Chapter 51: Bridal Studies
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What is the foundation of a noble house’s rise to greatness?

There were many answers to this question, but if one really had to choose an answer, it would undoubtedly be wise governance. How well a fiefdom fared would directly affect a noble house’s base of power.

A noble house could be blessed with talented offspring, but it would be futile if it had no money to hire the best instructors to nurture their talents. Building connections with other nobles also required money, be it purchasing dresses or keeping up appearances. Even a powerful army had to be maintained atop a pile of money.

All of this was financed by the taxes earned by the fiefdom, which was in turn related to the workforce.

If the governance is inept, the standard of living of the people will fall, reducing productivity. If the governance is tyrannical, the people will migrate to other lands. If the governance is excellent, foreign talent will consider settling down in the fiefdom.

It was with such considerations that the Sorofyas used the growth of population as one of the indicators to measure how qualified a lord was.

But how could the Sorofyas measure a fiefdom’s population? After all, it couldn’t possibly do a headcount of every single person in a territory. How inefficient would that method be?

The Sorofyas’ approach toward this matter was to make an estimation through the flow of goods of one of the necessities in everyday life—salt.

Humans cannot live without salt; this was a physiological need. This was especially so in this era of menial labor. Those who under consume salt would find themselves feeling lethargic and lacking in strength.

“The Elric Fiefdom doesn’t produce salt, which means that they have to acquire all of it through merchants. As such, we’re confident about the accuracy of the figures we have. Any discrepancy in the results should be minimal. In our analysis, we found that the amount of salt bought by the Elric Fiefdom has been going up slowly over the past few decades, similar to some of the more stable fiefdoms around.

“While it does show that the Elric Fiefdom has been governed decently, it also shows that there’s nothing spectacularly good about it. To put it bluntly, it’s average. It’s doing neither good nor bad. From this result, our inference is that the Elric House should also be faring ordinarily, neither prospering nor in decline. But the truth is that…”

“The truth is that the Elric House has been rising with great momentum over the past few decades, making it one of the higher ranking houses in the Five Eminent Noble Houses. Its influence in the Theocracy’s circle of nobility has grown tremendously, perhaps even surpassing that of the Ascart House. Things are going very differently from what the Sorofya Merchant Association predicted.”

Roel finished the thought for Arwen.

“Yes, that’s why I said that there’s something weird about this.”

Arwen revealed a look of incomprehension, whereas Roel fell silent.

“If a noble house wishes to rise through the ranks, the one thing that they absolutely need is money. Given that the Elric Fiefdom hasn’t picked up much over the years, where could they have possibly obtained their money from? While the Elric House has been blessed with transcendents over the past few generations, they don’t appear to have uncovered any lucrative trade to finance their activities. Even though they have been keeping a low profile all this while, it’s a fact that the influence has been continuously growing.

“In any case, young master Roel, I think that you ought to tread carefully.”

Arwen offered Roel a piece of advice with a rare grave look on his face, and the latter nodded in response.

“I’m thankful for your reminder, Mister Arwen. I’ll pay heed to that. Other than these, is there anything else that you can think of?”

“Ah. I have only read the internal reports thus far. Why don’t I do this instead? I’ll head back to flip through the records we have on the Elric House. Perhaps, I might be able to find something new.”

“That would be wonderful! I’ll compensate you appropriately for the information.”

“Hahaha, there’s no need for that. As long as you drop by from time to time to unload some of the stuff that is jamming up your vault, I think I’ll be able to laugh even in my sleep.”

Those words from the middle-aged man brought a bitter smile to Roel’s face. He felt that he should really get some stuff from the Affection Points Exchange Shop to sell to him now.

The two of them chatted for a little longer before Arwen took his leave.

After that, Roel looked for Carter to gather more information about the Elric House. Unexpectedly, Carter simply threw him a detailed investigation report to browse through. Once again, his knowledge about his own house was forcefully refreshed.

As he had spent his life living in a posh mansion filled with servants, he hadn’t been able to catch a glimpse into the military prowess of the Ascart House thus far, but it would appear that it was really a huge deal in the Theocracy. On top of owning a reserve army, it had the power to swiftly rally 3000 Origin Level 6 soldiers through the militia forces too. Aside from that, the intelligence network that it managed was the top amongst the Five Eminent Noble Houses.

The Five Eminent Noble Houses were like independent kingdoms, operating similar to a standard decentralized governance structure in the Middle Ages. The Xeclydes wielded absolute influence, due to their tight reins over the faith of the populace, and anyone who tried to challenge their authority would be swiftly knocked back in place. As such, it was the leader of the pack.

In truth, the Xeclydes’ duty as the royal family was, to put it simply, serve as the mediator in the conflicts between nobles.

Meanwhile, the Elric House was the little tyrant right beneath the royal family, standing high and mighty before the others. It was just that it took the wrong side in the conflict a hundred years ago.

Speaking of fights between nobles, there was one implicit rule that governed it: No familicide.

Nobles were graceful, even in battles. If they couldn’t win a battle, they could surrender and redeem themselves with money. The victor was obliged to leave the losing house’s lineage intact. Unless in extreme conditions, rooting out an entire family was a forbidden course of action.

It could be considered as a contractual agreement that nobles sign upon birth. The goal behind this implicit rule was to preserve the lineage of nobles. Anyone who tried to undermine this rule would be sanctioned by other nobles.

This could be seen from the battle between the two royal twins back then. The Elrics and the mighty army of 10,000 they commanded had indeed chosen to stand with Prince Wade, but this action was not considered an uprising. As such, the limit of what the royal family could do was to evict them to the border.

Another implicit rule amongst the nobles was to respect the chain of command. The royal family, as the highest leader, had the authority to command the Five Eminent Noble Houses and the nobles directly under their command; there was no question about its legitimacy to do so.

However, if it overstepped its boundaries and attempted to touch the viscounts subordinated to the Elric House, it would be viewed as an act of undermining the dignity of the Elric House. Such an action would bring about condemnation from the other nobles.

The Five Eminent Noble Houses needed a ‘big brother’ to help resolve conflicts and maintain harmony amongst them, but if the ‘big brother’ threatened their authority and power, they would be incentivized to turn their spears against the ‘big brother’ and seek a new liege.

For this reason, nobles knew very little about each other’s military power.

According to the Ascart House’s report, the Elric House had been expanding its army slowly over the years. This wasn’t much of an issue as their population was growing as well, so it was only natural that they needed more people to maintain security.

However, what was interesting was that the number of mercenaries it employed had increased significantly over the years.

The Elric Fiefdom was located in the intersection of three major countries with several other minor countries in the region, making it an ideal place for mercenaries to earn a quick buck. There was nothing wrong for a fiefdom to hire mercenaries to bolster its forces, but it was often viewed as a last resort due to a major risk associated with it: Can you really differentiate which ones are the real mercenaries?

The report only contained a preliminary estimate regarding the number of mercenaries the Elrics had employed; there was no way of getting a concrete number on that.

But in any case, the report had raised Roel’s guard toward the Elric House.

The feelings he had when he looked at the System’s discounts once more were completely different from before. The bizarre circumstances surrounding the rise of the Elric House had left him with an ominous vibe. His goal was no longer just raising his fighting prowess anymore; more than that, it was a way of self-protection.

The goal that Roel’s eyes were set upon all this while was very clear: Self-preservation. After all, he only had one life to live.

With this goal in mind, Roel took another look at the discounted items in the event shop, and there was one thing that immediately stood out to him.

【Calamity of Bloodshed:
A failed spell from the noble research of the Doujutsu Society. There’s a chance that a person who carries killing intent toward you will have his name revealed amidst crimson light to you. Remember, don’t waste your time screaming for theatrical effects. Just run!
Price: 4200 Gold Coins】

4200 gold coins.

In other words, the item cost 10,000 gold coins prior to the discount. It was pretty expensive for a spell. But like they say, you get what you pay for. Its effects were pretty useful, especially since it appeared that there were no bothersome prerequisites to activate the skill.

The only gripe that Roel had with it was the idea that it was dependent on chance. He had no idea how high this chance was, which meant that he couldn’t fully rely on it. Aside from that, it seemed like it would only work if he were to see the target in person. In other words, he couldn’t rely on it to avoid secret arrows aimed at him or sudden assassination attempts.

But even with these restrictions in place, it was still a useful spell. It could very well save his life multiple times in the future.

Roel was indeed tempted to buy the Calamity of Bloodshed since he was certain that it would be useful. Being able to confirm who was an enemy would definitely prove to be a valuable asset in protecting himself. The only issue was that…

Find the original at Hosted Novel.

… 4200 gold coins was still too expensive!

He would have to find a way to borrow a bit of money, and as for whom he should borrow from…

“Alicia. If you have no use for the compensation you have received yet, can I borrow some of it for a while?”

Inside a room, Roel tried to suppress his embarrassment as he asked the silver-haired girl for money. Alicia blinked her eyes at Roel for a moment before nodding her head lightly.

“Sure, Lord Brother. If you have a need for it, you can take it all.”

“No, I’m just borrowing it for the time being. I’ll return it to you once we get back home,” clarified Roel with a quick wave of his hand.

Roel did have quite a bit of money left from the sales of the Soulcalming Lamp, but he had left it back at the old mansion in Ascart City. He wouldn’t be able to reach it before the discounts ended since there were still some things they had to attend to in the Holy Capital.

But surprisingly, Alicia didn’t seem too bothered with Roel’s guarantee. She simply responded with a casual nod, clearly thinking nothing of it at all.

“…”

Roel sensed that Alicia seemed to have no notion of just how important money was, and as an older brother, he felt obliged to say something about it.

“Alciia, I know that we don’t have much use for money, as most of our needs are paid for by the Ascart House. However, you should still try to build up your own savings. You do have things that you want, right?”

“Things that I want…”

The silver-haired girl repeated contemplatively as she stared at Roel in a daze. This left Roel feeling a little perplexed.

“Alicia?”

“AH!”

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing! Lord Brother, I don’t have anything I want at the moment, so please feel free to take my share of the compensation for your use,” said Alicia with a reddened face.

She quickly stood up and curtsied lightly to Roel.

“Lord Brother, I’ll be heading off to study. I’ll come over to find you a little later.”

“Ah, I see… Alicia, you need not push yourself too hard in your studies. You can always catch up with your lessons after we return to Ascart City.”

To be honest, Roel couldn’t understand why Alicia was so determined in her studies. Kids her age should be trying to skip lessons wherever possible! To persist in her studies despite having traveled all the way to Holy Capital Loren, this was already beyond the normal scope of diligence!

Alicia didn’t bother to clarify Roel’s misunderstanding. Instead, she smiled quietly to herself for a moment before finally replying tenderly.

“It’s bridal studies.”

Novel Notes

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ℭ𝔥𝔢𝔠𝔨 𝔬𝔲𝔱 𝔪𝔶 𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔯 𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔢𝔩𝔰:
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