༺ Stormy First Family Meeting (1) ༻
When it came to Baron Armin Campbell, there would be no one among his people who would speak ill of him.
He was a competent and amiable lord who had always dove into the front lines to tackle difficult tasks, was considerate of those beneath him, and handled official matters calmly and cooly.
And Armin himself was proving why he received such evaluations in real-time.
Anyone would agree to such an evaluation after simply seeing him not flee from the person in front of him.
“…Is the tea to your liking?”
In truth, after taking into account who the person in front of him was, the fact that he uttered such a question was ridiculous.
As befitting of a lord that was void of extravagance, he had brewed a mediocre tea with old leaves and herbs.
Since there had rarely been visitors from other territories, he hadn’t adequately prepared items for hospitality. Rather, he’d use that money to replace one of the local’s farming equipment instead.
The person in front of him was someone who had seen and possessed treasures from all the mountains and seas of the Empire. And he merely made such a remark.
Gideon Galestead La Tristan.
The highest authority in the Empire, second only to the Emperor himself.
No matter how one looked at it, he wasn’t someone who’d visit the territory of a Baron, and without any attendants to boot.
‘Lady Tristan was already overwhelming enough…!’
‘Not only that, the Duke Tristan himself had come as well?’
‘What in the world is going on?’
Inwardly, he was sweating buckets, as he scrutinized the person before him from top to bottom.
From his attire, one wouldn’t have guessed that he was a major noble.
Bandages wrapped around his entire body. His clothes were tattered. A single sword hanging from his waist and a body that was as sturdy as a rock.
Rather than a major noble, he seemed more like a wandering swordsman who had dedicated himself to his journey and had disconnected himself from the secular world for a long time.
“…I apologize, Your Grace. It’s a bit embarrassing, but in this remote rural area, this is all we have to offer so I give my sincere apolo—”
Gideon emptied his tea cup.
The tea was undoubtedly crude and bitter, but he seemed unaffected.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Armin blinked in surprise.
“On my way here, I saw the people smiling and laughing. It’s quite a feat to be able to make everyone wear such expressions, even in a peaceful place like this.”
Just with that, he could instantly tell how Armin Campbell treated the people of his territory,
“It implies that you are giving up many things for your people. Raise your chest with pride, Baron Campbell.”
At the very least, it was clear that the Baron governing this small and remote territory was a much better human being than the nobles who only thought about their authority over their subjects, instead of the obligations and duty that came with their position.
How long had it been since he encountered such a ‘true’ noble?
Gideon thought as such before nodding.
“That must be why your son has grown with such character.”
Armin responded blankly to the sudden statement.
‘No, wait… Why is my son even being brought up in this conversation?’
“…Forgive me, but what’s your relationship with Dowd…?”
“Our relationship is one of master and disciple.”
Armin’s jaw dropped.
Oh my gosh. His son was acknowledged as the disciple of none other than Duke Tristan?
Although Armin had always thought his child was clever from a young age, he didn’t realize he had such extraordinary talent!
‘Sending him to the academy was a good decision…!’
With such thoughts, Armin was marveling at his own past decision.
It was truly the right thing to do to provide his son with such an educational opportunity, even if he had to squeeze out the meager resources of his impoverished territory.
It was just an effort to provide more help to the locals in the future, but it unexpectedly led to such incredible connections.
“Thank you very much, Duke Tristan. To give such a valuable opportunity to my child. As a token of appreciation, is there anything I can offe—”
Gideon replied with furrowed brows.
“I do not know what you’re misunderstanding, but I am the disciple.”
Armin’s expression froze.
It was as if his brain function had stopped in an instant.
What in the world was this person saying?
“I visited the territory this time to receive a interim evaluation.”
“He had assigned me some homework, and at least in my eyes, I was able to produce a successful result. It’s time for me to receive new homework.”
“I can only hope that my efforts have led me to the right path.”
At the sight of Gideon smiling bitterly, Armin’s brain received another shock akin to a lightning strike.
Was nervous about showing his son the ‘results’ of his efforts.
Almost as if he was a student who was having his homework evaluated by his professor.
Armin’s brain, which had stopped for a while, finally started moving again.
‘Okay, let’s organize the situation at hand.’
Although he hadn’t properly thought it over due to the chaos, his son had returned to the territory with both Margrave Kendride’s foster daughter and Lady Tristan.
And in such a situation, the Duke was saying that he was his son’s disciple. With his own mouth.
‘…Son. What on earth have you been doing?’
He clearly said that he would live inconspicuously when he left our hometown…!
Such a scream echoed inside of Armin’s mind like a cry of despair.
“…I already said I won’t get hurt anymore.”
Eleanor tightly wrapped the bandage without saying a word.
Her movements were so powerful that I couldn’t help but let out a shallow gran.
“It seems like you always need to worry people to make yourself feel better.”
Eleanor glared at me while muttering such words.
“If you want to get hurt so badly, just tell me. I’ll give you a thorough beating without any aftereffects.”
“No, this time, it really couldn’t be help—”
Eleanor slapped my back.
She seemed to imply that I should not talk back.
Wow. That fucking hurts.
Although it felt like she held back, it was so strong that I was involuntarily winded.
“…I take back my statement, I’d rather you not make such a request.”
“I tried hitting you as an experiment but I felt more sorry than I thought I would. Even if you ask for it, I don’t think I can grant such a request.”
Whatever you say. Do as you wish.
Without even considering how to respond, I decided to just look into the things that needed to be checked.
First, the ‘expenses’.
Type: Consumable Item
Description: Slowly restores damaged body. Not effective for critical injuries where life is at risk.
Current Remaining Points: 1,000pt
Shit was so expensive.
This was the item I had imbued into my right arm. With just this, the majority of the points I had meticulously accumulated through Gift Rewards and Main Quests were gone.
However, considering that I gained the favor of Margrave Kendride, it could be seen as a good deal.
By obtaining a territory, I gained the opportunity to participate in Demonic Creature and Dungeon Conquests. Additionally, the ‘Northern Frontier,’ where Kraut held dominance over, was a gold mine. In the game, many artifacts renowned for their strength were concentrated in that area.
‘Shadow Step, Immovable Shroud, Earth Shatterer…’
As I recalled the list of broken artifacts that could be farmed there, I couldn’t help but think that sacrificing my right arm was truly a cheap price to pay.
Since Iliya visited my hometown as a part of the Pilgrimage Homecoming Event, I had enough reasons to visit her as well during the next vacation. That should be a good opportunity to farm the artifacts I wanted.
“It seems we have arrived.”
As the carriage came to a stop, Eleanor uttered such words.
Anyway, since we had concluded our little expedition to Viscount Goldic’s territory, I returned to my own to resume my ‘business’.
If I were to entertain my hopes and dreams…
I just wanted everyone to relax during the vacation by resting and having some fun together.
Let’s stop with all the serious stuff. Can we please take a break for once?
As I got off the carriage with such thoughts, Kraut and Iliya were also stepping out from the adjacent carriage.
Our eyes met.
Immediately, Iliya’s face turned so red it reached her ears before quickly turning her head away from me.
Since the showdown I had with Kraut earlier, she had continued to be in such a state.
Seeing this, Kraut’s face quickly turned to one of displeasure.
“It’s so obvious that he is a two-timer. Isn’t that right, Iliya?”
“…I’lll take care of it myself, Margrave.”
With a chilly tone, Iliya quickly ran inside the castle.
Her face was still red all over.
As I silently watched such a sight, a window popped up in front of my eyes.
▼ Iliya Krisanax
[ Interest Level 4 ] >>> [ Trust Level 1 ]
[ Rewards available! ]
Although the favorability level jumped by 2 levels, which was still quite a remarkable feat of itself, it didn’t bring about any significant change for me.
From my experience, the changes in favorability levels for characters with a Good disposition would usually only give me points.
However, what was more concerning were the sentences that followed.
[ 3 Negative Mark Stack → Negative Mark Released ]
[ Due to the released effect, a new state will be assigned. ]
[ Target is now in a ‘Charmed’ state for you. ]
[ Effect of ‘Gift #1: Fatal Charm’ is applied to the target as well! ]
Even though this kid had a Good disposition, she was now affected with the same increase in favorability towards me as characters with an Evil disposition. That also meant that if she successfully grew and acquired different skills, they could be shared with me through the Guidance skill.
And, attached to the previous window…
[ Due to the ‘Negative Marks,’ a character with the Good disposition was influenced negatively and is now charmed by you! ]
[ You have met the enhancement condition for ‘Gift #2: He Who Touches Pitch Shall Be Defiled Therewith’! ]
[ If you meet the same condition again, the related Gift will be enhanced! ]
Immediately, the first Gift that was enhanced brought forth an effect that strengthened one of my most broken skills: Guidance.
If this was the skill that got enhanced, it was impossible not to be curious about what would come out next.
As I scanned through such a window and entered the castle, I sensed one thing:
The atmosphere was as frigid as it was before.
Iliya’s red face still had no sign of receding as she moved inside. Meanwhile, Kraut had a displeased expression as he followed behind her, and Eleanor sullenly glared at Iliya while walking inside as well.
It felt incredibly similar to when we first arrived here as we moved inside without a word. If anything, the atmosphere now seemed more fucked than ever.
Weren’t we supposed to have broken the ice a bit after fucking up the Goldic Viscounty?
Why was the atmosphere still this tense?
“…I should monitor more closely from now on.”
“I can’t even imagine how many people would be brought here by such a clueless and dense person. I was willing to turn a blind eye as long as you remembered your priorities. But if you are this unaware of the people around you…”
“Consider yourself fortunate that you haven’t been devoured by someone until now.”
“After all, even I find it hard to endure at times.”
Due to the eerie sensation I felt, I couldn’t bring myself to respond as I walked into the castle.
Thanks to that, I oh so thoroughly enjoyed the suffocating atmosphere, reliving the sensation of everyone walking in silence.
However, unlike before, there was nothing to alleviate this icy tension.
As such, I gloomily entered my father’s office.
[ Detected a moment of danger. ]
[ Determined that a life-threatening situation is imminent due to something nearby. ]
[ Skill: Desperation raised to A-Grade. ]
Why is this suddenly activating…?
I blinked my eyes in surprise with such thoughts, but sadly, my curiosity was soon satisfied.
Margrave Kendride and Duke Tristan.
The two individuals, who were well-known to have a terrible relationship, locked eyes.
They both blinked in astonishment, expressing that they didn’t expect to meet the other.
Everyone present turned pale at the palpable surge of killing intent that simultaneously emanated from the two figures.
The first thought that immediately crossed my mind was…
‘…Why wasn’t it activated as EX?’
After all, the ‘direct’ meeting of these two was undoubtedly a disaster.
In many different ways.
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