The Biography of Albrecht – Chapter 17
The next morning, Albrecht woke up a bit disoriented. He didn’t have a hangover, but he still wasn’t used to camping and sleeping outside. It was rare for him to wake up at a time when the sun had already risen.
Albrecht thought to refrain from drinking.
He sensed a strange atmosphere among the group once he saw them.
Benzel came over and gave him something to drink.
“It’s honeywater. It’s good for hangovers.”
Albrecht nodded and was about to drink it when Elena and Anna also came over to him.
“Let’s be friends too.”
Albrecht quickly glanced at the two because of their random statement. They looked determined for some reason. Albrecht, feeling confused, looked around. Benzel’s face was expressionless. The women from the distance were staring at Elena and Anna.
Now he had a rough idea of what was going on.
Albrecht thought that Elena and Anna were cute.
“We’re already friends, no need to ask me. But if you want an answer, then fine.”
The women smiled brightly at him. Soon though, they hardened the expressions on their faces.
“Th-then, can I ask for a favor, as a friend?”
“Don’t drink that.”
They’re acting like kids. With a smile, Albrecht asked, “Why?”
Albrecht looked back at Benzel. The latter remained expressionless. Yet, when he met Albrecht’s eyes, he immediately showed him his signature flattering smile.
Instead of drinking the honeywater, Albrecht gave it back to him.
“Guess I have to give it back.”
Benzel’s smile didn’t falter as he took back the honey water without a word.
Elena and Anna sat next to him. Elena handed him some water as she warned him.
“Be careful. I’ve seen a lot of strong people get into trouble once they’re drunk.”
Albrecht nodded and said, “You’re right. I have to be careful.”
Elena was both happy and surprised that Albrecht immediately accepted her words. Nobles and knights hated advice, especially from a woman. She was prepared to say something in case Albrecht got mad.
Elena had only been with him for a few days and watched him have conversations with Diego. She thought that Albrecht was a little—no, certainly—different.
He did say that he just came out from their estate, but it was hard to distinguish whether he was purely innocent or just plain naive. She had been young before too, but she wasn’t a fool.
The overwhelming brutality and charisma he emanated when he fought made him seem like an unapproachable person. However, he was usually open-hearted and genuine. He was very different from the noblemen and knights she saw before in Lucrezia.
Albrecht was drinking water when Anna asked him, “Do you have any idea what happened last night?”
He finished drinking his water, looked at her, and answered, “Nope. Though I did see the weird atmosphere this morning. Haha.”
Albrecht didn’t think it was important but Elena showed her unease.
“You have to be alert once you get tangled with the merchant groups in the city or with the Thief Guild. I don’t think Benzel’s simply just a pimp. The pimp work itself is also a business of the Thief Guild.”
“They call themselves vigilantes, but the people call them the Thief Guild. They’re in every city. They’re large and have control over the whole city.”
Elena sat in the carriage compartment, watching Benzel nagging at the prostitutes, and continued.
“They impose location and protection taxes on small businesses. They’re mainly engaged in gambling, prostitution, liquor and slave trading, as well as hiring hit men, pickpocketing, murder, and robbery—anything in the black business. They’re also involved in official trade business. Their relationship with merchants is interdependent as they both struggle for domination. The other side gets devoured, then in turn, the one side gets devoured too. That’s how they get split up…”
Elena was a full-time employee of a big group run by a merchant family so she was quite knowledgeable in this field.
Albrecht was surprised to hear her explanation. He thought that this world would be fairly simple since its society was still underdeveloped, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.
This world had no written laws or rules. Every principle in here was based only on intuitive judgment and was more blatant than Earth’s modern capitalism. As a result, everything was unpredictable.
However, something also came to Albrecht’s mind as he pondered over Elena’s explanation.
“They’re like the mafia.”
“Huh? ‘Ma’… ‘mafia’…?”
Elena was confused by the unfamiliar word.
“Organizations who exercise violence and force to control. Haha.”
“I… see. But.. isn’t that the same as the estate Lords?”
Elena quickly realized her slip of the tongue as she became comfortable talking with Albrecht. She was just about to apologize when he replied.
“Yes. They’re both thieves and only differ in size. Well, for now.”
Elena was stunned by how he had calmly affirmed her words. No matter how open-minded he was, she wondered how a nobleman himself could think like that.
“Well, that was a mistake. I’m sorry.”
“No. You’re right.”
At that moment, Diego returned shirtless with Martina in tow after his sword practice in the nearby woods. Though he was thin, he had already gained a lot of weight since the first time they met Albrecht. He now looked quite manly.
Diego approached Albrecht and jerked his thumb to the side.
“Let’s go over there. I have something to tell you.”
Albrecht got up from his seat. Elena, Martina, and Anna walked with them. Benzel watched them from a distance.
Diego briefly talked about what happened last night.
“So Benzel wanted you to meet a man named Rutger. I won’t ask you to stay with us until we get rid of the gemstones…And I won’t blame you, Albrecht, if you refuse to stay with us.”
Diego felt heavy-hearted. Yesterday’s conversation with Benzel made him feel powerless. He depended too much on Albrecht. Should he really consider himself as Albrecht’s friend?
It was too much to ask a ‘friend’ to escort you for over a month. This was just asking for too much. Instead of a friend’s favor, it was nothing but a brazen request.
Albrecht considered it.
At first, he only thought of accompanying them to a city so they could sell their gemstones. That was enough to show his goodwill. And he planned to finish that task.
The question now was whether he should do more favors for them.
He was fond of Diego. Though he had never really met a lot of people outside their estate, he knew for sure that Diego was a good man. It was rare to meet someone like him.
He didn’t care much about money. It was better if he had some, but he didn’t really think it mattered. He’d devotedly abide after his Father’s words but he’d only do so for as long as he could. What if a situation presented itself and he had to risk his life? He didn’t know what he’d do until then, but at least he knew that he’d face it head on.
Now that he thought about it, they were already in the 11th month of the year. Winter was getting close. It would be hard to camp out and sleep outside. Just like his mother told him, it would be better to stay at an inn in a city for now before he went to Penbancht in the third month next year.
There was no telling how long Diego would stay in Roybeck, but he also wanted to stay with the guy for a while.
Albrecht concluded his thoughts and said, “Alright. I’ll stay with you until you sell those gemstones.”
Their faces immediately lit up.
“Thank you, thank you so much. I’m really lucky to have you as a friend. Those gemstones can’t even be compared to you.”
Diego’s words were genuine. When he lived in isolation, there had been countless times when he regretted everything that happened and even cursed those damned stones. He also blamed himself.
And yet now, he was able to meet a noble. He gained his freedom and even got his hands on the gemstones. But the value of those stones weren’t as important as it used to be. Diego had now become a man who knew how to distinguish what was really important.
Albrecht smiled and tapped Diego’s shoulder.
“So what’s there to hesitate about? Let’s go ask what kind of guy this Rutger is.”
After saying so, he immediately strode towards Benzel. Diego was startled by Albrecht’s straightforwardness and followed after him.
Albrecht asked Benzel, “So what kind of guy is Rutger?”
Benzel glanced at Diego who was behind Albrecht and laughed.
“What’s the big rush, sir? I’ll tell you on our way.”
Benzel had his people prepare for their departure. He gave Diego’s party a carriage. Though it seemed like an act of kindness to stop their unnecessary fights, he actually intended to separate the group from Albrecht.
The carriage carrying the women workers led their procession, followed by Diego’s carriage. The group was heading east along the Bizer River, which was a large river originating in the western part of the North Continent and continuing to the Eastern Sea—the border between the North Continent and the Central Region.
Benzel walked beside Albrecht, who was riding his horse, and talked about Rutger.
“He’s the leader of the vigilantes protecting the people in the city of Roybeck.”
Albrecht understood it as a leader of the mafia-like group that ruled the city of Roybeck.
“They run some entertainment business to fund the vigilante group. but there are people who aren’t impressed by this.”
Albrecht sneered at him, “What vigilantes sh*t are you spouting, just tell me the truth. Aren’t those girls you had with you slaves you got from the North?”
Benzel answered with feigned ignorance, “Slaves? What do you mean?”
“Am I wrong? Then why would such a pimp like you go this far?”
“Haha. I think there’s been a misunderstanding, Sir. Those women are freeborn people of Roybeck. They’re not slaves. There was a huge dispute between some Kings in the North continent this time, so they had to go a long way to follow the army. They’re on their way back.”
In this era, merchants followed the location of war. Though army troops had their own supplies, it only included food. Merchants followed them to sell weapons, women, liquor, clothing and other items.
Goods sold to the army were several times more profitable.
A prostitute usually earned one silver coin. She could get up to five silver coins by offering her services to the army.
But of course, there was a big risk in trading against these people fighting in war. There was also a big sum to be paid to the troops’ commander to be allowed to do business.
Benzel glanced at the carriage Diego’s party was in.
“Some man named Diego might have misinformed Sir Knight. That young man looks smart, but he doesn’t seem to have much experience. Don’t trust him too much.”
“That’s for me to decide.”
Benzel thought he had nothing to worry about. He didn’t need to rush. All the good fighters he knew never said no to women and drinks. Albrecht was still young so he was still clueless about the ways of handling women. Benzel was confident that he’d be able to keep him away from Diego by offering all kinds of entertainment.
With a very unpleasant smile, Benzel replied, “Yes, of course. I was too presumptuous.”
The group skipped lunch and continued on to their nearing destination.
Harvest time was long over and the field looked far from beautiful, but Albrecht gazed at the endless wheat field along the Bizer River. Looking at a large farm like this made him remember the fields back at Kaltern that he had grown tired of seeing.
As he walked through the wheat field, he could see the city of Roybeck from afar. The reddish-yellow sun behind their backs made their shadows point to their destination.
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