I casually answered the portal manager’s question.
But I could feel Humbley and Kaldera flinch as soon as I answered. They were trying to hide it, but I could tell because I was paying close attention to their reactions.
‘They know about it as well.’
I guess it makes sense. With Humbley’s network, there is no way he does not know about the location of the underground prison where Morris is imprisoned.
The important thing is the other part.
‘Do they perhaps know about Harrison as well?’
I will find out once I meet with Harrison.
Arlington is a small city to the south of Avanguarde. The population is only about 50,000. But it’s strategic location in the middle of the Arlington gorge makes it both a center for the military and commuters, making it always filled with activity.
Humbley quietly asked me once I headed toward the streets of Arlington.
“Is it still difficult to reveal your destination?”
Is he asking because he really doesn’t know? Or is he pretending to not know?
For some reason, I felt like it was the latter.
It was because of Kaldera’s expression.
It really had to be one or the other. They had either been here before, or it was their first time.
If they had been here before, they would have said something. But there was nothing.
Which should mean that this was their first time in Arlington.
In that case, even subconsciously, they should be looking around. Even if it was not for the beautiful scenery in front of them, your mind would subconsciously make you look so that you can know where you are.
But Kaldera only looked forward as she walked.
‘They do know.’
Of course I could be wrong.
I treated Humbley and Kaldera like they didn’t know anything. That would be more natural for bot hsides.
“You can think of it as the Batoru Kingdom’s hidden strength. They are people who will be great help to us in the future.”
“It makes me even more curious about what kind of people they are.”
“We are almost there. You absolutely cannot reveal anything about our plan. You know that, right?”
“Is there a reason to even ask?”
Humbley answered back as if that was obvious.
“I’m getting a bit hungry. Should we stop to eat before continuing on?”
To be honest, it was a bit early for dinner.
But both Humbley and Kaldera followed me into a restaurant without any questions. It was a pretty large restaurant.
There weren’t too many customers because it was really early. It almost felt a bit chilly in there.
“Can I take your order?”
“Please give me this and this. And will you please let your boss know that someone named Kang Hwi Ram is here to see him?”
I watched the worker’s reaction as I ordered.
There was nothing odd. They weren’t even shocked after hearing the name Kang Hwi Ram.
I’m sure Shione did not forget to let them know before hand.
Then it is one of two options. I either came to the wrong place, or the worker has no knowledge about Shione and Harrison’s dealings.
The worker disappeared after taking my order.
A moment later, a manager who seemed to be higher ranking than the worker quietly walked over and bowed.
“There is a cozy location on the third floor with a great view. If it is okay, may I escort you there?”
I felt like this was it. It had to be the location that Harrison selected.
“Great. It did feel a bit cold down here.”
I followed the manager up to the third floor. As the manager mentioned, it was a cozy hall.There were just two tables.
You could even see the stars in the sky, and it was refreshing because you got a clear view of everything.
“Your order will be out soon.”
The manager headed out. Only the three of us were left in this small hall.”
“It really is a great view. We got lucky.”
Humbley quietly responded to my comment.
He tried to smile, but there was some hesitation within it.
Kaldera was the same way. She was trying really hard to act natural, but there was definitely a difference with her normal self.
I just pretended to not notice.
A moment later, the door opened and another team of customers walked in. There were three of them just like us. The only difference was that they were all buff men.
They sat at the other table and ordered a couple dishes.
The atmosphere was pretty quiet. We all just ate in silence as if trying to scope out the other side. The only change was when we would gaze out to take in the scenery.
But there was some tension in the air as well. This was especially the case for Humbley and Kaldera who peeked at the other table every so often.
The other side was the same way. They did not say much, but you could tell they were looking our way.
We still peacefully finished our tense but quiet and awkward meal.
“Then shall we leave?”
“What? ……Ah, yes.”
Humbley seemed to be a bit shocked. He expected some type of conversation, but we were just going to get up.
I stood up first. I grabbed the jacket that I hung on the coat rack.
I then casually threw out some words.
“I guess he has nothing he’s disappointed about. Either that, or he does not have the qualifications to work with us. Tsk tsk. It is always difficult for the subordinates when the boss makes the wrong decisions.”
I then opened the door to head out.
The other table finally had a reaction.
I gladly stopped moving. But since I didn’t know Harrison’s face yet, I didn’t know who I should look toward.
“How can we trust you?”
He said ‘you’ and not ‘all of you.’ Of course it could have been on accident.
But is that man Harrison?
There is a good chance it is not. In fact, Harrison might not even be here. He is probably hiding in another room eavesdropping in on the conversation.
“If I was an enemy, would I have come to visit like this? I could have easily sent the soldiers to wipe this place out.”
“What is it that you want?”
“I do not talk to people I do not know. Then, good bye.”
I left the hall with no remorse. I needed them to need me. I didn’t need to hold on to their legs to ask for their help.
I quickly walked down the corridor.
Humbley and Kaldera just followed right behind me without knowing what was going on.
The manager from earlier was present when I got down to the first floor.
“Please come this way.”
I guess I can finally meet the real Harrison.
I followed the manager. There was a hidden path in a corner room on the first floor. The underground secret path took me to a completely different building.
Only after walking a lot further after that did I finally arrive in front of a small room door.
Knock. Knock. Knock knock knock.
“I have brought the guests.”
The door opened from the inside.
I followed the manager into the room.
It was a pretty large office. There was a long table in the center, and there were six chairs to each side of the table. Six men were sitting on one side. I sat on the other side with the rest of my group.
“I am Kang Hwi Ram. Which of you gentlemen is Harrison-nim? I have heard your respected name, but have not had the pleasure of meeting you in person.”
“I am Harrison.”
He seemed to be in his mid-forties.
Now that I think about it, he does look similar to Shione. Rather than a rough manly appearance, he feels more like a pretty boy.
“How did you know?”
A vague question with no details. You need to clearly state the topic of the question. Not that I would answer even if he did.
But Harrison peeked over at Humbley as he asked.
His gaze was a bit weird as well. It seemed more like blaming Humbley and not questioning him. Almost as if he was saying ‘how can you bring an outsider here?’ And scolding him.
Am I just being overly sensitive?
It is something I won’t get an answer to right now anyways. I will know for sure when I ask when the time is right.
If he is hiding something from me, he will need to expect a reward(?) for it.
I landed the first blow by asking a question back at Harrison instead of answering the question.
“What do you mean? The location of this place? Or Harrison-nim’s situation? Or are you talking about the relationship with the third emperor?”
As expected. Harrison’s expression became pale after hearing the ‘Third Emperor.’
Even Humbley and Kaldera flinched as well. Although they were trying really hard to look calm.
“Please watch your words.”
Harrison lowered his voice and scolded me. Almost like it would be dangerous if someone overheard us.
Does that mean he is not confident in the security of this location? Or is he thinking that one of his people could be a spy?
“Is it that you cannot trust your group of people? At least the people I brought with me and trustworthy.”
“Do not mock our brothers. We have shared life and death together. I am just saying that no matter who it is, they all have only just one life.”
He’s saying you can die for speaking without thinking.
At minimum, I’m an exception to that. Of course Humbley or Kaldera could do that, but that is none of my concern.
“Then let’s cut through the useless questions. We are all headed in the same direction anyways.”
“What direction are you heading in?”
They are still cautious.
But it will change soon. I will fall under the umbrella of the ‘brothers’ Harrison is talking about.
“Of course it is the complete independence of the Batoru Kingdom.”
“Our Batoru is a completely independent nation.”
“You mean to tell me a country like that lets their hero Morris-nim rot in an underground prison? You mean to tell me you sent a once in a generation genius like Shione-nim to the Ameri Kingdom for fun?”
Harrison started to frown. His father Morris and daughter Shione was Harrison’s most painful finger. Well, it is probably more than a finger. The pain probably is strong enough to pierce his heart.
But he really was not an average individual. He held in that pain by biting down on his lips once. He then fixed his expression as if it was someone else’s business.
“Let’s pretend that is the case. Then what does a successful merchant like Humbley-nim have to do with all of this? Why is he here with you?”
He’s finally bringing Humbley up.
But he is still talking like they don’t know each other. Just how long are they planning to keep up this facade?
I’ll play along for now. That’s not the important thing.
“Is there anything in the world that does not cost money? A big opportunity will come in the next few years. In order to prepare for that opportunity, we need Humbley-nim’s assistance.”
“A big opportunity?”
I was talking about the upcoming Jeppi invasion.
It is possible they have a decent idea about the situation because of Humbley.
But it is more likely that Humbley did not say anything. If someone extremely patriotic like Harrison knew about it, he would try to go in a completely different path.
Of course he would put his life on the line to defend the Jeppi’s procession. I’m sure they would have a full on clash using the entirety of the Empire’s strength.
If that happens, the Batoru Kingdom will be destroyed with no chances of revival. The current Batoru Kingdom does not have the strength to defeat the Jeppi.
What can you earn from a destroyed land? In the end, Humbley would become broke as well.
Someone at Humbley’s level probably considered that much.
I didn’t mention the Jeppi either.
“The Ameri Kingdom will fall into a big state of chaos. That is the perfect opportunity for the Batoru Kingdom to shout their proper independence.”
“What is the evidence that supports your thoughts?”
“That is a secret. We are not brothers yet. However, that will definitely happen. If we do not prepare for it, forget independence, our Batoru Kingdom will fall as well.”
Harrison looked toward me with shaky eyes. It was like he was trying to determine my trustworthiness through my eyes.
“And the reason you came to find me?”
“It is of course so that we can prepare together. The first preparation is secretly building a couple fortresses in certain locations. Something like that is not possible without the help of the royal family.”
Even if they fall into a state of chaos, the Ameri Kingdom is too strong for our Batoru to handle. We need to prepare for when the Reina River defense is broken. If Harrison-nim can get the royal family’s permission, we will take care of that.”
“Is that all you want from me?”
To be honest, I needed a lot more help.
But that help can only be brought up if I mention the fact that the Jeppi will invade.
If I do that, everything will become a mess. Harrison will definitely think differently than what I’m thinking.
“That is all I need.”
There was nothing for Harrison or the Batoru Kingdom to lose from this. Even if they sit back and watch, Humbley will take care of building the fortress.
“We will do so. If I get permission, who should I send a message to?”
“You can send it to Humbley-nim over here. Avanguarde……”
“I already know. We will do so.”
Our conversation was not long. It is because we are still lacking trust in each other.
Especially Harrison. He is being extremely careful because he considers himself the last line of defense for the Batoru’s resurgence.
Becoming ‘brothers’ with Harrison seems to only be possible after the Jeppi invasion in a few years.
I left the restaurant with the Humbley crew.
“For Harrison to be alive. It is amazing.”
Humbley started to speak.
Is he going to keep up this act until the end? Or was I thinking too much into it?
Let’s pretend to be tricked for now. Nothing will change either way.
“It would be best for you to forget everything you heard today. Something accidentally said could change the future.”
“IN addition, if you are worried about the funds, you do not need to invest. The money I have is enough. I am just giving you an opportunity because I feel like we are on the same boat.
“Not at all. Our merchant guild has already made up our mind to go with Kang Hwi Ram-nim.”
“Thank you very much.”
With that, we got back in the portal and arrived back at Avanguarde.
“It is late. Please spend the night at our place tonight.”
I had no reason to decline. I needed to sleep anyways.
I also wanted to give Humbley an opportunity.
He has been hiding something from me since last night. That much I am certain about. I saw that Kaldera became shocked for no reason.
His relationship with Harrison as well.
A day’s time should be enough. Then he should be able to finish debating and make up his mind. Spill the details and walk down a path of trust, or hide it and walk a dangerous path.
I really hope it is the former.
I followed Humbley and walked into a luxurious residence that could rival a palace.
 This is how it is in the RAW. I assume it has a question mark because it says reward but it really means a punishment
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Had to post on phone. I hope formatting is okay.
Translator : Miraclerifle
Proofreader : Borderline Masochist