“What do you mean, my Karma Credit Score is in the red?!”
“Due to ‘chaotic behavior,’ ‘dishonorable combat maneuvers’ and ‘remorseless killing of thine own kind,’ your karma has moved towards a weak shade of chaotic evil,” Miel read him a report with a frown on her face. “Your new classes also do not inspire confidence.”
“That's ridiculous! I earned them saving baby dragons from raiders!”
“Adventurers whose job loss is indirectly your doing, and most of these dragons being dangerously destructive themselves. Opposing a fomor plot gave you a bonus, but not enough to offset the downward spiral. We will have to increase your subscription rate if you want to keep the benefits of your current insurance.”
Victor slammed his head against his mansion’s table. These thieves already took half of his SP at the end of each month!
“I’m sorry,” Miel tried to reassure him. “I am defending your case the best I can, but I have a lot of pressure from my higher-ups.”
“They’re blaming my score downgrade on you?”
Miel sighed, apparently as annoyed as him. “It is a hard job, regulations are strict, and my higher-ups want to avoid too many people undeserving of Heaven dodging their due karmic retribution. I would like the rules to relax a bit, but I do not make them.”
“Why don’t you strike on your own?” Victor suggested, massaging his forehead. “Free enterprise and all.”
“Like an infernal corporation?” Miel shivered. “That is not how Heaven works, and I would certainly fall.”
While he contested the evil part of his alignments, the more Victor heard, the more he thought chaos fit him a lot better than the alternative. “Heaven sounds like a huge, sticky bureaucracy.”
“It is.” Miel let out a sigh. “I wish I would spend more time relaxing than managing celestial red tape.”
“Maybe I could help you with the relaxing part. Maybe we can have a drink?”
“Dear client, are you making a pass at me?”
“I’m just saying, I’m high-level, rich…” As he said that, the ground shook, probably due to another one of Marbré’s rockets blowing up. The jelly tester had survived two of them so far. “And available.”
Finally! Vainqueur was right, that rich line worked!
“This would be very unprofessional,” Miel replied, although she did sound like she was considering the offer. “Besides, you are already dating someone, are you not?”
“I haven’t committed to anything outside of a second date yet,” Victor pointed out.
“I must warn you that harems have a negative effect on your Karma Score, albeit not as much as a committed monogamous relationship with Chocolatine. My projections say your Karma will take a hard, hard dive downward if you go there. I cannot stress how much I discourage this course of action.”
“What can I get away with?”
“If you somehow convince Chocolatine to turn around towards good, you will get what we call the ‘RedemFinder Bonus,’ which is very appreciated up there. However, I highly suggest that you marry someone with a more positive alignment, such as Miss Bekele.”
“Okay, I’m drawing a line in the sand there, I’m not letting insurance dictate my love life,” Victor replied. “I already risk my life as it is.”
The angel let out a sigh. “For your offer, I would consider it if your karma moved to good. I do not want a fling with an evil mortal jeopardizing my career, and while my superiors are ambivalent about chaos, they are not about that part. Alas, you are drenched in sin...”
“Are you trying to guilt-trip me?”
“Heaven patented this approach,” she replied with a kind smile. “We will save your soul, no matter what.”
Yeah, right. Victor had the feeling she needed to loosen up a bit and tone down the holier-than-thou spiel but kept his mouth shut. At least she meant well, instead of filling her pockets, like Malfy. “How are sales going?”
“Excellent!” she replied too fast and with a grin too big for it to be true.
“I don’t understand!” Her facade quickly cracked. “We cut the prices by seventy percent during our Feather Friday promotion, and clie—our lambs flocked to our rivals anyway!”
“Really?” Victor raised an eyebrow, although this didn’t surprise him all that much. “Maybe I should take a loo—”
“No, please!” she begged him, her sharp change of demeanor making him jump off his seat. “You are our star client! I will be fired if you cancel. I-I will be homeless, and I will die in the snow all alone!”
“We are in a desert, it never snows,” Victor pointed out.
Miel responded by looking at him with big, tearful eyes.
Another guilt-tripping attempt… but it worked. The things he did for pretty faces. “Look, I don’t promise anything,” the vizier said. “But I can look into it later. Maybe you just need to revise your marketing.”
After five minutes of reassuring the angel until her face dried up, Victor sent her on her way to focus on other matters.
A ghoul walked in to replace her. “Hi, Jules,” the vizier greeted the necromancer, who had now grown into a friend.
“Good morning, Victor,” the necromancer replied before taking a seat. “I hope you recovered from your last fight.”
“Don’t tell me.” Overall though, the adventure had ended much better than it could have. The survivor was kept in the castle’s dungeon and interrogated, but had little to say. Most of the items found at the adventurers’ base, including the Black Crest, had been confiscated and sealed in the vault. While Furibon’s escape was a mess, they had gained excellent loot out of the adventure, and even a new mount. “I was actually looking forward to discussing class progression with you. I like to talk my way out, but I have a recurring charisma problem.”
“That does not surprise me,” the necromancer replied. “[Monster Knight] and [Reaper] strike me as well-rounded classes without a particular focus. What other classes have you leveled in recently?”
“Oh, then you should be fine. The Vizier variant of [Noble] has a strong growth in charisma.”
Victor raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“You need a lot of charm to convince rulers to keep you employed in spite of obvious treacherous tendencies.”
“I heard they have very useful Perks, but Viziers are rare and poorly researched. I know for sure that they can hide most of their abilities and karma at a certain level, but otherwise, users of the class keep their cards close to the chest.”
Huh? Hiding your Karma?
Food for thought. “I also have levels in [Chaos Rider], and I’m not proud of saying it, [Assassin].”
“Mmm… [Chaos Rider] is a combat class with strong physical stats, but poor charisma. However, [Assassin] usually combines with the Noble-line class at some point, usually into rare combinations such as [Caligula], or [Kingmaker]. It is not guaranteed however.”
Not good enough for Victor. “Any class specialized in diplomacy?”
“If you do not mind more negative karma, I would suggest [Politician].”
“Mine is already in the red, and I have my dignity.” Well, at least he now knew rulers had stat bonuses toward lying to the population. That explained a lot.
“Summoning classes then,” Jules said, “Most possess an S-rank growth in charisma and considering your current deals with the outer planes, you should meet most requirements. But otherwise, I simply suggest focusing on leveling your [Grand Vizier]. If a class can lie its way out of trouble, it would be that one.”
“Yes, but would I have to betray Vainqueur for it? Because that will never happen.”
“I do not think so. You should be fine if you stick to managing government affairs and listen to your natural deviousness.” Did he really have such a terrible reputation? “However, if I may ask, what is your current total level?”
“Forty-two, and Vainqueur is one level short of fifty.”
“Mmm… this is unfortunate, because you both have reached the forty level experience plateau. I doubt you will gain more levels except through yearly practice of a class like Rolo did, or rare exploits. While you have a gift for putting yourself in dangerous situations and coming out of them alive, I would not count on gaining new levels to solve your problem in the short-term.”
“So that leaves what, equipment boosting my charisma?”
“Alongside spells, and buffs,” Jules suggested. “What is your current necromancy tier?”
The ghoul rejoiced at the news. “Excellent. You should be able to learn useful buffs for both yourself and his Majesty. I will gladly assist you in the path of the Necromancer.”
Maybe it is time for Victor and Vainqueur to explore the abilities they already had, instead of counting on gaining new ones.
Charlene walked into the room without knocking. “We have a problem!” Victor’s secretary announced with a stressed face, a pile of paper in hands and her skin white as snow. “A big, big problem.”
“We are under attack?” the vizier frowned.
“Yes, yes, we are!” Charlene replied, throwing the paper pile. “Our economy is under assault!”
“What, Gardemagne is closing its borders?”
“Worse! According to my book-keeping, we have a huge inflation rate. The prices are rising very fast due to the constant influx of gold!”
Victor blinked. “Vainqueur’s stipend? Mot’s creations?”
“That, and the magical items, foreign investments, and dirty money keep coming in constantly!”
“Noble classes are heavily restricted to avoid that kind of scenario,” Jules said.
“How much inflation do we expect for the year?” Victor asked, Charlene providing him with a single sheet of paper sheet. He started reading and… and…
Oh, gods… he felt his heart skip a beat for a second at the dreadful sight.
|Vitality check successful! [Insta-Death] negated!|
“Your ‘space program’ is also putting our already small public budget in the red,” Charlene continued. “At this rate, we will have to borrow money from Gardemagne, call the Church of Shesha, or establish new sources of income.”
“You mean taxes,” Victor guessed.
“Yes! There’s so much money coming in from abroad, and we don’t get any shares!”
Which Vainqueur would never allow. How do you manage an economy when your leader thought taxes were evil, and that coins going inside the treasury could never leave it?
“This is a serious problem,” Victor agreed. “Skyrocketing inflation will destroy the value of our gold reserves, exports, and eventually cause the local wages to lag behind the prices.”
Charlene raised an eyebrow. “I studied economics,” the vizier replied, although he never quite understood the lessons before his Intelligence stat began to increase. “All of this to say, we have a recipe for civil war.”
“Are you two not panicking too quickly?” Jules asked. “Your minions are loyal to Vainqueur even if he does not pay them. While Murmurin welcomes new inhabitants every day, the bulk of the infrastructures worship the ground that His Majesty walks on.”
“You underestimate the power of the dark side of the economy,” Victor said. “Especially if we get financial bubbles and panics. We have to regulate the money coming in and out. Are the paper clips ready?”
“I will say it again, this is a stupid idea,” Charlene frowned, having opposed the project since the very first day. “Paper money will never catch on. It’s clips against gold.”
“That is not an answer.” His assistant let out a resigned sigh, confirming that they had printed enough. “Good. We will introduce this new exchange money, the Vainqueur Dollar, and create the national Bank of Murmurin by the same occasion.”
By encouraging citizens to put their gold safely in Vainqueur’s castle as reserves, and use the paper clips instead, this should allow Victor to control the money going in and out.
“And where will we find the money for our budget and this initiative?” Charlene pointed out. “We have near-limitless labor forces, but little resources which we can avoid importing.”
“V&V owns the mines, the undead workers, and the land,” Jules said. “Most of the latter is not exploited. The treasury can easily generate money by redirecting the workforce there.”
“Of course we cannot exploit the lands, we are in the middle of a desert,” Charlene replied. “And from what I gathered, the only reason there is even a patch of land to exploit there is because one golem Farmer worked on it day and night for centuries. We do not have enough casters such as [Astrologers] or [Meteomancers] who could help with that.”
“I have perhaps one solution,” Victor said. “A dragon one.”
It was time to introduce Vainqueur to Geomancer, as Henry advised, and see if it would work as well as advertised. However, if his friend was right and his dragon friend had reached an exp plateau, then this will turn out more difficult than expected...
“My friends, you are not seeing the true problem at hand,” Jules said. “Namely, who will tell His Majesty that too much gold is bad?”
A tense, heavy silence fell between them.
“That’s your mess.” Charlene immediately dumped the responsibility on Victor. “You do it.”
“I am afraid you are the most qualified,” Jules agreed, patting the Vizier in the back and abandoning him to his demise.
Someone knocked on his door before he could protest. Allison opened the door without waiting for authorization, seeming worried. “Vic, can I borrow you for a minute? Maybe for one hour?”
Had his office turned into a revolving door? “We are in the middle of an urgent crisis there!”
“It is about Vainqueur,” the dryad said, Victor immediately squinting at her. “He has somehow learned about gold farming, and has started practicing in Rolo’s fields with Choc’s help.”
Of course, it would happen now, of all times. Wonderful. “Has he called monsters or summoned demons again?”
“No, he is literally farming gold. Planting coins in the ground.”