Marakia, who had become an expert in all things, obviously knew minute details of the internal affairs of the Merchant’s Coalition as well.
“It has been said that Horneko’s position was becoming increasingly contested as of late. The reason why he decided to extend his hand to you was out of his desire to protect himself from the dangers around him.”
Sungchul moved behind Marakia who was explaining excitedly in an arrogant voice. He leaned forward and moved his head closer to the fluffy black feather of Marakia.
He had seen something. The strings of knowledge that were faintly permeating throughout Marakia’s entire body.
Sungchul’s suspicions were confirmed in an instant.
[Welcome to Ant Wiki]
“So you were using that after all.”
Sungchul broke into a grin. Marakia realised that he had let his guard down but it was already too late.
Marakia’s small body was trembling as he turned around.
“I…It wasn’t out of malice. I thought it might be helpful so I created a copy of sorts.”
Marakia remembered vividly just how much Sungchul hated the Ant Wiki.
He expected to be dealt swiftly punishment of equal magnitude.
But his expectations were completely off the mark. Sungchul who had his face close to Marakia took a step back and replied with a faint smile.
Sungchul nodded to Marakia’s question and replied in a calm voice.
“You are permitted to utilize the Ant Wiki.”
[Curse – Allied Merchant’s Coalition’s Black list entry was removed.]
[You are now able to freely trade with the Allied Merchant’s Coalition and affiliated organizations.]
One of the Curse was undone.
Drawing a line across the entry in the Allied Merchant’s Coalition’s blacklist, which was filled with its own supply of mana, was enough for the change to take place.
Of course, the removal of this curse caused no changes to his stats. Neither Luck nor Charisma rose.
Undoing the curse and allowing Sungchul to once again trade with the Allied Merchant’s Coalition was nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
“For making an expedient decision and demonstrating your boundless generosity, I give you a thousand thanks.”
Horneko had shown up at the meeting place to negotiate with Sungchul with only a secretary with him. It was an impressive display of bravery.
Truth be told, having a few bodyguards made very little difference against a monster named Sungchul. But actually committing to leaving them behind was a completely different thing altogether.
“I have been told that the former Commander in Chief prefers short and to the point. For that reason, I’ll just briefly explain the proposal.”
Horneko was first to speak. Sungchul waited patiently for Horneko to speak.
He was thinking of ending this negotiation immediately the moment he suspected verbal trickery.
Horneko finally opened his mouth to explain.
“My term is quite simple. Please stay at the palace for a fortnight.”
Sungchul showed no particular emotion or reaction on his face. But internally, Sungchul was greatly surprised by Horneko’s demand.
‘What is he planning?’
The proposed condition was completely unexpected.
Horneko consciously made an effort to show that he won’t let his reply be influenced by intimidation after seeing Sungchul’s expression and kept his eyes glued to the table below.
Horneko spoke again after a brief Silence.
“The reason why I am giving you this condition is because my position within the Merchant’s Coalition is very unstable at the moment. This never happened while the World Parliament was intact. But now that they’ve been effectively dissolved, I am hit from all sides by strong blame and political maneuvering. In fact, I was considering stepping down from being Viceroy. Until you arrived here that is.”
Sungchul did not waste his time asking Horneko whether other powerful merchants were aware of their meeting. If he had been that careless, Horneko couldn’t have possibly survived until this day.
‘This is not a bad condition for me. It bothers me that it will consume two weeks’ time, but it might be worth accepting depending on what his demands are.’
It was time to hear what Horneko was offering in return.
“What is it that I will gain from staying in this place?”
“Allied Merchant’s Coalition’s full and unrestricted support. Please excuse me, but I have learned through my daughter Ocsana generally what it is that you had come to Illeboro for.”
Horneko finished there and raised his gaze to look at Sungchul.
“Is it true that you were hoping to reconvene the World Parliament?”
It was an ambiguous question that carried with it many different possible meanings. Though he had no reason to go out of his way to explain his thoughts, Sungchul came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be bad to reveal his intentions. He decided to share his plan.
“The purpose of the assembly is for the resolution of the third Calamity. There are no other ulterior motives. And I have no inclination whatsoever to become a king.”
“The question of who the king is is not very important for us merchants. If I had to say what we care about, it would be to have a stable order. So that we, the merchants of Aege, can engage in trade with a peace of mind.”
It was a believable claim. But Sungchul chose not to respond any further. It was because he understood fully well that there was nothing for him to gain by granting Horneko the opportunity to make use of his skill with words.
After Sungchul remained quiet for few moments, Horneko once again looked down at the table with a humble expression and motioned to his secretary.
The secretary came forward and handed Horneko a document, who verified it one last time before offering it to Sungchul.
“I have prepared this for you.”
Sungchul took a look at the piece of paper Horneko held before him. It was an order under the authority of the Viceroy of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition.
[This document is to be sent to the specified countries under the authority of the Viceroy of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition.]
[To the king of the crown. The founder of the World Parliament has called for the first assembly of the year, so please make your way to the assembly hall in Ixion on the Eastern part of the continent in the month of the Mountain Goat, before the full moon.]
“I have put together this document at my discretion for now. Please let my secretary know if there is anything else you would like to add or modify.”
Sungchul reexamined the document’s wording. There was nothing in particular he thought needed to be added or removed, but he felt that it wouldn’t hurt to add a few more things.
Horneko spoke up once he had a chance to read over the document.
“On top of this, we at the Allied Merchant’ Coalition would like to offer you access to the Coalition’s communication network. As you are undoubtedly aware, the communication network we have can be incredibly useful. And if you so desire, we are also willing to provide you with the identification flag of the Coalition. Traveling with a ship to other countries without one is bound to cause lots of small problems after all.”
All of the terms offered were attractive.
“Would this be sufficient?”
There was nothing more Sungchul could ask for. What Horneko had listed just now was but mere examples of what the Coalition was capable of offering Sungchul.
“This seems sufficient.”
Horneko placed a small item on the table once Sungchul replied.
For the first time since the meeting began, Sungchul showed interest. What Horneko had took out was a Cross of Unbreakable Vow.
“There’s an old grudge between us that goes far back. A valley far too deep to ignore despite the world having changed. For that reason, I have prepared this.”
“My heart has no vacancy.”
Sungchul replied. Horneko looked up at Sungchul and grinned.
“You do not have to worry about that.”
Horneko suddenly grasped the cross.
Sungchul watched what was going on without knowing what to think.
‘Will he really commit to this? He could be using some sort of trickery.’
Deception could not work on Sungchul.
“To the God of Mediation, I call out to you. I swear upon my heart that I, Eodor Horneko, shall keep the terms of the contract under the pain of death, and gladly surrender my heart to the God of Mediation should I fail to uphold my vow.”
Horneko lifted the cross high up in the air and stabbed himself in the heart with Sungchul watching him closely. The Cross of the Unbreakable vow let out an opaque black light that blocked sight. As if it was always a part of him to begin with, it penetrated through the clothes and skin and impaled itself into his heart.
Sungchul could not contain his surprise.
‘This is no illusion. It was a true vow. One sworn upon the name of the God of Meditation.’
It was a show he couldn’t have imagined he would see. Sungchul who likewise carried a cross in his heart knew better than anyone else that the price of failure to uphold the contract was instant death.
And Horneko had performed such ritual right before Sungchul’s eyes.
A letter of summons written on behalf of Sungchul, access to the communication network, and the questionably useful identification flag for the ship.
Horneko will fulfill these conditions to Sungchul’s satisfaction for as long as he lives.
Whatever the case may be, putting his life on the line witht he vow decisively brought the control of the negotiation firmly to his side.
“This is everything that I wanted to say. Is there anything else you would like to discuss?”
Horneko who now carried the cross no longer stared down at the table.
Sungchul felt the unfocused gaze make him more uncomfortable than he expected as he nodded. Unfocused as it may be, it felt as if it could see into Sungchul’s mind.
“As you have requested, I shall remain in Nimpas for half a month.”
“Excellent. Ah, depending on how the situation pans out, I may end up asking for a small favor.”
“It’s not a request for your strength, so please don’t misunderstand. What we want in addition amounts to nothing more than a gesture.”
Whether or not Horneko had asked for his strength, Sungchul had no intention to listen to any demand not already in the contract.
“If it’s just a bit of an intimidation, I could give you a hand.”
Horneko began to collect and organize the documents before him with a smile on his face. The secretary who had been standing by the the duration of the negotiation moved forward to assist with cleaning up.
It was unmistakable that they intended to end the negotiations here. Sungchul felt something was very strange.
‘How peculiar. I was certain that he would demand the return of the gold of the Bottomless Vault.’
Even if it wasn’t the full amount, he had prepared himself to return up to half of it before this negotiation began. But Horneko had not once mentioned the gold. Despite the fact that it was an understandably tempting topic to bring up for him.
With this in Sungchul’s mind, Horneko finished packing up and said something in passing.
“Are the unmarked coins well within your possession?”
“More or less.”
It was a stinging question to be asked, but Sungchul replied with an unapologetic expression.
“You are free to use them as you please once this is done. I am planning on releasing all restrictions and orders that had been made on the Unmarked coins using my authority.”
Horneko left the room with a bright smile.
In the most unexpected of ways, the unexpected negotiation ended in the most unexpected manner.
Master Hunter K Book 2 is now on preorder everyone:) Covering from Chapters 56 to 119 (125k words).
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