Jopis was elegantly drinking tea as she looked through the document Cale handed her.
Cale was frowning at the puppy that kept circling around him and sniffing him.
‘Why is she acting like this?’
The shabby puppy whose eyes could not be seen because of her long hair continued to remain by Cale’s side while wagging her tail.
Choi Han who was sitting on the bed mumbled with a dazed expression.
It was at that moment.
The puppy placed her front paw on Cale's shoe. She then looked up at Cale.
Choi Han found it to be extremely cute.
“Cute? She's very shrewd.”
Choi Han’s gaze moved in a different direction. He saw Bud who was still tied down even though he no longer had the gag.
Bud continued in a sobbing tone after seeing Cale and Choi Han’s gaze focused on him.
“Those five dogs were the reason I ended up like this. My goodness, for the Mercenary King to look like this…”
Cale mumbled and lowered his head.
The puppy tilted her head as her tail continued to wag. Cale didn’t like animals very much, but this puppy was indeed cute.
Bud continued in his sad tone.
“The ones outside the window.”
Cale's gaze headed out the window.
This window located in the old room…
Normally, he should be able to see the green trees and grass outside the window that was locked because it was autumn and cold as they were under the mountain.
However, he saw something else right now.
He saw a dog outside this window that was decently high.
‘They look similar.’
The puppy that was looking at Cale with puppy dog eyes and her paw on Cale’s shoe looked similar to the dog outside the window.
However, the puppy outside the window looked a bit cleaner than this one.
‘Is it tall enough?’
Cale thought about the high window and looked out the window as he wondered how he could see a puppy.
He saw two other puppies holding up the puppy at the window sill. There was another puppy next to them roaming around as if it was the lookout.
‘…They don’t look like regular dogs?’
The puppy feigning ignorance to everything by Cale’s foot didn't seem normal either. These five fluffy puppies seemed a bit special.
"I never said that I only had the mother dog.”
Cale turned his head after hearing Jopis's elegant voice.
“I was tricked by those cute children. I let down my guard down and……!”
Bud looked extremely upset. No, he seemed depressed.
The puppy by Cale’s foot barked once with an, ‘I have no idea what he’s talking about,’ type of expression before looking toward Bud and tilting her head to the side multiple times.
Bud looked as if he didn't know what to do as he found the puppy to be cute but also could not hide his depressed state.
Cale crossed his arms and quietly watched them.
‘I was wondering how Bud was captured when Jopis isn’t that strong of a shaman.’
That had been a question on his mind ever since he met Jopis. How did she manage to capture Bud, a sword master and someone with an ancient power, as hostage?
Bud’s ancient power was something that allowed him to get a general idea of other people's powers.
Furthermore, Jopis was not a strong shaman. In fact, she was on the weaker side.
The fact that Bud ended up as a hostage to such a person made Cale think that Bud had been captured on purpose.
However, he could now tell that the ones to capture Bud were these long-haired dirty dogs and not Jopis.
Cale's hand started to move as he started to speak.
“That’s totally my style.”
Cale’s hand petted the dirty puppy.
He was looking at the puppy with a gaze that said he liked her.
Cale continued to pet the puppy with a satisfied smile on his face.
“…I should just stop talking. Nobody here is on my side.”
Bud shut up. He heard Raon's voice in his mind at that moment.
Bud’s shoulders stopped slouching a bit. Of course, Cale had finished his conversation with Alberu, but Raon did not know that.
Thanks to that, Bud smiled as he looked back toward Cale while Cale started to frown wondering what was up with that bastard.
Jopis put the document down on the table at that moment.
“What do you think?”
Cale asked her a question and she immediately started to respond.
“I saw many conditions, but… Your side…”
Her gaze turned toward Cale.
“You are aiming for the tolls.”
How had the Molden Kingdom become a strong nation with Elisneh the First at the center?
The Molden Kingdom had created wide and well-maintained roads going North, South, East, and West… They connected everywhere.
Naturally, there were inns and other facilities for travelers along those roads.
Those were the reasons that the numerous merchant guilds of the Eastern continent used the Molden Kingdom’s roads when traveling to other nations, paying the Molden Kingdom a set fee every time they entered the Molden Kingdom to use their facilities.
‘It’s similar to a toll gate on Earth.’
Cale recalled the toll gate fee people needed to pay to use the safe zone roads once the monsters appeared.
Furthermore, the Molden Kingdom’s toll was very low and charged based on the size of the party and the number of carts, making many small merchants use these roads.
Even the large merchant guilds used the Molden Kingdom's roads because they were the fastest, safest, and had the least complicated verification process.
That resulted in the Molden Kingdom raking in a lot of money even at the low-cost toll, increasing the commercial supremacy of the Molden Kingdom.
Cale started to speak.
“Princess Jopis, you of all people should know most about things related to the roads.”
The one time.
The one time Jopis almost defeated Elisneh the First.
That was when it was revealed that she was the one who created the road maintenance plan that helped the Molden Kingdom grow so quickly.
Originally, the road maintenance, gathering of fees and workers, dealing with the politics and administration… People had thought that Elisneh the First had done it all.
However, it was revealed that the original plan that started all of this was Jopis's idea.
In other words, the idea started from Jopis but the two sisters worked together to bring it to fruition… And Elisneh the First who had the authority to make it happen had given the order.
‘Both of them are no joke.’
It could be said that both of the sisters were very talented.
If Jopis remained by Elisneh the First's side to help her, the Molden Kingdom could probably quickly ascend to the Eastern continent’s first Empire.
Jopis started to smile.
“I suppose I know about the roads the most. But giving the toll to the Roan Kingdom…”
“We are not asking for all of it nor is it a long-term contract. Furthermore, there are other venues that fund the Molden Kingdom even more than the tolls.”
The inns owned by the kingdom. The currency exchange stores owned by the kingdom.
The facilities they created when they fixed up the roads all belonged to the kingdom, with them giving the small merchant guilds that built their homes in the Molden Kingdom permission to run the operations as long as they gave the kingdom a cut of the profits.
That amount was said to be more than the toll these days.
Jopis started to speak.
“The nearby strong kingdoms would aim for the Molden Kingdom’s roads as soon as the palace crumbles. The entire kingdom might be ripped to pieces if things go wrong.”
The Roan Kingdom’s proposal did not end after blowing up the palace and giving Jopis her freedom.
She continued to speak in a graceful tone.
“The Roan Kingdom seems to also know about those Arm bastards whose f*cking heads we need to blow up. I guess it makes sense, and I suspected it since learning about your connection to the Molan patriarch.”
Jopis took a sip of tea before continuing to speak.
“The Roan Kingdom would become the Molden Kingdom’s ally, prevent the invasion from nearby kingdoms, handle arbitrations, and help me?”
It was fine to give a portion of a couple years worth of toll if the Roan Kingdom would do as it said.
“But is the Roan Kingdom able to do everything it says it will do? Especially when it is on a completely different continent?”
Jopis then saw Cale pointing at two people.
He had pointed at Bud and Ron.
The Mercenary King, the leader of the Mercenaries Guild, a large faction on the Eastern continent.
The other was the Molan patriarch whom the people of the past information and assassin households who had been living in hiding were slowly gathering around.
Jopis who gasped put her chin on her hands as she looked around at the people in the room.
“Do the Mercenaries Guild and the assassin household work for the Roan Kingdom for free?”
Ron started to speak at that moment.
“Princess-nim, there was an aspect where you were significantly lacking in comparison to Elisneh during your fight for the throne.”
Cale crossed his arms and stepped back.
The information he had heard from Ron and Glenn on their way here… He had modified this offer to Jopis once using that information as background information.
The result was the current document in Jopis’s hand right now.
“And what would that be?”
Ron started to smile.
“Everything, but above everything else, money.”
Jopis elegantly nodded her head.
“That’s right. I was defeated in every area, but the worst was that damn money. There seemed to be nothing someone could do when they lacked those gold coins.”
She put her teacup down.
Her sharp gaze headed toward the people in the room.
“Based on the things you are telling me, I guess you contacted me after knowing about everything?”
Ron filled the teacup as he responded.
“Once we reclaimed our residence and started to clean the remnants of Arm… We were able to find a lot of evidence showing that the numerous small merchant guilds that the Molden Kingdom has given permission to operate the kingdom’s facilities belong to Arm and have frequent contacts with Arm.”
The water in the cup rippled following Jopis's laughter. She tightly clenched her teacup.
“When I learned about Arm… Elisneh… It was as I investigated that bitch. I learned that Arm was her source of money and her faction.”
She looked as if her pride had been hurt.
And, as her expression showed, Jopis was quite upset.
She had wanted to turn the Molden Kingdom into a strong kingdom with the Molden Kingdom’s people.
She relaxed her grip as she continued to speak.
“The money that is supposed to go to the Molden Kingdom's true small merchant guilds and their employees is being funneled to Arm.”
It would not be wrong to say that the Molden Kingdom's money was all going to Arm.
Cale started to speak.
“I had been wondering where Arm had been getting the money to build bases and quickly increase their forces. I guess it was only possible because they had a source of money.”
The fall of the Molan Household located in the Molden mountain range and Arm’s second secret base.
The Illusionist, Elisneh the First.
The two locations would have worked together to benefit each other according to the White Star's plan.
Jopis moved her gaze away from Cale and looked at Ron.
“But what does that money have to do with the Molan Household?”
“The Molan household will now throw away its name as assassins.”
Assassins. There was only one thing left if they took out assassinations.
“…Then I guess only information remains?”
Jopis’s eyes sparkled as Cale started to speak.
“Information flows where money flows.”
Jopis looked toward Ron and started to speak as if she was responding to Cale.
“And you'll need the rights to run a couple of the more important inns for that information and money?”
Ron responded with a benign smile.
“Oh my, oh my. I preferred having you being an assassin in the darkness. You're trying to become an even scarier existence.”
Jopis was smiling as she said that. She did not seem scared at all. In fact, she seemed to be planning a lot of things in her mind. She then turned her head as she continued to think.
“Then what about the Mercenaries Guild?”
Bud was blankly staring at them.
Jopis nodded her head elegantly as if she understood.
“The Mercenary King probably doesn’t know because he was fooled by the puppies and was being held hostage. Should I ask your close friend outside?”
It was at that moment.
“The Mercenaries Guild members will be exempt from the toll! It will be for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years!”
The Mercenary King's eyes sparkled as he shouted brightly. His tied body was moving around as he continued.
“In addition, we get first dibs on all mercenary-related tasks for 10 years!”
The Mercenary King sounded too happy.
Jopis just smiled elegantly as she stared at Bud for a while before picking the document back up. She continued to turn the page as she started to speak.
“Hmm… Then, with everything here…”
She started to bring up some of the Roan Kingdom’s conditions.
"The toll. The exchange of business and culture…all enemy belongings discovered in the process or gained from the battle will belong to the Roan Kingdom…there are many minute details here. But you see… Commander Cale Henituse-nim?”
“How do you benefit from any of this?”
Jopis elegantly tilted her head.
“Is it just out of loyalty? You don’t seem like the type to do that.”
There was someone who answered her question in Cale’s place.
She could see Cale starting to smile at her question.
‘No benefit for me?’
The document had a lot of minute conditions with the toll as the main compensation.
One of those conditions was that all enemy belongings discovered in the process or gained from the battle would belong to the Roan Kingdom.
There was a different document in Cale’s pocket.
It was something he had gotten from Alberu after discussing things with him.
< The Roan Kingdom will hand over the rights of all items gathered through this situation over to Cale Henituse for free. >
Whether that is the White Star, Arm, or Elisneh…
Anything belonging to anybody who could be considered an enemy will belong to Cale.
One of them was the World Tree.
The fake World Tree.
There was also the large amount of dead mana liquid that it could be called a river.
They had come to destroy the fake World Tree and the dead mana river, but who knows?
‘I need to get something out of this as well.’
As Cale's smile became thicker…
Bang! Bang, bang!
They heard someone banging on the door.
The puppy that had been rubbing her head on Cale’s leg, as well as the puppies outside the window, all started to move.
“Ahhhhh! What the hell, what is up with these dogs?!”
They then heard someone shout outside the door.
Bud responded to the voice.
“Oh! Glenn! You’re losing to the cute puppies as well! Kahahahaha!”
Choi Han left the laughing Bud alone and headed toward the door. The puppy that had left Cale’s side was already at the door.
Choi Han opened the door and Glenn who had dogs all over him looked toward Cale.
“Y, young master-nim!”
Cale's expression subconsciously turned grim. For some reason, he felt like he could understand why Glenn, who seemed to be smart, was Bud’s friend.
“What is it?”
Cale brusquely asked. Glenn looked back and forth between Bud and Cale as he started to shout.
“All of the scouts we sent north have gone missing!”
Bud who had been laughing instantly stiffened up.
The scouts they sent north.
They were expert mercenaries who were sent to scout the White Star’s secret base by the Three Restricted Areas.
Cale started to speak.
“…How many people did you send?”
How many scouts had they sent?
Cale asked and Bud responded with a cold expression.
The ropes that were tying Bud down vibrated and started to shake. Whatever device was on the rope, it wouldn’t be cut even by Bud’s aura and Bud’s aura started to vibrate wildly around him.
“…All 1,001 people went missing?”
The mumbling Bud’s eyes looked concerned.
Cale started to frown as well.
Cale had thought there were only a few people because Glenn had called them scouts.
However, Bud had not sent simple scouts over.
They were the Mercenaries Guild's Expert Ranger Brigade.
They were the Mercenaries Guild’s hidden source of strength, experts who knew how to deal with rough terrains and were talented in information gathering.
Glenn who was looking at Bud started to speak with a stiff expression.
“Yes. They’re all missing.”
Bud turned toward Jopis and started to speak.
“Undo these ropes. Now.”
Bud’s aura was shooting out and going wild around his entire body.