Chapter 78: Trump Card
The fantastic scene did not last long.
Despite the grandeur of what I witnessed, the ending was very simple.
Bahamut’s power drained from Kate as if the air had been knocked out of her, and she slumped back to her original form.
“I’m fine. I’m just a little tired. ……”
I looked at Kate.
Her complexion is as white as paper, but it’s what people show when they’re extremely tired.
I’m sure it’s nothing serious, except for the fact that she’s tired, as she’s self-reported.
“But although it’s good that it can possess you, it can’t do anything with such a short length.”
“Your Majesty, let me try it.”
“Alright. Bahamut, let Zoe have that one.”
The same scene was repeated.
The power leaps out of the bracelet.
And got transferred to Zoe.
She turns into a demonic goddess of divine fire.
Then, she quickly runs out of breath.
As Bahamut’s power drained away, Zoe also slumped to the ground from sheer exhaustion.
“Are you okay?”
“Y-Yes,……, it’s just that I’m as tired as I’ve been in days without sleep.”
“Fumu. Bahamut, I’m next.”
[Are you sure?]
‘I don’t mind, go ahead.”
Bahamut responds to my command, and the power is transferred to me.
Staring at my hands, my appearance changes.
And my status.
Name: Noah Ararat
Level: 17 + 1 / ∞
Fire stat has changed.
The “+” has been increased by one more.
I see, this certainly makes it stronger.
I also found out the reason for the …… fatigue.
While possessed, HP and MP are decreasing by the second.
My HP is C+C, which is actually S, and my MP is C+D, which is A.
Even though they are decreasing, I can keep them for the time being.
“Your Majesty …… Amazing ……”
“This length ……”
As they had quickly ran out of breath previously, they looked up at me with respect.
I broke up the Bahamut possession with my own consciousness.
I felt a little weak from the exhaustion of the possession, but this was no big deal.
In battle, I was convinced that it would be my trump card for short-term decisive battle.
In the study, I faced Oscar across the desk.
I was seated while Oscar was standing and reporting.
The report is on the finances of the empire.
I asked Oscar, who is the Finance Minister, about the finances, so Oscar reported on the current situation.
“The selection of the consorts…… is going to be difficult this year right away.”
The reason I asked about finances was to make Empress Audrey’s proposal a reality.
However, there is not enough money to do so.
I spread out the documents that Oscar had sent me on my desk and stared at the numbers.
“Taxes are down a bit again, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I think it’s because the salt tax from Gabel is on a gradual decline.”
“Salt tax. ……”
Salt is a very important ingredient.
Without it, a dish would be tasteless – and I’m not talking about low-level stuff like that.
Doctors and other researchers have already found this out.
It’s life threatening if we don’t take in salt.
If we don’t take enough salt, we will get tired easily in the short term, and our internal organs will weaken in the long term.[[TN: Your body uses salt to balance fluids in the blood and maintain healthy blood pressure, and it is also essential for nerve and muscle function. (I should stop at it cause typing everything is tiresome so I will leave a –>link<– if you want to learn more)]
Salt is essential for humans.
That’s why the empire controlled salt.
Sales were permitted, and taxes were collected to provide a valuable source of revenue.
I was looking at the report.
“How much is it reduced?”
“About 20% of what it was in its heyday, I’d say.”
“Where’s the biggest decline?”
There are several salt-producing regions.
“The Gabel region. It’s the largest producer of salt in the empire.”
I believe that’s where I sent Lawrence to become viceroy after I became emperor.
And from Lawrence, there is …… no report.
And no secret message through Fuwawa’s box.
It means that nothing has happened to diminish it at all.
Lawrence — can be trusted.
I thought for a moment and looked at Oscar.
“What do you actually think?”
After a full minute of silence.
“…… As you can tell, Your Majesty, it’s quite clear.”
Oscar bowed his head once with a slight chuckle.
“Perhaps there is trafficking going on.”
I thought for a moment.
The empire has a permit system for sales.
By permitting the sale of the product, they can collect a minimum amount of salt tax on it.
Combine that with the word “trafficking” and you get …….
“……, which means that 80% of it is trafficking – it’s black salt, huh.”
“I think you’re right. Nominally, salt consumption has decreased since the recession, and it has been decreasing a little bit every year. Since it has been decreasing by a few percent every year, it was considered unavoidable each time, and before we knew it, …… was the current situation.”
“I see. If the amount reduced over time is used as black salt for trafficking, the taxpayer will make a profit on that amount. It’s a lot of money, and there’s plenty of money available to keep the officials quiet.”
“Yes ……, as expected of Your Majesty. You understand almost everything in this one moment.”
Oscar says so, it means that my guess is not wrong.
Then, let’s do something about this.
Not just for the selection of the queen, I’m also thinking about going to war in the future, and I’ll need money for that too.
The salt tax is the part that needs to be dealt with.
“I’ll go there myself.”
“Your Majesty will?”
“Yeah, the 80% salt tax. It’s not something that can be overlooked.”
“…… Yes, it’s a bit too much.”
I stood up, walked over to Oscar and tapped him on the shoulder.
The empress’s words, “Clean water is hard to live in,” have been stuck in my head lately.
Oscar’s words, ” It’s too much indeed,” is exactly what he said.
If they were to cheat on a few percent of the actual amount, I could turn a blind eye, but in the heyday – or even 80 percent of the current amount – I would say it was too much.
Oscar, as expected, is also a Prince as well as the Finance Minister, so he understands such things very well.
“It’s wonderful that you can say that. Please continue to lend your support to my reign.”
He took three steps back, just far enough so that he didn’t step on my shadow, then dropped to one knee and bowed his head.
Royal Capital, the Eighth Prince’s residence.
In his windowless study, Oscar summoned his confidant, a man named Arl.
“You wanted to see me, sire?”
“It’s Gabel. Is there any connection between there and me?”
Arl was puzzled for a moment, but quickly returned to a straight face.
“There is some. Not directly, but a few ‘nice to meet you’ gifts.”
“Send it back and cut it as neatly as you can.”
“Yes. …… But why?”
“His Majesty has taken notice.”
“His Majesty is a man of great talent. He may be even better at exposing and resolving injustice than the Previous Emperor. His Majesty has personally proposed to go to Gabel. It will be solved for sure.”
Arl was afraid to ask him back, but Oscar assured him firmly.
“For sure. I’ve been watching His Majesty since I was a child. There’s no mistake in that.”
Oscar stood up, folded his hands behind his back, and walked around the study.
“Gabel’s matter is not something that can be covered up quickly, structurally. It can only be put back over the years, or the whole thing will come to light and hundreds of people will be punished, one way or the other.”
“B-But… His Majesty has always stated that ‘People are Treasures’.”
“Don’t forget, His Majesty was also the Minister of Justice, who respected the law.”
Arl gasped and gazed at him again.
“Even the Crown Prince can be disinherited according to the law, so there is no way that a Prince can be reduced to a commoner.”
“I’ll go clean it up right away!”
Oscar saw off the pale Arl as he ran out of the study.
And then, in the room where he was left alone, he murmured to himself.
“The Thirteenth’s resourcefulness will no doubt solve this. Then I will …….”
Oscar had to think about a lot of things.
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