anything he seemed rather excited at the prospect.
“I was quite busy maintaining the peace while you were gone. Dealing with drunks, people soiling the streets, pickpockets. To be honest, it was boring work.”
“Was it more amusing when you were in the Shinsengumi?”
“It was. Every day was filled with excitement. Wine tastes better if you feel like it might be your last. It was the same with the women.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of thrills on this job.”
“Aye, it reminds me of Ikeda-ya.”
“What is that?”
Eve said with a puzzled expression. She knew very little about Japan.
“It’s the name of an inn that existed in Tokyo during the Bakumatsu era. Of course, it’s not the inn that is so famous, but an incident that occurred there.”
“Aye. Some masterless samurai who wanted to overthrow the Bakumatsu were going to set fire to the capital. It was the commander of the Shinsengumi who put a stop to it. Kondo Isami broke into Ikeda-ya and cut down nine of the masterless samurai and arrested four of them.”
“Isn’t it? There were twenty samurai in all, but Kondo Isami was in a small group of four.”
“Well, that is quite the story.”
Eve was usually very calm, but had a look of excitement.
Her eyes were fixed on Toshizou and were filled with admiration. But he looked a little awkward.
As I wondered why, he muttered with a guilty expression.
“…However, I was not part of the group.”
I thought back on what I knew.
The story about the Shinsengumi Commander attacking the masterless samurai with just three other men was quite famous. However the four who had been there aside from the Commander, Kondo, were first unit captain Okita Soji, second unit captain Nagakura Shinpachi, and Todo Heisuke.
At the time, Toshizou was leading a different unit based on false information.
As a man who practically lived to fight, it must be a great regret for him to have not participated in that event.
It was easy to imagine based on his current expression.
As I started to feel bad for him, I decided to drop the subject altogether.
After all, it had surely been fate that he was not there.
On the other hand, he would do something much greater than Kondo while he was here. And so I patted him on the shoulder.
He understood my intent.
His expression returned to its usual confidence and he called his own subordinates.
There were about twenty of them, and all were apparently master swordsmen.
“While they may not match the Shinsengumi, I have trained them well.”
As Toshizou led the monsters, there were many in the group that were goblins or orcs.
They all looked like seasoned fighters.
Toshizou chose three that were especially strong and made them captains. And it was with these four that he attacked the villainous merchants.
And when they entered the building, they shouted,
“This is a raid!”
Just like the Shinsengumi did.
This level of enthusiasm was quite expected for the demon vice-commander.
The villainous merchants shuddered at the mere sight of him.
“Well, he won’t need my help.”
I thought as I returned to my office. There I played chess with Gottlieb and waited for Toshizou’s return.