Where did everything start to go wrong?
In the midst of the conference room gripped by terror and uncertainty, Horneko was alone in his silent contemplation.
There were no gaps in his plans. Even if one part of it were to fail, he had meticulously taken extraordinary measures to ensure that there were always several fail safes in place in case something did go wrong.
But his grand design came crashing into a brick wall by the name of reality and shattered into nothingness. Let alone make a return on his investment, his immense power and wealth and perhaps even his life was now in serious jeopardy.
“The Enemy of the World has departed from Nimpas.”
One of his devout followers came to whisper in his ears.
“And his target?”
Horneko asked quietly.
“He’s after the lord Viceroy, sir.”
Horneko closed his eyes. And with them still shut, he took a breather.
The time of reckoning has come, and it was now the time to pay the price.
One man stood up in the midst of the conference room. He was an incredibly tall, strange looking man with an eye replaced by a false golden eye.
“You went over your head, Horneko. Quite unlike yourself.”
The identity of the man was his father-in-law, Grizzley. Even in the current situation with hardly any information available, he was still able to see through the circumstance with clarity.
“It appears to be so.”
Horneko admitted honestly.
Once he did, the major merchants seated to the either side of him turned and began to converse with one another.
The once quiet conference room became as rowdy as the market street of the Aege Harbor.
And in the midst of the chaos, another man stood up.
He was a man who had challenged Horneko for a long time over the position of Viceroy of Aege Harbor. Though he was now without wealth or manpower and had fallen far enough to be in legitimate danger of losing his right to the title of major merchant, he was the only one in the conference room who had the authority to directly criticize Horneko.
“You’ve gone as far as make a deal with the Order of Extinction, which led to the ruin of your son in law’s country. And now even our homeland is in danger of annihilation because of you!”
He shouted loud enough for spittle to be sprayed as he spoke. He must have had drunk since mid-day, considering how red his face was and how powerful the stench of alcohol was coming from him.
“This city is done for, Horneko! You did this!”
To this, a major merchant on Horneko’s faction immediately jumped into Horneko’s defense.
“With what information are you making such an accusation? You don’t even know why he’s headed here. Do not make such hasty conclusions over the words of an informant. And even if the Enemy of the World were to come here out of anger, what guarantee is there that his objective is the destruction of this city?”
“Clarice? Are you talking about that songstress?”
“Yes. That woman had said this: All places the Enemy of the World visits are reduced to ruin without exception. Panchuria, La Grange, Ixion. It appears Aege Harbor is next!”
“That’s enough of your nonsense!”
Horneko observed the chaos unfolding in the meeting room with a half closed eyes. He was fully aware of the occasional glances that were thrown in his direction filled with distrust.
But what good was any of this now.
Horneko made up his mind and took off the ring on his hand.
The Grizzley’s false golden eye flickered. The ring that was taken off was the official seal of the Viceroy of Aege that had been passed down since the days of the Kingdom of Ruteginea.
The fact that Horneko had taken this off of his hand in front of everyone meant only one thing.
“I apologize for such short notice, but …”
Horneko put down the ring on the table before him. The meeting room that had been riled up instantly calmed down as if splashed by cold water.
Horneko pushed the lusterless gold seal forward and continued to speak in a voice full of anguish.
“For personal reasons, I shall permanently resign from the position of Viceroy of the Free Independent City State of Aege Harbor.”
Horneko left behind the ring in the meeting room that had been stunned into silence and made his exit.
The silence continued for few moments after the door had been closed. But there were soon sounds of loud bickering coming from the room. From a room with so many major merchants, not a single person had come to follow him out.
In any other circumstance, more than half of them would have followed him out to show their solidarity. But now that he had relinquished his authority, not one person gave a damn about his retirement.
A ruthless, heartless world where only profits is king; This was the default state of all relationships in Aege Harbor.
‘I had thought it would be different for me’
Viceroy Grizzley’s lonely retirement was being replayed by him with an uncanny likeness.
Without a single guard or spy, Horneko returned to the office he now had to empty out.
In there was a man already waiting for him.
Altugius Xero of the Order of Extinction.
It was quite the irony, that the only man who had come to visit him in his lonely retirement was not a merchant he knew for years but a difficult man he had come to know recently for a negotiation.
“The Enemy of the World has slain your son in law and is now on his way here.”
Altugius said in his characteristic booming voice.
“I already know.”
Horneko shook his hand that was now free of the seal of the Viceroy that left behind an indent to mark its absence.
“But I am no longer anything of consequence. For any other business matters now and in the future, please bring it up with whomever becomes anointed as the next Viceroy.”
Horneko said as he reached deep into a drawer to retrieve something.
It was a small bottle containing a blue liquid.
It was a potent poison by the name of ‘Droplet of the Primordial God’.
A single droplet of this liquid was not only fatal, it could melt the body whole, completely removing the possibility that necromancy could be used on the remains.
It was an appropriate final solution for those who were worried not only for their end but also for what was to come after death.
Horneko was fully intent on using this on himself with the Enemy of the World watching, believing that this was the one and only way available to him to leave a lasting damage against the man.
“Please go to him, to the next Viceroy.”
Horneko said as he collected the bottle.
But Altugius did not so much as respond. After a heavy moment of silence passed between them, Altugius finally opened his mouth.
“The one who I had come to make a deal with was not the Viceroy of the Allied Merchant Coalitions, but with you, the individual by the name of Drovid Horneko.
Altugius said as he turned to glance at a scroll that was left abandoned on a small table by the window.
“…Only you possess the ability to bring out the maximum potential of that scroll.”
“So that was your true objective all along.”
Horneko replied with a wide grin.
“I thought that might be the case.”
That was why Horneko did not lay a finger on the scroll and warned the janitors to go nowhere near it. As a result, the scroll lay on the table to be exposed to the sun, becoming increasingly covered in dust.
“Why must it be me who uses that scroll?”
Horneko knew vaguely what the scrolls of the Order of Extinction was for. He understood that they were tools of self-destruction that could temporarily grant the caster great power in exchange for their lives. But he did not know any more detail than that. Especially why Altugius was so set on having Horneko use it.
“It was a direct order from our leader.”
“The leader of the Order of Extinction…? That Fritz Schnellmerker character?”
To this, Altugius shook his head strongly.
“He is certainly a passionate and talented man but he is no leader to us. There is another who is our true leader.”
He was truly a merchant down to his core, to instinctively weigh the value of information he received even during a moment as gloomy and desperate as the present.
“The leader is someone you know very well.”
Altugius continued to say.
“Who could it be?”
Horneko tried to think for a moment but he quickly gave up. Trying to identify a person without a shred of clues was no different from looking for a specific grain of sand on a beach.
However, a specific individual suddenly came too his mind.
“Could it be…?”
Horneko laughed as if the idea was unbelievable.
“The leader has specifically pointed you out.”
“The conclusion was made after meeting with you in person.”
To this, Altugius’s clear eyes flashed as he replied carefully in an ominous voice.
“That you are the man most fit to become the avatar of the overseer of the Merchant class, Isaac Laccetem.”
Altugius turned around.
From dark smoke, a subordinate of his emerged. The subordinate whispered something to Altugius.
It was time for them to take their leave.
“The choice is yours, Drovid Horneko.”
Altugius left after leaving those words.
There were only two choices for Horneko to choose from.
There was a slight difference in the outcome, but the result was the same. Either choice would lead to his inevitable doom.
The blue bottle would lead to a meaningless death for himself.
Meanwhile, the unholy scroll represented mutual destruction.
Neither side appealed to Horneko, but he had to make a choice.
He who had lived his entire life in between choices, he unexpectedly felt a childlike recklessness bubble up from between the corners of his mind.
Horneko’s now seal-less hands grabbed a hold of the blue bottle.
He drained the entire bottle in one go. And with an unsteady step he approached the table holding a scroll that was inexplicably giving off light. Arriving, he placed his hand on it.
His throat, tongue, even stomach had already melted away, leaving him bereft of any way to communicate. But filled with agony, despair, madness, and determination, his gaze seemed to say:
[Now, shall we make a deal, Lesser God?]
The initial motivation may have been mere recklessness, but what drove him was unquestionable certainty.
That, the being on the other side of the scroll wanted him far more than he did.
‘Even this old, aged body can be sold at an exorbitant price.’
A black flame erupted from the man whose body already began to melt away.
Something fell to the ground.
It was the cross of the unbreakable vow that had been embedded in his heart.
Entrance to the Aege Harbor.
One man landed near the city walls atop a griffin.
Guards who had been taking shelter under the canopy located by the gates of the city noticed the man and recognized him instantly. They whispered amongst themselves.
“It’s the enemy of the world…”
“He has come…!”
The tenacious endurance of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition was in large part thanks to the reliability and the speed of information they were able to obtain.
It was already known across the entire Allied Merchant’s Coalition that Sungchul had come to kill Horneko even though it had not yet been even an hour since Deheter had been slain.
“Well, anyway, is it ok to be so slow? What if that bad guy runs away meanwhile?”
“He cannot escape.”
Sungchul replied calmly.
Sungchul pointed at his heart close to where Bertelgia was riding.
“His heart is pierced by the unbreakable vow. Until his agreement with me is complete, he cannot leave this place. If he were to break this vow, he will be burnt away without a trace.”
“And even if there was no unbreakable vow, he will not be able to leave this place anyhow.”
Sungchul turned his eyes towards a perfect cube of a building located at the center of the Aege harbor.
The Bottomless Vault.
A building that contained the combined accumulated wealth of the Allied Merchant Coalitions, a building that could be described as the true heart of the coalition itself.
It was said that contained within were enough gold to buy all material things in the world.
And that turned out to be true. He had verified it himself with his own eyes.
The gates opened.
A leader of a mercenary company wearing a wide befeathered hat yelled at Sungchul.
“Horneko is no longer our Viceroy. Therefore, the Aege Harbor shall open its gates to you.”
Sungchul walked through the wide open gates of Aege Harbor.
But as Sungchul entered, there were those running to escape from the city.
They wore spectacular clothing, but the women with face concealed by turbans and burley men were running away without turning back.
“Hmm? What’s that about?”
It seemed like they were waiting for an opportunity to escape.
Bertelgia shook her body to express her interest.
Sungchul was likewise curious about what those people were about, but seeing as his Transcendent Senses did not activate, they appeared to be nothing more than ordinary human beings in a unrelated issue.
Sungchul walked down the main roads of the Harbor city towards the office building of the Viceroy.
The office building’s doors were wide open to him, like the city gates.
Several of the major merchants draped in extravagant clothing were waiting for Sungchul and came to lower their head to him. They came to tell Sungchul all about how Horneko already resigned from the position of Viceroy and was subsequently excommunicated by the Allied Merchant Coalition in an emergency session, and several other information Sungchul did not ask about.
Once in the hallway of the building, Sungchul could hear voices of several younger merchants talking amongst themselves.
“So, it was all a lie?”
“He’s showing his true colors now that he’s lost his position.”
“He can want to eat good food before he’s killed. That’s understandable, right?”
They were looking into the office while gossiping.
Sungchul passed the younger merchants and approached the doors to the office of the Viceroy.
From the open door came wafting a delicious aroma of food.
Sungchul placed his hand the sightly ajar door and pushed it open.
Sungchul briefly doubted his eyes.
Within were an unbelievable array of food.
There were too many varieties of dishes arranged all over the room, and in the corner of the room was a chef cooking by the window to let out the smoke.
Beyond the tables whose legs were buckling under the weight of food was a man sitting with his back to the door, eating voraciously.
Sungchul glared at his back as he opened his mouth to speak in a low tone.
“I’ve heard that the Viceroy of Aege was the world’s richest man who ate the humblest of meals composed of a black bread and a cup of water. But I see that this was untrue.”
The man who was busy inhaling food paused.
Without turning around, the man grasped an exquisite bottle of wine to drain it whole before he turned around.
Sungchul’s face went rigid.
Bertelgia began to tremble.
His body had transformed into something that was difficult to call human.
Besides his aged and saggy eyes, nose and forehead were pink colored flesh wobbling like jelly. It looked like they were attached to him. It reminded Sungchul of Chimeras that crazed mages sometimes created.
“I do apologize, but I must ask for your forgiveness.”
The former Viceroy replied.
“I’ve eaten nothing but that accursed black bread for an entire decade. I believe this level of indulgence is not too unreasonable.”
He turned back around to the table as he pointed at the documents that had fallen to the ground.
“That’s the report from messengers that had been sent out to all the nations. It will show you a good rough idea of what the World Parliament you called for will look like, so please go take a look.
Sungchul picked up the documents from the ground.
And as was stated, the documents contained the results of the messenger ships that had been sent out by the Merchant Coalition to deliver his message.
Of those reports, one result in particular affected him more than the others.
[Human Empire – Not Attending]
Not long after Sungchul read the documents, the being that was not human nor quite monster stood up.
“I am an honest merchant, I keep any promises that I make. Sincerely and faithfully.”
His massive stomach concealed under the black clothes rippled like water.
Noticing the unholy energies of a Lesser God growing stronger, Sungchul took out the Fal Garaz.
‘Must things always end this way?’
Horneko’s body erupted into black flames.
Sungchul’s Transcendent Senses reacted and laid bare the information on the being before him.
[Immortal Isaac Laccetem]
[The first Merchant, One Consumed by Greed]
The name of the immortal was first to show up.
As Sungchul was having a strange feeling about what he read, another line of words appeared before him.
[Horneko, the King of Illeboro]
MCHHS Book 4 is releasing tomorrow y’all! In some regions it is already out now! Book 4 Kindle release covers till the tower arc where Sungchul fends off his subordinate from attacking the Tower of Recluse. The audiobook version of the same will also be out on the same day that is tomorrow 7/02/2023. Narrated by the amazing Nick Podehl.
You can get them here- Click here