Why didn\'t you come with us, Grandpa
Because there\'s no one I can trust to manage the shop in my absence.
It\'s a family business so it needs someone of the family to take care of it. Zekell threw a final reproachful look at Senton before turning to Lith.
It\'s nice to have you back, even if just for a little while. The two men shook hands.
The difference in treatment made the poor Senton wonder if he had been adopted.
Do you have new work for me Because I have some for you.
The stocks of chessboards are running low and once we sell the last pieces, we\'ll leave the market open to counterfeits. Zekell handed Lith a report of the sales and an inventory of what was left.
Not now, sorry. Lith examined the numbers and was quite pleased of them.
As for the chessboards, I\'ll send you a new batch as soon as possible.
I can work on them even in the Desert so it shouldn\'t take long.
Everything was mass-produced in the Alchemical lab and enchanted in the Forge, requiring so little focus that usually Solus did it in her spare time.
Excellent. Zekell nodded.
You know, it\'s too bad that you\'re the only one who can use that Gate.
If I had one of those keys, I could triple our profits simply by cutting on the transportation fees.
Yeah, but you would need to personally make every single trip through the Gate and you\'d have a nice target on your back.
If something happened to you, one of my enemies could imprint the key and use it. Lith replied.
Never mind, then. Zekell hated traveling and hated risking his life even more.
\'There\'s no point in making money that I can\'t live to spend.\' He thought.
Zekell invited them for lunch and they accepted.
They had just dined, but after not seeing each other for over a month they missed the old blacksmith, even Senton.
The family spent the time before closing to visit the new shops and establishments that had opened during their absence.
Lith noticed that while the citizens of Lutia always gave him a warm smile and invited him to stay over, those who had recently moved there treated him coldly at best, whispering behind his back the moment he turned around.
\'Who the heck are those guys I don\'t recognize half of them.
I wish Solus was here.
She would know whether I just forgot about them or if we actually never met.\' Lith thought.
He noticed that the same people that treated him coldly would also look with fear at the magical beasts, forbidding them entrance.
Rena noticed that the quality of the clothes had improved, but it was still a long shot from those that Lith bought them from the big cities.
The quality of the toys disappointed the kids, but that was hardly a novelty.
They were so used to enchanted items that no matter the craftsmanship, they would always find them lacking.
Lith went to pick up Raaz, but just like Rena, he refused to use a Warp Steps to reach their destination.
There\'s still some time before noon and I\'d rather have Zekell wait a few minutes than have this conversation in front of the kids. He said with a sigh while taking the old road to Lutia.
What\'s wrong, Dad Lith asked.
I couldn\'t stop thinking about what Bromann said so after I finished negotiating the new contracts with the farmhands and instructing them about the sowing, I called Count Jadon Lark. Raaz felt the need to call the new ruler of the Lustria County by name since the death of the old Count still pained his heart.
It seems that our honeymoon with Lutia\'s citizens ended a while ago without us even noticing.
What do you mean
Son, this is a small village.
Gossip about who is cheating with who or about a merchant overpricing his goods are nothing to worry about while rumors about the seizing of fields are not. Raaz clenched his teeth so hard that he snarled rather than speak.
The famine is no different from the plague in Kandria.
Farmers are always informed about the value of their crops and aim to make it big when such occasions arise.
Jadon confirmed to me that my suspicions were correct.
The new citizens of Lutia blame you for the attack and resent you for keeping the Warp Gate for yourself so much that they exploited our absence to petition Jadon to take away my lands.
They claimed that we had abandoned the Kingdom in its darkest hour and that with the current shortage of food there was no time to waste for my return.
They did what Lith seethed with anger, making the sky quake until Raaz patted his shoulder to calm him down.
Their argument was groundless but it made sense.
Weren\'t Jadon a friend, things might have gone differently.
Once he said no, they petitioned Brinja, and when even that failed, the Royals.
Seriously Lith was flabbergasted.
Yes. Raaz nodded.
Not to brag, but your old man is the biggest landowner of the County.
Nobles excluded, obviously.
You have seen how desperate my farmhands are.
Right now, crops are just crops, but if the famine endures, they will be worth more than gold.
Sure, the Royals would enforce fixed prices, but slipping a few sacks of food on the black market can make a farmer earn with a single harvest more than they would in years.
According to Brinja, who defended my interests in front of the Court, it was the work of a small noble, Baronet Hogum.
I remember him. Lith was surprised by how rage could jog even his Lich-like memory.
They had met briefly during the gala when Lark had introduced Lith to Mirim for the first time.
The two youths had faced each other with magic and the final result had been an utter humiliation for the Baronet.
The good news is that the Royals had him waiting in the bad antechamber for hours before dismissing him without even listening to Brinja\'s counterarguments.
The bad news is that they wouldn\'t have even granted him audience if it wasn\'t because the people of Lutia backed him. Raaz said.
Interesting. Lith sounded aloof, but his father could hear the cogs in his brain ticking like war drums.
Calm down, son. Raaz walked in front of Lith, to look him in the eyes while holding his shoulders.
You have every right to be angry and so do I, yet these are difficult times.
At any other moment, I would have asked Zekell\'s help and together we would have made those people have a hard time doing business.
Heck, I would have probably even exploited your and Jadon\'s influence to screw them up good.
Right now, however, messing with them means messing with the livelihood of countless people.
Give me one good reason why I should care. Lith said with a voice as cold as a death and eyes brimming with violet mana.
I\'ll give you two.
Because I care and because I raised you to be better than this. Raaz replied.
Lith didn\'t reply and soon they started walking again, this time in silence.
What if they make another attempt He asked after a while.
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