On top of the table was just one hard piece of bread and a glass of water.
For a man who is said to have a half of the world’s total wealth in the palm of his hands, this was an excessively meager meal.
The man, who carried the title of the Chairman of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition as well as Viceroy of Aeghe, put the hard dark bread into his mouth and chewed for a good while before washing it down with a sip of water.
The meal, reminiscent of a cow chewing on grass, continued for some time.
Horneko’s humble and time consuming meals were a widely known fact for anyone affiliated with the Allied Merchant’s Coalition. But Horneko did not always dine like this in the past.
LIke any other wealthy merchants, he had worn extravagant clothing, enjoying all sorts of delicacies from mountains to oceans, collecting expensive decades old bottles of alcohol. But what caused a change to his long-time way of living was but a single instance of burglary.
But, perhaps that event was far too severe to be categorized as a mere burglary.
The total emptying of the Bottomless Vault.
A once well-respected man, with the title of the Imperial Commander in Chief, suddenly went rogue, and took away all of the gold of the Bottomless Vault that had been the source of the power of the Allied Merchant Coalition.
For the Allied Merchant Coalition whose power was worth its weight in gold, the runaway growth they had come to enjoy came to a screeching halt. The arrows of blame naturally fell squarely on Horneko who occupied the position of Chairman.
It was at that time Horneko’s pattern of life transformed, from one of indulgence and excess of every kind, to one that was indistinguishable from a monk’s who let go of all the material things in the world. It was out of necessity that he made this decision. He needed to do anything to reduce the flames of resentment threatening to consume him.
While it was true that his title as the Thirteenth Champion of the Continent as well as the backing of the World Parliament was a major factor in keeping his position, Horneko was a cunning man and knew very well how a seemingly innocuous behavior had the power to completely change someone’s opinion. And he was right.
Nine years since the incident at the Bottomless Vault, the most consistent factor that had protected his otherwise precarious position was the small reputation he had built up with his humble but exemplary lifestyle he maintained for all this time.
Had he not done at least this, then he would have been kicked out of the Chairman seat and descended into the status of an ordinary merchant running a small stall long ago, especially upon the announcement of the third calamity that effectively dissolved the World Parliament that had been supporting him.
But even that safeguard was now beginning to show its limits.
Many major merchants of the Coalition were now after Horneko’s position once Horneko’s backing was beginning to unravel. Many young merchants were impressed by his character and deeds and supported him in admiration. But older mid tier merchants could never forget what had happened nine years ago.
Horneko was suddenly being pressured from all sides, putting him in a most dire situation, in many ways.
“Now, shall we continue our discussion?”
Horneko who finished his meal turned to gaze in the direction of a black robed man who had been standing next to the curtain as he ate.
The man had a sharp look and fully grey hair.
The only thing Horneko knew about this man was that he had once been a professor in a prestigious Magic Academy.
The man turned his head to direct his piercing gaze on Horneko and nodded.
“…Our Order intends to make our products available for free.”
“That’s excellent. But investing this much into a tired old man, doesn’t it seem too excessive?”
As a response to Horneko’s loaded question, the robed man placed a single scroll of parchment on the table.
“Of course, there’s conditions for this. But it’s not difficult to fulfill. All sir Chairman has to do is accept this scroll.”
The scroll appeared to be old.
It was plain and lacked any decoration. But Horneko knew what this item was.
‘Is this the Magic Formation for summoning the Lesser Gods?’
As one might expect, unbelievably powerful energies could be felt seeping out from the scroll itself.
Horneko, who had traded a great variety of goods for a very long time, was able to appraise the identity of this scroll right away.
“This reminds me of the Letter of God. It seems to be for a different function, but it has a familiar form and feel to it.”
The robed man had remained covering his face with a scarf and did not reply.
Horneko wore an indecipherable smile as he reached out towards the parchment scroll.
“Would you believe me if I said that Letter of Gods were once the most valuable product the Allied Merchant Coalition possessed? Idle Fool Kromgard, now known as the Wandering King, had gone to great lengths to collect these ominous documents.”
Hand with an amber ring made contact with the scroll. But Horneko simply kept his hands on the parchment, he made no move to get a hold of it.
“But for me to be receiving something so similar for free, it feels quite strange.”
Horneko’s eyes were glistening.
“From my experience, nothing is free in this world.”
Horneko had always been a prodigy from very early on, who displayed extraordinary intelligence and innate caution. But what allowed him to rise to the very top was his intuition.
Intuition that flashed across his mind from time to time like a firefly.
Horneko trusted his instincts which had led him taste great success numerous times, as if divinely ordained. And likewise, he had dodged a few extremely dangerous situations.
And at this moment, that intuition was whispering to him, that this deal is not safe.
The hand held over the scroll curled up into a fist, and was soon withdrawn from the parchment. The gaze of the black robed man turned towards Horneko.
“I would like to know what you really want.”
Horneko’s quiet but clear voice echoed in this humble room. The man in the robe remained quiet for a good length of time. Horneko had an expression like he didn’t care either way.
“Even if I were to be chased away from the Coalition, I have no worries. I have made sure over all my years here to ensure that I will be able to spend a comfortable retirement for the rest of my life. Did you think that I would be willing to accept an exchange whose merits can’t even be discussed with someone I don’t even know?”
Horneko left the scroll and turned around. A powerful sense of apathy and disinterest seemed to be seeping out of his entire body.
“…The thing we desire.”
The sharp voice of the robed man echoed in the room once more. Horneko made a strange smile and watched the mystery man’s face.
A voice that could more or less be described as shapeless.
Deep within Horneko’s hazy blue eyes were the light of confusion.
“That scroll there is different from the one we had provided you, Mr Chairman. It is special, and especially powerful. Enough to shake this entire world to its core. And that’s the shape of the chaos we desire.”
“Did you really think that I would use this thing?”
The robed man did not reply to Horneko’s question. It was a silent indication that it all depended on what Horneko decided. Horneko’s expression brightened slightly.
“Now that sounds tempting.”
This scroll could be used as his last resort. Something Horneko would pull out when everything else failed. Hornkeo had no idea what result it would bring about, but the representative of the Order of Extinction gave a brief explanation of what effect it was intended to bring.
For a man who was slowly being pushed into a corner in many ways, there was nothing more tempting than this.
‘I suppose the Order of Extinction might be a cult of the God of Chaos.’
Horneko turned back around and unhesitatingly gripped the scroll. The unholy energy went up his fingers and spread to the rest of his body. His entire body trembled for a moment. But once the tremors had gone away, what remained on Horneko was a thin smile.
‘Hoh. These Order of Extinction fellows. I can’t believe they’re willing to give me something like this.’
Horneko felt an irresistible temptation.
There was something about the scroll, or perhaps a powerful being hidden within, pulling him in. Horneko felt as if he was falling down towards a bottomless abyss as he lifted the scroll and moved it to his inner pockets.
But moments before the Parchment could go into his pocket, someone knocked on the door on the outside with great urgency.
Horneko put the scroll back down and walked over to the desk to ring a bell. A door opened up and a man in a merchant’s outfit lowered his head to Horneko and gave a report calmly.
“The Enemy of the World has appeared in Nimpas.”
“The Enemy of the World?”
Horneko’s eyes glistened.
Immediately, Horneko retreated his hands from the scroll.
The man from the Order of Extinction was dumbfounded and looked his way, so Horneko opened and closed his hands that had touched the scroll and spoke with a completely different tone.
“We shall put this negotiation on hold for now.”
Horneko felt another powerful spike of intuition. And his intuition pointed towards immeasurable success.
It was the most difficult type of opportunity for a merchant to push aside.
The Wyvern knights who had boarded the Sylphid reported that they had come from the nation of Nimpas. The name of this country was unfamiliar, even to Sungchul who had traveled all over the world.
At the time of the formation of the World Parliament, he had no reason to come to Illeboro himself. It was because the man who represented the four kings of Illeboro had come to La Grange personally.
The current Chairman of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition, Horneko, was that man. And even after that, he had attended the World Parliament on their behalf as one of the Thirteen Champions of the Continent.
Baron who carried Sungchul landed at the center of a garden in an aged fortress.
Sungchul who was able to look down and see all of Nimpas from the sky realized that this country was far weaker and smaller than he could have ever imagined.
‘A so-called capital of a country isn’t even as big as a 2nd tier city in the empire.’
Considering these people to be king was questionable, but they had been wise in their generous support of the rebellion even during the rebellion’s most difficult years.
They picked their side well. And that was arguably a skill as well.
Sungchul moved forward as he was lost in thought.
“This way, please.”
The humbled Wyvern Knights led Sungchul towards the palace where their king was.
Even though it was called a Palace, it looked no better than a large but slightly well decorated residence.
The king was sitting in the middle of the hall that the front doors opened up to.
He didn’t look familiar. More importantly, he looked very young. Barely over twenty years of age. One of the so-called ‘final generation’ who had narrowly escaped the Curse of Extinction.
“Welcome to Nimpas Palace, former Imperial Commander in Chief.”
The young king stood up to greet Sungchul. This was making Sungchul feel quite an unfamiliar sensation. The king was looking at Sungchul with an expression one might expect from a die hard fan of a celebrity or a most respected scholar.
For Sungchul who had only ever received stares of fear and hatred, this was a new experience.
Sungchul noticed that the king and his loyal retainers were watching him with trepidation. He took out Fal Garaz and announced softly.
“I, Sungchul Kim, swear upon this hammer that I carry no ill will nor grudge against you or your country.”
Sungchul lifted Fal Garaz high up into the air. The people inside the king’s throne room exclaimed upon seeing such a famous divine object. The king’s reaction was quite the sight to see.
The young king forgot his decorum as a monarch and stood up to gawk at Fal Garaz.
“I…Is that the legendary hammer made of the fragments of the sky…?!”
The reaction of the king was not quite right. Bertelgia trembled greatly.
“I feel like something’s wrong.”
Sungchul nodded and continued to observe the King’s reaction. The retainers moved closer to their king to whisper into his ear.
“Your Majesty, it is not okay to be acting like this. Please maintain your composure.”
The young King seemed to be unable to snap out of it despite his loyal retainers’ suggestions. In fact, he pushed them aside to approach Sungchul.
“It’s such an honor. I never thought I’d meet the man himself.”
Sungchul took one step back. This did not happen often, but Sungchul felt an unconscious sense of rejection once the young king approached him with an excessively enthusiastic expression.
“I am really sorry, but would it be okay to touch that hammer once?”
‘What the hell is wrong with him?’
Sungchul did everything in his power to maintain a straight face as he reluctantly leaned the hammer the King’s way.
“W…whoa! It looked really cold but it isn’t at all. Amazing!”
The king ran his hand across the hammer as if he was handling a treasured piece of porcelain. He looked extremely pleased.
Meanwhile, Sunchul noticed that the atmosphere in the audience hall was growing more and more unpleasant.
The King’s unexpected behavior was making all those present disappointed or flustered.
As the atmosphere was beginning to grow cold, a confident footsteps could be heard growing louder.
A cold voice of a woman echoed in the hall. The king, who had been utterly unresponsive to his subjects’ voice, jumped up in surprise and slowly turned to look behind him. Where he looked was a woman staring at him with a raised eyebrow, dressed in an outfit even more extravagant than that of the king’s.
“Hmm. That woman must be the queen of this caterpillar of a king.” Marakia, who was deep inside Sungchul’s back pocket, arrogantly commented as if he understood everything.
Hello all, Master Hunter K is now out in audiobook format and I wanted you all to have a listen-
The audio version sounds great doesn’t it? To get the audiobook- Click Here
As always we suggest getting the audible subscription or the free trial to claim the audiobook as it is the cheapest way to get it. Main Character hides his Strength is also available in audiobook format. Click here to have a listen.