The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 174

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The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide

Elte Merchants’ Retake (3)

Perhaps due to the size of the carriage, there was hardly any shaking.

Inside was a sofa stuffed with soft cotton, and in the very center, an antique wooden table was attached.

From the lace decorations hanging charmingly from the ceiling to the impressive gold patterns on the walls… both Princess Phoenia and Lucy Mayrill sat facing each other in a carriage that would be difficult for an ordinary person to ride even once in their lifetime.

Lucy lay sprawled across the table, arms stretched wide, lazily taking in the scenery outside, while Princess Phoenia watched her intently.

Rumors and evaluations of Lucy Mayrill had been widely heard during her time at the Sylvania Academy.

She spent her childhood as a buried prodigy in the Rameln Mountains and only after coming to Acken and entering Sylvania Academy did her talents begin to be revealed to the world.

The royal family had a hard time during the holidays due to her stirring up trouble at the palace.

Had she not alone shattered the malevolent spirit Mebuler, she might well have been imprisoned in the dungeons. However, her achievements and personal strength were so immense that they dared not handle her carelessly… she was indeed a wild card beyond control.

“I’m hungry…”

Remembering the dreadful days at the palace, Princess Phoenia nearly sighed.

Unaware or indifferent to Phoenia’s feelings, Lucy merely murmured absentmindedly about her hunger.

“You didn’t need to create such a fuss, Lucy Mayrill. Perhaps we could have persuaded them with polite conversation.”

“You don’t listen to what I say, why would they listen to mine?”

Lucy’s audacity to speak casually to a princess made the surrounding officials swallow their saliva.

However, Lucy continued unfazed.

“I’m not good at settling things with words.”

A terrifying statement in itself.

Princess Phoenia sighed deeply and responded no more, just looking out through the opposite window at the soldiers escorting her.

“…”

How much longer until we reach Acken? For Phoenia, with her poor sense of distance, this journey felt like an endless wait.

Lucy’s spectacle at the palace also drew unwanted attention to Ed Rothtaylor, whom she openly supported.

The surviving heir of the Rothtaylor family already held a unique position, and now with the kingdom’s hero vouching for him, curiosity about his background and support began to mount.

Princess Phoenia became increasingly concerned as she sensed the ambiguous glances of cellahana Persica.

“Hmm…”

Suddenly, gazing out the window, an odd feeling of disquiet struck her. It was just the usual road, nothing should have seemed amiss.

The soldiers’ faces were familiar, and the escort marching neatly on either side of the carriage had been a common sight since her childhood.

But… there seemed to be too many of them.

“The escort seems larger than necessary for this journey… There has been no event warranting such.”

The issue with the Rothtaylor family was a disaster, but it had more or less come to a conclusion with only the aftermath left to deal with.

Ceremony is important but wasting royal escort resources is not ideal. She considered that future travels might manage with a smaller retinue.

With that thought, Princess Phoenia shifted her gaze up to the blue sky within the carriage.

Only Lucy’s occasional sleep talking echoed inside.

*When Lortelle regained consciousness, the first sensation he felt was a pressure around his wrists.

In his befuddled state of mind, he managed to recall his last memory; Dun glaring at him with wide eyes, ignoring Lortelle’s command.

After that, nothing.

Whether it was an attack, a spell-induced loss of consciousness, or simply collapsing from exhaustion, there was no way to tell. He had been dealt with cleanly and effectively.

When a sharp pain shot up from the back of his head, he realized.

Dun’s defiance wasn’t just stubbornness; he was biding his time for an insider’s move while drawing Lortelle’s attention.

Nothing had changed about the location. It was still Lortelle’s personal office.

Being perceived as safe, it was the perfect place for an ambush.

As his vision cleared, Lortelle instantly surveyed the situation.

He was not free to move. His hands were tied behind a chair.

The scent tickling his nostrils was that of night moth flower incense sticks, notorious for disrupting magical flows and temporarily subduing mages.

However, considering the item’s price, as gold as ten coins for something the size of a fingernail, plus the difficulty of obtaining it and the need for prolonged exposure for it to be effective, it became clear that this had been planned for some time.

“You’re dirtying your hands with tasks that don’t suit you, Dun.”

Lortelle spoke in a low voice, looking across the table.

A man sat with his head bowed in a visitor’s chair, large beret, slim figure, a vest of silky red wool over a pure white shirt, and leather pants; he looked the part of a merchant through and through.

“While I was busy with Oldec matters, you set up quite the stage.”

“I apologize for the restraint. Not everyone appreciates a well-mannered performance.”

“Anyway, being a proxy head is a busy job. Managing the merchants, inventory, personnel, records, sales, rivalry for profit, and now, rebellion on top of that.”

It was a tense situation, yet Lortelle continued to speak with a relaxed tone.

“So… Is it because of you, Lien, that Dun is involved?”

Behind Dun stood a girl, shy and hovering, Lien Clemens, Lortelle’s secretary, clutching a pile of documents as if hiding behind Dun… as timid as ever.

“It’s not a logical decision.”

“Well. We’ll have to wait and see about that.”

Dun spread his legs and elbows on his knees, staring at the floor.

His recently imposing demeanor differed from his usual self-assured composure.

Knowing when to appear frivolous is a quality of any decent merchant, Dun naturally possessed it.

However, what his usual demeanor was like… was hard to know outside of the merchants’ network.

“Spending a long time in beautiful and romantic Sylvania seems to have mellowed you out.”

In spite of the current dire circumstances, Dun still respectfully addressed Lortelle. He was that kind of person.

“Or perhaps you just had to rush something with Oldec… You trusted me far too easily.”

“Trust? Me, trust you?”

Lortelle retorted incredulously.

“I trust no one. Do you think you are the exception?”

“…”

“You and I have been partners for a while now… Did you think I wouldn’t notice your ledger discrepancies? A little misappropriate for drinking and luxury goods, and now to you, I’m a pushover?”

– Boom, boom.

As Lortelle spoke, bustling noises echoed throughout the merchants’ quarters. Though openings were only a few days away and it was still technically the off-season, the merchants’ place buzzed with activity.

Looking at the busy atmosphere of the merchants, Lortelle didn’t find it hard to infer what was keeping them so occupied.

“Do you think evidence of your embezzlement is left in this place? Logically, it’d be secured outside.”

“…”

“I told you, I trust no one.”

Dun quietly listened and then brushed the wooden floor with his leather shoes before finally speaking.

“Well, I did order a thorough search just for appearances… but not because I thought we’d find any evidence. There was no need for such.”

“What?”

“Why do lengthy explanations matter? Either way, it’s better that you step down from your proxy position.”

Lortelle strove to conceal his puzzlement. There was nothing to gain by appearing weak here.

Still, Dun was carefully hiding his agenda.

Why he had suddenly betrayed Lortelle, what he was counting on, and how specifically he planned to corner Lortelle.

Not even a minor clue was given. Dun knew how cunning a fox Lortelle was.

Even the slightest evidence could lead Lortelle to deduce the entire picture.

Therefore, no clues should be provided. He needed to be restrained and locked up before catching on to any oddities.

Although Dun had planned thus, the current situation alone allowed Lortelle to surmise at least the minimum information.

‘Something bigger backs him.’

Lortelle pondered inwardly.

He, who trusted no one, operated on the principle of ‘mutual benefit’.

Following Lortelle, the most influential figure in Elte Merchants, was advantageous to all, engendering involvement only if there was something to gain for each.

Only within a mutually beneficial relationship could a semblance of trust be established.

Dun was well aware of this fact; he had no reason to betray Lortelle.

Yet, this abrupt strike from behind indicated some external change that warranted it.

Moreover, the drastic move to seize and bind Lortelle suggested a belief that time was on Dun’s side.

Some sort of external action was being taken, with only the results pending. Until then, it was about eliminating all variables by binding Lortelle.

It took Lortelle mere moments to deduce this far. His eyes briefly closed then opened in the span it took for the thoughts to flow.

The first order of business was to break free from the bindings and escape. It was necessary to discern what changes had occurred around Acken with Dun at the center while Lortelle was away from the merchants’ place.

“Dun, setting yourself up for a checkmate. Do you think no one will sense anything amiss if I suddenly leave?”

“You don’t need to worry about attendance on the scholar’s side, or about the personnel within the mercantile. All has been taken care of. Do not entertain any thoughts. Complication benefits neither of us.”

“Well, from my perspective, complications seem more favorable.”

“Well, considering our different standings, that makes sense.”

Dun replied, lifting his head as he spoke. He no longer displayed his usual frivolous demeanor.

“I took measures to prevent such an event. Everyone around you, the proxy head, has either aligned with me or has been handled so they won’t sense anything amiss should you disappear.”

“You must have carefully prepared your plan.”

“Bonne.”

“I’ll leave it to your imagination.”

Lortelle tried flexing his arm to snap the ropes with a quick jerk, but the tightly bound cords showed no signs of breaking.

With a subtle glance, he looked around for something that could cut the ropes, but nothing caught his eye.

“After all, didn’t you say nobody believes in you? Who would risk their life to come rescue you? We don’t want to harm the proxy leader of Lortelle any further, either. How about sitting quietly and retiring just as peacefully?”

“Playing the gentleman, I see. A filthy traitor just the same.”

“Hearing that directly from the proxy leader himself gives a peculiar feeling.”

Lortelle, who had already taken the seat as the proxy leader by undermining Elte, couldn’t legitimate his condemnation of Durin.

Branded as a traitor, she is just another fallen in a cycle of betrayal. Aware of this fact, Lortelle could only let out a hollow laugh.

“You’re not losing your composure, I see.”

“You’re hoping for that, aren’t you? That’s why I’m even calmer. Merchants are a twisted lot, never playing into the hands of others’ intentions.”

“Well, to my eyes, it still seems like you’re holding on to some belief.”

Even in such extreme circumstances, Lortelle never loses his reason.

In any situation, retaining his rationale and making logical judgments is what defines Lortelle Keheln.

Durin, who has been supporting Lortelle closely, is ever aware of this fact.

Lortelle is a serpent, sharper in senses even than the old foxes of Oldec.

Deceiving her is no small feat; days or months of preparation are insufficient. Years of sharpening the blade of betrayal might inflict but a mere scratch on her.

The first task is to shatter her solid reasoning.

Always maintaining her composure and unflinched by any crisis, such mental fortitude has established her reputation as a great merchant. Without addressing that first…

No angle in the rivalry against Lortelle could be considered to have the upper hand.

Therefore, Durin analyzes the character of Lortelle with an icy detachment.

He seeks out any semblance of human emotion left in the soul-sold devil that is Lortelle. That is the only crack through which to advance.

“Proxy Leader Lortelle, you mentioned you trust no one.”

Durin continued in a quiet voice.

“That’s not entirely true.”

“… What?”

“Lien or Na.”

As Durin softly invoked the name of Secretary Lien, she retrieved a document from a bundle she had been holding.

It was a draft agreement, and while not extensive, its form was made to look official.

Placing the draft on Lortelle’s office desk, Lien moved away and returned to stand behind Durin.

“This is…?”

“Ed Rothtaylor.”

At the mention of that name, Lortelle’s pupils quivered slightly.

“Did you assume he would not join us?”

“What…?”

Durin is a natural at negotiation and compromise.

Between complex ties of interest, he discerns what others truly desire, forging win-win scenarios.

This understanding comes from countless repetitions of such transactions.

Negotiation and compromise start with knowing the opponent.

Ed Rothtaylor is not a character easily influenced.

He possesses integrity and fixed beliefs, transcending mere understanding of gains and losses, with notable physical prowess.

Having shared rapport with Lortelle, convincing him to betray seems implausibly challenging.

Yet, ultimately, negotiation hangs on the desires of the other party.

Lortelle Keheln glanced over the document Lien had handed her; her hands trembled ever so slightly.

– The following agreement is hereby established between Elte Corporation’s acting business manager Durin Grecks and Ed Rothtaylor regarding the trade of internal information and cooperative relations:

1. Concerning the blowing the whistle on internal corruption of current Elte Corporation’s proxy leader Lortelle Keheln, any requests for information sharing sent by whistleblower Durin Grecks will be fully cooperated with by Ed Rothtaylor.

2. Elte Corporation’s full acting representative, Durin Grecks, guarantees comprehensive support for all tuition, living expenses, and other related costs until Ed Rothtaylor graduates from Sylvania.

3. In addition, Durin Grecks actively supports satisfying the ‘early graduation’ requirements for Ed Rothtaylor and all necessary funding and arrangements for his early graduation.

4. Durin Grecks pledges active post-graduation settlement funds and necessary facilities for Ed Rothtaylor as Elte Corporation’s full acting representative.

5. Ed Rothtaylor will officially become an employee of Elte Corporation and maintain this status for at least five years following graduation.

6. Ed Rothtaylor must always attend dinners, meetings, and negotiations with friendly forces and influential members associated with Elte Corporation and continue good relations with them.

The document seemed to ostentatiously illustrate the collusive relationship between Durin and Ed.

Lortelle twitched for a moment but quickly regained her composure, swiftly analyzing the clauses.

Durin Grecks possesses an aptitude for analyzing people.

He has meticulously dissected the character of Ed Rothtaylor, gathering information to understand his true desires.

For Ed Rothtaylor, graduation and growth are of paramount concern.

He organizes all his endeavors around graduation, as if it’s a significant milestone in his life.

The offer of ‘early graduation qualifications’… from Ed’s perspective, it must have been irresistible.

Moreover, the promise to support the necessary funds for it and the settlement money after graduation is generous, but the financial aspect is not the real issue. Even someone like Lortelle would be willing to support that much.

The question is, how can Elte Corporation’s acting representative assure something like early graduation?

It’s Sylvania Academy that decides whether a student graduates, not an actuary of Elte.

‘Is there an inside agreement with Sylvania’s academy…?’

It’s odd indeed. Obel Forcius, the dean of Sylvania Academy, is not one to entertain such negotiations.

The relationship between Elte Corporation and Sylvania’s academia isn’t amicable, and even if a negotiation were somehow arranged, turning one academic to your side is a risky bet against making an enemy of Lortelle.

Additionally, the terms in this proposal are far too fixated on the person of Ed Rothtaylor.

Durin Grecks and Ed Rothtaylor have no ties to justify bending over backward to tie Ed to Elte Corporation for five years after graduation or to construct friendly coalitions. Durin’s primary motive is money, not power.

‘Suspicious…’

Lortelle thought thus far and allowed herself a casual smile.

“A negotiation filled with force. You think anyone would sign such a thing?”

“It’s already a sealed agreement.”

“…. What?”

Durin simply looked at Lortelle, saying no more.

Signs of confusion appeared on Lortelle Keheln, a sight to behold without lengthy explanations.

Known for maintaining her calm in a school falling to ruin, this level of uncertainty shouldn’t waver her. Yet, Lortelle’s vision was visibly shaken.

Slowly she turned the page of the agreement, and Ed’s signature loomed large.

She momentarily forgot to breathe.

Echoes of Elte Keheln’s warning creep up her spine during occasional dreams.

If you ascend to greatness through betrayal, eventually, it will be betrayal that seals your fate.

When you fall to the very bottom, do you believe anyone will reach out to you?

These words circled her ears, thrusting icy daggers in her frozen heart.

“It’s rather convincing.”

It’s a forged document.

She came to this tough conclusion.

“He is currently in this building of Elte Corporation.”

Durin stated indifferently.

At Durin’s response, Lortelle’s words stuck in her throat.

For a moment, her mind fogged, her train of thought interrupted.

Seeing Lortelle lose her cool is rare; the merchant front always portrayed her as a logical and rational fox.

But now, merely focusing her eyes felt dizzying…and Lortelle had to bite down on her teeth.

– Squeak

The one who opened the door and entered was Ed Rothtaylor.

The tall, blond nobleman… walked silently into the office and received several documents from Secretary Lien.

They were Elte Corporation employee manuals and various employment contracts.

“Ed… senior…?”

No change in expression.

Ed Rothtaylor, looking at Lortelle, maintained his usual expressionless face.

He was draped in a small cloak, the outer face of which bore a small, emblematic scale symbol of Elte Corporation’s employees.

He had already become an employee of Elte Corporation.

Maintain composure in any situation and observe with a chilling resolve.

Shattering Lortelle’s cool reasoning is truly no easy task.

However, the image of Ed Rothtaylor, standing unfazed behind Durin while taking documents…

Occupied Lortelle’s full view.

He spoke to Lortelle with a bored face.

“That’s how it turned out.”

The nightmare with Elte Keheln twisting his face and spewing curses at Lortelle.

A dream that resurfaced just as she was about to forget it now became imprinted in Lortelle’s mind.

In the end, if you’re thrown down, no one will reach out a hand to you.

Those words, like a curse, kept flooding her ears.

*- ‘For now, return to the dormitory and follow my instructions.’

After speaking with Elte Corporation’s secretary, Ed Rothtaylor sent Aila back to the dormitory.

“It’s so sudden I don’t know what’s what…”

The Laureil Dormitory for honor students.

Crossing a neatly cleaned hallway, Aila held simple writing tools and paper in her hand.

Having not written letters often, despite doing plenty of class notes, Aila felt somewhat strange.

“Hmm…”

The exchange between Elte Corporation and Ed Rothtaylor had been odd, but there was far more that Aila could not comprehend.

– ‘…’

– ‘Senior Ed, why do you ponder so?’

But after the discussions with Elte were settled, the image of Ed Rothtaylor sitting quietly at the cafe table, stroking his chin, and deep in thought had left a strong impression on her.

– ‘Assessing the situation.’

Seeing Ed’s serious demeanor for the first time, Aila felt somewhat perplexed.

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One response to “The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 174”

  1. Hollup. Let Ed cook.

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