Atelier Tanaka Volume 4 Chapter 4 part13
Territory Pioneering 4
I was accompanied to my audience with the King by Ester-chan.
She told me it was important for a parent to look after her child when he’s still adjusting to the life of a nobleman. So I was left to stand around outside of the gates as Ester-chan finished up the final preparations.
I should be learning how to do all of that. There appear to be a few forms you’re supposed to fill out whenever you enter the royal castle.
But the lolibitch wouldn’t tell me anything about it. If she were to call me over to teach me, I’d rush over without a moment’s hesitation, but Ester-chan appeared to be the type of tutor that would spoil her student and do everything for him.
That’ll be something I need to look into. I might as well do some self-study tomorrow.
“You may wait here until His Majesty is ready.”
A finely dressed official guiding us to the waiting room outside of the throne room.
Based on my past experiences, once we’ve waited here for a few minutes, another official will enter and tell us the King is ready.
“After this, everyone will no longer be able to deny you your place amongst the nobility.”
Ester-chan looked at me with a gentle smile.
She appeared to be right at home, seated on the luxurious sofa. It was as if she was where she belonged. When I looked down at my own shabby attire, there was clearly something off about this busamen seated in a regal room such as this.
I wish I was able to dress in something a little more appropriate for someone holding the title of ‘baron.’
“I wish I could at least look the part of a noble….”
I don’t care about fashion, but it’s always important to dress for the occasion.
“You shine more brilliantly than any noble I’ve ever seen before.”
“I’m grateful that you feel that way, but it doesn’t have much of an effect on how others view me.”
“It’s fine if I’m the only one who notices how great you are. I don’t know what I’d do if someone were to take you away from me. I was surprised to see Sophie in your city and I’ve noticed you’ve been spending a lot of time together. I’m worried that she might be trying to take you.”
“That’s definitely not what she’s after.”
At just the thought of Sophie-chan stealing me away a look of pain flashed across Ester-chan’s face.
“Y-Your free to do whatever you want, of course, but I, umm….”
It was clear that she was still dealing with the trauma of being turned into a cuckquean by Allen.
Just as the conversation was turning towards a dark spot in Ester-chan’s history,
There was a light knock on the door before an official appeared that was different from the one that had led us here. I may not have recognized him, but it was clear by his uniform that he was of a similar position.
I was hoping that King was ready for us but this wasn’t the case.
“Baron Tanaka, if you’d be so kind as to present your offering.”
“I’ll confirm the amount here before you present your payment to His Majesty.”
“Ah, I see.”
T would certainly be awkward counting out fifty gold one coin at a time in the King’s audience chamber. It makes sense to count it out and confirm the amount beforehand. I don’t recall there being a table or any chair besides the throne in that room.
“I will count out your payment here to confirm you have the correct amount and prepare your offering for His Majesty.”
I counted the gold myself before handing the pouch over to the official for him to confirm.
“Yes, it’s exactly fifty just as we agreed upon.”
The official counted out the coin himself before leaving with the pouch in his hand.
Another official came in immediately after he left.
“Viscount FitzClarence and Baron Tanaka, His Majesty is ready for you.”
“The time is finally here!”
With a nod to Ester-chan, we prepared ourselves for the challenge ahead.
“Raise your heads.”
The King towered over us on his raised throne.
In addition to the King, there was a great number of nobles gathered along the walls on either side of the room. I remember thinking this exact thing the last time I was here, but the crowd has increased in size from the last time I was here.
This time the increase in crowd size is probably to do with the fact that since I became a baron, the only noble I’ve had any real interactions with has been Viscount FitzClarence. This crowd is hungry to witness the foreign commoner turned noble in person. Then there’s also the expectation that I assume many of them have in that they must believe I have no chance of paying the taxes I owe.
“I was told that you’ve come here to make your offering. Is this true?”
There was no greeting or other formalities besides our original bow. He was getting straight to the matter at hand.
The King and the Prime Minister were both stone-faced as they looked down on me from the raised platform. I have a feeling that getting passed this first massive obstacle will only be the beginning of my hardships.
“Yes, that is correct!”
But there’s no turning back now. I just need to pay what I owe now and I can discuss future plans with Ester-chan afterwards.
“If it pleases you, Your Majesty, I’ve brought the financial reports for the last month as well.”
I glanced up and was met with a challenging glare from the King.
“You managed to earn fifty gold coins from that territory in under a month?”
“That is correct.”
“That’s impressive. It’s hard to even believe that would be possible.”
That would’ve been nice to know before I was put into this position.
“Now then, show me your proof.”
I took out Sophia-chan’s report from my bag.
But, with my proof in hand, the King looked puzzled.
“…hmm? What is that bundle of paper?”
“It is the financial report concerning the territory I was given. After deducting the expenditures from our income for the month, we were left with a total profit of fifty-two gold, eight silver, and two copper coins, Your Majesty.”
I feel like I’ve returned to work as a wage slave.
But the feeling of reading out a report while on my knees is new.
“You can read that report at a later time, right now, I wish to see the actual payment.”
“What are you saying?”
“Didn’t Viscount FitzClarence make this clear to you?”
“The amount owed as taxes imposed on your territory, Baron Tanaka, is fifty gold coins.”
“If that’s what you mean, then….”
I looked around to try to find the official that had taken the gold. He said he would prepare it to be offered to the King. I remember there being a small chest on a pedestal where the King took out our reward for the Dragon Extermination party, and I assumed this is where he would leave my payment, but I saw no sign of the official.
Where did he take it?
“I have a question, Your Majesty. Where is the official you sent to confirm the payment?”
“Confirm the payment? What are you talking about?”
This can’t be happening.
This is the worst thing that could’ve happened.
“What’s wrong, Baron Tanaka? My time is precious; hurry and present your offering.”
“U-Uh, of course….”
I was so close that I let my guard down. After spending the last few weeks peacefully building my town, I became too relaxed when I should’ve been more cautious.
“…wa-wait a minute, are you saying…?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
I spoke to the person beside me, Ester-chan.
She seems to have figured it out as well.
“T-That can’t be….”
It didn’t take long for Ester-chan to fall into the same stunned silence as me.
There’s nothing we can do now.
Is something the matter, Baron Tanaka? If not, hurry and present your offering as His Majesty has a busy schedule.”
The Prime Minister prompted me for my payment.
“Come now. Your King is waiting.”
A menacing grin spread across his face.
That official must’ve been working for the Prime Minister.
And he wants me to know.
I fell for his trick. It’s been so long since I’ve made a mistake of this magnitude.
If I try to explain what happened to the King, he’ll think I’m just trying to come up with an excuse. Either way, I would’ve failed my part of the agreement and the King may even give me a harsher punishment for lying.
Damn it, I was so close.
If I had just remained focused for a little longer and not allowed myself to be tricked so easily.
“I sincerely apologize, but….”
The slave route has been decided.
I’ll do my best to serve Ester-chan in whatever way she decides. I’ll satisfy her sexual needs night after night. Every drop of semen my body produces will be dedicated to her.
I got excited by the thought.
Is this the pleasure only shame can bring?
I’m already close to finishing.
However, the picture I was painting in my mind of my future was suddenly swept away when an unexpected voice echoed throughout the halls of the throne room.
“Excuse my interruption!”
When I turned to find the source, I was surprised to find Neumann entering the throne room. He entered from the same doors that the Princess had passed through when she had been cured of her curse.
It had been a while since I had last seen him and I almost didn’t recognize him.
But this was mainly due to his gaunt appearance.
Naturally, everyone else turned their attention to him as well.
It’s rare for a nobleman to enter a place like this, so it was completely unprecedented for a commoner to suddenly come bursting in. I could hear the same question being asked among the crowd of gathered nobility. Who is this man?
Neumann rushed forward to my side and said,
“I humbly apologize to Baron Tanaka and you, Your Majesty, for the delay, but here is the agreed-upon payment.”
In his hand was a stack of cold coins, neatly bound together by a paper band.
I couldn’t count the exact number, but it looked close to the amount I had in my pouch. I recall telling him I needed to earn fifty gold previously, but that amount shouldn’t be something an official like him is capable of coming up with in under a month.
But I doubt he got my gold back from that other official.
Neumann isn’t a great fighter nor can he use any magic. He is purely a career government official that has worked his way up through the ranks by his own hard work. I’m certain this is what he told me and the Dark Elf in that tavern.
What is he even doing here, anyway?
And the two guards at the entrance did nothing to stop him.
“Isn’t that right, Baron Tanaka?”
“O-Oh, yes, of course. Thank you, Neumann-san.”
When he was allowed to approach the throne, he handed me the stack of gold. There was no doubt in my mind that this weight was similar to the pouch I had held only minutes ago. The exposed gold sparkled brilliantly as if had never been touched by a human hand.
Who would be capable of obtaining fifty gold in such a short time, all while being unhindered by the Prime Minister? This person must also be capable of allowing a random government official access to the throne room and preventing the royal guardsmen from stopping him. There’s only one person that comes to mind capable of all of this.
I glanced up at the towering figure seated on the throne.
A fleeting smile replaced the stoic expression I had grown used to. It disappeared in an instant and I almost believed I had been imagining things, but there’s no other explanation.
I don’t know why he did it, but he has to be behind this.
But, for whatever reason he did it, I owe him a big thank you.
“Your Majesty, the fifty gold coins as promised.”
While remaining kneeling, I presented the gold coins to the King.
“Good. I’m glad to see that even when placed in a difficult situation, you still strive forward to meet the tasks placed before you. The hard work and effort Baron Tanaka has put into developing his territory is clear for all to see!”
“Thank you for your kind words, Your Majesty.”
I wasn’t sure the day would ever come where he would speak a kind word to me.
And the Prime Minister was visibly upset and I could see his fist clenched in anger as it trembled at his side. If it wasn’t clear he was behind what happened in the waiting room, it is now.
A knight that stood at the foot of the stairs leading up to the throne collected the gold I held out and presented it to the King. He placed it in a small chest positioned on a pedestal to his right. Just like the throne and everything owned by the King, this chest was covered in gold and precious gems.
My taxes for this month have been paid.
“Is this enough to convince you, Mordred?”
“P-Please, wait just a moment, Your Majesty. How can we be sure that this money is the Baron’s?”
“What do you mean?”
The King responded to the Prime Minister’s question with a question of his own.
But the Prime Minister was at a loss for words.
“With this Baron Tanaka has become a member of the nobility not only in name but in reality as well. He has accomplished the admittedly harsh tasks given to him to earn his title and I will have none claim otherwise.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty!”
The words of the King resonated through the halls of the throne room.