Here's this week's second release.

"Are the people from House Mireitas still not willing to let us into Dauslyke?" asked a fat man from the side to a tall and slim middle-aged man beside him as he used an intricate silver knife to cut into a juicy, fatty piece of beef.

"It is so, Lord Speaker," the middle-aged man replied with a bow, "Marquis Mireitas said that anyone who lives in their hotel is their guest, so those who cause trouble for guests are causing trouble for him. They are even willing to a conflict. They also sent for Blademaster Mike and 300 guards."

The fat man enjoying his meal was the chief speaker of the Union's sub-council, Marquis Bejisanro. He was currently the president of a rank eight merchant guild in the Union, the Rosanji Merchant Guild.

The Rosanji Merchant Guild controlled all the businesses relating to ale production. Following the War of Glass, the rising food prices had caused the price of ale to increase several times over. The guild had not just made a great profit from the situation but had captured a sizeable share of the market for wheat-related products.

As the personal attendant of President Bejisanro, the tall, thin middle-aged man knew his master's intentions: to control the Union's food market. This put them in direct competition with the Forde Merchant Guild, whose strength was in the food business. President Bejisanro wanted to occupy at least half of the Union's market.

Wandering bards had sung about the prosperity of the Falik Plains around Morante, but they had forgotten that the farmlands could not sustain a population of two million people. The Union had one million people living in Morante alone The seven other cities across the plains each had roughly 500 thousand citizens. Around 100 towns, villages and hovels dotted the plains as well. The most crucial factor was that many of the crops weren't edible.

The Forde Merchant Guild controlled Falik Plains and offered guarantees to their farmers that they would purchase their crop in exchange for being their exclusive dealers. Without the guild's permission, the farmers would not be able to sell their produce to other merchants. Within the monopoly, the farmers had to plant according to the requirements and choices of the guild, so their crops were usually those that had a higher price in the market, for instance, Falikean long rice. Other than that, the guild had to import large amounts of food to sustain the population.

However, apart from Falik Plains, the Union also controlled Callisto Hills. Compared to the plains, Callisto Hills was far more desolate and rural. The farmers planted mostly wheat, potatoes, and other foodstuffs. The guild did not care for crops that were not worth much, so the Rosanji Merchant Guild controlled all of Callisto Hills' produce and used them to make ale.

Many of the Union's alcoholics thought that the ale they drunk was brewed solely from the crops of Callisto Hills, but that was not the case. The guild imported food from different neighboring nations, most of it expired. Such wheat was not worth much and cost only around 30 gold Fordes per 5000 kilograms. Such wheat was occasionally used to brew ale instead of proper, more expensive, crops.

The War of Glass caught the Forde Merchant Guild completely off guard. They did not have much food stocked up, which lead to the sudden inflation of food prices in the Union. With the neighboring nations closing up their trade routes and putting embargoes on food products and many other goods that were of strategic significance, the guild could no longer purchase food even if they had the money for it. Even if they did manage to purchase some, there was no way they could ship it to the Union.

The Rosanji Merchant Guild fared a little better. The mossy wheat they dealt with was worth rather little, and they had also managed to close a rather large deal before the war ended. Of their purchase, they were able to transport 3 million Pors (1 Por = 50 kilograms) to Morante. As they were worried that the fact that half their shipment was old mossy wheat, the guild used a smuggling troupe to transport their goods and evade the Invincible Fleet's checks at Hidegold Bay. With the food in hand, along with their already existing stockpiles, the guild's president, Bejisanro, decided that the volatile nature of the market was the heaven-given grace that would give him a chance at controlling the low-tier food market. As for the high-tier foods, he would leave it to the Union.

While President Bejisanro was rather ambitious, he was no idiot and had never yearned for the seat of one of the big-seven. All these years, he had managed his guild with care to never step out of hand. His years of experience left him clearer the most on what befell guilds that encroached on the big-seven's interests. As the Union's chief speaker, he had never spoken against the big-seven's wishes. Even if he did not follow their instructions down to the letter, he never directly disobeyed them. He made sure the guilds never had a legitimate reason to kick him from his post.

However, in the nobility system, the president saw an opportunity to become a member of the high council. Since he could not replace any of the big seven guilds, he could ask for a promotion instead and have his seat on the high council. Even Duke Lormo managed to join the high council after he joined the Union; there was no reason President Bejisanro could not. It was especially the case given the good opportunity that had landed in front of his guild.

President Bejisanro opined that the Forde Merchant Guild, being the largest distributor of agricultural products in the Union, had made a crucial mistake. They had overlooked the food demand of Morante's population. Without enough food, its price would rise without fail. The Forde Merchant Guild had already become the target of criticism for many citizens, and this was a good opportunity for the Rosanji Merchant Guild to take control of Morante with the food stock they had in hand.

Add to the fact that the big-seven guilds were busy dealing with matters in their own dominions, the sub-council managed to become the highest power within Morante. Bejisanro drafted a simple plan to make use of his position as the head speaker for the sub-council. First, he would use the food his guild possessed to win the hearts of the Moranites and raise his reputation. He would simultaneously use the Moranites' adamant xenophobia and hatred for the closed-off trade routes to push a forceful foreign policy.

As long as he could pull off these two components of his plan, he could suggest the formation of a Union army in the next council meeting with the support of most of the other representatives from the second and third rate merchant guilds. The other smaller guilds had also been driven to the brink by the closed trade routes and were desperate to do something, anything, about it.

As for the citizens' representatives, they would not dare to object to his motion given the fiery rage of their constituents. In truth, Bejisanro's goal was not to launch a military campaign against the other nations but to obtain a standing army that answered only to the sub-council and was under his direct control as the council's head speaker.

With such an army in hand and his newfound reputation among the citizens, the big-seven would not be able to do much to the guild even if they turned their attention back to the city. By then, all he had to do was push for a seat on the high council and he would be formally inducted.

However, the incident he was currently trying to address posed quite the problem for him. His good-for-nothing animal of a son actually dared to flirt with noble ladies in broad daylight on Rotary street and even had his leg broken, not to mention the many injured guards. The president knew that his son had gotten what he deserved.

Hmph, does he really think that, just because I'm the chief speaker, he can do whatever he wants? If word of this spreads, it'll reflect horribly on me. The name of nobles within Morante would also be tainted all over the continent... The big-seven will definitely not let my son off lightly...

Fortunately for him, none of the big-seven were present at the moment, and, given the Union's isolated state, few nobles actually remained within the city. There was no need to worry that this matter would spread.

The offended party this time looks to be bumpkins from The Northlands, purchasing luxury goods here like they've never seen any in their life. They must be some low-class house that happened to earn a bit of money lately...

Bejisanro had already been informed in detail of the proceedings and knew well that it was his son's lust that had gotten him in trouble in front of so many people. Many shop owners had already expressed their displeasure, their sales to nobles had dropped as a result of the incident already.

Well, they're just a few nobles from the backwater Redlis anyway... No matter how rich they are, they can't afford to mess with the Rosanji Merchant Guild, can they? And with Iblia in its current condition -- its king captured and killed by Andinaq's king-- they are in an even worse spot.

The matter had been reported in the Morante Daily and many thought the capture of Second Prince Iblia was the result of Second Highness Auguslo's actions so that his father's burial would be followed by that of his traitorous brother.

I doubt anything will happen if I deal with these nobles.

Bejisanro already had a method in mind. First, he would compensate the shop owners at Rotary street for their lost business -- in essence, buying their silence. He would then spread rumors about how Iblian nobles had been causing trouble for the merchants and shops in the area and claim that his son had actually been trying to stop their disrespect, only to have one of his legs broken and have many of his guards killed or severely injured.

Since the matter could no longer be kept quiet, all he had to do was use the rich commonfolk's xenophobia and envy. All these years, Moranites had a sense of pride, of being above others, especially after the War of Glass had ended with more than half of Redlis' territory swallowed up and allowing the Union to become one of the largest nations on the continent. It had only served to reinforce their pride.

The entitlement of hundreds of nobles after the two conflicts further whetted the Moranites' appetite for a noble title. Thus the incredible outrage when the trade routes were cut off. This mentality and these attitudes were what allowed Bejisanro to garner the support he now had.

He had decided to deal with the ignorant Northlander nobles since no matter how useless his son was, he was still his flesh and blood. If he did not pursue the matter, surely he would become a laughing stock. Only by harshly teaching them a lesson would everyone shut up. There was a saying: 'a lie uttered a thousand times becomes a truth'. Similarly, if he did not 'punish' the Northlanders for what they had done, there would be a logical dissonance with the narrative of his son's heroic actions he was about to spin.

After finishing off the last piece of his beef, the fat man wore a calm expression on his face. He put down his utensils and used a white cloth to wipe his mouth.

"Hmm, House Mireitas dominates the Union's hotel business. Even though their guild is rather small, they are not to be overlooked easily, they are backed by too many powerful factions for that. We should give them face and only encircle their hotel to prevent those impudent nobles from leaving. Don't enter the hotel itself or step onto their grounds."

"Yes, Milord," the middle-aged man replied respectfully, "But whether they understand that we're showing them goodwill is still not certain. Others might also misunderstand that we are not acting because we fear their house. We cannot allow that to happen."

Bejisanro tossed the cloth away and snickered.

"Just because we're giving them face by not barging into the hotel doesn't mean they can act as they please. Didn't House Mireitas have Blademaster Mike moved to the hotel? He's only a rank 1 blademaster. We can simply send Blademaster Danhema to deal with him. I believe a rank 2 blademaster like him will be able to give Blademaster Mike some pressure. Additionally, send 500 guards over to intimidate them. Let's see who has more men under their belt."

The Rosanji Merchant Guild easily had far more military power than the other small guilds. They had hired three blademasters, one rank 2 and two rank 1s. As none of their blademasters were allowed to participate in the War of Glass, not a single one was injured or dead. The Rosanji Merchant Guild's force was almost comparable to the big-seven after the war. This gave the president more leverage to demand a position in the high council.

"Also, send some people to rile the commoners up to cause trouble for Dauslyke. Everyone who does so will get 2.5 kilograms of food every day. I'd like to see how long Dauslyke can continue shielding their guests. If a carriage leaves the premises, have the commoners check it. If the carriage won't allow us to check them, don't let it leave. I want to see whether House Mireitas has it in them to act against the commoners..."

"A wonderful plan, President," the middle-aged man praised, "I bet House Mireitas won't dare to touch the commoners."

"Hahaha, I think so too. If they do act against them..." Bejisanro said with a smile, "Well, it won't be pretty. All we have to do now is see whether House Mireitas will succumb to pressure or the Northlanders will finish spending their money during their stay at the hotel and be chased out. There's no rush. We can play with them for as long as we want."

"I believe after this matter your reputation in Morante," the man said as he brought his hand up in a thumbs-up gesture, "will be grand. I will have your instructions carried out right away. Please await the good news, Milord."