How can anyone be so shameless, especially the emperor? He actually treats his word like nothing but a fart! thought Krilos as he held the written order Auguslo sent him, shaking from the anger. Auguslo just reinforced Krilos's belief that the father-and-son duo were shameless to the bone.

During the 7th month, House Norton raised the prices they were buying goods at Jillin Harbor greatly by up to thirty percent. Krilos didn't hesitate to get Andalou to meet that price. However, House Norton raised it once more, almost doubling the original price.

Andalou was in a tough position. Krilos was incredibly troubled as purchasing goods at that price not only didn't bring any profits, the more they purchased, the larger the loss.. The spending for a thousand-man trading convoy during their travels from the imperial capital to the Trade Union was no small amount either. Krilos realized that each trip would cost him around 80 thousand gold Fordes.

If the prices hadn't been raised, each trip would earn him around 500 thousand gold Fordes. But with the purchasing price doubled, transporting goods worth hundreds of thousands to the Trade Union wasn't only a loss, they couldn't even make enough to cover the cost of transportation. The expenses of the convoy aside, the convoy had to pay a huge toll while passing through the kingdom of Peterson, much to the heartache of Krilos.

Other merchant guilds would just quit the unprofitable business, but that wasn't an option for Krilos. He understood how important resources were to the resuscitation of the Trade Union. Given how resource-stripped they were, they required the goods Andalou could provide to make their own products and compete in the market. Only with mor raw materials and ores could they start fashioning tough armor and sharp weapons.

There was one way to resolve that issue, and that was to raise prices of goods sold so that a profit was made nevertheless despite the higher cost. Since the Trade Union were in urgent need of those resources, they would be willing to pay that price. But Krilos couldn't bring himself to do it as he was aware that it would cause quite a lot of trouble for Duke Cobleit; the various factions in the Trade Union would start pestering him with problems. After all, the current Trade Union was no longer the rich and powerful nation it used to be.

So, Krilos decided to solve the trade war with House Norton himself and had an audience with Auguslo in hopes that they could bring the ones in charge of trade of House Norton to negotiate. The best way to resolve the issue was trading in separate areas. Jillin Harbor and Andalou would do their business in their respective provinces without interfering with one another. That way, everyone could make profit. It was a win-win solution.

Krilos believed that Auguslo would help mediate the matter with House Norton, and that the house would go along with the emperor's demands to save him face. Given that Auguslo had a 800-thousand-gold-Forde stake in Andalou, he would also side with the guild more and try to get some benefits out of the negotiations.

However, Krilos didn't think that Auguslo would take matters into his own hands instead of holding a joint negotiation. Confidently, he told Krilos, "It's but a small matter. Let me handle it for you. I only need to meet Lorist and talk to solve the issue."

Lorist was the head of House Norton and Duke of The Northlands, as well as the imperial swordsaint. Krilos knew him as the Trade Union's greatest foe and the one that caused its demise. However, he was quite curious why Auguslo was so confident about resolving the issue.

Auguslo gleefully told Krilos that even though Lorist was a swordsaint, he had his own weaknesses: his weak will and penchant for reputation. Even though Lorist had a rather tumultuous history with him, as long as they met and he lay down his poise as emperor and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. Lorist would give in to any request. The trade war was a smaller matter in comparison. He only had to plead to get Lorist to agree to his terms.

Not to mention, the vacation party at Platinum Beach hosted by Duke Kenmays was the perfect chance, as he heard that Duke Norton would be heading there with his family. Auguslo decided to tell Duke Kenmays that he would be participating as well so that he could meet Lorist there. That way, he could resolve the matter without making it public and wouldn't feel ashamed about humbling himself as it would be a private conversation.

So, Krilos confidently awaited the good news from Auguslo. One month later, Auguslo sent an order that he had tried his best, but Duke Norton was nowhere to be found. Though he gave it his all to follow Lorist, the latter was obviously trying to avoid him and even went as far as traveling to Morante.

He also said in the order that he was incredibly angry and humiliated by Duke Norton's avoidant behavior and expressed his hopes that 'Selik' would help Andalou win the trade war with House Norton, saying that he would support them all the way. However, he did want to remind him that as the construction of the trading point at Flowater Creek caused him to lose a million gold Fordes in profit from Jillin Harbor, he said that he would be expecting that amount from Andalou.

Other than that, Auguslo emphasized the huge investment he made with Andalou, the 800 thousand gold Fordes he took from the treasury of the imperial family for them to use as capital to purchase the raw materials from nobles. Auguslo believes that if he left that sum to the Nortons to manage, earning back millions from that amount would only be expected. So, in light of the guild just being founded in the imperial capital recently, he said that he didn't hope for results the Nortons could provide. Instead, he was only looking forward to a small dividend payment of around 600 thousand gold Fordes.

This man's shamelessness knows no bounds... Krilos really wanted to rush into the palace and give Auguslo a slap in the face. On what basis did he think that Andalou should be responsible for the profits he lost at Jillin Harbor? However, Krilos knew that it was an argument he wouldn't win. It was he who had persuaded Auguslo to allow Andalou to start the trading point at Flowater Creek for the trading convoys of the imperial nobles in the first place. Had that not happened, Auguslo's yearly profit of a million gold Fordes would still be there. No matter how bad the relationship between the emperor and the duke, he would still receive one million gold Fordes annually.

But now, due to Andalou's interference, the prices were doubled and Auguslo proceeded to blame Andalou for the profits he lost. Even though Auguslo supported Andalou in a move to teach House Norton a lesson, that cost him his one million gold Fordes. So, he wasn't afraid of pissing Andalou off, causing Krilos to incur a debt of one million gold Fordes for no reason.

Krilos could only begrudgingly shoulder that debt. If the prices weren't doubled, that amount would be no pressure on him at all. However, given the losses Andalou was suffering, that million could well cost the life of the guild. They might have to shut down for good.

What the hell is with that 600 thousand gold Fordes of dividend?! Investments are risky in the first place! Losses are just as common as profits! It's already the 10th month now, and there are only two months left before the end of the year... Where would I get that kind of money for him?

At that moment, he was considering whether he should just ditch everything and leave. But considering the price he paid to approach Auguslo and gain his trust, how could he just leave without fulfilling his revenge? Was he going to consider the loss of 1.5 million gold Fordes by Auguslo payback enough? The thought of the pain Auguslo had caused him made him feel incredibly unwilling about the situation.

The door of the study was lightly knocked on. Krilos knew that only his subordinates could knock like that. He kept the order and said, "Come in."

The one who entered was the guard on duty. He delivered Krilos a letter which seemed like a normal price-inquiry letter. He would receive a few of those daily from the nobles dealing with the guild, but the one in his hand right now had the emblem of a twin-headed dragon. Krilos asked the guard to bring him a glass of milk, which he took a gulp out of before sprinkling all over the letter and baking it above hte candle fire.

Soon, dark blue text appeared on the letter. By the time the letter was completely dry, the text disappeared, but he had already memorized what it said. After some consideration, he instructed, "Prepare the carriage. I want to go out."

A week later, Krilos traveled nonstop for Malivia where a noble manor was built some ten years ago. It was abandoned after Malivia was taken back by the empire, but Andalou bought the ruined manor back for a cheap price and renovated it into one of the furthest rest stops for Andalou's men.

The week-long trip was quite hard on his weakened body. He flopped around like mud when he was helped off his carriage. After being bathed and bandaged up by his personal maidservants and taking two days of rest, Krilos finally recovered a sliver of energy.

A day later, a black carriage with no insignia drove into the manor. A black-robed man who dressed quite similarly to Krilos left the carriage. That was the guest Krilos had been waiting for. The guards showed him into the study without bothering to check his identity.

When the man removed his robes, Krilos stood up in shock and said, "Your Grace, why have you come?"

Nobody expected that the premier of the Trade Union, Duke Cobleit himself, would travel to a normal manor near the border of the empire's province, Malivia, not even Krilos.

"Is this odd? Long time no see, my fellow brother," said Cobleit with a relaxed smile as he gave Krilos a hug. He knew about the injuries, so he was very careful with the hug.

"I... I thought Your Grace would send a representative to talk with me. What prompted Your Grace to come personally? Was there a problem with our past transaction?" asked Krilos anxiously.

"No, the transaction was fine. Brother, the trade route you forged helped me out greatly. Even though peace has been restored with the midsouthern nations, they're still biased against our Union and are putting us down, especially with regards to one of the most crucial resources--mineral ores. Yet, your trade route was able to provide us with exactly what we needed and allow us to slowly recover our forces and equipment. We are also now able to produce some other goods apart from glass."

Cobleit looked at Krilos and thankfully said, "Brother, the Union is doing well, don't worry. But why didn't you tell us about the troubles you faced? We only just found out that you're taking losses for the sake of maintaining this trade route. You should've let us know earlier! You know how important this is to us. If you lose this trade war with House Norton, that will spell the end of the trade route."

Krilos smiled bitterly. "Even though I'm making a loss from the trade route, I don't really mind. I can make it up from endeavors elsewhere. However, this is what I'm having trouble with now..."

Krilos took out the written order of Auguslo. "I've never met someone as shameless as he is, a person who's emperor no less. It was he who encouraged me to cause trouble for House Norton and promised to support Andalou in the first place. But now, he's asking me for money! 1.5 million gold Fordes! It's a miracle that he's even able to make such a demand..."

Cobleit read the order and smiled after some thought. "No worries. I brought you something. Show it to your emperor and I'm sure he'll stop demanding money from you.